Women improving global healthBreaking down barriers preserved by societies for centuries, these inspiring scientists and doctors are among the many women improving global health. As they make the world a better place, these four revolutionary women are inspiring females of every generation to do the same.

Hawa Abdi, MD

Human rights activist and one of Somalia’s first female gynecologists, Dr. Hawa Abdi was committed to providing free health care to her community and fighting for the rights of women and children. Fearlessly helping others and persevering despite countless dangers, she helped thousands of people seek refuge in her lifetime.

Her mission started as a child when she watched her mother grow ill and pass away during childbirth. Feeling helpless, she was determined to prevent others from feeling the pain she felt as a child. Abdi began working as a physician and caring for people in a one-room clinic she founded on her family’s land.

Abdi created a haven for thousands of Somalis who were fleeing from fighting and famine during the Somali Civil War. As problems grew, so did her tenacity and force. Soon, the one-room clinic turned into a 400-bed hospital. Studying law, education and agriculture, Abdi fought against poverty and inequality in her community. She set up farming to secure food for Somalis, fished to feed children and fought for justice and equal rights.

She lived through wars, was taken hostage and witnessed up to 50 people die a day. As a winner of the BET Social Humanitarian Award and a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, she is celebrated for her work as one of many women improving global health. Her legacy lives on through the Hawa Abdi Foundation and her two daughters, who are also physicians.

Godliver Businge

A strong and influential woman from Uganda, Godliver Businge was the only female in her civil engineering program and graduated at the top of her class. A childhood with struggles like hauling water daily, having to miss class and experiencing inequality as a girl motivated Businge to make a difference in her community and empower women.

Determined to eliminate polluted water and reduce the hours women spent collecting it, Businge co-founded the Uganda Women’s Water Initiative with Comfort Jarja. As head technology trainer, she taught over 300 women in Gomba, Uganda to construct rainwater harvesting tanks and Biosand filters. Thanks to these filters, fewer children suffer from diseases normally found in contaminated water like hepatitis A and typhoid. With healthier kids, Gomba’s school absenteeism rate has dropped by nearly two-thirds.

Businge also works in hygiene technology, building specialized toilets, promoting WASH programs and developing hydro-electric schemes to generate electricity. She is devoted to inspiring women to be independent and resourceful while shattering gender stereotypes. In addition to training women and girls to build sanitary toilets for their communities, she encourages females to pursue education and engineering professions and become women improving global health.

Hayat Sindi, PhD

Dr. Hayat Sindi of Saudi Arabia recognized the staggering amount of people dying around the globe without tools to detect, monitor and treat medical conditions. Sindi became the first woman from the Persian Gulf to receive a doctorate in biotechnology and now works to solve this problem.

As the co-founder of Diagnostics For All, Sindi helps create and deliver low-cost diagnostic tools to developing communities. These tools include a Magnetic Acoustic Resonance Sensor (MARS) and a device that can detect breast cancer. Because the devices don’t require electricity or even a trained doctor, the most isolated and impoverished communities can utilize Sindi’s life-saving inventions.

As a key figure in the science community, Sindi serves as senior advisor to the Islamic Development Bank’s president of science, technology and innovation. She has won many awards, including the Makkah Al-Mukarama Prize for Scientific Innovation, and was chosen as an Emerging Explorer by the National Geographic Society. Through her work, Sindi aims to empower women to pursue education and science careers and join her as women improving global health.

Segenet Kelemu, PhD

In an Ethiopian village where girls were married off young, Dr. Segenet Kelemu chose education instead and became the first female from her village to get a college degree, despite coming from a humble farming family. Kelemu made it her mission in life to improve agriculture in Africa and better the lives of others.

Kelemu is now a molecular plant pathologist and scientific leader. Her analysis uncovered how plants survive common threats like changes in climate, drought and pests. This trailblazing research led to new applications of biotechnology, helping farmers yield more crops and secure ecosystems. In doing so, Kelemu’s work improved food security and helped break the cycle of poverty, making her one of many women improving global health.

Dr. Kelemu holds many accolades, including the Woman of the Decade in Natural and Sustainable Ecosystems Award from the Women Economic Forum and the L’Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science. She is also recognized as one of the Heroes in the Field by Bill Gates for using her talents to fight hunger, disease and poverty.

Working for a Better Tomorrow

Despite many challenges and social constructs, these women made new things possible for the benefit of their communities. Although they come from different regions, their missions are similar: to empower women to educate themselves, enhance the community and help others at all costs. These brilliant women improving global health are also fighting global poverty in turn.

– Tara Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty in Cote d'Ivoire
The West African country of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, also known as the Ivory Coast, is home to approximately 26 million people. The country is the world’s largest exporter of cocoa beans, and it boasts beautiful beaches and wildlife preserves. It is also the largest economy in the West African Economic and Monetary Union. The country has shown resilience as well as growth and development over the past decade. Côte d’Ivoire is among the fastest-growing countries in the world, with an economy that has expanded an average of 8% annually since 2011. So, with all this advancement, why does 46.3% of the population still live below the poverty line? Here are three main causes of poverty in Côte d’Ivoire.

3 Main Causes of Poverty in Côte d’Ivoire

  1. Gender Inequalities: The maternal mortality rate in Côte d’Ivoire is 645 deaths per 100,000 live births. This is significant compared to the U.S. and Italy which suffer 14 and 2 deaths per 100,000 live births respectively. Additionally, only 42% of girls complete secondary school in Côte d’Ivoire compared to 55.5% of boys. Because women make up about half of the world’s population, it is proven that empowering women through better healthcare, education and social opportunity increases the standard of living as well as providing a significant boost in economic productivity for the entire population. Côte d’Ivoire has recognized a need for change, and revolutionary legislation emerged in the new 2016 constitution. This created legal imperatives to eliminate all forms of violence against women and promote their voices and representation in an elected assembly. Although much work is necessary, legal protection for women is a huge step in the right direction.
  2. Public Health: Even though infrastructure has improved in recent years since the 2002 civil war, healthcare systems have struggled in Côte d’Ivoire. There are about 0.2 doctors and 0.5 hospital beds per 1,000 patients. Tuberculosis and malaria are also significant health threats with reports of two million cases of malaria in 2012. However, the biggest healthcare challenge the country faces is HIV/AIDS. The disease affects 6% of the population and has left 320,000 children orphaned as of 2018, which means Côte d’Ivoire has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in West Africa. On the upside, the government has made important financial commitments to help combat the spread of disease. Not only has domestic funding for HIV/AIDS been increased to $10 million, but the government is also working to reduce or eliminate medical fees, a significant barrier to testing and treatment.
  3. Fluctuations in Export Prices: Cocoa, coffee and palm oil are incredibly important exports for Côte d’Ivoire. Nearly two-thirds of the population work in farming or agriculture. Increased prices as well as fluctuations in weather and insect activity can greatly affect the year to year success and productivity of Ivorians, which impinges on livelihoods. Recently, 800,000 Ivorian farmers living in rural areas—about half of whom are female—have benefited from the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program (WAAPP). This program contributed agricultural processing equipment and provided an average of 22% increase in the household income for the farmers.

The Good News

Although people are struggling, much positive change is coming to Côte d’Ivoire including developments in farming and agriculture, medical innovations and increased education for women. The country is achieving aid through domestic reform as well as international aid. These efforts are helping the people of Côte d’Ivoire out of extreme poverty and increasing the standard of living.

Noelle Nelson
Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis in Timor-Leste
Tuberculosis, also known as TB, is a bacterial disease that affects one’s lungs. The disease can cause symptoms such as coughing fits, sneezing, as well as troubled breathing; however, some people do not exhibit symptoms. Tuberculosis is an air-borne disease that can be exchanged through interacting with individuals who have tuberculosis, typically by either coughing or speaking.

There are also two different types of tuberculosis: latent TB infection and TB disease. Latent tuberculosis occurs when an individual has the bacteria that causes tuberculosis in their lungs but shows no active symptoms of tuberculosis; therefore, there is no spread of the bacteria. Tuberculosis disease refers to when an individual has the bacteria in their lungs and is showing symptoms due to the growth of the bacteria. The disease is typically treated through a mixture of different antibacterial medications, taken for six months to a year.

Though tuberculosis may not sound dangerous, there are some dangers for those who do not receive proper medical treatment. While TB does directly affect the lungs, the bacteria can also affect other organs such as the brain and kidneys, which can cause more concerning health issues like renal failure. Renal failure causes the kidneys to malfunction, so waste is not properly removed from the body. If not treated, tuberculosis can cause the lungs to be filled with fluid and blood and can ultimately result in death.

Which Countries are Most at Risk?

Timor-Leste, located in Southeast Asia, is one of the countries most affected by tuberculosis. Unfortunately, many people are not diagnosed, causing the disease to go on untreated. Timor-Leste has limited medical resources and supplies. As of 2017, the WHO estimates that for every 100,000 people in Timor-Leste, only 498 people are notified that they have tuberculosis, and 106 are killed annually.

83% of the treatment for tuberculosis in Timor-Leste comes with an enormous fee. Due to this, many are reluctant to be treated or even tested for tuberculosis in Timor-Leste. It is also estimated that in 2017, 46% of individuals living with tuberculosis in Timor-Leste have gone undiagnosed. Therefore, there is a dire need for education about tuberculosis in Timor-Leste. Many do not understand the disease or the medical treatment they are receiving and end up not completing the whole treatment.

What is Being Done to Help Timor-Leste?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), certain programs have been created across Southeast Asia to teach tuberculosis prevention. Overall, there are thirteen districts, each of which focused on a different campaign. Originally, the program was started to address the missing cases in Timor-Leste. The WHO has also implemented more test screenings and treatment. It hopes to execute the “TB Free Core Package” in which there will be more TB prevention, detection, treatment, and protection. This package would be focused on helping low-income families who cannot afford the hefty price tag that comes with TB treatment. As the WHO programs have reached thousands of individuals, there is hope to decrease the number of TB cases and better educate the Timor-Leste public on tuberculosis prevention.

The International Organization of Migration and UN Migration Agency are working with Timor-Leste’s health ministry to help fund more test screenings. Supporting the National Tuberculosis Program will allow screenings to become more available to the public; as of 2018, more than 6,000 individuals have had a screen test. Programs such as this pave the way for more partake in reducing the cases of tuberculosis in Timor-Leste.

Olivia Eaker
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in South Africa

While South Africa has come a long way since the pre-Mandela era, many still largely view it as one of the most unequal countries in the world. The history of apartheid in South Africa still plagues many sectors of its government, especially its healthcare system. Glaring racial and wealth disparities among South Africans contribute to unequal access to high-quality healthcare services. Here is some further information about the state of healthcare in South Africa.

Positive Outcomes Post-Apartheid

Two years after Apartheid ended on April 27, 1994, South Africa developed a new Constitution that included a Bill of Rights. A new law under Article 27 stated that every person has an entitlement to healthcare in South Africa, including the right to reproductive care and guaranteed emergency medical treatment. It also states that the government must have measures in place in order to properly carry out these programs.

Since its implementation, life expectancy ages have risen from 54 in 2005 to nearly 63 years as of 2018, along with a continued decrease in the mother-to-child transmission of HIV. While healthcare services and medical treatment have dramatically improved since the 90s, equal accessibility is still a huge problem within the country.

The Public Versus Private Health Sector

While public healthcare is legally available to everyone in South Africa, it comes with an enormous shortage in proper supplies, functioning machinery and high-quality services. Along with this, it includes virtually guaranteed long wait times, hasty appointments and unavailability of skilled doctors. Only five of the 696 public hospitals meet most of the nation’s standards, which include services to contain infectious diseases and to provide prescriptions and medications.

This is not the case within the private health sector. Only 14% of South Africans pay for private health insurance, but more than half of healthcare funds go to that 14%. They have access to 70% of the country’s doctors, whereas the rest of the population utilizing public healthcare have access to far fewer doctors.

Racial Disparities

At first glance, there seems to be a battle between government services and for-profit insurance companies within healthcare in South Africa. However, it is increasingly clear that there is a divide between the historically elite and systemically poor.

In 2018, the World Bank named South Africa as the country with the worst inequality in the world. As of 2015, about 55% of the country’s population lives on less than $5 a day. Meanwhile, the lower-bound poverty line of $1.50 a day includes 47% black Africans, 23% mixed race people and less than 1% white people. The history of apartheid is far from gone because it has created a system with a lack of opportunities for all citizens. While South Africa may have legally outlawed discrimination, many still practice it, and data outlining who has access to high-quality healthcare clearly shows this.

Projects and Initiatives to Improve the State of Healthcare in South Africa

South Africa is trying to completely nationalize its healthcare by 2026 through a National Health Insurance (NHI) proposal. The country first implemented it in 2012 and will carry it out in phases over 14 years. Under the full program, citizens will be able to receive care at clinics and hospitals at no charge, but will also have the option to seek and pay for private care if they desire. If South Africa implements it as planned, it should help to reduce the number of those seeking private insurance and allow for the reallocation of funds to the public sector. In order for this to properly happen, government elites will have to examine how to break down their own history of systemic racism.

The SAME Foundation (the South Africa Medical and Education Foundation) works to provide high-quality medical services to everyone receiving public healthcare. The Khayelitsha Hospital in Cape Town was incredibly under-resourced and over-crowded, particularly in its Emergency Ward and Mental Health Ward, leaving many patients sleeping and getting treatment on the floor.

In 2018, SAME provided the Emergency Ward with 16 new stretcher beds, a ventilator, an x-ray machine, a diagnostic set and an HB tester. Doctors can now provide higher quality care for more patients at any given time. The new equipment gives more accurate results, as well as performs certain tasks that the doctors would otherwise have to do by hand (i.e. continuous CPR versus a ventilator). Within the Mental Health Ward, SAME raised enough money to provide 65 new beds that have rounded edges, are easy to clean and are waterproof and flame retardant. These efforts have created a more positive and safe environment, as well as restored patient dignity.

The overall state of healthcare in South Africa could certainly improve within its public sector, however, the country is actively trying to overcome decades of segregation and current practices of de facto discrimination in order to provide high-quality services for all citizens. With the help of NGOs, and as South Africa continues to implement the new health initiative over the next few years, only time will tell if the goals of the country meet with equality and justice.

Stephanie Russo
Photo: Flickr

3D Printed Prosthetics Can Change the Developing World
In developing nations around the world, communities experience congenital disabilities and accidents, just like in the developed world. In impoverished countries, however, the ability to access prosthetics is uncommon, if not nonexistent. If impoverished nations were able to obtain inexpensive prosthetics, it would change their lives. Fortunately, scientists and inventors alike are working out the situation. This is why 3D printed prosthetics could change the developing world.

The Problem

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that approximately 30 million people worldwide need prosthetics or various orthotic devices. The lack of access leaves a whole array of issues for people. According to Access Prosthetics, 30 percent of amputees and congenital amputees experience depression and/or anxiety. These 3D printed prosthetics can change the developing world, making it easier for disabled individuals to perform necessary actions and increasing their quality of life.

In poverty-stricken nations, people face a dangerous threat: explosives. The Guardian told the story of one boy who Sudanese soldiers kidnapped and forced to fight. One day, the boy stepped on a mine and the mere force of the impact was strong enough to tear his foot from his leg. From that day forward, the child used a wheelchair and a prosthetic leg. Unfortunately, too many people experience what this child suffered. This child was lucky that the Kenyan Red Cross organization was able to produce a prosthetic limb for the child, but unfortunately, many people cannot receive such care.

Why 3D Printed Prosthetics?

Along with the emotional hindrances and physical limitations, 3D prosthetics are a much better option than traditional prosthetics. Traditional prosthetics comprise of metal, plastic and other materials, and cost between $5,000 to $50,000. Reaching the price of a luxury car, many families cannot afford traditional prosthetics. Traditional prosthetics typically take upwards of three weeks to reach their recipient, which includes production and fitting. The long wait time only puts the recipient in a worse position because sometimes these prosthetics are life-saving.

These 3D printed prosthetics, however, could fix this issue. Typically, producers can make 3D printed prosthetics within a single day at a shocking $50. With a drastically low upfront cost and production time, these are essential to why 3D printed prosthetics can change the developing world. Thanks to incredible advancements in the industry, it is not an if, but rather when 3D prosthetics will reach developing nations on a mass scale.

Enabling the Future

Enabling the Future is a humanitarian organization that consists of volunteers who use 3D printers to produce prosthetics for free. The network makes it explicitly clear that it is not a company and does not sell the prosthetics. With over 3,300 3D printer volunteers, the organization helps thousands of people around the world. Enabling the Future has run into durability issues in its past because volunteers print the products rather than professionals. However, they still offer some of the cheapest and quickly made prosthetics. After Enabling the Future first noted the problem, it decided to offer a different material to make the prosthetics. This material is much stronger but costs up to $2,000.

With an enormous team of 3,300, Enabling the Future is at the forefront of the production of 3D prosthetics. This organization is able to provide cheap prosthetics to people worldwide and at a much faster rate than many other organizations can. Companies such as Enabling the Future are critical to the success of equipping developing nations with 3D prosthetics.

The Impact

The capability for amputees to access inexpensive prosthetics will change the world. The ability to carry items or run may seem simple, but the reality is that most take these actions for granted. People with missing limbs can now perform actions that were once challenging, effortlessly. In the developed world, $50,000 is an extremely steep investment but can make a large impact in impoverished countries.

In developing, war-torn nations, many share the same story as that of the boy mentioned above. Too many people die from such instances and many more lose limbs. Thankfully, thanks to 3D prosthetics, the world should change for the better.

Cleveland Lewis
Photo: Flickr

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

Gates Plans to Eradicate Malaria

Bill Gates is currently the second richest person in the world, with a net worth of $95 billion. But he also has a reputation for humanitarianism. As one of the world’s leading philanthropists, Gates is widely considered to be the most prominent humanitarian public figure. Together, he and his wife established The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a private, charitable foundation that globally combats poverty and enhances healthcare. Now, Gates plans to eradicate malaria by 2040.

What is Malaria?

Malaria is a disease caused by a parasite, commonly transmitted to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes. While malaria occurs in roughly 100 countries, it is most common in tropical and subtropical regions. To this end, the disease is common in regions of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Upon contracting malaria, a person will exhibit symptoms resembling the flu. And if left untreated, malaria can be fatal. However, this is largely preventable.

According to the World Health Organization, there were 207 million cases of malaria reported in 2012. Approximately 627,000 of these cases resulted in death. Significantly, roughly 90 percent of these estimated deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa and 77 percent in children under 5 years of age. Given these statistics, the mortality rate of malaria is incredibly slight, at around 0.003 percent. Therefore, malaria does not have to result in death and, moreover, may be prevented entirely. And as Gates plans to eradicate malaria, this possibility may soon become reality.

What’s the Plan?

At the Malaria Summit London 2018, the Gates Foundation pledged to invest $1 billion through 2023 to end malaria. To date, the Gates Foundation has committed $1.6 billion to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Additionally, it has committed almost $2 billion in grants to eradicate the disease. At the summit, Gates states, “It’s a disease that is preventable, treatable and ultimately beatable, but progress against malaria is not inevitable. We hope today marks a turning point against the disease.”

Malaria is not a mystery anymore. Cures and vaccinations already exist to combat the disease. There is a solution, it simply needs funding. Between 2000 and 2012, malaria incidence rates declined 25 percent globally. By establishing protocol, proper resources can render malaria a manageable issue. While this is no small order, Gates plans to eradicate malaria and has the capability to fund it. Undoubtedly, this will leave an indelible, positive mark on the fight for better healthcare and war against global poverty.

Lacy Rab
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 Ghana
Health 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