The Ocean Cleanup OrganizationSeven years ago, The Ocean Cleanup organization launched as a Dutch nonprofit dedicated to eliminating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch using autonomous, solar-powered cleaning systems. Now, as part of a new initiative, the organization is rolling out barges in major rivers as an upstream solution to global, prolific marine debris.

Marine Plastic Pollution

At least eight tons of marine plastic enter the oceans each year, where a majority floats on the surface before breaking down into non-biodegradable microplastics. Around 80% of marine debris flows through rivers before reaching the ocean. Because a handful of countries are responsible for a majority of marine debris, cleaning just 10 major polluting rivers of waste would stop a significant amount of debris from ever reaching the ocean.

The Ocean Cleanup Organization

Based in the Netherlands and led by a 26-year-old entrepreneur, Boyan Slat, The Ocean Cleanup organization has plans that include fitting the world’s 1,000 most polluting rivers with waste removal systems over the next five years. The organization’s research indicates that 1,000 specific rivers are responsible for 80% of the pollution.

The Interceptor Concept

Solar powers the waste removal systems, and they are scalable and largely autonomous. Each one uses barriers to direct waste along the river to a floating “interceptor” barge, which loads waste with a conveyor belt into containers that local municipalities can then dispose of. Individual interceptors can collect 50,000 kilograms of waste each day, though “in optimal conditions up to double this amount can be achieved.”

The interceptor concept, designed in 2015, was first utilized in the Cengkareng Drain, Indonesia, where it has remained. The Ocean Cleanup has since partnered with local governments to deploy three more interceptors in Malaysia, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. By placing each one downstream from the last major source point in a river, they manage to fill all containers every few days, though they sometimes fill up in only a few hours.

Impact of Microplastics

Marine plastics’ widespread and harmful effects on marine life are well-documented, with hundreds of species ingesting, suffocating and entangling themselves in plastics. The global impact of aquatic microplastics, by contrast, is an emerging field of study. Appearing in tap water, beer and salt, they have appeared in water samples taken from every ocean. In 2019, the World Health Organization called for more research into microplastics and a drastic reduction in plastic pollution.

An environmental health report published in 2018 stressed the risk of consuming microplastics in seafood. “Because microplastics are associated with chemicals from manufacturing that sorb from the surrounding environment,” the report finds, “there is concern regarding physical and chemical toxicity.”

Consequences of Marine Plastic Pollution

While microplastics are under-researched, larger marine waste has concrete impacts on water-adjacent communities because marine plastics kill wildlife and disrupt local ecosystems, harming livelihoods and impeding tourism. More pressing, severely polluted waterways exacerbate poverty and poverty-related issues, especially among young children. According to experts at UNICEF, children living in South Asian slums frequently play in rivers and shores contaminated with waste, excrement and agricultural runoff. Since many lack access to clean water and sanitation facilities, this makes poor water-adjacent communities hotbeds for preventable illnesses.

The Ocean Cleanup found that marine plastic is responsible for between $6 billion and $19 billion of economic costs annually. These costs “stem from its impact on tourism, fisheries and aquaculture, and (governmental) cleanups,” and do not even account for the disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost because of its public health impact.

Hopes for the Future

The Ocean Cleanup organization hopes to significantly reduce plastic pollution in oceans. Once fully implemented, the waste removal systems aim to reduce the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by 50% every five years. The organization’s latest endeavor is a line of sunglasses made from plastic removed from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. With all proceeds going toward expanding cleanup efforts, this is the most stylish way an ordinary person can contribute to a greater cause.

– Skye Jacobs
Photo: Flickr

dual outbreaksThe impact of COVID-19 has resulted in fractured economies and health care systems all around the world. While some countries are trying to recover, others just cannot catch a break. Papua New Guinea is a country that finds itself in a unique and desperate situation. With the onset of COVID-19, the country was also hit with a resurgence of polio. Dual outbreaks are a cause of significant concern for Papua New Guinea. Australia is coming to the aid of its neighbors with a substantial financial assistance plan.

Resurgence of Polio

Papua New Guinea is one of the most poverty-stricken countries in the pacific region. The country was declared officially polio-free 18 years ago, but in 2018, the virus was rediscovered in a 6-year-old child. Shortly after, the virus also emerged in multiple other children from the same general area. Polio is especially harmful to children under 5 years old and can lead to lifelong paralysis.

A few months after the polio outbreak, the Australian Government stepped in and responded by giving $10 million to Papua New Guinea’s polio immunization crusade. A few weeks later, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) received another $6 million, which an additional $15 million dedication followed in November 2018. Rachel Mason Nunn, an experienced social development worker in Papua New Guinea, stated that “We have a window right now to invest heavily in infectious diseases in Papua New Guinea. Australia should continue to invest in health care in Papua New Guinea, if not just because it is the right thing to do, but because helping our region acquire strong health systems is a vital element of Australia’s own health security.” Australia is the largest contributor to the development of Papua New Guineas’ struggling health care system.

COVID-19 in Papua New Guinea

In an extreme case of bad luck, Papua New Guinea experienced two disease outbreaks within two years of each other. In a frantic request for aid, the government reached out to the World Health Organization (WHO) in an effort to take some weight off its already overburdened health care system.  When COVID-19 hit the county, there was a limited number of testing kits available and a shortage of medical staff as well as medical supplies and protective gear. The WHO responded by deploying emergency medical teams and supplying necessary resources to upscale testing in Papua New Guinea.

The Road Ahead

Due to the support of contributors like the WHO and Australia, millions of child polio vaccinations have been administered and a sufficient number of COVID-19 testing kits are available in the country. For a country that is still dealing with diseases like malaria and polio, the people of Papua New Guinea are pushing ahead. This unique situation serves as a global reminder that the prevention and treatment of other diseases should not be neglected during the COVID-19 pandemic and that inter-country support is essential in addressing dual outbreaks.

– Brandon Baham
Photo: Flickr

Fruits and Vegetables
The United Nations 74th General Assembly declared 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables (IFYV). Thus, the United Nations has four primary focus areas: Raising awareness of nutrition and health benefits, promoting balanced and healthy diets, reducing losses and waste and promoting consumption, sustainability, supply chains and capacity strengthening.

IFYV and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The International Year of Fruits and Vegetables is in congruence with three SDGs. It works towards achieving zero hunger ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being and promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns. Consequently, the initiative helps raise awareness about the health benefits of fruits and vegetables and hastens the 2030 Agenda’s attainment.

Cross-cutting Issues to Address

  • Small-Scale Production: Over 50% of fruits and vegetables grow on less than 20 hectares of land worldwide. Consequently, developing countries produce a significantly low volume of fruits and vegetables. Farmers in developing nations primarily practice subsistence farming for consumption. Thus, farmers sell the remaining fruits and vegetables to markets.
  • Technology and Innovation: To ensure quality and quantity output, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) hopes to improve its already-existing farming technologies in the fruit and vegetable sector. As a result, it targets high-yielding and disease-resistant cultivars, insect-breeding for pollination, pest control and conservation-agriculture techniques.
  • Gender and Youth: Although women play a significant role in the world’s fruit and vegetable sector, they still face disproportionate disadvantages such as lack of legal access to land, insufficient financing and low and unequal pay. Fostering innovations in this sector would open opportunities for women and the youth in this sector to gain economies of scale and improve its overall thriving.
  • Policy: In the past, fruits and vegetables have received less attention than staple crops in policy, research and funding. In 2021, however, thanks to FAO’s initiative, the Fruits and Vegetable sector potentially stand a chance of receiving financing both from governments and investors, which will, in turn, boost its productivity.
  • Losses: East and Southeast Asia and farms in sub-Saharan Africa lose about 50% of fruit and vegetables during storage. Technological advancements would help increase supply chains’ efficiency and reduce losses and waste.

Policies & Measures

The 2021 International Year of Fruits and Vegetables policies’ aim to attain sustainability, boost productivity and ensure profitability in this sector. Thus, it strives to nurture a healthy food environment for consumers to consume fresh produce. Furthermore, it emphasizes the importance of including fruits and vegetables in a balanced diet.

Furthermore, these policies explore opportunities for tax incentives and deductions in business activities. Additionally, it seeks new sources of funding for infrastructure development in developing countries. This enables smooth and timely transportation of the harvest to redistribution facilities and markets.

Policies aim to reduce food waste in developing countries by modifying market standards for fresh produce and facilitating food banks’ access to fruits and vegetables in the field for easy redistribution.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu launched the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables. He remarked that promoting healthy diets is crucial for immune system strengthening. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this especially important. It is difficult to assess the project’s progress this early, but it has undoubtedly made progress.

– Divine Mbabazi
Photo: Flickr

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In London, U.K., the Syrian conflict has brought mental health challenges and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to both children and adults. Syrian refugee children are at high risk for depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental illness after experiencing high levels of trauma. These untreated trauma-related mental and behavioral disorders serve as threats to physical fitness, schooling, and economic prosperity.

The Syrian conflict has caused harm that may not be fully understood for years. More than 511,000 Syrians have lost their lives since the start of the war, and around 6.6 million Syrians were displaced internally. Syrian refugee children who have suffered during the war are most likely to have mental health issues. The U.N. Refugee Agency noted that almost 80% of Syrian refugee children had suffered a family death and 60% have endured physical attacks. More than half of all Syrian children have PTSD symptoms. They are also facing intellectual and cognitive difficulties. The U.S criminal justice system indicates that the 1.2 billion people who live in conflict exhibit frequent witness to killings and gender-based violence.

Education For Syrian Children

Syrian children have faced a variety of disruptions to receiving an adequate education. Only half of them were enrolled in schools when they arrived in countries for refuge. In Turkey and Lebanon, the enrollment rates dropped to 20 percent. Children have also struggled to overcome gaps in their learning. Children are more likely to earn failing grades or drop out due to untreated psychological trauma. These mental and behavioral disorders also lead to economic productivity losses and substance abuse.

Current Mental Health Treatment

A report issued by Amnesty International in 2006 shows that 117,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan camps have access to education, health care, food, and water provided by the government. Those who live outside of these refugee camps rely on humanitarian aid and private donors. Refugees in Turkey receive free basic health care once registered with the government. However, the language barrier is still a concern, especially with regards to mental health facilities. Therefore, several ways to enhance the level of mental health care for Syrian refugees in Turkey have been established by the International Medical Corps (IMC). This includes bridging the Turkish-Arabic language divide. They will also bundle mental health care with general health care and educate/license more practitioners in mental health. Furthermore, they will identify developmental disabilities in children and improve the provision/policy of national mental health programs.

Humanitarian Response

Mental health care will be strongly considered as part of the humanitarian response in Syria. This will be done by coordination with foreign Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) that can offer urgent assistance to those in need. Sustainable capacity needs to be built by degree projects that can incorporate mental health services into the primary health system of Syria.  The aim is to improve the region’s mental health workforce.

Improvements in the general accessibility, affordability, and consistency of mental health resources offered to Syrian refugees is needed. Worldwide support is essential to provide adequate mental health care to Syrian refugees. Mental health care providers trained by the World Health Organization need to be expanded to Syria and countries with high populations of refugees. National budgets for welfare are needed for more funds for mental health programs. There is not an adequate number of psychologists in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria due to the absence of academic psychology programs. Therefore, it is essential to train mental health professionals and social workers in the delivery of validated psychological services to communities impacted by the crisis throughout the region.

Children of the Future

When an entire population must concentrate on remaining alive, it becomes difficult to focus on children’s development. But these children are the future of Syria. Thus, it is significant to focus on Syrian refugees’ mental health issues today, particularly refugee children. More comprehensive emergency and long-term services will help avoid a “lost generation of children” for Syria’s future state-building prospects.

Aining Liang

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Sweden’s Success: The Country with No LockdownWhen COVID-19 struck the world, Sweden did not close its borders. Instead, they opted to follow the standard health and safety guidelines. Although stores, schools and businesses remained open and masks hardly worn, many Swedes still stayed at home. Sweden now hovers a little over 100,000 total cases with outbreaks that have occurred in the early year, a thousand deaths in nursing homes and losing 7% of inhabitants. There are many reasons for Sweden’s success. This is due to lower population density, social distance guidelines being adhered to and early testing. Even with these positive things, the death toll still darkens an otherwise phosphorescent experiment.

Poverty and COVID-19

Unsurprisingly, poverty is correlated with higher Covid-19 mortality. One Swedish study claimed that low-income, low-education, unmarried and immigrant males have a higher risk of death from COVID-19. Men in the first and second tertiles of disposable income are five times as likely to die. They also experience 80% higher mortality, than those in the top tertile. This holds true for immigrants from low and middle-income countries, who have a 2.5 times higher mortality among men, and 1.5 times among women, compared to those born in Sweden. Immigrants are more than twice as likely to die than natives.

Therefore, income inequality and child poverty have increased, according to poverty expert Radda Barnen from Save the Children. Around 10%, 186,000 children, live in poverty in Sweden. In his charity work among the poor, Barnen claims that poverty has only worsened their living conditions. This is especially for the undocumented migrants, who share hostels, resulting in cramped, rapidly spreadable sickness. It is commonly stated that COVID-19 does not discriminate, but in light of this research, this is untrue. The virus does discriminate. Those most vulnerable have the worst chance.

Aids

In terms of aid, Sweden has provided fiscal measures to its citizens. For example, SEK 264 million have been allotted toward recovery. In addition, SIDA, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, has provided SEK 1.25 billion for virus aid. SIDA also aided farmers to continue making a living, since most regions rely on trade. Through the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) program Rural Poor Stimulus, SIDA has given SEK 30 million for this year, and 20 million next year.

Other countries both admired and criticized Sweden’s approach to COVID-19. Sweden may have passed Denmark, Norway and Finland on the death toll. However, Sweden’s success can be seen in the mortality remains lower than in the UK, Spain and Belgium. Even with a lockdown, the elderly in care homes still suffer, experts have observed. A lockdown does not decrease mortality from the virus, which is plain when comparing the UK’s experience with that of other European countries.

Shelby Gruber

Photo: Flickr

eradicating rural povertyThe Huanjiang Maonan Autonomous County lies in Guanxi in southern China. A majority of China’s Maonan ethnic group live here in rural villages. Once considered one of China’s most impoverished places, the poverty rate has now dropped to under 2% thanks to efforts by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). By using advanced farming techniques and relocating people to more arable areas, CAS has provided a model for eradicating rural poverty in China.

CAS Goals

Just over 100,000 Maonan live in China, most in small rural villages. About 70,000 of them live in Huanjiang. In the 1990s, Maonan farmers grew mostly corn and sweet potatoes, barely scraping by. The Chinese government identified Huanjiang as one of the most impoverished counties in China.

Maonan villages were located in mountainous, rocky regions known as karst landscapes. These areas are prone to desertification and are unsuitable for farming. CAS started the Kenfu Huanjiang Ecological Migration Pilot Zone in 1996. Its two goals were to relocate people to new villages in areas more suitable for agriculture and to improve the livelihoods of those that refused to relocate.

New Farming Techniques and Solutions

CAS introduced advanced farming techniques that better suit the area. An important change was the shift from farming to livestock. Huanjiang is highly flood-prone so CAS helped plant various grasses that can support animals. Zeng Fuping, a researcher with CAS who has been in Huanjiang since 1994, remarked that “the farmers were unsure initially and they questioned growing something that they could not eat.” However, the results speak for themselves. Income has increased tenfold since the introduction of 200 cattle into the region in 2001. Not only do the grasses support livestock but they also help prevent soil erosion. They have helped prevent widespread desertification, which is a common problem in karst landscapes. This serves as a model for maintaining arable land in karst areas across China.

Eradicating Rural Poverty

The speed of poverty reduction in Huanjiang has been staggering. In 1996, the average resident only earned the equivalent of $45 per year. That number rose to $835 in 2012 and $1600 in 2019.

In 2015, more than 14,000 Maonan people in Huanjiang lived below the Chinese poverty line of $345 per year. This accounted for around 22% of all Maonan peoples living in the county. By 2019, less than 1.5% of Maonan lived in poverty, amounting to 548 people. Due to the efforts of CAS, Huanjiang is no longer an area of extreme poverty in China.

In all of Guanxi, CAS has helped facilitate 400,000 people with relocation to new villages. This includes a majority of the Maonan community. Poverty percentages in Huanjiang have dropped to single digits. Livestock farming has reduced soil erosion and given locals much more disposable income. UNESCO dubbed this strategy the “Kenfu Model” and it is an important example of eradicating rural poverty in China.

– Adam Jancsek
Photo: Flickr

Environmental Impacts on DiseaseHuman health and environmental concerns are commonly thought of and treated as unrelated issues. However, environmental degradation has an unquestionable impact on a community’s health. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) recently released a report underscoring this point. The UNEP finds environmental impacts on disease are especially apparent in Africa, where large numbers of people are directly reliant on natural resources. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 35% of the total burden of disease in sub-Saharan Africa is caused by environmental hazards. For example, contaminated water and air pollution commonly cause diarrhea and respiratory issues.

Indoor Air Pollution

Indoor air pollution is one of the leading environmental impacts on disease and death in Sub-Saharan Africa. People living in extreme poverty primarily depend directly on solid fuels (i.e. biomass fuels) for their heating and cooking needs. The harmful biomass fuels such as crop waste, coal and wood cause significant air pollution, especially when burned by inefficient and poorly ventilated stoves. Biomass smoke contains thousands of health-damaging substances. These pollutants penetrate deep into the lungs and initiate the development of acute lower respiratory disease, cancer and multiple other diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Women and young children are at the highest exposure to the fumes and have the highest rates of mortality resulting from indoor air pollution. WHO estimates that Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of indoor air pollution deaths in the world, along with parts of Southeast Asia.

Improving the Environment and Fighting Disease

Shifting from solid fuels to cleaner energy technologies can have a major impact on indoor air pollution levels. For instance, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), biogas and solar power generation all produce less indoor air pollution. Governments and NGOs alike should plan to help communities make this transition. However, air pollution is just one environmental concern that needs addressing.

Simple solutions to environmental concerns include safer storage of water and dangerous chemicals; these relatively cheap improvements can be highly effective in reducing disease. Ultimately, providing low-cost storage containers to urban and rural communities will result in prominent and lasting gains in health and economic development. Additionally, improving common household appliances can reduce indoor air pollution in poor communities; for example, stoves and ventilation systems often contribute to or fail to reduce indoor air pollution. Lastly, increasing education and public awareness about the environmental impacts on disease is critical; many environment-related health issues are preventable. For instance, educations can encourage mothers to keep small children away from constant contact with fires while cooking.

In Conclusion

It is imperative to address the upstream determinants of Sub-Saharan Africa’s high morbidity and mortality rates. Clean water and air are powerful preventative medicines. Implementing simple, yet effective solutions and sustainable management of natural resources is crucial to ending poverty. By helping people to treat the environment well, governments and NGOs can reduce diseases and child mortality; additionally, their work will improve maternal health and education across sub-Saharan Africa.

Samantha Johnson
Photo: Flickr

5 Ways Haiti Uses Its Foreign AidAccording to The World Bank, Haiti currently ranks as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Of its 11 million residents, more than half live in poverty and an estimated 2.5 million of that demographic live in extreme poverty, or on less than $1.12 USD a day. The Human Development Index metric assesses the development of a country based on the upward mobility of its residents. On this scale, Haiti ranks 169 of the 189 countries which have been analyzed.

In addition, Haiti has a history that demonstrates its vulnerability to natural disasters. In 2010, the country was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake that claimed the lives of nearly 250,000 and displaced 1.5 million Haitians. Matthew, a category 4 hurricane, struck the island in 2015. The disaster claimed the lives of hundreds, displaced thousands and created a humanitarian crisis for over a million residents. The provision of foreign aid in Haiti has tremendously restored much of the damage incurred from these disasters. It has also been crucial in creating momentum in the nation’s development. The following are the five primary sectors in which Haiti has invested the $172.5M it has received in foreign aid from the United States.

Political Infrastructure and Democracy

Given its history of political instability, one of Haiti’s primary focuses is developing its democratic system and providing the means to facilitate the exchange of ideas between its government and constituents. To this end, programs have been instituted to improve the rule of law and the preservation of human rights, as well as investments in infrastructure, which provide mediums for constituents to interact with their political ecosystem. This comes in the form of developing media platforms and the formation of advocacy and interest groups. The country is currently in the midst of political gridlock, so the investments being made toward its democratic development are essential for Haiti’s development.

Economic Development

Like many developing countries, Haiti depends heavily on agriculture for economic output. To this end, the agriculture sector receives much of the aid allocated to economic development. Even with half of the Haitian workforce being employed in the agricultural sector, there is still a shortage of output. As nearly 60% of the country’s food supply has to be imported, there is still much room for development in this sector. Moreover, much of the remaining budgetary allocation that goes toward economic development is invested in infrastructure. This is absolutely essential in facilitating economic activity. This comes in the form of electric power lines and networks, gas stations, airports, railways, and more.

Administrative Costs

Every program instituted to carry out the functions necessary to assist in these developments requires manpower and infrastructure. Thus, it is paramount that a sizable percentage of Haiti’s foreign aid goes to this sector. This is the price of business in a developing country. Any given program or project requires personnel who need to be trained, housed and compensated. Furthermore, the housing programs require funding to compensate the contractors who build them and the cost of executing varying tasks. This expenditure can often be overlooked, but it is vital to development. Aside from the funding necessary to establish these programs, those who oversee these expenditures and evaluate the performance of the instituted programs receive aid compensation.

Humanitarian Efforts

The two natural disasters of the last decade have caused major developmental setbacks and internally displaced persons. Therefore, much of the foreign aid in Haiti goes into natural disaster readiness and the expenses involved in supporting those who have lost everything. It is through foreign aid that Haiti was able to house the 1.5M displaced individuals temporarily in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake and again with the 188,000 displaced after hurricane Matthew in 2015. In 2020, this aid has helped Haiti battle not only with the health imperatives implicated by COVID-19, but in managing the increasing costs of its food imports. As a result of the pandemic, the global market put a premium on international trade, further straining Haiti’s budget.

Health Issues

Haiti puts the majority of its foreign aid towards health issues. These can include reproductive health, safe water supply, maternal and child health and now mitigating the spread of COVID-19. This investment of foreign aid has led to notable improvements in the state of these issues. An increase from 5% to 20% occurred in women being discharged with a long term contraceptive in place.

Additionally, access to potable water has increased from 43% to 59% in 2016 and there is an ongoing installation of proper sanitation facilities throughout the country. There has also been an increased effort to educate residents on the dangers of poor sanitation. The most pressing health issue that Haiti currently faces is the battle against HIV/AIDS; thus it demands the greatest allocation of aid invested in this sector. Roughly 160,000 Haitian residents live with this disease, and its spread is on the rise. However, through investments made in testing and treatment throughout the country, the progression of the rise in deaths and infections is slowing. Since 2010, deaths have decreased by 45% and the number of new cases per annum has changed from 8,800 to 7,300.

Haiti is a country where political turmoil, a struggling economy, food insecurity and considerable setbacks on all these fronts. Moreover, the results of natural disasters cause achieving a developed status to be difficult. However, foreign aid has played an essential role in Haiti’s recovery and in assisting in creating development momentum.

Christian Montemayor
Photo: Flickr

How Ekal Vidyalaya is Adapting for Indian ChildrenIn India, literacy and education stand as critical tests to measure success, whether in future prospects for the individual or future success for a community. After the end of British rule in the nation, the literacy rate stood at about 12%. Today, the rate has more than quintupled to nearly 70% across the nation. Even so, disparities exist across villages, provinces and states. To tackle these issues and advance the education of India’s next-generation, a non-profit organization is helping the children in the midst of a global pandemic. Ekal Vidyalaya is adapting for Indian children, continues to build schools, prioritize sustainability and maintain ambitious objectives from a variety of different chapters across not just India, but around the world.

Initial Difficulties and Welcome Surprises

As a non-profit, Ekal Vidyalaya delivers various resources and instructional services through its village-to-village outreach. Establishing schools with a teacher impacts a previously education-lacking community in significant ways. Before the pandemic, various Ekal Vidyalaya’s chapters would host different events per year to raise funds to allow various programs to continue. The Chapter President Senthil Kumar detailed to the Borgen Project how typical efforts would no longer be viable this year. Kumar shared that most of the average fundraisers are cultural events for local Indian communities in various parts of the world. It drew in between $70,000 and $100,000. He carefully notes that just “$1 can keep a school open for a day.”

Moreover, Ekal Vidyalaya seeks to grow its impact in communities 10-20% more than last year. Because of significant differences across India’s economic, geographical and social landscape, funding necessities can vary. In addition, transitioning to online events has its own advantages. Local gatherings can still survive in digital spaces. Because annual events usually bring in singers, actors, and other notable icons from India, overhead fees can be entirely forgoed. Empty seats in auditoriums are not concerns over Zoom or similar platforms. As a result, this diverts resources to more directly meet program financial targets. It makes a tangible change for rural children and has allowed the same level of grassroots fundraising to persist, according to Kumar. Adapting for Indian children might mean venue changes and alterations from a traditional schedule. However, it seems that sacrificing the fundamental missions is not an insurmountable concern.

An Implementation Landscape: Three Things to Know

  1. Kumar told The Borgen Project that “[About 30%] of all schools are self-sustaining.” He spoke on the long-term ability of Ekal Vidyalaya to support students and communities to utilize and provided tools for future improvement. The Standard Social Innovation Review points to “scale and scarcity.” They are the two most essential obstacles that nonprofits and organizations working in India have to overcome. To that end, Ekal Vidyalaya continues to strive forward to meet its ultimate goal of total literacy across India. With well over 120,000 schools running, supported by trained volunteers and others, a necessary review of financial disbursement comes into the forefront.

  2. The usage and allocation of the fund play a crucial role in a nonprofit’s vision. According to Kumar, funds Ekal Vidyalaya raises are divided into the following amounts: 60% is set for teachers and teaching, 27% is for training and capacity, 4% is dedicated for teaching materials and 9% is used for administrative costs. While these numbers alone don’t necessarily signal direct change, a key signifier of the nonprofit’s attentiveness to its mission. By extension, its effectiveness is its recent shift in order to facilitate adapting for Indian children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  3. Efforts in towns and communities, outside of Ekal villages, highlight wide-scale mask distributions and food outreach. There is also information campaigns that make use of Ekal resources to protect Indian communities. The teachers and volunteers served as health volunteers in many situations. Additionally, they keep villages and tribal areas safer under guidelines through checks that might have otherwise been difficult to establish and enforce. While the situation has changed, useful approaches using existing resources also testify to the resiliency of Ekal villages. In many areas, trained villagers are taught through school programs and skills sessions to manufacture materials like face masks. This is to ensure reliable incomes and necessary local health support.

The landscape that Ekal Vidyalaya functions on is perpetually shifting. However, it isn’t beyond the reach of sustained communal efforts and careful elasticity when meeting new intentions and ambitions. Even in light of a public health crisis, Ekal Vidyalaya’s work extends beyond a single facet of nonprofit capability. Due to the nature of its support and of where it’s positioned, Ekal Vidyalaya bears the capacity for change. This change happens in the relatively short term and in the long term. The education, literacy and future of millions of India’s next-generation depend on this.

Alan Mathew

Photo: Pexels

Foreign Aid to Sudan A fractured economy, political protests and the transition to a democratic country are factors that have put Sudan in the global spotlight. Due to shortages within the country and the added weight of COVID-19, Sudan is on track to receive much-needed financial aid from several global sources. Foreign aid to Sudan will provide direct relief to the impoverished people in the country.

Improved Foreign Relations

In February 2020, Sudan’s ex-president, Omar al-Bashir was prosecuted and convicted for the mass murders of people in the region of Darfur. The declaration was made that the country would cooperate with the ICC (International Criminal Court) for the prosecution. This act could serve as a window of opportunity for improved foreign relations and a new international image. There have also been talks of peace agreements between Sudan and Israel. These issues have attracted a global audience as the world watches to see where things could potentially lead to.

Democracy and Debt

One of the country’s most monumental feats was transitioning to democracy after many years of social discord and oppressive power. Unfortunately, this massive change also came with a damaged political system and an outstanding debt of nearly $60 billion. Necessities such as food and fuel have undergone an extreme rise in price at an 80% estimate and the introduction of COVID-19 could be the potential last straw for Sudan’s already overburdened economy. While Sudan’s army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Abdal Fatteh al-Burhan, is a member of the Sovereign Council, the relationship between the country’s government and the military is rocky. The prime minister, Abdalla Hamdock, is desperately trying to avoid a potential military takeover and is calling for any available financial support from allies abroad.

Sudan’s Call for Help

Sudan’s call for help had reached many different listening ears. In a joint effort, the World Bank, the European Union and several other countries signed a deal of almost $190 million that would go directly to families in need through the Sudan Family Support Programme (SFSP). The amount of foreign aid to Sudan would equal out to 500 Sudanese pounds (roughly $9) per person, per month for one year and aims to cover the needs of nearly 80% of Sudan citizens. Prime minister Hamdock noted that while willing donors have given $1.8 billion to help, the country is really in need of $8 billion for a real balance to its economy. The distribution of the aid was set to begin in October 2020 and will eventually total $1.9 billion after two years.

The Road Ahead

With the degree of social and political change in Sudan, the country is certainly moving in a positive direction. Reinventing the country’s image and political structure is no easy feat. Sudan has proven that change is certainly possible, even in the most dire circumstances, especially with sufficient international backing and support. Foreign aid to Sudan gives the people of the country hope for a better future.

– Brandon Baham
Photo: Flickr