By Caroline Kinsella, Advocacy and Communications Intern, White Ribbon Alliance
One of the more hidden human rights abuses around the world is the fact that one billion people have no legal proof of identity. Alarmingly, UNICEF estimates that about one in four children under age 5, or 166 million, are unregistered and without any trace that they exist. Conversations about reducing global poverty and protecting the health and human rights of mothers and newborns must include the challenges of birth registration.
A single piece of paper has the power to transform a person’s future. Birth certificates are necessary to access government services, life-saving medical treatment, a nationality and age related legal protections. Legal proof of birth is often required to attend school and apply to higher education, as well as open a bank account and vote. Many of the individuals without a birth certificate today are children who were never registered at birth. In some cases, nobody knows for decades that a child does not have a birth certificate.
In Uganda, Senfuka Samuel, who goes by Sam, applied for a master’s degree program that required a birth certificate. As he did not have one, Sam had to venture to the hospital where he was born. There, he discovered that hospital records before the year 2000, including any proof of his birth, were destroyed in the civil war. Traveling hundreds of miles over two weeks, Sam spent his own money to first get issued a necessary ‘birth notification’ – a slip of paper with birth details handwritten by a midwife – to later gain a new legal birth certificate.
As is true with each new presidential administration the global health community hangs in the balance. According to KFF.org the US global health funding was set at $11 billion in FY 2019 and in 2020 the funding was significantly decreased. This funding goes towards programs in more than 70 countries for HIV, malaria, maternal and child health among other health challenges. But now with the Biden administration the global health imperative is back on the table with increased funding and a dedication to countries’ health. Here are four reasons why.
At the start of the last administration the lamentations were heard around the world about the reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy or the Global Gage Rule, that cut overseas funding from advocating for the legalization of abortions, provide abortions, mention the word, or even refer women to health practionioners that provide safe, legal abortions. Biden has already revoked the Mexico City Policy, but according to Time magazine the Trump effect may take some time to undo.
The Trump administration also withdrew from the World Health Organization (WHO), something that seemed unfathomable, but was a stark wakeup call for the global health community. Biden stopped the United States’ official withdrawal from the WHO. This is important as the US provides significant funding for global health and by re-entering the worldwide health community, the US will help stabilize the global COVID-19 response.
Not only did the Trump administration withdraw from the World Health Organization, it also withdrew from The Paris Climate Agreement signed in 2015. Make no mistake, while the Agreement sets conditions and milestones for countries to reach to stave off and prevent further climate extremes it is very much a health agreement. Again, Biden rejoined The Paris Agreement, putting the United States back on a solid footing on climate change initiatives.
Biden’s nominee for administrator of USAID is Samantha Power. With years of global health and administration experience under her belt, Power is the former US ambassador to the United Nations under Obama. Additionally, Power served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the National Security Council. Power will certainly raise the profile of USAID and usher a renewed sense of the United States’ responsibility to global health and security.
In the first few weeks of Biden’s administration there have been several notable changes in how the United States approaches global health. This is especially imperative with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging out of control with new variants and a backed-up vaccine rollout. Now, there is a plan in place not only for the United States, but also for global distribution of the vaccine where the vast majority of the vaccines have gone to high-income countries according to Duke Univeristy’s Global Health Instutute.
It has been an historic week with the announcement of Kamala D. Harris as the first black woman nominee for vice president. Pundits and political experts alike will without doubt parse through her record from her time working as DA of San Francisco and Attorney General of California as well as serving in the United States Senate. One thing is clear: Senator Harris has worked tirelessly on maternal health issues as it pertains to black women who are three times more likely than white women to die due to pregnancy and delivery complications.
Harris joined forces with Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) and Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) to introduce the Black Maternal Health Momnibus, a series of nine bills that take racial disparities out of the maternal health outcomes, funds communty-based maternal health organizations, improves data collection, and invests in digital health tools among other pertinent issues.
In February of this year, Harris convened a Black Maternal Health Roundtable where women recounted their experiences with health care providers during their pregnancies and experts discussed racial disparities in maternal health care.
During the holidays $511 million dollars was donated online on Giving Tuesday. That marks an increase of 28% from 2018. While the total number of charitable donations have yet to be tallied for the entirety of 2019, estimates hover around $430 billion. Given that, what cities and states are giving the most money online and volunteering the most time to charities? WalletHub dug into the statistics and discovered the most charitable states and drilled down to the most caring cities.
Now that 2020 is in full swing I decided to catch up on the many maternal health and mortality articles that were published during the holiday season. There has been a lot of stellar reporting that you might have missed. I did. Here is a compilation of some of the articles I found the most compelling starting with a wrap-up post, 7 things I learned from spending a year reporting on mothers in Alabama, by Anna Claire Volle about the excellent year-long reporting she did on mothers in Alabama. I particularly liked