Posts

Health care in YemenYemen is currently in the midst of a violent civil war. The war has had a destabilizing effect on Yemen’s health care system. The Yemeni people face high rates of malnutrition, a cholera epidemic and a lack of access to necessary medical resources. This article provides 10 facts about health care in Yemen, the war’s effect on health care and the role of foreign aid in addressing the country’s health problems.

10 Facts About Health Care in Yemen

  1. Because medical facilities in Yemen lack access to necessary resources like clean water, diseases that are treatable elsewhere become deadly. Approximately 80 percent of Yemeni people are malnourished, forced to drink unclean water and cannot afford health care, making them more susceptible to diphtheria, cholera and other diseases. The current civil war has also been greatly destructive to infrastructure and health care in Yemen.
  2. Bombing frequently damages hospitals in Yemen and it is difficult for hospitals to maintain electricity and running water in the midst of airstrikes. Continuous fighting leaves little time to address structural damage and meet the needs of the Yemeni people. Families are often required to bring the sick and injured to hospitals without the aid of ambulances. All but one of Yemen’s 22 provinces are affected by fighting.
  3. Within less than a year of fighting in Yemen, airstrikes hit 39 hospitals. Troops from both sides of the conflict blocked outside access to the country, preventing the flow of medicine needed to treat diseases, such as cholera. This puts the Yemeni people, especially children, at risk; 144 children die from treatable diseases daily and more than 1 million children are starving or malnourished.
  4. Yemen’s rural populations lack easy access to hospitals and medical care. Rural facilities, such as those in the northern mountains, cannot provide adequate food to patients. The lack of food in many hospitals prevents successful treatment of malnourishment.
  5. The cholera epidemic began in Yemen in 2016, a year after the beginning of the civil war. By 2017, the disease spread rapidly. In 2019, cholera is still a serious problem in the country. It caused 2,500 deaths in Yemen within the first five months of 2019.
  6. Nearly one million cases of cholera were reported by the end of 2017. Yemen’s cholera outbreak is more severe than any other outbreak of the disease since 1949. Poor water filtration and sanitation triggered the outbreak’s severity.
  7. Around 80 percent of Yemen’s population, including 12 million children, require aid. During the first half of 2019, cases of cholera in children rose dramatically. 109,000 cases of cholera in children were reported between January and March of 2019. Nearly 35 percent of these cases were found in children below the age of 5.
  8. Between 2015 and 2018, Doctors Without Borders provided aid to 973,000 emergency room patients in Yemen. Volunteers for Doctors Without Borders treated about 92,000 patients injured by violence related to the war, treated 114,646 cases of cholera and treated 14,370 cases of malnutrition. Doctors Without Borders provides vital support to the health care system in Yemen.
  9. USAID cooperates with UNICEF and WHO to provide health care aid to Yemen, with a special emphasis on the health of mothers, infants and children. In 2017, USAID trained 360 health care workers at 180 facilities to treat child health problems. The facilities also received necessary resources from USAID. They also work with the U.N. Development Program to improve working conditions throughout Yemen, including the health care sector.
  10. During the 2018-19 fiscal year, USAID provided $720,854,296 in aid to Yemen. This aid funded a variety of projects, such as repaired water stations to ensure improved access to clean water. The U.S. also funds WASH, a program intended to improve access to water, sanitation and hygiene. The ultimate goal of WASH is to improve health care in Yemen, especially for the rural poor.

Yemen’s health care system is in dire need of aid. The country’s government, overwhelmed by war, cannot serve the medical needs of its people, especially in light of the ongoing cholera epidemic. The efforts of USAID and other relief organizations can provide the support that Yemen’s health care system needs at this time.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Morocco
Morocco is a country in North Africa that borders the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the Mediterranean in the north. Its location makes it a strong competitor in international trade and business. Forbes has classified Morocco as an emerging country with financial, educational and political potential. In 2015, the Government of Morocco and the World Health Organization (WHO) teamed up to improve the public health situation in the country, focusing on five regional priorities: health security and control of communicable diseases, mental health and violence, nutrition, strengthening health systems and responsiveness to health crises. Here are the 10 facts about life expectancy in Morocco.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Morocco

  1. Life expectancy at birth in Morocco has increased by over 35 years since 1950. A recent report found that Moroccans should reach a 77-year life expectancy compared with the 42 years of average life expectancy in 1950. The Ministry of Family Solidarity, Equality and Social Development carried out this study in partnership with the National Observatory for Human Development.
  2. The same study found that the life expectancy of Moroccan women was age 60, which was 21 years longer instead of just 17 years longer as recorded in 1980. There was a similar increase with Moroccan men at age 60, who now should live 19 years longer instead of 17 years longer in 1980.
  3. The 2014 Moroccan census showed that nearly 3.2 million Moroccans are over 60 years old, while in 1960, less than one million Moroccans lived to be 60 years old. The aforementioned study predicts that by the year 2030, the number of people who live to be 60 and above will double to almost six million Moroccans, which is 20 percent of the population.
  4. Morocco is currently going through a demographic transition. The population is increasing but at a declining rate, as the overall life expectancy from birth continues to increase but women are having fewer children. Morocco is following development trends; the more it develops, the more the rate of its population goes down. When Morocco reaches the status of a developed country, its population will decline like countries across Europe and the United States of America.
  5. Overall infant, child and maternal mortality rates have decreased as there is more emphasis on expanding access to vaccinations, adequate nutrition, hygiene and better primary health care. Various international organizations and nonprofits, such as the WHO and CARE have managed to improve the overall health care situation in Morocco. All of these contribute to the decrease in mortality rates and the increase in life expectancy.
  6. Morocco has a shrinking population of children which reflects the decline in the total fertility rate from five in the mid-1980s to 2.2 in 2010. Total fertility rate (TFR) relates to the total number of children born or likely to be born to a woman in her lifetime, assuming she is subject to the age-specific fertility rate of her society’s population.
  7. Aging is the main trend in demographic shifts. The joint report found that by 2050, Morocco will have approximately 10 million senior citizens. This again points towards increased life expectancy and Morocco’s increasing overall development.
  8. The joint report also indicated that poverty in urban areas decreased from 4.9 percent to 0.7 percent and in the countryside from 14 percent to 4.5 percent in the span of almost a decade. This decrease in poverty, as well as the tendency of elderly to live in urban areas with increased access to health care, are all contributing factors to the increased life expectancy of elderly, as well as the general population.
  9. The study found that proper medical care and social care for the elderly is lacking, despite the increasing senior population in Morocco. Currently, there is not enough investment in welfare programs or senior living facilities and arrangements. This makes it more difficult for seniors to participate in Moroccan society by posing challenges to their own mobilization and physical health.
  10. The Ministry of Family, Solidarity, Equality and Social Development stress that research on life expectancy help the government to assess and develop adequate social welfare and health care programs. The increase in elderly people in the population implies the government should be investing in senior accommodations such as senior living homes.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Morocco should help the country adequately serve its people through health care and social programs. With this knowledge, the country can prepare to provide care and housing for an older population.

– Laura Phillips-Alvarez
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health In Ukraine

Since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine has faced many troubles. As of early 2014, Ukraine has been in nearly continual conflict with Russia and Eastern Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatists. Ukraine is also home to almost 45 million people. In July 2018, over 1.5 million people were internally displaced, meaning that they had to leave their homes as a result of the fighting. Mental health in Ukraine is affected by the enduring strife in their country.

Issues Impacting Mental Health in Ukraine

Many of those living in Ukraine deal with problems like anxiety and depression, that negatively influence their mental health. These conditions are exacerbated by turmoil. Citizens of Ukraine have dealt with the consequences and brutalities of war, including casualties of friends and family members. Some have had to leave behind the places they call home.

In addition, physical threats are also often an issue. Those living in war zones or even partial cease-fire zones, such as the line of contact through Donetsk and Luhansk, are in constant danger. Roughly 3,300 civilians were killed from 2014 to 2018.

Mental health care is also taboo in Ukraine. During the Soviet era, mental health issues were used as an excuse to imprison in asylums those with differing political beliefs from those in power. The ramifications of this injustice persist today, with many skeptical of psychiatry.

This taboo worsens the effects of anxiety and depression. One survey of 1,000 internally displaced individuals found that 20 percent of those internally displaced suffer from moderately severe to severe anxiety. Also, 25 percent suffered from moderately severe to severe depression. These numbers are significantly higher than the percentage of people suffering from anxiety or depression in the United Kingdom.

The stigma surrounding mental health deters some from voicing their struggles. The matter is further complicated as people who prefer to speak with Church leaders are now unable to do so because many leaders have also fled out of necessity. Those living in separatist territories are denied access to a psychological help hotline. Also, up to 77 percent of the internally displaced are completely deprived of any and all forms of professional help.

Organizations Working to Improve Mental Health in Ukraine

UNICEF has a mobile outreach program that aims to provide psychosocial support to the people of Ukraine. These individual and group activities are designed to focus on relieving anxiety and fear, issues that are abundant in the turbulent areas. UNICEF’s efforts are near the line of contact and provide help for children and their caregivers; 1,792 people were helped by these efforts during January 2019.

Also, UNICEF established the aforementioned hotline for both legal and psychological relief. In 2017, over 43,000 calls were made to the hotline. This outlet for help provides much-needed support to those in need.

The WHO, in cooperation with Ukrainian health authorities, also created a mobile mental health center to provide psychological services, support and education. The program is community-based. Based on the success of the four mobile units across the conflict areas, this system may be implemented on a larger scale as a measure to reform mental health care in Ukraine.

Johns Hopkins University, along with USAID, recently completed a project that started in March 2015 in Ukraine. The design sought to improve the mental health of community members and research the effects that conflict has had on the population.

With the help of these organizations and more, hopefully, the effects of the Ukrainian struggle on mental health can be alleviated. The programs are working to find workable solutions to mental health stigmas and to provide relief for those facing issues with mental health in Ukraine.

– Carolyn Newsome
Photo: Flickr

Epilepsy Treatment in Developing CountriesAround 50 million people experience recurrent and unprovoked seizures globally. People living with this condition have many triggers for these seizures such as psychological stress, missed medication and dehydration. Half of those living with the disease also have additional physical or psychiatric conditions.

While the physical toll of epilepsy is difficult to manage, the emotional toll is equivalently burdensome. In many countries, a large stigma surrounds patients as people perceive those with the disease as insane, untreatable and contagious. As a result, epilepsy affects people’s education, marriage and employment opportunities. The exclusion of epilepsy patients from society can even lead to increased mental health issues and delay access to proper healthcare treatments.

Epilepsy is a treatable condition if people have access to anti-seizure medication. However, roughly 80 percent of all cases are found in low or middle-income countries. Three-quarters of epilepsy patients living in low-income countries do not have access to life-saving treatment. This fact has sparked a movement in global organizations to raise more awareness about the issue of epilepsy treatment in developing countries.

Three Organizations Raising Awareness about Epilepsy Globally:

World Health Organization (WHO)

Up to 70 percent of people living with epilepsy could become seizure-free with access to treatment that costs 5 dollars per person. In order to address this treatment gap, epilepsy awareness must be prioritized in many countries. The WHO suggests that by labeling epilepsy as a public health priority the stigma surrounding the disease can be reduced. The organization believes that preventing acquired forms of epilepsy and investing in better health and social care systems can truly make a difference in alleviating millions.

Since 2012, the WHO has led a program centered around reducing the epilepsy treatment gap. The projects were implemented in Ghana, Mozambique, Myanmar and Vietnam, and utilized a community-based model to bring early detection and treatment closer to patients. Over time, the program yielded some major results in each of the countries it assisted.

Within four years, coverage for epilepsy increased from 15 to 38 percent in Ghana. The treatment gap for 460,000 people living with epilepsy in Vietnam decreased by 38 percent in certain regions. In Myanmar, over 2,000 health care providers were trained to diagnose and treat epilepsy, and around 5,000 community stigma awareness sessions were held. Continued efforts like the ones found in these countries can help spread treatment to regions of the world that need it most.

 

International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE)

The ILAE is another organization raising awareness around epilepsy treatment. The organization consists of health care professionals and scientists who help fund global research for treatment and potential cures to epilepsy. The major goals of the League are to spread knowledge about epilepsy, promote research, and improve services for patients globally.

With six different regions, the ILAE finds various ways to reach its goals of promoting epilepsy awareness, research and access to care globally. For example, the African region will conduct the 4th African Epilepsy Congress in Uganda to share new developments in epilepsy research in August 2019. These types of Congresses are held once a year in certain regions to continue spreading new information effectively.

The ILAE regularly publishes journals to show research findings and breakthroughs in epilepsy treatments and cures. The organization also provides information to patients themselves on topics such as psychological treatments, diet therapies and information for caretakers. With so many resources available, the ILAE has done a major service by spreading information about epilepsy treatment in developing countries.

 

International Bureau for Epilepsy (IBE)

The IBE focuses primarily on improving the social conditions and quality of life for people living with epilepsy. By addressing issues such as education, employment and driver’s license restrictions, this organization helps create environments free of detrimental stigmas. The IBE’s social improvement programs, designed for people with epilepsy and their families, are some of the main ways this organization impacts epilepsy awareness.

International Epilepsy Day is an example of an initiative created by this organization to promote awareness in over 120 countries. On that day, many global events are held to increase public understanding of epilepsy and new research developments that are available. In addition, the Promising Strategies program also funds initiatives improving the quality of life for people living with epilepsy. The program supports 81 projects in 37 countries and provides $300,000 in support of the projects. For example, Mongolia: Quality of Life was a program designed to improve public knowledge and reduce stigma in Mongolia after the number of epilepsy cases increased by 10 percent in 2004. Soon after the program started in 2008, the quality of life in Mongolia for people with epilepsy increased and better services were given to those in need.

These three organizations often collaborate to create new programs to spread information about epilepsy treatment in developing countries. By raising awareness of the condition and providing better healthcare services, the efforts of these organizations have created a more inclusive and helpful environment for those living with epilepsy in countries around the world.

– Sydney Blakeney
Photo: Flickr

Medical Tourism in Costa RicaWhen people think of the country of Costa Rica, they often picture its lush and beautiful terrain. Each year, approximately 1.7 million people visit the country. That is almost a third of their total population. Although many people visit Costa Rica for its natural beauty, there is another side of tourism that may be less familiar. Medical tourism in Costa Rica is thriving. This type of tourism involves patients traveling to receive faster or more cost-effective medical care.

Medical Tourism in Costa Rica: Fast Facts

Healthcare in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has socialized healthcare. The basis for their nearly universal coverage comes from CCSS (Costa Rican Social Security Administration) legislation. The constitution of Costa Rica does not protect healthcare. However, social security is guaranteed. Article 21 of their constitution provides a basis, although not explicit, for the right to healthcare.

Costa Rica has three levels of healthcare: primary care, regional hospitals, and national hospitals. The primary care tier focuses on testing and a smaller percentage of the population. The second tier centers around emergency services and deeper diagnostics. Finally, the third tier serves those with serious health complications.

The country has been cited as a leader in healthcare of the region. With reforms in place, infant mortality swiftly decreased by 69 percent. Shockingly, the percent of deaths as a result of infectious disease fell by 98 percent.

Following the initial reforms, funding for healthcare grew dismal and economic crisis began in the 1980s. Throughout this period of economic decline, foreign aid helped the population of Costa Rica and kept public health steady.

Even with the contributions of other countries, the CCSS was still struggling financially. Policy changes have since been implemented with the goal of providing financial stability for the CCSS, with varied results.

Despite some complications with the execution of CCSS, it is still impressive that Costa Rica ranks 36th in overall efficiency. This is out of 191 countries as evaluated by the WHO.

Improved Healthcare Increases Medical Tourism in Costa Rica

Overall, health in Costa Rica has improved over time. As of 2017, the under-five mortality rate, logged by UNICEF, has been in continuous decline since 1990. Additionally, the percentage of children receiving all of the doses for DTP and measles are both above 90 percent. The health of mother and child are generally above average compared to the neighboring countries.

Due to the reduced cost and increased quality of healthcare, medical tourism in Costa Rica is a growing industry. Along with the boost for the economy in the medical sector, medical tourists also spend money on recreational activities. In Costa Rica, medical tourism is a new facet of tourism and is expected to expand in the future.

-Carolyn Newsome
Photo: Flickr

What is Food Insecurity?What is Food Insecurity? Food insecurity occurs when a person is consistently unable to get enough food on a day-to-day basis. This epidemic plagues millions across the globe, resulting in malnutrition, chronic hunger and low quality of health. When a person lives with hunger or fear of going hungry, they are considered to be food insecure. It is important to understand why food insecurity happens and what can be done to alleviate it.

What is Food Insecurity?

Food insecurity can be broken down into three aspects. The first is food availability, which means having physical access to a food supply on a consistent basis. The second is food access, which means that a person has the resources, such as money, available to obtain and sufficient amount of food. The third is food utilization, which addresses how a person consumes food and whether or not they use the food available to maintain a nutritious diet. It is important to note that proper sanitation and hygiene practices also contribute to food utilization.

On average, more than 9 million people a year die from global food insecurity. Unfortunately, poverty and food insecurity have long gone hand-in-hand because people living in poverty are less likely to have sufficient resources to buy food or produce their own. Families without the resources to escape extreme poverty are likely unable to escape chronic hunger as well. There are several factors contributing to the large number of people who are food insecure.

  1. The steady growth in human population contributes greatly to the increase in food insecurity. With more people on Earth comes more mouths to feed. The rate in which food is grown simply isn’t able to keep up with the projected population growth.
  2. Another contributing cause of food insecurity is the global water crisis. “Widespread over-pumping and irrigation” are leading to a depletion of water sources needed to produce agriculture and produce. Water reserves in many countries have dropped drastically, directly impacting food supplies in these countries and others.
  3. Recent climate extremes and natural disasters also affect food supplies, ruining communities and the agriculture within them. Climate change has impacted crops, forests and water supplies, ultimately spiking prices in areas that are already affected.

The Impact of Food Insecurity

Food insecurity impacts individuals, families and communities far and wide. Although the number of people living with hunger has dropped since the 20th century, there are still more than 800 million people in the world without food security. In developing countries, nearly one in six children is malnourished and poor nutrition accounts for almost half of deaths in children under five. While Asia has the highest population of food insecure people, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence with 25 percent of the population living in hunger.

Food insecurity can lead to many health problems if a person is not getting the nutrients they need. Malnutrition is an issue that can affect all aspects of one’s health. While food insecurity directly impacts all these people, it indirectly impacts the whole population. The problem of food insecurity is a product of behaviors that people do every day, and it has the ability to affect people who may not even know it.

Combatting Food Insecurity

Despite a large number of impending causes, there are still actions that can be taken in daily life to contribute to combating food insecurity. Urging the government to make nutrition programs that emphasize nutrition as a priority is one way to help in the fight. Even if someone is not exposed to food insecurity in their personal life, they can still put pressure on the government to make policies that could help people in developing countries fight this epidemic.

There are also a number of programs and nonprofit organizations that rely on donations and aid in order to make a big difference. The World Food Programme and World Health Organization are two examples of charities that devote time and resources to combating malnutrition and hunger. Donating food to a local food bank or volunteering at one are more hands-on ways to make a difference. Of course, an emphasis on foreign aid and public policy are two of the most impactful ways to reach the most people in the shortest amount of time.

While the numbers may seem staggering, there has been a 17 percent decrease in global food insecurity since the 1990s, but with awareness and effort, that number could be improved. There is reason to believe that, given the right tools and commitment, global food insecurity could become a more manageable problem in years to come.

Charlotte M. Kriftcher

Photo: Pixabay

Measles Outbreak in MadagascarSince April 14, 2019, a measles outbreak in Madagascar has killed more than 1,200 people. According to the WHO, measles is a highly contagious viral disease that remains an imminent cause of death among young children globally. This is despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine. Organizations are aiding Madagascar to combat the outbreak. They are also educating the public to vaccinate their children to save children from further harm. The island country is located off the southeastern coast of Africa. It is the fourth largest island in the world.

How To Detect Measles

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world with one of the weakest healthcare systems.

Symptoms of measles generally appear around seven to 14 days after a person becomes infected. Measles begins with a fever, cough, runny nose, a sore throat and red eyes. After a few days, tiny white spots (medically known as Koplik’s spots) begin to appear inside the mouth. Severe measles is more likely to be found among poorly nourished young children, especially those with insufficient vitamin A. They are also more likely to be found in those whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV/AIDS or other diseases.

Recent Outbreak

Madagascar is facing arguably the largest measles outbreak in its history. Only 58 percent of people on the main island received their vaccination against the disease, a reflection of the measles outbreak in Madagascar.

Dr. Dossou Vincent Sodjinou, a WHO epidemiologist in Madagascar, spoke concerning the Madagascar measles outbreak:

“The epidemic, unfortunately, continues to expand in size, though at a slower pace than a month ago. Some cases of resistance to vaccinations exist because of the influence of religion or of traditional health practitioners but they are isolated ones.”

Measles is one of the leading causes of death for children. WHO reports about 450 die each day worldwide due to the illness, according to Fox News.

The measles outbreak in Madagascar is complicated by the fact that nearly 50 percent of children in Madagascar are malnourished.

Weak Healthcare and Shortage of Vaccines

According to UNICEF, once a child is infected, there is no specific treatment for measles, so vaccination is a life-saving tool for children.

PIVOT, a partnership that aids communities in resource-poor areas, seeks to combine accessible and comprehensive health care services with rigorous scientific research to save lives and break cycles of poverty and disease.

Harvard Medical School (HMS) recently interviewed Michael L. Rich, an HMS assistant professor of medicine in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Global Health Equity and chief clinical advisor at PIVOT.

“The Madagascar measles outbreak is a particularly precarious situation because many of the districts have weak health infrastructure and systems to begin with, which is now exacerbated with a shortage of vaccines. Without a reliable supply of vaccines, strong supply chains or facilities adequately staffed with trained personnel, an end to Madagascar’s ongoing measles crisis is difficult to foresee.”

Doing more to contain the outbreak

As a result, UNICEF is issuing an urgent appeal to governments, health care providers, and parents to do more to contain the measles outbreak in Madagascar. This appeal contains:

  • explanations that not only are vaccines are safe and effective, but they can save a child’s life
  • the recommendation of vaccinating all children between the ages of six months to five years during outbreaks
  • training and equipping health workers so they can provide quality services
  • Strengthening immunization programs to deliver all life-saving vaccines.

Under the Global Vaccine Action Plan, measles is targeted for elimination in five WHO Regions by 2020. WHO is the lead technical agency responsible for the coordination of immunization and surveillance activities to achieve this goal.

By combining rights-based care delivery with strengthened public systems and a new era of science guided by the needs of the poor, PIVOT aims to help the country of Madagascar become a leader in health system transformation.

– Carolina Chaves
Photo: Flickr

Aged and Disabled in UkraineThe elderly population is the fastest growing age group worldwide, and two-thirds of its population lives in low-income and middle-income countries. Such geographic locations have greater likelihoods of humanitarian crises, and the impacts of humanitarian disasters in these countries are more severe. Research shows the aged and disabled in Ukraine also have higher rates of poverty than younger, non-disabled people, making them more vulnerable during disasters. More than one-fifth of Ukraine’s population (more than 9.5 million people) were over the age of 60 in 2018. The country also is facing one of the world’s most acute global crises today.

Increased Vulnerability and Disproportionate Effects

According to HelpAge International (HAI), marginalization is having greater effects on older individuals, especially older women and the disabled. Since 2014, older persons have constituted more than one-third of the conflict-affected population — equivalent to more than one million people. Many of them have fled their homes due to violence along the contact line — a line dividing government-controlled areas (GCA) from non-government-controlled areas (NGCA). The number of affected people continues to rise as the ceaseless fighting impacts the mental health of the aged and disabled in Ukraine. These populations must contend with widespread landmines and restricted access to nutrition, healthcare, housing, pensions, fuel and public transportation.

Residents living along either side of the contact line and in NGCA are among the most vulnerable in Ukraine because humanitarian access is severely restricted in these areas.

The majority of individuals residing in and displaced from NGCA collect pensions. However, they can claim their pensions only if they are registered as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in GCA. They must also undergo complex and discriminatory vetting for pension verification, including home visits, physical identification in banks and additional safeguards. This approach is riddled with liabilities and creates serious humanitarian consequences because pensions are the sole source of income for most pensioners in NGCA. If approved, administrative requirements demand the aged and disabled travel through five checkpoints along the contact line every few months to avoid pension suspension. These individuals spend 50 to 80 percent of their monthly pension on travel expenses. Consequently, many seniors are cut off from their pensions because they either are physically unable to travel to GCA or cannot afford the trip.

Pensions are not the only reason seniors cross the contact line. They also cross to visit with family, obtain documentation and access medical services. The many restrictions imposed on crossing result in older and disabled persons waiting at entry and exit checkpoints for extended periods of time without adequate facilities like toilets, drinking water or shelter. Red tape often prohibits them from crossing with necessary items like medications and food as these may not be permitted goods. People also must renew their electronic passes on regular basis if they plan to cross — a near impossibility for much of the senior population who has no computer or internet access. These conditions are detrimental to the well-being of the aged and disabled, creating a dire need for mental health services, psychosocial support and life-saving aid.

Forgotten in the Midst of Crises

Marginalizing the older and disabled during disasters is not unique to Ukraine. In 2015, HAI interviewed hundreds of seniors across Ukraine, Lebanon and South Sudan. In all three countries, there was evidence of neglect. Most interviewees said they had never met with anyone to discuss their needs nor did they have sufficient information about available assistance. Almost 50 percent complained that health services were not equipped to treat their age-related conditions, and nearly half said they suffered from anxiety or depression.

Humanitarian Relief for the Aged and Disabled in Ukraine

HAI has worked with the elderly in Ukraine for more than 10 years and has provided them with community safe spaces. The organization has also directed advocacy and coordination efforts with NGOs and UN agencies to ensure that seniors are not excluded from receiving services and psychosocial support. HAI has established support groups and provided home-based care activities, assistive devices and hygiene kits to those of advanced age. However, despite the organization’s humanitarian assistance, a survey they conducted in 2018 showed that those aged 60 and older are still suffering.

The findings were echoed at a 2018 conference organized by the European Commission and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Brussels. The conference highlighted the support that the WHO and partners have given Ukraine to help combat the devastating effects of the country’s ongoing crisis. During the conference, it also was noted that despite the efforts of the WHO and its health partners, Ukrainian health needs still are on the rise. Speakers attributed the lack of improvement to a weak health system, limited disease prevention and insufficient treatment for chronic illnesses.

The conference also confirmed that the European Union (EU) will provide an additional €24 million to conflict-affected persons in eastern Ukraine, bringing their aid total for Ukraine to more than €677 million. The money will be used to fulfill the essential needs of the most vulnerable populations along the contact line, including IDPs and those in NGCA.

With coordinated efforts and increased humanitarian funding, permanent change for Ukraine is on the horizon.

– Julianne Russo
Photo: Pixabay

Mental Health in Lebanon
In 2011, it was estimated that approximately 17 percent of Lebanon’s population suffered from a mental illness of some kind. Among them, 90 percent of people went untreated. Mental health in Lebanon was not always a priority. However, with rising issues of mental illness, the Lebanese government is finding new ways to combat the misconceptions and stigmas surrounding mental health.

Role of Education in Understanding Mental Health

According to two researchers from the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, Lebanon, there is a distinct difference in the perception of mental illness depending on education. People who had higher educational attainment, as well as higher socioeconomic status, were more likely to have positive attitudes towards mentally ill patients. On the other hand, people who lacked education due to lower socioeconomic status had a negative outlook towards mental illness.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health and socioeconomic factors cannot be separated from each other. Socioeconomic factors can hinder educational attainment, and this may limit the lack of awareness people have about mental health.

Lack of awareness perpetuates the stigma around mental illness which stops people from receiving treatment. It even prevents them from talking about their feelings as they fail to be validated by others. Another reason why mental illness goes untreated is that many cannot afford it.

New Programmes to Help Improve Mental Health in Lebanon

The perception of mental health in Lebanon is changing and getting better. Historically, mental illness was considered something that could be solved only by the private sector. This meant that mental health care was reserved for those that could afford it.

Over the years, the government has realized that any person in need of help should be able to access mental health care. So, while mental health care will remain in part in the private sector, the health ministry in Lebanon is creating various programmes to help those who cannot afford it.

In 2014, the Lebanese health ministry created the National Mental Health Programme. This programme works with WHO, UNICEF and the International Medical Corps in order to help those with mental illness in Lebanon. It aims to incorporate mental health into general medicine more completely. This will hopefully help eradicate some of the bias that exists. It will help make mental health part of the discourse.

The programme also aims to help vulnerable populations in Lebanon such as refugees, people in prison and survivors of war and torture. This will be a huge help to these communities because it will allow them to have access to mental health care which they did not have before. It will create the perception that mental health deserves to be taken care of.

The National Mental Health Programme organized events such as “Time to Talk” in 2018. It was a way to directly combat incorrect perceptions about mental health by simply talking about mental health under ordinary contexts. Another similar event was “Depression: Let’s Talk About It to Get Out of It”. It was held in 2017 in order to discuss rising depression rates and help people heal. “My Mental Health is My Right” which was organized in 2014 aimed to enforce the fact that mental health in Lebanon is important and that every person has a right to receive treatment.

Thus, with such advanced programmes and new developments, the future of mental health care in Lebanon looks bright. It is important to remove the stigma surrounding mental health to improve people’s well being and foster a healthier and happier society.

– Isabella Niemeyer
 Photo: Unsplash