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Ecuador_Aid

On April 16, 2016, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Ecuador left many citizens displaced and without access to clean water.

According to The New York Times, at least 410 people died and over 2,000 were injured. As more long-term solutions are being sought and developed, temporary relief efforts are being made by international organizations and local communities alike.

The United Nations refugee agency sent supplies to help those displaced by the earthquake in Ecuador. The first supply plane was loaded in Copenhagen, with 900 tents, 15,000 sleeping mats, kitchen utensils and, with the threat of the Zika virus still looming, 18,000 repellent-soaked mosquito nets.

“The aim is to provide essential shelter and other aid material over the next days for some 40,000 people…in earthquake-affected communities,” the organization said in a statement, just after the natural disaster took place.

Soon after the disaster, UNICEF delivered 20,000 water purification tablets to the survivors of the earthquake. Water contamination after an earthquake greatly increases the rate at which diseases and illnesses spread.

Of note, stagnant water increases the number of breeding sites for mosquitoes. This means that the Zika virus and dengue fever, another mosquito-borne virus, pose immediate threats to Ecuador.

Portoviejo, the provincial capital of Manabi Province, was one of the cities that was affected the most by the earthquake. The city, with a population of 300,000, has a death toll of approximately 100 and 370 buildings were destroyed. With no homes to go back to, many are sleeping on the streets.

“Clean water is one of the biggest needs. People have made signs everywhere asking for water,” said Lucy Harman, CARE Emergency Team Leader. CARE is a humanitarian organization that provides disaster relief and fights poverty across the globe.

“Everything is destroyed, so everyone is sleeping outside in makeshift shelters and the smell of death permeates the air,” Harman reported from Jama, another one of the areas hardest hit by the earthquake. According to a report by Reuters, CARE is also distributing temporary water tanks as well as purification tablets.

Michelle Simon

Photo: Flickr

Mosquito_net_in_Subsaharan_AfricaAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 3 billion people across the globe are at risk for contracting malaria. One-third of this group is considered to be at high risk and 90 percent of malaria deaths occur in Africa.

NetsforLife Steps In

NetsforLife is working to reduce the number of malaria deaths in Africa. Since its inception in 2005, this partnership of corporations, foundations, NGOs and faith-based organizations has distributed nearly 22 million mosquito nets in 17 malaria-endemic countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

However, the organization’s efforts to eradicate malaria extend beyond net distribution. According to its website, NetsforLife also ensures that communities receive adequate training on the value of these nets as well as “the right way to use and maintain them.”

Too often, mosquito nets have been used for fishing or as bridal veils instead of the vital purpose for which they were created.

In addition to educating communities on the proper use of nets, the organization also specifically targets remote areas that typically do not receive care from national healthcare systems.

NetsforLife calls on the help of local leaders and community volunteers or “malaria agents” to provide the necessary education and support to civilians.

Malaria Prevention is Key

According to the WHO, prevention is an important aspect of combatting malaria. The malaria parasite, Plasmodium, multiplies quickly, allowing it to build up resistance to malaria medicines. Mosquito nets and more specifically, insecticide-treated nets (ITNs), play a crucial role in prevention efforts.

While significant headway has already been made with the number of malaria cases declining to 214 million in 2015 from 262 million in 2000, there is still much work left to be done to eradicate the disease. To that end, the WHO launched “The Global Technical Strategy for Malaria, 2016 – 2030” which aims to reduce malaria incidence and mortality by 90 percent.

With over 100,000 volunteers, NetsforLife continues to do its part to help achieve these goals. So far, the organization has reached 41.7 million individuals and counting.

Jocelyn Lim

Sources: NY Times, NetsforLife, World Health Organization (WHO) 1, World Health Organization (WHO) 2, World Health Organization (WHO) 3
Photo: Google Images

malaria
Malaria is spread through mosquitoes that carry the disease. In the United States, the swamps and marshes that housed malaria-carrying mosquitoes were destroyed to eradicate the disease, a trick that worked well. However, this is not a tactic that will work worldwide, especially in hot and humid places where the majority of the landscape is marshland.

In places like these, a promising solution has been created: long-lasting, insecticide-treated nets (LLINs). An insecticide-treated net is a bed net that has been treated with safe, residual insecticide to kill and repel the infected mosquitoes while also physically blocking them out. LLINs are designed to remain effective for multiple years without needing to retreat.

Malaria kills about 660,000 people a year, most being children. LLINs are cost-effective in production and distribution and are considered to be one of the most cost-effective ways to save lives. The process of distribution is simple and thorough: survey the people to determine the need for the nets, deliver the LLINs, and then promote their use.

In the 2012 World Malaria Report that looked at 17 sub-Saharan African countries determined that 68-84 percent of people that owned the nets were using them, an increase since 2010. Along with this increase came fewer malaria-related deaths; however, the exact figures collected were fairly unreliable.

However, with a long-term solution at hand, scientists can focus on eradicating the disease entirely. In the Southern U.S. and Europe, where malaria has been eradicated, a big factor in defeating the disease was a change in human behavior, a shift in land use, and in housing. Scientists believe that more research is needed to understand the factors affecting transmission before the disease will be fully eradicated.

There is a long way to go before malaria is gone for good, but the long-lasting, insecticide-treated nets have proven to be successful in the lives of individuals. They are cost-effective and well-used. Eradication of malaria is within the foreseeable future.

– Hannah Resnick

Sources: Give Well, TDR
Photo: Fast Coexist

teeth-whitening
It is not uncommon for people to spend a lot of money on their appearance: make-up, monthly haircuts, manicures and pedicures, and sometimes extremes such as cosmetic surgery. Feeling well groomed in a world where appearance is frequently judged gives us a boost of confidence.

The most recent trend is teeth whitening, which comes in many forms. Celebrities constantly flaunt their pearly whites and it is no surprise that people are willing to spend extra money on products that promise them flawless, blinding white teeth. But is the cost really worth it when the same money could be better spent on causes that make a global difference?

The popular cosmetic service varies from whitening strips to whitening toothpastes to receiving professional bleaching at a dentist’s office.

Here is a cost comparison looking at how money spent on whitening products could provide mosquito nets for children fighting against the risk of malaria.

Crest Whitestrips, one of the most popular brands, range in price from $21 to $65 depending on the number of strips and the length of time one is supposed to wear the strips for. The most common version is the $30 pack, which can last people at least two months. After a year an individual can spend about $180 on whitening strips. The product claims it can whiten teeth just as effectively as a dentist’s professional whitening.

Lately most brands that carry average toothpaste and mouthwash also carry versions of those toothpastes and mouthwashes in whitening versions, ranging from Colgate and Crest to Sensodyne. These toothpastes and mouthwashes, although less costly than whitestrips or professional whitening, do usually cost more than the average product. They range from $5 to about $20 per item and do not necessarily produce the desired result. Depending on how much you pay and when you replace your toothpaste or mouthwash, the average person brushing twice daily can spend upwards of $30 to $120 dollars annually.

There are two versions of professional teeth whitening: Custom Bleaching Trays and Laser Teeth Whitening. Teeth Whitening Trays can cost anywhere between $150 to $1,500 per treatment, and Laser Teeth Whitening can cost a very expensive $500 to $2,500 per session. These treatments can take many different sessions in order to get the desired results.

Project Mosquito Net is a non-profit whose mission is to raise enough money to provide “insecticide treated bed nets to children and pregnant mothers in Kenya to prevent malaria infections and deaths.” One child is estimated to die every 30 seconds from malaria.

A mosquito net only costs $5 each, meaning that the average cost of a whitening toothpaste could provide one child or a pregnant woman with a net that could save their lives. If ten people donated the cost of one Laser Teeth Whitening session 1,000 children would be protected against deadly malaria.

Theoretically if 10 people donated their annual spending on $30 Crest Whitestrips, 360 nets would be able to be provided to children in Kenya. This puts into perspective how many lives could be changed if just a few people decided to help others instead of treating themselves.

Next time you purchase a whitening toothpaste, a box of Crest Whitestrips, or an expensive laser treatment, think about helping a young child or a pregnant woman in Kenya by providing them with protection against disease. You just might save a life.

– Becka Felcon

Sources: Dentistry for Madison, Smile Sensation, NBC News, Project Mosquito Net
Photo: Healthy Palm

Nets to Ghana
The Promoting Malaria Prevention and Treatment (ProMPT) Project in partnership with USAID and the Ghana Health Service has developed an innovative way to distribute mosquito nets in Ghana. The ProMPT project has delivered over 12 million mosquito nets to prevent the spread of malaria in Ghana. The four year project has given households training on how to use treated mosquito nets that are covered with insecticide to kills the mosquitoes. USAID was a major donor of the $20 million dollar project and support from the U.S. and Ghana governments was strong.

The Ghana Health Service has worked hard to educate citizens against malaria. The ProMPT project strengthened malaria prevention through door-to-door mosquito net distribution, increasing prevention efforts geared towards pregnant women, and improving malaria treatment in health care facilities. The project also utilized community volunteers to educate households on the proper way to hang a mosquito net.

USAID acknowledged the success of the project was only possible through the collaborative efforts of the USAID, the Ghana Health Service, and the government of Ghana. The holistic nature of the project and the inclusion of factors relating to prevention, education, and treatment led to a drastic reduction in malaria-caused deaths. Program officers encourage other organizations to adopt the collaborative model in other malaria prevention projects.

In Ghana, malaria is a major problem for the country’s overall health. Over 40% of outpatient illnesses and visits in health care facilities are contributed to malaria as well as a third of all admissions. The World Health Organization attributed around 14,000 annual childhood deaths in Ghana to malaria as well. The goal is to reduce the impact of malaria in Ghana by 75% by the year 2015.

The program worked to put at least one net in every dwelling place as well as educate health care workers on proper malaria management and prevention. Areas of focus were especially on women who are pregnant and health care facility management of malaria care. The program has so far trained 21,000 health care workers in over 2,000 health care facilities. The ProMPT project officially ended in March,but Ghana plans to continue the efforts began in the prevention of malaria.

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: Science Codex
Photo: Ghana Health Nest

Mosquito Nets Save Lives in Mozambique
Many foreign aid organizations assist developing countries not by sending money, but by providing health and educational equipment for impoverished people. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is among the organizations that employ this method. A case in point is that since 2007, USAID has delivered 20 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets to Mozambique.

The impact of these mosquito nets has been invaluable, says Polly Dunford, the interim USAID Director in Mozambique. The nets have decreased the number of malaria cases in the country, most notably in cases of children.

USAID partnered with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to fight malaria in Mozambique. PEPFAR uses aid money from USAID to distribute the mosquito nets and insecticide spray, counsel pregnant women about malaria prevention, and produce more effective malaria drugs.

In addition to providing assistance to reduce cases of malaria, USAID has been focusing on helping farmers become more successful. Given Mozambique’s ocean accessibility, it has the potential to become a regional food supplier, says Dunford. USAID has been supporting the agriculture sector through training programs that educate farmers on how to more productively sell their food products.

Mozambique receives about $500 million from USAID annually and a majority of that money goes towards the health sectors, like PEPFAR and other malaria prevention programs. The country has high levels of experienced economic growth, however, many people are still living in poverty. With the help of USAID, the number of impoverished and those dying from malaria in Mozambique will continue to decrease.

– Mary Penn

Source: AllAfrica
Photo: World Vision