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Child Poverty in Palestine
Palestine is an occupied state in West Asia with scattered claims over territories now under Israeli occupation, including Gaza, which borders the Mediterranean Sea and West Bank bordering Jordan. The territories of West Bank and Gaza alone are home to 5 million Palestinian people. Decades of conflict with Israel over territorial disputes has left the country ravaged. Poverty, malnutrition and the worsening humanitarian situation in the region have deeply affected the living conditions in Palestine. This has caused increased child poverty in Palestine.

A UNICEF report in 2018 predicted that around 1 million children in Palestine were in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Additionally, it stated that one-third of the population was living below the poverty line with unemployment rates in Gaza peaking at 53.7%. The current COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation worse for Palestinian children. The Ministry of Social Development of Palestine suggested in April 2020 that nearly 53,000 families in Palestine were at risk of poverty in the very first few months of the pandemic. Here are some facts about COVID-19 and how it has impacted child poverty in Palestine.

5 Facts About Child Poverty in Palestine During the COVID-19 Pandemic

  1. Crisis in Gaza: The territory of Gaza, which is one of the most populated areas in the world, has been under a blockade that Israel imposed since 2003. This has further severed access to humanitarian assistance in the region. In September 2020, the Special Rapporteur of the situation of Human Rights in Palestinian Territory commented that Gaza was on a brink of being unliveable. The prolonged blockade also led to a weak healthcare system in Gaza with hospitals lacking funding, medications, equipment and supplies. With closely packed settlements devoid of any prospect of physical distancing, frail healthcare systems and lack of basic humanitarian access, the COVID-19 virus has been ravaging the area and is massively affecting Palestine’s children. As of April 2020, over 17% of the population with COVID-19 in Gaza and West Bank were children.
  2. Education: According to a UNICEF report, as of 2018, nearly 25% of boys and 7% of girls in Palestine had to drop out of school by the age of 15. With an inflating economy, numerous job losses and an increasing number of parents unable to afford expenses related to education and transportation, these numbers may be higher by the end of 2020. The closing down of schools and transition to remote learning has had a deep impact on the education of children in Palestine. Data by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested that around 1.43 million children in Palestine were required to learn remotely, while 360,000 children lacked access to the internet.
  3. The Detainment of Children: Israel has detained a large number of Palestinian children. According to the U.N. Human Rights Office in the occupied Palestinian territory, 194 children were facing detention as of March 2020. Children in detention do not only face a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, but they also experience torture and violence. A large number of children have also received convictions without committing any offense. The U.N. has called for the immediate release of Palestinian children in Israel, expressing valid concerns over the status and condition of detained children at a time when Israel has put a hold on legal proceedings and has suspended visits to prisons. With no foreseeable help, several Palestinian children are still in detention centers.
  4. Electricity and Water: Living conditions have degraded further due to the recent decision of the Government of Israel to block the fuel necessary for the operation of the only power plant in Gaza. Electricity supply, water treatment and sewage facilities in Gaza were heavily dependent on the power plant in Gaza. However, the lack of fuel has severely impacted health facilities, electricity supply and access to clean water to children in Gaza. Families in Gaza are struggling to thrive on reminiscent fuel resources, and are able to access electricity for only three hours in a day. This has also had a major impact on hospitals and healthcare systems as a lack of electricity is challenging their effectiveness. The region may soon run out of clean water, leaving children devoid of water to drink or wash hands with.
  5. Solutions: Amidst this double crisis lingering upon the children of Palestine, agencies of the United Nations including UNICEF, the United Nations Relief Works Agency and World Health Organization (WHO) have been working intensively to provide relief to children and eradicate child poverty in Palestine. UNICEF and the Government of Palestine have issued recommendation-based solutions in order to ensure the rights of children during the pandemic while the UNRWA continues to provide aid to displaced Palestinian children. WHO has also come up with a response strategy through coordination of the various U.N. agencies and NGOs in order to combat violence and poverty among children, food insecurity, fragile health care systems and more. However, these organizations lack the funds to operate at their full capacity.

In the face of the current pandemic, child poverty in Palestine may spike at a rapid rate, which could result in a setback of a whole generation. Children in Palestine need the immediate and urgent attention of the world community so that another generation does not have to live with poverty, malnutrition and underdevelopment with immensely poor living conditions.

– Prathit Singh
Photo: Flickr

local production of medical suppliesAs developing countries struggle to meet their medical supply needs, many organizations have attempted to address these needs through the global supply chain. However, this system is often inefficient and inadequate for helping developing countries. Empowering struggling communities through the local production of medical supplies may be the key to improving medical care throughout the world.

Not Enough Oxygen

When working to improve healthcare in developing countries, aid organizations often struggle to supply adequate medical supplies in a timely manner. Supply shortages mean that these organizations fail to provide enough medical resources for these countries.

This lack of medical supplies is especially problematic during a pandemic such as COVID-19. While the pandemic has increased the need for oxygen in medical care, developing countries face the worst oxygen supply shortages. Estimates place the annual number of newborn deaths due to lack of oxygen at around 500,000.

In regions struggling with COVID-19, like Africa and the Middle East, oxygen shortages can be disastrous. Transporting oxygen tanks to these countries from the U.S. and Europe is often not efficient in cost or time. As such, the global supply chain for oxygen cannot supply these countries with what they need in a timely manner.

Not Enough Equipment

What’s more, the current response assumes that developed countries have enough supplies to meet global medical needs. This is not the case, however. According to the WHO, the global supply of personal protective equipment needed to effectively prevent the spread of COVID-19 only meets 60% of global demand. The WHO estimates that the world needs 89 million medical masks and 76 million medical gloves each month to combat the virus effectively.

These global supply chain shortages affect access to vaccines in impoverished communities in particular. More than a quarter of all vaccines have three or fewer distributers. This severely limits the access that poorer communities have to vaccines. Further, these distributors often headquarter exclusively in developed countries. This can make it even more difficult for developing countries to acquire enough vaccines to meet their own medical needs. Africa, for example, only has one vaccine manufacturer that is a member of the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers Network.

Encouraging the Local Production of Medical Supplies

Rather than relying on an already struggling global supply chain, it may help more to encourage the local production of medical supplies in these countries. Having local manufacturing plants would allow vital medical equipment to reach impoverished communities much more quickly and efficiently than it otherwise could.

Since April 2020, an organization called Assist International has worked with manufacturing plants in Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia. These plants provide a local source of oxygen tanks to hospitals in these countries. So far, the program has helped more than 40 hospitals in Africa, creating a cheap and efficient system for the local production of medical supplies.

Implementing Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing also provides a possible solution to the problem of medical supply shortages. This style of manufacturing allows for the quick and cost-effective production of important medical supplies. These may include mechanical parts for ventilators, surgical equipment and even prosthetics. 3D printing is a particularly versatile tool, since it can produce different kinds of equipment without unique machinery for each. Once installed in local production facilities, 3D printers can then support a variety of production purposes. They would therefore streamline the process of the local production of medical supplies in impoverished communities.

Medical supply shortages for developing countries are an especially pressing issue. As the world faces a pandemic and global supply chains begin to fracture, many developing countries cannot meet their medical needs. Working to empower impoverished communities through the local production of medical supplies and additive manufacturing may alleviate the strain on these countries’ medical systems.

Marshall Kirk
Photo: Wikimedia

Influenza in sub-Saharan AfricaAfrica is known for being one of the world’s poorest continents. Poverty directly affects a person’s susceptibility to diseases like influenza. To combat this disease, the future of healthcare in Africa requires funding to improve accessibility in rural regions. Here’s what you need to know about influenza in sub-Saharan Africa.

Influenza in Sub-Saharan Africa

While sub-Saharan Africa only accounted for an estimated 7,000 influenza deaths in 2015, this remains the most common and deadly global disease. The mortality rate of influenza in sub-Saharan Africa affects children under the age of five and those over 75. Though the mortality rate seems low compared to the U.S., it does not take into account the presence of healthcare services in Africa versus the U.S. In contrast to Africa, the U.S. had 22,705 influenza deaths in 2015. While these statistics are higher, the U.S. also has more accessible healthcare.

Furthermore, studies have shown that influenza affects many more people than accounted for. Research from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows 40% of antibodies for flu (B) were found in community members 40 years of age and older. This reveals that the virus continued to circulate with no monitoring processes. Importantly, this lack of surveillance contributes to countries’ and NGO partners’ ability to prepare for the next outbreak.

Higher rates of influenza in sub-Saharan Africa are typically found in low to middle-income regions with little resources and access to sanitation and healthcare. In particular, influenza puts nearly “two-thirds of the 34 million” persons infected with HIV at a higher risk for infection and mortality. Existing diseases such as HIV thus put a significant amount of the African population at risk for influenza.

Healthcare in Africa

Africa continues to possess one of the world’s worst healthcare infrastructures, despite funding from the U.S. In 2006, the U.S. gave R100 billion to the South African National Health Insurance (NHI). However, the U.S. provided $28.8 billion to those uninsured in the U.S. during that year, nearly twice the amount granted for all international health.

Rural regions in sub-Saharan Africa account for 60% the population, while urban areas contain 40%. Rural regions lack accessible healthcare compared to urban regions. Due to industrialization, urban areas have greater access to healthcare facilities and university hospitals.

Across many parts of Africa, the ratio of doctors to patients “is below 1/1000 population, with the ‘ratio of physicians per 1000 population essentially unchanged between 2004 (0.77) and 2011 (0.76).” Demand for physicians within these regions is increasing. However, although Africa is producing more physicians, many migrate to the U.S. This leaves rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa with few qualified healthcare providers.

Solutions and Aid

Awareness and aid are crucial to improving infrastructure and healthcare in Africa, so that it can respond to influenza outbreaks. The W.H.O. has created the Africa Flu Alliance, finding factors leading to the underfunding of healthcare to assess its overall impact. Similarly, the Africa Flu Alliance created a “strategic road map” of targets to control influenza in sub-Saharan Africa. It hopes to influence organizations, private funding and projects to support the organization’s initiatives.

Private sectors and nonprofits contribute to approximately half of Africa’s total healthcare funding and expenditures. Twenty-two organizations and nonprofits are working to combat the gap between health services in rural and urban areas. In addition, The African Network for Influenza Surveillance and Epidemiology (ANISE) was created in 2009, with a growing network alongside the CDC. Continual meetings from 2009 to 2012 allowed officials and representatives to discuss achievements and areas of improvement.

Reducing Aid Dependency: Can It Work?

Despite the reliance on Western assistance for years, President Trump’s foreign aid budget cuts could be incredibly harmful or begin for Africa. Given the situation, governments within Africa will need to strive for improvements in monetary policies, transparency and reduced corruption. To improve self-sufficiency, experts recommend regional integration, or “the process by which two or more nation-states agree to co-operate and work closely together to achieve peace, stability and wealth.” Initiatives like Africa’s Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) will enable 54 countries to trade freely. This will improve Africa’s economic stability by an estimated 50% increase in trade.

The battle of influenza in sub-Saharan Africa correlates directly with the absence of monitoring for significant health concerns. Expanding upon the existing healthcare infrastructure can not only contain and treat disease but also help grow Africa’s economy. Surveillance will be key in this process, as statistics tell actors what they need to improve. But with the support NGOs, funding can help control influenza in sub-Saharan Africa.

Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

traditional healers in africaTraditional medicine, while not as popular or widely accepted as Western medicines, is a vital part of African communities. Traditional healers in Africa are more accessible, affordable and culturally and spiritually relevant for many African people. This contributes heavily to their popularity, and it also enables them to play a role in helping respond to COVID-19.

What Is Traditional Medicine?

The World Health Organization describes traditional medicine as a practice or skill resulting from cultural beliefs and ideologies. Similar to Western medicine, traditional medicine prevents and treats physical and mental illnesses; however, traditional medicine usually uses herbs, plants or even spiritual therapies.

While traditional medicine may seem ineffective and useless to some, it is the main source of medicine for many. Due to its convenience and affordability, over 70% of Africans use herbal treatments. Given that one third of the African population does not have access to essential medicines, traditional medicine plays a central role in their health. A study in 2011 illustrated the accessibility of traditional practitioners. While most medical doctors practice in urban areas, rural areas are less fortunate. For this reason, many people rely on traditional health providers and their medications. These three countries reveal a large gap between how many traditional healers and doctors are available in a community:

  • Zimbabwe: There is one traditional practitioner for every 600 people, while there is one medical doctor for every 6,250 people.
  • Ghana: There is one traditional practitioner for every 200 people, while there is one medical doctor for every 20,000 people.
  • Mozambique: There is one traditional practitioner for every 200 people, while there is one medical doctor for every 50,000 people.

Affordable and Culturally Relevant Medicine

Not only are traditional healers in Africa more accessible, they also have affordable medicines that don’t always require payment upfront. A study conducted by the WHO in 36 middle- and low-income countries revealed that medications were too expensive for a large majority of the population. Similarly, a study on healthcare in Zimbabwe reported that traditional healers are usually the main source of care for poor communities because they have no other options.

Furthermore, traditional healers in Africa and their medicines are widely accepted by African people and culture. Even if people can afford Western medicine, then, many prefer traditional medicines. For example, some healers say that they can channel the ancestral spirit through their patients’ bodies. This is one service that professional doctors cannot provide.

How Traditional Healers in Africa Help with COVID-19

While traditional healers in Africa provide many benefits to African communities, health officials strongly advise against the use of untested traditional medicine to treat COVID-19. The WHO encourages people to wait until medicines have been tested and investigated before consuming them. In South Africa, traditional healers have been advised to refer patients experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to a higher level of care. However, the role of traditional healers during the pandemic is not limited to referrals. Here are eight jobs traditional healers in Africa perform:

  1. Referring patients to correct and suitable levels of care
  2. Educating the public to combat the spread of false information regarding COVID-19
  3. Teaching about prevention methods
  4. Helping to spread public health messages
  5. Informing people about the necessities of personal hygiene
  6. Providing counseling services
  7. Postponing large gatherings
  8. Working with the Department of Health to aid screening and messaging

Health Officials and Traditional Healers: Better Together

To effectively combat COVID-19, experts believe that health officials and the government need to work with traditional healers and not against them. Because traditional healers live in the same community as many of their patients, they have the advantage of possessing important relationships with them. Patients may therefore disregard the advice of a doctor and trust a traditional healer instead. This points to the necessity for cooperation between healers and doctors.

An example of this cooperation comes from Tanzania, where scientists are working with herbalists to help with HIV/AIDS symptoms. Some of the herbs the group is testing are known for strengthening the immune system and increasing appetites. While the team recognizes that herbal remedies won’t cure HIV, they can lessen patients’ symptoms.

With regard to COVID-19, the WHO, which accepts both traditional and alternative medicine, is doing similar tests. For example, it is currently testing plants like Artemisia annua to see if they could possibly aid in the fight against COVID-19. If more scientists, governments and health officials can work with traditional healers like this, all of their patients and communities stand to benefit.

– Sophie Dan
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccine
The World Health Organization (WHO) is making plans for how a life-saving COVID-19 vaccine could be distributed around the globe.

COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

There are concerns about countries “hoarding” stores of vaccines for their own citizens. The countries that have the most money on hand will have the ability to buy a larger portion of available vaccines for citizens. While global leaders have come together to pledge $2 billion towards the creation of a vaccine, there is currently no formal worldwide plan to successfully manage the future COVID-19 vaccine and its distribution.

The public-private partnership that lead to this $2 billion pledge, Gavi, focuses on increasing childhood vaccinations in underdeveloped countries. It has support from WHO, UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill Gates himself has promised $1.6 million towards Gavi, along with $100 million to help countries that will need aid to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.

U.S. Involvement and WHO

The U.S. government has decided to stay out of the recent Gavi-organized funding pledge. The country has also pulled monetary support from WHO. In the past, the U.S. has been a large supporter of the creation of the HPV and pneumococcal vaccines, which has left many experts confused by the recent moves of the U.S. to disassociate itself from the larger global race towards a COVID-19 vaccine.

Beyond hoarding concerns, there are always issues surrounding legal and sharing agreements between countries, quality control, civil uprising and unrest and natural disasters when it comes to vaccine distribution.

A recent example of how the world dealt with vaccine distribution during a pandemic is the 2009-2010 H1N1 swine flu pandemic. With the money they had, wealthier countries purchased most of the vaccine available through early orders, leaving developing countries to scramble for leftover vaccine stores. Eyjafjallajökul’s eruption in Iceland in April of 2010 also created vaccine shipping delays. Many countries, such as the U.S., Australia and Canada would not let vaccine manufacturers ship vaccines outside of their countries without fulfilling their people’s needs first.

Going Forward

To create a successful global vaccination program requires the cooperation from all countries involved, not just a few. Many may die without the equitable sharing of vaccines as this pandemic will flourish in underdeveloped nations. It may be seen by the rest of the global community as selfish to not try and help other countries in their fight against the virus.

Even after a vaccine is created, different strains of COVID-19 could easily return to Australian, Canadian or American shores, wreaking havoc all over again. While there are efforts being made to prevent distribution issues with the future vaccine, without the help of the United States,—one of the wealthiest countries on Earth—it may be long before a COVID-19 vaccine is fairly distributed.

Tara Suter
Photo: Flickr

Mental Illness in EthiopiaEthiopia is the second most populated country in Africa, with a population of over 100 million. With such a large population comes a prevalence of poverty as well as disease. In an estimate from 2014, around 30% of Ethiopia’s population was below the poverty line. According to statistics from this year, Ethiopia also makes it onto the list of the world’s poorest countries, ranking 7th poorest in the world in both GDP growth and GDP per capita. Along with this poverty comes a myriad of diseases. The top four causes of death in Ethiopia are, in order, neonatal diseases, diarrheal diseases, lower respiratory infections and tuberculosis. While these diseases are quite well-known, Ethiopia is also plagued by another type of disease: mental illness. Mental illness in Ethiopia may not be as recognized as the other diseases that plague Ethiopian citizens but mental illness can impact overall general health and the ability to provide for one’s family.

A Troubled Past

Despite the fact that an estimated 15% of Ethiopians suffer from mental illness and substance abuse disorders, for decades almost nothing was done to address or treat these issues. In the 1980s, there was only one psychiatric hospital in the entire country and such an insignificant number of psychiatrists, that it was almost impossible to find treatment. Moreover, the psychiatrists who did practice at the time were often not interested in developing new research and treatment techniques. Because of this, most cases of mental illness went untreated, leaving mental health sufferers to face both isolation and discrimination.

A Passionate Doctor

When Dr. Atalay Alem started his medical work, there was only one psychiatric hospital in the country. After his decades of work, spanning from the 1980s until modern day, his efforts to improve the psychiatric treatment of Ethiopians have had a massive payoff. He started as a medical doctor before receiving his degree in psychiatry. After that, he became a psychiatric professor at Addis Ababa University, where his research and his passion for better mental health services were instrumental in the expansion of Ethiopia’s mental health care. Alem was also a key founder of the graduate psychiatry program at Addis Ababa University, giving more Ethiopians a chance to make a difference in the field. Today, there are almost 90 psychiatrists practicing in Ethiopia. Apart from these psychiatrists, there are hundreds of psychiatric nurses as well. These nurses are part of what has made such widespread psychiatric care possible and their presence has aided in the addition of mental health services at most Ethiopian hospitals. For his efforts, Alem was awarded the Harvard Award in Psychiatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics in 2019.

A Positive Future

Though Ethiopia has a total of under 100 psychiatrists, the current number is a great improvement from just a few decades ago. Moreover, with the help of Alem and other passionate psychiatrists, research efforts continue to grow. Alem is currently working on a study that looks at the way severe mental illness impacts rural Ethiopian communities in order to evaluate how to improve treatment and maximize impact. The Ethiopian government is also invested in improving the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. The government, starting seven years ago, created a mental health strategy to aid the country’s mentally ill and allocated government funds to the overall improvement of mental healthcare. These funds have gone toward improving health services, such as more adequate healthcare training and increased access to psychiatric medications. Part of the reason Ethiopia’s mental health treatment has improved so much is due to the partnership between the Ethiopian government and the World Health Organization. WHO was absolutely key in providing guidelines for how to implement these new mental health care strategies.

Though progress always takes time, with the help of doctors like Alem and partnerships with organizations like WHO, Ethiopian mental health care has better days ahead.

Lucia Kenig-Ziesler
Photo: Flickr

Polio Program in SomaliaSomalia is one of the few countries remaining with a risk of poliovirus transmission. The polio program in Somalia was established as a way to eradicate the virus completely as part of the global immunization effort. However, with the arrival of SARS-CoV-2, the polio program in Somalia has been stifled. Somalia ranks 194 out of 195 on the Global Health Security Index. The international recommendation for healthcare workers is 25 per 100,000 people; however, Somalia only has two per 100,000 people. The country also has only 15 intensive care beds for a population of 15 million. It is considered to be among the least prepared countries in the world to detect and execute a quick response to COVID-19.

Effects of the Pandemic on the Polio Program in Somalia

Many of the workers that are part of the polio program in Somalia have suspended all door-to-door immunization due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. With travel kept to a minimum, polio samples cannot be flown abroad to external medical labs for testing. In addition to this, millions of polio vaccines will expire in a matter of months.

The global polio immunization program paused at the end of March 2020, leaving more than 20 million workers and medical practitioners without work. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the number of unvaccinated children could reach 60 million by June in the Mediterranean region.

The Polio Program Fights COVID-19

Polio surveillance systems are developed disease surveillance systems. This network of disease surveillance has been able to track the poliovirus and deploy medical teams throughout the world. Now, the polio program in Somalia has shifted its efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The system’s infrastructure, its capacity and the experience of its medical staff make it prepared to deal with the novel coronavirus. As of July 2020, Somalia had approximately 3,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 930 recovered cases and 90 deaths. The number of actual cases is likely significantly larger, but many cases go undetected due to a lack of testing.

Thousands of frontline workers for the polio program in Somalia started curbing the spread of the coronavirus. These workers form rapid response teams trained to detect COVID-19 cases as well as to educate and raise awareness about the ongoing pandemic in Somalia. WHO’s national staff and local community healthcare workers have joined theses polio response teams, utilizing their resources and skills to tackle the virus.

WHO Support

These teams have traveled to remote areas in Somalia, providing critical information regarding physical distancing, hand-washing, detection of symptoms and prevention. With WHO’s aid, the program has acquired testing kits and equipment to evaluate potential cases of the virus. The surveillance teams have adopted the same procedures that they used for the polio program in Somalia for COVID-19. After collecting potential COVID-19 samples from suspected cases, the rapid response teams transport the samples to external laboratories for testing. Outside humanitarian agencies use the same protocols and operations that they used for the poliovirus.

Furthermore, the response teams continue polio immunization simultaneously with the COVID-19 response. It is essential for the polio program to continue immunization, as Somalia experienced a polio outbreak earlier this year.

How Other Countries Have Adapted

Other countries in the same region have realized the practicality of the polio network. They have accordingly redeployed their own immunization programs to fight COVID-19. For example, South Sudan has converted approximately 80% of its polio workforce to track coronavirus cases in the country. It has trained polio contact tracers to evaluate people for symptoms of COVID-19. Mali has also been engaging its own polio program in response to the ongoing pandemic.

Even though polio and COVID-19 do not have much in common, the polio program is an important tool to fight the pandemic. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in partnership with the WHO, has been working to equip these polio networks to help countries deal with the pandemic. The suddenness of the pandemic has left no time for countries such as Somalia to prepare. As such, the global polio immunization campaign is a valuable resource for this unprecedented emergency.

Abbas Raza
Photo: Flickr

positive covid-19 storiesThe COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed the world. While many countries have been devastated, three countries have positive COVID-19 stories: New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam. Here are their positive COVID-19 stories and the lessons they learned from their experiences.

New Zealand

The pacific island nation of around 5 million people had a couple of different strategies in its response to COVID-19. In particular, unity within New Zealand and the nation’s neighboring countries played a big role in the country’s success against the virus. New Zealand offered to help its neighboring countries to prepare for the pandemic. To do so, the country offered health training and made sure that its island neighbors had supplies to fight the virus. Importantly, this unity in New Zealand bridged across political party lines when needed. This resulted in a massive stimulus package passed just weeks after the country’s first case. The stimulus totaled NZ$12.1 billion, around 4% of the country’s GDP. Included in the stimulus package is support for businesses, support for testing and health services and payments to those who couldn’t work because of the virus.

Caution also plays a big part in New Zealand’s success against the virus. The first case of the virus was detected on 28 Feb. 2020. Even before that, however, the government took measures to limit the possible damage of COVID-19. When New Zealand only had 283 cases, the government ordered all non-essential workers to work from home to limit the virus’s spread.

Moreover, the government came up with a four-level alert system to help people know how the virus is spreading. Level one means the disease is contained in New Zealand and level four means community transmission is happening and the disease is not contained. Given how much time the country has spent in the lower levels, its represents one of many positive COVID-19 stories that the whole world can learn from.

Thailand

Thailand is one of the countries that have positive COVID-19 stories. The Asian country of almost 70 million people was designated a success by the WHO. The economy of Thailand is one that is heavily built on tourism, with one-fifth of GDP coming from the tourist sector. However, since the virus has spread, the government of Thailand has had to make economic sacrifices to protect public health. The country had to close its borders to certain travelers, including many Chinese provinces. In addition, Thailand postponed many sporting events and held them without fans to slow the spread of the virus. In particular, Bangkok was in a partial lockdown with only essential services remaining open. Slowing down activity does hurt the economy, but it eases the blow of the virus.

Thailand has also mobilized more than 1 million health volunteers to help respond to the virus. In addition, the government’s health officials have taken the side of precaution throughout the pandemic. This includes rigorous hygiene and wearing face masks at all times. Moreover, Thai people have generally followed the advice of medical professionals, which has contributed to the Thailand’s COVID-19 success story. The Thai government also has one centralized administration, which helped with communication and organization throughout the pandemic.

Vietnam

Vietnam is also among countries with positive COVID-19 stories. Vietnam’s actions to deal with the virus came early and were aggressive, taking place before the virus even entered the country. This early and decisive action is one of the measures that helped Vietnam early on and controlled the virus’s spread. In early January 2020, Vietnam was already preparing for drastic action before there was a recorded case in the country.

Vietnam enacted travel restrictions, closed schools and enacted a rigorous contact and tracing system, while also canceling public events. Governmental communication was upfront and transparent. Consequently, this helped with public compliance to slow the virus outbreak. Vietnam has been one of the best countries in regard to wearing a face mask, which helps slow the spread of the virus. A coordinated media effort throughout Vietnam has also helped the public and government be on the same page in response to the virus.

Another reason Vietnam has been successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 is its testing. The country tests everyone in quarantine whether they have symptoms or not. This helps slow the spread of the virus, because not everyone who is infected shows symptoms. As a result, younger people who may be infected but don’t have symptoms don’t infect those who may be at higher risk of death to COVID-19. While there was no nationwide lockdown, Vietnam did impose containment on certain areas to reduce the spread of the virus. In February 2020, when a small handful of cases were in the area of Son Loi, the government sealed off the area to prevent the spread of the virus.

What We Can Learn from These Countries

These three countries show positive COVID-19 stories despite a situation that has turned negative in so many countries. A few similarities have emerged between the countries and their success. One is the unity between government and people, which is important to building communication and trust. When citizens trust their government and can easily access clear guidelines, they are more likely to comply with health measures to reduce the spread of the virus. Another similarity between these countries is that it’s better to be cautious rather than reckless. This helps to slow the spread of the virus and make it easier to track. With all the hardship and destruction brought on by COVID-19, these countries with positive COVID-19 stories show how to keep as many people as safe as possible.

Zachary Laird
Photo: Pexels

Life Expectancy in the Philippines
Factors such as educational status and public health expenditures have impacted life expectancy in the Philippines, a tropical nation located in the Pacific Ocean. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in the Philippines.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in the Philippines

  1. General statistics: Life expectancy in the Philippines at birth increased to approximately 71 years in 2018. The mortality rate among both adult men and women has similarly decreased over time. The mortality rate for adult men decreased from about 308 deaths per 1,000 in 1960 to 235 deaths per 1,000. In addition, the mortality rate for adult women also decreased over time from approximately 262 deaths to 131 deaths per 1,000 adults.
  2. Socioeconomic and educational status: Many older Filipinos have reported better health, enhanced community participation and greater financial stability. Older Filipinos also explained that they had the ability to have enhanced stability later in life. Yet those with higher socioeconomic status reported more enhanced quality of life than those of lower socioeconomic status.
  3. Disease: The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that the leading cause of death in the Philippines was cardiovascular disease. This caused about 35% of all deaths. Communicable maternal, perinatal and nutritional conditions caused approximately a quarter of all deaths. Cancer caused another 10% and injuries 7%.
  4. Premature deaths: The risk of premature deaths as a result of non-communicable diseases (NCDS) has remained fairly constant over time at more than 30% in males. The risk of premature deaths in females was more than 20%. The WHO expects a similar trend over time until approximately 2025.
  5. Risk ractors: Risk factors specifically relevant to life expectancy in the Philippines include obesity, raised blood pressure and tobacco use. The percentage of the population that is obese has increased slightly over time, with higher projected linear trends by 2025. In contrast, the percentage of the population with raised blood pressure has remained mostly constant over time, with a similar projected linear trend. However, the percentage of the population that smokes is expected to decrease over time, with the greater change being predicted in males.
  6. National system response: The Philippines has implemented drug therapy in order to prevent both heart attacks and strokes. More than half of all health facilities reported implementation of cardiovascular disease guidelines, and many primary health care centers explained that they offered cardiovascular disease risk stratification. Four out of six of all essential NCD technologies were “generally available,” whereas 40% of essential NCD medicines were “generally available.” This is an example of how medical care can improve the life expectancy in the Philippines.
  7. Housing quality: A study conducted in Iloilo in the Visayas region of the Philippines analyzed what impacts childhood survival. The researchers examined factors like housing construction supplies and toilet services. Children from housing of higher quality had a higher likelihood of living to five years old than children from housing of relatively lower quality. As such, socioeconomic status determines life expectancy in the Philippines to some extent.
  8. Public health expenditures: From 1981 to 2010, health expenditure per capita increased by approximately 6.49%. GDP also increased by about 11% on average. At the same time, infant and under-five mortality rates decreased. In addition, life expectancy increased. 
  9. Education expenditures: In a study conducted in 2009, only 3% of government expenditures were allocated toward education. The researchers found that “Philippine provinces could use 52% of their budgets to attain current levels of human development indicators.” Ultimately, the researchers determined that increasing government spending toward education would increase life expectancy in the Philippines.
  10. Immunizations: An essential factor in lowering both morbidity and mortality is the sufficient implementation of universal childhood immunizations. In 2003, only 69% of Filipino kids were sufficiently vaccinated. Mothers with less education and who attended only four antenatal visits were found less likely to fully immunize their children.

Life expectancy in the Philippines is a complex issue. Greater awareness of the factors that affect it could contribute to better health outcomes and, consequently, higher life expectancy in the Philippines.

– Aprile Bertomo
Photo: Flickr

Other Outbreaks During COVID-19
All eyes are constantly on the lookout for surges in COVID-19 cases both in one’s own country and around the world, but other outbreaks during the COVID-19 pandemic are on the rise and getting very little attention or preventative measures. The CDC and WHO are monitoring current outbreaks, which include alerts and warnings about an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MERS-CoV in Saudi Arabia, Influenza A in Brazil and yellow fever in French Guiana.

“Disruption to immunization programs from the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to unwind decades of progress against vaccine-preventable diseases like measles,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO. The question now, with most hospitals worldwide overflowing with COVID-19 cases, is how can people suffering from any other disease get the aid that they need? Taking a look at individual states around the world and how they each are handling outbreaks within the current pandemic will allow for discussion on keeping more people safe and healthy.

CDC Guidelines for Non-COVID-19 Care

The CDC has created a framework for providing non-COVID-19 care in hospitals and clinics, with a graph depicting what a patient is advised to do depending on the seriousness of their sickness or condition. Potential for patient harm, level of community transmission and symptom lists are all considered.

The CDC also lists a few key considerations for healthcare providers at this time, asking that they are prepared to detect and monitor COVID-19 cases in the community, provide care with safety procedures in mind and consider other services that may require expansion. While in theory, these are positive factors to implement during a health crisis of this magnitude, many countries with high poverty levels do not have adequate resources or staffing to ensure these practices.

Ebola and Measles in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

While the two-year Ebola outbreak was just declared over on June 25, 2020, the DRC is facing a rise in measles cases due to a lack of vaccines while it prioritizes COVID-19 treatments. In 2019, the percentage of vaccinated children increased from 42% to 62% in Kinshasa but the plans for a national immunization program in 2020 experienced delay.

Now, staffing is short, vaccinations are not a priority and those who are receiving vaccinations are doing so in danger of contracting COVID-19 due to lack of resources. Progress toward polio eradication is also suffering, and over 85,000 children have not received immunizations. The DRC is seemingly engaging in a three-front war, fighting numerous other outbreaks during COVID-19. Thabani Maphosa, Gavi managing director, hopes that if the pandemic clears in three months, immunizations will catch up to necessary levels within the next year and a half.

SII Concerned Over Clinical Trial Postponements

The Serum Institute of India is cautioning the public about the concerns for other outbreaks during COVID-19. Clinical preliminaries may be in danger and CEO Adar Poonawalla shared his thoughts about the findings: “The resulting dosing of the enlisted subjects has been postponed, therefore affecting the immunization plan given in the convention. In addition, follow-up visits for inoculation, well-being appraisal just as blood withdrawal are postponed.” He also mentioned the fear of hospitals due to COVID-19 contamination and the flipping of general hospitals to COVID-19-only clinics.

There have been a few other outbreaks during COVID-19 but the world has yet to see the long-term effects. While the whole world scrambles for a vaccine for COVID-19, it is not surprising that other medical and health concerns seem to be on hold, especially when countries are highly recommending or, in some cases, enforcing social distancing and quarantine. These limitations for worldwide immunization trials and vaccines mostly concentrate in low-income and low-resource areas, like the case in the DRC. While funding these areas always desperately need funding, information and discussion about the concerns are also quite valuable at this time.

– Savannah Gardner
Photo: Flickr