February 2017

 {Photo Credit: Warren Zelman}A hospital in Mwene Ditu, DRCPhoto Credit: Warren Zelman

Before the civil war in the late 1990s, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had a large network of clinics and health facilities. But decades of conflict weakened a fragile health system and robbed this resource-rich country of its potential to become one of sub-Saharan Africa’s wealthiest nations. By 2010, 70 to 80 percent of Congolese people had little or no access to healthcare, and the country suffered from a lack of basic security, communication systems, power, clean water, and transportation. Exacerbated by a dearth of health providers, essential medicines and nutritious foods, the country’s maternal, infant, and child mortality rates rose to some of the highest in the world.

I’m in the U.S. this week to share my experiences working side-by-side with the Congolese government and partners on the Integrated Health Project (IHP), funded by USAID and implemented by Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and its partners, International Rescue Committee and Overseas Strategic Consulting, Inc. . The aim of IHP was to rebuild and strengthen the health system and improve health across 78 health zones in the country. In five years, IHP improved health services for more than 13 million people – 17 percent of the Congolese population.

Nurses at health clinic Virgen del Lourdes in Lima, Peru (Photo Credit: Leslie Alsheimer)

This is the first in a series of four stories about how strong health systems improve the health of women and children.

Last year, we shared with you stories of the people we work alongside all over the world. We introduced you to Aster Amanuel Desalegn, a 70 year-old woman from Ethiopia who relies on her town's public hospital for her diabetes medication. You met Linvell Nkhoma, a midwife manager in Malawi who lives on the hospital premises so she can be on call 24 hours per day. And you heard from Animata Bassama, a representative from a community in Mali that worked with MSH to open a center providing a safe space for gender-based violence survivors to seek medical and psychosocial care.

{Photo by: Michael Paydos/MSH}Photo by: Michael Paydos/MSH

This article was originally published on LillyPad, a blog run by the global health care company Eli Lilly, on February 16.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global health crisis. In his AMR review, renowned economist Jim O’Neill estimates a loss of US$100 trillion in global productivity by the year 2050 if swift, comprehensive action to fight AMR is not taken. The publication acknowledges multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) as a “cornerstone of the global AMR challenge.”

MSH representatives at the launch meeting of the Quality of Care Network (L-R): Zipporah Kpamor, MSH Nigeria Country Representative; Erik Schouten, Country Lead, MSH Malawi; Grace Mlava, Technical Clinical Director, ONSE Health in Malawi; Rudi Thetard, Project Director of ONSE Health in Malawi; Catharine Taylor, Vice President of the Health Programs Group, and Antoine Ndiaye, Country Lead, Cote D’Ivoire.

This is the second in a series of four stories about how strong health systems improve the health of women and children.

Nine countries, with support from the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and other partners, launched the Network for Improving Quality of Care for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health last week.

The new Network aims to improve the quality of care that mothers and babies receive in health facilities while supporting countries in achieving their targets agreed under the Sustainable Development Goals to end preventable maternal and newborn deaths. 

Despite remarkable progress in improving access to health services proven to reduce maternal and newborn deaths, every year worldwide, 303,000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth, 2.7 million babies die during the first 28 days of life, and 2.6 million babies are stillborn. Most of these deaths could be prevented with quality care during pregnancy and childbirth.

However, the provision of care is uneven within and between countries, and often fails to respect the rights and dignity of those who seek it.

{Photo Credit: Francies Hajong/MSH}Photo Credit: Francies Hajong/MSH

This is the third in a series of four stories about how strong health systems improve the health of women and children. 

Every day, approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, and 99 percent of them live in developing countries, according to the World Health Organization. Many of these women – and their babies – could be saved with medicines. However, access to these medicines is often limited in the countries where they are most needed. Sheena Patel, a technical advisor for the MSH-led, USAID-funded Systems for Improved Access to Pharmaceuticals and Services (SIAPS) project, talks about the program's work in helping to improve access to essential medicines. This story was originally published on the SIAPS website February 23. 

MSH: The health of women and children is critical to the overall health and prosperity of a country—and the world. Can you talk a bit about why?

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