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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