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Ending AIDS in AfricaAIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a highly stigmatized disease. Throughout history, the AIDS epidemic has brought on severe discrimination toward individuals on the basis of race, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status. The epidemic started in the 1980s, and upon arrival, it spread rapidly through marginalized communities – primarily prostitutes, drug addicts and homosexuals. AIDS is defined as the last stage of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). AIDS and HIV are classified as STDs (sexually transmitted diseases); they are highly contagious and can cause severe flu-like symptoms. After acquiring HIV/AIDS, some expensive treatment options range from therapy to surgery to prescription drugs, however, there are currently no effective vaccines for the disease. Despite these complications, ending AIDS in Africa is a global goal.

Background of the AIDS Epidemic

The history of AIDS is controversial and incomplete. There are wide-ranging speculations regarding the origin of the virus in humans, but these are far from confirmed. In America, the AIDS crisis is commonly reported as beginning in the 1980s. The first cases, however, are believed to have occurred almost a decade earlier.

In Africa, AIDS is said to have spread to humans from chimpanzees in the early 1900s. The AIDS epidemic began on the continent in the 1970s, with the first cases being reported in the 1960s. Kinasha, Congo is commonly cited as the birthplace of the epidemic in Africa. A Cameroon traveler is said to have brought the virus to the city and from there, it began to spread rapidly. Within the next decade, AIDS reached the eastern and western parts of Africa. Coupled with diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, sarcoma, meningitis and pneumonia, Africa as a whole was nowhere near ready to deal with a new deadly disease.

The most recent update on the AIDS epidemic in Africa was in 2020. According to UNAIDS, there were 150,000 AIDS-related deaths in the region and 200,000 people were infected with HIV. Every week more than 1,000 adolescent girls and young women become infected with HIV in the region and 1.2 million people in western and central Africa are still waiting to initiate life-saving HIV treatment. Only 35% of children living with HIV in western and central Africa are being treated. Taking a step further, on a global scale, SOS Children’s Villages reports two-thirds of all HIV-infected people worldwide are Africans, which has resulted in significant social and economic consequences.

The Correlation Between AIDS and Poverty

The spread of AIDS and poverty in Africa are closely related; poverty is both the cause and effect of the disease. Due to the high poverty rate in Africa, sanitation and health care facilities are rare. Women are often restricted to the household and remained uneducated about STDs. There is also a high ratio of men in urban areas, widespread labor migration and sex workers – all contributing factors to the spread of AIDS. Overall, AIDS forces families to be ostracized from society and causes unemployment. Without a steady income or assistance from neighbors, entire families – even with only one case of AIDS – fall into poverty. Often, a family with an individual that contracts AIDS finds themselves both out of society and out of a job.

Since its arrival, the HIV/AIDS virus has targeted impoverished urban areas. Factors such as poor income levels and food insufficiency are coupled with transactional sex, which is correlated with the contraction of AIDS. Impoverished individuals are more likely to contract AIDS and because the disease is so highly stigmatized, these affected individuals become disadvantaged when looking for economic opportunities. The virus has perpetuated a cycle of poverty – one that desperately needs to be broken.

The Fight Against AIDS

Despite numerous obstacles, the U.N. and a multitude of nonprofit organizations remain committed to constricting the spread of HIV/AIDS. Recently, a U.N. Millennium Development Goal was created to end the AIDS epidemic worldwide by 2030. So far, the U.N. has stayed true to its word – the number of AIDS deaths in sub-Saharan Africa has declined by roughly 35% in recent years due to proper diagnosis and life-saving therapeutic treatments carried out by experienced U.N. physicians.

The Future of AIDS in Africa

Ending AIDS in Africa is a daunting task, however, the steps taken by leaders around the world have helped in diminishing the presence of the fatal disease. Due to the high correlation between poverty and AIDS, it is imperative that nations and organizations across the world come together to enact poverty-related reform. Through proper funding, the governments of Africa could establish proper health care facilities and set up economic and educational programs. AIDS may not have a vaccine, but there are solutions so long as international organizations remain committed to preventing its spread.

– Sania Patel
Photo: Flickr

AIDS ConferenceThe 24th Annual AIDS conference occurred in Montreal between July 29, 2022 and August 2, 2022. This was the first year the conference employed a hybrid model with both in-person and virtual speakers. As a result, researchers, advocates and leaders from 172 countries attended, and most were from developing countries.

The AIDS conference displayed many breakthroughs in HIV prevention and the intersections between sciences such as clinical, political, social and behavioral. The greatest clinical development, according to the co-chair of the conference Dr. Jean-Pierre Routy, was the research that found that the receipt of a long-acting injection shot of antiretroviral medication every eight weeks is “safe and superior” to daily oral medication.

Necessary Steps

However, though medical science is taking strides forwards, the rollout of these treatments remains behind. Esteban Burrone, the Head of Policy at the Medicines Patent Pool, described the necessary steps to promote the equitable rollout of HIV antiretroviral medication. Each country needs FDA approval, licensing, manufacturing and recommendation in guidelines for a rollout to receive approval. Things that can help fast-track product rollout in countries are “community involvement in demanding access, pursuing early licensing, securing national approval, equitable pricing agreements.” In addition, Dr. Karin Hatzold, a public health physician, discussed how access to “diagnostic strategies such as HIV self-testing… [and] operations research to optimize delivery models” are crucial for a successful rollout and introduction to products.

Reaching Rural Areas

Tackling the difficulty of delivering medications to vulnerable populations in developing countries, however, is Dr. Rosalind Parkes-Ratanshi. Parkes-Ratanshi discussed a pilot project in Uganda where medical drones help distribute HIV medication in remote locations and for mobile populations. Her medical drone project is also used for COVID-19 and STI sample delivery. Although this does not address the policy required to roll out new products in other countries, it is a step to reaching rural populations with already approved antiretroviral medication.

New Framework

Furthermore, representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO), Global Fund and the International Aids Society (IAS) presented new people-focused guidelines that the WHO has adopted to focus on structural barriers. This includes reducing stigma and eradicating “punitive laws.” The new framework also works to target key populations who make up 70% of new HIV infections according to UNAIDS. Each presenter at the AIDS conference including the WHO strives to progress the global community toward the UNAIDS 95-95-95 target, a goal that states by 2030, 95% of people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 95% of people who know their status will be receiving treatment and that 95% of people on HIV treatment will have an undetectable viral load making the chance of infecting others very low.

PEPFAR News

PEPFAR, the U.S. President Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, announced that 5.5 million babies across the world have been born HIV-free due to the program’s efforts. PEPFAR’s efforts to expand treatment and prevention services to many target populations across the globe have reached millions. U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Health Diplomacy Ambassador-at-Large Dr. John Nkengasong described the prevention program that made this possible. “In collaboration with countries, communities, and our partners, PEPFAR supported comprehensive HIV prevention programming for adolescent girls and young women, voluntary medical male circumcision, and we scaled up treatment for women and men with viral suppression.” Other PEPFAR announcements included reaching the 90-90-90 UNAIDS target in at least 12 “high HIV disease burden countries” and treating approximately 20 million men, women, and children with antiretroviral medication.

These were only a fraction of the many positive advancements that researchers discussed at the 2022 AIDS conference. Much progress has occurred in understanding other barriers such as the social, political and economical barriers to reach the UNAIDS 95-95-95 goal by 2030. Check out the AIDS 2022 website for more information about the 24th Annual AIDS conference.

Jordan Oh
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in MalaysiaMalaysia saw its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on January 24, 2020. The Malaysian government implemented the Movement Control Order (MCO or PKP) around two months later in response. This mandate restricted travel, work, assembly and established quarantine measures jeopardizing the financial integrity of Malaysian households. Here is some information about the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Malaysia as well as the country as a whole.

The World on Pause

For fully vaccinated individuals, the MCO ended in November 2021. However, under the mandate, conditional and variable ordinances ultimately played a part in the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Malaysia.

Working in multiple phases, the MCO developed into the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO/PKPB), Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO/PKPP) and the National Recovery Plan (NRP/PPN). These restrictions prevented movement between states, travel to and from Malaysia and mass gatherings in addition to the closure of schools, government and private premises except those considered essential. Those who violated the MCO were at risk of receiving fines or facing jail time.

Hurting Those Already Struggling the Most

Three-quarters of the Malaysian population live in urban areas, with the majority of individuals falling into the 15-64 age group. A four-part research study that UNICEF and UNFPA conducted titled “Families on the Edge” found that a typical Malaysian household has an average of 5.5 members.

The head of these households are mostly married Malay males around 46 years old with low educational attainment. These workers face a high risk of unemployment, pay cuts or other stresses to household income as they were in jeopardy before the pandemic.

Reports have indicated that a 5% increase in employment occurred between March 2020 and June 2021. Despite the rise, a third of those employed before the crisis experienced work disruptions and 27% faced income reduction.

The World Bank found that around 65% of jobs in Malaysia cannot occur remotely even after modifying them so that they were in an online format. This is because approximately 51% of jobs require close physical proximity. With the MCO restrictions, these jobs were most vulnerable with one-fourth of heads of households experiencing unemployment during this time.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Food and Education

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Malaysia consequently affected access to food and quality of education. With little to no income, households spent around 84% less on education and 4% less on food between December 2019 and June 2020. While expenditure on food reduced, approximately 30% reduced food intake itself to cope with financial difficulties.

While employees adjusted to remote working, children needed to transition to online learning. Two-fifths of children do not have access to the required equipment (such as a computer) or internet connection to resume their education.

Closures have also prevented children from impoverished families from accessing meals provided at school-distributed supplemental food programs. This food insecurity pushed households to adopt cheaper and less healthy diets, further threatening the country’s child malnutrition crisis.

A Citizen’s Surrender

Some low-income residents resorted to waving white flags from their flats during the government-mandated lockdown to express the financial stress they were experiencing. This Bendera Putih, or “White Flag” movement emerged to help families ask for assistance. The white cloth outside their homes would encourage others to donate food.

In response, three computer science students from Multimedia University Cyberjaya urgently developed and released the “Sambal SOS” app within the same month the White Flag Movement gained traction. More than 7,000 users registered on the site just two days after its launch.

Here, users could digitally and anonymously report that they needed help. They then could connect with other users ready and able to provide aid.

An Economic Recovery Plan

Prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced the Pelan Jana Semula Ekonomi Negara (PENJANA), also known as the Economic Recovery Plan, in June of 2020. This stimulus package totaled RM35 billion (more than $7 billion) allocated to 40 initiatives organized into “three key thrusts:”

  • Empower People
  • Propel Businesses
  • Stimulate the Economy

Some initiatives to empower people included a wage subsidy program, social protection for the gig economy workforce and the internet for education and productivity. PENJANA funded entrepreneurship financing to propel businesses while supporting small enterprises through e-commerce and tourism financing. Initiatives to stimulate the economy included a campaign to buy Malaysian products and financial relief for those working in the agriculture/food sector.

Although poverty rates are still higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty levels have decreased by 16% between May 2020 and March 2021. Government assistance increased overall average household income since 2019, including disabled-headed households.

Households rely on savings, government and Zakat assistance for financial support as the labor market recovers. While PENJANA has proven to help boost the economy temporarily, many families still do not receive registered business-related aid and do not have social protection or insurance. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Malaysia emphasized that social protection assistance still needs to improve its scope of coverage to help the urban poor rebuild post-crisis.

– Aishah French
Photo: Flickr

Diseases Impacting AfghanistanSince the early 2000s, Afghanistan’s disease prevention and treatment services were far below sustainable, with only 11 physicians and 18 nurses per 100,000 civilians working in 2003. As foreign aid began to pour in, these numbers slowly improved. However, infant, child and maternal mortality rates remain the highest globally, alongside many other diseases impacting Afghanistan today. Currently, two diseases impacting Afghanistan include tuberculosis and polio, which the Western world is well equipped to diagnose with far less difficulty.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is a highly infectious, airborne disease impacting many Afghan people. Tuberculosis symptoms include a dry cough (sometimes with blood), fatigue, loss of appetite, night sweats and others. Yet, early diagnosis and quality treatment are easily accessible in the United States, preventing mass outbreaks.

The World Health Organization states that tuberculosis kills around 13,000 Afghans yearly, making it a disease that impacts Afghanistan severely. In 2014, Afghanistan had approximately 58,000 new tuberculosis cases. Only 56% of these cases were diagnosed and provided with adequate treatment. Keeping the disease at bay only becomes more challenging with up to 25,000 Afghan people left undiagnosed and untreated.

However, with WHO’s help, BRAC Afghanistan and USAID started a community-based TB DOTS program to control tuberculosis outbreaks. Through the program, diagnostic facilities for tuberculosis expanded and existing facilities were further equipped with microscopy screening technology. After the initiation of these health programs, more Afghans saw doctors and received treatment for tuberculosis: Since the program’s launch in 2004, access to dots has expanded from 15 to 121 clinics two years later. By 2006, more than 6,000 community health workers had trained under the program, of which 53 percent of trainees were women. Through the continued funding and advancement of the TB DOTS program, tuberculosis may slowly begin to lose its footing and become a lower-risk illness.

Poliomyelitis (Polio)

Polio is a viral illness that can lead to severe nerve damage and injury, eventually leading to paralysis and sometimes death. Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan remain the only countries worldwide that have yet to eradicate polio. Due to inconsistent vaccination rates at birth, polio remains a disease impacting Afghanistan heavily today. In the 2015 report by the polio eradication initiative, researchers found that reported polio cases in Afghanistan had decreased since years prior. However, Afghanistan is still far from eradication.

In efforts to eradicate the polio virus worldwide, UNICEF worked with WHO to find innovative ways to give every child polio vaccines. The program implemented three National Immunization Days (NIDs) to increase access to polio vaccines and potential treatment if necessary. NIDs aim to reach nearly 10 million children through house-to-house and health facility-based approaches.

Furthermore, in collaboration with UNICEF and WHO, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Health is investing in a polio program to support vaccinators, community mobilizers, influencers, volunteers and campaign coordinators to reach children in need of vaccines. According to UNICEF, 392,000 polio branded items were distributed in 2020 to Afghan students to raise awareness about the disease’s severity, prevention and symptoms. As efforts continue, polio may become a disease impacting Afghanistan far less than before.

Why it Matters

Though efforts to improve health care access and treatments in Afghanistan have increased, much work still needs to be done. Today, tuberculosis is a disease that the U.S. quickly diagnoses and treats, while, in Afghanistan, the disease is often more threatening.

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health and emergency operating system know how to help their people lead healthier lives yet lack the resources to do so. In funding programs that help international organizations and ministries provide the support needed for their people, both tuberculosis and polio can become low-priority diseases for all.

– Opal Vitharana
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19's impact on North KoreaOn May 12, 2022, the president of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, made a public appearance. For the first time, he was wearing a mask. The world took even greater surprise when he declared that North Korea was under its first lockdown. This calls into question: what is COVID-19’s impact on North Korea?

Isolated From the Rest of the Globe

Prior to this announcement, North Korean officials claimed that not a single case of Coronavirus had entered their country. The nation, isolated from the rest of the globe, has previously endured life-threatening conditions. Recently, after a severe flood, North Korea has faced its most intense food shortage in the past decade. What’s more, its already limited healthcare system has deteriorated and left millions of people without adequate care.

Many question the accuracy of disease data. As a closed-off country, journalists find it very difficult to paint the full picture of North Korea. For instance, researchers were unaware of the 1990s North Korean famine until its aftermath, when survivors told their famine stories.

Draconian Lockdowns

Professor Park Won-gon, from the Department of North Korean Studies at Ewha Woman University predicted that North Korea could “institute draconian measures to those of its biggest ally, China,” according to VOA News. This meant strict lockdowns confining people to their homes, workplaces and dorms. Unlike China, though, North Korea doesn’t have the basic food supplies that China has to enforce such extreme restrictions. Consequently, thousands of people in North Korea are starving to death under this new lockdown protocol. Citizens could not access new harvests or markets which further strangled the economy.

The lockdown also stymied other solutions proposed by organizations. Particularly, the lack of mobility severed communication with international agencies. COVID-19’s impact on North Korea has, thus, proved massive. Medical resources and help have been inaccessible due to such stringent lockdowns.

Herbal Medicine: Fix or Fallacy?

Without vaccines, North Korea has resorted to herbal solutions. KCNA recently reported that “Thousands of tonnes of salt were urgently transported to Pyongyang city.” North Korea will use salt to produce an antiseptic remedy — in place of vaccines. Shanghai also transported millions of traditional medicines like herbal remedies and flu capsules to address COVID-19 in North Korea.

Unfortunately, these have no scientific grounding. Citizens have been drinking teas, salt water and even taking antibiotics. However, due to mass famines, many North Koreans have weak immune systems.

It’s unclear if this has worked. The treatments are approved by the DPRK, which develops methods for “scientifically controlling the spread of the…virus.”

Before these herbal treatments, North Korea reached around 400,000 cases daily. Recently, it reported “about 17,000 to 30,000 new fever cases.” Many experts believe North Korea is manipulating health data to shield itself against geopolitical consequences. Yet if it isn’t manipulating data, these herbal remedies may help mitigate COVID-19’s impact on North Korea.

Necessary Compromises

So far, North Korea has rejected most international help. Aid agencies have opened their doors to provide the nation with the necessary medical resources. Kim Jong-Un twice denied vaccines from Covax, according to The Washington Post. South Korea and the U.S., too, have asserted that they are open to providing aid. Nonetheless, North Korean elites continue to prioritize geopolitical leverage over the health of their constituents. It remains unclear whether North Korea will accept aid and scientifically proven disease resources from other countries.

Looking Forward: The Broader Picture

North Korea’s sudden outbreak demonstrates that the COVID-19 pandemic is not nearing an end. While the U.S. and other major nations are equipped with a “vaccine arsenal,” other countries are not as fortunate.

As of May 18, 2022, one report found that fewer than 13% of people in low-income countries are vaccinated. With such low rates, COVID-19’s impact on North Korea and developing countries is disproportionately larger than developed nations.

These concerns are urgent. Officials in Geneva told reporters that “uncontrolled transmission of the virus” in developing countries could give rise to new COVID-19 variants, The New York Times reports. North Korea, for example, could be a new variant’s breeding base.

Although North Korea hasn’t accepted aid from many countries, it seems to be getting health resources from China as of May 30, 2022. However, if the outbreak becomes too severe, North Korea will always have the open arms of the U.S. and U.N. to provide assistance.

– Ashwin Telang
Photo: Flickr

Herbal Medicine
The continent of Africa — especially Sub-Saharan Africa — is abundant with rich vegetation. Among the plants that naturally grow on the continent, there are many of them that are used to treat a variety of diseases. Herbal medicines are one of the oldest methods used for healing in Africa, even before the European invasion. According to the World Health Organization, 70-80% of the population uses some form of traditional medicine, with herbal medicines standing out in particular. The knowledge regarding which plants are safe to be used for healing has been orally transmitted from the elders. Currently, most regions combine herbal and modern medicines according to the kind of disease or symptoms a patient has. The following are the contributions and concerns of herbal medicines in Africa in relation to modern medicines.

Contributions

  1. Heals Common Seasonal Diseases: Herbal medicines are widely used to cure seasonal respiratory and digestive diseases such as colds, coughs and constipation. Some herbal plants are also used to cure common parasitic skin diseases like acne and others are used to lower the intensity of some symptoms like inflammation. For example, Pygeum is used in Africa to treat Malaria and fever-like symptoms.
  2. Accessible: Most medicines grow naturally and can even be grown in a backyard. They are easily accessible to people and this accessibility reduces the amount of money paid at hospitals and for pharmacy bills. In rural regions of Africa, herbal medicines are more accessible than pharmaceutical drugs, and this availability saves people time and resources as opposed to traveling long distances for common minor diseases. On the other hand, herbal medicines can raise some important concerns. These concerns are the reason why some people prefer to use modern pharmaceutical prescribed drugs.

Concerns

  1. Lack of Research: There have been few studies that have examined the efficiency and credibility of some herbal medicines. This lack of research causes ambiguity in using herbal medicines. Since most advanced herbal medicines are recommended by traditional specialists, people simply rely on beliefs and stories rather than recorded credible research. Otherwise, people simply go for the medically tested pharmaceutical drugs because their efficiency is proven with credible research.
  2. Easily Mistaken: Different plants might have similar features but with different chemical components. In regions with thick vegetation, plants of similar characteristics grow together. This similarity leaves no room for error because some plants can be poisonous and cause harm to the patient.
  3. Inadequate Measurements: Unlike modern medicines prescribed after testing and done in proportion to an individual’s weight, it is hard for random individuals to know the exact number of herbs to use for a certain problem. Overdosing on strong herbs can cause inflammations, liver damage and kidney failure. Additionally, if patients combine pharmaceutical drugs with these natural herbs, there can be dangerous interactions and one medicine can reduce the efficiency of the other.

African countries are encouraging cooperation between herbalists and doctors. This collaboration will help doctors understand their patients who have been using herbal medicines. Additionally, herbalists will know when patients should go to the hospital in case herbs do not work or if they cause some problems to the patients.

Renova Uwingabire
Photo: Flickr

Life expectancy in Grenada
Grenada is a country in the Caribbean composed of seven islands. This former British colony attained its independence in 1974, making Grenada one of the smallest independent nations in the western hemisphere. Nicknamed historically as the “spice isle,” Grenada’s traditional exports included sugar, chocolate and nutmeg. From 1979 to 1983, Grenada went through a period of political upheaval, which ended when a U.S.-led coalition invaded the island. Today, Grenada is a democratic nation that is working to ensure the health and well-being of its citizens. Here are nine facts about life expectancy in Grenada.

9 Facts About Life Expectancy in Grenada

  1. The World Bank’s data showed that, as of 2017, life expectancy in Grenada was 72.39 years. While there was a rapid increase in life expectancy from 1960 to 2006, life expectancy decreased from 2007 to 2017.  However, the CIA estimates that this metric will increase to 75.2 years in 2020.
  2. Non-communicable diseases constitute the leading cause of death in Grenada. According to 2016 WHO data, non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes constituted the majority of premature death in Grenada. Cardiovascular diseases, which constituted 32 percent of all premature deaths, were the leading cause of death in 2016.
  3. Grenada’s infant mortality rate stands at 8.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. This is a significant improvement from 21.2 infant deaths out of 1,000 in 1985 and 13.7 deaths out of 1,000 in 2018.
  4. Grenada has universal health care. Health care in Grenada is run by the Ministry of Health (MoH). Through the MoH, the Grenadan government helps finance medical care in public institutions. Furthermore, if an individual wishes to purchase private health insurance, there are several options to choose from.
  5. Around 98 percent of people in Grenada have access to improved drinking water. However, water scarcity still plagues many people in Grenada due to erratic rainfall, climate change and limited water storage. To remedy this, Grenada launched a $42 million project in 2019 with the goal of expanding its water infrastructure. This includes plans to retrofit existing systems.
  6. Hurricanes and cyclones pose a threat to life expectancy in Grenada. While in recent years Grenada has not been significantly affected by a hurricane, Grenadians still remember the devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan (2004) and Hurricane Emily (2005). Hurricane Ivan caused an estimated $800 million worth of damage. In the following year, Hurricane Emily caused an additional $110 million damage. On top of 30 deaths caused by these natural disasters, the damage they inflicted on Grenada’s infrastructure and agriculture can have further harmful ramifications for the people of Grenada.
  7. The Grenadian government is taking measures to improve the country’s disaster risk
    management (DRM). With the help of organizations such as the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), Grenada is recovering from the devastation of 2004 and 2005. In 2010, for example, GFDRR conducted a risk management analysis which helped the preparation of a $26.2 million public infrastructure investment project by the World Bank in Grenada.
  8. The Grenadian government’s 2016-2025 health plan aims to strengthen life expectancy in Grenada. One of the top priorities of this framework is to ensure that health services are available, accessible and affordable to all citizens. Another goal surrounds addressing challenges for the most vulnerable groups in society such as the elderly, children and women.
  9. Grenada received a vaccination award from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). In November of 2014, PAHO awarded Grenada the Henry C. Smith Award for Immunization, which is presented to the country that has made the most improvement in their immunization programs. PAHO attributed this success to Community Nursing Health teams and four private Pediatricians in Grenada.

The Grenadian government is committed to providing the best quality of life for its citizens. However, there is still room for improvement. The prevalence of premature death caused by cardiovascular diseases suggests that Grenada needs to promote healthier life choices for its citizens. With the continued support and observation by the Grenadian government, many hope that life expectancy in Grenada will increase in the future.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Dengue FeverAccording to the World Health Organization, dengue fever is one of the ten major global health threats of 2019. The mosquito-borne illness results in flu-like symptoms that can kill up to 20 percent of those infected. Approximately 390 million cases of dengue fever are reported each year across 100 different countries, although, many cases go unreported. Cases of dengue fever have also increased 30 times in the last 50 years, meaning that today, 40 percent of the world’s population is at risk of contracting the disease.

Why the Increase?

While dengue fever used to be concentrated in countries with extreme tropical climates, such as India and Bangladesh, the disease is now prevalent in countries that have more temperate climates, such as Nepal. With higher than average temperatures, rainy seasons are lasting longer which creates the perfect environment for the Aedes mosquito, the carrier of the disease. Unfortunately, the geographic regions that the Aedes mosquito inhabits coincide with low and middle-income countries. Many of these countries do not have sufficient health care systems to cope with this major health issue. Therefore, the effects of dengue are even more severe.

Protection from Mosquitoes

The World Health Organization is leading efforts to reverse the increasing threat of dengue fever. One common tactic used is immunization. The first immunization for dengue fever was approved in 20 countries in 2015. However, follow-up data from 2017 showed that the vaccine was actually harmful to those who had never contracted the disease, putting people at a higher risk of more severe cases of dengue. Now, the vaccination is recommended as a measure for those who have already been affected.

In addition to immunization, people can inhibit the Aedes mosquito’s survival and procreation by properly disposing of human waste, and not leaving out any stagnate, uncovered containers of water, as mosquitoes thrive and lay eggs in both environments. It is also advised to use spray insecticide to repel bugs and invest in screened windows and sleeping nets for protection in homes.

Combatting the Threat

The World Health Organization is partnering with local organizations and governments in affected countries to ensure that the number of deaths caused by dengue fever will decrease by 50 percent in 2020. In order to reach this goal, however, additional funding and research are needed so that the scope of dengue fever is properly understood. Health care providers also need the training and resources to properly address the issue and detect the disease in its early stages as well. If dengue fever is diagnosed before the symptoms become too severe, mortality rates of the disease become much more optimistic.

 

Madeline Lyons
Photo: Flickr

Garbage CommunitiesGarbage: the word brings to mind unpleasant smells, flies and filth. But to some, it is home. Garbage communities consist of individuals making a living from and living within the confines of literal garbage dumps. For some people living in extreme poverty, the scrap cash that recycling garbage brings and the free space for building simple homes is the only option. And it isn’t an isolated, rare way of life. Nearly 15 million people across the globe live and “work” in garbage communities.

Making a Living

Members of garbage communities spend each day rummaging through the trash, hoping to find something decent enough to recycle. Once they find something — say a can or bottle — they collect these pieces and bring them to a middleman called an “agent”. The agent, (oftentimes a gang leader or crime lord) then sells the goods for much more, sucking up a large portion of the collector’s wage. This method brings in somewhere around $2.50 a day, not nearly enough for a decent living in most countries. Getting rid of the middleman is not an option, as violence and coercion are commonly used methods of silencing the garbage workers if they attempt to sell the items directly to the recycler.

Breeding Grounds of Disease

Living in waste — whether human, animal or artificial — brings with it a host of health problems. Contact with feces can cause intestinal worms, which can lead to stunted cognitive and physical growth in children. Pneumonia, spread by poor hygiene, is rampant in these communities, as are many other infectious diseases. This is likely because each gram of feces in which people in these conditions come into contact holds 10 million viruses. As a result, the average lifespan of people raised in these communities is about 35 years old.

But along with the physical burden is a huge mental and emotional weight. Garbage pickers are often stigmatized in their communities and referred to as “local rats”. Even if they are able to attend school or enter society looking for a job, they are seen as less than because of their occupation. Infections, illness, injuries from sharp objects, trauma and mental illness, spontaneous combustion from a buildup of methane gas, the list of dangers is endless. And yet, for the world’s most vulnerable, this is what it costs to live.

Promise for a Better Future

Several organizations are committed to bringing change to garbage communities and offering them a shot at a better life. ActionAid is an organization that specifically works with women and children in impoverished regions to help them stand up to sexual abuse and violence. ActionAid also helps children living in landfills get into school by pairing them with sponsors throughout the world. International Samaritan does similar work, providing promising young people in the dumps with scholarships so that they can escape the dump. This organization also funds entrepreneurs to start up their own businesses outside of the landfills.

By reaching the next generation, these programs bring promising hope for the future. Yet, many people still live under the burden of collecting and sorting the world’s waste. Although insufficient, an improvement would be providing a living wage, clean environment and benefits for garbage communities. Even by following correct rather than cheap landfill protocol, governments could greatly improve the quality of life for these communities by reducing the number of toxic waste individuals come into contact with.

Hannah Stewart
Photo: Flickr

10 Scary Facts About the Zika Virus
The Zika virus was first discovered in Uganda in 1947 through a group of diseased monkeys. In 1952, the first infected human was found in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. The Island of Yap is the first location where a large scale outbreak of the Zika virus was recorded. This incident took place in 2007. There are currently no countries facing a sizeable Zika outbreak, however, there may be a risk of contracting the disease in regions where the Aedes species of mosquito is prevalent. This article looks at the top 10 scary facts about the Zika Virus.

10 Scary Facts About the Zika Virus

  1. People are more likely to contract the Zika virus in poor countries. Mosquitoes that carry Zika often breed in stagnant water. These buildups of stagnant water are found in areas where communities lack adequate plumbing and sanitation. According to the United Nations Development Programme, poor households are least equipped to deal with the virus and are most likely to be exposed to the disease.
  2. Women face the biggest consequences during a Zika outbreak. Health ministers throughout Latin America have told women not to get pregnant during a Zika epidemic. In poorer countries, women lack access to sexual education, which leaves them vulnerable to misinformation. Furthermore, women may be blamed for contracting the virus during pregnancy, which carries an unfair social stigma.
  3. Zika poses a threat to unborn children. In some cases, when a pregnant woman is infected by the virus it disrupts the normal development of the fetus. This can cause debilitating side effects like babies being born with abnormally small heads and brains that did not develop properly. This condition is called microcephaly. Symptoms of microcephaly are seizures, decreased ability to learn, feeding problems, and hearing loss.
  4. Even though a mosquito bite may be the most well-known way to contract the Zika virus, it is possible to get the disease through other avenues. It is possible to get the disease during unprotected sex with a partner, who already have been infected by the virus. Individuals can also contract the virus during a blood transfusion or an organ transplant.
  5.  Symptoms of a Zika virus infection may go unnoticed. The symptoms can be described as mild. If symptoms do occur they can present themselves as a fever, rash or arthralgia. This is especially dangerous for pregnant women because they may not know that they have been infected, unknowingly passing it on to their unborn baby. There is no treatment available to cure this disease once it has been contracted.
  6. There are other birth defects associated with the Zika virus. Congenital Zika syndrome includes different birth problems that can occur alongside microcephaly. Some malformations associated with congenital Zika syndrome include limb contractures, high muscle tone, eye abnormalities, and hearing loss. Approximately 5-15 percent of children born to an infected mother have Zika related complications.
  7. The cost of caring for a child born with Zika related complications can be quite expensive. In Brazil, each kid born with the disease could cost $95,000 in medical expenses. It would cost approximately $180,000 in the U.S. to care for the same condition. Some experts believe the numbers are higher when taking into account a parent’s lost income and special education for the child.
  8. Even though there are more than 10 scary facts about the Zika Virus, there are also measures being taken to prevent future outbreaks. Population Services International (PSI) is working with the ministries of health in many different Latin American countries to spread contraception devices. This promotes safe sex practices. This also gives the women the power to decide if and when she wants to become pregnant.
  9.  The World Health Organization (WHO) is also implementing steps to control the Zika virus. Some of these steps include advancing research in the prevention of the virus, developing and implementing surveillance symptoms for Zika virus infection, improving Zika testing laboratories worldwide, supporting global efforts to monitor strategies aimed at limiting the Aedes mosquito populations and improving care to support families and affected children alike.
  10. The good news is that there are currently no major global outbreaks of the Zika virus. This is a sign that steps around the globe have been successful to lower the number of Zika cases. However, this doesn’t mean that precautions shouldn’t be taken when traveling to areas where the Aedes species of mosquito is prevalent. Even though they are no major outbreaks the disease still exists and may cause problems if contracted.

Conclusions

Even though the Zika virus may currently not be a threat worldwide, it is still something that needs to be accounted for. Zika has serious repercussions in poverty-stricken countries where people can’t afford adequate medical care. The Zika virus is also more likely to be contracted in poorer regions. The Zika virus has a strong correlation with poverty.

– Nicholas Bartlett
Photo: Flickr