Information and stories on health topics.

PSRD: Dedicated to Fighting Poverty Among the Specially Abled
Anyone, at any time and anywhere, can fall victim to poverty. However, some factors exist that put some individuals more at risk than others, and disabilities increase the likelihood of families living in poverty. In 2019, 25.9% of disabled people in the United States lived in poverty, more than double the rate for those without disabilities. The specially-abled face higher barriers when trying to find success in their lives and become financially stable. The connection between unemployment and disability remains serious: “half of all working age adults who experience at least one year of poverty have a disability.” In Pakistan, a country where the poverty rate is 5.4%, poverty amongst the specially-abled is significantly higher.

Physical Barriers and Poverty

  1. Health care: One reason for the physically challenged to fall into a state of poverty in Pakistan is the lack of adequate health care. Persons with disabilities are more likely to need extra resources and different types of treatment that are not easily accessible. Health care disparities arise due to societal stigma and a lack of policy changes to provide care that appropriately meets the needs of the specially-abled. There are relatively few advocates in Pakistan who are actively trying to open up more health care options for persons with disabilities. Such environments make it more difficult for poverty-stricken and physically challenged individuals in Pakistan to seek health care.
  2. Employment: The most significant cause of poverty among people with disabilities is the lack of employment opportunities they have. Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2011. Pakistani law mandates 2% of hired employees in Pakistani institutions need to be specially-abled individuals, but this law is not always put into practice. For example, a study shows that government departments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a province in Pakistan, are not meeting the 2% requirement.
  3. Education: Finally, a lack of education is a risk factor for poverty as it prohibits individuals from reaching a level of financial stability. It was found that, while education is accessible for many specially-abled children, rates of actual literacy remain low. More specifically, literacy rates for children with disabilities were much lower than those of their non-disabled peers. Regardless of socioeconomic status and family background, physically challenged students are not receiving the level of education necessary to reach the same standards of comprehension.

PSRD’s Solution

Evidently, many factors lead to the presence of poverty amongst the specially abled. The Pakistan Society for the Rehabilitation of the Differently Abled (PSRD) is a nonprofit organization working to bring specially-abled people out of poverty by focusing on health care, employment and education. Based in Lahore, Pakistan, the organization has worked with the population through the following programs:

  1. Vocational Rehabilitation Center: PSRD allows poverty-stricken and differently-abled individuals to maximize vocational skills. With an aim to eradicate the employment difficulties its students face, the center provides loans to jumpstart businesses. Those who receive help are better able to provide for themselves by becoming entrepreneurs and selling their own, handmade products. With their businesses, beneficiaries of the center are more capable of acquiring their own income and successfully support themselves.
  2. PSRD Hospital: In an effort to make health care more accessible for the specially abled, PSRD’s 100-bed orthopedic hospital is one of the largest in Pakistan. It provides specialized services for the needs of those facing physical barriers. The hospital does not refuse any patients and patients receive services at low or no cost depending on their situation.
  3. Orthotic and Prosthetic Center: With limited access to affordable resources, many physically challenged individuals are unable to obtain prosthetics and artificial limbs that ease their day-to-day lives and open up more employment options. PSRD creates customized prosthetics and approximately 3,900 patients have benefited from the center.
  4. PSRD High School: Education plays a large part in the road to employment and a successful future. By focusing on youth who are specially-abled, PSRD hopes to ignite the talent of all students so that they can lead better lives. The school also serves the needs of each of its students by providing therapy programs and making classes accessible for the most underprivileged children. The high school’s ultimate goal is to release the potential in each student and better “integrate” students into society.

People with physical disabilities are far more likely to face poverty than their non-physically disabled counterparts. With health care disabilities, limited employment options and lower high education rates, poverty may be inevitable for many specially-abled individuals. Organizations such as PSRD in Pakistan are working to empower differently-abled persons and provide them with the resources needed to persevere through their challenges and reach their goals. PSRD works to dismantle poverty amongst the specially-abled in Pakistan.

– Mariam Kazmi
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty In Denmark
Denmark has one of the lowest poverty rates in the world, and it is important to look at what allows the nation to have such a low rate. With aggressive public health programs and a well-rounded social welfare program that
brings aid for unemployment, disability and old age, the people of Denmark can often receive proper help and assistance in times of need.

Social Welfare Aid

Widespread access to welfare in the country stems from a systemically upheld belief that welfare is a right of the people and not a privilege as it is all paid for through taxes. The benefits received by those who are unable to properly support themselves or their children work to lower poverty in Denmark. Furthermore, while the Danish have access to assistance programs, one poll suggests that nearly 60% of respondents believe that the economic gap between the upper and lower classes needs to be reduced.

Social responsibility is a large key ideal held by many people in Denmark. Social responsibility carries into the ideas of the social welfare programs and correlates to funds allocated toward helping members of the community. Because of governmental and social efforts, the level of poverty in Denmark is able to stay relatively low. For instance, funds and programs go to help parents raising new children, allowing a year of paid paternity or maternity leave.

The Poverty Rate

As of 2018, Denmark had a poverty rate of around 0.30%, which was a 0.1% increase from the previous year. Those living with fewer than $5.50 U.S. dollars per day are counted within the poverty figures. This is one of the lowest poverty rates in the world, around 10% less than the United State’s poverty rate in 2020. With a high poverty rate in the late 1980s of around 1.2%, the decline has occurred steadily over the years. While the poverty rate tends to fluctuate from year to year, it remains relatively low. Currently, Denmark is often compared to nations like the Netherlands, Malta, the Czech Republic and Norway. However, changes in social spending correlate to the fact that poverty seems to be been rising despite the high levels of support offered by the system.

Child Poverty

Despite Denmark’s reputation for strong welfare programs, child poverty rose in the country from 2016 to 2017. In the span of that year, the number of children recognized as living in poverty rose from around 40,000 to more than 60,000. Despite the level of social welfare benefits, employment rates have remained largely unchanged among certain groups. Among those affected by reduced social spending are refugees and minority groups in the country. As of 2017, the number of children under the poverty line accounts for more than 5% of the child population. Programs like the Integration Benefit are targeted to those living in extreme poverty in Denmark.

With many different social programs, poverty in Denmark has been able to stay relatively low in recent years, notably due to social programs and community mentalities. Despite the rising poverty rates among those in danger of falling below the poverty line, the Danish government has been implementing programs to try and reduce these issues like the Integration Benefit. Lastly, the programs afforded to parents allow for a stable environment for parents to raise their children. The solutions to these issues through more aid and higher access to aid stand to lower the poverty rate further.

– Jake Herbetko
Photo: Flickr

forest-bathing
For the first time in human history, humans are increasingly turning away from wild spaces. By the year 2050, expectations have determined that nearly 7 billion people or two-thirds of the human population will live in urban areas. Meanwhile, half of the world’s poor already live in Earth’s most populous areas where access to natural space is dwindling. Re-imagining the value of nature is alleviating symptoms of urbanization that disproportionately impact the world’s poor. In Japan, the practice of forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) serves as a functional detox from the unnatural environment. The practice presents a fresh perspective on humanity’s relationship with nature and provides insight into the importance of nature in sustainable development.

The Environment and Health

Throughout human history, the natural world guided people in their daily lives. However, urbanization is reducing human exposure to nature and increasingly introducing citizens to harmful pollution that exacerbates illnesses that disproportionately affect the poor.

In developing nations, illnesses are most associated with hazards of the urban environment carries. In Dharavi, India’s most densely populated and poorest community, a lack of clean water and sanitation or trash disposal systems are among the issues contributing to a lower quality of living. Despite this one square mile area housing close to 1 million people, there are no parks, trees or wildlife besides disease-carrying rodents and stray pets. In addition, summer temperatures soar and monsoonal rainstorms find just enough room for flooding to spawn mosquito-borne illnesses. Neighborhoods such as Dharavi depict a negative relationship between the urban environment and health.

Health and Forest-Bathing

Poverty often has links to mental illness. This means many of the symptoms of a polluted urban environment contribute to a higher likelihood of stress. Socio-environmental factors as a whole play a large role in determining the health of individuals. However, studies often overlook the tangible effect that the physical environment plays in development. Shinrin-yoku, the Japanese term for forest-bathing, provides insight into what humans are missing in an absence of nature.

Japanese health officials examined the relationship that exposure to natural places has on human health. While studying the practice of forest-bathing and bodily responses to nature, scientists discovered a direct correlation between health and exposure to nature. For example, studies determined that exposure to nature promotes health benefits, including “lower levels of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure,” more than urban exposure. Responses often lead to a lower likelihood of developing serious illnesses that are too expensive for poor nations to address. This begs the question: Do the environments citizens live in hold them back?

The Economics of the Wild

Nature adds a quantifiable impact on economies across the globe. This is especially important for poorer communities that experience direct impacts from the environments they exist in. Singapore, one of the most urbanized nations in the world and previously home to poor communities comparable to Dharavi, is integrating various forms of nature into urban design through the Singapore Green Plan. Sustainable developments feature the city’s main attractions and are helping to alleviate poverty. This means more revenue for the local economy and higher incomes, coupled with an improved quality of life. Comparably, a modern appreciation of nature is proving rewarding across the globe in alleviating symptoms of urbanization. In terms of health, Singapore’s increased greenery also improves the quality of living by negating the urban heat effect and air quality.

For similar reasons, outdoor recreation constitutes one of the most rapidly growing industries worldwide. Japan’s forest bathing is a cultural phenomenon in which citizens escape to natural space. For the United States, hiking and action sports such as mountain biking and skiing are becoming increasingly popular. A whole economy centers around this type of recreation. According to the Outdoor Recreation Association, recreation centered around the U.S. outdoors generates $887 billion annually. The wild is a source of wellbeing, economic development and cultural significance for millions. However, for the developing world, nature is still largely inaccessible, especially for impoverished citizens in urban areas.

Sustainable Development

Uncontrolled development is not the only cause of the environment in poor nations. Rather, the environment in poor urban areas is often responsible for the area’s poverty in the first place. Unsustainable development exacerbates symptoms of poverty. The absence of nature in urban areas holds poor communities down.

Singapore is not the only one incorporating sustainable development into its future planning. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) describes environmental aid as “necessary for improving economic, social and political conditions in developing countries.” Sustainable development and wellbeing increasingly look to nature as a fundamental aspect of development.

Increasing Access to Natural Spaces

Historically, access to nature by means of escape is recreational freedom for privileged, fully-developed nations. In developing nations, the environment is a determiner of the quality of life. Unfortunately, urban areas including Dharavi and Singapore do not have the same access to nature as Japan’s forests. This means that forest bathing is a distant dream for millions living in the most densely populated areas of the globe. Increasing accessible natural spaces and integrating nature into an urban design is fundamental to increasing the quality of life for developing nations.

Investing in poor communities is not separate from investing in the environment. The health, wealth and development of communities remain largely dependent on natural space. Regardless of status, forest-bathing in Japan presents an often overlooked benefit of nature that surrounds all of human life. Poverty and the environment are two heavily interconnected issues that can be and currently are receiving attention.

– Harrison Vogt
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Aid in Vietnam
The relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam was at one time a negative one. However, over several decades, both countries have formed a positive and beneficial relationship. In 1995, both countries established a bilateral relationship and have since developed a friendship. The U.S. hopes for Vietnam to one day be strong enough to be independent of aid from outside sources.

Until that day comes, U.S. aid in Vietnam will continue to help the Vietnamese people. In just the past 20 years alone, the U.S. has provided $706 million worth of aid to improve health in Vietnam. In that same amount of time, the U.S. provided an overall total of $1.8 billion in aid to Vietnam.

US Health Aid in Vietnam

Much of the U.S. aid in Vietnam aims to improve the health of the Vietnamese people. In particular, the U.S. hopes to control the spread of infectious diseases in Vietnam such as HIV. There are various programs USAID has operating within Vietnam to achieve this goal. One such program is Healthy Markets. The purpose of this project is to create a market in Vietnam with easy access to viable medical goods and services used to combat HIV. The program called Local Health System Sustainability (LHSS) provides services directly to the government of Vietnam. This project aims to increase the financing of Vietnam’s health sector. These are just two of the 16 health projects operating in Vietnam thanks to USAID.

US Aid to People With Disabilities

The U.S. aid in Vietnam also targets Vietnamese people with disabilities. Over the years, USAID has changed the way it helps Vietnamese people with disabilities. Originally, the U.S. helped this group of people directly by providing prosthetics. Over time, the U.S. has come to appreciate the fact that people with disabilities in Vietnam also need access to important services and the need for their inclusion in Vietnamese society.

Similar to the medical projects, there are also projects in Vietnam working to help Vietnamese people with disabilities. One of these projects is Advancing Medical Care and Rehabilitation and Education. This project is working toward improving care for people with brain impairments. Projections have determined that this project will last until 2023 on a budget of $10.3 million. The project called the Disability Rights Enforcement, Coordination and Therapies is working to make sure disability rights undergo enforcement within Vietnam. This project also works to improve therapy and other essential services for people with disabilities. It will last until 2023 and has a budget of $10.7 million.

Why it Matters

While Vietnam’s poverty rate has been 5.8% as of 2016, U.S. aid in Vietnam still goes a long way. People living in poverty often do not get to participate in the better aspects of society. This makes U.S. aid in Vietnam so important because it allows all people to have a better life including those in poverty. For example, the U.S. has been able to reach 30,000 people with disabilities in Vietnam. It is numbers like this that show the positive impact aid can have on other countries.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

There is a clear dichotomy between how the impoverished citizens of developed and developing countries feed their families. In wealthier nations, families living below the poverty line buy cheaper food options. In many packaged and overly-processed foods, the possibility of unhealthy food preservatives and a surplus of calories is common. As a result, negative health effects ensue. In developing countries, impoverished citizens rely on easily cultivated and cheap foods to feed themselves. These products often do not have sufficient nutritional value to ensure a healthy lifestyle. In order to increase the accessibility of healthy produce, understanding the causes of income disparity and food restriction is necessary. Through this awareness, finding a solution to supply nutritious foods to those in need is possible.

Income and Food in Developed Countries

How one budgets their income is an essential factor when learning the impact of economic resources or the lack thereof on one’s daily health. An observational study conducted by BMC Public Health in the United States focused on the relationship between income and health. “Compared to lower-income households, higher-income households had significantly higher total vegetable scores, respectively, higher dairy scores and lower proportion of grocery dollars spent on frozen desserts,” said French, Tangney et. al in the study.

Overall, families with lower incomes purchased fewer vegetables, fewer dairy products and more frozen desserts compared to families with higher incomes. Thus, according to this study, individuals with lower incomes in developed countries are more likely to choose high caloric, less nutritious foods than their higher-income counterparts as these foods are more economically accessible to them than fresher, more nutritious foods. By understanding the results of this study, it is evident that the accessibility of healthy produce is limited to the wealthy members of society who can afford it.

Can Health Be Bought?

Compared to developed countries, developing nations struggle to provide protein-rich foods for their people. In these areas of the world, one’s income also dictates one’s food options. In developed countries, high-calorie foods are often cheaper than low-calorie food, yet in many developing nations, high-calorie and high-protein foods are more expensive. This can make it very difficult for low-income individuals to access necessary high-protein foods, such as eggs.

In Niger, egg calories are 23.3 times more expensive than calories from staple foods. In contrast, egg calories in the United States are 1.6 times as expensive as staple food calories. Diversifying one’s calorie intake is seemingly difficult due to one’s economic position. Consequently, one’s likelihood of contracting type two diabetes, heart disease or cancer also rises with high consumption of low nutrient food. Thus, the higher the price, the lower the accessibility of healthy produce and the higher chance of life-threatening diseases.

Solutions

Despite these issues, there are ways to end global hunger and poverty. Organizations all over the world are finding ways to help those in need. One nonprofit organization, A Growing Culture, is currently working to support farmers globally. By giving them a voice in the agricultural industry, farmers are able to gain back power.

In addition, the organization promotes sustainable agricultural methods. Through these goals, A Growing Culture has encouraged communication between farmers around the world. These conversations inspire the use of environmentally safe techniques, discussion of common struggles and shared desire to nourish the world. Organizations like these can go a long way to helping combat world hunger and improve. With the popularity of their mission, fighting industrial farming and decreasing the prices of daily foods is possible.

– Kristen Quinonez
Photo: Flickr

Vaccination Campaign in Kenya
Due to COVID-19, routine vaccination campaigns came to a halt in several developing countries. As a result, there were several outbreaks of other diseases, including rubella and measles. Measles is a highly contagious virus, and while it is preventable with a vaccine, it can lead to severe complications, and even death, if an individual goes unvaccinated. The pandemic offset vaccination campaigns in more than 40 countries in both 2020 and 2021, which “increases the risk of bigger outbreaks around the world.” One of the countries impacted by delayed immunizations is Kenya. However, the new measles and rubella vaccination campaign in Kenya that started in June 2021 may save the lives of millions of infants and young children.

Vaccination Campaign in Kenya

The measles and rubella vaccination campaign in Kenya, also known as the MR campaign, began on June 26, 2021, and ended on July 5, 2021. Several organizations, including the World Health Organization and UNICEF, worked with the government of Kenya to deliver the vaccines. The initiative occurred in 22 Kenyan counties. Additionally, the organizations prioritized the counties with especially high numbers of measles cases and high counts of unvaccinated children. The campaign targeted children from 9 months old all the way up to children 5 years of age. Overall, the campaign targeted around four million children in Kenya.

The operation incorporated collaborative measures to allow the campaigns to run smoothly and quickly throughout the counties. This included hiring a high number of healthcare workers and setting up more than 5,000 vaccination sites. More than 16,000 healthcare workers participated in administering the vaccines. Along with the cost-free vaccines administered at health clinics and facilities, the operation included vaccination spots at “preschools, marketplaces, churches and other designated places on specific days” with the aim of vaccinating as many children as possible. Additionally, in order to raise awareness, a telecommunications company sent out mass text messages about the campaign.

Prioritizing Prevention

Since 2016, immunizations have been declining in Kenya, causing the number of outbreaks to rise, even though “the MR vaccine has been offered as part of the routine childhood immunization program” within the country.  The pandemic worsened those conditions, with 16.6 million African children missing “supplemental vaccination against measles between January 2020 and April 2021.” Moreover, measles surveillance declined in 2020.

In order for communities to avoid measles outbreaks, full vaccination rates need to be at least 95% for children. However, just 50% of children in Kenya received the full vaccine in 2020. Thankfully, with support from the Kenyan government and organizations such as UNICEF, health officials were able to provide MR vaccines to children across the country. This helped to manage measles outbreaks and safeguard the lives of many children this year. To continue more health initiatives after the MR vaccination campaign, Kenya is rolling out even more vaccination campaigns. This also includes a “multi-antigen catch-up campaign” to reduce the chances of further outbreaks and decrease the number of preventable deaths in Kenya.

– Karuna Lakhiani
Photo: Flickr

cholera in nigeriaBetween January and August 2021, Nigeria experienced a surge in cholera cases with more than 31,000 “suspected cases,” 311 confirmed reports and more than 800 deaths. With close to 200,000 COVID-19 cases, a surge of cholera during the pandemic has heightened public health concerns in Nigeria. As such, addressing cholera in Nigeria is currently a top priority for the country.

What is Cholera?

According to the World Health Organization, “cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.” Despite being both preventable and treatable, cholera is very dangerous as it can kill an individual within hours without intervention. While mild cases are easily treatable with “oral rehydration solution,” more severe cases necessitate “rapid treatment with intravenous fluids and antibiotics.” These are resources that many impoverished developing countries simply cannot afford.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number “of people who die from reported cholera remains higher in Africa than elsewhere.” The WHO emphasizes that the “provision of safe water and sanitation is critical to prevent and control the transmission of cholera.” The WHO also recommends oral cholera vaccines in areas where cholera is endemic.

The Nigerian Government’s Efforts

The Nigerian government continues to implement policies to control the spread of cholera. Promoting basic sanitation, improving hygiene practices and providing clean water are ways the government does this. In an attempt to mitigate the spread of cholera in Nigeria, the government has also supplied solar-powered boreholes with the help of the International Organization of Migration (IOM). As of 2019, the IOM has maintained 58 of these boreholes in Borno state and created 11 new boreholes. The IOM also “rehabilitated 10 and connected them to solar power.”

An important way to stop the spread of cholera is through improving the vaccination system in Nigeria. After an outbreak occurred in 2017, the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency instated cholera vaccination programs. The next step will be to increase the supply of vaccines.

The MSF’s Role in Eradicating Cholera

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), otherwise known as Doctors Without Borders, is an independent global organization working to prevent cholera in Nigeria, among other missions. Its main focus is to provide medical aid in areas where it is most needed. Beginning in the 1980s, the MSF has responded to cholera epidemics across the world. Since then, the organization has worked to come up with new and more effective ways to eradicate cholera.

The MSF’s efforts to address cholera include supplying cholera kits, investigating outbreaks, establishing cholera treatment facilities, community education, improving access to water and sanitation and vaccinations, among other efforts. Cholera kits include “rehydration salts, antibiotics and IVs, along with buckets, boots, chlorine and plastic sheeting.” Sanitation improvements allow MSF to ensure the availability of clean water to citizens of Nigeria. Additionally, soap and clean water are provided for at-home use.

Promoting health is another major goal of the organization. At the time of an outbreak, those who work in the health field visit churches, schools and homes to help educate people on measures they can take to prevent the spread of cholera. Vaccinations are also employed to address Nigeria’s cholera outbreak. Providing vaccines is difficult, despite their ease of administration. Nonetheless, the MSF is working on vaccine campaigns. With patients receiving the proper care they need at the time they need it, the MSF states that deaths can potentially decrease from as high as 50% to as low as 2%.

The MSF’s Achievements

In 2019, the MSF supplied more than 231,000 cholera vaccine doses to endemic nations across the world. With the work of the MSF and increased government initiatives, it is possible to significantly reduce cholera in Nigeria.

– Nia Hinson
Photo: Flickr

opiate addiction in IranIn 2021, Iran is a nation beset by three converging circumstances that threaten to push it and its society to their very breaking points. With the ravenous sanctions and continued threat of COVID-19, poverty and opiate addiction in Iran, it will take nothing less than the world’s best efforts and cooperation to improve matters. At the same time, these efforts will potentially rebuild trust with the country as well.

A Three-Headed Monster in the Era of COVID-19

Poverty, sanctions, and opiate addiction in Iran are thriving with and, in some instances, because of each other. In an interview The Borgen Project held with a spokesperson for the Iranian Embassy to the U.N., they commented that “COVID-19 has spread over all provinces of Iran, leading to about 90,000 death toll so far. It has also been under the most devastating sanctions imposed by the U.S. Therefore, it’s extremely difficult to cope with different challenges, particularly economic ones, posed by both the pandemic and sanctions.”

Further, in regards to how the opioid crisis interacts with those aforementioned issues, this individual told The Borgen Project that “when sanctions have put our economy in trouble, and when we need to address, inter alia, economic problems associated with containing the pandemic, we do not have enough financial resources to fight the drug dealers as hard as before.”

Many of the statistics and information available from outside of Iran seems to confirm this. While sanctions cut off Iran from the international aid community and maximum pressure campaigns only further sour relations and trust between Tehran and the United States, internal resources become even more scarce. Unfortunately, these resources have never been more necessary for Iran in its fight against poverty, pandemic, domestic addiction, drug production and trafficking from neighboring Afghanistan.

Opiate Addiction in Iran

According to award-winning author Maziyar Ghiabi, Iran could very well be considered to have “one of the world’s highest rates of drug addiction.” With an estimated two to seven percent of the nation’s population falling into this category, further support can be found for this conclusion in the statistical evidence recorded by many professionals over the years. According to one such 2014 study, about two million people could be considered daily drug users. This amounted to nearly three percent of the entire population. While not all of those two million suffer addiction to opiates in one form or another, eight out of every ten individuals questioned use opium and six out of every ten people potentially use heroin. Since then, usage has only increased, with Iranians using opium three times the global average in 2020.

When one combines this destructive hardship with the COVID-19 pandemic, one would likely be left with the impression that Iran is enduring a supreme domestic crisis. After adding the burdens of sanctions and extreme poverty, the conclusion that Iran needs international empathy, assistance and reconciliation is simply inescapable.

Iranian Poverty

Poverty is a pervasive and increasingly debilitating force in Iran. The aforementioned factors have coalesced to put real, tremendous strain on its government, society and people. According to internal studies, as well as individuals like Faramarz Tofighi, head of the wages committee of the Islamic Labour Council, “More than 60% of Iranians live in relative poverty because the workers’ wages are enough for about a third of their costs of living. Half of those who live below the poverty line struggle with extreme poverty.” That first percentage works out to close to 60 million Iranians, a truly sickening number. Between 2011 and 2019, poverty in Iran nearly doubled.

Fighting for Iran

Relief International is a global non-profit that focuses on aiding the poor in Iran, both citizens and refugees. Particularly at risk are the estimated three million Afghan refugees who crossed the eastern border over the last four decades. By providing cash assistance and rehabilitated facilities for education and economic training, Relief International does its part towards making a better Iran in the midst of historical traumas and issues inflicting the country. The United States Institute of Peace, alongside the Woodrow Wilson Center, has also offered greater insight and knowledge into Iran and its relationship with the United States.

The U.N. also helps where and how it can. It previously sent help in the form of materials and experts to assist Iran during this time of crisis. The millions of dollars pledged by the likes of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the EU as a collective has also helped in the fight, despite the greater EU and Iran’s squabble over sanctions.

While the United States has the most and best resources to act positively towards Iran, relations between both nations remain estranged and full of mutual distrust. For the United States to play its best global role, it may have to work on reconciling itself with Iran through mutual understanding and empathy for the nation’s people.

A Call to Action

Iran has a rich, sprawling history, going back thousands of years and spanning entire eras of human existence. With just over 85 million souls within its borders, its people are as richly diverse as its environment is. The beautiful capital city of Tehran has seen Shahs, Presidents, Ayatollahs and Prime Ministers throughout its centuries; yet, it has also seen war, trauma, hard times and true hardships. Not least of these hardships are the issues of poverty, COVID-19 sanctions and opiate addiction in Iran. Overcoming these issues will take the cooperation of not only global non-profits, European nations and international collectives, but also the United States.

– Trent R. Nelson
Photo: Flickr

health care in the drc

While the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is abundant with natural resources and a thriving ecosystem, decades of armed violence have left the nation impoverished. Currently, health care in the DRC suffers from understaffing and underfunding concerns. Moreover, it is only readily available in certain regions of the country. To better understand this issue, here are four facts about health care in the Congo.

  1. Health care exists in a pyramid structure. The DRC government, aided by several NGOs, funds and controls the public health care system in a four-level model. The first level of health care in the DRC is community health centers. These are open for basic treatment and utilizes nurses for care. The next level contains centers where general physicians practice. The third level pertains to regional hospitals, where citizens can receive more specialized treatment. The fourth and highest level is university hospitals. At all levels, appointments are needed to see physicians, and as they also only see clients on certain days of the week, wait times can be long. This prompts patients who require specialist treatment to often see community nurses instead. In addition, USAID currently provides health care services to more than 12 million people in almost 2,000 facilities.
  2. The country lacks health care workers. Health care in the DRC is limited. Statistically, there are only 0.28 doctors and 1.19 nurses and midwives for every 10,000 people. Furthermore, access to health care in the Congo’s rural regions is extremely low due to the remote state of many villages. The northern rural areas of the DRC hold less than 3.0% of the nation’s physicians while Brazzaville, the capital and the most heavily populated city, holds 66% of all physicians. This is despite the fact that the capital only holds 37% of the Congolese population.
  3. Health care funding in the DRC, though low, steadily rises. The government of the DRC has made noticeable progress in increasing funds for health care. Between 2016 and 2018, the proportion of the national budget dedicated to health care increased from 7% to 8.5%. While this increase in funding is life-changing for many, it still pales in comparison to the budgets of many other countries. The U.S. currently allocates 17.7% of its GDP toward health care. The DRC, however, is on an upward trajectory. It seeks to reach a target of 10% allocation of the national budget for health care by 2022.
  4. The DRC’s vaccination rates are improving. In 2018, the government of the DRC implemented The Emergency Plan for the Revitalization of Immunization. The plan aimed to vaccinate more than 200,000 children for life-threatening diseases in a year and a half. While the outbreak of COVID-19 in the nation has been a major setback to the plan, the Mashako Plan, as it is referred to, was responsible for a 50% rise in vaccinations since 2018. This rise occurred in “vulnerable areas” and brings countless more children immunity for potentially deadly diseases.

Despite a lack of health care workers and resources, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is making steady improvements to its health care system. Efforts to make vaccinations a priority and allocate more of the country’s budget to health care each year already yield results. Organizations such as USAID aid these improvements. The combination of NGOs and the government’s new emphasis on health care provide an optimistic outlook for the future of health care in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Caroline Bersch

Photo: Unsplash

Healthcare in the Marshall IslandsThe Marshall Islands is a country in Oceania. Known for its beautiful beaches, the country attracts many tourists in search of World War II ships that are in its waters. Tourists also visit the country for its abundant wildlife and coral reefs. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), though healthcare in the Marshall Islands is relatively organized, there are discrepancies and other indications of healthcare problems. These include high mortality rates, which WHO has indicated requires evaluation. Amid the ever-growing COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare is absolutely crucial in making sure that mortality remains low and quality of life is high.

5 Facts About Healthcare in the Marshall Islands

  1. The physician density in the Marshall Islands per 1,000 people is 0.456. This number refers to the number of doctors relative to the size and population of the nation. For reference, the physician density in the United States was 2.57 as of 2014. Other countries in Oceania, like Fiji or Samoa, have physician densities of 0.84 and 0.34, respectively, according to their most recent data.
  2. Only two hospitals exist within the country. In addition to these two hospitals in urban areas of the country, there are approximately 60 health centers and clinics spread out around the Marshall Islands. This number may seem surprising, but the small population of 58,791 merits the limited number of hospitals. Providing primary and secondary care, these hospitals rely on larger centers in the Philippines or Hawaii for more tertiary care. Other clinics and health centers are equipped with primary care physicians and other health assistants.
  3. The Marshall Islands saw a 0.5% increase per year from 2010 to 2019 in providing adequate, effective and necessary healthcare. According to a study by Universal Health Coverage (UHC) collaborators, the effective coverage index in 2010 was 42.1% whereas there was an increase of 1.9% in 2019. These percentages are in reference to effective healthcare coverage in 204 territories and countries across the globe. This means that healthcare in the Marshall Islands overall increased in its effectiveness within the decade.
  4. The morbidity and mortality rates for the Marshall Islands for communicable and non-communicable diseases are relatively high. WHO has mentioned that non-communicable diseases have a high prevalence in the country for two reasons. First, the amount of imported and instant food products that people consume there is high. Second, people in the Marshall Islands overall lack exercise and utilize smoking products at a high level.
  5. The mortality rate for children under the age of 5 years old is 31.8 per 1,000 births in the Marshall Islands. This number, known as a country’s “under-five” mortality rate, is indicative of a nearly three-decade-long improvement in under-five mortality rates in the Marshall Islands. The country has seen a steady decline in the rate since 2004. Between 1990 and 2019, the rate decreased by 17.5%. The under-five mortality rate is slightly higher for boys than for girls.

Healthcare Potential

Some of these five facts may paint a harsh picture of healthcare in the Marshall Islands. However, there is still great potential for improvement in the future. The effectiveness of care, for starters, is a great opportunity for the country to excel in its healthcare coverage. With the intervention of organizations such as WHO and an ever-improving healthcare system overall, these statistics could one day be numbers of the past.

– Rebecca Fontana
Photo: Flickr