The Sakhra Comprehensive Health Center is small and slightly disheveled, with evident resource constraints. Nonetheless, it is teeming with activity and resourcefulness. A sheet on the wall is the “screen” from the previous night’s presentation on the safe use of certain medications. A blue curtain cordons off a corner in the maternal and child unit, providing privacy for nursing mothers. Staff members promptly respond to calls placed over a public address system that was proudly purchased by staff donations. Nestled in one of the poorest regions of Jordan (Ajloun Governorate), the Sakhra Comprehensive Health Center is a bustling hub.
After dropping for many years, there has been a recent resurgence of fertility rates in Egypt. A woman born in the 1960s gave birth to an average of 1.4 children by the time she turned 25. Then there came a sharp drop, bottoming out at near 1.1 for women born in the late 1970s. But since then, fertility rates have bounced back, up to an average of 1.2 for women born in the mid to late 1990s.
When I visited one of the World Bank’s community sites for its new Social Safety Net program, I wanted to see the progress it had made since my first visit in November 2012. In the first group session, I sat down with about 15 pregnant women—many of them pregnant for the first time—to hear a trained “role model mother” talk to them about the importance of rest, healthy eating, and breastfeeding.
Child mortality rates have declined across the developing world over the past four decades and the best performing region in this regard has been the Middle East and North Africa.
New entrants to the working age population in most Middle East and North Africa countries encounter economic structures and policies that have long failed to generate an adequate number of new jobs. In recent years, about 5 million people per year have reached working age but only 3 million of them have found jobs. Unfortunately, ongoing political turmoil and associated economic conditions and policies suggest that the jobs challenge will continue to fester for years to come. However, help may be on the way from a “curiously unnoticed” source: falling fertility rates.
In the unsettling horror movie Alien, an alien invades and hides within the human body, eventually causing great devastation. This is like the real story of the parasitic worm that, within minutes, invades the human body, using its forked tails to burrow into skin. Once inside the human body, it travels through the bloodstream and lives off its nutrients.
Yemen is mostly in the news these days for its political transition. This has obscured a longstanding issue, the chewing of qat, which has equally important consequences for the country.
Qat is a mild narcotic leaf popular in Yemen and the Horn of Africa. Excessive qat-chewing has disastrous impacts on health, education, and productivity. We illustrated this for Yemen in a report we prepared in 2007 (see here). The situation today is probably just as bad, if not worse.
According to Yemen’s National Population Council, maternal deaths in Yemen are the highest in the Middle East. Barely a third of births take place with the help of experienced health workers, and barely a quarter in hospitals or clinics, meaning that most Yemeni women give birth at home with only the help of unskilled health workers, exposing them and their newborns to greater risk.
“Kefaya!” (“Enough!” in Arabic), was one of the main slogans in 2011 as people took to the streets and called for social justice. Although change has taken various forms across the region, the quest for social justice remains prevalent throughout.
One of the key ways to promote social justice is through better public services. As surveys suggest, social justice for citizens largely means equal access to quality public services such as healthcare and education.