Harvard University Professor Daniel Nocera has finally perfected the solar panel leaf that he began trying to construct several years ago at MIT. This new technology harvests solar energy in a unique way and has become a more practical way for people living in harsh conditions to gain access to electricity.

Nocera’s invention addresses the main problems with solar panels which are their high price, complexity and inability to produce power at any time. This leaves normal solar panels impractical for the developing world in many ways.

Nocera’s invention differs from a normal solar panel in that it breaks down solar energy similarly to how a plant photosynthesizes. In fact, the solar panel is touted to be ten times more efficient than the average leaf. Nocera’s artificial leaf breaks down solar energy into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is then held in a fuel cell and can be used on demand. Due to film build up, the initial design called for purified water to be used, which is rare in developing countries and rendered the invention impractical for impoverished communities.

However, Norcera recently developed a fix for this seemingly impossible problem. The innovators created a mechanism in the leaf in which a catalyst driving the chemical reaction breaks down. This provides a surface that is inhospitable for the film to develop.

With this new development, Nocera predicts that his invention will be widely used in developing nations as a cheap and sustainable way to create useable electricity.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: Knovel
Photo: Wired

World Bank president has claimed that economic growth is essential to tackling poverty and creating jobs. The Guardian interviewed him following a recent keynote speech. In his speech, he announced poverty reduction and shared prosperity are to be the focus of his five-year World Bank presidency.

Economic growth provides monetary stimulation to economies, allowing people living in developing countries to buy more products, create jobs, and develop. Jim Yong Kim has emphasized that if we want to create global growth, we have to invest in human capital. This means we need to work to eradicate poverty, keep children in schools, and focus on programs like public health education.

Kim also touched on the Millennium Development Goals. Kim has stated that they are and were very important to focusing our international agenda. While we may not achieve them by 2015, they have given us concrete goals to work towards.

Targets are essential to help change people’s behavior. Kim has expressed his opinion that in order to reduce poverty, and achieve measurable outcomes, we need to focus on specific elements of the MGDs. Kim believes we need to do more in women’s and children’s health- the two groups most widely impacted by poverty.

While he praises the many successes in the elimination of poverty, Kim warns that reaching the goal of reducing the percentage of global poverty to 3% will be extremely difficult. It is encouraging, however, to see vocalized commitment from one of the most influential poverty reduction agencies in the world. Stating intent creates accountability- something the international community could do more of.

-Caitlin Zusy
Source Guardian
Photo Telegraph

Tim  Costello
Tim Costello, who serves as Chair of the Community Council of Australia and as the Chief Executive of World Vision Australia, recently spoke about Australia’s successful foreign aid. Costello is a prominent figure in Australia, recognized for his unrelenting efforts to raise global poverty awareness and place poverty issues on the Australian national agenda. On Boxing Day of 2004 when the tsunami hit Asia, Costello was able to raise more than $100 million from the Australian public for tsunami relief. Recently, Costello asserted that when it comes to children’s lives and education, Australia’s foreign aid has been “spectacularly successful.”

Overseas development assistance has led to the inhibition of many HIV infections and has treated millions with AIDS. Australian development assistance has also dispensed “insecticide-treated bed nets against malaria,” which globally decreased death rates by half. Thus, Australian foreign aid is deemed quite necessary yielding many successes. The good news is that, for the past two elections, the Gillard government has wanted to lift aid directed overseas by 0.5% of Gross National Income. The U.N. had set up a goal of 0.7% of G.N.I. and so this lift is a step closer to that goal. It also presents the greatest potential of changing many people’s lives and saving people.

Leen Abdallah
Sources: World Vision, The Australian
Photo:The Sydney Morning Herald

USAID to Expand Its Teacher Training Project in Pakistan
The USAID Teacher Education Project in Pakistan has expanded to provide teaching services to every province in the country. This $75 million project has been working since 2011 to modernize Pakistan’s education system. With the help of Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission (HEC), over 2,600 students have enrolled in 15 universities and 57 colleges across the country. USAID hopes to see this number increase as more teachers emerge from the Teacher Education Program.

In order to reach out to more potential teachers, USAID realized the need to enlarge its program. Not only will the Teacher Education Project offer more locations, it is also giving 1,900 scholarships to students based on merit and financial need.

This higher education program will be implementing suggestions from a study conducted in 2006 that found flaws in Pakistan’s current teacher training system. The study discovered a trend of the government setting unrealistic goals for its education system and then, when it fails to meet those goals, creating new, also idealistic targets that are never reached. By making its goals more realistic, USAID is confident in its ability to improve Pakistan’s education system by producing high quality teachers.

As Pakistan trains more well qualified teachers, the country will begin to experience higher quality of education for its younger students as well. Javaid Laghari, chair of the HEC, is optimistic about Pakistan’s future, “We hope for a good change, when today’s students become tomorrow’s teachers.”

– Mary Penn

Source: UWN
Photo: BarakatNews

Global aid, formally known as Official Development Assistance (ODA), continued to decline in 2012 as wealthy countries struggled with the global financial crisis. Global aid decreased by four percent in 2012, following a two percent decline in 2011.

Global aid totaled about $125 billion USD in 2012. Most of that came from members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC), which includes most of the world’s wealthiest countries: the United States, Japan, and much of Europe. However, contributions of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) are becoming increasingly important to poverty reduction and assistance efforts.

In 2012, Australia, Austria, Iceland, Korea, and Luxembourg increased their donations to global aid. Countries hit the hardest by the financial crisis, including Italy, Spain, Greece, and Portugal, decreased their contributions.

Donations can be measured both by total quantity of donation and percentage of gross national income (GNI). The US was among the largest donors in total monetary value, but did not reach the minimum threshold of 0.7% of GNI. Smaller countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark surpassed 0.7%. In some cases, donations from non-traditional donor countries such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey surpassed individual donations from DAC-member countries.

The percentage of OECD global aid dedicated to humanitarian causes has increased from 3.3 percent to 8.6 percent over the last two decades. Global aid is distributed to many different sectors, including economic development, social and administrative infrastructure, food aid, transportation, and agriculture.

Global aid distribution has also shifted in recent years. The share of aid going to sub-Saharan Africa, traditionally the largest beneficiary, decreased from 47.8% to 41.8%. Meanwhile, aid to South and Central Asia increased from 11.5% to 19.8%.

The OECD’s official report on global aid trends can be found here. Call your senator or representative and let them know that you’d like to see the US contribute more, not less, to global aid.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: IRIN
Photo: The Fact File

Soma Water for You, Soma Water for Them
By now, the one-for-one models used by companies has become a common method to successfully sell products, raise awareness of global issues, and actually improve human lives. A major element for companies using this model such as TOMS and Warby Parker is emphasizing the storytelling aspect. This means connecting customers to the individuals and communities that benefit on the other end from the purchase of the product. Mike Del Ponte, CEO and founder of Soma water filters is adapting storytelling to the next level with the official launch of his product by activating all senses through video production and live events.

Soma water filters are simply designed for the modern lifestyle and home. It has only 2 components: a glass carafe (think Erlenmeyer flask) with a cone-shaped compostable water filter. Once you buy your first filter, Soma will automatically send a new one every 2 months as part of the subscription plan. However, the importance of Soma isn’t just its evolutionary design but its mission to eliminate water-vector diseases and provide clean water to over 800 million people around the world.

Through a partnership with charity:water, Soma will donate money to help fund water projects in countries such as Uganda, Ehtiopia, India, Honduras, and many others. However, to better tell the story of their partnership, founder Mike Del Pointe along with a team of 4 others, including The Glitch Mob producer Justin Boreta, are traveling to Ethiopia to check out the areas where their work will be effecting. The entire trip will be captured on many different levels: visually with a videographer, audiologically with recorded sounds that will be produced into a song, interactively with live feeds through social media sites, and most importantly, through food.

The culmination of the trip to Ethiopia will be a series of 10 dinner events that Soma will co-host with the magazine Dwell. These dinners will allow attendees to not only experience Ethiopian cuisine but to have a chance to see the work and stories from the trip as put together in multiple presentations and visualizations.

Soma was able to sell about 2,300 filters in its first round of preorders thanks to the $147,444 it raised with Kickstarter. Sales are expected to start again in August so be sure to keep an eye out to finally replace those bulky Brita filters.

It seems that these sorts of ventures should be the go-to business plan for product and service companies. For many in the humanitarian world, while paying a bit more for your basic product, knowing that its purchase directly benefits and changes the lives of others who are less fortunate makes opening up our wallets easier. For the people at charity:water, Dwell, and Soma, transparency with their work is extremely important. Their websites provide detailed information and illustrations on their finished and ongoing projects. Going back to Bill Gates’ word of advice in his 2013 letter, being upfront and proving your successes and even failures are going to propel charities to exceed their goals and give donors the comfort and reassurance they deserve.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: Co.EXIST

The Good and The Bad: Geolocation in the Developing World

Modern technologies such as commercialized geolocation have many positive aspects in the developed world. Never before has it been easier to sate your Foursquare obsession while simultaneously tracking Peter Dinklage. However, the effects of geolocation in developing countries are a little more extreme, ranging from trailing Joseph Kony to helping pregnant women find hospitals within driving distance, the positives and negatives can get pretty extreme.

The Good

The UK Department for International Development has collected data concerning the distance between pregnant mother and hospitals facilitating childbirth. By overlaying the data collected by geolocation systems onto satellite imagery, the department was able to show that child mortality increases as the distance of a pregnant mother from a hospital increases. Disseminating information like this throughout impoverished communities encourages safe childbirth at clean hospitals and lowers child mortality.

The Bad

In conflict stricken countries, having a smart phone or even a slightly more advanced mobile phone can have dire consequences for the owner. Because of GPS applications, if someone is caught with a smart phone by a militant organization they will most likely be considered a spy. This makes even owning a smart phone capable of geolocation a risk.

The Good

Geolocation systems can also be used to help prevent civilian deaths in fragile countries where rebellion is common. “Geospacial analysis” has even been used to predict where Joseph Kony’s militant group Lord’s Resistance Army will attack.

The Bad

Since GPS systems are so sensitive and exact when pinpointing location, expressing political opinion through a device with GPS could be potentially dangerous for a citizen in an unstable country. Even corporations collecting data on citizens to use for marketing could be potentially dangerous if that information falls into the wrong hands.

– Pete Grapentien

Source The Guardian

Aid Workers Still In North Korea
While tensions have been escalating over the last few weeks between North Korea, South Korea, and the United States, United Nations humanitarian aid and development workers are still working inside North Korea.

North Korea began to increase the frequency and severity of its statements after the passing of United Nations sanctions. Today 36 U.N. workers from around the world are still working in the country alongside 21 North Korean workers. A North Korean official claimed that foreigners should contemplate leaving the country, saying that they could not promise their safety after April 10. The fact that the humanitarian aid workers continue their work in such a tense and potentially dangerous situation is a testament to the spirit of the people who are working to help improve the lives of those living in severe poverty. United Nations representatives are concerned about the safety of their staff but say that they will be closely studying North Korea’s actions and later decide what they see as the appropriate course of action.

As the United States is more and more involved in the international scene with North Korea, South Korea has maintained US support of the aforementioned aid workers. Even while N. Korea’s leadership claims to be at the point of declaring war these people are still working to help the many people suffering from malnutrition and severe poverty there in North Korea. These workers provide a true testament to the global passion to help others and fight poverty.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Reuters

What the Wealthiest Could Do

If the bank account of every billionaire on Earth were put into one big pile, that pile would total $5.4 trillion dollars. Sounds like a lot, but that figure is dwarfed by the sum total of each American household combined which totaled $40.2 trillion. Tackling the problems of impoverished nations seems like a task too huge to comprehend, but when you look at the total capital of citizens in the United States and top earners around the world, the problem seems within reach.

World Vision estimates that it would cost roughly $50 million to provide clean water to each needy household in the entire world for a year. Seems like a lot of money until you compare it to the combined earning power of each billionaire in the world. It would cost a single percent of that total wealth. This would take much less than one percent of the total annual earnings of US citizens and would save 1.6 million lives annually.

Clean water is one problem, but food is another. The World Food Program estimates that it would cost $3.2 billion to ensure that children stay alive and nourished until they are grown. This would cost 1/600th of the total earnings of the wealthiest in the world and would save 4.2 million lives annually.

Contributions that already exist from governments and nongovernmental organizations are indeed helping to solve the problem. Extreme poverty is predicted to be solved by 2030, but some help from individuals could be the most powerful force in the fight against poverty.

– Pete Grapentien

Source Huffington Post
Photo Source MSN Now

Berry and Kors Launch Watch Hunger StopThe LA Times has reported that Halle Berry has teamed up with Michael Kors to help stop world hunger. The duo has announced their new campaign entitled, Watch Hunger Stop. The program will provide meals to children in Africa, Syria, and possibly Central America. The money will be raised through the sale of Kors’ $295 runway watch. The program has a high-efficiency rate as each watch can provide 100 meals for children as part of the U.N. World Food Programme.

The announcement of the campaign comes during Berry’s pregnancy- an additional beneficial aspect of the program. The actress states that she hopes to be able to travel to these countries during her pregnancy to speak with women about prenatal care. This helps raise awareness for women who may not have been exposed to such education. Increased knowledge of prenatal care as well as increased food in the region could greatly improve children’s quality of life, as well as potentially work to lower infant mortality rates. The lowering of infant mortality rates is incredibly important as mothers who have confidence their children will survive to have fewer children.

Berry has told the press that she would like to use her celebrity status for the benefit of people around the world. She would like to use this opportunity to speak to women around the world who struggle to feed and tend to their children. Berry seems well versed in the knowledge that hunger is a dangerous predictor of quality of life, and seems motivated to work towards the elimination of world hunger, something we could all strive to achieve.

Caitlin Zusy

Source: LA Times