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pollution in developing countriesIt is common knowledge that countries, businesses and individuals would benefit the environment by reducing their own emissions. Reducing pollution will slow the rapid rate of climate change and could also significantly aid the health of the global population. In fact, on average, air pollution limits each person’s life expectancy by two years. Experts estimate that air pollution is the “greatest risk to human health,” and that the effects are even worse in less-developed areas. Here are five facts about the negative effects of pollution in developing countries.

5 Facts About the Negative Effects of Pollution in Developing Countries

  1. In Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, air pollution cuts an average of five years off the lives of citizens. The number of people residing in these countries constitute about one-quarter of the global population. Pollution is 44% higher in these four countries today compared to 20 years ago. In some areas, air pollution can account for up to eight years cut from the average life expectancy. Bangladesh leads the way of these countries, with the worst pollution output in the world.
  2. Air pollution in cities is much worse than air pollution in other areas. Although this may seem obvious, the extent of the pollution level disparity between a city in a developed country and a city in a developing country is drastic. In developing nations, 98% of those in cities live in areas where pollution exceeds the WHO guidelines, while in developed nations, this number drops to 56%. Both of these numbers are too high, as experts estimate that these levels of pollution cause over three million deaths per year, but developing countries clearly have a much larger problem.
  3. Indoor air pollution causes 6% of all deaths in developing countries. This type of pollution is caused by the indoor burning of solid fuel for cooking and heating. Most of the reliance on solid fuels is for cooking, as many developing countries do not have the same clean cooking technology as more developed countries. Only 60% of the world has access to these clean fuels and technology. Although this number is slowly growing, 1.6 million deaths are still attributed to indoor pollution in developing countries each year.
  4. Air pollution negatively affects people throughout their life, beginning in their mother’s womb and stretching into old age. As stated above, air pollution accounts for the loss of years at the end of life, but it also slows the development of children’s lungs and could cause premature births. A study in California has connected higher particle pollution levels with increased early births. Even a short spike in air pollution can result in more preterm birth, which carries several health risks with it. Additionally, children’s lungs are not completely grown until they reach adulthood, and air pollution slows this growth. Studies have shown that when lung growth is slowed, children’s lungs may never grow to their full capacity.
  5. Studies show that poor air quality can increase the likelihood of contracting COVID-19. Furthermore, once the virus is caught, the lungs of those living in polluted areas are less able to adequately fight off the infection, causing higher death rates in countries with higher pollution percentages. A study found that a one microgram per cubic meter increase of fine particulate matter concentrations can cause an 8% increase in the COVID-19 death rate.

To combat the adverse effects of air pollution in developing countries, the world needs more government involvement and partnership regarding the issue. In order for developing countries to adequately reduce emissions, developed nations need to cooperate and enforce standards of air quality to promote health. These efforts will require intense dedication but are necessary to help protect the lives of nearly everyone on Earth.

Aiden Farr
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in The Gambia
The Gambia is a growing country with high income inequality and high poverty rates. The poverty rate in rural communities is 70%, while in urban communities it is only 32%. These high poverty rates negatively impact access to healthcare, making healthcare in The Gambia a significant concern. Without access, many people in The Gambia face communicable diseases without the ability to receive proper treatment. This lack of access to healthcare and the impact of communicable diseases have been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of COVID-19. However, organizations are stepping in to help The Gambia improve its healthcare system. Here are five facts about healthcare in The Gambia during COVID-19.

5 Facts About Healthcare in The Gambia During COVID-19

  1. The Gambia announced its first COVID-19 case on Mar. 17. The government responded by preparing the people for travel restrictions, closing schools and suspending public gatherings. The Ministry of Health began providing resources via social media. On Facebook, the number of cases is updated every day. It provides information on how to wear a mask, social distancing and how to reach the coronavirus hotline.
  2. The Gambia received outside support. This happened on Mar. 28, a little more than a week after announcing its first case. The Jack Ma and Alibaba Foundations in China stepped in to help not only The Gambia, but 54 countries in Africa. The foundations donated 20, 000 test kits, 1000, 000 masks, 740 sets of protective clothing and 1000 sets of protective shields.
  3. COVID-19 could exacerbate the situation for those already living in, or close to, poverty. About 48.6% of The Gambia’s population lives below the poverty line. This means that many people are vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19, specifically economically. At the same time, it could also cause people who have made economic advances to move back into poverty. Since poverty negatively impacts access to healthcare, this could mean more of The Gambia’s population is unable to receive the treatment they need.
  4. The World Bank is stepping in. Since the pandemic started, The World Bank has been sending funding to provide support for many countries in need. The bank’s funding in The Gambia will enhance COVID-19 case detection and tracking. It will also improve treatment centers and strengthen disease surveillance and diagnostic capacity.
  5. The government has been working to improve healthcare. The Gambia National Health Sector Strategic Plan 2014-2020 (NHSSP) guides healthcare in the nation. The plan’s goal is to reduce inequalities in health care services and reverse the downward trend in health-related outcome indicators. The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) conducts annual reviews of the plan to see where improvements still need to be made. The NHSSP is still in effect during COVID-19; however, it will wrap up at the end of 2020. Moving forward, a new plan is needed to ensure a continued focus on improving access to healthcare in The Gambia.

 

COVID-19 has exacerbated existing problems with healthcare in The Gambia by making those in poverty, or who have just escaped it, more vulnerable. As a result, many organizations have stepped in to help The Gambia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving forward, these organizations as well as the government must continue to make improving healthcare a priority.

Melody Kazel
Photo: Flickr

India’s Agricultural Supply ChainThe COVID-19 pandemic has indubitably altered the way goods and services are distributed. India, a country that relies heavily on agriculture, is an example of how agricultural economies falter in the face of a pandemic. India has the second-largest arable land area in the world, with a coastline of over 7,500 kilometers. In fact, agriculture is India’s largest employer, comprising 42% of the workforce. This means that disruptions to India’s agricultural supply chain hurt the wellbeing of its citizens.

Before the coronavirus, India was already experiencing some setbacks in agricultural production. First, India’s economy was growing at a slower rate, compounding existing problems of unemployment, low incomes, rural distress, malnutrition and inequality. Second, India maintains a large informal sector. An informal sector is one in which people do not report their incomes, and hence do not pay taxes on these incomes. Out of India’s 465 million workers, around 91% were informal workers in 2018. This sector is especially vulnerable because it comprises many agriculture workers and migrant workers. If India’s agricultural supply chain is disrupted, then these workers’ sources of income are consequently affected.

Lockdown Regulations

In response to lockdown orders, informal workers migrated back to their rural hometowns. They were hoping to wait out the virus and follow restrictions. As this period overlapped with the harvest season in mid-April, the annual harvest was disrupted. Major liquidity issues ensued, notably with the June crop.

During a lockdown, informal workers do not have access to their usual sources of income. On the other hand, many workers in the formal economy retain regular salaries. It is estimated that in the first wave of the pandemic, almost 10 million people returned to their villages, half a million of them walking or bicycling. As a result of this economic stoppage, the International Labor Organization has projected that 400 million people in India risk falling into poverty.

Transportation Restrictions

Among other industries, COVID-19 is disrupting India’s agricultural supply chains. In order to slow the progression of the virus, authorities heavily restrict movement across state borders, which blocks the movement and sale of crops. In addition, the lack of workers has interfered with the upkeep of machines and modes of transportation. Overall, limits on movement and a reduced workforce restrict the availability of food in India.

The transportation issue also translates into a range of export challenges. India’s agricultural supply chain serves domestic food consumption. In addition, it also is a top exporter of agricultural produce in the world. Unfortunately, many major economies have implemented similar lockdown restrictions, which creates backlogs in supply chains. For instance, around half a million tonnes of Indian rice is locked up in the supply chains, while perishable items cannot be processed due to fear of delayed transit. Nearly $40 billion of India’s agricultural exports are being severely affected by these repercussions of the pandemic.

Recovery

Even with these injuries to India’s agricultural supply chain, the country is expected to remain among the world’s fastest-growing economies. But these agricultural problems still call for new solutions.

Following COVID-19, digital innovations such as the eNAM (electronic National Agriculture Market) offer a pan-India electronic trading platform for farmers. The government recommended that states discourage the direct sale of crops and that farmers opt for rural wholesale markets. The government also launched an app that helps farmers and traders find transport vehicles.

Furthermore, several nonprofit organizations are working to ensure food security in India. For example, Rise Against Hunger India focuses on distributing meals and life-changing aid in rural India, after the organization noticed a lack of food supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic. The executive director, Dola Mohapatra, spoke about the rising hunger and food security concerns in India, giving special mention to the unstable incomes of informal workers and other daily wage workers.

Although India’s agricultural supply chain is currently facing issues, the government is working to overcome these challenges with innovations that expedite the buying and selling of agricultural materials.

Elizabeth Qiao
Photo: Pixabay

gender gap in Latin AmericaRanked the third-highest after Western Europe and North America, Latin America has an average gender gap of 29%. Many Latin American countries are seeing improvements in education, healthcare and shortening the gender gap. According to the World Economic Forum in their Gender Gap Report for 2020, Nicaragua was ranked 5th globally, with 80% of its gender gap closed. On the lower-ranking end of the gender gap in Latin America, Guatemala and Belize have closed 66% and 67% of their gap, respectively. While these percentages are promising, the current COVID-19 pandemic poses a threat to gender equality.

Looming COVID-19 Crisis

Decades worth of progress toward eliminating the gender gap in Latin American could potentially reach a halt or decline with the impending COVID-19 pandemic. Since the onset of the pandemic, stay at home orders have caused an increase in domestic violence. A few examples from Latin America expose the enormity of the issue. In Colombia, the domestic violence helpline has risen by 9%, and by 36% in Mexico. Also, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, a city in Bolivia, has reported the highest number of cases of both domestic violence and COVID-19. The issue is exacerbated as women avoid reaching out to health services in fear of getting the virus.

The other obstacle COVID-19 leads to is losses in jobs, more specifically, the availability of jobs for women. According to the World Bank’s Gender Dimensions of the COVID-19 Pandemic brief, women engaged in informal work such as self-employment and domestic works are unable to receive unemployment insurance. Since COVID-19 has restricted travel, Latin American countries that depend on retail, hospitality and tourism will see half of their working population lose jobs. Additionally, the effects of COVID-19 will force women to stay at home to care for children and the elderly, thus reducing working time and possibly excluding them from the labor market.

Lastly, the COVID-19 crisis will cause setbacks to efforts to reduce teen pregnancy. The shift in resources can interfere with health services for women and girls, including reproductive and sexual health services and family planning. In similar crises, lack of critical resources led to a surge in teen pregnancy and maternal mortality. Although COVID-19 causes a lot of complications surrounding the future of gender equality, there are actions regarding the gender gap in Latin American that governments and institutions such as the World Bank and the United Nations can take to continue progressive efforts.

Thus, The World Bank has outlined the following four methods to approach gender equality.

  1. Improving Quality of Life: Latin American countries need to reduce teen pregnancy and maternal mortality, improve water and sanitation services, secure women’s access to healthcare and close educational gaps. The World Bank Group (WBG) supports removing negative gender stereotypes in curriculums and is helping train teachers to create classroom environments that encourage inclusivity. The WBG is also backing programs aimed at supporting girls to enter STEM fields.
  2. Increasing Female Employment: Latin American countries should change gender norms about career choices, provide adequate child care services, create connections for women entrepreneurs and allocate time-saving resources. In Mexico, the WBG partnered with the National Institute of the Entrepreneur to devise and evaluate the institute’s first national program to promote female entrepreneurs, Women Moving Mexico. The pilot was launched in five states and “provided close to 2,000 women with a mix of hard skills (better management and business literacy), and soft skills (behaviors for a proactive entrepreneurial mindset)”.
  3. Removing Barriers to Women’s Financial Independence: The WBG supports efforts to provide land and property titles to women and to increase access to capital and financial services. In partnership with indigenous women’s organizations in Panama, the WBG designed a pilot intervention in six indigenous communities. The pilot supports training designed for indigenous women, technical assistance for women’s producer organizations and financial inclusion through the founding of community banks and financial management training.
  4. Enhancing Women’s Voice & Agency and Engaging Men and Boys: Latin American countries can support gender equality by acknowledging a woman’s right to control her own life. For example, giving women control over income and the capacity to move freely and have a voice in society, including the ability to “influence policy and family formation, and have freedom from violence.”

Bettering COVID-19 Response

The United Nations has also developed a response to the pending COVID-19 and its effect on gender equality. The U.N. seeks to recognize the “impact of COVID-19 on women and girls and ensure a response that addresses their needs and ensures that their rights are central to strengthening prevention, response and recovery efforts.” Institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations make it possible for girls and women in Latin America to aspire for more for themselves in education and career, despite the current setbacks prompted by COVID-19. Within the next couple of years, the gender gap in Latin America could be significantly reduced by promoting women’s rights and giving them access to education and career opportunities.

Mia Mendez
Photo: Pixabay

South African PovertyThe battle against poverty has always been a difficult one, but the novel coronavirus pandemic has presented many new challenges. Actions currently being taken to combat South African poverty and COVID-19 have proven that, with new options and renewed commitments, there is still much that can be done to alleviate poverty. Impoverished people around the world need aid now more than ever.

An Ongoing Struggle

Historically, South Africa has struggled to aid its most economically vulnerable citizens. According to the most recent government analysis, almost half of the adult population is living under the poverty line—an alarming figure. It seems apparent that this South African poverty crisis would be seen on nearly every level of society. Sadly, this widespread poverty has had a notable impact on which necessary resources are available to people. While electricity infrastructure is fairly widespread, between 28% and 30% of poor households lack access to water and sanitation services. As is relatively common in cases of inequality, the most vulnerable frequently lack access to basic necessities, making their struggles far more urgent.

COVID-19 Developments

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is poised to exacerbate South African poverty. The World Bank has predicted that while the pandemic will increase poverty worldwide, the hardest-hit region will be Sub-Saharan Africa. Although South Africa has been relatively spared from the worst of COVID-19 on a health level, the poverty-inducing effects of the pandemic are daunting—it is projected that some 23 million South Africans will be pushed into poverty in 2020. Beyond the immediate tragedy, this decline will present new challenges. In order to protect them, governments will need to find new ways to offer meaningful support throughout the crisis.

Innovation Brings Hope

Fortunately, the government of South Africa has begun to take steps to properly aid its impoverished citizens during this time. They have rolled out a new, easily accessible digital tool called HealthCheck in order to provide self-assessment resources. Members of the public can download the program, which will ask them a few simple questions and then provide a COVID-19 risk prediction along with a pertinent guideline and suggested actions.

While HealthCheck is designed to be available to the entirety of the South African populace, it aids low-income South Africans in particular. Although only a third of the population uses smartphones, feature phones enjoy more widespread use, so a lack of hardware is not necessarily an issue. For many impoverished people in South Africa—and across the world—receiving the proper healthcare needed to determine a risk of infection may be difficult or outright impossible.

Partnerships Increase Access

To further alleviate this issue, the South African government has coordinated with network operators MTN, Vodacom and Telekom, to have facilitate free access to the USSD line. This way, South Africans who could not typically afford cellular or wi-fi services can make use of the HealthCheck tool. As a matter of fact, they have—authorities have reported that so far, over one million members of the public have used HealthCheck.

The digital tool has been utilized in conjunction with NGOs like Doctors Without Borders.  The NGO has worked to fill the gap in fighting South African poverty by creating impromptu field hospitals in otherwise-ignored townships. In Khayelitsha, it has opened up 70 additional beds in a basketball arena in order to serve as many people as possible in the area. This was part of a broader government plan to have over 1,400 extra beds ready as needed. Providing aid such as this is an important part of the battle against poverty.

Just a Start

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the growth of the continental African economy, and threatens its growing middle class. Across the entire continent, nearly eight million people are predicted to fall into poverty, in many cases due to the lack of a social safety net. By providing essential resources, NGOs like Doctors Without Borders are working to limit the economic burden that falls on the South African populace.

While it’s just a start in terms of supporting the impoverished population, these initiatives have clearly provided accessible ways for low-income citizens to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and healthy. There are still many hurdles to overcome in the fight against South African poverty, but these recent initiatives have shown that we can still work to effectively aid the poor.

Aidan O’Halloran
Photo: Flickr

CATCH Technology for Virus DiscoveryAccurate and efficient virus detection is needed now more than ever. In areas like Africa, one of the most prevalent diseases is the viral disease of HIV/AIDS. Thousands of people die every year due to viral diseases like HIV/AIDS and even the seemingly harmless flu. The most recent of viruses is COVID-19, the rapidly spreading virus that has led to a global pandemic. CATCH technology for virus discovery provides hope for a less disease-stricken future.

CATCH Technology for Virus Discovery

First developed in 2019 by scientists at the Broad Institute, CATCH provides scientists with an efficient new way to detect and code viruses. In scientific terms, CATCH stands for Compact Aggregation of Targets for Comprehensive Hybridization. CATCH is a computational method that allows scientists and users to design probes that then catch genetic material for all viruses known to humans. This tool is particularly helpful for viruses like Zika, which is very difficult to see in clinical samples. CATCH is able to very accurately and quickly detect even viruses that occur in low abundance in clinical samples. Due to these abilities, CATCH could play a key role in future disease prevention and treatment.

Advantages of CATCH

  1. It is adaptable. As new mutations and strains of viruses are discovered and uploaded to the GenBank database, CATCH users can quickly redesign a set of probes with up-to-date information.
  2. It is efficient at detecting viruses. The Zika outbreak in 2015 proved to be particularly problematic because the Zika virus was not easily detectable within the human body. Zika is difficult to detect because even in patients who contract the virus, blood samples would often have a very low amount of actual Zika virus particles. This is where CATCH proves to be such a groundbreaking method for virus detection. CATCH can detect even the lowest amount of virus particles present in a sample.
  3. It has the power to detect all human viruses. While the first version of CATCH only targeted 20 viruses, as the software developed, the number of viruses it targeted expanded. Now, CATCH has the ability to target all forms of viruses known to infect humans. As more viruses are discovered, they can be easily added to CATCH.
  4. It is accessible. The software for CATCH is available to any member of the public on Github and the development and validation of the tool is available via an online scientific website, Nature Biotechnology.

Impact of CATCH in Africa

In a study by researchers Hayden Metsky and Katie Siddle, data gathered using CATCH helped discover that the ZIka virus was present in several regions, months before scientists could detect it.

At the time of the Lassa outbreak in Nigeria in 2018, the Lassa virus was difficult to sequence and hard to detect. The researchers proved that by using CATCH, content of the samples of the 2018 Lassa virus could be rescued. This means that the Lassa virus will be more easily detectable.

The above results warrant the use of CATCH technology for virus discovery and for future outbreaks. The CATCH tool can be used to provide low-cost disease surveillance and the information required to control outbreaks. In the very depths of a viral pandemic like COVID-19, the CATCH tool creates hope for the future of global health.

Lucia Kenig-Ziesler
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 In TaiwanWith a population of approximately 23 million people and a location that is in close proximity to China, epidemiologists expected that Taiwan would be the next epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. After having 668 reported cases of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2003, Taiwan was well equipped to contain and slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

5 Things About COVID-19 in Taiwan

  1. Although Taiwan is close to China and has a population of nearly 23 million, it has done remarkably well in its response to COVID-19. As of July 30, 2020, there have been 467 positive cases and just seven deaths reported. This translates to 20 cases of COVID-19 per one million people living in Taiwan.

  2. In an effort to help citizens locate where they can purchase masks, more than 1,000 Taiwanese software developers created applications to help citizens understand where masks were available. In early March there were “59 map systems, 21 line applications, three chatbots, 23 mask sales location search systems, 22 apps, five audio systems, two information-sharing systems and one online mask reservation system.”

  3. Wearing a mask in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19 was an early practice in countries like Taiwan. Prior to the rise of the pandemic, Taiwanese manufacturers were producing 1.88 million to 2.44 million face masks per day. In an effort to ensure masks were available to those who needed them, the Government of Taiwan banned the export of masks on January 24, 2020.

  4. During the 2003 SARS outbreak, Taiwan had a robust contact tracing and quarantine system, border and travel regulations, a SARS advisory committee and training on infection control. Although these efforts were initially effective, Taiwan ultimately reported 668 probable cases of SARS. As a result of the severity of the SARS outbreak in the country, Taiwan stepped in quickly with stricter policies to slow the spread of COVID-19 by hosting virtual lectures about COVID-19, implementing travel restrictions, prohibiting large events and quarantine and isolation measures.

  5. Because Taiwan has been able to successfully control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, many aspects of daily life have resumed. After approximately three consecutive weeks of no community spread, the Taiwanese Baseball League became the first in the world to allow spectators and fans back into games. On May 8, 2020, the professional baseball league allowed 1,000 fans into their scheduled games to spectate.

As a result of its swift and effective response to COVID-19, Taiwan has been able to return to a semblance of normalcy. Taiwan’s success stems from the government’s quick action, technological assistance as well as hard lessons learned from the SARS pandemic. In light of all the above, it comes as no surprise that Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 ranks as one of the world’s best.

Maddi Miller
Photo: Flickr

How Migrant Workers Have Been Impacted By COVID-19Over the past several months, there have been many media stories about how the ongoing pandemic has impacted the American economy, as well as many others around the world. Any reader is likely aware of how harmful the crisis has been to many working- and middle-class people in America. One group that has not received as much attention, however, are migrant workers. Not only have migrant workers been made more vulnerable than usual in the current climate, but their struggles have also intersected with poverty on a global scale.

Migrant Workers During COVID-19

What makes this situation an international crisis rather than a solely American one is remittances. Many migrant workers travel from developing nations to more wealthy ones, where they can earn more money or simply find jobs in order to support their families. These workers send part of their paycheck back home to their loved ones, many of whom live in extreme poverty. Last year alone, migrant workers across the planet sent home $554 billion. This is over three times the amount of international development aid given by wealthy nations. Importantly, remittances frequently go toward crucial essentials, like food, education and medicine.

Experts predict that COVID-19 will be one of the factors that lead to the first global increase in poverty in over 20 years. Migrant workers were already living in difficult conditions prior to the outbreak, and recent events have worsened their circumstances. Many put themselves in danger in order to travel abroad to provide for their families. Furthermore, all of the migrants in the U.S. without Social Security Numbers were ineligible for the stimulus checks sent out in early 2020. When migrant workers are unable to support their relatives back home, their families — who in many cases had to pool resources to “invest” in a family member traveling abroad — are plunged even further into poverty.

A Potential Solution

However, state legislators have the opportunity to provide leadership on how to properly support migrant workers in the U.S. during this time. In April, Massachusetts Democrats put forward Bill H.4726, or “An Act To Provide Equal Stimulus Checks to Immigrant Taxpayers” in the Massachusetts state legislature. The bill would provide financial stimulus support to undocumented taxpaying Americans. Though not all migrant workers are undocumented, this bill would serve as a policy response to the crisis that includes undocumented workers who pay taxes. 

Legislation like this, paired with an extended and expanded financial stimulus plan, would help to combat poverty at home and around the globe. No matter what someone’s immigration status is, they should be able to rest knowing that they and their families, wherever they may be, will not get sick or go hungry. Massachusetts still needs to vote on this bill, but its very existence shows that the United States is not powerless in this situation.

The Role of the US

The United States has the ability to help impoverished people in developing nations, who are suffering in numerous ways from the COVID-19 crisis. U.S. support does not just have to come in the form of international aid, as our domestic affairs impact the rest of the world. By making sure that migrant workers are included in coronavirus relief efforts, the U.S. would help reduce poverty among migrant workers and their families.

– Brendan O’Halloran
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in TunisiaThe North African country of Tunisia is sandwiched by two relatively unstable nations, Algeria and Libya. However, Tunisia has had consistent development in human wellbeing for the past couple of decades, ranking among the best nations in Africa. In part, this success can be attributed to Tunisia’s relatively strong healthcare system. According to a World Health Organization report, Tunisia possesses a “national health strategic plan” as well as a relatively high life expectancy at 75 years. Healthcare in Tunisia is a promising sign that the country can adequately support its population and promote longer, healthier lives for its citizens. Here are six facts about healthcare in Tunisia.

6 Facts About Healthcare in Tunisia

  1. More than 90% of the population is covered by health insurance. While some citizens use private insurance, others are covered by programs in place to assist the most disadvantaged in society. However, Tunisia still lacks truly universal coverage. One of the top complaints about healthcare in Tunisia is gaps in payment for important medical procedures, which can burden families.
  2. Tunisia’s 2014 constitution granted healthcare as a human right. The government is still working to make this a reality and provide universal, effective healthcare in Tunisia. Specifically, the government is trying to improve the dilapidated health infrastructure in the south of the country. This manifested in a 9% increase in the healthcare budget in 2016, which went toward improving infrastructure in remote areas.
  3. Private healthcare in Tunisia is booming. In recent years, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of private clinics built in the country was expected to surge. Seventy-five new facilities are set to be completed by 2025, doubling the number of hospital beds in the country. These improvements should help make access to quality healthcare more readily accessible to the general population.
  4. Tunisia successfully combated many diseases in the past. Most importantly, Tunisia has been able to eradicate and control many deadly diseases that put a strain on its healthcare system. Malaria, polio and schistosomiasis are well under control. In addition, Tunisia’s healthcare system has worked to address HIV/AIDS.
  5. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Tunisia has done relatively well. Sitting at 1,327 confirmed cases and 50 deaths as of July 2020, the country is positioned to recover economically from the virus, which is devastating in other parts of the world. Though it is still early in the pandemic, it appears that the healthcare system in Tunisia was able to absorb the influx of cases in order to slow the death rate.
  6. Robust preventative measures enabled Tunisia’s positive response to COVID-19. Seeing the potential for a rise in cases early on, the government, as advised by healthcare experts, quickly went into a rigorous lockdown that lasted for months. This was especially difficult considering that tourism accounts for 10% of the country’s GDP. According to a WHO spokesman, a strong sense of community and respect for the lockdown measures eased the country’s caseload and death toll. Because the Tunisian population was willing to make sacrifices for the broader community, they are now in a comparatively better place than some other nations around the world.

Healthcare is a critical issue for any nation. While there is always room for improvement, Tunisia has succeeded in using its available resources to ensure medical coverage for its people.

Zak Schneider
Photo: Pixabay

asian development bankThe Asian Development Bank (ADB), which was established in 1966, attempts to alleviate poverty in Asia by funding numerous welfare projects in the region. Many Asian countries are members of ADB, which provides them with loans and monetary assistance, as well as providing general technical help with different projects. ADB aims to achieve “a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific.” Here are four countries that ADB has benefited positively.

4 Countries the Asian Development Bank Has Helped

  1. China: The People’s Republic of China is a country that has experienced uneven development in the past century. Major cities are urbanized, while rural areas remain in extreme poverty. ADB has funded and overseen numerous projects to attempt to lift these areas out of poverty and improve the standard of living in the country. One project in Yunnan, for example, pays and trains women to maintain around 5,000 kilometers of rural roads. This offers economic opportunities to rural women while facilitating more transportation between rural towns. Another project funded the purchase of 1,860 clean buses to combat China’s pollution problem.
  2. Cambodia: While Cambodia has undergone positive development in recent years, poverty still exists in the country, and many of its residents live in adverse conditions. In 2017, for example, 21% of the Cambodian population did not have access to clean water. The Asian Development Bank has encouraged sustainable development in Cambodia through many large-scale projects. In 2003, the bank allotted $15.6 million to Cambodia as part of a project to attract tourists and benefit local economies. More recently, ADB approved a loan of $250 million to support Cambodia’s economy through the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. Thailand: In recent years, poverty has unfortunately increased in Thailand, with the poverty rate growing from 7.8% in 2015 to 9.8% in 2018. According to the World Bank, this has been due to several “economic and environmental challenges,” particularly because individual Thai households are highly susceptible to variable economic conditions. Projects by ADB attempt to combat this—one 2017 program introduced around 500 farmers to the organic farming market. This connected them to a greater, more profitable market in order to attain a self-sufficient income. In 2012, a solar power plant funded by ADB was also completed, which generated enough power to provide clean electricity to 70,000 households. The plant also helps to keep greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere.
  4. Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka is a relatively small country, with a population of around 22 million. In 2016, 4.1% of the population was below the national poverty line. ADB has mainly funded rural development projects in Sri Lanka but has also focused on social justice and creating better living conditions for Sri Lankan residents. From 2000 to 2018, ADB helped connect more than 200,000 households to electricity and built or upgraded just under 4,000 kilometers of roads. The Asian Development Bank has also funded support for around one million residents affected by the Sri Lankan Civil War, which lasted from 1983 to 2009.

Since its conception, ADB has made incredible progress in fighting poverty and assisting development in Asia. In 2019 alone, ADB committed $21.64 billion in loans, grants and other investments to various countries and provided $237 million in technical assistance. Still, much poverty remains to be fought—while Asian countries have experienced massive development in the 21st century, many rural areas have been left behind. Poverty remains a pervasive issue in Asia. The Asian Development Bank has changed the lives of many Asian residents, but much remains to be done.

– Maggie Sun
Photo: Flickr