Schistosomiasis Control InitiativeOne of the many challenges hindering the alleviation of global poverty is the health conditions that afflict those in poverty. Poor health contributes to higher child mortality, premature death and inconsistencies in the ability for the public at large to function. Many impoverished countries experience lower rates of student attendance due to the effects of health conditions. However, many of the ailments experienced by the extremely poor are preventable or curable, but without access to appropriate medicines, they can be detrimental to a productive life or in many cases fatal. The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative is an organization working in sub-Saharan Africa to help those that suffer from such diseases and infections.

In 2015, 218 million people lived with preventable diseases, one of which was soil-transmitted schistosomiasis, or parasitic worms. This infection originates from poor sanitation and a lack of clean water and water treatment facilities. The parasite lives in contaminated freshwater and the recipient becomes infected when they come in contact with the water. There are effective treatments for schistosomiasis once it is contracted, but in some places, these medicines are scarce, unavailable or expensive.

The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative works in several ways to help generate support for administering medicine for schistosomiasis as well as public outreach and communication to prevent such diseases. Schistosomiasis Control Initiative collaborates with local and global government and nonprofit agencies to ensure access to treatments and helps develop strategies for prone communities to prevent transmission. In line with the United Nations Development Goals, Schistosomiasis Control Initiative’s goal is to make a significant impact on health conditions for the extremely poor by 2030, thereby improving quality of life across many standards such as school attendance, child mortality and general productivity.

As of 2015, 74.3 million people have been treated worldwide for schistosomiasis, in part due to the efforts of Schistosomiasis Control Initiative. In the following decades, simply due to the nature of the disease and the availability of treatment, one can expect these statistics to improve, thanks to groups willing to transport treatments to the locations that need it most and arm communities with the knowledge to prevent it in the future.

Casey Hess

Photo: Flickr

Toilets for Kenya2.5 billion people lack access to a hygienic toilet. The toilets that they do have often dump human waste into water sources or leave it exposed to the air. Leaving human waste in water or out in the open can cause diarrheal diseases that can kill many people, mainly affecting children under the age of five. Sanergy, the creator of Fresh Life Toilets, hopes to provide toilets for Kenya and alleviate the unhygienic conditions in slums.

These low-cost and high-quality sanitation toilets prevent people in Kenyan slums from using pit latrines or what is known as “flying toilets”, which are non-decomposing plastic bags. What Sanergy offers are not only toilets for Kenya and its communities, but a proper way to dispose of the waste as well.

Sanergy and those in the areas that work with them collect the waste on a daily basis. After they have replaced the waste cartridges, they take the waste to a treatment plant to convert it to fertilizer or a protein for animal feed. These treated products are then sold at a lower price than the competing alternatives offered in Kenya. Essentially, Sanergy is turning human waste into money.

Most of the operations involved with the Fresh Life Toilets are run by local business people. Sanergy is not only creating a more sanitary environment by providing toilets for Kenya, they are also providing jobs. Over 90 percent of Sanergy’s employees are Kenyan and 60 percent of them live in the communities in which they serve.

Currently, 1134 Fresh Life Toilets are active. In 2017, 2467 metric tons of human waste were safely transferred and made into fertilizer. Because of these toilets, over 900 jobs have been provided to Kenyan people.

Fresh Life Toilets not only provide toilets in Kenya, but also a reliable income for the families that own them, created by a small fee that is comparable to the cost of non-hygienic alternatives. By doing this, individuals in the community get both a source of profit and an increase in sanitation, benefiting both the Kenyan people and their economy.

An example of the change a Fresh Life Toilet can make is exemplified by Fresh Life Toilet owner Agnes Kwamboka, who used to sell an illegal alcoholic beverage called “chang’aa” in order to provide for her family. Being an owner of a Fresh Life Toilet has changed that. Now, she is able to make a profit, help the local economy and contribute to a cleaner environment in a safe and legal way.

The Fresh Life Toilets provide Kenyans with a hygienic way to use the bathroom. With the Fresh Life Toilets, they no longer have to use the undignified flying toilets and their communities are much cleaner. Sanergy is able to provide the communities with disease prevention and sources of income with one solution, giving them the opportunity to grow.

Daniel Borjas

Photo: Flickr

PMI ExpansionIn late September, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that they would be leading an enterprise to expand the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). The PMI expansion is expected to bring life-saving malaria prevention and treatment to four additional countries: Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Niger and Sierra Leone. With these additions, PMI will have programs operating in 24 Sub-Saharan African countries where malaria poses a genuine public health threat.

Launched in 2005, PMI is an interagency initiative in collaboration with USAID and in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. PMI was originally established with the goal of cutting mortality caused by malaria in half across 15 African countries. This came during a time when the U.S. decided to put malaria control at the forefront of its global aid agenda. It seeks to approach this goal by increasing concentration on four essential malaria treatment and prevention measures: insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor residual spraying, accurate diagnoses and preventative prenatal treatments. With its focused strategy, PMI has contributed to the aversion of 6.8 million malaria-related deaths between 2001 and 2015. In 2016 alone, PMI protected over 16 million people by spraying homes with insecticide and distributed 42 million bed nets.

In total, approximately 480 million people have benefited from the work being done by PMI. This latest PMI expansion will bring malaria treatment and prevention to an additional 90 million people. This is spectacular news given how life-threatening the disease still is, even after so much progress has been made. Today, malaria still takes the life of a child every 30 seconds, amounting to a staggering 3,000 children every single day. Though heartbreaking, this statistic should not come as a surprise, considering 40 percent of the world’s population lives in high-risk regions for malaria. With the continued effort aid agencies like PMI and USAID, that number is projected to decrease significantly. Hopefully, sometime in the coming years, the world will witness the complete eradication of malaria.

Micaela Fischer

Photo: Flickr

Counterfeit Medicine in AfricaThe global counterfeit medicine market is enormous, making up an estimated 10 percent of medicines sold globally. It is especially prominent in developing nations, in which up to 30 percent of all medications are found to be counterfeit or substandard. In Africa, this means that 120,000 people per year die from counterfeit anti-malarial drugs alone. Such is relatively unsurprising, when considering that an estimated one third of anti-malarial drugs in Sub-Saharan Africa are thought to be counterfeit.

One of the primary issues in tackling this issue of counterfeit medicine in Africa is a lack of public awareness; many individuals simply do not know they risk purchasing counterfeit or substandard medicine. Those entrenched in the cycle of poverty are most often the victims of counterfeit medicine, as they typically have a smaller variety of medicinal options available to purchase- meaning that they might unknowingly have no choice but to purchase a counterfeit drug. Further, the poor generally opt for cheaper medicines, unaware that such medicines are often counterfeit. This lack of variety and financial accessibility ensures that the counterfeit medicine market preys on the poor in particular.

In the effort to address the issue of counterfeit medicines, Nigeria has emerged as a world leader. The nation’s strategy focuses on three areas: public education regarding counterfeit medicines, increased regulation for medicinal imports to stem the flow of counterfeit medicines and reinforced points of entry to mitigate the smuggling of counterfeit medicines. Since it first began this strategy in 2001, Nigeria has successfully reduced the incidence of these drugs by 90 percent, clearly demonstrating that the issue can be successfully minimized through intentional actions.

Nigeria’s stance as the leader in the battle against counterfeit medicine made it the logical base for Sproxil – a company that has created a mobile phone-based technology to verify the authenticity of purchased medicines. Medicinal companies can register their products with Sproxil, receiving individualized scratch-codes to be placed on their products. Once the product reaches a consumer, the consumer scratches off the code and texts it to Sproxil, who then verifies the code in its database. If the code is not verified, the consumer is immediately alerted and given a number to report it. Considering the widespread use of technologies such as MobileMoney in Africa, the structure of Sproxil is ingenious and entirely conducive to the lifestyle of the average consumer.

To date, Sproxil has provided over five million anti-counterfeit labels, contributing to Nigeria’s strategy of public education regarding counterfeit medicines. The company seeks to expand beyond Nigeria, into Kenya and India next. The effectiveness of simple education and verification techniques in Nigeria serve as a wonderful example of successful strategies against counterfeit medicine in Africa, and also the world on the whole. If other developing nations are able to adopt a similar education and verification-based strategy to combat the counterfeit medicine market, the future is bright, indeed, for the increased mitigation of the issue on a global scale.

Kailee Nardi

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in MauritiusLocated in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Southern Africa, Mauritius is an archipelago that is only about 500 miles east of Madagascar. At almost 11 times the size of Washington D.C., Mauritius was first explored by the Portuguese in the 16th century and subsequently settled by the Dutch. With a life expectancy of 74 years for the country’s 1.2 million inhabitants, the most common diseases in Mauritius that are life-threatening are non-communicable.

According to Commonwealth Health, “non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Mauritius accounted for an estimated 87 percent of all mortality in 2008.” The most common diseases in Mauritius are cardiovascular diseases, which accounted for 36 percent of total deaths across all age groups in 2008. Diabetes, cancers and non-communicable variants of respiratory diseases contributed 23 percent, 12 percent and five percent to total mortality, respectively.

Cardiovascular diseases, “diabetes, urogenital, blood and endocrine diseases”, and cancer are considered the deadliest overall, with ischemic heart disease, diabetes and cerebrovascular disease in the lead.

Ischemic Heart Disease, also known as coronary artery disease, involves a decreased blood flow to the heart. It was considered one of the deadliest common diseases in Mauritius in 2015. In 2014 alone, the diseases caused 1,148 deaths. Cerebrovascular disease, caused by damage to the brain from interruption of blood supply, was the third most common disease in 2015. Fortunately, the disease has decreased in prevalence by 9.5 percent since 2005.

Diabetes, a disease of permanently altered insulin levels and blood sugar, was the second highest cause of death in Mauritius as of 2015. In 2005, diabetes was only the third most common cause of death, but throughout the decade, deaths from the disease have increased in prevalence by a staggering 65.1 percent. This is due, in part, to recent changes in dietary habits with the introduction of fast food and lack of exercise as well as genetic predisposition.

Obesity, caused by diet and lack of exercise, can also play a role in diabetes. The prevalence of obesity has increased from 16 percent in 2009 to 19.1 percent in 2015, with approximately 398,417 Mauritians being overweight or obese.

Conscious of the growing health concern, the Mauritian government has established a National Service Framework for Diabetes. The goal of the organization is to lay out strategies for prevention and standards of care to be implemented.

The common diseases in Mauritius can be found in any country. While some diseases are unfortunately hereditary, there are ways of managing health to reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases. By making conscious lifestyle changes, such as exercising and maintaining a healthy diet, the risk of diseases such as heart disease and diabetes can be effectively reduced.

Stefanie Podosek

Photo: Flickr

Most Threatening Diseases in Moldova
The former Soviet republic of Moldova is the poorest country in Europe. The average Moldovan lives to be almost 70 years of age. This life expectancy rate is an average of three years longer than considerably wealthier countries in the Commonwealth Independent States (CIS). Despite this longevity, Moldovans have the second highest rate of mortality in all of Europe, losing 980.094 out of 100,000 citizens annually. The most threatening diseases in Moldova that contribute to the high mortality rate include cardiovascular disease, cancer and cirrhosis.

Noncommunicable Diseases
The most threatening diseases in Moldova are noncommunicable. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer, circulatory and digestive system diseases, injuries and poisoning accounted for 73 percent of all deaths in 2012.

WHO declared tobacco and alcohol consumption to be the main contributors to the most threatening diseases in Moldova. Though cirrhosis and other chronic liver diseases are not in the top three leading causes of death in the nation, these diseases still claim almost 210 men and women per 100,000 Moldovans a year and remain substantial overall causes of death.

Infectious Diseases
The incidence of tuberculosis has increased by 83 percent since 2013. Diarrhea, lower respiratory and other common infectious diseases also account for major infectious diseases.

Syphilis and gonorrhea collectively affect an average of about 90 people per 100,000 Moldovans. In 2009, the country faced a syphilis epidemic, during which 139 citizens per 100,000 were infected. Though the reported cases of Moldovans infected with syphilis have decreased, it is still more than double the average of the CIS.

The rate of HIV is double the average frequency in the CIS, affecting nearly 20 of 100,000 Moldovans. AIDS affects 6.6 of 100,000 individuals and is above the CIS average.

Government Action for Disease Prevention
In February 2007, the Law on the Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS outlines a legal system that aims to educate Moldovan citizens on HIV/AIDS prevention. It works to ensure basic human rights and assuage discrimination for those affected. The degree is also designed to promote medical, social and psychological resources for those living with the disease.

The National Coordination Council is devoted to the enhancement of epidemiological studies and strategies to better control diseases like tuberculosis. The council aims to enhance government policies concerning the control of HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections and tuberculosis by means of efficient dialogue between government and nongovernmental organizations.

Through these national programs, the most threatening diseases in Moldova will become less of an issue as prevention and care becomes more widespread.

Sloan Bousselaire

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in KiribatiKiribati is a small island country in the central Pacific. The people of Kiribati have a positive outlook on life, despite the fact that many factors such as a lack of sanitation, overcrowding, high unemployment and environmental threats have led to 22 percent of the population living without basic needs.

The Ministry of Health in Kiribati provides free hospital services and public health and nursing services on the island and tries to focus on disease prevention and education. Yet, the persistence of urban poverty, climate change and poor water quality have led to a nearly constant influx of disease on the island.

Diarrheal Disease
Diarrheal outbreaks are common diseases in Kiribati for a few reasons. One of the most prevalent sources of diarrhea is dirty water. One in 20 infants dies before their first birthday in Kiribati from drinking unclean water. Some other causes of diarrheal disease are poor food handling and public defecation due to overcrowding.

Malnutrition
There are three different types of malnutrition: wasting (low weight for height), stunting (low height for age) and underweight (low weight for age). The most common type of malnutrition in Kiribati is stunting. Malnutrition not only reduces quality of life but also contributes greatly to infant mortality, weak immune systems and mortality in general.

Dengue Fever and Chikungunya Virus
Two other common diseases in Kiribati are dengue fever and chikungunya, both of which are viruses transmitted through the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. In 2015, it was reported that more than 12,000 people have been infected with mosquito-borne illnesses.

Ciguatera Poisoning
Ciguatera poisoning comes from consuming reef fish that have been contaminated by ciguatoxins, or marine biotoxins that cause food intoxication. The toxins can cause a wide range of neurological, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular symptoms. According to research, the toxins mainly develop in shallow waters that contain seaweed, sediments and dead coral. Thus, it is possible that low sea levels and surface water temperatures are contributing to the poisoning.

Lifestyle Disease
Some of the most common diseases in Kiribati are those that stem from certain lifestyle habits or behaviors. Diseases of this kind include HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and diabetes. The prevalence of HIV and STIs are due to a lack of sexual education. Cardiovascular disease and diabetes are most often associated with physical inactivity and poor eating habits. Tobacco use also contributes to respiratory disease and cancers.

Kiribati is working with the World Health Organization (WHO) on a national development plan for the 2016-2019 period that includes operational plans for the Ministry of Health and Medical Services. Immediate goals include reducing the risk of non-communicable diseases, improving maternal and child health, preventing the spread of communicable diseases and strengthening health service delivery.

Awareness and prevention of communicable disease will be key to implementing this plan. With the intervention of WHO, Kiribati has made strides in providing cost-effective, quality health services and preventing disease.

Madeline Boeding

Photo: Flickr

Menstrual Hygiene ManagementPoor menstrual hygiene management can be fatal. In Nepal, the “chaupadi” tradition of Hindus in western Nepal lead to a teenager named Tulasi Shahi being forced to stay in her uncle’s cowshed for days.

Why? Because she was on her period. A snake bit her while she was in the shed, and she died hours later.

Roshani Tiruwa, a 15-year-old girl, died a few months earlier from the “chaupadi” practice when she lit a fire in her hut and suffered from smoke inhalation. 50 percent of women in western Nepal suffer from this tradition.

Period-related shaming is not limited to Nepal. One out of three girls in southeast Asia had no knowledge of menstruation before getting their first period. 48 percent of girls in Iran and 10 percent of girls in India believe that getting your period is some kind of disease.

On top of harmful cultural influences, access to affordable hygienic materials is often very limited. Sometimes women attempt to use mud, leaves, dung or animal skins to control the bleeding.

For these women, periods are more than just embarrassing; they are an economic obstacle. The lack of information and products available to manage menstruation cause girls to miss significant amounts of school, and women to miss out on economic opportunities.

On the bright side, the solution to this problem already exists: pads, tampons, and knowledge that periods are natural and necessary for the survival of the human population. Days for Girls is an organization working to improve the lives of women in Uganda, Ghana and Nepal by improving their experience with menstruation.

The organization provides health education and affordable hygiene kits, which last up to three years. In addition, days for girls provides microbusiness and sewing training to empower women to improve their economic situation as well as their period.

Christine, a woman in Nairobi, attended a two-week Days for Girls training program, which taught her how to sew, spread health information and make and sell menstrual hygiene kits in her community. Christine now owns three hygiene kit enterprises and believes the program changed her life.

The world is beginning to understand that menstrual hygiene management is an important international problem. More organizations have been formed to tackle the issue, and major development groups are beginning to recognize the gravity of this problem.

Many women in the world are shamed and hindered from achievement because of a normal, crucial body function. The movement to promote menstrual hygiene management is an important step towards gender equality worldwide.

Kristen Nixon

Photo: Flickr

Zambia's AIDS Response Fast-TrackHIV/AIDS affects millions of people in Africa. Zambia and other countries in Africa are greatly impacted by HIV/AIDS daily. Even though Western countries are working to improve the HIV/AIDS rate in Africa, countries in Africa are working even harder to help their people. Zambia’s AIDS Response Fast-Track Strategy recently launched with important goals for 2017-2021.

Zambia’s AIDS Response Fast-Track Strategy sets out a plan to achieve the global Fast-Track prevention and 90-90-90 targets, where 90 percent of people living with HIV will know their HIV status. The strategy also aims to ensure that 90 percent of people who know they are HIV positive are accessing treatment and 90 percent of people on treatment have decreased their viral loads.

The strategy establishes clear approaches to increase the HIV response for everyone, set yearly targets at the national and state level and estimate costs and resources required. Zambia’s AIDS Response Fast-Track Strategy will provide more facility-based and community-led programs. The strategy will increase HIV testing and help counsel districts that have high HIV rates. The Fast-Track Strategy will also target key populations and partner with other healthcare services regarding HIV testing.

HIV treatment and care services will be guaranteed through the strategy. The most important goal of the strategy is to eliminate all new HIV infections among children. A significant impact has been made in the past few years on new HIV infections. New HIV infections have decreased from 69,000 in 2005 to 59,000 in 2016. The rate of women receiving medicines to prevent mother-to-child transmission has increased to 87 percent.

Fast-Track Cities was launched on World AIDS Day in 2014 in Paris. Over 70 cities with high HIV rates have signed the Paris Declaration on Fast-Track Cities Ending AIDS, including Zambia’s capital Lusaka. The strategy was created by a team led by the National HIV/AIDS/STI/TB Council and UNAIDS. The International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (IAPAC), the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT), UNAIDS and the City of Paris are supporting Fast-Track Cities. By participating in this initiative, Zambia can bolster its own Fast-Track Strategy and bring better care and prevention to its people sooner.

Treasure Shepard

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in Seychelles

Seychelles is an African nation consisting of many islands located off of the east coast of Kenya. Due to its geographical location, some of the common diseases in Seychelles are mosquito- and animal-borne.

Three of the more common diseases in Seychelles are dengue fever, chikungunya and leptospirosis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dengue fever and chikungunya have a number of common symptoms. Fever, joint pain and headaches are some of the more prevalent symptoms of dengue and chikungunya.  Even though both have overlapping symptoms, they are still separate diseases and it is possible to be infected by both diseases at the same time.

Dengue fever and chikungunya are both viruses that are spread by mosquitos. Thanks to the tropical climate that Seychelles has, it is a high breeding ground for mosquitos, meaning that these diseases can be spread easily. In 2005 to 2007, it was reported that there was an epidemic of chikungunya in Seychelles that infected about 60 percent of the population.

Thankfully, a French team from the World Health Organization (WHO) went to Seychelles and assisted the islands. They destroyed domestic breeding sites of mosquitoes and began a public health education campaign.

There are no vaccines for chikungunya but there is a vaccine for dengue fever. However, only a few countries have approved the use of the dengue vaccine. Because the mosquitos in Seychelles can bite indoors or outdoors and are active both day and night, preventative measures are the best way to ward off these diseases. Wearing long sleeves and using bug sprays are common ways to prevent mosquito bites. Cleaning and covering standing water can help prevent mosquito-breeding sites.

Another one of the common diseases in Seychelles is leptospirosis, which is a bacterial infection spread through animal urine. Leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage, liver failure and death if left untreated. Like chikungunya, leptospirosis currently does not have a vaccine available to prevent it. However, since leptospirosis is bacterial, antibiotics can be prescribed as treatment.

Much like dengue fever and chikungunya, preventative measures are the best way to not become infected. Avoiding areas where infected urine may be found are unclean water sources, soil after rainfall and animal habitats is the best preventative measure against leptospirosis.

Thankfully, research is well underway to get a vaccine for chikungunya and leptospirosis. Due to the outbreak of chikungunya, knowledge was gained on how the virus behaves and that has allowed scientists to be one step closer to produce stronger tools against it.

Daniel Borjas