World Health Day: Health inequality in East Africa, and our humanitarian response

World Health Day prods us to explore lesser-known health facts of unfamiliar realities. Although our society advances, globally there is a need for better health situations.

As MERCY PARTNERS, we are motivated to provide healthcare because our envisioned future is for all to know the grace of God. Our safe water initiative, PROJECT JACOB, has balanced the scales of health inequality by providing safe water and addressing contamination issues. Our WASH (Water Access, Sanitation, and Hygiene) instruction assures those rural communities can sustain their safe water needs, even in times of political turmoil.

WASH exemplifies the practical mercy of Jesus' ministry — caring for the poor in spirit and their health. WASH is also the foundation of society, as, without it, communities would not exist — good health and mental well-being flourish through safe water. Safe water is essential and creates tremendous evangelistic opportunities.

Consider the below realities and estimations of health among some East African nations:

Life expectancy and healthy life expectancy:

In South Sudan, age expectancy is 57 for women and only 55 for men. Uganda and Sudan's population enjoys an additional year or two.

Health inequalities:

East Africans face a complex blend of interconnected threats to their health and well-being. Many of these threats are rooted in social, political, economic, and gender inequalities beyond the regional health perils.

For instance, certain degraded conditions impede appropriately targeted interventions, such as overcrowded housing. By world health standards, an extremely crowded home is defined as more than five people per room used for sleeping in the house. MERCY PARTNERS have known up to 20 to live in one home in South Sudan, with as few as two rooms.

Many in East Africa house five members in one room with the kitchen to the side. Indeed, COVID-19 has shone a harsh spotlight on housing inequalities and the importance of using WASH to address them. Irrespective of the pandemic, infectious diseases have ravaged East Africa's populations, whose habitations are densely populated.