Poor Health in Developing Countries

Developing countries, and most importantly, nations within Sub-Saharan Africa, usually have to deal with issues of poor health among their populations. In other words, the latter is a problem that is more associated with low-income economies than in advanced states. This paper focuses on the issue of poor health in low-income nations, especially countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. To achieve this objective, the essay looks critically into issues like under-5 mortality rates as well as links between poverty, deaths, deadly diseases, and malnutrition interactions.

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Generally, developing countries are characterised by poverty/low per capita income, high rates of population growth, low human capital levels (education, skills, knowledge, etc.), and high unemployment rates. All these are factors that significantly contribute to poor health in the less developed nations. The children’s mortality rate, especially those below five years, has been an important indicator of their well-being that includes nutrition and health status. Between 1990 and 2015, MDG 4 (Millennium Development Goal 4) targeted the reduction by 66% of the under-5 mortality rate. Over the past 20 years, countries in the Sub- Saharan Africa have experienced a constant reduction in the mortality rates of kids below five years (Bado and Susuman, 2016). For example, this mortality rate decreased to 9 million from 13 million in 2007 and 1990 respectively. The said decline has been attributed to the continued improvement in accessing healthcare by children within these countries. For instance, the supply of facilities of primary healthcare has increased, not mentioning the increased community health workers, thereby improving the scenario of healthcare for children within low-income nations. Similarly, particular interventions have been credited for their contribution towards the improvement of children’s health, therefore decreasing infant mortality within nations having low income. Some of these interventions are prevention of malaria via the intensive introduction of treated mosquito nets as well as programmes against malnutrition, respiratory infections, and diarrheal diseases.

Various nations within the Sub-Saharan region continue to adopt user-fees reductions (exemptions) aimed at reducing the general costs regarding health services’ direct payments. Children below the age of five and expectant mothers have been the beneficiaries of the said programmes, mainly adopted in developing nations like Sierra Leone, Sudan, Kenya, Senegal, Niger, Benin, Burundi, Madagascar, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Ghana. In Burkina Faso and Niger, for example, user-fees exemptions have led to the improvement in utilisation of healthcare services, decreased under-5 mortality rates and economic inequality, and increased access to fundamental amenities like education, nutrition and health by poor families (WHO, 2011). Likewise, programmes of cash transfer have been adopted in various Eastern and South African nations, thereby improving the survival of children below the age of five, increasing utilisation of preventive services, improving immunisation coverage as well as encouraging healthy behaviours; all these elements have led to better health outcomes (Orach, 2009).

Despite the impressive progress and declines, nations in Sub-Saharan Africa still have the largest mortality rates for the under-five, whereby more than 4.4 million of the said deaths are mainly as a result of infectious illnesses which are avoidable through adopting healthy behaviours. It should be noted that these nations contribute only 15% of the global population, and these countries have over 41% of children below five years. DR Congo, Ethiopia and Nigeria, have been listed in the top ten nations across the globe that have the highest under-5 deaths (Bado and Susuman, 2016). Even though malnutrition and under-5 mortality rates have continued to reduce in most nations in Sub-Saharan Africa, there exists huge inequalities between better-off and poor youngsters, both within and between these states. Additionally, a considerable population of mothers in these countries are uneducated, a factor that increased the risk of under-5 death rates.

Typically, developing nations are trapped in similar problems, with high unemployment, low human capital, and poor incomes leading to poverty. Usually, poverty has been a consequence as well as a cause of deprived wellbeing. The existence of poor health is increased by poverty; in turn, communities are trapped into poverty by the same. Neglected and infectious tropical illnesses weaken or kill millions of the most vulnerable and poorest people within the developing nations (Roberts, 2018). Accessing, affording, and provision of high-quality healthcare is very essential in promoting health. In the Sub-Saharan Africa nations, for example, many communities are affected by high poverty levels implying that is difficult to access or afford top-notch medical services. There is a very strong correlation between poverty, poor health, deaths, infections, and malnutrition. For example, in developing nations, although there are efforts to reduce mortality rates, deaths, and diseases, their limited income acts as an impediment to investing in modern medical technology that could improve the health of their populations (Bado and Susuman, 2016). Within Sub-Saharan Africa, many incidences of contagious illnesses exist like tuberculosis, HIV, Malaria alongside diarrhoea as well as infectious respiratory illnesses like pneumonia. Poverty has greatly contributed to poor health in developing nations because it is difficult to have proper nutrition that could improve health status. It has to be noted that wellbeing is a critical factor determining the productivity and efficiency of people (Todaro and Smith, 2011). The malnourished and undernourished usually suffer from illnesses meaning that they are inefficient, and therefore, it is hard to increase productivity that would reduce poverty, thereby improving the access to quality healthcare.

Poor health of individuals in the developing nations has been manifested by lower life-expectancy during birth, malnourishment, and undernourishment (underweight children) and high under-5 mortality rates. Even though the wellbeing status continues to improve within these nations, notable differences are reported in the less privileged and advanced countries. For example, in 2009, life-expectancy during birth was 57% against 80% within the developed nations. In Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, for example, the conditions are highly appalling, where they continue suffering from issues of high children’s death rates, acute malnourishment, and undernourishment (Todaro and Smith, 2011). It is important to note that poor nutrition leads to poverty which, in turn, results in poor health, because a malnourished person cannot utilise their full potential in production. Developing nations like Mexico have developed initiatives to alleviate poverty, for example, PROGRESA, that aimed at eradicating poverty by developing human capital. Implemented in 1997, the programme had the objective of achieving a well-educated and healthy population that could contribute to the country’s economic development as well as breaking the poverty cycle (Gantner, 2019). It is one example that shows how poverty has contributed to poor health among individuals in the developing world.

In conclusion, empirical evidence suggests that over the past two decades, developing nations have endeavoured to improve the health conditions of their citizens through increasing access and affordability to healthcare services, implementing healthcare interventions, and investing in healthcare. However, comparing with the advanced states like the US and UK, these countries remain behind because of reported issues of poor health prevail as shown by high under-5 death rates, poor nutrition, low life expectancy during birth, and high incidences of infectious yet avoidable diseases. It is fair to note that high levels of poverty in these nations have largely contributed to poor nutrition, limited access to health services, and infections, thereby leading to poor health and deaths.

 

References

Bado, A. and Susuman, S., 2016. Women’s education and health inequalities in under-five mortality in selected Sub-Saharan African countries, 1990-2015. PLoS One, 11(7).

Gantner, L., 2019. PROGRESA: an integrated approach to poverty alleviation in Mexico. [Online] Available at: <https://ecommons.cornell.edu/handle/1813/52625> [Accessed 23 Dec. 2019].

Orach, C.G., 2009. Health equity: challenges in low-income countries. African Health Sciences, 9(2), pp. 49-51.

Roberts, S., 2018. Key facts: poverty and poor health. [Online] Available at: <https://www.healthpovertyaction.org/news-events/key-facts-poverty-and-poor-health/> [Accessed 23 Dec. 2019].

Todaro, M. and Smith, S., 2011. Economic development, 11th edition. Harlow, UK: Pearson.

WHO, 2011. Child mortality: Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4. [Online] Available at: <https://www.who.int/pmnch/media/press_materials/fs/fs_mdg4_childmortality/en/> [Accessed 23 Dec. 2019].