Life Expectancy in Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste, also known as East Timor, is a nation that occupies the eastern half of the island of Timor in Southeast Asia. With a population of 1.26 million people, Timor-Leste is one of the least populated countries in Asia. The Portuguese originally colonized the country in 1520. After declaring independence in 1975, Indonesia invaded the nation, which occupies the western half of the island. The Indonesian invasion brought violence, famine and disease to Timor-Leste, resulting in a large loss in population. After a majority of the Timorese population voted to become independent in 1999, Indonesia relinquished control and Timor-Leste moved under the supervision of the United Nations. The nation officially became independent in 2002, making it one of the newest nations in the world. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Timor-Leste outline the rapid improvement the country has made since Indonesian occupation and the issues it still needs to overcome.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Timor-Leste

  1. Life expectancy in Timor-Leste increased from 32.6 years in 1978 to 69.26 years in 2018, matching that of South Asia. The consistent improvement in life expectancy in the past decade is primarily due to the Ministry of Health’s public health interventions. Such interventions include the reconstruction of health facilities, expansion of community-based health programs and an increase in medical graduates in the workforce.
  2. Life expectancy in Timor-Leste increased despite a drop in GDP, which decreased from $6.67 billion in 2012 to $2.6 billion in 2018. However, Timor-Leste’s GDP rose by 2.8% from 2017 to 2018. Continued improvement in GDP and economic progress in the nation will only serve to increase life expectancy by providing more opportunities for employment, education and improved quality of life.
  3. Tuberculosis was the highest cause of death in 2014, causing 14.68% of deaths. In 2014, estimates determined that Timor-Leste had the highest prevalence of tuberculosis in Southeast Asia, and 46% of people with tuberculosis did not receive a diagnosis in 2017. Maluk Timor, an Australian and Timorese nonprofit committed to advancing primary health care, provides a service through which team members visit Timorese households to locate undiagnosed patients and raise awareness about the severity of tuberculosis in the community. The organization collaborates with the National TB Program and aims to eliminate suffering and deaths in Timor-Leste due to diseases that Australia, which is only one hour away, had already eliminated.
  4. Communicable diseases caused 60% of deaths in 2006 but decreased to causing 45.6% of deaths in 2016. While diseases such as tuberculosis and dengue fever remain a public health challenge, the incidence of malaria drastically declined from over 200,000 cases in 2006 to no cases in 2018 due to early diagnoses, quality surveillance, funding from The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and support from the World Health Organization.
  5. The adult mortality rate decreased from 672.2 deaths per 1,000 people in 1977 to 168.9 deaths per 1,000 people in 2018. Additionally, the infant mortality rate decreased from 56.6 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2008 to 39.3 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018. While public health interventions and disease prevention contributed to the decrease in the adult mortality rate, Timor-Leste needs to expand access to maternal health services in rural areas to continue to improve the infant mortality rate.
  6. Maternal mortality decreased from 796 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1998 to 142 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2017. The leading cause of the high maternal mortality rate is poor access to reproductive health services, as only 43% of women had access to prenatal care in 2006. While the Ministry of Health continues to expand access to maternal health care through mobile health clinics that reach over 400 rural villages, only 30% of Timorese women gave birth with a health attendant present in 2013. Even as access increases, challenges such as family planning services, immunization, treatment for pneumonia and vitamin A supplementation remain for mothers in rural communities.
  7. The violent crisis for independence in 1999 destroyed more than 80% of health facilities. Despite rehabilitation efforts to rebuild the health system, many facilities at the district level either have limited or no access to water. However, the number of physicians per 1,000 people improved from 0.1 in 2004 to 0.7 in 2017. The capacity of the health care system is also improving, as UNICEF supports the Ministry of Health in providing increased training for health care workers in maternal and newborn issues and in striving to improve evidence-based public health interventions.
  8. Timor-Leste has one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. At least 50% of children suffered from malnutrition in 2013. Additionally, in 2018, 27% of the population experienced food deprivation. USAID activated both the Reinforce Basic Health Services Activity and Avansa Agrikultura Project from 2015-2020 to address the capacity of health workers to provide reproductive health care and the productivity of horticulture chains to stimulate economic growth in poor rural areas. Both projects aim to combat malnutrition by addressing prenatal health and encouraging a plant-based lifestyle that fuels the economy.
  9. Motherhood at young ages and education levels are key contributors to malnutrition, as 18% of women began bearing children by the age of 19 in 2017. Teenage girls are far more likely to experience malnourishment than older women in Timor-Leste, contributing to malnutrition in the child and therefore lowering life expectancy for both mother and child. As a result of malnutrition, 58% of children under 5 suffered from stunting in 2018. Additionally, findings determined that stunting levels depended on the wealth and education level of mothers. In fact, 63% of children whose mothers did not receive any formal education experienced stunting, while the number dropped to 53% in children whose mothers received a formal education.
  10. Education enrollment rates are increasing, as the net enrollment rate in secondary education increased from 40.5% in 2010 to 62.7% in 2018. Completion of secondary education links to higher life expectancy, especially in rural areas. Since 2010, Timor-Leste has increased spending on education. Additionally, local nonprofit Ba Futuru is working to train teachers to promote quality learning environments in high-need schools. After Ba Futuru worked with schools for nine months, students reported less physical punishment and an increase in innovative and engaging teaching methods in their classrooms. The organization serves over 10,000 students and provides scholarships for school supplies for hundreds of students. With more programs dedicated to increasing enrollment and the classroom environment, students are more likely to complete secondary education and increase both their quality of life and life expectancy.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Timor-Leste indicate an optimistic trend. Although malnutrition, disease and adequate access to health care remain prevalent issues in Timor-Leste, the nation’s life expectancy has rapidly increased since Indonesian occupation and has steadily improved its education and health care systems since its founding in 2002. To continue to improve life expectancy, Timor-Leste should continue to focus its efforts on improving public health access and community awareness in poor rural areas, and particularly to emphasize maternal health services to reduce both maternal and infant mortality rates. Despite being one of the newest nations in the world, Timor-Leste shows promise and progress.

Melina Stavropoulos
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in HungarySince the year 2000, Hungary has made strides to improve its healthcare system, which for decades has lagged behind the healthcare systems of other countries in the European Union (EU). Unequal issuing of medical equipment, the prevalence of smoking, drinking and obesity and an unstable political system have resulted in systematic healthcare issues in Hungary, which disproportionately affect citizens living in poverty. Here are seven facts everyone should know about healthcare in Hungary.

7 Facts About Healthcare in Hungary

  1. Hungary has one of the lowest life expectancies in the EU. In 2017, life expectancy in Hungary averaged 76 years, a four-year increase since the year 2000. Despite the improvement, the Hungarian life expectancy is still 4.9 years behind that of other Europeans. Hungarians have higher rates of risk factors, such as smoking, obesity and underage alcohol consumption than other countries in the EU, which can contribute to early death.
  2. As of 2017, Hungary’s rate of amenable mortality is twice that of the rest of the EU. Amenable mortality refers to deaths from diseases and conditions that are nonfatal when given appropriate medical care.
  3. Socioeconomic inequalities in Hungary contribute to lower life expectancy. Lower-income Hungarians are more likely to report unmet medical needs than those with a higher income. Out-of-pocket spending in the country is double the EU average and medical care is most readily available to those who can afford to pay. Though access to medical care is not an issue across the board, lower-income Hungarians are 11 times more likely to complain of unmet healthcare needs.
  4. Healthcare in Hungary suffers from an unequal distribution of equipment. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Hungarian counties with the lowest health status tend to also have the lowest numbers of necessary medical supplies. The distribution of resources is concentrated largely in the capital of Budapest and the counties with the highest health status. The city of Budapest alone has 87% more doctors and 64% more hospital bed space than the rest of the country.
  5. Healthcare in Hungary does excel in some areas but still has systematic problems. In 2016, the Euro Health Consumer Index ranked the Hungarian healthcare system 30th out of 35 countries in the EU. Though Hungary does excel in infant vaccination and physical education, it has some of the EU’s highest waiting times for CT scans and a higher than average occurrence of lung disease, infections and cancer deaths. It also had the second-highest prevalence of bribery among hospital workers. Hungarian physicians are particularly susceptible to this form of corruption due to their low pay. Their acceptance of these so-called “gratitude payments” puts those who cannot afford to pay extra at a disadvantage.
  6. The World Health Organization (WHO) rewarded the government’s anti-tobacco initiatives. In 2013, the WHO awarded Prime Minister Viktor Orbán with its WHO Special Recognition award for “accomplishments in the area of tobacco control.” In recent years, the Hungarian government has developed anti-tobacco campaigns to quell the high percentage of smokers in the country. These reforms include changing the labels on tobacco products to include warnings of the potential side effects of smoking and banning smoking in public spaces. The country has also taken steps to ban advertisements for tobacco products and, since then, has seen a reduction of smoking-related deaths.
  7. Reforms to increase the healthcare workforce are in progress. In November 2018, the government rolled out a plan to increase physicians’ pay 72% by 2022, and, in early 2020, announced government scholarships for 3,200 people in order to bring more Hungarians into the understaffed nursing profession.

Healthcare in Hungary today is still behind many other countries in the European Union. Hungarians have lower life expectancies than other Europeans and the country is in need of more skilled doctors and nurses to properly treat all of its people. However, in recent years, the Hungarian government has invested more money to reduce the country’s high rates of smoking-related deaths and increase the healthcare workforce. Healthcare in Hungary has experienced positive change in recent years and, with more investments in the healthcare sector, more necessary reforms can be made.

Jackie McMahon
Photo: Flickr

NTDs in ComorosNeglected tropical diseases are afflictions that affect the world’s poor. They do not often receive attention from first-world nations. Developed nations typically ignore these diseases, which is why they are classified as neglected. The World Health Organization’s Expanded Special Project on the Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases has brought together 14 nations to bring an end to these afflictions once and for all. One of the countries involved in this initiative is Comoros. Many of the 14 nations have requested additional human resources, robust systems and technical capacity in order to increase NTD prevention. Attention, in particular, would go towards the ways in which they can research and combat multiple diseases at the same time as there are many different NTDs in Africa. Keep reading for more on these six facts about NTDs in Comoros.

6 Facts About NTDs in Comoros

  1. The Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) has been infecting livestock in Comoros since 2009. A study found that livestock had the virus despite showing no physical signs. Mosquitoes that transfer infection from cattle to humans are the main spreaders of this illness. Comoros and other several other African countries also experienced outbreaks in 2007. One victim was a young Comorian boy with encephalitis, a kind of abnormal swelling of the brain caused by the virus.
  2. With the advancement of pharmaceutical technology, the NTD crisis can be solved. Pharmaceutical companies have donated more than $4 billion a year in medicines to help nations recover from NTDs. In the last 10 years, the world saw several hundred million people previously affected by these diseases liberated. More research and advanced medical technology will undoubtedly solve this problem.
  3. Comoros’ population have also been afflicted with an NTD known as elephantiasis, a mosquito-transmitted disease that preys upon the blood circulation system. This disease causes fever and, if left untreated, severe swelling of the lower limbs. Luckily, in the year 2017, treatment of this NTD was at 86 percent coverage from Universal Health Coverage (UHC), meaning the majority of people of Comoros had access to the services they need to treat this disease.
  4. Intestinal worms, another NTD affecting Comoros, are parasitic disease-causing worms that multiply in the host’s intestines. The worms feed on the nutrients provided by whatever the host eats, thereby causing malnutrition in hosts. This disease spreads through human waste and unsanitary living conditions. UHC covered 73 percent of treatment for this disease in 2017.
  5. The proportion of children in Comoros with leprosy in 2011 was around 38 percent. Leprosy is considered an NTD. It causes severe disfiguring of the skin and has been ravaging humankind since ancient times.
  6. Since 2012, 600 million tablets of albendazole or mebendazole drugs to treat NTDs have been available every year to treat young children. Programs in countries where soil-transmitted helminthiasis, or parasitic worms, are endemic have already requested an additional 150 million tablets. These facts are signs of a positive increase in the health coverage of NTDs.

In recent years, NTDs in Comoros have harrowed the population with no end in sight. Since 2017, however, the World Health Organization and pharmaceutical companies have come together to end NTDs in Comoros and other countries once and for all.

William Mendez
Photo: Flickr

Threats to Global Health
Mankind can often feel a state of invincibility. This might be due to ignorance or denial that one could become sick, but global health is constantly experiencing threats. Some of the biggest threats to global health include pollution, diseases and fragile locations. For people who live in developed and booming economies, this may mean nothing. However, those living in poverty are often in direct contact with the threats that can sometimes be fatal.

Air Pollution

Air pollution is one of the most widespread pollution problems and kills nearly 7 million people a year. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nine out of 10 people breathe in contaminated air.

The most common forms of air pollution are smog and smoke. Smog can come from factories, industrial areas or vehicle emissions. The worst cases of smog often occur in major cities that have large populations. For example, several of the most highly polluted cities in China because of the population density and a large number of factories. Xingtai, named the most polluted city in the world, has a population of nearly 7 million.

Smoke is also a common air pollutant largely due to the large population of smokers. Inhalation of heavily polluted air can cause stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections.

Diseases

Noncommunicable or noninfectious diseases are illnesses that do not transmit from one person to another, and in fact, people cannot transmit them at all. They include a wide number of disease but some of the most significant ones are stroke, cancer, diabetes and heart disease. The World Health Organization recognizes noncommunicable diseases as one of the biggest threats to global health. Air pollution can cause some forms of diseases, but environmental factors, lifestyle choices or genetics cause noncommunicable diseases.

According to WHO, noncommunicable diseases are the leading cause of death in the world as well as one of the biggest causes of poverty. In fact, 15 million people who have died from noninfectious diseases were living in poverty. This is often due to poor sanitation conditions as well as the inability to receive proper health care to treat said conditions.

Fragile Locations

Fragile locations are places that have poor sanitation, famine, drought or conflict (war or corruption). Living in fragile locations can lead to several complications especially due to poor health care. Often countries that have high unemployment and poverty rates are fragile locations. This is because the fragility of areas can put a risk on people’s health that may disable them or put them on the streets. Living in fragile locations can also increase the risk of developing noninfectious diseases.

Poverty

Nearly 36 percent of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty. When dealing with global health threats, a vast majority of those in need of care either cannot afford it or access it. People living in poverty frequently face the challenges of poor economic stability, poor or nonexistent health care and a weak education system. lack of education in developing countries can also lead to recklessness when caring for those with diseases, both noninfectious and infectious. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, ODPHP, strategies that aim to increase the economic mobility of families may help to alleviate the negative effects of poverty.

Organizations’ Help on Global Health

The CDC closely monitors and researches global health threats and ways to prevent and respond to them. Whenever there is a serious global health threat, the CDC is on the front line to aid in recovery, however, aid is not always helpful. According to the CDC, 70 percent of the world’s countries report that they are not prepared to face an outbreak. However, the world can do its part to prevent air pollution by smoking less and relying more on economically friendly means of travel. Although people cannot alter genetics it is important to avoid factors that may cause noninfectious diseases. For those in fragile locations, organizations like the CDC and WHO are attempting to provide aid and support to those in need.

Threats to global health are everywhere. Some threats are inevitable but others are man-made. It is important to regulate and reduce people’s ecological footprints so global health can experience improvement as a whole.

Sarah Mobarak
Photo: Flickr

Improve Global Health
In June 2018, German Chancellor Angela Merkel introduced a new plan for Germany to become a front-runner in global health. This plan was to fully come into action by the end of 2019. In addition, the BMJ Journal reported that the plan involved bringing in non-governmental representatives to provide their knowledge to develop a strategy for Germany to improve global health.

What is the Plan?

Germany worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-Being for All program. One of the main goals of this initiative is to accelerate progress in seven key areas:

  1. Primary health care
  2. Sustainable financing
  3. Community and civil society
  4. Determinants of health
  5. Innovative programming in fragile and vulnerable settings and for disease outbreak responses
  6. Research and Development, Innovation and Access
  7. Data and digital health

These seven points focus on the main areas of mobilizing and enabling communities. They also focus on providing governments with the necessary funding and knowledge to help their people and ensuring the research and money is going to the areas that most need it.

Funding

Germany began working towards many of these goals as early as 2018. The Global Fund reports that Germany pledged 1 billion euros (roughly $1.094 billion) towards The Global Fund’s fight against diseases such as HIV, malaria and AIDS. Also, the website states that this was a 17.6 percent increase from its previous pledge. Germany is pledging this amount for a three-year period.

The website Donar Tracker notes that Germany donated 47 percent of its development assistance fund to multilateral, or multi-country, organizations. The website states that the main recipients of this funding were the previously mentioned Global Fund, the E.U. and Gavi. Gavi is an organization focused on giving impoverished countries access to vaccines.

Cooperation

The Global Health Hub Germany is a website that Germany hosts to improve global health. This website calls itself the platform for Global Health. The World Health Summit, which Berlin, Germany holds annually, helped to organize the launch of The Global Health Hub, claiming that its mission statement is one of cooperation.

The Global Health Hub Germany aims to inform people, get them working together and develop new ways for the world to improve global health. Additionally, it hosts frequent events and conferences aimed to give people the information they need to help improve global health. The website launched on October 29, 2019. Since then, it gained 555 members as of November 2019. Its members consist of activist groups and experts in the health field. The Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All states Germany’s mission statement going forward to improve global health. Funding, cooperation and mobilization are just some of the ways that Germany aims to improve global health.

Jacob Creswell
Photo: Flickr

Food Shortages in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia that is home to 9 million people, many of whom have grappled with instability and poverty since its independence in 1992. In fact, half of Tajikistan‘s population lives in poverty today. Furthermore, the country is currently experiencing a food shortage crisis that is exacerbated by a number of factors including a heavy dependence on imported food products as well as inadequate agricultural practices.

Aid from US Initiatives

At least 30 percent of children under the age of five have stunted development. Increasing production in the local agriculture sector is a boost for Tajikistan’s economy, nutrition and general food supply. With equipment and training also provided by USAID, around 16,000 farmers were able to produce higher quality products that increased food security and nutrition. Improving agricultural production is a major step in alleviating the shortages that have plagued the population that currently live below the poverty line as well as helping the local farmers who struggled to make ends meet.

WFP Assistance

The World Food Programme has provided assistance to Tajikistan since 1993 and developed programs that aided people in need. The WFP helped with drafting policies and providing food to over 2,000 schools in rural Tajikistan, allowing over 370,000 students access to regular daily meals. Additional programs alongside the WFP have helped an estimated 119,500 infants under the age of 5 with their nutrition. Assistance is also provided to build new or improve infrastructure to provide security for supplies to rural areas, including additional agriculture production, disaster relief efforts and enrolling children into feeding programs to combat malnutrition. With aid from this program, Tajik children, alongside their parents, gained access to accessible food and medical facilities.

Domestic Poultry Market

Tajikistan’s domestic poultry market has been a major focus on increasing the country’s food security. An investment of expanding domestic poultry farming production in 2015, building new farms and increasing the number of eggs and meat produced for local markets. The poultry industry also got an additional boost in 2018 when the government lowered taxes on imported machinery and tools in 2017 to bolster internal production, though importing poultry still remains as one of the main drivers to meet domestic demand. There are currently 93 farms poultry farms with over 5 million birds currently in the poultry industry. The importance of poultry has on both the economy and the role it plays into combating hunger paves the way to alleviate the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan’s effort, normally criticized for being lacking, has expanded upon its agriculture sector with significant investments. Much of Tajikistan’s battle against its internal food shortages have been from foreign aid programs, with various UN members providing the arid country with supplies and equipment to expand internal agriculture and food security alongside Tajikistan’s own national investment to expand them. The efforts have been slowly paying dividends in the Central Asian country, but it still remains a difficult road in alleviating the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr

 

 

Mental Health in the Developing World
According to the World Health Organization, the number of people diagnosed with a mental health disease has increased by 40 percent in the last 30 years. Poverty has been well-established as a driving force behind mental illnesses in the developing world. The Mental Health Foundation reports that 23 percent of men and 26 percent of women among the lowest socioeconomic class are at high risk of mental health problems. However, Psychiatric Times reports that many psychiatrists receive little training on intervening and addressing poverty and its relationship to mental disorders. The nonprofit Grand Challenges Canada is improving mental health in the developing world by funding innovations and expanding access to mental health care.

Mental Health in the Developing World By the Numbers

According to Grand Challenges Canada, 75 percent of the global burden from mental disorders is in developing countries. In addition, a World Health Organization report reveals some cogent statistics about the relationship between poverty and mental health:

  1. Depression is 1.5 to 2 times higher among low-income individuals.
  2. Common mental disorders are more prevalent for people living in poor and overcrowded housing.
  3. People with the lowest socioeconomic status have eight times more relative risk for schizophrenia than those of a higher socioeconomic status.
  4. People experiencing hunger or facing debts are more likely to suffer from common mental disorders.
  5. Evidence indicates the relationship between poverty and poor mental health is cyclical. Grand Challenges Canada is committed to ending the poverty-mental illness feedback loop.

Grand Challenges Canada

According to its website, Grand Challenges Canada has given 159,000 individuals access to mental health treatment. The organization’s project portfolio entails 85 projects in 31 countries and estimates that by 2030, the number of individuals impacted will be between 1.1 million to 3.2 million. Global Challenges Canada has influenced 17 mental health policies in various countries.

One example of Grand Challenges Canada improving mental health in the developing world is The Friendship Bench project in Zimbabwe. In 2012, Grand Challenges Canada funded a controlled study of more than 500 individuals with depression in the country. The patients involved received six 45-minute cognitive behavioral therapy sessions with a lay health worker, one of which took place in the individual’s home. The study found the prevalence of depression throughout program participants after treatment was less than 10 percent versus the approximate 33 percent of non-participants. The program has now spread to more than 70 clinics in Zimbabwe’s three largest cities.

In Vietnam, Grand Challenges Canada partnered with the Center for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population to develop the Smart Care project. The focus of the campaign centers around early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to enable the best circumstances for children with the disorder. The program is based on a mobile platform, which includes apps to support screening and home-based intervention, a model of pilot screening development and health checkups for children with ASD.

Grand Challenges Canada is improving mental health in the developing world through the funding of technologies that vastly expand access to care. In 2016 and 2017, the organization invested over CA$42 million in projects to mitigate mental disorders. By 2030, Grand Challenges Canada expects to have seen symptomatic improvement in 297,000 to 844,000 individuals involved in projects.

– Zach Brown
Photo: Flickr

Malaria treatment

At the young age of six years old, YouTube and comedy star Kacaman (aka Darcy Irakoze) just became the latest victim of malaria in Burundi. He was one of the biggest names in Burundi’s comedy scene and had thousands of views on YouTube. His videos, featuring the rural dirt floors and rusty villages of Burundi, were lighthearted and melodramatic skits starring himself and other comedians/actors. Darcy Irakoze is just one example of the need to improve malaria treatment in Burundi.

A Silent Crisis

Kacaman’s death brings to light an often-unspoken crisis: Burundi’s malaria epidemic. Nearly half of the country’s population has been affected by malaria this year. Of that number, 1800 have died from the disease. This staggering amount actually rivals the number of deaths from Ebola in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Poor preventative measures have been the driving factors behind the epidemic. These include a lack of mosquito nets, the movement of the population with low immunity to malaria from mountain areas to city areas and various changes in climate. The crisis has received some attention from the World Health Organization and the United Nations, but it remains remarkably untouched as a result of the current leadership. Afraid of admitting weakness in health policies, President Nkurunziza is hesitant to admit he needs help increasing malaria treatment.

An Epidemic of the Poor

The brutal reality that a six-year-old boy in Burundi can access the internet and YouTube but not malaria treatment presents a serious call for action. Often referred to as the “epidemic of the poor,” malaria disproportionately affects poverty-stricken areas like Burundi because of the expense required to purchase preventative measures and medical treatment.

The disease presents many ramifications for family members of the sick. They deal with psychological pain, the strain on already tight budgets and job loss. Additionally, malaria damages the economic wellbeing of countries as it decreases the chances of tourism and foreign investment. This keeps poor countries in a vicious cycle because they are unable to provide enough funds for malaria treatments or to improve other aspects of their country.

What Is Being Done?

Innovations like the Kite patch offer promising improvement for malaria prevention. The patch works by making humans virtually invisible to mosquitoes for up to 6 hours, stopping any bites. The company is working to distribute the patch around the world through the Kite-Malaria-Free Campaign, but it still needs more funding. The World Health Organization has launched the “high burden high impact” campaign as a response to countries facing extremely large epidemics. This entails a more aggressive approach to preventing and treating malaria by working with national governments in each of the countries to create an organized and strategic approach.

Increasing prevention is still vital in the fight against malaria. Widespread distribution of mosquito nets and insecticide in areas where these items are inaccessible or too expensive could yield massive results. More effective antimalarial treatments are also needed to fight malaria. The problem of the developing resistance to antimalarials in certain populations needs to be addressed to increase the efficacy of the drugs. Finally, a successful malaria vaccination needs to be more accessible. A semi-effective vaccine has been developed, but the technology still requires some fine-tuning.

It is likely at least one child will have died from malaria in the last minute. Kacaman was one of those children. His death should inspire a revitalized passion and determination to conquer malaria. While some incredible advances have been made, more is needed. Hopefully, these efforts can make this world one where malaria treatment and prevention is just as viral as YouTube.

Hannah Stewart
Photo: Flickr

Dengue FeverAccording to the World Health Organization, dengue fever is one of the ten major global health threats of 2019. The mosquito-borne illness results in flu-like symptoms that can kill up to 20 percent of those infected. Approximately 390 million cases of dengue fever are reported each year across 100 different countries, although, many cases go unreported. Cases of dengue fever have also increased 30 times in the last 50 years, meaning that today, 40 percent of the world’s population is at risk of contracting the disease.

Why the Increase?

While dengue fever used to be concentrated in countries with extreme tropical climates, such as India and Bangladesh, the disease is now prevalent in countries that have more temperate climates, such as Nepal. With higher than average temperatures, rainy seasons are lasting longer which creates the perfect environment for the Aedes mosquito, the carrier of the disease. Unfortunately, the geographic regions that the Aedes mosquito inhabits coincide with low and middle-income countries. Many of these countries do not have sufficient health care systems to cope with this major health issue. Therefore, the effects of dengue are even more severe.

Protection from Mosquitoes

The World Health Organization is leading efforts to reverse the increasing threat of dengue fever. One common tactic used is immunization. The first immunization for dengue fever was approved in 20 countries in 2015. However, follow-up data from 2017 showed that the vaccine was actually harmful to those who had never contracted the disease, putting people at a higher risk of more severe cases of dengue. Now, the vaccination is recommended as a measure for those who have already been affected.

In addition to immunization, people can inhibit the Aedes mosquito’s survival and procreation by properly disposing of human waste, and not leaving out any stagnate, uncovered containers of water, as mosquitoes thrive and lay eggs in both environments. It is also advised to use spray insecticide to repel bugs and invest in screened windows and sleeping nets for protection in homes.

Combatting the Threat

The World Health Organization is partnering with local organizations and governments in affected countries to ensure that the number of deaths caused by dengue fever will decrease by 50 percent in 2020. In order to reach this goal, however, additional funding and research are needed so that the scope of dengue fever is properly understood. Health care providers also need the training and resources to properly address the issue and detect the disease in its early stages as well. If dengue fever is diagnosed before the symptoms become too severe, mortality rates of the disease become much more optimistic.

 

Madeline Lyons
Photo: Flickr

Dams and Malaria
Despite the fact that malaria transmission rates have decreased by more than 40 percent since 2000, the morbid disease still affects a large number of people on the African continent. According to WHO, an estimated 219 million cases of malaria occurred in 2017 and a disproportionate 92 percent of these cases happened in Africa. Of these numbers, people can attribute at least 1.1 million cases to dams.

The Relationship Between Dams and Malaria

Mosquitoes tend to lay eggs and reproduce in shallow pools of water or somewhere in the near vicinity. Thus, water is a key component in the spread of malaria. The erection of dams creates a multitude of shallow pools along the edges of the water base that provide ideal situations for mosquitoes to nest. This increases the prevalence of malaria and the susceptibility of individuals to malaria.

A study published in the Malaria Journal found that the slope of the shoreline was the most determining factor of a rise in malaria for areas that had dams. Since mosquitoes like to breed in shallow pools of water that do not connect to a larger, main body of water, the shoreline around a dam is a prime location that meets these requirements. The more inclined a slope is, the more water drains out. This means that static pools of water are unable to form, which in turn means that mosquitoes do not find areas of the steep slope to be habitable.

Due to factors like this, not all dams are likely to increase malaria. Reservoirs that have steeper slopes pose a smaller risk of increasing the spread of malaria. For example, the climate and geography at a dam site, temperature fluctuations, elevation and amount of rainfall, also influence the spread of malaria near reservoirs. Thus, the continual study of the relationship between dams and malaria can lead to further identification of factors that increase the risk of spreading disease.

Solutions

Similarly, development planners must carefully select dam sites so that economic growth and electricity generation do not compromise the well-being of a local population. Increasing awareness through activism could see a more informed class of development planners take more calculated and careful approaches to dam construction. Indeed, a greater exchange of knowledge between local populations, journalists, researchers and policymakers is necessary to see increasing benefits and minimization of negative impacts.

This is arguably more important now than ever. As of 2015, 18.7 million Africans reside within five kilometers of dam reservoirs. Policymakers must take measures to ensure that quality of life does not deteriorate for those living near artificially constructed reservoirs. The relationship between dams and malaria is a critical nexus that can inform the implementation of less detrimental policies by those who are in a position to make such a policy.

– Evan Williams
Photo: Flickr