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Global Snakebite StrategyThe World Health Organization (WHO) members gather annually at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. This year’s diverse topics included snakebites.

The WHO is not always known for speedy results, due to the massive, worldly scale that this organization deals with. But snakebites was a topic that was quick to strike back. Just one year after the World Health Assembly urged resolution to this issue, WHO has launched a new strategy for snakebites and the venoms that cause potentially deadly harm to its victims.

Symptoms of Snakebites

According to the WHO, snakes bite an estimated 5.4 million people around the world each year. Of those estimated, approximately 138,000 people die each year. This new strategy looks to cut 50 percent of snakebite deaths and disability by the year 2030.

Snakebites are a common occurrence in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This is a commonly neglected public health issue, especially in impoverished areas of all countries listed above. The only known validated treatment for a snakebite is passive immunotherapy with the specific and effective animal-derived antivenom. These antivenoms are not always accessible, nor readily available in developing areas of these countries.

When a venomous snake bites, the victim has less than half an hour to receive the antivenom, without serious consequences. Serious adverse effects include swelling, pain, and bruising around the bite area, numbness, elevated heart rate, constricted airway, blurred vision, nausea, diarrhea, convulsions, fainting, tissue necrosis, and death. All of these listed symptoms can be from the bite of a venomous snake.

The Global Snakebite Initiative

The global snakebite strategy, or the Global Snakebite Initiative lead by the World Health Organization sets a multicomponent strategy in place in order to improve the availability of safe and effective antivenoms at a global level. The initiative is based on four key steps needed in order to improve these conditions caused by venomous snakes, according to the WHO.

  1. Preparing validated collections of specific venom pools from the most medically dangerous snakes in high-risk regions of the world.
  2. Strengthening the capacity of national antivenom manufacturing and quality control laboratories, and establishing new facilities in developing countries through technology transfer.
  3. Getting established laboratories to generate antivenoms for various regions of the world.
  4. Getting government and relevant health organizations to give snakebite envenoming recognition within national and international public health policy frameworks.

According to the WHO, there should also be actions to improve health information systems, accessibility of antivenoms, proper training of medical and nursing staff, and community-based education. This multicomponent strategy would involve stakeholders on many different levels and would improve antivenom availability globally.

This global snakebite strategy targets countries and communities that are heavily affected by snakebites. The program will work with the affected communities to ensure that through their health systems, safe and effective treatments will be offered to all community members. Complete cooperation, collaboration, and partnership between all levels of government and health organizations will accomplish this.

A Solid Foundation

A 28-member panel of global experts in relations with WHO regional offices, science and research communities, health foundations, advocacy groups and stakeholders developed this strategy. Viewing this issue at a global level improves community education and first response. This strategy also commits to engaging communities in order to achieve these goals.

WHO will work with specific countries to strengthen health systems geared towards improving health and well-being and reducing inequity for community members. The main objective for this global snakebite strategy is to ensure accessible, affordable, and effective treatments using the antivenoms.  A streamlined method of supplying and distributing of antivenoms will be prioritized. Along with all of these steps, WHO will encourage research on new treatments, diagnostics, and health device technology that can improve the treatment outcomes and make for quicker recovery times.

WHO’s global snakebite strategy has implemented multiple factors in order to achieve the goals set forth. Commitment from around the world including health, government, and scientific organizations alike, will need to work together through various aspects for the Global Snakebite Initiative to be effective immediately. Following the steps laid out by the WHO, paralyzation and deaths caused by snake envenoming can be reduced in high-risk countries, and ensure its community members safe, efficient, and effective treatments.

– Quinn McClurg
Photo: Flickr

E-Commerce Markets in Africa
Africa holds less than 2 percent of the global e-commerce market, but an increase in participation could benefit the continent on a massive economic scale.

In fact, it has been shown that e-commerce allows consumers to connect to businesses as well as to other consumers in order to exchange goods via the Internet. E-commerce benefits global markets by improving efficiency in distribution channels and creating a more prominent market presence for individuals or businesses trying to sell products. For developing countries in Africa, one of the main obstacles in gaining access to e-commerce markets is limited access to banks.

Mobile Money

Globally, roughly 1.7 billion adults remain without access to a financial institution.

In order to alleviate this problem, mobile banking services focus on the high percentage of adults who have mobile phones in Africa. In South Africa, about 90 percent of the adult population owns a mobile device; whereas, Tanzania has the lowest with only about 75 percent of the adult population owning a mobile device.

The integration of mobile banking companies has increased dramatically over the past decade with 135 live mobile monetary services available in 2017. In fact, the number of subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa hit 44 percent in 2017. Mobile banking is attractive to people who do not physically have access to a bank or who do not have a permanent home address. It allows them to set up an account and protect their money electronically while giving them the freedom to interact financially on a global scale through e-commerce.

The Problem of Rural Communities

A smaller density of people lives in rural areas so there is a lower prospective income for operators who wish to set up mobile services in these regions. Roughly 20 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is spread over 70 percent of the land. Consequently, operators in rural communities only secure a revenue of about one-tenth compared to those who work in urban areas.

Since many individuals rely on mobile banking to engage in the global market, reducing this barrier is essential to the continued development of e-commerce markets in Africa. As a result, in 2018, Uganda’s Communications Commission decided to pair with satellite firms Intelsat and Gilat in order to help increase access for those living in two rural communities.

The Prospective Value of E-Commerce Markets in Africa

A study by the McKinsey Global Institute estimates 3.7 trillion dollars (6 percent of GDP) could be added to the developing world’s collective GDP by 2025 due to a growing digital finance sector. It is 80 to 90 percent less expensive for financial institutions to provide mobile banking services than it is to create new physical branches. This method allows financial institutions to penetrate more of the population in developing and rural areas.

The e-commerce market has the potential to grow enormously over the next five years. Although access to financial institutions is an obstacle that many less privileged individuals face, an increase in mobile money services is helping to create parity. Financial inclusion means an upward trend in the global market participation, and through the development of internet-based trade, the global economy will experience more consumers, products and efficient distribution.

Tera Hofmann
Photo: Flickr

living conditions in mauritania
The country of Mauritania is located in West Africa. It encompasses a land area of 1,030,700 square kilometers and has a population of more than 4,600,000. This makes it the 11th largest African country in terms of land area and 40th in terms of population. Despite its vast size, Mauritania is experiencing a devastating food and nutrition crisis, along with a horrific drought, that is making hunger in Mauritania more acute than it has been in years. The following is a list of the top 10 facts about hunger in Mauritania.

Top 10 Facts about Hunger in Mauritania

  1. Hunger is a serious problem: According to the 2018 GHI, Mauritania ranks 88th out of 119 qualifying nations in regard to the number of malnourished citizens within its borders. It has a score of 27.3 on the GHI Severity Scale. Thus, Mauritania is in the category of other countries, like Bangladesh and Burkina Faso, with serious levels of hunger.
  2. Drought cycles: Mauritania is located in the region of Africa south of the Sahara called the Sahel. This region consists of semi-arid grassland and has provided the continent with cash crops like cotton and millet. However, the Sahel receives extremely inconsistent rainfall and has suffered cycles of drought for thousands of years. The drought the Sahel currently endures has occurred since the 70’s. Because this drought is a regional problem, the lives of millions in countries outside Mauritania – like Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Senegal – are struggling through this drought as well.
  3. Managing drought: In a national report for Integrated Drought Management, Sidi Bobba, Director of Operations and Weather Forecasting and Sid El Kheir Ould Taleb Ekhyar, General Manager of M’Pourié Farm, say that Mauritanian authorities are employing strategies to minimize the impact of Mauritania’s current drought. Some of these strategies include encouraging Mauritanians to diversify their crops and use organic manure. Other strategies are using crops that are resistant to drought and focusing on farming techniques that promote the economy of the soil water.
  4. Reliance on imports: While fish, iron, natural gas, oil, copper, wild animals and gold are all natural resources that Mauritania has in abundance, many Mauritanians specialize in farming and pastoralism. Unfortunately, these sources of income are vulnerable to environmental shock. And because 80 percent of Mauritania’s land is desert that cannot be used for agriculture, this lack of arable land, combined with drought, has made Mauritania into a nation that depends on foreign imports to feed its citizens. In a good agricultural year, 70 percent of Mauritania’s food supply is imported, but in a bad agricultural year, 85 percent is imported.
  5. Cases of acute malnutrition: In January, UNICEF reported that 130,000 children, including 32,000 children with severe acute malnutrition, would require nutritional care and treatment this year. UNICEF also reported in a Humanitarian Situation Report that 24,521 children with severe acute malnutrition (11,770 girls and 12,751 boys) were admitted for treatment throughout Mauritania. This is 76 percent of the estimated 32,244 cases of severe acute malnutrition for 2018.
  6. Pregnant women and malnutrition: UNICEF also reported that 31,000 pregnant and lactating women would require nutritional care and treatment this year. The same report that reveals the number of Mauritanian children treated for severe acute malnutrition also reveals that 32,876 pregnant and lactating women have been offered aid at community health facilities. And 4,373 pregnant and lactating women were treated for acute malnutrition.
  7. Extreme poverty: Mauritania is one of the poorest nations in the world, with a GDP per capita of $4,500. As one of the poorest countries in the world, around 25 percent of Mauritanians live on less than $1.25 per day. This extreme poverty hinders many Mauritanians from accessing health and education services.
  8. Water production: Even though Mauritania is now working towards a solution to its water shortage, the African Development Bank Group reports that Mauritania has been able to meet only half of its estimated daily drinking water requirement of 100,000 m³/day for more than a decade. Its production level is only around 55,000 m³/day from the only available aquifer in the southwestern Mauritanian city Trarza.
  9. Malian refugees: Thousands of Malian refugees, escaping the 2012 coup and civil unrest, have entered Mauritania and the ongoing conflict in Mali continues to bring even more. The UN reported that in March there were 58,000 Malian refugees in Mauritania. In addition to needy Mauritanian citizens, these refugees also rely on food assistance. The UN World Food Program (WFP) and USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP) give cash-based food assistance to around 55,000 Malians who live in the Mbera refugee camp in southeastern Mauritania.
  10. Malnutrition a key issue: The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has formed a chart that reveals the risk factors that drive the most death and disability combined in Mauritania. This chart ranks malnutrition as the chief risk factor from 2007 to 2017.

When one considers these top 10 facts about hunger in Mauritania, one might not be able to see a bright future for this country arising any time soon. But with the work of organizations around the world who are both providing aid to Mauritania and raising awareness of its food and nutrition crisis, one can hope that one day hunger in Mauritania will no longer be an issue.

– Jacob Stubbs
Photo: Flickr

tax evasion in sub-Saharan Africa

Tax evasion, while a global issue, particularly hinders sub-Saharan Africa economic growth. In fact, the total amount of lost taxes exceeds the amount of foreign aid sent to the region. Tax evasion in Sub-Saharan Africa deprives governments of the ability to provide vital services, such as healthcare, education and disaster relief, to the 413 million people living below the poverty line.

By the Numbers

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that Africa loses $50 billion to tax evasion annually. Some place the figure much higher; for example, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) estimates that $100 billion is lost.  Compared with the total amount of foreign aid sent in 2017, $43.5 billion, the region experiences a net loss of approximately $6.5 billion, while using the more conservative OECD estimate.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) found that a wide financing gap exists in Africa. A financing gap refers to the difference between the amount needed to achieve Sustainable Development Growth (SDG) and actual government revenue. The UNCTAD estimates that there is a financing gap of $210 billion for key government initiatives, including infrastructure, food security, healthcare and education.

Resource Extraction Drives Tax Evasion in Sub-Saharan Africa

Multinational companies involved in resource extraction are particularly effective at paying only a small share of the taxes that they owe. Mineral and oil extraction companies are responsible for much of the tax evasion in Sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for total annual losses of up to 6 percent of African GDP. The Southern African Catholics Bishops Conference recently wrote a letter to 21 mining companies operating in South Africa; they asked each to explain their use of tax havens, the purpose of their subsidiaries, and if tax evasion was consistent with their corporate social responsibility policies.

The OECD launched the Africa Initiative Report in 2014, which includes 29 of the 46 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, as a means to combat tax evasion. The OECD hopes to increase cooperation between member countries, which will provide greater transparency. The progress being made is incremental, but most member countries are meeting the requirements set out by the OECD. The first and among the most important steps is for African countries to develop Exchange of Information (EOI) systems. EOIs allow for member countries to request relevant profit and tax information from one another. The 29 countries had a total of 23 people on EOI staff in 2014; in 2018, that number has grown to 79 staff members, prompting the OECD to describe the situation as “greatly improved.”

Tax Justice Network Africa

Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA) is a research and advocacy organization working to promote “equitable, inclusive and sustainable development”. They point to tax evasion in Sub-Saharan Africa as a major cause of revenue loss. To stymie tax loss, TJNA calls for a more transparent global financial network; tax havens, or countries with very low effective tax rates, present an obstacle to achieve this goal. However, TJNA hopes to establish an Intergovernmental Tax Commission (ITC) in the United Nations in order to set international tax standards. The ITC, according to TJNA, would allow for greater conformity and make it more difficult for businesses to evade taxation.

A Broad Coalition

Tax evasion in Sub-Saharan Africa is a major cause of concern. However, international organizations and African countries are partnering to tackle it. If successful, Africa can expect to reap an additional $50-100 billion in annual tax revenue. While the 413 million people living in poverty will benefit significantly from higher rates of tax compliance, business can expect to benefit as well. As African economies continue to develop, businesses will have more opportunity for investment in emerging markets. Capital currently flows out of African economies. If the trend is reversed, governments, citizens and businesses will all benefit.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Flickr

Advance Consumerism in sub-Saharan Africa

As a way to build a more “digitally exclusive ecosystem,” Visa is partnering with Branch International to advance consumerism in sub-Saharan Africa. So the Branch-Visa partnership offers over 2 million consumers in sub-Saharan Africa virtual, prepaid Visa debit cards. With these virtual Visa accounts, consumers can then create accounts on Branch, the most downloaded finance app in Africa. Now, with access and finance, citizens are even able to invest in technology. As a result, this donation will advance consumerism in sub-Saharan Africa, even enabling consumers to start their own tech companies.

Here’s how and why Sub-Saharan Africa needs this.

Sub-Saharan Africa Can Participate in Global Consumerism

Giving citizens in sub-Saharan Africa access to online purchasing allows them to contribute to global markets. Many setbacks prevent citizens of impoverished African countries from entering this market. These setbacks include:

  • Lack of transportation
  • Limited stores selling modern, technological products
  • Having only cash to buy products
  • Having low or no credit score

Enabling these citizens to start their own tech companies will advance consumerism in sub-Saharan Africa, as products become accessible and affordable.

Most of Sub-Saharan Africa is Unbanked

According to Business Insider, only about 30 percent of sub-Saharan African adults had a bank account as of 2014. This percentage drops to below seven in Niger, Guinea and the Central African Republic. About 42 percent of citizens in these countries cite lack of money as the reason for not having an account.

But with prepaid debits cards, over 2 million citizens in Sub-Saharan Africa can now access online banking. Additionally, the region is also expanding its internet access, to even the most remote parts of Kenya and Tanzania. Ultimately, these efforts will advance consumerism in sub-Saharan Africa, as online banking becomes accessible to more citizens.

Merchants Can Grow Their Businesses

Currently, most small businesses and startups in sub-Saharan Africa are unable to access quick loans. However, the Visa-Branch partnership also includes preferential small business loans to Visa merchants. So as small businesses and startups grow, citizens will have greater access to tech companies across the region.

Because most sub-Saharan African citizens do not possess bank accounts, they rely on cash and only invest in local businesses. But this partnership with Visa and Branch International allows these citizens to use online banking and expand their reach. In doing so, they not only help grow businesses across the region but advance consumerism in sub-Saharan Africa.

Sara Devoe
Photo: Flickr

Sack Farming in KenyaAs of 2015, 153 million African citizens reported being impacted by food insecurity. Food insecurity is defined as a state of living where one is unable or has limited access to obtain consistent, nutritionally valued food to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Current Issues in Africa

The average per capita income of sub-Saharan African is approximately three times lower than that of the rest of the world. One of the main sources of income in Africa is agriculture which can easily be impacted by the quality of soil, a stable water source, temperature and use of fertilizer.

That being said, in areas such as Kenya, 42 percent of the population (44 million people) live below the poverty line. Agriculture is one of the top sources of income and a major boon to the nation’s economy. In fact, it gives work to 70 percent of the workforce and contributes to 25 percent of Kenya’s annual gross domestic product.

Kibera, Nairobi, one of Kenya’s largest slums, suffers from a lack of resources such as water, land space and labor. With a consistent rising population (4.1 percent annually in Nairobi), more food is needed to sustain life. An upcoming technique to combat this problem, being implemented not only in Kenya but in surrounding nations such as Uganda, is sack farming.

Combating Food Scarcity with Sack Farming

Sack farming is the process of utilizing ordinary scrap sacks as the foundation for producing crops such as potatoes, carrots and spinach. By implementing sack farming in Kenya, food insecurity throughout the country can be tackled. All that is needed for this form of planting is the sack, manure, soil, small stones for drainage and the desired seeds.

Beginning with the necessary equipment, sacks of any size and texture can be used, from burlap encasings to plastic bags. Fertilizer can be made from composted food and waste. As for labor, the younger communities in Kenya have stepped up to take responsibility.

Effects of Sack Farming in Kenya

Depending on the size of the sacks, one sack has the ability to grow up to 45 seedlings. In terms of income, if a household is able to afford three sacks with 30 seedlings each, the production would be substantial. This would increase the household’s income, therefore increasing the ability to purchase other products ranging from electricity to eggs and milk.

Sack farming in Kenya has the ability to produce crops such as spinach, lettuce, beets, arugula, potatoes, carrots and onions. Not only does this impact the economy, but families will finally be able to have access to a stable food source. This means fewer chances of developing nutritional deficiencies, especially in younger children.

Sack farming in Kenya is a more convenient and realistic way of feeding one’s family and community, especially when living in a rural or slum area. The process is an inexpensive, simple way to produce nutritious foods, combating the issue of food insecurity in areas throughout Africa.

– Jessica Ramtahal
Photo: Flickr

solar-powered appliances
Electricity is difficult to come by in sub-Saharan Africa, India and other places in the world. In 2016, an estimated 588 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and 239 million people in India were without electricity. Slowly, more people are gaining access to electricity, specifically through solar-powered appliances and lighting.

Current Issues with Electricity

A lot of the rural cities or areas do not have electricity because they are not nearby to an electricity grid. People in Tanzania, like Lusela Murandika, power TV sets with diesel generators and other parts of their homes with charcoal, wood and other biomass.

Using resources like coal, charcoal, dung or wood as a source of electricity pollutes the breathable air that is needed to survive. According to the World Health Organization, 3.8 million people a year die from illnesses that are tied to air pollution.

Kerosene used in lamps is also a dangerous product to use. It produces soot and toxic smoke that “damages lungs and causes other serious health problems,” according to National Geographic. The use of kerosene lamps, especially ones that are homemade, are dangerous because thousands of children and adults die or are burned from them.

How Solar-Powered Appliances Are Changing Things

Technological advancements have made it easy for solar-powered appliances to become more readily available to purchase. Something as simple as a solar bottle light bulb runs around $2-3.

The solar bottle light bulb is “made out of a plastic bottle of purified water and bleach, [that] is sealed into the roof,” according to National Geographic. The water allows for light to be spread out in the room and the chlorine keeps mold from growing. The solar bottle light bulb not only works with the sunlight but it also works when the moonlight is strong as well. It allows for the people in the home to be able to do more within the household, like study, read or work inside.

Connecting people that live in rural areas to an electrical grid sometimes is not possible or it becomes too expensive to be able to afford. Electricity then becomes a luxury that people cannot afford. Sometimes, people wait years for a grid to be built near them, but having solar-powered appliances allows for them to have access to that technology much sooner.

Organizations Assisting the Distribution of Solar Power

In 2016, four U.S. foundations announced an initiative “to support efforts to bring reliable ‘off-grid’ or ‘mini-grid’ power—fueled by solar energy—to people in India who now are without it,” according to Think Progress. The foundations include Hewlett, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the Jeremy & Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. All four foundations have initiated a $30,000,000 initiative to fund the program and the Indian government is set to match this.

Furthermore, a company by the name of Easy Solar is helping provide electricity to the residents of Sierra Leone. This company is lead by Nthabiseng Mosia, Alexandre Toure and Eric Silverman. Easy Solar began in 2015 as a response to energy accessibility in Sierra Leone. In an interview from Business Report with Nthabiseng Mosia, she stated, “It’s often widely publicized that two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africans lack access to electricity. But in Sierra Leone, 90 percent of people (and 99 percent in rural areas) don’t have any electricity.”

With Easy Solar, appliances are set up so that consumers are on a rent-to-own basis, providing weekly payments. Some of the devices that the business offers are lights and mobile chargers as well as solar lanterns that have the capability of charging phones and offer more than 24 hours of light. The company’s appliances are not just limited to households but are also for businesses as well.

There are many organizations on the ground that are helping individuals obtain the necessary materials to be able to survive that will not cost them their lives. Solar-powered appliances are one solution that is helping eradicate poverty.

– Valeria Flores
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid to SomaliaSomalia is experiencing the country’s worst drought in 40 years which has led to a severe famine in the worst affected areas. The drought coupled with a ban on humanitarian assistance by Islamist group Al-Shabab has caused Somalia to be left in quickly deteriorating circumstances. Instances of violence, food shortages and the spread of many drought-related diseases have negatively affected the country and caused many people to be internally displaced.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported 975,000 displacements in Somalia with 82 percent, or 804,000 displacements, related to drought and its effects. The rest of the displacements are caused by conflicts and insecurities threatening the country.

According to the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU), the estimated number of people in need of humanitarian aid in Somalia has decreased from 6.7 million people to 6.2 million, which shows that the situation is improving. However, localized famine, daily violent attacks and the ongoing ban set in place by Al-Shabaab, which if broken leads to brutal punishments, make it hard for aid workers to provide assistance to people still in need. 

Aid workers have been highly targeted by Al-Shabaab and many of them are victims of abductions by armed militants. Al-Shabaab imposed the ban on humanitarian aid in Somalia in July 2017. The ban mostly covers areas under his control and has forced hundreds of thousands of people to choose between death from starvation or violent punishment. Communities were told by the militant group that they would experience extreme punishment if they called or had any contact with humanitarian agencies.

Even though aid officials and international human rights organizations have provided humanitarian aid to Somalia and saved many lives, conditions within the country are still deteriorating, with almost half of the population facing starvation if no help is received in the coming months.

After the deadly truck attack on October 14, Somalia needs help more than ever. USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance responded to the attack by providing $100,000 to a partner organization so that emergency medical supplies could be delivered to the 300 victims of the attack.

– Sarah Soutoul

Photo: Flickr

U.S. President's Malaria Initiative Expands to Include Four New CountriesOn September 21, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that its President’s Malaria Initiative would expand to include four new countries: Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Niger and Sierra Leone.

The President’s Malaria Initiative, which was initially launched in 2005 by USAID, works diligently to decrease the incidence of malaria-related deaths and increase malaria prevention and treatment programs predominately in Sub-Saharan Africa. With the addition of the newly developed programs, the initiative currently works in 24 different countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

According to USAID, the initiative’s expansion will help approximately 332 million people in order to fight the spread of malaria.

The Center for Disease Control reported in 2015 that the initiative works with other agencies such as the World Bank, UNICEF and non-governmental organizations in order to combat malaria more efficiently.

The initiative is dedicated to providing malaria prevention programs to those at the greatest risk for suffering from malaria-related deaths such as pregnant women and young children. Such interventions include “intermittent preventive treatment for pregnant women” and “indoor residual spraying with an approved insecticide.”

Also, the initiative works closely with the Sub-Saharan African countries in order to address other factors that increase one’s risk of contracting malaria. For instance, the initiative helps with reinforcing infrastructure in developing countries; political instability is oftentimes linked to negative health outcomes.

USAID reported in 2016 that more than six million lives have been saved through the initiative; however, the initiative still has a vast amount of work to do. Malaria spreads quickly in Sub-Saharan African countries, and there is a large number of susceptible pregnant women and children in such countries that need immediate care. The inclusion of four new countries is promising, but President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget seems to tell a different story.

The Council on Foreign Relations stated in April 2017 that President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget “calls for deep cuts to foreign assistance programs,” which is immensely troublesome.

Programs like the President’s Malaria Initiative are able to thrive and help more people with necessary funds, so it is imperative that the United States government stays on track to further developing this initiative.

Emily Santora

Photo: Flickr

AIDS Prevention in AfricaDespite its relatively low prevalence in the U.S., AIDS continues to be a seemingly uncontrollable global epidemic. But nowhere else on earth suffers as much from this tragic disease as Sub-Saharan Africa, where 69 percent of all those infected reside. Although poor sanitation, lack of preventative treatments and education are doubtlessly responsible, the inaccessibility of healthcare technologies also substantially inhibit AIDS prevention in Africa.

Many people in developing countries lack access to even the most basic of healthcare technologies. Access to these innovations are hindered by a variety of complex obstacles. Sometimes the treatments exist, although it is often impossible for the average person to afford them. Other times, however, the healthcare infrastructures are so poor that they are unable to support the life-saving technologies that wealthier countries can enjoy. The festering epidemic has caused the U.S. to make AIDS prevention in Africa a priority for U.S. foreign policy. This led to the creation of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Since its inception in 2003, PEPFAR has received strong bipartisan support for its leadership in the containment of the HIV/AIDS crisis. It currently provides 11.5 million patients with antiretroviral treatment. This number is up from the mere 50,000 individuals receiving treatment before PEPFAR was established.

These numbers confirm the success of the program’s strategy. Through a new partnership with the financial leader Mastercard, however, PEPFAR plans on elevating its approach to AIDS prevention. The private-public partnership will introduce digital technologies and data analytics to improve access prevention and treatment plans. Research conducted by PEPFAR shows that the greatest cost in HIV/AIDS treatment is in treatment delivery rather than the cost of drugs. Through its partnership with Mastercard, the organization hopes to improve efficiency of its efforts.

Mastercard has a history of developing digital solutions for impoverished regions through its Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity (FRP). Since its formation in 2015, FRP has financed 19 projects across Sub-Saharan Africa that widen the economic inclusion of poor people living in rural areas. This unique charitable expertise makes Mastercard the perfect partner for PEPFAR in the endeavor to promote AIDS prevention in Africa.

Bringing healthcare technology to rural, impoverished communities may be the single most powerful step toward combating deadly diseases. Healthcare in developing countries is impeded by many obstacles such as a lack of formal training, research tools and funding. As a result, medical technology is only as useful as those implementing it are resourceful. With the partnership of two global leaders in health and innovation, PEPFAR and Mastercard promise to bring AIDS containment to regions that are suffering most.

Micaela Fischer

Photo: Flickr