radicalization in refugeesRefugees are a part of society in every country. Global interconnectivity has provided refugees more opportunities to escape the persecution they have experienced in their home countries. However, that same interconnectivity doesn’t always extend to the small communities where the refugees end up living. Isolation and poverty can sometimes lead to desperation and radicalization in refugees.

Social Cohesion

Social cohesion, as defined in BMC Medicine, “is the ability of a given society to be inclusive of all cultural and social groups, so that they work cooperatively.” A willingness to cooperate with one another has many benefits, including the promotion of healthier and more just communities with lower violent crime rates. Unfortunately, it is easier said than done. In a world that is so politically, culturally and historically diverse, these differences can sometimes seem to build barriers.

Indeed, many factors exist that can undermine social cohesion, including both social and economic isolation as well as discrimination. Marginalized members of society, specifically refugees and immigrants, are most commonly impacted. These populations often arrive in their host countries not able to speak the language and with limited support systems.  Social isolation frequently leads to economic isolation, meaning that refugees and immigrants are at a higher risk of falling into poverty.

Moreover, discrimination often faced by marginalized communities can further undermine social cohesion and is commonly linked with poorer health and unemployment. The negative impacts not only hurt these members but prevent them from contributing to the economy, affecting the community as a whole. Overall, communities that prioritize social inclusion and cultural understanding breed healthier societies and citizens.

Radicalization in Refugees

According to the 2017 IEP’s Global Terrorism Index, terrorism cost the world an estimated $84 billion in 2016. In addition, 77 countries reported at least one death as a result of terrorism, and 106 countries reportedly suffered at least one terrorist attack. Overall, Europe and other developed countries have seen a spike in levels of violence. With an ever-evolving terrorism landscape, more home-grown terrorists are perpetrating attacks using new methods. The nature of this ever-evolving threat means that terrorism persists as a major global issue. For this reason, the identification of isolation and discrimination as risk factors for violent radicalization is especially important in preventing violence.

Youth populations are most vulnerable to succumbing to violent ideologies since adolescence is an extremely formative period for identity. Living in poor social conditions can weaken links with socially inclusive networks, making way for new spheres of influence. Ideologically driven groups associated with violent radicalization often monopolize on this opportunity to offer an alienated member of society the chance to belong. For this reason, terrorist groups often target younger populations for new recruits, as they are the most vulnerable.

Thus far, most counterterrorism efforts have put an emphasis on the criminal justice system. This means focusing almost exclusively on those who are already planning on committing a crime and not on prevention. Not only may this partial focus be inhibiting success, but in some cases, it has further encouraged radicalization in refugees by singling out specific religious groups. If behavioral sciences like psychology and sociology are used in public health programs to prevent violence, couldn’t counterterrorism efforts similarly follow this example? 

Preventing Radicalization in Refugees

A new-wave of counterterrorism efforts can offer a new perspective on how to prevent violent threats through better comprehension of human complexity. Focusing on understanding individuals’ demographics, stories and culture in order to better employ protective factors, like social support programs, would be monumental. Furthermore, crafting programs that promote trust and integration is key. By creating safe environments for all demographics and cultures, risk factors for violent radicalization in refugees can be reduced and, hopefully, eradicated.

France is one of the first countries to apply this approach. In 2017 alone, 100,755 people requested asylum in France. For this reason, President Emanuel Macron’s administration has taken steps to aide new refugees and immigrants to integrate into their new host country through a community service program called Volont’r.

The program, launched in January 2019, aims to teach young refugees (between the ages of 16 and 25) about French values, language and culture through immersion. Refugees are given the opportunity to earn a living and to learn French through government-sponsored classes. The program also plans to recruit 1,500 French citizens to help guide 500 refugees to set and meet personal goals and to build networks.

Volont’r is an example of successfully addressing key risk factors for radicalization in refugees by using a public health approach. New refugees are no longer left in isolation because of a language barrier and a lack of social connections. Falling into poverty is prevented by providing tools for employment.

Learning Social Cohesion

Vulnerable populations must be given the opportunity to learn the codes of their new society, promoting integration into an environment where they are heard and understood. In an ever more globally connected world, France believes that building relationships, not walls, is the key to making the world a healthier and safer place. This is an important lesson all countries could benefit from not only for the health and safety of its refugee population but also to reduce the instances of radicalization in refugees.

Natalie Abdou
Photo: Flickr

Winch EnergySierra Leone is located on the West Coast of Africa with a population of more than 7 million people. About 60 percent of the population in Sierra Leone lives under the poverty line, and lack of electricity is a huge contributing factor. Sierra Leone is in dire need of electricity. Companies such as Winch Energy, a global energy developer, have decided to step in and bring power to Sierra Leone. Here is how Winch Energy is paving a way to a brighter future in Sierra Leone.

Effects of Lack of Electricity

Sierra Leone’s power sector has been experiencing “decades of underinvestment.” Public health facilities cannot offer quality healthcare due to the lack of electricity. It was reported that Sierra Leone could reduce the infant mortality rate by 40 percent if clinics in rural areas had better “lighting for night time births.” Without improved access to electricity, Sierra Leone will continue to remain in the dark.

In 2014, Sierra Leone, along with the rest of West Africa, had experienced one of the biggest Ebola outbreaks. It caused devastating effects to many communities, economies and public health systems across West Africa. Due to the Ebola outbreak, the quality of public health worsened in Sierra Leone, especially in the areas with high rates of poverty and lack of electricity.

Winch Energy

Winch Energy is a global energy developer that creates sustainable solutions for off-grid distributed power. Its goal is to improve power generation and eliminate unequal telecommunications access.  It works to improve electricity distribution to people all over the world, especially to those who don’t have access to running water, communications and electricity. The Ministry of Energy in Sierra Leone has signed a contract with Winch Energy in efforts to bring direct electricity access to 24 villages and towns in Sierra Leone through the installation of solar-mini grids.

Winch Energy has already begun the first phase of the project. It has installed 12 mini-grids in northern Sierra Leone, and the company hopes to make them operational by June 2019. This first phase of the project is said to benefit 6,000 people. During the second phase of the project, another 12 mini-grids will be installed by October 2019, which will benefit another 24,000 people.

The installation of mini-grids in Sierra Leone can make electricity easily accessible and even better the quality of life. Things such as printing, television, internet and refrigeration can become common in these towns and villages. Electricity will also help public health facilities improve the quality of service, which will help better the quality of life among the people of Sierra Leone.

This project could help increase income within the community and improve the current socio-economic status of Sierra Leone. Providing access to electricity has the potential to create jobs and better the quality of life in rural areas of the country. Development and access to electricity come hand in hand. This is how Winch Energy is paving the way to a brighter future in Sierra Leone.

Jocelyn Aguilar
Photo: Flickr

Vaccine MisconceptionsMedical science has developed significantly since the initial coining of the term “vaccination.” Now, vaccinations are considered the most effective tool for prevention against diseases that can eventually lead to disability or death. Unfortunately, there remains a large number of people who don’t get vaccinated. As of 2016, 19.5 million of these unvaccinated individuals were children, 60 percent of whom live in rural, underdeveloped parts of the world. Therefore, it has become an important goal to decrease this amount as much as possible. Surprisingly, when looking at poverty-stricken countries like Tanzania, which has a high immunization rate, it becomes apparent that there are other reasons for why it is difficult to narrow the gap. Among these reasons are vaccine misconceptions, which are strong views based on misinformation.

  1. It’s better to strive for natural immunity

Though it is true that natural immunity can lead to longer-lasting effects, it is not an easy path to achieve. For starters, in order to even begin the process of natural immunity, one would have to initially contract the disease, which would require an individual to live with the potentially dangerous effects that the disease may cause. It could mean developing a number of diseases from pneumonia, chicken pox or Hepatitis B before reaching the level of immunity that a vaccine could provide.

  1. The immune system can’t handle a lot of vaccines

One of the most common vaccine misconceptions is that giving multiple vaccines at one time can lead to an overload of the immune system. The idea mostly concerns children whose parents believe they are already continuously exposed to a number of antigens in their normal day to day life. In one study, an evaluation of the relationship between administered vaccines and hospitalizations was performed. Only one adverse reaction was recorded out of  42 associations.  Researchers observed this one adverse connection with the Haemophilus influenza type b vaccine causing acute upper respiratory tract infection. This shows there is insufficient evidence to support the misconception of vaccine overload.

  1. Culture and Religion

A number of individuals apply for vaccine exemptions based on personal religious reasons. For many religions, there is no formal opposition to receiving vaccinations; however, some groups do rely on faith healing and prayer. These are the groups who are often opposed to vaccination. Today, it is more common to see religious institutions that are in support of vaccinations.

  1. Toxins

It’s true that vaccines often contain amounts of aluminum salts, antibiotics and other chemical compounds; however, these typically exist to help stabilize the vaccinations or enhance the immune response. For example, diluted formaldehyde is used in some vaccinations to render the virus inactive. Formaldehyde is also naturally occurring in the body, and the doses given are smaller than those the body produces on its own.

  1. The vaccine-preventable disease doesn’t exist anymore

On the list of vaccine misconceptions is the idea that because there are no recent cases of a disease, there is no reason to continue giving the vaccine. This way of thinking is mostly found in more developed countries that are already showing lower rates of a particular disease. Nonetheless, this can be a dangerous point of view. Just because one country has nearly eradicated a particular disease does not mean the disease doesn’t exist. It is only due to the presence of the vaccine in that county that the rate of infected individuals is so low. Take the polio virus as an example: Since the production of the vaccine, the number of cases has decreased dramatically from roughly 350,000 to 22 cases in 2017, which may create a sense of security that the virus has been eliminated. However, this is false sense, seeing as how there are still three countries in the world where the virus continues to infect children, which means that unvaccinated children all over are still in danger of contracting the disease.

  1. Vaccinations aren’t researched enough

There are a number of people in the world that refuse to receive vaccines because they believe that vaccinations aren’t studied enough and, therefore, could be potentially harmful. However, as the CDC shows, vaccines go through a number of trials, assessments and safety procedures both during their development and even after they are released. These procedures include:

  • The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), where people can report any adverse reactions had after vaccination
  • The Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD), where healthcare organizations monitor data related to vaccines
  • The Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment (CISA) project, where medical centers conduct research on possible health risks related to vaccines

As all misinformation, the message gets circulated around, and eventually, people will start to believe it as truth. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the factual data in order to educate people about these vaccine misconceptions.

– Stephanie Singh
Photo: Flickr

Health Regulation in GhanaHealth regulation in Ghana has strengthened in recent years. Ghana has made great progress to improve its public health conditions, and the international community has also assisted in its endeavors to better health procedures and legislation. Below are five facts about health regulation in Ghana.

Facts about Health Regulation in Ghana

  1. Ghana passed its first Comprehensive Public Health Bill. This is a crucial milestone for public health within Ghana, and more generally, Africa. Ghana has domestically expanded programs for tobacco control, vaccinations, food and drugs, environmental sanitation, infectious diseases and more. The Public Health Bill essentially enhances the recognition and responses to public health issues. This bill emulates Public Health Institutions in Norway, which is one of the strongest healthcare systems in the world.
  2. Ghana and the International Association of National Public Health (IANPHI) have been allies since 2009. The IANPHI has helped Ghana create institutions, websites and legislation addressing new public health procedures. The IANPHI have helped health regulation in Ghana by providing resources to combat outbreaks, by assisting the creation of Ghana Health Service and by supporting ghanahealthservice.org. The site updates Ghanaians and the global sector about public health news.
  3. Health regulation in Ghana has been monitored by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO has listed a number of Ghana’s achievements since 2005. Ghana has passed many health bills that align with the values of International Health Regulation (IHR). The WHO has also trained public health officials and staff about IHR protocol. Ghana continues to stay in contact with WHO and abides by IHR.
  4. Ghana’s mental health system is improving rapidly. In 2012, Ghana enacted a new Mental Health Act. The provision includes that individuals with mental health issues retain their human rights and that the system mirrors modern mental health programs. The Mental Health Act provides protection and treatment for those who struggle with these issues. Additionally, the bill established the Mental Health Authority, Health Review Tribunals, Regional Visiting Committees and the Mental Health Fund.
  5. Fortunately, human rights are becoming highly entwined with public health practices in Ghana. IHR’s underlying principles are based on human rights. Ghana has inherited its values when implementing public health bills and programs. Each patient must be treated with dignity, particularly mental health patients since they were previously discriminated against. Prior to 2012, Ghanaians would shackle individuals who had mental health issues. Fortunately, the public is being educated, and the stigma is changing.

Ghana and the international community have made great strides to amend and better its healthcare system. Ghana has set a precedent for other Sub-Saharan countries — it could act as a beacon of hope for nations struggling with the implementation of public health legislation.

– Diana Hallisey
Photo: Flickr

World TB DayEvery year on March 24, World Tuberculosis (TB) Day is observed all around the world. World TB Day is an official global health campaign marked by the World Health Organization (WHO). The day is meant to bring awareness and response to Tuberculosis around the world.

The event commemorates the date that Dr. Robert Koch discovered Mycobacterium Tuberculosis in 1882. This is the bacteria that causes Tuberculosis. Thanks to modern medicine, Tuberculosis is now treatable and even curable, though it remains widespread through most of the world.

History of World TB Day

In 1982, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD) proposed that March 24 should be World TB Day. This was in honor of the hundredth anniversary of Dr. Koch’s discovery. However, World TB Day was not officially recognized by the World Health Organization and United Nations until 1995.

Meetings, conferences and programs are being conducted around the world in support of the day. The goal of World TB Day is to not only spread awareness about what the disease does but also about how to prevent, treat and cure Tuberculosis. Many global health organizations have supported and promoted World TB Day since its installment, including the World Health Organization, the National Association of Country and City Health Officials and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Goals of 2018

On March 24, 2018, the world observed its twenty-fourth World TB Day. The day outlined the international medical goals for this year and beyond. This year’s theme was, “Wanted: Leaders For a TB-Free World.” The World Health Organization is planning to completely eradicate Tuberculosis all over the world. However, that means putting a heavier stance on treatment and prevention methods, both of which will be a heavy influence in this year’s campaign.

The goal is to mobilize political and social movements about Tuberculosis and make further commitments toward eliminating the disease. A full set of campaign material and content about the 2018 day became available March 1 on the website for the Stop TB Partnership.

The Global Goal

As of 2018, Tuberculosis is still the world’s leading infectious killer. It is the cause of over one million deaths worldwide every year. The Stop TB Partnership has three main goals associated with World TB Day:

  1. By 2020, at least 90 percent of the people afflicted with Tuberculosis will have access to proper treatments and therapies.
  2. By 2030, end the current Tuberculosis epidemic.
  3. By 2035, completely eradicate the disease on a global level.

The partnership hopes to create a healthy future for the next and continued generations. By raising awareness about Tuberculosis, many global health organizations can increase funding for proper medical treatments in impoverished areas. Leaders and medical professionals still have a long way to go before people will be able to live in a completely Tuberculosis free world.

As medical advancements are escalated, diseases also escalate. Tuberculosis has mutated into many multi-drug-resistant strains, making prevention harder. In impoverished countries, where they have little to no advanced medicine, prevention and treatment are nearly impossible.

However, advancements toward the Stop TB Partnership’s goals have already started and will continue. The awareness and knowledge spread by World TB Day can slowly help move the world toward a disease-free future.

– Courtney Wallace

Photo: Flickr

India’s fight against PolioPolio, or poliomyelitis, is an infectious disease spread through poliovirus. Since the early twentieth century, polio has been widespread in many countries, causing paralysis in thousands of children every year. With the help of various nonprofit organizations and the Global Polio Eradication initiative, the disease is now narrowed down to a handful of nations.

In 2014, India was certified as a polio-free country, leaving Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan on the list for polio eradication programs. India’s fight against polio is a remarkable achievement because of the various challenges the country faced. Nicole Deutsch, the head of polio operations for UNICEF in India, called it a “monumental milestone.”

Polio: Cause and Prevention

Poliovirus is highly contagious, infecting only humans and residing in the throat and intestine of the infected person. It spreads through feces and can contaminate food and water in unsanitary conditions.

The virus affects the brain and spinal cord of the infected person, causing paralysis which cannot be cured. Immunization through inactivated poliovirus vaccine and oral poliovirus vaccine are the only possible methods to fight against the virus. In the case of India, it was the second option which was administered.

India’s Fight Against Polio: the Challenges Faced

India’s fight against polio faced unique challenges, such as its huge population density and an increased birth rate. The number of people living in impoverished conditions with poor sanitation is huge, making them vulnerable to the polio disease.

Lack of education and prejudice among certain sects of the population also hindered the immunization process. Other challenges faced were the unstable healthcare system, which does not support people from all levels of society, and the geographically-dispersed inaccessible terrain, which made the immunization process difficult.

Overcoming these Challenges

Overcoming the challenges of polio eradication was possible due to the combined help provided by UNICEF, WHO, Rotary Club, the Indian government and millions of frontline workers. They took micro-planning strategies to address the challenges faced by the socially, economically, culturally and linguistically diverse country that is India.

India began its oral polio vaccine program in 1978 but it did not gain momentum until 1994, when the local government of New Delhi successfully conducted a mass immunization program for children in the region. From the year 1995, the government of India began organizing National Immunization Day, and in 1997, the first National Polio Surveillance Project was established.

Other initiatives taken include:

  • Involving almost 7,000 trained community mobilizers who went door-to-door, educating people in highly resistant regions.
  • Engaging 2.3 million vaccine administrators who immunized almost 172 million children.
  • The government running advertisements on print media, television and radio.
  • Enlisting famous Bollywood and sports celebrities to create awareness among common people.
  • Involving religious and community leaders in encouraging parents to vaccinate their children.

Inspiration for Other Countries

In 2009, almost 741 polio cases were reported in India, which dropped down to 42 in 2010, until the last case was reported in 2011 in the eastern state of West Bengal. This unprecedented success is an inspiration for countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, where the disease is still looming at large.

India’s fight against polio has set an example in the world that the country can be proud of, but the fight is not over yet. Although India has been declared polio-free by the WHO, it is of the utmost importance that the nation continue to assist other nations still facing the polio epidemic.

– Mahua Mitra

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

The DIY Oral Rehydration KitThe incidence of gastric problems, such as vomiting or diarrhea, is all too common in developing countries. To make matters worse, there is also the dehydration that results from fluid loss. The practice of handwashing with soap and stricter guidelines for food hygiene are paramount as preventive measures. Nevertheless, these practices may not always take place, and gastric diseases can spread. The DIY oral rehydration kit is a practical means to remedy dehydration, as it uses basic, easy to find ingredients.

A persistent bout of vomiting and diarrhea leads to fluid loss at a higher rate than the body can take in. Without adequate fluids, the body cannot properly carry out crucial functions. Water is needed to regulate temperature, dissolve nutrients from food, transport them around the body for cells to stay alive and reduce the burden on kidneys by flushing out waste.

Dehydration is particularly hazardous to children and the elderly. Young children are vulnerable to dehydration because their bodies are less efficient at conserving water than adults. In addition, their small body size means it takes less fluid loss to lead to dehydration.

Dehydration triggers a response to consume a large quantity of water. This can create an imbalance by flushing out vital chemicals and electrolytes, such as glucose, fructose, sodium and chloride. These play a crucial role in the transmission of nerve impulses and in regulating the body’s fluid balance.

The ideal concoction already exists in the form of a sports drink, such as Gatorade. The DIY oral rehydration kit is cheaper and simple but equally as effective, as it uses salt and sugar, which are more widely available. For each serving, six teaspoons of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt are mixed into one liter of water. This kit eliminates side effects from caffeinated beverages, which cause further dehydration. Juices made from orange or lemon can be acidic and further aggravate the stomach.

In the 1960s, researchers in South Asia found that a balanced proportion of sugar and salt in water could be easily absorbed through the intestinal wall. Therefore, drinking this solution is an easy way to replace fluids lost from diarrhea. In 1971, a massive campaign to orally administer this solution to sufferers was implemented throughout India and Bangladesh during a cholera outbreak. Of the 3,700 treated sufferers, 96 percent of them survived after drinking the oral rehydration solution.

The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee has provided workshops to educate Bangladeshi mothers on how to mix the solution and administer it to their children to prevent dehydration when a child falls ill with diarrhea.

With the support of UNICEF, over 500 million packets containing the ingredients of the DIY oral rehydration kit are being mass produced annually in 60 developing nations, at a cost of $0.10 each. Millions suffer daily from gastric problems and the resulting dehydration. Nearly half of all diarrhea cases in developing nations are now treated with oral rehydration therapy, compared to the initial 1 percent usage in the 1980s. Because it is more accessible, millions of lives are saved daily thanks to this kit.

– Awad Bin-Jawed

Photo: Flickr


Volunteer Adofo Antwi (right) explains to mother-of-four Ama Konadu in Apenimadi, Bonsaaso Millennium Village, how to hang a bednet. Trained by Millennium Village Project staff, volunteers across the cluster work with communities to hang bednets at all sleeping sites and educate local people about the dangers of malaria. Since 2006, over 30,000 long-lasting insecticide-treated bednets have been distributed, covering all households in the cluster.

Malaria prevention in Ghana is a focus of the nation’s Health Service efforts and is seen as the largest epidemic tormenting the Ghana people. Malaria is a potentially deadly disease caused by a one-celled parasite known as Plasmodium. This parasite is carried and transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito that feeds of humans.

People who become infected with malaria often show flu-like symptoms such as: fever, chills, aches and more. The devastation of this disease on not just the people, but the social and economic structure of Ghana, cannot be understated.

Who is Most Vulnerable to Malaria?

Over three million people contract malaria every year in Ghana which accounts for 44.5 percent of all outpatient attendances. Nearly half of all malaria cases in Ghana are children under the age of five and the disease is responsible for 12 percent of under-five deaths. Of those who die from malaria, 85 percent of them are children.

With such devastating numbers, especially for the nation’s children, it is no wonder malaria prevention in Ghana is the top priority of health officials. Not only are the children of Ghana at a greater risk of contracting malaria, but it also disproportionately affects pregnant women whose immune systems are lowered and more vulnerable during pregnancy.

Pregnant women who contract malaria can see severe adverse health effects such as maternal anemia which leads to: miscarriages, low birth weight, and even maternal mortality.

How does Malaria Affect Ghana?

Malaria prevention in Ghana doesn’t just save the lives of children and their mothers, but it also is necessary for the economic and technological growth of Ghana. Malaria has historically been the number one cause of illness and morbidity in Ghana, but malaria is also a major cause of poverty and poor productivity.

With nearly half of the three million malaria cases every year attributed to children, staying in school falls to the wayside as families focus on the recovery of their children. Being taken out of school, greatly affects one’s future earning capacity for themselves, their family, and their future children.

Obtaining an education is often the biggest tool to improving living conditions of not just the individual and their family, but the community as well.

Not only are children at a risk of death after contracting malaria, but children who survive and fight the disease carry long-term consequences into adulthood such as seizures and brain dysfunction. These conditions can make it difficult once the disease is gone to go back to school and receive an education.

Treating and fighting the malaria endemic costs Ghana a significant amount that causes economic growth to be slowed by 1.3 percent a year in Africa; the annual economic burden of malaria is estimated to be 1-2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product in Ghana.

Roll Back Malaria Initiative: Goals and Successes

In 1999, Ghana signed onto the Roll Back Malaria initiative developing a strategic plan of action for implementation. The goal of malaria prevention in Ghana, as dictated by the initiative, is to reduce malaria specific morbidity and mortality by 50 percent by 2010 and 75 percent by 2015.

While Ghana did not meet those deadlines at the expected times, Ghana continues to strengthen health services to make malaria prevention techniques more available to the people of Ghana. Strategies for malaria prevention in Ghana as seen on Ghana’s Health Services page includes the:

  • Promotion of insecticide treated bed nets usage; chemoprophylaxis in pregnancy and environmental management to reduce rate of infection
  • Improve malaria case management at all levels (from household to health facility);
  • Encourage evidence-based research to come up with effective interventions and
  • Improve partnership with all partners at all levels.

The Roll Back Malaria Initiative in Ghana empowers the nation to pursue goals to better equip health facilities with malaria diagnostic tools (microscopes or RDTs) and effective antimalarial drugs. Furthermore, the implementation of indoor residual spraying and the spread of insecticide treated materials such as bug nets, have shown success.

The Need for Scale-Up

Nearly 750,000 lives have been saved across Africa due to the Roll Back Malaria Initiative, but the fight for malaria prevention in Ghana still has a long journey ahead. Ensuring children in rural areas have access to clinics and malaria treatment options can be tricky.

Ghana still calls for a scaling up of this community-based treatment in more secluded districts; in districts where treatment is available, the cost of treatment can be out of reach for many families. The inability to access such resources decreases community engagement in treatment, and demonstrates how great the need in Ghana is for affordable malaria prevention methods.

– Kelilani Johnson

Photo: Flickr

Vaccines Prevent Disease and PovertyVaccines are known to save lives and protect against diseases, but now can be credited for preventing poverty as well. A study done at Harvard University alongside Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance researched the economic effects of vaccines for 10 different diseases in 41 developing countries. The study concluded that vaccines would help to prevent 24 million people throughout the world’s poorest countries from falling into poverty by the year 2030. The study also estimated that vaccines given between 2016 and 2030 would prevent the deaths of 36 million people.

Vaccines contain the same antigens that are responsible for causing diseases. The antigens in the vaccines are killed or severely weakened and are unable to cause the disease, but are strong enough to allow the body’s immune system to produce the antibodies needed to become immune to the disease. Therefore, the protection comes without the child having to be sick or suffer from a disease. This reduces the cost of healthcare for families and allows them to save and spend more money, boosting the country’s economy.

Dr. Seth Berkley, the CEO of Gavi, talked about the effects on a child who receives vaccinations and their school attendance. He stated that a child who is healthy is more likely to attend school and become a productive member of society, and their families will not be obligated to pay the expensive healthcare costs that come with diseases. Healthcare expenses cause about 100 million people to fall into poverty each year, as medical treatment is one of the main reasons families are forced below the poverty line. With the use of vaccines, countries will be better protected from both disease and poverty.

The greatest poverty reducer will be vaccinations, by reducing the number of people who are living in poverty due to hepatitis B. Gavi anticipates this will help 14 million people avoid medical impoverishment. Poverty cases that are due to measles will be reduced by vaccines, which is anticipated to prevent 5 million cases as well as preventing 22 million deaths. Disease and poverty are linked through a cause and effect in that medical costs cause poverty in many developing countries.

The study also showed that the poorest 20 percent of the global population represented more than one-fourth of deaths that can be prevented by vaccinations. Furthermore, the study concluded that introducing vaccines in the poorest countries would have the largest impact on lowering the number of deaths and the number of people falling into poverty due to their medical expenses. Therefore, vaccines prevent both disease and poverty.

– Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr