Yellow Fever in French GuianaFrench Guiana is a territory of France located on the northeastern coast of South America, bordering Suriname and Brazil. The territory has faced a history of oppression and neglect. Violent slave revolts shaped much of the land’s early history, its use as a penal colony shaped its recent past. This neglect has led to an overall sense of struggle, with issues arising in nearly all sectors of life. This sense of struggle becomes increasingly visible when regarding the recent cases of yellow fever in French Guiana.

Yellow Fever in French Guiana

In August of 2017, a Brazilian woman in her 40s contracted yellow fever in French Guiana. She was living in a clandestine gold mining village in the area of the dam lake Petit Saut. On August 2, she reported a fever, vomiting, lumbar and abdominal pain and intense asthenia. Her relatives reportedly witnessed hemorrhagic symptoms. On August 7, she was admitted to a hospital in Kourou. On August 8, she experienced multi-organ failure and was rushed to the intensive care unit of a hospital in Cayenne, the capital city of French Guiana. There, she was treated with intensive supportive therapy but showed no positive response. On August 9, she passed away.

In August of 2018, a Swiss man in his 40s, living in a forested area near the river Comté, developed a fever, body aches and mild myalgia. On August 5, a day after his symptoms began, he sought out medical attention. He was sent away with the diagnosis of an acute, dengue-like viral infection. In the days that followed, he experienced vomiting, prostration and a persisting fever. He returned to seek medical attention at the Cayenne hospital. He was admitted into the intensive care unit on August 8, and shortly thereafter, on August 9, he was transferred to a specialized transplant center outside of Paris and received a hepatic transplant. On August 10, blood tests confirmed that he had contracted yellow fever in French Guiana. On August 30, he passed away.

Yellow fever is a virus transmitted by the Aedes and Haemogogus species of mosquitos, the same species responsible for the spreading of Zika and Dengue. Yellow fever is endemic in French Guiana. Many of the infected do not experience symptoms, but those who do typically report some combination of a fever, an aching in the back and head, a loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. A small percentage of those who do experience the initial wave of symptoms will later experience a second wave, referred to as the toxic phase. Those in the toxic phase will likely experience the development of jaundice, a darkening of the urine, vomiting and abdominal pain. Approximately half of all those who enter the toxic phase will die within seven to 10 days.

The endemic status of yellow fever in French Guiana says volumes on the state of the territory as a whole. Although there have been improvements in vaccination rates, with an estimated 80 to 90 percent of the population receiving the yellow fever vaccine, a lack of infrastructure and health care options thoroughly ostracize those living in more rural settings. 

Some communities, such as Maripasula, the most isolated town in French Guiana and France as a whole, takes three days to reach. One must travel by boat down the Amazon. The people of Maripasula have long demanded a road be put in, but as of now, no road exists. This greatly reduces their ability to combat fast-acting diseases such as yellow fever.

The government that rules over French Guiana is the same that rules mainland France, and yet, the GDP of those living in French Guiana is roughly half that of their European counterparts. A shocking 40 percent of citizens live in poverty, and over 20 percent are unemployed.

In 2018, USA Today listed France as the 24th richest country in the world. 

The disparity in income and quality of life between mainland France and French Guiana is drastic, to say the least. In 2017, French Guiana was overcome with protests and social unrest, with many of its citizens participating in mass strikes. The French government apologized for its neglectful treatment of French Guiana and promised to allocate 3 billion euros to the South American territory. This money was meant to be dispersed throughout a variety of sectors, with healthcare and education at the forefront. As of May 2019, this monetary promise remains largely unfulfilled.

Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in French Guiana
French Guiana, the small French territory located in South America, is home to a uniquely intricate story. However, poverty in French Guiana remains an issue, inflating tension between the territory and France.

Initially explored by the Spanish in the 1500s, the territory became a part of France in 1667. French Guiana’s fascinating history has collected tales of its former penal colonies and its recent prominence as a European rocket-launching site.

Unfortunately, most of French Guiana’s problems arise from the inhabitants’ standings as citizens of France. Much of the tension centers around the administration of the area by the French Constitution.

Despite French Guiana’s recent vote against increased autonomy in governance of the area, longstanding struggles with unemployment and unbalanced trade creates much frustration towards the French administration.

In 2009, the territory threatened to revolt, following the lead of other French territories Martinique and Guadeloupe. While they never carried out their threats, French Guiana still expressed its anger over poor living conditions and low wages.

Even with limited support from the territory, France helps sustain French Guiana’s developing economy by sending aid and technical assistance. The country suffers from unfavorable trading balances, as their exports are significantly less valuable than their imports.

This imbalance is compounded by high rates of unemployment and inflation, as well as insufficient infrastructure (for example, only two-fifths of the roads are paved). French Guiana must also import fossil fuels for all electricity needs.

Despite these faults, French Guiana has one of the highest gross national incomes per capita in South America. The largest contributors to the economy are the manufacturing and service industries.

One 2012 study estimates that 26.5 percent of households in French Guiana live below the poverty line. However, another source states that while poverty is a major issue, French Guiana has less acute poverty than other similar economies.

Other aggregate poverty assessments generally do not include French Guiana because of its small size and population. This knowledge gap poses a large problem for combating poverty and identifying the major issues concerning French Guiana.

While French Guiana’s living conditions are substantially worse than those on mainland France, the territory maintains a better standard of living than many other developing economies.

Universally free education and health care for the poorest segments of society prove beneficial in coping with poverty in French Guiana. Almost all children between the ages of 6 and 16 attend school. There are also several colleges and universities.

However, the territory’s lack of infrastructure affects health care in rural areas. In fact, there is only one full-service hospital in French Guiana.

Poverty and unemployment rates represent a large source of social discontentment and everyday hardship as French Guiana continues to develop.

Despite these obstacles, France will continue to provide aid to its territory. With a more holistic study of French Guiana, perhaps this examination of poverty will create substantial positive change.

–Charlotte Bellomy

Photo: BBC

Researchers have determined that the continued prevalence of the Ebola epidemic within the West African nation of Guinea has substantially reduced the efficacy of programs designed to fight malaria, leading to a spike in malaria cases.

A report recently released by Guinea and published in the Lancet Infectious Disease Journal claims that an estimated 74,000 cases of malaria went untreated in 2014 due to the closure of many medical facilities and the continual fear of citizens to access areas potentially infected with Ebola.

While the death toll from the Ebola outbreak within Guinea currently stands at 2,444, health officials have now offered long-term predictions that a decrease in malaria treatment during this time period will provide a higher record of malaria fatalities than Ebola.

Dr. Mateusz Plucinski, who participated in authoring the Lancet report, assembled a team of researchers and disease control experts to travel to Guinea in order to determine how the Ebola epidemic had affected efforts to combat malaria. After sampling 60 health facilities within high-frequency Ebola districts and 60 facilities within districts unaffected by Ebola, the team was able to observe startling figures.

Within the areas most strongly affected by the Ebola outbreak, outpatient attendance in health facilities for malaria treatment decreased by nearly 50%. In the 60 surveyed districts with high frequencies of Ebola, the number of treated Malaria cases decreased by over 65%.

Dr. Franco Pagoni of the WHO Global Malaria Program explained in a recent interview that a significant rise in untreated malaria cases has placed additional stresses on a national healthcare system already spread thin by the Ebola crisis. Dr. Pagoni argues that the most effective solution to an increase in recorded malaria cases is to incorporate malaria prevention, detection and treatment methods with medical practices currently being used to treat the Ebola outbreak.

Guinea has had some reason to celebrate in recent months, as their control over the Ebola crisis has grown tighter due to an increase of international aid efforts and stronger government health programs. While cases per week in Guinea were recorded in the hundreds at the start of the year, recent data from WHO found only 10 weekly cases.

As reported cases of Ebola within West Africa continue to decrease, heath officials must again turn their attention to programs designed to control malaria, a disease which is responsible for claiming over half a million lives each year.

– James Thornton

Sources: The Lancet, BBC
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in French Guiana
French Guiana is a small country with an estimated population of 270,000. It is located in South America, bordering Brazil and Suriname. It is a territory of France and therefore follows the French legal system. This means that it follows the French Constitution and is ruled by the French government. Officially, it is called a French Overseas Department.

Poverty in French Guiana is an interesting topic because so little is reported and few people are interested. It can be easy to focus on the largest populations in poverty in Africa or India, so much so that smaller countries are forgotten. This should not be the case, as all people deserve the right to escape poverty.

The lack of awareness for poverty in French Guiana is highlighted by the mere fact that statistics and data on this subject are hard to find. Since it is a French territory and technically considered part of France, global statistics from the United Nations or the World Bank are not often given for French Guiana individually. This signifies the relative unimportance of French Guiana among the international community. From the little information there is come these poverty facts from French Guiana:

  • In 2010, the unemployment rate was 30.5 percent; it was higher for women, at 36 percent.
  • 26.5 percent of households are below the poverty line.
  • The infant mortality rate in 2008 – 2010 was 11.6 per 1,000 live births.
  • Malaria is endemic, with 3,345 cases in 2009. Yellow fever and Dengue are also endemic.
  • A 2006 study showed that French Guiana has the highest rate of HIV infections in France, with 308 per million inhabitants, as opposed to 150 in the Ile de France region (the wealthiest region in metropolitan France.)
  • Food and living expenses are high because the country imports 90 percent of consumable goods from metropolitan France.
  • Only 7.8 percent of the population held university diplomas in 2010.
  • Only 27.9 percent of households had enough money to be taxed in 2010.

These facts may seem disjointed and random, but that is exactly how information relating to poverty in French Guiana is presented. There is little to no comprehensive data on this tiny French overseas territory, at least in the English language. Most of the raw data was taken from the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies. The data is only available in French, which makes a global discussion of this issue difficult.

Who is going to care about this small community? With so little international discussion on poverty in French Guiana, it will be difficult to rally people around the cause. Action needs to be taken by the French government to fix the high rates of unemployment, infectious disease endemics, HIV rates and poverty levels. It is the responsibility of the French people to appease their government to do the right thing and help French Guiana out of poverty.

– Eleni Marino

Sources: United Nations, Phrase Base, Conseil National Du Sida, The Guardian, INSEE

Photo: PIB