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WHO Report Calls For Improved Health Care For Women, Girls

A new WHO report, released Monday, said women tend to “receive poorer quality care throughout their lives, particularly as teenagers and elderly people” even though they live six to eight years longer than men, Reuters reports. The WHO said women worldwide are “‘denied a chance to develop their full human potential’ because many of their critical medical needs are ignored” (MacInnis, 11/9).

The WHO report emphasized that health care, particularly in low- and mid- income countries, “may be biased against the old and is rarely geared to the particular needs of older women,” Agence France-Presse reports (11/9). According to the report, health systems tend to be “unresponsive to the needs of women despite the fact that women themselves are major contributors to health, through their roles as primary care givers in the family and also health care providers,” Reuters writes. “The biggest shortcomings relate to mental health problems and sexual violence, which women suffer more than men, and which many societies prefer to brush aside than confront head-on.” The report also noted, “In many countries, sexual and reproductive health services tend to focus exclusively on married women and ignore the needs of unmarried women and adolescents.”

The report also outlined poverty’s effect on women’s health. “Some 99 percent of the estimated 500,000 women who die every year giving birth are in developing countries where medical supplies and skilled workers are in short supply, the WHO said. Low-income nations also have minimal screening and treatment services for cervical cancer, the second-most common type of cancer in women, according to the WHO, which stressed that even within individual countries, women from rich families tend to have better health outcomes than those with poorer means,” Reuters writes (11/9).

According to a WHO press release, “Lack of access to education, decision-making positions and income may limit women’s ability to protect their own health and that of their families” (11/9). WHO Director General Margaret Chan said, “It’s time to pay girls and women back, to make sure that they get the care and support they need to enjoy a fundamental human right at every moment of their lives, that is their right to health,” AFP writes (11/9).  

The report’s goal is “to identify key areas for reform, both within and outside the health sector,” according to the WHO release (11/9). 

Christian Science Monitor Examines Programs To Improve Maternal Health In Afghanistan

The Christian Science Monitor writes: “Afghanistan’s capacity to address the health of its women has taken a remarkable turn for the better in the past seven years. In 2002, 60 percent of Afghans had no access to basic health services,” according to a study led by the CDC. “Furthermore, two-thirds of the country’s districts had neither maternal nor child health services, with only 10 percent of Afghanistan’s hospitals equipped for caesarean deliveries. … But today, maternal health is among the nation’s most tangible signs of progress thanks to” training and education programs and international donations for health infrastructure.”

“Midwives working in the field say that they see signs of improvement every day in the communities they visit. This is thanks in large part to the growing role of skilled birth attendants whose services are now accessible to many women throughout the country, including those in hard-to-reach rural regions, where midwife use jumped from 6 percent in 2003 to 19 percent three years later, according to Johns Hopkins University research.”

But despite the progress, “much remains to be done in a country where poverty and illiteracy run rampant and infrastructure in the most remote regions is still meager,” the Christian Science Monitor writes, adding, “Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health is now launching a follow-up survey to assess the impact of recent maternal health efforts, seven years after the last round of research began” (Lemmon, 11/9).