Inflammation and stories on medicine

Role of STEM in Developing CountriesScience, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are important for building and maintaining the development of any successful country. From the medical scientists, who develop treatments for diseases, to the civil engineers, who design and build a nation’s infrastructure, every aspect of human life is based on the discoveries and developments of scientists and engineers. The importance of STEM today should not be underestimated as its role is becoming increasingly significant in the future. The technology produced today is altering people’s lives at a rate faster than ever before. Consequently, it is vital for countries seeking to reduce their poverty levels to adopt new scientific research and technology. In doing so, these countries can improve their economy, health care system and infrastructure. As this impacts all aspects of society, the role of STEM in developing countries is of significant importance.

STEM and Economic Progress

STEM education fosters a skill set that stresses critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. This type of skill set encourages innovation among those who possess it. Similarly, a country’s economic development and stability are dependent on its ability to invent and develop new products. Technological innovation in the modern age is only obtainable through the expertise of specialists with knowledge of recent STEM research. Therefore, the role of STEM in developing countries is important because a country’s economy is completely dependent on new developments from technology and science.

Overall, the economic performance of metropolises with higher STEM-oriented economies is superior to those with lower STEM-oriented economies. Within these metropolises, there is lower unemployment, higher incomes, higher patents per worker (a sign of innovation), and higher imports and exports of gross domestic products. According to many experts, this holds true at a national level as well. The world’s most successful countries tend to efficiently utilize the most recent scientific developments and technologies.

In recent years, there is a major increase in the number of science and engineering degrees earned in India. India now has the largest number of STEM graduates in the world, putting the country on the right track for economic development. This has led to widespread innovation in India and a consistent increase in its gross domestic product. The role of STEM in developing countries can thus improve its economy. As of early 2019, India has seen an increase of 7.7 percent in its total GDP.

STEM and Health Care

Over the past 50 years, the Western world has made remarkable progress in medical science. With new breakthroughs developed through vaccinations and treatment, many serious diseases in developing countries are now curable. Common causes of death for children in developing countries are diseases such as malaria, measles, diarrhea and pneumonia. These diseases cause a large death toll in developing countries, but they have been largely eradicated from developed countries through proper vaccinations. As a result, these diseases take a large toll on the children of developing countries. In developing countries, a high percentage of the population is under 15 years of age. As such, it is important to prevent diseases that affect children under 15.

Lately, Brazil has seen an epidemic level of yellow fever which has resulted in numerous deaths. Brazil has addressed this by implementing a mass immunization campaign. In particular, this program will deliver vaccines to around 23.8 million Brazilian citizens in 69 different municipalities. The role of STEM in developing countries with preventable diseases will be vital to improving health and life expectancy rates.

Engineering and Infrastructure

Engineers build, create and design machines and public works to address needs and improve quality of life. Engineers construct and maintain a nation’s infrastructure, such as its fundamental facilities and systems. This includes roads, waterways, electrical grids, bridges, tunnels and sewers. Infrastructure is vital to a country, as it enables, maintains and enhances societal living conditions.

Subsequently, poor infrastructure can seriously hinder a nation’s economic development. This is the case in many African countries. Africa controls only 1 percent of the global manufacturing market despite accounting for 15 percent of the world’s total population. Ultimately, poor infrastructure, such as transportation, communications and energy, stunts a country’s ability to control a larger share of the national market.

Afghanistan has improved its energy infrastructure, using a large portion of the assistance received from the U.S. Through this effort, they have been able to reduce electricity loss from 60 percent to 35 percent. Consequently, they have improved long term sustainability and created a reliable energy system for their citizens. The role of STEM in developing countries is important on a large scale, improving infrastructure to impact their citizens’ daily lives.

STEM and the Future of the World

Societies seeking new scientific knowledge and encouraging creative and technological innovations will be able to properly utilize new technologies, increase productivity, and experience long term sustained economic growth. The developing societies that succeed will be able to improve the living standards of its population. As our world becomes more interconnected, countries prioritizing STEM education and research will make significant advances in alleviating poverty and sustaining economic, cultural and societal growth. Undoubtedly, the role of STEM in developing countries is of significant importance, just as it is in our modern world.

Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

MSF in Yemen: Helping Amid ConflictInstability continues to plague Yemen, exposing almost 20 million people to food insecurity and more than one million to cholera. The damage is evident in Yemen’s weak healthcare system, which leaves millions of people vulnerable. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, is an organization that provides healthcare for people affected by conflict and poverty. Though warfare complicates operations on the ground, MSF in Yemen is not giving up.

The Challenges of Aid in Yemen

In 2018, an airstrike destroyed a newly built cholera treatment center. Fortunately, there were no patients or workers present at the time, but the vital project had to be put on pause until repairs and reconstruction could begin. Events like this threaten the effectiveness of MSF in Yemen and risk the lives of the 16 million people who lack basic healthcare.

MSF also runs 12 healthcare centers of its own in addition to the 20 hospitals the organization supports. Its operations have treated more than 1.6 million people suffering from injuries, disease and chronic illnesses. MSF’s activities in Yemen take place in a constantly changing and dangerous environment. Since 2015, constant fighting between various militant groups has damaged countless Yemeni health facilities, leaving only half fully functioning. Many hospitals and health facilities in the areas have closed down because of safety concerns or because they cannot pay workers.

MSF in Yemen

The facility that was destroyed was one of many new treatment centers responding to the cholera outbreak. Cholera is a serious issue in Yemen and has killed 2,184 people since April 2017. Because of the violence, almost 16 million Yemenis have suffered from reduced access to clean water and sanitation, which increases their vulnerability to cholera. MSF quickly reacted to the outbreak by opening 37 treatment centers and oral rehydration points. In just six months after the breakout, MSF admitted more than 100,000 cholera patients. While the threat of cholera has decreased since 2017, treatment centers remain a vital safe haven for those afflicted.

MSF responded to another issue caused by the lack of healthcare facilities: pregnancy. In 2017, MSF in Yemen helped 7,900 women deliver their babies. Pregnant mothers are especially vulnerable because they lack access to clinics. Even when there is a health facility nearby, traveling may be too dangerous or time-consuming. Consequently, mothers give birth at home, which exposes them to health risks.  Many pregnant women also don’t have access to prenatal care and can have preventable but fatal complications.

Treatment Centers In Yemen

MSF in Yemen dealt with the re-emergence of diphtheria in 2017. The organization acted quickly by opening up a treatment center in Ibb where 70 percent of cases were concentrated. MSF treated around 400 patients that year alone. As successful as that operation was, others remain an issue, like renal failure. Multiple renal failure treatment centers have been forced to close due to the conflict. Many facilities are under-equipped and some 4,000 patients are still left untreated.

Treatment centers are often too far, or treatment itself is too expensive. Patients require three dialysis sessions a week, so many will reduce the number of treatments to lower the cost. Unfortunately, this can be dangerous and ineffective in treating renal failure. MSF responded to the crisis and has helped more than 800 patients by offering 83,000 dialysis treatments and importing 800 tons of supplies.

More than 20 million Yemenis are in need of humanitarian assistance, facing hunger, disease and displacement. MSF continues to provide aid through one of its largest programs in the world. Since 1986, MSF in Yemen has been compensating for the lack of effective healthcare, even amid the conflict.

Massarath Fatima

Photo: Flickr

Medical Tourism in India
India is, surprisingly to some people, known today for cost-effective and high-quality medical treatments, and the country achieves this by using the latest technologies and skilled doctors. This has turned India into a hub for medical tourism, with many foreign patients traveling to the country for treatment. Several countries, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria and the United States are all utilizing medical services in India.

The Growth of Medical Tourism in India

Medical tourism in India is estimated at $3 billion and continues to grow rapidly. In fact, it is projected to grow to $8 billion by 2020. This leads to job creation in both the public and private sectors in the country and promotes development and poverty alleviation in India. This thriving industry has the support of government agencies as well as the private sector. Besides medical services, there are many auxiliary service providers who also participate, including public and private transport operators, hotel and guest house owners.

Advantages of the Indian Medical Care System

India offers high-quality medical facilities and skilled medical personnel for a much lower cost in some of the more developed countries, thus attracting patients, that can as well be considered medical tourists. For example, treatment costs in India are around a tenth of the price in the United States.

With thousands of experienced doctors and nurses, India also offers a high quality of care. Another advantage of medical tourism in India is a lack of a language barrier. For English-speaking patients, India is a convenient destination for medical care, as English is the official language in this country. To aid those who are not proficient in English, some hospitals have hired translators fluent in languages of Eastern Europe and Africa.

The Government Role in Medical Tourism Growth

Almost 500,000 medical tourists came to India for treatment in 2017 and India holds 18 percent of the global medical tourism market. The government of India has removed visa restrictions for this type of tourism to further spur growth. In fact, e-tourist visas are now being offered for such treatment, including for short-term ailments. By speeding up the visa process and creating designated immigration facilities, the government is attempting to encourage the growth of this industry by attracting tourists from all over the world. The number of medical tourism visas in India has risen by 45 percent in 2016 compared to the previous year.

Alternative Medicine

While India is known for cardio therapy, transplants and orthopedics, alternative medicine and wellness procedures such as Ayurveda, Yoga and Acupuncture are also gaining popularity in the West, which draws patients to India, where there are experts in these fields as well.

The government is focusing on endorsing its wellness industry by setting up new facilities. It has set up the Ministry of AYUSH to promote research and education in this industry. The government has also invested in publicity and organization of events and seminars to promote this industry and attract private investment.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry has launched a global summit to promote health care services export from India. The state tourism department of Maharashtra has launched a portal to make information about medical care more accessible. By consulting various stakeholders and government agencies, the county is attempting to create a feedback system to further assist patients.

Medical tourism in India is one of the ways in which the country has a chance to promote growth and development, while successfully leveraging its resources and facilities. The rise in the number of doctors, facilities and access to technology further enables India to be a viable destination for patients worldwide.

– Isha Kakar
Photo: Flickr

traditional Tibetan medicineDespite the ongoing desperate struggle in Tibet over freedom and territory, collaboration is growing between Tibetan healers and the Chinese healthcare system.

Advancing Medical Care, Advancing Camaraderie

Medical care and advancements have often been sources of truce, respect and mutual benefits between cultures in conflict or war with one another. Such medical neutrality is evident amid the chaos between China and Tibet.

Chinese authorities recognize value in traditional Tibetan medicine, and some Tibetans recognize value in merging with conventional technology.

The conflict in Tibet is still unfolding. Over 150 Tibetans burned themselves to death since 2009 in despair and protest of Chinese control, and some plead for the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet from exile in India. The latest death from such desperate protest occurred in March 2018, with the self-immolation of Tsekho Tugchak in eastern Tibet.

Actions in Medical Neutrality

While the severe struggle for respect and freedom continues in Tibet, some traditional Tibetan healers are acting in medical neutrality beyond the conflict with China to preserve the benefits of their medical heritage and continue working as doctors. Also, mutual benefits are evident as traditional Tibetans are merging with more modern healthcare ways and patients are increasingly requesting integration of conventional methods.

New medical facilities and schools are growing in Tibet that merge traditional Tibetan medicine with more modern technology such as x-rays, MRI’s, antibiotic therapy and IVs. One such merging is happening in the Xinning, Amdo region of Tibet, where the Qinhai Tibetan Medical School connects with the Xinning Tibetan Medical Hospital.

The school includes a collaborative degree program of traditional and conventional medicine. At the hospital, traditional Tibetan doctors work with conventional Chinese doctors while innovating integrative treatments. There are several such schools and hospitals developing that integrate traditional and conventional ways.

Merging of Old and New

Scientific research efforts are also underway to use modern technological equipment for finding the active constituents of the plants that have been used for thousands of years by Tibetan healers. While traditional Tibetan healers use multiple plants in their remedies along with holistic methods, the research into active constituents may bring mutually beneficial “revolutionary drugs” and treatments.

Chinese authorities recognize such potential and are actively attempting to preserve ancient Tibetan medical knowledge. Employees of the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine are working to translate Tibetan medical documents, and the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region dedicates at least 10 million yuan (~$1.5 million) per year developing traditional Tibetan medicine, which includes preserving twelfth-century documents.

Use of Tibetan Plants in Tibetan Medicine

Many of the herbs used by traditional Tibetan doctors are not found in other cultures’ medicines, and an estimated 70 percent of the botanicals used in Tibetan medicine are local to the Tibetan plateau area. The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is known as “a gene bank for the world’s plateau plants.”

Many of these unique plants grow slow and don’t produce enough material to support a larger population’s medical needs. Therefore, an effort is underway to domesticate and cultivate wild botanicals unique to Tibetan land.

Tashi Tsering is the deputy chief of the Biological Research Institute of Tibetan Medicine (BRITM) at Men-Tsee-Khang in Lhasa, which is a hospital based in traditional Tibetan medicine that received quality-improvement funding of 256 million yuan (nearly $40 million) between 2014 and 2016 from the central government.

Cultivating Plants and National Success

BRITM has been working diligently to cultivate wild Tibetan herbs, which is no easy feat. Traditional Tibetan healers put extensive effort into learning what makes each plant medicinal, including many years of study and meticulous harvest and usage methods. These include efforts such as identifying which specific part of the plant to use and the correct weather for gathering.

Despite initially unsuccessful attempts at domesticating the Tibetan botanicals since 2011, Tsering and his team persevered and have since successfully cultivated at least 27 endangered medicinal plants.

The organization’s success is in part due to its careful efforts in mimicking the plants’ natural environment, including temperature, light, moisture and soil condition. BRITM continues to grow and improve its laboratory and technological equipment, aiding in the effort to cultivate valuable Tibetan plants.

While specific herbs are important in traditional Tibetan remedies, they are only part of the equation for health according to adherents of the ancient practice. Successes of Tibetan holistic methods have resulted in increased adoption of such ways.

Steps Towards Peace in Tibet

The president of Arura Hospital in Xining, Konchok Gyaltsen, explains that the combination of unique herbs and philosophy cause good health. For example, 94 percent of patients with rheumatoid arthritis at Arura Hospital are cured of the illness through medicated baths, psychology and dietary changes.

As several traditional Tibetan healers continue with medical neutrality working as doctors and researches, sharing ancient knowledge and leading schools and clinics, they rise beyond the desperate struggle in Tibet and help humanity overall. However, the self-sacrificing painful pleas for help from the Tibetan protestors against China are symptoms of major problems in the world.

The United States passed the bipartisan resolution 429 in March 2018, for “Commemorating the 59th anniversary of Tibet’s 1959 uprising as ‘Tibetan Rights Day,’ and expressing support for the human rights and religious freedom of the Tibetan people and the Tibetan Buddhist faith community.” The resolution also includes that “the Secretary of State should make best efforts to establish an office in Lhasa, Tibet, to monitor political, economic, and cultural developments in Tibet.”

With such support from the U.S., and collaboration between traditional Tibetan healers and conventional Chinese medical professionals, perhaps there is a way towards peace and respect in Tibet.

– Emme Leigh
Photo: Flickr

Telehealth company revolutionizes medical access in Pakistan
Iffat Aga is no stranger to searching for flexible work options. Born in Saudi Arabia, Aga attended one of the best medical schools in Pakistan and started working for some the world’s most credible pharmaceutical research company. Aga later became pregnant,  miscarried and conceived again. In this experience, she found that versatile work options for women were not common, and in many instances didn’t exist.

Female Health Practitioners

Women in developing countries, especially Pakistan, are limited by familial and childcare commitment. However, the majority of students in local Pakistani medical schools are women, and are oftentimes unable to attend full-time because of these responsibilities.

Still having passion to continue her career as a physician, Iffat Aga gathered a group of women and founded Sehat Kahani. The Telehealth company specializes in connecting out-of-work female physicians to poor-income Pakistani communities; many of these populations desperately need access to medical care, but are often unable to afford it.

The company currently operates under 14 organizations across Pakistan and has assisted over 500 thousand patients. The first of its kind, the new Telehealth company revolutionizes medical access in Pakistan.

How Sehat Kahani Provides Dynamic Access

There are several ways in which Telehealth companies provide care to patients online; Sehat Kahani does so through videos, online chatting and preventive health drives.Her most popular is video health chatting and preventive health drives. Currently, the company motivates women in low-income communities to continue practicing good hygiene habits.

Washing hands and disposing of infant toiletry appropriately are two ways Sehat Kahani aims to begin protecting communities from disease. By the end of the program, the medical staff at Sehat Kahani says they plan to “ensure that there is an increase in the number of families exhibiting health hygiene practices and a reduction in diseases such as diarrhea and other infections.”

Though this may seem like a simple step to some of us, Sehat Kahani takes great steps to remind communities that even the most simple of steps can facilitate the most dramatic change. The new Telehealth company revolutionizes medical access in Pakistan through other outreach portfolios as well. One such method includes medical vehicles that travel across Pakistan if a patient is in need of physical care.

Women and Telehealth Company

Female nurses and assistants are present when the vehicle arrives, but are assisted by a physician through video communication. Thus far, the vehicles have stopped in the cities of: Peshawar, Hyderabad, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. Sehat Kahani has grown exponentially since its start up in April of 2018, and is projected to continue this path in the upcoming months. By 2020, the company aspires to create 100 online e-health centers across Pakistan.

Further goals of the organization also include continuation of mobile health centers, and women’s work advocacy through an all-female staff.

The Telehealth company revolutionizes medical access in Pakistan by allowing women in low-income countries to be freed from socioeconomic boundaries. Dr. Aga has changed popular beliefs regarding women in the medical field, and many large companies that support her forward-thinking anticipate where the future will take the powerhouse of Sehat Kahani.

– Logan Moore

Photo: Flickr

tourism in ThailandThailand is a unique country that attracts over 32 million tourists each year. Tourism made up 20.6 percent of Thailand’s GDP in 2016 and supported about 6.1 percent of jobs. Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, was the most visited city in 2017. It is clear the tourism in Thailand is impacting the country.

Thailand’s 2004 Tsunami Recovery

Tourism both aided and hindered Thailand in its post-tsunami state. With a high need for jobs and funds, many luxury hotels were able to reopen within months. Unfortunately, some groups such as migrant workers had a difficult time receiving aid, if they even received any at all.

The event was also a catalyst for the marginalization of those in a lower socioeconomic status as many were barred from returning to their homes in popular tourist areas such as the beach. It is estimated that upwards of 10,000 were either prevented from returning or an attempt was made to prevent them from returning.

The Marginalized in Thailand

The country’s social bias against migrant workers, immigrants and refugees is one of Thailand’s biggest criticisms. People in these marginalized groups are at a legal disadvantage compared to Thai citizens. Migrant workers are at the will of their employer, needing a “termination and employer transfer form” (in other words, permission from their current employer) in order to switch jobs. Research by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 2010 found 33 to 50 percent of employers in the fishing, domestic and manufacturing sector used this law to their advantage to prevent losing migrant workers as employees.

There are also multiple reports of migrant workers being punished by law in what seem like uncertain situations. One example is the fourteen migrant workers who filed a complaint against their employer for exploitation, thus damaging the company’s reputation. This resulted in the employer filing a lawsuit against the workers with potential consequences being imprisonment and fines. 

Another unfortunate example occurred in 2015 when two migrant workers from Myanmar were sentenced to death for the murder of two tourists; the case was marred by police misconduct such as the mishandling of evidence and the alleged torture of the workers. While it is difficult to find an exact number of migrant workers convicted of a crime in Thailand, it is becoming increasingly clear to the world that this is a human rights issue that needs to be addressed.

Sex Tourism in Thailand

Prostitution was outlawed in the 1960s, but Thailand still has a growing trade revolving around paid sex. There is no way to get a real number on those traveling for sex tourism in Thailand, but NGOs estimated 70 percent of male travelers were visiting specifically for the sex industry in 2013. Prostitution does not have a social stigma in Thailand like in other countries and many Thais have accepted it as part of the culture, creating growth in the industry despite questionable legalities.

Medical Tourism in Thailand

Many tourists travel to Thailand because of the low-cost medical treatment. In 2006, about 200,000 tourists traveled to Thailand explicitly for medical treatment. By 2011, that number rose to half a million.

According to insurance company Thai Expat Club, Thailand was third in the world as the most likely destination for health tourism in 2016. Many medical tourists are saving at least half of what they would pay in the US. Add on recovery by the beach or in a resort and it is no wonder Thailand has become the medical hub of Asia.

Tourism’s Impact on the Environment

With tourism in Thailand increasing, trash increases as well. Unfortunately, Thailand’s infrastructure has been unable to keep up. A common assessment has been waste left over from beach parties. It is estimated that Ko Phangan Full Moon beach parties leave about 12 tons of debris per day behind which mostly goes into landfills or the ocean.

Many groups are currently trying to highlight this issue which will hopefully create a springboard for biodegradable materials and other environmentally conscious decisions. Some of the organizations partnering with Thailand to address the waste issues are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which collaborates with Thailand to protect environmental laws, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which works on conservation within the country.

Tourism in Thailand is drawing in great opportunities such as growing jobs, a developing medical field and cultural awareness. However, there are some points of contention with prostitution, the waste problem and an increasing awareness of the marginalized in Thai society. Curbing environmental problems and working toward a more equal society will create a stronger Thailand and, ultimately, a stronger world.

– Natasha Komen
Photo: Flickr

medical advancements in EthiopiaWith a population of approximately 106 million, the nation of Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa. Along with this large population, Ethiopia also has one of the highest poverty levels in the world and is one of the most underdeveloped countries on the continent.

Due to this underdevelopment, Ethiopia has many medical and healthcare related concerns that have historically not been able to be addressed. Recently, the government of Ethiopia has made the health of its citizens a priority, leading to many medical advancements in Ethiopia.

The current health system in the African nation is unable to provide for over half of its large population. One of the main reasons that Ethiopia has been unable to provide medical care to so much of its citizens is because there are not enough medical facilities in the country, and many people do not have access to the ones that do exist.

According to the World Health Organization, only 75 percent of urban families and about 42 percent of rural households are within walking distance from a hospital. When individuals are able to access a medical facility, they are often met with facilities that are understaffed, have workers with low qualifications and do not have many standard clinical supplies.

One of the ways that medical advancements in Ethiopia are occurring is by working on improving this shortage of medical facilities. An example is the expansion of St. Paul’s hospital in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Though this is an existing medical facility, the expansion will help the hospital take in more citizens than it has previously been able to. Currently, the hospital has between 12 and 14 beds in the emergency room; after the expansion is complete, the emergency room will hold up to 50 beds. This expansion is partially possible because of the partnership between Millennium Medical College in Ethiopia’s capital and the University of Michigan.

Another way in which medical advancements in Ethiopia are being made is by the nation’s dedication to treating HIV and AIDS. With the help of the United States, the Ethiopian government has committed to providing free treatments for HIV and AIDS. U.S. aid has been a vital part of this effort and has been working to provide the needed treatments. According to USAID, in just one year the number of Ethiopians accessing HIV counseling and testing increased from 500,000 to more than nine million. It is also reported that the number of people on anti-retroviral therapy increased from 900 in 2005 to 394,000 in 2015.

This expansion of current medical facilities and commitment to the treatment of HIV and AIDS are just two ways in which medical advancements in Ethiopia are being made. The University of Michigan has said that Ethiopia is experiencing a “medical revolution,” and it appears that this is just the beginning.

– Nicole Stout

Photo: Flickr

Medical humanitarian aidAccording to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an epidemic is a significant and sudden increase in the number of cases of a particular disease in a specific area or within a certain population. Epidemics can present themselves all over the world. However, epidemics are most common in impoverished, war-torn and developing countries.

Medical humanitarian aid can help end epidemics in many impoverished countries. Most countries that receive foreign humanitarian aid are not properly equipped to deal with disease outbreaks, nor do they have the trained medical professionals needed. This is how a disease outbreak quickly turns into an epidemic.

Many international medical relief groups focus their efforts on controlling epidemics by providing adequate medical training, professionals and equipment. Listed below are some of the international medical relief groups that are working toward ending epidemics.

Medical Teams International

Medical Teams International is a Christian-based international relief group that has been using medical humanitarian aid to help end epidemics. The group works by delivering medical supplies and trained volunteers to areas in need. The mission of the group is to provide medical, dental, humanitarian and holistic relief to diverse areas without discrimination.

For over 25 years, Medical Teams International has been providing relief for refugees in impoverished and war-torn countries. For example, in 2017 the United Nations declared a famine in South Sudan as a result of the civil war that has been ongoing since 2013. Shortly after the declaration, Medical Teams International dispatched massive relief efforts to combat the Cholera and Malaria epidemics.

Currently, Medical Teams International has provided medical humanitarian aid to over 520 thousand Sudanese refugees, severely curving the disease epidemics in that area.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

Medecins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors Without Borders, is one of the most well known international medical-based relief groups in the world. For over 45 years, the group has dispersed trained medical professionals and medical humanitarian aid across the globe. Medecins Sans Frontieres is also on the cusp of many medical initiatives in impoverished countries.

Medecins Sans Frontieres is known for tackling large disease outbreaks and epidemics in poor and dangerous areas. In 2017, Medecins Sans Frontieres dispatched relief efforts to Uganda after the country was declared in a state of humanitarian emergency. The group focused its efforts on the recent Cholera outbreak spreading through Uganda, setting up multiple Cholera clinics to help treat and prevent the spread of Cholera to other refugees in Uganda.

Direct Relief

Direct Relief is another nonprofit humanitarian aid organization that primarily focuses on medical relief to devastated areas. The goal of the organization is to provide proper and comprehensive medical aid for impoverished areas and emergencies. In 2017, Forbes ranked Direct Relief among the top United States charities.

Over the past five years, Direct Relief has provided medical humanitarian aid to over 80 countries, many in Africa and South Asia. They have supplied over two thousand healthcare facilities and have sent billions of U.S. dollars worth of medical equipment and supplies.

These international organizations and many more have worked hard to make medical humanitarian aid more accessible to impoverished countries. Many epidemics that have started due to unsafe food, unsafe water and a generally poor environment have been contained and even eliminated by medical humanitarian aid. These organizations believe that with the right aid and volunteers, diseases around the world can be eradicated.

– Courtney Wallace

Photo: Flickr


Healthcare programs often dismiss the importance of pediatric surgery in the developing world. Access to surgeons is treated as a superfluous medical resource rather than a necessity and therefore becomes extremely limited. The only pediatric surgeons in Kenya are located in Nairobi, making them difficult for most Kenyans to visit. In actuality, the demand for surgery among children in developing nations is strikingly high and the shortage of surgical care has extremely detrimental consequences.

In sub-Saharan health clinics, up to 11 percent of all child patients are in need of surgery. Of these children requiring surgery, nearly 90 percent are admitted with issues easily corrected by surgery such as congenital anomalies and injuries. Unfortunately, many children cannot obtain the surgical care they need. Even in urban communities with more convenient access to healthcare, approximately 217 out of 100,000 people die due to injuries, which could be corrected via surgery. By the age of 15, there is an 85 percent chance that children in Sub-Saharan Africa will experience a condition requiring surgery; without surgical attention, children can develop lifelong disabilities.

In impoverished countries that experience war and conflict, the chance of childhood injury is even higher. Children are often injured by stray bullets and explosives, and are even sometimes coerced into fighting. The Central African Republic experienced many child casualties during its most recent conflict (2012-2014), which put significant strain on its subpar healthcare system.

Even prior to the conflict, the Central African Republic had the sixth highest mortality rate of children under the age of five. Bangui Pediatric Hospital was overwhelmed by the influx of child patients during the war, but the U.N. supplied surgical kits and other medical supplies to temporarily rectify the void of surgical care.

Many other aid organizations are working to make pediatric surgical care more accessible in the developing world. The Global Pediatric Surgery Network has volunteer surgeons at work in various parts of the world, including Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan, Cambodia and Vietnam. The Pacific Association of Pediatric Surgeons teaches surgical skills to general practitioners in impoverished countries in order to create more permanent solutions to the inadequacy of pediatric surgery in the developing world.

The most common issues faced by volunteer pediatric surgeons in developing countries are financial constraints, inadequate healthcare facilities, insufficient infrastructure and geographically isolated populations. Fixing these problems is tantamount to improving surgical care for children in the developing world. Correcting surgical conditions in childhood increases a person’s quality of life, which strongly illustrates how surgery is such a necessary component of a complete healthcare system.

– Mary Efird

Photo: Flickr

Counterfeit Medicine in AfricaThe global counterfeit medicine market is enormous, making up an estimated 10 percent of medicines sold globally. It is especially prominent in developing nations, in which up to 30 percent of all medications are found to be counterfeit or substandard. In Africa, this means that 120,000 people per year die from counterfeit anti-malarial drugs alone. Such is relatively unsurprising, when considering that an estimated one third of anti-malarial drugs in Sub-Saharan Africa are thought to be counterfeit.

One of the primary issues in tackling this issue of counterfeit medicine in Africa is a lack of public awareness; many individuals simply do not know they risk purchasing counterfeit or substandard medicine. Those entrenched in the cycle of poverty are most often the victims of counterfeit medicine, as they typically have a smaller variety of medicinal options available to purchase- meaning that they might unknowingly have no choice but to purchase a counterfeit drug. Further, the poor generally opt for cheaper medicines, unaware that such medicines are often counterfeit. This lack of variety and financial accessibility ensures that the counterfeit medicine market preys on the poor in particular.

In the effort to address the issue of counterfeit medicines, Nigeria has emerged as a world leader. The nation’s strategy focuses on three areas: public education regarding counterfeit medicines, increased regulation for medicinal imports to stem the flow of counterfeit medicines and reinforced points of entry to mitigate the smuggling of counterfeit medicines. Since it first began this strategy in 2001, Nigeria has successfully reduced the incidence of these drugs by 90 percent, clearly demonstrating that the issue can be successfully minimized through intentional actions.

Nigeria’s stance as the leader in the battle against counterfeit medicine made it the logical base for Sproxil – a company that has created a mobile phone-based technology to verify the authenticity of purchased medicines. Medicinal companies can register their products with Sproxil, receiving individualized scratch-codes to be placed on their products. Once the product reaches a consumer, the consumer scratches off the code and texts it to Sproxil, who then verifies the code in its database. If the code is not verified, the consumer is immediately alerted and given a number to report it. Considering the widespread use of technologies such as MobileMoney in Africa, the structure of Sproxil is ingenious and entirely conducive to the lifestyle of the average consumer.

To date, Sproxil has provided over five million anti-counterfeit labels, contributing to Nigeria’s strategy of public education regarding counterfeit medicines. The company seeks to expand beyond Nigeria, into Kenya and India next. The effectiveness of simple education and verification techniques in Nigeria serve as a wonderful example of successful strategies against counterfeit medicine in Africa, and also the world on the whole. If other developing nations are able to adopt a similar education and verification-based strategy to combat the counterfeit medicine market, the future is bright, indeed, for the increased mitigation of the issue on a global scale.

Kailee Nardi

Photo: Flickr