We asked experts and readers to tell us the top 10 milestones in global health in 2012. The response was overwhelming via Twitter, Facebook, PSI’s Impact blog and through direct outreach; it made the task of identifying only 10 items difficult.
Today, around 2.6 billion people still lack access to decent sanitation (aka toilets). One billion people defecate in the open, if that can be imagined in the 21st century. As a result, kids by the millions die each year of water-borne diseases causing diarrhea as human waste commingles with the water supply.
In June 2012, along with a team from IPC, I visited a client in Sector 5 F, Karachi. A young mother of five children, she had been contacted by an outreach worker from Greenstar, and encouraged to seek family planning support from a nearby Greenstar clinic. With encouragement and information from the outreach worker and the health service provider at the Greenstar clinic, she had adopted the PPIUCD method. Although this young client was facing serious financial difficulties in life, and working as a cleaning lady at the same time as looking after her children, her defiance, resilience – and desire to make life better for herself and her family – caught the attention of the outreach worker Tasleem. This client became “Sitara”- the “star”, and symbolic of many women in Pakistan. Her story featured in the second issue of “Voice of Sitara”.
An estimated 14,000 villagers from 20 communities in Niger participated in a public vow to end Female Genital Mutilation and forced underage marriage. From Reuters:
Though Niger outlawed the practice in 2003, FGM and other violent treatment of young women remain prevalent among some ethnic groups in the impoverished Sahel nation, which ranks bottom of the United Nations’ world development index.
At a ceremony in Makalondi, about 85 km (53 miles) west of the capital Niamey, villagers threw scissors, knives and blades into a pit in the village square which was then filled in.
Participants in the ceremony, sponsored by Niger’s government and non-governmental groups including U.N. child agency UNICEF, also vowed to end forced early marriages and the removal of young girls from schools.
About 38 percent of girls in Niger are married off before the age of 15, according to official statistics.
Niger’s minister for population, women and child protection, said the government was determined to end such practices.
“The government is aware of its responsibilities,” Maikibi Kadidiatou Dan Dobi said during the ceremony on Wednesday.
FGM is the partial or total removal of external female genitalia and leads to physical and psychological problems including painful sex and childbirth, infections, infertility and incontinence.
It is done for religious and cultural reasons and is prevalent in 28 African nations and parts of the Middle East and Asia, notably Yemen, Iraqi Kurdistan and Indonesia.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in December urging countries to ban the practice, calling it an “irreparable, irreversible abuse” that threatens about three million girls annually.
The World Health Organization estimates 140 million girls and women have undergone FGM.
In Niger, the practice is still common among certain ethnic groups such as the Gourmantche where about 65 percent of girls have undergone FGM. The rate is around 13 percent among the Peuls and about 3 percent among Nigerien Arab girls.
By Ambreen Saleh, Deputy General Manager, Communications, Greenstar Social Marketing Pakistan
Sitara lives in Suraj Miani, near Multan, Punjab. She lives in a village of about 4000 to 5000 people who are Siraiki speaking. Most people in her village are from a low socio-economic background. Her husband is a mason and earns around Rs 8000 to Rs 9000 ($81- $91) a month. They have five children and they all live together in a two bedroom house.
Sitara’s life is representative of the lives of many women in Pakistan.
The couple is frequently under the financial, mental and emotional pressure of surviving and looking after their many children. She was approached by a community educator from Greenstar, who explained the various methods available for her to look after her health and plan the size of her family.
NPR featured a story over the weekend on reducing infant mortality. Host Rachel Martin speaks with DC nurse Mindy Greenside and Michael Fraser, CEO for the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs. The two stress the importance of prenatal care in preventing child deaths.
Martin also spoke with Save the Children CEO Carolyn Miles following the release of the organizations global report on mothers.
CAROLYN MILES: Shockingly, about 11,000 moms lose their babies on the first day of life.
MARTIN: Carolyn Miles is the group’s president and CEO. And she says the group found that the U.S. really struggles with keeping newborns healthy immediately after birth.
MILES: Particularly in this first day, the U.S. is actually worse than all the other industrialized countries put together.
Phase III trials of the Rotavac Rotavirus Vaccine show that it has the potential to save thousands of lives, say scientists. From the BBC:
Rotavirus causes dehydration and severe diarrhoea and spreads through contaminated hands and surfaces and is rampant in Asia and Africa.
India says clinical trials show the new vaccine, Rotavac, can save the lives of thousands of children annually.
An Indian manufacturer said the vaccine would cost 54 rupees ($1; £0.65).
International pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline and Merck produce similar vaccines but each dose costs around 1,000 rupees.
“This is an important scientific breakthrough against rotavirus infections, the most severe and lethal cause of childhood diarrhoea, responsible for approximately 100,000 deaths of small children in India each year,” India’s Department of Biotechnology official K Vijay Raghavan said.
“The clinical results indicate that the vaccine, if licensed, could save the lives of thousands of children each year in India,” he added.
Rotavac will be made by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech. The company said it could mass-produce tens of millions of doses after clearance is given, expected in eight or nine months.
Procter & Gamble’s flagship social initiative has helped save the lives of 30,000 children globally. Katharine Earley explores how the firm is using the program to engage consumers and meet its goals. This originally appears on 2 Degrees Network here.
As the global water crisis intensifies, some 780 million people lack access to safe water, while nearly 2,000 children under the age of five die from water and sanitation-related diarrheal diseases every day.
That is more than from HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.
Increasingly, major companies are tackling fundamental health and development issues, including safe drinking water, as they move beyond cutting their own impacts to make a positive contribution to society.
Procter & Gamble (P&G) is one such company. As a global manufacturer of everyday products, the $84bn consumer goods giant sees its responsibility very clearly as helping people to take small steps to improve their everyday lives.
Committing time, funds and resource to addressing sustainable development issues also represents an investment in future markets.
This Gates Foundation video shows how mobile technology deployed by the Grameen Foundation in Ghana is improving maternal and child health. The MOTECH mobile midwife program lets pregnant women register to receive voice message reminders during their pregnancy.
MOTECH Ghana is a mHealth service for pregnant women and their families in rural Ghana built on the MOTECH Platform. It delivers weekly automated voice or SMS messages to the women which contain time-specific information encouraging them to make health-seeking choices such as receiving recommended vaccinations or maintaining proper nutrition. Via the MOTECH Ghana mobile application, Community Health Nurses in Ghana use their mobiles to record the care given to patients and the caregivers receive alerts of patients who are due or overdue for care so they can follow up with them. A detailed overview is available in our Early Lessons Learned in Ghana report.
The cyclone already hit Sri Lanka where at least seven people died. It is predicted to hit Myanmar and Bangladesh soon. From Reuters:
Cyclone Mahasen, which brought heavy rains and landslides to Sri Lanka, was expected to hit Bangladesh and Myanmar later this week.
“Seven people have died and 10 people have got injured. There are 7,399 people from 1,947 families affected,” Lal Sarath Kumara, the spokesman at Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Center, told Reuters.
The Center said 3,881 people had been displaced due to the cyclone. Three people were missing due to heavy rains and landslides.
Officials at Sri Lanka’s Department of Meteorology have said the center of Cyclone Mahasen is located 900 km off the island nation’s eastern coastal town of Pottuvil.
On Tuesday, a boat carrying about 100 Rohingya Muslims capsized off western Myanmar and many were feared drowned at the beginning of a mass evacuation from low-lying regions ahead of a powerful storm.
The tropical depression threatens areas of Myanmar where about 140,000 victims of ethnic and religious unrest are living in camps. The United Nations warned last week there could be a humanitarian catastrophe if people were not evacuated.
By Dr.Ya Diul Mukadi, Senior Tuberculosis Media Advisor, USAID
In 1882, Dr. Robert Koch discovered Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes TB. In 1952, the first combination of antibiotics was used to treat. Today, thoughout the world, most people with TB are diagnosed with the same simple microscopy method that Koch used to identify the bacteria. Additionally, almost all are treated with the same basic antibiotics that have been used since mid-20th century. During the same time period, the HIV epidemic and spread of drug resistant TB have complicated diagnosis of TB. People with HIV who become sick with TB are less likely to be diagnosed correctly using simple microscopy, and this technique does not tell us whether or not the bacteria is resistant to anti-TB drugs. Moreover, with the alarming increase in drug resistant cases in recent years, we see the limits of available treatment. The drugs used to treat multi-drug resistant TB are not very effective and extremely toxic, and patients must take them for up to two years to achieve cure.
The Taliban issued a statement on Monday in support of polio vaccine efforts. From the Telegraph:
The announcement comes just weeks after the Afghan government launched a new campaign to immunise more than eight million children between six months and five years old throughout the country. It said it had trained 46,000 volunteers to conduct the campaign which is funded by the American aid agency USAID, the World Health Organisation and Unicef.
Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria are the three remaining countries in the world where polio remains a serious threat, but efforts to eradicate the disease have been sabotaged by the Taliban and other Islamic militants who have assassinated immunisation volunteers in all three countries.
But in a sudden U-turn the Taliban leadership issued a statement offering its support for polio eradication campaigns as long as foreigners were not involved and that all volunteers respected local Islamic culture.
“According to the latest international medicine science, the polio disease can only be cured by preventive measures ie the anti-polio drops and the vaccination of children against this disease.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan supports and lends a hand to all those programs which works for the health care of the helpless people of our country,” said a stament issued by the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’.
But it warned the World Health Organisation and Unicef to employ only “unbiased people” in a campaign “harmonised with the regional conditions, Islamic values and local cultural traditions.”
It also ordered its fighters to give polio workers “all necessary support”.
Mohammad Younas Fakor, an independent political analyst, said the move was aimed at boosting its popularity among Afghans as the withdrawal of foreign troops draws closer.
“I think the Taliban looks towards 2014, and they know that they will not have any other option rather than coming to the political process,” he said.
Meanwhile, 13 civilians were killed in a bomb attack on mourners on their way to the funeral of two other victims of terrorism in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan today.