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Tackling Iron Deficiency in Developing CountriesIron deficiency — which often leads to iron deficiency anemia — is estimated to affect around 2 billion people around the world. Iron deficiency is most prevalent among children and women of childbearing age, especially those living in developing countries. In light of growing iron deficiency cases in many African countries, policymakers are focusing on iron interventions such as the creation of fortified flours and supplements for menstruating women and expectant mothers.

Challenges

There continues to be skepticism and disbelief about iron-deficiency in some low-income countries. In fact, many government officials and individuals do not recognize the correlation between fatigue or low-productivity and low iron intake. And, as such iron deficiency is regarded as a hidden disease. This further impacts the availability of accurate, reliable and comparable data on iron deficiency in some of the most at-risk parts of the world.

Causes of Iron Deficiency in Developing Countries

The factors that cause iron deficiency include disease, food insecurity and blood loss. In developing countries, iron deficiency is compounded by infectious diseases like malaria, HIV and hookworm. These diseases must be treated alongside iron deficiency in order to avoid long-lasting consequences. Moreover, malnutrition is one of the leading causes of iron deficiency in developing countries. The lack of proper food security and iron-fortified foods creates a widespread issue of iron deficiency.

Tackling Iron Deficiency in Developing Countries

The fortification of foods, such as flour with iron, provides a way to easily add iron to the diet of the average person. Organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) help to implement food fortification programs in developing countries. These programs either provide the nutrients needed for food fortification or identify local resources that contain the necessary nutrients to fortify food, known as food-to-food fortification. An example of food-to-food fortification is fortifying ogi, a cereal-based dough made in Nigeria, with iron-rich baobab fruit powder.

Using natural iron substitutes to add to foods at home is another way to mitigate the issue. Lucky Iron Fish Enterprises created an iron shaped fish that reduces iron deficiency in low-income communities. When boiled in soup or water, the Lucky Iron Fish gives the individual around 40 percent of the daily amount of iron recommended per day. The company served about 54,000 people around the world in 2018 with its various programs. One notable service available is the “Buy-one-Give-one” project. Customers can buy a Lucky Iron Fish for themselves, and the company will match the purchase by giving a Lucky Iron Fish to an individual in a vulnerable partner community.

In an attempt to help combat iron deficiency in babies, researchers recommend delayed umbilical cord clamping by about 5 minutes to increase the number of red blood cells going into the baby. In a 2017 Nepal study, researchers analyzed the results of 540 babies who were randomly selected to have either delayed cord clamping or clamping within a minute of delivery. Infants with delayed clamping were 11 percent less likely to have anemia and 42 percent less likely to experience iron deficiency than babies whose cords were cut within a minute of delivery.

 

Overall, the best way to tackle iron deficiency is to create awareness about the issue. Additionally, helping people make healthy diet choices that provide the necessary amount of nutrients, such as fortified flour, will help with the issue.

Ashleigh Litcofsky
Photo: Flickr

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

9 Facts About Life Expectancy in Grenada

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

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

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Lithuania
With strong connections to the Nordic countries of Northern Europe and the European Union, the Republic of Lithuania is located at the shores of the Baltic Seas in Europe. The nation has an intriguing history: while maintaining independence since 1990, Lithuania has also been occupied by foreign powers for many years out of the last two centuries.

Lithuania has an extremely high quality of life under a stable democratic system. This may be connected to continental trade through the E.U.’s free movement agreement and global security through N.A.T.O membership. Despite experiencing stability and growth, life expectancy in Lithuania has seen several fluctuations; even after a decade of continuous growth, it remains below average for the area. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Lithuania.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Lithuania

  1. The current life expectancy in Lithuania is 74.6 years. Compared to other European Union nations, who average at 84 years, life expectancy in Lithuania is nearly a decade shorter. The nation also remains below the average of its immediate neighbors in Central Europe and the rest of the Baltics, who have a life expectancy of 77 years. Further, Lithuania lands just above the world average of 72 years.
  2. Life expectancy in Lithuania has had a chaotic trend over the last 70 years. In the 1990s, economic fallout and loss of life caused by riots and chaos during the independence movement led to a low life expectancy rate of 68.5 years in 1994. Since then, however, life expectancy growth rates have more or less stabilized. Lithuanian life expectancy currently shows little sign that the upward trend will change for the worse.
  3. The population of Lithuania has decreased since independence. Having peaked at 3.7 million citizens in 1991, the population has steadily declined. Today, the country is inhabited by 2.79 million people, due to the country’s high death rate of 15 deaths per 1000 people, which results in a negative population growth rate of 1 percent. Furthermore, the emigration of the general populace towards Western Europe has only aided Lithuanian population loss.
  4. Life expectancy in Lithuania has increased at a slower rate than the rest of the world. Lithuanian life expectancy has increased by 8.35 percent from 1986 to 2017. Comparatively, the rest of the world’s life expectancy average has increased by 25.1 percent. Despite the human development index ranking of 34th in the world for development, it is possible high suicide rates in Lithuania substantially influence life expectancy. Unfortunately, the nation has the highest suicide rate in the world at an average of 26 suicides per 100,000 people.
  5. High Lithuanian suicide rates have gained national attention. Having such high suicide rates is clearly a major contributor to the nation’s lowered life expectancies and high death rate. Certain areas of the country are reaching rates of 71.9 deaths per 100,000 people. Subsequently, this has been the focus of intense national efforts. The government has been pursuing support through organizations such as the National Suicide Prevention Strategy; additionally, N.G.O. ‘s like the World Health Organization has supported Lithuania in suicide reduction efforts. As a result, suicide rates have reduced by nearly 15 percent between 2010 to 2016.
  6. Gender disparity is still relevant to suicide rates in Lithuania. On average, men typically live to be 69.2 years while women live to be 79.7 years. Social conditions play a role in this, as men are more heavily affected by the patriarchal norms that drive them into more dangerous work environments. As a result of the intense stress, the suicide rate in men is at heights far above the rate for women.
  7. Lithuanian suicide rates are the result of a complex series of social conditions. As one of the external driving factors behind lowered life expectancy in Lithuania, suicide rates are key as it is affecting all strata of society in the nation. There are various factors besides gender disparity that influences the inclination to commit suicide. One factor is extremely high alcohol consumption, where one in three men report high alcohol intake. Additionally, Lithuania has poor mental health facilities, creating an environment where it is difficult to seek adequate help. Finally, the legacy of historical suicide ideation plays a part in this figure as well.
  8. Biological causes are also a key part of life expectancy in Lithuania. The most considerable influence on life expectancy from biological causes is cardiovascular disease. Thirty-four percent of all deaths in 2017 were due to cardiovascular disease, which is linked to the high rates of obesity in the country. Above 60 percent of the adult population of Lithuania is overweight; obesity is directly linked to poor cardiovascular health and a higher risk of stroke, which is the second-highest cause of death in Lithuania.
  9. Unhealthy diets and low physical activity levels are the primary causes of obesity in Lithuania. The obesity problem affecting life expectancy in Lithuania is the result of a number of factors, crucial amongst them being low rates of physical exercise and unhealthy diets. Only 10.1 percent of the population reported committing to minimal exercise in 2010. Adjunctly, Lithuania’s diet surveys reveal that upwards of 13.2 percent of caloric intake comes from saturated fats; Medline Plus states that saturated fat intake should be less than 10 percent for a healthy diet. However, the government continues efforts to tackle obesity by encouraging exercise among adults and implementing food and drug protocols to reduce unhealthy food consumption.
  10. Health spending in the country is amongst the lowest in the European Union. Public health spending is currently at 6.5 percent of the GDP and remains the sixth-lowest in the European Union. At double the E.U. average, 32 percent of all health spending is privately funded, mostly coming from pharmaceutical expenditures. This means that citizens are forced to spend personal funds on acquiring medication that is often quite expensive. Although, spending has increased from 5.6 percent of GDP in 2005 to 6.5 percent in 2015. Despite this gradual increase, greater strides are necessary for the health system to match the rest of the E.U. and begin increasing overall life expectancy in Lithuania.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Lithuania outline that despite its tremendous human development index and growing economy, the general health and overall lifespan of the nation’s population are quite poor. Further, the issue is not being addressed as effectively as it could be. Life expectancy in Lithuania could be improved by improved government programming and initiatives. Specifically, the implementation of effective mental health systems would greatly impact public health. Another solution would be to execute physical preventative care, such as exercise infrastructure, to increase public health.

Neil Singh
Photo: Pixabay

5 Women Fighting Poverty in Latin America
Around the world, women bear the brunt of poverty. Specifically in developing countries, women hold the responsibility of household welfare and the gendered division of labor; in their attempt to manage both, women face the absence of autonomy and economic opportunities.

Here are five women fighting poverty in Latin America. These women are working hard to ensure their rights and the rights of thousands of people in their countries who are living in poverty.

Mariana Costa Checa

A businesswoman from Peru, Mariana Costa Checa is the brain behind Laboratoria. Laboratoria is a web-based education startup that uses online boot camps and corporate training programs to train women in the tech industry. The goal of the company is to enable women of all income levels to train for and connect with and work at tech jobs that have an impact at the systematic level. By providing women with a source of income and the knowledge to pursue various careers, Mariana has established a company that has the potential to draw hundreds of women, and their households, out of poverty.

Claudia López

Another one of the women fighting poverty in Latin America is Claudia López, who was elected as mayor of Bogotá in Colombia’s October 2019 election. This event marked a historic first for the country as Claudia López is the first woman, and the first gay woman, elected as mayor. In Colombia, the mayor of Bogotá holds a high position, often considered the second most important politician in the country after the president. López has reached a milestone for women, and she promises to continue fighting for women by providing educational opportunities and opening up more job opportunities.

López also prioritizes fighting corruption, ending child labor and putting more police officers on the streets. With her victory, the country has a chance to put an end to some of its most ongoing and pressing issues.

Erika Herrero

As the chief executive officer of Belcorp, Erika Herrero Bettarel has been making waves in the beauty industry and the community of women. Belcorp is a multi-brand corporation that specializes in beauty products and services based in numerous countries around Latin America. Belcorp believes that women are a major driver of positive social change, and the company aims to bring women closer to their idea of beauty and fulfillment. With Erika’s help, Belcorp has been able to help support over 1 million women in terms of receiving income, flexible working hours, appropriate training, social protection and micro-life insurance.

Belcorp has also facilitated over 1,600 scholarships for young Latin American girls and trained over 18,400 low-income adult women in areas of personal development, violence prevention and economic development. Erika Herrero says that by capitalizing on the importance of the beauty industry, she is able to use Belcorp to open up more networks and job opportunities for women in Latin America, promising women a better future by helping to end their poverty.

Lynne Patterson and Carmen Velasco

Co-founders of Pro Mujer, Lynne Patterson and Carmen Velasco, are leading women’s development through social entrepreneurship. Patterson and Carmen’s work has provided women in Latin American with health, microfinance and training services that are typically out of reach to women of low-income families. Pro Mujer works with over 277,000 women across five Latin American countries to help diagnose and treat health problems such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. Individuals in poverty are at high risk for these chronic diseases due to economic problems.

When individuals in poverty are struck with illnesses that go untreated, their condition further deteriorates, perpetuating the cycle. Pro Mujer promotes healthy behavior among clients by holding meetings, offering health counseling and education and using innovative and financially sustainable health models to diagnose and treat illnesses. By offering below-market prices for its services, Pro Mujer is giving sophisticated health care to those in poverty.

 

Women may still carry the weight of poverty, but there are many women fighting poverty in Latin America. Mariana Checa, Claudia López, Erika Herrero, Lynne Patterson, Carmen Velasco and countless others are making a significant difference with their work. As women continue to make progress in Latin America, the region has high hopes of economic growth.

Shvetali Thatte
Photo: Pixabay

Smoking in Developing Countries
Smoking rates among adults and children in developing countries have been increasing for years. In developed nations, such as the United States, people have implemented certain policies in order to increase taxes and therefore reduce tobacco consumption, successfully. Such policies have not yet enacted in areas of extreme poverty around the world. In fact, tobacco companies have responded by flooding low-income areas with reduced-priced cigarettes, tons of advertisements and an excessive number of liquor stores and smoke shops. It is time to have a conversation about smoking rates in developing countries and whether or not tobacco control policies are the best approach long-term, worldwide. Here are the top 6 facts about smoking in developing countries.

Top 6 Facts About Smoking in Developing Countries

  1. Smoking affects populations living in extreme poverty differently than it does those in wealthy areas. Stress is a harmful symptom of poverty and contributes to smoking rates in low-income areas. Oftentimes living in poverty also means living in an overcrowded, polluted area with high crime and violence rates and a serious lack of government or social support. Stress and smoking are rampant in these areas for a reason. It is also important to note that smoking wards off hunger signals to the brain which makes it useful for individuals to maintain their mental health of sorts if food is not an option.
  2. Smoking rates are much higher among men than women across the globe. While the relative statistics vary from country to country, smoking rates among women are very low in most parts of Africa and Asia but there is hardly any disparity in smoking rates between men and women in wealthy countries such as Denmark and Sweden. The pattern of high smoking rates among men remains prevalent worldwide. One can equally attribute this to two factors that go hand-in-hand: the oppression of women and the stress that men receive to provide with their families.
  3. The increase in smoking rates in developing countries also means an outstanding number of diseases and death. The good news is that countries have succeeded in reducing consumption by raising taxes on the product. Price, specifically in the form of higher taxes, seems to be one of the only successful options in terms of cessation. Legislation banning smoking in certain public spaces is one example of an effort that places a bandaid on the problem instead of addressing the root cause. There is no data that shows a direct correlation between non-smoking areas and quitting rates among tobacco users.
  4. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports an estimated 6 million deaths per year which one can attribute to smoking tobacco products. It also estimates that there will be about another 1 billion deaths by the end of this century. Eighty percent of these deaths land in low-income countries. The problem at hand is determining how this part of the cycle of poverty can change when it has been operating in favor of the upper class for so long.
  5. Within developing countries, tobacco ranks ninth as a risk factor for mortality in those with high mortality and only ranks third in those with low mortality. This means that there are still countries where other risk factors for disease and death are still more prominent than tobacco use, but that does not mean that tobacco is not a serious health concern all over the world. Of these developing countries, tobacco accounts for up to 16 percent of the burden of disease (measured in years).
  6. China has a higher smoking rate than the other four countries ranked highest for tobacco use combined. The government sells tobacco and accounts for nearly 10 percent of central government revenue. In China, over 50 percent of the men smoke, whereas this is only true for 2 percent of women. China’s latest Five-Year Plan (2011 – 2015) called for more smoke-free public spaces in an attempt to increase life expectancy. A pack of Marlboro cigarettes in Beijing goes for 22元, which is equivalent to $3. This is far cheaper than what developed countries charge with taxes. This continual enablement is a prime example of why smoking rates in developing countries are such a problem. While many people mistake China for a developed nation because it has the world’s second-largest economy and third-largest military, it is still a developing country.

In countries like China where smoking rates are booming and death tolls sailing, tobacco control policies may not be the best solution. While raising taxes to reduce consumption may seem like a simple concept, when applied to real communities, a huge percentage of people living in poverty with this addiction will either be spending more money on tobacco products or suffering from withdrawals. While it might be easy for many people to ignore the suffering of the other, in this case, a lower-class cigarette smoker, one cannot forget how the cycle of poverty and addiction and oppression has influenced their path in life.

Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr

sustainable farmingHunger and food insecurity are major issues in India; the nation is home to 15 percent of the world’s undernourished people. The United Nations’ FAO estimates that every single day, more than 195 million people in India suffer from hunger.

The nation seriously lags behind other major nations like Brazil and China when it comes to crop yield for cereal and rice, which are India’s two key crops. India’s slow and inefficient agricultural sector is the result of limited access to modern technology, inefficient systems for transporting goods and urbanization. And on top of that, 63 percent of agricultural land is dependent on rainfall, so years with low rain devastate crop production. Despite all of this, farmers in India have started movements to utilize more sustainable farming methods and practices that work to make the agricultural system more efficient in order to increase outputs and improves people’s lives.

Sustainable Farming Methods

Sustainable farming practices are used to improve agricultural output and efficiency, which means that more food is produced, less resources are used and more profits are made by farmers. Examples of sustainable farming methods include using a biodegradable mulch film instead of one made from Polyethylene. While Polyethylene films require intense labor to remove, and can affect soil quality and crop growth if done improperly, biodegradable films are naturally absorbed by microorganisms in the soil, and help maintain the quality of soil while reducing costs of labor. Farmers will also use fungicides and insecticides on their seeds in order to improve the health of their crops and enhance their productivity. In addition, due to the fact that agriculture relies so heavily on rainfall, effective sustainable water management is crucial for a successful harvest.

Along with how crops are grown, how they are stored and distributed is a crucial aspect of agriculture. An estimated up to 67 million tons of food are wasted every year in India. Perishable goods end up often rotting as a result of a lack of modern technology, pests, or weather. Sustainable initiatives like using more efficient insulation and special tarpaulins that keep fruits and vegetables at proper temperatures during transportation work to reduce the number of perishables that rot. Reducing the amount of food that rots means that there is more food available to eat, which combats food insecurity and ensure that more food items are available without even increasing crop yield. And of course, combining these efforts with initiatives to produce food more sustainably and efficiently does even more to fight food insecurity.

The Natural Farming Movement

India’s Natural Farming movement plays a massive role in promoting sustainable farming practices that improve health, create jobs, cut labor costs and improve peoples’ overall quality of life. The use of pesticides has devastated farmers across India which has led to the loss of crops, debt, illness and even death. In 2000, villagers from the village of Punukula, Andrha Pradesh, launched a grassroots movement against the use of pesticides, focusing on non-pesticide management techniques that employ natural alternatives like chili pepper and planting trap crops like castor.

Within a year of the start of the movement, farmers saw pesticide-related health issues vanish, expenses drop, and profits increase. In addition, new jobs were created as a result of the need to create repellents from natural products. Villagers reported that the movement improved their quality of life — improving their financial situations, their health and their overall happiness. More villagers began to reject the use of pesticides, and the village declared itself as pesticide-free in 2004.

Zero Budget Natural Farming

A similar natural farming movement is Zero Budget Natural Farming, which began as a grassroots effort led by people in the state of Karnataka. Zero Budget entails that farmers do not spend money on inputs for their crops and that they would rather use resources from nature to grow and tend to their crops instead of chemicals, thus Zero Budget Natural Farming. Using natural products instead of taking out loans to spend on chemicals allows for farmers to save money, which improves their financial stability and allows them to focus more on tending to their crops.

A key aspect of Zero Budget Natural Farming is the use of the fermented microbial culture Jeevamrutha (a mixture of water, cow urine, cow dung, flour, soil, and brown sugar) on soil. Jeevanmrutha acts as a catalyst in promoting earthworm and microorganism activity within the soil, while also providing the soil with additional nutrients. Using natural products instead of taking out loans to spend on chemicals allows for farmers to save money, providing them with more financial stability and thus improving their quality of life.

The Zero Budget Natural Farming movement actually runs training camps that receive support by the state government. These camps last five days, with eight hours of classes per day. Attendance ranges from 300 to 5000 farmers, and topics covered include philosophy, ecology, successful farming practices, and of course, Zero Budget Natural Farming methods.

A Promising Future

The people of India suffer enormously from hunger and food insecurity. India’s weak and inefficient agricultural and food storage and distribution systems, coupled with devastating years of low rain often leads Indian farmers into bad health, hunger, and poverty. However, farmers in India have started a movement towards a more efficient, sustainable, and eco-friendly farming techniques that fight against poverty and hunger. Using these sustainable techniques means that farmers have fewer costs upfront, ensuring that they are able to make higher profits and worry less about having to take loans or to pay off debts. Sustainable farming in India reduces poverty, fights hunger, and changes lives.

Nicholas Bykov
Photo: Flickr

 

Visual Impairment in Refugees

Last year, there were an estimated 70 million forcibly displaced individuals in the world. NGOs and governments stepped up by providing funding for food, water, sanitation, education, and healthcare, but visual impairment in refugees is rarely ever prioritized.

Vision Impairment is a Major Life Obstacle

Eye care is something often overlooked when organizations are administering urgent medical treatment to refugees–in most cases, eye injuries are not considered life-threatening. While an eye injury may not be fatal, it can greatly reduce the quality of life. This was the case for 10-year-old, Hala Shaheen, who suffered retinal detachment before the outbreak of the Syrian War and was undergoing treatment to fix the issue. She required specialist care and regular check-ups.

However, when chaos and violence broke out in Syria, Hala and her family were forced to flee to the Rukban refugee camp between Syria and Jordan, where no eye care specialist could be found. Now Hala is blind in one eye and her vision in the other eye is continuing to deteriorate. When asked about her condition, she told reporters, “I don’t want to continue living with this level of pain and suffering.”

Refugees like Hala do not have the resources to prevent or tackle blindness, Hala could have retained her vision. Blindness prevents her from experiencing life fully. Since braille is not readily taught, getting an education is difficult. Hala’s condition forces her to be dependent on her family. When blindness presents itself in adult refugees, it stops them from being productive workers and the extra burden is placed on their family’s shoulders. Thankfully, some NGOs have identified this problem and are on their way to creating better conditions to fight visual impairment in refugees.

Bringing Clarity to the Visually Impaired

NGOs and charities are assembling coalitions all over the world to find solutions for visual impairment in refugees. The main mission is to provide diagnostic services and visual assistance to those who need it.

The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) is working in Cox Bazar, a Rohingya refugee camp of over 900,000 people, has created an eye care plan to fight visual impairment in refugees. They plan to provide over 150,000 eyeglasses each year and deploy 30 optometrists and 30 ophthalmologists to conduct Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) exams. These exams are vital in the prevention of blindness and vision loss, which can be the result of neglected chronic eye disease. In Cox Bazar, there is an estimated 30,000 at risk for diabetic eye disease and 70,000 at risk for glaucoma. If left untreated, it could result in a massive amount of vision loss.

There are numerous other coalitions like the IAPB. VisionSpring works with EYElliance in Ghana and Liberia to provide glasses to children and launch country-level initiatives to identify visual problems in refugees. SightGeist is an annual conference of companies and organizations from various sectors who come together and use their resources to provide visual assistance and preventative care to those affected by visual impairment. NGOs like Light for the World work together with Warby Parker, an eyewear company, and Aravind Eye Care System, a chain of hospitals in India, to come up with solutions to problems that are too large to tackle alone.

Gender and Visual Impairment

Another aspect of visual impairment in refugees is gender. Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by visual impairment, accounting for two-thirds of those with severe vision loss. This can be due to the impact of traditional female roles, like having to collect water and wash clothes. These duties put them at risk of being bitten by blackflies which transmit parasites that destroy vision. In developing countries, women are typically not in charge of finances, so they have less control over the budget and cannot pay for healthcare. Women are also often too busy taking care of the home and may not even know where to go to access eye care.

Visual impairment in refugees, particularly females, deepens their plight; those who are visually impaired are more likely to suffer sexual violence and shamed by their families. Programs like CATCH in Uganda and Lady Health Worker in Pakistan are reaching out to these women. CATCH conducts exams to detect visual impairment early and provide preventative care to women. The Lady Health Worker program empowers female workers to provide healthcare and eye care to women and children in their own communities. Simply bringing attention to eye care and reducing the stigma of visual impairment can vastly improve lives.

Visual health underpins many of the Sustainable Development Goals put forth by the U.N. It is up to these organizations now to spread the word and see to it that visual impairment in refugees and developing countries become a greater priority for donors.

– Julian Mok
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About UNICEF
UNICEF is an organization which assists children in over 190 countries. The organization focuses on saving the lives of children, defending children’s rights, and helping them fulfill their potential as individuals. Founded in December of 1946 in an effort by the United Nations to support children in post-war Europe and China, UNICEF has been active ever since.

Here are the top 10 facts about UNICEF and how their impact has been felt around the world.

Top 10 Facts About UNICEF

  1. UNICEF is an organization which helps children receive necessary vaccinations. The organization gathers vaccines for 40 percent of children globally. Annually, this amounts to roughly three billion doses of vaccines.
  2. Globally, UNICEF is the largest buyer of mosquito nets which can be used to protect children from harmful insect bites. Malaria is an example of a disease which can be preventable through the use of a mosquito net. In 2006, UNICEF purchased 25 million of these mosquito nets.
  3. In 2006, UNICEF procured 10 million-plus malaria treatments. ACT, which stands for pyronaridine- artesunate, is a form of therapy which has been shown to be just as effective as other drugs for treating Malaria. The WHO recommended that this type be used to treat P. falciparum malaria.
  4. UNICEF embraces a wide variety of social issues. Among these are the protection of children, girls education, HIV/AIDS, immunization, malaria, nutrition, South Sudan child soldiers, and WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene).
  5. In April of 2005, UNICEF released a publication which documented the organization’s work between 1995-2005. Titled ‘A Pivotal Decade’ the publication covered the 10-year span during which UNICEF helped ensure that millions of children survive who could have been lost. The publication explores how UNICEF is well-equipped to handle its main goal; striving to give each and every child a better future.
  6. According to UNICEF, human trafficking has been reported in all 50 US states. The highest rates have been reported in CA, FL, NY, OH, and TX. These are the statistics reported by UNICEF in one of their fast facts publications.
  7. UNICEF’s overarching goal is to achieve worldwide equality. Especially in the lives of children afflicted by illness, hunger, or war, who cannot attend school and receive a proper education as a result. There are also instances where children are prohibited from attending school. Specifically in the lives of young girls, which UNICEF works hard to support.
  8. Vaccines for diseases such as polio and typhus cost one dollar or less per 1 (unsure of currency) per vaccination. Despite the price, many still cannot afford these vaccines which prevent dangerous, if not deadly, diseases. UNICEF gives out free vaccinations to one in three children worldwide.
  9. When first launching in 1946, UNICEF concentrated primarily on supplying food, clothes, and medicine to young children and mothers in post-war Europe, China, and Palestine. Beginning in the early ’50’s, UNICEF sought to create more long-term goals for developing countries. As a result of these efforts, UNICEF constructed health stations in third world countries and began starting projects to ensure children and adolescents attend school.
  10. UNICEF’s long-running history of seeking to make the world a better place has resulted in them putting vast amounts of money towards public health efforts. The organization reportedly sets aside 80 percent of its funds towards public health initiatives.

Since their launch 73 years ago, UNICEF has become one of the most well-known and renowned organizations dedicated to public health and the well-being of children. These top 10 facts about UNICEF are just a few of this organization’s incredible accomplishments. Striving to make the world a better place since December of 1946, UNICEF shows no sign of slowing down.

Jacob Nangle
Photo: Flickr

foreign aid helps the U.S.
Giving, especially in the form of foreign aid, has shown to cultivate meaningful relationships among people and countries, some that lead to rewarding trading agreements amid other benefits. Recent history has particularly exhibited how foreign aid helps the U.S., which is a crucial consideration in the political dialogue surrounding the current foreign aid budget.

Foreign Aid Helps the U.S. with Trade

One valuable return the U.S. has received in its giving of foreign aid to other developing countries has been the increase in American jobs as well as trade. Foreign aid is much like an investment; it helps to forge the foundation needed for low-income countries to build up and become middle-income, sustainable states. Here are some examples:

  1. After World War II, U.S. foreign aid to Japan helped recover Japan’s infrastructure and highly contributed to the success of American companies like Microsoft.
  2. The U.S. now trades and does business with former recipients of foreign aid, such as South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Vietnam and Thailand.
  3. The President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) successfully slowed down the AIDS epidemic and countries that received such aid have, in turn, consumed more American goods. Exports rose 77 percent in Tanzania, 189 percent in Zambia and 241 percent in Ethiopia.
  4. PEPFAR is one of the strong determinants of increases in the trade of pharmaceuticals.
  5. Foreign aid has attributed $46 billion more in U.S. exports and 920,000 more jobs in the U.S.
  6. In 2011, 44.6 percent of U.S. exports went to developing countries.
  7. In Tennessee alone, more than $33 billion in goods and services were exported to foreign countries in 2014 and this trade, in turn, supports over 22 percent of jobs, 830,000 local jobs to be specific.

Foreign Aid Helps with Health

Foreign aid helps the U.S. in preventing global epidemics that could otherwise be much worse. While assisting developing countries with their challenges in health, the U.S. also does its duty to minimize any possible health issues and diseases from traveling overseas or across borders to the U.S. There has been a great number of such instances, such as:

  • The U.S. was the largest funder of a number of health workers stationed in Nigeria with the original goal of polio eradication. The workers were later reassigned and succeeded in countering the infamous Ebola epidemic.
  • The PEPFAR program has helped stop the spread of AIDS by supplying life-saving medicines to over 14 million people.

Foreign Aid Helps with National Security

One of the non-negotiable benefits the U.S. reaps from its giving of foreign aid to developing countries is an improvement in national security. To prevent a third world war, the U.S. created what is now the modern development assistance program to avoid further instability in Europe.

Stability in developing countries is key in preventing future political issues from unfolding. The U.S. has defense agreements with 131 out of the 135 countries that it provides foreign aid to.

The importance of international aid lies in economic benefits, such as trading proliferations, as much as health and national security. As evidenced above, it is clear that there is truth in the fact that foreign aid helps the U.S. just as much as it helps other nations.

– Roberto Carlos Ventura
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working to end Lassa fever in NigeriaLassa fever is a growing epidemic for many Nigerians. The World Health Organization reports that 72 Nigerians have died from the disease while 317 others are infected. Lassa fever has also spread to 18 Nigerian states since its outbreak in January. However, many entities are working to end Lassa fever in Nigeria.

  1. ALIMA Treats Lassa Fever Patients
    In January 2018, the Alliance for International Medication Action (ALIMA) commenced a rapid emergency response to Nigeria’s Lassa fever epidemic. ALIMA also supported the rehabilitation of a 38-bed treatment center for patients in Owo.
    “The goal is to catch cases early, and improve the chances of survival for those who become infected,” said Guillaume Le Duc, ALIMA’s Lassa fever coordinator.
  2. The Cross River’s Sensitization Against Lassa Fever
    On Jan. 30, 2018, Nigeria’s Cross River state increased its sensitization and awareness campaign against Lassa fever, hoping to prevent further outbreaks of the disease. Dr. Inyang Asibong, Cross River’s commissioner for health, said the campaign was necessary since two cases of Lassa fever were recorded from migrants who entered Cross River. Asibong also gave nose masks, disposable gowns, gloves and other protective equipment to the state’s health workers.
  3. Gombe’s Investment to Prevent Lassa Fever
    On Jan. 31, 2018, Nigeria’s Gombe state earmarked ₦20 million for preventing the outbreak of Lassa fever to its people. Dr. Kennedy Ishaya, Gombe’s state commissioner for health, said the funds were part of the amount set aside for Gombe’s Rapid Response Committee (RRC). Gombe’s RRC will use the money to protect the state’s people from Lassa fever and other diseases.
  4. Hand Washing Helps Prevent Lassa Fever
    On Feb. 5, 2018, UNICEF and the Imo state’s Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA) sensitized Nigerians on how handwashing can prevent Lassa fever.
    “Medical reports have it that the simple act of washing hands constantly with soap can reduce infections by 50 percent,” said Nkechi Okorocha, wife of the Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha. Chika Edom, the RUWASSA program manager, said that hand washing is part of UNICEF’s initiative to keep Nigeria’s people alive and healthy.
  5. Nigeria’s Proposal for a More Established CDC
    On Feb. 8, 2018, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) asked the National Assembly to pass a bill that would financially help the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (CDC) treat Lassa fever cases. Dr. Mike Ogirima, the NMA president, was displeased from poorly-equipped ambulances transferring Lassa fever patients to the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Edo. Though the bill went through first and second readings at the house level, it has yet to be passed into law.
  6. The World Health Organization Works to Contain Lassa Fever
    On Feb. 20, 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it was working to end Lassa fever in Nigeria. The WHO deployed staff to support Nigeria’s government agencies. The WHO’s representatives are also helping rapid response teams contain Lassa fever in the Ondo, Ebonyi and Edo states.
  7. Redeemer University Could Eliminate Lassa Fever
    On Feb. 20, 2018, Redeemer University revealed its capacity to contain and eliminate Lassa fever through research activities.
    “We are behind the scene, providing solutions to Lassa fever in the country,” said Debo Adeyewa, the university’s vice-chancellor. Adeyewa also revealed that the Lassa fever outbreak was being managed at the Edo state’s Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital.
  8. Governor Obaseki’s Work to Contain Lassa Fever
    On Feb. 22, 2018, Governor Godwin Obaseki said that no case of Lassa fever had been reported at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital for the past two weeks. Governor Obaseki’s administration purchased and deployed equipment to the hospital and is working to end Lassa fever in Nigeria.
    “That no death has been recorded since our intervention goes to show that we read the signs correctly, mobilized skilled manpower and tackled the challenge head-on,” said Crusoe Osagie, Obaseki’s special adviser on media and communication strategy.
  9. The U.K.’s Work for Nigeria
    On Feb. 27, 2018, the U.K. sent two epidemiologists, a logistician and other experts to help Nigeria contain its Lassa fever outbreak. The U.K.’s public health rapid support team will also provide Nigeria with research assistance.
    “Viruses like Lassa Fever do not respect borders, and it is only right that we share our expertise with countries facing serious outbreaks around the world,” said Public Health Minister Steve Brine.

While many Nigerians continue to be infected with Lassa fever, efforts to treat and save patients’ lives will not stop. The World Health Organization, the U.K. and other entities are working to end Lassa fever in Nigeria and could inspire more parties to help. Supplying the country’s hospitals with necessary medical equipment to treat patients will also play a role in helping Nigeria control Lassa fever and other diseases.

– Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

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