BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Archive for November, 2016

Let’s begin with some global facts about water from different sources- World Health Organization, United Nations, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, WaterAid and World Bank!

  • Between 50 and 100 liters of water are needed daily by each person in order to meet most basic needs which include 2 liters for drinking.
  • About 884 million people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water and up to 2.6 billion people lack access to basic sanitation- 40% of the world’s population.
  • At least 1.8 billion people use drinking water sources that are contaminated with feces.
  • Contaminated water causes up to 502,000 deaths due to diarrhea yearly and chiefly transmits other diseases such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio.
  • Without water focused interventions, half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas by 2025.
  • Guinea Worm Disease and Trachoma are severe infections spread through contaminated water. The former is characterized by worms emerging from the body through blisters on the skin while Trachoma is the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness, affecting up to 41 million people.
  • Arsenic in drinking water is a major public health threat. In Bangladesh, about 100,000 cases of skin lesions have been caused by arsenic.
  • Approximately 30 million people suffer from chronic fluorosis in China alone.
  • Nearly 75,000 deaths of children under the age of five in Nigeria can be traced to poor access to water.

Heard enough? Well, I thought so. Thing is… the daily life (and health) of human beings, animals and plants is dependent on water. In addition, water shortage cannot be separated from two other inter-related factors – sanitation and health. This is because water shortage can force people to use unclean and unsafe water despite the consequences. Interventions for tackling the challenge of water shortage include providing more boreholes and other water sources while the health consequences of contaminated water can be averted by education and campaigns about basic hygiene practices.

These days, it seems the ‘hype’ around HIV/AIDS is diminishing… some people now consider infection by this once thought-to-be deadly and highly feared virus as ‘just an inconvenience’ since infected people live longer and healthier than before. Hence, there’s the resistance to adhere to stringent measures of protection to prevent infection and transmission. This is really unfortunate because HIV is still as deadly as it was in 1983- when it was first discovered. The only difference today however, is the wealth of available and accessible resources from which information and support about prevention and treatment can be obtained. Despite current improvements, people still have to remain on antiretroviral Therapy (ART) throughout their life time to prevent full blown AIDS. Now if you ask me… that’s more than ‘just an inconvenience’.

There are few important and enlightening facts about HIV/AIDS according to World Health Organization (WHO), they include:

  • HIV/AIDS is still one of the world’s most significant public health challenges, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. So, if you’re looking to have your foot prints on the sands of time, save the world by finding a cure for this virus!
  • More people are becoming infected with HIV, particularly men who have sex with men, people in prisons and other closed settings, injection drug users, sex workers and transgender people.
  • As mentioned earlier, due to recent advances in access to resources such as antiretroviral therapy (ART), HIV-positive people now live longer and healthier lives. However, this does not in any way undermine the potency or virulence of the virus as an entity.
  • In total, more than 70 million people have been infected with the HIV globally and approximately half of them (35 million) have died.
  • ART can prevent onward transmission of HIV. Hence, encourage all infected people to continue using their drugs because successful suppression of the virus delays progression to AIDS.
  • At the end of 2015, 17.0 million people were receiving ART worldwide; this represents 46% (43–50%) of all people living with HIV. Remember, undiagnosed cases are not accounted for.
  • Globally, 36.7 million [34.0–39.8 million] people were living with HIV at the end of 2015. To put this number in perspective…. Some countries have a population of 35 million… it’s like saying that everyone in one of those countries has HIV!

Bottom line, let’s endeavor to take advantage of the available resources to protect ourselves and our loved ones as well as support people living with HIV/AID- this will reduce the global burden of the virus/disease economically and socially. WHO-suggested prevention and treatment means include testing, male circumcision, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and counseling.

My suggestion… good old abstinence!

Be safe, Ciao!

Food Security is defined as a situation where all individuals at every time have both physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food required to meet their dietary needs in order to achieve an active and healthy life. The foregoing definition was put forward at the 1996 World Food Summit and shows that many of us may really be food insecure. It’s no longer news that the world’s population, currently at 7.4 billion, is projected to reach 9 billion by 2050. Consequently, the World Bank recommends the need to produce at least 50% more food than currently available to sustain life. Population growth is very challenging for many reasons- and the most important is the fear or need for survival… for food! Despite the continued increase in population, the world’s resources are becoming scarce especially due to climate change and mismanaged depletion by mankind.

Bringing this fact home to Nigeria- a country without much agricultural prospects, the problem of food insecurity becomes much more frightening. The direct consequence of food insecurity is an explosion in food prices- the price of rice for example! Increase in food prices affect poor families which can result in unfortunate medical outcomes such as malnutrition, underweight, general weakness, reduced blood pressure, heart muscle atrophies, poor coordination and increased irritability. On a broader social level, children may have to drop out of school if there is not enough money for their parents to afford basic needs such as food. This clearly presents intergenerational and ripples of lifelong effects on the social, physical, and mental well-being of millions of children and young people. More specifically, malnutrition causes decreased learning capacity, lower productivity, increased morbidity and mortality- especially in children, where one-third of all child deaths globally is attributed to malnutrition.

By now, I’m sure you understand that food, and its security or insecurity, is a definite determinant of health and an indispensable one at that. Thankfully, there’s a way out… investment in agriculture and rural development in order to enhance food/animal production and nutrition should be a priority for Nigeria. Matter of fact, as my lovely sister once said, Nigerians need to be reminded that there’s dignity in labor… yes, in farming! Activities such as encouraging young farmers and entrepreneurs, creating employment through the establishment of agricultural companies, promoting climate-smart farming techniques, restoring degraded farmlands, breeding more resilient and nutritious crops, growing birds and animals for consumption, improving storage methods and supply chains for reducing food losses should be investment in. These will go a very long way in averting the impending danger of food insecurity in Africa’s most populous nation.

Health and Security concerns are usually handled on a global level and can be referred to as Global Health security. The World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define Global Health Security as the broad range of policies, activities and programs that provide protection from infectious disease threats that may result from the emergence and spread of new unfamiliar microbes, globalization of travel and trade, increase in drug resistance and potential release of harmful microbes from laboratories, either deliberately or in-deliberately. Global health security measures are kept in place to prevent epidemics, outbreaks and bioterrorism. Bioterrorism is terrorism involving the intentional release or distribution of biologically dangerous agents especially for warfare. These agents may include bacteria, viruses, or toxins, and could exist in naturally occurring or modified forms.

Besides Bioterrorism, the present day’s exceedingly mobile, mutually dependent and well connected world avails numerous opportunities for the fast spread of infectious diseases. These infectious diseases spread much more in this 21st century compared to other times in history.  To buttress the intensity of human movement, approximately 2.1 billion airline passengers traveled in 2006. Consequently, an outbreak or epidemic in any one part of the world is only a flight away from another geographic location. Moreover, infectious diseases are not just spreading faster, they are also emerging more quickly than in previous years.

The economic benefits of global health security abound. For one, when countries are protected from disease threats, the environments become safer and the quality of life is improved. Moreover, countries that place priority on global health security are healthier, more stable and prosperous. Pandemic disease threats and unpreparedness can have devastating impact on public health and global economy. For instance, SARS outbreak cost about $30 billion in only 4 months due to the unpreparedness for such an emergency. Therefore, Global health security translates to emergency preparedness, improved quality of life, health safety and more stable economies.