Newsletter January 2010


ICRH Belgium Newsletter

25th of January 2010

Marleen Temmerman nominated for the BMJ Lifetime Achievement Award: elections are open!

ICRH director Prof. Marleen Temmerman has been shortlisted, along  with 9 other medical scientists, for the prestigious  Lifetime Achievement Award  of the British Medical Journal (BMJ). The final award winner will be designated  by a public poll at the BMJ website.  You can vote for Marleen Temmerman at

 After graduating as a gynecologist, Marleen Temmerman (born 1953) moved to Kenya in 1987 where she conducted research in the field of HIV/AIDS and worked  at the  Pumwani Maternity Hospitalin the slums of Nairobi, where 28000 women deliver yearly. As she was extremely moved  by the low health care for the poor and the lack of reproductive and sexual rights of women, she decided to dedicate   t he rest of her  life and the career to fight for improvement. In 1992 she joined  Ghent University, where she became the first female Professor of  Gynecology in Belgium. From this position she has continued to work with Kenya and to broaden and deepen her commitment to improving sexual and reproductive health and rights, especially for vulnerable populations. As a response to the call for action during the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo 1994, professor Temmerman created the multidisciplinary International Centre for Reproductive Health (ICRH).  Marleen Temmerman's fight to improve women’s health and against sexual and gender-based violence, female genital mutilation, and genital fistulae is widespread. She  is very concerned with the rights and health of the most vulnerable among society: refugees, sex workers (both female and male), survivors of sexual assault and rape, drug users, HIV-positive women, pregnant women and children under five. 

In her capacity of Professor at Ghent University, Professor Temmerman has tutored numerous PhD students from both developed and developing countries and published over 250 scientific articles. She has coached more than 120 research projects, and is advisor and consultant among other organizations for the World Health Organization, the European Union, Belgian Technical Cooperation and the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta, USA.  In 2007, she was elected Senator in the Belgian Parliament. As an MP and Chair of the Commission of Foreign Affairs, she tries to bridge the gap between the research, field experience and technical expertise in her domains of interest and the area of politics and policy-making .

Based on her impressive CV, the BMJ has shortlisted Marleen for the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award.  The final award winner will be determined by a public poll at the BMJ website. You can support Marleen by casting your vote at The poll is open until the 14th of February.


New management structure in ICRH Kenya

Over the last months important changes have taken place in the management of ICRH Kenya. Country Director Dr. Marcel Reyners handed over the torch to Dr. Fiona Mbai who has been appointed as the Acting Country Director.

Dr. Marcel Reyners has retired after two successful  years as Country Director of ICRH Kenya. We thank him for his valuable services and great efforts, and wish him all the best for the future. 

Dr. Fiona Mbai has been appointed as the Acting Country Director.

The management committee of ICRH Kenya now consists of three members:

Mr. Nzioki Kingola in charge of Interventions,

Dr. Fiona Mbai, Acting Country Director and in charge of Science and Research

Mr. Lou Dierick in charge of support functions (Finance, Administration and Human Resources).

More information:



Results of the YOLAMI project presented in Beijing

The results of the YOLAMI research project on ‘strategies for improving sexual and reproductive health of rural-to-urban migrants in China’ have been presented to the public and the press at a conference in Beijing on the 18th of December 2009.

People from rural areas migrate to Chinese cities to find employment and to improve their lives. Most are employed in manual labor. From previous studies we know that migrants have a poorer sexual and reproductive health than residents.  They use modern family planning methods less frequently , undergo  more abortions and suffer more from sexually transmitted infections. Against this background, the YOLAMI (Young Labour Migrants) project aimed at finding out which factors are associated with those higher health risks and at testing intervention strategies.  In a first phase , workplaces were visited and migrants were asked to fill in a list of questions.  Overall,  4867 female migrants (Qingdao and Guangzhou) and 2100 male migrants (Chengdu) participated.  To complement the information from the survey, researchers conducted  extended  interviews with migrants, health providers and managers. After having analyzed the results of this first phase, it was decided to carry out  two kinds of interventions: a minimal and an extended intervention.  The interventions took place  in the worksites from August 2007 till March 2008. After the interventions new questionnaires were presented to the migrants. The comparison of the results with those of the initial survey allowed for an evaluation of the effect of the interventions on the sexual and reproductive health of migrants.  Interviews with migrant workers and managers yielded  additional information about how the interventions were perceived.

The research was carried out by three Chinese institutes (the National Research Institute For Family Planning  - NRIFP, the Chengdu Donghua Reproductive Health Research Institute, and the School of Public Health, Sun Yat-sen University) and three European universities (The Amsterdam School for Social Science Research, Kaunas University of Medicine  and the ICRH). The project was financed by the European Commission through the sixth framework program.

A brochure with the summary of the project results can be downloaded at

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DANIDA review of SRHR support

ICRH has won a consultancy contract for the review of the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark (DANIDA).

The review will consist of a desk study and field work in two African countries. Results of DANIDA’s support (defined as processes, outputs and outcomes depending on the supported programs and organizations goals and objectives) will be documented and findings will be summarized into “lessons learned”.  The review will be conducted by a team of 3 consultants and coordinated by the ICRH.
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Research grant for an enquiry on age mixing patterns and the spread of HIV

The European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health (ESC) has approved a research grant for the “Age disparate relationships, condom use and the spread of HIV among young men and women in Cape Town, South Africa“ project.

The study will be conducted as a joint collaboration between SACEMA and Ghent University, and will investigate the patterns of age mixing among youths and young adults in metropolitan Cape Town, and the association between age disparities and risky sexual behaviour. Additionally, the role of age disparate relationships and associated risk factors on the spread of HIV will be subjected to scrutiny using an epidemiological simulation model.

To this end, a detailed statistical analysis of age mixing patterns, condom use and partner exchange rate from the Cape Area Panel Study (CAPS) will be performed. Specifically, linear and non-linear mixed-effects models with hetero-skedastic errors will be fitted to the CAPS data.

The effect of the observed patterns of age mixing and condom use on the spread of HIV will then be assessed using the SIMPACT simulation software. SIMPACT is a new software package developed by the International Centre for Reproductive Health at Ghent University in collaboration with SACEMA. It uses demographical, behavioural, epidemiological and clinical data to simulate the spread of HIV in the population and the expected impact of different prevention and treatment strategies. By simulating the HIV epidemic under the age mixing and condom use patterns observed in CAPS, compared to less disparate age mixing patterns described elsewhere, SIMPACT is able to “single out” the effect and importance of age disparate relationships and associated risk factors on the spread of HIV.

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Sister institution agreement between NRIFP and ICRH officially concluded in Beijing

On the occasion of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the National Research Institute for Family Planning (NRIFP) in Beijing on the 18th of December , the sister institution agreement that had been signed between  the NRIFP and the ICRH on the 10th of September 2009 was officially concluded  and a commemoratory plaque in the hall of the NRIFP building was unveiled.

The National Research Institute for Family Planning  (NRIFP) was founded in 1979. NRIFP is directly affiliated to the Ministry of Science and Technology and the National Population and Family Planning Commission (NPFPC) of the People’s Republic of China.  Dr. Fu Wei is the Director of NRIPF and Ma Xu is its deputy director. The Institute's research activities involve epidemiology, social medicine, clinic trials, medical statistics, cell biology, endocrinology, immunology, molecular biology, genetics, and pharmacology.

As a national research institute, NRIFP focuses on research, training and interventions within the broad area of reproductive health. The main objective of NRIFP is to improve the acceptability, accessibility and quality of family planning services, with the emphasis on reproductive health. This objective is put into practice by developing integrated health care services of high standards, the training of reproductive health care workers, community involvement, and health systems – and policy research. The ICRH has been successfully working together with  the NIRFP on several research projects since 2007,. To strengthen this cooperation, the two organizations had signed a ‘sisters institutions agreement’ on the 10th of September 2009 in Ghent on the occasion of a visit of an NRIFP delegation to the ICRH.  This agreement was confirmed in Beijing on the 18th of December 2009 with the unveiling of a commemoratory plaque  in the offices of the NRIFP in Beijing, in the presence of Dr. Fu Wei, the director of the NRIFP and Mr. Dirk Van Braeckel, the director of finance and administration of ICRH Belgium.

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Symposium “Gendering Research in/on Africa”

ICRH co-organized the yearly symposium of the Ghent Africa Platform on December 18th 2009. The aim of the symposium was to gather multi-disciplinary views on and discuss this years’ theme – Gendering Research in/on Africa – and to provide opportunities for networking for Africa researchers.

Dr. Fiona Mbai of ICRH-Kenya and dr. Elizabeth Bukusi of the Kenya Research Council were the keynote speakers invited by ICRH. They spoke on the Gender-Based Violence and Recovery Centre in Mombasa and on Choice, Priorities and Challenges in the Era of HIV and AIDS. Other keynote lectures were given by Chia Longman and Prof. Shirley Ardener. The afternoon was divided into parallel workshops. ICRH hosted two workshops on innovative approaches in HIV prevention research and on researching harmful traditional practices in Africa and Europe.

GAP is an umbrella organization of several, sometimes very diverse, ‘actors' belonging to the Ghent University Association, that focus on the African continent (and/or on the African Diaspora). Prof. dr. Marleen Temmerman is the president of GAP.

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‘Why Do Mothers Die? The Silent Tragedy of Maternal Mortality’

This article by Pascale Baraté and Marleen Temmerman, published in Current Women’s Health Reviews, 2009, 5, 230-238, looks into the specificities and root causes that make maternal health so difficult to manage.,  Priority actions to achieve substantial and sustainable progress in light of what is needed to improve the health issue worldwide are identified.

More than two decades after the launch of the Safe Motherhood Initiative, maternal health in many developing countries has shown little or no improvement. Year after year, more than half a million mothers continue to die in silence. The specificities of the complex cross-cutting issue only partly explain why tireless efforts have led to insufficient progress so far. While some success stories prove that results can be obtained quickly, the dissensions and deficiencies the Initiative has encountered have strongly weakened its impact.

However, recent developments over the past 3 years allow us to foresee the silence will soon be broken. While advocacy thus begins to raise awareness, more financial means are mobilized. As a consensus on the priority interventions has finally been reached (Women Deliver conference, London, October 2007), more coordinated actions and initiatives are being developed. The drve for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals helps to create the political momentum the cause strongly needs to generate new leadership, and develop and implement the adequate strategies. Adopting a sensible focus on resources and structure as well as innovative forms of management will be crucial in that process.

The article can be downloaded at


‘Good practices in legislation on harmful practices against women’

The report of an expert meeting organized by the UN Division for the Advancement of Women in May 2009, is now available on line 2009. Els Leye, Gender Based Violence team leader at ICRH, provided a contribution on legislation in Europe regarding female genital mutilation.

In May 2008, the UN Division for the Advancement of Women organised a   first expert meeting in Vienna on good practices in legislation on violence against women. The experts developed a model framework for legislation on violence against women, which included detailed recommendations, commentaries and examples of good practices. A second expert meeting was held in Addis Ababa in May 2009, to supplement the model framework with specific recommendations and examples of good practices related to legislation addressing harmful traditional practices. The outcome of this meeting was intended to assist States and other stakeholders in both enhancing existing and developing new legislation on violence against women, and on harmful practices in particular. The expert group meeting brought together some 30 experts from all over the world, among which ICRH GBV team leader Dr. Els Leye, who contributed with a presentation of current legislation and good practices regarding female genital mutilation in Europe. The report can be downloaded free of charge from

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