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maternal and child mortality

Cameroon borders the coast of the Gulf of Guinea in Central Africa. The country is home to around 25.3 million people, comprising around 0.3 percent of the world’s population. Its population has increased significantly from 17 million in 2002. The nation has faced a number of health challenges, such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, but is primarily plagued by extremely high maternal and child mortality rates. In 1998, there were 4.3 reported deaths per 1,000 live births. This rate has steadily increased in recent years. The 2018 UNICEF data report states that the national neonatal mortality rate is 24 deaths per 1,000 live births, and is as high as 36 deaths in rural areas.

Combating High Mortality Rates

In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) performed a study designed to identify the number of infant and mother deaths that occurred during childbirth in 2015 and 2016. The study included four health districts in Cameroon, Specific interventions focused on financing, strengthening necessary human resources, service provision, partnership and advocacy. WHO worked with a Cameroonian reproductive health organization, RMNAH, to train 87 healthcare providers in the operation and organization of regional blood transfusion around the four sectors. The organization also implemented 10 health facilities in central and east regions of Cameroon.

Despite the contributions of WHO and RMNAH, data showed that maternal and child mortality was the same in October 2015 and 2016. In May 2016, researchers traveling to Cameroon with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) discovered a superfood plant that may spark change in mortality rates.

The Superfood

A group of researchers first discovered the potentially transformative plant in the Takamanda rainforest region, located in southwest Cameroon. The group working with CIFOR was traveling to local communities, observing rates of malnutrition and maternal and child mortality and recording variation by village. One researcher, Caleb Yengo Tata, recalled that some communities witnessed infant death every day. The root of recurring health problems was anemia due to iron-deficiency in women who had reached reproductive age. In some regions of Cameroon, 50 percent of women and 65 percent of children face anemia-related health issues. These can include cognitive difficulties, low birth weight and generally increased maternal mortality. Tata and other CIFOR researchers found that women living in grassland communities were more prone to severe anemia than those living in forest areas. Around 75 percent of women inhabiting either terrain experienced a level of anemia.

Researchers found that the difference could be attributed to a dark leafy green plant called “eru,” which grows bountifully throughout rainforests in Cameroon and central Africa. The plant is predicted to have 85 percent more vital nutrients than fresh spinach, and has virtually no anti-nutrients, making it what Westerners would peg a “superfood.” Traditionally, eru is cooked in palm oil and served with crayfish and hot chili. Women in the forest regions of Cameroon have been harvesting the plant for years, but were unaware of its potential health benefits until recently.

The Eru Plant’s Impact

Science has not yet confirmed whether the eru leaf will adequately address the crisis of child and maternal mortality in Cameroon. Researchers found a statistically significant link between eru consumption and lower anemia rates, correlated to lower child and maternal mortality rates. Through research, scientists ruled out other environmental factors that may influence the prevalence of anemia, such as malaria and parasites. However, they were unable to collect information from a large sample. While the data itself is limited, the discovery is a step forward, representing a possibility of change and the beginning of a healthcare breakthrough.

Although significant changes have been made, maternal and child mortality in Cameroon is still high. For those living in the poorest areas of the country, there are 39 deaths per 1,000 live births. Even in areas considered the “richest sectors” report 29 deaths per 1,000 live births. Researchers, nutritional and medical experts and Cameroonians remain hopeful that the newly discovered eru could function as a breakthrough for child and maternal health. If successful, the superfood plant needs to be preserved, along with other micronutrient-dense foods likely hiding among grasslands and forests in rural sectors of the country.

– Anna Lagattuta
Photo: Flickr

Cyclone Idai Health CrisisOn March 14, 2019, disaster struck southern Africa in the form of Cyclone Idai, a category 2 tropical storm that ravaged through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Idai made landfall in Beira, Mozambique, a large port city of more than 530,000 citizens. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies asserts that 90 percent of Beira has been destroyed in the wake of Idai. The subsequent Cyclone Idai health crisis continues to challenge Southeast Africa.

As Idai strengthened along the coast of Africa, Mozambique and Malawi experienced severe flooding resulting from heavy rainfall. The cyclone destroyed roads and bridges, with a death toll of 1007. Hundreds more are still missing. Sustained winds of over 150 mph damaged the crops, homes and livelihoods of thousands throughout southeast Africa. To top it all off, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe are experiencing a major health crisis in southeast Africa in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai.

Cholera and Malaria

As of May, more than 6,500 cases of cholera have been reported. This intestinal infection is waterborne, commonly caused by drinking unsanitary water. In Mozambique, a country already vulnerable to poverty, the cholera outbreak exacerbates the adverse effects of Cyclone Idai. Cholera can be fatal without swift medical attention, though prompt disaster relief response and a successful vaccination campaign made significant strides in containing the outbreak.

In addition to cholera outbreak, cases of malaria are rising, with nearly 15,000 cases reported since March 27. Malaria is transmitted through Anopheles mosquito bites, insects that flourish in the standing flood waters of Idai. According to WHO, almost half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria, with the majority of cases and deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. Relief efforts prepared for the outbreaks by arming health professionals with antimalarials and fast-acting diagnostic tests.

Cyclone Idai Health Crisis Relief Efforts

The health crisis in Southeast Africa following Cyclone Idai received swift aid response. Disaster relief efforts prepared vaccinations and medications beforehand, ensuring that medical response was efficient and effective. The total recovery cost for the damage inflicted on Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe is estimated at over $2 billion. The tropical storm affected upward of three million Africans.

WHO delivered 900,000 doses of oral cholera vaccine retrieved from the global emergency stockpile. Further, the organization plans to create multiple cholera treatment centers in hopes of containing the outbreak. World Vision is concentrating their efforts on the spread of this infectious disease. The humanitarian aid group is working alongside UNICEF to distribute cholera kits with soap and water purification tablets.

Rapid aid efforts also met the spike in malaria cases to combat the Cyclone Idai health crisis. WHO secured 900,000 bed nets treated with a strong insecticide to prevent the spread of the mosquito-borne disease. However, children and infants are at major risk, as malaria is considered the third most deadly disease to this population. The hefty humanitarian response and support necessary to help Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe has prompted UNICEF to launch an appeal for $122 million for the next nine months.

-Anna Giffels
Photo: Pixabay

Tobacco Use in Impoverished CountriesTobacco is one of the world’s most preventable causes of disease. Preventing tobacco use in impoverished countries is important because tobacco use causes many diseases and about half of tobacco users end up dying from it. In recent years, the World Health Organization (WHO) discovered that about 80 percent of tobacco users live in low- and middle-income countries.

Before, the citizens in those countries would and could not spend their money on tobacco because it was not necessary. Tobacco is considered a luxury. But as they earn more money and incomes increase in their countries, they can afford to spend their money on tobacco.

As impoverished countries begin to get out of the lower classes of income, tobacco companies begin to target these countries. They sell and advertise tobacco without many restrictions, as the countries have often not yet put regulations in place. Because of that, the citizens of these countries end up buying tobacco and facing the consequences of its use. However, preventing tobacco use in impoverished countries through restrictions can have dramatic effects.

One of the best examples of this is Honduras. Between the years 2000 and 2015. The World Bank reported that smoking prevalence in adult males decreased by 30 percent. The World Bank also noted that Honduras is a low-middle income country, the target area for tobacco companies. So why has tobacco usage decreased in Honduras?

To put it simply, they have begun to put restrictions on tobacco. According to The Tobacco Atlas, Honduras has many rigorous regulations regarding tobacco. For example, many of Honduras’s public areas do not allow smoking. Universities, restaurants and all other indoor public spaces are smoke-free. They have also limited the number of television channels on which tobacco can be advertised. Additionally, Honduras has a 21 percent excise tax on cigarette prices. Because Honduras has these restrictions, their smoking rate has decreased by 30 percent.

The positive impacts of these restrictions on tobacco advertisement and use in Honduras are that fewer people are buying tobacco because of the added expense of taxes and fewer people are being exposed to tobacco in the first place. The laws that limit where people can smoke help to prevent people from smoking in indoor public spaces and prevent nonsmokers from being exposed to cigarette smoke.

Preventing tobacco use in impoverished countries requires many different strategies. Taxes, advertisement restrictions and other policies work together to lower tobacco usage. Low-middle income countries need to implement these policies to help protect their citizens. Implementing proper restrictions on tobacco is important to the health of these countries.

Daniel Borjas

Photo: Flickr


Several years ago, civil unrest in the Syrian Arab Republic – similar to other protests connected to the Arab Spring – broke out into a full-scale civil war. Millions of civilians have, in one way or another, been adversely affected by it, and the conflict shows no signs of slowing down.

However, not all of the news coming from Syria has been completely negative. Providing access to healthcare in a war zone is not always easily accomplished, but is by no means impossible. This is apparent as, earlier this month, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) have announced the successful vaccination of over 355,000 children under the age of five against polio – nearly 30,000 more children than the target goal outlined in June. The news comes particularly from Raqqa and the Deir Ez-Zor regions of the country, both of which are normally especially difficult to access.

The campaign was carried out in conflict-affected areas by over 1,000 WHO-trained volunteers in Syria and it was funded and equipped by UNICEF.

Prior to this region becoming a war zone, the immunization rate of children in Syria was approximately 80 percent, with polio maintaining zero presence at all. In fact, 95 percent of all polio cases could be traced back to Afghanistan, Pakistan or Nigeria. Since the outbreak of conflict, however, the nationwide vaccination rate has halved, as doctors, hospitals and other forms of healthcare in the war zone have focused on treating those injured in armed conflict. The WHO has also stated that since the war began, 17 children in Syria have been paralyzed by the effects of polio.

In order to continue vaccination efforts and restore the facilities of healthcare in a war zone, UNICEF and the WHO are planning to continue to work with local partners in the Raqqa and Deir Ez-Zor regions of Syria. Hopefully they will be able to keep up the momentum of combatting this deadly disease and progress in eradicating polio will continue.

Brad Tait

Photo: Flickr

E Outbreak in Chad and Niger
An area rife with conflict and large refugee populations, the Lake Chad region is one especially vulnerable to diseases. The most recent concern is the hepatitis E outbreak in Chad and Niger, which has been declared a stage one emergency by the WHO.

Hepatitis E is caused most often by exposure to fecal-infected water or undercooked meat and thus is prevalent in areas with poor water sanitation resources. Symptoms include a mild fever, reduced appetite and occasional vomiting. As the virus progresses, this becomes jaundice, dark liver, pale stools and sensitivity of the liver. In rare cases, acute liver failure is possible and often leads to death. Though the virus is often overlooked for the better-known hepatitis A, B and C, it is responsible for over 20 million infections and 40,000 deaths worldwide every year

In terms of treatment, infections typically do not require hospitalization, as the symptoms resolve by themselves after four to six weeks. However, in cases where liver failure occurs, hospitalization is required immediately. People with immunodeficiencies and pregnant women are especially at risk, and hospitalization is recommended for these populations.

In Am Timan, Chad, nearly 700 unique cases and 11 deaths occurred between September 2016 and January 2017. Since then, 70 cases have been reported each week. In the Diffa region of Niger, over 1,100 cases and 34 deaths were reported by the end of June. Additional cases have been reported in the large at-risk refugee population. In both countries, the WHO has declared the outbreak an emergency and is working alongside the Minister of Health to identify the epicenter.

The WHO’s investigations into the root of the hepatitis E outbreak in Chad and Niger are the first and most important step in keeping the people of the Lake Chad region safe, but more must be done in the meantime to ensure the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of at-risk people. The organization Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) has worked hard to treat the proliferation of cases, but as the epidemic spreads from the city of Am Timan to the surrounding region of Salamat, more needs to be done.

Medicins Sans Frontieres has called for help in water sanitization, but the response was minimal. Due to this, the medical organization has taken it upon themselves to chlorinate 72 water stations in the city. In Diffa, it has treated 27,900 gallons of water and provided sanitation supplies to nearly 17,000 families. In order to curb the Hepatitis E outbreak in Chad and Niger, the WHO and Medicins Sans Frontieres need help. Their good work has mitigated the original outbreak, but money, supplies and volunteers are still needed to create the infrastructure to ensure such an outbreak is prevented in the future.

Connor S. Keowen

Photo: Flickr

Crisis in YemenThere is currently a devastating humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Many factors are intensifying the suffering being experienced by the Arab world’s poorest nation. The civil war is going on its third year and created conditions for famine, disease and terrorism to flourish. A variety of people and organizations are helping Yemenis in need, yet, it will be a long path to stability.

In September 2014, a group of Yemeni rebels, supported by Iran, overthrew Yemen’s government. In March 2015, Saudi Arabia supplied military forces to reinstate the government, with help from the U.S. The country remains in a civil war.

At least 10,000 people were killed, and two million people were displaced as a result of the war. Those evading conflict are who suffer most. The civil war led to famine, the collapse of Yemen’s healthcare system and a cholera outbreak.

Currently, almost half of Yemenis are food-insecure. Almost 2.2 million children are malnourished, 462,000 of whom have severe acute malnutrition. Furthermore, the cholera outbreak which impacted more than 300,000 people.

The civil war made these issues worse because it caused the healthcare system in Yemen to collapse. Poverty also exacerbates the crisis. Many Yemenis lost all their wealth because of the conflict. They are forced to work more and cannot take time off to stay with sick family in the hospital, nor can they necessarily afford travel expenses and treatment. Furthermore, the malnourishment experienced by a generation of children may set the stage for another impoverished generation in Yemen.

Fortunately, some are stepping in to help. U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-IN), is pleading for a policy of aiding the country. He wrote a resolution that addressed the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan and Somalia. He is also asking the U.S. to reprimand its ally Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is blamed for much of the suffering in the civil war. For instance, the country bombed cranes which were used to deliver food and medical aid. Saudi Arabia then proceeded to block the delivery of new cranes.

However, the new Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman recently allocated $66.7 million to the WHO and UNICEF to fight the cholera epidemic. While bin Salman was defense minister, he oversaw the bombing of Yemen. It is unclear if the donation is personally from bin Salman, or from the government budget.

Many other governments are also addressing the crisis in Yemen. Through USAID, President Donald Trump offered $192 million for Yemen. This will add to the $275.2 million the U.S. already gave for Yemeni assistance in 2017. The European Union is also funding humanitarian aid in Yemen. Since 2015, the European Commission gave approximately $199.5 million to help with malnutrition, water sanitation, healthcare, homelessness and more.

The WHO and UNICEF, Oxfam, Save the Children and Doctors Without Borders are among the organizations contending with the crisis in Yemen. Oxfam has been in Yemen for 30 years, building better infrastructure and working towards women’s rights and ending poverty. Save the Children has worked in Yemen since 1963 and fights for children’s rights by offering education, healthcare and food. Doctors Without Borders offers free healthcare and is working hard to alleviate the cholera epidemic.

Life has been shattered in Yemen. One of the poorest countries in the world is being made worse by civil war. Much of the world understands, that as fellow humans, it is our obligation to help end the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. This ideal must spread and continue.

Mary Katherine Crowley

10 Facts About the Famine in YemenNestled between Saudi Arabia and Oman, Yemen was declared to be in a state of emergency on March 13, 2017, by the World Food Program. The World Health Organization reports that acute shortages of clean water and sanitation face eight million people. Furthermore, the U.N. International Children’s Emergency Fund says, “There are 2.2 million children in Yemen at risk of acute malnutrition and 462,000 severely and acutely malnourished.”

Millions of people live on the fringe of starvation in Africa as a result of drought, crop failure, population imbalance, government policies and war. The ongoing famine in Yemen affects 17 million people today, roughly 70 percent of its population.

According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “The situation in Yemen is characterized by widespread insecurity, large-scale displacement, civil strife, political instability, chronic food shortages, a breakdown of social services, endemic poverty, and refugee influxes.”

Here are ten key components of the situation that you should know:

  1. According to the OCHA, Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East and North Africa. A lack of financial resources and infrastructure have created an economy that is unable to support growing conflicts between opposing political factions. The situation has escalated and resulted in the current famine in Yemen.
  2. With a shortage of funding and deep-rooted poverty, more than 50 percent of families in the country are buying food on credit. The situation has accentuated the need for a global humanitarian response in terms of providing medicine and food. These needs are especially paramount for women and children, who represent the most vulnerable of a population during a period of famine or conflict.
  3. A lack of access to food and nutritional resources is not a new situation in Yemen. A locust infestation in the country last April posed a viable threat to food security that has not abated.
  4. The famine in Yemen is due in part to internal conflict between a coalition that is loyal to the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and the Houthi rebel movement. The conflict has been exacerbated due to an air campaign by Saudi Arabia, with its goal being to restore the Hadi government.
  5. In response to the famine in Yemen, various nations and organizations have contributed resources to mitigate its impact, as well as rebuild its infrastructure and provide medical supplies. The U.N. responded to the crisis with a conference in Geneva in April. Unfortunately, only 15 percent of the $2.1 billion goal was pledged to help resolve the famine in Yemen.
  6. In addition, U.N. aid chief Stephan O’Brien has urged member countries to keep the port of Hodeidah open. The port is the location for the reception of incoming food imports.
  7. The United States government has also responded to the famine in Yemen, with President Donald Trump reiterating his commitment to fighting global famine during his May visit to the Vatican. Although relief funds from the U.S. face severe cuts for the next fiscal year, the momentum has begun for a more proactive global relief program.
  8. One of the strongest responses has been initiated by the WHO, which launched the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan 2017. To achieve success, the plan requires $326 million from a variety of health partners, including $126 million from the U.S. Targeted beneficiaries of the funding will include women and children.
  9. The WHO reported that it had coordinated the operation of 406 general health and nutrition teams in 266 Yemeni districts in 2016, with funding coming from a variety of donors: Japan, the League of Arab States, the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund, the United Arab Emirates, the UNOCHA Common Humanitarian Fund and the U.S.
  10. There have also been responses to the famine from private organizations and individuals. Muslim Aid is running a campaign to raise donations for water and medical aid to Yemen.

Because the famine in Yemen has yet to abate, opportunities remain for humanitarian organizations, governments and private individuals to respond with food products, medicine and financial assistance. The momentum has already begun through the efforts of organizations like WHO and Muslim Aid, and through the contributions of private donors.

Hannah Pickering

Photo: Flickr

Jordan Examines Plan to Increase its Water Supply
According to a recent report in Petra, the news agency of Jordan, a considerably large incursion of Syrian refugees has intensified Jordan’s already distressed water supply.

During a panel discussion between the U.N. and the World Bank on developing and managing water resources and improving water and sanitation related services, the Jordanian minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Imad Fakhoury, said  the Kingdom’s demand for water has risen 25 percent in the last five years. He further stated that due to the massive influx of Syrian refugees, the country now hosts more than 1.3 million or 19 percent of the population.

Fakhoury also stated that water is a significant and unrelenting concern for Jordan because of the country’s critical water shortage. In terms of water supply, Jordan is considered one of the world’s most vulnerable. The World Health Organization (WHO), has asserted that water scarcity in Jordan will grow more daunting in the next two decades as its population of 6 million doubles and the effects of climate change produce increased precipitation uncertainty.

Currently, Jordan has one of the lowest concentrations of available water supply per capita. The minister emphasized the importance of “partnership between governments, the private sector, civil society, institutions and the U.N.” as pivotal to establishing a sustainable water and sanitation policies.

EcoMena, a consulting and environmental awareness raising organization, has said the Jordanian government seeks to begin a water supply management program that would impose regulation on water extracted from groundwater aquifers. Lack of rigorous legislation has led to illegal well drilling and irresponsible use of water and untenable water extraction from aquifers. The natural water replacement procedure is being thwarted due to the aquifers being used at twice the allowable recharge rate.

The government is also discussing plans to renew old and rusted water pipes allocated to private homes. According to EcoMena, water leaks in the U.S. alone account for 1 trillion gallons of water wastage each year. Wastewater treatment plants that allow for the use of wastewater is also an important element in the government’s supply management program as it allows for supporting water supplies in addition to reducing dependence on natural water supplies which will give aquifers adequate time to recharge.

Fakhoury emphasized the importance of the international community’s support to assist Jordan with any financial variance brought on by the large inflow of Syrian refugees.

Heidi Grossman

Photo: Flickr

Maternal Health Apps
Maternal health is one of the greatest global health challenges today. Despite advancements in medical technology, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 800 women and girls die every day from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. In developing nations, there is an especially high risk of death associated with pregnancy as health workers do not have the adequate resources to safely perform deliveries. Newly-designed electronic maternal health apps are targeting these at-risk groups to prevent death.

There are unacceptable disparities in access to maternal health services that disproportionately affect less educated, impoverished women of color compared to the rest of the world. In fact, according to the WHO, women in the richest socioeconomic quartile are three times as likely to have a safe delivery with a nurse or midwife as women in the poorest quartile.

Even though the maternal mortality rate has dropped 44 percent since 1990, the socioeconomic disparity in access to maternal health services has not changed in 15 years. The persistent gap in health care access reflects the inability of current healthcare delivery systems to provide equitable services, regardless of sex, race or economic status.

Recently, the global health community has turned to nontraditional methods of providing care. While 99 percent of preventable maternal deaths occur in developing nations, nearly three-quarters of mobile devices are being used throughout the same countries. In response to the growing demand for improved communication, medical providers and health care NGOs are focusing on mobile technology as the new frontier for maternal health care. Here are three ground-breaking maternal health apps increasing access to lifesaving services worldwide.

Gifted Mom
Gifted Mom is a Cameroon-based mobile health platform that uses low-cost technology to provide medical information to mothers and pregnant women in rural communities. Expectant and new mothers can register to receive SMS updates about their health and the health of their babies. Periodically-timed messages will remind them when it’s best to vaccinate their babies and why it’s important to go for antenatal (post-pregnancy) checkups. For women who can’t read, Gifted Mom is developing speech technology that will communicate important information in local languages. When the project launched in 2012, only eight women registered. Today, over 2,000 women are subscribed to receive potentially life-saving information about pregnancy and newborn health. By simply texting “MOM” to 8006, women can receive scheduled reminders about antenatal care and vaccines as well as real-time answers to their questions from medical professionals.

Zero Mothers Die
Just like Gifted Mom, Zero Mothers Die aims to save the lives of women and their children through mobile technology. They send SMS and voice messages to women containing important health information, while giving them the opportunity to call local health care workers with any questions.

Using an integrated network of partners, including the Ghana Ministry of Health, The U.N.’s Program on HIV/AIDS and the Millenia 2025 Foundations, Zero Mothers Die disperses data on disease surveillance and maternal health issues across various digital platforms which health care workers and women alike can access through their app.

Safe Delivery
Safe Delivery is the only app of its kind to focus on health care workers performing deliveries in remote locations. The app features animated instructional videos that explain how to perform life-saving procedures, such as maternal sepsis, hypertension and prolonged labor. The app also provides step-by-step guides on how to safely remove placentas and resuscitate newborns.

The technology employs the WHO’s clinical guidelines and informs health care workers on common medicines associated with childbirth, appropriate dosages and their possible side effects. Safe Delivery is especially useful in settings where a small team of workers is responsible for treating a variety of problems, regardless of whether or not they had obstetric training.

Most maternal deaths are preventable, thanks to innovations in modern medicine and improved health knowledge. The challenge is reaching disenfranchised women who don’t have access to basic maternal care. These maternal health apps prove that knowledge alone can be one of the most powerful tools for preserving human life.

Jessica Levitan

Photo: Flickr

USAID Defeat Tuberculosis in the Kyrgyz Republic
Hakmiddin lives in a small village in northern Kyrgyzstan. After being diagnosed with tuberculosis several years ago, he never completed a full course of treatment because he had to return to work. As a result, he did not receive the necessary medications. There are many people who share Hakmiddin’s struggle against tuberculosis in the Kyrgyz Republic today.

Kyrgyzstan has one of the highest rates of tuberculosis in Europe. According to the latest data, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is now at 26 percent among new cases, compared to three percent of new tuberculosis cases worldwide. Drug supplies were limited and universal treatment standards were lacking in the country. According to the World Health Organization, only 55 percent of MDR-TB cases were successfully treated in 2011.

In response to this pressing challenge, USAID partnered with the Kyrgyz Republic to manage this deadly disease through improved services, diagnostics, new clinical guidelines, new outpatient treatment and care models. In 2012, led by the KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation, Kyrgyzstan’s National Tuberculosis Program and the Ministry of Health developed new national guidelines on MDR-TB, in collaboration with the USAID-funded TB CARE I project.

The project worked with community groups and non-government organizations to ensure more equitable access to tuberculosis in the Kyrgyz Republic in addition to diagnosis, treatment and a reduction in the social stigma attached to the disease. It also provided training for health care workers and reformed health financing systems to improve tuberculosis treatment in the country.

As a result, patients are able to receive the care they need based on the type of tuberculosis they have, including full outpatient treatment. These efforts resulted in increasing the MDR-TB treatment success rate from 42 percent in 2011 to 57 percent in 2013. In 2014, USAID followed up its previous efforts and developed a five-year project, the USAID Defeat Tuberculosis project, to ease the burden of tuberculosis in the Kyrgyz Republic and strengthen its health care system.

The project offered support for quality improvement and standardization of laboratory services. To jumpstart this process, the USAID Quality Health Care Project introduced a Quality Management System in laboratory networks in Kyrgyzstan. Seventeen lab quality control specialists in Bishkek and Chui Oblast participated in relevant training sessions. Undergraduate and continuing education institutions also integrated some tuberculosis training modules with the project’s support.

Today, 30.6 percent of the population still lives below the national poverty line and 42.7 percent of the employable population is unemployed. Therefore, providing affordable tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment for patients and reducing prolonged hospitalization to ensure people’s productivity are still challenging tasks that the country needs to address in future.

With two more years left, the USAID Defeat Tuberculosis Project will focus more on advocating childhood and adolescent tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment, as well as the prescription of child-friendly drug formulas in the country.

Yvie Yao

Photo: Flickr