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NPR Examines Obama’s ‘Broad’ Global Health Strategy; Maternal Health In Afghanistan Discussed At Congressional Briefing

NPR reports on President Obama’s “broad global health strategy,” which would increase the amount of funding for family planning, maternal and child health programs to about a “half billion dollars” next year. According to NPR, “the U.S. has committed $230 million [over the next five years] directly to health in Afghanistan, whose government has already built 2,000 health facilities since the collapse of the Taliban regime” (Wilson, 7/15).

A Congressional Women’s Caucus briefing in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday “focused on maternal health in Afghanistan, which has the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world after Sierra Leone, the West African nation ravaged for nearly three decades of civil war,” AFP/ reports. At the briefing, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) said Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to sign into law a bill that would punish those who perpetuate violence against women. Among other things, the bill would punish those who bar women from obtaining healthcare, AFP/ reports (7/14). 

According to VOANews, Afghan and U.S. officials at the briefing “said providing Afghan women greater access to health care would not only improve quality of life, but the security situation as well” (Joselow, 7/14).

According to Nils Daulaire, a senior fellow at the Global Health Council, the U.S. work in Afghanistan is a good model for how maternal and child health issues worldwide could be addressed, NPR reports. “This is not the kind of huge investment that we have been talking about in the AIDS treatment arena where the drugs are expensive and challenging to administer. We know how to deal with children’s health and we know that basic obstetric care can be delivered at very modest cost in very difficult circumstances,” Daulaire said.

Some HIV/AIDS advocates are concerned about what they view as a shift away from expected increases in AIDS funding, according to NPR. Ken Mayer, an AIDS specialist at Brown University, said people who were trained under PEPFAR have clinical skills that can be used in primary health care programs as well.  Brown said PEPFAR “shouldn’t be seen as ‘that’s the old model and now we are going to start from scratch with the new model.’ I don’t think we have the time to do that” (7/15).