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Cancer and Poverty in AustraliaThe nation of Australia suffers from the highest rates of cancer in the world, but, the disease takes a significant toll on the disadvantaged and rural residents in particular. Impoverished and disadvantaged Australians are 60% more likely to die from cancer due to a lack of finances for a timely diagnosis and proper treatment. The connection between cancer and poverty in Australia can be clearly seen.

The Link Between Cancer and Poverty

The cost of treatment is only one part of the problem. The importance of prevention cannot be overstated and because of a disadvantaged situation, many poor Australians are more likely to smoke cigarettes, be overweight and not get screened for cancers. This leads to more impoverished residents developing a range of cancers that reach later stages before they are diagnosed.

While the country has a decent healthcare system, the connection between cancer and poverty in Australia is significant. Poor citizens are more likely to develop cancer and are the least financially prepared for it. One out of every three Australian cancer patients has to pay out-of-pocket for treatment ranging from a few hundred dollars up to $50,000 AUD. Patients that have private health insurance rather than public medicare often pay far more out-of-pocket, sometimes double, in addition to their regular insurance payments.

Rural Residents in Remote Areas

Residents of Australia’s rural areas often face the worst financial obstacles as they must incur travel expenses and be far from home for extended periods. In 2008, only 6% of oncologists practiced in rural areas, leaving a third of Australians that live in remote regions without immediate access to decent treatment. There were 9,000 more cancer deaths in rural areas than in urban areas over a decade, a 7% higher death rate compared to city residents.

Due to the extensive travel time, many cancer patients from remote regions are forced to quit their jobs increasing the financial burden of treatment. Those that can keep their jobs, often force themselves to continue to work despite their illness and during treatments in order to pay the bills. In many instances, cancer patients must take loans from friends or family. creating further financial obligations.

Indigenous Australians

In addition to rural residents, indigenous citizens also disproportionately die from cancer compared to other residents. Indigenous Australians have a 45% higher death rate from cancer compared to non-indigenous patients. Cancer is extremely underreported by indigenous people in remote or rural areas resulting in a lack of proper data for the government to act on.

Addressing the Link Between Cancer and Poverty

To reduce the mortality rates of cancer patients, the government must address the correlation between cancer and poverty in Australia. As of 2017, only 1.3% of Australia’s health budget is allocated for cancer prevention, screening and treatment. The country must invest in prevention as well as rapid-access cancer aid for both patients and caretakers.

The Clinical Oncology Society of Australia and Cancer Council Australia are working to improve cancer treatment in rural areas of Australia. Solutions to diminish the connection between cancer and poverty in Australia include new methods of diagnosis and treatment. Telehealth and shared care, in which the patient’s primary physician works with an oncologist to limit travel for treatment, help cut down on costs for struggling patients.

Cancer organizations in Australia have worked with the government to set up the regional cancer center (RCC) initiative across the country to make cancer care more accessible for residents living in rural areas. Since 2010, 26 regional cancer centers have opened to help patients living in remote locations.

Prioritizing the Health of Rural Residents

For the mortality rates of impoverished or rural cancer patients to lessen, the government must invest in prevention as well as access for rural residents. Above all, for Australia to successfully provide aid for cancer patients there must be accurate data collection on cancer and poverty in Australia to properly allocate funds for all demographics.

— Veronica Booth
Photo: Flickr

 Address Neglected Tropical DiseasesOn November 12, 2020, members of the World Health Organization (WHO) voted overwhelmingly to adopt a bold set of plans to address the threat of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) throughout the next decade. With this vote, the WHO endorsed a “road map” written by the Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases team to address neglected tropical diseases in the world’s most vulnerable regions. The decade-long project aims to establish global programs with international partners, stakeholders and private organizations. These partnerships will work to accomplish an ambitious set of goals that will end the spread of certain neglected tropical diseases and improve the quality of human life in regions susceptible to neglected tropical diseases.

Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs)

Neglected tropical diseases are commonly defined by global health organizations such as the WHO and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as a group of diseases that primarily affect those living in tropical and subtropical climates and disproportionately spread in remote areas or regions afflicted by poverty. Among the 20 diseases that the WHO categorizes as neglected tropical diseases are dengue, rabies, leprosy, intestinal worm and sleeping sickness.

Tropical and subtropical regions include Central America and the northern half of South America in the Western Hemisphere, most of sub-Saharan Africa as well as island nations in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Many of the countries in this range are developing or impoverished nations. A lack of development and healthcare infrastructure in nations that lie in tropical regions, such as lack of access to clean water and health education, creates a more fertile breeding ground for the spread of dangerous diseases.

The reason that these diseases are considered “neglected” is that regions where neglected tropical diseases cause the most damage are populated by people with little political power or voice, a result of widespread poverty, location and other socioeconomic factors. As such, the spread of these diseases goes largely unnoticed and there is little incentive at the international level to take measures to combat these ailments. Though NTDs do not receive high-profile attention in the larger medical community, the WHO estimates that more than one billion people are affected by NTDs. The WHO sees the urgency to address neglected tropical diseases.

WHO’s 2021-2030 Road Map

The WHO outlined a set of “overarching global targets” that it will pursue over the course of the next decade in work with foreign governments, community organizations and NGOs. These overarching goals, to be accomplished through achieving a number of “cross-cutting targets” are the primary effects the WHO hopes to achieve by 2030:

  1. Reduce number of people requiring treatment for NTDs by 90%. To attain a 90% reduction rate of those requiring treatment for neglected tropical diseases, the WHO altered its approach to disease treatment from a vertical, single disease eradication method to a horizontal, cooperative effort across several countries. This would require 100% access to water supply, greater international investment in healthcare and action at the federal level to collect and report data on infection.
  2. Eliminate at least one NTD in 100 countries. There are a number of neglected tropical diseases that the WHO lists as “targeted for elimination”: human African trypanosomiasis, leprosy and onchocerciasis. In the WHO’s road map, elimination of a disease means complete interruption of transmission, effectively stopping a disease’s spread. For eliminating diseases such as leprosy, the WHO hopes to assist 40 countries to adopt epidermal health strategies in their healthcare systems.
  3. Completely eradicate two NTDs. The two diseases listed as “targeted for eradication” by the WHO are yaws, a chronic skin condition, and dracunculiasis, an infection caused by parasitic worms in unclean water. Both diseases are, according to the WHO, either easily treatable or on the verge of eradication. Dracunculiasis, for which there is currently no vaccine or medical treatment, only affected a reported 54 people in 2019. Yaws is still endemic in 15 nations but can be treated with a single dose of antibiotics.
  4. Reduce by 75% the disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) related to NTDs. The implementation of increased prevention, intervention and treatment can increase the quality of human life in tropical and subtropical countries. This final overarching goal aims to create nationwide efforts to alleviate or eliminate the chronic symptoms of those infected with neglected tropical diseases as well as prevent the further spread of debilitating neglected tropical diseases.

Ending Neglected Diseases

To address neglected tropical diseases, the fulfillment of the goals outlined in the WHO’s road map will require a multilateral and thorough implementation as well as cooperation and leadership from each of the partner countries affected. The WHO seeks to encourage each tropical and subtropical nation to take ownership of their healthcare programs, which will create a sustainable, international network to strengthen global health in some of the world’s most vulnerable regions. Putting the fight against neglected tropical diseases in the spotlight as well as dedicating time and resources to taking on these diseases, can remove the “neglected” from neglected tropical diseases and put the global community on a course toward eradicating these diseases.

– Kieran Graulich
Photo: Flickr

restorative dentistryLow-income countries have long been the victims of poor health care systems. Along with this health care system neglect has also come a large amount of dental care neglect. Both dental staffing and dental resources are scarce resources for those living below the poverty line in low-income countries. Smiles Forever is a nonprofit working within Bolivia in order to provide restorative dentistry as a way of increasing resources to a  population desperately in need.

Dental Care in Developing Countries

Most dental care within developing countries is given at hospitals that are either centralized or regional. This dental care does not do much to prevent or restore dental issues within the general population of a country. The dental care staffing is so low in many developing countries that trained dental professionals are forced to do the work that would normally be the job of dental assistants. This creates an ever-increasing cycle of dental worker unavailability. The creation of programs to train dental hygienists has been identified as a major solution to the extreme lack of restorative dentistry and dental care within struggling countries.

Major Dental Issues in Developing Countries

Throughout impoverished countries, there are a few dental issues that are seen most often and are in need of the greatest amount of restoration and prevention. These issues are dental caries, periodontal disease and tooth or gum abscesses.

  • Dental Caries: In simpler terms, this is when a tooth decays and leaves behind a cavity. Acids in the mouth that are present from sugar residue cause the enamel of a tooth to break down. Having access to simple dental materials like a toothbrush, floss and toothpaste greatly decreases an individual’s likelihood to develop dental caries. Fluoride provided at dental offices is also key in protection against dental caries.
  • Periodontal Disease: This disease is caused when there is a lot of plaque build-up on an individual’s teeth. The build-up causes an infection to infest the gums or bones throughout the face. Plaque build-up can only be properly removed by someone who has been training as a dental professional.
  • Tooth/Gum Abscesses: These are caused when tooth damage, usually from dental caries, allow for bacteria to invade a tooth or the gums. The bacteria causes pus to build up within the teeth or gums which causes a lot of pain and swelling. An abscess of this sort can only be treated by a professional and can cause sepsis if an individual is not given proper care.

The Mission of Smiles Forever

Smiles Forever is a nonprofit dental organization mainly working in Bolivia to provide free preventative and restorative dentistry. Its mission is to allow for a better quality of life, specifically for children growing up in Bolivia. Smiles Forever hopes that its work will act as a model for increased dental care in poor countries within South America.

Sandy Kemper, a dental hygienist from Seattle, is the founder of this nonprofit. She was inspired by a service trip that she took to Bolivia in 1999 in order to provide free dental work in the Madre de Dios shelter. A couple of years after her trip she returned to Cochabamba, Bolivia, in order to develop the Smiles Forever program after seeing how desperately in need the citizens were of restorative dentistry.

Programs Created by Smiles Forever

Smiles Forever has three main programs that it runs in Bolivia. These programs are its dental hygiene training program, its community partnering programs and its public fee-for-service clinic.

The dental hygiene training program was created in order to teach and train selected indigenous women to become dental hygienists. Each of the women is offered a full scholarship and the materials needed in order to become properly trained. The program is only conducted for half of each day so that the women can use the other half to support their families while being trained. Not only does this program allow for an increase in dental professionals in Bolivia but it also helps raise indigenous women and their families out of poverty by giving these women the opportunity to find full-time professional jobs.

The community partnering that Smiles Forever does is where a lot of its free dental work is provided. This organization works with other nonprofits throughout Bolivia that provide life-improving services. Through this partnering, it has been able to have a more widespread influence in providing dental care throughout Bolivia as its partners are very influential.

The public fee-for-service clinic was set up as a way to provide hands-on experience for individuals working in the dental hygiene training program and as a means of income to support the free community outreach efforts of the nonprofit. Individuals who attend the clinic pay in order to receive necessary preventative and restorative dentistry care.

Smiles Forever and Women’s Empowerment

Smiles Forever greatly supports the reduction of poverty and the provision of essential services through the uplifting of indigenous women. It recognizes that economic growth greatly increases when women play an empowered part in society. So far, 37 indigenous women have successfully completed the dental hygiene raining program and some have gone on to fully complete dental school. Overall, Smiles Forever has an all-around positive effect on the communities of Bolivia not only from a health standpoint but from a social and economic standpoint as a result of its efforts to empower women.

–  Olivia Bay
Photo: Flickr

the END FundNeglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of diseases caused by a variety of pathogens that are common in low-income regions. The World Health Organization WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) categorize 20 diseases as NTDs. They affect more than one billion people around the world, with more than a third of people affected by NTDs living in Africa. While about one-sixth of the world’s population suffers from at least one NTD, more attention is often brought to other diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and malaria. While these other diseases require a high level of attention, NTDs need prioritization too. The effects of NTDs can last for decades if proper care is not sought out as many have the ability to bring on permanent blindness and disfigurement. It is of the utmost importance that NTDs are addressed and one such organization putting in the work is the END Fund.

The END Fund

The END Fund is a nonprofit organization that seeks to protect the lives of people at risk of NTDs. It delivers treatments by working with local partners, understanding that these groups have regional expertise and know the needs of their area best.

The END Fund helps its partners design programs so that they can expand their capacity to collect important data regarding NTDs. Further, the END Fund provides technical support and monitors progress so its partners can fight disease in the most effective way possible.

It also collaborates with non-governmental organizations and seeks to involve all stakeholders in order to improve the lives of those at risk of contracting NTDs. The END Fund is active across many countries in sub-Saharan Africa as well as India and Afghanistan. It has programs in Nigeria, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and others.

NTDs in Nigeria

The country with the greatest prevalence of NTDs in Africa is Nigeria. With a population of 195 million people, five of the most common NTDs are present: intestinal worms, lymphatic filariasis, river blindness, schistosomiasis and trachoma. These diseases can cause severe pain that inhibits people from going about their daily lives. Children miss out on their education and adults miss out on economic opportunities. NTDs can cause the already impoverished to sink even deeper into poverty.

In 2013, the END Fund arrived in Nigeria. Two years later, it partnered with Helen Keller International to support local partners, the Amen Foundation and Mission to Save the Helpless (MITOSATH). It has since helped build the capacity of these groups so that they can respond to the issue of NTDs even stronger. It engaged with local leaders across many levels to make people aware of the treatment plans that are available. Among traditional groups, leaders took medication in front of many people to show that it was safe.

The End Fund’s Impact

In 2019 alone, the END Fund was able to treat 121 million people. The END Fund also trained 2.7 million healthcare workers between 2012 and 2019. Its workers have performed almost 31,000 surgeries during that same time period, with the treatments valued at more than $1 billion.

NTDs pose a great threat to people in developing countries. The END Fund has been able to accomplish a lot through its collaborative projects in Nigeria and across other countries. The END Fund will continue to work toward its vision of ensuring that people at risk of NTDs can live healthy lives.

– Evan Driscoll
Photo: Flickr

 Preventing HIV in KenyaA new, injectable antiretroviral drug, cabotegravir (CAB LA), may have significant potential for preventing HIV among sub-Saharan African women. In November 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported trial results of the HIV Prevention Trials Network Study (HPTN 084), testing the use and effectiveness of CAB LA in preventing HIV among more than 3,200 HIV-negative, sexually active women across east and southern Africa. This drug could significantly lower prevalence rates and help in preventing HIV in Kenya, which has one of the largest HIV/AIDS epidemics in the world.

Cabotegravir or CAB LA

CAB LA, a long-acting pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) regimen, requires an injection only every eight weeks and has been shown to be 89% more effective in preventing HIV than taking a daily oral antiretroviral PrEP, a generic pill currently marketed as Truvada.

Kenya’s HIV Epidemic

The first case of HIV in Kenya appeared in 1984. By 1990, HIV was one of the leading causes of illness in the country. At its highest point, more than three million Kenyans lived with AIDS. Since then, the government of Kenya decreased the prevalence of HIV from its 10.5% peak in 1996 to 5.6% in 2012. By 2019, the prevalence rate was 4.5% in adults aged 15-49. However, certain vulnerable populations within Kenya are more at risk of getting HIV, such as women. Males have an estimated prevalence rate of 4.5% while the rate for females is 5.2%. Among youth aged between 15 and 24 years old, boys have a prevalence rate of 1.34% compared to girls at 2.61%.

The only option for preventing HIV in Kenya is a daily PrEP pill called Truvada. The government of Kenya first approved oral PrEP for country-wide distribution in 2015, and since 2017, has scaled up the distribution throughout Kenya. However, of the 1.5 million Kenyans living with HIV, only 26,098 (1.7%) are currently on PrEP.

Though 72% of the population had been tested for HIV, only 70% had been tested more than once. Frequent testing, at least once a year if sexually active or at least every six months if part of a particularly vulnerable population, is vital to giving care and treatment for at-risk groups.

The Potential of CAB LA for Preventing HIV in Kenya

  1. The HPTN study reported that CAB LA is nine times more effective in preventing HIV in Kenya than the Truvada pill, the current form of PrEP. The PrEP pill is only effective if taken daily and is not a standalone prevention method for other STIs or unplanned pregnancies. The new drug also does not require other forms of protection, such as condoms.
  2. This drug gives vulnerable populations more HIV options for preventing HIV in Kenya. Vulnerable populations include sex workers, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, youth and women. These vulnerable populations face stigma, which affects their ability to access PrEP pills. Because the injection is needed only once every two months, the increased discretion and ease of the infrequent injection may increase its use and thus increase the protection of those who need it.
  3. Discretion in use of the drug may be able to reach more women specifically. In combination with the stigma attached to HIV, women in Kenya face discrimination in terms of access to education, employment and healthcare. As a result, men often dominate sexual relationships, with women not always able to practice safer sex, even when they know they should. For example, in 2014, 35% of adult women (aged 15-49) who were or had been married had experienced spousal violence and 14% had experienced sexual violence. Women in Kenya find it especially difficult to take a daily pill, which significantly reduces the effectiveness of the medicine. Only 68% of Kenyan women have access to antiretroviral pills.

Though not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the developer of the drug, ViiV Healthcare, expects cabotegravir to be ready for the market by early 2021.

– Charlotte Ehlers
Photo: Flickr

Antimicrobial resistanceAntimicrobial resistance, or AMR, is a growing trend among newly discovered viruses. The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies 30 new diseases that threaten half the world’s population, which are particularly prevalent in developing nations.

Background of Antimicrobial Resistance

Drug-resistant diseases (AMR) have grown in prevalence over the past 40 years. Many of the medicines used to treat common infections like the flu and pneumonia have been around for decades. Eventually, viruses and bacteria develop their own microbial methods of fighting back against these drugs and inevitably become fully resistant to treatments.

Perhaps the most well-known example is the virus known as pneumococcus, or streptococcus pneumoniae. Penicillin has been used to treat pneumococcus since the early 1950s, giving it plenty of time to develop a strong resistance to the drug. Now, pneumococcus is practically untreatable, killing over 300,000 children below the age of 5 annually.

The CDC explains that germs that grow resistant to medications can be almost impossible to treat, often resulting in severe illness or death. This problem is only getting worse, as the U.N. finds that while 700,000 people die every year due to AMR diseases now, by 2050 that number will skyrocket to 10 million people.

The AMR crisis has severe economic implications as well. Antimicrobial diseases affect livestock as well as humans, leaving our international agricultural sector to collapse if not dealt with. All in all, the AMR crisis is projected to cause $100 trillion worth of global economic damage by 2050, only pushing people further into poverty.

Three organizations have stepped up to address the issue of antimicrobial resistance.

The AMR Action Fund

The AMR Action Fund is a financial project created by an international group of pharmaceutical companies. It aims to bring four new antibiotics that combat AMR to the consumer market by 2030. The fund expects to invest over $1 billion into late-stage antibiotic research by the end of 2025.

The AMR Alliance

The AMR Alliance is a massive coalition of more than 100 of the most powerful pharmaceutical companies, dedicated to fighting AMR. In 2016, the AMR Alliance signed the Industry Declaration, an agreement promising the development of anti-AMR medicines.

In 2018, the AMR Alliance spent a record $1.8 billion in the war against AMR. In 2020, the  AMR Alliance released its second progress report, detailing the progress made so far. The results are promising: 84% of relevant biotechnology companies are in the late stages of research and development for AMR cures and more than 80% of them have strategies in place for releasing the drugs.

UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

The FAO is taking serious steps to battle antimicrobial resistance. These dangerous antimicrobial superbugs threaten livestock in farms throughout the world. The FAO explains that two-thirds of future antimicrobial usage will be in livestock. These AMR superbugs will only increase in danger over time, as they develop stronger resistance to medicines.

The FAO has worked to improve agricultural practices across the world, specifically in developing nations. The FAO is raising awareness about this issue with rural farmers and is providing millions of dollars in funds to combat AMR.

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) is an annual campaign designed to increase awareness of the issue and encourage best practices among the general public, health workers, and policymakers to avoid the further emergence and spread of drug-resistant diseases. Over the week of November 18, millions of posts are made around the globe in support of antimicrobial resistance awareness. Expanding awareness is key, as the WAAW campaign website explains that less general use of antibiotics could help to mitigate the effects of this issue.

– Abhay Acharya
Photo: Flickr

Liquid Petroleum GasIn North Darfur, a region of Sudan, 90% of families use wood and charcoal to stay warm and cook meals. Burning wood and charcoal, however, has several negative effects. Practical Action, an international development organization, has partnered with the Women’s Developmental Association to provide these families with liquid petroleum gas stoves, which are cleaner and more efficient. The Low Smoke Stoves Project has been ongoing since 2014, significantly improving the lives of families in the Darfur region.

Negative Effects of Burning Wood and Charcoal

  • It hurts the environment by causing pollution and deforestation.
  • It produces a lot of smoke indoors, which can cause infections and illnesses.
  • The materials are expensive to buy, putting a financial burden on poor families.

Wood and charcoal produce a lot of smoke when burned, contributing to bad air quality and causing a variety of health issues that mainly affect the women and children in the home. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, wood smoke causes particle pollution and releases pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde, acrolein and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The particle pollution caused by wood smoke can cause eye infections, chest infections and other illnesses that can be expensive to treat. Deforestation is also an issue in regions that rely heavily on firewood.

Other than the environmental and health concerns associated with burning wood and charcoal, there is also the financial burden it places on families. The materials are expensive to buy and do not cook efficiently. Women have to spend long amounts of time cooking instead of using their time for education and development.

Benefits of Liquid Petroleum Gas Stoves

Liquid petroleum gas stoves have a lot of benefits over traditional cooking methods with wood or charcoal. They produce less smoke and other pollutants, improving air quality and reducing infections and other illnesses in poor families. The stoves are more fuel-efficient, saving families 65% on their monthly bills. Liquid petroleum gas stoves also cook faster, giving women more time to engage in education and development.

Practical Action’s Low Smoke Stoves Project

Practical Action’s ongoing Low Smoke Stoves Project aims to educate regional communities about the dangers of burning wood and charcoal as well as replace those methods with more environmentally friendly and cost-efficient liquid petroleum gas stoves. The organization, partnered with the Women’s Development Association, has already placed 12,080 liquid petroleum gas stoves into homes in the North Darfur region. Since the beginning of the project, the area had improved air quality, less deforestation and lower carbon emissions.

This program works by giving eligible households a microloan to help them buy a liquid petroleum gas stove. While there is an initial cost, the stoves are more fuel and time-efficient so they quickly pay for themselves with the savings they produce. The stoves not only help improve the quality of life for families in North Darfur, but they also have long-term economic benefits, thus helping to lift people out of poverty.

–  Starr Sumner
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in MozambiqueThe state of healthcare in Mozambique has drastically changed in the last few decades. While Mozambique was once a country with little access to healthcare services, the country has decreased mortality rates since the launch of its Health Sector Recovery Program after the Mozambican civil war, with assistance from the World Bank.

History of Mozambique

The Mozambican civil war that took place from 1977-1992 had lasting effects on the country’s healthcare system and economy, resulting in limited funding for health services and insufficient access to care providers.

The Health Sector Recovery Program was launched in 1996 in order to refocus on funding healthcare in Mozambique, which desperately needed expanded resources to address the growing health crises. New health facilities were constructed throughout the country increasing accessibility to healthcare. The number of health facilities in Mozambique from the start of the civil war to 2012 quadrupled from 362 to 1,432 and the number of healthcare workers increased along with it.

Improvements to Healthcare and Accessibility

About 30 years ago, Mozambique had one of the highest mortality rates for children under 5 but was able to significantly reduce this number after the success of the Health Sector Policy Program. In 1990, this rate was 243.1 mortalities per 1,000 children. The rate has been reduced to 74.2 mortalities as of 2019. Maternal health was also targeted by the program, with increased health facility births from 2003 to 2011.

Conflict in Cabo Delgado

Despite these improvements to healthcare in Mozambique, Cabo Delgado, a northeastern province, is facing one of the worst healthcare crises in the country since violence struck the area in October 2017. Conflict between non-state armed forces clashing with security forces and other armed groups has caused more than 200,000 people in the area to become internally displaced. Coupled with the aftermath of Hurricane Kenneth, one of the strongest hurricanes to hit Africa, the area is facing severe food shortages and lack of shelter for people.

Cabo Delgado has also seen a rise in COVID-19 cases and other diseases such as cholera, diarrhea and measles, resulting from inadequate clean water and sanitation.

Intervention by UNICEF

On December 22, 2020, UNICEF shared a press release on the increased need for healthcare in Cabo Delgado. As the rainy season begins, there is an increased risk for deadly disease outbreaks. It appealed for $52.8 million in humanitarian assistance for 2021 projects aimed at aiding Mozambique.

UNICEF is expanding its water and sanitation response in order to prevent the outbreak of water-borne diseases like cholera and the further spread of COVID-19.

UNICEF also aims to give crucial vaccines to children in Mozambique, increasing its numbers from 2020. The 2021 targets include vaccinating more than 67,000 children against polio and more than 400,000 measles vaccinations. Children will also be treated for nutritional deficiencies from food insecurity and UNICEF plans to screen more than 380,000 children under 5 for malnourishment and enroll them in nutritional treatment programs.

Mental health support services will be provided to more than 37,000 children and caregivers in need, especially those experiencing displacement from armed conflict and those affected by COVID-19.

The Future of Healthcare in Mozambique

While healthcare in Mozambique has significantly improved in the last few decades, a lack of health services still affects the country’s most vulnerable populations. Aid from international organizations like UNICEF aims to tackle these issues to improve healthcare in Mozambique.

– June Noyes
Photo: Flickr

NanoseenIn Sopot, Poland, co-founders Bartosz Kruzska and Mikolaj Granuszewski are leading innovations that could change access to clean, drinkable water forever. Startup firm, Nanoseen, is developing the NanoseenX, a water filter made of recycled metal wafers that can desalinate water. The startup, which was ranked as one of the top “15 Chemical Engineering Startups Positioned to Make it Big in 2021” by the Welp Magazine, aims to revolutionize the use and development of nanotechnology to build the most modern products. “Nanoseen is a team of nanotechnology engineers and scientists who prove remarkable properties of NanoseenX nanomaterials as a core component of the company’s products that will help solve many problems related to climate change such as water shortage and plastic pollution,” Kruszka told THEfirstNEWS. The company plans to begin mass production of its water desalination devices in 2021, making it one of the most highly anticipated startups of the upcoming year.

NanoseenX Water Filter

The filter can desalinate both brackish and seawater, giving it the potential to become essential to both disaster relief and combating global poverty. Worldwide, 780 million people do not have access to an improved water source and one in three people do not have access to safe drinking water, making clean water one of the chief obstacles of under-developed nations. Countries like Papua New Guinea, Mozambique, Tanzania and Somalia struggle with clean water but border the oceans so they can benefit greatly from the filter. The provision of clean water will not only improve sanitation but consequently improve health and infant survival rates, which is fundamental to fighting poverty. The product could also aid natural relief teams in tropical countries that are prone to hurricanes and typhoons. For example, crises like the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which cut off access to clean water in Puerto Rico for months, can be resolved. Removing clean water as a pressing concern will also give destitute communities a better opportunity to develop and escape poverty.

Other Innovative Initiatives by Nanoseen

In addition to the water filter, Kruzska elaborates that Nanoseen is tackling research on a method of damaging micro and nano-plastics in water, with the use of NanopowderX. Such development could help clear pollution in oceans, which contain 25-50 trillion macro and microplastics. Being able to filter such microplastics from the water will be the most effective way to curb this new atmospheric pollutant. The team is also pioneering unique paints that will remove pollutants from the air to fight atmospheric pollution, a phenomenon that disproportionately affects impoverished people.

Innovatively Addressing Global Issues

Nanoseen’s ingenious filter is paradigmatic of innovations in STEM creating solutions to global poverty. The startup also offers other eco-friendly and problem-solving materials. The startup’s website offers viewers more in-depth descriptions and applications of its products and states its goals of creating innovative nanomaterials to build modern products that solve the main problems of today’s world.

– Christine Chang
Photo: Flickr

Health Concerns During COVID-19COVID-19 has understandably been the main focus around the world. In developed countries, many are new to health epidemics and the disruptions caused by them. But, in some parts of the world, widespread disease is not new at all and COVID-19 is not the only health concern. There are several other global health concerns during COVID-19. Some seem obvious, like malaria or HIV/AIDS. But, some have made less news, like a toxic goldmine in Ethiopia. These health crises also require assistance and aid from the international community.

HIV/AIDS in South Africa

In 2019, it was estimated that more than seven million people in South Africa were living with HIV. Roughly 200,000 of those people were newly diagnosed in 2019, and in that same year, 72,000 people died. Though 70% of people receive antiretroviral therapy (ART), the disease remains incurable. Its prevalence makes it one of the priority health concerns during COVID-19.

Though South Africa has the largest population of people living with HIV in the world, it has made a lot of progress. Data indicates that in 2018, 90% of infected individuals were aware of their status and 87% of people receiving treatment were virally suppressed, meaning they do not transfer the virus. Despite this success, rates continue to increase and it disproportionately affects women and young girls.

In 2016, South Africa made treatment for HIV free to all, where it used to be available only to those with advanced infections. This comes after South Africa made pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) available to all sex workers to prevent HIV contraction in the first place. Though it did take years for South Africa to acknowledge this epidemic, the country is making progress. However, more focus and attention needs to go toward addressing HIV/AIDs in South Africa as it is a significant health crisis.

Malaria in sub-Saharan Africa

COVID-19 severely affected sub-Saharan Africa’s access to insecticide-treated nets (ITN) and malaria treatments. The World Health Organization (WHO) urged nations to resume the distribution of these things, in fear that mortality rates in 2020 would reach 769,000, which is double the rates of 2018.

Preventative treatments, which deliver antimalarial medication to asymptomatic people, aimed at school-aged children, has shown to significantly reduce the risk of contracting malaria. Health officials in sub-Saharan Africa have been urged to take heed of this, but the poverty affecting the region limits progress.

A whole 90% of global malaria deaths happen in sub-Saharan Africa, and of that figure, 78% of victims are children. Malaria is a treatable condition, but those most susceptible to it usually live in a state of poverty, unable to afford treatment. Malaria in sub-Saharan Africa is one of the most pressing global health concerns besides COVID-19.

Toxic Gold Mine in Ethiopia

Gold mining is an important industry in Ethiopia. The export of gold and similar minerals makes up 7-10% of Ethiopia’s export earnings. Hundreds of thousands of people are employed in the mines, both skilled and unskilled.

But, in Ethiopia’s most populous region, Oromia, a gold mine has released harmful contaminants that have severely affected people. Serious deficiencies in mine management have left the soil and water contaminated with dangerous levels of cyanide, arsenic and mercury. This contamination resulted in high rates of miscarriage, stillbirths and infant mortality, birth defects, the destruction of livestock and crops and locals are afflicted with debilitating illnesses. Residents say there was no warning about potential toxins,

The mine was considered so toxic that the situation was deemed a violation of human rights. After pushback from the citizens, it was temporarily shut down, but there was no accountability or treatment for those affected. There remains doubt whether the air and water are now safe and residents anticipate that the mine will be reopened. In August 2020, mineworkers were asked to attend a meeting, cementing this assumption. In collaboration, human rights organizations submitted a document to the Human Rights Committee entailing Ethiopia’s violations of rights in regard to the contaminated mine. It documents Ethiopia’s failures and necessary reparations that should be made to people.

To safeguard the well-being of the Ethiopian people and ensure that aid is provided to the affected people, it is essential for the international community to get involved.

COVID-19 and Other Global Health Concerns

The COVID-19 pandemic has upset the health of nations globally, no matter the resources a country has. But, it has also overshadowed some pressing issues. There are other major health concerns during COVID-19 that need international attention and aid as well.

– Maddey Bussmann
Photo: Flickr