the week in african health


Ethiopia a scene of over-grazing and desertification, making it difficult for both people and animals to survive. (From the MSF Photo Blog)

’There’s no reason only poor people should get malaria’

In an action that surprised many audience guests, Bill Gates, released a small number of mosquitoes into the crowd at the TED conference. Gates quit Microsoft last year to focus more on his philanthropic work. He spoke of the need, and his commitment, to put more funding towards developing drugs to combat malaria, one of the highest killers in the ‘developing’ world.
Watch the video:
Mosquito Genes Linked To Insecticide Resistance May Be New Target in Fight Against Malaria,
Insecticide malaria impact clue

When there is no village doctor

It is estimated that every fourth medical doctor and every twentieth nurse trained in Africa leaves the continent for better job prospects and better pay in wealthier countries. The UN Global Health Workforce Alliance warns that the economic crisis could further increase the medical workforce crisis across Africa.

For David Werner, who wrote the widely-translated 1970s village health care manual, “Where There is No Doctor,” medical specialization is not the best answer. “Experts come in and think they have all the answers, and end up drowning out solutions villagers could devise themselves.”

Need to Focus on Maternal, Child Health – Top AU Official

As the African Union meets in Addis Ababa, Commissioner for Social Affairs Biencé Gawana said in regards to the AU’s proposed launch of a continent-wide program,

“We will launch a movement to promote maternal and child health in the continent,” she told reporters. “It will be an advocacy campaign… together with partners like UNFPA [the UN Population Fund] and UNICEF [the UN Children’s Fund].

With 500,000 women dying in childbirth each year, Africa has some of the highest rates of maternal, infant, and child mortality. As part of the solution the AU report noted: “One of the main challenges in the promotion of maternal, infant and child health and development is access to health care facilities and services, especially at primary health delivery level and [in] rural areas.”

Zimbabwe: Cholera Infection Rate Climbs As UN Cleared to Assess Crisis

On Monday the WHO reported an increase of 2000 cholera deaths in Zimbabwe. The report was released just as President Mugabe agreed to allow a top level UN assessment team to tour the country to find solutions to curb the cholera pandemic as well as the current hunger crisis. Food security continues to plummet in may areas of Zimbabwe as many worry they will not receive aid in time.
More: Zimbabwe Cholera Statistics Rise Again As New Malaria Fears Grow,
Zimbabwe Diary: fighting cholera

South Africa: The Quiet Water Crisis

There is great concern with the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, but what the South African government may be missing is its very own growing water crisis. With an aging infrastructure and rising demand, the potential for deadly bacteria to be released into its water systems is high. When Mandela’s government took power in 1994, an estimated 14 million South Africans lacked access to clean water supply and 21 million people lacked proper sanitation. Although the numbers have changed drastically, the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) reported in 2008 that 5 million people still lacked access.

Twestival and Charity: Water

Last year SCOUT BANANA conducted a ‘Year of Water’ Project to benefit the work of Charity: Water. The organization is now utilizing the social media tool, Twitter, to raise a large amount of money to build wells across the world. Charity: Water began its work by supporting well projects across the African continent.

South Africa: ‘Development Must Adapt to Water Resources We Have’

98% of water resources are being used in South Africa. Water security is becoming an issue as pollution from mining has been difficult to clean up and no other water resources remain unused.

Obama Lifts “Global Gag Rule”

Also known as the Mexico City Policy, this move is being applauded by women’s and productive rights groups across the globe.
More: Obama Reverses U.S. Ban on Abortion-Linked Aid

University Partnership Aims to Fight HIV/AIDS More Effectively

Backed by an almost $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, John Hopkins University is growing a partnership with Makerere University in Uganda in an attempt to combat the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic. The partnership is only in its initial steps.

Originally posted on the SCOUT BANANA blog. 

malaria awareness day

April 25th, the first US Malaria Awareness Day. An award winning photographer, Chien-Chi Chang, traveled to Uganda to give image to the story that is very often never heard, to give a face to the people who are never seen. This is not just another award winning privileged person traveling to get pictures or a story because these images and story are accompanied by a call for action. The images were used to raise awareness and promote involvement with Malaria No More. This is an organization that is fueled by celebrity involvement and received great attention from American Idol, but this is an issue and conflict that does not require you to be a celebrity to make a difference. Everyone is a celebrity in their own right.

On the <a href="
“>BBC’s news forum where people can write in their thoughts, many people called for a change in government actions and in people’s actions. Governments need to provide more funding for their health sectors and people need to depend less on their governments. I would add that we here need to understand that governments are not the ones who will make the greatest impact, when individuals support other individuals more lives will be saved.

In her blog, Acumen Fund Fellow, Keely Stevenson, writes about a socially responsible company in Tanzania working to provide bed nets. AtoZ uses a simplified, cheaper manufactoring process to make more bed nets for less. The company then charges a nominal fee to get the bed nets to people who will actually use them. Many times when organizations just hand out bed nets they end up as fishing nets or table cloths, but when there is a small fee – people who actually want them to use them will be supplied with them. This has been credited with bringing malaria deaths down in Tanzania.

Malaria is a preventable disease that claims the lives of over <a href="
“>one million people, 90% of them in Africa. Using a bed net is said to reduce a pregnant woman’s birth complications and potential miscarriages by one third. A treated bed net costs about $4 and can save the lives of so many people is it is used. There have been numerous studies on the impact of malaria on mothers, children, and others – but the simple and known truth is that using a treated bed net can save your life and your family’s. There is no reason that malaria should kill so many people each year, our government should be stepping up its efforts, governments in Africa need support so that they can support their health sectors, and we here need to step up our efforts. Making bed nets more available and more affordable is the answer to a preventable disease without a cure.

Read up on malaria here.

a phamaceutical not bent on profit?

Do you see it there on the horizon? Hope is dawning and the situation seems to be less grim in this radiating light. Diseases run rampant in Africa, plan and simple, there is no health infrastructure to deal with the burden of preventable diseases. Meningitis for example can kill a child in Africa in less than six hours, while we can sit here in our ‘developed’ world knowing that the vaccination is right around the corner office.

The largest drug company in Europe, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced a new drug for sole use in Africa to fight meningitis. The drug will be introduced with prices that will never have potential to cover the research or production costs. Experts and critics see this as a huge change in big companies changing their business practices to be more compassionate. Some critics say it isn’t enough, but I’d say this is an enormous and important positive step in the right direction. The company does not expect to make a profit. In a quote from the BBC article: “We have found a pretty clever way to fund therapeutic solutions for the developing world without essentially sacrificing the more traditional research we do on diseases around the world,” said the GSK chief executive Jean-Pierre Garnier.

This new approach comes about as last year big companies tried to sue South Africa over its purchase of cheaper, generic drugs to combat diseases. From the public outcry the big companies decided to back down amidst a PR disaster and the knowledge that their current practices were not going to cut it. They had to come to the realization that the old way of conduction business had to change. Now big firms are partnering with smaller firms in India and China and they are researching the ‘neglected diseases.’

This is an amazing positive in the way of saving lives. Changing the way companies do business can save lives. Currently four out of the twelve major companies have centers focusing on major diseases like HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. This is seen as the first big step following a number of small steps in the direction of doing something more for the ‘developing’ world.

a small bite can topple a giant; malaria

This first story takes me back six years when I first became involved in basic healthcare activism for Africa. This story comes from my mother’s first trip to Uganda in 2001. My family became very good friends with Fr. Joseph from Uganda in the summer of 2000. He dealt with many medical issues in his traveling from village to village fulfilling his priestly duties, but he did not have any medical background. He asked my mother, who is a registered nurse, medical questions when he was here and sometimes called from Uganda to ask the best medical procedure or prognosis. She had found it very difficult since we had such a limited knowledge of what conditions were like in Uganda. So, that following summer my mother made the journey across the ocean to see the medical situation first hand. While she was there the realities were painfully obvious. Fr. Joseph owned a donated Toyota pick-up truck and while my mom was there she traveled around with him on his day to day work. An important note to make is that the pick-up truck doubled as the area ambulance. On one particular day, at a village stop to give mass, a pregnant mother needed transportation to the hospital because there were some complications. The nearest health clinic was seven hours away on the red, dusty, hole ridden ‘roads’. I can only imagine the ride in the back of a pick-up truck, dust thrown about, bouncing along so that a child may have a better chance. En route the pregnant mother went into labor. Still hours from the hospital the mother gave birth to a healthy baby girl and then died. They decided to name the baby after my mother – Baby Elizabeth. A family from the village adopted baby Elizabeth and she seemed to have a good chance in the world. Later the next year we were told that baby Eilzabeth had died. She had contracted malaria and since she lived in such a remote village, she and her family had no access to the $1- $2 medication that could have saved her life. If the access had been there baby Elizabeth might have lived to her fifth birthday, a rare occurance in many African communities due to poverty and disease.

Malaria is a parasite that is carried from human to human by mosquito. Malaria is a very preventable disease, yet kills over a million people each year. Over 90% of malaria deaths occuring in Africa making it Africa’s leading cause of death for children under five. Just recently President George W. Bush has said eight more African countries have joined a $1.2 billion US program to fight malaria. The five-year program works to provide funds to limit malaria’s spread by using insecticides and anti-mosquito bed nets, and also to provide drugs to people already infected. The renewed enthusism for the program has brought the World Bank and billionaire philanthropist, Bill Gates on board. Also on the scene are recent scientific advances, such as progress towards a vaccine, which prove to offer great hope to defeating one of the world’s great killers. A new treatment developed by British scientists collaborating with Kenyan experts is based on a technique for fluid replacement for children ill with malaria. The problem is that intensive care methods, only available at pediatric units in developed countries, is needed to treat infected children.

It is estimated that through partnerships working in Uganda, Tanzania, and Angola – US taxpayers already have helped approximately 6 million people to treat and prevent malaria. There are great hopes for the future prevention and defeat of malaria, but it requires the continued support of people in the developed world. US taxpayers need to push the Bush administration and future adminstrations to remain dedicated to the mission of saving lives affected by preventable disease. President Bush also announced at the Washington Summit on Malaria that the US Volunteers for Prosperity program will be expanded to recruit skilled US volunteers, doctors, and nurses to travel to at-risk countries to train local health care workers. The Gates Foundation has also expanded the number of projects it funds to research new malaria treatments. Likewise, there is a large private sector effort, such as, Nothing But Nets and the Acumen Fund, among others. Check out the blog of an Acumen Fellow working with a mosquito net facotry in Tanzania. There are so many opportunites to donate, to get involved, to volunteer, and to save a life. Check out some of the links posted and make a difference today!