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Cholera Outbreaks in AfricaDue to the use and ingestion of contaminated water, cholera has become one of the most common waterborne diseases in the world. Cholera is a bacterial disease that causes such symptoms as diarrhea, dehydration, and, if not treated quickly, even death. Lack of availability to drinking water and sanitation facilities in Africa allows cholera to spread easily and quickly. However, many organizations have come up with different ways over time to help reduce the spread of cholera. Here are five things being done to prevent cholera outbreaks in Africa.

5 Things Being Done to Prevent Cholera Outbreaks in Africa

  1. Access to Clean Water: Being a waterborne disease, cholera can be prevented most effectively with access to clean drinking water. CDC has created a program called The Safe Water System Project, which brings usable water to areas with contaminated water. The Project also treats water with a diluted chlorine solution, making it safe to drink. CDC was able to use this program to bring safe water to more than 40 schools in Kenya, providing clean water to the students, staff and their families.
  2. Oral Vaccination: The FDA approved an oral cholera vaccine called Vaxchora. Due to the spread of cholera cases in Africa, in 2017 and 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) distributed Vaxchora to five different countries in Africa to prevent further cholera outbreaks. By distributing this vaccine, WHO is giving relief and medical treatment to millions of individuals who previously may not have had access to any medical care.
  3. Proper Sanitation Facilities: Cholera can spread very easily if proper sewage and sanitation facilities are not in place or contain defecation. An organization called Amref Health Africa has made it their goal to supply communities in Ethiopia with clean toilets, sinks and other sanitation facilities. Amref Health Africa also sends teams to help train the community on how to maintain the facilities and educate them on other hygiene practices.
  4. Establishing Treatment Centers: According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 11 treatment centers have been established in Africa with the specific purpose to prevent cholera outbreaks. In addition, an organization called Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has created mobile clinics to meet the needs of those in more rural areas who may have contracted cholera. MSF has also established the Cholera Treatment Centre (CTC), which is a facility where individuals can visit and be treated for cholera.
  5. Hygiene Practices: UNICEF has launched a campaign to help spread hygiene awareness. The campaign is called My School Without cholera and is brought to more than 3,000 schools in Cameroon. Along with this campaign, UNICEF is urging Cameroon’s government to act and address the impact cholera has had on its community.

 

While as of 2018, cholera hotspots around the world have seen a decline of 60% since 2013, thousands of individuals are still susceptible to cholera in Africa. The WHO has estimated that Cameroon, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have had more thna 45,000 confirmed cases and close to 700 deaths just in the time span of 2017 to 2020. The call to educate others on and how to prevent cholera outbreaks is imperative to the health of those who face cholera as an everyday battle.

Olivia Eaker
Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis in MozambiqueMozambique continues to struggle with the political and economic effects of a civil war that ended in 1992. More than half the country’s population lives below the poverty line and suffers disproportionately from HIV and tuberculosis (TB). Here are 5 facts about tuberculosis in Mozambique.

5 Facts About Tuberculosis in Mozambique

  1. Detection Rates – The TB detection rate in Mozambique is relatively low, however, many people who suffer or die from tuberculosis in Mozambique go undiagnosed and untreated. Despite its prevalence in Mozambique, the country rates among the lowest in the world for TB, with a 57% detection rate. In comparison, its neighbors Zimbabwe and South Africa report  83% and 76% detection rates respectively. With a population of 29.5 million people, an estimated TB incidence of 551/100,000 and an under 5 mortality rate of 73 per 1,000 live births, Mozambique’s current status demands better diagnostic and treatment tools. Organizations like Health Alliance International (HAI), a nonprofit organization based in Seattle, Washington, identified detection and diagnosis as a major obstacle for Mozambique and provided necessary diagnostic technology to aid the country’s underfunded medical facilities. The organization’s work has helped to improve TB detection across the nation. In addition, Apopo, another U.S. nonprofit enterprise that fights TB, trains rats to detect the disease in sputum, with the goal of increasing testing rates.
  2. Healthcare – Half the nation lives without accessible healthcare — an estimated 50% of the population of Mozambique live at least 20 kilometers from the nearest healthcare facility, likely contributing to the nation’s disproportionately low detection and treatment rates of TB. In fact, an HAI study revealed that 65-80% of people diagnosed with TB in Mozambique do not receive treatment. In response to this deficit, HAI created an online network of test results and TB personnel called GxAlert that allows patients to receive the care they need. Since its implementation in 2014, the program has successfully linked 52 facilities nationally and now accounts for 80% of all people diagnosed and treated for drug-resistant TB in Mozambique. This development promises to lower TB-related deaths, as Mozambique boasts a TB treatment success rate of 90%.
  3. Tuberculosis and HIV – While people diagnosed with HIV are the most vulnerable to TB, it is the leading cause of death among people diagnosed with HIV in Mozambique. HIV has a prevalence of 12.6% in people from ages 15 to 49, and 56% of TB patients in Mozambique also carry HIV. Consequently, groups like the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) do crucial work for the elimination of tuberculosis in Mozambique. EGPAF has deployed “cough officers” to healthcare facilities across the nation to ensure that people co-infected with HIV and TB receive proper care. In 2018, EGPAF’s efforts helped to treat 8,249 TB patients in the province of Gaza.
  4. Economic InstabilityMozambique’s problems run deeper than healthcare — efforts made to improve the diagnosis and treatment of HIV and TB patients in Mozambique have brought technology and healthcare providers to the nation, but economic instability threatens healthcare progress. Mozambique also suffers from poverty, malnutrition and mental health crises brought about by civil war and political unrest. For these reasons, the CDC, WHO and HAI have worked with the government of Mozambique for years to establish essential infrastructure and provide financial resources. For example, the CDC has worked with the National TB Program in Mozambique for nearly 10 years. Early diagnosis, integrating TB and HIV services and diagnosis and treatment of drug-resistant TB are the main areas of focus.
  5. Anyone Can Help – Anyone can help eliminate TB by contacting their representatives in Congress and advocating on behalf of those suffering from the disease. Organizations like HAI and The Borgen Project provide crucial educational information for those who want to make an impact. Help support the End Tuberculosis Now Act by emailing Congress (it only takes 25 seconds) or by adopting a HeroRAT with Apopo.

– Will Sikich
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in HungarySince the year 2000, Hungary has made strides to improve its healthcare system, which for decades has lagged behind the healthcare systems of other countries in the European Union (EU). Unequal issuing of medical equipment, the prevalence of smoking, drinking and obesity and an unstable political system have resulted in systematic healthcare issues in Hungary, which disproportionately affect citizens living in poverty. Here are seven facts everyone should know about healthcare in Hungary.

7 Facts About Healthcare in Hungary

  1. Hungary has one of the lowest life expectancies in the EU. In 2017, life expectancy in Hungary averaged 76 years, a four-year increase since the year 2000. Despite the improvement, the Hungarian life expectancy is still 4.9 years behind that of other Europeans. Hungarians have higher rates of risk factors, such as smoking, obesity and underage alcohol consumption than other countries in the EU, which can contribute to early death.
  2. As of 2017, Hungary’s rate of amenable mortality is twice that of the rest of the EU. Amenable mortality refers to deaths from diseases and conditions that are nonfatal when given appropriate medical care.
  3. Socioeconomic inequalities in Hungary contribute to lower life expectancy. Lower-income Hungarians are more likely to report unmet medical needs than those with a higher income. Out-of-pocket spending in the country is double the EU average and medical care is most readily available to those who can afford to pay. Though access to medical care is not an issue across the board, lower-income Hungarians are 11 times more likely to complain of unmet healthcare needs.
  4. Healthcare in Hungary suffers from an unequal distribution of equipment. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Hungarian counties with the lowest health status tend to also have the lowest numbers of necessary medical supplies. The distribution of resources is concentrated largely in the capital of Budapest and the counties with the highest health status. The city of Budapest alone has 87% more doctors and 64% more hospital bed space than the rest of the country.
  5. Healthcare in Hungary does excel in some areas but still has systematic problems. In 2016, the Euro Health Consumer Index ranked the Hungarian healthcare system 30th out of 35 countries in the EU. Though Hungary does excel in infant vaccination and physical education, it has some of the EU’s highest waiting times for CT scans and a higher than average occurrence of lung disease, infections and cancer deaths. It also had the second-highest prevalence of bribery among hospital workers. Hungarian physicians are particularly susceptible to this form of corruption due to their low pay. Their acceptance of these so-called “gratitude payments” puts those who cannot afford to pay extra at a disadvantage.
  6. The World Health Organization (WHO) rewarded the government’s anti-tobacco initiatives. In 2013, the WHO awarded Prime Minister Viktor Orbán with its WHO Special Recognition award for “accomplishments in the area of tobacco control.” In recent years, the Hungarian government has developed anti-tobacco campaigns to quell the high percentage of smokers in the country. These reforms include changing the labels on tobacco products to include warnings of the potential side effects of smoking and banning smoking in public spaces. The country has also taken steps to ban advertisements for tobacco products and, since then, has seen a reduction of smoking-related deaths.
  7. Reforms to increase the healthcare workforce are in progress. In November 2018, the government rolled out a plan to increase physicians’ pay 72% by 2022, and, in early 2020, announced government scholarships for 3,200 people in order to bring more Hungarians into the understaffed nursing profession.

Healthcare in Hungary today is still behind many other countries in the European Union. Hungarians have lower life expectancies than other Europeans and the country is in need of more skilled doctors and nurses to properly treat all of its people. However, in recent years, the Hungarian government has invested more money to reduce the country’s high rates of smoking-related deaths and increase the healthcare workforce. Healthcare in Hungary has experienced positive change in recent years and, with more investments in the healthcare sector, more necessary reforms can be made.

Jackie McMahon
Photo: Flickr

Pakistan and the New Typhoid VaccineTyphoid is a disease caused by Salmonella Typhi that spreads through contaminated food and water, disproportionately affecting children. There were nearly 11 million typhoid cases and more than 116,000 deaths worldwide. In Pakistan, children younger than 15 years old made up 70 percent of deaths from typhoid in 2017. Treatment with antibiotics is essential in controlling and preventing the spread. Further, vaccination helps to protect people from contracting typhoid disease.

There are several ways of preventing and treating typhoid. Preventative measures include improved sanitation, hygiene and water supply. Additionally, treatments include the use of effective antibiotics and vaccines. However, with the rising drug-resistant typhoid outbreak, the antibiotics have become ineffective.

Pakistan and the New Typhoid Vaccine

Pakistan is facing an extensively drug-resistant typhoid outbreak. However, the opportunity arose to revamp its vaccine strategy. This strategy now includes a typhoid conjugate vaccine as part of the routine immunization program. Pakistan in the first country to pilot the new typhoid conjugate vaccine. It hopes that the vaccine will be a breakthrough in the face of drug-resistant antibiotics.

The country’s drug-resistant outbreak “has infected more than 10,000 people.” This is the first-ever reported outbreak to be resistant to the drug ceftriaxone and to all but one oral antibiotic for typhoid. These challenges make the disease costly to treat. However, the new vaccine has been proven successful and safe to use as part of the outbreak response since April 2019. This vaccine establishes Pakistan as the first country in the world to introduce a vaccine set to protect 10 million children within its first two weeks.

The Importance of the Vaccine in Pakistan

Historically, Pakistan makes up one of three countries bearing the burden of the high prevalence of typhoid, along with Bangladesh and India. Typhoid is often referred to as a disease of the poor. It has been neglected by many organizations in terms of investment in vaccines. Dr. Samir Saha, Executive Director of the Child Health Research Foundation at Dhaka Shishu Hospital, states, “vaccination is not the end of the story…we need to continue surveillance to measure the impact of TCV introduction on typhoid burden and the improvement of the overall health system.”

The World Health Organization has recommended and approved this new vaccine. Additionally, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) will provide the vaccine to Pakistan at no cost. The government of Pakistan is launching the vaccine introduction with the central focus and campaign beginning in Sindh Province. This location is the center of an ongoing drug-resistant (XDR) typhoid outbreak that began in November 2016. The vaccine’s improved characteristics include a stronger immune response, a longer duration of protection and usability in infants as young as 6 months.

Pakistan’s Health Authorities have reported a notable ongoing outbreak of the drug-resistant strain. Further, the resistant strains of Salmonella Typhi pose a public health concern for the country’s population. However, with the funding support from GAVI, the new typhoid vaccine introduction will initiate a two-week vaccination campaign. Once the campaign ends, Pakistan will routinize the immunization of infants. The government announced plans to introduce the vaccine in neighboring areas of Pakistan next year and then nationally in 2021.

Na’Keevia Brown
Photo: Flickr

Improvements for Deaf People in China
There have been many improvements for deaf people in China, especially in the areas of education, language and health care. Providing a sense of self-worth and pride, deaf individuals globally are seeing a shift in their impairment. While people once considered deafness a weakness, this disability has become a model of strength and purpose.

China’s population of 1.3 billion includes 27.8 million who suffer from hearing loss. This figure involves an estimated 11 percent of people older than 60 years of age and 20 million in the elderly segment, who suffer from moderate to severe hearing problems. The Ministry of Health has identified 115,000 children under the age of 7 with severe to profound hearing loss. Further, 30,000 babies are born with hearing impairment each year.

The Challenges

Improvements for deaf people in China are still an ongoing process. Deaf students face significant challenges such as education, language and acceptance. Parents of deaf children fought against their children learning Chinese Sign Language (CSL) for the stigma of not being normal. Parents preferred a more mainstream learning environment.

Moreover, deaf students were at a disadvantage when applying for colleges. These students fell behind their hearing peers, despite the schools expecting them to keep pace. Fortunately for deaf students, soon came the introduction of bilingual learning; students could still learn CSL, as well as spoken and written Chinese. Also, to their benefit, adapted materials included the availability of the National Higher Education Examination.

Still, China has made significant progress. In the past decade, there has been an increase in education accessibility for schools exclusively for deaf individuals, as well as schools for all other forms of disability.

Programs Launched and Progress

The World Health Organization (WHO) has praised China for the improvements of the programs for deaf people. The population of focus includes children with deafness, growing children with hearing loss/problems and the elderly community.

As of 1999, China has initiated the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening (UNHS) on the recommendation of the Central Government. The UNHS involves screenings offered in hospital-based programs. Newborns from low-income families receive pre-screenings for hearing-aids, as well as pre-screenings for cochlear implants. Additionally, China provides free hearing aids to deaf or hearing-impaired adults over 60 years of age. To date, over 400,000 individuals have benefited from these programs.

Hearing Screening Process

There are three categories in the hearing screening process. The first category includes large cities with extensive resources that provide UNHS hospital-based programs. This has lead to the screening of 95 percent of babies. The second category involves targeted screenings of high-risk newborns. Within one month of birth, newborns may visit early screening centers upon referral. The last category consists of the wide dissemination of questionnaires and simple tests. These tests, that community doctors provide, monitor each child’s hearing.

According to the UNHS, hearing loss in babies ranges from three to six per 1,000 births. The Otoacoustic emissions/Automated Auditory brainstem response methods perform screenings. These methods (OAE/AABR) offer a simple pass/fail result or a referral-based result, depending on the recommendation of extensive tests.

The Impact

The improvements of deaf people in China continue today, including in areas of educational and career opportunities. China is encouraging feedback from the deaf community in decision making. Further, these efforts ensure a more inclusive and informed environment, that does not highlight limitations and welcomes diversity.

Michelle White
Photo: Flickr

Food for Education is Feeding Kenyan Schoolchildren
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that Africa has the highest rising rates of hunger in the world. In Eastern Africa, where Kenya is located, almost a third of the population is said to be undernourished. Additionally, 40 percent of the world’s stunted children live in Africa. Luckily, Food for Education is feeding Kenyan schoolchildren to help solve the problem.

Food for Education

Wawira Njiru founded Food for Education in 2012 to provide nutritious, subsidized meals to children in Kenyan primary schools. When she began, Njiru only fed 25 children from Ruiru Primary School. Now, her organization has provided over 500,000 meals to more than 10,000 children across 11 different primary schools. Food for Education has four head chefs and eight assistant chefs who prepare food. The organization delivers the food to the 11 partner schools by lunchtime. Parents pay $0.15 for the lunches using mobile money, which then credits into a virtual wallet. The wallet links to a smart wristband that students wear that they then use to pay for their meals.

Effects of Hunger on Students

Food for Education is feeding Kenyan schoolchildren and this is important because hunger affects both the physical and mental development of children. Estimates determine that 23 million children go to school without anything to eat in Kenya. Chronic undernutrition impacts one in four children, stunting their growth. Children who are hungry fall behind in classes because they have trouble learning and paying attention. The child may also fall behind in class as a result of missing classes to help their family put food on the table. In addition, they are also more likely to have behavioral problems. All of these challenges may result in the child having to repeat a grade, which contributes to the family’s financial strain. In the long run, it affects the child’s productivity and future economic potential.

There has been a positive impact since Food for Education began its work feeding Kenyan schoolchildren. The organization reports that other than the improved nutrition for the children, there has been an improvement in school attendance, school performance and the transition rates from primary to high school. The U.N. deputy secretary-general, Amina Mohammed, at a school visit by Food for Education, noted that stunted growth costs Africa $25 billion annually. Therefore, the work that Njiru and her organization does is helping lift people out of poverty.

The Benefit to the Community

Food for Education does not only benefit the student, it also feeds the community around them. For example, the organization utilizes food sourced from local farmers. Njiru also makes an effort to only hire locals. The 35 employees who help her meet her goal are all from the Ruiru community. This is important because it enables the members of that community to earn an income and support themselves.

Food for Education efforts are helping Kenyan children receive an education without worrying about a lack of stable access to food. In fact, Njiru’s contribution has not gone unnoticed. In 2018, she was the first recipient of the Global Citizen Prize, Cisco Youth Leadership Award. Among other things, the award came with a cash prize of $250,000 which has significantly helped boost the organization. She hopes that she can one day scale up from 10,000 meals a day to providing one million meals a day.

Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

Health of Rohingya Muslims
Beginning in August 2017 and continuing to the present day, an estimated 24,000 members of the Rohingya Muslim ethnoreligious group have been murdered by Myanmar militia forces for cleansing purposes. Members of Myanmar’s army and police forces have raped around 18,000 girls and women. A total of approximately 225,000 homes have burned down or undergone vandalism since the beginning of this crackdown on the Muslim minority group of Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Since then, an influx of Rohingya Muslims has entered the Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh in attempts to escape the inhumane living circumstances of the Rakhine State. By February 2018, around 688,000 Rohingyas had entered Bangladesh. They joined close to 212,000 Rohingyas that settled in Bangladesh before the exodus that began six months prior. One area of concern is the health of Rohingya Muslims.

Even after leaving the region where they experienced persecution, the quality of health of Rohingya Muslims has not been ideal. This is due to the frequency in which they travel into Bangladesh, as well as the large groups they move within.

Health Concerns for Refugees

One major, ongoing concern for the health of Rohingya Muslims is the fact that they have limited access to preventative health care services. These services become necessary when a mass group of individuals resides in a singular location, like a refugee camp, for an extended period. According to an Intersector Coordination group situation report, rape survivors among Rohingya Muslims have not received adequate clinical treatment for harms and diseases they may now carry.

There is also a lack of preventative and diagnostic services for blood-borne diseases like HIV and tuberculosis. The World Health Organization found in 2017 that, though both Bangladesh and Myanmar had comparatively low rates of HIV cases, Rakhine state in 2015 had an exceptionally large number in comparison to the rest of Myanmar. This, paired with the fact that Myanmar armed forces raped a large number of women and girls, illustrates a need for more thorough diagnostic procedures for blood-borne and sexually transmitted diseases.

Around 42,000 pregnant women and 72,000 lactating mothers require quality care assistance, as of October 22, 2018. Around 3,000 of those women had entered health facilities to receive treatment for their symptoms of malnourishment.

Medical Advancements and Humanitarian Aid

While refugees have limited access to health care, medical advancements have occurred to address as many of these refugees’ needs as possible. The World Health Organization reported on March 18, 2019, that a new software known as Go.Data will now allow for more efficient investigations into disease outbreaks, “including field data collection, contact tracing and visualization of disease chains of transmission.” On February 28, 2018, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre donated $2 million to the Sadar District Hospital in Cox’s Bazar. This will help strengthen the medical facility in the region of Bangladesh that includes a dense population of Rohingya refugees.

One more great stride in improving the health of the Rohingya Muslims: In the year following the August 2017 mass migration,  155 new health posts emerged, supplying for around 7,700 individuals per location. This could not have been possible without the partnership of the Bangladesh government, the World Health Organization and other groups supporting the rights of the Rohingya.

Continued support for and increased awareness of the persisting struggles of the Rohingya Muslims will do incredible things in ensuring improvement to their quality of life.

– Fatemeh-Zahra Yarali
Photo: Flickr

Tonga is a tropical group of islands located in the South Pacific. Tonga is rich with a vibrant culture and population and the islands are known for their tropical beauty. While the lives of Tongans have vastly improved in recent years, there is still much that can be done. These 10 facts about living conditions in Tonga showcase both the struggles that Tongans face on a daily basis as well as the positive aspects of life in the country.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Tonga

  1. Water quality is an issue – The majority of Tonga’s freshwater supply is in the form of groundwater, collected either through rainwater harvesting or limestone extraction. Because Tonga has no coordinated, centralized system for caring for waste, individuals and communities manage wastewater on-site. This presents difficulties in monitoring water quality and sanitation, making Tongans susceptible to parasites and waterborne diseases.
  2. Noncommunicable diseases are quite common among residents – Tonga used to face challenges with deaths caused by infectious diseases, but now the country is facing a new primary cause of death: non-communicable diseases. According to a 2008 report, non-communicable diseases accounted for more than 70 percent of deaths in Tonga during that year. These diseases include respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, as well as cancer and diabetes. However, the Tongan Government has begun to take action against this growing problem and recently launched the Tongan National Non-Communicable Disease Strategy, which sets out to reduce the number of individuals in Tonga with non-communicable diseases.
  3. Tongans have excellent access to healthcare and medicine – According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 100 percent of the population has access to health care and medicine. However, the quality and supply of these hospitals and medicines can be an issue in some of the more remote areas of the country, such as in the outer islands.
  4. Tonga has a small, but open, island economy – The country largely exports agricultural goods and fish. These items make up close to 80 percent of Tonga’s total exports. Tonga’s economy is also based around tourism, although this industry has faltered in recent years following the global economic crisis of 2008.
  5. Early education in Tonga is a priorityAlmost 95 percent of the resident population with children between the ages of 6 and 14 are enrolled in school. Once children reach the age of 15, however, school attendance decreases. Overall, almost 30 percent of those between the ages of 15 and 19 do not attend school. Along with this, female school attendance is generally higher than males. This gap only increases in secondary school, where female enrollment is 67.4 percent and male enrollment is only 54 percent. It has often been reported that, as they grow older, many boys who fail their exams have chosen to quit school altogether and help their families by working.
  6. Housing can be a problem – This can be largely attributed to the wet, tropical climate and severe weather found in the South Pacific region. A recent study found that one of the most prevalent types of structural damage to homes in urban parts of Tonga was water damage, which was characterized by mold growing predominantly in the sleeping and cooking areas of the homes. Furthermore, many homes are often destroyed because of the harsh weather. For example, in 2018, Tropical Cyclone Gita hit various parts of Tonga, affecting roughly 70 percent of the population and completely destroying over 1,000 homes.
  7. Child marriage is common – Between 2015 and 2017, more than 100 child marriages took place in Tonga. These marriages were able to take place because of specific sections from Tonga’s Births, Deaths and Marriage Registration Act of 1926 that allow children between the ages of 15 and 17 to be married if there is parental approval. However, in many of these situations, young girls are pressured into marriage due to parental desires or teen pregnancy. To help combat this, a campaign was launched in 2017 called “Let Girls be Girls!” The campaign, which is supported by the Tongan Ministry of Justice, hopes to repeal the law that currently allows child marriage in Tonga.
  8. Close to 60 percent of Tongans are dependent solely on agriculture for food – Though acreage for agricultural goods is increasing, production and quality is decreasing due to unsustainable agricultural practices, pests, diseases and increasing urbanization. Attempts have been made in the past to try and stabilize food security, but only recently have any methods proven effective. In 2015 the Tonga Framework for Action on Food Security (TFAFS) was developed to ensure food security as a top priority. TFAFS focuses on combining a variety of methods to address food security, focusing on both immediate and long-term solutions.
  9. About 25 percent of households in Tonga have incomes that are below the poverty line88 percent of Tonga’s population live in rural areas of the country, which experience the highest rates of poverty and harshest living conditions. The population in these rural areas has been slowly declining, however, and is expected to drop another 7 percent in the next 30 years. However, this decline may present some problems for the Tongan agricultural industry, which may face labor shortages.
  10. Tonga has a relatively young population – The median age in Tonga is only 23 years old, and more than one-third of the population is 14 or younger. Additionally, just over 6 percent of the population is over the age of 65. However, life expectancy is slowly increasing in Tonga, and as of 2017, the average life expectancy had risen to 73 years old.

These 10 facts about living conditions in Tonga demonstrate the progress that the country has made in improving the lives of its people. Though there is still much work to be done, Tonga is working hard to become a strong, self-reliant nation.

– Melissa Quist
Photo: Flickr

Fight Disease in the DRC
With 80 million hectares of arable land and over 1,100 precious metals and minerals, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has quickly established itself as a large exporter in the lucrative diamond industry. Despite this, the DRC ranks 176th out of 189 nations on the UN’s Human Development Index and over 60 percent of the 77 million DRC residents live on less than $2 a day. Internal and external war, coupled with political inefficacy and economic exploitation, has hindered the country’s ability to combat poverty and improve health outcomes. Listed below are some of the most deadly diseases that are currently affecting individuals in the DRC and the different strategies that governments and NGOs have taken to fight disease in the DRC.

3 Deadly Diseases Currently Affecting Individuals in the DRC

  1. Malaria

The DRC has the second-highest number of malaria cases in the world, reporting 15.3 million of the WHO-estimated 219 million malaria cases in 2017. Of the more than 400 Congolese children that die every day, almost half of them die due to malaria, with 19 percent of fatalities under 5 years attributed to the disease. However, some are making to reduce malaria’s negative impact.  For example, the distribution of nearly 40 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets, or ITNs, has helped lower the incidence rate by 40 percent since 2010, with a 34 percent decrease in the mortality rate for children under 5. The DRC government procured and distributed the nets with international partners such as the Department for International Development, Global Fund and World Bank. In addition, the President’s Malaria Initiative, a program implemented in 2005 by President Bush and carried out by USAID, has distributed more than 17 million nets. UNICEF has also been a major contributor in the efforts to fight malaria and recently distributed 3 million ITNs in the DRC’s Kasaï Province. However, the country requires more work, as malaria remains its most frequent cause of death.

  1. HIV/AIDS

Among its efforts to fight disease in the DRC, the country has made significant progress recently in its fight against HIV/AIDS. As a cause of death, it has decreased significantly since 2007, and since 2010, there are 39 percent fewer total HIV infections.

This particular case illuminates the potential positive impact of American foreign aid. The DRC Ministry of Health started a partnership with the CDC in 2002, combining efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. PEPFAR, signed into U.S. law in 2003 to combat AIDS worldwide, has invested over $512 million since 2004, which has helped to fund antiretroviral treatment for 159,776 people. In 2017, it funded the provision of HIV testing services for 1.2 million people.

The country is also addressing mother-to-child transmissions. In the DRC, approximately 15 to 20 percent of mothers with HIV pass the virus onto their child. The strategy to end mother-to-child transmissions involves expanding coverage for HIV-positive pregnant women, diagnosing infants with HIV earlier and preventing new infections via antiretroviral drug treatment. UNAID, The Global Fund and the DRC Ministry of Health have undertaken significant work to accomplish these objectives and their efforts have resulted in the coverage of 70 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women.  However, much work remains to cover the remaining 30 percent of pregnant HIV-positive women.

Overall, there is still a lot of necessary work to undergo in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the DRC and around the world.  In total, UNAIDS estimated that HIV/AIDS was the cause of 17,000 deaths in the DRC in 2018.  While this is a decrease from previous years, it shows that the DRC still has a long way to go in order to fully control the spread of the disease.  Additionally, there must be more global funding. The U.N. announced on July 2019 that annual global funding for fighting HIV/AIDS decreased in 2018 by almost $1 billion.

  1. Ebola

Since 2018, the DRC has undergone one of the world’s largest Ebola outbreaks. On July 17, 2019, WHO declared the outbreak an international health emergency. Since August 2018, more than 2,500 cases have occurred, with over 1,800 deaths.

However, the country is making efforts to prevent the transmission and spread of Ebola in the DRC.  Recently, more than 110,000 Congolese received an experimental Ebola vaccine from Merck & Co. The vaccine is called rVSV-ZEBOV, and studies have shown the vaccine to have a 97.5 percent efficacy rate.  This vaccine provides hope that people will be able to control Ebola breakouts in the near future.

While there have been attempts to fight disease in the DRC in recent years, such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and Ebola, each disease remains a major issue. In the coming years, the country must continue its efforts.

– Drew Mekhail
Photo: Flickr

Poverty-Related DiseasesEvery day, billions of individuals around the world suffer from diseases. To make matters worse, many of these individuals are mired in poverty with limited access to health care services. Reducing the negative impact that these diseases have on individuals in poverty starts with identifying which diseases are affecting the most people. Listed below are three diseases that are closely linked with individuals in poverty.

Top 3 Poverty-Related Diseases

  1. Tuberculosis
    Tuberculosis, or TB, is a disease that stems from the presence of bacteria in someone’s lungs. It is common in many poorer, more urban areas because it can spread quickly when individuals are in close contact with each other. TB killed over 1.5 million people in 2018 and infected 10 million individuals in total. The disease takes advantage of individuals who have weakened immune systems, which can happen to individuals who are malnourished or who are suffering from other diseases simultaneously. When an individual in poverty is diagnosed with TB, their options are limited. Treating TB is costly and many people cannot afford treatment. However, not all hope is lost. Organizations like the TB Alliance aim to produce more affordable TB treatment for individuals in poverty. The TB Alliance has already helped many individuals and is working to expand its operations in the coming years.
  2. Malaria
    Malaria is a parasitic disease that is spread by the Anopheles mosquito. It accounts for roughly 435,000 deaths per year (affecting roughly 219 million people) and disproportionally affects individuals under the age of 5 (children under 5 accounted for over 60 percent of malaria deaths in 2017). One NGO that is leading the fight against Malaria is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They have partnered with the U.S. Government, the WHO and NGOs like the Global Fund to help protect individuals around the world from malaria-transmitting mosquitos. So far, their work has been beneficial, as the number of malaria cases has been reduced by half since 2000. However, there is still much work to be done, as malaria remains a deadly disease that negatively affects millions.
  3. HIV/AIDS
    HIV is a virus that is transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids. It affects nearly 37 million people worldwide every year, 62 percent of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV/AIDS (HIV is the virus that leads to AIDS) is common in countries where the population either does not have the knowledge or resources to practice safe sex. HIV can also spread in areas with poor sanitation, as individuals who use previously used needles can become infected with the virus. Many governments and NGOs around the world are doing good work to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDs. For example, in 2003, the U.S. Government launched The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Initiative. The goal of this initiative was to address the global HIV/AIDS issue by helping those who already have the condition as well as by spearheading prevention efforts. Since the program was implemented, the results have been positive- the program is widely credited with having saved millions of lives over the last 16 years.

Each of these diseases negatively affects millions of individuals around the globe on a daily basis. Yet there is reason for optimism — continued work done by NGO’s such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, TB Alliance and The Global Fund, as well as efforts from governments to improve the current situation, will lead to a better future, hopefully, one where individuals no longer suffer from there poverty-related diseases.

– Chelsea Wolfe
Photo: Flickr