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

The Holy Water in Despair

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

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

Omnipresent Tech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the Ganges Can Get Help

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

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

Robert Forsyth
Photo: Flickr

Yellow Fever in French GuianaFrench Guiana is a territory of France located on the northeastern coast of South America, bordering Suriname and Brazil. The territory has faced a history of oppression and neglect. Violent slave revolts shaped much of the land’s early history, its use as a penal colony shaped its recent past. This neglect has led to an overall sense of struggle, with issues arising in nearly all sectors of life. This sense of struggle becomes increasingly visible when regarding the recent cases of yellow fever in French Guiana.

Yellow Fever in French Guiana

In August of 2017, a Brazilian woman in her 40s contracted yellow fever in French Guiana. She was living in a clandestine gold mining village in the area of the dam lake Petit Saut. On August 2, she reported a fever, vomiting, lumbar and abdominal pain and intense asthenia. Her relatives reportedly witnessed hemorrhagic symptoms. On August 7, she was admitted to a hospital in Kourou. On August 8, she experienced multi-organ failure and was rushed to the intensive care unit of a hospital in Cayenne, the capital city of French Guiana. There, she was treated with intensive supportive therapy but showed no positive response. On August 9, she passed away.

In August of 2018, a Swiss man in his 40s, living in a forested area near the river Comté, developed a fever, body aches and mild myalgia. On August 5, a day after his symptoms began, he sought out medical attention. He was sent away with the diagnosis of an acute, dengue-like viral infection. In the days that followed, he experienced vomiting, prostration and a persisting fever. He returned to seek medical attention at the Cayenne hospital. He was admitted into the intensive care unit on August 8, and shortly thereafter, on August 9, he was transferred to a specialized transplant center outside of Paris and received a hepatic transplant. On August 10, blood tests confirmed that he had contracted yellow fever in French Guiana. On August 30, he passed away.

Yellow fever is a virus transmitted by the Aedes and Haemogogus species of mosquitos, the same species responsible for the spreading of Zika and Dengue. Yellow fever is endemic in French Guiana. Many of the infected do not experience symptoms, but those who do typically report some combination of a fever, an aching in the back and head, a loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. A small percentage of those who do experience the initial wave of symptoms will later experience a second wave, referred to as the toxic phase. Those in the toxic phase will likely experience the development of jaundice, a darkening of the urine, vomiting and abdominal pain. Approximately half of all those who enter the toxic phase will die within seven to 10 days.

The endemic status of yellow fever in French Guiana says volumes on the state of the territory as a whole. Although there have been improvements in vaccination rates, with an estimated 80 to 90 percent of the population receiving the yellow fever vaccine, a lack of infrastructure and health care options thoroughly ostracize those living in more rural settings. 

Some communities, such as Maripasula, the most isolated town in French Guiana and France as a whole, takes three days to reach. One must travel by boat down the Amazon. The people of Maripasula have long demanded a road be put in, but as of now, no road exists. This greatly reduces their ability to combat fast-acting diseases such as yellow fever.

The government that rules over French Guiana is the same that rules mainland France, and yet, the GDP of those living in French Guiana is roughly half that of their European counterparts. A shocking 40 percent of citizens live in poverty, and over 20 percent are unemployed.

In 2018, USA Today listed France as the 24th richest country in the world. 

The disparity in income and quality of life between mainland France and French Guiana is drastic, to say the least. In 2017, French Guiana was overcome with protests and social unrest, with many of its citizens participating in mass strikes. The French government apologized for its neglectful treatment of French Guiana and promised to allocate 3 billion euros to the South American territory. This money was meant to be dispersed throughout a variety of sectors, with healthcare and education at the forefront. As of May 2019, this monetary promise remains largely unfulfilled.

Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts ABout Sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Public health outcomes and economic status both rely greatly on a nation’s sanitation infrastructure. Sanitation encompasses the regular, efficient and safe collection and disposal of waste, whatever its source. Improper procedures and insufficient waste management facilities have led to poor sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but recent efforts show promising improvements. Below are 10 facts about sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

  1. The political system in Bosnia and Herzegovina divides waste management responsibilities among different levels of governance. Responsibility for environmental policy, including sanitation policy, lies with both the federal government and the two political entities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republic Srpska, but not with the cantonal and municipal governments. The two entities and their constituent cantons formulate laws and regulations for waste management, while these two levels of government work share the responsibility of designing management strategies with municipal governments.
  2. At the federal level, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations (MoFTER) oversees and manages international initiatives and accords that involve the political entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since the enactment of the Law on Ministries and Other Bodies of Administration of BiH in March 2003, MoFTER’s role also includes ensuring that the political entities follow basic environmental standards. As a result, the political entities do not have absolute power when it comes to environmental policy, with MoFTER acting as a harmonizing and coordinating force.
  3. The country’s two political entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, both suffer from a severe lack of operable wastewater treatment plants. Only two of Republika Srpska’s 64 municipalities have treatment facilities. Though the country improved biological treatment processes in 2009, the quality of these methods declined the following year.
  4. In 2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina produced approximately 1,243,889 tons of municipal waste. This quantity measures out to an estimated 354 kg per year and 0.97 kg each day. Landfills received 952,975 tons of waste that year, a 1 percent decline from 2015. Public solid waste transportation disposed of approximately 920,748 tons of waste in 2016, a 0.1 percent reduction from 2015. The vast majority of waste in the country came from markets, street cleaning and other public sources. Packaging waste made up only 1.9 percent of waste in 2016, and household waste only constituted another 3.6 percent. Recreational areas, such as gardens and parks, generated only 2.8 percent of waste. Mixed municipal waste made up all of the remaining 91.7 percent, more than 844,000 metric tons.
  5. Registered local landfills serve as the endpoint for the majority of publicly-collected waste, but rural areas with little access to public collection services discard their waste in the far-more-common illegal landfills which do not follow sanitation standards. There are only 43 registered landfills in Republika Srpska and 44 in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but nearly 590 known illegal landfills. In legal and illegal dumping alike, the separation of hazardous and non-hazardous materials rarely occurs, posing a significant problem for public health in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  6. The unsafe conditions in a residential landfill in the city of Mostar, in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, provoked protests in 2019. Although it has existed since the 1960s as a landfill for household waste, recently it has allowed companies to dump dangerous waste products and sewage treatment sludge. Locals deeply concerned by news that the waste might contain hazardous toxins called PCBs prompted Mostar authorities to initiate an investigation.
  7. Despite some legislative efforts to follow the EU’s environmental standards, garbage pollutes Bosnia and Herzegovina’s rivers. The civil war in the 1990s resulted in the neglect of the country’s waste management infrastructure. A scarcity of recycling facilities has led to trash islands that now clog the country’s rivers. Locals report that organizations remove an estimated 800,000 tons of trash from the Drina river alone every year.
  8. In 2018, public waste utility KJKP Rad announced the planned construction of a recycling facility for electronic and electrical waste in Sarajevo, the country’s capital. The facility will also accept the city’s solid waste, construction waste and even soil. A hall containing presses and conveyor belts will process the waste brought by Sarajevo locals. Though electrical and electronic waste collection companies already exist, KJKP Rad’s new facility will be the first in the country to recycle waste deposited on site.
  9. In October 2019, the Sarajevo Canton Assembly discussed the creation of a waste incinerator as a solution to the canton’s waste management issues. Though the facility’s construction cost approximately 122.8 million euros, the incineration of waste would not only improve sanitation but also efficiently generate energy for the city. This prospective facility would greatly relieve the burden on the Smiljevići regional waste management center and would be one more step toward improving Bosnia and Herzegovina’s waste management and sanitation.
  10. International attention is also being directed at sanitation problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina. An initiative to improve the country’s waste management infrastructure with support from the Swedish development agency SIDA and the World Bank began in 2016 and offers several strategies to improve the system. Proposed policies include the design of a more feasible data-reporting system, expanding the trash collection fleet, designing and implementing better organized and less expensive waste collection systems, ensuring greater stakeholder involvement in waste management initiatives, improved communication with citizens, implementation of environmental taxes and even tariff reform. With additional time and data, authorities hope that these strategies will improve sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Since gaining independence in the 1990s, sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina has remained a problem. Public health hazards that also threaten economic stability emerged from the neglect that comes with political upheaval. Nevertheless, efforts made to address current shortcomings, such as the construction of new recycling and incineration facilities, herald a brighter future for sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Children with Ebola

In July 2019, there were 750 reported cases of Ebola among children. This is in comparison to 20 percent dating back to prior epidemics. Children are particularly vulnerable to contracting Ebola and require special care to treat the disease. Also in July 2019, about one-third of children have accounted for the nearly 1,700 people who lost their lives to Ebola since August 2018 in The Democratic Republic of Congo. Additionally this month, over 2,500 individuals have been diagnosed with the illness. The nation has begun working with the World Health Organization (WHO) along with other health advocacy organizations such as UNICEF to help cure Ebola.

Children and Ebola: The Numbers

Children under age five are at the highest risk and often suffer the worst symptoms. Out of the 750 cases reported, 40 percent of children under age five were diagnosed with Ebola. Young children are also most likely to die from this disease, as their fatality rate is 77 percent. This is in comparison to 67 percent for other age groups.

Symptoms and Treatments

Manifestations of Ebola encompass fever, headache, diarrhea, and sometimes blood vessel discharges. Prompt detection and sufficient medication are effective in curing the disease.

Because children are more susceptible to contracting Ebola and due to the difference in symptoms in comparison to adults, children with Ebola require differentiated medical care.

Medical personnel has articulated that special treatments are necessary for children suffering from Ebola. They require different and exclusive treatments to focus on children’s individual psychological and social requirements.

Treatments for children with Ebola consist of the same drugs that are used to treat other age groups. Of course, distinct quantities differ. Young children also receive zinc to cure diarrhea and intestinal parasite infections as well. Undernourished children must receive different medication. For example, they are given food that is precisely manufactured for their needs.

Orphaned and Abandoned Children

Hundreds of children are either orphaned or abandoned due to their parents becoming infected with Ebola. UNICEF has organized nursery settings in conjunction with treatment centers. Survivors even serve as caregivers.

Children whose parents have been diagnosed or die from Ebola are at an increased risk of being condemned and forsaken, as their chances are much higher of contracting the disease. Within the treatment centers, all patients undergo examinations on a daily basis.

For orphan children, The Democratic Republic of Congo works to set up arrangements with other family members for the child to live. Additionally, the country is providing nutrient guidelines and covering the cost of fees to allow children to attend school.

Specialized Care for Children

Pediatricians work with children within the Ebola Treatment Centers to deliver focused treatments for children with Ebola. Treatment is based on the patients’ individual needs. Every child that has lost parents to Ebola, or has been separated as a result of their illness, receives specialized care. They are cared for by Ebola survivors who provide comfort. They also transport the child to visit their parents receiving medical care at the Ebola Treatment Centers. In addition, counselors are also present to provide support to families throughout the duration of their treatment.

Nutritionists are also present in the treatment centers to deliver personalized nutrient guidelines to those who are likely to have the disease, as well as those who have been diagnosed already. As a result of these health innovations, these types of care have proven to improve sufferers’ conditions.

International Intervention to Eliminate Ebola

Save the Children is a nonprofit organization that began in the United Kingdom in 1919. Their goal is to advance children’s lives in various aspects, such as education, healthcare and employment. Additionally, the organization supplies relief in response to natural disasters and war.

WHO, in conjunction with Save the Children has declared the current Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo to be a public health emergency of international concern. Due to the outbreak duration of nearly one year, further actions are being implemented to eliminate further cases of Ebola and to provide treatment for children with Ebola. It is predicted that if the outbreak of Ebola continues, the surrounding countries will be affected as well.

Several hundreds of government officials and health personnel are working to cure those infected by the disease and prevent further cases. Save the Children is promoting advocacy efforts in curing Ebola through communal action and informational sessions. These efforts are to ensure that all age groups are informed of prevention practices.

Since the beginning of the current epidemic, Save the Children has provided one million individuals with advice relating to symptom detection and how to prevent the spread of Ebola. Health workers receive training on how to treat those infected with Ebola.  Patients are separated and the disease is then traced. Save the Children also educates the public about the disease.

Save the Children has also delivered various supplies to health practices and border crossings in addition to establishing sanitation facilities in order to decrease further infections and to provide treatments for children with Ebola.

Bringing Hope to Children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Thanks to international intervention and specialized care, children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are receiving the treatment they need to fight against Ebola. There is still much to be done, but as long as aid efforts continue, there is hope for these children’s futures.

– Diana Dopheide
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

Health care in Yemen

Yemen is currently in the midst of a violent civil war. The war has had a destabilizing effect on Yemen’s health care system. The Yemeni people face high rates of malnutrition, a cholera epidemic and a lack of access to necessary medical resources. This article provides 10 facts about health care in Yemen, the war’s effect on health care and the role of foreign aid in addressing the country’s health problems.

10 Facts About Health Care in Yemen

  1. Because medical facilities in Yemen lack access to necessary resources like clean water, diseases that are treatable elsewhere become deadly. Approximately 80 percent of Yemeni people are malnourished, forced to drink unclean water and cannot afford health care, making them more susceptible to diphtheria, cholera and other diseases. The current civil war has also been greatly destructive to infrastructure and health care in Yemen.
  2. Bombing frequently damages hospitals in Yemen and it is difficult for hospitals to maintain electricity and running water in the midst of airstrikes. Continuous fighting leaves little time to address structural damage and meet the needs of the Yemeni people. Families are often required to bring the sick and injured to hospitals without the aid of ambulances. All but one of Yemen’s 22 provinces are affected by fighting.
  3. Within less than a year of fighting in Yemen, airstrikes hit 39 hospitals. Troops from both sides of the conflict blocked outside access to the country, preventing the flow of medicine needed to treat diseases, such as cholera. This puts the Yemeni people, especially children, at risk; 144 children die from treatable diseases daily and more than 1 million children are starving or malnourished.
  4. Yemen’s rural populations lack easy access to hospitals and medical care. Rural facilities, such as those in the northern mountains, cannot provide adequate food to patients. The lack of food in many hospitals prevents successful treatment of malnourishment.
  5. The cholera epidemic began in Yemen in 2016, a year after the beginning of the civil war. By 2017, the disease spread rapidly. In 2019, cholera is still a serious problem in the country. It caused 2,500 deaths in Yemen within the first five months of 2019.
  6. Nearly one million cases of cholera were reported by the end of 2017. Yemen’s cholera outbreak is more severe than any other outbreak of the disease since 1949. Poor water filtration and sanitation triggered the outbreak’s severity.
  7. Around 80 percent of Yemen’s population, including 12 million children, require aid. During the first half of 2019, cases of cholera in children rose dramatically. 109,000 cases of cholera in children were reported between January and March of 2019. Nearly 35 percent of these cases were found in children below the age of 5.
  8. Between 2015 and 2018, Doctors Without Borders provided aid to 973,000 emergency room patients in Yemen. Volunteers for Doctors Without Borders treated about 92,000 patients injured by violence related to the war, treated 114,646 cases of cholera and treated 14,370 cases of malnutrition. Doctors Without Borders provides vital support to the health care system in Yemen.
  9. USAID cooperates with UNICEF and WHO to provide health care aid to Yemen, with a special emphasis on the health of mothers, infants and children. In 2017, USAID trained 360 health care workers at 180 facilities to treat child health problems. The facilities also received necessary resources from USAID. They also work with the U.N. Development Program to improve working conditions throughout Yemen, including the health care sector.
  10. During the 2018-19 fiscal year, USAID provided $720,854,296 in aid to Yemen. This aid funded a variety of projects, such as repaired water stations to ensure improved access to clean water. The U.S. also funds WASH, a program intended to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene. The ultimate goal of WASH is to improve health care in Yemen, especially for the rural poor.

Yemen’s health care system is in dire need of aid. The country’s government, overwhelmed by war, cannot serve the medical needs of its people, especially in light of the ongoing cholera epidemic. The efforts of USAID and other relief organizations can provide the support that Yemen’s health care system needs at this time.

– Emelie Fippin
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

Soda Tax in Mexico

Type 2 diabetes recently became one of the leading causes of death in Mexico. The number of diabetes-related deaths will continue to rise. Furthermore, scientists have predicted that at least half of Mexico’s population will have diabetes by 2050. Conditions such as being overweight and obesity have strong links to the development of Type 2 diabetes. In response to the growing health concerns associated with obesity and diabetes, the soda tax in Mexico has been implemented to reduce liquid sugar consumption and promote healthier lifestyle choices.

Tax on Soda

Mexico has historically been a top consumer of sugar-sweetened beverages. In 2012, the average person consumed 176 liters per year. Mexico made the world’s top consumer of soda per capita.

The popularity of sugary drinks has come with negative consequences. As soda consumption rose, the number of people suffering from obesity and diabetes in Mexico also increased. While sugar-sweetened beverages were not the only drivers of the weight-related problems plaguing the country, they did receive the most attention from health officials.

In 2014, Mexico began taxing all sugar-sweetened drinks. The tax roughly increased the price of the sugary drinks by one peso per liter. The purpose behind the soda tax was twofold:

  1. Reduce the consumption of liquid sugar that contributed to high obesity and diabetes rates.
  2. Increase funding for public health-based programs to promote healthy lifestyle choices.

Mexico’s Struggle with Diabetes

The soda tax in Mexico was an important step in the country’s fight against diabetes. In 2018, a report found that nearly one-third of the Mexican population was living with diabetes. The most common form diagnosed was Type 2 diabetes, which causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to be higher than normal. The exact cause remains unclear, but obesity was strongly linked to the development of Type 2 diabetes.

Link Between Obesity and Diabetes

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that a healthy diet includes the consumption of about 2,000 calories per day. The average Mexican adult consumes over 3,000 calories per day. Mexico has one of the highest obesity rates in the world. The number of Mexican adults suffering from obesity rose from 20.5 million in 2012 to 24.3 million in 2016.

Food insecurity and undernourishment were the leading causes of obesity, especially among the poor. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that unreliable access to food contributed to multiple health conditions. In addition, much of the food produced in Mexico was high in carbs and fats. Mexican farmers favored crops that were cheap and easy to grow (like corn) instead of focusing on their nutritional value. Consequently, the average Mexican diet has higher carbs and fats than recommended.

The poor have been the most vulnerable to obesity. A study found that poor communities had obesity rates 145 percent greater than wealthy communities. The stress of food insecurity and undernourishment impair the poor from making the best food choices for their health.“When household resources for food become scarce, people choose less expensive foods that are often high in calories and low in nutrients,” explained the FAO.

Did the Soda Tax Work?

Diabetes has no cure. While medication is a big part of treatment, most doctors recommend a lifestyle change for diabetics looking to keep their blood glucose levels under control. The “Soda Tax” sought to help with the lifestyle change by saving people who avoided sugary drinks money.

Since 2014, the sales of sugar-sweetened beverages have dropped throughout Mexico. Sales dropped by 5.5 percent the first year. By the second year, sales were down by 9.7 percent. The sales of untaxed beverages increased by about 2 percent. However, the calorie intake of the average person has remained unchanged.

– Paola Nuñez
Photo: Flickr

Vaccines in Egypt On March 14, 2019, the vaccination company Pfizer, in partnership with Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance reduced the price of the pneumococcal vaccine (PCV) to $2.90 per dose for eligible countries. Gavi’s mission since 2000 has been to “improve access to new and underused vaccines for children living in the world’s poorest countries”. Public and private sectors fund the creation and distribution of important vaccines in 73 developing countries partnered with Gavi.

The Benefit of Price Drops

In 2017, the price of a single dose PCV was $3.30. However, as a result of negotiations between Pfizer and Gavi there have been three pneumococcal vaccine price drops since January 2017. It is expected to save developing countries $4.1 million this year. Dr. Seth Berkley, the CEO of Gavi says “pneumonia remains the single largest cause of death for children worldwide and [the] pneumococcal vaccine is one of our largest weapons against it”. The price drop comes at a pivotal time.

PCV is a Priority

PCV takes as long as 15 years to reach developing countries that need it the most. Whereas the vaccine is already easily accessible and widespread in industrialized nations. Vaccines have not been easily accessible in developing nations. They are expensive and difficult to distribute effectively in nations lacking funds and resources. The focus is on different areas. For example, the proportion of developing countries’ exports that is needed to service their overseas debt rose from 11 percent in 1970 to 18 percent in 1996, while overseas aid from the U.S. plummeted $14 billion. With the drop in PCV pricing, developing countries can invest in their public health.

The value of vaccines as a long-term investment for developing countries is leading to pneumococcal vaccine price drops. Vaccinating the youth population of developing countries, according to Gavi, creates a “virtuous cycle”.

The Cycle Follows This Order of Cause and Effect

  • Children have vaccines before the age of two
  • These children are likely to be healthier and live longer
  • Children have fewer and less serious illnesses
  • This leads to lower care costs for health systems and family
  • Which means more family money available to spend or save
  • Children will attend school more, fueling better outcomes
  • A family’s economic outlook will strengthen based on these outcomes
  • Birth rates drop and mother’s health improves
  • A community becomes more economically stable and productive
  • Contributing to politically and economically stable countries

By looking at the cost-benefit analyses for vaccinations, scientists are able to see this “virtuous cycle” in action. A study, conducted by the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey in 1975, took data from a sample of Filipino children. Researchers compared test scores of children who received six vaccines in their first two years versus those that did not. The study reveals the association of immunization with improved IQ scores, language and mathematics tests. Untreated childhood illness can impair cognitive development.

Developing countries often have large obstacles to face such as food scarcity, a lack of widespread education and low GDPs. Investing in vaccines is a long-term solution that will benefit the economic, health, societal and governmental sectors of these nations. With the pneumococcal vaccine price drops, this seems to be an attainable reality for developing countries.

– Meredith Breda
Photo: Flickr

top 10 facts about living conditions in trinidad and tobago

North of the coast of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago is a wondrous country with elements that make the island unique. Living conditions in Trinidad and Tobago are bewildering due to its economic growth and the risks of HIV. There are many factors that affect living conditions on this island that make it whole. These are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Trinidad and Tobago.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Trinidad and Tobago

  1. Trinidad and Tobago is regarded as one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean due to its oil reserves and rich resources which help boost the economy in great ways. It is also regarded as one of the top three wealthiest countries in the Americas because of the amount of oil and gas throughout the island allowing for the economy to thrive and helping people live well throughout the island.
  2. Public healthcare is provided for free for citizens on the island, but there are private healthcare providers that can be paid for if it is affordable. There are numerous healthcare centers established around the island making it easily accessible for the citizens in Trinidad and Tobago.
  3. Although the economy has seen a significant boost since its independence in the 1960s, 26 percent of the population is living in poverty, surviving on less than $2.75 a day.
  4. Education is free to children between the ages of 5 and 16. There are private institutions that citizens can pay for but public education provides children with free transportation, books, and meals while in school giving children the opportunity to learn effectively.
  5. Trinidad and Tobago suffer from an increase in crime rates compared to 2016. There has been a 5.5 percent increase in crime rates, which are mostly violent crimes including murder and robbery.
  6. Trinidad and Tobago have a rich cultural life throughout the island celebrating historical African music, dance and literature.
  7. Housing has become a primary concern throughout the country due to the increasing population throughout the island. Many people struggle to find housing in urban areas due to the increasing shortage of land and high construction costs.
  8. Housing conditions vary throughout the urban and rural areas of Trinidad and Tobago. Families in rural areas usually inhabit wooden huts and have various family types where women are typically the head of the household.
  9. The unemployment rate has reached its lowest in 2015 with a rate of 3.5 percent. It has seen a significant decrease since the 90s where it was 17.2 percent.
  10. HIV has become a prevalent disease affecting a large amount of the population. Nearly 11,000 people are living with HIV but with access to free public health care, nearly 75 percent of the population is receiving treatment for the disease.

Trinidad and Tobago is experiencing great economic growth due to the vast amount of resources and has seen progress regarding education and health care but still see issues regarding diseases, housing and poverty. Although these may be factors that can affect the country negatively, Trinidad and Tobago have the potential to combat these elements to help the country thrive. These are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Trinidad and Tobago.

Elijah Jackson
Photo: Flickr