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Improve Global Health
In June 2018, German Chancellor Angela Merkel introduced a new plan for Germany to become a front-runner in global health. This plan was to fully come into action by the end of 2019. In addition, the BMJ Journal reported that the plan involved bringing in non-governmental representatives to provide their knowledge to develop a strategy for Germany to improve global health.

What is the Plan?

Germany worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-Being for All program. One of the main goals of this initiative is to accelerate progress in seven key areas:

  1. Primary health care
  2. Sustainable financing
  3. Community and civil society
  4. Determinants of health
  5. Innovative programming in fragile and vulnerable settings and for disease outbreak responses
  6. Research and Development, Innovation and Access
  7. Data and digital health

These seven points focus on the main areas of mobilizing and enabling communities. They also focus on providing governments with the necessary funding and knowledge to help their people and ensuring the research and money is going to the areas that most need it.

Funding

Germany began working towards many of these goals as early as 2018. The Global Fund reports that Germany pledged 1 billion euros (roughly $1.094 billion) towards The Global Fund’s fight against diseases such as HIV, malaria and AIDS. Also, the website states that this was a 17.6 percent increase from its previous pledge. Germany is pledging this amount for a three-year period.

The website Donar Tracker notes that Germany donated 47 percent of its development assistance fund to multilateral, or multi-country, organizations. The website states that the main recipients of this funding were the previously mentioned Global Fund, the E.U. and Gavi. Gavi is an organization focused on giving impoverished countries access to vaccines.

Cooperation

The Global Health Hub Germany is a website that Germany hosts to improve global health. This website calls itself the platform for Global Health. The World Health Summit, which Berlin, Germany holds annually, helped to organize the launch of The Global Health Hub, claiming that its mission statement is one of cooperation.

The Global Health Hub Germany aims to inform people, get them working together and develop new ways for the world to improve global health. Additionally, it hosts frequent events and conferences aimed to give people the information they need to help improve global health. The website launched on October 29, 2019. Since then, it gained 555 members as of November 2019. Its members consist of activist groups and experts in the health field. The Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Well-being for All states Germany’s mission statement going forward to improve global health. Funding, cooperation and mobilization are just some of the ways that Germany aims to improve global health.

Jacob Creswell
Photo: Flickr

Auction Raised Money to Fight AIDS
Even as the world enters a new decade, AIDS remains a serious epidemic. It is a widespread and deadly disease that mostly affects poor countries. There are many organizations that work to fight this harsh truth, including one called (RED). In December 2019, the “PAINT (RED) SAVE LIVES” auction raised money to fight AIDS.

About (RED)

Bono and Bobby Shiver founded (RED) in 2006 by Bono and Bobby Shiver. (RED) works to raise money to help the fight against AIDS, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa. It does this by partnering with leading brands to make and sell (RED) products, identifiable by their actual red coloring, and sending all of the money to HIV/AIDS programs in sub-Saharan Africa.

Every company that (RED) partners with offers a different type of red-colored product. Johnson & Johnson sells special (BAND-AID) RED bandages. Twenty cents from each sale goes to the fight against AIDS. Stella Luna sells red sneakers and chain sandals to contribute to the cause, while Vilebrequin sells T-shirts, swim trunks and beach bags. Bank of America has a web page where people can donate to (RED). Bank of America matches donations.

The Auction

The “PAINT (RED) SAVE LIVES” auction took place in December 2019. It was an art auction that featured red paintings from 30 different artists. Twenty-five murals in 25 cities around the world served as advertisements for the event.

Bidding for the auction closed on December 17, 2019. Fifty percent of the proceeds from every sale went to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The sales contributed to the Global Fund reaching its goal of earning $14 billion by the end of that year. It is hoped that these proceeds will contribute to saving 16 million lives in AIDS-prone countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

Impact

The “PAINT (RED) SAVE LIVES” auction raised money to fight AIDS. The proceeds that it earned were the latest in a long line of accomplishments by (RED). The organization has raised more than $600 million since its founding and sent money to numerous AIDS organizations in sub-Saharan Africa. Thanks to these organizations and donations, 24 million people with HIV have access to medicine.

(RED) is aware that medicine is not the sole solution to the AIDS epidemic. Its funding has also helped with other initiatives. The organization is helping condoms become available to prevent the spread of HIV. It is also aiding in the development of new medications and medical procedures to reduce the risk further. Thanks to new testing procedures, 79 percent of people with HIV now know that they have it, allowing them to receive treatment sooner and live longer. Furthermore, 82 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women are receiving antiretroviral treatment to prevent passing AIDS to their children. The organization is providing funding to make sure that adolescents receive education about AIDS and its risks.

The AIDS epidemic remains a big problem, especially for poor areas like sub-Saharan Africa. Roughly 400 babies are born with HIV each day and one teenager suffers infection every three minutes. AIDS continues to kill more people than any other disease. The “PAINT (RED) SAVE LIVES” auction raised money to fight AIDS, and the funds are helping to eradicate AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.

Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Flickr


The UN’s 2016 High-Panel report on global access to medicine opens with an inspiring message: “Never in the past has our knowledge of science been so profound and the possibilities to treat all manner of diseases so great.” It is hard to debate that recent advancements in targeted cancer therapy and HIV drug development indicate a bright future for the Rx world. The potential for positive change may go unrealized, however, if access to medicine remains limited. To serve the 3.5 billion people without basic medical services, along with the 100 million who find themselves in extreme poverty because of high medical costs, governments and organizations have to confront the complex economic forces undermining global access to medicine. This article will discuss two such forces and consider how international actors have responded.

Too Big to Heal?

Economic orthodoxy holds that the equilibrium of a product’s supply and demand will determine its price, but medication prices do not adhere to this rule. This is because firms in the pharmaceutical industry possess the key to market distortion. Monopoly power or the ability for firms with outsized market shares to raise prices without experiencing a corresponding drop in sales. Pharmaceutical companies tend to obtain monopoly power for several reasons, such as:

  1. High entry costs, especially those associated with research and development. This excludes smaller, potentially disruptive firms from the market.
  2. The continuation of company consolidation. In the past 20 years, a group of 60 different pharmaceutical companies shrank to a mere 10.
  3. Large profits. Profits are huge, with the 10 highest-earning companies netting a 20 percent profit margin on average. This allows these companies to fortify their already-large market share. Most importantly, once a company patents a drug, it holds exclusive title to the production and distribution of that drug for 20-25 years.

During that period, no lower-priced, generic substitutes can enter the market. Equipped with this uncontested control, these companies can charge high prices for their products, as those who need them will have no other choice but to bear the cost. Yet some, especially individuals in poorer countries dealing with diseases like Hepatitis C and cancer, simply cannot afford these costs.

There are many individuals and corporations who are attempting to solve this problem, however. For example, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a pharmaceutical company based in London, England, is trying to put an end to exorbitant prices for prescription drugs in low-income countries. In March 2016, it announced that it would not seek patent protection for its drugs in 50 of the world’s poorest countries. By doing this, the company opened the path for smaller companies to bring lower-priced, generic versions of their drugs to the market. So far, the approach has been effective, earning GSK the top spot in the 2018 Access to Medicine Index. The positive publicity it receives from the ranking will hopefully motivate other companies to follow suit.

R&D Incentives

While the economics of monopoly power generates the problem of overpricing, the incentives of research and development make it such that many medicines needed in low-income countries go underproduced. As mentioned above, patents spell large rewards, but it costs $800 million on average for a company to obtain one and to bring a drug to the market. This pressures companies to develop the drugs that are most likely to produce a substantial financial return. Additionally, as the UN High-Panel notes in its report, this means that widespread, treatable diseases can oftentimes go unaddressed. For example, antimicrobial-resistant viruses and parasites threaten to kill as many as 10 million people annually by 2050, yet drug companies worldwide have developed virtually no new antibiotics in the past 25 years. In the absence of this innovation, however, public-private R&D partnerships have proven to be a successful substitute. The Global Fund is an example as it has saved 27 million people that malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis threatened by raising money from both public and private sources and collaborating with domestic task forces and commissions.

A Reconceptualization

Economic barriers to improve global access to medicine remain, but more and more people are starting to conceptualize the problem as an ethical one rather than an economic one. However, ensuring access to health care and maintaining market efficiency are not mutually exclusive. For example, cost-efficient drug production techniques are necessary to disseminate medicines at reduced prices. But other times “policy incoherencies,” as the UN High-Panel report calls them, force decision-makers to choose between the promotion of economic innovation and the provision of public health. Thanks to leading companies like GlaxoSmithKline and compassionate organizations like the Global Fund, the international community is starting to opt for the latter.

James Delegal
Photo: Flickr

Fight Disease in the DRC
With 80 million hectares of arable land and over 1,100 precious metals and minerals, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has quickly established itself as a large exporter in the lucrative diamond industry. Despite this, the DRC ranks 176th out of 189 nations on the UN’s Human Development Index and over 60 percent of the 77 million DRC residents live on less than $2 a day. Internal and external war, coupled with political inefficacy and economic exploitation, has hindered the country’s ability to combat poverty and improve health outcomes. Listed below are some of the most deadly diseases that are currently affecting individuals in the DRC and the different strategies that governments and NGOs have taken to fight disease in the DRC.

3 Deadly Diseases Currently Affecting Individuals in the DRC

  1. Malaria

The DRC has the second-highest number of malaria cases in the world, reporting 15.3 million of the WHO-estimated 219 million malaria cases in 2017. Of the more than 400 Congolese children that die every day, almost half of them die due to malaria, with 19 percent of fatalities under 5 years attributed to the disease. However, some are making to reduce malaria’s negative impact.  For example, the distribution of nearly 40 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets, or ITNs, has helped lower the incidence rate by 40 percent since 2010, with a 34 percent decrease in the mortality rate for children under 5. The DRC government procured and distributed the nets with international partners such as the Department for International Development, Global Fund and World Bank. In addition, the President’s Malaria Initiative, a program implemented in 2005 by President Bush and carried out by USAID, has distributed more than 17 million nets. UNICEF has also been a major contributor in the efforts to fight malaria and recently distributed 3 million ITNs in the DRC’s Kasaï Province. However, the country requires more work, as malaria remains its most frequent cause of death.

  1. HIV/AIDS

Among its efforts to fight disease in the DRC, the country has made significant progress recently in its fight against HIV/AIDS. As a cause of death, it has decreased significantly since 2007, and since 2010, there are 39 percent fewer total HIV infections.

This particular case illuminates the potential positive impact of American foreign aid. The DRC Ministry of Health started a partnership with the CDC in 2002, combining efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. PEPFAR, signed into U.S. law in 2003 to combat AIDS worldwide, has invested over $512 million since 2004, which has helped to fund antiretroviral treatment for 159,776 people. In 2017, it funded the provision of HIV testing services for 1.2 million people.

The country is also addressing mother-to-child transmissions. In the DRC, approximately 15 to 20 percent of mothers with HIV pass the virus onto their child. The strategy to end mother-to-child transmissions involves expanding coverage for HIV-positive pregnant women, diagnosing infants with HIV earlier and preventing new infections via antiretroviral drug treatment. UNAID, The Global Fund and the DRC Ministry of Health have undertaken significant work to accomplish these objectives and their efforts have resulted in the coverage of 70 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women.  However, much work remains to cover the remaining 30 percent of pregnant HIV-positive women.

Overall, there is still a lot of necessary work to undergo in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the DRC and around the world.  In total, UNAIDS estimated that HIV/AIDS was the cause of 17,000 deaths in the DRC in 2018.  While this is a decrease from previous years, it shows that the DRC still has a long way to go in order to fully control the spread of the disease.  Additionally, there must be more global funding. The U.N. announced on July 2019 that annual global funding for fighting HIV/AIDS decreased in 2018 by almost $1 billion.

  1. Ebola

Since 2018, the DRC has undergone one of the world’s largest Ebola outbreaks. On July 17, 2019, WHO declared the outbreak an international health emergency. Since August 2018, more than 2,500 cases have occurred, with over 1,800 deaths.

However, the country is making efforts to prevent the transmission and spread of Ebola in the DRC.  Recently, more than 110,000 Congolese received an experimental Ebola vaccine from Merck & Co. The vaccine is called rVSV-ZEBOV, and studies have shown the vaccine to have a 97.5 percent efficacy rate.  This vaccine provides hope that people will be able to control Ebola breakouts in the near future.

While there have been attempts to fight disease in the DRC in recent years, such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and Ebola, each disease remains a major issue. In the coming years, the country must continue its efforts.

– Drew Mekhail
Photo: Flickr

End Neglected Tropical Diseases ActApproximately one billion people are affected every year by Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in an estimated 149 countries. In tropical and subtropical areas, NTDs abound in a variety of 17 communicable diseases, including Chagas disease, dengue fever, leprosy, river blindness, rabies, worms (round, whip and hook) and trachoma to name a few. This is why the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act was created.

Rep. Christopher Smith introduced the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act to the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 28, 2019. The proposed bill addresses international development regarding NTDs as well as provides funding for those who strive to help end NTDs. The bill also states that it will expand the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Neglected Tropical Diseases program and the Global Fund. Here are five facts that explain the primary objectives of the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act.

Five Facts About the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act

  1. The bill proposes that USAID help individuals suffering from or at risk for contracting NTDs by providing drug treatment packages. Rep. Smith also urges beginning similar programs that target large at-risk communities, particularly children five and up. These programs will have a high impact with relatively low costs.
  2. These programs will also attempt to coordinate with USAID and its development sectors. Specifically, the program aims to organize with USAID regarding aspects such as “education (including primary and pre-primary education), food and nutrition security, maternal and child health and water, sanitation and hygiene.”
  3. The End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act addresses the need for the Global Fund to start recognizing and working with NTDs. The Global Fund is a public-private entity that focuses on assisting people with AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The bill urges the Global Fund to focus on female genital schistosomiasis in addition to providing treatment for HIV/AIDS.
  4. Rep. Smith’s proposed bill also addresses the need for a center of excellence. This section of the bill addresses the provisions for obtaining a cooperative agreement or a grant. The grant can be given to either a public or private nonprofit organization. It will fund the basics costs needed to create the centers in order to “conduct research into, training in and development of diagnosis, prevention, control and treatment methods for neglected tropical diseases.” These funds can be used for basic operating costs such as staffing and administrative duties as well as patient care costs. The grant funds may also be used for the training and continued education of health professionals as well as for establishing programs to educate the public on NTDs.
  5. The bill would create a panel for worm infections. The Secretary of Health and Human Services would use this panel to research worm infections and deworming solutions and medicines. It will also develop five strategies for preventing recurrent infections, providing sanitation solutions, developing safer, better medicines and improving the cost-efficiency of the existing programs regarding worm infections.

The End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act aims to produce programs that will help eliminate tropical diseases that are rampant in developing countries. If it passes, it could bring much-needed hope for approximately one billion people in developing countries around the world.

– Logan Derbes
Photo: Flickr

Top 5 Nonprofit Foundations
Throughout the world, millions of people face the development of disease. Many of these diseases are not yet curable, which has forced many to be fearful for their lives. Several organizations have come up with ways to fund research and provide information to those suffering from these diseases so that they can live longer and happier lives. These top 5 nonprofit foundations are among the many nonprofit organizations that have dedicated their lives to curing disease.

The March of Dimes Foundation

The March of Dimes Foundation is a U.S. nonprofit organization that works to improve the health of mothers and babies. Formed the day before World War II, the March of Dimes Foundation, formerly the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (NFIP), became very popular like its founder, Franklin D. Roosevelt. With the war in full effect, the Foundation was able to gain its rise through “radio, Hollywood and the personal appeal of the president.” The organization established the Office of Global Programs, that allowed worldwide partnerships with communities in Latin America, Europe and Asia bringing in prenatal education and care. The March of Dimes Global Network for Maternal and Infant Health has supported programs in China, Brazil, Lebanon, the Philippines, Malawi and Uganda.

United Way

United Way’s mission is to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities around the world and advancing the common good. The organization collaborated with the Shanghai Charity Foundation to provide teacher training, a place for children to learn, educational toys and other learning materials for 20 kindergarteners. In 2010, the United Way worked with the Airbus Corporate Foundation to create the Flying Challenge, which encourages at-risk middle and high school students to stay in school. So far, the challenge has allowed more than 600 students from Wichita, Kansas to Getafe and Cadiz, Spain the opportunity to receive mentorship through the Flying Challenge initiative.

The Global Fund

Among the top 5 nonprofit foundations listed, the Global Fund is the newest organization to raise, manage and invest the world’s money towards infectious diseases. Since 2002, the Global Fund has focused on three infectious diseases; AIDS, TB and malaria. The organization has invested more than $4 billion a year to support programs in more than 100 countries. Many of these programs are occurring in countries within Eastern Europe, Central Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Pacific, and mainly, Sub-Saharan Africa.

The WHO

The World Health Organization formed in 1948 and is a specialized agency of the United Nations that is concerned with international public health. WHO has six regional offices, including its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The WHO regional office in Africa and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention work together to end disease outbreaks and build stronger health systems. WHO has provided technical leadership in surveillance, vaccination and case management, and has deployed 700 international experts that respond to disease outbreaks. On July 2019, the Ministry of Health reported 2,620 Ebola cases with 1,762 deaths and 737 survivors.

UNAIDS

UNAIDS is the main advocate for accelerated, comprehensive and coordinated global action on the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Young women between the ages of 15 and 24 are more likely to obtain the virus. Four in five new infections in Sub-Saharan Africa among adolescents aged 15 to 19 years are girls. More than 35 percent of women around the world have experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some time in their lives. This makes it 1.5 times more likely for them to obtain HIV than women who have not experienced this form of violence. Towards the end of 2018, UNAIDS used $19 billion towards the AIDS response in low-and middle-income countries, which was $1 billion less than the previous year. UNAIDS believes that the AIDS response in 2020 will require $26.2 billion.

These top 5 nonprofit foundations have continued to raise money to fund research for cures that impact millions of people in the world. They have made it their responsibility to ensure that patients and their families gain the necessary care to gain power over their lives.

– Emilia Rivera
Photo: Flickr

Poverty-Related DiseasesEvery day, billions of individuals around the world suffer from diseases. To make matters worse, many of these individuals are mired in poverty with limited access to health care services. Reducing the negative impact that these diseases have on individuals in poverty starts with identifying which diseases are affecting the most people. Listed below are three diseases that are closely linked with individuals in poverty.

Top 3 Poverty-Related Diseases

  1. Tuberculosis
    Tuberculosis, or TB, is a disease that stems from the presence of bacteria in someone’s lungs. It is common in many poorer, more urban areas because it can spread quickly when individuals are in close contact with each other. TB killed over 1.5 million people in 2018 and infected 10 million individuals in total. The disease takes advantage of individuals who have weakened immune systems, which can happen to individuals who are malnourished or who are suffering from other diseases simultaneously. When an individual in poverty is diagnosed with TB, their options are limited. Treating TB is costly and many people cannot afford treatment. However, not all hope is lost. Organizations like the TB Alliance aim to produce more affordable TB treatment for individuals in poverty. The TB Alliance has already helped many individuals and is working to expand its operations in the coming years.
  2. Malaria
    Malaria is a parasitic disease that is spread by the Anopheles mosquito. It accounts for roughly 435,000 deaths per year (affecting roughly 219 million people) and disproportionally affects individuals under the age of 5 (children under 5 accounted for over 60 percent of malaria deaths in 2017). One NGO that is leading the fight against Malaria is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They have partnered with the U.S. Government, the WHO and NGOs like the Global Fund to help protect individuals around the world from malaria-transmitting mosquitos. So far, their work has been beneficial, as the number of malaria cases has been reduced by half since 2000. However, there is still much work to be done, as malaria remains a deadly disease that negatively affects millions.
  3. HIV/AIDS
    HIV is a virus that is transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids. It affects nearly 37 million people worldwide every year, 62 percent of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV/AIDS (HIV is the virus that leads to AIDS) is common in countries where the population either does not have the knowledge or resources to practice safe sex. HIV can also spread in areas with poor sanitation, as individuals who use previously used needles can become infected with the virus. Many governments and NGOs around the world are doing good work to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDs. For example, in 2003, the U.S. Government launched The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Initiative. The goal of this initiative was to address the global HIV/AIDS issue by helping those who already have the condition as well as by spearheading prevention efforts. Since the program was implemented, the results have been positive- the program is widely credited with having saved millions of lives over the last 16 years.

Each of these diseases negatively affects millions of individuals around the globe on a daily basis. Yet there is reason for optimism — continued work done by NGO’s such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, TB Alliance and The Global Fund, as well as efforts from governments to improve the current situation, will lead to a better future, hopefully, one where individuals no longer suffer from there poverty-related diseases.

– Chelsea Wolfe
Photo: Flickr

the fight to end AIDSOn June 21, President Emmanuel Macron presented Elton John with the highest decoration in France, the Legion of Honour, at the Champs Élysées. It was given during France’s Fête de la Musique in recognition of John’s notable mark on the music industry. The musician’s speech, however, did not focus on his own artistic abilities or the celebration. Rather, John concentrated on the global maladies plaguing the world’s impoverished countries.

In particular, John highlighted the fight to end AIDS as an issue of “great importance.” He further vowed to join Macron in his effort to help those suffering from the illness and prevent it from spreading. In order to achieve this goal, the two have called upon the world’s youth and political leaders to replenish the donation given to the Global Fund.

What is the Global Fund?

The Global Fund is an international organization that aims to strengthen health systems. To do so, the organization focuses on locating and treating individuals with AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Over 100 countries have received aid from the Global Fund since its establishment in 2002.

Macron is affiliated with this organization as France is both a founding member and a top financial contributor. Many of the countries who receive aid from the Global Fund were once colonies of the French Empire. To date, France has given more than $4.2 billion in donations to the organization since 2002.

Global Fund Accomplishments

The three diseases, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, affect the same population. The organization thus allocates funds in proportion to the amount of population affected in each receiving country. In the past, countries such as Nigeria, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have received the most aid.

The Global Fund has an impressive list of achievements. Since 2002, it has saved 27 million individuals through treatment and prevention methods. Moreover, these accomplishments highlight the efficiency of the organization. In 2017, 17.5 million people were treated with antiretroviral therapy for HIV, 5 million were treated for tuberculosis and 197 million were provided mosquito nets to prevent the spread of malaria. By 2030, the Global Funds hopes to end all three epidemics.

Using Influence to do Good

France has proven to be dedicated to both the Global Fund and the fight to end AIDS. Next October, France will host the organization’s conference in Lyon. In anticipation of the upcoming event, Macron and John have called to raise $14 billion in funding over the next three years.

These ambitious goals become more attainable as awareness increases. John’s speech and Macron’s mobilization in the fight to end AIDS incentivizes the French community. If AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, are to be terminated by 2030, they will require acute attention and enthusiasm on the part of those fighting to these diseases.

– Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

Malaria, the number one killer of children in underdeveloped countries
Malaria is a devastating disease that occurs mostly in tropical and subtropical environments in areas around the world. Malaria is the number one killer of children in underdeveloped countries and is often responsible for the child mortality rates of children under the age of five. Failure to eradicate this disease in these countries is a result of poverty, scarce resources and socio-economic instability. In regions like Africa, mainly south of the Sahara region, those are of the major causes of the continued spread of this devastating disease, creating a noticeable link between malaria and poverty in underdeveloped countries

Malaria in Underdeveloped Countries

Malaria is the number one killer of children in underdeveloped countries. Children who contract severe malaria frequently develop one or more of the following symptoms: severe anemia, respiratory malfunction and cerebral malaria. In areas where transmission is higher, children under the age of five are more susceptible to infection and death, with more than 70% of all malaria deaths falling into this group. Even though the number of malaria deaths within this age group had decreased by 155,00 in 2016, malaria remains the major cause of death for children under five years of age, ending a life every two minutes.

Malaria occurs when climate and other conditions suddenly favor transmission to areas where people have no immunity to malaria. They can also occur when people with low or no immunity move into areas of intense malaria transmission, for example, refugees and those looking for work. Human immunity plays a very important factor, especially in areas of moderate and intense transmission conditions. Partial immunity can be developed through the years, and while it never provides complete protection, can reduce the risk of infection. However, children under the age of five have not had the chance to build any kind of immunity because they have not been exposed to the disease.

The High Cost of Malaria

Malaria is directly related to poverty and economic inequality in underdeveloped countries due to the exponential costs that these countries must face by both individuals and governments. Costs include the purchase of necessary medication, treatment, maintenance, supply and staffing of trained personnel in health facilities, lost days of work with resulting loss of income, burial expenses and the overall loss of economic opportunities ventures through tourism during an outbreak.

Direct costs for illness, treatment and premature death are estimated to be at least $12 billion per year. Total funding for malaria control and elimination was only $2.7 billion in 2016, but this amount is not enough to eradicate the program to its completion. In order to hit the 2030 target from the WHO, an investment of $6,5 billion will be required annually by 2020. Which may be a problem because, on average since 2014, investments in malaria treatment and control have actually been declining in many highly affected countries.

Investing in the Eradication of Malaria

The level of progress in a specific country depends on the strength of that country’s national health system, the level of investment of the disease control and a number of factors including biological determinants, like the environment and the social, demographic, political and economic factors in a particular country.

Some of the challenges in trying to eradicate malaria include the lack of sustainable and predictable international and domestic funding, risks posed by countries in endemic areas, anomalous climate patterns, the emergence of parasite resistance to anti-malaria medicines and mosquito resistance to insecticides and other substances used for eradication and control purposes. In the 41 high-burden countries, malaria funding often remains below $2 per person.

All of these factors contribute to the reversal in recent progress of the eradication and continued treatment of the disease. Many high burden but low-income countries have reported reducing the funding per capita for the population at risk of malaria. For example, the complex situation of Nigeria, South Sudan, Venezuela and Yemen have all resulted in the interruption of services and increasing instances of malaria.

The Sucess of the Global Fund

The Global Fund response to malaria has been very successful, but it presents many future challenges in the battle of eradicating this disease. Between 2002 and 2017, the Global Fund has provided more than half of all international financing for malaria, investing $10.5 billion in programs aimed at controlling the disease in more than 100 countries. The approach targets several areas, such as education about symptoms, prevention and treatment; prevention methods like mosquito nets,  insecticides and preventive treatment for children and pregnant women and diagnosis.

The Global Fund works with at-risk communities by providing training and treatment to stop the disease. They provide information about what malaria is, how it is transmitted, what treatments are available and, most importantly, what action to take if malaria is detected. In Ghana, for example, village elders educate their community “not to let the sun set twice” on a child with a fever.

Malaria is a devastating disease that affects everyone but presents a higher risk in children under the age of five especially in areas like the sub-Saharan region in Africa. There is a noticeable link between Malaria and poverty in underdeveloped countries. The efforts to eradicate this disease have been enormous, but the lack of funding, the disease’s immunity to drugs and insecticides, the socio and economic instability of the governments of some of these countries and the lack of training and information about the disease present major challenges to the successful eradication of the disease. Investing must continue. Hopefully, the work of organizations such as the Global Fund will ensure a future without Malaria.

Mayra Vega
Photo: Flickr

Malaria in Uganda
More than 10,500 people die from malaria in Uganda annually. The country also has one of the highest rates of transmission and mortality rates due to malaria. Uganda has been described as a malaria-endemic country due to the particular hold the disease has on the area. Globally, Ugandans are one of the top five populations at risk for malaria. Malaria has been a serious health issue for decades and several measures have been taken to lessen the burden of the disease. The government of Uganda is working with several organizations to reduce the spread of malaria in Uganda.

The Uganda Malaria Strategic Plan

The Uganda Malaria Reduction Strategic Plan was implemented in 2014. The goals of the plan include reducing the mortality rate from malaria to almost zero by 2020, reducing the morbidity rate by nearly 80 percent by 2020 and reducing the malaria prevalence of the parasite to 7 percent by 2020. Their strategy is to quickly provide the general population with means of malaria control and prevention.

The plan has had great progress so far, the prevalence of malaria in the country has decreased from 42 percent in 2009 down to 19 percent in 2018, and deaths from malaria in Uganda have been cut in half. Although the plan has done well to ensure facilities are well stocked and prevention measures are taken, some are still receiving inadequate care.

Funding to Eradicate Malaria

The Uganda Malaria Reduction Strategic plan is being implemented by the government’s Ministry of Health and supported by organizations such as the Global Fund and USAID. The plan provides details of its budget and where that money will be implemented. It is projected that the six-year plan will require $1,316,700.

These funds come from organizations like USAID and Global Fund and are used in each phase of the structure of the plan. The phases include but are not limited to ensuring access to malaria treatments and prevention methods, increasing the community’s knowledge surrounding the disease, increasing the treatment of malaria during pregnancy and strengthening the detection and response to this epidemic.

Problems at the Local Level

One of the problems is that some people are receiving the wrong treatment and care. The Moroto Regional Referral Hospital discovered that some patients were being treated for malaria despite negative test results. USAID’s Uganda Health Supply Chain Program has taken steps to change these incorrect medical practices and provide training to improve medical practices at Moroto Hospital.

Their steps have had an impact. The testing rate rose from 45 percent to 86 percent, and the number of patients mistakenly receiving treatment without a positive test result decreased from 31 percent to 9 percent. Other hospitals heard of the success at Moroto Hospital and have expressed interest in undertaking similar policies.

The future for the battle against malaria in Uganda is bright. Uganda won an award in January of 2017 for their significant progress in fighting malaria. The African Leaders Malaria Alliance recognized Uganda and 7 other countries for striving towards a malaria-free Africa. With local governments, leaders and aid organizations working together, permanent progress can be made. The country has already made great strides in their fight against malaria and there is optimism for a malaria-free future in Uganda.

– Olivia Halliburton
Photo: Flickr