Category Archives: Maternal Health

International Women’s Day Puts Spotlight on Global Poverty, Gender Inequalities

International Women’s Day Twitter Chat

We will join Global Impact to discuss these aforementioned women’s and girls’ issues on Friday, March 13 at 1 PM EST. Join us using #HerDay2015.

In Ormoc, Philippines women tend to take on village leadership roles to ensure children under five get their scheduled vaccinations and routine check-ups. These women also provide medical information to mothers and families who live deep in the rural parts of Ormoc and have a harder time attaining health services.

1 billion victims of violence

These village leaders are, for all intents and purposes, the lifelines for these rural families to health care. In addition to village leaders, rural health units staffed by volunteer health workers and nutrition scholars are charged with providing essential health care and information to families who otherwise would go without medical care.

“Being a leader makes me happy, but it is difficult,” said Ludivinia Perez, a village leader in Ormoc, Philippines on Leyte island. “I feel good about it. What makes it difficult is if I don’t have enough funds and resources.”

Continue reading International Women’s Day Puts Spotlight on Global Poverty, Gender Inequalities

9 Last-Minute Virtual Valentine’s Day Gifts for Good

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If you’re like many of us you may have waited until the very last-minute to buy your loved ones Valentine’s Day gifts. While you can still run out and buy a wealth of flowers, cards, and chocolates, here are nine virtual Valentines’s Day gifts you can give that also give back.

Oxfam Unwrapped: Oxfam recommends giving duos of animals for Valentine’s Day: a pair of chickens ($18), a pair of sheep ($80) or a pair of goats ($100).  Send lovely animals to families in need.

Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation: EGPAF is asking its lovely supporters to send Valentine’s Day e-cards to spread awareness about pediatric AIDS. It costs nothing, but the gift of awareness is always key. Click here to spread the love.

Midwives for Haiti: We all believe in the power of saving mothers’ lives. This Valentine’s Day donate to Midwives for Haiti and help them stock their medicinal chest with life-saving medicines for the entire year. Donate with love to Midwives for Haiti.

Vaccine Ambassadors: There is no doubt that vaccines save lives. Vaccines are one of the best ways to show love for children around the world. Buy vaccines with love for children whose lives can be saved by this easy intervention. $10 vaccinates 19 children against the measles.

Continue reading 9 Last-Minute Virtual Valentine’s Day Gifts for Good

Merck and WHO Partner to Curb Postpartum Hemorrhage Deaths

Earlier this month I wrote about Uganda’s move to use misoprostol for women who experience postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) during childbirth or immediately after delivery. PPH is the leading cause of maternal mortality for women around the world. 800 women die every day from complications during pregnancy and delivery; that is two mothers a minute.

Misoprostol, it has been found, is effective because it will stop a woman’s bleeding, can be taken in pill form and can be stored at hotter temperatures. Oxytocin, which is the gold standard for stopping PPH must be stored in cold temperatures to be effective. However, in low-resource settings electricity can be touch and go or altogether nonexistent.

Last year Merck announced that they have partnered with the World Health Organization as well as Ferring Pharmaceuticals to test the efficacy in clinical trials of using carbetocin, another medication that can stop PPH, but can be stored in hot and tropical environments.

The clinical trials began this year in 12 countries that included 29,000 women. Through its Merck for Mothers initiative, Merck has partnered with organizations in the United States and abroad to reduce maternal mortality around the world.

Continue reading Merck and WHO Partner to Curb Postpartum Hemorrhage Deaths

Bill and Melinda Gates’ 15-Year Bet For a Better World

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Each January Bill and Melinda Gates release their Annual Letter. This year they are taking  a bet on the world’s future.

15 years ago the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was started and  there have been substantial improvements in global health and development since then because of its dedication to the world’s poorest people. Now, Bill and Melinda Gates believe even more can be done in the next 15 years.

More Children Will Live and More Diseases Will Be Eradicated

By 2030 Bill and Melinda Gates bet that fewer children will die from preventable disease and more preventable diseases will be eradicated, Africa will be able to feed itself, millions more will gain access to mobile banking and education will be improved by innovative software.

Today, one in 20 children die from preventable diseases. In 2030, Bill and Melinda Gates bet the number of child deaths will come down to one in 40 children. Decreasing that number will take political will from  the hardest hit countries with child mortality, new approaches and programs to keep children and newborns alive, vaccines, better health systems, and funding.

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Africa Will Be Able to Feed Itself

It’s mind-boggling to know that Africa imports $50 billion dollars in food annually. Why? Because African farmers do not produce enough food currently to feed the continent. But due to its massive size and large agrarian societies Bill and Melinda Gates believe Africa will indeed be able to feed itself in 15 years . More training, better seeds, improved fertilizers, and crop rotations will lead to more yields across all of sub-Saharan Africa. That will lead to more money remaining in Africa for national and continent-wide improvements, such as increased funds to improve health systems or provide better training to farmers across the board.

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More People Will Have Access to Mobile Banking 

Currently there are 2.5 billion people who do not have access to a banking account. This means these people aren’t able to keep their assets safe and it proves difficult to borrow money and pay it back seamlessly. Bill and Melinda Gates believes that in 15 years hundreds of millions of people will gain access to a mobile bank account that will change their lives and the way they save, spend, and earn money.

Education Will Improve Due to Software 

While more girls are getting an education around the world there are still too many girls who are left out of school. By 2030 that gender gap in education will sharply close. It is important to educate girls for the following reasons:

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With innovative technology education will be  accessible to millions more helping them leave the cycle of poverty and to improve their lives.

Bill and Melinda Gates are calling on everyone to become Global Citizens and care about these issues. Read 2015 Gates Annual Letter: Our Big Bet for the Future at gatesletter.com.

Zambians Head to the Polls: Candidates’ Stance on Health Care

This morning as most Americans were asleep Zambians headed to the polls to elect either the candidate of the ruling party, Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front founded in 1991 by the late President Michael Sata, or the leading opposition candidate representing the United Party for National Development, Hakainde Hichilema. Political observers say the race is close and there is no definitive leader at this point. Polls close at 6 PM Central African Time Zone.

Zambia one of the leaders on the continent of copper production along with the DRC and both candidates disagree about taxing mining companies that employ many Zambians in the Copper Belt according to Al Jazeera.  A contentious subject, Lungu believes the copper companies should be heavily taxed while Hichilema believes taxes on the companies should not increase which could cause mine closures that could in turn hemorrhage workers. As expected, both candidates have promised increased job creation and more aid to poor, rural Zambians across the country, a move that researchers at the London School of Economics say is key to helping elect African politicians. Most African politicians favored overwhelming urban campaigning to curb urban violence during election time, but have quickly learned that re-election proves difficult without the rural vote.

Hichilema is running to increase the number of frontline health workers and to improve training and respecting health workers. The United Party for National Development’s health provisions range from decreasing taxes on health care and medicines and providing free care to poor Zambians to increasing the number of frontline health workers. Of note, the UPND has placed an emphasis on fighting malaria and HIV/AIDS.

The Patriotic Front has created a Health Services Provision that lays out in six parts how the party will improve Zambia’s health care system starting with every Zambian’s right to quality health care. The Patriotic Front is also committed to better education and working conditions for health workers based on the contents of the Provision.  It  also calls for a realignment of the Mother and Child function.

Health care is an important issue for a country that has a maternal mortality rate of 591 out of 100,000 live births (one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world ) and mortality for children under the age of five is 119 per 1,000 according to UNICEF.

Thus far copper mining, which accounts for more than 86 percent of Zambia’s foreign direct investment and has made Zambia the eighth largest producer of copper, seems to be primary on the political agenda. After the election, only time will tell if health care, particularly maternal and child health, can compete with the copper industry and job creation.

Photo: www.facebook.com/hakainde.hichilema

 

 

USAID Tackles Respectful Maternity Care, Better Working Conditions for Midwives

This week USAID released its follow-up to Ending Preventable Maternal Mortality: USAID Maternal Health
Vision for Action (June 2014) with its new report of the same name with the addition of evidence for strategic approaches. These approaches seek to lower the world’s maternal mortality rate. Right now 289,000 women die per year from complications during child birth.

While it is widely known that MDG 5 will fall short of its overall global goal, USAID has partnered with other leading organizations including the World Health Organization, Maternal Health Task Force, United Nations Population Fund, and the Maternal Child Health Integrated Fund along with representatives from 30 countries  to work on a new set of maternal health goals. Set in April 2014, these organizations are now working towards a global maternal mortality rate (MMR) of 70/100,000 with no country having above a 140 MMR by 2030.

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New Global Projects Measure Newborn Health Interventions #EveryNewborn

Eight million children under the age of five die every year from preventable diseases. Of those eight million deaths, 2.8 million are neonates according to the World Health Organization.  Key interventions like Kangaroo Mother Care, pre-and postnatal care, deliveries in a hospital setting with trained health workers, and exclusive breastfeeding are some proven ways to keep more babies alive.

Two leading researchers, Dr. Joanne Katz, Professor and Associate Chair at the Department of International Health of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Dr. Abdhalah Ziraba, Associate Research Scientist at the African Population and Health Research Center have both won $50,000 from CappSci‘s Data for Life Prize to collect data on scalable, low-cost solutions that have the potential to save lives.

Dr. Katz will study the use of portable ultrasound for expecting mothers in rural Nepal where home births are highly common. A number of risk factors appear during the third trimester that can be detected with the help of portable ultrasound machines, allowing women to seek care and prepare for medical facility-based deliveries.

Dr. Ziraba will study Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) for new mothers and neonates in Kenya.  KMC involves immediate skin-to-skin contact of mother and baby, frequent breastfeeding and maternal-infant bonding. The non-medical intervention aims to reduce preterm and underweight deaths, which are often the result of hypothermia and poor nutrition.

“It was most exciting and gratifying to find out that our work identifying pregnant women with problems late in pregnancy needing specialized delivery care using portable ultrasound equipment in rural Nepal had been funded by the Data for Life Prize,” said Dr. Katz. “These are women who usually deliver at home or in facilities that cannot take care of these problems. By knowing in advance about these concerns, they can plan to deliver in a facility with the right staff and equipment to help save their lives and those of their infants.”

ultrasound being done in the home

“While the under-five mortality rates have been reducing in the last 10-15 years in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the number of babies dying before the age of one month has not been improving. The coverage of interventions for averting these deaths remains low, and more effort is needed in assessing alternatives that can save the lives of preterm and underweight babies. APHRC will utilize this prize to support work aimed at averting death of preterm and underweight babies through a tailored Community level Kangaroo Mother Care intervention in two slums of Nairobi City,” said Dr. Ziraba.

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5 of Our Partners Who Continue to Work in Haiti #Haiti5Years

In an earlier piece today, How is Haiti Faring Five Years After the Earthquake, development and recovery effort data and details were rather pessimistic. The numbers bear out that while some overall development achievements have been met, there is still a long way to go to help Haiti fully recover. And, yet, there continues to be successes all over Haiti. Our partners are helping to make these successes happen.

SOS Children’s Villages 

On January 10, 2015, SOS Children’s Villages opened its third village for orphaned children in Les Cayes, Haiti. 63 children will be provided a home. For over 30 years, SOS Children’s Villages has provided family-based care and education programs in Santo and Cap-Haïtien, Haiti. Immediately following the earthquake SOS Children’s Villages took in 400 orphaned children and fed 24,000 children every day.

“The biggest challenge for SOS Children’s Villages during the earthquake was to find a way to welcome these children because the village was too small,” said Celigny Darius, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages – Haiti. “We installed temporary houses to enable us to take them in.”

In addition to the opening of its third village, SOS Children’s Villages has invested in six schools to renew education on the island. And 3000 children receive support through their community centers.

Continue reading 5 of Our Partners Who Continue to Work in Haiti #Haiti5Years

Ethiopian Health Workers Receive Influx of Family Planning Training

In sub-Saharan Africa, 49 million women use traditional methods of family of no family planning methods at all. In Ethiopia, 39.1 percent of women use modern contraceptives up from 15 percent in 2005. The current low rate of contraceptive use in Ethiopia is a result of a combination of factors: cultural biases as well as a lack of trained health workers that can reach every woman in the country. Ethiopia is Africa’s second-most populated country behind Nigeria with 90 million people and only has a few hundred OBGYNs. There is currently only one obstetrician for 1.8 million women in Ethiopia.

That said, Ethiopia’s federal government has done an exceptional job training health workers since its Health Extension Workers program officially launched in 2003. Now 34,000 women strong, Ethiopians are afforded access to skilled health workers in their villages and cities, but there is still an unmet need for reproductive health and family planning services from health professionals.

The University of Michigan was recently gifted an anonymous $25 million dollar grant to train Ethiopian doctors in reproductive health services.  University of Michigan’s new Center for International Reproductive Health Training will train incoming doctors, nurses and midwives in comprehensive family planning services at seven medical schools across Ethiopia. The first phase of the grant will be used to build upon the work the University of Michigan is already doing at St. Paul Hospital Millennium Medical College in Addis Ababa.

Thomas Mekuria, third-year resident in OB/GYN at St. Paul's Hospital Millennium Medical College in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Thomas Mekuria, third-year resident in OB/GYN at St. Paul’s Hospital Millennium Medical College in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“Every day, women across the globe are dying and suffering from poor health outcomes because they don’t have access to high quality, comprehensive reproductive health care,” says Senait Fisseha, M.D., J.D., the center’s director in a statement.  Fisseha, who was born in Ethiopia, is a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at the U-M Health System.

“We are overwhelmingly grateful for this extraordinary grant that allows us to build on our strong foundation of global reproductive health programs and continue to pursue a longtime dream to provide all women a full scope of high quality reproductive health care when and where they need it.”

With a maternal mortality ratio of 420 per 100,000 live births in Ethiopia, family planning services are essential to keep more mothers alive, especially teenage mothers who are not prepared physically to bear children. The average Ethiopian woman has 5.5 children according to the most recent demographic data.

“Our center will help empower women to make their own decisions about their own reproductive health, thereby choosing whether and when to start a family,” Dr. Fisseha continued. “Our ultimate goal is to help train future generations of capable and competent health care providers in many parts of Africa and South Asia who can deliver comprehensive reproductive health services, and also be advocates for the safest and best health care possible at every stage of a woman’s life.”

Uganda Moves Closer to Using Misoprostol to Curb Postpartum Hemorrhage

In low- and middle-income countries women continue to die each day during and immediately after childbirth mainly due to postpartum hemorrhaging (PPH). In fact, most maternal deaths in sub-Saharan Africa (440 every day) are caused by PPH.

The World Health Organization’s strong recommendation to save mothers who experience PPH is to administer oxytocin, the most effective drug to stop hemorrhaging. The problem, however, is oxytocin must be kept refrigerated. Most health centers and hospitals in low resource areas lack electricity or have spotting service making the use of oxytocin improbable to impossible. Oxytocin must also be injected by a skilled health worker which causes another barrier to its universal use. For African women, who likely live great distances from their closest health center, the chances of delivering their baby with a skilled health professional are increasingly low.

Scientists in Uganda recently conducted a double-blind, randomized trial where they compared the use of oxytocin and misoprostol, an oral drug that also stops postpartum hemorrhaging. They found that misoprostol can effectively be used against PPH because it can be taken as a pill and does not need to be refrigerated. In cases where oxytocin  and health workers are not available the World Health Organization has also recommended the use of misoprostol. This recommendation has stood since 2011.

Although misoprostol has been used and distributed to health centers in Uganda since 2010 the researchers acknowledge that the drug has been illegally abused because it can also be used for abortions. Researchers also admit that oxytocin is a superior drug to reduce PPH because misoprostol often causes shivering and fevers in addition to stopping hemorrhages.

While misoprostol seems to be the likely alternative to oxytocin in resource-poor settings, researchers in Australia at Monash University as well as their global partners Glaxo Smith Kline, McCall MacBain Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada and Planet Wheeler Foundation are currently collaborating on an inhaled oxytocin product that does not require refrigeration while still saving mothers’ lives.

Photo: United Nations