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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

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
Photo: Flickr

Helen Keller International
Helen Keller International (HIK) is an organization that is dedicated to helping the world’s poor by combating poverty, blindness, poor health and malnutrition for all people. It predominately helps those who are less fortunate and do not have accessibility to the resources that help maintain an adequate living.

The Main Focus

HIK primarily focuses on preventing blindness in people by providing them with cataract surgery, vision correction and distributing treatments and cures for tropical diseases. This is how it plans on combating poverty in developing countries. It currently has more than 120 programs in about 20 countries all over the world.

It works with various partners to implement strategies that will combat poverty and strengthen these programs. Some of its partners include organizations such as the West African Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF, World Health Organization and the World Food Program.

Helen Keller International’s Accomplishments

According to reports from Impact Information in 2018, HIK provided 15,000 free precision glasses to disadvantaged youth and performed 40,000 cataract surgeries.

In 2014, USAID funded a five-year Morbidity Management and Disability Prevention Project (MMDP) to strengthen illness management and prevent disabilities in African countries. HIK has led the MMDP project in Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Ethiopia since July 2014. As a result, thousands of people have benefited from HIK’s help and dedication to the project.

The project combats painful diseases such as trichiasis which can cause scarring to the cornea because it causes the eyelash to grow backward. The project also treats hydrocele, which causes the male scrotum to swell causing extreme pain. This is most common in male newborns.

HIK’s work with the MMDP project in the countries above has helped 2.1 million people get screenings for trichiasis and 76,000 people received trichiasis surgery. Additionally, HIK was able to train 280 trichiasis surgeons. This organization also provided hydrocele surgery to over 2,000 men and trained 200 hydrocele surgeons. HIK has changed the lives of many people at risk.

Global Impact

Helen Keller International is combating poverty by improving the lives of the world’s poor at a global level as well. The MMDP project improves data availability and use by sharing knowledge worldwide. The project also assisted in developing tools and resources for communities to use internationally in trachoma and LF programs around the world.

HIK believes that neglected tropical diseases are direct consequences of poverty. To combat this poverty it has turned its focus to protect health. HIK aids in the fight against five diseases including trachoma, river blindness, intestinal worms, snail fever and lymphatic filariasis. All of these diseases cause extreme pain and can even lead to death.

To combat these diseases, HIK has helped deliver thousands of trachoma surgeries to poor communities and will continue to do so in hopes of eliminating trachoma by 2020. The organization has helped develop a platform that is effective in the treatment of river blindness across Africa. HIK also helps developing countries distribute deworming medication to children in at-risk communities.

Helen Keller International is combating poverty all over the world through efforts to protect health and advert the causes of blindness and more in poor countries. Through its efforts, it has aided many in poverty and that number should only grow.

– Jessica Jones
Photo: Flickr

Rheumatic Heart Disease in Africa
Heart disease is a significant burden across the world. From the Americas to Africa, heart disease affects people globally. While heart disease affects people from all spectrums of the socio-economic ladder, it disproportionately influences the lives of those living in extreme poverty. Nowhere is this more apparent than with rheumatic heart disease in Africa.

What is Rheumatic Heart Disease?

Rheumatic fever is the precursor to rheumatic heart disease. Rheumatic fever affects the connective tissue in multiple areas of the body, particularly the heart. Prolonged exposure to the illness can cause rheumatic heart disease due to the heart valves becoming swollen and scarred. Over time, this can lead to heart failure. Undertreated or ignored strep throat is the precursor to rheumatic fever. Those with frequent bouts of strep infections are at an increased risk of contracting rheumatic fever, particularly children. Children between the ages of 5 to 15 are particularly susceptible to rheumatic fever. Rheumatic fever and by extension, rheumatic heart disease, mainly affects children in underdeveloped nations.

Rheumatic Heart Disease in Africa: The Facts

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest number of rheumatic heart disease cases in children between 5 to 14, with 1,008,207 cases.  In developed countries, the number of cases is drastically lower, with 33,330 cases. Thankfully, rheumatic heart disease is an easily preventable disease. Consistent, long-term treatment with penicillin can prevent rheumatic fever from progressing into rheumatic heart disease. Rheumatic fever is avoidable with early treatment of strep throat. This leaves the main reasons for the spread of rheumatic heart disease as a lack of resources, money and lack of knowledge about preventative measures.

How to Fight Rheumatic Heart Disease in Africa?

A multitude of nongovernmental organizations lent their services to the fight against rheumatic heart disease in Africa. One of these NGOs is the World Heart Federation (WHF), a group that dedicates itself to the eradication of rheumatic heart disease. On May 25, 2018, the global community put the World Health Organization’s resolution on rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease into action, and this led to the creation of the WHF Rheumatic Heart Disease Taskforce (RHDTF). This task force comprises three separate groups. The first group is the Access to Surgery group, which, as the name implies, focuses on developing strategies to bring lifesaving surgery to low-income countries. The Access to Surgery group works to create surgical centers dedicated to rheumatic heart disease surgery. The second and third groups in this task force are the Policy and Advocacy group and the Prevention and Control group. The Policy and Advocacy group works to increase access to penicillin in low-income areas by dealing with red-tape that can often affect the supply of penicillin. The Prevention and Control group focuses more on investing in projects that take on rheumatic heart disease at the local level.

The Future of Rheumatic Heart Disease

The future looks brighter for those suffering from rheumatic heart disease in Africa. Rheumatic heart disease is entirely preventable, with conventional prevention techniques such as avoiding sharing drinks, coughing away from others and even making sure to frequently wash hands.  With the help of NGOs like WHF and countries like Ghana hosting World Heart Day to raise awareness for rheumatic heart disease, there is hope that this disease’s days are finite.

Ryan Holman
Photo: Flickr

Breast Cancer in Senegal
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide—it affects 2.1 million women each year. According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer caused 15 percent of cancer-related deaths among women in 2018. While developed countries have higher rates of breast cancer, the disease is on the rise globally. Here are six facts about breast cancer in Senegal.

6 Facts About Breast Cancer in Senegal

  1. Breast Cancer Cases: The prevalence of breast cancer in Senegal is on the rise. A study by the Global Cancer Observatory in 2018 shows that the incidences of breast cancer reached 1,758 cases per year. This is in comparison to 869 cases in 2012. The disease ranks second in terms of new cases. In terms of mortality rate, it falls only behind cervical cancer.
  2. Chemotherapy Training: There is only one medical oncology specialist in Senegal. Therefore, general practitioners, as well as oncology surgeons, carry out chemotherapy. The government is working to improve on this by trying to ensure 50 percent of doctors undergo chemotherapy training by attending seminars as well as doing practical internships. The government also offers fellowships for people to fully specialize in medical oncology.
  3. Cancer Treatment: There is only one center dedicated to cancer in Senegal—the Joliot Curie Institute which is the cancer department of the Le Dantec Hospital. Most breast cancer patients receive treatment at the Hospital Center University Aristide Le Dantec which sees 350 new patients every year. Others attend the Principal Hospital, which is the second-largest university hospital in Dakar, or to smaller private centers and public hospitals. There is low accessibility for those in rural areas as these facilities congregate in Dakar and other major cities.
  4. Challenges: A challenge that people face when it comes to the treatment of breast cancer in Senegal includes late consultation, with most patients only finding out they have breast cancer when it is in the advanced stages. People might also face a lack of human resources and adequate equipment. Additionally, both the public and health care providers require further education on available treatments.
  5. Funding for Free Chemotherapy: The government of Senegal announced that it have set aside an estimated $1.6 billion to provide free chemotherapy in public hospitals for those with breast and cervical cancer starting in October 2019. By doing this, it is following in the footsteps of other African countries such as Rwanda, Namibia and Seychelles. While this is a positive step in the right direction to see the mortality rate drop, a challenge remains as women often require both radiotherapy and chemotherapy to control the spread of breast cancer.
  6. Benefits of Free Chemotherapy: The introduction of free chemotherapy treatment for patients of breast cancer in Senegal will surely help reduce the mortality rate as the high cost of treatment refrained patients. The expenses of breast cancer treatment were wholly the responsibility of the patients. While a few covered the expenses themselves, the families foot most expenses for a vast majority of patients. The high cost of treatment and debt faced that patients and their families faced meant that they typically did not attend follow-up treatment after the initial sessions.

Senegal is taking important steps to ensure that it improves the outcome and survival rates of those breast cancer affects. Beyond providing free treatment, there is an urgent need to ensure that the disease receives an early diagnosis. By providing education, free treatment and increasing the number of trained practitioners, the deaths that breast cancer causes in Senegal will hopefully decrease.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Pixabay

Life expectancy in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a country known for its natural beauty, from Mount Wilhelm, the highest mountain in the country, to the cuscus, a marsupial that roams its rainforests. When it comes to its people, the government has made strides to improve life expectancy with life expectancy at birth totaling 64 years as of 2017 compared to only 39 years in 1960. Still, life expectancy in Papua New Guinea falls far below the global average of 72 years.

Here is a look at the factors that influence life expectancy in the country as well as efforts to further improve longevity in PNG.

Country Cooperation Strategy

The World Health Organization (WHO) launched the Country Cooperation Strategy (CCS) in 2016 to improve health facilities and access to health care in a country that is mainly rural. The CCS aims to tackle many issues that are standing in the way of attaining sustainable health outcomes for PNG citizens:

  • User fees: User fees refer to the cost of medical services, drugs and entrance fees when seeing a health care provider. In countries where the majority of the population lives in poverty, user fees serve as barriers to health care services for those who may need it the most. One of the goals of the CCS is to eliminate these fees so that that the poor will have equal access to services that are essential for good health.
  • Vaccinations: Better access to vaccinations is another way the CCS plans to ensure that the life expectancy in Papua New Guinea increases. To that end, the country’s National Department of Health, in coordination with the WHO and UNICEF started a three-week campaign in June 2019 with the goal of vaccinating 1 million children against measles-rubella and polio. As Prime Minister Marape stressed in an address to parents at the launch: “We must make Papua New Guinea polio-free again.”
  • Newborn and Maternal Health: PNG has one of the highest mortality rates in the world. The main cause of mortality in mothers is exposure to infections and high blood pressure, which can interfere with kidney and liver function and also cause anemia. Infant mortality is mainly caused by infection and asphyxia. By providing more supervision during deliveries and by promoting community-based support through non-governmental organizations, the CCS plans to change this. Care for mothers and newborns will be addressed in the CCS with a focus on support for mothers before, during and after birth.
  • Health Care Providers: A lack of health care providers is a large problem affecting life expectancy in Papua New Guinea because there are not enough doctors to care for the sick people in the country. In 2009, there were only 330 doctors nationwide for a country of 8 million. The CCS plans to work with the government to increase access to education and create better facilities for learning for those who wish to pursue careers in the medical field, therefore increasing the number of doctors.

Other Factors Affecting Life Expectancy in PNG

  • Natural Disasters: PNG is in an area that is susceptible to natural disasters and the CCS plans on implementing new strategies for dealing with these kinds of events when they occur. After a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in PNG in 2018, the death toll was estimated to be 145 and about 270,000 people needed aid. Be it a volcanic eruption, earthquake or drought, the CCS wants to make sure that the people of PNG are ready for these disasters when they inevitably occur. More surveillance of these natural occurrences and emergency planning is necessary to make sure the country is secure in case of a natural disaster.

  • Tuberculosis: Protection against epidemics is another issue affecting the life expectancy in Papua New Guinea, malaria and tuberculosis (TB) being two of the most pressing. In 2017, there were 27,935 cases of tuberculosis. The WHO plans to investigate the causes of outbreaks by identifying TB early on and reducing the transmission of the disease. The WHO also plans to strengthen training programs that deal with treating conditions like these.

– Joslin Hughson and Kim Thelwell
Photo: Pixabay