Sarah Ruteri*, aged 14 months, is a survivor. A few months ago, I saw her admitted to the pediatric ward of Lodwar hospital in northern Kenya’s drought-affected Turkana district. Suffering from severe pneumonia, Sarah was gasping for breath – and fighting for her life. Her tiny ribcage was convulsed by a losing struggle to get air into her lungs. Doctors told her mother to expect the worst. But with a combination of oxygen therapy and intravenous antibiotics, Sarah pulled through.
Today, the UN Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-Agency Group (MMEIG)* released Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2015. It reports that, worldwide, maternal mortality ratio (MMR) declined by almost 44% between 1990 and 2015, from 385 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births to 216.
We all know the dreadful toll that Ebola has taken in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. It is not over. A conference today in Brussels is trying to maintain international support for the job of reaching zero cases and helping these countries to recover. Save the Children has seen this first hand, helping to fight Ebola in all three countries. As these efforts continue, we must also learn some lessons which apply to all countries. The reasons for Ebola spreading are complex but a new report we launch today – A Wake-Up Call - focuses on the way that the inadequate health services in the countries ensured that Ebola could not be quickly contained, reversed or mitigated. Their dangerously under-funded, under-staffed, poorly-equipped and fragmented health services were quickly overwhelmed and needed massive international help to start to fight back. Donors have had to play a vital role, especially the UK in Sierra Leone, the USA in Liberia and France in Guinea.
2014 is already shaping up to be another exciting year for the global movement for universal health coverage (UHC). I was just with World Bank Group President Jim Kim in Myanmar, where we are putting our previously announced global targets for universal health coverage into action.
On Jan. 29, 2014, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim spoke about Thailand’s effort to achieve universal health coverage at the Prince Mahidol Award Conference in Bangkok. In just one year, the country’s universal health coverage scheme added 18 million uninsured citizens to the rolls of the insured. Kim also addressed Thailand’s success in reducing new HIV infections by more than 90% from 1990 to 2013, which saved $18 billion. Read Kim’s full remarks.
Last week's 2nd Global Symposium on Health System Research in Beijing made me think: Could a global tool for assessing health system vulnerability help to strengthen health systems and move toward universal health coverage in countries? Who would use this tool, and how?
In my post “Should you trust a medical journal?” I think I might have been a bit unfair. Not on The Lancet, which I have since discovered, via comments on David Roodman’s blog, has something of a track record of publishing sensational but not exactly evidence-based social science articles, but rather on Ernst Spaan et al. for challenging the systematicness of their systematic review of health insurance impacts in developing countries. It’s not that I now think Spaan et al. did a wonderful job. It’s just that I think they probably shouldn’t have been singled out in the way they were.
Today, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim announced a special funding mechanism to enable donors to scale up their funding to meet the urgent needs related to Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, leveraging the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank's fund for the poorest.
Dr. Kim announced the special funding mechanism during his remarks at the Every Woman, Every Child event at the UN General Assembly.
His remarks, as prepared for delivery, are available on the World Bank's website (http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/2012/09/25/world-bank-president-kim-every-woman-every-child-un-general-assembly).
This week (August 1-7) is World Breastfeeding Week, an occasion to remind ourselves of the important role that optimal infant and young child feeding plays in the healthy growth and development of individuals, communities, and nations. For more than 30 years, the World Bank has championed the importance of breastfeeding. This includes investing in advocacy and communications to policymakers, strengthened health systems, and effective community-based outreach to provide the knowledge and support needed by women and their families.
To mark World Breastfeeding Week, World Bank nutrition experts have updated this helpful Q/A on the topic:
What are the health benefits of breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is one of the most powerful tools available to a mother to ensure the health and survival of her child from the moment he/she is born. Optimal breastfeeding practices, which include initiating breastfeeding within an hour of birth, feeding only breast milk until 6 months, and continuing to breastfeed up to 24 months, are key elements in the fight against malnutrition. Breast milk provides all the nutrients a child needs for healthy development in the first six months of life. And the antibodies that are transferred from a mother to her child during breastfeeding help protect infants against common childhood illnesses that can lead to death, such as diarrhea and pneumonia.
The Lancet’s 2008 series on Maternal and Child Undernutrition has estimated that the relative risk of death (all cause mortality) is 14 times higher for a child who is not breastfed versus one who is exclusively breastfed. When broken down by disease, the relative risk of death from diarrhea and pneumonia is 10.5 and 15 times higher, respectively, for children who are not breastfed versus those that are exclusively breastfed.
Amid political statements and declarations of commitment, several sessions at the ongoing International AIDS Conference 2012 have shined a bright light on the future of the pandemic and the global response.
In one session, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, gave a keynote address, “Ending the HIV/AIDS Pandemic: From Scientific Advances to Public Health Implementation.”
According to Dr. Fauci, who has been at the forefront of the fight against HIV/AIDS since the discovery of the virus in the early 1980s, the scientific developments in the last three decades that have helped understand, treat and prevent HIV infection bode well for the promise of a world free of AIDS. He noted that the robust arsenal of nearly 30 antiretroviral drugs and scientifically proven interventions now available to treat and prevent HIV infection and improve people’s health and longevity, offer an unprecedented opportunity in the years ahead. However, he was clear in cautioning that this will not be accomplished without sustained global commitment and effort. This means that the international community cannot retreat in the face of the current economic slowdown, but rather build upon those advances, adjusting, adapting and strengthening the response on the basis of accumulated experience and lessons learned from across the world.
If we heed Dr. Fauci’s advice, it should be clear to all of us that while we need international funding from current and new donors to sustain the global effort, developing country governments also can and should step in and prioritize funding and investments to contribute to the fight against HIV/AIDS and for other health priorities. While some people argue that the unprecedented funding for AIDS in the last decades has created imbalances in the global health agenda, we should also remember that in previous decades the underfunding and underdevelopment of health systems in most of the world, and the resulting lack of or limited access to basic health services for the majority of the population, was a common phenomenon that came before the AIDS response.