HIV/AIDS in Egypt
Egypt is a country located in the northernmost corner of Africa. A rather religious country, people often push issues surrounding HIV/AIDS under the rug and view the disease as a non-issue. The reasons for this are not hard to understand considering that the estimated population of people suffering from HIV/AIDS in Egypt in 2018 was a relatively small 22,000 people out of its 97.5 million inhabitants. Egypt has long been a low HIV-prevalent country with only specific groups of people being susceptible to the disease. These groups include prisoners, migrants and street children. Although there have been no studies conducted to prove this, professionals have hypothesized these are the most susceptible groups.

An Increase in HIV/AIDS

Despite the low prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Egypt, the country has seen an increase in the disease in the past years. In fact, Egypt has the fastest-growing rate of HIV/AIDS in the Middle East and North Africa. There was a 76 percent increase in the number of cases between 2010 and 2016 alone. There has also been an increase in the number of confirmed cases of HIV/AIDS in Egypt. In fact, the numbers have increased by up to 30 percent every year. While the number of people with HIV/AIDS was 11,000 in 2016, the number doubled in only two years.

The issue must be addressed soon, not only because of the observed increase but also because of several factors within Egyptian society that leaves the country at risk for developing more cases of HIV/AIDS and the threat of an epidemic. Besides the previously mentioned groups, others susceptible to the disease include sex workers, homosexual males and drug users. Because of their hidden nature in a culturally conservative country and the stigma surrounding them, they perform unsafe behaviors and are unwilling to talk about their issues.

Talking About and Treating HIV/AIDS

Despite the cultural stigma, people are coming out with their stories and advocating in and out of the country. Magid is one example. After finding out that he had been living with HIV/AIDS through military testing, he decided to become a voice for other people in the country facing the same problem but too ashamed to speak out in fear of societal repercussions. Magid joined the organization Friends for Life which aims to help people with HIV/AIDS in Egypt. Magid also addressed a session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York and became the first Arabic person to speak publicly about their life with HIV/AIDS.

Along with locals making an effort, UNICEF is working toward recognizing and stopping any further growth of HIV/AIDS in Egypt. One outcome resulting from the work of UNICEF and its partner organizations is in its support of the procurement and supply management of anti-retroviral treatments. Through its efforts, 4,000 people living with HIV/AIDS are able to receive high-quality medicines and treatment on a monthly basis. These people include pregnant women, infants and adolescents. It also treats people of refugee status in addition to those of Egyptian nationality.

While Egypt might be a low HIV/AIDS-prevalent country now, there have been recent trends showing that there needs to be some change. Organizations and people are coming out and working toward recognizing the issue of the growing number of people with HIV/AIDS in Egypt. Through this, there is already an increasing amount of attention and funding going toward the issue.

– Samira Darwich
Photo: Pixabay

HIV AIDS Epidemic in South Africa

South Africa has the world’s largest HIV/AIDs epidemic. The government has issued numerous HIV prevention programs in an effort to educate the public, reduce the annual number of new infections, and, eventually, eliminate the disease.

History of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in South Africa

South Africa’s first reported cases of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, emerged in 1982 among homosexual men amidst Apartheid. Due to the political upheaval and repression by the government during Apartheid, HIV was ignored, thus allowing the virus to spread rapidly throughout the homosexual community among men. HIV was almost exclusively diagnosed in gay men until 1987 when there was a sudden increase in women being infected with the virus. The opportunistic microbial infection was credited with being spread as a result of poverty, limited primary health care, lack of education, and sexual exploitation and violence against women. It was not until the early 2000’s that the government recognized HIV/AIDs as a major issue after HIV rates with pregnant women soared from 1 percent in 1990 to over 30 percent by the beginning of the next decade.

Prevalence of HIV/AIDs Epidemic in South Africa

In 2018, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa rose to an estimate of 7.1 million South Africans affected by the disease, with 240,000 new diagnoses, and 71,000 AIDS-related illnesses. The disease is most prevalent among marginalized groups: sex workers account for 57.7 percent of HIV cases, gay men at 26.8 percent, and drug addicts at 1.3 percent. Additionally, there is an estimate of 280,000 children who have contracted the disease from their mothers; HIV prevalence is four times greater in women and young girls due to gender-based violence and transgender women are twice as likely to be infected by the virus than gay men.

Solutions to the Epidemic

Despite the initial negligence to the HIV/AIDs epidemic of South Africa from the government, South Africa aims to reduce the number of new infections to under 100,000 by 2022. The government has made great efforts to resolve the issue by executing awareness campaigns, encouraging HIV testing, distributing condoms, and implementing HIV prevention programs. In 2018, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa rose to an estimate of 7.1 million South Africans affected by the disease. There have been large improvements in the choice of antiretroviral medicines and the widespread accessibility of the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission, or PMTCT, program. As of 2016, mother-to-child transmission rates have fallen from 3.6 percent to 1.5 percent between 2011 to 2015, meaning the country is on track to completely eliminating MTCT.

Due to the 2010 national HIV Testing and Counselling (HTC), campaign and the 2013 HTC Revitalisation Strategy—which focused on encouraging people from the private sector, rural areas, and higher education to test—more than 10 million people in South Africa get tested for HIV every year.

As of 2016, only 5 percent of South African schools provided sex education, but the government has committed to increasing this number to over 50 percent by 2022—especially in high-risk areas. The government has adopted UNAIDS 90-90-90 strategy: By 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status; 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy; and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression. Thus far, 90 percent of South African’s know their HIV status, 68 percent are on treatment, and 87 percent are virally suppressed. Factually, South Africa has made significant progress in reducing HIV amongst the population, and they are on track to eliminate the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa.

– Arielle Pugh
Photo: Wikimedia

Eliminating HIV In Kenya

The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa affects adolescent girls more than any other group within the population. As a public health response, a new approach for the elimination of HIV in Kenya emerged which addresses the gender and economic inequality that aid in spreading the disease. This new approach is related to female empowerment eliminating HIV in Kenya with new effective methods.

Health Care System in Kenya

Kenya is home to the world’s third-largest HIV epidemic. Kenya’s diverse population of 39 million encompasses an estimate of 42 ethnic tribes, with most people living in urban areas. Research shows that about 1.5 million, or 7.1 percent of Kenya’s population live with HIV. The first reported cases of the disease in Kenya were reported by the World Health Organization between 1983 to 1985. During that time, many global health organizations increased their efforts to spread awareness about prevention methods for the disease and gave antiretroviral therapy (ART) to those who were already infected with the disease. In the 1990s, the rise of the HIV infected population in Kenya had risen to 100,000 which led to the development of the National AIDS Control Council. The elimination of HIV in Kenya then became a priority for every global health organization.

The health care system in Kenya is a referral system of hospitals, health clinics, and dispensaries that extends from Nairobi to rural areas. There are only about 7,000 physicians in total that work within the public and private sector of Kenya’s health care system. As the population increases and the HIV epidemic intensifies, it creates more strenuous conditions for most of the population in Kenya to get the healthcare they desperately need. It is estimated that more than 53 percent of people living with HIV in Kenya are uninformed of their HIV status.

In addition, HIV disproportionately affects women and young people. After an initiative implemented by UNAIDS in 2013 to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV through increased access to sex education and contraceptives, significantly fewer children are born with HIV. Today, 61 percent of children with HIV are receiving treatment. However, the young women (ages 15-24) in Kenya are still twice as likely to be infected with HIV as men their age. Overall HIV rates are continuing to decrease for other groups within the population, but studies show that 74 percent of new HIV cases in Kenya continue to be adolescent girls.

Female Empowerment Eliminating HIV in Kenya

Women’s empowerment is an overarching theme for the reasons that HIV is heavily impacting the young women in Kenya. A woman’s security in the idea that she is able to dictate personal choices for herself has the ability to hinder or help her well-being.
Female empowerment eliminating HIV in Kenya uses these four common conditions to eliminate HIV:

  1. Health Information – Many girls in Kenya lack adequate information and services about sexual and reproductive health. Some health services even require an age of consent, which only perpetuates the stigma towards sexual rights. Also, the few health services available are out of reach for poor girls in urban areas.
  2. Education – A lack of secondary education for young women and girls in Kenya often means that they are unaware of modern contraceptives. A girl that does not receive a secondary education is twice as likely to get HIV. To ensure that adolescent girls have access to sexuality education, the 2013 Ministerial Commitment on Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Eastern and Southern Africa guaranteed that African leaders will commit to these specific needs for young people.
  3. Intimate partner violence –  Countless young women and girls have reported domestic and sexual violence that led to them contracting HIV. Something as simple as trying to negotiate contraceptive use with their partners often prompts a violent response. There has been an increased effort to erase the social acceptability of violence in many Kenyan communities. An organization called, The Raising Voices of SASA! consists of over 25 organizations in sub-Saharan Africa that work to prevent violence against women and HIV.
  4. Societal norms – Some communities in Kenya still practice the tradition of arranged marriages, and often at very young ages for girls. The marriages usually result in early pregnancy and without proper sex education, women and babies are being infected with HIV at a higher rate. In 2014, the African Union Commission accelerated the end to child marriages by setting up a 2-year campaign in 10 African Countries to advocate for Law against child marriages. Research suggests that eliminating child marriages would decrease HIV cases, along with domestic violence, premature pregnancies by over 50 percent.

Young women in Kenya face various obstacles in order to live a healthy life, and poverty acts as a comprehensive factor. Studies show that a lack of limited job opportunities leads to an increase in high-risk behavior. Transactional sex becomes increasingly common for women under these conditions, while they also become more at risk for sexual violence. An estimated 29.3 percent of female sex workers in Kenya live with HIV.

Solution

The most practical solution to tackling the elimination of HIV in Kenya combines HIV prevention with economic empowerment for young girls. The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is an organization that has worked hard at implementing strategies, and interventions across Africa that highlight women’s access to job opportunities and education. In 10 different countries in Africa (including Kenya), young women can attend interventions in which they learn about small business loans, vocational training and entrepreneurship training. One way that more women in Kenya are able to gain control over their financial resources is by receiving village saving loans. To participate in village saving loans it requires a group of 20-30 to make deposits into a group fund each week. Women within these groups can access small loans, which enables them to increase their financial skills while gaining economic independence. The Global Fund to fight AIDS has cultivated a space for numerous empowerment groups for young women out of school called the RISE Young Women Club. The young women in these clubs often live in poverty and receive HIV testing as well as sexual health education.

Overall, the global health programs that aid in the elimination of HIV in Kenya are continuously improving their strategies by including young women in poverty. The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Kenya steadily sees progress thanks to the collective efforts of programs that empower young women.

– Nia Coleman
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

HIV/AIDS Prevention in Zambia

Antiretroviral therapy in Zambia has been one of the most effective HIV/AIDS prevention strategies in recent years. Thanks to the efforts of the CDC and the Zambian government, the spread of HIV/AIDS has decreased steadily by 13 percent since 2010.

HIV/AIDS Prevention in Zambia – Strategies

  • Education and Awareness: The effective response and resource allocation from the Zambian government through early HIV testing had a profound effect on the stigma surrounding the virus, encouraging more people to get tested. To that end, the government implemented the GIPA policy, emphasizing equality in medicine free from discrimination. In addition, the National Health Services Act is a government policy aimed at strengthening the structural power of Zambia’s medical field to increase its influence on rural communities. Aside from spearheading research, the act more clearly defines Zambia’s medical infrastructure with a power structure to allocate resources as effectively as possible. Integrating these government programs into the heart of Zambia’s most impoverished communities decreases the chances of an outbreak.
  • Antiretroviral Therapy: As mentioned above, the CDC is also active in Zambia, focusing on early antiretroviral therapy in highly affected areas like the Copperbelt and the western provinces. Within these parameters, 89 percent of those who began treatment immediately are less likely to spread the virus. Outreach programs to reach the more impoverished and marginalized groups have also been successful, with antiretroviral therapy increasing among children from 23 percent in 2009 to 79 percent as of 2019. The government has also promoted the use of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily course of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) taken by HIV-negative people which reduces the risk of contracting the virus.
  • Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission: Through the PMTCT (Prevention of Mother To Child Transmission) plan, Zambia has made great strides aimed at preventing the spread of the virus from mother to offspring by providing lifelong antiretroviral therapy in Zambia. According to the CDC, through early education and effective policy implementation, the health protection agency has prevented 98 percent of HIV-exposed babies from contracting the virus.

Final Thoughts

The lack of access to basic health care and a comprehensive understanding of how HIV spreads, especially in rural communities, produces a hostile environment where exposure risk increases. Furthermore, high poverty and unemployment levels create a shaky foundation where socio-economic growth is key to eliminating the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Zambia. However, increased government spending has sprouted new testing facilities in rural areas, providing quality service where “…the Government is scaling up social protection by increasing allocations to the Social Cash Transfer (SCT) and Food Security Pack (FSP) program[s] and other poverty mitigation measures.”

The key to a structural change in Zambia’s HIV epidemic lies partially in assisting Zambia’s fairly large impoverished community. In addition, antiretroviral therapy in Zambia continues to be a focal point of the government’s long-term plan to eliminate the virus with increased spending on antiretroviral therapy and sex education in a bid to secure more prosperous futures for its citizens.

Adam Townsend
Photo: Pixabay

Facts About Life Expectancy in Malawi

The landlocked country of Malawi has a life expectancy rate of 60.2 years for males and 64.3 years for females. While this is much lower than the global average of 69.8 years for males and 74.2 years for females, it represents an improvement from previous years. These eight facts about life expectancy in Malawi will help shed light on the reasons for the low rate as well as what the country has done, and can still do, to improve it:

8 Facts About Life Expectancy in Malawi

  1. HIV/AIDS: As of 2017, an estimated 1 million people in Malawi were living with HIV/AIDS which places the country at 10th in the world in terms of the number of people living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, there were also 13,000 deaths from the virus in the same year. Still, the government has made major strides to curb the epidemic in the last 10 years. Part of its strategy includes providing free condoms as well as educating young people. As of 2018, 78 percent of all people living with HIV in Malawi are on medication. There was also a decline in the number of new infections from 55,000 in 2010 to 38,000 in 2018.
  2. Maternal Health: In 2015, maternal mortality stood at 634 deaths for every 100,000 live births. This is considerably higher than the global average of 216 deaths per 100,000 live births. However, it represents a significant improvement as the government along with support from USAID has been able to reduce maternal mortality by 53 percent between 1990 and 2013. Today, more expectant mothers in both rural and urban areas are now receiving prenatal care as well as skilled birth assistance.
  3. Child Health: Great improvements have also been made in terms of child health, as most children under 5 in both rural and urban areas are vaccinated. This has helped reduce deaths from communicable childhood diseases such as measles, tetanus and pneumonia. The Ministry of Health has also implemented strategies like deworming and has also distributed vitamin A supplements to deal with other major causes of childhood death.
  4. Fertility Rate: In the 1980s Malawian women had about seven children per woman. Today, that number is at 5.5 children per woman. The high fertility rate affects life expectancy in Malawi as it puts pressure on the government to provide adequate social amenities in order to improve people’s lives.
  5. Population Growth: According to a 2018 census, Malawi’s population is 17.6 million people. By 2020 this is projected to hit 20.2 million, before doubling by 2050. This rapid population growth puts a lot of pressure on the country’s land, water and forest resources and threatens life expectancy as most Malawians derive their income from agriculture. The Third Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS III) sets out a number of policies including promoting family planning and sexual and reproductive health rights as a means to slow population growth, and better managing migration and urbanization.
  6. Infectious Diseases: Malawians are at very high risk of contracting infectious diseases. Food and waterborne diseases include diarrheal diseases and typhoid fever. In order to deal with diarrheal deaths, Malawians are in need of nutritious food as well as an unpolluted environment. Other diseases include malaria, dengue fever and rabies from animal contact. The country has been dealing with malaria by subsidizing mosquito nets. Additionally, Malawi is one of the three African countries taking part in a malaria vaccine pilot. The pilot aims to reach 360,000 children each year across Kenya, Ghana and Malawi.
  7. Water and Sanitation: One in three Malawians do not have access to clean water while 9.6 million people do not have a decent toilet. This affects the life expectancy in Malawi as it leads to an increase in diarrheal diseases. With the support of UNICEF and organizations such as Water Aid, the government of Malawi has made significant progress in reducing the number of people who lack access to safe water. Additionally, the rate of open defecation has declined from 29 percent in 1990 to four percent in 2015.
  8. Education: Malawi introduced free primary education in 1994 which put a strain on the education system. This is because the infrastructure, number of teachers and number of teaching and learning materials were inadequate when compared to the number of students who enrolled. It resulted in poor performance by the students, especially in terms of literacy.  The government of Malawi has been making an effort to improve the education sector by allocating more than 20 percent of the national budget to education.  It has also partnered with bodies such as USAID and UNICEF to improve literacy levels as well as student enrollment and completion rates. An educated and skilled population will help increase Malawi’s economic growth. Educational reforms will help reduce the unemployment rate which is currently more than 20 percent.

Malawi is considered one of the poorest countries in the world, and a lot still needs to be done to improve the lives of its people. It is however clear that the government is working with the support of nonprofit organizations around the world to make life better for its people.

Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Mali
In 2020, the country of Mali will celebrate its 60th anniversary of independence from French colonial rule. However, since 1960, Mali has had a tumultuous history filled with numerous civil wars, coups and failed revolutions. Despite these setbacks, Mali is making strides to improve the quality of life for its citizens. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Mali.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Mali

  1. According to the CIA World Factbook, the life expectancy of a citizen of Mali is 60.8 years on average or 58.6 years for males and 63 years for females. This puts Mali at a rank of 206 out of 223 countries for life expectancy. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Mali will explain why.
  2. Mali reported 43 births per 1,000 people in 2018, the third-largest figure in the world. Many expect the country’s population to double by 2035. This has led to overcrowding in the capital city of Bamako. In response, the World Bank has begun to invest in the infrastructure of Malian cities via performance-based grants for communities.
  3. Despite this massive population growth, Mali suffers from extreme infant and child mortality, which adversely affects life expectancy in Mali. In 2015, 114 out of 1,000 Malian children died by the age of 5. Recently, organizations like WHO and UNICEF have begun to sponsor community case management initiatives that focus on improving health conditions in impoverished areas. Areas where these initiatives occurred, such as Bamako’s Yirimadio district, have been able to reduce child mortality rates to up to 28 deaths per 1,000, about a quarter of the national rate.
  4. In Mali, the maternal mortality rate is very high. The U.N. estimates that there are 630 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. This is partly because only one in four births in Mali have someone with proper birthing training, but deep-rooted societal attitudes that restrict women’s rights may also be a cause. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, an organization fighting against maternal mortality in Mali, child marriage and female genital mutilation are both common in Mali, which both cause higher risks to the mother during birth. The organization has called upon the Malian government to “meet its national and international commitments and take the necessary steps to reduce maternal mortality.”
  5. The leading cause of death in Mali is malaria, which accounts for 24 percent of deaths in the country. To address this, the Malian government has partnered with global organizations such as the CDC to distribute anti-malarial medications during the country’s late autumn rainy season, in which most cases of malaria appear. This partnership was established in 1995 as part of the CDC’s global initiative to stop diseases in other countries before they can reach the U.S.
  6. Illnesses that often stem from a lack of access to clean water, such as meningitis and diarrheal diseases, cause a significant number of deaths in Mali. Twenty-three percent of the population of Mali overall and 35.9 percent of the rural population lacks access to clean drinking water, and 78.5 percent of rural Malians lack access to proper sanitation. This leads to the spread of the diseases mentioned above. An organization called Charity Water has invested over $9 million to give rural Malians access to clean water and sanitation by building wells and pipe systems, allowing Malians to tap into the country’s rich aquifers for clean drinking water.
  7. Malnutrition causes 5 percent of deaths in Mali. According to the World Food Program, 44.9 percent of the country live in poverty, which is a significant cause of food insecurity. To combat this, programs like the World Food Program have been working on distributing nutritious meals to Malian families, as well as setting up long-term programs to create infrastructures such as roads and dams.
  8. HIV and AIDS cause 3 percent of deaths in Mali. Although HIV infections in the country have risen by 11 percent since 2010, deaths from the disease have gone down by 11 percent in the same period. Efforts by the CDC and other organizations have focused on treating HIV to prevent victims of the disease from going on to develop AIDS, as well as improving blood safety measures.
  9. Mali suffers from a significant shortage of physicians, with 0.14 physicians and 0.1 hospital beds per 1,000 people, compared to 2.59 physicians and 2.9 beds in the U.S. Despite that, the country has recently taken significant steps forward on providing universal health coverage via a $120 million initiative from the government, which will focus on training more doctors, broadening access to contraceptives and improving care for the elderly.
  10. Eighty percent of Mali relies on agriculture for a living. Although Malian farmers have been fighting soil degradation and lack of access to modern equipment, initiatives like Feed the Future have been working to improve conditions for Malian farmers. As a result, Mali poured $47.34 million into its agriculture industry in 2017.

As these 10 facts about life expectancy in Mali show, life expectancy in Mali is significantly lower than in other parts of the world, but the country is making strides forward to combat illness and poverty. With help from the global community, Mali is moving forwards towards a brighter future.

– Kelton Holsen
Photo: Flickr


The UN’s 2016 High-Panel report on global access to medicine opens with an inspiring message: “Never in the past has our knowledge of science been so profound and the possibilities to treat all manner of diseases so great.” It is hard to debate that recent advancements in targeted cancer therapy and HIV drug development indicate a bright future for the Rx world. The potential for positive change may go unrealized, however, if access to medicine remains limited. To serve the 3.5 billion people without basic medical services, along with the 100 million who find themselves in extreme poverty because of high medical costs, governments and organizations have to confront the complex economic forces undermining global access to medicine. This article will discuss two such forces and consider how international actors have responded.

Too Big to Heal?

Economic orthodoxy holds that the equilibrium of a product’s supply and demand will determine its price, but medication prices do not adhere to this rule. This is because firms in the pharmaceutical industry possess the key to market distortion. Monopoly power or the ability for firms with outsized market shares to raise prices without experiencing a corresponding drop in sales. Pharmaceutical companies tend to obtain monopoly power for several reasons, such as:

  1. High entry costs, especially those associated with research and development. This excludes smaller, potentially disruptive firms from the market.
  2. The continuation of company consolidation. In the past 20 years, a group of 60 different pharmaceutical companies shrank to a mere 10.
  3. Large profits. Profits are huge, with the 10 highest-earning companies netting a 20 percent profit margin on average. This allows these companies to fortify their already-large market share. Most importantly, once a company patents a drug, it holds exclusive title to the production and distribution of that drug for 20-25 years.

During that period, no lower-priced, generic substitutes can enter the market. Equipped with this uncontested control, these companies can charge high prices for their products, as those who need them will have no other choice but to bear the cost. Yet some, especially individuals in poorer countries dealing with diseases like Hepatitis C and cancer, simply cannot afford these costs.

There are many individuals and corporations who are attempting to solve this problem, however. For example, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a pharmaceutical company based in London, England, is trying to put an end to exorbitant prices for prescription drugs in low-income countries. In March 2016, it announced that it would not seek patent protection for its drugs in 50 of the world’s poorest countries. By doing this, the company opened the path for smaller companies to bring lower-priced, generic versions of their drugs to the market. So far, the approach has been effective, earning GSK the top spot in the 2018 Access to Medicine Index. The positive publicity it receives from the ranking will hopefully motivate other companies to follow suit.

R&D Incentives

While the economics of monopoly power generates the problem of overpricing, the incentives of research and development make it such that many medicines needed in low-income countries go underproduced. As mentioned above, patents spell large rewards, but it costs $800 million on average for a company to obtain one and to bring a drug to the market. This pressures companies to develop the drugs that are most likely to produce a substantial financial return. Additionally, as the UN High-Panel notes in its report, this means that widespread, treatable diseases can oftentimes go unaddressed. For example, antimicrobial-resistant viruses and parasites threaten to kill as many as 10 million people annually by 2050, yet drug companies worldwide have developed virtually no new antibiotics in the past 25 years. In the absence of this innovation, however, public-private R&D partnerships have proven to be a successful substitute. The Global Fund is an example as it has saved 27 million people that malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis threatened by raising money from both public and private sources and collaborating with domestic task forces and commissions.

A Reconceptualization

Economic barriers to improve global access to medicine remain, but more and more people are starting to conceptualize the problem as an ethical one rather than an economic one. However, ensuring access to health care and maintaining market efficiency are not mutually exclusive. For example, cost-efficient drug production techniques are necessary to disseminate medicines at reduced prices. But other times “policy incoherencies,” as the UN High-Panel report calls them, force decision-makers to choose between the promotion of economic innovation and the provision of public health. Thanks to leading companies like GlaxoSmithKline and compassionate organizations like the Global Fund, the international community is starting to opt for the latter.

James Delegal
Photo: Flickr

Fight Disease in the DRC
With 80 million hectares of arable land and over 1,100 precious metals and minerals, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has quickly established itself as a large exporter in the lucrative diamond industry. Despite this, the DRC ranks 176th out of 189 nations on the UN’s Human Development Index and over 60 percent of the 77 million DRC residents live on less than $2 a day. Internal and external war, coupled with political inefficacy and economic exploitation, has hindered the country’s ability to combat poverty and improve health outcomes. Listed below are some of the most deadly diseases that are currently affecting individuals in the DRC and the different strategies that governments and NGOs have taken to fight disease in the DRC.

3 Deadly Diseases Currently Affecting Individuals in the DRC

  1. Malaria

The DRC has the second-highest number of malaria cases in the world, reporting 15.3 million of the WHO-estimated 219 million malaria cases in 2017. Of the more than 400 Congolese children that die every day, almost half of them die due to malaria, with 19 percent of fatalities under 5 years attributed to the disease. However, some are making to reduce malaria’s negative impact.  For example, the distribution of nearly 40 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets, or ITNs, has helped lower the incidence rate by 40 percent since 2010, with a 34 percent decrease in the mortality rate for children under 5. The DRC government procured and distributed the nets with international partners such as the Department for International Development, Global Fund and World Bank. In addition, the President’s Malaria Initiative, a program implemented in 2005 by President Bush and carried out by USAID, has distributed more than 17 million nets. UNICEF has also been a major contributor in the efforts to fight malaria and recently distributed 3 million ITNs in the DRC’s Kasaï Province. However, the country requires more work, as malaria remains its most frequent cause of death.

  1. HIV/AIDS

Among its efforts to fight disease in the DRC, the country has made significant progress recently in its fight against HIV/AIDS. As a cause of death, it has decreased significantly since 2007, and since 2010, there are 39 percent fewer total HIV infections.

This particular case illuminates the potential positive impact of American foreign aid. The DRC Ministry of Health started a partnership with the CDC in 2002, combining efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. PEPFAR, signed into U.S. law in 2003 to combat AIDS worldwide, has invested over $512 million since 2004, which has helped to fund antiretroviral treatment for 159,776 people. In 2017, it funded the provision of HIV testing services for 1.2 million people.

The country is also addressing mother-to-child transmissions. In the DRC, approximately 15 to 20 percent of mothers with HIV pass the virus onto their child. The strategy to end mother-to-child transmissions involves expanding coverage for HIV-positive pregnant women, diagnosing infants with HIV earlier and preventing new infections via antiretroviral drug treatment. UNAID, The Global Fund and the DRC Ministry of Health have undertaken significant work to accomplish these objectives and their efforts have resulted in the coverage of 70 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women.  However, much work remains to cover the remaining 30 percent of pregnant HIV-positive women.

Overall, there is still a lot of necessary work to undergo in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the DRC and around the world.  In total, UNAIDS estimated that HIV/AIDS was the cause of 17,000 deaths in the DRC in 2018.  While this is a decrease from previous years, it shows that the DRC still has a long way to go in order to fully control the spread of the disease.  Additionally, there must be more global funding. The U.N. announced on July 2019 that annual global funding for fighting HIV/AIDS decreased in 2018 by almost $1 billion.

  1. Ebola

Since 2018, the DRC has undergone one of the world’s largest Ebola outbreaks. On July 17, 2019, WHO declared the outbreak an international health emergency. Since August 2018, more than 2,500 cases have occurred, with over 1,800 deaths.

However, the country is making efforts to prevent the transmission and spread of Ebola in the DRC.  Recently, more than 110,000 Congolese received an experimental Ebola vaccine from Merck & Co. The vaccine is called rVSV-ZEBOV, and studies have shown the vaccine to have a 97.5 percent efficacy rate.  This vaccine provides hope that people will be able to control Ebola breakouts in the near future.

While there have been attempts to fight disease in the DRC in recent years, such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and Ebola, each disease remains a major issue. In the coming years, the country must continue its efforts.

– Drew Mekhail
Photo: Flickr