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Also In Global Health News: ‘Positive Deviance’ Approach To Health; Child Malnutrition In Madagascar; Somalia’s Health System; Weak Harvests In West Africa; Improving Health Equity

Boston Globe Examines ‘Positive Deviance’ Approach To Improve Health

The Boston Globe examines “‘positive deviance,’ an approach to behavioral and social change. Instead of imposing solutions from without, the method identifies outliers in a community who, despite having no special advantages, are doing exceptionally well. By respecting local ingenuity, proponents say, the approach galvanizes community members and is often more effective and sustainable than imported blueprints.” The article includes examples in which “positive deviance” was used to address malnutrition and curb infant death rates (Tuhus-Dubrow, 11/29).

Los Angeles Times Examines Child Malnutrition In Madagascar

The Los Angeles Times looks at child malnutrition in Madagascar after a coup resulted in the collapse of the country’s economy and aid cuts by the U.S. and EU. The newspaper writes, “The children in the Andohatapenaka child-friendly center are the urban poor: hungry, abused, neglected, fearful. About half are suffering malnutrition, staff say.”

According to the newspaper, a “report for UNICEF on the effects of the political crisis and the economic collapse on the urban poor in Antananarivo found that children were troubled by abuse, violence and their parents’ sudden unemployment and struggle to find food. Some had to drop out of school for lack of money. Some had to work, or beg for food. Others joined street gangs” (Dixon, 11/28).

Somalia ‘s Health System Underfunded, WHO Official Says

Somalia’s health system is “completely underfunded” and almost one in four children in the country is living with acute malnutrition, Eric Laroche, WHO’s assistant director general for health action in crises, said Friday, Agence France-Presse reports.

“This year is probably of all the 18 last years of humanitarian crises the worst year and for the time being in health, it’s the worst funded for all the activities. This is not normal at all,” Laroche said. According to WHO data, Somalia has a mortality rate of 142 deaths per 1,000 children under age 5 (11/28).

U.N. Highlights Weak Harvests, Increased Malnutrition In West African Countries

According to the U.N., “Poor rains from the end of September to the end of October are bringing below average harvests in Niger, northern Nigeria, central Chad and northeastern Mali and Burkina Faso,” VOA News reports.

Thomas Yanga, the West Africa regional director for the U.N. World Food Program, said, “We anticipate increased prices and high-rates of malnutrition, which could combine to increased food assistance needs in the 2010 lean season for several million people in the sub-region” (Stearns, 11/27). Yanga “said that he expected households to use up their food supply by March, two months earlier than normal,” Reuters AlertNet writes (Fominyen, 11/27).

According to IRIN, the “Famine Early Warning Systems Network, FEWSNET” recently issued an alert to say that 2009 millet production in the region “is likely to be 30 percent below average” (11/27).

BMJ Examines Country Efforts To Improve Poor’s Access To Health Services

BMJ News examines the potential of “health equity funds, a purchasing mechanism that uses both donor and government subsidies pooled at district level to purchase public health services for the poor” to improve access to health services in poor countries. The article includes information gathered from pilot studies of health equity fund programs in Cambodia and other country programs aimed at increasing access to health services among the poor (Zarocostas, 11/26).