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Global Health News
The start of 2020 is the time to look back and see global health news for 2019. From new drug recommendations and global vaccination efforts to ongoing diseases and funding to eliminate them, health agencies and national governments are working tirelessly to keep everything in place. They are making sure the general public, especially those in affected countries, get the right information and the best resources to address these health issues. They are gathering enough funding to implement different health programs for treatment and prevention. Finally, they are continually conducting research to find new treatments to make the world a healthier place.

Global Health News Updates for 2019

  1. Tafenoquine use for malaria is under new guidance: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were about 219 million malaria cases around the world in 2017. People can use Arakoda (tafenoquine 300 mg) and Krintafel (tafenoquine 150 mg) to treat malaria. The government of Kenya joined Ghana and Malawi to test the malaria vaccine for children. Results of clinical trials show that vaccinated children do not contract malaria as often as unvaccinated children.
  2. Poliovirus outbreaks increase sharply: Poliovirus (cVDVP) outbreaks have increased worldwide. Twenty-nine outbreaks occurred in 15 countries within a one-and-a-half-year period (2018-2019). The 29 outbreaks also tripled the number of outbreaks in the year prior (2017-2018) among six different countries. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has send staff to the affected areas to provide treatment and prevention efforts.
  3. Measles numbers increased: Measles cases have increased tremendously in the last three years. In 2018, there were approximately 10 million measles cases with 140,000 deaths. The number of deaths has increased from 90,000 in 2016. People are not receiving immunizations due to different vaccination beliefs and the availability of vaccines. UNICEF is trying to address the issue; however, Xavier Crespin, UNICEF’s chief of health in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said it has been difficult.
  4. Global vaccination coverage has stayed the same since 2010: The global vaccination rate has stayed between 85 percent to 86 percent for the past eight years. This is due to the low availability of vaccines reaching areas of countries that are experiencing high poverty and warfare. False vaccination beliefs are also a factor in holding back coverage. The Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) is working to address the issue by setting up vaccination stations in these countries as well as solving any vaccination challenges that stand in the way of vaccinating people. 
  5. New Respiratory Syndrome from Wuhan, China: Chinese health authorities have confirmed a case of new coronavirus in January 2020. The number of deaths has reached 80 with more cases expected. The virus has spread to Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Korea and the United States, and the situation is on its way to becoming a global epidemic. WHO is closely monitoring the situation and issuing health advisories to affected countries.
  6. Preparing for Ebola in South Sudan: South Sudan is preparing for Ebola as its neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, had an outbreak. Warfare has devastated the country’s health system; health experts are suggesting ways to prevent and treat diseases. The country’s health governance deployed fully-immunized health workers to support prevention efforts with 32 outposts for screening and care along the border.
  7. Antiretroviral treatment (ART) reduces HIV mortality in Kenya: The use of antiretrovirals to treat HIV has reduced HIV-related death rates in Kenya as one researcher at the CDC Zielinski-Gutierrez confirmed. The CDC is leading the AIDS-control effort as part of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) all over the world including Kenya (PEPFAR Kenya).
  8. Shigella developed resistance to azithromycin and ciprofloxacin: In a research study, the virus that causes Shigella in men who have sex with men (MSM) has developed resistance to azithromycin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole and ciprofloxacin. WHO put preventative measures in place like the Water and Sanitation Decade Development Project to promote water sanitation and hand-washing education.
  9. Tuberculosis (TB) is low in the U.S. but not globally: Residents who were born outside of the U.S. are much more likely to contract tuberculosis and carry latent TB infection. The CDC stated that 69.5 percent of newly diagnosed TB cases are of those who were born outside of the U.S. compared to 29.5 percent of those who were born in the U.S. Furthermore, countries other than the U.S. have higher TB death rates. The United Nations and WHO are targeting to end TB in 2030 and 2050 respectively.
  10. Donors pledge to donate $2.6 billion to end polio: Donors pledged to donate $2.6 billion at the Polio Conference in Abu Dhabi to help put an end to world polio. Donations come from the Gates Foundation, the U.K., the U.S., Pakistan and Rotary International. WHO will use the funding to vaccinate 450 million children each year.

Global health challenges are ongoing; however, many are working to address these challenges. Global health efforts will not go unnoticed as the world will become a healthier, happier and safer place for all. Finally, global health news updates are an excellent way to communicate all global health trends, challenges and ongoing projects. 

– Hung Minh Le
Photo: Flickr

Pollution in Africa
Africa is a continent that is in a state of impoverishment; as of 2015, 413 million citizens of Africa live in poverty. Due to a lack of resources, Africa struggles with maintaining its environment and reducing its pollution levels. The pollution in Africa is becoming worse as the state of poverty worsens. Impoverished communities rely heavily on their environmental state, and people should place the issue of pollution at a higher importance. Here are 10 facts about pollution in Africa.

10 Facts About Pollution in Africa

  1. Water Pollution: The quality of the water accessible to those in Africa is essential; according to a study in 2009, “water is said to be a national asset… one on which [their] economic and social development” relies upon. A major cause of water pollution in Africa is the throwing of general waste into local bodies of water. Communities in poverty do not usually have the funding to create proper waste-management systems so they pollute their water supplies instead.
  2. Metal Pollution in Soil: Once a water source suffers pollution, the contaminants can spread into the soil that supplies food and economic activity. People have found metals from local waste in the soil of major agricultural plots of land. The metals found have now become a public health risk due to the already high levels of pollution in Africa. Areas could implement better filtration devices to reduce metals in soil.
  3. Air Pollution: Air pollution is Africa’s biggest environmental risk. Air pollution is a major problem throughout all of the world with over 90 percent of people living in a place that does not meet WHO air quality guidelines. In Africa, air pollution is becoming the most dangerous environmental risk that residents face. South Africa specifically faces higher air pollution because of a lack of governmental enforcement of laws preventing pollution. Local environmental groups are suing the South African government so that it may make a change.
  4. Emissions: Africa produces a high amount of emissions due to its lack of resources. Everyday life including cooking, waste-management and heating of items adds to the current state of air pollution because citizens have to make fires for their different needs. Emissions in impoverished communities cause a different kind of pollution that affects the direct community at high levels. Road vehicles and outdoor forms of heating are examples of low-level emissions that cause air pollution in Africa. The industrialization that could prevent outdoor pollution is in progress but still requires attention to prevent emissions.
  5. Acid Rain: Acid rain is becoming more prevalent due to pollution. Coal-burning in South Africa causes occurrences of acid rain. Coal-burning derived air pollution releases dangerous gases that can poison plants, contaminate communities and produce damaging acid rain. A factory in South Africa was responsible for the emission of 1.84 million tons of sulphuric acid and 0.84 million tons of nitric acid in 1987. Further enforcement of environmental laws could reduce the acid rain that large coal-burning companies cause.
  6. Children and Air Pollution: Children are at an especially high risk of death by air pollution and children that expose themselves to outdoor pollutants are more likely to suffer the effects than adults. The spread of diseases air pollution causes are negatively impacting the life expectancy of children. Around 7.8 million people will die prematurely from direct or indirect exposure from emissions specifically caused by cooking. Children require more medical attention and environmental education to reduce air pollution in Africa.
  7. Multination Companies: Multinational companies play a part in pollution. Environmental faults from multinational companies and trade activities are continuing to add to the pollution in Africa. Governmental enforcement for laws requiring business and trading activities to be more environmentally friendly is low. Companies and trading acts cause the release of gas, oil spills, waste accumulating on the ground or in water and the lack of higher technology, increasing air and water pollution.  Further development of resources will help reduce the pollution from multinational companies and trade activities.
  8. The United Nations Environment Programme: The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported that an estimate of  600,000 deaths every year relate to pollution in Africa. The UNEP is providing aid to the leading energy and global transport organizations, and some of the UNEP’s focuses are on fuel economy and development of infrastructure. Programs that the UNEP has implemented include the Global Fuel Efficiency Initiative, Share the Road, Partnerships for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, Africa Sustainable Transport Forum and Climate and Clean Air Coalition. The pollution in Africa will decrease if programs like the UNEP continue their hard work.
  9. Air Sensors: Air sensors are creating a cleaner way of life in Kenya. Air quality and pollution in Africa is an ever-evolving issue and demands ever-evolving solutions. Particles in the air small enough to enter the bloodstream are becoming more evident and Kenya is in dire need of change. According to the WHO, the fine particulate matter in Nairobi, Kenya is 70 percent above the maximum level. The WHO has implemented sensors that can read the particles in the air and determine the safety level.
  10. Africa’s Potential Green Revolution: Once Africa properly takes care of its plentiful resources, it has the potential to start a green revolution and save millions. In East Africa, residents have pioneered off-grid solar energy and created a model that other African regions could follow. These residents’ governments plan on investing in solar and wind power plants which would provide clean and affordable energy. Energy by solar and wind plants will reduce the amount of pollution in Africa because residents will no longer have to use low-level energy methods which destroy air quality.

Pollution in Africa is in a state of emergency. Air pollution is the biggest environmental danger to Africa currently; air pollution only increases due to a lack of higher-level infrastructure to reduce air emissions. Local enforcement of regulations on multinational companies and trade activity should benefit Africa’s environmental state.

Kat Fries
Photo: Flickr

childhood cancer in Kenya

The World Health Organization (WHO) has ranked cancer as a leading case of death in children. Globally, the leading types of childhood cancers are cancer of the white blood cells and brain tumors. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the most common types are non-Hodgkins lymphoma, kidney cancer and bone marrow cancer. This article explains eight facts about childhood cancer in Kenya.

8 Facts About Childhood Cancer in Kenya

  1. Child Cancer Causes: According to the American Cancer Society, while known lifestyle-related factors can increase the risk of developing cancer in adults, the same is not true for children. Dr. William Macharia, a pediatrician based in Nairobi, Kenya, explained that the peak age of childhood cancer is between 3 and 7 years old which is not enough time for environmental factors to cause cancer. Instead, many believe that wrong cell division and multiplication after conception is the cause.
  2. Childhood Cancer Survival Rate: Only 20 percent of children with cancer in Kenya survive. This is in contrast to the developed countries where up to 80 percent of children with cancer survive. Once again, one can attribute this to the late diagnosis as well as the lack of specialized training and other challenges children face in getting treatment.
  3. Hospice Care Kenya: Hospice Care Kenya reports that only 1 percent of children in Kenya have access to appropriate palliative care. A large majority of children with cancer, therefore, die in pain and isolation. Hospice Care Kenya is working to improve palliative care in Kenya so that children could receive appropriate care which could enhance their quality of life and death.
  4. Radiation and Chemotherapy: One of the biggest challenges in treating childhood cancer is that radiation and chemotherapy have a lasting, damaging effect on children’s bodies. A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology shows that by the age of 50, more than half of those who survived childhood cancer experience a severe, disabling or life-threatening event and this could include death. This shows that more research is necessary to develop better treatment and care models for children diagnosed with cancer.
  5. Financial Challenges: One of the reasons why childhood cancer in Kenya does not receive diagnosis or treatment is because families experience financial difficulties in dealing with it. To begin with, most of the medical facilities where treatment is available are in urban centers so those from rural areas have to travel long distances to access them. Additionally, the cost of treatment, medicine and health insurance is too high for families to afford. When faced with the difficult choice of paying for the sick child and clothing, feeding and educating the rest of the family, families often choose the latter. World Child Cancer reports that almost 30 percent of children who begin treatment do not complete it.
  6. Limited Medical Training: There is a lack of specialized training of medical practitioners which leads to late diagnosis of childhood cancer in Kenya. By the time most children have a cancer diagnosis, the illness is already in its advanced stages. This is unfortunate because when people know they have cancer early enough, they can obtain treatment or at least manage the disease.
  7. The Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer and Shoe4Africa: The WHO announced the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer in September 2018. The initiative aims to reach a survival rate of at least 60 percent for children with cancer by 2030. Shoe4Africa plans to start Africa’s first children’s cancer hospital in Eldoret, Kenya. The organization opened Sub-Saharan Africa’s second public children’s hospital in Eldoret and currently, 400 patients receive treatment at the hospital every day.
  8. Funding for Cancer Treatment: The government of Kenya provides funding to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, which diagnoses over 100 children with cancer in a year. While this helps to ease the burden for families, it is not enough to cover all the costs. The majority of patients, therefore, have to pay out-of-pocket for their medical expenses. In Kenyatta National Hospital, the largest hospital in Kenya, the Israeli embassy renovated and equipped the children’s cancer wards to ensure that the children are comfortable while seeking treatment.

There is an urgent need for different sectors to come together and set up effective ways of dealing with childhood cancer in Kenya. These methods must also be affordable to all citizens. Kenyans can look to the successes of developed countries as an example. Beyond that, the public needs to receive more education on childhood cancers. This can happen through public health awareness campaigns such as those Kenya used to successfully inform and educate the public on diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Sanitation in EthiopiaEthiopia is Africa’s second-most populated country with more than 109 million people. It is also its fastest-growing economy even though it is one of the poorest countries in the world. Sanitation in Ethiopia is one of the factors proving to be a challenge when it comes to sustaining or improving on the country’s growth and development. Below are 10 facts about sanitation in Ethiopia.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Ethiopia

  1. Ethiopia is considered water-stressed because the rapid population growth over the last decade has put a strain on its abundant water sources. Despite estimations showing that 13.5 to 28 billion cubic meters of renewable annual groundwater is available per year, only 2.6 billion cubic meters is usable.
  2. Ethiopia is a country of two extremes. Some parts of the country are plagued by constant flooding while other parts experience water scarcity, degraded water quality and food insecurity because of recurring droughts.
  3. The majority of Ethiopia’s population lives in rural areas and is dependent on subsistence farming; therefore, a lot of water is used for agriculture. The global average for water withdrawals for agricultural use is 70 percent. Ethiopia uses 93 percent for agricultural.
  4. According to the WHO, 43 percent of Ethiopia’s population lacks access to an improved water source. Only around 28 percent of people nationwide have access to improved sanitation. While this is astoundingly low, it is an improvement from 3 percent in 1990.
  5. Women and girls bear the brunt of Ethiopia’s water and sanitation problem as they have to travel long distances daily to fetch water. Consequently, they are often unable to fully participate in community life or go to school.
  6. Open defecation is a daily part of life in 32 percent of Ethiopia’s rural homes and 7 percent of its urban population. Twenty-three million people practice open defecation due to a lack of access to improved sanitation.
  7. UNICEF attributes between “60 to 80 percent of communicable diseases in Ethiopia” to “limited access to safe water and inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene facilities.” Diarrhea, for example, accounts for 23 percent of all deaths for children under the age of five. Another report also shows that about 32 percent of health facilities in Ethiopia have access to safe water.
  8. The good news is that change is happening and has been happening. A joint report by WHO and UNICEF shows that Ethiopia has improved its water supply by 97 percent in urban areas and 42 percent in rural areas. Ethiopia achieved its Millenium Development Goal (MDG) target of providing 57 percent of the population with access to safe drinking water. This reduced the number of people without access to clean drinking water since 1990 by half.
  9. The government plans to further improve sanitation in Ethiopia under the One WASH National Program. It hopes to increase access to safe water to 98 percent for rural areas and 100 percent for urban areas. Under the program, all Ethiopians will also be provided with access to basic sanitation.
  10. There are also many international organizations aiding the government to improve sanitation in Ethiopia. Water.org has been working in Ethiopia since 2004 and has reached 243,000 people so far. Others, such as UNICEF and USAID, are supporting the One WASH program in various capacities.

The government and other partners need to continue improving sanitation in Ethiopia if the economy is to continue to grow. Aspects of development like life expectancy, improved opportunities for women and girls to participate in society and food production are dependent on sanitation. It is only by dealing with this that the government can hope for continued growth and development as well as poverty reduction.

Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Pixabay

5 Facts About Nauru’s Overweight Health Issue
Nauru is a small island country located in the Pacific Ocean near Papa New Guinea and is home to around 10,000 people. More than 70 percent of the population in this country is categorized as obese and overweight. According to the World Health Organization, Nauru has the highest percentage of overweight and obese people in the world. Its ongoing health issue has gained much attention from health organizations. Many organizations, like the World Diabetes Foundation, have reached out and offered financial help to establish health care programs in the hopes that the people of Nauru will take on a healthier lifestyle but have found little success. Here are 5 facts about Nauru’s overweight health issue.

5 Facts About Nauru’s Overweight Health Issue

  1. Causes of Death: Nauru has the highest rates of type 2 diabetes in the world with 40 percent of its inhabitants affected by the condition. This condition puts many people at risk for heart and kidney disease on the small island and many suffer from high blood pressure. Very few people live past the age of 60 on the island.
  2. The Nauruan Diet: The obesity and overweight problem found in Nauru may be because of the lack of proper nutrition in Nauruan’s diets. Many of their diets consist of white rice, instant noodles, imported Westernized foods and soda with very little fruits and vegetables. A Global Nutrition Report suggests that once Nauru makes improvements to the quality of foods available, it could start to see some success in reducing the number of people being that obesity affects. Some ways it can start working towards a healthier lifestyle is by creating easy-to-understand food labels, limiting the marketing of junk food to children and increasing taxes on sodas.
  3. Child Obesity: According to a 2017 UNICEF report, 44 percent of children ages 13 to 15 are overweight while 17 percent are obese. Many children on the island are not getting enough physical activity. Only 15 percent of children reported being physically active for at least an hour a day. On the other hand, 33 percent of children reported that they spend at least three hours per day doing sitting activities. Obesity has become a social norm that many children have accepted and do not see anything wrong with.
  4. Lack of Traditional Practices: The World Health Organization has suggested that Nauru’s obesity problem started with the decline of traditional practices such as fishing and gardening. Before the country gained independence, many Nauruan’s diets consisted of fresh fish, fruits and vegetables grown on their own land. Because of the easy money the country was able to gain from phosphate mining, people stopped farming and fishing and found it easier to import canned and frozen foods.
  5. Solutions: Obesity rates have not dropped on the island, but some have made efforts to help people get some physical activity. Events such as Walk against Cancer were prevalent in Nauru. In 2010, locals received encouragement to walk around the three-mile airport perimeter every Wednesday. The country eventually stopped the three-mile walks due to security reasons but people on the island still provide regular exercise classes.

These 5 facts about Nauru’s overweight health issue have shown that the island country of Nauru is suffering from a huge obesity problem and exercise is not the only solution to this issue. Good nutrition is an extremely important aspect of preventing diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease and something that Nauru has to prioritize to see any changes in the lifestyles of its citizens. Providing children and adults with fresh vegetables and fruits instead of imported junk foods will make a huge impact on the health of this country. The people of Nauru are capable of changing their lifestyles if provided with the right tools.

– Jannette Aguirre
Photo: Flickr

Worms in Nigerian Children

Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STHs) are a type of macroparasitic nematode intestinal infection that transmits to humans through infected soil, more commonly known as worms. These worms typically infest soil when it comes into contact with infected fecal matter, and can directly find its way to a person’s mouth from one’s hands, unwashed vegetables, undercooked meat or infected water supplies. Since STHs become more prevalent with a lack of proper sanitation services, they affect impoverished and developing countries disproportionately more than already developed countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates about 1.5 billion people worldwide have an STH infection. In particular, worms in Nigerian children are a cause for concern.

Types of Worms

The three most common worm infections in humans are hookworms, roundworms and whipworms. Hookworms are the most infectious type since their larva can hatch in the soil and penetrate the skin of whoever comes into contact with it. Infected people with a large number of worms – typically people who go for a long time without receiving treatment – have a high level of morbidity (risk of death). Those with serious infections can suffer significant malnutrition, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, general weakness and physical impairment.

Nigeria’s Struggle

Nigeria is one of the most at-risk countries for communities suffering from STH outbreaks due to improper sanitation in many urban slums and the warm, tropical climate that worms thrive in. There is a much higher prevalence of worms in Nigerian children – especially when they are of the age to attend school. Overcrowding and improper sanitation of impoverished communities are amplified when children attend school without proper waste or washing facilities. In addition, younger children do not have a fully-developed immune system yet, creating the perfect condition for worm infections.

A study conducted in the slums of Lagos City, Nigeria concluded that the overall prevalence of worms in Nigerian children was at 86.2 percent; of these children, 39.1 percent had polyparasitism. These figures are startling and daunting, but there are effective treatments and preventative measures available. The problem is making the methods of control affordable and accessible for people in poverty.

Organizations Taking Action

Organizations are taking steps to bring proper deworming treatment and sanitation to children in Nigerian slums. The WHO has a comprehensive strategy for combatting STHs in developing countries that the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control is trying to follow. Nigeria is trying to equip school teachers with the proper training to administer worm medicine for children in slums when they attend class. This medicine would be available to school children twice a year, or as needed in some cases.  Even children that do not have worms will be able to access this medicine in order to take precautionary measures against future infection. Even though Nigeria’s infrastructure is not in the right place to make widespread and accessible sanitation a reality for low-income communities, administering affordable medicine to children is a great first step.

The problem of sanitation has fallen to international humanitarian organizations like the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). UNICEF has conducted talks in Nigeria to educate the general populous about the importance of sanitation and taking infectious diseases seriously. With the help of the European Union, UNICEF has also installed a WASH facility in a northern Nigerian rural community. This facility consists of a solar-powered borehole that pipes up fresh well water from the ground into a 24-liter capacity tank to store the clean water safely. With further policy development and implementation measures, these facilities can expand to cover some urban slums as well.

The case of worms in Nigerian children looks bleak at the moment, but the ball is rolling with eradicating the worm epidemic. The increased sanitation of impoverished communities and more affordable and regularly-distributed medicinal treatment can very well make the dream of taking worms out of the equation for Nigerian children a reality.

– Graham Gordon
Photo: Pixabay

Studying Human Behavior Can Help Eradicate Malaria

Bed nets. Insecticide. Preventative medicine. These are the tools that are most known for fighting malaria—and for good reason. Tactics like these have saved millions of lives. However, when a country manages to eliminate most incidences of malaria, the traditional techniques lose their impact. One group of researchers, realizing the need for new strategies against malaria, decided to not focus on mosquitoes (the traditional tactic) but on humans themselves. Ultimately, studying human behavior can help eradicate malaria by targeting weak spots in preventative plans and providing a clearer implementation of resources. To better understand malaria, its far-reaching impacts and the importance of a new human-centered technique, it is helpful to start from the beginning.

What is Malaria and How Was it Treated in the Past?

Malaria has plagued humans for, quite literally, as long as humanity remembers. The earliest written records  — Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets — describe symptoms characteristic of the disease. Scientists found human remains dating back to 3200 BC with malaria antigens. Ancient scholars called the illness the “king of diseases.” It certainly lives up to the title. It is thousands of years old and it has killed hundreds of millions of people.

Anopheles mosquitoes, most active at dusk and night-time, are responsible for the malaria parasite’s spread. Carried in the insect’s stomach, the parasite enters the human bloodstream through the mosquitoes’ saliva (the same substance that makes bites itch and swell) as they feed.

Humans first exhibit symptoms a week or so after infection. If untreated, the disease quickly becomes serious. Sufferers feel flu-like symptoms, including body aches, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea. Patients can die within 48 hours after they first exhibit symptoms.

In 1820, chemists developed quinine, the first modern pharmacological treatment for malaria. In the 1900s, the men who identified the malaria parasite, demonstrated that mosquitoes were responsible for transmission and developed the mosquito-repelling insecticide DDT all won Nobel Prizes for their respective discoveries. Understanding and preventing malaria were matters of great international importance.

What is Malaria’s Global Presence Today?

Fighting this disease remains a top global priority. Modern preventative measures now include insecticide-treated bed nets (to keeps the nocturnal malaria-carrying mosquitos away) and indoor sprays. Children in high-transmission areas are also eligible for seasonal malaria chemoprevention. Thanks to a surge in global humanitarian attention, the disease’s presence has fallen worldwide. Between 2010 and 2017, malaria incidence decreased by nearly 20 percent and fatalities decreased by nearly 30 percent.

However, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 216 million clinical cases still occurred worldwide in 2016 alone, resulting in 445,000 deaths. The disease causes a massive drain on economies, due to healthcare costs and loss of workforce efficiency. In sub-Saharan Africa, where potent strains of the parasite thrive, those damaging effects are especially notable. Malaria and its effects cost Africa a stunning $12 billion every year and, because people living near unclean water sources and insecure housing are most at risk, malaria disproportionally affects the impoverished. By prohibiting individuals from attending work or school, let alone its potential to kill, malaria perpetuates the cycle of poverty. While reducing prevalence is a key factor, eradication continues to be the ultimate goal. That means the end to malaria’s ill-effects on communities, particularly impoverished ones.

How Studying Human Behavior Can Help Eradicate Malaria

When regions successfully employ traditional tactics, as many have, they find themselves with a new problem. “Lingering cases” is a term used to describe when a region no longer experiences outbreaks, but that the disease still exists locally. In general, eliminating any illness gets harder the fewer instances of it that occur. Tracking the carrier mosquitoes is infeasible, if not impossible. However, researchers in Zanzibar took a new approach – they decided to track humans instead.

In July 2019, the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs published an article in Malaria Journal that details the reasoning behind the new technique. While indoor measures work, people are not necessarily confined to the home at nighttime. One Zanzibari woman remarked in an interview, “When you are outside, you can’t really wear the bed nets, can you?” Existing steps against malaria are not effective outdoors, which makes it nearly impossible to eliminate the last few cases.

Researchers conducted over 60 in-depth interviews and studied routine human movements: between homes, stores, public spaces, religious services and even special events, like weddings. They found many insights. For example, men were at the highest risk for infection because they most often work or socialize outside after dark. There is also a notable population of seasonal workers that come to Zanzibar from Tanzania’s mainland. These individuals rarely own mosquito nets nor insecticides to spray their residences. Better understanding the movements of people vulnerable to malaria, as well as those that find themselves periodically unprotected, is important. That information allows scientists to create better-targeted interventions, including community support programs, outdoor areas with preventative measures, and basic indoor resources for those without.

Small scale use of these techniques has proven effective, and the researchers behind this investigation believe they could be scaled up successfully. Best of all, 26 other countries have similarly low rates of malaria incidence. If Zanzibar, a high-transmission area for the parasite, could push back against this disease so successfully, other countries could benefit greatly from the same changes.

Conclusion

Malaria, a disease that has lasted for around 5000 years, has never been closer to eradication. The last century has seen a great surge in momentum for fighting this illness. The results are stunning; millions of lives saved, several countries eliminated the disease entirely, and dozens more are nearing that goal. In turn, people have prospered. For every dollar invested in African malaria control, the continent sees 40 dollars in economic growth. Much of that prosperity goes back to impoverished people, who can thrive with less illness and more economic efficiency. Now, researchers are pursuing the “last mile” strategies. Studying human behavior can help eradicate malaria by preventing remote cases. Total eradication and the end of malaria’s drain on the impoverished has never been closer.

– Molly Power
Photo: Wikimedia

Breastfeeding in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is an African country located in the southern region of the continent. It has beautiful landscapes and wildlife that attract many people every year, but the country is still intensely poverty-stricken. In fact, it is one of the poorest nations in the world with a whopping 70 percent of the entire nation living under the poverty line.Many of the downsides that come with poverty are present in the country, but one downside that people often do not consider is how poverty affects breastfeeding in Zimbabwe. While people often see breastfeeding as a natural process that even the poorest populations do, breastfeeding is limited in Zimbabwe. About 66.8 percent of Zimbabwean women exclusively breastfed their newborns between the first six months of life with only 32 percent starting breastfeeding within the first day of life. In a country of malnourished people and food scarcity, this article will explore why women do not frequently breastfeed in Zimbabwe.

The Reason Women Do Not Breastfeed in Zimbabwe

One can attribute the lack of exclusive breastfeeding in Zimbabwe to a set of issues that include low education, low income and traditional practices as well as the country having a patriarchal society. Women said what they were only comfortable exclusively breastfeeding for the first three months of their child’s life and this directly relates to the fact that there is intense pressure from in-laws to include different foods in their babies’ diets which stems from long uninformed traditions. With little to no support from the male partner, mothers can find it difficult to resist this pressure.

In combination with these factors, there is also the simple fact that many Zimbabwean women suffer extreme malnourishment. Some reports also stated that many mothers who did not engage in exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first three months of life were simply unable to produce enough milk to fully nourish their babies.

The Effect On Zimbabwean Babies

Zimbabwe has an infant mortality rate of 50 deaths per 1,000 births. For perspective, the infant mortality rate in the United States is five deaths per 1,000 births. Reports determined that 10 percent of all mortality in children aged 5 years was because of non-exclusive breastfeeding at the beginning of life, which is quite significant.

In conjunction with this high infant mortality rate, there is also chronic malnutrition and stunting. Approximately 27 percent of children under the age of 5 in Zimbabwe suffer from chronic malnutrition. Stunting also occurs in Zimbabwean children but varies by region from 19 percent to 31 percent.

There is a correlation between education and breastfeeding in Zimbabwe as well. People have observed a connection between education and breastfeeding not only in the patterns of the mother but also in how it affects her children.

Solutions

Some are making efforts to bring more awareness and education to the people of Zimbabwe. One of these efforts is the initiation of World Breastfeeding Week which representatives from WHO, UNICEF and the Ministry of Health and Child Care launched due to concerns about the low exclusive breastfeeding rates. Only 48 percent of babies below the age of 6 months received exclusive breastfeeding at the time of this event which is significantly lower than the 66.8 percent in 2019.

The improved statistics show that efforts to combat the misinformation and societal pressures among Zimbabwean women to improve rates of exclusive breastfeeding are working. While poverty negatively affects breastfeeding in Zimbabwe, others are slowly combating it.

– Samira Darwich
Photo: Pixabay

Aftermath of Ebola
An Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has infected 250,000 people and has nearly killed 1,700 people. The outbreak occurred in August 2018. The New York Times reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared this outbreak a global health emergency.

What is Ebola?

Ebola is a fatal disease that spreads through contact with a person with the Ebola virus. According to the CDC, “It spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids of a person who is sick with or has died from EVD.” One can also contract it through direct contact with blood and sexual contact. Symptoms usually occur within two to 21 days from the time a person contracts the virus.

The disease spread throughout the Congo and proceeded to enter countries such as Goma and those near Rwanda. This outbreak posed a threat to surrounding countries and the overall idea of public health.

Health care workers and medical team members in those areas are also becoming affected. According to data that the Ebola Response Committee collected, 157 workers have suffered Ebola and 41 of them have died. This means that 5 percent of the people suffering from Ebola in the Congo were health workers.

Since these outbreaks have been happening recently, officials are stepping in to launch infection control. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is receiving help from different global organizations in order to implement new infection prevention and control (IPC) training.

One of those training sessions consists of preparing local nurses, doctors and health workers on how to confront this disease. This is important because most of the local workers do not know how to detect the disease and safely isolate patients.

Efforts to Treat and Prevent Ebola

Weeks during and after the outbreak, WHO began to work with community officials to advocate for treatment for patients. This work consisted of WHO teaching and encouraging people in the affected community to recognize the symptoms of Ebola and to seek treatment immediately. WHO also connected with youth leaders and community representatives in order to collaborate with the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) about responding to the outbreak.

Other organizations such as Save the Children have been responding as well. Save the Children has been working with different organizations in the DRC to ensure they know how to protect themselves. The organization is also working with WHO on the ground to prevent outbreaks from spreading any further. Save the Children and WHO are doing this to reduce the damage the outbreak has already caused.

Save the Children sent out emergency health units to respond to the disease crisis, as well as partnering with the Congolese government on the ground to support its health facilities. It has trained many health workers and community leaders on how to address Ebola in their communities. It also built 15 Ebola triage points that will assist in detecting and preventing Ebola cases among children.

Many different initiatives within these organizations are taking place to help advocate for this crisis and bring in as much medical treatment as they can. As Ebola continues to infest the DRC, the surrounding countries and their poor communities, they will be in a continued state of a global health emergency.

– Jessica Jones
Photo: Flickr

Ebola Is BackA mother and her daughter traveled more than 1,000 miles from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to Uganda seeking medical help to save her child’s life. The nine-year-old girl from the DRC was exposed and later developed symptoms of Ebola on August 29, 2019. She was identified at the Mpondwe-Kasindi border point and then sent to an Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) in Bwera, Uganda. Sadly, not too long after her arrival, the child passed away. Ebola is back in Africa. The situation is grim, but there are organizations trying to contain the virus.

Ebola in the DRC

There have been a total of 25 outbreaks in Africa since the first flare-up in the Ebola River in 1967. It has plagued countries spanning from the West to sub-Saharan Africa with a 25 to 90 percent fatality rate. This sporadic epidemic has come back yet again and bigger than before. This disease has surfaced in the North Kivu Province. It is considered to be the second-largest outbreak in history after the 2014-2016 outbreak that killed about 11,000 people.

The majority of EVD cases are coming from one of the 29 health zones located in Beni, Kalunguta, Manima and Mambasa. Out of the 3,054 EVD cases that were reported in September 2019, 2,945 of them were confirmed reports. Overall, 2,052 of those people died. Children have made up about 28 percent of probable and confirmed cases. Health care workers comprised around 5 percent.

Expanding Outside of the DRC

This 2019 case is different because the country is undergoing conflict and there are a lot of refugees fleeing to different parts of the region. The DRC’s political instability, random acts of violence and infrastructure limitations have also contributed to the restricted efforts to end the outbreak. As of June 2019, the disease started to expand into Uganda, with four cases confirmed near the eastern border shared with DRC, South Kivu Province and Rwanda borders.

Ugandan authorities have taken matters into their own hands. They strengthened border controls and “banned public gatherings” in areas that have been affected by EVD. According to the August 5, 2019 risk assessment, the national and regional levels are at higher risk of contracting EVD while the global level risk is low.

Vaccinating This Outbreak

The World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative of Uganda, Yonas Tegegn, stated that whoever came into contact with the nine-year-old patient had to be vaccinated. Out of the five Congolese who made contact with the little girl, four of them have been sent back to their country for “proper follow-ups” and another 8,000 were vaccinated against Ebola due to the prevalence in the risk of certain areas in the country. Overall, 200,000 people in DRC and medical workers in neighboring countries have been vaccinated against EVD.

With this being said, there is no official vaccination that is known to completely protect people from this disease. However, an “effective experimental vaccine” has been found suitable enough for use. Another option to combat this virus is a therapeutic treatment that has shown immense results in the early stages of the virus.

WHO and the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network

WHO is doing everything it can to prevent the international spread of this disease. It had already implemented the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) to “prevent, protect against, control and provide international responses” to the spread of EVD. This operation included many different concepts such as disease surveillance. Its designated procedures include notifying and reporting public health events and risks to other WHO countries, increasing risk assessments, considering whether or not an event is a public health emergency and strategizing international responses.

WHO partnered up with the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) to ensure that proper technologies and skills are present in order to help everyone that is in need. GOARN is a group of institutions and networks that “use human and technical resources” to regularly warn one another to rapidly identify, confirm and respond to international outbreaks. WHO and GOARN have been working in at least 40 different countries with 400 specialists. Together, they have provided aid to more than 50 events around the world.

Isabella Gonzalez Montilla
Photo: Flickr