(Photo: European Commission DG ECHO/Flickr/Creative Commons)
The World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa officially over this past week. The Ebola epidemic that swept through Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and into Nigeria last year highlighted the importance of rapid response, and strong health infrastructure. Credited for halting the spread of the virus more widely in Nigeria was the Polio tracking system and stations already put in place by GAVI (Global Vaccine Alliance). Unlike the surrounding countries, Nigeria was able to use that already existing health care network and alert system to quickly track down possible exposures. Also highlighted by the outbreak was the importance of nutrition in preventing disease to begin with. Well-nourished children have much stronger immune systems than malnourished children, and are more resilient to bounce back when they do get sick. Sustainable Development Goal number two is zero hunger, a global priority since WHO estimates that malnutrition is the underlying cause in half of child deaths world wide.
I knew that malnutrition made immune systems vulnerable, but working with a local non-profit specializing in the treatment and prevention of child malnutrition on a global level has given me new insight into just how critical proper nutrition is for the individual, and the world as a whole. You might be surprised to learn that the second largest producer in the world of a nutritionally fortified peanut paste used to treat malnutrition called Plumpy’Nut is located in the smallest state in the USA. Edesia is a non-profit that partners with organizations on the ground such as World Food Program, UNICEF and USAID to offer treatment and malnutrition prevention solutions to those who need it most. Countries such as Sierra Leone and Liberia had been receiving shipments of Edesia’s products long before the Ebola outbreak, where malnutrition was already an issue for many children before the virus hit. In the countries of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone the compounded crisis of child malnutrition was both a contributing factor, and then a cruel aftereffect of the Ebola epidemic.
Rhode Island infectious disease specialist Dr. Tim Flanigan, who traveled to Liberia in August of 2014 stated that
“More people were dying from malnutrition and other medical illnesses than from Ebola.” even at the height of the outbreak. “ So many infectious diseases are intertwined with malnutrition to begin with.”
The communities impacted the hardest were already fragile when the virus hit.
Dr. Flanigan explained, that the countries impacted by Ebola were some of the poorest countries on the continent. After years of civil wars, the destruction of the infrastructure had already made it a challenge for people to get enough to eat. Hunger, malnutrition, and starvation were already common realities in these vulnerable populations. All efforts and resources available then went to tackle Ebola when it hit, leaving any of the already challenged social services in place, like school meals or vaccine clinics, to flounder. When 20-day quarantines of people in homes with no running water, or electricity, (meaning no refrigeration for food), were instituted in some households, malnutrition rates were bound to soar.
Children are often the most vulnerable population in crisis scenarios, they are at much higher risk of disease when malnourished, even if they escape succumbing to any number of viral threats malnutrition puts them at risk of never growing to their full potential. The products produced in Rhode Island at Edesia, such as Plumpy’Nut and Plumpy’Sup, can literally save the lives of these children. In just 6 weeks on average a child suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition, or SAM, can get back to their full healthy weight when treated with Plumpy’Nut. Last year Edesia reached nearly a million children. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimate is that nearly 795 million people (out of the 7.3 billion world population), so 1 in 9 people, suffered from malnutrition during 2014-2016. The goal at Edesia is to reach as many children as possible to help them thrive, and that means being prepared to react when the need arises. One of the essential building blocks to good health is proper nutrition, and a healthy community is a more resilient community. We saw how effective it was in the case of Nigeria and the Polio network to have systems in place when disaster strikes. The investment in global nutrition not only can help to prevent future outbreaks of disease, but ensure that all children have the opportunity to grow into healthy, productive adults.
What are some of the other lessons that this outbreak Highlighted?
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Elizabeth Atalay who also writes at documama and is the Digital and Social Media Specialist at Edesia.
Many of us might hear the word “cancer” and automatically think that such a diagnosis would be a death sentence. This could be based on things we’ve heard, images we have seen portrayed in the media, or perhaps a personal experience – a friend or relative who has been affected by this “c” word. The truth is it greatly depends on the type of cancer…how early it is diagnosed…and whether or not a person has access to treatment.
In the US, January is #CervicalHealthMonth. Today we are talking it about it here because cervical cancer is an international issue and I’m sharing on World Moms Blog because it is an important topic to me, too. More than half a million women around the world are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and over half of them die from the disease. The majority of these cases and deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.(1) (more…)
This week of April 24th through April 30th as we recognize World Immunization Week, the world is entering an exciting new phase. The upcoming expansion of vaccine programs will build on the momentum gained to this point against the most lethal killers of children in the world. Vaccine preventable diseases. According to GAVI Alliance 440 million children have been vaccinated since the year 2,000, saving around six million lives.
We now have a “historical opportunity to go even further and secure a healthy future for a generation of vaccinated children in developing countries, a generation that hold the keys to their countries’ futures.”- Dagfinn Høybråten, Chair of the GAVI Alliance
Each year this week serves to remind communities of the importance of vaccines and to spread the word that #VaccinesWork. Immunization has proven to be one of the best returns on investments in world health, yet one in five children will still die before their fifth birthday due to a vaccine preventable disease. According to GAVI Alliance there are still over 22 million kids who have little or no access to the vaccines that could save their lives. For those of us with access to vaccines the World Health Organization is promoting the campaign tag line to “Immunize for a healthy future – Know. Check. Protect.” By making sure that you and your family are up to date on all vaccines, everyone is given the best chance for a healthy future.
Vaccine cards have been around for a long time to help families stay on track. These days new methods and technologies are being put into play like the new mobile phone app by the WHO, or the bracelet reminders for the babies to wear in South America being developed by Alma Sana. No matter what the method used, keeping track of immunization schedules is an important part of ensuring good health.
To highlight the importance of global vaccines the GAVI Alliance has shared a photo gallery of vaccine cards from around the world, so we decided to share some of our World Moms Vaccine Cards here for you too. We would love to see yours! If there is one thing we are here at World Moms Blog, it’s well vaccinated! Share your vaccine card with us by Tweeting to #VaccinesWork #RUuptodate #WorldVaxCards, and check out the story of immunisation cards around the world hosted on the BBC.
Do you have a vaccination card for you or your children? If you’d like to share it just tweet or post it to #VaccinesWork #RUuptodate #WorldVaxCards
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Elizabeth Atalay of Documama.org.
Relationships are the key to life…
Lately, in my personal life there have been many changes. And I started wondering about relationships and how much importance and attachment we give to them. And the fact that certain relationships make or break our life.
For instance, the relationship each one of us have with our children as mothers is so precious and may seem to signify the epitome of any wholesome relationship. But what is it that we share with our children that we cherish in this relationship? Love is a very poignant word, and I sometimes wonder the real meaning of it. Maybe it is the capacity to give your life for your child? Perhaps!
And then we have these relationships with our spouses and meaningful others. Other than physical intimacy, emotional attachment and love (again, that word) what else do we share with them? An interdependency, trust, common value system and a few other things like this. But what is a relationship based on? (more…)
Achoo! Can someone pass me a tissue, again? It seems like not a week goes by without someone in my family being sick. It’s ‘cold and flu’ season in Canada, and we sure have had our share. The whole bunch of us went through countless colds, a couple episodes of a gastro virus, and a brush with the flu and high fevers.
We’ve had so many visits to the doctor’s office to check the kids’ cold symptoms (Is it an ear infection? Is there a wheeze in the baby’s chest?) that the receptionist recognises my voice over the phone.
Yes, it’s me again. I’m bringing in this child, this time. No, the other one is doing better now, thank you.
I have three children ages five and under. Someone is always sick or getting sick. We live in the land of the runny nose. Two of my children have serious special needs and they have their own unique medical concerns. So we go to the doctor, a lot.
And we remain grateful. Because all those trips to the doctor do not cost me a dime out of pocket. (more…)