Tag Archives: MDGs

Happy International Women’s Day!

Today is International Women’s Day (IWD) and the official theme for this year is “Equality for women is progress for all.”

The origin of International Women’s Day dates back to the early 1900’s and now every year on March 8, people around the world rally together to commemorate and support women. International Women’s Day is not only a time to celebrate achievements, but also a time to reflect on the progress made and call for increased changes. From women’s rights and gender equality to abuse and sex trafficking, various social, political, and economic issues concerning women are highlighted and become points of discussion (and even protest) around IWD.

The Millennium Development Goals call for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women and during the IWD opening ceremony at the United Nations today, Hilary Clinton, known for being a champion of women, said “women and girls and the cause of gender equality must be at the heart” of the UN’s agenda to promote development around the world. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon echoed her sentiments, saying in his message, “This International Women’s Day, we are highlighting the importance of achieving equality for women and girls not simply because it is a matter of fairness and fundamental human rights, but because progress in so many other areas depends on it.”

This plays nicely into the ongoing debate on the post-2015 development agenda. We all know there are major issues around the access, quality, and availability of health services to women in developing countries, and that these issues are often further complicated by cultural and religious norms. I think it’s safe to say that although IWD is only one day a year, the discussion on women’s rights as a core component of global development will continue. It is essential.

Here’s a roundup of some IWD 2014 content in case you missed it:

“The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world.” — Charles Malik

What does International Women’s Day mean to you? Tell us in the comments below.

Ethiopia Has Reached MDG 4

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are goals the United Nations and its global partners established in 2000. There are eight goals focused on addressing worldwide social issues including poverty, health, hunger, inequality, education, environment, and sustainability with the target to make measurable improvements in all these areas by 2015. 

Earlier this month, UNICEF released a report outlining trends and progress towards MDG 4, which is to reduce the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015. The report highlights work being done to meet this MDG, as well as challenges and disparities that have slowed progress. 

One of the biggest takeaways from the report is that Ethiopia has already achieved MDG 4 despite facing major obstacles such as a severe shortage of health professionals (there is only one doctor for every 36,000 people). The driving forces behind this achievement included strong commitment from the Ethiopian government, support from external organizations, and the use of innovative programs to reach communities throughout the country. Ethiopia joins Bangladesh, Liberia, Malawi, Nepal, Timor-Leste, and United Republic of Tanzania as another high-mortality country that reached MDG 4 before 2015. 

This news is quite timely considering the 68th session of the UN General Assembly opened last week with a focus on defining a post-2015 development agenda. As 2015 approaches, I am eager to see increased analysis of MDG progress and heightened discussions among members of the international development community about what’s next for global health. Stay tuned!

Conference Calls and Radio Shows of Interest

Our very own Mini Murthy and Elvira Beracochea are co-hosting a radio show on the MDGs! The inaugural episode aired last week, but you can listen to it in the archives and tune in for future episodes. They will be on every Thursday at 12 p.m. EST. More information can be found below.

Millennium Development Goals: Progress and Challenges

A NEW AND EXCITING PROGRAM DEBUTS THIS WEEK ON AV RADIO
PROGRAM: Millennium Development Goals
TOPIC OF DISCUSSION: Millennium Development Goals: Progress and Challenges
PLEASE JOIN THIS WEEK’S DISCUSSION LIVE BY PHONE OR SKYPE
WHEN: THURSDAY, MARCH 15TH, 2012
TIME: 12: 00 P.M. to 1: 00 P.M. EASTERN STANDARD TIME
TO PARTICIPATE BY PHONE: CALL THIS NUMBER DURING SHOWTIME: (760) 283-0850
TO JOIN BY SKYPE ADD: AFRICANVIEWS (CALL IN DURING SHOWTIME)

TOPIC’S BACKGROUND:

In 2000, 189 nations made a promise to free people from extreme poverty and multiple deprivations. This pledge became the eight Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015. The MDGs provide a framework for the entire UN system to work coherently together toward a common end. UNDP, global development network on the ground in 177 countries and territories, is in a unique position to advocate for change, connect countries to knowledge and resources, and coordinate broader efforts at the country level. In September 2010, the world recommitted itself to accelerate progress towards these goals.

The declaration established eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and time-bound targets by which progress can be measured. With the 2015 deadline looming, how much progress has been made? And is the pace of progress sufficient to achieve the goals? The MDGs break down into 21 quantifiable targets that are measured by 60 indicators.

In our inaugural episode we hope to give a brief over view of the progress and challenges made from the year 2000- 2005 and focus on Sub Saharan Africa to review the progress made with reference to MDGs 1 and 4.

Join us as we explore this very important topic on MDGs.

HOST: DR. PADMINI MURTHY
Padmini (Mini) Murthy is a physician and an activist who did her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She has practiced medicine in various countries. She has a Master’s in Public Health and a Masters in Management from New York University (NYU). Murthy has been on the Dean’s list at NYU stein hart School of Education and named Public service scholar at the Robert F Wagner Graduate School at New York University. She is also a Certified Health Education Specialist.

CO-HOST: DR. ELVIRA BERACOCHEA
Elvira Beracochea, MD, MPH, has more than 25 years of experience that encompass her work as physician, public health and international development expert, human rights advocate, epidemiologist, health policy advisor, researcher, health systems and hospital manager, consultant, professor and coach. She has worked in over 30 countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and the South Pacific. Dr Elvira is committed to helping realize the right to health and the right to development and to improving the effectiveness of development assistance. For this reason, in 2005, she founded MIDEGO, an organization with an urgent rights-based mission: accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approved by the United Nations in the year 2000.

ABOUT THE PROGRAM:
The Millennium Development Goal is a weekly discussion on AV Radio based on the Millennium Declaration, adopted by all 189 United Nations Member States in 2000, promised a better world with less poverty, hunger and disease; a world in which mothers and children have a greater chance of surviving and of receiving an education, and where women and girls have the same opportunities as men and boys. It promised a healthier environment and greater cooperation-a world in which developed and developing countries work in partnership for the betterment of all.

LISTEN TO THIS RADIO PROGRAM ARCHIVES AT: http://www.africanviews.org/index.php/av-radio/av-radio/AV-Radio/womens-education_c1021_m157/


Next month, APHA’s Trade and Health Forum will be holding an open Educational Session on Tobacco and International Trade Agreements. It will take place on April 12 at 2:30 PM Pacific/5:30PM Eastern.

The first 30 minutes of the call will be an educational session about recent activity pertaining to alcohol and tobacco in trade agreements and the question of “carve outs”. Donald Zeigler, PhD, Director of Prevention and Healthy Lifestyles at the American Medical Association (AMA) will lead the session. Dr. Zeigler has been active in the Trade and Health Forum, representing the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Section of the American Public Health Association and has been interested in trade and health issues for almost a decade. He was instrumental in getting the AMA to adopt policy on trade and has worked with other medical specialty societies to adopt policy, as well. The AMA recently called on the US Trade Representative to carve out tobacco and alcohol from the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
The second 30 minutes of the call will be dedicated to Trade and Health Forum business. You are welcome to join for the full call, and we welcome your input.

To dial in, please call (605) 475-4850 and use the following access code: 810329#. If you have questions, please direct them to Natalie Sampson (nsampson@umich).

Very best,

American Public Health Association’s
Trade & Health Forum Leaders

Maternal Health Taskforce Open Forum

This announcement may be of particular interest to those of you interested in reproductive and/or maternal health.

Women Deliver has been running a series of blog posts addressing the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. A number of experts have offered thoughts on a global framework for health after the MDGs. Now is your chance to add to the discussion as Women Deliver is hosting an online discussion starting next week to address reproductive and maternal health:

With the deadlines for the Millennium Development Goals and the International Conference on Population and Development’s Program of Action fast approaching, Women Deliver is calling on the entire reproductive and maternal health community—from policymakers to health workers to advocates—to participate in an online discussion to shape the future of our field. Join this critical global conversation at www.knowledge-gateway.org/womendeliver and weigh in on where we are, where we need to be, and how we need to get there.
 
This means taking stock of lessons learned, challenges ahead, and tackling the critical question: What will—and what must—happen to the MDGs and ICPD after 2015? Through a series of weekly, e-mail-based discussions, you will have the chance to share your thoughts, experience, and views on specific questions, like the effectiveness of global versus regional MDG targets, the role of civil society in shaping development goals, and the appropriate maternal and reproductive health indicator of tomorrow.

The forum will be open from November 7th to November 23rd, so be sure to make your voice heard!

Global Health News Last Week

October 10 was World Mental Health Day.
October 15 was Global Handwashing Day.

POLITICS AND POLICY

  • The U.S. Army has proposed major cuts to its work on HIV, especially in the vaccine field. Leaders of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and other biomedical research organizations oppose the cuts.
  • The WHO plans to recommend tighter nutritional standards in food aid for young children, a move activists say is necessary to improve donations from countries such as the United States.
  • The US Department of Defense is funding platforms that will completely rethink how malaria drugs are developed.
  • Former Bush Administration official Andrew Natsios argues the case for foreign aid: “Singling out foreign aid for disproportionate cuts—which is exactly what has happened—is a serious mistake the United States as a world leader will pay for in the future.”
  • A survey of 507 Americans at the end of September sought to capture what, exactly, Americans know about the foreign aid budget. Particpiants were asked four questions about their impressions of foreign aid and opinions on why it is important to American interests.  Go here to read the full fact sheet that also includes more details about the study’s methods and see below to review the results in more detail.
  • The World Health Organization’s chief on Monday urged governments to unite against “big tobacco”, as she accused the industry of dirty tricks, bullying and immorality in its quest to keep people smoking.

PROGRAMS

  • Berk Ozler examines some recent reports about the challenges surrounding male circumcision. In the World Bank Development Impact blog, he offers two suggestions for how to improve the programs.
  • A partnership between Pampers and UNICEF to deliver neonatal tetanus vaccines is on track to eliminate the disease by 2015.
  • A $258 million initiative sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation aimed at preventing AIDS in India appears to have paid off overall, researchers say, resulting in more than 100,000 fewer new HIV infections over five years. Many aren’t quite ready to judge this project, Avahan, a success, however. The project failed in three of the six Indian states where it was tested.
  • Are the Millennium Villages an intervention that can reach scale? Supporters say yes and detractors are skeptical. Madeline Bunting covers the debate in the Guardian Development.
  • A report on the MGDS by United Nations Development Program, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the African Development Bank and the African Union Commission says that social protection programs can have a wide positive impact.

RESEARCH

DISEASES AND DISASTERS

Global Health News Last Week

SECTION NEWS
The Advocacy/Policy Committee would like to invite you to participate in our first Advocacy Day, led in partnership with the Global Health Council. The day, scheduled for Thursday, November 3rd, 2011, immediately following the annual meeting in Washington, D.C., will be an opportunity for us to voice support for a continued focus on international health to our elected officials. With the intense Congressional pressure to cut the budget, our voices can make a real difference. As a participant during this exciting day, you will be provided with training materials on effective advocacy techniques to ensure your message is clearly heard. Even if you do not have advocacy experience, you need not hesitate to sign up because you will be teamed with others. Please consider joining your fellow International Health Section members on Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 on Capitol Hill to advocate for a healthy globe.  Interested parties should register here.  Please note that registration will close on October 14th.  Any questions should be directed to Peter Freeman, Advocacy/Policy Committee Chair, at pffreeman@gmail.com or 773.318.4842.


POLITICS AND POLICY

  • GOP Presidential hopeful Michelle Bachmann has been slammed by scientists, doctors and others for claiming that the HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine can cause mental retardation. An ethicist has now put up money behind his challenge to her claim.
  • A commitment by G20 nations to strengthen agricultural research in developing countries will help reduce food insecurity as long as it focuses on small farmers and their needs, officials and experts said at a G20-backed conference this week.

PROGRAMS

  • The Gates Foundation has presented the Harvard School of Public Health with a $12 million grant to support its maternal health task force.
  • USAID is teaming up with former President George Bush to reduce cervical cancer deaths by 25% in five years for target developing countries.
  • The magic number may be $6 billion to make a real dent in ending the spread of AIDS.
  • A collaboration between UK and US funding agencies has announced more than £3.5M new funding for research aimed at controlling the transmission of diseases amongst humans, animals and the environment.

RESEARCH AND INNOVATION

  • The number of African countries with national policies on traditional medicine increased almost fivefold between 2001 and 2010, according to a report on a decade of traditional medicine on the continent.
  • The recently published results from two malaria vaccine trials appear to show that scientists are getting closer to developing a vaccine against the mosquito-borne illness.
  • Effective nursing is the backbone of a high quality health care delivery system. GHDonline’s nursing community will discuss how ongoing mentoring and training programs can enhance nursing in an expert panel discussion September 19-23.
  • The number of young women with breast cancer has more than doubled worldwide since 1980, say researchers at Seattle’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
  • After 2 years of analyzing the results of the largest AIDS vaccine clinical trial ever held, the so-called Thai prime-boost trial, and the only one so far to show some protection against HIV, researchers say they have discovered insights that could lead to an effective vaccine.
  • IUDs can prevent cervical cancer, finds a study published in the Lancet.
  • Reducing the incidence of malaria could also drastically reduce the number of deaths from bacterial infections among children in Africa, a study has found.

DISEASES AND DISASTERS

  • Authorities worry that tropical mosquitoes found in San Gabriel Valley could spread disease if they gained a foothold in Southern California.
  • A human rights investigator for the United Nations says up to a quarter of the world’s trash from hospitals, clinics, labs, blood banks and mortuaries is hazardous and much more needs to be done to regulate it.
  • A report from UNICEF and the WHO shows the decrease in the rate of deaths for children under the age of five.
  • The WHO warns that thousands may die if multi-drug resistant and forms of tuberculosis continue to spread throughoutEurope.
  • One of the scientific advisers to the new blockbuster movie “Contagion” says the “risks are very real — and are increasing drastically… Our vulnerability to such diseases has been heightened by the growth in international travel and the globalization of food production.”

FOCUS – NON-COMMUNICABLE DISEASES

  • Cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory illness and diabetes account for 63 percent of all global deaths, yet up to half could be prevented, according to a new report, Noncommunicable Diseases Country Profiles 2011, released Wednesday by the  World Health Organization.
  • The WHO released a 207 page “global score card” on the prevention of chronic illness, one week ahead of the NCD summit at the UN.
  • Eli Lilly and Company has committed $30 million to the Global Health Initiative. The Lilly NCD Partnership will work to identify comprehensive, sustainable approaches to patient care. Initially it will concentrate on diabetes.

Thanks to Tom Murphy and Mark Leon Goldberg, Tom Paulson, Isobel Hoskins, and Public Health Newswire.

Global Health News, Week of August 28-September 3

Global Fund round 11 is now open for proposals.

GREAT LEARNING OPPORTUNITY

A seven-part webinar series, called the “Outstanding Presentations Workshop,” began this Wednesday and is available for free to all who register. Each one-hour seminar will be streamed live over the next few weeks on Wednesday and will be recorded for later viewing.  Take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to improve your presentations and spare your audiences death by PowerPoint. More information is available here, and the schedule can be accessed here.

POLITICS AND POLICY

  • In Uganda, the landmark legal case of Jennifer Anguko, a mother who died while she was in labor for 12 hours in a government hospital, will begin in early September.
  • Critics of the World Health Organization say it needs to redefine and reposition itself within the increasingly complex and convoluted field of global health. These experts suggest that the world will not suffer if the WHO cuts certain programs while narrowing its focus.
  • In the United States, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are promoting the use of IUDs as the “most effective form of reversible contraception available and safe for most women.”
  • The Global Fund may cut its contributions to China by half.
  • USAID Admin Dr. Raj Shah announced that $23 million in new aid will be directed towards the Horn of Africa crisis.
  • Anonymity is no longer a right of people seeking HIV/AIDS tests in China, and the change has lead to a significant drop in the number of tests being performed.
  • The Asian Development Bank has called for Asia-Pacific countries to collaborate on combating HIV/AIDS at the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific.
  • Tension between the United States and Pakistan will not prevent USAID from continuing to support health, energy and education systems says the USAID Pakistan Chief.
  • The epidemics of diabetes, heart disease and cancers that have stricken the populaces of wealthy countries are spreading to the developing world, yet the United Nations lacks an agreement, let alone an overall goal, on how to limit the preventable illnesses and deaths arising from these so-called non-communicable diseases. The British Medical Journal reports many developed countries, including the U.S. and Canada, are resisting specific targets for reduction in fats, sugars and salt in processed foods.

PROGRAMS

  • Overall, more newborn children are surviving, but slower progress in cutting death rates among babies in the first weeks of life is putting the global goal of reducing child deaths by two-thirds in jeopardy.
  • One expert says as the question of aid effectiveness has moved to the centre of development debates. If donors want to make their aid more effective, then they need to engage strategically with the private sector.
  • In the Washington Post, Michael Gerson makes the “pro-life” case for increased support for contraception and family planning worldwide.
  • UNICEF and international NGOs are working to raise awareness and encourage West African communities to invest in the construction of more pit latrines. Pit latrines, say advocates, can drastically reduce the spread of diarrhea, cholera and worms.

RESEARCH

  • A study published in Lancet finds that the workers who took part in the efforts to rescue people from the World Trade Center on 9/11 are at a high risk of suffering physical and mental illness.
  • A study by the Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation in Uganda and Zambia found high rates of syphilis and HIV co-infection among pregnant women, but showed that “integrating rapid syphilis screening and HIV testing for pregnant women was feasible, cost-effective, and helped to prevent transmission of syphilis and HIV from mother-to-child.”
  • A genetically engineered virus may be the key to combating cancer, says a group of scientists.
  • Believed to only help children under four, researchers have determined that the rotavirus vaccine also reduces deaths in children between the age of five and fourteen.
  • Researchers who have tracked Haitian cell phone SIM cards relative to the cholera outbreak are optimistic that their findings will lead to future use of the same technology for other outbreaks.
  • Scientists may have found a critical weakness in Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria. Researchers say the discovery provides a promising target for new malaria therapies.
  • Engineers at Michigan State University are developing a low-cost mobile phone application that can detect certain types of cancer.
  • Danish scientists say mosquito populations are dropping in many parts of Africa, even in parts where there are no human efforts such as insecticide spraying or bed net distributions underway.
  • A study published in the British Medical Journal reports a 24% reduction in deaths in children who received vitamin A.
  • A new approach to malaria vaccines grows the parasite inside mosquitoes and extracts vaccine components from the salivary gland.

DISEASES AND DISASTERS

  • A study published in Nature says that the last three waves of cholera can all be traced back to the Bay of Bengal.
  • Despite a massive humanitarian effort after the 2010 earthquake, females in Haiti remain neglected, rights activists say, lacking access to care as they give birth to babies in squalid conditions, often as a result of sex in trade for food or other necessities.
  • UN FAO warns that the bird flu is on the rise in Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia and Vietnam.
  • Reports from the Libyan capital Tripoli say a humanitarian crisis appears to be emerging following the ouster of long-time ruler Muammar Qaddafi. There is a shortage of medicine, fuel, food, water, and power supplies, and growing piles of uncollected garbage.
  • Polio has been reported in China and Kenya.

Thanks to Tom Murphy and Mark Leon Goldberg, Tom Paulson, Isobel Hoskins, and UN Wire.

Notes on IH Section Conference Call: Current Developments in MCNH (June 27, 2011)

The IH Section held its third topic-focused conference call on Current Developments in MCNH on Monday, June 27, 2011 from 1:00 to 2:00 EST. We had several members of the IH section offer their commentary and expertise on current issues concerning maternal and child health.

Speakers
Laura Altobelli (Future Generations)
Elvira Beracochea (Midego)
Carol Dabbs (U.S. Department of State)
Miriam Labbock (Carolina Global Breastfeeding Insititute)
Mary Anne Mercer (University of Washington)

Laura Altobelli: Brief presentation of the APHA policy resolution proposal submitted by the IH section entitled, “Call to Action to Reduce Global Maternal, Neonatal, and Child Morbidity and Mortality.”
Laura discussed the new APHA policy proposal on MCH. There was nothing previously on the APHA policy regarding global action on this issue per se – one previously existing resolution focuses on reducing maternal and child mortality in the US, and one focuses on breastfeeding and has both domestic and global aspects. This, then, is the first policy proposal on global MNCH. Justification for the policy proposal is lack of progress on the MDGs and lack of policy commitment to protect vulnerable populations. APHA will be joining important other organizations that are putting out strategies, including the Partnership for MNCH (WHO), and the UN, and attended global meetings in 2010 in observation of the Year of Maternal Health (some of these mentioned below). There is also an effort to increase attention to this in the Global Fund and GHI. Six other sections/forums are co-sponsoring the resolution.

Elvira Beracochea: Update on the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5.
A factsheet has been sent out (available upon request – please contact jmkeralis [at] gmail [dot] com). These MDGs and their targets have served us well to measure our progress so far. There have been improvements, though progress has been uneven. MDGs 4 and 5 focus on reducing mortality but not necessarily on improving health, development and well-being, and we need to address this as well. We know where women and children die and how. We also have the knowledge to prevent these deaths. We need to coordinate work at global scale and have a concerted strategy to ensure the rights of all women and children are met. We need to take global health goals to a new level of effectiveness using efficient strategies and a human-rights-based approach. A rights-based approach does not focus on only survival, but also on development. We need new targets and indicators that measure not only deaths but also number of children whose right are fulfilled; the children that are breastfed, fully immunized, drink clean water, are protected from malaria, and that that attend school. We need targets and indicators that measure not only the number of women that died or delivered with assistance of a skilled attendant, but that also measure the number of pregnancy complications effectively treated. We need new MDGs and targets.

Miriam Labbok: An update on reproductive health continuum (birth, breastfeeding and birth spacing promotion, protection, support) as an essential MNCH intervention approach.
It is vital that we pay attention to the reproductive health continuum within the life-cycle approach: birth, breastfeeding and birth spacing. Programming must include not only promotion, but also skill- and capacity-building so that support can be provided. In addition, policy change is needed to: support treating women with dignity, provide NFP knowledge (at least for the times that family planning supplies run out), and create the capacity to support health-supportive birth, breastfeeding and spacing practices. All such programming and policy creation should be carried out with recognition of the rights of both women and children to the best possible health support and with attention to appropriate technologies, as one size does not necessarily fit all. In addition, programs that address cultural change and intimate family and social decisions demand the building of trust that comes with reliability and long-term relationships. Programming should be designed for the long term, with a strong base and phased in activities, and with excellence and sustainability as the focus.

Mary Anne Mercer: Partnership for Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health – what it does and how one can get involved.
The Partnership for Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health is a WHO-based coalition of organizations that support increased funding commitments to MDGs 4 and 5. Any organization that supports MCH can be a member simply by filling out an application from the PMNCH web site at http://www.who.int/pmnch/. Be sure your organization is a member (it’s free!) by checking the member list. Also check out the ‘Knowledge Portal’ that aims to maintain updated programmatic information on current approaches to improving MCH. I am on the Board of Directors of the Partnership as an NGO representative, and we will be electing a new member of the Board this year that will represent an Africa-based NGO or the Africa office of an international NGO — please let me know if you have any suggestions for good candidates for that position.

Carol Dabbs: Trends in US government funding levels for global MNCH.
Funding has increased and is overseen by the State Department. Global Health targets are to be achieved with funding from FY 09-14, generally for implementation in FY 10-15. The Global Health Initiative includes principles supporting country-led plans and to coordination with other partnerships and donors, as well as between USG agencies and health programs. Eight countries have been selected as “plus” countries (places to conduct learning laboratories): Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Malawi, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Guatemala. Almost all of the Global Health Initiative funding is from USAID and State (there is also some DHHS funding, but that was not included in this discussion). There are two stages in the fiscal year: requesting funds from Congress and appropriation of funds by Congress. Unfortunately, delays have been a reality this year. However, we should look at trends and context of the rest of foreign assistance and of overall health fundig. The budget now includes nutrition as a separate item, and it’s included in the MNCH numbers here. There has been a trend of increased funding; funding for MNCH has increased about by 22% over two years (FY 2008 to FY 2010), but the full year continuing resolution for FY 2011 allocation to MNCH is still pending. We do not know what the appropriations for FY 2012 and FY 2013 will be.

Discussion: Is this in addition to Dept of State HIV funds? Yes, there are additional funds in USAID for HIV/AIDS, as well as funds for MCH and the rest of the health programs.

A Golden Moment: Global Partners Unite to Expand Access to Skilled Birth Attendants

Guest Contributor: Conrad Person, Director of Corporate Contributions, Johnson & Johnson
As a record-setting 3,000 delegates from more than 111 countries gathered last week in Durban, South Africa for the 2011 International Confederation of Midwives Congress, I believe that we are witnessing a “golden moment” for the global campaign to realize the right of every woman to have access to the best possible health care during pregnancy and childbirth.

Two things give me hope. First, a new analysis from the United Nations Population Fund verifies what we’ve known for decades – only by expanding access to quality midwifery services, especially in the world’s most needy countries, can we curb maternal and newborn mortality. Second, the groundbreaking Millennium Cities Initiative (MCI) is demonstrating what is possible when we focus on improving health in the world’s poorest cities.

This “golden moment” was on full display on a recent blazing hot afternoon in the Jamestown section of Accra, Ghana. With the Jamestown Lighthouse looming in the background, I was reminded that this Ga fishing community was once the heart of historic Accra. But now, it is a poor neighborhood in a city where the mean household income is less than $4 U.S. a day. In a brick courtyard, about 300 women wearing the distinctive colors and patterns of West Africa sat beneath a canvas tent. While Ga drummers, famous the world over, quickly attracted an overflow crowd and the First Lady of Ghana and Accra’s Mayor also inspired the audience, the stars of the show were the babies these women held in their arms.

Five of the midwives took their places in the center of the courtyard. One pretended to be in labor and from beneath a blanket another extracted a mannequin baby. “The baby is not breathing,” she announced. The team quickly went into action to resuscitate the baby.

At this point a regional director for MCI, Abenaa Akuamoa-Boateng, whispered into my ear, “This is the golden minute. Success depends on acting swiftly.” In a minute or so, the mannequin seemed to give a cry like a lamb’s bleat. Even with babies in their arms, the audience clapped.

Each year, an estimated one million babies die from birth asphyxia, or the inability to breathe right after delivery. But skilled birth attendants can change that. More golden moments would be successful if more midwives and skilled attendants had the authority and support of their government to attend these births. MCI is working to tackle one aspect of this global campaign – bringing critical health care services to the most vulnerable mothers and newborns in the world’s poorest urban centers.

Much is made, rightly, of the plight of rural women and children, but MCI makes the case that the urban poor represent a great challenge as well. MDGs 4 and 5 simply can’t be achieved if major African population centers have persistently poor health outcomes for mothers and babies.

MCI addresses this problem through a Neonatal Survival Program, piloted during the past year in Accra and Kumasi, Ghana. This program has incorporated training for 120 frontline caregivers in neonatal resuscitation and infant care with follow-up outreach to and health education of more than 1,500 new mothers, demonstrably saving newborn lives. This program has had the support of Johnson & Johnson, AmeriCares, the American Academy of Pediatrics and local and national health agencies. Statistically, it’s all but certain that without this program, some of those 1,500 children would not have survived.

I left Jamestown with the strong conviction that if we are to meet the MDGs, we must treat every minute that we have left as a “golden minute.” I hope we take full advantage of this unique – and critical – moment to act.

More cell phones than toilets: Mobile technology emerges as the new lifeline for the world’s poor

A report on inadequate sanitation, released by the UN University, made waves earlier this year when it reported that while 45% of India’s population owned cell phone, only 31% of them had access to improved sanitation in 2008.1  Headlines proclaiming “India has more cell phones than toilets” found their way into several of my e-mail news digests.  “It is a tragic irony to think that in India, a country now wealthy enough that roughly half of the people own phones, about half cannot afford the basic necessity and dignity of a toilet,” said Zafar Adeel, Director of United Nations University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health (IWEH), and chair of UN-Water.  With the focus on the Millennium Development Goals growing more acute as the deadline approaches, people were understandably astonished.  

It is shocking to think that so many of the world’s poor cannot access appropriate sanitation.  However, the widespread use of cell phones should not be juxtaposed against the conditions of poverty, but should rather be seen as a way to empower the poor to improve their conditions.  The cell phone market has seen explosive growth in the last decade: 90% of the world’s population will soon be within the coverage of wireless networks,2 and there are already an estimated five billion cell phones used globally.3  Villages without running water or electricity often have at least one mobile phone, and people can switch out their own SIM cards for access.  They are being adopted faster than basic services such as routine medical care and schools.2  When a basic toilet costs 15 times more than a basic cell phone ($3001 compared to $203), it becomes easier to understand the discrepancy between access to sanitation vs. mobile technology.  If mobile penetration is so widespread, then, should it not be viewed as a tool and an opportunity for innovation?  

A man holds a cell phone in front of a woman with four children.

Photo taken from mHealth Alliance Executive Director David Aylward's blog entry in the Global Health Magazine.

Some governments and organizations have already caught on.  In Rwanda, for example, the government provides free cell phones to rural health workers to register expectant mothers, get answers to their questions from a health expert, and send monthly status reports to doctors.2  Other programs send reminders to HIV-positive pregnant women to take ARVs and work to reduce stock-outs of drugs in rural clinics.  Pharmaceutical companies are also working with application developers to fight drug counterfeiting: customers will be able to submit a numeric code on drug packaging via SMS and get a reply that states whether the drug is “NO” or “OK,” along with the drug’s name, expiration date, and other information.4  And I have already featured Tostan’s Jokko Initiative, which applies their literacy lessons to cell phone usage and includes a lesson on the health-related utility of SMS.  Other applications include facilitating electronic banking and providing information on crop disease and weather to farmers.2  

Progress on the MDGs should not be overlooked, and the importance of access to sanitation is should certainly not be downplayed at all.  With an expected return between $3-34 for every dollar spent on sanitation, it is absolutely worthwhile to stress the importance improving people’s access to this need.  Now, if only we could develop an app to improve sanitation – that would be perfect.

Are Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Unfair to Africa?

eckhard-kleinau.jpg“At the midway point between their adoption in 2000 and the 2015 target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, sub-Saharan Africa is not on track to achieve any of the Goals”. http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/docs/MDGafrica07.pdf

Yes, according to William Easterly, author of “The White Man’s Burden”, at a February 6 event, Africa was set up to fail by the way MDG targets were set and indicators defined (http://www.brookings.edu/events/2008/0206_africa.aspx). With wit and by taking occasional cheap shots at those who developed the MDG goals and targets, Easterly held the attention of a large audience. Using data and trends, he made a compelling case why MDGs did not give sub-Saharan Africa credit for its considerable progress, thus contributing to the stereotype of “Africa’s failure”. In his response, Danny Leipziger of the World Bank took issue with many of Easterly’s claims pointing out, for example, that Tanzania was treated no different from Nepal for most MDG goals. Here is the question: Do you believe that MDGs are fair or unfair to Africa? Continue reading