Information and stories about global health.

Maternal Health in NepalNepal is a landlocked country bordering India and China, with a population of approximately 30 million. With close to 80% of births occurring at home, maternal health in Nepal has become a focal point as mortality rates raised alarmingly.

4 Facts About Maternal Health in Nepal

  1. The maternal mortality rate saw a reduction of about 71% between the years 1990 and 2015. The decline is attributed to free delivery services and transport, access to safe delivery services, and medicines that prevent hemorrhaging.
  2. Midwives are one of the popular professional services for maternal health in Nepal. Fast intervention and postnatal suggestions from a skilled midwife allows for better care for both mother and child after birth. In Nepal, only about 27% of women receive care within 24 hours of giving birth. This makes way for hemorrhaging, heavy-lifting related injuries shortly after giving birth and complications for the baby during and directly after birth.
  3. To ensure that midwives are updated on the most current practices and procedures for successful pregnancy and birthing, midwifery education is imperative. Institutions have partnered with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to offer combined education for nursing and midwifery. Midwives do not have specific legislation for their work. They are not completely recognized under the law or regulated, creating issues with proper training and resources. Therefore, greater recognition and accessibility will allow midwives the resources, training and encouragement that they need for success.
  4. The National Medical College Teaching Hospital in Nepal published an extensive report of the challenges surrounding maternal health in Nepal. A specific challenge mentioned in this report includes the socio-economic influencers of maternal health. Due to poor nutritional health in women with lower economic status, issues like anemia that cause mortalities. Additionally, rural areas record about 280 birth complications per day.

As maternal health in Nepal becomes more of a focus in the healthcare system, certain policies and programs must be expanded. Midwifery education and access to services are the most important programs for successful maternal health in Nepal. Many experts and those in the field continue to push for individual programs that focus primarily on methods for successful midwives.

– Ashleigh Litcofsky
Photo: Pixnio

COVID-19 in Belarus
With a population of nearly 10 million, Belarus is one of the largest countries in Eastern Europe, and its problems with COVID-19 are just as great. Since its first cases were reported, the country has struggled with treating the virus and limiting its spread. Outbreaks of COVID-19 in Belarus have already revealed flaws in the country’s health infrastructure that could cause problems even after the pandemic ends.

What You Should Know About COVID-19 in Belarus

  1. The true scale of the outbreak remains unknown. Although Belarus began testing for COVID-19 in January, the country reported its first case on February 28. As of May 18, there were 30,572 confirmed cases and 171 deaths resulting from the pandemic. The majority of confirmed cases have occurred in the country’s urban areas on account of their high population density, with the Belarusian capital of Minsk reporting over 4,000 cases on April 24. The Ministry of Health has not provided a cumulative total of recovered patients, making it difficult to know the total number of infections.
  2. Belarus’ government has not enacted strict social distancing policies. While many countries adopted shelter-in-place policies in March and April, Belarus’s government has yet to implement a country-wide shutdown of non-essential businesses. So far, individual cities have decided how to protect their citizens, with some canceling social gatherings and extending school vacations. Unfortunately, this approach has led to an inconsistent response that has failed to slow the spread of the virus.
  3. Medical supplies are limited. Despite having 11 hospital beds per 1,000 people – one of the highest ratios in the world – the lack of quarantine protocols quickly overwhelmed Belarus’ healthcare system. Patients treated for COVID-19-related pneumonia observed that nurses and other healthcare officials were uninformed and inadequately equipped to handle the growing number of cases. Due to supply shortages and limited social distancing, epidemiologists predict that between 15,000 and 32,000 people could die of COVID-19.
  4. The pandemic could force the country into a recession. One reason Belarus lacks a comprehensive social distancing policy is that the country may not be able to afford it. Even before the crisis, Belarus’ economy had started to slow down, with GDP growth dropping from 3% to 1.2% between 2018 and 2019. Economists predict that reduced trade with Western Europe and Russia due to the pandemic could push the country into a recession. While the economic impact of COVID-19 is still unclear, it could cause Belarus’ economy to contract by up to 4%. This may require Belarus to cut spending on programs for vulnerable populations such as low-income households.
  5. The international community is stepping up. Due to the shortage of personal protective equipment and medical supplies in Belarus, other countries have begun shipping supplies over. On April 17, 32 tons of medical equipment such as thermometers, goggles, and gloves arrived in Belarus from China. At the same time, the European Union announced a 3 billion euro relief fund for 10 Eastern European countries, including Belarus. Belarus may require more aid in the future, but these contributions will help ease the country’s financial strain.

Although the full implications of the pandemic are still unknown, foreign aid will reduce the impact of COVID-19 in Belarus. Such aid is vitally important for the country’s ability to protect its sick and vulnerable populations.

Sarah Licht
Photo: Flickr

Mustard Gas EffectsSulfur mustard gas is a potent chemical agent that people infamously used in World War I because of its devastating effect. Upwards of 120,000 people died from the effects of mustard gas during the first World War, leading the international community to ban the use of mustard gas in the Geneva Protocol. Despite being banned nearly 100 years ago, the threat of mustard gas remains in the 21st century, as evidenced by its use in Iraq by the Islamic State against American forces several years ago in 2016.

The Function of Mustard Gas

Mustard gas has a distinct smell, often described as a potent mixture of garlic, gasoline and rubber, making the presence of the vaporized gas extremely apparent. People can also release mustard gas into water, exposing unsuspecting people using water resources for drinking, cooking, cleaning and agriculture.

Under average weather conditions, mustard gas may last one to two days. Cold weather conditions allow the liquid form to linger for several months. Additionally, when released into the air as a vapor, mustard gas can travel by wind for miles.

Symptoms from Mustard Gas Exposure

Once released, the effects of mustard gas are not immediate and symptom onset may take anywhere from hours to days. Within three to 12 hours of mild to moderate exposure, the victim’s eyes become bloodshot and watery. Severe exposure causes the same symptoms to onset within one to two hours, but may also cause sensitivity to light, and blindness for up to 10 days. Substantial exposure may lead to permanent blindness in the victim.

Additional symptoms include the skin becoming red and irritated, eventually leading to shallow blisters. Acute severity is generally in moist areas, including under the armpits and palms. Making matters worse, blisters commonly become infected after popping. Severe skin burning may prove fatal due to the infection. The mustard liquid is more likely to produce second-and-third degree burns and scarring when compared to exposure through vaporized mustard gas.

Further, the victim will develop a cough 12 to 24 hours after a mild exposure, and within two to four hours of severe exposure. Additionally, the victim may experience a runny nose, shortness of breath, sneezing, hoarseness, sinus pain, and a bloody nose. Exposure to mustard gas may lead to an increased risk of lung and respiratory cancer.

Finally, mustard gas can affect the digestive tract as well. The victim will often experience abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, fever and vomiting. Mustard gas also decreases the formation of red and white blood cells, leading to weakness, bleeding and an increased risk of fatal infection. Many scientists have studied the effects of mustard gas on victims after the first World War; one of which determines one of the greatest ailments these victims face is the psychosocial disorders developed.

Treatment for Mustard Gas Symptoms

Unfortunately, there is no antidote for mustard gas exposure, only symptom treatments. If exposed to mustard gas, the CDC recommends to immediately depart the area. Mustard gas is heavier than air, causing accumulation in low-lying areas. Therefore, it is imperative to reach higher ground immediately.

Additionally, recommendations state to remove any clothing with liquid mustard gas and transfer to a sealable bag, if possible. One should also promptly and thoroughly wash any body parts that became exposed to sulfur mustard, rinsing eyes every five to 10 minutes. Most importantly, those who experienced mustard gas exposure should immediately receive medical attention. If one receives proper medical treatment, exposure to mustard gas is not fatal.

Prohibited Use of Mustard Gas

The Chemical Weapons Convention treaty started to receive signatures on January 13, 1993; this a United Nations arms control prohibiting the production, acquisition, transfer and stockpiling of chemical weapons. The Convention, comprising 165 signatories, declares that states must destroy any chemical weapons stockpiles, as well as the facilities that produced them. The Convention includes a “challenge inspection” clause, which allows signatories to request a surprise, involuntary inspection on states suspected of noncompliance. Due to the Chemical Weapons Convention, as well as the Geneva Protocol, the use of sulfur mustard in warfare has become uncommon.

Angus Gracey
Photo: Wikimedia

Female Genital Mutilation in the Middle EastFemale genital mutilation, or FGM, is a practice that is most common in cultures with strict patriarchial structures. Many people believe that the ritual is only performed in Africa, but in actuality, thousands of girls undergo female genital mutilation in the Middle East every year. Though many claim the procedure is done for religious reasons, researchers have found that it predates Christianity and Islam. In fact, female Egyptian mummies have been found with FGM. This is a deep-rooted and harmful practice that still continues today. The United Nations formally recognizes FGM as a form of torture that oppresses women.

Female Genital Mutilation in the Middle East

  1. Where does FGM occur? FGM was previously believed to only occur in Africa, however, recent advocacy efforts revealed that the practice extends to many other countries, especially in the Middle East. In the Middle East, FGM is mostly concentrated in Southern Jordan, Iraq and Northern Saudi Arabia. There have also been cases of FGM in Qatar, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. The practice most often occurs in small ethnic enclaves where the ritual is considered tradition. It is important to recognize that FGM occurs in many places outside of Africa in order to stop the practice completely.
  2. Who is most impacted by FGM? In Egypt, about 87% of girls are affected by FGM. According to a UNICEF study from 2013, many of them are traumatized by the experience before the age of 14. In many other Middle Eastern and African countries, the majority of girls are cut before the age of 15. Current rates are certainly improving, but it is likely that one in three girls in Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan and Djibouti will experience FGM by 2030. In the United Arab Emirates, 34% of the women surveyed said they had experienced FGM. Twenty percent of women surveyed in Saudi Arabia are subject to the practice.
  3. What are the impacts of FGM? This practice has severe short-term and long-term negative impacts on women who undergo the procedure. Young girls are held and tied down while a local village cutter, usually not a licensed medical professional, performs the procedure with little or no anesthetic. In short, FGM can cause death, infections, hemorrhage and severe pain. In Egypt, there was a public outcry after a doctor performed FGM on a 12-year-old girl who then bled to death. The doctor was arrested, but the practice is extremely traumatizing and can cause severe psychological damage in the long run. It can lead to chronic infections and trouble with childbirth. Girls who undergo FGM are also more likely to drop out of school and become child brides.
  4. Steps are being made to reduce FGM. As information becomes more readily available, more and more people are speaking out against the procedure. It is finally being recognized as a violation of human rights. Though FGM is most common in Egypt, the country has made the most progress in the past 30 years, according to UNICEF. FGM is completely banned in Egypt and doctors can go to jail if they perform it. It has also been banned in Sudan. In Yemen, FGM can no longer be performed in medical facilities, but it has not been banned at home.
  5. FGM rates are decreasing. As can be inferred, many women are now against the practice of FGM. However, some more traditional cultures still advocate for the circumcision of women. In Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Iraq and Djibouti, 70% of all women were affected by FGM 30 years ago. Today, half of all girls in those five countries undergo FGM. Although FGM is still allowed in Iraq, it is illegal in Iraqi Kurdistan. Many people against the practice explain that law is not enough and there needs to be stricter enforcement to ensure the end of female circumcision.
  6. A call to action: According to UNICEF, there has been a massive movement to end FGM in the last 25 years. There are many organizations, like the Orchid Project, that campaign against the traditional cutting in the Middle East and Asia. In 2013, UNICEF formally recognized that FGM is a problem that extends to areas outside of Africa. In addition, the United Nations celebrates International End FGM day every February 6, which is a huge step forward in spreading awareness. The U.N. also made it a goal to stop FGM in all countries by 2030.
FGM is a way to oppress women and makes girls feel like their body is a sin. It is a horrible practice that leaves long-lasting wounds in our global society. Not only is it a form of torture, but it strips women from basic human rights. Thankfully, more people are becoming familiar with female genital mutilation in the Middle East and elsewhere. Allies around the world are working hard to bring an end to the practice.

Karin Filipova
Photo: Flickr

7 Measures to Tackle COVID-19 in Qatar
Qatar is one of the biggest oil sectors in the Middle East. It has also been the site of a diplomatic crisis after its highly-publicized split from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). COVID-19 in Qatar has spawned a decline in oil prices and in addition, the government has been cracking down on the rights of migrant workers by utilizing digital technology to monitor the spread of the disease. Here are seven facts about COVID-19 in Qatar.

7 Facts About COVID-19 in Qatar

  1. In late March 2020, the government put several square kilometers of industrial zones in Doha, the nation’s capital, on lockdown. The lockdown shut down labor in warehouses, car services and small shops, negatively impacting migrant workers who work in these sectors. In addition, Amnesty International has reported that Qatari authorities are illegally detaining migrant workers and sending them back to their native countries.
  2. Qatar has increased the number of COVID-19 tests by using a drive-through procedure that The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) developed. While thousands underwent testing and quarantine mid-March in Doha’s Industrial Area, increased testing is now available for volunteers.
  3. As of May 7, 2020, Qatar recorded 12 deaths, 18,890 infections and 2,286 recoveries in a population of 2.8 million. These infection rates surpass that of many other countries. Many migrant workers and poorer families make up the newer cases. They often live in small dormitories with up to 12 people sharing bunk beds, making social distancing a challenge. However, the death rate remains low despite higher rates of infection. This may be due to a mostly young population and the stringent lockdowns that the government enforced.
  4. The Gulf economy relies heavily on oil trade and production. Qatar accounts for 12% of the world’s natural gas and petroleum resources. The value of these resources has dropped drastically since the outbreak of the virus. The ruler of Qatar has now postponed up to $8.2 billion on capital expenditure projects.
  5. A law surrounding domestic work in Qatar stipulates that domestic workers can only take time off if their employers grant it. Domestic workers do not have protection under labor laws like factory workers and other jobs. They cannot intersperse rest breaks into their working hours but must work the same amount of shifts. This furthers the risk of contracting the virus. Domestic workers, primarily women, face especially dire consequences. The families that many of these workers serve sometimes also abuse them, causing rising rates of domestic violence. Domestic workers either risk suffering abuse in these houses or contracting the virus.
  6. Qatar Charity launched an online fundraiser in partnership with the Qatari youth initiative, Lakm Al-Ajr, which translates to “Pays for Pay.” The youth initiative distributes 800 breakfast meals every day throughout the holy month of Ramadan. As a result, it has been able to feed 4,000 industrial migrant workers in Doha per day.
  7. The government increased its use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology in order to combat the spread of the pandemic. The technology helps to monitor the spread by closely tracking people who tested positive for the virus via speed cameras, drones and location-based tracking. This limits more exposure in the general population.

Qatar is one of the Gulf Nations that has split from the GCC, creating political disruption. In addition, its migrant workers are still in need of basic necessities like food and medical supplies. The presence of COVID-19 in Qatar puts even more strain on the country and international partners that rely on oil. Qatar Charity has implemented several programs in partnership with other organizations to fund COVID-19 relief and is taking donations for further medical help and assistance in Qatar.

– Isabel Corp
Photo: Good Free Photos

Threats to Global Health
Mankind can often feel a state of invincibility. This might be due to ignorance or denial that one could become sick, but global health is constantly experiencing threats. Some of the biggest threats to global health include pollution, diseases and fragile locations. For people who live in developed and booming economies, this may mean nothing. However, those living in poverty are often in direct contact with the threats that can sometimes be fatal.

Air Pollution

Air pollution is one of the most widespread pollution problems and kills nearly 7 million people a year. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nine out of 10 people breathe in contaminated air.

The most common forms of air pollution are smog and smoke. Smog can come from factories, industrial areas or vehicle emissions. The worst cases of smog often occur in major cities that have large populations. For example, several of the most highly polluted cities in China because of the population density and a large number of factories. Xingtai, named the most polluted city in the world, has a population of nearly 7 million.

Smoke is also a common air pollutant largely due to the large population of smokers. Inhalation of heavily polluted air can cause stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections.

Diseases

Noncommunicable or noninfectious diseases are illnesses that do not transmit from one person to another, and in fact, people cannot transmit them at all. They include a wide number of disease but some of the most significant ones are stroke, cancer, diabetes and heart disease. The World Health Organization recognizes noncommunicable diseases as one of the biggest threats to global health. Air pollution can cause some forms of diseases, but environmental factors, lifestyle choices or genetics cause noncommunicable diseases.

According to WHO, noncommunicable diseases are the leading cause of death in the world as well as one of the biggest causes of poverty. In fact, 15 million people who have died from noninfectious diseases were living in poverty. This is often due to poor sanitation conditions as well as the inability to receive proper health care to treat said conditions.

Fragile Locations

Fragile locations are places that have poor sanitation, famine, drought or conflict (war or corruption). Living in fragile locations can lead to several complications especially due to poor health care. Often countries that have high unemployment and poverty rates are fragile locations. This is because the fragility of areas can put a risk on people’s health that may disable them or put them on the streets. Living in fragile locations can also increase the risk of developing noninfectious diseases.

Poverty

Nearly 36 percent of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty. When dealing with global health threats, a vast majority of those in need of care either cannot afford it or access it. People living in poverty frequently face the challenges of poor economic stability, poor or nonexistent health care and a weak education system. lack of education in developing countries can also lead to recklessness when caring for those with diseases, both noninfectious and infectious. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, ODPHP, strategies that aim to increase the economic mobility of families may help to alleviate the negative effects of poverty.

Organizations’ Help on Global Health

The CDC closely monitors and researches global health threats and ways to prevent and respond to them. Whenever there is a serious global health threat, the CDC is on the front line to aid in recovery, however, aid is not always helpful. According to the CDC, 70 percent of the world’s countries report that they are not prepared to face an outbreak. However, the world can do its part to prevent air pollution by smoking less and relying more on economically friendly means of travel. Although people cannot alter genetics it is important to avoid factors that may cause noninfectious diseases. For those in fragile locations, organizations like the CDC and WHO are attempting to provide aid and support to those in need.

Threats to global health are everywhere. Some threats are inevitable but others are man-made. It is important to regulate and reduce people’s ecological footprints so global health can experience improvement as a whole.

Sarah Mobarak
Photo: Flickr

WGHA's Impact on Health Equity
The Washington Global Health Alliance (WGHA) is a group that aims to improve the health equity of the world’s poor by connecting organizations to Washington’s global health sector. WGHA’s impact on health equity happens through the creation of these connections through the development of strategic relationships, hosting assemblies and communicating effectively. In all, WGHA unites 14,000 employees and 268 Washington-based small businesses, nonprofits and research institutes, which contribute $9 billion to the state’s economy. Moreover, while the alliance works mostly behind-the-scenes as a convener, the organization also creates public opportunities for other groups to meet and discuss important issues ranging from women in the global health sector to antimicrobial resistance to global health educator workshops.

Creating WGHA

The alliance established in Seattle, WA after a recognition that Seattle had grown into a global health powerhouse. At the time, there was not a platform in existence to allow connection between those in the global health sector.

In 2008, WGHA’s founders reached out to entities like the Washington governor, leaders of global health organizations and the University of Washington with an idea. The founders pitched that the region should focus on advancing health on a global level through a connective platform.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, the current President of WGHA, Dena Morris, said that WGHA emphasizes this belief with the question of “How can we do more together?” Further, Morris said that the organization believes the diversity in the connections it makes will allow it to foster new ideas with speedy information delivery and higher creativity flow.

With that question and those beliefs in mind, six members eventually formed WGHA with the support of various organizations including the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, PATH, University of Washington, Washington State University, the Center for Infectious Disease Research and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. From there, WGHA’s impact on health equity grew rapidly and the organization now has over 200 allies.

Past Successes

In 2012, WGHA, Puget Sound Regional Council and Life Science Washington created the Global Health Nexus, a public exhibit and student competition focused on educating the community on global health. Three-hundred volunteers from Seattle and surrounding areas came together to build a platform that enhanced the ability to collaborate and take action regarding global health issues.

During the Ebola crisis of 2015, WGHA assembled more than 50 leaders from NGOs, research institutes, the private sector and various governments. This massive effort allowed the sharing of vital information with the CDC’s Ebola response team.

In 2011, WGHA created the Washington Global Health fund, which received $1.2 million from the Washington state legislature. The goal of the fund was to harness new health technologies and create more medical focused jobs throughout the state.

WGHA Meetings and Events

WGHA had seven planned events for April 2020 alone. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, it has either postponed its events or chosen to host them virtually. Morris told The Borgen Project that she believes that it is more crucial than ever to continue to provide conventions in the face of the pandemic. Specifically, the organization is “working to identify the optimal virtual platforms” to support these events.

The Women in Global Health Seattle Q1 Meeting (WGH Seattle) is one of the March events that the organization has postponed. Morris specifically mentioned this event as apart of the Women in Global Health movement, which is a movement that aims to create a distinct path towards leadership positions for women in the global health sector. The Q1 Meeting will likely happen on June 11th as an open event to the public. “That’s open to the broader community, and the more diversity we have in that room, the better off we are,” Morris says.

WGH Seattle consists of professional women working in global health within the Seattle area. This organization recognizes that leadership in the global health sector would become more innovative if there was an increase in diversity and improved gender-balance. These efforts aim to achieve specific developmental goals. For example, 75 percent of the global health workforce includes women but only 25 percent of global health leadership consists of women, according to Morris. She also stated that “when women are a part of the policy-making process, [the world will] end up with better outcomes for health, and economy and education, so entire communities are better served.”

WGHA’s Projects

Another current project of WGHA is the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Global (STEM Global), which “prepares the next generation of global health researchers, practitioners and champions.” STEM Global attempts to build a bridge between students who typically receive underrepresentation in the STEM field. Additionally, the project aims to connect those underrepresented individuals to global health jobs. STEM Global and WGHA also assists educators to better understand global health careers and how students can effectively navigate the path to such careers.

Additionally, the Next Generation of Leaders in Africa is a remarkable initiative of WGHA. The program emerged in April 2019 when WGHA gathered 45 representatives from 26 of the allied organizations and discussed the need for specific improvements. The group conferred and agreed on two things: there is a need for an increase in African voices in the conversations and there is a need to create an infrastructure in which emerging leaders can succeed.

WGHA’s goals for this project are vast and specific, which provide precise measurement of achievements. One goal includes the implementation of training for doctoral researchers in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya to ensure control for local leaders over the specific diseases and ailments that affect communities. Other goals are to provide training to eye bank technicians and ophthalmic surgeons in Ethiopia to ensure local development of eye banks and conduction of eye transplants, and to develop vaccine production in South Africa to ensure that vaccines will reach the appropriate individuals with minimal financial burden and improvements in local infrastructure with supply chain expertise in Mozambique and labs in Kenya.

Morris shared that global health is not simply about people from developed nations providing a poverty-stricken country with temporary fixes. Improving the state of global health is about building a strong infrastructure to allow emerging health leaders to succeed in long-term development and improvements of public health. WGHA’s impact on health equity is profound and growing by consistently providing opportunities to communicate within the global health sector.

– Marlee Septak
Photo: Unsplash

Impact of Coronavirus
Over the past several months, the outbreak of the fast-spreading pandemic of coronavirus or COVID-19 has taken the world by storm. In efforts to stop the pandemic from spreading and provide aid to the sick, many countries are closing borders and imparting quarantine policies on citizens. Not only is the coronavirus taking lives, but it is also heavily impacting the global economy in terms of billions of dollars. 

Efforts to Curb COVID-19

Currently, the WHO has reported 234,073 confirmed global cases and 9,840 deaths from the coronavirus. This pandemic is extremely contagious and spreads through respiratory fluids, which is why it is important to cover the mouth when coughing and washing hands frequently. The CDC recommends washing hands every hour for at least 20 seconds.

International governments are also closing borders and canceling flights to slow the impact of coronavirus. Further, people from CEOs to politicians and regular citizens are promoting social distancing. All over the world, authorities are telling people to only leave home when necessary like to buy groceries, travel to work, exercise or receive medical care. In Jordan, curfews exist that are punishable with jail time if people do not abide by them. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom is asking retired doctors and medical professionals to help fight the outbreak.

Organization Action

Organizations are also taking action to fight the outbreak. Organizations like the Gates Foundation, Wellcome and the Mastercard Impact Fund are contributing large sums to support economically impacted communities. The Gates Foundation and Wellcome have donated up to $50 million, and the Mastercard Impact Fund has committed up to $25 million. The CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, has announced the company will donate to “groups on the ground” that are in specific contact with those ill. Specific to the Gates Foundation, its initial donation is a part of the $100 million it has committed to help fight the outbreak and provide aid relief.

Additionally, the co-founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, has donated $14.4 million to help develop a vaccine to reduce the impact of coronavirus. Ma has provided $5.8 million to support two Chinese government research organizations in tackling vaccine production. The rest of the funds are going towards prevention protocols. According to the latest CDC situation report, the first vaccine trials are in progression. Furthermore, the WHO has set up an international study in many countries to compare different treatments.

Impact on the Global Economy

From a financial standpoint, the pandemic is slowly weakening the global economy and will continue to do so until the situation is under control. So far, the impact of COVID-19 is billions of dollars of government money to go towards aid needs, prevention technology and protection measures. Estimates determine that the impact of coronavirus will have cost nearly $2 trillion by the end of 2020. However, some countries like the U.S. are already receiving billions of dollars in bailouts.

With an abundant amount of action per nation, generous donations and hard-work from medical professionals, it is the hope of many that the pandemic will soon take a more positive turn. It is important to take adequate measures to stay safe during the pandemic. Safety precautions allow a slower spread and provide medical professionals and the health care system time to reduce the impact of the virus. Additionally, these measures will aid in providing therapeutic resources and developing vaccines. 

– Sarah Mobarak
Photo: Flickr

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