COVIS-19 vaccine distribution
Vaccines for the COVID-19 virus are emerging at an increasing rate around the world. The COVID-19 vaccine distribution is a primary challenge for political leaders. Ensuring that everyone has access to vaccines is imperative to achieving global recovery. In many countries, COVID-19 cases are still at large. National leaders put individual national laws in place to fight against the rising numbers. Though they have helped lower those rates, the number of cases has not yet begun to level out. The vaccines that nations have currently distributed should curb those numbers further. This will allow vaccinated individuals to resume their pre-pandemic daily routines slowly.

Inequal COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Some countries have priority access to vaccines, which is largely due to national wealth. This leads to poorer nations not having the ability to purchase vaccines. To combat this for the betterment of global health, France, in particular, has begun to put forth ideas and efforts with the intent to help such nations gain access to vaccines.

French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed that richer countries ought to transfer roughly 3-5% of their vaccines to countries in need. According to an interview with the Financial Times, he said, “This would have no impact on the rhythm of vaccine strategies (in rich countries). It won’t delay it by a single day given the way we use our doses.” According to Macron, German Chancellor Angela Markel has no problems with the initiative, and he hopes to convince the United States to share their vaccines as well.

African leaders have put forth the request for 13 million doses of vaccinations to help its population. The leaders plan to give a large portion of those to caretakers, allowing them to help patients in need. Currently, COVAX will be making accessible vaccinations available to African countries. However, the countries will use the vaccine only for emergencies. Thus, the calls for more vaccines are important.

France’s Plan for Vaccine Distribution

To help fight for better COVID-19 vaccine distribution in African countries, France has established a designated four-part plan to help affected communities efficiently. These steps include support of African healthcare systems, aiding African research and supporting humanitarian and economic efforts. The goal is for France to support various healthcare systems to ensure that patients and citizens receive the best treatment until a vaccine can be distributed. Until these countries have proper access to vaccines, the World Health Organization (WHO) will work with the financing they received from wealthier governments.

Many other countries worldwide are also working to help one another receive the help needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Chinese scientists developed a vaccine that is currently in use in Hungary and Serbia. Beijing and Russia are selling and donating their own vaccines to nations abroad. If the number of cooperations increases in the upcoming months, there will be more vaccines available worldwide. Since the virus can still spread with mutations from other parts of the world, this is also crucial to rich nations’ national security.

– Seren Dere
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Barbados

Healthcare aids in the prevention, treatment and diagnosis of an illness. Healthcare has greatly improved through research and newly discovered science and medicine. Although, the outbreak of COVID-19 has hurt many populations around the world. As a result, healthcare was forced to adapt radically and rapidly. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost every country experienced a disruption to its health services. Low and middle-income countries reported the greatest difficulties. However, Barbados’s response to the COVID-19 crisis has proven to be more successful than other nations.

Barbados

Healthcare in Barbados is of high standard and easily accessible to everyone. The Queen Elizabeth hospital has about 600 beds and offers care in areas such as radiology and obstetrics. Furthermore, there are eight government Polyclinics that provide free medical treatment for minor ailments, five Geriatric hospitals for elderly care and a network of Child Care facilities. With a population of about 287,375 people, the country has seen around 365 COVID-19 cases and seven deaths.

Combatting the Virus

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) planned to strengthen laboratory capacity for early detection of COVID-19. Barbados ‘Bet-dos Santos Public Health Laboratory’ became one of the first in the Caribbean to acquire test kits and reagents for COVID-19 detection. Additionally, Barbados received concurrent training of laboratory personnel in the new testing protocol.

According to Barbados Today, COVID-19 patients were receiving an experimental drug called Remdesivir and were recovering quickly in April. The doctor leading the trial said, “the patients taking part in a clinical trial of the drug have all had severe respiratory symptoms and fever but were able to leave the hospital after less than a week of treatment.”

Barbados’s government established a COVID Rapid Response Unit and a COVID Engagement Unit to monitor quarantine sites and crack down on violation of COVID-19 protocols. A Cuban medical team in Barbados won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for its outstanding work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in December. David Comissiong, the Ambassador of Barbados to CARICOM (Caribbean Community) nominated the nation. Additionally, medical teams have gone to up to 38 countries and 12 Caribbean countries.

Adjusting for Visitors

Barbados is a popular tourist hotspot and it still wishes to accommodate visitors. The government created the Welcome Stamp, a new visa for remote workers. This visa allows visitors to stay for up to 12 months and work remotely. According to the Insider, Barbados’s new incentive allows people to relocate to a popular destination and still continue to work from home. Barbados had 1,693 Welcome Stamp applications by the end of October. Travel guidelines have been implemented to prevent the spread of the virus. Thus, airports require health screening procedures and quarantine procedures.

Barbados is a thriving country that successfully utilizes its accessibility to healthcare. Healthcare in Barbados is vital. The country is not selfish or prejudice with its medical management. Furthermore, it lives by an egalitarian system regarding health protection. Barbados has used its resources to aid other countries and provide solutions and trials to carriers of the virus. The country and its medical teams will continue to take the proper precautions to protect its inhabitants and those in other countries.

– Thomas Williams

Photo: Flickr

Refugee Soap Maker
Kenya hosts one of the largest refugee populations in Africa. The country has over 495,000 refugees and asylum seekers fleeing war and violence from Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia. The majority of these refugees are located in camps in Dadaab in the southeast of Kenya, Kakuma in the northwest as well as Nairobi. In what some have referred to as “the forgotten crisis,” many of Kenya’s refugees have spent generations living in camps. During the COVID-19 pandemic, sanitation has become an issue among the refugee population in Kenya, Luckily, a refugee soap maker has emerged to aid with that challenge.

The Situation

The three Dadaab camps, which some originally expected to hold only 90,000, are now home to over 300,000 refugees. Similarly, the Kakuma camp is home to nearly 200,000 people. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the close quarters and less-than-ideal sanitation standards can be dangerous. Like many others around the world, those in Kakuma have been stocking up on everything from food to sanitation supplies.

A Clean, Helping Hand

Innocent Havyarimana is a refugee soap maker in Kenya. Through his business, he helps to combat COVID-19 at the local level of the Kakuma camp. A former chemistry student from Burundi, Havyarimana fled the country in 2013. Upon arriving in Kakuma, he began to look for a way to support himself. In his search, he noticed that the region did not have a factory to produce soap. Afterward, inspiration struck.

Havyarimana garnered information from the web and took a course on soap making which the World Lutheran Federation aid agency offered. With a loan from a former classmate in Burundi, he was able to begin his soap-making business, Glap Industries, short for God Loves All People. The refugee soap maker then received grants from relief agencies including, UNHCR and NGOs, such as the African Entrepreneur Collective.

Glap Industries supplies soap to local institutions and relief agencies outside of the camp. The business additionally provides classes for refugees on making cleaning products. The company also serves as a way to provide jobs for refugees. A total of 42 employees currently work for Glap industries, the majority of them refugees themselves.

Glap Industries Adapts to COVID-19

With a spike in the need for sanitation products, the refugee soap maker had to increase its production by 75%. Further, Havyarimana started making hand sanitizer with aloe vera in addition to his soap products. The soap maker wanted to ensure access to sanitary supplies, especially for those most vulnerable to COVID-19, such as the disabled and the elderly. To accomplish this, he significantly lowered his prices and began producing smaller, more affordable sizes. Glap Industries offers soap in 100 milliliter to 1-liter containers, the smallest costing only 50 cents. “I lowered prices, as it was more important to protect people than to think of profit,” says Havyarimana.

The Bigger Impact

Businesses and entrepreneurship are a vital part of the economy of Kakuma. According to a 2018 World Bank study, the 2,000 businesses operating in Kakuma bring more than $50 million annually to the local economy. Eujin Byun of the UNHCR in Kenya says that “the refugees are playing a pivotal role in helping contain the spread of COVID-19 in Kakuma.” UNHCR has been working with the government to improve the capabilities of local health facilities to treat patients. Another aim is to spread necessary information concerning the virus, such as the importance of handwashing.

As a refugee soap maker, Innocent Havyarimana encourages other refugees to take precautions against the virus. However, his role stems far beyond fellow refugees. Havyarimana shares the importance of sanitization in stopping the spread of the coronavirus through Kakuma, and subsequently the rest of Kenya. His outreach and business help to minimize the spread of COVID-19 for those all throughout Kenya.

Nina Eddinger
Photo: Flickr

5 More Projects from GlobalGiving
GlobalGiving is a worldwide nonprofit network that connects charities to potential donors. The website primarily acts as a platform for other nonprofits to gain traction in fundraising efforts. Since the organization’s establishment in 2002, it has helped raise over $552 million for projects in 170 countries. GlobalGiving vets each project thoroughly so donors can feel confident their money is going to those who need it most. Here are five GlobalGiving projects.

5 GlobalGiving Projects

  1. Of the top 10 most popular fundraising campaigns on the GlobalGiving website, six have dedicated themselves to natural disasters. Hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires have created an enormous need for relief in the past several years. In 2018, in the U.S. alone, the cost of natural disasters was $91 billion. The Puerto Rico & Caribbean Hurricane Relief Fund is a campaign that has obtained 71,630 donations totaling over $12 million to provide aid in regard to natural disasters. Following this is the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, the Mexico Earthquake Relief Fund, The Island Spirit Fund, the Australia Wildfires Relief Fund and the Hurricane Dorian Relief and Recovery Fund. Initially, the money that these projects raised went toward immediate response efforts. These efforts included search and rescue, medical supplies, food and water. However, with the severity of damage that natural disasters have left in several areas, the long-term needs of impacted communities require additional funding. All the money that these GlobalGiving campaigns now raise goes exclusively toward local organizations helping communities rebuild and improve resources for future challenges. In total, these six disaster response campaigns have received 175,671 donations and raised over $32 million.
  2. The Coronavirus Relief Fund campaign has raised the most money on the GlobalGiving website. This is unsurprising, as COVID-19 has infected over 118 million people worldwide and over 2.6 million have died. Therefore, a definite need for relief exists as a result of the many consequences of the pandemic. That is why GlobalGiving is raising funds for the protective gear for frontline health workers, essential resources for families in need, education on prevention and access to necessary healthcare in low-resource communities.
  3. The Alawite Islamic Charity Organization is currently raising funds through GlobalGiving to provide 24 months of wages for the nurses working in its pediatric wing until it is possible to find new funding for this project. Lebanon is currently experiencing a financial crisis due to the debt that the nation’s government incurred following the country’s 1975-1990 civil war. At its worst, Lebanon’s currency was over L£7,000 to $1. As a result, the Alawite Islamic Charity Organization, which runs a free vaccination program serving over 5,000 people a month, is currently one of many organizations financially suffering amid this crisis. The nurses receiving support are crucial to distributing government-provided vaccinations to children in Lebanon. The name of the project is For Healthy Children & a Better Tomorrow, and it is seeking to raise $10,000.
  4. Educate a Girl, Educate a Nation – Sierra Leone is raising money to help educate young girls and break them out of the cycle of poverty. Girls in African countries often do not have access to the same educational opportunities as boys. In Sierra Leone specifically, the literacy rate for boys and girls over 15 years of age is drastically different at 51.6% and 34.9% respectively as of 2018. The organization running this campaign, Develop Africa Inc., uses the funds it raises to provide scholarships to girls most likely to drop out of school. This project also funds training for girls in vocational, computer literacy and business skills. Currently, GlobalGiving and Develop Africa Inc. have raised over $132,000 toward this initiative.
  5. Lighthouse Relief is responding to this crisis by raising funds for its project Advance Relief Efforts for Refugees in Greece. There are close to 100,000 people living in refugee camps in mainland Greece. Over 15,000 refugees arrived in 2020 alone. Often, people stranded in these camps experience difficult living conditions while having to wait months or years for a decision on their status. The project’s goal is to continue to fund efforts in “safe spaces” in Ritsona Camp. These efforts include building skills through camp volunteer programs, presenting young refugees with the opportunity to advocate for themselves and targetting programs to help grow psychosocial skills. Lighthouse Relief emphasizes the need for response efforts focused on empowering refugees. It has raised almost $100,000 toward its $111,000 goal.

GlobalGiving is an example of the remarkable power of change in the world. Millions of people have donated since 2002 and millions more experienced others’ kindness. To explore the 5,713 current GlobalGiving projects, visit the website.

– Emma Maytham
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in the Philippines
Mental health in the Philippines is worsening during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of calls for mental health assistance has increased along with higher reports of depression and suicidal thoughts. UNICEF, the Philippine Red Cross and the World Health Organization (WHO) have come together to contribute invaluable resources, such as infographics and a hotline. These two key implementations have been instrumental in reducing the negative mental health effects of these trying times and in unifying isolated Filipinos.

Infographics for Frontline Workers and Filipino Citizens

The WHO updated its Philippines website in September 2020 to include mental health infographics. The graphics portray encouraging messages and quick facts and are all available for download. It tailored the various infographics to specific audiences — among the selections are the elderly, family of COVID-infected patients and frontline workers.

Some images directed toward Filipino citizens include reminders to nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals to self-care. With the high amount of Filipinos in the healthcare field, a high volume of nurses and doctors are bound to have very particular needs relating to the emotional exhaustion of caring for extremely sick people.

A Mental Health Hotline

The Philippine Red Cross has instituted a special hotline to provide psychological first aid related to the effects of COVID-19. UNICEF is pairing with Red Cross to provide resources and mobilize support systems to improve mental health in the Philippines.

The hotline’s Red Cross workers consist of 14 trained volunteers hailing from mainly social work and mental health backgrounds. They receive training for three days in helping skills and mock calls. The trainees also attend four-hour sessions on self-care for the volunteers’ own mental health benefit. This vital self-care helps fend off emotional exhaustion.

Filipino citizens are able to use this national COVID-19 hotline to tackle their mental health situations. The hotline provides emotional care, such as talking about callers’ problems. Additionally, it functions as a source of information about COVID-19 to prevent misunderstandings surrounding the pandemic’s uncertainty and hysteria.

The Philippine Red Cross has also extended its services during the pandemic. It has utilized social media as a way to provide a more convenient avenue for people to talk about their hardships. On Facebook, a feature exists that allows Red Cross volunteers to chat through an avatar. The chat even allows avatar customizations, such as male, female, LGBTQ and young child settings according to the callers’ preferences. The Philippines’ hotline has helped over 9,000 callers since its creation and continues to support mental health in the Philippines.

Where Mental Health Currently Stands

The pandemic, social isolation and general fear and uncertainty have affected mental health in the Philippines. Both peoples’ stress and rates of depression continue to increase. The pandemic has resulted in distancing and isolation, which has deeply impacted the Philippines — a country where tight-knit families and community-mindedness abound. However, aid from nonprofit organizations has lessened the devastating effects of the pandemic. Support from UNICEF and the WHO has benefited mental health throughout the nation and fostered a much-needed sense of connection.

Alyssa Ranola
Photo: Flickr

Virtual Learning In Kenya
Kenya is a country in East Africa with 26 million children, many of whom do not have the devices or internet access to partake in virtual learning. Schools have been closed for six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so children need to attend online classes to stay on track. The government is introducing a new digital learning model to 24,000 public schools so that virtual learning in Kenya is accessible to all children.

Internet for All

After Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru launched a digital learning program, Kenya’s government spent 15 billion KES so that schools can teach four subjects online. By using the funds, schools are building computer labs, distributing fiber optic cables, training teachers in digital learning and connecting remote areas to the Internet. Virtual learning in Kenya is only possible if every student has an internet connection and a device at home. Mucheru’s program will distribute digital learning devices that local universities will help develop. Most schools in remote areas of Kenya do not have power access. To combat this, Mucheru will implement solar power in these locations.

Many Kenyan students lacked internet access before their schools shut down, so the program has a learning curve. Luckily, public school children will learn how to use computers and the internet. This ensures they will acquire the same digital skills as children in private school.

The Bigger Picture: Worldwide Statistics

Two-thirds of all children under 18 (1.3 billion) do not have internet access at home, yet hundreds of millions of students must learn virtually. In developing countries, one in 20 children has an internet connection at home compared to nine in 10 children from developed countries. This creates a gap in global access to knowledge.

The digital divide worsens existing inequalities. As children from poor households are struggling to catch up with their peers, they are falling behind in school. Lack of internet access isolates children from the world and halts their education and computer-literacy journeys. According to ITU data, people struggle to compete in the modern economy with poor digital skills.

The Fight to Attend Online Class

During 2020, people broke social distancing to find internet access, thus risking their health. Students in China spent hours hiking to mountaintops in freezing temperatures to find a connection and attend online classes. Many developing countries use television to administer online lectures but rural households rarely have TVs. UNICEF recommends that countries include alternative learning sources like radios, homework packages and tablets. In 2019, UNICEF started Giga which aims to connect every school and its community to the internet. The program has succeeded in 800,000 schools in 30 countries.

Persistent Challenges

Even when children have internet access at home, chores and work might take priority over their studies. Since there are not enough devices for everyone, girls receive encouragement to pursue other things such as early marriage and housework. Computer literacy in girls is rare. Until children resume in-person school, these problems will persist. However, brand new computer labs and internet access that Kenya’s government is supplying will be waiting for them upon return. For now, most children can log into online school because virtual learning in Kenya is finally a reality.

– Rebecca Pomerantz
Photo: Flickr

Jordan's Vaccine Rollout
As countries around the world continue their COVID-19 vaccine rollout, refugees have experienced exclusion from nearly half of them. One country that is vaccinating refugees is Jordan. With one of the largest refugee populations in the world, Jordan has set an important example for global vaccine accessibility. Here is some information about Jordan’s vaccine rollout.

Jordan’s Vaccine Rollout for Refugees

Jordan has begun its vaccine distribution plan, promising to provide vaccinations to anyone living in the country, including refugees, free of charge, as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported on January 14, 2020. Due to the country’s large refugee population, it needs vaccinations in order to achieve countrywide immunity to the virus. Jordan has received one million doses of the vaccine and two million through the COVAX Facility. The COVAX Facility is an initiative the World Health Organization (WHO) supports. The COVAX Facility implements mass vaccine production in low-income countries. Jordan has already begun vaccinating in clinics across the country.

So far, Jordan has vaccinated a reported 187 refugees. However, a spokesperson for the UNHCR expects that number to be higher. While the UNHCR is not supplying vaccines to countries, it is advocating for refugees to gain access to them.

“We have been advocating for the inclusion of refugees within the vaccination campaign since the pandemic was declared, so we are incredibly grateful they are now included,” said UNHCR spokesperson Kathryn Mahoney. “The main way we are supporting is through raising awareness of the vaccine among refugee populations and transporting refugees who live in camps to their nearest vaccination health clinics when they have appointments.”

COVID-19 Containment in Jordan

Jordan succeeded in preventing a massive spread of the virus in 2020 after imposing a strict lockdown when reports emerged of just a few cases in March 2020. Residents could only leave their homes between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. and could only leave for necessary, socially distant activities like grocery shopping.

The strict lockdown worked as the number of COVID-19 cases in Jordan remained low. The country reported under 100 cases a day from March to September 2020. September marked a month-long surge of cases, peaking in November with almost 8,000 cases in one day. There were multiple lockdowns in October and November in order to slow the rapid spread, and cases started declining in January 2021.

Jordan’s vaccine rollout will continue the decline of COVID-19. This requires vaccinations to be available for everyone residing in the country.

Refugees in Jordan

Jordan has one of the largest refugee populations in the world, primarily from neighboring countries. As of May 2019, 755,050 refugees lived throughout the country. Nearly 665,000 of these refugees are from Syria, having fled the country’s civil war. While 84% of Jordanian refugees live in urban areas, 16% live in refugee camps. The two largest refugee camps are Za’atari and Azraq, hosting 80,000 and 40,000 people, respectively.

For the first six months of the pandemic, the camps reported no major outbreaks. The camps had required a 14-day quarantine in an isolation tent specifically for refugees returning from areas of Jordan with COVID-19 cases.

Once reports of cases in the Azraq camp started in September 2020, isolation tents began housing infected people in order to prevent further spread to the rest of the camp population. Cases have remained low with 573 reported cases. However, the close proximity of refugee housing still poses a risk of infection.

Refugee Vaccinations Worldwide

Almost 26 million refugees live around the world, half of whom are children. Out of the 90 countries currently committed to vaccine rollouts, only 51-57% have said they would include refugees. This leaves millions of people at risk.

Without mass vaccinations in vulnerable populations, there will be little defense against the virus, and worldwide protection against it will experience a delay. Jordan’s vaccine rollout sets an important example of refugees receiving access to vaccinations against COVID-19 and increases the vaccine’s availability in clinics across the country.

– June Noyes
Photo: Flickr

Strategy for Youth and Adult Literacy
An estimated 750 million youth and adults worldwide can neither read nor write. This is one of the many challenges that prompted UNESCO’s 40th General Conference. The agency’s Member States proposed a solution, “Strategy for Youth and Adult Literacy,” on Nov. 15, 2019. This strategy’s grand objective is to extend UNESCO’s undivided support to all countries. A special focus will be on members of the Global Alliance for Literacy, the majority of whose populations show the highest literacy levels.

Strategic Priority Areas

The Strategy for Youth and Adult Literacy aligns with the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Specifically, this plan follows SDG 4, “Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

The strategy has four key priority areas:

  1. Support Member States in the development of strategies and national literacy policies and strategies. To achieve this, UNESCO will work hand-in-hand with the Member States to develop learning techniques. The techniques will have a comprehensive perspective and undergo integration into public systems.
  2. Aid the education needs of disadvantaged groups, such as women and girls. Two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population comprises women. Consequently, UNESCO’s strategy will focus on women and other specific populations that face disproportionate disadvantages. Indigenous peoples, refugees, immigrants, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities will also be a priority in the plan.
  3. Leverage digital technologies to increase access to education and improve learning outcomes. UNESCO will help the Member States fully exploit technological innovations — such as Artificial Intelligence, Open Education Resources, etc. — that can potentially transform their learning environments. To do this, UNESCO will reinforce partnerships with outstanding research institutions and private corporations.
  4. Monitor progress and assess literacy skills and programs people’s literacy skills. To assess progress with SDG 4.6.1 indicator, UNESCO will deploy data-based learning assessment systems and powerful tools like the Global Education Monitoring Report, among others.

Literacy Despite the COVID-19 Pandemic: Attainable or Impractical?

The Coronavirus pandemic has left education systems hanging by a thread and exposed the many cracks that existed even before the pandemic. In her opening statement of the UNESCO 2020 Global Webinar, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, Stefania Giannini, encouraged nations to make literacy “a force of inclusion and resilience” as they strive to reconstruct and attain more sustainable development.

UNESCO conducted a survey on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on literacy programs in August 2020. It revealed that out of a total of 49 adult literacy programs, more than 90% underwent suspension as a way to abide by coronavirus containment measures such as lockdowns.

In response to the coronavirus, UNESCO has developed the Global Education Coalition. So far, the coalition has helped over 70 countries to counter the effects that the pandemic has had on their education systems. This platform has made it possible for 82,000 teachers and 500,000 students in Senegal to carry on with their studies through the Ministry of Senegal’s “Ministry Distance Learning” platform. Furthermore, UNESCO has projected to add another 1.5 million learners and teachers through a partnership with Microsoft.

UNESCO has also assisted in creating educational resources, such as handouts, videos and guides for instructors and parents in Lebanon. These many programs have contributed to enhanced learning during these unprecedented times.

Not Easy but Possible

Despite the frailty that resulted from the coronavirus pandemic, UNESCO’s Strategy for Youth and Adult Literacy is thriving. The strategy is concrete proof that although the journey toward literacy is not a walk in the park, the end goal is still attainable. So long as nations are willing to push for it, literacy is possible all across the world, even during COVID-19.

Mbabazi Divine
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19Japan has handled the COVID-19 pandemic much better compared to other nations. For example, the death rate for COVID-19 in Japan is one death per 100,000 people. This number is much lower than other countries, with the United States death rate at 59 deaths per 100,000 people and the United Kingdom rate at 62 deaths per 100,000. Japan also has a lower rate of infection than other nations. Japan had less than 101 per 1,000,000 new cases of  COVID-19 reported while the US has between 501-1000 per 1,000,000. What is Japan doing differently to make the mortality infection rates so much lower than other high-income nations?

Culture of the Japanese

One reason Japan has so few coronavirus cases is built into the culture of the Japanese. Japanese people have worn face masks since the flu pandemic in 1919. Masks are also common to wear in Japan when it is cold and flu season. So, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, wearing masks as a protective measure was widely accepted and used by the Japanese population. Also, the Japanese culture is more socially distant. For instance, Japanese do not hug or shake hands when making acquaintances like Americans do. Social distancing and mask-wearing came naturally to the people of Japan, so the infection rate is very low for them.

Japan’s Healthcare System

Japan has a highly regionalized healthcare system that has helped them minimize the impact of COVID-19. Japanese healthcare institutions, called Public Health Centers (PHCs), are similar to the Center for Disease Control but at a much more local level. However, when COVID-19 hit its peak in Japan, the PHCs struggled to keep up with the surge of patients. So, the PHCs reacted quickly and would send patients to available PHCs and resources to the PHCs that had shortages. Japan’s quick actions and regionalized healthcare system allowed the COVID-19 death rates to stay low and spread to be minimum.

Negatives Impacts of the Virus in Japan

Though Japan has a relatively small infection and the death rate for COVID-19, the Japanese people’s lives have been greatly affected. Japan’s suicide rate has risen considerably since the pandemic hit. There have been 13,000 suicide deaths in Japan this year; a number much higher than the 2,000 COVID-19 deaths. The suicide rates for August were 15.4% higher than those of last year. Economic hardship, unemployment and isolation from society as a result of COVID-19

Japanese women have been disproportionately affected by the secondary effects of COVID-19. The suicide rate for women specifically has risen 40%. Also, 66% of people in Japan who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic were women. In response, Japan has increased its funding towards suicide prevention resources by 3.7 billion yen ($35,520,000).

The Future of Japan Amid COVID

Looking into the future, vaccine security looks very good for all Japanese citizens regardless of economic status. The Japanese government recently approved a bill to provide all of the citizens of Japan with COVID-19 vaccines free of charge. Providing a free vaccine will ensure everyone will have the opportunity to receive one. Since the vaccine cost is covered, the vast population of Japan can be protected from COVID-19 in the future.

Not only is Japan thriving in the fight against COVID-19, the country is also providing aid to help other nations overcome this disease. Recently, Japan recently donated $2.7 million to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to help Latin American countries with the fight against the coronavirus. Specifically, this aid will provide Pan-American nations with slowing the spread by implementing preventative measures and providing information for citizens about the disease.

Overall, Japan has handled the pandemic really well. Their unique approach to regionalized healthcare along with their willingness to wear masks have greatly decreased the COVID-19 damage in Japan. Other countries should use the Japanese response to COVID-19 as an example. Japan’s quick and regionalized response to COVID-19 attributed to the small death and infection rate. Countries should also consider providing their citizens with vaccines to ensure everyone is protected from COVID-19. The wealthy nations should take into account the countries that cannot afford to provide vaccines for their citizens. To ensure our world overcomes this pandemic, resources like vaccines, masks and ventilators will need to be allocated to lower-income nations.

– Hannah Drzewiecki
Photo: Flickr

Disability and Poverty in AfghanistanEvery day, people all throughout Afghanistan face not only the public health challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic but also a lack of accessibility to food, employment and a sense of stability. A study by Jean-Francois Trani and Washington University in St. Louis discussed how challenges like these may lead to both increased poverty and increased disability. They also identified how disability and poverty may overlap or compound the suffering of individuals. Here is some information about the link between disability and poverty in Afghanistan.

Challenges for Children in Afghanistan

In an environment with varying challenges, illness, injury, neglect and malnourishment can lead to lifelong health concerns and disability for children. Likewise, the chronic stress of struggling to sustain the life of a family in the midst of violence and trauma may also lead to debilitating psychiatric conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder. This is the crisis of disability and poverty in Afghanistan.

Mothers and grandmothers like Haji Rizva (only identified by the first name for her safety), struggle to feed their children. She thinks specifically of her 18-month-old granddaughter, Parvana, who had been constantly vomiting and too weak to move for days. “We didn’t have enough to feed her,” Haji Rizva told NPR while waiting in the ward for malnourished children at Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan. “Sometimes we only have tea for two, three days. We don’t even have bread.”

Around the same time, and in the same city, fathers like Kahn Wali Kamran told the Associated Press that they fear finding their young children dead when they return home from work each day. With a surge in large bombings, targeted killings and other forms of crime (including armed robbery and kidnapping for ransom), the future appears increasingly dangerous and uncertain.

The Link Between Disability and Poverty in Afghanistan

The Asia Foundation studies suggest that 17% of Afghan citizens suffer from some form of disability and 8.9% have severe impairments and are dependent on others. Additionally, after decades of uninterrupted conflict, the Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA) noted that despite the lack of comprehensive study and measurement of mental health in such a volatile region, it conservatively estimated that more than half of the population suffers from some form of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Halfway across the world, Trani’s 2012 study examining the links between poverty and disability using data from Afghanistan and Zambia has become relevant once again. The study noted that it is logical that disabled individuals may be more likely to be poor, as they have a higher cost of living, and a diminished ability to perform certain tasks, especially those they may require for employment. People with PTSD may be unable to complete tasks, communicate effectively and stay calm, making it harder to acquire and maintain employment. However, poverty and disability as concepts are difficult to define, as they both take many dimensions into consideration.

Defining Poverty

Generally, the amount of income a household earns determines poverty status, and what necessary commodities that the family in that household would be able to acquire. However, because all households have different needs and expenses, this is an unreliable measurement. Instead, the capability to live in a state of well-being, and have a reasonable life expectancy, quality nourishment and shelter, basic education and access to health care should be factors when considering poverty. Trani noted that low income is a cause of poverty, not the definition of poverty. In this way, violence, too, is a cause of poverty, and so is disability.

This creates an unforgiving cycle that allows both poverty and disability to increase in prevalence. When a person is in poverty, like Kamran or Haji Rizva, they are unable to provide basic necessities for themselves and their families. Without proper shelter and protection, Kamran’s children are more likely to suffer severe injury, potentially leading to lifelong physical disability. Likewise, without proper nutrition, Parvana and other kids like her are less likely to grow and develop properly leading to weakened muscles, bones and organ systems. Poverty, in this case, causes injury. Injury then causes disability. This lowers employment opportunities, causing disabled individuals to fall further into poverty, putting them at greater risk of traumatic stress, further injury and other sufferings. This is the cycle of poverty and disability that has captured Afghanistan for decades.

The Humanitarian Response Plan for Afghanistan

Fortunately, OCHA has recently updated its ongoing Humanitarian Response Plan for Afghanistan to take greater action to help marginalized groups through the violence and the pandemic.

“Given the scale of vulnerability in Afghanistan, this effort will be guided by a range of both new and well-established technical working groups focused on gender, disability inclusion, gender-based violence (GBV), child protection, accountability to affected people (AAP) and protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA)” wrote Parvathy Ramaswani in the plan’s updated introduction.

OCHA Measures

The efforts in regards to the pandemic will be largely consistent with others around the world, introducing sanitation protocols and vaccine distribution to the best of their ability, as reducing the spread of the pandemic will naturally provide relief to people caught in the poverty-disability cycle. As in developed countries, people with preexisting conditions are much more likely to develop complications from COVID-19 like pneumonia, infection and organ system failure. This could affect various disabilities that people develop from genetic conditions, malnutrition, previous infections and other injuries. Physical disability is quite prevalent in Afghanistan, so complications and deaths are also a greater concern than in some other areas.

From a psychiatric disability standpoint, the response plan is more targeted, directing resources and funding to local hospitals and clinics to seek out trauma patients who have not received adequate treatment prior to 2021. “With the volatile security situation creating higher trauma needs and associated disabilities, secondary trauma care continues to be a critical need,” the report noted. OCHA will continue to monitor the mental health of citizens closely through 2021, trying to care for those it missed in previous psychiatric treatment initiatives.

Help is on the way for people like Haji Rizva and Kamran, to prevent them and their children from developing new health concerns or complications from COVID-19. The OCHA response plan aims to reach 86% or more of the existing disabled population in Afghanistan.

– Anika Ledina
Photo: Flickr