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The Maternal Health Task Force Announces New Grants

The Maternal Health Task Force at EngenderHealth announced today that it has awarded eight new grants supporting innovative maternal health research across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The research, which will be carried out by local organizations in developing countries, will lead to national policy recommendations for improving maternal health.

Each research project will evaluate an ongoing effort to advance maternal health in places where too many women still die from preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Examples of such projects include integrating maternal health care with HIV prevention and treatment, organizing support groups for pregnant mothers, and outfitting health workers in rural communities with cellular phones to facilitate emergency care for pregnant women. Following are summaries of the new grants...

Tragedy in Uganda and a Rare Opportunity to Deliver for Africa’s Women

By: Jill Sheffield, President of Women Deliver, originally posted at The Huffington Post

These past few weeks especially, Kampala has been on my mind. Not least because of the senseless attacks that took place there last week. The injustice of terrorism is confounding, and it is a tragedy that innocent people pay the price. But Kampala is on my mind also because, amidst the grief over recent events there is an amazing opportunity. The city is host to the 15th African Union Summit.

The theme of this year's Summit, building on the momentum of Women Deliver and the G8 Summit in the past months, is "maternal, infant, and child health and development in Africa." I cannot imagine a more important theme for a meeting in Africa, taking place at a more momentous time. Millions of women across Africa still struggle to realize their rights and live healthy, fulfilled lives beneath the burdens of poverty, sexual violence and unplanned pregnancies. [Read more...]

New Microbicide Gel May Allow Women to Protect Themselves

A new study shows that topical application of a microbicide before and after sex reduced transmission of HIV by 39% and transmission of herpes by 51%, according to an article published in Science magazine. Those who used the gel most regularly reduced their chances of HIV infection by 54%. Unlike other microbicides, which have been shown to be ineffective, this new product contains tenofovir, an anti-retroviral medication used to treat HIV/AIDS patients.

Civil Society Organizations Statement to the Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union

The 15th African Union (AU) Summit began Monday 19 July 2010 in Kampala, Uganda. The summit is addressing various issues, including health, infrastructure and food security. It will also tackle security concerns in Somalia. Pre Summit, members of African Civil Society, comprising organizations working on maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, water and sanitation, gender, youth, human rights, peace and security, and sustainable development issues in Africa, met to discuss issues affecting Maternal, Infant and Child Health Development in Africa. The Pre Summit was organized by the African Union Commission in collaboration with the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC).

The result of the Pre Summit meetings was a statement by the civil society organizations delivered to the 15th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union calling upon African Governments to work towards improving the health of women. It asks that they enact policies, strengthen health and community systems and accountability mechanisms, increase resources for health, integrate previous commitments, and more, to accelerate the attainment of the MDG. Read the statement here.

Youth Action: Delivering A Better Future For Women And Girls

By: Ernestine B. Greaves, one of the Women Deliver 100 Young Leaders

Globally, we now have the largest generation of youth in history: more than 1.2 billion young people are between 10 and 19 years old. We are the future. Yet our future is uncertain if our health systems and health services continue to fail this generation, and the next.

It’s an unfortunate truth that one woman, every minute, dies from complications due to pregnancy and childbirth around the world. This is also the leading cause of death for girls aged 15-19 in developing countries. Unplanned pregnancy rates continue to be high across the world, and of the 13% of maternal deaths worldwide due to unsafe abortions, almost half of those are aged under 19. The challenges of pregnancy and childbirth threaten young women’s lives every single day. 

Now is the time to deliver for these women. As her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf attends the Summit of the African Union, she must take action on maternal health and protect and promote the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people.

Letter to the African Heads of State (Sign Your Name!)

It is a simple truth: The Millennium Development Goals will not be achieved in Africa without addressing sexual and reproductive health. In 2006, recognizing that women and girls deliver enormous social and economic benefits to their families, communities, and nations, the African Union boldly adopted a short-term plan to achieve the MDGs and save women’s lives in their continent: The Maputo Plan of Action. You understood the needs and realities of your countries, you came together, and you adopted a plan that moved sexual and reproductive health higher on Africa’s political agenda. We commend you for taking the lead in addressing sexual and reproductive health, including maternal health and family planning.

Now, the Maputo Plan of Action is about to expire, and we’re calling on you to reenergize your efforts to achieve the goals that you set in 2006. It’s time to build on the legacy of the Maputo Plan, and to move forward with renewed determination to save the lives of millions of women and girls. [Read more...]

A Tragedy That Doesn’t Have to Happen

By: Agnes Odhiambo, originally posted on The Huffington Post

Nairobi -- Nineteen-year-old Christine Nyaboke became pregnant in 2005. She was in labor for three days at home with a traditional birth attendant because her mother had no money to take her to hospital. She had a stillbirth, and later discovered that her body was painfully damaged. Nyaboke, not her real name, had a fistula, a severe childbirth injury that leaves its victims constantly leaking urine and feces. As a result, she was shunned and abused by former friends and others in her community. She could not leave home for social events, to look for work or even to go to church. She became depressed and contemplated suicide.

She was just one of the more than 50 women and girls I interviewed late last year who suffered obstetric fistula. Unless it is surgically repaired, it ruins their lives. With the G-8 planning to discuss maternal health at its summit meeting this week in Canada, I can't help but think of how these girls' and women's lives would not have been torn apart if they had access to appropriate health care, including family planning services, at the time of their pregnancy and childbirth.

Statement from the First Ladies of Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Zanzibar

Hello. We are the first ladies of Ghana, Sierra Leone and Zanzibar and are honored to stand before you today. We believe that the first human right is the right to safe and healthy lives. Maternal mortality denies women prematurely that right and the rate of maternal deaths speaks loudly about the health status of a country. The problems women share recognize no borders. Read more...

Annie Lennox Appointed as International UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador

In her new role as International UNAIDS Goodwill Ambassador, Ms Lennox will be in Washington D.C. with Mr Sidibé, from the 7-9 of June to participate in the Women Deliver 2010 conference and 2010 Global Business Coalition conference. She will use these events to advocate for a global movement to focus on the HIV-specific needs of women and girls as well as to empower women and girls so that they can better protect themselves from HIV.

Originally posted at UNAIDS.

Geneva, 2 June 2010 – The world renowned Scottish singer songwriter and women’s activist Annie Lennox has been named as International Goodwill Ambassador for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). With an award winning career spanning several decades, Ms. Lennox is one of the world’s most outstanding musical voices. Now, she renews her commitment to speak out for women and girls affected by the HIV epidemic.

A New Role for Africans in Global Maternal Health

By Dr. Fred Sai, co-host of Women Deliver 2010 and former advisor to the Ghanaian government on reproductive health and HIV/AIDS. You can follow the live stream of the Women Deliver 2010 conference from June 7th to 9th at www.womendeliver.org/webcast.

Originally posted at ONE blog.

This March, the Lancet released new statistics that revealed an unprecedented drop in the number of women who die every year during pregnancy and childbirth. The study found that from 1980 to 2008, maternal deaths globally have fallen from 500,000 each year to 340,000. Having spent some 40 years working on women and children’s health in Ghana and across Africa, I welcomed this progress. But as the world celebrated, I also couldn’t help but wonder, “Where is Africa?”

Delivering A Better Future For Women And Girls

By Dr. Fred Sai
(Dr. Fred Sai, was a former adviser to the Ghanaian Government on Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS and is currently the honarary co-chair of the Women Deliver 2010 conference)

This article was published in Ghanaian Times, Modern Ghana, and The Nigerian Voice

Theresa wakes up at the first glimmer of sun in the morning. It is Monday, the beginning of the week, and the first day of class at the school where she is a teacher. She baths and feeds her two children, Kofi and Naana. Together, they walk the short distance to the school, stopping to visit an elderly woman who Theresa and her women’s group at church support. When she arrives at school, Theresa gathers her forty-five class 5 pupils into the small classroom and begins a new year of lessons.

When I met Theresa in her small town just weeks ago, she struck me as one of the millions of women who deliver enormous benefits to our country, families and children every single day. Women like Theresa teach our children in school; they sell goods in the market; and they work in our banks, hospitals, and health centers. These women, increasingly left alone to their fate by absentee spouses or boyfriends, also carry and deliver our children—the future of our country.

PICK UP THE PHONE: A Call on Maternal Health

Tomorrow at 8pm (ET) the ONE campaign is holding an interactive conference call on maternal health with David Lane, ONE's President and CEO, and Christy Turlington Burns, who is holding a panel at Women Deliver on June 7 about the role of media in raising awareness around public health issues. She will also be previewing her new documentary film, NO WOMAN, NO CRY on Monday, 7 June 2010 at Women Deliver (see a list of all the cultural events at Women Deliver here). The call is sure to cover many topics of interest to Women Deliver, so I've included the information below in case you'd like to rsvp.

Report: How Unsafe Abortion Affects Women in Kenya

Every year, at least 2,600 women die from unsafe abortion in Kenya; 21,000 more women are hospitalized annually with complications from incomplete and unsafe abortion, according to a new report by the Center for Reproductive Rights titled, “In Harm’s Way: The Impact of Kenya’s Restrictive Abortion Law.” Although staggering, these numbers do not account for the number of women killed or disabled by unsafe abortions who never visit a health facility or whose cause of death is not recorded.

Small Grants Opportunity for Young People

Population Action International has just announced that they will provide a small grants program dedicated to supporting and empowering young people to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).   PAI will support organizations and networks in the three following countries: Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.  Young people are often at a great disadvantage, especially when it comes to accessing accurate, timely information about their reproductive health needs.  Thus, PAI seeks to provide dedicated resources for advocacy to support young people in developing appropriate strategies for increasing resources and attention for sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Mobile Phones: A New Tool for Saving Women’s Lives

Cell phones have cut dramatically the number of women dying during childbirth in Amensie village in south-central Ghana, according to an article posted on AlertNet.

Restrictive Abortion Laws Account for Maternal Deaths

New York – Increased contraceptive use has led to fewer abortions worldwide, but deaths from unsafe abortion remain a severe problem, killing 70,000 women a year, according to a major global survey from the Guttmacher Institute.

FIGO Launches Report on Maternal and Infant Deaths

Cape Town, South Africa – More than two million infants and women die worldwide each year from childbirth complications, outnumbering child deaths from malaria and HIV/AIDS, according to a new study released at the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) world congress.

A Leap Forward on Free Healthcare

UN – At a high-level gathering on the margins of the General Assembly, world leaders pledged more than US $5 billion in multi-year funding and committed to a new global Consensus for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.

A Breakfast with First Ladies

First Ladies have a unique position… they have ability to whisper in the ears of some of the most important people in the nation. And through these passionate and influential advocates, there’s the opportunity to address some of the biggest challenges facing girls and women.

Communities as the Missing Partner

An old cliché says that "all politics is local" - that people's votes are driven more by the quality of local services like garbage collection than by debates on big national issues.

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