Information and news about disease category

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 AllianceToday’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

Ebola Virus DiseaseImagine traveling 1,316 kilometers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to Uganda seeking medical help for your nine-year-old daughter who seems to have been infected with the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).

On August 29, 2019, a nine-year-old girl from the DRC was exposed and later developed symptoms of this rare and fatal disease. She was identified at the Mpondwe-Kasindi border point and then sent to an Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) in Bwera, Uganda. Sadly, not too long after her arrival, the child passed away.

This sporadic epidemic has come back yet again and bigger than last time. This disease has infected the North Kivu Province and has caused more than 2,200 cases, along with 1,500 deaths just this year. Thus, making this the second-largest outbreak in history following behind the 2014-2016 outbreak that killed about 11,000 people. As of September 4, 2019, a total of 3,054 Ebola Virus Disease cases were reported. Out of that total number of cases, 2,945 of them were confirmed reports and the rest of the 109 were probable cases. Overall, 2,052 of those people died.

This disease has had a total of 25 outbreaks since its first flare-up in the Ebola River in 1967. It has plagued countries spanning from the West to sub-Saharan Africa and has a 25 to 90 percent fatality rate. Even though reports are coming from 29 different health zones, the majority of these cases are coming from the health zones of Beni, Kalunguta, Manima and Mambasa. About 17 of these 29 health zones have reported new cases stating that 58 percent of probable and confirmed cases are female (1,772), 28 percent are children under the age of 18 (865) and 5 percent (156) are health workers.

This 2019 case is different because of the way that Ebola Virus Disease is affecting an area of the country that is undergoing conflict and receiving an influx of immigrants. The nation’s “political instability,” random acts of violence and “limited infrastructure” also contribute to the restricted efforts to end the outbreak.  As of June 2019, the disease started its expansion to Uganda, with four cases confirmed near the eastern border shared with DRC, South Kivu Province and Rwanda borders. The World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative of Uganda, Yonas Tegegn, stated that whoever came into contact with the nine-year-old patient had to be vaccinated.

Out of the five Congolese who had contact with the little girl, four of them have been sent back to their country for “proper follow-ups.” Another 8,000 people were vaccinated against Ebola due to “high-risk areas in the country.”  Overall, 200,000 people in DRC have been vaccinated against EVD along with “health workers in surrounding countries.” With this being said, there is no official vaccination that is known to effectively protect people from this disease. Therefore an “effective experimental vaccine” has been found suitable enough for use. Also, a therapeutic treatment has shown “great effectiveness” in the early stages of the virus.

Ugandan authorities have taken matters into their own hands, strengthened border controls and banned public gatherings in areas that have been affected by EVD. According to the August 5, 2019 risk assessment, the national and regional levels are at higher risk of contracting EVD while the global level risk is low.

The Solutions

The World Health Organization (WHO) is doing everything they can to prevent the international spread of this disease. They have implemented the International Health Regulations (2005) to “prevent, protect against, control and provide international responses” to the spread of EVD.

This operational concept includes “specific procedures for disease surveillance,” notifying and reporting public health events and risks to other WHO countries, fast risk assessments, acting as a determinant as to whether or not an event is considered to be a public health emergency and coordinating international responses.

WHO also partnered up with the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) to ensure that proper “technical expertise” and skills are on the ground helping people that need it most. GOARN is a group of institutions and networks that use human and technical resources to “constantly alert” one another to rapidly identify, confirm and respond to “outbreaks of international importance.”  WHO and GOARN have responded to over 50 events around the world with 400 specialists “providing field support” to 40 countries.

– Isabella Gonzalez Montilla
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Comoros
Comoros is a small country comprised of four islands located just off Africa’s eastern coast. Poverty is widespread across the island due to limited access to transportation to the mainland and very few goods that could be exported to encourage economic growth. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Comoros will demonstrate how poverty and other factors contribute.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Comoros

  1. The population of Comoros is rapidly growing with poor health services unable to keep up. As of 2018, the average was 350 people per square mile. Anjouan has the largest population of the Comoros islands. Overcrowding makes resources scarce and health is rapidly declining. The life expectancy of any person on the islands rarely exceeds the age of 65; in 2018, the CIA reported that only 3.98 percent of the population was 65 years or older. Most of the population are children from infancy to the age of 14 at 38.54 percent.
  2. Overcrowding on the island has led some to attempt illegal immigration to the French island of Mayotte. In 1995, the French government declared travel to Mayotte without a visa illegal. Immigration for the people of Comoros is more challenging, but it does not stop them from fleeing to find a better life outside of the overpopulated islands. As of 2017, 40 percent of the population of Mayotte comprised of illegal immigrants from Comoros. The journey is certainly not safe; The New Humanitarian estimates 200 to 500 deaths every year are a result of attempted immigration to Mayotte in the tiny fishing boats that the Comoros people call kwassa-kwassa. The majority of those who cross are children that parents send in search of a better life, contributing to the high mortality rate of children in Comoros.
  3. The overcrowding is due in part to the high birth rate as compared to the death rate. Despite the low age of life expectancy, the death rate overall is only seven deaths per 1,000 people as reported by the CIA. In comparison, the birth rate is 25 births per 1,000.
  4. The infant mortality rate, however, is extraordinarily high. The country ranks number 17 on the CIA’s list with an estimated 58 deaths per 1,000 births. The problem is, in part, due to the limit of financing toward health care and hospitals. Financing has not exceeded 5 percent in total government spending within the last few decades according to the African Health Observatory (AHO).
  5. Illness, as a result of low attendance to health care facilities, runs rampant in Comoros. Malaria was once the deadliest disease until 2011 when it finally began to decline. The Comoros government launched the Residential Spraying campaign to provide insecticide and treatments to the water. Transmittable diseases, according to a table released by the AHO, are the prime suspect for illness and fatality on the islands. Sixty-six percent of all deaths related to diseases are a result of transmittable illnesses, while only 25 percent are non-transmittable and 9 percent are due to injury or natural causes.
  6. Cardiovascular disease (CDV) is on the rise, according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO); as of 2016, CDV has fatally affected 17 percent of the population of Comoros. The AHO links CDV to malnutrition and the consumption of less than adequate food to survive. Since 2005, cerebrovascular heart disease and ischemic heart disease have increased by 4.2 percent and 5.4 percent respectively. As of 2015, these diseases were the third and fourth most deadly in Comoros.
  7. Tuberculosis is also rampant on the islands; WHO estimates 28,000 of Comoros became infected with the deadly disease in 2017. Twenty-one thousand of those infected with TB died. Only 10 percent of the population receive a preventative for TB, clearly demonstrating the need for better health care access to increase life expectancy in Comoros.
  8. The leading cause of death as of 2015 is lower respiratory infections. This includes bronchitis, influenza and pneumonia, among others. According to WHO, 47 percent of all deaths in the country as of 2016 are due to communicable diseases such as these infections. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) reported that between 1990 and 2010, lower respiratory infections remained the deadliest issue in Comoros with an estimated 27,000 years of life lost among the younger generations fatally affected.
  9. Though illnesses are slowly declining, other health issues are beginning to arise in their place. A lack of adequate nutrition is beginning to plague the people of Comoros. The CIA estimates that Comoros exports roughly 70 percent of all food it grows, leaving very little for its people. According to a report in 2011 by the World Bank, 44 percent of children in Comoros are malnourished and one in every four children is born with low birth weight. This contributes to the infant mortality rate mentioned earlier. Vitamin A deficiency and anemia are the leading causes of health issues among those who are malnourished in Comoros.
  10. Sanitation issues are on the rise due to the overcrowded population. Water sanitation is one of the top concerns. The islands have very little freshwater resources; Grande Comoro, the main island, has no surface water at all and the people import water from the mainland. Meanwhile, the other 50 percent of the population in rural communities rely on collecting rainwater. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) wants to change this dangerous way of living and ensure that all the citizens of Comoros have access to safe drinking water. With the government of Comoros, its goal is to increase the freshwater supply to 100 percent for all by the year 2030. With all parties assisting, the project has $60 million at its disposal.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Comoros show that in recent years, aid to Comoros has increased, especially with sanitation. The life expectancy in Comoros is only one part of the problem that the people of the country faces. Comoros must come to an agreement with Mayotte and other countries accept the refugees who are seeking a better life.

– Nikolas Leasure
Photo: Flickr

 

Four Tech Investments
Technology advances at a blinding rate with new innovations popping up every day. People can use these new technologies to make life easier, save lives, entertain the masses in new, creative ways and serve countless other purposes. In this age of technology and instant access to information, a consumer will find dozens of different companies vying for their money with thousands of different advertisements, promising new features and faster internet. If a consumer investigates further, they will find people around the world using the bleeding edge of technology to reduce poverty by increasing access to medical facilities, providing more energy to those in need, aiding struggling farmers and innovating on the use of technology in the classroom. Here are four tech investments to lower poverty.

4 Tech Investments to Lower Poverty

  1. TEAMFund: The organization Transforming Equity and Access for MedTech (TEAMFund) invests in companies that can increase medical access in impoverished areas. TEAMFund usually invests in companies that specialize in digital health or artificial intelligence in hopes that these innovations will help with the shortages of doctors and other health care specialists. Some investments that TEAMFund has previously selected include Forus Health, an Indian organization dedicated to using technology to lower cases of preventable blindness, and digital ophthalmology, the use of technology to prevent diseases like glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy. On September 18, 2019, TEAMFund closed a budget of $30 million to invest in low-income areas. As TEAMFund invests this money, many of those in impoverished areas will feel the benefits of easy medical access.
  2. The Rockefeller Foundation: Energy poverty is also a major problem around the world. Many developing nations do not have electricity with almost a billion people worldwide lacking the ability to live in comfortable temperatures or store food for long periods. On September 12, 2019, the Rockefeller Foundation launched the Global Commission to End Energy Poverty. This commission will explore the many sources of electricity, including microgrids to provide total energy access by 2030. One method it will use to achieve this goal is setting up solar microgrids in developing countries around sub-Saharan Africa, as suggested by Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation.
  3. BICSA: Agriculture is a necessary gamble in any community. Long droughts could cause the loss of fields of crops, and without them, people could starve. Currently, no risk is greater than planting crops in India. Many farmers in India rely on monsoon rains to feed their crops, but the rains have been patchy and unpredictable recently, raining 35 percent below the predicted amount. Luckily, organizations like the International Water Management Institute and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research have combined their strength and formed the Bundled Solutions of Index Insurance with Climate Information and Seed Systems to Manage Agricultural Risks (BICSA). This organization will work with the farmers of India and try many different strategies to avoid massive crop loss and protect farmers from bankruptcy. BICSA claims that they will provide services like drought or flood insurance, more seed varieties, new methods to forecast the weather and different farming practices that suit the climate better.
  4. Education Technology: Education is arguably the most important factor in a developing country. Nevertheless, over 260 million children worldwide do not receive an education. Education Technology (EdTech) companies dedicate their resources to providing more access to quality education. They achieve this goal by teaching programming to young students, providing online college courses to those who cannot afford them, teaching foreign languages and much more in places like Nigeria and Kenya. These EdTech companies, like Andela, Coursera and Kramer have been receiving record-breaking investments in recent years. In 2018, EdTech companies received over $16.3 billion in funding from countries like the United States and China. As these companies grow and reach more people, the world should crawl closer to the total education of the entire world.

The use of technology to reduce poverty brings an age-old problem into the modern world. These four tech investments will not eradicate poverty overnight, but they show that the superpowers of the world are willing to give more for the benefit of the world’s poor. With easier access to medical facilities, energy, agriculture and education through technology, countries with a large poverty rate could move forward on the path to a developed, flourishing society, strengthening the global economy with their commerce and aiding other countries that require assistance.

– Charles Nettles
Photo: Flickr