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Health

Getting healthcare to work better in Samburu County

Kavita Watsa's picture

As our sturdy Land Cruiser inched its way down a precipitous dirt track, trying to descend from a high ridge into the Rift Valley, I wondered what might happen if we had an accident here in the heart of Kenya’s remote Samburu County. Mobile signals had faded soon after we left the town of Maralal several hours before. We could have tried to walk back, but would have been very unlikely to make it before nightfall. Luckily, after a few mishaps and some serious jolting, we arrived at our destination in the valley—lonely Suyan manyata, whose distant circular outline we had seen from the ridge.

Talking to some of the women in the manyata, I realized that the ground that we had covered to get to them was nothing. We had done it in good health in a vehicle built for difficult terrain. As they told us what life was like in their village, my heart quailed at the thought of enduring a bumpy ride in a run-down van if one were pregnant or in labor with complications—if at all transport could be obtained. Just a few days ago, a child had died here of malaria, the women said. How did they usually get help, I asked. “We send our fastest runner 18 kilometers to the nearest dispensary,” said Ma Toraeli, a grandmother in the village. “From there someone comes to help us”. Health workers also visited the village from time to time, she said, to immunize babies and perform other routine checks.

Immunization seemed high on people’s minds in Samburu. Later that day, we visited Barsaloi, a larger village with its own government dispensary and another run by Catholic nuns. The two stood side by side, with a well-worn path between them. There I met another grandmother, Agnes, who had brought an infant girl, Salini, to be immunized, although her record showed that she was early and didn’t need this service yet. But while Stephen, the clinical officer at the government dispensary, was examining the baby and we were on the subject of immunization, the district head nurse showed us how vaccines were stored at the required temperature in the two-room government dispensary without power supply.

Women of action in Sudan

Kavita Watsa's picture

 

Working in development, there are some faces you never forget because they come back to you at the end of a long day, time and again. As we recognize International Day of Action for Women, I’ve been thinking about some of these faces from a recent trip to Sudan. Faces of young women who are doing community work that is so important, it is really in a league of its own. I’d like to dedicate this “day” to these women of action, the young graduates of village midwife schools in eastern Sudan.

The doorway to the midwives school in Kassala, a town close to the Red Sea, leads you into a small courtyard crowded with beds, belongings, and cooking utensils gently baking under the desert sun. Passing through this open air dormitory, another door opens into a classroom, in which a group of about twenty young women dressed in soft white are listening to a lecture that involves plenty of gesticulating and a plastic model lying on a bed. These students have already qualified as midwives and are now in town to learn more advanced skills that they can take back to their villages in a few months.

Tobacco Kills: So what to do in Africa?

Patricio V. Marquez's picture

The scientific evidence is overwhelming. As Robert Beaglehole and colleagues at the World Health Organization (WHO) pointed out years ago, tobacco is the only consumer product that eventually kills half of its regular users if they follow its manufacturers’ recommendations. 

Photo Credit: By AdamCohn, FlickrGiven this dire reality, it is clear that Africa is now at a crossroads. On one hand, the countries in this region have become an attractive and under-tapped market as tougher regulations, high taxes, and greater consumer awareness of the dangers of smoking in developed countries are “closing the door” to tobacco imports and leading to significant drops in consumption. And on the other hand, cigarettes are becoming increasingly affordable as incomes rise in several African countries due to the rapid economic growth of recent years. Indeed, African countries are experiencing the highest increase in the rate of tobacco use amongst developing countries--the number of smokers in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to increase 148 percent by 2030, to 208 million smokers or one-fifth of the total population. 

A Story of hope from Kangemi

Miriam Schneidman's picture

“Tuberculosis was a silent killer a few years ago,” says Rogers, a community health worker at the Kangemi Health Center, which assists people living with TB to receive effective treatment in a sprawling settlement on the outskirts of Nairobi.

Peninah, a mother of four, in Kangemi, KenyaCommunity health workers like Rogers are a vital link between patients and medical providers and are well respected and trusted. They educate, enlighten, and empower patients and people in the wider community. They work with the local area chiefs in mobilizing communities in the fight against TB.  Rogers proudly notes that he actively identifies TB cases, provides home-based care, and traces people defaulting on treatment, all critical elements in managing TB at the community level.

Detection and management of TB are critical in Africa, where roughly a quarter million TB deaths were reported in 2010. The continent accounts for about one-quarter of the global TB burden and is facing challenges in meeting the Millennium Development Goal of reducing 1990 TB mortality rates by half by 2015. However, there is also reason for hope on TB control in Africa, as seen in communities like Kangemi. In Kenya, with support from government and partners, including the World Bank (Health Sector Support Project, Total War Against HIV/AIDS Project, East Africa Public Health Laboratory Networking Project), activities are underway to strengthen the availability of drugs, channel funds directly to lower level health centers , and improve access to the latest diagnostic tools for detecting TB.  “The state-of-the-art diagnostics will go a long way to turn the tide on this pandemic,” notes Lucy Chesire, Executive Director of the TB Action Group in Nairobi.  “Patients will no longer wait months to get results.”

Tanzania: Building bridges through education and small businesses

Jacques Morisset's picture

Stevan Lee, Senior World Bank Economist, is co-author of this post.

Attracted by the prospects of large unexploited natural gas reserves in the south of Tanzania, big players are in town. The British Gas Group has publicly announced that it may invest over US$35 billion in the next 25 years – 1.5 times Tanzania’s current GDP. Policymakers and donors are jockeying to position themselves and understand what is at stake.

After the holidays, a time to reflect on the state of food in Africa

Ian Gillson's picture

As we gather in kitchens and dining rooms during this season of eating and charity, let us pause for a moment to review the state of food trade in Africa: how does cross-border commerce in key crops fare on a continent with pockets of harsh weather and unpredictable politics? How is the traffic in grains and tubers?

It’s clear that prices are high, following the February 2011 peak worldwide. The price of maize in Nairobi has tripled this year alone, while the price of a 50 kg bag of rice in Dakar has risen from $36 to $43.50. These spikes can be blamed partly on increased demand for food crops – including for biofuel production in Europe and the United States. They are also due to supply-side factors, such as higher energy prices which impact transportation and fertilizer costs, and weak harvests in large exporting countries.

But on a global scale there is no food shortage. In 2010, the world produced 2.2 billion tons of cereals, up from 820 million tons 50 years ago (a 268 percent increase). Over the same period, the world’s population has grown from three billion to seven billion people: an increase of 233 percent. In Africa, food staple production is abundant in some areas even though the continent is a net importer of food. Mali grows enough excess sorghum to supply its neighbors, and Uganda, the bread basket of East Africa, makes regular shipments of maize to Kenya, Southern Sudan and Rwanda. The problem is that the surplus food does not always get to those in need. Often shipments of perishable goods are stopped at the border and excessive inspections frequently cause delays.

Brazil and Africa: Bridging the Atlantic

Susana Carrillo's picture

Linked in the distant past through colonial-era trade enterprises, Brazil and Africa are becoming close partners again. More than two centuries after establishing a slave trade route across the Atlantic, both regions are again re-engaging, this time to exchange knowledge and further economic and social development.

Sub-Saharan African countries are looking to replicate Brazil’s successes in boosting agricultural production and exports, and private investments, which have made Brazil a key economic player in the international arena. This is no coincidence. The world is going though rapid changes, resulting in a new financial architecture, with emerging economies and countries in the South increasingly participating and influencing global decisions.

Climate Change and Health: Does it Matter?

Patricio V. Marquez's picture

Somali refugee in Ethiopian camp, UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, is in full swing now, aiming to reach consensus and agreements on addressing the  climate challenge by its close on December 9. While there are high expectations, people also realize that this is not an easy issue to tackle.  Uncontrolled, man-made carbon emissions, which climbed to a new record of 30 billion tons worldwide in 2010, are at the core of the climate change dilemma. Curbing this trend is not only a daunting multisectoral task that demands sophisticated technical solutions, but its complexity is intensified by disagreements among countries on the size of the problem and what to do about it.

Climate change should matter to all of us, since changing weather patterns, including more frequent extreme climate events (e.g., the 13 warmest years on record have been in the last 15 years) and natural disasters (e.g. in some regions the number of particularly large hurricanes has increased), negatively impact the lives and well being of ALL people—the raison d’être of development.  In this context, climate change should be seen as a critical health challenge that demands increased attention and management.  Why?

A landmark 2009 report by The Lancet Commission documented how climate change over the coming decades could have a disastrous effect on health conditions across the world. There are both direct and indirect health threats through changing patterns of disease, water and food insecurity, vulnerable shelter and human settlements, extreme climatic events, and population growth and migration.

World AIDS Day 2011

Kristina Nwazota's picture

Thirty years after the HIV/AIDS virus first appeared, more than 34 million people world-wide are living with HIV. Sub Saharan Africa is most heavily impacted; some 68 percent of all those living with HIV live in the region. Despite the high prevalence, the HIV incidence rate declined by more than 25 percent between 2001 and 2009 in 22 Sub-Saharan Africa countries. In West and Central Africa, HIV prevalence remained under two percent in 12 countries.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé outlines what the global community is doing to further fight HIV/AIDS in Africa.

 

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