Paul Farmer recently wrote in this space about Essential Surgery, the first volume released of nine expected in the Disease Control Priorities, 3rd edition series. He characterized that book as shining a spotlight on a long-neglected topic in global health and gave these reasons for the neglect: “Prevailing wisdom dictated that the surgical disease burden was too low, surgical expenses too high, and delivery of care too complicated.”
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 trudge past the towering mosque, past where the girls had skipped rope, past a trash heap piled high with cars. We step over a sewage trough, amble down a dusty hill, see the ocean skirt the horizon.
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On this Sunday, October 11, the world marks the International Day of the Girl Child. While the day is an opportunity to advocate for girls’ rights across many sectors, one persistent, pernicious issue deserves renewed attention: the high prevalence of child marriage.
The launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the recent U.N. General Assembly meetings brought especially welcome news: The future we want now officially includes universal health coverage (UHC), as defined under SDG 3, target 8. We also heard, the same week, from a group of economists from 44 countries, who publicly stated that “UHC makes economic sense.” It seems the tide has turned toward making essential health care available to all who need it, without creating financial hardship.
The recent, devastating Ebola crisis reminded the world of a hard truth: Pandemics are not just a threat to human health, they are a threat to societies and economies. That there will be another pandemic is not a question of “if,” but a question of “when.” A catastrophe on the scale of the 1918 flu epidemic could conceivably wipe out all development gains of the last century. We recognize this, but, still we are unprepared.
Nigeria has reason to celebrate. The country recently marked one year with no polio cases, bringing the world one step closer to eradicating a terrible disease that now circulates in only two remaining countries. To commemorate the global health milestone, Nigeria’s President Buhari gave his own three-month-old granddaughter a few drops of oral polio vaccine – a moment captured by a photographer and sent round the world via social media. It also sent a clear public health message: vaccination works.
I consider myself a pretty lucky person. I often work across the beautiful islands of the Caribbean, with their glistening turquoise seas, the lush greenery, fresh tropical fruit… I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Paradise is not always perfect, however: Beneath the postcard views is an often not-so-perfect public health system.
A recent “close encounter” in the Caribbean served as a stark reminder of this truth. Different from the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, it didn’t involve little green men nor giant floating spaceships, but something just as unknown, at least to me: chikungunya, a viral disease transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes.
Unfortunately, I was infected with chikungunya a little over a year ago during a work trip to the Eastern Caribbean in support a results-based financing project for the health sector. Our team was de-briefing near the ocean when it happened: I felt a quick sting from a mosquito bite, but didn’t think much of it. I felt unusually tired that evening, and by the next morning a number of other symptoms appeared – it was indeed chikungunya.