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Civil society call to action on universal health coverage.Civil society call to action on universal health coverage.

At the 65th World Health Assembly this week, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and civil society organizations from three continents launched a joint call to action on universal health coverage (UHC). The statement -- initiated by Action for Global Health, Centre for Health & Social Services (CHeSS), Doctors of the WorldMedicus Mundi InternationalOxfamSave the Children, and MSH -- calls on political and world leaders, governments and ministries of health, and civil society to take a stand for UHC.

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.

Ms. Apegnon Akpene, a family planning client and role model, in Diguegue. {Photo credit: Niagia Santuah/MSH.}Photo credit: Niagia Santuah/MSH.

Apegnon Akpene is a 20-year-old mother of three children: four-year-old Joseph, two-year-old Romance, and one-month-old Akou Jacqeline. Since attending USAID's Action for West Africa Region, Phase II (AWARE II)  community health worker training, she has become a client of family planning -- and a role model for family planning in her community.

Akpene is one of three community health workers in Diguegue, a small village of about 800 people in the hills of the southwestern forest separating Togo and Ghana. Distance and difficult terrain are major hindrances to accessing health care for the inhabitants of the village. Diguegue is 47 kilometers from the nearest health facility, a small clinic, in the Prefecture of Tchifama. The village is served by a 12-kilometer dirt road that winds through the thick forest.

Akpene attended school for eight years. When she became pregnant at age 16, she was forced to drop out. She gave birth to three children within four years.

Honor your mother, support healthy moms, and help kids reach their 5th birthdays: click the image to donate {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Improving Child Health in Communities and at Home, the April/May 2012 edition of MSH's Global Health Impact newsletter (subscribe), features personal stories about child survival and child health in developing countries.

"Prevention, treatment and care close to the home are keys to saving children's lives," says Dr. Jonathan D. Quick, MSH president & chief executive officer, who blogs about saving children's lives through interventions closer to home, shares his 5th birthday picture, and encourages us to support USAID's 5th Birthday Campaign.

Stories about child survival and child health

The newsletter highlights a number of compelling stories from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Nigeria, and Lesotho.

Trained in kangaroo mother care by Dipeta health center staff, Imukalayi snuggled tiny Mardochet to her bare chest, then wrapped herself and her son in a cloth pagne, and held him there for hours, shifting him only when he needed to nurse. Mardochet's weight stabilized just three weeks later. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Honor your mom today by supporting MSH's work to help support healthy mothers---like Imukalayi Eponga (right)---and their children around the world.

Support healthy moms and their kids.

Imukalayi was trained on "kangaroo mother care" by MSH in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kangaroo mother care is a simple technique that emphasizes human contact to keep the baby warm.

This year, 7.5 million children will die - 99 percent in developing countries. In Africa alone, 1 in 8 children will die before their 5th birthday. Two-thirds of these deaths are preventable.

For over 40 years, MSH has seen that when mothers receive low-cost, high-impact interventions-like kangaroo mother care training-their children will likely survive until age 5 and beyond.

MSH President Jonathan D. Quick, age 5. {Photo courtesy of Dr. Quick.}Photo courtesy of Dr. Quick.

Cross-posted on USAID's IMPACT blog

My most vivid early childhood memory is waking up to excruciating pain in my throat, and seeing the goldfish swimming in the aquarium of the pediatric surgical ward. Although penicillin had been discovered 30 years earlier, doctors had not learned yet that treating "strep throats” with penicillin was better than operating. I didn't need the tonsillectomy. But, I was lucky to receive quality care in a health facility, close to my home.

Millions of children today are not so lucky. Over 7 million children under the age of 5 die each year; 70 percent of child deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia. The vast majority -- over two-thirds -- are entirely avoidable with existing safe, effective, low-cost prevention and treatment.

Chinaecherem Nwodo {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Stigmatized, isolated, and conditioned to undertake hard labor, 14 year-old Chinaecherem Nwodo shows that one can overcome the most dire circumstances. Chinaecherem was despised and accused of witchcraft in her community, the Onu-Orie-Obuno-Akpugo village in Nkano West Local Government, Enugu State, Nigeria. Her abusive treatment by community members reflected the challenges facing some children in rural areas of Nigeria.

The community blamed her for her mother’s death and father’s insanity. She was barely two years old when her mother died, and she was abandoned to the care of her sixty-three year-old maternal grandmother. As a teenager, she was traumatized and suffered intense malnourishment. To this day she looks like a 6 year-old girl, though her health has improved.

Nine female orphans and vulnerable children and two CIL staff members. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Early in the morning of January 31, 2012, caregivers, support group members, village leaders, and the local council secretary gathered to say goodbye to 9 girls and 11 boys, orphaned youth ranging in age from 15 to 17. From 10 different villages in the Mohale’s Hoek district of Lesotho, these teens were headed for new horizons.

The adults wished the youth well, encouraged them to try their very best, and waved them off as they boarded the bus. The early morning air was full of jubilant traditional celebration songs sung in beautiful voices by the community members, and these adventurous youth carried these songs with them during their journey. Although the bus broke down three times on its way to the final destination (approximately 130 kilometers on mountainous, pothole-filled roads), the singing continued; the enthusiasm and excitement of the youth never waned despite the hot sticky weather and the heavy rains.

Ezekiel Kyasesa, village health team coordinator in western Uganda. {Photo credit: Margaret Hartley/MSH.}Photo credit: Margaret Hartley/MSH.

Ezekiel Kyasesa is a village health team coordinator and supervisor in Kasese District, western Uganda. He supports 11 villages, 90 parishes, and 2 health centers.

Ezekiel has been working in community health for a few years, but only on a small scale. A year ago, he was selected to attend a training provided by STRIDES for Family Health to learn new family planning, child survival, and reproductive health information and the skills to become a village health team member. He was then nominated by his peers to become the coordinator and supervisor.

Now Ezekiel is educated and has the skills to go out to the communities and talk to people about the benefits of going to the health center for a range of services. The village health teams are a crucial link to sharing knowledge and information between the clinics and the communities.

Ezekiel and his village health team visit 10 households two days each week (20 visits per team member each week). He explained that they discuss with the mothers --- the key person to a healthy family --- four topics:

A physician assesses a mother and children for malaria at a health center in Bujumbura, Burundi. {Photo credit: Rima Shretta/MSH.}Photo credit: Rima Shretta/MSH.

Today, April 25th, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) joins the global community marking World Malaria Day. "Sustain Gains, Save Lives: Invest in Malaria" -- the theme of this year's World Malaria Day -- recognizes this crucial juncture in the global fight against malaria.

Significant gains have been made in the last ten years; since 2000, malaria mortality rates have decreased 25 percent globally, and 33 percent in Africa. However, progress could be reversed unless malaria continues to be a priority for global, regional, and national decision-makers and donors.

Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), South Sudan, and Uganda are among several MSH countries commemorating World Malaria Day with malaria awareness activities and events, including health talk sessions at football (soccer) games and drama activities with kids.

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