In the wake of “decades of conflict” and famine, Somalia “face[s] yet another widespread terror: an alarming increase in rapes and sexual abuse of women and girls,” the New York Times reports. “The famine and mass displacement, which began over the summer, have made women and girls more vulnerable. Many Somali communities have been disbanded,” leaving many women alone and vulnerable to al-Shabab militants, “rogue militiamen and even government soldiers [who] rape, rob and kill with impunity,” the article states, adding, “Often, the women are left wounded or pregnant, forced to seek help” (Gettleman, 12/27).
Speaking at an event organized by the Every Woman Every Child initiative on Thursday, “Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [called on] business leaders attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, to increase their investment in women’s education and health to ensure their well-being and encourage their participation in the world economy,” the U.N. News Centre reports. “‘The business community can help. Your partnership is crucial in preventing unnecessary suffering for women and girls everywhere,’ Mr. Ban said, adding that despite recent progress, much remains to be done,” the news service notes.
Noting that the “fifth Millennium Development Goal target for 90 percent of births in low- and middle-income countries to have a skilled birth attendant (SBA) by 2015 will not be met,” researchers from University College London estimate “that there will be between 130 and 180 million non-SBA births in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa from 2011 to 2015 (90 percent of these in rural areas)” in this BioMed Central Pregnancy & Childbirth article. They conclude, “Efforts to improve access to skilled attendance should be accompanied by interventions to improve the safety of non-attended deliveries” (1/17).
In the National Geographic News blog “Mobile Message,” “a series of posts from FrontlineSMS about how mobile phones and appropriate technologies are being used throughout the world to improve, enrich, and empower billions of lives,” Laura Stachel, an obstetrician-gynecologist and the co-founder and executive director of WE CARE Solar, writes about the “‘Solar Suitcase,’ a portable, rugged, complete solar electric kit packed with solar panels, a charge controller, batteries, medical LED lights, phone chargers, headlamps, and a fetal monitor.” She says the suitcases improve lighting so surgeries can be performed 24 hours a day; allow nurses to contact on-call physicians in the case of emergency through a mobile phone; and, with alterations, power blood bank refrigerators (Banks, 1/12).
“After a period of substantial decline, the global abortion rate has stalled, according to new research from the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization (WHO)” published in the Lancet on Wednesday, a Guttmacher press release reports. “Between 1995 and 2003, the overall number of abortions per 1,000 women of childbearing age (15-44 years) dropped from 35 to 29” but, “according to the new study, the global abortion rate in 2008 was virtually unchanged, at 28 per 1,000,” the press release states. “This plateau coincides with a slowdown, documented by the United Nations, in contraceptive uptake, which has been especially marked in developing countries,” according to the press release. “The researchers also found that nearly half of all abortions worldwide are unsafe, … almost all unsafe abortions occur in the developing world,” and “restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower rates of abortion,” the press release adds (1/18).
Loss Of U.S. Funding For UNFPA 'Would Be Devastating' To Family Planning Services In Developing Countries
“By voting to ban any U.S. contribution to UNFPA” in the FY 2013 State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill, the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday “made a judgment call that saving the lives of women and girls around the world is simply not a U.S. priority,” Valerie DeFillipo, president of Friends of UNFPA, writes in a Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” opinion piece. She notes that “[c]ommittee members voted against amendments that would permit funding to UNFPA for preventing and treating obstetric fistula, ending female genital mutilation, and providing family planning services and contraceptive supplies in nine sub-Saharan African countries with high rates of poverty and maternal mortality where USAID does not provide family planning assistance.”
India “has to actively and aggressively address the issue of family planning” in order to improve human development indicators, including health, education and living standards, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin said Wednesday, Reuters reports. “India, Asia’s third-largest economy, is set to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation by 2030,” but, “despite its impressive economic growth over the last two decades, it has failed to substantially reduce hunger as well as child and maternal mortality rates,” the news service writes, noting that “[a]bout 60 percent of Indian women have no access to family planning services.”
“[E]vidence shows that family planning prevents the needless deaths of women worldwide,” which should “be cause to sustain or even increase U.S. investments in these programs,” Chloe Cooney, director of global advocacy for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), writes in this RH Reality Check blog post. “Yet, once again, the House Appropriations Committee voted to let politics interfere with life-saving health care for women,” she continues, adding, “Last week, the House Appropriations Committee proposed to cut funding for international family planning programs and impose harmful restrictions on women’s access to essential health care.” Cooney notes that the Senate version of the bill “increases support for international family planning without attaching restrictions that would undercut these efforts.” She cites a recent U.N. report that “confirms that birth control and reproductive health services are essential to saving women’s lives,” and concludes, “The impact of the decisions made by this Congress will be felt in the lives of women and families around the world” (5/22).
In this USAID “IMPACTblog” post, Abiy Shewarega of the USAID | Deliver Project, Ethiopia, describes the Ethiopian Ministry of Health’s commitment to improving family planning through programs that, in the past six years, have “seen a rapid increase in contraceptive use and a decline in the average number of births per woman.” He discusses the importance of supply chain and logistics activities, concluding, “Availability of family planning commodities does more than simply support better health for women and their children. As a result of the continued commitment of the Ethiopian government and collaboration with USAID, women … are not only able to maintain good health for themselves and their families, but can also secure the family income, send their children to school, and improve the family’s potential for the future” (5/22).
“Through the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, women are being recognized as playing a major role in tackling global hunger,” guest blogger Seema Jalan, director of global development policy at Women Thrive Worldwide, writes in this post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog.” She lists “seven things we at Women Thrive believe any program — whether from government, an NGO or private company — have to do to succeed by reaching women,” including ensuring property rights for women and providing women farmers with the tools and training they need (5/18).