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

 

cancer in developing countriesMajor progress has been made in recent years in combating leading threats to global health such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria. However, there is a lesser-discussed global health problem that is growing in developing nations. Eight million cancer cases across the world occur in developing countries, accounting for 57 percent of all reported cancer cases worldwide. Ami Bhatt and her coworkers at the School of Medicine at Stanford University are working to change these numbers by reducing cancer in the developing world.

Background on Ami Bhatt

In 2009, Bhatt became aware of the growing danger of cancer in developing countries through her work at Harvard University. She knew that something had to be done. She started a nonprofit with another fellow in her program, Franklin Huang, who became equally as passionate about this topic. The organization, called Global Oncology (GO), has launched numerous programs and projects since its start in 2012. All of them are aimed at creating better care for cancer patients in low and middle-income countries through new technology, education and medical training. In 2014, Bhatt started her work at the Stanford School of Medicine. Since then she has mobilized her coworkers to further explore the pandemic of cancer in the developing world and find ways to combat it.

Educational and Tracking Resources

Working with a design firm in sub-Saharan Africa, Bhatt was able to develop materials with simple messaging and visuals to help patients in developing nations understand potential treatment options, side effects and complications. Many patients in these low-income areas drop out of treatment because they do not fully understand the process of treatments like chemotherapy. These materials are aimed at solving this problem and keeping more patients in treatment. They are currently being used in cancer wards across Rwanda, Botswana and Haiti.

GO also partnered with the National Cancer Institute to develop an interactive map of cancer researchers and program managers across the world. This resource is the first of its kind and has increased interaction and collaboration between those working in the field. The map gives experts equal access to contemporary knowledge and technology being used to combat cancer in the developing world.

Work in Nigeria and Rwanda

In 2017, Bhatt and her colleagues at GO collaborated with the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria to identify two hospitals that could make a huge impact by taking their cancer care programs to the next level. The northern portion of Nigeria is Muslim-majority while the southern area is Christian majority. For this reason, they chose ABUTH hospital in the north and Lagos University Teaching Hospital in the south.

The programs implemented at these hospitals were aimed toward outlining potential opportunities for hospital faculty to carry out improvements in their cancer programs. After this program had been in place for a few months, Bhatt and a few of her colleagues traveled to Nigeria to complete a comprehensive needs assessment. This formed the foundation for the recommendations to the Federal Ministry of Health that were included in the Nigerian 2018-2023 National Cancer Control Plan.

While teaching classes to physicians in Rwanda, Bhatt discovered that patients with leukemia were being treated with hydroxyurea, a drug that only prolongs a patient’s life for about five years. She found out that the country had lost free access to an alternate drug called Gleevec, which can prolong someone’s life for up to 30 years. Bhatt and her Stanford colleagues spent weeks lobbying the Rwandan Ministry of Health as well as the drug manufacturer to restore free access to Gleevec in Rwanda.

Sixty-five percent of those who die from cancer yearly live in developing countries. Ami Bhatt recognized the existence and implications of this statistic in 2009. She has made it her life’s work to battle cancer in the developing world ever since. As more and more people recognize cancer as a major problem in the developing world, Bhatt and her team get closer and closer to winning the battle.

Ryley Bright
Photo: Flickr

What is Global Fragility

Global fragility is a compelling global phenomenon. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has defined it as, “the combination of exposure to risk and insufficient coping capacity of the state, system and/or communities to manage, absorb or mitigate those risks. Fragility can lead to negative outcomes including violence, the breakdown of institutions, displacement, humanitarian crises or other emergencies.”

The 2030 Agenda

Rising global challenges such as climate change, global inequality, the development of new technologies and illegal financial flows, are all aggravating global fragility. Now more than ever before, these challenges most severely affect low and middle-income countries. Global fragility is a pressing issue as poverty is increasingly present in fragile areas and those affected by conflict. It is estimated that by 2030, as much as 80 percent of the world’s extreme poor will be living in fragile areas, becoming both a threat to global security and a prominent barrier to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030.

Within the 2030 Agenda, SDG 16 outlines achieving peaceful, just and equitable societies. Additionally, this SDG emphasizes the importance of sustaining peace and conflict prevention. Peace and conflict prevention are not achievable with increasing global fragility risks and inefficient responses. Indeed, 2016 was the year affected the most by violence and conflict in the past 30 years, killing 560,000 people and displacing the highest number of people in the world since World War II. Moreover, countries that are part of the 2030 development agenda all committed to leaving no-one behind, stressing the need to address fragile areas.

Addressing Global Fragility

Taking into account the elements mentioned above and the existing consensus on the matter, it is fundamental for countries and international organizations to address global fragility and take action by joining efforts. International institutions faced some blame for inadequate performance in fragile states. Recently, efforts began focusing on developing frameworks and tools to address fragility more efficiently. At the core of the solution to global fragility lies resilience. Additionally, this comprises of assisting states to build the capacity to deal with fragility risks and stabilize the country.

For example, the World Bank launched the Humanitarian Development Peace Initiative (HDPI) in partnership with the U.N. to develop new strategies to assist fragile countries. Under this initiative, the U.N. and World Bank will collaborate through data sharing, joint frameworks and analysis, etc. Additionally, the European Commission changed the way it approaches fragility, now concentrating more on the strengths of fragile states rather than their weakness, to assist them in resilience building and empowering them to do so.

All these efforts revolve around a set of core principles, stemming from lessons learned from the past. These mainly include empowering local governments and helping them escape the fragility trap. Another principle revolves around achievements in the long-term. Long-term achievements will ensure sustainability, as transforming deep-rooted governance takes time for effective implementation. Inclusive peace processes prioritizing the security of citizens, along with inclusive politics, are essential in the transformation of fragile states.

The Global Fragility Act

On December 20, the Global Fragility Act was passed as a part of the United States’ FY 2020 foreign affairs spending package, to address fragility more effectively. The Act emphasizes interagency coordination regarding development, security and democracy. In addition, the Act also highlights a more efficient alignment of multilateral and international organizations. As the first comprehensive, whole-of-government approach established by the United States, the efforts plan to prevent global conflict and instability.

The numerous actions and initiatives launched recently illustrate a significant step forward in addressing the threat of fragility. The common consensus between donor countries, multilateral and international institutions must now be translated into concrete actions.

Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr

young advocates

Today, some of the most innovative, forward-thinking change-makers happen to be under the age of 18. Keep reading to learn more about these three top young advocates who are doing their part to address global issues from poverty to gender equality and education.

3 Young Advocates Who are Changing the World

  1. Zuriel Oduwole
    Since the age of 10, Zuriel Oduwole has been using her voice to spread awareness about the importance of educating young girls in developing countries. Now 17 years old, Oduwole has made a difference in girls’ education and gender issues in Africa by meeting with and interviewing important political figures like presidents, prime ministers and first ladies. To date, Oduwole has spoken in 14 countries to address the importance of educating young girls in developing countries, including Ethiopia, South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania and Nigeria. “They need an education so they can have good jobs when they get older,” Oduwole said in a 2013 interview with Forbes. “Especially the girl child. I am really hoping that with the interviews I do with presidents, they would see that an African girl child like me is doing things that girls in their countries can do also.”
  2. Yash Gupta
    After breaking his glasses as a high school freshman, Yash Gupta realized how much seeing affects education. He did some research and found out that millions of children do not have access to prescription lenses that would help them to excel in their studies. Gupta then founded Sight Learning, a nonprofit organization that collects and distributes eyeglasses to children in Mexico, Honduras, Haiti and India.

  3. Amika George
    At the age of 18, Amika George led a protest outside of former U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s home to convince policymakers to end “period poverty.” Period poverty is the unavailability of feminine sanitary products for girls who cannot afford them. Girls who can’t afford these products are often left to use rags or wads of tissue, which not only raises health concerns but also keeps girls from their education. In order to combat this issue, George created a petition with the goal for schools to provide feminine products to girls who receive a free or reduced lunch. As of now, George has mobilized over 200,000 signatures and helped catapult the conversation of period poverty at the political level in the U.K.

These three world-changing children prove that age does not matter when it comes to making a difference in the world.

Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Life Expectancy in Senegal

The Republic of Senegal is a country on the West African coast bordered by Mauritania, Mali, Gambia and Guinea-Bissau. Around 46.7 percent of Senegal’s 15.85 million residents live in poverty. Today, life expectancy at birth in Senegal is 67.45 years, representing a significant improvement from 39.24 years in 1970 and 59.7 years in 2000. Many factors contribute to a country’s life expectancy rate including the quality and access to health care, employment, income, education, clean water, hygiene, nutrition, lifestyle and crime rates. Keep reading to learn more about the top eight facts about life expectancy in Senegal.

8 Facts About Life Expectancy in Senegal

  1. Despite decades of political stability and economic growth, Senegal is ranked 164th out of 189 countries in terms of human development. Poverty, while decreasing, remains high with 54.4 percent of the population experiencing multidimensional poverty. The World Bank funds programs in Senegal to reduce poverty and increase human development. This work includes the Stormwater Management and Climate Change Adaptation project which delivered piped water access for 206,000 people and improved sanitation services for 82,000 others. Additionally, the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program helps cultivate 14 climate-smart crops in the area.
  2. Senegal’s unemployment rate has substantially decreased from 10.54 percent in 2010 to 6.46 percent in 2018. This is a positive trend; however, 63.2 percent of workers remain in poverty at $3.10 per day showing that employment does not always guarantee financial stability. To help the most vulnerable 300,000 households, Senegal has established a national social safety net program to help the extremely poor afford education, food, medical assistance and more.
  3. The maternal mortality rate continues to decrease each year in Senegal. In 2015, there were 315 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births compared to 540 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990. Maternal health has improved thanks to the efforts of many NGOs as well as the national government. Of note, USAID has spearheaded community health programs and launched 1,652 community surveillance committees that provide personalized follow-up care to pregnant women and newborns. In 2015, trained community health workers provided vital care to 18,336 babies and conducted postnatal visits for 54,530 mothers.
  4. From 2007 to 2017, neonatal disorder deaths decreased by 20.7 percent. This is great progress, however, neonatal disorder deaths are still the number one cause of death for children under the age of 5 in Senegal. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides technical and financial support to establish community-based newborn care, including Kangaroo Mother Care programs. This low-cost and low-tech intervention has reduced the risk of death for preterm and low-birth-weight babies by 40 percent and illness by 60 percent. With financial help from UNICEF, 116 health workers have been trained in 22 health centers and seven hospitals. The long-term goal is to have Kangaroo Care introduced to 1,000 health centers across Senegal.
  5. Senegal has been lauded as an African leader in the fight against malnutrition. Notably, from 2000 to 2016, undernutrition declined by 56 percent. Improvements in the health sector, making crops more nutrition-sensitive and helping increase crop yields have been major contributors to recent nutrition success. 
  6. Despite progress, hunger is still a major issue in northern Senegal. Successive droughts have left over a quarter of a million people food insecure. In the district of Podor, rains have decreased by 66 percent from 2016 to 2017. Action Against Hunger is working to keep cattle, which is the main sustenance source for thousands of shepherds, from dying in the drought by funding new drinking troughs. This will benefit 800 families in Podor. Action Against Hunger also covers monthly basic food expenses for 2,150 vulnerable households to prevent further increases in acute malnutrition.
  7. There is a high risk of waterborne diseases in Senegal. Diarrheal diseases are the third leading cause of death. The Senegalese Ministry of Health has recently adopted the WHO diarrhea treatment policy of zinc supplementation and improved oral rehydration therapy. This is a life-saving policy that is taking effect around the country.
  8. Around 41 percent of children aged 6-11 in Senegal are not in school. The largest percentages of out-of-school children are the poorest quintile and rural areas. To increase school enrollment, the government and USAID are making efforts to increase access to school facilities in rural areas and support poorer families with cash transfers through the social safety net. USAID is working to ensure that all Senegalese children, especially girls and those in vulnerable situations, receive 10 years of quality education. The agency has built schools, supported teacher training, increased supplies of books and access to the internet and increased opportunities for out-of-school young people. Since 2007, 46 middle schools and 30 water points have been built and equipped.

These eight facts about life expectancy in Senegal have shown that the combined efforts of nonprofits and the Government of Senegal are making real progress on many fronts that contribute to life expectancy. These efforts must continue and intensify to reduce poverty and increase life expectancy in Senegal.

– Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr

Cancer Treatment in Nigeria

Thousands of Nigerians die every year from cancer. Though deaths are mostly preventable, Nigeria lacks the infrastructure, equipment and health care professionals necessary to treat its cancer victims. Furthermore, the high cost of cancer treatment prevents many Nigerians from seeking it soon enough to cure it. Yet the Nigerian government is improving Nigeria’s cancer treatment and making it easier for Nigerians to access it. This article will reveal the future of cancer treatment in Nigeria by first explaining why so many Nigerians die from cancer, and then listing the solutions that people are proposing and implementing to eradicate it.

Cancer in Nigeria

The World Health Organization identifies cancer as the second leading cause of death around the world. It is responsible for 70 percent of deaths in low- and middle-income countries. This is more than the number of deaths from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. In Nigeria, around 72,000 Nigerians die each year from cancer among the more than 100,000 cancer diagnoses. The two most common, and often treatable, forms of cancer in Nigeria are breast and cervical cancer.

Specifically, Nigerian men suffer from mostly prostate, colorectal, liver, stomach cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Nigerian women suffer from mostly breast, cervical, colorectal, ovarian cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The number of new cancer cases per year among Nigerian women, 71,022, is greater than the number of new cancer cases per year among Nigerian men, 44,928.

Reasons for Nigerian Cancer Deaths

First and foremost, many Nigerians are unable to reach physicians who can diagnose and treat their cancer. Additionally, when they are able to get the treatment they need, their cancer is in such an advanced state that any treatment they receive fails to save their lives. Thirdly, Nigeria has not had a national plan to control cancer or a national registry to track trends about who has cancer and where they live for most of its history.

In addition, Nigerians often do not have the money to pay for cancer treatment. On top of this, many Nigerians who suffer from cancer do not receive enough information about cancer to motivate them to seek immediate medical attention.

There are also infrastructure limitations as Nigeria currently only has four functional cancer treatment centers, which is not enough to treat the immense number of Nigerian citizens who suffer from cancer. Furthermore, in a population of more than 200 million, there are only nine radiation therapy machines. At any time, some or all of these machines might be broken, sometimes for months. Nigeria additionally lacks well-equipped treatment centers and an adequate amount of qualified health professionals.

Goals with Cancer Treatment in Nigeria

The current state of cancer treatment in Nigeria might look dreadful, however, Nigerians are making great efforts to improve the care it provides to Nigeria’s cancer victims with the help of partners like the World Health Organization and the American Cancer Society. On April 13, 2015, the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health launched the Cancer Control Plan (CCP). This plan sets the course for the Ministry of Health to improve cancer treatment in Nigeria from 2018 to 2022. The goals included in the CCP that Nigeria intends to reach to improve its response to cancer are:

  • ” Increased access to screening and detection of cancer
  • Improved access to quality and cost-effective cancer treatment
  • Improved end-of-life care for patients and their families
  • Increased public awareness about the disease
  • Improved data collection and the process of spreading information
  • Effective coordination of cancer resources for Nigeria”

Progress

A major stepping-stone in the advancement of cancer treatment in Nigeria is the construction of the world-class Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Advanced Cancer Treatment Centre. This facility emerged to ensure that the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of cancer are available to many more Nigerians and is equipped with the most innovative cancer therapy solutions from Varian Medical Systems. This facility can treat 100 patients a day and provide more advanced training for 80 health care professionals. Predictions determine that this facility will serve as a model for future cancer research facilities throughout West Africa.

Even though Nigeria has a long way to travel to create a cancer treatment system on par with those of high-income countries like the United Kingdom or Switzerland. The goals listed above will take a great effort to reach. Yet, the fact that Nigeria is already making progress towards advancing its cancer treatment system proves the bright future of cancer treatment in Nigeria is already here.

– Jacob Stubbs
Photo: Flickr

Ending Malaria in ChinaHistorically, malaria has been extensive in China. In the 1940s, 90 percent of the population was considered at risk. In the 1970s, the country suffered 24 million cases of the disease. With the introduction of anti-malarial medicine and urbanization, massive strides have been made to end malaria in China.

In 2010, China launched the National Malaria Elimination Plan (NMEP) with the aim of eradicating malaria from the country by 2020. It pushed for rapid responses to reported cases of the disease, with the 1-3-7 plan outlining a report within one day, investigation within three, and treatment within seven. The plan saw great success and in 2017, no indigenous cases of malaria were detected.

China is not yet completely free of malaria. It is difficult to contain the disease at the country’s borders and those in poverty are especially at risk.

Background

The Yunnan Province consistently experiences a high number of malaria cases due to its constant interaction with neighboring counties. The wealthiest counties in Yunnan are central and surround the capital city Kunming. Among the 26 border counties, only two have an infection rate below one in 10,000, and nine have rates above 10 in 10,000. In addition, 21 of these counties are the poorest in the province. Researchers have called for more resources to be diverted to Yunnan.

The remaining cases of malaria in China pour in from neighboring countries, with 19,154 cases from 68 countries documented between 2011 to 2016. In the majority of cases, the disease was carried by returning Chinese workers, mostly from Myanmar, Ghana or Angola, all countries that rank below 160th highest GDP per capita in the world.

Despite these challenges, the country has made significant strides to combat malaria. The first major effort began in 1955, with the launch of the National Malaria Control Programme, a push to improve irrigation and insecticide use throughout the country. China reduced malaria deaths by 95 percent, and suffered only 117,000 cases of the disease, by 1995.

In 2003, China received aid from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Global Aid distributed over $100 million throughout the world over two years. In China, this reduced the number of annual cases below 5000.

The 2010 Program was a synthesis of a national effort. About 13 departments came together, including the ministries of health, education and the military to end malaria. According to He Qinghua, Deputy Director-General of the Bureau of Disease Prevention and Control at China’s National Health Commission, a large portion of the effort focused around involving the government at every level of control. If a ruling was made in the capital, it had to be translated into every local government.

Since 2014, the Chinese government has paid for the entirety of its fight against malaria, though it recognizes the importance of early support from external funds like the Global Fund. Yang Henling, a professor at the Yunnan Institute for Parasitic Diseases, further states the need to continue efforts, lest malaria return.

China Turns to Help Other Nations Eradicate Malaria

New South, a Chinese company, has begun working to eliminate malaria in Kenya, where 70 percent of the population is at risk of the disease. New South has already been working in Comoros.

New South advocates for the use of MDA, the primary drug involved with treating malaria in China. While many western organizations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, focus on preventing mosquitoes from spreading malaria, New South emphasizes treatment in humans. Dr. Bernhards Ogutu, who has been fighting malaria in Kenya for decades, believes that Chinese support will have malaria eradicated in some areas of Kenya within only five years.

– Katie Hwang
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty In Eritrea

Eritrea is a small northeastern country in Africa, surrounded by the larger Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan. It is home to nearly 5.4 million individuals, of which, about 65 percent live in poverty. Eritrea‘s harsh history coupled with its low rates of development has contributed to the poor economic conditions that oppress so many. This article will provide nine facts about poverty in Eritrea which will give reason to the concerns raised by international organizations.

9 Facts About Poverty in Eritrea

  1. A tumultuous history with Ethiopia: After a 30-year war with Ethiopia, Eritrea finally gained independence in 1991. It was not until 1993, however, that this separation was legitimized. Eritrean citizens were historically neglected under Ethiopian rule. Many were deprived of their nation’s resources and abandoned on the pathway to development.
  2. Cultural superstitions prevent sanitary practices: According to UNICEF, persistent cultural beliefs hinder many Eritreans from collecting clean water, washing their hands and disposing of animal products properly. Many believe that evil spirits are attached to certain animal parts while other customs prohibit the use of latrines during certain hours of the day.
  3. Limited access to clean water for rural Eritreans: Very few villages in rural Eritrea have access to clean water. In fact, as of 2015, only 48.6 percent of the rural population had access to improved water sources compared to 93.1 percent in urban areas. As a result, many drink from the same water source as animals. In addition, many communities do not have a local latrine due to a lack of financial resources. Sewage systems also contaminate water sources that would otherwise be feasible options. These issues can lead to numerous diseases such as schitosmiasis, giardriasis and diarrhea.
  4. Challenges in agriculture: While nearly 80 percent of the Eritrean population works in agriculture, this sector only makes up about 13 percent of the nation’s GDP. Landscapes in Eritrea are naturally rocky and dry. This makes farming a difficult task even in the best weather conditions. During the most fruitful periods, domestic agriculture production still only feeds 60 to 70 percent of the population.
  5. Susceptibility to drought: When drought does strike northeast Africa, Eritrea is one of the countries that experiences the greatest blow. Months can pass in the Horn of Africa without rainfall and these episodes are frequent and recurrent. This results in food shortages and increased rates of malnourishment among children. Statistics show that malnutrition has been increasing throughout Eritrea as nearly 22,700 children under the age of 5 suffer from the condition. Plans have already been crafted as an acknowledgment of the crisis, one being the African Development Bank’s Drought Resilience and Sustainable Livelihood Programme for 2015-2021. For this, the Eritrean government has agreed to reserve $17 million to administer solutions for drought effects in rural communities.
  6. Many children are out of school: Public education in Eritrea is inconsistent across the nation. Children living in rural areas or with nomadic families do not have access to quality education like those living in urban regions. Overall, 27.7 percent of Eritrean children do not attend school.
  7. Low HDI: Recently, GDP in Eritrea has been growing. This can be attributed to the recent cultivation of the Bisha mine, which has contributed a considerable amount of zinc, gold and copper to the international economy. Even so, Eritrea’s Human Development Index is only at 0.351. The country is far behind other sub-Saharan nations, whose average is calculated at 0.475.
  8. Violence at the southern border: The central government has created large holes in the federal deficit in its preoccupation with Ethiopia. While the countries officially separated in 1993, discontent with the line of demarcation has left them in a state of “no war, no peace.” The Eritrean government sees the stalemate with Ethiopia as a primary concern, and the military forces needed to guard their territory has occupied most of the nation’s resources.
  9. High rates of migration: These realities listed above have encouraged much of the Eritrean population to flee the country. Eritrea is the African country with the highest number of migrants. Furthermore, the journey to Europe is a dangerous one, as the pathway through the central Mediterranean is highly laborious.

Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

 

 

Health of Rohingya Muslims
Beginning in August 2017 and continuing to the present day, an estimated 24,000 members of the Rohingya Muslim ethnoreligious group have been murdered by Myanmar militia forces for cleansing purposes. Members of Myanmar’s army and police forces have raped around 18,000 girls and women. A total of approximately 225,000 homes have burned down or undergone vandalism since the beginning of this crackdown on the Muslim minority group of Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Since then, an influx of Rohingya Muslims has entered the Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh in attempts to escape the inhumane living circumstances of the Rakhine State. By February 2018, around 688,000 Rohingyas had entered Bangladesh. They joined close to 212,000 Rohingyas that settled in Bangladesh before the exodus that began six months prior. One area of concern is the health of Rohingya Muslims.

Even after leaving the region where they experienced persecution, the quality of health of Rohingya Muslims has not been ideal. This is due to the frequency in which they travel into Bangladesh, as well as the large groups they move within.

Health Concerns for Refugees

One major, ongoing concern for the health of Rohingya Muslims is the fact that they have limited access to preventative health care services. These services become necessary when a mass group of individuals resides in a singular location, like a refugee camp, for an extended period. According to an Intersector Coordination group situation report, rape survivors among Rohingya Muslims have not received adequate clinical treatment for harms and diseases they may now carry.

There is also a lack of preventative and diagnostic services for blood-borne diseases like HIV and tuberculosis. The World Health Organization found in 2017 that, though both Bangladesh and Myanmar had comparatively low rates of HIV cases, Rakhine state in 2015 had an exceptionally large number in comparison to the rest of Myanmar. This, paired with the fact that Myanmar armed forces raped a large number of women and girls, illustrates a need for more thorough diagnostic procedures for blood-borne and sexually transmitted diseases.

Around 42,000 pregnant women and 72,000 lactating mothers require quality care assistance, as of October 22, 2018. Around 3,000 of those women had entered health facilities to receive treatment for their symptoms of malnourishment.

Medical Advancements and Humanitarian Aid

While refugees have limited access to health care, medical advancements have occurred to address as many of these refugees’ needs as possible. The World Health Organization reported on March 18, 2019, that a new software known as Go.Data will now allow for more efficient investigations into disease outbreaks, “including field data collection, contact tracing and visualization of disease chains of transmission.” On February 28, 2018, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre donated $2 million to the Sadar District Hospital in Cox’s Bazar. This will help strengthen the medical facility in the region of Bangladesh that includes a dense population of Rohingya refugees.

One more great stride in improving the health of the Rohingya Muslims: In the year following the August 2017 mass migration,  155 new health posts emerged, supplying for around 7,700 individuals per location. This could not have been possible without the partnership of the Bangladesh government, the World Health Organization and other groups supporting the rights of the Rohingya.

Continued support for and increased awareness of the persisting struggles of the Rohingya Muslims will do incredible things in ensuring improvement to their quality of life.

– Fatemeh-Zahra Yarali
Photo: Flickr

Health Care in Ghana

The West African nation of Ghana is a vibrant country filled with natural beauty and rich culture. However, like many of its neighbors in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana suffers from a high poverty rate and lack of access to adequate health care. In fact, according to the Ghana Statistical Service, 23 percent of the total population lives in poverty and approximately 2.4 million Ghanaians are living in “extreme poverty.” That being said, many organizations and groups — both national and global — are working to improve health care in Ghana.

Malaria in Ghana

A disease transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes, malaria is a common concern throughout much of West Africa, including Ghana where it is the number one cause of death. In fact, according to the WHO’s most recent World Malaria Report, nearly 4.4 million confirmed malaria cases were reported in Ghana in 2018 — accounting for approximately 15 percent of the country’s total population.

All that in mind, many NGOs, as well as international government leaders, have taken up the mantle to eliminate malaria in Ghana. This includes leadership from the United States under the President’s Malaria Initiative or PMI which lays out comprehensive plans for Ghana to achieve its goal of successfully combating malaria.

With a proposed FY 2019 budget of $26 million, the PMI will ramp up its malaria control interventions including the distribution of vital commodities to the most at-risk citizens. For instance, the PMI aims to ensure that intermittent preventative treatment of pregnant women (IPTp) is more readily accessible for Ghanaian women. Progress has been made, too, as net use of IPTp by pregnant Ghanaian women has risen from 43 percent to 50 percent since 2016. This is just one example of the many ways in which PMI is positively contributing to the reduction and elimination of malaria in Ghana.

National Health Care System

National leaders are also doing their part to positively impact health care in Ghana. In 2003, the government made a huge step toward universal health coverage for its citizens by launching the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). As of 2017, the percentage of the population enrolled in the scheme declined to 35 percent from 41 percent two years prior. However, 73 percent of those enrolled renewed their membership and “persons below the age of 18 years and the informal sector workers had significantly higher numbers of enrolment than any other member group,” according to the Global Health Research and Policy.

It is difficult to truly understand Ghana’s health issues without considering firsthand perspectives. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Dr. Enoch Darko, an emergency medicine physician who graduated from the University of Ghana Medical School, commented on some of the health issues that have plagued Ghana in recent decades. “A lot of problems that most third world countries, including Ghana, deal with are parasitic diseases such as malaria and gastroenteritis. Though health issues like diabetes and hypertension still remain in countries around the world, and even the United States, the difference is that some diseases that have been eradicated in Western countries still remain in countries like Ghana,” Darko said. “Many people in Ghana simply do not see a doctor for routine checkups like in the United States. Rather, most people will only go to see a doctor when they are feeling sick. As a result, lesser symptoms may go unchecked, thus contributing to the prevalence and spread of disease and infection. Combined with the fact that many Ghanaians in rural communities may not have sufficient money to afford treatment or medicine, this becomes a cycle for poor or sick Ghanaians.”

That said, it is hoped that with continued support from international players as well as government intervention, the country can continue to make strides in addressing health care for its citizens.

Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr