Information and stories on health topics.

Tuberculosis in UkraineThe tuberculosis epidemic in Ukraine is characterized by drug-resistant tuberculosis strands. Among new tuberculosis cases in 2019, 27% involved drug-resistant tuberculosis and thousands of other cases were classified as multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Ukraine suffers from close to the highest rate of MDR-TB in the world. Tuberculosis in Ukraine is only successfully treated at a rate of 76% for various reasons, including patients stopping treatment prematurely, further complications, the high prevalence of MDR-TB and receiving treatment too late.

Current Efforts

In an effort to reduce the burden of tuberculosis in Ukraine, USAID is working with U.S. government agencies and other partners on various projects. Many programs have been introduced in recent years to strengthen the fight against tuberculosis in Ukraine. For example, the Management Sciences for Health (MSH) implemented the Safe, Affordable and Effective Medicines for Ukrainians (SAFEMed) project to ensure transparency and cost-efficiency within the Ukrainian health system. The programs work to increase public access to medicines and commodities essential to treating tuberculosis. Moreover, PATH, a global nonprofit working to improve public health, began the USAID-supported Serving Life Project to reduce the spread of tuberculosis and other diseases by improved detection. Serving Life specifically aims to increase the care and treatment of people living with tuberculosis in pre-trial detention centers, prisons and post-prison settings.

The Transportation Problem

Affordable medication and proper detection are the first steps in the fight against tuberculosis as “timely access to diagnosis and treatment make a difference in tuberculosis care.” However, many parts of Ukraine suffer from lacking specimen transportation systems. With inefficient or even nonexistent systems, the fight against tuberculosis in Ukraine becomes more difficult as these systems delay access to tuberculosis testing and treatment.

The failures in specimen transportation have potentially increased the already high rates of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, a tuberculosis strand much more challenging to treat. This is because multidrug-resistant tuberculosis arises from the incomplete treatment of tuberculosis, occurring when public health systems are unable to deliver reliable and consistent tuberculosis treatment to patients. Strains on the healthcare system only exacerbate these inefficiencies as the system becomes overloaded. For example, when COVID-19 reached Ukraine, COVID-19 treatment received priority. As a result, many tuberculosis patients were forced to resort to their own methods of specimen transport.

USAID Introduces New Transportation Plan

When USAID’s Support TB Control Efforts in Ukraine activity began in October 2019, Ukraine’s lacking specimen transportation system was identified as one of the weakest links in the fight against tuberculosis in Ukraine. USAID then began a functional transportation system in the Cherkasy Oblast of Ukraine in June 2020. The program uses USAID-provided coolers to preserve specimens in transport and works to plan more flexible and adaptable transportation routes. As a result, transport vehicles are now able to do rounds four times a week while also ensuring weekly delivery to and from each primary healthcare facility. While the program began in Cherkasy, it has expanded to seven other oblasts in Ukraine within less than a year of the program’s inception.

With efforts from organizations to address the tuberculosis epidemic in Ukraine, it is hopeful that Ukraine will see its case numbers dropping.

Kendall Carll
Photo: Flickr

vaccinating Zero-dose childrenGavi, the Vaccine Alliance has partnered with Save the Children to expand the reach of vaccination efforts and health services for vaccinating zero-dose children. Millions of children around the world go without routine vaccinations every year, creating dangerous situations in developing nations plagued with diseases such as pneumonia and measles. The partnership intends to address this problem through a coordinated response of immunization programs to reach children in the most disadvantaged places on Earth.

The State of Global Child Vaccinations

There has been an undeniable trend of progress in global child vaccination rates over the past several decades. The rate of children fully vaccinated against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus stands at 85% today compared with 20% in 1980. Likewise, the rate of vaccinations protecting against measles and polio rose from less than 20% in 1980 to 85% in 2019, while rates of vaccinations for rubella rose from less than 10% to more than 70% in the same period of time. However, despite the obvious progress in child vaccinations, there is still a sizable portion of children who are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated, leaving them susceptible to life-threatening diseases.

Approximately 20 million children are either under-vaccinated or completely unvaccinated across the globe, with more than 60% of this number coming from just 10 countries including Nigeria, Ethiopia and Pakistan. About half of the 20 million receive no routine vaccinations whatsoever, making them zero-dose children. These children overwhelmingly live in developing nations, many of which are high-intensity conflict zones. More peaceful areas in developing nations still lack adequate infrastructure and millions of children living in remote and marginalized communities have little or no access to healthcare.

The Risks for Zero-Dose Children

Zero-dose children are some of the most vulnerable people on the planet as they are easy targets for life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia, measles and HPV. Pneumonia kills more than 800,000 children every year, making it the leading infectious cause of preventable child deaths in the world. It is a treatable disease, and if diagnosed early, pneumonia treatment over a three-to-five day period can be successful using antibiotics costing just $0.40. However, in low-income countries lacking access to clean water, healthy diets and affordable healthcare, it is a life-threatening disease as almost all child pneumonia deaths occur in developing nations.

Other major diseases of concern to zero-dose children include measles and HPV. Global measles cases are on the rise again, reaching levels not seen in more than two decades. In 2019, the world reported about 863,000 cases of measles compared with only 360,000 the year before. This alarming escalation turned even worse with the arrival of COVID-19 as many countries had to suspend immunization services and programs leaving even more children unable to get vaccinated. Furthermore, while the rate of global HPV vaccinations has steadily increased for several years, fully-vaccinated girls only make up about 15% of the world with many developing nations lacking any vaccination programs. These low coverage levels around the world mean the likelihood a child born today will have all necessary vaccinations by age 5 is less than 20%.

The Partnership

Thankfully, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and Save the Children plan to make a global impact with a vaccination program intended to reach zero-dose children. Save the Children already works in developing nations by training and supporting frontline healthcare workers, delivering life-saving medicine and improving immunization coverage. Gavi will leverage this existing presence to expand immunization programs for vaccinating zero-dose children. The partnership between the two organizations will work by sharing key learnings and best practices to explore adding vaccinations to current treatments of pneumonia, malaria and malnutrition for children in low-income communities.

This program will build on the healthcare successes of Save the Children in developing nations and expand the reach of vaccinations to Gavi-supported countries such as Angola, the Republic of the Congo and Cameroon. Immunization efforts will prioritize fragile and high-conflict areas but other locations with major immunization gaps will also receive aid and vaccination increases. Additionally, the partnership will address vaccine hesitancy among parents by implementing community-based education programs and will continue the advancement of COVID-19 vaccination access in developing nations. These efforts stand to make an immense difference in developing nations and millions of children and their families stand to benefit, as do entire communities, as higher levels of immunizations lead to less infectious diseases.

The Road Ahead

Although health innovations in the past half-century have contributed to a major decrease in preventable child mortality rates, there are still far too many children who die from infectious diseases and many of these children are completely unvaccinated. In response to this situation, Gavi and Save the Children have teamed up with efforts in vaccinating zero-dose children in the world’s most impoverished nations. By building on the successes of current operations and introducing vaccinations into existing health programs, the partnership will strive to decrease the immunization gap and continue making headway toward the global goal of no zero-dose children.

Calvin Nordhougen
Photo: Flickr

Migrant workers in Lebanon
For decades, the Lebanese economy has relied heavily on migrant workers to supplement the workforce. The economy provided necessary domestic services and filled up low-level positions in retail, salons and hospitality. The kafala system, a program that encourages employers to hire migrant workers in Lebanon, fueled a sense of dependence on migrant workers in various industries. This institution creates great racial and economic inequality. The employers abuse the migrant workers and offer them substandard pay and inhumane working conditions. This immense disparity worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. The employers placed workers in unsafe situations, forcing them to endure terrible conditions with the imminent threat of job termination.

Refugees and the Kafala System

Currently, refugees and migrant workers make up a quarter of Lebanon’s population. This renders them an extremely valuable sector of society. Tensions between local-born Lebanese citizens and refugees developed during past years. Lebanese individuals and armed forces committed several acts of violence against refugees out of spite and anger. In addition, nearly 90% of Syrian refugees become unemployed and unable to meet housing costs in 2020. Employers fired domestic migrant workers at an alarming rate since the pandemic.

The Anti-Racism Movement found that Lebanese employers terminated their migrant workers, likely due to racial bias. Nevertheless, gaining Lebanese citizenship as a migrant worker is nearly impossible. Due to an antiquated nationality policy set up during the French mandate, only children born to a Lebanese father may obtain full legal status as a Lebanese national. Thus, no feasible pathway exists to permanent residence and legal protection for migrant workers in Lebanon. They end up at the mercy of their employers to keep them in the country.

Medical Inequality Among Migrant Workers

For many migrant workers, medical inequality has become especially prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the cruel implements of the kafala system, migrant workers rely on their employers to provide them with legal residency status. Without Lebanese nationality, these workers do not have entitlement to these benefits that other people within Lebanon possess. Lack of health coverage discourages these migrant workers from seeking out medical help and accessing the treatments they need to ensure their personal wellbeing. As unemployment has continued to rise, thousands of migrant workers are left with no healthcare or legal status. They must return to their home countries, despite the potential endangerment that awaits them.

In an international relations briefing by Natasha Hall, the author notes that “ensuring that people are not prioritized for medical treatment by nationality, as medicine disappears from shelves and intensive care units fill up, is another serious concern.” Migrant workers in Lebanon end up not being able to access treatments due to a lack of insurance and inadequate financial means. This is similar to the United States and other countries that experience inequality. Lebanon faces economic complications, such as inflation rates rising and banks refusing to withdraw money for their customers. It has become nearly impossible for people to obtain the medications they need. Lebanon sustains its medication supply due to imported drugs. Due to the trade challenges facing the nation, Lebanese citizens cannot obtain medicine for their health conditions.

Hope for an End to Migrant Worker Inequality

The kafala system is extremely ruthless. It puts migrant workers at a socio-economic position far below the average Lebanese citizen. This caused a public outcry, sparking change and encouraging reform to the system. According to the Human Rights Watch, “Amendments to the system [in 2020] provide guarantees for workers including 48-hour work weeks, a rest day, overtime payment, as well as sick and annual leaves. Workers can now terminate their contracts without their employer’s consent.” Increased regulations have provided an added layer of protection to the rights of migrant workers in Lebanon.

Luna Khalil
Photo: Flickr

The Top 5 Health Tech Companies in SpainThe world of health technology has been growing exponentially in the last decade and continues to grow, especially with the novel coronavirus still affecting the world. One of the most prominent locations for health technology is in Spain. The industry has a large quantity of health tech company startups in Spain; high-quality companies are making new drug discoveries for treatments and creating virtual therapies that can help those in impoverished areas receive the medical care they need. Here are the top five health tech companies making strides in Spain.

The Top 5 Health Tech Companies in Spain

  1. Elma Care is an app that combines comprehensive health insurance with remote medical consultations. This great new resource emerged in Barcelona, Spain, in 2017. Elma Care is one of the top five health tech companies in Spain because the app keeps all of a patient’s medical information in one place, allows consultation with primary care physicians remotely and offers tools like preventative medicine plans to help people access healthcare with more ease and efficiency. All of this is possible from the comfort and safety of the home, allowing for social distancing during the current global pandemic.
  2. Devicare is a specialty biotech company that focuses on chronic diseases. The company, founded in Barcelona, Spain, strives to develop solutions for the treatment process of chronic diseases. The company also offers a mentoring service with a team of experts and nursing staff. Often, chronic diseases involve a multitude of doctor visits and, in many cases, few answers. However, Devicare offers a cheaper and easier way of treating chronic diseases.
  3. Savana Medica provides a platform in which the clinical data for patients from healthcare organizations can be managed. EHRead, a form of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, technology, can obtain valuable health information that aids medical professionals in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. It is one of the top five health tech companies in Spain because this technology fosters quick and efficient access to records, which can help doctors understand a patient’s history of disease and illness.
  4. Genomcore is a company that has created an interface that stores a patient’s genetic information. Founded in 2015 in Barcelona, Spain, the platform that Genomcore provides for patient information can be efficiently shared with medical professionals when necessary. Genomcore helps foster more personalized treatment for patients and consequently the possibility of faster recovery from illness.
  5. Mediktor was founded in 2011 but has made a new name for itself due to increased use during the pandemic. Mediktor is an app that gives symptom assessments to patients via their own personal devices before even seeing a medical professional. In March 2020, the company released the COVID-19 symptom checker. With Mediktor, people were able to determine, with great accuracy, whether or not they needed to see a medical professional in relation to COVID-19 symptoms.

The top five health tech companies in Spain are instrumental to the world of healthcare today. While many people have restricted access to needed medical attention, these new technologies can change that.

– Grace Aprahamian
Photo: Flickr

COPE NepalCOPE Nepal is a youth-led organization that collects and analyzes information about COVID-19 in Nepal to help coordinate efforts to send resources to Nepalese communities hardest hit by the pandemic.

COVID-19 in Nepal

There is no country that has not felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nepal included. The first case of COVID-19 in Nepal was detected on January 23, 2020, and the first case of COVID-19 that was locally transmitted was detected nearly two months later on April 4, 2020. On March 9, 2021, the country’s total COVID-19 case count reached 274,869 and total deaths reached 3,012.

Due to an inadequate healthcare system, COVID-19 is particularly concerning in a developing country such as Nepal. After the detection of the first local transmission, Nepal took significant steps to limit COVID-19 transmission. However, difficulties arose due to cases with unknown origins and overwhelmed quarantine centers. Self-isolation became the only option, which is harder for the Nepalese government to regulate.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a negative effect on Nepal’s economy. In the last fiscal year, Nepal’s economy contracted for the first time in 40 years. Tourists were not allowed to climb the country’s famous peaks due to COVID-19 restrictions, hurting an economy that is highly dependent on tourism. Furthermore, as a result of school closures and other factors, child marriage is on the rise in Nepal, threatening to reverse progress made toward keeping girls in school.

COPE Nepal

As Nepalese colleges and universities transitioned to remote learning and many young adults found themselves in a state of uncertainty, they embraced creativity and innovation. COPE Nepal is an organization that formed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A group of university students from data analytics, branding and communications backgrounds created COPE Nepal with the goal of collecting, presenting and disseminating data about COVID-19 in visual formats. According to the co-founder of COPE Nepal, Anup Satyal, the COVID-19 lockdown opened up more opportunities to make a meaningful impact in Nepal.

COPE Nepal’s Strategy

COPE Nepal’s strategy consists of four parts which are outlined in the acronym COPE:

  • Coordinate efforts and responses with local government and NGOs
  • Operationalize and allocate resources
  • Personalize the COVID-19 response to each location
  • Evaluate strategies and results on a daily basis

COPE Nepal has published a total of four reports showing the progression of COVID-19 in Nepal in a way that is easily understood by policymakers and average people. These reports are also easily accessible on the humanitarian information portal ReliefWeb.

On Instagram, COPE Nepal posted calls for individuals to share their accounts of the conditions in government quarantine facilities. Its Instagram also includes graphics and data from the four published reports and information about COVID-19 safety such as how to properly dispose of personal protective equipment (PPE).

A group of talented Nepalese university students started COPE Nepal out of a desire to help their country better respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. As Nepal transitions out of lockdown, COPE Nepal’s data collection and dissemination is important to ensure vulnerable populations are sufficiently protected from COVID-19.

Sydney Thiroux
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Cuba
Cuba is home to an impressive school system that aids the fight against child poverty. This developed as a result of the communist government which made a point of increasing literacy rates and education overall. Despite these efforts, child poverty in Cuba continues to affect the youngest inhabitants of the island.

During the “Special Period” after the fall of the Soviet Union, Cuba experienced widespread food insecurity and a lack of essential materials such as gas for transportation and medicine. Cubans refer to this time period between 1991 and 2000 as the “Special Period” because of the abrupt decline in food security. The situation began to improve when, in 2000, Venezuela began aiding the island. Today, the effects of the “Special Period” continue to affect child poverty in Cuba.

The Health of Children in Cuba

Examining the health of children can be helpful in indicating how severe child poverty is in a country. According to the UNICEF country profile for Cuba, in 2019, 5.1 children per 1,000 live births under the age of 5 died. In comparison to the lowest rates in the world in countries like Iceland and Norway, Cuba has substantial room for improvement. It is important to note that since the year 2000, the under-5 child mortality rate has dropped from 8.769 children per 1,000 live births to the 2019 rate.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has cited the most common causes of under-5 child mortality as infectious diseases, birth anomalies and complications. Notably, infectious diseases are often treatable and preventable. In Cuba, infant mortality is falling but perinatal disorders cause 80% of deaths.

In Cuba, the Global Nutrition Report found that only 17% of children aged 0 months to 59 months received hydration treatment when they had diarrhea. This is concerning considering that WHO cites diarrhea as a leading cause of under-5 child mortality. In 2014, the World Bank reported that 60.9% of children who had diarrhea in the two weeks preceding the survey received treatment. This implies that more than one-third of children who have diarrhea do not receive treatment in Cuba.

Additionally, low birth weights are rising slightly in occurrence in Cuba. A graph in the Global Nutrition Report depicts the trend. Between 2000 and 2010, the prevalence of children with low birth rates dropped. In 2010, 5.2% of children were born underweight and in 2015, reports stated that 5.3% were underweight. This change is small but may signify poor nutrition for expectant mothers, affecting the size of their children upon birth.

Education in Cuba

Education, another measure of the severity of child poverty, provides promising numbers for Cuba. Mass education of the public is a main focus of the Cuban government as a result of its campaign against the U.S. and has been since the 1959 Cuban Revolution. The reported numbers show that this focus has paid off in terms of mass education, though.

Poverty can significantly affect education. A study reported that poverty can affect how ready a child is for school and whether they can succeed academically. Cuban children are generally doing well in schools. UNESCO reported a decrease in illiteracy (the report determined that only 1,933 people aged 15-24 were illiterate in 2012). These rates are a reflection of the education system when those people were learning literacy.

The Novak Djokovic Foundation reported that primary school is compulsory in Cuba. This means that a vast majority (UNICEF reported that 99% of children complete primary school) of Cuban kids attend school. This statistic implies that many kids do not complete primary school.

Despite this effective system, one can see child poverty in Cuba through education as well. UNICEF reported that only 48% of children under the age of 5-years-old have more than three age-appropriate books in their household.

Solutions

Foreign charities are working in Cuba to help meet impoverished children’s needs. Specifically, the organization Inspire Cuba worked on a project called Shoes That Grow, which provided shoes to children in Havana, Cuba. These shoes are adjustable so that a child can use them for up to five years. Meanwhile, the MDG Achievement Fund has been working with the Cuban government to fight anemia in Cuba. The program the MDG Achievement Fund implemented is called the Joint Programme, which has been attempting to increase Cuban people’s access to food filled with micronutrients. Finally, while no in-depth descriptions exist of what social programs the Cuban government enacted to fight food insecurity, organizations such as the World Food Programme (WFP) have cited that social programs largely eradicated hunger and poverty on the island, including the poverty and hunger of children.

As previous reports have noted, Cuba has made advancements in the education and health of its children (decreasing under-5 mortality rate and high literacy rates), overall reducing child poverty in Cuba. It is important to note that while child poverty in the country has improved, holes still exist in the system, such as a lack of diarrhea treatment for sick children and limited educational materials. However, through continued efforts, child poverty in Cuba should become even less prevalent.

– Susan Morales
Photo: Flickr

Hepatitis BIn a difficult year, 2020 carried some bits of great news for global health and children around the world. The incidence of hepatitis B in children under 5 dropped below 1% in 2019, a huge milestone and a cause for celebration for the public health community around the world. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus spoke positively about reaching the milestone by looking to the future: “Today’s milestone means that we have dramatically reduced the number of cases of liver damage and liver cancer in future generations.” The milestone marks the attainment of one of the Sustainable Development Goals to reduce viral hepatitis to less than 1% prevalence for children under 5 by 2020.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver which can lead to many health problems, the most serious of which being liver cancer. More than 250 million people worldwide are carrying a chronic hepatitis B infection, with 900,000 deaths from the disease occurring annually.

Mother-to-child infection is the most common, making the disease especially damaging to children. Infants are the most vulnerable to the disease — an overwhelming 90% of infected infants under the age of 1 become chronic carriers of the disease. This makes controlling hepatitis B in children very important to global health.

Methods of Control

The best method of prevention is through the hepatitis B vaccine. The vaccine became available in 1982 and prevents millions of hepatitis B cases a year. The timing of the doses is extremely important and three are required to complete the recommended vaccination course. The first “birth dose” is most effective when administered in the delivery room or less than 24 hours after birth. The second dose should follow 28 days thereafter. The third and final dose follows at least four months after the first dose.

The WHO aims to achieve universal childhood vaccination as the vaccine offers lifetime protection for children who receive it at the recommended times. The vaccine is most effective for infants but the vaccine series is still recommended for children up to 18 years old. In 2017, the FDA approved a two-dose vaccine for adults.

Hepatitis B Vaccinations in Numbers

About 85% of children received the recommended three doses in 2019, a remarkable improvement compared to 30% who received it in 2000. The birth dose must be timely as it the most crucial part of the vaccination. This is why timely access to these vaccines is an urgent concern.

Unfortunately, despite rapid improvement, timely access to the birth dose remains unequal. Currently, 43% of children globally receive a timely birth dose. However, this falls to 34% in the eastern Mediterranean region and even further down to a lowly 6% in Africa. This serves as a reminder that, despite significant progress, efforts must continue to completely eradicate hepatitis B in children.

The Road Ahead

While the vaccine is the predominant form of prevention, recent efforts have focused on expanding ways to prevent mother-to-child transmission. The WHO called on countries to test pregnant women for hepatitis B and provide antiviral therapy before the birth of the child, if necessary. This significantly reduces the likelihood of mother-to-child transmission and is one of the key areas of improvement the WHO stresses, along with greater birth dose coverage. While hepatitis B prevention is not yet complete, reaching the 1% landmark is incredibly important and is the result of decades of hard work and effective policy.

Clay Hallee
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in SenegalHIV/AIDS is an epidemic that is most prevalent in Africa. Many countries across the continent are acutely affected or struggle to control the disease. One country that has handled the crisis expertly is Senegal. A low-income country in West Africa, Senegal would look to be a prime candidate for a difficult path regarding HIV/AIDS. However, HIV/AIDS in Senegal is relatively low in cases and in damage.

HIV/AIDS in Senegal

Senegal has become a model for controlling HIV/AIDS across the developing world. The country of 16 million people manages to keep the prevalence and spread of HIV/AIDS low while providing many methods to increase knowledge of the disease. There are only 41,000 people in Senegal living with HIV/AIDS as of 2019.

The prevalence rate of people living with HIV/AIDS stands at 0.4 among adults between 15 and 49, with men having a 0.3 prevalence rate and women having a 0.4 prevalence rate. There were only around 1,400 new cases of HIV/AIDS in Senegal in 2019 and 1,200 deaths. There has been a 37% decrease in HIV/AIDS cases since 2010 and a 26% decrease in deaths. Roughly 70% of people with HIV/AIDS receive antiretroviral treatment. Senegal was the first sub-Saharan country to establish an antiretroviral treatment program in 1998 and is one of the few countries in Africa that provides such treatment for free.

Smart Senegalese Strategies

Senegal’s success is due to several methods of raising awareness about HIV and increasing treatment and prevention plans. Senegal took HIV/AIDS very seriously even in the earliest days of the spread. In 1986, Senegal was one of the first African nations to develop a National Council Against AIDS, which has remained effective and stable. The country was also one of the first to focus on securing antiretroviral drugs and negotiated deals with pharmaceutical companies in order to provide them for free or at a low cost.

The Senegalese government has continued to make HIV/AIDS a priority. In 1992, Senegalese president, Abdou Diouf, showed leadership by asking other leaders to make a commitment to addressing HIV/AIDS at a summit for the Organization of African Unity. This attitude has led to sustained success. Since 1997, Senegal’s HIV/AIDS prevalence rate has remained below 1%, a remarkable achievement as prevalence rates across Africa have frequently soared above 10%.

Senegal’s basic strategy has remained consistent. The country emphasizes awareness, provides medical resources and works with the powerful local regional communities to stop the spread. Public health initiatives including blood screenings, education programs in schools and condom distribution are common. NGOs also provide a lot of help in health initiatives and raising awareness.

Crucial in the success of preventing HIV/AIDS in Senegal is the support of religious leaders and the role of religion. Senegal is a 95% Muslim-based country, and generally, strict adherence to the religion leads to fewer incidents of casual sex and infidelity. In a largely religious country, the words of religious leaders are very important, especially as conspiracy theories around HIV/AIDS are common. Many religious figures talk openly about HIV/AIDS and promote solutions, which lends credibility to the danger of the disease and the government’s efforts to combat the disease.

A Role Model

HIV/AIDS in Senegal is well under control, which should be a great source of pride for the country. Senegal has taken HIV/AIDS seriously since the beginning and has a consistent and effective strategy that keeps the disease largely at bay.

Clay Hallee
Photo: Flickr

University of CalgaryThe University of Calgary (UCalgary), one of the premier research universities in Canada, has been establishing meaningful global partnerships which have produced tangible results. While the university has multiple international campuses and partnerships, the successes of a few have particularly stood out. UCalgary’s global health partnerships with the Mbarara University of Science and Technology and other global health organizations are working to improve health in Uganda and Tanzania.

Healthy Child Uganda

UCalgary’s global health partnerships work with the Cumming School of Medicine. This allows medical students to gain experience and provide much-needed help in health outcomes and projects in Uganda and Tanzania.

One of UCalgary’s most important partnerships is Healthy Child Uganda. Healthy Child Uganda is a partnership between Mbarara University, UCalgary and the Canadian Paediatric Society, with some funding from other universities and associations. It “works with national and district health planners, leaders and communities themselves to develop, implement and evaluate initiatives that strengthen health systems and improve health for mothers, babies and children.” It is based adjacent to Mbarara University’s campus in Mbarara town, Uganda. The Healthy Child Uganda partnership operates in the districts of Mbarara, Bushenyi, Buhweju, Ntungamo and Rubirizi in Uganda as well as two districts of the Mwanza Region in Tanzania.

Healthy Child Uganda was established in 2002. Its multitude of efforts aims to improve health services in Uganda, especially in maternal and pediatric care.

The Impact of Healthy Child Uganda

Since its establishment, Healthy Child Uganda has partnered with local health authorities to train more than 5,000 community health workers for service in almost 1,000 villages in Uganda. Community health workers promote health in their villages, take part in development activities, spread awareness and monitor sick children and pregnant women to see if they need treatment. Healthy Child Uganda shares its training curriculum for community health workers online, providing valuable information to other medical providers. It is also a leader in maternal and child health research, having developed many different practice approaches that have provided models for many other organizations.

Healthy Child Uganda has also worked to combat COVID-19 in Uganda, with funding largely provided by the UCalgary. In the early stages of the pandemic, it was able to provide cleaning products, PPE, handwashing stations, fuel, hand sanitizer and hygiene soap. This was crucial in providing protection in Uganda before provisions came in from Uganda’s Ministry of Health. Healthy Child Uganda also worked to train frontline health workers in fighting COVID-19.

Mama Na Mtoto

The University of Calgary is also a valuable partner in Mama na Mtoto, a partnership that seeks to improve women and child health in rural Tanzania. Mama na Mtoto does its work in the Mwanza Region of Tanzania.

Mama na Mtoto performs many of the same functions as Healthy Child Uganda, just in a different location. It works with the government and existing health facilities to “support communities to adapt and lead activities and innovations that address their own health challenges.”

Mama na Mtoto plans activities that emphasize information and teachings about women and child care, from adolescence to pregnancy. This, therefore, helps to take the burden off of government health services and equip mothers with the best tools to succeed in places where there is little access to health information.

UCalgary’s Successes

UCalgary’s work in Uganda has had tangible results. In 2020, Bushenyi District was recognized as the best performing district for healthcare in Uganda. UCalgary helped this district under Healthy Child Uganda. UCalgary is also working with Mbarara University on another initiative known as HAY! (Healthy Adolescents and Young People in Uganda), which will educate youth on family planning, sexual health, menstrual hygiene and gender-based violence. The University of Calgary is showing how universities can be proactive and provide support that improves health in vulnerable areas.

Clay Hallee
Photo: Flickr

solar-powered iron
India possesses the second-highest worldwide population with 1.2 billion people. Poverty in rural areas leaves local Indians unable to find job security. They instead must resort to street vending. Approximately 10 million street vendors exist in India, with many representing the laundry and textile industries. In particular, impoverished Indian families tend to choose the path of ironing clothes, a lucrative business considering the needs of everyday workers. However, there is one downside of the traditional method of ironing clothes in India: charcoal powers the irons. Luckily, a 14-year-old girl named Vinisha Umashankar recognized this energy source’s impact on the environment and innovated a solar-powered iron to create a renewable alternative to coal in India.

The Importance of Street Vending in India

Two kinds of retail industries exist: organized and unorganized retail. The latter represents the main retail industry in India. Unorganized retailers lead a solid 97% of businesses in the country, including local stores, family-run shops and street vendors. The sector of unorganized retail is the second-largest source of employment in India following agriculture. This demonstrates how much these workers crucially rely on their jobs for financial security. Those who have education but are jobless, or who suffer from poverty, benefit from the consumer familiarity and low-cost structure of the unorganized retail sector. Additionally, Indian small-store retailing generates self-employment relatively easily and does not require much investment in labor, land or capital.

India’s Pollution Problem with Charcoal

Early Indian society used a coal-fuelled iron box to smooth out clothing. Street vendors who iron clothes rely heavily on coal to power their equipment. There are some 10 million ironing carts in India and each cart uses more than 11 pounds of charcoal daily.  Given the hot and dry summers in India, cotton clothing requires washing and ironing on a daily basis. The high demand for ironing is escalating the use of coal and intensifying the smog issue in India.

The monsoon season from June to September poses an additional threat to the quality of the environment. Due to heavy rains, the coal becomes damp, causing an increase in the total weight bought by vendors. The moisture of the water, however, also reduces the warmth the charcoal produces when burned. Also, in the winter, as the price of coal naturally rises, suppliers purposefully add additional water to extend their product. Therefore, intense rain means increased spending on coal for the irons, further intensifying the cycle of Indian poverty.

Coal supplies approximately 72% of India’s electrical needs. The reliance on coal energy presents challenges regarding rising smog levels and respiratory conditions in cities. Coal power plants emit toxic gases and particulate matter that can penetrate human lungs. A reaction between sunlight and the nitrogen oxides that coal-powered plants release causes smog. The more people burn coal, the more smog that will emerge. However, coal is still a cheaper alternative to other, cleaner, forms of energy in India. Most people do not have the means to finance renewable energy.

Vinisha Umashankar’s Solar-Powered Iron

Vinisha Umashankar, an Indian teen with great concerns for the Indian air, developed an alternative to coal-powered irons. She suggested that they use solar-powered irons to harness the energy in the sun. This innovation promises to improve the poverty associated with the ironing industry as well as the environmental issues it causes. India receives enough sunlight to produce solar power 3,000 times more than its total current energy consumption. Her innovation to eliminate the use of charcoal in the ironing industry received the Children’s Climate Prize, comprising 100,000 Swedish krona ($11600) to further aid the project.

Umashankar also developed a solar-powered street cart. Similar to the solar-powered iron, Umashankar designed the model with functionality and cost-efficiency in mind. Individuals can use the cart effectively after only 15 minutes of tutorials. The solar-powered batteries charge in under five hours and last for six hours.

Overall, the goal of the solar-powered iron and cart is to improve the economic and health outcomes of the street vendors working in the ironing industries. In the long run, with further innovation, Umashankar intends to develop a cart prototype with solar panels and batteries that could last up to eight years. This ambitious plan favors sustainability for two parties: vendors and the environment.

Looking Ahead

With innovations like Umashankar’s solar-powered iron, India shows promise for improved environmental conditions and reduced poverty rates. Although expensive, new technologies are constantly emerging and individuals as young as 14 years old are working to prioritize cost-efficiency and sustainability. Given the fact that street vending is a widespread market in India, a solar-powered iron has the potential to transform the harmful coal-sourced iron industry into one that is profitable and environmentally conscious.

– Sarah Frances
Photo: Unsplash