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healthcare in kiribati
The Republic of Kiribati, better known as just Kiribati, is an Oceanic country formed by 33 unique islands, of which 20 are inhabited. The majority of Kiribati’s population is located on the Eastern Gilbert islands, while many islands located in the center function without a permanent population. Healthcare in Kiribati has been a committed work-in-progress, especially after the notification in the late 20th century that its population was at one of the lowest standards of living in Oceania. The disjointedness of the islands and a lack of cohesive national health policy has significantly impacted Kiribati’s ability to effectively provide national healthcare services to all that need it.

In fact, as recently as 2012, there was not an official agency for national health policy, regulation of health standards, assessment of health technology, or management of health technology. However, despite this glaring lack of infrastructure, Kiribati has instituted projects at the national level to improve its primary level of healthcare. The government, along with partnerships from international health organizations, is working to invest in Kiribati’s health infrastructure.

The following five facts about healthcare in Kiribati are integral to understanding the country’s changing health structures and transition out of poverty.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Kiribati

  1. Around 22% of the Kiribati population is living under the “basic needs” threshold, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. However, the traditional definition of poverty is not used in Kiribati, as much of the population believes that as long as one can maintain subsistence living, they are not poor. Instead, poverty is related to meet their basic expenses on a daily or weekly basis. This culture has made it so that many residents in Kiribati live in housing without access to clean water, sanitation or other basic hygiene utilities.
  2. Kiribati is at an elevated risk for infant mortality, consistently ranking as the highest country in Oceania by the estimated absolute number of incident cases, with approximately five times the number of cases as Australia. In 2012, the rate of infant mortality stood at 60 deaths per 1,000 individuals. While this statistic was significantly reduced from years past, there is no reason for such a high percentage of the population to suffer from infant mortality. The most common causes of infant mortality in Kiribati are perinatal diseases, diarrhoeal diseases and pneumonia. As a result of inadequate water supply and poor sanitation, water and food-borne illnesses can also contribute to the incidence of infant mortality.
  3. Kiribati also suffers from its lack of developed healthcare infrastructure. Hospital facilities, doctors to assist the population, and trained nurses are all hard to come by in Kiribati. Though they meet standards for routine care, the scarce availability of such facilities makes them hard to access for the general population. With only three district-level hospitals and one referral level hospital, patients often must be sent overseas if serious conditions arise. This remote level of treatment can often make timely access to medicines an issue as well.
  4. In Kiribati, there is a low number of doctors and nurses relative to the population overall. This low number contributes to the relatively high infant and maternal mortality rates of Kiribati. Recently, the government has worked with smaller groups around Kiribati to train more healthcare professionals. By holding orientation courses for all health staff and developing long-term courses for primary care staff, communities on many of Kiribati’s islands could tackle the lack of healthcare personnel issues. As a result of these programs and increased training, the number of individuals that are able to assist with healthcare is rising, and the rates of morbidity from common diseases have been reduced.
  5. Water supply is an issue in Kiribati that most don’t directly associate with healthcare and disease, but can have a significant impact on the health of the population. Outdoor defecation is said to be prevalent in Kiribati, which can lead to contamination of the water supply. Groundwater contamination is often related to a higher incidence of diarrheal diseases. However, outdoor defecation is not entirely the result of a lack of other options, but education is necessary to help the population of Kiribati understand the risks associated with it.

In the fight against poverty and for a healthcare system that can serve its entire population, Kiribati has much work to do. Progress has been made in developing training for healthcare professionals and educational programs for communities, but many services such as sanitation and clean water supply still aren’t up to standards. Still, with a government committed to increasing the healthcare provisions for its people, Kiribati is sure to develop into a country that can provide for its growing population.

Pratik Samir Koppikar
Photo: Pixabay

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce or use insulin well, resulting in a high blood sugar level. When the body fails to make insulin at all, this is type 1 diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, the body does not produce or use insulin effectively. Both types of diabetes come with side effects that are detrimental to a person’s lifestyle. In the African region, South Africa has the second largest population of people with diabetes. Here are five facts that you should know about diabetes in South Africa.

5 Facts About Diabetes in South Africa

  1. Diabetes is a leading cause of death in South Africa. With non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes on the rise globally, South Africa is no exception. In 2016, diabetes and other NCDs caused 16% of the total deaths in the country. Diabetes is one of the three leading causes of death in South Africa, the other two being tuberculosis and cerebrovascular diseases. Among the South African population, there is a major lack of awareness of the disease and access to proper healthcare. Because the prevalence of diabetes in South African adults is 12.8%, it is crucial that other countries continue to support the funding and research of diabetes in South Africa.
  2. There are many ill-side effects for those living with diabetes. Diabetics must consistently track their blood sugar levels to ensure they don’t go into a diabetic coma. Additionally, diabetics are two to three times likelier to experience cardiovascular problems, like heart attacks or strokes. Diabetes can cause an individual’s kidneys to stop working. In most healthcare facilities in South Africa, they lack the procedures necessary to help a diabetic undergoing kidney failure, like renal replacement therapy by dialysis or through transplant. Another symptom of diabetes is neuropathy – or nerve damage – in the feet, which can lead to infection or potential amputation. In healthcare centers in South Africa, there is little equipment available for testing nerve damage in the feet and symptoms like this can often slip under the radar. Through an increase in funding from other countries, individuals suffering from diabetes in South Africa can have access to more equipment and medication necessary for dealing with diabetes.
  3. Socioeconomic disparities and other factors contribute to the prevalence of diabetes in South Africa. In South Africa, proper healthcare is inaccessible in poorer communities. The deficiency of experienced health professionals and respectable clinics makes it hard for citizens to undergo testing or treat the disease if they have it. More than one million citizens in South Africa do not know if they are diabetic. With more accurate and accessible testing, a greater population can begin treatment for the disease. It is crucial that the government receive funding to build diagnostic centers and train medical staff.
  4. Diabetes in South Africa is preventable and treatable in many ways. Though diabetes is irreversible, there are ways to keep symptoms at bay. Type 1 diabetes often develops in childhood and is usually impossible to eliminate. However, type 2 diabetes can go into remission with medication and changes in lifestyle. A common medication used to treat diabetes is metformin. Exercise and good eating habits are helpful treatments for diabetics. The most effective way to decrease the prevalence of diabetes in South Africa is to prematurely educate citizens and encourage healthy decision making. South Africa is currently working towards this goal.One recent preventative measure taken by the South African government is the implementation of a sugar tax. By charging more for sugary drinks and foods, the government is fighting obesity and helping citizens make more conscious decisions. In July 2019, South Africa briefly launched a Diabetes Prevention Programme (DPP). The DPP aims to integrate intervention treatments into a culturally relevant context through household questionnaires and group gatherings for at-risk individuals. In the conclusion of this program, the DPP will focus on using the information they gathered to create a curriculum that can educate communities about diabetes. To prevent rising cases of diabetes it is important that there is more pervasive awareness of the causes of diabetes. Citizens can learn how to manage obesity and understand when they should seek testing.
  5. Many countries and organizations help by funding testing centers and medical treatment in South African cities. The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) works with several organizations in the South African region to help combat the severity of the disease through advocacy, funding and training. The three organizations that are a part of IDF are Diabetes South Africa (DSA), Society for Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa (SEMDSA) and Youth with Diabetes (YWD). DSA is one organization that does its part in educating citizens and lobbying the government for better facilities and cheaper healthcare. DSA is a nonprofit that centers around mobilizing volunteers to demand better treatment for those with diabetes.

Danielle Kuzel
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in South Africa
Reports of COVID-19 fill the news and media daily. From increases in cases and closures to decreases in fatality rates and re-openings, the news channels are consumed by COVID-19 headlines. However, one thing not covered much in the media is how African nations are faring during these uncertain times. South Africa is currently leading the African continent in the number of COVID-19 cases, and there is seemingly no end in sight. Here is a look at the specific impact of COVID-19 in South Africa.

Lockdown

COVID-19 in South Africa follows a similar origin path as the rest of the world, where the virus went undetected or misdiagnosed for weeks, maybe months, before its first confirmed positive case appeared. South Africa, like most nations, went into lockdown in late March. The South African government, as of April 27, 2020, planned to gradually loosen restrictions beginning on May 1, 2020.

The level of strictness for lockdowns varies from country to country. South Africa is one of the nations implementing strict restrictions for its lockdown. The country has been on Level 5 restrictions. Level 5 restrictions prohibit citizens from performing the majority of activities, including leisurely ones such as exercise or going to the convenience store. Furthermore, the police may confront anyone who leaves their dwellings.

Numbers

The reported numbers in South Africa are much lower than those reported around the world. This may be the result of strict lockdown enforcement as opposed to some nations with looser lockdown restrictions. As of April 28, 2020, the African country reported 4,996 confirmed coronavirus cases and 93 deaths. South Africa is also experiencing a recovery rate of approximately 25 percent, which is a significant factor in the government’s decision to begin loosening restriction laws.

Despite large numbers of recovering patients, COVID-19 in South Africa has not gone away. The number of cases continues to rise, much like the rest of the world. On March 5, 2020, South Africa diagnosed its first patient with COVID-19. On April 15, 2020, the nation had a total of 2,605 confirmed cases, with 4,996 by the end of April. Although the virus is not going away anytime soon, South Africans are certainly doing their part to reduce the spread of the virus.

Social Distancing

Social distancing is the practice of remaining apart from others to decrease the spread of the virus. South Africa has been on lockdown and enforcing social distancing since late March, about a month after the nation diagnosed its first COVID-19 patient. On May 1, the government loosened the restrictions to Level 4. Level 4 restrictions consist of the ability to travel nationally, but not internationally. A few small local businesses also opened.

Moving Forward

In South Africa and around the world, people are social distancing and quarantining. For COVID-19 to be successfully tackled in South Africa, the nation must continue to prioritize the health of its citizens and financially support those who are struggling with unemployment and poverty. This will hopefully result in a significant drop in the number of cases in the country. Moving forward, South Africa and other nations around the world should use the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic to prepare for future pandemics and epidemics.

– Cleveland Lewis 
Photo: Flickr

 5 Facts About Heart Disease in India
The rates of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases are increasing at alarming rates in developing countries around the world. However, heart disease in India has had a particularly high impact on the nation’s population. This increase requires attention and action to reduce the strain of heart disease on the Indian population.

5 Facts About Heart Disease in India

  1. Rising rates of cardiovascular disease have rapidly increased in India. The number of cases within the country has more than doubled from 1990 to 2016. In comparison, heart disease in the United States decreased by 41% in the same time period. Death as a result of cardiovascular disease has increased by 34 percent in the country in the past 26 years alone. In 2016, 28.1 percent of all deaths were caused by heart disease and a total of 62.5 million years of life were lost to premature death. Heart disease in India accounts for nearly 60% of the global impact of cardiac health even though India accounts for less than 20 percent of the global population.
  2. The burden of heart disease, while high throughout India, varies greatly from state to state. Punjab has the highest burden of disease, with 17.5 percent of the population afflicted, while Mizoram has the lowest burden, a full 9 times lower than Punjab. These immense disparities between Indian states are dependent upon the level of development and regional lifestyle differences. Understanding prevalent risk factors in different regions allows for more effective interventions. Specifically tailored programs are needed, rather than viewing India as a monolith.
  3. Rates of heart disease are far higher in the urban Indian populations when compared to rural communities. Urban areas record between 400 or 500 cases in every 100,000 people, while rural populations record 100 cases per 100,000 people. Risk factors for heart disease include a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, central obesity, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes and metabolic syndrome. All of these factors are abundant in urban populations and limited in rural populations, thus accounting for the discrepancy.
  4. On average, heart disease in India affects people 8 to 10 years earlier than other parts of the world, specifically heart attacks. This huge discrepancy can be explained by increased rates of tobacco consumption, the prevalence of diabetes and genetic predisposition for premature heart disease. A common genetic determinant of heart disease in Indians is familial hypercholesterolemia, a lipid disorder. Although this disorder is treatable with lifestyle changes and pharmaceuticals, it is often undiagnosed. This causes an increased likelihood of heart disease. Furthermore, stress levels in young Indians have been on the rise due to hectic lifestyles and increased career demands. Mental stress compounded with genetic predisposition and environmental factors like diet, sleep, and exercise has resulted in higher rates of heart disease in India’s younger population.
  5. The India Heart Association is committed to increasing awareness of the severity of heart disease in India. This organization is nongovernmental and launched by individuals who have been personally affected by heart disease. The organization’s major goals include increasing awareness of heart disease in India through online campaigns and grassroots activities. The organization has been appointed to the Thoracic and Cardiovascular Instrumentation Subcommittee of the Bureau of Indian Standards by the Indian government. Efforts are multi-faceted, operating through partnerships with local governments, hospitals, and programming with donors. Organizations like this one are making effective strides in addressing the burden of heart disease in India.

As heart disease in India is on the rise, it is important to understand the impact on global health. Non-communicable diseases have an undeniable effect on development. The World Health Organization stated, “Poverty is closely linked with NCDs, and the rapid rise in NCDs is predicted to impede poverty reduction initiatives in low-income countries.” In an effort to reduce global poverty, attention should move to heart disease in India, and further, to non-communicable diseases in developing countries globally.

Treya Parikh
Photo: Flickr

According to data accumulated by the United Nations, life expectancy in Burkina Faso has increased by 32 years since 1950. Contemporary estimates place Burkina Faso’s current life expectancy at 62 years, while in 1950 life expectancy was measured to be 30 years. Despite these gains, contemporary figures remain low compared to the developed world. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Burkina Faso showcase the massive strides made in public health and standard of living while also describing challenges yet to be overcome.

10 facts About Life Expectancy in Burkina Faso

  1. Malaria: The Center for Disease Control (CDC) lists malaria as the number one cause of death in Burkina Faso. Severe Malaria Observatory reports that malaria is responsible for 61.5 percent of all hospitalizations and 30.5 percent of deaths occurring each year due to malaria. Similarly, for children under 5, malaria is the leading cause of hospitalization with 63.2 percent of all admittances. Malaria accounts for nearly half of all deaths for children under 5.
  2. HIV: Tremendous strides in reducing the prevalence of HIV are further improving life expectancy in Burkina Faso. The population affected by HIV has been reduced from 2.3 percent down to 0.8 percent between 2001 and 2018. Representing an overall decrease of 65 percent, Burkina Faso reduced HIV prevalence more than any country in that period. Further, in 2007 HIV was still ranked as the fifth most likely cause of death in Burkina Faso. By 2017, HIV had plummeted to the 16th most likely cause of death. Working with major international partners including the University of Oslo, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Terre des Hommes and the Global Fund allowed Burkina Faso to develop and implement methods to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV. 
  3. Sanitation Improvements: According to the Burkinabè government’s Ministry of Water and Sanitation between 2018 and 2019, Burkina Faso successfully constructing 26,039 family latrines and 966 public latrines. In the same year, the Burkinabè government assisted in the construction of 553 kilometers of additional water supply infrastructure and 188 new standpipes in urban areas. This construction increased national access to drinking water from 74 percent to 75.4 percent within a single year. Similarly, the national sanitation rate rose from 22.6 percent to 23.6 percent. Inadequate access to proper sanitation and clean water are the primary contributors to diarrheal disease, which is one of the leading causes of death in Burkina Faso. Improvements in sanitation have reduced deaths attributed to diarrheal diseases and increased overall life expectancy in Burkina Faso.
  4. Infant and Maternal Mortality: Infant mortality has decreased from 91 deaths per 1,000 births in the year 2000 to 49 deaths in 2017. Similarly, the maternal mortality rate dropped significantly between 2000 and 2017 from 516 deaths per 100,000 live births to 320 deaths per 100,000 live births. These advancements are due to greater access to hospitals, particularly in urban areas, as well as innovations in public health such as the Maternal Death Surveillance and Response system. The initiative trains health care professionals across the country to properly identify, notify and investigate instances of maternal death. Since its inception, the program has been nationalized leading to maternal and neonatal death audits so that health facilities regularly address the shortcomings of the health system to avoid future deaths.
  5. Child Mortality: A recent study conducted by the World Bank found that one in eight children born in Burkina Faso will die before the age of 5. The risk of under-5 mortality is 6 percent higher for children born to mothers younger than the age of 18. The average age of a woman in Burkina Faso at the time of childbirth is 19 years old and the birth rate for women aged 15-19 is 122 births per 1,000. To curb adolescent pregnancy the Burkina Faso Council of Community Development Organizations launched a campaign to reduce sexually transmitted disease, unwanted or adolescent pregnancies and unsafe abortions in Burkina Faso in 2019.
  6. High Fertility Rates: Even as life expectancy in Burkina Faso has improved, high fertility rates influence public health as women, on average, give birth to 4.5 children. Though contemporary efforts to address high fertility rates have been promising, the population demographic distribution is largely 14 years old and younger. With these demographics dominating the population Burkina Faso’s rate of growth will continue to increase as this younger generation reaches adulthood.
  7. High Growth Rates: Despite life expectancy increasing, Burkina Faso still displays a young age structure — typified by a declining mortality rate coupled with particularly high fertility rates. Burkina Faso’s population is growing at a projected rate of 2.66 percent, making the nation the 18th fastest growing population in the world. This precipitous growth places a greater strain on the nation’s arable land as well as economic well being, causing challenges in maintaining the growth of life expectancy in Burkina Faso’s future.
  8. Security Crisis: Since 2016, Burkina Faso has been targeted by several militant Islamist extremist groups primarily based in the country’s Northern region. Attacks committed by these groups claimed 1,800 lives in 2019, according to the United Nations. In 2019, there was a 10-fold increase in the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs); the total people displaced is estimated at around half a million. This large number of IDPs and people who have been fleeing violence to neighboring Mali have compounded economic and ecological problems in Burkina Faso. Although, the government is looking to continue to propel growth in life expectancy in Burkina Faso.
  9. Humanitarian Aid: Around 948,000 people need security and 1.5 million people are currently dependent upon humanitarian aid to cover basic medical needs. Basic health care is crucial in effectively reducing poverty and improving life expectancy. Humanitarian aid is focusing on impacting 1.8 million people by providing $312 million in funding.
  10. Continued Growth Projections: Regardless of concerns,  recently presented data from the 2019 Revision of World Population Prospects, the United Nations projects continued growth in the area of Burkinabè life expectancy. Life expectancy in Burkina Faso is projected to increase to 70 years by 2050 according to the U.N. study.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Burkina Faso depict a nation that has made great achievements and is ready to face its contemporary problems with assistance from international partners. 

– Perry Stone Budd
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and health in argentina

Though Argentina does not suffer from the same issues of illiteracy and income inequality that other countries do, the South American nation has other problems to focus on, namely national health issues and their intersection with poverty. According to 2017 estimates, about one in every four Argentinians lives below the poverty line.

This means that many in Argentina do not have access to proper medical personnel or equipment, as well as medicine. Though this number may seem fairly standard compared to other South American countries, Argentina’s largely agrarian communities suffer from extremely limited access to sufficient education or medical facilities. As a result, even those not considered impoverished may not have the proper means to receive medical treatment, thus creating a vicious cycle of poverty’s effect on health in Argentina.

An Unstable System

Argentina’s health system is in part to blame for this issue. Argentina created a system comprised of a public and a private sector, the former of which is meant to provide all Argentinians with universal healthcare and free coverage. In theory, this seems like an advantageous idea as it is meant to directly address everyday health issues for every citizen. However, it actually perfectly exemplifies poverty’s effect on health in Argentina. The reality is that problems like regional socioeconomic disparities have caused the system to work inefficiently, meaning that those in less educated, more rural areas do not usually receive the same quality of care and coverage as those in wealthier urban communities. This unfortunate issue is quite cyclical since poorer communities simply do not have a viable way to resolve it.

Local Perspectives

Zack Tenner, a Pre-Med university student who spent a month earlier this summer working in Argentina with Child Family Health International, commented on Argentina’s health and poverty issues in an interview with The Borgen Project. “Argentina prides itself on a universal healthcare system which guarantees the ability for all citizens and tourists to see a doctor without cost. Despite its attempts to create a working and efficient system, Argentina’s emergency departments are overburdened,” said Tenner.

“The homeless and impoverished populations do not have enough access to education on how to properly use the system to their benefit, meaning that they end up being stuck with the same limited healthcare and access to medicine as before. This is definitely a timely issue that should be one of Argentina’s top priorities, as national health is a huge factor in so many different facets of everyday life.”

Rural Challenges

The flawed healthcare system is not helping poverty’s effect on health in Argentina. In more rural and agrarian communities, Argentinians are exposed to more risks of disease and injury as well. Aside from the constant risk of minor injuries from agriculture and operating machinery, diseases and viruses like Typhoid and even Zika occur in Argentina.

In other words, the Argentinians with probably the highest risk of injury or disease and subsequent healthcare and medicine are also the citizens with the least sufficient access to viable sources of healthcare. Argentina is on the right track in terms of creating a universal healthcare system.

That said, the South American nation needs to implement a more complete system that truly affords people from all walks of life with adequate medicine and treatment. Otherwise, poverty’s effect on health in Argentina will continue and, with it, a seemingly inescapable cycle.

NGO Involvement

All that in mind, there are still several NGOs focused on improving the healthcare and treatment situations in Argentina. Child Family Health International, for example, aims to increase awareness of primary care and treatment issues in Argentina by bringing in students and doctors from other countries to work with Argentinian physicians and patients. Aside from that, other larger entities such as the World Health Organization are also working to increase awareness of health issues in Argentina. This organization provides pertinent data and information regarding Argentina’s healthcare and coverage system to incite activism and aid for the South American nation.

As for organizations focused on more specific health-related issues, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation has worked since its creation in 2013 to provide support for testing and treatment of HIV/AIDS in Argentina. In fact, the organization supports seven Argentinian clinics and their nearly 12,000 patients and has performed more than 120,000 HIV tests for citizens in the last six years.

As long as organizations like these continue to create awareness and provide assistance, the healthcare and treatment situations will continue to improve, thus lessening poverty’s effect on health in Argentina.

Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

 

medical advancements in Ethiopia
With a population of approximately 106 million, the nation of Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa. Along with this large population, Ethiopia also has one of the highest poverty levels in the world and is one of the most underdeveloped countries on the continent.

Due to this underdevelopment, Ethiopia has many medical and healthcare related concerns that have historically not been able to be addressed. Recently, the government of Ethiopia has made the health of its citizens a priority, leading to many medical advancements in Ethiopia.

The current health system in the African nation is unable to provide for over half of its large population. One of the main reasons that Ethiopia has been unable to provide medical care to so much of its citizens is because there are not enough medical facilities in the country, and many people do not have access to the ones that do exist.

According to the World Health Organization, only 75 percent of urban families and about 42 percent of rural households are within walking distance from a hospital. When individuals are able to access a medical facility, they are often met with facilities that are understaffed, have workers with low qualifications and do not have many standard clinical supplies.

One of the ways that medical advancements in Ethiopia are occurring is by working on improving this shortage of medical facilities. An example is the expansion of St. Paul’s hospital in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Though this is an existing medical facility, the expansion will help the hospital take in more citizens than it has previously been able to. Currently, the hospital has between 12 and 14 beds in the emergency room; after the expansion is complete, the emergency room will hold up to 50 beds. This expansion is partially possible because of the partnership between Millennium Medical College in Ethiopia’s capital and the University of Michigan.

Another way in which medical advancements in Ethiopia are being made is by the nation’s dedication to treating HIV and AIDS. With the help of the United States, the Ethiopian government has committed to providing free treatments for HIV and AIDS. U.S. aid has been a vital part of this effort and has been working to provide the needed treatments. According to USAID, in just one year the number of Ethiopians accessing HIV counseling and testing increased from 500,000 to more than nine million. It is also reported that the number of people on anti-retroviral therapy increased from 900 in 2005 to 394,000 in 2015.

This expansion of current medical facilities and commitment to the treatment of HIV and AIDS are just two ways in which medical advancements in Ethiopia are being made. The University of Michigan has said that Ethiopia is experiencing a “medical revolution,” and it appears that this is just the beginning.

– Nicole Stout

Photo: Flickr

In Kenya, around 1.6 million citizens are currently living with HIV, with around 910,000 of these being women aged 15 and over. Soteni International, a nonprofit organization based out of Cincinnati, Ohio, works within rural Kenya to fight HIV/AIDS. Executive Director Randie Marsh describes the goals of the organization as “to reduce the incidences of HIV/AIDS in rural Kenya and improve the lives of those affected by HIV/AIDS.”

Soteni International was founded in 2002 by a group of both American and African volunteers led by Dr. Victoria Wells Wulsin, a physician and epidemiologist. Marsh describes the early mission of the organization as being to “empower orphans of AIDS to lead the fight against AIDS and to prevent another generation from succumbing.”

Villages of Hope

The organization has now developed and works through the “model of Villages of Hope.” This includes doing everything in its power to build up specific communities so that they are sustainable for future HIV/AIDS-free generations. These villages are focused in three main regions in rural Kenya: Mbakalo, Ugunja and Mitunto.

Marsh told The Borgen Project that the organization chose to stay in rural areas because it “felt like there are many organizations working in Nairobi that address the HIV crisis there. These [three regions] are also areas where the communities have given us land to use to further our mission and/or support us in other ways.” Soteni has supported a number of projects in these communities that all work toward the overall betterment of the region.

Community Improvements

In 2009, Soteni worked with other organizations, including the Lake Victoria North Water Services Board, the Gender Sensitive Initiatives organization and the Kenyan Water Services Fund Trust, to bring safe drinking water to Mbakalo. The project included bringing the region 20 hand-pump wells and 20 springwater pipes. The local schools also received 15 three-door latrines and 12 rainwater harvesting tanks. In 2015, the organization also enacted the Improving Access to Family Planning Project in Ujunga to spread sexual health and family planning awareness and provide access to sexual reproductive health services.

Soteni opened a health center in Mbakalo in 2005 and has continued to improve it over the years. The center provides essential medical services through a seven-person staff. 200 to 300 citizens receive treatment here every month that includes antimalarials, antihistamines, antibiotics and some immunizations. The center has no electricity, but in 2008 Soteni installed a solar refrigerator for vaccines and medicines. Plans are currently underway to expand and upgrade the center.

International Cooperation

Soteni International requires leadership and cooperation in both the United States and Kenya to do its work. The organization has members and locations in both Cincinnati and Nairobi and members make trips back and forth annually. Supporters in the U.S. can donate time through volunteer work or make monetary and material donations.

According to Executive Director Marsh, “the heart of our organization are the people on the ground who work to support the mission.”  The organization and its community work are entirely grassroots, built from the ground up by people who saw a problem and wanted to be a part of the solution. Not only does its work better the lives of Kenyan citizens, but it also inspires citizens from the U.S. and around the globe.

– Megan Burtis

Photo: Flickr

AMREF: Lasting Health Changes in AfricaSurgeons Michael Wood, Archibald McIndoe, and Tom Rees came up with a plan to provide medical assistance in remote regions of East Africa in 1957. Today, the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) is the most respected health development organization based in Africa. Their mission is simple: bringing lasting healthcare improvements to Africa.

AMREF’s strategy is based on seven priority areas:

  1. Maternal health, including safer pregnancies, support for reproductive rights and cervical cancer prevention for disadvantaged women.
  2. Child health, including integrated management of childhood illnesses and improved childhood nutrition.
  3. Fighting diseases like HIV, TB and malaria with prevention, care and treatment.
  4. Improving access to safe water and sanitation to prevent epidemics of waterborne diseases.
  5. A wider reach of quality clinical and diagnostic services by strengthening health facilities.
  6. Research and advocacy to distribute knowledge to healthcare workers across the continent.
  7. A strong, united AMREF Health Africa.

AMREF works to make significant healthcare improvements in African countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Senegal. AMREF has been successful in developing community-based healthcare models and programs with communities, which is the heart of their system. It reaches and respects communities and brings lasting healthcare improvements to Africa from within.

AMREF launched the successful Stand Up for African Mothers campaign to ensure that mothers are given adequate medical care during pregnancy and childbirth. It aimed to train 15,000 midwives to reduce maternal death by 25 percent. One trained midwife was projected to provide care for 500 women each year, including safe deliveries of 100 babies.

AMREF set up the Kenya eLearning Nurses Upgrading Programme in 2005 and a few years later, it expanded to include the AMREF Virtual Nursing School. The program has further evolved to implement projects such as:

  • Conversion of the Diploma in Community Health program to eLearning
  • Conversion of six distance education courses to eLearning
  • The Center for Disease Control-supported infection prevention and control program
  • Conversion of the national antiretroviral therapy guidelines to eLearning
  • Replication of the eLearning program in various countries across the region including Uganda, Tanzania and Senegal
  • Support for the Ministries of Health in non-AMREF countries to implement eLearning, including Zambia and Lesotho.

More than 220 women die each day due to pregnancy and childbirth complications in Sub-Saharan Africa, and children in Africa are 16 times more likely to die before the age of five than in developed regions. This highlights the serious need for healthcare improvements in Africa. AMREF has shown that when women have more control over their life and health, they become more effective and have a great impact on their own community.

AMREF has taken the lead to improve the situation by partnering with and empowering communities and strengthening healthcare systems. Their priority areas address the most pressing healthcare concerns, bringing lasting healthcare improvements to Africa in the places where it is needed most.

Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr

Schistosomiasis Control InitiativeOne of the many challenges hindering the alleviation of global poverty is the health conditions that afflict those in poverty. Poor health contributes to higher child mortality, premature death and inconsistencies in the ability for the public at large to function. Many impoverished countries experience lower rates of student attendance due to the effects of health conditions. However, many of the ailments experienced by the extremely poor are preventable or curable, but without access to appropriate medicines, they can be detrimental to a productive life or in many cases fatal. The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative is an organization working in sub-Saharan Africa to help those that suffer from such diseases and infections.

In 2015, 218 million people lived with preventable diseases, one of which was soil-transmitted schistosomiasis, or parasitic worms. This infection originates from poor sanitation and a lack of clean water and water treatment facilities. The parasite lives in contaminated freshwater and the recipient becomes infected when they come in contact with the water. There are effective treatments for schistosomiasis once it is contracted, but in some places, these medicines are scarce, unavailable or expensive.

The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative works in several ways to help generate support for administering medicine for schistosomiasis as well as public outreach and communication to prevent such diseases. Schistosomiasis Control Initiative collaborates with local and global government and nonprofit agencies to ensure access to treatments and helps develop strategies for prone communities to prevent transmission. In line with the United Nations Development Goals, Schistosomiasis Control Initiative’s goal is to make a significant impact on health conditions for the extremely poor by 2030, thereby improving quality of life across many standards such as school attendance, child mortality and general productivity.

As of 2015, 74.3 million people have been treated worldwide for schistosomiasis, in part due to the efforts of Schistosomiasis Control Initiative. In the following decades, simply due to the nature of the disease and the availability of treatment, one can expect these statistics to improve, thanks to groups willing to transport treatments to the locations that need it most and arm communities with the knowledge to prevent it in the future.

Casey Hess

Photo: Flickr