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Poverty in the Central African Republic
The Central African Republic (CAR) is a landlocked country in Africa, neighboring Chad, Sudan, Cameroon and more. Although CAR has an abundance of natural resources, including gold, diamonds, uranium and oil, it is one of the poorest nations in the world. Following violence and political turmoil in 2013, the country is still recovering. Here are five important facts about poverty in the Central African Republic.

5 Facts About Poverty in the Central African Republic

  1. The Numbers: Approximately 71% of the Central African Republic’s population lives below the international poverty line. Additionally, due to violence and conflict, there are around 613,114 refugees from the Central African Republic and 641,292 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country. Health is also a major concern, with a maternal mortality rate of 890 per 100,000 live births.
  2. History of Poverty and Conflict: There are many reasons why the Central African Republic has such high poverty rates. The main reason lies in the history of the nation. After CAR gained independence from France in 1960, it had religious rivalries, a variety of ethnic groups and multiple political ideologies. Conflict between different religious and social groups as well as competition over resources caused widespread instability throughout the country. This culminated in a more recent outbreak of violence in 2013, which has left more than 2.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.
  3. Major Health Conditions: The leading causes of deaths in the Central African Republic include tuberculosis, diarrheal diseases, HIV/AIDS and malaria. In 2018, malaria, a mosquito-borne disease, was reported at a rate of 347.3 cases per 100,000 people. This represents a significant decrease from previous years, as there were approximately 434.5 cases per 100,000 people in 2010. Additionally, there are approximately 100,000 people living with HIV in CAR.
  4. Life Expectancy: Life expectancy in the Central African Republic is among the lowest in the world. As of 2020, it is only 53.35 years. This is a 0.64% increase since 2019, when the life expectancy was 53.01 years. Life expectancy is low in the CAR due to widespread violence and displacement as well as the aforementioned health concerns. In addition to malaria and HIV, 41% of the population suffers from chronic malnutrition. On a positive note, the life expectancy of the CAR has been steadily improving since 2002; in 2002, the life expectancy in the CAR was only 44.29 years.
  5. Education and Literacy: The literacy rate in the Central African Republic is also one of the lowest in the world, at 37.4%. The CAR is struggling to provide high-quality education for its children, particularly girls. Many girls find themselves dropping out of school because of the societal pressures to marry and have children. Only 65% of girls enter the first year of primary school and only 23% of them finish the 6 years of primary school.

Currently, organizations like the World Food Program, USAID and the International Rescue Committee are working to alleviate poverty in the Central African Republic and address the humanitarian crisis. Efforts include distributing food to internally displaced people, providing specialized nutrition packages for pregnant women, rebuilding educational infrastructure and recovering clean water sources. Moving forward, it is essential that these humanitarian organizations and others continue to provide aid and support to the nation.

Alison Choi
Photo: Flickr

Malaria is a leading cause of death in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2018, among 228 million cases of malaria globally, there were 405,000 deaths, 94% of which were in Sub-Saharan Africa. Although treatment has gotten much better in recent years and deaths due to malaria have begun to decline globally, in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic worries have arisen that those who receive treatment for malaria will be unable to continue to do so. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/global-covid-19/maintain-essential-services-malaria.html)Recent results from the Global Fund’s biweekly survey of HIV, TB, and malaria treatment programs found that 73% of malaria programs reported disruption to service delivery, with 19% reporting high and very high disruptions. Activities within the programs are being canceled due to lockdowns, restrictions on the size of gatherings, transport stoppages, COVID-related stigma, and clients not seeking health services as usual. With these disruptions to important malaria treatment services, such as insecticide-treated net campaigns and antimalarial medicine administration, the World Health Organization predicts that deaths from malaria in Sub-saharan Africa could double. (https://www.theglobalfight.org/covid-aids-tb-malaria/) These deaths would return countries' malaria mortality levels from the year 2000, regressing on the progress that malaria treatment has reached in the past 18 years. It has never been more vital than now that countries continue to mitigate malaria treatment in their communities and sustain essential services that have helped save so many lives of those affected by malaria. (https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/23-04-2020-who-urges-countries-to-move-quickly-to-save-lives-from-malaria-in-sub-saharan-africa) The Global Fund is a partnership designed to help eradicate HIV, TB, and malaria epidemics. It raises and invests more than $4 billion a year to support local programs for these epidemics. They partner with local experts in countries, as well as governments, faith-based organizations, technical agencies, the private sector, and those affected by these diseases to raise money, invest it, and implement strategies to give aid. (https://www.theglobalfund.org/en/overview/) The Global Fund has created an urgent mitigation plan to curb the effect of COVID-19 on delivering essential health services, such as malaria relief, as well as making $1 billion available to other countries as part of their response. They plan to adapt malaria programs to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, protect frontline workers with protective equipment and training, reinforce supply chains, laboratory networks, and community-led response systems, and fight COVID-19 by supporting testing, tracing, isolation, and treatment. The Global Fund is seeking an additional $5 billion to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on countries receiving treatment for malaria, TB, and HIV. (https://www.theglobalfund.org/en/covid-19-plan/) Along with the Global Fund and the WHO, the CDC has also created a set of key considerations for continuing essential malaria prevention, while safeguarding against the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to recommending that a representative from the National Malaria Control Program should be considered for membership on the country’s National COVID-19 Incident Management Team, the CDC recommends continued access to Insecticide-Treated Nets for populations at risk, physical distancing during spray treatments, and the continuance of essential routine entomological monitoring activities while abiding by social distancing and wearing protective gear. The CDC also recommends that countries monitor their supply chain and adapt their malaria treatment programs if needed, due to higher costs or less resources. Countries should continue to collect data on COVID-19 and malaria illness in the population. It is important that countries communicate their continuation of malaria treatment to their citizens and educate them on how to seek treatment while also protecting themselves from COVID. (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/global-covid-19/maintain-essential-services-malaria.html)
The leading cause of death in Sub-Saharan Africa is malaria. There were 228 million cases of malaria globally in 2018. Additionally, there were 405,000 deaths, 94% of which were in Sub-Saharan Africa. The treatment improves in recent years and malaria has begun to decline globally. However, concerns about receiving treatment for malaria occurs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent results from the Global Fund’s biweekly survey of HIV, TB and malaria treatment programs found that 73% of malaria programs reported disruption to service delivery. Around 19% reports high and very high disruptions.

Lockdowns canceled activities within the programs. There are restrictions on the size of gatherings, transport stoppages, COVID-related stigma and patients are not seeking health services as usual. The World Health Organization predicts that deaths from malaria in Sub-saharan Africa could double due to disruptions to important malaria treatment services. For example, insecticide-treated net campaigns and antimalarial medicine administration. It is extremely vital that countries continue to mitigate malaria treatment in their communities. Additionally, the countries should sustain essential services that have helped save many lives affected by malaria.

The Global Fund

The Global Fund is a partnership that helps eradicate HIV, TB and malaria epidemics. It raises and invests more than $4 billion a year to support local programs for these epidemics. The organization partner with local experts in countries, governments, organizations, the private sector and those affected by these diseases. The aim of the partnership is to raise and invest money and implement strategies to give aid.

Furthermore, The Global Fund created an urgent mitigation plan to curb the effect of COVID-19 on delivering essential health services. The plan includes making $1 billion malaria relief available to other countries as part of their response. In addition, The Global Fund plans to adapt malaria programs to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and protect frontline workers with protective equipment and training. It also reinforce supply chains, laboratory networks and community-led response systems. The Global Fund fights COVID-19 by supporting testing, tracing, isolation, and treatment. It seeks an additional $5 billion to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on countries receiving treatment for malaria, TB and HIV.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The CDC created a set of key considerations for continuing essential malaria prevention while safeguarding against the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC gives four recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic. First, a representative from the National Malaria Control Program should be considered for membership on the country’s National COVID-19 Incident Management Team. Second, continued access for Insecticide-Treated Nets for populations at risk should be put in place. Third, physical distancing during spray treatments should be imposed. Lastly, the continuance of essential routine entomological monitoring activities while abiding by social distancing and wearing protective gear.

For countries that impacted by malaria, the CDC advises the countries to monitor their supply chain and adapt their malaria treatment programs. Countries should continue to collect data on COVID-19 and malaria illness in the population. It is important that countries communicate their continuation of malaria treatment to their citizens and educate them on how to seek treatment while also protecting themselves from COVID-19.

Giulia Silver
Photo: Flickr

Herbal Medicine
The continent of Africa — especially Sub-Saharan Africa — is abundant with rich vegetation. Among the plants that naturally grow on the continent, there are many of them that are used to treat a variety of diseases. Herbal medicines are one of the oldest methods used for healing in Africa, even before the European invasion. According to the World Health Organization, 70-80% of the population uses some form of traditional medicine, with herbal medicines standing out in particular. The knowledge regarding which plants are safe to be used for healing has been orally transmitted from the elders. Currently, most regions combine herbal and modern medicines according to the kind of disease or symptoms a patient has. The following are the contributions and concerns of herbal medicines in Africa in relation to modern medicines.

Contributions

  1. Heals Common Seasonal Diseases: Herbal medicines are widely used to cure seasonal respiratory and digestive diseases such as colds, coughs and constipation. Some herbal plants are also used to cure common parasitic skin diseases like acne and others are used to lower the intensity of some symptoms like inflammation. For example, Pygeum is used in Africa to treat Malaria and fever-like symptoms.
  2. Accessible: Most medicines grow naturally and can even be grown in a backyard. They are easily accessible to people and this accessibility reduces the amount of money paid at hospitals and for pharmacy bills. In rural regions of Africa, herbal medicines are more accessible than pharmaceutical drugs, and this availability saves people time and resources as opposed to traveling long distances for common minor diseases. On the other hand, herbal medicines can raise some important concerns. These concerns are the reason why some people prefer to use modern pharmaceutical prescribed drugs.

Concerns

  1. Lack of Research: There have been few studies that have examined the efficiency and credibility of some herbal medicines. This lack of research causes ambiguity in using herbal medicines. Since most advanced herbal medicines are recommended by traditional specialists, people simply rely on beliefs and stories rather than recorded credible research. Otherwise, people simply go for the medically tested pharmaceutical drugs because their efficiency is proven with credible research.
  2. Easily Mistaken: Different plants might have similar features but with different chemical components. In regions with thick vegetation, plants of similar characteristics grow together. This similarity leaves no room for error because some plants can be poisonous and cause harm to the patient.
  3. Inadequate Measurements: Unlike modern medicines prescribed after testing and done in proportion to an individual’s weight, it is hard for random individuals to know the exact number of herbs to use for a certain problem. Overdosing on strong herbs can cause inflammations, liver damage and kidney failure. Additionally, if patients combine pharmaceutical drugs with these natural herbs, there can be dangerous interactions and one medicine can reduce the efficiency of the other.

African countries are encouraging cooperation between herbalists and doctors. This collaboration will help doctors understand their patients who have been using herbal medicines. Additionally, herbalists will know when patients should go to the hospital in case herbs do not work or if they cause some problems to the patients.

Renova Uwingabire
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in ChadLocated in Central Africa, the country of Chad is the fifth largest landlocked state and has a poverty rate of 66.2%. With a total population of approximately 15.5 million, a lack of modern medicine, dramatic weather changes and poor education have riddled the country with deadly diseases and resulted in severe poverty in Chad.

Poor Health Conditions in Chad Lead to Disease

The most common types of disease and the primary causes of death include malaria, respiratory infections and HIV/AIDS. Malaria, usually spread through mosquito bites, is a potentially fatal disease and is quite common in the country of Chad. Due to poor sanitation, Chadians are more susceptible to malaria; the most recently estimated number of cases was 500,000 per year.

Along with malaria, lower respiratory diseases contribute to Chad’s high mortality rate – the most common and deadliest of those being meningitis.  Lower respiratory tract infections occur in the lungs and can sometimes affect the brain and spinal cord. A lack of available vaccinations in the country has increased susceptibility to meningitis. Meningitis is most deadly in those under the age of 20, and with a countrywide median age of 16.6 years old, Chad has seen a rise in total meningitis cases and overall deaths.

As of 2015, there were an estimated 210,000 Chadians living with HIV. According to UNAIDS, there were 12,000 AIDS-related deaths just last year, along with 14,000 new cases. Those living with HIV/AIDS are at a higher risk of death with their compromised immune systems. They are unable to fight off diseases and, with the preexisting severe risk of malaria and meningitis, they are more susceptible to death.

Harsh Weather and Its Role in Food Insecurity and Disease

Due to its geography, Chad is one of the countries most severely affected by climate change. Approximately 40% of Chadians live at or below the poverty line, with the majority relying heavily on agricultural production and fishing. The drastic change in rain patterns and the consequent frequency of droughts have placed a significant strain on their food supply. Fishing in particular has been sparse. Lake Chad, the country’s largest lake, has diminished by 90% in the past 50 years. The rising temperatures in Chad have caused a decrease in both crop yields and good pasture conditions, placing more strain on those who depend on Lake Chad for food and the nutrients it adds to farming.

In addition to affecting poverty in Chad, intense weather patterns have also increased the number of infectious diseases. The infrastructure of the country has not been able to keep up with the rapidly growing population in urban areas. This results in poor sanitation. The sanitation services are overwhelmed during floods: which contaminates the water supply.

Lack of Education Affects Poverty in Chad

Despite the relatively large population, less than half of school-aged children are enrolled in school. With attendance rates so low, the literacy rates in individuals between the ages of 15 and 24 fall; currently, they only reach 31%.  According to UNICEF, attendance rates are astonishingly low; 8% for children in upper secondary school and 13% for lower secondary school. With education rates so low, income inequality, infant and maternal deaths and stunting in children continue to rise; as a result, the overall economic growth of the country declines.

Enrollment is low in Chad due to the lack of resources in schools. With the country in severe poverty, schools remain under-resourced, both in access and infrastructure. Some schools have no classrooms and no teaching materials. Furthermore, teachers are often outnumbered 100:1. As a result, the quality of learning decreases, as does the overall attendance rate.

As of now, only 27% of primary-school-age children complete their schooling. According to UNESCO, if adults in low-income countries completed their secondary education, the global poverty rate would be cut in half. Even learning basic reading skills could spare approximately 171 million people from living in extreme poverty. Educated individuals are more likely to develop important skills and abilities needed to help them overcome poverty. Education also decreases an individual’s risk of vulnerability to disease, natural disasters and conflict.

Poverty in Chad is widespread, and the rate of impoverished people will continue to grow if it is not addressed. Poor health conditions and a lack of education are just a few of the many problems people face; while the living conditions may seem dire in Chad, a gradual decrease in overall poverty rates proves that there is hope.

Jacey Reece
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

Malaria treatment

At the young age of six years old, YouTube and comedy star Kacaman (aka Darcy Irakoze) just became the latest victim of malaria in Burundi. He was one of the biggest names in Burundi’s comedy scene and had thousands of views on YouTube. His videos, featuring the rural dirt floors and rusty villages of Burundi, were lighthearted and melodramatic skits starring himself and other comedians/actors. Darcy Irakoze is just one example of the need to improve malaria treatment in Burundi.

A Silent Crisis

Kacaman’s death brings to light an often-unspoken crisis: Burundi’s malaria epidemic. Nearly half of the country’s population has been affected by malaria this year. Of that number, 1800 have died from the disease. This staggering amount actually rivals the number of deaths from Ebola in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Poor preventative measures have been the driving factors behind the epidemic. These include a lack of mosquito nets, the movement of the population with low immunity to malaria from mountain areas to city areas and various changes in climate. The crisis has received some attention from the World Health Organization and the United Nations, but it remains remarkably untouched as a result of the current leadership. Afraid of admitting weakness in health policies, President Nkurunziza is hesitant to admit he needs help increasing malaria treatment.

An Epidemic of the Poor

The brutal reality that a six-year-old boy in Burundi can access the internet and YouTube but not malaria treatment presents a serious call for action. Often referred to as the “epidemic of the poor,” malaria disproportionately affects poverty-stricken areas like Burundi because of the expense required to purchase preventative measures and medical treatment.

The disease presents many ramifications for family members of the sick. They deal with psychological pain, the strain on already tight budgets and job loss. Additionally, malaria damages the economic wellbeing of countries as it decreases the chances of tourism and foreign investment. This keeps poor countries in a vicious cycle because they are unable to provide enough funds for malaria treatments or to improve other aspects of their country.

What Is Being Done?

Innovations like the Kite patch offer promising improvement for malaria prevention. The patch works by making humans virtually invisible to mosquitoes for up to 6 hours, stopping any bites. The company is working to distribute the patch around the world through the Kite-Malaria-Free Campaign, but it still needs more funding. The World Health Organization has launched the “high burden high impact” campaign as a response to countries facing extremely large epidemics. This entails a more aggressive approach to preventing and treating malaria by working with national governments in each of the countries to create an organized and strategic approach.

Increasing prevention is still vital in the fight against malaria. Widespread distribution of mosquito nets and insecticide in areas where these items are inaccessible or too expensive could yield massive results. More effective antimalarial treatments are also needed to fight malaria. The problem of the developing resistance to antimalarials in certain populations needs to be addressed to increase the efficacy of the drugs. Finally, a successful malaria vaccination needs to be more accessible. A semi-effective vaccine has been developed, but the technology still requires some fine-tuning.

It is likely at least one child will have died from malaria in the last minute. Kacaman was one of those children. His death should inspire a revitalized passion and determination to conquer malaria. While some incredible advances have been made, more is needed. Hopefully, these efforts can make this world one where malaria treatment and prevention is just as viral as YouTube.

Hannah Stewart
Photo: Flickr

Dams and Malaria
Despite the fact that malaria transmission rates have decreased by more than 40 percent since 2000, the morbid disease still affects a large number of people on the African continent. According to WHO, an estimated 219 million cases of malaria occurred in 2017 and a disproportionate 92 percent of these cases happened in Africa. Of these numbers, people can attribute at least 1.1 million cases to dams.

The Relationship Between Dams and Malaria

Mosquitoes tend to lay eggs and reproduce in shallow pools of water or somewhere in the near vicinity. Thus, water is a key component in the spread of malaria. The erection of dams creates a multitude of shallow pools along the edges of the water base that provide ideal situations for mosquitoes to nest. This increases the prevalence of malaria and the susceptibility of individuals to malaria.

A study published in the Malaria Journal found that the slope of the shoreline was the most determining factor of a rise in malaria for areas that had dams. Since mosquitoes like to breed in shallow pools of water that do not connect to a larger, main body of water, the shoreline around a dam is a prime location that meets these requirements. The more inclined a slope is, the more water drains out. This means that static pools of water are unable to form, which in turn means that mosquitoes do not find areas of the steep slope to be habitable.

Due to factors like this, not all dams are likely to increase malaria. Reservoirs that have steeper slopes pose a smaller risk of increasing the spread of malaria. For example, the climate and geography at a dam site, temperature fluctuations, elevation and amount of rainfall, also influence the spread of malaria near reservoirs. Thus, the continual study of the relationship between dams and malaria can lead to further identification of factors that increase the risk of spreading disease.

Solutions

Similarly, development planners must carefully select dam sites so that economic growth and electricity generation do not compromise the well-being of a local population. Increasing awareness through activism could see a more informed class of development planners take more calculated and careful approaches to dam construction. Indeed, a greater exchange of knowledge between local populations, journalists, researchers and policymakers is necessary to see increasing benefits and minimization of negative impacts.

This is arguably more important now than ever. As of 2015, 18.7 million Africans reside within five kilometers of dam reservoirs. Policymakers must take measures to ensure that quality of life does not deteriorate for those living near artificially constructed reservoirs. The relationship between dams and malaria is a critical nexus that can inform the implementation of less detrimental policies by those who are in a position to make such a policy.

– Evan Williams
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

Health Care in Ghana

The West African nation of Ghana is a vibrant country filled with natural beauty and rich culture. However, like many of its neighbors in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana suffers from a high poverty rate and lack of access to adequate health care. In fact, according to the Ghana Statistical Service, 23 percent of the total population lives in poverty and approximately 2.4 million Ghanaians are living in “extreme poverty.” That being said, many organizations and groups — both national and global — are working to improve health care in Ghana.

Malaria in Ghana

A disease transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes, malaria is a common concern throughout much of West Africa, including Ghana where it is the number one cause of death. In fact, according to the WHO’s most recent World Malaria Report, nearly 4.4 million confirmed malaria cases were reported in Ghana in 2018 — accounting for approximately 15 percent of the country’s total population.

All that in mind, many NGOs, as well as international government leaders, have taken up the mantle to eliminate malaria in Ghana. This includes leadership from the United States under the President’s Malaria Initiative or PMI which lays out comprehensive plans for Ghana to achieve its goal of successfully combating malaria.

With a proposed FY 2019 budget of $26 million, the PMI will ramp up its malaria control interventions including the distribution of vital commodities to the most at-risk citizens. For instance, the PMI aims to ensure that intermittent preventative treatment of pregnant women (IPTp) is more readily accessible for Ghanaian women. Progress has been made, too, as net use of IPTp by pregnant Ghanaian women has risen from 43 percent to 50 percent since 2016. This is just one example of the many ways in which PMI is positively contributing to the reduction and elimination of malaria in Ghana.

National Health Care System

National leaders are also doing their part to positively impact health care in Ghana. In 2003, the government made a huge step toward universal health coverage for its citizens by launching the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). As of 2017, the percentage of the population enrolled in the scheme declined to 35 percent from 41 percent two years prior. However, 73 percent of those enrolled renewed their membership and “persons below the age of 18 years and the informal sector workers had significantly higher numbers of enrolment than any other member group,” according to the Global Health Research and Policy.

It is difficult to truly understand Ghana’s health issues without considering firsthand perspectives. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Dr. Enoch Darko, an emergency medicine physician who graduated from the University of Ghana Medical School, commented on some of the health issues that have plagued Ghana in recent decades. “A lot of problems that most third world countries, including Ghana, deal with are parasitic diseases such as malaria and gastroenteritis. Though health issues like diabetes and hypertension still remain in countries around the world, and even the United States, the difference is that some diseases that have been eradicated in Western countries still remain in countries like Ghana,” Darko said. “Many people in Ghana simply do not see a doctor for routine checkups like in the United States. Rather, most people will only go to see a doctor when they are feeling sick. As a result, lesser symptoms may go unchecked, thus contributing to the prevalence and spread of disease and infection. Combined with the fact that many Ghanaians in rural communities may not have sufficient money to afford treatment or medicine, this becomes a cycle for poor or sick Ghanaians.”

That said, it is hoped that with continued support from international players as well as government intervention, the country can continue to make strides in addressing health care for its citizens.

Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

 

First Malaria Vaccine
Malaria is a parasitic virus transmitted through mosquito bites, and those infected with the disease often experience grave fevers, chills and flu-like symptoms. Although malaria can potentially end in death, physical precautions such as safety nets in malaria-dense environments and prompt treatment can usually prevent it. Unfortunately, because malaria largely affects poorer nations, it can be a great strain on national economies and impoverished populations. The World Health Organization is enlisting pilot testing for the first malaria vaccine.

The Problem

Malaria reportedly infects tens of millions, killing over 400,000 people worldwide every year and mostly children; Sub-Saharan African countries are the primary nations in which malaria thrives—the World Health Organization estimates that over 250,000 African children die every year from the virus.

The malaria-carrying parasite is able to evade victims’ immune systems by constantly changing its surface, which is why developing a vaccine against the virus has been so difficult. With today’s modern technology and scientific insight, that is beginning to change.

Testing the First Malaria Vaccine

In April of 2019, a large-scale pilot test of what many are dubbing the world’s first malaria vaccine to give partial protection to children began in Malawi. Scientists from the drug company GSK first created the RTS,S vaccine in 1987 and has been refining it ever since. Organizations like Path Malaria Vaccine Initiative have been instrumental in supporting this initiative.

The new RTS,S vaccine is attempting to teach the immune system how to attack the malaria parasite. A patient needs to receive the vaccine four times—once a month for three months, followed by a fourth and final dose 18 months later. In 2009, Kenya held smaller trials of the vaccine and concluded with a 40 percent protection rate of the five to-17 month-olds who received the vaccination. Since then, malaria rates have plateaued rather than decreased, which is another reason the new pilot test is so vital in the modern-day.

Now testing is taking place in Malawi, Kenya and Ghana with aims to immunize 120,000 children aged two-years-old and younger. These three countries are ideal for two reasons: one, these nations already have large anti-malaria programs in place; and two, in spite of this, they still have high numbers of malaria cases. As Dr. Matshidiso Moeti (World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa) stated, “Malaria is a constant threat to the African communities where this vaccine will be given” and explains that the vaccine is needed because “we know the power of vaccines to prevent killer diseases and [hope to] reach children, including those who may not have immediate access to the doctors, nurses and health facilities they need to save them when severe illness comes.”

Looking Towards the Future

The purpose of the pilot tests is to build up evidence that can be reliably considered while WHO policy is debating its recommendations on the broader use of the RTS,S vaccine. The experiment will examine the reductions (if any) in child deaths, vaccine uptake rates (including how many children receive all four vaccinations) and the overall safety of the vaccine in routine use.

If the testing goes well, not only will the World Health Organization aid the vaccine to its core package of recommended measures for malaria prevention and treatment, but hopefully, it will begin a chain reaction that again sparks a decrease in malaria cases around the world.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr