Action to #BringBackOurGirls

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Over 270 Nigerian girls between 15 and 18 years old were kidnapped from their school two weeks ago by Boko Haram militants, a terrorist group whose name translates to “Western education is sinful.” The school’s principal, Hajiya Asabe Ali Kwambula, told the New York Times yesterday that 53 girls managed to escape while 223 are still missing. The girls have reportedly been taken to a terrorist camp deep in the forest, although new reports have come in this week from remote villages that some of the girls have been “auctioned off to Boko Haram members for 2,000 Naira” — about $12 — for forced “marriages” or sex slavery.

Nigerians have been holding mass protests this week calling on President Goodluck Jonathan to deploy every means possible to find the girls. You can join the international call to action to bring back the girls by supporting two petitions that have been building momentum.

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Contraception changes everything

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Access to contraception is something we often take for granted in the United States. But 222 million women in the developing world – who have an unmet need for contraception – still can’t get it. How can contraception radically change their worlds?

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The Top 10 Global Health Moments in 2013

By Karl Hofmann, President & CEO, PSI

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The end of each year provides the opportunity to reflect on what transpired and what was accomplished. Global health saw plenty of victories and setbacks in 2013. Drug resistant TB, slowing donor funding, new outbreaks of polio and a devastating typhoon showed how easily progress can stall.

Amid these challenges emerged a changing global health landscape. The old way of doing things is now, more than ever, on its way out. In the next five years, the range of actors that are engaging and making a difference in addressing global health issues will continue to broaden and expand, even as the underlying health challenges narrow, and as The Lancet recently described, converge.

The infrastructure that developed over the last 50 years to tackle global development – the United Nations, donor agencies, international NGOs, other intermediaries and host governments – now finds itself working more and more with corporations, impact investors, next generation philanthropists, and socially networked individuals. This burgeoning ecosystem of development actors generates unprecedented attention and potential resources to address global poverty. Getting the roles right for these and other players might have a lot to do with whether we can end extreme poverty during our lifetime.

These are our top 10 moments for global health in 2013. Top 10 lists inevitably leave lots out. What did our global health and development leaders miss? Let us know what you think and share a few of your predictions for 2014.

1. Typhoon Haiyan

We include Haiyan not only for the unimaginable devastation it caused but as a reminder that when the media attention wanes and the world moves on, the health needs of the people affected will still be great.

“We will continue to serve these communities’ immediate needs, as well as long-term needs including child and maternal health; nutrition; water, sanitation and hygiene; and mental health services.” – Nancy A. Aossey, President & CEO of International Medical Corps

2. Malala Yousafzai’s Ripple Effect on Family Planning

The impact of Malala Yousafzai’s efforts on education is obvious, less so is the impact she will have on the reproductive health of girls and women. If Malala has her way, girls will not only be better educated, they will have healthier families, build stronger communities and contribute to more robust economies.

3. Polio Movement Celebrates Successes, Faces Setbacks

The world is watching how the polio community will overcome conflict and violence to eradicate polio by 2018.

4. Global Leaders Show Unprecedented Support for Maternal and Child Health

In September, The World Bank, UNICEF, USAID, Norway committed $1.15 billion over the next three years to advance progress toward Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, and to get essential services and medicines to women and children who need them most.

5. Women Philanthropists Align for Health and Rights of Girls and Women

Women philanthropists are catalysts for new, innovative ways to deliver life-saving health products that will improve the lives of girls and women throughout the world. They are engaged and here to stay.

6. Gender-based Violence Movement Sees Tipping Point

World leaders acted on their commitments to eliminate gender-based violence, signaling a tipping point in the fight. Momentum is behind the movement. This is an issue to watch in 2014.

7. Under Mark Dybul’s Leadership, the Global Fund Is Back and Better than Ever

An impressive level of financial commitment from existing and new donor governments sends a strong signal.

8. Global USAID-Walmart Partnership Solidifies Long-Developing Trend

Public-private partnerships are not new. It is the magnitude of USAID’s partnership with Walmart that made us stand up and take notice.

9. Drug Resistance Threatens TB Progress, New Drugs Show Promise

By many measures the world is making great progress against TB – the rate of new cases has fallen worldwide and new drugs are in development – yet drug resistance seriously threatens that progress.

10. Women Deliver Conference Secures Bold Commitments for Girls and Women

More than 5,000 people gathered at Women Deliver in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to promote the health of girls and women, adding additional momentum to what economists, government donors, philanthropists conclude: when you invest in the health of girls and women, you lift.

Read the latest edition of PSI’s Impact Magazine here.

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Birth Control is Good for the Economy. Here's How.

“For every $1 we invest in family planning, we save $4 in other areas like education, public health, and water and sanitation,” says the  Population Action International. A new inforgraphic from PAI shows just how much birth control can support the global economy (beyond its obvious benefits for women, girls, children and family).

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Sec State Kerry Welcomes International Family Planning Conference Attendees

US Secretary of State couldn’t make it to Addis Ababa for the International Family Planning Conference, but he did send along this recorded message. Watch him here and read what he said below:

Good afternoon. I’d like to welcome the thousands of you from governments around the world, NGOs, public and private organizations, and elsewhere, who are taking part in the third biennial International Family Planning Conference. I’m really sorry that I couldn’t be with you in person in Addis Ababa, but I want to tell you that, as both the U.S. Secretary of State and the father of two extraordinary young women, I am exceedingly grateful for your hard work and dedication to this cause. Millions of women, men, and children have better lives today thanks to the work that many of you have done for decades.

In 1994, when I was a U.S. Senator, I attended the historic International Conference on Population and Development. What was clear back then is still clear today: that challenges like reproductive health care and family planning are bigger than the political boxes that some try to force them into. These are basic human necessities that hundreds of millions of women are forced to go without. For some, it’s because they can’t afford or don’t have access to these services. For others, it’s because their husbands or their communities simply don’t support their use.

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A Winning Strategy: Investing in Local Heroines

By Karl Hofmann, President & CEO, PSI

When you invest in local heroines, women win.

Despite all the systemic challenges women and children face around the world, we’ve learned that investing in local heroines who provide education and resources can help tear down barriers and save lives.

Here is an impact primer that shows how investing in local heroines helps PSI get results for women and children.

Local heroines trained in community health services save children’s lives.In many countries, mothers are unable to access health care for their children to treat preventable but deadly diseases like malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea. We can shift that equation by deploying local health workers. In Cameroon, 48% of children received diarrhea treatment in areas served by community health workers vs. 7% of children in other areas with no community health workers.

Local heroines are effective champions for social change.There is often stigma associated with family planning activities. In Zimbabwe, where women are embarrassed to purchase female condoms, local heroines like hairdresser Tears Wenzira are distributing them in beauty salons. In fact, more than one million female condoms are distributed through this network of 2,500 hairdressers across the country.

Local heroines help keep mothers alive during childbirth.In the next 24 hours, 931 women will die worldwide from preventable pregnancy-related causes. In Pakistan, more than three-quarters of births take place at home, which is high-risk for maternal mortality. A pilot voucher program – where trained outreach workers recruit pregnant women from low-income households to receive subsidized reproductive health services from private health providers – increased prenatal clinic care by 16%, health care-facility based deliveries by 20% and postnatal care by 35%.

As you can see, PSI is committed to measuring our impact. And we’ve learned that investing in local heroines provides extraordinary returns on your investment.

Will you invest in a local heroine?

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Defeating Cervical Cancer with Vinegar in Zambia

The HPV vaccine has proved to be an invaluable development against the development of cervical cancer in women. It is already saving lives.

However vinegar, the same thing you find in your household pantry, is also vital to making sure that lives are not lost to cervical cancer. With just a simple swab of vinegar, a medical professional can detect whether or not a woman has cervical cancer. The immediate feedback, ease of use and cheap cost means that more women will be diagnosed earlier.

Lauren Bohn recently wrote about its impact on women in Zambia for The Daily Beast.

For the N’gombe health clinic’s community health-care manager, Ignicious Bulango, the method is indeed transformative, but the country still has a long way to go. “Cervical cancer, and cancer in general, isn’t necessarily on the radar like malaria and HIV/AIDS for the majority of Zambians and most of Africa, but we’re getting there,” he said. “It’s a process.”

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Contraception: It's Your Life, It's Your Future, Know Your Options

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World Contraception Day is an annual reminder of commitments made by the global community to expand access to information and methods of family planning for women and couples. Under the motto “Your Future. Your Choice. Your Contraception,” WCD 2013 focuses on empowering young people to think ahead and build contraception into their future plans, in order to prevent an unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Increased contraceptive use has the potential to reduce unintended pregnancies by more than two-thirds and prevent almost a third of maternal deaths that occur globally each year. Despite this, it is estimated that more than 220 million women in developing countries who want to delay or prevent a pregnancy do not have access to desired contraception options.

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Want to reduce child and maternal deaths? The key is contraception, say experts

The panel tasked with coming up with the framework for the goals that will replace the millennium development goals in 2015 are taking contraception seriously.

“Women continue to die unnecessarily in childbirth,” said the 29 member panel recently. Their report, recently presented to the UN Secretary General, calls for the immediate improvement of health facilities and increased access to both a skilled birth attendant and contraceptives.

“Universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights is an essential component of a healthy society,” wrote the panel that included British Prime Minister David Cameron. “There are still 222 million women in the world who want to prevent pregnancy but are not using effective, modern methods of contraception.”

An article by Kenneth R Weiss for the Washington Post also cites recent studies and discussions on the issue of contraceptives. All agree that the issue is vital to the health of mothers and children. Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University best known for his book The End of Poverty, told Weiss that the lessons have been learned from the MDG process when contraceptive access was left off the agenda. The later inclusion of Goal 5B to achieve universal access to reproductive health was a step forward, but the new goals need to include it from the get-go.

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Ensuring a Healthy and Safe Delivery

By Dr. Leslie Mancuso, PH.D., R.N., F.A.A.N., President and CEO, Jhpiego Frozan Admadi places her ear on one end of a pinard horn. She holds the other end of the stethoscope on the belly of her pregnant client, smiling as she hears the fetus’ steady heartbeat. Frozan is the only midwife in Marabad, a rural community

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Let Us Measure Up As Men

By The Elders

On November 25, we mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It is deeply saddening, though perhaps not shocking, to learn that around 70 percent of all women experience physical or sexual abuse during their lifetime. Despite the progress we have made, this world remains a cruel and arbitrary one for too many women and girls.

Do not be fooled, however: this is not some so-called “women’s issue”. After all, we know that more often than not, the violence suffered by women is inflicted by the men they share their lives with – their fathers, husbands, intimate partners. If the majority of women in this world have suffered at the hands of their men, how many millions of men must have hurt and abused women? How many millions of men have stood by and let it happen?

If men overwhelmingly brutalize women, then men are overwhelmingly brutal.

This is something I cannot accept. This is why I call on men and boys everywhere to take a stand against the mistreatment of girls and women. It is by standing up for the rights of girls and women that we truly measure up as men.

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What's the Big Idea? Investing in a Comprehensive Approach to Women's Health

By Amy Lieberman

There are still two years left before the United Nations’ eight poverty, health and gender Millennium Development Goals expire and lapse into a new international development agenda. Yet MDG 5 remains one of the most off-track targets, potentially too derailed to meet the benchmarks on time.

Every year, more than 1 million children are left motherless as a result of complications during pregnancy and childbirth. In sub-Saharan Africa, a woman’s maternal mortality risk is 1 in 30, compared to 1 in 5,600 in developed regions. And more than 200 million women lack access to critical family planning services.

The situation is dire, but signs of progress are emerging. Increased advocacy in recent years has spurred a wide array of new commitments from donors, government leaders and corporations. Many advocates, health experts and supporters are looking at new models for improving the health of women and girls in the world’s poorest countries.

But what strategies will ensure that those regional and global commitments – in policies, partnerships and dollars – will be maintained during this decade and beyond? And what models for health service delivery can successfully reverse the abysmal health outcomes facing millions of girls and women?

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