Poverty & Structural Inequalities

One of the articles in my tab “Current News” outlines that Sub-Saharan Africa needs more than just “quick fixes.” They need infrastructure and developmental changes in order to survive malaria endemic regions and with climate change getting worse, there is more of a need for starting steps/tools. It is true, there is so much poverty and structural inequalities that lead to in-access of services and medicines that drives resistance to malarial drugs, as well as higher incidence rates in these regions.

The unregulated pharmacies take a huge role in developing resistance to anti-malaria drugs which is making treatments less effective. This is all due to the fact that oftentimes the public clinic is too far or does not have enough drugs to serve the demand so many people don’t even go through the trouble of the trip and often self-diagnose themselves and purchase drugs from these pharmacy shops. Most often these drug shop owners/clerks are highly untrained and do not perform diagnostic tests. But they administer drugs and due to their informal training and reluctance to test, there is misdiagnoses and inefficient drug regimes being administered to the community. These drug shops are located everywhere, so it is extremely convenient to visit this store and avoid wait times at the public clinic when they might not even have treatments. And its not even their fault. The government allows these drug shops to stay open because they know if they take them away they are taking away thousands of people’s access to medicines. They don’t have enough public funding to serve their communities with their clinics. The Global North have also notoriously excluded the Global South from these medicines, whether it be by patents or ingredients to make these medicines. Even if they did have the ingredients and methods to make the drugs, how would these impoverished countries make and distribute them when it requires copious amounts of really expensive lab equipment. This has not been done by accident or with blind eyes. The Global North knew what they were doing, and they left the Global South behind, allowing for millions of deaths.

Poverty also plays a huge role because oftentimes these patients that are self-diagnosing themselves, don’t have enough money to afford their medicines in the drug shops. This leads to minimal doses, children doses, and inconsistent doses of anti-malaria drugs that develop resistance, and frankly, doesn’t treat malaria on its own. Poverty in these areas influences malaria cases too because there is poor sanitation, insulation, screening and windows, dirt roads, and more that influence and create a suitable environment for malaria to infect the region. All of these things put together leave much of the community vulnerable to hundreds of mosquito bites. With more funding and structural/developmental change within these endemic communities, we could see a decrease in malaria cases, or at least more control.

We need to stop focusing on small, temporary fixes like bed nets. Because as they do work and decrease risk, it is often not enough, and many people are reluctant to use them for their purpose at all. It is important that we help Africa develop so they can have better screening and insecticide treated homes. They need better roads, better infrastructure that will limit their exposure to mosquito bites. They need more public funding and drug treatments in their clinics, or policy demanding these pharmacy shops become regulated so people get proper doses. We can’t just sit here and allow this to happen when we have the means to help. It’s not fair that the Global North decided to forget about malaria when a child dies every minute in Africa from this disease. It is a forgotten disease in the North, but I assure you this is still a huge killer in the Global South. And we need change.

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