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homelessness in israelHomelessness in Israel has been a rising problem in the country. Much homelessness in Israel is a byproduct of ongoing poverty that many Israelis face. In 2017, the poverty rate rose from 19.4% to 20.4% in 2018. Unfortunately, children make up a significant proportion of impoverished people in Israel. With Israel having many people on the streets without a place to call home, homeless Israelis are dying. Many homeless people have been killed over the last decade in Israel as well.

Lack of Assistance

One problem facing homelessness in Israel is the country’s failure to prioritize assistance for the homeless. Those who are homeless or struggling to meet their rental payments don’t receive enough benefits from the Social Affairs and Social Services Ministry to make ends meet. Specifically, Social Affairs and the Social Ministry only offer 1,632 shekels a month to these people who meet the requirements for aid. This equals $436 a month. Further, the maximum amount of money these services offer to victims of homelessness and poverty is 1,735 shekels a month. This equals $464 a month for a single person.

These living conditions make it challenging for poor Israelis to stay out of the streets. Moreover, this system helps less than half of homeless people in Israel. The other half don’t qualify because they can’t document that they are homeless. However, it is not easy for people on the street to support their claim easily. Even so, they still need any help they can receive to fight homelessness in Israel.

Fatality Rates Among the Homeless

Many people who find themselves on the street in Israel aren’t just financially hurt but are physically in danger, too. Many homeless people live in close proximity to others in the same situation. Additionally, many lack the funds to purchase treatment when they get sick, which is especially concerning during the pandemic.

As of 2018, 610 homeless people have died on the streets of Israel. Different diseases and viruses can be a major cause of death for those who die on the streets. Homeless people often suffer the same illnesses as others, but their death rate is three times higher. These circumstances can also make homeless people vulnerable to the novel coronavirus. Indeed, as of October 2020, Israel has 126,419 cases of COVID-19. So far, 100,357 people have recovered and 993 have died.

Tackling Homelessness in Israel

Homelessness in Israel may seem impossible to eradicate, but many organizations are working to do just that. For example, the Israel Homeless Association (IHA) and shelters for the homeless have become safe havens for homeless people. The Lasova nonprofit organization and the Health Ministry have also provided a “home” to those on the streets. These organizations give them access a safe place to sleep. Around 1,900 people who are victims of homelessness in Israel are receiving aid from the Health Ministry. The IHA targets areas that are most at risk and ignored by the Israeli government. Recently, the collapse of the country’s safety net has caused the IHA charity to put its money into assisting struggling families.

Three years in a row, the IHA has provided clothes for the homeless in Israel registered with the Homeless Offices of Beer Sheva and Eilat. Additionally, the IHA, with the help of other service organizations, helped relocate seven families to a higher quality of living conditions. One hundred thirty kids in the Negev region who are homeless have received over $7,500 worth of toys from the IHA.

The work of organizations like the IHA provides a glimmer of hope among the crisis of homelessness in Israel. During the pandemic, the fact that homelessness puts many people at risk of death and disease is especially significant. Organizations and the Israeli government must work together to tackle this issue.

– Dorian Ducre
Photo: Flickr

Health Care Reform in Turkey
In a very revolutionary move, Turkey has made cancer treatment essentially accessible for all. Labour and Social Security Minister Jülide Sarıeroğlu announced in a written statement that the country has abolished all extra fees that were charged in treatment, surgery and medication of cancer.

This new shift in policy is part of a longstanding effort to improve health care in Turkey and make health care coverage available for all, particularly the nation’s poor.

Universal Health Care in Turkey

The policy was approved earlier this year and shows further commitment to universal health care in Turkey. Sarıeroğlu added that Turkey will continue to make improvements to its health care system regardless of costs.

The impact this will have on the population is significant as 20 percent of deaths in Turkey are caused by cancer and 450 individuals are diagnosed with cancer on a daily basis, totaling to approximately 164,000 cases every year. As part of the shift, the government also increased cancer treatment payments in private hospitals by 200 percent for those with social benefits.

The Labour and Social Security minister has additionally committed to improving the conditions of public health care providers and state universities. Lastly, to avoid overcrowding, hospitals owned by the Health Ministry and the Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu (Social Security Institution) were merged.

The History of Health Care in Turkey

In 2002, Turkey’s health care system was riddled with inefficiencies. The country’s allocation towards cancer treatment was a paltry 3 percent in overall spending. The infant mortality rate was at 26.1 per 1,000 live births, and two-thirds of the population had no access to health insurance.

With the support of the World Bank Group, the Health Transformation Programme was initiated. The programme’s main goal was to overhaul the previous health care infrastructure and equalize access to health facilities in rural and urban areas alike. Along with addressing systemic regional imbalances, the World Bank has helped Turkey confront non-communicable diseases, including but not limited to cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Reform of the Health Care in Turkey

Since the implementation of better and more comprehensive health care in Turkey, the citizens of the country have seen an increase in insurance coverage from 2.4 million people in 2003 to 10.2 million people in 2011. Coverage specifically for Turkey’s poorest decile jumped from 24 percent in 2003 to 85 percent in 2011. The enhanced financial protection provided by insurance has reduced the relative number of out-of-pocket payments, especially for lowest-income households, subsequently leading to a decline in exorbitant health expenditures.

Furthermore, life expectancy at birth is now close to the average level proposed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). An average Turkish newborn in 2014 has the chance to live 6 years longer than a Turkish baby born in 2002. This is an increase from 71.9 to 77.7 years. Only 39 percent of the population was content with health services in 2003, whereas 2011 saw satisfaction bloom to 75.9 percent.

This upward trajectory of health care in Turkey has validated the optimism of citizens looking forward to universal health care. The country’s existing hospitals are experiencing a reformation period and 500 new hospitals have opened in recent years. In her written statement, Jülide Sarıeroğlu assured that there are more improvements to come in the future period.

Yumi Wilson
Photo: Flickr


Malaysia is overwhelmed with its never before seen dengue fever outbreak. According to the Health Ministry, there have been more than 40,000 cases and 201 deaths so far. The deaths have increased from 215 in 2014 total, 92 in 2013, and 35 in 2012.

In six months, deaths increased 100 percent from last year between January and June 6, with 144 deaths compared to 72 last year. From the 21st week to the 22nd week, the numbers of cases increased by 8 percent.

Dengue fever is spread by the female Aedes mosquito, which can lay up to 400 eggs per week and needs very little water to breed. The mosquito typically bites in the morning or at dusk with initial symptoms feeling like the flu.

Those infected realize it’s dengue from the exhaustion, fever and joint pains they get. In the worst-case scenario, victims develop hemorrhagic fever, which can lead to death.

There is growing concern that the virus is changing and becoming more deadly with changes in symptoms and repeat infections. The deputy director general of Health at the Ministry says, “There’s always a chance virus may change.” He does find it strange that the new symptoms are liver failure, meningitis and brain infection.

There is currently no cure for dengue. The most that can be done to treat it is the platelet count with a saline drip.

The disease is common in many Asian countries and costs the economy about $2 billion annually, excluding the cost of fogging and other methods used to kill the Aedes mosquito.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dengue cases have increased 30-fold in the last half century, and half of the world population is at risk.

Citizens are combatting the disease with leaflets and insecticide. Citizens like Kau Siew Yoon, a retired librarian, are volunteering with their local anti-dengue squad.

At the government level, workers are sent out to spray fog around the neighborhoods affected and doctors are given rapid detection kits as soon as a doctor reports a case to the Health Ministry.

Doctor Lam Sait Kit, who has been studying dengue for 40 years, doesn’t think fog is very effective, and believes vaccines could prevent outbreaks. Given that WHO is aiming to decrease dengue by 25 percent and its mortality by at least half by 2020, many companies are looking to develop a vaccine.

The most progress has been made by the French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Pasteur, which finished its third phase of clinical trials for a vaccine it has been working on for more than 20 years.

The trials were done on thousands of children in Asia and South America, and the vaccine shows protection against all four types of fever with varying results. Those ages 9-16 showed an 80 percent reduction in hospitalization and a 93 percent reduction in the disease becoming more severe.

Malaysia is working with WHO in analyzing the vaccine data. Baptiste De Clarens, GM for Sanofi-Pasteur in Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore, believes a vaccine isn’t the only solution, with a need for vector control and public awareness.

Given the alarming numbers of this outbreak, the focus needs to be on reducing the current cases and finding solutions that prevent the disease, such as an educational campaign to fight against it.

Paula Acevedo

Sources: IRIN, The Malaysian Insider
Photo: Flickr