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Nator Namunya, 6-months old, receives a vaccination in Kapoeta North County. Credit: Save the Children.

 

A version of this post originally appeared on the Save the Children website.

The healthcare system in South Sudan is struggling to get on to its feet after the devastation of over 20 years of war. The biggest killers of children in southern Sudan are malaria, diarrhea and respiratory infections. These preventable diseases can be easy to treat. But, on average, only one in four people in South Sudan are within reach of a health center. Only 3 percent of children under two in South Sudan are fully immunized against killer diseases and only 12 percent of families have a mosquito net in their home.

Cross-posted from the K4Health Blog.

As the mHealth Summit gets underway this week in the Washington D.C. area amid thousands of mHealth projects taking shape around the world, one particular mobile activity is saving lives by helping to ensure that the contents of medicines match their labels.

The Problem:

According to a  2010 World Health Organization Fact Sheet, it is difficult to estimate the percentage of counterfeit medicines in circulation—WHO cites estimates in industrialized countries at about 1%, and adds that “many African countries, and in parts of Asia, Latin America, and countries in transition, a much higher percentage” of the medicines on sale may be falsely labeled or counterfeit.

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.

A Poem to HIV & AIDS: "Thou hydra-headed restless monster | Killer of millions of my kind | Sower of discord in my nation | I shall fly in thy face until zero"

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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