Information and news on advocacy.

Women’s and Children’s health
In 2000, all 191 members of the United Nations officially ratified the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) which are eight, interdependent goals to improve the modern world. One of these goals included “promot[ing] gender equality and empower women; to reduce child mortality; [and] to improve maternal health,” emphasizing the need for increased focus on women’s and children’s health across the globe. In 2015, the Millennium Development Goals ended and the U.N. published a comprehensive report detailing the success of the MDGs. The report concluded that, during the length of the program, women’s employment increased dramatically, childhood mortality decreased by half and maternal mortality declined by nearly 45 percent.

Such success is, in part, due to another initiative, the 2010 Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, that aimed to intensify efforts to improve women’s and children’s health. Upon conclusion, the U.N. began developing a new program, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which includes 17 interconnected goals. Expanding on the success of the MDGs, the U.N. aims to tackle each goal by 2030. Similar to supportive programming to the MDGs, the U.N. has created another push for women’s and children’s health by establishing the 2016 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health.

The Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health

The 2016 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health tackles a variety of critical global issues including maternal and childhood death, women’s workforce participation, women’s and children’s health care coverage, childhood development and childhood education. Being more robust, the 2016 Global Strategy is distinguished from the previous program as it “is much broader, more ambitious and more focused on equity than [the 2010] predecessor,” according to a U.N. report. The 2016 Global Strategy specifically addresses adolescents with the objective of encouraging youth to recognize personal potential and three human rights of health, education and participation within society.

Initiatives Supporting the SDGs

Many anticipate that achieving these global objectives will be a complex challenge. Therefore, the U.N. has established two groups to address women’s, children’s and adolescent’s health advancement: The High-level Steering Group for Every Woman Every Child and The Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents.

The U.N. Secretary-General created the High-level Steering Group for Every Woman and Every Child in 2015. Seven areas of focus within the 2016 Global Strategy define the overall aim of this group. These include early child development, adolescent health, quality, equity, dignity in health services, sexual and reproductive health and rights, empowerment, financing, humanitarian and fragile settings.

The World Health Organization and the U.N. Human Rights Council created the Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents in 2016, and it delivered recommendations to improve methods to achieving the 2016 Global Strategy. The group provides insight to “better operationalize” the human rights goals of the Steering Group in the report. 

In conjunction, these groups have accelerated and promoted the effectiveness of the 2016 Global Strategy. These groups effectively outline the idea that it is crucial to work as a team to tackle some of the world’s most complex problems concerning global poverty and health. U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, believes these programs and groups will guide individuals and societies to claim human rights, create substantial change and hold leaders accountable.

Benefiting the Global Community

While the objective of the 2016 Global Strategy is to provide women, children and adolescents with essential resources and opportunities, the benefits of this integrated approach reach far beyond these groups. Developing strategic interventions produces a high return on resource investment. The reduction of poverty and increased public health leads to stimulated economic growth, thus increasing productivity and job creation.

Further, projections determine that the 2016 Global Strategy’s investments in the health and nutrition of women, children and adolescents will procure a 10-fold return by 2030, yielding roughly $100 billion in demographic dividends.

These high returns provide a powerful impetus for program support by local communities and government officials. Projected financial return can shed light on the global benefits of localized poverty reduction efforts. While the aim of poverty reduction should be in the interest of those most affected, understanding that such programs can provide a country with increased long-term growth is a major factor in the success of such initiatives, specifically in women’s and children’s health. 

The 2016 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health is indispensable during a time when women and children are providing the world with new innovations and perspectives. Each day, women across the world promote cooperation, peace and conversations within communities. Children will come to define the wellbeing of our world in the future. The success of U.N. programs today is a new reality for the world tomorrow.

Aly Hill
Photo: Flickr

Venezuelan Humanitarian Crisis
Venezuela has been marred by a humanitarian crisis for several years, and the situation persists. As policy forum the Wilson Center explains, more than four million Venezuelans have left the country, most since 2015. This makes Venezuela the second most common country of origin for displaced people worldwide, behind only Syria.

In breaking down the crisis, the Wilson Center says Venezuela has “widespread poverty and chronic shortages of food, medicine, and other basic necessities,” and as The Borgen Project reported last year, cases of malnutrition and disease are rampant. These issues come as a consequence of economic mismanagement, official corruption and decreasing oil prices between 2013 and 2016.

An example of that purported corruption — and perhaps the most public element of Venezuela’s overall state — is that Venezuela’s current President Nicolás Maduro won a second term in the 2018 election, despite being largely blamed for helping further the once-wealthy nation’s free fall that began under Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chávez. Much of the world believes Maduro’s re-election was falsely won through corrupt tactics, and instead back key opposition entity the Lima Group’s leader Juan Guaido. The group seeks to install Guaido in Maduro’s place, but has as yet been unsuccessful.

Still, as dire as the situation remains for Venezuela, several efforts have been launched and entities mobilized to help the Venezuelan people. Here are seven organizations or initiatives aimed at assuaging the long-standing and growing Venezuelan humanitarian crisis.

7 Venezuelan Humanitarian Crisis Aid Efforts

  1. Future of Venezuela Initiative (FVI): Created by the Center for Strategic & International Studies, this initiative aims to “shed light on the unprecedented humanitarian, economic, and political crisis in Venezuela, and its impact in the Americas,” with an emphasis on the role of the United States and the international community in limiting Venezuelan suffering. FVI will leverage research to generate awareness and ideas on challenges facing Venezuelans and solutions to those challenges.
  2. BetterTogether Challenge: The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Inter-American Development Bank partnered to launch this initiative in October 2019. The initiative aims to crowdsource, fund and scale innovative solutions from Venezuelans and other innovators worldwide to support individuals displaced by the crisis in the country. It also calls on people to help elevate Venezuelan voices, develop solutions for the problems facing Venezuela and grow a network to host and support displaced Venezuelans.
  3. United States government: Since 2017, the United States has provided over $656 million in aid to the Venezuelan crisis, according to a report from the U.S. Department of State. Of that amount, nearly $473 million went toward humanitarian assistance for Venezuelans forced to flee the country.
  4. Giving Children Hope: The California-based faith-driven nonprofit Giving Children Hope, which provides wellness programs and disaster response services locally, domestically and abroad, established a program specifically to address the Venezuela crisis. With the help of various partnerships, it feeds more than 8,000 Venezuelans every week. Last year it launched a campaign with a goal of serving 1 million meals to Venezuelans in need.
  5. The European Commission: The European Commission (EC) has been sending humanitarian aid to Venezuela since 2016. The EC announced last year a new commitment of 50 million euros, bringing the total amount the European Union has contributed to alleviating the crisis since 2018 to 117.6 million euros.
  6. The United Nations: The U.N. has distributed funds and a variety of health, food and other supplies and services to Venezuela. In the first half of 2019 alone, the UN sent 55 tons of health supplies to the country, distributing them across 25 hospitals in five states. Contributions include nine million doses of the diphtheria vaccine, 176,000 doses of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and 260 education kits for 150,000 children in public schools. The UN also provided 400,000 people with access to safe drinking water.
  7. Action Against Hunger: This France-founded, globally-operating organization set up boots-on-the-ground teams in Venezuela in 2018 to help aid those impacted by the humanitarian crisis. Its work has focused on providing nutritional and related support for schoolchildren across six Venezuelan states. The organization has helped 3,685 Venezuelans to date.

There is much that must be done to end the crisis that has resulted in many citizens fleeing the country. However, the situation has not gone completely ignored. Entities big and small, public and private across the globe are working to make a difference.

– Amanda Ostuni
Photo: Flickr

 5 Facts About Heart Disease in India
The rates of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases are increasing at alarming rates in developing countries around the world. However, heart disease in India has had a particularly high impact on the nation’s population. This increase requires attention and action to reduce the strain of heart disease on the Indian population.

5 Facts About Heart Disease in India

  1. Rising rates of cardiovascular disease have rapidly increased in India. The number of cases within the country has more than doubled from 1990 to 2016. In comparison, heart disease in the United States decreased by 41% in the same time period. Death as a result of cardiovascular disease has increased by 34 percent in the country in the past 26 years alone. In 2016, 28.1 percent of all deaths were caused by heart disease and a total of 62.5 million years of life were lost to premature death. Heart disease in India accounts for nearly 60% of the global impact of cardiac health even though India accounts for less than 20 percent of the global population.
  2. The burden of heart disease, while high throughout India, varies greatly from state to state. Punjab has the highest burden of disease, with 17.5 percent of the population afflicted, while Mizoram has the lowest burden, a full 9 times lower than Punjab. These immense disparities between Indian states are dependent upon the level of development and regional lifestyle differences. Understanding prevalent risk factors in different regions allows for more effective interventions. Specifically tailored programs are needed, rather than viewing India as a monolith.
  3. Rates of heart disease are far higher in the urban Indian populations when compared to rural communities. Urban areas record between 400 or 500 cases in every 100,000 people, while rural populations record 100 cases per 100,000 people. Risk factors for heart disease include a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, central obesity, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. All of these factors are abundant in urban populations and limited in rural populations, thus accounting for the discrepancy.
  4. On average, heart disease in India affects people 8 to 10 years earlier than other parts of the world, specifically heart attacks. This huge discrepancy can be explained by increased rates of tobacco consumption, the prevalence of diabetes and genetic predisposition for premature heart disease. A common genetic determinant of heart disease in Indians is familial hypercholesterolemia, a lipid disorder. Although this disorder is treatable with lifestyle changes and pharmaceuticals, it is often undiagnosed. This causes an increased likelihood of heart disease. Furthermore, stress levels in young Indians have been on the rise due to hectic lifestyles and increased career demands. Mental stress compounded with genetic predisposition and environmental factors like diet, sleep, and exercise has resulted in higher rates of heart disease in India’s younger population.
  5. The India Heart Association is committed to increasing awareness of the severity of heart disease in India. This organization is nongovernmental and launched by individuals who have been personally affected by heart disease. The organization’s major goals include increasing awareness of heart disease in India through online campaigns and grassroots activities. The organization has been appointed to the Thoracic and Cardiovascular Instrumentation Subcommittee of the Bureau of Indian Standards by the Indian government. Efforts are multi-faceted, operating through partnerships with local governments, hospitals, and programming with donors. Organizations like this one are making effective strides in addressing the burden of heart disease in India.

As heart disease in India is on the rise, it is important to understand the impact on global health. Non-communicable diseases have an undeniable effect on development. The World Health Organization stated, “Poverty is closely linked with NCDs, and the rapid rise in NCDs is predicted to impede poverty reduction initiatives in low-income countries.” In an effort to reduce global poverty, attention should move to heart disease in India, and further, to non-communicable diseases in developing countries globally.

Treya Parikh
Photo: Flickr

Kurdish Comeback in Iraq
The Kurds are an ethnic minority in the Middle East that occupy a region known as Kurdistan. An area that spans parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Though they were not given a country at the end of WWI, the Kurds have held on to their strong identity and still speak their own language. Caught in the middle of conflicts in both Iraq and Syria, they played an integral role in fighting back ISIS, seeing off 16 assaults on the city of Kirkuk. After several years of economic woes, there are finally some signs that northern Iraq, or Southern Kurdistan for the millions of Kurds that occupy the region, is beginning to recover. More importantly, the poorest Kurds have rebounded significantly. Here are five facts about the Kurdish comeback in Iraq.

5 Facts about the Kurdish Comeback in Iraq

  1. The U.S. government has provided more than $350 million in aid to Northern Iraq as a part of the Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response initiative. Approximately $90 million of the aid is going directly to the most immediate needs and improving access to basic services, job access, small businesses and infrastructure. 
  2. The poverty rate fell to 5.5 percent in 2019. The most encouraging figure about the Kurdish comeback in Iraq might be the poverty rate. Iraq suffered a recession between 2014 and 2016 with Iraq’s GDP falling to 2.7 percent. Unemployment had risen to 25 percent by the end of 2014. The cause was falling oil prices and the height of the conflict with ISIS. Oil revenue makes up half of the country’s GDP and 90 percent of the government’s revenue. Adding to the economic strain, leaders were forced to cut new investments. Foreign oil companies like Russia’s Lukoil, Royal Dutch Shell and Italy’s ENI also withdrew investments. They saw Iran as a safer economic option than northern Iraq. All of this culminated in a 12.5 percent unemployment rate by 2016. 
  3. Kurdish interests were well represented in the 2018 election in Iraq. Overall voter participation was down, but the Kurdish voice was heard. They helped elect new Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi. The prime minister reciprocated by restoring budgetary support to the region, amounting to around 12 percent of the central governments budget. Regular federal reserve installments of $270 million per month helped stabilize the KRG oil sector.
  4. Oil production has rebounded, reaching 400,000 bl/d in January of 2019. Of course, there
    is always concern over the long term effects on climate change; however, over the short term, oil production
    has coincided with the low poverty rateThe U.S. played a role by brokering a deal that helped to restart production in the Kirkuk oil fields. Exports of petroleum to Europe may begin by 2022.
  5. Local investment increased while foreign investment decreased. According to local businessman Abdulla Gardi, this is typical during times of relative stabilityTotal investment increased to $3.67 billion in 2018 from 48 licensed investors. This is up from just $712 million in 2017. Most of the investment in 2018 was made by local investors who hope the KRG cabinet will prioritize a variety of different sectors. Local businessmen believe that, in turn, they can help the local Kurdish region become more prosperous.

There are many factors that lead to the Kurdish comeback in Iraq. Firstly, the end of the conflict with ISIS provided much needed yet tentative stability in the region. As a result, local investors felt more emboldened to invest in the oil industry. Politically, the election of Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi was a major win for the Kurdish economy and provided additional support to the oil industry to restart stalling production. Furthermore, U.S. aid is helping to improve lives for lower-income Kurds. More than $90 million of that aid is going to immediate needs including but not limited to shelter, healthcare services, food rations and provisions of water. There are reasons to be optimistic about the future in Kurdish Iraq.

Caleb Carr
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Under Skin Vaccination
Bioengineering researchers at M.I.T. have developed a method to store and maintain immunization records for people in developing countries, primarily children, who have little or no access to paper records. The M.I.T. researchers have applied an invisible dye technology to detect patterns of quantum dots; one can place this dye under the skin during vaccinations. Once administered, a computer similar to a smartphone interprets the near-infrared marks to access medical records. If further improved, this technology could save lives by helping to maintain an accurate medical history for vulnerable populations. Here are 10 facts about under skin vaccination.

10 Facts About Under Skin Vaccination

  1. Immunization records can be challenging to maintain in developing countries. Keeping track of a child’s vaccination history, for example, may rely on an underserved hospital or community to maintain paper files. People can lose such files in areas of poverty and political discontentment or they can suffer damage, thereby erasing the child’s medical history. Further, parents may forget their child’s medical history, and especially as the result of no centralized database for record-keeping. Under skin vaccination is a promising initiative to reduce these issues.
  2. Verifying immunization history is a cumbersome process. For example, in 2015, the Ministry of Health in Ethiopia invited Dr. Wilbur Chen of the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at the University of Maryland to verify immunity coverage for children in rural areas. The process involves taking blood samples and testing immunization in labs, a lengthy and expensive process. Dr. Chen and his team found a big difference in the reported versus actual vaccination rates. Researchers, such as Dr. Chen, find under skin vaccination methods an innovative way to reduce this consumptive process.
  3. Record-keeping problems contribute to 1.5 million vaccine-preventable deaths per year. According to global health experts, the majority of these deaths come from developing countries where resources for maintaining records are lacking. Holes in medical record-keeping may constitute an incorrect vaccine type, brand or lot number for vaccine recipients. A lack of accurate training for maintaining complete records may lend to the problem, depending on the country.
  4. Researchers at M.I.T. are developing trials of a new record-keeping solution by embedding records under the skin. So far the trials have successfully embedded records on pig, rat and cadaver skin. The purpose of the study was to decentralize medical records since centralized databases only exist in wealthier, developed nations that have resources to maintain records. One of the bioengineers, Ana Jaklenec, admits that she was inspired by Star Trek’s “tricorder” device that scans a body for its vital signs and medical history, eliminating the need for maintaining medical records.
  5. New research combines vaccines with an invisible dye that administers concurrently. The invisible dye is naked to the eye but one could interpret it easily with a cell-phone filter that detects near-infrared light to see the coded marks. It is likely the dye is visible for up to 5 years, a crucial period of time for vaccinating children. During this period of time, children typically receive immunizations in several doses, such as in measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). Medical professionals could pair typical vaccines with the invisible dye to incorporate decentralized records.
  6. The new dye in the vaccines includes nanocrystals. Researchers call these nanocrystals quantum dots, which can project near-infrared light for detection by specialized phone technology. The quantum dots are copper-based, measuring four nanometers in diameter and encapsulated in spherical microparticles of 20-micron diameters. The encapsulations permit the dye to remain under the patient’s skin after they receive an injection.
  7. Instead of traditional syringes, the new vaccination type that scientists developed uses microneedles. Medical professionals can administer both the vaccine and the patterned die easier by using a patch that resembles a band-aid to on the skin. In addition to improvement in record-tracking, the new delivery method would not require a skilled medical professional or expensive storage costs. The dye patterns can also be customizable in order to correspond to the vaccine type, brand or lot number.
  8. Jaklenec and her M.I.T. colleagues found no difference compared to traditional injection methods. The team tested the microneedle patch method on lab rats with a polio vaccine. The team found no difference in antibodies when it compared it to traditional syringe methods of vaccine administration. Compared to the scar that smallpox vaccines caused (now eradicated worldwide) the microneedle-patch method leaves no visible trace.
  9. The invisible dye vaccine can create a discreet record-keeping method for families. According to bioengineer Mark Prausnitz of Georgia Institute of Technology, the invisible “tattoo” would provide patient confidentiality in the absence of adequate record-keeping and medical information while also providing improved record accessibility. The microneedle-patch method also avoids more controversial recognition technology such as iris scans.
  10. The M.I.T. team is working towards a feasible international immunization method, specifically aimed at poorer countries. For future applications of under skin vaccination development, the M.I.T. researchers are surveying health care providers in African countries to assess the best way of implementing this method of immunization tracking. They are also working to increase the amount of data they can store in the embedded code with information such as administration date and lot number of the vaccine batch.

These 10 facts about under skin vaccination development illustrate advancements in record-keeping. Utilizing these technologies, developing countries would have advanced strategies for tracking immunizations, ultimately increasing vaccination efficacy. This new method could potentially reduce the number of unnecessary deaths due to lost or forgotten medical information with a noninvasive, safe technology during critical years of childhood development. It could also be the start of a new system of storing data through biosensing that could significantly improve health care like that seen in futuristic science fiction.

Caleb Cummings
Photo: Flickr

 

The Salvation Army's Efforts in Zimbabwe
For generations, the Salvation Army has been an international movement of evangelism, goodwill and charity. As part of the Protestant denomination in Christianity, the organization holds more than 1.6 million members throughout 109 countries around the world. Originating in the U.K., there are over 800 parishes, 1,500 ordained ministers and 54,000 members in England. Motivated by the love of God, the organization’s mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet the needs of humans whom hardships have struck. Most recently, The Salvation has been working in Zimbabwe. The Salvation Army’s efforts in Zimbabwe have involved providing communities and schools with proper sanitation.

In 1865, pastor William Booth and his wife, Catherine, began preaching to London’s neglected poor. William’s dynamic presence of natural leadership and charismatic oration grabbed the attention of the congregation. At the same time, Catherine pioneered advocacy for women’s rights in the Christian community. Subsequently, the couple embraced the Christian Mission and quickly offered the destitute meals, clothes and lodging. When others joined the Booths to assist with their corporal works, the Christian Mission became an almost overnight success. In 1878, this success transformed into the organization known today as the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army Expansion

With substantial growth in motion, there was a militant approach to the newfound identity, like integrating uniforms for ministers and members. In addition, the Salvation Army began introducing flags and employee rankings. This gave the members an opportunity to embrace the “spiritual warfare” mentality.

As a result of the militarization-like growth, the organization began to spread to the United States in 1880, where the first branch opened in Pennsylvania. Through time, the Salvation Army played a pivotal role in the lives of the misfortunate, especially during the Great Depression.

Branches began opening around the world to establish evangelical centers, substance abuse programs, social work and community centers. The organization even opened used goods stores and recreation facilities to support community welfare.

International Impact

Currently, The Salvation Army supports emergency response initiatives throughout underprivileged countries in South America, Southeast Asia and Africa. Most recent works include providing food, water and materials to rebuild homes in Zimbabwe after flooding in Tshelanyamba Lubhangwe.

Additionally, it has launched a new plan to aid issues with water and sanitation in Zimbabwe. With nearly 20 percent of the world’s population lacking access to clean water and one out of every three people without basic sanitation needs, obtaining clean drinking water can be challenging in Zimbabwe. More than half of the water supply systems do not function properly and as a result, many boreholes and wells contain water that is unsafe to drink, making them nonpotable for villagers and farmers. People are experiencing outbreaks of diseases that have led to avoidable deaths due to unclean water and sanitation in Zimbabwe, and/or little knowledge of self-sanitation care. Some schools are even on the verge of closing due to the posing health threat to Zimbabwe’s youth.

WASH Initiative in Zimbabwe

The Salvation Army adopted the WASH project to improve health and nutrition in 12 communities by advancing water and sanitation in Zimbabwe. WASH, which stands for Water, Sanitation and Health, supports more than 50,000 people living in Zimbabwe, including more than 11,000 children attending school. Introducing accountability for the intertwining relationships of water, sewage, nutrition and health, Zimbabwe now has access to sustainable water and sanitation facilities.

The Salvation Army’s efforts in Zimbabwe have stretched to installing toilets, sinks and clean water in schools, allowing them to remain open. Furthermore, school hygiene committees have visited schools to give teachers the proper training about hygiene, health care and clean food. Each of these 12 communities have also set up farm gardens and irrigation systems. This has allowed areas to take back autonomy over food sources and will ultimately reduce the chances of consuming contaminated food, leading to foodborne illness.

UNICEF Joins the Salvation Army in Zimbabwe

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has also joined the Salvation Army’s efforts in Zimbabwe to help people access water and sanitation by drilling boreholes and pipe schemes for water systems. In addition, the WASH program saw vast improvements in repairing the sewer systems in 14 communities followed by the sustainability of those systems through the strength and development of its national public-private strategic framework.

UNICEF has also supported the improvement of water and sanitation in Zimbabwe through approval of hygiene and sanitation policy with the focus of ending open defecation in the country by the year 2030, specifically for gender-sensitive citizens. Efforts like policy implementation directly align with the Sustainable Development Goals. Moreover, UNICEF has supported the Sanitation Focused Participatory Health and Hygiene Education (SafPHHE) in over 40 rural districts in Zimbabwe to accomplish the end of open defecation.

The Salvation Army has aimed to improve the quality of life for the underprivileged with the message of a strong belief in God and that every individual should have access to basic human rights. The Salvation Army’s efforts in Zimbabwe and around the world have provided aid through consistent outreach to the less fortunate. The organization started out with the motivation to save souls and has grown to steer the directionless down a path to righteousness and out of poverty. With endeavors like improving water and sanitation in Zimbabwe, organizations like the Salvation Army and UNICEF have greatly improved lives throughout poor countries.

– Tom Cintula
Photo: Flickr

Malta is a small island republic in the central Mediterranean Sea. Like most other EU member states, the Maltese government operates a socialized health care scheme. However, life expectancy in Malta is a full year higher than the European Union average, for both males and females. Keep reading to learn the top 10 facts about life expectancy in Malta.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Malta

  1. Trends: Life expectancy in Malta ranks 15th globally and continues to rise; the current average life expectancy is 82.6, an improvement of 4.6 percent this millennium. Median life expectancy on the archipelago is expected to improve at that same rate through 2050, reaching an average death age of 86.4.
  2. Leading Causes of Death: The WHO pinpointed coronary heart disease as the republic’s number one killer, accounting for 32.46 percent of all deaths in 2018. Additional top killers include stroke (10.01 percent) and breast cancer (3.07 percent).
  3. Health Care System: Malta’s sophisticated and comprehensive state-managed health care system embodies universal coverage for the population. Although population growth and an aging workforce present long-term challenges, the Maltese have access to universal public health care as well as private hospitals. Malta’s health care spending and doctors per capita are above the EU average. Despite this, specialists remain fairly low. Currently, the government is working to address this lack of specialized care.
  4. Infant and Maternal Health: The high life expectancy in Malta is positively impacted by low infant and maternal mortality rates. Malta’s infant and maternal mortality rates are among the lowest in the world, ranking at 181 and 161, respectively. The Maltese universal health care system provides free delivery and postpartum care for all expectant mothers. These measures provided as the standard of care have minimized the expectant death rates of new mothers to 3.3 out of 100,000.
  5. Women’s Health: Like most other developed nations, Maltese women experience longer lives than men. Comparatively, WHO data predicts that women will live nearly four years longer, an average of 83.3 years to 79.6. Interestingly, the estimated gender ratio for 2020 indicates that the Malta population will skew to be slightly more male, specifically in the 65-and-over age bracket. 
  6. Sexual and Reproductive Health: Sexual health services, including family planning and STD treatment, are free of cost in Malta. Additionally, HIV prevalence is very low, at only 0.1 percent in 2016. These measures have certainly played a role in life expectancy in Malta.
  7. Violent Crime: Although crime rates typically spike during the summer, Malta’s tourist season, violence is generally not a concern. Despite fluctuations throughout the year, the national homicide rate remains low. Currently, homicide is resting at 0.9 incidents per 100,000 citizens.
  8. Obesity: Recently, 29.8 percent of the population was found to be obese, one of the highest figures in the EU. Even higher rates of obesity have been found in Maltese adolescents: 38 percent of 11-year-old boys and 32 percent of 11-year-old girls qualify as obese.
  9. Birth Rates: Sluggish population growth is typical throughout the developed world and Malta is no exception. Current data places the population growth rate at an estimated 0.87 percent. Out of 229 sovereign nations, Malta’s birth rate was ranked 192nd with 9.9 births per 1,000 citizens.
  10. Access to Medical Facilities: The competitive health care system supports high life expectancy in Malta by providing an abundant availability of hospitals and physicians per capita. Due to the archipelago’s small population, 4.7 hospital beds and 3.8 doctors exist for every 1,000 citizens.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Malta highlight the strength of the health care system in the country. While rising rates of obesity are concerning, Malta has a strong track record of investing in the well-being of its citizens.

Dan Zamarelli
Photo: Flickr

Scheduled Tribes in India
The term “Scheduled Tribes” refers to multiple tribes in India who the Indian government and the country’s constitution recognizes. Currently, 705 Scheduled Tribes exist in India. Among these 705 recognized tribes, 75 of them have the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) designation. These groups have a pre-agriculture level of technology, stagnant or declining populations, extremely low literacy and subsistence-level economies.

Scheduled Tribes

Scheduled Tribes of India are usually called Adivasi after the original inhabitants of India. Many of these Scheduled Tribes have their own languages, religious customs, forms of self-governance and traditions of their own.

During India’s industrialization era, from 1750 to 1947, many Scheduled Tribes experienced displacement from their homes and homelands. Mining activities, commercial farming, timber industries and war were the main causes of Adivasi displacement during this time period. Due to their displacement, Adivasis had to migrate to different parts of India. The majority of these Adivasi had problems integrating into the mainstream Indian society since many of them were illiterate and malnourished. This contributed to the Indian perception that the Adivasi were poor, ignorant and backward.

According to the 2011 census of India’s population, Scheduled Tribes made up approximately 8 percent of India’s population. Scheduled Tribes also accounted for 25 percent of the poorest populations in India. In 2018, India’s National Data found that Scheduled Tribes in India were the poorest populace. According to The National Family Health Survey 2015-2016, 45.9 percent of Scheduled Tribe members lived in the lowest wealth bracket. This finding was even more shocking since more people of Scheduled Tribes lived in the lowest wealth bracket than the people of Scheduled Castes, who people previously knew as the untouchable castes.

Statistics

A 2018 study in the Journal of Social Inclusion Studies delves deeper into the above statistics. The study points to the lack of access to productive income-earning assets, non-utilization of available resources, lack of education and equal opportunities, all serving as the main causes of poverty among Scheduled Tribes in India. What further complicates the matter is that traditional methods of addressing tribal poverty are not viable.

While economic development usually associates with poverty alleviation, economic development and industrialization are the cause of Scheduled Tribes’ poverty in India. The recent economic development has eliminated many of the traditional occupations that tribal inhabitants of India had. The same study presented a table of data about the incidence of poverty between tribals and non-tribals in India. The researchers noted that India’s economic development did not occur equally for the many Scheduled Tribes. The data from 1993 to 2012 shows that tribal poverty is always higher than non-tribal poverty. The study found that tribal poverty was still more than two times higher than non-tribal poverty, even though India’s overall incidence of poverty has been in decline since 1993.

The Indian Government

The Indian government is working to reduce poverty among Scheduled Tribes. In 2019, for example, India’s finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that India is allocating 85,000 crore ($74,710.96) of its 2020 budget to furthering the development and welfare of scheduled tribes. The Indian Ministry of Tribal Affairs is also responsible for promoting and implementing the programs that will benefit Scheduled Tribes in India.

On February 14, 2020, the Minister of Tribal Affairs conducted a workshop with the Tribal Cooperation Marketing Federation of India (TRIFED). During the workshop, the minister recognized and congratulated TRIFED in its mission of expanding and promoting products that tribal craftsmen and craftswomen made. In the same workshop, multiple shareholders, mainly leading national institutions, social sector and industry leaders, met up to discuss their further cooperation with the TRIFED’s mission.

Scheduled Tribes in India still find themselves in a difficult economic reality. The historic and economic marginalization which displaced the Scheduled Tribes still seems to still loom over India. More shockingly, the cause of Scheduled Tribe poverty seems to have its roots in India’s improving economic conditions since 1750. The Indian government does, however, recognize the importance of economically supporting and developing its Scheduled Tribes. With the help of the Indian government, many hope that a better financial future waits for the Scheduled Tribes in India.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Health Care Facts about LaosLaos is a small, South Asian country that recently experienced a significant increase in its gross domestic product (GDP). Poverty in Laos plummeted from 33.5 percent to 23.2 percent allowing the country to meet the Millennium Development Goal by reducing its extreme poverty rate by half. However, there is still much work to be done. Around 80 percent of Laotians live on less than $3 a day and face a 10 percent chance of falling into poverty. Knowing that poverty and poor health care often co-exist, the government has made it a goal to strengthen its national health care system by achieving universal health coverage by 2020. Below are nine health care facts about Laos.

9 Health Care Facts About Laos

  1. The Food and Drug Department is the regulatory authority for health care in Laos. The body is responsible for regulating pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The most recent legislation the country passed is the “Law on Drugs and Medical Products No. 07/NA,” in 2012. The law provided stricter guidelines for drugs and medical products. It also creates a classification for medical devices and registration for drugs and other medical products.
  2. Between 1997 and 2015 Laos’ poverty rate declined from 40 percent to 23 percent. The improvement in life expectancy is likely due to the recent improvements of the government on health care in Laos. For example, in 2011 Laos’ National Government Assembly decided to increase the government expenditure for health from 4 percent to 9 percent, likely influencing poverty rates.
  3. Laos has separate health care programs for different income groups. The country has the State Authority for Social Security (SASS) for civil servants, the Social Security Office (SSO) for employees of the state and private companies, the Community-based Health Insurance (CBHI) for informal-sector workers and the Health Equity Funds (HEFs) for the country’s poor.
  4. Laos’ current health insurance only covers 20 percent of the population. The lack of coverage could be due to the large spread of the country’s population outside of its major urban centers. Around 80 percent of Laos’ populace live and work in rural communities. The country’s ministry of health has made efforts to provide more services to people who live outside the main urban centers by decentralizing health care into three administrative levels: the central Ministry of Health, provincial administration levels and a district-level administration.
  5. Wealthy Laotians in need of medical care travel to Thailand for treatment. Despite the increased cost of care in Thailand, Laotians travel internationally because of the better quality of care. Health care in Laos at the local levels suffers from unqualified staff and inadequate infrastructure; additionally, inadequate drug supply is a problem. Due to these issues, Laos depends on international aid. In fact, donors and grant funding finance most of the disease control, investment, training and administrative costs.
  6. Many Laotian citizens believe illness is caused by imbalances of spirit, spiritual possession and weather. Despite Laotian spirituality, knowledge of germs as the root cause of the disease is well understood. Laotian hospitals use antibiotics and other medications when they are available. However, folk medicine is often used as a treatment. For example, herbal medicines and spiritual cures include items, such as a special tree bark, which is believed to grant long life when it is prepared with rice.
  7. Many Laotians remain malnourished. Despite recent economic growth, many children under 5 are chronically malnourished; every fifth child in rural areas is severely stunted. Malnutrition is largely influenced by natural disasters. Laos has a weak infrastructure making it difficult to cope with floods, droughts and insect swarms.
  8. Local drug shops as a primary source of medicinal remedies are actually causing problems. Most of these shops are unregulated and the owners are unlicensed. Misprescription and inadequate and overdosage are common. Venders sell small packets of drugs that often include an antibiotic, vitamins and a fever suppressant. They sell these packets as single dose cures for a wide variety of illnesses.
  9. Laos has a high risk of infectious water-borne and vector-borne diseases. Common waterborne diseases include protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A and typhoid. Vector-borne diseases include dengue fever and malaria. Typically, diarrheal disease outbreaks occur annually during the beginning of the rainy season when the water becomes contaminated by human and animal waste on hillsides. Few homes have squat-pits or water-sealed toilets, causing sanitation and health issues.

 

As it stands, health care in Laos is still underdeveloped. However, the nation’s recent economic growth provides an opportunity to remedy the problem even though a majority of the current health care system is funded by foreign sources. As with all struggles, the desired outcome will take time. With enough cooperation with other countries and non-profit organizations, Laos has a chance to create a sustainable health care system for its citizens. Increasing health education among Laotians will be one key to improving public health in Laos. This can be done through the help of nonprofit organizations and others aiding in efforts to educate countries on sanitation and health.

– Robert Forsyth
Photo: Flickr

 

Millennial Celebrities Fighting Global Poverty
The term “millennial” is one that has garnered some negative attention in the past decade in that many associate the generation with adjectives like “lazy” or “entitled.” While there are people of all dispositions and work ethics in every generation, the following is a list of five millennial celebrities fighting global poverty and challenging stereotypes about their age group.

5 Millennial Celebrities Fighting Global Poverty

  1. Harry Styles: Former member of the hugely successful group One Direction, Styles is showing that he is not only a talented singer but also a generous philanthropist. Styles’ “Treat People with Kindness” slogan is proving to be a mantra that he takes seriously as he raised $1.2 million in donations for 62 charities around the world during his 10-month tour in 2017. Styles’ 2020 tour is also supporting various charities worldwide including Freedom from Hunger and Help Refugees. He will be donating proceeds from exclusive merchandise purchases and a portion of ticket sales to various charities across the globe.
  2. Rihanna: Singer and businesswoman Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty founded the Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF) in 2012 in honor of her grandparents. CLF supports and funds education and emergency response programs in various parts of the world including Malawi and Barbados. Rihanna is also an advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness. Through her lipstick campaigns with MAC Cosmetics, she helped raise $60 million in 2013 to benefit women and children affected by the disease.
  3. Drake: Record-breaking hip-hop artist Drake has been involved with a number of philanthropic efforts. In 2010, Drake visited a poor community in Kingston, Jamaica, and became inspired to give back. He donated $30,000 to a learning center in the community, stating that “I went there and they had ‘Drake’ all over the walls, spraypainted, and all the kids were running after us. So I donated $30,000 to build computer schools for the kids.”
  4. Emma Watson: Former star in the Harry Potter franchise and more recently in the film “Little Women,” Emma Watson is not only a talented and intelligent actress but also an active philanthropist. Watson, a U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador, recently visited Malawi to celebrate achievements that U.N. Women and the Malawian Government made including the annulling of child marriages to allow many women to return to school. Watson stated that “It’s so encouraging to see how such a harmful practice can be stopped when communities work together to pass laws and then turn those laws into reality.”
  5. Beyoncé: Bestselling singer-songwriter Beyoncé Knowles-Carter is no stranger to poverty-fighting efforts. Beyoncé headlined the Global Citizen Festival in 2018 alongside guests like Ed Sheeran and her husband Jay-Z. Together, they raised $7.1 billion to aid Global Citizen in its fight to end global poverty. This money will go towards improving education, sanitation, health care and women’s rights around the globe.

These five millennial celebrities are breaking down negative stereotypes about their generation and serve as inspiring role models for the world when it comes to reducing global poverty. These celebrities’ efforts and generosity are changing the lives of countless impoverished people around the world for the better.

– Hannah White
Photo: Flickr