Also In Global Health News: HIV In Philippines; Birth Control, Child Health In Afghanistan; Guatemala’s Progress On MDGs

Philippines’ Health Secretary Seeks To Boost Condom Distribution After Increase In HIV Diagnoses

The Philippines’ Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral on Thursday announced she would seek additional public funds to support the distribution of condoms among high-risk groups, after the country recorded 143 new cases of HIV in January – its highest number of diagnoses in an individual month on record, Reuters reports. “Since the start of 2009, Cabral said, an average of about 60 Filipinos had been diagnosed as HIV-positive each month. But that figure rose sharply to 126 cases in December,” the news service writes (Mogato, 3/4). Cabral’s statements came one day after the country’s Catholic bishops appealed for a ban on condom advertisements, Agence France-Presse reports (3/3).

News Outlets Examine Efforts To Promote Birth Control In Afghanistan

The Associated Press examines recent efforts to promote birth control in Afghanistan, a country that “has one of the world’s highest fertility rates, averaging more than six babies per woman despite years of war and a severe lack of medical care” and the second largest maternal death rate of 1,800 per 100,000 births. However, the “use of the pill, condoms and injected forms of birth control rose to 27 percent over eight months in three rural areas – up to half the women in one area – once the benefits were explained one-on-one by health workers, according to the report published Monday in Bulletin, the World Health Organization’s journal,” AP writes (Mason, 3/3). AOL News adds details on how the WHO, in conjunction with local Afghan health agencies, worked to educate 3,700 families in three communities about the value of birth control. The project received the backing of 37 mullahs (Drummond, 3/3).

Charity Highlights Poor Child Health In Afghanistan

A focus on fighting the insurgency in Afghanistan is obscuring poor child health in the country – “more than 850 Afghan children” die each day from “treatable diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia,” Save the Children said on Wednesday as it launched an emergency appeal to help treat malnourished children and related projects, Reuters AlertNet reports. “Afghan children have the worst chance in the world of surviving to their fifth birthday,” the news service writes (Bhalla, 3/3). Save the Children also highlighted the increased threat to aid workers who are “[w]orking alongside soldiers in Afghanistan,” the U.K. Press Association writes. Patrick Watt, Save the Children’s director of development policy, said, “Funding soldiers to carry out humanitarian work, such as rebuilding schools, threatens the impartiality of aid agencies working on the ground and makes it much more dangerous for us to operate in the country” (3/4).

IPS Examines Guatemala’s Progress On MDGs

Guatemala is unlikely to meet the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 deadline, according to Inter Press Service, which looks at the country’s growing poverty and other indicators that suggest it won’t reach the MDG targets. The country is focusing on “cutting infant and maternal mortality. But these targets also appear far-off,” IPS writes. “The maternal mortality rate of 121 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2005, a projection from the 2002 National Survey on Maternal and Child Health, remained a far cry from the 2015 target of 62 deaths per 100,000 live births” (Valladares, 3/3).

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