Multidimensional Poverty

Low-income families in Mexico have struggled for years to acquire and maintain affordable housing. In fact, 34% of Mexican families live in poor-quality homes, many of which are self-constructed. Patrimonio Hoy was created in 1998 to address this problem. The program provides low-income families with building materials, microfinance, technical assistance and logistical support so that they can acquire livable housing.

Patrimonio Hoy is a subsidiary of the multinational Mexican cement manufacturer CEMEX. After joining the Business Call to Action in 2014, its goals are to offer a market-based solution to meet the needs of low-income families, provide at least 125,000 low-income families in Mexico with affordable housing and replicate the model in other developing countries.

How it Works

Technical Assistance

A Patrimonio Hoy architect visits a family in their home to assess their house structure, discuss their building plans and evaluate their financial situation. After the assessment, the architect develops the building plan. This plan includes the design type and quantity of material needed to meet the required construction standards.


Families receive customized financing products according to their financial needs. New customers can choose a schedule with multiple deliveries of building materials. This schedule is then customized to each customer’s needs, ability to pay and the desired construction timeline.

Building Materials and Construction Services

Patrimonio Hoy has created additional demand for construction materials. This, in turn, has enabled local distributors to increase their sales without any additional investments.

In addition to helping customers acquire proper building materials, Patrimonio Hoy supervises the entire construction process. The program acts as a professional contractor and manages the legalization of land titles. This lightens the administrative burden on low-income families.

How Patrimonio Hoy Addresses Poverty

Patrimonio Hoy is addressing Millennium Development Goal 1: To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. The program improves the lives of more than two million individuals through more than 3.3 million square meters of home construction. It also empowers families and encourages local economic development.

Patrimonio Hoy also addresses Millennium Development Goal 3: to promote gender equality and empower women. The program has trained more than 3,000 women promoters and their families in low-income communities.

Patrimonio Hoy also increases local employment and improves the local public school infrastructure. This brings greater responsibility in households and encourages better learning and health for children.

Expansion and Success

More than 750,000 low-income families in Latin America have benefitted from the project. Patrimonio Hoy has attained national coverage in Mexico (29 states, 56 cities) and has expanded across Latin America to Costa Rica, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Panama.

Patrimonio Hoy is constantly innovating and creating new business initiatives to further improve the quality of neighborhoods. Already the program has empowered families, and improved their general quality of life, ultimately preparing participating countries for steady economic and social growth.

Liliana Rehorn

Photo: Flickr

Foreign Policy in Africa
In 2000, the Clinton administration established the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), drastically integrating trade as a foundation for economic development in Africa.

In 2015, the Obama administration passed legislation to extend the program until 2025 following the actions of its predecessor, the Bush administration in 2004. Initiatives that set a developmental precedent for Africa have been protected by the Obama administration, but it is paramount to the success of U.S. foreign policy in Africa that development attempts continued to be pursued.

The Power Africa initiative, born during the Obama administration, aims to substantially increase access to electrical conduits and power sources to throttle growth and development in Africa.

Developed in collaboration with the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), a projected $3 billion was to be contributed in the initial five years by the AfDB. Methods for allocating power to citizens of sub-Saharan Africa are imperative in establishing partnerships with private investors to facilitate bankable energy initiatives.

The Obama administration reports that private companies and the African government have reached more than a quarter of their goal to generate power for over 3.5 million homes in sub-Saharan Africa. The initial goal to increase power by double within five years was not accomplished, however, much headway was made toward the program’s successful future.

The conclusion of the 2016 presidential elections will be key in determining the likelihood of the security and development of Power Africa, as well as other global health and economic aims for U.S. foreign policy for Africa in 2017.

The United Nations lists the progress of global partnerships for development as Africa’s eighth Millennium Development Goal in attempts to accomplish the major goal of economic growth potential. Further attention to the development of programs such as Power Africa during 2017 amid the next presidential administration is vital to the outcome of such economic integration of Africans into the world market and to foster local businesses.

Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr

The earthquakes that shook Nepal in late April and early May were declared the country’s worst natural disaster on record. The quakes claimed the lives of 8,800 people and injured 22,000 others. The mass destruction and death toll continue to have devastating effects on all aspects of the country’s well-being. The Nepalese people are trying to rebuild and reclaim the sense of normalcy that existed before the quakes, but the earthquakes’ effects have presented new challenges.

Before the storm, increasing amounts of Nepalese women were choosing to have their babies in health facilities — a choice that helped Nepal meet the United Nations Millennium Development Goal in the reduction of maternal mortality rates by three-quarters. Another major factor in the massive reduction of such rates is a decade-old decision to distribute misoprostol to women who need it. Misoprostol is a drug designed to treat stomach ulcers, but is also capable of terminating a pregnancy when taken early on, and preventing postpartum hemorrhage — the leading cause of maternal death — when taken after giving birth.

The decision to distribute the powerful drug as a means to decrease maternal mortality lacked international support largely because the hegemonic ideology is that the best way to improve maternal mortality rates is to invest in making health facilities more accessible. While the idea of creating hundreds of well-stocked and adequately staffed health centers that are available to all mothers is a good one and would certainly reduce maternal mortality rates, overall it is unrealistic for many developing countries. The reality is that in developing countries where there have been large government expenditures on improving facilities, maternal mortality rates have not improved as significantly as they have in Nepal.

Since the massive earthquake struck, expectant mothers face additional challenges and there is concern that the mortality rates could increase again. With the destruction of roads and many healthcare facilities, giving expectant mothers misoprostol makes even more sense.

Currently, distributing the misoprostol amidst the widespread destruction is a major issue in Nepal. Aid groups, such as Direct Relief, have been working with the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) and the Midwifery Society of Nepal (MIDSON), to deliver midwife kits, tents and funds. The intervention program focuses on providing midwives and the tools that they require, including misoprostol, to give Nepalese mothers the best chance at having a healthy delivery.

When access to midwives and trained professionals is as severely limited as it is in Nepal, there needs to be a backup plan. Few countries have followed in Nepal’s footsteps but if Nepal’s success has been any indication, misoprostol could be an intermittent solution that could work for many developing countries. In time, we will see how Nepalese maternal mortality rates fare in the aftermath of the horrific disaster. If the low rates are upheld, perhaps the international community will reconsider responsible use of misoprostol to get countries maternal mortality rates down, until the large scale investments in facilities and infrastructure can be made.

– Emma Dowd

Sources: Economist, Foreign Policy, Military Technologies, Reuters
Photo: Women News Network

Empowered Women
For years, women have been faced with the challenges of discrimination and inequality all across the world. Taking up 50 percent of the population, their representation in many fields has been far less than equal. While women continue to be oppressed, they hold great power in the potential to influence the end of global poverty. From brutal attacks to income inequality, there is a broad range in which women’s rights can be improved, not only for financial reasons but humanitarian as well.

Millenium Development Goals have made gender equality and women empowerment the third top priority in ending world poverty. They also include improving maternal health in their MDG as number five. One of their focuses in improving gender equality is through education. “In many countries, gender inequality persists and women continue to face discrimination in access to education, work and economic assets, and participation in government,” according to the U.N.

Through their efforts, the MDGs have successfully achieved equality between boys and girls in primary education. However, the fight continues to end discrimination across the globe.

The World Bank Organization has made gender equality the top priority in their plan to end world poverty. They stress that if girls are educated and healthy, then they have a chance to become influential leaders in their countries. Yet, in many countries women continue to make less than their male counterparts. Since many women are a directly involved with much of the worlds agriculture, The World Bank mentions the impact women can have with improving hunger.

“It is estimated … that if women worldwide had equal access to productive resources, 100-150 million fewer people would go hungry every day,” says The World Bank.

Although women deserve to be educated and paid more, the most important right they need is security. Across the world women face the danger of being kidnapped and sold into human trafficking, or experience brutal sexual assault. They are forced into marriages and discriminated against and therefore are un-cared for. According to the World Health Organization, “35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.”

Everyday women are limited to housework and reproduction. If they had the chance to be seen as equal they would be empowered to chase the dreams they have always been held back from. Therefore, making half of the population into entrepreneurs, scientists, and educated women who can help make a difference in the world. By oppressing women the world is oppressing itself from its full potential.

Kimberly Quitzon

Sources: UN Millennium Development Goals, The World Bank, World Health Organization
Photo: Flickr

Humans of New York photographer, Brandon Stanton, has been on a 50 day world tour, visiting 10 countries and photographing each of the countries inhabitants. If close attention is paid, an underlying theme of education is present in many of the captions that accompany the posted photos.

This theme of education can be seen in photos from Iraq with young men telling of their dreams to become doctors and of another young man’s journey in the Master’s program at the University of Damascus. It can be seen in Jordan with a man’s story of giving up his chance of an upper division degree because he went to work to help pay for his brother’s education. It can be seen in various countries in Africa of children whose dreams are to become lawyers, nurses, pilots and engineers. The theme of education can be seen when parents who, wanting a better life for their son, hiked with him over mountains for a month and left him in India for better schooling, a sacrifice that has kept the family apart for the past 20 years.

Examples like this and many more merely show the importance and desire for education in developing countries. Just as inhabitants of developing countries wish for education for their younger generations, those in developing countries wish to give children the chance to learn, to one change the face of their countries and make changes for the better.

This wish can be seen through the efforts being made in the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education. This particular endeavor has made progress and was a joyous victory until a new report written by Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF Executive Director for Programs, this past July shows progress in helping children receive an education has come to a standstill.

Gupta reported from a new data released by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statics and Education for All Global Monitoring Report reveals, “an estimated 250 million children in the world cannot read, write or do basic math … ” Research shows more often than not, children not receiving an educational opportunity are girls. Currently there are over 30 million school-aged girls who do not have the privilege of simply attending school.

This staggering number calls for a move to action. Girls need to be given a chance at an education. CNN released a report on the benefits of educating girls, reporting educating a girl not only benefits herself, but her family, community and country. UNESCO informs that a child with a literate mother is 50 times more likely to survive past the age of five. CNN also reports of a World Bank study, “ … every 1 percent increase in women with secondary education boosted a country’s annual per capita income growth rate by about 0.3 percentage points.”

Studies like this bear out the importance of giving girls a chance to learn. In response to stalled universal primary education, UNICEF announced policy pledges, including “[increased] access to quality early learning opportunities for all children” and “[focused] efforts on expanding education for girls … ”

Though the road ahead is rough in ensuring all children receive a quality education, Gupta said, “We know that when we bring educational opportunities to the hardest to reach areas, we win a number of battles: learning improves, community engagement is reinforced, and children, particularly girls, can exercise their right to an education.”

– Kori Withers

Sources: UNICEF, Humans of New York, UNESCO, CNN
Photo: Tipton

food security
A series of 88 hydroelectric dams to be built in the lower Mekong basin of Cambodia by 2030 is projected to put Cambodia’s largest source of food at risk. Cambodians eat 168 more grams of fish daily than the world’s average. The construction of the dams could cut the freshwater fish population up to 42 percent.

The growing demand for electricity in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, China and Myanmar has prompted multi-national developers to begin planning 88 hydroelectric dams. Eleven of these dams will be located on the Mekong river mainstream and the 77 remaining dams will be on the various tributaries of the river.

“Cambodia is going to pay the highest price for dam development basin-wide, to the point of affecting the food security of its 80 percent rural population,” warned Eric Baran, a specialist with the WorldFish Centre.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister, Ouk Rabun, reported that Cambodia takes approximately 528,000 tons of fish from freshwater fisheries each year.

Fish is the cheapest food option for Cambodians. Consumed far more frequently than beef or poultry, fish is the primary source of protein for a population where a fifth of the citizens live below the poverty line of $17 U.S. dollars a month.

More than 40 percent of national production — about 300,000 tons of fish per year — comes from Tonle Sap Lake. Located in northeastern Cambodia, Tonle Sap is the most productive inland fishery in the world. WorldFish estimates that 1.5 million Cambodians make 95 percent of their income directly from the lake.

Cambodia has exceeded the Millennium Development Goal poverty target, and the poverty rate has halved, from 53 percent in 2004 to 20.5 percent in 2011.

However, those who have escaped poverty are still vulnerable to slight economic fluctuations. Neak Samsen, Poverty Analyst of the World Bank in Cambodia warns, “the loss of just $0.30 (US) per day in income would throw an estimated three million Cambodians back into poverty, doubling the poverty rate to 40 percent.”

The proposed site for the dam construction is the Mekong basin. Of the fish normally caught in the basin, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) found that at least 39 percent are migratory.

Building dams in the Mekong would obstruct the migratory fish from swimming between the basin and Tonle Sap.

According to the U.N. World Food Program’s country director for Cambodia, Edith Heines, “The reduction of fish stocks due to the construction of the dams could have serious implications on the health, and specifically the well-being of malnourished children under five.”

The World Bank projects future generations of Cambodians will rely more heavily on aquaculture and rice field fisheries to meet their fish consumption needs.

However, this change in food source has implications for Cambodians living in poverty, because “the poorest people will not be able to simply shift to different agriculture practices without reallocating water, building infrastructure, or exploiting other water sources.”

Although government officials argue that the money gained from the dams will go toward agricultural development, there have been no guarantees and the impoverished in Cambodia may likely be the ones to suffer the greatest losses.

– Grace Flaherty 

Sources: IRIN, The World Bank
Photo: IRIN

immunization program
The Universal Immunization Program incorporated four new vaccines against polio, rubella, rotavirus and Japanese encephalitis into their program on July 3. By including vaccines against these four widespread diseases, the UIP hopes to reduce the high child mortality rate found in India.

With the addition of these four vaccines, a total of 13 vaccines will now be available in India for approximately 2.7 million children every year free of charge. According to the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, “The government will now ensure the benefits of vaccination reach all sections of society, regardless of social and economic status.”

Not only do these four vaccines made available through the UIP represent a noteworthy achievement in public health, but it also shows the important role programs like this play in developing countries. According to a World Bank report on poverty, approximately one-third of the world’s poor currently lives in India, and the lack of proper medications contributes to this extreme poverty rate.

Polio, rubella and rotavirus are all three well-known diseases that greatly contribute to the high child mortality rate across the world, especially in countries like India where vaccines are extremely difficult to access. According to UNICEF, India is celebrating a three-year victory over polio since no cases of polio have been reported since Jan. 13, 2011. This achievement is particularly remarkable because until 2009, India was reporting more than half of the world’s polio cases. Although India has been able to achieve this landmark success, this injectable polio vaccine provided by the UIP will continuously provide protection against this virus.

Even though rubella, which is also called German measles or 3-day measles, is generally a mild viral infection, it can have serious health consequences when a pregnant woman is infected with the virus. Congenital rubella syndrome, or CRS, can cause congenital defects, such as deafness or blindness, and even fetal death, which is why the UIP focuses on delivering those vaccines to those in need to prevent further infections.

One of the most common effects of rotavirus is diarrhea, which causes approximately 334,000 out of the 2.3 million child deaths in India every year according to the World Health Organization. Especially when compared to other diseases, rotavirus typically affects more children than adults because water makes up a greater proportion of a child’s body weight.

The UIP’s fourth new vaccine against Japanese encephalitis will be introduced to adults in a total of 179 districts in nine states where this disease has been prevalent in India. Even though the severity of symptoms widely varies and there is no specific treatment for Japanese encephalitis, vaccinations are key in preventing the spread of this infection.

The U.N.’s fourth Millennium Development Goal is to reduce the under-5 child mortality rate by two-thirds. As the deadline for this and the other seven goals quickly approaches,  programs like UIP show the amazing progress that is possible among developing countries through widespread access to vaccinations.

– Meghan Orner

Sources: The New Indian Express, WHO 1, WHO 2, CDC, Silicon India News, UNICEF
Photo: The Hindu

poor quality of education in south asia
According to a report released by the World Bank on June 30, 2014, the poor quality of education in South Asia is holding the region back. Weak education systems act as a snare, keeping many young people in poverty and preventing economic growth.

The World Bank performed its first comprehensive study to assess the effectiveness of the education in South Asia. It found low levels of student learning in the region despite the increase in enrollment.

In South Asia, a region which includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sir Lanka, countries have committed significant resources to increasing access to education. The recent push to raise enrollment comes in an effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of universal education for primary education by 2015.

The effort has been largely successful, as the enrollment rate in the region has grown from 75 percent in 2000 to 89 percent in 2010. The percentages, however, are just an average, and education access varies greatly from country to country. For example, Sri Lanka achieved almost complete universal education over 10 years ago while Afghanistan and Pakistan are considerably behind.

Despite the increased enrollment, the systems of education in South Asia prove to be achieving below the standards. The World Bank concluded this after measuring the student learning in each country. Part of the problem is that many children who attend primary school do not complete the final grade. For example, in Bangladesh only 55 out of 100 students complete the last grade of primary education. Gender inequality is also a contributing factor as evidenced by the fact that over half of world’s illiterate women reside in South Asia.

The poor quality of education is, according to the organization, also due in part to the large increase of first-generation students in the classroom. The curriculums lack important lessons on measurement, problem-solving and writing. More than one quarter of students who complete primary school do not have fundamental number and literacy skills. This deficit severely impairs their ability to complete secondary school and to secure higher paying jobs.

The World Bank surveyed employers in the region and the results supported the findings that students lack many skills essential for the work place. As a result of the poor education systems, there is a lack of a skilled and qualified labor force.

To help address the issue, the World Bank presented a multi-faceted strategy in order to improve the quality of education. One factor calls for the countries to ensure that children receive proper nutrition. South Asia has one of the highest rates of malnutrition, which inhibits children’s ability to learn. Another aspect includes improving the quality of teachers by establishing and upholding academic standards that every educator must achieve. Additionally, more investments should be focused on improving the learning goals for students and not simply expanding facilities and raising teacher salaries.

Part of the World Bank’s strategy also includes bringing in the private sector to help. The governments of South Asia have very little money, and companies could provide a source of capital to improve education. In addition, the strategy calls for and improvement in the measurement of student progress by bettering the quality of student assessments.

The hope is that with the World Bank’s model for improvement, children will be able to receive better education. Literacy and mathematical skills are key for accessing skilled labors jobs. With more young people getting these jobs, individuals will be able to escape poverty. And an increase in the skilled labor force will also help the individual countries prosper as the country will be able to produce more and have more potential consumers. In starting with education, the World Bank hopes to help the entire region grow.

– Kathleen Egan

Sources: World Bank, UNICEF, UNESCO
Photo: World Bank

In a recent press release, the European Commission announced new communication to contribute to the position of the European Union in negotiations of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs.) In the statement, titled “A Decent Life for All: From Vision to Collective Action,” the EC suggests priority areas of focus and potential post-2015 targets.

Major priority areas include poverty, health, food security, education, water and sanitation and sustainable energy. Proposed SDGs within these spheres include:

  • The eradication of extreme poverty
  • Increased resilience to disasters
  • An end to discrimination in public service
  • The empowerment of marginalized groups
  • The eradication of malnutrition
  • Improved agricultural productivity
  • Reduced child and maternal mortality
  • Increased global literacy
  • Universal access to quality basic education
  • Elimination of violence and discrimination against women and girls
  • Universal access to clean water and sanitation
  • Reduced pollution and use of fossil fuels
  • Improved air quality
  • Protection of essential ecosystems
  • Decreased global violence

The EC stated that the SDGs should be “specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound” and established on data and evidence.

The report also suggests a “rights-based approach” that promotes justice, equality, democracy and peace.

The European Commission continues to support the position of the EU regarding the creation of a global community and holding all nations responsible for the achievement of the SDGs.

“Mutual accountability at national and international level should be at the core of this mechanism, including monitoring progress on post-2015 goals and targets.”

Data provided by the Interagency and Expert Group (IAEG) on Millennium Development Goal (MDG) indicators will be used to provide annual progress reports towards the SDGs.

The SDGs will succeed the MDGs that expire at the end of 2015. The framework of these goals has been built on three facets of sustainable development: Social, Environmental and Economic. Such a system requires the involvement and cooperation of all nations as well as the private sector to provide global benefits.

The SDGs are still in development, pending final progress reports on the MDGs later this year. At this point, member nations have agreed that the new goals must build on existing commitments, and include active participation of all stakeholders without diverting focus from completion of the MDGs. It is also important that they are applicable to all countries while considering different levels of developing and without interfering with current national priorities.

Andris Piebalgs, European Development Commissioner, said the following of the new Sustainable Development Goals: “It is now recognized that, for the first time, the world has the technology and resources to eradicate extreme poverty in our lifetime. There is no excuse for us failing to do so and avoiding it must be our stated commitment. This can only be done through growth and development which is sustainable. We need to find solutions which truly balance economic, social and environmental objectives. And we need to bring together governments, but also civil society, private sector and citizens to set up a global framework that will ensure a decent life for all.”

– Kristen Bezner

Sources: European Commission 1Sustainable Development
Photo: EEA Grants

This is the sixth in a series of posts focusing on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. The MDGs are a set of eight interrelated goals that were agreed upon by over 180 countries worldwide. They aim to improve the social, economic, and political lives of all people, and are to be achieved by 2015. Two years out from this deadline, it is important to recognize how far we’ve come and how far we have to go.

The sixth MDG is made up of three targets aimed at combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases. Progress has been made on each of the three objectives. These three goals are to:

  • Have halted and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015
  • Achieve universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS by 2010
  • Have halted and begun to reverse the spread of malaria and other major diseases by 2015

New HIV infections are declining in most regions. Although, with improved health care resulting in less deaths from AIDS, more people are living with HIV than ever. This makes it even more difficult to contain the disease, resulting in a fairly high and inelastic 2.5 million new infections each year. This phenomenon is not helped by the fact that complete knowledge of HIV transmission and condom use are still low among the younger population.

Over two-thirds of new HIV cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa, presenting an opportunity for redoubled efforts there to increase public awareness and improve access to treatment. It is also important to improve the lives of HIV victims and their families in the short-term. For example, more orphans are attending school thanks to programs to minimize the effects of AIDS.

Availability of treatment for HIV/AIDS increased in all regions between 1990 and 2011, although universal access was not achieved by the goal date of 2010. During 2011, significant progress was made in providing care to the 34 million people living with HIV worldwide. The number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) that year jumped from 6.6 million to 8 million. By the end of 2012, 9.7 million people in developing nations had access to ART. ART is usually a combination of at least three drugs that keep the HIV virus under control. The technique has consistently been shown to reduce mortality and suffering rates among individuals with HIV, and is most effective in the early stages of the disease. This makes it even more important that universal access to treatment is achieved. Roughly 15 million people in developing areas are in need of ART. Currently, 55% of this need is being met and, as of 2011, eleven countries have achieved universal access to ART. Building upon this progress will ensure that all HIV patients receive the treatment they need.

One of the most troublesome things about HIV/AIDS is that it weakens the immune system and makes patients more vulnerable to a wide variety of other diseases. This is harmful to patients already suffering from HIV, and it increases the transmission rates of diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis (TB) to otherwise healthy people. The third facet of MDG 6 is concerned with these other diseases. Exciting progress has been made in regards to malaria and TB in recent years, propelling us towards a future without these diseases.

Between 2000 and 2010, the incidence of malaria fell by 17% and the malaria-specific mortality rate fell by a full quarter. This represents 1.1 million lives saved from this horrifying disease. Malaria is caused by a parasite that is transmitted by the bites of infected mosquitoes. One effective and simple way to prevent the spread of malaria is to sleep under bed nets treated with insecticides. Now, thanks to increased funding, more children in sub-Saharan Africa are sleeping safely under these nets. This type of preventive work with children is especially important, given that the majority of people who die from malaria are children under five in Africa. It also aids in working towards the fourth MDG: a two-thirds reduction of the 1990 child mortality rate by 2015. This is just one example of the numerous intersections of the eight MDGs. When malaria prevention and treatment opportunities improve, child mortality generally falls. In fact, when a country expands the availability of malaria control interventions, child mortality drops by about 20%.

Tuberculosis (TB) is another prevalent infectious disease facing the developing world today. In 2011, it infected an estimated 8.7 million people and killed roughly 1.4 million. TB is caused by a bacterial infection most often occurring in the lungs. It is transmitted by water droplets from the throat and lungs of infected individuals. People with strong immune systems are generally able to fight off the disease without symptoms. However, for people whose immune systems are compromised in any way, including individuals who are HIV-positive, TB becomes a life-threatening illness. Treatment for this disease lasts six-months, and universal access has yet to be achieved. Despite these obstacles, however, 51 million people were successfully treated for TB between 1995 and 2011. Over that time period, the world saw the mortality rate for TB decrease by over 40%. These incredible innovations have been possible by prolonged efforts on many fronts. These include a WHO program aiming to detect TB earlier in Swaziland, the country with the highest rate of TB, and cheaper testing thanks to a partnership between the US government, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Unitaid.

HIV/AIDS, malaria, and TB represent some of the greatest causes of poverty in the world today. These debilitating and often fatal diseases dramatically affect the lives of billions of people worldwide, and the progress made so far is astounding. Treatment for HIV is more available than ever before. Incidence of malaria is on the decline, as is the mortality rate for people suffering from it. TB testing and treatment are becoming increasingly available, effective, and efficient. These incredible achievements are just the beginning. They should serve to show us that we can effectively prevent and treat even the most widespread diseases, that we can save millions of lives every year, and that we are capable of much more than we think.

– Katie Fullerton

Sources: WHO Table WHO ART Information WHO MDG UN The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian