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The Value of Small Nonprofits: Maasai American Organization
Lea Pellet, one of the delegates at the 1996 United Nations Women’s Conference in China, was very interested when nonprofit success was discussed. “One of the issues that came forth there was the recognition that big organizations were doing phenomenal work throughout the world, but there were a lot of pieces that really could only be handled by small groups. A church to a church, a school to a school, a women’s group to another women’s group.” With that thought, the Maasai American Organization (MAO) was born. Starting with domestic needs and then transitioning to international aid in health and education, MAO has flipped the script regarding non-profits.

Founder of MAO

Lea Pellet is a Wisconsin native and holder of multiple sociology and social work degrees from the College of William and Mary, Hampton University, Norfolk State University and Old Dominion University. She has served as a chair of the Department of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology at Christopher Newport University from 1970 to 2006 and has also spent time as an Anthropology Field School Coordinator. Pellet founded the Maasai American Organization in 2000 and since then, the non-profit has worked with countries around the world. The organization’s name however, comes from their focus on helping the Maasai people of Kenya.

Domestic to International Efforts

The Maasai American Organization is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit originally run through Christopher Newport University in Virginia. As the program grew, it began to focus on international interests; this began with a grant from the School of Public Health of Mexico. The budding  idea was to find indigenous groups with a handful of educated or skilled people within the community, like teachers and doctors. MAO would then pair these people with groups from the United States in a fashion that values person to person interaction and connection.

On a trip to Kenya with her husband, Pellet met a woman who was once part of a UN program. Pellet asked her to consider setting her sights on the Maasai people by providing them with both aid and education. Pellet went with a team into the most remote areas of the Maasai territory and encountered their incredible pieces of art. Later, it was sold to African American museums in the United States. From there, Pellet got serious about becoming an NGO (instead of remaining university-based) and renamed the organization the Maasai American Organization.

Maasai Communities of Kenya

MAO put 300 Maasai girls through primary and secondary school in a culture that has historically not approved of education for girls. The organization’s focus was on educating girls who would return to the Maasai Mara and help improve their communities. Many of these girls would become nurses, teachers, entrepreneurs and social workers. MAO also helped build 10 preschools in remote areas, allowing some of the 300 graduated girls to be hired there as teachers. Most of the children coming to school have never heard Kiswahili or English. The children are typically taught by teachers from the urban area who have never heard KiMaa, the Maasai language. To eradicate language barriers, MAO teaches teachers to begin in native languages and then bridge to national languages if possible.

Most Maasai women were walking more than two hours to gather water from polluted streams. As a result, MAO put additional focus on the community’s acquisition of clean water. The organization installed deep wells where feasible and taught water purification techniques if wells could not be dug. Those wells made it possible for women to plant crops and even raise small herds of goats. Consequently, these changes improved the nutrition and health of children. MAO also constructed and staffed three family clinics, providing health officials until the educated girls were ready to take over.

Mayan Communities of Guatemala

Alongside her focus on Kenyan communities, Pellet felt the need to bring her work to Guatemala. MAO focused on educating Mayan girls to help build and staff health clinics. It also focused on developing markets for indigenous craft products and teaching women how to operate group craft businesses. The organization has built and supported a preschool and have moved approximately 50 Mayan girls on to successful school careers. One of the most significant contributions has been moving 80-100 women into entrepreneurship as glass bead weavers and jewelry makers.

Pellet personally oversees the most recent projects in Guatemala. She makes yearly trips there with a team to implicate different initiatives and work with the education and healthcare projects there. Her efforts have halted with the pandemic. She hopes to resume in the future when it is safe to do so.

Advantages of Small-Scale Nonprofits

Small nonprofits can have an incredible impact when working with low-resource communities. Here are a few ways that small initiatives like the Maasai American Organization can differentiate themselves from larger organizations:

  • Unique message or incentive
  • Flexibility and innovation
  • Less red tape
  • Cost-effective
  • Personal presence
  • Community-driven
  • Proximity

There are many situations where personal interaction and one-on-one aid is more helpful than sending a dollar amount. Lea Pellet’s Maasai American Organization is a great example of a small nonprofit that has made a world of difference in the past, present and future of the Maasai and Mayan peoples.

Savannah Gardner
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in kiribati
The Republic of Kiribati, better known as just Kiribati, is an Oceanic country formed by 33 unique islands, of which 20 are inhabited. The majority of Kiribati’s population is located on the Eastern Gilbert islands, while many islands located in the center function without a permanent population. Healthcare in Kiribati has been a committed work-in-progress, especially after the notification in the late 20th century that its population was at one of the lowest standards of living in Oceania. The disjointedness of the islands and a lack of cohesive national health policy has significantly impacted Kiribati’s ability to effectively provide national healthcare services to all that need it.

In fact, as recently as 2012, there was not an official agency for national health policy, regulation of health standards, assessment of health technology, or management of health technology. However, despite this glaring lack of infrastructure, Kiribati has instituted projects at the national level to improve its primary level of healthcare. The government, along with partnerships from international health organizations, is working to invest in Kiribati’s health infrastructure.

The following five facts about healthcare in Kiribati are integral to understanding the country’s changing health structures and transition out of poverty.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Kiribati

  1. Around 22% of the Kiribati population is living under the “basic needs” threshold, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. However, the traditional definition of poverty is not used in Kiribati, as much of the population believes that as long as one can maintain subsistence living, they are not poor. Instead, poverty is related to meet their basic expenses on a daily or weekly basis. This culture has made it so that many residents in Kiribati live in housing without access to clean water, sanitation or other basic hygiene utilities.
  2. Kiribati is at an elevated risk for infant mortality, consistently ranking as the highest country in Oceania by the estimated absolute number of incident cases, with approximately five times the number of cases as Australia. In 2012, the rate of infant mortality stood at 60 deaths per 1,000 individuals. While this statistic was significantly reduced from years past, there is no reason for such a high percentage of the population to suffer from infant mortality. The most common causes of infant mortality in Kiribati are perinatal diseases, diarrhoeal diseases and pneumonia. As a result of inadequate water supply and poor sanitation, water and food-borne illnesses can also contribute to the incidence of infant mortality.
  3. Kiribati also suffers from its lack of developed healthcare infrastructure. Hospital facilities, doctors to assist the population, and trained nurses are all hard to come by in Kiribati. Though they meet standards for routine care, the scarce availability of such facilities makes them hard to access for the general population. With only three district-level hospitals and one referral level hospital, patients often must be sent overseas if serious conditions arise. This remote level of treatment can often make timely access to medicines an issue as well.
  4. In Kiribati, there is a low number of doctors and nurses relative to the population overall. This low number contributes to the relatively high infant and maternal mortality rates of Kiribati. Recently, the government has worked with smaller groups around Kiribati to train more healthcare professionals. By holding orientation courses for all health staff and developing long-term courses for primary care staff, communities on many of Kiribati’s islands could tackle the lack of healthcare personnel issues. As a result of these programs and increased training, the number of individuals that are able to assist with healthcare is rising, and the rates of morbidity from common diseases have been reduced.
  5. Water supply is an issue in Kiribati that most don’t directly associate with healthcare and disease, but can have a significant impact on the health of the population. Outdoor defecation is said to be prevalent in Kiribati, which can lead to contamination of the water supply. Groundwater contamination is often related to a higher incidence of diarrheal diseases. However, outdoor defecation is not entirely the result of a lack of other options, but education is necessary to help the population of Kiribati understand the risks associated with it.

In the fight against poverty and for a healthcare system that can serve its entire population, Kiribati has much work to do. Progress has been made in developing training for healthcare professionals and educational programs for communities, but many services such as sanitation and clean water supply still aren’t up to standards. Still, with a government committed to increasing the healthcare provisions for its people, Kiribati is sure to develop into a country that can provide for its growing population.

Pratik Samir Koppikar
Photo: Pixabay

Inventions Saving Infant LivesEven with the rapidly developing technology around today, giving birth and nursing are still some of the toughest experiences a mother can go through. Those experiences are, unfortunately, even tougher for mothers giving birth in developing countries. With fewer resources and more exposure to disease right out of the womb, developing countries have some of the highest mortality rates. Here is a list of five inventions saving infant lives worldwide.

5 Inventions Saving Infant Lives

  1. Neopenda: Neopenda is one of the inventions saving infant lives. It is a hat made for babies which helps monitor their vitals such as heart rate and breathing capacity. The company was founded in 2015 and was marketed for newborns in Uganda. The design was tested in Uganda since 2017 and was finally funded in 2019. Neopenda has since won multiple awards for its revolutionary concept and application.
  2. Khushi Baby: Khushi Baby is a digital necklace for newborns that can store all of their medical information at an inexpensive cost. Khushi Baby was designed as part of UNICEF’s Wearables for Good contest and won. The necklace, along with the mobile app, allows nurses to keep track of patient data that can get easily lost in their busy and often underfunded healthcare systems. The necklace has been lauded as an ingenious idea that helps to digitalize immunization records for babies. This helps ensure more accurate and faster readings. Khushi Baby is working with NGO Seva Mandir to run vaccination clinics in rural villages in India. The company has expressed interest in expanding to Africa and the Middle East as well.
  3. Solar Suitcase: Another one of the inventions saving infant lives is the Solar Suitcase. It is an invention designed by Dr. Laura Stachel. The suitcase is a miniature kit powered by solar energy from two panels which produces a light strong enough for child delivery for nearly 20 hours. The kit was inspired by a visit Dr. Satchel made to Nigeria in 2009. She witnessed multiple times power outages that could harm babies and mothers during birth. The kit was tested in Nigeria by Dr. Stachel herself and proven to be a huge success. Since then, her charity We Care Solar has been helping to decrease mortality rates in Africa, Central America and Asia.
  4. The Odon Device: The Odon Device is a plastic bag that inflates to help pull a newborn’s head during delivery. The Odon Device was developed by Jorge Odon, a car mechanic from Argentina and made into a prototype in 2013. Funded by the World Health Organization, the Odon Device is meant to save newborns and their mother’s lives by limiting complications during birth. The product was tested in Argentina and South Africa and achieved a success rate of over 70%.
  5. TermoTell: TermoTell is a bracelet designed to recognize malaria early on in newborn babies. Another design created for UNICEF’S Wearables for Good contest, TermoTell reads babies’ temperatures to safely detect malaria and alert the doctor. If a newborn has malaria, the bracelet will glow and send an alert to a doctor’s phone. The invention was targeted towards sub-Saharan Africa where malaria can cause the deaths of nearly a million children. TermoTell is still just a prototype. The invention is still in the process of improving the design for more accurate readings in the future.

These five designs are just a few of the inventions saving infant lives all around the world. Most inventions are aimed at larger developing countries to help decrease mortality rates. Sub-Saharan Africa still has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world with more than 50 deaths per 1,000 births while India has close to 30 deaths per 1,000 births. Inventions such as the five listed above have the potential to save thousands of lives and improve the mortality rate for many less developed countries whose mothers and infants have suffered for far too long.

Hena Pejdah
Photo: Pixabay

Child Labor in South Sudan
South Sudan is an East-Central African nation considered to have one of the worst cases of child labor in the world. The crisis of child labor has been amplified by the outbreak of civil war in 2013, spreading violence and insecurity nationwide. Child labor in South Sudan is a complex issue that negatively affects children’s health and education. However, UNICEF is working to end child labor in the nation.

4 Causes of Child Labor in South Sudan

  1. The civil war has increased the number of displaced persons vulnerable to recruitment by armed group or abduction for forms of child labor including spies, messengers, child soldiers and prostitutes.
  2. Many communities in South Sudan have inadequate access to schools and overall poor quality of education. Thus, much of the population does not see education as a viable alternative to work.
  3. Embedded cultural traditions and social attitudes increase rates of child labor by perpetuating ideas, such as work building character and girls being better suited to domestic work than education. Furthermore, many children in South Sudan are expected to follow their parent’s career paths and learn their trade from an early age, resulting in family sponsored child labor over child education.
  4. Poverty is arguably the most significant factor contributing to child labor globally, with South Sudan being no exception. Child’s incomes are often understood to be necessary for the survival of the household, with 91.9% of South Sudan living in multidimensional poverty. The mass impoverishment of South Sudan has been amplified by the civil war that has devastated the economy, and thus fueled child labor.

Formal vs. Informal Sector

Data on child labor can only be effectively collected from children working within the formal sector. As of 2019, nearly 46% of children aged 10-14 work in the formal sector. About 60% of these children find themselves working in agriculture, over 38% percent in industry and nearly 2% in services. While these ratios of children engaged in formal labor are large, even more children likely work in the informal sector, including jobs such as child soldiers and prostitutes.

Impact on Education and Health

Poor education in South Sudan increases participation in child labor. As a result, only 31.5% of children aged 6-14 were enrolled in school in 2019. Despite the fact that education is free, the rate of primary school completion sits at just 25.7%. Consequently, as of 2019, only about 27% of the adult population in South Soudan is literate. Not only does a lack of education stunt individual children’s development, health and economic opportunities, but also those of communities in which they live.

South Sudan also has a poor healthcare structure. This is reflected in the national life expectancy of 57.6 years, which is only worsened by the institution of child labor. Children working in the informal sector are placed at great risk: these jobs are life-threatening and drastically reduce life expectancy. However, children working in the informal sector are not the only children at risk. Jobs in the formal sector, such as construction and mining, are labor heavy and place great strain on children’s bodies. Journalist Losika Losepio reported in 2018 that an 8-year-old girl in South Sudan working in the mines said “It’s hard work digging and the shovel is heavy. I just want to be in school,” while holding an infected wound on her elbow. In the best of cases, child labor only takes children out of school; in the worst of cases, they are injured by their labor and potentially even killed.

The Good News

UNICEF is a United Nations agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children. Programming by UNICEF has made great progress in regard to child labor in South Sudan. In 2018, UNICEF freed over 1,000 children, many of whom were child soldiers for various armed groups. Additionally, UNICEF combats the root causes of child labor, such as lack of education. In 2018, the organization helped to rehabilitate schools damaged by conflict by leading teacher training and providing necessary classroom supplies. Through such efforts, UNICEF also helped 550,000 children re-enroll in school in 2018.

Children everywhere have a right to education, health and safety. Child labor in South Sudan serves as an obstacle to each of these rights and must be counteracted. Progress has been made through organizations such as UNICEF, but the situation remains dire: these efforts must not only continue but expand across the nation.

Lily Jones
Photo: Wikimedia

dementia in developing countriesThough dementia is traditionally thought of as being prevalent only in the developed world, it is now occurring at higher rates in developing countries. Currently, 67% of people with dementia worldwide reside in low- and middle-income nations, and researchers predict that number will reach 75% by 2050 in tandem with these nations’ aging populations. Because health and social care services in these countries are already strained or non-existent, dementia in developing countries poses a unique set of challenges.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s

The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease. But as with nearly all forms of dementia, there is progressive brain cell death, so as its symptoms progress, cognitive functions become severely impaired. As early as the second stage of mild dementia, individuals may require intensive care and supervision from others with tasks in their daily life. However, healthcare systems are stretched thin in many developing countries. Often, their frontline providers may not be adequately trained in providing the long-term care needed for these conditions. Even when assisted-living arrangements in a medical facility are an option, people with dementia have limited autonomy over their care because there are few systems in place to monitor the quality of dementia care in poorer nations.

Treating Dementia in Developing Countries

Due to the lack of formal care, people with dementia in the developing world tend to rely upon systems of “informal” care by family, friends, or other community members. These support mechanisms are under great strain due to the economic, emotional and physical demands of unpaid, and often unsubsidized, caregiving. Caring for someone with dementia can demand up to 74 hours a week and cost around $4600 a year. Furthermore, symptoms associated with the later stages of dementia, such as aggression, depression and hallucinations can have distressful psychological effects for these caregivers. In fact, 45% of family caregivers report experiencing distress, and 39% have feelings of depression.

Social Stigmas Surrounding Dementia

The social stigma associated with mental health diagnoses as well as general health illiteracy and unfamiliarity with dementia also contributes to inequities within the quality of dementia care. A study conducted in India suggested that 90% of dementia cases in low and middle-income nations go undiagnosed. Even healthcare professionals may lack the awareness to identify early signs of dementia. The wide-spread myth that dementia is not a medical issue in developing countries can mislead providers to dismiss dementia’s symptoms as characteristics indicative of normal aging.

Furthermore, in some parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, such as rural Kenya and Namibia where knowledge of dementia is not widespread, people may associate dementia with witchcraft or punishment for previous wrongdoings. Such beliefs further entrench the stigma surrounding it into the broader culture, discouraging people with dementia from seeking an official diagnosis. Organizations like the Strengthening Responses to Dementia in Developing Countries (STRiDE) Project have worked specifically towards reducing this stigma.

Understanding Poverty and Dementia

The immense prevalence of undiagnosed cases is particularly detrimental, considering poverty may increase one’s risk of dementia. Poverty is linked with many risk factors for dementia — one of which is stressful experiences like financial insecurity and education difficulties. Incidence of dementia has also been linked to lower levels of education since early development of neural networks can help the brain combat damages to its pathology later in life. A study on the rural Chinese island of Kinmen, where the median level of education is one year, showed dementia rates rising as people turned 60. This trend is earlier than in developed nations, and implies that illiteracy and lack of education can bring on dementia sooner.

Looking Forward

It remains unclear whether there is a correlation or direct causation between education level and the likelihood of dementia later in life. But one thing, however, is clear — low education levels serve as a frequent marker for other socioeconomic issues that are more common in developing nations, such as poverty, malnutrition, and toxic environmental exposures. Furthermore, the most commonly recommended strategy for reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s is maintaining overall health, which is more difficult in poorer countries due to malnutrition and unequal access to health care.

Moving forward, we must expand the support available to informal care systems, while ensuring healthcare providers receive dementia-specific training and health literacy. Women often the ones left to provide the majority of dementia care, but their efforts largely go ignored by their governments. Incentives, like universal social pensions, disability benefits and carer’s allowances, could support family and friends who house and care for people with dementia. Still, formal health systems too need to be bolstered to supplement and eventually substitute the role of informal carers. Policy-makers worldwide need to prioritize and anticipate the growing number of people with dementia as it remains the only leading cause of death still on the rise.

– Christine Mui
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare Reform in GeorgiaHealthcare reform in Georgia has contributed greatly to its population’s quality of life. Located east of the Black Sea in Europe, the country of Georgia finally gained independence in 1991 from the Soviet Union. In recent centuries, Turkey, Persia and Russia fought over control of its land, and the region still experiences tensions with Russia. The United States’ political and economic involvement with Georgia was a cause of concern to Russia, especially given Georgia’s interest in joining NATO and the EU. The Georgian- and Russian-speaking country has a population of 4.3 million, with a life expectancy of 71 for males and 77 for females.

Privately Funded Healthcare

After making the transition from a communist regime to a market economy, healthcare in Georgia was primarily privately financed. By the year 2002, healthcare spending per capita was $64. Over the period from 2002 to 2013, that figure saw an increase to $350. The country has been alleviating regulations ever since 2003, easing private companies’ entry into the market.

Recently there have been further reforms, such as the government supporting private insurers to invest and operate in 2010. This led to the private ownership of 84.3% of hospital beds by the end of 2014. Additionally, private insurers generated 43.2% of written premiums that same year.

Rising Standards of Health

Ever since its independence, Georgia has been one of the poorer countries of the region, its population subject to mainly noncommunicable diseases. However, the country’s standards have been slowly catching up to the rest of Europe. For example, the poverty rate went from 33.2% in 2005 to 21.3% in 2016.

One issue with healthcare in Georgia, and with the general health of the population, has been the flawed death reporting system. This system has led to an exaggerated rate of illness-induced deaths. It reached 55% in 2010, even though research suggests that a rate higher than 20% should be considered unreliable. While the rate remains high and unreliable, the country made tremendous progress after improving software systems, resulting in a rate of 27.3% in 2015.

A New Universal Healthcare System

Healthcare in Georgia took a big leap in 2013, when the government introduced a universal healthcare system for which the entire population qualified. Healthcare reform in Georgia downsized the role of private insurers and changed the system’s entire financing and funding structure. Instead of supporting private companies, government funds were allocated directly to the healthcare providers. The vast majority – 96.4% – of patients reported satisfaction with the system.

One of the main diseases affecting the country during this century is Hepatitis C. According to the CDC and the NCDC, “in 2015, estimated national seroprevalence of hepatitis C is 7.7% and the prevalence of active disease is 5.4%.” Healthcare reform in Georgia sought to combat the disease through a national program initiated in 2015. This program electronically improved screening and data collection from national and local agencies. From 2015 until 2017, the cure rate reached 98.2% and 38,506 patients were treated.

Healthcare in Georgia has undergone many reforms since 2003. It began with the support of privatization, but eventually the government transitioned to a single-payer universal healthcare system that serves approximately 90% of citizens. The current system also took measures to address the effects of the Hepatitis C disease. Even though the country still lags behind other European countries in poverty and health standards, recent years have seen significant progress.

Fahad Saad
Photo: Pixabay

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce or use insulin well, resulting in a high blood sugar level. When the body fails to make insulin at all, this is type 1 diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, the body does not produce or use insulin effectively. Both types of diabetes come with side effects that are detrimental to a person’s lifestyle. In the African region, South Africa has the second largest population of people with diabetes. Here are five facts that you should know about diabetes in South Africa.

5 Facts About Diabetes in South Africa

  1. Diabetes is a leading cause of death in South Africa. With non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes on the rise globally, South Africa is no exception. In 2016, diabetes and other NCDs caused 16% of the total deaths in the country. Diabetes is one of the three leading causes of death in South Africa, the other two being tuberculosis and cerebrovascular diseases. Among the South African population, there is a major lack of awareness of the disease and access to proper healthcare. Because the prevalence of diabetes in South African adults is 12.8%, it is crucial that other countries continue to support the funding and research of diabetes in South Africa.
  2. There are many ill-side effects for those living with diabetes. Diabetics must consistently track their blood sugar levels to ensure they don’t go into a diabetic coma. Additionally, diabetics are two to three times likelier to experience cardiovascular problems, like heart attacks or strokes. Diabetes can cause an individual’s kidneys to stop working. In most healthcare facilities in South Africa, they lack the procedures necessary to help a diabetic undergoing kidney failure, like renal replacement therapy by dialysis or through transplant. Another symptom of diabetes is neuropathy – or nerve damage – in the feet, which can lead to infection or potential amputation. In healthcare centers in South Africa, there is little equipment available for testing nerve damage in the feet and symptoms like this can often slip under the radar. Through an increase in funding from other countries, individuals suffering from diabetes in South Africa can have access to more equipment and medication necessary for dealing with diabetes.
  3. Socioeconomic disparities and other factors contribute to the prevalence of diabetes in South Africa. In South Africa, proper healthcare is inaccessible in poorer communities. The deficiency of experienced health professionals and respectable clinics makes it hard for citizens to undergo testing or treat the disease if they have it. More than one million citizens in South Africa do not know if they are diabetic. With more accurate and accessible testing, a greater population can begin treatment for the disease. It is crucial that the government receive funding to build diagnostic centers and train medical staff.
  4. Diabetes in South Africa is preventable and treatable in many ways. Though diabetes is irreversible, there are ways to keep symptoms at bay. Type 1 diabetes often develops in childhood and is usually impossible to eliminate. However, type 2 diabetes can go into remission with medication and changes in lifestyle. A common medication used to treat diabetes is metformin. Exercise and good eating habits are helpful treatments for diabetics. The most effective way to decrease the prevalence of diabetes in South Africa is to prematurely educate citizens and encourage healthy decision making. South Africa is currently working towards this goal.One recent preventative measure taken by the South African government is the implementation of a sugar tax. By charging more for sugary drinks and foods, the government is fighting obesity and helping citizens make more conscious decisions. In July 2019, South Africa briefly launched a Diabetes Prevention Programme (DPP). The DPP aims to integrate intervention treatments into a culturally relevant context through household questionnaires and group gatherings for at-risk individuals. In the conclusion of this program, the DPP will focus on using the information they gathered to create a curriculum that can educate communities about diabetes. To prevent rising cases of diabetes it is important that there is more pervasive awareness of the causes of diabetes. Citizens can learn how to manage obesity and understand when they should seek testing.
  5. Many countries and organizations help by funding testing centers and medical treatment in South African cities. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) works with several organizations in the South African region to help combat the severity of the disease through advocacy, funding and training. The three organizations that are a part of IDF are Diabetes South Africa (DSA), Society for Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa (SEMDSA) and Youth with Diabetes (YWD). DSA is one organization that does its part in educating citizens and lobbying the government for better facilities and cheaper healthcare. DSA is a nonprofit that centers around mobilizing volunteers to demand better treatment for those with diabetes.

Danielle Kuzel
Photo: Flickr

childhood obesity in poverty-stricken AfricaChildhood obesity is a major issue in middle-income countries. However, this issue is growing in low-income countries as well now. In Africa, micronutrient deficiency and wasting are among the biggest challenges associated with children’s health. However, with sugary foods and snacks becoming cheaper and more accessible, childhood obesity is becoming more of an issue in Africa. A 2000 survey revealed that 10% of low-income countries had a 10% rate of teenagers who were overweight. Just between 2014 to 2016, that number jumped from 40% to 75%. It is quite clear that this issue is quickly increasing.

The Problem of Childhood Obesity

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), childhood obesity in poverty-stricken Africa is one of the most pressing issues of this century. Without intervention, this issue will only continue to spread.  Along with it, long-term health problems associated with obesity, such as diabetes, will also increase. Furthermore, not only are obese people at risk of contracting preventable health conditions but they are also at risk of early death. According to WHO, obesity takes more than two million lives every year worldwide.

Despite the growing economy in Africa, millions still suffer from poverty. This poverty, coupled with the growth of obesity, has Africa simultaneously facing two major challenges. These two challenges have led to a significant increase in diseases throughout Africa. Since the 1980s, diabetes has grown by 129% in Africa. To combat the spread of diabetes and the consumption of high sugar beverages, South Africa has passed a bill that taxes such beverages.

Combating Childhood Obesity

A few organizations are taking steps to combat childhood obesity in poverty-stricken Africa. The World Health Organization places its focus on what types of foods to consume, the number of physical activities that are being completed and overall health. The organization believes that in order to avoid the increasing amount of childhood obesity that Africa is experiencing, there must be corrections to all three factors mentioned above.

WHO created the “Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health” to reduce obesity and improve overall health. The strategy focuses on four major goals that will ultimately help combat childhood obesity, diseases and death. The four main goals are to reduce risk, increase awareness, develop policies and action plans and monitor science. Though created 16 years ago, this strategy will only begin to make an impact after several decades. In order for the strategy to succeed, all levels of life and business must assist in the effort.

Childhood obesity in poverty-stricken Africa continues to be an issue. Although a relatively new issue in developing countries, obesity is quickly increasing. Africa is now combatting both ends of the nutritional spectrum, with malnutrition and childhood obesity now prevalent throughout the continent. Despite increases in these issues, organizations such as WHO are working diligently to reduce childhood obesity in Africa.

– Jamal Patterson 
Photo: Pixabay

healthcare in South Korea
South Korea is one of the many countries in the world that provides universal health care for its citizens. This universal health care is both a source of relief and national pride for many South Koreans. This pride is further amplified by the fact that modern health care in South Korea rose out of the devastation of the Korean War. With the recent COVID-19 global pandemic, South Koreans rely, now more than ever, on their health care system.

History of the South Korean Health Care System

South Korea’s health care system was developed at the end of the Korean War in 1953. One of the first projects that aimed to help South Korea was the Minnesota Project, launched in September 1954. Under the Minnesota Project, Seoul National University agreed to receive medical education and equipment from the University of Minnesota. The U.S. Department of State also contracted the University of Minnesota to assist Seoul University with staff improvement and equipment aid.

This project allowed the health care system to grow and flourish over tte next couple of decades. In 1977, the Korean government mandated all companies with more than 500 employees to provide health insurance programs for employees.

How South Korean Health Care Works

Established in 2000, the National Health Insurance Corporation (NHIC) is still in charge of national insurance enrollment, collecting contributions and setting medical fee schedules. To provide coverage for all Korean citizens, the NHIC gathers contribution payment from all citizens as part of their taxes. In addition to the contribution payment, the NHIC gather their funds through government subsidies, outside contributions and tobacco surcharges. This wide range of funding sources allows South Korea to provide clinics that are both modern and efficient.

Prevailing Issues

The South Korean health care system does have some issues, however. While the overall quality of health care in South Korea is excellent, access to high-quality medical care can still be difficult for rural residents. According to a WHO case study of South Korea, 88.8% of physicians in South Korea were employed by non-governmental clinics. These non-governmental clinics are usually located in urban areas. About 25% of all elderly over the age of 65 years reside in rural areas, where they are at high risk of falling and other physical injuries. With physicians mainly located in urban areas, the South Korean government recognizes the need to improve health care in rural areas.

A more recent issue that the South Korea health care system is facing is the treatment of foreign nationals. In the past, there were some foreigners who forewent payment after their medical treatment in South Korea. Termed “health care dine and dash,” the Korean government now requires all foreign nationals to sign up for the National Health Insurance scheme within their first six months of living in the country. Once a foreign national receives their Alien Registration Card, they can benefit from Korea’s National Health Insurance Scheme and private insurance.

A Model of Universal Health Care For the World

Developing out of the devastation of the Korean War, the excellent quality of health care in South Korea is a prime example of how a country can implement and sustain universal health care. Despite needs for improvement, the South Korean health care system remains an international model for universal health care. With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, South Koreans recognize the importance of their continuous support for the universal health care system.

 – YongJin Yi 
Photo: Pixabay

child marriage in ZambiaIn Zambia, about two in every five girls are forced into marriage. Currently, the country is renewing its efforts to eradicate child marriage. In 2017, the President of Zambia along with presidents from Uganda and Malawi held an event where they declared they would prioritize ending child marriages by 2030. The President of Zambia stated, “Girls who marry young are often denied their rights. Ending child marriage by 2030 will require a range of actions, including making sure girls have access to quality education, legal reforms and changing traditional harmful practices.”

Already, rates of child marriage in Zambia have drastically decreased. Zambia’s Demographic and Health Surveys in 2002 found that the child marriage rate was 42%. In 2014, however, the child marriage rate had dropped down to 31%. Despite these numbers, Zambia still has a lot of work to do to save these young girls.

Common Reasons for Child Marriage

There are many factors contributing to child marriage. Here are three of the more common reasons for child marriage in Zambia.

  1. Poverty: Some families see child marriage as a way to reduce the financial burden of having young girls. Often, families in poverty will marry off their young daughter(s) to receive a payment of dowry. This dowry gives them great financial relief. In addition, they are saving money because they no longer have to provide for their daughter(s).
  2. Vulnerability: While all children are susceptible to being vulnerable to child marriage, orphans and stepchildren are even more vulnerable, specifically once they hit puberty. Some families feel that their job of taking care of them is done at that time, so they marry them off young. Stepchildren and orphans are also more widely mistreated than biological children. They may feel getting married is an escape from an otherwise unbearable situation.
  3. Protecting a Girl’s Sexuality: Parents may believe that if they marry their girls off young, they can protect them from engaging in “inappropriate behaviors,” like having multiple sexual partners. This way the girl only has sexual intercourse with her husband, and her family’s honor remains preserved. Some also consider child marriage as a protection for the girl against HIV or unwanted pregnancy.

The After-Effects

  • Increases Poverty: Child brides tend to drop out of school. As a result, any opportunities they may have had at getting a good job and helping their families out of poverty disappear.
  • Health Risks: Child brides are more likely to suffer from depression or PTSD due to abuse from their spouses or the fast-paced way they are forced to grow up. Also, child marriage in Zambia is often correlated with pregnancy, which can lead to higher death rates for the mother or child because the mother is not developmentally mature enough to carry a baby.
  • Risk of Violence: Child brides are more likely to deal with domestic violence including physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

The Good News

Despite these practices still occurring, the citizens and government of Zambia have begun taking steps to eradicate child marriages by 2030. Plan International is a humanitarian organization that works to advance children’s equality and rights. The organization’s Regional Director for both Eastern and Southern Africa, Roland Angerer, says change begins with education. He states, “It is essential that we promote education and encourage dialogue if we want to change social norms . . . Governments must ensure schools are accessible, inclusive and safe […] to enable more girls to attend and stay on in school.” This education helps not only young girls but also their families.

Senior Headman, Davison Shafuluma, in the Mumbwa district, holds meetings where he teaches parents and other family members that child marriage hurts more than it helps. He shares with them the effects a young girl can suffer through by marrying and carrying a child at too young an age. He also explains that they, as a family, can say ‘no’ to anyone who propositions marriage.

Beyond education, the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme on Ending Child Marriage helped establish 550 Safe Spaces in Zambia. In these Safe Spaces, young girls learn that they are equal to their male counterparts. The young girls learn that school, homework and their futures should be their focus and priority.

International Work to Eradicate Child Marriage

Aside from better education, “Zambia also co-sponsored, along with Canada, the first U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on child, early and forced marriage in 2013.” In 2014, eight Ministers from Zambia also committed to addressing child marriage and continuing the conversation. The country has also legislated a minimum age requirement for marriage beginning at the age of 18.

Although many more improvements are still necessary, Zambia is making much progress to diminish child marriage. The conversations in Zambia and across the world are finally giving these young, vulnerable girls a voice.

Stacey Krzych 
Photo: Flickr