Information and stories on health topics.

Indoor Air Pollution in Rural CambodiaCambodia has seen a rapid decrease in poverty within the last decade. More than 45 percent of the population was impoverished in 2007 when compared to 13.5 percent in 2014. It has also sustained one of the fastest economic growth rates in the world at an average of 8 percent between 1998 and 2018. However, just because the majority of the country has achieved middle-income status does not mean that the country is without its issues. Indoor air pollution in Cambodia is a growing problem.

Rural vs. Urban Areas

Many of those who have only recently overcome poverty have just barely done so. A large part of Cambodia’s population still lives on a very small amount of money per day and is at risk of slipping back into poverty. This risk is much higher in rural provinces. Eighty percent of Cambodia’s population lives in rural areas that had a poverty level of 20.8 percent in 2012. That is three times higher than the poverty rate in urban areas.

Rural Cambodians are subject as such to the hardships that many of the world’s rural poor must face. These include dilapidated electrical and internet infrastructure as well as limited access to healthcare and sanitation resources. Indoor air pollution in Cambodia is one such aspect of health that affects the rural poor disproportionately.

Indoor Air Pollution

The typical symptoms of being regularly exposed to indoor air pollution include nasal congestion, nose bleeds, difficulty breathing, a sore throat and asthma. These symptoms seem similar to a common cold, but long-term effects can include more serious respiratory diseases like respiratory disease and cancer.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is the greatest environmental health risk in the Western Pacific Region. In 2012, air pollution caused at least 3.2 million deaths. Indoor air pollution accounted for about 1.62 million of these deaths. Indoor air pollution is usually caused by smoking tobacco inside and by cooking with wood, coal or dung without proper indoor ventilation. Many people who are poor in rural areas with limited access to gas or electricity use these methods to cook. In rural Cambodia, the prevalence of these cooking methods reached 95 percent of households by 2013.

Biogas Stoves

The main solution to reducing indoor air pollution is to introduce efficient stoves that use clean fuel. One source of clean stove fuel would simply be electricity. However, that is an issue for rural Cambodians since the electrical infrastructure is sparse in rural areas. A better, more applicable solution would be to introduce biogas stoves with proper ventilation.

One million Cambodian households have the proper livestock to supply themselves with biogas fuel. The fuel would need to be extracted by using a biodigester that anaerobically takes methane from natural resources such as dung stored underground and siphons it to the stove. The methane would, of course, need proper ventilation to ensure the air in the household did not become poisonous just like a natural gas stove. Cambodia’s Natural Biodigester Programme (NBP) is working to distribute biodigesters to its rural population in hopes of combatting indoor air pollution. As of 2016, the state-led program has installed about 23,000 biodigesters.

The ACE 1 Stove

Using solid biomass for cooking causes much of indoor air pollution. Another alternative to solid biomass would be to use cleaner biomass stovetops that produce negligible emissions indoors. African Clean Energy (ACE) has launched the ACE 1 stove. This stove uses biomass as fuel but burns nearly all particles inside the chamber to leave barely any emissions. In addition, the stove comes with solar panels that provide LED lighting and outlet ports for mobile phones.

ACE has launched a program in northern Cambodia, the poorest Cambodian region, to try and implement the product. The ACE 1 is auctioned from a local vendor where the buyer pays a $25 downpayment. Afterward, the buyer continues to pay off the stove in small monthly increments of about $7.

Indoor air pollution in Cambodia is still rampant in rural parts despite the overall increase in income. The solutions are there, but in order to ensure economic growth that benefits everybody, Cambodia needs to focus on the implementation of these solutions in an ethical and sustainable way. This would lessen the health risks that the Cambodian poor face from simply living in their houses. It will also help facilitate more stable, lasting economic growth and development for the poor of the countryside.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Improvements for Deaf People in China
There have been many improvements for deaf people in China, especially in the areas of education, language and health care. Providing a sense of self-worth and pride, deaf individuals globally are seeing a shift in their impairment. While people once considered deafness a weakness, this disability has become a model of strength and purpose.

China’s population of 1.3 billion includes 27.8 million who suffer from hearing loss. This figure involves an estimated 11 percent of people older than 60 years of age and 20 million in the elderly segment, who suffer from moderate to severe hearing problems. The Ministry of Health has identified 115,000 children under the age of 7 with severe to profound hearing loss. Further, 30,000 babies are born with hearing impairment each year.

The Challenges

Improvements for deaf people in China are still an ongoing process. Deaf students face significant challenges such as education, language and acceptance. Parents of deaf children fought against their children learning Chinese Sign Language (CSL) for the stigma of not being normal. Parents preferred a more mainstream learning environment.

Moreover, deaf students were at a disadvantage when applying for colleges. These students fell behind their hearing peers, despite the schools expecting them to keep pace. Fortunately for deaf students, soon came the introduction of bilingual learning; students could still learn CSL, as well as spoken and written Chinese. Also, to their benefit, adapted materials included the availability of the National Higher Education Examination.

Still, China has made significant progress. In the past decade, there has been an increase in education accessibility for schools exclusively for deaf individuals, as well as schools for all other forms of disability.

Programs Launched and Progress

The World Health Organization (WHO) has praised China for the improvements of the programs for deaf people. The population of focus includes children with deafness, growing children with hearing loss/problems and the elderly community.

As of 1999, China has initiated the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) on the recommendation of the Central Government. The UNHS involves screenings offered in hospital-based programs. Newborns from low-income families receive pre-screenings for hearing-aids, as well as pre-screenings for cochlear implants. Additionally, China provides free hearing aids to deaf or hearing-impaired adults over 60 years of age. To date, over 400,000 individuals have benefited from these programs.

Hearing Screening Process

There are three categories in the hearing screening process. The first category includes large cities with extensive resources that provide UNHS hospital-based programs. This has lead to the screening of 95 percent of babies. The second category involves targeted screenings of high-risk newborns. Within one month of birth, newborns may visit early screening centers upon referral. The last category consists of the wide dissemination of questionnaires and simple tests. These tests, that community doctors provide, monitor each child’s hearing.

According to the UNHS, hearing loss in babies ranges from three to six per 1,000 births. The Otoacoustic emissions/Automated Auditory brainstem response methods perform screenings. These methods (OAE/AABR) offer a simple pass/fail result or a referral-based result, depending on the recommendation of extensive tests.

The Impact

The improvements of deaf people in China continue today, including in areas of educational and career opportunities. China is encouraging feedback from the deaf community in decision making. Further, these efforts ensure a more inclusive and informed environment, that does not highlight limitations and welcomes diversity.

Michelle White
Photo: Flickr

health initiatives in HaitiHaiti’s health care infrastructure has suffered drastically since the last massive earthquake in 2010. The earthquake further destroyed access to the delivery of health care and destroyed the country’s health care system as a whole. As a result, Haiti’s medical facilities now lack basic but critical services such as water and sanitation systems, state-of-the-art hospitals and clinics, modern medical resources and a sufficient number of trained medical professionals. There have since been health initiatives to aid Haiti in rectifying its health care and health care system.

Health Initiatives in Haiti

  1. Community Health Initiative: Emergency medical physicians Chris Buresh and Joshua White, who combined have more than 14 years of experience in Haiti, founded the Community Health Initiative (CHI) in Haiti in January 2012. CHI was founded to address the health needs of the Haitian community that would otherwise lack access to care by providing continuous primary health care. The program works with long-standing partnerships and local talent in the central region of Haiti to combat malnutrition, provide clean water and deliver health care to Haitians by returning to the same villages every three months. Because Haitians lack affordable primary health care in the area, most patients walk eight hours or more to arrive at CHI’s clinics for treatment. The Community Health Initiative provides clinics in the rural areas of Haiti. Since its founding in 2012, CHI has delivered 1,100 water treatment systems in which have reduced the diarrhea rate among users to 1.8 percent. Community Health Workers have trained 81 women in their Helping Babies Breathe program which has allowed a 71 percent reduction in neonatal mortality.
  2. Partners In Health: Partners in Health (PIH) is Haiti’s largest health care provider. PIH has been providing medical services to Haitians for more than 20 years. PIH helps deliver high-quality health care to some of Haiti’s poorest regions, serving an estimated 4.5 million people with the help of the national Ministry of Health. PIH’s community health workers have helped 15,000 HIV-positive patients begin and remain on treatment and have allowed 1,500 TB patients to start treatment on the path to a cure each year since initiation. Since PIH’s founding, the mortality rate for children under the age of 5 has been reduced to 71 per 1,000 where Haiti had the highest rates of infant and child mortality; the rate of incidents surrounding TB has also been reduced to 181 per 100,000, and the adult prevalence of HIV is now 1.9 percent.
  3. Hope For Haiti: Haiti reports some of the world’s worst health indicators that continue to inhibit Haiti’s development. Hope for Haiti is a health initiative that operates an infirmary in southern Haiti and partners with 24 rural communities to improve the health care system and its individual health indicators. Hope for Haiti provides primary care services, public health education and nutrition education, and it organizes mobile clinics. Since Hope for Haiti was founded, 6,727 lab tests were performed for a record of 3,090 patients. Around 2,700 Sawyer Water Filtration Systems were distributed in Haiti, impacting over 13,500 people, 2,800 students were provided with public health education and 100 diabetes club meetings were held for the Haitian community.

Haiti is in need of a permanent and modern health care infrastructure so that it can respond promptly and effectively to the medical needs of its community. With health initiatives such as Partners in Health, Hope for Haiti and the Community Health Initiative, Haiti will be well on its way to better health care and an improved health care system.

Na’Keevia Brown
Photo: Flickr

Ro-Boats are Cleaning Water Pollution
The Ganges is sprinkled with human excrement, idol remnants, raw sewage, industrial waste, ceremonial flowers coated with arsenic and even dead bodies. The New Yorker said the Ganges absorbs more than one billion gallons of waste each day making it among the 10 most polluted rivers in the world. The magazine said three-quarters of the waste is raw sewage and the remaining waste is treated industrial wastewater. The Indian government has attempted to clean up the Ganges several times over the last 30 years. Recently, Ro-Boats are cleaning water pollution instead of direct human intervention.

The Holy Water in Despair

The Ganges holds spiritual importance in Hinduism. The Ganges is considered the personification of the goddess Ganga – the goddess of purity and purification. Hindu men, women and children decorated in garlands and bright robes are common sights along the shores of the Ganges. They bathe, wash their clothes, defecate and dispose of the corpses of their loved ones. Hindus bathe in the Ganges for spiritual purification – releasing them from their sins and freeing them from the wheel of reincarnation. Bathing and drinking the waters of the Ganges pose a risk to its visitors’ health. The current sewage levels of the Ganges spread a variety of diseases among the population including typhoid, cholera and amoebic dysentery.

The Indian government believes an automated water device solution, a fleet of robotic boats (Ro-Boats), may aid the clean-up of the Ganges. Ro-Boats are cleaning water pollution by being self-propelled riveting river raider robots that churn through water and collect and dispose of sewage and other waste.

Omnipresent Tech

Omnipresent Tech is the creator of the Ro-Boats. The Indian government gave Omnipresent a $200,000 contract to build up a fleet of these Ro-Boat vessels to clean up the river. The Indian government’s investment in Omnipresent is part of its efforts to combat the waste level deposits of the Ganges. The Indian Government began the Ganges Action Plan in 2015. This plan is among the most recent of the decades-long efforts to clean up the river. Narenda Modi, the Prime Minister of India said, “The Ganges will be clean by 2019.”

Omnipresent’s official website claims the company is India’s leading robotics, industrial UAV/Drone and Video Analytics solutions provider. Omnipresent produces industrial inspection drones, river cleaning robots, logistical robots emergency response drones and defense drones

Omnipresent also produces the drone software, as well as 3D modeling machine learning surveillance and a variety of other industrial and consumer high-tech. A Ro-Boat device costs $21,057.75 to build. The bots run without human intervention – neither during the day nor at night. The Ro-Boat has a capable arsenal. Each riveting river raider has fog lights, a pan-tilt-zoom camera, a solar-powered battery and twin-propelled engines

GPS commands guide the Ro-Boats. A drone that flies above the bot gives commands to the machine. The drone flies ahead, scouts debris and pollutants in the water and gives a signal to the Ro-Boat to drive over, scoop up and dispose of the waste. The drone also serves as a spy to catch companies spewing pollutants into the Ganges.

Ro-Boats are cleaning water pollution by collecting sewage through robotic arms and depositing the waste. The riveting river raider is capable of cleaning 200 tons within a 24-hour period. This means that the device could remove 1,400 tons of waste material from the Ganges with a week. Overture estimated that the bot could remove 200 tons from the Ganges in a year.

A Ro-Boat looks like the offspring of a dump truck and a fighting robot from the television competition “Robot Wars.” Not only can Ro-Boats swim across the surface of the water and clean the waste floating on the river surface, but these self-propelled riveting river raiders can also submerge and dig out the river-bed lodged pollutants. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology declared the Ro-Boat to be among the top 20 innovations.

Currently, the Ganges remains filthy. Overture says that 1.3 billion gallons of untreated sewage continue to flood into the river each day. Finding vendors to create sewage treatment plants is also problematic. Land cost, bad management and bidding practices halt progress.

How the Ganges Can Get Help

One way to help is for the United States government and companies to invest money in Omnipresent Tech and the Indian government’s waste infrastructure building projects. With enough support, these projects may purify India’s Ganges river.

Purification will help India’s poor who bathe in and drink the water of the Ganges. If the Ganges is clean, this should decrease the level of diseases in the country and prevent their spread. Investment in companies, such as Omnipresent, should aid the growth of India and increase the production of Ro-Boats. The increased production of Ro-Boats will demand a workforce to keep up with increased production and contribute to hiring, increasing poverty reduction among the Indian population. If successful, these riveting river raiders may be a key contribution to India’s efforts to become a leader in the world economy.

Robert Forsyth
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Health Care in Syria
Syria, officially known as the Syrian Arab Republic, is a war-torn country in Western Asia. These war efforts have caused a series of attacks against women’s health care in Syria and made female health care more difficult to come by. In Syria’s civil war, violent attacks continue to target health care workers and clinics, and particularly female health clinics.

Fear of Attack

Fear of attack also plays a role in keeping women from what health resources they do have. Many of the childbirth centers that remain are located in rural areas, making them difficult for many women to reach. Fear of attack in the vicinity of health clinics inhibits patients and health professionals alike. The regime’s campaign of gender-based sexual violence is a large contributor to this fear. The vulnerability that comes with the travel necessary to reach the available health clinics put women at further risk of attack.

These attacks and the consequent shutdown of many maternal health facilities are seriously threatening maternal health. Between 2011 and 2017, more than 320 health clinics suffered attacks. These attacks have resulted in the deaths of at least 826 health workers, 85 of whom were women. By the end of 2015, only 16 of the 43 childbirth centers previously available in Syria remained. The lack of access to these facilities and health professionals leave many women with no safe conditions to deliver their children. Moreover, they have no opportunity for checkups or preventative shots once they deliver their children.

Overall Health Care

The conflict also threatens basic preventative care for women. Things like mammograms and regular checkups are no longer available and few female health professionals remain in Syria, making health care even more difficult for practicing Muslims to find. Gynecological services and even menstruation pads are incredibly difficult to come by. Women who do survive the hardships of the war suffer from malnutrition and struggle with even the basic necessities for survival.

The Molham Volunteering Team

In the midst of the conflict, however, there are efforts to preserve and improve female health care. Groups like the Molham Volunteering Team are working to fill in the gaps in women’s health care in Syria. A group of Syrian students brought this group together to provide necessities, such as food and medicine, to Syrians in need. When crises emerge, the Molham Volunteering Team assembles emergency campaigns to help, such as its campaign to raise money to support victims of the attacks targeting Maarat Al-Numan. The campaign has nearly reached its goal of $250,000.

Another focus of the Molham Volunteering Team is to raise the funds necessary to cover hospital fees for women and other costs of childbirth. It has even begun a campaign to raise money in support of health workers and clinics against the attacks. To date, the campaign has raised about a quarter of its $10,000 goal.

The Violet Organization

The Violet Organization, a nonprofit organization in Turkey, has opened a health center in rural Idlib where women have access to maternal and reproductive health care. A group of young volunteers, with the goal of helping secure the basic needs of families through food and cash donations, founded The Violet Organization. Today, The Violet Organization focuses not only on immediate aid but also on long-term projects like the Idlib health center, which offers treatment for ovarian and breast cancer, as well as basic checkups and consultations.

The Mazaya Center

The Mazaya Center attempts to educate women about their health issues. The Mazaya Center, which volunteers started to empower women, is another nonprofit organization that focuses on women’s issues in northern Syria. It provides paramedic training and first aid classes. These two-month training sessions, which female nurses lead, aim to educate women about reproductive and maternal health as well as family issues.

In the face of the Syrian civil war, civilians are struggling to find the basic necessities for survival, and safe access to women’s health care in Syria has become yet another casualty. Despite the looming threat to women and health professionals, it is evident that there are people continuing their work to ensure that health care and education are available to the women who need it most.

– Amanda Gibson
Photo: Flickr

 

6 Facts About Water Quality in Sub-Saharan AfricaThe top concerns with water quality in Africa include lack of access to water for drinking, sanitation and agriculture, the cleanliness of the water and the burden of water retrieval. The United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals have tracked the improvement of access to water in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most challenged and inequitable region. Sub-Saharan Africa’s water system is the most chronically overburdened and stressed area in Africa. This is due to a lack of economic investment, social challenges and environmental factors. Here are six facts about water quality in sub-Saharan Africa.

6 Facts About Water Quality in Sub-Saharan Africa

  1. Many areas in Africa have partially achieved the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals on Water. Before 2015, North Africa had achieved a 92 percent improved source of drinking water for its people. Sub-Saharan Africa, on the other hand, had only achieved 61 percent and was not on track to meet its 75 percent goal. Investment in infrastructure systems such as dams would improve public health and increase economic stability while achieving water access targets.
  2. In sub-Saharan Africa water access is inequitable. In urban areas, 90 percent of the wealthy households have access to improved water sources with piped water in more than 60 percent of the homes. In rural settings, fewer than 50 percent of people access improved water sources with the poorest 40 percent of homes having no in-home water access. Only 16 percent of Sub-Saharan residents have access to a water tap in their home or yard.
  3. The burden of water retrieval falls on girls and women. The time and labor-intensive chore of carrying water home from a distance prevents girls and women from pursuing income-generating work and education. It also puts them at risk of violence on long journeys for water. Approximately 13.5 million women in sub-Saharan Africa travel more than 30 minutes each day to collect water. They carry repurposed cans that hold five gallons of water and weigh 40 pounds when full. The women may have to take several trips in a day depending on the size of their family.
  4. Water scarcity and lack of sanitation threaten public health. Poor sanitation and limited water lead to outbreaks of cholera, typhoid fever and dysentery, which can contaminate the limited stores of fresh water. When people store water in their homes, this creates a breeding ground for mosquitos, which leads to an increase in malaria and dengue fever. Other diseases connected to water scarcity include trachoma, plague and typhus. Prioritizing water quantity over quality can lead to bacterial diseases causing diarrhea, dehydration and death, especially in children.
  5. In sub-Saharan Africa, 95 percent of crops are dependent on rainfall. Increased water storage capacity will increase resiliency to water shortages resulting from droughts. Dependency on rainfall for crops is limiting. Small-scale but efficient usage of ponds, tanks, and wells can improve agricultural output. The implementation of various methods of watering crops can reduce water stress and improve food security. Farmers could use drip irrigation, pumps and shallow wells to reduce reliance on rainwater.
  6. Sustainable agricultural development will lead to sustainable water sources and reduced stress. An example of a sustainable agricultural method may be aquaponics, which requires no soil and little water.

Continued innovation, education and infrastructure development are necessary for Africa to improve access to safe and clean drinking water. While much progress is underway, these 6 facts about water quality in sub-Saharan Africa show that the continent will continue to face climate, political and economic barriers in meeting these goals.

Susan Niz
Photo: Wikimedia

Countries Affected by the Measles OutbreakIn 2019, countries around the world faced a significant increase in measles outbreaks. Besides cases in the United States, people in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Brazil, the Philippines and Somalia have suffered from a resurgence of this preventable disease. There are many causes of the global measles outbreak including the mistrust of vaccines, inadequate access to health care and the global childhood immunization gap.

Measles is caused by a virus and spread through respiratory transmission. It is highly contagious but mostly preventable through childhood vaccinations. Mild symptoms of measles include high fever and a rash. More severe effects of the disease include pneumonia, diarrhea and even deafness.

4 Countries Affected by the Measles Outbreak

  1. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): In the DRC, measles has killed 5,000 people so far in 2019, which is more than twice as many people as Ebola. More than 90 percent of these deaths are children under the age of 5. Further, the measles outbreak has spread throughout all provinces. Lack of access to health care and a shortage of measles vaccines contribute to these deaths. Additionally, weakened immune systems in malnourished children, deficiencies in vitamin A and diseases such as HIV/AIDS also lead to death. UNICEF and other NGOs have distributed more than 1,300 measles kits containing antibiotics, rehydration salts and other drugs to the most impacted areas. UNICEF has also advocated for a longer-term strategy to address the outbreak.

  2. Brazil: Though Brazil had been deemed free of measles in 2015, as of November 2019 the country has had an estimated 50,000 cases of the disease. The highest concentration of measles cases occurred in Sao Paulo, the state with the highest population. Brazilian officials are concerned that people in an isolated tribe in the Amazon may have contracted the disease. This is of particular concern since these people have a low resistance to measles and other diseases. Health officials in Brazil have implemented a measles vaccination campaign to vaccinate millions of young people between the ages of 20-29 in order to contain the outbreak.

  3. The Philippines: Yet another country that has faced a measles outbreak due to distrust in vaccines is the Philippines. The New York Times reports that measles vaccination rates in the country declined from above 80 percent in 2008 to below 70 percent in 2017. Officials have reported nearly 44,000 measles cases in Manila and the surrounding areas as of November 2019. In response to the measles outbreak, along with outbreaks of polio and dengue, the Philippines Red Cross has sought to expand its efforts. This will require recruiting and training some 2,600 volunteers. In the long-term, the Department of Health aims to increase immunization coverage so that 95 percent of children are vaccinated.

  4. Somalia: According to a November 2019 U.N. article, there have been 3,616 suspected cases of measles in Somalia in 2019. In particular, people in IDP camps (for internally displaced people), areas with high population density and nomadic communities are at greater risk. The illness is particularly deadly for children under 5 in Somalia. Unfortunately, one in seven of these children dies before they turn 5. To combat this outbreak, the Somali government has partnered with UNICEF and the WHO to launch a campaign to vaccinate 1.7 million Somali children.

Several countries have faced measles outbreaks in 2019. Increased immunization coverage during childhood could prevent these outbreaks. As these countries affected by the measles outbreak show, access to vaccines and health care is vitally important. In fact, these ailments are often a matter of life and death. Fortunately, NGOs and governments are working together to prevent future measles outbreaks.

Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

Typhoid Fever in Asia
Typhoid fever is a menace to developing nations, especially those that lack access to proper sanitation facilities. Nowhere is this more problematic than in Asia, where most typhoid fever fatalities occur. However, plenty of groups are doing their part to end the scourge of typhoid fever in Asia through the spread of clean water and proper sanitation.

What is Typhoid Fever?

Food and water contaminated with excrement that contains the bacteria Salmonella enterica causes the transmission of typhoid fever. Due to this, typhoid fever was once incredibly prevalent in urban areas throughout Europe and the United States during the 19th century as these countries frequently lacked sound sewage systems to deal with human waste. In the modern era, people only commonly see typhoid fever in the developing world, specifically in areas with poor sanitary conditions.

Common symptoms of typhoid fever are a sustained fever that can peak at around 103-104˚F, fatigue, bowel issues, wheezing and stomach pains. Typhoid fever risk factors in endemic areas include contaminated water, housing with subpar hygiene facilities and contact with a recently infected individual. Those affected can become chronic infectors, people who have on and off symptoms for extended periods and can transmit the disease to others regardless of if they are having an episode or not.

Typhoid fever has been treatable with vaccines since 1948, and mass immunization has proven successful in the past. However, typhoid that is resistant to the most common type of treatment (chloramphenicol) is now emerging. With approximately 16 million cases of typhoid fever reported each year, a treatment-resistant strain is a horrifying prospect. Thankfully, full resistance to treatment is exceedingly rare.

Why Asia and Who is Helping?

Most typhoid fever deaths happen in Asia, where 90 percent of all typhoid related deaths occur. Countries, where typhoid fever in Asia is endemic, include India, China, Vietnam, Pakistan and Indonesia. A significant factor contributing towards the spread of typhoid fever is a lack of sanitary water facilities, and thankfully, NGOs like Charity: Water have made it their mission to bring clean water to all developing nations.

Charity: Water does this by promoting and financing projects aimed at the creation and distribution of sanitary water facilities like latrines, hand-dug and drilled wells and piped water systems.  One of the countries that Charity: Water has had a significant impact on is India. The organization has been working there since 2008 and has funded 4,479 projects with a total of $10,738,062 spread across all these projects.

The Future of Typhoid Fever

Typhoid fever was once a prominent issue in the United States and Europe, but with proper water and waste management systems, they have thoroughly eradicated it. Typhoid fever in Asia is a problem that countries can handle through the creation of clean water facilities. With the help of NGOs like Charity: Water, the world can finally eliminate typhoid fever once and for all, not just from the United States and Europe, but all across the globe.

– Ryan Holman
Photo: Flickr

Fake Medicine in Benin
Benin, a West African country about the size of Pennsylvania, has a tumultuous history. The site of the former Dahomey Kingdom, a kingdom that experienced rapid growth due to its involvement in the slave trade, Benin has since faced colonization, war, strife, civil unrest and a flood of pseudo-pharmaceuticals. With such struggles, a country can react in perpetuation or recovery and Benin has chosen the latter. This is most noticeable in the recent progress against fake medicine in Benin.

Fake Medicine in Benin

The origin of the issue of fake medicine in Benin likely relates to the country’s impoverished state. Benin had the 27th lowest per capita GDP as of 2017, at approximately $2,300. In terms of medical intervention, Benin has been desperate for some time now. The CIA lists the risk for Beninese citizens contracting infectious diseases as very high. The diseases responsible for the highest percentage of illnesses are bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, dengue fever, malaria and meningococcal meningitis. Benin also faces struggles relating to HIV/AIDS, which resulted in 2,200 deaths in 2018.

As of 2016, the nation spent only about 4 percent of its GDP on the health sector. This lack of financing for government-sponsored health care left an opening for black market interference and fake prescription drugs quickly flooded stores and pharmacies. These drugs often have no active ingredient and do little to fight the diseases that marketing suggests they cure. Instead, they lead to a litany of new health issues, often causing ulcers and organ failure. People have linked over 100,000 deaths to fake medicine in Benin.

The Fight Against Fake Medicine

Corruption has been inherent in most of Benin’s history. The issue of fake medicine in Benin is simply another facet of the same problem. Thankfully, the country is taking steps to address the endemic nature of this devastating problem.

For all intents and purposes, the fight against fake medicine in Benin began in 2009 with the Cotonou Declaration. This declaration focused on addressing the rampant fake medicine black market at the international level, as opposed to limiting the fight to within Benin’s borders. The declaration called for a raised awareness of drug trafficking and a limiting of the freedoms that often occur for those involved. Unfortunately, not much changed following the Cotonou Declaration. Benin raised awareness, but only for a moment, and it did not take any legitimate steps to combat the issue.

True progress began with the launching of Operation Pangea 9, a government organization founded under Benin’s current president, Patrice Talon. The organization works as a task force, set on fighting the manufacturing and selling of fake medicine through raids and legislation. In 2017 alone, the organization seized over 80 tonnes of fake medicine in Benin. This serves as a sign of drastic progress. For comparison, in 2015, the organization seized only about four tonnes of contraband.

The seizures took place throughout a multitude of marketplaces in Benin, resulting in the arrest of over 100 fake medicine traders. These raids and seizures served as stage one of Operation Pangea 9’s plan to eliminate the distribution of fake medicine in Benin. It was extremely successful, yet only addressed a fraction of the issue.

After the success of the seizures, in order to prevent a lapse back into the country’s past, President Patrice Talon’s government went after the suppliers. Many knew that corruption thoroughly aided the success of the selling of fake medicine in Benin. In December 2017, the police staged a raid at the home of Mohammed Atao Hinnouho, a member of Benin’s parliament. The police seized hundreds of boxes of pseudo-pharmaceuticals and arrested Mohammed Atao Hinnouho. This raid led to the outing of a vast number of those involved in the illegal trade and sent a definitive message that no matter the sources or persons responsible, they would face justice.

Conclusion

As of 2019, the country almost entirely eradicated the issue of fake medicine in Benin. The shelves of grocery stores that once held fake medicine now stand empty, and open-air pharmaceutical markets are a thing of the past. People should take the way in which the Beninese government dealt so swiftly with this issue as an example, a sign of what is possible when a country properly focuses attention and resources. Although Benin requires more in terms of setting up a proper health care system, these advancements serve as a sign to the end of an endemic issue and should not be overlooked.

– Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr

Technological Advancements in Africa
Technology
plays an important role in a nation’s modernization. Through health, communication and economical advances, all nations benefit from the inclusion of tech. The world’s leading nations are also synonymous with technological innovations, emphasizing the effect and power of focusing on technological integration with society. Promoting technological advancements in Africa has benefitted them greatly. 

Looking at the Numbers

Africa has seen a dramatic spike in mobile phone users from 330,000 in 2001 to 30 million users in 2013. However, the first piece of technology that has made a large impact and that one can consider a mark of technological advancement in Africa is the internet. In 2014, Africa Renewal, a United Nations magazine, concluded that the main issue in technological penetration of Africa would be in the rural South African regions outside of the scope of major cities.

However, the data that Pew Research showed that in six African countries, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania, internet usage increased by 2 to 16 percent from 2013 to 2017, leaving South Africa the highest at 59 percent. This data shows that even if the median percentage usage, 41 percent, is not nearly as high as more developed nations like the U.S.’s 89 percent, sub-Saharan countries are still increasing in internet usage.

Pew Research has shown that younger people are the ones utilizing the internet more. From Tanzania to South Africa, 34 to 75 percent of people aged 18-29 utilize the internet. This group of users is breathing life into technological advancements.

One such case is Peter Kariuki, a Kenyan native, who recognized the growing issue of road accidents in Africa. Road accidents are now the eighth leading cause of death in all of Africa, at 1.35 million deaths in 2016, beating tuberculosis. Peter Kariuki has created CanGo (formerly SafeMoto), a ride-sharing app that links a user with a safe and experienced motorcyclist in the hopes of lowering the rate of traffic accidents 

CareAI

Outside influence has trickled into Africa. One such influence comes in the form of the European Commission and CareAI. CareAI is a computing system that can diagnose diseases anonymously using blockchain. Blockchain is a decentralized growing list of records or blocks that cryptography links.

Malaria, typhoid fever and tuberculosis are some types of diseases that CareAI can test and identify and can do so in an anonymous manner. This anonymity allows migrants, minorities and those without health care to receive the diagnosis without the fear of others outing or persecuting them. The next step after the diagnosis is for CareAI to prescribe an individual with a prescription through an NGO, a nonprofit organization that operates independently of any government or even an NGO doctor. 

M-Pesa

Technological advancements in Africa have helped regions connect via the internet and mobile devices. Widespread use of the platform has increased communication and facilitated technical improvements that improve internet connections.

An offshoot of this connectivity has brought an age of innovation, such as the app M-Pesa which acts as a digital wallet that allows for remote withdrawals without having to visit a bank. With this increased acceptance of technology in Africa, outside organizations have begun to invest in helping Africa, such as U.S. company Zipline. Zipline’s partnership with Rwanda delivers blood and plasma via drones. Technology has aided Africa’s ascent to modernization and will keep improving as long as innovation exists.

With health care innovation, Africa can easily provide medical attention to those living in remote areas. The increasing connectivity of African society benefits not only the welfare of the nation but computer media connections. Outside of health care, technological advancement in Africa has improved manners of access to finances, ridesharing and social media. Africa has taken a step in the right direction in focusing on technological improvements, and people can provide assistance through the African Technology Foundation with its mentorship or partnership programs that focus on providing the education and resources necessary for technological advancements in Africa.

– Richard Zamora
Photo: Flickr