Category Archives: Malaria/ Tuberculosis

Botswana Receives First White Space Telemedicine Service to Reach Rural Populations

One of the beautiful aspects of Africa is its beautiful, wide expanses. All over the continent you will be awed by how far-reaching your eyes can see especially when traveling through its spectacular countryside. But as much as it is beautiful, the size of Africa also poses a significant problem because without modern infrastructure, including the Internet, and transport to major cities, those who live in the deepest, far-reaching rural areas are not privy to the best medical care they can receive.

In Botswana, this is about to change.

In partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, Microsoft, the University of Botswana, and other global partners, the Botswana-University Hub (BUP) has launched a new project, “Project Kgolagano,” to bring telemedicine to rural areas in the country to help diagnose maternal health cases as well as HIV, cervical cancer, and TB cases.

Using TV white spaces (unused broadcasting frequencies in the wireless spectrum) Internet broadband is able to reach even the most remote villages in developing countries. In fact, it has been reported that Microsoft and Google are both chasing white spaces in Africa where only 16 percent of the continent’s population is online. This is where solar power can be game-changing to keep Africa online despite its energy shortcomings. Just look at Kenya where Microsoft helped provide broadband Internet in rural areas even when electricity was nonexistent or very scarce.

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New 6-Year Global Strategy Launches to Further Curb Malaria Deaths

Malaria Photo by Paolo Patruno
Photo: Paolo Patruno www.paolopatrunophoto.org

Since 2001 malaria deaths have fallen by 4.3 million. This is due in part because of a concerted scale-up of malaria prevention and control efforts, especially across sub-Saharan Africa. Increased funding has made this scale-up and global malaria prevention partnerships possible, and yet the funding falls short of the estimated $5.1 billion annually needed to eradicate malaria worldwide.

The President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) was signed by George W. Bush in 2005. Upon its official launch in 2006, the primary goal of the Initiative was to reduce malaria deaths by 50 percent across 15 hard-hit countries in sub-Saharan Africa where over 90 percent of all malaria deaths occur. Since then, major milestones have been reached. Malaria mortality decreased by 54 percent in the World Health Organization Africa region and also by 58 percent among children under the age of five. This is significant because malaria remains one of the three largest killers of children globally. Malaria prevention funding also rose from $30 million in 2006 to $669 million by 2015. Insecticide treated bednets also rose from 29 percent to 55 percent.

Continue reading New 6-Year Global Strategy Launches to Further Curb Malaria Deaths

Zambians Head to the Polls: Candidates’ Stance on Health Care

This morning as most Americans were asleep Zambians headed to the polls to elect either the candidate of the ruling party, Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front founded in 1991 by the late President Michael Sata, or the leading opposition candidate representing the United Party for National Development, Hakainde Hichilema. Political observers say the race is close and there is no definitive leader at this point. Polls close at 6 PM Central African Time Zone.

Zambia one of the leaders on the continent of copper production along with the DRC and both candidates disagree about taxing mining companies that employ many Zambians in the Copper Belt according to Al Jazeera.  A contentious subject, Lungu believes the copper companies should be heavily taxed while Hichilema believes taxes on the companies should not increase which could cause mine closures that could in turn hemorrhage workers. As expected, both candidates have promised increased job creation and more aid to poor, rural Zambians across the country, a move that researchers at the London School of Economics say is key to helping elect African politicians. Most African politicians favored overwhelming urban campaigning to curb urban violence during election time, but have quickly learned that re-election proves difficult without the rural vote.

Hichilema is running to increase the number of frontline health workers and to improve training and respecting health workers. The United Party for National Development’s health provisions range from decreasing taxes on health care and medicines and providing free care to poor Zambians to increasing the number of frontline health workers. Of note, the UPND has placed an emphasis on fighting malaria and HIV/AIDS.

The Patriotic Front has created a Health Services Provision that lays out in six parts how the party will improve Zambia’s health care system starting with every Zambian’s right to quality health care. The Patriotic Front is also committed to better education and working conditions for health workers based on the contents of the Provision.  It  also calls for a realignment of the Mother and Child function.

Health care is an important issue for a country that has a maternal mortality rate of 591 out of 100,000 live births (one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world ) and mortality for children under the age of five is 119 per 1,000 according to UNICEF.

Thus far copper mining, which accounts for more than 86 percent of Zambia’s foreign direct investment and has made Zambia the eighth largest producer of copper, seems to be primary on the political agenda. After the election, only time will tell if health care, particularly maternal and child health, can compete with the copper industry and job creation.

Photo: www.facebook.com/hakainde.hichilema

 

 

Photo of the Week: Frontline Health Workers Count #Zambia

Frontline Health Workers

I walked quickly beside Dismus Mwalukwanda on a sandy path bordered by overgrown shrubbery leading through the bush to rural homes outside of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital. Mwalukwanda, 43, is a frontline health worker for the Njovo Village and took me to visit a family whose young children he has treated often for malaria. Mwalukwand is in charge of helping families in his area make steps toward malaria prevention like ensuring the use of bed nets and he also tests and treats patients who come down with malaria. During the rainy season Mwalukwanda, who is married and has eight children, can see 25 homes a day. Read more.

Researcher Advocates New Way to Develop Malaria Vaccine

Currently there is no effective vaccine to protect against malaria even though the disease kills 600,000 people annually and 3.4 billion people worldwide are at risk of contracting the debilitating and potentially fatal disease. 90 percent of all malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa according to the World Health Organization.

The Malaria Vaccine Technology Roadmap set a strategic goal in 2006 to develop and license a vaccine by 2025, more than ten years away. While there has been some successful headway into this effort, all researchers and pharmaceutical companies that work in this field admit that a malaria vaccine is years, probably decades away.

Every year seemingly, researchers report a breakthrough in developing a malaria vaccine. Substantial chatter was made in 2013 among global health experts and the national news that the first vaccine that protected 100% of its test field against the mosquito-bourne disease was discovered. The researchers did, however, use a weakened form of malaria that was radiated and then frozen. While substantial progress was made, it is without doubt that a vaccine is light years away in research and pharmaceutical estimations.

An Australian researcher from the University of Adelaid, Associate Professor Milton McAllister, argued in his latest paper that harnessing the knowledge from animal-based protozoal vaccines will create notable progress in the development of a human malaria vaccine.

“There is one vaccine in development for malaria – but that requires three inoculations and only about half the people vaccinated are protected, and that protection only lasts for about six months”, said McAllister. “Vaccines for similar diseases in cattle and sheep, on the other hand, require only one inoculation and provide solid immunity that endures for more than a year and often covers the life of the animal.”

Cambridge University recently chose Professor McAllister’s research as their “paper of the week”.

“For human malaria, great emphasis has been placed on creating new types of futuristic vaccines using small pieces of DNA and protein from the disease-causing parasite,” says Associate Professor McAllister. “There is a great desire to make malaria vaccines very safe – as they should be – but that approach has just not been effective.”

It may be a stretch to use veterinary science to create a human malaria vaccine, but thinking outside of the box may eventually prove useful. Only time will tell.

Read Professor McAllister’s research at Successful vaccines for naturally occurring protozoaldiseases of animals should guide human vaccine research: A review of protozoal vaccines and their design.

UN Photo/Catianne Tijerina