The connection between health and poverty is not a new one. The lack of access to healthcare, overcrowded healthcare facilities and the sometimes high costs of medications are major barriers for the poor to take appropriate steps to treat any health problems. Often, people turn to self-medication as an alternative to the expense of consulting a physician.

Paul J. Gertler, professor at the University of California Berkeley’s School of Public Health, said for the Washington Post, “Delaying medical care is a characteristic of poverty. For people living close to the edge, taking off a day to visit a doctor or staying home sick is literally taking food out of their mouths.”

It is no wonder that people facing such circumstances seek healthcare where they can get it cheaply. Sometimes this means going to a spiritual or traditional healer or taking the advice of family or friends. However, it can mean sharing medication, self-medicating or not completing a full-dose of a prescription so that it can be saved for another rainy day. These practices can be more dangerous than they seem.

Self-medicating can of course lead to using an incorrect medication, unsuitable for the medical condition, but it can also lead to overuse or underuse of the correct medication. A study based in a Nigerian community hospital concludes that a whopping 85 percent of the patients practiced self-medication and used an array of analgesics and anti-malarials either alone or in combination. According to Leadership, a local Nigerian newspaper, 75 percent of the populace rely on self-medication. This allows the market to flood with counterfeit drugs, low quality alternatives and charlatans selling ineffective herbal remedies.

From a public health point of view, incorrect usage of medication is a major cause of the rise in drug resistant infections. When patients do not complete a full dosage of antibiotics or use anti-malarials to treat unrelated infections, the disease-causing organisms have the chance to evolve to become resistant to these medications. Such resistant organisms then become untreatable and the resistant infection spreads among the population. Furthermore, the longer it takes to cure an infection due to use of incorrect medication, the higher the chances of an infection spreading.

The incorrect use of anti-malarials led to treatment failure and resistance to mainstay drugs like Chloroquine. This led to a shift in treatment policies worldwide and treatment with Artemisin Combination Therapy (ACT) began. Now, malarial infections resistant to ACT are spreading across Southeast Asia much faster than expected and can soon spread rapidly across the world if not contained. This story is frighteningly similar for a whole range of infections.

As science struggles to keep up with the evolution of drug resistance, policy can do its part. Increasing awareness and education about the disease causing organisms and the dangers of self-medicating is one approach. Improving infrastructure, the accessibility of healthcare facilities, resources at existing healthcare facilities and subsidies for medications will go a long way toward weaning the population away from self-medication.

There is another angle to this problem. In a survey in a district of Bangladesh, 100,000 doses of antibiotics were dispensed without a prescription. In Manila, Philippines, 66 percent of antibiotics were dispensed without a prescription. Heavily regulating pharmacies and preventing the sale of medication without a prescription can cut off one of the sources of self-medication.

More avenues will have to be explored to provide adequate healthcare and make good health a fulfilled right for each individual person so that the global population benefits.

Mithila Rajagopal

Sources: Annals of Ibadan Post-Graduate Medicine, Devex, Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, Leadership, Malaria Journal, Washington Post
Photo: Flickr

USAIDOver the years, The United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, has supplied 46 million people with food and protected 1.5 million children from preventable diseases. They hold 87 missions around the world, and are partnered with 3,500 companies and organizations. However, they only use one percent of the federal budget. Regardless of the minimal support from the government, USAID continues to create better living conditions for the world’s poor. Four recent developments are taking place in Afghanistan, Nigeria, Manila and Mozambique.

USAID has funded $62 million on Tetra Tech, a company focused on engineering and program management. Tetra Tech will focus on helping to develop the government system in Afghanistan. According to Business Wire, the company will “strengthen the linkages between the central government and provincial levels for strategic planning, budgeting and service delivery.” With this investment, the state will better develop communication to help citizens.

In Nigeria, USAID is helping farmers increase cocoa production to compensate for the fall in oil prices. Cocoa is a key export for Nigeria, and with the education to grow more effectively, it will support and diversify the economy. AllAfrica has recognized Mathew Burton, Director of Economic Growth and Environment for USAID, who believes “there are obviously opportunities for Nigeria to explore in the development of her cocoa sector.” With the search for investors to further help boost production, this can be a tremendous help for Nigeria’s economy and development.

After the multiple natural disasters the Philippines has endured, USAID has announced a partnership with the “Education Governance Effectiveness Project, which will help elementary public schools in the target provinces get back on track towards improving learning outcomes.” The mission is focused on helping students in grade school to help implement a solid learning foundation for their future education. Since education correlates to the rate of poverty, this will be a stepping stone for the country’s further development.

Feed the Future is the U.S. government’s initiative to end world hunger. USAID is assisting in helping farmers in Mozambique use “more productive agriculture technologies, improving nutrition and health, and connecting farmers to markets.” This initiative not only helps decrease starvation, but also increase the economy by selling goods in markets. USAID has educated farmers on proper agricultural techniques and partnered with the Government of Mozambique.

The progress USAID has made gives more reason to why they deserve better funding from the government. With consistent efforts to make better living conditions for the world’s poor, they are a beacon of hope to ending world poverty. The more USAID works to create plans across the globe, the less we will see famine and disease in poor countries.

– Kimberly Quitzon

Sources: USAID 1, USAID 2, Business Wire, All Africa, Feed The Future
Photo: Flickr

Poverty_in_ManilaThe United Nations ranks any income less than one U.S. dollar and 25 cents as impoverished. For many people in Manila, their income is less than the equivalent of 76 cents in the U.S. per day. Not only do 27.6 million Filipinos live below the poverty line, 12.2 million live below the subsistence level—meaning they are barely making it by on the minimum standard of living.

Infrastructure in Manila has improved since Benigno Aquino became president in 2010; however, inequalities in the city still exist. The 586 slums are put at additional risk when natural disasters strike. On Nov. 14, 2013,  the effects of a typhoon killed 6,000 people and left many homeless.

The Philippines also has one of the highest birth rates in Southeast Asia. The average population for a Manila slum is 75,000-80,000 people per square mile. It is theorized that Filipinos do not believe in or are not educated about contraception. Families generally have 10-12 children, making adequate resources hard to come by.

Most Manila citizens get their food from agriculture—also the city’s main source of income—but some of the poorest find food in the garbage. There is even a word for the food scrapped up from the trash: “pagpag.” Under these conditions, Manila is widespread with disease and illness.

While the government is aware of the problems and has claimed they will work on it, citizens still feel that they are not doing enough. Most aid comes from outside sources and organizations from other countries. There are many factors contributing to the poverty in Manila. Without major intervention, conditions will only continue to get worse for the people of Manila.

– Melissa Binns

Sources: CNN,  Mission Ministries Philippines,  News Statesman
Photo: Zimbio

New modes of electric transport are being implemented in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. These new vehicles will cut down the length of citizens’ commutes, save the city from losing money and — most importantly — drastically reduce the air pollution that currently encompasses the city.

On workdays in a city like Manila, the population rises from 12 million to 15 million people. The majority of these people drive their own vehicles into the city, creating immense amounts of traffic. And what should be a 30-minute commute can take up to three hours.

Currently, the most popular mode of public transportation in this major city is the Jeepney, a large diesel-powered vehicle that contributes significantly to air and noise pollution. A new innovation, called the eJeepney, will instead run on electricity, reducing annual carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.

The eJeepney can travel up to 100 kilometers a day, going up to 60 kilometers per hour, and will only require a four-hour electric charge. The Japanese International Corporation Agency (JICA) has calculated that with the current diesel Jeepneys, greenhouse gas emissions would increase to 5.72 million tons a year by 2030, compared with 4.7 million tons in 2012. eJeepneys will prevent this problem from getting worse.

Sigfrido Tinga, president of Global Electric Transportation, says, “Eighty-five percent of this Metro Manila pollution is vehicular… Just taking out the major part that’s causing that pollution, which is the jeep, is going to be amazing.”

The eJeepney is just the beginning of a revolution in the Philippines. Other modes of transportation are being evaluated to discover ways to reduce pollution in all areas, including reopening the use of a ferry system.

Executive Director of Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities Renato Constantino said, “We don’t see it, we inhale it. We definitely feel the effects of it in terms of local air pollution, pollution on the streets, and we also contribute in a big way to global climate change. Carbon dioxide is one of the leading causes of warming temperatures worldwide.”

By introducing these new vehicles, the electric transport revolution in the Philippines could change the way countries around the world provide public transportation.

– Hannah Cleveland

Sources: Channel News Asia, The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian

Poverty in the Philippines
The National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB) released its latest report on poverty in the Philippines on April 23, 2013. The results of the survey, which is taken every three years, showed that as of the first semester of 2012, 27.9 percent of Filipinos were living below the poverty line. This estimate is a concern to the Philippine government because it shows that despite the government’s targeted efforts, poverty rates have remained relatively unchanged from their 2009 levels.

According to the World Bank, the number of people living in extreme poverty has dropped in every other developing region in the world between 2005 and 2008, leaving many to ask why the Philippines has not seen the same decline.

In the NSCB’s 2006 survey, results showed that 28.8 percent of Filipinos were living on less than $1.25 per day. That number barely changed in 2009 when poverty levels were reported at 28.6 percent. With a decrease of only 0.7 percent over three years, poverty levels appear to have remained stagnant in the Philippines.

In order for a family of five to escape the label of “extremely poor” in 2006, they would have had to earn P1,681 ($39.09) a month. In 2009, they needed to bring home P2,042 ($47.49). By the 2012 survey, those income requirements more than doubled. The most recent NSCB report shows that families must earn P5,458 ($126.93) a month to put food on the table every day. If they want to meet non-food needs, such as clothing, they would have to earn P7,821 ($181.89).


Poverty in the Philippines


The report indicated that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) ranked as the worst national region with poverty levels in its provinces ranging from 42 percent to 47 percent. The region with the lowest incidences of poverty was the National Capital Region (NCR), averaging around 3.9 percent.

According to the NSCB, poverty rates are well above 40 percent in 15 provinces and one city (Catabato City is chartered and therefore not a part of a province).

The poorest province, Lanao del Sur, registered 68.9 percent poverty levels. The province with the lowest rate was the 2nd District of the NCR with 3.1 percent. The capital city of Manila, located in the 1st District of the NCR, had a 3.8 percent poverty rate.

In an attempt to combat the intergenerational transmission of poverty, the Philippine government began implementing a grant program for the country’s poorest in 2008.

Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT), funded by the World Bank, are intended to meet short term consumption needs. CCT is given to young children for attending school; to pregnant women to help them with pre-natal care and to families who get their health checked regularly. Despite meeting one goal of keeping children in school, many now believe that the CCT program is not doing enough.

Currently, the bottom 20 percent of the country’s earners make up six percent of the country’s total income. The top 20 percent bring in 50 percent of the total income. Based on the findings of the NSCB’s study, CCT has not been able to significantly improve this income inequality.

The CCT budget for the first semester of 2012 accounted for only a quarter of the amount needed to eradicate poverty in the Philippines. The NSCB estimates that P79.8 billion ($1.86 billion) was needed for the first half of 2012, but the budget for the whole year was only P39.4 billion ($92 million).

The government responded to the NSCB report by stating that it would begin monitoring poverty trends more closely through an annual survey instead of waiting every three years to do so.

It is not immediately known why extreme poverty in the Philippines has failed to show improvement. Regardless of the cause, it is evident that more has to be done to improve the lives of the country’s poorest.

Read more about poverty in Philippines


– Allana Welch

Source: The Inquirer, The Rappler, Philstar, World Bank
Photo: Pototour


Fiat lux! Let there be light! A timeless phrase that has been used since biblical times, in classrooms and even in movies has a more humanitarian and sustainable meaning since 2011. MyShelter Foundation, a ‘green-energy for all’ organization, began the Liter of Light project out of a simple idea to light up the homes of those who could not afford to do so themselves. With the help of MIT students, the technology of empty water bottles, water, bleach, and a slab of cement has taken the place of electricity and changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

The first installments began in Manila, Philippines. Since electricity rates are so high, families are forced to keep the lights off during the day. Due to the infrastructure of the homes in many of the poorer areas, however, light does not enter the homes during the day and families are left in darkness.

Building the makeshift light bulbs is easy and requires little to no maintenance. 1 liter plastic bottles are taken, filled with a small amount of bleach to keep the water and bottle clean and free of germs, then filled with water. When sunlight enters the bottle, enough light is produced that equals that of a 55-watt light bulb! The benefits of the water bottle bulbs are endless. Not only do they eliminate the need for electricity during the day, but they also reduce monthly electricity costs, are sustainable, help keep slums free of plastic waste, are easy to install, and add a greater sense of well being to the home environment.

Since 2011, Isang Litrong Liwanag (the translation of Liter of Light in Filipino) has spread to other countries such as Cambodia, India, Vietnam, Spain, Egypt, Peru, Kenya, the Middle East, and even Switzerland. MyShelter hopes to reach its goal of installing 1 million water bottle light bulbs by 2015.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: A Liter of Light