Inflammation and stories on healthcare

Germany During COVIDCOVID-19 forced Germany to adapt to a new reality as it heavily impacted poverty, unemployment and inequality rates. NGO coalitions are supporting Germany during COVID-19 by providing relief sources for vulnerable individuals and children. On December 16, 2020, Germany initiated a COVID-19 lockdown that received an extension until March 7 to keep citizens safe from new COVID-19 variants. As Germany had suffered approximately 3.4 million cases and 3.1 million recoveries by May 5, 2021, the country has needed to adapt to a new reality during 2020. Government and NGO support formed the backbone for this transition.

Caritas Germany Association

Caritas Germany is a Catholic Welfare Charity Association that pioneered Catholic charity work in Germany since 1897. Recently, the association integrated safe volunteering methods while maintaining services in Caritas hospitals, elderly care facilities and other centers. It even created online services to train people as online counselors as part of a COVID-19 strategy to support Germany.

Approximately 693,082 people work with the association to support 13 million beneficiaries. To maintain contact with everyone during COVID-19, Caritas Germany utilized the Youngcaritas volunteer platform to teach people how to use digital devices through remote tutorials. Caritas Germany’s Press Spokeswoman, Mathilde Langendorf, talked with The Borgen Project. She explained that “our big aim is that no one falls through, that we continue to be able to reach out to people.”

Caritas’ counseling services received an “enormous boost from the pandemic,” making its aim even more crucial. The coalition trained thousands in counseling online during the first year of COVID-19. Langendorf described how 3,000 new people sought help every month on Caritas Germany’s online counseling platform in 2020. The platform even initiated two new counseling topics, regarding young adults and migration, in addition to the 15 already available.

In December 2020, Caritas Germany received 750,000 euros from the Generali insurance company. Langendorf told The Borgen Project that the funds will go toward approximately “21 [COVID-19] projects in 12 locations.” The projects range from training people to use digital tools to help families cope with the challenges of homeschooling.

The Association for Development Aid and Humanitarian Aid (VENRO)

The VENRO Germany coalition represents and advocates for the interests of 140 NGOs while strengthening NGO engagement in the field of development cooperation and humanitarian aid. VENRO’s 2017 to 2022 strategy focuses on protecting human rights, reducing poverty and conserving natural resources. Managing Director, Heike Spielmans, told The Borgen Project that VENRO Germany’s members include “almost all major German NGOs in this field.”

The coalition advocated for decreasing the value of government grants that NGOs have to match with their own funds from 25% to 10%. Spielman’s described how the coalition anticipates progress in a campaign “focused on a supply chain law to make companies take responsibility for their production and sourcing overseas with regard to human rights and environmental protection” before national elections in September 2021.

Government Policies Supporting Germany During COVID-19

A 2017 project authorized by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) was still in progress when COVID-19 hit. The project seeks to achieve Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 10 from the UN Agenda 2030, where no one is left behind. To continue this work, authorities implemented tax and unemployment schemes for vulnerable populations as companies reduced hours and even closed. Germany passed a bill in March 2020 prohibiting landlords from terminating leases or evicting tenants for unpaid rent. The bill also provides rent extensions until June 30, 2022.

On February 12, 2021, Germany’s Federal Government expanded the Bridging Aid II into the Bridging Aid III and Restart Help application portal for companies of all sizes to provide a restart grant of up to 7,500 euros until June 30, 2021. Businesses and self-employed individuals can apply for monthly assistance of up to 1.5 million euros.

Beyond the in-country support, Germany’s government also increased its 2020 humanitarian assistance in Venezuela in a virtual donor conference in May 2020. It promises to increase its contributions by 4 million euros, bringing the total to over 50 million. Germany also seeks to aid refugees. As its refugee cap decreased from 5,500 to 1,178 refugees in 2020, Germany is working to migrate the remaining refugees in 2021.

A Look Ahead

Germany’s government and NGOs stepped up to support Germany during COVID-19’s debilitating effects. Yet another example is how the German Parity Welfare Association, which represents 10,000 NGO organizations, transferred member seminars and workshops online to introduce NGO members to topics ranging from protecting child rights to digitizing work processes during COVID-19. Another NGO, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Germany, is helping German NGOs acquire laptops for beneficiary employment support, PPE and vaccinations. With so many organizations willing to help those in need, Germany can be optimistic about its future.

– Evan Winslow
Photo: Flickr

Migrant workers in Lebanon
For decades, the Lebanese economy has relied heavily on migrant workers to supplement the workforce. The economy provided necessary domestic services and filled up low-level positions in retail, salons and hospitality. The kafala system, a program that encourages employers to hire migrant workers in Lebanon, fueled a sense of dependence on migrant workers in various industries. This institution creates great racial and economic inequality. The employers abuse the migrant workers and offer them substandard pay and inhumane working conditions. This immense disparity worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. The employers placed workers in unsafe situations, forcing them to endure terrible conditions with the imminent threat of job termination.

Refugees and the Kafala System

Currently, refugees and migrant workers make up a quarter of Lebanon’s population. This renders them an extremely valuable sector of society. Tensions between local-born Lebanese citizens and refugees developed during past years. Lebanese individuals and armed forces committed several acts of violence against refugees out of spite and anger. In addition, nearly 90% of Syrian refugees become unemployed and unable to meet housing costs in 2020. Employers fired domestic migrant workers at an alarming rate since the pandemic.

The Anti-Racism Movement found that Lebanese employers terminated their migrant workers, likely due to racial bias. Nevertheless, gaining Lebanese citizenship as a migrant worker is nearly impossible. Due to an antiquated nationality policy set up during the French mandate, only children born to a Lebanese father may obtain full legal status as a Lebanese national. Thus, no feasible pathway exists to permanent residence and legal protection for migrant workers in Lebanon. They end up at the mercy of their employers to keep them in the country.

Medical Inequality Among Migrant Workers

For many migrant workers, medical inequality has become especially prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the cruel implements of the kafala system, migrant workers rely on their employers to provide them with legal residency status. Without Lebanese nationality, these workers do not have entitlement to these benefits that other people within Lebanon possess. Lack of health coverage discourages these migrant workers from seeking out medical help and accessing the treatments they need to ensure their personal wellbeing. As unemployment has continued to rise, thousands of migrant workers are left with no healthcare or legal status. They must return to their home countries, despite the potential endangerment that awaits them.

In an international relations briefing by Natasha Hall, the author notes that “ensuring that people are not prioritized for medical treatment by nationality, as medicine disappears from shelves and intensive care units fill up, is another serious concern.” Migrant workers in Lebanon end up not being able to access treatments due to a lack of insurance and inadequate financial means. This is similar to the United States and other countries that experience inequality. Lebanon faces economic complications, such as inflation rates rising and banks refusing to withdraw money for their customers. It has become nearly impossible for people to obtain the medications they need. Lebanon sustains its medication supply due to imported drugs. Due to the trade challenges facing the nation, Lebanese citizens cannot obtain medicine for their health conditions.

Hope for an End to Migrant Worker Inequality

The kafala system is extremely ruthless. It puts migrant workers at a socio-economic position far below the average Lebanese citizen. This caused a public outcry, sparking change and encouraging reform to the system. According to the Human Rights Watch, “Amendments to the system [in 2020] provide guarantees for workers including 48-hour work weeks, a rest day, overtime payment, as well as sick and annual leaves. Workers can now terminate their contracts without their employer’s consent.” Increased regulations have provided an added layer of protection to the rights of migrant workers in Lebanon.

Luna Khalil
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in UgandaFemale genital mutilation (FGM) is an invasive violation that impacts the short- and long-term health, safety and well-being of girls and women. Internationally recognized for its harm, much work goes into preventing female genital mutilation. Nonetheless, it remains a modern issue. As of 2016, UNICEF reported that one in three girls between the ages of 15 and 19 years old has been subjected to FGM. In the past couple of decades, East Africa has recorded the largest decrease in the use of FGM. Female genital mutilation in girls between the ages of 0-14 has decreased from 71.4% in 1995 to 8.0% in 2016. In 2010, Uganda created the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act. This played a significant role in the reduction of female genital mutilation in Uganda. However, cultural norms, traditions and beliefs continue to create challenges in completely eliminating FGM.

Activist Grandmothers

Lonah Cheptilak, one of the Trail Blazers Foundation’s activist grandmothers, is a “Role Model Mother,” advocating for women and girls in the Amudat District of Uganda. Cheptilak mentors 20 adolescent girls, visiting them at school, tracking their progress and providing counseling. Cheptilak is currently lobbying the district to set up a rescue center in Loroo Sub-County due to the prevalence of FGM and child marriages in the area. She is also fighting for schools to reopen to provide protection for young girls during COVID-19. Cheptilak states, “FGM in Amudat is a bigger problem than COVID-19. Students used to find refuge at school. Now some parents are using the closure as an advantage to cut their daughters in gardens.”

Involving Cultural Leaders

In Uganda, if a woman does not undergo FGM, she faces not only public ridicule but will be in danger of losing her bride price. This is a significant deterrent in choosing to remain uncut, even though legislation makes the practice punishable by law. Research shows that young girls have utilized COVID-19 lockdowns to cut themselves in private and receive medical care afterward. Because of the cultural norm that pressures girls as young as 11 to conduct the atrocity on themselves, it is vital that governments and organizations engage leaders in the community to transform the system from the inside out.

Dorcas Chelain, the vice chairperson of the Amudat District, advises social workers and activists by sharing her cultural knowledge. For instance, Chelain understands that simply speaking to the women in Amudat has proven ineffective. While they may agree that FGM is harmful and must end, the women lack the power to change the system. In order to survive, they defer to the male influence and cultural norms that dictate their reality.

Girls Resist FGM

Innovative problem-solving techniques are required to involve communities in the elimination of harmful traditions. In the conservative Pokot community in the Amudat District of Uganda, the Straight Talk Foundation has been actively engaging with the people and persevering through the difficult process of convincing girls to defy FGM in Uganda. Through this work, 20 girls refrained from undergoing the FGM procedure. Empowered by the support of their parents and the church, they were able to resist FGM and get married despite being uncut.

The women have become an example of possible alternatives for communities that base financial, moral and marriageable worth on FGM. The government of Uganda strategized to include these 20 couples as ambassadors representing the possibility of a new way of life. For their brave resistance, each woman was rewarded with 20 roofing sheets which would help in the construction of a permanent home.

It is clear that to truly end female genital mutilation in Uganda, such a deeply ingrained cultural practice, government, organizations, families and communities must be involved to create lasting change.

– Hannah Brock
Photo: Flickr

The Top 5 Health Tech Companies in SpainThe world of health technology has been growing exponentially in the last decade and continues to grow, especially with the novel coronavirus still affecting the world. One of the most prominent locations for health technology is in Spain. The industry has a large quantity of health tech company startups in Spain; high-quality companies are making new drug discoveries for treatments and creating virtual therapies that can help those in impoverished areas receive the medical care they need. Here are the top five health tech companies making strides in Spain.

The Top 5 Health Tech Companies in Spain

  1. Elma Care is an app that combines comprehensive health insurance with remote medical consultations. This great new resource emerged in Barcelona, Spain, in 2017. Elma Care is one of the top five health tech companies in Spain because the app keeps all of a patient’s medical information in one place, allows consultation with primary care physicians remotely and offers tools like preventative medicine plans to help people access healthcare with more ease and efficiency. All of this is possible from the comfort and safety of the home, allowing for social distancing during the current global pandemic.
  2. Devicare is a specialty biotech company that focuses on chronic diseases. The company, founded in Barcelona, Spain, strives to develop solutions for the treatment process of chronic diseases. The company also offers a mentoring service with a team of experts and nursing staff. Often, chronic diseases involve a multitude of doctor visits and, in many cases, few answers. However, Devicare offers a cheaper and easier way of treating chronic diseases.
  3. Savana Medica provides a platform in which the clinical data for patients from healthcare organizations can be managed. EHRead, a form of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, technology, can obtain valuable health information that aids medical professionals in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. It is one of the top five health tech companies in Spain because this technology fosters quick and efficient access to records, which can help doctors understand a patient’s history of disease and illness.
  4. Genomcore is a company that has created an interface that stores a patient’s genetic information. Founded in 2015 in Barcelona, Spain, the platform that Genomcore provides for patient information can be efficiently shared with medical professionals when necessary. Genomcore helps foster more personalized treatment for patients and consequently the possibility of faster recovery from illness.
  5. Mediktor was founded in 2011 but has made a new name for itself due to increased use during the pandemic. Mediktor is an app that gives symptom assessments to patients via their own personal devices before even seeing a medical professional. In March 2020, the company released the COVID-19 symptom checker. With Mediktor, people were able to determine, with great accuracy, whether or not they needed to see a medical professional in relation to COVID-19 symptoms.

The top five health tech companies in Spain are instrumental to the world of healthcare today. While many people have restricted access to needed medical attention, these new technologies can change that.

– Grace Aprahamian
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in Lesotho  Africa may not have the densest population; nonetheless, it is the continent with the most HIV-afflicted occupants. Lesotho, a small country in Africa, currently has the highest HIV prevalence in Africa and second in the world with 340,000 infected habitants. From mountain ranges to river valleys, the division of regions causes the country to face issues regarding giving access to healthcare in every village. Women experiencing exposure to HIV/AIDS in Lesotho, which endangers health and safety. Moreover, they can pass it on to their offspring while pregnant. Phelisanang Bophelong, a South African initiative, works in “improving young people’s access to HIV friendly services to engage in sexual health and working with prison inmates to ensure they have access to HIV prevention and care services.”

Healthcare in Lesotho

Lesotho, a developing nation in the south of Africa, has seen improvements in the health sector. Nonetheless, some civilians do not receive healthcare services. Rural areas are most affected because of the lack of infrastructure, such as roads between villages. The public sector has compromised to expand the healthcare sector to reach the rural population. Between the 2000s-2010, Lesotho reported having 62 nurses and five doctors per 100,000 habitants. In 2011, the government built new hospitals, and more doctors joined the workforce. Lesotho sees a bright future ahead of it with the support of NGOs like Phelisanang Bophelong and an emergency relief plan on behalf of the United States.

Rural Health Initiatives

HIV/AIDS in Lesotho has become an alarming problem, yet the government has relentlessly increased human resources. Other countries have contributed to emergency relief aid, such as the United States through UNAIDS, which aims to help test citizens and provide antiretroviral therapy. Currently, the mission has covered 81% of the communities across Lesotho.

In 2006, Lesotho’s government launched a healthcare program in rural areas that served 90,000 people. The Ministry of Health launched a new program that involves testing and counseling. It introduced mobile clinics to rural areas which have shown positive results.

Phelisanang Bophelong in Lesotho

In Lesotho, about 23.6% of people between the ages of 15 and 24 currently have HIV. A big problem in countries such as Lesotho is the lack of information about sexual health. Phelisanang Bophelong works to encourage young people to become aware of HIV and its effects. Phelisanang Bophelong is motivating the young population to prevent HIV. It is also incentivizing prison inmates to access care services to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. The NGO managed to diagnose and provide treatment to 200 people with HIV while raising awareness. It has also helped 6,113 young individuals reach out to healthcare services.

While there is always room for improvement, the situation surrounding HIV/AIDS in Lesotho has exponentially improved. NGOs such as Phelisanang Bophelong have promoted sexual health in young adults. This incentive has led to millions of citizens receiving testing for HIV/AIDS while preventing the expansion of it in the country. Meanwhile, relief aid from the United States has prevented illnesses, malnutrition and death in Lesotho. Additionally, the implementation of mobile clinics has given people medical access in harder-to-reach areas.

– Ainara Ruano
Photo: Flickr

2021 Ebola Outbreak In February 2021, the West African country, Guinea, announced that it was facing an outbreak of the Ebola virus, the first the country has seen since the 2013-2016 outbreak. However, this time around, the 2021 Ebola outbreak may be different than that of five years ago.

What is the Ebola Virus?

The Ebola virus is a hemorrhagic fever that is often fatal with a mortality rate that is anywhere from 25% to 90%. The disease spreads through contact with bodily fluids. Ebola survives in nature by spreading between forest-dwelling bats and some other animals, though it sporadically transmits to humans when contact is made with a diseased carcass. Before the epidemic in 2013, most previous Ebola outbreaks occurred in rural communities with cases in the single or double digits.

Previous Ebola Outbreaks

The 2013-2016 epidemic was the largest Ebola outbreak by an unprecedented margin and was the first time the World Health Organization (WHO) considered the disease a major global public health threat. The epidemic, which also began in Guinea, took hold quickly and easily for many reasons. There had previously been no outbreaks of Ebola in West Africa. This caused people to assume the symptoms were that of Lassa fever, a more common disease in the region. The virus had been circulating for three months before the World Health Organization declared an outbreak in March of 2014.

The disease quickly spread within and around Guinea since the systems for contact tracing and containment were weak. By July 2014, it had reached the capital of Guinea, Conakry, and the neighboring capitals of Sierra Leone and Liberia. Funerary traditions and rituals increase transmission because they include touching and spending time with the dead body so traditional burial practices were forbidden.

By the time the WHO designated the virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, it was borderline out of control. By the end of the epidemic, Ebola had erupted in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The disease also spread to other countries in Africa, Europe and the U.S. This resulted in nearly 30,000 cases with more than a third of fatalities.

The 2021 Outbreak of Ebola

In February 2021, one Ebola case was confirmed in the village of Goueke in the southeastern region of Guinea. As of March 3, 2021, the number has reached 17 reported cases, 13 of which are confirmed, along with seven deaths.

However, there is less cause for concern than there was five years ago. Though Guinea’s healthcare system needs improvement, past mistakes and experiences have prepared the region better than ever. The world is certainly better positioned to successfully manage the most recent Ebola outbreak.

Reasons for Optimism

  1. Speed: WHO personnel are already working with the Guinean healthcare system to squash the virus before it becomes a major outbreak. A week after the first case was reported, people began setting up testing sites, contact tracing and treatment facilities. Efforts were also made to improve community engagement to stop the spread.
  2. Prevention: President George Weah of Liberia and the WHO are taking preemptive measures to prepare Liberia and Sierra Leone for the possibility of the spread of the virus.
  3. Science: Since the last major outbreak, the WHO has approved two vaccines for use against the Ebola virus. In fact, unlike the last time, when there was no vaccine at all, 500,000 vaccines are ready to be delivered wherever there is an outbreak. The Guinean health ministry has already set up three vaccination sites in the region near the outbreak and had vaccinated more than 1,000 people at the end of February 2021. It is also using a system called ring vaccinations. This interrupts the spread by vaccinating people directly connected to an Ebola case.
  4. Precedent: There have been outbreaks of Ebola since 2016, and thanks to the above, none have gotten out of control. When the DRC had an outbreak in 2018-2020, nearly 50,000 people were already vaccinated, slowing the spread. Many other countries have approved the vaccines in preparation for a possible outbreak within their own borders.

Global panic arises whenever a deadly disease resurfaces in impoverished communities. However, sufficient preparedness, resources and lessons learned will likely ensure the 2021 outbreak of Ebola is short-lived.

Elyssa Nielsen
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in Mozambique
The East African country of Mozambique has struggled to control the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Since its introduction to southern Africa in the late 1980s, the adult prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Mozambique is around 12.10% – the seventh-highest rate in the world. However, there is good news. Infection rates and deaths that relate to AIDS are decreasing and the country is feeling a surge of international support. Here are three ways in which Mozambique is currently fighting against the epidemic.

Grants

In February 2021, the Government of Mozambique, the Global Fund and other medical partners launched six new grants to expand treatment and service options for HIV, TB and malaria. Actions like this are causing HIV/AIDS in Mozambique to experience a downward trend in cases and deaths.

With greater funds, HIV treatment will become more available. In fact, one can attribute greater access to treatment to the “29% decrease in the number of AIDS-related deaths” from 2006 to 2019. These particular grants are significant because they are worth $773,913,131, a figure that is 49% larger than the previous allocation amount.

The financial assistance aims to reach vulnerable populations, especially adolescent girls, and to make testing widespread. Mozambique is working towards creating strong, sustainable health systems. Health officials are hopeful that these grants will put the country on the path to self-sufficiency where external help is no longer necessary.

Medicine

There have also been recent developments in the world of pharmaceuticals. Mozambique launched a new preventative drug for tuberculosis (TB) on March 24, 2021, which is World Tuberculosis Day. Although this drug does not specifically treat people with HIV/AIDS in Mozambique, the two ailments inextricably connect. HIV greatly weakens the body’s immune system and puts people at high risk for diseases like TB.

The Mozambique Health Minister, Armindo Tiago, explicitly stated, “this programme is aimed at people living with HIV/AIDS.” The new system reduces pill intake from nine to three pills a week and the treatment duration from up to 36 months to just three months. According to Unitaid, “up to 3 million patients are expected to be made available for eligible countries this year.” These countries include Mozambique, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

This shorter, less invasive treatment intends to attract more people seeking medical therapy. If proven successful, it is likely that the number of HIV-related deaths will drop. As a result, Mozambique should gain the upper hand in the fight against communicable diseases.

Clinics

The U.S. NGO, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, is helping combat HIV/AIDS in Mozambique. This organization focuses on preventing pediatric HIV and ending pediatric AIDS all over the world. On March 15, 2021, the NGO donated two mobile clinics that will serve the cities of Maputo, Matola and the district of Marracuene.

The organization intends to provide primary care as well as sexual and reproductive health services to 3,000 young people. It chose the areas of Matola, the district of Marracuene and Maputo because of the high number of teenagers who need “more accurate information” about sexual health and sexually transmitted diseases. The mobile clinics have services for HIV/AIDS testing, tuberculosis, cancer screening, counseling and more.

Implementing these three forms of aid furthers the country’s efforts to make healthcare more accessible for those who need it most. Mozambique is a demonstration of how people across the world are still passionately fighting against HIV/AIDS.

– Lucy Gentry
Photo: Flickr

poverty conditions in The GambiaThe Gambia is a West African country on the Atlantic coast. In 2019, the Human Development Index ranked The Gambia as 174 out of 189 countries. Despite the progress displayed in recent years, particularly in primary education, issues such as food shortages, malnutrition and poverty have only worsened. Roughly 48% of the population live in poverty conditions in The Gambia.

The Gambia’s Economy

Peanut farming and processing remain the most significant industries in the country. The peanut crop is sold to The Gambia Groundnut Corporation. This company assigns the prices for the season in advance, pays the farmers and producers and then sells the product overseas. Once the peanuts are deshelled, they are pressed into oil at pressing mills. The leftover residue is used to make cattle cake.

As the tourism industry grows in size, the construction industry has grown in tandem. Other small industries branch off into selling and manufacturing food products, beverages, footwear, woods and textiles. But as one might expect, this dependence on agriculture limits The Gambia’s ability to make significant headway in advancing economic stability and infrastructure. The situation is worsened by the successive shocks of droughts and floods causing widespread damage, suffering and loss of life. These unyielding weather patterns and weak food production systems caused food insecurity to slowly rise over the past few years.

Housing and Employment

In general, most village houses consist of circular mud huts with thatched roofs. On rare occasions, they build several single-story concrete buildings. The location of homes in a particular community plays a large role in high levels of poverty, as well as with economic and social exclusion. The poor are more likely to live in larger polygamous family units, have more dependent children and live without electricity.

Informal jobs abound. The lack of off-farm labor opportunities in rural areas results in underemployment and outmigration, especially among women and youth. Also, The Gambia’s population is increasing at an incredibly fast rate. This speed is far outpacing the housing supply and the rate at which homes can be built. As a consequence, both villages and larger towns experience overcrowding populations. These conditions contribute to the development of slums in larger communities and poverty conditions in The Gambia.

Healthcare

Despite improvements made since The Gambia achieved independence, the overall state of national health is very poor. Inadequate sanitation directly causes most cases of illness. About one-third of people do not have access to safe drinking water. Malaria poses the most significant health threat, while other tuberculosis and various parasitic diseases are also highly prevalent health issues.

Even though The Gambia has a lower number of HIV/AIDS cases than many other African nations, it increased among younger women during the 2000s. On the other hand, the infant mortality rate in The Gambia is one of the highest in all of Africa, only made worse by the nation’s very young population. About two-thirds of all citizens of The Gambia are under 30 years old. A long-standing shortage of healthcare workers in The Gambia adversely affects the staffing of medical facilities, particularly in rural areas. To address this problem, the government established a medical school to train its doctors and implemented a series of healthcare strategies.

A Brighter Future

The Gambia’s environment, extreme reliance on agriculture and general lack of everyday necessities such as medical care places its citizens in poverty levels that are difficult to escape. But thankfully, hope exists in the many organizations that are working tirelessly to spread awareness and donate money and resources to The Gambia. One prime example is ActionAid Gambia, a nonprofit charity that focuses on achieving social justice, gender equality, and poverty eradication. Founded in 1972, the organization works to promote sustainable agriculture, improve the quality of public education for all children, advocate for women to receive economic alternatives and have control of their reproductive health rights and provide support towards eradicating diseases such as HIV/AIDS and Malaria. Over time and through many people’s efforts, it is possible to speed up the process of development to help decrease poverty conditions in The Gambia.

– Aditya Daita
Photo: Flickr

Improve Developing Medical Systems
There is a large shortage of medical professionals with training at the highest level due to a lack of resources available in the developing world. As a result, medical facilities are failing and there is an increase in the lack of access to medicine and care necessary to support ever-growing populations. Nonetheless, progress still prevails and travel nurses continue to assist in the growth and maintenance of the medical infrastructure throughout developing nations. Several nonprofits, such as One Nurse at a Time and Nursing Beyond Borders, organize and deploy travel nurses to the nations that need support. Here are six ways travel nurses improve developing medical systems.

6 Ways Travel Nurses Improve Developing Medical Systems

  1. Provide New Knowledge: Travel nurses provide a depth of knowledge that is often unavailable to local doctors. Information commonly passes from community to community as nurses travel and learn new practices along the way. Not only does this sharing of information improve developing medical systems, but also improves the nurses’ capabilities. Additionally, Nursing Beyond Borders is part of the program that provides workshops and classes for local communities to promote hygiene and wellness. It also teaches local medical staff to establish a more in-depth knowledge of the practices that exist.
  2. Build Empathy and Community: Many travel nurses who move abroad sacrifice higher-paying positions to embark on a life of adventure. Travel nurses connect with local communities and often build connections by bringing a sense of worldly understanding. Additionally, empathy bolsters the depth of care that individuals receive. Furthermore, it develops a network of trust where individuals can feel comfortable coming back for medical assistance in emergencies. In some rural villages, locals would rather have their families and neighbors assist than travel to medical facilities. Thus, it is paramount that medical facilities exist as safe and empathetic spaces.
  3. Monitor Training During High-Risk Procedures: The organization One Nurse at a Time stated how typically in the developing world, “the lesser the amount of training, the more hands-on the position.” Travel nurses often monitor the training of local nurses who are working based on hands-on experience. This is another form of training that helps improve developing medical systems.
  4. Help Establish Infrastructure: Nursing Beyond Borders is one organization that focuses on building sustainable practices within developing countries. It sends licensed nurses all over the world to partner with local communities to build and improve infrastructure. Additionally, this organization focuses on hygiene, providing essential medical care and educating the local doctors and dentists on follow-up care for patients.
  5. Fill Unavoidable Gaps: While local education and infrastructure are improving in some nations, the nurses from these nations often leave the country in pursuit of higher-paying positions. As such, the Chilean government utilized economic prosperity to build successful private and public universities within the nation. Consequently, many of Chile’s nurses leave the country for better pay after receiving a good education. This leaves the local populations vulnerable.

Field Experience

Travel nurses must be ready for any medical emergency they face, even when it appears to be beyond the scope of their specific specialty. One Nurse at a Time works alongside travel nurses to equip them for the work they will do abroad. In many cases, travel nurses also work on research that is essential to improving global health. As such, travel nurses help to improve the health of the local communities. Travel nurses require patience and a willingness to help in any way possible.

These travel nurses are essential in many impoverished communities. They help improve developing medical systems and the lives of many vulnerable patients. Travel nurses and various organizations continue to help many people all around the world.

– Kate Lucht
Photo: Flickr

Taboo of Menstrual Hygiene
The American Medical Women’s Association defines period poverty as “the inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and education.” This includes limited accessibility to menstrual products like tampons, pads, washing stations and the ability to properly dispose of used products. The World Bank reports that “at least 500 million women and girls globally” lack the basic necessities for healthy menstrual management, making it difficult to combat the taboo of menstrual hygiene.

The inaccessibility of hygienic resources causes several problems for menstruating women and girls around the world. The U.N. states that in sub-Saharan Africa, 10% of school-aged girls will miss days for 20% of the school year due to menstruation. Their cycles, unfortunately, isolate them from their families and loved ones. These girls have to eat alone,  sleep outside and wear the same clothes daily. Society claims they are “unclean” because of their cycles. Studies in Kenya found that it is not uncommon for girls to trade sex to pay for period supplies. Period poverty is a widespread issue. Countries frequently do not address it because of stigmas surrounding menstruation.

Entrepreneurs in the Making

In 2016, South Australian high school students Eloise Hall and Isobel Marshall attended a leadership conference that would start them on a journey of empowering women all over the world. The two young women left the conference with the motivation to do something impactful.

Eloise and Isobel decided that creating a social enterprise would be the most impactful. This is a result of making menstrual hygiene their target objective. They catered to a market that spent $300 million on period supplies annually.

As Isobel and Eloise researched menstrual hygiene, “they were shocked to learn that 30% of girls in developing countries will drop out of school once they start having periods.” They also researched “that far too many reproductive complications stem from the lack of appropriate menstrual health care and education.” They felt a responsibility to contribute to reducing period poverty. Isobel and Eloise launched their company, Taboo, over the next few years with an immense amount of effort, fundraising, persistence and heart.

Team Taboo

Taboo makes organic cotton period products, pads and tampons. Taboo sells them online and in stores throughout Australia. The Taboo team consists only of volunteers. Taboo has a commitment to using ethically sourced materials in its products. It also donates 100% of its profits. The money goes straight to One Girl, a nonprofit organization that “…break[s] down the barriers that girls face in accessing an education. [They] do this by running girl-led programs in Sierra Leone and Uganda to drive positive change for girls and their communities.” One Girl teaches on menstrual hygiene, which is a frequent topic. Taboo also donates menstrual products, thus,  assisting the program with spreading awareness. One Girl distributes its products to its program members. It also combats the taboo of menstrual hygiene.

Eloise and Isobel sought to help their local community. In addition to their support of One Girl, they offer their consumers an option to subscribe to Taboo’s menstrual hygiene products on behalf of “disadvantaged” women in South Australia. They make a monthly trip to a women’s crisis center called Vinnie’s to hand deliver all donated supplies.

Taboo’s first products released in 2019. This company has made a huge impact in this short time. This contributes to Australia’s desire to combat the taboo of menstrual hygiene. In January 2021, co-founder Isobel Marshall became the recipient of the Young Australian of the Year award. The Taboo team is hopeful this recognition will spread awareness of the period poverty crisis.

Rachel Proctor
Photo: Flickr