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Malaysia’s Improvements in Water and Sanitation
Malaysia is one of many developing countries on the rise out of poverty and into wealth and prosperity. Like many developing countries, Malaysia had to make adjustments to its way of life. One of those changes was improving access to clean water and hygienic sanitation. Today, improvements to water and sanitation in Malaysia have made the country a model for other developing countries working to ensure stable and healthy livelihoods.

Improvements to Water and Sanitation in Malaysia

Malaysia’s efforts to provide access to clean water and pipe systems can be seen in data that has been collected. According to The World Health Organization/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program, reports taken in 2015 show that approximately 92 percent of Malaysian people have access to properly managed water supplies and 82 percent have access to hygienic sanitation services. Compared to other developing countries, these numbers are better than expected.

To tackle issues in clean water and sanitation access, Malaysia joined Vision 2020 in 1991 under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, setting out with a goal to reach developed country status by the year 2020. In addition to solving Malaysia’s water and sanitation issues, the agreement set out to address many other issues as well, including climate change, societal division, financial challenges and needed improvements in technological advancements.

World Water Vision

Under Vision 2020 is the World Water Vision process, which was established by the World Water Council. The World Water Council is an international water policy think-tank co-sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization, the World Meteorological Organization, the World Bank and several United Nations programs. The global project set out to implement extensive consultation and to incorporate innovative ideas in the creation of future technology to ensure water access for all.

On a more national level is the Malaysian Water Visioning process. Supported by the Malaysian Water Partnership and the Malaysian National Committee for Irrigation and Drainage, it carried out consultations to determine the proper distribution of water for food and rural development at the national and regional levels. It also implemented extensive water sector mapping and studies on gender disparities pertaining to water access and control.

Case Study: Orang Asli Communities

Although water and sanitation access has improved tenfold, some important groups are still in need of aid. These groups include the poor, immigrant families and people living in secluded rural areas.

To better understand the problem, a case study was done on the Orang Asli communities of indigenous people. Compared to other parts of Malaysia, their health issues are worse than average, infant mortality was double the national figure and parasitic infections were as high as up to 90 percent in certain communities. Most of these issues, if not all, were largely due to poor access to clean water and sanitation.

The Orang Asli and the Global Peace Foundation worked together to create the Communities Unite for Purewater (CUP). This came after carrying out extensive interviews, workshops and other interventions. CUP combats poor water and sanitation access through the installation of water filters and pumps.

As a result, Orang Asli people no longer have to travel miles to get clean water. The new water pumps draw water from wells and transport it into filtered water storage tanks. These are then distributed to each household through a pipe system. The Orang Asli people have stated that this significant change has made their lives much easier. There are also now less prone to diarrhea and fevers.

Moving Forward

Malaysia has come a long way to improve its water and sanitation systems, making it one of the most promising developing countries in the world today. Malaysia has used many innovative ideas and tactics to overcome its water and sanitation issues, including creating initiatives through partnerships, promoting education and doing extensive research. One thing Malaysia will have to work on while on its road to success is to pay better attention to poorer groups to ensure that they get access to clean water and sanitation as well. In order to strive for peace, there must be equal and fair treatment for everyone, regardless of social class.

– Lucia Elmi
Photo: Pixabay

Facts about Sanitation in NicaraguaAlthough Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, it is also one of the poorest nations in the region. Its mountainous location presents a challenge when considering the development of infrastructure necessary for a functioning water and sanitation system. Although access to resources has been a persistent challenge, the following 10 facts about sanitation in Nicaragua explain the country’s upward trajectory of living conditions and a patchwork of support.

10 Facts about Sanitation in Nicaragua

  1. Improved Sanitation Coverage. Access to improved sanitation in the past 30 years has increased significantly. In 1990, Nicaragua had 44 percent overall sanitation coverage. As of 2015, that number increased to 68 percent, according to data collected by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
  2. Improved Drinking-water Source Coverage. Driven by the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations (U.N.), Nicaragua has managed to increase access to drinking-water coverage from 73 percent to 87 percent of the population between 1990 to 2015.
  3. Urban vs. Rural Coverage. Like in many countries, access to sanitary services depends on location and economic status. This is even more apparent for the Nicaraguan population, which has a high coverage gap of 22 percent between rural and urban areas in basic sanitary services. Nevertheless, the gap has decreased somewhat over time. It is down from a 28 percent gap in 2000.
  4. Climate factors. Nicaragua is situated in what is called the “Dry Corridor” of Central America, leaving it exposed to heavy drought. To compound, the negative factors of “El niño” warming the surface temperatures has prolonged these dry spells and intensified storms. The consequence of these abnormalities makes it harder to travel for water pick-up, so families try to store water indoors. This leads to communicable diseases such as diarrhea. Luckily, humanitarian organizations have not been largely hindered by climate-related occurrences and continue to offer services such as new sanitation projects toward greater coverage.
  5. WaterAid and WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene). Created by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), WASH is a global effort to promote access to clean water, sanitation and hygienic practices to those in need. WaterAid is the biggest international nonprofit organization to exclusively promote WASH. It has intervened in principalities lacking water systems to connect 24,000 to clean water sources, 9,600 with toilets in their homes and 55,000 with hygiene education since 2011.
  6. Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). IDB is a Latin American regional bank with similar development goals to that of the World Bank. In order to finance the expansion of water and sanitation services, IDB loaned 11 Nicaraguan cities a total of $72 million for better access to potable water and sanitation facilities. The project is expected to bring clean drinking water to 65,000 people and benefit 31,000 with new sewage networks. These improvements in technical assistance and equipment will benefit 375,000 residents of the capital city, Managua.
  7. Water For People. Another nonprofit that is promoting the WASH initiative is Water For People. It works with district governments to construct water pipes and ensure their sustainability. It also started a microfinance approach by partnering with local institutions to train on how to offer loans for sanitation purposes. To promote better hygiene in schools, the organization partners with schools to bring hygiene programming into teacher-led activities. It helps parent-teacher associations to monitor its effectiveness. Water For People has brought reliable water services in two districts for more than 26,000 residents.
  8. American Nicaraguan Foundation (ANF). Founded in 1992, ANF is a nonprofit with the objective of reducing the ingestion of contaminated water and improving living conditions for Nicaraguans. Its projects have built sanitation facilities, wells, tap stands, rainwater collection and water filtration systems. In 2018 alone, ANF built 24 water wells, 711 sanitation facilities and more than 730 water taps, benefiting thousands of local residents.
  9. Faith-based nonprofits and agriculture. Since rural farmlands have poor access to water and sanitation, a number of churches in Nicaragua have partnered with local farmers to implement more sustainable farming practices that can protect the soil and water from pollution. Episcopal Relief & Development is a faith-based nonprofit. Its initiatives include crop diversity, increased food production, tree planting, constructing land ridges and ditches to reduce soil erosion and harvesting rainwater with micro-dams. The organization is currently working on a WASH project in Boaco to educate local communities on how to improve facilities and access to clean water.
  10. Esperança Projects. Esperança is a comprehensive nonprofit focused on health and education. Since 2001, it has been working in the northern region of Jinotega, a poor farming region of Nicaragua. Among its services, it provides clean water sources like wells to help limit water-borne diseases that disproportionately affect children, women and poor communities as they expose themselves to harm when traveling long distances for water. It also educates farmers on better agroecological techniques that leave water sources uncontaminated. Along with education, the organization provides families with seeds and livestock that help combat soil erosion and water pollution.

The Millennium Development Goals and network of nonprofits working in Nicaragua have proved paramount to the nation’s development of water systems, sanitation and agricultural sustainability. Basic access to clean water and sanitation services are directly dependent on proper hygiene education and resources that these organizations have increasingly provided. These 10 facts about sanitation in Nicaragua represent both the challenges and optimism for its people with a highlight on the notable progress that has been made with support from local and global communities.

Caleb Cummings
Photo: Flickr

New Ebola and Malaria Vaccines
In December 2019, the Gavi Board, an organization that improves the accessibility of immunizations to vulnerable children, approved a new program that will allocate new Ebola vaccines. A new funding initiative will invest about $178 million by 2025 for a new program to develop the vaccines. The decision is monumental in leading global health emergency stockpiles, which will grow to 500,000 doses.

Ebola’s Effect on Poverty

A study in December 2014 in Liberia indicated that the infectious disease hits poorer neighborhoods most. People in poverty are 3.5 times more likely to contract the disease than those in wealthier areas. Due to the dense population and lack of sanitation and health care facilities, the people in these communities are more susceptible to the virus. Ebola first appeared on an epidemic level in West Africa in 2014. While it existed prior to that, those cases were more contained. Crowded urban areas resulted in higher transference, further developing the outbreak.

Malaria Vaccines

In addition to the Ebola vaccine, Gavi approved continued steps in curating an implementation program for new malaria vaccines. The routine distribution of these vaccines will reduce child death significantly. Malaria is the primary cause of death of children under 5-years-old, with a reported 228 million cases and 405,000 deaths in 2018 alone. Malaria is also one of the top four causes of poverty, according to the United Nations. Its lack of affordable measures has strained many African economies, costing an estimated $30 billion a year. Many people cannot afford efficient medication and 20 percent often die due to poorly distributed drugs.

Countries affected by poverty and low income will have access to these vaccination campaigns free of charge, which will help boost economies. Countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have continually experienced rash Ebola outbreaks, with the latest one being in August 2018. Since then, the DRC has grappled with over 2,200 lives lost and 3,421 more reported cases in January 2020. In July 2019, the World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak a public health emergency that called for international concern.

The US Fights Against Ebola

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will also participate in close efforts to fight the Ebola outbreak in the DRC. The FDA granted programs in order to advance the development of new drugs that will lead to the prevention of tropical diseases. People primarily contract Ebola through direct contact with bodily fluids, blood and infected wild animals or people. Limiting these factors is difficult, but with proper medication and programs, along with the investments in sanitation and health care facilities, outbreaks will significantly reduce. These types of decisions are paramount in shifting the United States’ focus to a more global standpoint in regards to large-scale poverty.

The development of Ebola and malaria vaccination pilots is essential to the sustainability of areas affected by extreme poverty. Preventable measures will reduce the risk of contracting infectious diseases among these low-income communities. These comprehensive overviews will scale back the rate of Ebola outbreaks in African regions, which will also cut back on excessive government spending. Vaccination programs will help prevent 24 million people from facing extreme poverty by 2030. People could prevent a quarter of deaths that the outbreaks caused through simple vaccination, which makes these programs all the more noteworthy. The Gavi Board and the FDA’s efforts in launching new malaria and Ebola vaccines will contribute to the positive impact.

Brittany Adames
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

10 Improvements in Women’s Rights in Bangladesh
Bangladeshi women are no strangers to fighting for what they believe in. In 1952, the women of Bangladesh fought against the patriarchal regime alongside their husbands for the recognition of the Bengali language. Below are 10 improvements in women’s rights in Bangladesh.

10 Improvements in Women’s Rights in Bangladesh

  1. Health. The USAID assisted in joint communication between husbands and wives regarding women’s health. Therefore, decision-making is mutual and focuses on the future of the family, including healthier pregnancies for both mother and child. Bangladeshi women formed NGOs to mobilize and provide door to door health services, family planning and income-earning opportunities.
  2. Agriculture. Bangladeshi women are not only homemakers, but they are also income earners. Female farmers utilize a new technology, known as the fertilizer deep treatment method. This method uses less fertilizer and produces a higher return on investment. Additionally, Bangladesh also encourages women to sell in markets and pursue other areas of earned income, such as culturing fish and shrimp.
  3. Gender-Based Violence. The USAID works to implement the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act of 2010 in training 50 percent of Bangladeshi women. Further, Bangladesh also supports grassroots efforts of social protection groups as well. Groups act as the ears and eyes of the community, as well as enforcing current human rights laws and providing resources to legal channels. Groups include social workers, doctors, religious leaders, teachers and students.
  4. Voting Rights. The country has set an example of women’s equality in voting. In 1972, the Constitution of Bangladesh guaranteed women the same voting rights as their male counterparts. The constitution also guaranteed equal opportunities, such as serving in parliament. For example, in 1991, there was the election of the first female Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia. Today, Sheikh Hasina holds the seat as Prime Minister. Furthermore, Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury holds the seat as House Speaker.
  5. Women and Children Repression (Special Act). In 1995, Bangladesh passed the special act for severe punishment for anyone guilty of forcing women to marry against their will, as well as marrying for dowry. In 2018, the high court also banned and prohibited the two-finger test; it deemed this test irrational and belittling to rape victims. Instead, the government adopted a more appropriate form of health care protocol in line with the World Health Organization.
  6. Education. Research finds that access to education and employment plays a positive role in helping women avoid becoming victims of dowry-related transactions. Illiteracy stifles the opportunity for growth and empowerment for women. The Centre for Policy Dialogue completed a study and found that if homemakers received pay for what people believe is
    non-work, they would receive 2.5 to 2.9 times higher pay than paid services income.
  7. Mass Awareness. Bangladesh also encourages mass discussion, debates and programs to bring awareness to gender inequality. According to lawmakers, mass public initiatives must include legislations and policies; this includes awareness that people teach and model at home.
  8. Working Women. Bangladeshi working women increased from 16.2 million in 2010 to 18.6 million in 2016-17. In 2017, the Gender Gap Index reported Bangladesh in the first spot amongst South Asian countries.
  9. Education. In 1990, the implementation of stipends exclusively for female students in efforts to end gender disparity for secondary schools occurred. Also, 150,000 primary school girls improved their reading skills. Participation increased from 57 percent in 2008 to 94.4 percent in 2017. Moreover, 10 million rural and underprivileged women in 490 Upazilas of 64 districts gained technology access. Bangladesh tops the Gender Gap Index in education in the primary and secondary education category.
  10. More Achievements. Bangladesh initiatives thus far include a reduction in infant and child mortality, poverty alleviation, increased female entrepreneurs and increased education and health. Other initiatives include strengthening workplace treatment and security for women against violence. There have also been income-generating initiatives to train over 2 million women at a grassroots level. Finally, Prime Minister Hasina created the Reserve Quota aimed at increasing the number of women in government, judiciary and U.N. peacekeeping missions and roles.

These 10 improvements in women’s rights in Bangladesh continue to set an example for other countries where inequality is extremely pervasive. While Bangladesh still requires significant work, these improvements bring more opportunities for Bangladeshi women to succeed in the future.

Michelle White
Photo: Flickr

UNICEF’s WASH Program
According to a joint report from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), one in four of the world’s health care facilities does not have adequate access to clean water and sanitation services, including sewer access. This means that about 2 billion people face a lack of clean water in their communities globally. Luckily, UNICEF’s WASH Program is in place to help remedy this.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)

In 17 out of 69 impoverished countries, at least 20 percent of medical facilities had no water service at all in 2016. Therefore, by going to these facilities, there is a risk of further infection. Ironically, the condition the facility is attempting to remedy could worsen. In developing countries, people often have a concern that they could become sicker after visiting a hospital. UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) program aims to bring water and means of sanitation to these at-risk health care facilities to create immediate benefits and establish an element of trust between medical facilities and the general population of impoverished countries. By doing so, projections determine that poor communities should increasingly report to medical professionals when they have a health concern, and many poverty-linked, poor-sanitation-caused diseases will receive better treatment and be better controlled.

UNICEF’s WASH program promotes education, fixing systemic issues and training. However, it mainly goes about achieving these goals by addressing issues on the ground level. Simply put, impoverished communities typically do not have easy access to sanitation measures and fresh water. Therefore, WASH has set out to directly fix the issue by installing facilities that can directly bring free, clean water to people in need. In certain areas that especially need better sanitation and water access, the program goes so far as to build physical water facilities.

How it Works

The facilities consist of a solar-powered borehole well that pumps clean groundwater from within the earth into 24-liter storage tanks above ground. These tanks keep the water clean and usable for whenever communities need it. There are no restrictions on the use of WASH facilities. Those who need it can use it to wash their hands, fill up bathtubs and draw water from their households, etc. In addition to supplying usable water to these communities, the WASH program also installs latrines. The latrines make use of the newly-supplied groundwater to reduce the amount of open defecation in impoverished communities.

WASH in Nigeria

A WASH facility in north-central Nigeria has seen exceptional progress after its installation. Like many poor Nigerian communities, there was little to no health care coverage. Further, the water was dirty and soil-transmitted helminths infected the area due to unsanitary defecation. Even the schools were a breeding ground for disease. Just by bringing clean water, WASH brought the rural community from an unsanitary village to an “open defecation-free” location. In doing so, they also slashed the prevalence of poverty-linked diseases.

UNICEF’s WASH program operates in coordination with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. Two out of the 17 SDGs directly apply to WASH’s mission. First, ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Second, ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. By making direct, measurable progress towards these goals, the U.N. can garner further support. Therefore, the world will be able to meet more SDGs, making the world a better place for everyone in the very near future.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Health Care in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is a country in South Asia that borders Myanmar, India, Nepal and Bhutan. In 2019, the country’s estimated population was about 163 million people. Additionally, the country’s economy has shown an increase in exports and remittances in 2019. According to the World Bank, the country’s extreme poverty rate has reduced by half but people still consider it a developing nation. The country’s under-five mortality rate has declined in recent years as well as its maternal mortality rate. There has been an increase in malnourished children and lung diseases, however. There has also been an increase in health and safety in workplaces. Organizations both in the country and worldwide are helping to increase health care in Bangladesh.

5 Organizations Improving Health Care in Bangladesh

  1. World Health Organization (WHO): Based in Switzerland, WHO is a United Nations agency that focuses on international public health. In Bangladesh, the company provides medical aid such as vaccinations, medical research and alerts on medical outbreaks and emergencies. It also helps develop health policies, as well as monitor illness and disease trends in an attempt to prevent outbreaks. By offering these resources, the World Health Organization is improving Bangladesh’s health faster than before, which the organization’s research shows. The organization’s research shows that in 2018, 94 percent of new or relapse Tuberculosis cases received treatment, compared to around 60 percent in 2008. By introducing advanced medical techniques to the country, vaccinations and monitoring, WHO has been able to decrease the number of individuals who die from the illness.

  2. Bangladesh Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE): Bangladesh’s Ministry of Labor and Employment runs this organization and is responsible for the safety of factories, workplaces and their employees. Its job is to ensure the welfare, safety and health of all workers in Bangladesh. It ensures this by enforcing the country’s labor laws, as well as constantly updating policies to ensure employee safety. The organization has three departments including the Labor Department, the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments and the Department of Trade Union Registration. By breaking the organization into smaller departments, workplace health and safety has improved, as well as the number of businesses in the country. This increases jobs as well as job security because there is less fear of injury or illness from the workplace.

  1. Public Health Foundation of Bangladesh: The World Health Organization has established the Public Health Foundation of Bangladesh, which is a volunteer-based organization. HR experts, researchers, scientists, clinicians, nurses, sociologists and other health science experts lead this group. The goal of the group is to conduct research and provide education that will develop the Bangladesh health in both society and health care systems. The organization aims to improve health care access to Bangladesh citizens by making health care more affordable and easily accessible for individuals below the poverty line.

  1. World Lung Foundation: Established in 2004, the World Lung Foundation aims to increase global response to lung disease, an illness that kills around 10 million individuals annually. In 2017, lung disease made up 8.69 percent of the country’s deaths, which equals up to 68,462 people. The organization is decreasing the number by providing programs in Bangladesh, as well as emphasizing tobacco control, the negative effects of air pollution and how lung disease leads to illnesses such as Tuberculosis and acute respiratory infections. By educating Bangladesh citizens, Tuberculosis, maternal and infant mortality rates have dropped.

  1. USAID: A U.S. based agency, USAID has set up programs to help improve health and nutrition in Bangladesh. Because of this, the organization has helped decrease the under-five mortality rates, as well as maternal mortality rates. USAID has also expanded the use of family planning, improved and integrated health systems into Bangladesh, as well as strengthen the health care system and government. This leads to overall better access to health care, healthcare policies and better health practices.

Bangladesh’s extreme poverty rate has reduced by half, but the country’s population has been rising. With an undesirable health care system, organizations such as WHO and USAID have helped the country’s overall health improve, and has also decreased mortality rates. The DIFE and Public Health Foundation of Bangladesh have ensured the safety and health of individuals in the workplace and in society. Also, organizations such as The World Lung Foundation bring awareness to some of the leading mortality rates.

– Destinee Smethers
Photo: Flickr

Schistosomiasis and Poverty

Schistosomiasis (also known as bilharzia) is a disease that is rarely heard outside of scientific circles. This has less to do with the severity of schistosomiasis, and more to do with the fact that its parasitic sibling, malaria, is a far more common and well-known illness. The largest concentration of schistosomiasis in the world, a staggering 90 percent, is in Africa.

Schistosomiasis: What is it?

While schistosomiasis tends to be overshadowed by its well-known cousin malaria, there is still a wealth of information on how it functions, spreads and affects the human body. Schistosomiasis is caused by parasitic worms that inhabit the bodies of some freshwater snails. Humans are infected when they interact with bodies of water containing these snails. Common recreational and domestic activities like swimming and washing clothes in and near infected waters are attributed to the spread of schistosomiasis.

Schistosomiasis comes in two different types: urinary schistosomiasis and intestinal schistosomiasis. Urinary schistosomiasis is characterized by extensive damage to the kidneys, bladder and ureters. Intestinal schistosomiasis is characterized via symptoms of an engorged spleen and liver, which leads to intestinal damage and hypertension in the abdominal blood vessels. The first symptom of schistosomiasis is a light skin rash known as “swimmers itch.” Once a human is infected, symptoms (chills, aches and coughing fits) can appear within one to two months. However, many infections are asymptomatic; the infection is there, but no symptoms appear.

Schistosomiasis is transferred from person to person when an infected individual’s excrement reaches a water supply. The parasitic eggs from then hatch, infect another snail (or human) and the cycle begins anew. Proper sanitation and potable water are the main ways to prevent the spread of this disease.

The disease schistosomiasis does not always result in death. Schistosomiasis commonly ends in stunted growth and anemia in children, and can even lead to infertility in cases of urinary schistosomiasis. Children can also find themselves with a reduced ability to learn due to the crippling symptoms this disease comes with.

There is no vaccine to cure schistosomiasis and no antibiotic has proven effective in preventing infection. However, there are effective means to diagnose and treat schistosomiasis before the infection truly takes hold. The drug, praziquantel, has proven useful in removing the worms and their eggs from the human body. Although there is poor access to praziquantel, this treatment has reached more than 28 percent of people around the world.

Where Schistosomiasis Congregates

Africa has a truly staggering number of schistosomiasis cases compared to the rest of the world. Nigeria has the most cases out of any African country, with approximately 29 million infected. The United Republic of Tanzania has the second-most cases of infection at 19 million with Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo tied at 15 million.

Schistosomiasis and Poverty: The Correlation

Schistosomiasis is predominantly found in areas of extreme poverty; where ever this disease goes, destitution soon follows. Schistosomiasis and poverty are intrinsically linked, and the most common reasoning for this occurrence is that extreme poverty often restricts access to clean water sources, which in turn causes people to use unsanitary water sources where schistosomiasis thrives and infection occurs. From there, the infected individual will succumb to the crippling disabilities that schistosomiasis infection eventually brings. This leads to reduced productivity in the community as the disease continues to spread, ensuring no end to this vicious cycle of poverty without outside intervention.

What Next? The Future of Schistosomiasis

There is hope, however, as NGO’s like the SCI foundation (founded in 2002) have dedicated themselves to the eradication of parasitic worm diseases. The SCI foundation’s biggest success in the fight against schistosomiasis is in Mozambique, where SCI has treated more than 30 million people of parasitic worm diseases. Further, SCI has already treated more than 12 million people in Tanzania alone since 2004. The foundation also recently (as of 2016) started to extend their treatment programs to Nigeria. With more than 2 million people already treated in such a short time, the SCI foundation can be trusted to reach Tanzania levels of treatment soon enough.

The future is bright for communities burdened with schistosomiasis and poverty, as many countries have been able to eradicate this disease from their lands. Tunisia and Japan were able to completely eradicate schistosomiasis within their borders, and China, Brazil and Egypt are well on their way to reaching that end goal.

Given this information, and the fact that Africa has the backing of a great NGO like the SCI foundation, a schistosomiasis free Africa is certainly on the cards.

– Ryan Holman
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Ecuador
One of the numerous factors spurred by poverty is mental illness. In many developing countries, those who are mentally ill face ostracization and a lack of support from health care providers. Mental illness may cause substance abuse, which can create further mental issues that prevent those who are ill from seeking assistance. Additionally, people who are mentally ill and abuse drugs in countries or areas where gang activity is common are much more likely to join criminal groups and further exacerbate the prevalence of gang-related violence. Ecuador is no exception to these symptoms. 

Government-funded health care provisions have largely overlooked mental health in Ecuador. Policy regarding mental health does exist, but the provisions are outdated and only 10 percent of the policy’s original content was put into action. Additionally, the policy’s provisions receive no regular public funding, even though much of Ecuador’s health care infrastructure is dependent on public funds. 

The Stigma of Mental Illness

The mental health policies do allow health care institutions to treat those who are mentally ill, however, mental health typically receives less attention than other sectors of health care. The lack of attention towards mentally ill people links back to the social perception of mental illness in Ecuador. People in many developing countries often consider seeking medical assistance for mental issues wrong. People who do not have a mental illness may find it difficult to understand what it is like to live with one. Many ill people do not seek treatment due to stigma and explore alternative methods, such as drugs, to cope with their problems instead. 

Many developing countries have only recently established mental health awareness. In the United States, social stigma still exists to an extent. However, the U.S. has established facilities to adequately treat the mentally ill. That is not the case in many developing countries. In numerous Ecuadorian provinces, people do not treat mental health institutions as primary facilities. Mental health is classified as a primary health care concern under Ecuadorian law, but only 25 percent of the population has access to these services. 

Progress In Mental Health

However, Ecuador is making progress. Rather than focusing on directly funding mental health institutions, the Ecuadorian government is beginning to direct attention to community-based solutions. Trained nurses diagnose mental illness and must make a referral to a primary source of care. Even so, a large portion of the mentally ill in Ecuador does not receive diagnosis or treatment. Groups like McLean Hospital are working to educate Ecuadorians at the university level, as well as at the community level. McLean Hospital believes that the most important step is to educate the public on the truth behind mental illness. Education can drive Ecuador’s perception of mental illness from one of stigma to acceptance and treatment.

Crime in Latin America is a dire issue that pushes millions out of their homes and their countries. By improving the mental health situation in Ecuador, there would likely be a large decrease in gang-related and drug activities. As a direct result, those who are mentally ill would receive adequate treatment and experience a much higher quality of life through the support from their community and health care.

– Graham Gordon
Photo: Wikimedia

Vaccine-Preventable DiseaseEvery year, around 31 million children in sub-Saharan Africa contract diseases that are easily prevented with vaccines. In 2017, the Heads of State nationwide endorsed the Addis Declaration on Immunization. This pledge promises that everyone in Africa will receive vaccines regardless of their socio-economic status. If all children obtain disease preventable vaccines, parents and children can spend less time in hospitals and more time living healthy lives. These are five facts about vaccine-preventable disease in sub-Saharan Africa

5 Facts About Vaccine-Preventable Disease in Africa

  1. Polio Eradication: Sub-Saharan Africa is close to reaching polio-free status. Nigeria, the continent’s last infected country, has celebrated three years without any new polio cases. If the country remains polio-free after December 2019, sub-Saharan Africa could be officially declared polio-free. This milestone will be achieved thanks to President Mohammad Buhari. He ordered that $26.7 million be funded to the country’s Polio Eradication Programme back in 2016.
  2. The Cost of Disease: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), vaccine-preventable diseases and deaths cost sub-Saharan Africa $13 billion annually. Outside efforts could redirect this funding toward other important endeavors in sub-Saharan Africa. For example, the region could strengthen health systems and the promotion of economic growth. Africa’s Program Manager for WHO’s regional office states that, because sub-Saharan Africa requires outside funding for immunization, “governments have a central role to play to fill upcoming funding gaps and ensure immunization programs are strong and vigilant.”
  3. Active Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: WHO estimates that sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 58 percent of deaths due to pertussis and 41 percent from tetanus. Furthermore, measles causes 59 percent of deaths while yellow fever is responsible for 80 percent of deaths. Yellow fever, considered to be an epidemic during outbreaks, claims thousands of lives. Tetanus and pertussis also continue to kill thousands in sub-Saharan Africa annually.
  4. Cause of the Spread Despite Efforts: Despite high vaccination rates, sub-Saharan Africa still struggles with vaccine-preventable diseases. This is due to low vaccine coverage in “477 geographical clusters” across sub-Saharan Africa. These clusters occur due to a lack of health education and limited to no access to public healthcare. Clusters make it difficult to achieve herd immunity. The monitoring of vulnerable areas must occur in order to strengthen disease elimination programs.
  5. Organizations that Help: WHO is an especially impactful organization. Namely, its efforts consist of monitoring and assessing the impact of strategies for reducing illness related to vaccine-preventable diseases. In 2017, Nigeria’s minister of health declared the meningitis outbreak over, a feat that was achieved with the support of WHO and its partners. WHO also supported sub-Saharan Africa in its feat of preventing up to 500,000 cases of meningitis. Reactive vaccination campaigns led to the vaccination of more than 2 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.

Vaccine-preventable diseases have not been completely eradicated in sub-Saharan Africa; however, major efforts are in progress. It is still important to mobilize efforts to ensure that governments are supporting vaccination programs that will see the end of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Lisa Di Nuzzo
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Life Expectancy in Senegal

The Republic of Senegal is a country on the West African coast bordered by Mauritania, Mali, Gambia and Guinea-Bissau. Around 46.7 percent of Senegal’s 15.85 million residents live in poverty. Today, life expectancy at birth in Senegal is 67.45 years, representing a significant improvement from 39.24 years in 1970 and 59.7 years in 2000. Many factors contribute to a country’s life expectancy rate including the quality and access to health care, employment, income, education, clean water, hygiene, nutrition, lifestyle and crime rates. Keep reading to learn more about the top eight facts about life expectancy in Senegal.

8 Facts About Life Expectancy in Senegal

  1. Despite decades of political stability and economic growth, Senegal is ranked 164th out of 189 countries in terms of human development. Poverty, while decreasing, remains high with 54.4 percent of the population experiencing multidimensional poverty. The World Bank funds programs in Senegal to reduce poverty and increase human development. This work includes the Stormwater Management and Climate Change Adaptation project which delivered piped water access for 206,000 people and improved sanitation services for 82,000 others. Additionally, the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program helps cultivate 14 climate-smart crops in the area.
  2. Senegal’s unemployment rate has substantially decreased from 10.54 percent in 2010 to 6.46 percent in 2018. This is a positive trend; however, 63.2 percent of workers remain in poverty at $3.10 per day showing that employment does not always guarantee financial stability. To help the most vulnerable 300,000 households, Senegal has established a national social safety net program to help the extremely poor afford education, food, medical assistance and more.
  3. The maternal mortality rate continues to decrease each year in Senegal. In 2015, there were 315 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births compared to 540 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990. Maternal health has improved thanks to the efforts of many NGOs as well as the national government. Of note, USAID has spearheaded community health programs and launched 1,652 community surveillance committees that provide personalized follow-up care to pregnant women and newborns. In 2015, trained community health workers provided vital care to 18,336 babies and conducted postnatal visits for 54,530 mothers.
  4. From 2007 to 2017, neonatal disorder deaths decreased by 20.7 percent. This is great progress, however, neonatal disorder deaths are still the number one cause of death for children under the age of 5 in Senegal. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides technical and financial support to establish community-based newborn care, including Kangaroo Mother Care programs. This low-cost and low-tech intervention has reduced the risk of death for preterm and low-birth-weight babies by 40 percent and illness by 60 percent. With financial help from UNICEF, 116 health workers have been trained in 22 health centers and seven hospitals. The long-term goal is to have Kangaroo Care introduced to 1,000 health centers across Senegal.
  5. Senegal has been lauded as an African leader in the fight against malnutrition. Notably, from 2000 to 2016, undernutrition declined by 56 percent. Improvements in the health sector, making crops more nutrition-sensitive and helping increase crop yields have been major contributors to recent nutrition success. 
  6. Despite progress, hunger is still a major issue in northern Senegal. Successive droughts have left over a quarter of a million people food insecure. In the district of Podor, rains have decreased by 66 percent from 2016 to 2017. Action Against Hunger is working to keep cattle, which is the main sustenance source for thousands of shepherds, from dying in the drought by funding new drinking troughs. This will benefit 800 families in Podor. Action Against Hunger also covers monthly basic food expenses for 2,150 vulnerable households to prevent further increases in acute malnutrition.
  7. There is a high risk of waterborne diseases in Senegal. Diarrheal diseases are the third leading cause of death. The Senegalese Ministry of Health has recently adopted the WHO diarrhea treatment policy of zinc supplementation and improved oral rehydration therapy. This is a life-saving policy that is taking effect around the country.
  8. Around 41 percent of children aged 6-11 in Senegal are not in school. The largest percentages of out-of-school children are the poorest quintile and rural areas. To increase school enrollment, the government and USAID are making efforts to increase access to school facilities in rural areas and support poorer families with cash transfers through the social safety net. USAID is working to ensure that all Senegalese children, especially girls and those in vulnerable situations, receive 10 years of quality education. The agency has built schools, supported teacher training, increased supplies of books and access to the internet and increased opportunities for out-of-school young people. Since 2007, 46 middle schools and 30 water points have been built and equipped.

These eight facts about life expectancy in Senegal have shown that the combined efforts of nonprofits and the Government of Senegal are making real progress on many fronts that contribute to life expectancy. These efforts must continue and intensify to reduce poverty and increase life expectancy in Senegal.

– Camryn Lemke
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