Doctors for MadagascarMore than 75% of people living in Madagascar are living under conditions of extreme poverty. Disease and natural disasters consistently fall upon the country. Madagascar faces a dangerous lack of proper healthcare provisions and a low number of medical professionals to meet the needs of all its inhabitants. The country does not lack hope of improvement though. Doctors for Madagascar carries out projects to help address the issues that Madagascar faces with appropriate medical care.

Doctors for Madagascar

Doctors for Madagascar (DfM) was founded by German doctors in 2011 after they observed the meager amount of healthcare provisions and trained professionals that were available. Its work is concentrated on providing for one of the country’s most poverty-stricken regions, being the remote south of the island.

This organization allocates immediate aid but it also wants to have a lasting impact and work toward sustainable solutions. Therefore, Doctors for Madagascar monitors its projects in the long-term to be sure that each one is reaching its maximum potential in both service and longevity. In keeping with this idea, the organization creates partnerships with doctors that are local to the south of Madagascar to base its aid on what experts in the community believe to be most necessary.

The Obstacles Madagascar Faces

  • Environmental challenges negatively affect the farming fields and threaten agricultural outputs.
  • Tropical storms have forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes.
  • Hunger affects millions. In 2018, Madagascar ranked number six of nations around the world with the highest rate of malnutrition.
  • Diseases such as measles and plague affect thousands, especially due to low vaccination rates.
  • There is no universal health insurance.
  • Lack of consistent electricity.
  • Maternal health is inadequately meeting the needs of poor mothers and is especially complex during a complicated birth where proper facilities could be hours away from the mother’s village. Those who end up delivering without the assistance of medical professionals depend on the oldest women in the village.
  • Insufficient medical supplies along with difficult working conditions are some of the difficulties being faced within Centres de Santé de Base, which are facilities made of stone that provide healthcare in the countryside of Madagascar. Each one generally contains a nurse, midwife and sometimes a doctor.
  • A lack of trained medical professionals, especially in the south of the island.

 How Doctors for Madagascar Offers a Solution

Doctors for Madagascar does not discriminate against the members of the communities it helps, therefore, the organization takes care of the medical costs for those who cannot afford the treatment they need. Along with covering costs, the organization also provides cost-free maternal healthcare to women. As many women are unlikely to see a doctor throughout their entire pregnancy, DfM provides access to check-ups for women.

Transportation for pregnant women has improved as ambulances are provided and free hotlines have been made accessible for communication between ambulances and Centres de Santé de Base.

DfM builds health facilities and provides construction expertise to help carry out each project. The organization also renovates medical facilities that are necessary to the community’s health, providing medical equipment that is needed in the healthcare facilities and issuing training for its maintenance. Volunteering consists of doctors joining on aid missions. Each doctor that works with the organization must have sufficient experience and have a strong background in the french language to effectively communicate and treat Madagascans as needed. The organization also offers training to local medical professionals by experienced medical professionals that work or volunteer with DfM.

The Onset of COVID-19

As each nation confronts the global COVID-19 pandemic, Madagascar is not facing its first or only crisis. Dengue fever and malaria are killing more people in Madagascar than COVID-19, yet the pandemic is still emphasizing the urgency of improvement needed in medical care and the importance of access to healthcare. In fact, it is even shaping how some of the highest authorities in Madagascar influence this important matter through their advocacy. The Bishops’ Conference of Madagascar (CEM) stated that “The health crisis reveals the importance of an efficient health structure… we believe the time has come to look for ways to improve public health as a whole.”

The Future of Madagascar

The need for medical aid in Madagascar is a pressing issue. Doctors for Madagascar has proven that through awareness, action and understanding, impoverished communities can be helped in both the short and the long term. It is true that the country faces many recurring threats but that does not mean there has been no positive change. These changes can be seen in Madagascar today, which can provide an optimistic outlook on working to reduce poverty in other countries as well.

– Amy Schlagel
Photo: Flickr

New studies have found a strong link between access to medical care and the alleviation of poverty. Authors of the research claim that improved healthcare in especially vulnerable regions can help lift people out of impoverishment. They argue that disease can act as a “poverty trap“: individuals who are sick are less likely to work and make money, thus reducing their chances of social mobility. Furthermore, breadwinners with sick family members often have to pay medical expenses or transportation costs, which increases the economic burden on their backs, perpetuating their poverty.

The relationship between bad health and poverty can be a vicious cycle. The poor are often unable to afford what is needed to maintain good health for themselves and their family members. Impoverished areas also routinely suffer from a lack of information on healthy practices and people who promote social services for health-related issues. This leads to a deterioration of the community’s health and, consequently, the perpetuation of poverty in it.

Researchers argue that good medical care and alleviation of poverty come hand in hand. They are advocating for policies which increase the accessibility of healthcare and improve its quality. This has a dual effect on a nation’s well being: not only does it keep its population healthy, but it helps to lift them out of poverty and thus stimulates the economy. The authors of these studies point to Rwanda as a success story for this type of policy.

Beginning in 2005, the Rwandan government partnered with a variety of international organizations to help improve and extend access to healthcare throughout the nation for all of its citizens The results have been astounding. In the last decade, the country has experienced the greatest drop in deaths associated with HIV in the world — 78 percent. Mortality rates of children under 5 fell 65 percent in the same period. Between 2005 and 2010, more than 1 million Rwandans lifted themselves out of poverty. Life expectancy in the country has risen from 48 to 58.

Although keeping populations healthy is a good enough motive to improve healthcare, the extremely strong correlation between better medical care and alleviation of poverty should be an added motivation for governments and the international community to pursue these policies. The findings of these studies will hopefully help shed light on the importance of good healthcare in impoverished regions of the world.

Alan Garcia-Ramos

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Greece
As thousands of refugees in Greece continue to remain trapped in the country after an agreement closing the borders, American veterans are volunteering again to provide medical care. The agreement between the Turkey and the E.U. went into effect March 20th, leaving refugees already in the country unable to travel back to Turkey or continue on to Europe.

According to the U.N., there are 42,000 refugees located on the mainland of Greece, with another 8,000 spread across the Greek islands. Grouped in crowded camps by Greek officials, the asylum-seekers face overflowing toilets, lack of health care, poor food, violence and open harassment of women.

Many are housed in makeshift shelters in abandoned buildings. Though the country’s borders are officially closed to refugees, many still attempt to flee to Europe, with 3,000 having died or gone missing in attempted water-crossings from Turkey 2016 alone.

Team Rubicon

In response, many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) mobilized to help refugees stranded in Greece. One of them is Team Rubicon: a crisis-response organization founded by two marines in 2010 to provide aid to earthquake-stricken Haitians. Since its inception, the group evolved into an organization capable of deploying response teams around the world.

Now boasting leaders such as retired General Stanley McChrystal on its Board of Directors and retired General David Petraeus on its Board of Advisors, the veterans’ organization is active in all 50 states and around the world. Operating in small teams of current service members, veterans and civilian emergency workers, Team Rubicon deploys to disaster areas that may be difficult for larger organizations to reach.

The Borgen Project had the opportunity to interview Matt Pelak, the International Operations Chief for Team Rubicon who noted that since July, Team Rubicon has provided “primary and emergency medical care to a camp of about 200 at-risk refugees including pregnant women and unaccompanied children.”

The camp, established by the Radcliffe Foundation at a disused textile factory along Greece’s northern border, provides a reprieve from the crowded and dangerous conditions at many refugee sites.

Pelak asserted that Team Rubicon decided to deploy to Greece after assessing and concluding that the economic and emergency response capacity in the country was overwhelmed. The deluge of refugees are fleeing violence in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East.

The Team Rubicon medical specialists have made efforts to send smaller mobile teams to surrounding camps as well, providing free medical care to the refugees they are able to see.

Though they are coordinating their efforts with a slew of other NGOs and the U.N., Pelak recognized that there are simply too many refugees in Greece for the current medical resources allocated. “The medical care [we provide] can be the first in months or years for many refugees,” he said.

The Struggles of Resettlement

Efforts to resettle the asylum seekers are underway, but so far only about 1,700 have been allowed to officially relocate to E.U. countries willing to take them in. Those that arrived after March 20th are supposed to be sent back to Turkey, but the Greek government has only deported 500 so far.

The refugees in Greece who arrived before the deadline will have to wait until the government can make a ruling on their applications for asylum. Considering the number of refugees and the variety of languages spoken among them, the process may take some time. Talking about the masses stranded in Greece, Pelak urged people around the world to “Support NGOs that provide aid on the ground and strongly consider taking in refugees by pressuring lawmakers.”

Will Sweger

Photo: Flickr

cleft lips

Children born with cleft lips deserve to have the same quality of life and level of confidence as those who are not. To accomplish that goal, Smile Train is now becoming the world’s leading nongovernmental organization providing free surgeries for children with cleft lips and palates.

According to the organization’s website, Smile Train has helped millions of children from over 85 developing countries around the world since 1999, including Peru, Nigeria, Nepal and Mexico, just to name a few. As stated in their mission statement, the nonprofit has “transformed the lives of more than one million children by giving them the power of a smile.”

Smile Train prides itself on offering a variety of services that not only cover medical equipment and surgeries to repair cleft lips but also address financial needs, provide comprehensive cleft care and raise awareness about cleft lips. More details on these areas of focus can be found on the organization’s website.

In February 2016, Smile Train organized a visit to one of their local partner hospitals in Cap Haitien, Haiti. Four of the organization’s celebrity advocates, including Miss USA Olivia Jordan, Karrueche Tran, Quincy Brown and Kristen Taekman, took part in this trip.

They had a chance to see with their own eyes how cleft lip surgeries can transform the lives of children in developing countries. The group’s participation has a positive impact on the work of Smile Train by directing more public attention to this solvable issue.

Recently, Herts & Essex Observer reported that a 14-year-old teenage girl who “doubled up at the village pantomime by hosting the interval activities as well as performing” had raised £900 for Smile Train. This highlights that anyone of any age can make a difference.

More real-life stories about Smile Train’s goals and achievements are published regularly on the organization’s blog.

Hoa Nguyen

Sources: The Quint, Herts & Essex Observer, Smile Train 1, Look to the Stars, Smile Train 2

Israeli Hospitals Treat Palestinians
An Israeli Defense Force (IDF) reserve unit has been specifically tasked with providing medical and humanitarian assistance to Palestinians. The unit is staffed by medical professionals who administer training exercises designed to mimic potential emergency situations in the field.

In addition to realistic conflict and disaster training scenarios, there is an emphasis on providing unquestioned care to any and all patients regardless of nationality or religion.

Capt. (Res.) Dr. Yishai Lev, a commander in the company, comments on its conceptualization, “The idea of adapting the unit actually came from our soldiers who recognized the need for it in the field.” This implies the civilian impact of the conflict was clearly witnessed by multitudes of IDF forces who were inclined to work toward a solution.

In reference to the humanitarian motive, Lev adds, “This medical care stems from our commitment to the Jewish and modern value of human rights.” The IDF company also collaborates with Palestinian medical services in an effort to help establish a more robust medical infrastructure.

An unfortunate truth, however, is that some Palestinian patients are reluctant to receive care from Israelis in fear of the cultural backlash from their societies back home. Israeli hospitals are aware of these concerns and have emphasized that doctors must provide all patients with exceptional treatment and care.

Yazid Fallah, a medical coordinator at a hospital in Haifa states, “We calmed them down and said there is no such danger in an Israeli hospital. We see humans and not antagonists. Israeli patients try to make the Palestinian patients feel comfortable. They believe that they are all in the same boat.” The hope is that upon their release, patients will share their experiences in efforts to change prevailing attitudes.

The IDF reserve company is not an isolated instance of Palestinian aid, as there is a recent precedent and history of aiding impacted civilians. During the midst of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict this past summer, the IDF opened a field hospital intended to treat Palestinian civilians caught in the crossfire.

The wounded civilians in Gaza far outnumbered the capacity for the region’s hospitals. Facilities were ill-equipped and often under siege during operation. This unfortunate truth was realized by the IDF and was the catalyst for setting up the field hospital.

The hospital was strategically placed in between Gaza and Israel at the Erez border crossing. Situated in Northern Gaza, the Erez border is the only legally sanctioned crossing to and from Israel, which at the time, received a heavy influx of foot traffic. Border patrols were said to have been prepared for 5,000 crossings per day.

It is also the location of the first casualty of the summer’s conflict after an Israeli volunteer was killed by a mortar. The primary function of the field hospital is to extend emergency type care to patients, but it was capable of servicing other medical needs as well.

A statement released by the IDF read, “The hospital will include an emergency clinic, pediatric and gynecological services, a delivery room and even overnight hospitalization when needed. The staff will include doctors, nurses, x-ray technicians and lab technicians.”

Regardless of diplomatic allegiance, efforts of preventing innocent suffering are always commendable. In reference to this sentiment, Lev states, “When people are in need of care, we can’t afford to be indifferent.”

The Borgen Project

Sources: Breaking Israel News, Doctors Without Borders, United With Israel
Photo: Flickr

Best and Worst Developed Countries for Medical Care
Medical care as an institution exists to help the population of a country be healthy and thrive. Yet, even in major developed countries of the world, there are large gaping holes within the medical care system, leaving more than tens of thousands of people without the proper care they desperately need. The following list will showcase the world’s developed countries’ best and worst systems, based on The Commonwealth Fund report.


1. Sweden

With health expenditures rising to over $3,925 per capita, efficient and quality care has been provided to all citizens of this country. This means that both people with below-average and above-average incomes have access to the same healthcare services and rate them similarly.

2. Switzerland

With health expenditures of about $5,643 per capita, Switzerland scores high in healthy lives, quality of life and easy access to its citizens. The country’s citizens receive relatively timely healthcare. A lower percentage of people forgo medical treatment because of costs, and a lower percentage of people skip out on medical tests, skip prescriptions or have claims denied by insurance.

3. United Kingdom

The U.K. ranked number one overall compared to all of the other countries in the Commonwealth Fund report. Using $3,405 in health expenditures per capita, it also ranked superiorly in cost, quality, access and efficiency. In terms of effective computerized reminders for follow-up care, the U.K. scored a 95 percent. It also scored a 95 percent for providing diabetes patients with all four recommended services in chronic care.


1. France

Although France had the lowest preventable mortality rate, a high life expectancy and a low infant mortality rate, the country ranked ninth overall when compared to the other countries in the report. France ranked dead last in terms of access, scoring low in both timeliness and cost of care measures.

2. Canada

Surprisingly, Canada ranked tenth overall relative to the other countries in the report. The country ranked the lowest in efficiency, with the largest number of patients visiting emergency departments for conditions that could have been treated by regular doctors, a high percentage of re-hospitalizations after treatment and some inefficiency with medical records that did not reach the doctor’s office in a timely manner.

3. The United States

Coming in dead last is the United States. The U.S has the most expensive health care costs per capita, at over $8,500, and the most expensive health care expenditures overall, at 17.7 percent of the nation’s GDP, but it scored worse than every other country in the report. Within the data, there appears to be marked differences in care between those with lower-than-average incomes and those with higher-than-average incomes. Sadly, the U.S. was reported to have had the highest number of infant moralities out of all the tested countries and it ranked second to last in preventable deaths.

These findings are a stark reminder that while developed countries do have a better probability of providing health care to its citizens, they do not inherently have that position. Choices made by governing bodies and institutions that provide the care cannot simply rely on a budget or seek their own personal gain by preferring to treat wealthier individuals over the non-wealthy.

Understanding this is key to providing medical care not only for the United States, but for the world and for those undeveloped countries that are in desperate need of an efficient and stable healthcare system.

Alysha Biemolt

Sources: Commonwealth Fund, Cheat Sheet, Medical Dictionary
Photo: The Richest

Among the resolutions passed at the gathering of delegates for the World Health Assembly on May 25, the most critical to the development of sustainable health for nations involved were resolutions that focused on the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance and low immunization rates.

The World Health Assembly (WHA) marked its sixty-eighth year last month, May 2015, with an annual meeting, lasting nine days in Geneva, Switzerland. Whilst a number of important pieces on global health were shared, WHA attendees from 194 member states also determined what should be done to advance the global health agenda.

WHA attendees agreed on resolutions that focused on microorganisms’ growing resistance to antimicrobial drugs as well as antibiotic resistance around the world, which jeopardize healthcare providers’ ability to effectively treat infectious diseases. As a result, a part of the resolutions drafted included a plan of action for member states, which they could utilize to combat this growing threat.

The World Health Organization outlined the five objectives of this plan:

  1. Improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance;
  2. Strengthen surveillance and research;
  3. Reduce the incidence of infection;
  4. Optimize the use of antimicrobial medicines;
  5. Ensure sustainable investment in countering antimicrobial resistance.

WHA delegates encouraged the adopting member states to customize and enact this global plan by May 2017.

Additionally, there were also resolutions passed in regards to scaling up immunizations in low and middle income countries, which tend to suffer some of the highest immunization costs.

Though the WHA enacted the Global Vaccine Action Plan in 2012, due to extremely slow and irregular progress, the World Health Organization states that the “resolution calls on WHO to coordinate efforts to address gaps in progress. It urges Member States to increase transparency around vaccine pricing and explore pooling the procurement of vaccines.”

Not only will decreasing the costs of vaccines potentially shape the way nations deal with health crises, it will also save thousands, if not millions, of lives. This effort will drastically reduce the number of deaths among children and greatly improve their ability to fight infections, both minor and life threatening.
In an effort to bring better vaccination programs to low and middle income countries, the WHA secretariat, met with representatives of participating countries to discuss what could be done to improve vaccination accessibility.

Both antimicrobial resistance and suitable access to vaccinations are issues that every nation must contend with, as they represent a threat to the health and safety of citizens everywhere. Combating a problem begins with awareness, and hopefully, we will see more development in awareness campaigns regarding these important global health issues in the coming months.

– Candice Hughes

Sources: International Business Times, The New York Times World Health Organization World Health Organization
Photo: Flickr

Childfund International
The United States Census Bureau has forecasted the population of the world to reach eight billion by the year 2025. In terms of hunger this can be considered an extremely daunting statistic. How will eight billion people eat in the future when people cannot even adequately feed everyone living on Earth today? Eliminating global poverty and giving children necessary skills to survive and thrive in the coming years are crucial parts of the world hunger solution.

ChildFund International is one organization that focuses mainly on children and improving their quality of life in order to sustain a better future. It is known for sponsoring children in over 50 countries. Giving to countries in need with specific guidelines involving nutrition and social development have been proven effective in comparison with unspecific cash donations.

Focusing on making sure children and families have access to food and health living environments is a great strategy for charities to implement. Once starvation is off the table, kids can go to school and parents to work. Eventually they can become self-sufficient, disbarring the notion of welfare dependency.

Supporting children with food, water, school supplies, and access to decent medical care is all part of the sponsorship benefits that ChildFund International distributes. A recent article on their website notes how population increases are only exacerbating the problem of widespread hunger. Developing countries are becoming more urban; building cities means destroying farmland. Farmland is necessary for agricultural production, and the less natural farmland there is, the more difficult it becomes to produce food.

Solving global poverty and solving world hunger are interrelated goals. Providing access to clean drinking water, food and medical care boosts the economy by increasing the number of healthy learning and working children in a community. The more educated the children are, the more likely they are to grow up and secure sustainable employment.

Having a stable job will mean having a stable income and the ability to break the vicious cycle of poverty. Studies have shown that poverty in the United States has decreased significantly over the past 50 years and the goal of eradicating poverty altogether is very possible with governmental assistance and appropriate policy implementation. However, poverty is still a huge issue in foreign nations and every effort is needed to help resolve it.

There are still billions of people living on barely $2 per day and suffering from hunger and the absence of clean water. Foundations like ChildFund International and everyone who gets involved can make sure everyone has the chance at a better tomorrow.

– Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: The Economist, The Huffington Post
Photo: TriCounty Sentry