Non-Communicable Diseases Key in Reducing PovertyIn a recent report, the World Health Organization (WHO) has deemed non-communicable diseases as the number one killer throughout the world. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and chronic respiratory disease, have over an 80 percent occurrence rate in low-income countries and poverty-stricken regions, specifically.

The WHO also estimates that 63 percent of all deaths in 2008 were caused by NCDs, with 25 percent of those people being younger than 60 years old.

In a related study, Harvard University found that each extra year of life expectancy can raise a country’s GDP by nearly 4 percent, adding to the belief that NCDs help facilitate the spread of poverty and hinder development and economic growth. Although much has been done in industrialized countries to combat these diseases, the lack of health infrastructure throughout the developing world makes it very difficult to consistently provide the proper treatment to each individual affected by NCDs.

A “roadmap” to fight NCDs around the world, published by Johns Hopkins University, recommends that it is imperative for the private and public sectors to work together in order to find efficient solutions to tackling NCDs across the globe, especially in poverty-stricken countries. It also asserts that health infrastructure in low-income countries needs to be consistent and standardized in order to avoid building “systems that are complex, duplicative and inefficient.”

The roadmap also recommends a higher level of cooperation between pharmaceutical companies and regulatory institutions in order to streamline the process of approving selected treatments, and highlights the need for pharmaceutical companies to play a larger role in building “partnerships with communities and governments.”

Christina Kindlon

Sources: Forbes
Photo: United Nations University-MERIT

Indian Version of USAID Bodes WellThe United States Agency of International Development (USAID) claims that they are very pleased to see the development of India’s own international aid program that is modeled after USAID. USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah has just returned from a visit to Myanmar and India.

India, which has one of history’s fastest-growing economies, will stop receiving foreign aid from the United Kingdom in just a few years and they are already working to distribute their own aid dollars to neighbors near and far. At this point, India has become the perfect example of what a developing country can become; India is less and less dependent upon international aid each year and they continue to grow their domestic economy. Unfortunately, the country’s massive population still suffers from some serious issues. About 20% of the world’s children that die of preventable disease before the age of five are from India. Nonetheless, USAID plans to work with their Indian counterparts on a number of important issues while focusing on health, energy-creation and industry, and agriculture.

Some may think that India isn’t ready for such a step, but the country boasts the world’s ninth-highest nominal GDP, a giant workforce that is becoming increasingly better educated, and one of the world’s biggest food surpluses. The impressive growth of the country over the last decade along with their expansive resources and close cooperation with USAID and the United Nations will help to create a well-organized series of programs that will be able to assist countries such as Afghanistan, where the Indian version of USAID is already working with a group that aims to create job opportunities for women.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Economic Times, United Nations,

WorldHaus Provides Homes for the PoorA for-profit business with non-profit principles, a growing trend in compassionate capitalism. WorldHaus is a great example – they have a mission to help the world’s “unserved housing market.”

In India alone over 500 million people, almost half the population, want and need better housing but the average cost of materials and labor makes it impossible to attain. There is no financing for the rural poor, or collateral to put up against a mortgage. WorldHaus is trying to fill this gap by manufacturing and building quality homes at a tiny fraction of standard costs, specifically developing a model that can be made affordable to the global poor.

Started in 2011, in India, WorldHaus makes customizable, weatherproof homes that can include amenities like clean-burning stoves, toilets, and solar electricity systems. Using a modular building system, families can build to any size and configuration they want. The base model – a one-room, 220 square foot home – can be built in about 10 days at a starting cost of below $2,000. Using local materials and on-site construction stimulates local economies through purchasing and employment, and cuts cost as well.

Additionally, they are working with mortgage providers to make homes available at $40/month, well within the reach for people making even $3 to $10 a day. They are setting up partnerships with governments, NGOs, and landlords to try and make homes available to families making less than $2 a day (through subsidies and rental programs).

A video from the Gate’s Notes website shows Bill Gates visiting Idealab and interviewing WorldHaus President Daniel Gross. WorldHaus was generated inside Idealab – a think tank and development project for innovative products.

– Mary Purcell
Source: WorldHaus

Will Pope Francis Be a Voice for the Poor?After two days of deliberation in the papal conclave, the first non-European pope was elected yesterday at the Vatican. Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, now and forevermore known as Pope Francis, became the 266th leader of the Roman Catholic Church, presiding over approximately 1.2 billion followers.

Many attributes of the new pope give hope to the rising importance of assisting the poor and working in developing countries. As the archbishop of Buenos Aires until 2012, Bergoglio was known as a man of few material possessions. He lived in a simple apartment, wore hand-me-down clothes from the previous archbishop, and preferred to remain out of the limelight and work in the villages.

While Argentina is not a third world country, having a pope from South America, a region of the world that suffers from so much poverty and political corruption, will most certainly change the direction of the Catholic church and its leadership role in helping communities contend with economic and social issues.

Since European popes may not feel as strong of a connection to people suffering in developing countries, Pope Francis I has had first-hand experience with the issues and solutions that arise when serving a parish and community made up of such people. His concern about the persistent social inequalities in South America will direct attention to similar issues for both Catholics and non-Catholics alike in other parts of the world.

Aside from his home life, there are other signs that Pope Francis will become a bigger champion of the poor than previous popes have been. By choosing the name Francis, a name never used by a pope, Bergoglio alludes to the infamous Saint Francis of Assisi. According to Vatican spokesman Thomas Rosica, Bergoglio, like Saint Francis, was a lover of the poor. CNN Vatican Expert John Allen comments that the name also symbolizes “poverty, humility, simplicity and rebuilding the Catholic Church.”

Being also the first Jesuit pope (the Jesuits are a religious order that is part of the Catholic Church), it is important to note that from the beginning of his religious training he took the infamous Jesuit vow of poverty, among other things. While the Catholic Church has been criticized for its lavish ornaments and spending habits, it seems that Pope Francis has the personality and lifestyle that is sure to change the focus of the Catholic mission partly onto global poverty and social injustice.

– Deena Dulgerian

SXSW Interactive Exhibits Life Saving DevicesThere is some unimaginable technology in this day and age, especially when it comes to its application in developing countries. Many of us are aware of the wonders that small-tech devices can have in education and micro-finance businesses. But when it comes to health-related technology, things can get more expensive and less mobile. Premiering at this year’s SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas is a series of devices that may be the new tools for health clinics around the world with the potential to reduce the cost of expensive equipment, improve patient record keeping, and most importantly save lives. This festival introduces life-saving devices.

The Interactive Festival at SXSW is one of the earlier showcases of the multi-tiered festival in Austin. From ‘TED talk’ like presentations to interactive gaming and activities, festival-goers can peruse and try-out different gadgets and new technology.

One of the larger exhibits displays products centered around the “quantified self” movement. Recently, apps and personal devices have come on the market and allow individuals to monitor and track certain aspects of their daily lives to better improve their health. While many of these programs are not quite adjusted for use in developing countries, there were some products that have the potential to be used in countries where large machinery and regular doctor visits are uncommon and difficult.

As part of GE’s Healthymagination Initiative, a new blood glucose monitor has been developed that is not only physically smaller than a normal monitoring system, but stores and charts information such as insulin, glucose, and carbohydrate levels. While blood sugar levels may not be the biggest concern in areas with a number of cases of communicable diseases, its a health concern nonetheless that can now be easily monitored by health clinic workers.

Another invention is the breast cancer-detecting bra. Mammograms run a bit expensive and thus may be low on a priority list for women who struggle to barely feed their children. An initial investment in these bras that monitor on the longer-scale any signs of breast cancer can help women in villages without immediate access to a doctor

While all these life-saving devices sound truly amazing, it is of course only with time that their affordability will come to a level in which organizations can buy and or donate them to health clinics around the world. What would work even better is if those at GE’s Healthymagination initiative focused on the needs of those living in more impoverished conditions and how certain devices would lower their risks of diseases and other health risks. Or even better, if they came together to donate the devices directly to families in need.

– Deena Dulgerian
Source: NPR

A Solution to Global Poverty: Mobile MoneyKenya has recently gained attention for its successful adaption of mobile money. A majority of its population, two-thirds of which live on less than $2 a day, are able to manage their finances using cell phones. Through this service, which does not require a bank account, millions of customers are able to send a text message to banks to pay bills, receive payment, and transfer money. Given that nearly 2.5 million people in the world do not have bank accounts and 2 billion people have cell phones, the program will make it easy to include a large number of people previously without access to finance management. As of now, there are 15 million mobile money customers in Kenya.

The impact of mobile money on people living in developing economies is vast. They now can boast financial independence, control of their funds, and the ability to assist family members and friends with ease. Mobile money can also improve financial security and local economic activity for small, low-income villages.  Most importantly, this is all available with the convenience and simplicity of a cell phone.

Safaricom developed the mobile money service in Kenya in 2007 and named it M-Pesa. Since then, many other companies have been eager to join the mobile sensation. However, despite the success seen in Kenya, mobile money providers have not been able to reproduce its effects in other countries like Afghanistan and Zambia. Many other factors contribute to mobile money besides technology. One reason why the Kenyan program has been so successful is due to its regulatory policies. The Kenyan government employs flexible regulatory rules after the innovative process occurs in order to ensure protection for customers and service providers.

Before this phenomenon, those living in poverty had little access to financial services. There are now 150 money mobile services throughout the world, which means that every day more and more impoverished people are able to benefit from mobile money. Little by little, one village at a time, we can hope to see improving economies in developing countries thanks to this innovative money service.

– Mary Penn
Source: Brookings
Photo:Business Daily Africa

World Bank & India's Most Impoverished StateAkhilesh Yadav is more than just a cool name; he’s the Chief Minister of India’s Uttar Pradesh and has recently sought monetary assistance of more than $3.5 billion from the World Bank Group over the next three to five years.

To illustrate India’s need more clearly, Minister Yadav took World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim on a tour of Uttar Pradesh. Home of the Taj Mahal, Uttar Pradesh is also home to the largest number of impoverished people in all of India – a country that has an estimated 37% of people living below the country’s poverty line. With India’s urban population expected to grow by 10 million each year, states such as Uttar Pradesh are in dire need of assistance.

After seeing the poverty in India’s most impoverished state firsthand, Kim agreed that helping Uttar Pradesh and other Indian states are in line with the World Bank’s mission of eliminating global poverty. Among the goals the World Bank supports is the national mission to clean the Ganga River. The World Bank will be contributing $1 billion. The money is to be dispersed through five of the basin states. This contribution supports an existing Indian program: the National Ganga River Basin Project. The Ganga River’s basin community supports more than 400 million Indians, about one-third of the population, and is India’s most important river.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: The World Bank

Fijian Exports Seeking New MarketsFor many Pacific Island Countries, a huge factor in their economic survival and competitiveness is their agricultural exports. In Fiji, aid coming in from the European Union, Australia, and New Zealand has significantly helped farmers and other agricultural workers to either maintain or boost their production and business outreach into various markets. Recently, however, there has been a stalemate for the Fiji Export Council (FEC) in making sure this sector that employs 60-70 percent of Fijian is able to reach its full potential.

There are many different types of funding that sometimes go unnoticed by farmers and those in the industry that could make the difference in breaking even or making a profit. These funds can be put towards something as simple as buying new equipment or even helping advertise a company’s products to markets outside of the general PIC area.

Programs have been created over the past two years whose focus has been specifically on working with distributors to bypass certain export regulations that have inhibited them from selling their products in different markets. Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA), funded by the Australian government, helps target specific markets for high-value Fijian goods. Through collaboration with government agencies, PHAMA tries to help in the application process and a basic understanding of the different rules and regulations Fijian companies must by-pass to sell their goods.

Increasing Agricultural Commodity Trade (IACT) is similar to PHAMA in its goal to increase exports, however, it works with other PIC such as the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, among others.

Having the financial support and involvement of Australia and New Zealand as well as the EU is important to minimize the distance that money and information have to travel to Fiji and other PICs. Eliminating a huge geographical distance allows the Fijian agricultural sector and its various workers to operate faster and have greater transparency.

Although the FEC is focusing on its agricultural sector which employs so many people, it may also be wise to shift some of their energy into revamping their tourism, as this is their second-biggest source of revenue aside from sugar export. For island countries, tourism provides a high number of jobs and has the ability to completely transform the economy; a major revitalization project currently being undertaken by another island country, Haiti.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: Fiji Times

Poverty Reduction Efforts on WomenProgress in the fight against poverty has demonstrated the importance of focusing on poverty alleviation efforts on women and children. Despite the great gains that have been made, gender inequality and violence against women still exist in every country in the world. Poverty reduction efforts should focus on women because women are vital to sustainable development. The empowerment of women leads to economic growth and increased social stability.

Poverty reduction efforts should focus on women because women have fewer opportunities for equal and meaningful education, jobs, and health care. Access to these human rights is essential in order to escape from poverty. Currently, women own only one percent of all property and earn just 10 percent of all income, yet they produce half of the world’s food.

Over 70 percent of the world’s poor, those living on less than $1.25 USD per day, are women. Because women compose the majority of those living in poverty, and because they face additional hurdles in achieving economic and social equality and success, poverty reduction efforts should focus on women across the globe, especially among the most disadvantaged and marginalized populations.

Most of the world’s poor women spend the majority of their time performing household chores, including cooking, cleaning, growing or obtaining food, collecting fuel and water, and caring for family members. Women do not receive monetary compensation for these tasks, yet they compose up to 63 percent of the gross domestic product in countries like India and Tanzania. Time and energy spent on these essential tasks result in fewer opportunities for advancement, such as education or economic pursuits.

A 2000 study by the International Food Policy Research Institute found that the majority of the reduction in global hunger between 1970 and 1995 could be attributed to the improvement of women’s social status. Progress in women’s education, food availability, and health care all played major roles in the reduction of hunger.

Because women play a major role in the world’s food production, poverty reduction efforts should focus on women farmers in order to help them earn a viable income and rise above poverty. Programs have been instituted in China, Bangladesh, and the Philippines that subsidize women farmers in order to allow them to grow food while earning extra income from selling vegetables or raising animals. Access to adequate sanitation facilities, health care, and children’s education are also priorities for bringing more women out of poverty.

– Kat Henrichs

Sources: Center for American Progress, NY Times
Photo: Muslimah Source

The End of a 50-Year Debate: Lake Malawi Mediation Begins in MarchA border dispute between Malawi and Tanzania that has remained unresolved for almost fifty years should be resolved within the next three months, according to government officials of both countries. The dispute involves ownership of Lake Malawi, also known as Lake Nyasa in Tanzania and Lago Niassa in Mozambique.

Lake Malawi is located in the southeastern region of Africa between Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania. It is Africa’s third-largest and second-deepest lake and is the ninth-largest lake in the world.

The lake is an extremely valuable resource for the region’s inhabitants. Besides being home to thousands of types of fish and other plants and wildlife, Lake Malawi is the primary source of income, food, transportation, and other basic needs for about 1.5 million Malawians and 600,000 Tanzanians. Local residents report that they are unable to cross freely between the countries because of tension, and even mistreatment, at the border.

The dispute over Lake Malawi ownership began in 1963 with the reaffirmation of the Heligoland Agreement, which stated that the national border lay on the Tanzanian side of the lake. Since that time, the countries have, tried twice to resolve the problem, to no avail. Malawi claims ownership of the lake as a stipulation of the treaty, while Tanzania claims the treaty is flawed and that the boundary should be redrawn down the lake’s center.

The dispute has come to a head recently due to the Malawian government reports that Lake Malawi holds rich mineral and oil deposits beneath its floor. Over the last eight months, Malawi has awarded oil exploration licenses to oil companies based in the United Kingdom and South Africa, which has increased tensions between the countries. Officials are hopeful that with the help of an objective third party, the Forum for Former African Heads of State and Government, the dispute will finally be resolved.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: All Africa
Photo: Real Malawi Travel