While maternal mortality has been halved since 1990 low and middle income countries still have a long way to go in order to see improved maternal mortality numbers. Sub-Saharan Africa still ranks highest in maternal mortality. For example, some of the highest maternal death rates are seen in Chad with 1 in 15 women dying during childbirth and the Democratic Republic of Congo that tallies 1 in 30 women who succumb to maternal mortality.
This 50th anniversary infographic from USAiD shows basic interventions that can help keep more women alive during childbirth. You can see maternal death rates for every country in the world in Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers 2013 report.
After spending nearly a week and a half in Zambia during the second half of July with nine other new media journalists we concluded our final day with an official visit to the United States Embassy in Lusaka. We met with representatives from USAID, PEPFAR, the Peace Corps, and the CDC. We also met with the US Ambassador to the Republic of Zambia, Mark. C. Storella. The visit provided a capstone to all of the site visits and panel discussions we had reporting from Zambia. It also provided a tightly wrapped conclusion to the information we learned on the ground not only in Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, but also in some of the rural areas in Zambia’s Southern Province.
Dr. Lawrence Marum, the country Director for the CDC in Zambia mentioned that for two decades HIV transformed countries and now the best prevention is through early detection. “We have gone through a transformation I didn’t think I would see in my lifetime,” Marum said. “Five hundred thousand people are alive today in Zambia and on ARVs who otherwise would be dead.”
Marum also underscored the skepticism many in the west had in the early 1990s about African doctors’ ability to prescribe ARVs. Today thousands of Zambian doctors can prescribe ARVs which shows a significant sustainability and capacity change.
In Zambia, through work with these four key US partners as well as through the Department of Defense, Zambia is creating a climate of increased access to HIV testing, education, and counseling, PMTCT, access to ARVs, cervical cancer screening, voluntary male circumcision, and the reduction of maternal mortality. In fact, Zambia is one of three countries that is on track to eliminate PMTCT (Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission) and could create an AIDS-free generation. Zambia is also working diligently to rampantly reduce the maternal mortality rate of 591 per 100,000 live births. Compare that to 4 per 100,000 live births in the United States. Working in select districts in Zambia, the maternal mortality is dropping significantly. It’s only a matter if the interventions can be scaled.
Under the leadership of Ambassador Storella, Zambia is gradually becoming an active part in financing countrywide health services and is moving to accept country ownership of health programs. This is a process to be sure. Zambian officials have responded and have increased budget allocations for HIV/AIDS detection and treatment.
“Zambia is moving in the right direction,” Storella said.
In fact, Zambia has increased their health budget by 45 percent. Storella realizes that there will come a point where despite budgets health programs will have to be sustainable. “We cannot just provide treatment,” he said. “We have to ramp up health systems.”
One of the main goals of Ambassador Storella is to ensure that US-funded programs produce measurable results and that he shows good stewardship of the American taxpayer’s money. “Diseases don’t know borders,” Storella said. “We are the front line of protecting the American people and the world.”
We are so happy to see Social Good Moms and Global Team of 200 members published by USAID and Feed the Future this week in a nutrition series. Read Julia Gibson‘s and Jennifer Barbour‘s great posts. Stay tuned on Monday for another post by Shivani Cotter. Congratulations, ladies!
On Monday GAIN and Future Fortifiedhosted the #NutritionHangout on Google+ with ONE, USAID, and 1,000 Days. The hangout started with Tom Hart, US Executive Director of ONE presenting over 100,000 signatures of a recent nutrition campaign ONE held with its members to Dr. Raj Shah, USAID Administrator. ONE members signed the petition to put child nutrition on the global agenda and end child malnutrition by 2016. Administrator Shah mentioned that the United States has had a long tradition of putting nutrition goals on its agenda.
“America has for decades led the effort to provide nutrition around the world,” Shah said. “Today we believe there is a better approach.Feed the Futurehas helped 12 million children move from malnutrition.”
Shah also mentioned the need to reform United States’ role in providing nutrition around the world by reaching more children within the first 1000 days of life, which begins when babies are still in the womb.
“We all need to make investments to increase core support for nutrition,” Administrator Shah continued. “We do have to look at doing things more efficiently. We cannot continue to spend up to 50% on overhead to get food to people.”
Tom Hart from the ONE Campaign underscored the critical need to push for nutrition reform and make malnutrition a global priority.
“We all understand what it means to have nutritious food or the lack thereof,” Hart said. “We are focusing media and social media on this G8 Summit. Those eight people really do set he agenda. They set the momentum. We hope to hold their feet to the fire about malnutrition. We are backing USAID and the Obama administration with food reform.”
The robust conversation moderated by Adrianna Logalbo,campaign head forFuture Fortified, also included Tjada McKenna, Deputy Coordinator for Development at Feed the Future, and Lucy Sullivan, Executive Director of 1,000 Days, and Chef Candice Kumai, advocate for Future Fortified.
Sullivan from 1,000 Days shed light on the importance of providing sound nutrition to millions of children within the 1000 days window. “There are a lot of biological processes critical to healthy development,” she said. “Malnutrition can cause irreversible danger.”
And McKenna discussed Feed the Future‘s role in the global nutrition landscape. “Nutrition has been at the center of many of our development efforts”, she said. “12 million children have benefited by reduced anemia, and malnutrition.”
Today marks the start of the first ever Global Newborn Health Conference. Thus far conference-goers have heard opening remarks from high level executives at the World Health Organization, Save the Children, UNICEF, MCHIP, USAID, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Below are key tweets from the early morning session as well as those of our own.