Maternal Health in Yemen
The Yemen civil war, which began in early 2015 and still devastates the nation today, has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. A total of 24 million people require assistance. This crisis affects all aspects of life in Yemen, including healthcare. Millions are without access to life-saving medical treatment and supplies, leading them to die of preventable diseases, such as cholera, diabetes and diphtheria. Pregnant women and infants are particularly vulnerable during this health crisis as adequate medical care throughout pregnancy and birth is essential. Maternal health in Yemen is of the utmost concern now.

Yemen has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world with 17% of the female deaths in the reproductive age caused by childbirth complications. Maternal health in Yemen has never been accessible to all women. This crisis has escalated even further during the Yemeni civil war. However, global organizations are acting to save the lives of these pregnant women and infants who desperately need medical care.

Yemen’s Maternal Health Crisis: Before the Civil War

Even before the war began in 2015, pregnant women were struggling to get the help they needed. Yemen is one of the most impoverished countries in the world — ranking at 177 on the Human Development Index (HDI). Poverty is a large factor in the insufficiency of maternal health in Yemen as impoverished women lack the finances, nutrition, healthcare access and education to deliver their babies safely.

Many Yemeni women are unaware of the importance of a trained midwife during childbirth. Of all the births in rural areas, 70% happen at home rather than at a healthcare facility. Home births increase the risk of death in childbirth as the resources necessary to deal with complications are not available.

The Yemeni Civil War Increased the Maternal Health Crisis

Since the civil war began, the maternal mortality rate in Yemen has spiked from five women a day in 2013 to 12 women a day in 2019. A variety of factors caused this spike. The war has further limited access to nearly every resource, including food and water. This, in turn, depletes the health of millions of women and thus their newborns.

Also, the civil war has dramatically decreased access to healthcare across the nation. An estimated 50% of the health facilities in the country are not functional as a result of the conflict. Those that are operational are understaffed, underfunded and unable to access the medical equipment desperately needed to help the people of Yemen. This especially affects pregnant women — who require medical care to give birth safely.

Organizational Aid

Though the situation in Yemen remains dire, various global organizations are acting to assist pregnant women and newborns. The United Nations Children’s’ Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is taking the initiative to help millions across Yemen, including pregnant women. The organization has sent health workers and midwives into the country’s rural areas to screen and treat pregnant women for complications.

Similarly, USAID trained more than 260 midwives and plans to send them into Yemeni communities to help pregnant women and infants. USAID is partnering with UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Yemen Ministry of Public Health and Population and other organizations to ensure that maternal health in Yemen, as well as all types of healthcare, are adequate and accessible for all affected by the civil war.

Maternal health in Yemen, while never having been accessible for many, is now in crisis as a result of the Yemeni civil war. While the situation is still urgent, organizations such as USAID and UNICEF are fighting to ensure that all pregnant women and infants in Yemen have access to the medical care they desperately need.

Daryn Lenahan
Photo: Flickr

Maternal health in Nepal Nepal, a landlocked country bordering India and China, has a population of approximately 30 million. In 2015, close to 41 percent of births occurred at home in Nepal. Of those home births, just under half were carried out without a trained professional. Due to the alarming rate of maternal deaths seen in the early 2000s, maternal health in Nepal has been a focal point for many years. Even though complications during births at health centers still occur, the presence of trained professionals during birth remains the best way to avoid preventable deaths. Many organizations have partnered with the Nepalese government and are working hard to bring these numbers down even further every year.

4 Facts About Maternal Health in Nepal

  1. Nepal’s maternal mortality rate decreased about 71 percent between 1990 and 2015. The decline is attributed to free delivery services and transport in rural areas, access to safe delivery services and medicines that prevent hemorrhaging. In rural parts of Nepal, it has historically been much more difficult to receive proper healthcare. Through the combined efforts of various organizations and the Nepalese government, the number of facilities in remote areas has increased. Additionally, the incentive to travel to these facilities has risen. In 2005, the government began giving stipends to pay for transportation costs. Four years later, the government passed the Safe Motherhood Programme, which allowed free delivery services to pregnant women. In 2011, the government continued to promote safe pregnancies by adding another incentive of $5 for attending antenatal checkups. Through these efforts, the government has had an enormous impact on the development of maternal health in Nepal.
  2. Midwifery is one of the most important services for maternal health in Nepal. Fast intervention and postnatal suggestions from a skilled midwife allows for better postnatal care for both mother and child. In Nepal, only about 27 percent of women receive care within 24 hours of giving birth. This increases risk of hemorrhaging and heavy-lifting related injuries shortly after giving birth. It also increases risk of possible complications for the baby during and directly after birth.
  3. Midwifery education ensures that midwives are up to date on the most current practices and procedures for successful pregnancy and birthing. Institutions have partnered with the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) to offer combined education for nursing and midwifery. In 2011, Nepal and the UNFPA committed to training 10,000 birthing attendants. However, in a report about midwifery authored by the UNFPA, midwives do not have specific legislation for their work. Midwives are not completely recognized under the law nor are they regulated, which results in issues with proper training and resources. Therefore, greater recognition and accessibility will allow midwives the resources, training and encouragement that they need for success.
  4. Women of lower socioeconomic status have more complications surrounding maternal health. The National Medical College Teaching Hospital in Nepal published an extensive report of the challenges surrounding maternal health in Nepal. A specific challenge mentioned in this report includes the socioeconomic influencers of maternal health. Due to poor nutritional health in women of lower economic status, issues such as anemia can cause mortalities. Additionally, rural areas record about 280 birth complications per day. Although there has been significant work since then to expand access to cesarean sections and birthing centers in rural areas, there are still around 258 women dying per 100,000 live births.

As maternal health in Nepal becomes more of a focus in the healthcare system, there are certain policies and programs that must be expanded upon. Midwifery education and access to services are the most important programs for successful maternal health in Nepal. Many experts in the field continue to push for individual programs that focus primarily on methods for successful midwifery education and overall increased care for maternal health in Nepal.

– Ashleigh Litcofsky

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Overpopulation in AfricaAfrica as a continent is growing in many ways. Many of its countries’ economies are growing quickly, lifting people out of extreme poverty. As economies grow and escape extreme poverty, several countries are developing issues with overpopulation. Though the issues exist for many reasons, there are viable solutions that, in some cases, are already being implemented. Hopefully, some solutions will provide a path for the future of the developing continent. Below are the top 10 facts about overpopulation in Africa. They describe how the issue came about and what is being done to solve it.

10 Facts About Overpopulation in Africa

  1. By 2050 Africa’s population is predicted to double. With so many countries having such a high birth rate, the populations of African countries are rising very quickly. Africa’s current population of more than 1.1 billion is expected to exceed 2 billion in the next 30 years. The population is growing at a rate faster than any other continent.
  2. By 2100, five of the top 10 most populous countries will be in Africa. Currently, Nigeria is the only country in Africa with a population in the top 10. Its population is expected to grow by another 527 million people by that time. With African countries growing at such fast rates, it is estimated that by 2100 the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Egypt will join Nigeria in the top 10.
  3. Africa holds 27 out of 30 of the countries with the highest birth rates. An overwhelming majority of the countries with the highest birth rates reside in Africa. Niger, Angola and Mali all have an average of around six births per woman. These rates are much higher than in developed nations. To compare, the U.S. has a birth rate of 1.88. Other developing countries such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have birth rates around 2.1.
  4. Seventy percent of Africans are under 30 years old. The African population is the youngest in the world. As this younger population reaches working age, the demand for jobs will increase. Jobs will need to be developed to satisfy this job market.
  5. Africa is urbanizing quickly. Around 80 percent of Africa’s massive population growth will occur in cities. This is in addition to the massive rush to urbanization that has already occurred in Africa. While Africa may not be lacking land, its population is crowded into cities. In 2010, 90 percent of the continent’s population was living on only 21 percent of the land.
  6. Forty-seven percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s urban population lives in slums. The influx of people into African cities is putting stress on the housing and living situations within the cities. Close to half of all people on the continent are living in slums. They live in conditions that are crowded, lacking proper sanitation and often poorly constructed.
  7. One cause of overpopulation is actually positive for Africa as a whole. One of the major causes for population increase is actually increased quality of life. More children surviving into adulthood and healthier adults have lowered the death rate in several African countries. The impact of healthcare is a major positive. However, if fertility rates do not fall while death rates continue to decrease, the population will boom and lead to overpopulation.
  8. There are known solutions to overpopulation. Education is one of the key ingredients to reducing overpopulation. Educating people on how to properly family plan can help them to keep families smaller. Along with this, people must be provided with the resources to implement what they have learned.
  9. Kenya serves as a model for other countries. In 2009, Kenya started a program called Vision 2030. this vision aimed to lower the country’s birth rate from five in 2009 to three by 2030. By 2018, Kenya had already achieved its goal with a fertility rate of 2.81. Vision 2030 accomplished this with funding from USAID along with education programs and policies that informed people about family planning.
  10. There are active organizations helping to reduce overpopulation. An organization called Rutgers is already active in Africa to fight overpopulation. This organization works to raise awareness about sexual reproductive health. It recently opened an office in Uganda to carry out its mission through partnerships with schools, government advocacy and local authorities.

These 10 facts about overpopulation in Africa show that it is an issue that continues to plague the continent. Despite the prevalence of the issue, however, there are known solutions that are being implemented to solve the problem.

Josh Fritzjunker
Photo: Flickr

World Changing Celebrities
People often recognize celebrities for their music and performances but there are a variety of stars that use their fame as a platform to support charities, create foundations and change the world. Below are five world changing celebrities that are actively using their voice to fight global poverty.

Leonardo DiCaprio Protects Indigenous Rights

Along with spreading awareness and educating followers about climate change on his Instagram page, DiCaprio created the Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation which focusses on protecting all of Earth’s inhabitants. It has recently partnered with Earth Alliance to address and take steps to find solutions to major threats to the planet’s life support systems.

One of his most notable works is the protection of indigenous rights. Dicaprio’s Foundation helps fund programs focused on and led by indigenous people. It helps indigenous people defend their rights, create renewable energy sources, develop sustainable livelihoods and increase the political impact of advocacy efforts. As of 2015, The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation accumulated $15 million in grants to fund innovative organizations and environmental projects focused on preserving and protecting the planet.

Christy Turlington Assists with Childbirth Safety in Haiti and Uganda

Because of her personal experience with complications in childbirth, Turlington is using her voice to advocate the importance of making childbirth safe for every woman. In 2010, she worked on “No Woman, No Cry,” a documentary that told the stories of pregnant women in four different countries: Bangladesh, Guatemala, Tanzania and the United States. She expressed the need for lifesaving medical care for women giving birth in case of the occurrence of complications.

She also founded the nonprofit Every Mother Counts, an organization that focuses on the health and wellbeing of mothers all over the world. As of now, her organization has partners in countries like Guatemala, Haiti, India, Tanzania and the U.S., and has impacted more than 600,000 lives.

Matt Damon Gives Access to Safe Water

Another of the world changing celebrities is Matt Damon, who is the co-founder of Water.org, an organization focused on providing families with safe water and sanitation. The foundation hopes that less time spent searching for water will allow children to go to school and get an education, improve health and help the economy. Damon’s foundation expresses the importance of access to affordable financing through WaterCredit. WaterCredit is a pay-it-forward system that makes it possible for household water and toilet solutions by bringing repayable loans to those who need access to affordable financing. In total, Damon’s foundation has benefited more than 20 million people across 12 different countries.

The Lewis Family Improves Access to Health Care

In the 1980s, Ryan Lewis’ mother, Julie Lewis, contracted HIV due to a blood transfusion from pregnancy complications. She lived through her prognosis and decided to create the 30/30 project. The 30/30 project’s main focus is to improve access to comprehensive health care by building multiple medical facilities worldwide. The project has placed a total of 30 medical facilities in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, South Africa, Togo, India, the U.S., Rwanda, Bolivia and Puerto Rico.

The organization places medical facilities based on the needs of the area. For example, the Mbita Clinic in Kenya intends to prevent and treat major diseases, which include HIV, TB, malaria, water­borne illnesses and respiratory and heart ailments. The Mbita Clinic reduces waiting cues, prioritizes critical care needs, improves conditions for the staff and allows for service expansion due to the district’s high infant mortality rate and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. In total, the medical facilities have had 215,963 patient visits.

Bono Fights to End Extreme Poverty

In 2004, Bono co-founded the ONE organization. ONE’s goal is to end extreme poverty and preventable illnesses and diseases by 2030. ONE is a nonprofit organization with diverse groups of people. These groups come together and take action to organize, mobilize, educate and advocate for gender equality, youth employment, quality education and equal access to health services. ONE has secured over $30 billion in funding for historic health initiatives. It also helped pass the Electrify Africa Act of 2016, a U.S. legislation on energy poverty.

From actors to musicians, these five world changing celebrities put their public reputations to use by showing everyone that their voices matter and are an important key to make a difference and change the world.

– Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr

 Abandoned Infants in Pakistan

At just over a month old, Fatima was given away on live television. Fatima is just one of many children orphaned in Pakistan after being abandoned in trashcans and dirty alleyways. Placed in piles of rubbish, these infants are dying by the hundreds every year. On his show, “Amaan Ramzan,” Dr. Aamir Liaquat Hussain famously gives away cars and other luxury items to families in need. However, the show made world news after giving Fatima and another baby girl to a family who are unable to have children. As he explains, “These children are not a part of garbage, are not a part of trash, so we took these children from the garbage, from the trash and delivered them to the needy people, the needy parents.” Fatima’s new mother, Tanzeem Ud Din, said that she hopes the show will help encourage others to adopt children in need.

While the cause of the trend to abandon children remains unknown, many have their theories. One father who adopted two of these afflicted children and wishes to remain unnamed said, “it could be people not wanting children, women on their own or a couple that did not go through with an abortion.” He says religious belief plays a great roll in this. Many perish in the litter before they can be rescued. The lucky ones make it to orphanages dedicated to helping abandoned children. The father described his visit to the orphanage he adopted from sites of children with fear on their faces, crying because they had been dropped off two days ago when their mother died and their father left to remarry. Many of the children here live without a birth certificate or any paperwork for identification.

While the situation is horrific, many are working on solutions that will help save these children’s lives.

  1. Improvements to legislation: According to Director of the Imkaan Welfare Organization, Tahera Hasan, “Solutions don’t lie with philanthropic institutions and they never will. We are literally a drop in the ocean as far as the larger landscape is concerned.” In 2016, the Upper House of Parliament passed its first-ever bill to help abandoned children. Un-attended Orphans Rehabilitation and Welfare Act was written to protect the rights of orphaned children and ensure housing, education and healthcare.
  2. Decreasing poverty rates throughout Pakistan: According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2015–2016, 39 percent of the population lives in poverty. In contrast, the country has a total fertility rate of 2.55, according to the CIA Factbook, putting it at number 76 for world fertility rates. As a comparison, the United States is 142 on this list. Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms says poverty reduction is one of the main objectives of Pakistan’s Vision 2025.
  3. Improving adoption services: According to Hasan, “There is no formal structure for adoption in place here, it is not recognized by the state.” Hansan is dedicated to the support of families adopting in Pakistan with the Imkaan Welfare Organization. Adoption remains mainly unregulated in Pakistan, with no paperwork for these children.

Social worker Ramzan Chippa said, “Parents who are adopting babies want healthy babies.” However, many orphaned children are described as severely mentally ill, one father even noticing a boy tied up in his orphanage to prevent him from taking bites out of his own arm. As a result, organizations such as Imkaan Welfare Organization are necessary to help these children become adoptable and find homes to be placed in.

The unnamed adoptive father referred to the child crisis in Pakistan as “unfinished business.” For countless children abandoned in dumpsters and litter, that is what their life is. Until Pakistan can adequately care for the thousands of unwanted children born every year, their existence will seem unfinished as they are homeless, purposeless and without a family.

Maura Byrne
Photo: Flickr

Urban and Rural Voucher Systems

Each year, millions of pregnant women give birth without access to proper health care services. Countries such as Ethiopia, Laos and Yemen are just a few parts of the world where this is a major problem. For example, in Ethiopia, 59 percent of women do not receive care by a medical professional during pregnancy. In Zimbabwe, however, access to prenatal care has drastically improved since the 2014 implementation of the Urban and Rural Voucher Systems (UVS and RVS, respectively). These systems allow for low-income pregnant women to receive the healthcare that they need. They have already had incredible benefits on thousands of pregnant women. Additionally, they set a great precedent for governments and NGOs to come together to find solutions to pressing maternal health issues.

Qualifications

The UVS and RVS service pregnant women whose incomes place them in the bottom 40 percent of households in Zimbabwe. Consequently, women who cannot afford the required $25 co-pay at many clinics can still receive care. Providing women with this essential health care helps to ensure that these women and their babies stay healthy and safe both during and after pregnancy.

Funding

The government of Zimbabwe, the World Bank and Codaid are the main sources of funding for the UVS and RVS. Cordaid is a local NGO that has assisted with much of the program’s implementation. Clinics are subsidized based on their performance. They measure performance on overall range and quality of coverage. This supply-side solution works to help promote jobs and economic growth in local communities, which contributes to the program’s long-term sustainability.

Impact on the Poor

Access to proper care during pregnancy is essential to ensure the health of expectant mothers and their child. In many countries around the world, women do not have access to this care. As a result, the consequences have been horrific.

For instance, there are roughly 3.3 million neonatal deaths recorded per year. Neonatal refers to the first four weeks of a baby’s life. Proper prenatal care can prevent these fatalities. A woman who receives such care is far less likely to give birth to a child with fatal health issues. Proper prenatal care can help identify and fix possible health issues before they become too serious. In addition, receiving prenatal care can offer educational resources. The care can educate a woman about the ways in which they should go about raising a healthy child.

Conclusion

Zimbabwe’s Urban and Rural Voucher Systems have had immense benefits since their implementation. The thousands of women that they have helped to serve reflect such benefits. The programs provide an affordable and accessible option for pregnant mothers to receive the care that they need to ensure both their health and the health of their babies. Also, the UVP and RVP supply-side design ensure that the programs are helping to stimulate local economies and bring communities together. All in all, while much progress must still be made towards increasing access to prenatal care for pregnant women around the world, Zimbabwe has taken an important first step with its Urban and Rural Voucher Systems.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Flickr

diagnose birth asphyxiaBirth asphyxia is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. It occurs when a child does not get enough oxygen before, during or after birth. However, an app under development could detect asphyxia in as little as 10 seconds. As such, this app has the potential to diagnose birth asphyxia and save the lives of children.

Causes and Symptoms of Asphyxia

Some causes of perinatal asphyxia include low blood pressure in the mother, placental abruption wherein the placenta separates from the uterus wall and the compression or entanglement of the umbilical cord. Additionally, birth asphyxia can be caused if the uterus does not fully relax. This is because it can impede blood flow to the placenta and thus the child.

As a result, the symptoms of children suffering from asphyxia include a weak or irregular heart rate, weak reflexes, being blue in color, lethargy and/or a soft cry.

This last symptom, a soft cry, is important. It is what Ubenwe, a Nigerian AI company, relies on to diagnose birth asphyxia. Moreover, Ubenwe plans to save children from debilitating illnesses resulting from brain damage caused by asphyxia, like blindness or deafness.

What is Ubenwe?

Ubenwe is a mobile app that uses proprietary AI technology to detect weak crying that can be a sign of asphyxia. In their words, the app can “analyze the amplitude and frequency patterns in the cry to provide a diagnosis of birth asphyxia.”

Ubenwe is an Igbo word that means “cry of a child.” In clinical trials, where the app tested 1,400 recordings of children crying, the app can diagnose birth asphyxia with a 95 percent accuracy rate. By recognizing this key symptom of asphyxia immediately and accurately, Ubenwe can save many lives.

Nigerian student Charles Onu and his research team invented the app at McGill University in Canada. Additionally, Onu is an associate fellow at the Royal Commonwealth Society. He is one of 12 fellows from around the world chosen to take part in the Jeanne Suave’ Leadership Program. This program brings together the world’s brightest young leaders to end global problems.

In 2017, Ubenwe was one of 141 teams from around the world to make it into the X Prize competition. This competition encourages inventors to apply AI technology when solving global problems. Subsequently, Ubenwe began research and development in 2012. In 2014, Ubenwe began pilot testing.

The Importance of Ubenwe

Currently, the main method to diagnose birth asphyxia requires drawing blood from the umbilical cord or the baby. However, this method is not suitable because 60 percent of women worldwide do not give birth in a hospital. Half of all deaths that occur in middle- to low-income nations could be prevented if the afflicted had had access to a hospital. Often, by the time the parents of a child are able to reach a hospital, the harm has already been done.

However, 95 percent of the developing world has a mobile phone. Ultimately, every one of those 95 percent could have access to Ubenwe and potentially diagnose birth asphyxia. With the majority of developing countries having access to mobile phones, they have increasing access to apps with the power to save lives.

– Sarah Bradley
Photo: Flickr

The 3030 ProjectIn 2014, musician Ryan Lewis, a member of the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis hip-hop duo, became the first to donate to the 30/30 Project, the project that he helped his mother, Julie, kickstart. As a thirty-year survivor of HIV, Julie Lewis designed the project with the goal of building thirty healthcare facilities worldwide. It is virtually impossible for people living in poverty to receive treatments, considering “Just one month’s supply of a typical antiretroviral drug costs more than the annual income of most Malawians.” But, these new facilities will give people access to treatments for life-threatening diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

The Lewis family saw the injustice and pledged to make a positive change. After all, their motto for the project states, “Healthcare is a human right.”

Lewis and his musical partner, Macklemore, started an IndieGoGo campaign to raise $100,000. This went towards the first phase of the project, which is building a non-profit health center in Neno District, Malawi. The campaign exceeded its goal, raising over $150,000. So, the excess will be used for the next phase, which is a non-profit clinic in Kangundo, Kenya.

Dambe Health Center

Just like they promised, the 30/30 Project completed construction of the Dambe Health Center in the Neno District of Malawi in August 2015.

Partners in Health opened the clinic in March 2016. “This health center serves a community of 30,000 people…by addressing the need for free, basic primary care and lowering the barrier of access.” Since its launch four-and-a-half years ago, sixteen health care centers have been built. Six are currently under construction and eight are in the fundraising stage.

No Mom Left Behind

In addition to their main goal, the 30/30 Project launched its “No Mom Left Behind” campaign. The funds raised, build and maintain maternity wards in impoverished regions. Since 2017, they were able to build a new maternity ward and renovate a clinic in Togo, West Africa. For the 2019 fundraising year, donations will be used to construct a maternity ward in Kenya. It will offer HIV counseling, testing and medication, immunizations and family planning. The need for these services is high, as one in forty-two women die during childbirth. Sixty percent of women deliver their child at home, far from the helping hands of medical professionals. Construction on a nursing school in Uganda is already underway, with the hopes of training students to properly handle patients and any problems that may arise during childbirth.

As a family who has experienced the heartache associated with a loved one’s positive HIV diagnosis, the Lewises know how important it is to receive proper treatment. This is especially true for expectant mothers, who have a twenty-five percent chance of transmitting the disease to their baby. However, treatments could reduce that likelihood to less than two percent.

Ryan Lewis has made a splash in the music scene. Over the last five years, he has also made major strides in the world of philanthropy. Due to his generosity and perseverance, thousands of people in Africa and India are receiving life-saving treatments that they were previously unable to afford. With continued support, the 30/30 Project will help provide healthcare to many other underserved communities.

– Sareen Mekhitarian
Photo: Flickr

MSF in Yemen: Helping Amid Conflict

Instability continues to plague Yemen, exposing almost 20 million people to food insecurity and more than one million to cholera. The damage is evident in Yemen’s weak healthcare system, which leaves millions of people vulnerable. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, is an organization that provides healthcare for people affected by conflict and poverty. Though warfare complicates operations on the ground, MSF in Yemen is not giving up.

The Challenges of Aid in Yemen

In 2018, an airstrike destroyed a newly built cholera treatment center. Fortunately, there were no patients or workers present at the time, but the vital project had to be put on pause until repairs and reconstruction could begin. Events like this threaten the effectiveness of MSF in Yemen and risk the lives of the 16 million people who lack basic healthcare.

MSF also runs 12 healthcare centers of its own in addition to the 20 hospitals the organization supports. Its operations have treated more than 1.6 million people suffering from injuries, disease and chronic illnesses. MSF’s activities in Yemen take place in a constantly changing and dangerous environment. Since 2015, constant fighting between various militant groups has damaged countless Yemeni health facilities, leaving only half fully functioning. Many hospitals and health facilities in the areas have closed down because of safety concerns or because they cannot pay workers.

MSF in Yemen

The facility that was destroyed was one of many new treatment centers responding to the cholera outbreak. Cholera is a serious issue in Yemen and has killed 2,184 people since April 2017. Because of the violence, almost 16 million Yemenis have suffered from reduced access to clean water and sanitation, which increases their vulnerability to cholera. MSF quickly reacted to the outbreak by opening 37 treatment centers and oral rehydration points. In just six months after the breakout, MSF admitted more than 100,000 cholera patients. While the threat of cholera has decreased since 2017, treatment centers remain a vital safe haven for those afflicted.

MSF responded to another issue caused by the lack of healthcare facilities: pregnancy. In 2017, MSF in Yemen helped 7,900 women deliver their babies. Pregnant mothers are especially vulnerable because they lack access to clinics. Even when there is a health facility nearby, traveling may be too dangerous or time-consuming. Consequently, mothers give birth at home, which exposes them to health risks.  Many pregnant women also don’t have access to prenatal care and can have preventable but fatal complications.

Treatment Centers In Yemen

MSF in Yemen dealt with the re-emergence of diphtheria in 2017. The organization acted quickly by opening up a treatment center in Ibb where 70 percent of cases were concentrated. MSF treated around 400 patients that year alone. As successful as that operation was, others remain an issue, like renal failure. Multiple renal failure treatment centers have been forced to close due to the conflict. Many facilities are under-equipped and some 4,000 patients are still left untreated.

Treatment centers are often too far, or treatment itself is too expensive. Patients require three dialysis sessions a week, so many will reduce the number of treatments to lower the cost. Unfortunately, this can be dangerous and ineffective in treating renal failure. MSF responded to the crisis and has helped more than 800 patients by offering 83,000 dialysis treatments and importing 800 tons of supplies.

More than 20 million Yemenis are in need of humanitarian assistance, facing hunger, disease and displacement. MSF continues to provide aid through one of its largest programs in the world. Since 1986, MSF in Yemen has been compensating for the lack of effective healthcare, even amid the conflict.

Massarath Fatima

Photo: Flickr

Maternal Mortality in Africa

Upon learning they are pregnant, most women do not immediately wonder if it’s a fatal diagnosis. However, that is the stark reality for many women in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Maternal mortality in Africa is a pervasive and devastating issue. Far hospitals, scarce doctors and poor healthcare systems all contribute to maternal mortality. Most maternal deaths are preventable and caused by complications treatable in developed nations. It is important to recognize the causes of maternal death and solutions already in place to further reduce maternal mortality in Africa.

Causes of Maternal Mortality

The most common causes of maternal mortality are severe bleeding, infections, high blood pressure during pregnancy, delivery complications and unsafe abortions. In most cases, these are treatable with access to trained medical staff and proper medication. Access to maternal health care varies around the world. “A 5-year-old girl living in sub-Saharan Africa faces a 1 in 40 risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth during her lifetime. A girl of the same age living in Europe has a lifetime risk of 1 in 3,300,” according to Dr. Greeta Rao Gupta, deputy executive director of UNICEF. Factors such as “poverty, distance, lack of information, inadequate services, [and] cultural practices” prevent women from having access to the proper medical services they need.

Additionally, warfare in developing countries causes the breakdown of healthcare systems. This further prevents women from accessing life-saving medical care. For example, when the 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone ended in 2002, it left less than 300 trained doctors and three obstetricians to treat the country’s 6 million people.

Solutions to Reduce Maternal Mortality

Many NGOs work throughout the region to combat maternal mortality in Africa. In fact, the United Nations initiated the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health, 2016-2030. Their goal is to “reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births” by 2030.

According to a study by the World Health Organization, there needs to be better documentation of maternal mortality in Africa to create more effective policy solutions. Currently, less than 40 percent of countries have a registration system documenting the causes of maternal mortality. Hence, this lack of information makes it difficult for the U.N. and NGOs to create effective solutions.

An unexpected yet effective way maternal mortality in Africa has been combated is through photography. Pulitzer-prize winning war correspondent Lynsey Addario took her camera to the region to document maternal mortality. Addario documented the experiences of many women, including 18-year-old Mamma Sessay in Sierra Leone. Sessay traveled for hours by canoe and ambulance while in excruciating labor to reach her nearest hospital. Addario stayed with Sessay for the entire experience, from the birth of her child to her subsequent hemorrhage and death. Addario even traveled with Sessay’s family back to their village to document Sessay’s funeral and her family’s grief.

Ultimately, TIME published Addario’s photographs. And as a result, Merck launched Merck for Mothers, giving $500 million to reduce maternal mortality rates worldwide. Addario stated, “I just couldn’t believe how unnecessary her death seemed, and it inspired me to continue documenting maternal health and death to try to turn these statistics around.”

The Bottom Line

The international community must continue to address maternal mortality, a preventable tragedy. No woman should have to fear for her own life or the life of her unborn child upon discovering she is pregnant. Through documentation, reporting and care, the international community can fight to reduce maternal mortality in Africa.

Alina Patrick
Photo: Flickr