As the leader of the United States, each past president has had a massive responsibility to serve the people of the U.S. However, many U.S. presidents have also made foreign policy a key part of their agendas. From John Adams to Barack Obama, presidents throughout American history have shared inspirational thoughts on helping those suffering from poverty across the globe in both speeches and colloquial conversation. Listed below are some of the top quotes on global poverty from U.S. presidents.

Top Quotes on Global Poverty from US Presidents:

  1. “We all do better when we work together. Our differences do matter, but our common humanity matters more.” —Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States
  2. “As the wealthiest nation on Earth, I believe the United States has a moral obligation to lead the fight against hunger and malnutrition, and to partner with others.” —Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States
  3. “To be good, and to do good, is all we have to do.” —John Adams, 2nd President of the United States
  4. “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.” —Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States
  5. “The duty of great states is to serve and not to dominate the world.” —Harry Truman, 33rd President of the United States
  6. “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” —John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States
  7. “Many in our country do not know the pain of poverty, but we can listen to those who do. And I can pledge our nation to a goal: When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side. America, at its best, is a place where personal responsibility is valued and expected.” —George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States
  8. “We know that a peaceful world cannot long exist one-third rich and two-thirds hungry.” —Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States
  9. “Progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all.” —Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States

All in all, these top quotes on global poverty from U.S. presidents highlight the importance of investing in foreign assistance not just from a humanitarian perspective but also as it relates to bolstering the global economy. Whether it’s John Adam’s simplistic message or George W. Bush’s illustrative parable, these wise words will hopefully inspire both U.S. citizens and future presidents to support policy and fund the world’s poor.

Sam Elster
Photo: Pixabay

Desalination TechnologiesToday, 4.5 billion people around the world don’t have access to adequate sanitation. In fact, 2.1 billion lack access to safe drinking water. The majority of these individuals reside in developing countries. With 96.5 percent of the world’s supply of water being seawater and climate change making rainfall levels more unpredictable than ever, it is crucial to innovate desalination technologies for third-world countries.

Status Quo

Currently, only about 1 percent of the world’s drinking water is generated through desalination processes. Most of the saltwater being treated is brackish water. This is saline waters that are less salty than the ocean and have a salt concentration less than 10,000 mg/L. As of 2015, there were about 18,000 desalination plants worldwide. Over half of these were located in North Africa and the Middle East. The greatest challenge facing the adoption of desalination technologies in developing countries is likely its high cost: three dollars per cubic meter. This is about twice the cost of treating wastewater or rainwater.

Current Techniques

Two of the most popular desalination technologies being utilized today are membrane separation and thermal evaporation. Membrane separation involves the process of using a partially permeable composite polyamide membrane that traps salt but allows water to pass through. This process is also known as reverse osmosis. Outside of the Middle East water market, this form of technology has increased in popularity. Through pressurization, the process is able to reverse the transport of the water across the membrane that would otherwise equalize the concentration of the fluids.

On the other hand, technological and business ventures into thermal evaporation have also increased over the past few years. This process is essentially a multi-step process in which saline waters are heated, often through solar power, in a highly compressed environment. This encourages the evaporation of fresh water, which is then captured and harvested

Future Directions

The desalination industry is currently projected to grow by eight percent per year in the Middle East and North Africa regions. The most important objective of desalination technologies today is cost reduction. Luckily, the cost of water desalination is expected to be reduced by up to twenty percent in the next five years. This is being done through technological innovation. Furthermore, it’s expected to be reduced by up to 60 percent in the next 20 years. This makes it more competent in terms of price in comparison to other water treatment methods.

There are no major technologies currently expected from the desalination industry. Incremental, yet important, advancements can still be seen. For instance, the size of the pores in membrane filters has been consistently decreasing for the past decade. This decrease is expected to continue. The amount of energy expended per unit of water is also expected to be lowered over the next few years. Thus, further reducing the price of water desalination.

As the global population continues to grow, the demand for freshwater can only be expected to increase. The only solution to this problem is for the minds of the world to innovate creative ways to meet this demand, one of which is through desalination technologies.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr

Education in Central AmericaMany Central Americans are attempting to migrate to the U.S., motivated by the prospect of finding a better life. An understanding of current conditions in Central America is key to understanding the reasons behind migration. Education is a vital component of any region. These 10 facts provide information about this vital component, giving readers a glimpse at education in Central America.

10 Facts about Education in Central America

  1. Many teens and young adults are not in school – Currently, Guatemala’s primary-school-aged population is almost fully enrolled in school. But secondary-school enrollment is not as common. About 2 million Guatemalans aged 15-24 are not in school. In 2017, 60,573 Salvadoran adolescents were not in school. In the same year, 192,262 Honduran adolescents were also not in school. Additionally, unemployment rates are high for this age group. Children in rural Guatemala are also significantly less likely to remain in school than their urban peers.
  2. There is low gender disparity – In 2017,  the number of Guatemalan adolescents enrolled in secondary school was 47.2 percent. Of these students, 47.1 percent of female adolescents were enrolled, while 47.2 percent of boys were enrolled. In 2016, 84.9 percent of girls were able to transition from primary school to secondary school. Additionally, 94.2 percent of boys were able to make the transition. Overall, the disparities between male and female enrollment were not large, indicating a positive trend in regard to education in Central America. Typically, gender disparities in education are higher in low-income countries.
  3. There are low completion and enrollment rates in secondary education – Only about half of Salvadoran children attend secondary school. Even fewer go on to graduate from secondary school. Roughly 300,000 Salvadorans between the ages of 15 to 24 are unemployed and not enrolled in school. High rates of poverty, food insecurity and violence prevent Salvadoran youth from accessing the education and vocational training that they need.
  4. Girls are more likely to complete primary school – On average, Salvadoran children spent about 11 and a half years in school. Girls were less likely to repeat grades and more likely to finish primary school. Boys were slightly more likely to transition from primary school to secondary school, with 91.72 percent of girls and 92.44 percent of boys making the transition.
  5. The Education Law seeks to improve the education system – In 2012, the Honduran government passed the Education Law as part of a major effort to reform its education system. The Education Law redefined “basic education” to extend to grades six through nine. It required preschool attendance and introduced a new system for hiring and monitoring teachers. The Education Law emphasized cooperation with rural populations in need of better schools.
  6. The average amount of schooling is ten years – On average, Honduran children spent about 10 years in school as of 2015. Girls spent an average of 10.66 years in school, while boys spent an average of 9.8 years in school.
  7. Enrollment rates are increasing – From 1999 to 2009, preschool enrollment increased in both Honduras and El Salvador. During the same period, primary school enrollment increased in Guatemala and El Salvador. The first decade of the 21st century saw a significant decrease in child labor, with more and more children in school instead of working.
  8. Literacy is high – As of 2015, 81.5 percent of Guatemalans were literate. As of 2016, 89 percent of Hondurans were literate. As of 2015, 81.5 percent of Salvadorans were literate.
  9. U.S. Congress is now involved – In 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation to address education in Central America. The legislation has an emphasis on the Northern Triangle region of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. 70 percent of migrants from the Northern Triangle claims to have received no education beyond primary school. This is a factor that contributes to their desire to migrate with their families. The U.S is currently providing data to the Northern Triangle countries about their educational systems in order to show them the areas that are most in need of attention.
  10. Central Americans are migrating for better education – Current migration rates from Central America to the U.S. are fueled in part by parents’ desires to access better education for their children. Central American public schools are underfunded, and the private schools in the region are too expensive for many families. In some cases, Honduran parents spend over half of their income to send their children to private schools, a practice that is not financially sustainable. They see more opportunity and safety in American public schools.

Improving Education in Central America

Overall, poverty greatly hinders educational progress in Central America. Many adolescents, especially in the Northern Triangle, are not in school and are unprepared to enter the workforce. Fortunately, there are many positive signs as well, such as nearly universal primary school enrollment and low gender disparities in secondary school enrollment. Education drives migration. As a result, aid programs prioritizing education initiatives could decrease migration and improve the lives of countless children. Improving the quality of education in Central America is vital to the future of the region and its people.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

Documentaries About MigrationDocumentaries are often a great resource for gaining insight on a particular topic. In recent years, various journalists, filmmakers and documentarians have played a key role in telling the stories of those suffering from socio-political unrest occurring around the world. These stories include key humanitarian issues, such as migration resulting from crises. Not only do these crises displace millions of lives, but they also create an imbalance, leading to migrants who must endure poor living conditions. As such, documentaries about migration are extremely popular. They portray global migration crises from the perspective of those most affected. Here are the top five documentaries about migration.

Top 5 Documentaries About Migration

  1. 4.1 Miles (2016)
    A story about a Hellenic coast guard captain on a small Greek island who suddenly becomes in charge of saving thousands of refugees from drowning during the European migration crisis gives the viewers hope for humanity. The film was a winner of the David L. Wolper Student Documentary Award at the 2016 IDA Documentary Awards and was an Academy Award® Short Subject nominee.
  2. Human Flow (2017)
    Human Flow takes the viewer across the globe through 23 countries. It highlights urgent stories of victims of the various refugee crisis and shows the plight of those looking for a safe space to live in. For Ai Weiwei, “the purpose of (the documentary) is to show it to people of influence, people who are in a position to help and who have a responsibility to help.”
  3. Stranger in Paradise (2016)
    Stranger in Paradise is a mixture of fiction and documentary that depicts an actor in a classroom of a detention center telling refugees about what Europeans think of them. It reflects on the powerful relation between the Europeans and refugees in a candid manner and highlights the emotion most people feel while they have to go through the turmoil of displacement.
  4. City of Ghosts (2017)
    This film is a story of brave citizen journalists who face the realities of life undercover, in exile and on the run to stand against the violence that is taking place in the city of Raqqa in Syria. This film has used the camera as a powerful weapon to show the circumstances that have shaped the lives of people in Syria and has highlighted the turmoil in Syria in a great way.
  5. The Good Postman (2016)
    This film follows Ivan, the local postman in a quiet Bulgarian community on the Turkish border, as he decides to run for mayor. He then campaigns to bring the aging village to life by welcoming refugees. Some in the community support Ivan, while others resist his campaign. The film highlights the importance of a global discussion, depicting the plight of refugees and how they are perceived around the globe.

These five documentaries about migration enable viewers to understand migrants by portraying the conflicts driving migration through a personal lens. By diving into the lives of those impacted, these films tell a larger story about humanity as a whole.

Isha Akshita Mahajan
Photo: Flickr

Ending Child MarriagesEven in 2019, child marriage remains a global problem. Every year, 12 million girls from all around the world will get married before the age of 18. Child marriage is rooted in gender inequality and poverty because in many communities’ girls are still seen as a burden on the family. Marriage is often considered the best way to assure their future. However, there are many organizations and individuals tackling the problem of gender inequality and child marriage. Below are

Five activists whose work is ending child marriages

  1. Nada Al-Ahdal defends children’s rights.
    Nada Al-Ahdal is a Yemeni activist with a personal connection to escaping child marriage. In 2013, at the age of 11, Nada Al-Ahdal ran away from her family’s home in order to prevent a forced marriage to a 26-year-old man. During her escape, Nada Al-Ahdal made a video explaining how, if the marriage had gone through, she would have lost her chance at an education and ruined her life. Furthermore, she would have lost her childhood.
    In the first month of the video being posted, it received more than 8 million views. Nada Al-Ahdal has appeared on Lebanese and Yemeni television, spreading her message for ending child marriages. In 2018, at just 15 years old, Nada founded the Nada Foundation to protect and defend children’s rights. The foundation offers to safe havens. Additionally, it has a number of awareness programs focused on protecting children.
  2. Nice Nailantei Leng’ete speaks out against child marriage.
    At eight years old, Nice Nailantei Leng’ete ran away from her home village in Kenya. She did this in order to avoid undergoing female genital mutilation. As an adult, Nice Nailantei Leng’ete has become an activist that negotiates with village elders in Kenya to convince them to adopt alternative rites of passage for girls. She is an officer with Amref Health Africa. Additionally, it is estimated that her work has saved more than 15,000 girls in Kenya for genital mutilation and child marriage. Nice Nailantei Leng’ete now speaks out on a global stage against mutilation and child marriage in Africa. In 2018, she even was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine.
  3. Fatoumata Sabaly enacts change as an activist.
    Fatoumata Sabaly is from Senegal, where child marriage and female genital mutilation is still fairly common. She is a respected member of her community as a grandmother and mother. She leverages this position as an activist through the Grandmother Project. The Grandmother Project is an NGO that uses the status of elders in communities to enact change and improve the well-being of women and children.
    Fatoumata Sabaly has explained the important work she does in the project: “Sometimes, girls come to tell me their parents are marrying them off, even though they want to stay in school. When this happens, I go to their parents. Out of respect for me, the parents listen to my advice and let their daughters stay in school.” Her activism and authority are helping girls stay in school and out of unwanted marriages.
  4. Arvind Ojha leads an organization fighting child marriage and violence against females.
    Arvind Ojha is the head of URMUL Trust, an organization active in the Indian state of Rajasthan for more than 25 years. Rajasthan has one of the worst child marriage rates in all of India. URMUL Trust works hard in ending child marriage, female genital mutilation and female foeticide. Arvind Ojha has said that “[URMUL Trust doesn’t] just focus on engaging women and children in programs but also older people and even religious leaders. Change is happening. The average age of marriage for girls is increasing.”
    In 2005, URMUL Trust launched a program in the districts of Sri Ganganagar, Hanumangarh and Jaisalmer called “Dignity of the Girl Child”. The program was aimed at ending child marriages, domestic violence and female infanticide. In 2011, URMUL Trust became partners with Girls Not Brides in order to strengthen their work to ending child marriage.
  5. Isatou Jeng defends women through advocacy.
    At 15 years old, Isatou Jeng found herself pregnant and with enormous pressure to get married. What she did next broke many societal norms in her home country of Gambia. She demonstrated her passion in ending child marriages by saying, “I stood my ground, refused to marry, and saw education as the best chance for a better life for me and my child.”
    Presently, she leads The Girls Agenda, a nonprofit she founded. The purpose of the organization is to fight for other girls facing gender-based violence and child marriage. Throughout her career as an activist, she has also worked as the advocacy and campaign officer for the Network against Gender-Based Violence. This is a group of organizations that works to defend women and girls in Gambia.
    In 2018, at a conference for women who transform the world, Isatou Jeng said about her involvement with The Girls Agenda, “I did not become a feminist, I was born a feminist.”

Every minute, 23 girls under the age of 18 are married around the world. Consequently, this is the reason that the work these activists and their organizations do is so important and urgent. Even in an era where child brides seem to be a relic of the past, ending child marriages is still a critical issue.

– Isabel Fernandez
Photo: Flickr

Menstrual Cups in AfricaToday, about 10 percent of African girls miss school because of menstruation-related issues and complications. As many individuals cannot afford feminine hygiene products from the store, they often have to resort to using rags, socks and even paper. To make matters worse, many of these adolescent girls also lack access to private toilets at school. However, things are looking up as multiple nonprofit organizations are collectively working to provide all female students with free menstrual cups in South Africa.

What is the Menstrual Cup?

Menstrual cups are a little known, but effective, feminine hygiene products made out of medical-grade silicone. Their shape resembles a small beaker. As the product can be washed, reused and can last up to a decade, it is a far more sustainable alternative, both financially and economically speaking, to its more conventional counterparts (sanitary napkins and tampons). The cups generally cost between $15 to $40. The price depends on factors such as brand, material and size.

Menstrual Cups in South Africa

Currently, there are multiple initiatives and partnerships in South Africa related to providing school girls with free menstrual cups. Perhaps most notable is the MINA Foundation.

Launched in 2015 by three women in Johannesburg, South Africa, the foundation has now partnered with over a hundred schools and distributed over 30,000 menstrual cups. By working with girls’ clubs at schools, the organization has also succeeded in delivering comprehensive menstrual and sexual health education to adolescent girls. A lively purple cartoon girl presents the information in educational videos and books.

Other Places

Menstrual cup campaigns have also sprung up in many other developing countries. Some countries, for example, are the Philippines, Nepal and India. Much of this progress has been led by a similar organization called Freedom Cups.  A team of three sisters founded the organization in 2015. It operates on a buy-one-give-one model and has since distributed over 3,000 cups in seven countries.

In addition, many for-profit companies also have their own projects and partnerships that work to support feminine hygiene. For instance, both Saalt Co. and the Diva Cup are currently partnering with various organizations. Their partnerships allow them to donate a portion of their profits to feminine hygiene advocacy organizations.

Challenges and Future Directions

The majority of data collected regarding the usage of menstrual cups has been anecdotal. However, various studies have made it quite apparent that many girls remain hesitant about the usage of the product. According to a survey conducted by the University of Chicago, 74 percent of South African school girls interviewed “were hesitant to use any product that had to be inserted into their vagina.” This is likely because many cultures consider topics surrounding menstruation and the female reproductive system to be taboo. Additionally, 79 percent of participants in the same study reported that they could not fully focus on their schoolwork when menstruating. This lack of concentration was due to the shame they felt about their condition.

Henceforth, an increase in the usage of menstrual cups among school girls would likely prove to be effective in providing an open discussion regarding the usage of the product. Furthermore, it could provoke increased dialogue about menstruation in general.

Conclusively, menstrual cups in South Africa have proven to be a force for good among adolescent girls. However, there is still work to be done to address the taboo surrounding these products for their potential to be fully exercised.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr

10 facts about poverty in LiberiaLiberia is located in Western Africa with a population of 4.7 million people. Although there are efforts for improvement in the country, Liberia still suffers from high rates of poverty. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Liberia.

10 Facts About Poverty in Liberia

  1. Food Supply: According to the World Bank, 54 percent of Liberia’s population is living under the poverty line. In 2011, 83.7 percent of the population was living on less than $2.00 per day. The World Food Programme (WFP), which has been present in Liberia since 1968, and Liberia’s government worked together on a plan to fight poverty by providing 87,139 students with meals and 3,600 girls from poor households with take-home rations. In addition, the WFP worked with the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders to assess the status, livelihood, social protection and food security of those living with HIV and tuberculosis.
  2. Education: The education system in Liberia is a work in progress due to a 14-year civil war and the Ebola outbreak in 2014, which caused schools to close down. According to UNICEF, among most African countries, Liberia is behind in its education system and has one of the world’s highest rate of out-of-school children with 15 to 20 percent of 6- to 14-year-old kids not in school. In addition, only a third of preschoolers have access to early education learning programs, and 54 percent do not finish primary school. However, despite the statistics, in 2015 about 1.4 million children enrolled in pre-primary school, primary school and high school. According to Liberia’s Ministry of Education in 2015, 116 percent of students enrolled in early childhood education, 88 percent in primary school, 56 percent in junior high and 39 percent in senior high. The Ministry of Education, UNICEF and other organizations worked together to help repair or rebuild classrooms, train teachers, review curricula and create education policies and plans.
  3. Diseases: According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), after the Ebola outbreak in 2014 causing 4,200 deaths, there are improvements being made for recovery. USAID and UNICEF partnered with the Liberian government to provide schools and teachers with 7,000 infection prevention and control kits. In addition, they also trained teachers on how to prevent infections and provide psychosocial support to students and families with Ebola.
  4. Malnutrition: Liberia is one of the 21 countries with the highest stunting levels in the world. One out of three children under the age of 5 years old is stunted or too short for their age because of a lack of proper nutrition. In addition, malnourished children are at a higher risk for death from diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria. According to the World Health Organization, 45 percent of deaths among children under the age of 5 are related to malnutrition.
  5. Water: In Liberia, about 90 percent of people under the age of 5 die because of this water crisis. Access to clean water could decrease infection, disease and death. The Last Well is an organization that is dedicated to providing Liberians with clean drinking water. This organization provided clean water to 4 million Liberians and counting.
  6. Sanitation: In rural areas, due to lack of proper toilets and sanitation services, about 42 percent of people must excrete out in the open. In addition, the lack of proper sanitation services results in the spread of diseases and causes students to miss days of school. However, the government of Liberia is working on improving these conditions through a WASH program that will increase safe water supply, sanitation and hygiene practices. After the 2014 Ebola outbreak, there was a strong need for WASH services in schools to prevent illnesses. From 2015 to 2016, 55 percent of 4,460 schools in Liberia did not have access to functional water supply, 43 percent did not have basic sanitization facilities and only 18 percent had permanent handwashing facilities. The WASH program reached about 50,763 people in five remote counties in Liberia that have low access to water. The program also built two pit toilets in two clinics and three wells at one clinic and rehabilitated six wells in six communities.
  7. Youth unemployment rates: According to the United Nations, 85 percent of the youth population is unemployed. The civil wars affected Liberia’s economy resulting in the widespread youth unemployment. About 35 percent of males and 42 percent of females are unable to find jobs due to lack of skills and training. According to the International Labour Organization, the future for African youth relies on the right policies and programs that will create employment opportunities.
  8. Immunization: According to the 2017 WHO-UNICEF Estimates of Immunization Coverage, 13 percent of children in Liberia have not taken the measles vaccine. The Liberian government and UNICEF worked together on a project to raise awareness on the importance of immunization for children to help prevent diseases. Every year UNICEF sends more than 3 million doses of routine vaccines and supplies for immunization campaigns.
  9. Literacy rates: According to UNESCO, the literacy rate for Liberia’s youth is 54.5 percent with males at 64.7 percent and females at 44 percent. A nonprofit organization called Alfalit International Liberia is an organization that aims to educate, empower and provide economic freedom to marginalized, disadvantaged and distressed groups of Liberia. Alfalit not only provides literacy and basic education but also offers scholarships to the youth of Liberia. This organization partnered with the Ministry of Education and others to create teaching and learning centers for the youth. Over the course of eight years, the program educated over 65,000 people, 85 percent of which are women, and trained 800 teachers.
  10. Child Labor: In Liberia, children work in dangerous environments such as in the production of rubber and the mining of gold and diamonds. About 78.4 percent of children work in agriculture, 4.2 percent in industry and 17.4 in services. The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection is an organization established in 2001, which assists with investigations of child labor cases and monitors child protection policies and the government’s efforts on agreements with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

These 10 facts about poverty in Liberia provide a snapshot of the current conditions in Liberia and areas that can be focused on for improvement. Despite the challenges Liberia faces due to poverty, there are efforts from various organizations to improve the country.  However, more needs to be done to tackle the issues that will require the intervention of political leaders. Surely, with an emphasis on education and policies to implement more opportunities for Liberians, poverty will decrease.

– Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

Five Soap Brands that Give BackAccording to the CDC, nearly 2.5 billion people lack access to clean water. Without a sanitation system, diseases can spread at a disastrous rate. Each year, more than 800,000 children die due to the lack of sanitation in communities across the globe. This article focuses on five soap brands that give back to those without access to clean water.

5 Soap Brands that Give Back

  1. Hand in Hand
    After reading a startling statistic about the number of people affected by water-related illnesses, Bill Glaab & Courtney Apple founded Hand in Hand. Together, they partnered with My Neighbor’s Children, a non-profit organization based in Haiti focused on impoverished children. Through this partnership, all of Hand in Hand’s donations go toward these children. In 2013, Hand in Hand opened their first well in Onaville, Haiti, which now serves over 240 families daily. Through their “Buy a bar. Give a bar.” program, Hand in Hand has donated more than 1 million bars of soap. With every bar purchased, Hand in Hand provides a child in need with a bar of soap and a month of clean water.
  2. Pacha Soap Co.
    After a large flood in the Peruvian Andes, most families lost work and communication with the world they once knew. They depended upon the “pacha” or “earth” in Quechua. In 2011, Andrew and Abi founded Pacha Soap Co. with the mission to create a product that would help others as well as the earth. Since then, Pacha Soap Co. has supplied 14 communities with clean water wells, served more than 4,000 people clean water for the first time and have funded eight independent soap shops in Africa. Through all of this hard work, Pacha Soap Co. has donated more than 3.8 million bars of soap to schools in developing counties, provided over 74,000 children with hand-washing education and has created over 250 careers.
  3. Soapbox Soaps
    Founded in 2010 by Dave Simnick, Soapbox Soaps has made it their mission to empower consumers “with the ability to change the world through everyday, simple purchases”. Partnering with the Sundara Fund, a non-profit that recycles soap from hotels, Soapbox Soaps has been able to supply 30 women with a reliable job. With each purchase, Soapbox Soaps donates a bar of soap and proper hygiene education to someone in need. The proceeds also go toward research and development in reducing trachoma infections, an infection in the eye that could lead to blindness. Today, more than 3 million lives have been impacted through Soapbox Soap’s mission and over 6,000 lessons on hygiene have been taught. Soapbox Soaps is just one of the five soap brands that give back and partner with Sundara Fund.
  4. B.A.R.E. Soaps
    Another soap brand that partners with Sundara Fund is B.A.R.E or Bringing Antiseptic Resources to Everyone Soaps. This is a volunteer, all-natural and socially conscious company. All of the profits are either reinvested back into B.A.R.E Soaps or non-profits. In 2012, B.A.R.E Soaps partnered with Children’s Hopechest & Point Community Church to supply children with soap and vitamins in Kaberamaido, Uganda. When the Hepatitis B outbreak hit, B.A.R.E Soaps quickly diverted funds to support vaccinations. In 2016, B.A.R.E. Soaps funded a local research center where they could donate sanitary products. That same year, B.A.R.E Soaps partnered with Sundara Fund in Kalwa Slum, India. Every month, 500 school children living in the slums receive a bar of soap and basic health care and hygiene training.
  5. Lush
    Lush is known for its bright and colorful bath bombs and sweet-smelling shampoo bars. Using the freshest ingredients, Lush lives by six core philosophies to fight against animal testing. 100 percent of their products are vegetarian and more than 80 percent are vegan. All of its products are handmade and sold “naked” or without packaging to reduce the amount of waste in landfills. Lush advocates for those without a voice. Through their body lotion, Charity Pot, Lush donates all of the proceeds to “small grassroots organizations working in the areas of human rights, animal protection and environmental justice”. Since 2007, Charity Pot has helped Lush donate more than $33 million to over 2,450 grassroots charities in 42 countries. In 2010, the Sustainable Lush Fund was created. Since then, over 44 projects in 21 countries have been created.

These five soap brands that give back, are more than just charitable. They have given many people healthier and cleaner lives. Despite how simplistic a bar of soap can be, many people lack access to hygiene products and even clean water. Even the smallest gift can cleanse generations of detrimental conditions.

– Emily Beaver
Photo: Flickr

Water Management in SomaliaSomalia is a South African country frequently plagued by droughts and floods. The nation is currently receiving the bulk of a $45 million assistance from the United Nations’ aid meant to help Ethiopians, Kenyans and Somalis suffering from a major famine caused by the ongoing drought. To break this cycle of famine, an efficient and affordable water management system in Somalia is desperately needed.

Infrastructure Improvement

The majority of Somalis depend on livestock and agriculture for income. Yet, frequent floods and droughts result in a lack of basic necessities, such as food and water. One way to reduce this lack is to implement an intelligent system capable of storing water during floods to preserve it for coming droughts. Reusing greywater, which is water from sources such as sinks and bathtubs, is one efficient way of preserving and reusing water for crops. Somalia thus needs infrastructure development to control floodwater, especially in the construction of aquifers.

Most Somalis live along the Juba and Shabelle Rivers, but many depend on groundwater. Dug wells, boreholes and springs are the most common sources of water. Somalis heavily rely on groundwater, however, it does not provide enough water in times of drought. The Somalian Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM) partnered with the European Union and Somaliland to improve infrastructure, water and land management. Dr. Hjordis Ogendo of the EU Chard d’Affairs said, “Water and land are critical resources for Somali economy and people’s livelihoods but are also extremely vulnerable to natural disasters.”

Floodplains and Groundwater Replenishment

Infrastructure improvements could help mitigate the cost of restoring the land and relocating those who return to destroyed homes. These improvements include through-reservoirs and flood canals that divert water away from farms and homes. Moreover, California farmers have recently begun implementing floodplains and groundwater replenishment strategies. Don Cameron of Terranova Ranch experimented with flooding his 1,000-acre land with water from a river that was high from recent rains.

Cameron was concerned about the amount of water in the reservoir during a long drought after repeatedly digging wells. The replenishment strategy enables water to soak into the ground and collect in an aquifer. As such, Cameron’s grapevines remained unharmed. This began a trend to keep a steady amount of water in the aquifer and above ground.

For Somalis, an affordable method could be as simple as storing water in aquifers to combat future droughts. Therefore, the floodplains and groundwater replenishment strategy presents one prospective Somali water management system that could improve the future outlook of drought mitigation.

Water Desalination Plants

A sophisticated and long-term solution for a water management system in Somalia includes water desalination plants. Although desalination plants are expensive, there are positive and lasting aspects of investing in a single plant. Desalination plants simply transform salt water from the ocean or sea into potable water. Israel currently receives 40 percent of its water from desalination plants. Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of water usage. Since more than 70 percent of Somalis work in the agriculture industry, water availability is crucial.

Future technological advances may reduce the high cost of constructing and operating desalination plants. Saudi Arabia also relies on desalination plants to desalinate seawater. As a semi-arid country, Somalia possesses an environment similar to that of Saudi Arabia. Although comparatively poor, Somalia could opt for desalination plants in the future once technological advances reduce implementation costs.

Future Outlook

With the help of funding a future water management system in Somalia, the need for external aid could be reduced and lead Somalia out of poverty conditions that result from devastating floods and droughts. Desalination plants are an expensive alternative, yet simple solutions such as the construction of aquifers to store floodwater could help millions of Somalis affected by droughts and floods. The implementation depends on the Somali government and its efforts in improving infrastructure. This includes not only managing water during floods and droughts but also reducing poverty by helping the nomadic herders and farmers making up the majority of Somalis.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Health Systems in GuyanaAccess to adequate health care is slowly improving throughout South America’s 14 countries, thanks to increased funding and awareness of current medical issues. However, the field is continuously evolving in attempts to adapt to current and future health-related endeavors. Often considered as part of the Caribbean region due to its coastal northern location, the country of Guyana has made significant strides in improving its health care system to meet modern standards. In December 2013, Guyana unveiled a new health initiative entitled “Health Vision 2020”, which was set to be a cornerstone of Guyanese health policy moving forward. Though significant strides have been made, many of the milestone goals laid out by the initiative were not met. Some still have yet to be achieved. Though there is much progress left to be made, health systems in Guyana are improving.

Health Vision 2020 and the Millennium Development Goals

At its initial reveal in late 2013, Health Vision 2020 set out to systematically improve the health systems in Guyana. In doing this, the initiative aimed to also create more jobs in the field and improve health literacy. The initiative aimed to meet these goals while also attempting to meet the standards set forth by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

In line with the MDGs, Health Vision 2020 sought to improve many aspects of health in Guyana. For example, to increase life expectancy to over 70 years of age and to decrease maternal and infant mortality rates. Health Vision 2020 aimed to do this while also reducing incidence, prevalence and factors that contribute to both communicable and non-communicable diseases. Furthermore, the initiative hoped to achieve this all by 2015 (or make significant strides toward these targets by the set year).

Guyana aspired to achieve these goals through one central crux: communication and awareness. This would lead to the establishment of adequate health centers and the improvement of general health literacy. Despite this, education and information regarding these matters were only the first steps in improving health systems in Guyana.

The 2015 targets of Health Vision 2020 were not met, despite trends in a positive direction. For example, as of 2018, general life expectancy has improved to 68.5 years among both sexes. This was an improvement from 67 years in 2010. Another example is that maternal mortality remains high at 229 deaths per 100,000, while infant mortality has dropped to 20 deaths per 1,000.

Diagnosing the Problem

A possible explanation for why Guyana was not able to meet these 2015 targets may be centered around the geography of the nation. The population of the coastal nation is extremely spread out. This makes it difficult for the government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other aid-related parties to reach every person. However, efforts have been made in improving the quality of life for all the people of Guyana. For example, approximately 98 percent of the population now has access to clean water. Additionally, 84 percent of the population has access to quality sanitation.

Furthermore, these goals may not have been met due to the allocation and availability of funds. As of 2018, only 5 percent of Guyana’s gross domestic product (GDP) was spent toward its health systems. In 2014, donor expenditure of donor funds dropped to just above 7 percent from 40.1 percent. A 2018 update on health systems in Guyana emphasized that this might be because the nation does not have proper strategies for channeling aid in from donors. This fluctuation in funding leads to instability and insecurity in the health care field.

Furthermore, the report “Country Cooperation Strategy 2016-2020” highlights international cooperation as an integral component to improving health care resources and systems in Guyana. The report emphasized that the nation lacks sufficient health workers and other human resources.

Moving Forward

Guyana is on the right track in improving the health and wellness of its people. Unfortunately, it currently lacks several of the resources to achieve its goals. These are vital resources ranging from consistent funding to a well-rounded workforce. Despite these deficiencies, Guyana has made significant strides toward the goals. The country has also been labeled a figurehead nation in addressing health systems of low- and middle-income countries. It has worked successfully with outside governments and organizations in the past to help curb the burden of disease. This partnership has also helped to spread awareness of health-related issues. Hopefully, these issues can be addressed in order to meet Health Vision 2020’s goals of providing adequate, long-lasting health systems in Guyana.

– Colin Petersdorf
Photo: Flickr