The Flying Doctors Nigeria is an air ambulance service based in Lagos, Nigeria. Founded by Dr. Ola Orekunrin, the service is the first of its kind in West Africa. The company was founded to serve a need for immediate air transport for those injured or in desperate need of medical attention. According to Orekunrin, for many in Nigeria, medical help was next to impossible to find because the two or three good hospitals were two to four day journeys away. For a nation that has a huge oil and gas industry, the fact that there was no system for transporting to hospitals quickly seemed to be a glaring error in heath care to Orekunrin.

Dr. Orekunrin herself was impacted by the lack of transportation for the sick or injured. A few years ago, while Orekunrin was studying in the U.K., her 12-year-old sister fell gravely ill while on vacation in Nigeria. She needed medical care urgently but the local hospital could not care for the condition she had. The family was shocked to find out that there was no available air ambulance service in all of West Africa to move the girl to a better healthcare center  and that they would have to call for a flight all the way from South Africa. By the time the flight was even available, the little girl had already passed away.

For Orekunrin, the sudden loss of her younger sister was both shocking and life changing. A doctor by the age of 21, Orekunrin had a promising career in the U.K. as one the youngest, most talented, and ambitious young leaders. Yet she left it all to move to Nigeria to address healthcare in the African nation. So Orekunrin went to study evacuation models and air ambulance in developing countries. In 2010, she launched her own company Flying Doctors Nigeria.

Flying Doctors Nigeria is currently in its third year and continues to swiftly transport people who need urgent medical care. It has since airlifted and provided expert health care en route to 500 patients. The company uses a fleet of planes and helicopters in its work. The service has carried all sorts of injured or ill from victims of traffic accidents to gunshot wounds. This transportation is critical to patients as roads in parts of West Africa are often poorly maintained and badly lit at night, making transportation in cars both inefficient and difficult.

There are still many hurdles that this young company must face. First and foremost, aviation business is highly expensive in Nigeria. Orekunrin has stated “keeping costs down is always a challenge.” Furthermore red tape is always tangling up businesses. Yet with a growing financial services sector and a growing petroleum and gas industry could fuel demand for companies like Flying Doctors Nigeria. For Orekunrin and those who work with her, their labor is difficult, but the rewards for their hard work and dedication are life saving.

– Grace Zhao

Sources: CNN CP Africa Knowledge Fountain
Photo: Blogspot

Two million tons of medical supplies are wasted annually by American hospitals. At the same time, ten million children from developing countries don’t receive the medical attention they need to survive. Such a large amount of waste of such important necessities is unacceptable.

MedShare is dedicated to the recovery of these life-changing supplies. The non-profit organization collected over $100 million worth of supplies and equipment that was going to be thrown out from hospitals and corporations. This has had a profound effect on the people who would not receive this medical attention otherwise.

The first step MedShare undergoes is the collection of the supplies. These supplies can be anything from leftover equipment to waste found in landfills. MedShare has collected two million cubic feet of waste from landfills that can be used for medical treatment.
MedShare then figures out what communities most need the collected supplies. One thousand different boxes of medical supplies have been shipped out to meet the specific needs of those that find themselves without proper medical care.

Finally, the supplies are shipped out. They are immediately at the disposal of those suffering from illness and injury. Developing countries are provided sufficient medical care at no cost due to the work of MedShare and its donors.

The numbers backing MedShare’s support of those in need are staggering. More than 2,100 medical teams have been given $2.5 million in medical supplies to work with. The amount of supplies shipped to over 93 developing countries equates to 950 full tractor-trailers. MedShare has been named a top charity on Charity Navigator for their contributions.

Millions have reaped the benefits of MedShare’s dedication to efficiency and the utilization of what others view as waste. For more information on this important cause, visit the MedShare website.

– William Norris

Sources: MedShare, Charity Navigator

Chinese Health Diplomacy in Africa
China has been a part of health aid to Africa since 1941 and has since then developed their intervention in Africa to be distinctly different from that of Western aid. Their emphasis has been on horizontal interventions to further develop health care infrastructure in a clearly anti-imperialist manner. Health diplomacy for China specifically targets under-served rural communities, with more than 15,000 medical personnel serving in Africa since 1964. Another important difference is that China’s assistance is almost entirely public in nature, and in the words of one Chinese informant: “If they don’t ask, we don’t provide”.

This factor is incredibly important, as it gives the aid recipients a much larger role in any initiatives, wherein they propose a project and the Chinese government then assesses whether it can meet those demands or not. Chinese medical teams also tend to stay together in one facility for a minimum of two years, whereas interventions from the West usually end up turned over to the government with an end to donor involvement after a project ends. In this way, China is working towards a very sustainable strengthening of the Chinese healthcare system.

The construction of clinics and training of medical students is also a focus point of Chinese health diplomacy. Most recently, the development of “container hospitals” will soon be introduced into African countries, either in Cameroon or Namibia as a starting place. Each hospital consists of ten containers with rooms for “general clinics, waiting for patients, treatments, a pharmacy and back-up power supply”. These portable hospitals were developed in order to be used for long-term service use near suburban villages. Smaller “container clinics” have also been developed with one to three containers. These clinics are expected to reach Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Egypt by the end of the year, and the first of these will be staffed by African doctors trained specifically to use these container hospitals and clinics.

While China’s focus on infrastructure is clear and effective, recently Chinese health diplomacy has seen a shift to work closely with organizations such as The Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization. These collaborations have been focused on malaria and HIV/AIDS treatment, which are a contrast to the infrastructural focus of China’s common aid projects. Hopefully, Western organizations and donors will begin to shift their focus as well so that no source of aid is entirely focused on vertical or on horizontal aid programs. As well, all forms of assistance should work closely with the recipient governments in order to provide more effective and efficient aid.

– Sarah Rybak
Source: All Africa, All Africa
Photo: The Age World

A Bacteria Makes Mosquitoes Resistant to Malaria

BBC journalist, James Gallagher, reports that researchers have found a strain of Wolbachia bacteria that can infect mosquitoes and make them resistant to the malaria parasite. Malaria is spread by the insects so it is hoped that giving mosquitoes malaria immunity could reduce human cases. Experts said this was a first, distant prospect for malaria control.

Malaria is a major global disease. The World Health Organization estimates that 220 million people are infected and 660,000 die  annually.

Research in Australia has shown that a different strain of the Wolbachia bacterium can prevent the spread of dengue fever by mosquitoes. That research is more advanced and has been shown to work in large trials in the wild. Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US, said this study was a proof of concept that the same could be done for malaria:

“If you can get it to survive and proliferate in the environment of mosquitoes in malaria-stricken areas, this could conceivably have an important impact on the control of malaria…I think the potential for this is very important. The implementation will be the challenge.”

Commenting on the study, Professor David Conway, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, cautioned that it was in just one species, Anopheles stephensi, which carries malaria in the Middle East and South Asia. Anopheles gambiae, in Africa, is a bigger problem.

One of the researchers, Dr Zhiyong Xi, told the BBC: “We have done only one strain. If we target Anopheles gambiae we would need to apply the same technique again.” He added that if it could be shown to work then “the Wolbachia tool can complement currently available tools”, such as mosquito nets and medication.

– Maria Caluag

Source: BBC
Photo: Purdue

hiv children treatment where you live botswana study efavirenz nevirapine medicine
There are over 3 million children that are HIV-positive, with more than 90% of them living in Sub-Saharan Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends both efavirenz and nevirapine for first-line pediatric use in resource-limited settings such as sub-Saharan Africa. A recent study compared the first-line treatments for HIV-positive children and was conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, along with colleagues at the Botswana-Baylor Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence. The study found that initial treatment with efavirenz was more effective than nevirapine in suppressing the virus in children ages 3 to 16, and that nevirapine is less effective than efavirenz. Nevirapine, the less effective drug, is used much more often in countries with a high prevalence of HIV.

The study notes that nevirapine costs less than efavirenz and is more widely available in pediatric formulations, which may explain this disturbing fact. Studies that focused on adult treatment also found efavirenz to be more effective than nevirapine. Conclusively, the study states, “Given this evidence, it is very reasonable to adjust pediatric HIV treatment guidelines…more work should be done to make efavirenz a more financially viable option for children on anti-retroviral therapy in these resource-limited settings.”

– Essee Oruma

Source: allAfrica
Photo: Science Daily

New Vaccine Aimed at Preventing Endemic
Throughout many developing nations, foot and mouth disease is considered an endemic in livestock; especially in Asia, Africa, and parts of South America. Previously, the only vaccines for foot and mouth disease were very fragile and had to be created inexpensive labs with the proper equipment, and needed to be kept refrigerated in order to stay “alive,” preventing possibilities of any long-distance transportation.

Now, researchers have created a synthetic version of the foot and mouth vaccine that does not require refrigeration, making it much more accessible to rural areas where the disease is common. The new vaccine can be transported and even created in developing countries since it can withstand varying temperatures.

Within the last few years, the UK, South Korea, and Japan were all victims of an outbreak of the virus that had originated in Asia. The foot and mouth outbreak in the UK cost the country an estimated 8 billion pounds.

The researchers’ goal of having the foot and mouth vaccine distributed globally in order to stop the virus at the source instead of waiting for an outbreak will now be much more practical with this synthetic version. Scientists say that the new version could be widely available within 6 to 8 years. Researchers are also working on synthetic vaccines for diseases that affect human populations, including polio and human hand, foot, and mouth disease.

Christina Kindlon

Source: Guardian

Students and faculty at the University of Bristol are actively making many necessary pharmaceuticals more available to people living in the developing world. The university created its’ own “equitable access policy” act in order to help create affordable medicine and drugs that will be more accessible to patients suffering curable diseases throughout the world.

Any drugs that are produced using the University of Bristol are entered into this program and the result is a giant difference in prices, making them more realistically available to many people who would otherwise not be able to afford their medicines. Hopefully, other universities will create similar policies and contribute to making needed medicine more accessible. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that limited access to medicine is responsible for about 18 million deaths every year. The ability to get needed medicine at a lower price could save lives while also allowing people in the developing world to hold on to more of their disposable income, letting that money move in and out of local economies. While some programs have already been established to provide HIV/AIDS related medication at lower prices, people suffering from other diseases have not yet been able to receive such aid.

Affordable medicine and treatment are important anywhere, but they are especially important in the developing world. More reasonably priced medicine may be able help many people who have to choose between buying their medicine or food for their family. It may be just a small step now, but if such programs spread to other universities, they could make a great impact in helping the world’s poor.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Medsin
Photo: Photo Dictionary

Medicine Shortage in Greece Causes CrisisThe turmoil in Greece is beginning to have a dramatic effect on the healthcare of its citizens. Many pharmaceutical drugs are in extremely short supply; the government has accused the producers of halting shipments due to the current low prices in Greece. The medicine shortage has resulted in a feeling of panic across the country, as many Greeks cannot obtain the drugs they need on a daily basis.

From the corporations’ perspectives, these low prices would create opportunities for someone to purchase large quantities of drugs for a pittance in Greece. This middleman could then turn around and sell to the rest of Europe, where prices are higher, thereby drastically cutting into the profits of the drug makers.

The government, of course, is concerned with making sure that all its citizens have access to the medications that they need. Drugs for “arthritis, hepatitis C and hypertension, cholesterol-lowering agents, antipsychotics, antibiotics, [and] anaesthetics” are all in short supply — a recipe for a public health crisis.

The Secretary-General of the Panhellenic Pharmaceutical Association, Dimitris Karageorgiou, claims that drug “supplies are down by 90%,” calling the entire situation “a disgrace.” To solve the problem 0f medicine Shortage, drug companies want the government to implement a new pricing system so that middlemen will not be able to exploit price differentials between the European states. Hopefully, this standoff can be resolved so that Greek citizens can get access to the medications that they so desperately need.

Jake Simon

Source: The Guardian