Dementia in AfricaDementia is universally feared and stigmatized because it is mistakenly viewed as a gradual part of aging. There has been no research found to treat these symptoms, but there are ways to care for and uplift those in need to reduce the risk of dementia around the globe — including Africa.

5 Facts to Raise Awareness About Dementia in Africa

  1. Dementia is an umbrella term under which Alzheimer’s disease can fall. Dementia is categorized as a syndrome and does not have a definitive diagnosis. It is a group of symptoms that affect mental cognitive tasks such as memory and reasoning, Health Line reported. According to Health Line, as dementia progresses with age, it can have an impact on the ability to function independently, placing an emotional and financial burden on families.
  2. Dementia currently affects more than 47 million people worldwide. More than 75 million people are expected to be living with dementia by 2030. Dementia in Africa will rise over the next decades due to an aging population, an increase in noncommunicable diseases and the effects of the HIV pandemic. Even though there has been a reduction in HIV contractions, the disease still leaves its mark as a conduit for dementia. According to The Conversation, South Africa accounts for 17 percent of the global burden of HIV infection. HIV is linked with cognitive decline and leads to HIV-associated dementia (HAD). The Conversation stresses that health care and social care systems are a crucial step toward getting society involved and aware. The World Health Organization (WHO) had a conference in 2015 to discuss global action against dementia. The committee stated that raising generational awareness was essential for encouraging action from younger generations. There is a need to search for disease-modifying therapy, improve care and quality of life and reduce the risk of dementia in Africa.
  3. The WHO emphasized that people must embed a rights-based approach in all interventions. Specifically, the WHO’s committee illustrated the importance that people living with dementia deserve empowerment. The goal is to provide support to exercise their rights and have access to enhanced autonomy to reduce the risk of dementia in Africa. Margaret Chan, director-general at the WHO, offered her view on the conference and its goals.“I can think of no other disease where innovation, including breakthrough discoveries to develop a cure, is so badly needed,” Chan said.
  4. The First WHO Ministerial Conference on Global Action Against Dementia sought to promote a better understanding of dementia, raise public awareness and engagement, demand respect for the human rights of people living with dementia, reduce stigma and discrimination, and foster greater participation, social inclusion and integration. The approval of the WHO Global Action Plan on Dementia in May 2017 allowed Alzheimer’s Disease International to put greater pressure on governments to take the issue with urgency and reduce the risk of dementia in Africa. In the African continent, there is a need for new studies to evaluate dementia prevalence, incidence, mortality and to monitor changes over time. According to WYLD Network, these studies are crucial to emphasize to governments, local and international organizations the necessity to target health policies for older people and the development of strategies for dementia care in sub-Saharan Africa.
  5. As the WHO progresses toward awareness to reduce the risk of dementia in Africa, it instilled an international surveillance platform, the Global Dementia Observatory. The WHO established this for policy-makers and researchers to facilitate monitoring and sharing of information on dementia policies, service delivery, epidemiology and research.

While there is no cure for dementia, several plans like the Global Action Plan on Dementia pave the way for successful care of those developing dementia. Updated research to reduce the risk of dementia in Africa is essential to inform officials of the development and empowerment for the most vulnerable.

Carolina Chaves
Photo: Creative Commons

Roll Back MalariaThe Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM) is comprised of more than 500 partners, including malaria endemic countries, bilateral and multilateral development partners, the private sector, nongovernmental community-based organizations and research and academic institutions.

Arguably, the most admirable feature of RBM is its ability to form effective partnerships both globally and nationally.

Partners work together to increase malaria control efforts at a nationwide level, coordinating their activities to avoid duplication and to ensure optimal use of resources.

According to the RBM website: “malaria is a preventable and treatable infectious disease transmitted by mosquitoes that kills more than one million people each year, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa, where malaria is the leading cause of death for children under five.”

In 2015, there were about 214 million malaria cases worldwide and 3.2 billion people (about half the world’s population) were at risk of contracting the disease. Close to 100 countries and territories across the globe still had ongoing malaria transmission.

Though there is still much to be done, significant progress has been made in the fight to eliminate malaria. RBM reports that between 2000 and 2015, the global malaria mortality rate was reduced by 60 percent overall. Among children under five, the numbers are even higher, with a 65 percent reduction in the last 15 years.

“On the basis of reported cases for 2013, 55 countries are on track to reduce their malaria case incidence rates by 75 percent, in line with World Health Assembly and Roll Back Malaria targets for 2015,” states the RBM website.

In 2014, an increasing number of countries were on the verge of eliminating malaria. 13 countries reported zero cases of the disease and six countries reported fewer than 10 cases. “The fastest decreases were seen in the Caucasus and Central Asia (which reported zero cases of malaria in 2014) and in Eastern Asia,” RBM reports.

RBM has contributed immensely to these victories by helping to forge consensus between partners, mobilizing resources and catalyzing action.

In 2015, RMB went through a transformation in order to adapt its architecture to better meet the needs of countries in this new era of development. The restructuring of RMB has led to the “Action and Investment to defeat Malaria 2016-2030 (AIM).” This initiative seeks to build on the success of the first Global Malaria Action Plan, bringing us one step closer to a malaria-free world.

Vanessa Awanyo

Sources: WHO
Photo: Roll Back Malaria

SOS Children’s Villages
SOS Children’s Villages is a nonprofit group whose mission is to provide every child with the opportunity to grow up in a loving home to secure their futures as successful adults.

This international organization was founded in 1949 by Hermann Gmeiner to help orphaned children in Europe rebuild their lives after World War II. Now, SOS Children’s Villages sponsors vulnerable children and fragmented families in 125 countries, across 12 different continents, with headquarters in Cambridge, United Kingdom.

SOS Children’s Villages aims to help families stay together by offering community outreach programs that provide each family with a development plan designed specifically for their needs.

The nonprofit offers aid to children who have lost their parents, those living in an orphaned household and those whose parents suffer from a life-threatening disease. Funding for these villages comes from donations, volunteer workers, corporate partnerships, fundraising and sponsorships that offer donors the chance to support an orphaned child.

Each child that lives in an SOS village receives guaranteed education and health care. Nearly 100,000 children are enrolled in 187 SOS primary and secondary schools. Tens of thousands of people attend the 51 SOS vocational training centers created to enhance employment opportunities.

“If SOS Children was not here, our children would have become street children, with all the risks this may cause. Today, we are proud of ourselves, and many of us have found dignity. We can now stand on our own feet,” said a mother in Dakar, Senegal, now able to find financial independence thanks to an SOS outreach program.

With 150 SOS villages in 45 African countries, more educational projects are run in Africa than in any other continent. According to UNICEF, educating young people can support economic resilience and stability, as children learn to address family vulnerabilities and gain skills for future employment.

A total of 79 SOS medical centers have been built by the organization, primarily in Africa and the Middle East. In more remote areas that lack clinic access, SOS children train local people in the medical field, passing on first-aid skills and health advice garnered from SOS family health awareness campaigns.

Because vulnerable children often live in non-democratic societies, SOS prides itself on strong communication with central and local governments that hold legal responsibility for the welfare of these children. According to SOS, this has allowed them to bring aid to children in Zimbabwe, where other organizations have been asked to leave.

“As a result of the various economic opportunities that were created for many vulnerable families since the inception of the project [SOS Children’s Villages Ghana], more than 78 percent of caregivers have become more self-reliant and are capable of accessing social services like health, education, water and sanitation without external support,” said Alexander Mar Kekula, National Director of SOS Children’s Villages Ghana.

Kelsey Lay

Sources: Ghana Web, SOS Children’s Villages 1, SOS Children’s Villages 2, SOS Children’s Villages 3, SOS Children’s Villages 4, SOS Children’s Villages 5, UNICEF
Photo: Flickr