CDC Intervention in Haiti
Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere with a UNDP national poverty index ranking of 68th. The country is also home to one of the world’s most populated cities without a centralized sewage system –  Port-Au-Prince. Although the developing country is vibrant, Haiti is still struggling. Since the initial destruction that the 7.0 magnitude earthquake in 2010 brought, cholera and HIV have ravaged the nation. However, as a direct result of the CDC intervention in Haiti, the nation has not fallen. The CDC has provided financial and technical assistance to the Government of Haiti (GOH) since 2002. In the 2010 earthquake’s aftermath, the CDC refocused on both immediate health necessities and public health systems within days of the U.N.’s arrival. CDC intervention in Haiti assisted the GOH in developing disease surveillance systems and establishing a competent public health force aimed to aid Haiti in developing a proper disease outbreak response.

This past decade, Haiti has not seen much progress due to reform efforts growing stagnant. Subsequently, the changes the country has seen thus far have turned out to be unsustainable and/or have been ill-fitted solutions to Haiti’s unique predicament. Fortunately, CDC intervention in Haiti has been critical to the continued survival of many, and the number of people saved will hopefully continue to grow.

Haiti’s Cholera Epidemic and the CDC

The GOH and the CDC have also been collaborating to devise a longterm plan to eliminate cholera. CDC intervention in Haiti has increased patient case surveillance, laboratory capacity, oral cholera vaccine (OCV) administration and clean water and sanitation access in efforts to curb cholera’s spread

One of these efforts includes the Haitian Ministry of Health (MOH) building the National Cholera Surveillance System (NCSS) in conjunction with the CDC support. The platform is a rapid identifier of concentrated outbreaks, providing critical guidance to further prevent future outbreaks. Thanks to these efforts, along with others, incidence rates dropped from 112 cases per every 100,000 in 2017 to 25.5 cases for every 100,000 in 2018.

The CDC’s “Foot-Soldiers” in the Battle Against Cholera

Through the design of training programs, protocols and supplemental assistance, the CDC has created an entirely new workforce titled TEPACs or officially the Techniciens en Eau Potable et Assainissement pour les Communes. Having been key in Haiti’s disease prevention, these “foot-soldiers” ensure the safety of water sources, improve sanitation standards and routinely assess communal water systems and sources for free chlorine. They also performed Haiti’s first inventory of those sources; inventory of resources provide valuable information to donation/volunteering groups. Alongside the efforts of the CDC, TEPACs has launched the WASH initiative – coordinated work in the area of water, sanitation and hygiene – in a supplemental effort to eradicate cholera from Haiti.

CDC Impact On the AIDS Crisis

It is estimated that 150,000 people living in Haiti have HIV/AIDS. CDC intervention in Haiti is achieving more control over the AIDS epidemic. Outlining the concern of the epidemic and the impact of CDC support, 98 percent of all pregnant women and 100 percent of TB patients that CDC clinics saw received tests for HIV. Further, all TB patients that tested positive for HIV also received antiretroviral therapy (ART) in 2018. 

The CDC and the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) have sought to better medical treatment, fortify health care systems, improve laboratory information networks and cover medical fees. The development of information-sharing systems to track data of HIV patients has saved countless lives.

CDC Provides Household Water Treatment and Storage

The CDC also implemented household water treatment and storage (HWTS) to support adequate sanitary conditions for Haitians. HWTS has the potential to provide safe drinking water in primarily rural households. CDC intervention in Haiti has offered HWTS product certification developmental protocols and a national strategy for HWTS programs and product evaluation. The Direction Nationale de l’Eau Potable et de l’Assainissement (DINEPA) intends these programs to support disease prevention and treatment in Haiti.

A Solution to the Underlying Sanitation Problem

While recovery has been slow, CDC intervention in Haiti has been an immensely influential factor in public health. One aspect of public sanitation the CDC does not have a direct influence on is the waste that litters Haiti.

Today, the capital, Port-Au-Prince, is still without central sewage. With every rainfall, a potentially lethal flood of human fecal matter, urine and other harmful substances accompany the water. 

The country is in dire need of infrastructure reforms specifically for the needs of Haiti and its people. The CDC has dedicated itself to controlling and minimizing epidemics, but it has yet to address flooding latrines and a lack of proper sewage disposal systems despite their inflammatory influence on disease.

Flaure Dubois has a potential solution to Haiti’s flood problem. Dubois proposes the Haitian government hire those working to clean latrines, called Bayakous, to create jobs for Haitian citizens. Officializing the Bayakou occupation would bring a wage increase and higher public esteem. If the GOH and the CDC work in conjunction with Bayakous to educate citizens about the dangers of raw sewage, people might be more willing to pay for Bayakou services. Further, it would encourage the sewage shipment to treatment plants, rather than it going into canals. A larger influx of latrine waste enables Haiti’s one functional plant to operate at peak performance and support economic growth in the sanitation sector.

Government-funded Bayakous provide a basis to expand Haiti’s waste-management industry, eventually increasing aptitudes for efficient waste treatment/disposal methods. Expansion of this industry could result in a higher degree of sanitation and a lower rate of disease transmission.

The GOH or the CDC’s involvement in waste management would lead to superior safety and higher circulation of information for Haitian citizens and workers in the sanitation industry. Employing Bayakous has the potential to sponsor the country’s most important pillar in ensuring safe water sources and sanitation. By offering better equipment, methods and working conditions CDC intervention in Haiti can support sustaining health improvements. Haiti needs a sustainable solution to the root of its sanitation problem before it can begin to have lasting-recovery.

– Hana Burson
Photo: Pixabay

Facts about Life Expectancy in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America and the second most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere. With a population of 6.4 million, nearly 50 percent live on just $2 a day. Though Nicaragua’s odds seem to be against it, the last two decades have shown an increase in life expectancy, averaging 74.5 years, which is an increase of six years since the late 90s. There are many contributing factors to this increase. Below are 10 facts about life expectancy in Nicaragua.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Nicaragua

  1. Nicaragua’s life expectancy is one year higher than the world average. As of 2019, the world average life expectancy was estimated at 72 years. One can follow life expectancy back to the Age of Enlightenment when only certain countries had the resources to industrialize. Consequently, this affected the distribution of health across the globe. Wealthy countries were healthy, whereas poor countries were not.
  2. Malnutrition and undernutrition is the primary cause of child mortality. Although Nicaragua is an agrarian economy, finding food and clean water is difficult. According to Project Concern International (PCI), nearly one of every five children have chronic malnutrition. PCI implemented the Food for Education project and feeds over 77,000 children every day. The integration between food and education encourages students to continue schooling without worrying about an empty stomach.
  3. Education is free and compulsory. However, travel expenses are costly and serve as an obstacle for low-income rural families. Only 29 percent of children attending school finish their primary education and roughly 500,000 children under the age of 12 are completely out of the education system. Those with more wealth and better health typically have an education of more than 12 years.
  4. Access to onsite health services is widely available. Nicaragua has a total of 32 public hospitals, 21 of which are departmental reference facilities. This means that medical professionals perform a variety of health services like inpatient care for internal medicine or surgery, and even diagnostic lab testing, in one central location. The majority of the hospitals, however, are on the Pacific side of the country, limiting access for those unable to travel.
  5. Nicaragua has the lowest HIV infection rates in Central America. Although case detection is slow (anywhere between two weeks and six months), preventive measures are stopping further spread of the disease. The Ministry of Health implemented case-based-surveillance (CBS) information systems. It continuously collects data on demographics, health events, diagnosis and routine treatment. The system also tracks outbreaks, viral mobility and mortality. CBS information systems support faster public health action.
  6. The Sustainable Sciences Institute (SSI) developed and implemented technologies for low-income health settings. Diagnostic kits are readily available to test for communicable diseases like dengue and leptospirosis. Testing and sampling happen at local or regional labs and lab techniques such as cell culturing receive modifications on-site in low-resource settings.
  7. Nicaraguan health care systems have the support of nonprofits. To name a couple, Project HOPE created the International Diabetes Educator and E-Learning Program to combat the rising threat of diabetes. The program’s aim is to train health care professionals and volunteers. Similarly, the Manna Project created adolescent health education programs in response to teen pregnancy. It also implemented Community Health Promotion, a program to teach communities about healthy lifestyle changes.
  8. Life expectancy for males and females follows the same pattern worldwide. As of 2019, females outlive their male counterparts by four years, averaging 76 years. This is one more year than the world average.
  9. The primary cause of death is noncommunicable disease. Diseases of the circulatory system account for 27 percent of premature deaths. Roughly 13 percent are due to external causes such as suicide and accidents, and nutritional/metabolic-related diseases like chronic malnutrition cause 9 percent of deaths. The Family and Community Health Model that the Pan American Health Organization implemented has improved health service accessibility by renovating the technology and health infrastructure.
  10. Health expenditures are the lowest per capita in Central America. Nicaragua spends about 8.7 percent of its total GDP on health care services and resources. Nicaragua spends roughly $59 on one person with an average of $27 out-of-pocket payment. Out-of-pocket payments directly influence the increase in privatized health care facilities.

The years of dedicated collaboration and innovation created health modifications that directly impact the life expectancy of Nicaraguans. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Nicaragua illustrate how far it has come in the last 20 years and how far it has to go before it has health, wealth and happiness.

– Marissa Taylor
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Croatia
Croatia is a small country in Southeastern Europe’s Balkan Peninsula on the Adriatic Sea. It is about 56,594 square kilometers, which is smaller than West Virginia and has a population of about 4.2 million. As of 2018, Croatia’s overall GDP was $60.8 billion, according to the World Bank. The country’s economy received a boost from joining the European Union in 2013 that helped facilitate its recovery from the 2008 global financial crisis.

However, the country still faces challenges. Due to factors including an aging population, increasing levels of emigration and a declining birth rate, Croatia’s population has been in decline for decades. After reaching a peak of 4.7 million in 1990, the population dipped back to levels that the country saw in 1960. Many expect Croatia’s population to slip to 3.4 million by 2050. Enmeshed within the discussion of Croatia’s population is the aspect of life expectancy. Croatia’s average life expectancy is 77.8 years. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Croatia.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Croatia

  1. Life expectancy has steadily increased over time. The average life expectancy in 1960 was 64.6. The age has increased ever since with just a few exceptions. There was a slight dip between 1977 and 1985, again between 1991 and 1992 and again from a peak of 78 in 2016 to what it is now.
  2. Croatia’s medical advancements and increased life quality have helped improve life expectancy. Total Croatia News also reported that declines in the past were because of “extraordinary situations” including wars or disasters. The declines in the early ’80s and early ’90s coincided with rising tensions linked to Croatia’s 1991 war for independence from Serbian-controlled Yugoslavia. There have been no recent major events in Croatia.
  3. Life expectancy is higher for Croatian women than men. Echoing the commonality for male versus female life expectancy across the developed world, women in Croatia have a higher life expectancy. For women, the average age of death is 80.9 years old compared to 74.9 years for men.
  4. Historically, life expectancy has differed for Croats living on one of Croatia’s 1,000 islands than those living on the mainland. In the past, male Croatian islanders lived three to 10 years longer than mainland men, while island women lived two to seven years longer than mainland women, according to a study that the Croatian Medical Journal published in 2018. However, researchers found the gap in life expectancy for islanders versus mainland Croats has shrunk, with islanders having lost mortality advantages due to diminishing adherence to a traditional Mediterranean diet and lifestyle.
  5. For the past decade, the leading causes of premature death in Croatia have been ischemic heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. The rate per 100,000 people of deaths due to ischemic heart disease as of 2018 was 1,907.6. Further, the rates of deaths stood at 1,000.5 and 726.8 for stroke and lung cancer respectively. As smoking and diet flaws play a substantial role in these figures, the Croatian government and leading health organizations are gradually working to address these issues. In the early 2000s, the Ministry of Health commissioned its first national survey examining cardiovascular risk problems and formulated a health care intervention program based on the results. In recent years, Croatia created a heart health-focused national e-campaign to reduce salt consumption in diets and other initiatives.
  6. While the leading causes of death have remained stagnant, there have been sharp changes in the top causes of death. Road incidents went from Croatia’s seventh-highest cause of death in 2007 to 13th highest in 2017. A study credits this to the government’s implementation of a new road safety program and enhanced enforcement of laws linked to key problem areas. These areas include speeding, drunk-driving and failure to use motorcycle helmets, seat-belts and child restraints. Meanwhile, Alzheimer’s disease has moved from the eighth highest cause of death to the fifth, which echoes a global rise in the prevalence of the disease.
  7. Concurrent with declining birth rates, infant mortality rates have steadily declined over the last three decades. Croatia’s birth rate per 1,000 people stood at 8.9 in 2017 compared to 14.6 in 1981. During the same time period, the infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births improved to four from 20.7 in 1981.
  8. Croatia stacks up fairly well against other countries. Croatia’s life expectancy is average compared to its bordering Balkan neighbors. Based on 2017 data, the country’s life expectancy is on par with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. Croatia has a higher life expectancy than Serbia and Hungary and a lower one than Slovenia. Croatia ranked as the 31st healthiest nation in the world in 2019 and its capital city Zagreb ranked as the 16th healthiest capital city in Europe.
  9. There have been reports of problems with health care for women. In 2018, a Croatian parliament member shared a story on the parliament floor about a poorly handled abortion procedure, re-igniting a longstanding national debate about health care for women. The BBC subsequently produced a story on how the member’s story inspired hundreds of other women to share their own experiences.
  10. Croatia’s health triumphs could be a result of its health care system. Croatia has a universal and mandatory health insurance scheme. The program utilizes both private and public care providers and the national Croatia Health Insurance Fund funds the system. The country’s health care system is so well regarded that medical tourism in Croatia continues to grow in popularity.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Croatia show that the health care system is not perfect, indicating life expectancy is not as high as it could be. However, the nation does boast several positive characteristics. The evolving internal and external economics and unfolding policy initiatives in the country are likely to impact life expectancy, as well as other quality of life elements.

Amanda Ostuni
Photo: Flickr

Health Care Facts about LaosLaos is a small, South Asian country that recently experienced a significant increase in its gross domestic product (GDP). Poverty in Laos plummeted from 33.5 percent to 23.2 percent allowing the country to meet the Millennium Development Goal by reducing its extreme poverty rate by half. However, there is still much work to be done. Around 80 percent of Laotians live on less than $3 a day and face a 10 percent chance of falling into poverty. Knowing that poverty and poor health care often co-exist, the government has made it a goal to strengthen its national health care system by achieving universal health coverage by 2020. Below are nine health care facts about Laos.

9 Health Care Facts About Laos

  1. The Food and Drug Department is the regulatory authority for health care in Laos. The body is responsible for regulating pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The most recent legislation the country passed is the “Law on Drugs and Medical Products No. 07/NA,” in 2012. The law provided stricter guidelines for drugs and medical products. It also creates a classification for medical devices and registration for drugs and other medical products.
  2. Between 1997 and 2015 Laos’ poverty rate declined from 40 percent to 23 percent. The improvement in life expectancy is likely due to the recent improvements of the government on health care in Laos. For example, in 2011 Laos’ National Government Assembly decided to increase the government expenditure for health from 4 percent to 9 percent, likely influencing poverty rates.
  3. Laos has separate health care programs for different income groups. The country has the State Authority for Social Security (SASS) for civil servants, the Social Security Office (SSO) for employees of the state and private companies, the Community-based Health Insurance (CBHI) for informal-sector workers and the Health Equity Funds (HEFs) for the country’s poor.
  4. Laos’ current health insurance only covers 20 percent of the population. The lack of coverage could be due to the large spread of the country’s population outside of its major urban centers. Around 80 percent of Laos’ populace live and work in rural communities. The country’s ministry of health has made efforts to provide more services to people who live outside the main urban centers by decentralizing health care into three administrative levels: the central Ministry of Health, provincial administration levels and a district-level administration.
  5. Wealthy Laotians in need of medical care travel to Thailand for treatment. Despite the increased cost of care in Thailand, Laotians travel internationally because of the better quality of care. Health care in Laos at the local levels suffers from unqualified staff and inadequate infrastructure; additionally, inadequate drug supply is a problem. Due to these issues, Laos depends on international aid. In fact, donors and grant funding finance most of the disease control, investment, training and administrative costs.
  6. Many Laotian citizens believe illness is caused by imbalances of spirit, spiritual possession and weather. Despite Laotian spirituality, knowledge of germs as the root cause of the disease is well understood. Laotian hospitals use antibiotics and other medications when they are available. However, folk medicine is often used as a treatment. For example, herbal medicines and spiritual cures include items, such as a special tree bark, which is believed to grant long life when it is prepared with rice.
  7. Many Laotians remain malnourished. Despite recent economic growth, many children under 5 are chronically malnourished; every fifth child in rural areas is severely stunted. Malnutrition is largely influenced by natural disasters. Laos has a weak infrastructure making it difficult to cope with floods, droughts and insect swarms.
  8. Local drug shops as a primary source of medicinal remedies are actually causing problems. Most of these shops are unregulated and the owners are unlicensed. Misprescription and inadequate and overdosage are common. Venders sell small packets of drugs that often include an antibiotic, vitamins and a fever suppressant. They sell these packets as single dose cures for a wide variety of illnesses.
  9. Laos has a high risk of infectious water-borne and vector-borne diseases. Common waterborne diseases include protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A and typhoid. Vector-borne diseases include dengue fever and malaria. Typically, diarrheal disease outbreaks occur annually during the beginning of the rainy season when the water becomes contaminated by human and animal waste on hillsides. Few homes have squat-pits or water-sealed toilets, causing sanitation and health issues.

 

As it stands, health care in Laos is still underdeveloped. However, the nation’s recent economic growth provides an opportunity to remedy the problem even though a majority of the current health care system is funded by foreign sources. As with all struggles, the desired outcome will take time. With enough cooperation with other countries and non-profit organizations, Laos has a chance to create a sustainable health care system for its citizens. Increasing health education among Laotians will be one key to improving public health in Laos. This can be done through the help of nonprofit organizations and others aiding in efforts to educate countries on sanitation and health.

– Robert Forsyth
Photo: Flickr

 

Health Improvements in Afghanistan
Conflict has torn Afghanistan apart. Like all conflicts, it is the innocent civilians that suffer the most. Afghanistan continues to face a great amount of insecurity within its borders. Yet, despite the harsh conditions that are an everyday reality for civilians, the country continues to make additional health improvements. Here are seven health improvements in Afghanistan.

7 Health Improvements in Afghanistan

  1. Increased Health Facilities: Readily available health facilities initiated health improvements in Afghanistan, according to the Senior Health Specialist at the World Bank, Ghulam Dastagir Sayed. As of 2003, there were only 500 health facilities available for Afghan civilians. As of 2018, that number skyrocketed to 2,500 facilities. These facilities are located all over Afghanistan, but USAID makes it clear that low-income populations and rural areas are the most important to reach.
  2. The International Midwife Association: NGOs in Afghanistan have trained over 4,000 community midwives around the country and provided them with the necessary information to provide anti-natal care, postnatal care,  deliveries and immunization services to the people of Afghanistan. The NGO International Midwife Association has helped women in Afghanistan. Before it provided this help, many women did not have the necessary knowledge and help to have a safe pregnancy.
  3. Infant Mortality Rate: Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rate in the world. However, from the year 2003 to 2015 the number of children dying before their 5th birthday has dropped by a total of 34 percent. This has lowered deaths from 137 per 1,000 births to 91 per 1,000 births. Health services and a better health care system in Afghanistan have caused these numbers to drop.
  4. Pregnant Women: Health care available to pregnant women in the country has also been among the health improvements in Afghanistan. From 2010 to the year 2018, health professionals have seen pregnant women at an increase of 3.5 percent each year. Additionally, women’s use of contraceptives and the number of births that professionals aided increased by 2 percent during the same eight years. The Afghani government has launched effective national health campaigns that have educated Afghani women and led them to seek out professional help during pregnancy. Women in the country are benefiting greatly through these increased health services. From the year 2003 to 2015, the number of women dying per 100,000 births has reduced by 64 percent. Similar to the improved child mortality rate above, a better health care system that reaches and educates Afghan women about their health has caused these improvements.
  5. The Afghanistan Development Association (ADA): NGOs are working to contribute to health improvements in Afghanistan. Seventy-two percent of the NGOs in the country are Afghan and are on the front lines providing medical treatment. One such NGO is the Afghanistan Development Association. ADA provides development and humanitarian aid to the country of Afghanistan.
  6. Drug Availability: Drug availability has risen in the country. It rose from 13.8 percent in the years from 2004 to 2010 and an additional 0.6 percent in the years 2011 to 2016. The government established the National Medicine and Health Products Regulatory Authority (NMHRA) that regulates medicines and other health products. This is one such program that is helping medicinal drug availability. Many Afghans have had to resort to smuggling medicinal drugs from neighboring countries or rely on traditional medicine. While Afghanistan has improved this problem, it can only continue its progress through programs like the NMHRA.
  7. Patient Counselling: Patient counseling is an important part of health care. From 2004 to 2010, patient counseling saw an increase of 6 percent annually followed by an additional 1.3 annually between the years 2011 and 2016. Patient counseling is important in the realm of family planning and child services.

While Afghanistan is still a country with many problems, one cannot deny that the progress it is making deserves celebration. The Afghan government partly made many of these improvements by actively engaging NGOs to tackle the health issues within its borders.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 

Honduras Life Expectancy
Honduras is a Central American country with a population of nearly 10 million people. Though the country has faced extreme poverty and disease, there have been significant signs of improvement in the country’s overall quality of life. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Honduras detail the improvements the country has made throughout its history.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Honduras

  1. Life expectancy is increasing. The life expectancy in Honduras has increased by almost a decade in the past 30 years. According to the 2019 Human Development Report from the United Nations Development Programme, the life expectancy at birth in 1990 was 66.7 years and rose to 75.1 years by 2018.
  2. Some of the top causes of premature death in Honduras are significantly lower than the average global comparison. The rate of deaths due to diarrheal diseases is 584.4 per 100,000, while the global average is more than 1,000. Similarly, the rate of deaths from stroke is less than 1,000 per 100,000, while the average is more than 1,800. Finally, the rate of deaths due to lower respiratory infections is 388.7 per 100,000, while the average is almost 2,000.
  3. The average years of schooling in Honduras has increased by more than three years since 1990. In 1990, the average years of schooling were only three and a half. In 2018, the average was more than six and a half. An increase in education often leads to higher-paying job opportunities, and therefore, access to better health care. Since 1957, the government of Honduras has had free primary school, which has led to a literacy rate of 83 percent.
  4. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Honduras has a low public investment in health per capita. The country currently ranks second in Central America and fourth in Latin America. The Latin American and Caribbean average is about $392 per person, while Honduras lies at about $101 per person.
  5. The mortality rates of both infants and children under 5 have both declined in the last 30 years. In 1990, the mortality rate in children under 5 was 53.4 per 1,000 live births. In 2017, the rate was just 14.6. For children under the age of 1, the mortality rate was 41.3 per 1,000 live births in 1990, which decreased to 11.6 in 2017.
  6. Some of the leading causes of premature death in Honduras include heart disease (41.6 percent), stroke (38.7 percent), violence (15 percent), road injury (16.4 percent), respiratory infections (2.5 percent) and other diseases. However, the World Bank approved the Country Partnership Framework for the country in 2015, which objectives include increasing access to finances, improving farming productivity and improving local governments to prevent violence and crime. The World Bank’s portfolio of the country is $259 million.
  7. The Honduras Social Security Institute (IHSS) has plans to expand its health facilities. The IHSS currently provides the public health system for about 37.1 percent of the working population. The institute currently has two public specialty hospitals and 10 outpatient facilities.
  8. In 2017, the World Bank reported that there were 0.314 physicians per 1,000 people in Honduras. Comparatively, Guatemala reported 0.355 physicians per 1,000 people.
  9. In 2015, the National Congress approved the Framework Law on Social Protection. This is the first time in Honduras that there was ever a law to define the national health care system. The multi-pillar law aims to extend health insurance, unemployment insurance and workmanship compensation to the working population, as well as Hondurans living in poverty.
  10. The Human Development Index (HDI), which measures the quality of life, health and wellbeing in Honduras, has increased from 0.508 to 0.623 from 1990 to 2018. To compare, Guatemala had a rating of 0.651, El Salvador a 0.667 rating and Haiti a 0.503 rating.

Although Honduras still needs to make progress in health care and safe water access, it has made a lot of improvements for its citizens in recent years. Honduras should be able to continue ensuring a long, healthy life for its citizens by continuing its improvements.

– Alyson Kaufman
Photo: Pixabay

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

 

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

Health Care in the Bahamas
The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, located near the coast of Florida, is a very popular vacation destination during the summer months. Attracting millions of visitors each year, it is home to some of the most iconic beaches in the world. In fact, the country’s economy thrives mostly on its tourist industry. Lesser known, beyond the country’s beautiful scenery, is its progressive health care system. In recent years, Bahamians have enjoyed improvements to the country’s health care due to the Ministry of Health. Its mission statement is “to ensure that the highest quality of services for health promotion, health protection and health care are accessible to all residents of The Bahamas in order to achieve an optimal level of health.” Here are nine facts about health care in The Bahamas.

9 Facts About Health Care in The Bahamas

  1. NHI Bahamas: In January 2016, the government began a new national health insurance program called NHI Bahamas, with an objective to make it “modern, affordable and accessible.” The government created this in response to 70 percent of the Bahamian population not having health insurance. As a result of this, the average person was paying about $2,300 each year for health services. Enrollment for the new program began in 2017. The program aims to decrease the number of citizens with diseases that a vaccine can easily prevent, such as hepatitis B and tetanus.
  2. Free Health Care: Basic Bahamian health care is free for expectant mothers, children, civil servants and all people age 60 and over.
  3. Full Health Care Benefits: All legal residents of The Bahamas are eligible to receive full health care benefits. There are no limitations based on economic or health status.
  4. NHI Program Coverage Limitations: The NHI program does have some limitations. For example, it does not cover overseas care, pharmacy services or other services provided by specialists. This includes dental health or psychotherapy.
  5. Private Health Insurance: While non-residents can receive health care if necessary, recommendations determine that long-term visitors should purchase private health insurance. This is because the country does not include a national health insurance scheme as a part of its health care system.
  6. Bahamian Health Care Costs: The exact cost for Bahamian health care, beyond the basic level, can vary significantly. A basic inpatient plan for one person can be as low as $54 a month. Meanwhile, the plan with the most benefits can be as expensive as $1,092 a month. The price may also vary with the inclusion of dental plans or maternal care during pregnancy.
  7. Hospitals: There are three government hospitals in The Bahamas: The Princess Margaret Hospital, Grand Bahama Health Service and the Sandilands Rehabilitation Center. The Public Hospitals Authority, one of the highest quality health care systems in the Caribbean area, runs them. Further, two private hospitals, JCI-accredited Doctor’s Hospital and the Lyford Cay are also in The Bahamas. Additionally, there are 55 health centers, 59 satellite clinics and 288 privately-owned institutions across the islands.
  8. Medical Professionals: Highly-trained health care professionals, including doctors and nurses, provide the best quality services. Many of these professionals attain their education abroad, including Europe, the United States and Canada.
  9. Medical Costs: Compared to the United States, the cost of medical procedures is surprisingly low. Even when people receive these procedures in a private hospital, estimates determine the cost to be 30 or even 40 percent less than in a U.S. hospital.

Typically, many view The Bahamas as simply a vacation destination with beautiful beaches. However, it is important to recognize the improvements that the Bahamian health care system has made as well. These improvements will continue to ensure a healthy and more progressive Bahamas.

A. O’Shea
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Myanmar
Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar is a country in Southeast Asia nestled between India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand. While it is currently transitioning from a military government to a democracy, the following are 10 facts about life expectancy in Myanmar.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Myanmar

  1. Myanmar’s Life Expectancy: For the first of the 10 facts about life expectancy in Myanmar, the average life expectancy in Myanmar is 66.96 years. For males, the average is 65 years and for females, it is 69 years. Steadily rising since 1950, the average life expectancy was once 33.63 years. By 1990, life expectancy slowed as it only reached 56.65 years and did not exceed 60 years until 2001. Based on data collected by the United Nations, Myanmar is not projected to have an average life expectancy exceeding 70 years until almost 2040.
  2. Other Countries’ Life Expectancies: Myanmar’s life expectancy is lower than most of its neighbors. Compared to surrounding countries, such as China, Thailand, India and Bangladesh the average life expectancy ranges between 69 and 77 years. However, Myanmar has a relatively similar life expectancy to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, which is at 67.27 years. This could be due to Myanmar’s changing government and tumultuous internal conflict. Unlike its neighbors, Myanmar has engaged in a civil war since it broke from British rule in 1948. In fact, it is the world’s longest ongoing civil war.
  3. Myanmar’s Internal Conflict: These disparities in life expectancies between Myanmar and other Asian countries could be due to its internal conflict. In Myanmar, there is a constant struggle for power in the government with the military primarily seizing control and ending rebellions since the country gained independence in 1948. Among this political struggle is an ethnic one; the Buddhist population (which makes up 90 percent of Myanmar’s total population) targets minority religious groups, specifically the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group. While there have always been tensions between ethnic groups in Myanmar, violence did not escalate until 2016. Thousands of Rohingya are fleeing Myanmar to Bangladesh because of persecution, extreme violence and borderline ethnic cleansing by Myanmar’s security forces. People do not know much about the death toll in Myanmar but BBC reports that the violence resulted in the killings of at least 6,700 Rohingya a month after violence broke out in August 2017. People burned at least 288 Rohingya villages since then and nearly 690,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh. Myanmar’s rapid population decline and lowered life expectancy may be due to either genocide or the fleeing of many of its civilians.
  4. Rising Life Expectancy: Despite the ongoing civil war in Myanmar, life expectancy is rising. One of the greatest links to health and life expectancy is the standard of living. According to a study by the World Bank, “the proportion of the population living under the national poverty line halved from 48.2 percent in 2005 to 24.8 percent in 2017.” More people are now able to afford health care and medical treatments, allowing for the rise in life expectancies. Additionally, as poverty declines, the Myanmar government is devoting more resources to improving health care. Myanmar has specifically targeted malaria. In a study by the World Health Organization, in Myanmar, “malaria morbidity and mortality has declined by 77 percent and 95 percent respectively by 2016 compared to 2012. The country is moving forward as per the National Strategic Plan aiming for malaria elimination by 2030.” By abiding by the National Strategic Plan, Myanmar was able to successfully reduce malaria in the country and boost life expectancy.
  5.  Reducing Poverty: Myanmar and various international powers are making efforts to reduce poverty in the country. In April 2017, the World Bank approved a $200 million credit for a First Macroeconomic Stability and Fiscal Resilience Development Policy Operation. The purpose of this is to help Myanmar achieve economic stability and reduce poverty. It would also allow greater access to public services, such as electricity and health care resources. In addition, China agreed to assist in reducing poverty in rural areas of Myanmar in February 2018. Rural Myanmar has higher poverty rates than in urban centers (38.8 percent compared to 14.5 percent in towns and cities). The project from China includes infrastructure development and vocational training, which will implement better roads and agricultural techniques. With these efforts, poverty is in decline and quality of life rises, allowing for people to live better and longer lives.
  6. Access to Electricity: People across Myanmar are gaining access to electricity. According to the World Bank, 69.815 percent of the population had access to electricity in 2017, as opposed to 55.6 percent in 2016. In 2015, both the government of Myanmar and the World Bank developed a National Electrification Plan that will achieve universal electricity by 2030. To do this, the World Bank has given Myanmar a $400 million credit to launch this plan throughout the country. Myanmar has already exceeded the goals set in 2015. One goal was to have 1.7 million households connected to electricity by 2020. Currently, 4.5 million households have electricity. Because of this and the decline of poverty, more households can obtain home appliances as well as other consumer goods like cell phones and computers. While these are not direct causes of rising life expectancy, they do indicate that people in Myanmar are gaining a better quality of life, which can attribute to living longer lives.
  7.  Health Care: Myanmar consistently ranks among the worst health care in the world. Myanmar citizens pay for most health care resources out of pocket. Only 600,000 of 53.7 million people in Myanmar have health insurance, the Social Security Scheme. There are shortages across the country in human resources for health. There are only 61 doctors per every 100,000 people in Myanmar. There are not many medical schools available and therefore a lack of other health professionals like pharmacists, technicians and bioengineers. Many of the current doctors in Myanmar feel overworked and burnt out of the profession. The lack of many resources can contribute to lower life expectancies.
  8. Leading Causes of Death: Without access to health care, diseases become the leading cause of death in Myanmar. Non-communicable diseases cause 68 percent of deaths in Myanmar. COPD, stroke, ischemic heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease are some of the leading causes of death in Myanmar. However, preventable diseases are in decline. Tuberculosis, HIV and lower respiratory infections have decreased as leading causes of death. Even though access to health care is limited, the quality has improved overall, allowing for people to fight off these infections and live longer.
  9. Improving Health Care: The Myanmar government is slowly improving health care. Unfortunately, government spending on health care is one of the lowest in the world at 5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). However, studies by the World Bank shows that this percentage has increased over time. In 2011, the Myanmar government only spent 1.687 percent of its GDP on health care, the year Myanmar began its transition to democracy. Since 2013, Myanmar began to implement more policies devoted to national health care. The government went from spending 2.11 percent on health care in 2013 to 5.03 percent in 2014, making health care more affordable and available for mothers and children. Myanmar also reduced the number of medical students to ensure a better quality of education. The severe lack of government investment in health care makes health resources difficult to access by the population, which one can attribute to the lower life expectancies, but it is clear that Myanmar is taking steps in the right direction.
  10. International Support for Health Care: There is a lot of international support for health care in Myanmar. Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) has worked with Myanmar since 1995 and has helped improve community health services. It also provides women valuable information on sexual and reproductive health. The Japanese International Cooperation Agency has also worked on special projects in Myanmar since 2000, most notably creating a standard for sign language and providing teachers. Additionally, the World Health Organization has also worked with the Myanmar government to set goals for their health care. The WHO assisted in drawing up Myanmar’s Health Vision 2030. Further, the World Bank provided a $200 million loan to Myanmar for an Essential Package of Health Services. Much of the international support is at local levels; it is up to the Myanmar government to provide support across the entire country.

As evidenced by the 10 facts about life expectancy in Myanmar, several circumstances could be contributing to the lower life expectancy of the country. However, despite the long and winding path ahead, it is clear that life expectancy is rising as living conditions continue to slowly improve. 

– Emily Young
Photo: Pixabay