Posts

Africa Medical Supplies Platform
African countries have a new tool in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic: an online marketplace for medical supplies. The site makes COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment more accessible. On June 18, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa introduced the Africa Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), describing it as the “glue that is going to bind the continent together.” The World Health Organization reported that, by July, there had been more than 380,000 COVID-19 cases and 9,500 deaths in Africa. AMSP, a non-profit initiative, aims to help save lives while saving African countries billions of dollars.

Fighting COVID-19 by Connecting the Continent

The African Union, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African Export-Import Bank and ECA, along with other organizations, collaborated to create Africa Medical Supplies Platform. The online marketplace works much like eBay and Amazon, enabling African Union Member States to access COVID-19 medical supplies efficiently. N95 masks, hand sanitizer, ventilators, surgical gloves, face shields, surgical masks, thermometers, oxygen concentrators, isolation gowns and diagnostic test kits are all available for purchase. The website also prioritizes products that are made in Africa. If healthcare providers want to obtain PPE or medical equipment, AMSP will connect them to reliable suppliers as well.

AMSP suppliers are reputable, and the procurement of medical supplies will be transparent and equitable. AMSP also allows African countries to better contain COVID-19 without competing with stronger health systems around the world. Additionally, South African Airways and Ethiopian Airways have committed to ensuring that supplies will be delivered expediently.

On July 17, African Union special envoy Strive Masiyiwa announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will support efforts to provide dexamethasone to Africa. The drug functions to treat severely ill COVID-19 patients in the United States and Europe. In Africa, dexamethasone will aid in the treatment of roughly one million people. Furthermore, the MasterCard Foundation has provided the African CDC with $15 million to purchase PCR tests through the platform. After African Union Member States register on the Africa Medical Supplies Platform, they will be able to access these medical supplies.

AMSP’s Potential Impact on Mass Testing

The ability to obtain and utilize a large number of COVID-19 test kits is a key component of containing COVID-19. Increased testing allows countries to better understand which precautions are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, many African countries lack sufficient resources to administer mass testing. Commercial tests can be expensive and therefore difficult to distribute widely in lower-income countries.

According to Masiyiwa, about 0.17% of people in Africa had been tested for COVID-19 as of June. This rate is notable, especially in comparison to 3.16% in the United Kingdom and 4.41% in the United States. Mass testing can protect health workers and provides information about the groups most vulnerable to the virus. It can also help show whether lockdown measures and social distancing are effective. Masiyiwa attributes the African continent’s low testing rates to global shortages of test kits. AMSP was created in part to address this issue.

Lockdowns, another aspect of COVID-19 containment, are also harming African countries economically. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) estimates that the continent loses about $65 billion every month as a result of stay-at-home measures. Vera Songwe, executive secretary of the ECA, has stated that Africa Medical Supplies Platform “could save [Africa] $40 billion” because it allows for increased testing, which could reduce the need for strict lockdown rules. Less strict lockdown rules would also allow some people to go back to work and earn an income.

AMSP Helps Contain COVID-19 and Works Against Poverty

According to a recent AMSP press release, demand for medical equipment has been high since the Africa Medical Supplies Platform was launched in June. “Member States of the African Union, leading international non-governmental organizations as well as international and African foundations” have all used AMSP. This platform is helping African countries contain COVID-19 and boost their economies. It will also supply the COVID-19 vaccine, once available.

The World Bank estimates that the coronavirus pandemic will push 71 million people into extreme poverty, and people in India and Sub-Saharan Africa will be most affected. By helping combat the spread of COVID-19 and allowing health systems to function at lower costs, AMSP can also reduce the pandemic’s negative impact on individuals and prevent people across Africa from falling into extreme poverty.

Rachel Powell
Photo: Flickr

fighting covid-19 with innovationSince the first diagnosis of COVID-19, the virus has spread to more than 200 countries. The unanticipated challenges of the pandemic take a significant toll on people, especially those in countries where the accessibility of essential resources and healthcare are limited. Despite this fact, nations around the world have demonstrated their resilience and critical thinking during this calamitous time. COVID-19 has revealed negligence in economic and healthcare systems all over the world, but it has also inspired innovation in science and technology. It is clear that humanity looks to overcome these difficulties and build the world into a better place. Here are four countries that are fighting COVID-19 with innovation.

4 Countries Fighting COVID-19 with Innovation

  1. Iran is developing a low-cost, easy-to-build ventilator. It is being developed at the University of Tehran’s School of Electrical & Computer Engineering. The ventilator is for patients with severe respiratory distress. Hospitals around the world have been experiencing a shortage of ventilators due to their elaborate structure and high production cost, which inhibits quick, large-scale manufacturing of the machines. The lead scientist of this endeavor, Hadi Moradi, has made this an open-source ventilator. He plans to share his team’s design with other scientists so that they can modify and build ventilators for their own communities.
  2. In Uganda, Grace Nakibaala created the PedalTap. It is an affordable, foot-operated water dispensing device that reduces the spread of infectious diseases. In Uganda, people have a 60% chance of contracting an infectious disease if they wash their hands in a public sink because the handles can be unsanitary. Nakibaala’s device works hands-free so that people can avoid contact with viruses and bacteria, including COVID-19. It is also water-efficient, retrofittable and durable, making it a sustainable technology among those fighting COVID-19 with innovation.
  3. Australia has recently launched a contact-tracing app called COVIDSafe. The app uses Bluetooth technology to find other devices with the app installed. It measures how far users are from each other and how much time they spend together. COVIDSafe keeps users’ contact information for three weeks before deleting it, to account for the two-week incubation period of the virus. Users diagnosed with the virus may upload their close contact information. This allows health officials to look up others who are diagnosed, find the COVIDSafe users they have come into contact with and instruct them on what to do.
  4. In China, patients at a Beijing hospital are receiving mesenchymal stem cell injections. These injections are helpful for regenerating lung tissue, allowing patients to fend off COVID-19. So far, researchers reported the results of seven patients treated with stem cells. Each patient suffered from COVID-19 symptoms, and each received a single infusion of mesenchymal stem cells. A few days later, researchers said that symptoms disappeared in all seven patients and that there were no reported side effects. Currently, 120 patients are receiving stem cell treatment, and while more clinical testing is necessary to validate these trials, the results look promising.

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on healthcare and political systems worldwide. However, these four nations have demonstrated that they can productively conquer the challenges that the virus brings. Along with these four, other nations worldwide are responding to these unprecedented issues in novel and innovative ways, fighting COVID-19 with innovation and redefining healthcare for generations to come.

Sarah Uddin
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in BelarusLocated between Poland and Russia, Belarus was part of the Soviet Union before becoming known as the “last dictatorship of Europe.” After the fall of the USSR, Belarus began a long transition, switching its economic structure from a command economy to a more strict market economy. Alexander Lukashenko became the first president in 1994, and he is still in office today. In 2020, Belarus scored poorly on the World Press Freedom Index, ranking 153 out of 180 other countries. Despite the need to improve some of its sectors, poverty and hunger in Belarus are not significant issues.

The State of Hunger in Belarus

Belarus has a global hunger index rating of five. Countries with rates of less than nine have a low risk of hunger problems. Since Belarus’s government subsidizes agriculture, the production of food remains steady, constituting 6.4% of its GDP. Along with low hunger in Belarus, the unemployment rate went from 1% in 2016 to 0.3% in 2019. Poverty likewise remains low, at a 5% rate. As such, Belarus is progressing in development. The United Nations rated the country to have “very high development,” putting it in 50th place out of 189 nations.

Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues worldwide, officials expect unemployment rates to rise to 2.3% in Belarus. The pandemic may cause more residents to lack the means to obtain food. So far, the government has not implemented any measures to help people with job loss during the pandemic. Cases began rising in mid-April, and the World Health Organization worries that the government is not doing enough. If not handled properly, the unemployment rates may continue to rise into 2021. Belarus’s government, while not having a strict plan for job loss, has supplied food to residents by issuing a decree to offer free assistance. Government officials have also not yet spoken about any plans to offer monetary assistance to residents that must leave work because of the pandemic.

Future of Hunger in Belarus

Despite the pandemic, Belarus can expect a continued low hunger rate. Though the country is succeeding in improving living conditions, it still is not completely free of poverty. The Belstat statistical committee estimated that one in five Belarusians live in poverty. However, looking into 2021, others predict that unemployment will lower again to 1.8%.

Belarus has significantly less inequality than other EU countries, so there is less of a gap concerning household income between the wealthiest 10% and the poorest 10% of residents. The country has had its difficulties from moving to a command economy to a semi-market economy, but it has also made significant progress. Since Belarus is one of the countries that first created the United Nations, it has been able to advance more of its goals, such as improving the economy and promoting foreign trade. Throughout the years, the country has received aid from various organizations that have helped its rapid development from 2012 to 2016. Belarus may have some problems in dealing with poverty, but it has prospered due to aid from the World Bank, The International Monetary Fund and several programs from the United Nations. This has all helped to reduce the level of hunger that citizens of Belarus face.

Sarah Litchney
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

COVID-19 and the Venezuelan crisisOf all households in Venezuela, 35% depend on financial support from family members working overseas. According to local economic researcher Asdrúbal Oliveros, remittances to Venezuela will suffer a heavy blow as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its severe effect on the global economy. With an estimated $2 billion decrease in remittances, the health of millions of Venezuelans is in serious danger due to the combined effects of COVID-19 and the Venezuelan Crisis.

The World Bank believes the pandemic will cause a 20% decrease in global remittances, the biggest drop in recent years. With 90% of citizens in Venezuela living in poverty, the drastic fall in remittances and oil prices spell trouble for countless people. Furthermore, the unprepared Venezuelan healthcare system has struggled to control the pandemic.

Despite numerous U.N. groups imploring for money-transfer businesses to make international transfers cheaper, Venezuela’s foreign exchange policy and volatile economic system are difficult to reform. “Venezuelan remitters” are instead left using unnecessarily complex methods to send money back home.

The Venezuelan Government Under Nicolás Maduro

In 2019, the Venezuelan government politicized humanitarian aid when it vilified the U.S. government’s foreign aid as the beginning stage of a U.S. invasion. However, the government has finally acknowledged the long-denied humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. President Nicolas Maduro has accepted the deliverance of aid after negotiations with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Subsequently, the United Nations declared it was increasing its efforts to aid Venezuela.

Despite the progress made, politics continue to negatively affect potential aid. According to Miguel Pizarro, a U.N. Representative, the political influence leaves many without fundamental necessities. Pizarro explains, “If you demonstrate and raise your voice and go to the streets, you do not have food, medicine, water or domestic gas.” Pizarro continues, “Eighty percent of Venezuelan households are supplied with gas by the state. If you become active in the political arena, they take away that right.”

Sharp declines in oil value, numerous embargoes globally and negligent economic policy largely caused the humanitarian emergency in Venezuela. Since 2014, the nation’s GDP has fallen by 88%, with overall inflation rates in the millions. A 2019 paper published by economic researchers at the Center for Economic and Policy Research attributed medicine, food and general supply deficits in 2018 to the deaths of at least 40,000. According to findings from the Coalition of Organizations for the Right to Health and Life, a scarcity in medicine puts over 300,000 Venezuelans in peril.

Dr. Julio Castro, director of Doctors for Health in Venezuela, says “People don’t have money to live. I think it’s probably a worst-case scenario for people in Venezuela.” Despite recent increases in aid and medicine from U.N. operations and the IFRC, the Venezuelan struggle persists.

Venezuelan Healthcare Amid COVID-19

Most of the Venezuelan population can only afford to receive aid from public hospitals. These public hospitals often experience persistent deficits in necessary supplies. A study conducted by Doctors for Health indicated that 60% of public facilities frequently face power outages and water shortages.

In response to this, the Venezuelan government authorized $20 million in healthcare aid, which will be administered by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), a territorial agency of the World Health Organization. They will use the capital to develop COVID-19 testing and to obtain personal protective equipment (Ex: masks, gloves, etc).

According to Luis Francisco Cabezas of local healthcare nonprofit Convite, a recent study identified a worrisome struggle. Data indicated that roughly six in 10 people had reported trouble obtaining medication for chronic illnesses. The problem has only worsened since the pandemic.

Local Nonprofits Redirect Efforts Toward Venezuelan Crisis

Numerous nonprofits in the country have responded to COVID-19 and the ongoing Venezuelan crisis by shifting their efforts. A director for Caritas, a Catholic charity, says the ongoing economic disaster compelled his organization to prioritize humanitarian work over its original mission of civil rights advocacy.

Similarly, Robert Patiño leads a nonprofit civil rights group, Mi Convive, which shifted to humanitarian work in 2016. Since its inception, the organization has directed its efforts to child nutrition. Through the group Alimenta La Solidaridad, Mi Convive has opened over 50 community kitchens in Venezuela, feeding over 4,000 kids weekly.

Although the efforts by Venezuelan nonprofits have aided thousands, it is not enough. COVID-19 and the Venezuelan crisis need to be in worldwide focus until the government can reliably provide for its citizens. The work of numerous good samaritans can only reach so many people, and their work is constantly hindered by “Chavistas,” a group of Venezuelans who are loyal to President Nicolas Maduro’s government. Mi Convive’s Robert Patiño claims the radicals have been known to go as far as withholding food boxes from areas where the nonprofit is trying to begin new programs. The humanitarian emergency in Venezuela must be appropriately addressed, for the livelihood of millions of people are at stake.

Carlos Williams
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Honduras
“Shelter in place,” “stay at home” and “safer at home,” are just a few of the phrases the world has repeatedly heard over the past few months during the COVID-19 pandemic. These phrases act as a form of protection during this unprecedented time. However, around the world, not everyone can follow these guidelines because they may not have four walls to call home. During the first month of the virus’ presence in Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras, at least “three dozen informal economy workers” lost their homes. Men, women and children who once had an apartment now sleep in an underpass. In 2018, 48.3% of Honduras lived in poverty.

Background

Unfortunately, an underpass doesn’t shield those living in a city with one of the highest murder rates in the world.” Kids, old people, women sleep here where it’s dangerous…the people on the streets are not animals,” reports an MSN article. San Pedro Sula ranks higher than Tegucigalpa in terms of murders per capita with 47 murders per 100,000 citizens. A large percentage of this violence is a result of gang-related activity. In March of this year, the U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory ranked Honduras at Level 3, warning American citizens to reconsider travel plans to the country due to the high rate of crime. Since the country has a substantially high murder rate, homelessness in Honduras poses a number of threats.

In regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, Honduras’ government has taken steps to aid the country’s citizens. Food and personal-protection equipment has been delivered to around 3.2 million Hondurans. The homeless, however, cannot receive these door-to-door staples because they do not have doors to knock upon. Therefore, the homeless population is swept under the rug, forgotten.

Lack of Resources

Another issue weighs heavily upon the homeless population: a lack of resources. One U.S.-based NGO that is working to abet the homeless situation for the next generation of Hondurans is El Rancho Ebenezer. This Christian-based organization serves as a home for orphaned and homeless children between the ages of birth to 18 who cannot be adopted due to a lack of proper documentation. During the day, the younger children attend a bilingual school onsite while the older children venture out to the neighboring public school. In the afternoon, they return to their home on the ranch where they live with in-house counselors and two mentor parents.

Kimberly Solórzano of El Rancho Ebenezer spoke with The Borgen Project about homelessness in Honduras. In regard to homeless care centers, she said, “Most of the NGOs here are directed towards education, children’s centers, things like that…So as far as homeless adults, there is definitely, absolutely nothing done by the government.” Therefore, the cyclical nature of poverty remains unabated.

Corruption

Within this cycle lies corruption. Across the country, Hondurans find shelter on property that is not their own. These so-called “squatters” build shacks or homes out of anything they can find. Discarded metal, wooden planks and weathered mattresses become a safe haven to squatters. According to Solórzano, urban slum areas are often controlled by gangs or slum lords who have no actual legal authority over the land where squatters reside but charge the squatters a monetary fee in order to reap a substantial profit. With a fragile police force, this type of gang activity often goes unnoticed. If it happens to come across the hands of an officer, the overburdened judicial system most likely will not be able to bring the case to court. As of April 2020, Honduras’ judicial system had 180,000 cases that have yet to be processed, resulting in new cases being virtually impossible to resolve. Sadly, there is little being done to control gang violence, further increasing homelessness in Honduras.

This issue takes its toll in different ways. For mothers who beg and carry their babies on their hips all day, their children do not learn to walk or develop properly. Older kids and teenagers often turn to glue to soothe hunger pains. Young men can find financial stability and familial security in a life of crime. Although homelessness in Honduras looks substantially different for each person, there is one certainty — the United States can help make a difference. This has been made evident through the work of El Rancho Ebenezer and countless NGOs in Honduras with American ties. The stars and stripes continue to show that their resources stretch beyond the American border.

–  Chatham Kennedy
Photo: Flickr


United Parcel Service (UPS) is the world’s largest package delivery company and a global leader in supply chain innovation. The company’s extensive worldwide network makes it a critical link in everyday commerce while providing the necessary infrastructure and expertise to continue operations during crises. Since its establishment, UPS has leveraged its sub-sectors, global partnerships and supply chain intelligence to provide relief for communities across the world in times of need.

The UPS Foundation, the philanthropic arm of UPS, leads the company’s response efforts. The organization donated over $6 million this year to United Nations agencies, humanitarian relief partners, non-profit and international non-governmental organizations.

UPS History of Crisis Prevention

In 2014, an outbreak of the Ebola Virus spread across West Africa, killing 11,325 people. As the second-largest outbreak in history, it highlighted the importance of assembling an efficient system for distributing medical equipment. Later that year, the UPS Foundation joined with Henry Schein, Johnson & Johnson, The World Trade Organization, World Food Program and World Economic Forum to start the Pandemic Supply Chain Network, with the goal of increasing supply chain efficiency. The partnership is a collaboration between public and private sectors that tracks global demand for medical supplies in order to coordinate the allocation and distribution of equipment during large scale public health emergencies.

In 2016, the UPS Foundation partnered with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Rwandan Ministry of Health and Zipline, a drone delivery service providing access to vital medical supplies, to establish the Rwanda Drone Delivery Network. The network is the world’s first drone delivery service whose mission is to provide medicine, vaccines and supplies to remote regions in Rwanda and Ghana. Making basic treatment more accessible is a crucial step toward achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal of universal healthcare coverage, particularly in isolated and underdeveloped areas.

Previously, UPS also joined with the Partnership for Influenza Vaccine Introduction to provide tools and educational resources to healthcare workers about influenza vaccine administration. The organization works with low-income countries to build yearly influenza vaccination programs. These programs provide a strong existing infrastructure for vaccine distribution that can hold up during a pandemic. Through a $50,000 grant, The UPS Foundation funded the vaccination of more than 17,000 individuals in Armenia, Mongolia and Kyrgyzstan, as well as 130,000 health workers in Vietnam.

COVID-19 Response

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, UPS has taken an active role in supporting international recovery efforts. Through various grants and funding, The UPS Foundation has contributed a total of nearly $21 million toward humanitarian causes in 2020. The company hopes to increase the involvement of private-sector companies in relief efforts through partnerships. These partnerships would provide medical equipment, treatment, food and other basic necessities to vulnerable regions.

UPS joined Project Airbridge, a partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and private-sector companies in numerous countries, to expedite the delivery of medical supplies to remote or vulnerable areas. With the help of its existing global supply chain, UPS is operating additional flights between several countries in Asia, Europe and the U.S. to aid in the distribution of personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves, surgical materials, thermometers and test kits.

UPS is also currently working with three COVID-19 vaccine developers and preparing to facilitate an eventual distribution and rollout. Its subsidiaries Polar Speed and Marken are using their storage facilities, designed to handle fragile and temperature-sensitive materials, to assist with holding and logistics.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, innovation and adaptation are critical skills in developing solutions. UPS has been a leader in supply chain logistics and is now using its expertise to provide global relief. The company’s ability to modify its operations to meet the world’s needs has been tested in the past and continues to show as UPS creates innovative solutions to humanitarian issues, both alone and through partnerships.

Sylvie Antal
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Ukraine
Ukraine has been severely impacted by COVID-19, and poverty rates will likely increase dramatically. The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine released an official prediction on the absolute poverty implications of the pandemic. The analysis indicates that the impacts on child poverty in Ukraine will be the most severe.

Ukraine is Europe’s second-biggest and second-poorest country, just behind Moldova. The country has more than 46,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of 3 July, 2020. Many of the restrictions imposed on the country have been lifted as the country enters its adaptive quarantine stage, though social distancing and mask-wearing requirements remain in place.

Ominous Predictions

According to the World Bank, the negative economic impact of the pandemic will show through several courses. These include a decrease in disposable incomes and consumption, lower remittances caused by decreased economic activity throughout the E.U. and lower commodity prices that impact Ukrainian exports.

UNICEF is particularly concerned that the economic collapse will have the most adverse impacts on vulnerable groups such as single parents, multiple-children households, households with children younger than 3 and single pensioners over the age of 65. UNICEF also predicts that the absolute poverty rate in Ukraine will rise from 27% to 44%, and the child poverty rate will rise from 33% to 51%. Under the less severe prediction, that would mean 6.3 million more people will be living in poverty than before, of whom 1.4 million will be children. The more severe prediction shows 9 million more people will be living in poverty, 1.8 million of them children. To put this in perspective, in 2019 50% of the population was financially unprotected. That will likely increase as poverty levels go up.

Government Action

To mitigate these stark numbers, the Ukrianian Government has taken action on the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. These actions include one-time payments for low-income pensioners and child disability payment beneficiaries.

Unfortunately, these payments are insufficient to combat increasing absolute poverty and child poverty in Ukraine. UNICEF says that children who live in poverty are more likely to be poor as adults, an issue that actually goes deeper than poverty itself, as the most disadvantaged children usually have disabilities, are girls or belong to minorities. For the potential 1.4 to 1.8 million children that will live in poverty due to the pandemic, this poses an immense threat to their economic mobility in adulthood.

Social Policy Programme

A solution to combat the inevitable increase in child poverty in Ukraine due to this crisis is UNICEF’s Social Policy Programme.  Through advocacy and technical support to the Government of Ukraine, this program promotes equity for children and improved social welfare. It expands across four main areas.

  1. Poverty Reduction and Macro Policies for Children: To address the drivers of poverty and social exclusion, there is a focus on improved measuring of the multidimensional aspects of child poverty. To promote child-centered family policies, issues of child poverty will be in a leading position of the National Poverty Reduction Strategy.

  2. Social Protection with a Focus on Integrated Modalities: This will improve cash transfer performance in poverty reduction for vulnerable children and/or displaced children and their families. Social protection programs will expand with a strengthened, locally driven intersectoral approach. This goes beyond cash transfers and includes case management and local social service provision.

  3. Public Finance for Children: For maximum impact of public expenditure on children, UNICEF works with line ministries and the Ministry of Finance. Children’s rights are prioritized.

  4. Local Governance and Accountability with focus on Child-Friendly Cities: UNICEF Ukraine works with local partners to fully realize children’s rights. The Child Friendly Cities initiative is a global movement that strengthens social inclusion, promotes child and youth participation and incentivizes local authorities to invest in the overall well-being of children.

While the full impacts of the COVID-19 crisis are still unknown, and with the devastating impact it has on poverty, continuing to combat child poverty in Ukraine is vital. Social welfare programs like UNICEF’s Social Policy Programme are essential to mitigate the effects of poverty, strengthen child care and enhance access to basic services. Investing in children will have a substantial impact on the future, and it is a necessary measure to combat poverty in Ukraine and around the world.

Rochelle Gluzma
Photo: Flickr

Malaria is a leading cause of death in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2018, among 228 million cases of malaria globally, there were 405,000 deaths, 94% of which were in Sub-Saharan Africa. Although treatment has gotten much better in recent years and deaths due to malaria have begun to decline globally, in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic worries have arisen that those who receive treatment for malaria will be unable to continue to do so. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/global-covid-19/maintain-essential-services-malaria.html)Recent results from the Global Fund’s biweekly survey of HIV, TB, and malaria treatment programs found that 73% of malaria programs reported disruption to service delivery, with 19% reporting high and very high disruptions. Activities within the programs are being canceled due to lockdowns, restrictions on the size of gatherings, transport stoppages, COVID-related stigma, and clients not seeking health services as usual. With these disruptions to important malaria treatment services, such as insecticide-treated net campaigns and antimalarial medicine administration, the World Health Organization predicts that deaths from malaria in Sub-saharan Africa could double. (https://www.theglobalfight.org/covid-aids-tb-malaria/) These deaths would return countries' malaria mortality levels from the year 2000, regressing on the progress that malaria treatment has reached in the past 18 years. It has never been more vital than now that countries continue to mitigate malaria treatment in their communities and sustain essential services that have helped save so many lives of those affected by malaria. (https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/23-04-2020-who-urges-countries-to-move-quickly-to-save-lives-from-malaria-in-sub-saharan-africa) The Global Fund is a partnership designed to help eradicate HIV, TB, and malaria epidemics. It raises and invests more than $4 billion a year to support local programs for these epidemics. They partner with local experts in countries, as well as governments, faith-based organizations, technical agencies, the private sector, and those affected by these diseases to raise money, invest it, and implement strategies to give aid. (https://www.theglobalfund.org/en/overview/) The Global Fund has created an urgent mitigation plan to curb the effect of COVID-19 on delivering essential health services, such as malaria relief, as well as making $1 billion available to other countries as part of their response. They plan to adapt malaria programs to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, protect frontline workers with protective equipment and training, reinforce supply chains, laboratory networks, and community-led response systems, and fight COVID-19 by supporting testing, tracing, isolation, and treatment. The Global Fund is seeking an additional $5 billion to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on countries receiving treatment for malaria, TB, and HIV. (https://www.theglobalfund.org/en/covid-19-plan/) Along with the Global Fund and the WHO, the CDC has also created a set of key considerations for continuing essential malaria prevention, while safeguarding against the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to recommending that a representative from the National Malaria Control Program should be considered for membership on the country’s National COVID-19 Incident Management Team, the CDC recommends continued access to Insecticide-Treated Nets for populations at risk, physical distancing during spray treatments, and the continuance of essential routine entomological monitoring activities while abiding by social distancing and wearing protective gear. The CDC also recommends that countries monitor their supply chain and adapt their malaria treatment programs if needed, due to higher costs or less resources. Countries should continue to collect data on COVID-19 and malaria illness in the population. It is important that countries communicate their continuation of malaria treatment to their citizens and educate them on how to seek treatment while also protecting themselves from COVID. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/global-covid-19/maintain-essential-services-malaria.html)
The leading cause of death in Sub-Saharan Africa is malaria. There were 228 million cases of malaria globally in 2018. Additionally, there were 405,000 deaths, 94% of which were in Sub-Saharan Africa. The treatment improves in recent years and malaria has begun to decline globally. However, concerns about receiving treatment for malaria occurs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent results from the Global Fund’s biweekly survey of HIV, TB and malaria treatment programs found that 73% of malaria programs reported disruption to service delivery. Around 19% reports high and very high disruptions.

Lockdowns canceled activities within the programs. There are restrictions on the size of gatherings, transport stoppages, COVID-related stigma and patients are not seeking health services as usual. The World Health Organization predicts that deaths from malaria in Sub-saharan Africa could double due to disruptions to important malaria treatment services. For example, insecticide-treated net campaigns and antimalarial medicine administration. It is extremely vital that countries continue to mitigate malaria treatment in their communities. Additionally, the countries should sustain essential services that have helped save many lives affected by malaria.

The Global Fund

The Global Fund is a partnership that helps eradicate HIV, TB and malaria epidemics. It raises and invests more than $4 billion a year to support local programs for these epidemics. The organization partner with local experts in countries, governments, organizations, the private sector and those affected by these diseases. The aim of the partnership is to raise and invest money and implement strategies to give aid.

Furthermore, The Global Fund created an urgent mitigation plan to curb the effect of COVID-19 on delivering essential health services. The plan includes making $1 billion malaria relief available to other countries as part of their response. In addition, The Global Fund plans to adapt malaria programs to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and protect frontline workers with protective equipment and training. It also reinforce supply chains, laboratory networks and community-led response systems. The Global Fund fights COVID-19 by supporting testing, tracing, isolation, and treatment. It seeks an additional $5 billion to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on countries receiving treatment for malaria, TB and HIV.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The CDC created a set of key considerations for continuing essential malaria prevention while safeguarding against the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC gives four recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic. First, a representative from the National Malaria Control Program should be considered for membership on the country’s National COVID-19 Incident Management Team. Second, continued access for Insecticide-Treated Nets for populations at risk should be put in place. Third, physical distancing during spray treatments should be imposed. Lastly, the continuance of essential routine entomological monitoring activities while abiding by social distancing and wearing protective gear.

For countries that impacted by malaria, the CDC advises the countries to monitor their supply chain and adapt their malaria treatment programs. Countries should continue to collect data on COVID-19 and malaria illness in the population. It is important that countries communicate their continuation of malaria treatment to their citizens and educate them on how to seek treatment while also protecting themselves from COVID-19.

Giulia Silver
Photo: Flickr

The current global pandemic is changing the way that everyone and everything operates. What can poverty-stricken countries do when the world around them has shifted to virtual learning and working? It is common for most middle-to-high class families internationally to own some type of smartphone or computer. Those families also have solid access to an internet connection, but there are still 3.7 billion people without any access to the internet. This raises the question of ‘What can families in extreme poverty do when they can no longer go to work or their kids can no longer attend school?’ Spectrum is a widely known leader in communication networks in the U.S. They provide sports television, internet service and landline telephone services. Owned by Charter Communications, Spectrum is the leading platform in the U.S, but their impact is going global in the face of the current crisis as Spectrum is now keeping the world connected.

6 Facts on How Spectrum is Keeping the World Connected

  1. Several countries have declared a state of emergency. Many public services are now only available online, which means that one would need a private contract in order to access them. Data is expensive enough as it stands for countries like South Africa, where it is approximately 10c for 1 megabyte of data. For every 10 South African rands this is 58 U.S. cents. This becomes especially expensive as more people lose their incomes.
  2. Worldwide, there are billions of people using their smartphones instead of visiting their family and friends. Half of those billions of people do not have access to the internet at all. Even in Australia, 13 percent of the population is without any connection to the internet. Spectrum saw there was a need to make sure everyone had the general access to basic services.
  3. Where people used to go to the physician’s office for medical attention, they now have to adapt to downloading specific applications that are necessary for doctor consultations. The United Nations wanted to have universal access to the internet by the end of 2020, but right now it is missing 35% of the world population. That is 2,800,000,000 unable to contact their physician. This is why Spectrum is doing their part to remove any restrictions on their data plans and allowing complete access to all of their services. Removing these restrictions will help low-income people access the service easily.
  4. Spectrum Network is working tirelessly to ensure that, on a global scale, all families are able to access the internet. User demands have shifted to almost entirely online necessities in the midst of the pandemic. Consequently, Spectrum had to make a decision to respond to this demand and how do it effectively. Spectrum accommodated by lifting restrictions on broadband streaming services for all families worldwide.
  5. Spectrum’s network will be accessible for all necessities. These include contacting family, completing school work and working from home. Engineers will be monitoring around the clock to ensure all customers are getting the best speed and capability at all times of the day. They are maintaining the speed of the connectivity and increasing the downloading speed. Tech workers from the company are online and available to help 24/7, making this possible. Spectrum has added a function on its website where connectivity problems can be resolved through its self-service. This cuts down on higher call volume, reducing the number of customers not receiving help while they wait on hold.
  6. Spectrum is providing Wi-Fi hotspots that anyone can sign onto. There is a posted time schedule of when the high network volume tends to slow it down. This gives customers a chance to plan when they want to work or call a loved one with minimal connectivity issues.

To keep up with supply and demand, Spectrum saw keeping the world connected as the only option. They felt a personal responsibility to use their commodity and to give back. It will continue to try and meet its goal of ensuring all people worldwide are able to access the broadband and complete whatever they may need to do with ease.  Many COVID-19 updates are available online. The more people online means more people can access the same communication method for pandemic updates. This keeps as many people as possible aware and informed. Spectrum keeping the world connected is to keep the world safe and informed.

Kimberly Elsey
Photo: Flickr