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African Sleeping Sickness, also known as African Trypanosomiasis, is common in rural Africa. It is spread by the tsetse fly, which is only found in 36 sub-Saharan countries, with about 70 percent of cases occurring within the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When the tsetse fly bites, a sore develops and within weeks hosts suffer from fever, severe headaches, irritability, extreme fatigue, joint pain and skin rashes. As the disease progresses and invades the nervous system, people face confusion, personality changes and ultimately sleeplessness. African Sleeping Sickness can prove to be fatal within months, if not treated.

Due to regional differences, there is both an East African Sleeping Sickness and West African Sleeping Sickness. The Eastern disease is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense, with a couple hundred cases reported each year by the World Health Organization (WHO). The West African Sleeping Sickness on the other hand is caused by a parasite called Trypanosoma brucei gambiense, with nearly 10,000 cases reported annually by the WHO.

The Span of the Disease

Unfortunately, due to the lack of medicine and awareness in these rural African regions, there is minimal caution taken to avoid the disease. The African Sleeping Sickness is often neglected by other countries due to its limited region. A majority of those in affected regions have minimal access to health care or knowledge of disease prevention and treatment. Due to overcrowding and poverty, transmission increases among both animals and people. In fact, 40,000 cases were reported in 1998 from the WHO, but researchers estimate that at least 300,000 cases were left undiagnosed that year. The fear with this is that the disease will be allowed to escalate. There have been cases in which the patients have attacked their own family members, experienced frightening hallucinations or have screamed in gut-wrenching pain.

Treatments

The limited research and knowledge of this disease puts the victims at a heavy disadvantage. While there are a few drugs available for both East and West African Sleeping Sickness, at the moment there is no cure or vaccine. The most commonly used drug, pentamidine, is often used for first stage West African Sleeping Sickness, with other CDC approved drugs being uramin, melarsoprol, eflornithine and nifurtimox. However, these approved drugs can also have negative side effects, with melarsoprol found to have reactions that can prove to be fatal, and pentamidine causing stomach issues. The disease, if left untreated, can lead to meningoencephalitis, coma or death.

Organizational Support

Despite the grim standings of the disease, organizations are making efforts to change the status quo. The WHO is working to supply technical aid to national programs in Africa and are having volunteers deliver anti-Trypanosoma medicines for free. In 2009, the WHO established a biological specimens bank for researchers to conduct studies regarding new drugs and treatments. When attention towards the disease began to fade, the WHO developed a coordination network for victims of the disease to secure and maintain efforts against it. Starting in 2002, Bayer, supplied 10,000 vials of suramin treatment annually for an entire decade. Bayer took steps to expedite the fight against the disease in 2013 by funding and supporting mobile intervention teams in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Through combined efforts, non-profit organizations as well as private companies are taking great strides against the deadly African Sleeping Sickness.

Haarika Gurivireddygari
Photo: Flickr

Curing Polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan
In 1988, polio existed in more than 100 countries and infected close to 1,000 children daily. Due to advocacy efforts and the implementation of preventable vaccinations, cases of polio have significantly dropped at a rate of 99 percent. In 1988, about 350,000 children had polio while statistics indicated that in 2017, only 22 documented illnesses existed. However, children are still struggling as Pakistan and Afghanistan attempt to eliminate polio their countries.

Children are most vulnerable to contracting polio between birth and age five. One in 200 contagions result in irreparable paralysis, most commonly in the legs; five to 10 percent of those infected die from this disease due to the disabling of their breathing muscles.

Most children that are living with polio do not experience manifestations; however, polluted water and food can still spread the disease. Polio is preventable through several doses of vaccinations, but there is no treatment.

Modernized Vaccines to Prevent Polio

In 2013, all countries began to implement one dose of the new vaccines and terminate the use of the oral vaccines by 2018, which the Polio Eradication & Endgame Strategic Plan instructed.

In order to eliminate polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan is terminating the administrations of oral vaccines which only protected against type 2 of the virus; instead, Afghanistan and Pakistan are implementing doses of the inactivated polio vaccine, which should be more effective in preventing the disease as it prevents all three types of polio. The modern vaccine can also enhance immunity and inhibit further epidemics of polio.

Efforts to Eliminate Polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan

In 2018, The Ministry of Public Health in Afghanistan partnered with UNICEF and The World Health Organization to initiate the country’s third nation-wide polio vaccination campaign. Nearly 9.9 million children below age five received the vaccination.

Regions such as Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan and Zabul contained nearly 1.2 million children who did not have access to the vaccine. However, this past program and future programs will ensure that these children can also receive the necessary dosages.

Vaccinated children also received Vitamin A capsules to strengthen their immunity and decrease diarrhea. This also strengthened their immune systems from respiratory infections. Immunity can increase their chances of survival by nearly 24 percent. Nearly 70,000 health workers visited every household to administer vaccinations. This was to ensure that other children received the preventable medication as well. Because polio is contagious, each family’s chances of surpassing the disease increases if every child receives a vaccination.

In Pakistan, the number of polio infections is at a low rate. Further, improved immunity has also begun to increase. While this country has made progress in battling polio, many children have not received the preventable vaccines in high-risk areas. Therefore, Pakistan has begun to implement various solutions such as customized vaccines. Additionally, the country has partnered with the Emergency Operations Centers to administer effective prevention techniques.

Polio is most common in Karachi as well as the federally administered tribal areas, the Quetta block and the Khyber-Peshawar corridor. While the disease is highly present in these areas, other areas nationwide are susceptible to contracting the virus due to travel and migration.

The Partnership Between Pakistan and Afghanistan

To eliminate polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the two nations plan on partnering to identify children who are vulnerable to the disease and provide vaccinations, while also administering health campaigns to promote advocacy about the prevention of polio. Environmental surveillance has discovered the presence of polio. This serves as evidence that children with weaker immune systems are present in these areas. Consequently, this enables the disease to grow and infect other children.

– Diana Dopheide
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Fiji
Fiji is an island that attracts tourists with its beautiful beaches and humble hosts but is one of the top 100 countries when it comes to short life expectancy. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Fiji.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Fiji

  1. In 2017, 25 out of every 1,000 babies died before their fifth birthday. Malnutrition is one of the primary causes of such a high under-five mortality rate. UNICEF reported that in 2004, over 40 percent of children in Fiji were malnourished and parents did not have the funds to buy their children the food they needed to survive.
  2. In 2013, 28 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. Currently, over 250,000 of the 900,000 people in Fiji are in poverty. Due to a lack of income, many people that live in rural areas moved to urban areas in order to increase livelihood and potentially live longer.
  3. Neonatal mortality was at 11 per 1,000 births in 2017. Neonatal mortality was another reason the death rate was high in Fiji. Premature births, birth defects and low birthweight were the leading causes. According to UNICEF, lack of access to food due to economical shortages contributed to early childhood deaths.
  4. Fiji had 49 tuberculosis incidents per 100,000 of its people in 2017. People who lived in urban areas were susceptible to tuberculosis due to pollution and overcrowding.
  5. In 2016, there was a 31 percent mortality rate due to heart disease, cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory disease. Obesity is one of the leading causes of heart disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease. In 2016, there were 81 percent of women and 55 percent of men who were overweight.
  6. Fiji has both private and public health care facilities, but both suffer from limited access to medication. According to a survey by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, this is due to affordability, as unemployed patients can not always afford their required medication. Based on the survey, 16 out of 48 people were unable to receive medication due to lack of funds. Fiji is trying to improve this through better water infrastructure, more centralized resources and community aid.
  7. Dengue fever is a common illness in Fiji. Dengue fever is a mosquito illness that causes flu-like symptoms. The symptoms can be fatal if it goes untreated. The death rate spiked due to how common the illness is and doctors’ inability to treat patients in rural areas. Estimates determine that 100 million cases occur each year, especially during the summer. Fiji destroyed mosquito habitats and recommended avoiding mosquito bites to combat this.
  8. Statistics estimate that Fijians should live until age 73. As of 2018, rankings placed Fiji at 141 out of 223 countries, which made life expectancy in Fiji the 82nd worst country. Diseases, lack of medicine and poverty are the main reasons why Fijians do not live longer.
  9. Sixty-eight percent of Fiji’s population drink unsafe tap water in urban areas. In some cases, the people who lived in the urban areas of Fiji became sick because they had to rely on rivers for fresh water. Organizations like UNICEF and the World Health Organization worked on the development of Fiji’s water quality by training environmental health officers to test water supplies and make sure it was safe to drink.
  10. In 2016, the death rate was seven per 1,000 people. Noncommunicable diseases accounted for 84 percent of these deaths. Others included physical violence toward women, infant deaths and malnutrition.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Fiji should not be a cause for concern, because, despite Fiji’s low life expectancy, it has improved over the years. Poverty was at 35 percent in 2009 and it is now at 28 percent. As long as the government continues to find ways to increase the stability of people in rural areas, Fiji’s life expectancy should continue to increase.

– Reese Furlow
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan, a country rich with gas and export struggles, corruption and poverty. The country is located in Central Asia and shares its borders with Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Iran and Afghanistan and has been independent since 1991. Meanwhile, the life expectancy in Turkmenistan has been on a steady rise within the last decade. Here are the top 10 facts about life expectancy in Turkmenistan.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Turkmenistan

  1. The life expectancy in Turkmenistan is around 68 years. According to the BBC, the average lifespan for women is 71 and 64 years for men. The country’s life expectancy ranks four years lower than neighboring Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, while it ranks five years lower than the world average life expectancy.
  2. Turkmenistan suffers from a high mortality rate which affects overall life expectancy. The World Health Organization states in its “Highlights on Health in Turkmenistan” report written in 2005, that “As could be expected, excess mortality is due to communicable, respiratory and digestive diseases.” The two highest causes of death are infectious and parasitic diseases.
  3. Water resources are rather scarce because desert covers a lot of Turkmenistan. In fact, it is one of the most water-deficient countries in the world. The government tried to create projects, such as the creation of parks, to make cities appear greener. The plan backfired because these plants required a large amount of water. Seventy-one percent of the population has access to drinking water, while 29 percent of the population still lacks clean water.
  4. Turkmenistan has 22 physicians per 1,000 people within a given population. The former president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, tried to make changes to the health care system and citizen’s lifestyles and has been encouraging spending on public health and healthier lifestyles. A lack of doctors takes its toll on rural communities, while limited access to sanitary water increases the chances of becoming sick. While urban areas have modernized hospitals, care can be expensive. Meanwhile, rural communities suffer from old equipment and shortages in medicine which could affect life expectancy statistics as well.
  5. Turkmenistan is a healthy nation. The government focuses on nutrition through private agriculture and food production. It tries to create healthy lunches in schools by banning unhealthy foods and drinks. Some noncommunicable diseases affecting the population comes from malnutrition, such as raised blood pressure, blood glucose and blood cholesterol. These can be life-threatening diseases.
  6. Housing in Turkmenistan differs from other countries in their structures. People often live in yurts due to weather conditions or economic reasons. The yurts surround cities and traditional families heavily populate them. Houses do exist but the monthly rates tend to be higher than the people’s wages. Yurts are a more affordable form of shelter considering the increase of food and gas prices.
  7. The infant mortality rate in Turkmenistan is 33 deaths per 1,000 births, which ranks the country number 55 in the world. The maternal mortality rate is 42 deaths per 100,000 births, which places Turkmenistan at 104 in the world.
  8. The literacy rate in Turkmenistan is 99.7 percent for people ages 15 and older. Most students spend up to 11 years in school. The government is trying to reform the educational system to be more effective for students. Its main goal is to get everyone into the local workforce and have it perform internationally as well. Children receive a basic education that fits the needs of the government or specific jobs that they can work internationally. It does not necessarily include a well-rounded course curriculum.
  9. Turkmenistan has a high poverty and corruption rate. The given wages are not nearly enough to cover common products. The further away from the center of Ashgabat that people live, the fewer resources they have available to them. Those who live in urban cities have more access to natural resources. Those living in rural communities have less, especially when it comes to natural gas.
  10. The crime rate in Turkmenistan’s cities is low compared to the surrounding countries. Towards the border, the crime rate grows due to terrorism and the drug trade. The cities set a curfew for 11 p.m. to lower crime at night.

Though these 10 facts about life expectancy in Turkmenistan put things into a grim perspective, the government is doing what it can to change the future. If the government successfully reforms Turkmenistan’s education system, allowing for a workforce that can compete internationally, people could raise their living standards, and potentially, the country’s life expectancy as well.

– Christina Atler
Photo: Flickr

Lobbying for a Global Treaty to End Violence Against Women
With the #MeToo movement sweeping the United States, Portland-native Lisa Shannon is pushing for an end to violence against women around the world. Shannon is CEO and Co-Founder of the Every Woman Treaty, a campaign to establish a global treaty to end violence against women. At a recent discussion panel hosted by Global Washington, Shannon spoke out about the consistent violations of women’s rights pervading every corner of the globe and explained how Americans can make a lasting impact.

Defining Violence Against Women

Violence against women, whether psychological, physical or emotional, is “the most pervasive human rights violation on earth.” Sex trafficking, forced marriage and domestic violence are three of its most common forms, and all are prevalent globally. While the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979, suggests establishing protective legislation for women, the agreement has not sufficiently fueled action to prevent violence. There is a need for a more direct global treaty to end violence against women.

Sources of Violence

Human trafficking causes significant violence against women due to how it damages each person involved and the expanse of the industry. Suamhirs Piraino-Guzman from the International Rescue Committee shared at the Global Washington event that “40 million people around the world are victims of human trafficking.” A recent U.N. report adds that 79 percent of trafficking consists of the sexual exploitation of women and girls, which means that there is a total of around 30 million women being sex-trafficked today. That is greater than the population of Australia. In addition, human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world.

Forced marriages represent another preventable source of violence against women. They eliminate a woman’s freedom of choice and frequently result in violent partnerships. According to UNICEF, although international law and many national legislations prohibit it, forced marriage is still a widespread practice. One in five women enters marriage without offering full, free and informed consent. This is mostly due to lack of government crackdown on forced marriage cases.

Even when a relationship is consensual, domestic violence is frustratingly frequent. The World Health Organization estimates that about 35 percent of women experience physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetimes. It does not help that an estimated one billion women lack legal protection from domestic violence, according to a World Bank Study. Domestic sexual violence is only a crime in one in every three countries.

What Needs To Change

The establishment and enforcement of legislation related to protecting women have been lax. A lack of accountability leads to millions of women suffering. UNODC Director Antonio Maria Costa lamented that “while the number of convictions for human trafficking is increasing, two out of every five countries covered by the UNODC Report had not recorded a single conviction.”

People are not holding governments accountable for protecting women within their borders. However, many professionals agree that lasting change will stem from the political realm. Data easily shows the benefits of legislation. Shannon pointed out countries that, in the past, experienced a reduction in female mortality by 32 percent with a ban on domestic violence. There is a need for a global treaty to end violence against women to improve the accountability of governments that create and enforce laws protecting women. That is exactly what Every Woman Treaty is striving to accomplish.

The Global Treaty To End Violence Against Women

The Every Woman Treaty requests a partnership between every country in the global community to bring accountability to protecting women. Countries that sign the treaty would ensure they have sufficient legislation to prevent the most common abuses of women, provide services for victims, promote prevention education and contribute towards a global implementation fund with a goal towards ending violence against women. As the movement gains traction, the Every Woman Treaty is asking individuals to sign onto its platform to show governments that it has the support of the public.

Several of the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals released by the U.N. focus on protecting women from violence. Voices across the global community scream for change on this issue. Despite this, governments are still not providing the legislative changes necessary to end the violence once and for all. A global treaty to end violence against women, like the one the Every Woman Treaty proposes, could be the answer—the final push to make this issue a priority. Lisa Shannon made clear at the event that violence against women is horrible, but an “absolutely solvable problem. We just have to decide we’re ready to (solve it).”

To sign onto the Every Woman Treaty’s cause, visit https://everywoman.org.

– Olivia Heale
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Argentina
Between 2010 and 2014, mortality from HIV/AIDS rose from 3.2 deaths per 100,000 people to 3.4 deaths per 100,000. Some people in Argentina also face water scarcity, a lack of basic services and supplies, low wages and limited access to food markets. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Argentina display the quality of life and health of Argentinians.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Argentina

  1. Over the years, life expectancy has increased for Argentina’s citizens, reaching 76.7 years in 2017 while it was just over 65 in 1960.
  2. Due to Argentina’s increased focus on allocating resources frugally, creating a relatively high inpatient service availability and undergoing rapid socioeconomic development, Argentina’s improving health care system has worked to optimize available medical resources. These resources help sustain and slowly increase the average life expectancy in Argentina to 77 years, four more than the global average.
  3. Access to affordable clean drinking water in Argentina has dramatically improved over the last two decades while millions still encounter drinking water contaminants dangerous to public health. According to a book by Eileen Stillwaggon, Argentina has “Twenty thousand child deaths a year from avoidable causes, such as summer diarrhea…” The spread of disease with relative ease creates grim conditions for Argentina’s working and lower class, who have comparatively inadequate health care. Currently, 84 percent of residents have access to water from a public grid, while 58 percent have access to sanitation services. According to the World Health Organization, approximately half the population has no proper waste disposal service. The socio-economic conditions of the indigenous population in Argentina suggests a fundamental flaw in their health and safety infrastructure, that ultimately allows for the easy spread of disease.
  4. Despite the appearance of affluence and impressive medical infrastructure, the economic disparity between the rich and poor creates disproportionate aid distribution. This disparity explains the unusually high life expectancy, where the rich often live longer and healthier lives near the developed parts of the country. The 40 percent of those impoverished in Argentina have “no unemployment compensation, health coverage or pensions” living in slum conditions due to Argentina’s splintered health care system. As a result, certain areas are more prepared to fight disease outbreaks.
  5. With arduous living and drinking conditions, and most of the poor being children, infant and maternal mortality rates are surprisingly lower than in other countries with a smaller GDP. According to the World Health Organization, maternal mortality declined from 331 deaths to 298, a decline from 4.4 to 3.9 maternal deaths per 10,000 births in certain regions. The maternal mortality rate increased above the global average in other areas.
  6. Chagas disease has infected more than five percent of people in Argentina. With a crippling medical infrastructure, these health hazards fester and allow the spread of disease, where the impoverished live off garbage from dumps with mixtures of industrial and medical waste due to improper disposal.
  7. The percentage of people below the poverty line has decreased by five percent since 2016. COFESA, the federal health council, is working with the national authorities in Argentina to create and implement an effective universal health care system to reintegrate impoverished people back into the workforce. Its primary focusses are specific health problems and the lack of access to medical care in various regions.
  8. Argentina has eliminated many preventable diseases such as measles and rubella. Most universal vaccinations have been very successful with outbreaks of hepatitis A and B on the decline. A study in 2012 confirmed that the rate of measles outbreak has remained steady for almost a decade. Argentina spends seven percent of its GDP on health care initiatives, one of the highest in South America.
  9. Despite 37 percent of Argentina’s population being classified as overweight and 20 percent obese, food protection agencies have developed better public health initiatives to educate people about the dangers of overconsumption. The overall decreased consumption of salt demonstrates the success of these government programs aimed at fixing the conditions of marginalized rural and urban communities and increasing public health along with improved life expectancy.
  10. Infection by Trypanosoma cruzi (Chagas disease) affected 2.5 percent of pregnant women and 5.7 percent of children during pregnancy and leading up to delivery. Infections in pregnant women are of paramount importance due to the relative ease of passing diseases onto offspring.

Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay created a joint initiative to study the socio-economic conditions of the more rural regions to discover why diseases plague certain parts of their countries and not others. With an increasing life expectancy, Argentina’s has one of the largest labor forces in the world. Universal access to health care is Argentina’s end goal and some of the information in these 10 facts about life expectancy in Argentina demonstrate that things are looking positive for the future.

– Adam Townsend
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Belarus
Belarus is a former member of the Soviet Union, located between Russia, Poland and Lithuania. Like most post-Soviet states, Belarus has experienced substantial economic and societal problems since attaining sovereignty. The country has developed under a dictatorship and today Belarus has virtually full employment and an official poverty rate of less than six percent. However, the country still faces significant obstacles to public health and economic development. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Belarus.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Belarus

  1. There is a Stark Gender Gap: The first of the 10 facts about life expectancy in Belarus is that the average life expectancy is 73 years, but there is a significant disparity in life expectancy between males and females. While women in Belarus have an average life expectancy of 79 years, men in the country live until only 67.8 on average. Non-communicable diseases are the leading cause of death in Belarus. While a genetic predisposition is typically the leading risk factor for non-communicable disease, lifestyle choices are commonly to blame in Belarus. The biggest risk factors for both Belarusian men and women are alcohol consumption, tobacco use and a lack of exercise.
  2. Alcoholism is a Major Problem: Belarus is one of the heaviest alcohol consuming countries in the world. In 2010, Belarusian males consumed an average of almost 29 liters of pure alcohol per capita annually. By 2016, this number was down to 18 liters per capita, which was still triple the global average. Alcohol abuse has concrete consequences for life expectancy in Belarus as alcohol consumption was the cause of over half of liver disease in Belarus in 2016.
  3. There is a Culture of Male Tobacco Use: Almost half of all adult men in Belarus smoke daily, while less than 10 percent of women do. Despite laws establishing an age minimum of 18 for purchasing tobacco, one in every 20 boys between 10 and 14 years old identified themselves as daily smokers in 2016 alone. That same year, tobacco use related to over a quarter of deaths from non-communicable diseases among males in Belarus.
  4. Men Often Die Early: Premature death is very common, particularly among males, skewing data for the average life expectancy for men in Belarus. In contemporary Belarus, an average of close to 40 percent of men dies prematurely between the ages of 30 and 70. Non-communicable diseases are the leading cause of death in Belarus, accounting for almost 90 percent of all mortalities and the vast majority of premature deaths.
  5. Belarus Guarantees Health Care: The Constitution of Belarus guarantees that the government will provide free, accessible health care to all Belarusians. This does not translate into universally free health care but does include free emergency care, vaccinations, hospital stays and childbirth. According to the 2019 Bloomberg Health Efficiency Index, Belarus ranks within the top 50 most efficient health care systems globally.
  6. Suicide is Prevalent: In 2019, Belarus had the fifth-highest suicide rate in the world. Further, men were reportedly six times more at risk than women. This is largely linked to alcoholism, which is far more common among Belarusian men than women.
  7. Premature Death Hurts Economically and Demographically: According to a 2018 report by the World Health Organization, the loss of productivity and government expenditure associated with premature deaths cost the Belarusian economy over five percent of its GDP every year. Belarus is one of the fastest shrinking countries due to its net population decline of 750,000 since 1990.
  8. Substance Abuse is a Rural Problem: Rural regions of Belarus, particularly those bordering Russia and Lithuania, experience many alcohol-related deaths at a disproportionate level. This is largely due to increased poverty, which fuels the widespread production of homemade alcohol. One of the first-ever studies on rural alcoholism and homemade alcohol took place in 2016, but due to its significant impact on life expectancy in Belarus, as well as its unregulated nature, the government has made the alcohol black market a legislative priority.
  9. Many Slavic Countries Have Similar Problems: Russia, Belarus’s closest ally, has higher rates of suicide, substance abuse and premature mortality than its neighbor. It has a similar gender gap in life expectancy and is also experiencing a decline in population. Belarus’ cultural, political and geographic proximity to countries like Russia, which have similar cultures of unhealthiness, strengthen may of its problems.
  10. The Government Has Made Steps: The government of Belarus has taken action recently to improve the country’s health standards. In 2018, the World Health Organization reported that the total alcohol consumption per capita had fallen to just 10 liters. In February 2019, the Belarusian president instituted new regulations on the tobacco industry in order to decrease its use, particularly around children.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Belarus show that the tradition of substance abuse impacts the country’s life expectancy gravely, which Belarus largely ignored until recent years. Belarus’ robust health care system shows that the government has an interest in public health. Until recent years, state-run and international health organizations alike had difficulty combating the country’s culture of unhealthiness. This has become a clear governmental priority as reflected in the gradual shift toward more restricted access to tobacco and alcohol.

Since 2015, more studies on alcoholism in Belarus have published than ever before, and the issues of premature death and life expectancy have become common pieces of the national dialogue. Although Belarus has not yet definitively solved the problem of premature death and substance abuse, the country is certainly on the right path to reversing its health trends.

Daniel Rothberg
Photo: Flickr

Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the CongoIn August of 2018 the Democratic Republic of Congo declared an Ebola outbreak. The first case of the virus erupted in the city of Goma, located on the border of Rwanda. As the tenth Ebola outbreak in Congo within 40 years, the virus became a public health concern for the over 1 million people that call Goma home. Goma also acts as a popular transit hub for many people crossing the border into Rwanda putting the population at a heightened risk for the disease to spread. The International Health Regulations Emergency Committee has met four times following this initial Ebola case.

  1. A Widespread Disease: Congo’s ongoing Ebola outbreak is now the world’s second-largest. According to The World Health Organization (WHO), the virus has infected 2,512 people and killed 1,676. The largest Ebola outbreak on record took place in West Africa killing more than 11,300 people. WHO continues its efforts to stop the spread of the disease in Congo with its team of medical specialists. In the worst cases, death and uncontrollable bleeding have resulted from the viral hemorrhagic fevers of the disease.
  2. A Global Issue: On July 17, 2019 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Ebola outbreak in Congo a global health emergency. Following the first case of Ebola, intensive training for the prevention and control of the virus heightened for more than six months. News of a female traveller from Beni that contracted the virus, and then visited Uganda sparked growing concern in Uganda and Congo. Between June and July of 2019 an estimated 245 confirmed cases of Ebola were reported in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces of Congo. WHO makes the continuous effort to monitor the cases of those infected, as well as travel and trade measures in relation to the virus.
  3. Dangerous Territory: The Ebola response teams in the Democratic Republic of Congo face violent attacks. David Gressley, the United Nations’ secretary-general, became the deputy of the U.N. missions in Congo and witnessed it firsthand. Gressley requested a force of peacekeepers along with the health officials to assist him amid the attacks. The violent attacks often hinder the Ebola responders from treating people with the virus, and still no one knows the reasoning or people behind the attacks. The U.N. estimates that due to the attacks about 1,200 have been shot or slashed to death with machetes. One popular theory points to Congolese politicians orchestrating the attacks in order to undermine political rivals. On the other hand, the Congolese government blames the Mai Mai militia. Rumors continue to swirl that the U.N. responders fail to treat Ebola patients, and intentionally spread the virus which makes them even more susceptible to these attacks.
  4. Catching Ebola: Common diseases such as measles and malaria share initial symptoms of Ebola. Many medical specialists in Congo believe that to put a stop to this epidemic they first must isolate the disease. Most Ebola patients receive a diagnosis too late, and go through multiple health facilities before getting treatment. Response teams understand that controlling the transmission of Ebola, and catching the disease in its early stages has the potential to save an entire community.
  5. The Ebola Vaccination: More than 111,000 people have received the Ebola vaccination. Developed by Canadian scientists, the Ebola vaccine (also known as the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine) consists of an animal virus that can wear a non-lethal Ebola virus protein, which results in the human immune system developing a pre-emotive defense to the disease. Health care professionals, and family members of Ebola patients are the majority of those vaccinated. Health care responders in Congo ensure that all the contacts of Ebola patients receive a vaccine to stop the epidemic. Reports show no deaths from individuals that developed Ebola symptoms more than 10 days after receiving the vaccination.
  6. Promoting a Disease-Free Environment: Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) promotes healthcare and community engagement in Congo. This organization sends teams to determine and assist the medical needs of populations in crisis with exclusion from healthcare. Among the Ebola outbreak in Congo, MSF continues to provide free healthcare for non-Ebola needs, such as malaria and urinary tract infections. First starting in the city Goma, the MSF has now shifted aid to the Ituri province to limit infections with sanitation activities, and provide access to clean water.

These six facts about the Ebola outbreak in Congo demonstrate global organization’s enthusiasm to assemble in times of crisis. Countless organizations continue to lend support to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in due time the country will be at its best with a healthy population.

– Nia Coleman
Photo: Flickr

MSF Uses Virtual Reality to Build Better HospitalsMédecins Sans Frontières (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders to the English-speaking world, is a global organization that provides professional medical care wherever poverty, war, disasters or otherwise raise a need. According to the group’s International Activity Report, 6.3 million donors funded 11.2 million outpatient consultations, 750,000 inpatients’ treatment and more than 100,000 major surgical interventions in 2018 alone. MSF consistently achieves a huge global impact. While generous donors and devoted staff are part of this success, the organization also improves its operations to ensure progress. MSF takes every opportunity to evolve and utilize resources more efficiently. Most recently, MSF uses virtual reality to build better hospitals.

Building Innovation

One such evolution began back in November 2013 when Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines. After providing several weeks of emergency support from tent hospitals, MSF determined the municipality of Guiuan needed a more permanent solution. Plans to build a transitional hospital quickly began, and four months later, the organization completed the sturdier facility for use.

Two years later, MSF found an opportunity for innovation. With the help of design firm Pyxis, MSF’s technical team built a 3D printed model of the Guiuan hospital. Designers then turned the same 3D layout into an interactive virtual landscape, which was explorable through a virtual reality (VR) headset. But why should MSF redesign plans for an already built hospital?

Benefits of Creating a 3D Printed Model

These steps were not just for novelty; they served as a proof-of-concept for an innovative approach to the construction process. Since then, MSF has used this innovative virtual reality technology to build better hospitals. The tangible nature of the 3D printed model promotes a more user-friendly design stage. Planners can clearly determine if the facility’s design suits the environment it will serve.

On a more granular level, doctors can also optimize the facility’s layout before people start laying the foundation. The most immersive VR model supports this aspect. Is the main corridor wide enough to accommodate high traffic? Are the sterile processing rooms, scrub sinks and operating rooms in a useful order, or would doctors have to retrace their steps in situations where seconds matter? These details are crucial to the efficiency of a finished hospital.

The worst crises also benefit from the new approach. For example, the World Health Organization named the current Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo a global health emergency, and the Ebola outbreaks require a quick response and reliable facilities. In this case, the best health care facility is the one that is operable first. Virtual reality expedites the construction process. Designers can create and build more nuanced plans potentially months faster than with traditional blueprints.

MSF uses virtual reality to build better hospitals by improving and expediting the construction process. VR landscapes and 3D plans are easier to visualize, edit and share amongst MSF staff around the world. Better yet, adopting VR technology now only makes it easier for designers to utilize future innovations. CAVE-CAD software, for example, is one such advancement that would allow architects to make changes to VR schematics while still inside the virtual environment. One thing is for sure; Médecins Sans Frontières continues to receive positive attention for the care it provides. As for hospitals, if MSF builds it, those who need it will come.

– Molly Power
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in the Democratic Republic of CongoMajor, violent conflict and extreme, rampant poverty have gripped the Democratic Republic of Congo, a large nation in the center of Africa. The Congolese people have faced decades of government and humanitarian failures that have greatly impacted their quality of life. These 10 facts about life expectancy in the Democratic Republic of Congo paints the circumstances the nation faces as well as the human impact of its problems.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in the Democratic Republic of Congo

  1. The Democratic Republic of Congo has a male life expectancy of 59 years of age and a female life expectancy of 62. The overall average life expectancy in the Congo in 2017 is 60 years of age. This average ranks the Congo far below the worldwide average and illustrates the dire situation in the nation.
  2. The probability of dying under five years of age is 9.1 percent. According to the World Health Organization, 91 out of 1000 births in 2017 died before reaching the age of five years old.
  3. The probability of dying between the ages of 15 and 60 is between 28.1 percent and 23.2 percent. A quarter of the population of the Congo dies before reaching 60 years old. Two hundred and thirty-two females out of 1000 die before 60 while 281 out of 1000 males die.
  4. The ongoing Congolese civil war greatly affects children. One of the most undeniable factors affecting the life expectancy of the Congolese people is the Congo Civil War. While everyone in the nation has suffered due to the conflict, the practice of child soldiers may be a reason for limited life expectancy. According to the Human Rights Watch, the Congo’s military enlisted children “between twelve and twenty years old” in its armed forces. The conditions for these child soldiers “appear to be deplorable” and leave many open to becoming “victims to epidemics.”
  5. The violence in the Congo has been widespread and devastating. The Congolese civil war and subsequent violence had been one of the worst humanitarian crises in world history until very recently. Dubbed “Africa’s World War” by observers, the war has claimed up to six million lives by both violent means and humanitarian failures. The Congolese people are still feeling the impacts of the war today as civil, governmental or health conditions are still unacceptably poor.
  6. The infant mortality rate is abnormally high. Despite the worldwide infant mortality rate decreasing dramatically due to an epic global effort, the infant mortality rate in the Democratic Republic of Congo remains a troubling sight. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 237,000 infants died in 2015. The neonatal deaths are extremely high in the Congo with 98,000 deaths in 2015.
  7. The maternal mortality rate is also much higher than the worldwide average. Childbirth remains a dangerous endeavor in the Congo with a maternal mortality rate of 693 deaths per 100,000 childbirths. The high maternal and child death rate is due, in large part, to the fact that “an estimated 70 percent of Congolese have little or no access to health care,” according to USAID. The lack of safe, quality health care for those most vulnerable in the Congo puts many mothers and children at risk.
  8. The Congo has a significant problem with many rare and preventable diseases. The overall lack of health care in the Democratic Republic of Congo has left millions vulnerable to many diseases that are not commonplace in the Western world. There were reports of malaria, leprosy and tuberculosis in 2015 with 1.6 million reports of malaria, over four thousand reports of leprosy and a tuberculosis death rate of 70 per 100,000 people.
  9. The situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is improving. Despite these 10 facts about life expectancy in the Democratic Republic of Congo, there is hope. Thanks to an increase in global attention to the Congo, the environment for the Congolese people is improving. According to USAID, the Congo government has “increased its allocation for health in the overall country budget from 3.4 percent to 8.6 percent.” In addition to USAID providing health care services at “1.793 health facilities [and] serving over 12 million people,” health in the Congo has improved as mortality under five years of age has decreased. The percentage of vaccinated children has increased and the nation has been polio-free for years.
  10. There are many nonprofits and NGOs helping to improve the Congo including the International Rescue Committee. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has been in the Congo since 1996 “providing emergency assistance and humanitarian aid to those affected by violence.” Even more than twenty years later, the IRC remains in the Congo “providing health care, shelter, water, sanitation and emergency supplies.” Organizations like the IRC have worked tirelessly to improve the Congo, and due to its hard work, it has aided 2.3 million people since it started working in the area.

The situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been quite dire. The Congolese people are in desperate need of additional support, aid and attention, but there is still hope. These 10 facts about life expectancy in the Democratic Republic of Congo should draw awareness to the Congo’s situation and possibly inspire action.

– Zachery Abunemeh
Photo: Wikipedia Commons