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10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Morocco
Morocco is a country in North Africa that borders the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the Mediterranean in the north. Its location makes it a strong competitor in international trade and business. Forbes has classified Morocco as an emerging country with financial, educational and political potential. In 2015, the Government of Morocco and the World Health Organization (WHO) teamed up to improve the public health situation in the country, focusing on five regional priorities: health security and control of communicable diseases, mental health and violence, nutrition, strengthening health systems and responsiveness to health crises. Here are the 10 facts about life expectancy in Morocco.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Morocco

  1. Life expectancy at birth in Morocco has increased by over 35 years since 1950. A recent report found that Moroccans should reach a 77-year life expectancy in 1950, compared with the 42 years of average life expectancy in 1950. The Ministry of Family Solidarity, Equality and Social Development carried out this study in partnership with the National Observatory for Human Development.
  2. The same study found that the life expectancy of Moroccan women was age 60, which was 21 years longer instead of just 17 years longer as recorded in 1980. There was a similar increase with Moroccan men at age 60, who now should live 19 years longer instead of 17 years longer in 1980.
  3. The 2014 Moroccan census showed that nearly 3.2 million Moroccans are over 60 years old, while in 1960, less than one million Moroccans lived to be 60 years old. The aforementioned study predicts that by the year 2030, the number of people who live to be 60 and above will double to almost six million Moroccans, which is 20 percent of the population.
  4. Morocco is currently going through a demographic transition. The population is increasing but at a declining rate, as the overall life expectancy from birth continues to increase but women are having fewer children. Morocco is following development trends; the more it develops, the more the rate of its population goes down. When Morocco reaches the status of a developed country, its population will decline like countries across Europe and the United States of America.
  5. Overall infant, child and maternal mortality rates have decreased as there is more emphasis on expanding access to vaccinations, adequate nutrition, hygiene and better primary health care. Various international organizations and nonprofits, such as the WHO and CARE have managed to improve the overall health care situation in Morocco. All of these contribute to the decrease in mortality rates and the increase in life expectancy.
  6. Morocco has a shrinking population of children which reflects the decline in the total fertility rate from five in the mid-1980s to 2.2 in 2010. Total fertility rate (TFR) relates to the total number of children born or likely to be born to a woman in her lifetime, assuming she is subject to the age-specific fertility rate of her society’s population.
  7. Aging is the main trend in demographic shifts. The joint report found that by 2050, Morocco will have approximately 10 million senior citizens. This again points towards increased life expectancy and Morocco’s increasing overall development.
  8. The joint report also indicated that poverty in urban areas decreased from 4.9 percent to 0.7 percent and in the countryside from 14 percent to 4.5 percent in the span of almost a decade. This decrease in poverty, as well as the tendency of elderly to live in urban areas with increased access to health care, are all contributing factors to the increased life expectancy of elderly, as well as the general population.
  9. The study found that proper medical care and social care for the elderly is lacking, despite the increasing senior population in Morocco. Currently, there is not enough investment in welfare programs or senior living facilities and arrangements. This makes it more difficult for seniors to participate in Moroccan society by posing challenges to their own mobilization and physical health.
  10. The Ministry of Family, Solidarity, Equality and Social Development stress that research on life expectancy help the government to assess and develop adequate social welfare and health care programs. The increase in elderly people in the population implies the government should be investing in senior accommodations such as senior living homes.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Morocco should help the country adequately serve its people through health care and social programs. With this knowledge, the country can prepare to provide care and housing for an older population.

– Laura Phillips-Alvarez
Photo: Flickr

Initiatives to Eliminate Malaria
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and World Health Organization (WHO) have initiatives in place to help eradicate malaria with hopes that malaria will be eliminated by 2030. Five initiatives to eliminate malaria are Municipalities for Zero Malaria, Malaria Champions of the Americas, Global Technical Strategy for Malaria, Millennium Development Goal 6, Rapid Access Expansion Program (RAcE) and the Global Malaria Program. It is estimated that half the world’s population, 108 million, is at risk for malaria.

Municipalities for Zero Malaria

Municipalities for Zero Malaria is a newly launched initiative by PAHO arriving on World Malaria Day, April 25, 2019. This initiative is focused on the Americas and its struggles and triumphs with malaria. Recent research has found that malaria in 19 countries exists in 25 municipalities. These 25 municipalities hold 50 percent of all cases of malaria in the Americas. This new initiative will focus on the empowerment of communities and addressing malaria at a local level. Local level measures allow for earlier access to diagnosis and treatment for malaria patients as well as raising awareness of seeking health care treatment. According to Dr. Marcos Espinal, the goals and keys for the success of the Municipalities for Zero Malaria are that “Organizations, citizens and local government authorities must be engaged in developing key interventions for malaria elimination at a municipality level if we are to ensure that no one gets left behind.” This initiative will be a part of the current program, Malaria Champions of Americas.

Malaria Champions of the Americas

Malaria Champions of the Americas started in 2009 and honors countries that have the best practices for eliminating malaria. This organization is a platform to continue to promote good news about malaria and the ongoing fight to eliminate it. The organization chooses and nominates municipalities based on efforts to eliminate malaria. This year, Malaria Champions of the Americas hopes that the new initiative, Municipalities for Zero Malaria, will spark new growth at local level prevention and eradication of malaria. Over the past 11 years, these great initiatives made an effort to eliminate malaria:

  1. In 2010, Suriname achieved a 90 percent decrease in the incidence of malaria through its National Malaria Board initiatives.
  2. Paraguay became champions in 2012 because of its efforts to control malaria on national, regional and local levels. Its National Malaria Eradication Service of the Ministry of Public Health and Welfare opened up 20 labs for diagnosis and seven entomology labs.
  3. Costa Rica accomplished a 100 percent decrease in malaria from 2000 until 2014 due to its national plan to eliminate malaria and supervised malaria treatment programs.
  4. Suriname decreased its malaria-related hospital admissions from 377 in 2003 to 11 in 2015. In addition, these hospitals had no death records for 2014 and 2015.
  5. El Salvador accomplished a decrease of 98 percent of malaria cases in 2014.
  6. Brazil’s National Program for the Prevention and Control of Malaria was about to treat 97 percent of patients within 24 hours after diagnosis of malaria in 2014.
  7. In 2017, Brazil became champions again after the number of malaria cases dropped from 8,000 in 2013 to 126 cases in October 2017. Brazil also reduced malaria in isolated populations.
  8. Paraguay received the WHO certification of a malaria-free country in 2017.

World Health Organization

The World Health Organization has three initiatives currently in motion. WHO’s Global Malaria Program is an overarching program that guides all of WHO’s initiatives and publishes a yearly malaria world report. As of 2017, incidence rates have dropped from “72 to 58 per 1000 population at risk” and deaths declined from 607,000 in 2010 to 435,000 in 2017. Currently, 46 countries have equal to or less than 10,000 cases of malaria.

The Global Technical Strategy for Malaria is a longterm initiative that will run from 2016 until 2030. The goal is to reduce case incidence and mortality rates by 90 percent, eliminate malaria in more than 35 countries and prevent the revitalization of malaria in areas it no longer exists. The program is primarily to help guide and support regional programs with the elimination and prevention of malaria.

Rapid Access Expansion Program (RAcE) concentrates on five endemic countries, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger and Nigeria, through an integrated community case management (iCCM) program. Each country has a corresponding organization partner to help obtain the goals of RAcE. The objectives of RAcE are to reduce the mortality rates, increase the access to diagnosis, treatment and referral services, meet the Millennium Development Goal 6 and provide evidence and support to WHO policymakers on iCCM. RAcE’s results have been successful with “over 8.2 million children under 5 were diagnosed and treated for malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea from 2013-2017.” The program also trained 8,420 health care workers to deliver these services to communities.

The Millennium Development Goal 6 has achieved its goal with a 37 percent decrease in cases of malaria over 15 years. Estimates determine that malaria-ridden countries avoided about 6.2 million deaths between 2000 and 2015 due to the initiatives to eliminate malaria.

– Logan Derbes
Photo: Flickr

First Malaria Vaccine
Malaria is a parasitic virus transmitted through mosquito bites, and those infected with the disease often experience grave fevers, chills and flu-like symptoms. Although malaria can potentially end in death, physical precautions such as safety nets in malaria-dense environments and prompt treatment can usually prevent it. Unfortunately, because malaria largely affects poorer nations, it can be a great strain on national economies and impoverished populations. The World Health Organization is enlisting pilot testing for the first malaria vaccine.

The Problem

Malaria reportedly infects tens of millions, killing over 400,000 people worldwide every year and mostly children; Sub-Saharan African countries are the primary nations in which malaria thrives—the World Health Organization estimates that over 250,000 African children die every year from the virus.

The malaria-carrying parasite is able to evade victims’ immune systems by constantly changing its surface, which is why developing a vaccine against the virus has been so difficult. With today’s modern technology and scientific insight, that is beginning to change.

Testing the First Malaria Vaccine

In April of 2019, a large-scale pilot test of what many are dubbing the world’s first malaria vaccine to give partial protection to children began in Malawi. Scientists from the drug company GSK first created the RTS,S vaccine in 1987 and has been refining it ever since. Organizations like Path Malaria Vaccine Initiative have been instrumental in supporting this initiative.

The new RTS,S vaccine is attempting to teach the immune system how to attack the malaria parasite. A patient needs to receive the vaccine four times—once a month for three months, followed by a fourth and final dose 18 months later. In 2009, Kenya held smaller trials of the vaccine and concluded with a 40 percent protection rate of the five to-17 month-olds who received the vaccination. Since then, malaria rates have plateaued rather than decreased, which is another reason the new pilot test is so vital in the modern-day.

Now testing is taking place in Malawi, Kenya and Ghana with aims to immunize 120,000 children aged two-years-old and younger. These three countries are ideal for two reasons: one, these nations already have large anti-malaria programs in place; and two, in spite of this, they still have high numbers of malaria cases. As Dr. Matshidiso Moeti (World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa) stated, “Malaria is a constant threat to the African communities where this vaccine will be given” and explains that the vaccine is needed because “we know the power of vaccines to prevent killer diseases and [hope to] reach children, including those who may not have immediate access to the doctors, nurses and health facilities they need to save them when severe illness comes.”

Looking Towards the Future

The purpose of the pilot tests is to build up evidence that can be reliably considered while WHO policy is debating its recommendations on the broader use of the RTS,S vaccine. The experiment will examine the reductions (if any) in child deaths, vaccine uptake rates (including how many children receive all four vaccinations) and the overall safety of the vaccine in routine use.

If the testing goes well, not only will the World Health Organization aid the vaccine to its core package of recommended measures for malaria prevention and treatment, but hopefully, it will begin a chain reaction that again sparks a decrease in malaria cases around the world.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr

Cyclone Idai and Health Crisis
With winds equivalent to a category 3 hurricane and storm surges surpassing 20 feet, Cyclone Idai made landfall near Beira, Mozambique in the early hours of March 15, 2019. One of the most powerful storms to ever hit Southern Africa, Idai left a trail of destruction and displacement, turning life upside down for residents along the coast. Now, months later, communities throughout the region continue to cope with the aftermath.

Effects of Cyclone Idai

What is now 2019’s deadliest weather event, the latest figures put Idai’s death toll at 847. The storm left millions of people affected, thousands displaced, entire communities in shambles and thousands of hectares of crops destroyed. As authorities continue to unpack the extent of the damage, the need for increased public health initiatives is evident. With the floods triggering widespread water contamination across the region, cholera and malaria outbreaks are becoming shockingly prevalent.

Perhaps Cyclone Idai afflicted Mozambique the most, where Reuters News reported that it killed nearly 600 people and destroyed more than 110,000 homes. In Beira, home to roughly 500,000 people, sweeping power outages and water contamination has made the city a hotbed for disease outbreaks. “The supply chain has been broken, creating food, clean water, and healthcare shortages,” says Gert Verdonck, the Emergency Coordinator for Doctor’s Without Borders (MSF) in Beira. “The scale of extreme damage will likely lead to a dramatic increase of waterborne diseases.”

Doctors Without Borders (MSF)

Following the storm, MSF quickly scaled up operations in Beira and other cyclone-stricken areas of Mozambique. With roughly 146,000 internally displaced persons seeking refuge in 155 camps across the country, MSF has launched an enormous relief effort. Dispatching emergency response teams to communities in need, MSF is working to implement vaccination programs and distribute food, water and medical supplies throughout Mozambique. Yet the scope of the damage is proving to be a difficult challenge for authorities and relief organizations. Treating over 200 cholera cases daily, MSF is calling on the international community to step up.

The World Health Organization and Cholera Vaccines

Also integral to relief efforts, the World Health Organization (WHO) is spearheading a massive vaccination program aimed at fighting the recent outbreaks. Through partnerships with humanitarian aid organizations Gavi and UNICEF, the WHO facilitated a shipment of almost 1 million cholera vaccines that arrived in Beira on April 2, 2019. A day later, a plane carrying 6.7 tonnes of medical supplies – essentials like medicine, stretchers, clean bandages and disposable gloves – landed in the coastal city. Opening an additional 500 beds and seven cholera treatment centers across cyclone-stricken Mozambique, the WHO is hoping to stifle water-borne illnesses in the region.

Despite valiant efforts from the WHO, MSF and other aid groups, the need for more funds and resources is evident. On April 1, the WHO requested an additional US$13 million to address communities affected by Cyclone Idai. With local authorities in Mozambique overwhelmed and underequipped to handle the fallout from Idai, the WHO is seeking to lead the charge, establishing response coordination at the national and provincial levels. Annual health care and aid expenditures in Mozambique are almost five percent below the global average, making foreign aid and nongovernmental relief organizations a vital piece of the recovery process.

An International Response

While some experts initially criticized the sluggish international response to Cyclone Idai, the global community has since placed considerable emphasis on relief efforts. Countries like Turkey, Botswana, Brazil and many more have supported Mozambique, allocating emergency funds and sending military assets to facilitate food, water and medicine distribution. Although combatting the cholera outbreaks and rebuilding communities that the storm devastated will be a stout challenge, the international response is promising. The response to Cyclone Idai indicates an international community both capable and willing to respond to natural disasters that impact the developing world.

– Kyle Dunphey
Photo: Google

Life Expectancy in BelizeBelize is a small country located in Central America, along the Caribbean Sea. It has the lowest population in Central America, populated by 385,854 people. It is an English speaking country comprised of people from several different ethnic backgrounds. Tourism makes up the greater part of the economy of Belize, as it contains beautiful islands with crystal-clear waters that attract people year-round. Belize is both a destination and a home for many. Despite the tourist-rich islands, poverty is widespread throughout the country and its effects remain prevalent in many lives. Below is a list of the top 10 facts about life expectancy in Belize.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Belize

  1. As of 2018, the average life expectancy in Belize is 74.7 years. For females, the average is 76.3 years, while the males’ average is slightly lower at 73.1 years old. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, this life expectancy ranks 122nd globally. The life expectancy in Belize has improved over the past few decades, increasing from an average of 71.1 years in 1990.
  2. About 40 percent of the annual deaths in Belize is comprised of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes, and chronic respiratory disease. The second greatest mortality rates result from injuries and external causes at about 28 percent annually. An additional 20 percent results from communicable diseases, such as HIV, which continues to be a concern throughout Belize.
  3. The country’s high homicide rate specifically affects male life expectancy. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Belize is continually ranked on the top 10 list for world homicides. Gang violence is extremely present in Belize City, making homicide one of the leading causes of death in males, alongside HIV and road traffic incidents.
  4. Poverty is most prevalent within the child population of Belize. While 41 percent of the total population lives below the poverty line, approximately 49.3 percent of all children live in poverty. Children are less likely to overcome poverty since they cannot fully provide for themselves.
  5. There is a substantial impact on the indigenous population in Belize from poverty. Of all children under the age of five, 18 percent suffer from stunting; However, this percentage jumps to 50 percent when looking at the indigenous community.
  6. Belize has high access to clean resources. 99.5 percent of the population has access to a water source. One factor is the significant amount of the population that lives along the coast. Another 90.5 percent of the population has access to a sanitation facility. The high percentage of access to water and sanitation allows for better overall health in the country, aiding the life expectancy in Belize.
  7. Belize is susceptible to natural disasters such as hurricanes and coastal flooding between June and November. Due to flooding and infrastructure, the damage comes lack or difficulty to access clean resources, such as water. As a result, sanitary conditions are put in jeopardy. Furthermore, this gives way to the spread of waterborne illness or infectious disease, specifically in children, who are more vulnerable to sickness. Ultimately, being detrimental to life expectancy in Belize.
  8. The Belize Health Structure Strategic plan was created in 2014 to improve the country’s health sector by 2024. The goal is to develop a Primary Health care based system through integrated health service delivery networks. This will both positively impact the health of the population while creating more sustainable outcomes.
  9. The World Bank Group has created an objective to improve youth employability and at-risk youth inclusion. This is a targeted program to enhance the employment of youth, and specifically at-risk youth males, ages 8-19, who are susceptible to street violence and crime. It aims to provide young people with the skills needed to work and motivation to remain employed.
  10. The World Health Organization created a country cooperation strategy agenda with four specific priorities from 2017-2021. The goal is to achieve a higher quality of life for all people in Belize. The agenda includes health systems accessible to all, human resources for the growing population, promoting health and wellness to reduce the major causes of death, and addressing health emergencies to the public.

The top 10 facts about life expectancy in Belize reveal the country’s continual struggle with poverty and its impacts on health and well being; However, it simultaneously shines a light on the significant steps the country and government is taking. With a constantly increasing population, the next decade of growth and improvement is crucial for the country of Belize.

– Savannah Huls

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

Ebola Epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
On May 8, 2018, The Ministry of Health in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) declared an outbreak of the virus disease Ebola in the North Kivu Province. The Democratic Republic of the Congo declared the epidemic over on July 24, 2018. This represented the ninth Ebola epidemic in this African country since 1976.

The Development of Ebola Epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The disease had been slowly building to the epidemic, even catastrophic levels. According to The World Health Organization (WHO), the country had seen and been aware of the virus in the area since the April 4. The organization reports that, in April, a total of 44 people had been infected with the Ebola virus, which included 23 deaths.

However, in May, this number was disputed, as only 3 new cases were confirmed. The World Health Organization later narrowed the origins of this particular epidemic and found that it began in the northwestern area of Bikoro, which was the place where first cases were recorded on May 8. From this, The World Health Organization identified nearly 400 contacts of Ebola victims that are currently and continuously being followed up.

The History of Ebola Outbreaks in DRC

This isn’t the first Ebola outbreak the country has seen, however. Though Ebola outbreaks are uncommon, the Democratic Republic of Congo has experienced multiple flare-ups of the virus- nine since 1976. One such flare-up happened in not so distant past, in 2017 to be exact, with five confirmed cases that were quickly dealt with. The fast response and eradication convinced many, including the World Health Organization and health officials that the 2018 Ebola epidemic in the country will be easily dealt with. Yet, this prediction proved to be optimistic and naive since, within a month of declaring the outbreak of an epidemic, two health officials were among those affected.

The Declaration of Epidemic

The World Health Organization was very quick to declare this year’s Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a global emergency to public health. Unlike the Ebola epidemic that ravaged Western Africa in 2014, The World Health Organization declared a state of emergency in the Democratic Republic of Congo swiftly after seeing the number of cases increase.

Moreover, the organization made an immediate urgent request for $57 million to stop the spread of Ebola. In total, the money received amounted to $63 million, exceeding the appeal by $6 million. Among those who contributed to the funding towards ending this Ebola epidemic in the DRC was USAID who contributed with $5.3 million.

On July 24, 2018, Al Jazeera reported that the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been declared over. The virus had lasted a total of 10 weeks and had taken a total of 33 lives. Fortunately, the disease had remained contained, as Bikoro, the epicenter of the epidemic is a remote area of the country.

Although the people that were infected as a result of last Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo have completed their treatment, and have thus been declared cured, the health ministry of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as The World Health Organization are monitoring the situation in the country closely to ensure the virus does not spread.

Isabella Agostini
Photo: Flickr

How the European Union Fights HIV/AIDS
The European Union (EU) is an economic and political coalition of 28 European nations; countless individuals chosen by the state represent his or her nation within the alliance. The governmental body addresses public health, human rights, development, climate action along with numerous other subjects. The European Union is well-known economically, yet they should also be renown for their work to research, inform and prevent diseases, such as HIV/AIDS. The European Union fights HIV/AIDS through surveillance, data and prevention programs.

Surveillance

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) work together to collect data on HIV/AIDS in 31 European states. The surveillance programs allow the EU to monitor groups who are at higher risks to contract the disease, to improve responses to those affected and to learn more about the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.

The European Union utilizes their monitoring techniques to better its “evidence-based action;” for example, if one European country reported lower diagnoses than another nation, they would then be able to statistically analyze which system worked. The country resulting in fewer cases would, therefore, have the more effective approach to decrease HIV/AIDS.

Surveillance programs help the EU understand trends so they are better able to understand the disease and the efficacy of their treatment programs.

Data

Recent data collected by surveillance programs show an overall decline in HIV/AIDS within Europe. Additionally, AIDS-related deaths have substantially decreased since 1990.

In 2016, 29,444 people were newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 31 countries; this number is relatively lower than the predicted 30,000 diagnoses. The prevalence rate currently stands at 5.9 per 100,000 individuals, which is also drastically less than other places such as Sub-Saharan Africa.

The rate among men is higher than that of women; men are currently at 8.9 cases while women are at 2.6 cases per 100,000. These numbers are significantly lower than those of the past; therefore, the surveillance and prevention programs have proven effective.

Prevention Programs

Due to the high rate of late diagnoses, the EU recognized that there are issues with “access to, and uptake of, HIV testing and counseling in many countries.” The ECDC, which is a partner of the EU, developed the “European Test Finder” to help with locating the closest testing facility.

The European Union fights HIV/AIDS now by allowing quick and easy access to testing. The EU realizes that an early diagnosis can save a life, and locating a testing site is vital in helping those who have HIV.

The EU has also allowed pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is an antiretroviral medication that tries to prevent or reduce the likelihood of contracting HIV. France is the only nation that has used this prevention program, and it has proven successful. The EU is trying to make the drug more available across the union.

The “ART regimen” is one of the most efficient ways to prevent HIV/AIDS, and it works to extend the lifespan of someone with the disease. It is also an antiretroviral medication; yet, it is given when someone is HIV positive. This medication could lead to viral suppression, which means that one cannot transmit the disease to someone else.

A United Front

Another way the European Union fights HIV/AIDS is by using Facebook and Twitter. Social media platforms have been very effective as boosting awareness is crucial to HIV/AIDS prevention programs. The ECDC offers a helpful, digital guide to prevent STI/HIV.

The European Union fights HIV/AIDS by combining surveillance, data and prevention techniques. Although each state may have a different approach to preventing HIV/AIDS, the EU acts as an overarching body that researches and implements the best means to end the disease. The EU unites each country so they can eliminate the disease together.

– Diana Hallisey
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in AfricaLife expectancy is one of the methods used to measure health in various countries. Countries with low life expectancies usually have problems maintaining health and longevity, while countries with higher life expectancies generally have better healthcare and longevity. Africa is a continent that has long had a very low life expectancy; however, in recent years the life expectancy in Africa has fortunately been on the rise.

Since 2000, the average life expectancy in African countries has increased from 20 percent to 42 percent. That is the biggest increase in  life expectancy recorded in that time frame in all regions around the world. One of the biggest life expectancy increases has occurred in Malawi. Malawi’s life expectancy in 2000 was 44.1 years. In 2014, it was reported that the new life expectancy in Malawi was 62.7 years – a 42.2 percent increase.

Health and welfare improvements are one of the main reasons why life expectancy in Africa has been on the rise. One of the biggest health issues that Africa has been plagued with is the HIV/AIDS epidemic. HIV/AIDS has tragically claimed many lives in Africa, which is a large reason why life expectancy was so low. Treating these diseases was difficult at height of the epidemic, so many Africans unfortunately died. Because HIV/AIDS has been such a huge issue, there has been a lot of research done to help alleviate the problem. Improvements in medication and treatment have helped Africans and others around the world combat the AIDS epidemic. Not only is there now medicine available to help suppress the disease, but this medicine has become much more affordable for all people, including those in developing countries.

Although an epidemic, HIV/AIDS was not the only problem that African countries suffered from. Malaria was also an issue that affected life expectancy in Africa. However, strides have since been made to alleviate that issue as well. The World Health Organization (WHO) in Africa has reported that the rate of malaria has decreased by 66 percent since the year 2000. More importantly, malaria in African children under the age of five has decreased by 71 percent. This is important because more children are surviving in Africa. Prior to these improvements, HIV/AIDS and malaria have claimed many lives of children under the age of five. Since healthcare – and access to it – has increased in Africa, more children are surviving past age five. Once these kids clear the first five years of their lives, it is much more likely that they will grow up to reach the age of 60.

Life expectancy in Africa has increased and things are only looking to get better. Not only has the life expectancy dramatically increased, it is beginning to look like malaria may be eliminated by 2020 and HIV/AIDS by 2030. This will surely serve to further increase the life expectancy of African countries, as well as elsewhere around the world.

Daniel Borjas

Photo: Flickr