childhood cancer in Kenya

The World Health Organization (WHO) has ranked cancer as a leading case of death in children. Globally, the leading types of childhood cancers are cancer of the white blood cells and brain tumors. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the most common types are non-Hodgkins lymphoma, kidney cancer and bone marrow cancer. This article explains eight facts about childhood cancer in Kenya.

8 Facts About Childhood Cancer in Kenya

  1. Child Cancer Causes: According to the American Cancer Society, while known lifestyle-related factors can increase the risk of developing cancer in adults, the same is not true for children. Dr. William Macharia, a pediatrician based in Nairobi, Kenya, explained that the peak age of childhood cancer is between 3 and 7 years old which is not enough time for environmental factors to cause cancer. Instead, many believe that wrong cell division and multiplication after conception is the cause.
  2. Childhood Cancer Survival Rate: Only 20 percent of children with cancer in Kenya survive. This is in contrast to the developed countries where up to 80 percent of children with cancer survive. Once again, one can attribute this to the late diagnosis as well as the lack of specialized training and other challenges children face in getting treatment.
  3. Hospice Care Kenya: Hospice Care Kenya reports that only 1 percent of children in Kenya have access to appropriate palliative care. A large majority of children with cancer, therefore, die in pain and isolation. Hospice Care Kenya is working to improve palliative care in Kenya so that children could receive appropriate care which could enhance their quality of life and death.
  4. Radiation and Chemotherapy: One of the biggest challenges in treating childhood cancer is that radiation and chemotherapy have a lasting, damaging effect on children’s bodies. A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology shows that by the age of 50, more than half of those who survived childhood cancer experience a severe, disabling or life-threatening event and this could include death. This shows that more research is necessary to develop better treatment and care models for children diagnosed with cancer.
  5. Financial Challenges: One of the reasons why childhood cancer in Kenya does not receive diagnosis or treatment is because families experience financial difficulties in dealing with it. To begin with, most of the medical facilities where treatment is available are in urban centers so those from rural areas have to travel long distances to access them. Additionally, the cost of treatment, medicine and health insurance is too high for families to afford. When faced with the difficult choice of paying for the sick child and clothing, feeding and educating the rest of the family, families often choose the latter. World Child Cancer reports that almost 30 percent of children who begin treatment do not complete it.
  6. Limited Medical Training: There is a lack of specialized training of medical practitioners which leads to late diagnosis of childhood cancer in Kenya. By the time most children have a cancer diagnosis, the illness is already in its advanced stages. This is unfortunate because when people know they have cancer early enough, they can obtain treatment or at least manage the disease.
  7. The Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer and Shoe4Africa: The WHO announced the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer in September 2018. The initiative aims to reach a survival rate of at least 60 percent for children with cancer by 2030. Shoe4Africa plans to start Africa’s first children’s cancer hospital in Eldoret, Kenya. The organization opened Sub-Saharan Africa’s second public children’s hospital in Eldoret and currently, 400 patients receive treatment at the hospital every day.
  8. Funding for Cancer Treatment: The government of Kenya provides funding to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, which diagnoses over 100 children with cancer in a year. While this helps to ease the burden for families, it is not enough to cover all the costs. The majority of patients, therefore, have to pay out-of-pocket for their medical expenses. In Kenyatta National Hospital, the largest hospital in Kenya, the Israeli embassy renovated and equipped the children’s cancer wards to ensure that the children are comfortable while seeking treatment.

There is an urgent need for different sectors to come together and set up effective ways of dealing with childhood cancer in Kenya. These methods must also be affordable to all citizens. Kenyans can look to the successes of developed countries as an example. Beyond that, the public needs to receive more education on childhood cancers. This can happen through public health awareness campaigns such as those Kenya used to successfully inform and educate the public on diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Ethiopia
Ethiopia, a country located in the Horn of Africa, is the continent’s second-most populous country. The government has made impressive strides toward eradicating poverty and improving Ethiopia’s life expectancy. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Ethiopia.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Ethiopia

  1. Ethiopia has a high life expectancy rate in comparison to similar countries. The average Ethiopian resident can expect to live 66.34 years while the average resident of the nearby Central African Republic can expect to live to about 53. In the United States, the average life expectancy is 79.
  2. Life expectancy rates took a hit in the 80s. During Ethiopia’s most recent famine, the average life expectancy began to decrease in 1979 and continued to drop until 1983, reducing 1.69 percent in total from 44.26 years to 43.52 years. The United Nations estimates that this famine was the cause of approximately 1 million deaths. 
  3. The life expectancy in Ethiopia has overall been on an upward trend. Its current average life expectancy has more than doubled since 1950 when it stood at 32.53 years.
  4. In recent years, the average lifespan for Ethiopians exceeded the projected life expectancy. In 2017, projections determined the life expectancy for women to be 61.3 years but observed to be 70.4, while projections stated that male life expectancy was 58.2 and observed to be 66.7. One could attribute this to the fast-paced growth of Ethiopia’s life expectancy. 
  5. Malnutrition rates are dropping. The number of Ethiopian citizens suffering from severe malnutrition dropped 32 percent from 2000 to 2010, and those dwindling numbers have aided in the improvement of the life expectancy in Ethiopia. UNICEF has had a significant hand in this reduction by providing health posts and training workers to aid in hygiene, sanitation and nutrition. 
  6. Communicable and noncommunicable illnesses are still a big problem in Ethiopia. The leading cause of deaths in Ethiopia is neonatal disorders. More than 60 percent of infant deaths are due to neonatal disorders as well as 40 percent of deaths among children under 5 years old.
  7. Infant mortality rates are decreasing. While neonatal disorders are the leading cause of death in Ethiopia, those numbers are improving. In 1990, the observed mortality rate for children under 5-years-old was 197.7 per 1,000 live births. As of 2017, that number had dropped to 56.1 deaths per 1,000 live births. This change is no doubt due to the government’s efforts to offer easier access to health clinics to expecting mothers.
  8. The government is working to improve health care. It has been taking steps to align its health care system with the Millennium Development Goals, and this has aided in improving the overall health of Ethiopian residents. UNICEF has led to a surge in the number of health posts from just a handful in 2004 to 9,000 in 2011. 
  9. Unemployment rates have decreased. Since 1999, unemployment rates in Ethiopia have been on a downward trend, dropping from 26.4 percent in 1999 to 19.1 percent in 2018. The number even hit a record low of 16.8 percent in 2015. The overall improvement of employment rates in Ethiopia, giving the poor the opportunity to provide for themselves, has also helped improve life expectancy.
  10. The fight against poverty in Ethiopia is making impressive progress. When one compares Ethiopia to other African countries, it has made the most progress against poverty second only to Uganda between 2000 and 2011. While Ethiopia’s poverty rate stood at 44 percent in 2000 and dropped to 30 percent in 2011, Uganda’s poverty rate went from 38.8 percent in 2002 to 19.7 percent in 2012. 

There is still much that people need to do in Ethiopia. Roughly a third of the population is without clean water and nearly a quarter of Ethiopians have no access to toilets. It has been a long journey recovering from the drought and consequent famine of the 80s, but the government is taking steps to better the daily lives of Ethiopians and lengthen Ethiopia’s life expectancy. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Ethiopia show that the country has a chance to continue its improvement.

– Amanda Gibson
Photo: Flickr

Child Mortality Globally
People have made significant progress in improving child survival rates globally. According to UNICEF, “one in 26 children died before reaching age five in 2018, compared to one in 11 in 1990.” However, far too many children who live in poor and vulnerable regions continue to die prematurely from preventable illnesses every day. Keep reading to learn the top five causes of child mortality globally.

Top 5 Causes of Child Mortality Globally

  1. Tuberculosis (TB) – Tuberculosis is currently one of the biggest causes of child mortality globally. A bacteria called mycobacterium causes TB. It mostly attacks the lungs but can affect other parts of the body as well. People can transmit the illness through the air when coughing, sneezing or talking. More than 600 children under the age of 15 die every day as a result of TB and around 80 percent of these deaths occur in children under the age of 5. Currently, only 96 percent of those children do not receive adequate treatment and as a result, die from the disease. UNICEF has created an agenda for action on childhood TB to help prevent children from dying on a global scale as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. To accomplish this objective, UNICEF needs funding support and investment from global and national decision-makers, governments and researchers.
  2. MeaslesMeasles is an infectious disease that a virus causes and people can contract it through the air, sneezes or coughs. It causes severe complications that can lead to death and is an extremely contagious disease killing children globally. It can last in the air up to two hours and if it affects one person, there is a 90 percent chance that those around them will contract it too. The measles caused 110,000 deaths among children globally in 2017 and most of these deaths were in children under the age of 5. From 2000 to 2017, people developed many preventative measures to stop measles and one of these measures was a vaccine. The vaccine was a major factor in reducing measles deaths among children. It prevented 21.1 million deaths between 2000 and 2017. To continue to prevent measles from taking more young lives, children should receive the vaccine routinely. In 2017, 85 percent of children around the world obtained the vaccine in one dosage. Two doses are ideal to protect children from contracting the disease. The World Health Organization played a huge role in distributing the vaccine. The WHO’s Assembly backed the Global Vaccine Action Plan by endorsing it in 2012. With this endorsement, WHO hopes to eradicate measles in five regions by 2020.
  3. HIV/AIDS – With a compromised immune system, AIDS can develop after contracting HIV. It can transmit to children from mothers through childbirth as well. HIV/AIDS greatly affects adolescent children, especially young women ages 15 to 19. Worldwide, two out of three adolescent girls of key populations have HIV. They are at the highest risk of contracting the disease and most likely do not have access to treatment. Without investment in HIV treatment and prevention programs, projections determine that 270,000 adolescents will contract HIV and 56,000 will die by 2030. Children are dying globally and reports in 2017 stated that the virus infected 430,000 children and killed 130,000 from complications. UNICEF plans to help stop the transmission of HIV from mother-to-child, close the HIV treatment gap and prevent the rise of HIV in adolescent children. UNICEF will do this by supporting governments and communities that fight to reduce inequities in HIV treatment. The organization also provides governments with technical assistance that strengthens their HIV services which include, treatment, prevention, programs and testing.
  4. Neonatal Deaths – Neonatal death refers to the death of a baby within the first 28 days of its life. It is a global phenomenon because children are at their most vulnerable during this time. Neonatal deaths account for 47 percent of deaths under the age of 5. Most neonatal deaths happen in the first day or week after birth. This averages out to about 1 million dying within the first day and close to a million dying within the first 6 days. Prevention of these deaths is important because there is an increasing rate of deaths under the age of 5. Although people cannot prevent most neonatal deaths, they can prevent some. Prevention methods include improving medical management by managing premature labor that can harm by the fetus and monitoring the heart rate of the fetus. Other preventative methods include neonatal intensive care referrals and monitoring possible respiratory complications during pregnancy.
  5. MeningitisMeningitis is an infection of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Viral infections can cause it, but other causes include bacterial, parasitic and fungal infections. Meningitis symptoms can also spread quite quickly. Fifteen percent of children who have developed meningitis become unconscious once the virus spreads. In newborns, the symptoms can be vomiting, rash, very high temperature or inactivity. Around 25 percent of newborns who have meningitis develop increased fluid around the brain that can last up to one or two days and can cause them to be near death within 24 hours. If left untreated 50 percent of patients suffering from meningitis die within 24 to 48 hours. Even with the right treatment, about 5 to 10 percent of patients still die, resulting in many children dying globally. Prevention of this disease begins with getting routinely vaccinated to lower the chances of contracting it. All young children must receive the vaccination in the hopes of preventing the disease from taking their lives.

There are many diseases that cause child mortality globally every day. The world needs to work together to end the epidemic of preventable diseases that are taking the lives of children everywhere. Investing in treatment for preventable diseases in countries that may not have access to it is the first step.

  Jessica Jones
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is a small nation in the Caribbean including several islands. Many consider it to be one of the most prosperous countries in the area and it boasts relatively good social indicators. That does not mean that its people have completely escaped the troubles of everyday life that come with residing in a developing country, though. Despite its high standing within the Caribbean it still does not compare well with the rest of the world. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda will shed a light on the country’s struggles as well as the progress it has made and what impact that has on its citizens.

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda

  1. Life Expectancy is Improving: Life expectancy for the people of Antigua and Barbuda is 72.3 years old. This is one of the strongest indicators of the steady progress that the country is making. Since 1960, there has been an enormous jump from the previous life expectancy of 52.5 according to the World Bank.
  2. Infant Mortality is Improving: Infant mortality rates are improving but still stand at almost double those of many western countries. UNICEF reported that the current infant mortality rate for children under the age of 5 stands at 7.4 deaths per 1,000 births. This shows great improvement considering that the infant mortality rate was over triple that number in 1990 at 26.3 deaths per 1,000 births.
  3. The Country is Susceptible to Natural Disaster: A Caribbean country, Antigua and Barbuda faces the constant threat of hurricanes. A semi-recent hurricane to hit the country was Hurricane Irma which caused mass devastation. While the country did not suffer massive numbers of casualties, injuries and displacement were rampant. The country was still facing the damage years later resulting in Prime Minister Gaston Browne proposing a complete rehaul of the landowning system in an effort to rebuild the country’s destroyed property.
  4. Poverty is Prevalent: There is still a relatively large amount of poverty within the country. The Headcount Index places 18.3 percent of the population of Antigua and Barbuda as being below the poverty line. Around 3.7 percent of the population falls within the indigent population and another 10 percent is vulnerable. Estimates put the poverty line in Antigua and Barbuda at $2,366 puts into perspective the lack of income that such a large portion of the population lives on. Despite these grim numbers, Antigua and Barbuda still ranks among the most well perfuming Caribbean nations with the second-lowest poverty rate. While little new data is available, an optimist might take continued economic growth as a sign that things have been improving.
  5. Unemployment Rates are High: Reports stated that the unemployment rate in 2011 was 10.2 percent with a breakdown of 11.2 percent of men being unemployed and 9.4 percent of women being unemployed. The biggest age bracket falls within the 15-25 range and no doubt contributes to the relatively high aforementioned poverty rates.
  6. Nourishment is Varied:  Antigua and Barbuda does not guarantee nourishment to every citizen. Data collected in different areas of Antigua and Barbuda showed a major discrepancy with nourishment between those areas. When looking at the percentage of children malnourished over 12 months in two different cities, Bendals and Clare Hall, 1.2 percent of children in Bendals were malnourished, while 10.3 percent of children in Clare Hall were malnourished. The country is has continued to address this issue and in 2013, the Zero Hunger Challenge advertised as an advocacy tool for irradiating world hunger by the Food and Agriculture Organization, which is the leading U.N. agency fighting hunger.
  7. Water Shortages are an Issue: As a Caribbean nation, Antigua and Barbuda has not escaped the water shortage that the entire area is facing. As of 2015, the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) made it known that the country did not have consistent access to running water. In 2017, Antigua and Barbuda was among 37 countries predicted to have “extremely high” levels of water stress.
  8. Health Care has Potential: The government of Antigua and Barbuda provides 100 percent of the population with health care with a reported 2.77 percent of the GDP going towards public health. The publicly financed system provides maternal and child health, community mental health and dental care. While the country provides some care, several tourists have expressed dissatisfaction with the public health care system, which highlights that there might still be more room for further improvement.
  9. Educational Trends are Promising: Not only are primary and secondary school completely free, but they are also compulsory. This no doubt plays a part in the adult literacy rate of 98 percent for those above the age of 15. For context, the Caribbean has an overall adult literacy rate of just 71 percent, well below that of Antigua and Barbuda.
  10. Incentives to Eliminate the Top Killers: Antigua and Barbuda has had the same four leading causes of death for over 10 years. Those four are heart disease, stroke, diabetes and respiratory infections. While there is little clear data on the causes of these diseases in Antigua and Barbuda specifically, medical professionals often attribute them to poor diet, air quality, and access. There have been incentives to improve health care as well as education in the country.

A small nation with a small population of 105,000 people, people often overlook Antigua and Barbuda when addressing the global issues of poverty. However, it is important to realize that people should not overlook any nation and these 10 facts about life expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda are just a snapshot into the progress and problems the country is addressing.

– Samira Darwich
Photo: Max Pixel

HIV outbreak in Pakistan

When a child has a fever, most parents expect it to be a cold or a mild virus. Many parents in the Sindhi province of Pakistan did not anticipate receiving such a severe diagnosis, but the results from their doctors were alarming: their children tested positive for HIV. On April 24th, 2019, 14 cases of HIV were discovered. Since July, over 894 people tested positive for the disease and almost 750 of them were children. The outbreak in Pakistan has increased the pressure on medical professionals to treat hundreds of new cases and fear among the people of Pakistan is growing. Many are afraid to interact with others for fear of spreading or contracting the disease. Along with a heavy stigma surrounding HIV, growing skepticism around medical facilities in Pakistan has made treating this outbreak even more critical. Here’s what you should know about the HIV outbreak in Pakistan:

Poor sanitation methods contribute to the outbreak

In Pakistan, HIV is not an unfamiliar disease. In the Sindhi province alone, health authorities found around 75,000 HIV positive cases. For the most part, doctors have blamed many failures in the healthcare system to be the reason for this sudden outbreak among children.

This recent outbreak has been credited to the reuse of syringes and failure to follow proper procedures for blood transfusions. Some facilities that disposed of used syringes discovered that people were repackaging and selling them to doctors once again for profit. There have also been reports of reusing dextrose and saline drips in certain treatment facilities. These practices created an easy pathway for the disease to spread to many patients and eventually helped facilitate the HIV outbreak in Pakistan.

“Quack” doctors are popular options for patients, but not necessarily the safest

“Quack” doctors, cheap alternatives to qualified doctors, have grown in popularity in certain regions. Many families living in rural parts of Pakistan cannot travel long distances to cities to see qualified doctors. As populations have grown, governments are struggling to provide sufficient healthcare for all communities in the country. Unqualified quacks have arisen as a result, cashing in on the disparities by treating many patients. Because of a loophole in the system, quack doctors use real doctors’ names and qualifications as a cover for their business and then later pay a fee to the qualified doctors to remain open.

Around 70,000 to 80,000 unqualified practitioners have spread across Punjab province alone. Most quack doctors are either totally unqualified to treat patients, or they are operating beyond their expertise. Most are not allowed to prescribe medicines or use syringes, but it is a common practice for them to do so anyway on multiple patients to save money.

In addition to reusing syringes, these doctors often use veterinarian steroids to treat patients as an alternative to recommended medicines. These steroids mask a patient’s symptoms but do not provide long term solutions to the diseases. Overall, these quack doctors put more and more people at risk of contracting illnesses like HIV with their unsanitary practices.

Many organizations are working to address the outbreak effectively

Since the start of the outbreak in Pakistan, many organizations have been working to provide solutions and treatments. The Sindh Aids Control Program (SACP) began a campaign to treat new HIV patients and provide free tests to the public. They have also curated ways to respond to the outbreak effectively, emphasizing the need for low-cost treatment and prevention services for vulnerable regions, in order to make treatment accessible for all. Currently, roughly 8,866 people are registered with the SACP’s Enhanced HIV AIDS Control Program, and they are expanding their outreach after receiving $6.3 million dollars from the Sindh government to continue their efforts.

Additionally, health officials have begun a crackdown on quack clinics. The Punjab Healthcare Commission is one of the organizations investigating the quacks littered across the Sindh province. Around 47,000 quackery outlets have been visited as of this month, 21,640 have been closed down, 13,637 have been abandoned and 8,757 have been marked for surveillance. The hard work of this commission ensures that the quality of treatment in Pakistan prevents outbreaks similar to the one facing the country now.

While treatment efforts are a major priority for these global organizations, there has also been a major focus on strengthening community education. UNAIDS and other UN organizations are raising awareness about HIV prevention to help tackle the stigma and discrimination that HIV patients face in their communities. Health workers, religious leaders, and even local media personnel are also being invited to health education sessions to address this issue.

The HIV outbreak in Pakistan may have affected the lives of hundreds of children and adults, but the efforts of many organizations have led to a heavy focus on HIV education and treatment in Pakistan. With this influx of assistance from global organizations, thousands of families can be protected from a future epidemic for years to come.

-Sydney Blakeney
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Iran
Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) has prioritized the need to improve Iran’s health care system. Indeed, Article 29 of the IRI’s Constitution establishes every Iranian citizen’s right to high-quality health. The Ministry of Health and Medical Education is responsible for providing the health care necessary to achieve this goal. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Iran and the state of the country’s health care system.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Iran

  1. Starting in the early 1980s, Iran successfully launched a reformed primary health care system or PHC. Because of Iran’s PHC programs, life expectancy in Iran has steadily risen from 55.7 years in 1976 to 75.5 years in 2015. Since the implementation of the PHC system, Iran has also experienced increased economic growth and literacy, and an improvement in safe water access and sanitation. The Community of Health Workers suggests that all of this may have contributed to Iran’s increased life expectancy.

  2. The aim of PHC was to provide all Iranians with health care by 2000. Especially in the beginning, PHC prioritized reducing health inequality between urban and rural populations by focusing attention on and resources to rural areas. Central to PHC was the establishment of health houses in rural areas. Behvarzes, local community members who had personal ties and commitments to the community, would run these houses.

  3. As of 2009, more than 90 percent of Iranians have some type of health insurance according to data cited by the Japan Medical Association Journal. Both the public and private sectors play a pivotal role in Iran’s health care system, which is a nation-wide network that includes local primary care centers in Iran’s provinces, secondary care hospitals in the provincial capitals and tertiary hospitals located in big cities. The public sector provides most of the primary care and some of the secondary and tertiary health services. Some public services, like prenatal care and vaccinations, are free. The private sector focuses on secondary and tertiary services. Additionally, NGOs play an active role in Iran’s health system, specifically concerning issues like children with cancer, breast cancer, diabetes and thalassemia.

  4. In addition to higher life expectancy, Iran has seen better health outcomes on several fronts. For one, the incidences of malaria-related deaths have decreased significantly from 15,378 cases in 2002 to 777 cases in 2015; 28 of these cases resulted in death. The reduction in malaria-related deaths is the result of interventions, such as the introduction of tap water and electricity into villages.

  5. To completely eradicate malaria, health officials should concentrate resources to prevent and treat the disease in the specific provinces where the disease is most prevalent. Policymakers should monitor borders to prevent the spread of malaria into Iran from outside the country. They should strengthen cooperation between institutions and improve the health systems’ ability to quickly identify epidemics.

  6. Between 1995 and 2011, Iran’s neonatal (NMR), infant (IMR) and under-5-year (U5MR) mortality rates in rural parts of the country decreased substantially. In particular, Iran’s NMR and IMR saw a statistically-significant decline as a result of a family physician program and rural insurance program. Implemented in 2005, Iran intended these programs to reform PHC, which did not cover access to specialists or private-sector physicians for rural populations. The family physician program and rural insurance program provided preventive and outpatient care to rural communities and made health care access more equitable between urban and rural areas. By providing greater access to important health services, these reforms improved many health indicators, such as child mortality. From 1995 to 2011, Iran’s NMR dropped from 17.84 to 10.56; the IMR decreased from 31.95 to 15.31; and Iran’s U5MR declined from 40.17  to 18.67.

  7. One of Iran’s significant health achievements is a dramatic increase in child immunization; indeed, providing vaccinations was one of the main activities of the community health workers under PHC. From 1990 to 2006, the percentage of one-year-olds immunized with three doses of DPT rose from 91 to 99 percent. Over that same period, one-year-olds immunized with three doses of the hepatitis B vaccine increased from 62 to 99 percent; similarly, one-year-olds immunized with MCV rose from 85 to 99 percent. This increase in immunization among children correlates with a sharp decline in Iran’s infant mortality rate.

  8. Cardiovascular diseases are the most common causes of mortality in Iran and connect to more than 45 percent of deaths. The second most common cause of death in Iran is accidents at 18 percent. Cancer follows at 14 percent and then neonatal and respiratory diseases, each of which accounts for about 6 percent of deaths in the country. Many NGOs, like the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), are cooperating with the Iranian Ministry of Health to combat these frequent causes of mortality. For instance, at the beginning of 2019, the country launched a national campaign to fight cancer. This campaign seeks to bring hope to cancer patients and to raise awareness about the fact that cancer is treatable and often preventable. Officials note that behavioral and dietary risks can cause cancer.

  9. While Iran’s health care system has improved significantly, it still has room for growth. For instance, greater than half of the under-5 deaths in Iran are the result of preventable or easily-treatable diseases and illnesses, such as malnutrition, which affects some 45 percent of children under the 5-years-old in Iran. One NGO that is helping food-insecure refugees in Iran is the World Food Programme (WFP), which has had a presence in Iran since 1987. In January 2018, WFP implemented the Iran Country Strategic Plan (2018-2020), which provides a combination of cash and monthly distributions of wheat flour to refugees in need, especially the most vulnerable women-headed households. In January 2019 alone, WFP helped 29,736 people in Iran.

  10. Another NGO providing health services to Iranians in need is Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which translates to Doctors Without Borders. MSF provides marginalized groups in south Tehran, such as drug users, sex workers, street children and the ghorbat ethnic minority, with free health care. MSF runs a clinic in the Darvazeh Ghar district, where they provide services including medical and mental health consultations, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, ante- and postnatal care and family planning. In 2018, MSF provided 29,900 outpatient consultations.

As these 10 facts about life expectancy in Iran show, the health of the Iranian people and health care system of Iran have improved significantly in the past few decades, due largely to the reforms of PHC and the family physician program and rural insurance program. If the Iranian government continues its investment in these programs, there is a good reason to believe life expectancy in Iran will continue to rise in the coming years.

– Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan, a country rich with gas and export struggles, corruption and poverty. The country is located in Central Asia and shares its borders with Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Iran and Afghanistan and has been independent since 1991. Meanwhile, the life expectancy in Turkmenistan has been on a steady rise within the last decade. Here are the top 10 facts about life expectancy in Turkmenistan.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Turkmenistan

  1. The life expectancy in Turkmenistan is around 68 years. According to the BBC, the average lifespan for women is 71 and 64 years for men. The country’s life expectancy ranks four years lower than neighboring Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, while it ranks five years lower than the world average life expectancy.
  2. Turkmenistan suffers from a high mortality rate which affects overall life expectancy. The World Health Organization states in its “Highlights on Health in Turkmenistan” report written in 2005, that “As could be expected, excess mortality is due to communicable, respiratory and digestive diseases.” The two highest causes of death are infectious and parasitic diseases.
  3. Water resources are rather scarce because desert covers a lot of Turkmenistan. In fact, it is one of the most water-deficient countries in the world. The government tried to create projects, such as the creation of parks, to make cities appear greener. The plan backfired because these plants required a large amount of water. Seventy-one percent of the population has access to drinking water, while 29 percent of the population still lacks clean water.
  4. Turkmenistan has 22 physicians per 1,000 people within a given population. The former president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, tried to make changes to the health care system and citizen’s lifestyles and has been encouraging spending on public health and healthier lifestyles. A lack of doctors takes its toll on rural communities, while limited access to sanitary water increases the chances of becoming sick. While urban areas have modernized hospitals, care can be expensive. Meanwhile, rural communities suffer from old equipment and shortages in medicine which could affect life expectancy statistics as well.
  5. Turkmenistan is a healthy nation. The government focuses on nutrition through private agriculture and food production. It tries to create healthy lunches in schools by banning unhealthy foods and drinks. Some noncommunicable diseases affecting the population comes from malnutrition, such as raised blood pressure, blood glucose and blood cholesterol. These can be life-threatening diseases.
  6. Housing in Turkmenistan differs from other countries in their structures. People often live in yurts due to weather conditions or economic reasons. The yurts surround cities and traditional families heavily populate them. Houses do exist but the monthly rates tend to be higher than the people’s wages. Yurts are a more affordable form of shelter considering the increase of food and gas prices.
  7. The infant mortality rate in Turkmenistan is 33 deaths per 1,000 births, which ranks the country number 55 in the world. The maternal mortality rate is 42 deaths per 100,000 births, which places Turkmenistan at 104 in the world.
  8. The literacy rate in Turkmenistan is 99.7 percent for people ages 15 and older. Most students spend up to 11 years in school. The government is trying to reform the educational system to be more effective for students. Its main goal is to get everyone into the local workforce and have it perform internationally as well. Children receive a basic education that fits the needs of the government or specific jobs that they can work internationally. It does not necessarily include a well-rounded course curriculum.
  9. Turkmenistan has a high poverty and corruption rate. The given wages are not nearly enough to cover common products. The further away from the center of Ashgabat that people live, the fewer resources they have available to them. Those who live in urban cities have more access to natural resources. Those living in rural communities have less, especially when it comes to natural gas.
  10. The crime rate in Turkmenistan’s cities is low compared to the surrounding countries. Towards the border, the crime rate grows due to terrorism and the drug trade. The cities set a curfew for 11 p.m. to lower crime at night.

Though these 10 facts about life expectancy in Turkmenistan put things into a grim perspective, the government is doing what it can to change the future. If the government successfully reforms Turkmenistan’s education system, allowing for a workforce that can compete internationally, people could raise their living standards, and potentially, the country’s life expectancy as well.

– Christina Atler
Photo: Flickr

Keeping Girls in School ActFor hundreds of years, people have robbing women and young girls of their right to an education. Of the 774 million illiterate people around the globe, two-thirds are female. Without an education, women die at higher rates, have an increased number of child deaths, are more likely to marry young, are less likely to find work and are more likely to receive lower pay. The Keeping Girls in School Act is designed to address the worldwide barriers that currently exclude 130 million school-aged girls from their right to an education. The legislation has the power to cut child deaths by 50 percent and will raise girls’ future wages by $15 to $30 trillion. Here are 10 facts about the Keeping Girls in School Act.

10 Facts About the Keeping Girls in School Act

  1. The bill has bi-partisan Congressional support. On April 9, 2019, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the Keeping Girls in School Act into the Senate. On that same date, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), Rep. Susan Brooks (R-PA) and Rep.Nita Lowey (D-NY) introduced the bill into the House. More recently, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (D-IN), Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) and Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) have also decided to cosponsor the bill, totaling a number of 25 co-sponsors in the House and three in the Senate. With advocates in both the House and the Senate, the Keeping Girls in School Act has garnered the support of not only both legislative bodies but both political parties.

  2. The bill will cut child deaths by 50 percent. Education is one of the most valuable resources when it comes to saving children’s lives. Malnutrition is one of the leading causes of death for children under five largely due to many mothers’ lack of education on proper hygiene, health and nutrition. According to UNESCO, if all women received secondary education, it would cut in half the number of child deaths and save three million lives. When provided with an education, mothers are able to raise their children in a healthier way because they have the knowledge necessary to provide them with a higher quality of life.

  3. The bill focuses on secondary education. The Keeping Girls in School Act focuses on education at the secondary level rather than the primary because girls are at higher risk of dropping out as adolescents. Between the ages of 14 to 18, girls are at the greatest risk of pregnancy, child marriage and genital mutilation. By focusing on girls in this age range, the Keeping Girls in School Act has the power to not only educate young women but to prevent inhumane practices from infiltrating their lives.

  4. The bill will reduce child marriage by 66 percent. Without proper education, people force many young girls into marriage because the girls do not understand that they have the right to refuse it. Education informs young women about their rights and provides them with the tools necessary to challenge the cultural expectations. According to UNESCO, one in seven sub-Saharan African women are married under the age of 18 due to their lack of education. Education is one of the leading factors when it comes to reducing child marriage. If the Keeping Girls in School Act passes, it will play a vital role in eradicating child marriage because it will grant young women the awareness that they have autonomy over their own lives.

  5. The bill is divided into 14 barriers. The Keeping Girls in School Act is divided into 14 sections in an attempt to address all the barriers that prevent women from receiving an education. These include: harmful social norms, lack of safety at or traveling to school, child and forced marriages, distance from and cost of school, the priority of education given to young men, poor nutrition, early pregnancy, HIV, disabilities and racial or religious discrimination. The Keeping Girls in School Act not only outlines these 14 barriers but sets out to challenge them. By individually working to overcome these educational confines, the Keeping Girls in School Act will not only make education more accessible for young women but it will also improve the quality of their lives.

  6. The bill will decrease violent conflict by 37 percent. Lack of education is one of the biggest contributors to violent conflict. Likewise, conflict-affected areas inhibit girls’ access to education greatly. Girls in conflict-affected areas are 90 percent more likely to be uneducated due to the violent reality of their communities. By providing young women with access to education, the violence that keeps thousands of girls from being educated will decrease and the fear that leads their lives will consequently lessen.

  7. The bill will save worldwide governments 5 percent or more on education budgets. With more girls attending school, there will be fewer child marriages, so more women will be able to enter the workforce later on. As a result, they will earn more money and will be able to contribute to their country’s economy in a way they were formerly unable to. An investment in female education is more than a social rights investment because it also houses an economic return. With more economically stable women, more people will be able to purchase products and their countries’ economies will rise as a result. By prioritizing girls’ education, U.S. foreign assistance is not only investing in young women but also investing in themselves.

  8. The bill will promote gender equality. By advancing girls’ education, the U.S. is taking a global stand against inequality. Worldwide, four million more boys receive education than girls. The Keeping Girls in School Act has the power to bridge the gap. Providing education for young women is not only the acknowledgment that they are equally valuable but it is the recognition that they are undeniably capable. In Pakistan, women with secondary education earn 70 percent of the country’s average male income while their primary school counterparts earn only 51 percent. By advocating for the Keeping Girls in School Act, the U.S. is challenging social norms that have oppressed young women for decades. As a result, the Act also possesses the power to change the way people value women around the globe.

  9. Fifty international nonprofit organizations endorse the bill. The largest global poverty organizations around the world support the Keeping Girls in School Act. Organizations such as UNICEF U.S.A, CARE U.S.A and ADRA International are currently backing the legislation. By supporting this bill, these organizations are not only spreading awareness for the global issue but they are exemplifying the mass of its importance.

  10. The bill will receive updates every five years. Keeping in line with global progression, if enacted into law, the Keeping Girls in School Act promises to keep up. If passed, the Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues and the Senior Coordinator for International Basic Education Assistance will oversee the bill. This makes sure that the diversity of issues addressed are in line with the reality of the world’s social climate, ensuring that women’s education progresses at the fastest possible rate.

These 10 facts about the Keeping Girls in School Act can spread awareness of a bill that has the power to change the lives of young women around the world. Programs such as CARE’s Keeping Girls at School and funds like UNESCO’s Malala Fund For Girls’ Right to Education are making great progress towards improving the issue. However, with 76 million illiterate female youths worldwide, the Keeping Girls in School Act will help to increase education for women even further.

– Candace Fernandez
Photo: Unsplash

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in KenyaLocated on the mid-eastern coast of Africa, the nation of Kenya is home to more than 50 million people. Despite the country’s strong tourism industry, which centers around internationally renowned landmarks such as the Musai Mara National Reserve, it still struggles with issues pertaining to extreme poverty.

One of the main effects resulting from this poverty is a very low life expectancy rate. The inverse relationship between wealth and life expectancy is largely due to the nature of poverty. For instance, the inability to see a doctor, access contraception, buy medicine, etc. all compound the chances of early mortality. Poverty has impacts beyond general health too, like exposing people dis-proportionally to unsafe living conditions.

This informs the reality in Kenya, where people over the age of 65 make up only 2.7 percent of the population, and the average life expectancy is only 59 years. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Kenya to help explain why that number is so low.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Kenya

  1. High poverty rates: More than 50 percent of people live below the poverty line. In addition, in Kenya, 40 percent of people live on less than two dollars a day.
  2. High child mortality rates: The under 5 mortality rate in Kenya lands at 85 deaths per 1,000 births. This number is dramatically higher than the global average of 40. This is a huge issue, as the World Bank claims the number one way to increase life expectancy is to reduce child mortality.
  3. Number of physicians: There is one doctor for every 10,000 people in Kenya. In addition, the country’s health care system has historically been dysfunctional. This manifested into a 100-day strike in 2017 by doctors over poor working conditions and pay. It was followed, late that year, by a nurse’s strike for similar reasons. This has led to overloaded and under-resourced facilities, which dis-incentivizes people to go into the field.
  4. Lack of admittance to public hospitals: Because of the disorganization in the public health system, almost no patients get admitted into Kenya’s public health facilities. This creates an especially tremendous impact on the maternal mortality rate, as women do not have access to proper birthing spaces. This is one unfortunate truth in the 10 facts about life expectancy in Kenya.
  5. Lack of medical student retention: The presence of a broken health care system establishes a negative image of the medical field in Kenya. Therefore, 40 percent of Kenyans who graduate with medical degrees choose to find work elsewhere. This furthers the national shortage, preventing millions of people from having access to medical needs.
  6. Lack of access to clean water: While millions of people in first world countries do not stop to think about how much water they use on a daily basis, around 60 percent of Kenyans do not have access to clean water. Thus, there is an extremely high nationwide risk of contracted water-borne diseases such as malaria, cholera and typhoid fever.
  7. No universal health care system: Kenya’s government does not offer a universal health care system, so millions of people are uninsured. On account of this, many avoid clinical care–which is oftentimes necessary. Under this system, small treatable issues tend to develop into potentially fatal diseases.
  8. Poorly kept health facilities: Since the government lacks adequate funding to keep the hospitals clean and sanitary, many fall into disrepair. Additionally, the lack of resources creates a shortage of medical equipment and a poorly operated management system.
  9. Kenya Quality Model for Health: In 2018, Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development partnered with the group Amref Health Africa to create a set of national health standards called the Kenya Quality Model for Health. Currently, workers are being trained in KQMH nationwide in over 47 facilities, while they receive monthly visits from Amref trainers. This program will hopefully improve the quality of care in Kenya and in turn life expectancy.
  10. Expansive treatment measures are being implemented: The lack of health care access mainly centers around rural western Kenya, where transportation is frequently an issue. In 2018, the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) joined with the Abbott Fund to help solve this problem. The partnership has trained more than 1,000 workers to deliver doses of insulin to people with diabetes mainly in western Kenya. They have also invested $5 million to screen people for diabetes and provide them with the proper medical instruments. This unique approach to health care will hopefully expand to other treatments, decreasing the number of people who do not receive care.

– Liam Manion
Photo: Flickr

Helps Ethiopean ChildrenAfrica has the highest child mortality rate of any continent. Ethiopia sits in the middle of the child mortality ranking of countries throughout Africa with 59 out of 1,000 children dying before the age of five. While it is not as high as the rate of 76 per 1,000 children found in sub-Saharan Africa, it is much worse than many developed nations, which average around 6 deaths per 1,000 children annually. New research, however, shows that childhood mortality can be significantly lowered in Africa using an antibiotic that could help Ethiopian children prevent blindness.

Azithromycin Helps Ethiopian Children

Trachoma is the leading bacterial infection that causes blindness. In an effort to lower the number of cases of trachoma, researchers preemptively gave azithromycin, an antibiotic effective at fighting trachoma, to thousands of children under the age of nine in Ethiopia. The researchers administered these doses of azithromycin to children twice a year.

After observing the children for several years, they came to a shocking discovery: azithromycin will help Ethiopian children live longer. Not only did the bi-annual antibiotic prevent against trachoma, as the researchers believed it would, but it also protected against many other common ailments as well. For those children in the case study, the childhood mortality rate was cut in half.

The discovery seemed too good to be true, so this group of researchers tried to replicate their findings in other African nations with higher child mortality rates. Close to 200,000 children were given azithromycin in Tanzania, Malawi and Niger. While the results were not quite as impressive as cutting the child mortality rate in half, as seen with Ethiopia, the results were still high. The twice-yearly drug lowered child mortality rates between 14 to 19 percent in each country.

Research Into Other Illnesses

Research must continue before Africa will see widespread use of azithromycin for children. If approved for widespread use, this antibiotic could help prevent some of the common illnesses that lead to child mortality. These common illnesses include:

  • Pneumonia: Pneumonia kills nearly 100,000 children per year in Africa. This accounts for 16 percent of childhood death under the age of five. Currently, when children contract pneumonia, only one third are able to receive lifesaving antibiotic treatment.
  • Diarrhoeal disease: Diarrhea is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five. Diarrhea is a common infection in the bowels. It is completely preventable and treatable, yet it is estimated that 525,000 children in Africa die annually from this illness.
  • Malnutrition: Malnutrition contributes to childhood mortality rates. While the use of azithromycin will not be able to prevent malnutrition, it may be able to help prevent other ailments that the body is not able to fight off because of the lack of nutrients and calories.

Long term effects of azithromycin used to prevent ailments in children are not known. However, the studies have shown promising results in saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of African children. With a few more years of research and more funding, these researchers may be able to permanently lower the childhood mortality rate in Africa. Not only will this research continue to help Ethiopian children but it will also help children of other nations, ensuring they live into adulthood.

Kathryn Moffet
Photo: Pexels