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

Hepatitis B in Sierra Leone

The Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is the leading cause of liver disease. An estimated 248 million people are infected with the virus worldwide. HBV contributes to 600 thousand liver disease-related deaths a year. It is most prevalent in the Western Pacific with 6.2 percent infection rate and African regions with 6.1 percent of the population are infected. Instances of Hepatitis B in Sierra Leone are high, so the government is working to improve access to vaccinations.

Hepatitis B in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone suffers an especially high prevalence of Hepatitis B. An estimated 8 percent of the population is actively infected, and 6-11 percent of mothers risk passing the disease onto their children through birth. HBV is most often transmitted via childbirth. It can also be transmitted through exposure to infected blood. In highly endemic areas, this occurs most often before age five. Adults can become infected through exposure to any infected body fluids, including through sexual activity.

Typically, the older an individual is at the time of exposure, the less likely the disease is to become chronic. However, children under a year old are 80 to 90 percent likely to develop chronic HBV if exposed, 30 to 50 percent before age 5 and fewer than 5 percent in adults. There is no cure for the disease, which often manifests without symptoms at initial infection. However, those suffering from it can suppress the virus through life-long treatment.

However, the HBV vaccine is 98 to 100 percent effective and has been shown to significantly decrease a country’s HBV prevalence when systematically administered. Sierra Leone has made a push toward improving its national health through international efforts. Though it is limited in its own resources, the country has facilitated “free testing, treatment and counseling” provided through the help of international donors.

Efforts to Reduce Hepatitis B in Sierra Leone

In 2014, the African Regional Committee of the World Health Organization passed a resolution to reduce HBV prevalence in children under 5 years old by 2020 to less than 2 percent. In 2007, Sierra Leone introduced HBV in the vaccine to newborns at week 6, 10 and 14, but the WHO recommended birth dose was not being given.

Much of the efforts on studying hepatitis B in Sierra Leone have been focused on providing accurate information on its epidemiology. The Center for Disease Control conducted a survey measuring the frequency of mother-child transmission and the effectiveness of the current immunization program. Data recently collected on 3,158 households in three provinces of Sierra Leone. Over the course of six weeks, 551 samples of serum were collected

This information will be used to inform Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation on the success rate of the vaccination campaign. It will show how well the WHO recommended birth-dose works in reducing Hepatitis B. The research also compares Sierra Leone’s mother-to-child infection rate with that of other African countries with similar strains of the virus. The information is expected to be released by the end of 2019.

Areas to Improve

There are still many areas to cover. While the country focuses on expanding the vaccination program, there have been little effort put towards the prevention of adult to adult transmission. Some studies have shown that many healthcare workers lack adequate knowledge of the disease. At least 77 percent of healthcare staff were unable to recognizing clinical symptoms following infection. These areas need to be addressed in order to effectively reduce tranmission of the virus.

Still, the country has made massive strides in improving its HIV and malaria treatments in the past. Now, it must focus treatment on Hepatitis B in Sierra Leone. Education and vaccinations are essential to reducing the spread of the disease.

Katie Hwang
Photo: Flickr

HIV Drug Implemented in Kenya
In 2017, there were approximately 36.9 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. Additionally, 6.1 million of those with HIV were located in western and central Africa. Kenya, a country in eastern Africa, had approximately 1.5 million people living with HIV/AIDs in 2017. That same year, an HIV drug implemented in Kenya started to successfully combat this deadly immune system virus. Unitaid and the Kenyan government simultaneously introduced it to the country.

Dolutegravir and Antiretroviral Therapy

The new HIV/AIDS drug, Dolutegravir or DTG, received approval in 2014 and is the most recent and effective antiretroviral drug used in the treatment against HIV/AIDs. DTG has been the drug of choice in high-income countries for its antiresistance properties, few side effects and easy one pill a day treatment. In 2015, the World Health Organization recommended this drug replace other first-line regimens for adults and adolescents. Recently this drug was not available in low-income countries, like Kenya, because of its high cost.

In 2018, only 62 percent of people with HIV/AIDs had access to antiretroviral therapy, which was an increase from the previous year. This corresponds to the 23.3 million people who were able to receive treatment, however, approximately 14.6 million people could not access treatment. In Kenya, 75 percent of adults with HIV/AIDs received treatment in 2018, which increased from 2016, when only 64 percent of people received treatment. One reason for the increase in HIV/AIDs testing is the partnerships between the government of Kenya and Unitaid that began in 2017 which introduced the generic brand of DTG.

Now, the generic brand of this life-saving drug has been available to people in Kenya since early 2018. This new HIV drug implemented in Kenya has the potential to make life-saving drugs more accessible to those who would normally not be able to afford it. In 2017, a number of nonprofits including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Unitaid, USAID, PEPFAR and others agreed to a pricing agreement to help make the drug more affordable in developing countries. This pricing agreement would allow public sector purchases at $75 per person, per year.

Side Effects of Other Drugs

Before the introduction of DTG, the first-line drug in Kenya was Efavirenz, an antiretroviral medication with side effects for some users including nausea, dizziness, rash and headaches. When the pricing agreement first emerged, the Kenyan Ministry of Health decided that the first round of DTG it distributed would go to 27,000 people who suffered the negative side effects from efavirenz. Then, the Ministry of Health assigned various other health clinics to receive the drug until it could become available to the entire country.

The number of new HIV/AIDs diagnoses in Kenya has halved over the last decade to approximately 80,000 people a year. The new HIV drug implemented in Kenya will only help decrease the number of people suffering from HIV/AIDs. Comprehensive sex education, HIV/AIDs testing centers and the continuation of drug pricing agreements will help alleviate the prevalence of HIV in developing countries, like Kenya.

Hayley Jellison
Photo: Flickr

Good News on Access to Hepatitis C CureMore than 300 million people worldwide are infected with Hepatitis C. With recent efforts to increase access to the Hepatitis C cure, elimination of the virus is now possible, according to the World Hepatitis Alliance.

Over the past two years, three million people around the world were treated for Hepatitis C. The biggest deterrent to access to the Hepatitis C cure was funding, with prices for the drug being as much as $1000 for one pill. Fortunately, though, Doctors Without Borders has made access to the drug treatment available at a much more affordable price.

Gilead Sciences released their cure for Hepatitis C, known as sofosbuvir, in 2013 at $1000 per pill. In 2015, Bristol-Myers Squibb released a similar treatment, known as daclatasvir, for $750. Recently, Doctors Without Borders was able to make generic forms of the drug available for as little as $1.40 per day, according to Reuters.

This is a major victory, as a large amount of the Hepatitis C population lives in low and middle-income countries. For them, a $1000 price tag is not affordable. The accomplishment means that more people will be able to access treatment.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has a goal of eliminating viral hepatitis by the year 2030. Because of the increased availability of the Hepatitis C cure, this can become a reality. However, the cure alone is not the only way for the virus to be eliminated.

There are key factors that WHO has outlined as steps necessary to eliminate Hepatitis C, but many countries have failed to implement them. These setbacks include a lack of political will and global funding mechanisms, poor data and surveillance, access to diagnostics and medicines and poor diagnosis rates, according to the World Hepatitis Alliance.

With that being said, there are currently nine countries on track to eliminate Hepatitis C by 2030, and three of them are developing countries. The countries are Australia, Brazil, Egypt, Georgia, Germany, Iceland, Japan, the Netherlands and Qatar.

Egypt has been innovative in implementing strategies that could eliminate the virus. So far, they have “pledged to test 30 million for hepatitis C by the end of 2018 by implementing mass screening initiatives (including assistance from the military), as well as mass-producing generic copies of DAA drugs for under U.S. $200 per 12-week course.”

By the same token, Brazil has “committed to gradually lift treatment restrictions in 2018, meaning that the country will be able to treat all people infected with hepatitis C.” In the past, the sickest patients have had priority for treatment.

When countries began to make the elimination of Hepatitis C a priority, the world will see results. Mongolia, Gambia and Bangladesh are among the countries that have begun to make progress towards getting on track to eliminate Hepatitis C. As more countries follow their lead, the goal of eradication will be reached sooner.

– Dezanii Lewis

Photo: Flickr

E Outbreak in Chad and Niger
An area rife with conflict and large refugee populations, the Lake Chad region is one especially vulnerable to diseases. The most recent concern is the hepatitis E outbreak in Chad and Niger, which has been declared a stage one emergency by the WHO.

Hepatitis E is caused most often by exposure to fecal-infected water or undercooked meat and thus is prevalent in areas with poor water sanitation resources. Symptoms include a mild fever, reduced appetite and occasional vomiting. As the virus progresses, this becomes jaundice, dark liver, pale stools and sensitivity of the liver. In rare cases, acute liver failure is possible and often leads to death. Though the virus is often overlooked for the better-known hepatitis A, B and C, it is responsible for over 20 million infections and 40,000 deaths worldwide every year

In terms of treatment, infections typically do not require hospitalization, as the symptoms resolve by themselves after four to six weeks. However, in cases where liver failure occurs, hospitalization is required immediately. People with immunodeficiencies and pregnant women are especially at risk, and hospitalization is recommended for these populations.

In Am Timan, Chad, nearly 700 unique cases and 11 deaths occurred between September 2016 and January 2017. Since then, 70 cases have been reported each week. In the Diffa region of Niger, over 1,100 cases and 34 deaths were reported by the end of June. Additional cases have been reported in the large at-risk refugee population. In both countries, the WHO has declared the outbreak an emergency and is working alongside the Minister of Health to identify the epicenter.

The WHO’s investigations into the root of the hepatitis E outbreak in Chad and Niger are the first and most important step in keeping the people of the Lake Chad region safe, but more must be done in the meantime to ensure the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of at-risk people. The organization Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) has worked hard to treat the proliferation of cases, but as the epidemic spreads from the city of Am Timan to the surrounding region of Salamat, more needs to be done.

Medicins Sans Frontieres has called for help in water sanitization, but the response was minimal. Due to this, the medical organization has taken it upon themselves to chlorinate 72 water stations in the city. In Diffa, it has treated 27,900 gallons of water and provided sanitation supplies to nearly 17,000 families. In order to curb the Hepatitis E outbreak in Chad and Niger, the WHO and Medicins Sans Frontieres need help. Their good work has mitigated the original outbreak, but money, supplies and volunteers are still needed to create the infrastructure to ensure such an outbreak is prevented in the future.

Connor S. Keowen

Photo: Flickr


Hepatitis has become a global epidemic. Such viral infections can cause cirrhosis of the liver and hepatocellular carcinoma. Nine percent of the global population, or 550 million people, are infected and one million die from the disease every year. Most of these deaths are in lower-income countries. Hepatitis infections have definitive links with poverty beyond death rates; poverty is an identified risk factor for the disease. Here are four ways poverty impacts the hepatitis epidemic:

  1. Poverty Impedes Diagnosis
    Many people are unaware they have hepatitis. Indeed, 90 percent of people with hepatitis C are not diagnosed. Undiagnosed people may not take precautions in preventing transmission.Many diagnostic tests are expensive, putting them out of reach for lower-income countries. For example, the liver biopsy test is not only expensive, but it requires trained histopathologists to analyze the tissue sample. In Africa, medical professionals who are experts in liver diseases are generally not common. This includes those who would analyze the histology sample.Furthermore, lower-income countries don’t typically have high-quality laboratories that can test for hepatitis. The centers that do exist are usually found in urban areas, neglecting those in rural locations.
  2. Poverty Reduces Access to Treatment
    Lower-income countries have limited access to hepatitis treatment. Forty-one percent of the population lives in places without public hepatitis funding. One treatment, known as PEG-INF/RBV, can cost EUR 25,000 for full course therapy in Europe. This figure does not consider any of the follow-up care or further tests.There are also tests which guide the treatment of hepatitis. They identify the strain and how much virus is in a person. They’re expensive and as such not always routine.
  3. Patents Make Drugs More Expensive Than They Need to Be
    Drugs are protected as intellectual property by patents. These protection laws prevent other companies from creating comparable, generic drugs at lower prices for twenty years after invention. The intention is to encourage research and development by drug companies. In reality, when only one company makes a drug the company has free range with pricing and often sets a high price tag. These patents make some hepatitis drugs too expensive for patients in lower-income countries.
  4. Reuse of Syringes is Common in Lower-Income Countries
    Syringes can be contaminated with hepatitis. When they are reused without sterilization, they can pass along the infection. One reason that dirty syringes are reused is because of poorly trained healthcare workers. Also, lack of funding forces medical professionals to reuse syringes. If this practice continues, so will the epidemic.The good news is that there are treatments and cures for hepatitis. There is a complete cure for the hepatitis C strain and preventative vaccines for hepatitis A, B and E. The World Health Organization (WHO) is optimistic in defeating the hepatitis epidemic. They have prioritized its eradication and are creating guidelines to help countries with this process.

Previously, the WHO prioritized fighting a global epidemic during the HIV outbreak. HIV therapy once cost $10,000 per patient, per year. That is now down to $100. Today 10 million people receive treatment, in contrast to the mere 20,000 who were once treated in developing nations.

Hopefully, with focus and funding, the future of hepatitis can follow the pattern set by the HIV outbreak, and poverty’s impact can be eliminated.

Mary Katherine Crowley

Photo: Flickr

Reducing Medication Prices to Treat Hepatitis in Cameroon
The healthcare system in Cameroon has battled an array of complications that afflict the country: diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria, as well as high numbers of child and maternal deaths. The constant turmoil in North Cameroon and neighboring countries has left the healthcare system in shambles. The increase of displaced people only adds to the taxed healthcare system.

Unfortunately, in the midst of Cameroon’s trials, a disease that is relatively new to the area, has infiltrated the fragile country. Hepatitis in Cameroon has become the disease with the highest level of prevalence. The prevalence rate is 10 percent for hepatitis B (HBV) and 13 percent for hepatitis C (HCV), a much higher rate than HIV/AIDS for the country. Cameroon is the second country most afflicted by hepatitis.

HBV is a virus that attacks the liver and is live-threatening. It is contracted through contact with blood or bodily fluids from someone who is infected. Fortunately, there is a vaccine available to help protect people from HBV.

Children are more at risk for developing chronic HBV than otherwise healthy adults. There is no treatment for acute HBV, only symptom management. Chronic HBV requires the treatment of antiviral medications. However, the disease is usually not cured, only suppressed, and those with chronic HBV will be on medication to contain the disease for the rest of their lives.

HCV is also a disease caused by an infection of the liver, but it can develop into cancer. HCV may manifest acutely, resolving itself in a manner of months, or chronically, resulting in the need of medication and a higher risk of developing cancer.

HCV can spread through sharing of needles, unsanitary medical supplies or unscreened blood transfusions. Unlike HBV there is no vaccine for HCV. Antiviral medication can treat and cure the disease. However, resources for diagnoses and treatment for those in need are often limited.

The major factors leading to the occurrence of hepatitis in Cameroon are cost, insufficient medical supplies and personnel, as well as a lack of awareness. Immunizations have been deployed to help tackle the epidemic but ignorance, mostly in rural areas, continues to prevail.

Back in 2012, when hepatitis first began to encroach upon Cameroon, the government contacted a leading pharmaceutical company to negotiate a price reduction for medication to treat hepatitis in Cameroon. They successfully reached an agreement that decreased the cost of medication by 33 percent.

In January of this year, more good news spread with the announcement of another reduction in price. Medication for hepatitis would be reduced by one-third to as much as one-half of the cost from last year.

Still, the path to everyone with hepatitis in Cameroon receiving treatment is still a struggle. As it is now, only 1.5 percent of those in need of hepatitis C medication are actually receiving drugs.

The Cameroon Minister of Public Health hopes to network the Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences of Yaoundé with other facilities that are researching hepatitis in order to help end the hepatitis epidemic in Cameroon.

Amy Whitman

Photo: Flickr