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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% 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) and 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% 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 InnovationsWhen 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 ControlDisease 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% 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%.  Since the recent Ebola outbreak, current estimates indicate that 77.5% 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 seven percent every year for the past decade, but shrank to two 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% of its youth unemployed and only about 40% 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

Harvard Medical SchoolHarvard Medical School recently received a generous and philanthropic gift of $20 million. Billionaire and medical technology tycoon, Ronda E. Stryker and her husband, William D. Johnston supplied the donation, which will allow Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine to expand its research facilities.

The Department of Global Health and Social Medicine dedicates itself to training impactful healthcare workers and policy makers as well as develop important partnerships with medical and social experts. This camaraderie and dedication creates an effective network that promotes and delivers quality healthcare necessities to areas in need.

Chair of the University’s department and professor Paul Farmer said in a press release, “This gift gives us the ability to solidify our foundation of collaborative research, care delivery and education for global health equity, while also providing crucial flexibility to respond to the needs of the communities we serve, as defined by the people within them.”

Stryker and Johnston’s gift will also grant funding for junior faculty and fellows focused in the fields of global epidemic research, including studies on diseases such as HIV and Ebola.

Faculty and fellows belonging to the department are grateful for the flexibility and resources provided by Stryker and Johnston’s donation. Harvard Medical School Dean, Jeffrey S. Flier said in the press release that it will allow the school to “continue to improve the lives of people throughout the world.”

Recently, the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine served as cosponsors and partners to the Rwanda Human Resources for Health Program (HRH), which works toward expanding the health workforce in Rwanda.

Essentially, this $20 million donation will not only serve to alleviate financial struggles facing applicants seeking to join the Harvard Medical School’s global health initiatives, but will also fund various University projects and further their progress in global health and well-being.

Jenna Salisbury

Photo: Flickr

Movies about EbolaFew people outside the medical community had heard of Ebola before the 2014 outbreak. However, as the threat spread rapidly, so did awareness and fear. Despite few references in pop culture and public awareness prior to the epidemic, the disease has been relevant for several decades. As a result, it has inspired various movies about Ebola.

Scientists discovered the first strain of Ebola in 1976, and the disease resurged in several relatively isolated outbreaks before the 2014 epidemic. Over the course of its history, the disease’s various strains had mortality rates fluctuating between 53 and 88 percent. The most recent strain was identified in 1994 after an ethologist contracted the disease during a necropsy on a dead chimpanzee. Despite this dramatic history, relatively few fact-based movies about Ebola exist. Regardless, Ebola has influenced the industry, inspiring both similar fictional diseases and more factual references.

The following films (both fiction and nonfiction) are related to Ebola.

1. The Fictional Comparison

The 1995 film “Outbreak” documents the course of a fictional disease from Africa to the U.S. and the controversial means used to eradicate it. While the disease, Motaba, is fictional, its highly infectious nature parallels that of Ebola. Despite key differences (Motaba is airborne) the film represents the extreme fear of incredibly contagious diseases with striking mortality rates. Among the largest similarities between and Ebola are the date and means of transmission. The movie premiered one year after the 1994 outbreak of Ebola, which reached humans via chimpanzee and represents the most recent strain of the disease. Meanwhile, the movie tracks the source of the resurgence of Motaba to a monkey in 1994.

2. The Movie Which Never Was

While the fictional approach to documenting Ebola-like terror made it to the big screens, a factual retelling of the Ebola epidemic did not. The writers of “Outbreak” adapted their story from Richard Preston’s book, “The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Ebola Virus.” However, in securing the adaption, “Outbreak” superseded the never-made “Crisis in the Hot Zone.” This film would have been a nonfiction portrayal based upon Preston’s more journalistic account of events.

3. Factual Mention, Fictional Interpretation

“Ebola 21” tells the story of Ebola’s role in terrorism. In the 2015 movie, domestic terrorists kidnap 21 people. They then infect one with Ebola (without his or her knowledge) and release the hostages back into the population.

4. Honoring Those Who Aided the Crisis

The upcoming film “93 Days” tells the story of the medical personnel who risked their lives to respond to the Ebola epidemic. The Nigerian film will premiere later this year. Despite the movie’s goals, some are concerned that it will not accurately portray the lives and work of those it honors.

5. Sparking Renewed Interest

With the intense fear accompanying the Ebola outbreak came a renewed interest in Hollywood’s many disease outbreak movies. Films like “Contagion” suddenly resurfaced on TV. Other movies about Ebola captured the public’s attention with stories of people using Ebola to wreak havoc. “Formula for Death” is a made-for-TV example of this storyline.

Ebola’s emergence in pop culture over the years represents decades-long historical origins. While the 2014 outbreak has killed thousands, incidences of Ebola had taken several hundred lives since the 1970s. The fact that movies about Ebola have veered more towards fiction than fact demonstrates the emotionally-charged nature of frightening diseases and their ability to capture the imagination. However, as the crisis has subsided, upcoming portrayals of the disease may add more realism to movies about Ebola.

Charlotte Bellomy

Photo: Pixabay

Private sector roundtableFormally started in 2014, The Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) has been an important facilitator of international discussion about global health issues, communicable disease threats and their solutions.

Now, the GHSA has launched a new initiative: the Private Sector Roundtable (PSRT). PSRT aims to bring privatized industries into the fight for a better standard of global health.

Headed by Johnson & Johnson, as well as the GE Foundation, the Private Sector Roundtable strives to organize the previously scattered efforts of the private sector in global health issues. Although private partners have participated in previous coordinated worldwide efforts, the PSRT will streamline those efforts to achieve maximum effect.

As was clear with the global response to Ebola, and as is now clear with the uptick in instances of Zika virus, timely responses are of the utmost importance in combatting global outbreaks. The GHSA hopes that the Private Sector Roundtable, and by extension the private sector, will adopt a “unique role” in developing a greater standard of global health.

They hope to accomplish this by investing in and developing new ways to combat the spread of outbreaks such as Zika and Ebola. As stated by the Global Health Security Initiative, “the mission of the PSRT is to mobilize industry to help countries prepare for and respond to health-related crises, and strengthen systems for health security.”

Two years ago, when Ebola outbreaks were at their highest, the rapid and efficient distribution of personal protection equipment proved vital in halting the spread of Ebola. Hopefully, the private sector will help in future fights by facilitating the development and distribution of the equipment and services that the world needs.

Although the Private Sector Roundtable is young and relatively small — 20 companies have pledged as members of the fledgling organization — the future Roundtable could be a powerful international cohort of private companies, aiming to accomplish public good.

Sage Smiley

Photo: Flickr

Ebola CrisisSince 2013, the Ebola crisis has devastated countries across the world, from the highly contagious West Africa to the United States. Not long after the outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the disease a “public health emergency of international concern,” on August 8, 2014.

However, in a statement made earlier this year, the WHO declared that the “likelihood of international spread is low.” As of January 6, 2016, the number of Ebola outbreaks since 2013 totaled 28,637. In addition, there have been eight cases of Ebola between February and March.

According to the New York Times, on April 6, officials from the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Health and Human Services and the State Department announced the reallocation of its $510 million Ebola budget towards combatting the Zika virus.

The government, however, is far from declaring the Ebola outbreak over and the two deadly viruses are non-competing. Of note, the Obama Administration’s 2014 Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) was a response to crippled infrastructure in countries impacted by health crises.

In promotion of the WHO’s International Health Regulations and other global health security frameworks, “the GHSA serves to stimulate investment in the needed capacity – infrastructure, equipment, and above all skilled personnel – and empowers countries, international organizations and civil society to work together to achieve focused goals.”

This entails a U.S. commitment to the eradication of the ebola crisis, mitigation of recurring outbreaks and partnerships with affected countries for infrastructure enhancement.

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine compares the diagnoses and treatment techniques of the Ebola and Zika viruses.

In explaining the improved sharing mechanisms and response techniques, Dr. Charlotte Huang writes, “Many lessons learned from the response to the recent Ebola outbreak have helped in the response to the ZIKV outbreak. Most important, there is general agreement on the need for international collaboration on regulatory issues, research, and data sharing.”

Nahid Bhadelia, an infection disease physician at Boston Medical Center has also noted the importance of “[having] continued vigilance in West Africa,” due to likely flare ups and the potential transmission by the 17,000 Ebola survivors who still might have the virus.

Nora Harless

Photo: Flickr