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Sanitation in GabonGabon, officially known as the Gabonese Republic, is a coastal country about the size of Colorado, home to 2.1 million people. Independent of French imperial rule for only 60 years, the country maintains strong ties to European and American markets. Gabon neighbors the Atlantic Ocean to its west and many rivers inland, from the Ogooue to the Ivindo. Despite its recent development, however, poverty and access to basic sanitation still plague about one-third of the population. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Gabon: both the present and plans for the future.

10 Facts about Sanitation in Gabon

  1. The country is working toward providing clean water to all. Gabon’s first Libreville Integrated Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Program aims for universal access to sustainable forms for attaining drinking water and sanitation services by 2025. This program plans to expand the drinking water network out from the capital; by doing so, drinking water will reach about 300,000 more people in surrounding areas. The cities of Akanda, Owendo and Ntoum will all benefit from this infrastructure.
  2. Every home could soon have its own sanitation equipment. The use of shared sanitation in Gabon, or sanitation services utilized by two or more households, has significantly dropped from 36% of the population in 2003 to 27% in 2017. This is largely due to the increase in infrastructure for these services and outreach programs implemented by the government and international agencies.
  3. Defecating in public is uncommon, but back on the rise. Open defecation in Gabon is presently low, with 3% of the total population in 2017 compared to other countries like Niger (68%) and Ghana (18%). However, this figure actually shows an alarming increase from 2000, when a mere 1% of the population practiced open defecation.
  4. Disparities in access to water and sanitation are interconnected. In 2017, from the organized efforts of the WHO and UNICEF, it was reported that 90% of Gabon’s urban areas had access to drinking water but only 49% of households had access to basic sanitation services. In rural areas, availability drops significantly to 55% and 37%, respectively. Such disparities can be attributed to the lack of infrastructure and the wealth gap seen between the two areas.
  5. Education is helping to improve sanitation. Total Gabon and French organization Sensibilisation, Sante, Sexualite (3S) have been spearheading vital health programs in schools since 2017. These comprehensive programs aim to decrease the infant mortality rate and unsafe abortions. This will be done through education on sexual health, female hygiene and sanitation. As of 2017, over 40,000 people have learned the importance of family planning, contraception and pregnancy management. The program has also trained 42 young peer educators, who will become instrumental in further spreading valuable lessons on sanitation.
  6. Poor sanitation leaves Gabon’s citizens vulnerable to food and water-borne illnesses. According to a 2020 report from The World Factbook, people in Gabon are at a very high risk of food or waterborne diseases like bacterial diarrhea; however, deaths caused by diarrheal diseases have dropped by 22.8% from 2007 to 2017.
  7. Industrial pollution contributes to sanitation issues. In many underdeveloped countries, pollutants from excessive chemical use in agriculture and logging severely contaminate waterways. With Gabon’s robust timber industry, this phenomenon is especially apparent. Luckily, though, the country has dedicated one of its three pillars for a better future to environmental sustainability: “Green Gabon,” has diversified the job sector to reduce strain on the timber industry, lessening the amounts of air and water pollution byproducts. This translates into better conservation efforts, drinking water, disease and sanitation in Gabon.
  8. Drainage systems offer hope for improved sanitation. The Nzeng Ayong Watershed Management Project in Gabon incorporated a water drainage system in urban areas to improve sanitation in Gabon. As part of the National Indicative Program of the European Union, these drainage pipes and sanitation framework provided easy transport of wastewater. This helps prevent water-borne diseases and floods for 30,000 people in Libreville.
  9. COVID-19 is exacerbating current sanitation problems. Due to the global pandemic, many in Gabon are suffering a hard hit to their economy and the resulting unemployment. Nearly 250,000 additional people are now unable to pay their water bills, severely restricting access to drinking water. Gabon’s Budget Support Programme in Response to the COVID-19 Crisis not only intends to cover bills for those 250,000 people but also to distribute food aid to 60,000 people in its first phase alone.
  10. International aid organizations are getting involved. The World Bank and UNICEF have provided significant aid to Gabon. The World Bank has contributed $9 million to improve the country’s sanitation by supplying equipment like ambulances, personal protective equipment (PPE) and diagnostic kits. This money will also fund proper medical training and two new COVID-19 diagnostic centers. UNICEF has focused on supporting children in Gabon during COVID-19: the organization has funded sanitation kits, COVID-19 awareness campaigns, HIV/AIDS prevention initiatives and other educational efforts to 950 children without parental care. Mental and psychological resources have also been extended to 6,608 kids. Safe and accessible sexual abuse reporting systems have reached 811 people.

Universal sanitation and related basic needs are clearly part of an intricate web that entangles a host of other internal problems. With the rising influence of existing and emerging domestic and international programs, these investments will improve sanitation; this will ultimately move Gabon toward a healthier future.

– Mizla Shrestha
Photo: Flickr


Globalization and industrialization have improved living conditions and increased economic prosperity in Morocco. The introduction of economic reforms in the early 1980s also stimulated growth in a variety of sectors. Yet, despite these efforts, poverty, illiteracy and unemployment rates in Morocco remain high. In 2018, Morocco ranked 121st out of 189 countries in the Human Development Index—a statistic composite index of life expectancy, education and per capita income indicators. A significant factor in Morocco’s low ranking is the country’s inaccessible and inadequate healthcare. Here are four things to know about healthcare in Morocco today.

4 Facts About Healthcare in Morocco

  1. Ongoing institutional reforms. Morocco is undergoing a variety of health system reforms, including those affecting hospitals and institutions. Currently, the North African country’s health system has public and private sectors. The private sector is further divided into not-for-profit and for-profit divisions, which is often quite costly. The public sector, though more affordable, is unable to provide the same standard of care as the private sector. Due to the ongoing reforms, the World Health Organization has outlined the management of public hospitals and a “lack of a policy to manage and develop human resources” to be some of the Moroccan health system’s main challenges.
  2. A lack of healthcare workers. Morocco is suffering from a lack of skilled healthcare professionals in both sectors of its healthcare system. In 2017, there was an average of 7.9 health workers per 10,000 people in 12 regions, according to the Moroccan Ministry of Health. This ratio falls far below the WHO’s standard of one physician per 650 people.
  3. Limited accessibility to healthcare. Coinciding with cost barriers and limited healthcare personnel, many Moroccans lack access to healthcare outside of urban centers. Rural and remote areas of Morocco are often underserved, and citizens have to travel long distances to receive primary care. To attract and retain healthcare workers in these underserved areas, the Moroccan Ministry of Health proposed legislation in 2015 for new graduates to work in underserved areas for two years.
  4. Gender inequality affecting women’s access to healthcare. Women’s health in Morocco is lower than men due to socioeconomic factors limiting women’s standard of living and income. According to the Mohammed Bin Rachid Al Maktoum Foundation, Morocco’s estimated 2008 illiteracy rate was 43%. In the same report, women’s illiteracy rate sat higher at 54.7%. Moreover, according to a 2009 report by the High Commission for Planning for Morocco, women with higher education diplomas were more vulnerable to unemployment. The report found that, in general, 27.5% of women are unemployed, while 50.1% of women with credentials are unemployed. Furthermore, Morocco has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, with an estimated 21.90 deaths per 1000 live births in 2017.

Improving the Moroccan health system is a slow process; however, with support from international public health organizations like WHO and healthcare professionals, healthcare in Morocco could advance significantly. Equal healthcare to women and Moroccans living in rural and remote areas will ensure a brighter, healthier future for Morocco and the world.

Alana Castle
Photo: Flickr

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 an 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 a 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