Living Conditions in San Marino
In the northeastern part of the Italian Peninsula lies San Marino, one of the world’s tiny micro states surrounded entirely by the country of Italy. Its modern form has shaped since 1463 and the country has maintained its autonomy until today. In fact, it is the world’s oldest republic. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in San Marino.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in San Marino

  1. Population: As of 2019, there are 33,683 people living in San Marino. It has the fifth smallest population on Earth. Roughly 15 percent of the population are migrants and 53 percent are individuals within the working ages of 18 to 65. The nation’s official language is Italian. The poverty rate of the country is very low, so the country does not officially measure it.
  2. Education: Education is compulsory until the age of 14 and attendance is free. Almost the entire population has completed secondary school as the country has a 91 percent completion rate. Over 10 percent of government spending goes towards education. Citizens of San Marino mostly pursue college degrees in surrounding Italy or abroad.
  3. Economy:  Economic output relies heavily on finance and manufacturing. The banking sector accounts for more than half of the country’s GDP at roughly 60 percent. Corporate taxes are low in comparison to the EU and the standard of living is high.
  4. Health Care: Life expectancy in San Marino is 83.4 years old. Health care is not free, but a universal system exists parallel to a private system.  The Azienda Sanitaria Locale insurance fund provides the government system. There are six physicians for every 1,000 inhabitants as of 2014. Child mortality is extremely low with only one death in 2018.
  5. Government System: San Marino has nine municipalities and the country is a parliamentary, representative, democratic republic. The legislation is within two chambers and there are two captain regents as heads of state. The country directs foreign policy mostly towards aligning with the EU. Therefore foreign aid policy is similar to that in the European Union.
  6. Social Security: There is social insurance for the elderly and the disabled. Furthermore, there are survivorship benefits for the unemployed and the widowed even though the unemployment rate has reduced in the past years.
  7. Communications: As access to information can make a big difference in human development, an important aspect of the top 10 facts about living conditions in San Marino is the country’s access to this right. Its living standards reflect this. More than half of the population are active internet users and broadband is widely available. There are 38,000 cellphone subscriptions active today which is more than the entire population.
  8. Labor Conditions: The law forbids workplace discrimination for any reason. The state guarantees contracts and the minimum wage is 9.74 euros per hour. In general, labor conditions are safe with an eight-hour working day in guaranteed humane conditions. Meanwhile, as of 2018, the unemployment rate was only eight percent.
  9. NGOs in San Marino: There are no specific NGO projects in San Marino, but a number of NGOs do exist from time to time specially aiding in education and training as well as health. For instance, the British organization, Hope is Kindled, was present in 2006 with a project to advance health through medical and technological research.
  10. The Serene Republic: As a small enclave, San Marino does not have large natural reserves within its territory. Nonetheless, it shares the geography of surrounding Italy which is slightly mountainous and mild. It imports most of its resources and food. To be able to keep its stable political and social system while being dependant on other countries, it must be in good terms with its neighbors and the international community.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in San Marino demonstrate why this small nation has been able to maintain such serenity for more than six centuries. As a result, it has been able to ensure its citizen’s freedom and security in all aspects.

– Diego Vallejo Riofrio
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Lichtenstein

Liechtenstein is a little-known principality located between Austria and Switzerland. Despite its small size (roughly 38, 000 inhabitants) it has a growing economy, which allows for residents to have a high standard of living. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Liechtenstein.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Liechtenstein

  1. Liechtenstein provides its workers with some of the highest wages in Europe – Because of the growing economy, citizens of Liechtenstein benefit from one of the highest wage levels across Europe. On average, citizens make about $92,000 annually. When compared to the average gross salary of Germany’s citizens, Liechtenstein’s citizens have a higher income by about $15,000.
  2. Living costs are high – While the country has high wage levels, it also has high living expenses. The average citizen spends about half their monthly income on their fixed costs, which usually include housing, utilities, transportation and health insurance. Despite the high living costs, Liechtenstein has a zero percent poverty rate with poverty being defined as those living at or below $5.50/day.
  3. The country offers universal health care – Health insurance is required and guaranteed to all people living or working in Liechtenstein. Individuals’ insurance is financed by their insurance holder and their employer as well as by state subsidies. Although there is no current data with regards to the increase in healthcare costs over time in Liechtenstein, in 2016, the government spent $188 million on social welfare programs such as healthcare.
  4. The government provides its residents with a high-quality education – Liechtenstein relies on its excellent education system to provide the economy with highly qualified workers. After completing the mandatory schooling period of 11 years (from primary school to high school), individuals are left with a range of options to pursue further education. These options include vocational training, higher education (college or university), and apprenticeships.
  5. A high percentage of Liechtenstein labor force commutes into work – The Feldkirch-Buchs railway connects Switzerland to Austria, passing through Liechtenstein on the way. This railway allows workers to commute into Liechtenstein. Since a majority of the country’s workers, (55 percent) are from neighboring countries, this system is crucial in maintaining Liechtenstein’s labor force. The reason behind the high number of commuters is because Liechtenstein’s economy has grown so quickly over the past years that its domestic labor force has not been able to keep up.
  6. Liechtenstein has a strong economy – Liechtenstein has one of the highest measures of GDP per capita in the world ($168,146.02) and a low inflation rate of 0.5 percent. Although not officially recognized by the European Union, it does receive some of the monetary and economic benefits of the organization because of its deal with Switzerland, which stipulates that they import a large percentage of their energy requirements from the Swiss and use the Swiss Franc as their national currency.
  7. Residents have religious freedom – Although an overwhelming majority of the population is Roman Catholic (the official state religion), there remain many individuals in the country who practice other religions or other forms of Christianity. The state is currently in the process of separating itself from the church, however, this is largely considered a symbolic move, as the current union does not appear to affect adherents of other religions. The government is pursuing this initiative by creating a provisional constitutional amendment to establish new regulations between the state and the religious communities. Additionally, there has been mention of providing more equitable funding for all the different religious organizations, rather than solely giving the Catholic church more funding.
  8. The country provides immigrants with good living conditions – Immigrants make up about 65 percent of the total population in Liechtenstein.  Many of these immigrants come from nearby countries such as Switzerland, Austria and Germany. Although the requirements for the naturalization process are quite lengthy, (an individual has to live in Liechtenstein for 30 years before beginning the process) immigrants receive all the same benefits that natural-born citizens receive.
  9. Liechtenstein has low unemployment – Liechtenstein has an unemployment rate of 1.9 percent. Most of its labor force is employed in the services and goods sectors, with only 0.6 percent being employed in the agriculture sector. About 40 percent of the workforce is employed in the industrial sector, which, combined with the manufacturing sector, make up about 40 percent of the country’s gross value added. Its economy is focused primarily on high-quality exports, services and goods such as machine and plant construction, as well as precision tools and dental instruments, among other items.
  10. Liechtenstein has had issues with spreadable diseases in the past – Some of the most common diseases include influenza, hepatitis B and tick-borne encephalitis. The country has since introduced several initiatives to address these issues, signing treaties with Switzerland and Austria in order to provide its citizens with better healthcare options.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Liechtenstein demonstrate the quality of life with which residents of Liechtenstein experience on a daily basis. While the country certainly has some very positive trends going for it (namely, unemployment, wages, GDP, and its education system) it also has some things to improve upon, such as reducing living costs, which make it hard for many individuals to live in the country. Nevertheless, Liechtenstein appears to be in a good state presently, as it provides many services and freedoms that make it a desirable place to live.

– Laura Rogers
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Iceland
Iceland, one of the healthiest European countries, lies between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean. Icelanders tend to outlive people from other richer, warmer and more educated countries. Below are 10 facts about life expectancy in Iceland that determine what factors may help Icelanders live longer lives.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Iceland

  1. On average, males and females in Iceland have a life expectancy at birth of 81 and 84 years respectively. Life expectancy increased from a combined national average of 78.8 years in 1994 to a combined national average of 82.4 years in 2016.
  2. Iceland has one of the lowest mortality rates in Europe. The average mortality rate is 6.5 per 1,000 inhabitants and the infant mortality rate is 2.7 per 1,000 live births, both below the European average of 10.2 and four. Not only do children under the age of five have better survival rates, but they also have a better chance of growing into healthier adults.
  3. Compared to the OECD average of 3.4 and three per 1,000 population, Iceland has a higher number of doctors and nurses with 3.8 doctors and 15.5 nurses per 1,000. A higher proportion of medical practitioners is a reflection of Iceland’s well-performing health care system.
  4. The health expenditure in Iceland picked up in 2012 after a dip following the 2008 financial crisis. The expenditure of $4,376 per capita is higher than the OECD average of $3,854 and accounts for 8.7 percent of its GDP. It has universal health care, 85 percent Icelanders pay through taxes. Private insurance is almost absent. This shows that health care is affordable and accessible in Iceland.
  5. The diet of the Icelandic people contains more fish and less meat. Fish is more beneficial for heart health due to the presence of omega-3 fatty acids. Healthier diet choices could be one factor that helps Icelandic people live longer.
  6. Research shows that the environment is a major determinant of health, and therefore, longevity. Iceland boasts clean air and water. Its dependence on geothermal resources for energy instead of fossil fuels ensures an unpolluted environment. Further, natural hot springs occur all across the country. The cleaner and colder environment protects people from many communicable and infectious diseases which may help them live longer and healthier lives.
  7. Iceland is the eighth-most urban country in the world. Ninety-four percent of its population lives in urban areas and cities with access to basic amenities like electricity, clean drinking water and sanitation. Life expectancy for a country increases with an increase in urbanization.
  8. Good genetics may have played a role in higher life expectancy of Icelanders. Studies showed that those above 90 years of age share more similar genes compared to control groups. One possible explanation could be the harsh environmental conditions that Icelanders faced historically, which filtered their genes so that they would pass on the ones that helped them survive.
  9. Despite the harsh weather conditions, Icelanders have higher physical activity when compared to other European nations. Almost 60 percent of the Icelandic people perform some form of exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. Icelandic people like to participate in outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming and skiing.
  10. Iceland has the lowest proportion of substance abusers among all European countries. It reduced its percentage of drug users from 42 percent in 1998 to five percent in 2016. By imposing curfews and keeping teens busy in sports and activities, Iceland was able to divert them from drugs towards healthy habits. This is an important factor when considering the life expectancy of a nation. People do not tend to die from drug-overdose and they also live healthier and economically stable lives.

Icelanders show that lifestyle can have a major effect on how long people live. Both the Icelandic people and their government made efforts to improve their health statistics by reducing the consumption of fossil fuels and drugs and increasing physical activity. These top 10 facts about life expectancy in Iceland are full of lessons that people of other nations can learn and apply as successful health interventions.

– Navjot Buttar
Photo: Flickr

 

Health care in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), once lauded for its health care system, is now a country with a lack of resources and access. In the past few decades, the DRC has experienced political unrest, war and military disputes, leaving the country’s health care system in shambles. Now, almost 70 percent of Congolese people have little or no access to basic health care.  Here are the top four facts about health care in the Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Top 4 Facts About Health Care in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

  1. Hospitals- As of 2016, there were 401 hospitals in the DRC.  Despite this, access to medical care remains sparse in rural areas. In fact, it is still difficult for many citizens to obtain necessary medical aid. Additionally, these hospitals often lack proper equipment and staff to meet some of the needs of the patients. Many times, hospitals run out of essential medicines and supplies required for various treatments. Multiple organizations recognize the gravity of this situation and are reaching out to help. This includes a health program from USAID, which provides more than 12 million citizens of the DRC with primary health care services.
  2. Vaccines- In 2018, The Emergency Plan for the Revitalization of Immunization was implemented with the goal of increasing vaccinations for children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This plan is also known as the Mashako plan, in honor of the DRC’s former minister of health, Professor Leonard Mashako Mamba. The goal of the Mashako plan is to increase the coverage of children vaccinated by 15 percent by 2020. This means that, under the Mashako plan, 220,000 children who would otherwise be susceptible to life-threatening, preventable diseases will now have access to vaccines.
  3. Health Care Workers- The number of health care workers in the DRC averages out to .09 physicians to 1,000 individuals. This is drastically less than many other countries, such as the United States with almost 3 physicians per 1,000 individuals. Additionally, there are more than 4 physicians to 1,000 individuals in Italy. Furthermore, one-third of health care workers are over 60 years old. These numbers are odd and surprising, considering the country produces up to 9,000 new health care workers each year. Despite this, there is a significant shortage of health care workers in many areas and facilities in the DRC. This is due to a lack of proper record keeping. In recent years, however, the DRC has been working with IntraHealth International to implement iHRIS. This program aims to aid the country in recording and managing data pertaining to the health care workforce. The goal of iHRIS is to help record missing information and better disperse doctors throughout the DRC.
  4. Government Spending- The Government of the DRC (GRDC) has recently given more attention to health care and is making the health of its citizens a higher priority. In 2015, the government increased health care spending to almost 9 percent of the overall budget, in comparison to 3.4 percent in 2011. Also in 2015, and for the very first time, the GRDC reserved funds specifically for drugs and contraceptives, which are crucial for various parts of the population. Despite these improvements, government spending on health care in the DRC continues to be among the lowest in the world.

Over time, recent government changes and shifting priorities are making significant and notable improvements to the health care system in the DRC. These top four facts about health care in the Democratic Republic of the Congo demonstrate that access to health care is critical in both citizens and the country’s future.

– Melissa Quist
Photo: Flickr

The Future of PeekThe world is experiencing a vision crisis. In total, over 200 million people around the world are visually impaired, and 7 million people develop blindness every single year. One-third of those who seek help and health care for their eyes are unable to obtain it. Developing countries are the most at risk, with 90 percent of individuals suffering from vision impairment living in underdeveloped nations. The organization Peek is seeking to change this, and the future of Peek could mean health care for everyone.

What is Peek?

Peek is proof that great things often come from small ideas. The organization began as a simple, developing research project in the International Centre for Eye Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Now, Peek consists of two entities: The Peek Vision Foundation, an official charity in the United Kingdom, and Peek Vision Ltd, a manufacturing company that develops medical devices for people all over the world.

Peek began with smartphone apps and hardware that provided affordable and accessible eye examination kits that could be used in every home, school and community. This hardware, the Portable Eye Examination Kit (PEEK), was used in 50 schools in Kenya in 2015 to evaluate 20,000 children who otherwise would have been left in the dark concerning their eye health. Further, Peek’s individual products, Peek Acuity, the smartphone app that examines vision, and Peek Retina, a portable ophthalmoscope that captures detailed images of the retina, are currently being used in over 150 countries around the world.

The Future of Peek

Now, Peek is moving beyond portable eye examination kits and onto how technology can play a role in making sure health care is readily available for everyone, everywhere. Concerning Peek’s future journey, Daisy Barton, head of communications and PR at Peek, wrote, “Today, we’ve moved beyond developing and validating our basic technology to building software systems that capture the information from smartphone-based eye health screening and surveys. To bring better vision and health to everybody, we need to understand where people fall through the gaps when trying to access eye care and how eye care providers can ensure their systems improve.”

Their smartphone-based eye care kits laid the foundation and proved that there was a viable way to test vision anywhere in the world using only a smartphone. Now, Peek is building upon that foundation to ensure nobody gets left behind when it comes to vision health.

Tracking Universal Health Care

Universal health coverage seems like a tall order, but Peek is following the lead of organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and Global Goals for Sustainable Development to make it possible. For example, officials from the WHO along with the United Nations are working to develop specific indicators of health that enable different countries to mark their growth and advancements along their journeys toward universal health care. These indicators cover a variety of topics concerning different aspects of health. While the official list of indicators will not be announced until later in 2019, a preliminary list announced that there would be at least two indicators involving eye health.

Part of the struggle in making universal health care a reality is the impracticality of measuring every single aspect of a country’s health coverage; however, Peek is playing an important role in overcoming this challenge. Peek is using their smartphone-based software to provide countries and organizations with raw data that can be used to help develop certain health care indicators. This data allows health services to analyze and evaluate statistics pertinent to making universal health care a reality. Barton said this information includes “who is attending treatment, where they are based, and what the outcome is.”

Peek, along with the development of the rapid assessment of avoidable blindness eye health survey, is using and developing advanced technology and software to measure the aforementioned vision indicators as well as to develop treatments in a cost-effective, accurate and practical way. Their work will be fundamental in ensuring universal health care and improved vision worldwide.

With members of Peek all over the world, and offices in England, Pakistan, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Botswana, it is only a matter of time before Peek’s vision of eye care and universal health care is achieved. The future of Peek along with their groundbreaking work will ensure that those who so often fall between the cracks will no longer be left behind.

– Melissa Quist
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in KenyaLocated on the mid-eastern coast of Africa, the nation of Kenya is home to more than 50 million people. Despite the country’s strong tourism industry, which centers around internationally renowned landmarks such as the Musai Mara National Reserve, it still struggles with issues pertaining to extreme poverty.

One of the main effects resulting from this poverty is a very low life expectancy rate. The inverse relationship between wealth and life expectancy is largely due to the nature of poverty. For instance, the inability to see a doctor, access contraception, buy medicine, etc. all compound the chances of early mortality. Poverty has impacts beyond general health too, like exposing people dis-proportionally to unsafe living conditions.

This informs the reality in Kenya, where people over the age of 65 make up only 2.7 percent of the population, and the average life expectancy is only 59 years. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Kenya to help explain why that number is so low.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Kenya

  1. High poverty rates: More than 50 percent of people live below the poverty line. In addition, in Kenya, 40 percent of people live on less than two dollars a day.
  2. High child mortality rates: The under 5 mortality rate in Kenya lands at 85 deaths per 1,000 births. This number is dramatically higher than the global average of 40. This is a huge issue, as the World Bank claims the number one way to increase life expectancy is to reduce child mortality.
  3. Number of physicians: There is one doctor for every 10,000 people in Kenya. In addition, the country’s health care system has historically been dysfunctional. This manifested into a 100-day strike in 2017 by doctors over poor working conditions and pay. It was followed, late that year, by a nurse’s strike for similar reasons. This has led to overloaded and under-resourced facilities, which dis-incentivizes people to go into the field.
  4. Lack of admittance to public hospitals: Because of the disorganization in the public health system, almost no patients get admitted into Kenya’s public health facilities. This creates an especially tremendous impact on the maternal mortality rate, as women do not have access to proper birthing spaces. This is one unfortunate truth in the 10 facts about life expectancy in Kenya.
  5. Lack of medical student retention: The presence of a broken health care system establishes a negative image of the medical field in Kenya. Therefore, 40 percent of Kenyans who graduate with medical degrees choose to find work elsewhere. This furthers the national shortage, preventing millions of people from having access to medical needs.
  6. Lack of access to clean water: While millions of people in first world countries do not stop to think about how much water they use on a daily basis, around 60 percent of Kenyans do not have access to clean water. Thus, there is an extremely high nationwide risk of contracted water-borne diseases such as malaria, cholera and typhoid fever.
  7. No universal health care system: Kenya’s government does not offer a universal health care system, so millions of people are uninsured. On account of this, many avoid clinical care–which is oftentimes necessary. Under this system, small treatable issues tend to develop into potentially fatal diseases.
  8. Poorly kept health facilities: Since the government lacks adequate funding to keep the hospitals clean and sanitary, many fall into disrepair. Additionally, the lack of resources creates a shortage of medical equipment and a poorly operated management system.
  9. Kenya Quality Model for Health: In 2018, Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development partnered with the group Amref Health Africa to create a set of national health standards called the Kenya Quality Model for Health. Currently, workers are being trained in KQMH nationwide in over 47 facilities, while they receive monthly visits from Amref trainers. This program will hopefully improve the quality of care in Kenya and in turn life expectancy.
  10. Expansive treatment measures are being implemented: The lack of health care access mainly centers around rural western Kenya, where transportation is frequently an issue. In 2018, the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) joined with the Abbott Fund to help solve this problem. The partnership has trained more than 1,000 workers to deliver doses of insulin to people with diabetes mainly in western Kenya. They have also invested $5 million to screen people for diabetes and provide them with the proper medical instruments. This unique approach to health care will hopefully expand to other treatments, decreasing the number of people who do not receive care.

– Liam Manion
Photo: Flickr

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 Ethiopia

Ethiopia 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

teethsaversinternTeethsavers International is a nonprofit organization focused on caring for children in developing countries by promoting a healthy smile, thereby improving overall health. Their primary purpose is to teach children, adults and educators about dental techniques that are simple, inexpensive and realistic considering a lack of normal dental equipment.

Background

The phrase “teach a few to teach many” is Teethsavers International’s motto. Their strategy to reach as many children as possible is to teach a few people from each country, so that they may educate to their own villages.

Teethsavers International took it upon themselves to come up with their own techniques and ways to educate on oral hygiene, in order to effectively reach as many as possible. Their desire to facilitate change is clear when comparing their expenses in developing countries to those of the U.S.

By The Numbers

For example, dental school in the U.S. for four years can cost $110,000 while Teethsavers dental school costs $2,500 for one year. A tooth filling in the U.S. costs $75 where a Teethsavers Atraumatic Restorative Filling (ART) is two dollars.

These realistic techniques are paramount for these educators to understand. There is an extremely large amount of children unable to receive any kind of dental care, leading to many oral diseases, including tooth decay and gum diseases. Tooth decay is the single most chronic childhood disease, as it is 20 times more common than diabetes and four times more common than early childhood obesity.

To put in perspective the importance of educating people in developing countries, consider the ratios of dentists to patients around the globe. Compared with the U.S., where there is one dentist to every 1,900 people, in Belize there is one to 7,100 people, in Zambia there is one to every 57,000 people and in Malawi there is one to every 105,000 people.

Local Impact

Recently, Teethsavers International ventured to a primary school in Kabwabwa. They used songs, visual dialogue and interactive activities to teach the children and their parents about the importance of oral hygiene and how a person’s mouth is truly the “window” to their overall physical health.

The Teethsavers International Director, Fred Sambani, directly spoke to the primary school, as well as helping pass out toothbrushes, and the school was very thankful. The Kabwabwa Primary school head teacher, Joyce Mgusha said “We are very happy that they have distributed toothpaste and toothbrushes to pupils. These instruments will motivate them to clean their teeth and have good health. When pupils are in good health they tend to perform well in class.”

Teethsavers is a wonderful organization with a vision and they are effectively taking steps to facilitate change by creating happy and healthy smiles.

– Emilie Cieslak
Photo: Pixabay

Living Conditions in Paraguay

Paraguay, 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