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    Remembering Mandela!

    July 19th, 2016

    At AHM, we are celebrating World Mandela Day. This infographic provides information about the most celebrated African in history. Mandela not only fought against social injustice, but also contributed to creating awareness for diseases such as HIV/AIDS which still plagues Africans to date. Today, we celebrate Mandela.

    Nelson Mandela: Before Prisoner, Beyond President
    Source: BestMSWPrograms.com

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    Untested medicines pose risk as healthcare fees balloon in Zimbabwe

    June 23rd, 2016

    By Ray Mwareya

    Zimbabwean healer Martha Katsande shows a traditional medicine in her surgery in Harare (File Photo).

    In May, Anna Muwa, 31, entered a clinic in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe second capital, to give birth, but failed. The hospital needed $US70, sanitary pads, water bucket, and a soft razor to cut the baby’s umbilical cord.

    “I walked out and delivered my baby in a bedroom. My grandmother supervised everything. Clinic fees punish us here,” reveals Anna who sells reed mats in Chimanimani, district over 400 kilometers away from Bulawayo city.

    According to the Genderlinks Barometer for 2015, only 66% of child births in Zimbabwe are attended by skilled personnel unlike say neighbouring Botswana at 99%. Zimbabwe’s child birth mortality rate is sadly the second highest in the SADC region.

    In a move that worsens this scenario, service fees in Zimbabwe’s hospitals were hiked by 100 percent in June 2015. At Parirenyatwa – Zimbabwe’s largest health institution – patients will fork out $140 to $180 on admission compared to $50 in the past. Fears are high – a country with one of Africa’s most expensive clinics may cut off its citizens from formal health services.

    Dr. Fortune Nyamande of the Zimbabwe Doctors For Human Rights captures this fear. “The right to healthcare will remain a pipeline dream particularly for our downtrodden women.”

    The decay of Zimbabwe’s health care conflicts with the situation in its neighbouring countries.

    After Zimbabwe’s economy collapsed and its currency became worthless in 2008, nurses, doctors and professional helpers ran away to South Africa, Botswana, Australia or the US to seek improved job.

    Now, the country’s finance minister Mr. Patrick Chinamasa says he’s struggling to maintain a $4 billion budget and spread money to the critical health sector. Zimbabwe now has the unenviable position of having the most expensive healthcare in Southern African Development Community (SADC) region for some procedures. For example, a hip and knee replacement surgery in Zimbabwe costs $13000 while in Zambia, up north, it is only $4500. For one to receive a cataract eye surgery in Zimbabwe, $1775 must be produced. Next door in South Africa the same procedure would be carried out for free at a state institution or $322 elsewhere.

    “Imagine as a nurse I’m only paid $0, 50 cents per hour each night I work,” frowned Amos Bonga a 37 year old pediatric hospital assistant in the city of Gweru.

    The country’s clinics gripped the world’s attention when it was revealed in 2013 that a certain maternity was imposing a $5 punishment each time a woman cried during childbirth. The UN says that on average 8 women die everyday in Zimbabwe while giving birth because it costs between $10 and $50.

    Many Zimbabwean women, living on as street vendors feel chucked out by costs.

    “Blood transfusion is $60 per tube. Couldn’t afford it man!” moans Sheila, a laundry lady who was injured a bus accident in January. “I almost died under a hospital drip for lack of money after surviving a bus plunge into a cliff.”

    Desperation in Zimbabwe, it seems, drives entrepreneurs. Unregistered herbalists have spotted a chance.

    Some young women in the capital are buying traditional herbs at the Mupedzanhamo Market, the country’s biggest open air market, to wash away unwanted pregnancies.

    Beauty, a 23 year old student who withdrew her surname because abortion is illegal in Zimbabwe, confesses: “With root herbs I killed off my first pregnancy. Just $29. The taste is bitter but the results are painless.”

    Herbalists claim their services straightforward. Ishmael Makoya of the Zimbabwe Traditional Healers Association (ZINATHA) boasts: “doctors demand up to $400 to perform safe abortions backdoor. Girls seek herbalists. In other words they seek traditional medicine herbalists.”

    Traditional medicine healers in Zimbabwe are lawfully organised under the Traditional Medical Practitioners Council.

    City pavements balloon with cheeky advertisements promising cures for flu, cancer or diabetes.

    “Vagina tumors cleared with one herb mix drink. Phone here….” trumpet the road signs.

    Business is lively, says Sekuru Mbada a herbalist, who only revealed his first name for fear of jeopardizing his medicine business chances. “For leaves to cure syphilis I take $70 every week,” he says refusing to reveal the chemical properties of his medicine.

    The state led National Aids Council of Zimbabwe says sexual infections like syphilis are soaring in the capital, fueled by student poverty and an 80% national jobless rate.

    When challenged that he was prescribing the same medicine for sexual infections and flu, Sekuru Mbada was evasive. “One leaf can cure twelve diseases. I’m not fake doctor.”

    Chester Zviko, an economist with the Zimbabwe Social Mobility Research charity is not surprised. “Street medicines are popular when state clinics decline. Anything like a health relief can be a best seller.”

    Foreign herbalists from Malawi, Ghana, Kenya the continent have smelled the money route too, camping in towns. “Doctor Mama Lee – best from Congo. $230, I remove your Tuberculosis….” read pub wall signs in irregular English.

    Licensed herbalists like Peter Sibanda, secretary of the Zimbabwe Traditional Healers Association are alarmed. “We are losing revenue. Surely. We are losing…”

    In January his organization announced plans to open the country’s first line of traditional medicine pharmacies.

    “Fake herbalists are killing our trade,” he says. He lampoons a poster that claims: “Increase your buttocks. One herb. Results One week! $90.”

    Encouraged customers, herbalists now demand vast powers to write “sick notes” letters for their working patients.

    The National Aids Council obliged, and encouraged herbalists to compile treatment statistics about their patients.

    Confident as they are, herbalists in Zimbabwe still bring resentment.

    “Herbs are good. Their minerals and vitamins revive bodies but we worry about their toxicity levels,” says Pious Nale, a gynecologist in Bulawayo the country’s second largest city. “These guys are not trained doctors. Big dangers lurk.”

    In the capital herbalists selling “vagina tightening oils” and “skin lightening creams” for women are blamed for a steep rise in cervical cancers and other health defects.

    In 2014 the Zimbabwe Cancer Registry said the rise of cervical cancer infection among the country’s black women had reached 34.6 percent. The Genderlinks health barometer confirms that cervical cancer is the leading cause of death among young women in the country.

    There are rays of hope though. For instance, Zimbabwe has achieved near universal knowledge of contraceptive use with 99% of women and 98% holding some knowledge. This is in contrast to the other SADC countries like Angola that has a world record low of 6% in family planning device use.

     

    RAY MWAREYA IS A HUMANITARIAN REPORTER FOR THE Global South Development Magazine

     

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    Is Depression Really Recognised In Africa?

    June 4th, 2016

    By Ibukunoluwa Omotorera Owa

     

    It’s 1:05 on a Monday morning and there’s an awkward silence between us, I can hear him breathing and I long to be by his side but I have to compose myself. I ask softly,   “are you talking to anybody else apart from me”?. There’s a pause, then he replies,  “yes and no, I was talking to someone else before I met you, she said she didn’t want a relationship but got attached and started catching feelings, we quarreled about it and this led to us not talking, it was during this period that I met you. Three weeks into my getting to know you, she suddenly begins hitting up my phone and has not stopped since”. I reply with a simple,  “ok”, trying to conceal the fact that his reply had bothered me.

     

    ‘Chinedu pls, I’m begging you, stop!’. He swerves the car in both directions, then looks at me and starts kissing me, I respond , my lips gently accepting the moist warmth of his lips.  “You know I love you so much, I promise I won’t do it again”, he says. We drive past the toll-gate and head to my place. His car is parked right outside my house; we listen to music and laugh at each other’s jokes, talking about everything. The look in our eyes say what we both constantly try to conceal, the fact that we long to be together, the hope that this might be the one, however, the night is ready to take its leave and so must I. I gently hug him, not wanting to leave his warm embrace, I soak it in for about 50 seconds and then pull back.  “I’ll talk to you later” I say,   “bye”, he responds. I shut the door and make my way towards the gate; I look back for a minute and notice his stiff gaze on me as he ensures I walk into the compound before he drives off.

     

    Lying on my bed, I replay every single memory of the day, how he held my hand like I was the only thing that mattered, how he kissed me like my lips was air and he needed to breathe. The way he stared at me, like he could see his future in my eyes. I have so much hope in him, I just wish he could see himself through my eyes, he would see how much potential I saw in him, the greatness I was certain was in his future, if he could only believe.

     

    It’s a sunny afternoon in Lagos. The sun is so bright and the heat could leave you drenched in sweat after a couple of minutes of being in the sun.  I am laying on my bed with a light vest and jean shorts so short you could see my bum crack. I have earphones on and I’m listening to Miguel’s ‘simple things’. My mind reverts to Chinedu, as I hear the romantic phrases being uttered in the song. I pick up my phone and search for Chinedu’s name in my watsapp contacts. I type ‘hi Chinedu’, drop my phone and pick up a book and read for an hour. I notice it’s been an hour and I haven’t heard back from Chinedu, so I look at my phone, which signifies that there is no new message from Chinedu. ‘He’s probably busy’, I say to myself and keep reading. Thirty minutes into my novel,  I fall asleep. I wake up at 7, the sun had taken its leave and the dark had been welcomed. I check my phone and still no message from Chinedu. I decide to call him but still no response. I listen to music for an hour and slowly fall asleep.

     

    I walk to the door hearing the knock; I already know who the visitor is and I’m filled with excitement, I open the door and she screams  ‘booski’, with wide arms, my lips widened showing my raging excitement. I wrap myself in her arms. Ezinne smells like roses with a bit of Oudh, that’s one thing I had always admired about her, she always smelled so good and I being a staunch lover of perfumes, I couldn’t help but love her for that. We make our way to Gbemi, she and Ezinne exchange pleasantries and we begin chatting. It’s no surprise that the first topic of our discussion centers on men, to be more specific, ‘Lagos boys’. We had all reached the age where we had acquired the expected level of education one would expect someone our age to acquire; we were all lawyers, so it’s safe to say we had exceeded the expectations of the average girl of our age.  “All these Lagos boys are just packagers who come with the ulterior motive of breaking your heart; when they first meet you, they tell you all a girl wants to hear but that same mouth, where all those admirable praises came out from, is the same mouth they’ll use to belittle you when they get disinterested in you” , Ezinne says. I and Gbemi respond,  “yes oh, stupid boys”  and then hiss so loud the maid in the kitchen could probably hear us. We discuss at length about everything, boys, politics, the Nigerian job market, parents and fashion. After about two hours, we decide to take our leave from Gbemi’s house.

     

    Donell Jones’, ‘this love’ is playing in the background and I’m dancing and reminiscing about the good times I had been privileged to enjoy in the company of Chinedu. I remember he had not responded to any of my missed calls or messages, so I decided to try one more time with the hope that this time, he’d reciprocate. I send him a message, ‘Chinedu if I’ve done anything wrong I’m sorry’.  “Mummy, good evening” ; I kneel down to show respect for my mother as I walk into the house. She responds,  “How are you”? ;  “I’m fine ma”, then take my leave. My mother probably knows there’s something wrong  with me but being a mother who grew up with a daughter with mood swings, she knows  not to interfere. I lay on my bed flipping through Instagram, admiring beautiful females and reading inspirational love quotes.

     

    ‘Temi it’s fine, lets just leave it at that’; I read Chinedu’s message over and over again, trying to comprehend what he was trying to convey. Did he mean he was over the little disagreement we had had five days ago or was he trying to tell me he was done with me. I was so perplexed and helpless. I make my approach towards the living room and tell my mom what I had just read, hoping she’ll understand what I couldn’t understand.  “What does he mean” she says,  “I don’t know mummy”. She replies,  “just leave it, you’ve done your part” . I was staring at the TV for about 5 minutes, without noticing what was on, my mind being occupied with what had just happened; I couldn’t understand how someone I shared so much with in such a short period of time could just decide that I didn’t matter anymore. My mom looked at me and at that moment, tears fell from my eyes; she hugged me tight and told me to let it out.  “I lost  my pride mummy”; I got calmer, controlled my anger and mood swings; ‘why didn’t it work out this time? how do I start with someone else’. She embraced me tighter and told me not to worry and that God knows best.

     

    Chinedu is depressed, I can feel it. It was at this moment that I realized that I had never truly understood what he had told me about four weeks ago.   “I was diagnosed with mild depression, I used to cut myself and take weed to feel better”. Those words kept replaying in my head. I wanted to reach out, help him, I just wanted him to be ok, to know there’s a way out but I can’t help someone who wasn’t willing or able to let me.

     

     

    The truth is, I had once ‘been’ Chinedu; we had once ‘shared the same illness’, an illness that comes intermittently, without any announcement and leaves when it wishes. Depression has been defined in the Oxford Dictionary as ‘a mental condition characterised by feelings of severe despondency and dejection, typically also with feelings of inadequacy and guilt often accompanied by lack of energy and disturbance of appetite and sleep’. Some of it’s symptoms are loss of appetite, loss of interest in daily activities, feelings  of hopelessness and helplessness and weight changes.

     

    During my teenage years, I had suffered from depression;  I was never happy with my physical appearance , I constantly compared myself to my friends and other females and this attitude made me oblivious to the blessings in my life, I became numb to happiness; I comforted myself with food. It wasn’t until my fourth year when I decided I wanted an intimate relationship with God and also decided to lose some weight, that I was finally able to overcome depression.

     

    The reality is that depression is overlooked in Africa and in many other countries and individuals suffering from this illness are never taken seriously. The Nigerian Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing estimated that the lifetime and 12 month’ estimates of a major depressive episode were 3.1% and 1.1%, respectively . The mean age of onset was 29.2 and the median duration of an episode among lifetime cases was 1.0 year.  Nigerian society trivialises depression, its preceived as an illness that only affects the western world and that  only the “white people” understand it. Nigerian adults and teenagers are expected to deal with their issues, if they summon the courage to utter the word “depression”, as the  illness they suffer from but the truth is, depression is a mental illness just like any other physical illness and it needs to be treated appropriately, if not, the victim continues to suffer, with little hope of improvement.

     

    Depression can be treated, either with therapy or if appropriate, with medication. The mild cases can be treated with oral therapy, which basically involves talking to a qualified person  about the symptoms and possible triggers, while more serious cases can be treated through medication and oral therapy.

     

    As individuals, we should learn to care for people;  if we notice a change of pattern in someone’s behaviour or a sudden loss of appetite and/or elatedness, we should reach out to ensure they are ok and if it seems they are not, we should try to gently probe further, to find them the help they need or encourage a referral to consult an appropriate specialist. It can be quite difficult ‘being there’ or being a friend to someone who’s depressed because most times, they are not willing to receive help but we should still endeavour to be persistent in our approach to seek them the help they need.

     

    Depression, as with all types of mental illness must be destigmatised and treated in exactly the same was as any physical injury, as this alone, would help to reduce the feeling of isolation of a person who is suffering.

    We all have imperfections and generally, others sympathise and try to help, so we need to strive for the same attitude to be taken with those whose ‘injury’ cannot be seen but certainly exists and must be helped.

     

    Ibukunoluwa Omotorera Owa is  a young lawyer practicing in Nigeria.  Her aim is to raise awareness on depression in Africa and hopefully help people understand and show compassion for individuals suffering from depression. 

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    Daily Foods for a clean Stomach

    May 20th, 2016

    Sedentary lifestyle and erratic eating habits affect our health in many ways and one of the most common consequences is GUT TROUBLE. The ease with which your stomach gets cleaned depends entirely on what you eat. And with a careful selection of foods and drinks, you can beat those bad-bowel-days.
    Wondering what to put on your plate? Let’s start with the Mantra – High Fiber and High Fluid Diet. The dietary fiber improves the transit time and allowed the stools to be fluffy and easy to pass. Here are the foods that help in improving the fiber load of the diet.
    Fruits and vegetables

    healthy food for stomach

    Include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. Even better, choose the seasonal ones and eat them raw. Enjoy the goodness of the whole fruit with the skin. Doing so would keep the nutrients and enzymes intact, as they reach your stomach and ultimately the colon.
    Whole grains and legumes
    healthy food for stomach
    Replace the split and polished grains with the whole varities. Legumes and beans are excellent sources of fiber. Teem-up your regular salads with dried beans, peas and sprouts for improving their flavor and fiber totals. Choose from a variety of pulses, beans and grains.
    It is central to maintain a liberal water intake, to allow the fiber to carry out its planned function of cleaning the stomach. Consider lemon juice, buttermilk, plain milk, coconut water and freshly prepared soups in your daily diet to suffice the total fluid requirement of the body.

    Prebiotics and probiotics

     


    Prebiotics and probiotics are important too. They help in maintaining ideal levels of gut friendly bacteria that help in appropriate digestion and assimilation of the nutrients. Probiotic foods like yoghurt, sauerkraut and kefir contain species of worthy bacteria that improves digestion and hence the gut movements. Include prebiotic foods like artichoke, raw banana, asparagus, onion and milk. These foods support the growth of beneficial bacteria and should be part of a healthy diet.

     

    I hope this helps. If you try these out, let us know if you see improvements in your gut.

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    The AsktheGynaecologist (ATG) project launches in Nigeria

    May 19th, 2016

    

    A new project which will be beneficial to Nigerian women has recently been launched. This project is very important as it comes at a time when maternal mortality is prevalent in Nigeria.
    The AsktheGynaecologist (ATG) project is a program specially designed to provide virtual consultation services to Nigerians who are desirous of having qualitative medical advice and solutions at their fingertips via social media, email, telephone, etc. The envisaged virtual consultations will focus primarily on women health issues and wellness.
    The project intends to educate, create positive awareness campaigns and proactive participation in changing the status quo in maternal health, and by extension reduce the alarmingly high rate of maternal morbidity and mortality.
    The objectives of this project are:
    1. Provide a platform for education of women on reproductive health
    2. Empower women with tools to take charge of their health
    3. Promote gender equality, equity and justice
    I am very excited about the creation of this platform for women and what’s more exciting is that participation is free. All people need to do is:
    Visit their website at askthegynaedoctor.com
    Facebook: AsktheGynaecologist
    Email: Team@askthegynaecologist, askthegynaecologist@gmail.com
    The team behind this platform are experts in medicine and gynaecology. They are:
    Dr Babajide Alalade (United Kingdom)
    Dr Chudi Godsons (United States)
    Dr Lilian Ugwumadu (United Kingdom)
    Mr Francis Chilaka – KUTH Foundation (Nigeria)
    For more information, please visit their website here

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    5 quick anti aging tips: Video

    May 17th, 2016

    By now we must all know that anti-aging creams do not work. In this quick video, i share 5 anti-aging tips to help you look younger for longer. The idea is to focus more on what goes into your body and what occurs in your immediate environment than what you put on your skin. Of course genetics does play a role but environmental factors and lifestyle changes can interfere and give you the best outcome regardless.  Enjoy and share, subscribe for more health tips 🙂

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    Career-Oriented African Women Should Make Health and Wellness a Priority

    April 20th, 2016

     

    April is National Minority Health Month, and while we know the dismal statistics regarding diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other common illnesses that affect Black women, one thing we often fail to consider is the dramatic impact work can have on one’s health.

    According to a recent study, women need more sleep than men because, quite frankly, dealing with patriarchy really wears us down.  The study by Loughborough University’s Sleep Research Center found women need about 20 more minutes of sleep than men because of our male-dominated society. And what could be more patriarchal than the African society?

    African women  not only face the stresses of sexism daily but also racism if they live in the diaspora. In the workplace, Black women are often so misrepresented. Sometimes Black women are seen as the angry Black woman if they make complaint, so often Black women will keep to themselves and try to handle everything without asking for help–to be the superwoman. This is a lot to deal with and causes major stress. Imagine if you are a darker skinned woman and you really stand out in the office–there is no way for you to skip a meeting with it going unnoticed.

    What we often don’t notice ourselves, however, is how that pressure affects our own health. There have been numerous studies that show that middle-class Black career women have underweight babies more often than their poorer counterparts. And these women are getting prenatal care, but it is the stresses of their lives–at home and at work–that are probably one of the causes of this. “The constant struggle in the workplace Black women face is unique. Racism, especially subtle racism, is a special kind of stress.

    That stress leads to particular health concerns for Black women. Among them are heart disease, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and lung cancer is now high up on the list. We also suffer from diabetes and HIV at a higher rate. And mental health is huge. We suffer clinical depression a lot more that other women for a variety of reasons. Black women over index in nearly all chronic diseases and we have a higher mortality rate for these chronic diseases.

    In fact, the death rate from breast cancer for African women is 50 percent higher than for white women. And racial and economic inequities in screening and treatment only exacerbate this. “In the U.S. for example, 60 percent of low-income women are screened for breast cancer vs. 80 percent of high-income women. But even within the same economic stratum, white women have higher screening rates than African-American and Latino women. African-American and Latino women on average undergo more radical breast cancer surgeries than white women according to Forbes.

    There are things that Black women can do to guard their health, even despite the gap. The answer may seem very simple but, know your risks. Know your family health history; educate yourself on your options in regards to screenings. There are different screenings you should have at different ages. Go every year for your checkup. Know your body and listen to your body. Talk to your physician.

    Get enough rest especially if you start experiencing consistent fatigue.  Lack of sleep can truly affect your health. Turn off the cell phone, decompress. You will be amazed at how much this can help. Seek out spiritual comfort if that is something you do; reach out to your family network. Get help if your need help to create a balance in life. Have someone take care of the kids and go to get your nails done or just to take a walk. Work on stress management. If you have a disease then you have to pay attention to your physical and mental health. Everybody has ups and downs but if you have prolonged sadness or feelings of lowness, get help. You can have a great job, a car, fancy clothes, but if you don’t have your health you don’t have anything.

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    What’s stopping Nigerian women from being screened for cancer?

    March 18th, 2016

    By Aisha Mukhtar Dodo

    Screening for both cervical and breast cancer can save lives. Although many women in northern Nigeria know this, there is still reluctance to undergo these important screenings.

    There are a combination of reasons that explain this. These include the high cost of screening procedures, too few facilities, not enough female healthcare workers to conduct the screenings and a host of sociocultural reasons.

    Without Nigeria’s policymakers putting in effort to improve cancer education and change the attitude to screening, women will remain reluctant.

    A global killer

    The mainly rural northern Nigeria, which takes up 79% of the country’s landmass, is home to just under 85 million of the country’s 140 million population. Its 19 states are split between Christian and Muslim majorities, but the north is generally considered more traditional than the south, which has several more densely populated states.

    In some states in the north, literacy rates for women are as low as 5%, compared to the national rate of 51% for women.

    Health care in many parts of the north is a challenge. There is a critical shortage of female health workers in several states. Additionally, the country’s northeast zone has the highest maternal mortality and morbidity rates in the country.

    Cervical cancer, which is the number-one cancer killer in developing countries, is the second most common cancer in Nigeria. And recent statistics show that Nigeria has a breast cancer incidence of about 54.3 per 100,000 people. This is higher than the expected global estimate of 38.7 per 100,000.

    Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women globally, accounting for 16% of all cases. In sub-Saharan Africa, one in four people diagnosed with cancer has breast cancer. And it is responsible for one of the five people cancer deaths.

    The importance of screening

    Detecting cancer early on is important for a better prognosis and survival through timely treatment. Cervical cancer is highly preventable due to its slow progression. Its screening procedures include:


    A pap smear test kit. shutterstock
    • pap smears;
    • visual inspections with acetic acid;
    • visual inspection with Lugol’s iodine; and
    • human papilloma virus DNA testing.

    Similarly, if breast cancer is detected at an early stage, there is a much higher chance of a patient surviving. Screening techniques include:

    • clinical breast examination;
    • breast self-examinations;
    • magnetic resonance imaging; and
    • mammograms.

    Regardless of this, Nigeria has no national policy or organised programmes that promote cancer prevention and encourage cancer screenings for women. Only a few federal hospitals and private clinics have facilities for these screenings.

    In some parts of the country, human papilloma virus screening is offered as part of the national program to control sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS. Free periodic screening services are also offered by some private hospitals and NGOs like the Society for Family Health and Medicaid.

    As a result of this, many cancer cases are diagnosed at very late stages and women have little to no chance of survival.

    Religion and culture affect screenings

    Research shows that in northern Nigeria, women are aware of cancer. They get their information from family, friends, the media and hospitals.

    But they also have misconceptions about the causes of breast and cervical cancer. These include wearing “iron bras”, holding money in their bras and inserting herbs into their genitals.

    Most do not go for screenings. This includes those who are aware of the benefits screenings have in preventing cancer, such as medical students and health professionals.

    The women surveyed had a multitude of reasons that prevented them from going for screenings. Aside from the cost of screening, many said there are shortages of facilities and trained female healthcare workers.

    This is exacerbated by sociocultural factors. In various cultures and religions, particularly Islam and Christianity, a woman’s body is considered sacred and should only be seen or touched by her spouse. In the absence of female health workers, few women get screened.

    Others believed that cancers are punishment from God and that prayer is the only cure. In addition, the availability of traditional medicine also discouraged access and acceptability of cancer screening.

    There were also some that feared positive test results, accusations that they were unfaithful or that their husbands would abandon them.

    Changing the mindset

    In the African tradition, particularly rural areas, people only visit hospitals when they have disease symptoms. Regular health check-ups are very uncommon.

    Women are more likely to have cancer screening if they believe they are at risk and getting screened would reduce this risk. But negative attitudes, such as anxiety, hopelessness and denial of cancer significantly decreases the chances of women having pap smears, regardless of their educationalstatus.

    For uptake of cancer screening to be improved, services and trained health professionals are required in primary healthcare centres in northern Nigeria.

    Accurate information on breast and cervical cancer is also needed in this population. Cultural misconceptions and practices should be addressed appropriately. Campaigns should emphasise and encourage male contribution towards improving cancer screening in northern Nigeria.

    Community and religious leaders should also be involved in designing programs specifically tailored for improving practice of breast and cervical cancer screening.

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    Why Africa can’t afford to have an outbreak of the Zika virus

    March 18th, 2016

    By Prof. Adamson S. Muula

    If the latest mosquito-borne Zika virus breaks out in Africa the continent would be less prepared than any other to deal with the outbreak.

    Zika fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease caused by the Zika virus which is suspected of leading to the birth of deformed babies. The virus is transmitted to humans when an infected Aedes mosquito stings a person. Direct human to human transmission through sex has also been reported.

    The virus has spread to 23 countries in the South American region. Brazil has been the hardest hit with over 3700. Although the outbreak in Brazil has received the most attention, the virus has also since spread beyond the region to the Cape Verde Islands, which are off the coast of Senegal but are not part of the African mainland, Samoa and Tonga.

    There are global attempts underway to stop the spread of the virus. It has been declared an international emergency by the World Health Organisation and the US’s Centre for Disease Control has put out six travel alerts so far.

    There are several reasons Africa is least prepared to deal with an outbreak of the Zika virus. This includes the limited laboratory capacity and a lack of experts and funding.

    Limited lab capacity

    Firstly, the laboratory capacity to test for the virus is limited. Although the clinical features of the Zika virus are known, these are non-specific. This means other known diseases, such as malaria, have some – though of course not all – of the same signs and symptoms.

    That Zika may appear like several other diseases makes laboratory testing for the virus imperative. But there are no widely available tests. This is unlike diseases or infections such as malaria and HIV/AIDS that have clinically tested and approved commercial laboratory tests or reagents.

    Although inferior laboratories are not unique to Africa, in high income countries this challenge is mitigated by sending the tests to a national laboratory. For example in the US samples obtained from suspected Zika cases are now being sent to the Centre for Disease Control. In the UK the agency responsible is Public Health England’s Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory RIPL.

    Although South Africa has the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, which could manage these tests in a standardised manner, several other countries do not have this capacity. Examples of the few comparable laboratories outside of South Africa are the Uganda Virus Research Institute and the Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases at Redeemers University in Nigeria. But much of the continent does not have the infrastructural and human capacity to diagnose Zika.

    A lack of experts

    Facilities are not the only challenge. There is also a lack of proactive national and regional health experts to guide the response in case of any outbreak. This is a gap that needs urgent attention, not only for the Zika virus but also to deal with emerging and re-emerging infections.

    There is much to learn from the Ebola epidemic which swept through several countries in West Africa in 2014 and 2015.

    To effectively deal with the Ebola outbreak, international cooperation and collaboration was vital. Affected national governments, neighbouring nations and both local and international funders all came together to stem the spread of disease. For instance, Uganda and South Africa sent several teams of health workers to Liberia and Sierra Leone. There was significant capacity building which would not have taken place had this manpower not been available.

    The international collaboration continues in terms of searching for a vaccine as well as the treatment and care of Ebola patients. We have learned that fragile health systems are more susceptible to infectious diseases epidemics.

    Another challenge which the Ebola outbreak should teach Africa is that in terms of a disease spreading, no country is an island. While there may not be local transmission of Zika in a particular country, there is no guarantee that a country will not have individuals who travel to or come into it carrying the disease.

    Unlike Ebola where direct human to human transmission through droplets was a concern, it is note that easy to transmit the Zika infection. The Aedes mosquito is needed as an intermediary or sexual intercourse must occur between an infected person and a susceptible individual. Therefore the border control needs for Ebola are more stringent than Zika. A Zika infected individual who travels from one country is more at individual risk of not being diagnosed and receiving appropriate care than of transmitting the infection.

    No unified body

    Unlike in the US, there is not a unified body of health experts on the continent. The available regional bodies such as the West African College of Physicians and the soon to be launched College of Physicians of East, Central and Southern Africa have their jobs cut out already to lead in the health sector.

    The World Health Organisation’s African Regional Office, unlike its Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), does not proclaim advisories and guidelines apart from those decided at headquarters in Geneva.

    As early as July 2013, the African Union Summit identified the need for an African centre for disease control modelled on the on the in the US. Among its responsibilities would be surveillance and response, which would include an emergency operations centre. Although the centre has been launched, it has yet to handle its first epidemic. Until the African centre for disease control is fully active, there is no comparable entity for Africa.

    The re-emergence of diseases such as Zika calls for African states and experts, as well as the international community, to join forces to build the continent’s disease response capacities.

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    3 Super Simple Smoothie “Shots” That Will Make You Lose Weight

    February 19th, 2016

    Sometimes, I get to the point where I’m so groggy and weighed down that I can barely get out of bed. When this starts happening, I know I need to detox and alkalize my body.

    When your body is acidic, those acids build up in your system causing you to feel crummy. Drinking coffee to perk up doesn’t actually help. It’s just more acid!

    Instead, alkalize your body with these simple smoothie “shots.” Here’s how to make them.

    The leafy shot.

    This is perfect for mornings. Blend 2 cups of organic spinach, 1/4 cup of organic blueberries, and a small slice of ginger together. You’ll need to add some water. It’s up to you how much. This smoothie is high in vitamins C and B as well as potassium. You can boost the protein factor with hemp seeds if you like.

    The fat blaster shot.

    Blend a quarter cup of lemon juice, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar together. You may want to cut this one with water as it will be somewhat strong. This one helps boost your metabolism and kick the fat. This is also a great way to start your morning. Slowly drink a large glass of water after consuming.

    The gut flusher shot.

    Don’t worry, it’s not as intense as I make it sound. Blend a couple small slices of ginger, a half cup of lemon juice, and a half cup of apple cider vinegar together. This helps your digestive system run smoothly and avoids bloating, constipation, and other issues.

    Enjoy!

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