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Poverty and poachingBig mammals all around the world are at risk because of poaching. The countries most impacted are the poorest ones despite the presence of natural parks and nature reserves. A recent scientific review examined the decline of mammal species and found that between 1980 to 2020, 294 species were illegally hunted in the parks designed to protect them. There is a clear link between poverty and poaching; the environment, animals and people can all be helped by alleviating poverty.

What Animals are Poached?

Endangered animals that are commonly poached are elephants, rhinos, tigers, sea turtles, lemurs and gorillas. Despite efforts to save these animals, high rates of poaching still threaten them. Currently, poachers are the single greatest threat to elephant’s survival. Their ivory makes elephants a highly-prized target. Similarly, rhinos are hunted for their horns. As a result, the western black rhinoceros went extinct in 2011.

Why is it a Threat in Poorer Countries?

Poverty and poaching have many reasons for commonly coinciding. However, it should be stated that poverty does not lead to poaching. It is one of the drivers, but to say that poverty causes poaching is not exactly correct. The International Conservation Caucus Foundation states that “the extreme poverty of many African communities induces their complicity in African-based, Asian-run poaching networks.” Due to a lack of conservation resources, a boom in bushmeat trade and the desire to increase socioeconomic status, poaching rates remain high. Another major driver is corruption. Research from the University of New York identified that corruption and poverty actually influence poaching more than the adequacy of law enforcement.

Who Poaches?

An important clarification is that it is not necessarily the poorest people who poach. A major influence on poachers is their financial status relative to others in their community rather than total amount of wealth. Many poachers are not among the absolute poorest, but they collect bushmeat to supplement their income. They need the funds they receive from bushmeat, ivory and rhino-horn trade for basic needs. In a 2015 study in Tanzania, 96% of villagers said they would stop poaching if they received enough income through other means. Evidently, poverty and poaching are inseparable.

Can Poaching Be Stopped?

Anti-poaching programs need to take a multidimensional approach to tackling both poverty and poaching. Increasing law enforcement isn’t enough. Top-down measures, such as increasing patrols and arrests, may help reduce the number of people who poach to gain a little extra income, but it will not dissuade those who depend on it for their livelihood.

The key is to implement bottom-up strategies that increase opportunities and agency for these communities. Poaching is seen as a method to raise people out of poverty. However, what researchers and conservationists need to understand is that poverty is relative rather than absolute. By understanding this fact, they can start to ask questions such as: how much do households need to be elevated out of poverty to help prevent them from poaching?

CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, is making a difference. It is an international agreement that aims to protect wild animals from going extinct through international trade. The ideas for CITES were first formed in the 1960s, but now they have evolved greatly. CITES places species in one of three appendices, each representing a different level of endangerment. The first appendix provides the greatest level of protection with restrictions on commercial trade. CITES prevents poaching using an international approach that advocates for socioeconomic and environmental change.

This is a messy issue that has very little clear data and even fewer clear-cut answers. The extent to which poverty and poaching are correlated is still debated and researched; however, it is certain that poverty has an effect. The issue of poverty must be addressed in order to resolve the issue of poaching.

Fiona Price
Photo: Flickr

Schools in Zimbabwe Can No Longer Expel Pregnant SchoolgirlsZimbabwe is a country in southern Africa. It is now illegal for schools to expel pregnant schoolgirls in Zimbabwe. This may sound unusual to people from western civilizations. However, it is very common for schools to expel pregnant girls in sub-Saharan Africa.

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa Commonly Expel Pregnant Schoolgirls

It was a common practice in Zimbabwe for schools to expel pregnant schoolgirls. It is also common in many African countries such as Equatorial Guinea, Tanzania, and Togo. In fact, there are no re-entry policies or laws that protect pregnant schoolgirls’ rights to education in 24 African countries. Some schools in Africa go as far as conducting mandatory pregnancy tests on schoolgirls. This poses a significant challenge for women on the African continent since the highest adolescent pregnancy rates in the world are found there. Some pregnant schoolgirls resort to procuring unsafe abortions while others drop out upon learning that they’re pregnant.

Part of the problem is that African Union member states centered discussion about this issue around the idea that pregnancy outside of marriage is wrong. These opinions stem from broad interpretations of religious teachings. The view is that if they allow pregnant schoolgirls the opportunity to continue their education, it would normalize pregnancy outside of marriage.

Causes and Consequences of Adolescent Pregnancy

While many use the morality argument to stigmatize pregnant schoolgirls, many factors are outside of these girls’ control. In Africa, the main causes of adolescent pregnancy are sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, poverty and lack of information about reproduction and sexuality. Other main causes are lack of access to birth control and family planning services. Child marriages also play a large role in adolescent pregnancies in Africa. Approximately 38% of girls are married before the age of 18 and 12% are married before age 15 in sub-Saharan Africa.

Since adolescent pregnancy usually stops a girls’ education, poverty is a determinant and a consequence of adolescent pregnancy. Low levels of education can confine girls to low-paying jobs and low socioeconomic status. Additionally, there are socioeconomic consequences and health risks associated with adolescent pregnancy. In Africa, when compared to women aged 20-24, adolescents under the age of 15 are five to seven times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth.

The Benefits of Countries Making it Illegal for Schools to Expel Pregnant Schoolgirls

There are many benefits of countries making it illegal for schools to expel pregnant schoolgirls. For starters, education leads to a reduction in poverty. A girl’s future earning potential can increase by up to 25% from only one year of secondary education. On a larger scale, the average gross domestic product of a nation rises by 0.3% when that nation’s female education rate rises by one percentage point.

Educated women tend to have children who are healthier and more educated than children with uneducated mothers. A child is 50% more likely to survive past age five if they are born to a mother that can read. A research found that a child’s life expectancy increases by an average of 0.32 years for every year their mother goes to school. Women who received a quality education were “more than twice as likely to send their children to school.” Therefore, providing women with education has the potential to create a cycle of adolescent education. The education of women can also lead to a reduction in domestic violence. There are connections between fewer years of education and higher risks of intimate partner violence. When women are more aware of their risks and rights, it is easier for women to keep themselves safe.

Now it’s Illegal for Schools to Expel Pregnant Schoolgirls

Due to COVID-19, concerns over the effect of school closures on sexual abuse and unwanted pregnancies have increased. As a result, officials in Zimbabwe have made it illegal for schools to expel pregnant schoolgirls. The goal of the legal amendment is to reinforce a 1999 guideline. A guideline that did not sufficiently protect girls’ right to an education. This amendment is arguably overdue since 12.5% of Zimbabwe approximate 57,500 school dropouts were due to pregnancy or marriage reasons in 2018. Women’s rights campaigners have stated that they believe this measure is vital for tackling gender inequality in the classroom. In addition, it will stop many girls from deciding to drop out of school.

Hopefully, Zimbabwe’s overdue amendment will influence other African countries to protect women’s right to an education and make it illegal for schools to expel pregnant schoolgirls.

Araceli Mercer

Photo: Flickr

Four Facts About Homelessness in GuineaThe Republic of Guinea is also known as Guinea-Conakry and most commonly, Guinea. Guinea is a country located on the northwest coast of Africa. Guinea’s 13.4 million population is quite diverse. It contains 24 ethnic groups and 25 languages. In addition, Guinea has incredible mineral wealth. Despite Guinea’s rich natural resources, Guinea’s residents suffer from myriad poverty-induced socioeconomic problems. Around 55% of Guineans live in poverty, with rates disproportionately high among rural dwellers, women and young people. This widespread poverty has predictably led to high rates of home insecurity and homelessness in Guinea. Here are fast facts on homelessness in Guinea.

4 Facts About Homelessness in Guinea

  1. The majority of Guinea’s population has insecure housing. In 2012, only 31.5% of Guineans had shelters with permanent walls. This means that 68.5% of the population is without adequate housing.
  2. Homelessness in Guinea varies greatly by demographic. Gender, ethnicity and occupation-based discrimination and inequality plague Guinea, leading to stark wealth disparities. Though subsistence agriculture is the backbone of Guinea’s economy, farmers typically suffer from abysmal living conditions. Around 71.1% of Guineans work as subsistence farmers while around 21.8% suffer from food insecurity. Female farmers are especially marginalized. Though women play a crucial role in agriculture, they are often denied land, education and employment. This often leads women to work for little to no pay. These disparities in wealth and resources are reflected in Guinea’s homeless population.
  3. Climate and global health disasters have exacerbated the problem. Guinea is prone to frequent natural disasters such as flooding and bush fires, especially in rural areas. For instance, catastrophes repeatedly destroy housing in Guinea’s poorest regions. In addition, Guinea was a primary target of the 2013-2016 West African Ebola virus epidemic. The 3,806 Ebola cases and 2,535 deaths devastated Guinea. This required its government to direct its resources toward eradicating the disease rather than homelessness and other social ills. Widespread infections of malaria and HIV/AIDS pose a similar, ongoing drain on Guinea’s wealth.
  4. Foreign aid is crucial to combating homelessness in Guinea. Numerous organizations are currently working to help Guineans achieve quality living conditions. Plan International has been operating in Guinea since 1989 to help alleviate the social problems that lead to homelessness, specifically by empowering Guinean children. Additionally, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Guinea is another vital group. It helps vulnerable Guineans, including those who are homeless, resettle in countries with better housing options. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) also provides essential aid. It operates in Guinea since 1964 to provide food assistance and strengthen the Guinean government. In March 2015, it provided more than $7 million to the cause.

Homelessness in Guinea is not an isolated issue; it is a direct result of the nation’s high incidences of poverty, disease and discrimination. Fortunately, foreign aid has the potential to eliminate these issues. Past foreign aid investments have transformed the lives of Guineans. For example, China invested $526 million in a 240-megawatt dam that more than doubled the country’s electricity supply in 2015. Similar actions can help ensure that every Guinean has a roof over their head.

Abby Tarwater
Photo: Flickr

Young African Leadership fighting COVID-19
2020 marks the tenth anniversary of the creation of the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) by President Obama. Since its initiation, YALI has spurred thousands of young people into community activism, entrepreneurship, innovation and other leadership roles. Now, these alumi of the Young African Leadership Initiative are fighting COVID-19.

What is YALI?

Created in 2010 as a part of USAID, YALI invests in the young people of Africa by providing educational resources, networking connections and skillsets to create community leaders. YALI has three main components: the Mandela Fellowship Program, Regional Leadership Centers (RLCs) and the YALI network. The Mandela Fellowship Program provides young Africans with an academic experience in the U.S., while the RLCs provide at institutions of higher learning in Africa. Both the Fellowship Program and the RLCs also offer leadership training. On the other hand, the YALI Network is an entirely online resource that aims to connect community leaders so they can learn from one another and work together.

YALI and COVID-19

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the YALI organization has been involved in providing African communities with the information to combat and prevent the coronavirus. For instance, in June, YALI held a virtual conference entitled “Resiliency for Business Owners” in which panelists discussed steps entrepreneurs can take to keep their businesses afloat during the pandemic.

Alumni of the Fellowship Program, RLC participants, and the YALI Network are all working together as part of the Young African Leadership Initiative fighting COVID-19 in their communities. The following three leaders have had a particularly significant impact on their communities’ responses to the pandemic.

  1. James Papy Kwabo Jr.
    James Papy Kwabo Jr., a Liberian citizen, attended the Mandela Fellowship Program in 2019 and has since founded Alternative Youth Radio, the first youth radio station to exist in Liberia. After hearing misinformation about COVID-19 circulate in his community, he began using his platform to dispel false rumors and provide accurate information regarding the virus.
    James broadcasts stories from other Mandela Fellowship leaders across Liberia that cover ways in which COVID-19 has affected their communities. Through this story-based approach, James hopes that members of his community will understand the gravity of the situation and take action to prevent the spread of the virus.
  2. Elijah Addo
    Elijah Addo, a Chef and alumnus of the RLC program in Ghana, founded the non-profit organization Food for All Africa in 2015, which provides food for more than 5,000 people throughout Ghana and West Africa. In February when the virus started to rapidly spread across the globe, Addo and his team began projecting which Ghanaian communities would become most vulnerable and face the greatest difficulties in accessing food. On March 22, 2020, Addo launched the Food for All Ghana COVID-19 Community Emergency Intervention program. In partnership with other organizations, this program works to ensure a continuous flow of food to communities that have become more vulnerable as a result of the pandemic. Through the distribution of food boxes across the country as well as the community kitchen operating in Accra, which is both the capital of Ghana and the city with the most reported COVID-19 cases, Addo’s emergency relief program has helped thousands.
  3. Alfred Kankuzi
    An alumnus of the Mandela Fellowship Program, Alfred Kankuzi has brought his leadership and innovation back to Malawi. After realizing that many Malawi residents received information about COVID-19 from misleading and confusing posts on social media, Kankuzi decided to take action using his skills in software and mobile app development.
    In April, Kankuzi launched the phone app “COVID-19 NEBA,” which means “Hey neighbor” in Chichewa, that provides accurate information to users such as how the virus spreads and how to prevent contracting it. Given the low literacy rates in Malawi, Kankuzi’s app also provides audio content and illustrations to convey the same information. Furthermore, the app can be translated from Chichewa into two other languages, English and Tumbuka, in order to reach a wider audience.

On the 10th anniversary of the creation of YALI, members and alumni have stepped up to the plate to assist their communities as they battle COVID-19. Because of the skills participants honed through the program, the communities most strongly impacted by poverty and the pandemic have benefited from the leadership of the Young African Leadership Initiative fighting COVID-19.

Alanna Jaffee

Photo: Alumni.state.gov

Entrepreneurship in Africa
Africa stands as a continent of nearly 1.3 billion people, with 27 nations having a poverty rate of over 30%. As COVID-19 spreads through the region, falling demand and break down of supply chains threaten to further slow already-sluggish growth rates. Ever the land of great resilience and innovation, hundreds of enterprising individuals have excelled in Africa, enriching themselves and their countries. Increasingly more Africans are seeking out entrepreneurial and small business opportunities to combat poverty. One such businessman helping in this effort, multimillionaire Tony Elumelu, is using his wealth to fuel entrepreneurship in Africa and transform the continent into a booming commercial hub and providing hope for the future.

Roadblocks to Economic Growth in Africa

Africa’s economy has long suffered stubborn development setbacks. Government inaction, fragile infrastructure and widespread instability have hindered the region’s industrialization and economic growth. Many countries grapple with deficient infrastructure, including inadequate means of transportation, limited access to electricity and water and poor telecommunications systems. The World Bank estimates that the resolution of these structural shortcomings would increase the region’s productivity by as much as 40%.

Politicians have been reluctant to bolster manufacturing despite an international consensus on Africa’s need for industrialization. Such apprehension can be partially attributed to Africa’s unique position in the world economy: a pre-industrial continent already aspiring to post-industrialism. This misguided ambition has discouraged lawmakers from implementing protectionist policies. Without tariffs that benefit domestic manufacturing industries, larger international corporations choke out Africa’s budding factories and discourage entrepreneurship in Africa.

Ongoing fiscal and political instability serves to magnify these already difficult issues. Mounting debt levels divert money from investment to reimbursement and waste significant capital on unproductive endeavors. For example, sub-Saharan Africa’s aggregate debt-to-GDP ratio doubled from 2008 to 2017. Additionally, frequent leadership turnover has deterred international companies from entering African countries.

Working to mitigate these hurdles is Tony Elumelu, the founder of Heirs Holdings Ltd, a private investment corporation that operates in the energy sector. Beyond oil and gas, Elumelu is investing in a far more valuable asset: Africa’s future innovators. His nonprofit organization, the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), empowers young entrepreneurs with the resources they need to build meaningful businesses.

How The Tony Elumelu Foundation Advances Entrepreneurship in Africa

The Tony Elumelu Foundation fosters entrepreneurship in Africa to alleviate poverty and spark economic gains. The TEF Entrepreneurship Programme offers grants and mentorship to innovative African businesspeople, allowing them to transform their ideas into profitable corporations. Endowed with a generous $100 million, the program has already assisted 9,000 individuals in creating businesses that invigorate their entire communities.

The broad scope of TEF’s investments cultivates economic diversification, a key tenet of development and stability. Some of the organization’s recent beneficiaries include:

  • Stars From All Nations (SFAN): Headed by Tom-Chris Emewulu, SFAN nourishes young minds through informative programs and workshops. Aimed at augmenting and supplementing children’s schooling, the company is helping to resolve Africa’s undereducation crisis.
  • Doctoora: Jubril Odulana, a Nigerian doctor, created Doctoora as a solution to Africa’s limited healthcare access. The platform collaborates with medical professionals to open private practices and ensures patients receive the care they need. In the face of COVID-19, Doctoora plays an essential role in promoting public health across the region.
  • Ufinix.com: The brainchild of Nnodim Uchenna, Ufinix.com offers aspiring developers comprehensive coding courses and guidance, preparing them for future careers in computer science. By equipping students with technological knowledge, the website is propelling Africa into the digital age.
  • Light Salone: Light Salone founder Mohammed Akamara aims to redress Sierra Leone’s severe energy shortage. In pursuit of this goal, Akamara engineered affordable hybrid solar-wind power sources to electrify rural areas and boost development. Manufactured using recycled supplies, these Sowind Technologies provide a mindful solution to Sierra Leone’s electrical desert.

By supporting young visionaries, the Tony Elumelu Foundation is generating hope, ambition and entrepreneurship in Africa. Its passionate beneficiaries are launching innovative and impactful companies that not only empower their creators but also their communities. The foundation has employed the continent’s most creative, altruistic minds, initiating a cycle of philanthropy that portends Africa’s future prosperity.

Rosalind Coats
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Lesotho
Lesotho is a small, mountainous nation surrounded entirely by South Africa. Since gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, Lesotho has been plagued by political instability and slow economic development. A high prevalence of HIV further complicates efforts to end poverty in Lesotho. Despite an attempted military coup in 2014, conditions have been improving in the country in recent years. Here are 7 factors that affect poverty in Lesotho.

7 Factors Affecting Poverty in Lesotho

  1. Agriculture: Sixty-six percent of Lesotho’s population lives in rural areas where the economy is largely based on small scale agriculture. Many of these people engage in subsistence farming, meaning they rely on a good harvest to be able to feed their families. The success of each harvest makes a huge impact on the lives of millions in Lesotho. A drought from 2015 to 2016 crippled poverty reduction efforts for the next few years, proving the delicacy of this system.
  2. Gender: Households run by women have a poverty rate of 55.2%, compared to 46.3% for households run by men. This is because women are typically denied the same opportunities as men in Lesotho’s highly patriarchal society.
  3. Urbanization: Poverty in Lesotho is more prevalent in rural areas than in urban areas. Urban areas have a 28.5% poverty rate while rural areas face a 60.7% poverty rate. Despite Lesotho’s economic development in recent years, most improvements have been made in urban areas while rural areas have been left behind.
  4. Education: Achieving a college education is extremely rare in Lesotho – only 4.4% of people live in households with someone who has gone to a college or university. Those that do receive higher education have a low poverty rate of 8.7%.
  5. Government programs: Over the past 20 years, the government in Lesotho has been working with international organizations to expand protections for the poor and increase economic opportunity. As a result, the national poverty rate decreased from 56.6% to 49.7% from 2002 to 2017.
  6. HIV: Poverty and HIV are clearly connected in Lesotho. Almost 24% of adults are living with HIV and treatment is essential to stopping the spread and helping these people live normal lives. Lack of resources and awareness means that on average only 57% of people with HIV are currently getting help. This directly impacts their quality of life and makes it harder to land above the poverty line.
  7. NGOs: Though poverty in Lesotho is an important issue for the country’s government, NGOs are stepping in to fill gaps. Many international nonprofit groups such as Caritas Lesotho operate in the country. Caritas Lesotho is a group which seeks to help individuals escape poverty by teaching them technical skills. They focus on vulnerable children and teach them a trade such as farming or woodworking. Groups like Caritas Lesotho are slowly helping to improve the economic situation in the country.

Examining the causes of poverty in a country is essential in deciding how best to address the issue. It is clear that poverty in Lesotho will continue to be an issue for many years. However, the country is on the right track and will improve as education and economic opportunity increase.

– Jack McMahon
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in AfricaOn a world map of the distribution of COVID-19 cases, the situation looks pretty optimistic for Africa. While parts of Europe, Asia and the United States are shaded by dark colors that implicate a higher infection rate, most African countries appear faint. This has created uncertainty over whether or not the impact of COVID-19 in Africa is as severe as other continents.

Lack of Testing

A closer look at the areas wearing light shades reveals that their situation is just as obscure as the faded shades that color them. Dark spots indicate more infections in places like the U.S. However, in Africa these are usually just cities and urban locations, often the only places where testing is available.

Although insufficient testing has been a problem for countries all over the world, testing numbers are much lower in Africa. The U.S carries out 205 per 100,000 people a day. Nigeria, the most populous country, carries one test per 100,000 people every day. While 8.87% of tests come back positive in the U.S, 15.69% are positive in Nigeria (as of Aug. 4, 2020). Nigeria was one of 10 countries that carried out 80% of the total number of tests in Africa.

As a continent that accounts for 1.2 billion of the world’s population, the impact of COVID-19 in Africa is even more difficult to measure without additional testing. To improve this, the African CDC has set a goal of increasing testing by 1% per month. Realizing the impossibility of reliable testing, countries like Uganda have managed to slow the spread by imposing strict lockdown measures. As a result, the percentage of positive cases in Uganda was only 0.82% (as of Aug. 4, 2020).

A Resistant Population

COVID-19 in Africa has had a lower fatality rate than any other continent. Fatality rates may even be lower than reported. Immunologists in Malawi found that 12% of asymptomatic healthcare workers were infected by the virus at some point. The researchers compared their data with other countries and estimated that death rates were eight times lower than expected.

The most likely reason for the low fatality rate is the young population. Only 3% of Africans are above 65 compared with 6% in South Asia and 17% in Europe. Researchers are investigating other explanations such as the possible immunity to variations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as higher vitamin D in Africans with more sunlight exposure.

Weak Healthcare Systems

Despite these factors, the impact of COVID-19 in Africa is likely high. Under-reporting and under-equipped hospitals contribute to unreliable figures. Most hospitals are not prepared to handle a surge in cases. In South Sudan, there were only four ventilators and 24 ICU beds for a population of 12 million. Accounting for 23% of the world’s diseases and only 1% of global public health expenditure, Africa’s healthcare system was already strained.

Healthcare workers have the most risk of infection in every country. In Africa, the shortage of masks, equipment and capacity increases the infection rate further amongst healthcare workers. Africa also has the lowest physician to patient ratios in the world. As it can take weeks to recover from COVID-19, the recovery of healthcare workers means less are available to work.

Additionally, those that are at-risk and uninsured can rarely afford life-saving treatment in Africa. For example, a drug called remdesivir showed promising results in treating COVID-19. However, the cost of treatment with remdesivir is $3,120 – an unmanageable price for the majority of Africans. These factors will determine the severity of COVID-19 in Africa.

Economic and Psychological Factors

Strict lockdowns have helped some nations in controlling the spread of COVID-19 in Africa but at a very great price.

Lack of technology often means that all students stop learning and many lose their jobs. More than three million South Africans have become unemployed due to the lockdown. The lockdowns have also resulted in much higher rates of domestic violence, abuse and child marriage. Many such cases go unreported and mental health services for victims or those struggling through the pandemic are unavailable. In Kenya, the U.N. has appealed for $4 million to support those affected by gender-based violence.

The slow spread of COVID-19 in Africa has allowed the continent and leaders to prepare, and the young population will lessen the impact. Although there’s reason to be hopeful, there’s no doubt that there will be an impact on Africa’s economy and future. This calls for the need of foreign assistance – not only in controlling COVID-19 in Africa but in the recovery of the continent for years to come.

Beti Sharew
Photo: Flickr

Sight Impairments in Poverty
Poverty can be a result of several contributing factors unique to the country in which a person lives, the family they were born into and/or having a disability. Whether the disability contributes to blindness, deafness or a physical ailment, people with disabilities in poverty can have a much more difficult life. Looking more closely at blindness, people in poverty with this particular disability have a higher mortality rate. Therefore, those living with sight impairments in poverty are at an elevated risk of death. Studies about the correlation between poverty and blindness in Africa found that people who are both blind and poor live 15 to 20 years less than those who are only poor. The correlation between blindness and poverty has also found that people who are blind can become unemployed, which in turn, leads to living below the poverty line.

The Scope of the Problem

Worldwide, 2.2 billion people experience blindness or vision impairment and only 1 billion of those cases are preventable with proper treatment. Without proper eye care and preventative treatments, people suffer not only with visual impairments but also in their socioeconomic status. Several visual impairments arise from cataract, glaucoma and corneal opacity. While some cases may require extensive care, others can be improved by providing glasses to correct visual impairments. The need to provide care for those visually impaired is vital to help keep people out of poverty. The organization, SEE International, provides care to those with sight impairments in poverty, through volunteers who help to correct handicaps.

SEE International

SEE International is a nonprofit organization that relies on teams of volunteers to provide their services to those in need. They consist of 650 professional optometrists who work in 80 countries and developed 200 programs. The programs allow the optometrists to use their expertise to help those with curable, eye impairments. Depending on the severity of the case, optometrists will work in their location for up to five days while giving lectures to pass on their knowledge. SEE International volunteers can help between 50–300 people during their program. The organization partners with other healthcare organizations to provide the necessary equipment for successful surgeries. SEE International can aid with several eye conditions and diseases, e.g.: cataracts, childhood and corneal blindness, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and strabismus. Through education and distribution of proper resources, SEE International aids the community in preventing several diseases.

Lasting Effects

Volunteers from SEE International work to aid those with visual impairments and also provide equipment that can stay within the country. This way, optometrists who are natives can perform procedures to support their community. Knowing there are ways to prevent visual impairments can lead to organizations like SEE International taking action. Unfortunately, disabilities go hand in hand with poverty and can prevent people from obtaining a better life. With preventive treatments, people who were once visually impaired can continue their education, begin working and provide for their families. By providing education and supplies to those in need, SEE International can give relief and aid to those on their journey towards a brighter future.

Brooke Young
Photo: Flickr


Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce or use insulin well, resulting in a high blood sugar level. When the body fails to make insulin at all, this results in Type 1 diabetes. With Type 2 diabetes, the body does not produce or use insulin effectively. Both types come with side effects that are detrimental to a person’s life. On the African continent, South Africa has the second largest population of people with diabetes. Here are five facts that you should know about diabetes in South Africa:

5 Facts About Diabetes in South Africa

  1. Diabetes is a leading cause of death in South Africa. With non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes on the rise globally, South Africa is no exception. In 2016, diabetes and other NCDs caused 16% of the total deaths in the country. Among the South African population, there is a major lack of awareness of the disease and access to proper healthcare. Because the prevalence of diabetes in South African adults is 12.8%, it is crucial that other countries continue to support the funding and research of diabetes in South Africa.
  2. There are many adverse side effects for those living with diabetes. Diabetics must consistently track their blood sugar levels to ensure they don’t go into a diabetic coma. Additionally, diabetics are two times likelier to experience cardiovascular problems, like heart attacks or strokes. Diabetes can cause an individual’s kidneys to stop working. In most healthcare facilities in South Africa, they lack the procedures necessary to help a diabetic undergoing kidney failure, like renal replacement therapy by dialysis or through transplant. Another symptom of diabetes is neuropathy – or nerve damage – in the feet, which can lead to infection or potential amputation. In healthcare centers in South Africa, there is little equipment available for testing nerve damage in the feet and symptoms like this can often slip under the radar. Through an increase in funding from other countries, individuals suffering from diabetes in South Africa can have access to more equipment and medication necessary for dealing with diabetes.
  3. Socioeconomic disparities and other factors contribute to the prevalence of diabetes in South Africa. In South Africa, proper healthcare is inaccessible in poorer communities. The deficiency of experienced health professionals and respectable clinics makes it hard for citizens to undergo testing or treat the disease if they have it. More than one million citizens in South Africa do not know if they are diabetic. With more accurate and accessible testing, a greater population can begin treatment for the disease. It is crucial that the government receive funding to build diagnostic centers and train medical staff.
  4. Diabetes in South Africa is preventable and treatable in many ways. The most effective way to decrease the prevalence of diabetes in South Africa is to prematurely educate citizens and encourage healthy decision making. South Africa is currently working towards this goal. One recent preventative measure taken by the South African government is the implementation of a sugar tax. By charging more for sugary drinks and foods, the government is fighting obesity and helping citizens make more conscious decisions. In July 2019, South Africa briefly launched a Diabetes Prevention Programme (DPP). The DPP aims to integrate intervention treatments into a culturally relevant context through household questionnaires and group gatherings for at-risk individuals. In the conclusion of this program, the DPP will focus on using the information they gathered to create a curriculum that can educate communities about diabetes.
  5. Many countries and organizations help by funding testing centers and medical treatment in South African cities. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) works with several organizations in the South African region to help combat the severity of the disease through advocacy, funding and training. The three organizations that are a part of IDF are: Diabetes South Africa (DSA), Society for Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa (SEMDSA), and Youth with Diabetes (YWD).  DSA is a nonprofit that centers around mobilizing volunteers to demand better treatment for those with diabetes, and also focuses on educating citizens and lobbying the government for better facilities and cheaper healthcare. Further, SEMDSA researches the genetic sources and causes of diabetes. This organization also promotes high standards of treatment and encourages the widespread availability of medicine.

Ultimately, it is crucial that the issue of diabetes in South Africa is at the forefront of the political agenda. With funding and research from other sources, the South African government can begin to tackle this massive health crisis.

– Danielle Kuzel
Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis in BotswanaBotswana is a southern African country with just over 2 million residents living inside its borders. Every Batswana lives with the threat of tuberculosis, an infectious disease that remains one of the top 10 causes of death on the African continent. Tuberculosis has a 50% global death rate for all confirmed cases. Investing in tuberculosis treatments and prevention programs is essential. Botswana has one of the highest tuberculosis infection rates in the world with an estimated 300 confirmed cases per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. Preventative and community-based treatment shows promise in combating tuberculosis in Botswana.

Treating Tuberculosis in Botswana

Tuberculosis treatment cures patients by eliminating the presence of infectious bacteria in the lungs. The first phase of treatment lasts two months. It requires at least four separate drugs to eliminate the majority of the bacteria. Health workers administer a second, shorter phase of treatment to minimize the possibility of remaining bacteria in the lungs.

Early identification of tuberculosis is a crucial step in the treatment process and significantly reduces the risk of patient death, according to the Ministry of Health. Preventative treatment methods are vital because they inhibit the development of tuberculosis infection. They also reduce the risk of patient death significantly.

Health workers detect tuberculosis with a bacteriological examination in a medical laboratory. The U.S. National Institutes of Health estimate that a single treatment costs $258 in countries like Botswana.

Involving the Community

Botswana’s Ministry of Health established the National Tuberculosis Programme (BNTP) in 1975 to fight tuberculosis transmission. The BNTP is currently carrying out this mission through a community-based care approach that goes beyond the hospital setting. Although 85% of Batswana live within three miles of a health facility, it is increasingly difficult for patients to travel for daily tuberculosis treatment. This is due to the lack of transportation options in much of the country.

Involving the community requires the training and ongoing coordination of volunteers in communities throughout the country to provide tuberculosis treatment support. Community-based care also improves treatment adherence and outcome through affordable and feasible treatment.

The implementation of strategies such as community care combats tuberculosis. For example, it mobilizes members of the community to provide treatment for tuberculosis patients. The participation of community members also provides an unintended but helpful consequence. For example, community participation helps to reduce the stigmas surrounding the disease and reveals the alarming prevalence of tuberculosis in Botswana.

A Second Threat

In addition to the tuberculosis disease, the HIV epidemic in Africa has had a major impact on the Botswana population, with 20.3% of adults currently living with the virus. Patients with HIV are at high risk to develop tuberculosis due to a significant decrease in body cell immunity.

The prevalence of HIV contributes to the high rates of the disease. The level of HIV co-infection with tuberculosis in Botswana is approximately 61%. African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships (ACHAP), a nonprofit health development organization, provides TB/HIV care and prevention programs in 16 of the 17 districts across the country in its effort to eradicate the disease.

Fighting Tuberculosis on a Global Scale

The World Health Organization (WHO) hopes to significantly reduce the global percentage of tuberculosis death and incident rates through The End TB Strategy adopted in 2014. The effort focuses on preventative treatment, poverty alleviation and research to tackle tuberculosis in Botswana, aiming to reduce the infection rate by 90% in 2035. The WHO plans to reduce the economic burden of tuberculosis and increase access to health care services. In addition, it plans to combat other health risks associated with poverty. Low-income populations are at greater risk for tuberculosis transmission for several reasons including:

  • Poor ventilation
  • Undernutrition
  • Inadequate working conditions
  • Indoor air pollution
  • Lack of sanitation

The WHO emphasizes the significance of global support in its report on The End TB Strategy stating that, “Global coordination is…essential for mobilizing resources for tuberculosis care and prevention from diverse multilateral, bilateral and domestic sources.”

– Madeline Zuzevich
Photo: Flickr