Inflammation and stories on healthcare

10 Facts About Corruption in Pakistan
Pakistan, a nation of 197 million, has long been an ally of the U.S. and has come a long way in combatting corruption and graft within its government infrastructure. Nevertheless, the 21st century has seen corruption grip the country. Pakistan rates 33/100 on Transparency International’s Corruption Index (lower numbers = more corrupt and vice versa) and ranks 133/180 in terms of corruption. GAN states that corruption is a significant obstacle to all forms of business in Pakistan, regardless of whether the actor is a large multinational, an international NGO or a Pakistani corporation. Despite efforts by the national government and provincial legislatures to reduce corruption, it still presents a severe stumbling block to national growth. NGOs, despite the massive hurdles that corruption creates, have filled in the gap and begun working across the country to fight it. Anti-Corruption Force Organization Pakistan (ACFOP) is one such organization with chapters active in every province of Pakistan providing representation for the marginalized and a voice for those who have suffered monetarily and physically as a result of corruption in the system. With that, here are 10 facts about corruption in Pakistan.

10 Facts About Corruption in Pakistan

  1. Corrupt Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif: The leak of the Panama Papers in 2016 revealed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his children owned four offshore companies through which they laundered money and facilitated bribes. Sharif received 10 years in jail by Pakistan’s anti-graft court, while his daughter Maryam received a seven-year sentence.  Sharif also garnered a lifelong ban from politics, effectively ending his hopes of a political dynasty.
  2. Corruption in the Army: Pakistan’s Armed Forces has a long history of corruption. According to Shamil Sams, writing for DW, the Pakistani government manages its own budget and can increase it without civilian oversight. Army officials have engaged in illegal activities such as cross-border smuggling, illegal toll collection at military checkpoints, illegally levying funds from private businesses and extorting landowners in the Okara region.
  3. Corruption in Law Enforcement: The presence of police corruption in Pakistan is a daily reality for a shocking number of Pakistani citizens. According to the Michelsen Institute, almost 100 percent of correspondents to a Transparency International survey reported daily solicitation of bribes by police officials. Policemen in multiple provinces have received accusations of performing extra-legal killings and torturing detainees. There is even a phrase for the culture of corruption in the law enforcement field; Thana Culture, an Urdu-derived word for police station. Human Rights Watch indicates that there is a critical lack of political will to reform law enforcement in Pakistan and that there is a framework of legal protections that shield law enforcement officials from accountability.
  4. Corruption in the Judiciary: Bribery is incredibly commonplace in Pakistani courtrooms. The Michelsen Institute found that 96 percent of all correspondents who came into contact with the judiciary encountered corruption in 2006 and that 44 percent had to pay a bribe directly to a court official. The procedure to select judges on a national level is highly susceptible to political favors, and the judges themselves receive an exemption from an audit by the National Accountability Bureau. The PTI party (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf/Pakistan Movement for Justice) has made judicial reform one of its targets now that it is the head of the ruling coalition. It is currently considering numerous reforms to the judiciary to combat rampant corruption.
  5. Corruption in Rail Transit: According to Pakistan Today, corruption and mismanagement in public transportation are exceedingly common. In a 2010-2011 audit, the Pakistani government concluded that the lion’s share of Pakistan Railways’ financial deficit was the result of embezzlement and wastage of funds. Following the audits, there were numerous investigations to provincial and national level transit administrations. Another high-profile surplus scandal in 2014 prompted another wave of investigations, with the NAB (National Accountability Bureau) spearheading the effort.
  6. Corruption in Public Utilities: Transparency International found that almost 64 percent of citizens surveyed established power in their home through alternative methods, all of which fall under the purview of corruption. These methods include payments to office staff and having to make repeated payments in order to get services. Ninety-five percent of these correspondents also reported additional corruption when it came time to pay the bills. ACFOP has been active in this field, advocating for the poor in provinces like Punjab and Balochistan and offering legal counsel in their struggles against utility companies as a part of their mission.
  7.  Corruption in Health Care: According to research from the University of Karachi, petty corruption in health care is an increasingly dire problem in Pakistan. Its research uncovered the widespread presence of corruption in hospitals servicing low-income communities. It also found that out of 342 people surveyed, one-third encountered corruption in the form of paying bribes during admissions. People paid these bribes to doctors, hospital staff and even nurses. ACFOP has taken to social media and the public sector to raise awareness of corruption in health care on the provincial and national levels.
  8. Corruption in Taxation: Transparency International reports that corruption is prevalent among bureaucrats that involve themselves in tax collection. Its research found that tax inspectors and officials accounted for 14 percent of bribes that the average consumer paid out in a year. NGOs like the ACFOP and Transparency International Pakistan are working across all provinces of Pakistan to fight corruption in tax collection by identifying cases of corruption and lobbying local governments.
  9. Cricket Corruption: Corruption is so prevalent in Pakistan that it has leached into its sports teams. In 2011, members of Pakistan’s national cricket team received a conviction of receiving bribes from a bookmaker and agreeing to underperform at the team’s match against the British cricket team during the Lord’s test match. The International Cricket Council banned the players along with bookmaker Mazhar Majeed, and the players received prison sentences.
  10. National Accountability Bureau: Others have even accused the National Accountability Bureau, which is an organization that emerged in 1999 to fight corruption. In 2015, the Supreme Court of Pakistan accused the NAB of mismanagement. According to DAWN, two mishandled cases, one involving finance officers stealing from bomb victims and another dealing with land misappropriation, drew the ire of the Supreme Court, which claimed that “This represents serious maladministration and want of proper procedures and supervision within NAB.”

Hopefully, these 10 facts about corruption in Pakistan illuminate a critical but often overlooked shortcoming of one of the U.S.’s closest allies in the Middle East. It is important for a wider audience to see these facts so that NGOs around the world can do their part to help the people of Pakistan.

– Benjamin Mair-Pratt
Photo: Flickr

Ebola Virus DiseaseImagine traveling 1,316 kilometers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to Uganda seeking medical help for your nine-year-old daughter who seems to have been infected with the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).

On August 29, 2019, a nine-year-old girl from the DRC was exposed and later developed symptoms of this rare and fatal disease. She was identified at the Mpondwe-Kasindi border point and then sent to an Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) in Bwera, Uganda. Sadly, not too long after her arrival, the child passed away.

This sporadic epidemic has come back yet again and bigger than last time. This disease has infected the North Kivu Province and has caused more than 2,200 cases, along with 1,500 deaths just this year. Thus, making this the second-largest outbreak in history following behind the 2014-2016 outbreak that killed about 11,000 people. As of September 4, 2019, a total of 3,054 Ebola Virus Disease cases were reported. Out of that total number of cases, 2,945 of them were confirmed reports and the rest of the 109 were probable cases. Overall, 2,052 of those people died.

This disease has had a total of 25 outbreaks since its first flare-up in the Ebola River in 1967. It has plagued countries spanning from the West to sub-Saharan Africa and has a 25 to 90 percent fatality rate. Even though reports are coming from 29 different health zones, the majority of these cases are coming from the health zones of Beni, Kalunguta, Manima and Mambasa. About 17 of these 29 health zones have reported new cases stating that 58 percent of probable and confirmed cases are female (1,772), 28 percent are children under the age of 18 (865) and 5 percent (156) are health workers.

This 2019 case is different because of the way that Ebola Virus Disease is affecting an area of the country that is undergoing conflict and receiving an influx of immigrants. The nation’s “political instability,” random acts of violence and “limited infrastructure” also contribute to the restricted efforts to end the outbreak.  As of June 2019, the disease started its expansion to Uganda, with four cases confirmed near the eastern border shared with DRC, South Kivu Province and Rwanda borders. The World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative of Uganda, Yonas Tegegn, stated that whoever came into contact with the nine-year-old patient had to be vaccinated.

Out of the five Congolese who had contact with the little girl, four of them have been sent back to their country for “proper follow-ups.” Another 8,000 people were vaccinated against Ebola due to “high-risk areas in the country.”  Overall, 200,000 people in DRC have been vaccinated against EVD along with “health workers in surrounding countries.” With this being said, there is no official vaccination that is known to effectively protect people from this disease. Therefore an “effective experimental vaccine” has been found suitable enough for use. Also, a therapeutic treatment has shown “great effectiveness” in the early stages of the virus.

Ugandan authorities have taken matters into their own hands, strengthened border controls and banned public gatherings in areas that have been affected by EVD. According to the August 5, 2019 risk assessment, the national and regional levels are at higher risk of contracting EVD while the global level risk is low.

The Solutions

The World Health Organization (WHO) is doing everything they can to prevent the international spread of this disease. They have implemented the International Health Regulations (2005) to “prevent, protect against, control and provide international responses” to the spread of EVD.

This operational concept includes “specific procedures for disease surveillance,” notifying and reporting public health events and risks to other WHO countries, fast risk assessments, acting as a determinant as to whether or not an event is considered to be a public health emergency and coordinating international responses.

WHO also partnered up with the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) to ensure that proper “technical expertise” and skills are on the ground helping people that need it most. GOARN is a group of institutions and networks that use human and technical resources to “constantly alert” one another to rapidly identify, confirm and respond to “outbreaks of international importance.”  WHO and GOARN have responded to over 50 events around the world with 400 specialists “providing field support” to 40 countries.

– Isabella Gonzalez Montilla
Photo: Flickr

El Salvador

The youth in El Salvador, one of the world’s most violent countries, face a lot of obstacles when it comes to getting an education. With the poverty rate at 31 percent and teen pregnancy on the rise, going to school and getting an education in El Salvador is not a simple feat. Avoiding gang violence, affording transportation and supplies, finding employment or valuable training after high school are all challenges that the youth in El Salvador face when it comes to receiving an education.

However, there are several companies and organizations aimed at improving the quality of education in El Salvador. These innovative companies develop programs and projects with the purpose of bettering the lives of the young. These programs help students with job training, English-language learning skills, sex education, brain education and education for students with disabilities.

IBREA and Brain Education

IBREA is a nonprofit organization founded in 2008, aimed at spreading knowledge about the relationship between the brain and body. Ilich Lee, the founder of IBREA believes that through holistic education like meditation, artistic expression and group work, people can achieve peace within themselves and eventually within their communities. IBREA has offered educational programs, seminars and carried out several projects in countries around the world including Liberia, Costa Rica, Sierra Leone and El Salvador.

IBREA began working in El Salvador in 2011 and is currently present in one-fourth of the country’s schools. IBREA has made a notable impact on a school in the district of Distrito Italia. This district is one of many deeply affected by gang violence and poverty in El Salvador. Students, teachers and principals alike have said that since the beginning they have noticed significant improvements in their physical health, stress levels, and motivation in IBREA programs. Other improvements include better peer relations, clarity, decision-making and emotion regulation. The IBREA Foundation is continuing to make strides in El Salvador and Ilich Lee has even received the “Jose Simeon Cañas” award from the previous president of El Salvador Salvador Sánchez Cerén for the positive impact IBREA has had on schools in El Salvador.

FULSAMO and Vocational Training

FULSAMO is a nonprofit organization based in El Salvador aimed at improving the lives and creating opportunities for at-risk youth in El Salvador. Through various programs located in Community Centers throughout El Salvador, FULSAMO works to keep the youth of El Salvador away from gang violence by offering training programs that help them find employment. Currently, FULSAMO has four locations in Soyapango, a municipality in El Salvador.

FULSAMO is currently offering training sessions for work in call centers. The course is six months long, and students are offered help finding relevant employment upon its completion. Unemployment for the youth in El Salvador is nearly 12 percent, but only 7 percent for El Salvador’s general population. Since youth are more at risk for joining gangs, programs like FULSAMO are vital for the betterment of the community. Aside from training opportunities, FULSAMO also offers programs centered on arts, music and leadership.

“Comunidades Inclusivas” for Children with Disabilities

“Comunidades Inclusivas” is a project created by an Education Professor at the University of Maryland. The goal of this project is to make education in El Salvador more accessible to people with disabilities. Through small programs and networks, Comunidades Inclusivas works to have people with disabilities more socially involved in their communities so these connections can be used as a means to more access to education.

In developing nations, it is likely that children living in poverty, who can’t afford supplies such as uniforms, will drop out of school. For children with disabilities who may need more or different resources and supplies than students without disabilities, their likelihood of dropping out is increased. According to the Global Citizen, 90 percent of children living with disabilities are not in school, and 80 percent of people with disabilities, live in developing countries. The El Salvadorian government has made an effort to improve the lives of those living with disabilities and has had previous laws protecting their rights to public transportation and employment in place for decades. In 2018 the El Salvadorian government also passed an act that allowed the Basic Solidarity Pension Fund to apply to people with disabilities.

Through a partnership with International Partners, a nonprofit organization, Comunidades Inclusivas developed “Circulos de Amigos.” This is an initiative that connects people in a community who support and aid people with disabilities. Members of Circulos de Amigos support people with disabilities and their families by providing assistance during home visits, building ramps, and other specific needs. By improving the connection between people with disabilities and their community, Comunidades Inclusivas raises awareness and builds support systems for people with disabilities and their families. This ultimately makes education in El Salvador more of a possibility for people with disabilities.

Sex Education in Centro Escolar

Although teen pregnancy is prevalent in El Salvador, some educators aim to teach their students about sex education despite cultural stigmas. Females between 10 and 19 years old account for one-third of all pregnancies in El Salvador. In Panchimalco, a district south of El Salvador’s capital, San Salvador, educators are taking the risk of teaching sex education, but do it in a way that avoids scrutiny.

Because sex education in El Salvador is sometimes associated with contraceptives and abortion, certain teachers (whose real identities are hidden) in Panchimalco take a different approach when trying to inform students about sex education to avoid ridicule from people in the community. For example, the courses inform students about gender rights and gender equality. This is especially important since the homicide rate for females is 12 for every 100,000 people and over 60 percent of females over the age of 15 have experienced some form of abuse by a male. Sex education courses help students recognize sexual violence, report sexual violence, recognize their rights, and plan for the future.

Although sex education is just in its beginning stages, if it continues, the bravery from teachers will make a difference in student’s lives.

– Desiree Nestor
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is a small nation in the Caribbean including several islands. Many consider it to be one of the most prosperous countries in the area and it boasts relatively good social indicators. That does not mean that its people have completely escaped the troubles of everyday life that come with residing in a developing country, though. Despite its high standing within the Caribbean it still does not compare well with the rest of the world. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda will shed a light on the country’s struggles as well as the progress it has made and what impact that has on its citizens.

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda

  1. Life Expectancy is Improving: Life expectancy for the people of Antigua and Barbuda is 72.3 years old. This is one of the strongest indicators of the steady progress that the country is making. Since 1960, there has been an enormous jump from the previous life expectancy of 52.5 according to the World Bank.
  2. Infant Mortality is Improving: Infant mortality rates are improving but still stand at almost double those of many western countries. UNICEF reported that the current infant mortality rate for children under the age of 5 stands at 7.4 deaths per 1,000 births. This shows great improvement considering that the infant mortality rate was over triple that number in 1990 at 26.3 deaths per 1,000 births.
  3. The Country is Susceptible to Natural Disaster: A Caribbean country, Antigua and Barbuda faces the constant threat of hurricanes. A semi-recent hurricane to hit the country was Hurricane Irma which caused mass devastation. While the country did not suffer massive numbers of casualties, injuries and displacement were rampant. The country was still facing the damage years later resulting in Prime Minister Gaston Browne proposing a complete rehaul of the landowning system in an effort to rebuild the country’s destroyed property.
  4. Poverty is Prevalent: There is still a relatively large amount of poverty within the country. The Headcount Index places 18.3 percent of the population of Antigua and Barbuda as being below the poverty line. Around 3.7 percent of the population falls within the indigent population and another 10 percent is vulnerable. Estimates put the poverty line in Antigua and Barbuda at $2,366 puts into perspective the lack of income that such a large portion of the population lives on. Despite these grim numbers, Antigua and Barbuda still ranks among the most well perfuming Caribbean nations with the second-lowest poverty rate. While little new data is available, an optimist might take continued economic growth as a sign that things have been improving.
  5. Unemployment Rates are High: Reports stated that the unemployment rate in 2011 was 10.2 percent with a breakdown of 11.2 percent of men being unemployed and 9.4 percent of women being unemployed. The biggest age bracket falls within the 15-25 range and no doubt contributes to the relatively high aforementioned poverty rates.
  6. Nourishment is Varied:  Antigua and Barbuda does not guarantee nourishment to every citizen. Data collected in different areas of Antigua and Barbuda showed a major discrepancy with nourishment between those areas. When looking at the percentage of children malnourished over 12 months in two different cities, Bendals and Clare Hall, 1.2 percent of children in Bendals were malnourished, while 10.3 percent of children in Clare Hall were malnourished. The country is has continued to address this issue and in 2013, the Zero Hunger Challenge advertised as an advocacy tool for irradiating world hunger by the Food and Agriculture Organization, which is the leading U.N. agency fighting hunger.
  7. Water Shortages are an Issue: As a Caribbean nation, Antigua and Barbuda has not escaped the water shortage that the entire area is facing. As of 2015, the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) made it known that the country did not have consistent access to running water. In 2017, Antigua and Barbuda was among 37 countries predicted to have “extremely high” levels of water stress.
  8. Health Care has Potential: The government of Antigua and Barbuda provides 100 percent of the population with health care with a reported 2.77 percent of the GDP going towards public health. The publicly financed system provides maternal and child health, community mental health and dental care. While the country provides some care, several tourists have expressed dissatisfaction with the public health care system, which highlights that there might still be more room for further improvement.
  9. Educational Trends are Promising: Not only are primary and secondary school completely free, but they are also compulsory. This no doubt plays a part in the adult literacy rate of 98 percent for those above the age of 15. For context, the Caribbean has an overall adult literacy rate of just 71 percent, well below that of Antigua and Barbuda.
  10. Incentives to Eliminate the Top Killers: Antigua and Barbuda has had the same four leading causes of death for over 10 years. Those four are heart disease, stroke, diabetes and respiratory infections. While there is little clear data on the causes of these diseases in Antigua and Barbuda specifically, medical professionals often attribute them to poor diet, air quality, and access. There have been incentives to improve health care as well as education in the country.

A small nation with a small population of 105,000 people, people often overlook Antigua and Barbuda when addressing the global issues of poverty. However, it is important to realize that people should not overlook any nation and these 10 facts about life expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda are just a snapshot into the progress and problems the country is addressing.

– Samira Darwich
Photo: Max Pixel

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Kazakhstan
Life expectancy in Kazakhstan has been steadily increasing since the mid-1990s. As the world’s largest landlocked country, Kazakhstan is a Central Asian nation that extends into two continents and is abundant with natural resources. Along with Kazakhstan’s increased life expectancy, the country is in a period of economic growth – its economy expanded by 4.1 percent in 2018 due strong private consumption and a higher number of oil exports. Subsequently, poverty in Kazakhstan has fallen to 7.4 percent. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Kazakhstan.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Kazakhstan

  1. As of July 2018, the population in Kazakhstan was 18.7 million making it the 63rd largest country in the world. With a life expectancy of 71.4 years at birth, women average 76.3 years for life expectancy compared to men at 66.2 years. There is a high mortality rate for men in the former Soviet Union regions due to alcoholism, alcohol-related incidents, diseases and suicide.
  2. The life expectancy rate in Kazakhstan is higher than in other Central Asian countries like Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. Kazakhstan even has a higher life expectancy rate than Russia, which borders the nation to the North.
  3. Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country by landmass with a population growth rate of 0.98 percent. The largest population clusters appear in the urban areas, both in the far northern and far southern parts of the nation. The interior region of Kazakhstan is mostly remote and uninhabitable.
  4. Rural areas tend to see slower development and infrastructure. While 99 percent of the urban drinking water sources have improved, only 85 percent of the rural population saw improvement. The 14.4 percent of unimproved drinking water sources in rural areas could be a factor in life expectancy rates due to various communicable diseases that thrive in poor hygienic conditions. Two prevalent diseases that affect Kazakh citizens – diarrhea and hepatitis A – are contracted easily from contaminated water.
  5. In less than two decades, Kazakhstan has transitioned from lower-middle-income to upper-middle-income status, according to The World Bank. The poverty rate in Kazakhstan is relatively low, with only 4.3 percent of inhabitants living below the poverty line. This is lower than the majority of Kazakhstan’s Central Asia and Middle East neighbors.
  6. While life expectancy has increased and child and maternal mortality rates have decreased, the government struggles to provide and balance basic health care systems in Kazakhstan. Hospitals are the keystone in health care delivery, with in-patient care utilizing 45 percent of the public health budget. The number of general practitioners and primary-care physicians in Kazakhstan is relatively low. The long lines and lack of specialists may daunt Kazakh citizens when receiving basic health care services.
  7. Kazakhstan is a relatively youthful country with only 7.9 percent of the population being 65 years or older. The largest age structure in Kazakhstan is the 25-54 group that makes up 42.3 percent, making the median age in Kazakhstan 30.9 years. The median age in the United States is 38.2.
  8. Education and literacy can be a factor in life expectancy due to the lifelong economic benefits of an education. Ninety-nine percent of Kazakhstan is literate and the country offers free mandatory education up to the end of high school.
  9. Lifestyle choices, such as diet, are important to note when understanding the factors that influence life expectancy in Kazakhstan. A traditional Kazakh diet is heavily meat-based. There is an abundance of preserved foods due to the diets of the early Kazakh nomads, which include salted or dried meats, fermented dairy products and pickled vegetables. Fresh vegetables are often deficient in the Kazakh diet.
  10. Economic opportunities help citizens to live longer, happier and more fulfilling lives. The Youth Corps Program in Kazakhstan works to support vulnerable youth by developing community projects. For example, a soft-toy making club for disabled youth in the town of Kapchagai provides young people with disabilities the chance to learn new skills and generate a source of income.

Kazakhstan has made significant progress in social and economic reforms in the decades since its independence from the Soviet Union. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Kazakhstan show that the average life expectancy has improved through a reduction of poverty rates and an emphasis on education. Development in rural regions and improving universal health care are imperative to keep Kazakhstan’s life expectancy on the rise.

– Trey Ross
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Greece
The life expectancy age in Greece has been at a constant 0.22 percent increase since 2015. Out of all the countries in the world, Greece ranked at number 31 in 2019. The current average age of life expectancy is 81 years old. There are many factors that affect this average but the main one is poverty. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Greece and how it relates to poverty.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Greece

  1. The CIA World Factbook reported that the average living ages in 2017 were 83 for women and 71 for men. This coincides with the current average living age of 83 for women but men have increased by at least seven years since 2017.
  2. Socioeconomic status and class tend to directly correlate with poverty. The unemployment rate in Greece is currently 15.3 percent, which is much higher than the average unemployment rate. Unemployment can put Greeks in a lower class range, thereby forcing them into poverty. According to the IFA, as one’s status decreases so does one’s life expectancy.
  3. Access to good health care can affect life expectancy because if one has better access to health care, they could live longer. In Greece, public health care has been chronically underfunded and the country does not have an integrated health system making it harder for Greeks to receive proper assistance. Greece is trying to transition into a new health system to improve health care. These efforts include focussing on promotion and prevention in order to provide public health service at a regional level and district level.
  4. The Changemakers is an organization that started a competition called Destination: Change. New Solutions for Greece. It is meant to help find sustainable and systemic solutions for problems in Greek society. It looks at how to reduce issues like poverty which may affect the rate of life expectancy.
  5. In 2018, poverty rates increased by 6.7 percent in Greece and Eurostat data stated that more than 20 percent of Greeks have “severe material deprivation.” This means that there is an inability to afford items suited for a quality life among individuals and families in Greece.
  6. Help Age International is an organization that measures how elderly populations are doing in various countries. It conducted an annual study that shows how the elderly population in Greece have the poorest quality of life in Europe. Greece ranked 79th in quality of life compared to 96 other countries. Although Greece’s life expectancy is higher than the European average, more than 19.3 percent of its population is elderly. Understandably, health care and finances might impact the elderly’s life expectancy. Life expectancy is high but the quality of life among the elderly is not.
  7. Poverty rates in Greece are increasing and more Greeks are at risk of being in poverty. The financial crisis Greece encountered has caused a lot of this. Greece currently owes the European Union 290 billion euros. An article by Greek reporter Nick Kampouris stated that since 2018, “34 percent of Greeks are in danger of living in poverty.”
  8. The World Health Organization is trying to improve the quality of health care in order to improve life expectancy. It works in 150 different countries working to provide quality health care to those in need, and in turn, helps improve life expectancy. Greece has a representative who gives and collects data concerning its population.
  9. According to a report from the OECD in 2017, over the past 10 years, “Despite stalling in 2007, 2012 and 2015, life expectancy at birth is now over a year higher than it was a decade ago in Greece.” This is due to the fact that many Greeks reported being in good or very good health in the years following 2015.
  10. A BBC travel article published in 2017 stated that the Island of Ikaria has the highest life expectancy rate in Greece. Katerina Karnarou, a local of the Island of Ikaria, happens to be the oldest woman in Greece. People of this island often live longer with many citizens living past 90. Their diets and active lifestyles are what permits them to live so long and rank them as one of the top five locations with the highest life expectancy.

Poverty tends to have a huge impact on life expectancy in Greece. Poverty impacts socioeconomic status, health or living conditions, which all influence the longevity of each citizen. When more Greeks are falling towards the poverty line, they may find it challenging to access what is necessary to live a long, healthy life.

– Jessica Jones
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Austria
The Republic of Austria is a nation wedged within Central Europe. Many consider its water quality as one of the highest in Europe and several NGOs are working towards bringing the nation’s economic and environmental sustainability up to par with the EU. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Austria.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Austria

  1. Since 2000, life expectancy in Austria has increased by three years. Currently, the life expectancy average in Austria is 82-years-old which is more than the OECD average of 80-years-old. However, averages between women and men differ as the average for women is 84-years-old and the average for men is 79-years-old.
  2. Despite the World Health Organization’s guideline limit of 10 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5 air pollutants, Austria exceeds it by 6.3 micrograms. According to a 2017 WHO publication, the fact that Austrian residents often heat with wood and coal contribute to the nation’s pollution. As a result, affected Austrians experience respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. Lower respiratory problems are the sixth highest cause of death in Austria.
  3. In order to improve the nation’s air quality, VCÖ-Mobilität mit Zukunft works to bring efficient mobility to the country. Founded in 1988, VCÖ develops projects with Austria’s decision-makers aimed at lowering emissions. Since its inception, VCÖ has produced publications arguing for climate-friendly transportation. Moreover, in 2018, VCÖ conducted a railroad test with 10,000 Austrians to exemplify that Austrian railroads need new offerings to improve the nation’s air quality.
  4. Adding to the 10 facts about life expectancy in Austria, about 92 percent of residents in Austria are satisfied with their water quality. In 1959, due to the nation’s high levels of wastewater, the Austrian federal government implemented the Austrian Water Act. The Act included initiatives that work to reduce wastewater. In order to achieve this mission, the Austrian government established monitoring programs to test the nation’s bodies of water for pollutants. As a result of running these tests and implementing wastewater purification plants and a larger sewage system, Austria reduced its waste-water and improved the nation’s water quality.
  5. When it comes to security, the majority of Austrians feel safe in their country. Around 81 percent of Austrians say they feel safe at night. Austria’s homicide rate of 0.5 ranks as one of the lowest rates in the OECD.
  6. A recent report from WHO states that the leading causes of death in Austria are cardiovascular disease and cancer. Diabetes and dementia rates have also increased and worked their way up into the top 10 causes of death. Despite the rise in various diseases, however, around 70 percent of Austrians believe the are in good health.
  7. Around 99.9 percent of Austrians receive health-care coverage. In 2012, the Federal government covered 29 percent of Austrians’ health expenditures while health insurance funds covered 44.8 percent. Given that the majority of Austrians’ have covered health care, Austrians have a strong access to health care that contributes to their health and life expectancy.
  8. Following a 2009 GDP fall, Austria’s household capacity plateaued while basic living costs increased. As a result, Austria’s impoverished population increased through 2015. Due to a lack of resources, impoverished Austrians are less likely to afford health care, and therefore, are at risk for poor health. In order to find solutions for impoverished Austrians, Austria ASAP launched in 2013 and worked toward enhancing academics’ impact on poverty. Since its inception, Austria ASAP has released publications debunking social presumptions about Austrians living in poverty.
  9. In comparison to other European countries, Austria’s public spending on health is low. In 2015, Germany and Sweden spent between 18 and 21 percent of total government spending on health care. Meanwhile, Austria only utilized 15.1 percent of its total government spending. Given the public spending is lower in Austria than in other nations, Austrians experience less financial security and are at a higher risk of impoverishment due to health care costs.
  10. Amongst the countries in the EU, Austria is below average in resource productivity. Austria produces EUR 1.79 per kilogram in comparison to the EU average of EUR 2.04 per kilogram. Therefore, in March 2018, several NGOs launched the Circular Futures Platform to transition Austria into a circular economy. The Circular Economy Action Plan mission intends to eventually put an end to lower residual waste and reduce the toxins polluting the environment and attributing to 3,000-4,000 Austrian deaths every year.

Through an analysis of increasing life expectancy and high health insurance coverage, these 10 facts about life expectancy in Austria demonstrate why the nation ranks high on the Better Life Index. With increased efforts to improve the economy and air quality, Austria can become a model nation for the world.

– Niyat Ogbazghi
Photo: Flickr

 

World Changing Celebrities
People often recognize celebrities for their music and performances but there are a variety of stars that use their fame as a platform to support charities, create foundations and change the world. Below are five world changing celebrities that are actively using their voice to fight global poverty.

Leonardo DiCaprio Protects Indigenous Rights

Along with spreading awareness and educating followers about climate change on his Instagram page, DiCaprio created the Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation which focusses on protecting all of Earth’s inhabitants. It has recently partnered with Earth Alliance to address and take steps to find solutions to major threats to the planet’s life support systems.

One of his most notable works is the protection of indigenous rights. Dicaprio’s Foundation helps fund programs focused on and led by indigenous people. It helps indigenous people defend their rights, create renewable energy sources, develop sustainable livelihoods and increase the political impact of advocacy efforts. As of 2015, The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation accumulated $15 million in grants to fund innovative organizations and environmental projects focused on preserving and protecting the planet.

Christy Turlington Assists with Childbirth Safety in Haiti and Uganda

Because of her personal experience with complications in childbirth, Turlington is using her voice to advocate the importance of making childbirth safe for every woman. In 2010, she worked on “No Woman, No Cry,” a documentary that told the stories of pregnant women in four different countries: Bangladesh, Guatemala, Tanzania and the United States. She expressed the need for lifesaving medical care for women giving birth in case of the occurrence of complications.

She also founded the nonprofit Every Mother Counts, an organization that focuses on the health and wellbeing of mothers all over the world. As of now, her organization has partners in countries like Guatemala, Haiti, India, Tanzania and the U.S., and has impacted more than 600,000 lives.

Matt Damon Gives Access to Safe Water

Another of the world changing celebrities is Matt Damon, who is the co-founder of Water.org, an organization focused on providing families with safe water and sanitation. The foundation hopes that less time spent searching for water will allow children to go to school and get an education, improve health and help the economy. Damon’s foundation expresses the importance of access to affordable financing through WaterCredit. WaterCredit is a pay-it-forward system that makes it possible for household water and toilet solutions by bringing repayable loans to those who need access to affordable financing. In total, Damon’s foundation has benefited more than 20 million people across 12 different countries.

The Lewis Family Improves Access to Health Care

In the 1980s, Ryan Lewis’ mother, Julie Lewis, contracted HIV due to a blood transfusion from pregnancy complications. She lived through her prognosis and decided to create the 30/30 project. The 30/30 project’s main focus is to improve access to comprehensive health care by building multiple medical facilities worldwide. The project has placed a total of 30 medical facilities in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, South Africa, Togo, India, the U.S., Rwanda, Bolivia and Puerto Rico.

The organization places medical facilities based on the needs of the area. For example, the Mbita Clinic in Kenya intends to prevent and treat major diseases, which include HIV, TB, malaria, water­borne illnesses and respiratory and heart ailments. The Mbita Clinic reduces waiting cues, prioritizes critical care needs, improves conditions for the staff and allows for service expansion due to the district’s high infant mortality rate and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. In total, the medical facilities have had 215,963 patient visits.

Bono Fights to End Extreme Poverty

In 2004, Bono co-founded the ONE organization. ONE’s goal is to end extreme poverty and preventable illnesses and diseases by 2030. ONE is a nonprofit organization with diverse groups of people. These groups come together and take action to organize, mobilize, educate and advocate for gender equality, youth employment, quality education and equal access to health services. ONE has secured over $30 billion in funding for historic health initiatives. It also helped pass the Electrify Africa Act of 2016, a U.S. legislation on energy poverty.

From actors to musicians, these five world changing celebrities put their public reputations to use by showing everyone that their voices matter and are an important key to make a difference and change the world.

– Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Tajikistan
Tajikistan is located in central Asia, with Kyrgyzstan, China, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan bordering. Though the smallest in land size, Tajikistan does have a higher elevation average with a more mountainous landscape which should place it at a disadvantage with the spread of health care. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Tajikistan.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Tajikistan

  1. According to data from the United Nations, Tajikistan ranks 134th in life expectancy for both sexes and second in relation to its neighboring countries. Life expectancy in Tajikistan follows the global trend of rising and currently has a male life expectancy of 68.6 placing it at rank 126 for male life expectancy. Tajikistan has a female life expectancy of 73.1 years placing it at 134th for female life expectancy.

  2. During the past 60 years, the only time life expectancy in Tajikistan has dropped was during its five-year civil war through May 1992 and June 1997. The civil war resulted in between 65,000 and 150,000 deaths, which accounted for about 1 percent of Tajikistan’s population at the time. Additionally, severe food shortages, as well as refugees and internally displaced people negatively affected Tajikistan’s standard of living.

  3. Since 2005, Tajikistan’s maternal mortality rate decreased from 95/100,000 to 32/100,000 in 2008. Afterward, the rate decreased to 25.2/100,000 in 2016. Throughout this time USAID and the United Nation Population Fund (UNFP) were working with Tajikistan’s Ministry of Health to strengthen its health care programs through improved health care education and financial support. This support came through the USAID’s Maternal and Child Health Project which focused on improving health, nutrition and hygiene for the women and children at the community level, as well as the UNFP training of doctors and midwives on effective perinatal care.

  4. Tajikistan has 170 physicians and 444 nurses per 100,000, which is comparatively less than the EU average of 347 and 850, respectively. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SADC) is currently working to help improve the condition of health care education by promoting medical education. Currently its efforts are supporting roughly 900 undergraduate medical students, several hundred nurses and over 100 postgraduate residents per year.

  5. Since 2009, USAID has helped to create or fix 76 water systems allowing 242,000 or more people to access safe drinking water. Tajikistan also has an estimated 354,000 cubic meters per year, which is four times the average water flow than the entire region of Central Asia. This is important as roughly 3.7 percent of deaths are related to water-borne diseases such as bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A and typhoid.

  6. Non-governmental organizations are working to fill the gaps in their health care systems relating to the prevention of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). These gaps exist due to Tajikistan’s limited manpower and financial resources.

  7. At 99.8 percent Tajikistan has a high literacy rate compared to countries of similar economic standing. The high literacy rate should help facilitate the spread of health care information.

  8. Since 1994, Tajikistan has had legislation to protect patient rights and give patient choice, complaint and reimbursement procedures. Tajikistan’s constitution even includes this legislation in Article 38 which promises that each person has the right to basic health care and any other sort that future laws deem necessary.

  9.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Tajikistan ties for the 76th rank in road fatalities at 18.8 deaths per 100,000 people. For comparison, the U.K. has 3.1 deaths for every 100,000 people related to road fatalities. Though road safety contributes to a large number of deaths in Tajikistan, the road affects access to health care as well. As mentioned previously, the mountainous landscape proves to be a major obstacle in improving access to health care.

  10. The 10th fact about life expectancy in Tajikistan is that even though these problems and solutions are occurring, 45 percent of women from the ages 15 to 49 agree that the largest issue is getting the necessary money to afford health care treatment.

Life expectancy in Tajikistan is steadily improving with help from NGOs and further promoted health care education. While proper laws are in place to allow the population to seek out proper/adequate health care, financial limits burden those in poorer parts of the country and force them to seek the cheapest alternative.

With data being collected on Tajikistan’s health care system, an interest in increasing clean water access and an ample desire to better its system, Tajikistan is on the road to progress. There are several ways to contribute to helping improve the life expectancy in Tajikistan through supporting NGO’s efforts to provide children and families with clothes, food and shelter and to improve education standards and accessibility.

– Richard Zamora
Photo: World Bank

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Iran
Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) has prioritized the need to improve Iran’s health care system. Indeed, Article 29 of the IRI’s Constitution establishes every Iranian citizen’s right to high-quality health. The Ministry of Health and Medical Education is responsible for providing the health care necessary to achieve this goal. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Iran and the state of the country’s health care system.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Iran

  1. Starting in the early 1980s, Iran successfully launched a reformed primary health care system or PHC. Because of Iran’s PHC programs, life expectancy in Iran has steadily risen from 55.7 years in 1976 to 75.5 years in 2015. Since the implementation of the PHC system, Iran has also experienced increased economic growth and literacy, and an improvement in safe water access and sanitation. The Community of Health Workers suggests that all of this may have contributed to Iran’s increased life expectancy.

  2. The aim of PHC was to provide all Iranians with health care by 2000. Especially in the beginning, PHC prioritized reducing health inequality between urban and rural populations by focusing attention on and resources to rural areas. Central to PHC was the establishment of health houses in rural areas. Behvarzes, local community members who had personal ties and commitments to the community, would run these houses.

  3. As of 2009, more than 90 percent of Iranians have some type of health insurance according to data cited by the Japan Medical Association Journal. Both the public and private sectors play a pivotal role in Iran’s health care system, which is a nation-wide network that includes local primary care centers in Iran’s provinces, secondary care hospitals in the provincial capitals and tertiary hospitals located in big cities. The public sector provides most of the primary care and some of the secondary and tertiary health services. Some public services, like prenatal care and vaccinations, are free. The private sector focuses on secondary and tertiary services. Additionally, NGOs play an active role in Iran’s health system, specifically concerning issues like children with cancer, breast cancer, diabetes and thalassemia.

  4. In addition to higher life expectancy, Iran has seen better health outcomes on several fronts. For one, the incidences of malaria-related deaths have decreased significantly from 15,378 cases in 2002 to 777 cases in 2015; 28 of these cases resulted in death. The reduction in malaria-related deaths is the result of interventions, such as the introduction of tap water and electricity into villages.

  5. To completely eradicate malaria, health officials should concentrate resources to prevent and treat the disease in the specific provinces where the disease is most prevalent. Policymakers should monitor borders to prevent the spread of malaria into Iran from outside the country. They should strengthen cooperation between institutions and improve the health systems’ ability to quickly identify epidemics.

  6. Between 1995 and 2011, Iran’s neonatal (NMR), infant (IMR) and under-5-year (U5MR) mortality rates in rural parts of the country decreased substantially. In particular, Iran’s NMR and IMR saw a statistically-significant decline as a result of a family physician program and rural insurance program. Implemented in 2005, Iran intended these programs to reform PHC, which did not cover access to specialists or private-sector physicians for rural populations. The family physician program and rural insurance program provided preventive and outpatient care to rural communities and made health care access more equitable between urban and rural areas. By providing greater access to important health services, these reforms improved many health indicators, such as child mortality. From 1995 to 2011, Iran’s NMR dropped from 17.84 to 10.56; the IMR decreased from 31.95 to 15.31; and Iran’s U5MR declined from 40.17  to 18.67.

  7. One of Iran’s significant health achievements is a dramatic increase in child immunization; indeed, providing vaccinations was one of the main activities of the community health workers under PHC. From 1990 to 2006, the percentage of one-year-olds immunized with three doses of DPT rose from 91 to 99 percent. Over that same period, one-year-olds immunized with three doses of the hepatitis B vaccine increased from 62 to 99 percent; similarly, one-year-olds immunized with MCV rose from 85 to 99 percent. This increase in immunization among children correlates with a sharp decline in Iran’s infant mortality rate.

  8. Cardiovascular diseases are the most common causes of mortality in Iran and connect to more than 45 percent of deaths. The second most common cause of death in Iran is accidents at 18 percent. Cancer follows at 14 percent and then neonatal and respiratory diseases, each of which accounts for about 6 percent of deaths in the country. Many NGOs, like the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), are cooperating with the Iranian Ministry of Health to combat these frequent causes of mortality. For instance, at the beginning of 2019, the country launched a national campaign to fight cancer. This campaign seeks to bring hope to cancer patients and to raise awareness about the fact that cancer is treatable and often preventable. Officials note that behavioral and dietary risks can cause cancer.

  9. While Iran’s health care system has improved significantly, it still has room for growth. For instance, greater than half of the under-5 deaths in Iran are the result of preventable or easily-treatable diseases and illnesses, such as malnutrition, which affects some 45 percent of children under the 5-years-old in Iran. One NGO that is helping food-insecure refugees in Iran is the World Food Programme (WFP), which has had a presence in Iran since 1987. In January 2018, WFP implemented the Iran Country Strategic Plan (2018-2020), which provides a combination of cash and monthly distributions of wheat flour to refugees in need, especially the most vulnerable women-headed households. In January 2019 alone, WFP helped 29,736 people in Iran.

  10. Another NGO providing health services to Iranians in need is Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which translates to Doctors Without Borders. MSF provides marginalized groups in south Tehran, such as drug users, sex workers, street children and the ghorbat ethnic minority, with free health care. MSF runs a clinic in the Darvazeh Ghar district, where they provide services including medical and mental health consultations, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, ante- and postnatal care and family planning. In 2018, MSF provided 29,900 outpatient consultations.

As these 10 facts about life expectancy in Iran show, the health of the Iranian people and health care system of Iran have improved significantly in the past few decades, due largely to the reforms of PHC and the family physician program and rural insurance program. If the Iranian government continues its investment in these programs, there is a good reason to believe life expectancy in Iran will continue to rise in the coming years.

– Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr