Causes of Poverty in GuineaGuinea is a West African country known for its rich reserves of iron ore, gold, bauxite and other minerals. Despite the wealth these resources generate, Guinea is one of the poorest countries in the world.

Guinea has the highest per capita income on the continent of Africa, yet more than half of the population lives below the poverty line, with around 20 percent in extreme poverty. So where does this huge disparity come from?

The poverty statistics in Guinea are staggering, especially in rural areas. 55 percent of people live below the poverty line, and unemployment rates are very high. Hunger also poses a serious threat, with 17.5 percent of the population experiencing food insecurity, 230,000 children suffering from moderate acute malnutrition and 25.9 percent of the population experiencing chronic malnutrition.

Bearing all that in mind, what are the causes of poverty in Guinea?

Disparities Between Rural and Urban Areas
There is a significantly higher occurrence of poverty in rural areas compared to urban areas. Many Guineans rely on agriculture and do not receive help from any national safety net program; therefore, when frequent floods and natural disasters hit, rural areas are especially devastated. Approximately 63 percent of the rural population is poor, and a huge discrepancy exists between the availability of services like healthcare and education between rural and urban areas.

Influx of Refugees
Another factor contributing to the poverty in Guinea is the significant influx of refugees from Liberia and Sierra Leone into Guinea due to political instability in those countries. These refugees put a strain on the already struggling economy and contribute to political instability that deters investors from helping Guinea.

Insecurity Due to Ebola
Another one of the causes of poverty in Guinea was the 2014 outbreak of Ebola that ravaged Guinea and neighboring countries. The Ebola outbreak continues to have an economic impact, as certain trading restrictions curb economic activities. Ebola has affected almost a million people in Guinea, and many communities require rebuilding that will require a lot of time and money.

Domestic Corruption
Rampant corruption among government officials helps explain why such a rich country has such high poverty rates. Senior government officials have accumulated huge personal fortunes from the oil boom. A money laundering investigation revealed systemic corruption in the government. The government invests heavily in sketchy infrastructure projects that have inflated prices and little social value, at the cost of the well-being of their citizens. To put it into perspective, the government of Guinea spends US$80 out of every US$100 in its budget on construction projects, but only dedicates US$2-3 to health and education. Thus, the citizens continue to suffer from illiteracy and poor health and have no way to escape poverty.

Despite the concerning causes of poverty in Guinea, some aid is coming to the poor. For example, the World Food Programme has a number of programs dedicated to assisting those in Guinea. The World Food Programme is helping by providing emergency support for communities affected by Ebola, food assistance and nutrition, resilience building, school meals and support for local farmers. Although the plight of the poor in Guinea is concerning, efforts by organizations like the World Food Programme can alleviate some of the suffering.

Lauren McBride

Photo: Flickr

Education in Sierra LeoneAs of this year, Sierra Leone is an Ebola-free country. However, thousands of lives were lost during the epidemic, and while it may be over, the effects of the disease are still crippling the country, especially economically.

During the epidemic, schools were shut down to prevent further spread of the disease. These closures stalled the learning of almost 1.8 million children. For nine months, the youth of Sierra Leone were not only living in fear of Ebola but also of falling behind in their studies.

With the loss of “181 teachers and 945 students,” according to UNICEF, it was difficult for Sierra Leone to reopen schools again in 2015. Education in Sierra Leone had been on the rise since the end of the country’s civil war in 2002. The Ebola epidemic cracked that stable foundation and led to “an accelerated curriculum to shorten the duration of academic years” to make up for what school-aged children had missed.

Due to the increase of poverty in Sierra Leone, education has been put on the back burner for many families. Many children are now reliant on other family members to care for them, which means they are now less likely to finish their education.

Beginning in 2015, the charity Street Child has been working hard to recover education in Sierra Leone. They have found that 12,000 children no longer have an adult to support them because of Ebola. The CEO of Street Child, Tom Dannatt, said, “…unless we help families out of poverty, their children remain out of school. It is likely that their life prospects will be bleak as a result.”

Street Child runs a program called Livelihoods Programme, which supports the businesses of poor families that cannot afford school for the children they’re responsible for. The program provides grants to start small businesses. Training programs are also available along with these grants.

Another organization, Dubai Cares, started Education in Emergencies: Evidence for Action (3EA), a program focused specifically on recovering education in Sierra Leone. The goal of the program is to “improve teaching methodologies, ways to monitor and mentor staff, and reinforcing teaching styles that improve classroom performance.” 3EA encourages a positive learning environment and fitting the lessons to accommodate each student.

The Livelihoods Programme and Education in Emergencies: Evidence for Action have so far proven to be successful approaches to improving the education system in Sierra Leone. Both have allowed a greater number of children to go back to school, despite the country’s serious poverty. The future generation of Sierra Leone is not going to remain a victim of the Ebola epidemic, thanks to help from charitable organizations and knowledgeable people.

Mackenzie Fielder

Ebola Vaccine
On Monday, May 29 the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo approved the use of a new Ebola vaccine to address the current outbreak in the northeastern region of the country. According to Reuters, a Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) team arrived the same day to validate the protocol with technical teams. Since the beginning of the outbreak in April, the Congo has seen around 19 cases of the Ebola virus, including suspected and probable cases. There have been four deaths reported since the beginning of the outbreak.

The vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV, has been in development since the 1990s. NPR notes that in the 2000s the Ebola vaccine was not produced due to a lack of funding. It was first tested in Guinea in 2015 in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), Guinea’s Ministry of Health, Medecins Sans Frontieres and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. In the trial, the vaccine completely protected all 5,837 people it was administered to, with some participants feeling side effects of the vaccine. According to the WHO, “no Ebola cases were recorded 10 or more days after vaccination.” The efficacy of the Ebola vaccine is approximately 70 to 100 percent, although this will likely decrease as more people are vaccinated.

Despite the trial conducted by WHO, the vaccine has not yet been approved by the WHO or the Federal Drug Administration. According to NPR, this approval will likely happen in 2018. Development of the vaccine was largely made possible by funding from the WHO and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI). GAVI provided $5 million in funding to allow for the production of the vaccine by the pharmaceutical company Merck. There are currently 300,000 doses available. Merck will submit the Ebola vaccine for approval by the WHO by the end of 2017.

The efficacy of the Ebola vaccine is so high that it will likely be effective at halting the outbreak in the Congo, thanks to the combined efforts of multiple parties like GAVI and the WHO. The development of rVSV-ZEBOV is a much-needed game-changer in the continued battle against the Ebola virus.

Anika Lanser

Photo: Flickr

Eradicating Ebola is the global community’s next step in ensuring worldwide health. The disease is rare but extremely contagious, and causes internal and external bleeding as well as a severe fever. As soon as the virus enters the body, it weakens the immune system by attacking immune cells. In time, it causes blood vessels to carry less blood, which results in organ failure and eventual death.

Also known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever or Ebola virus, the disease is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids or objects that have been contaminated by bodily fluids, such as medical needles. It can also be contracted through contact with infected animals, specifically bats and primates.

There have been a number of Ebola cases internationally but the disease has mainly remained in regions of West Africa. The disease originated in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but it was Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone that witnessed the largest Ebola epidemic in 2014 through 2016. An estimated 28,616 people contracted the disease and this resulted in 11,310 deaths.

Fortunately, the presence of Ebola has been contained since the outbreak. In 2015, researchers from the World Health Organization began testing a vaccine in Guinea, which returned with a 100 percent success rate. This vaccine was developed through a “ring vaccination” approach. The approach separated patients and their immediate contacts from the general public.

The vaccination report was released in December 2016. As Marie-Paule Kieny, lead author of the report, states: “While these compelling results come too late for those who lost their lives during West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, they show that when the next Ebola outbreak hits, we will not be defenseless.” Although the vaccine demonstrates progress in eradicating Ebola, it is in need of additional safety research before it can be formally licensed.

Another development in eliminating Ebola comes from a group of Canadian researchers. The group administered a drug known as Interferon Beta-1a to patients infected with Ebola. The drug, which is used to treat hepatitis B and C, had surprisingly effective results. “After 21 days, 67 percent of the Interferon-treated Ebola patients were still alive, compared to just 19 percent of the others,” reports Tom Blackwell from The National Post.

Although more research must be conducted regarding Interferon Beta-1a, findings look promising. The vaccine also demonstrates significant progress in eradicating Ebola, a disease that is now destined to become an element of the past.

Gigi DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr

Diseases in Guinea
Although experts thought Ebola had been eliminated in Guinea, there have been fears of the disease coming back after a few cases were documented in the past two years. People are still skeptical after the largest Ebola outbreak in March 2014 even though experts have claimed that the outbreak ended at the end of 2015. However, with the country still lacking in health resources, diseases in Guinea, which could otherwise be preventable and treatable in another developed nation, are rapidly distributed. Here are the top three diseases in Guinea.

  1. Malaria. According to the Center for Diseases Control, 10 percent of deaths in Guinea are caused by malaria. In 2015, tens of thousands of malaria cases went untreated. Because of the ebola outbreak, people avoided health clinics for fear of being sent to an isolated Ebola treatment center. People might have died from malaria more than Ebola, and the entire population is at risk for malaria. To try to control this disease, the President’s Malaria Initiative distributes insecticide-treated nets (ITNS), supports malaria diagnostics as well as treatments at health facilities.
  2. HIV/AIDS. AIDS plagues so many parts of Africa, and Guinea is no exception. Four percent of deaths are caused by HIV or AIDS, and almost 7,000 children are living with HIV. AIDS has been considered a death sentence since only 27 percent are receiving antiretroviral medication. Hopefully, treatment will come to more people. The countries of Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Namibia and Tanzania have been receiving antiretroviral treatment programs from the Global Fund since 2010.
  3. Lower Respiratory Infections. Currently, lower respiratory tract infections are the leading cause of death among children under the age of five. Forty-two percent of these deaths occur in Africa, and the infections can cause pneumonia, influenza and bronchitis.

Guinea has one of the poorest populations in West Africa. Little of its people have access to good healthcare. Diseases in Guinea can be curable and treatable if organizations continue to provide healthcare to treat these diseases.

Emma Majewski

Photo: Flickr

Preparedness Innovations
When the Ebola virus broke out in 2014, the world was ill-prepared to respond. In all, there were more than 15,000 confirmed cases and 11,000 deaths. Although the outbreak was concentrated in West Africa, a handful of cases reached the United States and Europe. With the rise of globalization and intercontinental travel, the next epidemic could easily become a pandemic.

To combat this danger, a multinational coalition is needed. The formation of such a group — the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) — was announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations is backed by the governments of Norway, India, Japan and Germany. These countries are partnering with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to invest in vaccines to prevent diseases that have the potential to cause the next great epidemic.

Given the cost-efficiency of immunization programs, the development of vaccines is an effective component of epidemic preparation. With an initial fund of $460 million, CEPI will be well worth the investment. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Lione lost approximately $1.6 billion in GDP in 2015 alone. A worldwide pandemic would be drastically more costly; the World Bank estimates a flu pandemic would cost $3 trillion globally.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations will initially focus on three viruses: MERS-CoV, Lassa and Nipah. These viruses are among the diseases identified by the World Health Organization that warrant prioritization. For each virus, CEPI hopes to develop at least two vaccines. This head start is critical, as vaccine development is a long, arduous process. On average, a vaccine takes about 10 years to reach the market, and epidemics take far less time to spread.

Although CEPI is a major step in the right direction, a more comprehensive strategy is necessary to control a potential pandemic. As shown by the Ebola outbreak, a global surveillance system is needed. In addition, vaccines cannot prevent all cases of disease; treatment development is also needed. The current members of CEPI have demonstrated admirable initiative in showing the world that everyone is a stakeholder concerning global health.

Rebecca Yu

Photo: Flickr

World Bank Group President
On September 24, 2016, it was announced that World Bank Group’s President Jim Yong Kim had been selected for a second term. Starting July 2017, Kim will continue leading The World Bank’s ongoing efforts to alleviate global poverty.

Founded in 1944, The World Bank began as an institution facilitating post-war reconstruction and development. At that time, The World Bank took on infrastructure projects to physically rebuild communities. Today, however, the organization has expanded its work to include myriad social projects.

Now, the multifaceted institution is comprised of economists, experts in public policy, social scientists and sector experts and has a portfolio of projects in agriculture, health, education and other areas of the social sector. Although reconstruction is still a focus, the group’s overlying goal is to reduce global poverty through sustainable and inclusive global prosperity.

When Jim Yong Kim, a South Korean-American physician and anthropologist, was originally elected to the presidency in 2012, The World Bank had set two bold goals: to eradicate global poverty by 2030 and to promote shared prosperity by boosting the income growth of the bottom 40 percent of the population in every developing country.

During his first term, Kim brought more structure, accountability and focus to The World Bank with clearer policies and targets, and efforts to meet those targets have been successful. Some of his greatest accomplishments came from dispersing the bank’s power and reallocating large amounts of its resources to combating climate change, addressing the Syrian refugee crisis and undertaking other initiatives that have not traditionally been within The World Bank’s scope.

He also gained much praise for his leadership in the Ebola outbreak, during which he allocated $400 million to combat the deadly virus in West Africa. Additionally, he implored the rest of the international community to invest in containing Ebola, even criticizing the World Health Organization (WHO) for its lax response.

The World Bank Group president also made a number of allies during his term, according to Africa News. When he voiced his intention to run for a second term, he gained endorsements from many countries, including South Korea, the Netherlands, Kenya, Rwanda, Togo and others.

Recognized worldwide for his invaluable experience and accomplishments prior to his election in 2012, Kim worked as an advisor to the director-general of WHO. He later rose to the position of director in WHO’s renowned HIV/AIDS department.

As he finishes his first term and looks forward to his second, one of Kim’s main focuses is making more progress toward the goal of eradicating global poverty by 2030.

-Alex Fidler

Photo: Flickr

Diagnostic Methods Build the Foundation of Outbreak Control
Disease outbreaks are frequently portrayed by the news and other media as two-step occurrences: disease strikes, then people die. What’s left untold are the in-between moments that are crucial to outbreak investigation and disease outbreak control. Disease testing, the essential step of the diagnostic process, is one of the most useful tools in stabilizing disease outbreaks and preventing them from worsening.

The case of Ebola in Liberia provides an example of how breakthrough disease-testing methods can save thousands of lives. Jude Senguku, one of the leading physicians who treated Ebola patients in Liberia, told BBC that misinformation, panic and misdiagnosis kept people from seeking help at the onset of symptoms.

People knew very little about the deadly disease and feared being sent to Ebola isolation units. Public health workers needed better diagnostic methods to screen people for Ebola in order to obtain medical evidence that would support or invalidate a diagnosis.

For Monrovia’s Redemption Hospital, the solution came in the form of GeneXpert, a machine that rapidly tests for Ebola and provides results within 90 minutes.

At the beginning of the Ebola outbreak in 2014, there were 50 licensed doctors for a population of 4.3 million. To provide each symptomatic person a one-on-one doctor visit was both unfeasible and impractical. During and after the outbreak, GeneXpert allowed health care workers, including volunteers with limited medical training, to accurately test patients for the presence of the Ebola virus and direct them to care in time to receive life-saving treatment.

Senguku says that since 2014, GeneXpert was “very critical” in reducing Ebola scares and restoring Monrovia’s confidence in their doctors.

The technology uses a process called DNA amplification, which tests a human specimen — cheek cells, saliva, etc. — for the disease’s specific DNA sequence. In contrast to other diagnostic methods, the technology can identify extremely low amounts of viral DNA as well as drug-resistant strains, which makes it incredibly sensitive and accurate. The machine, which is used for multiple tests, costs about $17,000. The test cartridge, which is used in every test per person, costs a mere $10.

One of the technology’s most valuable features is its usability. The health care worker administering the test does not need to be trained to identify a specific disease. Rather, they simply need to know how to operate the machine. Moreover, because of its low dependence on electricity, GeneXpert is an ideal diagnostic tool for regions with limited access to power.

The diagnostic process plays a critical role in outbreak control, stabilizing population health and providing a sense of security to an affected community. Events like the Ebola outbreak of 2014 serve as examples of how improved diagnostic methods are helping health care workers deliver faster and more efficient care under strenuous circumstances.

Jessica Levitan

Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Sierra Leone
Schools in Sierra Leone reopened in April 2015 after the world’s worst recorded Ebola outbreak. The country’s government, with assistance from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), made efforts to improve education in Sierra Leone since then. However, the issue of gender inequality and its effects on educational opportunities still needs to be addressed.

When Ebola struck Sierra Leone in 2012 and schools were closed for nine months, approximately $1.45 million from GPE was utilized for Ebola-related efforts. These funds helped provide emergency television and radio school programs for children to watch and listen to while out of school. Approximately 600 hours of radio programs were broadcast.

GPE funds were also allocated to ensure the availability of safe learning environments when schools reopened. 900,000 students benefited when 2,700 schools were disinfected and 5,970 schools received hand-washing stations and supplies.

To mitigate the loss of educational opportunities due to the nine-month hiatus, the government of Sierra Leone, assisted by the International Rescue Committee (IRC), also implemented two shortened academic years with accelerated syllabi.

Despite this progress toward recreating a stable education system in Sierra Leone and improving learning opportunities, gender inequality persists, creating educational discrimination and barring opportunities from pregnant women.

According to the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), approximately 18,000 teenage girls became pregnant during the Ebola outbreak. Researchers have identified rape, abusive relationships and prostitution as factors contributing to the spike.

Sierra Leone’s education ministry has decidedly barred pregnant girls from attending school, suggesting that they would be unable to perform well in class. The ministry believed that exposing pregnant girls to classmates would both humiliate them and encourage others to become pregnant.

According to Business Insider, only 15 percent of girls reach secondary school in Sierra Leone, and only six out of 10 girls aged 15 to 24 are literate, compared to three out of four boys in that age range. The ministry’s band will only worsen the gender disparity prevalent in Sierra Leone’s education system.

The United Nations and UNICEF have both launched classes for pregnant students, hoping to relieve gender inequality. In addition to this, UNICEF has initiated programs to educate the community about teenage pregnancy through awareness and training.

The Ebola crisis has been a testament to the resilience of Sierra Leone’s citizens and has given the government an opportunity to reorganize and strengthen the country’s educational programs.

However, this crisis also highlighted the system’s gender inequality and weaknesses. Providing women with educational opportunities has been proven to raise countries’ GDPs. Narrowing the gender gap in education in Sierra Leone, therefore, should be a priority.

Priscilla Son

Photo: Flickr

 Poverty _Sierra Leone
As one of the poorest countries in the world, Sierra Leone is ranked 180 out of 187 on the U.N.’s Human Development Index and faces many challenges to creating sustained development. The year 2012, the last year for which official statistics are available, put the proportion of the population below the poverty line at 60 percent.  Since the recent Ebola outbreak, current estimates indicate that 77.5 percent of the population suffers from poverty in Sierra Leone.

Ebola Epidemic and its Consequences

The Ebola epidemic significantly set back the progress made by the West-African nation since the end of its long civil war in 2002. Taking around four thousand lives, and disrupting the country’s health system, the outbreak rocked the developing country.

Until the outbreak, Sierra Leone made numerous strides in multiple aspects of development. The country was cited as a success story of peacebuilding missions and establishing good governance and stable institutions. GDP growth averaged over 7 percent every year for the past decade, but shrank to 2 percent after the West-African Ebola crisis.

Sierra Leone’s Global Reliance

The country is heavily reliant on exports of iron ore to support its domestic economy, contributing to GDP more than all other factors combined. Most of the rest of the country’s revenue comes from agricultural products, which remain at low productivity levels across the board.

Additionally, the country has a high dependence on foreign aid, with more than half of investment coming from foreign sources.

Despite progress, lack of infrastructure and high youth unemployment remain large barriers to the country elevating to a middle-income status. With 70 percent of its youth unemployed, and only about 40 percent of adults able to read, significant investments in economic development and education remain high priorities to eradicate poverty in Sierra Leone.

The poor nation also has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, with over 71 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Essential International Aid

Many international groups are engaging in efforts to reduce the level of poverty in Sierra Leone including the International Finance Corporation branch of the World Bank, which is investing in many critical areas to boost economic and private sector development to hopefully make the country a self-sustaining middle-income country.

Additionally, the International Rescue Commission provides humanitarian relief efforts through local engagement to prevent death by preventable diseases. The organization accomplishes such feats through its healthcare and educational assistance which improves future prospects.

While the rise of Ebola may have temporarily derailed development efforts, Sierra Leone continues to march toward improved economic and social conditions with help from international organizations. While challenges exist, the country has been consistently improving since 2002.

The country hopes to bounce back from its recent hiccup as quickly as possible and to begin addressing the issue of poverty in Sierra Leone, which prevents it from becoming a middle income country.

Adam Gonzalez

Photo: Flickr