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Technology in Kenya

In recent years, a focus on technology crept through cables and bloomed within the country of Kenya. Mobile phones, an item sought after in developed countries, conveys a deeper significance for Kenyan citizens, establishing digital communities and managing the majority of payments. Other programs have been created in Kenya, focusing on artificial intelligence and information technology and communication.

AI Kenya & Artificial Intelligence

Devoted to the learning of artificial intelligence, AI Kenya acts as a growing community of data science practitioners, government officials and enthusiasts. The organization provides “tracks” regarding coding and machines, claiming whether “you’ve just learned to code or you’re a seasoned machine learning practitioner,” information will be provided, free to learn.

AI Kenya’s tracks are lessons, introductions and resources that aid the visitor on the path to digital learning. For the introduction to artificial intelligence, Microsoft’s AI Business School and a self-directed online course from Babson College are presented. For an intermediate track, a group of videos reviewing Statistical Machine Learning is listed, provided by Carnegie Melon University.

Across Africa and in various international countries, AI Kenya shares upcoming expos and conferences regarding artificial intelligence and digital technology. Podcasts join the organization’s information as well, spotlighting businesses and research or documenting Code Maktaba, a training event series improving community members on concepts.

VMWare & Information Technology

Besides artificial intelligence, other skills involving learning through technology prove valuable in careers. VMWare, a software company, leads an information technology (IT) academy with a program dubbed “Virtualize Africa.” The company commits to supply students with the technical skills and techniques needed to pursue jobs created by the digital age. They explain that to combat the rapidly changing and advancing technology in Kenya and other countries, skill sets must also be honed.

Strathmore University, located in Nairobi, Kenya, incorporates courses developed by VMWare which cover cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IOT), virtualization and other subjects. Students access online resources as well as in-person lab experiments. In partnership with VMWare, students may earn certifications by the company and chances to work as part of it.

Mobile Transactions

Kenya currently endures a hefty transition from cash to submitting payments with money-transfer systems on mobile phones. 70 percent of the country now use their phones to give money to each other, which is more than any other country. The interest inspires entrepreneurs to take advantage of cell phones and invent creative programs interweaving their technology.

Blogs have arisen, documenting technology in Kenya and how it is attracting others to the country. An environment fostering technological revolution supports the emergence of VMWare and AI Kenya, along with communities such as iHub, a center for creative professionals and influencers, hosting sessions for ideas and competitions.

While leading in mobile rankings, Kenya still wishes to rise up to developed countries with other aspects of technology. Currently, artificial intelligence and IT boast an abundance of programs and organizations. An increasing focus on technology in Kenya and schools also prepares students for the digital age and allows a head-start in the pool of technological revolution. Finally, the technological hub offers untapped sources of economic advantages, allowing companies to spread their programs outwards to the rest of the globe; the research on artificial intelligence allows for a web of further ideas, creating drones and services to aid the economy further.

Daniel Bertetti
Photo: Flickr

Hope for Slums in Kenya

A homeless child is wandering the streets of the largest slum in Africa. The child steals a mango, his meal for the next two days. An angry mob seeks justice and starts beating the hungry child. For some reason, a man saves the child from further punishment by paying for the mango. The man carried on with his day, but that boy’s life was changed forever. His name is Kennedy Odede and he is the founder of the multimillion-dollar nonprofit organization called Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) to create hope for slums in Kenya.

Odede was forced to the streets at the young age of 10 because of poverty and violence in his family. After being saved from the angry mob, Odede met a Catholic priest who helped him go back to school. In addition to school, Odede was working a factory job that paid him only $1 for 10 hours of work. The kindness from strangers in the face of these struggles is what inspired Odede to create Shining Hope for Communities as a way to give back to his hometown and help the urban poor.

SHOFCO started in 2004 with, “passion, 20 cents and a soccer ball.” The grassroots organization works to transform urban slums into communities of hope. They do this in three ways. The first is by providing life-saving services like healthcare and clean water. As a grassroots organization, they also promote collective action, so that the struggling communities can advocate for lasting change. Finally, SHOFCO also works to educate young girls and allow them to be leaders because they are the key to advocating for and maintaining positive change in Kenya and Africa’s slums.

Here are a few ways that SHOFCO has benefited Kibera:

  • Over 500 students received free education from kindergarten to eighth grade
  • SHOFCO created 24 water kiosks that provided low-cost water to over 30,000 Kibera residents
  • The water kiosks served around 300,000 people in the region

The progress SHOFCO has made in Kenya and other African nations are remarkable. Grants and donations are SHOFCO’s main source of funding. They have yet to receive foreign aid, but the possibility of funding from the Kenyan government is looking more likely. SHOFCO could give hope for slums in Kenya and so many other slums in Africa if they received foreign aid. The impact that they have already made is astounding and they can only go up from here. In 2018, SHOFCO had some remarkable achievements:

  • Over 90 percent of students passed their KCPE exam which is an exam given at the end of primary school
  • The average school score on the KCPE was a B+
  • SHOFCO trained almost 1,500 new entrepreneurs

Fifteen years ago a boy who had struggled for most of his life started an organization that would change the lives of thousands. From earning $1 for 10 hours of work, Kennedy Odede used 20 cents of that dollar to create SHOFCO. With his amazing passion and kindness, SHOFCO has given hope for slums in Kenya. Together, Odede and SHOFCO have provided essential services to the poor and empowered young girls and women to create lasting change.

Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr

 

Digital Education in Kenya

Despite Kenya’s large economy and rapid digital and technological growth, the country still suffers a vast digital gap. This gap is especially apparent in Kenya’s primary schools. As of 2015, Kenya spent 95.7 percent of its total education expenditure on primary public institutions. But, there is still only one teacher for every 47 students, the majority of whom do not have access to the internet. Tech-start ups and pilot projects are trying to close this gap by creating innovative programs that are helping students to earn a digital education in Kenya.

Opportunity for Everyone

In 2016, Kenya’s Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology created the Digital Literacy Programme (DLP). The project promised to deliver 1.2 million digital devices to 21,718 primary public schools nationwide. The launch was successful and by 2018 the roll-out provided 19,000 schools with more than 1 million laptops, tablets and mobile devices pre-programmed with interactive, educational materials for students.

According to the ICT Authority of Kenya, 89.2 percent of public primary schools have been supplied with these devices. Since its launch, teachers involved with the DLP have also reported increased student alertness, boosted attendance and reported an overall increase in student admissions. The DLP has also created 11,000 employment opportunities in ICT support centers, local laptop assembly plants and digital education content development.

Despite the DLP’s successful roll-out of devices, experts in the field speculated that teacher-engagement combined with access to materials is the most effective way to ensure students’ success. The Inter-American Development Bank carried out a study in 2012, reporting that 860,000 computers supplied to Peruvian schools made teachers feel disengaged from students and did not improve student test scores. The DLP and projects like it looking to innovate digital education in Kenya took note of this and put more emphasis on teacher training. The DLP alone has trained 91,000 teachers to deliver digital learning content through the project since its launch.

Combating Educational Imbalance

Despite the overwhelming contributions provided by the DLP, obstacles still remain in terms of digital education in Kenya. Students in rural areas rarely have access to traditional libraries and textbooks. Then, there is also the issue of not having enough teachers to cover the multitude of students in each classroom. These same areas also suffer from regular power outages, making it difficult to keep devices charged throughout the school day. This, on top of an overall lack of internet access, creates a significant imbalance in the quality of resources provided to students and a system that can’t ensure equal opportunities for every child to be successful.

BRCK, a tech company based in Nairobi, aims to combat this imbalance with an innovative solution called the Kio Kit. The kit provides 40 tablets per school, that can be charged wirelessly, a wifi hotspot and a small server packed with educational content. The Kio Kit is connected to the cloud, making its server self-updating. The kit’s self-updating capabilities ensure that students and teachers utilizing its platform receive the most diverse and up-to-date information that BRCK’s content providers, like TED Education, Khan Academy and the like have to offer. The kit’s wide-ranging content also enables teachers to identify learning techniques that are unique to each student and apply them in the classroom.

Kenya still faces many challenges in quality education for all students. But, innovative tech projects like the DLP and the Kio Kit are working to combat these issues by ensuring both teachers and students have access to the best tech and resources available and helping to make great strides toward strong, digital education in Kenya.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

 

Ending Malaria in ChinaHistorically, malaria has been extensive in China. In the 1940s, 90 percent of the population was considered at risk. In the 1970s, the country suffered 24 million cases of the disease. With the introduction of anti-malarial medicine and urbanization, massive strides have been made to end malaria in China.

In 2010, China launched the National Malaria Elimination Plan (NMEP) with the aim of eradicating malaria from the country by 2020. It pushed for rapid responses to reported cases of the disease, with the 1-3-7 plan outlining a report within one day, investigation within three, and treatment within seven. The plan saw great success and in 2017, no indigenous cases of malaria were detected.

China is not yet completely free of malaria. It is difficult to contain the disease at the country’s borders and those in poverty are especially at risk.

Background

The Yunnan Province consistently experiences a high number of malaria cases due to its constant interaction with neighboring counties. The wealthiest counties in Yunnan are central and surround the capital city Kunming. Among the 26 border counties, only two have an infection rate below one in 10,000, and nine have rates above 10 in 10,000. In addition, 21 of these counties are the poorest in the province. Researchers have called for more resources to be diverted to Yunnan.

The remaining cases of malaria in China pour in from neighboring countries, with 19,154 cases from 68 countries documented between 2011 to 2016. In the majority of cases, the disease was carried by returning Chinese workers, mostly from Myanmar, Ghana or Angola, all countries that rank below 160th highest GDP per capita in the world.

Despite these challenges, the country has made significant strides to combat malaria. The first major effort began in 1955, with the launch of the National Malaria Control Programme, a push to improve irrigation and insecticide use throughout the country. China reduced malaria deaths by 95 percent, and suffered only 117,000 cases of the disease, by 1995.

In 2003, China received aid from the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Global Aid distributed over $100 million throughout the world over two years. In China, this reduced the number of annual cases below 5000.

The 2010 Program was a synthesis of a national effort. About 13 departments came together, including the ministries of health, education and the military to end malaria. According to He Qinghua, Deputy Director-General of the Bureau of Disease Prevention and Control at China’s National Health Commission, a large portion of the effort focused around involving the government at every level of control. If a ruling was made in the capital, it had to be translated into every local government.

Since 2014, the Chinese government has paid for the entirety of its fight against malaria, though it recognizes the importance of early support from external funds like the Global Fund. Yang Henling, a professor at the Yunnan Institute for Parasitic Diseases, further states the need to continue efforts, lest malaria return.

China Turns to Help Other Nations Eradicate Malaria

New South, a Chinese company, has begun working to eliminate malaria in Kenya, where 70 percent of the population is at risk of the disease. New South has already been working in Comoros.

New South advocates for the use of MDA, the primary drug involved with treating malaria in China. While many western organizations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, focus on preventing mosquitoes from spreading malaria, New South emphasizes treatment in humans. Dr. Bernhards Ogutu, who has been fighting malaria in Kenya for decades, believes that Chinese support will have malaria eradicated in some areas of Kenya within only five years.

– Katie Hwang
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture in AfricaAfrica boasts one of the biggest farming industries in the world. Agriculture accounts for 60 percent of the continent’s paid employment and 30 percent of its overall GDP. However, due to a lack of market information, modern farming technologies and financial stability in smallholder farming, the continent suffers from low farming productivity. With so much of Africa’s development being dependent on agriculture and farming, low productivity rates pose an array of problems for the continent’s pursuit of advancement. These five tech start-ups are tackling these issues and transforming agriculture in Africa.

5 Tech Start-Ups Transforming Agriculture in Africa

  1. ZenvusZenvus is a Nigerian tech start-up centered around precision farming and is rapidly transforming agriculture in Africa. Farmers in Africa often don’t have access to information that could help improve their harvesting yields, and Zenvus is looking to change that with an innovative solution that uses propriety technology to collect data like soil nutrients and moisture, PH values and vegetative health. The information is collected and sent to a cloud server through GSM, satellite, or wifi networks, at which point the farmers receive advice from the program. This data arms them with the best information in seeking the proper fertilizer for their crops, optimizing their irrigation systems while encouraging data-driven farming for small-scale farmers. Zenvus also provides specialized cameras to track the growth of crops, as well as features like zCaptial that provides small-scale farmers with the opportunity raise capital by providing collected data from the program’s precision farming sensors to give banks an overall sense of profitability in farms registered with the service.
  2. M-FarmM-Farm is a tech service app based in Kenya that provides small-scale farmers with information on retail prices of products, prospective buyers in local markets and up-to-date information on agricultural trends. Information is gathered daily by independent collectors using geocodes and is then sent to subscribers phones via SMS messages. Collectors use geocoding to ensure that all pricing and market-related data is being collected from traders that are located in the users’ actual markets. The app, which now serves 7,000 users and tracks 42 different kinds of crops in five major markets throughout Kenya, aims to help small-scale farmers connect directly with suppliers, and even provides considerable discounts on fertilizers and seeds.
  3. EsokoEsoko is another striking example of a tech start-up transforming agriculture in Africa where, historically, many farmers had a limited understanding of market pricing and agricultural trade. Market middlemen often took advantage of this and persuaded unknowing farmers to sell products well below market price. In 2005, Esoko aimed to change that by providing farmers with real-time information on market prices, weather forecasts and agricultural techniques through SMS messaging. The start-up currently serves one million users across 19 African countries, gained $1.25 million in equity from two major venture capital companies, with a study finding that farmers who used the app were able to increase profits by 11 percent.
  4. Apollo Agriculture – Founded in Nairobi in 2014, this tech start-up has raised $1.6 million in the pursuit of helping small-scale farmers get maximum profits for their products and diminish credit risk. The start-up does this through machine learning, remote sensing and the utilization of mobile phone technologies. Apollo Agriculture not only assesses credit risk for farmers, but it also uses satellite data to provide personalized packages specific to farmer behavior, location, crop yields and even soil and vegetation health.
  5. Kilimo SalamaKilimo Salama (Safe Agriculture) founded in 2010, is a Kenyan tech start-up that provides small-scale farmers a more informed approach to weather index/micro-insurance for their land. The start-up uses an app to send users SMS messages regarding weather patterns and up-to-date climate data. This ensures that users can more readily prepare for weather that might be detrimental to their crops. The app also includes a feature that allows users to receive confirmation of insurance payouts through SMS messaging. Users also receive educational messages with tips and techniques on how to increase productivity, food security and crop protection.

Africa suffers from low farm productivity due to an array of issues like financial instability, limited access to modern farming technologies and lack of information. However, countless tech start-ups across the continent are actively combating these issues with innovative tech solutions for transforming agriculture in Africa.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

Feminine Product Companies that Give Back For people living in extreme poverty around the world, access to basic needs such as food, water, shelter and medical care is a daily struggle. In addition to this, women face another challenge — access to menstrual products like pads and tampons. In fact, 1 million women worldwide cannot afford sanitary products. This issue, called “period poverty,” is one that many people and organizations are trying to combat. Here are five feminine products that give back to women around the world.

5 Feminine Product Companies that Give Back to Women

  1. Cora – Cora is a company that sells organic tampons whose mission is to fight period poverty. Cora uses a portion of its monthly revenue to provide sustainable period management for women in India. The company also empowers women through employment and education opportunities. According to the company website, “with every Cora purchase, we provide pads and health education to a girl in need. We use the power of business to fight for gender equality and to provide products, education and jobs to girls and women in need in developing nations and right here at home.”
  2. Lunapads – Lunapads is a feminine product company that has been supporting menstrual and reproductive health as well as access to period education in the Global South since 2000 through an organization called Pads4Girls. Pads4Girls educates women about healthy and economically efficient period products, such as the use of washable cloth menstrual pads and underwear that can last for years. Pads4Girls has helped to supply 100,000+ reusable menstrual pads and period underwear to more than 17,000 menstruators in 18 different nations.
  3. Days for Girls – Days for Girls is an international organization whose mission is to address global issues surrounding period poverty and provide education and access to menstrual products to those living in poverty. The organization has been working to achieve this goal by developing global partnerships, cultivating social enterprises, mobilizing volunteers and innovating sustainable solutions that shatter stigmas and limitations for women and girls. To date, the Days for Girls movement has reached 1 million girls and counting.
  4. Bloody Good Period – Bloody Good Period is a period company based in the U.K. Gabby Edlin, the founder of the company, decided to do something about creating a sustainable flow of menstrual products for those who cannot afford them in the U.K. Bloody Good Period also sells merchandise and hosts events that highlight the stigmas around menstrual health and issues surrounding period poverty. The organization supplies 25 asylum seeker drop-in centers based in London and Leeds and supplies food banks and drop-in centers across the U.K. with period supplies.
  5. Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) – Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) is an organization whose main goal is to help women in Rwanda jumpstart locally owned franchises and businesses to manufacture and create affordable and eco-friendly pads. SHE works with local businesses to produce these pads with local farmers and manufacturing teams and works with these businesses on making pads affordable for those around the country. SHE also trains community health workers on how to provide education to boys and girls about puberty and menstrual hygiene. So far, SHE has allowed 60,101 girls and women living in poverty to have access to pads, and its mission has reached 4.3 million people through advocacy and social media.

Although the issue of period poverty continues to be a constant struggle for women and girls around the world, these were five feminine products that give back to women.

– Natalie Chen
Photo: Flickr

Education for internally displaced children

Violence or conflict internally displaces approximately 17 million children worldwide. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are those who have been forced to leave their homes but remain within the borders of their country of origin. A majority of IDPs live in urban areas, where they often lack access to basic services, including health care, housing and education. Ensuring access to education for internally displaced children is essential to improving livelihoods and fostering social cohesion.

Initiatives in Nigeria and Kenya represent important steps toward ensuring education for all internally displaced children in those countries.

Barriers to Education

For internally displaced children, schools are crucial to integrating into their new host community and regaining some normalcy after fleeing violence. Unfortunately, a myriad of challenges prevents many of these children from being able to attend school. A lack of documentation, financial struggles, language barriers, physical distance from the nearest school and a lack of education facilities in the area could possibly prevent internally displaced children from pursuing their education.

Furthermore, child labor, child marriage and recruitment by armed forces and gangs are other significant barriers to education for internally displaced children. IDPs often experience severe poverty and, as a way to make more money, send their children to work within the informal sector, thereby preventing them from going to school.

Child marriage is seen as another way to help overcome poverty, as marrying into the host community can provide economic and social benefits. Child marriage is frequently forced onto internally displaced children, especially girls. For IDPs who choose to marry when they are young, becoming independent from their parents may be a motivating factor. Once married, children rarely begin or continue their education.

Additionally, internally displaced children tend to live in poor, crime-ridden districts. They are more likely to be recruited by local gangs or armed groups in these areas. In Colombia, armed groups seek out children because they are able to avoid heavy criminal sentences if caught.

Conflict also negatively impacts education infrastructure, hurting educational opportunities for internally displaced children. Displacement disproportionately affects girls, who face additional challenges. Girls are 2.5 times more likely to not attend school in countries experiencing conflict. Gender-based violence and harassment that occurs at school and on the route to and from education facilities keep many girls at home. The abduction and rape that has occurred in at least 18 countries, along with the bombing of girls’ schools, also encourages families to keep their daughters at home rather than sending them to school.

UNICEF Recommendations

UNICEF recommends several tactics to overcome these barriers to education for internally displaced children. The organization’s primary goal is to ensure humanitarian organizations and governments begin to see education as a greater priority for IDPs. Education is commonly seen as secondary to addressing violence. Unfortunately, when conflicts last for years and decades, waiting to invest in education can leave generations of internally displaced children without schooling.

Key recommendations include strengthening education systems, abolishing school fees to reduce financial constraints and adapting curricula to address prejudices and promote diversity and social cohesion.

Case Study: Kenya

A study conducted at a Kenya school in 2013 and 2014 provides valuable insight into the benefits of educating internally displaced children alongside local children. At the school studied, 71 percent of students were internally displaced. However, efforts were made to provide an inclusive education that strengthened community relationships.

The study found that many internally displaced children were initially apprehensive about being accepted by their new school community. This sometimes lasted, but usually dissipated after a few weeks as the children become comfortable with each other. One student, Jey, told an author from the International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy, “I like this school because pupils like me. I don’t have any enemies all of them help me.”

Furthermore, students at the school developed community-consciousness. Many were aware of social inequalities that existed in Kenya. Internally displaced children recognized the disadvantages they and their families faced and were motivated to complete school to improve their futures.

Overall, more schools like this one in Kenya are needed to help bridge gaps between host communities and IDPs. This will improve opportunities for internally displaced children.

Plan International: Nigeria

In Nigeria, Plan International is creating learning centers to provide education for internally displaced children. These centers are created in areas that lack educational infrastructure and seek to support IDPs.

Patim, one of the teachers at a learning center in Maiduguri, noted that many of the children she teaches have lost their parents and require a great deal of support. The learning centers are doing what they can but often lack adequate resources and staff. However, the work being done is still directly benefiting many children. Patim recognizes that many of her students would be working on the streets if it wasn’t for the learning center. Attending the center helps keep children safe during the day.

Moving Forward

More communities and nations need to adopt UNICEF’s recommendations to ensure the availability of education for internally displaced children. Hopefully, recent attention to this issue will spark significant change in more countries, improving the livelihoods of IDPs around the world.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Feed the Future in Kenya
As of 2018, the Republic of Kenya had a total population of around 51 million people with a growth rate of 2.6 percent. About 25 percent of the nation’s population lives in urban areas and major cities while the majority of Kenyans live in rural and sub-urban areas. Because of this, one would assume agriculture would provide a steady income for most families, but the agricultural sector in Kenya hosts a variety of challenges.

Kenya’s Employment Challenges

While agriculture does contribute one-third of the nation’s GDP, many issues prevent farmers from turning a decent profit. Aside from the fact that only 9.5 percent of Kenya’s total land area is arable, many Kenyans simply lack the monetary resources to expand their businesses. In fact, Oxford University’s poverty index finds that around 50 percent of Kenyans live below the poverty line.

Rural Kenyans, like citizens of many other African countries, rely on subsistence farming—meaning they farm just to feed themselves and their families. In times of crop failure, even simply feeding one’s household can be a challenge, much less producing viable crops to sell. In spite of this, Kenya’s entrepreneurial middle-class keeps growing, and many nonprofits and aid assistance programs are jumping at the chance to see that that growth continues.

Feed the Future in Kenya

One such organization is USAID’s Feed the Future program; the Feed the Future initiative, as described on their website, “brings together partners from across various sectors and the U.S. Government to use each of our unique skills and insights in a targeted, coordinated way to help countries that are ripe for transformation change the way in the way their food systems work.”

Nkamathi Farm Products

An example of how Feed the Future in Kenya has positively impacted the nation’s population can be found in the success of Nkamanthi Farm Products. The founder of the company, Lydia Kanyika, saw how poverty and low education limited opportunities for young people in her community to find meaningful work. Hoping to create positive change in her world, she applied to and won a Feed the Future business development grant. The grant is awarded to select businesses based on four key elements: their marketing plans, ability to create markets, ability to generate employment opportunities and their ability to increase productivity along the livestock value chain in Northern Kenya.

Kanyika used her grant to expand her small business by upgrading her wooden chicken house to a modernized coop. This simple change has not only allowed her to increase the number of chickens she kept from 300 to 2,500 but also grow her farm’s production by 243 percent. Perhaps most amazing of all is how contagious her success was on her community.

The Ripple Effects

Through the expansion of her company, Kanyika has mentored more than 50 young Kenyans and provided them with employment opportunities that help them support their families. One of her employees, Martin Mwenda, gladly shared his business success with representatives from Feed the Future in Kenya. When he first began earning income from distributing eggs from Kanyika’s chickens, he told the project that he only sold five cartons of eggs each day. As Nkamanthi Farm Products grew, so did his clientele; he now sells 25 cartons daily, which provides him with a steady and consistent revenue.

“I want to expand the egg business,” he told Feed the Future. “I will then use the business to create employment opportunities for fellow youth, especially those who have migrated from rural areas to Isiolo town to make ends meet, like I did.”

The Future of Agriculture

While Kenya’s middle class continues to struggle for more open markets and trade, investment and financial freedoms, aid programs like Feed the Future are slowly but surely helping Kenyans expand their personal businesses, which in turn spreads more employment opportunities across the country.

Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr

HIV Drug Implemented in Kenya
In 2017, there were approximately 36.9 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. Additionally, 6.1 million of those with HIV were located in western and central Africa. Kenya, a country in eastern Africa, had approximately 1.5 million people living with HIV/AIDs in 2017. That same year, an HIV drug implemented in Kenya started to successfully combat this deadly immune system virus. Unitaid and the Kenyan government simultaneously introduced it to the country.

Dolutegravir and Antiretroviral Therapy

The new HIV/AIDS drug, Dolutegravir or DTG, received approval in 2014 and is the most recent and effective antiretroviral drug used in the treatment against HIV/AIDs. DTG has been the drug of choice in high-income countries for its antiresistance properties, few side effects and easy one pill a day treatment. In 2015, the World Health Organization recommended this drug replace other first-line regimens for adults and adolescents. Recently this drug was not available in low-income countries, like Kenya, because of its high cost.

In 2018, only 62 percent of people with HIV/AIDs had access to antiretroviral therapy, which was an increase from the previous year. This corresponds to the 23.3 million people who were able to receive treatment, however, approximately 14.6 million people could not access treatment. In Kenya, 75 percent of adults with HIV/AIDs received treatment in 2018, which increased from 2016, when only 64 percent of people received treatment. One reason for the increase in HIV/AIDs testing is the partnerships between the government of Kenya and Unitaid that began in 2017 which introduced the generic brand of DTG.

Now, the generic brand of this life-saving drug has been available to people in Kenya since early 2018. This new HIV drug implemented in Kenya has the potential to make life-saving drugs more accessible to those who would normally not be able to afford it. In 2017, a number of nonprofits including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Unitaid, USAID, PEPFAR and others agreed to a pricing agreement to help make the drug more affordable in developing countries. This pricing agreement would allow public sector purchases at $75 per person, per year.

Side Effects of Other Drugs

Before the introduction of DTG, the first-line drug in Kenya was Efavirenz, an antiretroviral medication with side effects for some users including nausea, dizziness, rash and headaches. When the pricing agreement first emerged, the Kenyan Ministry of Health decided that the first round of DTG it distributed would go to 27,000 people who suffered the negative side effects from efavirenz. Then, the Ministry of Health assigned various other health clinics to receive the drug until it could become available to the entire country.

The number of new HIV/AIDs diagnoses in Kenya has halved over the last decade to approximately 80,000 people a year. The new HIV drug implemented in Kenya will only help decrease the number of people suffering from HIV/AIDs. Comprehensive sex education, HIV/AIDs testing centers and the continuation of drug pricing agreements will help alleviate the prevalence of HIV in developing countries, like Kenya.

Hayley Jellison
Photo: Flickr

Uterine Balloon TamponadeThe Every Second Matters Uterine Balloon Tamponade (ESM-UBT), a device designed by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) to stop postpartum hemorrhaging (PPH), is a condom that is attached to a Foley catheter. When a mother experiences profuse bleeding which cannot be stopped through other means, the condom is placed within the uterine cavity and filled with water using a syringe and a one-way valve. Within minutes, the bleeding is expected to stop. This device has been effective in preventing fatalities associated with pregnancy and childbirth.

The device is easy to use and requires minimal training. Since the training of more than 850 South Sudanese health workers in 2010 and 2011, MGH began using and researching the usage of the device in the countries of India, South Sudan, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, Zambia, Peru, Honduras, Uganda and Nepal.

The Beginning Stages

Training of 46 health providers from 12 health centers to use the device began in Kenya in August 2012. During the first year after training, twenty-six ESM-UBTs were used. The patients who required the device were either unconscious or in an unstable mental state as a result of the severe bleeding they were experiencing. In each case, once the device was put into place, the bleeding was stopped, and the patients were saved. As a result of these successful interventions, the Kenyan Ministry of Health has formally integrated the program into the national policy for PPH.

The ESM-UBT’s Potential

A study was published in 2013 that predicted how many lives could potentially be saved by the use of a uterine balloon tamponade in the year 2018.  These predictions were made based on the availability, use, and efficiency of technologies in health care centers that provide maternal and neonatal services. The model estimated that when the use of a uterine balloon tamponade is implemented, 6,547 lives can be saved, which is an eleven percent decrease in maternal deaths, 10,823 surgeries can be prevented and 634 severe anemia cases can be avoided in sub-Saharan Africa every year.

In 2018, there was a case that involved complex vaginal lacerations which may have resulted in death, but the ESM-UBT was used to control the bleeding. The 26-year-old woman, who was 39 weeks pregnant, went to the Muhimbili National Referral Hospital in Tanzania to deliver her baby. Although she was in good health, she began experiencing significant blood loss. After uterine massage, administration of oxytocin and removal of the placenta, the patient was still bleeding and became unconscious.

Upon examining her pelvis, doctors discovered second degree bilateral vaginal sulcal lacerations. They attempted to suture the lacerations, but the bleeding persisted, so they decided to insert an ESM-UBT device, which was inflated with 300 cc of water. Finally, the bleeding stopped. After forty-eight hours, the device was removed, with no more need for repair. The mother left the hospital two days after giving birth and had fully recovered by her six-week postpartum visit.

As of now, over 670 ESM-UBT devices have been used. MGH has plans of distributing these devices to 350 health centers in South Sudan and Kenya. In addition, technology has been developed to allow for the tracking of referrals of this device as well as the results of its use. The ESM-UBT device has great potential to reduce the number of maternal deaths in developing nations.

– Sareen Mekhitarian
Photo: Unsplash