“Children of depressed mothers in developing countries are 40 percent more likely to be underweight or stunted than those with mothers in good mental health,” according to a report published in the August edition of the WHO Bulletin, Reuters reports. “The analysis was based on 17 studies of nearly 14,000 mothers and their small children carried out in Africa, Asia, and South America and the Caribbean,” according to the news agency.
Breastfeeding from birth to six months or a year can reduce deaths among children under five by 13 percent, a statistic that UNICEF is highlighting during World Breastfeeding Week, which runs through August 7, the International Business Times reports (DeNinno, 8/2).
GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog features an interview with Ellen Starbird, deputy director of the Office of Population and Reproductive Health at USAID, and Judy Manning, health development officer in USAID’s Research, Technology and Utilization Division, who discuss “family planning and reproductive health issues, including new innovations and promising technologies still in the research stage.” Starbird says that funding for family planning programs is critical for “making possible for women in the developing world the kinds of choices that women all over the developed world have” (Donnelly, 8/1).
U.N. agencies “are shying away from the politically volatile topic [of abortion], despite mounting evidence that restricted abortion access contributes to maternal deaths and constitutes a violation of a woman’s human rights,” Women’s eNews reports.
PBS NewsHour on Monday profiled five projects to improve maternal and child health that are competing for a share of $14 million in research grants through the Saving Lives at Birth challenge.
The Global Democracy Promotion Act (.pdf), recently introduced in the House by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), “would bar the use of U.S. foreign aid to restrict people’s liberty â€¦ [and] says that organizations accepting U.S. assistance cannot be forced to quash perfectly legal activities in return,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America Vice President Latanya Mapp Frett writes in a New York Daily News opinion piece. She says the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s recent vote to reinstate and expand the so-called “global gag rule” would “foste[r] unintended pregnancy, increasing the need for abortion and endangering women’s health.”
“Half of the 340,000 deaths of women from pregnancy-related causes each year occur in Africa, almost all in anonymity,” the New York Times writes in an article profiling several cases of women who have died during childbirth in Ugandan hospitals.
In a guest post on the GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog, Janet Fleischman, a senior associate at the CSIS Global Health Policy Center, describes the Malawian government’s “plans to launch a ‘test and treat’ program in which all HIV-infected pregnant women will immediately be put on antiretroviral treatment (ART) drugs for life.” But she adds that “[t]he growing political and economic crisis in Malawi, highlighted by the government’s use of force against peaceful demonstrators last week, could also imperil the groundbreaking expansion of Malawi’s national HIV/AIDS program.”
NPR’s KQED on Wednesday examined how France’s 60-year-old network of preventive health clinics for children and parents, which provides care free-of-charge, is being threatened by the nation’s flailing economy. “[W]hile it’s unlikely that France will abandon its maternal and child health programs, it remains an open question whether social changes and economic reality might intrude into such a sacred French ideal,” the article states (Varney, 7/27).
“When women are healthy and empowered, they can spark a ripple effect in their families, communities and nations that can lead to lower rates of poverty and stronger economic growth and productivity,” Tamara Kreinin, executive director of women and population at the United Nations Foundation, writes in a “RH Reality Check” blog post. “By voting to reduce funding for international reproductive health and family planning activities, eliminate funding for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), and reinstate the Global Gag Rule, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs threatens to turn back the clock on women’s health and has taken its disturbing war on women to a global stage,” she writes, referring to the House FY12 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill (7/27).