United Nations

While global health and policy efforts to protect young girls from early or forced marriage are increasing, millions of girls are forced into early marriage every year. Pictured: four Senegalese girls. {Photo credit: S. Galdos/MSH.}Photo credit: S. Galdos/MSH.

If you think that child marriage is not an issue in the twenty-first century, think again.  In developing countries, 82 million girls who are now ages 10 to 17 will be married before their 18th birthday. Over the past decade, 58 million girls in developing countries -- one in three -- have been married under the age of 18; 15 million -- one in nine -- were married by age 15.

These girls are often married against their will, despite national laws that prohibit marriage until the age of 18, and numerous international declarations, conventions, and global conferences that “guarantee” the rights of girls, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Senate Passes Preventing Child Marriage Act

Child marriage is increasingly becoming a hot topic within the realm of global health -- and influencing U.S. domestic and global policy.

The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act (S. 414) -- reintroduced in the U.S. Congress in February 2011 --- passed on the Senate floor by way of voice vote on May 24, 2012. (The bill also passed the Senate unanimously in December 2010.)

Three women gather outside a Tanzanian health center. {Photo credit: M. Paydos/MSH.}Photo credit: M. Paydos/MSH.

The 65th World Health Assembly is convening this week in Geneva, beginning May 21. For six days, the Assembly will focus the world’s attention on chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs), universal health coverage, mental disorders, nutrition and adolescent pregnancy, among other health issues.

This is the second time in less than a year that chronic NCDs --- such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and lung diseases --- are in the international spotlight. Last fall, the High Level Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases convened in New York, when, for only the second time in the history of the United Nations, a high level summit focused on a global health concern.

The 16th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections (ICASA) opened today, December 5, 2011, at the newly refurbished Millennium Hall in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with a colorful and lively music and dance production by the Ethiopian National Theatre and Traditional Music Group and the Addis Ababa Youth & Children’s Theatre.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé at the 16th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA). Credit: UNAIDS/J.Ose.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé gave an impassioned welcome speech remembering the last 30 years of AIDS and the 24 million African lives lost to the epidemic. He called for solidarity and compassion for the 34 million people currently living with HIV.

Zakia, a nurse in Afghanistan, has become a leader in her health center. After participating in an MSH leadership development program, Zakia led a team of nurses in increasing awareness about family planning, resulting in a doubling of the use of contraceptive pills and an eight-fold increase in the number of condoms distributed in two years. “Everyone here no longer thinks of problems as obstacles in our way, but challenges we must face,” Zakia says.

In June 2011, the CSIS Global Health Policy Center asked bloggers around the world, Do you think it's possible to create a unified social movement for NCDs, akin to the movements that already exist for individual chronic diseases?  If so, why?  If not, what initiatives can we implement in the place of an effective social movement to move an NCD agenda forward? Dr. Jonathan D. Quick was one of our four finalists.

For three years, Lucy Sakala has counseled people seeking HIV tests at a District Hospital in Malawi. A year ago, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She has had chemotherapy and surgery, which are sometimes painful and tiring, but are extending her life.

During the counseling sessions, she sometimes tells her patients about her illness: “I tell them they should live positively. There are several conditions more serious than HIV. I tell them I have cancer. It’s difficult, but I live positively."

The day before she said this, she had journeyed seven hours to the nearest city to see her doctor. He told her he had no more chemotherapy and she must buy it in a pharmacy. The cost was roughly $180. Insurance would only pay half.  The remaining half is a month’s salary, which she didn’t have.

Last week, the United Nations Commission on Population and Development (CPD) met in their 44th session to negotiate next steps on a resolution for fertility, reproductive health, and development.  The Commission helps inform the United Nations (UN) on their global efforts and provides crucial recommendations to form UN Resolutions.

MSH, with over 80 partners and advocacy organizations, sent an open letter to the delegates of the 44th session. Together, we called on the Commission on Population and Development to:

In March 2011, the CSIS Global Health Policy Center asked bloggers around the world: What should the key priority of the upcoming UN High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases be and why? We had a number of great submissions.  Dr. Jonathan D. Quick was one of our four finalists.  Read his entry below and look out in the days and weeks ahead for other finalist's blogs and another blog contest on NCDs. 

This was originally posted on smartglobalhealth.org.

The most common NCDs are diabetes, heart disease, cancers, and chronic lung diseases. According to the World Health Organization, about 36 million people die each year due to NCDs, and a quarter of NCD deaths are of people aged under 60; 9 in 10 of these people are from developing countries. Breast cancer kills over 270,000 women in the developing world each year.

Political and social momentum has been building, as the United Nations High Level Meeting on NCDs approaches, for a change from emergency, disease specific responses to an integrated systems-strengthening response.

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