This is the last in a series of four stories about how strong health systems improve the health of women and children. It was originally published on Global Health Now's website.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has a chance to save millions of children with an inexpensive grassroots community effort.
Before the civil war in the late 1990s, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had a large network of clinics and health facilities. But decades of conflict weakened a fragile health system and robbed this resource-rich country of its potential to become one of sub-Saharan Africa’s wealthiest nations. By 2010, 70 to 80 percent of Congolese people had little or no access to healthcare, and the country suffered from a lack of basic security, communication systems, power, clean water, and transportation.
There are no magic bullets in life. For fixing a healthcare system, though, there is one approach that comes close: results-based financing. Management Sciences for Health (MSH) pioneered results-based financing in Haiti in 1999, and has been adapting and improving it ever since in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and South-East Asia, including in fragile states.
This blog post is a web-formatted version of the Global Health Impact newsletter: Stronger Health Systems Stop TB and Save Lives (December 2015). (View or share the email version here.) We welcome your feedback and questions in the comments or email us. On social media, use hashtag #GlobalHealthImpact and tag @MSHHealthImpact. Subscribe
Despite improvements in child survival in recent decades, children in low- and middle-income countries still suffer from illnesses virtually nonexistent in the industrial world.
Pneumonia is the deadliest of these, responsible for the death of 900,000 children under five worldwide in 2013—more than any other infectious disease.
This post is part of the #SaveMomsandKids blog and event series on proven, impactful practices that are advancing maternal, newborn, and child survival. The series is sponsored by MSH, Jhpiego, and Save the Children.
At three months old, Thérèse’s baby boy Ataadji was malnourished and unhealthy, weighing in at only six pounds. Within two months, Ataadji had transformed into a thriving, healthy baby boy and his weight had nearly tripled. The keys to this success? An Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) support group and exclusive breastfeeding.
This post originally appeared on the Frontline Health Workers Coalition blog.
I grew up in a village in northwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and although I’m now a doctor and live in Kinshasa, I remember those days well.
I know what it’s like to live 23 kilometers from the nearest health center and to navigate forests and floods to get there. I know how a lack of something simple like antibiotics can cause a quick death. I’ve lost many peers from the village over the years and a lot of family members.
In fact, that’s why I became a physician.
Breastfeeding is a human right, and critical for the health of both newborn and mother. Newborns benefit from early skin-to-skin contact and the antibodies in the mother’s first milk, plus factors that protect against later obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma. Mothers benefit because early breastfeeding assists in uterine shrinkage and helps prevent postpartum bleeding. In addition, frequent, exclusive, breastfeeding reduces the likelihood of an immediate new pregnancy.
Every year, pneumonia kills approximately 936,000 children under the age of five, accounting for 15 percent of all deaths within this age group. One of the worst affected countries is the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where pneumonia took the lives of nearly 50,000 children in 2013, including almost 7,000 newborns.
For the sixth year, people around the global are bringing awareness to this critical—and solvable—problem by commemorating World Pneumonia Day today, November 12th. This year’s theme is: “Universal access to pneumonia prevention and care”.
This special January 2014 edition of the Global Health Impact Newsletter (subscribe) features 12 stories from 2013 highlighting how MSH is saving lives by strengthening health systems at all levels--from the household to the community to the health facility to national authorities. The stories were selected through an internal storytelling contest (available in print soon).
We are also pleased to share a post from President and CEO Jonathan D. Quick outlining our vision for 2014.
A Note from Dr. Jonathan D. Quick
Vision 2014: UHC and the Opportunity for a Healthy Life
Today, November 12, is World Pneumonia Day. Pneumonia is the leading cause of death among children under five, killing more children annually than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. About 1.1 million children under five died of pneumonia last year, 99 percent in developing countries.
Over one hundred years ago on this date, (August 20, 1897), British scientist Sir Ronald Ross discovered that infected female mosquitoes transmit malaria between humans. (Like any vector borne disease, the malaria-causing parasite, Plasmodium, needs a specific host: in this case, the mosquito. The female mosquito needs blood to nourish her eggs; the male just eats nectar.) Dr. Ross received the Nobel Prize for his discovery that year. Today, we mark the day, August 20, as “World Mosquito Day.”
What’s all the buzz about?
Tuberculosis (TB) is a leading cause of death in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), partly due to a low case detection rate within the health system, compounded by little knowledge or awareness among patients of the disease’s symptoms. In the province of Sud Kivu, where people have relied on traditional healers for generations, those who were suffering from the persistent, painful coughing that is one symptom of TB were advised by traditional healers that they had been poisoned, and they were not referred to health centers.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, many women suffer complications during pregnancy and delivery, including obstetric fistula. Prolonged labor may result in a hole (“fistula”) between a woman’s birth canal and bladder or lower intestine, resulting in chronic leaking of urine or feces. This, in turn, leads to social isolation as the women can’t keep themselves clean, are ashamed of their condition, and withdraw from society. Many women and their families believe that this condition is due to a curse, leading to further separation from the community.
It is 5:30 a.m. on a Thursday morning in the town of Mwene-Ditu, located in the Eastern Kasaï Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The skies are still dark as the crieur, the town crier, makes his rounds, calling out to the community that today is the start of the three-day national vaccination campaign against polio.As the local residents begin their day, health workers are finalizing preparations for the massive door-to-door effort to immunize children under age five years old from this crippling disease.