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Malta is a small island republic in the central Mediterranean Sea. Like most other EU member states, the Maltese government operates a socialized health care scheme. However, life expectancy in Malta is a full year higher than the European Union average, for both males and females. Keep reading to learn the top 10 facts about life expectancy in Malta.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Malta

  1. Trends: Life expectancy in Malta ranks 15th globally and continues to rise; the current average life expectancy is 82.6, an improvement of 4.6 percent this millennium. Median life expectancy on the archipelago is expected to improve at that same rate through 2050, reaching an average death age of 86.4.
  2. Leading Causes of Death: The WHO pinpointed coronary heart disease as the republic’s number one killer, accounting for 32.46 percent of all deaths in 2018. Additional top killers include stroke (10.01 percent) and breast cancer (3.07 percent).
  3. Health Care System: Malta’s sophisticated and comprehensive state-managed health care system embodies universal coverage for the population. Although population growth and an aging workforce present long-term challenges, the Maltese have access to universal public health care as well as private hospitals. Malta’s health care spending and doctors per capita are above the EU average. Despite this, specialists remain fairly low. Currently, the government is working to address this lack of specialized care.
  4. Infant and Maternal Health: The high life expectancy in Malta is positively impacted by low infant and maternal mortality rates. Malta’s infant and maternal mortality rates are among the lowest in the world, ranking at 181 and 161, respectively. The Maltese universal health care system provides free delivery and postpartum care for all expectant mothers. These measures provided as the standard of care have minimized the expectant death rates of new mothers to 3.3 out of 100,000.
  5. Women’s Health: Like most other developed nations, Maltese women experience longer lives than men. Comparatively, WHO data predicts that women will live nearly four years longer, an average of 83.3 years to 79.6. Interestingly, the estimated gender ratio for 2020 indicates that the Malta population will skew to be slightly more male, specifically in the 65-and-over age bracket. 
  6. Sexual and Reproductive Health: Sexual health services, including family planning and STD treatment, are free of cost in Malta. Additionally, HIV prevalence is very low, at only 0.1 percent in 2016. These measures have certainly played a role in life expectancy in Malta.
  7. Violent Crime: Although crime rates typically spike during the summer, Malta’s tourist season, violence is generally not a concern. Despite fluctuations throughout the year, the national homicide rate remains low. Currently, homicide is resting at 0.9 incidents per 100,000 citizens.
  8. Obesity: Recently, 29.8 percent of the population was found to be obese, one of the highest figures in the EU. Even higher rates of obesity have been found in Maltese adolescents: 38 percent of 11-year-old boys and 32 percent of 11-year-old girls qualify as obese.
  9. Birth Rates: Sluggish population growth is typical throughout the developed world and Malta is no exception. Current data places the population growth rate at an estimated 0.87 percent. Out of 229 sovereign nations, Malta’s birth rate was ranked 192nd with 9.9 births per 1,000 citizens.
  10. Access to Medical Facilities: The competitive health care system supports high life expectancy in Malta by providing an abundant availability of hospitals and physicians per capita. Due to the archipelago’s small population, 4.7 hospital beds and 3.8 doctors exist for every 1,000 citizens.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Malta highlight the strength of the health care system in the country. While rising rates of obesity are concerning, Malta has a strong track record of investing in the well-being of its citizens.

Dan Zamarelli
Photo: Flickr

five global healthcare organizationsIn 2017, the World Health Organization and the World Bank have reported at least half of the world’s population does not have access to essential health services, such as medical care and health care. WHO and the World Bank have also reported this causes millions to live in extreme poverty, as they must pay out-of-pocket health care expenses. Although this is a global and life-threatening problem, there are many nongovernmental organizations dedicated to providing care to those who in need. Here are five global health care organizations you should know, all of which accept donations.

5 Global Health Care Organizations Everyone Should Know

  1. Doctors of the World
    Doctors of the World is an international human rights nonprofit committed to providing long-term medical care to those who cannot afford it. With over 400 programs in more than 80 countries, this organization is located in war zones, refugee camps and even rural communities. Doctors of the World successfully provides emergency and long-term medical care to those who greatly need it. In doing so, this organization treats those afflicted by poverty, disease, armed conflict, natural disasters or chronic, structural disparities. Doctors of the World helps treat 1.6 million people each year.
  2. Medic Mobile
    Medic Mobile is a nonprofit organization that strives to improve health care for those living in hard to reach communities. To do so, Medic Mobile builds software to ensure health care workers being able to deliver equitable care to communities everywhere around the world. Moreover, the organization is the core contributor to the Community Health Toolkit. CHT is a software that helps health workers deliver medical items safely, track outbreaks of disease faster, treat illnesses door to door, keep stock of essential medicines and communicate emergencies. Medic Mobile now impacts 14 countries in Africa and Asia, having trained and equipped 24,463 health workers.
  3. International Medical Corps
    International Medic Corps is a nonprofit organization with a mission based on improving the quality of life by saving lives and relieving suffering through health care training and relief and development programs. Based in the United States and the United Kingdom, International Medic Corps offers training and health care to local populations. The organization also provides medical assistance to those at the most risk. In 2017, International Medic Corps estimated it performed 4.8 million medical consultations, benefitting 8 million people directly and 50 million people indirectly.
  4. Mothers 2 Mothers
    Mothers 2 Mothers is a unique nonprofit organization dedicated to employ, train and help to empower HIV-positive women as community health workers in Africa. The “Mentor Mothers” work in local African communities and understaffed health facilities. They provide advice, essential health education and support to other HIV-positive mothers on how to protect their babies from HIV infection. Mothers 2 Mothers also works to ensure women and families are getting proper health advice and medication, are linked to the right clinical services and are supported on their treatment journey. Since 2001, Mothers 2 Mothers has reached over 10.5 million women and children. In 2017, the organization reported it had served 1 in 6 of the world’s HIV-positive women.
  5. Mercy Ships
    Mercy Ships is an organization committed to helping those struggling without medical services in Africa. To do so, the organization uses the Africa Mercy, a floating hospital ship with volunteer medical teams and sterile operating rooms. As a result, Mercy Ships directly aids those who would otherwise receive no care. Aboard the Africa Mercy, medical treatments are free of charge, such as removing tumors, correcting clefts and straightening legs. Since being founded in 1978, Mercy Ships has reported it has performed more than 100,000 surgeries.

Access to medical care and healthcare are necessary, affecting global health, economy and living conditions. To learn more about any of these five global healthcare organizations, visit their sites. All five global healthcare organizations accept donations to continue providing much needed medical and healthcare. While a country’s infrastructure may not currently be equipped to meet the needs of its population, NGOs, such as these, can make a significant difference.

Natalie Chen
Photo: Flickr

Access to HealthcareThe West Bank is a region of Palestine but has been occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War in 1967. Due to this occupation, as well as the West Bank’s landlocked location, citizens often struggle to gain access to healthcare. Without sufficient medical resources, individuals living in the West Bank are subject to higher infant mortality rates, untreated psychological ailments and the risk for chronic disease to become acute. Despite these barriers, both physical and political, there are Israeli and Palestinian organizations working to aid people most at risk in the West Bank including women, children, elderly, disabled and the rural poor.

Five Obstacles in Access to Healthcare

  1. Mental Health Stigma: Mental health in occupied areas is an immediate and crucial concern, but it is often stigmatized by locals and, therefore, is unaddressed and unrecognized. Of the patients who manage to get access to a medical practitioner, adults will frequently complain of PTSD related symptoms like headaches, generalized weakness and palpitations. Children are also overlooked when it comes to mental health. According to the Palestine Medical Relief Society (PMRS), an NGO working to increase access to healthcare, 54.7 percent of children in a sample of 1,000 have experienced at least one instance of trauma. Despite the high rates of trauma in children, however, parents are often unaware and unable to recognize the signs of PTSD present in their children like nightmares, insomnia and bedwetting. Instead, they assume the symptoms are normal child behaviors.
  2. Infant Mortality Rates: Children are at a high risk of death when there is impaired access to medical services. World Bank data shows the infant mortality rate in the West Bank and Gaza is 18 per 1,000 live births and 21 per 1,000 live births for children under 5. Compared to Israel’s three and four live births per 1000 respectively, these are extremely high numbers and show the direct consequences of poor healthcare access.
  3. Limited Access to Essential Drugs: In an article about Palestine, the World Health Organization notes that for people low on the socio-economic scale, healthcare expenditures are one of the most financially burdensome household expenses. The unavailability or unaffordability of medicine enormously impacts patients dealing with a chronic disease like hypertension, asthma and diabetes.
  4. Long Ambulance Rides: Numerous military checkpoints and barriers physically obstruct the ability of ambulances to bring patients from the West Bank to hospitals in Israel. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, wait times at checkpoints can last up to 15 minutes. For a patient in critical condition, delays like these can hinder their ability to get the right medical treatment in time.
  5. Revoked Treatment in Israeli Hospitals: A recent declaration by the Palestinian Ministry of Health to cease funding in Israeli hospitals means that many patients, especially those in poor rural areas, are unable to gain access to healthcare. There are few other options available for these individuals to seek treatment, especially those living in poor areas that cannot incur travel costs.

NGOs Improving Access to Healthcare

Healthcare access on the West Bank is limited due to a number of interrelated reasons. In order to make it more accessible to those who are most affected, NGOs have been developed in both Palestine and Israel. In particular, the Palestine Medical Relief Society was founded in 1979 to aid the most vulnerable members of society. They have a mobile clinic program that includes a first-aid training program to help people gain access to healthcare in remote areas.

Another prominent NGO is Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). Founded in 1988 by Israeli physicians, this organization focuses on humanitarian aid and policy change. Furthermore, there are volunteer medics who provide free services to people with limited or no access. PHR serves more than 20,000 individuals each year.

Both of these organizations recognize the importance of addressing the fundamental issue through and data collection, policy and education, and they are working to improve access to healthcare on the West Bank.

– Tera Hofmann
Photo: Wiki

Foreign Aid Helps Ethiopia

Though Ethiopia is still one of the world’s poorest countries, its poverty rate has been cut in half. Initially, more than 50 percent of the population living below the poverty line. This has since been reduced to about 25 percent. In the last 20 years, Ethiopia’s gross domestic product has risen from $8 billion to $80 billion. How did the once third-poorest country in the world do this?

Highly dependent on foreign aid, Ethiopia has received $3.5 billion in assistance in recent years from countries like Germany and the United Kingdom. The United States recently launched a 5-year, $40 million program, the Health Financing Improvement Program. This U.S. launched this program to invest in increasing Ethiopia’s ability to provide quality and affordable health care to its citizens. And it’s a prime example of how foreign aid helps Ethiopia. This investment will improve efforts to support maternal health, AIDS prevention and care, malaria treatment, nutrition and WASH. Programs like this have helped Ethiopia’s poverty rate fall from 44 percent to 30 percent in just over 10 years.

Below are some ways investment and foreign aid helps Ethiopia reduce extreme poverty.

Fast-Growing Economy

Many people think of Ethiopia as a country riddled with poverty. However, Ethiopia possesses one of the fastest-growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa as of 2018. In the last decade alone, Ethiopia witnessed an average economic growth of 10 percent. This growth is due to public investments in infrastructure, agriculture and education, combined with foreign aid.

Agriculture

Forty-three percent of Ethiopia’s gross domestic product comes from agriculture. Foreign aid helps Ethiopia and its agriculture sector through different programs. Feed the Future is one such program, focusing on food security and connecting vulnerable peoples to markets. Other ways foreign aid helps Ethiopia is through strengthening sustainable natural resources and watershed management, adapting to climate change and improving food and nutrition security.

Health

Foreign aid also improves health Ethiopia, which struggles with nutrition and disease. Improvements in the health sector include slashing the mortality rate of children under five by two-thirds. Similarly, between 2004 and 2017, AIDS-related deaths have dropped from 83,000 to 15,000. This focus on health reduced the fertility rate from 7.0 to 4.6 children per woman between the years 1995 and 2011. This is crucial because high fertility rates contribute to stillbirth and mortality rates. While nutrition and food security are still problems in Ethiopia, malnourishment fell from 75 percent to 35 percent from the 1990s to 2012.

Education

According to the World Bank, Ethiopia was one of the most educationally disadvantaged countries in the 20th century. This was mostly due to low access to schooling. But with the help of foreign aid, Ethiopia’s primary school enrollment rates have doubled over 10 years. Foreign aid has improved curriculum, teaching, school inspections and teaching methods. Additionally, Ethiopia has seen an improvement in the number of textbooks and other materials available.

During the creation of the United States Agency for International Development, former President John F. Kennedy said, “There is no escaping our obligations: our moral obligations as a wise leader and good neighbor in the interdependent community of free nations – our economic obligations as the wealthiest people in a world of largely poor people, as a nation no longer dependent upon the loans from abroad that once helped us develop our own economy – and our political obligations as the single largest counter to the adversaries of freedom.”

And this statement still holds true today. Powerful countries like the U.S. and China prosper, but countries like Ethiopia are still disadvantaged. Foreign aid helps Ethiopia, improving many lives, but there is always room for improvement.

Andrea Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr


The success of a new rotavirus vaccination program in Malawi has received global attention, as world leaders and advocates now call for the widespread distribution of the vaccination. In the last five years, this southeast African country has seen a significant decline in infant death by about one third.

Rotavirus Vaccination Program in Malawi

In many impoverished countries, rotavirus is a leading cause of death in children and infants; in fact, 121,000 deaths from the virus were reported in Africa in 2013. The infection is shed in the infected individual’s stool, which can then spread into the environment and infect other individuals. Rotavirus is most often transmitted within poor sanitation conditions. Handwashing is important to combatting such infection, and setting up handwashing stations in impoverished countries could help improve conditions and limit infections.

Unfortunately, such measures are not enough to completely prevent spreading, and thus why vaccination is an essential prevention tool. The rotavirus most often infects infants and young children and symptoms can take up to two days to appear. The most common symptoms are severe diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain that leads to extreme dehydration, which is often fatal in impoverished countries. Children who are not vaccinated often suffer from more severe symptoms.

Promising Studies Bring National Hope

Thankfully, the new rotavirus vaccination program in Malawi has demonstrated immense success. Studies from Liverpool University found that of the children who received the vaccination, 34 percent had a lower risk of dying from diarrhea. Such a promising statistic manifested the first major decline in Malawi’s infant mortality rate in decades.

Scientists from the University of Liverpool, University College London and Johns Hopkins University — alongside the help of Malawi health services — tracked the health and development of 48,672 infants following the implementation of the new vaccination program in over 1,800 villages. The data collected strongly advocated the incorporation of the rotavirus vaccination program in Malawi, as well as in other countries with high rates of diarrhea-caused deaths.

Despite the major health intervention brought by the rotavirus vaccination program in Malawi, some populous countries with high infant mortality rates have yet to adopt the program. Dr. Charles Mwasnsambo, Malawi’s chief of health services, asserts the value of vaccination programs by citing the study’s encouraging findings that show a large decrease in hospital admissions and a decline in infant mortality rates. Dr. Mwasnsambo told Global Citizen that he strongly believes the study to be a worthwhile investment.

Setting a Global Example

According to the Rota council of the 10 countries leading in rotavirus-related deaths, only six have rotavirus vaccination programs like Malawi’s. These countries include Kenya, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Rota council members, Malawi healthcare providers and medical researchers are calling for widespread distribution of the vaccination, especially in countries with high infant mortality rates.

Given the success of the rotavirus vaccination in Malawi, medical researchers and several world leaders agree that combatting this illness goes beyond handwashing. Leaders must advocate for vaccinations and implement such a measure in foreign aid packages if they plan to share Malawi’s success and continue to combat alarming rates of rotavirus-related deaths globally.

– Haley Newlin
Photo: Pixabay

Access to Health Services for Afghan WomenAfghanistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a woman. For decades, women in Afghanistan have endured overwhelming marginalization, discrimination and highly restricted access to education, healthcare and employment. Since the 1996 rise of the Taliban, a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist group, women and girls’ human rights have been severely violated.

Before the Taliban’s rise to power, women’s rights were gradually improving, despite high maternal and child mortality rates and a very low literacy rate for women. Before the 1996 takeover, Afghan women helped draft the 1964 Constitution, there were at least three women legislators in Parliament by the 1970s and a 1978 decree required education for girls. But as the Taliban insurgents gained control, those rights deteriorated and the nationalist group centered its campaign on terrorizing women.

During the Taliban’s rule, women and girls were forced into marriage and slavery, they had to be accompanied by a male relative in order to leave the house, they were banned from driving and only about three percent of girls received some sort of primary education. Additionally, the Taliban implemented heavy restrictions on access to health services for Afghan women, including a ban on receiving care from male health workers, which left many pregnant women without the aid of skilled doctors, nurses or midwives.

After five years of brutally sexist and misogynistic authority, the Taliban government was defeated in 2001 by U.S. and Northern Alliance forces. However, internal conflict and fighting between the Afghan government and Taliban forces is still a crisis as of today; thousands of civilian fatalities were reported in 2017. Once the Taliban fell from power in 2001, hope sparked for improved economic and social conditions, leading to a positive reemergence of women’s rights.

But, despite government attempts to devise and institute plans to empower Afghan women, inclusion for the women of Afghanistan still remains a challenge. According to a 2017 report, women and girls have continued to endure gender-based violence by state and non-state actors, there has been an increase in public punishments of women by armed groups and restricted access to girls’ education by armed groups has persisted.

However, women are striving to regain their role in society and present living conditions are gradually progressing. For example, as of recently, access to health services for Afghan women has increased. These improved services include a newly established health center and an increase in hiring female health workers in Daman district.

Daman district, located in central Kandahar Province, is known for having a lack of health facilities and female health professionals, which has led to increased maternal and infant mortality rates. Afghanistan as a whole has some of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world, and pregnancy-related causes have taken the lives of thousands of Afghan women each year, although most of the causes are easily preventable.

However, since the establishment of the Azam Qala Basic Health Center in 2015, those rates have slightly decreased. Kandahar Province’s new health center is seeing more female patients and healthy deliveries, and as of March 29, 2018, there now are at least 20 childbirths at the center each month. Overall, the Azam Qala Health Center sees more than 70 patients a day and serves more than 13,000 people in the Daman district.

With great support from the System Enhancement for Health Action in Transition Program (SEHAT), the Azam Qala Basic Health Center was financed and provided with skillful female health professionals, and now access to health services for Afghan women is much improved. SEHAT’s objective is to expand the scope, quality and coverage of health services to Afghanistan, particularly for the most vulnerable. With continued efforts, women and girls’ rights in Afghanistan will continue to improve.

– Natalie Shaw

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

medical advancements in Ethiopia
With a population of approximately 106 million, the nation of Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa. Along with this large population, Ethiopia also has one of the highest poverty levels in the world and is one of the most underdeveloped countries on the continent.

Due to this underdevelopment, Ethiopia has many medical and healthcare related concerns that have historically not been able to be addressed. Recently, the government of Ethiopia has made the health of its citizens a priority, leading to many medical advancements in Ethiopia.

The current health system in the African nation is unable to provide for over half of its large population. One of the main reasons that Ethiopia has been unable to provide medical care to so much of its citizens is because there are not enough medical facilities in the country, and many people do not have access to the ones that do exist.

According to the World Health Organization, only 75 percent of urban families and about 42 percent of rural households are within walking distance from a hospital. When individuals are able to access a medical facility, they are often met with facilities that are understaffed, have workers with low qualifications and do not have many standard clinical supplies.

One of the ways that medical advancements in Ethiopia are occurring is by working on improving this shortage of medical facilities. An example is the expansion of St. Paul’s hospital in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Though this is an existing medical facility, the expansion will help the hospital take in more citizens than it has previously been able to. Currently, the hospital has between 12 and 14 beds in the emergency room; after the expansion is complete, the emergency room will hold up to 50 beds. This expansion is partially possible because of the partnership between Millennium Medical College in Ethiopia’s capital and the University of Michigan.

Another way in which medical advancements in Ethiopia are being made is by the nation’s dedication to treating HIV and AIDS. With the help of the United States, the Ethiopian government has committed to providing free treatments for HIV and AIDS. U.S. aid has been a vital part of this effort and has been working to provide the needed treatments. According to USAID, in just one year the number of Ethiopians accessing HIV counseling and testing increased from 500,000 to more than nine million. It is also reported that the number of people on anti-retroviral therapy increased from 900 in 2005 to 394,000 in 2015.

This expansion of current medical facilities and commitment to the treatment of HIV and AIDS are just two ways in which medical advancements in Ethiopia are being made. The University of Michigan has said that Ethiopia is experiencing a “medical revolution,” and it appears that this is just the beginning.

– Nicole Stout

Photo: Flickr

solutions to global poverty
Nearly half of the world’s population lives at or below the poverty line; out of the 2.2 billion children in the world, one billion of them live in poverty. Though this issue may not be as prevalent or visible in the U.S., it is an issue that affects everyone. Small steps can be taken to better this problem, leading to possible solutions to global poverty.

  1. Properly Identifying Issues
    One of the largest issues involving poverty is the inability to properly identify contributing factors at the micro and macro level. Many organizations assume that local aid alone will better the problem, but it is only with the combined efforts of local, state and national governments that poverty will lessen.
  1. Allocating Proper Time and Resources
    Preventable diseases such as pneumonia claim the lives of nearly two million children per year. Without proper planning, which includes allocating enough time, money and volunteer work, global poverty will continue to exist. Currently, the U.S. spends only about one percent of the federal budget on foreign aid. By creating detailed plans and projects aimed at helping other nations, global poverty will begin to lessen.
  1. Creating organizations and communities to work locally
    Enacting policy is not the only solution to global poverty, as policy often does not affect those suffering directly. As previously stated, efforts must come from both local and federal domains. Essentially, while policy is created to change legislation, local organizations enact the changes, directly helping those in need. On top of that, working with entire communities instead of specific individuals has been proven to be more effective.
  1. Creating Jobs
    Creating jobs in poverty-ridden communities allows individuals to pull themselves out of poverty. This solution to global poverty is arguably one of the most effective. Federal governments can achieve this by rebuilding their infrastructures, developing renewable energy sources, renovating abandoned housing and raising the minimum wage.
    By raising the minimum wage in existing jobs, companies would combat recent inflation in both developed and developing countries. This change in the states (in places such as Seattle and Washington) has been shown to reduce poverty.
  1. Providing Access to Healthcare
    Unpaid medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy. Having access to free or affordable healthcare would allow families to allocate the money they would normally spend on healthcare elsewhere.
  1. Empowering Women
    Female empowerment in developing countries often comes from organizations that work to reduce poverty by allowing them to take leadership positions and advance socially and economically.
  1. Microfinancing
    Microfinancing provides improvements to socioeconomic status by providing access to more, larger loans, providing better repayment rates for women, as they are less likely to default on their loans than men and extending education programs for loan-payers’ children. It can also improve health and welfare by providing access to clean water and better sanitation, create new jobs and teach developing countries to be more sustainable.
    Microfinancing continues to prove that even the smallest amounts of credit can be one of the many solutions to global poverty.
  1. Provide paid leave and paid sick days
    Paid maternal and paternal leave allows families to save money after childbirth, as having a child is a leading cause of economic hardship. Furthermore, giving workers paid sick days allows them to properly get over their illness without worrying about missing a paycheck or receiving a paycheck with fewer funds than normal.
  1. Supporting equal pay for men and women
    Closing the wage gap between men and women would reduce 50 percent of poverty experienced by women and their families. This would also add money to the nation’s gross domestic product.

Global poverty has proven to be an unruly, frustrating cycle, but eradicating it is within our means. These solutions to global poverty can and should be implemented to begin the end of poverty.

– Chylene Babb

Photo: Flickr

women’s healthcare in Afghanistan

The years of Taliban control have decimated Afghanistan’s healthcare system. Since the Taliban’s fall in 2001, civil wars and internal conflict have made it difficult for the Afghan system to rebound. Almost 800 medical care centers have closed in the past ten years due to strife, and surveys indicate that 40 percent of people living in Afghanistan are unable to access healthcare services. While the struggle for adequate healthcare affects everyone in Afghanistan, it hits women the hardest. In order to strengthen the country’s infrastructure, it is crucial to improve women’s healthcare in Afghanistan.

Under the Taliban, male doctors and nurses were only allowed to touch female patients above their clothing and women were not educated in any facet, especially regarding healthcare practices. While the Taliban has since fallen, these practices still remain ingrained in the culture of Afghanistan. Many people still consider women’s healthcare in Afghanistan the worst worldwide. The projected lifespan for an Afghan woman is about 52 years, which is decades lower than the projected lifespan for a female living in the United States.

The most pressing issue regarding women’s healthcare in Afghanistan consistently remains healthcare during pregnancy and childbirth. Living in one of the most dangerous countries to give birth, around half a million Afghan women die in childbirth every year. This is a result of poor healthcare, a lack of access to healthcare services and a large number of child mothers. Additionally, around 20 percent of women are malnourished, which often results in a premature delivery. The low quality of women’s healthcare in Afghanistan impacts Afghan children as well, and 396 out of 100,000 babies do not survive.

These statistics are incredibly discouraging, but a closer inspection of the numbers can provide much hope for women’s healthcare in Afghanistan. From 2000 to 2010, the death rate of mothers giving birth plummeted from 1,600 deaths per 100,000 births to 327 deaths per 100,000 births. The mortality rate of children under the age of five dropped from 257 deaths per 1,000 children born alive to 97 deaths per 1,000 children born alive. Life expectancy, access to vaccinations and access to clean drinking water has also improved. The statistics are still grim but show substantial progress and encouragement for the healthcare initiatives that have taken place in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban.

There are several reasons for the improvements to Afghanistan’s healthcare system. The government has worked with the European Union, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the World Bank to provide better healthcare to the Afghan people. Through their funding, women’s access to healthcare in Afghanistan has improved substantially from the zero percent that could access it a little over a decade ago.

The Ministry of Public Health in Afghanistan has also made significant strides through SEHAT, the System Enhancement for Health Action in Transition. This program trains women to be nurses and midwives, empowering them to serve their community and reducing the number of women who die because their husbands will not let them be treated by male healthcare workers.

Several other organizations have also funded projects to support health in Afghanistan. The Red Cross sponsors clean water and healthy food initiatives throughout rural provinces. UNICEF funds and supports healthcare teams that travel throughout the country in order to provide care for women, particularly those living in rural areas, who cannot travel to a hospital.

It is important to understand that the healthcare crisis in Afghanistan is incredibly real, and action needs to be taken to save the lives of the Afghan people who are dying because of inadequate access to healthcare, a large number of whom are women. However, the progress that has been made in Afghanistan over the last twenty years provides proof that things can and will get better through continued healthcare initiatives.

– Julia McCartney

Photo: Flickr

Africa

The causes of poverty in Africa cannot be narrowed down to one single source. As a developing country, Africa has a lengthy history of external, internal and man-made forces at work to bring about the circumstances this continent suffers from today.

In sub-Saharan Africa, almost 220 million people, half the population, live in poverty. Worsened by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, cultural conflict and ethnic cleansing, Africa faces many challenges that directly correlate with its impoverished status.

Poor Governance

Poor governance, one of the major causes of poverty in Africa, involves various malpractices by the state and its workers. This malpractice has led many African leaders to push away the needs of the people. Having created the “personal rule paradigm,” where they treat their offices as a form of property and personal gain, these leaders openly appoint underqualified personnel in key positions at state-owned institutions and government departments. This type of governance affects the poorest people and leaves them vulnerable, as they are denied basic necessities such as healthcare, food and shelter.

Corruption

Corruption has been and still is a major issue in the development of and fight against poverty in Africa, specifically sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). SSA is considered to be among the most corrupt places in the world. According to a survey conducted by World Anti-Corruption, corruption in Africa is “due to the fact that many people in Africa believe that family relations are more important than country identity. Therefore, those in power use bias and bribery for the gain of their relatives at the expense of their country.”

Corruption costs SSA roughly $150 billion a year in lost revenue. While some countries in Africa, such as Ghana, Tanzania and Rwanda, have made some progress in the fight against corruption, there are still many lagging very far behind. A lack of effort to solve this issue only worsens the causes of poverty in Africa today.

Poor Education

Lack of education is also a serious issue that contributes to the causes of poverty in Africa. This absence is especially felt in sub-Saharan Africa, which has the highest rates of educational exclusion. Over one-fifth of children between the ages of about six and 11 are out of school, followed by one-third of youth between the ages of about 12 and 14. Almost 60 percent of youth between the ages of about 15 and 17 are not in school.

Education for girls has become a major focus of support groups like UNICEF, UNESCO and the UIS. With poor access to school, lack of sanitary facilities and social norms like female genital mutilation and child marriage, the right to women’s education is even less of a priority in impoverished communities.

However, education, especially girls’ education, has been proven to be one of the most cost-effective strategies for promoting economic growth. According to UNICEF, “studies have shown that educated mothers tend to have healthier, better-nourished babies and that their own children are more likely to attend school; thus helping break the vicious cycle of poverty.”

Healthcare

Poor healthcare is a major cause of poverty in Africa because the poor cannot afford to purchase what is needed for good health, including sufficient quantities of quality food and healthcare itself. With a lack of education on preventing infectious diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS, as well as the costs of consultations, tests and medicine, people living in poverty are at a severe disadvantage that only perpetuates the poverty cycle.

With a strong fight against many forces still ahead of this nation, Africa must weed out the corruption and poor government, and promote strong education and efficient healthcare for all, in order to take a big leap forward in its development as a continent.

– Kailey Brennan

Photo: Flickr