Posts

Drug Resistant Infections
Antibiotics have long been considered one of the greatest marvels of modern medicine. Since their discovery in the early 1900s, antibiotics have promoted a previously unprecedented large-scale fight against disease. Their effectiveness, however, is starting to show its limits.

CDC Analysis

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), antibiotic resistance—also known as antimicrobial resistance or general drug resistance—is becoming more and more prevalent, with over 23,000 people dying from a drug-resistant infection or disease in the United States alone. Studies have shown that over 700,000 people die annually worldwide from drug-resistant infections. Diseases once thought to be treatable, such as tuberculosis and common bacterial infections, are slowly becoming harder to cure with standard antibiotics and antimicrobial drugs.

A Mounting Crisis

The sheer overuse of antimicrobial drugs, such as antibiotics, antimicrobials, or antifungals, is often cited as a factor in the rise of drug resistance. Numerous studies show that these medications are grossly overprescribed, specifically drugs in the antibiotic category. The overexposure of antimicrobial drugs to different bacteria drastically reduces the drug’s ability to fight infections and diseases, leading to a resistance that is almost impossible to treat. This phenomenon is only growing, with the United Nations estimating that resistant infection could kill up to 10 million people annually by the year 2050.

The Developing World at Risk

Developed nations like the United States and Western Europe have far greater chances of eliminating the problem by fighting diseases from the backend, with access to clean water, food and sanitary living conditions. But for underdeveloped countries where over half of the population lives below the poverty line, drug-resistant infections pose even more serious risks. These countries rely on antimicrobial drugs and vaccines to stave off epidemics and diseases and cannot afford to develop drug resistance of any kind. The United Nation’s (UN) latest findings point towards economic hazards of drug resistance as well, showing that if resistance continues to develop, healthcare costs and lack of resources could potentially send the economy into a decline similar to that of the 2008-2009 era.

Innovative Solutions

Finding innovative ways to combat drug resistance is the most urgent goal. The UN is among several groups looking to solve the resistance crisis, calling upon major pharmaceutical companies, research groups and investors to accelerate funding and assistance. Emphasizing the need for a worldwide plan, Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General for the World Health Organization, has stressed the need for a timely response, “Antimicrobial resistance is a crisis that must be managed with the utmost urgency. As the world enters the ambitious new era of sustainable development, we cannot allow hard-won gains for health to be eroded by the failure of our mainstay medicines.”

As a part of the much-needed urgent response plan, the WHO proposed a new strategy to the World Health Assembly in 2015 that highlights five main goals to fight drug resistance:

  1. Raise awareness
  2. Gain knowledge
  3. Reduce risk of infections overall
  4. Optimize the current use of antimicrobial drugs
  5. Increase investment in research and technology for new antimicrobial drugs

Hope for the Future

The CDC has also constructed what is known as the National Action Plan, a five-year goal with similar objectives working under their Antibiotic Resistance Solutions Initiative. Despite the imminent threat of drug resistance, the crisis is being taken seriously with appropriate responses in progress and clear plans of action to follow.

Olivia Bendle
Photo: Pixabay

Foreign aid gives backForeign aid is too often misidentified as charity, with the implication of a one-way relationship. Like other myths surrounding aid, such as its depletion of the federal budget, a reality much different than popular belief silently survives. In truth, only one percent of the U.S. federal budget goes toward foreign aid and shrouded in much the same circumstances lies the fact that foreign aid gives back just as much, and more.

Who Gives to Whom?

According to an article by Jason Hickel, Global Financial Integrity (GFI) and the Centre for Applied Research at the Norwegian School of Economics completed a study in which they found that a much larger amount of money travels from poor countries to rich countries, rather than the other way around. As of 2015, cumulative foreign investment in the U.S. totaled more than $3 trillion.

Beyond the quantitative, the proof of return on investment manifests in countries like South Korea, Japan and Germany. All having once depended on U.S. aid in their times of need, these nations now play major roles in the global economy.

How Foreign Aid Gives Back to Developed Nations

Consider the fact that half of U.S. exports now go to developing countries and that developing countries’ economies grow three times faster than our own. The economics speak for themselves—with more new consumers to trade and do business with, more growth opportunities arise both at home and abroad. In Tennessee alone, more than 22 percent of jobs are supported by trade—that’s 830,000 reasons to continue investing in developing nations.

Beyond the wallet, though, foreign aid gives back in ways that cannot be measured. Potential new markets keep the U.S. competitive on the world stage, allowing its reputation and influence to spread. As Bill Gates points out, foreign aid even helps to keep the U.S. safe. By its nature, aid fights poverty, promotes development and largely focuses on foundational areas like healthcare, nutrition and education, which provide for a strong infrastructure.

The ultimate goal of this infrastructure-building rests in the ability to form a middle class, and by extension, find some stability. Countries that achieve this are more capable of preventing global health epidemics and are less likely to go to war. Stabilizing these nations by promoting democracy and human rights and by helping to install strong governance has far-reaching effects.

What Drawbacks Exist for Foreign Aid?

While some would argue that corruption and misuse of aid render the process futile, the results drown out the argument. Programs are in place to fight against this kind of criminality and are finding success. Foreign aid gives back in ways never thought of before now, such as:

  • Stopping diseases before they gain global reach.
  • Promoting U.S. exports.
  • Countering violent extremism.
  • Combating climate change through education.
  • Supporting overseas embassies and new allies.

Foreign aid gives back despite the stigma that claims otherwise. Experts say that cutting the U.S. foreign aid budget would do very little to reduce the federal deficit anyway. If the strongest argument against the use of foreign aid remains money, then it is time to take out the wallet and make a change.

– Daniel Staesser

Photo: Flickr

definition of a third world country

What is the definition of a third world country? In many countries, when people hear the phrase “third world country”, visions of impoverished countries struggling to meet basic human needs are the first to pop up. This might be true in today’s society, but the original definition of a third world country referred to the nations that lacked an alliance with either the U.S. or the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.

In recent years, the term has come to define countries that have high poverty rates, economic instability and lack basic human necessities like access to water, shelter or food for its citizens. These countries are often underdeveloped, and in addition to widespread poverty, they also have high mortality rates.

Definition of a Third World Country Underlying Meaning

In terms of the “worlds” system, they are ranked from first world to third world. The first world refers to the countries that are more developed and industrialized societies; in other words, capitalist societies that aligned with the U.S. and NATO during the Cold War. This includes North America, Japan, Western Europe and Australia.  

Second world countries refer to the countries that lean more toward a socialist society, and generally were allied with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. These countries include Russia, Poland, China and some Turk states.  

Third world countries are all the other countries that did not pick a side. This includes most of Africa, Asia and Latin America. However, this definition includes countries that are economically stable, which does not fit the currently accepted definition of a third world country.

As a society, the term “third world country” refers to countries with high mortality rates, especially infant mortality rates. They also have an unstable and inconsistent economy. These are countries that contain massive amounts of poverty and in some cases have fewer natural resources than other nations throughout the world. These countries often have to rely on more industrialized countries to aid them and help stabilize their economy.

These countries usually lack economic stability because of the lack of a functioning class system. Usually, the country will have an upper class and a lower class. Without a middle class to fill the gap, there is almost no way for a person to escape poverty because there is no next step for them on the economic ladder. This also allows the wealthy to control all the money in the country. This is detrimental to the economy of the country, and both increases and helps to sustain the poverty running rampant throughout the country while allowing the upper class to keep their wealth to themselves.

These countries often accrue a copious amount of debt from foreign countries because of the constant aid they need from other countries to keep their economy afloat and provide some financial stability to the citizens of the country.

The definition of a third world country has evolved from the political meaning during the Cold War to the economic meaning of today. Today’s meaning refers to countries that are in financial trouble and need help from other countries to keep their economy sustainable, at least for a short time.

– Simone Williams

Photo: Wikipedia

 

Donations from billionaires
According to the Brookings Institute, in some developing nations the help of the richest billionaire in the country would be enough to drastically reduce poverty. This model is based on the respective billionaire donating at least half of their fortune.

For example, the generosity of just one billionaire would probably be enough to boost the economy of the tiny African country of Swaziland. If this model were applied in Swaziland, Colombia and Georgia, poverty within these struggling countries would be nearly eradicated.

It is worth noting that this ideology would not work in the same way in every country. While the poverty rate will always fall with donations from billionaires, the amount would vary. Some countries in Africa may be harder to impact significantly due to “the depth of poverty” and high prices on the continent.

The Brookings Institute model not only looks at potential donations from the richest billionaire in a country, but in places with multiple billionaires they could collaborate and work together to reduce poverty. The more donations from billionaires that are received, the more people who will rise above the global poverty line.

Bill Gates’ Giving Pledge, which encourages billionaires to give away much of their earnings to charity, follows a similar model. Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg also pledged to donate 99 percent of his income to poverty reducing efforts and other charitable campaigns.

In addition to donating, billionaires may also be wise to invest in poor nations, as a boost in the economy of the country would likely cause a major increase in the number of consumers of foreign goods and services. Stronger economies result in an increased number of markets.

If billionaires around the world chip in to boost their local economies, the global wealth gap will decrease as the amount of consumption.

Carrie Robinson

Photo: Flickr

empowering_women
In 2009, Bill Gates visited Saudi Arabia and was asked how Saudi Arabia could attain its goal of becoming one of the top countries in the world. In response, Gates said “Well, if you’re not fully utilizing half the talent in the country, you’re not going to get too close to the Top 10.” Women deserve equal rights and treatment, but for many men in cultures that have yet to embrace this fact, this reality may not be enough to change minds. Enter money—what are the monetary incentives to help women contribute to the well-being of their own countries?

Women across the world represent about 40% of the world’s workforce. This is a huge figure, and exemplifies the need for allowing this 40% to gain proper education to increase human capital potential, besides the obvious rights to education that any young girl or boy should possess. A study found that each year of education of women correlated with a decrease of child mortality by 9.5%. That’s a heavy figure to consider; it should be criminal for a developing country not to invest in women. The International Monetary Fund estimates that if women were able to access the same resources for agriculture, food production could increase by 2.5 to 4%. If that wasn’t enough reason to begin to treat women as equals in developing nations, then consider the fact that women make up a disproportionate figure of 70% of the world’s poor.

Allowing women to have equal rights and treatment in developing countries has a variety of benefits. Less workplace discrimination means more women can work instead of being outsiders to the economy of a country. Increasing the career opportunities and general rights for women could also usher in more investment from developed countries who may find more cultural connection with the developing nation. Studies have also shown that women are better at spending money in ways that benefit children than men, but, currently, women are earning significantly less than men across the world.

By empowering women in developing nations, poverty rates could be slashed, businesses could be started, existing industries could be revitalized and greater human capital resources could be fully realized. Gates said it best, and with elegance. The question really just becomes: why waste half of the talent you have?

Martin Yim

Sources: New York Times, International Monetary Fund, The Guardian, United Nations
Photo: Water Encyclopedia

Why Does Brain Drain Hurt a Developing Nation

There is a general consensus that developing education is an incredibly important factor to reducing poverty. After an individual receives their education, that person may stay in their home country for a while, but if the economy is too depressed, they may move abroad to work. When this happens, countries are said to have experienced a “brain drain,” or “the migration of health personnel in search of the better standard of living and quality of life, higher salaries, access to advanced technology and more stable political conditions in different places worldwide,” according to the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

While brain drain, or human capital flight, usually consists of health personnel, it can also include any person in any highly skilled field.

Brain drain has its benefits for individuals and drawbacks for the developing nation that the individual is leaving. For the worker, leaving for a more developed country has proven to have great benefits. That worker tends to have higher productivity, can usually research and publish more in their field, earn a higher salary, and even send money back to any family in their native home. In short, the individual has used his or her training to move out of a poverty situation and create a better life for their family.

However, for the nation that is left, brain drain results in many gaps in vital industries.

Puerto Rico is suffering from a cycle of poverty that brain drain has helped perpetuate. The migration of skilled workers did not cause the economic problems, yet the problems are more difficult to solve when highly skilled professionals, especially healthcare workers, leave the country.

Haiti has also seen a shortage of workers after having a brain drain: “Healthcare is a contributing factor to brain drain because the pay to healthcare professionals such as doctors and nurses, who are lacking in accessibility, is lower than in other countries. Another contributor to brain drain is education, because the education system is poor—not only do few individuals acquire a post-secondary education, there are few opportunities to advance in specialized fields of interest and conduct meaningful research.

Even more developed countries are seeing the effects of healthcare workers leaving unstable economies. Greece is currently feeling the results of brain drain as more and more healthcare workers are leaving for Germany in the wake of economic unrest. If this continues to spiral, there will be a massive healthcare shortage.

What can be done to stop brain drain? Well, it may never completely stop until economies, schools and healthcare facilities are made better in developing countries. Unless healthcare professionals and other skilled workers are given a financial or educational reason to stay, brain drain will continue to occur.

Some good is being done to stop brain drain in Haiti through the work of the University of the People. They are working to help some students gain education with the hopes that those students will stay in the country and become leaders.

Developing nations need more initiatives like this to help keep skilled workers from leaving.

– Megan Ivy

Sources: Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, New York Times, U.N., University of the People, University of Maryland
Photo: TheAtlantic

fighting_corruptionFrom the bottom of the bureaucratic ladder to the highest offices of the state, most developing nations suffer some degree of systematic corruption. Such abuses of power are wrong and harmful to the cause of relieving people from poverty worldwide. Corruption is about self-interest and using the power vested in the state for one’s own gains, instead of helping society as a whole. What strategies work to help fight corruption and simultaneously assist the struggle against poverty?

One key strategy used to fight institutional corruption, is to keep governments accountable. Accountability is only achievable by watching the government. Watching the government and people in office requires transparency. Too many secrets in government can keep corrupt practices under the covers and away from the eyes of the fourth estate – journalists.

Journalists are a critical to keeping governments and officials accountable to the people they preside over. Without transparency of government affairs, journalists’ ability to do proper reporting is often compromised, and this system of checks-and-balances becomes weakened. Corruption can be held back by vocal journalists with access to government documents and news, so that they may raise concerns and questions to the general population.

Corruption is also made easier when the bureaucracy grows too large and unwieldy. The farther the public is from the top levels of government, the easier it is for someone in between to take advantage of his or her own position. Minimizing red tape means there is less of an opportunity for someone to be corrupted. There is a correlation between high levels of pointless and unhelpful regulation, and corrupt practices in government.

A third method to reducing corruption, and one of the most effective – but difficult to quantify and implement – is to simply create stronger institutions of governance and regulation. A strong institution is one that has loyal employees and is immune to most corruption because of its own internal integrity. Paying good wages and benefits to government workers is highly effective in working against corruption because the monetary incentives for corruption would be severely weakened by good wages.

Introducing technology to handle tasks is also an effective way to reduce corruption. It’s much harder to cook the books or do other similar elicit activity when software takes care of the work on its own and can spot irregularities.

Fighting corruption is imperative to creating conditions in which poverty can be systematically eliminated. Corruption often manifests itself through rent-seeking behaviors where regulators are “captured” (corrupted by the people that would have been regulated), and these behaviors are often very regressive against the poor because of their lack of political voice in most cases. Reducing corruption is also beneficial to local economies because it allows outside investors to have greater interest in the region, due to less risk of higher sunk costs.

Corruption is detrimental to the economy and bad for the poor. Using these aforementioned strategies can help eliminate the culture of corruption in many developing nations, as well as already developed ones.

– Martin Yim

Sources: World Bank, European Commission, IMF
Photo: World Bank

elderly_population
The elderly population around the world has been growing steadily ever since they have been treated as a separate demographic group. People over the age of 60 made up 9.2 percent of the population in 1990, 11.7 percent in 2013 and they are projected to hit 21.1 percent by 2050. As of 2013, two-thirds of the elderly population live in developed countries. However, the aging population in developing countries is growing faster than in developed countries. Eight in 10 elderly people will be living in developing regions by 2050.

While these statistics are interesting, they are a cause for concern when taking into account the amount of abuse that the elderly population is subject to in developing regions. Abuse against elders ranges from sexual,psychological and emotional abuse, financial abuse, neglect and physical violence. This is especially frightening considering the elderly demographic is one of the most under-acknowledged social, public health and human rights issues.

Because women live longer than men, they tend to become the most common target for abuse. This is only amplified by the increasing trend of women living alone. Often times this abuse manifests itself in claims of witchcraft. This might seem like an outdated notion, but the trend continues to this day and has been reported in 41 countries such as Burkina Faso, Cameroon, India, Kenya and Nepal.

While there is data out there regarding elder abuse, there is a considerable lack of statistics regarding this issue. The World Health Organization has found that prevalence rates and estimates of elder abuse only exist in select developed countries, ranging from 1 to 10 percent. Outside of developed countries, the WHO says that abuse is under-reported by as much as 80 percent. This is further emphasized by the sharp decrease in support structures for the elderly population, particularly in developing countries, which points toward increasing neglect and poverty. The relative poverty of the elderly tends to be higher than the population average, no matter how developed the region they live in.

Thankfully, there are organizations to help combat this issue. The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, founded in 1997, has since gained consultative status with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. By utilizing international collaboration, the INPEA aims to raise awareness and knowledge on these issues, advocate on behalf of the elderly, increase society’s ability to recognize and respond to abuse and research the causes and consequences of abuse.

While there is work being done to help decrease abuse, more needs to be done as elder abuse is proving to be an increasingly pressing issue considering the steady increase in the aging population.

 —  Andre Gobbo

Sources: UN 1, UN 2, WHO
Photo: World Crunch

diseases
A recent study conducted by the University of Edinburgh revealed that three neglected diseases – anthrax, brucellosis and bovine tuberculosis – have threatened the lives of thousands of people and animals in the developing world.

Anthrax, brucellosis and bovine tuberculosis are highly contagious and usually lethal. They are categorized as zoonotic diseases, meaning that they can be spread between animals and humans. In poor communities, the diseases are widespread because people depend on animals for their food supply and livelihood. All three diseases have failed to receive the appropriate recognition and funding necessary to combat them effectively in developing nations.

Due to widespread animal vaccination efforts, anthrax has been virtually eliminated in developing countries. Nevertheless, the bacterial disease, caused by Bacillus anthracis, remains prevalent in those areas. Brucellosis, which is spread via infected cow’s milk and undercooked meat from infected animals, affects those living in the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia and poor European countries. Bovine tuberculosis is a chronic disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium bovis that threatens the cattle farming industry in the United Kingdom. These three diseases were effectively managed and almost entirely eradicated in highly developed nations during the 20th century.

Researchers reviewed every meeting held by the World Health Organization (WHO) since its establishment in 1948. Their study, published in the scientific journal, PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, and funded by the European Commission, revealed that diseases plaguing developing countries have been overlooked due to poor health care infrastructure. The failure of global health organizations to tackle the diseases has also been cited as a contributing factor to the public health issue. Thousands have been left undiagnosed with the diseases, presenting an enormous challenge to health care professionals, policy makers and researchers. In more developed nations, “simple and effective controls are available” to eliminate and control the spread of various diseases.

Scientists have proposed the adoption of the One Health approach, which is a multidisciplinary effort that involves experts from a wide range of fields in order to control the diseases and improve health. The One Health concept “recognizes that the health of humans is connected to the health of animals and the environment.” As human populations grow and expand to new geographical areas, more people are coming into contact with wild and domestic animals, causing more diseases to pass between animals and people. Additionally, international travel and trade have contributed to the spread of diseases across the globe. The CDC’s One Health Office has made efforts to promote the concept and practice of One Health by studying the spread of infectious diseases and its relationship to humans, animals and the environment.

Professor Sue Welburn, director of the Global Health Academy at the University of Edinburgh, led the study. In response to the findings, she stated, “it is extraordinary that in the 21st century we are failing to manage brucellosis and the other neglected zoonotic diseases that impact so severely on rural communities in developing economies when, for many of these diseases, the tools to manage them are well developed.”

– Kristy Liao 

Sources: BBC News, CDC, The Information Daily, The Times of India
Photo: WN

Worldwide foreign aid hits record levels
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has recently released figures showing a large increase in foreign aid among its members to foreign countries for development assistance. Official development assistance has grown 6.1% in 2013 to a total of $134.8 billion after two years in a row of shrinking development assistance.

This new figure comes as seventeen countries increased their aid spending this past year, some with rather sizable increases. For instance, the UK finally hit the target of spending .7% of its Gross National Income (GNI) as its foreign aid by increasing its budget for foreign aid by 27.8%. Other countries with large increases include Japan (36.6%) and Iceland (27%).

The country with the largest increase in foreign aid over the past year was the United Arab Emirates, with a whopping 375.5% increase in its aid spending, although most of the aid was used to support Egypt. In 2013 the UAE spent a total of 1.25% of its GNI, the most out of the seventeen-country OECD group.

While 17 of the 28 countries in the Development Assistance Committee spent more money than last year on foreign aid, its eleven other members actually spent less on development aid. Countries such as France (-9.8%), Canada (-11.4%) and Portugal (-20.4%) all spent less on foreign aid in 2013 than in 2012.

The largest gross donors were the US with $31.5 billion, the UK, Germany, France and Japan. Countries that exceeded the .7% of GNI target set by the UN were Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden, with the Netherlands falling short of the .7% mark for the first time in 40 years.

Despite this positive trend, the proportion of aid going to the poorest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa is falling. Bilateral aid to Sub-Saharan Africa decreased by 4% to $26.2 billion in 2013, and aid to the African continent decreased by 5.6% to $28.9 billion. Aid to developing countries grew from 1997 to 2010 and then declined in 2011 and 2012 when the financial crisis and economic austerity measures forced countries to cut budgets down.

It is anticipated that donors will begin to focus more of its aid spending on the economic development of middle-income countries such as Brazil, China, Chile, Mexico, India and Pakistan in the form of loans.

– Jeff Meyer

Sources: OECDThe Guardian
Photo: The Perspectivist