September 15, 2014
Some 500,000 children returned on Sunday to school in the Gaza Strip, where many will be given psychological counselling before regular studies begin after a devastating 50-day war between Palestinian militants and Israel. From Reuters:
The opening of the school year had been delayed for three weeks because of damage to more than 250 schools and the use of about 90 U.N. educational facilities as shelters for tens of thousands of residents displaced by fighting, the United Nations and local authorities said.
“The top priority now is making sure that after a period of psychosocial support, including the use of theatre for development techniques, our students can return to their regular curricula,” said Pierre Krähenbühl, head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which runs more than 200 Gaza schools.
He said UNRWA has employed over 200 counsellors who would engage with the approximately 240,000 students in its schools, with a transition to standard studies scheduled in a week.
A coalition of international and local non-government agencies and the Palestinian Education Ministry will also help provide psychosocial support to another quarter-million students in Gaza’s public schools.
Health officials in the Gaza Strip, an enclave run by the Hamas Islamist group, said more than 2,100 people, mostly civilians were killed, among them 500 children, in the war.
Spotlight on PSI
A recent speech given by Anne C. Richard, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration for the State Department, noted some important gains made by global health organizations, including PSI. An excerpt:
Your research is as essential as your advocacy. The Guttmacher Institute demonstrated that access to modern contraception does not just save lives, empower women, and reduce poverty. It also saves money! Guttmacher’s research found that the $4 billion spent annually on contraceptive care in developing countries actually saves $5.6 billion on the cost of medical care for mothers and newborns. This makes not just health ministries, but influential finance ministries sit up and take notice. Another widely accepted figure that came from Guttmacher is that an estimated 222 million women in the developing world want to avoid or delay pregnancy but still lack the means to do this.
The barriers are geographic, economic, practical and cultural. And we need civil society’s help to overcome them. You are in the field, figuring out what women need and how they can get it.
Take the case of injectable contraceptives. These once had to be administered by doctors and nurses. With USAID’s support, FHI360 conducted research in Uganda and Madagascar showing that community health workers with minimal education could provide them safely. As a result, thirteen African countries now permit this practice.
Civil society groups figure out how to help at-risk, underserved populations including youth. In Liberia, Population Services International developed tools and provided training for family planning and reproductive clinics. Participating clinics were able to serve 15 times more young people and distribute 36 times more contraceptives to youth than they had before.
You also reach the hardest-to-reach places. Marie Stopes International brings family planning services to women and men in 30,000 isolated urban shanty towns and remote rural locations in 26 countries. It has even transported supplies by mule and camel train. MSI offers temporary “Saturday” family planning clinics advertised in local markets and by word of mouth. Women stream in, voluntarily seeking everything from short term methods, to sterilization.
Global Health and Development Beat
Applying the benefit of hindsight, researchers at Duke Medicine have reanalyzed the findings of two historic pediatric HIV vaccine trials with encouraging results. The vaccines had in fact triggered an antibody response that was previously unrecognized in the infants studied in the 1990s.
NPR interviews USAID head Raj Shah about the organization’s efforts to coordinate a worldwide response to the Ebola crisis.
Haiti has recorded more than 65,000 cases of chikungunya and those responsible for public health, estimate that up to 50% of the population could be affected by the epidemic.
Some health care professionals in West Africa are looking at alternative approaches for helping Ebola patients survive the virus.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has fired 10 senior officials who defied an order to return to the country and help in the fight against Ebola.
Sierra Leone has lost a fourth doctor to Ebola after a failed effort to transfer her abroad for medical treatment, a government official said Sunday, a huge setback to the impoverished country that is battling the virulent disease amid a shortage of health care workers.
Two Dutch doctors feared to have contracted the deadly Ebola virus while working in Sierra Leone are set to be flown back to the Netherlands “as soon as possible”, the foreign ministry said.
Buzzing in the Blogs
The Ebola outbreak is reversing the important development gains made by Liberia, writes Antonia Vigilante. An excerpt from IPS:
There are also health ramifications for those not affected by Ebola: access to regular health care is reduced due to closures of hospitals and clinics, loss of nurses and doctors and increased fees by private health care providers.
Vaccination coverage, for instance, had already declined by 50 percent by July. Women in labour struggle to obtain skilled maternity care — in some cases they are turned away from the few institutions still in operation.
People with HIV who are on antiretroviral drugs and people with chronic diseases on prolonged care have had their treatment interrupted as a result of the closure of health facilities. The public health care system has all but collapsed in parts of the areas hardest hit by Ebola.
Before the current crisis, Liberia’s economy experienced impressive growth rates of up to 8.7 per cent (2013). GDP growth was already projected to decline to 5.9 per cent this year, as mining production levelled off temporarily, coupled with the fall in international prices for rubber and iron ore, before rising to 6.8 per cent in 2015 and 7.2 per cent in 2016. Future growth figures will now have to be revised, as economic activities have slowed down dramatically in most sectors.
But there is also an underlying issue at hand: The impressive recent growth in Liberia has not been equitable or inclusive. About 57 per cent of the country’s approximately four million inhabitants live below the poverty line and 48 per cent live in conditions of extreme poverty.
12:00 PM – Peace after Gaza: A New Framework for a Changing Landscape – Aspen Institute
10:00 AM – The Changing Course of the Brazilian Elections – Wilson Center
10:00 AM – Subcommittee Hearing: Global Efforts to Fight Ebola – US House Committee on Foreign Affairs
2:00 PM – What’s Next? Celebrating 20 Years of the Environmental Change and Security Program – Wilson Center
12:15 PM – Social Origins of Dictatorships: Elite Networks and Political Transitions in Haiti – CGD
By Mark Leon Goldberg and Tom Murphy
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Disclaimer: Opinions presented in this email do not necessarily reflect the views of PSI.