Transport Infrastructure in Myanmar
One way Myanmar is accelerating economic development, and therefore reducing poverty, is through investing in transport infrastructure. A major side effect of economic development is poverty reduction. Development often results in job growth, higher productivity and improved education. Myanmar, as well as other developing countries, noticed massive poverty reduction that followed economic growth. However, economic growth is not the only solution to reducing poverty. Despite the southeast Asian country reducing poverty from 48.2 percent in 2005 to 24.8 percent in 2017, poverty still affects one in four people. Myanmar is currently updating and adding roads in rural areas. Additionally, Myanmar is constructing bridges, highways and railways to increase transport between Thailand, an important trade partner.

Benefits of Investing in Transport Infrastructure

Based on the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) 2016 Myanmar Transport Policy Note, the country needs about $60 billion in transport investments between 2016 and 2030 for transport infrastructure in Myanmar to be completely developed. Myanmar has approximately 20 million people who lack basic road access. Further, 60 percent of highways are in poor condition. The ADB also stated that Myanmar’s GDP could potentially increase to 13 percent or about $40 billion if transport infrastructure investments increased to 3 to 4 percent of the GDP. For reference, Myanmar spent about 1 to 1.5 percent of its GDP on transport infrastructure between 2005 and 2015.

Policy for Transport Infrastructure

As part of Myanmar’s Sustainable Development Policy 2018-30, transport infrastructure development is a prioritized area. The third goal in the report relates to creating jobs and boosting the economy with the help of the private sector. The National Strategy for Rural Roads and Access 2016, Myanmar National Transport Master Plan 2016 and National Export Strategy 2015-2019 are three plans focused on upgrading or constructing transport infrastructure in rural and urban areas. Investing in transport infrastructure in Myanmar could improve trade between Thailand and other countries, as upgraded ports, railways, roads and bridges will open up the country for trade.

Bridges and Roads

The second Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge is a bridge over the Moei River in east Myanmar that opened in 2019. The $126 million bridge connects the city of Myawaddy in Myanmar with Mae Sot in Thailand. Myanmar expects the bridge will significantly improve business between the two trade partners.

Two bridge projects in the capital Yangon are also underway. The Yangon-Thanlyin Bridge will connect the capital with Thanlyin, a major port city that handles most of the export and import shipments into and out of Myanmar. Estimates determine that construction on the $278 million bridge should end by 2021. Another bridge connecting Yangon with Dala in the southwest costs $188 million. Construction for this bridge should end by 2022. Dala is an underdeveloped and rural area that lacks bridges across the Yangon River; therefore, this forces inhabitants to take a ferry to cross the river. The bridge will not only help locals reduce travel time but also increase trade throughout Yangon.

Railways

Investments also include the construction of railways, after Myanmar noticed that the number of vehicles on roadways doubled from 2012 to 2016. Traffic within Yangon has become two to three times slower within the same time period. Yangon has a population of more than seven million, so reducing traffic congestion is an important issue. This also explains the push for bridge construction within the capital. The result of this observation led to the creation of the National Transport Master Plan in 2014. One part of the plan involves upgrading the $3 billion Yangon-Mandalay rail line. Work began in 2018, and it should be completed by 2023. Travel times between Yangon and Mandalay will likely reduce from 12 hours to eight hours.

Progress

Evidence of further progress in transport infrastructure in Myanmar is clear through the paved highway network, which increased by 35 percent. The country is developing at around 6 to 7 percent; however, according to the ADB, further investment in transport infrastructure is necessary to completely develop the transport sector. Job growth and improved trade are two major results of transport infrastructure investment. As the bridges and railways come to completion in the coming years, transportation within and outside Myanmar could greatly improve.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

5G in India
With 5G connectivity as the next digital revolution for the global world, it is imperative to think about the positive impacts as 5G arrives in India as early as 2020. The service will introduce higher internet speeds and access for millions of Indian users. Here are five benefits of 5G in India involving its economy, retail, education, health care and agriculture.

5 Benefits of 5G in India

  1. A Boosted Economy: With the second-largest population in the world at 1.3 billion in 2019, India’s digital customer base is just as numerically significant because it constitutes a great amount of the country’s GDP at 8 percent. For example, in 2018, there were 560 million Indian internet subscribers and 1.2 billion mobile subscriptions. Out of the $200 billion revenue from the country’s entire digital economy, digital communication and telecommunication account for $45 billion while mobile handsets account for $10 million. The introduction of 5G in India will allow for increased internet and broadband, and revenue will continue to trend upwards. For example, with the introduction of 5G in India, the country’s GDP could reach $1 trillion by 2035.

  2. Advanced Retail: India’s retail sector accounts for a significant 10 percent of the nation’s GDP or $1.8 billion in 2017 through brick and mortar as well as online retailers. By 2020, the retail sector should rise to $3.6 billion. Thanks to 5G in India, higher internet speeds offer retailers and sellers a better connection due to faster website access. This instantaneous connection presents the potential for better sales. Additionally, store and inventory management software could aid retailers in their organization to offer better customer service. Digital payments such as United Payments Interface, the interbank money transfer service and Paytm can provide better data on revenue and increase the customer base. Digitization with 5G in India will provide better connections, increased sales, data collection and increased productivity causing the GDP to inevitably trend upwards.

  3. Enhanced Education: 5G technologies will benefit students with increased communication, virtual and augmented reality, increased cloud data and smart learning for differently-abled students. For instance, 5G enables increased connection with 100 times faster speeds, thus enabling more opportunities for distance learning for individuals in remote areas. Virtual and augmented reality provide engaging and easily understood content, thus improving the quality of education. With faster connections, cloud data becomes more accessible, allowing students to resume work at their own pace. Personalized education for differently-abled students will vastly increase with cloud-based robots which act as assistants to aid children more in need of teacher assistance. Such progress is tremendous given that estimates determine that each additional year of schooling should result in about 8 percent higher wages.

  4. Better Managed Agriculture: The Indian agricultural sector faces current challenges with a lack of data collection and analysis, fluctuating prices, unavailability of agri-logistics, poor farm returns and lack of information on consumer interest. 5G technology can amend such challenges with increased soil and crop monitoring, precision farming, smart irrigation and climate change alignment, livestock monitoring and agricultural drones. For example, in terms of soil and crop monitoring, 5G implemented sensors can provide information on soil data of moisture, nutrients and spoilage. These sensors are a huge accomplishment for food security because crop diseases are a challenge to Indian farmers serving an ever-growing population.

  5. Increased Health Care: 5G forms a comprehensive digital network in health care with The Massive Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) and Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB). With 5G, IoMT and eMBB will operate at faster speeds to effectively provide more personalized patient care. Technologies such as smart glucose monitoring and automated insulin delivery enhance proactive care with early detection methods resulting in more lives saved. With 5G, rural areas lacking health care facilities will have support from local centers made operable by new technology. These individuals can thus receive faster treatment, which was once only attainable at a distance.

With the second-largest population in the world and second-largest internet consumer base, 5G in India is sure to benefit the nation with better connectivity and higher speeds in urban and remote areas. Aside from its technological benefits, other great benefits exist as well with poverty reduction. In alignment with the forecasted GDP of $1 trillion by 2035 thanks to many aspects including digitization mentioned in this article, by 2027, the country expects to reach upper-middle-income status.

Elizabeth Yusuff
Photo: Flickr

The Marshall Plan to Mobilize African Development
According to the Population Reference Bureau, Africa’s population will more than double by 2050, from 1.2 billion people to 2.5 billion. Africa already suffers from food, energy and job shortages, and its current population makes up about 17 percent of the world’s population. However, with this current growth, its population would balloon to an estimated 20 percent. As a result, Europe realizes that African development is going to have a large impact on the 21st century and that action is necessary. This action includes the Marshall Plan to mobilize African development.

The Solution

Although Africa struggles with the aforementioned shortages, it withholds 15 percent of global oil reserves. In addition, 40 percent of gold reserves and 80 percent of platinum reserves are located there. The largest expanse of agricultural land in the world is also in Africa. Based on this, Germany is spearheading the Marshall Plan initiative to mobilize African development and promote private investment on the continent. This is part of the G20 (EU in conjunction with 19 other countries). Africa currently relies on donors and other countries for support, but this new initiative will help Africa become more self-sufficient.

With the predicted population explosion, Africa must create more jobs and opportunities. To do so, the G20 needs private investment to make Africa appealing to potential investors. Other changes that will support this initiative include protecting human rights, strengthening the economy and implementing good governance. Through this, the G20 also needs to address and solve problems in Africa. These problematic elements consist of trade, arms sales to crisis areas and illicit financial flows. This will require strong international cooperation and partnerships between developed and developing countries.

The Marshall Plan includes ensuring food and water security, bolstering infrastructure, embracing digitalization, increasing access to energy, health care and education in Africa. To accomplish this, the G20 also plans to give Africa a seat on the U.N. Security Council. This will provide the country with heightened authority in international organizations and negotiations.

G20 Partnership Pillars

Partnership pillars that the Marshall Plan is prioritizing are promoting private investment, developing infrastructure and improving economic growth. Analyzing pre-existing initiatives will promote private investment. Promotion will also include tailoring country-specific measures to improve the framework, involving business and financing. Africa will develop infrastructure by expanding on pre-existing initiatives and sharing any knowledge on infrastructure investment and how to manage it and natural resources. Finally, the creation of an initiative to promote employment via skills development and training (Initiative for Rural Youth Employment) will improve economic growth.

Related Initiatives

Related initiatives include AU’s Agenda 2063, the Addis Tax Initiative, the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), the Sustainability, Security and Stability in Africa Initiative and the EU’s European External Investment Plan (EIP). For the Marshall Plan to succeed, it must fit in with the other initiatives and fill in gaps to promote change in Africa. Supporting organizations of the Marshall Plan include the African Union, the EU and the NEPAD Agency.

The Future

As of 2018, the cabinet has already passed the Marshall Plan to mobilize African development; however, it has not taken any further action yet. Experts worry that the plan could become obsolete if people have unrealistic expectations of what it will cover. A common misconception is that the plan will automatically secure peace and create jobs and growth for Africa. It is working towards that, but there is no guarantee. If action follows soon and private investment grows, Africa will be well on its way to self-sustainability.

– Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

Boglatech Gebre

Born in a small village in Ethiopia’s Kembata region, Boglatech Gebre was one of 14 children. Growing up, people described her as the average Ethiopian girl. She would help her mother with the chores and the cooking, help look after her siblings and would have to take a daily walk to get clean water for the family. However, unlike other young girls she grew up with, Gebre was secretly attending school. When she was growing up, females did not have access to education. Gebre received a secret education daily and soon she was able to read and write unlike other girls her age. She did this by excusing herself to fetch water in the early morning and having her uncle help her complete her chores. Gebre eventually received a scholarship to attend an Ethiopian school. Following studying microbiology in Israel, as well as the United States, she received her Masters and started studying for her Ph.D., leaving the program to return to Ethiopia as a women’s rights activist. Here are five facts about Boglatech Gebre.

5 Facts About Boglatech Gebre

  1. Boglatech Gebre was an Ethiopian Women’s Rights Activist. At the age of 12, Gebre underwent genital mutilation. Although the physical scars healed, the mental scars did not. This procedure was a key factor as to why Gebre abandoned her Ph.D. to become a women’s rights activist. Gebre not only focuses on ending the act of female genital mutilation (FGM) but is also passionate about ending the kidnapping of underage girls to become child brides.

  2. She Started a Charity with her Sister. In 1997, Boglatech Gebre and her sister founded KMG Ethiopia, based in Kembata. The letters stand for the phrase “Kembatti Mennti-Gezimma-Tupe,” which, in the Kambaata language, is a phrase that describes the power that united women have. People have credited KMG for saving 10s of thousands of young girls from becoming child brides. The charity has also essentially ended female genital mutilation in the Kembata region. In 1998, one year after Gebre and her sister founded KMG, the female genital mutilation rate was 100 percent, but by 2008, it dropped to 3 percent. The charity also focuses on providing women’s health services, because it opened up the first mother and child health center in Ethiopia. KMG also provides women and girls with education, livelihood and economic empowerment, information and health on gender-based violence, human rights information, environmental change and infrastructure development.

  3. Gebre was Influential in Passing Legislation. Ethiopia heard Gebre’s passion for creating a safe country for women. Because of her active role in speaking out for women’s rights, Ethiopia passed bans on issues such as child marriage and female genital mutilation. Ethiopia has also banned the practices of bride abduction, polygamy, widow inheritance and domestic violence. KMG persuaded Ethiopian courts to hear the cases of women, and the country has even hired female judges.

  4. Gebre and KMG have Received International Recognition. Since the foundation of KGM, Boglatech Gebre and the organization have won fifteen major awards. These awards include the Spanish National Committee for UNICEF’s International Award in 2015, the Bruno Kreisky Prize for Services for Human Rights in June of 2013 and the North-South Award of the Council of Parliament of Europe in 2005. All the awards the charity has received reflect its commitment to improving human and women’s rights.

  5. She has Influenced other Improvements in Ethiopia Outside of Women’s Rights. As mentioned earlier, KMG has influenced Ethiopia’s environment and infrastructure development. The charity has planted over nine million trees that are indigenous to Ethiopia in an act of combating the environmental crisis. Gebre and the organization have also helped build bridges throughout the rural area of Kembata, opening up ways of travel that were not previously available to the local people.

On November 2, 2019, Boglatech Gebre passed away in Los Angeles, California. Although her charity did not release her cause of death, people believe it was due to a car wreck from 1987 that left her with nerve damage. Since the accident, Gebre would fly out to California to receive treatment. Initially, medical authorities told her she would never walk again, but she went on to run marathons, literally and figuratively. People knew Gebre for not letting anything hold her back, whether it be nerve damage or her gender. These five facts about Boglatech Gebre show the legacy and influence she has left behind, but KMG Ethiopia plans to continue it.

– Destinee Smethers
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Pollution in Africa
Africa is a continent that is in a state of impoverishment; as of 2015, 413 million citizens of Africa live in poverty. Due to a lack of resources, Africa struggles with maintaining its environment and reducing its pollution levels. The pollution in Africa is becoming worse as the state of poverty worsens. Impoverished communities rely heavily on their environmental state, and people should place the issue of pollution at a higher importance. Here are 10 facts about pollution in Africa.

10 Facts About Pollution in Africa

  1. Water Pollution: The quality of the water accessible to those in Africa is essential; according to a study in 2009, “water is said to be a national asset… one on which [their] economic and social development” relies upon. A major cause of water pollution in Africa is the throwing of general waste into local bodies of water. Communities in poverty do not usually have the funding to create proper waste-management systems so they pollute their water supplies instead.
  2. Metal Pollution in Soil: Once a water source suffers pollution, the contaminants can spread into the soil that supplies food and economic activity. People have found metals from local waste in the soil of major agricultural plots of land. The metals found have now become a public health risk due to the already high levels of pollution in Africa. Areas could implement better filtration devices to reduce metals in soil.
  3. Air Pollution: Air pollution is Africa’s biggest environmental risk. Air pollution is a major problem throughout all of the world with over 90 percent of people living in a place that does not meet WHO air quality guidelines. In Africa, air pollution is becoming the most dangerous environmental risk that residents face. South Africa specifically faces higher air pollution because of a lack of governmental enforcement of laws preventing pollution. Local environmental groups are suing the South African government so that it may make a change.
  4. Emissions: Africa produces a high amount of emissions due to its lack of resources. Everyday life including cooking, waste-management and heating of items adds to the current state of air pollution because citizens have to make fires for their different needs. Emissions in impoverished communities cause a different kind of pollution that affects the direct community at high levels. Road vehicles and outdoor forms of heating are examples of low-level emissions that cause air pollution in Africa. The industrialization that could prevent outdoor pollution is in progress but still requires attention to prevent emissions.
  5. Acid Rain: Acid rain is becoming more prevalent due to pollution. Coal-burning in South Africa causes occurrences of acid rain. Coal-burning derived air pollution releases dangerous gases that can poison plants, contaminate communities and produce damaging acid rain. A factory in South Africa was responsible for the emission of 1.84 million tons of sulphuric acid and 0.84 million tons of nitric acid in 1987. Further enforcement of environmental laws could reduce the acid rain that large coal-burning companies cause.
  6. Children and Air Pollution: Children are at an especially high risk of death by air pollution and children that expose themselves to outdoor pollutants are more likely to suffer the effects than adults. The spread of diseases air pollution causes are negatively impacting the life expectancy of children. Around 7.8 million people will die prematurely from direct or indirect exposure from emissions specifically caused by cooking. Children require more medical attention and environmental education to reduce air pollution in Africa.
  7. Multination Companies: Multinational companies play a part in pollution. Environmental faults from multinational companies and trade activities are continuing to add to the pollution in Africa. Governmental enforcement for laws requiring business and trading activities to be more environmentally friendly is low. Companies and trading acts cause the release of gas, oil spills, waste accumulating on the ground or in water and the lack of higher technology, increasing air and water pollution.  Further development of resources will help reduce the pollution from multinational companies and trade activities.
  8. The United Nations Environment Programme: The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported that an estimate of  600,000 deaths every year relate to pollution in Africa. The UNEP is providing aid to the leading energy and global transport organizations, and some of the UNEP’s focuses are on fuel economy and development of infrastructure. Programs that the UNEP has implemented include the Global Fuel Efficiency Initiative, Share the Road, Partnerships for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, Africa Sustainable Transport Forum and Climate and Clean Air Coalition. The pollution in Africa will decrease if programs like the UNEP continue their hard work.
  9. Air Sensors: Air sensors are creating a cleaner way of life in Kenya. Air quality and pollution in Africa is an ever-evolving issue and demands ever-evolving solutions. Particles in the air small enough to enter the bloodstream are becoming more evident and Kenya is in dire need of change. According to the WHO, the fine particulate matter in Nairobi, Kenya is 70 percent above the maximum level. The WHO has implemented sensors that can read the particles in the air and determine the safety level.
  10. Africa’s Potential Green Revolution: Once Africa properly takes care of its plentiful resources, it has the potential to start a green revolution and save millions. In East Africa, residents have pioneered off-grid solar energy and created a model that other African regions could follow. These residents’ governments plan on investing in solar and wind power plants which would provide clean and affordable energy. Energy by solar and wind plants will reduce the amount of pollution in Africa because residents will no longer have to use low-level energy methods which destroy air quality.

Pollution in Africa is in a state of emergency. Air pollution is the biggest environmental danger to Africa currently; air pollution only increases due to a lack of higher-level infrastructure to reduce air emissions. Local enforcement of regulations on multinational companies and trade activity should benefit Africa’s environmental state.

Kat Fries
Photo: Flickr

Ro-Boats are Cleaning Water Pollution
The Ganges is sprinkled with human excrement, idol remnants, raw sewage, industrial waste, ceremonial flowers coated with arsenic and even dead bodies. The New Yorker said the Ganges absorbs more than one billion gallons of waste each day making it among the 10 most polluted rivers in the world. The magazine said three-quarters of the waste is raw sewage and the remaining waste is treated industrial wastewater. The Indian government has attempted to clean up the Ganges several times over the last 30 years. Recently, Ro-Boats are cleaning water pollution instead of direct human intervention.

The Holy Water in Despair

The Ganges holds spiritual importance in Hinduism. The Ganges is considered the personification of the goddess Ganga – the goddess of purity and purification. Hindu men, women and children decorated in garlands and bright robes are common sights along the shores of the Ganges. They bathe, wash their clothes, defecate and dispose of the corpses of their loved ones. Hindus bathe in the Ganges for spiritual purification – releasing them from their sins and freeing them from the wheel of reincarnation. Bathing and drinking the waters of the Ganges pose a risk to its visitors’ health. The current sewage levels of the Ganges spread a variety of diseases among the population including typhoid, cholera and amoebic dysentery.

The Indian government believes an automated water device solution, a fleet of robotic boats (Ro-Boats), may aid the clean-up of the Ganges. Ro-Boats are cleaning water pollution by being self-propelled riveting river raider robots that churn through water and collect and dispose of sewage and other waste.

Omnipresent Tech

Omnipresent Tech is the creator of the Ro-Boats. The Indian government gave Omnipresent a $200,000 contract to build up a fleet of these Ro-Boat vessels to clean up the river. The Indian government’s investment in Omnipresent is part of its efforts to combat the waste level deposits of the Ganges. The Indian Government began the Ganges Action Plan in 2015. This plan is among the most recent of the decades-long efforts to clean up the river. Narenda Modi, the Prime Minister of India said, “The Ganges will be clean by 2019.”

Omnipresent’s official website claims the company is India’s leading robotics, industrial UAV/Drone and Video Analytics solutions provider. Omnipresent produces industrial inspection drones, river cleaning robots, logistical robots emergency response drones and defense drones

Omnipresent also produces the drone software, as well as 3D modeling machine learning surveillance and a variety of other industrial and consumer high-tech. A Ro-Boat device costs $21,057.75 to build. The bots run without human intervention – neither during the day nor at night. The Ro-Boat has a capable arsenal. Each riveting river raider has fog lights, a pan-tilt-zoom camera, a solar-powered battery and twin-propelled engines

GPS commands guide the Ro-Boats. A drone that flies above the bot gives commands to the machine. The drone flies ahead, scouts debris and pollutants in the water and gives a signal to the Ro-Boat to drive over, scoop up and dispose of the waste. The drone also serves as a spy to catch companies spewing pollutants into the Ganges.

Ro-Boats are cleaning water pollution by collecting sewage through robotic arms and depositing the waste. The riveting river raider is capable of cleaning 200 tons within a 24-hour period. This means that the device could remove 1,400 tons of waste material from the Ganges with a week. Overture estimated that the bot could remove 200 tons from the Ganges in a year.

A Ro-Boat looks like the offspring of a dump truck and a fighting robot from the television competition “Robot Wars.” Not only can Ro-Boats swim across the surface of the water and clean the waste floating on the river surface, but these self-propelled riveting river raiders can also submerge and dig out the river-bed lodged pollutants. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology declared the Ro-Boat to be among the top 20 innovations.

Currently, the Ganges remains filthy. Overture says that 1.3 billion gallons of untreated sewage continue to flood into the river each day. Finding vendors to create sewage treatment plants is also problematic. Land cost, bad management and bidding practices halt progress.

How the Ganges Can Get Help

One way to help is for the United States government and companies to invest money in Omnipresent Tech and the Indian government’s waste infrastructure building projects. With enough support, these projects may purify India’s Ganges river.

Purification will help India’s poor who bathe in and drink the water of the Ganges. If the Ganges is clean, this should decrease the level of diseases in the country and prevent their spread. Investment in companies, such as Omnipresent, should aid the growth of India and increase the production of Ro-Boats. The increased production of Ro-Boats will demand a workforce to keep up with increased production and contribute to hiring, increasing poverty reduction among the Indian population. If successful, these riveting river raiders may be a key contribution to India’s efforts to become a leader in the world economy.

Robert Forsyth
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Health Care in Syria
Syria, officially known as the Syrian Arab Republic, is a war-torn country in Western Asia. These war efforts have caused a series of attacks against women’s health care in Syria and made female health care more difficult to come by. In Syria’s civil war, violent attacks continue to target health care workers and clinics, and particularly female health clinics.

Fear of Attack

Fear of attack also plays a role in keeping women from what health resources they do have. Many of the childbirth centers that remain are located in rural areas, making them difficult for many women to reach. Fear of attack in the vicinity of health clinics inhibits patients and health professionals alike. The regime’s campaign of gender-based sexual violence is a large contributor to this fear. The vulnerability that comes with the travel necessary to reach the available health clinics put women at further risk of attack.

These attacks and the consequent shutdown of many maternal health facilities are seriously threatening maternal health. Between 2011 and 2017, more than 320 health clinics suffered attacks. These attacks have resulted in the deaths of at least 826 health workers, 85 of whom were women. By the end of 2015, only 16 of the 43 childbirth centers previously available in Syria remained. The lack of access to these facilities and health professionals leave many women with no safe conditions to deliver their children. Moreover, they have no opportunity for checkups or preventative shots once they deliver their children.

Overall Health Care

The conflict also threatens basic preventative care for women. Things like mammograms and regular checkups are no longer available and few female health professionals remain in Syria, making health care even more difficult for practicing Muslims to find. Gynecological services and even menstruation pads are incredibly difficult to come by. Women who do survive the hardships of the war suffer from malnutrition and struggle with even the basic necessities for survival.

The Molham Volunteering Team

In the midst of the conflict, however, there are efforts to preserve and improve female health care. Groups like the Molham Volunteering Team are working to fill in the gaps in women’s health care in Syria. A group of Syrian students brought this group together to provide necessities, such as food and medicine, to Syrians in need. When crises emerge, the Molham Volunteering Team assembles emergency campaigns to help, such as its campaign to raise money to support victims of the attacks targeting Maarat Al-Numan. The campaign has nearly reached its goal of $250,000.

Another focus of the Molham Volunteering Team is to raise the funds necessary to cover hospital fees for women and other costs of childbirth. It has even begun a campaign to raise money in support of health workers and clinics against the attacks. To date, the campaign has raised about a quarter of its $10,000 goal.

The Violet Organization

The Violet Organization, a nonprofit organization in Turkey, has opened a health center in rural Idlib where women have access to maternal and reproductive health care. A group of young volunteers, with the goal of helping secure the basic needs of families through food and cash donations, founded The Violet Organization. Today, The Violet Organization focuses not only on immediate aid but also on long-term projects like the Idlib health center, which offers treatment for ovarian and breast cancer, as well as basic checkups and consultations.

The Mazaya Center

The Mazaya Center attempts to educate women about their health issues. The Mazaya Center, which volunteers started to empower women, is another nonprofit organization that focuses on women’s issues in northern Syria. It provides paramedic training and first aid classes. These two-month training sessions, which female nurses lead, aim to educate women about reproductive and maternal health as well as family issues.

In the face of the Syrian civil war, civilians are struggling to find the basic necessities for survival, and safe access to women’s health care in Syria has become yet another casualty. Despite the looming threat to women and health professionals, it is evident that there are people continuing their work to ensure that health care and education are available to the women who need it most.

– Amanda Gibson
Photo: Flickr

 

Destruction of the Thracian BulgariansThough somewhat obscure today, the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians refers to the systematic expulsion of the native Christians (Bulgarians, Greeks and Armenians) in Eastern Thrace. These atrocities occurred during and after the Second Balkan War of 1913. Additionally, it involves some of the figures later complicit in the Armenian Genocide of World War One. Historians increasingly view the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians as a prototype for subsequent Ottoman campaigns of ethnic cleansing.

Today, the descendants of Thracian Bulgarian refugees remain attached to their Thracian heritage. Amazingly, this is despite gradual assimilation into the dominant culture of Bulgaria. The Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians remains a point of contention between the governments of Turkey and Bulgaria.

9 Facts About the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians

  1. Although the Ottoman census of 1906-1907 indicated a Muslim majority in five of Eastern Thrace’s counties, non-Muslims possessed numerical and cultural significance. Moreover, both Muslims and non-Muslims occupied positions across the empire’s social strata from peasant farmers to imperial administrators. Therefore, despite Ottoman claims to the contrary, Eastern Thrace’s character transcended a single religion and ethnicity.
  2. The Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians consists of mass deportations and atrocities against Thracian Bulgarians, Greeks and Armenians. This arose from the late Ottoman Empire’s suspicion of non-Muslim minorities. The transformation of Eastern Thrace from a core to a peripheral territory occurred following the Balkan wars of independence. Ottoman officials saw ethnic minorities as a liability to the cohesion and security of the state. In place of deported or massacred Thracian Christians, the Ottoman state settled Muslim refugees from the western Balkans.
  3. With the expulsion of Bulgarian forces and the Ottoman reoccupation of Eastern Thrace during the Second Balkan War, non-Muslims faced accusations of disloyalty and subversion. Locals and officers alike singled out Thracian Armenians in particular as untrustworthy. These assumptions played on ethnic prejudices that precipitated the 1906 Adana massacre. They would reach a fever pitch during the Armenian Genocide of World War One. Thus, in Malgara, occupying Ottoman forces accused the local Armenians of appropriating property from Muslims, which incited a mob to murder 12 Armenians and raze 87 houses.
  4. On July 14, 1913, the recapture of Rodosto (present-day Tekirdag) from Bulgaria by Ottoman volunteer forces occurred. Local Christians and Jews were told they must surrender “government” property. In framing local non-Muslims as unjust appropriators of property, this stirred volunteers arriving by an Ottoman battleship. Further, they despoiled the town’s unarmed non-Muslim inhabitants, killing 19 people in the process and displaced others. This constitutes one of the most serious massacres of the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians.
  5. Mass expulsions of Thracian Bulgarians and Greeks, punctuated by intermittent killings, characterized Ottoman policy in Eastern Thrace. This occurred even after the September 29, 1913 peace treaty between Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire. Where voluntary deportation proved unfeasible, the Interior Ministry resorted to tax and labor levies to coerce emigration. The government signed three population exchange agreements between 1913 and 1914. These agreements were biased in favor of Muslim refugees from Balkan countries and against Christian refugees from Ottoman Thrace. This granted de facto legitimacy to a long-established reality arising from the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians.
  6. Enver Pasha played a role in fomenting violence against the Bulgarians and Greeks of Western Thrace across the Ottoman-Bulgarian border. Later, Enver Pasha became one of the architects of the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek genocides. Led by Enver Pasha, a coterie of fighters forded the Maritza river and razed 22 Bulgarian villages to the west of the Maritza river. Reportedly, these forces killed thousands of Bulgarians. However, the Ottomans did not regain Western Thrace.
  7. The process of resettling refugees in the wake of the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians placed a strain on the Bulgarian state and people. The experience of property expropriation without compensation left the refugees initially reliant on the assistance of the Bulgarian government and people. Substantial aid only arrived in the 1920s when the League of Nations provided loans to permanently house the refugees (incidentally, the first methodical policy of its kind).
  8. Attempts to preserve the cultural uniqueness of the Thracian Bulgarians spurred the formation of the Thracian organization. This organization protested the 1925 Agreement of Friendship between Bulgaria and Turkey. The agreement essentially validated the uncompensated appropriation of Thracian Bulgarian territory by the newly-established Turkish Republic. Though the post-World War Two communist regime suppressed Thracian associations, the fall of communism promoted their resurgence. Today, the associations seek to maintain the Thracian culture within Bulgaria and Turkey without advocating for an explicit right of return.
  9. In 2011, the Bulgarian Parliament voted for a proposal urging Bulgaria and Turkey to negotiate compensation for property expropriated during the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan displayed a willingness to negotiate over the matter in October 2010. The issue of compensation remains unresolved.

Although it transpired over a century ago, the legacy of the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians persists. Descendants of those directly affected especially recognize the importance of this history. The role as the prototype for the genocides of the Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians during World War One is also key. Further, this confirms that the Destruction of the Thracian Bulgarians is anything but peripheral to an understanding of the twentieth century’s upheavals.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

childhood cancer in Kenya

The World Health Organization (WHO) has ranked cancer as a leading case of death in children. Globally, the leading types of childhood cancers are cancer of the white blood cells and brain tumors. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the most common types are non-Hodgkins lymphoma, kidney cancer and bone marrow cancer. This article explains eight facts about childhood cancer in Kenya.

8 Facts About Childhood Cancer in Kenya

  1. Child Cancer Causes: According to the American Cancer Society, while known lifestyle-related factors can increase the risk of developing cancer in adults, the same is not true for children. Dr. William Macharia, a pediatrician based in Nairobi, Kenya, explained that the peak age of childhood cancer is between 3 and 7 years old which is not enough time for environmental factors to cause cancer. Instead, many believe that wrong cell division and multiplication after conception is the cause.
  2. Childhood Cancer Survival Rate: Only 20 percent of children with cancer in Kenya survive. This is in contrast to the developed countries where up to 80 percent of children with cancer survive. Once again, one can attribute this to the late diagnosis as well as the lack of specialized training and other challenges children face in getting treatment.
  3. Hospice Care Kenya: Hospice Care Kenya reports that only 1 percent of children in Kenya have access to appropriate palliative care. A large majority of children with cancer, therefore, die in pain and isolation. Hospice Care Kenya is working to improve palliative care in Kenya so that children could receive appropriate care which could enhance their quality of life and death.
  4. Radiation and Chemotherapy: One of the biggest challenges in treating childhood cancer is that radiation and chemotherapy have a lasting, damaging effect on children’s bodies. A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology shows that by the age of 50, more than half of those who survived childhood cancer experience a severe, disabling or life-threatening event and this could include death. This shows that more research is necessary to develop better treatment and care models for children diagnosed with cancer.
  5. Financial Challenges: One of the reasons why childhood cancer in Kenya does not receive diagnosis or treatment is because families experience financial difficulties in dealing with it. To begin with, most of the medical facilities where treatment is available are in urban centers so those from rural areas have to travel long distances to access them. Additionally, the cost of treatment, medicine and health insurance is too high for families to afford. When faced with the difficult choice of paying for the sick child and clothing, feeding and educating the rest of the family, families often choose the latter. World Child Cancer reports that almost 30 percent of children who begin treatment do not complete it.
  6. Limited Medical Training: There is a lack of specialized training of medical practitioners which leads to late diagnosis of childhood cancer in Kenya. By the time most children have a cancer diagnosis, the illness is already in its advanced stages. This is unfortunate because when people know they have cancer early enough, they can obtain treatment or at least manage the disease.
  7. The Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer and Shoe4Africa: The WHO announced the Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer in September 2018. The initiative aims to reach a survival rate of at least 60 percent for children with cancer by 2030. Shoe4Africa plans to start Africa’s first children’s cancer hospital in Eldoret, Kenya. The organization opened Sub-Saharan Africa’s second public children’s hospital in Eldoret and currently, 400 patients receive treatment at the hospital every day.
  8. Funding for Cancer Treatment: The government of Kenya provides funding to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, which diagnoses over 100 children with cancer in a year. While this helps to ease the burden for families, it is not enough to cover all the costs. The majority of patients, therefore, have to pay out-of-pocket for their medical expenses. In Kenyatta National Hospital, the largest hospital in Kenya, the Israeli embassy renovated and equipped the children’s cancer wards to ensure that the children are comfortable while seeking treatment.

There is an urgent need for different sectors to come together and set up effective ways of dealing with childhood cancer in Kenya. These methods must also be affordable to all citizens. Kenyans can look to the successes of developed countries as an example. Beyond that, the public needs to receive more education on childhood cancers. This can happen through public health awareness campaigns such as those Kenya used to successfully inform and educate the public on diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

  Clothing Companies That Give Back
It is possible to make a positive impact through one’s purchases when buying for oneself or gift-giving. Below are 10 clothing companies that give back to those in need.

10 Clothing Companies That Give Back

  1. Anchal: Anchal is an accessory company that sells items like scarves, outerwear and handbags. Sisters Colleen and Maggie Clines founded the company in 2010 after seeing the exploitative world of commercial sex trafficking and the lack of opportunity for women in India. The Cline sisters believe that design and interdisciplinary collaboration can be a catalyst for positive change. The company uses design in order to include working women in every step of production. Through intensive design workshops, artisans learn problem-solving and how to create new designs. By offering economic alternatives, rich in self-expression and rooted in community, the company is helping women rediscover their worth, potential and creativity. Female artisans, that received employment through the company’s holistic programs, craft each product.

  2. Raven and Lily: Another of the clothing companies that give back is Raven and Lily, which is an accessory company that sells luxury handbags and jewelry. The company’s prime focus is to make products that bridge gaps between traditional and modern, near and far and people and planet. Each product is handmade by women with sustainable materials and a careful touch. Raven and Lily work to empower women by working with artisans from all around the world and some of these areas include Ethiopia, Kenya, India, Malaysia, Morocco, Peru and Mexico. Raven and Lily is a certified Fair Trade and Microloan organization; with every purchase, the company gives back to a microloan program that supports female entrepreneurs in East Africa.

  3. Panda Sunglasses: WearPanda is a sustainable accessory company that sells eyewear as well as watches. The company focuses on giving back to the planet and its inhabitants. The bamboo-made products helped to create the idea of “fashion with a purpose;” with every product the company sells, a portion of the profit goes to people in need. This company has helped Optometry Giving Sight screen about four million people, deliver over 20,000 pairs of glasses and support more than 15 optical labs and over 100 optometry students in 39 countries. WearPanda also partners with the nonprofit Kiva and has helped support 12 microloans in 10 countries.

  4. Sudara Punjammies: In 2006, Sudara partnered with a sewing center in India and taught six women how to sew patterns in pajama pants, and they eventually became Punjammies. Shannon Keith founded this company after returning from a trip to India and hearing about women who were at high risk of their families forcing them into sex slavery or sex traffickers picking them up off the streets. Women in India often enter sex slavery because they lack an education or the resources and the skills to make a choice. After returning from her trip, Keith formed a small team of her family and friends. They looked for groups in India with a determination to help women out of the red light districts. The team knew that safe, steady living-wage employment would be a pathway to freedom and offer more choices for women. By making donations and purchasing Sudara goods, customers are helping to keep millions of women and young girls out of the sex trafficking industry in India.

  5. 31 Bits: 31 Bits is an ethical jewelry company that emerged after one of its three founders went on a trip to Uganda. While traveling, she discovered numerous women who grew up in war and had nothing. They were single mothers with no education or jobs; the founders yearned for change due to how young these women were. They discovered that these women did not have a basic education, but they were resourceful and made gorgeous jewelry out of old posters and scraps. The founders found that these women had the skills but just needed a market. From there, the founders created 31 Bits, a company that focuses on making fashionable products that could also help artisans from around the world to acquire dignified jobs and have access to the global market.

  6. Teysha: Teysha is a footwear company that strives to connect people through art, community and culture. The shop merges heritage with contemporary art so that communities and art can flourish. Teysha works directly with artisans in Guatemala and Panama to develop local infrastructure, value chains, designs and production processes, which work together to honor traditional craftsmanship while bringing market access and opportunity. The company has worked to support over 60 families with wages that Teysha provided. The organization also has four shops in Guatemala which women run, and these shops have also provided over 20 educational workshops.

  7. Sseko Sandals: Sseko is an accessory and clothing company that emerged to allow young women in Uganda to receive higher education. In order to help, Sseko hires these women during the nine-month period between secondary school and college. By working with Sseko, these women are not only able to save money for education, but they also gain important skills and work with professional mentors to obtain valuable work experience. At the end of the nine-month period, the company matches each woman’s savings by 300 percent. Every woman who has graduated from Sseko’s program has been able to pursue a college education. As of 2019, Sseko has helped its 131st woman attend university.

  8. Cotopaxi: Cotopaxi is a clothing and outdoor gear company that awards grants to outstanding nonprofit organizations with track records at improving the human condition and ending poverty. A few of the organizations include The International Rescue Committee, Escuela Nueva, the U.N. Foundation, Nothing But Nets, Mercy Corps and a division of Utah’s Department of Workforce Services. The shop is a B Corporation, which means that 1 percent of profits go towards addressing poverty and supporting community development. Cotopaxi also has a grant program to promote organizations that are successfully improving the human condition. As of now, Cotopaxi has awarded 42 grants in six focus countries.

  9. Faircloth & Supply: Phoebe Dahl founded Faircloth & Supply in 2013 with the idea of creating timeless fashion designs that could help to create a path that leads to a more sustainable industry. Linen casual wear, heritage textiles and utilitarian workwear inspire Dahl’s line. Faircloth Supply’s collection donates a percentage of its proceeds towards girls’ education in Nepal. The company also has the option for customers to donate to the charity of their choice upon checkout on its website. Dahl believes that in order to prevent sex trafficking, child marriage and children’s rights violations, children must obtain a basic education. With every purchase, Faircloth & Supply provides access to education for girls in Nepal.

  10. DIFF Charitable Eyewear: DIFF Charitable Eyewear is a company that sells eyewear, as well as eyewear accessories. The company’s mission is to use fashion as a force for good. Since 2015, DIFF has donated over one million eyeglasses to people in need around the world with its buy one give one structure. The company also encompasses worldwide programs in support of empowerment and education through Project DIFF. Through Project DIFF’s Pouch Program, the company provides dependable incomes to female artisans and is helping to develop Little Angels School. One way it is accomplishing this is through the crafting of elaborate sunglass cases in Uganda and its partnership with Tribe Alive in Honduras. Proceeds from the pouches go to Little Angels School in order to support it in accomplishing its goal of creating a safe, positive environment for learning, and providing the necessary tools to make it happen. Through the company’s partnership with Tribe Alive, DIFF works to empower women around the world. Ten female artisans in Tegucigalpa, Honduras handmake each of the sunglass chains and the sale of these helps each one provide a sustainable, living wage to support her family.

These 10 clothing companies that give back are working to end global poverty with every purchase. Where one chooses to spend their money can have a great impact on those who really need it. Try shopping where it counts when looking to purchase articles of clothing, jewelry, accessories or shoes.

Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr