Inflammation and stories on medicine

In parts of the world where midwives and doctors are few and far between, traditional birth attendants (TBAs) play a critical though often controversial role in maternal healthcare. Though untrained, they function as medical leaders in their communities, sometimes delivering more babies than midwives. But as health experts reassess the functionality of untrained workers in the modern healthcare model, TBAs are at risk of being banned from assisting with births completely. Some African countries, such as Zambia and Sierra Leone, have already banned TBAs, although not without backlash. These bans have raised a very important and highly disputed question: are TBAs important or detrimental to the reduction of maternal mortality rates throughout the developing world?

TBAs, also known as traditional or community midwives, help pregnant mothers through delivery and the pre- and post-birth periods in areas where viable healthcare facilities are scarce or unreachable. They are typically older women who hold respect in their communities and often have children of their own. Unlike midwives and obstetricians, TBAs lack formal medical training and instead learn about the birthing process through oral tradition and delivery experience.

TBAs today work with mothers and their infants all over the world and are deeply rooted in the birthing cultures of many communities. TBAs are especially in demand in poor rural areas, where as few as 20 percent of births may be serviced by a skilled health worker. Much of their appeal comes from their accessibility, since TBAs offer their services at relatively low costs. TBAs are usually easier to reach than formal health professionals since they work within their communities, whereas bad roads, long distances and lack of transportation can deter women from seeking hospitalization. Women are especially unlikely to attempt the journey to a hospital if the care offered there is inadequate.

Some countries have attempted to make it easier for women to reach hospitals and receive inexpensive or free care, yet many women still seek out TBAs. This can most likely be attributed to the fear that is associated with clinics and hospitals, since many women are wary of facilities outside their communities, especially when surgery is involved. While there can be much trepidation and distrust surrounding doctors and hospitals, TBAs are well established and liked within their communities.

Mbarikit Eno of Nigeria was among the scores of pregnant women who feared hospitals when she was deciding where to deliver. “Two of my friends died in hospital during childbirth and I don’t want to die too,” Eno told the Global Health Next Generation Network in 2016. “Besides, those midwives in the hospital are very harsh; they shout at you and scold you as if you don’t know anything. They never use kind words on the woman despite the pain she experiences during labour. I know the traditional birth attendant that will deliver me. She is from within my community, she has delivered several women and they are all alive.”

Because there are both benefits and drawbacks to TBA-based care, health experts are divided on TBAs’ place in the modern healthcare model. TBA advocates claim that banning TBAs hurts mothers in disadvantaged communities, since TBAs are sometimes the only health workers available in these areas. This negative effect was demonstrated by a 2007 TBA ban in Malawi, which actually caused Malawi’s maternal mortality rate to rise. The country has since reversed the ban.

Experts also propose training and monitoring TBAs to ensure safe birthing practices. Organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have taken steps in this direction by increasing regulations on TBAs in recent years to integrate them into the modern healthcare model. These groups have implemented programs to improve TBA education and forge stronger links between health professionals and TBAs, among other measures.

On the other hand, many researchers argue that TBAs should be eliminated from today’s health system completely. Proponents of the TBA ban claim that TBAs are “untrainable” and too set in their ways to adapt to new healthcare methods. They also warn that TBAs cannot address the main causes of maternal death, such as eclampsia and hemorrhage, and that their often-characteristic illiteracy makes it difficult to keep records.

“It stands to reason that decisions must be made with an eye to the future and not just with a mind for the present,” said former Finnish obstetrician and gynecologist Kelsey A. Harrison in an article for the British Medical Journal. “Traditional birth attendants have no place in this future.”

As modern medicine progresses and new medical technologies enter the mainstream, health experts will need to further re-evaluate the role of more traditional workers in today’s healthcare model. While the best course of action currently remains unclear, banning TBAs and other unskilled workers is only a temporary fix for the low utilization of hospitals and clinics in developing areas. Until the underlying causes that send women to TBAs in the first place are addressed, women around the world will continue to turn to TBAs instead of trained health professionals.

Sabine Poux

Photo: Flickr

Medical Education in IraqSince the conclusion of the Iraq War, the relationship between border countries Iran and Iraq shifted into a new era of close diplomatic and economic relations. In a recent press release, Iran agreed to construct Iraq’s first foreign University of Medical Sciences after nearly two decades of destruction.

The relationship between the two countries has not always been cordial. Turmoil severely increased during the Iran-Iraq War from 1980 – 1988. During the Bush administration, United States Special Operations Forces conducted cross-border operations within southern Iraq. The demise of Saddam Hussein in 2003 created civil conflict and political unrest, severely affecting the medical education in Iraq and causing conflict between neighboring countries.

The tension between Iraq and Iran further increased in 2007, when the U.S. Congress agreed to fund up to $400 million for increased covert operations designed to destabilize Iran’s religious leadership and gather information about the country’s nuclear-weapons program. Iraq was unintentionally caught in the dispute between the US and Iran.

The Iraqi government depended on the 140,000 US troops stationed throughout the country, but its Kurdish and Shia leaders had strong alliances with Iran. Frequent threats and deadly attacks caused a mass departure of senior medical professors from Iraq. The exodus of Iraq’s healthcare workforce adversely impacted the medical training programs, leadership, and mainly, educational system. By the end of 2011, U.S. military forces were completely withdrawn from Iraq, officially ending the Iraq War.

Seven months after U.S. influence declined, Syria, Iraq and Iran signed a natural gas agreement which allowed for the construction of a $10 billion pipeline connecting Iraq and Syria directly to Iraq’s natural gas fields. The pipeline took six years to build and was officially completed in 2016.

Recently, Iran publicly announced its agreement to begin exporting natural gas to Iraq for $3.7 billion per year. The relationship between the two countries continues to strengthen as U.S. involvement decreases.

On Thursday, the Iranian Deputy Health Minister Dr. Bagher Larijani and Iraqi medical officials met in Tehran to discuss joint projects. The group achieved initial agreements to collaborate on various educational and scientific programs, This includes the establishment of Iraq’s first foreign University of Medical Sciences. Iran’s Ministry of Health will supervise the project. The Tehran University of Medical Sciences, the largest medical university in Iran, will construct it.

“This project is being pursued in earnest by the educational department of Iran’s Ministry of Health,” Dr. Larijani stated, “(and it is) in line with the development of medical science education in Iraq.”

The Deputy Health Minister also mentioned that the two countries discussed collaborative teacher/student transfer programs and the creation of “joint scientific networks” in medical research and scientific production. The unification between border countries has propelled Iraq into a positive direction after nearly two decades of civil destruction. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), during the Iraq War “approximately 61 universities and college buildings were war damaged and 101 college buildings were looted.”

Currently, there are 24 certified medical colleges in Iraq, all of which are governmental and operate under the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education. The medical education in Iraq faces numerous challenges. Both the curriculum and teaching methods are outdated, and there is a lack of suitable facilities. The colleges are focused on increasing student attendance rather than updating old curriculum and forming universal guidelines between medical schools.

Beyond the partnership with Iran, Iraq’s strategic plan to reconstruct and progress the medical education in Iraq is unclear. The Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education has not released a project proposal or curriculum plans yet.

Madison O’Connell

Photo: Google

A large portion of the countries currently affected by hepatitis B and C are taking proactive approaches to eliminate the disease in their areas.

According to information from the World Health Organization (WHO), 28 countries representing approximately 70% of the global health burden are establishing hepatitis elimination committees. More than half of these countries have already committed funding for hepatitis responses.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General, finds the commitment of these countries encouraging. “Identifying interventions that have a high impact is a key step towards eliminating this devastating disease. Many countries have succeeded in scaling-up the hepatitis B vaccination. Now we need to push harder to increase access to diagnosis and treatment,” Dr. Tedros said in a statement from the WHO.

Hepatitis (which means inflammation of the liver) is caused by toxins, certain drugs, diseases, heavy alcohol use and bacterial and viral infections. The disease is spread when blood or other bodily fluids enter the body of an uninfected person. Symptoms include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), fatigue, abdominal pain, swelling, chest pain, abdominal swelling, fever, and diarrhea.

The WHO report was released to coincide with World Hepatitis Day and is calling on countries to increase their commitment to end the disease. The current theme of World Hepatitis Day is Eliminate Hepatitis, focusing on increased awareness, diagnosis, universal vaccination and treatment.

Viral hepatitis affected 325 million people worldwide in 2015 and is responsible for 1.34 million deaths. The two main killer strains of hepatitis B and C affected 257 million and 71 million people respectively. WHO data shows that more than 86% of countries that were reviewed have already set national hepatitis elimination targets. More than 70% have begun to develop national hepatitis elimination programs by enabling access to effective prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care services.

Dr. Gottfried Himschall, WHO’s Director of the HIV Department and Global Hepatitis Program acknowledges that awareness of hepatitis is gaining momentum but also states that there are too many people living with hepatitis that don’t know they have the disease or cannot access treatment.

“For hepatitis elimination to become a reality, countries need to accelerate their efforts and increase investments in life-saving care. There is simply no reason why many millions of people still have not been tested for hepatitis and cannot access the treatment for which they are in dire need,” Dr. Himschall said in a statement from the WHO.

The World Hepatitis Summit in Sao Paulo, Brazil, organized jointly by the WHO, the World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA) and the government of Brazil, will bring together key players in hepatitis elimination. The summit will be held Nov. 1-3 and promises to be the largest global event to advance the viral hepatitis agenda.

Drew Hazzard

Photo: Flickr

Drones Helping the Sick in Costa Rica
Drones delivering medicine could be a solution for people living in the remote areas of Costa Rica. The indigenous people in these areas are far away from medical facilities and pharmacies. Trekking back and forth from their homes to cities to get medical supplies is a very difficult and time-consuming process. Therefore, many do not get the medicine they need.

As an initiative of Costa Rica’s Social Security System (CAJA), drones will deliver medication to eight indigenous communities in the province of Limón. To launch the program, CAJA has teamed up with the company Zipline.

Zipline, with the tagline, “No Roads, No Problems!” manufactures small robot airplanes called “Zips,” which can carry vaccines, medicine and blood to wherever they are needed. The startup estimates that “two billion people lack adequate access to essential medical products, often due to challenging terrain and gaps in infrastructure.” Zipline offers a simple way to deliver prescriptions to people living in rural regions especially in underdeveloped countries. Zipline is already in use in Rwanda, delivering blood and plasma to hospitals in rural areas. These drones make 50 to 150 deliveries per day.

The Zipline method is easy. After a doctor inputs the prescription into CAJA’s Digital Health Records system, a pharmacist at a local clinic prepares the medication, secures it in a container and places it inside the drone. Now, the Zip can begin its flight to the patient’s home. Once the medicine has been safely parachuted to the destination, the doctor is alerted in order to keep track of who has received medication.

The drones delivering medicine only weigh about 22 pounds. They are equipped with a GPS for location accuracy. Clinical workers can also ensure that the drones are following the correct route. The drones usually travel 62 miles per hour, but can go faster if needed. At such a rate, medication reaches its destination in approximately 45 minutes. As compared to the usual three-day process of getting medication to patients, the drones are cutting the time down dramatically.

In 2017, Zips will deliver approximately 13,200 packages a month, which will cost the Costa Rican government $26,000. This is much cheaper and more effective than alternatives tried in the past, including bicycles, motorcycles and boats. Land transportation methods have had issues because remote areas rarely have paved roads.

If drones delivering medicine are successful in Limón, the program, or one like it, may expand to other communities in need and possibly other countries that face similar issues.

Karla Umanzor

Photo: Flickr

The Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, Patents, and the Price of Medicine
The Office of the United States Trade Representative hails the prospective Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership as a way to “[level] the playing field for American workers & American businesses” through a set of trade agreements between 12 different countries. The deal has been drafted, but not yet ratified.

At least six of the participant countries — including the United States and Japan, in order for the group to meet economic output requirements — must agree to the deal by February 2018 for the TPP to become a reality. Other potential participants include Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Peru and Chile.

Negotiations regarding the TPP have been in progress for more than 10 years, and the goal of the TPP is to lower trade barriers and synchronize trade regulations between participant countries. The deal would affect 18,000 tariffs, most notably eliminating all textile and clothing tariffs and lowering tariffs on agricultural and industrial products. However, not all of the changes in tariffs would take place immediately following ratification.

The USTR advertises that the TPP would protect workers’ rights and the environment, set food safety standards, and maintain the openness of the Internet. However, there is much controversy surrounding the agreement, particularly as it relates to the price of medicine in Pacific Rim countries.

Doctors Without Borders, for one, calls the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership “a bad deal for medicine,” because less-expensive generic drugs would be held off the market for a longer period of time. Drug patents would be extended, and the generic drug approval process would become more difficult for biologic drugs, in particular.

Pharmaceutical companies like Gilead and Bristol-Myers Squibb have voluntarily made agreements with generic drug manufacturers, to allow their currently patent-protected hepatitis C medications to be produced and sold more cheaply in low-income countries.

However, middle-income countries are excluded from these company-led initiatives, even though three-quarters of hepatitis C patients live in middle-income countries like the TPP participant, Malaysia. The extension of drug patents through the TPP could thus prevent patients in countries already excluded from such agreements with pharmaceutical companies, from accessing affordable medications for a longer period of time.

The USTR website maintains that the TPP would lower the cost of medications by eliminating tariffs. However, it does not address patents on pharmaceutical products or the effect that these patents have on the price of medicine in Pacific Rim countries.

The U.S. Congress can only ratify or reject the deal, in its current state, because the deal has been “fast-tracked.” Even so, the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership has not yet been ratified, so its specifications can be re-negotiated with participant countries. Doctors Without Borders encourages constituents to contact Congress members and the president to request that the deal is not ratified until its patent and intellectual property rules for pharmaceuticals are revised.

Madeline Reding

Photo: Flickr

AIDS Today: Where Has the Aid Gone for AIDS?
How dangerous is AIDS today?

While many wealthy nations have found ways to manage HIV, neither it nor AIDS had yet been eradicated.

Since the epidemic began in 1981, over 70 million people have been infected with the HIV virus, and upward of 35 million have succumbed to AIDS.

In 2015 alone, 1.1 million people died of AIDS or of an AIDS-related illness. Sub-Saharan Africa houses a majority of the AIDS infected population. One in every 25 adults is infected with the disease.

Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for nearly 70 percent of the worldwide infected population, while the other 30 percent are dispersed primarily throughout Western and Central Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Despite these substantial numbers, investments in HIV prevention research have decreased. Many donors were met with a slew of competing funding demands. Others no longer see the retrovirus as posing a current threat. Much of the world views HIV and AIDS as medical relics — diseases of a time long gone. Yet every day nearly 5,753 people are infected with HIV. That is about 240 people every hour.

HIV is transmitted from person-to-person through unprotected sexual intercourse, transmission of contaminated blood and from mother to child during birth or through breastfeeding. There is no cure for HIV, but the virus can be treated to almost a complete halt with antiretroviral therapy.

However, marginalized groups of people are not granted access to this therapy. As of December 2015, more than 60 percent of people living with HIV did not have access to antiretroviral therapy.

For the first time since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, scientists believe we are in reach of an entirely AIDS-free generation. Since 2000, the United Nation’s International Children’s Emergency Fund estimates that about 30 million new infections have been averted, eight million lives have been saved and 15 million people who would not otherwise have access are now receiving treatment.

The International AIDS Conference is a biennial meeting held for people working in fields actively related to the prevention of HIV. This year, nearly 18,000 delegates and 1,000 journalists showed up. Many of those in attendance were policymakers, people living with the disease and others committed to putting a stop to the epidemic. This year’s theme was “Access Equity Right Now.” It focused primarily on the ways in which the world can refocus global efforts on HIV/AIDS today and hopefully making treatment readily available to everyone.

But why should we stop there? With access to birth control and prenatal care, better sex education and sterile medical equipment, it is conceivable that we could live in a world that is entirely HIV-free — a world where AIDS really is history.

Kayla Provencher

Photo: Flickr

Cancer in Papua New Guinea
The vision of developing a digital technology to diagnose cancer in Papua New Guinea and compensate for the country’s shortage of pathologists recently became a reality at the Kumul GameChangers competition. The Kumul GameChangers initiative is designed to introduce creative entrepreneurial solutions to development challenges in Papua New Guinea. The initiative was implemented by the U.N. Development Program in association with the Kumul Foundation and supported by the Australian government.

Applicants to Kumul GameChangers must submit innovative enterprise ideas that exhibit financial stability, sustainability and the potential to mutually benefit customers and the businesses themselves. Ideas are also expected to identify a social or environmental problem and address it.

ePathway for Papua New Guinea (ePathPG) is a digital image management system used to take microscopic images of tissues for cancer diagnosis. Medical professionals use digital microscopes and smartphones to capture the images. Preliminary tests have used tissues from the cervix, mouth, breast or endometrium to detect cancer.

ePathPG can be used to conduct endometrial and breast examinations as well as biopsies for cervical cancer. In addition to this, it can help detect mouth cancer and identify potential complications in high-risk pregnancies. ePathPG can also be used to diagnose blood disorders like leukemia, malaria, anaemia, lymphoma and filariasis.

Despite facing a lack of funding and sponsorship for his research, ePathPG co-developer Dr. Rodney Itaki believes the invention has the potential for tremendous success.

“It will have a great, positive, impact on cancer diagnosis in PNG,” Itaki said. “Patients will get their results faster, allowing earlier and faster interventions and leading to better outcomes for cancer sufferers in PNG.”

Shanique Wright

Photo: Flickr

Life-saving technologies
To say that war has evolved is an understatement. The mobilization of large-scale armies in two-sided conflicts is no longer an appropriate definition of modern warfare. For example, consider the various ongoing wars in the Middle East; in many regions, ISIS is fighting against a combination of tribal groups, government forces and civilian militias.

The changing landscape of war, along with changes in war technology, leaves one thing clear: war is no longer country versus country, but rather a scramble for power in volatile regions. However, it is not just the technologies designed to kill that have evolved; life-saving technologies have also made incredible leaps in development.

Evolution of Warfare

As the parameters of war continue to change, so must foreign aid intended to help people caught in armed conflict. Most U.S. foreign aid falls under the “150 account,” a function of the federal budget that contains funding for all international activities. Though function 150 comprises just one percent of the federal budget, it’s responsible for providing all military assistance to allies and aiding in international peacekeeping efforts.

On-going conflicts like those in Syria, Afghanistan and Iran place a heavy strain on U.S. assistance, as the government struggles to provide cost-effective and efficient methods of assistance.

In 2014, president Obama asked Congress to fund a program in which American military personnel would teach Syrian and Jordanian rebels navigation, marksmanship and other skills, in the hopes that they would return to Syria and fight. They recruited about 15,000 men to train in Jordanian territory. One year later, U.S. defense officials admitted that just four or five recruits from the program actually returned to fight.

Meanwhile, the crisis in Syria continues to worsen. Recent estimates place the death toll in Syria at over 200,000 which includes adult civilians and children. About 28,000 deaths can be attributed to shootings and mass killings; often random events that happen with no prior warning.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, chairman of the U.N. panel investigating human rights abuses in Syria, explains how “everyday decisions- whether to visit a neighbor, to go out and buy bread- have become, potentially, decisions about life and death.”

Maybe it’s time to rethink how the government can best support civilians and the Syrian National Coalition. Train and equip programs like that of 2014 seem to be a process of trial and error, as it takes time to access their efficacy and long-term sustainability.

Life-saving Technologies

Still, there are small steps the Department of Defense can take to save Syrian lives without sending in weapons or personnel. Two life-saving technologies, the combat tourniquet and quick-clot, could drastically reduce the number of deaths associated with shootings and mass killings as well as organized fighting between the National Coalition and Assad’s forces.

The combat application tourniquet (CAT) is a 21st take on the conventional tourniquet and one of the most important life-saving technologies. Generally speaking, tourniquet use in combat declined after World War II, when widespread misuse led to excessive blood loss and amputation. In most cases, tourniquets were either too tight or too loose, rendering them useless and inefficient.

In the following decades, field medics and soldiers barely used tourniquets in the Vietnam and Korean wars. Unlike its traditional predecessor, the CAT is incredibly easy to use and much more effective. A recent study by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) found a 78% success rate when compared to alternative methods for stopping a bleeding.

The CAT’s Out of the Bag

Designed to be used with one hand, the CAT features an adhesive band and friction-adapting buckle to fit anything from an arm to thigh. It also has a free-moving internal band that provides the circumferential pressure necessary for stopping blood flow.

The major difference between the CAT and the traditional tourniquet is that a traditional tourniquet needs to be tied. The CAT’s design makes it possible for a wounded individual to use the device on him or herself, without having to wait for a medic (although it’s still possible for one person to use the CAT on another).

The same study by the IDF claims that the CAT is easy to use and is relatively painless compared to other methods. Its one-handed and foolproof design makes it an ideal technology for war-torn regions where the majority of casualties are related to bullet wounds and blood loss. The U.S. military-issued CAT is priced at about $30.

Clots Begone

Combat Gauze, colloquially termed “QuikClot” is another one of the life-saving technologies at a lower cost (about $8-$40 per packet, depending on the retailer). QuikClot is a hemostatic agent, which means it stops blood loss by helping the blood rapidly clot. Kaolin, the primary clotting agent, works on contact with blood by initiating factor XII, which then transforms into Factor XIIa. XIIa is the molecular cascade responsible for clotting.

The physical gauze conforms to the wound and immediately triggers this process. The 2013 Journal of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists features a study that found QuikClot effectively stopped hemorrhaging — without complications — 79% of the times it was used by the Israeli Defense forces in Gaza.

The journal also features data to show that QuikClot allowed more effective fluid resuscitation (blood transfusions) and better helped the clot withstand movement compared to other methods.

Packaged in small pouches, QuikClot can be distributed in mass quantities and used without instructions besides those printed on the back of the pouch.

Foreign aid plays a critical role in the United States’ efforts to help people in war-torn regions. As such, it is imperative for aid packages to be cost-effective and fast-acting.

The Combat Application Tourniquet and QuikClot are two life-saving technologies suited to meet the medical needs of many civilians and soldiers affected by armed conflict, especially those in Syria, where thousands of men, women and children continue to die because of blood loss.

Jessica Levitan

Photo: Officer Survival

MenAfriVacOn Feb. 22, 2016, vaccine experts from all over the world convened in Ethiopia with leaders from the 26 African “meningitis belt” countries to celebrate the success achieved by MenAfriVac, a vaccine created for use in Africa.

The vaccine was developed specifically for Africa and targets meningococcal A meningitis, a bacterial infection of the thin lining surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis is a highly-feared disease due to its capacity to kill its host within hours. Survivors often experience permanent hearing loss, paralysis or even mental retardation.

“We have achieved something truly historic with MenAfriVac®—creating an affordable, effective, tailor-made vaccine for Africa,” said Steve Davis, president and CEO of PATH, a nonprofit global health organization.

According to PATH, more than 90 percent of meningitis epidemics in Africa attacked mostly infants, children and young adults. To zero in on this specific cause of meningitis, PATH partnered with the Meningitis Vaccine Project and the World Health Organization (WHO).

In the five years that MenAfriVac has been in effect, 235 million children and adults have been vaccinated. From 250,000 cases during an epidemic from 1996 to 1997, to only 80 confirmed cases in 2015, the vaccine has effectively protected millions of people.

However, a resurgence is possible within 15 years if an immunization program is not implemented permanently. Several countries applied for funding to begin implementing MenAfriVac into their national childhood immunization programs. Gavi, a global health partnership that focuses on vaccines, has spent $367 million campaigning and stockpiling the vaccine since 2008 to support these countries.

“Meningitis A was a scourge across Africa’s meningitis belt for generations but today we can be proud that a safe, effective meningitis vaccine is protecting hundreds of millions of people from death and disability,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, Gavi CEO. “But we must not be complacent. It is critical that at-risk countries begin introducing this vaccine into their routine schedules and ensuring every child is reached and protected.”

This achievement could not have been possible without the vital partnerships that contributed to the development of the vaccine. U.S. agencies financially supported MenAfriVac, provided technical expertise and participated in clinical studies of the vaccine.

Continued partnerships could lead to solutions for other diseases around the world and have a positive impact on global health.

Emily Ednoff

Sources: Gavi, PATH
Photo: Flickr

The Rise of 3D Printing in the Middle East and Africa 1The budget allocated for 3D printing in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) is reported to increase from $47 million to $1.3 billion over the 2015-2019 period, according to the Semiannual 3D Printing Guide published by the International Data Corporation (IDC). This guide is a framework that provides IT technicians with a focused perspective on where 3D printing expenditure should be heading over the next five years.

The growing use of 3D printing in MEA, as stated in an article by IT News for Africa on Feb.24, 2016, is predicted to have positive impacts on various fields including the manufacturing industry. According to IDC’s analysis, 3D printing enables products to be customized based on individual markets’ needs.

While the research firm expects to see Asia-Pacific as the major contributor to the implementation of this new technology, it indicates that “MEA will maintain its position as a frontrunner in this space, and its share of global 3D printing spend is expected to grow from 4.3 percent in 2014 to 5.0 percent by 2019.”

Martin Kuban, a senior research analyst with IDC Manufacturing Insights, further explained the versatility of the 3D printing technology, stating that apart from the straightforward applications within the automotive and aerospace industries, tech experts are anticipating “innovative and potentially transformative 3D printing deployments among medical suppliers, electronics manufacturers, and tools and components manufacturers.”

Recently, 3D printing in the Middle East and Africa has demonstrated its transformative powers. On Dec. 28, 2015, the BBC reported a groundbreaking initiative by the Institute of Digital Archaeology: A destroyed Syrian heritage site will be recreated from 2D images using a 3D printer.

The heritage site, a 2,000-year-old arch in the ancient city of Palmyra, Syria, was destroyed by the Islamic State group last summer. The Institute of Digital Archaeology, led by Harvard University, the University of Oxford and the Museum of the Future in Dubai will 3D-print replicas of this historic monument during UNESCO’s World Heritage Week in April of this year, as reported by the Washington Post in a Jan. 7, 2016 article.

The forthcoming recreation of the Arch of Palmyra, according to the Washington Post, belongs to a larger effort called the Million Image Database made possible by the Institute for Digital Archaeology and UNESCO. This collaboration aims to preserve and restore historical landmarks in the Middle East and Africa, as stated on the project’s website.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Alexy Karenowska, director of technology at the Institute for Digital Archaeology, said that the ultimate goal of the project is “to draw international attention to the global crisis surrounding the looting and destruction of cultural heritage objects and architecture.” Karenowska believes that it is important “to celebrate the beauty and significance of these objects to the everyday lives of modern people.”

This event demonstrates only one way in which the development of 3D printing in the Middle East and Africa can have a huge impact. Given increasing financial support, this advanced tool has the power to affect the economy, education, health, history and culture.

Hoa Nguyen

Sources: IDC-CEMA , IT News Africa, BBC, Digital Archaeology, Washington Post
Photo: Wikimedia Commons