Smoke Detectors Save Lives
Many plans work with hundreds of million dollars, but sometimes it is the little things that make a big difference. A fire department in England recently visited a boys’ home in central Zimbabwe to install smoke alarms and teach the staff and children about fire safety. Thankfully, many thoughtful people are partaking in similar projects and providing smoke alarms to buildings in the developing world.

Unfortunately the fire department installed the smoke detectors at the boys’ home after a large fire destroyed part of the school and killed one young boy. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that one person dies in a fire about every 170 minutes, and that is only in the United States. People living in many parts of the developing world have a higher chance of being caught in a serious fire without help for a number of reasons including lack of an efficient response system, the rare availability of smoke detectors and lower construction standards.

To learn more about how people are working to prevent deaths from building fires around the world check out the FM Global Fire Prevention Program, a grant that helps provide smoke detectors to local governments, fire stations, and emergency response teams around the world.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Norwich News, CDC

Five Affordable Technologies Changing the World
More than just funky and fun, these innovations could be the key to progress and, ultimately, change in developing countries. The biggest hurdle developing countries face with widespread technology is affordability. While many basic life-saving and life-changing products are distributed throughout the developing world, technology is ready to make a breakthrough that gives everyone a chance to get connected, power their devices or have access to clean water. These five affordable technologies will change the developing world.

Affordable Tablets

On October 5, India launched the world’s cheapest tablet, Aakash, priced at just $35 for students with government subsidies or $60 in stores, which the government hopes will reduce the digital divide between the rich and poor. The Indian government is also distributing the first 100,000 units of the Android-powered tablet to college students for free. The tablet was also tested in 118 degrees Fahrenheit to test its durability in northern India’s summers and to give middle class Indians the value for their money. “The rich have access to the digital world, the poor and ordinary have been excluded. Aakash will end that digital divide,” said Kapil Sibal, India’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology.

Affordable Laptops

One Laptop Per Child’s XO and Intel’s Classmate PC share a common mission: Bringing children access to education through computer ownership. Both programs distribute rugged, affordable laptops to schoolchildren across the developing world. Each laptop costs between $400 and $500 to distribute and is powered by Intel. The software, an Intel innovation, enables students to communicate with their students through web-based learning.

Inexpensive Mobile Phones

Vodafone 150 sells the World’s Cheapest Cell Phone for just under $15. While it is not decked out with extensive features or applications, it does have the bare essentials; voice calling, text messaging and mobile payments. The phone will have an enormous impact on those who have never before been connected to the “grid”.

Alternative Energy

SunSaluter, winner of the Startups for Good challenge, aims to bring solar panels to villages in the developing world that have never had access to electricity. While solar energy is a hot topic across the world, its cost has halted widespread implementation.  Eden Full, a mechanical engineering undergraduate at Princeton University, developed solar panels that optimize energy collection as they rotate to face the sun for as much time as possible each day. The system costs just $10 and uses 40% fewer panels than typical solar energy thanks to its rotations.

Improved Sanitation

Last year, India’s Tata Chemicals released the Tata Swach (the Hindi word for clean). Priced around $21, Swach is an affordable water filter that uses rice husk ash and fine nano-silver particles to stop bacteria growth. Using the filter prevents against waterborne bacteria and viruses, requires no electricity and meets the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s sanitation standards.

When Swach was released, Tata said only 6% of urban households and 1% of rural households in India were using water purification devices. Hopefully, this nanotechnology will reach billions of people that don’t have access to clean water and improve sanitation in developing countries around the globe.

– Kira Maixner

Source: Mashable
Photo: Action Instute

USAID Helps Nicaraguan Students Graduate
Universidad Centroamericana celebrated as 125 students graduated on April 5th. Many of these students had received scholarships from the USAID’s Enterprise and Employment program to study business and technical studies. Nicaragua’s Victoria Fountain, an organization that encourages young people to pursue technical degrees, also supported the students.

These graduates completed courses in “strategic planning, human resources, negotiation techniques, human relations and customer service” for business majors and technical majors took “mechanical drawing, electricity, mechanics, hydraulics and pneumatics.”

USAID and the Victoria Foundation each contributed $107,000 to the University. This money went towards providing books, uniforms, meals, and teachers’ salaries. The two organizations hope to team up to create a food technology degree. Students graduating with this degree would greatly contribute to Nicaragua’s effort to improve its food security. U.S. Ambassador Phyllis Powers, the head of USAID’s Enterprise and Employment Program, and several representatives from the Victoria Foundation attended the graduation celebration. These organization members were thrilled to see their financial contributions utilized to benefit these hard working students and the country of Nicaragua.

As more young people receive a higher education, Nicaragua’s economy and standards of living will begin to improve. Many of these students would not have had the financial means to attend Universidad Centroamericana without the help of USAID and the Victoria Foundation. Now, they have the opportunity to change their lives for the better.

– Mary Penn

Source: TND

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is partnering with the Swedish International Development Corporation Agency, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute, the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law and Olivia Companies to combat discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities in third world countries.

Together, these groups will contribute $11 million to protect LGBT groups against violence and discrimination and allow them to expand to include more people. USAID will also become more involved in the political processes of developing countries and help pass anti-violence and anti-discrimination laws.

Currently, homosexuality is illegal in over 80 countries and territories, seven of which enforce the death penalty for people caught in same-sex relationships. USAID and its partner organizations hope to change this. As Hilary Clinton said in a 2001 speech, “gay rights are human rights.” Now that President Obama has spoken in support of the gay rights initiative, advocacy groups and USAID have the backing they need to push the agenda forward.

When training begins at the end of May, we will begin to see the LGBT community become more involved in the political process. USAID and its partners are starting their program in Colombia, where the local mayor and the head of the city’s welfare agency, a transgender woman, will attend the training event.

There are 19 countries where it is illegal to discriminate against homosexuals and about 12 countries that permit same-sex marriage. These countries include Argentina, Canada, Spain and South Africa. As more LGBT leaders are elected and gay people become involved in politics, it is likely that more countries will be added to this list.

Mary Penn

Source: Washington Blade

Barack Obama has called for reforms to the in-kind American food aid system. If enacted, these budget reforms could dramatically change how the world’s largest donor operates abroad.

The reforms, included in the President’s 2014 budget proposal, would significantly roll back requirements that American food aid is bought and shipped from the US. Instead, more funding than ever would be available for recipients to buy food closer to where it’s needed, or send cash or vouchers instead.

The administration’s proposals would entirely end “monetisation” programs where aid groups receive US food commodities in place of cash, which they then sell in local markets to fund other development projects such as clinics and schools. USAid said the reforms would enable it to reach an additional two to four million people each year. “Rather than limiting the United States to a tied, commodities-only approach, these reforms will enable experts to select the right tool to most efficiently meet the needs of hungry and vulnerable people,” it said.

However, if the reforms are passed, they may take a toll on the maritime unions and US based farmers that depend on the current food aid system. USA Maritime, a coalition of maritime unions, called on Congress to reject the reforms. “The administration’s proposals … will be harmful to our US merchant marine, harmful to our national defense sealift capability, harmful to our farmers and millers and bad for our economy,” said chairman James L Henry.

The administration’s proposal includes $25 million in additional funding for the department of transportation’s maritime administration, which would lose significant business under the reforms. This would support “certain militarily useful ships, and will facilitate the retention of US mariners”, it said.

Congress must now decide whether to fund these programs and accept the proposed changes. Analysts expect months of increased lobbying both from supporters and detractors.

-Kira Maixner

Source: The Guardian


As a way to save money, the Obama Administration is expected to switch from sending domestically grown food to giving cash to USAID recipient countries. Although the administration has not yet commented on its new plans, people close to the decision-makers have confirmed that this new method will be employed as a way to decrease spending without compromising food aid.

There have been many opposing views as to whether this new strategy will help or hurt people living in hunger. Although the food aid budget would drop 25 percent, sending money instead of food is faster and more cost effective. Currently, shipping charges consist of about half of the US food aid costs. This is due to a rule that requires the food to be transported on US shipping vessels, which is more expensive. Groups in favor of cash donations include Care, Actionaid, American Jewish World Service, Church World Service and Oxfam.

However, other groups, like farming and shipping associations, World Vision, International Relief and Development, and Planet Aid, are against the proposed new strategy. Since recipients will be responsible for purchasing food with the aid money, there is the danger that food in that country may not be readily available or of high quality. These opposition groups are also concerned that local farmers may not be able to produce the necessary variety of crops for a healthy diet. Most importantly, they oppose the change because food donation has proven to be effective.

If the proposal goes into effect, this will be the most drastic change to US food aid programs in over 50 years. It may be the case that the administration decides to reduce food donation, but not completely end the program. Twenty-four senators and many other farm and foreign aid groups have written to the Obama Administration speaking out against any changes to food aid policy. However, with the current budget cuts, it is likely that the White House will try to reduce costs as much as possible.

– Mary Penn

Source: GMA News
Photo: Guardian

The Institute of Development Studies has released new rankings for the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI). The index ranks countries by political commitment to tackling hunger in developing countries from most commitment to the least. Guatemala has topped the list, and Guinea-Bissau has finished last.

Guatemala managed to rise to the top by way of, “policies ensuring access to drinking water and improved sanitation, complementary feeding practices and ensuring over nine out of ten pregnant women receive visits from health officials at least once before delivery.”

Guatemala has made budgetary strides to ensure their country can achieve lower chronic malnutrition rates by the year 2016. At present, Guatemala has an alarming rate of child stunting, and the IFPRI has expressed deep concerns over the country’s hunger situation. While the current situation in Guatemala remains less than ideal, progress is being made, and things are improving.

On the other hand, Guinea-Bissau, who also has alarming hunger and malnutrition rates, has shown little political commitment to improve their situation. They have failed to invest in agricultural improvements, and their nutrition policies need a great deal of work.

It is important to note that GNI is not a major determining factor for the hunger and nutrition commitment index. Several wealthier countries, such as India and Nigeria, actually rank lower than countries with lower GNIs, such as Malawi. The important thing is that countries show strong political commitment and use of resources to reduce hunger and malnutrition.

The index compiles a score based on 22 indicators of political commitment to reducing hunger and malnutrition. These indicators include political policies and programs, legal frameworks, and public spending.

Researchers believe the hunger and nutrition commitment index is important because of what it brings to light.  The index shows what governments are doing well, or what they are failing to do. It has the capability to be a catalyst for change and accountability. It could have the ability to mobilize civil society and the international arena to demand more from governments worldwide.

– Caitlin Zusy
Source: Guardian

As the world continues to deal with economic financial crises, there is still a need for global contribution and aid to countries of extreme poverty. With the amounts of Western foreign aid decreasing, there is a need for new and innovative means of development to lift people out of poverty. The main themes that are the current focus include taxing, gender equality laws, inclusive growth and regional integration.

The Chief Economist and Vice President of the African Development Bank, Mthuli Ncube, urged the need for transparency between investors and the African people. He points out that it is problematic how even when commodity prices increase, African governments’ revenues do not follow the pattern. He suggests that international investments in African natural resources should be monitored so that they “benefit the African people through job creation, protecting the environment, developing African entrepreneurs,” and then using all the resulted revenues to create a diverse African economy.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has stated that there has been a shift in aid from extremely poor countries to those of middle-income, and it emphasizes the point that in order to meet the U.N. Millennium Goals by 2015, this shift must be reversed to prioritize and address the extremely poor countries. A professor of Development Policy and Practice at the University of Warwick in the U.K., Franklyn Lisk, discussed how African countries suffer from an irony where their natural resources have not been giving them any returns on improving human development. He argues for tax justice, citing that there are many extranational companies who enter developing nations “paying little or no taxes, through manipulation and connivance with corrupt regimes.” With taxation, Lisk says, revenue would increase to 6 times the amount of total aid.

In 2012, 9 members of the Development Assistance Committee increased their aid, and those members are: Australia, Iceland, Austria, Korea, Luxembourg, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, with other donors including Poland, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

Leen Abdallah

Source: All Africa
Photo: National Geographic

President Obama revealed his proposed budget for 2014 and much to the surprise of many, there was a slight increase in foreign aid in the proposal. Requested funds for foreign aid equaled somewhere around $52 billion which is a slight bump over this year’s budget.  Increased funds for global health and development assistance were included as well as a decrease in military aid to foreign countries.  The proposed budget also called for a major overhaul of the US food-aid programme to save money and invest more wisely in food production and improvement rather than on shipping costs.

The International Affairs budget funds USAID and the State Department as well as the United States’ donations to the United Nations and other similar institutions.  It also provides funds for natural disaster emergencies and embassy support. The proposed budget will now be passed to the House and Senate where they will debate the proposed funds.  If an agreement cannot be reached again this year, major across-the-board spending cuts will go into effect again. One thing that did not change in the proposed budget was the proportion of the budget that goes towards foreign aid, which still amounts to only slightly more than 1% of overall spending. Compared to the defense budget, which is around $527 billion, there is still a large gap in appropriated government funds.

Advocates of foreign aid spending have long complained of the disconnect between aid and diplomacy, citing that without increased development, unstable countries will struggle to become stable. Leaders are working with Congress to call for the necessary funds to promote global development, innovation, and provide resources to those in poverty. The proposed budget caused non-profit and non-government leaders to breathe a slight sigh of relief as their funds were not initially proposed to be cut. While budget cuts must be made, foreign aid is an area where the funds are causing global change, reducing poverty, and increasing the safety of both US citizens and citizens of other countries.

The proposed budget is also the perfect time for advocacy.  As Senators and Representatives must make decisions about the final budget, calls advocating for foreign aid and funds focused towards reducing global poverty can make a real impact.

Find your senators and representative here and make a 30 second call to keep foreign aid fully funded.

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: The International News Magazine
Photo: Council on Foreign Relations

The U.S. Department of State recently hosted a number of government officials in a conference on nutrition and hunger in Guatemala. Attendees included representatives from USAID, the Guatemalan Health Minister, officials of the Government of Guatemala, a panel of nutrition experts, and private sector leaders.

As part of the larger Zero Hunger Pact, started by the President of Guatemala in 2012, Guatemala’s goal is to lower chronic malnutrition in children throughout the country by 10 percent by 2015.

In addition to representatives from the United States and Guatemala, members from the World Bank, the World Food Program, and other high-profile organizations appeared at the event. Participants of the event gathered to discuss and strategize on Guatemala’s implementation of the Zero Hunger Pact, which included planning the necessary next steps for the country to take to reduce malnourishment.

Guatemala has one of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world as nearly half of all children in the country under five years of age suffer from chronic malnourishment; the issue is particularly bad in the Western highlands of Guatemala. U.S. government officials praised the Guatemalan government’s efforts to tackle child nutrition at the conference and also praised their efforts for sustainable results in fighting hunger.

In addition to the Zero Hunger Pact, Guatemala is also a focus area for the United State’s global hunger and food security initiative called Feed the Future.

Christina Kindlon

Source: State Department