Information and stories on health topics.

antenatal care in IndiaIndia is home to one-fifth of all births but has no monitoring systems for basic maternal health and nutrition. A research brief published by the rice institute finds that India has far worse maternal nutrition rates than sub-Saharan Africa – a region much poorer with higher fertility rates. With improper antenatal care being linked with long term effects on the height, weight, cognition and productivity of a child, global attention has been brought to the antenatal care inequalities found in India.

Antenatal Care in India Today

Access to antenatal care in India depends strongly upon the geographic location and socioeconomic status of expectant mothers. Between 50 and 74 percent of expectant mothers in India receive prenatal care services – with a large gap in the distribution of these services.

According to a study done in 2011, 357,777 women in Delhi received at least three antenatal care check-ups, more than the entire state of Uttarakhand which had 153,202 women receive the same level of care.

Further studies showed that  “some states, such as Kerala and Goa, more than 93 percent of women used ANC [Antenatal Care] four times or more, while in Bihar and Nagaland, this figure was less than 17percent,” highlighting the substantial inequalities of access to antenatal care in India.

Current Government Initiatives

Currently, several government programs are in place to increase access to antenatal care services throughout India but have not shown largely promising results. India’s largest program for improving neonatal health, Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), uses cash incentives to encourage birthing in hospitals.

However, a study done in 2014 found that the cash transferred to new mothers is much less than advertised, due to how much of it goes towards paying for delivery services – which are meant to be free. In addition, this program only encourages women to give birth in hospitals, rather than address pressing maternal health problems in India – such as maternal nutrition and low birthweight.

Meanwhile, the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) government program dispenses 5,000 rupees for expecting and lactating mothers. However, this is only available to first-time mothers.

The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) is intended to give food to expectant mothers and their children but is poorly implemented – with less than 30 percent of women having received food the ICDS program during their last pregnancy.

Looking Ahead

In order to improve access to antenatal care in India, studies suggest “policy and programme managers should shift from improving the ‘average figures’ to the ‘distribution’ of programme/health care indicators across the sub-groups of populations which need them most.”

The rice institute also notes that rather than rely on outdated surveys for indicators of maternal health, the government finally establish a national monitoring system allowing policymakers to view changes in maternal health over time.

With proper government oversight, the future of antenatal care in India looks promising, as suggested by a study published in The Lancet found that mortality rates for neonates declined by 3.3 percent annually between 2000 and 2015 due to government intervention.

– Shreya Gaddipati
Photo: Unsplash

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Benin
Benin is a small country located in the tropical regions of Western Africa. Having established its independence from its former colonial power France in 1960, Benin remains one of the most impoverished counties in the world. Poverty coupled with several other factors has greatly affected the people of Benin in many harmful ways — here are ten facts about life expectancy in Benin.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Benin

  1. The average woman in Benin has a life expectancy of 62.4, and the average man has a life expectancy of 59.7, giving Benin an overall average life expectancy of 61.1. With this average life expectancy, Benin ranks number 163 in the world in terms of life expectancy. The country’s life expectancy has seen a consistently steady increase over the last several decades. Since the end of colonialism in the early 1960s, the country’s average lifespan has gone from 40 years in the 1950s to 61 years in 2019.
  2. Benin’s population is disproportionately affected by several diseases commonly known as “a disease of poverty.” Some of these diseases include malaria (9 percent of all deaths), lower respiratory infections (13 percent of all deaths) and diarrheal diseases (5 percent of all deaths). While many diseases still take a toll on the Benin population, certain tropical diseases that have in the past caused a high number of deaths, such as yellow fever and meningitis, have been either completely erased or greatly reduced, largely as a result of immunization programs in urban areas.
  3. The population of Benin has a very young average age. Persons under the age of 25 accounts for 63 percent of the population. This is common in developing countries since people who possess less wealth tend to have more children on average. Younger generations are expected to live significantly longer than previous generations as the results of steady progress in healthcare and social support systems within the country.
  4. Just like many African countries, there are a limited number of physicians in Benin. Benin only has a 0.15 physicians per 1000 people. While this is relatively high compared to other African countries Niger or Liberia, this ratio still lags well behind most of the Western world.
  5. It is estimated that one percent of adults in Benin, or 67,000 people, have HIV/AIDS. About 2,161 of people with HIV in Benin die every year of the disease (2 percent of all deaths each year), making it the thirteenth most common cause of death in Benin. While HIV is certainly a problem in Benin, its prevalence has been on the decline in recent decades. One study conducted in the 2000s saw a steady decline of the disease both in and around Cotonou; this decline is largely the result of integrated HIV intervention programs designed for sex workers (a population disproportionately affected by the disease). The effectiveness of these programs has led to implementation in other cities in Benin.
  6. Benin has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. Currently, the infant mortality rate in Benin is 52.8 deaths per 1000 births. This places Benin at number 23 in the world ranking of infant mortality rates.
  7. About 4.6 percent of Benin’s GDP is allocated to healthcare. This percentage is significantly lower than most other countries, as Benin ranked 154th in the global ranking of total GDP spent on health expenditure.
  8. Benin has predominantly relied on agriculture as its primary food security, both currently and historically. Several factors including poor soil and lack of modern agricultural technology have hindered agricultural progress in the country and significantly lowered the country’s food security. In fact, one-third of the country’s population lacks food security. The toll of malnutrition has always most impacted Benin’s youth, with 45 percent of children under five affected by chronic malnutrition.
  9. There are large discrepancies related to healthcare access and culture between urban and rural areas within Benin. Rural areas lack the social service infrastructures (such as hospitals and pharmacies) present in urban areas. People in urban areas also benefit from immunization campaigns that provide free vaccinations, and maternity clinics that provide free immunizations for newborn infants. This lack of access to basic healthcare services in rural areas has lead to a higher rate of premature death amongst the rural population in comparison to the urban population.
  10. In recent years, the government of Benin has made several attempts to address the health problems that are leading to a shortened lifespan in its population. The government of Benin has worked with foreign aid organizations to improve the social support systems and overall health of Benin’s population. One recent effort was done with the World Bank which provided Benin with $50 million to support programs related to early childhood development and nutrition.

Continued Progress and Increased Longevity

Over the past several decades Benin has made significant progress in extending the longevity of its population. The expansion of healthcare systems and programs in Benin’s urban areas have extended the average lifespan of the average person in Benin a full 37 years since the colonial era.

These 10 facts about life expectancy display a fair amount of progress in Benin’s longevity efforts, but there is still work to be done. The nation must complement such improvement with development in the overall health and living conditions, as well as work on the disparities between the rural and urban regions of the country.

– Randall Costa
Photo: World Bank

Insulin for Life
Life with Type 1 diabetes can be quite difficult. As any person living with diabetes — including the author — can attest, to live with diabetes means constantly balancing food intake with insulin injections, deciding whether or not to exercise based on one’s blood sugar number, and becoming comfortable with life-or-death situations that arise when one inevitably does something wrong. However, all of these challenges are made even worse if one happens to live in a poor country where diabetes supplies are rare, expensive or both. Fortunately, Insulin for Life gives diabetes supplies to poor countries, giving diabetics around the world a chance to live their lives.

Origin of Insulin for Life

Dr. Mark Atkinson and Dr. Francine Kaufman both specialize in diabetes care, and for many years, they helped diabetics in the U.S. obtain supplies. However, as their careers progressed, they became aware that many diabetics in developing countries lacked access to insulin. The harder they worked to help local diabetics, the more aware they became of diabetics in places like Ghana who could not do insulin injections and, thus, were doomed to die.

Finally, they couldn’t stand it anymore. On August 5th, 2012, the two doctors gathered together a group of board members and founded Insulin for Life U.S.A — the non-profit organization responsible for giving new life to diabetics in low-income countries. The Borgen Project recently had the opportunity to interview Insulin for Life’s Carol Atkinson in January of 2019, and her responses are embedded throughout this article.

About Insulin for Life

Insulin for Life gives diabetes supplies to poor countries such as Mexico or Tonga by accepting donations of unneeded diabetes supplies. These supplies are shipped to the organization’s office in Gainesville, Florida, and then to their international partners and places that need disaster relief.

As of 2018, Insulin for Life gave supplies to Cambodia, Cook Island, Ecuador, Ghana, India, the Philippines, Tonga, Haiti, Nigeria, Cayman, Belize, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Uganda, the Gambia, Liberia, Togo and Rwanda. More countries are sending in applications, but Insulin for Life cannot compile a list of recipients for 2019 until they are sure they can accommodate them all (Carol Atkinson).

Internet Presence & Resource Management

In addition to their website, Insulin for Life has a strong presence both on social media and in disaster relief (Carol Atkinson). This online presence has attracted a number of sponsors, one of which being Total Diabetes Supplies, an online store that sells diabetes supplies ranging from continuous glucose monitor supplies to insulin syringes for pets. Another sponsor is Medtronic, a company that uses and develops biomedical engineering to improve the lives of people in general. All of Insulin for Life’s sponsors work with the non-profit organization to solve the problem of getting insulin to diabetics in low-income countries.

Every year, Insulin for Life sets a supply goal for the amount of insulin and the number of blood sugar test strips they plan on receiving and distributing. In 2018, that goal was 125,000 ml of insulin and 475,000 test strips. By the end of the year, they received 128,808 ml of insulin and 556,384 test strips. There is no official goal posted for 2019 as of this writing, but the eventual goal will be to receive more insulin and test strips than they did last year (Carol Atkinson).

The only supplies that Insulin for Life does not currently accept are pumps and continuous glucose monitor supplies, mainly because many of their recipient countries lack the electricity and infrastructure necessary to run these devices. While they are making plans to eventually start accepting these supplies, they simply cannot distribute them to many of their recipients at this time (Carol Atkinson).

Providing Support for Diabetics

Life with Type 1 diabetes is hard enough without having to worry about whether or not you can get your hands on life-saving supplies. Luckily, Insulin for Life gives diabetes supplies to poor countries whose citizens might not otherwise receive them. This allows diabetics in low-income countries to lead relatively normal lives, a reality that would not be possible without blood sugar and insulin supplies. Thanks to Insulin for Life, a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis no longer guarantees death in developing countries.

– Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Flickr

Typhoid in Zimbabwe
Typhoid fever, a serious disease affecting between 11 and 21 million people worldwide, is commonly found in the developing regions of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Symptoms include high fevers, weakness, stomach pains, headaches, loss of appetite and diarrhea. Severe cases even lead to serious health complications and even death. Typhoid occurs most often in areas with poor sanitation and contaminated food and water. There are 128,000 to 161,000 typhoid-related deaths every year.

Typhoid in Zimbabwe

On 24 February 2018, the Harare City Health Department (HCHD) suspected 3,187 cases and confirmed 191 cases of typhoid in Zimbabwe. This was the latest major typhoid outbreak in Zimbabwe. Most typhoid outbreaks in the capital, Harare, are caused by municipal water shortages and the use of contaminated boreholes and shallow wells. HCHD works to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) throughout the city in order to lower typhoid cases and outbreaks in Zimbabwe. They repair boreholes, fix burst sewers, conduct water testing and sampling and educate local residents about water quality and typhoid.

Resistance to antibiotics creates another problem. Around one in five typhoid patients are already resistant to the common typhoid antibiotics and in some areas, resistance raises to a staggering 73 percent. For example, ciprofloxacin is an antibiotic widely used in the treatment of typhoid. However, 20 percent of typhoid patients in Harare show resistance to ciprofloxacin. Alternative antibiotics are more expensive and less available to patients, and although the sale of these medications without a prescription is illegal, over-the-counter purchases are a common practice.

The Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine

A solution to the problem of ineffective medicine is the typhoid conjugate vaccine (TCV). The current typhoid vaccines can only provide short-term protection to patients and more importantly, cannot be given to children. The typhoid conjugate vaccine can reduce the need for antibiotics and unlike other vaccines, it provides longer-lasting protection, requires only one dose and works for children older than six months. The creation of the typhoid conjugate vaccine is a large step in global health.

Kathy Neuzil, leader for the Typhoid Vaccine Acceleration Consortium at the University of Maryland, said: “I have been in my career for around 25 years but these sorts of opportunities, where everything comes together, don’t happen very often. Here we had a vaccine that had been tested but wasn’t being used. Now it is licensed by the World Health Organization and Gavi is supporting countries to introduce it.” The TCV is making history, especially helping with typhoid in Zimbabwe.

The Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine in Zimbabwe

A major vaccine campaign began in Harare on 22 February 2019. Approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), carried out by Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and funded by Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, this campaign is the first in Africa to use the typhoid conjugate vaccine. It targets children aged from six months to 15 years old, and in high-risk areas, it will provide adults up to 45-years-old with the typhoid conjugate vaccine. By the end of the campaign on 3 March 2019, the typhoid conjugate vaccine will be available to 325,000 people throughout the capital city.

Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, is optimistic about the typhoid conjugate vaccine, saying: “These new conjugate vaccines will be a game-changer, not only in the battle against typhoid but also in the global effort to tackle drug resistance. The fact that they are now ready to be used to contain this devastating outbreak in Zimbabwe is fantastic news.”

Although vaccination campaign will significantly decrease typhoid outbreaks in Zimbabwe, vaccines are only a short-term solution. Completely eradicating typhoid in Zimbabwe will also require sustainable solutions for clean water and improved sanitation and hygiene. Together, the typhoid conjugate vaccine and sustainable WASH measures in Harare and other cities will help control and fight typhoid in Zimbabwe.

– Natalie Dell
Photo: Flickr

FGM Sierra Leon
Female Genital Mutilation in Sierra Leone has recently become a topic of conversation both nationally and internationally since it is one of the 28 African countries that still partake in the practice. The World Health Organization officially described female genital mutilation (FGM) as “procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” The procedure usually involves some kind of cutting or removing of the genital flesh of a female as part of the initiation into womanhood. Several organizations are spreading awareness of the devastating results of this barbaric procedure and working to end this practice once and for all.

Why FGM Occurs?

The reasons for the procedure of FGM depend on the culture, they but usually fall into four categories: psychosexual, as a way to control female sexuality and maintain virginity; sociological and cultural, the practice is viewed as a vital tradition to the cultural heritage; hygiene and aesthetics, as some communities view the external female genitalia as unappealing and unclean; and finally, socio-economic factors since FGM is often a pre-requisite for marriage and the right to inherit.

The procedure is often performed with penknives, razors or even cut glass, and can result in severe pain, bleeding, cysts, infections, complications in childbirth, infertility and in extreme cases, death. The initiation can also often result in psychological issues from the trauma and pain of the event as well as from the inability to experience sexual pleasure thereafter. An estimated 200 million women and girls have undergone the procedure worldwide, with a staggering 90 percent in Sierra Leone.

Challenges in Stopping the Practice

The practice is ingrained into the culture and holds high social significance. In fact, 69 percent of women and 46 percent of men aged 15-49 believe in the continuation of the practice. FGM has been viewed as an initiation into womanhood and has been an important cultural touchstone for the people of Sierra Leone. This makes it difficult to stop the practice, as many see it as socially embarrassing and being unworthy of marriage if they have not received the initiation.

Another challenge faced to end FGM is that many Soweis, who usually perform the initiation, refuse to end the practice as they see it as a threat to the traditions of the Bondo society. They also receive large amounts of money for the initiations and do not want to lose this source of income.

Organizations Working to End FGM

The Amazonian Initiative Movement (AIM) is a non-governmental organization aiming to end the procedure. It was founded in 2002 by Rugiatu Turay, a victim of FGM herself, and many other women while living in a refugee camp in Guinea during the Sierra Leon’s civil war. AIM activists visit villages and speak with the women who perform this procedure and try to convince them to give it up. They have convinced 700 practitioners from 111 villages to stop practicing FGM.

AIM believes that one of the most efficient ways to begin the ending of practice is to teach women how to read and write since most of the procedures are performed by illiterate elder women. Providing them with the knowledge to read and write will open opportunities for them to pursue alternate means of income and reduce their interest in performing FGM.

Another non-governmental organization, AMNet, is fighting against the old fashioned initiation rite. AMNet works with Soweis, the senior female community members, to change the social stigmas surrounding women in regards to FGM in local communities. The group has high profile supporters like Sia Koroma, the first lady of Sierra Leone, which helps bring attention to their cause.

Legislation is Needed

Non-governmental organizations are working hard to provide knowledge on the issues surrounding FGM, but formal legislation against the practice will further help end the societal pressures and stigmas that encourage the continuance of the initiation rite. Several countries have banned the practice, including more than 20 countries in Africa and most Western European countries. Ending the practice has also become a part of the United Nations 2030 sustainable development agenda.

Female Genital Mutilation in Sierra Leone is not yet illegal, though progress is being made to eradicate the procedure. The country recently ratified the African Unions 2003 Maputo Protocol on Women’s Rights, stating in Article Five of the protocol that female genital mutilation should be prohibited by the government in order to finally end the procedure.

Female Genital Mutilation in Sierra Leone has been a huge cultural touchstone for many communities. The procedure, though, is highly dangerous for females in many areas of their mental and physical health. Many of the activists fighting to end the procedure recognize that immediate ending of the practice will not work, but could lead to underground practices, as the social and cultural significance of the initiation is far too important to many communities. Instead, they hope to use education to spread awareness about the harms of the practice, hopefully, changing opinions over time with respect to cultural significance.

Mary Spindler
Photo: Flickr

The West Bank and Gaza
The West Bank and Gaza are considered Palestinian territories that have struggled with political power since the Six-Day War in 1967. This dispute has been between Israel and Palestine and the end result of the war has left the country in political turmoil. This devastated economic opportunities, local livelihood, sanitation conditions and household food consumption. In 2017, the 50th anniversary of Israeli occupation and the 10th anniversary of the Gaza blockade were marked. This has been affecting all job opportunities and proper food aid from entering the region. All of these factors have only made it more difficult to live in already precarious conditions and more risk for the already struggling population.

Work of USAID

The U.S. government works closely with the authorities in Palestine to address the economic and humanitarian needs of the country. To improve economic growth, USAID has donated roughly $400 billion to improve in-house situations for companies and impoverished families in West Bank and Gaza. Providing basic needs like clean sanitation systems and safe work environments is essential to maximize productivity within the company and keep the workers healthy. Many companies suffer from a lack of resources and expertise for their products, so the project Compete will help business owners learn more about their product, how to maximize value for those products and increase employment within the surrounding areas. The goal is to increase competitiveness and revitalize the private sector, bringing to the table full-time jobs, part-time jobs, seasonal jobs and paid internships.

Food Sovereignty of West Bank and Gaza

Food insecurity is a huge issue in the West Bank and Gaza territory as over 70 percent of people in this area suffer from lack of food and proper nourishment. Some of the causes for this are also a global phenomenon, environmental degradation, rising food prices and Palestinian food sovereignty. With food sovereignty, a state can control its own food resources, though that state has to have a self-sufficient food source with the help of government-controlled policies.

Since the occupation in 1967, Israel has confiscated thousands of acres of farming land and then separated it with the West Bank wall. With the separation of land, farmers are struggling to keep up the health with crops due to vandalism and destruction from settlers and the military. In Gaza, 25 percent of fertile land has been destroyed by the buffer zone, a zone that borders Israel. Patrol boats in the area only allow fishermen 15 percent of their territorial waters, further reducing the areas self-sufficient food sources. With the limitations on trade, environmental issues, confiscation of land and destruction of land, food sovereignty is unachievable. This has hindered economic growth and social conditions to reduce the levels of food insecurity.

Clean Water Access

Access to clean, potable water is limited by the wall between the West Bank and Gaza. Beaches, rivers and lakes are polluted and overcrowded refugee camps create health hazards for the sanitation systems. About 26 percent of diseases in West Bank and Gaza are related to filthy water. During the winter months, household septic tanks overflow and mix with rainwater, flooding homes and streets in the area. During the summer, the heat dries the streets from the flood and the smell coming off the streets is so bad that families keep their windows shut. Mothers refuse to let their children out to play because of the rancid smell and infected water.

Diseases continue to spread as garbage continues to pile up in refugee camps. The Anera organization is working on building proper waste management systems across Palestine, improving sanitation systems in the process. In 2014, Anera reconstructed sewage lines damaged by bombs. In refugee camps, they are taking an approach where the youth take the lead. Through campaigns designed to clean and recycle, they have developed a staff to train on proper waste management and a new sorting facility. They are creating a cleaner environment for 13,000 members of their community so far and will continue to reach out and help their people.

Health System in West Bank and Gaza

The health system in West Bank and Gaza has been shaped by years of occupation, political stalemate, violence and human rights violations. The barrier placed between the two territories limits access to East Jerusalem, the closest area that has specialized hospitals. The placement of these hospitals is scattered due to the many health care providers in the country. With the blockade in place, Gaza’s health care locations are experiencing unstable power supply and recurring power cuts.

The medical equipment has been deteriorating because of inadequate maintenance and spare parts cannot reach them. The barrier has also made it difficult to transport proper medicines to treat patients. All of these factors are crushing the health care system in West Bank and Gaza, making people seek treatment elsewhere though traveling in and out of Gaza is heavily restricted. Even with these limitations, health care in these areas still thrives. With the help of the World Health Organization, technical support will be provided to health technicians and fund projects created for diseases affecting the population.

Even with all of these issues, West Bank and Gaza still work out solutions to everyday and past problems. If these areas can continue to receive the funding from developed countries and nongovernmental organizations, they can grow back into the self-sufficient economy they once had.
– Kayla Cammarota
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Venezuela
Life expectancy rates in Venezuela may have looked very different a decade ago under Hugo Chavez, but now the country caught the attention of the world with the presidency of Nicolas Maduro, which has resulted in civil unrest. The country is facing extreme hyperinflation and a reduced supply of power, healthcare and food, which has ensured the exodus of more than three million citizens in recent years. Although the country has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, its economy seems to have collapsed within months. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Venezuela.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Venezuela

  1. In terms of life expectancy at birth, Venezuela was ranked 92 in the world in 2017, with a total life expectancy at birth of about 76 years. The expectancy of males is 70 while that of females is 79.
  2. Coronary heart disease has been cited as the chief cause of death, resulting in roughly 16 percent of all deaths, followed by Cardiovascular disease, which had almost the same death toll as violence. The cardiovascular problems have been attributed to the increasing trend of a sedentary lifestyle that more people are leading now due to urbanization of the area.
  3. The country reached its lowest infant mortality rate of 14.3 percent in 2010. Unfortunately, there has been an increase since that year with the rate shooting up to 25.7 percent in 2017 from 22.2 percent in the previous year. The researchers from The Lancet Global Health could not determine one cause of the trend, but it indicated a number of factors that may be responsible such as the collapse of healthcare and macroeconomic policies.
  4. Maternal mortality rates have increased 65 percent to 756 deaths in 2016 from 6.3 percent in the earlier year. I Love Venezuela is an NGO that has been trying to reduce these rates by providing more than 4,200 families with medical supplies.
  5. The data provided by Venezuela to the World Health Organization showed that cases of Zika virus increased from 71 to 59,348 in 2016. This increase was likely one of the causes of the significant rise in both infant and maternal mortality rates.
  6. Encovi, the Encuesta de Condiciones de Vida, a survey on living conditions done by a group of universities, found that the citizens lost an average of 24 pounds of body weight in 2017 due to extreme hunger. Around 61.2 percent of the population was living in extreme poverty. The study also reported that poverty rates had increased from the previous year from 82 percent to 87 percent. Furthermore, 61.9 percent of the adult population reported going to bed hungry because they couldn’t afford to buy food. A U.S. based NGO, Mercy Corps, has expanded their operations on the Colombo-Venezuelan borders to appease such disparities as many Venezuelans are crossing the border into Colombia to escape the skyrocketing food prices.
  7. There has been a staggering increase in the number of children dying from malnutrition and dehydration that have been reported in recent years. South American Initiative is trying to mitigate the situation and has been successful in providing 1,500 meals per week and clean drinking water to the orphans and malnourished adults in the hospitals to tackle the enlarging of malnourished patients.
  8. As per the 2017 survey done by the Congress of Venezuela, nine out of 10 main hospitals of the country were found to be short of diagnostic facilities, including x-ray machines and laboratories, with 64 percent of hospitals being unable to supply food to their patients. Healing Venezuela is an NGO fighting the expanding lack of medical services and doctors in the country. They have provided seven tons of urgent medical supplies to hospitals and NGOs in need.
  9. Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation has been able to assist 130 hospitals and institutions with more than 480,000 individuals served and more than 39,500 patients treated with its various programs targeting food, health, formula and school supplies.
  10. The country’s National Assembly estimated that prices rose 4,608 percent in 12 months in the span of 2017 to the end of January. Reports from the International Monetary Fund estimate that the inflation in Venezuela will rise to 10 million percent in 2019, an alarming projected increase from 1.37 million in 2018.

The Fight Continues

The former Health Minister, Antonieta Caporale, was fired shortly after he had released the health statistics in 2017, which were the only data provided by the government. The Venezuelan National Assembly had announced a humanitarian crisis in the country, further pleading for international humanitarian aid, which was quashed by the President.

Though these 10 facts about life expectancy in Venezuela may seem bleak, there is hope for the country with NGOs playing a major role in helping improve the current state. Several organizations are working towards improving the condition of Venezuela, including the Trump administration who have shown support and held secret meetings with the opposing military forces to formulate plans to overthrow President Maduro.

– Nikhil Sharma

Photo: Flickr


The success of a new rotavirus vaccination program in Malawi has received global attention, as world leaders and advocates now call for the widespread distribution of the vaccination. In the last five years, this southeast African country has seen a significant decline in infant death by about one third.

Rotavirus Vaccination Program in Malawi

In many impoverished countries, rotavirus is a leading cause of death in children and infants; in fact, 121,000 deaths from the virus were reported in Africa in 2013. The infection is shed in the infected individual’s stool, which can then spread into the environment and infect other individuals. Rotavirus is most often transmitted within poor sanitation conditions. Handwashing is important to combatting such infection, and setting up handwashing stations in impoverished countries could help improve conditions and limit infections.

Unfortunately, such measures are not enough to completely prevent spreading, and thus why vaccination is an essential prevention tool. The rotavirus most often infects infants and young children and symptoms can take up to two days to appear. The most common symptoms are severe diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain that leads to extreme dehydration, which is often fatal in impoverished countries. Children who are not vaccinated often suffer from more severe symptoms.

Promising Studies Bring National Hope

Thankfully, the new rotavirus vaccination program in Malawi has demonstrated immense success. Studies from Liverpool University found that of the children who received the vaccination, 34 percent had a lower risk of dying from diarrhea. Such a promising statistic manifested the first major decline in Malawi’s infant mortality rate in decades.

Scientists from the University of Liverpool, University College London and Johns Hopkins University — alongside the help of Malawi health services — tracked the health and development of 48,672 infants following the implementation of the new vaccination program in over 1,800 villages. The data collected strongly advocated the incorporation of the rotavirus vaccination program in Malawi, as well as in other countries with high rates of diarrhea-caused deaths.

Despite the major health intervention brought by the rotavirus vaccination program in Malawi, some populous countries with high infant mortality rates have yet to adopt the program. Dr. Charles Mwasnsambo, Malawi’s chief of health services, asserts the value of vaccination programs by citing the study’s encouraging findings that show a large decrease in hospital admissions and a decline in infant mortality rates. Dr. Mwasnsambo told Global Citizen that he strongly believes the study to be a worthwhile investment.

Setting a Global Example

According to the Rota council of the 10 countries leading in rotavirus-related deaths, only six have rotavirus vaccination programs like Malawi’s. These countries include Kenya, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Rota council members, Malawi healthcare providers and medical researchers are calling for widespread distribution of the vaccination, especially in countries with high infant mortality rates.

Given the success of the rotavirus vaccination in Malawi, medical researchers and several world leaders agree that combatting this illness goes beyond handwashing. Leaders must advocate for vaccinations and implement such a measure in foreign aid packages if they plan to share Malawi’s success and continue to combat alarming rates of rotavirus-related deaths globally.

– Haley Newlin
Photo: Pixabay

PA 10 facts About Life Expectancy in Madagascar
Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, is also one of the poorest countries in the world. A lacking healthcare system, malnutrition and prevalent diseases all lead to one question: how long do people live in Madagascar? Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Madagascar.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Madagascar

  1. The latest WHO data reports the life expectancy in Madagascar to be 65.1 years for males and 68.2 for females, making the average life expectancy 66.6 years. Madagascar is currently ranked 175th in life expectancy out of 223 nations measured, according to the CIA.
  2. The life expectancy rate has increased exponentially from 1960 to today. The World Bank reports that in 1960, the average life expectancy was 39.96 years, and by 2016, it had grown to 65.93 years.
  3. According to Health Data, diarrheal diseases, lower respiratory infections, neonatal disorders and stroke are among the top causes of death in the country. The causes have persisted since the conduction of the study in 2007; however, there has been a change in the number of deaths for each cause.
  4. The Healthcare Access and Quality Index measures healthcare access and quality. In 1990, Madagascar received a score of 20.6 on the index, and in 2016, the country received a 29.6. Compared to leading nations like Iceland, with a score of 97.1, Madagascar’s performance on this index demonstrates the room for improvement.
  5. In 2015, a total of $78 per person was spent on health in Madagascar. The breakdown of the expenses is as follows: $5 from prepaid private spending, $17 out-of-pocket spending, $33 government health spending and $22 development assistance for health. The country is expected to increase the per capita amount to $112 by 2040.
  6. Madagascar has introduced a number of initiatives to move towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), specifically, the goal to reduce extreme poverty by half.  However, in 1993, 67.1 percent of the population was living below $1.25 per day, while in 2010, that number increased to 87.67 percent.
  7. One such initiative working to reach the MDGs was approved by the World Bank in June 2017. The new Country Partnership Framework aims to improve governance and strengthen finances, as well as reduce poverty, particularly in rural areas. Living in poverty is linked to a variety of issues, but studies have shown that those living in poverty are more likely to have a lower life expectancy.
  8. Due to the new Country Partnership Framework, improvements in the country can be seen in areas of health, education and private sector development. Preventative treatment for tropical diseases such as bilharzia and intestinal worms has been distributed to 1.8 million school-aged children over the past few years (with Bilharzia receiving 100 percent coverage in the country).
  9. In 2017, 6.85 million people received treatment for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), a decrease compared to the 8.73 million people who received treatment in 2016. Madagascar ranks 37th out of the 49 countries when it comes to treatment. There are some diseases that receive 0 percent coverage, such as elephantiasis, while other diseases receive partial coverage, such as intestinal worms.
  10. UNICEF is working to improve healthcare access in Madagascar, and it has been expanding integrated health services with a focus on newborns. Due to their efforts, poliomyelitis was eradicated and 43 percent of the population (which includes 3.5 million children) experienced an improvement in their access to health services.

Madagascar’s lacking healthcare system is being tackled from a variety of angles, as illustrated by these 10 facts about life expectancy in Madagascar. The country is working to reduce poverty and better the lives of its citizens in every regard; however, there is room for progress.

Simone Edwards

Photo: Flickr

Elderly Care in Iran
The Iranian government recently turned an eye towards aiding development and putting the nation back on track after the Iraq war. There is still a great deal of room for social reform in this improved state of development, especially in the area of elderly care in Iran.

Aid for the elderly population in Iran is projected to become a large issue, as the country experienced a baby boom in the years of the Iraq-Iran war (1980 to 1988) which will lead to an increased elderly population in the future. The rising rate of unemployment in Iran has made it difficult for the elderly to find and hold jobs, and most elderly people are unable to provide for themselves in their old age.

Elderly People in Iran

One-third of the Iranian elderly population is not covered by any health insurance; meanwhile, the Iranian government diminished the elderly retirement pension — only one-third of the elderly population receives a pension — while 20 percent of families are economically dependent on the senior householder. The elderly demographic has a very low socioeconomic status and basic insurance policies fail to cover most elderly care costs. Without the money to afford the extra costs, older people often fail to receive the help they need.

There are currently five main governmental organizations taxed with elderly care in Iran:

  • The Social Security Organization
  • The State Welfare Organization
  • The Red Crescent
  • The Imam Khumeini Relief Foundation
  • The Martyrs Foundation

However, there are no clear developed policies on elderly care, and no single organization responsible for addressing this crucial societal need. As a result, ambiguity and uncertainty surround specific organizational responsibility.

Challenges of Elderly Care in Iran

Policy-making is one identified challenge of the elderly care process in addition to access, technical infrastructure, integrity and coordination and lastly, health-based care services. In regards to access, there are no transportation facilities and many of the elderly are entirely stuck at home due to physical reasons or an inability to pay for transportation costs.

Also, 70 percent of elderly people in Iran are illiterate, which impacts their awareness of access to resources. Currently, Iran does not have the physical, human and informational resources to implement an elderly care policy. This is concerning as the country is projected to experience fast demographic changes and a huge increase in the elderly population in the near future.

The country does have community-based services for the elderly such as nursing homes, adult daycare centers, cultural centers and meals on wheels; unfortunately, the distribution is sparse and these services are intended for mainly elderly people with disabilities. However, on a more positive note, the fact that this issue is being qualitatively and quantitatively studied is considered progress.

Need for Action

Historically, little attention has been paid to elderly care in Iran, but new studies and scenario exercises will thankfully aid the government in creating a sturdy policy framework for addressing elderly care in Iran.

The country is still developing and many other issues surrounding poverty are the main focus of the government right now. There is still time to address the problem of elderly care in Iran before it becomes too big to handle, but the Iranian government will need to start taking action immediately.

– Mary Spindler

Photo: Pixabay