Inflammation and stories on healthcare

10 Biggest Problems in the World 
There is no better time to focus on the biggest problems in the world. The everlasting tightened world economy, war threats and lingering diseases all ubiquitously affect human lives in every corner of the world. The United Nations (U.N.) has compiled a list of the current 10 biggest problems in the world.

 10 Biggest Problems in the World

  1. Peace and Security: Civil conflicts in Syria, Libya and Yemen, Russian aggression over Ukraine and its neighbors and tensions in the South China Sea are some global peace and security threats that are in existence today. These threats cost many lives due to terrorist acts and population displacement. The U.N. has 16 peacekeeping operations currently underway with nine in Africa, three in the Middle East, two in Europe and one in the Americas. With a peacekeeping budget of approximately $8.2 million, it keeps over 125,000 military personnel, police and civilians grounded and armed. The U.N. has made some progress with success stories coming from Burundi and Sierra Leone. U.N. forces eliminated more than 42,000 weapons and 1.2 million rounds of ammunition. It also demilitarized 75,000 fighters, including children, in Sierra Leone.
  2. AIDS: Among these 10 biggest problems in the world, AIDS is still a global health issue with 37.9 million people living with HIV. HIV newly infected around 1.7 million people and 770,000 people died of AIDS-related illnesses in 2018. Many global initiatives have emerged to lower the number of HIV cases including the GMT Initiative and TREAT Asia. The Foundation for AIDS Research, amfAR, lowers the number of AIDS cases with its GMT Initiative by supporting HIV organizations in developing countries to provide better education about HIV, expand prevention services and advocate for more HIV treatment and prevention funding. The TREAT Asia initiative links a network of clinics, hospitals and research institutions to perform research on HIV and AIDS treatments within the Asia-Pacific region. Many people (23.3 million) living with HIV in 2018 were undergoing antiretroviral therapy. New HIV infections have fallen by 16 percent since 2010 and AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 55 percent since the peak in 2004.
  3. Children in Poverty: Children around the world regularly do not have a fair chance for health, education and protection due to armed conflicts, violence and poverty. Millions of young children in 2019 did not have basic health care and proper nutrition resulting in stunted growth. The Millennium Development Goals have been in place for the past 15 years to help address the above issues affecting children. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been working with governments, the U.N., other NGOs and the private sector to broaden the impact on addressing child poverty with a particular focus on child malnutrition.
  4. Climate and Agriculture: The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report stated that human activities cause climate change and that the impacts are adverse. Climate change ties to world poverty by negatively impacting agriculture with increasing energy use, decreasing food production and increasing food prices. Many say that more water is necessary to grow crops due to high temperatures and drought, downpour rain in other areas causes sea level rises and that people require more lands with favorable climates. Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan had low yield on their crops in the summer of 2010 due to excessive heat that led to very high food prices, starvation, malnutrition and poverty. Some agricultural areas around the world have made improvements to their agricultural practices such as scaling sowing time, using different cultivation techniques and testing different cultivars.
  5. Democracy: Countries around the world often experience democracy deficit, weak institutions and poor governance. The U.N. is working to bring democracy to countries around the world by working with each country’s government to promote fair and exemplary governing practices, facilitate transparency and accountability and advise on new constitutions. The United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF) is funding projects that promote human rights, civil society and democratic inclusion. UNDEF is funding projects to include youths in elections in Cote d’Ivoire, promote gender equality in Palestine and support citizens in elections in Brazil.
  6. Poverty: The United Nations poverty facts and figures show that approximately 8 percent of the world’s workforce and their families live off of less than $1.90 daily. High poverty rates exist in small and deserted regions with armed conflicts, and approximately 55 percent of the world’s population has no social protection such as cash or food benefits. The condition of those living in poverty is improving following the U.N.’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In fact, the percentage of the world’s population living off of $1.90 or less per day in 2015 is down to 10 percent from 16 percent in 2010.
  7. Hunger: Statistics have identified that 821 million people around the world suffered undernourishment in 2017, 149 million children had stunted growth and 49 million children under 5 years old experienced wasting due to malnourishment. The World Food Programme, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, World Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development are working together toward the Sustainable Development Goal to end hunger, maintain food security, improve nutrition and promote excellent agricultural practices. The World Bank Group is working with partners to promote farming practices, improve land use, grow high-yield and nutritious crops and instruct on storage and chain supply to prevent food loss.
  8. Gender Equality: Women in more than 60 countries cannot get citizenship. Sixty percent of people lacking basic literacy skills are women and one-third of women experience sexual violence, according to U.N. Women. The United Population Fund supports the protection of women’s rights through the law. They helped fight for women’s access to reproductive health care in Ecuador and Guatemala. The United Population Fund also helps to build shelters for trafficked women in Moldova and girls fleeing mutilation in Tanzania.
  9. Health: Half of the 7.3 billion people worldwide do not have access to adequate health services, according to the world health statistics of 2019. The World Health Organization (WHO) is leading the efforts in addressing world health issues which include malaria, women’s health and tuberculosis. For the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa in 2014, WHO deployed experts, medical equipment and medical teams to set up and run mobile laboratories and treatment clinics.
  10. Water: In 2019, 2.2 billion people did not have access to safe drinking water and 297,000 children under 5 years old died from diarrheal diseases. Eighty percent of wastewater went back into the ecosystem without prior treatment in 2017. The U.N. is promoting agreements among countries to ensure better usage of water. The 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda includes policies and measures that incorporate finance, technology, innovation, trade, debt and data to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals including water sanitation and water usage.

These 10 biggest problems in the world may bring uncertainty and worry, however, many organizations are planning and implementing initiatives to solve these issues. People can provide support to these organizations either financially or through direct involvement to aid in eliminating these challenges.

Hung Minh Le
Photo: Pixabay

 

 

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Kuwait
Kuwait does not immediately come to mind when one thinks of poverty. It may seem that statistics like life expectancy point to a high standard of living, but life is different for expatriates and noncitizens who make up the majority of the country’s inhabitants. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Kuwait, including a couple that appears a little too good to be true.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Kuwait

  1. The average life expectancy in Kuwait is about 75. This puts Kuwait above average for an Arab country, yet this figure likely does not take into account many foreign workers for reasons that number six in this list will explain. In comparison, the average life expectancy in Egypt is 72, 70 in both Iraq and Syria and 74 in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza. Additionally, all of these countries have faced some form of geopolitical unrest.
  2. Kuwait began the development of its petroleum industry in the 1930s. The industry is largely responsible for the country’s wealth and high standard of living today. It is likely also partly responsible for its high life expectancy. High socioeconomic status is a key determinant of high life expectancies, and Kuwaiti citizens, on average, enjoy both.
  3. The biggest increase in life expectancy was in the 1960s. Life expectancy in Kuwait grew rapidly with the coinciding economic development during the decade. Since then, it has followed a trajectory similar to other developed nations such as the U.S. and Australia.
  4. The difference in life expectancy between men and women is not significant. Unlike in the United States where the gap between men and women is five years, the gap is only about two years in Kuwait, and it is unclear why this might be the case. Kuwait’s neighbor Bahrain has a similarly small life expectancy gap.
  5. The third leading cause of death is influenza and pneumonia. In fact, the rates of influenza and pneumonia are high in comparison to most countries. In the U.S., these are only the eighth leading killers. Kuwait’s ministry of health has made efforts to combat influenza. In fact, flu vaccines more than tripled from 50,000 to 160,000 in 2019.
  6. Kuwait has one of the lowest death rates in the world, ranking 224th out of 226 countries. Only its neighbors Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have lower death rates. The low death rates reflect these countries’ world-class health care systems, but incidentally, all three of these countries have ex-pat populations that greatly outnumber their citizens. These countries do not have paths to citizenship in almost all cases, so once a foreigner is no longer able to work due to illness or old age, they must return home. Consequently, those who die in these countries are natives or foreigners who pass away from sudden and unexpected causes. This fact makes it difficult to accurately estimate the average life expectancy of foreigners difficult.
  7. Health care is poor for Kuwaiti people without citizenship. Foreign workers are not the only people who face discrimination in Kuwait. The Bidoons are a Kuwaiti born population that the government considers illegal. They may purchase health care plans, but government hospitals restrict certain procedures, treatments and medications. In addition, medical facilities may refuse them care outright if they lack proper documentation.
  8. Unemployment is around 2 percent. One should note, however, that others frequently relegate the Bidoon population to the informal job market. When the Bidoon’s have employment through the government, their contracts offer little job security and benefits.
  9. Some reports determine that the poverty rate is 0 percent. Having one of the lowest death rates and reportedly no individuals living in poverty may paint a picture of life in Kuwait that is not wholly accurate, however. Out of the 10 facts about life expectancy in Kuwait, this fact appears to be the most suspect. The questionable validity of the cited figure notwithstanding, many treat expatriates like second class citizens, greatly reducing their quality of life. The challenges they face include harsh working conditions, fears of harassment and practices like nonpayment or delayed payment. The good news is that some are making progress. Recent 2016 legislation allows some migrant workers to transfer their visa sponsorship to other employers after three years, potentially providing an incentive for companies to maintain acceptable working conditions.
  10. The government is investing $104 billion in health care infrastructure. This is in part to combat high rates of obesity, diabetes and cancer in the country. The investment should theoretically lead to longer lives as access to health care is one of the main determinants of life expectancy.

 These 10 facts about life expectancy in Kuwait show that the quality of life is good for the country’s citizens. The still strong oil industry and recent efforts to improve health care infrastructure can only improve the situation. Unfortunately, many noncitizens do not have the rights that are responsible for the long lives that Kuwaiti’s can expect to live. Social and economic equality, not total wealth, are the primary issues facing Kuwait’s less well off today.

– Caleb Carr
Photo: Flickr

Public Health Crisis in Syria
Syria has been the target of one of the most comprehensive and far-reaching sanctions campaigns worldwide. The U.S., the EU, the U.N., the Arab League, OFAC and several other entities have all applied economic sanctions against the country. The goal is to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for his brutal violence against unarmed, civilian anti-government protesters. U.S. sanctions are also in response to the Syrian government’s support for terrorist groups and its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Imposing these restrictive measures has been the preferred method of Western powers for decades. However, sanctions have continuously failed to stop Assad from doing business with the U.S. and hurt the Syrian public.

Sanctions’ Impact on Syria’s Economy

Sanctions have caused serious damage to Syria’s economy. These sanctions include oil embargos, restrictions on certain investments, travel bans, freezing the assets of central banks and export restrictions on equipment and technology. The country used to be primarily an exporter, but it now relies on imports, mainly from Lebanon, Iraq and China. Before the EU sanctions, 90 percent of its oil exports went to Germany, Italy and France. Since President Trump recently imposed sanctions on its ally Iran, Syria is suffering even more difficulty obtaining goods. The value of the Syrian currency has plummeted, while prices have sky-rocketed, especially because of restrictions on oil imports.

To continue prioritizing the purchase of guns and bombs from Russia, the Syrian government has simply removed the country’s safety nets. Further, the country has cut back on subsidized fuel, food and health spending. Living was less expensive for Syrians during the peak of the civil war. Technically, legitimate businesses and individuals in Syria should be able to undertake critical transactions. However, foreign suppliers are often unwilling to send anything to Syria. These suppliers do not want to risk triggering unexpected violations of the complex sanction rules.

Sanctions and the Public Health Crisis in Syria

Similarly, there are exemptions for importing pharmaceuticals and food. But in reality, health facilities are feeling the effects of sanctions just as much as the rest of Syria’s private citizens, with life-threatening consequences. The consequences of these sanctions have led to a significant public health crisis in Syria. For example, hospitals cannot import nitrous oxide necessary for anesthetics, due to the fact that others could use it to make bombs. Also, they cannot import helium for cooling MRI scanners for the same reason. The humanitarian exemption for exporting software to Syria for medical equipment requires a complicated application process. Thus, health facilities have little access to foreign life-saving machines, drugs and supplies.

Unable to obtain repairs for European dialysis machines, about 10 percent of people dependent on dialysis have died of kidney failure. Russia, China, Lebanon or Malaysia must now provide medical supplies rather than the EU. This further slows down the process and delays the treatment of those with chronic illnesses. Cancer medication, insulin and anesthetics are among the medications Syria relies on imports for. Now, there are shortages of these medicines, as well as in specific antibiotics, serums, intravenous fluids and some vaccines. This has resulted in delayed treatment for cancer and leukemia patients. The government’s health care budget cuts since the civil war began, combined with the detrimental effects of sanctions, have made most imported medicines unaffordable. Finally, only 44 percent of hospitals are now fully functioning and many of them have closed.

The Real Impact of Sanctions

Meanwhile, President Assad’s policies of violence against his people have not changed. The Syrian government, which still carries out million-dollar deals with the U.S. and other countries that applied sanctions, seems to have found ways to circumvent the sanctions and remain largely unaffected. Assad claims that the sanctions are simply creating more refugees. As the inefficiency of sanctions to reduce human rights violations and their drastic effect on public health becomes increasingly clear, Western powers should rethink their policy of sanctions on Syria.

Sarah Newgarden
Photo: Flickr

health initiatives in HaitiHaiti’s health care infrastructure has suffered drastically since the last massive earthquake in 2010. The earthquake further destroyed access to the delivery of health care and destroyed the country’s health care system as a whole. As a result, Haiti’s medical facilities now lack basic but critical services such as water and sanitation systems, state-of-the-art hospitals and clinics, modern medical resources and a sufficient number of trained medical professionals. There have since been health initiatives to aid Haiti in rectifying its health care and health care system.

Health Initiatives in Haiti

  1. Community Health Initiative: Emergency medical physicians Chris Buresh and Joshua White, who combined have more than 14 years of experience in Haiti, founded the Community Health Initiative (CHI) in Haiti in January 2012. CHI was founded to address the health needs of the Haitian community that would otherwise lack access to care by providing continuous primary health care. The program works with long-standing partnerships and local talent in the central region of Haiti to combat malnutrition, provide clean water and deliver health care to Haitians by returning to the same villages every three months. Because Haitians lack affordable primary health care in the area, most patients walk eight hours or more to arrive at CHI’s clinics for treatment. The Community Health Initiative provides clinics in the rural areas of Haiti. Since its founding in 2012, CHI has delivered 1,100 water treatment systems in which have reduced the diarrhea rate among users to 1.8 percent. Community Health Workers have trained 81 women in their Helping Babies Breathe program which has allowed a 71 percent reduction in neonatal mortality.
  2. Partners In Health: Partners in Health (PIH) is Haiti’s largest health care provider. PIH has been providing medical services to Haitians for more than 20 years. PIH helps deliver high-quality health care to some of Haiti’s poorest regions, serving an estimated 4.5 million people with the help of the national Ministry of Health. PIH’s community health workers have helped 15,000 HIV-positive patients begin and remain on treatment and have allowed 1,500 TB patients to start treatment on the path to a cure each year since initiation. Since PIH’s founding, the mortality rate for children under the age of 5 has been reduced to 71 per 1,000 where Haiti had the highest rates of infant and child mortality; the rate of incidents surrounding TB has also been reduced to 181 per 100,000, and the adult prevalence of HIV is now 1.9 percent.
  3. Hope For Haiti: Haiti reports some of the world’s worst health indicators that continue to inhibit Haiti’s development. Hope for Haiti is a health initiative that operates an infirmary in southern Haiti and partners with 24 rural communities to improve the health care system and its individual health indicators. Hope for Haiti provides primary care services, public health education and nutrition education, and it organizes mobile clinics. Since Hope for Haiti was founded, 6,727 lab tests were performed for a record of 3,090 patients. Around 2,700 Sawyer Water Filtration Systems were distributed in Haiti, impacting over 13,500 people, 2,800 students were provided with public health education and 100 diabetes club meetings were held for the Haitian community.

Haiti is in need of a permanent and modern health care infrastructure so that it can respond promptly and effectively to the medical needs of its community. With health initiatives such as Partners in Health, Hope for Haiti and the Community Health Initiative, Haiti will be well on its way to better health care and an improved health care system.

Na’Keevia Brown
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Health Care in Syria
Syria, officially known as the Syrian Arab Republic, is a war-torn country in Western Asia. These war efforts have caused a series of attacks against women’s health care in Syria and made female health care more difficult to come by. In Syria’s civil war, violent attacks continue to target health care workers and clinics, and particularly female health clinics.

Fear of Attack

Fear of attack also plays a role in keeping women from what health resources they do have. Many of the childbirth centers that remain are located in rural areas, making them difficult for many women to reach. Fear of attack in the vicinity of health clinics inhibits patients and health professionals alike. The regime’s campaign of gender-based sexual violence is a large contributor to this fear. The vulnerability that comes with the travel necessary to reach the available health clinics put women at further risk of attack.

These attacks and the consequent shutdown of many maternal health facilities are seriously threatening maternal health. Between 2011 and 2017, more than 320 health clinics suffered attacks. These attacks have resulted in the deaths of at least 826 health workers, 85 of whom were women. By the end of 2015, only 16 of the 43 childbirth centers previously available in Syria remained. The lack of access to these facilities and health professionals leave many women with no safe conditions to deliver their children. Moreover, they have no opportunity for checkups or preventative shots once they deliver their children.

Overall Health Care

The conflict also threatens basic preventative care for women. Things like mammograms and regular checkups are no longer available and few female health professionals remain in Syria, making health care even more difficult for practicing Muslims to find. Gynecological services and even menstruation pads are incredibly difficult to come by. Women who do survive the hardships of the war suffer from malnutrition and struggle with even the basic necessities for survival.

The Molham Volunteering Team

In the midst of the conflict, however, there are efforts to preserve and improve female health care. Groups like the Molham Volunteering Team are working to fill in the gaps in women’s health care in Syria. A group of Syrian students brought this group together to provide necessities, such as food and medicine, to Syrians in need. When crises emerge, the Molham Volunteering Team assembles emergency campaigns to help, such as its campaign to raise money to support victims of the attacks targeting Maarat Al-Numan. The campaign has nearly reached its goal of $250,000.

Another focus of the Molham Volunteering Team is to raise the funds necessary to cover hospital fees for women and other costs of childbirth. It has even begun a campaign to raise money in support of health workers and clinics against the attacks. To date, the campaign has raised about a quarter of its $10,000 goal.

The Violet Organization

The Violet Organization, a nonprofit organization in Turkey, has opened a health center in rural Idlib where women have access to maternal and reproductive health care. A group of young volunteers, with the goal of helping secure the basic needs of families through food and cash donations, founded The Violet Organization. Today, The Violet Organization focuses not only on immediate aid but also on long-term projects like the Idlib health center, which offers treatment for ovarian and breast cancer, as well as basic checkups and consultations.

The Mazaya Center

The Mazaya Center attempts to educate women about their health issues. The Mazaya Center, which volunteers started to empower women, is another nonprofit organization that focuses on women’s issues in northern Syria. It provides paramedic training and first aid classes. These two-month training sessions, which female nurses lead, aim to educate women about reproductive and maternal health as well as family issues.

In the face of the Syrian civil war, civilians are struggling to find the basic necessities for survival, and safe access to women’s health care in Syria has become yet another casualty. Despite the looming threat to women and health professionals, it is evident that there are people continuing their work to ensure that health care and education are available to the women who need it most.

– Amanda Gibson
Photo: Flickr

 

childhood cancer in Kenya

The World Health Organization (WHO) has ranked cancer as a leading case of death in children. Globally, the leading types of childhood cancers are cancer of the white blood cells and brain tumors. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the most common types are non-Hodgkins lymphoma, kidney cancer and bone marrow cancer. This article explains eight facts about childhood cancer in Kenya.

8 Facts About Childhood Cancer in Kenya

  1. Child Cancer Causes: According to the American Cancer Society, while known lifestyle-related factors can increase the risk of developing cancer in adults, the same is not true for children. Dr. William Macharia, a pediatrician based in Nairobi, Kenya, explained that the peak age of childhood cancer is between 3 and 7 years old which is not enough time for environmental factors to cause cancer. Instead, many believe that wrong cell division and multiplication after conception is the cause.
  2. Childhood Cancer Survival Rate: Only 20 percent of children with cancer in Kenya survive. This is in contrast to the developed countries where up to 80 percent of children with cancer survive. Once again, one can attribute this to the late diagnosis as well as the lack of specialized training and other challenges children face in getting treatment.
  3. Hospice Care Kenya: Hospice Care Kenya reports that only 1 percent of children in Kenya have access to appropriate palliative care. A large majority of children with cancer, therefore, die in pain and isolation. Hospice Care Kenya is working to improve palliative care in Kenya so that children could receive appropriate care which could enhance their quality of life and death.
  4. Radiation and Chemotherapy: One of the biggest challenges in treating childhood cancer is that radiation and chemotherapy have a lasting, damaging effect on children’s bodies. A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology shows that by the age of 50, more than half of those who survived childhood cancer experience a severe, disabling or life-threatening event and this could include death. This shows that more research is necessary to develop better treatment and care models for children diagnosed with cancer.
  5. Financial Challenges: One of the reasons why childhood cancer in Kenya does not receive diagnosis or treatment is because families experience financial difficulties in dealing with it. To begin with, most of the medical facilities where treatment is available are in urban centers so those from rural areas have to travel long distances to access them. Additionally, the cost of treatment, medicine and health insurance is too high for families to afford. When faced with the difficult choice of paying for the sick child and clothing, feeding and educating the rest of the family, families often choose the latter. World Child Cancer reports that almost 30 percent of children who begin treatment do not complete it.
  6. Limited Medical Training: There is a lack of specialized training of medical practitioners which leads to late diagnosis of childhood cancer in Kenya. By the time most children have a cancer diagnosis, the illness is already in its advanced stages. This is unfortunate because when people know they have cancer early enough, they can obtain treatment or at least manage the disease.
  7. The Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer and Shoe4Africa: The WHO announced the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer in September 2018. The initiative aims to reach a survival rate of at least 60 percent for children with cancer by 2030. Shoe4Africa plans to start Africa’s first children’s cancer hospital in Eldoret, Kenya. The organization opened Sub-Saharan Africa’s second public children’s hospital in Eldoret and currently, 400 patients receive treatment at the hospital every day.
  8. Funding for Cancer Treatment: The government of Kenya provides funding to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, which diagnoses over 100 children with cancer in a year. While this helps to ease the burden for families, it is not enough to cover all the costs. The majority of patients, therefore, have to pay out-of-pocket for their medical expenses. In Kenyatta National Hospital, the largest hospital in Kenya, the Israeli embassy renovated and equipped the children’s cancer wards to ensure that the children are comfortable while seeking treatment.

There is an urgent need for different sectors to come together and set up effective ways of dealing with childhood cancer in Kenya. These methods must also be affordable to all citizens. Kenyans can look to the successes of developed countries as an example. Beyond that, the public needs to receive more education on childhood cancers. This can happen through public health awareness campaigns such as those Kenya used to successfully inform and educate the public on diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

Crisis in Yemen
Yemen is currently embroiled in one of the worst humanitarian crises in history. More than two-thirds of the country’s population is in need of some form of humanitarian aid or support, and food insecurity continues to affect large numbers of its citizens. Ultimately, only peace will quell the ongoing crisis in Yemen because humanitarian aid can only go so far.

Despite this, many organizations are still making active efforts to help the state and brainstorm new, innovative efforts to address the crisis in Yemen. As the crisis seems to grow in scope and severity, it appears that various organizations worldwide are becoming more dedicated to both helping the Yemeni people and searching for potential solutions. Here is a list of the organizations aiding those in crisis in Yemen.

Organizations Addressing the Crisis in Yemen

  • The International Rescue Committee: The International Rescue Committee is currently calling upon U.N. Security Council members to encourage diplomacy and peace negotiations between warring groups contributing to the crisis in Yemen. The committee helps more than 21,000 people obtain nutrition services and health care weekly.
  • Save the Children: The Save the Children organization has set up temporary learning facilities and child-friendly spaces in order to foster learning and growth for children that the crisis in Yemen has displaced. So far, the organization has supported over a million children by providing essential training in schools and distributing food to children and pregnant mothers.
  • Action Against Hunger: Action Against Hunger recently joined together with various other organizations in calling on governments to end hostilities in the region and suspend the supply of arms and other weaponry. The crisis in Yemen continuously worsens due to the supply of arms from various sources.
  • Creative Generation: Some Yemeni women have come together to form an organization with technological innovations to aid the crisis in Yemen. The organization is Creative Generation and aims to harness solar power as a guaranteed source of energy in the hopes of combating rising fuel prices and scarce availability.
  • The World Bank: The World Bank currently reports that the solar sector within Yemen is booming and remains promising. Additionally, solar energy systems currently reach up to 50 percent of Yemeni households in rural areas and 75 percent in other urban areas.
  • The Yemen Emergency Electricity Access Project: The World Bank approved a $50 million IDA-funded grant for The Yemen Emergency Electricity Access Project in April 2018. The program aims to expand access to electricity through the distribution of solar energy systems with a particular focus on rural areas that the crisis in Yemen heavily affected. Estimates determine that 20 to 30 percent of this investment will create jobs and help boost the country’s economy.
  • UNICEF: UNICEF covers over 75 percent of all water, sanitation and hygienic solutions to the cholera epidemic stemming from the crisis in Yemen. The organization’s recent solar-powered water project has immensely helped the northern governorates Al Jawf and Sa’ada. This project has given these Yemeni communities access to safe drinking water in their own homes.

In spite of the overwhelming crisis in Yemen, it seems that the international community and various aid organizations are managing to not only see the brighter side of things but also put forth innovative efforts to address multiple issues. Some of these efforts are to encourage peacemaking processes, and others have directly impacted Yemeni lives positively by providing life-saving care and aid. The future can still be optimistic; behind-the-scenes talks resembling peace negotiations have recently occurred in Oman between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis.

The country still has divisions with different groups holding control over various areas, so the organizations providing aid must continue in their efforts and mobilize others to do the same. As peace negotiations hopefully proceed and bring an end to the seemingly endless war, the international community must remain ready to help citizens following the crisis in Yemen. The Yemeni people’s resilience and innovation are admirable to a remarkable degree, but the country cannot pull itself out of crisis alone.

– Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr

HIV in the United Arab Emirates
HIV infection is a critical global health threat and a prevailing issue in the Middle East, which had the second fastest-growing HIV epidemic in 2016. Although some identify the HIV/AIDS situation in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as low-prevalence, there are some substantial concerns that people should not neglect. The recent shift in attitude towards HIV in the UAE contributes to addressing the existing concerns and issues.

HIV Data

The UAE ranks as number one in the world for the lowest prevalence of HIV (per percentage of the adult population). However, it is crucial to keep several factors in mind; the country only includes the local population in the available data as anyone who applies for a residence/work permit in the UAE must take a medical examination identifying HIV-negative results. In addition, the UAE may deport those already living in the UAE who test HIV-positive.

The first cases of HIV in the UAE emerged in reports in the 1980s and reached a cumulative total of 780 cases among UAE national citizens by the end of 2012. According to the World Health Organization, the number of new HIV cases per year increased from 25 in 2010 to 49 in 2016, which, despite the increase, remains significantly low. Due to the lack of available recent data on HIV seroprevalence in the UAE, increases in the number of cases are neither precise or updated. Indeed, the reported number of cases only represent the people who had officially registered themselves during screenings of blood donations, premarital testing, pregnancies and patients with tuberculosis. Accordingly, the available data may underrepresent or exclude groups with the highest risk exposure including people who have sexual relations and those who inject drugs.

Current Issues

HIV/ AIDS remains a sensitive and taboo topic in the UAE due to the lack of knowledge and awareness regarding the issue as well as strong beliefs that people can only transmit HIV through religiously forbidden sexual relations. Indeed, a study from 2016 identified 48 percent of students as having low knowledge on the topic and misconceptions, contributing to the stigmatization and discrimination of people living with HIV.  

As Human Rights Watch reported, prisoners with HIV in the UAE suffer segregation and isolation from others in the prison, thus facing systemic stigma and discrimination. Moreover, non-national detainees with HIV encounter considerable risks while in Emirati prisons, as reports determined that the prisons denied some lifesaving HIV treatments. Indeed, prison authorities have sometimes delayed or interrupted critical medical treatment for several months, thus increasing the feasibility of health deterioration for non-nationals. Moreover, Human Rights Watch emphasizes the obligation the UAE has to provide appropriate health care to all prisoners without discriminating against non-nationals and reiterates that denying or interrupting medical treatment is a violation of the right to health and possibly the right to life.

Response and Progress

The UAE is shifting its approach regarding the topic of HIV/AIDS and making efforts to strengthen its fight against the virus. The UAE’s National Aids Programme is increasing its transparency and working with the United Nations on reports shedding light on the prevalence of HIV in the UAE. Furthermore, the UAE has aligned its national agenda to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), as both a member of the United Nations and a major international donor. UAE’s Vision 2021 strengthens the importance of improving its health care system and preventing diseases. An essential health-related target in the SDG agenda involves ending the epidemics of AIDS and communicable diseases (Target 3.3), which the UAE specifically addresses in its 2021 national agenda targets.

Dismantling the barrier of HIV/AIDS as a taboo topic in the United Arab Emirates is, nevertheless, crucial for the country to achieve its upcoming targets and reinforce its aspirations for the future. Despite the prevailing issues regarding HIV in the United Arab Emirates, the seven Emirates have demonstrated some progress and willingness to improve the situation by working with international institutions such as the United Nations.

Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr

Health Crisis in Venezuela

The extreme shortage of medicine and medical supplies in Venezuela has forced many people to seek refuge in neighboring countries in the hopes of getting the medical care that they need. More than three million Venezuelans have fled the country and the number continues to rise. With the continued lack of aid and action from the government, Venezuela’s health crisis shows no signs of disappearing. These are six facts about the health crisis in Venezuela.

6 Facts About the Health Care Crisis in Venezuela

  1. Because of the lack of available vaccinations, preventable diseases such as measles and diphtheria are spreading throughout the country. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that diphtheria had not been reported in Venezuela for 24 years until 2016. Measles had not been seen since 2007. Unfortunately, these diseases are once again affecting the citizens of Venezuela. As of 2018, there have been 2,170 suspected cases of diphtheria with 1,249 being confirmed. There have been reports of 287 deaths due to this preventable disease. Out of the 7,524 cases of measles that had been suspected between 2017 and 2018, 6,252 were confirmed. At least 75 people have died from measles as of 2019. The toll of these diseases could have been prevented if the people of Venezuela had the vaccinations that they needed.
  2. In 2018, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS and the Venezuelan Ministry of Health noted that new cases of HIV had increased by 24 percent. Between 2010 and 2016, deaths due to AIDS increased by 38 percent. In addition, around “87 percent of the 79,000 registered individuals living with HIV” do have antiretroviral treatment because of the shortage of medicine in the country.
  3. Cases of malaria have increased by 76 percent. There were 240,613 reported cases of malaria in 2016 in Venezuela. In 2017, that number increased to 406,000 cases, the largest increase worldwide. WHO estimated 280 deaths due to the disease in 2016. Venezuelans fleeing the country to Colombia and Brazil are taking the disease with them and escalating the spread. The United Nations agency is urging those countries who are hosting Venezuelan refugees “to provide free screening and treatment regardless of their legal status to avoid further spread.” Because so many Venezuelans are fleeing, these diseases are reaching neighboring countries as well. The re-introduction of measles in Manaus, Brazil resulted in 1,631 cases as of November 2018.
  4. Expecting mothers are unable to receive the prenatal medication they need. Many are forced to have unsafe labors. According to a 2017 report by the Venezuelan Ministry of Health, infant mortality has increased by 30 percent and maternal mortality has increased by 65 percent.
  5. Although these neighboring countries are trying their best to provide aid to the people of Venezuela, their healthcare systems are also taking a toll. Many HIV-positive immigrants have reached Brazil only to find that local hospitals were already overwhelmed with AIDS patients dying from infection. Colombia is currently hosting the largest number of Venezuelan immigrants with an estimated one million as of November 2018. Public hospitals are struggling to accommodate refugee health care needs such as vaccinations and emergency services.
  6. The current government of Venezuela has not publicly recognized the crisis among its people, and therefore they are not allowing international relief agencies to enter the country. In Colombia, a huge supply of medicine and supplies from the United States waits to cross the border. Unfortunately, the current president of Venezuela won’t allow the supplies into the country. Colombia has organized many events to help raise money to aid their Venezuelan neighbors. A relief concert called Venezuela Aid Live was held in Colombia on February 22, 2019, to support and bring awareness to the crisis in Venezuela. In four days, the organization was able to raise almost $2.4 million. They plan to do the same next year to continue bringing awareness and aid to the people of Venezuela.

Despite Colombia’s struggle to accommodate refugees, the country is providing limited healthcare to Venezuelans who desperately need it. “In May 2017, the Colombian government declared that all public hospitals must provide free emergency” treatment for Venezuelan patients, which includes treatments for malaria and measles. Between 2017 and 2019, 29,000 pregnant women were able to safely deliver their babies in Colombia free of charge. This also means that their children will be getting free vaccinations plus a promise of healthcare due to their Colombia citizenship. Since 2017, Colombia has provided healthcare services to 340,000 Venezuelan immigrants.

Venezuela’s government officials still have a lot of work to do to help its own people, but thanks to countries like Colombia and Brazil, Venezuelans seeking medical treatment are able to get some assistance. Providing this healthcare, although straining, has made a difference to the three million Venezuelans who had no choice but to flee their country. Through this continued support and care, at least some of the health crisis in Venezuela can be alleviated.

Jannette Aguirre
Photo: Flickr

mental illness and poverty in India
There is a web of denial that people weave around the issue of mental health in India. Most families and communities refuse to see mental health as a serious concern. Adding on to the stigma, there is also a lack of physicians available to treat mental illnesses and those affected often go unchecked. While mental health can affect individuals of all income levels, there is a significant link between mental health and poverty in India.

The Relationship Between Mental Health and Poverty

Specifically, there is a cyclical link between mental health and poverty in India. A case-control study conducted in Delhi from November 2011 to June 2012 found that the intensity of multidimensional poverty increases for persons with severe mental illnesses (PSMI) compared to the rest of the population.

As people receive diagnoses of mental illness, their work performance and social status decrease. Without much treatment available, these individuals continue to suffer in silence, slowly falling back from their jobs, families and friends. These individuals lose employment, which means they have a lack of income, ending up without a support system and resulting in poverty. In particular, women with severe mental illness (SMI) or those who are a part of the lower castes (Untouchables or Shudras) suffering from SMI are more likely to face multidimensional poverty. Because society often looks down on women and individuals of the lower caste system, they are the least likely to receive treatment or assistance when they receive a diagnosis of mental illnesses.

On the other side of this relationship, poverty, which many describe as a lack of employment and income, aggravates mental illness. When individuals do not have the necessities for survival, mental disorders such as depression or anxiety can develop and intensify. Without treatment, these disorders build up, eventually leading medical professionals to diagnose individuals with SMIs. Out of those in poverty, women, individuals of the lower castes and individuals with SMIs suffer the most, as they have the hardest time finding work or receiving external help.

In short, untreated mental illnesses can lead to or further exacerbate poverty, but unchecked poverty can cause mental illnesses as well, creating this link between mental health and poverty.

In an attempt to fix the cyclical link between mental health and poverty in India, the government, doctors and businesses have taken action which aims to increase treatment and guarantee more rights to persons with mental illnesses.

Past Actions by the Government

In 2016, the Parliament in India passed the Mental Health Care Bill. This law replaced the older Act which stigmatized mental health and prevented people from receiving treatment. The new legislation provides state health care facilities, claiming that anyone with mental illness in India has a right to good quality, affordable health care. Individuals with mental health now have a guarantee of informed consent, the power to make decisions, the right to live in a community and the right to confidentiality.

The hope is that the act will help people from all levels of income because if an individual cannot afford care, the government must provide treatment. Even in rural or urban areas, mental health care is a requirement and the government is working to build access to such facilities. Anyone who violates or infringes on the rights of those with mental illnesses is punishable by law.  The government is hoping that by taking legal action for individuals with mental illnesses, society will slowly stigmatize the issue less, increasing overall acceptance.

Individuals and Organizations Taking On Mental Health

As the issue of mental health persists, doctors in India have attempted to integrate their services of mental health within the primary health care system. Since 1999, trained medical officers have an obligation to diagnose and treat mental disorders during their general primary care routines. Furthermore, district-level mental health teams have increased outreach clinical services. The results have shown that if people receive treatment in primary health care facilities, the number of successful health outcomes increases. In the future, doctors are looking to expand services into more rural areas, hoping to offer more affordable care to those in severe poverty because there is such a significant link between mental health and poverty.

Alongside medical professionals, businesses are using the shortage of mental health care treatments in India to expand their consumer outreach; these companies rely on technology to bring together a global community of psychologists, life coaches and psychiatrists to help individuals through their journey. Using AI, companies like Wysa can use empathetic and anonymous conversations to understand the roots of people’s problems. Companies, such as Trustcircle, rely on clinically validated tests to allow individuals to determine their depression, anxiety or stress levels, enabling them to understand when to seek help. These companies are all providing free or drastically low-costing help, giving people feasible access to the treatment they need. The hope is that with quicker and cheaper access to treatment, people can address mental health on a wider scale.

Further Action Necessary

Despite the increasing support for mental health, there is a great deal of change that needs to take place. Currently, only 10 percent of patients suffering from mental illnesses receive treatment in India; while all patients do have the right to treatment, the shortage of money and psychiatrists hinders the accessibility. India spends as little as 0.06 percent of its budget on mental health, and there are only 0.3 psychiatrists per 100,000 people in the country. India needs to primarily focus on changing the societal culture regarding mental health. By educating children from a young age about the importance of mental health and acknowledging that mental illness is real and valid, the overall acceptance of mental health can increase. Changing the stigma surrounding mental health will enable more people to pursue jobs in treating mental health, increasing access. The cyclical link between mental health and poverty in India can only be broken by giving people, regardless of income, social status or gender and equal access to mental health treatment.

If India does not take a more aggressive stance on the issue of mental health, the country could face serious problems in the future. The World Health Organization predicts that if mental health remains unchecked, 20 percent of the Indian population will suffer from some form of mental illness by 2020; additionally, it determines that mental illness could reduce India’s economic growth by $11 trillion in 2030. Essentially, the cyclical link between mental health and poverty in India must break to enable optimal growth in the future.

Shvetali Thatte
Photo: Pixabay