The Mo Ibrahim Prize for African Leadership hasn’t been given out since 2008, but the Mo Ibrahim Foundation has launched the Ibrahim Index as a measure for African countries and their progress. This is an interesting and important development as a number of the indicators for the index focus on health. Check out other interesting news from across the continent. Check it out for yourself!
“Water is more valuable than oil, more precious than gold,” said Amy LoPresti, co-founder of Africa Water is Life. “It is the essential ingredient of our life, our culture, our history, and our future. Yet, 1.2 billion people in the world do not have access to clean, consumable water.” Unsafe water and a lack of basic sanitation cause an estimated 80 percent of all diseases in the developing world and together kill more people than all forms of violence, including war.
This is a story that really invokes our organization’s name. High rates of chronic malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies of Vitamin A and iron among women and children remain Uganda’s most common malnutrition problems. However, an edible banana could solve this problem.
Africa Water News highlights a CNN article that suggests we are close to eradicating the disease. Once called the “forgotten disease for a forgotten people” the Carter Center believes that every country in Africa except Sudan will be rid of the disease.
The ANC’s National Health Insurance scheme has yet again opened up the deep economic divisions in South Africa. The economic divisions are best represented by access and quality of health care. Doctors are very difficult to find in poor, crowded townships and settlements, but major towns with many wealth have centers for plastic surgery. 60% of funds for health services are directed at the 15% of the population which is covered by private health insurance. Only 40% of the funds are used to pay for the public sector that serves 85% of the population.
Over the next five years and in partnership with the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the department is awarding grants to African institutions in a dozen countries under its Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI), which works with U.S. medical schools and universities to form a network that includes about 30 regional partners, country health and education ministries, and more than 20 U.S. collaborators.
This article is being featured because of the subject matter. Voice of America (VOA) has a habit of generalizing, especially in Africa and about African people. I suggest reading the interview transcript on how traditional beliefs guide health practices in Ghana, something that I studied during a 6 week study abroad covering disparities in health care. The US health care system could learn a thing or two from the Ghanaian health system.
With a vaccine and drugs available to treat tuberculosis (TB), you would think that it should no longer be a problem. 1.3 million people worldwide died from TB in 2008, according to the World Health Organization most lived in Africa and Southeast Asia. Is this becoming another “forgotten disease for a forgotten people?”
Nyala, Kalma camp, South Darfur - March 2007 (MSF Photo Blog)
The impact of conflict on the environment and then the subsequent, direct effect on human health cannot be overlooked. This internally displaced peoples (IDP) camp in Sudan shows the seriousness of that impact.
Everyone in the global health sector is writing about the incredible reach of SMS technologies working for health in developing countries, and rightly so. Hope Phones has partnered with FrontlineSMS to provide old cell phones to communities in need through SMSmedic partner organizations. More: Your Old Phone Can Change the World
A service that I just recently came across is one that is not being as widely talked about. TeleMed is different from FrontlineSMS: Medic because it connects local health care workers directly to patients in need via SMS technology. SMS: Medic is focused on health infrastructure. TeleMed does not have a website up yet, but is definitely one to watch:
The other big talk within global health is whether Paul Farmer will take a job within the US government. Some have expressed great hope for potential reform others voice their plea with him to continue his incredible community based work outside the bureaucracies. My opinion is that Partners in Health has developed into a strong organization and does not depend on Paul Farmer to further their work. If he wants to take on the inefficiencies and inadequacies of the US government and global health, then all the more power to him.
Broken promises abound as the economic crisis deepens and the right to health falters, but activists are coming together to ensure that funding for health and HIV are not cut. International donors are expected to slash budgets for health due to the economic crisis and health experts fear that this will lead to, “less food security and quality of nutrition, which will in turn put more stress on already weak health systems.” Paula Akugizibwe, regional treatment literacy and advocacy coordinator of Windhoek-based AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) in Namibia demanded, “We need to ensure that African lives do not become a silent casualty of the global financial downturn. Our lives are not cheap or expendable. We expect health to be prioritised over weapons, sports and lavish politics.” Tanzania was the first sub-Saharan country to announce a 25 percent cut of its annual HIV/AIDS budget. Other budget cut impacts: Guinea: Medicines Running Out
On Wednesday, the Livingstone High Court was supposed to hear a ground breaking case about whether mandatory testing for HIV and discrimination solely on the basis of HIV status is constitutional in Zambia. Unfortunately two days later news came that the trial was postponed until mid-July. Be sure to keep watching this story. More: Trial postponed until 15 July
Mara Gordon writes on Change.org’s Global Health Blog about a direct campaign in Tanzania discussing behavior change. “This campaign is partially paid for by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, U.S. government money to fight HIV that’s notoriously had lots of conservative strings attached. Had I seen this ad a year ago, I probably would have dismissed it as unrealistic abstinence-only propaganda. But behavior change works. Behavior change – in combination with access to condoms, comprehensive sexual education, open discussion about HIV and sexually transmitted infections in general, all that good liberal stuff.” More: Changing Human Behaviors: Sexual and Social
During a course on Africa’s environmental history I wrote about the need for changing human behavior in both the sexual and social arena to make a real impact in HIV prevalence. The major social change is the response from Western institutions and organizations in how they talk about HIV/AIDS and Africa while seeking to change sexual behavior. Lesotho: Cultural Beliefs Threaten Prevention of Mother-Child HIV Transmission
Health workers note an encouraging response to the PMTCT program. The number of facilities providing PMTCT has risen from nine in 2004 to 166 by the end of 2008. The number of women who received PMTCT and subsequent antiretroviral (ARV) treatment increased from 421 in 2004 to about 5,000 by end of last year, according to 2009 National AIDS Council statistics. “The primary health care coordinator at St. James Mantsonyane Mission Hospital, Khanyane Mabitso, says stigma and cultural beliefs make it difficult for medical personnel to follow up on HIV-positive mothers and their babies.”
Many advances have been made in health. Some argue that these advances have been dwarfed by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the economic crisis, or the failures of African governments. The WHO report shows that the only statistic with concrete results was the number of children dying before the age of five. Is this a solid example of the failure of big plans and blanket goals for development?
The Anti-Corruption Committee report provides a number of recommendations for reform all focused on improving the health care delivery services in Sierra Leone and eliminating the risk of corrupt practices in the health services across the country. More on health service scale-up: Chad: Paving the Way for Better Obstetric Care
Government meetings with UNICEF to help scale-up of health services for better obstetric care across the country.
Speaking at a gala reception in Washington marking the beginning of “Africa Week,” Carson said: “Most of the Obama administration’s Africa team is in place, and we are gearing up. We will continue to build on and strengthen the strong bipartisan consensus in Congress and among the people of America that has motivated U.S. policy towards Africa. Over the next four years, we will be focusing our efforts on strengthening democracy, promoting sustainable development, resolving or mitigating conflict, and dealing with transnational issues such as climate change and agriculture,” he pledged. While Obama has built a great team, the White House has yet to announce any Africa Policy, greater control and influence for the Bureau of African Affairs, or take any serious (or effective) action for the continent. More: Tanzania: Obama, Kikwete Meet in Oval Office on Africa’s Conflicts
Zimbabwe owes the World Bank and the African Development Bank more than $1bn, how much potential does renewed aid really hold for the country. If the debt is not forgiven there will be no way the country will be able to rebuild necessary infrastructures for health, water, etc. There are countless case studies to show this historical fact. It must also be noted that Western sanctions were a huge detriment to a country in need, maybe this marks a turnaround?