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Common Diseases in the GambiaCommon diseases in The Gambia all but summarize the maladies that come to mind when one thinks of impoverished African nations. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, several of the diseases that account for the most deaths are communicable – also known as infectious diseases.

Among the top causes of death are both lower respiratory infections and HIV/AIDS. They hold the number one and two spots, respectively, for greatest quantity of lives taken. Also among the common diseases in The Gambia are diarrhoeal diseases, neonatal sepsis and malaria. These diseases are responsible for an even larger percentage of premature deaths in The Gambia. Among the top 10 most common causes of death in the small West African nation, eight out of 10 are communicable diseases, with lower respiratory infections and neonatal sepsis causing the most untimely deaths.

Common diseases in The Gambia were also looked at on a smaller, more grassroots scale in a paper from the US National Library of Medicine. The article explored the deaths caused by disease in the rural town of Farafenni. According to the article, death in the small town was “dominated by communicable diseases.” The study goes on to cite the two most dangerous causes of death as the mosquito-borne malaria and acute respiratory infections (ARI) or lower respiratory infections. As for children under the age of five, diarrhoeal diseases were a major contributor to childhood deaths.

However, the article also expresses a lot of good news. The results show that of the 3,203 deaths recorded, mortality at all ages declined from 15 out of every 1,000 people to 8 out of every 1,000 people, from 1998 to 2007. Children saw the greatest improvement in their overall survival rate, dropping from 27 out of every 1,000 people to a mere seven.

There are also significant scientific advances and programs being funded to combat illness in The Gambia. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) lists their largest financial investment in The Gambia as malaria-based studies. In particular, these studies explore severe cases of malaria in children as well as methods that could potentially curb the population of mosquitoes.

One scientific advancement with the ability to take on common diseases in The Gambia is a vaccine being implemented to fight against pneumococcal infections – diseases such as meningitis and pneumonia. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 1.6 million people die every year from pneumococcal infections, 800,000 of which are children. The trial for this pneumococcal vaccine was the first in over 20 years to show a statistically significant reduction in child mortality.

Another scientific advancement that could help in the fight against diseases in The Gambia comes from the sequenced genome of a mosquito. With this genome sequence, scientists could potentially genetically alter the species responsible for the spread of diseases like the dengue fever and yellow fever to make them incapable of carrying the disease.

With mortality rates from certain communicable diseases already declining as well as these promising scientific developments currently being made, the future of common diseases in The Gambia is looking brighter than ever.

Stephen Praytor

Photo: Flickr

Global Health Investments Work: 34 Million Children Saved Since 2000
New data has been able to reveal that global health investments have been able to save 34 million children since 2000. Several of these international collaborations have decreased child mortality rates in half for those under the age of 5 in several countries.

The United Nations’ Millennium Declaration was created on September 2000 as a list of goals that would help reduce global poverty in half by 2015. One of the goals in the Millennium Declaration included providing better health access and lowering children mortality rates throughout the world.

Countries within the United Nations pledged to provide aid in order to reduce mortality rates in children under the age of 5. The goal was to have a two-thirds reduction by 2015.

In June 2015, the United Nations declared that its goal had been reached in several countries but much could still be done to improve child mortality rates in other regions.

A major concern from governments with the Millennium Development Goals was how to account for accountability. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington and the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Financing the Health Millennium Development Goals and for malaria were able to create a solution.

The IHME at the University of Washington and the U.N. reached out to medicinal agencies and non-governmental organizations that were given the child mortality reduction task. International collaborations with scientists allowed both organizations to create a scorecard that kept track of foreign aid and the progress made in different regions of the world.

This scorecard will continue to be used to further promote investments in children’s global health and as a way for people around the world to hold the regions receiving the aid accountable.

For now, the scorecard is being used to reveal how much direct impact foreign aid can have on global health for children. The statistics showed that only US$4,205 is needed to keep a child healthy from birth until 5 years of age.

Low and middle income countries helped turn low child mortality rates into a reality by providing US$133 billion in children’s global health investments. The international aid that was invested helped saved 20 million children.

Meanwhile, private and public donors contributed US$73.6 billion and saved 14 million young lives. The majority of the donors were from low- and middle-income countries according to the data.

In comparison, the United States was able to save 3.3 million children by using only one-third of its less than 1 percent foreign aid budget plan.

Much of the aid went to providing vaccines, HIV/AIDs testing, sanitation and nutrition. Although much has been accomplished, the United States Agency for International Aid (USAID) has stated that the United States has the ability to do much more for young children.

According to the USAID’s 5th Birthday Campaign, 6.6 million children will die this year before their fifth birthday. The campaign states that that is nearly 18,000 children dying per day – most of them dying from preventable causes.

Through the 5th Birthday Campaign the U.S. will continue investing in family parenting, vaccines, sanitation and nutrition to help more children live beyond their fifth birthday.

Internationally, the United States has agreed to work with other countries in funding the Global Financing Facility. A post-2015 organization that will work toward further reaching the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health and the Sustainable Development Goals.

International governments and public and private donates have agreed on a US$12 billion budget for the Global Financing Facility. While the U.N. Millennium Development Goals sought to lower child mortality rates by two-thirds, the Global Financing Facility aims to completely lower maternity and child mortality rates by 2030.

With 2030 only a few years away the Global Financing Facility has a ticking clock. However, seeing how the U.N. Millennium Development Goals were able to succeed, the Global Financing Facility is having a positive start with much international support.

– Erendira Jimenez

Sources: USAID, WHO, Un Millenium Project, Scaling Up Nutrition, Washington

Photo: Universityofwashington