Women & Gender

{Photo Credit: Rebecca Weaver/MSH}Photo Credit: Rebecca Weaver/MSH

This is the last in a series of four stories about how strong health systems improve the health of women and children. It was originally published on Global Health Now's website.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has a chance to save millions of children with an inexpensive grassroots community effort.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a country beleaguered by years of civil war, official corruption and mismanagement, and civil apathy, the path to building a strong health system is challenging. One initiative, focused on building up community-level care, has shown success—but without more support from the Congolese government, it might not continue.

{Photo Credit: Francies Hajong/MSH}Photo Credit: Francies Hajong/MSH

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

Every day, approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, and 99 percent of them live in developing countries, according to the World Health Organization. Many of these women – and their babies – could be saved with medicines. However, access to these medicines is often limited in the countries where they are most needed. Sheena Patel, a technical advisor for the MSH-led, USAID-funded Systems for Improved Access to Pharmaceuticals and Services (SIAPS) project, talks about the program's work in helping to improve access to essential medicines. This story was originally published on the SIAPS website February 23. 

MSH: The health of women and children is critical to the overall health and prosperity of a country—and the world. Can you talk a bit about why?

MSH representatives at the launch meeting of the Quality of Care Network (L-R): Zipporah Kpamor, MSH Nigeria Country Representative; Erik Schouten, Country Lead, MSH Malawi; Grace Mlava, Technical Clinical Director, ONSE Health in Malawi; Rudi Thetard, Project Director of ONSE Health in Malawi; Catharine Taylor, Vice President of the Health Programs Group, and Antoine Ndiaye, Country Lead, Cote D’Ivoire.

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

Nine countries, with support from the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and other partners, launched the Network for Improving Quality of Care for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health last week.

The new Network aims to improve the quality of care that mothers and babies receive in health facilities while supporting countries in achieving their targets agreed under the Sustainable Development Goals to end preventable maternal and newborn deaths. 

Despite remarkable progress in improving access to health services proven to reduce maternal and newborn deaths, every year worldwide, 303,000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth, 2.7 million babies die during the first 28 days of life, and 2.6 million babies are stillborn. Most of these deaths could be prevented with quality care during pregnancy and childbirth.

However, the provision of care is uneven within and between countries, and often fails to respect the rights and dignity of those who seek it.

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.

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