Tuberculosis in the Congo
At the beginning of the 1990s through the early 2000s, the contraction and subsequent testing for HIV increased significantly in Africa. Within this time period, the World Health Organization (WHO) discovered that nearly 85% of Africans were HIV-positive. More recently, HIV numbers in Africa have reduced with a 38% drop in eastern and southern Africa since 2010. While Africa is getting a handle on HIV, tuberculosis is prevalent. It affects the entire African continent, but cases of tuberculosis in the Congo are the most significant.

Tuberculosis hit African nations forcefully, debilitating the economy, altering sociality and increasing mortality rates. In 2016, estimates determined that 417,000 Africans died due to the disease. This number constituted 25% of all tuberculosis cases present in the world at the time. Of the African deaths in 2016, 321 of them occurred in the DRC, which had one of the highest rates of TB in all of Africa during that time.

Although many have worked to combat TB and HIV within the DRC, the country is still suffering from preventable diseases. With internet access alone, individuals may support groups and companies who are already battling tuberculosis in the Congo and globally.

Important Organizations

The Global Fund is a group that has combated drug-resistant TB through “antimicrobial-resistant superbugs.”  Over the last 20 years, funding to find a cure for this type of tuberculosis has treated and saved 5 million people. Yet, its founder stated that “with more funding triple that number could have been saved.” He advised all to support The Global Fund by donating to its research on drug-resistant TB and by signing petitions to raise awareness.

Starting in 2011, the Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and USAID funded the Democratic Republic of Congo-Integrated Health Project (DRC – CIH) to educate people about the symptoms of tuberculosis in the Congo. This program also prepared healthcare professionals in ways to quickly identify and treat TB. Because of the efforts of this program, the detection rate for TB has raised from 12% to 86%. This program still needs support today, as funding is low and publicity has been scarce. Raising one’s voice in support of such a cause will only benefit the program and save more lives. Ciza Silva Mukabaha, a supporter of the MSH and the DRC – CIH called this program a “starting point” for change. He stated that, with more support from others, change is inevitable.

How to End Tuberculosis in the Congo

The End Tuberculosis Now Act recently entered Congress. Individuals in the United States can email or call their representatives and advocate to provide U.S.-government aid to combat multidrug-resistant TB and “support the fight to end tuberculosis” everywhere.

People can also aid the situation by staying informed and supporting local groups who are raising funds to combat TB. In 2018, healthcare worker Virginia Benhard started a personal fundraiser to fight tuberculosis in the Congo. She told The Borgen Project that the cause originally attracted her because of her visit to the Congo as a healthcare worker. She realized that community members consuming contaminated milk and meat caused them to contract tuberculosis. Since TB is an airborne illness, those who had tuberculosis would process the meats and then sell them, causing the infection rates to increase dramatically. Virginia “saw a need and responded,” and through local support she was able to raise over $1,000. She donated the proceeds for the building of a milk pasteurization factory in Kinshasa as well as a meat processing factory.

While this disease still rages on, there is much that individuals can do to help. One can sign a petition, donate, speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves and help those who cannot help themselves. Through small and simple acts, tuberculosis in the Congo should decrease.

Alexis LeBaron
Photo: Flickr

HIV in South Africa

With the end of apartheid, South Africa became the epi-center of the AIDS epidemic due to an influx of migrants. Despite the rapid rise of HIV infections and AIDS deaths in Africa in the 1980s, the response to HIV in South Africa was slow. This was a result of the narrative created about the disease in the Global North that connected the spread of the virus to the behaviors of injection drug users and gay men. Another factor was that the spread of the disease in Africa looked incredibly different as more than half of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are women.

When HIV and AIDS started having a widespread impact on South African society and communities, President Mbeki followed the arguments of Peter Duesberg, who stated that HIV could not be the cause of AIDS and was opposed to Western medical approaches to solving the epidemic. In 2003, the health minister, Tshabalala-Msimang advocated for nutritional solutions to alleviating HIV in South Africa and was notoriously known as “Dr. Beetroot”. Through Mbeki’s reasoning, continuous efforts from other countries to offer help for AIDS were declined and civil society groups raised grave concerns over the need for urgent action. One of the biggest groups to raise concerns and have the greatest impact in the region was the Treatment Action Campaign.

About the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC)

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) was founded in 1998 as a tripartite alliance between the AIDS Law Project and COSATU, a key organization that fought apartheid in the 1980s. TAC was formed as a response to HIV in South Africa due to the lack of urgency that the government and the medical industry had in responding to the virus.

The transformative and charismatic Zackie Achmat, a previous gay rights activist who was diagnosed in 1990, initially led the organization.

TAC was a human rights-based organization focused on fighting racial discrimination and economic exploitation. This group was not only technical, but also political in their arguments as they utilized justifications for actions through moral, scientific, and economic reasoning. The TAC also developed partnerships with activist groups such as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) and ACT UP, which have aided training “treatment literacy” and initiated a wider peer education network.

In addition, TAC formed partnerships between elites, academics, professionals, and press, but ultimately served to strengthen the effort for the poor to become advocates for themselves. Through the framework TAC developed and their understanding of the disease, TAC used their model for social mobilization, advocacy, legal action, and education. 

TAC’s First Action

TAC’s first action was to argue for the right to access medical resources – namely antiretrovirals (ARVs). TAC found inherent fault with the World Trade Organization’s 1995 TRIPS agreement, which legally protected intellectual property and patents.

 In 1998, TAC demanded that the South African government introduce the program “Prevent Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission” (PMTCT). The social movement around advocacy for PMTCT was predominantly made up of poor black women living with HIV in South Africa. The issue was framed as a moral issue: that the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the patent holder of AZT, was profiteering off the sale of the drug. TAC demanded a price reduction and in framing it as a moral issue with reference to the South African constitution, the organization succeeded in its demand for legal action.

Key Tool to Success

A key tool for TAC’s success was its use of legal resources and advocacy. Not only did TAC make legal demands of the South African government, but they collaborated with progressive lawyers, scientists, and researchers to develop plans and alternative policy proposals. The organization went beyond simply advocating for the poor. They also based policy on the entitlement of rights to the individual. TAC has taken successful mitigation measures on five occasions; in 2001-02, for a national program for PMTCT; in 2004, for implementation of ARV roll-out; and in 2006-07, for access to ARVs for prisoners in Westville and KwaZulu Natal province, for ongoing litigation to challenge the profiteering of pharmaceutical companies and for denouncing alternative treatment to defend the Medicines Act. These cases were supported by not only the efforts of lawyers but the actions of TAC which involved marches, media campaigns, legal education, and social mobilization.

These actions were not possible only as a result of the advocacy and partnerships formed by the TAC, but also the structures in which the group functioned. Article 27 of the South African constitution, which took effect in 1997, includes the right to access medical services, reproductive health care, and emergency medical treatment. Through these efforts, TAC has helped advocate for an improved response to HIV in South Africa, a process that must continue to further combat the spread of the virus.

Danielle Barnes
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Rwanda
Rwanda, the small landlocked state with a population of 12.5 million people, has made tremendous strides in the years following the infamous 1994 Rwandan genocide. The fertile and hilly state borders the much larger and wealthier Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi. Rwanda is currently undergoing a few initiatives that the National Strategies for Transformation plan outlines. For example, Rwanda is presently working towards achieving Middle-Income Country status by 2035 and High-Income Country status by 2050. Among many improvements, many widely consider universal healthcare in Rwanda to be among the highest quality in Africa and the state’s greatest achievement.

Structure of Healthcare in Rwanda

Healthcare in Rwanda includes designed subsidies and a tiered system for users based on socioeconomic status. From 2003 to 2013, healthcare coverage in Rwanda has jumped tenfold, from less than 7% to nearly 74%. The Rwandan system of governance enables this level of widespread coverage. At the district level, funding and healthcare are decentralized to afford specific programs’ autonomy, depending on the needs of individual communities. Policy formulation comes from the central government while districts plan and coordinate public services delivery. In 2005, Rwanda launched a performance-based incentive program, which rewards community healthcare cooperatives based on factors such as women delivering at facilities and children receiving full rounds of immunizations.

Rwanda’s innovative healthcare system does not come without challenges. Nearly 85% of the population seeks health services from centers. Due to such wide use, it often takes long periods of time for health centers to receive reimbursement from the federal government for services rendered.

Improvements in Healthcare Access and Vaccinations

The rate at which Rwandans visit the doctor has also drastically increased. In 1999, Rwandans reportedly visited the doctor every four years. Today, most Rwandans visit the doctor twice a year. In addition, vaccination rates have drastically increased for Rwandans. Over 97% of infants receive vaccinations against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenza Type B, polio, measles, rubella, pneumococcus and rotavirus.

Part of the improved healthcare in Rwanda is the state’s fight against cancer. The most common cause of cancer in Africa is human papillomavirus-related cervical cancer. As part of Rwanda’s goal of eliminating cervical cancer by 2020, over 97% of all girls ages 11 to 15 receive vaccinations for HPV. Rwanda is currently developing a National Cancer Control Plan and data registry to help track and combat the spread of cancer. Finally, to improve testing for cancerous markers, the government built the Nucleic Acid Lab as part of the biomedical center in Kigali.

Growing Pains

Despite vast improvements, the country still has a lot to do in regard to healthcare in Rwanda. Over the past two decades, Rwandan healthcare has steadily closed the gap in developed states, such as France and the United States. Life expectancy for Rwandans at birth is 66 and 70 years for males and females respectively.

In France and the United States, life expectancy at birth is nearly 15 years more for both males and females. As a percent of GDP (7.5), Rwanda spends nearly 10% less per year on healthcare than the United States and 4% less than France. Malnutrition is rampant in children; 44.2% of all Rwandan children are classified as malnourished. From 2008 to 2010, anemia levels saw large increases. While family planning is more prevalent, access to contraception is not widely, or at all available, in most parts of the country. Despite the decline of child mortality rates, newborn deaths account for 39% of all child deaths.

Moving Forward

Along with the Rwandan state government, organizations such as Partners in Health (PIH) have helped make vast improvements to healthcare in Rwanda. Locally known as Inshuti Mu Buzima, PIH brings healthcare to over 860,000 Rwandans via three hospitals. The crown jewel of PIH is its Butaro District Hospital, which serves a region in Rwanda that previously did not have a hospital. Today, the hospital is well-known for its medical education and training for all of East Africa.

As widespread access to healthcare continues to spread and immunization efforts increase, healthcare in Rwanda has the potential to lead the way for additional state-wide improvements. Through such efforts, Rwanda’s target goal of Middle-Income Country status by 2035 is creeping further into reach.

Max Lang
Photo: Flickr

Vaccinations in Yemen
Situated in the Middle East, the Republic of Yemen is the second-largest sovereign state in the Arabian peninsula. Being in the clutches of a civil war since 2015, Yemen stands in the second-lowest position for life expectancy in the Middle East with an average life expectancy of 65.31 years. Research has shown that the civil war also had a significant impact on the immunization or vaccination efforts to protect the children of the nation from curable diseases like cholera and measles. Here are five facts about vaccination in Yemen.

5 Facts About Vaccination in Yemen

  1. Cholera Outbreak: Experts consider Yemen’s cholera outbreak, which started in 2016, to be the largest epidemic to ever occur in recorded epidemic history. As of 2018, Yemen reported 1.2 million cases of cholera, and 58 percent of the resulting deaths were of children. The ongoing civil war and the fact that only half the country’s population has access to clean water and sanitation has made it increasingly challenging to tackle the spread of the disease effectively. Organizations like WHO and UNICEF have made severe efforts in distributing Oral Cholera Vaccines (OCV), funding to supply clean water to the citizens and establishing health centers to combat the outbreak. Several randomized trials showed the efficacy of the distributed OCVs to be nearly 76 percent.
  2. Vaccination Rate: Even though vaccines have a proven rate of efficacy, the immense pressure that health care in Yemen experienced suddenly due to large outbreaks decreased the effectiveness with which it could mobilize its immunization efforts. According to the official country estimates of 2018, 80 percent of Yemen’s population received DTP3 vaccination coverage. However, Yemen did not distribute Oral Cholera Vaccines widely until 16 months after the cholera outbreak. This led to a rapid spread of cholera in the nation.
  3. Vaccine Storage Facilities: Many often overlook a country’s vaccine storage capacity. Yemen’s lack of proper facilities and shortage of electricity made it difficult to safely store the vaccines. UNICEF and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia worked together to provide solar refrigerators to several health care centers to facilitate safer and more reliable vaccinations in Yemen. Health care workers say that solar refrigerators enable them to store the vaccines for one month. This reduces material waste and optimizes vaccine distribution.
  4. Impact of War: The ongoing civil war has put Yemen in a vulnerable position when it comes to the re-emergence of preventable disease outbreaks. Research has shown that countries with conflicts are more susceptible to disease outbreaks. However, these are easily preventable with vaccines. In Yemen, airstrikes destroyed many hospital centers, which made health care more inaccessible to its citizens. The civil war disrupted the stable vaccination rate in Yemen, which was at 70 to 80 percent, falling to 54 percent in 2015 at the time that the war broke out.
  5. Humanitarian Efforts of International Organizations:  In war-torn countries with feeble financial stability, humanitarian efforts play a significant role in disease control. The World Health Organization (WHO) contributed 414 health facilities and 406 mobile health teams to combat the cholera outbreak and facilitate vaccination in Yemen. Meanwhile, UNICEF made substantial efforts to provide safe drinking water to 1 million residents of Yemen. It also contributed medical equipment to remote parts of the country with the help of local leaders.

Yemen has clearly faced challenges in vaccinating its citizens in recent years due to civil war and conflict. Hopefully, with continued aid from UNICEF, the WHO and other countries like Saudi Arabia, vaccination in Yemen will improve.

– Reshma Beesetty
Photo: Flickr

Recognized as one of the top-selling artists in history, Sir Elton John has continued to have an enormous impact on the music industry and pop culture. However, his influence goes beyond music. Over the years, John has used his platform to raise awareness for several charitable organizations. Here is a glimpse of Elton John’s impact through his efforts with five organizations.

Elton John’s Involvement

  1. Elton John AIDS Foundation – Elton John founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) in the U.S. in 1992 and a separate entity in the U.K. in 1993. This organization aims to fund programs that alleviate the financial, emotional and physical pain caused by HIV/AIDS. EJAF fights to raise awareness, educate, treat and prevent HIV/AIDS. In 2018, it enabled 235,000 adolescents to receive HIV testing and connected more than 68,000 patients to treatment programs. Since 2010, the organization has reached and over 11.5 million people and has raised $125 million to support similar programs around the globe.
  2. Riders for Health – In 2008, Elton John donated 120 motorcycles to healthcare workers in Lesotho. The bikes enable doctors and nurses to reach patients in remote areas of Lesotho, where many suffer from HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Lesotho has the second highest number of individuals infected by HIV, and the second highest number of cases in tuberculosis.  Additionally, almost 73 percent of patients infected with tuberculosis are simultaneously infected with HIV. John made the donation in partnership with the Lesotho Ministry of Health and Riders for Health. Founded in 1996, Riders for Health is an international nonprofit dedicated to increasing accessibility and efficiency of healthcare in Africa. The organization manages motorcycles, ambulances and other vehicles that provide healthcare to seven countries in Africa.
  3. Breast Cancer Research Foundation – Through his performances and donations, Elton John has supported the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) for over 15 years. BCRF provides essential funding to cancer research worldwide and is the highest-rated breast cancer organization in the U.S. At the NYC Hot Pink Party in 2016, BCRF honored John with a research grant in his name due to his dedication to the organization. He capped off the night with a performance. This event alone raised over $6.8 million for breast cancer research.
  4. Starkey Hearing Foundation – In 2012, Elton John and spouse David Furnish joined the Starkey Hearing Foundation on a trip to Manila to help fit more than 400 children and adults with hearing aids. The Starkey Hearing Foundation is committed to raising awareness, education and protection of hearing care. The organization provides more than 100,000 hearing aids annually and has reached over 100 countries. Additionally, John has previously preformed at the So the World May Hear Awards Gala to raise funds and awareness for hearing accessibility.
  5. The Elton John Sports Fund – Elton John’s impact is also present through the Elton John Sports Fund. Rocket Sports started the Elton John Sports Fund in 2014 in partnership with SportsAid. This partnership supports young athletes by providing money to travel, to get necessary equipment and to decrease the overall financial strains of a given sport. The recipients of the Elton John Sports Fund are promising athletes who come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and sports interests.

Throughout his career, Elton John has championed numerous causes, earning him awards such as the Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian of the Year Award in 2017 and the BAMBI Award in 2004. John has performed at countless benefit concerts, raising awareness for organizations that range from rainforest conservation to supporting first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Elton John has made a lasting impact on the world, using his star-studded platform for good.

Megan McKeough

Photo: Flickr

Tackling Poverty AlleviationDespite over 700 million people living in extreme poverty, poverty alleviation strategies recently reduced those rates. Poverty is multidimensional, meaning there are more aspects that one should consider than low income and resource shortages. Poverty includes hunger, malnutrition, violence, lack of human rights and little to no health care. According to Our World in Data, the fast rate in economic growth and political support for improved living standards have improved the state of poverty alleviation in various countries. Socio-economic advancement stems from improved access to opportunities where the four common areas of focus are food, education, employment and security. Here are three parts of the world tackling poverty alleviation.

China

China has made considerable progress in tackling poverty alleviation by bringing citizens out of traditional rural lifestyles. In 2018, around 41 percent of China’s rural population was living in impoverished countrysides. In 2013, China set policies to promote socio-economic development. By registering individuals into a database, China implemented rapid strategies and programs to benefit the entire nation. Meanwhile, Beijing launched an anti-poverty campaign to bring these citizens into more urban locations.

Committing to development with infrastructure and improving tourism, the government helped villagers tremendously. The government strengthened financial support by providing proper funding for health, education, industrial development and agricultural modernization and better access to the internet. Specifically, the 2007 health reform addressed poverty alleviation by providing health care centers for men and women and improving the quality of these centers.

Additionally, the Guizhou Province gave millions of dollars to poor students in 2015 to provide meals to children during the day. Feeding the children increases confidence and improves performance in the classroom. China also built schools in rural and mountain areas to accommodate male and female students. Educating the young means future generations should be able to rise out of poverty as well.

Poverty alleviation also occurs from supporting livestock and crop production in regard to trade partners. Improving farming practices also decreases pollution throughout the country. The Ministry of Agriculture has fully invested in increasing sustainability within agricultural and technological development.

Africa

Government resources in Africa have been vital to the 13 percent poverty alleviation from 1990 to 2015. To combat corruption, Uganda created an anti-corruption action plan through the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity. Tanzania even followed these steps with a National Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan. Other programs directed toward social welfare have also contributed to economic growth. By providing conditional cash-transfers, African citizens have more financial security. Promoting governmental transparency through the 2003 Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) has protected citizens from violence at a political level.

Further, education for youngsters, with a target for girls and women, have slowed economic poverty; gender inequalities have traditionally set back girls and women in society. The Africa Educational Trust (AET) program focuses on self-empowerment and providing education for all, and is breaking the glass ceiling for African women. Improving inclusivity within communities by removing these women and girls from traditional societal roles inevitably protects from violence. Not only do women get the opportunity to progress in society, but fertility and child mortality rates decline through improved prenatal nutrition.

Finally, agricultural investments through governmental incentives have enhanced food production. South Africa’s Expanded Public Works Program (EPWP) launched in 2004 with the aim of expanding job and industrialization practices. Access to clean water through sanitation reforms has drastically improved health status throughout the continent. In Nigeria, the Third National Urban Water Sector Reform Project tackles the water-scarcity issue by investing in water treatment, disease prevention and enhanced water distribution strategies.

El Salvador

El Salvador stands out as one of the more impoverished countries in Latin America. However, in 2013, the poverty rate dropped from 40 percent to 28.9 percent. The government transformed the national debt by addressing historical conflicts that damaged the economy. Tensions between the government and gang warfare affected 16 percent of the country’s annual GDP. Addressing gang violence through the Youth Employability and Opportunities initiative gives children a future involving better education without the pressure of joining a gang to survive.

The Civil War from 1980-1992 also put an enormous strain on the country’s safety. The Safe El Salvador plan addresses poverty alleviation by strengthening community bonds.

Additionally, health care and job investments have aided the country’s endeavors of poverty alleviation. The Strengthening Public Health Care System project invested in health services that have declined mortality rates and have improved disease prevention. Further, the El Salvador government partnered with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in 2014 to focus on the youth by providing infrastructure and skills to stabilize the economy.

The Social Protection Universal System in 2014 assisted in the protection of the country’s citizens regarding human rights. Another danger to the country is natural disasters, which take a massive toll on the environment and safety of the large population. The government created the El Salvador Disaster Risk Management program to prepare for emergencies such as earthquakes and tropical storms, but it also addressed the recovery process after they hit.

Despite slower progress in some regions of the world, these three parts of the world are continuing to make tackling poverty alleviation a main focus. Investing in the wellbeing of people is a common practice in maintaining human dignity and saving countless lives every day. By establishing attainable goals and understanding the nature of poverty, countries can make significant changes for the future of the globe.

Sydney Stokes
Photo: Pixabay

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

 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

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