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

Organizations Fighting for Children's Health
There is a clear link between poverty and health. Often, unreasonable health care costs can send people spiraling into poverty. On the other hand, those already living in impoverished conditions are less likely to have access to sufficient medical treatment, increasing the probability of disease. Children, being particularly vulnerable to disease, illness and malnutrition, require sufficient medical and nutritional resources. Annually, nearly six million children die before their fifth birthday due to malnutrition and an additional two million children die from preventable diseases because of an inability to afford treatment. These organizations fighting for children’s health are working to combat those eight million preventable child deaths.

Organizations Fighting for Children’s Health

Children International

Children International has fought for children’s health since 1936 and is working towards meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number three for 2030. Children International focuses on impoverished children with the belief that breaking the cycle of poverty at an early age will “impact generations to come” and end global poverty. By working with the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) to measure the results of its programs, Children’s International is finding that its work is making health services both more affordable and available as well as improving children’s health knowledge and confidence in their health habits. Children’s Health has made progress by:

  • Sharing important health information to children and families.
  • Creating supportive learning environments to practice new health habits.
  • Managing health clinics in areas lacking sufficient medical facilities.
  • Working to reduce costs with established medical facilities in impoverished areas.

Save the Children

Focusing on well-researched, evidence-based solutions for children’s health, Save the Children aims to make big, lasting changes to global poverty by working for better funding at the national, regional and global levels for children’s health and well-being. Its Every Last Child campaign seeks to provide all 15 million of the excluded impoverished children with health care and quality education by 2030. By recognizing the link between mothers’ and children’s health, Save the Children has identified that maternal actions such as breastfeeding for the first six months, appropriate birth care and sufficient newborn care avert anywhere from 13 percent to 40 percent of preventable deaths. Save the Children has accomplished these in regard to children’s health:

  • Treated 2.4 million malaria cases.
  • Administered care for 1.6 million pneumonia cases.
  • Cared for 1.9 million diarrhea cases.
  • Provided sufficient nutrition for 547,000 acute malnutrition cases.
  • Directly provided medical attention to 282,000 kids suffering in emergency situations.

These organizations fighting for children’s health are focusing efforts on the ground to give direct support to the impoverished. Better distribution of wealth and resources to ultimately create power structures focused on a system of true equality will have the most lasting results. About 2.4 billion people (a third of the population) still lack access to a medical facility. Without this crucial access to quality health treatments, it becomes increasingly difficult to eliminate global poverty. Proper health care is foundational to lifting children and their families out of poverty.

– Amy Dickens
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maternal and child mortality

Cameroon borders the coast of the Gulf of Guinea in Central Africa. The country is home to around 25.3 million people, comprising around 0.3 percent of the world’s population. Its population has increased significantly from 17 million in 2002. The nation has faced a number of health challenges, such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, but is primarily plagued by extremely high maternal and child mortality rates. In 1998, there were 4.3 reported deaths per 1,000 live births. This rate has steadily increased in recent years. The 2018 UNICEF data report states that the national neonatal mortality rate is 24 deaths per 1,000 live births, and is as high as 36 deaths in rural areas.

Combating High Mortality Rates

In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) performed a study designed to identify the number of infant and mother deaths that occurred during childbirth in 2015 and 2016. The study included four health districts in Cameroon, Specific interventions focused on financing, strengthening necessary human resources, service provision, partnership and advocacy. WHO worked with a Cameroonian reproductive health organization, RMNAH, to train 87 healthcare providers in the operation and organization of regional blood transfusion around the four sectors. The organization also implemented 10 health facilities in central and east regions of Cameroon.

Despite the contributions of WHO and RMNAH, data showed that maternal and child mortality was the same in October 2015 and 2016. In May 2016, researchers traveling to Cameroon with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) discovered a superfood plant that may spark change in mortality rates.

The Superfood

A group of researchers first discovered the potentially transformative plant in the Takamanda rainforest region, located in southwest Cameroon. The group working with CIFOR was traveling to local communities, observing rates of malnutrition and maternal and child mortality and recording variation by village. One researcher, Caleb Yengo Tata, recalled that some communities witnessed infant death every day. The root of recurring health problems was anemia due to iron-deficiency in women who had reached reproductive age. In some regions of Cameroon, 50 percent of women and 65 percent of children face anemia-related health issues. These can include cognitive difficulties, low birth weight and generally increased maternal mortality. Tata and other CIFOR researchers found that women living in grassland communities were more prone to severe anemia than those living in forest areas. Around 75 percent of women inhabiting either terrain experienced a level of anemia.

Researchers found that the difference could be attributed to a dark leafy green plant called “eru,” which grows bountifully throughout rainforests in Cameroon and central Africa. The plant is predicted to have 85 percent more vital nutrients than fresh spinach, and has virtually no anti-nutrients, making it what Westerners would peg a “superfood.” Traditionally, eru is cooked in palm oil and served with crayfish and hot chili. Women in the forest regions of Cameroon have been harvesting the plant for years, but were unaware of its potential health benefits until recently.

The Eru Plant’s Impact

Science has not yet confirmed whether the eru leaf will adequately address the crisis of child and maternal mortality in Cameroon. Researchers found a statistically significant link between eru consumption and lower anemia rates, correlated to lower child and maternal mortality rates. Through research, scientists ruled out other environmental factors that may influence the prevalence of anemia, such as malaria and parasites. However, they were unable to collect information from a large sample. While the data itself is limited, the discovery is a step forward, representing a possibility of change and the beginning of a healthcare breakthrough.

Although significant changes have been made, maternal and child mortality in Cameroon is still high. For those living in the poorest areas of the country, there are 39 deaths per 1,000 live births. Even in areas considered the “richest sectors” report 29 deaths per 1,000 live births. Researchers, nutritional and medical experts and Cameroonians remain hopeful that the newly discovered eru could function as a breakthrough for child and maternal health. If successful, the superfood plant needs to be preserved, along with other micronutrient-dense foods likely hiding among grasslands and forests in rural sectors of the country.

– Anna Lagattuta
Photo: Flickr

Bangladesh Winning the War Against Diarrhea

Despite being a developing country, Bangladesh has made exceptional progress in its health sector. It is reducing its infant mortality, increasing life expectancy and working to maintain control over diseases. Its progress in reducing life-threatening diarrhea is yet another triumph for the country’s health sector and its various interventions. Below are some indicators of Bangladesh winning the war against diarrhea.

Reduction of Diarrhoeal Deaths for Infants

Between 2000 and 2016, Bangladesh had managed to reduce the number of diarrhea-related deaths for children under five by 81.8 percent from 38,877 to 7,062 deaths. Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) has had a significant impact on reducing diarrhea in children in Bangladesh. In 2011, the country had a 90 percent reduction rate from the last 30 years after an increase in ORT.

From 1993 to 2014, the proportion of children diagnosed with diarrhea receiving either Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) or Recommended Homemade Fluids (RHF) increased from 67 percent to 89 percent in urban areas and 58 percent to 83 percent in rural areas. As of 2015, diarrhea accounted for only 2 percent of under-five deaths, compared to around one-fifth in the 1990s.

As the pioneer in effective diarrhea control, The International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh has been saving lives since the 1960s. It strongly promotes the use of ORS. Through a national program, Bangladesh became the first country to increase oral rehydration therapy. It treats more than 100,000 people each year for diarrheal diseases and related nutritional and respiratory problems.

The center was also involved in research that showed how zinc supplements could not only reduce the duration of diarrhea but also lessen the risk of recurrence. It has increased its efforts in providing more zinc tablets to children in need.

Ending Preventable Child Deaths by 2035

This initiative was launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) of Bangladesh, along with other civil society organizations and professional associations. The goal of this initiative has been to reduce child deaths to 20 per 1,000 live births by 2035 largely by cutting down under-five mortality and reducing the neonatal mortality rate.

Bangladesh has performed very well before the target date. Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in maternal, newborn and child survival interventions. Other than providing vaccines and skilled birth attendants, interventions under this initiative also include changing social norms like open defecation given the role it plays in causing diarrhea. This further contributes to Bangladesh winning the war against diarrhea.

Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI)

Adopted in 1998, the IMCI program finally launched in 2002. This program focuses on the major causes of child mortality such as diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria, measles and malnutrition. As of 2015, the facility-based IMCI program has been implemented in 425 of the 482 sub-districts across the country, including community clinics.

By 2013, more than “4000 doctors, 17,000 paramedics, 8,500 basic health workers and 15,600 skilled birth attendants” were trained under this program. The number of trained healthcare workers providing quality care for sick children increased from 8 percent to 24 percent between 2002 to 2009 as a result of this program.

Strong Network of Community Healthcare Workers and Volunteers

The government’s strong network of community healthcare workers and volunteers has played an important role in Bangladesh winning the war against diarrhea. These healthcare workers and volunteers have been able to quickly identify and treat diarrhea cases at the community level and send the most serious cases to local clinics for more intensive treatment. This allows for quick identification of symptoms, and as a result, it enables fast responses that can help prevent epidemics.

Other than these interventions, improvements in access to clean drinking water and sanitation have also immensely contributed to Bangladesh winning the war against diarrhea. Despite the level of poverty, it is commendable how far Bangladesh has come in terms of vanquishing diarrhea.

Farihah Tasneem
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