MSH

Civil society call to action on universal health coverage.Civil society call to action on universal health coverage.

At the 65th World Health Assembly this week, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and civil society organizations from three continents launched a joint call to action on universal health coverage (UHC). The statement -- initiated by Action for Global Health, Centre for Health & Social Services (CHeSS), Doctors of the WorldMedicus Mundi InternationalOxfamSave the Children, and MSH -- calls on political and world leaders, governments and ministries of health, and civil society to take a stand for UHC.

Ms. Apegnon Akpene, a family planning client and role model, in Diguegue. {Photo credit: Niagia Santuah/MSH.}Photo credit: Niagia Santuah/MSH.

Apegnon Akpene is a 20-year-old mother of three children: four-year-old Joseph, two-year-old Romance, and one-month-old Akou Jacqeline. Since attending USAID's Action for West Africa Region, Phase II (AWARE II)  community health worker training, she has become a client of family planning -- and a role model for family planning in her community.

Akpene is one of three community health workers in Diguegue, a small village of about 800 people in the hills of the southwestern forest separating Togo and Ghana. Distance and difficult terrain are major hindrances to accessing health care for the inhabitants of the village. Diguegue is 47 kilometers from the nearest health facility, a small clinic, in the Prefecture of Tchifama. The village is served by a 12-kilometer dirt road that winds through the thick forest.

Akpene attended school for eight years. When she became pregnant at age 16, she was forced to drop out. She gave birth to three children within four years.

MSH President Jonathan D. Quick, age 5. {Photo courtesy of Dr. Quick.}Photo courtesy of Dr. Quick.

Cross-posted on USAID's IMPACT blog

My most vivid early childhood memory is waking up to excruciating pain in my throat, and seeing the goldfish swimming in the aquarium of the pediatric surgical ward. Although penicillin had been discovered 30 years earlier, doctors had not learned yet that treating "strep throats” with penicillin was better than operating. I didn't need the tonsillectomy. But, I was lucky to receive quality care in a health facility, close to my home.

Millions of children today are not so lucky. Over 7 million children under the age of 5 die each year; 70 percent of child deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia. The vast majority -- over two-thirds -- are entirely avoidable with existing safe, effective, low-cost prevention and treatment.

A woman and baby rest at St. Josephs' Health Center -- the only health institution in Abricots, Haiti. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Suzanna Ile, a 26-year-old woman from South Sudan, lost her first two babies in childbirth. Suzanna did not have a nurse or midwife to tell her that her pelvis was dangerously small for childbirth; nor was there a safe place for a caesarian section even if she had known the risk.

Suzanna’s experience is typical of what women have faced in South Sudan, the newest country in the world. South Sudan is home to 10 million people, spread across an area about the size of France. The people have experienced civil war off and on for five decades --- hardly anyone remembers a time without conflict. In places like the capital city of Juba, the infrastructure has been seriously damaged. The conflicts have devastated the economy and disrupted the education system.

South Sudan has some of the worst health indicators in the world. Health facilities are grossly understaffed as health workers fled the country: only ten percent of staff positions are appropriately filled. There are less than two doctors for every 100,000 people. A woman in South Sudan is five-hundred-times more likely to lose her life giving birth than a woman in Europe. Forty-five percent of children suffer from physical stunting due to malnutrition.

Norah Nakato (right) receiving care from Fausta Nalukwago, midwife at Mpigi Health Center IV in Uganda. {Photo credit: MSH}Photo credit: MSH

Norah, a 21-year-old teacher at a private school in Nansana, Uganda, did not know she was pregnant. Pain in her lower abdomen prompted her to go for a consultation at a private clinic in Nansana, where a urine test revealed the pregnancy. “I was shocked because I had last had my period on the 15th of that month,” Norah said.

At the clinic, Norah was given an antibiotic and a pain killer to relieve abdominal pain. Norah left the clinic excited about her pregnancy. But, two weeks later, the pain persisted and Norah began bleeding. Her mother advised her to go to Mpigi Health Center IV for an ultrasound.

At the health center, Norah saw a problem on the ultrasound screen. “The doctor showed me what was in my uterus and there was no baby," Norah said. "It was swollen with liquid and unclear substances. He said the substance had to be removed. I was very scared."

After counseling from the doctor, Norah was admitted and given medication to induce labor. When the contractions began, she was taken into surgery.

The doctor advised her to wait at least one and a half years before conceiving another child to allow time for her uterus to heal and the abnormal hormone levels to normalize.

Yvonise is a good-natured 40-year-old woman with an easy smile. She is mother to four children: two boys and two girls. Her youngest, a little girl, is six years old.

Today, Yvonise sits patiently at the pharmacy of Hôpital Immaculée Conception de Port-de-Paix (HIC Port-de-Paix) in Haiti, waiting for Miss Sevrine, her caregiver, to provide her with a month’s supply of life-saving medicine.

Yvonise is one of 2,200 patients enrolled in the HIV/AIDS program at HIC Port-de-Paix. She was infected years ago with the AIDS virus, but her family does not know. Keeping her secret is a constant burden.

“I tell my kids that I have an infection for which I am being treated,” she said. This is how she justifies her monthly trips to the hospital.

Yvonise knows first hand how important it is for her to keep her appointments. “Since I’ve been coming to the clinic and taking my medication, I’ve been feeling more energetic,” she said, grinning from ear to ear.

MSH's 40th anniversary year has been a catalyst to revisit our origins, recommit to our mission and renew our values. As we approach the holidays and look toward 2012, I’d like to share reflections on one of the most poignant events of the year for me: my recent visit with Mrs. Fumiko Iwamura in Japan. Fumiko-san is the widow of Dr. Noboru Iwamura, who inspired our founder Ron O’Connor to create MSH.

MSH President Jonathan Quick and Fumiko Iwamura. (Japan, 2011) Photo credit: Miho Sato.

 

InsideStoryTheMovie.org

Inside Story: The Science of HIV/AIDS, a new feature-length docudrama in which USAID plays a supporting role, premiered to a packed theater in Johannesburg, South Africa, on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2011.

Inside Story is a unique mixture of science and fiction and includes cast members and characters from Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.

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.

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