Women & Gender

Unpublished
Nurses at health clinic Virgen del Lourdes in Lima, Peru (Photo Credit: Leslie Alsheimer)

This is the first in a series of four stories about how strong health systems improve the health of women and children.

Last year, we shared with you stories of the people we work alongside all over the world. We introduced you to Aster Amanuel Desalegn, a 70 year-old woman from Ethiopia who relies on her town's public hospital for her diabetes medication. You met Linvell Nkhoma, a midwife manager in Malawi who lives on the hospital premises so she can be on call 24 hours per day. And you heard from Animata Bassama, a representative from a community in Mali that worked with MSH to open a center providing a safe space for gender-based violence survivors to seek medical and psychosocial care.

 {Photo Credit: Warren Zelman}A hospital in Mwene Ditu, DRCPhoto Credit: Warren Zelman

Before the civil war in the late 1990s, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had a large network of clinics and health facilities. But decades of conflict weakened a fragile health system and robbed this resource-rich country of its potential to become one of sub-Saharan Africa’s wealthiest nations. By 2010, 70 to 80 percent of Congolese people had little or no access to healthcare, and the country suffered from a lack of basic security, communication systems, power, clean water, and transportation. Exacerbated by a dearth of health providers, essential medicines and nutritious foods, the country’s maternal, infant, and child mortality rates rose to some of the highest in the world.

I’m in the U.S. this week to share my experiences working side-by-side with the Congolese government and partners on the Integrated Health Project (IHP), funded by USAID and implemented by Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and its partners, International Rescue Committee and Overseas Strategic Consulting, Inc. . The aim of IHP was to rebuild and strengthen the health system and improve health across 78 health zones in the country. In five years, IHP improved health services for more than 13 million people – 17 percent of the Congolese population.

Photo Credit: Mark Tuschman

For the fifth year in a row as part of MSH's annual storytelling contest, we invited staff to submit stories on how health systems are saving lives and improving the health of people around the world. MSH staff submitted dozens of stories from 16 projects in 12 countries.

In these 12 winning stories, meet health workers, community leaders, pharmacy managers, and patients working together toward healthier communities. These stories demonstrate the power of effective partnerships to help save lives.

Ethiopia: Changing Systems to Change Lives: Aster's Story

By Tsion Issayas

Happy holidays and health on earth!

Envision a 2017 where everyone has the opportunity for a healthy life. Working together for stronger health systems around the world in 2017. Best wishes for the new year!

Like and share this ecard on Facebook:

 

{Photo Credit: Adama Sanogo/MSH}Photo Credit: Adama Sanogo/MSH
As we commemorate the international campaign"16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence,"  MSH reflects on our experiences working to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls.

“We remember the hard times the women and girls of Douentza have experienced,” said Animata Bassama, a representative of the women of Douentza, referring to the fighting and ensuing gender-based violence (GBV) that plagued Mali in 2012.

Animata spoke to a crowd of 100 government officials, NGO representatives, health and finance officials, women’s advocates, and community members. A new center for GBV survivors, fortified by concrete and adorned in yellow and pink, was her backdrop. 

“And to the entire population of Douentza, we must unite in peace and understanding to effectively manage this center together,” she continued. 

In May 2016, the FCI Program of MSH, with funding from UN Women, opened a center next to the Douentza Referral Health Center to provide a safe space for GBV survivors to seek medical and psychosocial care, as well as temporary shelter.

{Malagasy CHV from Anjeva presenting family planning options to a young woman. (Photo Credit: Samy Rakotoniaina/MSH)}Malagasy CHV from Anjeva presenting family planning options to a young woman. (Photo Credit: Samy Rakotoniaina/MSH)

When it comes to contraceptives, having choices is key.

More than 220 million women around the world want to avoid pregnancy but are not using modern methods of contraception.

Reasons for this vary, from family disapproval, to fear of side effects, to infrequent sex. Increasing access to multiple contraceptive options can allay some of these barriers.

Without multiple options, a woman who is dissatisfied with her current method may stop using contraception completely. With more choices, she can switch to another method and have the support she needs to avoid an unwanted pregnancy.

Family planning is important not only for women’s health and empowerment, but it also helps reduce pervasive poverty and environmental degradation, and contributes to our goal of an AIDS-free generation. According to the World Health Organization, family planning has the potential to reduce maternal deaths by one-third and reduce newborn, infant, and child deaths by 10 percent.  

 {Photo by the Spanish Cooperation (AECID)}An expert and advocate for persons with disabilities attends a strategy meeting to discuss the new WE DECIDE initiative.Photo by the Spanish Cooperation (AECID)

Violence against women, including forced or coerced sex, is an epidemic that persists all over the world. But women with disabilities, often marginalized and denied their sexual and reproductive health rights, are particularly vulnerable to such abuse.

In June, UNFPA launched WE DECIDE, a global initiative to promote gender equality and social inclusion of young persons with disabilities and advocate for the end of sexual violence.

The FCI Program of MSH worked with UNFPA and a broad range of partners in the field of disabilities to build consensus for the framework of the four-year initiative and to develop communications materials for the initiative, including a video and an infographic that conveys key messages and data on the status of persons with disabilities and gender-based violence.

Saving lives and improving health continues long after diagnosing disease or delivering medicines.

(Watch Faith tell her story)

Faith had been ill for months. She was 31 and had two daughters. She didn’t know what was wrong. A friend urged her to get an HIV test; it came back positive.

Faith started on antiretroviral treatment.

But, in 2013, one of her antiretroviral medicines started to work against her, causing misshapen fat deposits to develop on her body.

When she finally mustered the courage to speak up one year later, her doctor knew just what to do and shifted her to a different medicine.

(Medicine Movers: Kenya from Management Sciences for Health on Vimeo)

Faith didn’t know it, but her report to the doctor became part of a nationwide database that tracks adverse drug reactions, and poor quality or expired medicines.

{Photo credit: MSH staff, South Africa}Photo credit: MSH staff, South Africa

This post, first published on The Huffington Post, is part 5 in the MSH series on improving the health of the poorest and most vulnerable women, children, and communities by prioritizing prevention and preparing health systems for epidemics. Join the conversation online with hashtag .

Struck with a prolonged and worsening illness, Faith, a 37-year-old Nairobi woman raising her two children, sought help from local clinics. She came away each time with no diagnosis and occasionally an absurdly useless packet of antihistamines. Finally, a friend urged her to get an HIV test. When it came back positive, Faith wanted to kill herself, and got hold of a poison.

All epidemics arise from weak health systems, like the one that failed to serve Faith. Where people are poor and health systems are under-resourced, diseases like AIDS, Yellow Fever, Ebola, TB, Zika, Malaria, steadily march the afflicted to an early grave, decimating families, communities and economies along the way.

Pages

Printer Friendly Version
Subscribe to RSS - Women & Gender