Information and stories on health topics.

Health Care in Sudan
Sudan is rich in natural and human resources; however, it is poverty and conflict-stricken. Agriculture is an income provider for 70 percent of the populace. Due to a lack of resources and training availability, the health care sector of the country remains underfunded and understaffed. Here are ten facts about health care in Sudan.

10 Facts About Health Care in Sudan

  1. Approximately 14 percent of Sudanese do not have access to health care. This is largely due to the fact that Sudan has a critical shortage of health care workers. According to the World Health Organization, there are 23 qualified health care workers per 10,000 members of the population.
  2. There is a high level of child and maternal mortality in Sudan. South Sudan contains one of the highest child mortality rates on the planet. One-fifth of children do not live to five years old. South Sudan’s maternal mortality rate is also among the world’s highest. Around 2,054 women per 100,000 die during childbirth. In addition, only 23 percent of pregnant women receive antenatal care from a qualified health care provider. According to Buckeye Clinic, a 15-year-old girl is more likely to die in childbirth than finish school.
  3. Under 48 percent of the population in Sudan has access to safely treated drinking water. Around 6.4 percent of the country’s population uses sanitary methods of excretion disposal. This contributes to polluted drinking water sources across Sudan. Approximately 32 percent of Sudan’s population is drinking contaminated water from untreated water sources. This is a result of chemical and bacterial contamination from industrial, domestic and commercial waste that degrades the water quality. There are acts at the state and national levels to help prevent this washing and injection; however, these acts need activation. UNICEF is working with the Sudanese government to increase access to basic treated water supplies for the people of Sudan, with a focus on women and children.
  4. The major diseases of the country include malaria, diarrhea, acute respiratory infections, guinea worm disease and tuberculosis. Increased outbreaks in 2019 were, in part, a result of heavy rainfall during the rainy season. Consequently, this rainfall left behind stagnant pools which were breeding grounds for mosquitos, contributing to the spread of infection. Government authorities and their humanitarian partners worked to respond to outbreaks across the country. The Kassala and North Darfur Ministries of Health launched weekly response task force meetings and developed state-level plans to mitigate the outbreak.
  5. Sudan has widespread micronutrient deficiencies. This is partially due to insufficient levels of crop growth. Only 14 percent of 208 cultivable acres are being cultivated. Drought, pests and environmental degradation also contribute to widespread malnourishment. However, vitamin A deficiency decreased due to repeated vitamin A supplementation given during National Immunization Day campaigns.
  6. Many Sudanese women and girls lack adequate health care and resources. Women and girls living in the rebel-held areas of Southern Kordofan or the Nuba Mountains of Sudan have very limited or no access to contraception. Human Rights Watch found most of the women interviewed did not know what a condom was and was unfamiliar with other common contraceptive practices. This lack of education and the low availability of condoms are why there are high percentages of women testing positive for hepatitis B. Consequently, gonorrhea and syphilis are on the rise in Sudan.
  7. The National Expanded Program on Immunization in Sudan supports an increase in routine immunization coverage. In addition, the government’s financial investment to EPI and polio eradication program is 15 million USD. Challenges the program faces include poor service delivery and a lack of resources and skilled staff. As a result, only 17 percent of children under five are adequately immunized.
  8. Sudan spends 6.5 percent of its gross domestic product and 8.3 percent of government spending on health care. Before the 1990s, health care at public health care facilities was mostly free. However, the structural reforms of 1992 introduced user fees. Now, out-of-pocket expenses for patients hover in the 70 percent range.
  9. There are 75 degrees and diploma-granting health institutions in Sudan. About 28 of these institutions offer diplomas and 47 of these schools offer degrees. There are 14 private institutions, while the others belong to agencies such as the Federal Ministry of Health and other government agencies. In 2001, the Federal Ministers of Health and Higher Education signed a Sudan Declaration and Nursing and Allied Health Workers in 2001. The goal of the declaration was to improve nursing and other health care education. The Academy of Health Sciences was established in 2005 to help implement this goal.
  10. Fighting in Darfur, Bentu and South Sudan resulted in considerable damage to the socio-economic and physical infrastructure of Sudan. More than 35,000 people live in the Yusuf Batil refugee camp. UNICEF and its partners provide health care, water and sanitation services. The UN refugee agencies also provide mobile clinics to aid the people at the camp, but difficulties increase during the rainy season because people must move to avoid annual flooding. The heavy rain makes it more challenging to provide supplies, which are delivered by helicopter.

These ten facts about health care in Sudan illuminate some of the struggles the nation has faced. However, in response to these conditions, there are a number of NGOs working to transform the health care of Sudan. The International Medical Corps is focusing on training a new generation of South Sudanese health care workers to care for their own communities. With efforts by the International Medical Corps and other humanitarian organizations, health care in Sudan will hopefully improve.

Robert Forsyth
Photo: Flickr

Women’s and Children’s health
In 2000, all 191 members of the United Nations officially ratified the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) which are eight, interdependent goals to improve the modern world. One of these goals included “promot[ing] gender equality and empower women; to reduce child mortality; [and] to improve maternal health,” emphasizing the need for increased focus on women’s and children’s health across the globe. In 2015, the Millennium Development Goals ended and the U.N. published a comprehensive report detailing the success of the MDGs. The report concluded that, during the length of the program, women’s employment increased dramatically, childhood mortality decreased by half and maternal mortality declined by nearly 45 percent.

Such success is, in part, due to another initiative, the 2010 Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, that aimed to intensify efforts to improve women’s and children’s health. Upon conclusion, the U.N. began developing a new program, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which includes 17 interconnected goals. Expanding on the success of the MDGs, the U.N. aims to tackle each goal by 2030. Similar to supportive programming to the MDGs, the U.N. has created another push for women’s and children’s health by establishing the 2016 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health.

The Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health

The 2016 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health tackles a variety of critical global issues including maternal and childhood death, women’s workforce participation, women’s and children’s health care coverage, childhood development and childhood education. Being more robust, the 2016 Global Strategy is distinguished from the previous program as it “is much broader, more ambitious and more focused on equity than [the 2010] predecessor,” according to a U.N. report. The 2016 Global Strategy specifically addresses adolescents with the objective of encouraging youth to recognize personal potential and three human rights of health, education and participation within society.

Initiatives Supporting the SDGs

Many anticipate that achieving these global objectives will be a complex challenge. Therefore, the U.N. has established two groups to address women’s, children’s and adolescent’s health advancement: The High-level Steering Group for Every Woman Every Child and The Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents.

The U.N. Secretary-General created the High-level Steering Group for Every Woman and Every Child in 2015. Seven areas of focus within the 2016 Global Strategy define the overall aim of this group. These include early child development, adolescent health, quality, equity, dignity in health services, sexual and reproductive health and rights, empowerment, financing, humanitarian and fragile settings.

The World Health Organization and the U.N. Human Rights Council created the Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents in 2016, and it delivered recommendations to improve methods to achieving the 2016 Global Strategy. The group provides insight to “better operationalize” the human rights goals of the Steering Group in the report. 

In conjunction, these groups have accelerated and promoted the effectiveness of the 2016 Global Strategy. These groups effectively outline the idea that it is crucial to work as a team to tackle some of the world’s most complex problems concerning global poverty and health. U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, believes these programs and groups will guide individuals and societies to claim human rights, create substantial change and hold leaders accountable.

Benefiting the Global Community

While the objective of the 2016 Global Strategy is to provide women, children and adolescents with essential resources and opportunities, the benefits of this integrated approach reach far beyond these groups. Developing strategic interventions produces a high return on resource investment. The reduction of poverty and increased public health leads to stimulated economic growth, thus increasing productivity and job creation.

Further, projections determine that the 2016 Global Strategy’s investments in the health and nutrition of women, children and adolescents will procure a 10-fold return by 2030, yielding roughly $100 billion in demographic dividends.

These high returns provide a powerful impetus for program support by local communities and government officials. Projected financial return can shed light on the global benefits of localized poverty reduction efforts. While the aim of poverty reduction should be in the interest of those most affected, understanding that such programs can provide a country with increased long-term growth is a major factor in the success of such initiatives, specifically in women’s and children’s health. 

The 2016 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health is indispensable during a time when women and children are providing the world with new innovations and perspectives. Each day, women across the world promote cooperation, peace and conversations within communities. Children will come to define the wellbeing of our world in the future. The success of U.N. programs today is a new reality for the world tomorrow.

Aly Hill
Photo: Flickr

Vietnam's Health Care System
As Vietnam has grown and developed over the last two to three decades, so has its health care system. There is a decrease in the number of deaths due to health issues and an increased rate of vaccination through Universal Health Coverage (UHC). With much success for the UHC implementation, Vietnam’s health system has become a model to other countries. However, there is still a difference in the level of care between the rich and poor in Vietnam’s health care system.

Health Care and Hospital Systems

Business Monitor International (BMI) stated that health care spending in Vietnam in 2017 increased to 7.5 percent of gross domestic production, which is $16.1 billion. Meanwhile, experts forecasted it to grow 12.5 percent annually during a four-year period from 2017-2021, which would be approximately $20 billion according to KPMG. Public health care spending is expanding with social health insurance programs that projections determine will 58.1 percent of all health care spending.

Vietnam’s health care system is decentralized with the Ministry of Health at the central level. Meanwhile, the provinces, cities, districts and communities connect to the Ministry of Health. The four groups implement their own health policies and manage their own health care system and facilities. The Ministry of Health (central level) manages the health care system for the government as well as hospitals, medical education and research. Provinces and cities run hospitals, other health care facilities and health care-education programs with central oversight. Finally, health care facilities at the district and commune-level provide basic medical care with preventative services.

Universal Health Coverage (UHC)

Vietnam is a leader in implementing universal health coverage. This would cover medical and dental services as well as medicine and vaccines. The Global Monitoring Report on UHC by both the World Health Organization and the World Bank states that almost 88 percent of people in Vietnam have health coverage and 97 percent of the children received vaccinations. There is also a 75 percent decrease in the death of mothers through universal health coverage. Vietnam has reached health care goals (as recommended by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals) earlier as compared to other countries due to its strategy on using all that is available, including staffing and administration.

Public View and Poverty Gap

Vietnamese’s traditional viewpoint on health care services affects health care delivery. It is a common belief that larger health care facilities in big cities would provide better health care services through more specialized staffing and more robust technology and equipment. Therefore, people tend to overlook smaller local facilities in the countryside or in rural areas. This, in turn, is impeding faster and necessary care while incurring unnecessary, unknowing or avoidable high costs. Such a barrier would ultimately contradict the proposed health care strategy above.

Vietnam’s health governance body is working to change the public viewpoint on local community health by educating the public about the programs and charging local health offices to provide excellent care in order to build trust. Wealthy patients have better access and higher quality health care. As wealthy patients tend to live in big cities, they are closer to big health care facilities that are well equipped. Meanwhile, poorer patients often have to travel hundreds of miles from rural areas to reach better care. While private insurance gives patients primary and preventative medicine that would avoid high health care expenditures due to medical emergencies, wealthy patients have more opportunity to purchase private insurance for better care. Health care inequity leaves the poor at a disadvantage with higher chances for illness and a lower quality of care.

Support and Challenges for UHC

Vietnam’s universal health care is receiving support from the Working Group for Primary Healthcare Transformation. The group works to present and emphasize primary care services in provinces around Vietnam, as well as improve and expand those services moving forward. Harvard Medical School, a member of the group, helps with primary care structuring and management. Another member, Novartis, provides rural community health education outreach as well as technology and rural medicine education for health care professionals. For instance, Novartis’ Cung Song Khoe Program has provided treatment for many conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and respiratory disease, as well as education for local rural communities and health care professionals, totaling 570,000 people served in 16 provinces. However, there are still challenges that are holding back Vietnam’s health care system including a high number of smokers and adults with alcohol usage, as well as extreme air pollution and aging populations.

Despite drawbacks from public views, health challenges and the environment, Vietnam’s universal health coverage is holding strong and progressing with ongoing program evaluations, strategic planning, improved care quality and partnerships. Therefore, Vietnam’s health care system has also been growing and is standing tall among that of other well-mentioned countries. With that said, eliminating health inequity is the focus to improve Vietnam’s health care.

– Hung Le
Photo: Flickr

Malaria in ThailandThailand is home to nearly 70 million people. The Asian country is known for tropical beaches, opulent palaces and lush elephant rainforests. This extravagant subtropical climate is perfect for tourism but also serves as a breeding ground for mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria. Symptoms of malaria range from fever, seizures and even death. 

5 Facts About Malaria in Thailand

  1. Around 45 percent of the population is at risk of contracting malaria. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 32 million people are at risk of being infected with malaria in Thailand. The country is filled with more than 46 million acres of thick jungle and rainforest. Many citizens live in these dense ecosystems, along with several species of mosquito. The most dangerous areas of transmission are border regions, like the borders with Myanmar and Cambodia. These regions have an abundant population of highly infectious female Anopheles mosquitoes.
  2. The wet season poses the highest risk. The highest risk of malaria in Thailand lies during the rainy season when mosquitoes are most active. The wet season typically occurs from mid-May to mid-October. During this period the presence of the mosquitoes that carry malaria parasites is much higher than other seasons. Of note, the rural areas of Thailand tend to be more affected while larger cities such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Pattaya do not experience a high risk of malaria even during the wet season.
  3. Malaria control mechanisms greatly reduce the risk of spreading the disease. Mass free distribution of materials such as insecticide-treated nets (ITNs), long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLIN) and the practice of indoor residual spraying (IRS) reduce the risk of contracting malaria substantially. By eliminating the transmitters, these insecticides are simultaneously eliminating the parasite. The WHO attributes Thailand’s advancement in preventing the spread of the disease to these materials and methods that have proven to provide powerful results.
  4. The Global Fund and UNICEF are helping. In 2010, Thailand’s funding for malaria control exceeded 7 million dollars. Funding has gradually increased year by year, mainly financed by the Global Fund and UNICEF. Thailand, a still-developing country, relies heavily on external aid to support health initiatives. Organizations like Global Fund and UNICEF are saving lives from preventable diseases like malaria through continuous aid.
  5. Cases and deaths of malaria in Thailand are declining. New malaria cases have declined since 2000 and continue to do so rapidly. There are less than 70 annual deaths of malaria in Thailand, which is almost a 90 percent reduction from 20 years ago. The nation’s successes in reducing malaria mortality are attributed to the increased funding for malaria control mechanisms, such as ITNs, LLINs, IRS and other forms of insecticidal materials.

These five facts about malaria in Thailand indicate a positive turn for the developing nation. Although, in rural areas, the disease persists with severity. With continued support from humanitarian aid organizations, Thailand can achieve minimal malaria cases with various control mechanisms.

– Hadley West
Photo: Pixabay

Sanitation in Peru
Thanks to the government and various international organizations, Peru has made noticeable progress in regards to sanitation and clean water. However, there is still a large amount of room for improvement in the country. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Peru.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Peru

  1. Access to Running Water: The water crisis in the suburbs of Peru is complex. Even in more urban areas, running water is still a rare commodity. In middle-class homes just outside of Lima, 3 million people still lack running water. Hand-dug wells are common sources of water in these areas and local citizens may travel miles in order to use the restroom. The country has made progress in the hopes of expanding access to running water. In 2014, the International Secretariat for Water Solidarity established a sustainable source of water in Cuchoquesera and followed this with a similar development in the town of Waripercca. Both communities now have running water.
  2. Sanitation in Schools: The Peruvian water crisis has heavily affected schools. Almost no rural schools have clean bathrooms or working sinks. A lack of proper restrooms and facilities can prevent academic progress. Luckily, sanitation officials in Peru have identified this issue and created a plan to increase infrastructure. This plan should provide suitable and sanitary bathrooms to Peruvian schools by 2030 and educate younger children on hygienic practices, however, donations and investments could speed up the process.
  3. Sanitation in Hospitals: In 2016, 18 percent of health care facilities reported having to operate without running water, leading to problems in water disposal, waste management and an overall inability to perform tasks as simple as cleansing the hands. According to a report from UNICEF and WHO, this can easily lead to life-threatening illnesses, especially for newborns that may be born in these facilities.
  4. Plumbing Systems: Even homes in the suburbs of Lima do not always have toilets. In Peru’s urban areas, about 5 million people do not have a working toilet in their homes. In places where these facilities do exist, the plumbing system is so fragile that flushing toilet paper could do serious damage to the system, or at the very least cause the toilet to clog or flood. The best solution to this less-than-perfect system is to invest more money in plumbing infrastructure or to utilize the “dry toilet” designs that are popping up around the world.
  5. Open Defecation: Despite having dropped since 2000, the percentage of the rural population practicing open defecation still measured around 19 percent in 2017. Experts cannot understate the negative health and sanitation effects of citizens experiencing exposure to human waste. The good news is that the portion of the urban population practicing open defecation is as low as 3 percent and both rates are in a steady decline.
  6. Untreated Drinking Water: Lima’s source of water and the surrounding areas is the Rio Rimac, a river heavily polluted by harmful microorganisms. One of these microorganisms is Helicobacter pylori, a dangerous bacteria that can affect the gastrointestinal tract of those unlucky enough to experience an infection. The good news is that water treatment is seeing a slow uptick in Peru, especially in urban areas. The number of people consuming untreated water has decreased by the thousands since 2000. Public health intervention has begun to focus on treating the water before distribution, partnering with organizations like the International Secretariat for Water Solidarity.
  7. Unsafe Water Affects More Than Drinking: While drinking unsafe tap water is a prominent issue, the problem becomes monumental when one considers everything else that people use water for. Fruit and vegetables that individuals wash in tap water may be dangerous for consumption, as well as drinks with ice and any foods kept on ice.
  8. Unsanitary Practices: While many of the sanitation problems in Peru come from lack of funding or infrastructure, another big problem comes in the form of unsanitary practices. This involves hand-fecal transmission and infection, which may lead to transmission to the face or other individuals in the community. During observation in 2014, 64 percent of those researchers observed potentially contaminated their face, hands or food within one hour of hand contamination. This can be detrimental to the health of Peruvians, as contamination can cause an array of enteric pathogens including salmonella and Escherichia coli. These practices are simply a result of the lack of running water in many parts of the country and lack of awareness of the diseases that fecal transmission can cause. Peru can eliminate this issue by educating Peruvians as children about sanitation and hygiene and by improving the running water system in Peru. There have been attempts to address these issues, including observation and correction of some of these behaviors.
  9. WaterCredit Program: Water.org’s WaterCredit program is quite possibly the jumpstart the nation needs in order to provide running water and sanitary conditions to all of its citizens. The WaterCredit program works with various donating partners to provide plumbing and similar infrastructure to countries that need it. Through this program, Water.org has been trying to reach people in urban areas, like Lima, and provide them with improved indoor bathrooms, sewage collection infrastructure and safe running water. It has reached an estimated 2.5 million people and hopes to reach more within the country in the future.
  10. Stray Dogs: One problem affecting sanitary conditions in Peru is the fact that stray animals, especially dogs, run rampant in cities like Cusco and Mancora. Sadly, due to lack of proper care, these animals can carry various infections that they can spread to humans through direct contact. These infections include rabies, norovirus, salmonella and brucella among others. These infections can have detrimental health effects on humans if contracted and the infected animals may show little to no symptoms.

While the conditions of sanitation in Peru are not yet acceptable, the country has made significant progress in the last decade. It is not an overestimation to say that Peru will continue this forward progress with the help of its citizens and various donating partners. With continued aid from international organizations, the sanitary conditions in Peru could see a significant increase in quality in the next few years.

Tyler Hall
Photo: Flickr

 5 Facts About Heart Disease in India
The rates of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases are increasing at alarming rates in developing countries around the world. However, heart disease in India has had a particularly high impact on the nation’s population. This increase requires attention and action to reduce the strain of heart disease on the Indian population.

5 Facts About Heart Disease in India

  1. Rising rates of cardiovascular disease have rapidly increased in India. The number of cases within the country has more than doubled from 1990 to 2016. In comparison, heart disease in the United States decreased by 41% in the same time period. Death as a result of cardiovascular disease has increased by 34 percent in the country in the past 26 years alone. In 2016, 28.1 percent of all deaths were caused by heart disease and a total of 62.5 million years of life were lost to premature death. Heart disease in India accounts for nearly 60% of the global impact of cardiac health even though India accounts for less than 20 percent of the global population.
  2. The burden of heart disease, while high throughout India, varies greatly from state to state. Punjab has the highest burden of disease, with 17.5 percent of the population afflicted, while Mizoram has the lowest burden, a full 9 times lower than Punjab. These immense disparities between Indian states are dependent upon the level of development and regional lifestyle differences. Understanding prevalent risk factors in different regions allows for more effective interventions. Specifically tailored programs are needed, rather than viewing India as a monolith.
  3. Rates of heart disease are far higher in the urban Indian populations when compared to rural communities. Urban areas record between 400 or 500 cases in every 100,000 people, while rural populations record 100 cases per 100,000 people. Risk factors for heart disease include a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, central obesity, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. All of these factors are abundant in urban populations and limited in rural populations, thus accounting for the discrepancy.
  4. On average, heart disease in India affects people 8 to 10 years earlier than other parts of the world, specifically heart attacks. This huge discrepancy can be explained by increased rates of tobacco consumption, the prevalence of diabetes and genetic predisposition for premature heart disease. A common genetic determinant of heart disease in Indians is familial hypercholesterolemia, a lipid disorder. Although this disorder is treatable with lifestyle changes and pharmaceuticals, it is often undiagnosed. This causes an increased likelihood of heart disease. Furthermore, stress levels in young Indians have been on the rise due to hectic lifestyles and increased career demands. Mental stress compounded with genetic predisposition and environmental factors like diet, sleep, and exercise has resulted in higher rates of heart disease in India’s younger population.
  5. The India Heart Association is committed to increasing awareness of the severity of heart disease in India. This organization is nongovernmental and launched by individuals who have been personally affected by heart disease. The organization’s major goals include increasing awareness of heart disease in India through online campaigns and grassroots activities. The organization has been appointed to the Thoracic and Cardiovascular Instrumentation Subcommittee of the Bureau of Indian Standards by the Indian government. Efforts are multi-faceted, operating through partnerships with local governments, hospitals, and programming with donors. Organizations like this one are making effective strides in addressing the burden of heart disease in India.

As heart disease in India is on the rise, it is important to understand the impact on global health. Non-communicable diseases have an undeniable effect on development. The World Health Organization stated, “Poverty is closely linked with NCDs, and the rapid rise in NCDs is predicted to impede poverty reduction initiatives in low-income countries.” In an effort to reduce global poverty, attention should move to heart disease in India, and further, to non-communicable diseases in developing countries globally.

Treya Parikh
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Women’s Health in EthiopiaWhile gender equality has been a significant issue in the sub-Saharan African country, recent steps have been taken to ensure the health and safety of Ethiopian women and girls. Below are seven facts about women’s health in Ethiopia.

7 Facts About Women’s Health in Ethiopia

  1. The maternal mortality rate has been cut in half between 1990 and 2010. One reason for this is the implementation of the Health Extension Program (HEP) in 2005, which aims to provide all families with clean and safe spaces to deliver their babies both at home and in medical facilities.
  2. In 2015, the Center for International Reproductive Health Training (CIRHT) was founded in order to increase the number of medical professionals that could provide reproductive care to rural areas of Ethiopia. Students are completing the program in three years, compared to 12 years of similar advanced programs in other African countries. The program also works to destigmatize reproductive health and merge it into mainstream health care. Partly as a result of this program, the number of Ethiopian women making four or more doctors’ visits during their pregnancies has tripled between 2000 and 2014.
  3. Ethiopia has a long history of gender-based discrimination which impacts the wellbeing of women and girls in the country. In February of 2019, the Ethiopian government held a meeting with civil society organizations (CSOs) as a part of African Health Week to prioritize gender-sensitive policymaking objectives in the health care sector.
  4. The use of contraceptives has increased by almost six times from 2000 to 2016. The introduction to modern contraceptive methods had helped prevent unwanted pregnancies and disease among married women in Ethiopia.
  5. Twice as many women in Ethiopia have HIV than men, but in 2016, 49 percent of women had knowledge of HIV prevention methods, compared to 32 percent in 2000. This has contributed to a 45 percent decrease in AIDS-related deaths in the country between 2010 and 2018, as well as a decrease of 6,000 new cases in the same timeframe.
  6. In both rural and urban communities, the percentage of female genital mutilation has decreased by at least 10 percent. Though progress still needs to be made, both settings have seen a significant decrease in the act between 2000 and 2016.
  7. In 2018, the first two urogynecology fellows in Ethiopia graduated from Mekelle University. Oregon Health and Science University partnered with Mekelle to launch the first urogynecology fellowship program in the country. Urogynecologists treat pelvic floor disorders in women, many who suffer in silence in Ethiopia, as this group of disorders is not well known.

While Ethiopia has severely struggled with gender inequality throughout its history, it is encouraging to see that the Ethiopian government is making concrete changes. Between the creations of programs and institutions, as well as improved education, women’s health in Ethiopia will continue to make great strides.

– Alyson Kaufman
Photo: Pixabay

Life expectancy in Grenada
Grenada is a country in the Caribbean composed of seven islands. This former British colony attained its independence in 1974, making Grenada one of the smallest independent nations in the western hemisphere. Nicknamed historically as the “spice isle,” Grenada’s traditional exports included sugar, chocolate and nutmeg. From 1979 to 1983, Grenada went through a period of political upheaval, which ended when a U.S.-led coalition invaded the island. Today, Grenada is a democratic nation that is working to ensure the health and well-being of its citizens. Here are nine facts about life expectancy in Grenada.

9 Facts About Life Expectancy in Grenada

  1. The World Bank’s data showed that, as of 2017, life expectancy in Grenada was 72.39 years. While there was a rapid increase in life expectancy from 1960 to 2006, life expectancy decreased from 2007 to 2017.  However, the CIA estimates that this metric will increase to 75.2 years in 2020.
  2. Non-communicable diseases constitute the leading cause of death in Grenada. According to 2016 WHO data, non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes constituted the majority of premature death in Grenada. Cardiovascular diseases, which constituted 32 percent of all premature deaths, were the leading cause of death in 2016.
  3. Grenada’s infant mortality rate stands at 8.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. This is a significant improvement from 21.2 infant deaths out of 1,000 in 1985 and 13.7 deaths out of 1,000 in 2018.
  4. Grenada has universal health care. Health care in Grenada is run by the Ministry of Health (MoH). Through the MoH, the Grenadan government helps finance medical care in public institutions. Furthermore, if an individual wishes to purchase private health insurance, there are several options to choose from.
  5. Around 98 percent of people in Grenada have access to improved drinking water. However, water scarcity still plagues many people in Grenada due to erratic rainfall, climate change and limited water storage. To remedy this, Grenada launched a $42 million project in 2019 with the goal of expanding its water infrastructure. This includes plans to retrofit existing systems.
  6. Hurricanes and cyclones pose a threat to life expectancy in Grenada. While in recent years Grenada has not been significantly affected by a hurricane, Grenadians still remember the devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan (2004) and Hurricane Emily (2005). Hurricane Ivan caused an estimated $800 million worth of damage. In the following year, Hurricane Emily caused an additional $110 million damage. On top of 30 deaths caused by these natural disasters, the damage they inflicted on Grenada’s infrastructure and agriculture can have further harmful ramifications for the people of Grenada.
  7. The Grenadian government is taking measures to improve the country’s disaster risk
    management (DRM). With the help of organizations such as the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), Grenada is recovering from the devastation of 2004 and 2005. In 2010, for example, GFDRR conducted a risk management analysis which helped the preparation of a $26.2 million public infrastructure investment project by the World Bank in Grenada.
  8. The Grenadian government’s 2016-2025 health plan aims to strengthen life expectancy in Grenada. One of the top priorities of this framework is to ensure that health services are available, accessible and affordable to all citizens. Another goal surrounds addressing challenges for the most vulnerable groups in society such as the elderly, children and women.
  9. Grenada received a vaccination award from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). In November of 2014, PAHO awarded Grenada the Henry C. Smith Award for Immunization, which is presented to the country that has made the most improvement in their immunization programs. PAHO attributed this success to Community Nursing Health teams and four private Pediatricians in Grenada.

The Grenadian government is committed to providing the best quality of life for its citizens. However, there is still room for improvement. The prevalence of premature death caused by cardiovascular diseases suggests that Grenada needs to promote healthier life choices for its citizens. With the continued support and observation by the Grenadian government, many hope that life expectancy in Grenada will increase in the future.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Clean Cooking Technology
Wood-based cooking harms the health of humans and the environment. KopaGas is one of many social enterprises tackling this problem by transitioning Tanzanian families to a clean cooking technology that is gas-based rather than wood-based through an innovative pay-as-you-go business model.

Imagine that a family is cooking dinner in the kitchen. They put charcoal into the stove and water for stew begins to boil. As the water heats, thick, grey smoke from the stove fills the room, the family’s lungs and the surrounding forest. In Tanzania, 96 percent of the population still uses dirty fuel sources like charcoal and firewood for cooking purposes. This has a harmful impact on respiratory health and the country’s ecology.

Effects of Wood-Based Cooking

Cooking with charcoal and firewood is comparable to exposing oneself to the smoke of 400 cigarettes per hour. Such air contamination contributes to roughly 4.3 million deaths per year worldwide. In Tanzania, respiratory infections are the second leading cause of death after malaria. In addition to devastating health effects, the resulting smoke causes ecological damage, particularly deforestation. A shocking 55 percent of the global wood harvest, representing 9 percent of primary energy supply, stems from traditional woodfuels.

To add to this, most wood-burning stoves are inefficient. Around 85 to 90 percent of the energy content of wood that people use for cooking becomes lost through the process of combustion. Such inefficiency means that people need to cut down more trees to satisfy the demand for woodfuel.

KopaGas as a Solution

Scientists Sebastian Rodriguez-Sanchez and Andron Mendes sought to address these health and environmental challenges head-on by creating clean cooking technology. In 2015, Rodriguez-Sanchez and Mendes co-founded KopaGas. The enterprise uses proprietary technology to help Tanzanian families transition to gas-based cooking.

Households pay an upfront fee of $6.50 to receive a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cooking kit. Families pay for the gas through a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) model via mobile phone payment. A smart meter that attaches to the LPG cooking kit measures gas consumption feeding back into the mobile application. Transparent information allows families to understand consumption patterns which can help return control over personal finances.

KopaGas’ innovation is revolutionary not because it utilizes clean cooking methods, but rather because it makes gas-cooking affordable through the PAYG system. Rodriguez-Sanchez told Reuters that the PAYG model needs to prove itself at a large scale to attract greater levels of investment. However, KopaGas is already gaining early financial support from the Acumen Fund, HRSV, Saisan Co. and DEG / KFW.

In January 2020, the U.K.-based holding company, Circle Gas Limited, acquired KopaGas’ PAYG technology. The company aims to expand access to technology across Sub-Saharan Africa, where 900 million people have yet to transition to modern and clean cooking fuels. Further expansion will then move into East Africa where the focus of 2020 is in Kenya.

Innovating Clean Cooking

While KopaGas is attempting to transition households from woodfuel-based cooking to gas-cooking, others are taking completely different approaches. One example is ServedOnSalt, launched by former Nordic Food Lab executive Roberto Flore. The project developed a battery using solar energy, salt and water to create a cheap and clean-powered cooking stove. KopaGas, ServedOnSalt and other social enterprises within the clean cooking technology space are fundamentally transforming cooking practices in developing areas. These innovations are improving the health of humans and the planet.

– Kate McGinn
Photo: Flickr

Health Care Progress
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has faced various issues surrounding health care in the past several decades and some have amounted to significant setbacks for the nation. However, the country has seen health care progress in the DRC in recent years and international organizations are looking forward to the future.

Improving Vaccines for Citizens

International partners have been able to pair with the government in the DRC to initiate this health care progress, and the country has been polio-free for four years as a result. The lack of infrastructure and geographical size of the DRC makes it particularly difficult to reach milestones in health care progress. The United States Agency for International Development has been a vital component of health care progress in the DRC serving over 12 million people spanning a multitude of different provinces. The organization has additionally remained committed to providing HIV/AIDS support in 21 concentrated zones. These focused zones are crucial for health care progress in this region.

In addition to the international organizations doing their part to help health care progress in the DRC, the country’s Ministry of Health has been working diligently in recent years to improve vaccines and their means of storage. Keeping vaccines in the appropriate cooling storage containers and fridges has proved especially difficult due to the DRC’s tropical climate. In a 2018 plan, the Ministry of Health aimed to provide immunizations to almost 220,000 children and improve vaccine storage conditions. Partnerships with outside organizations have helped to deliver 5,000 solar-powered fridges specifically intended for vaccine storage and they will distribute more later on.

Progress in Hospital Conditions

One of the first dependable and reliably functional hospitals opened in Kavumu through an initiative called First Light. This hospital garnered a brand new electronic medical records system to make keeping track of patient history astronomically easier than before. The hospital staff received tablets to mobilize the system and expedite the process of patient diagnosis and care. With this technology, the hospital is able to treat nearly three times more patients than it was able to without these resources – originally, doctors were only able to see approximately six or seven patients per week.

The hospital also implemented a motorcycle ambulance program so patients no longer have to walk or have others carry them to emergency care in order to tackle the issue of having no ambulance access in the city. This program utilizes motorcycle sidecars specifically to transport patients, which was a successful method that people originally used in South Africa.

The Future of Health Care in the DRC

The World Health Organization (WHO) has continuously been an important player in the health care progress of the DRC. It has partnered with non-governmental organizations to deliver medicines and various other resources to hospitals and clinics in areas where people have limited health care access. In the interest of continuing the progression of the country and establishing a functional health care system, WHO also remains dedicated to analyzing and quantifying statistics within the country that gives organizations clues on what they need to do next. These statistics are able to pinpoint issues in specific areas, therefore making it easier for government and international organizations to act, provide aid and implement programs for improvement. The continuation of this data collection will hopefully allow for more health care progress in the future.

There is still a lot to do in the DRC when it comes to health care. There are organizations and efforts dedicated to treating all of the diseases and epidemics that threaten the country’s current health care progress like malaria, cholera, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and more. Some organizations involved in the nation even specifically focus on the care of mothers and children or improving sanitation conditions.

It will be small, incremental changes over time that will lead to continued health care progress within the region. The country cannot fix everything at once, but the collective efforts and partnerships of international organizations and governmental entities have already dragged the country out of its most difficult struggles with health care and access to health resources. The continuation of these practices will ensure the building and sustainment of a functional and reliable health care system, therefore alleviating the worries of so many citizens within the DRC.

For now, health care progress in the DRC is on track and only time will tell how these small initiatives eventually reform and reshape the country’s health care system entirely.

Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr