Posts

What is Hunger?
Every day, people around the world experience those familiar sensations of emptiness and rumbling pangs in their stomach, signaling that it is time to eat. At this point, most people would get something to eat and go on with their day. Sadly, many people in the world, especially those in developing countries, do not receive this luxury. They experience chronic hunger, which is undernourishment from not ingesting enough energy to lead a normal, active life. It is difficult to empathize with what hunger feels like, to live with a body longing for nourishment, weakened by a lack of energy and unable to fulfill its basic need for food.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, an estimated one in nine people, 821 million, live with chronic hunger. It also states that the number of people living with the condition has been on the rise since 2014, with a staggering 98 percent living in developing countries.

The Consequences of Hunger

Hunger brings along with it many problems other than an aching stomach. Prolonged lack of adequate nourishment results in malnutrition, which causes the stunting of growth and development in children and wasting syndrome. Wasting syndrome is a side effect of malnutrition, in which the victim’s fat and muscle tissues break down to provide the body with nourishment. The condition results in an emaciated body and in some cases, death. In fact, malnutrition links to around 45 percent of deaths among children under the age of five, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  Fortunately, some have made progress. Since 2012, the number of stunted children in the world has decreased by nine percent from 165.2 million to 150.8 million, a significant improvement.

Hunger and Poverty

Poverty is the underlying determinant in who suffers from chronic hunger. Impoverished people are unable to consistently provide substantial amounts of food for themselves or their families, as they simply cannot afford to. This inability to provide nourishment creates a vicious cycle of hunger and poverty.

Undernourished people lack the energy required to perform basic tasks and therefore are less productive. Those who were malnourished as children develop stunted physical and intellectual abilities, which results in a reduction in the level of education achieved and the individual’s income, according to UNICEF.

What Can People Do?

People can break this vicious cycle and help people suffering from chronic hunger. Organizations such as The Hunger Project, the FAO and the Gates Foundation all have initiatives aimed at helping those in need get on their feet.

The Hunger Project works to empower those suffering from hunger with the tools they need to become self-reliant.  In Mbale, Uganda, the organization partnered with the local community to build a food bank where farmers are able to safely store grain, which has greatly increased their food security.

The FAO focuses on aiding governments and other organizations in implementing initiatives that aim to decrease hunger and malnourishment. A great example of this is Africa Sustainable Livestock 2050, in which the FOA helps countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia develop livestock infrastructure that will support the countries as their populations increase over the coming years.

Bill and Melinda Gates formed the Gates Foundation in 2000 with the main focus of providing internet to those who do not have access to it. Since then, the scope of the foundation’s mission has expanded to help the impoverished through global health and development initiatives. One of the foundation’s major initiatives is Seed Systems and Variety Improvement, which aims to improve seed breeding systems in Africa and India in an effort to make agriculture in those countries more sustainable.

With projects that aim to give impoverished people access to clean water, infrastructure, sustainable farming, disaster relief and education, these organizations have made significant strides.

Individuals can help eradicate chronic hunger by donating to charitable organizations or by contacting their government representatives, encouraging them to support bills and initiatives that aim to combat global hunger. Everyone can play a role and spread the word. There is a long road ahead, but with the tools available, chronic hunger can become a thing of the past.

– Shane Thoma
Photo: Flickr

Vaccines in Developing Countries “Thanks to vaccines, more children are now living to see their fifth birthday than at any point in history.” Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, said.

While this is an inspiring fact, the truth is that immunization rates in some developing countries are becoming stagnant.

The Plateau of Immunization Rates

The immunization rates of the vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP) usually reflect the quality of the overall immunization coverage within a nation. In the last three years, the immunization rate for the third dose of DTP in Chad has remained at 55 percent. The immunization rate for DTP in Somalia has been about the same since 2009. Guinea, whose DTP immunization rates used to be around 70-80 percent 10 years ago, now has had a rate of 63 percent for the last four years.

This data is somewhat shocking, considering a global effort to prioritize vaccines began in 2000. The same year, Gavi, a global Vaccine Alliance, was created with the help of a $750 million donation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since 2011, Gavi has surpassed its own goals of decreasing child mortality, averting future deaths and increasing child immunization in the more than 60 countries that are Gavi-supported. In just five years, Gavi was able to provide vaccines to 34 million more children than what was anticipated, and the group began administering vaccines for pneumococcal and rotavirus one year ahead of schedule.

Maintaining the Vaccine Schedule

Nonetheless, groups like Gavi struggle to keep immunization active in developing countries after the child is no longer an infant. For example, the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) is typically administered in two doses within 1-2 years for children above the age of nine. HPV can cause cancer, especially in those with weak immune systems, so it is important to time the vaccine administration effectively in order to be nearly 100 percent protected. Since there is no health plan that puts emphasis on older children, HPV becomes more of a threat in countries that do not enforce the strict vaccine schedule.

The World Health Organization has a plan to fix this. The Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) is set to address health program expansion to include services beyond infancy by 2020. Ministers of Health from 194 countries agreed to support the GVAP, which includes nation-specific health program monitoring and strengthened leadership.

Negative Attitudes About Vaccines

Despite intervention from non-governmental groups, the plateau of immunization rates still exists. This may be due to negative attitudes towards vaccines in developing countries. The attitudes stem from the idea that vaccines are harmful or that the health workers are ingenuine. Citizens of three Nigeran states believed that the administration of the polio vaccine would spread AIDS in 2003, and in India, people believed that vaccines were a Western plot to instigate an undercover method of family planning to threaten Muslims. Researchers cite that a way to eliminate this anxiety is to take into account sociocultural behavior when implementing vaccine programs and to strengthen communication and advocacy in order to increase participation.

While negative attitudes towards vaccines contribute to plateauing immunization rates, the expensive price of vaccines may also be a contributing factor. In 2001, six vaccines from the World Health Organization cost less than $1. Now, 12 vaccines from the WHO cost up to $45.59. This can obtaining a vaccine for someone living in Madagascar extremely difficult – the monthly salary in Madagascar is $33.

Immunizations Eradicate Disease

By increasing immunization rates, diseases can begin to disappear. In the U.S., immunization rates in 2000 were at 91 percent for the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, and the Center for Disease Control declared measles to be officially eradicated. Since then, diagnoses of measles have increased slightly among populations that are unvaccinated.

Despite these few diagnoses, the majority of the U.S. will never come in contact with measles. Dr. Jean Campaiola, hospital psychiatrist, describes this result as “herd immunity.” Herd immunity occurs when a certain percentage of the population receives the vaccine for a particular disease. For some diseases like measles, the percentage is at least 90-95, but for polio, the percentage is 80-85. This means that 20 percent of people could deny receiving the polio vaccine and still be protected from the disease because the remaining 80 percent were vaccinated.

“If this occurs rarely in a population, it’s not a big deal, but if it becomes more common, then previously eradicated diseases could make their way back into the general population,” says Dr. Campaiola. She said fears that the anti-vaccine attitude in the U.S. could cause previously eradicated diseases to re-emerge.

By administering more vaccines in developing countries, an entire community can be protected by herd immunity. Those most vulnerable to diseases (infants and the elderly) can be immune to certain diseases if more people around them receive vaccines.

In third world countries, governments spend $29 for each person’s health. In the U.S., the government spends $4,499. There is a clear need for vaccines in developing countries around the world, including a larger-scale project to improve coverage. Gavi’s next step in revolutionizing immunization is a five-year program to introduce sustainable health programs in low-income countries and to increase equitable use of vaccines. The U.S. has the power to spread the good message of vaccines, and someday, we can eradicate most major diseases all around the world.

– Katherine Desrosiers
Photo: Wikimedia

The Future of PeekThe world is experiencing a vision crisis. In total, over 200 million people around the world are visually impaired, and 7 million people develop blindness every single year. One-third of those who seek help and health care for their eyes are unable to obtain it. Developing countries are the most at risk, with 90 percent of individuals suffering from vision impairment living in underdeveloped nations. The organization Peek is seeking to change this, and the future of Peek could mean health care for everyone.

What is Peek?

Peek is proof that great things often come from small ideas. The organization began as a simple, developing research project in the International Centre for Eye Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Now, Peek consists of two entities: The Peek Vision Foundation, an official charity in the United Kingdom, and Peek Vision Ltd, a manufacturing company that develops medical devices for people all over the world.

Peek began with smartphone apps and hardware that provided affordable and accessible eye examination kits that could be used in every home, school and community. This hardware, the Portable Eye Examination Kit (PEEK), was used in 50 schools in Kenya in 2015 to evaluate 20,000 children who otherwise would have been left in the dark concerning their eye health. Further, Peek’s individual products, Peek Acuity, the smartphone app that examines vision, and Peek Retina, a portable ophthalmoscope that captures detailed images of the retina, are currently being used in over 150 countries around the world.

The Future of Peek

Now, Peek is moving beyond portable eye examination kits and onto how technology can play a role in making sure health care is readily available for everyone, everywhere. Concerning Peek’s future journey, Daisy Barton, head of communications and PR at Peek, wrote, “Today, we’ve moved beyond developing and validating our basic technology to building software systems that capture the information from smartphone-based eye health screening and surveys. To bring better vision and health to everybody, we need to understand where people fall through the gaps when trying to access eye care and how eye care providers can ensure their systems improve.”

Their smartphone-based eye care kits laid the foundation and proved that there was a viable way to test vision anywhere in the world using only a smartphone. Now, Peek is building upon that foundation to ensure nobody gets left behind when it comes to vision health.

Tracking Universal Health Care

Universal health coverage seems like a tall order, but Peek is following the lead of organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and Global Goals for Sustainable Development to make it possible. For example, officials from the WHO along with the United Nations are working to develop specific indicators of health that enable different countries to mark their growth and advancements along their journeys toward universal health care. These indicators cover a variety of topics concerning different aspects of health. While the official list of indicators will not be announced until later in 2019, a preliminary list announced that there would be at least two indicators involving eye health.

Part of the struggle in making universal health care a reality is the impracticality of measuring every single aspect of a country’s health coverage; however, Peek is playing an important role in overcoming this challenge. Peek is using their smartphone-based software to provide countries and organizations with raw data that can be used to help develop certain health care indicators. This data allows health services to analyze and evaluate statistics pertinent to making universal health care a reality. Barton said this information includes “who is attending treatment, where they are based, and what the outcome is.”

Peek, along with the development of the rapid assessment of avoidable blindness eye health survey, is using and developing advanced technology and software to measure the aforementioned vision indicators as well as to develop treatments in a cost-effective, accurate and practical way. Their work will be fundamental in ensuring universal health care and improved vision worldwide.

With members of Peek all over the world, and offices in England, Pakistan, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Botswana, it is only a matter of time before Peek’s vision of eye care and universal health care is achieved. The future of Peek along with their groundbreaking work will ensure that those who so often fall between the cracks will no longer be left behind.

– Melissa Quist
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Response Plan for LibyaIn Libya, approximately 823,000 people are in need of humanitarian assistance. This prompted the World Health Organization to create a Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya (HRP). Through this plan, WHO targets 552,000 individuals suffering from the Libyan Crisis, which stems from the Arab uprisings and revolts in 2011.

WHO, as well as partner organizations, plans to provide humanitarian assistance that focuses on key needs such as protection, access to healthcare, education, safe drinking water and sanitation and access to household goods such as essential food and non-food items (NFIs). Here is a look inside WHO’s 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya.

Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya

WHO’s Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya targets seven sectors: education; health; protection; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); food security; shelter and non-food items and multipurpose cash. The health sector has the largest portion of people in need, with approximately 554,000 individuals. The two main objectives of the Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya are to

  • “provide and improve safe and dignified access to essential goods and critical public services in synergy with sustainable development assistance,” and
  • “enhance protection and promote adherence to International Humanitarian Law, International Human Rights Law and International Refugee Law.”

This plan requires $202 million in funding. Therefore, each sector has designated funding based on the goals it plans to implement. The main sectors and their goals are as follows.

  1. Protection: The protection sector is geographically focused. The prioritized areas have the most severe conditions. The 2019 plan intends to bridge the gaps in data regarding protection from past years. The HRP also plans to expand protection monitoring, protection assessments and quality of services as well as reinforce community-based responses.
  2. Health: Several healthcare facilities were destroyed and damaged during the crisis. Non-communicable diseases have started to spread throughout Libya as well. The plan provides access to health services at primary and secondary levels. It also aims to monitor diseases. In addition, the plan prioritizes WASH programs, mental health and psychosocial support.
  3. WASH: Another key focus of the Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya is WASH. The plan hopes to focus its attention on newly displaced persons. Thus, the goals of the WASH sector aim to improve WASH facilities in detention centers, respond to urgent needs and technical support. In doing so, the plan hopes to ensure children have access to safe WASH facilities. It also advocates for the repair of the Man-Made River Project. Moreover, this sector will collaborate with the education sector.
  4. Education: The education sector plans to target 71,000 individuals. Children in high conflict areas are being mentally affected by trauma and distress. These can further affect school attendance and performance. The HRP wants to improve formal education by means of teacher training and provide more supplies for educators. As such, this sector will also prioritize mental health in grades 1-12.
  5. Shelter/NFIs: Shelter and NFI sector focuses on the population displacement as well as damages to infrastructure and homes caused by the uprisings. This sector seeks to secure safe housing for those who are displaced. This sector targets about 195,000 individuals to receive shelter aid.

Overall, the Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya is making strides. As of June 2019, WHO has provided trauma kits and emergency medical supplies to 35 healthcare facilities. This is an increase from the first provision in March. Similarly, medicines for chronic and infectious diseases have been given as well as insulin. In terms of mental health, in January, WHO trained 22 participants in mental health through primary health facilities. The sector also provided training for maternal and reproductive health as well. With this momentum, in time, WHO will continue to meet the goals and targets of the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya.

Logan Derbes
Photo: Flickr

Ways to Combat Iron Deficiency in Developing CountriesAnemia is most prevalent in developing countries. Pregnant women and young children are the most likely to contract anemia. A person with anemia can suffer from fatigue, increased risk of mortality and irreversible cognitive damage. As of now, iron deficiency is the leading cause of anemia. The following list offers five ways to combat iron deficiency in developing countries.

5 Ways to Combat Iron Deficiency in Developing Countries

  1. Giving Pregnant Women Iron: Studies have shown that giving pregnant women iron increases healthy child outcomes and reduces the risk of anemia in their children. Pregnant women in Indonesia who took iron during their pregnancy reduced their children’s risk of mortality by 40 percent. Similarly, Chinese women who took iron supplements throughout their pregnancy found that child mortality rates decreased throughout the first seven years of life.
  2. Cooking with Iron: A major problem in developing countries is the lack of nutrition in their diets. A staple food in many developing countries is rice, which offers little to no nutritional value. The need for developing countries to include iron in their daily diets is evident. One way to accomplish this is through the usage of a recent technological innovation: the iron fish. The iron fish is an invention that when boiled, releases the recommended daily amount of iron.
  3. Biofortification: Iron deficiency is largely caused by malnutrition. Many people in developing countries have little access to nutritious food sources such as vegetables, dairy and fruit, as these items tend to be costly. To combat this problem, scientists have tried to find ways to infuse the starchy staples of developing countries with iron.  Geneticist Alex Johnson has led the charge in biofortification. He has sought to create a genetically modified rice that will produce more iron. The field tests of Johnson’s rice have been promising. These results suggest that through genetically modified food, people in developing countries can have healthier diets.
  4. Iron Supplements and Powders: Researchers believe that it would be possible to rid the world of iron deficiency through the usage of iron supplements. Iron supplements are cost-effective and can cost as little as 15 cents. The World Health Organization suggests that women and children who inhabit areas where the anemia level exceeds 20 percent to take daily iron supplements. For infant children who do not have access to healthy foods, the World Health Organization prefers to recommend micronutrient powders. Micronutrient powders have reduced anemia by 31 percent and iron deficiency by 51 percent. Micronutrient powders and iron supplements have both had enormous success in decreasing iron deficiency, but it has yet to be determined which approach is more effective.
  5. Deworming: Intestinal worms are cited as the most common intestinal disease in the developing world. The Copenhagen Consensus has suggested deworming as a way to decrease malnutrition and iron deficiencies.  Recent studies have shown an increased correlation between the number of individuals who suffer from hookworm infections to those who suffer from anemia. Hookworms drain necessary nutrients from the body and hinder the body’s ability to hold iron, and as a result, a person can become anemic. By eradicating these worms before they have a chance to do permanent damage, developing countries can take a proactive approach to their anemia problem.

Iron deficiency continues to be the leading cause of anemia in the world. While this threat remains imminent, the good news is that the world has equipped itself to fight this epidemic.

– Gabriella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr

tuberculosis in TajikistanIn conjunction with the United States Agency for International Development and global nonprofits, Tajikistan has made remarkable steps in countering its tuberculosis epidemic – by way of spreading awareness and the help of external nations. Reducing the burden of tuberculosis in Tajikistan is truly a global effort with many working factors and components, all of which have combined to have a substantial effect on spreading awareness and countering the disease.

Like many of its Central Asian neighbors, the landlocked mountain nation of Tajikistan struggles in its fight against poverty. As of 2016, just over 30 percent of Tajiks lived below the international poverty line, just scraping by with mass imports of food and resources from Russia, Kazakhstan, China and Iran. There are many contributing factors of this widespread poverty, including rampant corruption, substantial drug trafficking and thousands of displaced persons. Despite this sweeping poverty, however, efforts have been made to improve one substantial area of Tajik life: health and wellness.

Tuberculosis in Tajikistan

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tuberculosis is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide, with nearly 1.6 million people dying from the preventable disease in 2017. In the same year, there were 6,279 reported cases of tuberculosis in Tajikistan, though this value does not represent all cases of tuberculosis due to the sheer spread of disease. However, the total incidence of tuberculosis in Tajikistan has also been steadily declining since 2000.

If the proper resources are available, tuberculosis can be easily treated. According to the WHO’s report of tuberculosis in Tajikistan, out of a cohort of 5,324 members, 89 percent were successfully treated for their tuberculosis. The success of treatment drops significantly, however, when concerning those who are HIV-positive and those with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

U.S. Involvement in Tajikistan

While a significant portion of this decline in incidence and rise in success of treatment can be attributed to the Tajik people, much of the funding and interventions have been spearheaded by the United States. USAID, a U.S. government agency focused on the development of foreign nations, has been the primary arm of U.S. funding and involvement in reducing the burden of tuberculosis in Tajikistan through increased resources and general awareness. Specifically, the USAID TB Control Program helped support the local Tajik governments with financial resources and infrastructure, creating a five-year National TB Program that includes training for health workers, informing at-risk populations and providing more widespread and affordable diagnosis and treatment options. This National TB Program is supported by $13.2 million in aid.

In addition to providing funding, USAID is also focused on streamlining the processes related to reducing the burden of tuberculosis in Tajikistan. In this landlocked, former-Soviet nation, USAID helped reduce the treatment time for tuberculosis from 24 months to nine months. While this is still a significant amount of time, this improved treatment theoretically allows for those who have been properly diagnosed with tuberculosis to return to work, happy, healthy and hopefully ready to contribute to Tajikistan’s dwindling economy.

Next Steps

While Tajikistan has taken the first, crucial and often most difficult steps in tuberculosis prevention and treatment, the country still has a long road ahead. Continuing to educate populations and streamline treatment and diagnoses must spread to other populations, including migrants (of which, Tajikistan has a significant population), prisoners and children, in order for Tajikistan to have a far brighter future.

– Colin Petersdorf
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Impacts of Cell Phones
Since its invention in 1973, the presence of the cell phone has become practically unavoidable worldwide. As of 2019, there were approximately 4.68 billion mobile phone users globally. Although many worry about the adverse effects of the overuse of the device, one cannot overstate the positive impacts of cell phones, especially in the developing world. From mobile banking to health care, the cell phone has left an incredible footprint on the world despite its relatively short existence. Here are the top five impacts of cell phones in the developing world.

Top 5 Impacts of Cell Phones in the Developing World

  1. Mobile Banking: For many people living in the remote regions of third world countries, traditional brick and mortar banks are often out of reach. Mobile banking, however, is helping initiate financial inclusion. By connecting major banks to online banking networks, individuals can now easily transfer money with even just a flip phone. For instance, M-Pesa, a Kenyan mobile phone-based financial service, operates through the usage of banking SIM cards that allow the user to transfer monetary assets via SMS. This way, a flip phone would be all one would need to start with this service. As of 2016, an average of 19 million Kenyans sent the equivalent of $15 million on a daily basis. Through such services the number of people with financial accounts in Kenya has jumped from 21 percent in 2011 to 63 percent in 2014.
  2. Education: One can increasingly find the cell phone utilized for education in the schools of many developing countries. The utilization of mobile apps has transformed teaching in such places. For example, in parts of Africa, the EDC (Education Development Center) is currently experimenting with sending podcasts of interactive instructional materials to students. Furthermore, cell phones have increased literacy rates. The landmark 2014 UNESCO study, “Reading in the mobile era,” surveyed over 4,000 individuals in regions with low literacy rates and where people are unlikely to text. The study showed that many people have resorted to reading stories and books on their mobile devices. Additionally, a third of the study participants read stories to their children via their devices.
  3. Disaster Relief: Today mobile devices are a unique communication tool for disaster relief in developing countries. For example, in August 2017, Ncell, a Nepalese-based mobile operator, was able to provide warnings to vulnerable populations prior to the deadly floods and landslides. On the other hand, after the disastrous 2017 Hurricane Maria incidence in Puerto Rico, AT&T deployed Flying COWs (Cell on Wings). These Flying COWs were cell sites connected to wings that provided cell service to disaster-stricken areas temporarily and allowed residents to gain contact with loved ones and relief organizations.
  4. Governance: In countries and regions with low population densities, it has traditionally been exceedingly difficult for governments to reach out to the individuals residing there. However, mobile technology has simplified seemingly impossible tasks such as long-distance polling and voter registration. In 2018, the local government of Quezon City, Philippines even initiated a mobile app that serves as an online database of the city’s ordinances.
  5. Health Care: The impact of cell phones in the developing world has also stretched to the area of health care. Currently, mPedigree, a Ghanian nonprofit, is using cell phones to authenticate drugs to safeguard consumers against counterfeit and substandard products. The World Health Organization estimates that over 10 percent of global medications are fake so this new technology should be able to save countless lives on a daily basis.

Mobile devices are popular in remote areas to cheaply or freely offer daily texts and voicemails about common medical conditions. For example, in Mozambique, Absolute Return for Kids, a British nonprofit, is fighting HIV/AIDS by using mobile messaging to remind enrolled patients to take their medications as well as about appointment dates.

Conclusively, the range of the various impacts of cell phones globally in developing countries has been both deep and wide. The device has proven itself to be both an efficient yet inexpensive solution to many day-to-day problems. It is not too optimistic to say that in the near future even more creative uses for cell phones will surface.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr

Malaria eradication
Malaria is a common mosquito-borne disease that can be life-threatening due to its high fever and flu-like symptoms. The World Health Organization recently certified Argentina as malaria-free after nearly 40 years of eradication efforts. But one of Argentina’s bordering countries, Bolivia, is still dealing with the effects of malaria, though it’s making strides toward the disease’s elimination.

Here’s how Argentina managed to eradicate malaria.

Argentina’s malaria eradication successes

  1. Increased insecticide spraying. Argentina teamed up with its neighboring country Bolivia to spray more than 22,000 individual homes in northern Argentina. Within 10 years, the number of malaria cases dropped to zero in regions where malaria had been a regular occurrence.
  2. The Policy Spotlight Plan. Physician Carlos Alvarado began a program called the Policy Spotlight Plan to shrink the spread of malaria. This allowed specialists to track the flight range of malaria-carrying mosquitos and establish boundaries at the limits of the flight range to confine the potential disease transmission to a small area. Once this was complete, they introduced insecticide sprays into the area, and the malaria reduction process, initially estimated to take five years, ended up taking only two years.
  3. Trained health workers. Medical specialists were trained to instantly recognize the symptoms of malaria in patients and administer proper treatment depending on the type of malaria. Training also focused on immediate action: health workers were able to travel to small remote villages and address issues, analyzing blood samples and calling for insecticide sprays on the spot. This hastened the recovery process for patients and helped prevent further spreading of the disease.

Bolivia’s plans for malaria eradication

All areas in Bolivia lower than 2,500 feet above sea level are still at risk for malaria; this is more than half of the entire country. Yet there is still hope. The United Nations Development Program aims to eradicate malaria in the region by 2020.

These are Bolivia’s plans for malaria eradication thus far.

  1. The Malaria-Free Bolivia Project. This UNDP-sponsored program promotes prevention efforts and awareness for each individual region in the high-risk areas. The program has made it possible for physicians to travel on foot within communities, providing treatment and educating citizens about the common symptoms of malaria. At this point, the number of those infected with malaria has declined to two per 1,000 citizens because of these strategies to prevent the disease.
  2. Malaria Case Management and Vector Control. Two additional groups have been added to the Malaria-Free Bolivia Project. Malaria Case Management allows for quality and universal malaria care, including diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of the disease. Vector Control revamped the previous mosquito-prevention strategies to strengthen and enhance the quality and functionality of mosquito nets and sprays.

Malaria has decreased by 72 percent in the Americas since 2000, but a third of the world’s population is still at risk for the disease. In the next decade, global malaria eradication will continue, and eventually, the world can be malaria-free.

– Katherine Desrosiers
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Madagascar Measles OutbreakBetween September 2018 and April 2019, Madagascar’s measles outbreak has killed over 1,200 people. According to the World Health Organization, measles is a highly contagious viral disease that remains a significant cause of death among young children globally, despite the availability of vaccines.  Organizations are currently coming together to aid Madagascar against the outbreak and educate the public about the importance of vaccinations in protecting children from harm.

Recent Outbreak

Madagascar is facing the largest measles outbreak in its history, and only 58 percent of people on the island have been vaccinated against the disease. Dr. Dossou Vincent Sodjinou, a WHO epidemiologist in Madagascar, expressed concern about the expansion of the outbreak and the lack of vaccination.

“The epidemic unfortunately continues to expand in size, though at a slower pace than a month ago,” said Dr. Sodjinou. “Some cases of resistance to vaccinations exist because of the influence of religion or of traditional health practitioners but they are isolated ones.”

Measles is one of the leading causes of death for children, and WHO reports that 450 die each day worldwide due to the illness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the symptoms of measles generally appear seven to 14 days after a person is infected. Measles begins with a fever, a cough, runny nose, a sore throat and red eyes. After a few days of symptoms, tiny white spots, medically known as Koplik’s spots, begin to appear inside the mouth.

The outbreak is complicated by the fact that nearly 50 percent of children in Madagascar are malnourished, which increases the likelihood of severe cases. Those whose immune systems have been weakened by HIV/AIDS or other diseases are also at risk.

Weak Healthcare and Shortage of Vaccines

According to United Nations Children’s Fund, once a child is infected, there is no specific treatment for measles, so vaccination is a life-saving tool for children.

“The Madagascar measles outbreak is a particularly precarious situation because many of the districts have weak health infrastructure and systems to begin with, which is now exacerbated with a shortage of vaccines,” said Michael L. Rich, a Harvard Medical School assistant professor and the chief clinical advisor at PIVOT, an organization partnering with the Madagascar Ministry of Health. “Without a reliable supply of vaccines, strong supply chains or facilities adequately staffed with trained personnel, an end to Madagascar’s ongoing measles crisis is difficult to foresee.”

Doing More to contain the outbreak

The United Nations Children’s Fund is issuing an urgent appeal to governments, health care providers, and parents to do more to contain Madagascar’s measles outbreak. Efforts against the outbreak include educating the public about the safety of vaccines, vaccinating all children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years, training and equipping health workers, and strengthening immunization programs.

PIVOT, an organization dedicated to providing healthcare to impoverished communities, aims to help Madagascar become a symbol of healthcare transformation. In the wake of the outbreak, PIVOT is aiding public systems and pushing for an era of medicine guided by the needs of the poor.

While organizations successfully fight measles in Madagascar, there is also hope around the world. Under the Global Vaccine Action Plan, the elimination of measles is a target in five WHO regions by 2020. WHO, as the lead agency responsible for achieving this goal, is giving children around the world hope for a healthier future.

– Carolina Chaves
Photo: Flickr

 

Innovations in sub-Saharan Africa are emerging, aiming to improve sanitary conditions and facilitate access to medical care, directly combatting some of the region’s most prominent health crises. Due to health and sanitation concerns being a primary factor in high rates of illness and morbidity, advances in technology are progressively bettering the quality of life of many citizens in these regions.

7 Health Care Innovations in sub-Saharan Africa

  1. The Mamaope Jacket
    In Uganda, a leading cause of infant mortality is pneumonia. In its early stages, pneumonia can be difficult to distinguish from malaria. As a result, misdiagnosis is the leading cause of infant and toddler deaths attributed to pneumonia. One of the innovations of sub-Saharan Africa became the solution to reducing the impacted community. The Mamaope Jacket was created by a Ugandan engineer, Brian Turyabagye. This Mamope Jacket records audio of a child’s breathing via a modified stethoscope inserted into a vest. Analyzing this data aids in detecting key signs of pneumonia. It is estimated that the Mamaope Jacket’s diagnostic rate is three to four times faster than a traditional doctor, and also greatly reduces the risk of human error.
  2. SafariSeat
    Access to wheelchairs and other assisted mobility devices is severely limited in rural regions of developing nations. However, the SafariSeat is changing this; the SafariSeat is an inexpensive, durable wheelchair. This offers both a solution to individuals living with limited mobility in rural areas and is environmentally sustainable. SafariSeat is both produced and maintained using bicycle parts to create a wheelchair suitable for use in all terrain types.
  3. NIFTY Cup
    The NIFTY cup is lowering the rate of infant deaths from malnourishment by providing a cost-effective, convenient way to feed newborns unable to breastfeed. Some causes of not being able to breastfeed include birth defects such as a cleft palate or premature birth. Amongst the other innovations of Sub-Saharan Africa, the NIFTY cup funnels breast milk from the main cup into a small reservoir that a baby can sip from easily without choking or spilling. The creator, a mother herself, Trish Coffey, created the NIFTY cup after giving birth to her daughter prematurely. Manufacturing a NIFTY cup costs just $1, a viable alternative to breastfeeding for impoverished rural communities such as Tanzania and Malawi. In addition, it is reusable.
  4. Flo
    In developing African nations such as Kenya, on average, girls miss a week of school per month due to menstruating. This is because of the stigma associated with periods and limited sanitation resources. That being said, Flo is a reusable menstrual hygiene kit equipped. Within this kit, are reusable pads, a discreet carrying pouch, and a container used while washing clothes to avoid soiling other garments. This offers a cost-effective, environmentally friendly method for women lacking disposable alternatives. Flo opens the door for greater educational and occupational opportunities. It also lowers the rate of reproductive diseases resulting from poor menstrual hygiene.
  5. LifeStraw
    With more than 10 percent of the global population lacking access to sources of clean drinking water, diseases resulting from consuming contaminated water are a major contributor to high child mortality rates. Approximately, illnesses from drinking contaminated water kill a child every 90 seconds. The high temperatures and unpredictable climate shifts in the sub-Saharan region make potable water extremely valuable, but can also cause availability to fluctuate. Innovations in sub-Saharan African, such as LifeStraw is a simple, portable device that uses a mesh fiber to filter out bacteria and parasites commonly found in contaminated water. The LifeStraw corporation works with major humanitarian organizations such as World Health Organization and the United Nations to provide both individual LifeStraw filtration devices and larger filtration systems to developing communities in need.
  6. Speaking Books
    There is a lack of information about mental illness available to impoverished communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. As a result, there is a higher rate of suicide among younger populations. Just a decade ago, more than 15 percent of South Africans afflicted with mental illness had little to no access to any kind of treatment. Zane Wilson, the founder of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group, created a range of free audio pamphlets on mental health. Innovations in sub-Saharan Africa like Speaking Books have a goal to combat the lack of access to treatment, which in many rural areas, also reflects high rates of illiteracy. The Speaking Books series now offers 48 different booklets explaining and destigmatizing mental health disorders. Furthermore, these pamphlets are available in 24 languages and distribution spans among 20 African countries.
  7. Tutu Tester Van
    Although HIV is a global epidemic, South Africa has especially high rates of infection. As a result, the country’s rate of tuberculosis has dramatically spiked over the last two decades. However, because of the stigma surrounding HIV, very few communities have access to effective counseling, testing and treatment methods. The Tutu Tester van, introduced by the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, is a fully-staffed clinic on wheels. They visit rural and impoverished communities to provide health screenings using modern equipment – including tests for HIV and TB. As a result, this reduces the stigma attached to these diseases, as patients retain anonymity once they enter the van. Globally, increasing availability to testing is a primary goal of the United Nation’s plan to eliminate the epidemic of HIV by 2030.

Access to these health care innovations in sub-Saharan Africa is having numerous impactful effects: reducing mortality rates, advancing mental health awareness, contributing to greater longevity and improving quality of life for people in impoverished communities across the region. With improved healthcare and sanitation access,  communities have greater chances of reducing poverty and increasing economic and cultural growth.

– Emmitt Kussrow

Photo: Flickr