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viral hepatitis in IndiaViral hepatitis is one of the leading causes of death in India, where more than 60 million people are infected with this deadly disease. Known as a “silent killer,” hepatitis is a viral disease that can cause inflammation in the liver. Different types of hepatitis refer to the type of virus infecting its host. In India, Hepatitis A (HAV) is amongst the most common, particularly for children. However, other types of hepatitis, such as type E or type C, still pose a large threat to the health and wellbeing of Indian citizens.

Current Problems Regarding Viral Hepatitis in India

In India, Hepatitis B infects at least 40 million people, and Hepatitis C infects more than 6 million. As of now, viral hepatitis in India is becoming a serious health concern, especially amongst children. With few vaccinations available, many children aren’t able to prevent this disease. As of now, less than 44% of children are fully vaccinated against hepatitis. In contrast, Nepal and Bangladesh have more than 80% of their children fully scheduled for vaccinations. India has almost seven million children unvaccinated. As a result, this makes them more vulnerable to viruses such as hepatitis.

Only 1.2% of India’s national budget goes toward vaccinations. The lack of government assistance contributes to the overwhelming number of children that remain unvaccinated. Even this budget only goes toward six basic vaccinations, comprising diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, tuberculosis, polio and measles, meaning that it excludes hepatitis.

Another large contributor to the spread of this disease is poor infrastructure, often found in impoverished areas. Pipelines with water contamination are more likely to spread the virus, especially in urban cities. India has one of the largest water crises due to poor filtration and contaminated pipelines. Only 32% of piped water has been treated because rivers and lakes are more prone to sewage, leading to micro-contaminations. As Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E are waterborne viruses, it remains a priority for the Indian government to treat its contaminated water supply. This is especially vital for people living in impoverished regions. More than 37 million Indians have been infected with waterborne diseases, resulting in more than 10,000 deaths annually.

Promising Solutions for Viral Hepatitis in India

Although viral hepatitis in India is a large health concern, there are countless efforts to mitigate the spread of this deadly disease. For example, the World Health Organization and UNICEF have established the Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation. This program led 17 states in India to reach the Millenium Development Goal 7 (MDG). Additionally, the government of India established the National Virus Hepatitis Control Program, which gives access to more testing and treatment. This program focuses on rural areas and hopes to end viral hepatitis by 2030.

Some smaller nonprofit organizations are also working to prevent the spread of hepatitis. For example, Water.org has 34 partnerships in India, including with UNICEF and the World Bank. Additionally, Water.org has been able to provide more than 13 million people with water and sanitation with $599 million from its partnerships. The BridgIT Foundation has similar goals in solving the water crisis in the most affected counties. As of now, it has built wells in 30 villages. In addition, it partners up with the Rural Development Society and the Sri K. Pitchi Reddy Educational & Welfare Society to reach more than 30,000 people who don’t have access to clean water.

The Path Ahead to Reform

Although eradicating viral hepatitis remains a priority in India, reform begins with the basis of the problem. By improving its resources, such as sanitation and vaccination, India will be able to reduce the spread of viral diseases like hepatitis. With the number of government and local efforts, there is a large chance of mitigating viral hepatitis in India in the near future.

Aishwarya Thiyagarajan 
Photo: Flickr

Pott’s DiseaseInfectious diseases are one of the main results of poverty in the developing world. In addition, the prevalence of infectious diseases has long been disparate between developing and developed nations. In a report on environmental risk factors and worldwide disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) affirmed the “total number of healthy life years lost per capita was 15-times higher in developing countries than in developed countries” for infectious diseases. Yet, one disease continues to be the deadliest infectious disease in the world, killing approximately 4,000 people a day: tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is a devastating widespread illness in the developing world, specifically in Asian and sub-Saharan African nations. However, tuberculosis of the spine called Pott’s Disease is a serious concern for the developing world. Read on for five things to know about Pott’s Disease.

5 Things To Know About Pott’s Disease

  1. Pott’s disease gets its name from a British surgeon. Though it is also referred to as spinal tuberculosis, the namesake of Pott’s Disease takes after British surgeon Percivall Pott. Pott originally studied and defined the condition in 1779, and his writings and research are still used today.
  2. Pott’s disease begins when tuberculosis spreads to the spine. Tuberculosis is an airborne infection that begins when an individual inhales mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes the disease. If tuberculosis goes untreated for a long period of time (which it often does in the developing world due to lack of access to healthcare and low-income citizens who cannot afford medication), the disease can spread from the lungs to the spine. Once this happens, an individual experiences a type of “spinal arthritis.” Tuberculosis bacteria invades the spinal cord and, if it infects two neighboring spinal joints, blocks the nutrient supply to that region of the back. Eventually, the spinal discs deteriorate and can cause serious back injury, difficulty standing or walking, nerve damage and, in serious cases, paralysis.
  3. Pott’s disease is visually recognizable and has existed for centuries. Unlike normal tuberculosis, which most commonly affects the lungs, Pott’s disease is easily visually recognizable due to the severe curvature of the mid to lower spine that results from the infection. Specifically, the thoracic spinal region is the most affected, followed closely by the lumbar region. This visual indication from remains traces the disease back to the European Iron Age and Egyptian mummies, making it one of the oldest documented diseases in history.
  4. Spinal tuberculosis only represents a small percentage of all tuberculosis cases. Although it is the most debilitating form of tuberculosis, Pott’s Disease only accounts for 1.02 cases per 100,000 tuberculosis cases in the world. This rate is higher among Africans, where 3.13 per 100,000 cases are attributed to Pott’s Disease. Globally, this means that only 1-2% of all tuberculosis cases are attributed to that disease.
  5. Pott’s disease can be treated through a rigorous medication regimen or surgery. Pott’s Disease is a result of a lack of treatment over a long period of time; conversely, a lengthy period of medication is often needed to fully treat the condition. The time period of treatment ranges from nine months to over a year, depending on individual symptoms and progression. However, medication cannot redeem an affected individual’s deformed spinal structure. Thus, it is often only used to treat the tuberculosis infection after surgery. “Spinal fusion or spinal decompression surgeries” can both repair the warped spine and “prevent further neurological complications.” Physical therapy is also often necessary after receiving spine surgery for Pott’s Disease. Yet, treating Pott’s Disease is highly expensive. Even when tuberculosis medication is free, “patient costs associated with TB treatment can be upwards of 80% per capita income in some regions.” However, multiple organizations exist that provide donations to supply healthcare and surgeries to low-income patients in developing nations. In addition, specific organizations like the Nuvasive Spine Foundation provide life-saving spine surgery in vulnerable regions around the world.

Although Pott’s Disease represents a small percentage of all tuberculosis cases, it is a serious illness. However, through the help of surgeons, medication and awareness, the disease can hopefully be treated across the globe soon.

– Grace Ganz
Photo: Flickr

diarrheal disease in sub-saharan africaEvery year, millions of children under the age of 5 die. Of those children, almost 40% come from Africa. The chance of death for a child living in Africa is seven times higher than that of a child in Europe. This marks the need for improved medical care and foreign aid, especially because many of these deaths are caused by diarrheal diseases. Diarrheal diseases are the second highest cause of death around the world, with over 1.5 million deaths each year. While any country’s children can be susceptible to this illness, developing countries have a marked disadvantage. Many of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease is prevalent, don’t have access to proper sanitation, clean water or viable medical care. Here are five facts about diarrheal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa.

5 Facts About Diarrheal Diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa

  1. Mortality varies greatly by region. There is a higher prevalence of diarrheal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa, but especially in impoverished nations. Additionally, within sub-Saharan Africa, certain countries have much higher mortality rates than others due to these diseases. More than half of the global deaths that occurred in 2015 due to diarrheal diseases came from just 55 African provinces or states out of the total 782 that exist.
  2. The problem is partially economic. Diarrheal diseases don’t only impact the health of these countries’ citizens, but they also take a massive toll on the economy. An estimated 12% of governmental budgets go toward treating these diseases in some countries. Moreover, the World Bank estimates that almost 10% of these nations’ total GDP goes toward the treatment of these health issues. Individual members of each country also feel the monetary blow of obtaining treatment. In many of these countries, the salary of the average citizen is around $1.00 a day. One Kenyan mother named Evalyne was unable to save her son from a diarrheal disease because she couldn’t afford the $0.25 needed for oral rehydration therapy.
  3. There are more victims of these diseases than just children. A lot of the information about diarrheal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa focuses on children under the age of five. However, people over the age of 70 are also very susceptible to diarrheal diseases. The demographics of these two groups are unique. Most children die from diarrheal diseases in Chad, the Central African Republic and Niger. Nevertheless, most elderly people die from diarrheal disease in Kenya, the Central African Republic and India. The differences don’t end there. Most children who contract a diarrheal disease are plagued by the rotavirus, but the elderly have proven to be most prone to another virus named shigella.
  4. The diseases are treatable and even preventable with the right precautions. There are many precautions that can be taken to avoid catching diarrheal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa. One of the most important preventative actions is to do everything possible to consume clean water. Around the world, 40% of the population doesn’t have easy access to adequate sanitation. Many children and adults don’t have soap to wash their hands with after using the bathroom, and oftentimes, the water they use is contaminated. Washing one’s hands and working to improve local water supplies can drastically improve one’s chances against diarrheal diseases. Treating citizens with supplements like zinc and vitamin A can also lessen the severity of diarrheal episodes. Other than supplements and better water, oral rehydration therapy is a great way to treat the illness. Families can use oral rehydration at home by combining salt, sugar and clean water to prevent crippling dehydration. Another potential solution is a rotavirus vaccine.
  5. Education and competition can change the future. In some countries, access to clean water and proper sanitation seems impossible. However, providing communities with the resources and knowledge of how to improve sanitation and lower the risk of diseases has demonstrated that change is possible. In Cameroon, the World Wildlife Fund partnered with Johnson and Johnson to provide training and resources to the members of various communities. This helped them build more sanitary bathrooms and create new and viable water sources. One reason that these programs were so successful is that they created competitions among villages. This became a friendly way of motivating each other toward success.

Diarrheal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa continue to plague areas without clean water or access to healthcare. However, as time goes on, more and more programs and organizations aid in the control of these illnesses. For example, since 2018, ROTAVAC, a rotavirus vaccine, was prequalified by the World Health Organization for use in Ghana. This qualification is specifically focused on providing vaccines to those in countries without easy access to vaccination. Ghana is now the second country in Africa to place ROTAVAC as part of its program to immunize citizens against diarrheal disease. Doing this raises awareness across regions about a future where disease prevention is all the more possible.

Lucia Kenig-Ziesler
Photo: Flickr

m-Health in developing countriesMobile healthcare, known colloquially as “m-Health,” just may be the key to revolutionizing healthcare and access to medicine in developing countries. m-Health allows anyone with a mobile device to access various facets of healthcare such as educational resources, notifications about nearby testing and vaccination diagnosis and symptom help and telehealth appointments.

Lacking access to healthcare is one of the major drivers of poverty across the world. The World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO) state that “at least half of the world’s population cannot obtain essential health services.” This inaccessibility perpetuates the existence of infectious diseases specific to developing countries. Similarly, poverty itself is a public health crisis. As indicated by the WHO, poverty directly causes sickness “because it forces people to live in environments that make them sick, without decent shelter, clean water or adequate sanitation.”

In addition, healthcare expenses cause 100 million people to fall into “extreme poverty.” Extreme poverty is defined as less than two dollars a day each year. Thus, even if people in developing countries can access to medical care, the expenses often put them into another devastating health situation.

However, m-Health may decrease these numbers. Read below for some key benefits of m-Health in developing countries.

m-Health is Adaptable and Available

m-Health is becoming more and more accessible to developing countries due to widespread mobile phone use around the world. A study from the PEW research center on global mobile phone ownership revealed that mobile phone ownership is growing in countries with developing economies. Around 83% of citizens in emerging economies (South Africa, Brazil, Philippines, Mexico, Tunisia, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria and India) own a mobile phone. Another PEW study found a majority of adults own their own mobile phones in a separate group of 11 developing countries.

67 countries in the world have less than two hospital beds per 1,000 people. However, many of those countries (including countries from the PEW research studies) have high rates of mobile phone ownership. Therefore, some developing countries would have better access to telehealth than in-person health.

In addition, m-Health is adaptable. WHO reported that the most widely-used m-Health initiatives around the world are “health call centers/ health care telephone helplines (59%), emergency toll-free telephone services (55%), emergencies (54%) and mobile telemedicine (49%).” This shows that different regions can implement different programs depending on the need.

m-Health Can Track Disease Outbreaks, Epidemics and Natural Disasters

Tracking disease outbreaks and natural disasters is a huge advantage of m-Health. WHO reported high implementation rates of this m-Health initiative in South East Asia and the Americas. Africa uses this feature of m-Health the most for public warning systems.

m-Health Avoids Poorly Maintained Health Clinics

In an article by the World Economic Forum, the author described how many health clinics in developing countries, particularly in Africa and Indonesia, may be doing more harm than good. If low-income countries rush to build multiple health facilities, the quality of these pop-up clinics is often low. They tend to be “lacking in the equipment, supplies and staff needed to deliver vital health services effectively.” In addition, the sheer volume of poorly-constructed clinics often competes for resources. Medical equipment is often left unsanitized, therefore becoming dangerous. This contributed to Ebola killing more people in health facilities than outside areas during the West African epidemic in 2014-2016.

However, m-Health reduces the need for going to an in-person clinic. In this model, concerned individuals can schedule a “virtual first” consultation and then attend an in-person appointment only if needed.

m-Health Raises Awareness and Mobilizes Communities to Receive Vaccines and Testing

Many countries have also implemented mass SMS alerts to alert their citizens of nearby testing sites for HIV. These alerts educate recipients on health concerns related to HIV and other infectious diseases. They also outline why it is necessary to receive testing and treatment. Similar alerts exist for vaccine knowledge and care.

As m-Health is a new and continuously developing idea, there are still problems with its potential to provide widespread care. For example, even though virtual appointments and care are possible through m-Health, many developing countries lack a sufficient number of health workers to keep up with m-Health services. One study affirms this, stating, “There are 57 countries with a critical shortage of healthcare workers, [creating] a deficit of 2.4 million doctors and nurses.”

In addition, different health conditions may receive disproportionate care through m-Health. For example, women’s and reproductive health is at a large deficit in the developing world and globally. One study revealed that “women are 21% less likely to own a mobile phone than men, and this difference is higher in South East Asia.” Another study in Kenya also reported that “ownership of mobile phones was 1.7 times and SMS-use was 1.6 times higher among males than among females.” This ownership deficit, coupled with the fact that women are more likely to be in poverty than men due to gender inequality, makes m-Health more accessible to men’s health or less gendered health issues.

Still, m-Health in developing countries is an extremely promising enterprise to relieve the developing world of its widespread healthcare deficits. As this study concludes “m-Health has shown incredible potential to improve health outcomes” – and it can only continue to progress from here.

– Grace Ganz
Photo: PXFuel

Health Workers in Sub-Saharan Africa
Johnson & Johnson announced a new collaboration in June 2020, to provide training and knowledge to health workers in sub-Saharan Africa in the wake of COVID-19. They will partner with The World Continuing Education Alliance, The Aga Khan University School of Nursing and Midwifery East Africa and the International Council of Nurses to provide up-to-date information and resources to those on the front lines of the pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa.

The training program will be delivered through an application and aims to reach 600,000 healthcare workers — mainly nurses, doctors and midwives. The program includes six different modules available in three different languages: English, French and Arabic.

Partnering in 10 Different Countries

Johnson & Johnson will fund the programs’ introduction to 10 countries that it deems as a priority. These countries include Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Senegal and South Africa. Programs have since become available in Egypt, Haiti, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Jordan, Guyana, Malawi and Tanzania — among others. Furthermore, there is a training option for countries not specifically listed.

Aga Khan University developed the modules and the World Continuing Education Alliance digitized and customized the curriculum. Its website now hosts two options for the workshops: one is for doctors and the other is for midwives and nurses. Through their collaborations with similar and broader-scope organizations, the International Council of Nurses has offered its support. The School of Nursing and Midwifery ensures those professionals in urban and remote areas alike have access to the modules.

Support For Front-Line Healthcare Workers

The new program’s introduction comes as the new coronavirus infections grow across Africa. The virus continues to infect more healthcare workers. While there are still scant resources available about infections among healthcare workers, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 10,000 health workers have been infected in 40 countries across Africa.

At least 10% of all infections are comprised of health workers in sub-Saharan Africa, concerning four specific countries. In 10 additional sub-Saharan countries, that figure is at least 5%. This puts a strain on the resources these countries have since several countries have less than one medical doctor for every 10,000 people. According to the WHO, countries that fall under this category include Mozambique, Tanzania, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Senegal, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Chad, Central African Republic and Niger — again, among others.

According to the WHO, some of the causes of rising infections among health workers include lack of access to personal protective equipment (PPE), lack of education programs (and lack of implementation of such programs with health workers) and lack of medical infrastructure. Additionally, more than 90% of 30,000 healthcare facilities analyzed throughout Africa could not establish quarantine or triage units. According to WHO, 84% of facilities did not have adequate infection and control measures in place.

Training Workers and Providing PPE

As a result, the WHO trained 50,000 healthcare workers and arranged for 41 million tons of PPE to be shipped to 47 countries in Africa. Moreover, the WHO plans to train 200,000 additional workers. The organization notes that from May to July 2020, Sierra Leone went from 16% of all infections being among health workers to just 9%.

Similar to the WHO, Johnson & Johnson’s collaborative effort seeks to educate health workers in sub-Saharan Africa by providing them with the knowledge they need to treat patients and stop the spread of a pandemic.

– Bryan Boggiano
Photo: Flickr

international food tradeMalnutrition, the state of nutrient over-consumption or under-consumption, plagues every nation in the world. Every day, one out of every nine individuals around the world goes hungry, while one out of every three is overweight. What causes this problem? The growth of the international food trade has stoked the flames of a malnutrition crisis that already disproportionately impacts impoverished countries. Nevertheless, governments and major firms in the international food trade can take simple steps to transform markets and reduce malnutrition all over the globe. Here are three ways that rethinking the international food trade can help impoverished regions deal with malnutrition.

Rethink Pricing Policies

It’s simple economics that when products drop in price, they become more widely purchased and distributed throughout the world. Unfortunately, many of the foods priced lowest in the international food trade fall into the category of “ultra-processed.” Consumption of these nutrient-poor foods is increasing due to their low price. In October 2019, sugar was priced at around $0.13 per pound, and its consumption was set to increase by 1.4%. Comparatively, meat saw a 1% decrease in production from 2018 to 2019 when its prices increased moderately.

With reduced national wealth, impoverished countries must often resort to purchasing these cheaper, unhealthy commodities. Driven by lower sugar prices, the consumption of sugar is expected to grow in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean. Less wealthy countries will therefore continue to purchase “ultra-processed” foods linked to heart disease and diabetes. In doing so, they will provide their citizens with potentially harmful food that will only worsen the malnutrition crisis.

Rethinking trade policies can solve this issue of imbalanced prices. Many processed foods made with sugars or fatty oils have low international safety standards, which allows them to be sold within markets for low prices, whereas healthier fruits and vegetables have high international safety standards, which causes their prices to rise. This makes healthier foods less affordable for impoverished regions.

By applying high safety standards to sugar- and oil-based foods, the international food trade could equalize prices of healthy and unhealthy products. Healthy foods would then be more accessible to malnourished communities and help to reduce the impacts of malnutrition. Additionally, individual countries can redesign national trade policies to subsidize the production of healthier foods like fruits and vegetables so as to make them more affordable for impoverished countries.

Rethink Market Orientations

By 2022, the global fast food market is expected to grow by $188.4 billion. From 2018 to 2019, the international trade of oil crops reached an all-time high, and experts also expect the international market of sugar products to expand through 2020. Comparatively, the international market for healthier products like coarse grains may soon undergo a “sharp anticipated drop” in consumption and production.

The international food trade is therefore oriented toward distributing foods around the globe that contribute to the growth of obesity-related diseases and malnutrition. Given that the international food trade continues to prioritize markets for “ultra-processed foods,” it becomes even more likely that poor individuals will have to purchase and consume these foods. In turn, this will lead to poor regions eating increased amounts of refined foods linked to chronic diseases while consuming fewer natural foods that contain essential nutrients.

Such a market orientation stands to further deprive already starving individuals of the few nutrients remaining in their diet, thus worsening the global malnutrition crisis. In this case, governments and major food producers can help reduce malnutrition in impoverished countries by reorienting international food markets toward the production and consumption of healthier commodities like fruits, grains, vegetables and meats. These food groups currently make up only 11% of global food production.

By overhauling what gets sold within the international food trade and by emphasizing the commercialization of healthier foods, governments can work together to provide nutritious food to every country. These foods would help eliminate, not contribute to, cases of debilitating malnutrition.

Rethink Food System Investment

According to the WHO, 42 million children worldwide under the age of five are overweight or obese, while 50 million children are too thin for their height. Both of these conditions are associated with massive health risks as well as massive risks to the health of global economies. By 2030, the economic cost of diabetes, a disease linked to obesity and highly processed foods, could increase to $2.5 billion a year.

Through micro-financing and “multisectorial investments in nutrition,” governments and international food trade firms can grant increased buying power to communities with particularly high malnutrition levels. This type of investment could provide impoverished communities with food or direct cash grants that could help them reduce malnutrition and stimulate economic growth. Domestic financing has the potential to kickstart the economies of impoverished regions, which gives them the opportunity to purchase healthful foods crucial to reducing malnutrition rates.

Many current food systems lack any outside investment. For this reason, countries around the world would need $9 billion per year over the next five years to meet nutritional goals. By rethinking investment into international food markets and systems, the global community can come together to stimulate the economies of impoverished countries. This would give them a dignified way to access markets, purchase healthy foods and reduce malnutrition in the communities most in need.

Overall, although the current mechanisms of the international food trade foster malnutrition, countries can easily redesign them in ways that will actively help to reduce malnutrition worldwide. By rethinking trade policies, market orientations and community investments, governments and major firms in the international food trade can begin to address malnutrition and help provide impoverished individuals with the wholesome food crucial to lifelong health and happiness.

– Nolan McMahon
Photo: Flickr

Foreign Aid AssistanceThe United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a Middle Eastern country made up of seven emirates. Each emirate has a unique ruler, but one of those rulers acts as the president of the entire UAE. The population of the UAE is 9.2 million and their GDP was $421.14 billion in 2019. This makes them one of the richest countries in the Middle East. Thankfully, over the years, the UAE has been utilizing a portion of its GDP to provide foreign aid assistance.

The Goal of the UAE’s Foreign Aid Assistance

The UAE aims to be unbiased in its humanitarian assistance, not focusing on politics or beliefs. This is a byproduct of the UAE’s mission for tolerance. The UAE has made multiple initiatives in recent years to promote tolerance not only in their foreign affairs but also in their domestic affairs. At the end of 2018, President H. H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed declared 2019 the Year of Tolerance. To push this goal forward, the UAE began teaching tolerance in schools, focused on promoting more tolerant policy, and created a number of organizations to promote tolerant objectives. In order to carry out these aims internationally, the UAE’s Cabinet formed the UAE Humanitarian Committee. The committee brings together experts in the field to ensure that their foreign aid is efficient and moral.

History

According to the UAE’s website, the UAE provided more than 47 billion AED in foreign aid assistance from 1971 to 2014. Africa is the largest recipient of the UAE’s foreign aid. However, the UAE also provided assistance to those in their neighboring communities. In 2015, the UAE was named the World’s Top Humanitarian Donor as a percentage of its GDP for the year 2013. The Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development gave this award. In 2013 the UAE provided roughly 5.89 billion U.S. dollars in foreign aid, equal to about 1.33% of their GDP. More than 140 countries received this aid, and it focused on issues such as health, education and social services.

Present Day

The year 2020 has been tumultuous for every country due to COVID-19, causing many nations to focus solely on domestic affairs. The UAE has remained dedicated to its mission regarding foreign aid assistance. It has also been making strides to ensure that both their people and other countries have the tools they need to combat this global pandemic.

A major factory was repurposed to produce only N95 masks in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE. This factory has the capacity to produce more than 90,000 masks per day. To date, the UAE has provided more than 1,000 metric tons of foreign aid assistance in response to COVID-19. Additionally, $10 million was donated by the UAE via the World Health Organization. The donation went toward COVID-19 testing kits.

In addition to their COVID-19 foreign aid response, the UAE has been a major player in foreign aid assistance to those affected by the Beirut Port explosion. On August 4, 2020, two explosions caused the death of close to 200 people. They also destroyed the homes of many more in Lebanon. The UAE has utilized its organization, the Emirates Red Crescent (ERC), to provide foreign aid assistance in Lebanon after this tragedy. This aid focuses on providing medical supplies and medical support.

 

The UAE has set an example not only of the degree in which countries should engage in foreign humanitarian assistance but also in the way they should do so. Humanitarian assistance is not about a country’s beliefs, geography or affairs. Instead, humanitarian assistance is about facilitating a more equal society where everyone is able to fulfill their basic needs.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: The National

Psychiatric hospital Skopje, Macedonia
Healthcare in Macedonia utilizes a mixture of a public and private healthcare system. All residents are eligible to receive free state-funded healthcare and have the option of receiving private healthcare for treatments that the public system does not cover. Public healthcare in Macedonia often comes with long wait times and although public hospitals have basic medical supplies, they do not have specialized treatments. For these specialized treatments, residents typically seek private treatment where they must pay out of pocket or buy private insurance on top of their free healthcare.

Improvements in Overall Health

North Macedonia did not become a part of NATO until 2019, and still has not received admission into the E.U. As a result, its healthcare system has developed slower than member countries. Despite this, North Macedonia has shown growth in overall health. The introduction of private healthcare allowed residents to seek a wider range of treatments and cut down wait times. Life expectancy has grown from 71.7 years in 1991 to 75.1 years in 2010. However, this is still lower than the E.U.’s average life expectancy which is 80.2.  Although life expectancy has grown, North Macedonia’s infant mortality rate is still above average.

North Macedonia reached a European record of 14.3 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015. To compare, the average mortality rate in Europe for 2015 was 5.2 deaths per 1,000 live births. The high infant mortality rate is likely the result of outdated equipment at public health facilities and a shortage of qualified health workers. Only 6.5% of North Macedonia’s GDP goes towards healthcare, and therefore healthcare in Macedonia is often reliant on outside donations. These conditions have caused health workers to leave the Macedonian healthcare system in search of better working conditions. The health ministry has worked to purchase new equipment as well as increase the amount of qualified staff in public hospitals by hiring more workers. Today, the infant mortality rate in North Macedonia is 10.102 deaths per 1,000 births. This is an improvement, and hopefully, with continued programs, the numbers will continue to decrease. Organizations such as Project HOPE and WHO have already made a direct impact on Macedonia’s healthcare system.

Organizations Combating Infant Mortality

Project HOPE has donated over $80 million worth of medicines, medical supplies and medical equipment to hospitals throughout North Macedonia since 2007. Starting in 2017, most of these donations went to hospitals specializing in infant care. Project HOPE also provides training for healthcare workers so they can adapt to the updated equipment. The current drop in the infant mortality rate is due to these donations that allow hospitals to buy updated equipment and retain healthcare workers through training. There is only one hospital in North Macedonia that accepts low birth-rate and premature babies, University Clinical Center at Mother Theresa. Therefore, Project HOPE’s donation has greatly lessened the burden on this hospital to care for infants. Since Project HOPE implemented this program, the number of deliveries at Mother Theresa has increased by 40%.

WHO has also assisted North Macedonia in developing a new 2020 healthcare plan for infants and mothers. This plan would link healthcare facilities in the country and classify them by level of service to ensure everyone is receiving the appropriate care. It should also improve transportation between hospitals to increase the continuity of care between locations. This shared communication and learning between healthcare facilities is imperative since there are only nine hospitals in Macedonia for 2.08 million people and seven of those hospitals are in the country’s capital, Skopje. Increasing transportation and communication will ensure that those living outside of the capital are receiving quality healthcare. Slowly but surely with these new policies in place, North Macedonia’s infant mortality rate will continue to drop.

Rae Brozovich
Photo: Flickr

Gender Violence and Domestic Abuse in AfghanistanGender violence in Afghanistan has reached epidemic levels. Due to a healthcare system in a state of crisis, victims are unlikely to come forward, and even less likely to receive care for injuries sustained from long-term abuse. Thankfully, many organizations are working to address this problem in Afghanistan.

The Facts about Gender Violence in Afghanistan

Eighty-seven percent of women have experienced one form of gender violence in Afghanistan, and 62% have experienced all 3 forms: psychological, physical and sexual. Impoverished victims are more likely to remain silent because they lack the ability to speak to a healthcare professional. Plus, they are less likely to be taken seriously. Long-term physical abuse can lead to burns, disabilities, internal bleeding and gastrointestinal disorders, among other physical and mental health problems. Sexual violence also often leads to STDs and unwanted pregnancies.

An often overlooked form of gender violence in Afghanistan is child marriage, which is extremely prevalent despite the multiple laws in place to prevent it. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that one in five girls will be forced into a union by age 18, with 5% forced to marry by age 15. The biggest concern for forced child marriages is the chance of a high-risk pregnancy, which often puts the victim’s life at risk and hinders any possibility of growth or education. Child marriage is born of poverty because impoverished families will marry their daughters off in exchange for money, or the chance of the girls marrying someone financially stable enough to provide for them. This practice dehumanizes young girls and effectively denies them human rights.

Working Against Domestic Abuse

The World Health Organization, in a new healthcare protocol for gender-based violence, defines 22 forms of abuse and sets the standards of care for healthcare professionals. The report emphasizes the seriousness of gender-based violence. However, the lack of healthcare workers in Afghanistan limits its ability to respond to this problem. Healthcare professionals are the first witness for most victims, which means that they are extremely important in making sure that the victim doesn’t go home to an unsafe situation. Witnesses are also valuable to the prosecution of the offender.

The UNFPA has trained more than 2,500 new recruits in how to spot signs of violence and respond with sensitivity to victims in Afghanistan. Along with these recruits, the UNFPA trained 875 judges and 850 healthcare staff. The UNFPA has multiple Family Protection Centers with hundreds of trained counselors, whom they dispatch to hospitals and centers for emergency care. These new centers, which allow women and girls to make discreet reports, saw over 1,400 disclosures of violence in just one year after their foundation. This is a big step forward, since Afghanistan’s government did not formally make violence against women illegal until 2009.

The Future of Girls in Afghanistan

Violence against women in Afghanistan not only common but expected. In the current environment, it is up to the country’s health ministry and the public to take women seriously and give young girls a chance to thrive. However, solutions to domestic violence don’t just have to focus on the health care and justice systems. For example, by funding STEM and political programs for young girls, the Girls LEAD Act would give girls a chance to climb out of poverty and craft a future where violence does not belong. In addition to the work being done by the UNFPA and the WHO, this act shows the potential for international action to help reduce gender violence in Afghanistan.

Raven Heyne
Photo: Pixabay

Vaccines in Developing Countries
It is estimated that immunization practices save two to three million lives each year. The development of vaccines and mass immunization practices have helped eradicate deadly diseases such as smallpox, while drastically reducing the number of people infected by influenza, hepatitis A and B, rubella, measles, chickenpox, polio, tetanus, mumps and other preventable illnesses. Vaccines also help prevent outbreaks and epidemics by increasing the number of people immune to various diseases within populations. Despite these benefits, global vaccine coverage is inadequate. Developing countries, in particular, often lack access to life-saving vaccines. Here are six facts about vaccines in developing countries.

6 Facts About Vaccines in Developing Countries

  1. An estimated one-quarter of all deaths in low-income countries are attributable to communicable diseases. More than 1.5 million people die annually from diseases that are preventable through vaccination. In 1990, 2.5 million children in developing countries under five died from vaccine-preventable diseases such as rotavirus, measles and pneumococcal disease. No deaths were attributable to these diseases in industrialized nations. Efforts to expand access to vaccines in developing countries reduced the child mortality rate to 750,000 in 2013. Despite this improvement, 19.7 million children under the age of one still lacked access to basic life-saving vaccines as of 2019.
  2. High manufacturing costs for vaccines hinder accessibility in many developing countries. Poverty-stricken nations often rely on vaccines to be imported from developed nations. Inefficient public health infrastructure and a lack of resources for transporting vaccines pose an obstacle to widespread immunization access.
  3. Developing countries continue to lack access to vaccines. Vaccine coverage has remained unchanged throughout the past few years in many developing countries, despite global advances in immunization knowledge and technology. Humanitarian crises caused by conflict and natural disasters threaten to perpetuate this stagnation in vaccine access.
  4. Several preventable diseases are making comebacks. In recent years, an increase in vaccine hesitancy among populations in developing countries has resulted in reductions in already poor immunization rates. The result has been outbreaks and resurgences of vaccine-preventable illnesses such as measles, diphtheria and even polio.
  5. Vaccinations also have significant economic benefits. Expanding access to vaccines in developing countries is a strategic economic investment because the financial and human costs of death and disease outweigh the burden of implementing immunization programs. Between 2001 and 2020, the economic benefit of vaccinations in developing countries was nearly $2.3 trillion.
  6. The World Health Organization has proposed the Immunization Agenda 2030 to address vaccine access. This program plans to address the shortcomings and challenges of immunization globally, including the recent outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Ebola and COVID-19. The Immunization Agenda 2030 envisions “a world where everyone, everywhere, at every age, fully benefits from vaccines to improve health and well-being.” Amidst the current COVID-19 global pandemic, its mission to improve access to life-saving vaccines in developing countries is more important than ever.

These six facts about vaccines in developing countries highlight the work that still needs to be done. Moving forward, it is essential that the World Health Organization and other humanitarian organizations make increasing access to vaccines a priority.

– Alana Castle
Photo: Flickr