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healthcare in turkeyResting in the middle of three continents, not only is Turkey’s economy promising but so is their cultural impact. Turkey houses one of the largest refugee populations, with over 3.6 million registered Syrians amongst the 82 million Turkish citizens. With the country’s inconsistent conflict, the citizens require constant care due to the aftermaths of war, diseases and recently, coronavirus. Thus, healthcare in Turkey is at the forefront of global evaluation.

COVID-19

As of July 23rd, 2020, COVID-19 had infected more than 220,000 people in Turkey. The virus reached the peak of the first wave in April and has gradually sedated ever since with only one thousand cases nationally. Turkey restricted access across the borders and made it mandatory to wear masks in public. People above the age of 65 and below the age of 18 are required to follow a curfew under lockdown. The immediate action and the meticulous COVID-19 management by Turkey set a high example for the strength of a developing country.

Common Diseases

Apart from the coronavirus, Turkey sees many deaths from viral infections, circulatory system disorders, respiratory diseases and cancer. In 2016, non-communicable diseases caused 89% of deaths. Not only does the warm oceanic climate foster the spread of communicable diseases, but Turkey’s location between Africa, Asia, and Europe also promotes the spread of foreign diseases. Despite those factors, Turkey’s expansive healthcare system nurses their patients to their best ability.

Universal Healthcare System

The healthcare system in Turkey is not only affordable but of high quality. They are the regions leading provider for healthcare, providing citizens with the most care possible. While a heart bypass surgery would cost $129,750 in the United States, it only costs $12,000 in Turkey. Many infamous pharmaceutical companies and internationally-competitive medical facilities are all situated in Turkey. Turkish residents can receive free universal healthcare when registered with the social security system in contracted hospitals. Foreigners living in Turkey pay around $30 a month for unlimited healthcare.

Refugees and People in Poverty

Since the beginning of Syria’s refugee crisis, WHO has partnered with Turkey’s Ministry of Health to provide “culturally and linguistically sensitive” free healthcare. The WHO Refugee Health Program trained more than 2000 Syrian health workers in seven training facilities for the workers to be hired into 178 different hospitals. Syrian asylum seekers and refugees receive free healthcare to treat traumatized patients.

With Turkey’s 9.2% poverty rate, many cannot afford private health insurance or even pay their taxes. Turkey has created a system to include access to high-quality healthcare for all. In 2012, 98% of Turkish residents had access to healthcare because of The Health Transformation Program led by the government of Turkey and the World Bank.

The advancing system of Turkey aims for 100% access to quality healthcare. With an accepting atmosphere, people in poverty no longer have to worry about paying hospital bills or skipping doctor appointments. Healthcare fosters a system where everybody is strong and able-bodied to take on work. This creates an opportunity for people in poverty, refugees, and other vulnerable populations to rise above the poverty line.

Zoe Chao
Photo: Flickr

tuberculosis in North KoreaTuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection that mainly attacks the lungs, and can prove fatal without treatment. Tuberculosis spreads through the air via coughing or talking. It causes people to become sick because the immune system cannot prevent the bacteria from growing. The lengthy and specific nature of the treatment for TB means developing nations can struggle with treating tuberculosis epidemics. One of these nations is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which labels TB as one of its most serious health problems. Here are eight facts about tuberculosis in North Korea.

8 Facts About Tuberculosis in North Korea

  1. Though the data on tuberculosis in North Korea is sparse, the rate of instances is estimated to be 442 out of 100,000 people. Furthermore, the WHO estimates that in 2017, the estimated mortality of TB per 100,000 people was 63%. While it had been slowly decreasing since the year 2000 (161%), estimated mortality has risen since 2015 (42%).
  2. North Korea is a poor country, which limits access to healthcare. According to a report by Amnesty International, the healthcare system has been collapsing, with barely-functioning hospitals devoid of medicine. Though the country claims to provide healthcare for all, estimates indicate it is spending under $1 per capita, less than any other nation in the world. Because it is unlikely that the regime will increase healthcare funding, TB patients often do not receive appropriate care.
  3. The inadequately funded healthcare system also means doctors are improperly trained. This results in maladaptive treatment strategies which are expensive and are prone to hijacking by the black market. Hence, many people turn to self-medicating and are unable to access crucial TB drugs. There have been efforts to train doctors through a program in the late 1990s. However, there have not been any in recent years, either from the government or from NGOs.
  4. The lack of documentation and data on tuberculosis in North Korea also causes more serious strains of TB such as multidrug-resistant (MDR)-TB to spread unchecked. Experts estimate that MDR-TB is an already growing problem. Disinformation surrounding TB in North Korea is so widespread. Many people regard TB as so common as to not require a trip to the doctors. Hence, education about the disease is critical. While there have been efforts to educate people about TB, only NGOs (rather than government-sponsored programs), like the Eugene Bell Foundation, have started initiatives to educate patients, though not the general public.
  5. North Korea’s poor track record on human rights also exacerbates its TB and MDR-TB crisis. According to the Health and Human Rights Journal, North Korea’s prison camps and migration across the China-Korea border heighten the risk of citizens contracting TB. Additionally, those migrating or detained are more likely than the average North Korean to receive little or no treatment.
  6. North Korea’s standing as an international pariah aggravates its struggle with tuberculosis. The regime’s totalitarian nature, cold war-era cult of personality, nuclear ambitions and disregard for human rights causes it to face sanctions, political antagonisms and limited medical exchange. International sanctions ban the export of minerals, agricultural products, technology, aviation fuel, metals and more. This results in limited resources, making testing and treatment nearly impossible.
  7. In 1998, the North Korean government began implementing a TB treatment system. Despite North Korea’s reluctance to accept international aid, the government did begin a TB treatment system in cooperation with the WHO. The TB treatment was named DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment, Short-Course). Though it reached the entire country in 2003, DOTS had problems. For example, hospitals turned patients away due to insufficient medicine. Additionally, some medication ended up on the black market.
  8. The only NGO to earn the trust of the North Korean government has been the Eugene Bell Foundation. The Eugene Bell Foundation has been offering support to treat cases of TB since 1996. Focusing on MDR-TB in particular, EBF is the only large scale provider of treatment in the country. Additionally, it has a unique 20-year relationship with the North Korean Ministry of Public Health. The foundation’s program cures an estimated 70% of patients in North Korea. However, despite EBF’s successes in opening clinics, bringing in medication and medical equipment and training doctors, a recent uptick in estimated mortality suggests that North Korea is still a long way away from effectively treating its tuberculosis epidemic.

In conclusion, North Korea faces structural and international challenges that prevent it from being able to treat its tuberculosis and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis epidemic. The regime’s neglect of the healthcare system and disregard for human rights has led to numerous international sanctions, causing it to rely on NGOs and the WHO to treat TB patients. For the situation to improve, wholesale reform of the country’s institutions is likely necessary, though international preventative measures could also help improve the situation.

– Mathilde Venet 
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in the Democratic Republic of the CongoOne of the biggest challenges facing the Democratic Republic of the Congo is its healthcare system. The country faces many barriers to adequate healthcare, such as low funding, systematic and structural difficulties, poverty, proper treatment and testing, education and more. However, many organizations worldwide are working to improve healthcare in the country through direct aid and legislation.

The Problems with the Healthcare System in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The healthcare system lacks investment and funding. As a result, it is difficult for the country to combat prevalent healthcare issues, such as infectious diseases. It also provides obstacles to combatting more pervasive issues such as infant and mother mortality rates. According to the CDC, the top causes of death in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are “malaria, lower respiratory infections, neonatal disorders and tuberculosis.”

Many of these issues are preventable. However, as of 2017, the Democratic Republic of the Congo only dedicated 3.98% of GDP to healthcare. In comparison, the U.S. dedicated 17.06% to healthcare. Healthcare in the Democratic Republic of the Congo requires consistent funding and resources to ameliorate and reduce these problems; without increased investment, these healthcare problems will only continue to persist.

Furthermore, the WHO states that another complication facing the healthcare system is a lack of resources. The healthcare facilities that are up and running are “often poorly maintained” and difficult to access. Moreover, many communities throughout the country are isolated and spread out. For example, the WHO states that 80% of cholera patients are displaced throughout the country. With these patients vastly spread out, it becomes harder and harder to treat and reduce the impact of cholera. Additionally, traveling from one area to the next present difficulties because of damaged and underdeveloped roads, which introduces another barrier to proper treatment.

Therefore, it becomes increasingly difficult for citizens to even obtain access to healthcare clinics and/or hospitals. Factoring in violence and displacement, lack of food and healthy drinking water and extreme poverty conditions, healthcare in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s is in dire need of support and aid.

What Organizations are Doing to Help

With that said, what are other countries and organizations doing to help the Democratic Republic of the Congo? There are many organizations around the world working to reduce global poverty and improve healthcare in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other struggling countries. The focus herein are direct, firsthand efforts from organizations such as USAID, the CDC and WHO.

  • The WHO is actively trying to obtain accurate information about population and health in order to properly provide solutions for certain problems. For example, the WHO seeks to obtain information about issues, such as infant mortality rate and the necessary vaccines. Then, they modernize this information by implementing new technology and software to ensure that the data is upkept, accurate and transformative.
  • USAID is training local citizens and communities on proper healthcare treatment and issues. USAID helps these citizens utilize “locally available resources” to treat the pervasive health issues specific to the country. Additionally, USAID also seeks to increase education by providing scholarships to people to pursue comprehensive medical education. USAID also strives to increase funding and investment for healthcare in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • The CDC has sent more than two million testing kits and thousands of vaccines/treatments to combat a multitude of issues such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, influenza and infections. Additionally, they have also increased the number of healthcare clinics and other testing and treatment sites across the country. These sites now include five new “sentinel sites for influenza and other infections”.

Moving Forward

Furthermore, advocacy organizations push federal legislation focused on reducing poverty and improving healthcare systems across the world. Equally important, these continual and consistent efforts prioritize allocation of U.S. foreign aid towards these economically struggling countries.

Overall, healthcare in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, underfunded for many years, still requires intense rebuilding and change. However, many organizations across the world are understanding these healthcare issues and taking action to help. While much more progress must occur in order to ensure a stable, successful healthcare system, the progress that is currently underway should not be overlooked.

– Sophia McWilliams 
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare Improvements in KyrgyzstanHealthcare is an important concern for the government of Kyrgyzstan and has been for many years. Kyrgyzstan has introduced multiple reforms of its healthcare system since 1996. As of 2019, about eight percent of the country’s GDP has been spent on the healthcare system. Kyrgyzstan’s efforts to improve their healthcare manifest in several ways. For example, life expectancy rose from 66.5 years in 1996 to 71.0 years in 2016. In order to fully appreciate the reforms, aid and healthcare improvements in Kyrgyzstan, it is important to understand the state of the country’s healthcare system prior to reforms and improvements.

Healthcare in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan was a Soviet Republic during the Cold War. The country had free and universal healthcare financed by the Soviet Union’s Ministry of Health. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, healthcare within the country of Kyrgyzstan began to decline. The healthcare system’s decline in Kyrgyzstan’s during this period was partly due to the lack of medical necessities. Because of their crumbling healthcare system, Kyrgyzstan needed reforms. Long after their independence from the Soviet Union, they have made these reforms.

The government has recently launched two initiatives to promote healthcare improvements. The first is the Primary Health Care Quality Improvement Program. The purpose of this program is threefold. First, to improve the quality of healthcare services. Secondly, to increase access to and quality of healthcare services. Finally, to establish better governance over the healthcare system to ensure the program is successful. The program is still in its early stages. It was approved in 2019 and will last until 2024.

Kyrgyzstan has ensured better healthcare delivery to its people by partnering with USAID to eradicate tuberculosis (TB) from the country; each year, the country faces roughly 8,000 cases of TB. Of those roughly 8,000 cases, about 1,300 are drug-resistant TB which is much more difficult to treat.

In response, Kyrgyzstan makes use of the USAID Cure Tuberculosis project. The project provides $18.5 million to the country of Kyrgyzstan in order for medical professionals to provide the necessary care for people who have the drug-resistant form of tuberculosis.

With these two programs active, the government hopes to bring about more healthcare improvements in Kyrgyzstan for people in general and for those specifically suffering from drug-resistant tuberculosis.

– Jacob Lee
Photo: Wikimedia

healthcare in Swaziland
Swaziland, a country bordering South Africa and Mozambique, has seen increased conflicts in regard to its healthcare system. With a population of 1.13 million, a majority of its citizens have faced trouble accessing quality healthcare. However, the government of Swaziland is focused on improving healthcare and the well-being of its citizens.

Deficiencies in the Healthcare System

The importance of healthcare to Swaziland’s citizens stems from the presence of numerous diseases. With an estimated 220,000 citizens living with HIV, as well as lower respiratory infections being the second most common cause of death, diseases have been an ongoing issue for decades. Furthermore, road traffic accidents have heavily hurt Swaziland citizens, as it difficult to recover from serious injury without sufficient medical care. There is also a high infant mortality rate, with 54.4 deaths per 1000 births.

With a majority of citizens burdened from disease, the need for improvements to Swaziland’s healthcare system is great. With outdated structuring and a lack of medical supplies, hospitals are becoming increasingly inaccessible to the public. Since the average salary for a citizen in Swaziland is only 6,000 SZL (341 USD), people cannot afford the cost of healthcare. These conditions leads many families to treat themselves. As diseases such as HIV continue to affect Swaziland’s citizens, the healthcare system must become accessible to all.

The Road to Change

In an attempt to combat the spread of disease and improve the accessibility to quality healthcare, Swaziland’s government has launched its Universal Health Coverage program. The government is now increasing spending on health services while improving access to resources.

To increase accessibility, Swaziland has decreased the costs related to healthcare tremendously. Families of any financial background can now have an equal opportunity to acquire affordable and quality healthcare.

In addition, honorable Minister of Health Senator Sibongile Ndlela-Simelane called for a national screening, so that all citizens will know their health numbers. These numbers include blood pressure and sugar and cholesterol levels. This program helps individuals detect health problems early, leading them to utilize Swaziland’s healthcare. Swaziland has also increased the quality of their technology by adopting x-ray machines.

Program Results

With the establishment of the campaign, over 2,000 people of all ages have received screening for diseases. In addition, health numbers were recorded for thousands for future reference.

For the rising problem with HIV, it is important to note that 87% of all individuals who tested positive received sustainable therapy. Additionally, deaths related to AIDS decreased by 50% and the infant mortality rate stooped to 43 deaths per 1,000 births.

Moving Forward

This accelerated growth has heavily boosted morale in Swaziland. With increased government spending in the healthcare sector and a boost in accessibility for healthcare, Swaziland likely has a bright future.

To continue this growth for the long term, Swaziland’s government must pay attention to the infant mortality rate. Despite improvements, Swaziland’s life expectancy rate for infants is among the lowest in the world. Moving forward, Swaziland must make this issue a priority as they continue to work toward providing access to high quality health care to all citizens.

– Aditya Padmaraj 
Photo: Flickr

Diseases in TanzaniaAbout 36% of the 57 million people living in Tanzania fall below the poverty line. It is one of the most impoverished countries in the world. Many impoverished countries deal with severely inadequate healthcare. However, Tanzania has recently experienced tremendous advances in healthcare. Overall better accessibility to healthcare improved death rates and diseases in Tanzania and even prompted innovative disease prevention. Here are six facts about healthcare in Tanzania.

6 Facts About Diseases in Tanzania

  1. Health access and quality have increased. Healthcare access and quality are essential for a prosperous community. When disease and illness go untreated, entire populations of people can be affected. Tanzania received a Healthcare Access and Quality Index rating of 33.9 in 2016 compared to 21.9 in 1990. Some of the factors contributing to this increase include a flourishing economy, increased education and foreign aid.
  2. Malnutrition has decreased by almost 10%. Although malnutrition is still one of the leading causes of death and disability in Tanzania, it has been declining since 2007. Malnutrition causes many diseases, especially in children. Malnutrition is detrimental to children’s cognitive growth and overall health. UNICEF is an organization working with the government and other local partners in Tanzania to improve child nutrition by implementing a food and nutrition policy.
  3. HIV/AIDS death rates have decreased drastically. As one of the top 10 causes of death in Tanzania, the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS has prompted many years of advocacy and support from organizations and governments all around the world. As a result of these efforts, HIV/AIDS death rates have decreased tremendously in Tanzania. In 2007, HIV/AIDS was the number one leading cause of death in Tanzania, and by 2017, the death rate had declined by 75%.
  4. Only 15% of people in rural areas have improved sanitation facilities. Poor sanitation is one of the leading causes of the spread of disease. Many impoverished communities struggle with combating diseases that spread through poor sanitation facilities. In rural Tanzania, about 85% of the population struggles with poor sanitation equipment, including toilets, showers and water sources for drinking. UNICEF implemented the Behaviour Change Communication approach which sets an example on effectively educating communities on embarrassing topics, such as personal hygiene. The work of UNICEF and local communities has helped prevent the rapid spread of disease through poor sanitation in the impoverished areas of Tanzania.
  5. Tuberculosis has a 90% treatment success rate. Even though tuberculosis is one of the top 10 causes of death in Tanzania, it has a high treatment success rate. One of the contributing factors to tuberculosis treatment success is the increase in accessible quality healthcare. Considering that the tuberculosis mortality rate is less than half of a 10th percent, treatment options for tuberculosis have successfully prevented many deaths related to this disease in Tanzania.
  6. Around 78% of households have an insecticide mosquito protective net. Transmitted by mosquitoes, malaria is one of the leading causes of death in Tanzania. Preventative measures have been taken to decrease contact with mosquitoes, including the installation of the insecticide-treated mosquito net (ITN) in homes. These nets are safely treated with insecticide to block mosquitoes from entering. A more durable version of the ITN called a long-lasting insecticide-treated net (LLIN), has been produced. Both of these nets are recommended by WHO for malaria prevention.

Despite being one of the most impoverished countries in the world, Tanzania has made great advancements in its healthcare. Combating many of the issues that come with poverty, Tanzania has found innovative ways to combat disease. With the efforts of UNICEF and local community groups, Tanzania has decreased diseases that are caused by poor healthcare and malnutrition.

– Kaitlyn Gilbert
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in HaitiHaiti has a population of 11 million people and shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with its neighbor, the Dominican Republic. Coverage of Haiti’s poverty was launched into world news after the 2010 earthquake. The country is still recovering from this natural disaster which has had detrimental effects on every sector of the economy including healthcare. Here are five facts about healthcare in Haiti.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Haiti

  1. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere ranking 169 /189 countries according to the Human Development Index. The life expectancy for males is 61 years of age compared to 66 years for females. Haiti has one of the world’s most unequal income distributions, and with 6 million Haitians living on less than $2 a day affording healthcare is a challenge. In 2012, only one-third of the population was financially stable enough to access healthcare in Haiti.
  2. Little government funding causes low public investment in healthcare in Haiti. The World Bank deems the government’s finances should invest in preventing diseases rather than creating more hospital buildings. Unfortunately, the Haitian government has largely decreased its investment in healthcare and in 2017 only 4.4% of Haiti’s budget was spent on public health.
  3. The Hospital of the State University of Haiti is still not constructed following the devastating 2010 earthquake. This planned 534-bed infirmary was set to become the newest general hospital, but the project has come to a halt as $27 million is still needed for completion. Issues about which type of healthcare system to use, political problems and a poor economy bring about questions when this building will be finished.
  4. Around 96% of the Haitian population is exposed to natural disasters that hinder advancement in society. For example, the 2010 earthquake destroyed the capital city of Port-au-Prince, where more than 25% of the country lives. This earthquake killed 150,000 people and destroyed 60% of the healthcare system in Haiti. The highest rates of cholera in the Western Hemisphere are in Haiti. The cholera epidemic entered Haiti’s rivers in 2010 which infected 800,000 people and killed 10,000. In 2014 drought caused millions of people to become food insecure which created the problem of malnourishment.
  5. The current political conflict is putting a strain on access to healthcare in Haiti. In an attempt to force the Haitian President to resign, the country participated in a lockdown known as “Peyi Lock.” Due to the lockdown, patients were unable to travel to hospitals and major shortages of medical supplies such as drugs and oxygen occurred. Inflation caused the price of medicines to increase by 35%. International medical assistance groups have begun to leave the island which will harm those in poverty who cannot afford healthcare.

Political conflict and poverty create difficulties when accessing healthcare in Haiti. Though the current pandemic presents new challenges, the World Bank created a $20 million COVID-19 Response Project for Haiti to help address the most pressing concerns. Aside from emergency health funding, the World Bank is also addressing gaps in other sectors such as WASH and food security which all relate to ensuring resilience in the health of as many Haitians as possible.

– Hannah Nelson
Photo: Unsplash

Healthcare in Sierra LeoneSierra Leone is a small nation located on the coast of West Africa. While the country boasts an abundance of natural resources, it is also a poor nation, with a healthcare system in dire need of improvement. Here are 9 facts about healthcare in Sierra Leone.

9 Facts About Healthcare in Sierra Leone

  1. Sierra Leone has one of the lowest life expectancies on the globe. In 2018, the average life expectancy in Sierra Leone was 54.3 years. This places the nation among the bottom five in the entire world. In comparison, the average global life expectancy is 72.6 years.

  2. Sierra Leone faces high rates of infant and maternal mortality. Similar to life expectancy, infant and maternal fatality rates help gauge the quality of a nation’s health care system. In 2015, 87.1 infants died per 1,000 births in Sierra Leone, while 1,360 mothers died per 100,000 births. In the U.S., just 5.4 infants died per 1,000 births, and only 14 mothers died for every 100,000 births. Birth-related deaths generally occur when there are delays in women seeking, reaching and receiving care.

  3. All people living in Sierra Leone are at risk of malaria. Malaria is endemic to the nation, and poses a great health risk. In fact, four out of every ten hospital visits in Sierra Leone are due to malaria. Children are at particular risk, and the disease contributes to the nation’s high number of child fatalities. However, rates of the illness are falling across the country due to preventative practices such as sleeping under insecticide treated nets. Earlier diagnoses and treatments also contribute to the lowered rates of illness. By the end of 2020, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Sierra Leone hopes to have decreased cases by 40 percent.

  4. The Ebola outbreak of 2014 hit Sierra Leone particularly hard. Despite its relatively small population, there were more cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone than any other country. To be exact, there were a total of 14,124 cases in the country, including nearly 4,000 deaths. The first case was reported in May 2014, and Sierra Leone was not declared Ebola-free until February 2016. According to the World Health Organization, the virus was able to spread so widely due to the weaknesses of the healthcare in Sierra Leone. These weaknesses included too few healthcare workers, not enough oversight and a lack of resources.

  5. Disabled residents face tough conditions. Approximately 450,000 disabled people live in Sierra Leone, including those who were maimed in the decade-long civil war that ended in 2002. The government does not currently provide any assistance to the disabled. Those with disabilities resort to begging on the streets of Freetown, the nation’s capital. Disabled youth turned away from their families (due to the family’s inability to support the youth) often form their own communities on the streets. Employment can also be hard to achieve due to discrimination. Julius Cuffie, a member of Parliament who suffers from polio, brings awareness to the disabled’s struggles. Hoping to bring the disabled’s issues to the forefront, Cuffie pushes for the Persons with Disabilities Act.

  6. Corruption exists in Sierra Leone’s healthcare system. According to a 2015 survey, 84 percent of Sierra Leoneans have paid a bribe just to use government services. Additionally, about a third of the funds given to fight the Ebola crisis are not accounted for. This translates to roughly 11 million pounds, or almost 14 million dollars. Sierra Leone has a literacy rate of about 40 percent. As a result, many health care services overcharge unknowing residents for basic services. A new initiative, put together by the nation’s Anti-Corruption Commission, advises residents to report cases of bribery.

  7. In 2010, Sierra Leone began offering free health care. The Free Healthcare Initiative (FHCI) aims to decrease the nation’s high maternal, infant and child mortality rate. The government also hopes the initiative improves general health across the country. The ordinance provides a package of free services for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under the age of five. The program has not been without its challenges, however, due to the aforementioned weaknesses of previous systems of health care in Sierra Leone. That said, the initiative has resulted in a number of positive changes. For example, there has been an increase in the number of healthcare staff, a larger willingness for parents to seek care for their children and a reduction in mortality for those under five.

  8. There has been an increase in efforts to strengthen emergency medical response in Sierra Leone. Road accidents kill thousands each year in the country. In response to this, the First Responder Coalition of Sierra Leone (FRCSL) was created in 2019 to improve the state of urgent medical care. Five national and international groups in Makeni, a city in northern Sierra Leone, founded the coalition. The group aims to provide emergency care, treat the high numbers of injuries and resolve the low amount of pre-hospital treatment in Sierra Leone. In its first two months, the FRSCL trained 1,000 Makeni residents, equipping each one with a first aid kit. The coalition hopes to train 3,500 more in the next six months. It also plans on expanding out of the northern province in the next five years. Hopefully, the FRCSL’s efforts will save thousands of lives from vehicle accidents in the coming years.

  9. CARE is working to improve sexual and reproductive health for women and girls in Sierra Leone. The humanitarian agency began working in the country in 1961. Goals of the organization include providing medical supplies and contraceptives, giving training to healthcare workers and working with the community to eliminate attitudes that prevent women from discovering their rights to sexual and reproductive health. CARE is currently present in approximately 30 percent of the country’s communities, particularly in areas that have high rates of HIV infection and teenage pregnancy. One Sierra Leonean mother, named Fanta, credits CARE with educating her about proper breastfeeding and health practices, leading to the survival and continued health of her daughter.

Healthcare in Sierra Leone is an issue that is complicated by the nation’s high rates of poverty, many endemic diseases and tumultuous political history. While shocking statistics, such as the country’s low life expectancy and high maternal and infant mortality rates paint a grim picture, there are signs of progress being made, and there is potential for much more change on the horizon.

– Joshua Roberts

Photo: Flickr

Maternal health in Nepal Nepal, a landlocked country bordering India and China, has a population of approximately 30 million. In 2015, close to 41 percent of births occurred at home in Nepal. Of those home births, just under half were carried out without a trained professional. Due to the alarming rate of maternal deaths seen in the early 2000s, maternal health in Nepal has been a focal point for many years. Even though complications during births at health centers still occur, the presence of trained professionals during birth remains the best way to avoid preventable deaths. Many organizations have partnered with the Nepalese government and are working hard to bring these numbers down even further every year.

4 Facts About Maternal Health in Nepal

  1. Nepal’s maternal mortality rate decreased about 71 percent between 1990 and 2015. The decline is attributed to free delivery services and transport in rural areas, access to safe delivery services and medicines that prevent hemorrhaging. In rural parts of Nepal, it has historically been much more difficult to receive proper healthcare. Through the combined efforts of various organizations and the Nepalese government, the number of facilities in remote areas has increased. Additionally, the incentive to travel to these facilities has risen. In 2005, the government began giving stipends to pay for transportation costs. Four years later, the government passed the Safe Motherhood Programme, which allowed free delivery services to pregnant women. In 2011, the government continued to promote safe pregnancies by adding another incentive of $5 for attending antenatal checkups. Through these efforts, the government has had an enormous impact on the development of maternal health in Nepal.
  2. Midwifery is one of the most important services for maternal health in Nepal. Fast intervention and postnatal suggestions from a skilled midwife allows for better postnatal care for both mother and child. In Nepal, only about 27 percent of women receive care within 24 hours of giving birth. This increases risk of hemorrhaging and heavy-lifting related injuries shortly after giving birth. It also increases risk of possible complications for the baby during and directly after birth.
  3. Midwifery education ensures that midwives are up to date on the most current practices and procedures for successful pregnancy and birthing. Institutions have partnered with the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) to offer combined education for nursing and midwifery. In 2011, Nepal and the UNFPA committed to training 10,000 birthing attendants. However, in a report about midwifery authored by the UNFPA, midwives do not have specific legislation for their work. Midwives are not completely recognized under the law nor are they regulated, which results in issues with proper training and resources. Therefore, greater recognition and accessibility will allow midwives the resources, training and encouragement that they need for success.
  4. Women of lower socioeconomic status have more complications surrounding maternal health. The National Medical College Teaching Hospital in Nepal published an extensive report of the challenges surrounding maternal health in Nepal. A specific challenge mentioned in this report includes the socioeconomic influencers of maternal health. Due to poor nutritional health in women of lower economic status, issues such as anemia can cause mortalities. Additionally, rural areas record about 280 birth complications per day. Although there has been significant work since then to expand access to cesarean sections and birthing centers in rural areas, there are still around 258 women dying per 100,000 live births.

As maternal health in Nepal becomes more of a focus in the healthcare system, there are certain policies and programs that must be expanded upon. Midwifery education and access to services are the most important programs for successful maternal health in Nepal. Many experts in the field continue to push for individual programs that focus primarily on methods for successful midwifery education and overall increased care for maternal health in Nepal.

– Ashleigh Litcofsky

Photo: Flickr

Malta is a small island republic in the central Mediterranean Sea. Like most other EU member states, the Maltese government operates a socialized health care scheme. However, life expectancy in Malta is a full year higher than the European Union average, for both males and females. Keep reading to learn the top 10 facts about life expectancy in Malta.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Malta

  1. Trends: Life expectancy in Malta ranks 15th globally and continues to rise; the current average life expectancy is 82.6, an improvement of 4.6 percent this millennium. Median life expectancy on the archipelago is expected to improve at that same rate through 2050, reaching an average death age of 86.4.
  2. Leading Causes of Death: The WHO pinpointed coronary heart disease as the republic’s number one killer, accounting for 32.46 percent of all deaths in 2018. Additional top killers include stroke (10.01 percent) and breast cancer (3.07 percent).
  3. Health Care System: Malta’s sophisticated and comprehensive state-managed health care system embodies universal coverage for the population. Although population growth and an aging workforce present long-term challenges, the Maltese have access to universal public health care as well as private hospitals. Malta’s health care spending and doctors per capita are above the EU average. Despite this, specialists remain fairly low. Currently, the government is working to address this lack of specialized care.
  4. Infant and Maternal Health: The high life expectancy in Malta is positively impacted by low infant and maternal mortality rates. Malta’s infant and maternal mortality rates are among the lowest in the world, ranking at 181 and 161, respectively. The Maltese universal health care system provides free delivery and postpartum care for all expectant mothers. These measures provided as the standard of care have minimized the expectant death rates of new mothers to 3.3 out of 100,000.
  5. Women’s Health: Like most other developed nations, Maltese women experience longer lives than men. Comparatively, WHO data predicts that women will live nearly four years longer, an average of 83.3 years to 79.6. Interestingly, the estimated gender ratio for 2020 indicates that the Malta population will skew to be slightly more male, specifically in the 65-and-over age bracket. 
  6. Sexual and Reproductive Health: Sexual health services, including family planning and STD treatment, are free of cost in Malta. Additionally, HIV prevalence is very low, at only 0.1 percent in 2016. These measures have certainly played a role in life expectancy in Malta.
  7. Violent Crime: Although crime rates typically spike during the summer, Malta’s tourist season, violence is generally not a concern. Despite fluctuations throughout the year, the national homicide rate remains low. Currently, homicide is resting at 0.9 incidents per 100,000 citizens.
  8. Obesity: Recently, 29.8 percent of the population was found to be obese, one of the highest figures in the EU. Even higher rates of obesity have been found in Maltese adolescents: 38 percent of 11-year-old boys and 32 percent of 11-year-old girls qualify as obese.
  9. Birth Rates: Sluggish population growth is typical throughout the developed world and Malta is no exception. Current data places the population growth rate at an estimated 0.87 percent. Out of 229 sovereign nations, Malta’s birth rate was ranked 192nd with 9.9 births per 1,000 citizens.
  10. Access to Medical Facilities: The competitive health care system supports high life expectancy in Malta by providing an abundant availability of hospitals and physicians per capita. Due to the archipelago’s small population, 4.7 hospital beds and 3.8 doctors exist for every 1,000 citizens.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Malta highlight the strength of the health care system in the country. While rising rates of obesity are concerning, Malta has a strong track record of investing in the well-being of its citizens.

Dan Zamarelli
Photo: Flickr