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Opinions: Maternal Mortality; Health System Strengthening

Columnist Sees ‘Dawn Of A Global Movement Against Maternal Mortality’

Columnist Nicholas Kristof examines maternal health in developing countries in his latest New York Times opinion piece. Kristof describes a Pakistani woman’s birth experience to illustrate the sort of “dramas” that “play out constantly in poor countries” where one “woman dies a minute from complications of pregnancy or childbirth somewhere in the world, and 20 times as many suffer childbirth injuries,” he writes.

“Some impoverished countries, such as Sri Lanka, have succeeded stunningly well at saving mothers simply because they have tried. But foreign aid donors like the U.S. have never shown much interest in maternal mortality, and impoverished women are typically the most voiceless, neglected people in their own countries — so they die at astonishing rates,” he writes. “If men had uteruses, ‘paternity wards’ would get resources, ambulances would transport pregnant men to hospitals free of charge, deliveries would be free, and the Group of 8 industrialized nations would make paternal mortality a top priority,” according to Kristof. He writes, “Thankfully, there is the dawn of a global movement against maternal mortality … My dream is that Barack and Michelle Obama will leap forward and adopt this cause” (7/30).

Health System Strengthening More Effective Than ‘AIDS-Centric Approach’

For years, AIDS advocates “convinced the world that AIDS was an exceptional disease that posed an existential threat all over the world, and therefore demanded an exceptional response,” but it is “increasingly clear that the leaders of the AIDS industry have not been good custodians of this largesse,” Philip Stevens, research director of the International Policy Network, writes in a BusinessDay opinion piece.

“It is now clear AIDS is not the global ’emergency’ claimed by the AIDS lobby,” yet the disease “still receives a quarter of all health aid, despite accounting for less than 4 percent of developing country deaths,” Stevens writes. Donors are starting to see that an “AIDS-centric approach to spending is not an effective way of improving health in poor countries, which is better done by strengthening overall primary care,” he writes, adding that “strengthening health systems should henceforth be the priority.” Donors should not let the HIV/AIDS lobby’s “vituperative rhetoric derail them as they strive to improve health for everyone, not just a few,” Stevens concludes (7/29).

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