Food for Thought on International Women’s Day

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A baby breastfeeding.
Food for thought

While I was in Port Moresby last week I met with Colleen Westaway from the organisation Susu Mamas, an organisation which for the last 36 years has been focusing on reducing infant mortality through antenatal and postnatal care of women, babies and children. Statics for the last 10 years up to 2006 has shown a decrease in all child mortality rates except neonatal mortality. This is good news, but much work is still requires, especially through the lack of trained medical specialists across the country in particular midwives.

One point Colleen made stuck in my mind and I thought was worth mentioning as food for thought on International Women’s Day (8 March, the date this blog is published). Susu Mamas basically refers to breastfeeding in Tok Pisin (the unofficial national language which is more widely spoken than English).

A serious issue confronting Papua New Guinea at the moment is the near epidemic of HIV. How does an HIV positive mother care for her baby to ensure the disease is not transmitted through breastfeeding in the case where the baby is born without the disease? To be honest, it is not a question I had thought about much in the past.

I did know previously that many studies show the advantage of breastfeeding after birth for a range of reasons from nutrition to avoiding disease to socialisation and care of the child. I had not given much thought to complications associated with this.

There is medication both the mother and child can take which acts as a blocking agent to HIV preventing transmission that then allows breastfeeding, except it requires strict observing of the medication and breastfeeding exclusively (I think…I might have some of this wrong- I am not a doctor. But that is the point of this post- it is worth talking about. If you know better, please let us all know.)

Maybe there are more appropriate issues to discuss on International Women’s Day, such as the themes chosen by Accenture in the UK (Stretch Yourself: Achieving 50:50 in the boardroom by 2020), and IBM in USA (Women@IBM: Success in the Globally Integrated Enterprise). Those issues are also getting exposure in PNG which is good to see, such as discussion about a more equatable political representation. Surely the conversation is large enough to focus on this basic relationship between mother and child and to ask just why might things be so dysfunctional in some countries more than our own?

So how about it guys (the male variety): Spare a couple of minutes today to give this some thought!


A Different Perspective

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The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis an...
The Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

Yesterday I posted a blog titled: Did the Government Let Us Down? where I questioned claims that had been made that not enough had been given by own government toward the Global Fund which contributes towards the eradication of diseases: in particular HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB.

I was asking: how much money is ‘enough’?

Outcomes from the United Nations Donor Meeting held on 4-5 October sparked this discussion. The meeting announced that US$11.7 billion had been pledged in new funding over the next three years to support the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This in fact represents the largest-ever pledge for the collective effort to fight the three pandemics and will allow the Global Fund to further support countries as they work to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) related to health.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commented in a more positive manner from the earlier claims which promoted my blog yesterday. He said:

At a time when so many Governments are tightening their belts at home, these commitments send a powerful message: It shows how seriously world leaders want to do the right thing beyond their borders, too.

What can we make of this? Two different claims, with the United Nations Secretary-General applauding this initiative. The esteemed members of the MDG Advocacy Group have shown support for what they describe as “the ample replenishment of the Global Fund”. The MDG Advocacy Group summarised it like this:

We can recommend no better and more timely investment on the planet to support the Millennium Development Goals.

That sounds like a call-to-action to build bridges with all the time we have available between now and 2015. 21 days to go before I start running (no more false starts!). Please step up and do what you can to influence extreme poverty. You might support this initiative with a $24 sponsorship, or from the time I commence running submit a photograph of a human bridge to be presented as a pictorial petition.

Any other ideas worth sharing? Let’s hear them!

Half the world’s population is at risk of malaria (3 Days to Go) : 8 MDG.

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Today with three days to go, the focus is on Millennium Development Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Disease. The United Nations has set three targets for this Millennium Development Goal:

  • Halt and begin to reverse, by 2015, the spread of HIV/AIDS
  • Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it
  • Halt and begin to reverse, by 2015, the incidence of malaria and other major diseases

One of the Outcomes for the 10 City Bridge Run is to invest $24,000 in anti-malaria technology through the distribution of 10,000 mosquito nets. The ability to create leverage in order to achieve this will only come with the participation of sponsorship. Only with sponsorship is it possible to achieve the 10 City Bridge Run.

Remarks from the UN are sobering and need no further explanation. This is a serious and tragic situation through the prevalence of these infectious diseases.

  • Every day over 7,400 people are infected with HIV and 5,500 die from AIDS- related illnesses. HIV remains the leading cause of death among reproductive-age women worldwide.
  • An estimated 33.4 million people were living with HIV in 2008, two thirds of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Access to HIV treatment in low- and middle-income countries increased ten-fold over a span of just five years.
  • Malaria kills a child in the world every 45 seconds. Close to 90 per cent of malaria deaths occur in Africa, where it accounts for a fifth of childhood mortality.
  • 1.8 million people died from tuberculosis in 2008, about 500,000 of whom were HIV-positive.