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Causes of Poverty in Swaziland
As 63 percent of Swazis continue to live below the national poverty line, it is clear that there is an urgent call for change. While the causes of poverty in Swaziland are many, gender inequality serves as one of the primary factors — an issue that needs to be addressed in order to aid in poverty reduction efforts throughout the nation.

Among the many causes of poverty in Swaziland, a lack of effective health care is one of the largest concerns. The nation holds the highest rate of HIV prevalence in the world, with 28.8 percent of the adult population living with this life-threatening disease.

As the key driving factors of Swaziland’s HIV epidemic include low and inconsistent condom use, transactional sex, gender inequalities and gender based violence, it is clear that the cycle of poverty supported by this disease disproportionately affects women.

With 120,000 of the 220,000 people living with HIV in Swaziland being women, studies reveal that 31 percent of all women within the country live with HIV, while only 20 percent of men are affected.

Many driving factors contribute to women’s increased risk of contracting HIV, including a lack of access to proper reproductive education and health care. While 14 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 24 have been involved in intergenerational sex with older men, their adolescent age and lack of reproductive education cause them to be at more of a risk to the spread of the disease, often without their knowledge.

According to AVERT, one in three women in Swaziland also report experiencing some form of sexual abuse by the time they were 18. These and other significant gender disparities have ranked Swaziland 137 out of 159 countries in the Gender Inequality Index.

The inequalities women face in Swaziland not only leave them in a more vulnerable position to disease but also serve as the major causes of poverty in Swaziland. As women are the primary caretakers and providers for children worldwide, those disadvantages that women face create a ripple effect of a detriment for the next generation as well.

For every 100,000 live births in Swaziland, 389 women die from pregnancy-related causes, leaving 24 percent of children aged zero to 17 as orphans and 45 percent as either orphans or vulnerable.

These high maternal mortality rates reveal the reality that women’s disproportionate access to health care in Swaziland serves as one of the direct causes of poverty in Swaziland, as it not only affects the mother but also leaves almost half of Swaziland’s adolescent population at an increased risk for poverty.

Through analyzing the direct effects of gender inequality on the next generation’s vulnerability to the cycle of poverty, it is clear that a greater focus needs to be placed on addressing gender disparities within the nation — especially those of female’s access to education and reproductive health care — so as to encourage a significant drop in the poverty rates in Swaziland.

Kendra Richardson

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in Tanzania

Gender inequality, limited access to safe water, lack of sanitation, poor hygiene and a recent drop in immunization are major issues Tanzanian citizens face in urban and rural areas of the country. These factors have contributed to the rampant spread of three common diseases in Tanzania: HIV and AIDS, cholera and malaria.

The most common disease affecting the Tanzanian populace is HIV and AIDS. HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, the body’s natural defense against disease. The immune system is destroyed when left untreated and the person cannot recover from infections, big or small. At this stage, the person has AIDS.

According to the World Factbook, in 2015, almost 1.4 million people in Tanzania were living with AIDS. This is the most recent estimate. Also reported by the same source, Tanzania ranks sixth in comparison to the rest of the world with the number of its citizens living with the disease.

HIV is the main source of adult mortality in the country. The World Factbook states that in 2015 an estimated 35,700 Tanzanian adults died from the disease, placing the country in fourth place in comparison to the rest of the world.

According to the charity organization, AVERT, the populations most affected by HIV in Tanzania are people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, mobile populations and sex workers. Of all HIV infections, 80 percent of them result from heterosexual sex. Tanzanian women are infected more than men due to having older partners, getting married earlier and neglecting negotiating skills for safer sex due to gender inequality.

The second of the most common diseases in Tanzania population is cholera. Cholera is a bacterial disease usually spread through contaminated water. Cholera causes severe diarrhea and dehydration. Cholera kills infected persons within hours when left untreated.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), by April 20, 2016 there was a total of 24,108 cases of cholera in Tanzania, including 378 deaths. The majority of the cases were reported from 23 regions in mainland Tanzania (20,961 cases, including 329 deaths). Neighboring Zanzibar islands reported 3,057 cases of the disease, including 51 deaths.

The disease spread quickly due to conducive conditions such as limited access to safe water in poor households, sanitary problems and poor hygiene found in both mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar. In addition, the nation’s water supply institutions lacked the capacity to disinfect water and conduct regular water quality monitoring and assessments.

Recently, there has been a decline in the number of newly reported cases of cholera. However, the conditions that helped the disease to persist still have not changed, so risk for more infections remains high.

The final common disease affecting the Tanzanian population is malaria. Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. Mild symptoms include fever, headache and chills. Severe symptoms include anemia, difficulty breathing due to fluid-filled lungs and cerebral malaria in children. In adults, organ failure is also frequent.

The World Factbook reports malaria is a leading killer of children under five in Tanzania. According to the Malaria Spot website, Tanzania has the third-largest population at risk of malaria in Africa. Over 90 percent of the population live in areas where there is malaria. Each year, 10 to 12 million people contract malaria and 80,000 die from the disease, most of them children. There is no vaccine for malaria. This fact contributes to why the disease continues to be a threat for Tanzanians.

Common diseases in Tanzania are prevalent because the geographical and economic conditions of the country favor their spread. While HIV and AIDS, cholera and malaria have been a threat to the population there has been positive strides. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been working with the government of the United Republic of Tanzania and more than 60 partner organizations since 2001 to address HIV, malaria, and other health threats by helping support service delivery and strengthen health systems and infrastructure. The CDC partnership has seen success, including:

  • 637,875 people are currently receiving HIV treatment
  • 74,430 pregnant women have received medication to reduce transmission to their babies through PEPFAR (The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) since 2010
  • 1,155,833 men have been circumcised to prevent new HIV infections since 2010
  • New malaria infections have decreased from 18 percent to 10 percent in children 6-59 months in 2011-2012

With continued aid and improvement in living conditions for the Tanzanian people, common diseases in Tanzania will no longer remain common.

Jeanine Thomas

Photo: Flickr

AVERT Averting HIV & AIDsFor far too long, HIV and AIDS have been a detrimental part of our world. However, with organizations like AVERT that have been at the forefront of the HIV response, there is some hope that this epidemic can be controlled and lives can be saved.

Since 1986, AVERT’s aim has been to “share knowledge, empower people to protect themselves and others from infection, reduce stigma and improve HIV programs globally.”

What makes AVERT’s efforts deserving of recognition is that they are able to reach thousands of people across the world every day — and their partnerships work to ensure that the lives most in need are the ones changed. The organization works particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, a region whose  history shows limitations in promulgating policies, initiatives and laws.

AVERT’s most important initiative is its role in promoting education as power and using this tool as a way to reduce new infections. By working with community-based organizations, AVERT helps to build the local response to HIV and AIDS in some of the most affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

In tackling HIV and AIDS, some of the organizations AVERT collaborates with will include the Umunthu Foundation in Malawi, Sisonke in South Africa, Phelisanang Bophelong in Lesotho and the Bwafwano Integrated Services Organisation in Zambia. Furthermore, AVERT’s global website, AVERT.org, provides a wealth of information for people looking to protect themselves from HIV and to spread awareness of the vital work currently in progress in the field.

The website “supports the global HIV response by providing a well-researched resource on the global epidemic.” With 12 million visitors viewing their website in 2015, 69,500 people receiving HIV tests since 2010 and 20 rural communities receiving support to build networks of elderly carers, AVERT is surely making a dent in battling HIV and AIDS.

With campaigns such as Stand Up to HIV, AVERT is able to highlight the impact of the HIV stigma on one’s health and also aims to empower people to test for HIV. Their animation “Why am I so scared of HIV?” creates a platform for their messages about HIV and AIDS to be shared across the globe. This important initiative has the power to raise awareness and enlighten the masses.

The organization especially touches the lives of the illiterate in impoverished areas, by educating them on the importance of staying protected and protocols to avoid the progression from HIV to AIDS. AVERT is steadily working to ensure that HIV is no longer a death sentence.

The improvements made in battling the HIV and AIDS epidemic have increased tremendously thanks to organizations like AVERT. As the Executive Director of UNAIDS stated in 2011, “a few years ago, we could only dream of a day when there would be zero infections and deaths caused my HIV and AIDS…but today we know we can make it happen.” Today, there is hope because of organizations like AVERT.

Vanessa Awanyo

Sources: AVERT, UN
Photo: Flickr