Information and stories about malaria.

Diseases in Sao Tome and Principe
Sao Tome and Principe is a developing country located on the African west coast. More than two-thirds of the population of this small island state lives on under $3.20 a day and faces the effects of critical disease. However, many organizations are working with the country to fight the war against diseases in Sao Tome and Principe.

Common Diseases in Sao Tome and Principe

Three of the most common diseases in Sao Tome and Principe are tuberculosis (TB), malaria and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

TB is an airborne disease caused mainly by air droplets that someone infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis transmits; it is endemic in Sao Tome and Principe. TB can cause various pulmonary symptoms and affect the lymphatic system, joints and even the central nervous system.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease; it is common in the country. Malaria can be very fatal to the victims and cause them to suffer from flu-like symptoms and high fevers.

Finally, HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system and can lead to dangerous acquired immunodeficiency symptoms (AIDS); it is still a significant problem in Sao Tome and Principe.

Key Players in Supporting Sao Tome and Principe

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Fund have been key players in supporting the fight against diseases in Sao Tome and Principe. Since 2005, the organizations have funded the country in its efforts against HIV, TB and malaria.

Over the years, the organizations have spent $4.5 million for HIV, $3.9 million for TB and $25.4 million for malaria. Through this funding, the UNDP has been able to ally with the National TB Program to develop various treatment and education plans for patients. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2016, there was a 63% decrease in TB mortality since 2000, a 95% detection rate for the disease and a 78% success rate in treating patients.

The UNDP also runs an HIV program; it supports those living with HIV and counsels populations who are at a higher risk for HIV about preventative actions. From 2008 to 2014, the prevalence rate of HIV among 15 to 49-year-olds declined from 1.5% to 0.5%. According to UNDP’s data from 2018, 249,700 people received counseling and HIV testing.

Sao Tome and Principe observed its greatest success in defeating malaria. Mortality rates from malaria have declined from 3.9 to 0.5 cases per 100,000 people. Although the Global Fund is no longer supporting the malaria program, it helped distribute 503,000 bed nets, reaching 100% of the population, and treated 56,800 cases of malaria according to UNDP in 2018. The incidence of malaria morbidity decreased from 65.5 to 11.3 cases per 1,000 people in the time frame between 2012 and 2016. Further, UNDP has granted approximately another $6 million to support the complete eradication of malaria and further control TB and HIV.

Others in the Fight to Eradicate Diseases in Sao Tome and Principe

Although UNDP and the Global Fund have been the major players in supporting the country, there are other groups that have helped toward the goal of eradication of critical diseases in Sao Tome and Principe. In 2015, Brazil spent over $500,000 to build a laboratory that would be focused on diagnosing and treating TB. This laboratory would ensure that the patients would receive quicker lab results and correct diagnoses.

Medical Care Development International, a nonprofit organization, has also taken up a project that will last from 2019-2023. It aims to bolster the ability of the military to provide HIV/AIDs care for its members and population in Gabon and Sao Tome and Principe. The project will increase its capacity to provide care in the military health facilities and laboratories.

A Ray of Hope for Sao Tome and Principe

Despite the dangers of malaria, TB and HIV, the people of Sao Tome and Principe can have hope in the fact that there are many international allies willing to provide support in their fight against these diseases. These common diseases in Sao Tome and Principe may still impose fatal effects on its victims; however, Sao Tome and Principe is not alone in its fight to protect its people.

San Sung Kim
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in Eritrea Eritrea is a small country in Northeast Africa, with a population of 3.2 million people. Eritrea gained independence in 1993 and remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Considering the total population, 66% of Eritreans live below the poverty line. Also, almost 33% of the population lives in extreme poverty — surviving on less than $1 per day. Eritrea is also a politically unstable country and calamities, such as war and natural disasters have contributed to the poverty level in Eritrea. Healthcare in Eritrea is another area in which the country is struggling. Although Eritrea has made great strides in life expectancy, maternal health and disease control — it does not measure up to other countries’ healthcare around the world. To learn more about the country’s health system, here are five things everyone should know about healthcare in Eritrea.

5 Things Everyone Should Know About Healthcare in Eritrea

  1. Resources are scarce. Eritrea currently has around six physicians and 75 midwives for every 100,000 people. While most of Eritrea’s healthcare providers are located in urban areas, 80% of the population that lives in rural areas is often omitted from healthcare provisions.
  2. Malaria is a major public health concern. Considering the total population, 70% live in areas that are at high risk for the disease. To rectify this, Eritrea’s government has been implementing widespread public health strategies. The government uses both national and community-based education programs to provide awareness of the disease. Besides this, the government is creating preventative strategies, such as the distribution of insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) to households across the country. Due to these efforts, more than 60% of people own at least two ITNs.
  3. Private healthcare facilities are few and far between. While private doctors are present in rural and urban areas, they are usually very expensive and only serve a small percentage of the population. There are two types of healthcare facilities in Eritrea — healthcare centers and emergency rooms. Only in emergencies can patients be admitted to hospitals without an appointment. For all other instances, people must consult with a local doctor in advance, to be admitted to a hospital.
  4. Infant mortality is decreasing and life expectancy is increasing. In Eritrea, infant mortality rates are lower than average (for sub-Saharan Africa). As the rest of the world watches global, infant mortality rates rise — the country has been taking steps to further decrease them. In 2018, the infant mortality rate was 31.3 deaths per 1,000 children born. In terms of life expectancy, Eritrea has made incredible strides. Since 1960, the life expectancy in Eritrea has increased by nearly 30 years and the average life expectancy is at 65 years (as of 2016).
  5. Healthcare in Eritrea is improving. In 2010, Eritrea published its National Health Policy, which outlined the country’s plans to improve its healthcare system. One goal of the policy includes hiring more healthcare workers (especially ones skilled in the treatment of non-communicable diseases). A second goal is to make technological improvements to allow for distanced training of healthcare workers. Final goals include increasing the quality and quantity of resources and adapting its healthcare worker distribution to be highly mobile and dispersed.

An Outstanding Record

While Eritrea is a relatively young country, it is making great strides in its healthcare system. It has one of the most robust healthcare infrastructures in the region. Eritrea’s response to COVID-19 shows the country’s ability to mobilize its government and healthcare system, to protect its people. Because of this, Eritrea has the lowest rate of infection and fewest deaths within the Horn of Africa. Hopefully, healthcare in Eritrea will only continue to improve.

Hannah Daniel
Photo: Pixnio

Healthcare in TunisiaThe North African country of Tunisia is sandwiched by two relatively unstable nations, Algeria and Libya. However, Tunisia has had consistent development in human wellbeing for the past couple of decades, ranking among the best nations in Africa. In part, this success can be attributed to Tunisia’s relatively strong healthcare system. According to a World Health Organization report, Tunisia possesses a “national health strategic plan” as well as a relatively high life expectancy at 75 years. Healthcare in Tunisia is a promising sign that the country can adequately support its population and promote longer, healthier lives for its citizens. Here are six facts about healthcare in Tunisia.

6 Facts About Healthcare in Tunisia

  1. More than 90% of the population is covered by health insurance. While some citizens use private insurance, others are covered by programs in place to assist the most disadvantaged in society. However, Tunisia still lacks truly universal coverage. One of the top complaints about healthcare in Tunisia is gaps in payment for important medical procedures, which can burden families.
  2. Tunisia’s 2014 constitution granted healthcare as a human right. The government is still working to make this a reality and provide universal, effective healthcare in Tunisia. Specifically, the government is trying to improve the dilapidated health infrastructure in the south of the country. This manifested in a 9% increase in the healthcare budget in 2016, which went toward improving infrastructure in remote areas.
  3. Private healthcare in Tunisia is booming. In recent years, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of private clinics built in the country was expected to surge. Seventy-five new facilities are set to be completed by 2025, doubling the number of hospital beds in the country. These improvements should help make access to quality healthcare more readily accessible to the general population.
  4. Tunisia successfully combated many diseases in the past. Most importantly, Tunisia has been able to eradicate and control many deadly diseases that put a strain on its healthcare system. Malaria, polio and schistosomiasis are well under control. In addition, Tunisia’s healthcare system has worked to address HIV/AIDS.
  5. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Tunisia has done relatively well. Sitting at 1,327 confirmed cases and 50 deaths as of July 2020, the country is positioned to recover economically from the virus, which is devastating in other parts of the world. Though it is still early in the pandemic, it appears that the healthcare system in Tunisia was able to absorb the influx of cases in order to slow the death rate.
  6. Robust preventative measures enabled Tunisia’s positive response to COVID-19. Seeing the potential for a rise in cases early on, the government, as advised by healthcare experts, quickly went into a rigorous lockdown that lasted for months. This was especially difficult considering that tourism accounts for 10% of the country’s GDP. According to a WHO spokesman, a strong sense of community and respect for the lockdown measures eased the country’s caseload and death toll. Because the Tunisian population was willing to make sacrifices for the broader community, they are now in a comparatively better place than some other nations around the world.

Healthcare is a critical issue for any nation. While there is always room for improvement, Tunisia has succeeded in using its available resources to ensure medical coverage for its people.

Zak Schneider
Photo: Pixabay

The Cost pf Ending PovertySeveral economists estimate that the cost of ending world poverty is around $175 billion. To the average person, this amount can seem like an unachievable goal to reach, therefore making any contribution futile. In other instances, some people prefer not to make direct donations to end poverty, in fear that their money is not being allocated efficiently.

Let’s consider a product that has had immense success despite its price often being called into question.

AirPods, similarly to most Apple products, have become a staple for many technology users. Chances are that you either know someone who owns a pair of AirPods or you own a pair yourself.

On different social media outlets like Twitter and TikTok, AirPods have turned into a meme in which the small product is often mocked for its big price. The first generation AirPods sold for an average of $149 per pair. On October 30, 2019, Apple launched AirPods Pro at a price of $249.

Apple sold over 60 million pairs of AirPods in 2019 and is projected to sell an estimated 90 million pairs in 2020. In 2019, AirPods generated an estimated revenue of $6 billion while the revenue in 2020 is expected to reach $15 billion.

Apple’s sales of AirPods in 2020 alone is eight percent of the yearly estimated cost of ending poverty. On a large scale, this percentage may seem like a small portion of what is needed to minimize this global issue. However, $250 on a smaller scale can go a long way to help.

6 Other Ways to Spend $250 that can Help End Global Poverty

  1. Sponsor a child – Many children from war-torn countries live as refugees in impoverished conditions. With a full $250 donation, UNICEF will be able to sponsor three refugee children for a lifetime. Through this donation, UNICEF can provide these children with access to clean drinking water, immunizations, education, health care and food supply.
  2. Buy a bed net – A bed net can help prevent the spread of malaria by creating a physical barrier between the person inside and the malaria-carrying mosquitos. The CDC Foundation’s net is an insecticide-treated net (ITN) which continues to create a barrier even if there are holes in it. Each net can protect up to three children and 50 nets can be provided with a $250 donation.
  3. Provide a community with bees – Bees pollinate around an average of a third of the food supply. Consequently, providing a community with a batch of bees could help local agriculture flourish. Additionally, these bees are often monitored by community-based youth programs that promote entrepreneurship. Through Plan International, seven different communities could benefit from a $250 donation.
  4. Register a child – By registering a child with a birth certificate, that child then has access to necessary human rights such as health care, education and inheritance. A birth certificate is also an essential part of protecting children from child marriage, human trafficking and forced labor. A $250 donation could register seven children for a record of existence.
  5. Buy a goat, baby chicks and a sheep for a familyGoat’s milk can provide children with protein that is essential for growth. Baby chicks can also produce nutritious eggs and the possibility to generate income. Sheep will yield milk, cheese and wool for a family. All of these animals will offer a family a continuous supply of living necessities. One of each animal can be given to a family through a $250 donation.
  6. Fund a community center – A $250 donation could go towards investing in the lives of youth in poverty by funding a community center. This donation goes towards building or modernizing youth centers in impoverished areas. A community center creates a space for health operations, play spots for children and technological hubs.

These are a few of the many effective ways to make a simple contribution to alleviating this global problem that costs no more than a set of AirPods.

Ending world poverty is not an easy task, nor is it inexpensive upon first glance. However, an individual can make a massive impact once the cost of ending poverty is put into perspective. A personal contribution to ending poverty can be as simple as making a donation for the same price as a pair of AirPods.

Camryn Anthony
Photo: Flickr

Malaria is a leading cause of death in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2018, among 228 million cases of malaria globally, there were 405,000 deaths, 94% of which were in Sub-Saharan Africa. Although treatment has gotten much better in recent years and deaths due to malaria have begun to decline globally, in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic worries have arisen that those who receive treatment for malaria will be unable to continue to do so. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/global-covid-19/maintain-essential-services-malaria.html)Recent results from the Global Fund’s biweekly survey of HIV, TB, and malaria treatment programs found that 73% of malaria programs reported disruption to service delivery, with 19% reporting high and very high disruptions. Activities within the programs are being canceled due to lockdowns, restrictions on the size of gatherings, transport stoppages, COVID-related stigma, and clients not seeking health services as usual. With these disruptions to important malaria treatment services, such as insecticide-treated net campaigns and antimalarial medicine administration, the World Health Organization predicts that deaths from malaria in Sub-saharan Africa could double. (https://www.theglobalfight.org/covid-aids-tb-malaria/) These deaths would return countries' malaria mortality levels from the year 2000, regressing on the progress that malaria treatment has reached in the past 18 years. It has never been more vital than now that countries continue to mitigate malaria treatment in their communities and sustain essential services that have helped save so many lives of those affected by malaria. (https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/23-04-2020-who-urges-countries-to-move-quickly-to-save-lives-from-malaria-in-sub-saharan-africa) The Global Fund is a partnership designed to help eradicate HIV, TB, and malaria epidemics. It raises and invests more than $4 billion a year to support local programs for these epidemics. They partner with local experts in countries, as well as governments, faith-based organizations, technical agencies, the private sector, and those affected by these diseases to raise money, invest it, and implement strategies to give aid. (https://www.theglobalfund.org/en/overview/) The Global Fund has created an urgent mitigation plan to curb the effect of COVID-19 on delivering essential health services, such as malaria relief, as well as making $1 billion available to other countries as part of their response. They plan to adapt malaria programs to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, protect frontline workers with protective equipment and training, reinforce supply chains, laboratory networks, and community-led response systems, and fight COVID-19 by supporting testing, tracing, isolation, and treatment. The Global Fund is seeking an additional $5 billion to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on countries receiving treatment for malaria, TB, and HIV. (https://www.theglobalfund.org/en/covid-19-plan/) Along with the Global Fund and the WHO, the CDC has also created a set of key considerations for continuing essential malaria prevention, while safeguarding against the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to recommending that a representative from the National Malaria Control Program should be considered for membership on the country’s National COVID-19 Incident Management Team, the CDC recommends continued access to Insecticide-Treated Nets for populations at risk, physical distancing during spray treatments, and the continuance of essential routine entomological monitoring activities while abiding by social distancing and wearing protective gear. The CDC also recommends that countries monitor their supply chain and adapt their malaria treatment programs if needed, due to higher costs or less resources. Countries should continue to collect data on COVID-19 and malaria illness in the population. It is important that countries communicate their continuation of malaria treatment to their citizens and educate them on how to seek treatment while also protecting themselves from COVID. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/global-covid-19/maintain-essential-services-malaria.html)
The leading cause of death in Sub-Saharan Africa is malaria. There were 228 million cases of malaria globally in 2018. Additionally, there were 405,000 deaths, 94% of which were in Sub-Saharan Africa. The treatment improves in recent years and malaria has begun to decline globally. However, concerns about receiving treatment for malaria occurs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent results from the Global Fund’s biweekly survey of HIV, TB and malaria treatment programs found that 73% of malaria programs reported disruption to service delivery. Around 19% reports high and very high disruptions.

Lockdowns canceled activities within the programs. There are restrictions on the size of gatherings, transport stoppages, COVID-related stigma and patients are not seeking health services as usual. The World Health Organization predicts that deaths from malaria in Sub-saharan Africa could double due to disruptions to important malaria treatment services. For example, insecticide-treated net campaigns and antimalarial medicine administration. It is extremely vital that countries continue to mitigate malaria treatment in their communities. Additionally, the countries should sustain essential services that have helped save many lives affected by malaria.

The Global Fund

The Global Fund is a partnership that helps eradicate HIV, TB and malaria epidemics. It raises and invests more than $4 billion a year to support local programs for these epidemics. The organization partner with local experts in countries, governments, organizations, the private sector and those affected by these diseases. The aim of the partnership is to raise and invest money and implement strategies to give aid.

Furthermore, The Global Fund created an urgent mitigation plan to curb the effect of COVID-19 on delivering essential health services. The plan includes making $1 billion malaria relief available to other countries as part of their response. In addition, The Global Fund plans to adapt malaria programs to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and protect frontline workers with protective equipment and training. It also reinforce supply chains, laboratory networks and community-led response systems. The Global Fund fights COVID-19 by supporting testing, tracing, isolation, and treatment. It seeks an additional $5 billion to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on countries receiving treatment for malaria, TB and HIV.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The CDC created a set of key considerations for continuing essential malaria prevention while safeguarding against the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC gives four recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic. First, a representative from the National Malaria Control Program should be considered for membership on the country’s National COVID-19 Incident Management Team. Second, continued access for Insecticide-Treated Nets for populations at risk should be put in place. Third, physical distancing during spray treatments should be imposed. Lastly, the continuance of essential routine entomological monitoring activities while abiding by social distancing and wearing protective gear.

For countries that impacted by malaria, the CDC advises the countries to monitor their supply chain and adapt their malaria treatment programs. Countries should continue to collect data on COVID-19 and malaria illness in the population. It is important that countries communicate their continuation of malaria treatment to their citizens and educate them on how to seek treatment while also protecting themselves from COVID-19.

Giulia Silver
Photo: Flickr

Mosquito-Spread DiseasesMosquito-spread diseases such as malaria and dengue fever have plagued tropical regions for centuries. Most recently, the Zika virus emerged as a high profile danger to those living below the poverty line. Both malaria and dengue fever have higher mortality rates than the Zika virus. However, Zika causes birth defects. As a result, it promises to leave lasting effects on generations to come.

Origin of Zika Virus

Scientists first discovered the Zika virus in Rhesus monkeys in Africa in 1947. In 1948, the virus made the jump to mosquitos, which would lead to the first reported case in humans by 1952. A rash is what characterizes the contraction of this virus. It also associates with Guillain-Barre syndrome and microcephaly in unborn children because of their increased risks.

How These Diseases Affect Global Poverty

The Zika virus made headlines in 2016 as it threatened the Olympics, though they were able to carry on. This press helped to demonstrate the power and danger posed by mosquito-spread diseases in countries like Brazil.

Zika is a disease of poverty, meaning that although the disease is preventable, prevention is often sequestered to wealthy regions. These regions can afford to take extensive preventative measures, such as the widespread dispersal of mosquito nets and extermination.

Brazil is on par with the global average GDP per capita. However, this nation and many others in South and Central America are also plagued with wealth disparity. This means that although some communities within Brazil can enforce preventive measures against Zika and malaria, many others cannot.

Zika, malaria and dengue fever spread through the bite of mosquitoes that are infected. These mosquitoes typically come from the Aedes species. Any humid areas with heavy rainfall are likely to attract mosquitoes and be at risk of these diseases. Communities that lack proper infrastructure are also likely to have large pools of standing water. This, coupled with the tendency to overcrowd in urban areas, has left the impoverished and working-class people of South America, Africa and Southwest Asia susceptible to these diseases. This is not simply a health issue, but a class issue as well.

The Good News

After years of research, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced another breakthrough in the prevention of mosquito-spread diseases in June 2020. To prevent such diseases, scientists have pioneered the Sterile Insect Technique. This method takes male mosquitoes and uses radiation to sterilize them. They are released into a wild population where they mate with female mosquitoes. Eventually failing to produce allows the diseases carrying species of mosquitoes to die off. This technique promises to reduce the percentage of disease-spreading mosquitoes over the course of several mosquito generations.

The major issue with the plan is dispersal. As the IAEA notes, mosquitoes have delicate legs and wings that can easily be crushed in mechanical transport. This means that the sterilized males need to be hand released. This drives the cost up, makes the process slower and relegates it only to areas within a walkable distance (IAEA, June 2020).

However, in June, the IAEA tested a new sort of drone that promises to change the game. This drone flies smooth and consistently enough to release the mosquitoes without damaging them. As a result, there can be a great reduction in the treatment cost. Now, a variety of environments would be able to use it. These methods will also be able to reduce the amount of pollution and pesticides associated with mosquito nets in communities all over the world.

 

Allison Moss

Photo: Pixabay

Benefits of MushroomsMany people recognize mushrooms these days as a trending health topic, but the benefits of mushrooms reach far beyond its popularized portrayals of a healthy supplement to add to one’s morning coffee. The perspectives of several renowned scientists and organizations with focuses on international development have proven that mushrooms are substantial in their medicinal properties, disease control, agricultural and malnutrition solutions and much more.

Mushroom Medicine

Paul Stamets is a mycologist who people know for his research and advocacy of the various benefits of mushrooms. Some of his most important unearthings include a new class of antivirals and antimicrobials called Fomitopsterols which is more potent in treating flu viruses and herpes than Ribavirin is.

By working with the Bioshield Biodefense Program, Stamets confirmed that Agarikon, the longest living mushroom in the world, has anti-tubercular properties. In addition to this, Stamets worked to study the effects of turkey tail mushrooms, which can empower the immune system, on women with breast cancer suffering from impaired immune systems. His studies showed that these mushrooms can enhance natural killer cell activities in women.

Meanwhile, the Amadou mushroom is a useful source for sustainable textile innovations. Amadou can become a cellular fabric when one boils it. People can also use it to keep a fire burning for days by hollowing out the mushroom and putting embers inside.

Disease Control

Vector-borne diseases have a close association with poverty due to their large economic impact on growing populations in urban settings. As a result, they often affect some of the poorest countries.

Insecticides are becoming ineffective in Brazil due to a growing resistance in mosquitos. Many homes in Brazil require water storage tanks due to insecure water supplies. These tanks are also major breeding sites for mosquitoes.

Researchers in Brazil have discovered that using only a plastic bottle and a black cloth containing an entomopathogenic fungus can be an effective way of countering mosquitoes. The mosquitoes become attracted to the dark cloth surface and become infected with the fungus, killing the mosquito.

Stamets had another breakthrough revelation when he took the mycelium of Cordyceps without the spores and discovered that they became super attractants. One of the most significant studies involved the attraction of yellow fever mosquitos. This discovery has profound potential for disease control by steering insects from human populations, controlling diseases such as malaria, yellow fever and West Nile virus (WNV).

Alternative to Poaching

Poaching is a common consequence of poverty in Thailand. Freeland Foundation’s Surviving Together program encourages sustainable mushroom farming to replace poaching and illegal logging. The program leaders collect the mushrooms that the villagers cultivate and sell them at local markets. The money that comes from the mushrooms then goes into bank accounts for the farmers to save and grow their businesses.

Freeland Foundation described mushrooms as the most fitting crop choice for the villagers because it is in high demand throughout the year in Thailand. The mushroom business is providing opportunities to those who originally thought they had no alternatives.

This program provides protection to natural forests and prevents the loss of biodiversity. The families who once felt that they had no options are now contributing to saving ecosystems.

Solving Malnutrition

Recent success at Compassion, a child development center in Lomé, Togo, models how the benefits of mushrooms reach great depths. The development center had been struggling to find the definitive answer to meet all of its children’s needs. The support that the center was receiving to feed the children did not cover the abundant number experiencing malnourishment.

With the help of Critical Needs funding, the center started a mushroom farm which became a fundamental answer to resolving a crucial problem. These mushrooms provided nutrition to the children and replenished their health while remaining cost-effective and sustainable.

Thanks to the center’s mushroom farm, the children have been able to receive lunch and take-home packets each day. The center uses the remaining mushrooms to grind as an addition to a nutrient-rich porridge.

With an increase in enrollment, all the children attending the center have become a healthy weight. The center also gains advantages in funding and employment opportunities with the surplus of mushroom products that it makes and sells locally.

Anyone can easily realize and appreciate the benefits of mushrooms. However, the extent that they can make a difference for people in need around the world may go far beyond what most realize.

Amy Schlagel
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in ChadLocated in Central Africa, the country of Chad is the fifth largest landlocked state and has a poverty rate of 66.2%. With a total population of approximately 15.5 million, a lack of modern medicine, dramatic weather changes and poor education have riddled the country with deadly diseases and resulted in severe poverty in Chad.

Poor Health Conditions in Chad Lead to Disease

The most common types of disease and the primary causes of death include malaria, respiratory infections and HIV/AIDS. Malaria, usually spread through mosquito bites, is a potentially fatal disease and is quite common in the country of Chad. Due to poor sanitation, Chadians are more susceptible to malaria; the most recently estimated number of cases was 500,000 per year.

Along with malaria, lower respiratory diseases contribute to Chad’s high mortality rate – the most common and deadliest of those being meningitis.  Lower respiratory tract infections occur in the lungs and can sometimes affect the brain and spinal cord. A lack of available vaccinations in the country has increased susceptibility to meningitis. Meningitis is most deadly in those under the age of 20, and with a countrywide median age of 16.6 years old, Chad has seen a rise in total meningitis cases and overall deaths.

As of 2015, there were an estimated 210,000 Chadians living with HIV. According to UNAIDS, there were 12,000 AIDS-related deaths just last year, along with 14,000 new cases. Those living with HIV/AIDS are at a higher risk of death with their compromised immune systems. They are unable to fight off diseases and, with the preexisting severe risk of malaria and meningitis, they are more susceptible to death.

Harsh Weather and Its Role in Food Insecurity and Disease

Due to its geography, Chad is one of the countries most severely affected by climate change. Approximately 40% of Chadians live at or below the poverty line, with the majority relying heavily on agricultural production and fishing. The drastic change in rain patterns and the consequent frequency of droughts have placed a significant strain on their food supply. Fishing in particular has been sparse. Lake Chad, the country’s largest lake, has diminished by 90% in the past 50 years. The rising temperatures in Chad have caused a decrease in both crop yields and good pasture conditions, placing more strain on those who depend on Lake Chad for food and the nutrients it adds to farming.

In addition to affecting poverty in Chad, intense weather patterns have also increased the number of infectious diseases. The infrastructure of the country has not been able to keep up with the rapidly growing population in urban areas. This results in poor sanitation. The sanitation services are overwhelmed during floods: which contaminates the water supply.

Lack of Education Affects Poverty in Chad

Despite the relatively large population, less than half of school-aged children are enrolled in school. With attendance rates so low, the literacy rates in individuals between the ages of 15 and 24 fall; currently, they only reach 31%.  According to UNICEF, attendance rates are astonishingly low; 8% for children in upper secondary school and 13% for lower secondary school. With education rates so low, income inequality, infant and maternal deaths and stunting in children continue to rise; as a result, the overall economic growth of the country declines.

Enrollment is low in Chad due to the lack of resources in schools. With the country in severe poverty, schools remain under-resourced, both in access and infrastructure. Some schools have no classrooms and no teaching materials. Furthermore, teachers are often outnumbered 100:1. As a result, the quality of learning decreases, as does the overall attendance rate.

As of now, only 27% of primary-school-age children complete their schooling. According to UNESCO, if adults in low-income countries completed their secondary education, the global poverty rate would be cut in half. Even learning basic reading skills could spare approximately 171 million people from living in extreme poverty. Educated individuals are more likely to develop important skills and abilities needed to help them overcome poverty. Education also decreases an individual’s risk of vulnerability to disease, natural disasters and conflict.

Poverty in Chad is widespread, and the rate of impoverished people will continue to grow if it is not addressed. Poor health conditions and a lack of education are just a few of the many problems people face; while the living conditions may seem dire in Chad, a gradual decrease in overall poverty rates proves that there is hope.

Jacey Reece
Photo: Flickr

innovative technologies stopping malariaMalaria has plummeted by 40% fifteen years after 2000. A report that NCBI published attributed this to mosquito preventative measures like bed netting and insecticides. These interventions and practices, like wearing light color clothing, help at-risk populations fight malaria. However, mosquitos are learning to fight back. Resistance to insecticides is evolving in mosquitos and malaria continues to afflict millions. In 2018, there were still 228 million cases of malaria and 405,000 deaths. Over 90% of these cases and deaths occurred in Sub-Saharan Africa, but there are many interventions that have the potential to stop malaria. Here are three innovative technologies stopping malaria.

3 Innovative Technologies Stopping Malaria

  1.  The SolarMal Project: The SolarMal project is part of a new arsenal of defenses against mosquitos and their diseases beyond the typical netting and spray. SolarMal is a solar-powered mosquito trapper. The solar panel mainly serves to power a vent in the SolarMal, but it also has been able to store and serve as an electricity provider for the houses it protects. The solar panel sits on the roof of a house and connects to a trapping device on the ground. Inside the trapper is an odorous chemical that mosquitos prefer to people. A ventilation unit then sucks the hungry mosquitos inside where they cannot escape. On the Island of Rusinga, the SolarMal project has decreased the mosquito population by 70% and malaria incidence by 30%. This technology works and is applicable to other mosquito-borne illnesses like the Zika virus and dengue fever.
  2. DJI Phantom: There are two places experts try to stop mosquitos: in their breeding grounds and in their feeding grounds. Netting, insecticides and the SolarMal project work to prevent malaria in mosquito feeding grounds in the towns and residences where people live. DJI Phantom is the name of a low-cost drone that can survey wilderness and find mosquito breeding grounds. Of these three innovative technologies stopping malaria, the Phantom is the most indirect but also one of the most essential. There are many ways to limit mosquito breeding once people have found their habitats but discovering them has now become much more efficient. High-resolution satellites can also be helpful in finding mosquito breeding grounds. However, these methods are very expensive and require perfect weather conditions. This is difficult as most mosquitos breed in wet areas that typically have cloud coverage. Drones offer a cheaper and more consistent method to discover mosquito habitats. In 30 minutes of fly time, this drone can capture 30 hectares to analyze for still bodies of water. Field surveys of breeding grounds could only spot half the water bodies the drone was able to discover. Once people have located the mosquito breeding grounds, they may disperse chemicals or oils to disrupt mosquito larvae.
  3.  Gene-Drive: The nonprofit Target Malaria develops mosquito solutions using CRISPR gene-editing technology. There are three phases of genetic modification that Target Malaria conducts. For the first phase, scientists are developing sterile male mosquitos to release into the wild. Male mosquitos do not bite people and when the sterile males mate with female mosquitos, they do not produce offspring. This method can decrease their population but only for one reproduction cycle. Phase two looks to decrease the population over a longer period of time. This stage is the self-limiting stage and it aims to make a reproduction bias towards male mosquitos. Phase two genetic modifications will undergo natural selection after some time. In the following stage three, Target Malaria will look to make these genetic changes permanent. Creating a male bias mutation that successfully survives between generations, the number of female mosquitos will decrease 10-fold and severely limit the population. Target Malaria is still in the initial phases, but it must take great care as there could be many unknown side effects on an ecosystem.

Stopping malaria is a focus for many African communities and there are many organizations looking into possible solutions to stop the spread and hopefully eradicate this disease. Estimates determine that eradicating malaria by 2040 would save 11 million lives and surge $2 trillion of economic growth. Advancements like these three innovative technologies stopping malaria are making this future vision possible.

– Brett Muni
Photo: Flickr

Malaria in ZanzibarMalaria is both highly infectious and fatal and is often spread by the bites of infected mosquitos. The disease is treatable, but only if it is correctly identified quickly. As a result, there are an estimated 228 million cases of malaria worldwide with more than 405,000 deaths in 2018 alone. According to the World Health Organization, Africa has the highest number of malaria cases, with the most common cases occurring in pregnant women, patients with HIV/AIDS and children under 5 years of age. With such a devastating impact across the continent, African governments have taken special measures in order to combat the threat of the disease. Some countries have begun to work towards their own novel solutions, such as the usage of drones to combat malaria in Zanzibar.

Zanzibar’s Drones

Over the past decade, the island nation of Zanzibar (located off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean) has begun to develop a novel way to fight malaria. Recently, thousands of households have installed mosquito nets over their beds and sprayed insecticide over their homes in order to reduce the likelihood of getting bites. These strategies have proved beneficial as the number of cases of malaria in Zanzibar’s population dropped from 40% to 10%. The next phase of the plan involves spraying drones to directly target the mosquitoes themselves.

The Process

As it turns out, the only mosquitoes that spread malaria are the females of the genus Anopheles. The Zanzibar Malaria Elimination Program (ZAMEP) has created a strategy to take the fight directly towards breeding habitats of those mosquitos: pools of stagnant water, such as those found in Zanzibar’s many rice paddies. Researchers have developed a novel liquid compound called Aquatain AMF. The compound is non-toxic and biodegradable and doesn’t damage crops like traditional spraying pesticides. Aquatain AMF works by acting like a gel over the surface of water where female mosquitoes lay their eggs. Consequently, the larvae drown before they can mature to adult mosquitos who can potentially spread malaria. In addition, the drones can survey the land to detect locations with high expected levels of mosquito breeding and can spray Aquatain AMF over eight hectares in one hour, far faster than can be done by hand.

Moving Forward

Currently, the drones are still in the testing stage and the government has to mass-produce them. Future steps include designing smartphone apps to guide ground-based spraying teams from drone footage and using automatically disseminating larvicide in the drones to speed up the process. However, there are several concerns about the drones. Drone operations need to watch out for collisions with aircraft and wildlife. Furthermore, the island natives have concerns about the drones mainly regarding an invasion of privacy and the association with warfare. Still, researchers are working with village elders in order to explain the methodology and process involved in the drones and how they can benefit from this technology. Should the testing phase continue to proceed smoothly, it may be possible that the research team can put their stamp on a machine that can eradicate malaria in Zanzibar and maybe even off the face of the planet.

– Aditya Daita

Photo: Pixabay