Innovations in sub-Saharan Africa are emerging, aiming to improve sanitary conditions and facilitate access to medical care, directly combatting some of the region’s most prominent health crises. Due to health and sanitation concerns being a primary factor in high rates of illness and morbidity, advances in technology are progressively bettering the quality of life of many citizens in these regions.
7 Health Care Innovations in sub-Saharan Africa
- The Mamaope Jacket
In Uganda, a leading cause of infant mortality is pneumonia. In its early stages, pneumonia can be difficult to distinguish from malaria. As a result, misdiagnosis is the leading cause of infant and toddler deaths attributed to pneumonia. One of the innovations of sub-Saharan Africa became the solution to reducing the impacted community. The Mamaope Jacket was created by a Ugandan engineer, Brian Turyabagye. This Mamope Jacket records audio of a child’s breathing via a modified stethoscope inserted into a vest. Analyzing this data aids in detecting key signs of pneumonia. It is estimated that the Mamaope Jacket’s diagnostic rate is three to four times faster than a traditional doctor, and also greatly reduces the risk of human error.
Access to wheelchairs and other assisted mobility devices is severely limited in rural regions of developing nations. However, the SafariSeat is changing this; the SafariSeat is an inexpensive, durable wheelchair. This offers both a solution to individuals living with limited mobility in rural areas and is environmentally sustainable. SafariSeat is both produced and maintained using bicycle parts to create a wheelchair suitable for use in all terrain types.
- NIFTY Cup
The NIFTY cup is lowering the rate of infant deaths from malnourishment by providing a cost-effective, convenient way to feed newborns unable to breastfeed. Some causes of not being able to breastfeed include birth defects such as a cleft palate or premature birth. Amongst the other innovations of Sub-Saharan Africa, the NIFTY cup funnels breast milk from the main cup into a small reservoir that a baby can sip from easily without choking or spilling. The creator, a mother herself, Trish Coffey, created the NIFTY cup after giving birth to her daughter prematurely. Manufacturing a NIFTY cup costs just $1, a viable alternative to breastfeeding for impoverished rural communities such as Tanzania and Malawi. In addition, it is reusable.
In developing African nations such as Kenya, on average, girls miss a week of school per month due to menstruating. This is because of the stigma associated with periods and limited sanitation resources. That being said, Flo is a reusable menstrual hygiene kit equipped. Within this kit, are reusable pads, a discreet carrying pouch, and a container used while washing clothes to avoid soiling other garments. This offers a cost-effective, environmentally friendly method for women lacking disposable alternatives. Flo opens the door for greater educational and occupational opportunities. It also lowers the rate of reproductive diseases resulting from poor menstrual hygiene.
With more than 10 percent of the global population lacking access to sources of clean drinking water, diseases resulting from consuming contaminated water are a major contributor to high child mortality rates. Approximately, illnesses from drinking contaminated water kill a child every 90 seconds. The high temperatures and unpredictable climate shifts in the sub-Saharan region make potable water extremely valuable, but can also cause availability to fluctuate. Innovations in sub-Saharan African, such as LifeStraw is a simple, portable device that uses a mesh fiber to filter out bacteria and parasites commonly found in contaminated water. The LifeStraw corporation works with major humanitarian organizations such as World Health Organization and the United Nations to provide both individual LifeStraw filtration devices and larger filtration systems to developing communities in need.
- Speaking Books
There is a lack of information about mental illness available to impoverished communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. As a result, there is a higher rate of suicide among younger populations. Just a decade ago, more than 15 percent of South Africans afflicted with mental illness had little to no access to any kind of treatment. Zane Wilson, the founder of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, created a range of free audio pamphlets on mental health. Innovations in sub-Saharan Africa like Speaking Books have a goal to combat the lack of access to treatment, which in many rural areas, also reflects high rates of illiteracy. The Speaking Books series now offers 48 different booklets explaining and destigmatizing mental health disorders. Furthermore, these pamphlets are available in 24 languages and distribution spans among 20 African countries.
- Tutu Tester Van
Although HIV is a global epidemic, South Africa has especially high rates of infection. As a result, the country’s rate of tuberculosis has dramatically spiked over the last two decades. However, because of the stigma surrounding HIV, very few communities have access to effective counseling, testing and treatment methods. The Tutu Tester van, introduced by the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, is a fully-staffed clinic on wheels. They visit rural and impoverished communities to provide health screenings using modern equipment – including tests for HIV and TB. As a result, this reduces the stigma attached to these diseases, as patients retain anonymity once they enter the van. Globally, increasing availability to testing is a primary goal of the United Nation’s plan to eliminate the epidemic of HIV by 2030.
Access to these health care innovations in sub-Saharan Africa is having numerous impactful effects: reducing mortality rates, advancing mental health awareness, contributing to greater longevity and improving quality of life for people in impoverished communities across the region. With improved healthcare and sanitation access, communities have greater chances of reducing poverty and increasing economic and cultural growth.
– Emmitt Kussrow