Diarrheal Disease in South Asia
Diarrheal diseases such as cholera, rotavirus and E. coli cause intense episodes of diarrhea which depletes the body of water and electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium, etc.) and eventually can lead to death if not treated. Unsanitary water, poor waste management, coming into contact with fecal matter and a lack of access to health care often are causes of these diseases. While diarrheal diseases impact people all across the globe, one of the areas in which people suffer from them the most is South Asia.

5 Facts About Diarrheal Disease in South Asia

  1. A substantial number of worldwide diarrheal disease-related deaths happen in South Asia. According to 2016 reports, diarrheal diseases are the eighth highest cause of death globally among people of all ages. Even more, they are the fifth highest cause of death in children under 5. Diarrheal diseases also disproportionately affect South Asian countries such as India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. About 90% of deaths related to diarrheal disease worldwide occur in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
  2. Children in South Asia are much more likely to die from a diarrheal disease than anything else. A 2020 study that BMC Public Health conducted in India found that diarrheal diseases caused 50% of deaths in children aged 1 to 5, putting children at a higher risk when it comes to diarrheal diseases.
  3. Diarrheal diseases disproportionately affect areas in South Asia with poor access to health care, sanitation and clean water. Once again, a 2020 study that BMC Public Health conducted found that in India, factors such as improper stool disposal in the home, having a dirt floor, having a thatched roof and environmental issues all contributed to a person’s likelihood of contracting a diarrheal disease. Evidence showed that 46.5% of children in the study had no access to a toilet facility, and the children with toilets were 18% less likely to contract a diarrheal disease. Of the people in this study, 43% of the children lived in houses with dirt floors, and some also had thatched roofs. These people were 8% more likely to contract a diarrheal disease. These statistics show just how threatening diarrheal diseases are to people living in South Asia without basic human needs.
  4. Despite this grim data, the negative effect of diarrheal disease is lessening in South Asia. In response to this high amount of diarrheal disease-related deaths in South Asia, many groups, government and not, are making efforts to end this crisis. Between 1990 and 2010, diarrheal disease-related deaths decreased by 55%. One organization in particular, The Gates Foundation, focuses on the development and delivery of safe and affordable vaccines for many diarrheal diseases. This organization began working in South Asia in 2003, with the implementation of an HIV vaccine in India. Between 2003 and 2014, The Gates Foundation implemented more than 170 million vaccines in the region.

WHO and UNICEF Providing Help

In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF released a comprehensive plan in 2013 that will help lower diarrheal deaths worldwide, especially in high-risk places such as South Asia. This plan outlines many goals such as reducing mortality from diarrhea in children less than 5 years of age to fewer than one per 1,000 live births and 90% access to appropriate pneumonia and diarrhea case management by 2025. With these goals, the plan also lists steps that will be taken and that are being taken to achieve them such as administering vaccines, initiation of breastfeeding amongst new mothers and providing uncontaminated drinking water to areas that do not have access.

In conclusion, diarrheal diseases are very deadly to citizens of South Asia, especially children under 5, and people without access to proper waste disposal, health care and clean water. While these illnesses are very prevalent, they are also very preventable, and given the aid of organizations such as the Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization, South Asia is already lowering the number of deaths diarrheal diseases cause.

– Evelyn Breitbach
Photo: Unsplash

Sustainable Sanitation Services
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is an organization dedicated to fighting poverty, disease, and inequity around the world. It has been working to create a world where every person has the opportunity to live a healthy and productive life. In order to reach their goal, in 2021 alone, the Gates Foundation has been responsible for funding 2,051 grants and contributing a total of $6.7 billion of charitable support to build economies across the globe. With $653 million going to global growth and opportunity, the Gates Foundation has been a leader in improving water, hygiene and sustainable sanitation services globally.

Sustainable Sanitation

Since the main objective of a sanitation system is to provide a clean environment to people living in a community, promote better health and break the cycle of disease in the process. It is imperative that all societies have access to clean, filtered water and sewage systems. Sustainable sanitation is a sanitation system that is economically viable and institutionally appropriate. For example, sustainable sanitation measures should be both socio-culturally acceptable and easy to operate. It should also be low-cost and effective in mitigating disease and preserving the health of the community.

The Importance of Sanitation Services

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that “poor sanitation is linked to the transmission of diarrheal diseases.” As the spread of diseases like cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio contributes to the spread of antimicrobial resistance, proper sanitation is crucial to the development of a community. Often linked to reducing the well-being and economic development of society, sustainable sanitation services are crucial to reducing poverty. However, improving and providing sustainable sanitation services can lead to many more benefits such as:

  • Reducing the spread of neglected tropical diseases.
  • Reducing the impact of malnutrition.
  • Promoting safety and empowering women and girls to employ safe feminine hygiene practices.
  • Promoting school attendance.
  • Encouraging the potential recovery of water and renewable energy.

However, WHO reported that in 2020, only 54% of the world’s population were using safely managed sanitation services and more than 1.7 billion people still don’t have access to basic sanitation services. Since roughly 830,000 people die every year due to the effects of poor hygiene and inadequate water sanitation in low/middle-income countries, it is important to take steps to mitigate the problem.

The Gates Foundation and Its Goals

The Gates Foundation has been working with government leaders and technologists to revolutionize sanitation standards and practices around the world. Their core initiatives include:

  • Promoting and creating policies and outlets for global governments to take in order to establish sustainable sanitation services.
  • Investing in the following priority demographics:
    • Low-Income populations
    • Racial and ethnic minorities
    • Women
    • Children and adolescents
    • Elderly
    • Individuals with special needs
  • Investing in the adoption of new technologies that can radically change the management of human waste in an affordable manner.
  • Conducting research to help the sanitation section develop data and evidence about what works and what does not.

The Four Focus Regions

The Gates Foundation recognizes that the implementation of sustainable sanitation services is most pertinent in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Even in the sub-Saharan countries with the best water coverage rates, as much as 25% of people still lack adequate access to proper sanitation services. The Gates Foundation reports that governments are now beginning to acknowledge the need for more innovative sustainable sanitation solutions as the population of towns and cities begins to grow rapidly. The organization has been focusing on four complementary areas, which are as follows:

  1. Investing in transformative technologies and commercialization is key to making sustainable sanitation accessible. Since 2011, the Gates Foundation has been working to “reinvent the toilet,” by designing a low-cost toilet that does not need access to an electrical grid, water or a sewer system.
  2. The foundation works with local governments, organizations and partners to stimulate the market and community demands to improve urban sanitation conditions.
  3. It also works to improve government policy and advocacy regarding sustainable sanitation by setting guidelines and providing funding. These efforts particularly work to increase women’s participation in sanitation decision-making areas.
  4. Lastly, the Gates Foundation invests in more research to measure the effectiveness of various sanitation services in order to reach its goal of providing equitable and safely managed sustainable sanitation services for all people by 2030.

Goals for the Future

Because poor sanitation is responsible for so many health complications, the Gates Foundation recognizes the importance of expanding access to clean water and providing sustainable sanitation. Solving sanitation challenges in the developing world will require new technologies that are both reliable and cost-effective. It is therefore crucial to invest in proper sanitation to lift poverty-stricken nations.

– Opal Vitharana
Photo: Flickr

Global gender equalityIn the fight for global gender equality, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is leading the way. According to the Peace Corps, gender equality means that “men and women have equal power and equal opportunities for financial independence, education and personal development” and is a crucial issue worldwide. Recently, the Gates Foundation made a significant donation to help support global gender equality efforts. This is not the only action the organization has taken to express its passion for establishing gender equality. The Gates Foundation’s efforts, with support from other organizations, will make great strides in the fight for global gender equality.

A Generous Donation

At the 2021 Generation Equality Forum, the Gates Foundation announced it would donate more than $2 billion to help improve gender equality worldwide. Over the next five years, the foundation plans to use the money to advance gender equality in three main areas: economic support, family planning and placing women in leadership roles. The Gates Foundation’s goal behind this decision is to specifically focus on gender-related issues that have worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the International Labor Organization found that unemployment for women increased by nine million from 2019 to 2020. Since the foundation has dedicated itself to supporting gender equality for many years, this monetary commitment will accelerate its progress.

Actions From the Foundation

Besides its billion-dollar donation, the Gates Foundation has been dedicating its work to create solutions for the lack of women’s equality for many years. In addition to several other million-dollar donations, in 2020, the foundation formally established the Gender Equality Division to prioritize its commitment to improving the lives of women and girls. From family health to economic empowerment, the foundation is working on expanding access to a variety of social, medical and educational services. This includes analyzing factors that help or hinder women and advising international governments on how to better support gender equality.

Solutions From Other Organizations

Aside from the Gates Foundation’s various efforts, other projects can improve circumstances relevant to global gender equality. One vital step to this process is looking at data from around the world. Data2X created a campaign that draws attention to issues associated with gender and proposes possible improvements. Similarly, another organization, Equality Now, uses legal and systemic advocacy to help improve global gender equality. Furthermore, after donating more than $400 million, the Ford Foundation has also committed to helping fix various gender-related issues. These issues include inequality in the economy and workforce.

The Gates Foundation’s donation of more than $2 billion is one significant step in eliminating global gender inequality. With initiatives worldwide, women and girls are gaining the equality and respect they should have always had. In addition, the Gates Foundation is supported by Data2X, Equality Now and the Ford Foundation. Together, people everywhere are working to understand and improve global gender equality.

– Chloe Moody
Photo: Wikimedia

Adjuvant CapitalGlenn Rockman and Jenny Yip are the leaders of Adjuvant Capital, an investment firm focused on public health. In February 2021, the firm announced a $300 million venture capital fund. The reason for raising this large amount is because the world is in great need of medical technologies and supplies and Adjuvant Capital wants to ensure those resources are accessible. The fund specifically works toward underprivileged and developing countries to ensure that those who would not otherwise have access to certain medical advances are getting the care they need. Multiple investors have pledged money to this fund, including the Gates Foundation, pledging $75 million to the venture capital fund.

The Venture Capital Industry

The venture capital industry has long since been overlooking new technologies in the medical field but Adjuvant Capital looks to change this in order to get the necessary medical resources to the people that need them. By investing in various companies, increased production will arise for new medical technologies that can help prevent or manage medical issues, from rare diseases to global pandemics. Many of the Adjuvant Capital investors are also contributing scientific advice and research as well as financial aid in order to cultivate the growth of wide-reaching medical resources.

Adjuvant Capital

The co-founders of Adjuvant Capital, Kabeer Aziz and Charlie Petty, have been global health investors in the past. Partners Rockman and Yip also have investment backgrounds, with Rockman being a former member of the Global Health Investment Fund. It is clear to see that these backgrounds have had a lot of influence over the firm’s current venture fund and can be seen further as Yip used to be a part of the Gate’s Foundation’s strategic investments group. The Gate’s Foundation is responsible for about 25% of the venture capital fund.

Although based in the United States, Adjuvant Capital commits to the most promising technologies globally, with investments in NigeriaBangladesh and China, among others. Recent financings include Beijing-based Yisheng Biopharma, which looks to resolve critical supply issues in the rabies vaccine market.

Medical innovations have been overlooked by investors for a long time, which is why this venture capital fund exists. Mark Suzman, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is quoted saying “there is an important role for investment capital to play in stimulating innovation and making markets work for the poor so that everyone has the chance to live a healthy, productive life.”

The investment into these innovations will not only help the underprivileged but it will create an effect that reaches everyone and promotes public health as well as growth. Among others, investors in the fund also include the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

The Road Ahead

Adjuvant Capital’s investment fund could possibly produce life-changing healthcare solutions that have the potential to create significant global social impact. Adjuvant Capital is committed to ensure global access to healthcare and health equity worldwide. The ultimate goal is to bring quality healthcare to all by creating affordable, effective solutions that everyone has access to, regardless of income, region or socioeconomic status.

Grace Aprahamian
Photo: Flickr

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is Helping COVID-19 Relief WorldwideBill Gates first became interested in the effort for vaccines and immunizations in the 1990s. Over the years, the Gates Foundation has granted vaccine programs more than $16 billion to fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Gates has also made a point to speak publicly on the issue of public health routinely. In fact, Gates nearly predicted the current pandemic, saying in 2015 that “if anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus” and that “we’re not ready for the next epidemic.” Six years and more than 2.5 million COVID-19 deaths later, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is helping COVID-19 relief worldwide in three key ways.

The Gates Foundation and COVID-19 Fundraising

The Gates Foundation is helping COVID-19 relief is by providing funds. A central aim of the Gates Foundation is to aid global health by “[investing] heavily in developing new vaccines to prevent infectious diseases.” The foundation has upheld this promise during the COVID-19 pandemic, giving about $1.75 billion to the pandemic response. For example, the foundation provided a $300 million infusion to the Serum Institute of India. This allowed the institute to double its vaccine commitment. The bulk of the funds have gone “towards the production and procurement of crucial medical supplies.”  Notable examples of earmarked contributions include a $20 million grant to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to further research on additional vaccine candidates. Also, a $250 million donation is dedicated to ensuring low- and middle-income countries have access to the same technology and solutions as developed countries.

The Gates Foundation Launch The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator

The ACT-Accelerator is an international coalition that brings together governments, health organizations, scientists and philanthropists that represent a comprehensive effort to assist in COVID-19 relief. The platform was launched by the WHO, European Commission, France and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation less than a year ago after calls from G20 Leaders. The organization focuses on four pillars of COVID-19 relief: diagnostics, treatment, vaccines and health system strengthening. While the organization’s holistic goal is to coordinate a truly global response to COVID-19, it has many specific, tangible aims. These goals include bringing 500 million tests to low-and-middle-income countries by mid-2021 and distributing 245 million treatments to these populations within the next year.

Established Relationships of The Gates Foundation During COVID-19

The Gates Foundation is also using established relationships to further the COVID-19 relief effort. Bill Gates’ work over the past two decades in the global infectious disease effort has helped him create strong relationships with humanitarian organizations and influential public figures. The foundation is drawing on these connections to further its efforts. Bill and Melinda have met with international actors, such as the President Macron of France and Chancellor Merkel of Germany. They also have connected with domestic figureheads, including Dr. Fauci and Sen. McConnell, to bring more attention and funding to COVID-19 relief efforts.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is helping COVID-19 relief through traditional methods such as donations and grants while also focusing on advocating for the equitable distribution of resources to low- and middle-income countries. Through its work in vaccine equity, the Gates Foundation is helping COVID-19 relief worldwide in many needed ways.

– Kendall Carll
Photo: Flickr

Sickle Cell Anemia in Sub-Saharan AfricaThere are a total of 46 countries that compose sub-Saharan Africa. These countries account for 75% of the total cases of sickle cell anemia globally. Due to the high concentration of this disease in one area of the globe, high rates of early mortality have devastated sub-Saharan Africa. Researchers estimate that 50-90% of infants born with the disorder will die by the age of 5. In response, methodologies have been developed in hopes of eradicating sickle cell anemia in sub-Saharan Africa.

5 Ways to Decrease Sickle Cell Anemia in Sub-Saharan Africa

  1. Early Screening. It is crucial to provide screening for newborns in order to diagnose children with sickle cell anemia as early as possible. Early detection of the disease is proven to increase survival rates. In under-resourced communities, many children have died without ever receiving a diagnosis. Early detection allows for the initiation of treatments, therapies, physician follow-ups and medical attention. Previously, diagnoses of patients happened through isoelectric focusing and liquid chromatography, but these have shown to be inaccurate and expensive. Now, there are “point-of-care” diagnostic methods available that are affordable and provide accurate results.
  2. Vaccinations. A consequence of sickle cell disease (SCD) is an exponential increase in the transmission of bacterial infections. The main vaccination that has resulted in improvement for patients with sickle cell disease is penicillin prophylaxis. With the increased availability of penicillin and medical monitoring, mortality rates for patients with sickle cell anemia in sub-Saharan Africa will significantly decrease.
  3. Treatment Therapies. Once diagnosed, there are numerous preventive and therapeutic measurements that can alleviate the symptoms of SCD. Data collected through years of research have proven that hydroxyurea is the most effective therapy for patients with SCD. In addition, proper hydration and nutritious supplements are key to curing non-critical patients. The most critical patients receive blood transfusions. Lastly, stem cell transplantations bring great improvements to SCD patients; however, its high cost often prevents the utilization of this method.
  4. Health Education. A simple method to increase the life expectancy of SCD patients is to provide accurate and useful information about the disease. Parents well-informed on this condition can properly identify symptoms their children display and can seek immediate medical attention. This leads to early detection so the child can receive necessary medications, therapies, vaccinations and treatments.
  5. Global Advocacy. In recent years, more institutions have recognized the prevalence of sickle cell anemia in Africa and have shifted their focus to aiding those countries. The U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Gates Foundation created joint efforts in order to cultivate gene-based cures for both sickle cell disease and HIV. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and American Society of Hematology announced that one of their priorities is to support the impoverished, disadvantaged countries across Africa in regard to sickle cell anemia. Also, the NIH Small Business Innovation Research grant allowed for the utilization of the affordable, precise “point-of-care” diagnostic methods for SCD patients. Further advocacy for underprivileged, impoverished families is necessary to continue the fight in reducing sickle cell anemia in sub-Saharan Africa.

Looking Ahead

Despite its challenges, Africa has made major strides in improving sickle cell anemia in the last 40 years. Continuing to utilize these methods would not only save vulnerable children but would also help economies to flourish. A higher life expectancy has a direct correlation with an increase in projected lifetime incomes. This would result in more people contributing to their country’s economy and mobilizing their personal socioeconomic statuses. It is vital to take the above approaches to support patients with sickle cell anemia in sub-Saharan Africa.

Bolorzul Dorjsuren
Photo: Flickr

Vaccines in Africa during COVID-19Medical progress in developing countries could unravel during COVID-19 because the global shutdown is preventing important vaccines from reaching Africa. In fact, global health organizations struggle to dispatch health care workers, make shipments, and store medical supplies and vaccines. Health care systems have halted vaccinations for cholera, measles, polio and other diseases in order to focus on stopping COVID-19. Also, parents are afraid of bringing newborns to get vaccines during the pandemic as many health care workers have been repeatedly exposed to COVID-19. Although the WHO says that children are not a high-risk category for COVID-19, the fear of exposure could perpetuate the vaccination gap and exacerbate the problem even as governments ease restrictions.

Effects of Halting Vaccine Distribution

The postponement of vaccines in Africa during COVID-19 could lead to a dramatic resurgence of measles, cholera and other diseases that have been decreasing worldwide. Children in countries with low-quality health care might not receive these vaccines. This inequality is a problem that many organizations are trying to combat. Experts are also recommending that leaders should track and trace unvaccinated children to administer the vaccines on a later date. These proactive measures could help prevent future outbreaks.

Measles Vaccinations

Measles cases have risen globally in recent years due to growing misinformation, low-quality health care and other cultural or societal issues. Coronavirus has stalled everyday life, international travel and vaccination campaigns. Because of the impact COVID-19 has had, it is now estimated that over 117 million children in 37 countries, in which the majority are located in Africa, will likely not receive their measles vaccine. The World Health Organization and other global health foundations have expressed concerns over this new problem. Data is now showing that deaths from other diseases will likely compare to COVID-19 deaths in Africa by a ratio of 100 to one because these preventable diseases will have been overlooked. 

What is Being Done to Help

Global health organizations such as UNICEF, the Gates Foundation and other private groups provide most vaccines. Most African health care systems are already not well equipped to handle basic care and disease management. The pandemic, as well as the threat of diseases becoming more prevalent, puts a strain on these health care systems. Organizations like the Gates Foundation have noticed this excess burden on the African health care system, so they are working to help improve Emergency Operations Centers and local disease surveillance and testing. The Gates Foundation is also focusing on providing routine care as that often goes overlooked during a pandemic. The foundation is working to build up their health care systems as a whole to fight other diseases.

Most world leaders are prioritizing the containment of COVID-19; however, global health organizations are encouraging governments to do more to prevent diseases that can be treated with vaccines. 

– Jacquelyn Burrer
Photo: Flickr

Impact of Coronavirus
Over the past several months, the outbreak of the fast-spreading pandemic of coronavirus or COVID-19 has taken the world by storm. In efforts to stop the pandemic from spreading and provide aid to the sick, many countries are closing borders and imparting quarantine policies on citizens. Not only is the coronavirus taking lives, but it is also heavily impacting the global economy in terms of billions of dollars. 

Efforts to Curb COVID-19

Currently, the WHO has reported 234,073 confirmed global cases and 9,840 deaths from the coronavirus. This pandemic is extremely contagious and spreads through respiratory fluids, which is why it is important to cover the mouth when coughing and washing hands frequently. The CDC recommends washing hands every hour for at least 20 seconds.

International governments are also closing borders and canceling flights to slow the impact of coronavirus. Further, people from CEOs to politicians and regular citizens are promoting social distancing. All over the world, authorities are telling people to only leave home when necessary like to buy groceries, travel to work, exercise or receive medical care. In Jordan, curfews exist that are punishable with jail time if people do not abide by them. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom is asking retired doctors and medical professionals to help fight the outbreak.

Organization Action

Organizations are also taking action to fight the outbreak. Organizations like the Gates Foundation, Wellcome and the Mastercard Impact Fund are contributing large sums to support economically impacted communities. The Gates Foundation and Wellcome have donated up to $50 million, and the Mastercard Impact Fund has committed up to $25 million. The CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, has announced the company will donate to “groups on the ground” that are in specific contact with those ill. Specific to the Gates Foundation, its initial donation is a part of the $100 million it has committed to help fight the outbreak and provide aid relief.

Additionally, the co-founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, has donated $14.4 million to help develop a vaccine to reduce the impact of coronavirus. Ma has provided $5.8 million to support two Chinese government research organizations in tackling vaccine production. The rest of the funds are going towards prevention protocols. According to the latest CDC situation report, the first vaccine trials are in progression. Furthermore, the WHO has set up an international study in many countries to compare different treatments.

Impact on the Global Economy

From a financial standpoint, the pandemic is slowly weakening the global economy and will continue to do so until the situation is under control. So far, the impact of COVID-19 is billions of dollars of government money to go towards aid needs, prevention technology and protection measures. Estimates determine that the impact of coronavirus will have cost nearly $2 trillion by the end of 2020. However, some countries like the U.S. are already receiving billions of dollars in bailouts.

With an abundant amount of action per nation, generous donations and hard-work from medical professionals, it is the hope of many that the pandemic will soon take a more positive turn. It is important to take adequate measures to stay safe during the pandemic. Safety precautions allow a slower spread and provide medical professionals and the health care system time to reduce the impact of the virus. Additionally, these measures will aid in providing therapeutic resources and developing vaccines. 

– Sarah Mobarak
Photo: Flickr

What is Hunger?
Every day, people around the world experience those familiar sensations of emptiness and rumbling pangs in their stomach, signaling that it is time to eat. At this point, most people would get something to eat and go on with their day. Sadly, many people in the world, especially those in developing countries, do not receive this luxury. They experience chronic hunger, which is undernourishment from not ingesting enough energy to lead a normal, active life. It is difficult to empathize with what hunger feels like, to live with a body longing for nourishment, weakened by a lack of energy and unable to fulfill its basic need for food.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, an estimated one in nine people, 821 million, live with chronic hunger. It also states that the number of people living with the condition has been on the rise since 2014, with a staggering 98 percent living in developing countries.

The Consequences of Hunger

Hunger brings along with it many problems other than an aching stomach. Prolonged lack of adequate nourishment results in malnutrition, which causes the stunting of growth and development in children and wasting syndrome. Wasting syndrome is a side effect of malnutrition, in which the victim’s fat and muscle tissues break down to provide the body with nourishment. The condition results in an emaciated body and in some cases, death. In fact, malnutrition links to around 45 percent of deaths among children under the age of five, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  Fortunately, some have made progress. Since 2012, the number of stunted children in the world has decreased by nine percent from 165.2 million to 150.8 million, a significant improvement.

Hunger and Poverty

Poverty is the underlying determinant in who suffers from chronic hunger. Impoverished people are unable to consistently provide substantial amounts of food for themselves or their families, as they simply cannot afford to. This inability to provide nourishment creates a vicious cycle of hunger and poverty.

Undernourished people lack the energy required to perform basic tasks and therefore are less productive. Those who were malnourished as children develop stunted physical and intellectual abilities, which results in a reduction in the level of education achieved and the individual’s income, according to UNICEF.

What Can People Do?

People can break this vicious cycle and help people suffering from chronic hunger. Organizations such as The Hunger Project, the FAO and the Gates Foundation all have initiatives aimed at helping those in need get on their feet.

The Hunger Project works to empower those suffering from hunger with the tools they need to become self-reliant.  In Mbale, Uganda, the organization partnered with the local community to build a food bank where farmers are able to safely store grain, which has greatly increased their food security.

The FAO focuses on aiding governments and other organizations in implementing initiatives that aim to decrease hunger and malnourishment. A great example of this is Africa Sustainable Livestock 2050, in which the FOA helps countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia develop livestock infrastructure that will support the countries as their populations increase over the coming years.

Bill and Melinda Gates formed the Gates Foundation in 2000 with the main focus of providing internet to those who do not have access to it. Since then, the scope of the foundation’s mission has expanded to help the impoverished through global health and development initiatives. One of the foundation’s major initiatives is Seed Systems and Variety Improvement, which aims to improve seed breeding systems in Africa and India in an effort to make agriculture in those countries more sustainable.

With projects that aim to give impoverished people access to clean water, infrastructure, sustainable farming, disaster relief and education, these organizations have made significant strides.

Individuals can help eradicate chronic hunger by donating to charitable organizations or by contacting their government representatives, encouraging them to support bills and initiatives that aim to combat global hunger. Everyone can play a role and spread the word. There is a long road ahead, but with the tools available, chronic hunger can become a thing of the past.

– Shane Thoma
Photo: Flickr

Diseases Gates Foundation
According to a journal published in the Gastroenterology Section of the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, enteric and diarrheal diseases are the leading causes of death in young children under five years old. Of this age group, diarrhea occurs approximately 2.5 billion times each year resulting in the fatality of nearly 15 percent. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation aspires to eliminate enteric and diarrheal diseases by 2030, including typhoid in children under five by 2035. The World Health Organization (WHO) also reports that diarrheal related illnesses are the leading cause of malnutrition for children under five.

The Gates Foundation is committed to serving and advocating the lives of the world’s poor by improving health care, education and other areas that could dramatically impact the quality of life for billions. The foundation’s goal for this initiative is “We believe that all children — no matter where they live — should not suffer or die from enteric (gastrointestinal) and diarrheal infections.”

Understanding the development of children across the world can help prevent and reverse the issues of growth stunting caused by environmental enteric dysfunctionalities in young children under five. Improving socioeconomic conditions is a crucial component for the Gates Foundation to reduce these illnesses. Children will have better access to health care and treatment, and the improvement in the accessibility of clean and sanitized water and hygiene will help to significantly reduce the likelihood of occurrence.

The Gates Foundation is primarily focused on providing safe, effective and affordable vaccines to children in vulnerable countries where these illnesses are more prevalent. The Gates Foundation also invests in quality research aimed at improving case management and delivering treatment for children in medically vulnerable countries.

Currently, there are safe and effective vaccines available for rotavirus and cholera. WHO recommended that these vaccinations be included in national immunizations. Affordable treatments such as oral rehydration solutions, zinc supplements and antibiotics to treat dysentery could also prevent enteric and diarrheal diseases in young children. Breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of life, personal and household hygiene improvements, access to safe and reliable drinking water and improved sanitation help reduce the development of gastrointestinal infections.

Gastrointestinal research is a growing field of study and is beneficial in understanding neurocognitive development and how to support physical growth. Promising opportunities have been made possible through research on gut microbiome, immune system and gut barrier to test and further the development of inventions that seek to prevent and reverse growth stunting.

Although advancements in research are occurring, not nearly enough political attention, adequate funding and thorough research go toward the alleviation of enteric and diarrheal diseases. This is partially due to the fact that the impact of these fatal illnesses has largely gone unnoticed in the international community.

Additionally, the lack of critical information on the pathogens and the environmental factors that cause theses pathogens limit proactive progress toward eliminating these devastating gastrointestinal illnesses.

The good news is that action and awareness can yield a more positive result in fighting against these diseases and essentially lower the number of lives they take.

Haylee M. Gardner

Photo: Flickr