Friday, May 27, 2016

Customs in Equatorial Guinea - chalk anyone?

An interesting custom that can be found in Equatorial Guinea is the eating of chalk.  I observed it when I went to the market for the first time and found it for sale at more than half the stands.  When I asked the woman who was selling it what it was for,  she didn't really have an answer for me.  She did tell me that it helps the digestive tract, and is really good for pregnant women.  She also said it can be ground up into a powder and applied to the skin to make it healthier.  Several other times I have asked nationals about this interesting custom, and no one really has a definitive answer.  So, I've determined that it is just a cultural event.

I then was determined to try and do some research on it and find out more information.  This is what I found:

The term is called geophagia or geophagy.  It is the practice of eating earth or soil-like substrates such as clay or chalk.  It can be found most often in rural or preindustrial societies among children and pregnant women.  There is also a mental disorder that involves the ingesting of dirt or other non-edible items – this is not what this is. 

I also found that geophagia is nearly universal around the world in tribal and traditional rural societies – although it has not been documented in Japan and Korea.

In Africa, this custom is found in Gabon and Cameroon and is known as kalaba.  In Equatorial Guinea it is known as calabachop.  It is said (according to my source) to be eaten for pleasure or to suppress hunger. 

An interesting note is, clay minerals have been reported to have beneficial microbiological effects such as protecting the stomach against toxins, parasites and pathogens.  

So I bought some, and we all tried it.  It is an interesting experience indeed.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Health of a Nation

The World Health Organization (WHO) regularly gets together with leaders around the world to discuss global health issues.  They are the impotence behind the eradication efforts of Small pox, for example.  Part of their goals are to establish health-related targets within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are then adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. This not only helps evaluate the "health" of a nation, but help develop achievable methods of combating some of these major social injustices and serious health issues around the world.

I always look at these to help gauge what kind of maladies I will be dealing with in the area I am working in, and also ways to try and help community development.  So...if you are bored already, feel free to stop reading, but if you want a little more information - stay tuned...

 I will be comparing the three countries I have worked in, and many of you have visited (Honduras/U.S.) to better assess and know what each statistic is saying. 

Life Expectancy at birth (years)
U.S. - 79.3
Honduras - 74.6
Equatorial Guinea - 58.2 (#12 lowest in the world)
Globally - 71.4

Healthy Life Expectancy (years)
U.S. -  69.1
Honduras - 64.9
Equatorial Guinea - 51.2
Globally - 63.1

Maternal Mortality Rate  (per 100,000)
U.S. - 14
Honduras - 129
Equatorial  Guinea - 342
Globally - 216

Children less than 5 years old - mortality rate (per 1,000)
U.S. - 6.5
Honduras - 20.4
Equatorial Guinea  94.1
Globally - 42.5

Births Attended by skilled personnel (percentage%)
U.S. - 99%
Honduras - 83%
Equatorial Guinea - 68%
Globally - 73%

Neonatal mortality Rate (per 1,000 live births)
U.S. - 3.6
Honduras - 11.0
Equatorial Guinea - 33.1 (#15th lowest in the world)
Globally - 19.2

Malaria (per 1,000)
U.S. - not statistically relevant
Honduras - 3.2
Equatorial Guinea - 211.1
Globally - 98.6

Proportion of married or in-union women of reproductive  age who have their need for family planning satisfied with modern methods (percentage %)
U.S.- 83.4
Honduras - 76.0
Equatorial Guinea - 20.5
Globally - 76.0

Adolescent Birth Rate, 15-19 years old (per 1,000)
U.S. - 26.6
Honduras - 101.0
Equatorial Guinea - 176
Globally - 44.1

As you can see, Equatorial Guinea falls way underneath Honduras, the United States, and the global statistics in every category.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that Honduras was considerably above the global statistics in almost every category.  Bottom line - I have my work cut out for me, and the need is great!  I thought I was much needed in Honduras, the statistics here show I am even more in need here.  I am praying that I can make a difference, however small it may be.