Nonprofits Helping Syrian RefugeesThe Syrian civil war has been ongoing since 2011, making the Syrian refugee population the world’s largest group forcibly displaced from their country. At the end of 2018, there were 13 million refugees from Syria, accounting for more than half of the country’s total population. The vast majority of Syrian refugees in Lebanon (70 percent) and Jordan (90 percent) are living below the poverty line. Fortunately, a number of groups are stepping in to deliver humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees. Keep reading to learn more about these three nonprofits helping Syrian refugees.

3 Nonprofits Helping Syrian Refugees

  1. Sunrise USA – Founded in 2011, Sunrise USA is a nonprofit organization focused on providing humanitarian assistance for Syrians in need whether they still live in the country or not. The group is focused on sustainable development in areas including education and health care.
    • Health Care With help from donations, Sunrise USA built a full-time clinic in the Tayba camp in Syria, as well as a clinic in Istanbul and a polyclinic in Rihanli, Turkey. The organization has also established 22 trauma care facilities in Syria.
    • Education As of 2018, around 5.8 million children and youth in Syria were in need of education assistance. About 2.1 million of them were out of school completely. Sunrise USA has built four schools and provided books and supplies to students and families around refugee camps. In 2015, Sunrise USA was a lead sponsor in the creation of the Al-Salam School which had 1,200 students.
    • Care for Orphans The number of Syrian orphans, both in Syria and neighboring countries, has increased to more than 1 million since 2011. Through Sunrise USA’s orphan sponsorship, hundreds of orphans have been provided with food, clothing, education and medicine.
  2. Doctors Without Borders (DWB) – Officially founded in 1971, the organization’s core belief is that “all people have the right to medical care regardless of gender, race, religion, creed, or political affiliation, and that the needs of these people outweigh respect for national boundaries.” Here’s a look at DWB’s efforts to help Syrian refugees:
    • Jordan – In 2017, Jordan closed off the border connecting the country to Syria and in 2018 canceled all subsidized health care for Syrian refugees. Doctors Without Borders has three clinics in Irbid, Jordan that focus on non-communicable diseases, which are the leading causes of death in the region. In 2018, the organization provided 69,000 outpatient consultations, 11,900 individual mental health consultations and 2,690 assisted births.
    • Lebanon – Shatila refugee camp in South Beirut is home to Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese people living in poor and overcrowded conditions with minimal services. Doctors Without Borders has set up both a primary health care center and a women’s center inside the camp in 2013. The organization also launched a vaccination campaign around the camp, opened a mental health support branch in a clinic in Fneideq, offer family planning and mental health care services in the Burj-al-Barajneh refugee camp, and operate a care program in Ein-al-Hilweh refugee camp for patients with mobility issues.

Concern Worldwide US – Founded in 1968, Concern Worldwide works in the world’s poorest countries to provide emergency response, education, water and sanitation, as well as help communities develop resilience to higher impacting climates. The organization works to help Syrian refugees in a few ways:

    • Lebanon – Concern Worldwide is not only focused on creating “collection centers,”–which are multi-family shelters–but also on improving water, sanitation and hygiene conditions in the highly concentrated refugee areas of the country. The organization has provided assistance for 56,000 refugees and is also helping hundreds of children get access to education.
    • Syria – Since 2014, Concern Worldwide has worked in Syria to tackle waterborne diseases by installing generators and chlorinated water sources and also providing hygiene supplies. The organization also provides basic necessities to Syrians by distributing food baskets and for families with access to markets, food vouchers.

– Jordan Miller
Photo: Flickr

Water Crisis in the Middle East
Syria, Egypt and Afghanistan are among the bottom 10 countries when talking about access to clean water. Water is a primary necessity for human life. Without food the body can survive for up to three weeks, however, without clean water, the body will perish within three to four days, but not before going into shock and fading in and out of delirium. The water crisis in the Middle East is a serious problem now that ongoing conflicts in the region have only worsened.

Afghanistan

Of the three countries listed above, the water crisis in the Middle East affects Afghanistan the least. Despite that, Afghanistan is in the middle of the worst drought it has seen in the past 10 years. In addition, it cannot effectively distribute resources since 40 years of armed conflict following Soviet intervention in Afghanistan has ruined the country’s infrastructure. As a result, about 260,000 Afghani civilians living in extremely dry areas have had to leave their homes, making them refugees.

The drought has drained natural water sources such as the Kabul River Basin, the primary source of water for the nation’s capital. The established system for distributing water is no longer applicable, so civilians must draw water from unofficial wells. In Afghanistan, a country with over 35 million people, 87 percent of accessible water is polluted. Fortunately, India is providing assistance with the Afghan-India Friendship Dam on the Hari River. With further plans to build another dam on the Kabul River, Afghanistan will have water for irrigation and will not have to live with the threat of flash floods.

Syria

In 2006, a massive drought began that would displace tens of thousands of Syrian farmers. By 2011, there were over a million angry, unemployed former farmers in the country ready to fight in a violent civil war that would go on for years. If one said that the water crisis in the Middle East was the proverbial lit match in the powder keg, it would be inaccurate. One cannot, however, deny that it did fan the flames.

Now that tensions are dying down, Syrian civilians have little infrastructure to help provide them with water. Militant groups that occupy water plants and reservoirs hold monopolies on the water for entire regions. Oftentimes, these groups distribute water selectively to blackmail their enemies. Prior to the civil war that started in 2011, water allocation was already inequitable. President Bashar al-Assad allocated more water to fellow members of his particular sect of Islam. Now that Syria is rebuilding its infrastructure, there exists an opportunity to distribute water equally across the country in order to help prevent humanitarian disasters like this in the future.

Egypt

Even in the time of the pharaohs, Egypt has owed its life to the Nile. The Nile is the primary source of water for a country with rice as its number one agricultural export. Rice requires a great deal of water for cultivation and harvest. One kilo of rice needs about 3,000 liters of water. The water in the Nile now contains dead fish due to heavy metals from industrial pollution. Using heavily polluted water diminishes crop yields leading to a further strain on resources.

Egypt faces more than just a drop in the quality of water. As a result of the Blue Nile dam that Ethiopia built, Egypt is also concerned about the quantity of water. By building a hydroelectric dam on the Nile upstream from Egypt, Ethiopia is developing a power grid to reach 86 million Ethiopians living without electricity. Consequently, this will divert about a quarter of the Nile’s water away from Egypt. The Nile supplies 85 percent of Egypt’s fresh water. Egypt has the most to lose in the event of armed conflict breaking out because of its water scarcity, so it is now pushing for diplomatic and scientific solutions to the problem. Negotiating with Ethiopia to share in the dam’s benefits and investments in desalination technology is helping to alleviate the water crisis.

The water crisis in the Middle East is serious and requires much work to alleviate the problem. Through the building of better infrastructure, however, Egypt, Syria and Afghanistan should be able to improve.

– Nicholas Smith
Photo: Flickr

China's Human Rights Violations
The Chinese government is committing atrocities and human rights violations against the Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, a northwestern province of China. Chinese authorities detained at least 800,000 and up to 2 million Muslims since 2017; mainly Uyghurs, a predominantly Turkic-speaking ethnic group, along with other ethnic Muslim minorities.

China’s Motives

Riots broke out in Xinjiang in 2009 due to Uyghur mass protests against cultural and economic discrimination and state-incentivized migration of Han Chinese, the dominant ethnic group in China. Since then, the Chinese government worries that Uyghurs hold separatist, religious extremist ideas. Therefore, it justifies its repressive actions as necessary measures in response to threats of terrorism.

Chinese officials launched a Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Extremism in 2014 in Xinjiang, but the repression escalated significantly when Chen Quanguo, the communist party secretary, became the leader of Xinjiang in 2016. Prior to this, Chen Quanguo ruled Tibet from 2011 to 2016, where he implemented a dual strategy to restore and secure national security and social stability. He used aggressive policies to reduce ethnic differences and assimilate Tibetans to Han Chinese, such as re-education programs and intermarriage initiatives. Aside from these ethnic policies, Chen established dense security systems to reinforce this cultural transformation, including militarized surveillance systems. After ruling Tibet, people got to know Chen for restoring stability through the enforcement of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule and for his innovative ethnic policies, which he expanded in Xinjiang, targeting the Uyghur population.

Xinjiang is of particular strategic and economic importance for Beijing as it has the country’s largest natural gas and coal reserves with 40 percent of the national total. Xinjiang is a key area for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a massive global trade project, as it connects China to the rest of Asia and Europe. Therefore, Beijing may be repressing the Uyghur in Xinjiang for economic reasons to protect its Belt and Road Initiative project in which China invested between $1 to 8 trillion.

China’s Human Rights Violations and Abuses

The autonomous region of Xinjiang changed its legislation to allow local governments to set up re-education camps to intern Muslims, where they must renounce aspects of their religion, learn Mandarin Chinese and praise the CCP, in order to combat extremism. As stated by the Chinese Communist Youth League in March 2017, “the training has only one purpose: to eradicate from the mind thoughts about religious extremism and violent terrorism, and to cure ideological diseases.”

Former detainees reported the use of stress positions, beatings, sleep and food deprivation by authorities, as well as the mistreatment and torture in some mass internment facilities as punishment for resisting or failing to learn the lessons taught.

The 11 million Uyghur living in Xinjiang outside of the camps also endure the tightening repressive policies of Chinese authorities who subject people to pervasive surveillance. Authorities use cutting-edge technology including artificial intelligence, big data and phone spyware. The CCP leader Chen Quanguo installed a grid-management system in Xinjiang, which divides the cities into squares of 500 people. A police station monitors each square that is in charge of regularly checking IDs, fingerprints and searching phones.

Global Response to China’s Human Rights Violations

The E.U. issued a statement in 2018 demanding China to respect the freedom of religion and the rights of minorities, as well as change its policies in Xinjiang. In July 2019, over 20 countries collectively signed a letter to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, condemning China’s human rights violations against Uyghurs in Xinjiang. The letter urges China to allow U.N. experts access to the camps. However, no Muslim-majority country co-signed the joint statement. Instead, Saudi Arabia alongside 36 other countries signed their own letter in which they praised China’s achievements and argue that “human rights are respected and protected in China in the process of counter-terrorism and deradicalization.”

Most human rights organizations and non-governmental organizations also condemned China’s detention of Uyghurs. This was demonstrated in a joint letter that a coalition of five human rights organizations (including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and more) issued to the U.N. Secretary-General, urging the U.N. to take action.

On October 7, 2019, the U.S. blacklisted 28 Chinese organizations, both government agencies and top surveillance companies. This marked the U.S.’s first concrete action in response to China’s human rights violations against Uyghurs, along with the imposed visa restrictions on the Chinese government and communist party officials.

Conclusion

China still dismisses all allegations of human rights violations and uses its permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council to block human rights issues discussions. Immediate investigations on China’s human rights violations against Uyghurs must transpire and the U.N. should access detention camps. The situation in Xinjiang conveys the level of vulnerability ethnic minorities face, and the urgency for the international community to take concrete action.

Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr

Cool RoofsFirst researched in the 1980s, cool roofs only became a reality around 2001. This cooling technology naturally cools the house, while being cheaper and more energy-efficient than traditional roofs, prompting many parts of the world to consider shifting towards them. The world will benefit financially, environmentally and even comfort-wise from the addition of cool roofs.

The Problem

Over 1 billion people in developing countries face significant risks from extreme heat, with no access to electricity for cooling. Another 2.3 billion can only afford inefficient, unhealthy air conditioning models that use HFC gases that are thousands of times more polluting than carbon dioxide. The energy demand from developing countries is predicted to climb more than 33-fold by 2100. Americans alone consume the same amount of electricity for air conditioning as the total electricity used for all the needs of 1.1 billion people in Africa. The introduction of cool roofs, though a seemingly insignificant change, would not only help people in developing nations but those in developed countries as well.

How it Works

Cool roofs are created by using cool roof coatings, which are thick, white or reflective paint applied to the roof, it covers or shingles to protect the roof from UV light, chemical and water damage, maintaining and restoring the roof itself, making it last longer than traditional roofs. The paint reflects the sunlight, keeping the house cooler than can a traditional roof, which absorbs the sunlight instead. In so doing, cool roofs can reduce indoor temperatures by 3.6-5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (2-3 degrees Celsius) and can reduce the internal temperatures of individual rooms by 20 percent. As for urban heat island effects, they can reduce urban temperatures up to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius).

Benefits

In addition to reducing cooling costs and increasing roof life, cool roofs are environmentally friendlier than traditional roofs. They reduce air temperature, retard smog formation and decrease power plant emissions (carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, mercury) and reduce electricity demand in the summer. When the house itself is already cool during the summer, people do not need to use as much air conditioning, thus reducing the usual strain on the electricity grid.

The people who would likely benefit first from the addition of cool roofs are the estimated 630 million people that may already have access to electricity, but have poor quality housing and may not be able to afford a fan or the money to run it. Regions with the highest population of these people are China, India, Nigeria, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sudan and Iraq.

Regions That Are Shifting To Cool Roofs

Mexico is participating in the Global Superior Energy Performance Partnership (GSEP) and is working towards installing more cool roofs. Mexican authorities are not yet aware of the advantages of cool roofs, thus the goal is to communicate the impact on energy efficiency, economy, health and comfort that cool roofs will have on the population. This technology saves energy and saves money on air conditioning as well.

South Africa is also part of the GSEP and has begun a Cool Surfaces Project, a collaborative agreement between the American and South African Departments of Energy. People in South Africa need technology that will provide them with the benefits that cool roofs provide (fire retardancy, passive-energy usage, waterproofing, low cost, low maintenance, cooling), making it a perfect fit for them. This project will save them a lot of money and energy, as well as influencing nearby regions to follow suit. Kheis, a rural community of about 15,000 in South Africa, is one of the leaders in developing this cool roof approach to provide a respite from the heat.

Globally, when less money and energy is devoted towards air conditioning either in the first or the third world, more can be done to confront other problems. The installation of cool roofs creates jobs, reduces the strain on electricity grids, naturally cools buildings and even lowers the net temperature of local areas.

Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

Human Milk and Infant Nutrition Breastmilk possesses invaluable qualities that nourish, nurture and protect infant health. Most people are aware that the properties of breast milk help to fight against infections in infants. However, it is lesser-known that breastfeeding stimulates hormone responses that establish bonds crucial to healthy emotional development. There is a general lack of awareness surrounding the global inequalities of breast milk, particularly in nutrient quality and status. Society perpetuates the cycle of poverty when they remain naive of the issues affecting poor women.

Not only is the nutritional value of breast milk unequal across nations, but women in developing countries are disproportionately affected by poverty and malnutrition. This further hinders the production of nutrient-rich human milk in low-income areas. Women are also less likely to receive health and nutrition education than men. Despite the fact that women are natural suppliers of infant nutrition, they forfeit nutritional intake under the given circumstances.

Women’s issues in developing nations also face a disparity in the quantity of data. Lindsay Allen, a scientist who studies human milk and micronutrient deficiencies in developing countries, addresses this issue with the MILQ Project. She emphasizes that understanding differences in human milk condition is key in bridging the human milk and infant nutrition gap.

The MILQ Project in a Nutshell

To study the human milk quality of women in developing countries, Allen collected samples from well-nourished lactating mothers in Bangladesh, Brazil, Denmark and The Gambia. With these reference values, she gained a better understanding of the quality of breast milk concerning maternal nutrient intake and infant status. Allen used a consistent frame of reference for extracting research (from the time of delivery until nearly 9 months postpartum) to increase the accuracy of results. She found that there is considerable variance in micronutrient value in breast milk, an issue that remains a misconception among common social ideology.

More specifically, the concentration of thiamin in breast milk and infant status was found to be closely linked to maternal intake. Maternal deficiencies are likely the cause of correlating infant deficiencies, but with supplementation, thiamin levels and infant status were able to adjust accordingly. Research shows that vitamin B6 concentration in infants is also strongly linked to breast milk amounts and maternal status. Additionally, supplementation also improves human milk concentration in a short amount of time.

Sociocultural Norms Leave Women’s Issues Unattended

In addition to the limited evidence base for human milk and infant nutrition, there is also an extreme lack of resources when it comes to nutritional recommendations for lactating mothers. The only mentioning of nutritional lactation support given by the World Health Organization (WHO) was in 2016. The WHO asserts that postpartum women may be prescribed supplementation of iron and potentially folic acid to reduce the risk of anemia for areas in which it is considered a public health concern.

Regarding iron deficiency statistics, the WHO states that “data indicates that while iodine status has improved among pregnant and lactating women in Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific regions, there has been little progress in the African region.” Researchers are learning that lactation nutrition goes beyond iron and folic acid. Studies like the MILQ Project are progressive steps towards bridging the gap in human milk and infant nutrition.

Breast Milk Goes Beyond Nutrition

The biochemical correspondence that takes place between a mother and her infant is a complicated interaction. The recent developments have made it possible to explore the molecular chemical structure of breast milk and infant nutrition. Various other health and therapeutic benefits that extend beyond its nutritive assets can now be validated through research. Infants that receive breast milk of optimal nutritional quality gain access to profound benefits. Areas where infants face micronutrient deficiencies may encounter more of a struggle. This creates a gap between the nursing mother and her infant in terms of the health benefits, as well as their biochemical interaction. Nursing, along with skin to skin contact, allows both mother and baby to produce oxytocin, a hormone that triggers other positive chemical reactions in the brain and is essential in forming bonds.

Recent improvements in methodology have allowed for the study of the chemical nature of breast milk. However, it is still not surprising that few studies have been carried out on this subject. These scientific advancements can aid in developing strategies surrounding nutrition, healthy feeding practices and therapeutic methodologies for infants. These societal advancements will further assist in bridging the gap in human milk and infant nutrition.

In Allen’s MILQ Study, vitamin concentrations in breast milk in developing areas were considered insufficient to obtain adequate infant status. Nutrient deficient mothers are not able to provide all of the necessary nutrients and micronutrients to their infants. The review shows that vitamin concentration levels are often less than half of optimal levels in comparison to the U.S. When it comes to human milk and infant nutrition, there is a global and gendered gap limiting the world’s understanding of the inequalities of human milk.

Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr
 

 

Cruise ships are most commonly used for pleasure voyages in which the journey, the ship’s amenities and the destinations along the route all come together to create a unique experience for the passengers. Destination possibilities are endless. Some cruises take tropical routes through islands and others sail along coastlines made of ice. During hurricanes, many cruise ships reroute to provide aid to the victims of hurricanes. Hurricanes cause billions of dollars of damage and multiple cruise lines provide aid for those in need.

Cruise Ships Turn Into Shelters

Hurricane Katrina was one of the most devastating hurricanes to hit the U.S. Katrina caused $125 billion in damage to New Orleans and parts of Florida. Three Carnival Cruise Line ships were chartered to provide shelter for at least 7,000 displaced people. The cruise line canceled thousands of passengers in order to provide much-needed accommodations for those in need.

Hurricane Sandy destroyed much of New Jersey and New York in 2012. It caused close to $62 billion in damage. Carnival Corp. offered free cruises to the victims of Hurricane Sandy alongside a donation of $2 million divided between four charities that provided relief. Norwegian Cruise Lines welcomed 150 New York-area mothers and their loved ones aboard its Mother’s Day sailing trip in an effort to alleviate some of the hardships these women were facing. 

2017 Hurricane Season

The hurricane season in 2017 caused multiple, devastating storms. There were four main storms: Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate. They were so notable their names have been retired from the hurricane names list. There was an estimated cost of $200 billion in damage; although, the final costs will not be known for years. Several cruise lines provided aid after each hurricane.

  • Royal Caribbean was one of the first cruise companies to provide aid after Hurricane Irma. It sent ships back toward the storm to rescue those stranded. In addition to repurposing their ships, Royal Caribbean matched Hurricane Irma donations up to $1 million.
  • Carnival Cruise Lines pledged a minimum of $2 million in aid after Hurricane Harvey to rebuild and relieve affected areas of Texas. Following Hurricane Irma a few months later, the cruise company released a statement that ships were on standby to help Florida after damage.
  • Disney Cruise Line donated money after both Harvey and Irma. Disney also pledged one million dollars to the American Red Cross. The Walt Disney Company followed suit and pledged to donate another $2.5 million to help those in Florida.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line worked directly with the government to provide supplies to St. Thomas days after Hurricane Irma. The cruise line also deployed ships to aid islands in the Caribbean that had been affected earlier.

Hurricane Dorian

In August 2019, Hurricane Dorian caused about $7.5 billion in damages. Royal Caribbean committed $1 million to Dorian disaster relief, and their partners in the Holistica joint venture donated an addition $100,000. The donations included matching guest and employee donations up to $500,000. Royal Caribbean went even further than monetary donations and pledged to provide 20,000 meals each day to those in need of relief. It also sent supplies in the form of water, toilet paper, pet food, tarps, plywood, diapers, flashlights and generators.

Hurricanes cause massive amounts of damage every year. They displace residents, flood entire cities and cause trauma to those who live in the affected areas. Despite the horrors hurricanes cause, cruise lines provide aid to those affected by hurricane damage.

Darci Flatley
Photo: Flickr

Global Infancia Global Infancia is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that specializes in protecting children from abuse in Paraguay. It was founded in 1995, “Global Infancia works towards creating a culture which respects the rights of children and adolescents in Paraguay.”

It has attempted to promote the human rights of children in a myriad of ways, ranging from creating a branch of the government tasked with protecting children to founding a news agency focusing on children’s rights. Global Infancia represents the blueprint for a successful NGO because of its ability to form partnerships with governments, influence local communities, and follow through with its goals.

Partnerships with Governments

Studies have estimated that roughly 60 percent of children in Paraguay have been victims of violence. Faced with this fact, Global Infancia worked with the National Secretariat for Childhood and Adolescence along with the Paraguayan Government to pass a law stating “all children and adolescents have the right to be treated properly and with respect for their physical, psychological and emotional well-being. This includes protections for their image, identity, autonomy, ideas, emotions, dignity and individual values”.

Additionally, Global Infancia spearheaded the forming of Municipal Councils for the Rights of Children and Adolescence who have become instrumental in protecting children’s rights throughout Paraguay. Global Infancia’s work is proof of how a successful NGO can form fruitful partnerships with local governments.

Integration into the Local Community

Since the end of authoritarian rule in Paraguay, it has been working to integrate itself into local communities and promote the recognition of children’s rights. In the town of Remansito, Global Infancia is providing supplementary nutrition and school support to over 1,000 children. Approximately 22 percent of Paraguayans live below the poverty line. The child labor force of participation with a rate of 25 percent, shows that the conditions for many children in Paraguay are not ideal.

However, Global Infancia recognized these problems and has created national media campaigns to raise awareness for children’s rights and used training forums around the country to educate the public that violence against children will no longer be tolerated. Finally, Global Infancia has harnessed the power of local communities by “installing an alert system which reduces the demand for childhood labor”. These actions illustrate how a successful NGO employs the power of the communities they are working in.

Accomplishing Goals

At its inception, it was primarily focused on fighting the trafficking of babies and children. Today it has evolved into a children’s rights organization with a bevy of goals. Whether it be their success at establishing legal rights for children in Paraguay or the founding of CODENIS bodies which protect children throughout the country today, Global Infancia has had a considerable impact on Paraguayan society. In a 2017 report by the United States Department of Labor, experts found significant advancement in Paraguay’s fight to end child labor.

However, the current situation still puts many children in danger, requiring more resources to fully end child labor. With the help of Global Infancia and the multitude of other successful NGO’s, there are no doubts that Paraguay will continue to see improvements to children’s rights.

Overall, Global Infancia is a perfect example of how a successful NGO operates. From its crucial government and community partnerships to their impressive track record of accomplishing its goals.

Myles McBride Roach

Photo: Flickr

HIV AIDS Epidemic in South Africa

South Africa has the world’s largest HIV/AIDs epidemic. The government has issued numerous HIV prevention programs in an effort to educate the public, reduce the annual number of new infections, and, eventually, eliminate the disease.

History of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in South Africa

South Africa’s first reported cases of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, emerged in 1982 among homosexual men amidst Apartheid. Due to the political upheaval and repression by the government during Apartheid, HIV was ignored, thus allowing the virus to spread rapidly throughout the homosexual community among men. HIV was almost exclusively diagnosed in gay men until 1987 when there was a sudden increase in women being infected with the virus. The opportunistic microbial infection was credited with being spread as a result of poverty, limited primary health care, lack of education, and sexual exploitation and violence against women. It was not until the early 2000’s that the government recognized HIV/AIDs as a major issue after HIV rates with pregnant women soared from 1 percent in 1990 to over 30 percent by the beginning of the next decade.

Prevalence of HIV/AIDs Epidemic in South Africa

In 2018, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa rose to an estimate of 7.1 million South Africans affected by the disease, with 240,000 new diagnoses, and 71,000 AIDS-related illnesses. The disease is most prevalent among marginalized groups: sex workers account for 57.7 percent of HIV cases, gay men at 26.8 percent, and drug addicts at 1.3 percent. Additionally, there is an estimate of 280,000 children who have contracted the disease from their mothers; HIV prevalence is four times greater in women and young girls due to gender-based violence and transgender women are twice as likely to be infected by the virus than gay men.

Solutions to the Epidemic

Despite the initial negligence to the HIV/AIDs epidemic of South Africa from the government, South Africa aims to reduce the number of new infections to under 100,000 by 2022. The government has made great efforts to resolve the issue by executing awareness campaigns, encouraging HIV testing, distributing condoms, and implementing HIV prevention programs. In 2018, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa rose to an estimate of 7.1 million South Africans affected by the disease. There have been large improvements in the choice of antiretroviral medicines and the widespread accessibility of the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission, or PMTCT, program. As of 2016, mother-to-child transmission rates have fallen from 3.6 percent to 1.5 percent between 2011 to 2015, meaning the country is on track to completely eliminating MTCT.

Due to the 2010 national HIV Testing and Counselling (HTC), campaign and the 2013 HTC Revitalisation Strategy—which focused on encouraging people from the private sector, rural areas, and higher education to test—more than 10 million people in South Africa get tested for HIV every year.

As of 2016, only 5 percent of South African schools provided sex education, but the government has committed to increasing this number to over 50 percent by 2022—especially in high-risk areas. The government has adopted UNAIDS 90-90-90 strategy: By 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status; 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy; and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression. Thus far, 90 percent of South African’s know their HIV status, 68 percent are on treatment, and 87 percent are virally suppressed. Factually, South Africa has made significant progress in reducing HIV amongst the population, and they are on track to eliminate the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa.

– Arielle Pugh
Photo: Wikimedia

Sanitation in AfricaAccording to rehydrate.org, “One flush of your toilet uses as much water as the average person in the developing world uses for a whole day’s washing, cleaning, cooking and drinking.” This is the case in the second largest continent on Earth: Africa. It is home to bountiful wildlife, hot sun, and cultural life; but unfortunately, clean water and sanitation are not as boundless of a commodity. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Africa to explain the depth of the issue.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Africa

  1. One of the starkest of the 10 facts about sanitation in Africa is just how widespread the problem is. Of the 54 countries in Africa, 16 have less than 25 percent sanitation coverage. While statistics vary depending on the country, the bottom line is that it isn’t an isolated issue. Nearly 45 percent of all people in Africa will face unclean sanitation conditions in their life.
  2. Not only is this an uncomfortable way of life, poor sanitation is a key cause in many of the prevalent diseases in Africa. Diarrhea, cholera, dysentery and typhoid are all transmitted by unclean water and account for a large majority of infant deaths. More than 315,000 children in Africa die annually from diarrheal diseases that result from a lack of sanitation. Providing clean water and proper sanitation could reduce diarrhea by 15 to 20 percent.
  3. A lack of clean drinking water causes more than disease. Multiple problems like swelling of the brain, seizures, kidney failure, and comas are extreme results of continuous dehydration. Additionally, daily life becomes much harder to live when basic needs like hydration are not first fulfilled. It’s hard to think and perform at your best when you are constantly thirsty.
  4. When water is available in most rural African villages, it is often in far away locations. This leaves children and women forced to walk many miles a day in order to access water. The United Nations estimates that Africa loses nearly 40 billion hours per year due to collecting water- roughly equivalent to a whole year of labor from France’s entire workforce. This is time that could be dedicated to education or pursuing careers if enough clean water was easily accessible for all.
  5. Most of Africa has yet to see a strong private sector develop for water and sanitation. Having a sturdy and ethical private sector would lead to a growth in affordable sanitation services for many people.
  6. Many issues with poor sanitation lie in the age-old cultural practices common in rural regions of Africa. Open defecation is one of the biggest of these. Though this is largely because of a lack of toilets and waste management systems, even when these systems are put into place, people’s beliefs must change with the infrastructure. Proper education and awareness is necessary to overcome sanitation habits ingrained in many people’s daily routine.
  7. Ultimately, governments of each individual African country must prioritize providing clean water and sanitation to their population for largescale progress to be made. It is encouraging to note that South Africa has made this a high priority goal and has already seen an improvement of 62 percent to 82 percent of households gaining access to improved sanitation.
  8. Having a lack of clean water makes life physically unbearable. Finding clean water takes precious time of out people’s lives. Drinking unclean water causes diseases and more physical discomfort. As a result, poverty in areas of poor sanitation remains stubborn. People cannot escape the vicious cycle of poverty without first having their basic needs met. Only when clean water becomes freely available can people in these places of Africa have enough time, energy and health to pursue a poverty-free future.
  9. One of the greatest bright spots in 10 facts about sanitation in Africa is the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. Created by Bill and Melinda Gates, the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge asks innovators to create affordable solutions to poor sanitation in developing countries. As a result, 20 different engineering companies created low-cost and sanitary toilets. These projects still need work being implemented on a large scale, but nevertheless they offer hugely promising results for our future world.
  10. Along with this hopeful initiative, other improvements to sanitation in Africa have been made. Open defecation has dropped from 32 percent in 1990 to 25 percent in 2006. Additionally, between the years of 1990 and 2006, 146 million people in Africa gained access to sanitation. Finally, in 2006, 354 million of the 1.2 billion people in Africa used an improved sanitation facility.

– Hannah Stewart
Photo: Wikimedia

Kenya's Breast Milk BankIn April 2019, Kenya’s Ministry of Health launched Kenya’s first breast milk bank at the Pumwani Maternity Hospital in Nairobi. Given Nairobi’s high neonatal death rate of 38 deaths per every 1,000 live-births, the Ministry launched the bank as a pilot to test if it could reduce the neonatal mortality rate. 

Background

Kenya’s breast milk bank serves infants who are premature, malnourished, underweight or orphans that do not have access to their mother’s breast milk. PATH, like several other global health organizations, cites human milk as the greatest tool for child survival. Breast milk contains a dense number of nutrients and antibodies critical to human development. Therefore, PATH estimates that if children had access to universal breast milk, breast milk could save about 823,000 children’s lives under the age of 5.

Human milk banks are an alternative to ensuring that infants have consistent access to breast milk. At the time of the bank launch, Kenya’s Ministry of Health stated that if the bank was successful, the Ministry would open several more banks in the country. Here are 5 facts about Kenya’s breast milk bank.

5 Facts About Kenya’s Breast Milk Bank

  1. The Pumwani Maternity Hospital: The Technical Working Group selected Pumwani Maternity Hospital to host Kenya’s first breast milk bank because the hospital promotes kangaroo mother care– skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding–as part of its neonatal program. The hospital’s neonatal program caters specifically to preterm, underweight and malnourished infants.
  2. Mothers as Primary Milk Donors: Lactating managers from the Pumwani Maternity Hospital select mothers with more milk than their infant requires to donate it to the milk bank. The managers require mothers who agree to donate to undergo health and lifestyle screenings in order to ensure that they are viable candidates. The screenings include health and lifestyle questionnaires and laboratory blood tests. If lab workers identify alcohol, tobacco and drugs, HIV, Hepatitis B or C or Syphilis in a mother’s blood test, they will disqualify her from donating milk.
  3. Storing and Pasteurizing Donor Mother’s Milk: Mothers at the Pumwani Maternity Hospital donate their milk both naturally and with an electric pump. The hospital stores every mother’s milk separately in batches that contain codes for every mother. Once every batch volume reaches capacity, the hospital pasteurizes the batches to kill any bacteria or viruses in the milk.
  4. The Ministry of Health and Kenya’s Newborn Care Guidelines: Given that Kenyan infants now have access to breast milk due to Pumwani Maternity Hospital’s milk bank, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has added donated human milk to Kenya’s newborn care guidelines. These guidelines help to ensure that Kenyan infants receive the growth-development benefits from breast milk in order to increase their chances of survival.
  5. The Milk Bank’s Impact: As of October 2019, after six months since the MOH launched the bank, the Pumwani Maternity Hospital has delivered nutrient-rich breast milk from over 400 donors to 75 infants.

As stated in these 5 facts about Kenya’s breast milk bank, Kenya’s Pumwani Maternity Hospital is impacting the lives of numerous vulnerable infants. The Ministry of Health looks toward the hospital impacting an increasing number of infants and significantly reducing Kenya’s neonatal mortality rate.

– Niyat Ogbazghi
Photo: Flickr