Mongolia's Childbirth PracticesIn recent years, the nomadic population of Mongolia has seen negative impacts from environmental changes. Extreme winters have killed off much of their livestock, resulting in widespread food insecurity. As younger generations become less interested in agricultural jobs, fewer opportunities lie in the rural region of Mongolia. Due to these factors, healthcare accessibility has become limited. Healthcare has affected Mongolia’s childbirth practices significantly. However, improvements in healthcare are on the horizon for Mongolia’s people. In recent years, Rotary Club member Julie Dockrill has trained mothers and healthcare providers in Mongolia, improving education regarding childbirth. Dockrill’s work is critical for women living without access to hospitals. With progress such as Dockrill’s education initiative, maternal and infant mortality rates are beginning to decrease.

Poverty in Mongolia

Mongolia has made significant economic and social improvements over the past few decades. Since 1991, its GDP tripled and the maternal death rate decreased by 87%. Poverty reduction rates vary widely across the country, with rural areas seeing the greatest change. From 2016 to 2018, poverty declined by 5%, whereas urban areas remained unchanged. This is due to increased prices for livestock and no wage growth in urban areas. Cities have also faced heavy air pollution and tripled rates of respiratory illnesses over the last 10 years.

Additionally, COVID-19 has posed a major risk for Mongolian citizens. Overall, the pandemic caused the economy to shrink by 7%. Other factors that worsen poverty are extreme weather conditions, lack of sanitation and food insecurity. With a small population of 3 million, those living as nomads face great difficulty accessing healthcare and other services.

The History of Mongolian Nomads

Nomadic herders make up 25% of the Mongolian population. Nomads live in traditional Mongolian housing districts called gers — portable round tents. These gers exist all over the plains and mountains of Mongolia. However, environmental challenges have hit these gers harshly. The average temperature since 1940 has risen 2.2 degrees Celsius, which is significantly greater than the world average temperature change of 0.85 degrees Celsius. There is also less rain, making ponds and rivers dry up. Herds of livestock and horses have a difficult time finding water and cooling off in the warmer months, because of their thick fur that keeps them warm in -40 degree Celsius winters. Consequently, cities draw young adults away from nomadic life, with easier access to healthcare and education.

Mongolia’s Childbirth Practices

In rural areas, limited access to hospitals and doctors makes childbirth risky. In 1995, the U.S. State Department sponsored a medical team from Tripler Army Medical Center to a hospital in Mongolia for training. They observed dim lighting, physicians reusing gloves and aprons between patients, limited supplies of IV fluids and use of anesthesia without proper safety checks. There was also almost no equipment for natal care and mothers after giving birth.

As a result, many women in the 1990s gave birth at home, which had the potential to be traumatizing if they had a difficult labor. Since then, there have been significant improvements in Mongolia’s childbirth practices. The Mongolian government began reform movements that opened maternity waiting homes across the country. Expecting mothers from nomadic areas can visit these facilities if their pregnancy is high-risk. This way, women can be closer to hospitals in case of an emergency. It is now standard for healthcare providers to encourage women to visit one of the prenatal clinics two weeks before their due date. Online information and telehealth also provide access to reproductive health information. Success is evident. From 1990 to 2019, infant mortality rates have decreased from 77 per 1,000 births to 13.4 deaths.

The Rotary Club’s Work

Julie Dockrill is a midwife and childbirth educator from New Zealand. In 2013, the Rotary Club of Waimate asked if she could join them in a project training medical workers to improve childbirth practices in Mongolia. A major thing she noticed was that mothers only received basic care information. Thus, Dockrill held training classes for pregnant women using baby dolls and anatomical models, expanding on the knowledge displayed in traditional pamphlets.

In Mongolia, people often treat labor as a quick process, which can lead to complications. Dockrill explained to her training class that medical professionals should not rush labor and that they should treat the procedure with care. The class led to immense success, influencing the Rotary team and Dockrill to continue through 2015 and 2016. Additional phases of the project included a Mongolian midwife shadowing Dockrill in New Zealand, training over 300 healthcare workers in Mongolia and bringing medical supplies.

In 2018, the team returned to Mongolia to provide healthcare and education to rural communities. Dockrill also wrote an updated training manual that covered immunizations, pain relief, diet and doctoral instructions. As a result, the Mongolian Ministry of Health endorsed and adopted the manual. In 2019, Nepal adopted the text as well. Mothers must now take childbirth education classes and receive more advanced resources for childbirth services.

The Future for Mongolia

Mongolia’s reduction of maternal and infant mortality rates over the last 30 years has led to decreased poverty rates in the country. One of the major steps to reducing poverty currently in place is focusing on the rural communities of Mongolia. Access to healthcare is one of the main ways to improve Mongolia’s childbirth practices. With progress like Dockrill’s work and the Tripler Army Medical Center, further progress in eliminating poverty is clearly in motion.

– Madeleine Proffer
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in AlbaniaFor years, women have struggled to obtain equality in the developing European country, Albania. Recently, however, this topic has received greater publicity as it becomes an increasingly pressing issue for thousands of citizens. Here are five facts about women’s rights in Albania that illustrate Albanians’ struggles. Moreover, these facts highlight organizations and initiatives that are inspiring positive change.

5 Facts about Women’s Rights in Albania

  1. The number of Albanian women in the workforce is rapidly increasing. Women now comprise the majority of agricultural workers in Albania, yet they are still paid lower wages than their male counterparts. On average, women receive 18% lesser salaries than men. To promote gender equality in the workforce, the U.N. Economic Empowerment Program in Albania provides resources for programs and initiatives. Such initiatives aim to expand vocational training and encourage female entrepreneurship throughout the country.
  2. Over 50% of Albanian women have experienced sexual violence. According to a study performed by the Swedish government, U.N.D.P. and U.N. Women, more than 50% of Albanian women have been victims of some form of “sexual, physical or psychological violence.” This most commonly occurs as a result of a partner’s perpetration. Additionally, a recent combination of economic struggles and stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 has caused an increase in domestic violence in Albania. This leaves women with little protection from violent situations. Under these circumstances, U.N. Women is initiating social media campaigns to spread awareness about resources providing security and shelter for domestic violence victims throughout Albania.
  3. Traditional customs prevent women from owning property. Under Albanian laws, women can purchase and own property. However, these laws often go ignored. Because women are traditionally unable to sign as a “head of the household” in legal affairs, it is incredibly difficult for women to become property owners. As of 2018, only 8% of Albanian women owned land. The Center for Civic and Legal Initiatives in Albania is working to boost this figure by encouraging women to purchase property. Also, they provide legal support to help navigate the obstacles that traditional customs present.
  4. More women participate in Albanian politics. Aiming to lessen the country’s multitude of gender inequalities, many women have successfully run for office. As of 2017, “women make up 23% of members of parliament, 35% of local counselors, 9 in 61 mayors and 8 in 20 cabinet ministers.” Though the numbers fall short of achieving proper representation, initiatives by the Albanian Parliament are encouraging women to run for various political offices.
  5. Women and girls struggle to access safe reproductive health care amid COVID-19. Albanian law severely limits access to abortion. Coupled with restricted access to healthcare due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many women find it impossible to receive access to safe abortion care. According to Amnesty International, governments in the region deem abortion care as an inessential health service. Leah Hoctor, the Regional Director for Europe’s Center for Reproductive Rights, has called on many governments, including the Albanian government, to intervene. She states “European governments must act urgently to guarantee safe and timely access to abortion care during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Continuing the Fight

Women in Albania struggle to lead independent lives due to the prevalence and severity of gender inequality. Sexist laws and cultural norms limit women’s rights in Albania. This, in turn, prevents many women from achieving equality in health, safety and prosperity. Though organizations like U.N. Women and the Center for Legal and Civic Initiatives, improving the quality of life for these women has become a real possibility.

– Courtney Bergsieker
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A Healthcare Sea Change Looms in Serbia Serbia has become a coveted tourist destination and culturally diverse nation in southeast Europe. Healthcare in Serbia operated solely as a public, state-owned system for years. The Yugoslavian communist regime established many socialistic complexes before it dissolved in the 1990s. These complexes include social welfare, pensions for retired and disabled persons and unemployment forgiveness. While these systems have persevered into the modern-day, public healthcare in Serbia has changed dramatically for the worse since the division of Yugoslavia.

Healthcare in Serbia

Serbia has maintained a public healthcare system in the last thirty years. It has increasingly suffered from widespread dysfunction caused by a bevy of underlying problems. The Serbian Healthcare System (SHCS) does not receive enough funding. In addition, it relies mostly on compulsory citizen contribution in providing insurance for all. Nearly 70% of citizens have to surrender a portion of their income to the Health Insurance Fund. Meanwhile, the other 30% have their insurance covered by additional contributions rooted in pension plans. The system guarantees health care absent of copays as well as professionally trained staff. However, the insurance fund remains relatively low in available financing for upgrading equipment and building enough medical facilities. Healthcare in Serbia ranked last in the 2012 European Health Consumer Index.

Issues with Serbia’s Public Healthcare

According to data from the year prior, public hospital institutions held 5.7 beds per 1,000 population, and under 350 medical facilities existed in the entire country. Poor funding has led to a shortage of tenable services, equipment and basic drugs available in the public sector over time.

Rising corruption has exacerbated Serbia’s public healthcare conundrum during this period as well. On a macro level, doctors give directives to patients that essentially force them to seek care in the private sector to optimize profits. Individuals that require complicated surgeries or procedures go to private clinics. However, some of them have to wait for what can be years. This is an existential threat to citizens who cannot afford expensive private care that will provide them with insulin or the removal of a tumor.

Solutions to the Issues

The widespread speculation of prominent health institutions deals with foreign pharmaceutical companies and drug producers. The speculations subvert regulation and raise the prices for patients. The corrupt practice of soliciting bribes has been a pragmatic solution for patients who want faster treatment. It has also been a solution for patients who want more advanced procedures than the public sector normally allows. Taking advantage of a system where around 75,000 patients are currently relegated to a waiting list, doctors profit off of their patients’ desperation.

More Responses to the Issues

There has been a response to the pervasive environment of corruption and non-disclosure. The nongovernmental organization Serbia on the Move (SoM) was formed. Bolstered by the backing of USAID, SoM initiated efforts to reduce corruption and equip citizens. It did this with the essential knowledge to avoid exploitative doctor-patient relationships between 2013 and 2016. One of their most powerful contributions to this cause was establishing an SMS service. The service facilitated the reporting of corruption in the healthcare sector. It has accounted for over 1,000 reports and 15 filed criminal charges. The organization has set up workshops for doctors across Serbia that offer accreditation. Over 450 doctors who passed robust courses that focused on integrity and work ethics received accreditation.

SoM’s awareness-raising initiatives mobilized over 5,000 citizens both on the ground and virtually to campaign for anti-corruption across the state. The advocacy endeavors culminated in the 2015 publication of the List of Licensed Medical Practitioners. This list is one of the largest advancements towards expanding medical transparency that healthcare in Serbia has undergone. The list provides crucial information about licensed doctors that were previously undisclosed to public record. In 2018, healthcare in Serbia ranked 18th on the European Health Consumer Index. This is a stark increase since the establishment of SoM. It was also labeled 2016 “climber of the year.”

Comparing the Public and Private Healthcare

These developments have led to a flourishing private system where many practitioners continue to flock in an attempt to escape the corruption and inadequacies of the public sector. The number of medical professionals in the private field has exceeded 10%. Many citizens are willing to pay for private healthcare in Serbia. This has led to the construction of state-of-the-art medical facilities. It has also attracted the markets of large corporations overseas eager to provide high amounts of quality equipment and pharmaceutical drugs.

The benefits of private healthcare far outweigh those offered by public healthcare for those who can afford it. Insurance typically costs a monthly premium ranging from €15 to €60. While it costs more, the quality and promptness of services are worth it. The private system receives funding from out-of-pocket payments for more advanced procedures, which is also an area that continues to expand.

Advantages of Health Tourism

Health tourism is extremely advantageous for Serbia’s private healthcare system. It attracts people from both neighboring countries and Western nations like the United States with excellent quality of care and relatively cheap rates. It’s so cheap in comparison that many Serbian diasporas living abroad in the United States elect to come back to Serbia for a broad scope of practices, from dental care to complex surgeries. The rate of collected premiums continues to outpace the GDP, which signals a thriving industry and one that will remain affordable for the foreseeable future.

 

Overall, the most affordable for-profit care is still bound to exclude poor people in Serbia. Also, the expansion of the private healthcare system is hardly a reprieve for those entrapped in a crumbling public system. The system still requires compulsory payment, even from those it has failed. While there are efforts to combat corruption in the system, they still have a relatively limited reach. The work has shown auspicious progress, but it is not done. The Serbian government has allowed both systems to remain afloat without fully committing to either one. Looking at how each has fared in recent years, a full reform of public healthcare or a systemic migration to the private sector may be in order.

Camden Gilreath

Photo: Flickr

Improving Patient Identification
Simprints Technology is a nonprofit startup from the University of Cambridge that builds biometric identification technology for people who lack legal identities in the developing world. The company’s motto is “every person counts” and its mission is to end global poverty. Specifically, Simprints Technology works on maternal health, immunizations and cash transfers. With support from Arm Holdings, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, USAID and other influential organizations — Simprints Technology is an established name in the Tech for Good industry. With this continued support, the nonprofit is improving patient identification and thus, overall access to healthcare in the developing world.

The Problem: Improving Patient Identification

Many developing countries lack proper patient identification systems as a result of limited infrastructure and technology. Where medical records do exist in developing countries, they are often paper-based and highly susceptible to damage or loss. Furthermore, typical identifiers such as name or date of birth are at times unusable since many patients live in dense areas where people share the same names and/or may not know exact dates of birth.

Without a holistic and integrated healthcare system to sync patient information across platforms, medical providers fail to deliver timely healthcare services for those most in need. As health workers struggle to reliably and sustainably identify and keep track of patients, billions of people are in danger of falling behind with their healthcare systems.

The Solution: Mobile-Based Biometrics

Implementing biometric identification will play a significant role in fighting poverty in developing countries. The World Bank’s ID4D initiative champions the transformational potential of digital identification systems. According to the World Bank’s survey, close to 40% of adult populations in low-income countries do not have proper identification.

This is where Simprints Technology comes into play. The company is attempting to close the identity gap in developing countries. It aims to do this by equipping developing countries with rugged, hand-held devices (such as mobile phones) to collect fingerprint scans. The scans are then translated into unique identification numbers for health records. As no two fingerprints are the same — fingerprint scanning provides a fast and reliable way to verify a person’s identity.

The 3 Step Approach

Simprints Technology shows its commitment to improving healthcare access by offering end-to-end services for medical front-liners in developing countries. The company uses a three-step approach, which includes ensuring a seamless project set up, implementing smart scanners and apps while providing back-end data analytics and support. Simprints Technology incorporates human-centered and privacy-first design in its operating systems — affirming the company’s stance as a social enterprise. So far, Simprints Technology has impacted more than 400,000 beneficiaries across a dozen countries in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa — providing citizens with essential healthcare, education and financing solutions through the use of biometrics.

Disrupting Global Poverty Solutions

By increasing access to essential services like healthcare, Simprints Technology offers a promising solution to the identity gap in developing countries. The company’s technology is purportedly at least 228% more accurate than leading competitors — indicating a clear disruption in solving 21st-century poverty.

Mariyah Lia
Photo: Unsplash

Psychiatric hospital Skopje, Macedonia
Healthcare in Macedonia utilizes a mixture of a public and private healthcare system. All residents are eligible to receive free state-funded healthcare and have the option of receiving private healthcare for treatments that the public system does not cover. Public healthcare in Macedonia often comes with long wait times and although public hospitals have basic medical supplies, they do not have specialized treatments. For these specialized treatments, residents typically seek private treatment where they must pay out of pocket or buy private insurance on top of their free healthcare.

Improvements in Overall Health

North Macedonia did not become a part of NATO until 2019, and still has not received admission into the E.U. As a result, its healthcare system has developed slower than member countries. Despite this, North Macedonia has shown growth in overall health. The introduction of private healthcare allowed residents to seek a wider range of treatments and cut down wait times. Life expectancy has grown from 71.7 years in 1991 to 75.1 years in 2010. However, this is still lower than the E.U.’s average life expectancy which is 80.2.  Although life expectancy has grown, North Macedonia’s infant mortality rate is still above average.

North Macedonia reached a European record of 14.3 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015. To compare, the average mortality rate in Europe for 2015 was 5.2 deaths per 1,000 live births. The high infant mortality rate is likely the result of outdated equipment at public health facilities and a shortage of qualified health workers. Only 6.5% of North Macedonia’s GDP goes towards healthcare, and therefore healthcare in Macedonia is often reliant on outside donations. These conditions have caused health workers to leave the Macedonian healthcare system in search of better working conditions. The health ministry has worked to purchase new equipment as well as increase the amount of qualified staff in public hospitals by hiring more workers. Today, the infant mortality rate in North Macedonia is 10.102 deaths per 1,000 births. This is an improvement, and hopefully, with continued programs, the numbers will continue to decrease. Organizations such as Project HOPE and WHO have already made a direct impact on Macedonia’s healthcare system.

Organizations Combating Infant Mortality

Project HOPE has donated over $80 million worth of medicines, medical supplies and medical equipment to hospitals throughout North Macedonia since 2007. Starting in 2017, most of these donations went to hospitals specializing in infant care. Project HOPE also provides training for healthcare workers so they can adapt to the updated equipment. The current drop in the infant mortality rate is due to these donations that allow hospitals to buy updated equipment and retain healthcare workers through training. There is only one hospital in North Macedonia that accepts low birth-rate and premature babies, University Clinical Center at Mother Theresa. Therefore, Project HOPE’s donation has greatly lessened the burden on this hospital to care for infants. Since Project HOPE implemented this program, the number of deliveries at Mother Theresa has increased by 40%.

WHO has also assisted North Macedonia in developing a new 2020 healthcare plan for infants and mothers. This plan would link healthcare facilities in the country and classify them by level of service to ensure everyone is receiving the appropriate care. It should also improve transportation between hospitals to increase the continuity of care between locations. This shared communication and learning between healthcare facilities is imperative since there are only nine hospitals in Macedonia for 2.08 million people and seven of those hospitals are in the country’s capital, Skopje. Increasing transportation and communication will ensure that those living outside of the capital are receiving quality healthcare. Slowly but surely with these new policies in place, North Macedonia’s infant mortality rate will continue to drop.

Rae Brozovich
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in VietnamIn the fourth century BCE, China became the primary ruler of a northern section of Vietnam. Before this period, northern Vietnam and southern China shared multiple ethnic groups, many of which held traditional healing beliefs. As a result, traditional forms of medicine in Vietnam are very similar to those in China. Shared herbal medicine practices and theoretical frameworks continued to spread when China began its 1,000-year occupation of Vietnam, in 111 BCE. During this time, Vietnam’s medicinal use of plants and China’s theoretical framework around traditional healing merged to create an alternative form of medicine that persists today in healthcare in Vietnam.

Traditional Medicine in the East

Alternative, or traditional, medicine is often overlooked in Western contexts and seen as less effective or taboo. This is because of medical hegemony, or “the dominance of the biomedical model [and] the active suppression of alternatives,” as defined by the International Journal of Complementary & Alternative Medicine. Medical hegemony indicates an underlying power dynamic between the East and the West. While many people in the West believe that Western medicine is best, many others around the world believe that traditional medicine is legitimate. People in Vietnam, China and other countries have used traditional medicine for over 4,000 years. It actually inspired the growth of Western practices, though its treatment methods are now entirely distinct from biomedicine.

Since its origin, traditional medicine has been prescribed by healers and traditional medicine doctors primarily for its preventative properties. Healers commonly use herbal medicines in an oral or topical form to treat developing symptoms of a certain ailment. Traditional healing can also commonly include physical exercise, massage or acupuncture to promote the flow of blood and energy. In addition to the physical effects of treatment, traditional medicine is theorized to have hormonal and energy-balancing properties, like the Chinese concept of yin and yang.

Vietnam’s Healthcare System

While the use of traditional medicine is still common throughout cultures that partake in traditional healing, it is often not used on its own. In contemporary Vietnamese medical culture, individuals seeking care consult both traditional and biomedical practitioners for treatment. The two systems can be complementary: biomedicine aims to physically eradicate an illness, while traditional medicine treats the symptoms and psychosocial harm of the ailment. For example, if a person develops cancer in Vietnam, they might consult a biomedical physician for chemotherapy and a traditional medicine doctor for a remedy that counters the symptomatic effects of chemotherapy.

Gaining a dual perspective from biomedicine and traditional physicians in Vietnam is so common that this practice is reflected in the country’s health insurance system, which makes both kinds of medicine accessible. The payment method for healthcare in Vietnam varies based on the sector in which a person obtains treatment, whether public or private. Treatment in the public sector is covered in full, with an occasional co-pay expense, as public health insurance is compulsory in Vietnam. Private health insurance is paid out of pocket. Both public and private insurance can cover traditional medicine hospital expenses, though the costs for traditional medicine are generally paid privately.

However, when a person is unable to pay for either public or private insurance, they are still able to access traditional forms of medicine. In Hanoi, a major city in Vietnam, there is a full street of vendors that sell traditional medicinal herbs. These vendors can even help to fill prescriptions from hospitals at a reduced price, making traditional medicine more accessible to the public.

Improving Public and Personal Health

The accessibility of traditional medicine with and without health insurance fills gaps in healthcare in Vietnam, making the population healthier overall. In addition, the Vietnamese prioritize preventative medicine because the population is familiar with traditional health values. With ready access to health resources, along with a generalized understanding of the values of self-care, healthcare in Vietnam excels.

Lilia Wilson
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Dominica
Dominica is a small island nation located in the Caribbean. With 39% of Dominica’s population below the poverty line, poverty rates have slowly decreased since the early 2000s. Nevertheless, the country continuously faces setbacks that perpetuate the cycle of poverty for its people. Here are the top five reasons why poverty in Dominica has persisted.

5 Reasons Why Poverty in Dominica Has Persisted

  1. There is a persistent decline in Dominica’s export industry. For more than 50 years, Dominica relied on the banana industry as its primary source of income. However, in the late 1990s, the United States entered a partnership with Latin America as a new source for purchasing bananas. The new Latin banana industry caused overnight turmoil for Dominica, and the country has still not overcome the recession of its banana industry today.
  2. Dominican opportunities for work are decreasing. The demands are receding due to the diminishing export industry. Today, Dominica’s rates of employment lay between 25% to 30%, yet some experts argue it may be even higher. Dominica’s banana industry used to employ more than 72,000 Dominicans per year. However, with Latin America taking over the banana industry, more than 160,000 Dominicans left their homes in search of occupations abroad, leaving 29% households in poverty in Dominica.
  3. Major health concerns threaten Dominica’s population. The HIV epidemic in the Caribbean islands displayed the highest rates in the Western Hemisphere. In Dominica, experts report one out of every 40 adults tests positive for HIV. Due to mismanaged healthcare systems and no HIV prevention programs, Dominicans are left vulnerable to the disease.
  4. Trade imbalances cause harsh prices on imported goods for Dominica’s citizens. In 2018, Dominican exports stood at $54.2 million compared to $295 million worth of imports. This trade inequality caused a negative trade balance of $240 million, resulting in increased imported prices for Dominicans.
  5. Severe weather harms Dominica’s agriculture. The island of Dominica is prone to several natural disasters including hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. In 2017, when Hurricane Maria hit Dominica, more than 90% of the nation’s infrastructures were destroyed. The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) offered a grant for the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) to Dominica following the disaster. Yet, the country is still recovering from Hurricane Maria.

In 2019, the government of Dominica established specific investment incentives for businesses to relocate to Dominica. The investments encourage both domestic and foreign shareholders, hoping to boost the economy and help lower the rates of poverty in Dominica.

Kacie Frederick
Photo: Flickr

Kuwait Poverty RateKuwait is a small country in the Middle East. Although healthcare rarely makes headlines in articles discussing the Middle East, Kuwait’s healthcare system helps its citizens in many ways. Still, some shortcomings remain. Here is what you need to know about healthcare in Kuwait.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Kuwait

  1. Heart disease and stroke are the top causes of death in Kuwait. In both 2007 and 2017, heart disease and stroke ranked as the first and second most common causes of death. In 2016, cardiovascular diseases were responsible for 41% of deaths, and cancer was responsible for 15%.
  2. Kuwait offers free but low-quality healthcare. All Kuwaitis are entitled to free healthcare and medical treatment at government facilities. However, some services, such as X-rays and specialized tests, are not free. These services usually come at significant additional cost and many are not offered at government facilities. As a result, patients need to go to the private sector or, in extreme cases, go to North America and Europe. Wait times for healthcare in Kuwait can be extreme. The wait time is so long for the public sector that those seeking immediate medical attention often go to the private sector. To make matters worse, Kuwaiti hospitals are drastically under-supplied for their growing population. As of 2016, Kuwait had two hospital beds per 1,000. The Ministry of Health launched projects expanding hospitals and adding critical supplies like beds, operating rooms, and clinics. The Kuwaiti government plans to meet its goals by 2030.
  3. Children’s health in Kuwait meets many goals. About eight infants die per every 1,000 live births. Of these children, about 91 percent receive three doses of the DTP vaccine, fighting diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus, and 94 percent receive two doses of the measles vaccine. As the children grow older, they still have very good odds of surviving and staying healthy. The under-five mortality rate for females is 7 deaths per 1,000 children; for males, it is 9 deaths per 1,000 births. Children enjoy adequate education, sanitation clean water.
  4. Life expectancy in Kuwait is 75.31 years. This number is greater than the life expectancy in India, Russia and Mexico and it is comparable to those of China and the United States. Kuwait’s life expectancy is so high in part because of economic prosperity fueled by its petroleum industry. High economic status is closely linked to high life expectancy — since many people in Kuwait benefit from the petroleum industry, more Kuwaiti citizens enjoy a happy, long life.
  5. Kuwait’s citizens struggle with obesity. Around 33% of males and 44% of females over the age of 18 are obese. The same study also shows that 26% of males and 20% of females aged 10-19 are obese. These numbers are troubling as it shows that over 75% of the adults and over 45% of the children in Kuwait are obese. To make matters worse, the WHO projects the numbers will rise in the coming years. As of 2016, “according to the Global Burden of Disease Study, Kuwait is the fourth most obese country in the world.”

Kuwait is still considered a developing country despite its many advancements in medicine, science and technology. Access to public healthcare that covers an average amount of medical expenses should be applauded. Much remains to fix wait times and medical supplies, but this will build on the inspiring work already completed.

– Kate Estevez
Photo: Flickr