Inflammation and stories on healthcare

Access to Healthcare

The West Bank is a region of Palestine but has been occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War in 1967. Due to this occupation, as well as the West Bank’s landlocked location, citizens often struggle to gain access to healthcare. Without sufficient medical resources, individuals living in the West Bank are subject to higher infant mortality rates, untreated psychological ailments and the risk for chronic disease to become acute. Despite these barriers, both physical and political, there are Israeli and Palestinian organizations working to aid people most at risk in the West Bank including women, children, elderly, disabled and the rural poor.

Five Obstacles in Access to Healthcare

  1. Mental Health Stigma: Mental health in occupied areas is an immediate and crucial concern, but it is often stigmatized by locals and, therefore, is unaddressed and unrecognized. Of the patients who manage to get access to a medical practitioner, adults will frequently complain of PTSD related symptoms like headaches, generalized weakness and palpitations. Children are also overlooked when it comes to mental health. According to the Palestine Medical Relief Society (PMRS), an NGO working to increase access to healthcare, 54.7 percent of children in a sample of 1,000 have experienced at least one instance of trauma. Despite the high rates of trauma in children, however, parents are often unaware and unable to recognize the signs of PTSD present in their children like nightmares, insomnia and bedwetting. Instead, they assume the symptoms are normal child behaviors.
  2. Infant Mortality Rates: Children are at a high risk of death when there is impaired access to medical services. World Bank data shows the infant mortality rate in the West Bank and Gaza is 18 per 1,000 live births and 21 per 1,000 live births for children under 5. Compared to Israel’s three and four live births per 1000 respectively, these are extremely high numbers and show the direct consequences of poor healthcare access.
  3. Limited Access to Essential Drugs: In an article about Palestine, the World Health Organization notes that for people low on the socio-economic scale, healthcare expenditures are one of the most financially burdensome household expenses. The unavailability or unaffordability of medicine enormously impacts patients dealing with a chronic disease like hypertension, asthma and diabetes. l
  4. Long Ambulance Rides: Numerous military checkpoints and barriers physically obstruct the ability of ambulances to bring patients from the West Bank to hospitals in Israel. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, wait times at checkpoints can last up to 15 minutes. For a patient in critical condition, delays like these can hinder their ability to get the right medical treatment in time.
  5. Revoked Treatment in Israeli Hospitals: A recent declaration by the Palestinian Ministry of Health to cease funding in Israeli hospitals means that many patients, especially those in poor rural areas, are unable to gain access to healthcare. There are few other options available for these individuals to seek treatment, especially those living in poor areas that cannot incur travel costs.

NGOs Improving Access to Healthcare

Healthcare access on the West Bank is limited due to a number of interrelated reasons. In order to make it more accessible to those who are most affected, NGOs have been developed in both Palestine and Israel. In particular, the Palestine Medical Relief Society was founded in 1979 to aid the most vulnerable members of society. They have a mobile clinic program that includes a first-aid training program to help people gain access to healthcare in remote areas.

Another prominent NGO is Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). Founded in 1988 by Israeli physicians, this organization focuses on humanitarian aid and policy change. Furthermore, there are volunteer medics who provide free services to people with limited or no access. PHR serves more than 20,000 individuals each year.

Both of these organizations recognize the importance of addressing the fundamental issue through and data collection, policy and education, and they are working to improve access to healthcare on the West Bank.

– Tera Hofmann
Photo: Wikimedia

Healing in the Nuba Mountains
Located in East Africa with a maritime border along the Red Sea, Sudan is a country plagued with a violent past. Since gaining its independence from joint British-Egyptian rule in 1956, Sudan’s sovereignty has been unstable. Its first civil war erupted in 1962, and since then Sudan has continued to struggle with violence. A referendum was passed for the independence of South Sudan. Since then, however, there has been continued fighting between the two nations.

The Nuba Mountains

A point of particular conflict has been in the Nuba Mountains, which lies on the border of the two countries. Since 2011 the Nubian people have sought independence from Omar al Bashir’s Sudanese government. This caused the Bashir regime to lead what is called by some a “genocidal” war against the Nubian people. However, one man’s care has given hope to the Nubian people for over a decade, bringing healing in the Nuba Mountains.

Tom Catena’s work

Dr. Tom Catena established the Mother Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains back in 2007. Since then, he has been the only doctor permanently stationed in the region for over twelve years. This anomaly stems from the fact that the Sudanese government does not allow humanitarian aid in its country. It is Catena’s faith that gives him the willpower to work, despite the government’s restriction. Catena’s defiance has led to the government bombing the hospital on more than one occasion. Working under such dangerous conditions, Catena has been advised several times to leave, but he has reaffirmed his commitment to the Nubian people, saying, “I felt that if I left, that would mean I valued my life over the lives of people I came to serve.”

Before his time in the Nuba Mountains, Dr. Catena volunteered at Saint Mary’s hospital in Nairobi for 6 years. He is now the sole doctor for a region the size of the state of Georgia with a population between 750,000 and 1 million. Catena and his 60 staff members are on call 24 hours at the 435-bed clinic. Dr. Catena typically treats 400 patients a day and estimates that he performs more than 1,000 surgeries per year. Along with treating malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia and leprosy, Catena also treats victims of the ongoing war, further encouraging healing in the Nuba Mountains.

Catena’s impact has been so profound that he is often referred to as Jesus Christ by the Nubians who pray daily for his safety.

Awards and recognition

In 2015, Dr. Catena was ranked among Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. In 2017, his efforts were recognized again when he was named laureate of the 2017 Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity and awarded $100,000 to continue his work, as well as another $1 million to donate to charities of his choice. His work in Sudan has also been the topic of a documentary, The Heart of Nubia, which Dr. Catena hopes will shed light on the deteriorating conditions in Sudan.

Truly, Dr. Catena’s life story is an inspiration. The way he works toward healing in the Nuba Mountains is impacting thousands of lives, and in this war-torn nation, this aid is needed now more than ever.

– Henry Burkert
Photo: Flickr

 

Healthcare in AfricaMany think that underdeveloped countries in Africa will forever be stuck with poor healthcare. Yet, few media outlets show the innovative approaches African countries are taking to address this issue. In reality, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa are turning to the tech world to build better healthcare in Africa.

Mobile Technology Maps Medicinal Needs

The inefficient infrastructure in Africa puts people’s health at risk. Health clinics, which take some people hours to reach, are not always stocked with the medicine being requested by patients. For this reason, Uganda is utilizing mTRAC to construct a proper supply cycle.

On a weekly basis, healthcare workers report diseases, malaria cases and stock quantities of medicine via SMS. Then volunteer health workers in the Villiage Health Teams (VHTs) monitor the weekly count of malaria cases, severe malnutrition, ACT and amoxicillin stock.

The communities themselves provide the most impressive source of data. The people getting these services have the opportunity to provide feedback on healthcare issues such as the absence of health workers and out-of-stock medication. The data is processed onto a dashboard for the District Health Teams. The information is then filtered to the Ministry of Health in Kampala. Reporting their specific district and health facilities helps biostatisticians identify alerts and make informed decisions on drug redistribution and disease response initiatives.

There is a similar mobile pilot known as mHealth in Kenya. Novartis created mHealth to study medicine supplies for a more efficient distribution system. Pharmacists in Nairobi and Mombasa register patients in an SMS survey. The input creates a map of locations where medicine is needed. These digital technologies go a long way in delivering better healthcare in Africa.

A.I. Diagnostics Save Children

Mobile Apps also improve diagnostic procedures. Birth asphyxia is one of the world’s three leading causes of infant mortality. Annually, around 1.2 million infants die or suffer from disabilities such as cerebral palsy, deafness and paralysis due to perinatal asphyxia.

Ubenwa is a Nigerian A.I. that is programmed to detect asphyxia by analyzing the amplitude and frequency of an infant’s cry. The algorithm has been made available to smartphone users for an instant diagnosis. The availability of this app empowers Nigerian communities that do not have access to or cannot afford clinical alternatives.

Ugandan children between infancy and five years of age can receive an early diagnosis of pneumonia with a biomedical smart vest called Mama-Ope. Because of the similar symptoms of diseases like malaria, asthma or tuberculosis, it is not uncommon for pneumonia to be misdiagnosed. Mama-Ope is designed to avoid such inconsistencies in these diagnostics.

Patients with pneumonia die when the severity of the disease is not recognized. It is vital that viral and bacterial pneumonia are differentiated during diagnosis. Otherwise, the result is an improper, life-threatening prescription of drugs. The smart vest measures all vital signs simultaneously, which reduces diagnostic time. Health workers are also able to use the telemedicine device for tracking and monitoring their patients’ records. With the capability of cloud storage, Mama-Ope can change healthcare in Africa.

3-D Printer Transforms E-waste Into Prosthetic Limbs

In the small country of Togo, wedged between Ghana and Benin, lies the tech hub WoeLabs, famous for using toxic e-waste to create the first 3-D printer in Africa. Electronic waste shipped from Western countries has polluted Africa with digital dumps. The material is burned, leaving behind hazardous gases.

Togo’s neighboring country Ghana holds the largest scrapyard to cushion the globe’s annual 42 megatons of e-waste. WoeLabs in Togo’s capital, Lomé, made a 3-D Printer with Ghana’s digital scrap in one year. To date, WoeLabs has produced 20 printers. This work inspired other labs to change healthcare in Africa. Sudan is now using 3-D printing to make prosthetic limbs, and Not Impossible Labs is also helping amputees through this innovative and unconventional use of technology.

Through mobile systems such as mTRAC in Uganda and mHealth in Kenya, healthcare systems are better able to improve drug redistribution in health centers in need of medical supplies. The smart vest Mama-Ope contributes to healthcare reform by not only by diagnosing patients but also by storing records in the virtual cloud. Finally, the 3-D printers built in Togo ultimately exemplify how these communities of underresourced people can transform a hazardous situation into an opportunity to improve healthcare in Africa.

Crystal Tabares
Photo: Flickr

Health System in MalawiThe topic of healthcare has become a worldwide focus in recent years. A push toward government-funded health services has indicated a shift towards the mentality that healthcare is a universal human right. Malawi, one of the smaller countries in southeast Africa, has a low gross domestic product, with 51.5 percent of the population living in poverty. With life expectancy at 64.5 years, the health system in Malawi needs improvement.

The Ouagadougou Declaration

In 2008, the Ouagadougou Declaration on Primary Health Care and Health Systems in Africa was adopted by African Region Member states, which includes Malawi. This declaration focused on nine major issues within healthcare: health governance, service delivery, human resources, health financing, health information systems, new technologies, community ownership and participation, partnerships for development and funding for health research. The Ministry of Health in Malawi is responsible for the implementation and the regulation of these health entities.

Health System in Malawi

Currently, Malawi operates a three-tier health system. The first tier is primary healthcare. This sector is in effect to meet the needs of general medical care, which includes community and rural hospitals and maternity units. The second tier consists of district hospitals. These see patients who receive a referral from their primary care physician to receive specialized services. This includes laboratory work and rehabilitation services. The final tier is tertiary care provided by central hospitals. This tier covers extreme conditions that require highly specialized care such as treatment for specific diseases. The linkage for these services comes through an elaborate referral system that trickles down the health system.

Although the 2008 doctrine worked to lay out different measures to ensure the quality of health service delivery in Malawi, major health concerns still persist. HIV/AIDS continues to be the number one cause of death in Malawi: 21.7 percent of deaths in 2012 were linked to HIV/ AIDS. Acute Respiratory Infections account for 8.6 percent of deaths, while Malaria accounts for 40 percent of hospitalized individuals.

Issues With Funding

A large cause of a lack of quality health services in Malawi comes down to funding. Approximately $93 is spent on each person in Malawi annually, which is around 11.4 percent of the overall GDP. The U.S. spends around $10,000 on healthcare per capita annually.

Due to these issues, the focus for healthcare in Malawi has been working on minimizing the burden of disease, increasing cost effectiveness, providing more widespread access to the poor and implementing proven successful health intervention. Implementation has been laid out through new quality assurance policies, improving standards and accreditation, and improving performance management with the Health Strategic Plan, which was created in 2011. While the government in Malawi works to assure quality health services in Malawi, non-profit organizations are working to help provide those health services. A few of these organizations include Care, which has provided 30.2 million people in Malawi with sexual and reproductive health resources, and the Fistula Foundation, which has given over $300,000 of funding for physician training.

Work being done by the Malawian government and non-profit organizations around the world is helping to improve the health system in Malawi.

– Claire Bryan
Photo: Flickr

Telemedicine in Rwanda

With a startling low physician density of 0.064 for every 1,000 people, Rwandans seeking care were used to waiting in long lines or traveling long distances for medical attention. However, thanks to near-universal broadband access, now Rwandans need only reach for their phones — such is the status of telemedicine in Rwanda.

In partnership with London based telehealth startup Babylon and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rwandan Ministry of Health launched an app called Babyl Rwanda, which connects users with an artificial intelligence chatbot to triage medical complaints, make recommendations and schedule remote physician appointments. The app is programmed with several languages including Kinyarwanda, English and French. Those without phones need only visit a Babyl Booth to access the necessary technology.

The Bigger Context

Since the devastating genocide in the 1900s, the Rwandan government dramatically increased its investment in healthcare from 4 percent in 2000 to its peak in 2007 at 9.6 percent. As of 2016, government spending on health care in Rwanda was around 7 percent; despite the increases in spending, the physician density remains very low at 0.064. Large changes, such as the implementation of a mandatory health insurance scheme in 2008, accompanied these government investments, and they have led to a 90-percent insured rate among its citizens. The national health insurance scheme and increased government spending on healthcare have both paved the way for the development of sophisticated telemedicine in Rwanda.

Rwanda’s choice to amplify its current physician base through the Babyl Rwanda app has made great strides in overcoming its problems with physician density. A team of 25 physicians staffs the phone/video-based remote consultations through Babyl. Each consultation typically costs the patient 65 cents. Since its inception in 2016, the app has been downloaded two million times and purports to have facilitated over 500,000 remote consultations.

Babyl Rwanda and Telemedicine

Here’s how Babyl Rwanda works: The phone user dials #811 and registers using their National ID number, which is linked to the SIM card in their phone. After the National ID is verified and payment via mobile money has been received, an SMS confirms when a nurse will call. The triage nurse schedules the next steps in treatment— laboratory, specialist visits, or simply a visit with a GP. Babyl seeks “to put an accessible and affordable health care service in the hands of every person on earth.”

Such telemedicine success depends upon broadband connectivity and a public IP address that will allow users to connect with people in other countries. Rwanda has heavily invested in its information and communications technology infrastructure. According to the Rwandan Development Board, the country has a “National Backbone”: an IP/MPLS network with 10 Gbps capacity for each district. A 2,500 km fiber optic network connects all 30 districts and each of the nine major border points. The capital Kigali also boasts its own network, the Kigali Metropolitan Network. As of 2018, 3G signal blanketed 90 percent of the Rwandan population, compared to 75 percent of Senegal in the same year.

Equipping Physicians

As Rwanda looks to improve its physician density, it must increase its production and retention of physicians. The university system is underprepared for this burden, and doctors working within the government system are poorly compensated; as such, many leave the profession for more financially sustainable pursuits, such as working for health NGOs.

At the Military Hospital in Kigali, telemedicine in Rwanda facilitates remote instruction for medical students, connecting them to leading health professionals around the world. In this context, telemedicine’s goal is “to improve student training and consequently medical service delivery through regular consultation of experts on advanced medical cases.” The idea is that with access to both quality instruction and leaders in the field, physician retention will improve.

Telemedicine in Rwanda seeks to revolutionize both the care of patients now and the training of physicians for the future. Kirsten Meisinger M.D., medical staff president at Cambridge Health Alliance, argues, “Rwanda shows us a perfect example of how to make crisis an opportunity by investing in a technology solution.”

– Sarah Boyer
Photo: Flickr

Improvements for Healthcare in India

Technical advancements are revolutionizing the health care industry in India. The country is now experiencing a rise of entrepreneurs and start-up culture, with a promising GDP that is expected to expand to 7.5 percent by 2020. In return, the health care industry of India can expect to see more personalized and accessible health options as well as better infrastructure. Below are five recent improvements for health care in India worth noting.

Five Improvements for Health Care in India

  1. The National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), also called the Ayushman Bharat, is one of the biggest advances in Indian health care to date. The initiative provides health care coverage for 100 million low-income families in India — nearly 40 percent of the population will have secondary and tertiary care procedures handled for them. Priority is given to women, children and senior citizens. Another component of the NHPS involves setting up 150,000 wellness centers to take care of primary health. In poor regions of India where people have remained dependent on government hospitals, their lives should improve as the NHPS improves health care infrastructure and creates more job opportunities.
  2. In March 2019, Esri, a global company developing location intelligence software, opened its latest research and development center in New Delhi. Esri is bringing improvements for health care in India through geospatial mapping technologies with the software ArcGIS, which can assist health organizations in making decisions that impact the health of India’s population. In developing countries, the demand for health service can outweigh the availability of service. As a result, geospatial intelligence has not been a priority in India’s government policies. The infrastructure for health care networking in India is limited, but there is a possibility for growth with Esri building a hub in India. Medical mapping, or health geo-information, is an efficient way for countries to monitor disease outbreaks, flood risks, and many other functions that improve overall public wellness. For example, in 2013, African organizations used ArcGIS to find the regions of Africa most afflicted by the eye disease known as trachoma; health workers were then able to reach out and provide antibiotics and corrective surgery to these areas.
  3. The startup company Niramai is developing an affordable screening tool called Thermalytix to counter the high rate of breast cancer-related deaths in India. According to WHO, one in every 12 women have the risk of a breast cancer abnormality, and Indian women have a 50 percent chance of survival. By using thermography for early detection, the screening tool is radiation-free, non-invasive, privacy-sensitive and accurate. Thermography reading has been around for a while, especially in the world of holistic medicine, but Niramai’s device uses machine learning algorithms to ensure an accurate result, making it one of the most innovative improvements for health care in India yet.
  4. Phillips and GE Health care have made it possible for doctors in urban cities to see rural patients through an apparatus called Tele-ICU. Since most hospitals in India are not equipped with high-quality intensive care units to handle the high demand, Tele-ICU provides a new option and eliminates transportation risks for patients. It uses video cameras, microphones, alarms and other tools to monitor patients in need of intensive care. By establishing an intensivist and a nurse within a command center, doctors can review patients’ records electronically through Phillips’ Clinical Decision Support software. Through the InTeleEye Mobile Cart, the command center can enter the ICU and oversee a patient’s physical condition through a screen. Tele-ICU thus upgrades the care and reduces the length of stay, therefore diminishing overall hospital costs, too.
  5. Several phone apps have made improvements for health care in India with the goal of helping women. Maya, a comprehensive health tracker app, provides a tool for women to manage their menstrual health. The developer, Plackal Tech, claims that only 12 percent of women at reproductive age in India use sanitary napkins, likely due to the country’s stigma of menstruation. To combat this stigma, Maya helps educate and empower women to understand and nurture their bodies. Another app, Celes Care, has become India’s first virtual health clinic for women. In 2015, the World Bank found that 174 women died per 100,000 live births, which is an improvement from the 215-figure in 2010. This number is still high, however, compared to developed countries where the mother’s mortality rate stays in the single digits range. Apps like Celes Care are necessary to provide long-distance preventative health care and deliver prescriptions to women in India. Within a minute, users can connect privately with a female physician who will address issues concerning fertility, pregnancy, thyroid, PCOS, weight control and menopause.

Such innovative solutions provide hope for reducing health risks and increasing access to health care in India.

– Isadora Savage
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in MauritiusMauritius is a beautiful island nation located in the Indian Ocean, just off the coast of Southern Africa. Long-renowned for its beautiful beaches, Mauritius celebrates a vibrant history and complex mix of cultures. Vestiges of Portuguese, French and British control and long periods of labor migration left clear marks on the current society. Recent decades have been transformative for the country, starting with its independence in 1968. To grasp a better idea about how life evolved on the island, keep reading to learn 10 facts about living conditions in Mauritius.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Mauritius

  1. Mauritius was once a country with high fertility rates, averaging about 6.2 children per woman in 1963. A drastic decline in fertility rates took place, dropping to only 3.2 children per woman in 1972. This shift comes as a result of higher education levels, later marriages and the use of effective family planning methods for women. This is especially important for the island nation, as space and resources are limited.
  2. Mauritius has no indigenous populations, as years of labor migration and European colonialism created a unique ethnic mix. Two-thirds of the current population is Indo-Mauritian due to a great influx of indentured Indians in the 1800s, who eventually settled permanently on the island. Creole, Sino-Mauritian and Franco-Mauritian make up the remaining one-third of the population. However, it is important to note that Mauritius did not include a question on its national census about ethnicity since 1972.
  3.  The population density in Mauritius is one of the highest in the world, with 40.8 percent of the population living in urban environments. The greatest density is in and around Port Louis, the nation’s capital, with a population of 149,000 people living in the city proper alone.
  4. Close to the entire population of Mauritius has access to an improved drinking water source. In urban populations, 99.9 percent of the population has clean water access. There is a negligible difference in rural populations, with 99.8 percent of people accessing clean water. This is essential for the health and protection of populations from common waterborne diseases, like cholera and dysentery.
  5. In 2012, the government allocated 4.8 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to health care. For this reason, an effective public health care system is in place, boasting high medical care standards. The government committed to prevent a user cost at the point of delivery, meaning that quality health care and services are distributed equally throughout the country regardless of socioeconomic status or geographical location.
  6. Non-communicable diseases accounted for 86 percent of the mortality rate in 2012, the most prevalent being cardiovascular diseases. This contrasts with communicable diseases, like measles and hepatitis, which accounted for 8 percent of all mortality in that same year.
  7. Since gaining its independence in 1968, the island’s economy underwent a drastic transformation. The once low-income and agriculture-based economy is now diversified and growing, relying heavily on sugar, tourism and textiles, among other sectors. The GDP is now $13.33 billion. Agriculture accounts for 4 percent, industry 21.8 percent and services 74.1 percent. Government policies focused strongly on stimulating the economy, mainly by modernizing infrastructure and serving as the gateway for investment into the African continent.
  8. Currently, 8 percent of the 1.36 million Mauritian total population is living below the poverty line. Less than 1 percent of the population is living on $1 a day or less, meaning that extreme poverty is close to non-existent. In the hopes to fully eradicate poverty, the government has implemented the Mauritius Marshall Plan Against Poverty which works with poor communities to give greater access to education, health, and social protection measures.
  9. Many environmental issues threaten the island nation, including but not limited to water pollution, soil erosion and endangerment of wildlife. Main sources of water pollution include sewage and agricultural chemicals, while soil erosion is mainly due to deforestation. In the hopes to combat negative outcomes, the government created and published the Mauritius Environment Outlook Report. It recognizes the importance of environmental issues and acknowledges its integral link to the pursuit of sustainable development in the country.
  10. In 2017, the education sector received 5 percent of GDP. Approximately 93.2 percent of the population over the age of 15 can read and write. Gender disparities do exist, as 95.4 percent of males and 91 percent of females are considered literate. Unfortunately, this disparity persists in the job market as well: female unemployment is high and women are commonly overlooked for positions in upper-tier jobs.

The island continues to prioritize health, education and boosting its economy, all of which are essential for the improvement of living conditions in Mauritius. With positive momentum building since its independence in the 1960s, the country propelled itself into a stable and productive future.

Natalie Abdou
Photo: Pixabay

Women’s Health care in CambodiaThe Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia is currently experiencing its worst in maternal mortality rates. In Cambodia, maternal-related complications are the leading cause of death in women ages 15 to 46. The Minister of Health has created several partnerships with organizations such as USAID to help strengthen its healthcare system. Here are five facts about women’s health care in Cambodia.

Top 5 Facts About Women’s Health Care in Cambodia

  1. Health Care Professionals and Midwives
    USAID has provided a helping hand when it comes to educating healthcare professionals and midwives. Since USAID’s partnership with the Ministry of Health, USAID has helped raise the percentage of deliveries assisted by skilled professionals from 32 percent to 71 percent. The Ministry of Health was also able to implement the Health Sector Strategic Plan to improve reproductive and women’s maternal health in Cambodia.
  2. Health Care Facilities
    Between 2009 and 2015, the number of Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (CEmONC) facilities increased from 25 to 37. With more access and an increase in healthcare facilities, 80 percent of Cambodian women are giving birth in health care facilities.
  3. Postpartum Care
    The Royal Government of Cambodia renewed the Emergency Obstetric & Newborn Care (EmONC) Improvement Plan and extended the Fast Track Initiative Roadmap for Reducing Maternal and Newborn Mortality to 2020. This aims to improve women’s health care in Cambodia to improve the lives of women living with postpartum depression. It is also used to improve newborn care and deliveries.
  4. Obstetric Care
    Obstetric care has improved rapidly. According to a 2014 Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey, 90 percent of mothers receive obstetric care two days after giving birth, and three-quarters of women receive care three hours after. Intensive obstetric care has helped drop Cambodia’s maternal mortality rate significantly. In 2014, Cambodia’s maternal mortality rates decreased from 472 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2005 to 170 deaths per 100,000 live births.
  5. U.N. Women
    U.N. Women is working closely to help address the AIDS epidemic in Cambodia. The organization’s efforts to reduce the epidemic focus on protection and prevention. In 2003, 3 percent of Cambodian women reported being tested for AIDS. It has also been observed women in urban areas are more likely to get tested than those in rural areas. Ultimately, Cambodia has set a goal to eradicate AIDS from the country by 2020 through prevention and protection.

Cambodia has seen much economic growth over the years, but the money provided for health care is minimal. Consequently, it is difficult for the government to provide all services. However, there have been great strides in improving women’s healthcare in Cambodia. By fighting to better the lives of women, the Cambodian government has set a goal to establish universal health care by 2030.

Andrew Valdovinos
Photo: Flickr

AIDS in ArmeniaArmenia is a landlocked country sharing borders with Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran. Throughout history, this key location rendered Armenia vulnerable to the Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Persian and Ottoman empires. Most recently in 1920, the Soviet Red Army ruled the country until 1991 when Armenia regained its independence. The following year Armenia joined the United Nations and in 2001 it became a member of the Council of Europe. This is a country with a long, rich and complex history infused with religion, national strife, war and genocide.

Like every other country in the world, present-day Armenia battles a deadly condition: HIV/AIDS. HIV attacks the body’s immune system, rendering it vulnerable to other infections and even various cancers. Globally in 2017, 1.8 million people were newly infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). If untreated HIV results in acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). In 2017 AIDS took the lives of 940,000 people worldwide.

4 Facts About the Status of AIDS in Armenia

  1. In 2016, the World Health Organization recognized Armenia as one out of four countries that eliminated mother-to-child transmissions of HIV. Additionally, since 2010, new HIV infections in Armenia decreased by 31 percent.

  2. Although new cases of HIV declined within the last decade, AIDS-related deaths increased by 26 percent. Although there isn’t a known cure for HIV or AIDS, antiretroviral therapy (ART) can suppress the virus and prevent its spread to others. However, in 2016 only slightly more than one-third of Armenians with HIV sought out ART.

  3. There are ways to continue the fight against AIDS in Armenia. In 2017 there were an estimated 3,400 Armenians living with HIV or AIDS. One of the key issues surrounding AIDS in Armenia is that nearly half of Armenians with the virus don’t know that they have it. Preventative measures such as comprehensive and inclusive sex education, increased use of protection during sex and regular HIV testing are key in lowering the number of AIDS-related deaths and fighting AIDS in Armenia.

  4. Key populations most affected by AIDS are sex workers, LGBTQ+ individuals, people who inject drugs, prisoners and outbound migrant workers. These groups oftentimes face social stigma and discrimination which render them more vulnerable to contracting HIV. They also tend to have reduced access to HIV testing and ART.

For the last three years, Armenia has upheld its status as having ended mother-to-infant transmission of HIV. This is a massive success for Armenians and the fight against the spread of HIV and AIDS worldwide. However, there are many more steps that Armenia and other countries can take to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS and lower the number of AIDS-related deaths. Comprehensive sex education, access to condoms, HIV-testing and antiretroviral therapy are key in fighting this deadly condition. Additionally, combating stigma and reducing discrimination against vulnerable populations will greatly impact the prevalence of HIV and AIDS worldwide.

– Keeley Griego
Photo: UNFPA

John OliverJohn Oliver, comedian and the host of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, is renowned for putting a comedic spin on recent news stories. Indeed, he has mocked everything from horses to cereal mascots to his own self-professed bird-like appearance. However, fans of Last Week Tonight know that he has a soft spot for the less fortunate and endeavors to help them. What they may not know, however, is that John Oliver also supports the Touch Foundation.

John Oliver’s Philanthropy

Fans of John Oliver will know that his penchant for philanthropy is nothing new. On his show, he has been known to do outrageous, often hilarious, things to help those in need. Sometimes, this comes in the form of a plea made from the set of Last Week Tonight. For example, during the 2017 French election, John ended an episode by switching to a film noir style and urging the people of France not to vote for the far right extremist candidate Marine Le Pen. Another time, he hired singer Weird Al Yankovic to sing an accordion-filled song begging North Korea not to nuke the U.S.

Sometimes, however, John Oliver’s contributions to helping people are much more tangible. For instance, his team created a children’s book called A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo. This book, which stars Vice President Mike Pence’s rabbit, supports the Trevor Project and AIDS United by allowing people to donate to one or both of those charities to receive a free ebook. The profits from sales of physical copies of the books also go towards those charities.

Another time, he bought several items from Russell Crowe’s The Art of the Divorce auction, including the jock strap from Cinderella Man, and donated them to one of the last remaining Blockbusters in the U.S. to help it keep its doors open. However, the fact that John Oliver supports the Touch Foundation financially was never mentioned in the show.

About the Touch Foundation

The Touch Foundation is an organization that seeks to improve healthcare in Tanzania. Healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa is lacking, as is evident by the fact that the life expectancy of the average adult is 20 years less than that of the average American. In fact, one in five children won’t even live to see his or her fifth birthday. Tanzania, in particular, suffers from an abysmal number of healthcare workers, a high rate of childbirth complications, limited access to basic healthcare services and many deaths from treatable and/or preventable diseases.

The Touch Foundation fights the poor healthcare in Tanzania by looking for flaws in the country’s healthcare system, bringing them to the attention of the Tanzanian government and obtaining funding for long-term programs that teach sustainable techniques for good health care. They do all of this by using institutions that already exist in Tanzania.

The Touch Foundation’s focus is spread across the healthcare system. One of their main goals is training new healthcare workers and helping existing ones improve. That way, access to healthcare will become much more widespread. They also target specific healthcare priorities that impact Tanzania the most, including maternal and newborn health, non-communicable diseases and cardiovascular health. On top of that, they send detailed reports of their results to their local and international partners.

The Touch Foundation’s Impact

The Touch Foundation has spent more than $60 million improving Tanzania’s healthcare system. This has resulted in better lives for 17 million Tanzanians (one-third of the people who live there). The Touch Foundation has trained more than 4,000 healthcare workers. For the ones who are still in training, 900 of them are housed in new and refurbished dormitories. Also thanks to Touch, the enrollment rate at the Weill Bugando Medical College has increased from 10 to 900 since 2004, and 96 percent of graduates remain within the healthcare system.

The Touch Foundation has helped reduce maternal deaths by 27 percent. The number of surgical centers at the Bugando Medical Centre has increased from 7 to 13, allowing for 30 percent more surgeries. The Touch Foundation has also worked to install electricity generators, water pumps, high-speed Internet, waste incinerators and laundry facilities at medical centers across Tanzania.

John Oliver is very outspoken about what he believes in. He will do ridiculous things for those who he feels needs his help. However, the fact that John Oliver supports the Touch Foundation is relatively obscure. Despite this, his contributions go to making Tanzania a better, healthier place to live. He doesn’t need to do something insane to show that he cares about Tanzania; his quiet contribution to the cause is enough.

Cassie Parvaz

Photo: Flickr