Universal VaccinationPandemics can happen at any time — a fact that the world has become painfully aware of in the last few years. COVID-19 taught modern people the devastating effects of emerging infectious diseases or EIDs, and as a result, more discussions about vaccination have opened up. Vaccines can save lives, but for the global poor, access to this resource is less than ideal. Universal vaccination would transform the health and livelihoods of impoverished people around the world, allowing them to live healthily in the face of many devastating diseases. 

Sickness and Poverty

Around the world, illness wreaks havoc on impoverished people. Poor health is rooted in political, social and economic injustices — making poverty both a cause and effect of poor health. The poorer one is, the more likely they are to fall ill. If someone is ill, the more likely they are to deal with unrealistic financial burdens, trapping them in poverty. 

There are a few diseases in particular that disproportionately affect low-income populations, called poverty-related diseases, or PRDs. Two out of three deaths among children in Africa and Southeast Asia are due to just six diseases: tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/AIDS, measles, pneumonia and diarrheal disease. Combined with childbirth complications, these diseases kill 14 million people annually. The three largest PRDs, AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, make up 18% of all diseases in poor countries. Yet, approximately 30% of the global population, and 50% of the poorest parts of Africa and Asia, do not have regular access to necessary medicine. This statistic staggers even higher for marginalized groups and vulnerable individuals, who are often deprived of information, money or access to health care that would help them treat each disease. Essentially, although the poorest parts of the world are most impacted by illness, they have the least access to necessary care. 

Vaccine Access for the Global Poor

Vaccines are a treatment for many PRDs, though they too are difficult for the global poor to access. Taking the COVID-19 vaccines as an example, as of October 2022, only 25% of the population living in low-income countries have received at least one dose of a vaccine. Meanwhile, high-income countries enjoy a rate of 72%.

Similarly, cholera vaccines are internationally available but seldom used in public health settings in developing countries where they are vitally needed. The HPV vaccine shares similar statistics, as it has been introduced in only 41% of low-income countries but 83% of high-income countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), vaccines for diseases associated with “markets that are deemed to have little commercial value remain neglected.” According to the WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “The right to health includes the right to vaccines, and yet this new report shows that free market dynamics are depriving some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people of that right.”

There have been efforts to share vaccines with the global poor that show just how beneficial access can be. Since 2019, Malawi, Ghana and Kenya have participated in the Malaria Vaccine Implementation Programme (MVIP), coordinated by the WHO and funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and Unitaid to deliver the malaria vaccine in their respective countries. The vaccine has been administered to more than 1.7 million children, leading to a substantial reduction in severe malaria and a decrease in child deaths. 

Universal Vaccination

Universal vaccination would change the world — access to preventative care against PRDs would allow low-income communities to transform their livelihoods, no longer nearly as consistently devastated by death and disease. Vaccinating the world helps prevent new emerging variants, support health systems and save countries from lasting economic damage. In fact, if low-income countries had the same vaccination rate against COVID-19 as high-income countries in September last year (around 54%) they would have increased their GDP by $16.27 billion. Again, COVID-19 acts as an example of what universal vaccination against all PRDs and EIDs could do. Beyond good health, fair access to vaccines allows a chance for development in many areas.

– Char Nieberding
Photo: Unsplash

Technological InnovationsCurrently, diseases such as HIV, malaria, meningitis and tuberculosis are among the top causes of death in Africa. In the U.S., these diseases are not within the leading 15 causes of death. Therefore, it is crucial to develop technological innovations to improve Africa’s ability to test and treat diseases to allow for safe, sustainable and prosperous economic growth to occur.

The prevention and treatment of deadly diseases provide a long list of benefits to countries and their citizens. For example, research has found that the decrease in child death slows population growth and reduces the average family size. This reduction in family size allows parents to spend their resources on their community or their family rather than on medical supplies or more family members.

Malaria Disease Tracing

CEO Dr. Eddy Agbo and his team at Fyodor Biotechnologies developed the Urine Test for Malaria (UMT). UMT was the first malaria test not to require blood. Therefore, a specialist is not needed to administer a blood test, process the blood, or dispose of emergency equipment. Patients can conduct the test themselves and receive results in less than half an hour.

UMT’s convenience has revolutionized the ability to test and trace malaria accurately. Since the introduction of UMT, regions in Africa have experienced dramatic decreases in malaria death rates. Before the UMT, it was also common for specialists in Africa to associate fevers with malaria. This association would lead to a large number of falsely diagnosed patients and, therefore, improper medical treatments. These incorrect treatments lead to other illnesses and more death.

Fyodor Biotechnologies focuses primarily on developing new technologies to solve global issues. The company will continue designing and manufacturing technological innovations to improve Africa’s ability to test and treat diseases.

HIV Testing

The convenience of self-testing reveals to improve disease tracing, disease prevention, appropriate medical treatments and reduce the amount of death. Members of Unitaid recognize the benefits of self-testing and have established the Self Testing Africa initiative (STAR).

The STAR initiative collects data regarding how to distribute HIV self-testing kits to various populations effectively. Over 80 countries have adopted HIV self-testing policies since the establishment of the enterprise. The World Health Organization believes that the STAR initiative contributed immensely to providing more opportunities for individuals to trace, treat and prevent the spread of HIV.

Plant-Based Malaria Medication

Dr. Valentin Agon developed an anti-malaria medication that virtually eliminates the disease found in the patient’s blood. The name of the drug is Api-Palu. Api-Palu originates from a plant extract and is considerably less expensive than other malaria medications. People hail this drug due its harmless effects on the human body. As a result, it is trendy in several markets. Dr. Agon hopes to have the drug available to every country in Africa. In 2016, Dr. Valentin Agon won 100,000 U.S. dollars for his creation. Dr. Agon plans to use this money to further aid in the fight against malaria.

Throughout the world, organizations aim to develop technological innovations to improve Africa’s ability to test and treat diseases. As companies push to provide large-scale availability for disease testing, disease treatment and prevention, it is vital to continue to raise awareness for this cause. Eliminating deadly diseases has a profound impact on poverty, education, population and economic growth.

John Brinkman
Photo: Flickr

Water Services to the Poor
Water services to the poor are severely lacking around the globe. The World Health Organization estimates that 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services. Moreover, more than twice as many people lack safe sanitation. Consequently, 361,000 children less than the age of five die from diarrhea, every year. Of the people who do not have safely managed water, 844 million do not even have basic drinking water services. These conditions compel 263 million people to collect water from sources far from home — a process that takes over 30 minutes per trip. A further 159 million people still drink untreated water from surface water sources, such as streams or lakes.

At the current pace, the world will fall short of meeting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (U.N. SDG) of universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030. Accelerating efforts to meet this goal will cost as much as $166 billion per year for capital expenditures alone. It seems that to achieve this U.N. SDG, something must change and soon.

A New Funding Approach

Private finance could play an important role in expanding access to improved, reliable water services to the poor. However, most providers that serve the poor are not privately financeable in their present state and will continue to require subsidies. Hence, development assistance and philanthropic funds are of utmost importance to protect the global poor.

A global funding model, known as a conceptual Global Water Access Fund (GWAF), has been established in other sectors to raise additional funds for targeted interventions. It pools resources in a way that provides incentives for access and utility performance for poor households.

This method is tried and tested. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, received $15 billion in pledges and yielded a net increase in funding. Unitaid, an organization that accelerates access to high-quality drugs and diagnostics in developing countries, generated more than $1 billion through a levy on airline tickets.

Investments in the poor are often perceived as having low or even negative returns. Therefore, pro-poor utilities face challenges entering financial markets. This also explains why profitable utilities are hesitant to expand their services to the global poor. GWAF changes this by bridging the funding gap and placing pro-poor utilities in stronger positions to attract capital for further service investments.

Making Individual Change

Though funding seems like a larger issue, there are ways for individuals to support clean water for all. Many nonprofits focus on bringing clean water services to the poor. Here are three organizations that are dedicated to the proliferation of clean water services to the world’s poor.

3 Nonprofits Tackling Global Water Services for the Poor

  1. Pure Water for the World works in Central American and Caribbean communities. The organization aims to provide children and families with the tools and education to develop sustainable water, hygiene and sanitation solutions. They directly connect fundraising dollars with impact, which immediately helps potential supporters see how their donation or peer-to-peer fundraising campaign will make a difference for the people they serve.
  2. Blood:Water is another nonprofit that works to bring clean water and HIV/AIDS support to over 1 million people. They partner with African grassroots organizations to make a change in 11 countries. Blood:Water works to provide technical, financial and organizational support to grassroots organizations. In this vein, they aim to help strengthen their effectiveness in their areas of operation.
  3. Drop in the Bucket’s mission is another organization that works towards water sanitation. They build wells and sanitation systems at schools throughout sub-Saharan Africa, enabling youth to fully harness the life-changing power of education. They teach the importance of clean water, hands and living spaces. Furthermore, the organization encourages girls to go to school, instead of spending hours fetching water.

Remaining on Track

Although sustainable development goals seem a difficult achievement to reach, innovative techniques such as GWAF and individual efforts through donations take steps in the right direction in ensuring water services to the poor. With nonprofit organizations such as the aforementioned as well as assistance from international organizations and governments like, there is still hope in reaching the U.N. SDGs.

Elizabeth Qiao
Photo: Pixabay

HIV Drug Implemented in Kenya
In 2017, there were approximately 36.9 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. Additionally, 6.1 million of those with HIV were located in western and central Africa. Kenya, a country in eastern Africa, had approximately 1.5 million people living with HIV/AIDs in 2017. That same year, an HIV drug implemented in Kenya started to successfully combat this deadly immune system virus. Unitaid and the Kenyan government simultaneously introduced it to the country.

Dolutegravir and Antiretroviral Therapy

The new HIV/AIDS drug, Dolutegravir or DTG, received approval in 2014 and is the most recent and effective antiretroviral drug used in the treatment against HIV/AIDs. DTG has been the drug of choice in high-income countries for its antiresistance properties, few side effects and easy one pill a day treatment. In 2015, the World Health Organization recommended this drug replace other first-line regimens for adults and adolescents. Recently this drug was not available in low-income countries, like Kenya, because of its high cost.

In 2018, only 62 percent of people with HIV/AIDs had access to antiretroviral therapy, which was an increase from the previous year. This corresponds to the 23.3 million people who were able to receive treatment, however, approximately 14.6 million people could not access treatment. In Kenya, 75 percent of adults with HIV/AIDs received treatment in 2018, which increased from 2016, when only 64 percent of people received treatment. One reason for the increase in HIV/AIDs testing is the partnerships between the government of Kenya and Unitaid that began in 2017 which introduced the generic brand of DTG.

Now, the generic brand of this life-saving drug has been available to people in Kenya since early 2018. This new HIV drug implemented in Kenya has the potential to make life-saving drugs more accessible to those who would normally not be able to afford it. In 2017, a number of nonprofits including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Unitaid, USAID, PEPFAR and others agreed to a pricing agreement to help make the drug more affordable in developing countries. This pricing agreement would allow public sector purchases at $75 per person, per year.

Side Effects of Other Drugs

Before the introduction of DTG, the first-line drug in Kenya was Efavirenz, an antiretroviral medication with side effects for some users including nausea, dizziness, rash and headaches. When the pricing agreement first emerged, the Kenyan Ministry of Health decided that the first round of DTG it distributed would go to 27,000 people who suffered the negative side effects from efavirenz. Then, the Ministry of Health assigned various other health clinics to receive the drug until it could become available to the entire country.

The number of new HIV/AIDs diagnoses in Kenya has halved over the last decade to approximately 80,000 people a year. The new HIV drug implemented in Kenya will only help decrease the number of people suffering from HIV/AIDs. Comprehensive sex education, HIV/AIDs testing centers and the continuation of drug pricing agreements will help alleviate the prevalence of HIV in developing countries, like Kenya.

Hayley Jellison
Photo: Flickr

Malaria in South AsiaEvery two minutes a child dies of Malaria worldwide. This potentially fatal disease has resurged in many countries in South Asia and surrounding Australia. A big attributor to this is the fact that infected mosquitos are developing resistance to the insecticides that are typically used in bed nets.

Papua New Guinea, for example, experienced a 400 percent surge in malaria cases between 2010 and 2016 and had 3,000 deaths due to the disease in 2016 alone. Additionally, the disease is more commonly drug-resistant than it used to be, which is leading to an increase in fatality levels.

Obstacles To Eradicating Malaria

Contributing to the spread of the disease is the lack of necessary funding to properly eradicate it. WHO needs between $6-9 billion to fight malaria, but there is currently only around $2.5 billion is being allocated. WHO had a goal to eliminate malaria by 2030, but due to its resurgence and the lack of funding, the likelihood of that being achieved is not high.

Malaria is known as a “disease of poverty.” Its prevalence in certain regions is indicative of the poverty rates in that area. Communities living in poverty are significantly less likely to have access to bed nets and insecticides among other tools to fight malaria. Lack of education also contributes to the lack of knowledge of how to prevent and treat malaria and, consequently, causes a rise in fatalities.

The disease often returns after a period of success in mitigating it. After malaria in South Asia has been successfully fought off, healthcare groups will focus on other diseases and stop actively maintaining the fight against malaria. This dynamic allows for a resurgence of the disease and perpetuates a cycle of malaria spreading.

Organizations Fighting Malaria

Luckily, there are developing solutions on the market. A new drug called Tafenoquine is giving hope to leading malaria experts. The treatment is taken over the course of two days, which is an advantage compared to the previously used treatment, Primaquine, which is taken over twelve days. The shorter treatment time increases the likelihood that those infected will comply and finish treatment.

There are also organizations that are putting their efforts towards eradicating the resurgence of malaria in South Asia. Unitaid has been putting money behind the development of simpler and easier treatments. The group has been collecting data in South Asia to better inform their efforts in addition to surveying in malaria-ridden sub-Saharan Africa.

Working alongside Unitaid is The Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance Secretariat (APLMA). This group focuses not only on increasing innovation in malaria treatments but on providing access to treatments in at-risk communities. Many low-income regions are hard to reach, so APLMA has been looking for new and faster ways to get to these areas.

The efforts to reach at-risk communities are just as important as the work in developing new treatments. All the innovative treatments in the world could be discovered, but they would not matter if the people infected could not access them.

Thanks to Unitaid and APLMA’s projects, the outlook for malaria in South Asia is looking up. Technological advancements and expedited transportation are expected to assist in eliminating the disease.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr

Poverty ReductionA global health organization is utilizing innovative financing to generate funding for international development. The organization, called UNITAID, is revolutionizing international development through charitable giving. Funds are currently being generated from a small surcharge added to the cost of flying out of France.

UNITAID is an organization that was originally conceived by French President Jacque Chirac and Brazilian President Lula. It is a World Health Organization global health initiative. Less than a decade ago, an airline levy was implemented through UNITAID, which adds between one and four euro to the cost of plane tickets.

Along with France, eleven other countries have adopted the new practice. In the short amount of time that the surcharge has been enacted, the levy has raised more than $2 billion. Over the course of only eight years, $2.5 billion has been raised, which is being used to improve international development in low-income countries.

More specifically, the money raised has improved access to treatments and diagnostics for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in less developed countries. For travelers, the small added cost is painless and relatively unnoticeable. The chairman of UNITAID, however, stresses the levy’s importance in the grand scheme of things.

Phillipe Douste-Blazy, the undersecretary-general of the United Nations, chairman of UNITAID, and mastermind behind the ticket surcharge program has stated, “With one euro, you can save children from malaria.” By breaking down the program’s significance into layman’s terms like this, he has painted the bigger picture for us.

The program’s ability to raise such a significant amount of funding in so little time has inspired Douste-Blazy to envision more potential fundraising solutions for other global crises. Namely, the funds could potentially be used to tackle the current migration crisis.

Douste-Blazy knows that disease and lack of health care options are two major factors that force migrants to seek refuge across international borders. An expansion of the current levy could bring dramatic improvements in the standards of living in migrants’ home countries.

A report released recently by the U.N.’s refugee agency revealed that most people fleeing to Europe by sea are attempting to escape conditions like war, persecution and other dangerous conflicts. Europe’s current response to deploying police and soldiers to intercept the migrants isn’t sustainable or cost-effective.

The biggest challenge of international development and poverty reduction strategies is funding. With countries facing significant debt and Greece – the number one recipient of overseas refugees – facing bankruptcy, money can no longer be appropriately allocated in traditional ways.

Douste-Blazy calls his proposed solution “painless solidarity contribution.” The process of taking small additional amounts of money out of existing financial transactions could bring money to the developing world that will not be missed anywhere else.

For the post-2015 agenda, UNITAID’s program offers an important lesson. Douste-Blazy explains, “As the needs are increasing, the money is decreasing, so we need to do something innovative.” Public engagement around the issue of poverty and international development is absolutely essential and can bring unprecedented results.

Sarah Bernard

Sources: Huffington Post, Foreign Policy
Photo: Wikipedia

Finding ways to fund global health programs can be tricky. Private sources of funding are difficult to secure, and raising taxes or increasing national budgets is sometimes politically untenable. That’s why UNITAID, a broadly supported organization that emphasizes innovative financing, is starting to gain some traction.

In early 2005, several countries including France, Germany, Brazil, Chile and Spain commissioned studies to develop efficient ways to fund the global health benchmarks set forth in the Millennium Development Goals. In September of that year, during a U.N. conference on that same topic in France, then-president Jacques Chirac declared a levy on French airline ticket sales that would finance a drug-purchasing program.

Shortly thereafter, UNITAID was founded by France, Norway, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Chile. This organization’s focus is the effective treatment of HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis via innovative financing methods. But what is innovative financing? In this context, innovative financing is essentially any low-impact, targeted tax which is aimed at funding global health programs.

The aforementioned airline ticket levy was the earliest example of such a tax. The levy is designed to be a robust, stable public funding source that doesn’t affect business. And indeed, the levy has been a great success in France. The modest €1 per ticket levy manages to raise about €160 million in revenue per year and did not experience much fluctuation after the global financial crisis in 2008. And a report by the French National Assembly in 2011 found that the levy had “no negative effect on traffic or on air sector jobs.”

Not all of the 29 states who support UNITAID have implemented an airline ticket levy (thus far only Chile, Madagascar, Mauritius, Niger and South Korea have implemented these measures). However, other measures have been proposed or implemented which achieve the same effect. For example, Norway sets aside a portion of its taxes on carbon to UNITAID.

Another innovation developed by France in 2012 is the financial transaction tax, or FTT. The FTT is a negligible fee attached to any sale of a financial instrument such as a bond or stock. The tax is designed to have no effect on the volume of financial exchanges, yet is capable of raising huge amounts of revenue in countries who sustain many financial transactions. In fact, the idea of an FTT is not a new one; famous 20th century economist John Maynard Keynes was a proponent of implementing FTTs to discourage financial speculation. Many countries already have FTTs for this reason. UNITAID simply proposes that revenue from FTTs be applied towards financing global health initiatives.

In September 2014, UNITAID developed another financing method: the taxation of extractive resources such as oil. The Republic of Congo agreed to a tax on oil, and UNITAID hopes that other African nations will follow suit. The revenue from these taxes will be set aside to reduce malnutrition, which is a leading cause of death among children.

While finding innovative sources of funding is UNITAID’s primary role, the organization also seeks market solutions towards the more effective distribution of medicines for tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria. They accomplish this by channeling funds towards identifying and promoting improved health commodities, expanding the market potential for low-profit medicines and making their distribution more efficient and inexpensive. The idea is that medicines and medical tests need to be less expensive and easier to distribute so they can reach a greater number of people.

There are no silver bullets when it comes to financing global health. Funding needs to come from a variety of consistent sources, and it needs to be dispersed efficiently. National spending on foreign aid continues to have the greatest funding potential; the $2.5 billion raised by the airline ticket levy in 8 years just doesn’t measure up to the $30 billion that the United States spends on foreign aid every year. Even so, every bit of funding matters, and to solve global health issues, it’s going to require every innovative solution available.

Derek Marion

Sources: Huffington Post, UNITAID, World Bank, OECD
Photo: Comunica Extend

In an interview with the Inter Press Service News Agency, UNITAID chair Philippe Douste-Blazy stressed the importance of “innovative financing” in closing the global poverty gap.

Mr. Blazy, who is also the UN Under-Secretary General in charge of Innovative Financing for Development, made these remarks leading up to the Third International Conference for Financing and Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which concluded on July 16. The conference, which included “heads of state and government, and ministers of Finance, Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation, as well as all relevant institutional stakeholders, non-governmental organizations and business sector entities,” focused on financing solutions in the fight against global poverty.

Issues addressed at the conference included funding sustainable energy for the world’s poor, ways to finance gender equality programs and funding access to water. These are issues that are traditionally focused on, but focusing on them from the perspective of financing allows for sustainable and long-term solutions.

These solutions are imperative to closing the poverty gap. Instead of leaving innovative ideas that remain unfunded and, ultimately, unfulfilled, they provide solutions with a plan.

The initiatives proposed at the conference are ambitious. They include a plan from the Netherlands to provide 30 million people with water and 50 million with sanitary facilities, an effort by nonprofit Solar Sister to fight energy poverty and empower African women, and a commitment by Germany to “lift 500 million people in developing countries out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030.”

Though these goals are lofty, they are imperative in addressing the issue of global poverty in the future. And addressing that issue is imperative in ensuring a safer and more secure world, according to Mr. Blazy, who warned that “if we don’t close the poverty gap, the 21st century will end in extreme violence.” With the stakes higher than they’ve ever been, the financial solutions chosen today will clearly be important tomorrow.

Andrew Michaels

Sources: Financing for Development Conference 1, Financing for Development Conference 2, Financing for Development Conference 3, Solar Sister, IPS News, IISD Reporting Services
Photo: IPS News