Information and stories about global health.

Improve Global Health
In June 2018, German Chancellor Angela Merkel introduced a new plan for Germany to become a front-runner in global health. This plan was to fully come into action by the end of 2019. In addition, the BMJ Journal reported that the plan involved bringing in non-governmental representatives to provide their knowledge to develop a strategy for Germany to improve global health.

What is the Plan?

Germany worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-Being for All program. One of the main goals of this initiative is to accelerate progress in seven key areas:

  1. Primary health care
  2. Sustainable financing
  3. Community and civil society
  4. Determinants of health
  5. Innovative programming in fragile and vulnerable settings and for disease outbreak responses
  6. Research and Development, Innovation and Access
  7. Data and digital health

These seven points focus on the main areas of mobilizing and enabling communities. They also focus on providing governments with the necessary funding and knowledge to help their people and ensuring the research and money is going to the areas that most need it.

Funding

Germany began working towards many of these goals as early as 2018. The Global Fund reports that Germany pledged 1 billion euros (roughly $1.094 billion) towards The Global Fund’s fight against diseases such as HIV, malaria and AIDS. Also, the website states that this was a 17.6 percent increase from its previous pledge. Germany is pledging this amount for a three-year period.

The website Donar Tracker notes that Germany donated 47 percent of its development assistance fund to multilateral, or multi-country, organizations. The website states that the main recipients of this funding were the previously mentioned Global Fund, the E.U. and Gavi. Gavi is an organization focused on giving impoverished countries access to vaccines.

Cooperation

The Global Health Hub Germany is a website that Germany hosts to improve global health. This website calls itself the platform for Global Health. The World Health Summit, which Berlin, Germany holds annually, helped to organize the launch of The Global Health Hub, claiming that its mission statement is one of cooperation.

The Global Health Hub Germany aims to inform people, get them working together and develop new ways for the world to improve global health. Additionally, it hosts frequent events and conferences aimed to give people the information they need to help improve global health. The website launched on October 29, 2019. Since then, it gained 555 members as of November 2019. Its members consist of activist groups and experts in the health field. The Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All states Germany’s mission statement going forward to improve global health. Funding, cooperation and mobilization are just some of the ways that Germany aims to improve global health.

Jacob Creswell
Photo: Flickr

North Korea Health Care
Despite North Korea having universal health care, many of its citizens struggle to obtain basic health care. The health care system has been in a state of crisis since the 1990s, so the little health care that is available goes to high-income Koreans. Here are five facts about health in North Korea.

5 Facts About Health in North Korea

  1. North Korea spent the least on health care in the world in 2019. The total amount of money that the country did use for health care equaled less than $1 USD. The lack of funding makes the quality of health care lower which prompts citizens to bypass doctors altogether and buy medicinal products from markets and self-medicate.
  2. Two out of every five North Koreans suffer undernourishment. Mission East, a Danish NGO, is the only U.N. exception sending agricultural machinery into the country – which the country has banned alongside metal objects. Mission East emerged in 1991 and was finally able to establish a country office in Pyongyang in the summer of 2019. It helps the rural population with food security and health in North Korea.
  3. Out of the 131,000 cases of tuberculosis in North Korea, 16,000 citizens died throughout 2017. Multi-drug resistant strains are becoming more and more common in recent years. The Eugene Bell Foundation has been giving health care aid to North Korea since its beginning in 1995. The Foundation returns to North Korea every six months and has initiated a multi-drug resistant tuberculosis program as well as a tuberculosis care program. The program has cured over 70 percent of the patients in North Korea with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.
  4. Sixty-one percent of North Koreans have access to safe water. UNICEF in North Korea has implemented a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program (WASH). NGOs such as the Swiss Humanitarian Aid and World Vision International have received approval from the U.N. to send shipments related to the WASH program into the country. UNICEF works to promote good hygiene, provide technical support and support delivery of supplies.
  5. The infant mortality rate is 33 percent in North Korea. People often neglect children with disabilities and do not report their deaths in most cases, so the number could be up to five times higher than reported. Minimal access to health care, good sanitation and healthy foods play a huge role in the deaths of infants and their mothers. The Korea Foundation for International Healthcare, established in 2006, has partnered with The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health to provide medicine, procedures and surgeries to citizens regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion. Recently, a vaccination campaign has immunized millions of North Korean children.

It is not easy to obtain information on North Korea due to the isolated nature of the country. A lot of organizations have to fight to provide aid to the citizens and the ban on equipment and metal shipments into the country makes it hard to provide proper care to people in the country. Since the country prevents citizens from leaving the country without permission, these organizations are the saving grace for many. Health in North Korea is not as successful as it may seem at first glance, but the recent decisions the U.N. has made leaves room for optimism and change.

Taylor Pittman
Photo: Flickr

2019 Coronavirus
The 2019 coronavirus outbreak in China has infected thousands and killed hundreds of people in Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Germany, France, the United States and other countries. As a result, there are strict preventative measures, as currently, only supportive care exists – meaning there is no definitive cure. Understanding all relevant information about the virus itself and the reaction of the global health community is highly relevant, important and necessary.

The 2019 Coronavirus (2019-nCoV or COVID-19)

Originating in Wuhan, China, the 2019 coronavirus is a viral infection that causes breathing problems. The 2019 coronavirus is within the same family of viruses – but a different strand – that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome. It transmits from human to human through coughing, sneezing and other moist bodily particles. Symptoms include breathing difficulty, fever and cough, similar to typical viral infections.

Treatment

People can use supportive care for symptom relief, such as fever relief with Tylenol. No one has developed an antiviral for the 2019 coronavirus yet, which would consist of suppression of further viral infection of host cells, rather than viral eradication.

Prevention

The CDC recommends avoiding crowds to reduce the chance of interacting with infected persons. People should also practice hand-washing and good hand-hygiene practices. These measures include avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth, and covering the mouth and nose when sneezing. Moreover, people should disinfect surfaces frequently.

Monitoring

Those individual(s) who might have traveled on a plane or are concerned about becoming infected should monitor for symptoms. Symptoms are likely to occur between two to 14 days after traveling to China or interacting with individuals(s) who have traveled to China. Contact with the 2019 coronavirus can occur within six feet of a person and/or can occur directly when touching moist bodily particles. If symptoms occur, one should notify and visit a doctor’s office immediately.

Global Health Response

The WHO International Health Regulations Committee first met to advise the Director-General on disease control and prevention strategies. WHO then visited Wuhan, China in January 2020 to establish a plan with China’s President, Xi Jinping, in treating existing patients and containing the virus. Globally, WHO is currently conducting research to find a viable treatment for COVID-19; the U.S. is simultaneously conducting a vaccine trial to prevent further spread. WHO and various international health ministries are gathering up funding, projected to be about $675 million, to support the Strategies Preparedness and Response Plan. The plan outlines preparedness protocol for countries, in particular, those with limited health systems, to stop virus transmission, treat patients and collaborate between countries to carry out all necessary operations.

Global Response

Many countries and organizations, such as the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, Belarus, Brunei, Cambodia, Egypt, Iran, Japan and Pakistan among many others, are sending medical supplies and equipment to help China in addressing COVID-19 treatment needs. Doctors in China are administering care to patients in temporary treatment centers while other health officials are managing supplies and equipment to ensure appropriate use. Furthermore, various Chinese companies are investing in research; other organizations are fundraising to support disease control efforts. Chinese city locals and groups are also coming together to lend a hand in stopping the outbreak.

Globally, support is even coming in from philanthropists, international businesses and foreign aids. For example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $100 million. These efforts are all contributing to research, treatment and prevention funds. Foreign aid from the U.S. comes in the form of a medical advisory board going to China to work with its health officials while the European Union is providing $11 million USD for research on the virus.

Information regarding the 2019 coronavirus is emerging daily. Health organizations, governments, non-government organizations and businesses are pulling resources to contain the illness and its outbreak.

– Hung Le
Photo: Flickr

Our Health Reduces Mosquito-Borne Illnesses
Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, including malaria and the Zika virus, abound in hotter, more humid countries and regions including Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and tropical areas of Southeast Asia, Oceania and Africa. Whereas malaria has many symptoms like high fever, diarrhea, nausea and sweating, the Zika virus is not as easily detectable. Its symptoms are milder, and this includes rashes, itching, high fever and muscle pain. Accordingly, the organization Our Health reduces mosquito-borne illnesses in Honduras through numerous efforts.

The Ways that Our Health Reduces Mosquito-Borne Illnesses

Our Health is a project that Global Communities runs and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funds. It works with the Honduran Ministry of Health (SESAL). There are two parts to Our Health, which focuses on strengthening communities and improving education.

The goals of the first part are to increase the number of response activities in Honduran communities to prevent Zika transmission and to improve the communication of said activities. This focus is on the poor, urban areas of Honduras, including Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, Choloma, La Lima and Villanueva. At the moment, Our Health has 36 health establishments and 360 communities to help prevent the spread of the Zika virus. However, being successful in promoting the power of communities means it must have a way to implement this community-based solution. Its implementation phase takes an estimated three years with the first phase taking one year. The first phase fosters community-led responses to Zika outbreaks and building up communities in general. The second phase takes the remaining two years. This phase continues to strengthen the relationships from the first phase, organizing the community, allocating responsibilities and promoting positive behavior.

The second part of Our Health focuses on three aspects:

  1. Education
  2. Working with the Honduran Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health
  3. Improve understanding of these diseases including how they spread and how people can prevent them
Our Health reduces mosquito-borne illnesses by educating children to bring awareness to their families. The children can teach their families what they have learned. This does not have a predicted time period but has already started in 76 educational centers in Honduras, benefiting 29,000 kids and 1,230 teachers. The program provides teachers with virtual training and teaching materials to prevent the transmission and spread of Zika. This also supports the first part of Our Health in promoting community participation. Moreover, fifth and sixth graders receive education on how to prevent disease through a number of activities including theater, poetry, singing and drawing, as well as creating models to show their own knowledge about the Zika virus. The teachers firmly believe that addressing Zika in the classroom and spreading the knowledge to homes and communities is vital.

General Solution to Malaria

The Honduran Ministry of Health recently received a donation of more than 12 million lempiras (around $487,899 USD) in Hudson pumps, deltamethrin and bendiocarb (insecticides) and mosquito nets treated with long-lasting insecticide. People also know this as MTILD. It is using this donation to fight Anopheles and Aedes mosquitoes which spread the Zika virus. MTILD use in vector control strategies and are effective in preventing malaria.

The Ministry of Health implemented these methods in Gracias a Dios and Islas de la Bahía. In addition, the Ministry of Health installs the insecticide-filled pumps in each home. This helps spray the homes on a bi-yearly basis and keeps mosquitoes away. In 2018, two spray cycles sprayed around 50,000 homes. As a result, this helped 303,467 people. Furthermore, in 2019, it expected to spray around 60,000 double-cycle homes. This protected an additional 218,959 people. For 2020, the biyearly spray might increase by 62,050 and with an additional 116,872 mosquito nets installed. As for cases of malaria, as of 2017, 1,287 people received treatment against malaria. In 2018, there were 651 cases. Additionally, the project hopes to lower it to zero cases in 2020.

Honduras’s Health Surveillance Unit works towards controlling malaria in the country. Over the past three years, malaria cases have been lower than 56 percent in the six biggest departments of Honduras. It works together with communities to address malaria Also, Honduras’s Health Surveillance Unit monitors the areas with surveillance, increases their coverage and secures treatment for victims.

Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

Health Care Facts about LaosLaos is a small, South Asian country that recently experienced a significant increase in its gross domestic product (GDP). Poverty in Laos plummeted from 33.5 percent to 23.2 percent allowing the country to meet the Millennium Development Goal by reducing its extreme poverty rate by half. However, there is still much work to be done. Around 80 percent of Laotians live on less than $3 a day and face a 10 percent chance of falling into poverty. Knowing that poverty and poor health care often co-exist, the government has made it a goal to strengthen its national health care system by achieving universal health coverage by 2020. Below are nine health care facts about Laos.

9 Health Care Facts About Laos

  1. The Food and Drug Department is the regulatory authority for health care in Laos. The body is responsible for regulating pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The most recent legislation the country passed is the “Law on Drugs and Medical Products No. 07/NA,” in 2012. The law provided stricter guidelines for drugs and medical products. It also creates a classification for medical devices and registration for drugs and other medical products.
  2. Between 1997 and 2015 Laos’ poverty rate declined from 40 percent to 23 percent. The improvement in life expectancy is likely due to the recent improvements of the government on health care in Laos. For example, in 2011 Laos’ National Government Assembly decided to increase the government expenditure for health from 4 percent to 9 percent, likely influencing poverty rates.
  3. Laos has separate health care programs for different income groups. The country has the State Authority for Social Security (SASS) for civil servants, the Social Security Office (SSO) for employees of the state and private companies, the Community-based Health Insurance (CBHI) for informal-sector workers and the Health Equity Funds (HEFs) for the country’s poor.
  4. Laos’ current health insurance only covers 20 percent of the population. The lack of coverage could be due to the large spread of the country’s population outside of its major urban centers. Around 80 percent of Laos’ populace live and work in rural communities. The country’s ministry of health has made efforts to provide more services to people who live outside the main urban centers by decentralizing health care into three administrative levels: the central Ministry of Health, provincial administration levels and a district-level administration.
  5. Wealthy Laotians in need of medical care travel to Thailand for treatment. Despite the increased cost of care in Thailand, Laotians travel internationally because of the better quality of care. Health care in Laos at the local levels suffers from unqualified staff and inadequate infrastructure; additionally, inadequate drug supply is a problem. Due to these issues, Laos depends on international aid. In fact, donors and grant funding finance most of the disease control, investment, training and administrative costs.
  6. Many Laotian citizens believe illness is caused by imbalances of spirit, spiritual possession and weather. Despite Laotian spirituality, knowledge of germs as the root cause of the disease is well understood. Laotian hospitals use antibiotics and other medications when they are available. However, folk medicine is often used as a treatment. For example, herbal medicines and spiritual cures include items, such as a special tree bark, which is believed to grant long life when it is prepared with rice.
  7. Many Laotians remain malnourished. Despite recent economic growth, many children under 5 are chronically malnourished; every fifth child in rural areas is severely stunted. Malnutrition is largely influenced by natural disasters. Laos has a weak infrastructure making it difficult to cope with floods, droughts and insect swarms.
  8. Local drug shops as a primary source of medicinal remedies are actually causing problems. Most of these shops are unregulated and the owners are unlicensed. Misprescription and inadequate and overdosage are common. Venders sell small packets of drugs that often include an antibiotic, vitamins and a fever suppressant. They sell these packets as single dose cures for a wide variety of illnesses.
  9. Laos has a high risk of infectious water-borne and vector-borne diseases. Common waterborne diseases include protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A and typhoid. Vector-borne diseases include dengue fever and malaria. Typically, diarrheal disease outbreaks occur annually during the beginning of the rainy season when the water becomes contaminated by human and animal waste on hillsides. Few homes have squat-pits or water-sealed toilets, causing sanitation and health issues.

 

As it stands, health care in Laos is still underdeveloped. However, the nation’s recent economic growth provides an opportunity to remedy the problem even though a majority of the current health care system is funded by foreign sources. As with all struggles, the desired outcome will take time. With enough cooperation with other countries and non-profit organizations, Laos has a chance to create a sustainable health care system for its citizens. Increasing health education among Laotians will be one key to improving public health in Laos. This can be done through the help of nonprofit organizations and others aiding in efforts to educate countries on sanitation and health.

– Robert Forsyth
Photo: Flickr

 

childhood cancer in Kenya

The World Health Organization (WHO) has ranked cancer as a leading case of death in children. Globally, the leading types of childhood cancers are cancer of the white blood cells and brain tumors. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the most common types are non-Hodgkins lymphoma, kidney cancer and bone marrow cancer. This article explains eight facts about childhood cancer in Kenya.

8 Facts About Childhood Cancer in Kenya

  1. Child Cancer Causes: According to the American Cancer Society, while known lifestyle-related factors can increase the risk of developing cancer in adults, the same is not true for children. Dr. William Macharia, a pediatrician based in Nairobi, Kenya, explained that the peak age of childhood cancer is between 3 and 7 years old which is not enough time for environmental factors to cause cancer. Instead, many believe that wrong cell division and multiplication after conception is the cause.
  2. Childhood Cancer Survival Rate: Only 20 percent of children with cancer in Kenya survive. This is in contrast to the developed countries where up to 80 percent of children with cancer survive. Once again, one can attribute this to the late diagnosis as well as the lack of specialized training and other challenges children face in getting treatment.
  3. Hospice Care Kenya: Hospice Care Kenya reports that only 1 percent of children in Kenya have access to appropriate palliative care. A large majority of children with cancer, therefore, die in pain and isolation. Hospice Care Kenya is working to improve palliative care in Kenya so that children could receive appropriate care which could enhance their quality of life and death.
  4. Radiation and Chemotherapy: One of the biggest challenges in treating childhood cancer is that radiation and chemotherapy have a lasting, damaging effect on children’s bodies. A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology shows that by the age of 50, more than half of those who survived childhood cancer experience a severe, disabling or life-threatening event and this could include death. This shows that more research is necessary to develop better treatment and care models for children diagnosed with cancer.
  5. Financial Challenges: One of the reasons why childhood cancer in Kenya does not receive diagnosis or treatment is because families experience financial difficulties in dealing with it. To begin with, most of the medical facilities where treatment is available are in urban centers so those from rural areas have to travel long distances to access them. Additionally, the cost of treatment, medicine and health insurance is too high for families to afford. When faced with the difficult choice of paying for the sick child and clothing, feeding and educating the rest of the family, families often choose the latter. World Child Cancer reports that almost 30 percent of children who begin treatment do not complete it.
  6. Limited Medical Training: There is a lack of specialized training of medical practitioners which leads to late diagnosis of childhood cancer in Kenya. By the time most children have a cancer diagnosis, the illness is already in its advanced stages. This is unfortunate because when people know they have cancer early enough, they can obtain treatment or at least manage the disease.
  7. The Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer and Shoe4Africa: The WHO announced the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer in September 2018. The initiative aims to reach a survival rate of at least 60 percent for children with cancer by 2030. Shoe4Africa plans to start Africa’s first children’s cancer hospital in Eldoret, Kenya. The organization opened Sub-Saharan Africa’s second public children’s hospital in Eldoret and currently, 400 patients receive treatment at the hospital every day.
  8. Funding for Cancer Treatment: The government of Kenya provides funding to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, which diagnoses over 100 children with cancer in a year. While this helps to ease the burden for families, it is not enough to cover all the costs. The majority of patients, therefore, have to pay out-of-pocket for their medical expenses. In Kenyatta National Hospital, the largest hospital in Kenya, the Israeli embassy renovated and equipped the children’s cancer wards to ensure that the children are comfortable while seeking treatment.

There is an urgent need for different sectors to come together and set up effective ways of dealing with childhood cancer in Kenya. These methods must also be affordable to all citizens. Kenyans can look to the successes of developed countries as an example. Beyond that, the public needs to receive more education on childhood cancers. This can happen through public health awareness campaigns such as those Kenya used to successfully inform and educate the public on diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS Treatment in eSwatini
eSwatini (also known as Swaziland) is a small country located in southern Africa. Although eSwatini only has a population of 1.367 million, the country currently has the highest rate of HIV in the world. Still, major progress has been made to tackle HIV/AIDS in eSwatini, particularly in the past decade.

HIV/AIDS Treatment in eSwatini: Successes

The government has made a commitment to tackle HIV/AIDS in eSwatini, most notably via its 90-90-90 targets that the country aimed to achieve by the year 2020. The goal is to have 90 percent of people who are living with HIV know their status; 90 percent of people who know their status should be receiving treatment and 90 percent of people who are on treatment will have “suppressed viral loads.”

According to 2018 UNAIDS data, the country has already achieved these targets and then some. In 2018, 92 percent of people with the virus knew their HIV-positive status; out of these people, 93 percent were on HIV treatment and out of those people on treatment 94 percent were virally suppressed. eSwatini has worked with PEPFAR and other partners to seriously tackle the HIV/AIDS epidemic since 2011, saving countless lives and contributing to a more sustainable outlook for the future.

Increased Access to Testing and HIV/AIDS Treatment in eSwatini

Campaigns such as the 90-90-90 targets were alsoachieved thanks to the efforts made to increase the number of people getting tested for HIV/AIDS. In the year 2009, only 16 percent of the population had been tested for HIV or knew their status. By 2014 this had increased to 66 percent of women and 54 percent of men as the government launched initiatives to make testing more accessible. For instance, by 2014, 83 percent of health facilities provided HIV testing. The government also launched a self-testing pilot program in 2015, making it possible for people to test for HIV in the comfort of their homes. The goal of the pilot scheme is to address the stigma associated with getting tested as well as circumvent other barriers such as long wait times at clinics and inconvenient clinic hours.

Although the public sector started providing antiretroviral therapy in November 2003, the country has since stepped up its efforts in order to ensure this treatment reaches those who need it. As of 2014, eSwatini implemented the World Health Organization guidelines, enabling anyone who is HIV positive to gain access to treatment.

HIV/AIDS is Still An Epidemic

Today, 27.3 percent of people aged 15-49 live with HIV currently and HIV/AIDS is still the number one cause of death in eSwatini which means more work still needs to be done to tackle the epidemic going forward. HIV/AIDS mortality coupled with widespread poverty contributes to low life expectancy rates in eSwatini. As of 2018, life expectancy for women stood at 61 years old and 54 years old for men.

Lack of education continues to be a major obstacle in combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic in eSwatini. In a study done by the Cultural Statistical Office in 2014, only 49.1 percent of young women and 50.9 percent of young men were able to identify ways to prevent HIV transmission.

The cultural stigma attached to the virus is another factor that impedes the proper prevention and treatment of AIDS. More than 63 percent of the population does not hold accepting views towards people who are HIV positive. This accompanied with the lack of education on the subject leads to fewer people getting tested for HIV or seeking treatment due to a fear of being judged and discriminated against.

Frontline AIDS Focuses on Spreading Awareness

Frontline AIDS is an NGO focused on addressing the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS. The organization also provides care for at-risk populations including young people and sex workers. This work includes programs such as the Resilient and Empowered Adolescents and Young People program. This initiative aims to reach 30,000 young people living with HIV in eSwatini, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe by incorporating home and clinic visits to provide treatment as well as counseling.

As of 2019, Frontline AIDS has helped thousands of people living with HIV. The organization has provided 30,690 people with access to prevention activities and more than 31,000 people have accessed Frontline AIDS’ HIV treatment services.

Overall during the last 10 years, there have been major strides in terms of HIV/AIDS treatment in eSwatini. Despite this progress, there is still much room for improvement. In order to increase the prevention of HIV and AIDS within Eswatini, there needs to be a shift in the social and cultural views of this disease. The current discriminatory views that a large portion of the population still hold in regard to people who are HIV positive leads to fewer people seeking testing or treatment. However, groups like Frontline AIDS and others are working to help put an end to this epidemic.

– James Turner
Photo: Flickr

Female Leadership in Nepal
When many people think of Nepal, they imagine the Himalayas, the Mt. Everest base camp and some of the most culturally and ethnically diverse people. What these people fail to think of is the highly patriarchal society that is also Nepal. Luckily, there are four women showing female leadership in Nepal to improve life for women and girls.

The Situation

Nepal is notorious for its discrimination against women in almost every aspect of life. The literacy rate for females is significantly lower than it is for males, with only 44.5 percent of females being literate compared to 71.6 percent of males. Superstitious beliefs say that women are the reason for Nepal’s poor status in the global context. The reality, however, is that Nepal remains one of the poorest countries because of gender discrimination. Nepal eliminates half of its labor force participation rate by preventing women from seeking education and job opportunities, and this contributes to its rising poverty crisis as women are the most susceptible to poverty.

At least 75 percent of Nepal’s citizens are in poverty, with over half those citizens being females. Eighty percent of Nepalis report that their quality of life has gone down in the last five years.

Despite the ongoing oppression against females, there are Nepali women who are finding a way to make their mark in the country. The following four women show how Nepali female leadership can assist in the war on poverty in Nepal, breaking the barrier and making footprints for others to follow.

4 Women Showing Female Leadership in Nepal

  1. Renu Sharma: Renu Sharma is the co-founder and current president of The Women’s Foundation Nepal (WFN), as well as an accomplished Nepali woman, leading a non-governmental organization that helps women and children in Nepal. The organization, established in 1988, provides shelter homes, access to education, training and micro-credits for women and children who are victims of violence, abuse or poverty. WFN has helped over 150 women and children find a home and gain access to medical and legal support. It has also aided in over 450 children receiving education until the 10th grade and 3,000 women obtaining training to pursue careers in local businesses or teaching. Additionally, it has given out at least 1,000 scholarships to those pursuing higher education. WFN is looking to expand its projects to cover a larger population and eventually become self-sustainable, but to do so, it needs further support. If the mission of Renu Sharma and her colleagues is inspiring, consider these options. As this article will continue to show, a small action or a quiet voice can have a lasting impact.
  2. Bidhya Devi Bhandari: Bhandari is the country’s first woman president and has been carving the path for her fellow females since the beginning of her political career, when she served as the Minister of Defence. As of today, people credit Bhandhari with increasing female representation in the government and providing females more opportunities. Bhandhari served as the chair of the All Nepal Women’s Association, where she understood the importance of increasing Nepali female leadership in the nation. Throughout her position as President, Bhandari has ensured that a third of all politicians in Nepal are women and that all women in the country have legal rights. Bhandari’s next steps include increasing the opportunities for education for young girls and developing a gender-responsive budget system that will prevent women from falling into poverty due to an unfair wage gap.
  3. Sushila Karki: Appointed the first female Supreme Court Justice at the Supreme Court of Nepal, Sushila Karki made major contributions to fixing poverty and women’s rights in the country. Known for her zero tolerance for corruption, Karki has increased enforcement against corruption and brought many organizations and individuals to justice. Karki also believes in the emancipation of women, and she has worked to ban the practice of chhaupadi, which is when women become separate from society during menstruation. By increasing the punishment for chhaupadi, Karki has reduced the presence of the practice, and she hopes that her followers will continue to maintain a strict policy that will eventually eradicate the practice. Chhaupadi is a major contributor to female poverty, and by reducing its prevalence in society, Karki hopes that fewer females will find themselves homeless or jobless.
  4. Samjhana Pokhrel: Serving as chairperson for the NGO Jagaran Nepal (JN), Pokhrel has helped the organization move mountains in the past 10 years. JN is a leading organization that works to equalize women’s participation in society, whether that be in politics, the classroom or the family. Under Pokhrel’s leadership, the organization has advocated for human rights and social protection for all women, regardless of class. The organization has also implemented programs across the country that focus on women’s economic empowerment, women’s reproductive health, anti-violence movements and young girl’s education; the primary reason girls do not receive adequate education is due to health concerns, such as menstruation and violence, both of which force girls to drop out of school and eventually fall into poverty. Samjhana’s mission with JN is to create a program that hears the voices of women in need and acts on it, reducing their susceptibility to poverty. 

Nepal’s struggles with poverty are far from over, but these women are taking steps to combat it any way they see possible. By setting examples in Nepali female leadership, these women are forging a path that others can follow. As Nepal continues to make an effort to support women and close the gender gap that exists, the country is making progress in reducing its poverty.

Shvetali Thatte
Photo: Flickr

HIV in the United Arab Emirates
HIV infection is a critical global health threat and a prevailing issue in the Middle East, which had the second fastest-growing HIV epidemic in 2016. Although some identify the HIV/AIDS situation in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as low-prevalence, there are some substantial concerns that people should not neglect. The recent shift in attitude towards HIV in the UAE contributes to addressing the existing concerns and issues.

HIV Data

The UAE ranks as number one in the world for the lowest prevalence of HIV (per percentage of the adult population). However, it is crucial to keep several factors in mind; the country only includes the local population in the available data as anyone who applies for a residence/work permit in the UAE must take a medical examination identifying HIV-negative results. In addition, the UAE may deport those already living in the UAE who test HIV-positive.

The first cases of HIV in the UAE emerged in reports in the 1980s and reached a cumulative total of 780 cases among UAE national citizens by the end of 2012. According to the World Health Organization, the number of new HIV cases per year increased from 25 in 2010 to 49 in 2016, which, despite the increase, remains significantly low. Due to the lack of available recent data on HIV seroprevalence in the UAE, increases in the number of cases are neither precise or updated. Indeed, the reported number of cases only represent the people who had officially registered themselves during screenings of blood donations, premarital testing, pregnancies and patients with tuberculosis. Accordingly, the available data may underrepresent or exclude groups with the highest risk exposure including people who have sexual relations and those who inject drugs.

Current Issues

HIV/ AIDS remains a sensitive and taboo topic in the UAE due to the lack of knowledge and awareness regarding the issue as well as strong beliefs that people can only transmit HIV through religiously forbidden sexual relations. Indeed, a study from 2016 identified 48 percent of students as having low knowledge on the topic and misconceptions, contributing to the stigmatization and discrimination of people living with HIV.  

As Human Rights Watch reported, prisoners with HIV in the UAE suffer segregation and isolation from others in the prison, thus facing systemic stigma and discrimination. Moreover, non-national detainees with HIV encounter considerable risks while in Emirati prisons, as reports determined that the prisons denied some lifesaving HIV treatments. Indeed, prison authorities have sometimes delayed or interrupted critical medical treatment for several months, thus increasing the feasibility of health deterioration for non-nationals. Moreover, Human Rights Watch emphasizes the obligation the UAE has to provide appropriate health care to all prisoners without discriminating against non-nationals and reiterates that denying or interrupting medical treatment is a violation of the right to health and possibly the right to life.

Response and Progress

The UAE is shifting its approach regarding the topic of HIV/AIDS and making efforts to strengthen its fight against the virus. The UAE’s National Aids Programme is increasing its transparency and working with the United Nations on reports shedding light on the prevalence of HIV in the UAE. Furthermore, the UAE has aligned its national agenda to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), as both a member of the United Nations and a major international donor. UAE’s Vision 2021 strengthens the importance of improving its health care system and preventing diseases. An essential health-related target in the SDG agenda involves ending the epidemics of AIDS and communicable diseases (Target 3.3), which the UAE specifically addresses in its 2021 national agenda targets.

Dismantling the barrier of HIV/AIDS as a taboo topic in the United Arab Emirates is, nevertheless, crucial for the country to achieve its upcoming targets and reinforce its aspirations for the future. Despite the prevailing issues regarding HIV in the United Arab Emirates, the seven Emirates have demonstrated some progress and willingness to improve the situation by working with international institutions such as the United Nations.

Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr

young advocates

Today, some of the most innovative, forward-thinking change-makers happen to be under the age of 18. Keep reading to learn more about these three top young advocates who are doing their part to address global issues from poverty to gender equality and education.

3 Young Advocates Who are Changing the World

  1. Zuriel Oduwole
    Since the age of 10, Zuriel Oduwole has been using her voice to spread awareness about the importance of educating young girls in developing countries. Now 17 years old, Oduwole has made a difference in girls’ education and gender issues in Africa by meeting with and interviewing important political figures like presidents, prime ministers and first ladies. To date, Oduwole has spoken in 14 countries to address the importance of educating young girls in developing countries, including Ethiopia, South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania and Nigeria. “They need an education so they can have good jobs when they get older,” Oduwole said in a 2013 interview with Forbes. “Especially the girl child. I am really hoping that with the interviews I do with presidents, they would see that an African girl child like me is doing things that girls in their countries can do also.”
  2. Yash Gupta
    After breaking his glasses as a high school freshman, Yash Gupta realized how much seeing affects education. He did some research and found out that millions of children do not have access to prescription lenses that would help them to excel in their studies. Gupta then founded Sight Learning, a nonprofit organization that collects and distributes eyeglasses to children in Mexico, Honduras, Haiti and India.

  3. Amika George
    At the age of 18, Amika George led a protest outside of former U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s home to convince policymakers to end “period poverty.” Period poverty is the unavailability of feminine sanitary products for girls who cannot afford them. Girls who can’t afford these products are often left to use rags or wads of tissue, which not only raises health concerns but also keeps girls from their education. In order to combat this issue, George created a petition with the goal for schools to provide feminine products to girls who receive a free or reduced lunch. As of now, George has mobilized over 200,000 signatures and helped catapult the conversation of period poverty at the political level in the U.K.

These three world-changing children prove that age does not matter when it comes to making a difference in the world.

Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr