Information and stories on health topics.

Healthcare in Equatorial GuineaIn the small Central African nation of Equatorial Guinea, the healthcare system is lacking in many ways. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, “45 other countries in Equatorial Guinea’s per capita GDP range spent at least four times as much on health and education during the same period.” A study by the Pan African Medical Journal has reported a “lack of resources and trauma care facilities” and that  “training and informational programs for both healthcare workers and the general public may not be effectively transmitting information to the intended recipients.” Overall, it can be said that healthcare in Equatorial Guinea is in a dire state that certainly calls for assistance.

Things to Know About Healthcare in Equatorial Guinea

  1. Empty Promises. Following the discovery of oil in Equatorial Guinea in 1991, President Obiang promised investment in social services, primarily healthcare and education. Despite repeatedly saying he would prioritize those two services, financial allocation for funding has been disheartening. According to the World Bank, as of 2017, only 3.11% of the country’s GDP has been spent on healthcare, an increase since 2012, when it stood at 1.26%.
  2. Incorrect Priorities. Instead of allocating money towards improving its healthcare system, Equatorial Guinea has been investing in large infrastructure projects. In 2011, the country spent 82% of its total budget on such projects, a move that was heavily criticized by both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
  3. Treatable Diseases are Deadly. Lack of funding means healthcare in Equatorial Guinea lacks diagnostic tools, trained staff, laboratory supplies, vaccines, cheap medication and condoms. The lack of affordable medicine and resources results in patients being reluctant to seek care and also means the most common treatable diseases become the deadliest. According to the Pan African Medical Journal, diseases like malaria, typhoid, sexually transmitted diseases, diarrhea and respiratory illnesses are the most common diseases, but also have the highest rate of mortality.
  4. Underfunded Healthcare Sector. The lack of funding to the healthcare sector in Equatorial Guinea also acts as a deterrent for people to join the profession and causes many to leave, due to the lack of pay. Data indicates that Equatorial Guinea has only three doctors per 10,000 people. Furthermore, because patient payments are not enough to keep facilities running, many also leave due to the difficulties in their ability to provide care.
  5. Traditional and Modern Medicine Conflict. There is a conflict between traditional and modern medicine, which many healthcare practitioners consider a “negative healthcare outcome.” Indeed, the reluctance for many families to consult hospitals to receive care due to the high cost of medication may drive them to traditional medicine methods instead. Though this conflict has been noted before, not many steps have been taken to help mitigate the gap.

Despite the dire state of healthcare in Equatorial Guinea, research does not indicate that the country is receiving much help from aid organizations or other countries to improve the situation. This conclusion indicates a desperate need for aid to better the country’s healthcare system. With help, healthcare in Equatorial Guinea can be drastically improved.

Mathilde Venet
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the Central African Republic
The Central African Republic (CAR) is a landlocked country in Africa, neighboring Chad, Sudan, Cameroon and more. Although CAR has an abundance of natural resources, including gold, diamonds, uranium and oil, it is one of the poorest nations in the world. Following violence and political turmoil in 2013, the country is still recovering. Here are five important facts about poverty in the Central African Republic.

5 Facts About Poverty in the Central African Republic

  1. The Numbers: Approximately 71% of the Central African Republic’s population lives below the international poverty line. Additionally, due to violence and conflict, there are around 613,114 refugees from the Central African Republic and 641,292 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country. Health is also a major concern, with a maternal mortality rate of 890 per 100,000 live births.
  2. History of Poverty and Conflict: There are many reasons why the Central African Republic has such high poverty rates. The main reason lies in the history of the nation. After CAR gained independence from France in 1960, it had religious rivalries, a variety of ethnic groups and multiple political ideologies. Conflict between different religious and social groups as well as competition over resources caused widespread instability throughout the country. This culminated in a more recent outbreak of violence in 2013, which has left more than 2.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.
  3. Major Health Conditions: The leading causes of deaths in the Central African Republic include tuberculosis, diarrheal diseases, HIV/AIDS and malaria. In 2018, malaria, a mosquito-borne disease, was reported at a rate of 347.3 cases per 100,000 people. This represents a significant decrease from previous years, as there were approximately 434.5 cases per 100,000 people in 2010. Additionally, there are approximately 100,000 people living with HIV in CAR.
  4. Life Expectancy: Life expectancy in the Central African Republic is among the lowest in the world. As of 2020, it is only 53.35 years. This is a 0.64% increase since 2019, when the life expectancy was 53.01 years. Life expectancy is low in the CAR due to widespread violence and displacement as well as the aforementioned health concerns. In addition to malaria and HIV, 41% of the population suffers from chronic malnutrition. On a positive note, the life expectancy of the CAR has been steadily improving since 2002; in 2002, the life expectancy in the CAR was only 44.29 years.
  5. Education and Literacy: The literacy rate in the Central African Republic is also one of the lowest in the world, at 37.4%. The CAR is struggling to provide high-quality education for its children, particularly girls. Many girls find themselves dropping out of school because of the societal pressures to marry and have children. Only 65% of girls enter the first year of primary school and only 23% of them finish the 6 years of primary school.

Currently, organizations like the World Food Program, USAID and the International Rescue Committee are working to alleviate poverty in the Central African Republic and address the humanitarian crisis. Efforts include distributing food to internally displaced people, providing specialized nutrition packages for pregnant women, rebuilding educational infrastructure and recovering clean water sources. Moving forward, it is essential that these humanitarian organizations and others continue to provide aid and support to the nation.

Alison Choi
Photo: Flickr

Efforts to Combat AIDSAcquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) has plagued the world since 1981. The global AIDS pandemic has infected more than 65 million people around the world since its arrival, with more than 30 million deaths from AIDs-related causes. The impact of AIDS has resulted in a worldwide effort to discover methods to treat and cure the disease. To date, significant progress has been made in the fight against AIDS. However, more needs to be done and the United States has shown continued commitment to support efforts to combat AIDS globally.

AIDS and the Global Poor

While AIDS is a global problem, it has disproportionately affected poorer regions since its arrival. Africa in particular has a significant number of people living with AIDS. Out of the 1.7 million newly infected people around the world in 2019, 990,000 people resided in Africa alone. The disproportionate numbers in poorer regions as compared to wealthier nations could be attributed to lack of quality healthcare and preventative education. However, continued efforts are being made to address the global AIDS pandemic.

Congressional Efforts to Combat AIDS

The United States has been a leader in progress against the AIDS pandemic. It has made significant efforts to contribute its resources to fight the AIDS pandemic, and tangible results have emerged. For example, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (or PEPFAR) has contributed over $85 billion since its inception in 2003 to AIDS research and prevention, thus preventing millions of infections.

The United States Government has indicated that it has no interest in slowing down support for the cause through efforts to combat AIDS. For example, the Global Health Programs section of Title III in House bill H.R.7608, the State, Foreign Operations, Agriculture, Rural Development, Interior, Environment, Military Construction, and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act of 2021 specifically outlines Congress’ plans for AIDS-related contributions in the coming years.

Introduced by Rep. Nita M. Lowey [D-NY] on July 13, 2020, the bill appropriates more than $3.2 billion for USAID through 2022. A portion of these funds will be devoted to programs for the prevention, treatment and research of HIV/AIDS, providing assistance to communities severely affected by HIV/AIDS. The bill also appropriates more than $5.9 billion through 2025 for HIV/AIDS research, prevention and treatment efforts, including a $1.56 billion contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS. This all coincides with the billions of dollars already spent in the last decade to combat AIDS globally.

AIDS Progress

As with most issues, funding and resources are necessary to make progress in the AIDS pandemic. The vast majority of new infections occur in countries and regions with weaker finances, poorer healthcare and less quality education, such as Africa and Southeast Asia. It is easy to see that these efforts by the United States and other wealthy nations are invaluable to progress. A particular stride made thus far is that the cost of AIDS treatment drugs has decreased from $10,000 a person to $100 a person in the past 20 years. This has allowed more than 8 million people in impoverished regions access to AIDS treatments. This particular result could be attributed to years of research that the United States and other nations have contributed billions of dollars to maintain. Continued funding will improve the good work that has already been done, such as furthering cost reduction measures on AIDS-related drug treatments as well as further quality education on prevention strategies in regions where AIDS education is sparse.

With continued support and efforts to combat AIDS from wealthier nations such as the United States, even greater strides can be made in combatting AIDS globally.

Domenic Scalora
Photo:  Flickr

Malnutrition in India during COVID-19
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, India’s struggle with malnutrition has been playing out behind the scenes. Despite consistent economic growth, nutritional deficiencies have plagued India’s adults and children for years. Nearly 50% of children do not receive adequate nourishment and more than 50% suffer from anemia and other vitamin deficiencies. Efforts by the state have improved the situation over time, but malnutrition in India remains high compared to other developing countries. Recently, the coronavirus pandemic has made matters worse as India’s cancellation of its school lunch program leaves children, who usually rely on these supplementary meals, at-risk. In addition to damaging the economy and people’s ability to buy food, the COVID-19 lockdown has halted state-run services that previously helped people in need access nutritious meals. Recognizing the severity of malnutrition in India during COVID-19, efforts are starting to ensure Indians, especially women and children, fulfill their nutrient requirements.

History of Malnutrition in India

Malnutrition is not a new issue in India. It has been consistently prevalent despite the country’s economic development. In 2019, India ranked 102 of 117 countries in the global hunger index and its hunger situation was labeled as “severe.” Furthermore, India’s childhood malnutrition rate is twice that of sub-Saharan Africa. In this same vein, 45% of children suffer from stunted growth due to their lack of sufficient nutrients necessary for development.

Though adults also suffer from malnutrition, the issue largely affects children. This is because of the lasting implications of malnutrition occurring during development.

Malnutrition in India’s children is attributable to many factors. These include lack of access to nutritious foods, inadequate care practices and pregnant women’s inability to gain sufficient weight. These circumstances can lead to a multitude of consequences. For example, decreased chances of survival for children younger than 5 years old, increased susceptibility to illness, impaired learning abilities and decreased productivity in children and adults, to name a few.

These effects not only affect individuals but can also become detrimental to the growth and prosperity of a society or country. When childhood development suffers impairment, their education and potential to contribute to India’s productivity decreases. Ultimately, this affects long-term, economic growth. India acknowledges that it is in the state’s interest to solve this issue. Therefore, the Indian government has attempted to address malnutrition by creating several aid services.

Initiatives to Combat Malnutrition

Since malnutrition has been recognized as an issue crucial to India’s development, India has led developing countries in the fight against malnutrition.

India’s Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), a program funded by the central government and UNICEF, formed in 1975. The initiative aims to tackle malnutrition by providing primary healthcare and supplementary food to children between the ages of 3 and 6. Also, their mothers would receive the same care. In 2010, the ICDS expanded with the addition of the Pradhan Mantri Matritva Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) program. This expansion strives to improve health and nutrition for pregnant women.

Another government-led effort to combat malnutrition in children is the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education. This is also known as the Mid-Day Meal scheme. This program provides children in school with meals. Ultimately, this improves both their food security and nutritional status.

Additionally, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India issued regulations in 2018 for fortifying common foods like rice, wheat and milk to enhance their nutritional quality.

These programs convey the state’s recognition of the severity of malnutrition in India. Also, the necessity of improving conditions for thousands of residents. Between 1990 and 2019, child mortality decreased from 3.4 million to less than 1 million. However, despite this significant progress, malnutrition persists.

The Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted access to nutritious meals for all Indians. Yet, this is especially true for children relying on supplementary meals. Under normal circumstances, children were guaranteed at least one nutritious meal under India’s government-funded school lunch program. After the imposed lockdown (to prevent the spread of the virus), about 115 million children, dependent on school lunches to fulfill their daily nutrient requirements, no longer had access to this service. Supplementing its current food program, India planned to use a phased approach to reopen schools in September 2020. The nation has announced it will expand its school food program to include breakfast and midday meals. These initiatives aim to reduce malnutrition in India during COVID-19.

While India’s government has been attempting to combat its persistently high childhood and adult malnutrition rates for years. Unfortunately, the pandemic has made the situation even more urgent. As India loosens COVID-19 restrictions, it is imperative that children and women once again gain access to crucial services. Ensuring their nutrient requirements are met is paramount. Furthermore, recognizing the enormity of malnutrition in India during COVID-19 and beyond, India must push more efforts to protect the health of its people.

 – Angelica Smyrnios
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Cabo Verde
Cabo Verde is an archipelago country with a small population of about 550,000 people. Within this small population, about 3% live at or below a dollar a day. Two of the influencers of poverty in the country are the unstable economy and lack of accessibility to proper healthcare. Despite the prevalence of extreme poverty in Cabo Verde, the percentage of individuals living below a dollar a day has greatly decreased from 8% in 2007 to 3% in 2020 with the help of innovations in poverty eradication in Cabo Verde.

Cabo Verde’s Challenges

The country’s lack of resources, small population and dependency on external aid leaves the country vulnerable to natural disasters and global economic shocks. This economic instability directly impacts the wide-scale poverty in Cabo Verde. This results in a lack of opportunity for those in poverty-stricken areas of Cabo Verde to find ways to improve their lives, especially with the high unemployment that the fragile economy has caused.

Besides the economic challenges that the country faces, healthcare is suffering as there is a limited amount of healthcare facilities on the islands. This leaves people in extreme poverty in Cabo Verde vulnerable to inadequate healthcare. Although there is free access to health facilities that the government funds, these facilities only provide basic care which is not enough for those in dire need of more specific care. In situations where people with serious health conditions need to receive treatment, they are air transported to the necessary hospitals, which is very expensive and not accessible to those living in poverty.

Economic Improvements

In recent years, there have been innovations in poverty eradication in Cabo Verde through continuous improvements in its economy. The Global Innovation Index is a tool that ranks global economies based on the countries’ innovative capabilities. According to the Global Innovation Index, Cabo Verde ranked 100th out of the 131 countries for the Global Innovation Index (GII) in 2020. The country also has a high rank in economic growth in comparison to other Sub-Saharan Africa countries, being ranked number seven out of 26.

 Some economic innovations include:

  • More investments have occurred through a development plan that links to the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a set of goals pertaining to making a better and sustainable future for all by 2030. The development plan with Cabo Verde aims to attain 50% of its electricity from renewable energy by expanding its sustainable energy business to domestic and international sectors, which will aid in continuing economic improvement. This will help more impoverished people have access to electricity and help improve their livelihood.
  • The United States’ Prosper Africa initiative, started in May 2000, helps Cabo Verde attract trade and investments by making U.S. companies aware of trade and investment opportunities in the tourism and transportation industries. These investments help provide job opportunities to poverty-stricken communities and help eradicate poverty.
  • The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a legislation passed in May 2000 that aids in economic relations between the United States and Sub-Saharan Africa, now allows Cabo Verde access to preferential trade benefits. These trade benefits include U.S. exports of poultry, low-value shipments and machinery, and also imports from Cabo Verde.
  • Cabo Verde is now an FAA Category 1 country, which means that its airports now comply with the International Civil Aviation Organization standards and can have airline services in the United States. The country is also working toward becoming an important aviation hub. For instance, Cabo Verde Airlines launched new flights to South America, Africa and Europe and two direct flights from Virginia and Massachusetts in December 2019. By increasing its airline services to other countries, the country is also expanding employment opportunities, which can help in limiting the amount of extreme poverty.

Innovations in Healthcare

Besides the improvements in economic stability, there has also been an increase in innovations in poverty eradication through recent developments in Cabo Verde healthcare. With increased healthcare, Cabo Verdeans have the ability to live healthier lives and therefore contribute to the growth of the country, which can in turn help decrease poverty. Here are some of the improvements:

  • There has been a reduction in infant mortality from 24.9% in 2008 to 15.8% in 2017 due to the reevaluation of the quality of healthcare services surrounding prenatal and neonatal health.
  • Cabo Verde restored the Cabo Verde perinatology committee with a maternal death audit committee, which also helped in contributing to the reduction in infant mortality. These health committees are in place to prevent maternal and infant death and find ways to improve maternal and fetal healthcare.
  • Cabo Verde has experienced a 0.8% decrease in acute malnutrition rate from 2009 to 2018 and a 2.3% decrease in chronic malnutrition from 2009 to 2018. Part of this decline is due to the creation of the national brand VITAFERRO, which provides children under 5 years of age with about 50% of the recommended daily macronutrient intakes.
  • UNICEF and other United Nations agencies have helped provide technology to strengthen the Health Information System (HIS) as technology regarding medicine has been lacking. This has improved the quality of child healthcare by providing immunizations and the necessary nutrition for children to improve their health.
  • The South-South and Triangular Cooperation is the collaboration between developing countries in the south that helps in improving technological resources. The promotion of the cooperation has increased technology aimed at strengthening the quality of health services such as mother and child health by implementing technology that makes health services more effective in fulfilling the needs of mother and child care. This has also contributed to the decrease in child mortality and malnutrition rates.
  • An improved immunization program recently emerged and received an evaluation by Effective Vaccine Management (EVM) in 2019. To ensure quality service, all of the immunization providers obtain training in EVM, resulting in the immunization coverage rate to be above 90%.
  • Cabo Verde introduced the HPV vaccine, which the country declared as a national priority in 2020 since there is a high risk of catching and spreading the virus due to the lack of health services in Cabo Verde.

The growing efforts to implement innovative ways to eradicate poverty in Cabo Verde have shown to be effective in limiting the rate of poverty. The advancements in both the economy and the healthcare system have brought great improvements to the lives of the impoverished in Cabo Verde.

– Zahlea Martin
Photo: Flickr

Diabetes and COVID-19
Africa has a total of 1,067,573 confirmed COVID-19 cases spanning across 47 affected countries. The continent has not seen a dramatic spike like the rest of the world, but COVID-19 poses a serious complication for Africa’s other prevailing pandemic — diabetes. An estimated 19.4 million adults across 48 sub-Saharan countries have diabetes. This far exceeds COVID-19 cases and persists as a problem for Africans in general. South Africa’s dual epidemics of diabetes and COVID-19 may prove to be a challenge for the country. However, the situation is not completely bleak. Effective actions are taking place to help those suffering from both illnesses.

Diabetes and COVID-19

Diabetics who are well-managed are at a lower risk of suffering from the disease COVID-19. In contrast, patients who do not manage well are more likely to experience fluctuations in blood glucose readings and an increased risk of complications related to diabetes. For those with co-morbidities, such as heart disease — the chance of becoming seriously ill if they develop COVID-19 is much higher. As with most viral infections, the body has a difficult time staving off infections. These infections can cause internal swelling or inflammation, which can exacerbate further complications.

Type 1 diabetics contracting a viral infection are at a higher risk for diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which can cause septic shock or sepsis in  COVID-19 patients. Moreover, those with type 2 diabetes share this increased risk of getting severely ill.

Impact on South Africa

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, diabetes ranked among the world’s leading causes of death. In South Africa, the number of diabetics is still unknown, as an “accurate current date on the prevalence of diabetes in South Africa is quite difficult to find as there are no recent robust studies in all provinces in South Africa.”

Since July 16, 2020, approximately 42% of diabetic patients with COVID-19 have died from the virus. While this data does not indicate that diabetes creates a higher risk of contracting the illness, it does demonstrate that a higher risk of becoming severely ill upon infection. In the Western Cape, 52% of COVID-19 deaths were diabetics. Those with inadequate blood glucose control had an increased chance of infection.

One apparent reason that many diabetics in South Africa have succumbed to the virus is due to patients delaying hospital care until becoming seriously ill.

Diabetes Action Plan

The Western Cape has taken significant measures to create more promising outcomes for people living with diabetes. The Department of Health, for instance, has committed to contacting all known diabetics and assisting with COVID-19 symptom monitoring, diabetes management and early admission into hospitals.

This intervention has proven successful. As department spokesman Mark Van der Heever stated, “out of the 63 [patients receiving government intervention], three of the admitted patients have died, 40 of the admitted patients have been discharged and the remaining 20 patients are not in clinical distress.”

Diabetes Focus

Sweet Life, is an NGO at the forefront of the diabetes epidemic in South Africa. Notably, it has amassed a following of 22,000 members in its Facebook Community. The organization aims to deliver information and guidance to those living with diabetes in South Africa. Also, it has created a partnership with the National Department of Health (NDoH) to achieve this goal.

Sweet Life works with the Diabetes Alliance to deliver training and education to those in need. The Diabetes Alliance was formed in September 2019. It has been instrumental in unifying companies, organizations and associations in the fight for effective diabetes management. The Alliance has partnered with the NDoH to create an education project to help healthcare providers and patients learn more about diabetes. Moreover, these initiatives have compiled helpful tips and information for those impacted by diabetes and COVID-19.

Prevention is Key

Diabetics living in South Africa can remain healthy during the pandemic by ensuring their conditions are properly managed and monitored. Maintaining notes of blood glucose readings, regular exercise and healthy diets should be sufficient to stave off serious complications.

South Africa’s dual epidemics of diabetes and COVID-19 have undoubtedly taken a toll on the nation. However, with effective intervention programs from organizations like the Department of Health, there is hope that the country will continue to see improvement among diabetic patients.

Michael Santiago
Photo: Flikr

Sanitation Practices in Tanzania
Tanzania has made considerable strides in decreasing extreme poverty. For example, from 2007–2018, the country’s poverty rate declined from 34% to 26% (of the total population). However, this progress in poverty reduction has not translated as successfully when addressing sanitation. Improving sanitation practices in Tanzania directly relates to decreasing infant mortality and malnutrition. Currently, 23 million of Tanzania’s 57 million residents obtain drinking water from potentially hazardous sources. Acknowledging these disparities and the value of potable water in eradicating poverty, the initiative Project SHINE works in rural communities where low access to clean water and poor hygiene practices are common. The organization is on a mission to improve sanitation by inventing cost-effective, simple solutions that enhance hygiene in Tanzania.

Poor Sanitation and Resulting Diseases

Poor sanitation practices in Tanzania contribute to a host of preventable infections in the country. Tanzania suffers frequent cholera outbreaks, which cause extreme diarrhea and dehydration. Diarrheal disease is one of the largest contributors to child mortality in countries facing extreme poverty. Moreover, those who do survive, suffer developmental obstacles. Cholera, as well as the related disease typhoid, can transmit through drinking water polluted with human feces. Open excretion, a widely spread issue in Tanzania, is easily preventable by developing water sanitation infrastructure.

In terms of parasitic infections, malaria commonly transmits through mosquitoes. This illness and schistosomiasis easily spread due to a lack of proper drainage systems in Tanzania. Finally, skin, eye and oral infections are a common result of the lack of knowledge among Tanzanians regarding proper hygiene practices.

Rural communities in Tanzania learn and influence hygiene practices based on previously established knowledge and cultural practices. Therefore, many children are predisposed to the same habits — and therefore, the same risks as their families. To help combat these norms that often pose significant health risks, Project SHINE is introducing innovations in sanitation and hygiene for Tanzanians.

Sanitation and Hygiene Innovation in Education (SHINE)

Project SHINE uses science to educate children and motivate changes in their hygienic behaviors by cooperating with schools. The program also reaches out to parents and other community members to develop a better understanding of attitudes toward health within this field. Through its educational initiatives, Project SHINE engages pastoralists who, even though many children come from these families, often lack access to resources and are actively involved with livestock. In particular, SHINE highlights the importance of both animal and human health for these audiences.

Education Strategy: Science Fairs

Project SHINE promotes science fairs in its target schools to encourage greater conversation and education about sanitation. These events focus on three subjects: water, sanitation and hygiene. This project’s aim is to help motivate youth, health care workers and community members to adopt improved health care practices. The long-term goal of motivating future generations to permanently incorporate these habits into their daily routines is paramount.

During this process, teachers receive private training in separate workshops where they gain strategies for presenting hygiene and sanitation to students in engaging ways.

Students engage in these science fairs by conducting research and forming hypotheses. One project students can complete, for example, is to create sustainable hand-washing stations using local, low-cost materials. Project SHINE also incorporates a One Health Paradigm that emphasizes the connection between livestock, humans and the environment. Notably, this is a relevant framework for children from pastoral families. Overall, fitting sanitation practices in Tanzania into the school curriculum has become a priority for SHINE.

The Journey Ahead

Progress for hygiene and sanitation practices in Tanzania has been a long, difficult journey for many families who still struggle to obtain clean water. Nevertheless, interventions from Project SHINE have already made significant differences. The initiative is planning to expand to other parts of the community, including out-of-school youth and the disabled. Overall, the work of Project SHINE offers promise for the health and prosperity of thousands across Tanzania.

– Zoe Schlagel
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Diseases in Sao Tome and Principe
Sao Tome and Principe is a developing country located on the African west coast. More than two-thirds of the population of this small island state lives on under $3.20 a day and faces the effects of critical disease. However, many organizations are working with the country to fight the war against diseases in Sao Tome and Principe.

Common Diseases in Sao Tome and Principe

Three of the most common diseases in Sao Tome and Principe are tuberculosis (TB), malaria and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

TB is an airborne disease caused mainly by air droplets that someone infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis transmits; it is endemic in Sao Tome and Principe. TB can cause various pulmonary symptoms and affect the lymphatic system, joints and even the central nervous system.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease; it is common in the country. Malaria can be very fatal to the victims and cause them to suffer from flu-like symptoms and high fevers.

Finally, HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system and can lead to dangerous acquired immunodeficiency symptoms (AIDS); it is still a significant problem in Sao Tome and Principe.

Key Players in Supporting Sao Tome and Principe

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Fund have been key players in supporting the fight against diseases in Sao Tome and Principe. Since 2005, the organizations have funded the country in its efforts against HIV, TB and malaria.

Over the years, the organizations have spent $4.5 million for HIV, $3.9 million for TB and $25.4 million for malaria. Through this funding, the UNDP has been able to ally with the National TB Program to develop various treatment and education plans for patients. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2016, there was a 63% decrease in TB mortality since 2000, a 95% detection rate for the disease and a 78% success rate in treating patients.

The UNDP also runs an HIV program; it supports those living with HIV and counsels populations who are at a higher risk for HIV about preventative actions. From 2008 to 2014, the prevalence rate of HIV among 15 to 49-year-olds declined from 1.5% to 0.5%. According to UNDP’s data from 2018, 249,700 people received counseling and HIV testing.

Sao Tome and Principe observed its greatest success in defeating malaria. Mortality rates from malaria have declined from 3.9 to 0.5 cases per 100,000 people. Although the Global Fund is no longer supporting the malaria program, it helped distribute 503,000 bed nets, reaching 100% of the population, and treated 56,800 cases of malaria according to UNDP in 2018. The incidence of malaria morbidity decreased from 65.5 to 11.3 cases per 1,000 people in the time frame between 2012 and 2016. Further, UNDP has granted approximately another $6 million to support the complete eradication of malaria and further control TB and HIV.

Others in the Fight to Eradicate Diseases in Sao Tome and Principe

Although UNDP and the Global Fund have been the major players in supporting the country, there are other groups that have helped toward the goal of eradication of critical diseases in Sao Tome and Principe. In 2015, Brazil spent over $500,000 to build a laboratory that would be focused on diagnosing and treating TB. This laboratory would ensure that the patients would receive quicker lab results and correct diagnoses.

Medical Care Development International, a nonprofit organization, has also taken up a project that will last from 2019-2023. It aims to bolster the ability of the military to provide HIV/AIDs care for its members and population in Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe. The project will increase its capacity to provide care in the military health facilities and laboratories.

A Ray of Hope for Sao Tome and Principe

Despite the dangers of malaria, TB and HIV, the people of Sao Tome and Principe can have hope in the fact that there are many international allies willing to provide support in their fight against these diseases. These common diseases in Sao Tome and Principe may still impose fatal effects on its victims; however, Sao Tome and Principe is not alone in its fight to protect its people.

San Sung Kim
Photo: Flickr

Education Will Help End Poverty
Education is a luxury many people take for granted, but it is something poverty-ridden families often sacrifice to have. Globally, over 250 million children and young adults are not in school. As a result, around 617 million young children and adolescents around the world are unable to read or do mathematics within the minimum proficient level. Poverty is one of the main reasons for this tragedy and it often comes from generations prior that also lacked schooling. By properly educating new generations, poverty rates could reduce significantly. Here are some ways that proper education will help end poverty.

Health

Estimates have determined that in developing countries, one-eighth of all children are born malnourished and that about 47% of those in low-income countries will continue to experience malnourishment until they reach the age of 5. Poor nutrition is a direct result of poverty and often linked to insufficient knowledge of proper nutritional diets. A study that occurred in 13 different countries found that the standard yearly gain production increased with those with basic education by 8.7%, which in turn increased food security and helped lower rates of malnourishment in children.

Education will help end poverty because, with basic education, parents learn more about how to care for themselves and their families, which in turn leads their children towards healthier lifestyles. Health education gives families have a higher chance of survival and even reduces rates of HIV and AIDS.

Mortality Rate

Education will help end poverty because it is particularly powerful for girls. Education has many effects on girls and women, but a primary impact is that if all women in poverty finished primary school, then the child mortality rate would reduce by almost 17%. This adds up to about 1 million newborns saved every year, but how does saving lives help lower poverty rates?

If more children survive, then families would not feel the need to have more children, thus the size of families would be smaller. If the families were smaller, then families would have more income and resources to go around, thus reducing poverty. For example, sub-Saharan African women with no education have 6.7 births on average, but with access to schools, these women only have 5.8 births. And finally, those studied who had finished secondary education have 3.9 births on average.

With schooling, women could more easily recognize danger signs in pregnancy and be able to seek care faster. Women with more knowledge about their body, pregnancy and childbirth have a better chance of giving birth safely. Records have determined that a child with a mother who had basic education is 50% more likely to surpass their fifth birthday.

Income and Economic Growth

Income is, of course, a huge factor in poverty. Records have stated that if someone has basic education (that is, reading, writing and mathematical skills), this not only has a positive impact on their own income but can also “increase the rate of return on the economy.” Those with education have a much higher chance of getting better jobs with higher wages. Just one year of education can result in a 10% raise in pay. More pay means better, more nutritious food, better access to sanitation, better access to healthcare and better housing.

For example, Vietnam was one of the poorest economic countries in the world due to its 20-year war. However, since 1990, Vietnam transformed its poor and war-torn country into a GDP that grew to 3,303%. Its economic growth rate was the second fastest and the main strategy for this success was the improvement and modernization of its education system. Vietnam is only second to China, which also implemented a new education system, causing it to have the number one fastest GDP growth.

With children attending schools and developing both important skills and abilities, they will one day get better jobs. The more income they have, the more goods and products they consume which benefits the companies. This in turn increases the demand for the production of more products, thus giving jobs to more people and helping the economy grow. These changes and more will be key in eradicating poverty around the world.

Katelyn Mendez
Photo: Flickr

VillageReach is Improving Healthcare
The history behind VillageReach is very similar to The Borgen Project’s history. Blaise Judja-Sato, a native Cameroonian, founded VillageReach in 2000 after returning to Africa to aid in the relief efforts of a devastating flood in Mozambique. While he was in Mozambique, Judja-Sato saw a problem with the healthcare system. Since many citizens live in rural areas, the government could not provide them with the medical supplies they needed, which led to their frustration. Thus, she coined the phrase “starting at the last mile” and established VillageReach. Here is some information about how VillageReach is improving healthcare in low and middle-income countries.

Healthcare That Reaches Everyone

VillageReach’s mission is simple. It aims to reach “the last mile” in LMICs (low and middle-income countries) where people do not always have access to healthcare or any at all. Even with VillageReach, 1 billion people do not have access to healthcare. However, VR is working to improve the already existing health systems in different areas. It focuses on four pillars including healthcare accessibility, information availability, human resource constraints and lack of infrastructure. VillageReach is improving healthcare in these countries so that the people in and out of rural areas thrive.

Big Partners

Additionally, VR has over 30 partners that keep its organization running strong. From the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to UNICEF, VR has quite an array of influential partners. The President of the organization is Emily Bancroft. She stated that VR “could not have made an impact the last 20 years without the collaborative power of partnership.” The team is spread out over 13 countries. It has headquarters in Seattle, Washington and offices in Mozambique, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Drones

Furthermore, in 2019, VR collaborated with the Ministry of Health, Swoop Aero and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to launch the Drone Project in the Équateur Province of the DRC. The partners decided to pick this place in the DRC because of its many geographical challenges. More than half of the health systems in place are only accessible by river. The goal of the Drone Project is to increase vaccine availability in areas that are hard to reach. The drones, provided by Swoop Aero, can take off with the push of a button and land without guidance. It can also carry around six pounds. After the Drone Project’s first flights were successful, the partners are already thinking bigger, brainstorming on how to send other medical supplies and equipment.

COVID-19 Response

Also, VR is a supporter of the COVID-19 Action Fund for Africa. The initiative works to supply PPEs (personal protective equipment) to community health workers in Africa. PPEs are practically inaccessible in most African countries and the consequences are horrible. Health workers stay home or work without PPEs. With health workers not working, there is no way that Africa will be able to stop the spread of COVID-19. VR plays a crucial part in the initiative’s seven-approach plan, which focuses on the last mile and working with similar in-country organizations to accomplish its goals.

Recognition

As a 20-year-old organization, VR received recognition numerous times for its fantastic work in Sub-Saharan Africa. Recently, the Washington Global Health Alliance honored VR with the Pioneers Outstanding Organization Award. The WGHA awards winners that work hard to improve health equity all over the world. The judges select winners, and in 2020, WGHA board member Erin McCarthy led it. VR received an award for its innovative approach, collaborations with local governments in the places it works and its international emphasis on equity.

Overall, from COVID-19 response to innovating delivering vaccines by drones, VillageReach has covered it all in its 20 years of service to the world. VR is improving healthcare, one small rural village at a time.

– Bailey Sparks
Photo: Flickr