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Straw-bale homesNatural disasters push 26 million into poverty each year, impacting the most impoverished demographics. Due to extreme poverty, new technological innovations in earthquake architecture remains inaccessible to many earthquake-prone areas. Utilizing ancient building practices, particularly straw bale houses, and teaching these techniques to the local populace has produced promising results.

What are Straw Bale Homes?

The earliest evidence of straw bale homes can be dated back to the Paleolithic period in Africa, but it continues to be used throughout the world. Straw bales are relatively cheap, provide excellent insulation and are naturally fire-resistant. When the plaster is applied to the straw structure, its relatively thick walls become an impenetrable fortress to sound, moisture and fire. Another benefit of this type of construction is its ability to resist the stresses of tectonic activity. The width of the bales themselves creates a wide solid footprint for the structure. The organic makeup of the bales allows for maximum absorption of seismic forces. Researchers built a full-scale straw bale based home for a series of shake table tests and applied forces twice the amount of what was measured during the 1994 Northridge, California earthquake. The structure, while damaged, still showed no signs of collapse.

Straw is widely available and cheap, often the byproduct of many agricultural processes. Thus, it is the perfect material to be used in impoverished areas where earthquakes are prevalent. Pakistan is located in a highly active seismic area, experiencing hundreds of earthquakes per annum. It is also a region where nearly 40 percent of the population experiences multidimensional poverty. Homes are built cheaply and lack structural components necessary to combat seismic tremors. This ultimately creates a death zone when large tremors strike.

Importance of Straw Bale Homes

The most devastating incident was in 2005 when a 7.6 earthquake rocked the Kashmir region, killing 80,000 people and leaving another 4 million homeless. This disaster led to the founding of the organization Pakistan Straw Bale and Appropriate Building (PAKSBAB). PAKSBAB has trained 70 people in straw bale construction. These people continue to build seismically-safe, affordable and sustainable homes that house micro-to-small-income families.
In April 2015, the citizens of Kathmandu, Nepal nearly suffered its own catastrophic earthquake. The earthquake destroyed 600,000 structures and killed 9,000 people. The tremors were felt as far as Tibet. In an effort to curb destruction in such an earthquake-prone country, the Institute for Social and Environment Transition (ISET) has been researching the benefits of straw bale construction, such as the material’s flexibility and cost-effectiveness. In 2018, Builders Without Borders and the Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation collaborated to build the first straw bale home in Nepal. They continue to raise funds to acquire straw and balers.

Structures built of straw bales will be essential in minimizing destruction in areas of the globe most vulnerable to earthquakes. This material will bend rather than break during an earthquake. It also allows for a greater possibility of escape in the event of collapse compared to other available alternatives such as concrete and steel. In areas that are already struggling under the burden of poverty, the affordability of straw bales is a major appeal. Thanks to the work of organizations like Builders Without Borders and PAKSBAB, people will continue to save lives and house families thanks to this ancient practice.

Tiernán Gordon

Water Crisis in South Sudan
South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, has faced adversity and troubled times since its founding. Its separation from Sudan was accompanied by significant conflict, beginning with the advent of civil war in December 2013. The widespread conflict led to many humanitarian crises and the country did not see peace until a cease-fire was issued in August of 2018. Five years later, the effects of this conflict persist and can be seen in the nation’s water crisis. Here are six facts about the water crisis in South Sudan.

6 Facts About the Water Crisis in South Sudan

  1. Only 41 percent of people in South Sudan had access to clean drinking water in 2019. In urban areas, residents often live too far from water sources to walk and are forced to rely on deliveries, driving up the cost of water. This forces many lower-income families to go without. Outside the metropolitan areas, water wells are not reliable either. During the conflict, armed groups destroyed the wells of many communities, hoping to defeat them. Now that the fighting is over, these wells remain destroyed, and even if they are within walking distance, people may not have access.
  2. Having to travel long distances to obtain clean drinking water also creates health and safety concerns for women and children in South Sudan. Walking long distances every day to access water increases the risk of severe dehydration as well as violence and kidnappings.
  3. The conflict has also displaced more than two million people, driving them into other countries or away from their available water sources. People settled in rural areas are heading to the cities, putting further pressure on already strained water sources and worsening the water crisis in South Sudan.
  4. According to data from 2016, one in three people use contaminated water daily. This water may come from the Nile or from swamp areas, both of which present immense risks of bacterial infections. When the choices are either to be thirsty or drink dirty water, people have to choose the water. As a result of the contaminated water, there were 20,000 reported cases of cholera in South Sudan between June 2016 and the start of 2018.
  5. Most water in South Sudan is not put towards domestic use. 97 percent goes to the agricultural industry, and in these strenuous times, a lack of water presents challenges for their main industry. 80 percent of the South Sudanese support themselves through farming, and without enough water to grow crops, their nutrition and economy suffer.
  6. A total of 871 million dollars has been given to South Sudan so far, but this only meets half of the goal to solve the crisis. Still, significant work is being done by humanitarian organizations, including Oxfam, which is working on the ground to improve access to clean drinking water. Its goal is to make long-lasting, sustainable changes to how water is accessed in order to end the water crisis in South Sudan.

While there is still progress to be made, there have been decreases in the percentage of people without drinkable water, especially in urban areas. Moving forward, as clean water reaches more remote areas, water accessibility in South Sudan will become more stable, greatly improving livelihoods.

Anna Sarah Langlois
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS Treatment in eSwatini
eSwatini (also known as Swaziland) is a small country located in southern Africa. Although eSwatini only has a population of 1.367 million, the country currently has the highest rate of HIV in the world. Still, major progress has been made to tackle HIV/AIDS in eSwatini, particularly in the past decade.

HIV/AIDS Treatment in eSwatini: Successes

The government has made a commitment to tackle HIV/AIDS in eSwatini, most notably via its 90-90-90 targets that the country aimed to achieve by the year 2020. The goal is to have 90 percent of people who are living with HIV know their status; 90 percent of people who know their status should be receiving treatment and 90 percent of people who are on treatment will have “suppressed viral loads.”

According to 2018 UNAIDS data, the country has already achieved these targets and then some. In 2018, 92 percent of people with the virus knew their HIV-positive status; out of these people, 93 percent were on HIV treatment and out of those people on treatment 94 percent were virally suppressed. eSwatini has worked with PEPFAR and other partners to seriously tackle the HIV/AIDS epidemic since 2011, saving countless lives and contributing to a more sustainable outlook for the future.

Increased Access to Testing and HIV/AIDS Treatment in eSwatini

Campaigns such as the 90-90-90 targets were alsoachieved thanks to the efforts made to increase the number of people getting tested for HIV/AIDS. In the year 2009, only 16 percent of the population had been tested for HIV or knew their status. By 2014 this had increased to 66 percent of women and 54 percent of men as the government launched initiatives to make testing more accessible. For instance, by 2014, 83 percent of health facilities provided HIV testing. The government also launched a self-testing pilot program in 2015, making it possible for people to test for HIV in the comfort of their homes. The goal of the pilot scheme is to address the stigma associated with getting tested as well as circumvent other barriers such as long wait times at clinics and inconvenient clinic hours.

Although the public sector started providing antiretroviral therapy in November 2003, the country has since stepped up its efforts in order to ensure this treatment reaches those who need it. As of 2014, eSwatini implemented the World Health Organization guidelines, enabling anyone who is HIV positive to gain access to treatment.

HIV/AIDS is Still An Epidemic

Today, 27.3 percent of people aged 15-49 live with HIV currently and HIV/AIDS is still the number one cause of death in eSwatini which means more work still needs to be done to tackle the epidemic going forward. HIV/AIDS mortality coupled with widespread poverty contributes to low life expectancy rates in eSwatini. As of 2018, life expectancy for women stood at 61 years old and 54 years old for men.

Lack of education continues to be a major obstacle in combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic in eSwatini. In a study done by the Cultural Statistical Office in 2014, only 49.1 percent of young women and 50.9 percent of young men were able to identify ways to prevent HIV transmission.

The cultural stigma attached to the virus is another factor that impedes the proper prevention and treatment of AIDS. More than 63 percent of the population does not hold accepting views towards people who are HIV positive. This accompanied with the lack of education on the subject leads to fewer people getting tested for HIV or seeking treatment due to a fear of being judged and discriminated against.

Frontline AIDS Focuses on Spreading Awareness

Frontline AIDS is an NGO focused on addressing the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS. The organization also provides care for at-risk populations including young people and sex workers. This work includes programs such as the Resilient and Empowered Adolescents and Young People program. This initiative aims to reach 30,000 young people living with HIV in eSwatini, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe by incorporating home and clinic visits to provide treatment as well as counseling.

As of 2019, Frontline AIDS has helped thousands of people living with HIV. The organization has provided 30,690 people with access to prevention activities and more than 31,000 people have accessed Frontline AIDS’ HIV treatment services.

Overall during the last 10 years, there have been major strides in terms of HIV/AIDS treatment in eSwatini. Despite this progress, there is still much room for improvement. In order to increase the prevention of HIV and AIDS within Eswatini, there needs to be a shift in the social and cultural views of this disease. The current discriminatory views that a large portion of the population still hold in regard to people who are HIV positive leads to fewer people seeking testing or treatment. However, groups like Frontline AIDS and others are working to help put an end to this epidemic.

– James Turner
Photo: Flickr

Technology in Kenya

In recent years, a focus on technology crept through cables and bloomed within the country of Kenya. Mobile phones, an item sought after in developed countries, conveys a deeper significance for Kenyan citizens, establishing digital communities and managing the majority of payments. Other programs have been created in Kenya, focusing on artificial intelligence and information technology and communication.

AI Kenya & Artificial Intelligence

Devoted to the learning of artificial intelligence, AI Kenya acts as a growing community of data science practitioners, government officials and enthusiasts. The organization provides “tracks” regarding coding and machines, claiming whether “you’ve just learned to code or you’re a seasoned machine learning practitioner,” information will be provided, free to learn.

AI Kenya’s tracks are lessons, introductions and resources that aid the visitor on the path to digital learning. For the introduction to artificial intelligence, Microsoft’s AI Business School and a self-directed online course from Babson College are presented. For an intermediate track, a group of videos reviewing Statistical Machine Learning is listed, provided by Carnegie Melon University.

Across Africa and in various international countries, AI Kenya shares upcoming expos and conferences regarding artificial intelligence and digital technology. Podcasts join the organization’s information as well, spotlighting businesses and research or documenting Code Maktaba, a training event series improving community members on concepts.

VMWare & Information Technology

Besides artificial intelligence, other skills involving learning through technology prove valuable in careers. VMWare, a software company, leads an information technology (IT) academy with a program dubbed “Virtualize Africa.” The company commits to supply students with the technical skills and techniques needed to pursue jobs created by the digital age. They explain that to combat the rapidly changing and advancing technology in Kenya and other countries, skill sets must also be honed.

Strathmore University, located in Nairobi, Kenya, incorporates courses developed by VMWare which cover cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IOT), virtualization and other subjects. Students access online resources as well as in-person lab experiments. In partnership with VMWare, students may earn certifications by the company and chances to work as part of it.

Mobile Transactions

Kenya currently endures a hefty transition from cash to submitting payments with money-transfer systems on mobile phones. 70 percent of the country now use their phones to give money to each other, which is more than any other country. The interest inspires entrepreneurs to take advantage of cell phones and invent creative programs interweaving their technology.

Blogs have arisen, documenting technology in Kenya and how it is attracting others to the country. An environment fostering technological revolution supports the emergence of VMWare and AI Kenya, along with communities such as iHub, a center for creative professionals and influencers, hosting sessions for ideas and competitions.

While leading in mobile rankings, Kenya still wishes to rise up to developed countries with other aspects of technology. Currently, artificial intelligence and IT boast an abundance of programs and organizations. An increasing focus on technology in Kenya and schools also prepares students for the digital age and allows a head-start in the pool of technological revolution. Finally, the technological hub offers untapped sources of economic advantages, allowing companies to spread their programs outwards to the rest of the globe; the research on artificial intelligence allows for a web of further ideas, creating drones and services to aid the economy further.

Daniel Bertetti
Photo: Flickr

Hope for Slums in Kenya

A homeless child is wandering the streets of the largest slum in Africa. The child steals a mango, his meal for the next two days. An angry mob seeks justice and starts beating the hungry child. For some reason, a man saves the child from further punishment by paying for the mango. The man carried on with his day, but that boy’s life was changed forever. His name is Kennedy Odede and he is the founder of the multimillion-dollar nonprofit organization called Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) to create hope for slums in Kenya.

Odede was forced to the streets at the young age of 10 because of poverty and violence in his family. After being saved from the angry mob, Odede met a Catholic priest who helped him go back to school. In addition to school, Odede was working a factory job that paid him only $1 for 10 hours of work. The kindness from strangers in the face of these struggles is what inspired Odede to create Shining Hope for Communities as a way to give back to his hometown and help the urban poor.

SHOFCO started in 2004 with, “passion, 20 cents and a soccer ball.” The grassroots organization works to transform urban slums into communities of hope. They do this in three ways. The first is by providing life-saving services like healthcare and clean water. As a grassroots organization, they also promote collective action, so that the struggling communities can advocate for lasting change. Finally, SHOFCO also works to educate young girls and allow them to be leaders because they are the key to advocating for and maintaining positive change in Kenya and Africa’s slums.

Here are a few ways that SHOFCO has benefited Kibera:

  • Over 500 students received free education from kindergarten to eighth grade
  • SHOFCO created 24 water kiosks that provided low-cost water to over 30,000 Kibera residents
  • The water kiosks served around 300,000 people in the region

The progress SHOFCO has made in Kenya and other African nations are remarkable. Grants and donations are SHOFCO’s main source of funding. They have yet to receive foreign aid, but the possibility of funding from the Kenyan government is looking more likely. SHOFCO could give hope for slums in Kenya and so many other slums in Africa if they received foreign aid. The impact that they have already made is astounding and they can only go up from here. In 2018, SHOFCO had some remarkable achievements:

  • Over 90 percent of students passed their KCPE exam which is an exam given at the end of primary school
  • The average school score on the KCPE was a B+
  • SHOFCO trained almost 1,500 new entrepreneurs

Fifteen years ago a boy who had struggled for most of his life started an organization that would change the lives of thousands. From earning $1 for 10 hours of work, Kennedy Odede used 20 cents of that dollar to create SHOFCO. With his amazing passion and kindness, SHOFCO has given hope for slums in Kenya. Together, Odede and SHOFCO have provided essential services to the poor and empowered young girls and women to create lasting change.

Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr

 

Studying Human Behavior Can Help Eradicate Malaria

Bed nets. Insecticide. Preventative medicine. These are the tools that are most known for fighting malaria—and for good reason. Tactics like these have saved millions of lives. However, when a country manages to eliminate most incidences of malaria, the traditional techniques lose their impact. One group of researchers, realizing the need for new strategies against malaria, decided to not focus on mosquitoes (the traditional tactic) but on humans themselves. Ultimately, studying human behavior can help eradicate malaria by targeting weak spots in preventative plans and providing a clearer implementation of resources. To better understand malaria, its far-reaching impacts and the importance of a new human-centered technique, it is helpful to start from the beginning.

What is Malaria and How Was it Treated in the Past?

Malaria has plagued humans for, quite literally, as long as humanity remembers. The earliest written records  — Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets — describe symptoms characteristic of the disease. Scientists found human remains dating back to 3200 BC with malaria antigens. Ancient scholars called the illness the “king of diseases.” It certainly lives up to the title. It is thousands of years old and it has killed hundreds of millions of people.

Anopheles mosquitoes, most active at dusk and night-time, are responsible for the malaria parasite’s spread. Carried in the insect’s stomach, the parasite enters the human bloodstream through the mosquitoes’ saliva (the same substance that makes bites itch and swell) as they feed.

Humans first exhibit symptoms a week or so after infection. If untreated, the disease quickly becomes serious. Sufferers feel flu-like symptoms, including body aches, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea. Patients can die within 48 hours after they first exhibit symptoms.

In 1820, chemists developed quinine, the first modern pharmacological treatment for malaria. In the 1900s, the men who identified the malaria parasite, demonstrated that mosquitoes were responsible for transmission and developed the mosquito-repelling insecticide DDT all won Nobel Prizes for their respective discoveries. Understanding and preventing malaria were matters of great international importance.

What is Malaria’s Global Presence Today?

Fighting this disease remains a top global priority. Modern preventative measures now include insecticide-treated bed nets (to keeps the nocturnal malaria-carrying mosquitos away) and indoor sprays. Children in high-transmission areas are also eligible for seasonal malaria chemoprevention. Thanks to a surge in global humanitarian attention, the disease’s presence has fallen worldwide. Between 2010 and 2017, malaria incidence decreased by nearly 20 percent and fatalities decreased by nearly 30 percent.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 216 million clinical cases still occurred worldwide in 2016 alone, resulting in 445,000 deaths. The disease causes a massive drain on economies, due to healthcare costs and loss of workforce efficiency. In sub-Saharan Africa, where potent strains of the parasite thrive, those damaging effects are especially notable. Malaria and its effects cost Africa a stunning $12 billion every year and, because people living near unclean water sources and insecure housing are most at risk, malaria disproportionally affects the impoverished. By prohibiting individuals from attending work or school, let alone its potential to kill, malaria perpetuates the cycle of poverty. While reducing prevalence is a key factor, eradication continues to be the ultimate goal. That means the end to malaria’s ill-effects on communities, particularly impoverished ones.

How Studying Human Behavior Can Help Eradicate Malaria

When regions successfully employ traditional tactics, as many have, they find themselves with a new problem. “Lingering cases” is a term used to describe when a region no longer experiences outbreaks, but that the disease still exists locally. In general, eliminating any illness gets harder the fewer instances of it that occur. Tracking the carrier mosquitoes is infeasible, if not impossible. However, researchers in Zanzibar took a new approach – they decided to track humans instead.

In July 2019, the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs published an article in Malaria Journal that details the reasoning behind the new technique. While indoor measures work, people are not necessarily confined to the home at nighttime. One Zanzibari woman remarked in an interview, “When you are outside, you can’t really wear the bed nets, can you?” Existing steps against malaria are not effective outdoors, which makes it nearly impossible to eliminate the last few cases.

Researchers conducted over 60 in-depth interviews and studied routine human movements: between homes, stores, public spaces, religious services and even special events, like weddings. They found many insights. For example, men were at the highest risk for infection because they most often work or socialize outside after dark. There is also a notable population of seasonal workers that come to Zanzibar from Tanzania’s mainland. These individuals rarely own mosquito nets nor insecticides to spray their residences. Better understanding the movements of people vulnerable to malaria, as well as those that find themselves periodically unprotected, is important. That information allows scientists to create better-targeted interventions, including community support programs, outdoor areas with preventative measures, and basic indoor resources for those without.

Small scale use of these techniques has proven effective, and the researchers behind this investigation believe they could be scaled up successfully. Best of all, 26 other countries have similarly low rates of malaria incidence. If Zanzibar, a high-transmission area for the parasite, could push back against this disease so successfully, other countries could benefit greatly from the same changes.

Conclusion

Malaria, a disease that has lasted for around 5000 years, has never been closer to eradication. The last century has seen a great surge in momentum for fighting this illness. The results are stunning; millions of lives saved, several countries eliminated the disease entirely, and dozens more are nearing that goal. In turn, people have prospered. For every dollar invested in African malaria control, the continent sees 40 dollars in economic growth. Much of that prosperity goes back to impoverished people, who can thrive with less illness and more economic efficiency. Now, researchers are pursuing the “last mile” strategies. Studying human behavior can help eradicate malaria by preventing remote cases. Total eradication and the end of malaria’s drain on the impoverished has never been closer.

– Molly Power
Photo: Wikimedia

Energy Use in Sub-Saharan Africa

Energy demand is estimated to increase by 85 percent in Africa between 2010 and 2040. To compensate for growing infrastructure and population, the cheapest and most environmentally-friendly energy sources are in high demand as well. Countries within sub-Saharan Africa have taken numerous measures to improve affordable living through receiving aid and implementing programs to promote efficient energy use. However, challenges hinder the implementation of efficient energy use in these countries. For example, the trained workforce that could take on massive energy projects is very small. There is also very minimal awareness of the benefits of efficient energy use so many people prefer to stick to traditional sources. Governments and global organizations are combating these challenges as they work to advance energy efficiency and indirectly reduce poverty and over-spending in sub-Saharan Africa.

Energy Efficiency in Emerging Economies Training Week

The International Energy Agency and the Department of Energy of South Africa hosted the very first Energy Efficiency in Emerging Economies (E4) Training Week for sub-Saharan Africa in Pretoria, South Africa from Oct. 14 to Oct. 17, 2019. The objective of the training was to educate junior policymakers from all over sub-Saharan Africa to model future politicians into environmental activists. The week included courses on the ability of energy-efficient sources to reduce extra expenses and, therefore, improve living conditions. The courses taught participants about energy efficiency policy in buildings, appliances, equipment, industry, cities and indicators and evaluation. E4 Training Week also made a key point to encourage women to apply for the program.

Numerous organizations supported the E4 Training Week, including Global Environment Fund (GEF), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), East African Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (EACREEE) and SADC Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE).

The Domestic Energy and Rural Access to Basic Sources Project

The World Bank’s Domestic Energy and Rural Access to Basic Sources Project (PEDASB) worked to install a 52-kilowatt plant in Zantiébougou, south of Bamako in the Sikasso region. The plant has provided electricity to 765 people and allows women to carry out other economic activities and trades as they are no longer concerned about gathering fuel, such as wood. PEDASB also implemented a hybrid electricity system that combines solar photovoltaic and diesel power in Niena. The system improved the quality of health care in local clinics and increased school performance in students. This energy sector as a whole is contributing to the economy of sub-Saharan Africa and increasing the wealth of its people.

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Ethiopia’s government is taking the initiative to improve efficient energy use. Through a collaboration with the World Bank Project, the Ethiopian government introduced compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), which help rural families save money. 80 fewer megawatts of electricity is used by distributing 2.5 million CFL bulbs, which quantifies as $100 million saved. Through a $4 million investment, 5 million CFL bulbs were distributed all over the country. Households under the poverty line were able to reduce their energy usage by 55 percent which significantly cut utility costs for families. Beyond lightbulbs, 2.5 million efficient cookstoves were distributed in Ethiopia, reducing 40 to 60 percent of wood fuel. This not only helps the environment but also boosts families’ lifestyles all over the country.

The Electrify Africa Act

In 2016, President Barack Obama signed the Electrify Africa Act (S.2152) into law. The Electrify Africa Act ensures that the Obama Administration’s Power Africa initiative remains in effect, providing millions of sub-Saharan Africans with access to electricity which in turn, increases economic growth and development.

So far, the Electrify Africa Act is a great success. As of January 2019, Power Africa, with the support of the Electrify Africa Act, achieved the following results in sub-Saharan Africa:

  • 20.5 billion invested in Power Africa transactions
  • 58,552,435 beneficiaries gaining access to electricity
  • 10,095 megawatts (MW) reaching financial close
  • 2,652 MW moved from financial close to operation

In conclusion, sub-Saharan countries are breaking the cycle of poverty through creatively implementing efficient energy sources. From educating young policymakers to governments distributing free equipment and implementing laws, numerous countries are able to benefit from efficient energy use in sub-Saharan Africa.

Haarika Gurivireddygari
Photo: Flickr

 

Eliminating HIV In Kenya

The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa affects adolescent girls more than any other group within the population. As a public health response, a new approach for the elimination of HIV in Kenya emerged which addresses the gender and economic inequality that aid in spreading the disease. This new approach is related to female empowerment eliminating HIV in Kenya with new effective methods.

Health Care System in Kenya

Kenya is home to the world’s third-largest HIV epidemic. Kenya’s diverse population of 39 million encompasses an estimate of 42 ethnic tribes, with most people living in urban areas. Research shows that about 1.5 million, or 7.1 percent of Kenya’s population live with HIV. The first reported cases of the disease in Kenya were reported by the World Health Organization between 1983 to 1985. During that time, many global health organizations increased their efforts to spread awareness about prevention methods for the disease and gave antiretroviral therapy (ART) to those who were already infected with the disease. In the 1990s, the rise of the HIV infected population in Kenya had risen to 100,000 which led to the development of the National AIDS Control Council. The elimination of HIV in Kenya then became a priority for every global health organization.

The health care system in Kenya is a referral system of hospitals, health clinics, and dispensaries that extends from Nairobi to rural areas. There are only about 7,000 physicians in total that work within the public and private sector of Kenya’s health care system. As the population increases and the HIV epidemic intensifies, it creates more strenuous conditions for most of the population in Kenya to get the healthcare they desperately need. It is estimated that more than 53 percent of people living with HIV in Kenya are uninformed of their HIV status.

In addition, HIV disproportionately affects women and young people. After an initiative implemented by UNAIDS in 2013 to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV through increased access to sex education and contraceptives, significantly fewer children are born with HIV. Today, 61 percent of children with HIV are receiving treatment. However, the young women (ages 15-24) in Kenya are still twice as likely to be infected with HIV as men their age. Overall HIV rates are continuing to decrease for other groups within the population, but studies show that 74 percent of new HIV cases in Kenya continue to be adolescent girls.

Female Empowerment Eliminating HIV in Kenya

Women’s empowerment is an overarching theme for the reasons that HIV is heavily impacting the young women in Kenya. A woman’s security in the idea that she is able to dictate personal choices for herself has the ability to hinder or help her well-being.
Female empowerment eliminating HIV in Kenya uses these four common conditions to eliminate HIV:

  1. Health Information – Many girls in Kenya lack adequate information and services about sexual and reproductive health. Some health services even require an age of consent, which only perpetuates the stigma towards sexual rights. Also, the few health services available are out of reach for poor girls in urban areas.
  2. Education – A lack of secondary education for young women and girls in Kenya often means that they are unaware of modern contraceptives. A girl that does not receive a secondary education is twice as likely to get HIV. To ensure that adolescent girls have access to sexuality education, the 2013 Ministerial Commitment on Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Eastern and Southern Africa guaranteed that African leaders will commit to these specific needs for young people.
  3. Intimate partner violence –  Countless young women and girls have reported domestic and sexual violence that led to them contracting HIV. Something as simple as trying to negotiate contraceptive use with their partners often prompts a violent response. There has been an increased effort to erase the social acceptability of violence in many Kenyan communities. An organization called, The Raising Voices of SASA! consists of over 25 organizations in sub-Saharan Africa that work to prevent violence against women and HIV.
  4. Societal norms – Some communities in Kenya still practice the tradition of arranged marriages, and often at very young ages for girls. The marriages usually result in early pregnancy and without proper sex education, women and babies are being infected with HIV at a higher rate. In 2014, the African Union Commission accelerated the end to child marriages by setting up a 2-year campaign in 10 African Countries to advocate for Law against child marriages. Research suggests that eliminating child marriages would decrease HIV cases, along with domestic violence, premature pregnancies by over 50 percent.

Young women in Kenya face various obstacles in order to live a healthy life, and poverty acts as a comprehensive factor. Studies show that a lack of limited job opportunities leads to an increase in high-risk behavior. Transactional sex becomes increasingly common for women under these conditions, while they also become more at risk for sexual violence. An estimated 29.3 percent of female sex workers in Kenya live with HIV.

Solution

The most practical solution to tackling the elimination of HIV in Kenya combines HIV prevention with economic empowerment for young girls. The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is an organization that has worked hard at implementing strategies, and interventions across Africa that highlight women’s access to job opportunities and education. In 10 different countries in Africa (including Kenya), young women can attend interventions in which they learn about small business loans, vocational training and entrepreneurship training. One way that more women in Kenya are able to gain control over their financial resources is by receiving village saving loans. To participate in village saving loans it requires a group of 20-30 to make deposits into a group fund each week. Women within these groups can access small loans, which enables them to increase their financial skills while gaining economic independence. The Global Fund to fight AIDS has cultivated a space for numerous empowerment groups for young women out of school called the RISE Young Women Club. The young women in these clubs often live in poverty and receive HIV testing as well as sexual health education.

Overall, the global health programs that aid in the elimination of HIV in Kenya are continuously improving their strategies by including young women in poverty. The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Kenya steadily sees progress thanks to the collective efforts of programs that empower young women.

– Nia Coleman
Photo: Flickr

Economic Growth in Nigeria
Nigeria, a country located on the western coast of Africa, makes up to 47 percent of the population of Africa. With the rising amount of people surrounding the area, there has been a vast amount of poverty overtaking the country. Recently, the economic growth of Nigeria has risen due to many factors such as its production of oil. However, no matter how much the economy grows, poverty continues to rise as well due to the inequality between the poor and rich.

Economic Growth

In 2018, the oil and gas sector allowed the economic growth in Nigeria to grow 1.9 percent higher than the previous year when it only grew to 0.8 percent. Although that is where more of the growth is, the oil sector does not have physical bodies working to ensure that the industry continues to grow. This leaves no growth in the stock of jobs, leaving the unemployment rate to rise to 2.7 percent since the end of 2017. Many hope that the new Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) will promote economic resilience and strengthen growth.

ERGP

ERGP projects that there will a growth rate of 4.5 percent in 2019, but within the first quarter, there was only a growth of 2.01 percent. Charles Robertson, the global head of the research at Renaissance Captial, believes that ERGP’s 4.5 percent target was not unrealistic, especially since Nigeria was unable to meet those projections. Because most of the country’s economic growth comes from oil, there have not been many other non-oil jobs that have made a lot of profit.

The plan not only focuses on the rate of economic growth but also makes predictions that the unemployment rate will decrease to 12.9 percent. With the lack of available jobs, there has been little to no change in this rate as well. Many of the individuals that do have jobs, however, are earning up to $1.25 or less per day, which is not enough to pay for one household.

Inequality

As the economic growth in Nigeria grows, so does the gap between the poor and the rich. With the poor as the bottom 23 percent, the gap between the two has widened to 16 percent. A lot of the high-paying jobs are looking for people that have received high-quality degrees. If one does not have the money to pay for a good education, then they automatically miss out on the job opportunities that are out there. This means, that the children that come from rich families are the only ones that will be able to get the best jobs in the market.

The current government has been running a cash transfer program that provides 5,000 nairas to each household per month, which is approximately $14. This amount is not enough to relieve any household expenses because “less than 1 percent of poor people are benefiting.” Without any increase in money for each household, one cannot do much to decrease poverty.

Although there is economic growth in Nigeria, poverty is still on the rise. Many countries have faced this problem with trying to break the balance between the two and found it has not helped to decrease poverty as much. Hopefully, as the ERGP continues, it will help make changes.

Emilia Rivera
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Côte d'Ivoire
Côte d’Ivoire, or the Ivory Coast, is a West African country with one of the fastest-growing economies in the continent. However, its life expectancy at birth is one of the lowest in the world. Here are seven facts about life expectancy in Côte d’Ivoire.

7 Facts About life Expectancy in Côte d’Ivoire.

  1. According to the CIA World Factbook, Côte d’Ivoire’s life expectancy at birth is 60.1 years. Out of the 223 countries measured, Côte d’Ivoire ranks 209. This is 30 spots lower than its GDP per capita ranking.
  2. One of the main causes of Côte d’Ivoire’s low life expectancy is its alarmingly high infant-mortality rate. An estimated one out of every 16 babies born in Côte d’Ivoire dies, making it the number one cause of death in Côte d’Ivoire. This is the 14th highest rate in the world, but over the last 20 years, there has been a considerable improvement. According to Niale Kaba, Côte d’Ivoire’s planning and development minister, the country’s infant mortality rate has fallen from “112 for every 1,000 births in 1998 to 60 per 1,000 in 2016.”
  3. Côte d’Ivoire’s life expectancy is also being suppressed by its high birth rate and lack of quality health care for both newborns and mothers. The average age of a mother’s first birth in the Ivory Coast is roughly 19 years old and each woman will bear almost four children, on average. However, only 59 percent of births are overseen by a skilled birth attendant. The young age of mothers and the lack of health professionals guiding them through their pregnancies contribute to the Ivory Coast’s ranking of 12th highest maternal mortality rate in the world.
  4. A considerable lack of accessible sanitation facilities and clean water makes much of the Ivory Coast’s population susceptible to disease. Around half of the schools in Côte d’Ivoire do not have toilets or water, forcing students to walk up to a kilometer just for clean water. Additionally, 60 percent of families do not have the means to regularly wash their hands with soap and water. These dangerous conditions increase the likelihood of death from preventable diarrheal diseases, which are the sixth deadliest condition in Côte d’Ivoire.
  5. Alarmingly, 24,000 people die from HIV/AIDS in Côte d’Ivoire each year, the 10th highest rate in the world. While it no longer causes the most deaths in the Ivory Coast, every day five teenagers are infected with HIV/AIDS. Modern scientific treatments like antiretroviral therapy have been remarkably successful at combating this crisis, but less than 30 percent of HIV-positive children in Côte d’Ivoire are receiving the medication they need to survive. The lack of health care for these children is one of the main drags on the country’s life expectancy, with more than 50 percent of HIV-positive children not on medication dying before the age of 2.
  6. Education is one of the main drivers of increased life expectancy. Unfortunately, only 65 percent of Ivorian children are completing primary school. Additionally, less than half of the country is literate mostly due to prohibitive fees associated with schooling which excludes poor families. This lack of education severely limits the economic opportunities for the entire country. Experts agree that improving education in Côte d’Ivoire would increase the number of skilled laborers and lead to higher wages, a better quality of life and improved life expectancy. The International Cocoa Initiative has worked with over 600 communities to help get more children out of the fields and into school. They have seen a remarkable 20 percent increase in school participation rates, showing that there is hope for the future generations of Ivorians.
  7. UNICEF has been crucial in helping the people of Côte d’Ivoire, funding numerous programs that have produced a substantial quality of life improvements. Whether it be offering HIV/AIDS testing, providing community wells or helping children escape dangerous working conditions, UNICEF is making a difference throughout the Ivory Coast. Groups like Action Against Hunger have followed in UNICEF’s footsteps, partnering with Côte d’Ivoire’s government to help run 12 community health establishments and providing 29,900 families with access to clean water.

While these seven facts about life expectancy in Côte d’Ivoire can be hard to grapple with, there is evidence that conditions are getting better. Improving access to education, medicine, healthcare and many other necessities will undoubtedly help pull millions of Ivorians out of poverty. With help from the international community, 20 years from now an article titled 10 facts about life expectancy in Côte d’Ivoire might not look so glum.

– Myles McBride Roach
Photo: Flickr