November 17, 2011

Ensuring family planning access: African leaders should do more

Fred Sai

Originally published on


Rose is a mother of four, with a fifth on the way. At a time when she should be eagerly awaiting the birth of her child, she is instead worried about how to prevent her next pregnancy. She’d like to wait at least two years, but she doesn’t have that say because she doesn’t have access to family planning.


Rose’s story isn’t unique, although she is one in a million. Correction – she is 1 in 215 million. That’s how many women around the world today know they need modern contraception. And the numbers who do not know are even higher. In Nigeria, just 10 percent of married women use contraceptives regularly. On average each woman will have 6 children in her lifetime, and has a 1 in 23 chance of dying during pregnancy or childbirth.

November 09, 2011

An activist’s take: Why the US should support country ownership

John Donnelly

On the Obama administration’s Global Health Initiative website – which we hear will soon undergo a much-needed upgrade – the GHI lists seven principles.

No. 2: “Encourage country ownership and invest in country-led plans.”

At a session last week at the American Public Health Association’s conference in Washington, D.C., one panelist said that country ownership is a critical factor if GHI will succeed.

Chris Collins, the vice president and director of public policy at amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, said that it only made common sense that US global health efforts followed the lead of country health leaders.

November 07, 2011

Sierra Leone, Senegal part of GHI expansion

John Donnelly

The Obama administration is expanding its Global Health Initiative from eight to 29 countries.

And two of the new entries are MLI partner countries: Sierra Leone and Senegal.

The first round of eight “GHI Plus” countries had included MLI’s three other partner countries, Ethiopia, Mali, and Nepal.

The inclusion of Sierra Leone was particularly significant in that the United States historically has not played as large a role in development issues in the West African nation as the United Kingdom. It marks an affirmation of Sierra Leone’s continued rise from more than a decade of civil war and follows the 2010 introduction of free health care for pregnant women, mothers who are breast feeding their children, and children under the age of five.

November 02, 2011

President Koroma’s political will: “We have a great potential out there and Sierra Leone will transform itself”

Sarah Lindsay

Political will is said to be able to move mountains, bringing about unlikely reforms in countries desperately needing them. Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma is a prime example of this phenomenon. In power since 2007, Koroma fought skeptical donors to bring free health care to pregnant and lactating women and children under five in Sierra Leone after a 1 in 8 maternal mortality rate created a human rights emergency. While the system is not yet perfect, preliminary results have pointed to more women and children getting the life-saving treatment they need.

However, Koroma has not stopped his reforms at health as is evidenced in a recent CNN interview where he shared his ambitious vision for his country. “In the next 50 years, we are not only going to transform ourselves from a low-income country, but we will get ourselves to the level of middle-income country and by the next 50 years, Sierra Leone will be a donor nation rather than a recipient nation.”

November 02, 2011

Abolishing user fees - does the reality match up to the dream?

Sarah Boseley

As orignially seen at The Guardian.

A series of papers published this week attempts to take a measured look at what happens to the poor, when healthcare fees are abolished in sub-Saharan Africa.

Ending the fees that poor people have to pay to get treatment for illnesses would seem to be both morally right and practically sound. Gordon Brown, as UK prime minister, championed the end of user fees in 2009, proudly announcing ahead of a New York summit that four countries would scrap them – Nepal, Sierra Leone, Malawi and Burundi.