January 2013

Lisa Peterson, Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy, Yaoundé, Cameroon. {Photo courtesy of US Embassy Yaoundé.}Photo courtesy of US Embassy Yaoundé.

Formally launched in 2012 in Cameroon, the USAID-funded Systems for Improved Access to Pharmaceuticals and Services (SIAPS) Program, led by Management Sciences for Health, has been working on strengthening the overall pharmaceutical management system, specifically to ensure the people of Cameroon have access to safe and affordable medicines at the central and peripheral levels.

In a new podcast, US Deputy Chief of Mission in Cameroon Lisa Peterson discussed SIAPS’ important work in the country and how it will impact the local population.

"The program will help, I believe, bring people to clinics. It will help definitely ensure that when people get to a clinic, they are able to access medicines and medical supplies that they need," Ms. Peterson said.

Immaculée, seated, holding her twin boys. Thanks to the intervention of the center’s midwife, at left, both of these babies are now in good health. {Photo credit: IRC.}Photo credit: IRC.

Thirteen newborns die every hour in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). So on July 23, when 25-year old Immaculée went into labor with twins at the Monvu Reference Health Center in the Idjwi Health Zone, and her first twin was born without signs of life, the chances of survival were not in his favor.

The odds are stacked against newborns in the DRC: neonatal mortality hovers around 97 deaths for every 1,000 live births, and has done so for years, explaining the acute need for intervention in this area.

Recognizing this need, the USAID-funded DRC-Integrated Health Project (DRC-IHP), in conjunction with the Church of Latter Day Saints and the Ministry of Public Health, organized a “Helping Babies Breathe” training in Kinshasa in April 2012, to build the capacity of health providers who oversee labor and delivery.

Helping Babies Breathe is an evidence-based neonatal resuscitation approach designed for resource-limited areas, which teaches health workers how to handle newborns’ breathing in their first minute of life, a critical period known as the “Golden Minute.”

A hurricane superstorm slams the Caribbean and the eastern seaboard of the United States, flooding Manhattan’s subway system, leaving lower Manhattan and Brooklyn without electricity for days and destroying much of Staten Island. The storm kills hundreds of people, destroys thousands of homes, and causes over $65 billion in damage. Prior to October 2012, this scenario read like the plot of a Hollywood blockbuster. But now we know these were the very real effects of hurricane Sandy.

A group of young men in Mwene Ditu discuss using a cell phone to access health information. {Photo credit: Overseas Strategic Consulting, Ltd.}Photo credit: Overseas Strategic Consulting, Ltd.

Mobile phones are being used increasingly throughout Africa to improve health. The USAID-funded Democratic Republic of Congo-Integrated Health Project (DRC-IHP) is using mobile phone technology to increase the number of people referred to health centers in the project’s 80 targeted health zones. In Mwene Ditu, project staff observed that low numbers of referrals to health centers would be improved by increasing communication—within the community, between the community and health service providers, and among provincial health officials.

Tanzanian woman (Photo credit: MSH)Tanzanian woman (Photo credit: MSH)

Management Sciences for Health (MSH) invites you to attend the following sessions and poster presentations at the Global Maternal Health Conference in Arusha, Tanzania --- whether in person at the Arusha International Conference Center, or watching via archived videos online. (All times are listed in Eastern Africa Time: UTC/GMT +3 hours. Sessions will be recorded and available within 24 hours.)

Sessions: Tuesday, January 15

Improving access to essential maternal health medicines (Track 3): 13:30–15:00 · Simba

Moderator: Deborah Armbruster, USAID

When I worked in Smallpox eradication in the mid-1970s, I traveled all over northern India and Bangladesh. I never took malaria prophylaxis, because malaria had been cleared from those areas. Likewise, I did not take malaria prophylaxis when I worked in the Brazilian Amazon in the late-1970s. At that time, malaria was found only in gold miners in isolated tributaries of the Amazon. Now, due to our financial inability to continue high levels of malaria eradication activities worldwide in that time period, emergence of both anti-malarial and insecticide resistance, and spread of the mosquito vectors, all of these are heavily malaria endemic areas with a high mortality rate for pregnant women and children.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released the World Malaria Report 2012, summarizing 2011 data from 104 malaria-endemic countries and citing progress and challenges toward the eradication of malaria.

Women visit the SDSH-supported Marmont clinic in Haiti’s Central Plateau. {Photo credit: C. Gilmartin/MSH.}Photo credit: C. Gilmartin/MSH.

Late one April night in 2012, 19-year-old Ilionelle was struggling to give birth at her home in rural northwest Haiti. After several hours, she began having seizures, a clear indication of eclampsia, a severe medical disorder that can lead to the death of the mother and/or baby.

Ilionelle’s situation is not uncommon in Haiti, which has the highest maternal mortality rate in the Western hemisphere with 630 deaths per 100,000 live births. Fortunately, Tilma, the traditional birth attendant helping Ilionelle, quickly identified these life-threatening symptoms and arranged for her transport to Beraca Hospital for emergency obstetric care. After being carried on a stretcher for four hours along a steep and treacherous road, Ilionelle arrived at Beraca Hospital where she safely delivered a healthy baby boy. “If it wasn’t for Tilma, both my son and I could have died,” Ilionelle said.

Tilma is among thousands of Haitians working to improve their nation’s health after recent years of misfortune.

Dr. Agnes Binagwaho is a pediatrician and serves as the Minister of Health of Rwanda. {Photo credit: dr-agnes.blogspot.com/}Photo credit: dr-agnes.blogspot.com/

The second Global Maternal Health Conference began yesterday in Arusha, Tanzania, as an intentional dialogue between scientists, researchers, implementers, advocates, policymakers, and media. More than 700 people (from about 2000 abstracts) were selected to attend and share knowledge on how to improve the quality of care and eliminate maternal deaths.

This is my first global maternal health conference --- but not my first maternal health conference. I keep wondering: how will this one be different?

As I went through the first day of sessions and informal exchanges, I couldn't help feeling like one person "stole the show". At lunch and dinner, the conversations kept coming back to the dynamic Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, the Minister of Health from Rwanda. She served as the keynote speaker in the opening plenary and a panelist for another session.

When you hear Dr. Agnes speak, you know she is smart and accomplished. And, talking with other attendees, it is clear that, regardless if participants agreed with her specific recommendations, Dr. Agnes' commitment, knowledge, logic, and candor are appreciated and needed in the conference conversation.

Attendees of the Global Maternal Health Conference 2013. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Management Sciences for Health (MSH) staff presenting at the Global Maternal Health Conference in Arusha, Tanzania, January 15-17, 2013. (Photo credits: C. Lander & J. Briggs / MSH)

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