November 2011

Only one in twenty cancer patients in Africa receives needed chemotherapy. This is unacceptable. Much needs to be done, much can be done, and much must be done to close the cancer divide.

Over 500 people have gathered Antalya, Turkey, today for the 2011 International Conference for Improving Use of Medicines, also known as ICIUM 2011.

The images of tuberculosis patients from the developing world are often painful to look at: the outlines of rib cages taut against skin; arms and legs no thicker than wiffleball bats; a wild-eyed look of fear from sunken eyes. But the image of Mildred Fernando, captured here by photographer Riccardo Venturi, turns heads toward her.

Over 100 practitioners and global health experts are gathering in Accra, Ghana for the First Annual Pan-African Congress on Universal Health Coverage, Nov. 15-17. The conference will focus on creating a movement for universal health coverage in Africa through health insurance.

Over the past 25 years, the number of people worldwide with access to essential medicines has more than doubled. Yet more than 30 percent of the world’s population still does not have reliable access to essential medicines.

Leafing through Malawi’s Nation newspaper, the headline, 'wild men in society escalating rape cases' jumps off the page. I pause and stare at the accompanying photo and caption.

Jessica Poni is a midwife in Panthou Primary Health Care Center -- the only primary health care center in Aweil South County in Northern Bahr al Ghazal, South Sudan. Panthou Primary Health Care Center is managed locally by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the implementing partner of the USAID-funded Sudan Health Transformation Project (SHTP II), led by MSH.

I am fortunate. I know this from years of experience of reporting about people who have poor or no access to quality health care, from rural areas of West Virginia to Afghanistan to Zambia. But today I feel this deeply, in large part because of an email that I just received.

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.

Over 2,300 delegates, many colorfully dressed, gathered in Dakar, Senegal  at the jam-packed amphitheatre and two exterior tents of Le Meridien President for the start of this week’s 2nd International Family Planning Conference, sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Monica Kerrigan, of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said that one third of Africans live in francophone Africa, and yet it has been the most neglected area for family planning services. She praised Senegal for hosting the first family planning conference in French-speaking Africa and urged Senegal to use this opportunity to act boldly and make family planning an urgent priority.

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