Infant Mortality in NepalOver the past 10 years, infant mortality in Nepal has decreased. The number of infants dying before they reach age one has been reduced by more than 50 percent. In 2006, the United Nations Populations Fund ranked Nepal as the most affected by infant and maternal mortality in South Asia. Not many people know what chlorhexidine does for Nepal. However, chlorhexidine is becoming more common in routine care nationwide. Over 1.3 million newborns throughout Nepal benefit from this product.

How Chlorhexidine Helps Nepal

Chlorhexidine is an antiseptic used in hospitals to disinfect the skin before surgery and to sanitize surgical tools. In countries like Nepal, it is used to prevent deadly infections by protecting the umbilical stumps of newborns. It is safe and affordable. Chlorhexidine comes as either a gel or a liquid. It is easy to manufacture and simple to use. Mothers, birth attendants and others with little training in low-resource settings benefit the most from this antiseptic.

Research and Trials

Between November 2002 and March 2005, Nepal Nutrition Intervention Project, Sarlahi (NNIPS) started a community-based trial. The trial hoped to determine the effects of chlorhexidine on newborns. Nepal Health Research Council and the Committee on Human Research of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health approved the trial. A local female researcher approached women who were six months into pregnancy for enrollment, to explain the procedures and obtain their oral consent.

Education also became a part of the research testing for those in the chlorhexidine trials. Parents in this group received educational messages about clean cord care.

Results

The NNIPS enrolled 15,123 infants into the trials. Of these infants, 268 resulted in neonatal death. Of the surviving infants, researchers found that there is a 24 percent lower risk of mortality among the chlorhexidine group than those who use dry cord-care (no soap and water, chlorhexidine or any other liquid). Also, infant mortality in Nepal was reduced by 34 percent in those enrolled in the trial within the first 24 hours of their birth.

The trial data also provides evidence that cleansing the umbilical cord with chlorhexidine can lessen the risk of omphalitis and other infections. Omphalitis, a cord infection, was reduced by 75 percent when treated with chlorhexidine. The antiseptic was determined to have an overall positive and significant effect on the public health of the country.

Impact in Nepal

In 2009, after results of the trials released, the USAID supported the Government of Nepal to pilot a chlorhexidine program. Saving Lives at Birth: a Grand Challenge for Development, an NGO, included chlorhexidine into routine care nationwide two years later. The Government of Nepal has advocated and promoted the usage of chlorhexidine by packaging the products as a maternal health product. They are now even educating health care workers on the application of the product.

The country received a USAID Pioneers Prize for lowering the neonatal death rate significantly. In 2007 the mortality rate was 43.4 per 1,000. In 2018, it lowered to 27.32 per 1,000.

Global Impact

What chlorhexidine does for Nepal goes beyond its borders. Nepal has also impacted countries such as Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Bangladesh. These countries are now using chlorhexidine to lower the infant mortality rate and create healthier societies.

In 2013, Nigeria started chlorhexidine pilot programs to also lower its neonatal death rate. The infant mortality rate is determined by newborn deaths per 1,000 people born. Nigeria once had the third-highest number of infant deaths (75.3 per 1,000). However, the infant mortality rate now is ranked as the eighth-highest at about 64.6 deaths per 1,000.

Chlorhexidine is reducing infant mortality in Nepal and other countries.

– Francisco Benitez
Photo: Flickr

Child Health Care in EthiopiaEthiopia is a fascinating case study relating to the mission of downsizing poverty. Although many Ethiopians do struggle, the country has made significant improvements in recent years. For example, 30 percent have fallen below the poverty line as of 2011. The poverty rate decreased from 44 percent in 2000 to 30 percent in 2011. During that time, the percentage of Ethiopians who are uneducated decreased from 70 to 50 percent. Additionally, the average life expectancy rose by 10 years. Maternal and child health care in Ethiopia has been on a similar trend of improvement.

Maternal Care

In 2000, only 22 percent of mothers saw a doctor for an antenatal check-up before having their baby. This rate reportedly increased to 37 percent in 2011. Although this progress is promising, one in 52 women in Ethiopia die due to childbirth-related causes every year. Furthermore, 257,000 children in this country will die before reaching age 5. Fortunately, many organizations remain committed to improving maternal and child health care in Ethiopia through a variety of methods.

Organizations Dedicated to Improving Ethiopia’s Maternal and Child Care

USAID has worked alongside the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to bring change to Ethiopia. They have been working to improve coverage of universal family health care plans across the country. These plans include accessible prenatal care for
mothers. They also include increased immunizations and community-based management plans for childhood illnesses.

These two organizations focus on policy and advocacy to achieve their goals. Their success is shown in how poverty has decreased by 45 percent since the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation first established a grant in Ethiopia in 2002. They cannot take all the credit for this improvement, however, as other organizations have joined them in the fight for better maternal and child health care in Ethiopia.

The World Health Organization (WHO), with the support of the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health, has approached this issue from a different direction. In 2015, the WHO launched a program to monitor and improve the quality of health care in Ethiopian hospitals. In 2015, WHO collected baseline data. This was in addition to training and suggestions for improvement of labor and care in the hospitals.

Improving the Safety of Deliveries

One change implemented by many hospitals was the adaptation of the Safe Childbirth Checklist. The checklist presented 29 essential activities for doctors to perform during childbirth to ensure the safety of the mother and the newborn. The follow-up data collected in 2016 found significant change had been made after the initial visits. This resulted in an improvement in the quality of maternal and child health care in Ethiopia.

This is, as the Gates Foundation puts it, a story of “progress, not victory.” Many Ethiopians continue to struggle, particularly in the realm of maternal and child health. However, the past twenty years of Ethiopia’s history remains hopeful and inspirational, not only for the country’s future but also as an example of the change that is possible. The impact of these organizations on the situation in Ethiopia should serve as a reminder of the potential for positive change.

– Madeline Lyons
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in ParaguayParaguay, a country located in central South America, is bordered between Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil. Being a more-homogenous country, most of the population are of European and Guaranί ancestry. Guarani is a South American Indian group that lived mainly in Paraguay, which spoke a Tupian language. Many Paraguayans can understand Guarani rather than Spanish, which allowed the official language to become Guarani in 1992. With the growth of exportation, Paraguay has continued to thrive in others as well. Among the list of advancements in Paraguay are economic growth, health care, the country becoming Malaria free, and many technological advancements, that have allowed the country into today’s world.

Economic Growth and Living Conditions in Paraguay

When the economy grows, the lowering of extreme poverty goes hand-in-hand. For the past 15 years, extreme poverty has “fallen by 49 and 65 percent, respectively.” In 2018, however, Paraguay’s economic growth suffered in the second half of the year due to the “performance of the main trading partners, especially Argentina” and has continued to weaken since the recent drought, impacting agricultural products.

Due to inflation from the Argentina crisis, there was a decrease in public investment by 11.8 percent in 2018. However, public wages increased by 9.5 percent. International investors believed in macroeconomic management, boosting their Eurobond by 5.4 percent.

The poverty rate, however, is less than half of what it was in 2003.

Health Care and Living Conditions in Paraguay

Another aspect among advancements in Paraguay is in mortality. Life expectancy in Paraguay for males is 72 and 78 for females. The healthcare system is drastically understaffed with 11.1 doctors and 17.9 nurses and midwives to 10,000 people in the population. Paraguay’s government spends up to 37.7 percent toward health care. However, 87.7 percent of health care comes out of pocket. Health care coverage has begun to increase since 2008. It is still not where it needs to be. Less than 10 percent of total health spending comes from NGOs and other external resources.

While many who live in urban areas have improved access to clean water, those living in rural areas are not as fortunate. About 60 percent of inhabitants have access to clean water. This is better than the 25 percent who had access in 1990.

HIV and TB are below average. However, in neighboring countries like Argentina and Brazil, there is an outbreak of HIV. Poor urban countries tend to contribute to the under-reporting of TB. For these reasons, anyone who travels should take routine tests and checkups just be safe.

To ensure that there are more health care facilities to assist the country’s population, the national health care system has created public sectorss. These include:

  • Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare
  • Military, Police and Navy Health Services
  • Institute of Social Welfare (IPS)
  • Clinics Hospital, which is part of the National University of Asuncion
  • Maternal and Children’s Health Center
  • Paraguayan Red Cross

One major improvement regarding living conditions in Paraguay has to do with health care. Paraguay became the first country in the region to be free of Malaria since Cuba in 1973. With no detection of the disease in five years, Paraguay was declared malaria-free in 2018 since Sri Lanka in 2016. Although Paraguay is malaria-free, other countries are still facing the disease. However, it gives hope to other countries that they can become malaria-free as well.

Technological Advancements and Living Conditions in Paraguay

Paraguay’s Space Agency (AEP), founded in 2014, is currently training specialists. AEP hopes to gain the interest of young children with the idea of space and astronomy. By 2021, Paraguay hopes to launch the first satellite. Research centers have already started to develop CubeSat, which is a type of miniaturized satellite. It will be used for forest monitoring and cadastral mapping.

BBVA (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria) is a Spanish bank that has sponsored the League since 2008. BBVA prioritizes ensuring that Paraguay is digitally connected. About 68 percent of the population owns a smartphone. Additionally, 76 percent have access to the internet. BBVA wants “to bring the age of opportunity to everyone through the implementation of an ambitious transformation plan, encompassing not only processes and structures but also our culture and the way we get things done.” More and more people are using their access to the internet and smartphones to communicate with others.

Advancements in Paraguay have allowed the country to move forward with new opportunities to ensure that those in rural areas will continue to grow from extreme poverty. Even with a few setbacks along the way, Paraguay can grow economically, gain more health care opportunities and develop more ideas for technological advancements.

– Emilia Rivera
Photo: U.S. Dept of Defense

Health Systems in GuyanaAccess to adequate health care is slowly improving throughout South America’s 14 countries, thanks to increased funding and awareness of current medical issues. However, the field is continuously evolving in attempts to adapt to current and future health-related endeavors. Often considered as part of the Caribbean region due to its coastal northern location, the country of Guyana has made significant strides in improving its health care system to meet modern standards. In December 2013, Guyana unveiled a new health initiative entitled “Health Vision 2020”, which was set to be a cornerstone of Guyanese health policy moving forward. Though significant strides have been made, many of the milestone goals laid out by the initiative were not met. Some still have yet to be achieved. Though there is much progress left to be made, health systems in Guyana are improving.

Health Vision 2020 and the Millennium Development Goals

At its initial reveal in late 2013, Health Vision 2020 set out to systematically improve the health systems in Guyana. In doing this, the initiative aimed to also create more jobs in the field and improve health literacy. The initiative aimed to meet these goals while also attempting to meet the standards set forth by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

In line with the MDGs, Health Vision 2020 sought to improve many aspects of health in Guyana. For example, to increase life expectancy to over 70 years of age and to decrease maternal and infant mortality rates. Health Vision 2020 aimed to do this while also reducing incidence, prevalence and factors that contribute to both communicable and non-communicable diseases. Furthermore, the initiative hoped to achieve this all by 2015 (or make significant strides toward these targets by the set year).

Guyana aspired to achieve these goals through one central crux: communication and awareness. This would lead to the establishment of adequate health centers and the improvement of general health literacy. Despite this, education and information regarding these matters were only the first steps in improving health systems in Guyana.

The 2015 targets of Health Vision 2020 were not met, despite trends in a positive direction. For example, as of 2018, general life expectancy has improved to 68.5 years among both sexes. This was an improvement from 67 years in 2010. Another example is that maternal mortality remains high at 229 deaths per 100,000, while infant mortality has dropped to 20 deaths per 1,000.

Diagnosing the Problem

A possible explanation for why Guyana was not able to meet these 2015 targets may be centered around the geography of the nation. The population of the coastal nation is extremely spread out. This makes it difficult for the government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other aid-related parties to reach every person. However, efforts have been made in improving the quality of life for all the people of Guyana. For example, approximately 98 percent of the population now has access to clean water. Additionally, 84 percent of the population has access to quality sanitation.

Furthermore, these goals may not have been met due to the allocation and availability of funds. As of 2018, only 5 percent of Guyana’s gross domestic product (GDP) was spent toward its health systems. In 2014, donor expenditure of donor funds dropped to just above 7 percent from 40.1 percent. A 2018 update on health systems in Guyana emphasized that this might be because the nation does not have proper strategies for channeling aid in from donors. This fluctuation in funding leads to instability and insecurity in the health care field.

Furthermore, the report “Country Cooperation Strategy 2016-2020” highlights international cooperation as an integral component to improving health care resources and systems in Guyana. The report emphasized that the nation lacks sufficient health workers and other human resources.

Moving Forward

Guyana is on the right track in improving the health and wellness of its people. Unfortunately, it currently lacks several of the resources to achieve its goals. These are vital resources ranging from consistent funding to a well-rounded workforce. Despite these deficiencies, Guyana has made significant strides toward the goals. The country has also been labeled a figurehead nation in addressing health systems of low- and middle-income countries. It has worked successfully with outside governments and organizations in the past to help curb the burden of disease. This partnership has also helped to spread awareness of health-related issues. Hopefully, these issues can be addressed in order to meet Health Vision 2020’s goals of providing adequate, long-lasting health systems in Guyana.

– Colin Petersdorf
Photo: Flickr

five global healthcare organizationsIn 2017, the World Health Organization and the World Bank have reported at least half of the world’s population does not have access to essential health services, such as medical care and health care. WHO and the World Bank have also reported this causes millions to live in extreme poverty, as they must pay out-of-pocket health care expenses. Although this is a global and life-threatening problem, there are many nongovernmental organizations dedicated to providing care to those who in need. Here are five global health care organizations you should know, all of which accept donations.

5 Global Health Care Organizations Everyone Should Know

  1. Doctors of the World
    Doctors of the World is an international human rights nonprofit committed to providing long-term medical care to those who cannot afford it. With over 400 programs in more than 80 countries, this organization is located in war zones, refugee camps and even rural communities. Doctors of the World successfully provides emergency and long-term medical care to those who greatly need it. In doing so, this organization treats those afflicted by poverty, disease, armed conflict, natural disasters or chronic, structural disparities. Doctors of the World helps treat 1.6 million people each year.
  2. Medic Mobile
    Medic Mobile is a nonprofit organization that strives to improve health care for those living in hard to reach communities. To do so, Medic Mobile builds software to ensure health care workers being able to deliver equitable care to communities everywhere around the world. Moreover, the organization is the core contributor to the Community Health Toolkit. CHT is a software that helps health workers deliver medical items safely, track outbreaks of disease faster, treat illnesses door to door, keep stock of essential medicines and communicate emergencies. Medic Mobile now impacts 14 countries in Africa and Asia, having trained and equipped 24,463 health workers.
  3. International Medical Corps
    International Medic Corps is a nonprofit organization with a mission based on improving the quality of life by saving lives and relieving suffering through health care training and relief and development programs. Based in the United States and the United Kingdom, International Medic Corps offers training and health care to local populations. The organization also provides medical assistance to those at the most risk. In 2017, International Medic Corps estimated it performed 4.8 million medical consultations, benefitting 8 million people directly and 50 million people indirectly.
  4. Mothers 2 Mothers
    Mothers 2 Mothers is a unique nonprofit organization dedicated to employ, train and help to empower HIV-positive women as community health workers in Africa. The “Mentor Mothers” work in local African communities and understaffed health facilities. They provide advice, essential health education and support to other HIV-positive mothers on how to protect their babies from HIV infection. Mothers 2 Mothers also works to ensure women and families are getting proper health advice and medication, are linked to the right clinical services and are supported on their treatment journey. Since 2001, Mothers 2 Mothers has reached over 10.5 million women and children. In 2017, the organization reported it had served 1 in 6 of the world’s HIV-positive women.
  5. Mercy Ships
    Mercy Ships is an organization committed to helping those struggling without medical services in Africa. To do so, the organization uses the Africa Mercy, a floating hospital ship with volunteer medical teams and sterile operating rooms. As a result, Mercy Ships directly aids those who would otherwise receive no care. Aboard the Africa Mercy, medical treatments are free of charge, such as removing tumors, correcting clefts and straightening legs. Since being founded in 1978, Mercy Ships has reported it has performed more than 100,000 surgeries.

Access to medical care and healthcare are necessary, affecting global health, economy and living conditions. To learn more about any of these five global healthcare organizations, visit their sites. All five global healthcare organizations accept donations to continue providing much needed medical and healthcare. While a country’s infrastructure may not currently be equipped to meet the needs of its population, NGOs, such as these, can make a significant difference.

Natalie Chen
Photo: Flickr

Poor Countries Fail to Administer VaccinesOver the years, immunizations have prevented large numbers of infectious diseases from spreading worldwide. Between 2 and 3 million deaths are prevented each year in all age groups due to these vaccines. Expanding access to immunization has become a new United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal. Currently, 85 percent of the globe has vaccination coverage. In total, these efforts have drastically impacted the world over the last few years. However, there is still a major struggle to reach full coverage in certain regions. Here are three reasons why poor countries fail to administer vaccines.

Three Reasons Why Poor Countries Fail to Administer Vaccines

  1. Vaccines are expensive and difficult to spread across certain regions.
    In 2017, roughly 19.9 million infants globally did not receive a DTP vaccination. This vaccination helps prevent children from getting diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis if a child receives roughly five doses over the course of their life. However, poorer nations have difficulty providing clinics and the means of offering repeated vaccinations.

    People living in rural areas must travel for hours to urban cities to receive treatments. In addition, transporting these goods to rural regions is tough because the hot temperatures can kill the immunity components of the vaccines. Shortages in supplies and lack of trained professionals also hinder the process. This heavily contributes to why poor nations fail to administer vaccines to large amounts of people.

    On top of these issues, the costs of vaccinating a single child increased from $10 to roughly $42 since 2000. However, these heavy costs do not heavily burden extremely poor countries because the vaccine alliance, Gavi, funds them. Gavi encompasses many organizations such as the World Health Organization, UNICEF, The World Bank and others. This alliance has allowed the economic burden to lift for roughly 70 countries, and it is actively seeking ways to overcome the geographical obstacles in these regions.

  2. Many are hesitant to vaccinate due to a lack of trust in immunization.
    According to the WHO, vaccine hesitancy is the refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines. Lack of trust in immunization is a major reason why people in poorer nations face this issue. Many people fear the side effects and potential dangers of immunization, so they choose not to vaccinate their children. Another reason for this hesitancy revolves around cultural differences. Primarily Western nations have introduced these vaccinations and citizens have difficulties accepting them into their society.

    An example of this is the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s recent Ebola outbreak. For the past few months, a large percentage of Congolese citizens refused to take the life-saving vaccination. These people do not trust the medical system and the government that allowed for a different country to intervene in its lifestyle. Their exposure to the disease has meant that other communities isolate and neglect them, which means they are having a hard time letting outsiders into their homes, even if intentions are good. Some citizens even attacked treatment centers in Katwa and Butembo in February 2019 to make a statement.

    Health officials in the DRC, as well as other countries, are making efforts to interact more with the communities during the vaccination process. A major step is finding ways to educate people on these medicines while respecting the cultures that they are entering. Recent campaigns such as the WHO World Immunization Week 2019 have made efforts to demonstrate the value of vaccines and immunization to start this process.

  3. Conflict and natural disasters prevent access to health care.
    War-torn countries are some of the most difficult places to administer vaccinations. Hospitals and clinics can become damaged and make it harder for people to receive the treatment they need. The Syrian War is an example of this. Before the war began, child vaccination coverage against DTP was 89 percent. However, in 2016, the number dropped to 61 percent as children received less than the three recommended doses of the vaccine. Syria and other countries at the bottom of the WHO’s vaccination coverage list were experiencing a civil war or conflict in their country.

    In addition to wars, natural disasters also hinder the vaccination process with widespread destruction. In Mozambique, a deadly hurricane swept through the country in March 2019. Not only did the storm destroy hospitals and clinics, but it also made reaching citizens living in rural areas with life-saving medication difficult. Natural disasters generally exacerbate issues that many countries already face, making it more difficult for health care officials to work until recovery ends.

    In recent years, Gavi has funded initiatives to help administer vaccines in countries facing these issues. Gavi offered to purchase vaccinations and other equipment to assist vaccinating millions of children exposed to preventable diseases in Syria. Also, the organization funded an influx of oral cholera vaccinations in 2017 to Sierra Leone after flooding and landslides.

Overall, there are many reasons why poor countries fail to administer vaccines to their citizens, but there are even more efforts going on today to overcome these obstacles. With the efforts of many health care organizations, the path to total global immunization might not be far out of reach.

– Sydney Blakeney
Photo: Flickr

Maternal and Neonatal Health in ZimbabweProject HOPE stands for Health Opportunities for People Everywhere. It is an international health and humanitarian relief organization. The organization works to strengthen and improve health systems around the globe. Founded in 1958, Project HOPE responds to health crises and disasters but often stays in areas long after a disaster has hit to address other neglected health issues. Project HOPE entered Sierra Leone in 2014 in response to the Ebola outbreak. After sending an emergency response team and shipments of medical supplies to help contain the outbreak, permanent Project HOPE health workers remained in Sierra Leone. Now, their biggest health concern is to improve maternal and neonatal health in Sierra Leone.

Maternal and Neonatal Mortality Rates in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world with 1,360 mothers dying per every 100,000 live births. The main causes of maternal death include bleeding, pregnancy-induced hypertension, infection, unsafe abortions and anemia. An alarming 40 percent of Sierra Leone’s maternal deaths in 2016 were teenagers aged 15-19.

Sierra Leone also has one of the highest neonatal mortality rates with 33 deaths per 1,000 live births. Only 36 percent of newborns in rural areas and 47 percent of newborns in urban areas receive postnatal care within two days.

Sierra Leone’s lack of trained professionals and medical equipment are perpetuating high maternal and neonatal mortality rates. The country of 7 million only has around 165 doctors and very few neonatal specialists. Organizations like Project HOPE are working to improve maternal and neonatal health outcomes by providing renovation support for neonatal centers. Additionally, they are strengthening the skills and training of health care professionals and establishing neonatal programs. For example, programs such as Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC), which is for premature and low birth-weight newborns.

The Impact of Project HOPE on Maternal and Neonatal Health

Training local health workers is an integral part of Project HOPE’s efforts to improve maternal and neonatal health in Sierra Leone. Their programs include evidence-based training on maternal and neonatal intervention. For instance, training on emergency obstetric and neonatal care, resuscitation with a bag and mask and hygienic cord care.

Project HOPE collaborates with training institutions to provide neonatal nursing program development. They collaborate to teach advanced skills and provide training towards certificates, bachelor’s degrees and specialty nursing degrees. Overall, with more skilled health care professionals come improved healthcare for mothers and newborns in Sierra Leone.

Advanced Neonatal Care

Furthermore, to improve the care of preterm and underweight babies, Project HOPE has provided national and district training programs. These programs include universal modules such as Essential Care of Every Newborn, Essential Care of Small Babies and Helping Babies to Breathe.

Moreover, Project HOPE has established the first two Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) units for premature and low birth weight newborns. The KMC approach is to securely wrap the fragile, underweight newborns skin-to-skin on the mother’s chest. This provides warmth and promotes regular breathing and breastfeeding for babies who are struggling with both actions. These community-based units are very effective in areas with low resources. In regions without incubators, this method is life-saving for vulnerable children who are unable to keep in their body heat. Certainly, Project HOPE continues to promote the creation of more KMC units in Sierra Leone.

Life-Saving Progress

International support from organizations such as Project HOPE is helping provide life-saving training, services and equipment for mothers and children in Sierra Leone. Though much remains to be accomplished, progress is certainly being made on maternal and neonatal health in Sierra Leone.

– Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr

Impacts of Cell Phones
Since its invention in 1973, the presence of the cell phone has become practically unavoidable worldwide. As of 2019, there were approximately 4.68 billion mobile phone users globally. Although many worry about the adverse effects of the overuse of the device, one cannot overstate the positive impacts of cell phones, especially in the developing world. From mobile banking to health care, the cell phone has left an incredible footprint on the world despite its relatively short existence. Here are the top five impacts of cell phones in the developing world.

Top 5 Impacts of Cell Phones in the Developing World

  1. Mobile Banking: For many people living in the remote regions of third world countries, traditional brick and mortar banks are often out of reach. Mobile banking, however, is helping initiate financial inclusion. By connecting major banks to online banking networks, individuals can now easily transfer money with even just a flip phone. For instance, M-Pesa, a Kenyan mobile phone-based financial service, operates through the usage of banking SIM cards that allow the user to transfer monetary assets via SMS. This way, a flip phone would be all one would need to start with this service. As of 2016, an average of 19 million Kenyans sent the equivalent of $15 million on a daily basis. Through such services the number of people with financial accounts in Kenya has jumped from 21 percent in 2011 to 63 percent in 2014.
  2. Education: One can increasingly find the cell phone utilized for education in the schools of many developing countries. The utilization of mobile apps has transformed teaching in such places. For example, in parts of Africa, the EDC (Education Development Center) is currently experimenting with sending podcasts of interactive instructional materials to students. Furthermore, cell phones have increased literacy rates. The landmark 2014 UNESCO study, “Reading in the mobile era,” surveyed over 4,000 individuals in regions with low literacy rates and where people are unlikely to text. The study showed that many people have resorted to reading stories and books on their mobile devices. Additionally, a third of the study participants read stories to their children via their devices.
  3. Disaster Relief: Today mobile devices are a unique communication tool for disaster relief in developing countries. For example, in August 2017, Ncell, a Nepalese-based mobile operator, was able to provide warnings to vulnerable populations prior to the deadly floods and landslides. On the other hand, after the disastrous 2017 Hurricane Maria incidence in Puerto Rico, AT&T deployed Flying COWs (Cell on Wings). These Flying COWs were cell sites connected to wings that provided cell service to disaster-stricken areas temporarily and allowed residents to gain contact with loved ones and relief organizations.
  4. Governance: In countries and regions with low population densities, it has traditionally been exceedingly difficult for governments to reach out to the individuals residing there. However, mobile technology has simplified seemingly impossible tasks such as long-distance polling and voter registration. In 2018, the local government of Quezon City, Philippines even initiated a mobile app that serves as an online database of the city’s ordinances.
  5. Health Care: The impact of cell phones in the developing world has also stretched to the area of health care. Currently, mPedigree, a Ghanian nonprofit, is using cell phones to authenticate drugs to safeguard consumers against counterfeit and substandard products. The World Health Organization estimates that over 10 percent of global medications are fake so this new technology should be able to save countless lives on a daily basis.

Mobile devices are popular in remote areas to cheaply or freely offer daily texts and voicemails about common medical conditions. For example, in Mozambique, Absolute Return for Kids, a British nonprofit, is fighting HIV/AIDS by using mobile messaging to remind enrolled patients to take their medications as well as about appointment dates.

Conclusively, the range of the various impacts of cell phones globally in developing countries has been both deep and wide. The device has proven itself to be both an efficient yet inexpensive solution to many day-to-day problems. It is not too optimistic to say that in the near future even more creative uses for cell phones will surface.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr

Ways to Improve Health in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s healthcare system is in need of reformation. Since 2000, approximately three million health workers have fled the nation, and the health of the society has suffered since then. Non-governmental organizations around the world are currently working together to improve healthcare in Zimbabwe.

NGOs are working hard to fix the issue of lack of adequate healthcare; here are ways to improve health in Zimbabwe.

Ways to Improve Health in Zimbabwe

  • Investing in disease treatment and prevention: Zimbabwe suffers from a lack of health workers; there are only about 1.23 health workers per 1,000 citizens. Because of this, it is difficult to treat epidemics of communicable diseases like cholera and HIV. A cholera outbreak in 2008 killed 4,000 people due to the small number of available doctors. USAID recognizes this as a problem, and every year, the organization donates nearly $100 million to disease treatment programs in Zimbabwe.  The prevalence of HIV has lowered from 14 percent to 13.3 percent in one year, but more can be done to treat other infectious diseases.
  • Improving clinics: Another way to improve healthcare in Zimbabwe is to invest in the advancement of medical clinics. Most clinics in Zimbabwe are overcrowded and undeveloped, but the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) plans to renovate 52 clinics in the region. The renovations include storage for crucial medications and space for sanitation and hygienic facilities. Additionally, UNDP’s Global Fund implemented a new health information system to hasten responses to outbreaks and epidemics. These positive changes have contributed to steady rates of health workers’ job retention.
  • Aiding expectant mothers: Pregnant women are one group that is most reliant on Zimbabwe’s healthcare system. Since 2014, World Bank’s Global Funding Facility has helped rebuild the deteriorated system. One revamping program, the Urban Voucher Program, provides free maternity care to women living in the bottom 40 percent of average annual income. Before the UVP, women would have to pay a $25 fee to visit a health clinic, and most of them were not able to afford it. After the implementation of the vouchers, family planning and neonatal services have strengthened in low-income communities, significantly reducing the amount of money that families spend on healthcare. While maternal mortality rate was 614 deaths per 100,000 births in 2014, it decreased to 443 deaths per 100,000 births during the first year of the UVP.

More can be done to improve healthcare in Zimbabwe. The success of these NGOs can mobilize others to join in on the efforts against disease and poverty.

– Katherine Desrosiers
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Poverty in Croatia
Croatia is located between central and southeastern Europe and includes a multitude of small islands that are scattered alongside its maritime coast with the Adriatic Sea. Despite being a member of the wealthy European Union, Croatia is economically unstable and wide-reaching poverty affects much of the population. Here is a list of 10 facts about poverty in Croatia that will illustrate living conditions today.

10 Facts About Poverty in Croatia

1. High poverty rates: In 2008, Croatia experienced a sharp rise in poverty that exceeded the rates recorded by other EU members. About one-third of all citizens live in conditions of extreme material deprivation and just over 15 percent are unable to afford the basic necessities needed to lead a comfortable life. Furthermore, there is a correlation between poverty and inequality in Croatia. A higher income is necessary as the world around develops. This makes it difficult for uneducated workers to afford the goods needed to increase their standard of living.

2. The country faces a significant debt burden: In 2018, the national debt in Croatia accumulated to $45.3 billion, which is equal to 74.1 percent of the country’s GDP. This amounts to $11,048 of debt for each individual living in Croatia. While the ratio has been improving since 2014, central government spending outweighs government revenues by a considerable margin. This will ensure that foreign debt will continue to burden Croatian citizens in the foreseeable future.

3. Croatia has the fourth highest youth unemployment rate in the EU: Statistics showed the Croatian youth unemployment rate at 23 percent in January 2019. According to Marijana Petir, a member of the European Parliament, the Croatian government has thus far created “improper employment conditions.” This has driven educated Croatian youth to seek jobs in wealthier European countries that have entrenched stable job opportunities into their economies.

4. Children are disproportionately affected by poverty: When the national debt peaked in 2014, about 2.6 million Croatian children were living in destitution. These vulnerable groups of individuals suffer the most due to a lack of necessary nutrients needed to grow and an adequate government infrastructure needed to secure future prospects of upward mobility. UNICEF is a leading organization working to improve the lives of impoverished children. In 2017, UNICEF entered into a partnership with the Croatian government in which both parties agreed to focus on improving children’s rights across the country.

5. Croatia is experiencing a massive emigration wave: Records show that far more individuals have left Croatia since the recession than previously estimated. While Croatia had recorded the number at 102,000, foreign statistics indicate that the number accumulates to 230,000 individuals. Many of these emigrants are in fact refugees and asylum seekers hoping to find better living conditions in other EU states.

6. Croatia struggles with underdeveloped regions: Small towns and settlements on the eastern and southeastern borders experience the highest rates of poverty. Economic struggles are attributed to the effects of the Croatian War of Independence in the 1990s. This war to separate from Yugoslavia led to massive destruction in these regions, as it cause $36 billion worth of damage and destroyed thousands of houses.

7. Education decreases the risk of poverty: Among those who attend primary school in Croatia, the risk of poverty is 37.1 percent. This number drops by 16 percent for those who attend secondary school. The chance of attending even basic levels of education is unlikely for impoverished children in Croatia, as families struggle to afford the necessary supplies needed to excel.

8. Health care is in need of reform: The European Commission released an assessment of the Croatian health care system at the end of 2017 indicating their concerns. Some issues include low spending on health care, an insufficient number of nurses and doctors and an unhealthy general population. Croatians struggle with drinking, smoking and obesity, which all harm the immune system and increase the risk of attracting disease.

9. Croatia’s Human Development Index (HDI) rate is increasing: Croatia’s HDI is steadily increasing, showing that the country is bettering its economic standing. Indicators in 2017 show that life expectancy at birth, years of schooling and GNI per capita are all on the rise. While Croatia’s HDI value of 0.831 puts it in the very high human development category, it is still well under the average HDI value for the European Union.

10. The Programme for Fighting Poverty and Social Exclusion: The EU created this initiative in order to combat the coupled problems of poverty and exclusion. The Croatian government adopted this program in 2015 as a strategy to halt the expansion and mitigate the effects of these two issues. The Croatian government has taken a regional approach when implementing the program, as it has allocated resources based upon which areas are in most need of aid.

These 10 facts about poverty in Croatia detail the hardships endured by the Croatian population; however, they also present a few avenues the central government is taking in order to alleviate these issues. Croatia has experienced slow yet impactful progress since 2014. Croatia needs to do more work if it is to become among the most affluent European states.

– Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr