Nonfiction in response to Good Health and Well-being
March 2018
By Georgia Bernbaum
CC Image Courtesy of United Nations Photos

Imagine you are sitting on your couch, sipping your morning coffee, and skimming through the newspaper when one headline in particular catches your eye.  The headline of the article reads: Approximately 25 million people affected by River Blindness each year. Curious, you read on, only to discover that River Blindness is a curable disease. Now, the question comes to mind: why hasn’t a curable disease been eradicated yet? There are three main reasons for this: infrastructure, access to healthcare, and geopolitical obstacles.

 

Infrastructure involves the sanitation of citizens and the quality of water. The lack of healthy drinking water is how many diseases are transmitted, including Guinea Worm. This disease is usually transmitted “when people who have little or no access to improved drinking water sources swallow stagnant water contaminated with parasite-infected water-fleas that carry infective guinea-worm larvae” (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs359/en/) This disease is on the verge of eradication, as only 25 cases were reported in 2016. This is a huge accomplishment as there were 3.5 million cases reported in 1986. There is no vaccine or medicine to treat this disease, and the most effective means of prevention is improved drinking water. The 25 reported cases were in only three countries: Chad, South Sudan, and Ethiopia. These three countries are some of the poorest in the world as the majority of their populations live below the poverty line. There is one prevalent concept that comes to light, which is that least developed countries (LDCs) have the worst living conditions which lead to more disease.

 

Disease is unavoidable. There will never be a time of no sickness anywhere in the world. However, most developed countries (MDCs) have higher levels of sanitation and better healthcare systems. Healthcare is the maintenance or improvement of health; it provides medicine, vaccines, nurses, doctors, and hospitals. River blindness is a disease that is transmitted through a blackfly and causes irreversible blindness. This disease can be easily treated with ivermectin, which is given every 6 months for the life span of the adult worms or for as long as the infected person has evidence of skin or eye infection. Like most things in life, this is not as easy as it sounds. Doctors to diagnose the disease and administer the medicine are rare in the places in which this disease is prevalent. This creates the need for aid workers. Aid workers are people who work for an organization devoted to helping others. This could be anything from helping treat diseases to educating girls in foreign countries. However, there is the problem of political obstacles, which are the hardest to overcome when trying to eradicate disease.

 

Two geo-political obstacles that impact the eradication of disease are conflict and distrust. A war-torn country poses difficulties for health workers. Not only is it hard to get these aid workers into the country, but it is even more difficult for them to tend to and vaccinate patients in that environment.  Even if the country was experiencing a time of peace, the problem of distrust arises. Many countries are hesitant to have confidence in another nation. This can be shown with the case of polio. Polio is a virus that causes paralysis. The first polio vaccine was created by Jonas Salk in 1955. Although it is now a preventable disease, it is still prevalent. According to the World Health Organization: “As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio. Failure to eradicate polio from these last remaining strongholds could result in as many as 200,000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world.” In 2011, the CIA organized a fake polio vaccination program in the town that they believed Osama Bin Laden was hiding in order to obtain his DNA. This case led to suspicion between members of other nations, thus, ultimately leading to a decline in the number of vaccinations.    

 

Eradicating horrific diseases like Guinea Worm, River Blindness, and Polio takes more than an apple a day. It takes action-- action towards better sanitation, more accessible healthcare, and more trust within and between countries. Not only this, but also intervention from MDCs and improvement of LDCs. So as you sit on your couch, reading the paper, know that action starts with you.

 

For more information on these diseases and how can you help visit the websites below:

http://www.who.int/dracunculiasis/disease/en/

https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/onchocerciasis/gen_info/faqs.html

http://www.who.int/topics/poliomyelitis/en/

https://www.cartercenter.org/health/itfde/

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