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Formative SupervisionWith a population of about 30 million, many Angolans do not have access to adequate healthcare. The limited access to quality healthcare is due to decreased funding due to the Angolan Government’s budget restrictions. The lack of funding affects the quality of public healthcare which people can receive at no cost. The public healthcare sector in Angola does not have enough healthcare providers with proper training and resources. The lack of resources in healthcare reflects in the low ratio of about one health center per 25,000 people and more than 50% of people are without access to healthcare services. In recent years, USAID’s Health for All project, using the Health Network Quality Improvement System (HNQIS), has implemented formative supervision in Angola. Implementing formative supervision in Angola has shown to improve the quality of healthcare by increasing the number of healthcare providers with proper training.

USAID’s Health for All Project

USAID’s Health for All program is a five-year project that began in 2017. It works with the Angolan Government to help improve the quality and access to healthcare in the country. The project’s focus is on addressing the issues of malaria and reproductive health since those are two of the main health concerns affecting the people of Angola. With the current funding being at $63 million, the program has been able to train 1,489 health professionals on how to diagnose and treat malaria and created reproductive health services in 42 health facilities.

The program’s use of formative supervision in Angola has helped in educating and providing healthcare workers with the necessary tools to effectively care for patients. The Health Network Quality Improvement System is the main tool that USAID uses to help improve the quality of healthcare because the system is used to evaluate the performance of individual healthcare providers. By tracking the performance of the healthcare providers in Angola, USAID can more easily determine which areas of the healthcare system need improvement. Under the Health for All program, USAID has been using formative supervision with healthcare providers who specifically tend to cases of malaria and reproductive health.

The Benefits of Formative Supervision

From October 2019 to March 2020, the Health for All project recorded improvements in the quality of healthcare through the use of formative supervision in 276 out of 360 Angolan health facilities with prenatal services. In addition to tracking the performance in maternal and reproductive health, the supervision has also helped in finding the areas in which the management of malaria has been lacking. There are now about 1,026 health providers that have been properly trained in managing malaria cases as a result of the project. This has in turn indirectly improved the quality of care regarding maternity since malaria causes 25% of maternal deaths in Angola.

Besides increasing the amount of funding that goes toward healthcare, the Health for All project has used such funding to be more interactive with healthcare facilities through the use of formative supervision in Angola. Formative supervision has shown to drastically improve the quality of care in the areas of malaria and reproductive health as supervision allows trained health officials to identify and fix integral issues pertaining to healthcare in Angola.

Zahlea Martin
Photo: Flickr

Little Light UgandaLittle Light Uganda is a nonprofit organization located in Namuwongo Slum, which is in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. Since its establishment in 2007, Little Light’s mission has been to provide aid to those in the community who are living in poverty.

Little Light Helps Uganda

Uganda’s economy has had a reduction in growth because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a locust invasion and heavy rains that led to flooding. With subsequent job loss along with the economic decline, programs like Little Light Uganda are essential for giving help to those in need. Little Light’s services include “giving access to proper education, economic empowerment and psycho-social support.”

Little Light Uganda has two groups in the organization, its youth group and its women’s group. The youth group, officially known as Spoon Youth, aims to provide the young people in Namuwongo a safe and reliable environment. The group also educates children on how to navigate life living in poverty, including matters of crime and violence. Children and youth make up more than 70% of Namuwongo’s population, half of them without parents, which is why Little Light works to provide them sanctuary and resources.

Women’s Empowerment Group

The mothers of children in the youth group are invited into Little Light’s women’s empowerment group, called “Umoja,” which is Swahili for “Unity.” The group’s mission is to give women living in the Namuwongo slum tools to better their economic and social situation. Members of the women’s group meet every afternoon at the organization to make authentic African jewelry from recycled newspapers and hand-rolled beads. The jewelry is marketed in Uganda and abroad to provide an income and livelihood for women.

Mama Pendo Jewelry

The name the group has coined for the jewelry brand is Mama Pendo, which translated from Kiswahili means “The Mother of Love.” The initiative aims to improve the quality of life for refugees and single mothers trying to provide their children with an education.

Little Light Uganda volunteers have worked with the women to support their hard work and create a website for their jewelry to be sold. The proceeds from sold jewelry go toward projects the women feel passionate about, all of which intend to benefit the conditions for struggling women and other vulnerable individuals.

Combating Malaria and COVID-19

One of the group’s projects is dedicated to fighting malaria in Uganda, which is one of the main causes of death in the country. According to the American Journal of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, between 70,000 to 100,000 children in Uganda die from the disease every year. The group uses money earned from sold bracelets to buy an organic mosquito-repellent soap, which is given to disadvantaged families that live in places that are more vulnerable to malaria.

The women have also created an initiative to combat COVID-19. Since hygiene is an essential tool for preventing the spread of the virus, the group has pledged one bar of soap for a family in Namuwango living in poverty for every website purchase.

Women’s Empowerment for Poverty Reduction in Uganda

Little Light Uganda does a lot for its community with initiatives like the Mama Pendo project. Not only is the organization helping those in need but it is also empowering women living in poverty. Women with more resources and liberation are more likely to pursue their own education and prioritize the health, nutritional and educational needs of their children.

– Celia Brocker
Photo: Flickr

Health Concerns During COVID-19COVID-19 has understandably been the main focus around the world. In developed countries, many are new to health epidemics and the disruptions caused by them. But, in some parts of the world, widespread disease is not new at all and COVID-19 is not the only health concern. There are several other global health concerns during COVID-19. Some seem obvious, like malaria or HIV/AIDS. But, some have made less news, like a toxic goldmine in Ethiopia. These health crises also require assistance and aid from the international community.

HIV/AIDS in South Africa

In 2019, it was estimated that more than seven million people in South Africa were living with HIV. Roughly 200,000 of those people were newly diagnosed in 2019, and in that same year, 72,000 people died. Though 70% of people receive antiretroviral therapy (ART), the disease remains incurable. Its prevalence makes it one of the priority health concerns during COVID-19.

Though South Africa has the largest population of people living with HIV in the world, it has made a lot of progress. Data indicates that in 2018, 90% of infected individuals were aware of their status and 87% of people receiving treatment were virally suppressed, meaning they do not transfer the virus. Despite this success, rates continue to increase and it disproportionately affects women and young girls.

In 2016, South Africa made treatment for HIV free to all, where it used to be available only to those with advanced infections. This comes after South Africa made pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) available to all sex workers to prevent HIV contraction in the first place. Though it did take years for South Africa to acknowledge this epidemic, the country is making progress. However, more focus and attention needs to go toward addressing HIV/AIDs in South Africa as it is a significant health crisis.

Malaria in sub-Saharan Africa

COVID-19 severely affected sub-Saharan Africa’s access to insecticide-treated nets (ITN) and malaria treatments. The World Health Organization (WHO) urged nations to resume the distribution of these things, in fear that mortality rates in 2020 would reach 769,000, which is double the rates of 2018.

Preventative treatments, which deliver antimalarial medication to asymptomatic people, aimed at school-aged children, has shown to significantly reduce the risk of contracting malaria. Health officials in sub-Saharan Africa have been urged to take heed of this, but the poverty affecting the region limits progress.

A whole 90% of global malaria deaths happen in sub-Saharan Africa, and of that figure, 78% of victims are children. Malaria is a treatable condition, but those most susceptible to it usually live in a state of poverty, unable to afford treatment. Malaria in sub-Saharan Africa is one of the most pressing global health concerns besides COVID-19.

Toxic Gold Mine in Ethiopia

Gold mining is an important industry in Ethiopia. The export of gold and similar minerals makes up 7-10% of Ethiopia’s export earnings. Hundreds of thousands of people are employed in the mines, both skilled and unskilled.

But, in Ethiopia’s most populous region, Oromia, a gold mine has released harmful contaminants that have severely affected people. Serious deficiencies in mine management have left the soil and water contaminated with dangerous levels of cyanide, arsenic and mercury. This contamination resulted in high rates of miscarriage, stillbirths and infant mortality, birth defects, the destruction of livestock and crops and locals are afflicted with debilitating illnesses. Residents say there was no warning about potential toxins,

The mine was considered so toxic that the situation was deemed a violation of human rights. After pushback from the citizens, it was temporarily shut down, but there was no accountability or treatment for those affected. There remains doubt whether the air and water are now safe and residents anticipate that the mine will be reopened. In August 2020, mineworkers were asked to attend a meeting, cementing this assumption. In collaboration, human rights organizations submitted a document to the Human Rights Committee entailing Ethiopia’s violations of rights in regard to the contaminated mine. It documents Ethiopia’s failures and necessary reparations that should be made to people.

To safeguard the well-being of the Ethiopian people and ensure that aid is provided to the affected people, it is essential for the international community to get involved.

COVID-19 and Other Global Health Concerns

The COVID-19 pandemic has upset the health of nations globally, no matter the resources a country has. But, it has also overshadowed some pressing issues. There are other major health concerns during COVID-19 that need international attention and aid as well.

– Maddey Bussmann
Photo: Flickr

Boosting Health in the Developing WorldThe health of those living in developing countries links to impacts caused by lack of access to food, clean drinking water, shelter and healthcare. Recent inventions have come about with the aim of boosting health in the developing world.

Flo Menstrual Kit

More often than not, girls in developing countries either cannot afford or do not have access to menstrual products. This makes it extremely difficult for them to go about their day, particularly if they are in school. Flo is a menstrual product that allows the user to wash, dry and carry a reusable menstrual pad with dignity. The concept was developed by Mariko Higaki Iwai. The Flo menstrual kit was designed with the following issues in mind:

  • School: Due to social stigma, girls worry that people will find out that they are menstruating at school. This fear is compounded by a lack of private restrooms in most schools in developing countries. This can cause girls to miss school or drop out entirely.
  • Hygiene: Reusable pads that go unwashed can cause reproductive infections and illnesses.
  • Privacy: It is difficult to find a private place to wash a reusable pad in rural areas and in schools.
  • Stigma: Menstruation is highly stigmatized and it can create a lack of confidence in girls who do not receive enough support surrounding the subject.

Flo addresses these issues, allowing girls to have productive days and stay in school while normalizing menstruation.

Hemafuse Autotransfusion

Hemafuse is a handheld device used for the autotransfusion of blood during an operation. This mechanical device was created by Sisu Global Health, a woman-led small business originating in Baltimore, Maryland. After members of Sisu Global Health witnessed the “soup ladle” method of blood transfusion in a Ghanian hospital, they wanted to create a safe alternative accessible to all. The device was originally invented to treat ruptured ectopic pregnancies, however, the device can also be used to replace or augment donor blood in an emergency situation. This device is imperative for developing countries as standard autotransfusion technology is very costly and these countries often do not have a ready supply of blood.

Kite Patch for Malaria

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2018, approximately 405,000 people died from malaria. The majority of these deaths were young children in Sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria is just one of several deadly diseases spread by mosquitoes. Others include the Zika virus, West Nile virus and dengue. The purpose of the Kite Patch is to eradicate malaria and reduce the amount of mosquito-borne diseases across the globe.

The Kite Patch is unique in that it does not use toxic DEET, poisons, pesticides, insecticides or any other harsh chemicals. The Kite Patch is long-lasting and it can be applied to clothing as opposed to the skin. It works by manipulating and interrupting the smell-neurons and sensor arrays insects use to find humans. The company has started the Kite Malaria-Free-World Campaign to help rid the world of malaria forever.

Child Vision Self-Adjustable Glasses

According to the Centre for Vision in the Developing World (CVDW), in developing countries, over 100 million youth between the ages of 12 and 18 in are nearsighted. The CVDW estimates that 60 million of these youth do not have access to vision correction options. The CVDW attributes five reasons for this lack: awareness, access, affordability, attractiveness and accuracy. First, people may not know that they have poor vision or that it can be corrected. Second, rural areas tend not to have shops where glasses can be purchased. Third, glasses are expensive and in order to be fit for them, one must attend multiple appointments. For many, this means missing work which is often a luxury that they cannot afford. Fourth, adolescents are often concerned about their appearance and risk being mocked for wearing glasses since they are not the norm. Finally, many people with glasses in developing countries are ill-fit for them due to poor testing or untrained opticians, which can harm their already poor vision.

The Child Vision initiative aims to address these five reasons with self-adjustable glasses that can be used by youth aged 12 to 18. The initiative will utilize school-based distribution programs to provide children in the developing world with glasses.

Pocketpure Portable Water Purifier

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), inadequate access to safe drinking water affects one in three people globally. Pocketpure is the invention that just might change that. In response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, George Page founded the Portapure company with the intent to provide access to clean drinking water for all. Portapure’s first invention was Pocketpure, a reusable, on-the-go device that can filter dirty water and make it clean enough to drink. It is essentially a collapsible collection cup with a water treatment apparatus and filtration unit that removes viruses, bacteria and other unsafe particles. With proper distribution, this device has the potential to provide clean and safe drinking water to millions of people around the world. Pocketpure is one of the inventions boosting health in the developing world.

While providing accessible healthcare for all is no easy task, these inventions show that there is work being done to combat the global health crisis. One invention at a time, innovators, creators and free-thinkers are boosting health in the developing world.

– Mary Qualls
Photo: Flickr

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