Information and stories on health topics.

Organizations Fighting for Children's Health
There is a clear link between poverty and health. Often, unreasonable health care costs can send people spiraling into poverty. On the other hand, those already living in impoverished conditions are less likely to have access to sufficient medical treatment, increasing the probability of disease. Children, being particularly vulnerable to disease, illness and malnutrition, require sufficient medical and nutritional resources. Annually, nearly six million children die before their fifth birthday due to malnutrition and an additional two million children die from preventable diseases because of an inability to afford treatment. These organizations fighting for children’s health are working to combat those eight million preventable child deaths.

Organizations Fighting for Children’s Health

Children International

Children International has fought for children’s health since 1936 and is working towards meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number three for 2030. Children International focuses on impoverished children with the belief that breaking the cycle of poverty at an early age will “impact generations to come” and end global poverty. By working with the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) to measure the results of its programs, Children’s International is finding that its work is making health services both more affordable and available as well as improving children’s health knowledge and confidence in their health habits. Children’s Health has made progress by:

  • Sharing important health information to children and families.
  • Creating supportive learning environments to practice new health habits.
  • Managing health clinics in areas lacking sufficient medical facilities.
  • Working to reduce costs with established medical facilities in impoverished areas.

Save the Children

Focusing on well-researched, evidence-based solutions for children’s health, Save the Children aims to make big, lasting changes to global poverty by working for better funding at the national, regional and global levels for children’s health and well-being. Its Every Last Child campaign seeks to provide all 15 million of the excluded impoverished children with health care and quality education by 2030. By recognizing the link between mothers’ and children’s health, Save the Children has identified that maternal actions such as breastfeeding for the first six months, appropriate birth care and sufficient newborn care avert anywhere from 13 percent to 40 percent of preventable deaths. Save the Children has accomplished these in regard to children’s health:

  • Treated 2.4 million malaria cases.
  • Administered care for 1.6 million pneumonia cases.
  • Cared for 1.9 million diarrhea cases.
  • Provided sufficient nutrition for 547,000 acute malnutrition cases.
  • Directly provided medical attention to 282,000 kids suffering in emergency situations.

These organizations fighting for children’s health are focusing efforts on the ground to give direct support to the impoverished. Better distribution of wealth and resources to ultimately create power structures focused on a system of true equality will have the most lasting results. About 2.4 billion people (a third of the population) still lack access to a medical facility. Without this crucial access to quality health treatments, it becomes increasingly difficult to eliminate global poverty. Proper health care is foundational to lifting children and their families out of poverty.

– Amy Dickens
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in LatviaLatvia is a country in the Baltic region of Europe. It has a population of about 1.9 million people. Statistics demonstrate that living conditions in Latvia are improving at a slow rate, but that Latvia also still has its fair share of problems. Listed below are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Latvia.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Latvia

  1. Poverty rates are going up. In 2017, 23.3 percent of Latvia’s population was at risk of poverty. This increased from a rate of 22.1 percent in 2016. Growth in Latvia’s poverty rate is part of an upward trend of poverty since 2010, in which the rate was 19 percent. The growth may be a result of high emigration rates, causing a shrinking workforce.
  2. Employment is increasing. Latvia’s rate of employment has improved over recent decades. For instance, the employment rate was 49 percent in 1991 and increased to 55.1 percent in 2017. This is relatively slow, but significant progress. The employment status of a Latvian citizen factors heavily into their aforementioned risk of poverty. Only 8.1 percent of employed people were at risk of poverty, whereas the risk is approximately 59.5 percent for unemployed people.
  3. GDP is low but growing. Latvia has the fourth-lowest GDP in all of the EU, falling below the average GDP per capita of 28,900 PPS for the EU in 2015, with an average GDP per capita of 18,600 PPS. Though low, this is part of an overall increase in GDP over the past decade, with a peak growth rate of 6 percent in just one year’s time.
  4. Income inequality. Though there is an improvement to Latvia’s GDP, the country still has significant income inequality as well. For example, the highest 10 percent of the country holds 26.1 percent of the income, whereas the lowest 10 percent has only 2.5 percent of the income.
  5. Low rates of violent crime. Latvia has a relatively moderate to low crime rate. For instance, the country has a very low homicide rate of 3.4 per 100,000 people. Most crimes committed are non-violent crimes of opportunity, such as burglaries, pick-pocketing and credit card fraud. The prison population per 100,000 people is 239.
  6. Education. Another aspect of living conditions in Latvia is its compulsory education system. As a result, the country has a high rate of enrollment. The gross enrollment ratio for primary school is 98 percent. Furthermore, 112 percent for secondary school (a rating of more than 100 percent indicates repeating students outside of the appropriate age group). The literacy rate of citizens ages 15 or older is 99.9 percent, which is on par with the EU’s average, Furthermore, all schools have access to the internet, ensuring a high-quality education.
  7. Health. Life expectancy in Latvia is 74.7 years, making it one of the shortest average life expectancies found in the EU. However, this has improved by about five years, from an average life expectancy of 69.1 in 1990. Latvia also has a relatively low infant mortality rate of 3.9 per 1,000 live births, down from 13.1 in 1990. Latvia has a universal health care system.
  8. Human development is high. The Human Development Index (HDI) is a quantitative measurement of factors such as life expectancy, standards of living and employment, measured by the U.N. The HDI for Latvia is 0.847, which ranks it at #41 out of 189 countries. This categorizes it as having very high human development, thus reflecting one aspect of good living conditions in Latvia. The HDI score is also a massive improvement over its record low of 0.667 in 1993.
  9. Latvians are optimistic. Eurofound surveys have demonstrated that life satisfaction in Latvia has increased from a metric of 5.6 in 2003 to 6.3 in 2016 (on a scale of 1-10). Happiness has increased to an average of 7 from 6.5. Additionally, 69 percent reported optimism about their future. Not only that, 77 percent reported optimism for the futures of their children or grandchildren. Comparatively, in 2003, 76 percent said that they found difficulty in making ends meet. However, that metric has decreased to 53 percent in 2016.
  10. Gender equality. Latvia ranks in 41 out of with a Gender Inequality Index (GII) of 0.196 as ranked by the UNDP. Women have close to the same secondary education statistics as men. For example, 55.2 percent of women are in the workforce, compared to 63.7 percent of men. In regard to parliament, women hold 16 percent of parliamentary seats. Though there is still room for improvement, this is significant progress from Latvia’s 1995 GII of 0.411.

Overall, these top 10 facts about living conditions in Latvia demonstrate that the country has improved significantly in various areas since the 1990s. Though Latvia still has areas that need additional attention and work, the country is on a consistently upward trend of progress and human development.

– Jade Follette
Photo: Flickr

 

Benefits of Needle-Free VaccinesThere are many different methods of non-traditional vaccines or needle-free vaccines that are being produced and becoming more available every day. For example, these include dry powder vaccines or patches. Most notable are jet injectors. Jet injectors use a large amount of pressure and fluid to breach the skin in a very fast motion. These vaccines are effective for usage in countries with extreme poverty because traditional vaccines need to be refrigerated. They also require a way to keep needles sterile. These five benefits of needle-free vaccines detail on how to solve these problems and more.

Five Benefits of Needle-Free Vaccines

  1. Jet Injectors Have Been Around for a Long Time: Jet injector technology might sound new, but it’s not as new as one would think. These kinds of shots were administered back in World War II. In fact, they were actually used through the 1980s until it was discovered that they were spreading diseases. This was due to the fact that the technology hadn’t been developed enough. Until it could be, the jet injectors had to stop being used. Now they have made jet injectors to be single-use, so there is no risk of spreading diseases between patients.
  2. They Require Fewer Resources: Jet injectors have been the most popular method of needle-free vaccines as they tend to use far less of the actual vaccine. This is arguably one of the most important benefits of needle-free vaccines. Jet injectors use up to 60 percent less vaccine than traditional needle vaccines. This is particularly helpful when there are shortages. Because jet injectors use a significantly less amount of the vaccine, it is also a cheaper option. For instance, the cost is $3-4 per vaccine or even $900 for 500 vaccines.
  3. They Are Less Painful: Another problem with the traditional vaccine is that it can cause pain in patients. This can become especially difficult when patients need multiple shots. Furthermore, those who fear needles are less likely to get a vaccination. On the pain scale, a pain score of three is when a person indicates that they are in some pain. This is important to know because when 100,000 subjects were given the jet injection, they had a pain score of zero. This painless injection allows for an alternative to the needle as it can easily administer multiple shots without pain. Lower pain scores are one of the key benefits of needle-free vaccines, as they allow the device to reach the broadest swath of patients possible.
  4. Less Risk of Injury After Disposal or Use: Needlestick injuries are another key problem with traditional vaccines. Needlestick injuries are injuries that happen when a needle accidentally penetrates the skin. The people that are exposed to these injuries are people who work with and around needles. Additionally, this can also happen to people like garbage-men when needles are not disposed of properly. When this kind of injury happens, they can transmit: HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and AIDS. With the invention of jet injections, the risk of these injuries is reduced to nearly impossible as these injections need intense pressure to be administered.
  5. They Are More Efficient: The reason these jet injectors were being used in wars was that they are a faster and more efficient way of administering vaccines. Now that the technology has advanced over the last 70 years, these injections are less painful, more sanitary and now even faster. The injection lasts 1/10th of a second. It’s actually so fast that patients can barely feel it. This is helpful for those people in countries with extreme poverty as they are able to administer a lot of vaccines in a short amount of time.

With these benefits of needle-free vaccines, it’s clear this is the direction that the world should be headed in. They are cost-effective, sanitary, fast and nearly painless. As a result, access to vaccines could be provided to third-world countries at a more effective and reliable rate as they don’t need refrigeration and clean water.

– Ian Scott
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in NigeriaNigeria, Africa’s most populated country, is having a mental health crisis. Many developing nations fall prey to mental health traps, and this West African country is no different. Developing nations spend too little, if any, resources on mental healthcare, and their nation’s population suffers because of it. Healthcare in Nigeria, especially for those with mental health issues, is poorly managed, underfunded and outdated. Here are five facts about mental health in Nigeria.

Five Facts about Mental Health in Nigeria

  1. With a population of 181 million, it is estimated that as much as 30 percent of the population suffers from a mental illness. This means that more than 54 million people are dealing with mental illness with little to no help. In comparison, the Center for Disease Control estimates that 54 million is the same number of people who are diagnosed with arthritis in the United States.
  2. In Nigeria, fewer than 10 percent of those battling mental illness have access to mental healthcare. Access is mainly limited to cities, leaving the rural areas without resources for psychiatric care. Since half of the population of Nigeria live in rural areas, those people do not have access to mental healthcare. Those people are turning to self-medication, self-diagnosis and misunderstanding or denial of their symptoms. Many of those without help are children and adolescents.
  3. There has not been an update to the laws regarding mental health in Nigeria since 1958. These laws are outdated and contradict decades of mental health research. This is how it is possible for the Nigerian government to spend only 4 percent of its annual budget on healthcare.
  4. Depression is the most common illness that affects mental health. In a global survey, Nigeria ranked 15 in the number of suicides per year. In another survey, Nigeria was ranked the most depressed country in Africa. Despite the government’s inability to manage mental health in Nigeria, there is hope.
  5. MANI, or the Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative, is the largest and most successful NGO fighting mental illness in Nigeria. This group focuses on ending the negative stigma surrounding mental health in order to increase the demand and the resources for psychiatric care. MANI has been successful since its inception in 2016 by using the internet and social media to spread awareness as well as providing a suicide and distress hotline.

MANI has grown its following from 500 to more than 20,000 Nigerians, spreading the word across the country about the free mental health services that it offers. MANI is providing an important resource for mental health in Nigeria, but until NGOs like MANI gain more traction, those struggling with a mental illness will continue to find a lack of support and continued opposition to changing laws surround mental healthcare.

Kathryn Moffet
Photo: Flickr

Breast Cancer in Developing CountriesWomen in developing countries lack access to safe and cost-effective breast cancer screening practices, leaving cancer frequently undetected. As a result, three times as many women in low-income, developing countries die each year due to breast cancer compared to developed countries. A team of young women from John Hopkins University is working to change this disparity and save lives through the creation of a new biopsy device.

Early Detection: A Better Chance for a Cure

Great strides have been made in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer in developed countries. More than 80 percent of women diagnosed in North America, Sweden and Japan survive. However, the situation is far different for women in the developing world. Less than 40 percent of women diagnosed in developing countries survive the disease, according to the WHO. This disparity in fatalities can be attributed to a lack of early detection. Studies in Europe and Canada found that the risk of breast cancer death decreased by more than 40 percent among women who underwent early diagnostic screening. In the U.S., data reveals the widespread use of early detection procedures and a 39 percent decrease in U.S. breast cancer fatalities after the 1990s.

Screening for Breast Cancer in Developing Countries

In 2003, the World Health Survey found that only 2.2 percent of women aged 40 to 69 years received breast cancer screening in low- to middle-income nations. More than half of women newly diagnosed with breast cancer in those nations have already progressed to stage III or IV disease. In the United States, 71.5 percent of women aged 50-74 have been screened within the past two years and over 90 percent of recently-diagnosed women have locoregional breast disease.

Why Aren’t Women Screened?

One of the main factors preventing women in low- to middle-income countries from early breast cancer detection is the high cost of screening procedures. Core needle biopsy (CNB) is a common diagnostic procedure that allows doctors to test a sample of breast tissue from the area of concern. In high-income countries, doctors use efficient and expensive disposable CNB drivers for breast biopsies. Low-income countries often cannot afford the same expense, relying instead on reusable drivers. These drivers are easily contaminated and the cleaning process is extremely time-consuming and costly, rendering breast cancer biopsies unavailable to most women in developing countries.

Ithemba: Hope for Women with Breast Cancer

A group of Johns Hopkins undergraduates won a 2019 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for their creation of a safe, low-cost, reusable breast cancer biopsy device. After learning of the unsafe and inefficient diagnostic methods in developing countries, the team of four young women set out to create a safe and cost-effective CNB driver. Their device is named Ithemba, the Zulu word meaning “hope.” the CNB driver is centered around increasing women’s access to early breast cancer diagnosis. The device’s disposable needle contains a chamber that traps contaminants and is easily sterilized with a bleach wipe, ensuring safe reuse. Ithemba is expected to last up to 20 years before replacement is necessary.

The Johns Hopkins students have conducted over 125 stakeholder interviews. They predict that within the first five years on the market, Ithemba will impact the lives of 300,000 women in developing countries. In May of 2018, the team filed for a patent and are now searching for low-cost manufacturing methods and finalizing estimated costs.

Valerie Zawicki, one of the four undergraduates on the team, insists that the location of a woman’s home should not determine her odds of surviving cancer. The mission of Ithemba is to give all women—no matter where they live—hope with the chance to fight and survive breast cancer.

– Sarah Musick
Photo: Wikimedia

health care system in Senegal The health care system in Senegal is focusing its reforms on expanding the range of health services offered. For example, increasing access to traditionally underserved populations and introducing social protection measures.

Health Care Sections and Structure

Both private and public health sectors exist in Senegal. Employees receive coverage from the IPM (Institut de Prévoyance Maladie) Health Fund, a public health care system in Senegal. In fact, employers have the responsibility of providing health care to employees.

However, employees must contribute to the workplace for at least two months before receiving coverage. Some services of these health care systems in Senegal include partial coverage of pharmaceutical and hospital costs, primary care, vaccinations and emergency treatment.

The public health care system in Senegal includes a Social Security department, but the responsibility of health care and employment are not inclusive. Therefore, if an individual is not employed but wants to receive public healthcare services, they have the option to use Welfare services, which covers primary care. On the other hand, private health services are also available for those unemployed, not receiving health care services.

Addressing Access to Health Care Services

While the health care system in Senegal is improving, there is still a lack of effort to address health disparities within the population. As a result, only 32 percent of rural households have access to regular health care.

Many organizations are working to provide aid ensuring wider access to health care in Senegal. For example, Health Systems Strengthening, a program stemming from USAID, is working to establish a performance-based financing project in six regions in Senegal. Additionally, it is working to provide services to three-quarters of the population.

The Role of International Aid

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also providing health care services in Senegal. Their initial focus is on providing medical services for HIV/AIDS through the HIV sentinel surveillance program. Widening their goals for the health  care system in Senegal is due to the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative of 2006 and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief of 2010.

Work in Senegal

In 2015, the Global Health Security Agenda, in partnership with the CDC was able to establish an office in Senegal. Through this, there has been additional development of networks and partnerships. For example, the CDC is now working with the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health and Social Action.

Furthermore, IntraHealth is an organization working in Senegal for over a decade. Their goal is to help increase services for family planning and education about Malaria. So far, training has been provided for more than 1,000 workers. These workers specialize in family planning services. On a broader scale, 15,000 home visits throughout Senegal have. been conducted; Ultimately, to raise awareness about Malaria.

Overall, groups, such as USAID and the CDC are working with the government to address the health care system in Senegal. In partnership, there are increasing quantities of awareness and involvement.

– Claire Bryan
Photo: Flickr

Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus
The silent killer, otherwise known as maternal and neonatal tetanus, is a life-threatening bacterial infection in newborns and their mothers that is associated with nonsterile delivery and cord-care practices. Although it is vaccine-preventable, when tetanus develops, mortality rates are extremely high. This is especially true when the appropriate medical care is not available, which is often the case in low-income counties. In 1999, there were 57 countries where tetanus posed a considerable risk for women giving birth. Today, that number has dropped significantly, but maternal and neonatal tetanus remains a public health threat in 13 countries: Afghanistan, Angola, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen.

Kenya has put in great effort to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus where it once was a common problem. The commitment the country made has drawn global attention and is inspiring other countries to do the same.

Kenya’s Initiative

As of 2018, Kenya has been removed from the list of countries that sees maternal and neonatal tetanus as a public health threat by attaining elimination status. Elimination is only attained when there is a reduction of neonatal tetanus incidences to below one case per 1,000 live births per year. Kenya’s progress towards achieving this important public health milestone began in 2001, proving that this process takes time. A pre-validation assessment took place in Kenya in September 201 by the Ministry of Health with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. A WHO-led validation process took place in 2018 to confirm the elimination of the disease.

Eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus takes a lot of planning, and Kenya has set a great example. In 2002, Kenya introduced a five-dose tetanus toxoid vaccination schedule and in 2003, the country began to implement immunization campaigns in high-risk areas. Kenya also focused on providing free maternity services to increase skilled birth attendants. Over time, they began including tetanus toxoid vaccines into the routine antenatal care packages. Today, Kenya is still working on strengthening health facilities and resources and plans to provide free medical care to children under five years of age.

The involvement of schools is another factor that helped Kenya eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus. Aliaphonse’s Katuit primary school is a prime example of the success seen from the campaign. Ann Talam, one of Katuit primary school’s teachers, explained in an interview with UNICEF that the campaign not only reaches members of the student body but also their sisters or relatives who may not attend school. Education ensures that all girls, even those from poverty-filled communities, are immunized.

Kenya’s Impact

Reducing deaths from neonatal tetanus is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to reduce the neonatal mortality rate. As of 2012, Kenya’s immunization coverage for newborns protected against tetanus reached 73 percent — and it continues to rise. WHO estimates a 94 percent reduction in neonatal deaths from 1988, when an estimated 787,000 newborn babies died of tetanus within their first month of life.

As Kenya eliminates maternal and neonatal tetanus, it has inspired the country to combat other diseases as well. They plan to identify the unreached and design an innovative approach to reach these populations with immunizations. On February 22, 2019, WHO representative, Dr. Rudi Eggers, addressed the recent measles outbreak in the country, attributing it to lapses in the routine immunization system since the previous measles and rubella outbreak in 2016.

“There is an urgent need for all stakeholders to come together and work to increase immunization coverage and address inequities,” Eggers said.

The Kenya campaign also aims to vaccinate nearly 14 million children between the ages of nine months and 14 years — nearly 40 percent of the population — for other common viruses.

Since Kenya’s elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus, more than 153 million women around the world have been immunized with two or more doses of vaccines fighting against tetanus. The Eliminate Project, funded by the Kiwanis Children’s Fund, plans to learn from Kenya’s success and use it to inspire other countries to follow their lead. In 2018, The Eliminate Project raised a total of $502.282.72 to save and protect mothers and their babies worldwide.

Along with planning and taking initiative, Kenya recommends planning outreach activities for remote places, promoting delivery in health facilities and strengthening knowledge of health workers on the immunization schedule. Kenya sets an example of how small changes can overcome the silent killer of maternal and neonatal tetanus.

– Grace Arnold
Photo: Flickr

 

HIV/AIDS in Zambia
Zambia is a tropical country in southern Africa with a population of approximately 16,445,079 people. It has a rich history of copper production and is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. However, HIV/AIDS has become prevalent throughout Zambia and is a large contributing factor to the country’s low life expectancy, which currently ranks second to last in a global comparison.

HIV, or the human immunodeficiency virus, attacks a person’s immune system by destroying white blood cells that fight disease and infection. Though there is no cure for HIV, people can control it successfully. Without proper medical care, the infection can lead to AIDS, which is the most severe phase of HIV infection.

The Current State of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Zambia

Heterosexual intercourse is what mainly drives Zambia’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. HIV/AIDS particularly affects adolescent women compared to other age groups in Zambia. In fact, according to data collected by UNAIDS, one million women between the ages of 10 and 19 were living with HIV in 2017, while only 770,000 of their male counterparts had the same prognosis.

This discrepancy is due in part to the many societal issues that permeate throughout the lives of Zambian women. Younger Zambian women are more likely to have an older partner already infected with HIV. Additionally, many Zambian women are not in charge of their own reproductive health or education.

In fact, only 56 percent of Zambian women are literate. Meanwhile, the country only has a contraceptive prevalence rate of 49 percent. Both issues decrease a Zambian woman’s ability for education on the matter, as well as the ability to prevent pregnancy and the eventual exposure of HIV to a fetus in the womb.

Other marginalized Zambian groups disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS are children, sex workers and prisoners. According to UNAIDS, an estimated 8,900 children were newly infected with HIV in 2016 due to perinatal transmission. Perinatal transmission refers to when a mother passes HIV to her child during pregnancy, labor or breastfeeding. Meanwhile, sex workers and prisoners had HIV prevalence rates of 56.4 percent and 27.4 percent respectively.

The Future of HIV/AIDS in Zambia

Zambia is currently taking steps towards decreasing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the country. The first step has to do with prevention and education. According to the 2014 Zambia Country Report, the country’s provision of free condoms nearly doubled from 7.8 million to 19.6 million.

Additionally, according to the National AIDS Strategic Framework (NASF), comprehensive sex education will become a larger focus for adolescent Zambians within forthcoming years. Furthermore, several HIV prevention programs are active in Zambia and focus on empowering the country’s most susceptible population — young and adolescent women. Zambia is one of 10 countries that takes part in the DREAMS initiative, which strives to reduce new infections among women by addressing structural inequalities and gender norms.

Though Zambia has recently scaled up its efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, it needs to do more to effect real change. Zambia’s domestic spending on HIV/AIDS only takes four percent of the overall budget, despite having risen drastically within the past few years. Even if Zambia were to spend this portion of the budget on providing ART, testing facilities and eMTCT services, a real societal change would not occur unless communication in Zambia health care systems increases. Zambia must see to the general population being educated about adhering to treatment, getting tested regularly and exercising effective prevention techniques.

There is much room for improvement when it comes to fighting HIV/AIDS in Zambia. However, by increasing access to education and focusing upon marginalized groups — such as young women — the prevalence of this infection in Zambia will drastically decrease.

– Shreya Gaddipati
Photo: Flickr

Top Ten Facts About Living in Croatia
Nestled between Bosnia, Herzegovina and Slovenia, Croatia is a small country in Eastern Europe with an extensive history. Once a part of Yugoslavia, Croatia officially declared its independence in 1991 and became a fully developed country in 1998. Despite the country’s tumultuous beginnings as an independent nation, it has established itself fairly well as a developed nation. Keep reading to learn about the top 10 facts about living conditions in Croatia.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Croatia

  1. Ninety-nine percent of children attend primary school, which is split into two stages: grades one to four and grades five to eight. After primary school, children receive the option of stopping school or obtaining a secondary education. There are three options for secondary education in Croatia including grammar schools, vocational schools and art schools. After completing any of these options and receiving a Certificate of Education, students may enroll in a university.
  2. Croatia requires people to have a public health insurance plan as of 2002 which is funded via tax collections. While the quality of medical care in Croatia is good, the country is facing a financial problem due to low fertility rates in relation to the older population. To help combat this burden, doctor’s appointments, hospital visits and prescription medications require co-payments.
  3. Taking the bus is the most efficient way to travel in Croatia. The railways are not up-to-date and run slowly, whereas the bus systems are well-developed and fairly priced. Other travel options throughout Croatia include flights, coastal ferries and of course, driving.
  4. A portion of Croatia’s population (24.4 percent) is obese, ranking the country 59th in the world for obesity rates. The large reliance on transportation to get around the country may be a cause.
  5. Up until the 1990s, Croatia’s population was steadily increasing. In the 1990s, however, the population underwent a significant demise in population growth due to displacement from war, emigration to countries like the United States, Australia and Canada and increased deaths. As of 2018, 40 percent of the Croatian population is between the ages of 25 and 54, which places stress on both the majority population of older citizens and the minority population of younger citizens.
  6. Formerly a communist state up until 1990, Croatia’s economy has shifted to market-oriented capitalism. This shift was not easy due to the lasting effects of war in the country, leading to high unemployment rates lasting into the 21st century. Additionally, Croatia’s war-torn past has allowed the country to sustain an informal economy and has led to the emergence of a black market.
  7. Unemployment is prevalent among young Croatian citizens in particular, with 27.4 percent of people between the ages of 15 and 24, and 12.4 percent of the total population living without work. However, the government’s economic reform plan — scheduled for implementation beginning in 2019 — may lead to more job opportunities.
  8. Croatia largely depends on its imports in terms of resources and power. It uses up more oil and gas than it can produce, and while it has enough rivers to potentially use hydroelectric power, Croatia receives the vast majority of its electricity as imports. Croatia has begun efforts to implement the use of liquefied natural gas by early 2020, planning to redistribute this LNG throughout southeast Europe.
  9. Croatia had no organized armed forces when the country declared its independence in 1991 but subsequently formed an army, a navy and an air force. The country is not very militaristic and relies mostly on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for national security after joining the Treaty in 2009.
  10. Croatia is not a significant haven for refugees, though refugees do use it as a transit country. Between 2015 and 2019, roughly 672,418 refugees and migrants passed through Croatia. However, as of June 2018, the country only had about 340 asylum seekers actually residing in Croatia.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Croatia make it clear that despite progress, the country still has work to improve the quality of life for its inhabitants.

– Emi Cormier
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Health care in CambodiaThe Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia is currently experiencing its worst in maternal mortality rates. In Cambodia, maternal-related complications are the leading cause of death in women ages 15 to 46. The Minister of Health has created several partnerships with organizations such as USAID to help strengthen its healthcare system. Here are five facts about women’s health care in Cambodia.

Top 5 Facts About Women’s Health Care in Cambodia

  1. Health Care Professionals and Midwives
    USAID has provided a helping hand when it comes to educating healthcare professionals and midwives. Since USAID’s partnership with the Ministry of Health, USAID has helped raise the percentage of deliveries assisted by skilled professionals from 32 percent to 71 percent. The Ministry of Health was also able to implement the Health Sector Strategic Plan to improve reproductive and women’s maternal health in Cambodia.
  2. Health Care Facilities
    Between 2009 and 2015, the number of Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (CEmONC) facilities increased from 25 to 37. With more access and an increase in healthcare facilities, 80 percent of Cambodian women are giving birth in health care facilities.
  3. Postpartum Care
    The Royal Government of Cambodia renewed the Emergency Obstetric & Newborn Care (EmONC) Improvement Plan and extended the Fast Track Initiative Roadmap for Reducing Maternal and Newborn Mortality to 2020. This aims to improve women’s health care in Cambodia to improve the lives of women living with postpartum depression. It is also used to improve newborn care and deliveries.
  4. Obstetric Care
    Obstetric care has improved rapidly. According to a 2014 Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey, 90 percent of mothers receive obstetric care two days after giving birth, and three-quarters of women receive care three hours after. Intensive obstetric care has helped drop Cambodia’s maternal mortality rate significantly. In 2014, Cambodia’s maternal mortality rates decreased from 472 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2005 to 170 deaths per 100,000 live births.
  5. U.N. Women
    U.N. Women is working closely to help address the AIDS epidemic in Cambodia. The organization’s efforts to reduce the epidemic focus on protection and prevention. In 2003, 3 percent of Cambodian women reported being tested for AIDS. It has also been observed women in urban areas are more likely to get tested than those in rural areas. Ultimately, Cambodia has set a goal to eradicate AIDS from the country by 2020 through prevention and protection.

Cambodia has seen much economic growth over the years, but the money provided for health care is minimal. Consequently, it is difficult for the government to provide all services. However, there have been great strides in improving women’s healthcare in Cambodia. By fighting to better the lives of women, the Cambodian government has set a goal to establish universal health care by 2030.

Andrew Valdovinos
Photo: Flickr