Information and stories on health topics.

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Myanmar
Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar is a country in Southeast Asia nestled between India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand. While it is currently transitioning from a military government to a democracy, the following are 10 facts about life expectancy in Myanmar.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Myanmar

  1. Myanmar’s Life Expectancy: For the first of the 10 facts about life expectancy in Myanmar, the average life expectancy in Myanmar is 66.96 years. For males, the average is 65 years and for females, it is 69 years. Steadily rising since 1950, the average life expectancy was once 33.63 years. By 1990, life expectancy slowed as it only reached 56.65 years and did not exceed 60 years until 2001. Based on data collected by the United Nations, Myanmar is not projected to have an average life expectancy exceeding 70 years until almost 2040.
  2. Other Countries’ Life Expectancies: Myanmar’s life expectancy is lower than most of its neighbors. Compared to surrounding countries, such as China, Thailand, India and Bangladesh the average life expectancy ranges between 69 and 77 years. However, Myanmar has a relatively similar life expectancy to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, which is at 67.27 years. This could be due to Myanmar’s changing government and tumultuous internal conflict. Unlike its neighbors, Myanmar has engaged in a civil war since it broke from British rule in 1948. In fact, it is the world’s longest ongoing civil war.
  3. Myanmar’s Internal Conflict: These disparities in life expectancies between Myanmar and other Asian countries could be due to its internal conflict. In Myanmar, there is a constant struggle for power in the government with the military primarily seizing control and ending rebellions since the country gained independence in 1948. Among this political struggle is an ethnic one; the Buddhist population (which makes up 90 percent of Myanmar’s total population) targets minority religious groups, specifically the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group. While there have always been tensions between ethnic groups in Myanmar, violence did not escalate until 2016. Thousands of Rohingya are fleeing Myanmar to Bangladesh because of persecution, extreme violence and borderline ethnic cleansing by Myanmar’s security forces. People do not know much about the death toll in Myanmar but BBC reports that the violence resulted in the killings of at least 6,700 Rohingya a month after violence broke out in August 2017. People burned at least 288 Rohingya villages since then and nearly 690,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh. Myanmar’s rapid population decline and lowered life expectancy may be due to either genocide or the fleeing of many of its civilians.
  4. Rising Life Expectancy: Despite the ongoing civil war in Myanmar, life expectancy is rising. One of the greatest links to health and life expectancy is the standard of living. According to a study by the World Bank, “the proportion of the population living under the national poverty line halved from 48.2 percent in 2005 to 24.8 percent in 2017.” More people are now able to afford health care and medical treatments, allowing for the rise in life expectancies. Additionally, as poverty declines, the Myanmar government is devoting more resources to improving health care. Myanmar has specifically targeted malaria. In a study by the World Health Organization, in Myanmar, “malaria morbidity and mortality has declined by 77 percent and 95 percent respectively by 2016 compared to 2012. The country is moving forward as per the National Strategic Plan aiming for malaria elimination by 2030.” By abiding by the National Strategic Plan, Myanmar was able to successfully reduce malaria in the country and boost life expectancy.
  5.  Reducing Poverty: Myanmar and various international powers are making efforts to reduce poverty in the country. In April 2017, the World Bank approved a $200 million credit for a First Macroeconomic Stability and Fiscal Resilience Development Policy Operation. The purpose of this is to help Myanmar achieve economic stability and reduce poverty. It would also allow greater access to public services, such as electricity and health care resources. In addition, China agreed to assist in reducing poverty in rural areas of Myanmar in February 2018. Rural Myanmar has higher poverty rates than in urban centers (38.8 percent compared to 14.5 percent in towns and cities). The project from China includes infrastructure development and vocational training, which will implement better roads and agricultural techniques. With these efforts, poverty is in decline and quality of life rises, allowing for people to live better and longer lives.
  6. Access to Electricity: People across Myanmar are gaining access to electricity. According to the World Bank, 69.815 percent of the population had access to electricity in 2017, as opposed to 55.6 percent in 2016. In 2015, both the government of Myanmar and the World Bank developed a National Electrification Plan that will achieve universal electricity by 2030. To do this, the World Bank has given Myanmar a $400 million credit to launch this plan throughout the country. Myanmar has already exceeded the goals set in 2015. One goal was to have 1.7 million households connected to electricity by 2020. Currently, 4.5 million households have electricity. Because of this and the decline of poverty, more households can obtain home appliances as well as other consumer goods like cell phones and computers. While these are not direct causes of rising life expectancy, they do indicate that people in Myanmar are gaining a better quality of life, which can attribute to living longer lives.
  7.  Health Care: Myanmar consistently ranks among the worst health care in the world. Myanmar citizens pay for most health care resources out of pocket. Only 600,000 of 53.7 million people in Myanmar have health insurance, the Social Security Scheme. There are shortages across the country in human resources for health. There are only 61 doctors per every 100,000 people in Myanmar. There are not many medical schools available and therefore a lack of other health professionals like pharmacists, technicians and bioengineers. Many of the current doctors in Myanmar feel overworked and burnt out of the profession. The lack of many resources can contribute to lower life expectancies.
  8. Leading Causes of Death: Without access to health care, diseases become the leading cause of death in Myanmar. Non-communicable diseases cause 68 percent of deaths in Myanmar. COPD, stroke, ischemic heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease are some of the leading causes of death in Myanmar. However, preventable diseases are in decline. Tuberculosis, HIV and lower respiratory infections have decreased as leading causes of death. Even though access to health care is limited, the quality has improved overall, allowing for people to fight off these infections and live longer.
  9. Improving Health Care: The Myanmar government is slowly improving health care. Unfortunately, government spending on health care is one of the lowest in the world at 5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). However, studies by the World Bank shows that this percentage has increased over time. In 2011, the Myanmar government only spent 1.687 percent of its GDP on health care, the year Myanmar began its transition to democracy. Since 2013, Myanmar began to implement more policies devoted to national health care. The government went from spending 2.11 percent on health care in 2013 to 5.03 percent in 2014, making health care more affordable and available for mothers and children. Myanmar also reduced the number of medical students to ensure a better quality of education. The severe lack of government investment in health care makes health resources difficult to access by the population, which one can attribute to the lower life expectancies, but it is clear that Myanmar is taking steps in the right direction.
  10. International Support for Health Care: There is a lot of international support for health care in Myanmar. Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) has worked with Myanmar since 1995 and has helped improve community health services. It also provides women valuable information on sexual and reproductive health. The Japanese International Cooperation Agency has also worked on special projects in Myanmar since 2000, most notably creating a standard for sign language and providing teachers. Additionally, the World Health Organization has also worked with the Myanmar government to set goals for their health care. The WHO assisted in drawing up Myanmar’s Health Vision 2030. Further, the World Bank provided a $200 million loan to Myanmar for an Essential Package of Health Services. Much of the international support is at local levels; it is up to the Myanmar government to provide support across the entire country.

As evidenced by the 10 facts about life expectancy in Myanmar, several circumstances could be contributing to the lower life expectancy of the country. However, despite the long and winding path ahead, it is clear that life expectancy is rising as living conditions continue to slowly improve. 

– Emily Young
Photo: Pixabay

lack access to clean waterAbout 2.1 billion people around the world do not have access to clean running water and sanitation facilities. Another 2.3 billion people do not have the luxury of accessing toilets. Clean water is important because it is directly linked to “better health, reductions in parasitic infections, increased child growth and lower morbidity and mortality.” Here are 10 countries that lack access to clean water.

10 Countries That Lack Access to Clean Water

  1. Afghanistan: With only 22 percent of its population having access to clean water, Afghanistan has one of the lowest rates of clean water access in the world. About 87 percent of the nation’s water is contaminated.
  2. Cambodia: Since the majority of the population is dependent on catching and storing rainwater, it leaves an estimated 84 percent of the population with no access to water. This leaves 5 percent of the population dependent on water deliveries.
  3. Congo: 75 percent of the country’s 51 million people do not have access to clean water. About 21 percent of people in rural areas can not reach pure water, which is double the level it was five years prior.
  4. Pakistan: Pakistan is known for having the biggest gap between the rich and poor when it comes to basic hygiene. This leaves 22 million people, or 64 percent of the nation, with no access to clean water.
  5. Uganda: About 40 percent of the population has to travel more than 30 minutes to reach drinkable water. A little over 61.1 percent of the 42.3 million population has access to safe drinking water.
  6. Ethiopia: The high mortality rate in Ethiopia is linked to the quality of water in the country. Due to poor water management and water-intensive farming, 60.9 percent of people have no access to water.
  7. Somalia: Water delivery systems have been destroyed due to post-war problems. This has left 60 percent of the population with no basic access to water and 11.7 percent of people consuming untreated surface water.
  8. Nigeria: Even though Nigeria is one of the fastest-improving countries in regards to water sanitation, 15 percent of its residents have no access to this vital resource.
  9. Chad: Chad has a square mileage of 800,000, which is three times the size of California. But only 15,000 square miles of the country has water. This leaves 33 percent of the nation’s population with the struggle of accessing clean running water.
  10. Syria: The Syrian conflict is hindering humanitarian aid agencies from delivering water and supplies. As of right now, only 10 percent of people lack access to water.

NGOs Helping On The Ground

While these populations of people are suffering due to their lack of access to safe, clean, drinkable water, there are many foundations and NGOs helping to fight this issue.

Water.org is an NGO focused on helping people find a way to be able to attain safe clean drinking water. The organization offers small and affordable loans called WaterCredit to help families obtain sanitized water. Water.org has helped more than 223,000 Ethiopians with improved water, sanitation and hygiene services. WaterCredit has also reached 40,000 people, providing them with clean water for five years.

UNICEF along with the Ministries of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Public Health and Education, as well as local and global partners have come together to resolve the water crisis in Afghanistan. The plan is to end open defecation by 2025 by using their Community-Led Total Sanitation approach. This approach is a combination of “shock, shame, disgust and pride” to motivate people to build their own toilets. In 2017, the partnership has helped 300,000 Afghans reach clean and safe water. This initiative has also helped girls stay in school by installing washrooms so that they can manage their periods and feminine hygiene needs in school instead of staying home.

– Isabella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr

The EcoHealth AllianceToday’s world is burdened by diseases that scientists and medical professionals are actively attempting to cure. Poorer countries are subject to these infections as unsafe living conditions, a lack of strong healthcare systems and shortage of resources are all factors of such environments. However, a new field of study, ecohealth, has allowed new organizations to improve their understanding of diseases. Ecohealth is a study of the ways in which the Earth affects human health in various environments. Organizations such as the EcoHealth Alliance have taken this field further to tackle pandemic issues in our world today.

The EcoHealth Alliance

The EcoHealth Alliance is a global, environmental health nonprofit organization that is dedicated to protecting wildlife and public health from the emergence of disease. The Alliance formed when the Wildlife Trust and the Consortium for Conservation Medicine merged. After its inception in 1971, the Wildlife Trust worked to protect the planet’s wildlife. It later added conservation medicine when the connection to health and the environment became more evident.

The Consortium for Conservation Medicine was established in 1997. It had a similar focus on the healthy relationships between living organisms. Together, the organizations rebranded and created the EcoHealth Alliance. This rebranding allowed the organization to focus on local conservation as well as conservation medicine and the relationship between human health and the environment. EcoHealth Alliance has become a leader in preventative work of pandemics in “hotspot regions” of impoverished countries and in global conservation efforts.

The EcoHealth Alliance’s One Health Approach

The EcoHealth Alliance has a unique “One Health” approach that combats issues through different disciplines of thought. One Health consists of engaging with experts in many different disciplines to use their combined knowledge to solve problems that are larger than any single one of their respective areas of expertise. One example of how the Alliance is using One Health is through its work with the Rift Valley fever.

The Rift Valley fever is placed sixth on the World Health Organization’s list of priority diseases. This disease has a very low profile in comparison to others, such as Ebola, because it has only ever been observed in Africa and the Middle East. However, this disease is just as detrimental to those it infects, and there is a high likelihood of it traveling to the Americas.

The Rift Valley fever is spread through mosquitos. Mosquito bites infect livestock in the area. The infection has been recorded to kill “100 percent of infected young animals and 30 percent of adults.” This disease may also impact humans, whether it has traveled through mosquito bites or ingestion of affected livestock. It can result in mild flu-like symptoms as well as symptoms similar to Ebola.

How does One Health help?

The Rift Valley fever would be impossible to understand without the multidisciplinary approach that One Health entails because of the numerous factors surrounding the disease. Veterinarians understand how livestock is affected while parasitologists study the virus’s qualities and individual components. Economists research the impacts of outbreaks on society. Geologists study the conditions that allow the disease to thrive while anthropologists study the human behaviors surrounding the outbreak.

There is still much unknown about this disease as it disappears altogether between outbreaks. This lack of understanding makes it difficult to figure out the potential ways to protect people and animals. In response, the EcoHealth Alliance has formed a coalition of national and local partners in South Africa to improve prevention, detection and reporting policies surrounding this fever in people, livestock and wildlife.

The EcoHealth Alliance is the leading organization using the One Health approach. Hopefully, many organizations will follow to remain competitive. This organization’s procedures have brought together scientists from different backgrounds. It helps them to collaborate and tackle the importance of pandemic prevention in the interconnected landscape of the world today.

Adya Khosla
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts ABout Sanitation in Bosnia and HerzegovinaPublic health outcomes and economic status both rely greatly on a nation’s sanitation infrastructure. Sanitation encompasses the regular, efficient and safe collection and disposal of waste, whatever its source. Improper procedures and insufficient waste management facilities have led to poor sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but recent efforts show promising improvements. Below are 10 facts about sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

  1. The political system in Bosnia and Herzegovina divides waste management responsibilities among different levels of governance. Responsibility for environmental policy, including sanitation policy, lies with both the federal government and the two political entities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republic Srpska, but not with the cantonal and municipal governments. The two entities and their constituent cantons formulate laws and regulations for waste management, while these two levels of government work share the responsibility of designing management strategies with municipal governments.
  2. At the federal level, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations (MoFTER) oversees and manages international initiatives and accords that involve the political entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since the enactment of the Law on Ministries and Other Bodies of Administration of BiH in March 2003, MoFTER’s role also includes ensuring that the political entities follow basic environmental standards. As a result, the political entities do not have absolute power when it comes to environmental policy, with MoFTER acting as a harmonizing and coordinating force.
  3. The country’s two political entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, both suffer from a severe lack of operable wastewater treatment plants. Only two of Republika Srpska’s 64 municipalities have treatment facilities. Though the country improved biological treatment processes in 2009, the quality of these methods declined the following year.
  4. In 2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina produced approximately 1,243,889 tons of municipal waste. This quantity measures out to an estimated 354 kg per year and 0.97 kg each day. Landfills received 952,975 tons of waste that year, a 1 percent decline from 2015. Public solid waste transportation disposed of approximately 920,748 tons of waste in 2016, a 0.1 percent reduction from 2015. The vast majority of waste in the country came from markets, street cleaning and other public sources. Packaging waste made up only 1.9 percent of waste in 2016, and household waste only constituted another 3.6 percent. Recreational areas, such as gardens and parks, generated only 2.8 percent of waste. Mixed municipal waste made up all of the remaining 91.7 percent, more than 844,000 metric tons.
  5. Registered local landfills serve as the endpoint for the majority of publicly-collected waste, but rural areas with little access to public collection services discard their waste in the far-more-common illegal landfills which do not follow sanitation standards. There are only 43 registered landfills in Republika Srpska and 44 in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but nearly 590 known illegal landfills. In legal and illegal dumping alike, the separation of hazardous and non-hazardous materials rarely occurs, posing a significant problem for public health in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  6. The unsafe conditions in a residential landfill in the city of Mostar, in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, provoked protests in 2019. Although it has existed since the 1960s as a landfill for household waste, recently it has allowed companies to dump dangerous waste products and sewage treatment sludge. Locals deeply concerned by news that the waste might contain hazardous toxins called PCBs prompted Mostar authorities to initiate an investigation.
  7. Despite some legislative efforts to follow the EU’s environmental standards, garbage pollutes Bosnia and Herzegovina’s rivers. The civil war in the 1990s resulted in the neglect of the country’s waste management infrastructure. A scarcity of recycling facilities has led to trash islands that now clog the country’s rivers. Locals report that organizations remove an estimated 800,000 tons of trash from the Drina river alone every year.
  8. In 2018, public waste utility KJKP Rad announced the planned construction of a recycling facility for electronic and electrical waste in Sarajevo, the country’s capital. The facility will also accept the city’s solid waste, construction waste and even soil. A hall containing presses and conveyor belts will process the waste brought by Sarajevo locals. Though electrical and electronic waste collection companies already exist, KJKP Rad’s new facility will be the first in the country to recycle waste deposited on site.
  9. In October 2019, the Sarajevo Canton Assembly discussed the creation of a waste incinerator as a solution to the canton’s waste management issues. Though the facility’s construction cost approximately 122.8 million euros, the incineration of waste would not only improve sanitation but also efficiently generate energy for the city. This prospective facility would greatly relieve the burden on the Smiljevići regional waste management center and would be one more step toward improving Bosnia and Herzegovina’s waste management and sanitation.
  10. International attention is also being directed at sanitation problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina. An initiative to improve the country’s waste management infrastructure with support from the Swedish development agency SIDA and the World Bank began in 2016 and offers several strategies to improve the system. Proposed policies include the design of a more feasible data-reporting system, expanding the trash collection fleet, designing and implementing better organized and less expensive waste collection systems, ensuring greater stakeholder involvement in waste management initiatives, improved communication with citizens, implementation of environmental taxes and even tariff reform. With additional time and data, authorities hope that these strategies will improve sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Since gaining independence in the 1990s, sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina has remained a problem. Public health hazards that also threaten economic stability emerged from the neglect that comes with political upheaval. Nevertheless, efforts made to address current shortcomings, such as the construction of new recycling and incineration facilities, herald a brighter future for sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country in Central Asia with a population of 6.4 million. Since its independence from Russia in 1991, Kyrgyzstan has had unstable political conditions, leading to poor health conditions. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Kyrgyzstan.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Kyrgyzstan

  1. The average life expectancy in Kyrgyzstan is 71 years. For men, life expectancy is around 68 years, while women generally live 75 years. This represents a significant increase over the last 10 years, rising from an average of 67.7 years in 2010. However, the life expectancy in Kyrgyzstan still remains below the average in Asia, which is 79 years. It also falls behind other Central Asian countries, as the average life expectancy in Central Asia is 70 years for men and 76 years for women.
  2. The mortality rate for children under 5 in Kyrgyzstan is 20 per 1,000 live births. Comparatively, the average mortality rate for children under 5 in developing countries in Europe and Central Asia is 11 per 1,000 live births. Still, Kyrgyzstan has made much progress on reducing the mortality rate for young children over the past 20 years; in 1990, the mortality rate for children under 5 was 65 per 1,000 live births.
  3. Ischemic heart disease is the leading cause of death and disability in Kyrgyzstan. The rate of ischemic heart disease in Kyrgyzstan is significantly higher than the rates in other low-and-middle-income countries. In fact, 4,628.7 per 100,000 deaths in Kyrgyzstan are caused by ischemic heart disease, while the average rate for other low-and-middle-income countries is 3,036.7 per 100,000 deaths. The second most common cause of death in Kyrgyzstan is stroke.
  4. Kyrgyzstan’s sanitation and drinking water services have a significant impact on the health of its population. Around 93 percent of the population has access to basic sanitation services and piped water services reach 58 percent of the nation. Additionally, the practice of open defecation is not found in the country, contributing to more sanitary conditions.
  5. As of 2015, the maternal mortality rate in Kyrgyzstan is 76 per 100,000 live births. Maternal mortality has remained high in the nation for the past two decades, barely decreasing from 1990 when the maternal mortality rate was 80 per 100,000 live births. This is in spite of the fact that 99 percent of all births in Kyrgyzstan are attended by a skilled professional.
  6. In Kyrgyzstan, there are approximately 1.9 doctors and 6.4 nurses per 1,000 people, according to World Bank data from 2014. This is lower than the average for low-and-middle-income countries in Europe and Central Asia, which is approximately three physicians per 1,000 people. Kyrgyzstan has made improvements, however, as the rate was approximately 2.5 doctors per 1,000 people in 2008.
  7. Kyrgyzstan has made reforms to its health care system three times since 2001, with the goal of improving the availability and quality of medical services. A mandatory health insurance fund has been in place since the 1990s and on average people in Kyrgyzstan pay 39 percent of the total cost of their health services. However, a lack of pharmacy price regulation and the devaluation of the national currency led to a 20 percent increase in co-payments for reimbursed medicine in outpatient care increased between 2013 and 2015, driving up out-of-pocket costs.
  8. Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Health and Mandatory Health Insurance Fund will implement a new Primary Health Care Quality Improvement Program between 2019 and 2024. This program is largely funded by the World Bank, which is contributing nearly $20 million. Alongside this program is the country’s new health strategy for 2019-2030: “Healthy Person – Prosperous Country.” The government of Kyrgyzstan recognizes that strengthening the primary health care system is essential to improving lives, particularly for the impoverished.
  9. The impoverished — which account for 25.6 percent of the population — and those living remotely in the mountains are most likely to experience malnutrition in Kyrgyzstan. UNICEF estimates that 22 percent of all child deaths occur due to malnutrition and almost 18 percent of all Kyrgyz children are malnourished. Malnutrition causes stunting, low birth weight and vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can have a life-long effect on one’s health and wellbeing.
  10. Education is also an important factor contributing to health and life expectancy. In Kyrgyzstan, education is mandatory for nine years between the ages of 7 and 15. UNICEF notes that many children drop out after grade nine when this mandatory education ends, as only 59 percent for boys and 56 percent for girls attend upper secondary school. Quality of education is another challenge for the nation, with more than 50 percent of children not meeting the basic level of achievement in reading, math and science.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Kyrgyzstan shed light on health and living conditions in the nation. With new health initiatives being undertaken in the country, there is hope that life expectancy rates will continue to improve.

Navjot Buttar
Photo: UNICEF

HIV AIDS Epidemic in South Africa

South Africa has the world’s largest HIV/AIDs epidemic. The government has issued numerous HIV prevention programs in an effort to educate the public, reduce the annual number of new infections, and, eventually, eliminate the disease.

History of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in South Africa

South Africa’s first reported cases of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, emerged in 1982 among homosexual men amidst Apartheid. Due to the political upheaval and repression by the government during Apartheid, HIV was ignored, thus allowing the virus to spread rapidly throughout the homosexual community among men. HIV was almost exclusively diagnosed in gay men until 1987 when there was a sudden increase in women being infected with the virus. The opportunistic microbial infection was credited with being spread as a result of poverty, limited primary health care, lack of education, and sexual exploitation and violence against women. It was not until the early 2000’s that the government recognized HIV/AIDs as a major issue after HIV rates with pregnant women soared from 1 percent in 1990 to over 30 percent by the beginning of the next decade.

Prevalence of HIV/AIDs Epidemic in South Africa

In 2018, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa rose to an estimate of 7.1 million South Africans affected by the disease, with 240,000 new diagnoses, and 71,000 AIDS-related illnesses. The disease is most prevalent among marginalized groups: sex workers account for 57.7 percent of HIV cases, gay men at 26.8 percent, and drug addicts at 1.3 percent. Additionally, there is an estimate of 280,000 children who have contracted the disease from their mothers; HIV prevalence is four times greater in women and young girls due to gender-based violence and transgender women are twice as likely to be infected by the virus than gay men.

Solutions to the Epidemic

Despite the initial negligence to the HIV/AIDs epidemic of South Africa from the government, South Africa aims to reduce the number of new infections to under 100,000 by 2022. The government has made great efforts to resolve the issue by executing awareness campaigns, encouraging HIV testing, distributing condoms, and implementing HIV prevention programs. In 2018, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa rose to an estimate of 7.1 million South Africans affected by the disease. There have been large improvements in the choice of antiretroviral medicines and the widespread accessibility of the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission, or PMTCT, program. As of 2016, mother-to-child transmission rates have fallen from 3.6 percent to 1.5 percent between 2011 to 2015, meaning the country is on track to completely eliminating MTCT.

Due to the 2010 national HIV Testing and Counselling (HTC), campaign and the 2013 HTC Revitalisation Strategy—which focused on encouraging people from the private sector, rural areas, and higher education to test—more than 10 million people in South Africa get tested for HIV every year.

As of 2016, only 5 percent of South African schools provided sex education, but the government has committed to increasing this number to over 50 percent by 2022—especially in high-risk areas. The government has adopted UNAIDS 90-90-90 strategy: By 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status; 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy; and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression. Thus far, 90 percent of South African’s know their HIV status, 68 percent are on treatment, and 87 percent are virally suppressed. Factually, South Africa has made significant progress in reducing HIV amongst the population, and they are on track to eliminate the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa.

– Arielle Pugh
Photo: Wikimedia

Sanitation in AfricaAccording to rehydrate.org, “One flush of your toilet uses as much water as the average person in the developing world uses for a whole day’s washing, cleaning, cooking and drinking.” This is the case in the second largest continent on Earth: Africa. It is home to bountiful wildlife, hot sun, and cultural life; but unfortunately, clean water and sanitation are not as boundless of a commodity. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Africa to explain the depth of the issue.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Africa

  1. One of the starkest of the 10 facts about sanitation in Africa is just how widespread the problem is. Of the 54 countries in Africa, 16 have less than 25 percent sanitation coverage. While statistics vary depending on the country, the bottom line is that it isn’t an isolated issue. Nearly 45 percent of all people in Africa will face unclean sanitation conditions in their life.
  2. Not only is this an uncomfortable way of life, poor sanitation is a key cause in many of the prevalent diseases in Africa. Diarrhea, cholera, dysentery and typhoid are all transmitted by unclean water and account for a large majority of infant deaths. More than 315,000 children in Africa die annually from diarrheal diseases that result from a lack of sanitation. Providing clean water and proper sanitation could reduce diarrhea by 15 to 20 percent.
  3. A lack of clean drinking water causes more than disease. Multiple problems like swelling of the brain, seizures, kidney failure, and comas are extreme results of continuous dehydration. Additionally, daily life becomes much harder to live when basic needs like hydration are not first fulfilled. It’s hard to think and perform at your best when you are constantly thirsty.
  4. When water is available in most rural African villages, it is often in far away locations. This leaves children and women forced to walk many miles a day in order to access water. The United Nations estimates that Africa loses nearly 40 billion hours per year due to collecting water- roughly equivalent to a whole year of labor from France’s entire workforce. This is time that could be dedicated to education or pursuing careers if enough clean water was easily accessible for all.
  5. Most of Africa has yet to see a strong private sector develop for water and sanitation. Having a sturdy and ethical private sector would lead to a growth in affordable sanitation services for many people.
  6. Many issues with poor sanitation lie in the age-old cultural practices common in rural regions of Africa. Open defecation is one of the biggest of these. Though this is largely because of a lack of toilets and waste management systems, even when these systems are put into place, people’s beliefs must change with the infrastructure. Proper education and awareness is necessary to overcome sanitation habits ingrained in many people’s daily routine.
  7. Ultimately, governments of each individual African country must prioritize providing clean water and sanitation to their population for largescale progress to be made. It is encouraging to note that South Africa has made this a high priority goal and has already seen an improvement of 62 percent to 82 percent of households gaining access to improved sanitation.
  8. Having a lack of clean water makes life physically unbearable. Finding clean water takes precious time of out people’s lives. Drinking unclean water causes diseases and more physical discomfort. As a result, poverty in areas of poor sanitation remains stubborn. People cannot escape the vicious cycle of poverty without first having their basic needs met. Only when clean water becomes freely available can people in these places of Africa have enough time, energy and health to pursue a poverty-free future.
  9. One of the greatest bright spots in 10 facts about sanitation in Africa is the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. Created by Bill and Melinda Gates, the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge asks innovators to create affordable solutions to poor sanitation in developing countries. As a result, 20 different engineering companies created low-cost and sanitary toilets. These projects still need work being implemented on a large scale, but nevertheless they offer hugely promising results for our future world.
  10. Along with this hopeful initiative, other improvements to sanitation in Africa have been made. Open defecation has dropped from 32 percent in 1990 to 25 percent in 2006. Additionally, between the years of 1990 and 2006, 146 million people in Africa gained access to sanitation. Finally, in 2006, 354 million of the 1.2 billion people in Africa used an improved sanitation facility.

– Hannah Stewart
Photo: Wikimedia

Global Water CrisisWater is a fundamental resource for the sustainment of human life. The accessibility of clean water throughout many underdeveloped countries is rapidly becoming a detrimental humanitarian problem, a direct result of exponential population growth. And with such swift consumption, usable water sources are quickly drying up and diminishing. Over the past couple of years, daily conservation of water has become a global plea to help preserve water sources for future generations. This may seem like a bleak issue, but there is hope. Many corporations and nonprofit organizations around the world are invested in ending to the global water crisis. Here are eight companies working to end the global water crisis.

8 Companies Invested in Putting an End to the Global Water Crisis

  1. charity: water – Founded in 2006, this nonprofit organization is working to end the global water crisis by providing clean drinking water to citizens in 24 developing countries. charity: water focuses on three methodologies for providing clean water to communities in need: hand-dug wells, drilled wells and rainwater catch equipment that collects the water and sanitizes it. In addition, by collaborating with a number of local partners, the organization has funded more than 24,000 successful water projects as of 2018. Instead of just accepting donations, charity: water inspires people to start their own campaigns to raise money for clean water. Overall, the organization’s efforts have benefitted approximately 8.2 million people and counting.
  2. Global Water Challenge – The Global Water Challenge, also known as the GWC, is part of a leading team of organizations heavily invested in bringing clean water, for both consumption and hygiene purposes (WASH Sustainability Program), to each corner of the globe. While the GWC’s programs benefit entire communities, women’s empowerment is an important area of focus. After all, women are typically responsible for spending a huge portion of their days gathering water to sustain their families. Thanks to its public-private partnerships, the organization has reached more than 1 million individuals to date.
  3. water.org – The organization’s WaterCredit Initiative works with local businesses to provide loans to people who lack adequate water and sanitation resources. The organization mainly works with people through financing safe access to water in efforts to diminish the global water crisis, more sustainable methods and have effectively enabled more than 25 million people to obtain access to clean water and sanitation services.
  4. Drop in the Bucket – Similar to the previous organization, Drop in the Bucket also operates on a community loan basis to fund wells.  The organization has built 300 wells in schools in East Africa since its founding in 2006, recognizing this area as one in need when seeking to address the global water crisis.
  5. PepsiCo – Through partnerships with NGOs such as WaterAid and 2030 Water Resources Group of the World Bank, Pepsi has made it a priority to invest in ending the global water crisis. The company is focused on helping developing communities in the United States, Latin America, India and China by offering strategic grants that teach various methods for effectively conserving water. As of the middle of 2018, the company has donated $40 million to these organizations.
  6. The Nature Conservancy – One of the biggest charitable environmental organizations in North America, the Nature Conservancy concentrates its efforts on the preservation of land and water sources. The organization works in three continents — specifically focusing on Europe, as well as in Latin America and India. With more than one million members actively working to conserve natural landscapes through science and technological means, this group instills hope for future generations.
  7. UN Water – An arm of the United Nations, this agency works in more than 30 countries to provide clean water and sanitary techniques to assist the underprivileged. UN Water uses a data-driven approach to effect change in the countries where it operates.
  8. World Resources Institute – The World Resources Institute (WRI) is focused on the “mapping, measuring and mitigating global water challenges.” One of the organization’s current projects utilizes aqueduct systems as a method for preserving and sustaining water sources. The group is also working to rehabilitate ecosystems, to lessen the burden on diminishing water sources. The WRI is active in more than 50 countries and has global offices in Brazil, China, Europe, India, Indonesia, Mexico and the United States.

– Joanna Buoniconti
Photo: Flickr

Hope for Slums in Kenya

A homeless child is wandering the streets of the largest slum in Africa. The child steals a mango, his meal for the next two days. An angry mob seeks justice and starts beating the hungry child. For some reason, a man saves the child from further punishment by paying for the mango. The man carried on with his day, but that boy’s life was changed forever. His name is Kennedy Odede and he is the founder of the multimillion-dollar nonprofit organization called Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) to create hope for slums in Kenya.

Odede was forced to the streets at the young age of 10 because of poverty and violence in his family. After being saved from the angry mob, Odede met a Catholic priest who helped him go back to school. In addition to school, Odede was working a factory job that paid him only $1 for 10 hours of work. The kindness from strangers in the face of these struggles is what inspired Odede to create Shining Hope for Communities as a way to give back to his hometown and help the urban poor.

SHOFCO started in 2004 with, “passion, 20 cents and a soccer ball.” The grassroots organization works to transform urban slums into communities of hope. They do this in three ways. The first is by providing life-saving services like healthcare and clean water. As a grassroots organization, they also promote collective action, so that the struggling communities can advocate for lasting change. Finally, SHOFCO also works to educate young girls and allow them to be leaders because they are the key to advocating for and maintaining positive change in Kenya and Africa’s slums.

Here are a few ways that SHOFCO has benefited Kibera:

  • Over 500 students received free education from kindergarten to eighth grade
  • SHOFCO created 24 water kiosks that provided low-cost water to over 30,000 Kibera residents
  • The water kiosks served around 300,000 people in the region

The progress SHOFCO has made in Kenya and other African nations are remarkable. Grants and donations are SHOFCO’s main source of funding. They have yet to receive foreign aid, but the possibility of funding from the Kenyan government is looking more likely. SHOFCO could give hope for slums in Kenya and so many other slums in Africa if they received foreign aid. The impact that they have already made is astounding and they can only go up from here. In 2018, SHOFCO had some remarkable achievements:

  • Over 90 percent of students passed their KCPE exam which is an exam given at the end of primary school
  • The average school score on the KCPE was a B+
  • SHOFCO trained almost 1,500 new entrepreneurs

Fifteen years ago a boy who had struggled for most of his life started an organization that would change the lives of thousands. From earning $1 for 10 hours of work, Kennedy Odede used 20 cents of that dollar to create SHOFCO. With his amazing passion and kindness, SHOFCO has given hope for slums in Kenya. Together, Odede and SHOFCO have provided essential services to the poor and empowered young girls and women to create lasting change.

Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr

 

Advances in Cambodian Health Care
Cambodia is a country located in Southeastern Asia, bordering Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and the Gulf of Thailand. The Khmer Rouge regime and its actions brought the nation’s mostly positive trajectory to a definitive halt in the 1970s. However, the nation has been rebounding. The recent advances in Cambodian health care illuminate the country’s gains and foreshadow the possibilities for this economically developinging country.

Cambodia’s regression in the 1970s was significant in its health care field. This is because the Khmer Rouge explicitly targeted the educated and elite in Cambodia during the reign of the regime. In fact, one could easily qualify the regime’s activities as genocide. By the end of the regime’s four-year rule, it is estimated that only 12 doctors remained in Cambodia.

Regardless of the strife and hardships Cambodians faced, those in Cambodia have not lost faith. The Cambodian health care system has made advances from a multitude of angles. Through its work with NGOs and making advancements within its own government by way of reform, Cambodia is developing a just and proper health care system.

Transform Healthcare Cambodia

There are a variety of NGOs offering assistance with the health care crisis in Cambodia. Transform Healthcare Cambodia’s work highlights these efforts. The goal for Transform Healthcare Cambodia is to protect the region from diseases the Southeastern Asian population do not receive treatment for.

With Khmer Rouge eliminating almost all of the country’s doctors, the number of doctors has remained limited. However, by training physicians to diagnose, treat and manage diseases prominent in the region, the organization is taking action against diabetes and many infectious diseases plaguing the region.

The charity accomplishes this by sending its partners to Battambang Provincial Hospital where they train the Cambodian staff in instances of health care. In turn, the existing staff trains future medical professionals.

Governmental Reforms

A health care system is only as strong as the government that supports it. That is why the Second Health Sector Support Program Project (HSSP2) has taken on the task of governmental reform in Cambodia. By improving the coverage and quality of health care, it gives the government a quality guideline to uphold.

By supplying and supporting these health programs, it gives the health care system legs to stand on. Since its involvement, the project has accomplished much in the region, including the following:

  1. Newly trained professionals have successfully delivered 85 percent of babies in Cambodia.
  2. Vaccines administered to children increased by 10 percent from 2010 to 2015.
  3. All of Cambodia’s impoverished receive health care, at approximately 3 million people.
  4.  HHSP2 has added 121 health centers, five health posts, 79 delivery rooms, 15 maternity wards and one pharmacy.
  5. The project has improved water quality, electricity, sanitation and 280 preexisting health centers.
  6. The project established 12 non-communicable disease clinics.

Through strife, struggle and hardship to the extent of genocide, the Cambodian people have persevered. Although Cambodia still requires much work in regards to regulating and sustaining its health care system, the advances the country has made are a clear indicator of growth and a sign of a brighter future.

– Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr