Information and stories about malaria.

Fight Against Malaria
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2019, malaria infections stood at almost 230 million globally. Of these malaria incidents, 409,000 cases led to fatalities. These are the striking and often overlooked numbers encasing the global fight against malaria. Malaria, a parasitic infection that mosquito varieties ruthlessly spread, is an ancient disease plaguing regions across the globe, particularly within the warmer climates of the tropical and subtropical areas of the world.

The cyclical nature of the disease from uninfected mosquitoes to infected hosts then infected mosquitoes to uninfected hosts, is in part the reason this disease is difficult to counteract outside of preventive measures, such as traditional nets, drugs and various forms of insecticides. However, these methods have limitations. The insidious nature of repeat infections adds insult to injury, with reports indicating up to six malaria infections annually among some children. Now, the dawn of a malaria vaccine hopes to make strides in the fight against malaria.

The Dawn of a Malaria Vaccine

The daunting reality and statistics on malaria illustrate only one side of the story on emerging aid over the last three decades. After years of research and trials by the manufacturer, on October 6, 2021, WHO officially authorized the widespread use of a malaria vaccine that GlaxoSmithKline created called Mosquirix. This is not only a win in the fight against malaria. Mosquirix is “also the first vaccine ever recommended for use by WHO to combat a parasitic disease in humans.”

Dr. Pedro Alonso, director of WHO’s global malaria program, says in a press release that “[i]t’s a huge jump from the science perspective to have a first-generation vaccine against a human parasite.” The vaccine, which targets children, has the potential to prevent “23,000 deaths in children younger than 5 each year.” As it stands, the vaccine manufacturer has “committed to producing 15 million doses of Mosquirix annually” until 2028.

Development in Tandem With the Global Health Order

This trend toward vaccination campaigns, development and authorization does not of course appear in a vacuum. After decades of stalling efforts on malaria prevention, a new global health order has ushered in a recent admiration for the efficacy of vaccine funding, research and implementation on the back of the global struggle against COVID-19. Organizations championing the global vaccine battle against COVID-19, such as GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, “likely play a crucial role in negotiating the financing, procurement and delivery of” the Mosquirix vaccine.

Other major players in the fight against COVID-19 are also entering the ring. BioNTech recently launched a malaria project in July 2021. Its intentions are the use of mRNA technology, which has proven highly effective in COVID-19 vaccines, in the fight against the malaria parasite. Clinical trials of the world’s “first mRNA-based vaccine for malaria prevention” will begin at the close of 2022. These new multilateral and multi-agency relationships in health care, which the pandemic brought about, could be the stepping stones for future breakthroughs in global health.

Looking Ahead

Spurred on by new movements in global health, the malaria vaccine will make strides within infant and youth populations across at-risk regions like Africa and beyond. Mosquirix pilot programs in Kenya, Malawi and Ghana “found that the vaccine is safe. There is community demand for it and it is a cost-effective prevention method.” While perhaps not intrinsically linked to the new global health order, the world is making strides in combating an ancient and sometimes overlooked disease through emerging technologies, monetary funding and intellectual endorsements. It is safe to say that the new malaria vaccine could set new precedents as to the way the world cooperates on matters of global health security so that the international community can develop long-lasting strategies to keep at-risk regions safe, productive and healthy.

– Aidan Swayne
Photo: Flickr

Diseases in Nigeria
Nigeria ranked 142 out of 195 countries in a 2018 global health access study. However, although Nigeria has a challenging health care system, the country has improved the infrastructure that has helped it fight diseases such as polio, measles and Ebola. Nigeria now has centralized offices called Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs) that serve as a base for government health workers and aid agencies to coordinate immunization programs and collect data. While there is progress, many diseases still plague Nigeria.

Cholera

Cholera is a water-borne disease that results in a quick onset of diarrhea and other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and weakness. It is one of the many diseases impacting Nigeria in 2021. If people with cholera do not receive treatment, the disease may kill them due to dehydration. A simple oral rehydration solution (ORS) can help most infected people replace electrolytes and fluids. The ORS is available as a powder to mix into hot or cold water. However, without rehydration treatment, about half of those infected with cholera will die, but if treated, the number of deaths decreases to less than 1%.

In August 2021, Nigeria began to see a rise in cholera cases, especially in the north, where the country’s health care systems are the least prepared. The state epidemiologist and deputy director of public health for Kano State, Dr. Bashir Lawan Muhammad, said the rise in cases is due to the rainy season. It is also because authorities have been dealing with Islamist militants in the north. In Nigeria, 22 of the 36 states have suspected cholera cases, which can kill in hours if untreated. According to the Nigeria Center for Disease Control, 186 people from Kano have died of cholera since March 2021, making up most of the country’s 653 deaths.

Malaria

Malaria is another one of the diseases affecting Nigeria. Through the bites of female Anopheles mosquitos, parasites cause malaria and transmit it to humans. Globally, there were 229 million malaria cases in 2019, with 409,000 deaths. Children under the age of 5 years old are the most susceptible group, and in 2019, they accounted for 274,000 or 67% of worldwide malaria deaths. That same year, 94% of malaria cases and deaths occurred in the WHO African Region. Although the disease is preventable and curable, the most prevalent malaria-carrying parasite in Africa, P. Falciparum, can lead to severe illness and death within 24 hours.

The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), which USAID and the CDC lead, works with other organizations to help more than 41 million Nigerians. Despite the difficulties that COVID-19 presented in 2020, the PMI was able to assist Nigeria to distribute 14.7 million treatment doses for malaria, 8.2 million of which went to pregnant women and children. Besides that, the “PMI also distributed 7.1 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs), provided 7.2 million rapid test kits, and trained 9,300 health workers to diagnose and treat patients” of malaria. Before the PMI, only 23% of Nigerian households had bed nets, but since 2010, that number has risen to 43%. The PMI also aims to improve health systems and the skill of health workers to administer malaria-related services.

HIV

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) attacks the immune system, leading to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). One can control the virus with proper medical care, but there is no cure. The disease is prevalent in Africa because it originated in chimpanzees in Central Africa. The virus likely spread to humans when the animals’ infected blood came into contact with hunters. Over the years, HIV spread across Africa and other parts of the world, becoming one of the diseases impacting Nigeria today.

The CDC works with the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) and other organizations to create and sustain HIV response programs in Nigeria. The CDC’s “data-driven approach” and prevention strategies and treatment strengthen the collaborative system in Nigeria. These include HIV treatment, HIV testing, counseling, services to help prevent mother-to-child transmissions and integrated tuberculosis (TB) and HIV services. TB is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV.

From October 2019 to September 2020, nearly 200,000 Nigerians tested positive for HIV and began treatment. During the same period, over 1 million HIV-positive people tested for TB. More than 5,000 of those individuals tested positive and began treatment for TB. By the end of September 2020, nearly 25,000 orphans and other vulnerable children received HIV/TB services through the CDC. Not only that, but all facilities in Nigeria that the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) supports now use TB BASICS, which is a program that “prevents healthcare-associated TB infection.”

In 2021, Nigeria will face many diseases. On the other hand, great strides are occurring to educate the Nigerian population on diseases like HIV, malaria and cholera. Despite efforts, there is still much more necessary work to reduce illness in Nigeria.

– Trystin Baker
Photo: Flickr

Malaria in Malawi
Malaria in Malawi remains a top concern for public health and the safety of the country. On a global scale, Malawi accounts for 2% of all malaria cases, placing it in the leading “20 countries with the highest malaria prevalence and mortality rates.” In 2019, Malawi’s population totaled more than 19 million. That same year, health facilities in the country reported almost 5.2 million cases of malaria. The sheer amount of malaria cases in Malawi is alarming in comparison to the total population number.

Malaria-endemic Regions

Looking at malaria objectively helps explain its high prevalence throughout Africa. As the World Health Organization (WHO) reported in 2019, Africa accounted for 94% of the 229 million malaria cases and 409,000 deaths worldwide. WHO notes that children younger than 5 made up 67% of these deaths. The transmission of the deadly parasite allows it to thrive in many countries throughout Africa, specifically after the spike in annual rains in November. The malaria parasite thrives in very humid, often hot and wet conditions, making Malawi a prime location for the spread of the parasite. While the country has worked to control rates of malaria in Malawi by offering health services, the country still struggles to control the sheer amount of cases present.

The Beginning of the Malaria Vaccine Pilot Program

In 2019, Malawi welcomed the world’s first malaria vaccine pilot program. The vaccine, referred to as RTS,S, targeted children ages two and younger. GlaxoSmithKline is the producer of RTS,S, which underwent clinical trials after 30 years of refining. The vaccine trials found that RTS,S was able to prevent about four out of every 10 cases of malaria. The pilot project in Malawi aimed to gather observations and evidence of actual vaccine implementation to guide WHO in its policy recommendations for the use of RTS,S on a broader scale. The criteria observed included child mortality, vaccine follow-up and vaccine safety. Although the intention of the vaccine is not to replace other preventative measures, WHO hopes to add it to its bundle of malaria prevention recommendations.

The World Health Organization Approves the Vaccine

On October 6, 2021, WHO officially endorsed the use of the RTS,S vaccine worldwide, now called the Mosquirix malaria vaccine. This approval comes after two years of trials in three African countries (including Malawi) where more than 800,000 children received the vaccine. The vaccine can prevent severe and fatal cases of malaria at a rate of 30%. Since the pilot program implementation in 2019, WHO has been able to justify the ability of countries to roll out the vaccine safely. Although the vaccine itself is not 100% effective, it works as a preventative measure, reducing the likelihood of contracting a deadly case of malaria in Malawi. The rollout of this vaccine comes after decades of unsuccessful attempts to find a form of protection against malaria.

Economic Benefits of a Preventative Measure

Access to the Mosquirix vaccine will not only protect public health and safety but will also relieve the stress on Malawi’s economy. For years, programs focused on treating malaria in Malawi reactively. Given that treatment options are more widely available than prevention methods, health system responses have centered on reactivity rather than proactivity. As a result, the first response to malaria cases is often drugs. Drugs are both expensive and difficult to obtain. Furthermore, the malaria parasite adapts over time, becoming resistant to medications and decreasing the efficacy of drugs. Access to a proactive vaccine addresses the issue beforehand, saving costs in both healthcare visits and treatments in the long run.

Moving Forward

Malaria is a unique illness in that it involves a parasite that can strike an individual several times. In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, this reality is concerning. On a yearly basis, children average a total of six malaria infections. The continued attacks on their immune systems leave them susceptible to other diseases. However, with the new vaccine comes new hope in the fight against malaria in Malawi. While the approval of the vaccine is only the first step in widespread change, the next few years present a strong opportunity for progress in some of the most vulnerable communities.

– Chloe D’Hers
Photo: Flickr

Vector-borne diseasesDisease and poverty are two deeply interconnected issues affecting many countries across the world, particularly those in Africa. Among the most pressing diseases are those that are vector-borne, (illnesses caused by pathogens and parasites in the human population) such as malaria and dengue fever. Unfortunately, these diseases foster ideal conditions for poverty, given their effects on the working population. Moreover, poverty also creates conditions that foster vector-borne diseases, such as underdeveloped healthcare, a lack of information and poor living conditions.

About Vector-Borne Diseases in Africa

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malaria is the most deadly vector-borne disease. It leads to approximately 1.2 million deaths annually. A 2017 report from the WHO shows that 90% of the roughly 219 million global malaria cases are found in Africa. Dengue fever is also a particularly concerning vector-borne disease. As of May 2021, dengue is endemic in more than 100 countries. Dengue fever can develop into a lethal form of the illness, called severe dengue.

Impact on Poverty

In order to eradicate poverty, there must be a working population that can sustain itself. With the devastating symptoms of diseases like malaria and dengue, many are forced out of work, unable to sustain themselves. According to a 2019 study in BMC’s Malaria Journal on a farm in Zimbabwe, absenteeism among those affected by malaria was between 1.4 to 4.1 business days during the 5 month study. This is especially concerning given that in 2019, 15 countries in both Sub-Saharan Africa and India carried 80% of the world’s malaria burden. This means that in African countries where malaria is prevalent, millions of workers are unable to sustain themselves as they fight for their lives.

Current Solutions

Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are aiming to combat vector-borne diseases on both domestic and global scales. Initiatives by the CDC and WHO are invaluable ways to mitigate this health crisis. Even with this, one of the most influential solutions is foreign aid. As one of the most powerful and influential countries in the world, the U.S. can distinctly impact the global disease burden.

Malaria is one of the biggest health priorities of USAID, with funding going toward research and the development of vaccines and insecticide tools. USAID also collaborates with other groups and organizations, like the RBM Partnership to End Malaria and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. There is also the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative, which is led by USAID and includes 27 different programs in Africa and Asia aimed toward building treatment capacity for malaria and other vector-borne diseases.

Aid Looking Forward

Despite this funding into research, African countries desperately need more aid. As of 2019, nearly 95% of malaria deaths were in Africa. It is evident that current aid is useful, yet the gravity of the current disease burden requires further U.S. commitment. Research funding, treatment capacity building and development in African countries are crucial initiatives. Organizations like USAID are important vessels to create necessary change.

While initiatives solely targeted toward poverty reduction are necessary, they cannot completely eradicate poverty. This is largely because poverty is such a multifaceted issue.

As vector-borne diseases create conditions for poverty, poverty exacerbates vector-borne diseases. Therefore, they must both be approached in tandem, with further aid and support from the United States.

– Samuel Weinmann
Photo: Unsplash

Healthcare in Cambodia
Healthcare in Cambodia has undergone numerous changes in the past century. Cambodia was possessed by France, which provided minimal and basic healthcare for Cambodian citizens. However, Cambodia received its independence from France in 1953. Soon after, the country became heavily involved in the Vietnam War until 1991 and then faced political turmoil. In 1997, the Cambodian People’s Party staged a coup and gained control of the government. This party still holds power in Cambodia and maintains political stability. These numerous government changes have impacted healthcare management and policies.

High Infant and Child Mortality

Cambodia has incredibly high rates of infant and child mortality in comparison to other countries. Mortality rates in Cambodia are among the highest worldwide, with 12% mortality for children under the age of one and 20% mortality for children aged one to five. Consequently, families are more inclined to have multiple children, as seen in other countries with high infant mortality. This decreases the overall quality of healthcare, among other issues. Between 40% and 50% of Cambodia’s population is below the age of 15. While these numbers are decreasing, they are still not at the level required to maximize the current healthcare system’s impact.

Lack of Access and Space

Another severe issue that affects Cambodian healthcare is disease and illness. Diseases arise from a lack of clean, running water as well as poor sanitation. Furthermore, much of Cambodia’s population lives in decentralized villages away from larger hospital systems and medical equipment. Lack of transportation and proximity hinder an individual’s ability to afford and access healthcare.

Moreover, the current healthcare system is not adequate to treat the numerous patients in Cambodia. Many hospitals turn away patients, citing a shortage of resources and beds. In fact, during the Stung Treng dengue fever outbreak, the Cambodian Red Cross had to assemble a makeshift hospital. The organization set up beds for patients, as the present hospitals and clinics simply could not accommodate more patients. This deficit is especially threatening in a country where access to clean water and sanitation services is not guaranteed.

Cambodia also has had many cases of malaria, as is typical of countries located in Southeast Asia. There is always a chance for spikes in malaria cases. Operating at full capacity on a normal basis makes it nearly impossible to handle spikes when they occur.

Improving Health

Emphasis on illness prevention, rather than just treatment, will help improve healthcare in Cambodia. The Cambodian government must identify resources that have been successful in improving healthcare systems and lowering mortality rates in other countries.

Additionally, the amount that the Cambodian government has been spending on healthcare has decreased from 7.2% in 2013 to 6.6% in 2019. Healthcare funding should increase, specifically in preventive medicine and care. Rather than viewing these funds as a permanent spending increase, the government should see that the investment into healthcare will eventually lead to lowered costs as overall health in Cambodia improves. The country has already made large strides over the past few decades. As more individuals gain better healthcare treatment necessary for a healthy lifestyle, the overall state of living in Cambodia will also improve.

Coordinating NGOs

An NGO that is making significant improvements in healthcare in Cambodia is the Health Action Coordinating Committee (HACC). This organization focuses on addressing healthcare issues primarily by coordinating NGO activity in Cambodia in order to create the best system of resources, information and services available.

HACC has worked on enhancing healthcare since 1995, after noticing the lack of NGO coordination in the healthcare field. Now, the nonprofit is able to connect with other organizations to focus on community empowerment, advocacy and networking to improve healthcare systems. So far, HACC Cambodia has brought together 78 nonprofit organizations and has succeeded in providing a platform for these organizations to unite and advocate for common goals through different training, symposiums and other conferences.

Healthcare in Cambodia has gone through many changes over the past few decades and it is moving in the right direction; however, there is still a long way to go. The country suffers from illnesses and diseases that result in high infant and child mortality, and the healthcare system is still not able to take care of an aging population. In order to address this, the government must make healthcare a priority and collaborate with NGOs, such as HACC, to provide better healthcare in Cambodia.

Manasi Singh
Photo: Flickr

Malaria Vaccine BreakthroughMalaria is a life-threatening disease, but it is both preventable and curable. Malaria is transmitted through the bites of a specific type of female mosquito. In 2019 alone, there were almost 230 million cases of malaria worldwide and the estimated death toll stood at 409,000. Of these global deaths, 67% were children under the age of 5, making them the most at-risk group in terms of malaria. A malaria vaccine breakthrough has the potential to save millions of lives, especially in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa where malaria is endemic.

Malaria’s Impact in Africa

The African region carries the highest percentage of the global malaria burden. The region accounted for 94% of total malaria cases and deaths in 2019. Transmission is most common in areas where the mosquito lifespan is longer and where mosquitoes prefer to bite humans rather than animals, both of which are features of the specific malaria-spreading mosquitos present in Africa. Another reason for widespread malaria in Africa is the lack of resources across Africa to promptly prevent and treat malaria cases. Many people in malaria-riddled regions of Africa live in poverty with no access to basic healthcare or educational, preventative tools, leaving much of the population at risk of contracting malaria.

The Search for a Vaccine

Malaria is a leading cause of death among thousands in low-income African countries. Thus, a malaria vaccine breakthrough could be lifesaving. More than 100 malaria vaccines entered clinical trials in recent decades, but all of them failed to meet the 75% efficacy target established by the World Health Organization. Before the University of Oxford’s breakthrough malaria vaccine, the most effective vaccine had only shown 55% efficacy, which is well below the established target. Such limited success has caused some criticism, especially following the speedy development of multiple COVID-19 vaccines. However, scientists have responded that a malaria vaccine has taken longer to come to fruition because malaria has thousands of genes. People need a much higher immune response to fight malaria than COVID-19, which has around a dozen genes.

The Promise of the New Oxford Vaccine

The breakthrough malaria vaccine was developed by the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute, and trials for the vaccine began in 2019. In its most recent clinical trial, the vaccine showed 74% to 77% efficacy in one year in West African children — a promising sign for a potential breakthrough in public health. The vaccine trial took place in Burkina Faso. Exactly 450 participants aged 5-17 months old were vaccinated. Researchers recruited the toddlers from 24 villages in the area of Nanoro, Burkina Faso.

Such successes are encouraging, and researchers are moving toward a phase three trial in 2021. Researchers will conduct vaccine trials on 4,800 children in Burkina Faso, Mali, Kenya and Tanzania. If the phase three trial is successful, researchers hope that regulators will issue emergency authorization for the malaria vaccine as was done with the COVID-19 vaccines. The Serum Institute of India has committed to manufacturing 200 million malaria vaccine doses in the coming years. The malaria vaccine has the potential to have a major public health impact if scientists achieve licensure. A successful malaria vaccine will prevent millions of deaths in endemic areas and protect the lives of the most vulnerable children.

Lizzie Alexander
Photo: Flickr

Malaria in NigeriaAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.” In 2019, nearly half of the world’s population was at risk of malaria exposure. Despite being preventable and curable, there were still a staggering 229 million global cases and 409,000 malaria-related deaths. With a population of around 201 million people at the time, Nigeria accounted for 23% of those deaths. Children under 5 are especially vulnerable and constituted 67% of all malaria deaths in 2019. Though malaria is present in various tropical areas around the world, Africa accounts for 94% of malaria cases and deaths, with Nigeria maintaining the highest percentage of both.

GBCHealth

GBCHealth is a partnership of companies and organizations that invest resources into improving global health. The nonprofit encourages its network to use its power and resources to progress the health of society and achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in innovative ways.

One of the organization’s initiatives to eliminate malaria is the implementation of the Corporate Alliance on Malaria in Africa (CAMA). CAMA serves as a platform for African corporations to share successful approaches, create new alliances, gain visibility and advocate for malaria control and prevention across Africa. The initiative also acts as a networking forum for businesses to engage and develop relations with key government and civil society stakeholders whose focus is combating malaria. GBCHealth stated that “CAMA companies both lead and support innovative malaria prevention, control and treatment activities and collectively deploy millions of dollars to programs that serve the needs of malaria-affected people and communities.”

Status of Malaria

Despite the improvements in malaria control over the past decade, long-term success in reaching the WHO Global Technical Strategy goals for Malaria 2016-2030 is still far off. The 2020 World Malaria Report stressed that countries in Africa continue to struggle to make significant or consistent gains in the fight against malaria. In 2006, Marathon Oil launched CAMA in Nigeria with members such as Chevron, Access Bank, ExxonMobil, The Aliko Dangote Foundation and Vestergaard. The alliance works with global partners, including The Roll Back Malaria Partnership and The Global Fund, to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Together, these organizations are making strides in the fight against malaria.

CAMA Strategic Plan

CAMA’s 2021-2023 Strategic Plan aims to improve awareness and scale up prevention efforts through private sector initiatives. The End Malaria Project, a major initiative under the new strategic plan, will increase private sector resources in Nigeria and then expand to other high-burden countries, rescuing 50,000 lives in Africa. The project will further the government’s efforts in achieving a malaria-free Nigeria by 2023 and channel private sector resources and capabilities into reducing the incidence and prevalence of malaria in the most endemic communities in Nigeria.

Although malaria has presented a significant challenge to Nigeria, the country is benefiting from the work of GBCHealth. Through its efforts, Nigeria is well on its way to becoming free of malaria.

– Nelia Blackman
Photo: Flickr

CRISPRMalaria is one of the main diseases that has claimed the lives of many Nigerians. Due to population, social and climate conditions, malaria in Nigeria has been difficult to manage and control. Furthermore, it has been challenging to arrive at a permanent solution. However, CRISPR Therapeutics is working to create a gene-based solution that will reduce the spread of malaria, saving the lives of many.

What is Malaria?

Malaria is a dangerous and potentially fatal disease. It is spread by a parasite that commonly infects a specific type of mosquito, primarily found in sub-Saharan Africa. When mosquitoes feed off humans, malaria is spread. Malaria is not contagious but one can obtain the disease if traveling to a malaria-riddled country. Although malaria is considered deadly, malaria-related deaths can usually be prevented. Because malaria results in widespread sickness and death, it has a severe impact on many national economies. Since many countries with malaria are usually lower-income nations, the disease creates a vicious cycle of sickness and impoverishment.

There are four types of parasites that have the potential to infect humans, Plasmodium falciparum is the kind that if not immediately treated, can lead to death. People who have low immunity to malaria, such as young children, pregnant women or travelers coming from areas with no malaria, are at the highest risk of a case of fatal malaria. In addition, impoverished people with inadequate access to proper healthcare are also at risk. Bearing in mind these factors, an estimated 90% of deaths due to malaria occur in Africa and most of these deaths are children under 5. More than one million people die from malaria each year and 300-600 million people annually suffer from it, making it a significant barrier to development.

Malaria in Nigeria

According to the 2019 World Malaria Report, Nigeria held the record for most cases of malaria in 2018 as 25% of global malaria cases were in Nigeria. Moreover, in 2018, the country held the highest number of global malaria deaths at 24%.

The entire country of Nigeria is at risk of malaria because roughly 76% of Nigerians are located in high transmission areas. Malaria is more contagious in the tropical south as the season can last year long. However, in the north, malaria season lasts at most three months. Studies show that children living in rural areas and low socioeconomic classes are most prone to malaria.

The global community has funded Nigeria’s government well to fight its malaria crisis. For example, the government has received funding for malaria control from the Global Fund. It has negotiated additional loans from the World Bank, the Islamic Development Bank and the African Development Bank. Nigeria also receives assistance from the USAID President’s Malaria Initiative.

CRISPR and Gene Editing

CRISPR Therapeutics strives to create therapies treating malaria, cancer, diabetes and other serious diseases through CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing. CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing is the process by which DNA is edited by precisely cutting DNA and allowing natural DNA repair processes to take command. Corrected genes or newly introduced genes, can help bring immunity to malaria. CRISPR also has the potential to alleviate global poverty and improve conditions in sub-Saharan Africa.

CRISPR and Malaria

To solve the malaria crisis, scientists are considering CRISPR technology to explore the possibility of genetic modification within mosquitoes. This could include eradicating the malaria gene within mosquitoes or simply shrinking their population. Using CRISPR/Cas9 technology, the goal is to control the spread of malaria. Why target the mosquitoes? With international travel and climate change, the disease has spread internationally. Scientists have concluded that the best route to eradicate malaria is to attack the mosquito instead of the parasite.

CRISPR technology applications for malaria could potentially change malaria control strategies. Rather than simply trying to treat the people affected by malaria, with CRISPR technology, the disease could be completely eradicated. Africa will benefit the most from this potential application. CRISPR technology could potentially eradicate malaria, thus reducing the impact on people’s health and on the economy as well. Overall, CRISPR technology can break the cycle of poverty in Africa.

Ella Kaplun
Photo: pixabay

Formative SupervisionWith a population of about 30 million, many Angolans do not have access to adequate healthcare. The limited access to quality healthcare is due to decreased funding due to the Angolan Government’s budget restrictions. The lack of funding affects the quality of public healthcare which people can receive at no cost. The public healthcare sector in Angola does not have enough healthcare providers with proper training and resources. The lack of resources in healthcare reflects in the low ratio of about one health center per 25,000 people and more than 50% of people are without access to healthcare services. In recent years, USAID’s Health for All project, using the Health Network Quality Improvement System (HNQIS), has implemented formative supervision in Angola. Implementing formative supervision in Angola has shown to improve the quality of healthcare by increasing the number of healthcare providers with proper training.

USAID’s Health for All Project

USAID’s Health for All program is a five-year project that began in 2017. It works with the Angolan Government to help improve the quality and access to healthcare in the country. The project’s focus is on addressing the issues of malaria and reproductive health since those are two of the main health concerns affecting the people of Angola. With the current funding being at $63 million, the program has been able to train 1,489 health professionals on how to diagnose and treat malaria and created reproductive health services in 42 health facilities.

The program’s use of formative supervision in Angola has helped in educating and providing healthcare workers with the necessary tools to effectively care for patients. The Health Network Quality Improvement System is the main tool that USAID uses to help improve the quality of healthcare because the system is used to evaluate the performance of individual healthcare providers. By tracking the performance of the healthcare providers in Angola, USAID can more easily determine which areas of the healthcare system need improvement. Under the Health for All program, USAID has been using formative supervision with healthcare providers who specifically tend to cases of malaria and reproductive health.

The Benefits of Formative Supervision

From October 2019 to March 2020, the Health for All project recorded improvements in the quality of healthcare through the use of formative supervision in 276 out of 360 Angolan health facilities with prenatal services. In addition to tracking the performance in maternal and reproductive health, the supervision has also helped in finding the areas in which the management of malaria has been lacking. There are now about 1,026 health providers that have been properly trained in managing malaria cases as a result of the project. This has in turn indirectly improved the quality of care regarding maternity since malaria causes 25% of maternal deaths in Angola.

Besides increasing the amount of funding that goes toward healthcare, the Health for All project has used such funding to be more interactive with healthcare facilities through the use of formative supervision in Angola. Formative supervision has shown to drastically improve the quality of care in the areas of malaria and reproductive health as supervision allows trained health officials to identify and fix integral issues pertaining to healthcare in Angola.

Zahlea Martin
Photo: Flickr

Health Concerns During COVID-19COVID-19 has understandably been the main focus around the world. In developed countries, many are new to health epidemics and the disruptions caused by them. But, in some parts of the world, widespread disease is not new at all and COVID-19 is not the only health concern. There are several other global health concerns during COVID-19. Some seem obvious, like malaria or HIV/AIDS. But, some have made less news, like a toxic goldmine in Ethiopia. These health crises also require assistance and aid from the international community.

HIV/AIDS in South Africa

In 2019, it was estimated that more than seven million people in South Africa were living with HIV. Roughly 200,000 of those people were newly diagnosed in 2019, and in that same year, 72,000 people died. Though 70% of people receive antiretroviral therapy (ART), the disease remains incurable. Its prevalence makes it one of the priority health concerns during COVID-19.

Though South Africa has the largest population of people living with HIV in the world, it has made a lot of progress. Data indicates that in 2018, 90% of infected individuals were aware of their status and 87% of people receiving treatment were virally suppressed, meaning they do not transfer the virus. Despite this success, rates continue to increase and it disproportionately affects women and young girls.

In 2016, South Africa made treatment for HIV free to all, where it used to be available only to those with advanced infections. This comes after South Africa made pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) available to all sex workers to prevent HIV contraction in the first place. Though it did take years for South Africa to acknowledge this epidemic, the country is making progress. However, more focus and attention needs to go toward addressing HIV/AIDs in South Africa as it is a significant health crisis.

Malaria in sub-Saharan Africa

COVID-19 severely affected sub-Saharan Africa’s access to insecticide-treated nets (ITN) and malaria treatments. The World Health Organization (WHO) urged nations to resume the distribution of these things, in fear that mortality rates in 2020 would reach 769,000, which is double the rates of 2018.

Preventative treatments, which deliver antimalarial medication to asymptomatic people, aimed at school-aged children, has shown to significantly reduce the risk of contracting malaria. Health officials in sub-Saharan Africa have been urged to take heed of this, but the poverty affecting the region limits progress.

A whole 90% of global malaria deaths happen in sub-Saharan Africa, and of that figure, 78% of victims are children. Malaria is a treatable condition, but those most susceptible to it usually live in a state of poverty, unable to afford treatment. Malaria in sub-Saharan Africa is one of the most pressing global health concerns besides COVID-19.

Toxic Gold Mine in Ethiopia

Gold mining is an important industry in Ethiopia. The export of gold and similar minerals makes up 7-10% of Ethiopia’s export earnings. Hundreds of thousands of people are employed in the mines, both skilled and unskilled.

But, in Ethiopia’s most populous region, Oromia, a gold mine has released harmful contaminants that have severely affected people. Serious deficiencies in mine management have left the soil and water contaminated with dangerous levels of cyanide, arsenic and mercury. This contamination resulted in high rates of miscarriage, stillbirths and infant mortality, birth defects, the destruction of livestock and crops and locals are afflicted with debilitating illnesses. Residents say there was no warning about potential toxins,

The mine was considered so toxic that the situation was deemed a violation of human rights. After pushback from the citizens, it was temporarily shut down, but there was no accountability or treatment for those affected. There remains doubt whether the air and water are now safe and residents anticipate that the mine will be reopened. In August 2020, mineworkers were asked to attend a meeting, cementing this assumption. In collaboration, human rights organizations submitted a document to the Human Rights Committee entailing Ethiopia’s violations of rights in regard to the contaminated mine. It documents Ethiopia’s failures and necessary reparations that should be made to people.

To safeguard the well-being of the Ethiopian people and ensure that aid is provided to the affected people, it is essential for the international community to get involved.

COVID-19 and Other Global Health Concerns

The COVID-19 pandemic has upset the health of nations globally, no matter the resources a country has. But, it has also overshadowed some pressing issues. There are other major health concerns during COVID-19 that need international attention and aid as well.

– Maddey Bussmann
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