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Healthcare in Pakistan
In a study that The Lancet conducted, healthcare in Pakistan currently ranks 154th out of 195 countries in terms of overall system performance. As a developing country with a mere 2% of its GDP allocated for total health expenditures, Pakistan struggles to maintain a proper healthcare system with regard to quality and accessibility.

Pakistan’s numerous cases of communicable and vaccine-preventable diseases highlight its struggling healthcare system. Viral hepatitis, dengue, tuberculosis, malaria, typhoid, HIV and cholera have long been leading causes of death. They are the result of overpopulated cities, poor sanitation, unsafe drinking water and inadequate socioeconomic conditions.

Pakistan has one of the lowest amounts of immunized children, with overall vaccination coverage of just 60%. The result is a high newborn mortality rate: 69.3 deaths per 1,000 live births. Moreover, while the rest of the world is free from polio, experts still consider the disease as an endemic in Pakistan. Documentations determined that there were nearly 150 polio cases in 2019. With these alarming statistics in mind, here are six facts about healthcare in Pakistan.

6 Facts About Healthcare in Pakistan

  1. Healthcare in Pakistan includes both private and public sectors. The private sector serves approximately 70% of the population. Private hospitals and healthcare institutions consistently outperform their public counterparts, as measured by the overall quality of healthcare and patient satisfaction.
  2. A common misconception is that healthcare services in the public sector are free of charge to Pakistani citizens. This is not the case, as 78% of the population continues to pay for healthcare out of their own pockets.
  3. Healthcare in Pakistan has been a focal point after the country signed the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Pakistan began to initiate healthcare programs, establishing both Basic Health Units as well as Rural Health Units. Basic Health Units are assigned to NGOs, who manage the day-to-day operations, administer medicine and overlook the facilities.
  4. Reports estimate that there are roughly 175,000 doctors registered to serve the population. However, many Pakistani doctors choose to practice abroad due to poor service structure, increased workload, lack of funding and a rise in hostility by some. Moreover, many female doctors have stopped practicing due to family and social compulsions. Taking into account all these factors,  the doctor to population ratio stands at one doctor for every 1,764 persons. For adequate population coverage, Pakistan needs at least two doctors for every 1,000 persons.
  5. Healthcare in Pakistan has gradually improved over time. Currently, 92% of the rural population and 100% of the urban population have access to health services. Such improvement has been a direct result of Pakistan meeting the MDGs. Despite measures to increase the quality of healthcare facilities, most of the population prefers to consult private doctors and practitioners.
  6. Pakistan continues to commit to the MDGs in order to eradicate a multitude of preventable diseases. The introduction of immunization programs, such as the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), has increased vaccination coverage in Pakistan from 5% to 84%. EPI partnered with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), a global health organization dedicated to increasing immunization in low- and middle-income countries. With this partnership, countless people are working to eradicate vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles, polio and neonatal tetanus.

With the arrival of COVID-19, Pakistan’s healthcare system is under immense pressure and is struggling to deal with the thousands of cases arriving each day. Frontline workers are taking the brunt of the virus. An estimated 3% of the total cases in the country consist of healthcare workers. Medical professionals are resorting to strikes and protests over the lack of protective gear necessary to safely treat patients.

In light of the unrest, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced new healthcare reforms to fix the faults of the health sector. The reforms allocate $300 million to pay for additional ventilators and other medical equipment. Additionally, major cities are setting up isolation centers to increase hospital capacity for infected patients.

These six facts about healthcare in Pakistan determine that the country will need to radically transform its health system performance in the following years in order to confront outbreaks that continue to threaten the population. The World Health Organization has recommended that Pakistan’s Ministry of Health increase healthcare expenditures to 5% of its GDP. Doing so would not only put an end to controllable diseases, but it will also ensure that the healthcare system will be able to deal with dangerous outbreaks in the future.

–  Abbas Raza
Photo: Flickr

 

Forbes ranked Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, the 20th dirtiest city as it lacks proper water management, which leads to famine and disease. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Mauritania. 
Mauritania is the geographic and cultural bridge between North African Maghreb and Sub-Saharan Africa. The Islamic nation has a population of around 4 million people. Located in northwest Africa, the coastal country includes 90% desert land. Mauritania is infamous for being the last country to abolish slavery — in 1981 — and slaves still make up 4% to 10% of the population. Meanwhile, Forbes ranked Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, the 20th dirtiest city as it lacks proper water management, which leads to famine and disease. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Mauritania. 

10 Facts About Sanitation in Mauritania

  1. According to WHO, the lack of water sanitation causes nearly 90% of the 2,150 deaths from diarrheal diseases in Mauritania each year. Stagnant water breeds malaria mosquitos, parasites and other contaminants. With over 16.6% of the population below the extreme poverty line, many Mauritanians cannot afford to acquire clean water or proper healthcare.
  2. According to the Africa Development Bank Group, 68% of Mauritanians have access to potable water. In 2008, only 49% of the population had access to potable water. In isolated desert villages, citizens must trek miles to reach the closest water source. Meanwhile, in the capital city of Nouakchott, people in poverty often purchase water from vendors who hauled the barrels from a water supply several kilometers away.
  3. WaterAid determined that in 2017, 1,048,500 Mauritanian children under the age of 17 lacked a proper household toilet. Because people cannot afford toilets and lack access to running water, Mauritanians rely on latrines. In 2010, the government of Mauritania halted funding towards latrines, further stalling progress toward sanitation. However, UNICEF’s Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) initiative has improved 67% of latrines since 2009.
  4. As of June 12th, 2020, Mauritania logged 1,439 cases of the novel COVID-19. Although many facilities lack proper sanitation to handle the virus, the Mauritanian government enforced curfews, travel bans and shop closures. In hopes of preventing potential economic damage, the government also distributed food and exempted 174,707 households from paying electricity bills. Organizations like WHO and UNICEF responded to the situation by treating coronavirus patients and implementing sanitation facilities to contain the virus.
  5. In 2018, the Chinese company CTE subsidized $40.3 million toward a rainwater collection system for a new sanitary sewerage network in Nouakchott. Prior to the project, Nouakchott’s sewerage network served only 5% of the city’s households. Building better sewerage networks will allow Mauritania to bring running water to rural areas. Since the country is below sea level, sewerage networks can also help limit floods and stagnant water.
  6. The African Development Bank funded the National Integrated Rural Water Sector Project (PNISER) to install drinking water supply networks and solar pumping stations in rural Mauritania. The Ministry of Hydraulics and Sanitation is implementing the new networks in rural communities that lack water systems. Around 400,000 square meters of irrigated land will receive water availability, generating additional income for women and youth.
  7. World Vision initiated the WASH Mauritania program in 2016. It has provided three local villages with access to water, hygiene and sanitation resources. With funding from the U.S. and Germany, World Vision Mauritania “[rehabilitated] boreholes, water towers, water retention points, fountains and water network extension.” In the village of Maghtaa Sfeira, WASH benefited over 900 people and sponsored more than 200 children. As a result of this program, many women and children no longer have to seek unsanitary water holes or trek miles for water supplies.
  8. According to WaterAid, 60% of Mauritania’s schools lacked sanitation in 2016. When schools offer sanitation, not only can children practice good hygiene, but their school attendance increases.
  9. Because Mauritania is vulnerable to desertification, WHO partnered with the Mauritanian government in 2013 to ensure that schools, healthcare facilities and villages have proper water, sanitation and hygiene. WHO provided water basins, installed toilets and insured higher quality of food for schools. In addition, WHO equipped the country with six biomedical waste incinerators to dispose of hazardous substances. In one instance, transforming a Land Rover into a mobile water laboratory has enabled WHO to monitor the water quality of different villages.
  10. In 2020, the World Bank secured funding for the Water and Sanitation Sectoral project and the Mauritania Health System Support project. The Water and Sanitation Sectoral Project received an International Development Association (IDA) grant of $44 million to improve latrines, add hand-washing facilities and rehabilitate water systems. In the Hodh el Chargui region in eastern Mauritania, an additional $23 million IDA grant will increase the quality of reproductive, maternal, neonatal and child health and nutrition services. Together, these projects will benefit more than 473,000 people.

Improving sanitation in Mauritania can potentially have wide-reaching benefits — from raising incomes and boosting the national economy, to improving education and lowering mortality rates. It is imperative that the government and other organizations focus on providing sanitation resources to the people of Mauritania.

– Zoe Chao
Photo: Flickr

Chinese Investment in Africa
China’s rise to economic prominence is unparalleled in modern history. In just 40 years, China has become the manufacturing center of the world, built an enviable infrastructure system and created a robust middle class by lifting 800 million people out of poverty. The regime has also expanded Chinese investments abroad, funding a wide range of projects in far-flung corners of the globe. China’s international strategy has met with skepticism from the West due to allegations of corrupt business practices and sketchy dealings between often authoritarian states. This article will explain the effects of Chinese investment in Africa specifically, exploring the impact through the perspective of the international community, China itself and the receiving African nations.

The Extent

The value of Chinese investment in Africa since 2005 has passed $2 trillion. Chinese investment has many dimensions but primarily focuses on infrastructure and resource extraction. The regime’s plan to extract and ship resources through Chinese-built infrastructure connects more foreign markets to China as part of an ambitious megaproject called the Belt and Road Initiative. In doing so, China benefits by ensuring its supply of material needed to further economic growth and receiving nations benefit through job creation and economic diversification. Additionally, Chinese entrepreneurs own over 10,000 businesses on the continent.

One can only accomplish a proper understanding of foreign influence in Africa comparatively. Chinese interests in Africa are primarily commercial, but raise alarm bells in the West due to the scale of China’s acquisition of hard assets. Meanwhile, the West has had cultural and political interests in Africa for centuries, interests that continue today through the presence of Western military bases, political boundaries and cultural footprints of language and religion.

The Benefits

The ease and effectiveness of Chinese investment have provided many benefits for African nations. From its perspective, China provides fast access to capital and prompt delivery of services and workers. Additionally, Chinese loans do not need receiving nations to meet the ethical restrictions that organizations like the IMF require. The nature of Chinese investment often produces tangible results. Infrastructure projects increase access to transportation, healthcare, education and telecommunication services for ordinary Africans. Resource extraction diversifies the economy and can immediately sell to China’s booming market, as Chinese trade to Africa generally eclipses $100 billion every year.

Outside of investment, China plays an active role in addressing poverty on the continent. In 2018, the regime approved a $60 billion aid package and currently participates in five U.N. peacekeeping missions in Africa. In general, African nations view China as a valuable ally with no history of colonialism, but also as an avenue for successful economic development.

The Concerns

While the economic benefits of Chinese investment are numerous, allegations about the regime’s business practices and intentions are of justifiable concern. The lack of accountability measures and regulatory mechanisms on the continent have led corrupt actors to hijack many Chinese-funded projects. In many cases, extraction and infrastructure markets are more concerned with connecting resource markets to China than considering the needs of the population. The influx of Chinese entrepreneurs and cheap goods have also decimated domestic industries such as the Nigerian textile market.

Additionally, Chinese investment projects often lack sustainability regulations and native Chinese laborers frequently dominate them. In fact, every million dollars of Chinese investment only creates 1.78 jobs for African citizens. Chinese lending practices have also received criticism for creating trade imbalances and debt for countries unable to pay them back in time. Finally, Chinese intentions are hard to ascertain, and as their economic influence grows, so does their ability to influence Africa’s diplomatic and political landscape.

The Solutions

Despite the shortcomings of Chinese investment in Africa, there are policy and organizational solutions actively addressing these issues. The findings of international organizations such as the U.N. and WHO can influence the state of Chinese business dealings. In particular, the Ease of Doing Business Index and WHO influence provides international awareness and transparency to Chinese investment projects. African nations have also realized the need to implement more effective regulatory mechanisms in order to combat corrupt dealings.

Additionally, nations such as Nigeria and South Africa have accepted deals from the U.S. and E.U. as a way to mediate Chinese diplomatic influence. China has also sought to improve its image, improving procedural transparency and establishing NGOs throughout Africa. The Beijing Gender Health Education Institute has opened a division in Africa, where it seeks to empower LGBTQ individuals by producing documentaries and spreading visual works. Transnational NGOs with Chinese offices such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the “Free Lunch for Children” campaign have started operating in Africa as well.

Despite uncertainty dominating it, Chinese investment in Africa has provided undeniable benefits to ordinary Africans. Ensuring that Chinese actions receive mediation will take the concerted effort of international institutions and accountability mechanisms. With concentrated reforms and an open diplomatic dialogue, Chinese financial support will be instrumental in helping the international community alleviate global poverty.

– Matthew Compan
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in NauruNauru is an eight square mile island in the Central Pacific, located almost 2,500 miles northeast from Australia and with a population of nearly 13,000 people. Nauru has faced multiple major challenges in the past including diminishing all of its phosphate reserves and being the home of a controversial detention center for the refugees seeking asylum in Australia. However, in recent years, major improvements in the country’s quality of life have occurred, subsequently increasing the life expectancy of Nauru. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Nauru outline the progress the country has made in recent years.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Nauru

  1. Life expectancy in Nauru is increasing. In 2020, it reached 68.4 years in contrast with the average life expectancy in 2000 of 60 years old.
  2. The unemployment rate has dropped immensely. In 2004, 90% of the country did not have employment. Meanwhile, strip mining ravaged the island, rendering most of its land unusable for agriculture, forestry or recreation. Additionally, these practices almost caused the school system to collapse. Nauru mined all of its phosphate resources and shipped them off to other countries to use as fertilizer. The country was simultaneously combating corruption, climate change and money-laundering. Despite these issues, the unemployment rate in 2011 has dropped by almost 70%, and after nine years, it is currently sitting at 23%. As the unemployment rate decreases, more people should be able to sustain themselves despite the country’s slowly growing economy, consequently boosting the life expectancy.
  3. The health crisis directly correlates with Nauru’s social and economic circumstances. Extreme levels of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity are dropping in Nauru. While more than 70% of people in Nauru were obese in 2018, the percentage dropped to 45% in 2014. Slowly, but surely, people are starting to decrease their alcohol and tobacco consumption and choose a healthier lifestyle.
  4. From 1960-1970, Nauru held one of the highest GDPs, conceding only to oil-rich Saudi Arabia. In 1973, Nauru’s Annual GDP was $26 million. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s was almost $15 million. Nauru lost its rich economic potential during the crash of the phosphate industry and unfortunately, Nauru has exhausted all of its natural resources. Today, Nauru’s GDP is only $112 million and it is surviving with Australia’s help and ambitious plans for the future.
  5. Nauru has 1.24 physicians per 1,000 of the population. Meanwhile, 96.5% of people have access to improved drinking water sources, such as protected wells or public taps. Nauru has more physicians available for its population than countries like Chile, Egypt, Iran and Vietnam.
  6. Around 11% of Nauru’s federal budget or expenditure goes towards the health of its citizens. Nauru’s facilities include two big hospitals located on the island that provide free medical and dental treatments for Nauruans and employees of the Nauru Phosphate Corporation. Furthermore, while the risks of contracting bacterial diarrhea and malaria are high, Nauru is on its way to completing the Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Development Goals, outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO), aim to reduce the prevalence of malaria and HIV as well as child mortality. It is also important to note that for a developing country, Nauru’s mortality rate from these diseases is low.
  7. Nauru is partnering with the Green Climate Fund to upgrade its maritime port. This partnership will directly boost Nauru’s food security, local economy, commerce and life expectancy. It will be easier for shipping vessels to disembark and for local business owners to have new opportunities due to incoming exports. Nauru is also advancing its Higher Ground Initiative, which will remove infrastructure from coastal areas and place them elsewhere. Both the Higher Ground Initiative and the new port facility will stimulate employment, create renewable energy and provide a stable income for many. These developments will, in turn, improve the citizens’ Human Development Index (HDI), which estimates the wellbeing, health and life expectancy in Nauru.
  8. Another partnership with The World Health Organization (WHO) resulted in the National Health Strategic Plan of 2018-2022, an attempt to revive Nauru’s healthcare system. This plan will implement high immunization coverage, improve mental health, monitor the drinking-water quality, strengthen systems that protect people from HIV, STIs and tuberculosis and create a national plan to increase life expectancy in Nauru. In 2019, the WHO discovered that Nauru had zero cases of bacterial diarrhea, influenza, donor lymphocyte infusions and pulmonary fibrosis. This suggests that the implemented health plan has made positive changes.
  9. The mortality rate of children under 5 years old has been decreasing. In 2018, the mortality rate was 32 deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2020, it dropped to 7.4 deaths per 1,000 births. The mortality rate has also decreased by more than 97% as skilled health staff now assist all births.
  10. Despite economic and health care progress, life expectancy for refugees in Nauru remains low. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) reported that out of the 208 refugee patients that it served, 60% had suicidal thoughts and 30% attempted suicide.  The life expectancy of refugees living in detention camps is also low. The Guardian reported two dire instances of refugees’ desperation. In the first, a refugee set himself on fire out of despair and powerlessness. In the second instance, a 12-year-old boy was at risk of dying from a two-week-long hunger strike out of hopelessness.

While Nauru is making a lot of progress in its health care and economy, it must continue addressing its refugee crisis that leads to the loss of innocent lives. A coalition of prominent NGOs and Australia’s largest human rights organizations such as the Refugee Council of Australia and Australian Lawyers Alliance are working to re-locate refugee children from Nauru to Australia. In 2019, many resettled in the United States and Australia.

If Nauru continues to strive for financial independence, provide jobs for its people and create stable sources of income, it could eliminate many of the country’s health problems that come from smoking and alcohol addiction. This, in turn, should increase life expectancy in Nauru. By developing as an economically stable and self-sufficient country, it may also no longer need to support Australia’s controversial detention camps for asylum seekers.

– Anna Sharudenko
Photo: Flickr

Life expectancy in Hungary
Socioeconomic discrepancies and health issues, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, have contributed to life expectancy in Hungary, a landlocked country in central Europe. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Hungary.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Hungary

  1. Life Expectancy: Life expectancy at birth in Hungary was approximately 76 years in 2017. Meanwhile, women had a mortality rate of approximately 80 per 1,000 female adults, whereas men had a mortality rate of about 168 per 1,000 male adults.
  2. Regional Differences: While individuals living in Eastern Hungary have higher GDP values, indicative of greater overall economic benefit, those in the western regions of the country are at a greater disadvantage. For example, for those living in Budapest, the GDP per capita was a little more than 5,000 forints per capita, whereas those living in Western Hungary, like Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg, had a GDP per capita of fewer than 2,000 forints per capita. Western Hungarian areas, like South Transdanubia, often experience worse economic conditions and poorer health, contributing to lower life expectancy. Men living in Budapest have four years higher life expectancy at birth than males in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg. With regard to female life expectancy at birth, there is a gap of approximately 1.5 years between these two regions.
  3. Socioeconomic Effects: Socioeconomic discrepancies have influenced life expectancy trends in Hungary as well. In comparing the life expectancies of 25-year-old men and women residing in Hungary, those who had access to a university education had life expectancies that exceeded those of individuals who did not finish secondary education by nearly nine years.
  4. Risk Factors: In 2010, dietary risks, followed by high blood pressure, tobacco and smoking, were the leading risk factors of those living in Hungary. For those under the age of 5 and adults between 15 and 49 years old, iron deficiency was a leading risk factor, followed by alcohol use in 2010.
  5. Disease Prevalence: Cardiovascular disease and cancer account for approximately 75% of all deaths in Hungary. Analyzing the effects of these diseases more specifically, ischemic heart disease, lung cancer and stroke caused the majority of deaths and, ultimately, played a significant role in lowering life expectancy.
  6. Health Expenditure: Hungary spent approximately 6.88% of its GDP on health-related services and issues in 2017. This is lower than the worldwide average of approximately 9.896% in the same year.
  7. Quality of Care: With cancer being a leading factor in determining life expectancy, it is essential to examine what Hungary is currently implementing in order to curtail such a disease. Despite having the highest European cancer death rates, Hungary had instituted relatively poor screening programs to lower the prevalence of cancer. In 2015, only 47% of Hungarian women between the ages of 45 and 65 received screening for breast cancer in the previous two years, and the rate of screening for cervical cancer was even lower. In 2017, however, Hungary developed a voluntary colorectal screening to better address the development of cancer among populations.
  8. Hospitalization: A high amount of hospitalizations in Hungary have been the result of preventable health issues. Such a finding is indicative of primary care quality. In making improvements to primary care systems, the number of hospitalizations could decrease, resulting in greater prevention of deaths and potentially higher life expectancies.
  9. Influence of the Pharmaceutical Industry: Approximately 50% of all government funds have gone towards driving the development of the pharmaceutical industry. A readjustment of spending towards making improvements in public procurement practices and encouraging generic medical prescriptions instead would allow for effective means of slowing the development of health conditions that only serve to aggravate life expectancy.
  10. The Impact of Health Worker: With more and more health care workers leaving Hungary to practice in other countries, many communities inevitably experience less access to means of improving health. In order to address this issue, the Hungarian government developed a type of residence scholarship program, in which medical residents received a monthly raise if they committed to public sector work while attaining their specialization. In addition, health professionals who were already working within the system experienced an increase of 20% in their salaries.

With the wide range of issues negatively impacting life expectancy in Hungary, the World Health Organization (WHO) has offered multiple constructive solutions. Due to the fact that Hungary instituted a more hospital-centralized health system, duration of stay, together with preventable hospitalization, have increased in prevalence. This has been evident in the lower effectiveness of primary care providers and an absence of adequate addressing of health issues in communities. In order to prevent the consequences associated with such problems, WHO has emphasized the significance of both improving community health care accessibility and the methods of primary health care workers. Consequently, despite issues with health systems in Hungary, the implementation of such solutions could result in improved health conditions and, ultimately, higher life expectancies.

– Aprile Bertomo
Photo: Flickr

3D Printed Prosthetics Can Change the Developing World
In developing nations around the world, communities experience congenital disabilities and accidents, just like in the developed world. In impoverished countries, however, the ability to access prosthetics is uncommon, if not nonexistent. If impoverished nations were able to obtain inexpensive prosthetics, it would change their lives. Fortunately, scientists and inventors alike are working out the situation. This is why 3D printed prosthetics could change the developing world.

The Problem

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that approximately 30 million people worldwide need prosthetics or various orthotic devices. The lack of access leaves a whole array of issues for people. According to Access Prosthetics, 30 percent of amputees and congenital amputees experience depression and/or anxiety. These 3D printed prosthetics can change the developing world, making it easier for disabled individuals to perform necessary actions and increasing their quality of life.

In poverty-stricken nations, people face a dangerous threat: explosives. The Guardian told the story of one boy who Sudanese soldiers kidnapped and forced to fight. One day, the boy stepped on a mine and the mere force of the impact was strong enough to tear his foot from his leg. From that day forward, the child used a wheelchair and a prosthetic leg. Unfortunately, too many people experience what this child suffered. This child was lucky that the Kenyan Red Cross organization was able to produce a prosthetic limb for the child, but unfortunately, many people cannot receive such care.

Why 3D Printed Prosthetics?

Along with the emotional hindrances and physical limitations, 3D prosthetics are a much better option than traditional prosthetics. Traditional prosthetics comprise of metal, plastic and other materials, and cost between $5,000 to $50,000. Reaching the price of a luxury car, many families cannot afford traditional prosthetics. Traditional prosthetics typically take upwards of three weeks to reach their recipient, which includes production and fitting. The long wait time only puts the recipient in a worse position because sometimes these prosthetics are life-saving.

These 3D printed prosthetics, however, could fix this issue. Typically, producers can make 3D printed prosthetics within a single day at a shocking $50. With a drastically low upfront cost and production time, these are essential to why 3D printed prosthetics can change the developing world. Thanks to incredible advancements in the industry, it is not an if, but rather when 3D prosthetics will reach developing nations on a mass scale.

Enabling the Future

Enabling the Future is a humanitarian organization that consists of volunteers who use 3D printers to produce prosthetics for free. The network makes it explicitly clear that it is not a company and does not sell the prosthetics. With over 3,300 3D printer volunteers, the organization helps thousands of people around the world. Enabling the Future has run into durability issues in its past because volunteers print the products rather than professionals. However, they still offer some of the cheapest and quickly made prosthetics. After Enabling the Future first noted the problem, it decided to offer a different material to make the prosthetics. This material is much stronger but costs up to $2,000.

With an enormous team of 3,300, Enabling the Future is at the forefront of the production of 3D prosthetics. This organization is able to provide cheap prosthetics to people worldwide and at a much faster rate than many other organizations can. Companies such as Enabling the Future are critical to the success of equipping developing nations with 3D prosthetics.

The Impact

The capability for amputees to access inexpensive prosthetics will change the world. The ability to carry items or run may seem simple, but the reality is that most take these actions for granted. People with missing limbs can now perform actions that were once challenging, effortlessly. In the developed world, $50,000 is an extremely steep investment but can make a large impact in impoverished countries.

In developing, war-torn nations, many share the same story as that of the boy mentioned above. Too many people die from such instances and many more lose limbs. Thankfully, thanks to 3D prosthetics, the world should change for the better.

Cleveland Lewis
Photo: Flickr

Earthquake Preparedness in Nepal
Nepal sits between two very seismically active tectonic plates that span the length of the Himalayan mountain range. In the 20th-century and again in the early 21st century, devastating earthquakes prompted the Nepali government to create programs that prepare the Nepali people for possible earthquake situations. International organizations were also present and significantly aided earthquake preparedness in Nepal. The development of technological programs that maintain the tracking of people during a panic has made an enormous difference in the way first responders find and rescue people during natural disasters. To keep people safe, it is necessary to have earthquake preparedness programs in place.

Earthquake Education and Planning

The Nepali government created the Kathmandu Valley Earthquake Risk Management Project (KVERMP) in 1997 as an earthquake preparedness initiative. This project instituted an earthquake scenario program that simulated an emergency situation and assigned specific roles to various actors in the towns. A branch of KVERMP includes the School Earthquake Safety Program (SESP). This program provided funding to schools so students could practice earthquake safety drills and masons received training to make the school buildings more resilient. Community members also received safety information along with risk-prevention advice from professionals. Another notable achievement of the KVERMP was the creation of Earthquake Safety Day, which is to promote awareness and normalize new earthquake preparedness safety methods.

The Study on Earthquake Disaster Mitigation of Kathmandu Valley (SEDM) was a study that the Nepalese government initiated in conjunction with the Japan International Cooperation Agency to increase earthquake preparedness in the country. The goal of SEDM was to assess the possible outcomes of major earthquakes in relation to resources, infrastructure and aid. The parties involved suggested various policy changes and committee formations to further promote earthquake preparedness. Most notably, the group suggested the establishment of a National Disaster Council and recommended that the government put a higher priority on policy relating to disaster preparation and mitigation and implement a disaster management plan in each level of government.

Gorkha Earthquake Relief and Recovery

When people in the 21st-century talk about earthquakes in Nepal, they are most likely referring to the April 2015 earthquake near Kathmandu. The magnitude 7.8 quake, also known as the Gorkha earthquake, killed about 9,000 people and injured around 25,000 more. The earthquake was so powerful, that Bangladesh, China and India could feel it and the devastation prompted response crews from all over the world to sift through more than 600,000 damaged structures. These aftershocks led to international organizations partnering with the Nepali government to reconstruct the damaged infrastructure using sustainable tactics. This relief effort built upon the earthquake preparedness that Nepal already put in place.

Nepal’s Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment wrote a document entitled, Rapid Environmental Assessment (REA), outlining the issues that the 2015 earthquake caused and the frameworks to fix them. Topics that the report covered included damaged water and sanitation facilities, agricultural impacts, education and more. Taking preventative action, such as changing toilet construction methods, should allow for faster reconstruction and less waste containment issues in the case of an earthquake. Among the multitudes of topics the document covers, another example is sustainable land use. Landslides that were dormant for years became free during the earthquake. This is partly due to the misuse of land and tree removal. The REA is calling for the revision of land-use laws and the enforcement of policies.

Life-Saving Technology

Earthquake preparedness comes in many forms. In response to various earthquakes around the world, a nonprofit organization called Flowminder created a population tracking program. Rescue crews use the technology to pinpoint the location of endangered civilians in a timely manner. Utilizing mobile phone data, satellite images and census data, the program analyzes the information and then sends the data to organizations in the midst of disasters. Organizations involved in relief efforts following the 2010 Haiti earthquake used similar programs, so the technology does work. Governments and first responders often struggle to find people in the dynamic aftermath of a crisis. Nepal would have an easier time finding and helping citizens with this sort of technology.

Sustainable Rebuilding

During the Gorkha earthquake, hospitals remained open and functional due to the earthquake preparedness technique of retrofitting. The World Health Organization (WHO) praised the Kathmandu hospital for working diligently to fill cracks and holes as they appeared on walls. The process of retrofitting has been a long-term campaign of the WHO in efforts to promote earthquake preparedness in the health sector. While thousands of other buildings collapsed, the hospital was able to continue to care for patients. The hospital also cited an emergency preparedness plan for the staff’s ability to respond quickly to the crisis. The plan ensured that everyone knew where to go and what to expect after the earthquake hit.

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake in 2015, USAID trained over 900 locals to build earthquake-resistant buildings. In the years after, the organization trained thousands more to help in the effort. The only way to prevent widespread infrastructure devastation is to take every precaution possible so that structures do not fall. USAID also encouraged the construction of seven deep wells in Kathmandu to ensure clean water in case of a natural disaster. Another project working towards earthquake preparedness involved the development of 12 “relief material” warehouses throughout Nepal in case of emergency. The idea was to stockpile supplies before a disaster occurred, allowing relief agencies sufficient amounts of resources to reduce the negative impacts of earthquakes. USAID has been instrumental in the long recovery since 2015 and preventing similar results from the next earthquake.

Creating Open Spaces

The final instance of earthquake preparedness in Nepal is the protection of open spaces. During crises like earthquakes, it is important for first responders and humanitarians to have a place to set up. The urbanization of Nepal has endangered these open spaces and the 2018 National Policy for Disaster Risk Reduction saw this as a threat to optimal earthquake preparedness. As a result, the planners decided to focus attention on the preservation of urban parks. The International Organization for Migration claims that 83 of the 123 parks in the Kathmandu area are at risk for infringement. However, various groups are actively working to protect those open spaces.

Ashleigh Litcofsky
Photo: Flickr

Vaccinations in Yemen
Situated in the Middle East, the Republic of Yemen is the second-largest sovereign state in the Arabian peninsula. Being in the clutches of a civil war since 2015, Yemen stands in the second-lowest position for life expectancy in the Middle East with an average life expectancy of 65.31 years. Research has shown that the civil war also had a significant impact on the immunization or vaccination efforts to protect the children of the nation from curable diseases like cholera and measles. Here are five facts about vaccination in Yemen.

5 Facts About Vaccination in Yemen

  1. Cholera Outbreak: Experts consider Yemen’s cholera outbreak, which started in 2016, to be the largest epidemic to ever occur in recorded epidemic history. As of 2018, Yemen reported 1.2 million cases of cholera, and 58 percent of the resulting deaths were of children. The ongoing civil war and the fact that only half the country’s population has access to clean water and sanitation has made it increasingly challenging to tackle the spread of the disease effectively. Organizations like WHO and UNICEF have made severe efforts in distributing Oral Cholera Vaccines (OCV), funding to supply clean water to the citizens and establishing health centers to combat the outbreak. Several randomized trials showed the efficacy of the distributed OCVs to be nearly 76 percent.
  2. Vaccination Rate: Even though vaccines have a proven rate of efficacy, the immense pressure that health care in Yemen experienced suddenly due to large outbreaks decreased the effectiveness with which it could mobilize its immunization efforts. According to the official country estimates of 2018, 80 percent of Yemen’s population received DTP3 vaccination coverage. However, Yemen did not distribute Oral Cholera Vaccines widely until 16 months after the cholera outbreak. This led to a rapid spread of cholera in the nation.
  3. Vaccine Storage Facilities: Many often overlook a country’s vaccine storage capacity. Yemen’s lack of proper facilities and shortage of electricity made it difficult to safely store the vaccines. UNICEF and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia worked together to provide solar refrigerators to several health care centers to facilitate safer and more reliable vaccinations in Yemen. Health care workers say that solar refrigerators enable them to store the vaccines for one month. This reduces material waste and optimizes vaccine distribution.
  4. Impact of War: The ongoing civil war has put Yemen in a vulnerable position when it comes to the re-emergence of preventable disease outbreaks. Research has shown that countries with conflicts are more susceptible to disease outbreaks. However, these are easily preventable with vaccines. In Yemen, airstrikes destroyed many hospital centers, which made health care more inaccessible to its citizens. The civil war disrupted the stable vaccination rate in Yemen, which was at 70 to 80 percent, falling to 54 percent in 2015 at the time that the war broke out.
  5. Humanitarian Efforts of International Organizations:  In war-torn countries with feeble financial stability, humanitarian efforts play a significant role in disease control. The World Health Organization (WHO) contributed 414 health facilities and 406 mobile health teams to combat the cholera outbreak and facilitate vaccination in Yemen. Meanwhile, UNICEF made substantial efforts to provide safe drinking water to 1 million residents of Yemen. It also contributed medical equipment to remote parts of the country with the help of local leaders.

Yemen has clearly faced challenges in vaccinating its citizens in recent years due to civil war and conflict. Hopefully, with continued aid from UNICEF, the WHO and other countries like Saudi Arabia, vaccination in Yemen will improve.

– Reshma Beesetty
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation
One of the most extreme and dangerous forms of discrimination against women is the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Some might not associate the practice with modern, cosmopolitan countries outside of Africa. However, the truth is that it is still quietly happening in a lot of communities in Southeast Asia. In fact, Female Genital Mutilation in Southeast Asia is more common than people previously thought.

What is Female Genital Mutilation?

FGM comprises all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of female genitalia, or other injuries to the female genital organs. FGM usually takes place on religious or cultural grounds and undertaken for non-medical reasons, leaving the girls with long-term health complications. International organizations, such as the U.N. and the WHO, universally consider FGM a violation of human rights and an extreme form of discrimination against women. While it has no health benefits, the practice is prevalent and often performed for cultural and religious reasons. The WHO estimates that more than 200 million women and girls have experienced FGM and that more than 3 million girls are at risk of this painful practice annually.

Female Genital Mutilation in Southeast Asia

While the procedure in many African countries commonly occurs as a ceremony when girls reach adolescence, FGM in Southeast Asia often occurs when the girls are in infancy, which makes it more hidden. Better known as Sunat Perempuan in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, people often quietly carry out the procedure on girls before they turn 2 years old and are aware of what others are deciding for their body. Muslims in Southeast Asia typically observe this practice and reside in countries such as Thailand, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.

Singapore

Since FGM occurs quietly, the exact number of women who experienced it is hard to pinpoint. However, experts believe that it is highly prevalent within the Malay community. Based on some anecdotal evidence, some estimate that approximately 80 percent of the 200,000 Malay Muslims were victims of FGM in Singapore. There is no law banning the practice of FGM in Singapore, and the government remains overwhelmingly silent on the issue. Some clinics offer to perform the procedure for around $15 to $26.

Indonesia

Many in Indonesia consider Female Genital Mutilation a rite of passage and people have practiced it for generations in Indonesia, a country containing the largest Muslim population of all countries globally. The government estimates that about 50 percent of the girls aged 11 and under nationwide undergo FGM, while in some more conservative parts of the country such as Gorontalo, the number could be upwards of 80 percent. Local healers say that the practice would prevent the girls’ promiscuity in later life. There is also another widespread belief that God would not accept uncircumcised Muslim women’s prayers. Some hospitals in Indonesia even offered FGM as part of the “birthing packages,” which further legitimizes the procedure and makes it hard to eliminate.

The government has gone back and forth in its decision on the issue. In 2006, the government had banned the practice of FGM, but due to pressure from religious groups, it had moved away from the attempt four years later. Instead, to accommodate the religious and cultural considerations, the government issued regulations allowing for medical staff to carry out less intrusive methods to ensure more safety. In 2016, the women’s minister announced a renewed campaign to end FGM but again met with increased opposition from the religious leaders in the country.

Malaysia

A study in 2012 found that more than 93 percent of the Muslim women that it surveyed in Malaysia have undergone the procedure. In 2009, Malaysia’s Islamic Council issued a fatwa – a legal pronouncement in Islam, allowing FGM and making the practice mandatory unless considered harmful. The call for standardization of procedure by the health ministry in 2012 added more to the problem of FGM in Malaysia as many in the country consider it to be normal and part of the culture.

A New Generation

Despite international condemnation, the practice of Female Genital Mutilation in Southeast Asia is still prevalent and entrenched in traditions in many communities. The practice exists mostly among the Muslim community but is not exclusive to it. It is only until recently that FGM in Southeast Asia has gained more international attention, and more evidence on the prevalence of the practice is necessary to raise awareness on the issue. Across Africa where the practice concentrates, some communities have started to question FGM and abandon the long-standing tradition. Hopefully, with the new awareness of FGM in Southeast Asia, the nations will soon put an end to the practice that has been putting the women in danger for generations.

Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

 

3D Printing in Impoverished Nations
3D printing is a technology that has existed since the 1980s. Over time, additive technology has increasingly progressed where various medical applications can use it. 3D printing in impoverished nations has several benefits specifically in medicine and medical services relating to the affordability for the general populous of these nations. 3D printing for medical applications is the process of utilizing a digital blueprint or digital model, slicing the model into manageable bits and then reconstructing it with various types of materials, typically plastic. Here are three examples of 3D printing in impoverished nations.

3 Examples of 3D Printing in Impoverished Nations

  1. Custom Surgical Elements: The use of 3D printing has significantly increased in the manufacturing of customized surgical elements, such as splints. Manufacturers can make these devices and components quickly at a relatively low cost, which would greatly reduce the price of sale to the consumer. The reason for the reduced cost of production compared to conventional manufacturing systems is primarily due to the additive nature of 3D printing. For example, 3D printing actually adds material onto each layer, rather than subtracting (cutting/slicing) and combining material. This results in smaller opportunities for error to occur and the wasting of fewer materials in the long run.
  2. 3D Printed Organs: Many know this particular field of 3D medical printing as bioprinting. According to The Smithsonian Magazine, bioprinting involves integrating human cells from the organ recipient into the “scaffolding” of the 3D printed organ. The scaffolding acts as the skeleton of the organ and the cells will grow and duplicate to support physiological function. Although this particular method is still in the experimental stages, there have been successful procedures performed in the past. Researchers at Wake Forest have found an effective method for bioprinting human organs; they have successfully implanted and grown skin, ears, bone, and muscle in lab animals. Further, scientists at Princeton University have 3D printed a bionic ear that can detect various frequencies, different than a biological, human ear. The researchers behind the creation of this bionic ear theorized that they could use a similar procedure for internal organs. Similar to surgical components, 3D printed organs would greatly reduce the cost of organ transplants. Additionally, it would increase the availability of organs, which are nearly impossible to find. Locating an appropriate match within a specific proximity of the patient has resulted in a global organ shortage. Whilst some have presented a solution in the form of international organ trade, WHO states that international organ trade could provide a significant health concern because of the lengthy trips the organs would experience. 3D printed organs may be a sustainable method to help impoverished nations with supply organs quickly and cheaply.
  3. Prosthetics: 3D printing in impoverished nations could also allow people to print custom prosthetics for those in need. The lack of access to current prosthetics creates a lot of obstacles for people living in impoverished nations. Creating prosthetics with 3D printing technology has the potential to provide a person the ability to accomplish basic, daily tasks in order to support a family. Not only are current prosthetics expensive, but they are also often inconvenient or they prohibit natural motion. For example, Cambodia treats a prosthetic hand as a cosmetic item, leading the majority of the population to refuse the prosthetic due to the lack of functionality. The Victoria Hand project is currently attempting to change this perspective by providing functional, 3D printed prosthetic hands to Cambodia and Nepal. The team has performed user trials, where the aim is to distribute the 3D printed hand to the general populace. Subsequently, the design will go to multiple fabrication services to maximize accessibility.

These three examples of 3D printing in impoverished nations show just how important 3D printing is and will continue to be to aiding those in need. With further development, 3D printing should allow people to receive prosthetics and organ transplants more easily.

– Jacob Creswell
Photo: Wikimedia