Information and news on advocacy.

Sen. Bob CaseySen. Bob Casey has been a U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania for 13 years since his election in 2006. Casey is a member of the Democratic Party. He is assigned to four Senate committees: Finance; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Agriculture; Nutrition, and Forestry; and the Special Committee on Aging. Consequently, this article shows the efforts made by Sen. Bob Casey to fight against global poverty and help poor people. He has been working to pass two significant bipartisan legislation regarding global poverty, as well as supporting people around the world to improve U.S. national security.

Debt Cancellation for Poor Countries to Combat Global Poverty

In 2007, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Dick Lugar (R-IN) introduced the Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation Act of 2007. Senator Casey sponsored bipartisan legislation to help poor countries that had spent money on repaying debt rather than taking care of their citizens in poverty. He said, “This legislation will help these nations get out of debt and help them free up resources to reduce poverty.” This comment and his support for the bill shows his commitment to reducing global poverty from the early period of his term as a senator.

Global Food Security

With Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Sen. Bob Casey introduced the Global Food Security Act in 2016. This legislation required the administration to assist targeted communities and nations to improve agricultural productivity and enhance food and nutrition security. It also emphasizes the importance of enhancing maternal and child nutrition. This act additionally recognizes the importance of tackling global food insecurity for developing countries and the U.S. economy and national security.

Sen. Bob Casey said, “The need to address global hunger is an urgent foreign policy and national security priority. It is in the United States’ best interest to promote initiatives that work to eliminate the causes of food and nutrition insecurity.” Likewise, the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act was passed in 2018, introduced by Sen. Bob Casey and Sen. Johnny Isakson. This bipartisan legislation ensures the extension of the Feed the Future initiative until 2023. For example, by 2018, the Feed the Future program helped more than 1.7 million households in 12 targeted countries.

His Support for Women in Afghanistan and People in Syria

To ensure the safety of women and girls in Afghanistan, Sen. Bob Casey introduced the Afghan Women and Girls Security Promotion Act. He also has been working to provide help for women who survived domestic violence or other crimes. Moreover, he has supported food and medical support for Syrian people in need because of the war.

As a representative of Pennsylvania, he has made several efforts to combat global poverty and hunger. In the interview by Penn Political Review, he said, “It is critical that U.S. foreign aid dollars be used efficiently and that they provide relief and promote opportunities for poor and underserved individuals and communities around the world.” It is therefore clear that Senator Casey’s efforts are critical in the fight against global poverty. Calling and emailing him to support these bills would be significant. As a result of helping these people, the U.S. can improve national security and economy.

Sayaka Ojima
Photo: Pixabay

Correlation Between Disability And Poverty
In many countries, disabled individuals are marginalized and given access to fewer resources when compared to their abled counterparts. When it comes to global poverty, it is crucial to understand the inequity placed upon disabled communities as they are one of the most discriminated against groups, especially in impoverished areas. Disabled communities are also more susceptible to the risks and dangers of the coronavirus and have limited access to safe care.

A Need for Accessibility

In countries such as China and Brazil, there is an 80% positive correlation between disability and global poverty. Currently, more than 85 million people are disabled in China yet are lacking medical resources, especially in rural areas. Poor infrastructure such as narrow sidewalks or overcrowded buildings hamper easy movement for people with disabilities. In China, over 300 disabled persons have co-signed a letter in allowing online maps to locate certain ramps or “barrier-free facilities” to create better mobility for these communities.

With such efforts, however, a few improvements have been made to provide equitable opportunities for the disabled. As of now, over 1,500 local governments in China have added barrier-free facilities—such as ramps, wider sidewalks, and lifts. This allowed more than 147,000 families, primarily from low-income households, to access certain facilities once inconvenient for disabled people. Consequently, more strides have been made on a digital platform, such as providing consultations for disabled communities that are limited in resources.

Human Rights Violation in Institutions

Similar to China, Brazil has previously overlooked the quality of life for its disabled population, especially in care homes with very poor conditions. In 2018, the Human Rights Watch made it a priority for Brazil to provide better care options for people with disabilities who are otherwise confined to poorly run institutions. Many of these institutions were barely even providing basic necessities to residents, such as food and hygiene care. There were no opportunities for social enrichment or personal advancement.

“Conditions are often inhumane, with dozens of people crammed into rooms filled with beds packed tightly together,” the Human Rights Watch report concluded. After interviewing over 171 disabled people living in these institutions, it was clear that improving conditions in these facilities was imperative to better quality of life for disabled residents.

However, the Brazilian government is taking multiple actions to protect their disabled population from inadequate care in these institutions. In 2015, Brazil passed a bill that has been in the works since 2003: the Inclusion of People With Disabilities Act. This bill provides clearer definitions for classifying people with disabilities, as well as allocating more resources for the disabled population. For example, at least three percent of public housing, 10 percent of taxi grants, and two percent of parking lots will be reserved for people with disabilities.

Raising Awareness and Providing Aid

Aside from China and Brazil’s strong correlations between disability and poverty, disabled communities are universally more disadvantaged and vulnerable to a lower-income status. However, many countries are dedicated to raising awareness about the intersectionality between disability and socioeconomic status. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has been ratified in at least 177 countries and has subsequently led these countries in allocating aid for people with disabilities. Along with the convention, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development made a universal framework that provides guidelines for protecting disabled persons from discrimination in areas such as education, employment, and the workplace.

Smaller organizations have also taken on roles to improve the socioeconomic status of the disabled community. For example, the Christoffel-Blindenmission (CBM) International is an NGO organization that provides job opportunities, healthcare, and education for people with a range of disabilities. Since 1908, this organization has supported at least 672 projects across 68 countries and eventually provided resources to over 10.1 million people. Another example is the Emergency Ong Onlus, an Italian foundation that has reached over 16 million people across 16 countries with free medical care. Primarily specializing in humanitarian relief, the foundation focuses on four intervention areas: surgery, medication, rehabilitation, and social reintegration.

Issues regarding disabled victims of poverty are often neglected and met with discrimination in many countries, including the United States. However, numbers of organizations and local projects are strenuously putting effort into resolving this ongoing humanitarian problem. With the current mass mobilization, there is definite hope in the future of providing equitable opportunities to one of the most vulnerable communities.

– Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Flickr

 

corruption in healthcare
The healthcare sector in several countries around the world is commonly referred to as being among the most corrupt sectors. A 2013 Transparency International Study reported that more than 50% of citizens viewed their country’s health sector as corrupt in 42 out of 109 countries surveyed. The World Bank has regarded corruption in healthcare as a major barrier to achieving social and economic development.

Corruption and Poverty

Informal payments are a very specific form of corruption prevalent in weak health care systems around the world. Informal payments refer to under-the-table payments to receive services that are otherwise free or which are requested in addition to officially sanctioned required payments.  They are prevalent in the healthcare sector of many countries globally. For example, in Azerbaijan, informal payments account for 73.9% of all medical spending. This form of corruption often arises due to inadequate healthcare management, including inadequate public spending, resource deprivation, governance and human resource constraints and scarcity of providers.

Informal payments negatively affect healthcare at the individual and governmental levels. Due to the secrecy that often shrouds the transaction of informal payments, these payments are often made in cash and do not contribute to the collection of taxes. This translates into less money available to be reinvested in the healthcare system.

Further, informal payments are often regressive in nature, meaning that low-income individuals often tend to pay a larger proportion of their income respective to high-income individuals.  One study in sub-Saharan Africa identified informal payments as being highly prevalent among the poorest segments of society.

Informal payments represent severe barriers to accessing care for those living in poverty. In some cases, informal payments can push low-income individuals to borrow money often with high-interest rates. This indebtedness can lead to financial ruin for low-income families and can potentially push them into the poverty trap.  More concerning is the potentially deadly impact of patients to delay or forego medical care due to the inability to cover the expected informal payments.  Further, the informal nature of these payments makes exemptions to protect those in poverty increasingly difficult to enforce.

The Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 crisis can lead to further barriers to accessing care and may bring an increase in the prevalence of informal payments. Overwhelmed, weak health care systems around the world with resource and provider scarcity may push those seeking treatment to use informal payments as a means of accessing better care and at other times may be required to make up for inadequate funding. It is known that informal payments are tied to these scarcities. These factors are increasingly relevant in COVID-19 responses around the world.

There is a high risk of the prevalence of informal payments increasing in reaction to the pandemic. For those who cannot afford the cost of informal payments, the catastrophic virus may cause families to take on a high-rate of debt, pushing low-income families further into poverty. If individuals choose to forego testing or treatment for the virus due to a lack of financial ability to cover informal payments it could impact the response to fighting COVID-19 by accelerating the spread of the disease.  With the number of people living in extreme poverty projected to rise by 71 million due to the economic shocks brought on by the pandemic, there is an urgent need to address the issue of informal payments and broader corruption in the healthcare sector.

How to Take Action

According to the Carnegie Endowment, the spread of coronavirus, with corruption acting as a catalyst, poses a serious threat to U.S. interests and foreign policy objectives. There are a number of ways the U.S. can address the problem of corruption and the prevalence of informal payments around the world through the U.S. Global Coronavirus Response. The Countering Russian and Other Overseas Kleptocracy (CROOK) Act aims to address corruption through rapid action. The act has been introduced in the Senate after passing the House of Foreign Affairs Committee and shares bipartisan support. USAID in partnership with the State Department is addressing the corruption-coronavirus nexus by supporting transparent emergency procurement mechanisms and providing support to anti-corruption law enforcement.

Due to the discrete nature of informal payments and the provider-patient relationship, the U.S. influence is limited in combating informal payments. In low-income countries with weak healthcare systems, the most effective means of mitigating the impact of informal payments on those impacted by COVID-19 is prevention. The United States can help curb the spread of COVID-19 around the world by providing adequate funding for global health security in the next emergency supplemental COVID-19 response.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr

U2’s Charity Work
Throughout its career, the band U2 has played for tens of thousands of people and gained millions of fans worldwide. The band’s influence, however, has gone beyond its music, as it has impacted millions of people with its charity work. Various members have done both individual charity work as well as work through the band. The band members’ collaborative efforts include poverty relief, disaster relief and health and human rights work. This article will highlight a few important instances of U2’s charity work.

Bono’s Work With ONE & RED

ONE is a campaign that Bono, U2’s lead singer and other activists co-founded. The campaign’s aim is to fight extreme poverty and preventable diseases. In order to achieve this goal, Bono has personally met with heads of state and lobbied governments to pass legislation. Grassroots efforts and ONE’s lobbying for legislation have saved millions of lives over the last 10 years through newly funded government policies. Bono also co-founded RED, an organization that raises awareness and funds to help fight the AIDS crisis. RED has raised $600 million to date, which primarily goes toward AIDS treatment and prevention in Africa.

Disaster Relief Concerts

Throughout U2’s existence, it has played numerous concerts and events to raise money for various disaster relief benefits. In 1984, Bono and U2 bassist Adam Clayton performed at Band Aid, and in 1985, U2 performed at Live Aid. Both events raised money for famine relief in Ethiopia. The next year, in 1986, the band participated in A Conspiracy of Hope tour on behalf of Amnesty International, an organization that focuses on protecting human rights around the world. That same year, it also performed for Self Aid, which helped the homeless in Ireland. On the 20th anniversary of Live Aid, U2 played the Live 8 concert in London. This concert supported the Make Poverty History campaign.

Other Assorted Charity Work

Beyond Bono’s work with ONE and RED and the band’s charity concerts, U2 has participated in other charitable work. For instance, Bono teamed up with Muhammad Ali in 2000 for Jubilee 2000, which called for the cancelation of third world debt. Bono also founded the organization DATA, which aims to improve the political, financial and social state of those living in Africa. Bono has visited Africa on numerous occasions in an attempt to raise funds and awareness for AIDS relief. Additionally, the band donated all of the proceeds from the release of its song “Sweetest Thing” to Chernobyl Children International, which works to give those the 1986 Cherynobl accident affected medical and economic help. Most recently, U2 donated €10 million for personal protective equipment for healthcare workers on the frontline fighting COVID-19.

U2 has impacted millions of people around the world, not just with its music, but with its charity as well. U2’s charity work has helped millions of people around the world. In particular, Bono’s work with ONE and RED has helped fight against poverty and the AIDS epidemic. The band has also worked together, using its music directly by playing a variety of concerts to raise money for important causes. Even as the world grapples with the devastating effects of COVID-19, U2 has continued providing people in need with generous humanitarian aid.

Zachary Laird
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

COVID-19 in AfricaOn a world map of the distribution of COVID-19 cases, the situation looks pretty optimistic for Africa. While parts of Europe, Asia and the United States are shaded by dark colors that implicate a higher infection rate, most African countries appear faint. This has created uncertainty over whether or not the impact of COVID-19 in Africa is as severe as other continents.

Lack of Testing

A closer look at the areas wearing light shades reveals that their situation is just as obscure as the faded shades that color them. Dark spots indicate more infections in places like the U.S. However, in Africa these are usually just cities and urban locations, often the only places where testing is available.

Although insufficient testing has been a problem for countries all over the world, testing numbers are much lower in Africa. The U.S carries out 205 per 100,000 people a day. Nigeria, the most populous country, carries one test per 100,000 people every day. While 8.87% of tests come back positive in the U.S, 15.69% are positive in Nigeria (as of Aug. 4, 2020). Nigeria was one of 10 countries that carried out 80% of the total number of tests in Africa.

As a continent that accounts for 1.2 billion of the world’s population, the impact of COVID-19 in Africa is even more difficult to measure without additional testing. To improve this, the African CDC has set a goal of increasing testing by 1% per month. Realizing the impossibility of reliable testing, countries like Uganda have managed to slow the spread by imposing strict lockdown measures. As a result, the percentage of positive cases in Uganda was only 0.82% (as of Aug. 4, 2020).

A Resistant Population

COVID-19 in Africa has had a lower fatality rate than any other continent. Fatality rates may even be lower than reported. Immunologists in Malawi found that 12% of asymptomatic healthcare workers were infected by the virus at some point. The researchers compared their data with other countries and estimated that death rates were eight times lower than expected.

The most likely reason for the low fatality rate is the young population. Only 3% of Africans are above 65 compared with 6% in South Asia and 17% in Europe. Researchers are investigating other explanations such as the possible immunity to variations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as higher vitamin D in Africans with more sunlight exposure.

Weak Healthcare Systems

Despite these factors, the impact of COVID-19 in Africa is likely high. Under-reporting and under-equipped hospitals contribute to unreliable figures. Most hospitals are not prepared to handle a surge in cases. In South Sudan, there were only four ventilators and 24 ICU beds for a population of 12 million. Accounting for 23% of the world’s diseases and only 1% of global public health expenditure, Africa’s healthcare system was already strained.

Healthcare workers have the most risk of infection in every country. In Africa, the shortage of masks, equipment and capacity increases the infection rate further amongst healthcare workers. Africa also has the lowest physician to patient ratios in the world. As it can take weeks to recover from COVID-19, the recovery of healthcare workers means less are available to work.

Additionally, those that are at-risk and uninsured can rarely afford life-saving treatment in Africa. For example, a drug called remdesivir showed promising results in treating COVID-19. However, the cost of treatment with remdesivir is $3,120 – an unmanageable price for the majority of Africans. These factors will determine the severity of COVID-19 in Africa.

Economic and Psychological Factors

Strict lockdowns have helped some nations in controlling the spread of COVID-19 in Africa but at a very great price.

Lack of technology often means that all students stop learning and many lose their jobs. More than three million South Africans have become unemployed due to the lockdown. The lockdowns have also resulted in much higher rates of domestic violence, abuse and child marriage. Many such cases go unreported and mental health services for victims or those struggling through the pandemic are unavailable. In Kenya, the U.N. has appealed for $4 million to support those affected by gender-based violence.

The slow spread of COVID-19 in Africa has allowed the continent and leaders to prepare, and the young population will lessen the impact. Although there’s reason to be hopeful, there’s no doubt that there will be an impact on Africa’s economy and future. This calls for the need of foreign assistance – not only in controlling COVID-19 in Africa but in the recovery of the continent for years to come.

Beti Sharew
Photo: Flickr


Parents always want the best for their children, but in an increasingly overwhelming world, it can be hard to stay positive. As a society, we need to actively work harder to inspire future generations to protect our planet and its people. Thankfully, there are many amazing role models out there that can motivate children to get involved in making the world a better place.

Top 5 Role Models for Children

  1. Malala YousafzaiMalala is one of the most famous role models of our time. She was born in the small village of Mingora, Pakistan, where it was uncommon for girls to go to school. At just 11 years old, she was forced out of school when the Taliban, the Sunni Islamist military organization, took control of her village. After speaking out about gender equality and the right to learn, she was shot in the head at 15 years old. At this point, most people would have given up, but not Malala. She kept fighting and made her own organization called the Malala Fund—a charity dedicated to fighting for equal rights and providing girls worldwide the opportunity to attend school. That year, she became the youngest person to receive a Nobel Peace Prize and later went on to graduate from Oxford University.
  2. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC, has made headlines across the United States. One of the most progressive candidates, and backed by Senator Bernie Sanders, AOC recently got reelected and kept her spot as a representative for New York’s 14th congressional district at just 30 years old. AOC has been vocal about the wealth inequality gap, racial discrimination and climate change. In a time of uncertainty, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s election has been seen as a progression toward an equal world.
  3. Pink — Alecia Beth Moore, known professionally as Pink, has not only achieved momentous achievements as a singer but has often used her fame to advocate for equality and children’s rights. As a UNICEF ambassador, Pink raises awareness about global poverty, malnutrition and access to education and medicine. Moreover, Pink has supported charities related to HIV/AIDS, animal rights and women’s rights, among others. The famous singer even gets her children involved in the work, making sure to instill a sense of charity in them. At one of her rehearsals, Pink’s daughter set up a backstage candy sale to raise money for the impoverished communities in Haiti. This is a great way to get the kids involved and inspire them to do more on their own.
  4. Selena Gomez — Seen as a triple threat in the entertainment industry, Selena Gomez is another fantastic role model for children. In addition to her successful career, Gomez has consistently shown support for various charities and philanthropic endeavors worldwide. She was also appointed a UNICEF ambassador in 2009 and has dedicated a lot of time to improve societal and economic equality in the world by participating in various UNICEF campaigns and continuing charitable work on her own. Recently, Gomez has used her social media platforms to spread awareness about the social and racial injustices in the United States. Selena Gomez has also shown support for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Malala Fund and Free the Children, among others.
  5. Matt DamonMatt Damon is an incredible actor who is no stranger to charity work. He has pledged to provide clean water for impoverished communities worldwide by creating his nonprofit organization. In 2009, Matt Damon and Gary White co-founded Water.org that helps more than 17 countries receive clean water and sanitation supplies. Additionally, Water.org, through its WaterCredit program and microfinancing, supports households living in poverty with loans to obtain essential water systems, making clean water safe, cost-effective and accessible for more than 30 million people.

There are many fantastic role models worldwide that demonstrate how crucial nonprofit organizations are in improving people’s standards of living worldwide. Yet, perhaps the most important role models are the parents at home. Teach children about the real impact of charity work and get them involved in both local and global humanitarian organizations. As children grow older, they will start to venture off on their own charity projects, ensuring a brighter and equal future.

Karin Filipova
Photo: Flickr

Soccer Fighting World Hunger
Soccer is the most popular sport in the world. As one of the most accessible games to play and watch, billions of people enjoy soccer. However, few are familiar with the impacts of soccer off the field. The sport has accepted an integral role in ending world hunger through its clubs, players and governing bodies. Many casual soccer fans are familiar with Marcus Rashford’s role in restoring over £120 million worth of food aid to underprivileged English citizens, a feat that is nothing short of remarkable. However, one cannot merely relegate soccer’s impact to the developed world: soccer is fighting world hunger, especially in developing nations.

Governing Bodies

Many larger soccer groups have committed to combating world hunger. One prominent example is the Professional Football Against Hunger campaign, which the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) co-founded and signed. The EPFL represents 27 member leagues constituting over 900 soccer clubs across Europe. This campaign reached millions of fans, generating record-breaking donations to food-aid projects. In addition, the organization created a recurring event named Match Day Against Hunger, in which over 300 clubs played in matches dedicated to raising awareness for world hunger. This awareness campaign helped put world hunger at the forefront of the soccer community’s mind, in addition to encouraging action from individuals and clubs alike.

Clubs

Soccer clubs themselves also play a massive role in fighting child and family hunger. Much like how soccer clubs in England support their regional communities, soccer clubs in developing nations also assist local populations. One gleaming example is the Everton Uganda Football Academy. This facility has committed itself to aiding the communities from which it recruits players, most recently donating food and medical supplies to 50 families. Fortunately, Everton is not an anomaly: many clubs in underdeveloped countries provide food assistance, particularly to the families of their budding players. The club cannot expect players’ and prospects’ best performance if they do not have adequate nourishment; thus, there is an incentive to provide for them. Many of the world’s best current soccer players – including Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Gabriel Jesus – were food-insecure during their childhoods. Soccer programs provide not only food to young players, but also an opportunity to follow their dreams and prosper.

Players

Many of the world’s best professional soccer athletes have had humble beginnings. As a result, some of the most dynamic advocacy for hunger relief has originated from the players themselves. One example of an avid advocate for fighting world hunger is Kaká, a former AC Milan and Real Madrid star. Kaká became the youngest United Nations World Food Programme Ambassador at age 22, serving as the main endorser and contributor to the Fill the Cup campaign that ultimately fed over 20 million undernourished schoolchildren in nearly 80 developing countries. Kaká’s influence not only garnered millions of dollars to save the lives of millions but also encouraged many children to remain in school.

Colleges

In the United States, college soccer programs have also answered the call to fight against world hunger. While university soccer teams are largely underfunded – and thus unable to make large donations to charity – they are often extremely committed to issues surrounding world hunger. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s men’s and women’s soccer programs, for instance, sent an incredible 285,000 meals to Nicaragua to aid underprivileged families and youth. While monetary funds are hard to come by for many college athletics programs, the University of North Carolina powerfully demonstrates how these programs can donate time and money to do what they can in aiding others.

As the most popular sport in the world, soccer has nearly infinite influence. Especially for a massive issue like global poverty where it is difficult to recognize the pockets of solutions that some are implementing, it is essential to acknowledge how soccer is fighting world hunger. Fighting world hunger is not a task for food-aid specific groups alone, and soccer programs worldwide are helping to lead the charge.

– Keagan James
Photo: Piqsels

Tuberculosis in BangladeshTuberculosis (TB) is an airborne disease; common symptoms include cough with sputum and blood in some cases, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats. TB can lead to the death of an infected person when left untreated. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), TB has caused about 2 million deaths worldwide, and 95% of deaths were recorded in developing countries. Bangladesh ranked sixth among high TB burden countries. The National Tuberculosis Control Programme (NTP) has attained more than 90% treatment success and more than a 70% case detection rate. Despite these successes, tuberculosis in Bangladesh remains a serious public health problem.

Reasons for Higher Infection of Tuberculosis in Bangladesh

  1.  Delays in the Initiation of Treatment: Patients in Bangladesh often receive late treatment. Delays in treatment increase chances of negative treatment results, death and community transmission of TB. A study on 1,000 patients reported that, on average, there were 61 days of delay in the treatment of women and 53 days of delay in the treatment of men.
  2.  Role of Informal Health Practitioners: Most of the impoverished people in Bangladesh prefer to go to their local practitioners due to the ease of accessibility and low cost. A recent survey showed that approximately 60% of the Bangladesh population prefers to go to these uncertified doctors. However, such doctors typically lack formal training. This may lead difficulties in accurately diagnosing and treating TB.
  3. Lack of Awareness: Directly observed treatment short-course (DOTS) has been recognized as one of the most efficient and cost-effective approaches for treating TB. In 1998, the DOTS program became an integrated part of the Health and Population Sector Programme. The inclusion of the DOTS strategy in the Programme helped TB services transition from TB clinics to primary level health facilities. These health facilities typically incorporate GO-NGO (government-organized non-governmental organization) partnerships, and the NGOs have advocated for work on literacy, social awareness along and health care development. As part of the Health and Population Sector Programme, DOTS is freely available to the public. Unfortunately, many remain unaware of the treatment option.  As a result, detection of new TB cases has stagnated at around 150,000 cases per year since 2006.
  4. Poverty: A large portion of the country is still suffering from poverty. Poverty can often lead to overcrowding and poorly ventilated living and working conditions. People with less income also cannot afford food, leading to higher incidences of malnutrition. The culmination of these factors typically make the impoverished population more vulnerable to contracting TB.

The Effort to Combat TB

Tuberculosis is a major public health problem in Bangladesh. However, continuous efforts by the NTP and various NGO organizations have played an important role in decreasing the spread of the disease. DOTS, for instance, demonstrated a 78% cure rate in 1993. Due to its success, a phase-based treatment plan was implemented in 67 million rural populations in 1996.  Since implementation, the NTP has attained a 90% treatment success rate. Further efforts to combat the disease include development of the FAST program (Find cases Actively, Separate safely and Treat effectively). The program intends to detect active TB cases and decrease spread of the disease in healthcare facilities. However, despite efforts by the NTP and a number of NGOs, significant delays in care-seeking and treatment initiation still exist as major hindrances to the program’s goals. 

Challenges to TB Programs

Tuberculosis in Bangladesh kills more than 75,000 people every year. Despite free services like DOTS and other NTP programs, limited access to quality service, lackluster funding and insufficient screening prevent adequate detection and treatment of the disease. The lowest quartile of the population is still five times more likely to contract TB, potentially due to a lack of awareness of TB-treatment programs among the general public. Adding to the problems for TB programs, private health professionals are typically inactive in national programs. While NTP programs have made progress in addressing the disease, these challenges persist, and tuberculosis remains a major health problem in Bangladesh.

Solutions

To stop the growth of tuberculosis in Bangladesh, community organizations such as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) have shown impressive results in lowering the percentage of those afflicted by TB. Effective treatment of TB includes investment in medicine, local health services and diagnostics. To ensure full recovery, social protection of patients is also required. Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), for instance, requires two months of drug treatment and a four month continuation period. If treatment programs can satisfy requirements investment and social protection requirements, the chance of curing TB patients reaches 92%. The application of a more successful method will help in curing the most complex TB cases, such as drug-sensitive TB, with improved results. With the implementation of proper and effective treatment strategies, we can eliminate tuberculosis in Bangladesh and the benefit even the poorest members of society.

– Anuja Kumari

Photo: Pixabay

Tuberculosis in Tuvalu
Tuberculosis (TB) is the world’s deadliest infectious disease, yet millions of people remain undiagnosed. TB diagnosis is a challenge for many island communities. In order to be diagnosed, patients usually have to go to the main island. This was the case for tuberculosis in Tuvalu.

Tuvalu is a remote Pacific island with a population of 11,500 and only one hospital. Travel to the hospital is difficult and increases the risk of transmission, especially when it includes a crowded boat full of people. TB rates are high in Tuvalu but are declining with only about 15 new cases each year since 2016 – a great improvement from the rate of 36 new cases each year in the 1980s. The death rate in 2017 was 19 per 100,000 people. Thanks to a couple of developments that have made diagnosis more achievable – namely GeneXpert machine, portable x-ray machines and training for health teams – Tuvalu is actively reducing rates of TB since 2018.

GeneXpert Machine

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Fund have provided a GeneXpert machine to the government of Tuvalu. This machine reduces the duration of the TB test and allows for diagnosis of the drug-resistant strains, which are increasingly becoming a problem. Using the machine, the test only takes about two hours. Without this technology, the TB test takes at least two-six weeks.

It is a relatively new test that works on a molecular level to identify mycobacterium tuberculosis as well as rifampin resistance in a sputum sample. Another positive is that limited technical training is required to run the GeneXpert tests. These tests are being used around the world and prove to be an incredible feat of science.

Portable X-ray Machines

Because x-ray machines are now portable, more people can be reached and examined, including those on the outer islands. Mobile health teams travel to smaller islands and carry out chest x-rays for those presenting TB symptoms.

Thanks to portable x-ray technology, the number of TB diagnoses is increasing. Dr. Lifuka at the Tuvalu hospital said, “We can now actively find cases in the outer islands where there are no facilities, and we can assess everyone, even those who previously faced difficulties coming to the hospital.”

Training for Health Teams

Of course, none of this would be possible with the technology alone. Trained professionals are needed to help diagnose and treat people with tuberculosis in Tuvalu. They travel to patients’ houses and provide medication. Because of the stigma surrounding TB, patients won’t always get their treatments. This is why Tuvalu Red Cross community-based health promoters and other trained professionals treat patients at home.

Though TB rates remain rather high in Tuvalu, as well as throughout the Pacific, the new technology implemented in 2018 is promising. Technology will not be enough, however; system-wide approaches aimed at reducing poverty and development of infrastructure on the outer islands will also be needed in order to eradicate TB. Furthermore, Tuvalu needs to continue to improve TB surveillance in order to inform public health agencies of the strategies proven to be most effective. Hopefully, the new technology will help spread awareness of TB to all the members of the community. The change is already evident, as cases of tuberculosis in Tuvalu have declined consistently over the past 10 years, and detection has increased. In 2008, they were only able to diagnose eight cases a year. In 2017, there were 23. The new technology and training programs will continue to save lives on this small, isolated island.

Fiona Price
Photo: Flickr

Hugh Evans
One of the most challenging aspects of charity work is getting the word out. Even in the era of social media, it is difficult to reach people and convince them to support a cause, especially during a global pandemic. Yet, music has the power to bring people together during divisive times. Global Citizen CEO Hugh Evans found a way to fuse music and charity together. By hosting concerts around the world, he has raised billions of dollars in the fight against global poverty.

Now 37, Hugh Evans was born in Melbourne, Australia. His goal in life is to eradicate global poverty completely, and he is confident that he can do it. Evans believes that people created poverty and that people can destroy it. In an interview for the Sydney Morning Herald, Evans noted that there are more than 2,000 billionaires in the world. If they each gave as much as Bill and Melinda Gates give, poverty would cease to exist completely. Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon, “could do it on his own.” But most billionaires are not pitching in enough, or at all. So, Evans calls for systematic change by engaging governments, corporations and ordinary non-billionaires.

Early Inspirations

In 1997, 14-year-old Hugh Evans went on a World Vision trip to the Philippines and saw extreme poverty first-hand. An extremely poor family hosted him. They slept on a concrete roof and had little to offer him besides a straw mat. Lying on that mat, watching cockroaches crawl around him, Evans realized that something needed to change. It was then that he decided to commit his life to ending poverty.

After returning from the Philippines, Evans earned a scholarship to study at an international school in India. There, he learned even more about global culture, language and poverty. He spent weekends doing charitable work in nearby slums or at a branch of Mother Theresa’s charity. Evans even took a gap year after high school to work with HIV/AIDS orphans in South Africa. By the time he was 20, he had a much more personal understanding of global poverty than most middle-class Australians will ever have.

Charitable Concerts

In 2006 and 2007, as a university student, Evans organized the Make Poverty History concerts in Australia, featuring Bono, the Edge and Eddie Vedder. Those concerts introduced him to the idea that celebrities could harness real power in the mission to end poverty. Since then, he graduated from Monash University with a science/law degree, got his master’s in international relations and founded Global Citizen. Through this organization, he has coordinated many more concerts around the world, including Together at Home, the live-streamed concerts during the COVID-19 quarantine. Rather than buying tickets, concert-goers must earn them by taking actions as members of Global Citizen. They can do so by signing petitions, contacting world leaders and taking quizzes to educate oneself about global poverty. These may seem like small feats, but advocacy and education are some of the most powerful weapons against global poverty.

Always a hard worker, Evans often endures long days and sleepless nights to organize charitable events, often under short notice. When COVID-19 began reaching countries that already struggle to meet healthcare needs, Evans and his team immediately started planning the Together at Home concert, which they were able to organize in just three weeks.

Inspiring Future Progress

In a world with constantly changing interests and opportunities, nonprofit organizations must work hard to continue attracting attention and fundraising effectively. Hugh Evans’s first-hand experience with poverty has successfully raised billions of dollars towards the fight against global poverty, and he is only 37-years-old. His establishment of Global Citizen is one of the most prominent triumphs in helping impoverished people all around the world. Not only does the organization provide the necessities for survival, but it also gives impoverished communities the tools to bring themselves and others out of poverty. It may have started on a straw mat in the Philippines, but Evans’s optimism and diligence have reached across borders and will continue to support the dignity, compassion and humanity necessary to end global poverty.

Levi Reyes
Photo: Flickr