I have excitedly told many people about my acceptance to Peace Corps and when I tell them I am going to Togo I get a lot of blank stares. So, here is a little introduction to Togo.
Togo has a population of 6.6 million and is about the size of West Virginia. It is bordered by Ghana to the West, Benin to the East, and Burkina Faso to the North.Togo’s official language is French, but there are over 70 different languages spoken there. Togo was a German colony until WWI when it was taken over by the French and there is a long terrible history of slave trade from Togo’s coast. Togo gained independence in 1960.
Togo has 5 distinctly different regions:
Lomé, the capital, is in the Maritime region and Kpalimé is in the Plateaux. Those are the two areas that I visited when I went to Togo last summer, but I will not know where I will be living until I get through training. Each region has a different climate and many different cultures.
Health in Togo:
To start, there have been no documented cases of Ebola in Togo, nor in its surrounding countries. The Peace Corps has evacuation plans in place for emergencies and like the volunteers in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, I would be sent back to the US if there were an outbreak in Togo. (Togo is about as far from Liberia as Seattle is from Dallas). This is meant to comfort those who are concerned, but also question the world we live in when Americans are evacuated from epidemics while Africans are left in a resource poor setting to suffer. Think about that. The only way to stop the ebola epidemic and prevent it from spreading is to improve public health systems.
The work I will be doing in Togo is as a community health educator and since I am a global health nerd, I decided to find some fun statistics on health in Togo.
According to the WHO in 2013,
2.3% of people age 15-49 had HIV, one of the lowest rates in Africa! 46% of those who have HIV are receiving ARV treatment.
Life expectancy at birth is 58, the under five mortality rate is 96 per 1000 live births. The leading causes of death in children under five is primarily malaria, then in decreasing order, acute respiratory infections, prematurity, birth asphyxia, diarrhea, neonatal sepsis, congenital anomalies, injuries, HIV, and measles.
According to UNICEF:
There is a 97% immunization rate in Togo, which is higher than Seattle! Contraceptive prevalence is at 15%.
4% of Togo’s GDP is spent on health care and 4% is spent on education. This is pretty remarkable to think about since 41% of the population is under the age of 15 and 4% of the population in over the age of 60. The stress of structural adjustment programs from the 1980’s is apparent.
It is important to take these statistics with a grain of salt as it is difficult to get accurate data when clinics are under staffed and under resourced. It is a good way to get an idea of what the health system in Togo looks like.