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South Africa has blossomed in the 21st Century into a diverse economic powerhouse. Cape Town, its second-largest city, has become one of the largest trading ports on the continent. Like all countries though, South Africa has its share of problems. One of its most overlooked problems has to do with its orphans. These 10 facts about orphans in South Africa will help outline the current situation and the efforts being made to improve it.

    10 Facts About Orphans in South Africa

  1. One of the biggest factors contributing to the number of orphans in South Africa has been the AIDS epidemic. In 2013, around 3.85 million orphans had lost one or both of their parents to the virus. That is more than 62 percent of the total orphan population. AIDS affects orphan rates by varying degrees. In urban centers that have access to better medical care, it is less of a problem. However, in more rural areas, AIDS is more widespread.
  2. One effective way to fight HIV/AIDS is through Antiretroviral Drugs (ARVs). These drugs help slow down the multiplication of the HIV virus. In South Africa, there has been a decrease in HIV mortality rates in communities that have received these ARVs.
  3. The number of orphans in South Africa increased by over 1 million between the years 2002-2009. It was at this time that the South African government recognized the problem and began to take action. It began introducing ARV treatment to the population. As a result, there has been a decrease in the number of orphans over the past couple of years.
  4. By 2017, at least 2.8 million orphaned children in Africa. This includes children with only one biological parent still living. That is roughly 14 percent of all children in South Africa. Although this number is high, it is slightly lower than the year before.
  5. Because it is one of Africa’s economic and cultural hubs, many migrants arrive in South Africa’s urban centers. Some of these migrants are families traveling together. Others are young children who are coming to the country by themselves. These orphaned children are subsequently placed at great risk of being exploited by criminal gangs and trafficking rings.
  6. UNICEF is working with the South African Department of Social Development and civil society in three main ways. First, it is using research to help inform policy-making. Second, it is creating and supporting community safety networks. Third, it is coordinating other services for orphaned children.
  7. South Africa was one of the first countries to embrace the regulation of the Hague Convention. The Hague Convention is an international treaty that sets strict standards and protections on intercountry adoptions. The guidelines aim to prevent the trafficking of orphaned children and increase the number of safe adoptions.
  8. Many rural communities have taken a proactive stance to create innovative solutions to the orphan problem. Organizations like Children of the Dawn have been created to give financial aid to these rural community groups. Part of this aid is dedicated to reducing HIV cases in rural communities.
  9. Another organization that has done great work with regards to helping orphans in South Africa is the Oasis Haven of Love Foundation. The organization seeks to provide safe housing for abandoned children waiting for adoptive care. It also works to help orphaned children get adopted.
  10.  Jo’Burg Child Welfare is an NGO based in Johannesburg that provides many adoptive services. The organization also engages in advocacy and legislative work and has been serving the greater Johannesburg area for more than 100 years.

These 10 facts about orphans in South Africa show that, while many problems remain, the country has been making improvements in recent years. With continued NGO and government support and continued progress in reducing HIV, the number of orphans in South Africa will continue to decline.

Henry Burkert
Photo: Pexels

Wealth Inequality and Poverty
Wealth inequality is an issue that plagues many developing nations, causing a widening distance between the wealthy and the poor in those nations. When a country distributes income among its people in an unequal manner, even a country with a growing economy can advance slower. Impoverished people are often unable to improve their situation due to the number of barriers they face, and some people may even be more prone to falling below the poverty line when a country’s economy advances without them. Here are examples of how severe wealth inequality contributes to poverty and how these issues can be corrected.

The Challenges of Inequality

The country the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) lists as having the highest wealth inequality is South Africa, according to its GINI index of 63 percent (a measure of inequality, with zero percent representing perfect equality and 100 percent being maximum inequality). Though South Africa has a high GDP compared to the world average, it still has a large number of people below the poverty line. In 2014, 18.9 percent of the population was living on less than $1.90 per day. In many cases, the poorest workers in South Africa are living on wages of $50 per month. Many of these issues are due to the country’s history of apartheid, which entrenched economic differences between different groups of people. Though South Africa removed that system 25 years ago, its legacy still impacts the country today.

Brazil is another country where wealth inequality contributes to poverty in a significant capacity. Despite others earmarking the country as one quickly moving towards becoming a developed nation, 10 percent of the population still lives in extreme poverty. Though the country’s economic growth is significant, 61 percent of that growth from 2001 to 2015 has gone directly to the richest 10 percent of the country. This means that the majority of Brazil’s population has only seen 39 percent of all of its economic progress.

This inequality contributes significantly to the problem of poverty and prevents the poorest of the country from improving. Progress in Brazil on this issue with regards to specific groups of people is slow. By current projections, women in Brazil will not close the wage gap until 2047. As for black Brazilians, estimates determine that they will not earn as much as white Brazilians until 2089 by the current rate.

What Can Countries Do?

One should note that while wealth inequality contributes to poverty, the exact causes behind wealth inequality can vary greatly and come about as a result of many different social, political and economic factors. South Africa’s inequality as a result of historical institutions may be an issue more difficult to tackle. According to experts, however, a good start would be to offer more opportunities to those who those institutions have systematically excluded.

In Brazil, access to education remains seriously dependent on one’s family income. As a result, the majority of Brazilian adults have no secondary education. Expanding access to more education opportunities may be key to alleviating income inequality and poverty in Brazil.

Inequality is a serious issue in countries like South Africa and Brazil, and the issues that connect with it contribute to poverty’s continued existence and expansion. According to a study published by members of the U.N., there is a strong link between income inequality and poverty. In order to reduce poverty, it follows that countries must also correct inequality. With more legislation and NGOs assisting individuals severely disadvantaged by income inequality, ending poverty seems a lot more accomplishable.

– Jade Follette
Photo: Flickr

Affordable Medicine in Developing Countries
In 1997, thousands of people in low-income, developing countries died every day from treatable diseases because they could not pay the high price pharmaceuticals charged for medicine. Today in these same regions, millions are receiving treatment and mortality rates have dropped dramatically as drugmakers around the world are providing affordable medicine in developing countries.

Pharmaceuticals in the Past

In 1997, AIDS was killing thousands of Africans each day. In the same year, people with AIDS in the U.S. were enjoying greater life expectancy and quality of life, with AIDS-related deaths dropping by 42 percent thanks to the use of anti-HIV drugs.  With a $12,000 per patient per year price tag and strict patent laws forbidding the purchase of generic types, these life-saving drugs were inaccessible to millions of AIDS victims in developing countries. Unwilling to lower their prices, the pharmaceutical industry looked on while thousands of people died with treatment just beyond their reach.

Refusing to sit by as its people died every day while a treatment existed, South Africa legalized the suspension of drug patents in 1998, making it possible for South Africans to purchase generic anti-HIV drugs at affordable prices. Thirty-nine top pharmaceutical companies promptly engaged South Africa in a lawsuit, attempting to keep them from accessing HIV drugs at a reduced cost for fear that other countries would follow and the industry would miss out on profits.

The pharmaceuticals soon dropped the lawsuit when the international community received word that drug companies were keeping poor and dying people required medicines. However, drug prices remained inaccessibly high.

Finally, a turning point came in 2001 when Indian drug-maker Cipla shocked the international pharmaceutical industry by announcing its plan to sell anti-HIV drugs directly to poor nations and to Doctors Without Borders for only $350 per patient per year (less than $1 a day). Cipla’s offer exposed the huge markups pharmaceutical companies were profiting from, prompting several major drug-makers to lower their prices and make drugs more accessible to developing countries.

Pharmaceuticals Today

Today, the pharmaceutical industry’s attitude and approach toward providing affordable medicine in developing countries have greatly shifted. The Access to Medicine Foundation shares that nearly all major drug companies have goals for addressing access to medicine now, while many have pioneered innovative ways to reduce costs and create medicines and vaccines for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In the past 10 years, drug makers have doubled the number of medicines they are developing for LMICs.

Nine companies that own patents for HIV/AIDS treatment now use their IP rights flexibly to allow LMICs to import and purchase generic supplies. As a result, over 14 million Africans are now on HIV drugs, and AIDS-related deaths dropped drastically by nearly 40 percent over the past 10 years.

Seven drug companies have made efforts to include the poorest populations in their customer base, focusing on products for diabetes, heart disease and other NCDs which are a rising problem in the developing world. In 2017, the leading drug maker, Pfizer, partnered with Cipla to sell chemotherapy drugs to African countries at prices just above their own manufacturing cost, selling some pills for as little as 50 cents.

Several leading pharmaceuticals now partner with generics to produce affordable drugs for Africa, Asia and Latin America, and a fair price strategy now covers 49 percent of products. Thanks to the improvements in the pharmaceutical industry, hundreds of thousands of people now have access to affordable medicine in developing countries.

– Sarah Musick
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 

Sports for South African Girls
The importance of participation in sports for South African girls is pivotal to the long-term success of not only the individual lives of young women but for the country as a whole. South Africa produces talented Olympic athletes, such as Caster Semenya and Wayde van Niekerk, and has a love of soccer, rugby and cricket in addition to track and field, cycling and many others. Irrespective of this continued investment of time, energy and money into national sports, women continue to be underrepresented and receive the least amount of support as athletes. For example, at professional levels, the nation’s three most popular sports – soccer, rugby and cricket – have yet to establish high-profile professional leagues for women.

According to the most recent study conducted by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee, of the Olympic athletes receiving support, only nine out of 30 are women. Out of the 20 coaches who are working with these Olympic athletes, only three are women.

South Africa was one of the first countries to adopt The Brighton Declaration on Women and Sport, a set of laws passed to increase women’s participation in sports. In addition, the country passed the National Sport and Recreation Amendment Act to remedy inequalities in sport and recreation in South Africa by requiring federations to make necessities available for women and disabled people to participate at the top levels of sports. Despite these efforts, sports and gender equality in South Africa has not yet been achieved.

Why It Matters

For young women, equal representation of female athletes is important because it can positively influence their desire to compete in sports and seek the benefits which they provide. People can only believe what they see, so more work needs to be done surrounding media coverage and daily exemplification. Sports not only promote physical health and wellness, but they also teach discipline, dedication, determination and teamwork. These learned skills are important for application in life beyond sports and help create future female leaders.

Participation in sports provides students with the opportunity to socialize with their peers, promotes students’ health, improves physical fitness, increases academic performance and provides a sense of relaxation. In spite of these benefits, participation in sports for South African girls peaks between the ages of 10 to 13 years but then declines until the age of 18.

A study done in the rural province of Limpopo, South Africa found that 101 female students from 17 to 24 years old did not participate in sports because of five common barriers. These included: “I don’t like the dress code,” “lack of energy,” “lack of family support,” “family commitments” and “not in my culture.” Dress code remains a major barrier to participation in sports among girls in rural areas. In particular, Xhosa and Tsonga women will not wear sports attire like pants or shorts because they do not consider it culturally unacceptable.

Several factors influence the level of participation. One can break these factors down into structural, intrapersonal and interpersonal constraints. Structural factors refer to a lack of facilities, time constraints or financial resources. Intrapersonal constraints refer to the psychological states of individuals. Interpersonal constraints include a lack of partners or friends.

A Lack of energy was also a barrier which could be caused by the reduction of physical activity participation in physical education in schools, but exercise can actually increase energy levels. Lack of family support revealed that females without encouragement or support from their families to participate in school sports are less likely to participate in them moving forward.

U.N. Women and the Promotion of Female Empowerment

Systematically ingrained cultural beliefs, like dress code, are some of the reasons for a lack of female participation in sports. If these beliefs can be dismantled on a small, everyday level there is an ability to create more widespread acceptance across South Africa.

That is where organizations such as U.N. Women and Grassroot Soccer come in. The U.N. Women’s goal is to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women in developing countries. These organizations aim to set global standards for achieving gender equality and work with governments and civil society to design laws, policies and programs that ensure the standards are not only beneficial to women and girls worldwide, but effectively implemented as well. One of their many goals includes increasing female participation in sports as a means to fulfill four pillars.

  1. Women lead, participate in and benefit equally from governance systems.
  2. Women have income security, decent work and economic autonomy.
  3. All women and girls live a life free from all forms of violence.
  4. Women and girls contribute to and have greater influence in building sustainable peace and resilience, and benefit equally from the prevention of natural disasters and conflicts and humanitarian action.

Grassroot Soccer

Grassroot Soccer is just one example of the work U.N. Women is investing in. This program is a grantee of the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women. Grassroot Soccer uses the power of soccer to encourage young people to stop the spread of HIV and AIDS and to prevent violence against women and girls.

In 2009, it created the SKILLZ Street program in South Africa to specifically target and address the needs of adolescent girls who are at a higher risk of contracting HIV and AIDS than males. Fast forward to 2014 and 2015, almost 3,000 girls from the ages of 10 to 14 years old graduated from the program.

Many of these girls are from townships, a term used to refer to the underdeveloped and racially segregated urban areas reserved for nonwhites in the Apartheid era. Township residents have a lack of access to basic sewerage, adequate roads, electricity, clean water, education and overexposure to gangs and gang violence. The young women participating in the SKILLZ Street Program range from Soweto and Alexandra townships in Johannesburg and Khayelitsha township in Cape Town.

Grassroot Soccer’s Managing Director, James Donald, explains the importance for South African female participation in sports saying, “For us, sport…means we can build relationships with children in a safe space that they are proud of participating in.” He goes on to explain that “[it] also provides a plethora of ready images, metaphors and analogies that children can relate to. Soccer, in particular, is a powerful way to challenge norms and stereotypes around gender.”

The knowledge surrounding the importance of participation in sports for South African girls needs to be more widespread in order to improve the long-term success of impressionable young women in this still developing country. An investment in organizations such as Grassroot Soccer is pivotal to aid women to go on to become confident future leaders who can set good examples for generations of South African girls to come.

– Meredith Breda
Photo: Flickr

Ryan Lewis's Mom Fights Global AIDS
Ryan Lewis is a successful DJ, musician, and producer and ultimately, a very famous man. However, there was a 25 percent chance when he was born that he would contract HIV. Thankfully, he did not, but other infants with similar risks are not always so fortunate. Such occurrences are part of the reason why, while Ryan Lewis makes music, Ryan Lewis’s mom fights global AIDS.

Ryan Lewis’s Mom Fights Global AIDS

Ryan Lewis’s mother, Julie Lewis, is a 59-year-old, HIV-positive woman. She contracted HIV in 1984 when she received contaminated blood during a blood transfusion after her complicated first pregnancy with her daughter, Teresa. She was not diagnosed until 1990, during which time she gave birth to Laura and Ryan, who were both fortunate enough not to contract her HIV. Julie was only given 3 to 5 years to live.

However, Julie Lewis is still alive and relatively well today thanks to modern medicine. Unsurprisingly, she wanted to do something special to celebrate her life, and her contribution to society became founding the 30/30 Project and, with a little help from Ryan, raising $160,000 to help the project build its first clinic in Malawi. The project would only get bigger from there.

The 30/30 Project

The 30/30 Project is so named because it aims to build 30 clinics and keep them running for 30 years. Of the 18 clinics that have been, or are still, being constructed, 15 of them are in Africa, 1 is in India, and 2 are in Washington.

Such growth was accomplished by partnering with healthcare partners who live in towns, and villages of interest who lack the supplies and/or abilities to build the clinics themselves. Once the partnership had been established, it’s all a matter of designing the building, sending volunteer construction workers to oversee the project and helping the staff the clinic.

For example, one of the targeted areas was Limpopo, South Africa. This rural town has a high unemployment rate, a low education rate and a 19 to 27 percent prenatal HIV rate. The 30/30 Project partnered with the Ndlovu Care Group to construct a clinic there — the two-story, solar-powered building opened in fall of 2017 and features a waiting area, care clinic and laboratory.

30/30 Project Results

Of the 18 clinics that are mentioned on the 30/30 Project website, 13 of them have been completed. Each of these clinics has substantially improved the quality of care that HIV-positive individuals in the community can receive.

For example, the clinic in Limpopo, South Africa serves 7,600 people with HIV as well as provides the Ndlovu Care Group with a place to work on vaccines for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. The clinic in the Bududa District in Uganda serves over 16,000 people. The one in Madhya Pradesh, India cares for 5,000 people. Ultimately, Julie plans to provide 600,000 people with the same high-quality healthcare that allowed her to survive.

The Fight for Progress

As Ryan Lewis’s mom fights global AIDS, clinics are being constructed in developing nations so that HIV-positive people can receive the care they need. At 13 clinics and counting, it is clear that the 30/30 Project has already made a sizable impact in terms of how many people can survive their AIDS diagnosis.

Thanks to the efforts of Julie Lewis and all those who support her, HIV-positive people in these communities can now live long, healthy lives — just like Julie has.

– Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Flickr

Cape Town water
Cape Town, South Africa has experienced a drought for the last three years, leading up to what officials are calling ‘Day Zero,’ or the day the city will turn off a large portion of its tap water and turn to rationing the remaining water among citizens. However, water shortage issues began as early as 1995 with little action from the city to remedy the situation.

Water Crisis

What happened in 1995 that caused a crisis over two decades later? The population of Cape Town began increasing and has steadily increased by over three-quarters of its previous population. Fortunately, this multiplication alone was not the cause of the water crisis; rather, it was population growth paired with little increase in water storage.

The city failed to compensate a growing population to its water usage, and while this has made a significant impact on the amount of water in Cape Town, the city has still been able to maintain reasonable water levels despite a lack of added water storage facilities.

This success is primarily due to plentiful rainfall during the monsoon seasons, which may also be why Cape Town has previously failed to increase its water storage for so many years.

Restrictions and Rations

Unfortunately, a drought began in South Africa in 2015 that severely limited the amount of water available to citizens, especially those in Cape Town.

The drought brought to light the water storage issue for Cape Town officials who began urging citizens to conserve the remaining water. They initially asked that each citizen use approximately 87 liters of water before decreasing the amount to a mere 50 liters, or just over 13 gallons, daily.  

The South African government has created a rationing system to be implemented when the water levels decrease to a low enough level. The day this occurs is the day referred to as ‘Day Zero.’ However, in the meantime, the most energy is being placed into reminding citizens to continue to reduce their water usage.

Applications and Online Services

In light of the water crisis, the University of Cape Town has developed a series of cell phone applications that will aid in water conservation. The first is a free application called ‘DropDrop.’

DropDrop allows users to track water usage in real time, helping citizens ensure that they are staying within the city’s new water restrictions. The app is especially useful in areas where regular access to the internet does not exist due to the application’s offline nature after initial download.

Among the services created for Capetonians during the water crisis is an organization, Picup. The group started with the goal of quickly shipping water to Cape Town residents, and now allows Capetonians to order bottled water and receive it to one’s home within 24 hours.

The water can be purchased in two order sizes, with the smallest being 30 liters with an affordable price tag of around 176 Rands, or approximately $13.

City Initiatives

Among the initiatives implemented to conserve water in Cape Town is the initiative started by Cape Town officials that monitors household water usage. The initiative also awards certificates and name recognition on the city website for households showing a 10 percent or higher decrease in water usage.

The city also gives daily updates on water levels for surrounding dams in order to encourage Capetonians in their conservation efforts.

Moving Forwards

Despite the outstanding circumstances Cape Town has faced over the last few years, the future looks bright. With a strong community making huge lifestyle changes to conserve water, the city’s water basins are filling back up and allowing citizens to be a part of a community survival story.

The water crisis in Cape Town has proved the city’s growing wisdom and trendsetting environmental responsibility. This growth has not only set an example for the world to follow, but it has also been the first to prove that any inescapability, even one as drastic as ‘Day Zero,’ can be overcome.  

Alexandra Ferrigno
Photo: Flickr

ATM pharmacies in South Africa Cut Wait Times for Chronically Ill Patients
The suburb of Alexandra, South Africa, is now home to Africa’s first pharmacy dispensing unit. ATM pharmacies in South Africa are expected to have a profound effect on the wait time for patients and the efficiency of clinics.

Simple Solution to Improve Lives

The machine operates as seamlessly as an ATM that dispenses money and completes the transaction in as little as three minutes as opposed to hours. Also known as an “ATM pharmacy,” the unit comes as a convenience to citizens with chronic illnesses, while freeing up space in local clinics. Most importantly, people dependent on medication have another option in receiving repeat medication that does not compromise safety or effectiveness.

The new development comes from experts from nonprofit Right to Care, Right ePharmacy and the Gauteng Department of Health. Right to Care works to provide prevention, care and treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases as well as tuberculosis and cervical cancer.

Developers chose Alexandra as the first location because of its large population, burdened facilities, and level of need, Right ePharmacy managing director Fanie Hendriksz said.

The Need for ATM Pharmacies in South Africa

Innovations like ATM pharmacies in South Africa are a step toward higher-quality healthcare, making it easier for patients to be consistent with their medication schedules. One of the main target groups for this project was people with HIV in need of repeat antiretroviral medicine, as South Africa now has the world’s largest AIDS treatment program.

In addition to being overcrowded, some clinics are also understaffed. Nurses may be referred to other clinics to compensate for lack of staff. HIV/AIDS activist Bhekisisa Mazibuko broke into Kgabo clinic pharmacy to make a point about the outlandish wait times for chronic medications in Tshwane, a city not far from Johannesburg. Some patients start waiting in line as early as 3 a.m.

Mazibuko, who lives with HIV, used a brick to break the pharmacy door after it closed for the day at 4 p.m., not attending to patients who had been waiting for hours. He distributed medicine to hypertension, diabetes and HIV patients before being arrested.

A Way Forward

Patients whose conditions are stabilized are encouraged to use the pharmacy dispensing unit (PDU), although a referral from a doctor is necessary. The patient engages in a simple process of scanning their personal ID and entering a pin and speaking with a pharmacist via video correspondence.

Through this video chat, patients can be advised and directed on how to take the medication and its possible side effects. The patient then selects their medication which is robotically dispensed along with a receipt. The PDU has served more than 4,000 people and dispensed 18,000 prescription medications so far.

According to Right to Care chief executive Ian Sanne, the amount of time South Africans spend waiting in line at health facilities is quite extensive and is damaging to economic productivity. ATM pharmacies in South Africa is likely just the beginning of many healthcare innovations in Africa.

– Camille Wilson
Photo: Flickr

69. South Africa & Madagascar Sign the African Tripartite Free Trade AreaWith the growing appeal of economic integration in Africa, more pressure is being put on state actors to sign the African Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA). This agreement, along with the existence of other regional trade alliances, are a large factor that drives local growth. As of now, 20 of 26 countries have signed the agreement: the latest addition to sign the African Tripartite Free Trade Area agreement are South Africa and Madagascar, in July 2017.

The African Tripartite Free Trade Area namely is meant to bring together partnering members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Most of these 26 countries signed the TFTA into action on June 10th of 2015 in Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt, representing “48 percent of the African Union membership, 51 percent of continental GDP and a combined population of 632 million“.

As more parties sign the African Tripartite agreement and bring it closer to finalization, they are expected to benefit from a more diversified trade market with a higher proportion of intermediate and value-added products. This will likewise bring in more investments towards infrastructure, connectivity, and production linkages in regional value chains to better integrate into global value chains.

The TFTA Declaration of 2015 focuses on industrial development, infrastructure development, and market integration, and is made up of 45 articles and 10 annexes covering a range of provisions. It intends to liberalize 100 percent of tariff lines by consolidating tariff regimes of the EAC and SADC. These are not extraordinary numbers, as 60 to 85 percent liberalization was agreed upon before entry into the Agreement with the remaining 40 to 15 percent to be negotiated over the ensuing five to eight years.

Secondly, it aims to create a process in which problems that arise with non-tariff barriers can be identified, reported, and resolved through the creation of a sub-committee devoted to this. The Declaration also sets out conditions on goods for preferential rules of origin, plus safety measures on dumping, subsidization and imports surges with the creation of a dispute settling body. Further provisions include those on the elimination of quantitative restrictions, customs cooperation, trade facilitation, infant industries and balances of payments. Most of these are consistent under World Trade Organization obligations and international best practices.

Since the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) Agreement is currently being negotiated alongside the TFTA, this means the TFTA is now part of the acquis of trade integration in Africa so that the CFTA will build off of the TFTA. The CFTA can also prove beneficial as a starting point for dialogue with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and to North and Central African blocs next.

Since the last meeting of the Tripartite Committee of Sectoral Ministers in Kampala, Uganda, previously outstanding annexes have been approved and adopted as the agreement nears its expected entry date of October 2017. Now only 14 more countries need to rectify the agreement, Egypt being the first and only one to do so thus far. This will allow these countries to enjoy a larger, freer and more integrated market with flow of business persons, competitive business and investments throughout Africa.

Zar-Tashiya Khan

Photo: Flickr

Cost of Giving BirthFor something as common and essential as the creation of life, delivering a child can come at quite the cost. Though the United States holds some of the steepest delivery-related costs in the world, many countries around the globe offer maternal healthcare at astronomical prices. These services cater to wealthier families and leave the poor and uninsured to struggle. In rural and low-income communities especially, the high cost of giving birth is very risky for women and newborns.

In many countries, there is a large quality gap between public and private hospitals. Even though there are public hospitals in South Africa, for example, that offer free healthcare services, these facilities often lack adequate equipment and accommodations for mothers and their newborns. One hospital outside of Johannesburg lost six infants around three years ago because it had run out of antiseptic soaps.

Private health facilities typically offer higher-quality healthcare services but at much steeper prices. On average, it costs a woman $2,000 to give birth at a private healthcare facility in South Africa. This is a cost that less than half of South Africa’s population can afford due to large income inequality problem and a widespread lack of health insurance coverage. Families instead settle for menial care or, in some cases, forgo care altogether.

As an alternative to formal care, women commonly hire traditional birth attendants (TBAs) to help with deliveries in rural areas of developing countries like Ethiopia. TBAs lack official training but are more affordable than midwives, who can cost upwards of 2,000 Ethiopian birr, about $90, or even more if a Caesarean-section is necessary. The result is a population that is underserved when it comes to delivery-side medical attention. Only 2 percent of deliveries in rural Ethiopia are administered by a health professional.

Tadelech Kesale, a 32-year-old mother from Ethiopia’s Wolayta province, has suffered due to insufficient care and the exorbitant cost of giving birth. Kesale had her first baby when she was 18 and has since lost three of her six children, one of whom was stillborn. Kesale typically earns two to three birr, equivalent to a tenth of a dollar, each week and was unable to hire a qualified professional for any of her deliveries.

“I gave birth at home with a traditional birth attendant,” Kesale said. “If I could afford it, I would go into a clinic. One of my friends, Zenebexh, died in labor – she just started bleeding after breakfast and fell down dead. A healer came but couldn’t do anything.”

The cost of giving birth in private hospitals in India is similarly prohibitive. Although government facilities hospitalize women and assist with delivery for free, many expecting mothers opt for private facilities for the higher quality of care. These facilities typically charge around $1,165 for basic delivery services $3,100 for Caesarean-section deliveries.

The costliness of Caesarean-sections and other procedures can be deterrents for poorer mothers who are faced with complications during labor or pregnancy. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that only 35 percent of women in developing countries receive the care they need when faced with complications. When such needs go unmet, both mothers and their babies face life-threatening medical risks.

The costs of transport to and from health centers can also be discouraging for expecting mothers, forcing them to deliver at home or in other unsterilized spaces. In rural areas especially, transportation is necessary to travel the long distances to health centers, though it is not always readily available. Aside from being expensive, it can also be scarce; as a result, many women deliver in their houses. When complications arise during delivery, this can be especially perilous.

Though there is no one way to remedy the astronomical cost of giving birth in countries around the globe, organizations like Oxfam are calling on the U.S. and other developed nations to send increased aid to countries with high rates of maternal and infant mortality. This aid can serve mothers and their babies in a myriad of ways, from covering basic health care costs to making it more possible for new moms to take time off from work after delivery. Ultimately, it will mitigate the steep costs many families must meet during and after pregnancy, providing mothers with the assistance they need to have safe, successful deliveries.

Sabine Poux

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in South Africa
South Africa has been a leader in human rights in the African continent since the end of apartheid. The nation has many protections for civil liberties, but the status of human rights in South Africa has been threatened by government inaction and possible corruption, as well as a rising tide of xenophobic sentiments. Here are nine facts about human rights in South Africa.

Human Rights in South Africa: 

  1. Freedom of expression, religion, and the press are constitutionally protected human rights in South Africa. However, the freedom of media has been a concern after the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) made moves that threatened the credibility of South Africa’s state-run media. ISABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng used the SABC to protect the reputation of South African President Jacob Zuma. Motsoeneng accomplished this by banning coverage of violent political protests, firing journalists who criticized the ban, refusing to air political advertisements and directing journalists cover Zuma positively. Motsoeneng was ordered to step down by the South African judiciary, but he was later rehired in a different role only to once again be forced to step down by the courts two months later.
  2. A recently proposed hate crime bill could further threaten freedom of speech in South Africa. Critics have stated that it’s too broad in its criminalization of hate speech and could severely limit the ability of South Africans to express controversial opinions.
  3. Freedom to peacefully protest and assemble is also a constitutional right in South Africa. While protesters must notify the police ahead of time, they are rarely denied assembly. Recently, skirmishes between student protesters and the police have turned violent, and many have criticized the police for using unnecessary force.
  4. Deaths through police action have declined from previous years, but police violence still remains an issue in South Africa. From 2015-2016 there have been hundreds of reported cases of assault, torture and rape committed by police officers and deaths in police custody.
  5. Since the end of apartheid, South Africa has implemented many anti-discrimination protections. However, the effects are still felt today. Though white people are a minority in South Africa, they still own the majority of business assets and farmland in the region. Opportunities for non-whites remain comparatively restricted.
  6. South Africa has a highly progressive asylum policy for refugees. From 2006-2012, it accepted more refugees than any other nation in the world. Rather than being stuck in camps, refugees in South Africa live in cities and access the same public utilities that South Africans do. Unfortunately, strong anti-immigrant rhetoric and frustrations with South African governance have resulted in many violent attacks against foreigners.
  7. South Africa has failed to provide children with disabilities equal opportunities for education. Disabled children can be denied access to public schools and forced to attend special schools. South Africa has free public education, but parents are forced to pay fees if they have a disabled child in a special school. The UN has recommended that South Africa review its policies to make education more inclusive.
  8. South African law enforces gender equality and women currently make up 42 percent of National Assembly seats. However, women are often subject to discrimination, paid less than their male counterparts and occupy fewer roles of authority in business. In addition, domestic violence and rape are highly underreported crimes in South Africa. In 2006, President Jacob Zuma faced rape charges that he was later cleared of. The trial elicited concern from anti-rape activists due to the intense heckling of the alleged victim, the cross-examination of the alleged victim’s sexual history and Zuma’s own comments on their sexual encounter.
  9. Nearly 20 percent of adults and nearly one-third of pregnant women in South Africa live with HIV. The government has made moves to effectively treat its population through improving access to antiretroviral therapy. It also launched a She Conquers campaign that confronts the high rates of HIV in young women and aims to reduce teenage pregnancy.

Human rights in South Africa are pretty well protected. However, working towards an equitable society and holding the state accountable will be necessary for preserving these rights.

Carson Hughes

Photo: Flickr