Bill Gates Epidemics

Bill Gates believes that the Ebola epidemic—which has killed 10,000 people around the world—might be minuscule in comparison to the impact of a future disease. If the world does not put a focus on diseases and prevention, Gates argues, the next virus that breaks out could affect even more people. “Next time we might not be so lucky,” Gates said at TED on March 15, 2015.

Gates  supported his TED speech with an opinion piece written for The New York Times and a paper written for The New England Journal of Medicine. Also supporting his argument was an African hospital simulation set up at the venue of his TED talk. Those who participated in the recreated experiment had to experience the difficulties of being a healthcare worker treating Ebola patients, including distributing “medicine” to “patients” in protective suits that proved hard to move around in.

Gates thinks that the fight against viral diseases should be like fighting a war, citing a time as a child when he considered nuclear weapons to be the biggest threat to the earth.  Now, he says, we need to “fight not missiles but microbes.”

“This should absolutely be a priority,” Gates said. “We need to get going because time is not on our side.” Gates says that the world’s governments should consider spending more money on disease prevention as an epidemic is “by far the most likely” thing that could kill more than 10 million people. It has happened before, with the 1918 Spanish flu killing 33.3 million people in just the duration of one year.

Gates has some ideas on preventing this from happening again, including “strengthening poor countries’ health systems” and “investing in disease surveillance.”

“To begin with, most poor countries, where a natural epidemic is most likely to start, have no systematic disease surveillance in place,” Gates points out in his New York Times op-ed piece. With the Ebola epidemic, he argues, “trained personnel should have flooded the affected countries within days. Instead it took months.” If the world does not learn from mistakes of the past, we could be in for a dangerous future.

Melissa Binns

Sources: Fortune,  NYT,  Recode

Photo: Panteres

It has been 15 years since Bill and Melinda Gates started the Gates Foundation, and the couple has made a big bet for the next decade-and-a-half: the lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than any other time in history.

The Gates’ annual letter was released on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, on the foundation’s blog. The Gates’ are focusing on wiping out diseases, reducing poverty, and improving education. The letter is broken down into four sub-categories of the overall “bet.”

Child Deaths Will Be Cut In Half

The leading cause of death for children under 5 is disease. Unsanitary living conditions and a lack of vaccines kill one in 20 children, and the Gates hope to see a decrease by at least 50 percent by 2030. All countries will add vaccines for pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria and measles to their individual immunization programs. Better sanitation will also contribute to the decrease in disease. In addition to providing vaccinations, the Gates Foundation plans to help mothers adopt new practices, such as proper breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact with newborns.

Africa Will Be Able to Feed Itself

Although seven out of 10 people in sub-Saharan Africa are farmers, many farms do not yield the benefits of their counterparts in the developed world. Many parts of Africa currently rely on food aid and imports from outside sources to feed their people. Innovations in farming can provide farmers with better fertilizers and a surplus in crops, allowing farmers to farm more food. As technology expands and becomes more easily available, communications with farmers in remote areas will become possible and business will increase. In the next 15 years, Africa will be able to export more than it receives in imports, creating a balanced economy.

Mobile Banking Will Transform Banking

Digital banking can give the poor easy access and control of their assets. Approximately 2.5 billion people don’t have access to cheap and easy financial services, and for many people, their savings is in the form of jewelry or livestock; it is very difficult to cover daily expenses. To be able to use a mobile phone to take care of finances makes it much easier to purchase and save money. Mobile banking is expected to expand and cover a wide range of financial services, such as interest-bearing savings accounts to credit and insurance.

Online Education

Smartphones and software will become more available to African families that can provide more access to education. In remote areas where schools are hours away or students must be of a certain age to attend, it is essential to provide education as early as possible. As more children are exposed to education earlier in life, they are set down a path that leads to success in all areas of life. Online education can be crucial in countries where gender gaps are wide and girls can’t go to school or start a business. Countries that stay behind in education will eventually be left behind.

Alaina Grote

Sources: CNN, NPR, Youtube
Photo: Computer Business Review

The World's First Hookworm Vaccine
One-third of children and women living below the World Bank’s poverty line are infected with hookworm today, which often causes moderate to severe anemia. Hookworm and other Neglected Tropical Diseases, or NTDs, disproportionately affect the poorer Islamic countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Mali, Nigeria and others in North Africa and the Middle East.

Children and pregnant women are by far the most drastically affected by this disease. Children with long-standing blood loss from hookworm often experience sufficient mental and motor development delays. They can actually lose IQ points as well. These detrimental effects undoubtedly follow them into adulthood, making productivity more difficult.

The blood loss caused by hookworm may affect women in labor, making their chance of death much higher. Additionally, the baby is more likely to be born prematurely or with low birth weight. This makes those babies less likely to survive, contributing to the child mortality rate.

Additionally, the link between hookworms and anemia is a large concern because of its relation to disabilities. Anemia accounted for 8.8 percent of the total disability of the world in 2010. Today, children under 5 years old and women of all ages still hold the heaviest burden.

Fortunately, the Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Product Development Partnership is developing the world’s first hookworm vaccine for human use. The Sabin Institute was established in 2000 with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is the only Product Development Partnership in the world working to develop a vaccine for human hookworm infections.

The institute is receiving support from the European Commission FP7 program and uniting professionals from around the world to build research. This global consortium has been coined HOOKVAC and includes members from the Netherlands, the United States, Belgium, England, Germany and Gabon. This project aims not only to perfect the manufacturing process of the vaccine, but also to increase and share research on NTDs.

The first clinical testing of the vaccine will take place in Sub-Saharan Africa once it is ready. Gabon’s Lamberene Research Centre will lead clinical testing in adults and children in Gabon, a region plagued with hookworm.

The vaccine is being called the “anti-poverty” vaccine due to its vast potential to lower child mortality rates, save mothers in labor and improve health conditions for agricultural workers, who are the backbone of many poorer economies.

The vaccine, as of now, is intended only for use in the poorest regions of the world, where hookworm thrives. This means that the product will likely not be sold commercially by pharmaceutical companies, but will remain in the nonprofit sector with HOOKVAC.

The project will hopefully conduct trials in the coming years and bring health relief to millions, while contributing to the united fight against global poverty.

– Cambria Arvizo

Sources: Huffington Post, Sabin Vaccine Institute, American Society of Hematology
Photo: The Guardian

As of May 27, 1,029,779 Syrian refugees were registered and residing in Lebanon, creating a challenging situation in an already unstable country. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO,) a United Nations entity that has been active in Lebanon since 1977, is addressing an aspect of food security in agriculture through an on-going livestock vaccination campaign that addresses the needs of Northern Lebanon’s poor and rural farmers.

Since the on-set of the Syrian crisis, the influx of refugees has put a significant strain on the agricultural sector which is working to provide food security to both local people and refugee families.

In addition to the increase in demand for food and decrease in production due to the pressure from the refugee influx, many farmers in the Bekaa Valley in Northern Lebanon have not had adequate access to veterinary services or necessary animal medicine, feed and fertilizer for their livestock.

Bekaa Valley, one of the poorest areas in Lebanon where agriculture generates around 80 percent of local gross domestic product (GDP), hosts around 60 percent of the UNHCR registered refugees. Since most of the low-income families rely heavily on livestock for food security, an outbreak in disease would not only risk the health of the livestock and people, but also their livelihood.

Due to the conflict and the 250-300 cattle and goats crossing from Syria into Lebanon each day, the FAO began a nationwide vaccination campaign targeting Transboundary Animal Diseases (TADs) such as foot & mouth disease, lumpy skin disease and ovine rinderpest. Beginning last summer and running through August 2014, it has been largely successful, reaching 70 percent of the livestock in Lebanon so far.

The program not only works to increase the number of sheep, goats and cattle vaccinated against important diseases, but also provides resources to ensure that livestock is adequately nourished and make sure farmers in communities that are hosting large refugee populations are still able to make a living.

As the on-going refugee crisis in Lebanon threatens to draw 170,000 more people into poverty by the end of 2014, it is important that investments continue to be made to promote agricultural growth, one of the most effective ways in reducing poverty. The FAO’s vaccination campaign is one step in securing the livelihoods of rural farmers in Northern Lebanon against potentially devastating livestock diseases.

– Andrea Blinkhorn

Sources: Daily Star, IRIN News, United Nations, UNHCR 1, UNHCR 2
Photo: Wallsave

shot@Life Provides Vaccinations for Impoverished Nations - BORGEN
The United Nations Foundation [email protected] aims to give everyone the shot they need to live a happy and healthy life.

The [email protected] campaign is almost exactly like it sounds. This campaign works with volunteers to provide much needed vaccinations to the extremely impoverished nations of the world through advocacy and donations.

[email protected] educates, connects and empowers the American people to support vaccines, and vaccinations are one of the most cost-effective ways to save the lives of children in developing countries.

The campaign is basically a national call to action for a worthy global cause. The foundation rallies the American public and members of Congress to help them understand the fact that together they can save a child’s life every 20 seconds just by expanding access to vaccines.

The global foundation encourages the American public to learn about, advocate for and donate to provide vaccines. [email protected] aims to noticeably decrease vaccine-preventable childhood deaths and give every child a shot at a healthy life within the next 10 years.

This campaign began in 1998 as a U.S. public charity by philanthropist Ted Turner. The [email protected] campaign was created in order to build upon the U.N. Foundation’s 13-year legacy in global vaccine efforts as a leading partner in the Measles Initiative and Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

The [email protected] campaign draws on their core abilities through advocacy, community-building and communications in order to raise awareness for their cause.

There are a few causes in which they already have seen excellent success: the campaigns Nothing But Nets and Girl Up.

The Nothing But Nets campaign is dedicated to providing insecticide treated mosquito nets to impoverished peoples in order to prevent the spread of malaria from mosquito bites.

The Girl Up campaign was started in order to provide aid to young girls in poverty-laden nations. This campaign utilizes the help of teenage leaders in order to raise awareness about how young girls are being treated around the world.

[email protected] is also partnered with some of the largest names in fundraising, nonprofits and charities. They have received partnerships from UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Lions Club, to name a few.

This U.N. Foundation is uniquely positioned with in-house expertise and leadership to successfully bring [email protected] to the awareness of an American audience.

The nonprofit also utilizes social media in participation with news companies and webpages to give a portion of its advertising revenue on each company’s behalf for each like or share an article or blog post receives.

Providing vaccinations to the world’s poor is another huge step in the process to end global poverty. Getting vaccinations mean children will not die from diseases that are preventable such as smallpox, measles, polio and tuberculosis.

More children living into adulthood could potentially slow the birthrates and stabilize the life-expectancy of the people living in African nations as well as extremely impoverished parts of India.

The [email protected] campaign is dedicated to providing peace of mind to all the nations of the world.

– Cara Morgan

Sources: CDC, GirlUp, HuffPost 1, HufFPost 2, NothingButNets, [email protected]
Photo: Children’s Futures

This year’s Oscars ceremony was a memorable one, with “selfies”, actresses falling and the energetic host, Ellen DeGeneres. It is easy to get wrapped up in the glitz and glam of the night, and one of the most expensive aspects of the 2014 Oscars was the $85,000 gift basket that the Oscar nominees received when they did not win a golden statue. Last year the gift basket was valued at $48,000 dollars.

Included in this year’s basket are quite a few high-end luxury items, including a walking tour of Japan valued at $15,000, 2 vacations: one to Las Vegas, which costs $9,000, and one to Hawaii, and a hair transplant offer for those in need, valued at $16,000.

One may question though, why do these high-paid actors and actresses need a gift basket worth thousands of dollars? Wouldn’t the money be better spent on a philanthropic cause of the actor or actress’s choice?

The money could also be incredibly beneficial by being spent on vaccinations for children in need. Here is a break down of different vaccination costs compared to the $85,000 worth of the gifts in the Oscars basket.

  • One Hepatitis B vaccination in a single dose from the supplier LG Life Sciences Limited costs 38 cents per child. If the $85,000 went towards Hepatitis B vaccinations approximately 223,683 children would be able to be vaccinated.
  • The Bivalent Human Papiloma Virus vaccine in a two-dosage vial from supplier GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals costs $4.60 per child. If the cost of the gift basket went towards that vaccination, approximately 18,477 children would be able to get vaccinated.
  • The Measles vaccine, in a single dose from supplier P.T. Bio Farma, costs 22 cents per child. 386,362 children would be able to be vaccinated if the money for the Oscars gift basket were donated for that cause.
  • An Oral Polio Vaccination costs 11 cents in a 20-vial presentation from supplier P.T. Bio Farma. By donating the money from the basket, 772,726 children would be able to receive the vaccination.

This puts into perspective the extreme amount of money that is involved in nights like the Oscars. If that money could be channeled towards helping a cause, like vaccinations, many children’s lives could be saved.

– Rebecca Felcon

Sources: CBS, Business Insider, Unite for Children, UNICEF
Photo: Liberty Voice

A recent study published by the Lancet Medical Journal is exposing some interesting finds regarding malaria prevalence in Africa. The study, aimed at examining the impact of control initiatives on vulnerable populations, is a collaboration between researchers from Oxford University, the Kenya Medical Research Institute and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The researchers analyzed data from 26,746 community-based surveys of parasite prevalence since 1980. The data gathered came from 44 African countries where the disease remains endemic.

The study has yielded a mixed bag of results. On a positive note, 40 countries have seen reduction in malaria prevalence among children between 2000 and 2010; the number of people living in high transmission areas has dropped by 16%. A number of countries, including Cape Verde, Eritrea, South Africa and Ethiopia, have experienced transmission rates low enough to indicate possible elimination of the disease.

However, despite this positive feedback, researchers say that there is cause for concern.

The study also indicated that the number of people living in areas of moderate to high-risk of infection has increased by 57%, from 178.6 million to 280.1 million. Researchers have attributed part of this increase to rapid population growth, which could be dampening malaria control efforts. Included among the countries with the highest malaria prevalence figures are Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Out of those living in areas of moderate to high-risk of infection, 87.1% live in just 10 countries. Unfortunately, three of these countries are not included in the WHO Malaria Situation Room, an initiative that provides support to the ten African countries with the highest malaria burden.

These statistics prove that despite some success, more can be done.

In recent years, international aid organizations have ramped up efforts to control malaria. For instance, in 2000, investment in worldwide malaria control stood just short of $100 million. In 2013, this investment had almost reached the $3 billion mark. With this amount of money, the world should be seeing nothing short of progress.

Commenting on the study, Dr. Abdisalan Mohamed Noor of the Kenya Medical Research Institute-Welcome Trust Research Program notes, “In a period of global economic recession, these results emphasize the need for continued support for malaria control, not only to sustain the gains that have been made, but also to accelerate the reduction in transmission intensity where it still remains high.” Professor Brian Greenwood of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine agrees, noting that the reductions in malaria transmission “have only been modest.”

Impeding progress in malaria control efforts include the growing resistance to pesticides among mosquitoes, as well as the drug resistance occurring among the population.

Future efforts need to focus on supporting the development of new methods of control, as well as expanding access to drugs, insecticides and vaccines.

– Mollie O’Brien

Sources: Medical News Today, BBC, The Verge
Photo: NPR

Rotavirus is a virus that inflames the stomach and intestines. Its main side effects are diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. In children, it can lead to severe dehydration, and if left untreated, death. Before a vaccine was regularly administered to children starting in 2006, rotavirus was the cause of many hospital and emergency room visits.

Globally, rotavirus is responsible for about half a million deaths in children under the age of five. In areas without good sanitation, healthcare, and health education, the spread of such diseases and the lack of treatment are likely the reason the virus is still claiming so many young lives.

In India, rotavirus claims 100,000 lives every year. India’s Department of Biotechnology and the company Bharat Biotech have developed a new vaccine called RotaVac that effectively prevents the diarrhea, one of the strongest symptoms of rotavirus. If administered to children all over India, especially to those from low-to no-income families, it would prevent a viral infection that would otherwise have devastating results.

The group of researchers who developed the vaccine consisted of scientists from all over the world. Phase III of the clinical trial took place in three different locations in India. Not only did it prove effective, but Bharat Biotech has priced the vaccine at $1 USD, which is relatively affordable.

Along with the usual vaccines, it would be administered at 6, 10, and 14 weeks of age. Awareness and taking preventive steps are two very effective ways to combat diseases such as this, especially in areas with lackluster healthcare.

– Aalekhya Malladi

Sources: Defeat DD, CDV
Photo: GAVI Alliance

The British Aid office has announced that it will step up their current efforts to vaccinate more children against polio in developing countries. The office has promised to vaccinate up to 360 million children against polio in the next six years.

The British Aid office will work to eradicate polio in the three countries where it still remains prevalent: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria. International Development Secretary Justine Greening was adamant that the UK would not stand on the sidelines while easily prevented diseases, including polio, still exist. She believes that our generation has the ability and responsibility to make polio a thing of the past.

The UK announcement came in the weeks leading up to the Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi.  The Summit was attended by the UK’s International Development Minister Alan Duncan, who pledged the UK’s support of 300 million pounds over six years. The conference highlighted the importance of routine immunization in achieving global child health and development goals. British Aid is attempting to make a final push in this opportunity to eliminate the disease. They would like to see additional donors join them in their fight to form a healthier population to lead to increased economic development.

The British announcement was followed by another from Bill Gates, the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who committed six years of support from his organization to the implementation of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s plan to achieve a polio-free world by 2018. The U.K has already helped over 200 million children receive vaccinations since 2009. They believe, however, that there is more work to be done and that polio vaccinations must be included in health programs and routine immunizations in order to improve the general health of developing nations.

-Caitlin Zusy 
Photo: Guardian

Uniject is a revolutionary new injection method. The idea behind Uniject is that it would be so simple to use, that even untrained health workers would be able to safely and effectively give injections. This idea would allow for prepackaged, low-cost syringes. Not only would Uniject provide a safer and more cost efficient method of administering vaccines, it would also cut down drastically on the amount of wasted vaccines. The new syringes would not be able to be reused, also eliminating the chance of HIV transmission.

Uniject is an autodisable injection system created by PATH in Seattle. It is essentially a small bubble of plastic connected to a needle that contains whatever vaccine is desired. Health workers would be able to learn how to use this within two hours of training. The plastic bubble contains exactly one injection of vaccine, ensuring the correct dosage every single time.

PATH developed Uniject through funding from the US Agency for International Development. The idea has since been licensed to BD, which is the largest producer of syringes in the world. As part of this agreement, the technology must be given to pharmaceutical producers at preferential pricing for use in developing country programs. The development of Uniject has taken twenty years.

While Uniject was developed with the idea of providing low-cost effective syringes for use of vaccinations in developing countries, it also has the potential to help reduce poverty in other ways. Uniject could, down the road, also be used for other life saving drugs, as well as a potential contraception delivery method. The use of Uniject to deliver contraception could have an immense effect on the developing world and provide an extraordinarily important outlet for female empowerment and family planning in the developing world.

-Caitlin Zusy