How Schistosomiasis affects Sub-Saharan Africa


What are Schistosomes and How do they Infect Us?

To start, what are Schistosomes? According to Science Direct, adult schistosomes are grayish-white flatworms that are about 7 to 20 mm long. Eggs called Miracidia are released into the water through feces and urine. They hatch and then go onto penetrate the skin of snails.

At an adolescent age the parasites are released from the snails and and are able to swim freely, they are known as Cercariae. During the penetration of the human skin the Cercariae lose their tails and reach adulthood, they are then known as schistosomula.

Schistosoma male and female pair

The schistosomula then enter the bloodstream and come to rest near the liver, intestines or genitals; each causing a different form of schistosomiasis. The worms pair together and mate for life, laying eggs which are released through urine and feces, beginning the life cycle over again.


What is Schistosomiasis?

Schistosomiasis is a disease caused by the parasitic blood fluke, schistosoma.  Schistosomes in Sub-Saharan Africa cause both intestinal and urogenital schistosomiasis. There are five different species of schistosomes but, the two that terrorize Sub-Saharan Africa are S. Mansoni and S. Haematobium. They cause Intestinal and Urinary/Genital Schistosomiasis.

The World Health Organization 2 states that most people are infected through contact with contaminated water. This would make it very common in underdeveloped countries especially those in Sub-Saharan Africa. WHO estimates “…that at least 91.4% of those requiring treatment for schistosomiasis live in Africa.”

Intestinal schistosomiasis is caused when schistosoma pairs come to rest in blood vessels in or near the intestines. Intestinal schistosomiasis often includes an array of symptoms ranging from minor to dire. This includes blood in feces, diarrhea, abdominal pain, further along the disease can enlargement of the liver.

If left untreated schistosomiasis can lead to a painful death. Those infected with Urogenital schistosomiasis face a similar fate. Telltale signs of urogenital schistosomiasis often include blood in urine, fibrosis of bladder and ureter and kidney damage. Long term infection can also result in bladder cancer, lesions on genitals, infertility and death.

How does this affect children?

Children in Sub-Saharan Africa are at a higher risk for infection of schistosomes and schistosomiasis. This is most likely because children are always playing in water, eating whatever they can, and have no thought or care for cleanliness. They may also be affected during their daily lives, usually through washing clothes, playing and taking baths.

Bio-med central 3 informs that school aged children are the mostly to receive schistosomiasis and die from the disease.

School children’s urine and feces being collected to test for schistosomaisis

This is due to the large quantities of eggs and worms found in the overly exposed children. Infants are also prone to getting the disease during their first year of life. The only available treatment, praziquantel, is often used to treat school aged children.

This often leaves children younger and adults older exposed and in danger. Even with the treatment many school aged children do not receive the medication, allowing for re-contamination. The World Health Organization 2 has found that children infected with schistosomiasis have a different list of symptoms than the adults. Children are often found with anemia and both stunted growth and ability to learn. However, if the treatment is given quickly the effects can be reversed, if not they may be lethal.

What is being done?

In addition to the medication Praziquantel, a preventative chemotherapy drug, there are other ways to help minimize and reduce the spread and infection of schistosomes and schistosomiasis.

The CDC 4 warns travelers that there is no vaccine available at this time and lists way they can minimize their risk of being infected. The largest step is remembering to bring the water used for drinking or bathing to a boil for at least one minute to kill any parasites or contaminants.

It is also recommended to dry with a towel if accidentally exposed to contaminated water. These measures are also taking place in countries that have high infection rates, like those in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In order to help control and reduce the number of people infected, there is being extensive effort to remove the snails the parasites use for their life cycle. This has already worked in other areas like Egypt.

To review, schistosomes are parasitic blood flukes that burrow into the skin of humans, living in blood vessels and producing eggs which are released in urine and feces. These parasites cause schistosomiasis, that produces many different symptoms based on the location of the worms. Left untreated the end result is usually death. Children in Sub-Saharan Africa are at the greatest risk for infection. The only treatment, Praziquantel is usually available for school aged children. There is no vaccine yet available. Matters are being taken to help prevent and control schistosomiasis, such as eliminating the snail population where the schistosomes reside. 

1 Science Direct.2015. “Impact of human schistosomiasis in sub-Saharan Africa” Retrieved March 20

2 World Health Organization. 2018. “Schistosomiasis- Fact Sheet” Retrieved March 19

3 Biomed Central. 2017. “Moving from control to elimination of schistosomiasis in sub-Saharan Africa: time to change and adapt strategies” Retrieved March 20

4 CDC. 2012.  “Parasites-Schistosomiasis, Prevention and Control” Retrieved March 20


GMOs: A More Efficient Source of Food

African woman harvesting GMO corn

GMOs in The United States are a controversial topic of interest; however, many farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa have switched over to GMO crops because the potential benefits are so strong. 1 African farmers have embraced the technology that has already proved itself to lower the cost of production while producing a greater yield. GMO seeds tend to cost a little more but they will not need as much tending over their lifespan. This is a great relief to small time African farmers who would normally have to worry about not only the cost of pesticides but the time needed to spray them.

A farmer living in Sub-Saharan Africa has a lot to worry about. With the addition of GMO crops the farmer has a lot less tending to do in order to obtain more crop. With GMO crops the farmer can experience up to a 200% increase in yield, this means that the farmer can potentially sell more products and lower his/her prices so that customers can buy more products (Mcdivitt,2018). If prices are lowered more people, who were previously too poor, will have the ability to purchase the crops. If the farmer Is able to sell more crops and make more money they will be able to spend more money than they were usually, this is stimulating the economy.

Farmers are also saving money of the crops over time. If the farmer has to spray pesticides on their crops 7-12 times during a growing season they are spending way more than necessary. A GMO crop tends to only need to be sprayed 2 times a growing season. This doesn’t seem like a big savings until you think of the size of these farms. If a farm is spraying 1000 plants over the course of a season and those plants need to be sprayed 8 times that is a lot of pesticide used. The pesticide sprayed is only in a fine mist but over the course of an entire field multiple gallons cold be used for each application. When spraying is cut down to a quarter of what it used to be it can translate into huge savings for the farmer.

GMO crops do cost more for the initial purchase and some farmers are apprehensive about paying more for a crop they haven’t grown before. When these farmers see that the potential yield and operating costs are exponentially change they do tend to think twice.


1Bouscaren, D (2016, October 4) Will St. Louis-Grown GMOs Help East African Farmers Avoid Food Shortages? It’s Complicated. Illinois public media.

Mcdivitt, Paul 2018, February 19,

HIV/AIDS Epidemic in South Africa and Nigeria

By Caroline Cooney

What is HIV/AIDS and how has it affected Africa?

HIV, which stands for human immunodeficiency virus, is a virus spread through certain body fluids and attacks the immune system. If left untreated, the disease weakens the immune system until the body can no longer fight off infections and disease, leading to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS (“What are HIV”, 2017)1. Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, around 78 million people have become infected with the disease and over 35 million have died due to AIDS-related illnesses. According to UNAIDS data in 2016, there were over 36 million people living with HIV worldwide, with an estimated 25 million of those infected living in Sub-Saharan Africa. Two countries hit the hardest by the epidemic are South Africa and Nigeria.

HIV/AIDS funding in the United States

For those who live in the U.S., it may be hard to understand the way other countries suffer from diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Currently, there are around 1 million people living with HIV in the United States whereas countries like South Africa are home to over 7 million people infected with the virus. The United States is able to fight diseases due to the amount of funding and research that is performed every year. We often take for granted the health benefits we are able to receive because we don’t always educate ourselves about why other countries are struggling. According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, federal funding for HIV/AIDS rose to more than $32 billion in 2017 (“U.S. Federal Funding”, 2017)2.

New HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths in South Africa from 1990 to 2015

HIV epidemic in South Africa 

With over 7 million people living with HIV, South Africa is home to the largest HIV epidemic in the world (UNAIDS, 2017)3. The man who runs CAPRISA, a major research lab in Durban working to fight HIV/AIDS, known as Salim Abdool Karim, states “one out of every five people living with HIV in the world lives right here in South Africa” (“How South Africa”, 2016)4. Regardless of these numbers, the country has made great efforts to ensure that those infected with the disease are aware of their status and receive antiretroviral treatment (ART). Since HIV is such a major issue, there are three targets countries aim for in an attempt to keep the epidemic under control, known as 90-90-90 targets (“HIV and AIDS”, 2017)5. The goal is for 90% of those infected to be aware that they have the disease, 90% to be receiving treatment, and 90% to be virally suppressed. As of 2016, South Africa has reached 86-65-81. This success is largely due to the amount of funding the country has put towards HIV programs, which has helped them to build the largest ART program in the world and nationwide campaigns which focused on providing education about HIV/AIDS and encouraging more people to get tested for HIV.

Progress made in South Africa

Due to their efforts, South Africa was able to almost reach the first 90-90-90 target, which is for those living with HIV to be aware that they are infected. This is an important step because if they do not get tested, they will not be able to receive treatment. With more people aware of their status, they have been able to get around 56% of adults and 55% of children to be on ART and have lessened the amount of AIDS-related deaths to around 110,000 in 2016.

New HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths in Nigeria from 1990 to 2015

AIDS epidemic in Nigeria

Unlike South Africa, Nigeria has a low prevalence of HIV; however, due to a small number of testing and counseling sites, and low access to antiretroviral treatment for those infected with HIV, a large number of AIDS-related deaths occur in this country. Nigeria has made efforts to increase government spending on HIV/AIDS programs, but has still fallen short as in 2016, there were still around 160,000 AIDS-related deaths (“HIV and AIDS”, 2017)5.

Nigeria’s 90-90-90 targets

A major problem in Nigeria is that many are unaware that they are infected with the disease since there aren’t many testing sites like in South Africa. The 90-90-90 targets in Nigeria are 34-88-81, which is a bit misleading as there really are only 31% of adults and 21% of children infected with HIV receiving treatment. Education is a major need in Nigeria in order to raise the amount of awareness of HIV/AIDS and the number of people getting tested for the disease throughout the country. 

Legal barriers in Nigeria

There are some legal barriers which have affected the number of people who are able to access treatment as in this country. Those who take part in same-sex relations can be sentenced to around 14 years in prison. This has greatly limited access to HIV prevention programming and has caused a great amount of discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

Lack of funding and education in Nigeria

Lack of funding and education may be the largest barrier in Nigeria. While South Africa is able to invest a large amount of money to create strong programs that provide information to educate those who visit about HIV/AIDS, most of the funding of Nigeria’s HIV response comes from international donors. Nigeria’s first 90-90-90 target number of only 34% knowing that they are infected with HIV shows a need for education (UNAIDS, 2017)3. Educating those who are unaware of how HIV is transmitted could have a significant impact on this number as it may persuade more people to get tested for the disease. Also providing ART to all people living with HIV would be beneficial not only to those already living with HIV, but to those at risk of getting the disease as well. Treatment greatly reduces the chances of transmission to others and since in Nigeria there are so many not receiving the treatment they need, it is hard to keep the epidemic under control.

Hope for progress

The HIV/AIDS epidemic has taken a huge toll over the years, infecting 78 million people and taking the lives of over 35 million. While many in the United States have experienced the epidemic, due to a great amount of funding and research, we are able to keep the disease under control. Other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa including South Africa and Nigeria haven’t been as lucky. Although they have been hit the hardest by the epidemic, efforts are being made to control the disease by building testing sites/campaigning to raise awareness and raising funding to allow more access to treatment. While countries like South Africa have made great progress in recent years, many countries like Nigeria have found it difficult to find ways to fund treatment programs; nevertheless, there are hopes to make progress in the near future.






1What are HIV and AIDS? (May 15, 2017). Retrieved from

2U.S. Federal Funding for HIV/AIDS: Trends Over Time. (November 09, 2017). KFF. Retrieved from


3South Africa. (2016). UNAIDS. Retrieved from


4Brangham, W. (Interviewer) & Karim, S. A. (Interviewee). (July 21, 2016). South Africa, the nation hardest-hit by HIV, plans to ‘end AIDS’ PBS News Hour. [Interview Transcript]. Retrieved from


5HIV and AIDS in Nigeria. (March 26, 2018).  AVERT. Retrieved from


Life and Death: Sierra Leone

Mothers waiting outside a clinic in Sierra Leone.

By Cassandra Holden

As human beings, we are drawn to the subject of death as it is an event one day we will all face. However, one circumstance we rarely link with death is childbirth. In the twenty-first century, maternal mortality is at an all-time low and hardly ever occurs in the United States, or so many of us thought. Although the maternal mortality rate in the United States is relatively low at 14 deaths for every 100,000 live births according to the CIA World Factbook 1, there still needs to be a conversation about reducing maternal mortality even further. Especially in countries such as Sierra Leone where the maternal mortality rate is 1,360 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015. That is by far the highest maternal mortality rate for any country in the world. But why is it so high?

Relief Web states that in 2016 there were 706 reported maternal mortality deaths in Sierra Leone and that it is questionable whether this figure is accurate or if the number is much higher 2. Taking a closer look at Sierra Leone one cause is of this health care crisis is clear; there is a shortage of access to care as well as supplies. UNICEF3 has found that many mothers in rural areas of Sierra Leone have an opportunity to see trained health care professionals due to their scarcity. Some never even seek out help and continue to see traditional birth attends who do not have medical or training. When this women in rural areas do not seek proper care by the time it is realized that the mother is in danger it is already too late.

A family says goodbye after their loved one passed away due to post-partum hemorrhaging.

The birth attendants do not have adequate training and equipment, and the closest doctor could be hours away. In many cases post-partum hemorrhaging that is more than survivable if caught early in the US becomes a death sentence for these women. In addition to seeking health last minute not many women find care throughout their pregnancy which creates a potential risk of missing preexisting conditions and makes it impossible to monitor the mother. With severe outbreaks such as the Ebola virus protecting soon to be moms is impossible.

UNICEF is making many strides to address this healthcare crisis. With capital from the European Union, UNICEF has been supporting five doctors, gynecologists, and obstetricians in Sierra Leone. Plans have been moving forward to distribute care more effectively by creating five emergency birthing units and one comprehensive care center in each of the 14 districts of Sierra Leone. Proposals for a free healthcare initiative have also been in the works which would include the distribution of supplies to mothers of children under the age of 5.

Zainab Turay holds here son after visiting George Brook Community Health Centre throughout her pregnancy.

At this point, you might be asking yourself “what can I do?” One simple thing you can do is to raise awareness about the maternal mortality crisis on Sierra Leone. Women all around the globe deserve to have accessible maternal health care and to bring their children into the world without fear. Just by starting the conversation you can help take the step in the right direction.


1Central Intelligence Agency. (2015). The world factbook. Maternal mortality ratio. Retrieved from

2Relief web. (2016). Maternal Death and Surveillance. Retrieved from

3Mason, H. (2016). UNICEF. Making strides to improve maternal health in Sierra Leone. Retrieved from

Food Security: GMOs, Changing the Future of Farming.

By: Parker Kirwin

A big problem in Sub-Saharan Africa is food security. Over 60 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa are malnourished and are facing starvation 1. This is a result of the millions of acres of unused land in Sub-Saharan Africa. These acres go unused because the farmers don’t have resources to properly use them. These include better seeds, plants with higher yields, and fertilizers.

Genetically modified organisms, or as most people know them GMOs, play a huge role in how the farming industry works today. Genetic modification is a process where genes from an outside source are implanted into another organism’s genes 2. They were first introduced into our food products in the 1990’s, and now are in a great majority of our food products.

One of the biggest factors in farming is the yield of the crop. Because of the genes implanted into them, GMOs have been proven to have a higher average yield. The average yield of corn in the U.S. has increased by 37% since 1996 3. The average yield of soybeans has also gone up; increasing by 21% since 1994.

Part of the reason that the yield of plants in Sub-Saharan Africa is low is because of the amount of nitrogen in the soil. It is so low that their yield is only 20-40% of the United States yield 4. In order to help this without having farmers spray so much nitrogen fertilizer that it hurts the environment, is to use nitrogen fixing plants. With the nitrogen fixing plants the ground will be better fit to grow the crops, resulting in the higher yield.

Another major factor that affects how well their crops grow is the ineffective use of part of the land. Obviously this cannot be changed fully, but it can be helped with the use of GMOs. With new plants that have pesticides implanted into their genes, the amount of effort put into farming is decreased 5. Along with making their farming easier, GMOs with pesticides infused into them can make the crops healthier.

A group of women sort through their harvested crops.

Although food insecurity in Sub-Saharan africa is a huge problem, with the help of GMOs it could soon be on the decline. Once the commercialization of GMOs is popularized, the higher yield in crop will help. Along with decrease in labor needed to tend the crops. As well as the better economic state most of these small farmers could find themselves in. All of these factors show how GMOs would help with Sub-Saharan food insecurity.


1.Africa’s Sub-Saharan Countries Face Famine (2016, May 22). Develop Africa. Retrieved from

2.GMO Education (n.d.). Institute For Responsible Technology. Retrieved from

3.Hettinger J. (2017, February 27). From yield protection to yield boosting: GMO crops of the future. Investigate Midwest. Retrieved from

4.Hirschberger C. (2017, April 5). Bioengineering Nitrogen-Fixing Bacteria and Staple Crops:

5.How Will GMOs Impact Our Future?(2018, February 18). West Shore Series. Panel Discussion

Limited Access to Clean Water in Africa Causing Diarrhea

by Lucien Chasse

The Problem

Each year, upwards of 525 000 children die every year because of diarrhea1. In fact, the leading cause of child morbidity worldwide is a diarrhoeal disease. Diarrhea itself is a symptom of infections caused by bacteria and parasitic organisms that are most commonly spread by water contaminated with fecal matter, some of these parasites include: Rotavirus, Escherichia coli, cryptosporidium, and shigella. Unfortunately, there are currently around 319 million people living in Africa without regular access to clean water2

In South Africa, 20% of the children under five deaths are caused by diarrhea3. Tshikuwi is a small rural town in South Africa with a very low employment rate and extremely limited access to clean water. This limited access to clean water sparked an outbreak of diarrhea in 20064. After this outbreak, there was a study to see if the contaminated water and the diarrhea outbreak were truly linked. A questionnaire was made, and forty percent of the households participated. This questionnaire uncovered a few shocking things about Tshikumi: of the forty percent that participated, not one had a flush toilet in their house, they only had pit latrines; their drinking water was collected from abstraction points that were not treated in any way before consumption, and the water that was collected was generally stored in jerry cans for several weeks. Later in the study, a few water samples were taken from the three main water sources. Two of the three water sources had an alarming amount of diarrhea cases.

Young girl drinks dirty water from a plastic bottle.

Water Issue

South Africa is in the midst of a devastating drought that has recently been declared a national disaster. The entire city of Cape Town could be completely out of water by July if the water level in the dams do not rise5. The drought has impacted much more than just Cape Town, it was swept over most of the southern and western regions of the country. This drought has turned a bad situation worse in South Africa because with an even more limited access to clean water impoverished communities will be more susceptible to diarrhea, especially young children6. “…Malnourished children are more susceptible to an infection, and the illness itself causes severe malnutrition once the infection develops into diarrheal disease.”

Member of the United States Air Force tests the quality water of the water using an ultrameter.

The Opportunity 

There is a hope for South Africa, though. Organizations have been making great efforts to design systems and raise money to get clean water to Africa. Organizations like: Safe Water, Living Water International, and Charity: Water. Not only are there hundreds of organizations and governments making an effort to provide clean water to this part of Africa, but there is also an effort being made towards a solution. There are several ideas for this problem, such as graphite coated sand, and bicycle-powered water purifiers; however, one of the simpler solutions just may be one of the best innovations that could be made to provide rural towns in Sub-Saharan Africa with water, the solar still7. The solar still is a device that can be filled with water and left in the sun. As the sun heats the water it begins to evaporate. As the water evaporates the water particles are then trapped in the glass and funneled into a cup or jar for use. While this design has been around for a very long time, scientists today are finding ways to make it large scale and cost-efficient.

While lack of clean water in South Africa is a daunting issue that seems unsolvable, there is always hope. Some of the top minds in the world have come up with feasible solutions that could be made at a large scale to provide clean water to towns like Tshikumi in the very near future; however, with the current state of the country, every contribution counts.




1.Diarrhoeal disease. (May 2, 2017). World Health Organizations. Retrieved from

2.15 Distressing Truths About Africa’s Water Pollution Crisis. (2014). Retrieved from

3.Cholo, L. Michalow, J. Tugendhaft, A. Hofman, K. (April 17, 2015). Reducing diarrhoea deaths in South Africa: costs and effects of scaling up essential interventions to prevent and treat diarrhoea in under-five children. BMC Public Health. Retrieved from

4.Bessong, P. Odiyo, J. Musekene, J. Tessema, A. (October 27, 2009). Spatial Distribution of Diarrhoea and Microbial Quality of Domestic Water during an Outbreak of Diarrhoea in the Tshikuwi Community in Venda, South Africa. Journal of Health, Population & Nutrition,Vol. 27. Retrieved from EPSCOhost.

5.Winning, A. (March 2, 2018). South Africa to investigate water ministry amid severe drought. Reuters. Retrieved from

6.Davies, K. Koizumi, E. Paluch, S. Riviere, S. Summers, M. (April, 2014). Reducing Child Mortality in Sudan by Preventing Diarrheal Disease. The Journal of Global Health. Retrieved from

7.Markham, D. (May 16, 2012). 15 Concepts and Solutions for Providing Clean Drinking Water. Retrieved from

South African Education: Teachers Aren’t Teaching

by Caleb Schoon

The ability to get an education, in many developed countries, is taken for granted. In the United States, for example, children get up and go to school daily without thinking twice about it; however, there are many countries worldwide that continue to struggle with their educational systems despite many attempts to develop and improve them. Ranking 75th out of the 76 countries studied, according to the OECD Club, South Africa clearly shows the struggle to improve education (South Africa… worst education systems, 2017).1

The Issue

An illustration of the variety of languages spoken in South Africa, showing one difficulty faced in common education goals

For many years, South Africa has continued to demonstrate  difficulties in education. One direct result of this is the number of students who dropout of school. According to Holborn (2013)2, 56% of students drop out before getting the first level high school senior certificate . Students blame the poor teaching quality from every level of schooling. Is this even possible? Could every teacher in the school system lack the ability to supply quality education?

The South African government has spent as much as “20 percent of its budget on education, or 6.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) (considerably more than many other emerging market economies) and yet preforms dismally in international comparisons” (Holborn, 2013)2. With all of this government funding, it is not likely that the problem lies in the country’s financial support of education. If the problem with education in South Africa is not financial, the possibility of the problem being centered on teaching seems more likely. In the words of Gugulethu Xhala, a former student from a village in South Africa’s Eastern Cape called Matatiele, “Teachers sometimes just talk about whatever, nothing to do with education. They are not being monitored to make sure they are doing a good job.”2 A lack of teacher oversight is present throughout South Africa.

There is no criteria for teachers to follow which leads them to teach, or not teach, whatever they see fit. Researchers found that, “Course content differed dramatically, with three of the universities failing to provide subject knowledge of English even though teachers with weak English proficiency will eventually use the language as a medium of instruction” (City Press, 2014)3. Because of the low entrance requirements that teachers have, they may not even be qualified to teach, yet still get teaching positions. The regulations on selected teachers needs to vastly improve, and there needs to be a criteria that is set for all schools so that they may grow in student education.

Teacher goes through the English alphabet to a young class

How Will Basic Education Help African Nations Grow?

Why does this all matter? Why is basic education such an important factor for the growth of South Africa? By giving children the necessary basic education, they will have the tools needed  to continue on to either attend a university or get a good, well paying, job. The issue with so many of South Africa’s student population is that they drop out of school before receiving their basic senior certificate. Without this basic certificate, job opportunities decrease, especially those that pay well enough to support an individual and/or a family. A well educated society is necessary for a country to grow. By increasing the level of education, the safety of South Africa — because of financial security — will also increase.

What Can We Learn From This?

The lack of quality teaching that is seen throughout South Africa demonstrates what could happen when there is no common core in a country. Here in the United States, the issue of having a Common Core is disputed. Some people say that there should be a common curriculum throughout the entire country for students, and some disagree. In South Africa, we see what happens when there is no common curriculum or standards. Lacking some common requirements in education causes  students to suffer and gives an unfair advantage to those with teachers who care and are qualified. An educated country is essential for financial stability . Through business, communication, politics, and all form of interactions, if all citizens receive the same education requirements, stability and success are more likely.

Having  an educated population would allow an increase in equality and prosperity. By providing good and equal education for all, not only would South Africa’s workforce grow, but also the safety of the country would increase — including the safety of the  countries that surround it. To conclude, “Basic education should be seen as a primary driver of transformation in South Africa” (DeVos, 2015)4.



1. South Africa has one of the world’s worst education systems. (2017, January 7). The economist. From:

2. Holborn, L. (2013, September 11). Education in South Africa: where did it Go Wrong? Ngopulse. From:

3. City Press (2014, September 7). Bad teachers fail S.A. school curriculum. News24. From:

4. DeVos, P. (2015, December 3). Basic Education: Democratic South Africa has failed the children. Daily Maverick. From:

Why Has Nigeria Been Unable to Eradicate Polio?

by Ben Knoer


Here in the United States we take for granted our health benefits and security in everyday life. Americans rarely have to worry about terrorist threats (in comparison to African and European countries) or diseases that have been mostly eradicated. The amount of funding and research that goes into disease prevention yearly in the US is enough to make sure these diseases never come back; over $10.4 billion has been spent in 2017 alone 1.

The African Country of Nigeria does not have the same luxuries as first world countries like the United States. Nigeria is one of only three countries left in the world that has been unable to completely eradicate Polio; along with Afghanistan and Pakistan 2. It has been a long and difficult fight for Nigeria, a country that had gone two entire years (2014-15) without any reported cases of polio. Considering that the World Health Organization created a program called the “Global Polio Eradication Initiative” in 1988 that was very successful, there must be something preventing Nigeria from becoming completely polio free.

What is Polio?

This is an image of an African child receiving a polio vaccine. They are very easy to administer.

Polio is a crippling, dangerous infectious disease that can cause paralysis and can be contracted in several ways, but can only be prevented through vaccination 3. If treated quickly and effectively, polio is relatively harmless. Almost 75% of people won’t even have any symptoms and about 25% of people who do have symptoms will have very minor ones, like stomach aches and headaches. However, if it is left to grow and gather strength without being treated, it can become very deadly and cause paralysis and meningitis as it attacks the spinal cord. The worst part is that it spreads very easily from person to person contact or contact of contaminated food or water. Polio can easily be prevented with vaccines for children, but countries like Nigeria do not have complete access to these vaccines.


The common opinion, especially in America, is that Nigeria can’t eradicate polio because it is a poor African country whose government is non-existent and its citizens are uneducated. Most people can’t even take a second thought about all the possible reasons that Nigeria cannot eradicate polio before making an assumption. With AIDS being a well known issue among sub saharan African countries, it is easy to assume that these countries are just unable to get the healthcare funds together to get rid of the issue. It is also possible to think that a lack of education in Africa has left their people without any knowledge of how to get rid of these diseases.

The Boko Haram

The most difficult obstacle to getting rid of polio is the insurgency of terrorist organizations, like the Boko Haram group 4. How does Boko Haram prevent Nigeria from eradicating polio? It does so by displacing people. Makinde states “that over 2 million people have been displaced since the onset of the insurgency, including 700,000 people being displaced in 2015 alone”. People who live in these now terrorist controlled areas all across the country “have been subjected to severe rationing of meager supplies of food and water whilst in captivity.” Being cut off from the rest of the world and held to rations that barely sustain life, has led these captive people to develop new “wild-type” polio cases. The development of wild-type polio in areas that have no access to healthcare or liberation makes it nearly impossible to fight back against it. The fact that Nigerian health officials don’t even know that some people have polio because they are being held captive is another reason eradication has been impossible.

Map of Boko Haram’s major attacks and impact in Nigeria

The region of Borno, Nigeria is almost completely under control of Boko Haram and around 60% of its people are out of reach of vaccinations 5. It has become far too dangerous for vaccinators to do their job and get vaccines to the children in regions like Borno. Back in 2012, “nine vaccinators were shot dead [by Boko Haram terrorists]” and since then all polio campaign workers have had to do their jobs without announcing that they are in the area. The dangers involved in entering these areas are so great that Nigeria’s border countries, along with itself, declared a public health emergency in these regions. In the case of the Borno region, the polio outbreak was the result of an old strain of polio that had been overlooked. This just highlights how isolated regions like Borno are. The same strain of polio that had infected hundreds of people only six years ago, is still infecting people up until now; even though a vaccine could have stamped it out.

There is hope, however, as a man by the name of Ibrahim Musa has started fighting back in a way that has led many more to follow in his footsteps. “His latest tactics are ‘hit and run’ vaccination campaigns in local bus stations and along roadsides to catch some of the children who’ve been missed as Boko Haram has confounded global efforts to eradicate polio” 6. He has quite a following as well, with hundreds of workers who all spread out across the country and vaccinate children in slums and alleys. They work to do what the Nigerian government cannot, and that creates very dangerous circumstances for Musa and his followers. In 2013 a Boko Haram terrorist attacked his clinic and killed ten people. At that point the polio campaign were suspended. Even so, Musa and others haven’t backed down and have continued to supply vaccinations as best as they can. It is because of groups and people like Musa that there is a hope that polio will become eradicated in Nigeria.


Polio is a crippling and very deadly disease that has no cure and can only be prevented through the use of vaccines and has been eradicated in every other country except for Afghanistan and Pakistan 5. Funding issues and the insurgency of Boko Haram terrorist group displacing people have made it nearly impossible to locate all children who need the polio vaccine. The World Health Organization and people like Ibrahim Musa have attempted to fight back against both the terrorist group and the polio disease itself. To answer the question to my research, there are many reasons that Polio is still around in Nigeria, including funds and education, but the most difficult hurdle to get over is the Boko Haram terrorist group who have done their best to interrupt the vaccination process of polio.  


1. O’Brien, S. (October 30, 2017). Getting the flu can wreak havoc on your finances. CNBC. Retrieved from

2. Progress towards poliomyelitis eradication: Nigeria, January-December 2017. (March 2, 2018). World Health Organization. Retrieved from EBSCO database.

3. What is Polio. (July 25, 2017). Centers for Disease control and prevention. Retrieved from

4. Makinde, J. (October 26, 2016). Eradicating polio amidst insurgency in Nigeria. Scidevnet. Retrieved from

5. Varo, L. (June 1, 2017). A marathon without finish: Nigeria’s fight against polio. New Internationalist. Retrieved from

6. Webster, P. (May 9, 2017). Fighting scourges of polio and terrorism of Boko Haram. National Observer. Retrieved from nationalobserver

Sub Saharan Africa: Problems in Early Childhood Education

by Michaela Malkowski

Picture yourself as a student. All of the things you had to learn the past years all started since you were a child. Your parents and your preschool teacher taught you all of the soft skills you know today. Those soft skills could include responsibility, using strong communications skills, and problem solving strategies. Each and every soft skill you learned has helped you one time or another. These soft skills are important for a child’s educational future. What are Africans doing to help increase early childhood education enrollment in sub- Saharan Africa?

Parent Involvement 

Having parent involvement in a child’s early education is crucial. Parent involvement is one important thing that is missing in sub- Saharan Africa, that could help improve the enrollment of children in school. Early childhood education is defined as happening before the age of eight, when a child will go through a rapid development of growth.  1 Having the parents educated gives a child more confidence. Parents being involved in their child’s education is very important. Parent and teacher communication is crucial, because parents need to know what is happening in the classroom. Whether their child is striving to do their best or having a difficult time keeping up with the lesson needs to be communicated between teacher and parent. This way parents and teachers can talk about how they can help a child not to struggle, or if they need to be challenged more.

Qualified Teachers

Early Childhood Teacher effectively engages with her students in Ziway, Ethopia.

The most important thing for education is to have highly qualified teachers. We rely on these people to teach children accurately and be able to help them if they are struggling. In sub- Saharan Africa, they are struggling to find enough qualified teachers to educate children. “The educational system needs to find quality teachers, who will specifically specialize in early childhood education.” 2Teachers need to get a proper education and receive a certificate or a degree in early childhood education. “There should be four essential components supporting teacher effectiveness: decent conditions of employment, which includes appropriate contracts and salaries, and prospects for career progression and promotion; good conditions in the work environment with high-quality pre-and in-service training for teachers; and effective management, including teacher recruitment and deployment.” 3 Giving teachers fair salaries and benefits will increase the amount of people wanting to go into teaching.


Education is important, but having a school with quality teachers and adequate facilities needs funding. Having proper funding for schools will help increase enrollment, and children will be able to get the proper education to help them strive throughout their life. The United States is also struggling with funding for schools. “The average cost of the center-based care in the United States compromises nearly thirty percent of the median family income.” 4 Being able to support children who have disabilities and need more help, will increase with time. School supplies, clean facilities, and a playground for young children are important, and funding from the government is crucial for children to succeed.

Multiple governments in Sub Saharan Africa are not having enough funding for teachers, they are trying to do as much as possible. The State of Education in Africa had a conference in 2015 to see what they could do to help solve these problems in sub- Saharan Africa. They are making an effort to help get education for children and to make sure that they have proper facilities and a quality education. The United States struggles as well as sub- Saharan Africa, and could use the financial support. Sub- Saharan Africa isn’t the only region who is struggling with early childhood education, but they are making an attempt to make a change for the better. 



 1. Early Childhood Education. (2018). The National Association for the Education of Young Children. Retrieved from

2. Howell, M. (2015). Early Childhood Education: Helping the most at-risk succeed. The Africa-  America Institute. Retrieved from

3.  Sub-Saharan Africa need new and qualified teachers. (2017).United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Retrieved from

4. Early Learning in the United States:2017. (2017). Center for American Progress. Retrieved from

Child Marriage in Africa 

Image of a young wife with baby.

The idea of girls as young as 10 being sent off to become wives may seem hard to believe, but in certain parts of Africa [such as sub-Saharan Africa’s rural patriarchies] the marrying off of daughters at very young ages is common practice that is thought of as normal in some cultural groups.Such was the case for a shy 11 year old girl named Mwaka, who was sent to become a second wife to a man who was three decades her senior. Why does this happen? Poverty is most often the ruling cause. In Mwaka’s case, her father traded her for 2,000 kwacha (about $16) to feed his family. Thankfully though for Mwaka, her father paid back the 2,000 kwacha and brought her back home after hearing the police could come and arrest him.

However, such positive outcomes are not common for many other young wives in these regions of Africa. Mary, for example, married when she was only 14, was later severely beaten and stabbed by her husband for talking to another boy.2 He accused her of adultery and took her to the police who then caned her as punishment. In a country that struggles with poverty, “girls are often seen as economic assets…” and this type of treatment is sometimes considered customary and supported by religious beliefs.

Although some laws have been put into place to try and protect these young girls, due to corruption “girls can find little recourse from the justice system…2” Perpetrators pay off magistrates to have cases adjourned indefinitely or continually postponed until the victims become discouraged and stop showing up to court. Religious leaders also use their beliefs to resist these laws and their enforcement. One woman described how her religion in Zimbabwe taught that “…girls must marry when they are between 12 and 16 years old to make sure they do not sin by having sexual relations outside of marriage.” Raising awareness about these issues of abuse and discrimination empowers these young women with knowledge through education. This in turn will provide them with opportunities to contribute to society and provide for their families.

According to an article in the PRB (Population Reference Bureau), low education, high fertility, and poverty that results from child marriage just reinforces this vicious cycle of early marriage. 3 “Education is the most important factor influencing the age of marriage for women.” Parents can be shown the importance of encouraging their daughters to stay in school and resist the influence and attitudes of those who condone early marriage. Also, offering incentives to families who are struggling financially, such as scholarships and subsidizing the cost of education, can help these families with limited financial resources.

For those who are already married, efforts to ensure these young girls stay in school could also be a vital resource to these young women. Providing them the right to full education, knowledge on the dangers of early motherhood, access to reproductive health care, programs to improve their life skills, and services for victims of domestic violence, will help to empower these young women so that they can better their own lives. 

So is child marriage and lack of education for girls just a problem in Africa? According to an article in The Guardian, “130 million girls globally are out of school and 15 million girls of primary school age will never even encounter a classroom”. 4 “Every year 15 million girls under the age of 18 are married.” Just as in Africa, poverty plays a huge role in child marriage globally as well. Parents who cannot afford to send their children to school are left feeling that marriage is the best alternative option. If you look around in even your local area, you may see this unfortunate trend of girls who come from poor backgrounds dropping out of school, getting married and having children at young ages.  We can use the information we have learned about child marriage in Africa, including its causes and solutions, to better educate and empower women worldwide .


1. Lafraniere, S. (2005, Nov 27). Forced to Marry Before Puberty, African Girls Pay Lasting
Price. The New York Times. Retrieved from

2. Smack, A., Varia, N. (2015, Dec 9). Ending Child Marriage in Africa. HUMAN RIGHTS
WATCH. Retrieved from

3. Roudi-Fahimi, F. (2010, April). Child Marriage in the Middle East and North Africa. PBR.
Retrieved from

4. Addison, L. (2017, Oct 3). Educating girls: the key to tackling global poverty. The
Guardian. Retrieved from





by Rusty McGrady

The world population is currently around 7.6 billion with Africa making up roughly 1.2 billion of the population. 1 Food production is an ever-increasing challenge for the world especially in parts of the world like Africa where the nations aren’t as developed as others and they face harsh climates. Drought being one of the major problems that countries in Africa face. In order to face these challenges and feed their people African countries are increasingly using GMO’S to improve the chances of having successful harvests.


GMOs are genetically modified organisms, so what that means is that an organism or a seed in this case is modified from its’ original form to a more suitable form for whatever purpose they desire. Some seeds are modified to be more resistant to certain weed killers like round up, while others are modified to use water more efficiently. Another trait that they may add is resistance to insects for areas that have a high insect population. All of this benefits the farmers and helps them improve their crops yield. “When people refer to genetically modified organisms – GMOs – they are referring to crops developed through genetic engineering, a more precise method of plant breeding.” 2


Monsanto is an Agricultural Biotech company that is mainly known for their work with GMO’S. They have over 20,000 employees world-wide and have facilities in 69 countries. Monsanto is Headquartered in St. Louis, MO (Monsanto 2018). They are also a fortune 500 company. In short, they are a powerhouse of a company on a global scale. One of Monsanto’s most recognizable products is Roundup weed killer. They also sell seeds that are specially designed to be resistant to Roundup. They supply roughly 25% of all seeds worldwide. So, it makes sense that they’d be interested in improving their product for any climate depending on what challenges face it. For southern Africa one of the main challenges is drought. If their seeds are what works best then the farmers will obviously choose to use them instead of another company’s seeds, thus increasing Monsanto’s bottom line.

Maize in Africa






So, to combat drought Monsanto decided to develop maize that would be better suited to the drought affected climates of southern Africa. “Water Efficient Maize in Africa (WEMA) is led by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Key WEMA partners include the National Agricultural Research Institutes in Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and Monsanto.” 3 Monsanto was able to get a lot of support for their WEMA project from other large organizations that the farmers in these areas just wouldn’t of had access to on their own.

References (2018, April 26). Retrieved from

2GMO Basics. (2018) GMO Answers website. Retrieved from

3Edge,M. (2015, May10). Retrieved from













Aids in orphaned African children

A petty officer is helping an orphanage to improve sanitary and living conditions. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class John J. Mike)

Aids in Africa is an epidemic that is leaving many children orphaned.  African children are losing one or both parents due to AIDS-related illnesses.  In a report by BBC news (BBC, 2002), we learn about a child named Teddy, a girl who lives in Southern Uganda. In 1996, when she was 11 years old, she lost both her parents due to Aids-related illnesses, after her parents died she had to help take care of her siblings, but it was hard because they had no money. Teddy says, “we didn’t have money to buy soap or salt. She also had to deal with being picked on by her neighbors, those children are so poor, they don’t even have relatives, they don’t belong…” The Epoch Times  states that “Every 15 seconds an African child will lose a parent to Aids. It is estimated that more than 16 million children are orphaned due to Aids, of which 14.8 million live in Sub-Saharan Africa.”1, which has led to a 50 percent increase in the number of orphans since 1990.

While the parents are still alive living with aids puts a huge strain on the families financially and emotionally. A lot of orphaned children are working on the streets to help their families financially. A lot of families must quit their jobs to care for sick family members, and children will miss school to help the family care for the sick family members and to help with household chores. According to UNICEF (UNICEF, 2006) “By the end of 2015, almost 25 million people in [Sub-Saharan Africa] were living with HIV, including an estimated 2 million children under age 15.”2 In agreement with Avert (Avert, 2018) states that in “in 2016, an estimated 160,000 children were infected, that equals to about 438 children a day. Although more children are getting medicine there is still a high rate of children being infected.

When both parents have passed away, children will live with other relatives or be put into the foster system. Orphaned children are considered a burden and that they have no value on life. Avert (Avert, 2018) reports that “120,000 children have died due to Aids-related illnesses in 2016.” It is estimated that there are 328 deaths daily.

Because of Africa being such an impoverished continent, they are at a greater risk of terrorist activities. According to World Economic Forum (yahya, 2017) “…[Africa] is where Al-Qaeda launched its war against the United States in 1998, by bombing the U.S. embassies.” It is believed that people who live in impoverished countries are the root of terrorism. Because of the terrorism Aids patients don’t get the medicine they need because they are fearful of being killed if they go to a clinic for treatment.

We need to find a way to help Africans get the medicine they need so that they can live longer, and we won’t have as many orphaned children like Teddy. This way families would be able to work and wouldn’t be struggling financially, which would lead to Africa being a less impoverished continent.




2Africa’s Orphaned and Vulnerable Generations

<(2006, August), UNICEF website. Retrieved from

1 Chelala.c,(2013, May 21), The Increasing Problem of  AIDS Orphans in         Africa, The Epoch Times.  Retrieved from

CHILDREN, HIV AND AIDS, (2018, Feb. 13). Avert>   Retrieved from

Mohamed.y, (2017, Jan. 13) African countries are particularly vulnerable to  violent terrorism. How to change this. World economic forum. Retrieved from


Malaria Killing African Children

What is Malaria?

Malaria is a deadly mosquito transmitting disease which kills hundreds of thousands of people throughout Africa and the world. Malaria gets into ones bloodstream and can cause many symptoms including death. This disease infects all people but its most common victims are in Sub Saharan Africa, especially young children. 

How many affected

Malaria deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa are greater than all other malaria deaths in other countries put together. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention1 in 2016 there were 400,500 reported deaths just in Africa with most of those being children. The World Health Organization2 explained that children are so young that there body hasn’t formed a strong enough immune system to try and fight against the infection. Out of those 400,500 deaths occurring from malaria, 285,000 of them were children who weren’t able to make it to their 5th birthday.



African child suffering from symptoms of malaria

Symptoms of malaria start off very similar to symptoms of the flu. The starting symptoms are high temperatures, low blood pressure, perspiration, a rapid heart and respiration rate1. The symptoms escalate to vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle weakness. The problem with these symptoms is that they are so common to other diseases that it’s hard to treat without medical technology on hand. These symptoms don’t show till 9-14 days of being infected, this is quicker for children which is why their mortality rate is much higher than adults. If not caught early you will experience hypoglycemia, anemia, neurological effects, enlarged spleen and liver, and eventually death.



What some may not know is that there is a medicine to treat malaria once you are infected; so why are people still dying? The trouble is diagnosing these children before the disease overtakes them and they are to far gone. This disease in children deteriorates more rapidly than adults, causing the window for diagnosing to shrink and lowering the survival rate2. The most effective way to see if someone is infected with malaria is to put their blood under a microscope to see if the red blood cells are infected2. The problem with this is that there are too many people and not enough microscopes or professionals knowing how to work them.



Thought there is a treatment for malaria since diagnosing is so difficult the disease may be too far gone to treat. In African countries where malaria is most common many specialists believe that giving every sick kid even without a proper diagnosis, the medicine to treat them will prevent the spread of malaria. In certain medicines scientists haven’t yet found a way to create a dosage safe for children, instead they divide the adult tablets which can lead to inaccurate dosing2. Having too little or too much of a medicine could cause the drug to not work as efficiently as it should. These patients already have to worry about malaria killing them, they shouldn’t have to worry about the drug that is supposed to save them.

U.S. Army medical researchers take part in World Malaria Day buy performing quick diagnostic tests.


How we can help

One of the main ways to tackle this problem is to further advance technologies in diagnosing malaria. Even though the advances in diagnosing have excelled in the last 10 years with 216 million cases in 2016 and only 445,000 deaths in 2017. The number you should be looking at is 445,000, that is still hundreds of thousands of lives we can try to save(The Burden,2003). By getting more technology such as microscopes and scientific lab equipment to those countries with high malaria mortality rates the effectiveness of diagnosing malaria will increase. This means that small window of diagnosing in children won’t seem so impossible to handle. These diagnosing tests should be available within communities and mostly schools to catch this disease before it progresses within its victim. Training scientists and healthcare professionals on how to use these machines will also help speed the diagnostics process.

Malaria is a deadly disease which kills hundreds of thousands of people, but that’s not something we should accept, it’s something we should fix. If you’re interested in helping visit to see what you can do.

Work Cited

1.Center for Disease Control; Malaria, (2018, April 25), Retrieved from

2.World Health Organization; Malaria, (2018, April 20), Retrieved from

The Burden of Malaria in Africa, (2003), The Africa Malaria Report, Retrieved from

Diamond Mining in Southern Africa

Diamond Mining in Southern Africa
Camerin Carson

A group of miners in Kailo, with children among the workers, as posted on Flickr, a photographer blogging website

The clanking of pickaxes and the rough sounds of engines fill the hot, arid air with a message; time to go to work. The diamond industry is a very popular, and surprisingly profitable one at that. The popularity of diamonds in the western world as a sign of wealth or status has made it really easy to find and mine gem into a powerhouse for both the entirety of southern Africa’s economy, and the funding of rebel groups within. The value of the diamond has also brought to light the use of unethical methods of obtaining these diamonds; slave labor.

Where and How? 

According to the World Press, a non-profit news website, around 65% of the world’s diamond supply comes from southern Africa1, and where there are diamonds to be found, there is to be seen infrastructure, health care, education, particularly from the mines of Botswana. And while countries like Botswana, whom have a stable governments to support this type of revenue, there is a flip side to this coin. Blood diamonds, or conflict diamonds, are diamonds that have been mined by rebels and/or corrupt governments who sell these diamonds and then use the money to fund military operations and weaponry. The process of mining these types of diamonds is often through the use of slave labor of men, women, and children while under inhumane conditions. Due to these conditions, The Kimberley Process (KP) was formed by the United Nations to determine whenever or not a diamond was mined legitimately or if it was a conflict diamond. But, some countries, like zimbabwe, have twisted the rules of what it means to be a conflict diamond. Since the KP define a conflict diamond to be mined by a rebel or terrorist organization, zimbabwe’s military presence and misconduct of the the workers at the mines does not violate any mandates of the KP, effectively allowing them to trade with the other members of the KP, such as the big, technological powerhouses of the world: U.S, U.K, and so on.

Usage and Verification

The usage of diamonds is quite important in today’s technology, such as modern cutting, polishing and grinding, as pointed out by Chamber of Mines in South Africa2, without the huge diamond reserves in Africa, technology would be struggling to advance forward at the pace it currently is, and limiting humans to expand their knowledge. But not all of the diamonds are validated by KP standards. A survey made by the Amnesty International survey showed that about 83 percent of U.S jewelers say that their customers “rarely or never” ask about the source of their diamonds and that 56 percent of jewelry do not audit their diamonds to see if they are conflict diamonds, and the ones that do use the KP certification3. Because most jewelers don’t audit to check the legitimacy of their diamonds, they may have purchased from unethical operations and funded either a rebel group or a terrorist organization, both of which break UN policies.

Diamonds are both a sin and a blessing. On one hand, they offer technological advances, help fund functioning, non corrupt governments and allow its citizens to succeed. On the other hand they fund rebel/terrorist groups, cause unethical treatment of humans, and promote the greediness of companies. But you, the consumers, have the power to ask jewelers where there diamonds come from and if they are KP certified, and if your are not happy with diamonds, you can use another type of gem for the occasion instead, like sapphire, ruby, or emerald.


1.3. Diamonds. (2017,31). Chamber Of Mines of South Africa. Retrieved from

2. Schure, T. (2010, May 14). Blood Diamonds: Still Bloody. World Press Organization. Retrieved from

“The Worst Form of Child Labor” in the Cocoa Industry

Cocoa beans in the hands of a farmer.

Anya Stakenas

Chocolate is a sweet that comes in many different varieties and forms. It is a treat that Americans often take for granted, but in places where it is produced, this commodity is nothing more than a burden and curse. Much of the world’s cocoa is produced in sub-Saharan Africa, and in many places this luxury is forcing children to undergo “the worst form of child labor”.

Definition of “The Worst Form of Child Labor”

“The worst form of child labor” is a term that is used in only the most extreme circumstances. By definition it is slavery in every form, work which a child could have their morals, safety and health harmed, using a child for illegal activities and using a child for prostitution or anything that is remotely sexual.1 Because of the low prices that African cocoa farmers are being paid, they use underage children in order to have competitive prices.2 These children are being taken from their homes or sold to farmers by relatives. They work in unbearable conditions and many hours a day. Children have been found to be between the ages of 12 and 16 but some have been found to be as young as 5 years of age. Many of these children work at these farms until adulthood, never knowing a life outside of the cocoa farms.

The Conditions that the Children have to Work and Live in

The children that work on the cocoa farms have many struggles that they are forced to face. Cocoa plants that are about three to four years old reach heights of about five feet tall.3 Young children have to climb up these plants and cut down the cocoa pods with a machete as their tool.4 There are many dangers that come with children using such a sharp tool. They run the risk of severely wounding themselves. After the cocoa pods have been cut down, the children force the pods open with the same machete. If the child’s hand happens to slip during this process they could lose an appendage.2 Sharp tools are not the only hazards that these kids face working on cocoa farms. To keep pests away that would destroy a harvest, they spray the fields with chemicals.4 During the process of spraying the cocoa fields, children use no sort of protection from the harmful pesticides. Without proper protection the children are susceptible to respiratory diseases and infections. Children face a variety of hazards while producing cocoa, including dangerous tools and pesticides that can hinder their health in a major way.2

The Cocoa Supply and it’s Statistics

The cocoa in Africa makes up for 70% of the world’s cocoa and is supplying the world by unethical methods.2 So large companies such as Hershey’s, Mars, and Nestle are all importing cocoa from West-African farmers that use slave and child labor to harvest and gather cocoa. Cocoa farms use slave labor from children that are between the ages 12 and 16. About 40% of children working in the farms are not enrolled in any schools and only 5% are paid for their work.4 Companies that produce chocolates from the cocoa that they buy from sub-saharan Africa never state on their packages where they import from. So it is hard to tell if your purchases are harming someone across the globe. They state on their packages that their imports are ethical but taking other measures they could be using a loophole. This is a factor that consumers should take into consideration before purchasing chocolate.


Chocolate is something that Americans love and the industry is huge, but the people that these companies import their cocoa from are unethical. Much of the world’s cocoa is produced in sub-saharan Africa, and in many places this luxury is forcing children to undergo “the worst form of child labor”. Little is being done by companies to stop this injustice but spreading awareness can bring about a change in this cycle of pain and torture in children’s lives.


1International Labour Organization. The Worst Forms of Child Labor, Education and Violent  Conflict. (2010). United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Retreived from

2International Labour Organization. The Worst Forms of Child Labor, Education and Violent  Retrieved from

3Grant A., Cocoa Tree Seeds: Tips On Growing Cacao Trees. (April 4, 2018). Gardening Know How, Retrieved from

4Child Labour In The Cocoa Farms Of Ivory Coast And Ghana. (2016). Global March, Retrieved from

Sub-Saharan Education: A Textbook Epidemic

By: Hannah Jaworski

From Ghana to Mozambique, students are struggling due to the scarcity of textbooks.1 This unavailability is greatly contributing to the illiteracy of many young African students across sub-Saharan Africa; it is a problem best understood through the explanation of the current situation, how it was caused, and the role textbooks can potentially play in the classroom.
Continue reading Sub-Saharan Education: A Textbook Epidemic

Zika Virus: A concern in Sub-Saharan Africa?

By Stacy Ford

Millions of mosquitoes have been released in South Miami to combat Zika. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION

7,557 suspected cases of Zika in Sub-Saharan Africa, specifically in Cabo Verde as of May 8th, 2016 according to the World Health Organization (WHO).1 Zika is now spreading worldwide, but is most prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Pacific Islands, Central America and South America.

Where did the Zika Virus come from?
This virus was first discovered in a Rhesus monkey in the Zika forest of Uganda in 1947, making the virus native to Sub-Saharan Africa. The first human case of Zika was reported in 1952 in Nigeria. Between 1952 and 2007 there are only fourteen documented cases of the virus being found in humans. Both Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitos are responsible for the transmission of the virus.

What is Zika?
Zika is a mosquito-born Flavivirus. It is typically transmitted by bites received from the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitos, but can also be transmitted through sex, blood transfusions and from a pregnant mother to her fetus. Most people who get the virus do not experience symptoms or even know that they have the virus and therefore causing many individuals to be misdiagnosed.

 The Risk of Zika 
The Zika virus is still prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa. There are numerous reasons for widespread transmission; including mosquitos that transmit the virus are native to Africa. Other reasons the virus is so widespread is due to cross-border mosquito movement between countries and militia groups attacking healthcare workers causing a shortage of medical personal. In addition, there is a lack of education to the people of Africa. There is risk for more outbreaks in Sub-Saharan Africa and other third world countries that do not have access to or receive the government assistance and funding they need.

The good news for the people of Africa and the rest of the world is that once a person gets the virus they build up immunity to it, thus decreasing the chance of reoccurrence. With better education, access to healthcare, funding and security help from countries in Europe and the United States, Sub-Saharan Africa could better be able to control the epidemics and may even find a way to stop the spread of Zika.

1.World Health Organization. (N.D.). WHO confirms Zika virus strain imported from the Americas to Cabo Verde.
Retrieved from
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Zika Virus Overview.
Retrieved from
Baraka, V. & Kweka, E. J. (2016). The Threat of Zika Virus in Sub-Saharan Africa – The Need to Remain Vigilant. Frontiers in Public Health.
Retrieved from
Gather, D. & Kohl, A. (2016). Zika Virus: a previously slow pandemic spreads rapidly through the Americas. Journal of General Virology.
Retrieved from
Gramer, R. (2017). The Zika virus just quietly spread to West Africa. Standard-Examiner.
Retrieved from
Gyawali, N., Bradbury, R. S. & Taylor-Robinson, A. W. (2016). The global spread of Zika virus: is public and media concern justified in regions currently unaffected? Infectious Diseases of Poverty.
Retrieved from
Renwick, D. (2016). The Zika Virus. Council on Foreign Relations.
Retrieved from
Whittington, K. T. (2016). How War and Crisis Help Spread Diseases Like Zika. The National Interest.
Retrieved from
Ziegler, A. (2016). Will Africa Suffer Zika’s Bite?. Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Retrieved from


Out of School Numbers are on the Rise for African Women

by Karsyn Alexander

Take a minute to reflect your time spent in school classrooms or just obtaining information from others in general. Whether you enjoy it or not, you have learned something. Chances are that you have spent a large majority of your life furthering your education. Could you imagine this luxury taken away from you? Can you imagine waking up without a resource for learning? As a teenage American girl who has attended school for the past ten plus years, I couldn’t comprehend what it would be like without schooling. “Across Africa, 28 million girls between the ages of 6-15 are not in school and many will never even set foot in a classroom.”1 Everyday, there are girls being forced to give up their right to an education due to the effects of poverty.

Mothers’ Associations speak out to keep girls in school.

The Obstacles 

There are multiple factors as to why younger women are continuously giving up their opportunity to attend school in Africa. Such factors include the resources available, at home responsibilities, and fear of attending school in general. The more knowledgeable women have a more successful life. “More educated women tend to be healthier, earn more income, have fewer children, and provide better health care and education to their own children, all of which can lift households out of poverty.”1

Any girl marrying at the ages of 15-16 has absolutely no chance at completing a secondary school education. Early pregnancies, rape, and harassment create a huge burden on the girls. “Across 18 of the 20 countries with the highest prevalence of child marriage, girls with no education were up to six times more likely to marry than girls with high school education.”2 

“Poor families, are forced to send boys to school while keeping the girls at home helping with chores in the belief that they are lessons to learn how to keep a family.”3 Through different studies, we have been able to conclude that even though more girls will enroll, their chances of dropping out are significantly higher than boys. According to the UNESCO, “Reasons behind the declining enrollment for girls include sagging global economic growth, increased emergency situations, proliferation of conflicts, and rapid population growth.”3

A couple of girls in Mali sharing a desk and textbook due to the lack of resources within the classroom.

Not only does the exterior environment and culture play a large part in this issue. The individual classrooms, resources, and even necessities are in poor condition. On average, there are 50 kids within a room. In addition to the large amount of students, there is a major demand for more teachers who are qualified for the positions. Students are asked to share materials like books and papers. Most schools are buildings without toilet facilities, drinkable water, or even electricity. The different disadvantages within the African school systems are more than just background issues, it is the availability and conditions we have to consider as well.

The Realization

“Africa has the world’s lowest secondary school enrollment rates.”4 Several of Africa’s children that are out of school are either living in conflict zones, in camps for displaced people in their home country, or living as refugees. It’s good to note how much the school is actually teaching the students, although there is a higher percentage than not of women able to experience this benefit. In South Africa, “One-third of children fall below the learning threshold… predominantly low-income black and mixed race children.”4 Half of the students in fifth grade classrooms are unable to perform basic literacy and numeracy tasks. The school systems in Africa are affected by the social and economic environments. 

The Impact of Women

Zalimba Village, student showing her excitement when holding school reading materials.

Women are seen as powerful and inspiring throughout many different countries. No matter where or when, children will look up to the women in their lives and see a strong and independent person. The things that make these women even stronger is their intelligence. Without an education or form of gaining knowledge, their confidence drops and they lose hope. Gender roles and household poverty force the girls out of school and into their home employment rather than expanding their knowledge. No matter how we as Americans determine the need throughout African schools, there will always be a new and upcoming situation that needs to be established.


1. Mundy, K, Costin, C. and Montoya, S. (March 2015). No girl left behind – education in Africa. Global Partnership for Education. Retrieved from

2. Education Plays Key Role in Advancing Women, Girls, and Communities, Report Says. (May 2014). The World Bank. Retrieved from

3. Kuwonu, F. (April 2015). Millions of girls remain out of school. African Renewal. Retrieved from

4. Watkins, K. (January 2013). Too Little Access, Not Enough Learning: Africa’s Twin Deficit in Education. Brookings. Retrieved from


Guinea-Worm: Making Medical Strides in Africa

By Noah Cameron

Imagine going several weeks with a meter-long nematode dangling from a blister on your leg. This was a painful reality for many millions of Africans before the outside efforts intervened. The history of Guinea-Worm, a once crippling parasite, is an excellent example of what cooperation and focus can do to fix African health problems. In the 1980s, over 3 million people were infected with the parasite per year; In 2016 only 26 cases were recorded. 3 In less than 40 years, several groups including the CDC, the Carter Center, The World Bank, and more, were able to bring us closer than ever to eradicating this disease 8. If this amount of progress can be made with guinea-worm, imagine what could be done with other preventable diseases in Africa.

What is guinea-worm? Guinea-worm disease, also known as dracunculiasis, is when people drink unclean water that contains guinea-worm larvae. The larvae incubates in their body for about a year before showing symptoms. After this time, it may cause a painful blister on lower extremities where the meter-long worm emerges over the course of a week or so. This can be accompanied by vomiting and dizziness and it is very rare for this disease to be lethal 5. It may also be hard for the person to walk or do work. Although it might not seem like a big deal, with over 3 million people infected per year in the 1980s, many were out of work and could not provide food for their families, leading to greater problems.

Guinea-worm was mostly in Africa and somewhat in Asia and India 7. According to the Carter Center, in 2002, Sudan alone was responsible for nearly ¾ of all reported cases. Although somewhat easily preventable, there was not enough knowledge and healthcare accessibility to deal with the parasite. As of today, “Guinea worm disease is set to become the second human disease in history, after smallpox, to be eradicated. It will be the first parasitic disease to be eradicated and the first disease to be eradicated without the use of a vaccine or medicine”2.

Many groups took part in the rather hasty eradication of the disease. One of the leaders, the Carter Center, had the strategy of, “ [working] with ministries of health to stop the spread of Guinea worm disease by providing health education and helping to maintain political will” 2*. They called their effort, “The Guinea Worm Eradication Program,” and it primarily wiped out the disease through community-based programs to educate people on the importance of filtering all drinking water and by preventing transmission by keeping the infected away from water sources. Through these types of simple yet effective efforts, the disease has declined to a mere 26 cases in 2016.

Although Guinea-worm is nearly eradicated today, amoebic dysentery is still a problem.  According to Leonila Dans of the National Institute of Health,  “Entamoeba histolytica(The parasite responsible for much of the dysentery in South Africa)… is transmitted in areas where poor sanitation allows contamination of drinking water and food with faeces.” This is astonishingly similar to the issue with the guinea-worm. “ In these areas, up to 40% of people with diarrhoea may have amoebic dysentery”4. Since this disease and the guinea-worm are both water borne parasites, it is likely that it could be eradicated with similar efforts to those used to eradicate guinea-worm.

Obviously guinea-worm and amoebic dysentery aren’t the only water borne diseases in South Africa. If we can eradicate guinea-worm through simple efforts, imagine how many other diseases like guinea-worm can be dealt with in a similar way. It is possible that through humanitarian and political efforts similar to those done by the Carter Center, we can work on wiping out more African diseases and improve health standards everywhere.

           Figure 1: A man pulls a guinea-worm from a blister on his foot.6



Berman, J. (2009, October 29). WHO: Waterborne Disease is World’s Leading Killer. Voice of America News. Retrieved from 2005-03-17-voa34-67381152/274768.html

2 2*Carter Center. (2018). Guinea worm eradication program. Retrieved from

3Carter Center. (n.d.). Distribution by country of 49,886 indigenous cases of dracunculiasis reported during 2002. [Graph]. Retrieved from https://www.cartercenter .org/documents/nondatabase/graph.pdf

4Dans, L. (2007, January 1). Amoebic Dysentery. National Institute of Health. Retrieved from  

5Greenaway, C. (2004, February 17). Dracunculiasis (guinea worm disease). National Institute of Health. Retrieved from

6Hayden, M. (2009, March 30). [Photograph]. Retrieved from   

7Sharma, R. (2000, March 11). India eradicates guinea worm disease. National Institute of Health. Retrieved from

8World Health Organization. (2014). The health of the people: what works: the African regional health report 2014. Retrieved from


The Truth Behind Chocolate

By Allison Janowiak

There is one thing almost everyone can agree on; chocolate is delicious. It is a product that people all around the world love, causing it to be over a $60 billion industry 1 It is placed at a high demand with a low price. If people knew where chocolate came from, would they still want it so much? 70% percent of the world’s cocoa is grown in Ghana and on the Ivory Coast and is harvested by child laborers, slaves, and through the use of human trafficking.

Cocoa beans ready to be exported.

How and why do children enter the industry?
The cocoa industries in Ghana and the Ivory Coast in Africa have become some of the worst cases of child labor and slave labor seen in the world. Some children are sold to cocoa farms for approximately $30 by their family because of poverty, unaware of the terrible conditions.1 Some even choose to work there to help support their family. Other children are stolen from nearby, poorer countries, such as Burkina Faso and Mali, never able to see their families again.

A typical day for the workers
The typical day on a cocoa farm consists of working from 6 a.m. until dusk. Children use dangerous tools, such as chainsaws and machetes.1 The children climb cocoa trees to cut down bean pods, then pack them into heavy sacks that are carried across the forest. After this, they have to pry open the pods with a machete to access the cocoa beans. If the children don’t work to their supervisor’s liking, they are often punished and get whipped. At the end of the day, the children are sent to small buildings where they sleep on wooden boards and have no access to clean water or bathrooms. They eat inadequate foods causing malnourishment. These conditions aren’t safe or healthy for children and aren’t worth what they have to go through especially when most of them never receive payment.

This image depicts young men separating the cocoa beans from the pods.

When using the machete, the children often slip and cut themselves causing permanent damage to their bodies. In addition to using dangerous tools, children also have to use chemicals when working on the cocoa farms. Children have to spray the chemicals, to protect the cocoa from insects, without wearing any form of protective clothing or face masks.2 Every time these children use the pesticide, there is a risk of things such as irritated skin or eyes, or even creating tumors or cancer. Children on the cocoa farms work dangerously with no pay and virtually no future. These children don’t get the chance to go to school for an education. Without an education, there is little hope for ever getting out of poverty.

Why isn’t it stopped by local governments?
The chocolate industry in Ghana and the Ivory Coast is the main source of income for their communities. The industries have helped build roads, schools, hospitals and more, anything to help the areas thrive and grow.3 Ghana and the Ivory Coast have become dependent on the cocoa industry, while the industry has become dependent on their cheap labor prices. The world has such a high demand for chocolate, yet we want it at low prices. This makes it almost inevitable for cocoa farmers not to use child and slave labor because the farmers aren’t making enough profit for themselves. If chocolate companies would pay cocoa farmers a living wage for their cocoa they could help end child and slave labor.

What can we do to help?
Fair Trade Chocolate is chocolate that tastes just as good as convention chocolate, yet it is better because they pay cocoa farmers a guaranteed wage and don’t use child or slave labor. 4 Fair Trade Chocolate also harvests their cocoa with sustainable practices that are good for the earth. Gaining awareness of the child labor problems in Africa is the first step to ending the problem. Companies like Fair Trade Winds promote and even sell products that are mindful of civil rights all around the world. If society knows the horrors that are happening within the chocolate industry in Africa, they can help make a difference.

1. Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry. (2017, September). Food Empowerment Project website. Retrieved from

2. Toxicity of Pesticides. (2012). Cornell University. Retrieved from 

3. Hawksley, Humphrey. (2011, November). BBC News. Retrieved from

4. Fair Trade Chocolate. (2017, February). Fair Trade Winds. Retrieved from

Cocoa farmer David Kebu. (2018, March). Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from,_dried_cocoa_beans_ready_for_export._(10687070725).jpg

Cocoa farmers during harvest. (2016, November). Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from