UNICEF Wants Better Data to Solve World's Biggest Problems

Data is not terribly sexy, but it is important to understanding the world, the existing challenges and ways to address them. UNICEF, like PSI, strongly believes in the power of data. The UN’s children organization just published its annual State of the World’s Children report and it is full of valuable data.

“Data have made it possible to save and improve the lives of millions of children, especially the most deprived,” said Tessa Wardlaw, Chief of UNICEF’s Data and Analytics Section. “Further progress can only be made if we know which children are the most neglected, where girls and boys are out of school, where disease is rampant or where basic sanitation is lacking.”

This year’s report finds that more effort and innovation is needed to support the world’s 2.2 billion children, especially the most disadvantaged. There are some truly encouraging numbers shared by UNICEF:

- Some 90 million children who would have died before reaching the age of 5 if child mortality rates had stuck at their 1990 level have, instead, lived. In large measure, this is because of progress in delivering immunizations, health, and water and sanitation services.
– Improvements in nutrition have led to a 37 per cent drop in stunting since 1990.
– Primary school enrolment has increased, even in the least developed countries: Whereas in 1990 only 53 in 100 children in those countries gained school admission, by 2011 the number had improved to 81 in 100.

There are also some serious concerns:

- Some 6.6 million children under 5 years of age died in 2012, mostly from preventable causes, in violation of their fundamental right to survive and develop.
– Eleven per cent of girls are married before they turn 15, jeopardizing their rights to health, education and protection.
– The world’s poorest children are 2.7 times less likely than the richest ones to have a skilled attendant at their birth, leaving them and their mothers at increased risk of birth-related complications.

One of the greatest challenges is simply having the right information on children. For example, only 4% of the poorest Tanzanians are registered at birth. Compared to the fact that 56% of the richest babies are registered, the fact shows how far behind the poor are and how much improvement is needed overall.

“Overcoming exclusion begins with inclusive data. To improve the reach, availability and reliability of data on the deprivations with which children and their families contend, the tools of collection and analysis are constantly being modified – and new ones are being developed. This will require sustained investment and commitment,” says the report.

For a more interactive version of the report, check it out here.

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PSI Teams up with GAIN to beat Malnutrition

PSI_MOUPSI and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) signed a Memorandum of Understanding this week in Geneva in an agreement to work together in the fight against malnutrition. Potential areas of collaboration include joint program design and delivery, new business development, and advocacy for innovative approaches to development.

Karl Hofmann (left), the President and CEO of PSI, joined Marc Van Ameringen (right) and members of GAIN senior management to officially cement the partnership. PSI particularly focuses on social marketing and behavior change communication. Their approach leverages private sector resources and utilizes private sector communication and delivery techniques.

“PSI’s approach to driving change in the field of nutrition aligns with GAIN’s own way of working,” said Marc Van Ameringen. “It makes this a natural partnership and one which can help both organizations really drive impact for nutrition.”

Activities related to the partnership are to be finalized.


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Roadblock to Treating Kids with MDR TB

A study in India founds that there are few treatment options for children with MDR TB, a problem that is growing in India. Andheri’s Kokilaben Hospital, a referral center for pediatric TB cases, says nearly three-quarters of the twenty-one children referred with TB have a multi-drug resistant form.

As the Times of India reports:

Worse, all of them had MDRTB as the primary infection with no previous history of tuberculosis whatsoever.

Six of the patients had contracted TB in the lungs, five in the lungs as well nodes (glands), two in lymph nodes, and one in the central nervous system.

Commonly, in adults, non-adherence to TB drugs is what pushes them to its drug-resistant form but this was not found to be the case among these young patients.

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Madagascar: A Mother's Tale of Nutrition and Health

UntitledMy name is Odette, I am 27 years old and married. We have three children, the eldest is 5 years old and the youngest is just 8 months. We live in a small hut with an outside kitchen.

I left school when I was in year 9 at primary school. We make our living from farm work and fishing.

My husband and I earn around 50,000Ar ($25USD) per month; this amount varies greatly, depending on what we earn from our harvest and fishing activities. We depend a lot on nature being both farmers and fishermen. Every year, we face a hungry period when there is no harvest. This period lasts from December to March. I have to work to support and help my husband to face the hardships of life. I work in the field or carry bricks during the day or do any kind of task that is proposed to me.

My children are my reasons to live; I invest all of myself to see them succeed in school and life. Being a mother, I make sure that my children are served foods that are easy to digest and that are not too fatty to avoid indigestion. I pay particular attention to hygiene, to the cleanliness of food and of kitchen utensils and dishes to avoid sicknesses.

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One Year Later: From Promise to Action on Ending Preventable Child Deaths

By Nicole Schiegg, Former USAID Senior Advisor; Strategic Comms Consultant

2013-06-13-430045_10151726897765992_1502893062_n.jpgThis week we celebrate the one-year commemoration of the Child Survival Call to Action held in Washington, DC. Working at USAID at the time, I have a unique insight into the organization of this milestone event, and will always remember the experience fondly. Not only did the Call to Action unite and reenergize the global health and extended community towards a common goal — to end preventable child deaths — it catalyzed momentum at country-level that has been nothing short of extraordinary.

A few months before the Call to Action, USAID turned a conference room into a team room that became the center of the Agency’s activity – one wall was covered with hundreds of 5th birthday photos and the other was entirely dry eraser depicting ideas, logistics, and anything else that was the task of the day. About 6 of us virtually lived in this room, but it packed in 30 staff when we had our all-hands meetings. What inspired me about the team is that it consisted of people who had worked in development for their careers and folks who were brand new to the field. Everyone had a laser-like focus towards June 14-15 and what it represented. No one was committed more to this goal than USAID Administrator Raj Shah who frequented the team room for meetings and updates.

The Call to Action was a special and surreal experience when it finally arrived. A few days after it ended, I had to re-watch the webcast to grasp the enormity of what had transpired. Over 70 countries signed a pledge to accelerate action towards ending preventable child deaths. Private sector leaders committed to new partnerships – as did faith and civil society organizations.

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UNICEF: Global Demographic Shift Towards Youth

Today marks the anniversary of the UN General Assembly adopting both the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). The two documents enshrine a global agreement to ensure that the rights of children around the world are protected. They are the result of a long process that began in 1923 with a draft set of rights set forth by  Save the Children founder Eglantyne Jebb.

Jebb’s five points were expanded in 1959 to 10 principles that form the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. The rights were more formally enshrined 30 years later with the Convention on the Rights of Child, a document that was ratified by the majority of the countries in the world. Because of the importance of November 20, the UN marks the day as Universal Children’s Day.

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World Pneumonia Day: How to Prevent 1.2 Million Child Deaths Every Year

The number one killer of children under five often times flies under the radar. “Pneumonia can be prevented and cured.  Yet, for too long it has been the leading cause of global deaths among children.  We know what to do, and we have made great progress – but we must do more.  We must scale-up proven solutions and ensure they reach every child in need,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marking today’s World Pneumonia Day.

An estimated 1.2 million children under the age of five die from pneumonia each year, estimates the WHO. Children can be treated with antibiotics, but as many as 30% of children with pneumonia are unable to access the antibiotics that can save their lives. Prevention of pneumonia starts at birth and includes ensuring that children are not malnourished and are immunized against pneumonia and other diseases that put them at risk. The UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities issued a recent report estimated that the lives of over 1.5 million children can be saved over the next five years if amoxicillin is made available in a dissolvable tablet.

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PSI/Kenya Partners to Provide Fortified Food to 27 Million Kenyans

Last week, PSI/Kenya joined the Kenya Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) to launch a national behavior change communication campaign that will seek to educate Kenyans on Fortification and its health benefits. PSI/Kenya has worked with The Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, The Kenya National Food Fortification Alliance (KNFFA) and partners  in the design of the consumer awareness and education campaign that will teach Kenyans about the benefits of food fortification and how to identify the fortified foods by looking out for the Food Fortification Logo (attached). The fortified staples include; Maize meal, Wheat flour, Sugar and Edible oils.  GAIN is providing financial and technical support to the overall Fortification program.

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Mali: How Community Health Workers Save Lives

Mali has been all over the news lately due to political instability, violence in the north and hunger caused by a drought that is impacting countries across the Sahel. UNICEF shares a documentary that tells a different story about Mali. Recorded last year, short documents how community health workers are helping to reduce rate of child mortality in the country.

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Recognizing the Importance of Maternal Health

Over the years, we have taken and shared videos that focus on maternal health programs and stories. Given yesterday’s London Summit on Family Planning, we collected some of those videos and put them into a single playlist. Women are at the center of family planning. Each of the international leaders that spoke yesterday made it clear that supporting and empowering women can transform lives. Prime Minister David Cameron said it well yesterday, “Healthy, empowered women mean healthy, strong families mean healthy, strong children mean healthy strong countries.”

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Evaluating Maternal and Infant Health Interventions Based on Inequality

A study by Dr Aluísio JD Barros PhD and others looked at the progress of 12 maternal, newborn, and child health interventions towards achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5. A particular emphasis is placed on within-country inequalities to see how maternal, newborn, and child health interventions vary in each country. By comparing the interventions in each country, the researchers hoped to understand what ways inequality may or may not be affecting their progress.

So, they took the data from national surveys in 54 Countdown to 2015 countries between Jan 1, 2000, and Dec 31, 2008 and re-analysed the data for 12 maternal, newborn, and child health interventions. The data was then compared across coverage for income groups and assessed inequalities with a pair of indices for absolute inequality and two for relative inequality.

According to the abstract, the researchers found:

Skilled birth attendant coverage was the least equitable intervention, according to all four summary indices, followed by four or more antenatal care visits. The most equitable intervention was early initation of breastfeeding. Chad, Nigeria, Somalia, Ethiopia, Laos, and Niger were the most inequitable countries for the interventions examined, followed by Madagascar, Pakistan, and India. The most equitable countries were Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Community-based interventions were more equally distributed than those delivered in health facilities. For all interventions, variability in coverage between countries was larger for the poorest than for the richest individuals.

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