Wednesday, February 25, 2009

South-South Cooperation in Maternal Health and HIV/AIDS

“The Tunisia – France – Niger: The Kollo Project for safe motherhood and reproductive health project” was presented by Mr. Fethi Ben Messaoud, PCC for Tunisia and Senetaire General, Office National de la Famille et de la Population at the September 2008 PPD Partner Country Coordinators' Meeting for the Africa Region.

South-South Approaches to Innovative Health Solutions
MediaGlobal: Voice of the Global South
By Lucy-Claire Saunders

22 December 2008 [MEDIAGLOBAL]: At the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Special Unit for South-South Cooperation’s first ever Global South-South Development (GSSD) Expo, experts presented four successful projects on HIV prevention and maternal health that exemplify South-South cooperation.

Among the four projects, Campaign to End Fistula was recognized as a model for championing collaboration between countries in the Global South, receiving an award of excellence from the United Nations Development Programme.

“Fistula requires our attention because it is a condition that takes away the dignity and the self-esteem of those who are affected by it,” Bunmi Makinwa, the Africa regional director for the campaign said. “It leaves women incontinent, ashamed and isolated from their communities. Fistula is a stark example of our failure in the public health system in poor countries.”

Fistula is a condition where a woman cannot control the flow of her urine and/or feces due to an injury brought about by prolonged labor. The Campaign to End Fistula, which aims to makes the debilitating condition as rare in developing countries as it is in the industrial world by 2015, is active in more than 45 countries in Africa, Asia and the Arab world.

“We are casting the net wider to incorporate more countries,” Makinwa said. “Recent training sessions in Mali highlight country-level efforts to develop the capacity of fistula service providers though South-South cooperation.”

For example, in Liberia’s surgical wards, they use specialized nurses to assist the surgeon during the operation. This is a service that does not exists in Mali so the program had a Liberian specialist train counterparts in Mali so that hospitals can introduce the new technique in the way they do business.

Three other projects exemplifying South-South cooperations in the health sector were also featured at the afternoon session. Dorcus Phiri, coordinator of the Teacher Capacity Building Project, gave an update on a program that uses live television broadcasts to reach out to teachers and students about HIV/AIDS in Botswana. Using a Brazilian model, the daily television program empowers teachers to break down the silence associated with HIV and AIDS by facilitating an open dialogue in a classroom setting.

“The program increased levels of conversation between teachers, pupils and parents on sexual reproductions health,” Phiri told MediaGlobal. “If we empower teachers with the skills, knowledge and the relevant attitudes for addressing HIV, then they would be better placed to deal with HIV issues in the classroom.”

Named, “Live Talk Back,” the program features a different panel every day who talk about HIV/AIDS and other reproductive health issues. Teachers, students and parents across the country are invited to participate in a live discussion using phone-ins, Short Message Services and e-mails.

Speaking about another project across the world that also deals with AIDS, Mariangela Simao, director of the National STD/AIDS Programme in Brazil, described a multi-country program that address HIV prevention throughout Latin America.

“For us in Brazil, the words of the famous archbishop, Dom Helder Camara, summarize how we think of South-South cooperation: ‘No one is so poor that he has nothing to offer. No one is so rich that he never needs help,’” she said.

The program, which is called, “Lacos –Sul-Sul,” works with partnering countries to ensure universal access to prevention treatment, HIV prevention with adolescents and children, generate demand for services and mobilize participation of those who use the service.

The results have been encouraging, said Simao. In two of the more remote regions in Nicaragua, where LSS support has been provided, HIV testing for pregnant women has increased from 20 per cent to 42 per cent and from 5.3 per cent to 24 per cent. On a side note, Simao mentioned that in regions where LSS is not active, this rate has actually dropped form 3.4 per cent to two per cent.

As well as addressing AIDS, the South-South cooperation projects also addressed maternal and child health. Niger, for example, has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world. The infantile mortality rate is 247 for 1,000 live births while the maternal mortality rate is about 700 for 100,000 live births.

Source: MediaGlobal: Voice of the Global South at

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