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Homelessness in Swaziland
Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland, is an enclaved country within Southern Africa. The nation faces a massive problem of homelessness caused by a broken system of human rights and poverty. The country’s land governance system has unfairly sent many people out of their homes. King Mswati III owns much of the land that the people live on — leaving the Swazi people powerless when evictions occur. These evictions hit women and other marginalized groups especially hard, as they do not have protection under the law. AIDS, HIV and the eradication of agriculture for land development have also played a role in worsening homelessness in Eswatini.

Land Insecurity

Farming is a vital part of the Swazi peoples’ livelihood. Yet, recent land development disputes have begun to hurt farming practices with evictions leaving hundreds of people homeless. These evictions have occurred at the hands of police and bulldozers, which destroyed many homes. To make matters worse, many newly-evicted people have no alternative or even temporary shelter. In April 2018, dozens of people and more than 30 children became homeless — forced to live in inhumane conditions. Some people slept at a local school, some slept outside of their now-demolished home and some slept in a chicken shed.

As more people increasingly fall victim to homelessness in Eswatini, fewer places exist for families to purchase goods for themselves. It has been difficult to fight these evictions due to the country’s government being an absolute monarchy. As a result, people cannot overturn the policies that the king has put in place. These forced evictions come from not only Mswati III owning the land, but also private entities and/or the government owning some as well. This leaves the Swazi people at a high risk of eviction without preparation, warning or recompense.

Connections to HIV

The contraction of HIV has also contributed to the problem of homelessness in Eswatini. Almost 40% of sexually active Swazi adults are positive of the virus. As adults suffer or die as a result of HIV contraction, their children and other members of their households are left without a breadwinner. Sometimes, these homes become children-led. This makes it easier for the government to remove the homes with no plan or adequate place for the family to live afterward.

What is Being Done?

Amnesty International, a non-government organization focused on human rights, reported human rights violations causing homelessness in Eswatini. Moreover, Amnesty International assessed that the violations were caused by the country’s government. The organization has recommended and pushed the prime minister, attorney general and the minister of justice to address this problem. It has urged the prime minister to prohibit all evictions due to violations of legal protections and lack of adequate housing. Specifically, in the regions of Malkerns and Nokwane, the prime minister is to protect the people and provide them with safe places to live until they find a home. The attorney general is to put into law the stoppage of all forced evictions regardless of the circumstance. Relevant institutions would have to go through the proper procedures, before evicting someone.

Upon converting these policies into law, the attorney general is to make sure their new land policy is in line with international human rights involving housing. In this way, the government is taking action to reduce the problem of homelessness in Eswatini.

Dorian Ducre
Photo: Flickr

covid-19 in south africaWhen COVID-19 came to the world stage in early 2020, many scientists worried about Africa’s response to the novel coronavirus. They were worried that African countries would not have the resources to combat the global pandemic. Given the continent’s past struggles to contain diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and Ebola, concerns that Africa would be an epicenter for COVID-19 were well within reason. Fortunately, a comprehensive response has quelled these concerns, and COVID-19 may actually bring positive change to South Africa.

Swift Response

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, however, showed the world that not all African countries fit the stereotypes of squalor and poverty that many believed. His response to COVID-19 in South Africa has received praise and influenced the responses of nearby leaders. It seemed like he learned from his predecessors, and his swift and strict lockdown of the country prevented COVID-19 in South Africa from getting out of control. Even though COVID-19 shut down the country, responses to the disease have had a net positive effect on South Africa, initiating safety nets, public health initiatives and economic reforms. Here are 6 ways that COVID-19 has influenced positive change in South Africa and forced to country to look to the future.

How COVID-19 has Positively Changed South Africa

  1. Less Gang Violence: Gang violence has plagued South Africa for years, and Cape Town has seen some of the worst of it. In 2018, it was one of the most violent cities in the world, with 66 homicides per 100,000 people. But when COVID-19 hit South Africa in March 2020, gangs called for a national ceasefire and homicides fell more than 70%. South Africa’s lockdown also interrupted the drug supply chains, and many gang-afflicted communities in South Africa are feeling the reprieve.
  2. Fewer Alcohol-Related Deaths: South Africans have the highest rate of drinking out of any African country. This has lead to the country’s high rate of alcohol-related deaths. Part of the COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa was also a ban on alcohol. Since the law passed, the country has seen fewer drinking-related deaths. One hospital’s trauma cases dropped by two-thirds after the ban took effect. The country saw a stunning 81% decrease in road fatalities over Easter weekend in 2020 compared to 2019. The alcohol ban hasn’t just decreased death rates, but it has also opened the country’s eyes to the drastic alcohol problem it faces.
  3. Better Welfare Services: The economic ramifications that came with shutting the country down led South Africa’s government to provide a $26 billion welfare and business support package. This was no small stimulus package. It was equivalent to about 10% of the nation’s GDP, and the plan is only predicted to grow as the pandemic continues. Businesses weren’t the only ones getting bailed out. Additional funds were set aside for child caregivers, and 6 million people were able to collect monthly unemployment benefits.
  4. Stronger Calls for Public Hygiene: COVID-19 in South Africa has also brought to light the need for stronger public health initiatives. The lockdown exposed the discrepancy between the number of people thought to have access to clean water and the number of people who can actually obtain it. A worldwide consensus that a strong healthcare system and robust public hygiene are essential to fighting coronavirus has developed. The consensus has put pressure on South Africa’s leadership to expand public health initiatives.
  5. Economic Reform: South Africa is still transitioning its economy from the legacy of apartheid. However, COVID-19 affected low-income families who work in manufacturing, tourism, service and transport more than any other group in the country. The economic devastation has been felt unequally across the country, further reinforcing the need for a new economic plan. A specific investigating unit has already been given permission to look into corruption. Further, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has planned widespread, structural reforms for state-owned enterprises. Essentially, South Africa missed its opportunity to transform its economy immediately after apartheid, but COVID-19 in South Africa has paved way for “New Deal” style economic reforms.
  6. Learning from the Past: The difference in South Africa’s response to COVID-19 when compared to its response to HIV (or really, the lack thereof) is a clear indicator that South Africa has learned from their past mistakes in crisis response. While South Africa is one of the most afflicted countries to date in Africa, healthcare professionals and activists in South Africa have commended the country’s quick response. As of early June, the country had conducted 635,000 COVID-19 tests, which was greater than many countries around the world. The country has even deployed thousands of health care workers to go door-to-door to do testing and screening.

While the pandemic in South Africa is not over by any means, it seems that the disease will not leave the country unchanged. Instead, COVID-19 has initiated positive change in South Africa and will leave in its wake a safer, more equitable society. South Africa will not only be more equipped to deal with diseases in the future, but will also treat its citizens fairly even absent a global pandemic.

Hannah Daniel
Photo: Flickr

Nepal Youth Foundation
Despite the country’s growing GDP, Nepal ranks the poorest among countries in South Asia and the 12th poorest in the world. One quarter of the 28.09 million population lives below the poverty line. Nepal’s poverty is even more evident in the country’s young population, as more than 60% of children lack at least one basic necessity. With children under the age of 18 making up 40% of Nepal’s population, investments in youth are integral to the nation’s continued improvement. Nepal Youth Foundation (NYF) is a nonprofit organization that works to empower Nepali youth through educational programs, health services and girls’ empowerment.

The Problem: Education in Nepal

Although Nepal’s education system improved in the past decade, gender disparities and segregation of disabled children prevail. Secondary school completion rates remain low, as only 30% of males and 15% of females have completed secondary school. Poorer areas pose additional challenges to female education, as the female literacy rate in rural areas is 74% compared to 89% in urban areas.

However, Nepal’s education system fails vulnerable, disabled children the most. More than 30% of children with disabilities do not attend school, as most public schools refuse to enroll them. When they do attend school, children with disabilities are placed in segregated classrooms, resulting in social isolation and an education of lower quality. It is estimated that more than 200,000 children in Nepal have disabilities.

3 Solutions from Nepal Youth Foundation

  1. Educational Scholarships: Nepal Youth Foundation provides educational scholarships for vulnerable youth, which include disabled, orphaned and homeless children. These scholarships pay for clothing, health services, living costs and counseling, in addition to educational expenses.
  2. Day School Scholarship: Nepal Youth Foundation’s Day School Scholarship program purchases school supplies and covers school fees for 165 children living in Kathmandu’s slums.
  3. Supporting Higher Education: The organization supports impoverished, high-performing students in college, prioritizing girls and other vulnerable groups. Nepal Youth Foundation contributes to the education of more than 300 students in Nepali universities. By prioritizing education for girls and vulnerable groups, Nepal Youth Foundation provides specific solutions for Nepal’s impoverished and vulnerable young people.

The Problem: Malnutrition and HIV/AIDS in Nepal

Both malnutrition and HIV/AIDS pose significant challenges to Nepal’s impoverished youth, who are most likely to lack basic needs and contract diseases. Of every five Nepali children, two are malnourished. Although the nation produces greens and sprouted vegetables that could solve malnutrition, these nutritional foods are most commonly fed to livestock, in accordance with rural traditions in Nepal. As a result, most rural Nepali people eat white rice for the majority of their meals. Healthcare providers’ lack of awareness of the connection between diet and malnutrition exacerbates Nepal’s staggering malnutrition rate, as hospitals fail to address the root causes of malnutrition and offer temporary remedies instead.

Although HIV/AIDS is considered a concentrated epidemic in Nepal isolated to at-risk groups, stigma around the disease has detrimental effects on those diagnosed. Children diagnosed with HIV/AIDS are neglected by society, denied healthcare, refused school enrollment and socially isolated by their peers.

3 NYF Solutions

  1. Nutrition Rehabilitation Homes: Nepal Youth Foundation’s 17 Nutrition Rehabilitation Homes exclusively treat malnourished children. Since 1998, these homes have replenished the health of more than 15,000 children. Malnourished children stay in Nutrition Rehabilitation Homes for three to four weeks and are fed diets catered to their specific needs. Additionally, these homes teach caregivers and mothers about cooking healthy foods with cheap, available produce to ensure the long-term health of children and families.
  2. Nutritional Outreach Camps: NYF’s Nutritional Outreach Camps provide further prevention and intervention services for malnourished children. To treat malnourished children, NYF provides medical check ups and medicine and distributes a nutritional flour called Lito. The organization’s prevention techniques include nutrition and hygiene education for local communities. Each short camp serves between 500-800 children and their families.
  3. New Life Center: The organization’s New Life Center serves children with HIV/AIDS with a team of doctors, nutritionists and specialists that provide healthy diets, counseling, treatment and fun activities. Nepal Youth Foundation also ensures that adults are trained in proper hygiene practices. Nepal Youth Foundation’s commitment to finding solutions to malnutrition and reducing the stigma against children with HIV/AIDS has lasting effects on the communities it serves.

The Problem: Indentured Servitude of Kamlari Girls

Kamlari is a rural Nepali tradition of indentured servitude, through which girls from impoverished families are sold as domestic slaves for a yearly monetary price.  These girls, often sold at very young ages, are not legally protected by a contract and are almost always denied the food, bed and education they are promised. Additionally, many are subjected to violence, food deprivation and rape. Although many girls have been rescued as a result of NYF and government efforts, more than 300 girls remain in child slavery.

Nepal Youth Foundation Solutions

The organization’s Empowering Freed Kamlaris program provides management and business training, vocational career counseling and emotional support for former Kamlari girls. NYF also collaborates with local governments to locate and rescue enslaved Kamlari girls. The organization’s Freed Kamlari Development Forum has contributed to the rescue of more than 12,000 girls. Kamlari girls support each other in building businesses through the Freed Kamlari Development Forum, which has more than 2600 members in 37 business collectives. Many former Kamlari girls in the program are trained in specialized skills to run a business and secure a stable source of income. By rescuing and training former Kamlari girls in self sufficiency and economic freedom, Nepal Youth Foundation empowers girls and strengthens the communities in which they build their businesses.

The Nepali government should follow the example of Nepal Youth Foundation and continue to implement programs that support the country’s future generation in education, employment, access to healthcare and gender equality. It is by empowering young people that developing nations progress.

Melina Stavropoulos
Photo: Unsplash

Hunger in Eswatini
The Kingdom of Eswatini (referred to as Swaziland until 2019) is a small country in the southern tip of Africa, bordering South Africa and Mozambique. The country has a dense population of around 1.14 million, and it is estimated that 63% live below the poverty line. Eswatini is currently ranked 74 out of 117 countries on the Global Hunger Index and received a GHI score of 20.9, putting them at a “serious” hunger level. The 2019 Eswatini Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis (VAA) estimated that as much as 25% of the rural population — around 232,000 people — experience severe hunger and food insecurity during the lean season.

Little to no rain across Eswatini poses a huge threat for the harvest season. Many farmers choose not to plant their usual amount of crops in anticipation of severe drought, and crop production is projected to decrease by 30% in the coming years. Labor opportunities on farms also decrease, as a result depriving some people of their source of income for the season. Decreased crop yield leads to a huge spike in prices, which limits food access for those already living in poverty.

Hunger Leads to Increased Sickness and Disease

Sickness and disease are typically more prevalent in tight-knit communities that face hunger and poverty daily. Often, sickness in impoverished countries is a direct result of prolonged deficiencies of essential nutrients and inadequate caloric intake. Eswatini has a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, with an estimated 25% of the population being infected. HIV is a disease that harms the immune system, meaning many Swazi citizens experiencing HIV are at a heightened risk for other infections.

The under-five mortality rate for children in Eswatini is 54 out of 1,000 live births, the lowest value on record as of 2018. In terms of maternal health in Swazi women, there is not enough data on their specific nutrition and diet habits. However, it is important to note that approximately one-third of women of childbearing age experience HIV, compared to only 19% of men. The high prevalence of HIV in pregnant and nursing mothers increases the likelihood that their children will experience nutrient deficiencies as a result. Fortunately, HIV can be prevented with proper sexual practices and an increase in condom usage.

Factors Increasing Hunger in Eswatini

Citizens have attempted to import maize from the neighboring country of South Africa, but much of it is confiscated by border control due to strict limitations on the amount of foreign products allowed into the country. Government officials claim that these regulations help protect domestic vendors and farmers, but many citizens are unable to afford the local prices. With limited access to imported goods and steep domestic rates, many Eswatini people are left helpless and hungry.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly all the residents of the Kwaluseni township have lost their jobs, forcing people to stay home and avoid going to their place of work. Already impoverished citizens, now with no source of income, have resorted to scavenging for food. Some have even been sighted consuming weeds for sustenance. Local soup kitchens and schools were also forced to shut their doors due to coronavirus concerns, leaving more than 11,000 children without daily access to meals. Before, children received two meals a day provided by the government and various international donors. Now, the Swazi government has offered little to no aid to combat the exacerbated hunger crisis, especially in its larger cities.

Foreign Assistance Has Begun, But It’s Not Enough

Many foreign aid organizations have helped fund the World Food Programme (WFP) in Eswatini, reaching over 55,000 people in vulnerable areas this past year. WFP also provides support to many orphans and vulnerable children by establishing Neighbourhood Care Points for food and social services across the country. While much is being done to help the people of Eswatini, more resources are needed to cover a growing funding gap.

The hunger crisis in the Kingdom of Eswatini is an immense threat to the livelihoods and wellbeing of Swazi people. As a result, organizations such as the WFP are stepping in to help those in need. Along with the help of outside organizations, understanding hunger in Eswatini is an important step toward finding a long-lasting, successful solution.

Mya Longacre
Photo: Flickr

tuberculosis in Côte d'IvoireTuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial illness spread through breathing contaminated air droplets from an infected individual. TB is also transferable by drinking unpasteurized milk containing Mycobacterium bovis, or Bovine Tuberculosis. The bacterium primarily affects the lungs, which is known as pulmonary TB. More than 90% of individuals with TB have a latent form and do not experience overwhelming symptoms. With tuberculosis being one of the leading causes of death in Côte d’Ivoire, the government is making numerous efforts to help those with the illness. The health agencies in Côte d’Ivoire, using assistance from the government and other countries, are mitigating the spread of TB through medicine, proper healthcare and bringing awareness to the communities. Here are five facts about the rising issue of tuberculosis in Côte d’Ivoire.

5 Facts About Tuberculosis in Côte d’Ivoire

  1. More than 8,000 people died from tuberculosis in Côte d’Ivoire in 2018. In addition, there were 36,000 reported cases of TB. While active efforts are being made to try and control the spread of TB, the citizens of Côte d’Ivoire struggle to afford treatment, healthcare and testing. With over 46% of the population living in poverty, it is difficult for most of them to find access to hospitals and testing centers. TB is highly endemic in Côte d’Ivoire, meaning it is extremely prevalent within many of the impoverished Ivorian communities. For every 100,000 citizens, 23 of them will die from tuberculosis. Among those 100,000 citizens, more than 148 of them will be diagnosed with a form of TB. It is increasingly important that a global effort is made to bring awareness to this illness and help the citizens of Côte d’Ivoire receive proper medical treatment. Thankfully, the transmission of TB has been on the decline within the past few years. In 2000, 367 people per 100,000 citizens of Côte d’Ivoire were diagnosed with TB. This contrasts 2018 in which less than half the number of citizens were diagnosed (only 142 per 100,000 individuals).
  2. There are multiple factors that lead to the spread of tuberculosis. TB can be spread through Côte d’Ivoire by living in poverty, existing in a post-war environment and having HIV/AIDS. Ivorian citizens living in impoverished circumstances suffer from malnutrition and weakened immune systems. This makes contracting TB far easier for those with an inferior healthcare system and little access to basic resources. Living in poverty also means less access to tests for TB, which makes it hard to know who is infected. The war-torn climate of the country weakens the healthcare system. This causes a wider outbreak of TB with fewer people being treated. Political unrest and violence also force citizens to escape to other parts of the country. The emigration of families moving from northern cities to rural settlements in the south of Côte d’Ivoire increases the spread of TB while limiting immediate access to healthcare. Abidjan is one major city that faces overwhelming cases of tuberculosis. HIV/AIDS renders immune systems weak and increases individuals’ susceptibility to TB. The comorbidity between HIV and TB in Côte d’Ivoire is extremely high. In 2018, more than 7,000 of the 36,000 citizens with TB were also treated for HIV/AIDS. The Ivorian Ministry of Health (MOH) works with organizations like Measure Evaluation to track the spread of diseases like HIV and TB and increase testing in high-risk areas. The efforts have so far been successful.
  3. There are currently four treatments for tuberculosis. As of 2020, there are four recognized medicinal treatments for TB: Isoniazid (INH), Rifampin (RMP), Pyrazinamide (PZA) and Ethambutol (EMB). These medicines must be taken for three to nine months as directed by a medical professional. This ensures that the bacterium is killed. Skipping a dose, because of inaccessibility to a prescription or otherwise, causes a tuberculosis infection to come back stronger. While most forms of TB are curable with medicine, Côte d’Ivoire is plagued with strains of drug-resistant tuberculosis. In 2018, there were more than 2,000 individuals with a drug-resistant type of tuberculosis (DR-TB). These individuals are harder to treat since any known medicine is ineffective against the strain of TB. Luckily, 82% of people who are treated for tuberculosis in Côte d’Ivoire recover successfully. With the help of well-trained medical professionals and funding from other countries, the government of Côte d’Ivoire can better treat and identify those with TB.
  4. Tuberculosis is primarily observed in young men. Men ages 20-40 years old experience TB more frequently than any other demographic. Most of these men are working-class and have little education. Because men are also frequently diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in Côte d’Ivoire, they are at a greater risk for contracting TB. As the rates of HIV/AIDS increase in the male population (a 3:1 sex ratio), the tuberculosis infection rates have also increased.
  5. World organizations and other countries have greatly aided in treating and ending the spread of tuberculosis in Côte d’Ivoire. With help from NGOs and world health outreach programs, TB in Côte d’Ivoire has decreased. In 2007, TB was the 7th leading cause of death, however, a decade later in 2017, TB has dropped to the 8th leading cause of death in Côte d’Ivoire.

One important organization is The Stop TB Partnership. By pairing government agencies with other foundations, research agencies and private sector resources, this organization aims to create a TB-free world. In 2014, various partners met with specialists from the Programme National de Lutte contre la Tuberculose to design a national committee tasked with controlling and treating tuberculosis in Côte d’Ivoire. The members of these groups were responsible for designing a plan for infection control, allocating monetary and human resources and outlining the structure of the new committee. Through this workshop, the anti-TB program in Côte d’Ivoire established clear strategies for tackling the problem of tuberculosis. Stop TB developed oversight committees, regulations for how resources are spent and a plan for reducing the spread of TB.

According to the United Nations, Côte d’Ivoire is on the way to reaching various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The U.N. is actively helping Côte d’Ivoire eradicate illnesses like HIV, malaria and TB by the year 2030 through free doctor visits and accessible medicine.

It is crucial that the citizens of Côte d’Ivoire receive the proper treatment and financial assistance to help them overcome the tuberculosis endemic. It is imperative that those diagnosed with this illness are immediately identified and properly treated. With strategic planning, proper funding and extensive training for medical professionals, the infection rate of tuberculosis in Côte d’Ivoire is expected to decrease in the coming years.

– Danielle Kuzel
Photo: Flickr

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

poverty relief reduces disease
The universal rise in global living standards has helped combat diseases, spurred on by international poverty relief efforts. In fact, one study found that reducing poverty was just as effective as medicine in reducing tuberculosis. Poor health drains an individual’s ability to provide for themselves and others, trapping and perpetuating a cycle of poverty. Better public health increases workforce productivity, educational attainment and societal stability. Here are 5 ways poverty relief reduces disease.

5 Ways Poverty Relief Reduces Disease

  1. Better Sanitation: According to the WHO, approximately 827,000 people die each year due to “inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene.” Poor sanitation is linked to the spread of crippling and lethal diseases such as cholera and polio, which hamper a nation’s development. By investing in the sanitation of developing nations, the rate of disease decreases and the food supply improves. Furthermore, an all around healthier society emerges that can contribute more to the global economy. In fact, a 2012 WHO study found that “for every U.S. $1.00 invested in sanitation, there was a return of U.S. $5.50 in lower health costs, more productivity, and fewer premature deaths.”
  2. Improved Health Care Industries: A hallmark of any developed nation is the quality of its health care industry. A key part of reducing poverty and improving health, is investing in health care initiatives in developing countries. When the health care industry is lacking (or even non-existent), the population experiences high levels of disease, poverty and death. Many American companies have already invested millions into the medical sectors of developing nations, however. In September 2015, General Electric Healthcare created the Sustainable Healthcare Solutions, a business unit that donates millions in money and medical equipment to developing nations.
  3. More Informative Education: Knowledge is power when it comes to fighting disease. Educational institutions provide a nation with one of the best tools to fight diseases of all kinds. According to a WHO report, “education emphasizing health prevention and informed self-help is among the most effective ways of empowering the poor to take charge of their own lives.” Schools must teach about proper sanitation, how to spot warning signs and form healthy behaviors. School health programs are also an invaluable resource in times of pandemics and disease outbreaks, as they coordinate with governments. This cooperation has helped tackle diseases, including HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. Eritrea, for example, has one of the lowest rates of infection in the region (less than 1%), partially due to an increase in HIV/AIDS education measures.
  4. Enhanced Nutrition: Malnutrition and food insecurity weaken the immune systems of the impoverished and significantly lower one’s quality of life. Millions of children each year die from famine or end up crippled due to dietary deficiencies. By investing in and supporting agricultural sectors of developing nations, aid programs help in not only decreasing poverty, but also in cutting down on illness of all kinds. Likewise, international aid during conflicts and natural disasters is crucial to ensuring the continued health and productivity of a country. One nation combating such an issue is Tanzania. With the help of aid organizations like UNICEF, Tanzania has decreased malnutrition for children under five.
  5. More Effective Government Services: Arguably encompassing all the previous categories, governments with more money and resources can effectively help stop diseases. A healthy general population leads to more productivity, which increases tax revenue. Central governments can then invest that money back into health care and sanitation, creating a positive feedback loop. Governments also provide a centralized authority that can cooperate with organizations like the WHO. In the 21st century, communication and cooperation between world governments is key to halting pandemics and working on cures.

Impact on COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of how improved government resources provide poverty relief, which helps combat the virus in the developing world. Kenya is a good example of how developing nations can help contain and combat the virus with effective government actions. The systems and governmental services built up over past decades sprang into action and coordinated with organizations like the WHO. The government has also implemented various economic measures to help mitigate the negative economic side-effects. Moving forward, it is essential that governments and humanitarian organizations continue to take into account the importance of poverty relief for disease reduction.

– Malcolm Schulz 
Photo: Flickr

Health conditions in Brazil
Over the years, the Brazilian government has improved the provision of health care for citizens. However, challenges have persisted in terms of the quality of care provided. In response, the government and other NGOs have taken various steps to improve health conditions in Brazil. These steps include reaching more impoverished areas, offering affordable HIV/AIDS treatment and providing vaccinations.

Reaching the Favelas

Reaching urban slums, or “favelas,” is crucial to improving health conditions. These areas are stricken with poverty and the people experience harsh living conditions. Poor health often accompanies these conditions, heavily impacting the people in favelas.

The struggles those individuals face are not new to the Brazilian government or NGOs. One NGO working to improve health conditions in Brazil, specifically among the people living in the favelas, is the Brazilian Institute for Innovations in Social Healthcare, also known as Ibiss. Initiated in 1989, Ibiss now operates 62 projects with 600 employees. One project is leprosy-awareness because many leprosy cases are concentrated within the favelas.

Ibiss has increased awareness and care by helping favela residents to organize self-treatment programs. This is significant because the course of treatment is lengthy so many of the people with leprosy stop treatment, especially in favelas.

Affordability of HIV/AIDS treatment

Brazil provides one of the best programs to combat HIV/AIDS in the developing world, which has helped to improve health conditions in the nation. One way that HIV/AIDS treatment affordability has improved is through the implementation of legislation increasing access to universal antiretroviral treatments for citizens. Additional legislation has allowed Brazilian companies to produce a generic version of antiretroviral drugs to reduce high associated costs.

Statistics from 2018 show these legislative measures are improving health conditions in Brazil, specifically in HIV/AIDS patients. 66 percent of people in Brazil who had HIV and were receiving treatment.

Vaccines

In contrast, vaccine coverage in Brazil has been declining. Coverage for the first dose of measles/mumps/rubella has declined in two regions in Brazil since 2016. In Northeastern Brazil, coverage dropped from 55.8 percent to 41.9 percent. Further, in Northern Brazil, coverage dropped from 58.9 percent to 44.9 percent.

Vaccination must occur to improve health conditions in Brazil. Thankfully, the Brazilian government recently responded to an outbreak of measles in 2019 by doubling the purchase of MMR (measles/mumps/rubella) vaccinations from the previous year. The government purchased 60.2 million MMR vaccines.

Brazil also recently launched a massive campaign to deliver yellow fever vaccinations. The government implemented these vaccines in 77 municipalities within the states of São Paulo, Bahia and Rio de Janeiro. These particular municipalities were targeted because of the increased risk of an outbreak. As a result of this campaign, 53.6 percent of people were covered in São Paulo, 55.6 percent Rio de Janeiro and 55.0 percent in Bahia.

 

Despite the poor health conditions, efforts to improve health conditions in Brazil are being implemented. From new government legislation to NGO programs, improvements have been made in reaching more impoverished areas, offering affordable HIV/AIDS treatment and providing vaccinations. Moving forward, the development of a robust health system will continue to have a positive impact on the nation.

Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

diseases in UgandaAs a developing country, Uganda struggles with multiple intractable diseases that kill millions of Ugandans every year. HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis are among the top five causes of death in Uganda. But, medical research is providing innovations that give hope to relieve suffering and prevent death in Uganda. Here are three diseases in Uganda that can be tackled with treatments that seem like science fiction.

Tuberculosis and Bedaquiline

Science fiction often explores the possibilities of DNA manipulation. Now, this sci-fi premise is becoming a reality through a new tuberculosis drug called bedaquiline. Bedaquiline is a new drug that blocks energy transfer enzymes that a tuberculosis bacteria cell needs to survive. Without this essential energy, the cell dies. A June 2019 study discovered that bedaquiline has long-term treatment potential. The drug forms small reservoirs in the body, allowing it to naturally release throughout the body and continually kill tuberculosis cells over time. This is a major breakthrough for Ugandan citizens since this is the first tuberculosis treatment to come out in 50 years. 

Malaria and Genetic Mutation

Popular science fiction games outline the use of biological weapons, such as Mass Effect’s fictional “genophage” which causes a female host to produce sterile offspring. Experimental genetic engineering technology is now taking on a highly deadly disease in Uganda. Scientists have developed an engineered genetic mutation that deforms mosquito reproductive organs and passes from female mosquitos to daughter eggs, meaning that the hatched females are unable to breed. In other words, the mutation makes the next generation of mosquitos sterile, reducing the population and thus reducing the risk of malaria.

Further, the mutation changes females mosquitos’ mouths to resemble male counterparts’. Male mosquitos cannot bite humans, thus the mutation “de-fangs” female mosquitoes, making it impossible for them to transmit malaria. Releasing genetically modified mosquitoes has been controversial and research continues. According to Uganda’s Ministry of Health, malaria is endemic in 95 percent of Uganda. If it is found that modifying mosquitoes is safe and successful, this development could be a critical contribution to treating malaria and other mosquito transmitted diseases in Uganda.

HIV/AIDS and the Immune System

Science fiction extensively narrates the use of genetic properties to repair and fix humans. Dual studies from 2007 and 2019 used similar methods to combat the insidious syndrome of HIV/AIDS that plagues Uganda. A bone marrow transplant replaces the patient’s immune system with mutated systems via lymphatic pathways. It essentially replaces the patient’s immune system with a new, mutated version that combats the disease.

Using this technique, a 2007 patient has been off anti-retroviral medicines for 12 years. The most recent patient, cured in 2019, has been HIV-free for more than 18 months. With difficulties in bringing patients back for consistent treatments, a possible long-term solution for HIV/AIDS is an extremely important advance for the 1.3 million Ugandans infected with HIV.

Conclusion

Famous Star Trek character Captain Jean-Luc Picard stated, “Things are only impossible until they’re not.” Relieving Uganda’s suffering seemed impossible – the stuff of science fiction – as if they would never be free of disease. But, the above treatments provide hope for the people of Uganda. Through rigorous research and innovation, doctors are developing treatments for diseases in Uganda and other countries.

– Melanie Rasmussen
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Gabon

Gabon, located on the west coast of Africa, is surrounded by Atlantic Ocean, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and The Democratic Republic of the Congo. Forest covers 85 percent of the country, and the population is sparse and estimated to be 2.17 million. Keep reading to learn the top 10 facts about the life expectancy in Gabon.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Gabon

  1. The average life expectancy in Gabon is 66.4 years. Males have a life expectancy of 65 years compared to 68 years for females as per the 2016 data from WHO. This is the highest life expectancy value for Gabon compared to 61 years in 1990.
  2. Gabon’s total expenditure on health care is 3.44 percent of its gross domestic product. From the total expenditure on health, 31.62 percent comes from private resources. The government spends 7.38 percent of its total budget on health. This is higher than the average of 4.2 percent expenditure on health in Central Africa and an average of 3.9 percent for low-and-middle-income countries.
  3. Gabon has a low density of physicians. The country has 26 physicians and 290 nurses for every 100,000 people. The WHO notes that a physician density of less than 2.3 per 1,000 population is inadequate for an efficient primary health care system.
  4. Maternal mortality and infant mortality rates have seen a downward trend since the 1990s. The maternal mortality rate is 291 per 100,000 live births compared to 422 per 100,000 live births in 1990. The infant mortality rate is 21.5 per 1,000 live births. Eighty-nine percent of births are attended by skilled personal. The rate of under-5 deaths is 48.5 per 1,000 live births. On average, women have 3.8 children during their reproductive years.
  5. HIV/AIDS is no longer the number one cause of death in Gabon. Deaths from HIV/AIDS have declined by 77 percent since 2007. Similarly, deaths from tuberculosis and diarrhea have reduced by almost 23 percent and 22 percent respectively over the 10-year period ending in 2017. The current number one killer in Gabon is ischemic heart diseases followed by lower respiratory infection and malaria.
  6. Malnutrition is considered the most important driver of death and disability in Gabon. Dietary iron deficiency is the most important cause of disability and has retained the top spot for more than 10 years. Sixty percent of pregnant mothers and 62.50 percent of under-5 children are anemic, severely affecting the health and life expectancy of these groups.
  7. Rolled out in 2008, Gabon’s Universal health insurance extends coverage to the poorest, students, elderly, public and private sector workers. Gabon uses the Redevance Obligatoire à l’assurance Maladie (ROAM) to fund health care insurance. This is a 10 percent levy on mobile phone companies’ turnover, excluding tax and a 1.5 percent levy on money transfers outside the country. Still, the out of pocket cost for health care accounts for up to 21 percent of the total cost.
  8. As of 2015, 41.9 percent of the population has access to improved quality of drinking water. Gabon is ranked as 150 out of 189 countries in sanitation. People practicing open defecation increased from 1.7 percent in 2000 to 3.03 percent in 2015. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is advocating and investing to promote clean water in Gabon.
  9. Immunization coverage is between 70-79 percent for children in Gabon per UNICEF data. Available statistics for BCG and DTP vaccine shows that 87 percent of children have been vaccinated.
  10. The literacy rate in Gabon is 82.28 percent for the population aged 15 years and above. This is below the global average of 86 percent. The literacy rate for men (84 percent) is slightly higher than women (79 percent).

– Navjot Buttar
Photo: Flickr