Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in Ambassador's Circle
“We can choose to alleviate suffering. We can choose to work together for peace. We can make these changes—and we must.” These words of our remarkable former President Jimmy Carter form the foundation of a center striving for a better world. In 1982, former President Carter and wife, Rosalynn founded a non-profit organization “committed to advancing human rights” named, “The Carter Center.” In partnership with Emory University, the Atlanta-based organization has made great strides in improving the human condition worldwide. Here are three noteworthy initiatives of the Carter Center:

  1. In promoting global health, the Carter Center led a coalition poised to bring an end to Guinea Worm Disease. Also known as dracunculiasis, this disease was found in 3.5 million people in 1986. In that year, the Carter Center came to the fore and led a campaign to prevent this preventable infection in countries throughout Africa. In the years that followed, the Carter Center has been able to drastically reduce the prevalence of the disease through water filtration programs, water treatment programs, and programs educating the public about dracunculiasis. Today, Guinea Worm Disease is on the brink of eradication, with only 542 reported cases in 2012.
  2. In promoting democracy, the Carter Center has played an extensive role in overseeing elections in countries globally. Since its founding, the center has monitored over 90 elections in some 37 countries. In each election, the center plays a role in evaluating a given country’s electoral laws, overseeing voter registration, and assessing the fairness of campaigns. In 2005, the center became involved in drafting a document outlining the standards for election observers in countries around the world. Known as the Declaration of Principles for International Observation, this document has been embraced by organizations internationally
  3. Among the Carter Center’s most innovative programs is its Conflict Resolution Program. The center aims to improve dialogue and negotiations as a means of producing real solutions tailored to each given nation. In Liberia, for example, a country that endured lawlessness for years, the center is working to “reestablish the rule of law.” The center spearheaded a campaign promoting and strengthening legal institutions in the country, as well as creating constructive partnerships between citizens and their government.

Learn more at http://www.cartercenter.org/index.html.

– Lina Saud

Sources: Carter Center, CDC

Women in War is the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s groundbreaking interdisciplinary approach to addressing problems that females face in impoverished and conflict-ridden states. By conducting research in affected areas, the program strives to produce pragmatic community and policy-based solutions.

Although Women in War has worked in countries ranging from Sierra Leone to Sudan, it has concentrated the majority of its efforts into ending sexual assault and violence against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. For decades, DRC has been embroiled in what has been referred to as the greatest multistate war in the African continent.

Despite its estimated worth of $24 trillion in natural resources (DRC holds up to a third of worldwide diamond reserves), DRC’s annual GDP per capita of $171 is shockingly low. Just as political instability and social unrest have undoubtedly contributed to its struggling economy, they too have factored into the prevalence of sexual assault–often by military personnel–against civilians.

While the roots of gender-based violence are manifold, Jocelyn Kelly, an HHI Research Coordinator, postulates that soldiers–who are often enlisted at a young age through coercion–may justify rape by dissociating their actions from themselves as individuals. It has been noted that the crude process of army initiation dehumanizes the soldiers and strips them of their former identities. Moreover, among soldiers, there exists the superstitious belief that rape may lead to victory on the battlefield.

The aftermath of sexual assault is equally complex. Many women have been raped in the confines of their own homes and in front of their loved ones. Naturally, rape may also result in unwanted pregnancies and/or damage to a woman’s reproductive organs, thereby adding tangible reminders on top of psychological wounds. Women in War has sought the skills and expertise of both gynecologists and counselors to give survivors a new lease–both inside and out–on life.

A helping hand has also been extended to the perpetrators. Researchers have been developing methods to reintegrate traumatized ex-soldiers into civilian society. By recognizing the humanity inherent in both the survivor and the offender, Women in War serves as a beacon of hope in times of strife.

– Melrose Huang

Sources: Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Women Under Siege Project BBC The OTC Investor Global Security PBS
Photo: Ms. Magazine

Half of the world’s population relies on wood stoves to cook their food. These stoves are cheap, provide warm meals and heat homes throughout the world. However, wood stoves come with a number of negative consequences that affect global health and the global environment. Each year, four million people are killed from the household air pollution that results from cooking with wood stoves. Additionally, roughly 800,000 metric tons of soot is generated from these stoves each year, releasing 18% of the world’s greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.

Because of the negative medical and ecological effects of the use of wood stoves, researchers at the University of Nottingham in England have created a greener and healthier stove. The SCORE stove is a new device that still uses wood as its fuel, but is nearly twice as efficient as traditional wood stoves. The new stove uses roughly four and a half pounds of wood a day, about half the amount needed in a conventional stove. The developers of the SCORE stove point out that less time spent on collecting wood can translate into “extra time for other income-generating activities.”

Advanced features in the design of the SCORE stove allow it to act as more than just a stove. Developers of the device have utilized the heat generated from cooking to use the stove as a source of power. The high-tech stove “takes excess heat produced during cooking and converts it into sound waves, which then generate electricity.” Currently, the stove produces up to 36 watts of power, enough to charge efficient LED lights or to power a mobile phone. In the future, developers of the SCORE stove hope that their invention will generate enough power to fully charge a laptop.

The most direct benefit of the SCORE stove could be its ability to eliminate dangerous smoke fumes from burning wood. In many cold areas of the world, wood stoves are used indoors to cook food and warm homes. With poor ventilation, the stove’s off-gasses become a health problem. Inhalation of smoke can lead to conditions such as “pneumonia and lunch cancer, which disproportionately affect women and children.” The SCORE stove helps mitigate this problem by helping to eliminate the dangerous smoke fumes that are produced by traditional stoves, making cooking safer in developing areas.

Developers of the new device recognize that although the SCORE stove is more expensive than a traditional wood stove, it is more durable and provides many more benefits. The SCORE stove’s ecological, medical, and economic advantages could result in a cleaner environment, improved global health, and increased economic production.

– Jordan Kline 

Sources: Trust, Score
Photo: Food Tank

What is clean water?

Clean water is safe, potable water that can be consumed or used for cleaning without the risk of sustaining illness as a result.

Where is it available?
Approximately 780 million people throughout the world live without access to clean water. This includes most of the developing world, and even 10 million people spread out in the developed world. These people often must walk miles a day to reach a water source or  use the water source nearby that is dirty and unsafe.

What are the ramifications of not having clean water?

  • Illness: Water-borne contagions and parasites are common when available water is unclean and unsafe. One must either risk becoming ill or go without water entirely. People frequently fall ill, children miss the chance to go to school numerous days out of the year because they are sick and adults are also unable to go to work because they are ill and miss getting paid for that day.
  • Inequality: The women and children of a family living in a rural area must spend most of their day, every day, walking to a water source. They lose the ability to go to school or work and must take on a secondary role in the society, instituting gender inequality.
  • Unsafe conditions: Sanitation is often minimal in the areas existing without access to clean water. People must use the toilet in public and the spread of disease is rampant, especially without a way for them to wash their hands. Women also risk sexual and physical harassment while they try to take care of their needs. Clothes, dishes, and food all go unwashed or washed in already contaminated water making real cleanliness and health impossible.
  • Death: More than 3.4 million people die each year from contaminated water or a lack of sanitation and hygiene. These deaths are entirely preventable.

What is being done?
Non-profits like WaterAid and Water.org are working with communities, governments, and individuals to make an impact and bring clean water and sanitation to those in need. WaterAid has reached 19.2 million people with their work and Water.org almost 600,000 through their WaterCredit initiative. Ordinary people are starting fundraisers and making donations to clean water initiatives. Pastor Steve Spear, for example, is running across the United States to raise money for clean water in Africa. New inventions like the LifeSack and the Water Cone are being implemented thanks to innovative minds taking an interest in the water crisis.

What can we do?
Water poverty is a part of the greater poverty issue and ending it could help end poverty as well. The more people have access to clean water, the more time they can spend focusing on education and work, and the more they can thrive and prosper instead of just trying to survive. Gender inequality will start to become a thing of the past in the affected communities as women will be able to take a more active role in the society. And the more other people do well, the more our own country stands to do well.

– Chelsea Evans

Sources: Water.org, WaterAid, Chicago Tribune, Good Clean Tech
Photo: Greengrants

Education is another one of the things we tend to take for granted in this country. In fact we even frequently complain about having to spend so many hours a day and so many years of our lives in a classroom. But so many other people in the world never have the opportunity to enter the classroom let alone. These next 5 quotes are from some of the biggest proponents for providing everyone in the world a chance to get a good, and safe, education.

“I can promise you that women working together – linked, informed and educated – can bring peace and prosperity to this forsaken planet.” – Isabelle Allende

“Education…beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of conditions of men – the balance wheel of the social machinery…It does better than to disarm the poor of their hostility toward the rich; it prevents being poor.” – Horace Mann

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

“From better health to increased wealth, education is the catalyst of a better future for millions of children, youth and adults. No country has ever climbed the socioeconomic development ladder without steady investments in education.” – Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO

“‘I wish for a better life. I wish for food for my children. I wish that sexual abuse and exploitation in schools would stop.’ This is the dream of the African girl.” – Leymah Gbowee

– Chelsea Evans

Sources: Good Reads, UN
Sources: Global Higher Education


Read Humanitarian Quotes.

Every year the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies) pay tribute to the United State’s federal workers by recognizing those who have made significant contributions to the U.S. Medalists are honored based on their commitment, innovation, and the impact of their work on addressing the needs of the nation.

This year USAID worker and her team are one of the finalists for the 2013 National Security and International Affairs Medal, one of the eight Sammies medal categories. Cara Christie and USAID’s Horn Drought Emergency Response Team are among the finalists in this category for their tireless endeavors in leading the relief effort following the drought in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya in the Horn of Africa. Christie coordinated the relief effort from her office in Washington D. C.,  providing immediate emergency relief to the affected countries and enacting methods to improve their agrarian economies after they had been decimated by three years of the worst drought that the Horn of Africa has ever seen.

Not only did Christie lead the relief efforts, but she is credited with recognizing the significance of the impending famine almost a year before it unfolded. Christie convinced her superiors in USAID of the need to be proactive by making advance preparations in the fall of 2010—a move that hastened aid to the region and saved lives. Christie used lessons learned from other drought response situations to come up with a program pairing health, nutrition, water, and sanitation program with food and voucher programs that helped repair the damaged economies in the Horn of Africa.

It may seem strange that an award given for service to the United States could be received by a team dedicated to giving relief to another country, but in reality Christie’s actions were crucial to U.S. national security interests. The Horn of Africa represents one of the regions of the world that most threatens U.S. national security because it houses some of the most conflict prone states in the world, including Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. It also is in close proximity to Yemen, a major center of U.S. counterterrorism action. The U.S. also houses the military base Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, which serves as the most important staging ground for U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Aid efforts in the region, along with in the rest of the world, contribute to stability and thereby hold radicalization at bay, furthering U.S. interests, and making the U.S. more secure.

– Martin Drake

Sources: Washington Post
Photo: USAID

A bill on marriage introduced in the Kenyan parliament has generated outrage amongst Kenyan men. The marriage bill is intended to unify the many and various local marriage laws and customs in the country to a single code. However, in doing so, the bill also strengthens some aspects of women’s rights in the country.

The bill allows for polygamy in Kenya under Islamic and customary traditions. However, the code will stipulate that men disclose the possibility of polygamy to his future spouse prior to marriage. All marriages will also be issued a certificate, even those performed under traditional laws. Issuing this certificate is intended to provide a legal proof of the union. Many marriages performed under traditional customs are not currently issued certificates, leaving spouses without a legal proof of the marriage.

Many wives are unaware that their husband has additional spouses and children until he passes away leaving behind a custody battle for assets. Polygamy is not permitted in Christian or civil marriages.

The majority of negative reactions seem to be caused by a clause stating “damages may be recoverable by a party that suffers a loss when the other party refuses to honor a promise to marry.” This clause seems to imply a man making a promise of marriage is required to follow through or pay for any monetary loss. In Kenya, a dowry is often paid from the prospective husband’s family to his intended wife’s family. The bill limits these payments to “token amounts” in the hope to dissuade poor families from selling daughters into marriage. The bill also sets the minimum age for marriage at 18.

Under Kenya’s 2010 constitution women gained the right to own and inherit land, unprecedented in the country’s history. While the constitution provides additional rights for women, these are often unknown or ignored in more traditional rural areas of the country.

A program launched in 2011 by Landesa and USAID in Kenya engages rural tribal leaders and elders in a discussion about women’s rights and the new constitution. Through this the program has seen progress in male acceptance of women’s rights provided in the constitution. As a result, some areas served by the program have seen increased female enrollment in schools and engagement of women in the community. Engaging community members in a frank conversation about the benefits of women’s rights and their impact is an essential element to gaining widespread acceptance. While many constitutions in sub-Saharan Africa include women’s rights they remain largely ineffective if many rural villages ignore them.

Callie D. Coleman

Sources: Thomas Reuters Foundation, The Huffington Post
Photo: Thomas Reuters Foundation

Like many young men living in Kenya, Julius Cheruiyot was forced to drop out of school at the age of 16 to work on his father’s farm. Today, Cheruiyot continues to farm, but because of social media, he can now afford to educate and feed his three children.

Julius Cheruiyot belongs to a growing number of farmers who use Young Volunteers for the Environment’s social media to track and adapt to climate change. With the advice of the YVE’s Facebook page, Cheruiyot knows when the best time is to plant his crops and when he should take certain actions to avoid losses.

Many farmers like Cheruiyot have joined YVE in recent years after being recruited at agricultural exhibitions and over the Internet.

YVE is the Kenyan division of a pan-African organization that was founded in Togo in 2011. The group seeks to address declining agricultural yields, which adds to food insecurity and poverty in Africa.

In recent years, changing weather patterns in Kenya and other areas of eastern Africa have negatively affected the majority of farmers. Over the past decade, erratic rainfall patterns and temperature fluctuations have resulted in low yields and failed harvests for many farmers.

The Kenyan Rift Valley, known as the country’s breadbasket, is a major site for maize and dairy farming, but planting maize in the region has become increasingly difficult due to irregular rainfall and outbreaks of pest-borne diseases. YVE gives farmers advice about the types of plants they should crop in certain weather patterns, recommending crops such as millet, wheat, sorghum and potatoes for the current conditions. The organization reports that rotating crops helps to rebalance pH levels of the soil, making it more fertile for future crop cycles.

According to YVE’s President Emmanuel Serem, the organization “engages youth across the country…to make a positive impact in the life of the community by enabling communities to effectively adapt to the effects of a rapidly changing climate.” YVE promotes sustainable practices that help to increase productivity and raises public awareness about rising temperatures and climate change in the region. The organization also aims to correct misinformation about climate change, which has been attributed to causes such as divine retribution.

Today, YVE has more than 900 followers on Facebook who can access information published on the site and discuss farming techniques. YVE capitalizes on the increased usage of social media by young Kenyans to reach those affected by climate change. While YVE has amassed a large following, Serem admits that farmers who lack access to the Internet or who are unable to read cannot access its services.

Regardless of the difficulties farmers may face in utilizing social media, YVE has great potential to reach the eight out of ten people in the region who are farmers, offering a cheap and effective opportunity to increase food security and reduce poverty.

– Katie Bandera

Sources: Trust, Climate Network, ONG JVE

Relying on a significant amount of guesswork and speculation, the Bank of Korea, headquartered in Seoul, produces an annual report on the North Korean economy. Because North Korea does not release economic data, South Korea’s efforts rely on intelligence gathered by the National Intelligence Service and other institutions, and link that information on North Korea to South Korea’s own growth rates. All of this is in order to compare the growth rate of the two countries, and aid in calculating the cost of the distant goal of reunification of the two countries.

The report found that, surprisingly, economic growth in North Korea has actually expanded for the second year running. The economy grew by 1.3% last year, after a growth rate of 0.8% in 2011. While it is hardly an economic boom – and much of the growth is attributed to international donors and an influx of aid after Typhoon Bolaven in August 2012 – sustained growth is nevertheless significant for the beleaguered nation.

However, expected policy changes from a regime that has prioritized economic growth have so far failed to manifest. Thus, the growth has failed to make an impact on much of the North Korean population. Despite an estimated 3.9% growth last year in agriculture, 2.8 million North Koreans still require food aid as the country once again faces severe food shortages.

Per capita income in North Korea resta at about $1200, despite the recent growth. For perspective, per capita income in South Korea is nearly 20 times higher. One further problem with the North Korean economy that the distribution of wealth is not reflected in estimates of per capita income. Much of the wealth of North Korea is located in the capital city of Pyongyang, the one place in the country where reports of economic growth can be believed. And meanwhile, the wealth gap widens and economic growth continues to fail to reach the citizens who would benefit the most.

– David Wilson

Sources: Wall Street Journal Huffington Post
Sources: Global Grind

The Flying Doctors Nigeria is an air ambulance service based in Lagos, Nigeria. Founded by Dr. Ola Orekunrin, the service is the first of its kind in West Africa. The company was founded to serve a need for immediate air transport for those injured or in desperate need of medical attention. According to Orekunrin, for many in Nigeria, medical help was next to impossible to find because the two or three good hospitals were two to four day journeys away. For a nation that has a huge oil and gas industry, the fact that there was no system for transporting to hospitals quickly seemed to be a glaring error in heath care to Orekunrin.

Dr. Orekunrin herself was impacted by the lack of transportation for the sick or injured. A few years ago, while Orekunrin was studying in the U.K., her 12-year-old sister fell gravely ill while on vacation in Nigeria. She needed medical care urgently but the local hospital could not care for the condition she had. The family was shocked to find out that there was no available air ambulance service in all of West Africa to move the girl to a better healthcare center  and that they would have to call for a flight all the way from South Africa. By the time the flight was even available, the little girl had already passed away.

For Orekunrin, the sudden loss of her younger sister was both shocking and life changing. A doctor by the age of 21, Orekunrin had a promising career in the U.K. as one the youngest, most talented, and ambitious young leaders. Yet she left it all to move to Nigeria to address healthcare in the African nation. So Orekunrin went to study evacuation models and air ambulance in developing countries. In 2010, she launched her own company Flying Doctors Nigeria.

Flying Doctors Nigeria is currently in its third year and continues to swiftly transport people who need urgent medical care. It has since airlifted and provided expert health care en route to 500 patients. The company uses a fleet of planes and helicopters in its work. The service has carried all sorts of injured or ill from victims of traffic accidents to gunshot wounds. This transportation is critical to patients as roads in parts of West Africa are often poorly maintained and badly lit at night, making transportation in cars both inefficient and difficult.

There are still many hurdles that this young company must face. First and foremost, aviation business is highly expensive in Nigeria. Orekunrin has stated “keeping costs down is always a challenge.” Furthermore red tape is always tangling up businesses. Yet with a growing financial services sector and a growing petroleum and gas industry could fuel demand for companies like Flying Doctors Nigeria. For Orekunrin and those who work with her, their labor is difficult, but the rewards for their hard work and dedication are life saving.

– Grace Zhao

Sources: CNN CP Africa Knowledge Fountain
Photo: Blogspot