Global Snakebite StrategyThe World Health Organization (WHO) members gather annually at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. This year’s diverse topics included snakebites.

The WHO is not always known for speedy results, due to the massive, worldly scale that this organization deals with. But snakebites was a topic that was quick to strike back. Just one year after the World Health Assembly urged resolution to this issue, WHO has launched a new strategy for snakebites and the venoms that cause potentially deadly harm to its victims.

Symptoms of Snakebites

According to the WHO, snakes bite an estimated 5.4 million people around the world each year. Of those estimated, approximately 138,000 people die each year. This new strategy looks to cut 50 percent of snakebite deaths and disability by the year 2030.

Snakebites are a common occurrence in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This is a commonly neglected public health issue, especially in impoverished areas of all countries listed above. The only known validated treatment for a snakebite is passive immunotherapy with the specific and effective animal-derived antivenom. These antivenoms are not always accessible, nor readily available in developing areas of these countries.

When a venomous snake bites, the victim has less than half an hour to receive the antivenom, without serious consequences. Serious adverse effects include swelling, pain, and bruising around the bite area, numbness, elevated heart rate, constricted airway, blurred vision, nausea, diarrhea, convulsions, fainting, tissue necrosis, and death. All of these listed symptoms can be from the bite of a venomous snake.

The Global Snakebite Initiative

The global snakebite strategy, or the Global Snakebite Initiative lead by the World Health Organization sets a multicomponent strategy in place in order to improve the availability of safe and effective antivenoms at a global level. The initiative is based on four key steps needed in order to improve these conditions caused by venomous snakes, according to the WHO.

  1. Preparing validated collections of specific venom pools from the most medically dangerous snakes in high-risk regions of the world.
  2. Strengthening the capacity of national antivenom manufacturing and quality control laboratories, and establishing new facilities in developing countries through technology transfer.
  3. Getting established laboratories to generate antivenoms for various regions of the world.
  4. Getting government and relevant health organizations to give snakebite envenoming recognition within national and international public health policy frameworks.

According to the WHO, there should also be actions to improve health information systems, accessibility of antivenoms, proper training of medical and nursing staff, and community-based education. This multicomponent strategy would involve stakeholders on many different levels and would improve antivenom availability globally.

This global snakebite strategy targets countries and communities that are heavily affected by snakebites. The program will work with the affected communities to ensure that through their health systems, safe and effective treatments will be offered to all community members. Complete cooperation, collaboration, and partnership between all levels of government and health organizations will accomplish this.

A Solid Foundation

A 28-member panel of global experts in relations with WHO regional offices, science and research communities, health foundations, advocacy groups and stakeholders developed this strategy. Viewing this issue at a global level improves community education and first response. This strategy also commits to engaging communities in order to achieve these goals.

WHO will work with specific countries to strengthen health systems geared towards improving health and well-being and reducing inequity for community members. The main objective for this global snakebite strategy is to ensure accessible, affordable, and effective treatments using the antivenoms.  A streamlined method of supplying and distributing of antivenoms will be prioritized. Along with all of these steps, WHO will encourage research on new treatments, diagnostics, and health device technology that can improve the treatment outcomes and make for quicker recovery times.

WHO’s global snakebite strategy has implemented multiple factors in order to achieve the goals set forth. Commitment from around the world including health, government, and scientific organizations alike, will need to work together through various aspects for the Global Snakebite Initiative to be effective immediately. Following the steps laid out by the WHO, paralyzation and deaths caused by snake envenoming can be reduced in high-risk countries, and ensure its community members safe, efficient, and effective treatments.

– Quinn McClurg
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Overpopulation in Asia
Asia is home to more than 50 percent of the people living around the globe. It is the world’s largest and most diverse continent and occupies more than four-fifths of the Eurasian landmass. The majority of Asia’s 49 countries have populations of between 10 and 100 million. Here are the top 10 facts about overpopulation in Asia.

Top 10 Facts About Overpopulation in Asia

  1. Asia is the largest continent in the world and 60 percent of the world’s current population inhabits it. It has the highest rate of growth with its population increasing four times in the 20th century.
  2. Asia constitutes roughly one-third of the world’s land area and is home to about three-fifths of its population. The continent includes the two most populous countries, China (1.43 billion) and India (1.35 billion), which together account for nearly two-fifths of all people around the world. Some of the other overpopulated countries in Asia include Indonesia (2.64 billion), Pakistan (1.97 billion), Japan ( 1.27 billion), Vietnam (96.4 million) and Turkey (81.9 million).
  3. Asia’s population is expected to grow by 750 million to reach 5.2 billion by 2050. In addition to this, India may surpass China as the world’s most populous country, increasing to 1.7 billion people from the current 1.35 billion. India might record the largest population increase of any single country over the next 33 years.
  4. More than half of all people around the globe (3.97 billion) live in just seven countries, according to a U.N. estimate and four of these countries are in Asia. Other than India and China, Asian countries like Pakistan and Indonesia have large populations too.
  5. South Asia has the highest prevalence of overcrowding in the developing world. A third of its urban population resides in houses that lack sufficient living areas. South East Asia follows with over a quarter of the urban population living in overcrowded housing. Asia’s developing cities are focussed on building freeways and skyscrapers which do not leave enough residential space and contributes to overcrowding in the continent.
  6. The Asia Pacific region is urbanizing rapidly which brings enormous challenges to landscapes and lifestyles. Urbanization causes inequalities between the rich and poor and prompts the poor to live in slums and hinders economic growth. According to the World Bank, inadequate infrastructure, as well as a failure to deal with environmental issues like pollution and water shortages causes people to struggle with congestion pressures and leads to a failure of a country’s economy.
  7. Urbanization in cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangkok and Jakarta also demonstrate a lack of infrastructure. People migrate to cities in search of better jobs because rural areas do not offer them. However, these individuals have to move to informal settlements like slums due to a lack of adequate living spaces. These places usually lack proper water supply, electricity, sanitation and transportation and make living conditions difficult.
  8. There is a significant relationship between overpopulation and medicine. Due to the advancement in medicine, mortality rates have gone down which has led to a population explosion. In addition, there is a lack of food supply which causes deficiency diseases and starvation in overcrowded areas.
  9. The dramatic growth in the population of Asia is the result of an increase in the number of people surviving the reproductive age. Population growth accompanies changes in fertility rates due to better education about birth control. According to the World Bank, the aging population and low fertility rates are to blame for the increase in population as 36 percent of the world’s population over 65 currently live in East Asia. The World Bank projects that the 211 million people living in East Asia will rise over time.
  10. Many countries in Asia have relied on their young population, however, with changing demographics, they may lose around 15 percent of their working-age population by 2040. Higher incomes and better education have not only led to longer life expectancy and lower fertility rates but have also caused families to move and changed social values.

Overall, overpopulation in Asia is rapidly on the rise and is a cause for concern. It has a serious impact on the socio-economic fabric of this region and can lead to issues like instability of economy and poverty.

– Isha Akshita Mahajan
Photo: Flickr

Epilepsy Treatment in Developing CountriesAround 50 million people experience recurrent and unprovoked seizures globally. People living with this condition have many triggers for these seizures such as psychological stress, missed medication and dehydration. Half of those living with the disease also have additional physical or psychiatric conditions.

While the physical toll of epilepsy is difficult to manage, the emotional toll is equivalently burdensome. In many countries, a large stigma surrounds patients as people perceive those with the disease as insane, untreatable and contagious. As a result, epilepsy affects people’s education, marriage and employment opportunities. The exclusion of epilepsy patients from society can even lead to increased mental health issues and delay access to proper healthcare treatments.

Epilepsy is a treatable condition if people have access to anti-seizure medication. However, roughly 80 percent of all cases are found in low or middle-income countries. Three-quarters of epilepsy patients living in low-income countries do not have access to life-saving treatment. This fact has sparked a movement in global organizations to raise more awareness about the issue of epilepsy treatment in developing countries.

Three Organizations Raising Awareness about Epilepsy Globally:

World Health Organization (WHO)

Up to 70 percent of people living with epilepsy could become seizure-free with access to treatment that costs 5 dollars per person. In order to address this treatment gap, epilepsy awareness must be prioritized in many countries. The WHO suggests that by labeling epilepsy as a public health priority the stigma surrounding the disease can be reduced. The organization believes that preventing acquired forms of epilepsy and investing in better health and social care systems can truly make a difference in alleviating millions.

Since 2012, the WHO has led a program centered around reducing the epilepsy treatment gap. The projects were implemented in Ghana, Mozambique, Myanmar and Vietnam, and utilized a community-based model to bring early detection and treatment closer to patients. Over time, the program yielded some major results in each of the countries it assisted.

Within four years, coverage for epilepsy increased from 15 to 38 percent in Ghana. The treatment gap for 460,000 people living with epilepsy in Vietnam decreased by 38 percent in certain regions. In Myanmar, over 2,000 health care providers were trained to diagnose and treat epilepsy, and around 5,000 community stigma awareness sessions were held. Continued efforts like the ones found in these countries can help spread treatment to regions of the world that need it most.

 

International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE)

The ILAE is another organization raising awareness around epilepsy treatment. The organization consists of health care professionals and scientists who help fund global research for treatment and potential cures to epilepsy. The major goals of the League are to spread knowledge about epilepsy, promote research, and improve services for patients globally.

With six different regions, the ILAE finds various ways to reach its goals of promoting epilepsy awareness, research and access to care globally. For example, the African region will conduct the 4th African Epilepsy Congress in Uganda to share new developments in epilepsy research in August 2019. These types of Congresses are held once a year in certain regions to continue spreading new information effectively.

The ILAE regularly publishes journals to show research findings and breakthroughs in epilepsy treatments and cures. The organization also provides information to patients themselves on topics such as psychological treatments, diet therapies and information for caretakers. With so many resources available, the ILAE has done a major service by spreading information about epilepsy treatment in developing countries.

 

International Bureau for Epilepsy (IBE)

The IBE focuses primarily on improving the social conditions and quality of life for people living with epilepsy. By addressing issues such as education, employment and driver’s license restrictions, this organization helps create environments free of detrimental stigmas. The IBE’s social improvement programs, designed for people with epilepsy and their families, are some of the main ways this organization impacts epilepsy awareness.

International Epilepsy Day is an example of an initiative created by this organization to promote awareness in over 120 countries. On that day, many global events are held to increase public understanding of epilepsy and new research developments that are available. In addition, the Promising Strategies program also funds initiatives improving the quality of life for people living with epilepsy. The program supports 81 projects in 37 countries and provides $300,000 in support of the projects. For example, Mongolia: Quality of Life was a program designed to improve public knowledge and reduce stigma in Mongolia after the number of epilepsy cases increased by 10 percent in 2004. Soon after the program started in 2008, the quality of life in Mongolia for people with epilepsy increased and better services were given to those in need.

These three organizations often collaborate to create new programs to spread information about epilepsy treatment in developing countries. By raising awareness of the condition and providing better healthcare services, the efforts of these organizations have created a more inclusive and helpful environment for those living with epilepsy in countries around the world.

– Sydney Blakeney
Photo: Flickr

Energy for GrowthEnergy for Growth Hub is a nonprofit that began last year that seeks to bring power to developing economies. The organization believes that one way to eradicate world poverty is through providing affordable access to electricity in order to increase economic development, focusing on the regions of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Energy for Growth Hub believes helping developing economies become strong will increase jobs, wealth and overall wellbeing, all of which are scarce when the economy is weak and lacking basic necessities, such as electricity.

Energy for Growth Hub’s Purpose

According to their site, Energy for Growth means “affordable reliable energy” to power all manner of businesses. The lack of energy in developing countries holds back the inhabitants from prosperity. It’s difficult for an economy to prosper when a hospital or school can’t be powered in order to use its equipment because it doesn’t have access to electricity.

It’s hard for those in first world countries to imagine a country where less than fifty percent of a population has access to electricity. In Chad, for example, fewer than 10 percent of residents in the sub-Saharan country had access to electricity in 2016. Chad is one area in sub-Saharan Africa that would be positively affected by widespread electricity.

Todd Moss, Executive Director of Energy for Growth and previous the chief operating officer at the Center for Global Development, believes the future of countries like Chad is tied to widespread electricity and not just electricity for use in households but also for businesses, farms, hospitals and schools.

Energy and Jobs

Job creation is just one positive result of powering a country that lacks affordable and widespread electricity. The nonprofit states that energy is the foundation with which modern economies thrive. Without electricity, there wouldn’t be power in homes, hospitals or schools. There wouldn’t be computers or medical equipment or even phone lines in order to call for emergencies. Vehicles would be sparse, as many gas-powered vehicles depend on a functioning battery to operate.

Batteries also power public transportation and improve agricultural practices, such as utilizing a basic farm tractor or timed irrigation equipment. The nonprofit believes all industries and energy sectors require or can benefit from electricity. In each of those industries, there are possibilities of employment. Power is the foundation of development.

Grid Modernization

Without a functional electrical grid, it would be difficult for a developing country to thrive. Energy for Growth Hub is interested in both off-grid and on-grid living. The nonprofit’s main focus is not on household energy, as most nonprofits. It focuses on reliability, cost, large-scale energy operations and working with the available resources of each country, such as untapped coal. Though the nonprofit believes sustainability is a wiser choice long-term, Energy for Growth Hub understands some countries could utilize cheaper solutions rather than the cleaner and more expensive counterparts, such as wind and solar power.

Focusing on households leads to small solutions, whereas a large-scale approach has a spillover effect since the grid will also move towards households. A strong economy, at its most basic level, has some form of an electrical grid. An affordable grid that is used not only for urban but also rural residents leads to further development and reduced poverty. This is another important goal for the organization.

In 1990, only 16 percent of residents in sub-Saharan Africa had access to electricity. In 2016, the number had increased to 42 percent. The Rockefeller Foundation, Chevron, General Electric, Pritzker Innovation Fund and others have funded Energy for Growth Hub and believe in its vision of helping “developing countries achieve the high-energy future they need to become prosperous and economically competitive.”

Lucas Schmidt

Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis in Southeast AsiaTuberculosis is a bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This bacteria usually attacks the lungs, but TB can also affect any part of the body, including the kidneys, spine and brain. Tuberculosis is highly contagious and spreads through the air from person to person. It is most infectious when it is in a person’s lungs, not in their kidneys or other organs.

Southeast Asia’s Member States Goal to End TB by 2030

Worldwide, 10 million people contract TB annually, killing 1.6 million people. Tuberculosis in Southeast Asia accounts for 44 percent of cases and 50 percent of the deaths from this disease. This region only makes up a quarter of the world’s population.

In 2017, the WHO Southeast Asia Region’s Member States issued a call for action to accelerate the progress that is being made to exterminate tuberculosis around the globe. A year later in 2018, the same group released a Statement of Action to further increase these efforts.

To that end, domestic budgetary allocations have more than doubled. There has been a concerted effort in technology and medicines. The region has adopted a people-centered approach so that they can find more cases. For the first time, case finding has become a core focus, particularly in high-risk groups. Patient-centered policies are being implemented, including direct cash transfers and nutritional support for persons for tuberculosis. Governments are also including civil society organizations in decision making, and more people are joining the effort to combat TB as a result.

Further Efforts to Fight Tuberculosis in Southeast Asia

By 2020, at least 1.8 million tuberculosis-infected patients need to diagnosed and treated, 1.5 million of these should be children. Efforts are also being made to address the 500,000 people with drug-resistant TB. Overall, the plan is to ensure that 12 million people currently at risk receive preventative medicines and vaccines.

Adequate access to low-cost TB drugs via South-South cooperation is also an important policy objective. The goal is that more drugs will be produced with enhanced diagnostics so that more people can be reached.

These countries are working together to make great strides in ending tuberculosis in Southeast Asia. They are working with organizations, like WHO and USAID, to increase local advocacy and communications, to mobilize people to do their part. In Thailand, the Thailand TB Active Surveillance Network was established to strengthen the capacity to watch with outbreaks and cases throughout the region.

In addition, USAID has helped to strengthen regional-specific TB training modules, increasing infrastructure and training across the region so that more laboratories can be created and staffed.

Regional leaders have joined forces to combat tuberculosis in Southeast Asia, with the goal of ending preventable deaths. While there is still a long way to go, with the progress and action that the governments and their people are taking every day, the goal of ending tuberculosis in Southeast Asia by 2030 will be achieved.

– Michela Rahaim
Photo: Flickr

Developing Asia
Over the past 25 years, developing Asia has annually created 30 million jobs in industry and services. Job creation improves productivity, raises earnings for workers and largely reduces poverty.

The Impact of Technological Progress

Shifts in employment from sectors with low productivity and pay, typically subsistence agriculture, to sectors with higher productivity and pay in the modern industry are contributing to this process of raising wages. Productivity improvements come from technological progress within sectors, such as diverse high-yielding crops, innovative machine tools in manufacturing, information and communication technology in the service industries.

A common concern with technological progress affecting the economy is the predicted accompanying job displacement; However, recent studies invite a more optimistic prediction of productivity gains that will generate a positive feedback effect of creating more jobs than are being lost. Furthermore, industries that improve productivity with new technology will lower production costs in industries that depend on them, creating a ripple of higher demand and employment in other industries.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) supports the power of rising demand with data from 90 percent of the region’s total employment spanning 12 developing Asian economies between 2005-2015. The analysis predicts an 88 percent increase in employment, which is equal to an annual addition of 134 million jobs with rising incomes.

The ADB has also reported that jobs that necessitate cognitive and social skills and use information and communications technology have increased 2.6 percent faster than the total employment rate annually over the last decade. The wages associated with these jobs also increase faster than those of manual jobs.

Reasons For an Optimistic Outlook for Technological Progress in Developing Asia

The ADB emphasizes that most new technologies are implemented in only some aspects of a job, usually routine tasks, so that they create more time for complex tasks for workers. For instance, ATMs allow bank tellers to prioritize customer relationship management. The more obvious benefit entails the job creation to manage these new technologies.

In the last decade, 43 percent to 57 percent of jobs in India, Malaysia and the Philippines were in informational and communication technologies. The category of India’s craft and related workers is expanding to include specialized technicians who manage machines. Moreover, job sectors that would incorporate technological progress have a large capacity for growth.

Healthcare and education jobs make up 15 percent of jobs in The U.S. In lower and middle-income economies in developing Asia, healthcare and education jobs make up 3.5 to 6 percent of jobs, and business services jobs make up 1.5 to 6 percent of jobs, indicating a high potential for expansion.

Technology in the farming industry can have a positive impact on agriculture. In developed countries, waiters tend to receive the poorest wages; whereas in developing Asia, the agricultural workers receive the poorest wages. Technological progress can help farmers the most directly.

Mobile applications such as phone apps or text messages can assist farmers with tracking agricultural inputs. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have been supporting farmers in Afghanistan, Bhutan, Fiji, Laos, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Sri Lanka to implement emerging technologies.

The Necessity of Job Creation

Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KP) has suffered from instability and militancy for several decades with increasing out-migration and shrinking private industries. Since 2014, the government, in partnership with The World Bank, has recognized the demand for job creation, especially for the half its population of 30.5 million that are under the age of 30.

Turning to the opportunities of the digital revolution in 2018, the government created a program, Digital KP, that directly addressed this youth unemployment issue by preparing the younger generation for occupations in the technology sector. By supporting the youth with advancing technology, the region is on its way to stability and success.

Many educational programs are being implemented to provide foundations for learning necessary skills. Another strategy involves increasing local IT and digital businesses and attracting investment for them through tax relief programs, promoting co-working spaces and sponsoring annual tech events such as The Digital Youth Summit.

Addressing the Potential Issues

As developing Asia is expected to grow by 6 percent in 2018 and by another 5.9 percent in 2019, governments are aware of the potential challenges presented by increasing new technologies. Some businesses might not overcome the displacement of jobs.  

“ADB’s latest research shows that, on the whole, countries in Asia will fare well as new technology is introduced into the workplace, improving productivity, lowering production costs, and rising demand,” said Yasuyuki Sawada, ADB’s Chief Economist.

“To ensure that everyone can benefit from new technologies, policymakers will need to pursue education reforms that promote lifelong learning, maintain labor market flexibility, strengthen social protection systems, and reduce income inequality.”

Benefits of the ADB

The ADB offers different strategies, such as tax policies that will fight against income inequality. The same technological progress that may cause issues to workers could also foster skills, job-match and provide social protection. For the unemployed, the government can create programs that support them as they navigate the new labor market.

Developing Asia also benefits from the technological progress as it allows older workers to continue participating in the labor force past current retirement age. Artificial intelligence can either substitute or complement physically demanding tasks.

To maximize the benefits of technological progress while compensating for any losses, governments must adapt to the situation with policy changes. Technological progress can then become an optimistic gateway to reducing poverty in developing Asia.   

– Alice Lieu
Photo: Flickr

AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia
“We all deserve a quality life with HIV and without it,” declared Russian activist Maria Godlevskaya at the International AIDS Conference. Godlevskaya is a loving mother and dedicated peer counselor who has been living with HIV for 18 years. Advances in the prevention and treatment of HIV mean that the number of new HIV infections is decreasing globally. Only two regions lag behind; in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, new cases of HIV are on the rise.

The State of the AIDS Crisis

To combat the global epidemic, UNAIDS has issued “90-90-90 targets” to be reached globally by 2020. The goal is that of all of the people living with HIV, 90 percent should be aware of their status. Of these people, 90 percent should receive treatment. And of those receiving treatment, 90 percent should achieve viral suppression.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia are currently the furthest from reaching this goal. In these regions, 73 percent of people infected with HIV are aware of their status, 36 percent of those people are receiving treatment and 26 percent have achieved viral suppression.

There is no indication that the epidemic of HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia has even reached its peak. There is, however, hope. By understanding the key populations affected by the epidemic and funding prevention, testing and treatment methods, transmission can be slowed and even stopped altogether.

Advances Against AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Currently, only about three percent of HIV/AIDS funding in the region is targeted toward key vulnerable populations, including men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, and people who use intravenous drugs. The stigma against these populations often makes them invisible to the government and to the healthcare system.

About one-third of new HIV infections in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are in people who use intravenous drugs. Fortunately, strategies to reduce the risk of spreading the disease have been helping. Needle-syringe programs are an example of effective harm reduction strategies. They distribute free, sterile needles to drug users.

Additionally, opioid substitution therapy allows drug users to stay away from needle use. The therapy provides methadone, which is taken orally and eases drug withdrawal symptoms. Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine have significantly ramped up such harm-reduction programs; as a result, they have seen a decrease in HIV infections among people using intravenous drugs.

Mother-to-child transmission of HIV  has accounted for only one percent of all incidences in 2017. In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that mother-to-child transmission was stopped altogether in Armenia and Belarus.

In the fight against AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Saint Petersburg has become a model city. As a result of increased funding for prevention initiatives and harm-reduction programs for drug users, the number of new HIV infections has decreased. On a national level, however, the Russian Federation has neglected to fund effective prevention and treatment services.

Grassroots Nonprofits Helping Their Communities

When the government turns a blind eye, ordinary people step up. Maria Godlevskaya founded E.V.A, a nonprofit that advocates for women affected by HIV. From providing peer counseling to helping women communicate with medical officials, E.V.A gives marginalized women hope. The organization is about building bridges from woman to woman and from this network of women to their government.

The fight against HIV/AIDS knows no gender, no race and no age. Adolescents are coming together to fight HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Across the region, 80 adolescents are part of a nonprofit called Teenergizer. They visit local HIV clinics and record any roadblocks to testing they experience. The teenagers then use this information to create an interactive map of testing and treatment facilities for other youth in their region. Teenergizer reduces stigma and empowers youth to take their health into their own hands: as a result of the initiative, nearly two thousand adolescents from Eastern Europe and Central Asia have been tested for HIV.

The crisis of AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia has been bleak, and the future is uncertain. But, the leadership of several countries, nonprofit organizations and dedicated citizens has the potential to crush social stigmas and the associated legislative obstacles to funding prevention and treatment. Armen Agadjanov of Teenergizer affirms that a brighter future is on the horizon. “I’m convinced that the future is in the hands of adolescents—they are the people who will change and build a new world.”

– Ivana Bozic
Photo: Flickr

Aging and Poverty in Asia
As Asia sees an encouraging decrease in poverty, it now faces new problems it didn’t have to worry about a few decades ago: a quickly aging population. As a result, the workforce will shrink significantly and elderly care may become more of a burden on young people. What does this mean for aging and poverty in Asia? This article aims to discuss the challenges of aging in Asian countries and to situate the problem of poverty reduction.

The Speed and Scope of Aging and Poverty in Asia

The Asian population is aging at a speed history has not yet witnessed. According to a report released by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), it only took forty years for the percentage of elders in Japan to triple, while a similar process took place over the span of about 150 years in France. According to estimates, the dramatic demographic change will take even fewer years in China and Korea.

More than half of the world’s senior residents over 60 years old are living in Asia and the Pacific. By 2050, the elderly population of the world is expected to grow over two billion, and about 1.3 billion will be in the Asian and Pacific region.

Potential Consequences of Aging in the Context of Poverty

Aging and poverty in Asia are closely related. According to a 2012 Peking University report, 22.9 percent of the elderly population live in poverty in China. The report also said that senior citizens living below the poverty line are more often in need of daily care and assistance with everyday activities since there is a negative correlation between poverty and health.

The poverty rate among people over 65 years old is around 19.4 percent in Japan, and among the elderly poor, women are especially at a disadvantage. The proportion of the poor among the elderly in the Republic of Korea is as high as 49.6 percent.

In Japan, young people who were not poor become vulnerable to falling into poverty during old age. According to a 2013 Japan Institute of Life Insurance study, over 80 percent of those surveyed were concerned that there wouldn’t be enough pensions after they retire.

The aging process in rural areas is taking place faster than that in urban areas. Professor John Traphagan, a specialist of population movement in Japan from the University of Texas, points out that rural areas will likely be affected more significantly by poverty. Professor Traphagan, who conducts fieldwork in rural Japan, could already see the effects of aging on the elderly population in rural parts of the country: “I have met older individuals or couples who lack family living nearby or are uncomfortable living with their children who are living in very difficult conditions.”

What Needs to be Done

The national economies in the Asian and Pacific region will be hit with a shrinking workforce. It is necessary to encourage elders to work and to motivate more females to join the workforce, though the effectiveness of these policies is still unknown.

Governments facing the challenge of a quickly aging population will have to provide for a sustainable pension system, meaning higher government expenditure. A gradually increased tax rate is already enforced in Japan. With an increasing awareness of a quickly aging population, governments can overcome the challenges of aging in Asia.

– Feng Ye
Photo: Flickr

Malaria in South AsiaEvery two minutes a child dies of Malaria worldwide. This potentially fatal disease has resurged in many countries in South Asia and surrounding Australia. A big attributor to this is the fact that infected mosquitos are developing resistance to the insecticides that are typically used in bed nets.

Papua New Guinea, for example, experienced a 400 percent surge in malaria cases between 2010 and 2016 and had 3,000 deaths due to the disease in 2016 alone. Additionally, the disease is more commonly drug-resistant than it used to be, which is leading to an increase in fatality levels.

Obstacles To Eradicating Malaria

Contributing to the spread of the disease is the lack of necessary funding to properly eradicate it. WHO needs between $6-9 billion to fight malaria, but there is currently only around $2.5 billion is being allocated. WHO had a goal to eliminate malaria by 2030, but due to its resurgence and the lack of funding, the likelihood of that being achieved is not high.

Malaria is known as a “disease of poverty.” Its prevalence in certain regions is indicative of the poverty rates in that area. Communities living in poverty are significantly less likely to have access to bed nets and insecticides among other tools to fight malaria. Lack of education also contributes to the lack of knowledge of how to prevent and treat malaria and, consequently, causes a rise in fatalities.

The disease often returns after a period of success in mitigating it. After malaria in South Asia has been successfully fought off, healthcare groups will focus on other diseases and stop actively maintaining the fight against malaria. This dynamic allows for a resurgence of the disease and perpetuates a cycle of malaria spreading.

Organizations Fighting Malaria

Luckily, there are developing solutions on the market. A new drug called Tafenoquine is giving hope to leading malaria experts. The treatment is taken over the course of two days, which is an advantage compared to the previously used treatment, Primaquine, which is taken over twelve days. The shorter treatment time increases the likelihood that those infected will comply and finish treatment.

There are also organizations that are putting their efforts towards eradicating the resurgence of malaria in South Asia. Unitaid has been putting money behind the development of simpler and easier treatments. The group has been collecting data in South Asia to better inform their efforts in addition to surveying in malaria-ridden sub-Saharan Africa.

Working alongside Unitaid is The Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance Secretariat (APLMA). This group focuses not only on increasing innovation in malaria treatments but on providing access to treatments in at-risk communities. Many low-income regions are hard to reach, so APLMA has been looking for new and faster ways to get to these areas.

The efforts to reach at-risk communities are just as important as the work in developing new treatments. All the innovative treatments in the world could be discovered, but they would not matter if the people infected could not access them.

Thanks to Unitaid and APLMA’s projects, the outlook for malaria in South Asia is looking up. Technological advancements and expedited transportation are expected to assist in eliminating the disease.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

Child Trafficking in Southeast Asia
Instances of child trafficking in Southeast Asia are among the greatest in the world. UNICEF provides an abbreviated definition of child trafficking: “A child has been trafficked if he or she has been moved within a country, or across borders, whether by force or not, with the purpose of exploiting the child.” Although this issue is extremely prevalent, there are indeed ways to combat child trafficking.

The Problem

According to UNICEF, the movement of children contributes to child vulnerability and exploitation. Displaced children lack relatives, healthcare, money and other options to return home; oftentimes, these children are unfamiliar with the new language and region.

In many cases, UNICEF emphasizes that “no force or deception is required” to traffic children. The Australian Institute of Criminology explained that economic pressures on families — such as poverty, unemployment and barriers to educational attainment — that push loved ones toward migration. As a result of such circumstances, children find jobs in low-skilled sectors.

Addressing Child Trafficking

It is difficult to recognize the occurrence of child trafficking, especially due to the unspecified language set forth by the United Nations Trafficking Protocol, also known as the U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children of 2000.

For instance, the Australian Institute of Criminology noted that the terms “exploitation, slavery, forced labour and vulnerability” held conflicting interpretations in a case study involving respondents from U.N. agencies and NGOs.

In the case study, it was found that “no two respondents answered all questions in the same way; an indication of the high degree of confusion regarding what constitutes child trafficking.” Despite these limitations, however, programs still strive to eliminate child trafficking. Child trafficking organizations specifically address concerns involving child vulnerability as unique from that of adults. Victims of child trafficking in Southeast Asia experience “bio-physiological, cognitive, behavioral, and social changes,” which require specialized attention.

Terre des Hommes

Concentrating on child trafficking in Southeast Asia, the organization Terre Des Hommes works with local partners in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines to implement prevention and protection measures along migration routes. Protection measures include the implementation of shelters, medical care, education, psychosocial support and “family reunification.”

Beginning in 2017, Terre des Hommes successfully rescued 58 boys and 86 girls in Cambodia. The organization’s training programs even teach community members and NGOs about children’s rights. In fact, approximately 19 street shows were performed in Myanmar to discuss child trafficking in a public setting, and educate community members about the issue.

Asia Against Child Trafficking (Asia ACTs)

Working at the regional level, Asia ACTs is an organization associated with the International Campaign against Child Trafficking (IcaCT). To reduce child trafficking in Southeast Asia, the organization campaigns for legislative reform so that authorities can “implement human rights standards for trafficked children.”

Actions involve the development of protection and rehabilitation programs for child victims and “implementing preventative measures like poverty alleviation [and] community awareness campaigns.” Targeted countries include the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

The fight against child trafficking in Southeast Asia progresses as organizations continue to provide aid at the regional level and offer more individualized solutions, rather than a singular and over-generalized answer for all of Southeast Asia. These personalized response measures will change the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals, and hopefully model the proactive measures other organizations and nations should take against child trafficking.

– Christine Leung
Photo: Flickr