Women & Gender

{Photo credit: Rui Pires}Photo credit: Rui Pires

Are you interested in health systems strengthening for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), epidemics prevention, and global health security? Join MSH at these events during the 69th World Health Assembly in Geneva. Can't join us in person? Join the conversation online with hashtag . On Twitter, follow , , , and .

 {Photo credit: Associated Press/Aurelie Marrier d’Unienvil}Women celebrate as their country is declared Ebola free in the city of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015.Photo credit: Associated Press/Aurelie Marrier d’Unienvil

When 18-year-old Ianka Barbosa was 7 months pregnant, an ultrasound showed the baby had an abnormally small head, a dreaded sign of microcephaly due to Zika infection.  Upon hearing the news, Ianka’s husband fled. In her poor neighborhood of Campina Grande, Brazil, Ianka soon became a young mother alone.

As Ianka’s baby Sophia grows, she may never walk, or talk. She could develop seizures before she reaches six months.  By the end of the year there may be a staggering 3,000 Sophias in Brazil – mostly in the poorest places.

Epidemics erase the gains women have achieved.

The world has suffered a series of “Zikas”—virtually unknown diseases that seemed to come from nowhere and explode with devastating consequences for families and entire countries – before Zika, Ebola, SARS, AIDS, and others.

Epidemics don’t just leave behind a death toll.  They can demolish the gains women have made in maternal, newborn, child, adolescent, and reproductive health—gains that have been propelled by women’s rights and empowerment. 

{Photo credit: Warren Zelman}Photo credit: Warren Zelman

Envision a world where every mother, every newborn, and every child has the opportunity for a healthy life.

 {Photo credit: Rebecca Weaver/MSH}A community health worker in Democratic Republic of the Congo.Photo credit: Rebecca Weaver/MSH

This Global Health Impact issue highlights community health and community health workers, and presents a glimpse of MSH's work at the community level, in partnership with national ministries of health, civil society organizations, the private sector, and more.

The community is the center of the health system in developing countries.

Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, community health workers, often volunteers, represent the foundation of the health system, addressing priority health areas ranging from maternal and newborn health to family planning and infection prevention. The community health worker (known by different names in different countries) is the fundamental frontline promoter, provider of services and medicines (through integrated community case management), and the one who refers and links beneficiaries with more complex health needs to facilities. Not only do community health workers extend access to health services for the underserved and those living in hard-to-reach or conflict-ridden areas, they help countries accelerate certain health outcomes and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and related targets for universal health coverage.

 {Photo credit: Katy Doyle/MSH}A health worker in Togo counsels a woman on reproductive health.Photo credit: Katy Doyle/MSH

Many years ago I began my public health career in Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl, then a squatter settlement of 1.8 million people, bordering Mexico City in the State of Mexico. Lack of land and unaffordable rents forced poor migrants, streaming in from the country side in search of employment and a better life in the city, to settle in the surrounding peri-urban areas. This large municipality, with few paved streets, was difficult to navigate in the rainy season. During the dry season, the wind would kick up dust storms that made it hard to see a block ahead. Nezahualcoyotl means hungry coyote in the Nahuatl language  and too many families in Neza, as people sometimes called it, were poor and hungry.

 {Photo credit: MSH staff}Amina is one of 3 million children in the Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa who received seasonal malaria chemoprevention malaria in 2015.Photo credit: MSH staff

Four-year-old Amina is why I work on malaria. I met her in Basse District, The Gambia, last year when I was visiting the team distributing lifesaving malaria treatment to children under five. Words can’t describe the feeling of seeing this young Gambian girl, who had been severely ill with malaria, now beaming with joy, literally running to me for her fourth treatment.

Her mother walked up and described to me how sick Amina had been before MSH and partners began ensuring access to the quality-assured malaria treatments for children under five in the district. Since she first got malaria as an infant, every year during the rainy season (from September through December), Amina would become severely ill with malaria. She couldn’t play with the other kids outside, or go to school. One year, she fell into a coma and was hospitalized. But, in 2015, Amina experienced the opportunity for a healthy life: since September, she had received monthly treatment for malaria, known as seasonal malaria chemoprevention (or SMC). At four years old, Amina knew that this was what stopped her from feeling so ill, and enabled her to feel well.

She ran towards me for her medication, smiling ear to ear.

 {Photo by Catherine Lalonde/MSH}Youth in Mali, with support from Family Care International, performed plays to tell the stories of persons living with HIV/AIDS.Photo by Catherine Lalonde/MSH

“In 509 days, my country will go to the ballot box, and I will be running for office in Kenya,” announced Stephanie Musho, a law student and staffer at a global health non-profit. Musho made this bold statement while speaking on a panel of young African women leaders during the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March.

“But first, I have to tell you a story about what it means to be a woman candidate,” she sighed. “I’ve worked hard for my campaign. I’ve met with constituents and partners to get their support and raise money. I approached two potential contributors, who were men, and they said ‘With a body like that, you shouldn’t have any problem raising money.’ I knew what they were insinuating, and I can’t believe this is still happening. But I’m not going to let that stop me.”

Musho was one of fifteen advocates from the Moremi Initiative, a women’s leadership institute in Ghana, sharing personal stories of working to effect change in their communities and for the women in their countries. Their stories provided poignant context for the challenges they faced and the triumphs they experienced.

 {Photo credit: Ghaffar Rabiu}Dr. Zipporah Kpamor, Country Director, MSH Nigeria, is interviewed at the 10th anniversary event.Photo credit: Ghaffar Rabiu

Management Sciences for Health (MSH) celebrated 10 Years of Improving the Health of Women and Children in Nigeria with 250 stakeholders and supporters at a special event in Abuja on March 31, 2016. Distinguished guests included the chairman of the Nigerian House of Representatives, director of the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria, high-level representatives from state governments and partner organizations, and more.

After a rousing rendition of “Arise, Oh Compatriots,” the Nigerian national anthem, Country Director, Dr. Zipporah Kpamor, welcomed participants and underscored the intention for the day’s two round-table panel discussions:

In Nigeria, 150 women and 2,300 children die every day from preventable causes. One in five children won’t live to see their fifth birthday. This event can help continue conversations on what we can do to end preventable deaths among women, children, and young people.

Currently, MSH’s partnerships for health system strengthening in Nigeria reach nearly 560,000 people through four projects.

{Photo credit: Warren Zelman}Photo credit: Warren Zelman

Today, April 7, we celebrate World Health Day, started by the World Health Organization (WHO) to mark its founding in 1948.

Amid Ebola, Zika, maternal and child mortality, and other global health challenges, WHO chose diabetes, for the first time, as its World Health Day theme (“Stay super. Beat diabetes”).  To urge global action on the rising diabetes burden, WHO released a new global report yesterday, April 6, highlighting key global diabetes findings, country profiles, and recommendations to reach the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 3.4, which calls on countries to reduce premature death from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including diabetes, by 30 percent by 2030. 

{Photo credit: Warren Zelman}Photo credit: Warren Zelman

"Medicines are a key component of treatments to save lives"

~ Kwesi Eghan, trained Ghanian pharmacist and MSH portfolio manager for the US Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Systems for Improved Access to Pharmaceuticals and Services (SIAPS) program in South Sudan and Afghanistan

A child in Tanzania has a fever for three days. A pregnant woman in Namibia is taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) to treat HIV and prevent transmission of HIV to her baby. A man in Swaziland suffers from drug-resistant TB and struggles to adhere to treatment.

Who helps ensure they take the right drug, at the right time, and for the right reason?

A pharmacist.

In many developing countries, pharmacists are primarily responsible for medicines selection, procurement, distribution, and explaining rational use of these medicines to their patients. But, many low- and middle-income countries suffer shortages of trained pharmacists. MSH and partners are helping countries and communities ensure that pharmacists and related health workers are equipped with the skills, systems, and support to provide quality services every day.

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