Posts

Healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa has a direct impact on poverty in the region. When adults are too ill to work, they and their children can quickly fall into extreme poverty, which leads to hunger and malnutrition. Around 46% of Africa’s population lives on less than $1 a day; an even larger proportion than was the case 15 years ago. Despite these challenges, organizations like Wild4Life are working to expand the reach of healthcare into these underserved communities.

Poverty and Health Care in sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest region in the continent. Close to 60 million children under the age of 17 work instead of attending school in an effort to help their families rise out of poverty. Every fifth child is forced into child labor. This effectively means that when grown, that person will lack education and most likely remain in poverty. This social plight creates a vicious cycle in which chronic malnutrition, growth disorders and physical and mental underdevelopment occur. These health issues further limit an individual’s opportunity to earn a living later in life. In addition, 25 million Africans are infected with HIV, including almost 3 million children — the highest rate of infection in the world. Many of these children have lost one or both parents and are living on the streets.

Government expenditure on healthcare in Africa is very low; typically about $6 per person. This means that medical workers experience huge pressures, operating with little-to-no equipment or means to reach rural populations, Such challenges make healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa difficult to provide.

Good News about Health Care in Rural Communities

The good news is that organizations such as Wild4Life are working to reverse these disturbing healthcare trends. The NGO’s mission is to expand the reach of health services to underserved remote, rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa that have limited or no access to healthcare. To achieve this goal, Wild4Life has developed an incredibly innovative service delivery model. The aim of this model is to reach more people than previously would have been possible. Wild4Life works to establish the basic building blocks of a healthcare system. It believes that a well-functioning system has a lasting effect on a community’s overall health and longevity.

Expansion to Twelve African Countries

The Wild4Life model involves partnering with organizations that are already established in remote locations, and that have put together links with people in the local community. This approach leverages the existing infrastructure, social ties and knowledge bank in cooperation with Wild4Life’s network of health providers. This allows support and treatment to impact some of the hardest-to-reach people and places on earth.

Wild4Life began as an HIV/AIDS program in Zimbabwe, but it has expanded throughout sub-Saharan Africa.  Now operating in twelve countries — Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe —the organization delivers extremely low-cost healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa and provides interventions that are scalable yet sustainable.

Community Partnerships to Improve Health Care

The goals of the NGO include assessing the needs of rural populations and targeting the health issues that most affect them. It also seeks to build clinics in remote areas; strengthen rural healthcare networks; provide quality healthcare and improve community partnerships so that creative ways to address problems become permanent solutions. For example, Wild4Life trains community leaders to mobilize local demands for healthcare services and advocate for quality care from clinic staff and maintain facilities. This results in significant infrastructure improvements. The NGO also organizes events around such topics as improving healthy behaviors and coming up with strategies for the best way to use clinic funds.

Five Clinics in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe alone, Wild4Life has a network of five clinics. These clinics have achieved remarkable results, including hundreds of lives saved by new diagnosis and treatment of HIV as well as other preventable diseases. The organization believes that there is not one single technology or innovation that will create a lasting impact on the health of people living in rural communities. Instead, it partners with all levels of the healthcare system to locate the gaps in the extant setup. By doing this, it hopes to leave behind a resilient, local healthcare system for those who need it most.

During comprehensive clinical mentoring, well-trained, multi-disciplinary teams composed of six specialists comprehensively mentor clinic staffs on primary care conditions. These conditions include HIV, TB, Integrated Management of Childhood Illness and testing for anemia. Such services also aid in labor and delivery. This process also covers monitoring and evaluation of data quality, pharmacy management and clinic management over a two-year period.

Scaling Up to Improve Healthcare in Africa

Wild4Life has significantly scaled up since its inception, through government, nonprofit and for-profit connections. It has gone from delivering care to remote areas, to building healthcare networks in rural populations. As a result of its expansion plan, 70,000 more people will have access to high-quality health services in their communities. By training clinicians and community members in the most up-to-date medical care delivery, the NGO is changing the way that rural healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa is delivered.

Sarah Betuel

Photo: Flickr

Inspirational Quotes by Humanitarian Oprah WinfreyBorn to an unmarried teenage mother in 1954 and raised on a farm in Milwaukee, Mississippi by her grandmother, Oprah Winfrey’s childhood is the epitome of early life adversities. Winfrey’s experience with sexual abuse, racism and poverty forced her to recognize that she needed to change her perspective on life. She decided to transform her life into the positive and make the most of it. Winfrey is most known for her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show. However, this was only one of the philanthropists’ many successes that led her to become the first female African American billionaire in North America. Below are a few inspirational quotes by humanitarian Oprah Winfrey.

Wise Words from Oprah Winfrey

 1997 Wellesley College Commencement Address

“Turn your wounds into wisdom.”

Winfrey followed this quote by acknowledging how life will always be a continuous roller coaster and mistakes will be made along the way. Winfrey’s life story is an example of how wounds shouldn’t define who you are. Instead, the vital aspect of life is how you respond to it. The year following her commencement speech in 1997, Winfrey created a public charity open called Oprah Winfrey’s Angel Network. The charity’s purpose is to encourage people to use their own life to impact others positively.

 2007 Howard University Commencement Speech

“My integrity is not for sale, and neither is yours.”

This quote defines Winfrey’s belief that you should never sell yourself out, no matter what happens. She highlights that everyone should always believe in what they stand for. Additionally, Winfrey emphasizes that people should follow their dreams and encourage others to do so by doing precisely that herself.

 Watch the full speech here.

 2008 Stanford University Commencement Speech

“Every right decision I’ve made—every right decision I’ve ever made—has come from my gut. And every wrong decision I’ve ever made was a result of me not listening to the greater voice of myself.”

Winfrey tells the graduating class to do whatever they set their minds to. She then encourages them to trust their gut feelings and remember to have no doubt when their time arises. In addition to positively impacting millions of people, the humanitarian work Winfrey has done exemplifies that her advice is reputable and she knows what she is doing.

Watch the full speech here.

2018 Commencement Speech at USC Annenberg

“It will take more than you alone to pull 40 million Americans out of poverty, but who will you be if you don’t care enough to try?”

Upon delivering this quote, Winfrey mentions a conversation she had with Maya Angelou. They discussed the school she had established in South Africa, Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy, which Winfrey believed would be a part of her legacy. But, thanks to Angelou, Winfrey soon learned that her legacy would be the impact she had on every person, not her charity work. This changed her perspective forever.

 2018 Golden Globes Future of Women Speech

“Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”

During this speech, Winfrey honored and showed her respect for each woman who had experienced forms of abuse and was courageous enough to tell their story. Moreover, her charitable work and foundations demonstrate her determination to encourage women and girls’ to hold their heads high.

2018 Interview with Reader’s Digest

“I believe every moment is a building block and another step in your journey to being who you are meant to be, and who you are meant to become.”

During this interview, Winfrey recalls meeting Nelson Mandela for the very first time. She describes meeting Mandela as a “defining moment” where she was inspired and enlightened. As a result of this experience, she created the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. The school was the first-ever graduating class consisting of 72 young girls.

Winfrey created the non-profit, Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy, in 2007 for young South African girls suffering from a lack of essential educational resources. The school offers a high-quality education system for grades 8-12 so young girls’ have the opportunity to expand their educational background. Consequently, this increases their chances of becoming great female leaders in any career field. Over 400 of the academy’s graduates decided to continue their education by attending college and in 2018, the graduating class consisted of 58 girls.

The Impact of Winfrey’s Words

Winfrey continues to impact young girls by remaining heavily involved within her foundation. Furthermore, she encourages women worldwide by reassuring them that they have the power to overcome life’s adversities. Not only are inspirational quotes by humanitarian Oprah Winfrey inspiring- they can also teach you a few life lessons.

Montana Moore
Photo: Flickr

South Africa’s Transition to SolarDespite having the 33rd largest economy in the world, South Africa ranks among the top 15 countries worldwide in greenhouse emissions, both total and per capita. Currently, the country mostly relies on coal for energy. However, the last decade has seen frequent and lengthy power outages that have convinced South African cities and companies to search for alternative energy sources. South Africa’s transition to solar has already started and both companies and cities strive to be less reliant on the national power grid within the next 10 years.

Ford Motor Company: Solar Car Park

The automotive industry is one of South Africa’s largest sectors, consisting of more than 13% of all exports and employing over 100,000 people. The Silverton Ford factory is among the country’s largest, employing 4,300 people. Due to the unreliability of the power grid, Ford announced its new solar project, named “Project Blue Oval” on November 14, 2020. Ford, in partnership with SolarAfrica, will install a 13.5 MW solar system that will supply about 30% of the plant’s power. It will contain more than 31,000 solar panels and provide coverage for more than 4,000 cars, making it the largest solar car park in the world. Ford will also install other green energy systems in the coming years, with the goal of being completely carbon neutral and off the grid by 2024.

Eskom: South Africa’s Electricity Supplier

South African cities are also transitioning to solar energy. City governments cite the sometimes weeks-long power outages as concerns and worry about the steadily rising cost of electricity. Currently, Eskom supplies most of the country’s power through coal power plants. Eskom is by far South Africa’s largest polluter, accounting for 40% of the country’s greenhouse emissions. Both the Cape province and Johannesburg have plans in place to move away from coal energy. The Northern Cape will complete a photovoltaic solar plant in 2023 capable of producing electricity for roughly 75,000 homes. Johannesburg has not yet committed to a specific plan for a solar or other green energy plant but has expressed interest.

Eskom is currently in $30 billion of debt and the large-scale transition away from the electricity provider will threaten Eskom’s financial stability even more. Eskom has announced on November 8 its goal to be carbon neutral by 2050. This will threaten the livelihoods of the 120,000 people who work at its 15 coal plants so the transition will be intentionally slow to lessen economic hardship.

Solar Energy in Agriculture

The agriculture industry is also starting to shift to solar energy. The periodic blackouts affect farmers’ abilities to freeze goods and irrigate crops, among other issues. Power from the grid is also expensive. Sun Exchange is a major player in bringing solar power to farmers across southern Africa. Its funding model of providing free equipment and installations while profiting off the energy usage allows agribusinesses to immediately lower energy costs by 20%. The market for solar energy in agriculture strong. GreenCape, a nonprofit green energy advocate, expects yearly solar market growth of 10% as companies like Sun Exchange continue providing low cost, reliable energy to farmers.

The Future of Solar Energy

The rise of solar and green energy in South Africa has less to do with environmental concern and more to do with issues of cost and reliability. Even energy giant Eskom will eventually switch over to renewable energy in the coming decades. South Africa’s transition to solar energy could make it a leader as the world slowly starts moving to green energy.

– Adam Jancsek
Photo: Flickr

Livestock WealthPoverty in South Africa has historically been linked with the institution of the racial apartheid regime. The national government began to pass segregationist policies in 1948, with racial discrimination policies only officially dismantling in 1994 when South Africa became a democracy and Nelson Mandela stepped into power. Livestock Wealth is a company that introduced South Africa to “crowdfarming” as a means of supporting farmers and alleviating poverty in the country.

Apartheid and Poverty

Under the apartheid regime, the minority-white government passed policies aimed at keeping black South Africans, who made up a majority of the population, from having any meaningful participation in the economy. This left millions trapped in cycles of poverty and the residual effects of such discriminatory policies are still being contended with, in the effort to reduce poverty today.

Apartheid laws confined poor South Africans to rural regions and made the migration to urban areas difficult. The lack of opportunities and social mobility in rural areas made overcoming poverty a challenging task. The legacy of this limited mobility is still present today. South African provinces in rural areas have more households in chronic poverty compared to urban provinces. As of 2015, 25.2% of the population of urban areas lived below the upper-bound poverty line (UPBL), whereas 65.4% fell below the UBPL in rural areas. In order to reduce poverty, it is most important that rural communities receive support and investment.

Livestock Wealth

Livestock Wealth is a startup founded in 2015 by Ntuthuko Shezi which aims to provide investment for farmers in South Africa’s rural areas. Livestock Wealth allows investors from anywhere in the world to effectively purchase from South African farmers four different livestock and crop options: a free-range ox, a pregnant cow, a connected garden or a macadamia-nut tree. When the cows or the crops are sold, both the farmer and the investor receive a share of the profit.

The investment provides liquidity to farmers for whom there is limited availability of short-term funds. Livestock Wealth is currently a credit provider with South Africa’s National Credit Regulator and is registered with the Agricultural Produce Agents Council.

Livestock Wealth currently has 58 partner farmers all across the country and all cows are hormone-free and grass-fed. In recent years, its business has expanded to also provide meat for investors who join the “Farmers Club.” There are currently more than 2,800 investors with Livestock Wealth and more than $4 million has been invested.

Alleviating Poverty in South Africa

Livestock Wealth is a representation of an initiative that has great potential to alleviate poverty in South Africa. South Africa’s rural populations have a long history of exclusion from the economy and have struggled to reduce poverty for decades. Livestock Wealth provides cash investments for farmers and creates a market in which they can reliably trade. By doing so, the firm exemplifies an innovation within the South African economy, one which is helping to alleviate poverty and can inspire others to do the same.

– Haroun Siddiqui
Photo: Flickr

The Influence of Poverty on Mental Health in South Africa
The most recent report evaluating the living conditions of men, women and children in South Africa in 2015 shows the disproportionate influence of poverty on female-led households. According to the Living Conditions Survey (LCS), approximately half of the adult population in South Africa were living below the poverty line. Broken down, 52% of women and 46% of men were experiencing poverty. Most notably, the poverty gap is larger for female-led households than male-led households. This is affecting adults and children facing poverty. Only 25.7% of children in poor areas have access to a safe place to play. This is crucial to healthy development for the children. There is a correlation between poverty and mental health in South Africa.

The Mental Health Crisis

In South Africa, mental health does not receive any sort of priority status, and in rural communities, there is no support for those struggling with mental health disorders. A study on South African health reported that at least 15% of people suffer from anxiety disorders. Additionally, 10% are suffering from depression and bipolar disorders. Unfortunately, the systems in place to support those struggling with these disorders only aid about a quarter of them. This is mostly due to the lack of funding for mental health. Consequently, this mental health crisis and lack of support can also be attributed to the stigma surrounding mental disorders, proximity to services, inequality and poverty. Poverty and mental health in South Africa are directly correlated, however, it is not a priority for health services.

Organizations Supporting Mental Health

The Mental Health and Poverty Project (MHaPP) at the University of Cape Town is a project working to build policies to break the stigma of mental health. It also provides access and support to even the poorest communities, who often face the most extreme influences of mental health disorders. The MHaPP reports that 53% of the 23 public mental hospitals provide 72-hour assessments of patients with psychiatric emergencies. However, the care is far from adequate as many suicidal patients wait multiple hours for examination.

One of the most important findings from MHaPP was that attitude and understanding of mental health issues still have a very negative connotation. Despite the care provided, people facing mental health disorders are not supported with proper care due to discrimination. Additionally, the MHaPP is working to reevaluate the structure and mindset of mental health in South Africa. Hence, the MHaPP is providing awareness to these issues.

Women are Disproportionately at Risk of Mental Health Problems

According to MHaPP researchers, one in three women in low-income communities experiences postnatal depression. In addition, research from KwaZulu-Natal found that 41% of pregnant women experience depression. This number is three times higher than statistics from developed nations. The project explains that there are strong ties between poverty, social deprivation and exposure to traumatic experiences. This directly influences the mental health of people living in these conditions.

There are correlations between poverty and mental health, especially for women who are older, widowed or in poor physical health. One of the most consistent findings in the study of poverty and mental health in South Africa is that depression and anxiety disorders increase with age.

Poverty and mental health in South Africa are issues that need to be supported by healthcare providers and services. Additionally, this issue needs to be prioritized, especially for women in poorer communities. The mental health stigma needs to be broken through awareness of disorders and alteration of mindset from the current negative outlook that discriminates against people living in poverty and experiencing mental health struggles.

Caroline Pierce
Photo: Flickr

South African poverty and educationSouth Africa is a country with 19.6 million children, making up about 35% of its total population of 56.5 million people. Of these 19.6 million children, about 98% have “attended some form of an educational facility.” However, these high attendance rates do not mean high-quality education and lack of academic resources is a large contributing factor to the correlation between South African poverty and education.

Education in South Africa

Despite having high rates of education enrollment, the quality of education in South Africa is poor. Reports have shown that of the students who attended school for five years, only half can do basic math. Furthermore, there are little to no standards for the teachers to be held at. About 10% of teachers across the country are absent from school on any given day and 79% of grade six math teachers do not have the content knowledge to be teaching at their respective level.

Education is compulsory until grade nine, and over the years, there have been increasing numbers of drop-out students, for a variety of reasons. The main reason is unequal access to resources as a result of poverty. The disparities between female and male students also continually present issues in the South African education system, especially with low percentages of girls pursuing careers in science, math or technology.

In addition, South African schools have struggled to teach basic skills such as reading and writing as well as early development for young children. Only 38.4% of children ages zero to four attended a school system such as day-care, playgroup or pre-kindergarten programs. The early development issue is further seen as 46.8% of parents say they do not read with their children and 43.15% say that they do not color or draw with their children.

South African Poverty and Education Correlation

South Africa has struggled with high rates of poverty for many years and the correlation between South African poverty and education is present in many different aspects of the relationship. In rural areas in the former homelands, about 81% of children are below the poverty line and 44% of children in urban areas live in poverty as well. Education in rural areas suffers especially, simply as a result of the barriers presented by the location. For example, critical resources such as water, electricity, books and technology are missing from many schools, which present obstacles for South African children to have a complete educational experience. Furthermore, the location of schools in comparison to students’ homes, present long commutes. Without reliable transportation, students and teachers both struggle to consistently arrive at school.

Why Low Education Enables Poverty

Poor education is a leading factor in continuing the cycle of poverty. Research continually supports the idea that children who suffer from high rates of poverty are more likely to drop out of school after grade nine as a result of the barriers poverty creates. Increasing the quality of education results in a growing economy, lowers income inequalities and decreases the risk of disease and violence. Without a basic education, South African children struggle to become members of the workforce, and as a result, cannot escape poverty. Education not only teaches basic skills such as reading and writing but helps to develop important qualities such as strong communication and social skills. Without this, it is difficult for children to become working members of society. Furthermore, education differences between the poor and the rich as well as males and females, increases inequality, resulting in poor systems that cannot fix the underlying issues.

Partners for Possibility

Partners for Possibility is an example of a grassroots organization that works to fix the issues between South African poverty and education all while improving businesses in the United States. Business leaders from companies in the United States go overseas to South Africa for a 12-month program in which they teach principals and leaders of schools about leadership and engagement. By doing so, business professionals help to change the unstable and ineffective system of South African education, while simultaneously learning about poverty and culture in South Africa. The program has had extremely positive outcomes as education leaders, teachers and parents become more invested and engaged in the school system, which in turn, benefits the children.

South African poverty and education are strongly linked and this presents many issues for children. However, it is not an impossible mission to address and Partners for Possibility demonstrates the mutual return for U.S. businesses and South Africans that comes with finding these solutions.

– Alyssa Hogan
Photo: Flickr

Hunger InitiativesFood security is a large topic in Africa due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and environmental factors, such as drought. Recently, many South Africans have experienced rapid food shortages. However, various hunger initiatives have taken off during this time.

The Issue

In South Africa alone, four million migrants are at risk of descending into poverty. The number of South Africans currently living in poverty — 40% of the population — is expected to increase within the next five years. Those already in poverty don’t have access to basic medical supplies and other life-saving resources. The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated these issues further. Many people grapple with economic fallout as a result.

South African women are disproportionately affected by poverty, especially as heads of the households. Around half of female-headed households are below the poverty line as opposed to 33% of male-run households.

Hunger initiatives have proven essential in helping vulnerable groups like women and children.

Ladles of Love

Many food-based charities have dedicated their efforts to providing meals to those displaced by the coronavirus pandemic. A soup kitchen called Ladles of Love is one such organization. The soup kitchen operates on Seva, the art of selfless service. The soup kitchen volunteers service over 200 meals a week to those in need.

Recently, Ladles of Love was featured in the Guinness Book of World Records for their efforts providing healthy meals to the poor and hungry. They broke both the South African and the world record for most sandwiches made in an hour. The previous world record was 57,000, and they eclipsed that by making over 68,000 more sandwiches. They also surpassed the South African record by 18,000. As a result of this, they were able to make over 300,000 sandwiches and raise publicity for their cause.

67 Minutes

Ladles of Love is part of the social media movement 67 minutes. The movement, started in memory of Nelson Mandela, emphasizes the importance of making a difference. The 67 minutes campaign encourages people to prioritize helping others for 67 minutes. The number 67 is significant because Nelson Mandela fought for social justice reform in South Africa for 67 years. As such, the campaign uses that number as a baseline for its work. Through social media, Ladles of Love increased publicity for the movement. More people are aware of the severe issue of hunger in South Africa. This will hopefully generate more funding and education about the topic in other parts of the world.

Actions Against Hunger

Organizations like Actions Against Hunger have this world-reach goal in mind. The global nonprofit strives to end hunger and malnutrition within “our lifetime.” The group focuses on both preventative and reactionary measures to help provide food for those in need, especially children and families. Action Against Hunger works to empower people to help themselves rather than rely on their services. They believe education, empowerment and innovation and crush world hunger.

Conclusion

Since quarantine began, many South Africans have struggled to make ends meet. Most people were furloughed from their jobs and left without stable sources of income. Furthermore, the pandemic has impacted students especially hard. The government suspended their nutrition program, and they can no longer get steady meals. Despite this, the government has attempted to rectify the situation by providing over one million food packages for residents and constituents.

Many South Africans struggle to cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, changing weather patterns and rising poverty levels. Ladles of Love, the 67 minutes campaign and Action Against Hunger provide support for them. These organizations and other hunger initiatives work tirelessly to alleviate food insecurity among the poor population.

Xenia Gonikberg
Photo: Flickr

5 Rheumatic Diseases and Disorders Diagnosed in South AfricaFor the past few years, rheumatology has improved in South Africa, populated with more than 1.2 billion people. However, there is still a lack of resources needed for appropriate education, testing and diagnosis to improve rheumatology patients’ quality of health care. This piece will explain five rheumatic diseases and disorders that have been regularly diagnosed in South Africa. The difference between a disease and a disorder is that a disorder disrupts regular bodily activity and functions while the disease has specific symptoms and causes. Despite the number of rheumatic care providers, rheumatic diseases and disorders continue to be diagnosed in South Africa.

5 Rheumatic Diseases and Disorders in South Africa

  1. Sjogren’s Syndrome: Sjogren’s Syndrome is a rare and often forgotten autoimmune rheumatic disorder. It is an autoimmune disorder that affects one’s salivary glands. An autoimmune disease is a disease where the body’s immune system attacks its healthy functioning cells. The main symptoms of Sjogren’s Syndrome are dry eyes and mouth. In general, women are more likely to present symptoms, although males can be diagnosed with the syndrome. The disorder is typically diagnosed in those who are older than 40. Treatment and medical advice for Sjogren’s Syndrome can be found in South Africa. There are practices like Dr. Ajesh Maharaj’s Rheumatology; however, treatment is based on the service required in terms of the patient’s length of service and condition, which may or may not increase the amount of money that will be charged for their use.
  2. Rheumatoid Arthritis: There are six forms of arthritis, and roughly 50% of people can be living with it and have no idea. From the six forms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis is most common. Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease, commonly known for affecting the body’s joints and causing inflammation. Rheumatoid Arthritis can be diagnosed at any age and include symptoms such as weight loss, fever, pain in joints, fatigue, and weakness. The percentage of people with rheumatoid arthritis is 2.5% in South Africa’s urban settings and 0.07% in its rural settings.
  3. Scleroderma: Scleroderma affects women three to four times more than men. The disease is diagnosed between the ages of 25 and 50, and it makes the skin and tissues harden. Scleroderma is treated in South Africa in different hospitals such as Life Healthy Care Hospital Group, Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital and Life Kingsbury Hospital.
  4. Lupus: Lupus is an autoimmune disease that currently has no cure. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with Lupus than men. Like many other rheumatic diseases and disorders, Lupus goes undiagnosed in South Africa because of the lack of awareness and resources people are given. When there is no education on a disease or disorder, it goes overlooked and frequently misdiagnosed.
  5.  Gout: Gout is a form of arthritis that is less common in African countries because it often goes underreported. Common symptoms of gout include severe pain, redness and tenderness in joints. Pain can occur randomly and can be helped with anti-inflammatory medications. Patients are usually recommended by a health professional to transition to a healthier lifestyle that includes exercise and a diet that includes more vegetables and water. Males are more likely to be diagnosed with gout than women. People who are at high risk may have a higher intake of alcohol or are obese.

Poverty and Accessing Treatment

Accessing medical care is difficult, especially for those who are suffering from extreme poverty. In 2015, 18.8% of South Africans were living in poverty. The poverty rate between 2011 and 2015 increased by 2%. Efficient healthcare prominently available in private hospitals in South Africa; however, there are also public hospitals that treat patients. Yet, public hospitals are reported to suffer from long waiting lines and a shortage of staff.

More than 57 million people live in South Africa. Still, the region reports having only 85 adult and pediatric rheumatologists that treat rheumatic diseases and disorders. According to disease specialists, there should be a rheumatologist specialist for every 180,000 people, making the lack of medical care for rheumatology in South Africa clear. The shortage of rheumatologists is addressed by organizations such as the South African Rheumatism and Arthritis Association.

Organizations Helping Aid South Africa’s Rheumatic Diseases and Disorders

The South African Rheumatism and Arthritis Association (SARAA) is an organization that consists of medical professionals who are knowledgeable in the rheumatology department. The nonprofit organization of medical professionals represents South Africa’s rheumatology and brings awareness to the rheumatology field. They encourage other medical professionals to become members and believe in promoting their IDEAL vision: inclusiveness, dynamic, excellence, advancement and action and leaders.

The African League Against Rheumatism (AFLAR) is an international organization that promotes rheumatology in Africa, rheumatology education and its practice in Africa. It was established in 1989 and continues to work on educating medical employees and African citizens about rheumatic diseases and disorders in Africa.

Rheumatic diseases, such as lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, gout and scleroderma, are diseases. or disorders that affect people worldwide, including South Africa. Suppose rheumatologists in South Africa are given support in bringing awareness to the different health conditions and given more medical resources. In that case, South Africa’s rheumatology department can progress, meaning earlier detection and more knowledge on diseases and disorders.

—Amanda Cruz
Photo: Flickr 

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing global economic downturns, food insecurity and unemployment, many communities in developing countries have turned to small-scale farming and home gardening as a solution. When the pandemic took full effect in March 2020, an upward trend in gardening around the world followed. In developing countries where access to food was dangerously inhibited by the pandemic’s economic effects, embracing small-scale gardening became crucial. To navigate a food crisis, residents of various developing countries embraced gardening and its many benefits, plotting gardens wherever they could find land. In addition to helping communities survive a food crisis by staving off hunger and providing necessary nutrients, gardening also supports struggling local economies and improves mental health. Gardening is helping people survive a pandemic and has taken root to assist communities to cope with the crisis.

3 Places Where Gardening is Helping People

    1. Palestine: In Palestine, the recent farming initiative began when a municipality near Bethlehem reacted to surging unemployment and poverty rates by distributing various herb and vegetable seedlings for residents to plant in their yards. By June 2020, some produce was already ripe for picking. Noting the success of this effort, the Palestinian Agriculture Ministry distributed over one million seedlings and the Applied Research Institute in Bethlehem (ARIJ) contributed 40,000 seedlings. Residents that lack land are encouraged to move their gardening efforts to the roof and the ARIJ is instructing them on how to construct gardens with easily attainable equipment like water pipes. The ARIJ has also brought these gardening initiatives to refugee camps, helping them build planting boxes and even greenhouses so crops can be grown all year. By increasing home gardens, residents have been able to better sustain themselves and benefit from the satisfaction of harvesting from their own gardens.
    2. Lebanon: Prior to the pandemic, the Lebanese economy was already struggling and the added hardship of COVID-19 led to empty supermarket shelves. Since 2019, Lebanon’s currency has decreased in value by 80% and poverty has risen to over 50%. Following a massive explosion in Beirut on August 4, 2020, that destroyed Lebanon’s largest port, imports, which make up the majority of Lebanon’s food supply, are even harder to come by. However, similar to Palestine, officials have urged residents to take up gardening as a means to survive. Residents are utilizing plentiful family land or backyard spaces to plant vegetables and raise chicken and sheep and many are freezing food to prepare for a tough winter. In March 2020, the Ghaletna initiative was created to connect people to their land by teaching farming techniques and helping disperse surplus yield to families most in need. Beyond supplementing Lebanon’s food stocks, these gardens provide residents with a sense of comfort knowing that they no longer have to rely solely on imports. Likewise, this transition is prompting Lebanese people to embrace traditional, local foods.
    3. South Africa: In South Africa, gardening is helping people as well. A local farming initiative is not only helping its community by providing produce but is also helping the area’s economic recovery.  In the Uitenhage region, a small-scale farming effort called the Lima Gardening Initiative began when three men with no gardening or farming experience bought a plot of land just as lockdown took effect. Gardening efforts began with spinach, cabbage and beetroot but has expanded since March and locals are now able to purchase produce at affordable prices. In addition to supplying the community with easily accessible food, a primary goal of the Initiative is to encourage youth participation and change the idea that gardening is for the elderly. Once the produce is harvestable, the Initiative plans to employ the youth and help correct rising unemployment. Additionally, the group hopes to use the profit they attain from selling produce at affordable prices to open a soup kitchen and further give back to the community. Through these efforts, the Lima Gardening Initiative is helping a South African community adjust to the economic effects of the pandemic.

    Although these farming initiatives began out of necessity, people in Palestine, Lebanon, South Africa and other countries around the world are learning the benefits of gardening. Beyond coming into use in a time of economic crisis and food shortage, residential and small-scale gardening is helping to support local economies, employing those in need and providing gardeners with a sense of satisfaction and a safe haven.

    –  Angelica Smyrnios
    Photo: Flickr

 Cape Town Water Crisis
Cape Town, South Africa’s legislative capital, has a population of about four million, which is nearly 8% of the entire South African population. South Africa has been successful in cultivating a democratic country, but it has a persistent inequity issue. In 2015, the bottom 60% of the country only held 7% of South Africa’s net wealth. Although more than 55% of South Africans live below the poverty line, 93% of black South Africans live in poverty. Cape Town, although not exempt from issues of inequity, is a thriving metropolis to South Africa. When the Cape Town water crisis rose to a peak in 2017, it became imperative for the city to make some serious changes before they ran out of water completely. Here is how Cape Town recovered from its devastating water shortage and a look at where the city is today.

How the Crisis Began

Cape Town has long been praised for its award-winning water management achievements and efficient use of the city’s six largest reservoirs, which can hold up to 230 billion gallons of water. The city was well aware of the impending climate changes and took measures to decrease overall water consumption.

Despite their efforts, Cape Town neglected to factor in the steady decreases in annual rainfall. This oversight was minor at the time and the city’s reservoirs were full in 2014. However, a sudden three-year-long drought drained the reservoirs to only 26% capacity by 2017. The city declared they would shut municipal water taps off when they reached 13.5% capacity.

City Measures

The term “Day Zero” became the name for the day that water taps would be shut off city-wide, essentially the day Cape Town would officially run out of water. With Day Zero looming and reservoirs draining, the city and its residents sprung into action to avoid the ultimate Cape Town water crisis.

At the beginning of 2017, the average city resident used 600 liters per day. City officials lowered that daily limit to 50 liters per day. To put that number into perspective, the average Californian used 321 liters of water per day during the 2016 drought. If a household went above that 50 liter limit, it faced hefty fines and a meter installation to shut off the water automatically once it exceeded the daily limit. The city also implemented severe quotas for agricultural and commercial institutions.

Residents Doing Their Part

The Cape Town water crisis could not have been averted if not for innovative action from the residents themselves. People began to recycle shower and washing machine water as well as limit toilet flushes to once a day. Farmers diverted their water supply away from their own farms for the city to use. Swimming pools and lawns were no longer essentials and residents no longer used water for such amenities. Social media played a key role as well by being a platform to share advice with a large audience. Local restaurants and bars started competitions to see who could refrain from washing their clothes the longest. The combination of these efforts is what saved the 4 million people from ever having to experience Day Zero.

The Role of Poverty

Although the Cape Town water crisis affected the entire city, it hit some residents much harder than others. South Africa is already a country known for its inequity issues, and the water crisis exacerbated that fact. Wealthy residents found ways to get around the restrictions by hiring companies to dig $6,000 wells for them, buying large amounts of drinkable water at inflated prices, and even installing filtration systems to make groundwater drinkable. Poor residents, on the other hand, were at the mercy of the city and had to sacrifice buying food to be able to buy water.

Where is Cape Town Today?

Cape Town finally experienced an average rainy season in January 2018, allowing the city to postpone the arrival of Day Zero indefinitely. After the immediate crisis had been averted, the city began planning for ocean water desalination and groundwater extraction as backup water sources. These are more long-term solutions, but they present issues of their own such as the affordability of such intense installations and the impact on local ecosystems.

Limits on water usage have been loosened slightly; however, they still exist and are strictly enforced. This continues to negatively impact the city’s poorest residents. Perhaps the most helpful action taken since the crisis has been the weekly reports on dam capacities. As of July 2020, all the dams are holding steady at around 80% capacity.

Although the Cape Town water crisis never fully culminated in a citywide water shutoff, the impact of the event still resonates with the poor. Moving forward, efforts need to be made to ensure equal water access for all residents.

Natalie Tarbox
Photo: Flickr