Information and news about disease category

6 Facts About Water Quality in Sub-Saharan AfricaThe top concerns with water quality in Africa include lack of access to water for drinking, sanitation and agriculture, the cleanliness of the water and the burden of water retrieval. The United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals have tracked the improvement of access to water in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most challenged and inequitable region. Sub-Saharan Africa’s water system is the most chronically overburdened and stressed area in Africa. This is due to a lack of economic investment, social challenges and environmental factors. Here are six facts about water quality in sub-Saharan Africa.

6 Facts About Water Quality in Sub-Saharan Africa

  1. Many areas in Africa have partially achieved the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals on Water. Before 2015, North Africa had achieved a 92 percent improved source of drinking water for its people. Sub-Saharan Africa, on the other hand, had only achieved 61 percent and was not on track to meet its 75 percent goal. Investment in infrastructure systems such as dams would improve public health and increase economic stability while achieving water access targets.
  2. In sub-Saharan Africa water access is inequitable. In urban areas, 90 percent of the wealthy households have access to improved water sources with piped water in more than 60 percent of the homes. In rural settings, fewer than 50 percent of people access improved water sources with the poorest 40 percent of homes having no in-home water access. Only 16 percent of Sub-Saharan residents have access to a water tap in their home or yard.
  3. The burden of water retrieval falls on girls and women. The time and labor-intensive chore of carrying water home from a distance prevents girls and women from pursuing income-generating work and education. It also puts them at risk of violence on long journeys for water. Approximately 13.5 million women in sub-Saharan Africa travel more than 30 minutes each day to collect water. They carry repurposed cans that hold five gallons of water and weigh 40 pounds when full. The women may have to take several trips in a day depending on the size of their family.
  4. Water scarcity and lack of sanitation threaten public health. Poor sanitation and limited water lead to outbreaks of cholera, typhoid fever and dysentery, which can contaminate the limited stores of fresh water. When people store water in their homes, this creates a breeding ground for mosquitos, which leads to an increase in malaria and dengue fever. Other diseases connected to water scarcity include trachoma, plague and typhus. Prioritizing water quantity over quality can lead to bacterial diseases causing diarrhea, dehydration and death, especially in children.
  5. In sub-Saharan Africa, 95 percent of crops are dependent on rainfall. Increased water storage capacity will increase resiliency to water shortages resulting from droughts. Dependency on rainfall for crops is limiting. Small-scale but efficient usage of ponds, tanks, and wells can improve agricultural output. The implementation of various methods of watering crops can reduce water stress and improve food security. Farmers could use drip irrigation, pumps and shallow wells to reduce reliance on rainwater.
  6. Sustainable agricultural development will lead to sustainable water sources and reduced stress. An example of a sustainable agricultural method may be aquaponics, which requires no soil and little water.

Continued innovation, education and infrastructure development are necessary for Africa to improve access to safe and clean drinking water. While much progress is underway, these 6 facts about water quality in sub-Saharan Africa show that the continent will continue to face climate, political and economic barriers in meeting these goals.

Susan Niz
Photo: Wikimedia

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

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Ethiopia

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

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

– Amanda Gibson
Photo: Flickr

Schistosomiasis and Poverty

Schistosomiasis (also known as bilharzia) is a disease that is rarely heard outside of scientific circles. This has less to do with the severity of schistosomiasis, and more to do with the fact that its parasitic sibling, malaria, is a far more common and well-known illness. The largest concentration of schistosomiasis in the world, a staggering 90 percent, is in Africa.

Schistosomiasis: What is it?

While schistosomiasis tends to be overshadowed by its well-known cousin malaria, there is still a wealth of information on how it functions, spreads and affects the human body. Schistosomiasis is caused by parasitic worms that inhabit the bodies of some freshwater snails. Humans are infected when they interact with bodies of water containing these snails. Common recreational and domestic activities like swimming and washing clothes in and near infected waters are attributed to the spread of schistosomiasis.

Schistosomiasis comes in two different types: urinary schistosomiasis and intestinal schistosomiasis. Urinary schistosomiasis is characterized by extensive damage to the kidneys, bladder and ureters. Intestinal schistosomiasis is characterized via symptoms of an engorged spleen and liver, which leads to intestinal damage and hypertension in the abdominal blood vessels. The first symptom of schistosomiasis is a light skin rash known as “swimmers itch.” Once a human is infected, symptoms (chills, aches and coughing fits) can appear within one to two months. However, many infections are asymptomatic; the infection is there, but no symptoms appear.

Schistosomiasis is transferred from person to person when an infected individual’s excrement reaches a water supply. The parasitic eggs from then hatch, infect another snail (or human) and the cycle begins anew. Proper sanitation and potable water are the main ways to prevent the spread of this disease.

The disease schistosomiasis does not always result in death. Schistosomiasis commonly ends in stunted growth and anemia in children, and can even lead to infertility in cases of urinary schistosomiasis. Children can also find themselves with a reduced ability to learn due to the crippling symptoms this disease comes with.

There is no vaccine to cure schistosomiasis and no antibiotic has proven effective in preventing infection. However, there are effective means to diagnose and treat schistosomiasis before the infection truly takes hold. The drug, praziquantel, has proven useful in removing the worms and their eggs from the human body. Although there is poor access to praziquantel, this treatment has reached more than 28 percent of people around the world.

Where Schistosomiasis Congregates

Africa has a truly staggering number of schistosomiasis cases compared to the rest of the world. Nigeria has the most cases out of any African country, with approximately 29 million infected. The United Republic of Tanzania has the second-most cases of infection at 19 million with Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo tied at 15 million.

Schistosomiasis and Poverty: The Correlation

Schistosomiasis is predominantly found in areas of extreme poverty; where ever this disease goes, destitution soon follows. Schistosomiasis and poverty are intrinsically linked, and the most common reasoning for this occurrence is that extreme poverty often restricts access to clean water sources, which in turn causes people to use unsanitary water sources where schistosomiasis thrives and infection occurs. From there, the infected individual will succumb to the crippling disabilities that schistosomiasis infection eventually brings. This leads to reduced productivity in the community as the disease continues to spread, ensuring no end to this vicious cycle of poverty without outside intervention.

What Next? The Future of Schistosomiasis

There is hope, however, as NGO’s like the SCI foundation (founded in 2002) have dedicated themselves to the eradication of parasitic worm diseases. The SCI foundation’s biggest success in the fight against schistosomiasis is in Mozambique, where SCI has treated more than 30 million people of parasitic worm diseases. Further, SCI has already treated more than 12 million people in Tanzania alone since 2004. The foundation also recently (as of 2016) started to extend their treatment programs to Nigeria. With more than 2 million people already treated in such a short time, the SCI foundation can be trusted to reach Tanzania levels of treatment soon enough.

The future is bright for communities burdened with schistosomiasis and poverty, as many countries have been able to eradicate this disease from their lands. Tunisia and Japan were able to completely eradicate schistosomiasis within their borders, and China, Brazil and Egypt are well on their way to reaching that end goal.

Given this information, and the fact that Africa has the backing of a great NGO like the SCI foundation, a schistosomiasis free Africa is certainly on the cards.

– Ryan Holman
Photo: Flickr

The EcoHealth Alliance

Today’s world is burdened by diseases that scientists and medical professionals are actively attempting to cure. Poorer countries are subject to these infections as unsafe living conditions, a lack of strong healthcare systems and shortage of resources are all factors of such environments. However, a new field of study, ecohealth, has allowed new organizations to improve their understanding of diseases. Ecohealth is a study of the ways in which the Earth affects human health in various environments. Organizations such as the EcoHealth Alliance have taken this field further to tackle pandemic issues in our world today.

The EcoHealth Alliance

The EcoHealth Alliance is a global, environmental health nonprofit organization that is dedicated to protecting wildlife and public health from the emergence of disease. The Alliance formed when the Wildlife Trust and the Consortium for Conservation Medicine merged. After its inception in 1971, the Wildlife Trust worked to protect the planet’s wildlife. It later added conservation medicine when the connection to health and the environment became more evident.

The Consortium for Conservation Medicine was established in 1997. It had a similar focus on the healthy relationships between living organisms. Together, the organizations rebranded and created the EcoHealth Alliance. This rebranding allowed the organization to focus on local conservation as well as conservation medicine and the relationship between human health and the environment. EcoHealth Alliance has become a leader in preventative work of pandemics in “hotspot regions” of impoverished countries and in global conservation efforts.

The EcoHealth Alliance’s One Health Approach

The EcoHealth Alliance has a unique “One Health” approach that combats issues through different disciplines of thought. One Health consists of engaging with experts in many different disciplines to use their combined knowledge to solve problems that are larger than any single one of their respective areas of expertise. One example of how the Alliance is using One Health is through its work with the Rift Valley fever.

The Rift Valley fever is placed sixth on the World Health Organization’s list of priority diseases. This disease has a very low profile in comparison to others, such as Ebola, because it has only ever been observed in Africa and the Middle East. However, this disease is just as detrimental to those it infects, and there is a high likelihood of it traveling to the Americas.

The Rift Valley fever is spread through mosquitos. Mosquito bites infect livestock in the area. The infection has been recorded to kill “100 percent of infected young animals and 30 percent of adults.” This disease may also impact humans, whether it has traveled through mosquito bites or ingestion of affected livestock. It can result in mild flu-like symptoms as well as symptoms similar to Ebola.

How does One Health help?

The Rift Valley fever would be impossible to understand without the multidisciplinary approach that One Health entails because of the numerous factors surrounding the disease. Veterinarians understand how livestock is affected while parasitologists study the virus’s qualities and individual components. Economists research the impacts of outbreaks on society. Geologists study the conditions that allow the disease to thrive while anthropologists study the human behaviors surrounding the outbreak.

There is still much unknown about this disease as it disappears altogether between outbreaks. This lack of understanding makes it difficult to figure out the potential ways to protect people and animals. In response, the EcoHealth Alliance has formed a coalition of national and local partners in South Africa to improve prevention, detection and reporting policies surrounding this fever in people, livestock and wildlife.

The EcoHealth Alliance is the leading organization using the One Health approach. Hopefully, many organizations will follow to remain competitive. This organization’s procedures have brought together scientists from different backgrounds. It helps them to collaborate and tackle the importance of pandemic prevention in the interconnected landscape of the world today.

Adya Khosla
Photo: Flickr

Worms in Nigerian Children

Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STHs) are a type of macroparasitic nematode intestinal infection that transmits to humans through infected soil, more commonly known as worms. These worms typically infest soil when it comes into contact with infected fecal matter, and can directly find its way to a person’s mouth from one’s hands, unwashed vegetables, undercooked meat or infected water supplies. Since STHs become more prevalent with a lack of proper sanitation services, they affect impoverished and developing countries disproportionately more than already developed countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates about 1.5 billion people worldwide have an STH infection. In particular, worms in Nigerian children are a cause for concern.

Types of Worms

The three most common worm infections in humans are hookworms, roundworms and whipworms. Hookworms are the most infectious type since their larva can hatch in the soil and penetrate the skin of whoever comes into contact with it. Infected people with a large number of worms – typically people who go for a long time without receiving treatment – have a high level of morbidity (risk of death). Those with serious infections can suffer significant malnutrition, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, general weakness and physical impairment.

Nigeria’s Struggle

Nigeria is one of the most at-risk countries for communities suffering from STH outbreaks due to improper sanitation in many urban slums and the warm, tropical climate that worms thrive in. There is a much higher prevalence of worms in Nigerian children – especially when they are of the age to attend school. Overcrowding and improper sanitation of impoverished communities are amplified when children attend school without proper waste or washing facilities. In addition, younger children do not have a fully-developed immune system yet, creating the perfect condition for worm infections.

A study conducted in the slums of Lagos City, Nigeria concluded that the overall prevalence of worms in Nigerian children was at 86.2 percent; of these children, 39.1 percent had polyparasitism. These figures are startling and daunting, but there are effective treatments and preventative measures available. The problem is making the methods of control affordable and accessible for people in poverty.

Organizations Taking Action

Organizations are taking steps to bring proper deworming treatment and sanitation to children in Nigerian slums. The WHO has a comprehensive strategy for combatting STHs in developing countries that the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control is trying to follow. Nigeria is trying to equip school teachers with the proper training to administer worm medicine for children in slums when they attend class. This medicine would be available to school children twice a year, or as needed in some cases.  Even children that do not have worms will be able to access this medicine in order to take precautionary measures against future infection. Even though Nigeria’s infrastructure is not in the right place to make widespread and accessible sanitation a reality for low-income communities, administering affordable medicine to children is a great first step.

The problem of sanitation has fallen to international humanitarian organizations like the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). UNICEF has conducted talks in Nigeria to educate the general populous about the importance of sanitation and taking infectious diseases seriously. With the help of the European Union, UNICEF has also installed a WASH facility in a northern Nigerian rural community. This facility consists of a solar-powered borehole that pipes up fresh well water from the ground into a 24-liter capacity tank to store the clean water safely. With further policy development and implementation measures, these facilities can expand to cover some urban slums as well.

The case of worms in Nigerian children looks bleak at the moment, but the ball is rolling with eradicating the worm epidemic. The increased sanitation of impoverished communities and more affordable and regularly-distributed medicinal treatment can very well make the dream of taking worms out of the equation for Nigerian children a reality.

– Graham Gordon
Photo: Pixabay

Helen Keller International
Helen Keller International (HIK) is an organization that is dedicated to helping the world’s poor by combating poverty, blindness, poor health and malnutrition for all people. It predominately helps those who are less fortunate and do not have accessibility to the resources that help maintain an adequate living.

The Main Focus

HIK primarily focuses on preventing blindness in people by providing them with cataract surgery, vision correction and distributing treatments and cures for tropical diseases. This is how it plans on combating poverty in developing countries. It currently has more than 120 programs in about 20 countries all over the world.

It works with various partners to implement strategies that will combat poverty and strengthen these programs. Some of its partners include organizations such as the West African Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF, World Health Organization and the World Food Program.

Helen Keller International’s Accomplishments

According to reports from Impact Information in 2018, HIK provided 15,000 free precision glasses to disadvantaged youth and performed 40,000 cataract surgeries.

In 2014, USAID funded a five-year Morbidity Management and Disability Prevention Project (MMDP) to strengthen illness management and prevent disabilities in African countries. HIK has led the MMDP project in Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Ethiopia since July 2014. As a result, thousands of people have benefited from HIK’s help and dedication to the project.

The project combats painful diseases such as trichiasis which can cause scarring to the cornea because it causes the eyelash to grow backward. The project also treats hydrocele, which causes the male scrotum to swell causing extreme pain. This is most common in male newborns.

HIK’s work with the MMDP project in the countries above has helped 2.1 million people get screenings for trichiasis and 76,000 people received trichiasis surgery. Additionally, HIK was able to train 280 trichiasis surgeons. This organization also provided hydrocele surgery to over 2,000 men and trained 200 hydrocele surgeons. HIK has changed the lives of many people at risk.

Global Impact

Helen Keller International is combating poverty by improving the lives of the world’s poor at a global level as well. The MMDP project improves data availability and use by sharing knowledge worldwide. The project also assisted in developing tools and resources for communities to use internationally in trachoma and LF programs around the world.

HIK believes that neglected tropical diseases are direct consequences of poverty. To combat this poverty it has turned its focus to protect health. HIK aids in the fight against five diseases including trachoma, river blindness, intestinal worms, snail fever and lymphatic filariasis. All of these diseases cause extreme pain and can even lead to death.

To combat these diseases, HIK has helped deliver thousands of trachoma surgeries to poor communities and will continue to do so in hopes of eliminating trachoma by 2020. The organization has helped develop a platform that is effective in the treatment of river blindness across Africa. HIK also helps developing countries distribute deworming medication to children in at-risk communities.

Helen Keller International is combating poverty all over the world through efforts to protect health and advert the causes of blindness and more in poor countries. Through its efforts, it has aided many in poverty and that number should only grow.

– Jessica Jones
Photo: Flickr

Diseases in India
India is a sub-continent in Southern Asia that boasts the second largest population in the world following China, with roughly 17 percent of the world’s population. India plays a vital role in multiple international organizations including the U.N., World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). While India has sustained large economic growth—up to 10 percent annually—and a GDP amounting to roughly $1.6 billion, not everyone has reaped the benefits of these feats. India ranks as one of the poorest nations in the world with approximately 68.8 percent of its citizens living in poverty—that is over 800 million people. A life of poverty for these citizens hastens the spread of diseases that inevitably lead to chronic impairment or death. These are the top eight diseases in India.

Top 8 Diseases in India

  1. Ischemic Heart Disease – Commonly referred to as coronary artery disease (CAD), this condition is the number one cause of death in India. Independent groups such as the Indian Heart Association work to raise awareness of the issue through cardiac screenings and informational sessions. Indian dietary habits can be poor with many foods involving butter, grease and fatty foods. This is especially true for poorer segments of the population where this type of food is cheaper and easily accessible. From 2007 to 2017, there was an approximate 49.8 percent increase in the number of deaths in India caused by ischemic heart disease.
  2. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – People primarily contract this disease through smoking, second-hand smoking and fume inhalation. Roughly 30 million Indians suffer from a moderate or severe form of COPD. Early detection of COPD can lead to successful treatment and survival of the patient. Factory pollution in India is rampant and the use of cigarettes is all too common, especially among poorer sections of the population. The impoverished have limited access to medical clinics with 56 percent of the population lacking health care, and thus, unable to get adequate treatment for COPD.
  3. Diarrheal Diseases – Diarrheal diseases account for a significant portion of childhood mortality in India. It is the third leading cause of childhood mortality and studies have correlated this to hygiene, malnutrition, improper sanitation and an impoverished upbringing. A lack of affordable care and education for families will lead to further prominence of diarrheal diseases in Indian society. Currently, the U.S. Agency for International Development is working to implement effective and affordable solutions to counteract sanitary related diseases in India.
  4. Lower Respiratory Infections – Respiratory infections such as influenza, pneumonia and bronchitis are all diseases that harm lung function in the body. Indians are extremely susceptible to these due to the high concentration of air pollution throughout the country, especially in poor rural and urban areas. In 2018, 14 out of 15 of the most polluted cities in the world were in India according to the World Health Organization. Further, air pollution also led to roughly 1.24 million deaths in India over the course of 2015.
  5. Tuberculosis – In 2016, there were 2.8 million reported cases of TB and about 450,000 deaths. This disease is rampant among the impoverished in India because there is not a sufficient amount of clinics and professionals to resolve the issue. The vaccine for tuberculosis is not accessible for Indians in the poor parts of the nation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi aims to eradicate tuberculosis by 2025. Through a $1 million partnership with USAID, India hopes to strengthen the detection and treatment of tuberculosis.
  6. Neonatal Disorders – While incidences of neonatal disorders in India have decreased from 52 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 28 per 1,000 in 2013, this is not an indicator of sustainable progression in India. The truth of the matter is that neonatal decline simply boosted the infant mortality rate because of a brief time-lapse in the survival of the newborn. In India, one can attribute neonatal deaths to asphyxia, pneumonia, sepsis, meningitis, tetanus and an array of other preterm abnormalities. Further, studies show that there is an inverse correlation between socioeconomic status and neonatal deaths. In impoverished rural parts of the country, the neonatal mortality rate is 31 per 1,000 live births whereas it is 15 per 1,000 live births in urban parts of the nation.
  7. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) – Contrary to popular belief, CKD impacts lower-income countries as well as developed ones. In more developed countries, individuals are able to get access to life-saving treatments. Lower-income nations and portions of nations do not share the same luxury. Scientists predict that there will be 7.63 million deaths from CKD in India in 2020; this is up from the 3.78 million CKD deaths in 1990. The poor in India do not have the finances to receive transplants or the means to attend a reputable hospital.
  8. Tumors – Accounting for 9.4 percent of deaths in India, tumors are the product of pathogens and the buildup of harmful germs in the human body. While not extremely common, these tumors are affecting young and middle-age individuals at an alarming rate. Tumors are also root identifiers of cancer. In the last 26 years, the cancer rate in India has doubled and caused significant economic loss, exemplified by a $6.7 billion loss in 2012. Breast cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer and oral cancer are extremely prominent in the nation. The costs of treatment are not attainable for all of the affected and thus cause an increase in mortality. India aims to increase the number of physicians and centers for treatment and research through a $20 million initiative. Nongovernmental organizations are also working to raise awareness and supporting early detection methods across the nation.

Since its independence in 1947, India became one of the strongest nations on the planet. With an unprecedented economic boom, India is an emerging global superpower. Despite India’s successes, it is still lagging behind many western countries in its accessibility to medicine, medical facilities and equal wealth distribution.

The top eight diseases in India are pressing problems the nation can resolve through adequate reform. While the situation may appear hopeless, India is taking strides forward to ensure that each citizen lives a prosperous and meaningful life. Technological advances such as new surgical techniques and radiotherapy equipment continue to help counteract malignant tumors and potent cancers. Furthermore, the Indian government has enacted the National Clean Air Plan to reduce air pollution by 20 to 30 percent by 2024. This has prompted individual cities throughout the nation to limit their carbon output through the use of more efficient technologies and stricter regulations. India can continue to thrive as a global economic power while working to resolve its internal problems.

– Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr

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

Top 5 Causes of Child Mortality Globally

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

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

  Jessica Jones
Photo: Flickr

Dengue FeverAccording to the World Health Organization, dengue fever is one of the ten major global health threats of 2019. The mosquito-borne illness results in flu-like symptoms that can kill up to 20 percent of those infected. Approximately 390 million cases of dengue fever are reported each year across 100 different countries, although, many cases go unreported. Cases of dengue fever have also increased 30 times in the last 50 years, meaning that today, 40 percent of the world’s population is at risk of contracting the disease.

Why the Increase?

While dengue fever used to be concentrated in countries with extreme tropical climates, such as India and Bangladesh, the disease is now prevalent in countries that have more temperate climates, such as Nepal. With higher than average temperatures, rainy seasons are lasting longer which creates the perfect environment for the Aedes mosquito, the carrier of the disease. Unfortunately, the geographic regions that the Aedes mosquito inhabits coincide with low and middle-income countries. Many of these countries do not have sufficient health care systems to cope with this major health issue. Therefore, the effects of dengue are even more severe.

Protection from Mosquitoes

The World Health Organization is leading efforts to reverse the increasing threat of dengue fever. One common tactic used is immunization. The first immunization for dengue fever was approved in 20 countries in 2015. However, follow-up data from 2017 showed that the vaccine was actually harmful to those who had never contracted the disease, putting people at a higher risk of more severe cases of dengue. Now, the vaccination is recommended as a measure for those who have already been affected.

In addition to immunization, people can inhibit the Aedes mosquito’s survival and procreation by properly disposing of human waste, and not leaving out any stagnate, uncovered containers of water, as mosquitoes thrive and lay eggs in both environments. It is also advised to use spray insecticide to repel bugs and invest in screened windows and sleeping nets for protection in homes.

Combatting the Threat

The World Health Organization is partnering with local organizations and governments in affected countries to ensure that the number of deaths caused by dengue fever will decrease by 50 percent in 2020. In order to reach this goal, however, additional funding and research are needed so that the scope of dengue fever is properly understood. Health care providers also need the training and resources to properly address the issue and detect the disease in its early stages as well. If dengue fever is diagnosed before the symptoms become too severe, mortality rates of the disease become much more optimistic.

 

Madeline Lyons
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Macedonia
North Macedonia is a landlocked country in the Balkan Peninsula, home to 2.074 million people. Macedonia has struggled with poverty for many years, and while some problems still linger, citizens have been making great leaps in technology, security and medicine to increase the country’s average life expectancy.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Macedonia

  1. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, the average life expectancy in Macedonia is 75.9 years. In 2018, males lived an average of 73.8 years while females lived for around 78.2 years.
  2. In 2015, 21.5 percent of all Macedonians lived below the poverty line. Poverty has a direct link to life expectancy and one can see this all around the globe, even in the United States. In 2018, The Independent reported that U.S. citizens living below the poverty line died almost 10 years younger than the rich and found that those living in poor sectors showed a higher death rate due to illness.
  3. The main causes of death in Macedonia are stroke and heart disease, with strokes causing 23.3 percent of deaths and heart disease causing 20.5 percent of deaths in 2010. This is an almost 10 percent rise from the rate in 1990 when there was a 16.6 percent mortality rate for stroke and a 14.8 percent mortality rate for heart disease. In recent years, the Stroke Alliance for Europe (SAFE) and other health organizations have been providing free screenings to determine a patient’s risk of stroke and established four stroke units around the country in order to combat this epidemic.
  4. Deaths due to tuberculosis have decreased to less than 20 percent of the rate in 2000, dropping from five out of 100,000 citizens to one out of 100,000 citizens. The World Health Organization also reported an 88 percent success rate in tuberculosis treatment in 2016. This change is due to more efforts to provide necessary medication to those afflicted and is likely responsible for the increase of the average lifespan of Macedonian citizens.
  5. In 2018, there was a 12 percent increase in murders, a 21 percent increase in attempted murders and a 31 percent increase in acts of violence, according to the Overseas Security Advisory Council. Poverty and crime correlate, so it is likely that Macedonia’s poverty rate and crime rate are connected. While there have been improvements in quality of life, a rising crime rate, especially in violent crimes, may cause an unnecessary drop in the average Macedonian’s lifespan.
  6. UNAIDS reports that the amount of people living with HIV in Macedonia has increased from around 250 in 2013 to more than 500 in 2019. As the number of people living with HIV has increased, UNAIDS has been making efforts to increase treatment. Starting in 2010, UNAIDS has implemented antiretroviral therapy to more and more citizens as the rate of affliction has risen. Due to these efforts, UNAIDS treated over 50 percent of the afflicted population in 2018, and the amount of AIDS-related deaths per year remains under 100 to this day.
  7. Macedonia suffers from heavily polluted air. In 2018, Macedonia’s two biggest cities, Tetovo and Skopje, reported air pollution indexes of 95.57 and 83.53 respectively. In contrast, New York’s air quality index stagnates between 40-45. Macedonia’s heavily polluted air has unquestionably affected the health of its residents, causing 1,469 deaths due to respiratory illness between 2015 and 2016. Recently, people like Gorjan Jovanovski have made great strides, who is a resident of Macedonia and developed an app to protect people from the densely polluted air. Jovanovski’s app draws information from air quality measuring stations around Macedonia and reports the air quality of the users’ general area based on readings from the nearest station.
  8. The CIA reports that people use North Macedonia as a hotspot for illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine to pass through from Asia and Europe. The European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction reported that Macedonia suffered 14 drug-related deaths in 2011 and 18 in 2012. Reports also say that there were 47 cases of drug-related infectious diseases between 1987 and 2004. These diseases and deaths could be a strain on the average life expectancy in Macedonia.
  9. In 1990, UNICEF reported that the infant mortality rate in Macedonia was 36.7 deaths per 1,000 lives births, usually due to preventable diseases or injuries. In 2019, the rate is only 13.7 deaths per 1,000 live births. This steep drop in child mortality is due to the implementation of more in-depth medical practices. In 2017, 93 percent of children that supposedly had pneumonia went to a health care provider, 91 percent of all infants received three doses of DTP vaccine and 97 percent of children received a second dose of the measles vaccine.
  10. Unclean water has a direct link to the health and life expectancy of those who drink it. UNICEF estimated that, globally, 2,000 children die due to diseases that spread through unclean water sources. In 2013, the World Health Organization began an initiative to improve Macedonia’s drinking water and sanitation, after reporting that the country was disposing of most of its wastewater into its rivers and lakes. In 2015, North Macedonia reported that 99.4 percent of its citizens had access to clean drinking water.

Altogether, life expectancy in Macedonia is well within the world average. While there are still changes that the country could make, the quality of life has only gotten better in recent years. Macedonians have clean drinking water, few deaths due to AIDS and some citizens are even working to combat the pollution in the air to provide a better future for them and their country.

Charles Nettles
Photo: Flickr