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Reasons for Elderly Poverty in the United Kingdom
Having worked for the past 40 to 50 years, most adults feel as though retirement will bring a new lifestyle. This includes feelings of excitement and joy as they think of ways to spend their newfound free time. However, the reality of retirement is far from this expectation in the United Kingdom. The U.K. has the worst poverty rate for the elderly population in Western Europe.

Defined as having an income of 40 percent less than the median average, a significant number of the elderly population in the U.K. faces poverty. A recent study by Professor Bernhard Ebbinghaus at the University of Oxford found that the U.K. is one of five countries that has experienced an increase in the number of people over the age of 65 that are experiencing poverty. The U.K.’s increase is by far the largest compared to other Western European countries. Mainly, there are three reasons for elderly poverty in the United Kingdom.

3 Reasons for Elderly Poverty in the United Kingdom

  1. The State Pension System: The state pension system is extremely strict as to who qualifies for the pension. In order to receive the state pension after reaching the retirement age of 65, one must have 10 qualifying years on their National Insurance record. This means that for 10 years, they must have paid their National Insurance tax while earning over £166 a week from one employer. Meanwhile, those who do not have a National Insurance record must have 35 qualifying years of employment. Because of such intense regulations, many do not qualify for the pension and end up in poverty.
  2. Low Basic Payments: The basic payment that comes with the state pension system is extremely low at £168.60. This only amounts to about 16 percent of average earnings. Because the pension is not enough to sufficiently cover one’s retired life, especially with regard to medical expenses, a portion of those who receive a pension will still find themselves living in poverty.
  3. Means-Tested Supplements: Every sixth pensioner in the United Kingdom received means-tested supplements as a way to bring themselves out of the poverty, expected from the low basic pensions. These supplements include private pensions taken out at most U.K. banks. This also includes workplace final salary pensions, the auto-enrolment scheme for employees and private pensions. Means-tested supplements are effective for some. They often provide an additional source of retirement income; however, they also result in a rise in financial inequality and exacerbate poverty. The government feels less of a need to increase the state pension because of the increase in privatization, meaning those who cannot afford private pensions remain stuck in poverty with no hope of change.

The pension age, set to rise to 66 between the years 2024 and 2026, occurred the last time the pension system changed in 2011. Since 2011, no other changes have taken place. Further, the labor government has refused to undertake any paradigmatic reform actions. This means the current problems of the pension system will likely persist in the future. Unless the government chooses to step in and make a difference, a portion of the elderly population in the U.K. will continue to suffer from poverty.

Living on a low income as an elderly person is extremely difficult. No future sources of income require budgeting every penny. Shopping lists are minimal and they save money for bills, meaning there are no luxuries. Retirement is the time to celebrate the end of work; however, for those living in the U.K., retirement is a burden in itself.

– Shvetali Thatte
Photo: Flickr

Drug Resistant Malaria
A new variation of the parasite causing malaria has captured the attention of medical professionals in South East Asia. They first noticed a strain of drug-resistant malaria in 2013 and it has spread aggressively throughout the region. Medical researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, University of Oxford and Mahidol University noticed that the new strain has replaced local malaria strains in Vietnam, Laos and northeastern Thailand. They have also seen the strain developing new mutations from when they initially identified it in 2013 and this may be enhancing resistance even further.

Resistance Through Time

In 2018, studies showed that the usual first-line drug used for malaria failed to cure the disease at an overall rate of 50 percent, 13 percent in northeastern Thailand, 38 percent in western Cambodia, 73 percent in northeast Cambodia and 47 percent in southwestern Vietnam.

The advancement of the new drug-resistant malaria might stem from the heavy usage of anti-malaria drugs in the region. Medical professionals commonly distribute the drug throughout the area, forcing the parasite to evolve or die out. Patient usage is also giving the parasite a leg up, as often people are taking a weaker dosage or do not finish the treatment but terminate usage when they begin feeling better.

Cause of Malaria

Malaria is the result of the Plasmodium parasite that transmits through a mosquito bite. The drug-resistant malaria strain is called KEL1/PLA1 because of its combination of genetic mutations. A recent study has noted that KEL1/PLA1 has diversified into a subgroup of strains that contain the genetical modifications causing resistance. These parasites are also showing resistance to several classes of anti-malarial drugs. The new adaptations are limiting treatment options and making them increasingly expensive. Currently, clinical trials have begun to test the effectiveness of a triple combination treatment for the new drug-resistant malaria.

The current front-line defense is a two-drug combination of dihydroartemisinin and piperaquine or DHA-PPQ. But a 2018 study showed the resistance to dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine spread undetected for five years in Cambodia, giving the drug time to mutate further and wipe out existing non-resistant strains. One solution is to change the partner drug, piperaquine, to a drug that is currently effective such as mefloquine or pyronaridine. Cambodia and Thailand have implemented this solution but it could be logistically challenging on a large scale.

Consequences of Infection

For now, health officials believe they will be able to manage the situation as malaria rates are lower in Southeast Asia. Officials, however, believe if the drug-resistant malaria parasite spreads to Africa, the consequence could be dire. Sub-Saharan Africa sees the most substantial numbers of malaria and faces the most significant logistical problems when attempting to treat it. In the 1960s, a similar situation occurred where a strain developed in Asia and spread to sub-Saharan Africa, where due to a lack of alternative medications, malaria-related deaths double.

People are currently using rapid test kits to help prevent and treat drug-restraint malaria. The kits can identify which parasite strain is causing malaria, allowing medical professionals to treat malaria accordingly. This tool will be increasingly important if the drug restraint parasite spreads to Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa alone accounted for 66 percent of the 276 million rapid diagnostic test sales worldwide in 2017. The test allows for professionals to best allocate supplies that are scarce in sub-Saharan Africa. As the fight against drug-resistant malaria continues, the rapid test kits are a cost-efficient way to increase their odds of eradicating the parasite.

– Carly Campbell
Photo: Flickr

Global Partnership Develops New Vaccine for TB, Malaria, HIV

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has provided a $2.9 million grant for the development of vaccines against tuberculosis, HIV, and malaria. The grant was issued to Aeras, a nonprofit biotech advancing TB vaccines for the world, the University of Oxford, and Okairos, a biopharmaceutical company specializing in T-cell vaccines. The three groups will work together to develop scalable methods to enable large-scale production of multiple novel chimpanzee adenovirus vector constructs.

The Interim CEO of Aeras, Tom Evans, said the “effort to improve optimization and scale-up under current good manufacturing practices could also potentially benefit our peers in HIV and malaria vaccine development.”

The University of Oxford is currently developing multiple vaccines, including vaccines against HIV, malaria, and TB in clinical trials in the UK and Africa. Aeras has focused primarily on tuberculosis vaccine research and development.

This construct will be Okairos’ proprietary technology platform that uses potent chimpanzee adenovirus vectors to stimulate robust T-cell and antibody responses against selected antigens.

Chimpanzee adenovirus-based vaccines have been shown to safely induce exceptionally potent cellular immunity in adults, children and infants, and are in clinical trials involving over 1,000 vaccinees in seven countries.

– Essee Oruma

Source: allAfrica
Source: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation