Elderly Care in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina has been slowly recovering from the conflict that took place in the country during the late 1990s. The war took a toll on the country economically, politically, socially and physically. On top of its high levels of poverty, the country is also becoming a victim of the aging population epidemic and elderly care in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a huge concern. The country is facing issues of a dip in fertility rate and an increase in the rate of the elderly people, leaving a large number of older population with a small population of working-age people to support them. This issue coming from the uneven age distribution grew due to a fall in birth rates, a decrease in population from deaths during the war years and an increase in life expectancy.

The Increase of Elderly Population

Currently, people over the age of 65 make up 17 percent of the total population. Moreover, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs estimated that the number of persons aged 65 and more than 65 will reach 30 percent of the population in 2060, comparative with the 15 percent it sat at in 2010. With a population of only 3.5 million, this is a daunting number.

The older population in Bosnia and Herzegovina is extremely vulnerable for many reasons. Some of the issues they face include low income and increased living expenses. Obtaining employment is difficult as well. Due to the high unemployment rate the country faces, many employers prefer younger workers. This means that many of the elderly face poverty and have been unemployed since before retirement age, leaving them with subsequently less to provide for themselves as they age.

The situation for elderly women is worse than it is for men, as women lose rights with the loss of a husband. They also face higher rates of poverty as they are usually unable to economically provide for themselves alone. The elderly are ailed by illnesses such as cardiovascular and malignant diseases, neurological and mental disorders like Alzheimer’s, as well as sensory and physical disabilities. Many of these diseases and the lack of care for them result in a higher rate of depression amongst the elderly.

The Exodus of Medical Workers

On top of all this, Bosnia and Herzegovina is facing an exodus of its medical workers. Many young doctors and medical professionals are leaving the country after their schooling is complete and migrating toward Germany and other Western countries because these countries offer better job opportunities and more competitive salaries. More than 10,000 nurses, doctors, caregivers have gone to Germany alone. Only about 6,000 doctors work in Bosnia, meaning for every six doctors, one works in Germany. Not only is this leading to a lack of medical professionals, but the country is also losing money as they put millions into medical training facilities that students use and then leave behind as they migrate their services.

Bosnia is being forced to send patients abroad for care, so in the last two years, the country has spent around $37 million on patients that were sent outwards. Not only is this epidemic draining the country’s money, leaving it with less available funding to put towards elderly care in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it also means there are not enough doctors to perform geriatric care. It’s a negative feedback loop that hinders the country’s ability to care for its citizens, especially the elderly ones.

The Solutions for the Problems

The growing number of the elderly population in combination with the exodus of medical workers leaves the country with many people suffering and few resources to help them. Thankfully though, Bosnia and Herzegovina has not turned a blind eye towards these issues and instead has begun to search for solutions. Members of the United Nations adopted the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing that aims to address the issues of aging in the 21st century. The plan focuses on three main aspects: older persons and development, advancing health and well-being into old age and ensuring enabling and supportive environments.

With support from the United Nations Population Fund, United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs and the Swiss Cooperation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country has developed its own strategies, inspired by the structure of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. It plans to improve social and health protections, promote activism and volunteerism in local communities, as well as inter-generational support. The country aims to improve access to public services, especially for those in rural areas and prevent violence, neglect and abuse against older persons. The execution of this initiative will require a great deal of money and resources, but the government is dedicated to the improvement of elderly care in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This plan of action shows that the government is making this issue a focal point in national policy and beginning to address the problems that will address the aging population. Elderly care in Bosnia and Herzegovina has a long way to go before the older population is secure and comfortable. With initiative from the government to care for the elderly, social attention will be turned towards this problem that will encourage the younger generation to aid the older and make room for various organizations to provide help and resources to the country’s older population.

– Mary Spindler
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy Rate in South Africa
The life expectancy rate in South Africa was one of the lowest in the world due to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the country. The prevalence of HIV and AIDS in the country has been one of the most significant causes of low life expectancy in South Africa. However, with more and more cases being treated and new resources becoming available to help to prevent the disease, it may be possible to reduce the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in South Africa.

The Effect of HIV/AIDS in South Africa

South Africa has a population of 56.5 million people, which is an increase of about 900,000 since last year. In 2006, Women had a life expectancy of about 54.7 years of age and men at about 52.3 years, which made the countries average life expectancy 53.5 years of age. Currently, the life expectancy in South Africa is up 10.5 years to 64.

Today, South Africa has estimated that 13 out of 100 people or  7.06 million people in the country are HIV positive. Although, cases of HIV in people ages 18 to 24 has been decreasing. The rates have dropped by 3.3 percent from 2002 to 2017 from 7.3 percent to 4.6 percent.

Preventing the Spread of HIV/AIDS to Babies

By the year 2000, the rate of newborn babies born with the HIV virus was about 80,000 children a year. The antiretroviral drug nevirapine was offered to the government to treat at least half of those children for free. However, the government declined it and, instead, introduced a therapy that would prevent mother-to-child-transmission (PMTCT). Unfortunately, the treatment was delayed for about a year and not offered everywhere. As a result, most mothers were denied access to the treatment.

The infant mortality rate for children under the age of five in 2002 was close to 71 per 1,000 children; however, the Treatment Action Campaign took legal action and won against The Minister of Health to make PMTCT available to all mothers in hospitals within South Africa.

The Importance of HIV/AIDS Testing

Testing for HIV/AIDS in South Africa is the primary way of fighting the infection. The world largest effort to test for HIV was conducted in 2010. About 44 million people in South Africa have been tested for the infection, with about 10 million are tested every year. A fixed-dose combination of antiretroviral medication was introduced in 2013, which made adhering to treatment easier. In 2016, The Department of Health began to distribute treatment to anyone diagnosed with HIV.

HIV thrives in places with poor living conditions and places that do not have the tools to practice safe sex. In late June of 2016, South Africa introduced a campaign that would aim to help girls and young women to avoid being exposed to HIV—such as safe sex education and fighting the use of drugs and alcohol. They also have come up with a program to discourage sexual violence in boys and men.

HIV has been one of the main contributors to low life expectancy in South Africa; however, the life expectancy rate is showing improvements as programs aimed at treating and reducing HIV/AIDS in South Africa become more readily available.

David Daniels
Photo: Flickr

International affairsThe International Affairs Budget is a crucial investment in foreign aid and development. Fighting diseases and epidemics, providing humanitarian aid and educating children who are most vulnerable to dropping out and not receiving an education are just some of the areas where funding is applied. Those suffering from poverty are less likely to receive aid and proper health services necessary to prevent and cure illnesses.

Thinking about more recent epidemics, such as the Ebola and Zika virus, it can be seen that funding for health-related programs within The International Affairs Budget was crucial to lowering the statistics of those who are affected. Up to now, 16 percent of The International Affairs Budget is dedicated to global health funding. This includes maternal and child healthcare, nutrition and tackling diseases such as polio and HIV/AIDS.

The Polio Virus Around the World

The Polio vaccine is a great example of a threat that could be eradicated with the correct application of foreign aid. Polio, also known as Poliomyelitis, is an infectious disease that causes paralysis and possibly death. According to The Polio Global Eradication Initiative, as of 1988, polio has infected and paralyzed over 1,000 children daily worldwide.

In 1931, Sir Macfarlane Burnet and Dame Jean MacNamara were able to identify multiple strains of polio, which became known as types 1, 2, and 3. In 1955, a polio vaccine was introduced from wild-type poliovirus strains that were killed, therefore inactive. Also known as IPV, this form of the vaccine has been able to eliminate polio from countries such as Scandinavia and the Netherlands.

In 1961, the oral polio vaccine, a mixture of the 3 strains of polio, was introduced. The strains selected are less likely to originate within the body and be spread to others. Due to the high rates of success of the OPV, alongside its low cost to purchase, this version of the vaccine has been key in globally eliminating polio.

Despite these 2 forms of vaccines being available, The Polio Global Eradication Initiative reports that 430 million children are still at risk of contracting polio, mainly in Africa and Asia. As of February 2015, The United States government approved a $228 million in funds to tackle the elimination of polio.

Once a pandemic, now the rates of polio have been reduced by 99.99 percent because of funding that has gone towards research and creating initiatives such as The Global Polio Eradication Initiative to continually fight polio.

The Smallpox Virus Around the World

Variola virus, also known as smallpox, was an infectious disease that caused fever and a specific type of progressive skin rash. While many recovered from the disease, three out of 10 died and, of those who survived, many had large scars left on their body.

Looking back at the history, there had been several global outbreaks of smallpox from China to Africa to Australia. In 1959, The World Health Organization (WHO) started a plan to eradicate smallpox, but it was difficult to obtain funding and countries willing to participate. When The Intensified Eradication Program started in 1967, progress was made in areas such as South America, Asia and Africa. One thing that became clear was that, with the eradication of smallpox, comes lower medical expenses.

For instance, when smallpox was finally eradicated in 1980, quarantine conditions no longer had to be initiated. When combined with the costs of the disabilities of those who had survived the disease after fighting smallpox, the savings were around $1 billion. Therefore, it can be concluded that with funding, comes research and initiatives, which heightens the likelihood of vaccines and lowers medical expenses both domestically and globally.

HIV/AIDS Around the World

Around $330 million of the global health percentage of The International Affairs Budget has been dedicated to HIV/AIDS. Out of these funds, $275 million will be shared with Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance. According to The Lancet, AIDS-related deaths, when comparing 2005 to 2016, have decreased .9 million. In addition, the rates of new infections have decreased by 16 percent.

One reason for this decrease is because of increased treatments that are available due to an increase in funding. Therefore, if funding is reduced, inversely, there would be a rise in infection rates of HIV/AIDS due to lack of research, services and education about preventing the virus.

As readers can see, The International Affairs Budget is crucial to the progression of global health. Instances such as polio, smallpox and HIV/AIDS are prime examples of how funding can be the key to reduction and even eradication. With increased funding, comes increased research, cures, education and prevention techniques. E-mail your senators and representatives today to urge their support and protection for the funding of The International Affairs Budget.

– Jessica Ramtahal

Photo: Flickr

The Shoe That Grows
Sometimes, the simplest invention can change millions of lives. That’s the goal of The Shoe That Grows, a sandal invented by Kenton Lee. These shoes can adjust its size, allowing children in impoverished nations to grow up without having to go barefoot. The shoes, which come in catch-all Small and Large sizes, can grow five sizes and last at least 5 years.

The Power of a Pair of Shoes

According to The Shoe That Grows, “There are over 300 million children who do not have shoes. And countless more with shoes that do not fit.” Children without shoes are susceptible to injuries and parasites that infect humans through our feet. Rachel Garton of Buckner International Shoes for Orphan Souls says, “Just by putting a pair of shoes on a child, we can increase their health by 50 percent.”

From physical improvement to being able to participate in a society, shoes can improve:

  • Quality of life
  • Prevent injury of disease
  • Help with healing for those with chronic foot conditions
  • Offer support for inadequate arches or excess pronation
  • Express one’s self
  • Enable a person to work in hazardous conditions
  • Help land that coveted job.

Over 1.5 billion people suffer from soil-transmitted diseases worldwide. Most notable in the susceptibility are the impoverished children who simply cannot afford shoes. Without shoes, children are especially vulnerable to soil-transmitted diseases and parasites that can cause illness and even death.

Dangers of Bare Feet

Improper sanitization along with the lack of foot protection can lead to parasitic worms being able to bore itself into a foot in a corkscrew-like manner. Severe illness would then follow after a hookworm infection with anemia being the biggest health concern.

While the hookworm epidemic is no longer a concern in the U.S. today, the need for proper footwear is still critical as a way of reducing the risk of certain parasitic diseases and foot infections in third world countries.

According to the Global Partnership for Education, an estimated 69 million primary-school-age boys and girls are not in school. This is due to a varying range of variables from poverty to disease. These factors however go hand-in-hand when children do not have the financial capabilities to afford proper footwear to protect their feet from life-hindering diseases.

Children who get sick miss school, can’t help their families and ultimately, suffer needlessly. Moreover, many countries require school uniforms which definitely include shoes, and since children’s feet grow so quickly, they often outgrow donated shoes within a year, leaving them once again exposed to illness and disease.

Shoes and Foot Development

Shoes not only help our feet to heal but can also aid in support and stability of our foot. Not all feet are perfect, so properly fitting shoes can help align your feet, ankles, knees, hips and back to correct gait and improve posture. It is important to also note that poorly-fitted shoes can have a negative impact on your foot health, but accounting for the foot length and width can help prevent any foot development disorders.

Additionally, growth spurts in children are rapid so proper and regular foot measurements are important; replacement of worn-out shoes is necessary to maintain optimal foot conditions and protection for your feet.

In addition, without supportive shoes, unnecessary impact and stress on areas of the feet and knees not made for shock absorption/pressure can eventually lead to increased back, knee and foot pain.

Small to Large: Sizes and Impact

Through his innovation of The Shoe That Grows, Kenton Lee has seen how small things have the power to make a big impact. Since its beginning, The Shoe That Grows has distributed over 120,000 pairs in 91 countries.

Through its parent charity organization, Because International, The Shoe That Grows works with nonprofits, churches, individuals and organizations serving kids in need. The business covers the cost of the shoes through donations and fundraisers, and after shoes are then packed and sent to groups before they travel.

Lee now tells his story to audiences who are eager to make a difference at home, work, and in their local and global communities. He not only inspires others through his speeches, but he lives out practical compassion everyday through his full-time work with his nonprofit organization. Lee serves as a model and inspiration for us all.

– Richard Zarrilli, Jr.
Photo: Flickr

lowest life expectancy in the world

Out of the established 224 countries on the earth, these are the bottom five with the lowest life expectancy in the world. The countries listed below range from an average lifespan of 52.1 years to 50.6 years old.

Five Countries with the Lowest Life Expectancy in the World

  1. Swaziland
    Swaziland has the fifth-lowest life expectancy in the world at an average of 52.1 years. Swaziland is the only country on this list with men living, on average, longer than women. As of 2016, the top two reasons for deaths were HIV/AIDS and lower respiratory infections.However, Swaziland is one of the countries receiving help from USAID. One of the top priorities of USAID is fighting against HIV/AIDS by preventing sexual transmission, increasing the prevalence of male circumcision, improving institutions and training, lessening the impact of HIV/AIDS and decentralizing care and treatment. With USAID’s continued assistance and its partnerships within the African nation, there is a chance that the average lifespan in Swaziland can increase above 52.1 years.
  1. Gabon
    With an average lifespan of 52.1 years, Gabon is ranked number four for the lowest life expectancy in the world. Despite being rated so low, Gabon has a robust oil-dependent economy, making it a middle-income country.Due to this income status, it is ineligible for relief programs such as Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization. This ineligibility may be why HIV/AIDS and heart disease are the top two reasons for death in the country, contributing to the low life expectancy.
  1. Afghanistan
    The only country not in Africa, Afghanistan is ranked at number three with an average lifespan of 51.7 years. This ranking may increase over time through help from USAID.In Afghanistan, USAID is working to promote health and education, both critical factors in raising life expectancies. USAID and its partners are making substantial strides to improve the healthcare for Afghans. For example, in 2016, the organization began a project to help reduce malnutrition and increase access to safe water and sanitation.USAID is also working toward making essential health services available and improving the quality and quantity of medicines. These resources, once available to Afghans, grant the nation a high potential to no longer be one of the countries with the lowest life expectancy in the world.
  1. Guinea-Bissau
    The second-to-last country with the lowest life expectancy in the world is Guinea-Bissau, averaging about 51 years of life. Aid for Africa is working in Guinea-Bissau with programs that help improve health and education, create businesses and protect wildlife.Another program through Aid for Africa, called Tostan, works by using local languages and traditions to promote democracy, problem-solving, human rights, hygiene and health. Through this program, successful countries have become more prosperous as well as healthier. With the continued implementation of programs such as these, Guinea-Bissau could improve its quantity of life.
  1. Chad
    Chad has the lowest life expectancy in the world at an average lifespan of 50.6 years. The life expectancy in this nation is so low because it has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality and high infant mortality as well.USAID has several programs to help those living in Chad. USAID and the U.N. World Food Programme are working together to distribute food and make sure access to food is readily available all over the country.Starting in 2018, programs such as In-Kind Food Aid, Local and Regional Food Procurement, Cash Transfers for Food and Food Vouchers all will be funded to help citizens. With these various programs helping improve health and nutrition, sources are working with Chad to increase the average lifespan.

World life expectancy continues to increase on the whole, but these five countries are still lagging behind. In order to increase the longevity and potential of their citizens’ lives, they will require targeted aid and a focus on infrastructure and healthcare.

– Amber Duffus

Photo: Flickr

TobaccoStudies have shown that poor households in low-income countries can spend an upward of 10 percent of household budgets on tobacco products. Poverty and tobacco use are a highly linked global phenomenon. This disproportionate relation has several outlining side effects.

Households with less disposable income that use tobacco have fewer means of survival when it comes to health and basic living costs. The choice to buy tobacco-based products deprives families of the income needed for proper diet and nutrition. In this respect, outside of the health risks typically associated with tobacco usage, poor diet and malnutrition are within the realm of side effects.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also reported that tobacco leads to higher illiteracy rates when money is used on tobacco products over education. One 1997 study in Chennai, India, found this to be true. “Among illiterate men, the smoking prevalence was 64 percent, whereas it was only 21 percent among those with more than 12 years of schooling,” reports the WHO.

The vicious cycle of poverty and tobacco use is prevalent throughout the world. Due to the prevalence of poverty in certain countries, farmers will accept a line of credit from tobacco companies. This credit is set in the form of seeds, fertilizer and other essentials for growing tobacco. The problem with this business transaction is that farmers must then sell all of their product. However, the profit for selling the tobacco leaves often ends up being less than that of the line of credit, leaving the farmers indebted to the tobacco companies and continuing the cycle even further.

Luckily, in 2015 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a new plan in order to combat the socioeconomic side effects of poverty and tobacco use. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) formally recognize, on a global scale, the negative impact of tobacco consumption on health, wealth and development. Under the SDGs, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was set to “protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.”

One key difference included in the Sustainable Development Goals is that, unlike previous implementations, the SDGs apply to all U.N. members. High-income countries, especially the United States, are no exception. Though the United States has one of the highest standards of living, poverty and tobacco use still afflict lower socioeconomic groups. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention found in 2014 that, in the population of people having only a GED certificate, smoking prevalence is more than 40 percent.

Fighting poverty is essential to the fight against tobacco use. Tobacco use is a habit that is so detrimental to human life that it should be of high focus for eradication, especially when global health is at risk.

– Richard Zarrilli, Jr

Photo: Flickr

Elimination of Measles in Bhutan and Maldives
Measles is a highly contagious viral infection that spreads through air and direct contact. It is characterized by symptoms lasting from four to seven days, including a red rash, fever, cough, conjunctivitis and white spots inside the mouth.

Despite being a vaccine-preventable disease, measles continues to be the leading cause of deaths among young children worldwide. Since 15 percent of vaccinated children do not develop immunity from the first dose, one of the main reasons behind the high death rates associated with the disease is incomplete vaccination doses received by children.

The WHO collaborated with the ministries of health of low-income countries, U.N. agencies and local NGOs to stop the occurrence of measles outbreaks and unite multidisciplinary efforts to eliminate measles at a global scale. For instance, Bhutan and Maldives launched their Expanded Immunization Programs during the late 1970s, and have since exerted tremendous attempts to increase immunization services to the population.

Last year, the WHO confirmed the elimination of measles in Bhutan and Maldives, an achievement that labeled the two countries as the first two nations in the WHO South-East Asia Region capable of interrupting the endemic measles virus transmission ahead of the 2020 regional target.

 

WHO Praises the Successful Elimination of Measles in Bhutan & Maldives

Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the Regional Director of WHO South-East Asia, acknowledged the dedication and hard work of these two developing nations by describing it as a “momentous public health achievement.” She stated that the elimination of measles in Bhutan and Maldives should provide hope and guidance for other low-income countries suffering from high mortality and morbidity rates caused by the infection.

Additionally, Singh praised both countries for the establishment of strong surveillance systems in collaboration with laboratories in order to conduct detailed case investigations and tracking for every identified measles case.

 

Effective Actions Toward the Elimination of Measles in Bhutan and Maldives

The Ministry of Health in Bhutan accredits this noteworthy achievement to the various initiatives implemented to get rid of the disease. One of the essential strategies that has contributed to the elimination of the disease in both countries was the introduction of childhood immunization plans and the Measles Immunization Coverage in 1985.

The ministry’s health secretary, Ugen Dophu, announced that Bhutan was able to immunize 98 percent of children, a high rate that exceeds the WHO’s childhood immunization recommendation of at least 80 percent. He also highlighted the important role played by parents in the process of eliminating measles in Bhutan and Maldives — parental cooperation and understanding led to the attainment of higher immunization rates among children.

 

Future Plans to Sustain the Fight Against Measles

The health ministry has designed various plans and strategies to prevent future measles outbreaks and ensure the sustainability of efforts toward the elimination of measles in Bhutan and Maldives.

Dr. Dophu asserted that the health ministry will also collaborate intensively with the WHO to carry out a mass measles immunization campaign, This effort should increase accessibility and affordability of the vaccine among children and adults up to 40 years of age.

Moreover, new health screening systems will be installed at each of the country’s entry points to urge people to complete the screening procedures, and subsequently, protect the public health at large.

– Lea Sacca

Photo: Flickr

A Global Health Institute in LebanonOn July 19, 2017, American University of Beirut (AUB) president Fadlo Khuri announced the development of AUB’s very own Global Health Institute, the first research and public health establishment in Lebanon and the wider region.

Under its “Health 2025 initiative,” AUB’s vision of contributing to national healthcare reform inspired the idea of establishing a Global Health Institute in Lebanon. An additional Health Sciences Complex will also be developed to complement the institute in its goal of empowering AUB’s footprint in health, for it to become a renowned medical center serving the clinical and surgical needs of the Arab population on a global scale. 

According to Khuri, the Global Health Institute in Lebanon will contribute positively to the development of a “sustainable future for health in the Arab World.” He also acknowledged his fellow board members, associate vice president for health affairs Shadi Saleh and executive vice president Dean Mohamed Sayegh. Their collaborative efforts over a period of 18 months have ultimately launched the institution. 

Donors & International Supporters

The Global Health Institute in Lebanon relies on the support of its generous donors. A five-year $1.35 million core foundational grant was given by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in recognition of the university’s ambitious healthcare mission. The IDRC leadership expressed its enthusiasm in collaborating with AUB to support new research leaders on current issues in healthcare, society, economics and the environment.

Interdisciplinary Programs

Currently, the Global Health Institute in Lebanon has launched three interdisciplinary programs directed by different health units within the university. The Conflict Medicine Program, the Refugee Health Program and the Nutrition, Obesity, and Related Disease Program have already exceeded expectations with their research projects, capacity-building events and outreach actions. New programs will be launched in the near future to broaden the range of activities and topics addressed by the institution.

Strategic Agreement with Humanitarian Leadership Academy

In August 2017, AUB’s Global Health Institute in Lebanon signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Humanitarian Leadership Academy (HLA), a global learning initiative providing people the skills needed to effectively prepare for and respond to crises. The Global Health Institute will pilot research, develop new structured learning pathways and contextualize content through advanced learning tools such as online courses to deliver necessary humanitarian capacity-building assessments to HLA.

One of the first activities organized by both parties was a workshop offered to representatives of different local and international organizations in Lebanon. The one-day workshop was focused on supporting local stakeholders responding to the Syrian Crisis.

Director of the Middle East Centre Brigitte Khair-Mountain praised the workshop for being a great opportunity to validate gaps in humanitarian learning present in the Middle East. She added that the workshop will allow stakeholders to prioritize best practices based on the region’s previous experiences in humanitarian response.

– Lea Sacca

Photo: Flickr

In Kenya, around 1.6 million citizens are currently living with HIV, with around 910,000 of these being women aged 15 and over. Soteni International, a nonprofit organization based out of Cincinnati, Ohio, works within rural Kenya to fight HIV/AIDS. Executive Director Randie Marsh describes the goals of the organization as “to reduce the incidences of HIV/AIDS in rural Kenya and improve the lives of those affected by HIV/AIDS.”

Soteni International was founded in 2002 by a group of both American and African volunteers led by Dr. Victoria Wells Wulsin, a physician and epidemiologist. Marsh describes the early mission of the organization as being to “empower orphans of AIDS to lead the fight against AIDS and to prevent another generation from succumbing.”

Villages of Hope

The organization has now developed and works through the “model of Villages of Hope.” This includes doing everything in its power to build up specific communities so that they are sustainable for future HIV/AIDS free generations. These villages are focused in three main regions in rural Kenya: Mbakalo, Ugunja and Mitunto.

Marsh told The Borgen Project that the organization chose to stay in rural areas because it “felt like there are many organizations working in Nairobi that address the HIV crisis there. These [three regions] are also areas where the communities have given us land to use to further our mission and/or support us in other ways.” Soteni has supported a number of projects in these communities that all work toward the overall betterment of the region.

Community Improvements

In 2009, Soteni worked with other organizations, including the Lake Victoria North Water Services Board, the Gender Sensitive Initiatives organization and the Kenyan Water Services Fund Trust, to bring safe drinking water to Mbakalo. The project included bringing the region 20 hand-pump wells and 20 springwater pipes. The local schools also received 15 three-door latrines and 12 rainwater harvesting tanks. In 2015, the organization also enacted the Improving Access to Family Planning Project in Ujunga to spread sexual health and family planning awareness and provide access to sexual reproductive health services.

Soteni opened a health center in Mbakalo in 2005 and has continued to improve it over the years. The center provides essential medical services through a seven-person staff. 200 to 300 citizens receive treatment here every month that includes antimalarials, antihistamines, antibiotics and some immunizations. The center has no electricity, but in 2008 Soteni installed a solar refrigerator for vaccines and medicines. Plans are currently underway to expand and upgrade the center.

International Cooperation

Soteni International requires leadership and cooperation in both the United States and Kenya to do its work. The organization has members and locations in both Cincinnati and Nairobi and members make trips back and forth annually. Supporters in the U.S. can donate time through volunteer work or make monetary and material donations.

According to Executive Director Marsh, “the heart of our organization are the people on the ground who work to support the mission.”  The organization and its community work are entirely grassroots, built from the ground up by people who saw a problem and wanted to be a part of the solution. Not only does its work better the lives of Kenyan citizens, but it also inspires citizens from the U.S. and around the globe.

– Megan Burtis

Photo: Flickr

AMREF: Lasting Health Changes in AfricaSurgeons Michael Wood, Archibald McIndoe, and Tom Rees came up with a plan to provide medical assistance in remote regions of East Africa in 1957. Today, the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) is the most respected health development organization based in Africa. Their mission is simple: bringing lasting healthcare improvements to Africa.

AMREF’s strategy is based on seven priority areas:

  1. Maternal health, including safer pregnancies, support for reproductive rights and cervical cancer prevention for disadvantaged women.
  2. Child health, including integrated management of childhood illnesses and improved childhood nutrition.
  3. Fighting diseases like HIV, TB and malaria with prevention, care and treatment.
  4. Improving access to safe water and sanitation to prevent epidemics of waterborne diseases.
  5. A wider reach of quality clinical and diagnostic services by strengthening health facilities.
  6. Research and advocacy to distribute knowledge to healthcare workers across the continent.
  7. A strong, united AMREF Health Africa.

AMREF works to make significant healthcare improvements in African countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Senegal. AMREF has been successful in developing community-based healthcare models and programs with communities, which is the heart of their system. It reaches and respects communities and brings lasting healthcare improvements to Africa from within.

AMREF launched the successful Stand Up for African Mothers campaign to ensure that mothers are given adequate medical care during pregnancy and childbirth. It aimed to train 15,000 midwives to reduce maternal death by 25 percent. One trained midwife was projected to provide care for 500 women each year, including safe deliveries of 100 babies.

AMREF set up the Kenya eLearning Nurses Upgrading Programme in 2005 and a few years later, it expanded to include the AMREF Virtual Nursing School. The program has further evolved to implement projects such as:

  • Conversion of the Diploma in Community Health program to eLearning
  • Conversion of six distance education courses to eLearning
  • The Center for Disease Control-supported infection prevention and control program
  • Conversion of the national antiretroviral therapy guidelines to eLearning
  • Replication of the eLearning program in various countries across the region including Uganda, Tanzania and Senegal
  • Support for the Ministries of Health in non-AMREF countries to implement eLearning, including Zambia and Lesotho.

More than 220 women die each day due to pregnancy and childbirth complications in Sub-Saharan Africa, and children in Africa are 16 times more likely to die before the age of five than in developed regions. This highlights the serious need for healthcare improvements in Africa. AMREF has shown that when women have more control over their life and health, they become more effective and have a great impact on their own community.

AMREF has taken the lead to improve the situation by partnering with and empowering communities and strengthening healthcare systems. Their priority areas address the most pressing healthcare concerns, bringing lasting healthcare improvements to Africa in the places where it is needed most.

Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr