On this World Health Day 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) directs our attention to their number one goal - achieving universal health coverage for all.
Global Health Care Needs
Many consider health care a human right. That right stands in stark contrast to the global reality. According to WHO, at least half of the world does not have full coverage of essential health services. In many cases, a lack of access is the cause. Unaffordability is another top reason. Millions of people each year are forced to choose between needed health care and other basic necessities - food, clothing and shelter. One hundred million people are pushed into extreme poverty annually because of health care expenses. Of those who can both access the care and pay for the services, many continue to face poor-quality options. (1)
Photo Credit: Pixabay
When we achieve universal health care, everyone will be able to attain accessible, quality health services without undue financial burden. Most importantly, everyone should have accessibility to primary health care - services that help people improve their health or maintain their well being rather than treat a single disease or condition.
Although a few communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and Ebola understandably receive much of the world’s attention, it is the noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes that take a greater percentage of lives prematurely. In fact, noncommunicable diseases kill 15 million people under the age of 70 each year. Investments in noncommunicable disease prevention through primary care could save millions of premature deaths each year. (4)
A Snapshot of Health Care in Tanzania
Tanzania faces many challenges in its health care system, a system that precludes many from receiving the above-mentioned, essential primary care. This includes a shortage of healthcare workers (one doctor per 30,000 Tanzanians), a lack of facilities in rural areas, long distances to the existing facilities coupled with poor transportation systems and roads, and underfunding ($51 per capita in comparison to $4,000 per capita in the U.K.) (6).
In 2015 the Ministry of Health of Tanzania assessed the state of its health care system through a year-long evaluation of health facilities using a five-star rating system. Of the 7,000 facilities evaluated, only 2% met the minimum standard of quality (three stars of more). A whopping 34% received 0 stars (8).
One area of concern is women’s health and obstetrics. In a recent study reported in BMJ Journal, 13,266 Tanzanian women of reproductive age were interviewed in order to analyze the obstacles to health care access for women. Two-thirds of the women cited at least one of the following hurdles:
Distance to the facility
A lack of someone to escort them to a facility
Lack of permission from a spouse
The study concluded: “The results of the present study provided evidence for additive effects of barriers to healthcare in low-income countries, such as Tanzania. Based on these results, improving access to health insurance and addressing social determinants of health represent the first steps towards reducing problems associated with accessing healthcare for women in low-income countries.” (3)
Photo Credit: Unsplash
A few statistics (2010) bring the challenge of inadequate medical access for women into greater focus:
Only an approximate 50% of deliveries were attended by skilled medical personnel.
A mere 40% of pregnant women received at least four prenatal visits with a skilled provider.
A dismal 45% of the country’s health centers have basic emergency obstetric care. (5)
It is not surprising then that in 2014 the maternal mortality rate was 398 deaths per 100,000 live births. Still, strides are being made to reduce such numbers. In 2005, that number was 605 deaths per 100,000 live births. (7) Compare that to the U.S. While having the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, the U.S.still has a substantially lower rate at 26.4. Finland has the lowest rate at 3.8. (9)
Raising awareness of the global inequity in healthcare access is critical. Health care is not just a human need; it is a human right.
At a glance:
Population: 1,962,461 (2018)
Official Languages: Sesotho and English
Religion: Protestant (47.8%), Roman Catholic (39.3%), other Christian (9.1%), non-Christian (1.4%)
Fertility Rate: 2.59 births per woman (2018)
HIV/AIDs Adult Prevalence Rate: 23.8% (2017) / 2nd highest in the world
Life Expectancy: 53 years (2018)
Image Source: Wikipedia
Literacy Rate: 79.4% (2015) / Males 70.1%, Females 88.3%
Currency: loti / South African rand is also accepted as legal tender.
Form of Government: Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy
Natural Resources: water, diamonds, sand, clay
Exports: clothing, footwear, wool, mohair, food and live animals, water, electricity, diamonds (1)
Lesotho’s most prominent features are its mountains and geographical position as a small, landlocked country.
First, the country’s lowest elevation is 1,400 meters above sea level, with 80% of its territory actually 1,800 meters or more above sea level. Indeed, Lesotho is sometimes referred to as “Mountain Kingdom” or “Kingdom in the Sky.” Lesotho is the only country in the world that sits entirely at or above 1,400 meters. The mountains and foothills of Lesotho are a source of great beauty but also cause isolation and limit the amount of arable land. (2)
Image by Markus Fischer on Pixabay
In addition, this small country is unique in that it is completely surrounded by the larger country of South Africa. As such, it shares the distinction of being a complete enclave with only two other countries in the world.
The area now known as Lesotho was settled by the Sotho people in the sixteenth century. In the 19th century, Moshoeshoe, known as one of its greatest and unifying leaders, ruled with exceptional diplomatic skill rather than military might. This was at least in part due to his limited military capabilities in contrast to the more powerful Zulus and Matabele. However, he also is known for developing strong relationships with the Christian and Catholic missionaries who moved into the area. Today the country predominantly practices Christian religions.
In his later years, Moshoeshoe sought protection from the British as the Boers moved into the interior of South Africa and Lesotho, seeking new territory. Lesotho remained a British protectorate until 1966 when it gained its independence and became a constitutional monarchy. Since that time the country has been marked by political instability including a military coup in 1986. (8)
The culture of the Basotho people centers on village life. Traditional forms of music and dance are incorporated into Basotho life. For example, the lesiba is a popular stringed wind instrument, especially commonplace among herders. Traditional dances include the “gum boot dance” and “Mohobelo dance.” (6)
Clothing is another reflection of Basotho life. One garment that is a staple for many in Lesotho is the Basotho blanket. The blanket often has colorful designs, is draped across the shoulders, and is pinned at the chest. People wear the blanket during important life events such as a marriage, but it is also an everyday article of clothing that keeps a person warm in the cool mountain air. The blanket is said to have originated in 1860 when King Moshoeshoe received a woolen blanket as a gift and began wearing it in exchange for his leopard-skin clothing. (5) The mokorotlo, a conical hat, is also commonly worn in Lesotho. (7)
Image by Simon Allen on Pixabay
Challenges in Lesotho
High poverty is one of Lesotho’s primary challenges. Estimates show that over 50% of the population lives in extreme poverty. Much of the population works in subsistence farming while as many as 35% of male wage earners travel to South Africa for work. (2)
One initiative seeking to assist in remedying the problem is the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. It is an ongoing and joint South Africa and Lesotho initiative. The project creates major dams, redirecting some of Lesotho’s plentiful water supply to South Africa, where it is more in demand. The dams also provide hydropower for Lesotho. The project developers intend to reduce poverty and improve the lives of people in both countries. (2)
Another challenge for the Basotho is their struggle with both HIV/AIDs and TB. Lesotho has the second highest prevalence rate in the world for both diseases. (3)
I recently sat next to a fellow mother at the end-of-the-season basketball tournament for our middle school boys. It was standing room only in the bleachers. Across the gym, the student section was equally filled with chanting fans, many sporting painted faces and waving green and white pom poms. The mother lamented the spirited fans - less than a third of them had shown up for her daughter’s tournament.
Kids learn at an early age that gender parity doesn’t exist in all places. In 2019 women’s and girls’ sports are analogous to field hockey, a lower-profile sport that might get some attention, but only when it is off-season for football and basketball.
One group of women warriors is battling this inequity in a big way - the U.S. women’s soccer team. Today, on International Women’s Day, 28 members of the team stepped up their battle with U.S. Soccer when they filed a gender discrimination lawsuit. Though dominant internationally in their sport, the U.S. women have argued for years that their pay and working conditions pale in comparison to that of the men’s team. (1)
Photo Credit: Jeffry Lin/Unsplash
Sports is just one space in which women continue to pursue equity. On this International Women’s Day (IWD), we celebrate those who continue to seek balance - balance in sports as well as the boardroom, the government, media coverage, employment, and education. (#BalanceforBetter)
This is not just an American thing; it is a worldwide “call to action for accelerating gender parity,” according to IWD’s website. (6)
Here are just a few other recent actions:
On New Year’s Day, between 3.5 and 5 million women lined up side by side along western India’s National Highway 66. This human wall, which extended 385 miles, was intended to bring awareness of gender inequality, demonstrate solidarity, and protest a religious ban that prevented women of menstruating age from entering Hindu temples. (3)
When Nadia Murad, part of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq, was captured by ISIS and forced into sexual slavery, she acted boldly. Not only did she escape, she went on to share her story with others, becoming a role model for other captive women and girls. In 2018, Murad was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. (4)
Back in the United States, women made history, too. In 2018 women achieved the highest percentage of Congressional representation in history. As the 116th Congress convened, 102 (23.4%) women in the House of Representatives and 25 women (25%) in the Senate took their seats. The trend continues: six women have already declared their candidacy in the Democratic Primary for U.S. president. (5)
Photo Credit: Tim Gouw/Unsplash
Twelve Syrian women of different backgrounds have been included in the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board. This group was formed to involve women in the peace process. The women intend to demonstrate that they are not just victims; they are leaders. (2)
In Tanzania, gender parity has been achieved in primary schools. Now Tanzanians continue to work towards decreasing the gender gap in secondary schools. Currently, only 40% of girls in Sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school. (Read more: https://brighter-tz-fund.org/Blog/6366602)
Students at Saving Grace School in Arusha, Tanzania
The path to gender equity is paved by a collection of actions, big and small. And it begins with children who internalize what they see and experience. A child in Tanzania will believe that girls have a rightful place in every classroom when he sees that 50% of the seats are filled with girls. A girl in the U.S. will believe that her spot on the basketball court is laudable when as many eyes are on her as on her male counterpart.
As for me, I intend to take a small action this weekend, too, when I take my son to watch the final game of the girls’ tournament.
শুভ আন্তর্জাতিক মাতৃভাষা দিবস For those of you who don’t speak Bangla, I am wishing you a Happy International Mother Language Day!
It is with the Bangla language in what is now Bangladesh that the celebration of this international holiday began. More on that later.
First, some perspective. More than 7,000 (Yes, that’s three zeros!) exist in the world today. In Tanzania alone, 127 languages are spoken. Nigeria holds the record for being the most linguistically diverse on the continent of Africa with 527 languages spoken. One might guess that the most linguistically diverse globally might also be one of the largest countries geographically or by population - for example, China or India. Actually, the world’s most linguistically diverse is Papua New Guinea with 851 languages. (4)
Photo Credit: Soner Eker/Unsplash
Still, many are concerned with the quick rate that indigenous languages are fading and dying.
While the number of global languages might seem staggering, the United Nations predicts that every two weeks a language disappears. One estimate holds that 43% are endangered. (5)
With the loss of language comes a loss of culture. Venkaiah Naidu, vice president of India, articulates the issue eloquently: “Language is the soul of a society, the binding thread of human existence.” (1)
Perhaps it was this existential threat that led Bengalis in East Pakistan to unite in protest. In 1948, following the partition of India and Bengal, the area that is now Bangladesh became East Pakistan. The government recognized Urdu as the official language. When protests began, with ethnic Bengalis calling for the addition of Bangla as an official language, the government responded by banning public gatherings. The protesters did not give up. In 1952, four student protesters were killed when police opened fire at a rally. By 1956 the government had granted official status to Bangla. (1)
More than 40 years later, UNESCO initiated International Day of Mother Languages. The day is celebrated on February 21, the day the student protesters were killed while defending their language, and indirectly their culture and identity. The holiday has been officially observed since 2000.
Naidu has been a vocal proponent for the preservation of indigenous languages. In his native India, 750 languages are spoken, 22 of which are official languages. Naidu points out that the first language every infant (or fetus) hears is that of his or her mother. Maintaining this first language keeps one connected to a person’s mother and motherland, he says. One way to maintain the mother tongue is through incorporating indigenous languages within school systems. Naidu advocates mandating this incorporation in India’s schools. (1)
Photo Credit: Aaron Burden/Unsplash
Globally, 40% of the population lacks access to education in the language they speak or understand. (5)
Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, shares Naidu’s vision. “A mother tongue is vital to literacy because it facilitates the acquisition of basic reading and writing skills, as well as basic numeracy, during the first years of schooling,” she said. (5)
A number of factors have led to the disappearance of mother tongues around the world - including urbanization and globalization.(3) As our world changes, many strive to preserve not only language but culture, history and memory. As awareness of endangered languages grows, the United Nations takes the advocacy a step farther, proclaiming 2019 the Year of Indigenous Languages.
In closing, we send well wishes for International Day of Mother Languages in Swahili: Furaha ya Kimataifa ya Siku ya Mama ya Mama!
Population: 57,725,600 (2018)
Official Languages: 11 official languages including isiZulu (24.7%), isiXhosa (15.6%), and Afrikaans (12.1%)
Religion: Christian (86%), Traditional (5.4%), and Muslim (1.9%)
Fertility Rate: 2.26 births per woman (2018)
HIV/AIDs Prevalence Rate: 18.8% (2017)
Life Expectancy: 63 years (2017)
Literacy Rate: 94.4% (2015)
Currency: South African Rand
Form of Government: Parliamentary Republic
Natural Resources: gold, nickel, diamonds, platinum, copper, coal, iron ore, natural gas, and salt
Exports: gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment
South Africa has a diversity of geographical features with low-lying coastal areas, mountains in the eastern/northeastern section of the country, and the Kalahari desert in the north. The Blyde River Canyon is one of the largest canyons in the world. The Orange River is South Africa’s longest, beginning in Lesotho, flowing westward, and emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.
Bordering South Africa are Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Swaziland. South Africa also completely encircles the tiny country of Lesotho. (4)
Early inhabitants of the southern tip of the African continent were Bantu-speaking tribes who settled in the northern areas of what would one day be called South Africa. These tribes gradually moved south towards the coastline. (5)
Over many centuries South Africa became an amalgamation of many different peoples. This took place as a result of immigration, colonization, and the importation of slaves. It was in 1652 that the first European settlers arrived. Their settlement came to be known as Cape Town. The Dutch East India Company was formed to supply passing ships with fresh produce. Dutch farms spread, and after the colony was established, brought in slaves from East Africa, Madagascar, and the East Indies. (2)
Other Europeans were not far behind. The Huguenots (French Protestant refugees) arrived in 1688, followed by groups from Belgium, Germany, and Great Britain. Not surprisingly, conflict erupted between the colonists and the indigenous peoples beginning in the 1770s. (3)
In the 1820s, a famous Zulu king and warrior named Shaka led a series of incursions into the territory of other tribes. This long and bloody war left space for the Dutch and British colonists to gain control. In the mid-1800s the Dutch began moving farther into the interior and came to rule two landlocked republics called Transvaal and Orange Free State. The Boers (farmers) practiced Calvinism and developed the language of Afrikaans. In 1886 with the discovery of a major goldfield, the English, in a desire to maintain mining rights for English immigrants, went to war with the Dutch in what became known as the Anglo-Boer wars. (2)
It is ironic that in a place that abolished slavery in 1838, a system based on white power became legendary around the world. In 1910 the Union of South Africa ( a white union) was created followed by the 1912 founding of the African National Congress(ANC). The seed was planted. In 1948 the pro-Afrikaner National Party came to power with the idea of Apartheid. By 1961 residential segregation was enforced with blacks forcibly removed from white areas. When the ANC protested, leaders, including the famous Nelson Mandela, were thrown in jail. Resistance continued for many years, with international support, until Apartheid fell and a democratic election was finally held in 1994. After being released from prison, Mandela served as president of South Africa for five years. (2)
The ANC has been ruling South Africa since 1994. During this time, the poverty level has fallen from 33.8% in 1996 to 16.9% in 2008. Unemployment continues to pose a challenge with a rate of 27.2% in 2018. South Africa has also struggled with the HIV/AIDs epidemic. (7)
With this complex history comes an equally rich culture. This multi-ethnic nation has a cacophony of voices and 11 official languages. South Africans also enjoy many forms of music. One form that emerged in the 1990s with the fall of Apartheid was Kwaito, a fusion of old and contemporary African beats, some describe as a variant of hip hop. (5)
Dance is popular in South Africa, too. Gumboot is a style of dance which originated in the gold mines and is unique to South Africa. The dancers wear boots and rhythmically stomp and clap. Because talking was prohibited in the mines, stomping was a means of communicating. Zulu dances are also common, the dancers dressed as warriors in traditional garb. (5)
Another favorite pastime for South Africans is participating in and watching sports. Their favorites are rugby, cricket, and soccer.
As in any culture, South African cuisine is reflective of their geography and history. In fact, their food is sometimes referred to as “rainbow cuisine” because of the array of food from many different cultures. Throughout most of the country, though, the menu of a South African is based on meat and maize. (Nearly half of arable land is planted with maize.) A few favorites include biltong, a dried salted meat; bobotie, a version of shepherd's pie; and boerewors, a hand-made farm sausage. One traditional dish considered a delicacy in the northern part of the country ( and unique to many other cultures) is mopane worms, caterpillars that live on mopane trees. The worms are dried and then fried, grilled or cooked in a stew. Mopane worms are still served as hors d’oeuvres at restaurants. (6)
On a wall in our pediatric dentist’s office is a patchwork of photographs, each capturing the smiling round face of the practice’s newest patients as they sit in the dentist’s chair for their first appointment. Some look as if they are barely out of the crib. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommends that children should visit a dentist when a first tooth appears and no later than the first birthday. This begins a lifetime of biannual appointments to prevent cavities, ensure a proper level of fluoride treatment, and correct or prevent other issues and diseases.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
This diligence in oral health care is in stark contrast to 70% of the world’s population which has no access to basic oral care. (2) Fewer than 500 dentists practice in Tanzania, a country of over 45 million people. (4) Dentists in Tanzanian rural areas are particularly difficult to find. With only one dentist per 400,000 people, few, if any receive dental care.
Urban areas are a bit better off, but many still lack basic care. In a 2007 survey of the oral health behavior of 310 twelve-year-olds in Dar-es-Salaam, 76% had never visited a dentist. The students did, however, appear to be somewhat educated on oral health with 71% recognizing that sugary snacks and drinks are a main cause of cavities. In addition, 92% brushed their teeth once per day, and 71% used toothpaste. (1)
When Tanzanians are able to access dental care, the visit is often corrective rather than preventive. One of the common procedures is tooth extraction. Teeth that have become diseased or rotted need to be removed to avoid the spread of infection. (3) Rural Tanzanians on average suffer with tooth pain for two years before remedying the problem. They will then often pull the teeth themselves or pay a local witch doctor to do it. (2)
Oral health has both a direct and indirect impact on children and their ability to succeed in school. The mouth is an entry point for infections which can spread throughout the body. Chronic oral infection can lead to many other issues including heart and lung disease, stroke, low birth weight and premature birth. Poor oral health and accompanying issues can lead to lost days of school. Tooth pain alone might keep a student home from school or unable to focus while in school.
While poor diet and nutrition can certainly lead to tooth pain or tooth loss because of decay, the inverse is also true. Tooth pain or loss might prevent a child from getting proper nutrition. Poor nutrition then impacts a student’s ability to learn. A student may lose the ability to concentrate, and behavioral problems may emerge.
Untreated cavities can also impact a child’s psychological well being and social connectedness. A child’s self image and confidence can be damaged. In addition, with pain or tooth loss, communication skills might be hindered.
During a 2012 mission trip, dental professionals and students from the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health experienced first hand how a lack of oral health care can impact a child’s self image. The group traveled to a rural Tanzanian school and orphanage in Moshi, Tanzania. In addition to treating cavities and extracting teeth, the dentists also treated a condition called Fluorosis which results from too much fluoride in a child’s diet. The condition leads to discoloration or spots on the enamel. The children were given cosmetic treatment, and the dentists were rewarded with newly found smiles. (4)
Shedrack Asenga, a former student at Saving Grace School
Shedrack, a student at Saving Grace School, also epitomizes the problem. At seven years old, he is now one of the oldest students, but when he arrived a few years ago, he suffered from Rickets, a softening of the bones due to malnutrition. Secondary complications included knock knees and missing front teeth. Shedrack was embarrassed by his missing teeth, so he kept his mouth closed whenever possible, never smiling. He was withdrawn and didn’t participate in class activities. With surgery for his knocked knees and better and consistent nutrition at school, Shedrack has grown into a happier and healthier boy. His teeth have grown in, he has improved academically, and he smiles! For more details on Shedrack, read another of our blog posts: https://www.brighter-tz-fund.org/Blog/5275457
The celebration of International Day of Education is in its infancy. January 24, 2019 marks the first celebration. However, the day brings awareness to very grown up problems. Poverty holds hands with low educational outcomes; girls struggle to achieve the same academic attainment as boys; and even as more children enter school, quality is uneven.
Challenges abound across continents and in our own backyard. Let’s take a look at global struggles first.
A staggering 262 million children under the age of 18 are not attending school. Among the children who are attending, 617 million cannot read or do basic math. (1) Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the areas with the poorest rate of both attendance and achievement. Only 40% of girls complete lower secondary school.
Providing education to all children, and to all children on a level playing field, is critical to eradicating poverty. Among the positive outcomes an educated populace will bring are improved health outcomes, an increase in peaceful and resilient societies, gender equality, progress in environmental sustainability, and a decrease in hate speech, xenophobia and intolerance. Education truly is the foundation to so many other critical issues.
In initiating this day of awareness, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated: “Let us prioritize education as a public good; support it with cooperation, partnerships and funding; and recognize that leaving no one behind starts with education.”
Leaving no one behind has its challenges in the United States as well as developing countries such as Tanzania and others in Sub-Saharan Africa.
One of those challenges is funding. In 2018, teacher strikes, protests and walk outs dominated the news. Teachers are demanding better pay, working conditions and benefits. Spending per pupil remains below pre-recession levels. (2) Poor students take the brunt of the cuts. Typically, they wind up in the schools with the lowest funding, oldest buildings, and most inexperienced teachers.
Photo Credit: Rawpixel on Unsplash
Stress among teachers and students is also a challenge we must confront. Talk to any pediatrician or school counselor and they will tell you that anxiety and depression are on the rise for students. Teachers, too, are feeling the stress. With support services being cut, their job responsibilities being increased, and low wages causing financial insecurity, anxiety is high among faculty members.
Chronic absenteeism is another problem endemic to U.S. schools, particularly in the inner cities. During the 2015-16 school year eight million students missed more than three weeks of school. (2)
Finally, an issue that has been investigated over the past few years and continues to be a big issue impacting lower-income students is churn. Simply put, churn is student movement from one school to another. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that an astounding one in four, or 22,000 Milwaukee Public Schools students, switched schools during the 2017-18 school year. (4) With this mobility comes academic struggle, behavioral problems, and an increased risk of dropping out.
Photo Credit: Ben White / Unsplash
One of the biggest reasons for churn is families moving, being evicted or becoming homeless. Since 2000 rent prices have risen while household income has decreased. The result is home insecurity for many, with children getting left behind academically.
The International Day of Education makes us aware of challenges at home and away in the hopes that we put our heads together and work for solutions.
I will give you the good news first. For the first time ever, the majority of the world is not living in poverty. Just over 50% of the world’s population has now inched into middle class or wealthy status. That’s 3.8 billion people. (2) Actually, this isn’t good news. This is great news.
Now for the bad news. We still have just under 50% of the world’s population living in poverty. Further, the rate of decline the world has seen in the number of people living in extreme poverty has slowed. (2)
The difference between moderate and extreme poverty is an important distinction to make. Moderate poverty is defined by the World Bank as an individual living on just $3.10 per day. Extreme poverty is defined as living on just $1.90 per day. Those in extreme poverty are simply fighting for daily survival. In October, 2018, the World Bank made a preliminary forecast that extreme poverty in 2018 would decline to 8.6% of the global population. That is down from 10% in 2015 and down from 36% in 1990. (3) By any measure, great strides have been made to reduce global poverty over the past several decades.
World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim agrees. He stated: “Over the last 25 years, more than a billion people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty, and the global poverty rate is now lower than it has ever been in recorded history. This is one of the greatest achievements of our time.” (3)
Still, the fear is that if progress continues to slow, the world will not meet the 2030 sustainable development goal of reducing extreme poverty to no more than 3% of the global population. Predictions are that extreme poverty will increasingly be concentrated in a small group of countries, most located in Sub-Saharan Africa. (3)
The reduction of extreme poverty globally has taken place in shifts. First, the world saw a drastic reduction in China. Next, came India. Now, the world’s eyes are turning towards Africa, which the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation believes should be the priority over the next several decades. (1)
Why the concentration of extreme poverty in Africa? One explanation is population growth. If it stays on its current track, the continent of Africa is expected to double its current population by 2050. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has predicted that by this same year, nearly 90% of global poverty will be concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa. (1)
Because almost 60% of the population on the continent of Africa is currently under the age of 25 (compared to 35% in the U.S. and 27% in Europe), the foundation aims to put their money and efforts in the young, focusing on health and education. (1)
Across the globe, the Number of Children and Adolescents Not Reaching a Minimum Proficiency in Reading
In their 2018 Goalkeepers Report, Bill and Melinda Gates said: “The conclusion is clear: to continue improving the human condition, our task now is to help create opportunities in Africa’s fastest growing, poorest countries….This means investing in young people.” (1)
In Tanzania, one investment is at Saving Grace School which currently serves 72 preschool age impoverished children who otherwise would not have access to an education. Brighter Tanzania Foundation aims to use Saving Grace as a blueprint to build other schools throughout Tanzania. In so doing, BTF will continue to serve those suffering from extreme poverty by providing a foundation for communities through strong education.
Without a doubt, Saving Grace School (and Brighter Tanzania Foundation) are at ground zero for battling poverty.
It’s that time of year. For many of us in the U.S. December means busyness and festivity, whether it’s celebrating Hanukkah, Winter Solstice or Christmas. The season may include shopping and spending more time with family and friends, and it definitely means cooking!
Tanzanian Christians are probably cooking up a feast of their own this month. Dishes one might expect to see on a Tanzanian Christmas table include pilau, a rice dish with lots of spice; a chicken, red meat or seafood dish often cooked in coconut; and chai tea.
While one-third of the Tanzanian population practices Christianity, another one-third practices Islam. (2) A Muslim holiday marked by a feast comes a little earlier in the year - Eid al-Fitr, which ends a month of sunrise to sunset fasting. The dishes on this feast table might include plantains; fish; dates; and ugali, a cornmeal-based dish often served with a sauce. Ugali is a staple throughout Africa although it goes by different names depending on the region. (2)
Interested in learning more about East African cuisine? African Eats, An Introduction to African Cooking might be a great addition to your cookbook collection or as a gift for someone else in your life. Written by Jane Leuchter, Felicia McKenzie and Emma Hill of Brighter Tanzania Foundation, the book is a collection of mostly Tanzanian and Kenyan recipes with a sprinkling of recipes from other regions on the continent. It includes recipes of both traditional and modern dishes, and the recipes are accompanied by a bit of history.
For example, readers will learn that the migrations of different peoples into the region has influenced the East African culture of food. As noted in the book, about 1,000 years ago, merchants from the Middle East began settling along the Swahili coast, thus incorporating many of their spices in the diet of Tanzanians and Kenyans. Indians have also migrated to East Africa, and it is from their culture that chapati, a flour-based flat bread, became a common breakfast in Tanzania. (3)
The cook book’s authors begin with a summary of the East African diet: “East African dishes tend to be simple, centered around a few ingredients, with bold, assertive flavors, thanks to fresh ingredients and complex spice blends.” Its collection of recipes are organized in four sections: breakfast, entrees, sides, and drinks/desserts. Be aware: each section is chocked full of vibrant photography that will wet your palate. African Eats is available on Ebook for $9.99 or soft cover for $39.99 and can be purchased at http://www.blurb.com/b/7723794-african-eats.
As you plan your holiday feast, get comfortable with a cup of chai or a mbege (banana beer) and browse African Eats. You may just add some African dishes to your menu this year!
The 35 million individuals around the world who have died from an AIDS-related illness remind us that the pandemic is one of the worst the world has ever seen. The 36.9 million individuals living with HIV today call attention to the fact that this deadly disease has not gone away. (1) World AIDS Day, and the ubiquitous red ribbons associated with it, helps us with that grim reminder, too.
Photo Credit: David Dallaqua/Freeimages.com
The news is not all grim, though. The development of antiretroviral treatment means that HIV can be managed in a way not possible in the 1980s when the disease first appeared. At that time the average life expectancy for a person diagnosed with AIDS was about one year. (7) Now, by slowing down the virus, antiretroviral treatment enables HIV-infected individuals to live longer, healthier lives. It also reduces the risk of transmission.
According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: “Antiretroviral therapies have transformed HIV infection from an almost uniformly fatal infection into a manageable chronic condition.” (7)
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With this life-saving treatment in place, much focus has been placed on prevention so that one day treatment will not be necessary. UNAIDS leads in solving the problems that still exist in treating the global health threat. Their campaign “Start Free Stay Free” focuses on creating an “AIDS-free generation.” (2) The “Start Free” portion of the effort includes preventing new infection among women of childbearing age through primary care, providing prenatal care, and testing and diagnosing infants early. If an infected woman is treated during pregnancy, delivery and breast-feeding, the risk of the virus being passed from mother to child remarkably reduces to 5 percent or less. Prevention is vital, but so too is early diagnosis. The peak mortality for infants with the HIV virus is six weeks to four months. However, only half of the infants exposed to HIV globally are tested before eight weeks of age. (2)
The ”Stay Free” portion of the UNAIDS campaign aims to increase access to educational information on sexual and reproductive health as these infants grow into adolescents and young adults. It also encourages young people to stay in school and gain skills in order to gain economic independence. In 2019, adolescence is the only age group in which AIDS-related deaths are increasing. (2)
Tanzania helps illustrate the HIV/AIDS story. The population is young with half of the population between the ages of 10 and 24. One of the barriers to effectively treating diseases such as HIV/AIDS is the low physician-patient ratio, one of the lowest in the world with .031 doctors per 1,000 people. Other barriers include gender inequality, high rates of gender-based violence, stigma, and a lack of knowledge within the populace about the virus. (4)
Because child marriages and young pregnancies are common, a disproportionate number of girls fail to receive a full education. According to Human Rights Watch, only 60% of adolescents in Tanzania can access a lower secondary education. Of these teens, only one-third of girls who enter secondary school graduate. (6)
It follows that girls and women are disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS with a prevalence rate at 5.8 percent for women and 3.6 percent for men. Females tend to become infected earlier because they marry earlier and often have older partners. In Tanzania, a country in which 27% of girls are pregnant or have had a child before the age of 19, nearly one-fifth of new HIV infections are a result of mother-to-child transmission. A mere 30 percent of infants exposed to HIV are given early infant testing and diagnosis. (4)
One of the keys to reducing the prevalence rate, particularly in females, is education. Educated women are more likely to advocate for themselves and for better services including health care. Educated women generally have fewer, healthier and better-educated children. In sub-Saharan Africa, universal secondary education would cause child marriages to fall by as much as 64%. (8)
Brighter Tanzania Foundation and Saving Grace School contribute to the effort of providing a full, quality, and equitable education to all children in Tanzania. By providing a quality pre-primary program to impoverished children in Arusha, the school is building a foundation in which these children can successfully continue their education and eventually graduate from secondary school. In doing so, the school not only builds a solid economic base but makes a critical contribution in the battle to eradicate HIV/AIDS.
It is also important to note the devastating impact that the loss of one or both parents due to AIDS has on a family, including the education of the children. Studies have shown that HIV/AIDS has a direct and negative impact on the educational outcomes of children. This impact includes enrollment and attendance, behavior, achievement, and completion. (5)
Saving Grace School serves impoverished children in Arusha, Tanzania.
Children whose families have been affected by HIV/AIDS are among the most vulnerable in Tanzania. These are the families that Saving Grace School serves. Through strengthening educational services, Brighter Tanzania Foundation joins in the fight to eradicate HIV/AIDS once and for all.
Brighter Tanzania Foundation is a registered 501c3 nonprofit organization. Donations may be tax-deductible.
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