all-girls Afghan roboticsAs the COVID-19 pandemic continues to stretch across the globe, all areas of the world have been impacted in various capacities and have been approaching the virus in numerous ways. With growing numbers and many hospitals at full capacity, innovation and new technology become a much-needed crutch. In early March of 2020, the virus began to spread in Afghanistan and the cases steadily increased to almost 1,000 new cases in early June. As of December 2020, Afghanistan had more than 50,000 confirmed cases. Though the World Health Organization (WHO) had been providing personal protective equipment to Afghanistan since February 2020, there was still a strain on doctors and nurses who lacked sufficient resources to treat patients. An all-girls Afghan robotics team aims to reduce the strain on the healthcare system with a ventilator prototype.

The Afghan Dreamers

In June 2020, the demand for oxygen was higher than the supply and many doctors and hospitals expressed concerns about both costs and scarcity. An all-girls Afghan robotics team saw the severity of this issue and took action to attempt to combat this shortage and fight against COVID-19.

The “Afghan Dreamers” are a robotics team from Afghanistan comprised of all girls between the ages of 14 and 17. The group has reached impressive heights including winning a silver medal in 2017 for “courageous achievement” in an international robotics competition called the FIRST Global Robotics Competition in Washington D.C. In light of the pandemic and increasing ventilator prices, the Afghan Dreamers decided to utilize their skills to design effective and more low-cost ventilators to combat the lack of affordable oxygen in Afghanistan.

Ventilator Prototype

One prototype they produced was based on a model from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and another utilized car parts. The gear-based model based on designs from MIT is low-tech, meaning that it can be duplicated from machine parts that are more easily sourced and widely available. The team’s ventilator designs are estimated to cost around 200 to 300 dollars, which is a 99% decrease from the original cost of $30,000. If the prototype does get approved, the ventilators will be used for emergency cases when there are no alternatives.

Car Parts for Ventilator Model

The Afghan Dreamers faced many obstacles during the course of the building process. While in the middle of a pandemic, the girls were also fasting during the month of Ramadan. In addition, they also had to look for
ways to source materials efficiently and effectively, which led them to look at car parts as Toyota Corollas are a common car driven in Afghanistan. Despite these potential barriers, the all-girls Afghan robotics team was determined to continue researching and problem-solving all while trying to keep themselves safe and healthy.

The Afghan Dreamers: Breaking Barriers

In Afghanistan, as many as 85% of girls do not receive a proper education. Due to many cultural barriers and stigmas, girls typically do not engage in endeavors as ambitious as the Afghan Dreamers. The all-girls Afghan robotics team has changed the narrative for many girls and hope to continue to help others and achieve more in the future. While the COVID-19 pandemic crippled many across the world, it certainly served as a large source of motivation and inspiration for the Afghan Dreamers.

– Grace Wang
Photo: Flickr

Nanotechnology is Alleviating PovertyIn its most basic sense, the concepts behind nanotechnology were formulated by acclaimed physicist Richard Feynman in 1959. Over the past four decades, nanotechnology has made significant advancements and research is expanding as costs are falling. Because of these innovations, nanotechnology is alleviating poverty worldwide.

Using Nanosensors for Water Management in Agriculture

Whether mechanical or chemical, nanosensors use tools to detect minor changes in chemical composition and relay information to change the dynamics of whatever they are monitoring. Nanosensors use artificial intelligence and computing to make adjustments as soon as any predicaments arise. Because of their sensitivity and small scale, nanosensors can detect problems well before other outdated instruments.

In a study for sustainable agriculture, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) asserts nanotechnology is alleviating poverty issues such as food insecurity. The OECD study concluded that nanosensors effectively detect changes in moisture across fields of crops. They then automatically adjust the disbursement of water and eliminate water waste while preventing crop losses. Farm machines outfitted with nanosensors detect moisture levels in different crops and suggest better-suited areas for specific crops allowing farmers to change planting patterns or change water allocations to other land plots.

Nanofiltration Membranes Provide Clean Drinking Water

Access to clean water is a crisis that many developing countries face. Usually, the first issue dealt with when fighting poverty is economic development so regulations are not often in place to protect against pollution. In some countries, scarcity of clean groundwater becomes problematic too. However, nanotechnology is alleviating poverty in these areas by providing clean drinking water.

Ghana was the center of a study on the effectiveness of nanofiltration membranes conducted by the International Water Association (IWA) and members of the Indian Institute of Science. The IWA chose to test Ghana’s groundwater due to the high level of pollutants present. During the study, it tested the levels of contaminants, bacteria and natural materials that render water non-potable before and after utilizing nanofiltration membranes.

The results of the IWA study were impressive. Not only did the study determine that nanofiltration reduces pollutants to potable levels, but executed efficiently enough, rural areas could produce enough water for more than 100 households. Ultimately, the conclusion was that nanofiltration was a low-cost solution for drinking water access and production in impoverished rural regions worldwide.

Nanotechnology to Fight Infectious Disease

Most original concepts of nanotechnology’s usefulness focused on medical care. The World Health Organization (WHO) has long been fond of utilizing nanotechnology in health care and fighting infectious diseases. The WHO now recognizes that nanotechnology is alleviating poverty in developing nations through scientific medical breakthroughs.

The first need for nanotechnology to address in developing countries is the diagnosis of disease. Nanobiotechnology allows for an inexpensive option to find multiple dangerous microbes using a single test. These technologies have improved over time and are being used in developing nations to detect most viral and bacterial infections, including tuberculosis.

The COVID-19 vaccine development shows the importance of nanotechnology in the prevention of disease too. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a nanocarrier system designed to activate the immune system to fight COVID-19 by assisting antibody production. The distribution of the vaccine to developing nations is now underway.

The Future of Nanotechnology for Poverty Reduction

Nanotechnology is alleviating poverty in developing nations, and with continued scientific inquiry and advancements in nanotechnology, new applications for poverty reduction will improve. Nanotechnology’s cost-effectiveness and versatility make it one of the most viable technologies to assist in the struggle against poverty.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare Innovations in AfricaAfrica has struggled with healthcare for decades. Low life expectancy due to poor healthcare and high infant mortality rates are some of the healthcare issues that Africa still struggles with. Healthcare innovations in Africa are helping to improve the health and well-being of African people in several ways.

Medical Drones

Doctors in Rwanda are able to order blood or medical supplies via text message and have them delivered to remote areas via drones. The drones facilitate the timely availability of blood supply for medical use in hard to reach areas. Transfusions of blood are critical for situations involving significant blood loss due to hemorrhage during pregnancy or child delivery. Blood transfusions are also necessary for women with severe anemia. This innovation thus reduces maternal mortality rates in Africa.

Pelebox

Pelebox is a smart locker that dispenses medication for patients. When the patient’s medicine is ready for pickup, they receive a text with a code that opens the locker. Before Pelebox, patients would wait hours in line with other sick people to receive their medicine which would further spread diseases. The hope is that this innovation will also lighten the load for medical staff, allowing them more time to focus on critical needs.

KidzAlive Talk Tool App

The KidzAlive Talk Tool app uses games and animated videos to educate children in South Africa about HIV/AIDS and combat stigma at the same time. The stigma of HIV/AIDS prevents people from accessing treatment. The KidzAlive Talk Tool app seeks to end this stigma and educate children to prevent the spread.

Crib A’Glow

The Crib A’Glow is a portable, solar-powered crib that utilizes LED lights to treat jaundice in babies. Roughly 3.3 million babies in sub-Saharan Africa do not receive proper treatment for jaundice, which can lead to hearing loss, cerebral palsy, mental struggles and even death. A whole 600 babies with jaundice have already received treatment with Crib A’Glow.

With the onset of COVID-19, innovations emerged to address the issue of limited healthcare resources in Africa and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Tippy Tap

The Tippy Tap is a hands-free and water-efficient handwashing station. Making a Tippy Tap is low-cost as it requires only simple materials such as sticks, string, a container for water and soap. The Tippy Tap helps prevent the spread of diseases and is currently helping Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Respire-19 Portable Ventilator

This portable automatic ventilator was created by a Nigerian engineering student. Ventilators are essential to prevent respiratory-related deaths due to COVID-19. The Respire-19 portable ventilator is an easy way to help combat the shortage of ventilators in Africa.

3D Printed Face Masks

South African innovator, Natalie Raphil, is able to create 100 face masks a day from a 3D printer. These masks are then delivered to major South African hospitals to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Around half of all COVID-19 cases in Africa come from South Africa so face masks are especially essential for the region.

With the healthcare innovations in Africa, quality of life and life expectancy will improve. Especially during a global health pandemic, access to these healthcare innovations proves critical to protecting the health and well-being of people. Africa’s healthcare system can develop even further with the help of more healthcare innovations.

– Hannah Drzewiecki
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


Agribusinesses in Trifinio, Guatemala renovated cattle and pasture lands into crops for exports which dramatically changed the area. The transformation drove approximately 25,000 people into this remote area in the southwest rural region of Guatemala and employed thousands of people who sought an opportunity in this growing business. The University of Colorado created a healthcare alliance to provide quality medical treatments in the now booming community.

Trifinio, Guatemala

Few people know about Trifinio, Guatemala even though it is a major producer for AgroAmerica’s Chiquita bananas. The town is made up of small concrete houses and only a few paved roads. Most homes are single-room units. When it comes to cultural development, the town’s only form of entertainment is a local bar.

This small and highly impoverished community suffers from the reality of poor health care access. With its nearest hospital one hour away in the town of Coatepeque Guatemala, the residents of this area face the challenges of malnutrition, high infant mortality rates, and a range of infectious diseases. More than 46% of children have intestinal parasites, 38.7% of children have anemia and one-third of women are affected by pregnancy complications. The numbers could not say it clearly enough; this community needed help. Fortunately, AgroAmerica teamed up with the University of Colorado to find a solution.

University of Colorado partners with AgroAmerica

In 2011 Fernando and Gustavo Bolaños, brothers and CEOs and COOs of AgroAmerica, became frustrated by the lack of health care access in their community. With Guatemala’s history of little investment in healthcare, they found themselves unable to ask the public sector for help. Gustavo Bolaños himself addressed this issue in an interview where he claimed, “In Guatemala, we have a lot of inequality and poverty, the government hasn’t been able to really cover the basic needs of the population. We as a private company, see all the needs of our people, and the biggest problem we are facing is education and health”. Therefore, rather than going to the government, they turned to the University of Colorado’s Global Health Center.

With an investment of 1 million U.S. dollars, the Bolaños made a healthcare alliance with the Colorado School of Public Health. Their goal was to build a medical center on their banana plantation. Three years later, the Bolaños proudly stood before the new medical facility. It houses a clinic, laboratory and conference space. The Trifinio Center for Human Development serves around 4,500 plantation workers, along with the 24,000 residents of the neighboring villages, and is “staffed by CU doctors, nurses, midwives, students and other health professionals rotating through Guatemala”.

The Last Six Years

Before Trifinio’s Center for Human Development (CHD) a visit to a health professional cost people in this community at least $25 USD. This did not include transportation fees and the loss of a day’s wages. With the medical facility, that cost has dropped to less than $5 USD. Families now have access to health resources without a geographical and economic barrier. The clinic is committed to decreasing neonatal morbidity, childhood mortality and increasing safe delivery practices and childhood growth and development. Along with these medical goals, the center hopes to impact the health education and social realities of its community.

In 2017, the CHD began a youth leadership program run by participating high-school students from the area. This initiative provided an opportunity for future leaders to learn about community organizing and advocacy that could improve human development. The program not just helps the community, but “students selected for this program receive a scholarship to cover their school fees,” promoting access for educational attainment.

Along with the youth program, the center provides sexual health education to neighboring schools in the area. For mothers, it has a maternal and child health program. This provides quality prenatal care and gives families a direct line for medical professionals to track both the mother’s and child’s health.

The center also conducts research to serve the needs of the community and bring new knowledge to the rest of the world. Their Student Health Survey, taken in late June and early July of 2019 “enrolled 1,414 participants from 15 Trifinio middle and high schools” to better understand the health and social realities of these children, and hopefully address the needs that are found.

The Future

In 2013 Stephen Berman, the director of the Center for Global Health at the University of Colorado said, “The solutions we develop through this program may someday be replicated in communities all over the world”. The program has had measurable benefits for its community, which is a good reason for its replication in other regions. Health care accessibility is not an easy system. But we saw major success through the healthcare alliance of a privately run company and a public institution. There are possibilities for new solutions to address the needs of those most vulnerable.

Ana Paola Asturias
Photo: Flickr

Women Are More LikelyGlobally, women are faced with the invisible burdens of gender inequality which are entrenched deeply within institutional structures and communities as a whole. These prejudices may limit a woman’s access to higher employment and assistance programs, ultimately leading to higher rates of poverty, especially among women of color. As of 2018, the poverty rate for women was 12.9% compared to the 10.6% rate among men. There are several reasons why women are more likely to live in poverty.

Educational Inequalities

In many developing countries, women are more likely to be denied an education, as nearly 25% of all girls have not completed primary school education and two-thirds of women make up the world’s illiteracy rate. In Somalia, for example, only 7% of girls are enrolled in primary school. The lack of education among women may result in higher pregnancy and poverty rates. According to the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative, a girl’s education is a driving force in their economic well-being. Somalia suffers from one of the world’s worst educational systems and is one of the poorest countries as well, having a poverty rate of 73%. With education, females can increase their access to higher-paying jobs, and thus, benefit the family’s income., which results in a positive cycle for generations, bettering the economy overall.

Women Are Paid Less

Despite having the same qualifications and working the same hours, women are more likely to get paid less than men. Worldwide, women earn nearly 20% less than men. These variances within wages affect women in low-paying jobs and poorer countries dramatically. Closing the gender wage gap can result in overall equal income distribution. In the United States alone, closing the wage gap would mean that half the poverty rate of working women and their families would be cut.

Period Poverty

Around the world, many females may suffer from period poverty: inadequate access to hygienic menstrual products and menstrual education. The lack of education is related to the stigma periods carry. Periods have been associated with immense shame for a long time and this stigma is carried throughout communities, deeply limiting girls’ opportunities. Globally, periods are the reason why girls are absent from school at a disproportionate rate, as two out of three girls in developing countries are skipping school during their period. In India, 23 million menstruating girls drop out of school annually because of a shortage in hygienic wash facilities and products. Without an education, females are less likely to obtain a high-paying job and escape poverty.

Domestic Violence and Sexual Exploitation

One in three females globally fall victim to some form of domestic or sexual violence in their lifetime. Girls and women who grow up in poverty are also at an increased risk of experiencing such crimes. Victims of domestic or sexual violence can be impacted through the degradation of their physical or mental health, loss of employment or are ultimately driven into homelessness. Globally, females lose out on nearly eight million days of employment every year as a direct result of violent acts committed against them. According to a survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, domestic violence was the root cause of women becoming homeless in half of all the cities surveyed.

Pregnancy

Economically, females are potentially burdened with the costs of pregnancy, including the additional fees of caring for a child, more significantly than men. Custodial mothers are twice as likely to be poor compared to custodial fathers. Further, unplanned pregnancies can be detrimental to a woman’s income as being unable to work immediately after giving birth means no pay, especially in the informal working sector. In the developing world, nearly 12 million girls aged 15-19 give birth each year, which often results in the end of the girls’ education and the beginning of child marriage. Children who are born from early pregnancies or marriages more often than not enter the same cycle of poverty and no education.

Organizations for Female Empowerment

Malala Yousafzai started the Malala Fund after members of the Pakistani Taliban shot her for advocating the right for girls to be educated. Since then, Malala has built her project into a global initiative that furthers the goal of providing free quality education to young girls in developing countries.

The Orchid Project is a global initiative to end female genital mutilation (FGM). The Orchid Project functions as a platform that raises awareness of the areas where FGM is most prevalent and advocates against the practice. The Orchid Project has brought together more than 193 countries with the collective goal of abolishing FGC by 2030.

Women for Women is an NGO that works to aid those who are in hostile conflict zones and are the victims of collateral damage. Women for Women helps to uplift these victims of violence by providing them with tools, support and education so that they may earn a living and remain stable through the direst of circumstances. Women for Women has helped more than half a million women in countries that have been directly impacted by war and conflicts.

Empowering Women Means Reducing Global Poverty

Females in developing countries experience complexities that restrict their development and progression. Organizations are helping to raise awareness of these complexities and aid women in need. Since women are more likely to experience inequalities that push them into poverty, empowering women ultimately means alleviating global poverty.

– Maya Falach
Photo: Flickr

Shot@Life CampaignThrough the use of public education, grassroots advocacy and fundraising, [email protected] strives to decrease vaccine-preventable childhood deaths to zero by the year 2030. The [email protected] campaign has an overall goal for every child to have a shot at life no matter where they live.

7 Facts About the [email protected] Campaign

  1. The initiative began as a grassroots advocacy campaign. [email protected] was founded in 2011 as part of the United Nations Foundation that aims to ensure that children around the world have access to lifesaving vaccines. Its programs help raise awareness and funds that contribute to child immunization programs hosted by world health organizations like UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The campaign has amassed thousands of supporters over the years, ranging from members of Congress to local and national businesses.
  2. [email protected] recognizes the importance of vaccines for saving children’s lives. Projections indicate that 17.7 million deaths may be averted in children under age five years as a result of vaccinations administered from 2011 to 2020.  With medicine continuing to evolve, diseases that have been around for hundreds of years are finally able to be addressed.
  3. The campaign focuses on four main vaccines. The four vaccine-preventable diseases it centers its attention on are polio, measles, pneumonia and rotavirus. To this day, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan are still polio-endemic countries. Additionally, the majority of people who contract measles were unvaccinated. Diarrhea, a common consequence of rotavirus, and pneumonia are two of the leading causes of child mortality. Combined, they account for approximately 1.4 million deaths around the world every year.
  4. [email protected] achieved a lot during its first five years of operation. Through the program’s support and its advocates, the campaign was able to secure over $2 billion in U.S. funding for global immunization programs between fiscal years 2012 to 2017. From its support of the United Nations’ partner programs between 2012 and 2016, the campaign was also able to provide more than 42 million children around the world with life-saving vaccines. In collaboration with its global partners, [email protected] was also able to contribute to the 84% drop in global measles deaths from 2000 to 2016, which saved more than 20 million children’s lives. Another accomplishment is the fact that 16 million people who otherwise would have been paralyzed by polio are still walking thanks to the partnership between [email protected] and the U.N. Foundation’s Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
  5. It has hosted multiple campaigns with the pharmacy, Walgreens. Walgreens has been one of the key partners of [email protected] since the beginning of the campaign’s advocacy efforts. [email protected] partnered with the drugstore chain on the “get a shot, give a shot” campaign, which aims to supply 100 million vaccines by 2024 to children in need around the world. This campaign, which began in 2013, is still in operation to this day. Its most recent campaign with Walgreens began on September 1, 2020, with Walgreens pledging to donate $0.23 per immunization shot a patient receives from a Walgreens pharmacy. The fundraiser runs until December 31, 2020, and is set to raise a maximum of $2.6 million
    for [email protected]
  6. The campaign runs a blog dedicated to [email protected] and vaccine-related issues. Part of its educational efforts includes hosting and contributing to the [email protected] blog. With its first post dating back to 2011, the posts cover a variety of topics about vaccines and success stories related to the campaign. One of its most recent articles broke down COVID-19’s negative impact on refugees and providing them with adequate healthcare, including vaccines.
  7. [email protected] outlines a variety of ways to advocate for the campaign. Through its “take action now” page on its website, [email protected] highlights numerous ways U.S. constituents can put their support behind the campaign and efforts to provide vaccines for children globally. It encourages reaching out to U.S. Senators and Representative’s offices by calling, emailing and writing letters to get [email protected] on their radar to support. One of its programs, “[email protected] Champions,” is a way for members of the public to increase their support of the organization. These advocates attend training webinars and events to learn how to further the efforts of the campaign as well as encourage other members in the community to join the cause.

Since its beginning in 2011, [email protected] has amassed more than 350,000 supporters and 2,000 grassroots advocates in all 50 U.S. states who call on their communities to support the campaign for global vaccines. Through education and advocacy, [email protected] acknowledges the vital role that providing vaccines for children plays in preventing their deaths, especially in developing nations.

– Sara Holm
Photo: Flickr

Glasses for developing countries
A variety of NGOs have been working for decades to provide glasses for developing countries. Most models for this operate in similar ways, either by donating glasses or offering low-cost glasses for communities to purchase. These programs have been successful in helping people correct their vision, as well as creating more education and economic opportunity. They only lack one thing — innovation. Choosing to apply a solution designed for a developed country to a remote village is not always the best option. This is where Child Vision comes in.

The Statistics

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 80% of all persons in Africa have unaddressed vision impairment. Additionally, 33% of the world’s poor population suffers from vision impairment. There are 123.7 million people with a refractive error, which can be solved with glasses that have the correct strength. On average, glasses cost approximately $343, despite the average manufacturing cost of $10. Clear vision drastically reduced education access for children, which in turn created less economic opportunity as they moved into adulthood. Lack of clear vision loses $202 billion in global productivity each year.

The Standard

Some of the biggest names in glasses for developing countries are NGOs like Eyes on Africa, Vision for a Nation, VisionSpring and the WHO.

The WHO has been working on the Global Action Plan for eye health since 2014. The plan has one main objective — to encourage and enhance global eye health. The Global Action Plan has several initiatives. These include identifying what is causing vision impairment, understanding where the gap is in eye health access and bringing cataract surgery to developing countries. VisionSpring works by allowing those in developed countries to purchase glasses for developing countries through the VisionSpring website. VisionSpring donates those as well as letting communities purchase low-cost glasses. It also provides bulk purchase discounts and sell glasses individually and by the box. On average, one pair of bifocals in a box set costs just 85 cents. The price point is low, but still unmanageable for many villages, especially in areas with little to no internet access.

Child Vision

Child Vision is a program within the Centre for Vision in the Developing World (CVDW). The CVDW looked at the statistics of vision impairment then accepted the challenge of creating a solution that worked for the developing world. The main struggles the CVDW found in the traditional programs were a lack of optometrists and the high cost of traditional glasses. There is one optometrist per 1 million people in the population in developing nations. While 85 cents for a pair of glasses may seem affordable, it is a great financial strain for the world’s poor, many of whom survive on less than a dollar a day.

Child Vision, after identifying the root problems with getting glasses to developed countries, created a successful prototype within two months. The CVDW created an inexpensive, adjustable lens that sets into durable frames.

How the Glasses Work

The round lens is composed of two walls made of a flexible plastic membrane that the wearer fills with liquid silicone. The lens is then set into plastic frames that have dials on both temples of the glasses. The plastic frames are filled with the same liquid silicone that is in the lens. The wearer puts on the Child Vision glasses, covers one eye and using a tumbling “E” chart, adjusts a side knob to move more or less fluid into the lens until they can see clearly. They then repeat on the other side.

The wearer simply removes the knobs from the glasses and throws them away after the lens is set. They now have durable, functional, cost-effective glasses. With a $20 donation, CVDW can provide a pair of self-adjusting glasses to a developing country. A 1–2-hour training session with a local community leader to show them how to use the tumbling “E” charts to check vision and make sure the glasses are adjusted correctly is also provided. This is not only an immediate solution and innovation to provide glasses to developing countries but it creates generational empowerment of checking eyesight and promoting educational and economic growth within each community.

– Madalyn Wright
Photo: Flickr

Maternal Health in Yemen
The Yemen civil war, which began in early 2015 and still devastates the nation today, has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. A total of 24 million people require assistance. This crisis affects all aspects of life in Yemen, including healthcare. Millions are without access to life-saving medical treatment and supplies, leading them to die of preventable diseases, such as cholera, diabetes and diphtheria. Pregnant women and infants are particularly vulnerable during this health crisis as adequate medical care throughout pregnancy and birth is essential. Maternal health in Yemen is of the utmost concern now.

Yemen has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world with 17% of the female deaths in the reproductive age caused by childbirth complications. Maternal health in Yemen has never been accessible to all women. This crisis has escalated even further during the Yemeni civil war. However, global organizations are acting to save the lives of these pregnant women and infants who desperately need medical care.

Yemen’s Maternal Health Crisis: Before the Civil War

Even before the war began in 2015, pregnant women were struggling to get the help they needed. Yemen is one of the most impoverished countries in the world — ranking at 177 on the Human Development Index (HDI). Poverty is a large factor in the insufficiency of maternal health in Yemen as impoverished women lack the finances, nutrition, healthcare access and education to deliver their babies safely.

Many Yemeni women are unaware of the importance of a trained midwife during childbirth. Of all the births in rural areas, 70% happen at home rather than at a healthcare facility. Home births increase the risk of death in childbirth as the resources necessary to deal with complications are not available.

The Yemeni Civil War Increased the Maternal Health Crisis

Since the civil war began, the maternal mortality rate in Yemen has spiked from five women a day in 2013 to 12 women a day in 2019. A variety of factors caused this spike. The war has further limited access to nearly every resource, including food and water. This, in turn, depletes the health of millions of women and thus their newborns.

Also, the civil war has dramatically decreased access to healthcare across the nation. An estimated 50% of the health facilities in the country are not functional as a result of the conflict. Those that are operational are understaffed, underfunded and unable to access the medical equipment desperately needed to help the people of Yemen. This especially affects pregnant women — who require medical care to give birth safely.

Organizational Aid

Though the situation in Yemen remains dire, various global organizations are acting to assist pregnant women and newborns. The United Nations Children’s’ Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is taking the initiative to help millions across Yemen, including pregnant women. The organization has sent health workers and midwives into the country’s rural areas to screen and treat pregnant women for complications.

Similarly, USAID trained more than 260 midwives and plans to send them into Yemeni communities to help pregnant women and infants. USAID is partnering with UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Yemen Ministry of Public Health and Population and other organizations to ensure that maternal health in Yemen, as well as all types of healthcare, are adequate and accessible for all affected by the civil war.

Maternal health in Yemen, while never having been accessible for many, is now in crisis as a result of the Yemeni civil war. While the situation is still urgent, organizations such as USAID and UNICEF are fighting to ensure that all pregnant women and infants in Yemen have access to the medical care they desperately need.

Daryn Lenahan
Photo: Flickr

Brazil Indigenous coronavirusThe coronavirus has resulted in deaths all over the world, but some communities are more heavily affected than others. In Brazil, the coronavirus in Indigenous communities has taken an especially hard toll. COVID-19 disproportionately affects these often-isolated groups, which struggle to access the support systems needed to withstand this threat.

The Vulnerability of Indigenous Communities

Some Indigenous tribes living in Brazil have limited or no contact with the rest of the world. However, this isolation may render some tribes unaware of the pandemic in general or of its full seriousness. The coronavirus in Indigenous communities may also put tribe members at a greater risk, because they lack exposure to many illnesses. This means that their immune systems are often not strong enough to fight COVID-19.

Additionally, isolated Indigenous communities only have limited access to unreliable testing, contact tracing and communication of quarantine protocols. Some would have to travel for days to reach modern medical facilities providing such resources.

In particular, Indigenous communities fear the village elders contracting the coronavirus. Elders are not only the most vulnerable members of the community but may also experience the most serious effects of the disease. Additionally, many refer to these elders as “living libraries” or “living encyclopedias.” They hold tribal knowledge of culture, mythology and natural medicine, and many speak endangered languages. If coronavirus in Indigenous communities wipes out this generation of elders, their tribe’s cultural history and knowledge will die with them.

Why Outsiders Pose a Threat

The rapid spread of the coronavirus in indigenous communities often results from outsiders who visit these communities without taking the proper precautions. For example, doctors working in remote Indigenous regions have tested positive for the coronavirus. They only entered quarantine after they possibly spread the disease to multiple villages. Additionally, other medical teams have failed to follow proper quarantine protocol before entering an Indigenous reserve to care for those vulnerable to the disease.

Miners and poachers tapping resources on Indigenous lands have also spread the virus to these isolated communities. In Brazil, an estimated 40% of Yanomami people who live near these mining operations are now at risk of contracting COVID-19. Leaders from the Yanomami Indigenous Territory have spoken out, creating the hashtag #MinersOutCovidOut. Their aim is to raise awareness and demand an end to illegal gold mines and other land invasions.

The budget cuts and staff reassignment faced by FUNAI, a government agency that defends the boundaries of Indigenous land in Brazil, have made it possible for illegal miners and poachers to enter these protected regions. Indigenous people in certain tribes have also claimed that FUNAI only gave food supplies and assistance to tribes on officially demarcated land. However, even this aid was not enough to feed the large families of the tribe.

The Government in Brazil

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has come under fire in the past for dismissive statements about Indigenous communities in Brazil. He has also allowed illegal logging, mining and land grabs to continue. Currently, Bolsonaro’s administration faces criticism for its response to the pandemic. The Brazilian government’s conflicts with Indigenous communities have resulted in inadequate support required for these communities to fight COVID-19.

The Brazilian Supreme Court ordered in July 2020 that the government must create a crisis response team and develop a plan to control the coronavirus. However, Bolsonaro recently vetoed proposed laws to provide vulnerable Indigenous communities with designated intensive care beds, clean water and essential supplies. Bolsonaro defended this decision by citing excessive costs that he claimed would go against public interest.

Fighting the Coronavirus in Indigenous Communities

To fight this crisis, Brazilian Indigenous communities and outsider organizations are joining forces. The NGO Brazilian Health Expeditionary, or Expedicionários Da Saúde, has helped Indigenous people from over 700 isolated communities in the Amazon by setting up temporary medical facilities with necessary supplies. Local officials and Indigenous groups collaboratively gather money and distribute food supplies in place of the unfulfilled promise of government assistance.

Many individual tribes are also protecting themselves from the spread of the virus by remaining in isolation from the rest of the world. This means that they seek medical care within their own communities. As such, though the severity of the coronavirus in Indigenous communities in Brazil is dire, it is not without hope.

Allie Beutel 
Photo: Pixabay