Women & Gender

This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

As world leaders gather next week at the U.N. to review progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to eradicate poverty, hunger, and disease by 2015, a new integrated approach to funding and delivering health services in developing countries is critical if the UN's global health targets -- especially for women and children -- are to be met. Currently, the health goals are competing with each other for money, people, and other scarce resources. How can we get back on track?

There is much to celebrate next week: over four million people are currently receiving antiretroviral drugs to treat AIDS; eliminating mother to child transmission of HIV is within reach by 2015; malaria deaths have been reduced by over half in some countries; the global burden of TB is falling; and more than 500 million people are now treated for one or more neglected tropical diseases.

On Friday, September 17th, Washingtonians representing UN offices, various non-governmental organizations (NGOs), governmental organizations, and general civil society gathered in Farragut Square, Washington, D.C. from 12 to 1:30 PM to “Stand Up Against Poverty.” Joining millions of global citizens in Stand Up Against Poverty events in 1,328 registered events in 74 countries, we voiced our commitment to fight poverty and inequality, demanding urgent and concrete action on the Millennium Development Goals from our world leaders as they attend the 2010 United Nations MDG Summit from Monday, September 20th through Wednesday, September 22nd.

The event was emceed by Sarah Farnsworth, Senior Advisor for the North America Campaign, and welcomed by Fred Tipson, Director of the UNDP Washington office.  Like others around the world, Washingtonians energetically clacked noisemakers, blew whistles, cheered, and recited the Stand Up pledge that was read by Will Davis, Director of the UN Information Center, Washington DC, and Greg Smiley, Senior Policy Officer of UNAIDS, and accompanied by drummers from the Rhythm Workers Union.  Personal testimonies were given by individuals from UN offices, Save the Children, Jubilee USA, and InterAction on why they Stand Up Against Poverty.

This blog was originally posted on Global Health Council’s Blog 4 Global Health. This is a guest blog written by Arianna Levitus, policy and advocacy associate with PATH, one of the sponsors of the event.

“This is a pivotal month, in a pivotal year, when the world will take stock of promises made to women and children,” Sallie Craig Huber, global lead for results management at Management Sciences for Health (MSH), announced today to a standing room-only crowd at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Ms. Huber was introducing a panel of speakers to address the challenging topic of improving monitoring, transparency and accountability for maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH). The three panelists who followed Ms. Huber demonstrated the need to improve the way we monitor and evaluate programs for maternal and child health to capture and use data that can inform meaningful and effective program design and policy change.

This article was originally posted on K4Health’s Blog.

It’s late in the evening in a hard-to-reach village in the Malawian District of Nkhotakota.  There is no electricity in this village, nor in the Bua community health center that serves 11,280 people, including a pregnant mother who goes into pre-term labor. The local Health Surveillance Assistant (HSA) is called to provide assistance because the local maternity nurse is not at home.

A common challenge in advancing family planning is overcoming the misconceptions religious leaders have about the use of contraceptives.

Concerns from religious leaders are often based on misconceptions about family planning methods rather than their religious beliefs. The fear that hormonal methods will cause infertility or are dangerous, are commonly expressed as concerns from religious leaders.

These methods are 300 times safer than becoming pregnant in Afghanistan and about 100 times safer than pregnancy in Yemen, Malawi, and Tanzania is an appropriate way to look at the risks versus benefits.  My experience in these four countries has been that this message was well received by both Muslims and Christians, along with the sound evidence for improved child and maternal health outcomes with healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy (HTSP). 

Pick up any American newspaper these days, and all of the stories coming out of Haiti are negative: earthquake relief work is going slow, displaced people are still living in tented camps, men and women are still struggling to find work.  And while these facts can’t be disputed, there are many other stories that are being left untold.  Working in Haiti earlier this month, I encountered six women who are on the front lines of the battle against Haiti’s HIV & AIDS epidemic, who shared their stories with me.

Women in Haiti

On July 19, here in Vienna at the XVIIIth International AIDS Conference, positive results were announced from the CAPRISA 004 Phase IIb microbicide trial of 1% tenofovir gel, which was tested in 889 South African women. Overall, there were 39 percent fewer infections among women who received the gel compared to women who received the placebo –and the results showed 51% efficacy of the gel against transmission of herpes simplex virusto women.  Of note, recent vaccine trials and microbicide trials have set as a limit of efficacy 30% in order to be considered “effective”, which generally means that the FDA will approve them.  

With sometimes impenetrable terrain and limited infrastructure, Yemen presents a very challenging environment for delivering health services to rural areas. Basic health services do not reach most women; rural areas lack health facilities; and Yemen’s conservative cultures do not allow women to receive health services from men, or to freely come and go from their home.

In Yemen, through a pilot program, the Extending Service Delivery (ESD) Project supported the Basic Health Services (BHS) Project to assist midwives with setting up private practices in rural communities where facilities did not exist or were too far away. Midwives are generally respected in Yemen communities and, most husbands allow their wives to visit the midwives in their homes.

The Group of Eight (G-8), holding their annual summit last weekend in Muskoka,Canada, announced a Canadian-led Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Under-Five Child Health (Muskoka Initiative). The Group of 20 (G-20) summit held immediately after in Toronto, resulted in no additional commitments to maternal and child health. MSH believes the G-20 missed an opportunity to support global health when the group did not endorse the G-8’s maternal and child health initiative announced the day before. The G-20 is a group of key finance ministers and central bank governors that meets semi-annually on matters relating to the international financial system.

One of the most striking admissions I heard during the Women Deliver 2010 conference in Washington DC (June 7-9) was that the major challenge facing maternal health improvement is a lack of political will. Kathleen Sebelius, the US Secretary for Health and Human Services, suggested that the problem with improving maternal mortality lay not with the lack of knowledge or interventions, but the political will to put that knowledge to action, the will to make maternal mortality a priority of governments, the will to stand up and say that the lives of women matter, and we MUST do something about it.


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