How can disease influence the development of a country?
Case study of malaria in Malawi
Development issues in sub-Saharan Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa is the world's poorest region. Within this region there are some counties that have made good progress at reducing poverty. Countries such as Mauritius and, to a lesser extent South Africa, have seen improvements incomes, health care and education. However, the region has the highest infant mortality rates in the world. These are starting to come down but it is still a key population issue for Africa is to reduce infant mortality and improve primary health care.
Investigating the impact of malaria
Malaria is spread by mosquitos carrying a parasite that infects a person when bitten. It is an entirely preventable disease. However, every year 300 million people get malaria resulting in over 1 million deaths worldwide. Malaria is a health threat in tropical regions of the world. Around 40% of the world's population live in areas where malaria is endemic (i.e. malaria is constantly present) but 90% of deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa.
The map below shows the deaths from malaria. The bigger the country the more deaths from malaria.
Are some people more at risk from malaria than others?
The simple answer is yes. The following groups are more at risk of contracting/dieing from malaria:
· 60% of babies and children under 3 years old
· 12% of adult men
· As children and adults age, they develop resistance to the disease and the number of deaths go down
· Pregnant women are particularly at risk
· 40% of child deaths (under 5) are from malaria
· People with HIV/AIDs
The picture above shows a Insecticide Treated Bed Net (ITNs).
Strategies to combat malaria
A number of strategies have been implemented in Malawi to combat the disease. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted by governments around the world. One of the goals was to reduce the number of cases of malaria by 2015. One way this goal can be reached is by encouraging the use of Insecticide Treated Bed Nets (ITNs). This is a very effective way of reducing incidents of malaria and is relatively cheap. Each bed not costs only £3. However, many people in rural Malawi are unable to afford this. In the last 15 years, the Ministry of Health and charities such as Nothing but Nets, have distributed bed nets across Malawi. In 1997 only 8% of homes in Malawi had bed nets. By 2004 the average was 50%. To maintain effectiveness, nets need to retreated every 6-12 months and this something that is easily forgotten.
Insecticides are sprayed in areas where mosquitos are likely to come into contact with humans. the problem is that mosquitos have developed a resistance to insecticides and they aren't as effective as they could be. Similarly the malaria parasite has become resistant to drugs. New drugs need to be developed urgently. Once a person starts to show signs of malaria, they need to take their anti-malarial drugs as soon as possible to stand a better chance of fighting the disease. Unfortunately, not everyone in Malawi is able to access drugs when they need them This is often because people living in rural areas have to ravel a long way to reach a doctor. Also, because the early symptoms of malaria are similar to many other conditions, people often don't realise until it's too late. Malaria has the biggest impact on poor people, as they cannot afford to buy nets ands get the treatment they need. it can become a vicious circle where people are prevented from getting out of poverty because of the burden malaria has on their lives.
Case study of birth rate controls: China
In the late 1970s, the Chinese government introduced a number of measures to reduce the country's birth rate and slow the population growth rate. The most important of the new measures was a one-child policy, which decreed that couples in China could only have one child.
- In 1950 the rate of population change in China was 1.9% each year. If this doesn't sound high, consider that a growth rate of only 3% will cause the population of a country to double in less than 24 years!
- Previous Chinese governments had encouraged people to have a lot of children to increase the country's workforce. But by the 1970s the government realised that current rates of population growth would soon become unsustainable.
The one-child policy
The one-child policy, established in 1979, meant that each couple was allowed just one child. Benefits included increased access to education for all, plus childcare and healthcare offered to families that followed this rule.
Problems with enforcing the policy
- Those who had more than one child didn't receive these benefits and were fined.
- The policy was keenly resisted in rural areas, where it was traditional to have large families.
- In urban areas, the policy has been enforced strictly but remote rural areas have been harder to control.
- Many people claim that some women, who became pregnant after they had already had a child, were forced to have an abortion and many women were forcibly sterilised. There appears to be evidence to back up these claims.
Impact of the policy
- The birth rate in China has fallen since 1979, and the rate of population growth is now 0.7%.
- There have been negative impacts too - due to a traditional preference for boys, large numbers of female babies have ended up homeless or in orphanages, and in some cases killed. In 2000, it was reported that 90% of foetuses aborted in China were female.
- As a result, the gender balance of the Chinese population has become distorted. Today it is thought that men outnumber women by more than 60 million.
China's one-child policy has been somewhat relaxed in recent years. Couples can now apply to have a second child if their first child is a girl, or if both parents are themselves only-children.
While China's population is now rising more slowly, it still has a very large total population (1.3 billion in 2008) and China faces new problems, including:
- the falling birth rate - leading to a rise in the relative number of elderly people
- fewer people of working age to support the growing number of elderly dependants - in the future China could have an ageing population