Health Systems Strengthening

Health Systems Strengthening (HSS)

Honor your mother, support healthy moms, and help kids reach their 5th birthdays: click the image to donate {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Improving Child Health in Communities and at Home, the April/May 2012 edition of MSH's Global Health Impact newsletter (subscribe), features personal stories about child survival and child health in developing countries.

"Prevention, treatment and care close to the home are keys to saving children's lives," says Dr. Jonathan D. Quick, MSH president & chief executive officer, who blogs about saving children's lives through interventions closer to home, shares his 5th birthday picture, and encourages us to support USAID's 5th Birthday Campaign.

Stories about child survival and child health

The newsletter highlights a number of compelling stories from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Nigeria, and Lesotho.

MSH President Jonathan D. Quick, age 5. {Photo courtesy of Dr. Quick.}Photo courtesy of Dr. Quick.

Cross-posted on USAID's IMPACT blog

My most vivid early childhood memory is waking up to excruciating pain in my throat, and seeing the goldfish swimming in the aquarium of the pediatric surgical ward. Although penicillin had been discovered 30 years earlier, doctors had not learned yet that treating "strep throats” with penicillin was better than operating. I didn't need the tonsillectomy. But, I was lucky to receive quality care in a health facility, close to my home.

Millions of children today are not so lucky. Over 7 million children under the age of 5 die each year; 70 percent of child deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia. The vast majority -- over two-thirds -- are entirely avoidable with existing safe, effective, low-cost prevention and treatment.

Chinaecherem Nwodo {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Stigmatized, isolated, and conditioned to undertake hard labor, 14 year-old Chinaecherem Nwodo shows that one can overcome the most dire circumstances. Chinaecherem was despised and accused of witchcraft in her community, the Onu-Orie-Obuno-Akpugo village in Nkano West Local Government, Enugu State, Nigeria. Her abusive treatment by community members reflected the challenges facing some children in rural areas of Nigeria.

The community blamed her for her mother’s death and father’s insanity. She was barely two years old when her mother died, and she was abandoned to the care of her sixty-three year-old maternal grandmother. As a teenager, she was traumatized and suffered intense malnourishment. To this day she looks like a 6 year-old girl, though her health has improved.

Nine female orphans and vulnerable children and two CIL staff members. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Early in the morning of January 31, 2012, caregivers, support group members, village leaders, and the local council secretary gathered to say goodbye to 9 girls and 11 boys, orphaned youth ranging in age from 15 to 17. From 10 different villages in the Mohale’s Hoek district of Lesotho, these teens were headed for new horizons.

The adults wished the youth well, encouraged them to try their very best, and waved them off as they boarded the bus. The early morning air was full of jubilant traditional celebration songs sung in beautiful voices by the community members, and these adventurous youth carried these songs with them during their journey. Although the bus broke down three times on its way to the final destination (approximately 130 kilometers on mountainous, pothole-filled roads), the singing continued; the enthusiasm and excitement of the youth never waned despite the hot sticky weather and the heavy rains.

Ezekiel Kyasesa, village health team coordinator in western Uganda. {Photo credit: Margaret Hartley/MSH.}Photo credit: Margaret Hartley/MSH.

Ezekiel Kyasesa is a village health team coordinator and supervisor in Kasese District, western Uganda. He supports 11 villages, 90 parishes, and 2 health centers.

Ezekiel has been working in community health for a few years, but only on a small scale. A year ago, he was selected to attend a training provided by STRIDES for Family Health to learn new family planning, child survival, and reproductive health information and the skills to become a village health team member. He was then nominated by his peers to become the coordinator and supervisor.

Now Ezekiel is educated and has the skills to go out to the communities and talk to people about the benefits of going to the health center for a range of services. The village health teams are a crucial link to sharing knowledge and information between the clinics and the communities.

Ezekiel and his village health team visit 10 households two days each week (20 visits per team member each week). He explained that they discuss with the mothers --- the key person to a healthy family --- four topics:

A physician assesses a mother and children for malaria at a health center in Bujumbura, Burundi. {Photo credit: Rima Shretta/MSH.}Photo credit: Rima Shretta/MSH.

Today, April 25th, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) joins the global community marking World Malaria Day. "Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria" -- the theme of this year's World Malaria Day -- recognizes this crucial juncture in the global fight against malaria.

Significant gains have been made in the last ten years; since 2000, malaria mortality rates have decreased 25 percent globally, and 33 percent in Africa. However, progress could be reversed unless malaria continues to be a priority for global, regional, and national decision-makers and donors.

Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), South Sudan, and Uganda are among several MSH countries commemorating World Malaria Day with malaria awareness activities and events, including health talk sessions at football (soccer) games and drama activities with kids.

5thBDay badge in white background.5thBDay badge in white background.

Every child deserves a fifth birthday. It seems simple enough. But for many children in the world — especially in countries with the highest burden of child mortality, such as India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Pakistan and Ethiopia — preventable deaths will claim their lives, before they reach the age of five.

Today, USAID launched an ongoing child survival awareness campaign, called, “Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday.”

The “5th Birthday” campaign kicked off with a briefing event at Kaiser Family Foundation, featuring USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah and other experts. Dr. Shah and colleagues stressed that reducing the burden of child mortality is critical to our future as a global community.

While the global community has made great strides reducing child mortality, inequality in child mortality remains: several regions and countries continue to shoulder the greatest burden and loss of life.

Meet Okata and his grandmother, watch the video.Meet Okata and his grandmother, watch the video.

On this World Health Day, we invite you to meet Okata, a 3-year-old orphan living with HIV, and his grandmother, his caretaker.

World Health Day, celebrated April 7th, marks the founding of the World Health Organization. This year's theme, "Good health adds life to years," encourages the global community to rethink what it means to be "old".

Watch the video, Building a Stronger Health System in Uganda, and share Okata's story with your network of family and friends.

(Left to right) Aaron Musiimenta, assistant regional behavior change communication officer; Tadeo Atuhura, STRIDES for Family Health communications specialist; Dr. Baseka Yusuf, district health officer; and Kevin Kisembo, principal nursing officer and STRIDES focal person. Kasese, Uganda. {Photo credit: Margaret Hartley/MSH.}Photo credit: Margaret Hartley/MSH.

The Kasese district in western Uganda is nestled between two national parks. Located hours from the capital city, Kampala, the region attracts tourists to view gorillas and mountain birds.

During my recent trip to Uganda, I met with Dr. Yusuf Baseka, the district health officer of Kasese, who described the health challenges his district faces, and his hopes for the future.

Although the national parks are beautiful and bring a much needed economic boost to the area, they also offer a challenge, Dr. Baseka explained.  The population growth and fertility rate of the district are very high. With the two national parks, there is no land for expansion. The town of Kasese is rapidly becoming a slum with unsanitary conditions that are difficult to address.

Another challenge in his district is that children are not going to or staying in school. They are leaving secondary school early and engaging in risky sexual behaviors. He explains, “We’ve seen a dramatic increase in young mothers, under 18 years, some as young as 12.” Their pregnancies offer unique challenges for the health system to address.

Godgift and his caregiver receiving educational supplies from the Executive Director of Synergycare Initiative. {Photo credit: Anayo Chike Charles/MSH.}Photo credit: Anayo Chike Charles/MSH.

Early one morning Mrs. Fred woke up and found a boy outside her house. Alarmed and curious, she asked him why he was there. Godgift, as he identified himself, told her that the continuous appearance of a snake where he lived forced him to abandon the place he called home, after numerous futile attempts to frighten it off with pepper. Highly disturbed, she arranged for him to eat in a nearby restaurant whenever he showed up by her house.

The boy, Godgift Henshaw, is 13 years old. Godgift's mother took him along when she left her husband and eloped with another man. When the burden of care got too heavy, she left Godgift with her mother in Agbia community, Bayelsa State, Nigeria. Godgift’s grandmother beat and neglected him. Most of the time he went without food and often slept outside the house. Finally, she labeled him a wizard and abandoned him, fleeing from their home.

The landlord evicted Godgift when there was no one to pay the rent. He took refuge in an uncompleted building in a nearby bush, completely at the mercy of the elements. Abandoned and stigmatized (following his identification as a wizard), he fed himself by doing odd jobs.

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