Tag Archives: maternal health

How Four Organizations Use Storytelling and Data to Highlight Women’s Health and Global Progress

Over the past few days several organizations have focused on International Women’s Day by releasing reports on the progress of women and girls in a variety of sectors through interactive web sites, data, as well as maps. The following have stood out during the week.

Doctors Without Borders

Women’s health care is critical in many low- and middle-income countries largely because women as well as girls continue to die in numbers that are not only too high, but oftentimes unnecessary. For example, 800 women still die from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. The vast majority of these deaths are preventable. And, 13 percent of the 22 million unsafe abortions result in maternal deaths. To convey this and other health data, Doctors Without Borders created a robust, multimedia online project, Because Tomorrow Needs Herwhere health workers and patients alike share their life experiences either administering care in low-resource settings, or seeking quality care with the burden of heavy obstacles like transportation, costs, and proximity to a health facility.

Through eight interactive chapters with compelling first-person accounts Doctors Without Borders highlights important women’s health issues including maternal health, fistulas, unsafe abortions, and sexual violence among others.

“It is unconscionable that in many parts of the world today, women have no access to quality obstetric care, when providing it is not complicated,” said Séverine Caluwaerts, an MSF obstetrician/gynecologist. “High impact, yet low-cost interventions by trained health staff can have a dramatic impact on maternal mortality.”

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ONE Campaign Reports that Global Poverty is Deeply Rooted in Sexism

Featured Photo: Paolo Patruno – www.birthisadream.org

Today is International Women’s Day which calls upon the world to look at not only the seminal achievements women have made throughout history, but also assess the ways in which women and girls are being perpetually marginalized across the globe through sexist policies and cultural traditions. This sexism is further exacerbated in developing countries according to a new report just released by the ONE campaign, Poverty is Sexist: Why girls and women must be at the heart of the fight to end extreme poverty.

“It’s about time we refocused the development agenda on gender equity as a smart means of unleashing the potential for human, social, political and economic development everywhere,” says Dr Sipho S. Moyo, ONE Africa’s Executive Director. “This being the African Union Year of Women Empowerment, it is our opportunity to seize and promote the advancement of humankind by insisting on policy interventions by our African governments that promote and ensure equal opportunities for women and girls, especially in the poorest countries.

Continue reading ONE Campaign Reports that Global Poverty is Deeply Rooted in Sexism

TOMS Bags for Safe Maternity

Photo: Paolo Patruno – www.birthisadream.org

Last week TOMS announced its new one for one bag collection for both men and women that was specifically designed and created for safe motherhood. Every day 800 women die from pregnancy complications or during delivery. 99 percent of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries. TOMS bag purchases help hand-selected partners provide safe birth kits, training for midwives, and safer deliveries. With proper care, women are 80 percent less likely to develop infections that can lead to death right after delivery when she delivers with a skilled birth attendant.

The three partners TOMS chose to receive maternal health support are UNFPA, BRAC, and Ayzh.

To purchase a TOMS bag for maternal health visit www.toms.com/women/womens-bags for women and www.toms.com/men/mens-bags for men.

 

Toms Bags for Safe Maternity

New 6-Year Global Strategy Launches to Further Curb Malaria Deaths

Malaria Photo by Paolo Patruno
Photo: Paolo Patruno www.paolopatrunophoto.org

Since 2001 malaria deaths have fallen by 4.3 million. This is due in part because of a concerted scale-up of malaria prevention and control efforts, especially across sub-Saharan Africa. Increased funding has made this scale-up and global malaria prevention partnerships possible, and yet the funding falls short of the estimated $5.1 billion annually needed to eradicate malaria worldwide.

The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) was signed by George W. Bush in 2005. Upon its official launch in 2006, the primary goal of the Initiative was to reduce malaria deaths by 50 percent across 15 hard-hit countries in sub-Saharan Africa where over 90 percent of all malaria deaths occur. Since then, major milestones have been reached. Malaria mortality decreased by 54 percent in the World Health Organization Africa region and also by 58 percent among children under the age of five. This is significant because malaria remains one of the three largest killers of children globally. Malaria prevention funding also rose from $30 million in 2006 to $669 million by 2015. Insecticide treated bednets also rose from 29 percent to 55 percent.

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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.”

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IN PHOTOS: Engaging Health Workers to End Female Genital Mutilation

Friday, February 6 was International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation. Individuals, corporations, NGOs, the media, and foundations rallied together to raise awareness about FGM. Over 140 million girls and women alive today have undergone some form of FGM and it is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.

Press Conference on Engaging Health Workers to End Female Genital Mutilation at the United Nations

Edna Adan Ismail (centre), Nurse-Midwife, Director and Founder of the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital in Hargeisa, Somaliland, addresses a press conference on the subject of engaging health workers to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The press conference took place on the International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation (6 February).
Edna Adan Ismail (centre), Nurse-Midwife, Director and Founder of the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital in Hargeisa, Somaliland, addresses a press conference on the subject of engaging health workers to end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The press conference took place on the International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation (6 February).

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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.

Continue reading USAID Tackles Respectful Maternity Care, Better Working Conditions for Midwives

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

 

 

5 Global Health Stories We’re Following This Year

2015 will be an interesting year in global health primarily because this is the year when the Millennium Development Goals should ideally be reached. Global health experts admit that many of the goals, for example MDG5, will not be reached globally even though some of them have already been reached on a country level.

Ethiopia effectively reached MDG4 along with Bangladesh, Liberia, Malawi, Nepal, and Tanzania according to a 2013 report in the Guardian and UN data. Globally, the proportion of people having access to safe drinking water was reached in 2012. That is cause for celebration.

The overarching theme this year will be how the global health community will save more lives in low and middle-income countries in the best ways possible. This does not necessarily mean substantive goals, target dates, and data measurements will be scaled back. Rather, improved approaches to global health will be devised to streamline processes and programs.

While there are many global health stories that deserve following in great detail here are our top five picks for 2015.

1. The Effect of Ebola on Maternal Health: While Ebola is being fought in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia there must also be an enhanced emphasis on women who are pregnant and need to deliver their babies in a hospital setting. As it is, with low resources and crippled health systems in these three countries, women still need to be afforded quality care during pregnancy and delivery while health workers also care for those stricken with Ebola.

As the year goes on it is probable that key data will emerge from lessons learned during the Ebola response. According to Scientific American, the WHO, UNICEF, and Save the Children have already devised best practices and protocols for safe delivery.

2. Global Immunizations: This year we will watch the increase in rotavirus vaccine roll-outs across poor countries. Why? Diarrhea is one of the top three leading causes of deaths for children under five, and yet the rotavirus vaccine isn’t accessible in the volume of some the other vaccines. That said, rotavirus roll-outs have increased substantially since 2011. There is more good news. With increased GAVI funding, the rotavirus vaccine will be introduced in 30 countries this year.

rotavirus

We will also look at the progress of the Ebola vaccine. GAVI has announced that it is ready to purchase a million doses of the vaccine as soon as the World Health Organization approves its use. Today, Johnson & Johnson announced that they have already begun clinical Ebola vaccine trials with volunteers in Africa.

3. Country Commitments to the Every Newborn Action Plan (ENAP): Last year saw the official adoption of the plan during last year’s World Health Assembly and the launch of the Every Newborn Action Plan in Johannesburg during the Partners Forum. Upon its launch there were already 40 commitments (PDF) to save more newborns globally. That said, this year we will also look for increased commitments, particularly country commitments, to the ENAP especially since 2.9 million newborns die every year due to largely preventable causes.

4. Scaling Up of Frontline Health Workers: Did you know there is a global shortage of 7.2 million frontline health workers? That key data has been widely shown by the lack of health workers in  Ebola stricken countries. It’s the lack of health workers that has made fighting Ebola harder than it should be and why many health workers outside of Africa have had to pick up the slack.

Scaling up health workers is a large expense, but it bears repeating that in order for countries to provide quality health care to their citizens there must first be enough health workers. Ethiopia is touted time and again as an excellent example of a poor country that effectively scaled health worker coverage across the country through a government-led effort. Other countries’ health ministers have traveled to Ethiopia to see best practices for scaling up their own frontline health force. The second step after key learnings, however, is making sure actions are taken besides pure lip service. In 2015 we will look at evidence from other low- and middle-income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, that will introduce better national health worker programs.

5. Food Security in Conflict Areas: At the end of 2014, the World Food Programme said that it had suspended food aid to 1.7 million refugees in Syria due to a lack of donor funding. And previous to that, the WFP split vouchers in half to stretch funds according to the New York Times. Even though the World Food Programme received an emergency influx of funds after their voucher suspension announcement last month, it is never a good sign to see that there are not enough donor dollars to feed the world especially those who are living in conflict areas. Food security in not only conflict zones, but also in West Africa will be on our must-follow list this year.

Which global health stories are you following this year?

 UN Photo/Martine Perret