KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

UNFPA To Support Improved Access To Family Planning In 8 African Countries

“Eight African countries will get support to improve access to reproductive health education and services for millions of adolescent girls, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said on Friday” at the International Conference on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Africa, Thomson Reuters Foundation reports. “Over the next three years, the agency will work with the governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Tanzania to develop programs for marginalized girls and young women aged 15-19 to ensure they have access to age-appropriate sexual education that will prepare them for adult life,” the news service writes, noting, “These countries have some of the fastest growing populations in the world” (Mis, 8/2). “Seventy percent of Africa is less than 30 years old. So, we need to ensure that every life and every young person has access to all that their health and education requires to enable them to reach their full potential,” UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin said about the initiative, according to VOA News. Osotimehin “said that educated and healthy girls are more likely to delay having children; have healthier children when they do; and earn higher incomes,” the news service writes (DeCapua, 8/2). In related news, Devex examines how African “governments fared in their commitments to increase domestic health spending and scale up local efforts to fight these infectious diseases,” highlighting a report (.pdf) released ahead of the Abuja+12 summit in mid-July (Ocampo, 8/5).

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Indian Parliament Expected To Ratify National Food Security Bill

India began a key parliamentary session on Monday, during which “the government will seek to push through a giant program to provide subsidized food to two-thirds of the population,” BBC News reports. “The food security ordinance has to be ratified by the parliament within six weeks of its first sitting, otherwise it will lapse,” the news agency notes, adding that “the ambitious National Food Security Bill, which will cost 1.3 trillion rupees ($23.9 billion; £15.8 billion) a year, … is being called one of the world’s largest welfare schemes.” Under the bill, “the government will provide five kilograms of cheap grain every month to nearly 800 million poor people,” the news agency writes, adding, “Critics say the plan is a political move to win votes and will drain India’s finances. Supporters say it will help reduce poverty” (8/5).

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Israel To Launch Polio Vaccination Campaign In Southern Region

“Israel said on Sunday it was launching a campaign to administer the active polio vaccine to children in its southern region after tests detected at least 1,000 carriers of the virus in that area, though none were found to be ill with the disease,” Reuters reports. “The health ministry said it was recommending that children born after January 2004, but not younger than two months, report to publicly funded clinics to be administered oral drops of a weakened active virus vaccine beginning on Monday,” the news service writes. “Israel conducted tests after the virus was detected in sewage samples some weeks ago, and subsequent tests by laboratories abroad provided ‘indications there are between 1,000 to 2,000 carriers of the virus,’ Health Minister Yael German said in an interview with Channel 2 television,” Reuters notes, adding, “While there have been no reported cases of the disease, a decision was made to take protective steps. Israeli media said the target population numbered about 150,000 children” (Fisher-Ilan, 8/4).

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U.N. Warns Of 'Rapidly Deteriorating' Situation For Women, Children In Syrian City Of Homs

“The U.N. sounded the alarm on Saturday about the plight of women and children in Syria’s Homs, urging all parties in the conflict to enable access to some 400,000 trapped civilians,” Agence France-Presse reports. “‘The situation of women and children in the Syrian city of Homs is rapidly deteriorating,’ UNICEF said in a statement, adding that ‘new checkpoints are preventing more supplies from entering’ the neighborhood of Al-Waer,” the news service writes. “Around 400,000 civilians, mostly women and children, who were forced to flee other areas of Homs have sought refuge in Al-Waer, and are now ‘living in partially constructed buildings, schools and other public buildings,’ Lake said,” according to AFP, which adds, “Lake called on ‘all parties to facilitate immediate safe access to these families so we can provide life-saving assistance, and to allow those families currently trapped in Al-Waer who wish to leave to do so in safety and in dignity'” (8/3).

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Sterile Equipment, Birth Attendants Would Help Improve Child, Maternal Mortality In India

In a post in the GlobalPost’s “Pulse” blog, the fourth in a series about child health in India, Harman Boparai, a doctor from India currently working as a Kaiser Health Reporting Fellow at GlobalPost, examines the issue of birth in India’s Panna District, which he says is often unsafe and unattended by a skilled health care worker. He discusses how the use of relatively inexpensive sterile products such as thread for stitches and blades used to cut the umbilical cord would prevent many infant deaths from infection (8/2).

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Editorials and Opinions

International Family Planning Funding Essential To Achieve Global Security

Noting the House Appropriations Committee last month voted to cut spending for international family planning programs under the FY 2014 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations budget, compared with last year’s amount, John Seager, president of Population Connection, writes in a GlobalPost opinion piece, “A lack of access to birth control leads to rapid population growth. And rapid population growth often leads to the types of problems that can cause political instability, such as food insecurity, water scarcity, lack of arable land and environmental degradation.” He continues, “Of course, population growth isn’t the only cause of instability. But it is an important one. And it’s one that we can tackle, if we just have the will.” “Research shows that 222 million women around the world want to avoid pregnancy but don’t have access to affordable, appropriate contraception,” Seager states, noting some potential implications of the House appropriations bill. He concludes, “Until our political leaders get serious about funding international family planning — and achieving a stable global population — our world will be less secure than it could be. Count on it” (8/3).

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Congress Should Move Forward With Food Aid Reform To Feed More People, Save Money

“For decades, U.S. aid has fed millions overseas but the policy is stuck in a time warp and has failed to keep up with 21st-century innovations and smarter practices,” Neal Keny-Guyer, CEO of Mercy Corps, writes in a Seattle Times opinion piece. “With common-sense modifications, U.S. food assistance could reach four million more hungry people abroad each year at no added cost to taxpayers,” he states. “Yet policymakers have been reluctant to take the steps needed to make this a reality,” he notes, adding, “Congressional members … recently voted against reform.” Keny-Guyer describes how the program currently operates, and he continues, “Mercy Corps and many other humanitarian organizations would like to see an expansion in the scope of local food-purchase programs and a reduction in monetization. Both steps would help feed more malnourished people faster and give U.S. taxpayers better bang for their aid buck.” He writes, “With more than 870 million people around the globe going hungry, it is critical that food aid funding remains robust. Foreign aid is a tiny expenditure representing less than one percent of the U.S. budget, and food aid represents just three percent of this one percent.” He notes Congress is currently debating “[t]he farm bill, which will govern agriculture and food aid policies for the next five years,” and he concludes, “We encourage Washingtonians to urge their members of Congress to support food aid reform efforts. The rare opportunity to feed millions of hungry people and save millions of taxpayer dollars should not be squandered” (8/2).

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Power, Rice Should Use New Roles To Support Reproductive Health Rights In Post-2015 Agenda

Highlighting the recent appointments of Samantha Power as the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Susan Rice as the White House national security adviser, Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, writes in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, “These women assume their new roles at a pivotal time for U.S. engagement at the U.N. and in international development.” She notes the approaching 2015 deadline to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and states, “On May 30, a high-level panel appointed by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon released a report setting the new global agenda on international development … highlighting the need for support of reproductive health.” She adds, “[T]he high-level panel report lays out five ‘transformative shifts’ for the new global agenda,” including “a specific target to ensure universal access to reproductive health care and rights under Goal #4 Ensure Healthy Lives, which focuses on several interrelated health issues, including maternal health and HIV/AIDS.”

“Ensuring universal reproductive health rights and access to care is no mere abstract goal but a promise that young women do not have to drop out of school because they are pregnant, that all young people receive accurate, age-appropriate sex education, that no woman suffers or dies from unsafe abortion, and that rape in conflict will be acknowledged, addressed and — as we strive for peace and security in so many ways — ended,” Laguens continues. “Both Samantha Power and Susan Rice have demonstrated their commitment to the health and rights of women and young people,” she states. “As a provider and advocate of women’s health care, Planned Parenthood knows well the importance of equity in health care in the realization of human rights,” she writes, concluding, “Both Power and Rice will need to continue to exert strong leadership on behalf of the U.S. to ensure that the global community sets an agenda that achieves both” (8/2).

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Integrated Approach To Early Childhood Important For Social Policy, Long-Term Economic Policy

Writing in the Huffington Post U.K.’s “Politics” blog, Dame Tessa Jowell, a former Cabinet minister, and Member of Parliament Ivan Lewis write about a recent trip to Malawi, where they toured projects supported by the non-governmental organization Sightsavers. “Support for children in their early months and years in Malawi is scarcely funded,” they write, adding “more training, more staffing and more infrastructure would make a big difference, not only to maternal health and early childhood care but to the health and education systems as a whole.” Despite these challenges, however, “[g]overnment officials we met agreed on the vital importance of the first 1,000 days of a child’s life and recognized the potential demographic dividend and long-term economic benefit to investing in the earliest years,” the authors state. But “more work needs to be done to address the remaining gap between the national level policy and rhetoric and reality of implementation at community level,” they write, noting, “We saw some remarkably innovative and exciting work from Sightsavers, working with disabled and visually impaired children to ensure they get the best start in life against the odds.” Jowell and Lewis conclude, “An integrated approach to early childhood development is not only a social policy but a long-term economic policy. Getting it right in the early years is the morally right thing to do but also the smart thing — these children are the parents and workers of tomorrow” (8/3).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Thinking Differently About Global Development, USAID

In the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Blog,” Kate Almquist Knopf, a visiting policy fellow at CGD, states, “The FY14 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill passed out of the House Appropriations Committee last week is a stinging reminder of the low esteem in which many members of Congress hold global development and [USAID].” She writes about the need for “development policy coherence” in U.S. policy, writing, “With the right support and changes, … USAID has the potential to be a premier development agency. What’s required is a development voice at the highest levels of national security and foreign policy decision-making.” Knopf describes four actions that might achieve such involvement. “Until development is treated as an end in its own right rather than a subordinate means for fighting terrorism or winning friends, the United States’ foreign aid architecture, resources, and objectives will continue to be woefully misaligned and USAID is destined to disappoint,” she concludes (8/2).

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Science Review Examines Impact Of Climate Change On Global Food Security

In a review published in Science last week, Tim Wheeler of the University of Reading’s Walker Institute for Climate System Research in the U.K. and Joachim von Braun of the University of Bonn’s Center for Development Research examine the impacts of climate change on global food security. “A robust and coherent global pattern is discernible of the impacts of climate change on crop productivity that could have consequences for food availability,” and “[t]he stability of whole food systems may be at risk under climate change because of short-term variability in supply,” according to the abstract. “However, the potential impact is less clear at regional scales, but it is likely that climate variability and change will exacerbate food insecurity in areas currently vulnerable to hunger and undernutrition,” the abstract notes, adding, “The evidence supports the need for considerable investment in adaptation and mitigation actions toward a ‘climate-smart food system’ that is more resilient to climate change influences on food security” (8/2).

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Ethiopian Health Journalism Competition Results In Effective Vaccination Messages

Noting “Ethiopian journalists produced dozens of stories about the effectiveness of vaccines in response to an international story contest organized by the International Center for Journalists in collaboration with the African Health Journalists Association and the Arab Media Forum,” Elsabet Samuel Tadesse, a broadcast journalist and media trainer based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, examines in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog the “impressive results” sparked by the contest coverage. “More than 50 health journalists who have attended the workshops work very hard to ensure quality vaccines-related messages that can be easily understood by the parents and caregivers are on air and published,” she states, noting, “Health extension worker Frehiowt Takele says that an increase in media reports on vaccination is leading to an uptick in the number of parents bringing their children to health centers for vaccination.” She highlights a number of top stories from the vaccine contest (8/2).

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Global Health Journal Publishes 7 Advance Access Articles

Global Health: Science and Practice — a “peer-reviewed, open access, online journal … published by USAID in partnership with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health” — has published seven advance access articles on its webpage, according to an email alert from the journal. “The topics include public health supply systems, Islam and family planning, vitamin A supplementation coverage, and maternal and newborn outcomes, among others,” the alert states, noting Issue 2 of GHSP will comprise the articles, along with others, and will be available later this month (8/3).

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