Information and stories about global health.

Malaria is a deadly disease that kills over half a million people every year, and most of these victims are children. Of these deaths, 90% occur in sub-Saharan Africa. The World Heath Organization (WHO) and its partners have dedicated millions of dollars and years of effort to eradicating malaria, and recent statistics show that these efforts have paid off.

Since 2000, strides against malaria have spared 3.3 million lives with a 45% decrease in mortality rates. As a result, African childrens’ mortality rates have plummeted an amazing 54%. WHO Director-General Margaret Chan has praised the progress, but adds that further work is required in order to completely eradicate the disease.

Malaria does not only affect the health sector of the countries that it infects. Malaria has been shown to lead to a depression in economic growth due to the loss of a working population. Eight years ago, the United States implemented the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), which uses USAID and the CDC to help mitigate malaria.

At first, the initiative focused on Tanzania, Uganda, and Angola, and reducing child mortality rates due to malaria within these countries. The PMI also provided anti-malaria measures such as insecticide-treated nets and indoor sprays, as well as treatments when the illness does occur. Prevention efforts have protected over 50 million people in 2012 alone and over 180 million treatments have been distributed.

However, as malaria becomes less common, the malaria parasite is adapting a resistance to the drugs used today. A strain of this resistant malaria parasite has been found in Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam. In the future, the global effort will require new tools and technologies to eliminate these new strains of the disease.

– Lienna Feleke-Eshete

Sources: All Africa, Nets for Life Africa
Photo: USA Today

Dikembe Mutombo may be best remembered as one of the most prolific shot-blockers and defensive players in NBA history.  With 3,289 blocks and over 12,000 rebounds in his 18-year career, Mutombo built an incredible legacy on the court.

His basketball career began at Georgetown University, where he played for renowned coach John Thompson.  At 7 feet 2 inches tall, one might expect that Mutombo attended Georgetown on an athletic scholarship, as he was seemingly built for basketball.  However, Mutombo immigrated to the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo thanks to a USAID scholarship and a dream of becoming a doctor.

While it may be true that Mutomobo’s basketball legacy began at Georgetown, it was also the place where he cultivated his ideals of philanthropy.  Mutombo graduated with double majors in Linguistics and Diplomacy, and entered the NBA following his graduation.

Highlights of Mutombo’s philanthropic ventures during his basketball career include being a spokesperson for the international relief agency CARE, traveling to Somali refugee camps in Kenya during the Somali Civil War, and funding the Congolese track and basketball teams’ travel and expenses during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

In 2007, Mutombo opened the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital near Kinshasa in his native Congo.  The hospital boasts many accomplishments, including partnering with USAID for a community-based initiative to treat HIV/AIDS in the region.  More than anything, the hospital provides a much-needed advanced health center offering care for those who would elsewhere be denied access.

Mutombo retired from the NBA in 2009.  But his efforts to promote global development have only grown.  Mutombo is the founder and chairman of the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation, the organization that oversees all of his charitable ventures.

Mutombo also currently sits on the boards of Opportunity International, Special Olympics International, and UNICEF.  A future endeavor for Mutombo is to build a state-of-the-art science and technology high school in Kinshasa.  For his tireless efforts, on December 1, Forbes announced Mutombo as one of America’s “Top 50 Givers.”

Mutombo’s 18 years in the NBA are a testament to his talent and perseverance as an athlete, but it pales in comparison to his continuing fight to promote global health and development.

Taylor Diamond

Sources: ESPN, Forbes
Photo: The Tallest Man

“Millions of children are victims of violence and exploitation. They are physically and emotionally vulnerable and they can be scarred for life by mental or emotional abuse. That is why children should always have the first claim on our attention and resources. They must be at the heart of our thinking on challenges we are addressing on a daily basis. We know what to do, and we know how to do it. The means are at hand, it is up to us to seize the opportunity and build a world that is fit for children,” remarked Ban Ki-moon, Secretarty-General of the United Nations on November 20, 2009, on the Twentieth Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Just as Ban Ki-moon mentioned, children are not physically or mentally ready to enter the labor force. With the lack of physical abilities, the safety of the workplace cannot be ensured, for both the children and other employees. In fact, children are more likely to be abused and mistreated in an environment centering around child labor.

“Few human rights abuses are so widely condemned, yet so widely practiced. Let us make (child labor) a priority. Because a child in danger is a child that cannot wait,” stated Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary-General. Around the world, more than 211 million children between the age of 5 and 14 are being forced to work. Among these children, 120 million children are working full time.

To eradicate child labor, people should first understand what leads to such situations. For example, poverty is the first and foremost reason of child labor.  Since many parents do not have the capability to support their household, children end up working to help support the family’s daily lives. Another reason for child labor is a poor education system.

When education is expensive or not readily available, impoverished parents do not see the benefit of learning and think that working is a better alternative. In the United States, there are many laws that prohibit child labor, however, in some countries, child labor laws exist, but are not enforced. Companies can thus take advantage of the cheap labor and further exploit it.

On the other hand, many organizations have been striving to put a stop to child labor by various programs. For example, the United Nations has been running campaigns to raise the awareness of child labor across various nations and airing them in global events such as the World Cup. Moreover, in order to raise the level of education in poverty stricken areas, the Red Cross and governments of third world countries have been recruiting teachers to volunteer in remote areas.

Phong Pham

Sources: Child Labor Public Education Project, UN: Agencies Urge Greater Action, International Labor Rights Forum, UN: Child Labor
Photo: Addicting Info


Facts about Child Labor

Aid coming in from governments, national charities, and private fundraisers have made stories of success possible. Even though the majority still continue to struggle and suffer from extreme poverty, there are occasional glimmers of light that shine through.

Ethiopia has made strides when it comes to learning how to purify water. Learning this essential task has strengthened the community of Germaam and improved health.

A family living in Cambodia was saved from the unsafe task of scavenging through piles of garbage in order to make money for food and shelter. A World Vision worker directed the family to aid that eventually helped the young family out of poverty. Now with education and training, the family is able to provide the essentials for themselves, which includes food, water, and shelter.

Remote villages in Uganda receive much needed aid for basic health care, as well as high risk procedures, such as pregnancies and child birth. Since aid has arrived to these communities, infant and maternal deaths have decreased, along with the decrease of illness due to cholera and hepatitis exposure.

In Ethiopia and Angola, the amount of girls receiving an education has risen dramatically. In fact, both countries have seen over a 40 percent increase in enrollment between 2000 and 2011.

Rwanda and Liberia have each seen a 40 percent to 50 percent reduction in child mortality rates these past few years.

There continues to be great strides in the fight to eradicate global poverty. Every day, poverty-stricken people and their communities benefit from the aid sent to them, though unfortunately, more foreign aid is needed in order to eradicate poverty.  Still, millions of adults and children suffer from preventable diseases, lack of clean water, and lack of food every day. Every second, a child dies from poverty.

Every day, 22,000 children die from poverty, 1.8 million die from diarrhea, and 2.2 million die from not having access to vaccines.  Global poverty continues to and will forever be a growing problem unless committed foreign aid is put in place.

– Amy Robinson

Sources: Global Issues, World Vision, Global Hope Network, World Vision – Campaign
Photo: Michael McCasky

Although malaria prevention has long been a focus of the United Nations Foundation, it was an article in Sports Illustrated that spurred the creation of its successful Nothing but Nets program, now the world’s largest grassroots campaign to end malaria.

In 2006, Rick Reilly wrote a column that challenged readers of the popular sports magazine to donate at least ten dollars to the United Nations Foundation to cover the purchase, distribution, and education costs of a life-saving malaria bed net. The response to this simple call to action was huge, and Nothing but Nets was born.

Nothing but Nets is a program that focuses on distributing long-lasting, insecticide-treated bed nets to save lives in sub-Saharan Africa, where 90 percent of all malaria deaths occur. The number of people affected by this preventable disease is truly staggering—every second, there are ten new cases of malaria. Every 60 seconds, a child in Africa dies from the disease. The disease disproportionately affects those who cannot afford treatment and those who have limited access to health care.

In addition to the costs to human health, malaria is responsible for about $12 billion annually in lost productivity in Africa. The disease increases school and work absenteeism, decreases tourism, inhibits foreign investment, and affects crop production. Malaria is a costly disease that accounts for up to 40% of public health expenditures, 30-50% of inpatient hospital admissions, up to 60% of outpatient health clinic visits.

Malaria, though devastating and deadly, is a highly preventable disease—the UN found that in high coverage areas, the disease can be reduced by 90 percent—with simple solutions. And, as reflected in the World Health Organization’s 2012 World Malaria report, those solutions are working. A few years ago, malaria was the number one cause of death among African refugees. Nothing but Nets worked closely with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to distribute more than a million nets to this group. Now, malaria is the fifth leading cause of death among African refugees. Since 2006, Nothing but Nets has raised $45 million and distributed more than seven million bed nets to families in need. While these statistics reflect huge progress, there is still much more to be done.

The good news is, it is easy to get involved and start saving lives. Nothing but Nets is unique in that it provides the opportunity for anyone with ten dollars—from CEOs to students—a chance to join “Team Bzzzkill” and make a huge difference. This simple, straightforward approach has won the support of many individuals and organizations, ranging from NBA Cares and The People of the United Methodist Church, to Bill and Melinda Gates, to famous athletes and rock bands. Thousands have stepped up to Reilly’s challenge to donate a net and save a life. Will you?

Visit to learn more and donate a net to save a life.

Sarah Morrison
Sources: Nothing But Nets, Sports Illustrated

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has reported slow health-spending as economies continue to struggle. Further, Reuters reported that total health spending fell in one in three OECD countries between 2009 and 2011 with the poor from these countries being the ones hardest hit.

Those living in poverty within those hard-hit countries are at a larger risk of longer-term problems and have lessened access to regular medicines and checkups, the OECD explained on Nov. 14.

This drop in health spending is a “sharp reversal” compared to the years prior to the financial crisis. The OECD said this makes it “all the more important that governments work to make healthcare systems more productive, efficient and affordable.”

The OECD further stated that longer-term impacts on health and health spending are important to focus on in contrast to short-term benefits to budgets.

Reuters then explained that personal spending per capita “fell in 11 of the 33 OECD countries between 2009 and 2011, according to the 2013 Health at a Glance report.”

As it stands, Japan and Israel are the only countries that saw their health spending rise since 2009, when compared to the previous decade.  On the other hand, growth in the U.S. fell 1.3% and 0.8% in Canada.

In fact, a third of what the OECD claims to be “rich countries” cut their health spending between 2009 and 2011. The report states that budget cuts in “austerity hit countries for the drop in healthcare spending.”

The OECD said that “Governments have worked to lower spending through cutting prices of medical goods, especially pharmaceuticals, and by budget restrictions and wage cuts in hospitals.”

Some of the other findings in the Health at a Glance 2013 report are:

1. “Chronic diseases such as diabetes and dementia are increasingly prevalent. In 2011, close to 7% of 20-79 year-olds in OECD countries, or over 85 million people, had diabetes. This number is likely to increase in the years ahead, given the high and often growing rates of obesity across the developed world.”

2. “The market share of generic drugs has increased significantly over the past decade in many countries. However, generics still represent less than 25% of the market in Luxembourg, Italy, Ireland, Switzerland, Japan and France, compared with about 75% in Germany and the United Kingdom.”

3. “The burden of out-of-pocket spending creates barriers to health care access in some countries. On average in the OECD, 20% of health spending is paid directly by patients; this ranges from less than 10% in the Netherlands and France to over 35% in Chile, Korea and Mexico.”

3. “Across OECD countries, more than 15% of people aged 50 and older provide care for a dependent relative or friend, and most informal carers are women.”

– Alycia Rock

Sources: OECD, Huffington Post, Reuters

A new World Health Organization report “A universal truth: No health without a workforce” recently revealed that the world is currently short of 7.2 million global health workers. By 2035, the number could nearly double to 12.9 million.

This could have a devastating effect on countries in development where medical education and training are not readily available. For example, the report cites that in the 47 countries of sub-Saharan Africa, only 168 medical schools exist. 11 of those countries have no medical schools and 24 countries have no more than one medical school.

The recent shortage in the global health workforce is attributed to an aging, retiring generation of health workers with the younger generation disinterested in the field, dropping out of the study or not receiving proper training.

The WHO provided strategies to ameliorate the shortage from growing:

1. Increased political and technical leadership in countries to support long-term human resource development efforts.

2. Collection of reliable data and strengthening human resource for health databases.

3. Maximizing the role of mid-level and community health workers to make frontline health services more accessible and acceptable.

4. Retention of health workers in countries where the deficits are most acute and improving the balance of the distribution of health workers geographically.

5. Providing mechanisms for the voice, rights and responsibilities of health workers in the development and implementation of policies and strategies towards universal health coverage.

The demand for global health workers eclipses the current numbers and interest that exists now. Doctors are not the only personnel needed; there is a dire need for health technicians and nurses. A career in global health is the perfect combination of the health sciences, the passion for humanitarianism, a concern for social inequality and a genuine interest and respect for hundreds of cultures around the world. United States universities would do well to market and promote the global health major and programs alongside pre-medical and other pre-health tracks.

Malika Gumpangkum

Sources: WHO, BMJ
Photo: Kateholt

Famous celebrities and world leaders alike channel their influence to promote the various causes they are passionate about. Below are 5 famous advocates for global poverty:

1. Bono

Lead singer of Dublin-based band U2, Bono is one of the most influential celebrity advocates fighting global poverty. He is the co-founder of the organization ONE, which is a campaign of over 3 million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. He is also creator of other campaigns including Debt AIDS Trade Africa (RED) and clothing company EDUN. Bono recently performed at the 2013 Global Citizen Festival, calling on audience members to help put a stop to extreme poverty by 2030. He was granted knighthood in 2007 and dubbed a “Man of Peace” for all his philanthropic work. He serves as a role model to all celebrities and is passionate about a greater cause.

2. Angelina Jolie

While filming Tomb Raider in Cambodia, Jolie first became personally aware of worldwide humanitarian crises. Since 2001, she has traveled on field missions around the world and interacted with refugees and other displaced people in more than 20 countries. She founded the Jolie-Pitt Foundation with actor Brad Pitt. The foundation focuses on eradicating extreme rural poverty, conserving wildlife, and protecting natural resources. Among the many philanthropic endeavors she has undergone, some include building an all-girls primary school in Afghanistan, opening a refugee camp and recently, undergoing a double mastectomy, bringing awareness to cancer and women’s health.

3. Elton John 

Famous musician Sir Elton John has seen many of his close friends die from HIV/AIDS in his lifetime. In their honor, he established the Elton John Aids Foundation in 1992 to fight the disease worldwide. The organization has raised over $125 million to support programs in 55 countries through education, health services and elimination of prejudice and discrimination. In 2004 he was the most generous person in music of the year, donating over $43 million to organizations across the globe. In 2008, he donated 120 motorcycles to the African nation of Lesotho to be used by doctors and nurses to visit patients in remote areas.

4. George Clooney

Clooney is one of the most charitable stars in Hollywood, focusing his energy on a mission to stop the human rights atrocities occurring in Darfur. He famously founded the group Not On Our Watch to stop the genocide occurring in Sudan. He has personally visited the area several times and met with victims and world leaders alike.

5. Bill Clinton

Former U.S. President and founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation, Clinton set up his organization to promote aid for a number of humanitarian causes. His organization focuses specifically on climate change, economic development, global health and women’s rights. Though there has been some controversy over the Clinton Foundation in recent years, it remains a well-known global advocacy network for aiding poverty-stricken countries.

– Sonia Aviv

Sources: ONE, TED, Look to the Stars, CQ Researcher, Clinton Foundation
Photo: Charles Cannon