Health Systems Strengthening

Health Systems Strengthening (HSS)

Nator Namunya, 6-months old, receives a vaccination in Kapoeta North County. Credit: Save the Children.

 

A version of this post originally appeared on the Save the Children website.

The healthcare system in South Sudan is struggling to get on to its feet after the devastation of over 20 years of war. The biggest killers of children in southern Sudan are malaria, diarrhea and respiratory infections. These preventable diseases can be easy to treat. But, on average, only one in four people in South Sudan are within reach of a health center. Only 3 percent of children under two in South Sudan are fully immunized against killer diseases and only 12 percent of families have a mosquito net in their home.

Cross-posted from the K4Health Blog.

As the mHealth Summit gets underway this week in the Washington D.C. area amid thousands of mHealth projects taking shape around the world, one particular mobile activity is saving lives by helping to ensure that the contents of medicines match their labels.

The Problem:

According to a  2010 World Health Organization Fact Sheet, it is difficult to estimate the percentage of counterfeit medicines in circulation—WHO cites estimates in industrialized countries at about 1%, and adds that “many African countries, and in parts of Asia, Latin America, and countries in transition, a much higher percentage” of the medicines on sale may be falsely labeled or counterfeit.

At a satellite session at the 2011 International Conference on Family Planning on November 30 in Dakar, MSH asked five panelists to discuss successes in family planning, and what still needs to be done. The conversation was moderated by MSH’s Issakha Diallo and held in conjunction with a celebration of MSH’s 40th anniversary.

This year is not only MSH’s 40th anniversary; it is also 30 years since the first reported cases of HIV. Thirty years ago HIV was considered a new, always-fatal disease. ...Today 6.6 million people—nearly half of those in need—will take life-saving antiretrovirals.

Zakia, a nurse in Afghanistan, has become a leader in her health center. After participating in an MSH leadership development program, Zakia led a team of nurses in increasing awareness about family planning, resulting in a doubling of the use of contraceptive pills and an eight-fold increase in the number of condoms distributed in two years. “Everyone here no longer thinks of problems as obstacles in our way, but challenges we must face,” Zakia says.

I am fortunate. I know this from years of experience of reporting about people who have poor or no access to quality health care, from rural areas of West Virginia to Afghanistan to Zambia. But today I feel this deeply, in large part because of an email that I just received.

Jessica Poni is a midwife in Panthou Primary Health Care Center -- the only primary health care center in Aweil South County in Northern Bahr al Ghazal, South Sudan. Panthou Primary Health Care Center is managed locally by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the implementing partner of the USAID-funded Sudan Health Transformation Project (SHTP II), led by MSH.

Over the past 25 years, the number of people worldwide with access to essential medicines has more than doubled. Yet more than 30 percent of the world’s population still does not have reliable access to essential medicines.

Over 100 practitioners and global health experts are gathering in Accra, Ghana for the First Annual Pan-African Congress on Universal Health Coverage, Nov. 15-17. The conference will focus on creating a movement for universal health coverage in Africa through health insurance.

The images of tuberculosis patients from the developing world are often painful to look at: the outlines of rib cages taut against skin; arms and legs no thicker than wiffleball bats; a wild-eyed look of fear from sunken eyes. But the image of Mildred Fernando, captured here by photographer Riccardo Venturi, turns heads toward her.

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