COVID-19 Vaccines for SomaliaIn March 2021, COVAX helped secure the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines for Somalia. According to The New Humanitarian, Somalia has one of the weakest healthcare systems in the world. Before the pandemic, Somalia was already struggling with political and economic concerns. The added effects of COVID-19 have significantly impacted the country.

COVAX Donation and Vaccine Hesitancy

More than 300,000 COVID-19 vaccines first arrived in Somalia on March 15, 2021. Donated by COVAX, a global effort to provide equitable vaccine coverage, the doses will prioritize “frontline workers, the elderly and people with chronic health conditions.” UNICEF reports that Somalia is one of the first African countries to receive vaccine donations through COVAX, an important act as the country moves into a new wave of infections.

Misinformation has contributed to vaccine hesitancy in Somalia, which may adversely impact a successful vaccination rollout. Somali people working in the medical field are making efforts to combat misinformation and build vaccine trust to ensure vaccine hesitancy does not present a barrier for Somalia.

COVID-19 in Somalia

COVID-19 cases in Somalia stand at more than 13,000 as of April 30, 2021, with more than 700 deaths. COVID-19 deaths and infections in Somalia are low compared to other African countries and the rest of the world, but slow vaccination rates are making it harder to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. More than a year after the first reported case of COVID-19 in Somalia, Somalia is facing a peak, with a death toll far higher than the peak of 2020. Only about 0.8% of 15 million Somali’s have been vaccinated so far.

The first cases of COVID-19 in Somalia were mostly travel-related cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In the past year, the WHO and partners have helped strengthen Somalia’s COVID-19 response by providing critical resources. These efforts contributed to creating three COVID-19 testing labs in Somalia. Furthermore, “73 rapid response teams were deployed for COVID-19 case investigation, alert verification and sample collection.” More than 7,000 healthcare workers received COVID-19 health training and 76 oxygen concentrators were provided to health facilities, among other efforts.

Vaccination Efforts for Preventable Diseases

Before the onset of COVID-19 in Somalia, WHO started the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), which aims to vaccinate Somali children against eight preventable diseases. This program helped control the 2017 and 2018 measles outbreaks in Somalia and helped citizens keep up with routine immunizations, mitigating the spread of common diseases across the country. In 2019, the initiative trained healthcare workers from more than 700 health centers in immunization practices and procedures.

Call to Action

As COVID-19 continues to threaten the world, vulnerable populations in developing countries are most at risk. Recognizing this fact, in June 2021, President Biden announced a plan to donate 500 million COVID-19 vaccines to countries in need through COVAX. The international community needs to come together in a collaborative global effort to ensure disadvantaged countries receive sufficient COVID-19 vaccines.

Monica Mellon
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in EthiopiaEthiopia, a diverse nation located in the horn of Africa, is home to approximately 115 million citizens. The steady growth of the country’s population has led to economic growth and increased job opportunities. Unfortunately, population growth has also led to certain difficulties in controlling and diminishing poverty in Ethiopia. Child poverty in Ethiopia is particularly prominent.

Surviving on the Streets of Ethiopia

A native of Ethiopia, 20-year-old Mohamed Yimer has experienced the reality of child poverty in Ethiopia. At only 6 years old, Yimer lived in the streets of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, where he had to survive with almost no access to basic necessities like food, water and shelter.

Yimer “would make money by throwing people’s garbage out and collecting metals such as nails and any scraps.” The money collected would hopefully buy him enough food for the day. According to Yimer, restaurants would often give uneaten food or leftovers to him and other young kids who were unable to afford enough to eat.

While Yimer’s childhood experience was extremely challenging, he understood that there are millions of children experiencing the same situation. Estimates determine that 36 million out of the 41 million children in Ethiopia live in severe poverty. Moreover, approximately 88% of the child population is unable to obtain necessary goods or access basic services.

In addition, rampant poverty, when parents have an obligation to send their children to full-time work rather than school, characterizes child poverty in Ethiopia. This allows children to contribute financially to the family at a very young age but deprives them of an education and a true childhood.

Inadequate Living Conditions

Shelter, a priority and basic need for child growth, is incredibly difficult for many children to find in Ethiopia. Yimer explained that “hundreds of children would sleep in tents, whether it be on the side of the road or under bridge ways.” While orphanages in Ethiopia allow children to receive education, shelter and food, the living conditions there are considered to be extremely poor and insufficient for child growth.

Yimer was able to stay in an orphanage for several years during his childhood. The orphanage provided meals such as bread and tea for breakfast and basic meals, which consisted of cooked vegetables. Yimer emphasizes that they “would only receive meals with meat on holidays such as Christmas.” He also describes inadequate and poor sanitation systems in orphanages. In an orphanage filled with hundreds of kids, there was only one bathroom for both boys and girls.

Poverty Reduction

Though child poverty in Ethiopia has been a severe problem, several studies have shown some progress throughout the last two decades. Research shows that the percentage of children living in poverty has decreased from 90% to 88%.

From 2000 to 2011, overall poverty has decreased from 44% to 30%, which many consider a remarkable improvement. A focus on agricultural and economic growth, as well as focused attention on helping children access necessary goods easily, have made this possible.

Many organizations have made several recommendations in the hopes of further reducing child poverty in Ethiopia. Some of those suggestions include speeding up certain investments toward reducing child poverty. Moreover, organizations hope to improve collaborations to reduce child poverty, whether it be to provide education, better sanitation services or basic everyday necessities to children.

Though child poverty is still evident in Ethiopia today, it is important to notice its slight but steady decline throughout the last two decades. By speeding up investment, garnering higher public recognition and improving non-profit collaboration, it is possible for child poverty in Ethiopia to decrease at a much faster rate in the future.

– Elisabeth Balicanta
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Ethiopia
Located in the horn of Africa, Ethiopia is a developing country that has struggled to obtain structured and stable healthcare in the past. However, in recent years, the country  has made several attempts to provide healthcare improvements. Here are six facts about the efforts to improve healthcare in Ethiopia.

6 Facts About Healthcare in Ethiopia

  1. The number of healthcare facilities in Ethiopia has increased immensely. Within the last decade, the number of healthcare facilities and small clinics have quadrupled from 4,211 to 14,416. Public hospitals have grown in numbers from 76 to 126. With an increase in healthcare facilities, citizens living in rather rural areas will have easier access to healthcare and assistance. Although the country is still making improvements daily, the increase in statistics regarding healthcare facilities exemplifies the overall improvement of healthcare in Ethiopia.
  2. Installation of Social Accountability (SA) has improved service delivery in healthcare centers. In 2006, Ethiopia’s government introduced Social Accountability (SA) to its citizens as a new initiative to promote healthcare transparency. The Ethiopian government desired a transparent healthcare system in which citizens would receive full awareness of healthcare rights and standards. Before the introduction of SA, healthcare in Ethiopia was not easily accessible for the disabled and exemplified poor sanitation, a lack of certain medical supplies and mediocre facility service. Through SA, citizens are now aware of the service standards that healthcare systems must reach.
  3. Reforms within health finance have changed within the last decade. The government has also created several reforms to direct more attention to healthcare systems. The Health Sector Development Plan emerged in 2003 and desired an efficient way of providing extensive healthcare in Ethiopia. The increased funding allowed the healthcare sector to place more emphasis on healthcare governing, healthcare employment and additional equipment. From 2007 to 2011, Ethiopia increased expenses towards healthcare from 4.5% to 5.2%.
  4. Ethiopia’s development plan towards healthcare focused on extensive organization and management. In 2006, the development plan enforced specific facility governing boards that had overlooked healthcare facilities. Approximately 93% of facility government boards emerged in healthcare centers in 2013 in hopes of providing better management.
  5. The Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI) provided assistance in advocating better quality healthcare. IHI partnered with a few organizations, one of them being the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health, to create an initiative plan that emphasized quality. Through the assistance of IHI, Ethiopia’s goals consist of testing and launching a model of a desirable healthcare system that portrays improved healthcare facilities and communities. In all, it hopes to create an efficient and simple strategy that will allow for a sustainable healthcare system in Ethiopia.
  6. Established in 2020, Ethiopia’s Health System Transformation Plan (HSTP) has created several goals to improve healthcare in the future. HSTP is an intricate plan that includes several targets the Ethiopian government is hoping to achieve. These targets include a lower infant mortality rate, a decrease in HIV contraction, a decrease in tuberculosis-related deaths and a depletion of cases regarding malaria deaths. By setting these goals, Ethiopia’s government aims to have a clear and distinct outlook on the future.

These six facts about healthcare in Ethiopia exemplify a few of the effective actions that the Ethiopian government took through the use of development plans and organizations. While there is still plenty of work for the country to do, several actions have taken place in attempts to improve Ethiopia’s overall healthcare.

– Elisabeth Balicanta
Photo: Wikimedia

Poverty in the Horn of Africa
The Horn of Africa is a peninsula that extends into the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden. It includes seven countries: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda. Here are 10 facts about poverty in the Horn of Africa, how poverty impacts the people of these countries and how their situations can improve.

10 Facts About Poverty in the Horn of Africa

  1. Food Insecurity in Djibouti: Food insecurity is a major problem for those living in rural areas of Djibouti. While those living in more urban areas of the country do not experience the same levels of poverty, 62 percent of those living in rural Djibouti have little access to food containing adequate nutrition. Djibouti’s climate may be a cause as it makes crop production difficult. As a result, it must receive 90 percent of its food supply as imports, making the country vulnerable to changes in international market prices.
  2. Drought and Malnutrition in Eritrea: Amnesty International reports that many in Eritrea struggle to meet their basic needs as drought and laws within the country make it difficult to access clean water and limit the availability of basic food supplies. Half of all children in Eritrea experience stunted growth due to malnutrition.
  3. Poverty in Ethiopia: Ethiopia is one of the most populated countries in Africa and one of the poorest countries in the world. Despite experiencing a massive surge of economic growth since 2000, 30 percent of Ethiopians are still living below the poverty line, and the United Nations has classified 36 million of the country’s 41 million children as multidimensionally poor.
  4. Conflict in Somalia: Years of conflict have destroyed much of Somalia’s economy, infrastructure and institutions. Forty-three percent of the population of Somalia live on less than $1 a day. Nearly five million Somalis depend on humanitarian aid every day.
  5. Conflict and Climate in Sudan: Like Somalia, Sudan has faced serious damage to its economy due to conflict. Sudan has also faced serious damage to its agricultural industry due to unpredictable climate and rainfall in recent years. One in three Sudanese children under the age of 5 is underweight due to malnutrition.
  6. South Sudan, Foreign Investors and Agriculture: Though South Sudan is rich in resources, particularly oil, foreign investors monopolize most of its supplies. The vast majority of workers in South Sudan engage themselves in agriculture and livestock rearing. South Sudan is incredibly vulnerable to changing patterns in rain, similar to its northern neighbors, and it frequently experiences floods and droughts that, in conjunction with conflict and depreciating currency, has left 80 percent of its population impoverished.
  7. Poverty in Uganda: Uganda has made great strides in reducing poverty over the last decade. However, it still requires more work. Poverty is still a major issue throughout the country, particularly in the northern and eastern regions, which have less access to infrastructure than the rest of the country. In northern Uganda, 29 percent of households do not have toilets and 96.3 percent of households are without electricity.
  8. The Link Between Poverty, War and Instability: The Horn of Africa is currently dealing with several wars and conflicts. There is civil unrest in Sudan and South Sudan, and terrorism plagues the entire region. In 2017, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn, suggested that poverty is the underlying cause of war and instability in the region and that the best way to foster peace in this high-conflict area is to focus on improving the economies of these countries.
  9. Digital Technologies: Digital technologies could play a major role in closing the economic gap between these countries and more financially stable regions of the globe. Digitalization of a country is relatively low-cost, and can significantly assist in alleviating poverty through a number of channels. Technology can allow those in rural communities to access education, health care and agricultural information that would dramatically increase productivity. Beyond that, technology allows women and other marginalized populations to enter the formal economy.  An International Monetary Fund study stresses the importance of boosting women’s participation in the economy to create economic growth. Taking simple steps in investing in things like mobile phones and the internet could lay groundwork not only for alleviating poverty in the region but also for ensuring equality and lasting peace. This strategy has worked extremely well in countries such as Bangladesh.
  10. The World Bank’s Initiative: The World Bank has developed an initiative that focuses on alleviating poverty in the Horn of Africa by focusing on building resilience in the region and integrating the region economically.

The Horn of Africa is one of the poorest regions in the world. These facts demonstrate that these nations desperately need the attention and assistance of the global community in order to create stability in the region, and a chance at a better life for the people living there.

Gillian Buckley
Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in the Horn of AfricaAn estimated 37 million people are in need of emergency food assistance in the Horn of Africa. Of these people, 1.2 million are children under 5. These individuals are severely malnourished due to drought and conflict in the area. Millions of people are being affected by malnutrition in the Horn of Africa. Children in particular are threatened by a combination of poverty, insecurity, malnutrition and disease.

Due to the drought sweeping across the region:

  • 16.3 million people are in need of humanitarian services of which half are children
  • 14.8 million people are in need of water
  • 660,000 children are in need of severe acute malnutrition treatment
  • 2.55 million people were food insecure as of March 2018

People in the countries of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia have also been heavily affected by the worst flooding in the area in 30 years. In Kenya, floods have affected 800,000 people and displaced 244,400 people. These conditions have also resulted in crop failure and loss of livestock, turning conditions from poor to dire.

Immediate Help to the Horn of Africa

Beginning in 2014, UNICEF has treated 135,000 children for severe acute malnutrition in Somalia. They have vaccinated nearly 2 million children against polio. In Ethiopia, 2.7 million children, mothers and pregnant women have been screened for malnutrition. UNICEF has started supplementary feeding programs to further combat the malnutrition in the Horn of Africa. In Kenya, they have expanded their assistance to the flood of refugees coming in from South Sudan.

Organizations like Oxfam are on the ground in these areas, working with locals to get to those most in need. They are providing emergency food distributions and working with people to produce their own food and incomes. They are combating malnutrition in the Horn of Africa by providing emergency water and sanitation to stop the spread of diseases like cholera and diarrhea.

Continued Help in the Region

UNICEF’s efforts have continued to focus on preventing and treating severe acute malnutrition. They seek to expand access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene. Their people are increasing the number of children that they are vaccinating so that they can better respond to childhood illnesses and prevent them. Their focus is also on the people’s access to assets and safety nets that are responsive to seasonal factors and other shocks.

While there are many organizations that are coming to the aid of the people in the Horn of Africa, they still need more support if they are going to overcome the political and environmental issues that are making their lives unliveable.

– Michela Rahaim
Photo: Flickr