Information and stories on Tanzania

The US is Making Strides to Help Reduce HIV in Tanzania Tanzania is the largest and most populous country in East Africa, with nearly 59 million inhabitants. It is a youthful and rapidly growing population with a fertility rate of nearly 4.8 children per woman. Almost two-thirds of the population is under 25, and 42% is under 15. While malaria is the leading cause of death for children under 5, HIV/AIDS is the main killer among adults. In 2018, 1.6 million people were living with HIV in Tanzania, with a prevalence rate of 4.6% among adults. Approximately 24,000 adults died of AIDS-related illnesses, the seventh-most in the world. As more of the country’s population reaches adulthood, containing the spread of HIV in Tanzania will become even more important, and international assistance can continue playing an important role in the effort to do so. 

The 90-90-90 Target to reduce HIV in Tanzania

In 2017, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, a joint venture of six UN agencies that coordinates the international fight against HIV, set a “90-90-90” global target for 2020. The goals were by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV would know the status of their disease, 90% of all people diagnosed with HIV would be receiving antiretroviral therapy and 90% of all people receiving treatment for HIV would have viral suppression. 

Although it is too early to predict whether Tanzania will achieve these targets, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS reports the country has made strides in fighting the disease. In addition, the number of AIDS-related deaths per year declined to 49% between 2010 and 2018. Moreover, according to a 2019 report based on a 2016-2017 survey, Tanzania appeared close to reaching at least two of the three 90-90-90 benchmarks: 60.6% of people knew their status as living with HIV; around 93.6% of people diagnosed with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy; 87% had viral suppression of the people receiving treatment.

Action Taken by the United States

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is the United States’ response to the epidemic and is a leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The initiative provides antiretroviral treatment to more than 14.6 million people in more than 50 countries. As a result, this reflects remarkable progress since the program began in 2003 when only 50,000 people were on treatment in sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, the United States’ program uses granular data to map the HIV epidemic and maximize the impact of its efforts. For example, in 2014 the U.S. announced the Accelerating Children on HIV/AIDS Treatment (ACT) Initiative. Around 84,745 people in Tanzania who are 20 years or younger were receiving ART. The ACT initiative has given ART treatment to over a million children and adolescents in total.

PEPFAR and DREAMS

Girls are roughly 75% more likely to become HIV infected than boys. In addition, PEPFAR has created DREAMS (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe). In an overview between 2016 and 2019, PEPFAR DREAMS in Tanzania was given over 52 million dollars in funding. Private sector partners include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Johnson and Johnson. As with all PEPFAR countries, the U.S. collaborates with Tanzania’s government in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The United Republic of Tanzania’s Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children started the National Aids Control Programme (NACP).

Tanzania took strides to reach the 90-90-90 target. One of these is the Treat All strategy, where they attempt to test and treat as many people as possible. Another effort includes distributing condoms to public and private places consistently to prevent the spread of infection. They also hope to educate males to raise awareness about their vital role in spreading the virus. Finally, they hope to address sub-groups at higher risk, such as those who inject drugs. These efforts, among many others, have helped reach the hopeful numbers listed above and have given Tanzania great potential for progress towards 2030.

Looking Ahead

The NACP is proud of its efforts to eradicate HIV in Tanzania. Looking forward, UNAIDS has created a new target: 95-95-95 by 2030. Tanzania is making progress and has a bright future.

Annie Raglow

Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa
As tuberculosis (TB) kills more than a million people each year, a new strategy to detect the disease has emerged: using rats to identify TB positive samples. TB remains the world’s deadliest disease, infecting 10 million and killing 1.5 million people in 2018. Tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa is also the main cause of death for people living with HIV.

In Mozambique, where 13.2% of the population has HIV, more than half of the people with TB also have HIV. Along with malnutrition and other diseases, HIV reduces resistance to TB, so people living in poverty are especially susceptible to TB. Those experiencing poverty are also more likely to have fewer healthcare options and spend most of their lives in overcrowded conditions and poorly ventilated buildings where TB can easily spread. However, TB is treatable; it just needs to be caught in time. APOPO, a Belgian NGO, works to detect tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa by training rats to sniff it out.

How Can Rats Detect Tuberculosis?

For nine months, African giant pouched rats are trained to sniff out TB from samples of sputum — the mucus produced from coughs. Much like the Pavlov’s dog theory, trainers condition rats to associate the sound of a click with a reward; the rats only hear a click and receive a reward when they interact with TB positive samples. The rats have to hold their snouts over the sample for two to three seconds to indicate the positive sample. To “graduate” and become heroRATS — the official name for APOPOs rats — the rats go through a testing process where they have to detect every TB positive sample among rows of sputum.

Since 2007, APOPO has partnered with local clinics that send potential TB samples for the rats to check. Health clinics perform smear microscopy tests that often come up negative when they are actually positive. The heroRATS help to correct this problem by accurately identifying the TB positive samples. Their detection rats can check up to 100 TB samples in 20 minutes while the same task might take a lab technician up to four days. After the APOPO lab confirms the TB samples tested by the rats (using WHO methods), they alert the clinic about the results. So far, the rats have screened 580,534 TB samples and prevented 126,375 potential TB infections, raising TB detection rates of partner clinics by 40%.

The Relationship Between TB and Poverty

When medical professionals are unable to detect tuberculosis and treat it in time, the disease can augment poverty rates, making living conditions even worse for people who have it. Because TB is highly contagious, those with the disease are not allowed to go to work or school, leading to a loss of income and education. The stigma surrounding TB is also detrimental; people are often excluded from the community, so they can no longer rely on support from previous outlets. APOPO’s work to increase the TB test’s accuracy and speed helps those infected to know their correct results and then seek more immediate treatment.

Progress Detecting Tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa

The three main countries APOPO operates in  — Tanzania, Mozambique and Ethiopia —  are all considered high burden TB countries.

  • Tanzania: Tanzania has one of the highest TB burdens in the world at approximately 295 TB cases per 10,000 adults. With a poverty rate of 49.1%, almost half of Tanzanians are susceptible to TB’s spread. To help alleviate the effects of this disease, APOPO began in Tanzania in 2007 and has since expanded to 74 collaborating clinics across the country. A new testing facility in Dar es Salaam opened in 2016 and delivers results to clinics in 24 hours. Along with increasing accuracy, the APOPO facilities and rats boost the TB detection rate to around 35%.

  • Mozambique: After its success in Tanzania, in 2012 APOPO developed programs in Mozambique, where approximately 62.9% of the population lives in poverty. In partnership with Eduardo Mondlane University, APOPO built a new testing facility on the university’s grounds in Maputo. This center works with 20 local healthcare clinics and delivers results in 24 hours, which increases the probability of the patient starting treatment because it reduces the time and effort it takes to track down a patient to inform them of the results. Due to this partnership, the TB detection rate has increased by 53%.

  • Ethiopia: With a 30.8% poverty rate, Ethiopia ranks 10th for the highest TB burden in the world. To help identify these cases, APOPO is currently building a detection facility with the Armauer Hansen Research Institute. Additionally, this center will not only partner with clinics in Addis Ababa to test for TB, but will also screen up to 52,000 prison inmates and staff located in 35 prisons across Ethiopia. At the clinics, the goal is to increase identified TB cases by 35% while developing its program to create a long term impact in Ethiopia.

Armed with its innovative thinking — and its heroRATS — APOPO is making progress in detecting tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa and limiting its spread.

Zoë Padelopoulos
Photo: Flickr

Diseases in TanzaniaAbout 36% of the 57 million people living in Tanzania fall below the poverty line. It is one of the most impoverished countries in the world. Many impoverished countries deal with severely inadequate healthcare. However, Tanzania has recently experienced tremendous advances in healthcare. Overall better accessibility to healthcare improved death rates and diseases in Tanzania and even prompted innovative disease prevention. Here are six facts about healthcare in Tanzania.

6 Facts About Diseases in Tanzania

  1. Health access and quality have increased. Healthcare access and quality are essential for a prosperous community. When disease and illness go untreated, entire populations of people can be affected. Tanzania received a Healthcare Access and Quality Index rating of 33.9 in 2016 compared to 21.9 in 1990. Some of the factors contributing to this increase include a flourishing economy, increased education and foreign aid.
  2. Malnutrition has decreased by almost 10%. Although malnutrition is still one of the leading causes of death and disability in Tanzania, it has been declining since 2007. Malnutrition causes many diseases, especially in children. Malnutrition is detrimental to children’s cognitive growth and overall health. UNICEF is an organization working with the government and other local partners in Tanzania to improve child nutrition by implementing a food and nutrition policy.
  3. HIV/AIDS death rates have decreased drastically. As one of the top 10 causes of death in Tanzania, the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS has prompted many years of advocacy and support from organizations and governments all around the world. As a result of these efforts, HIV/AIDS death rates have decreased tremendously in Tanzania. In 2007, HIV/AIDS was the number one leading cause of death in Tanzania, and by 2017, the death rate had declined by 75%.
  4. Only 15% of people in rural areas have improved sanitation facilities. Poor sanitation is one of the leading causes of the spread of disease. Many impoverished communities struggle with combating diseases that spread through poor sanitation facilities. In rural Tanzania, about 85% of the population struggles with poor sanitation equipment, including toilets, showers and water sources for drinking. UNICEF implemented the Behaviour Change Communication approach which sets an example on effectively educating communities on embarrassing topics, such as personal hygiene. The work of UNICEF and local communities has helped prevent the rapid spread of disease through poor sanitation in the impoverished areas of Tanzania.
  5. Tuberculosis has a 90% treatment success rate. Even though tuberculosis is one of the top 10 causes of death in Tanzania, it has a high treatment success rate. One of the contributing factors to tuberculosis treatment success is the increase in accessible quality healthcare. Considering that the tuberculosis mortality rate is less than half of a 10th percent, treatment options for tuberculosis have successfully prevented many deaths related to this disease in Tanzania.
  6. Around 78% of households have an insecticide mosquito protective net. Transmitted by mosquitoes, malaria is one of the leading causes of death in Tanzania. Preventative measures have been taken to decrease contact with mosquitoes, including the installation of the insecticide-treated mosquito net (ITN) in homes. These nets are safely treated with insecticide to block mosquitoes from entering. A more durable version of the ITN called a long-lasting insecticide-treated net (LLIN), has been produced. Both of these nets are recommended by WHO for malaria prevention.

Despite being one of the most impoverished countries in the world, Tanzania has made great advancements in its healthcare. Combating many of the issues that come with poverty, Tanzania has found innovative ways to combat disease. With the efforts of UNICEF and local community groups, Tanzania has decreased diseases that are caused by poor healthcare and malnutrition.

– Kaitlyn Gilbert
Photo: Flickr

Today, 70 percent of Africans and 95 percent of those living in rural areas do not have access to electricity. Although many countries are still lacking access to electricity, there are some inspiring leaders making a difference in establishing electricity in Africa.  Particularly, George Mtemahanji has spearheaded the movement towards implementing solar energy in Tanzania.

Bringing Solar Energy to Tanzania

Mtemahanji was born in Ifakara, a Tanzanian village located in the Kilombero District of Morogoro Region. In his village, poverty rates are very high and education completion rates are very low. As a young adult, Mtemahanji was able to pursue his education in Italy. Mtemahanji’s passion for clean energy grew throughout high school and technical college, where he studied to become a renewable energy technician. Upon graduation in 2012 from IPSIA Ferrari, Manuel Rolando and Mtemahanji co-founded SunSweet Solar Ltd. The company designs and installs Solar Hybrid Microgrid Systems that supply electricity to rural communities in Africa, and more specifically, in Tanzania.

SunSweet Solar

Connecting rural areas to the power grid is an expensive process. However, solar energy has the ability to cut these high costs in the long-term. SunSweet allows customers to purchase energy via mobile phones, expanding energy access to schools and hospitals. Families who live in rural areas can also connect to power easily for a mere 15 cents per day. As of 2016, the technology has been implemented throughout six villages and provides energy to about 25,000 people.

One system, the Eco-Friendly Village Solar system, can meet the energy demands of a village 24 hours a day. This system is durable, where it can roughly last 20 years before needing to be replaced. Additionally, there are systems in place to help communities avoid electrical blackouts. This is especially meant for villages that are not connected to the national electrical grid (off-grid).

Impact on Medical Dispensary

With the collaboration of the Kilombero District Council, SunSweet has designed a solar photovoltaic system that has the capacity to satisfy the energy demand of an entire medical dispensary. Further, the system will provide energy each day for more than 25 years.

Called the RuDEK (Rural Dispensary Energy Kit), this kit has the ability to store energy for emergency dispensaries in less than three hours. First installed in 2016, the system stores additional energy for rainy seasons and cloudy days. By supporting dispensaries, more people will receive high-quality health services. Some of the direct benefits include women giving birth with more than candlelight, vaccination and medication storage in a refrigerator, and doctors having clear visuals of ailments.

Educational Benefits of Solar Energy in Tanzania

SunSweet’s first major contract was installing a solar power plant at the Benignis Girls Secondary School. The system aimed to support 236 lights, dozens of computers and fans in a majority of the classrooms. Though this was logistically challenging, SunSweet was successful in the project. With the installation of the solar power plant, students’ testing performance increased from 81 to 94 percent.

Looking Forward to a Bright Future

Two years after the company’s inception, SunSweet Solar was nominated for the prestigious Anzisha Prize, an award for young entrepreneurs in Africa. The exposure given to the company has attracted many opportunities that will support energy development throughout Africa. Further, support from Denmark, Brazil and Sweden will launch the company to take on greater projects.

Mtehamanji has since spoken with the Tanzania private sector foundation, the Tanzania investment center, the Tanzanian rural electrification agency, and many others to implement sustainable energy. With an official FuturaSun partnership, an Italian company, and a contract for a future partnership with Trine, a Swedish company, the future of SunSweet Solar looks as bright as ever.

Janice Athill

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Reduction Strategy of Tanzania
Recently, the World Bank released its list of nations that most successfully reduced domestic poverty from 2000-2015. The top five countries reduced poverty between 3.2 percent and 2.6 percent between 2000 and 2015, with Tanzania reducing the highest percentage. The top fifteen countries lifted 802.1 million individuals out of poverty. This article outlines the successful poverty reduction strategy of Tanzania and international support that caused the most drastic reductions in poverty around the world.

History of Tanzanian Poverty

Historically, Tanzania has been one of the most impoverished countries in the world. In 2000, 86 percent of Tanzanians were impoverished, but this number dropped to 28 percent in 2018.

Tanzania reduced poverty by 3.2 percent in 11 years, making it the country that reduced poverty the most in the last 15 years. The poverty reduction strategy of Tanzania is due to three elements: reducing income poverty, increasing access to basic necessities and improving government infrastructure.

Economic Growth

The first strategy focuses on sustainable economic growth, which includes decreasing inflation and focusing on growing parts of the economy that have the largest poor population. The employment and empowerment programs utilized in these strategies focus on agriculture, manufacturing, mining and tourism in addition to macroeconomic growth in exports and imports. Between 2000 and 2015, Tanzania’s export volume grew from 120 to 272, making it the world’s 130th largest exporter. This successfully increased Tanzania’s GDP from $13.3 billion to $47.3 billion.

Tanzania’s unemployment rate dropped from 12.9 percent in 2001 to 10.3 percent in 2014, because of the liquid capital that injected into Tanzania’s economy, a focus on job creation and an industrial transition that opened new jobs. The economic focus of the Tanzanian government lifted thousands of individuals out of poverty and made it the seventh-largest economy in Africa.

The Impoverished Individual

The second strategy focuses on the personal needs of those in poverty. Poverty reduction efforts seek to increase the quality of life and ensure that those in poverty have access to social welfare. Efforts concentrated on education, clean water, sanitation and health services. Because of these efforts, Tanzania increased the number of individuals who had access to clean water by 9 percent between 1990 and 2009. In the same period of time, Tanzania’s health care became more accessible. As a result, child mortality rates dropped from 162 to 108, infant mortality rates dropped from 99 to 68 and the rate of malaria contraction dropped from 40.9 percent to 40.1 percent.

Another poverty reduction strategy focused on education. Tanzania made education more accessible by increasing funding for education, bettering its transportation mechanisms (including roads) and emphasizing vocational education and education for girls. This focus on education increased school enrollment from 68.8 percent in 2000 to 84.6 percent in 2015.

Tanzania’s Commitment to its People

The third strategy is one of the governmental commitments to the impoverished Tanzanian people. This included ensuring the enforcement of the law, the accountability of the government for its people and the prioritizing of stability in order to avoid poverty. The IMF reported that Tanzania has become more accountable to its people, less corrupt and has increased citizen participation in governance, thus ensuring an effective political framework.

International Participation in Tanzania’s Poverty Reduction Strategies

The international community was critical to Tanzania’s successful poverty reduction. The United States, Tanzania’s largest source of aid, began giving Tanzania foreign aid in 2006. In that year, the U.S. gave $151.29 million. This number increased every year, with the U.S. giving Tanzania $633.5 million in aid in 2015. This aid has consistently gone towards the very areas in which Tanzania has seen the most improvement: humanitarian aid, governance, education, economic development and health.

While Tanzania still has a long way to go until it completely eliminates poverty, it has made significant progress since the beginning of the millennium. The poverty reduction strategies of Tanzania, including economic growth, investment in individuals and infrastructure and governance development, have been successful to a great extent. International aid has consistently been a contributing factor to Tanzania’s ability to reduce poverty and has successfully targeted the areas in which Tanzania required the most improvement.

–  Denise Sprimont
Photo: Flickr

Unique Library Programs

Access to books is vital in developing countries. However, it is often difficult to bring libraries to these countries. Across the world, many organizations promote literacy through unique library programs.

School Library in a Box

Book Aid International is a charity working to create a world where everyone has access to books. Book Aid International has a unique library program called School Library in a Box. School Library in a Box takes libraries to students in the “poor and remote areas in the Kagera Region of mainland Tanzania and the Zanzibar archipelago.” In these areas, children’s schools do not have libraries due to lack of government funding.

The project provides 700 books written in English and Kiswahili to schools. Student librarians transport the books to classrooms to allow children to enjoy independent reading before their lessons. School Library in a Box also provides training for educators on how to use the books to support their classes. The teachers use the books to support their lessons and to help children develop reading skills in both English and Kiswahili.

This charity collaborates with non-government organizations (NGOs), national library services, community library networks, local government and individual institutions to make its vision happen. For the Zanzibar library services, it collaborates with Zanzibar Library Service and with the Kagera Region it works with Voluntary Service Overseas.

An evaluation of eight schools that participated in this project found that reading levels of students have improved and school lessons became more creative and engaging. As a result, students in many schools proactively chose to read independently. Students borrowed books and established regular reading periods. In 2016, the program supported 40 schools and 39,101 children.

Mobile Libraries

Around the world, many organizations have created mobile library programs. Mobile libraries are now in countries such as America, Nigeria, Norway and Columbia. These libraries transport books by boat, elephant, donkey and bus to reach children who need access to library services.

Though it might seem like a new phenomenon, the first mobile library was established in 1859 in Warrington, England. This mobile library used a horse-drawn-cart and lent about 12,000 books during its first year in service. Today this unique library program idea has greatly expanded and many organizations now have mobile library programs.

In Columbia, Biblioburro brings books to children via donkey. This library is run by an educator who wants to increase his pupils’ access to books after noticing their low literacy rate. Over the 22 years since it started, the program has expanded to include a network of libraries, including a brick-and-mortar library. Biblioburro began distributing laptops to help children learn about the internet.

Other unique mobile library programs include Epos, the boat library, which travels along the coast of Norway. This boat carries 6,000 books. A unique mobile library in Nigeria called iRead Mobile Library travels by bus and carries 13,000 books.

There are many unique library programs around the world that help increase literacy. Ultimately, government funding is needed to permanently solve this issue. These unique library programs inspire many and are creating a world where literacy is more accessible.

Emily Joy Oomen
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

TB in TanzaniaTanzania is a country located in East Africa that is home to 54 million people. Unfortunately, tuberculosis is a big issue within the country. Tanzania currently ranks within the top 30 countries worldwide that are most affected by tuberculosis. While the national TB budget has consistently stood at around $60 million. However, NGOs like APOPO are also doing their part to fight TB in Tanzania.

Why APOPO is Needed

Historically, Tanzania has struggled to supply clinics with rapid forms of testing. But this is where APOPO helps to bridge the gap. APOPO is an NGO fighting TB in Tanzania by using specially trained rats to detect cases of the disease. Along with the work this group does in Tanzania, it also helps fight against tuberculosis in Mozambique and Ethiopia. Since the program in Tanzania first launched in 2007, the group grew from collaborations with four government clinics to 57 clinics.

How APOPO Fights TB

Many forms of testing for tuberculosis are quite inaccurate. The better quality methods of testing can be quite expensive and take a longer time to get results. Cheaper forms of testing can often yield false results. Due to cheap testing, people will be given an inaccurate diagnosis. Government clinics in Tanzania mainly use smear microscopy tests due to the test’s affordability.

This method of detection has very low sensitivity rates that range from 20 to 60 percent. To combat the current inadequate forms of testing for tuberculosis, APOPO has implemented a program that uses specially trained rats. These rats can detect cases of tuberculosis at a fast and more accurate rate.

The rats at APOPO’s facilities can test 100 samples in 20 minutes, as opposed to technicians who can only check 25 samples per day. APOPO’s labs can get test results within 24 hours. APOPO’s rats have increased detection rates of tuberculosis by 40 percent.

APOPO’s Effect

APOPO is an NGO fighting TB in Tanzania that has seen success in its initiative to incorporate innovative tactics in the fight against tuberculosis. From 2000 to 2018 there have been decreases in total incidents of TB as well as a decrease in new and relapse cases in Tanzania.

Tuberculosis currently ranks within the top 10 causes of death across the world. APOPO already works with 57 clinics in Tanzania. This group’s success through alternative methods of testing can serve as an example of how to fight against the spread of tuberculosis.

– James Turner
Photo: Flickr

Schistosomiasis and Poverty

Schistosomiasis (also known as bilharzia) is a disease that is rarely heard outside of scientific circles. This has less to do with the severity of schistosomiasis, and more to do with the fact that its parasitic sibling, malaria, is a far more common and well-known illness. The largest concentration of schistosomiasis in the world, a staggering 90 percent, is in Africa.

Schistosomiasis: What is it?

While schistosomiasis tends to be overshadowed by its well-known cousin malaria, there is still a wealth of information on how it functions, spreads and affects the human body. Schistosomiasis is caused by parasitic worms that inhabit the bodies of some freshwater snails. Humans are infected when they interact with bodies of water containing these snails. Common recreational and domestic activities like swimming and washing clothes in and near infected waters are attributed to the spread of schistosomiasis.

Schistosomiasis comes in two different types: urinary schistosomiasis and intestinal schistosomiasis. Urinary schistosomiasis is characterized by extensive damage to the kidneys, bladder and ureters. Intestinal schistosomiasis is characterized via symptoms of an engorged spleen and liver, which leads to intestinal damage and hypertension in the abdominal blood vessels. The first symptom of schistosomiasis is a light skin rash known as “swimmers itch.” Once a human is infected, symptoms (chills, aches and coughing fits) can appear within one to two months. However, many infections are asymptomatic; the infection is there, but no symptoms appear.

Schistosomiasis is transferred from person to person when an infected individual’s excrement reaches a water supply. The parasitic eggs from then hatch, infect another snail (or human) and the cycle begins anew. Proper sanitation and potable water are the main ways to prevent the spread of this disease.

The disease schistosomiasis does not always result in death. Schistosomiasis commonly ends in stunted growth and anemia in children, and can even lead to infertility in cases of urinary schistosomiasis. Children can also find themselves with a reduced ability to learn due to the crippling symptoms this disease comes with.

There is no vaccine to cure schistosomiasis and no antibiotic has proven effective in preventing infection. However, there are effective means to diagnose and treat schistosomiasis before the infection truly takes hold. The drug, praziquantel, has proven useful in removing the worms and their eggs from the human body. Although there is poor access to praziquantel, this treatment has reached more than 28 percent of people around the world.

Where Schistosomiasis Congregates

Africa has a truly staggering number of schistosomiasis cases compared to the rest of the world. Nigeria has the most cases out of any African country, with approximately 29 million infected. The United Republic of Tanzania has the second-most cases of infection at 19 million with Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo tied at 15 million.

Schistosomiasis and Poverty: The Correlation

Schistosomiasis is predominantly found in areas of extreme poverty; where ever this disease goes, destitution soon follows. Schistosomiasis and poverty are intrinsically linked, and the most common reasoning for this occurrence is that extreme poverty often restricts access to clean water sources, which in turn causes people to use unsanitary water sources where schistosomiasis thrives and infection occurs. From there, the infected individual will succumb to the crippling disabilities that schistosomiasis infection eventually brings. This leads to reduced productivity in the community as the disease continues to spread, ensuring no end to this vicious cycle of poverty without outside intervention.

What Next? The Future of Schistosomiasis

There is hope, however, as NGO’s like the SCI foundation (founded in 2002) have dedicated themselves to the eradication of parasitic worm diseases. The SCI foundation’s biggest success in the fight against schistosomiasis is in Mozambique, where SCI has treated more than 30 million people of parasitic worm diseases. Further, SCI has already treated more than 12 million people in Tanzania alone since 2004. The foundation also recently (as of 2016) started to extend their treatment programs to Nigeria. With more than 2 million people already treated in such a short time, the SCI foundation can be trusted to reach Tanzania levels of treatment soon enough.

The future is bright for communities burdened with schistosomiasis and poverty, as many countries have been able to eradicate this disease from their lands. Tunisia and Japan were able to completely eradicate schistosomiasis within their borders, and China, Brazil and Egypt are well on their way to reaching that end goal.

Given this information, and the fact that Africa has the backing of a great NGO like the SCI foundation, a schistosomiasis free Africa is certainly on the cards.

– Ryan Holman
Photo: Flickr

Project Healthy Children

Global hunger is one of the most pressing and visible poverty-related issues in our world today. People can easily recognize the defined ribs, sunken eyes and bone-thin limbs of starvation. However, there is another side to hunger that is not as obvious: micronutrient deficiency.

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals such as zinc, iron, iodine, vitamin A and folic acid. In developed nations like the United States, most people get these critical nutrients from maintaining a well-rounded diet or taking a daily supplement. But it isn’t always that simple in some other parts of the world. In fact, micronutrient deficiency remains a big problem in Eastern and Southern Africa but often does not get the attention it deserves because the effects are not immediately visible. For this reason, micronutrient deficiency has been nicknamed “hidden hunger.”

Hidden hunger has real and long-lasting consequences. Insufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals can result in learning disabilities, mental retardation, low work capacity, blindness and premature birth. These deficiencies lower overall health and weaken the immune system, thus making it much harder to survive infections like HIV and measles. They can cause extreme birth defects in children and are the leading cause of maternal death during childbirth.

Background

Clearly, micronutrient deficiency is a pressing issue that deserves the attention necessary to mitigate it. An organization called Sanku’s Project Healthy Children (PHC) is doing just that through a process known as food fortification: essentially, they add critical micronutrients to the flour people already consume.

PHC is based in Tanzania and currently supplies almost 2 million people with fortified flour to help them get the vitamins and minerals they need. Flour is a staple food that many people consume regularly; according to the PHC website, “over 50 million Tanzanians eat maize flour every day,” but more than 95 percent of it is produced without added nutrients in small, rural mills. Countries like Tanzania are in desperate need of better access to micronutrients—here, about 35 percent of children under 5 years old have stunted growth due to under-nutrition. Project Healthy Children uses the mills and distribution systems already in place to simply add essential micronutrients to the flour with no additional cost for the consumer. This way, people can get the nutrition they need without changing their eating or purchasing habits.

Why Food Fortification?

  1.  It is cheap: Food fortification is very inexpensive, typically costing no more than $0.25 per person annually. In other words, one quarter donated is enough to supply someone with adequate nutrients for an entire year.
  2. It is effective: Improving nutrition can be highly beneficial to overall health, work capacity and productivity. Women who sustain good nutrition before getting pregnant greatly reduce the risk of maternal death and birth defects.
  3. It has a huge payback: The economic rewards of food fortification are astounding. The WHO estimates that the consequences of micronutrient deficiency (birth defects, learning disabilities, premature death, etc.) can cost a country about 5 percent of its GDP per year. Supplying people with critical vitamins and minerals puts less pressure on a country’s health care system and allows for a more productive workforce. In addition, the Copenhagen Consensus estimated that for every dollar spent on nutrition in young children, a country will save an average of $45 and sometimes as much as $166.

The Future of Project Healthy Children

In the past few years, Project Healthy Children has become even more streamlined in its approach to food fortification. A partnership with Vodafone, a mobile network based in the United Kingdom, allows PHC staff to remotely monitor flour mills so that they instantly know when a machine is down or a mill is low on nutrients. The partnership saves money, time and manpower, allowing PHC to run more smoothly.

Project Healthy Children currently helps nourish about 1.7 million people in sub-Saharan Africa but hopes to reach 100 million people by 2025, an ambitious goal that would be instrumental in lifting communities in Southern and Eastern Africa out of extreme poverty.

– Morgan Johnson
Photo: Flickr

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement The African Continental Free Trade Agreement is the largest free-trade agreement in the world with a 1.2 billion-person market and a combined GDP of 2.5 trillion dollars. It was signed in March of 2018 by 44 African heads of state, and following the initial signing, 5 more countries joined in July for a total of 49. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement’s primary focus is to increase intra-African trade by promoting free movement of goods and tariff-free trade. In fact, for the countries that joined, tariffs are expected to decrease by 90 percent within 5 years.

According to an article by The Economist, roughly 82 percent of African goods are exported to other countries. Due to high transport costs, poor infrastructure (e.g. in West Africa, less than one-fifth of the roads are paved) and time-consuming border procedures, it is more costly to trade within Africa than to export to foreign countries.

With the new free-trade agreement, a more competitive market will emerge that will reduce costs for consumers. Additionally, producers will have access to a larger number of potential buyers, as well as more investment opportunities from foreign countries. Strengthening intercontinental trade has the potential to protect the countries in Africa from the impact of exogenous trade shocks.

Maximizing the Impacts of AfCFTA

In order to reap the highest benefits from the new intra-continental free trade agreement, it is imperative to make adjustments to Africa’s trade structure. However, trade facilitation is not an easy task. It involves coordination between countries, transparency in policies and easing the movement of goods. Currently, intra-African trade accounts for only 16 percent of Africa’s total exports, while the bulk of its exports are to Europe (38 percent), China (19 percent), and the U.S. (15 percent). With the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that intra-African trade will see a 52 percent increase by 2022.

Infrastructure Development

Reducing non-tariff barriers, like transport time for goods, is an essential component of solidifying the new free-trade agreement. According to the International Monetary Fund, the average cost of importing a container in Africa is about $2,492, which is significantly more expensive than the cost of exporting to another continent. This helps to explain Africa’s high incentive to export the majority of its goods.

In order to aid with the implementation of infrastructure projects, the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) has facilitated two main systems of information. The African Infrastructure Database (AID) concerns itself mainly with data management and stores information about ongoing infrastructure development projects including the location as well as relevant financial and economic information. The Virtual PIDA Information Centre contains regional and continental infrastructure projects and promotes investment opportunities.

Clearly, higher access to information regarding infrastructure projects can help countries organize themselves around infrastructure development efficiently. This will help to reduce the intra-African costs of trade by fostering more easily navigable and cheaper transport routes between countries.

Economic Integration

It is crucial to consider that the informal trade sector contributes to a large amount of overall trade in Africa. The Africa Economic Brief is a document published by Jean-Guy Afrika and Gerald Ajumbo that discusses the specifics of informal trade in Africa. It states that the informal cross border trade sector (ICBT) represents 30-40 percent of total intra-African trade. In West and Central Africa, women make up almost 60 percent of informal traders, and 70 percent in Southern Africa.

Problems that affect the formal sector, like infrastructure and trade, have a disproportionate effect on the informal sector—especially for marginalized groups such as women and youth. It is unclear how the African Continental Free Trade Agreement will affect these groups as trade is adjusted; however, an increased focus on local trade and easier trade routes will likely facilitate trade for everyone involved. Since informal trade struggles with the same main issues as formal trade, making trade more accessible in the formal sector can create positive spillovers.

The informal trade sector is an important one to protect. Big businesses often avoid trading with rural areas due to high transportation costs, so instead these areas rely on informal trade for food, clothing and other commodities. Furthermore, ICBT provides a vital source of income to individuals who are often low-income or low-skilled. According to the Africa Economic Brief, studies estimate the average value of informal cross border trade to be 17.6 billion dollars per year in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

In order to provide support for informal traders in Eastern and Southern Africa, the United Nations is funding a project to help decrease gender-specific obstacles in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia. A focus on female empowerment will help maintain and improve the informal trade sector and contribute to poverty reduction.

With support from various organizations, countries in Africa are taking defining steps to reduce taxes, transport times, and an increase in market competition. Signing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement opens Africa up to free trade and, if facilitated effectively, it will have enormous positive implications for Africa’s economy.

– Tera Hofmann
Photo: Flickr