Dikembe Mutombo's Impact
Dikembe Mutombo is most famous for his basketball career as a player in the NBA for 18 years and a four-time Defensive Player of the Year award recipient, but he is also well-known for his humanitarian work. Mutombo, born in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has spent the last 22 years contributing much of his time to helping his home country. Dikembe Mutombo’s impact has been significant due to creating the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Struggle With Poverty

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has faced a long history of injustice due to political corruption and economic collapse which has affected the country in a multitude of ways. Approximately 70 percent of Congolese people have little or no health care, and many hospitals and clinics lack necessary components to keep them running smoothly. Many health care facilities have shortages of personnel and equipment and frequently run out of necessary medicine and supplies.

Some of the top causes of death in the DRC include preventable or treatable conditions such as malaria, lower respiratory infections, tuberculosis and diarrheal diseases. However, in the last 12 years, child vaccinations have increased from 31 to 45 percent, and the DRC has been free of polio for over three years. Still, because 64 percent of Congolese live under the poverty line, they often have to make the choice between food and medicine.

The Dikembe Mutombo Foundation

Mutombo founded the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation (DMF) in 1997, in honor of his mother. Due to civil unrest, she was unable to get to the hospital for treatment and died that year.

This inspired Mutombo to create a foundation focused on primary health care, disease prevention, health policy and research and access to health care education. Its mission is to improve the health, education and quality of life for the people in the DRC.

DMF opened its first hospital in 2007, the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital, named after Dikembe Mutombo’s mother. It commits to providing high-quality health care regardless of economic status. Dikembe Mutombo’s impact has allowed the hospital to treat over 30,000 patients and employ almost 400 doctors and nurses.

A future project of the foundation will be the building of a Welcome House next to the hospital. It also plans to construct an elementary school with an emphasis on science and technology outside of Kinshasa.

Mutombo on the Ebola Crisis

Mutombo and his foundation have recently joined with the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to communicate with the Congolese about the Ebola crisis. Almost a year after the initial outbreak, reports mentioned 2,284 cases of infection and almost 1,500 probable deaths, making this the 10th and worst Ebola outbreak that the DRC has faced.

The CDC began posting the public service announcements to its YouTube channel and on the agency’s website on Monday in some of the native languages of the DRC, French and Swahili. In the video, Mutombo describes the early signs of Ebola, treatment, preventative measures and recommendations. Mutombo told the Associated Press, “When there’s something happening around the world, it should be a concern of everyone living on this planet, and I think the epidemic of Ebola is touching all of us.”

Mutombo’s philanthropy in his home country of the Democratic Republic of Congo will impact generations to come. Mutombo stated it best in the Ebola PSA: “I believe as a son of Congo, I think my voice can be heard. Because everyone in the country knows my commitment to humanity and health.”

– Alexia Carvajalino
Photo: Flickr

PEPFARThe United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) has saved more than 17 million lives in the past 15 years. George W. Bush started PEPFAR in 2003 as a response to the global HIV or AIDS academic. The hope is to make a small difference in the lives affected and to educate the world about the epidemic. In turn, this provides HIV prevention medications to millions that would otherwise not have accessibility.

Children at Risk

Globally, about 36.9 million people are currently living with HIV and 1.8 million of the HIV-affected population is children. The number of children affected would be even higher, but statistics show that 80 percent of children born with HIV or AIDS who are left untreated die before their fifth birthday. Around 950,000 people around the world have died from HIV or AIDS-related causes. However, PEPFAR has significantly contributed to positively impacting the HIV or AIDS epidemic over the last 15 years.

PEPFAR has put much of their efforts into preventing mother-to-child transmission, the leading cause for children contracting HIV or AIDS. The plan provides lifelong antiviral treatment for current breastfeeding mothers and pregnant women. PEPFAR has contributed to 10 percent of all program funds preventing children from being affected by HIV or AIDS. Its efforts have resulted in more than 2.2 million babies being born HIV-free.

Ending the Epidemic in African Countries

PEPFAR is currently working in over 50 countries and has made a large impact on those who are affected by the HIV or AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. Only 50,000 people living in Africa were being treated for HIV or AIDS at the start of PEPFAR. The program has now provided more than 14.6 million people with antiviral medication. It also offers worldwide counseling. As a result, the United States’ contributions are on track to help control HIV epidemics in up to 13 of the highest HIV-prevalent countries by 2020.

PEPFAR is Reducing the Effect of HIV

According to the CDC, PEPFAR’s mission is to “deliver an AIDS-free generation with accountability, transparency, and impact.” Its priorities include working with partner countries, organizations, and people with or affected by HIV or AIDS in order to combat the disease. But years later, PEPFAR now also focuses on granting services for families with vulnerable children, orphans, adolescent girls and other neglected populations around the world. As a result, PEPFAR has contributed to giving more than 6.4 million vulnerable children and orphans the care and support they need. It has gifted 85.5 million people HIV tests. This has influenced the amount of HIV diagnoses which is declining 25 to 40 percent in adolescent girls. PEPFAR has also helped support the training of almost 250,000 health care workers to deliver HIV health services to those in need around the world.

PEPFAR started out as a proposal by George W. Bush in 2003. Only 15 years later, the plan has saved more than 17 million lives. The plan to invest almost 2 billion dollars, this year alone, will empower women and girls around the world. If PEPFAR’s impact on those who have HIV/AIDS remains steady, the global epidemic will continue to decrease to a point of no existence.

– Paige Regan
Photo: Flickr

Drug Resistant Infections
Antibiotics have long been considered one of the greatest marvels of modern medicine. Since their discovery in the early 1900s, antibiotics have promoted a previously unprecedented large-scale fight against disease. Their effectiveness, however, is starting to show its limits.

CDC Analysis

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), antibiotic resistance—also known as antimicrobial resistance or general drug resistance—is becoming more and more prevalent, with over 23,000 people dying from a drug-resistant infection or disease in the United States alone. Studies have shown that over 700,000 people die annually worldwide from drug-resistant infections. Diseases once thought to be treatable, such as tuberculosis and common bacterial infections, are slowly becoming harder to cure with standard antibiotics and antimicrobial drugs.

A Mounting Crisis

The sheer overuse of antimicrobial drugs, such as antibiotics, antimicrobials, or antifungals, is often cited as a factor in the rise of drug resistance. Numerous studies show that these medications are grossly overprescribed, specifically drugs in the antibiotic category. The overexposure of antimicrobial drugs to different bacteria drastically reduces the drug’s ability to fight infections and diseases, leading to a resistance that is almost impossible to treat. This phenomenon is only growing, with the United Nations estimating that resistant infection could kill up to 10 million people annually by the year 2050.

The Developing World at Risk

Developed nations like the United States and Western Europe have far greater chances of eliminating the problem by fighting diseases from the backend, with access to clean water, food and sanitary living conditions. But for underdeveloped countries where over half of the population lives below the poverty line, drug-resistant infections pose even more serious risks. These countries rely on antimicrobial drugs and vaccines to stave off epidemics and diseases and cannot afford to develop drug resistance of any kind. The United Nation’s (UN) latest findings point towards economic hazards of drug resistance as well, showing that if resistance continues to develop, healthcare costs and lack of resources could potentially send the economy into a decline similar to that of the 2008-2009 era.

Innovative Solutions

Finding innovative ways to combat drug resistance is the most urgent goal. The UN is among several groups looking to solve the resistance crisis, calling upon major pharmaceutical companies, research groups and investors to accelerate funding and assistance. Emphasizing the need for a worldwide plan, Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General for the World Health Organization, has stressed the need for a timely response, “Antimicrobial resistance is a crisis that must be managed with the utmost urgency. As the world enters the ambitious new era of sustainable development, we cannot allow hard-won gains for health to be eroded by the failure of our mainstay medicines.”

As a part of the much-needed urgent response plan, the WHO proposed a new strategy to the World Health Assembly in 2015 that highlights five main goals to fight drug resistance:

  1. Raise awareness
  2. Gain knowledge
  3. Reduce risk of infections overall
  4. Optimize the current use of antimicrobial drugs
  5. Increase investment in research and technology for new antimicrobial drugs

Hope for the Future

The CDC has also constructed what is known as the National Action Plan, a five-year goal with similar objectives working under their Antibiotic Resistance Solutions Initiative. Despite the imminent threat of drug resistance, the crisis is being taken seriously with appropriate responses in progress and clear plans of action to follow.

Olivia Bendle
Photo: Pixabay