Infant Mortality in NepalOver the past 10 years, infant mortality in Nepal has decreased. The number of infants dying before they reach age one has been reduced by more than 50 percent. In 2006, the United Nations Populations Fund ranked Nepal as the most affected by infant and maternal mortality in South Asia. Not many people know what chlorhexidine does for Nepal. However, chlorhexidine is becoming more common in routine care nationwide. Over 1.3 million newborns throughout Nepal benefit from this product.

How Chlorhexidine Helps Nepal

Chlorhexidine is an antiseptic used in hospitals to disinfect the skin before surgery and to sanitize surgical tools. In countries like Nepal, it is used to prevent deadly infections by protecting the umbilical stumps of newborns. It is safe and affordable. Chlorhexidine comes as either a gel or a liquid. It is easy to manufacture and simple to use. Mothers, birth attendants and others with little training in low-resource settings benefit the most from this antiseptic.

Research and Trials

Between November 2002 and March 2005, Nepal Nutrition Intervention Project, Sarlahi (NNIPS) started a community-based trial. The trial hoped to determine the effects of chlorhexidine on newborns. Nepal Health Research Council and the Committee on Human Research of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health approved the trial. A local female researcher approached women who were six months into pregnancy for enrollment, to explain the procedures and obtain their oral consent.

Education also became a part of the research testing for those in the chlorhexidine trials. Parents in this group received educational messages about clean cord care.

Results

The NNIPS enrolled 15,123 infants into the trials. Of these infants, 268 resulted in neonatal death. Of the surviving infants, researchers found that there is a 24 percent lower risk of mortality among the chlorhexidine group than those who use dry cord-care (no soap and water, chlorhexidine or any other liquid). Also, infant mortality in Nepal was reduced by 34 percent in those enrolled in the trial within the first 24 hours of their birth.

The trial data also provides evidence that cleansing the umbilical cord with chlorhexidine can lessen the risk of omphalitis and other infections. Omphalitis, a cord infection, was reduced by 75 percent when treated with chlorhexidine. The antiseptic was determined to have an overall positive and significant effect on the public health of the country.

Impact in Nepal

In 2009, after results of the trials released, the USAID supported the Government of Nepal to pilot a chlorhexidine program. Saving Lives at Birth: a Grand Challenge for Development, an NGO, included chlorhexidine into routine care nationwide two years later. The Government of Nepal has advocated and promoted the usage of chlorhexidine by packaging the products as a maternal health product. They are now even educating health care workers on the application of the product.

The country received a USAID Pioneers Prize for lowering the neonatal death rate significantly. In 2007 the mortality rate was 43.4 per 1,000. In 2018, it lowered to 27.32 per 1,000.

Global Impact

What chlorhexidine does for Nepal goes beyond its borders. Nepal has also impacted countries such as Nigeria, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Bangladesh. These countries are now using chlorhexidine to lower the infant mortality rate and create healthier societies.

In 2013, Nigeria started chlorhexidine pilot programs to also lower its neonatal death rate. The infant mortality rate is determined by newborn deaths per 1,000 people born. Nigeria once had the third-highest number of infant deaths (75.3 per 1,000). However, the infant mortality rate now is ranked as the eighth-highest at about 64.6 deaths per 1,000.

Chlorhexidine is reducing infant mortality in Nepal and other countries.

– Francisco Benitez
Photo: Flickr

Coding in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is primarily an agricultural country, with more than 80 percent of its citizens living in rural areas. More than 108.4 million people call Ethiopia home, making it Africa’s second-largest nation in terms of population. However, other production areas have become major players in Ethiopia’s economy. As of 2017, Ethiopia had an estimated gross domestic product of $200.6 billion with the main product coming from other sources than agriculture.

Today, 1.2 million Ethiopians have access to fixed telephone lines, while 62.6 million own cell phones. The country broadcasts six public TV stations and 10 public radio shows nationally. 2016 data showed that over 15 million Ethiopians have internet access. While 15 percent of the population may not seem significant, it is a sharp increase in comparison to the mere one percent of the population with Internet access just two years prior.

Coding in Ethiopia: One Girl’s Success Story

Despite its technologically-limited environment, young tech-savvy Ethiopians are beginning to forge their own destiny and pave the way for further technological improvements. One such pioneer is teenager Betelhem Dessie. At only 19, Dessie has spent the last three years traveling Ethiopia and teaching more than 20,000 young people how to code and patenting a few new software programs along the way.

On her website, Dessie recounts some of the major milestones she’s achieved as it relates to coding in Ethiopia:

  • 2006 – she got her first computer
  • 2011- she presented her projects to government officials at age 11
  • 2013-she co-founded a company, EBAGD, whose goals were to modernize Ethiopia’s education sector by converting Ethiopian textbooks into audio and visual materials for the students.
  • 2014-Dessie started the “codeacademy” of Bahir Dar University and taught in the STEM center at the university.

United States Collaboration

Her impressive accomplishments continue today. More recently, Dessie has teamed up with the “Girls Can Code” initiative—a U.S. Embassy implemented a project that focuses on encouraging girls to study STEM. According to Dessie, “Girls Can Code” will “empower and inspire young girls to increase their performance and pursue STEM education.”

In 2016, Dessie helped train 40 girls from public and governmental schools in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia how to code over the course of nine months. During those nine months, Dessie helped her students develop a number of programs and projects. One major project was a website where students can, according to Dessie, “practice the previous National examinations like SAT prep sites would do.” This allows students to take practice tests “anywhere, anytime.” In 2018, UNESCO expanded a similar project by the same name to include all 10 regions in Ghana, helping to make technology accessible to more Africans than ever before.

With the continuation of programs like “Girls Can Code” and the ambition of young coders everywhere, access to technology will give girls opportunities to participate in STEM, thereby closing the technology gender gap in developing countries. Increased STEM participation will only serve to aid struggling nations in becoming globally competitive by boosting their education systems and helping them become more connected to the world in the 21st century.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr

Informal Schools in African Slums
The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) estimates that, as of 2010, more than 200 million people in Africa reside in slums. This means more than 200 million people are living their lives in inhumane conditions and circumstances. The children living in these slums have a compromised opportunity at education. According to UNICEF, the youth residing in slums are some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable youth in the world. Due to the burgeoning need for educational institutions in Africa, informal schools in African slums are gaining popularity.

What are Informal Schools?

Informal schools are unregistered educational institutions that are not recognized by the government. Traditional schooling comes in the form of either private or public schools, and informal schools are a sort of middle ground. They typically operate in impoverished areas and are mostly geared around offering the same education as a primary school. These institutions are funded by private parties and non-profit organizations.

Increasing Need

The main reason that the number of informal schools in African slums has been on the rise has to do with a surge of enrollment in public schools. This is, in part, due to the initiative of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which pushed toward target goals that would reduce poverty, such as improved access to education. This enrollment surge is a positive factor in Africa’s education sector, but comes with a downside: there are not enough public schools to meet the rising need of educating African children, and the usual alternative, private schools, are not financially accessible to most African families. Overcrowding in African schools has been an increasing problem; the pupil to instructor ratio in African primary schools is 42:1.

In response to the need for more educational institutes, informal schools have been sprouting up all over Africa, especially in slums. Characterized by the same steel and dirt architecture in the surrounding slums, these schools offer an alternative option for education. There is a lack of government schools in slums, so private sectors and organizations provide funds for the informal schools.

The Benefits of Informal Schooling

Informal schools in African slums not only facilitate access to education but also offer a safe space for the youth. Many of these schools, such as the Destiny Junior Education Center, offer meals and restrooms, which are not commodities in slum-living. Informal schools keep African children off the streets and in the classrooms, which potentially helps them stay away from the vices that are rampant in slum environments like drugs and alcohol.

The Future of Informal Schools

The next step regarding informal schools is to put policies in place to protect them. There are members in the education committee of the National Assembly that are working toward informal schools being recognized by the government so as to strengthen the quality of education in them.

Overall, informal schools in African slums are an attempt to meet the increasing need for education in slums. By offering an alternative to the congested public schools, these informal education centers provide hope for African youth.

– Paula Bouza
Photo: Flickr

BeyGood Fellowship ProgramLast December, Beyoncé performed at the Global Citizen Festival in South Africa, a festival aimed at ending global poverty. The 2018 festival was in honor of Nelson Mandela, former South African president and activist who died in 2013. Over 90,000 people attended the festival, which raised $7.1 billion worldwide. The highly anticipated performance garnered high viewership and engagement worldwide, and parts of the performance were streamed online. However, this was not the beginning of Beyoncé’s charity work in South Africa. Her foundation, BeyGood, has spotlighted local organizations for years. Now, BeyGood plans to return to South Africa twice a year to help develop and execute its community outreach plan. In doing so, BeyGood created the BeyGood Fellowship Program.

BeyGood Fellowship Program in South Africa

The BeyGood Fellowship Program in South Africa is being executed in partnership with Global Citizen. The two organizations are working to empower local youth in helping end world poverty by 2030. Each youth fellow receives a paid, yearlong job opportunity and will focus on one of four pillars of activity from Global Citizen: creative, campaigns, rewards or marketing.

In late March 2019, the BeyGood foundation reviewed applications and returned from New York to Johannesburg, South Africa. Once there, BeyGood representatives met with four fellows who have been working on the project since the Global Citizen Festival in December. They also met with local partners to see how their work has been going and what is needed to ensure future success.

BeyGood Foundation Partnerships in South Africa

In addition to the organization’s work in South Africa, the BeyGood Foundation is partnering with UNICEF USA and Chime for Change on a campaign called Every Drop Counts, bringing clean water to Burundi. The BeyGood Foundation also works with an organization in Johannesburg, IkamvaYouth. This organization aims to pull children out of poverty through after-school tutoring. Founded in 2003, IkamvaYouth is youth-driven and offers career advice and psychological services. It impacts 5,000 youths per year across 15 branches.

Moreover, BeyGood is partnered with 9-year-old arts organization Lalea, whose mission is to support youth through after-school art programs. The organization helps students manifest their dreams and think creatively to accomplish their goals. BeyGood’s visits to South Africa enabled them to check in with all of these programs and more. More importantly, it allowed BeyGood to ensure they are engaging the communities they serve and maintain and create future success.

Though the BeyGood fellowship program in South Africa is relatively new, the organization has continuously worked with various South African organizations to aid youth development. The program has executed on their promises to the community. Ultimately, BeyGood is an example of how to incorporate youth in the fight to end extreme poverty by 2030.

Ava Gambero
Photo: Google Images

Growing Up in Exile: Who is Monique Macías?Who is Monique Macías? Currently an author, Monique Macías was one of the only foreign students at the prestigious Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang, North Korea. Now out of exile and in her 40s, Monique Macías often depicts her unconventional upbringing as a black African adolescent in articles and memoirs.

Born in Equatorial Guinea in 1970, only two years after the country gained independence from Spain, her father, Francisco Macías Nguema, was the small country’s first elected president. As a new president, Macías sought to form relationships with leaders of other countries such as North Korean President Kim Il-sung.

Monique Macías stated that her father and Kim Il-sung became fast friends because they had “a lot in common”, pointing out that “both fought against colonial powers and both built their support base through nationalism.”

Regardless, Francisco Macías had a short term due to a series of illegal acts he implemented through the Equatorial Guinean government. In the late 1970s. Francisco Macías was overthrown as president of Equatorial Guinea and tried for numerous crimes including genocide, embezzlement and treason. Francisco Macías was executed by firing squad in the late 1970s.

Foreseeing his exile and later execution, Franciso Macías sent his three children to North Korea to live and receive an education. Monique Macías, along with her sister and brother, attended Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang, North Korea, where they learned to shoot Kalashnikov rifles and participated in daily physical drills that involved running and climbing.

Formerly an all-boys school, the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School made a new class for Macías and her sister as an exception. The special treatment often led other students to ask: who is Monique Macías and why do she and her siblings deserve preferential treatment? Macías was not too young to recognize the special treatment that she and her siblings received in Pyongyang:

“[We] were the only Korean-speaking long-term foreign residents during that period. We lived a privileged lifestyle compared to other foreign students and the majority of North Korean people. Throughout those years Kim Il-sung stayed in regular contact with us…”

Macias lived in exile in Pyongyang for 15 years before relocating in 1994.

So, who is Monique Macías outside of exile? Still affected by the conditions in which she spent her formative years, Macías continues to author memoirs and articles about her incredibly unconventional childhood and discusses how living in Equatorial Guinea, North Korea, Spain and the United States informed her opinions of the North Korean regime.

“There are people in North Korea who know that this is not the right way to live,” she said in an interview with Reuters. “I don’t think it’s going to collapse easily.”

However, Monique Macías does not shy away from defending the country that took her in upon her father’s death and formed her childhood:

“I have found that Western media normally just focuses on nuclear issues, politics or human rights. Together, all this makes people think that North Korea is an evil country and that its people are simply robots….But having lived there, I am proof that all of these things are not always true.”

In the 2000s, Monqiue Macías published her memoir “I’m Monique, From Pyongyang” in Korean.

Photo: Flickr

South Africa's Instagram influencersOnline entrepreneurs have popped up around the world. South Africa‘s Instagram influencers, such as Keagan Kingsley and Thithi Nteta, help companies engage targeted audiences for their campaigns. “Microinfluencers” Nteta and Kingsley promote a company’s brand to their many followers for a fee.

Instagram usage in South Africa grew to 3.8 million in 2017, an 8.5 percent increase from the previous year. Facebook, which bought Instagram in 2012, remains South Africa’s most popular program. Of its 16 million South African users, 14 million of them access Facebook through a mobile device.

In 2010, South Africa had only five million smartphones in use. By 2017, that number increased to 50 million, giving space for South Africa’s Instagram influencers during its rise. Such go-getters let South African companies localize their businesses and compete on a global scale at the same time.

How did such a boost occur? U.S. aid to South Africa helped the country grow wealthy enough to support a national online presence. Between 1946 and 2010, the United States donated over $42 million to South Africa. Though this amount represents less than 1 percent of total U.S. aid given in that time frame, it allowed an emerging economy hungry for social networking sites to support a connected nation.

“Growth in South Africa’s mobile phone market is predominantly driven by the introduction of extremely low-cost smartphones,” says Nicolet Pienaar, a business group manager at GfK South Africa. Inexpensive smartphones have become a staple of foreign aid for their benefits in emerging markets.

What is important to remember is that there is a strong relationship between a country’s GDP and its access to the Internet. Pew Research Center suggests that this correlation levels off once national wealth reaches a certain point. MasiCorp, a South African NGO, provides libraries in Cape Town that can teach the local populace about computers and digital literacy. Cape Town itself hopes to “provide a space where people can enrich themselves and advance their livelihood goals, whether they are working on basic literacy or business ideas.”

South Africa’s Instagram influencers, who compete with the rest of the developed world, could only follow their dreams once the country had enough wealth to support a connected populace. Even the most driven of entrepreneurs needed a little help to get going.
The benefits of deciding one’s economic fate are inspiring. As Thithi Nteta puts it, “I really have been lucky enough to work with brands that get who I am.”

– Nick Edinger

Photo: Flickr


In sub-Saharan Africa — a poverty-dense region blighted by infectious disease — there is a relative lack of mental health services. This is partly because most healthcare resources are allocated to infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Ninety percent of malaria deaths, 70 percent of HIV/AIDS cases and 26 percent of tuberculosis cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Against this background, mental health problems do not raise an immediate cause for concern; but, mental illness accounts for 10 percent of the disease burden. Child and adolescent mental health in sub-Saharan Africa rates are just as common; 14 percent have mental health problems and nearly 10 percent have diagnosable psychiatric disorders.

The most common mental disorders in the region are depression and anxiety. The prevalence rates of anxiety and Major Depressive Disorder ranges from 40 to 55 percent.

Poverty, warfare and disease identify as vulnerabilities and risk factors to child and adolescent mental health in sub-Saharan Africa. In one study conducted in southern Sudan, researchers found that 75 percent of children suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. A lack of evidence-based research on child and adolescent mental health in sub-Saharan Africa exists, but psychological distress and mood, conduct and anxiety disorders are common among children who have experienced armed conflict.

In 2011, an estimated 90 percent of children infected or directly affected by AIDS reside in sub-Saharan Africa. Rates of anxiety and depression are significantly higher in children orphaned by AIDS than in healthy children. One study found that 12 percent of children orphaned by AIDS in rural Uganda had suicidal ideations.

There are several challenges to providing quality mental health services in low and middle-income countries. Two of these include cost and the lack of research and needs based assessments. Of all medical conditions, mental disorders are some of the most expensive to treat. In most sub-Saharan African countries, mental health treatment facilities are limited in number and often inaccessible. But without assessments and research demonstrating the value of providing effective treatments and services in the region, improving mental healthcare and its availability to those who need it remains a relatively low priority.

In recent years, mental health has received increased attention and new efforts have developed to improve mental health research and care in the region. In 2011, an association of research institutions and health ministries in Uganda, Ethiopia, India, Nepal and South Africa partnered with Britain and the World Health Organization (WHO) to research the effect of community-based mental health treatment in low and middle-income nations and to develop mental health facilities and services in these areas.

Another effort is the Africa Focus on Intervention Research for Mental Health (AFFIRM), which is working with several sub-Saharan nations on infrastructure development and has conducted a number of randomized controlled trials envisioned to create interventions for severe mental disorders that are cost-effective and widely accessible.

This is only a small sample of the development efforts addressing mental health treatment and services in sub-Saharan Africa. Recognition of mental disorders significance in national health and more intervention research will go a long way toward bettering child and adolescent mental health in sub-Saharan Africa.

Gabrielle Doran

Photo: Flickr


In one of the smallest African countries, Rwanda, the population growth is recovering from the Rwandan genocide. Rwandans who are below the age of 25 represent 67 percent of the population. As the population grows, new support is needed to educate youth in Rwanda.

“This population represents a youth bulge that is hungry for knowledge and success but is being starved of the access and opportunities,” reads the description of the Basketball Health Corps, just one of the programs provided by the nonprofit Shooting Touch.

Shooting Touch is an international development organization that uses the sport of basketball to educate and provides health care to youth in underdeveloped communities. The organization travels all over the world to spread the sport and their message along with it. Basketball can help kids learn about teamwork, sportsmanship and the importance of staying active together. More importantly, Shooting Touch uses basketball as a platform to educate youth in Rwanda on health and happiness.

Erick Niyitanga, a teenage Rwandan coach who has been playing basketball for years with the Basketball Health Corps, says that the sport has taught him how to carry himself “on the court and in real life.”

Board member of the organization and ESPN senior writer Jackie MacMullan took a trip to Rwanda to report on the outcomes that their nonprofit produces.

The 25 local full-time and volunteer coaches organize the children into teams, where the children get to pick their own teammates and are educated on consent. Health screening is provided in conjunction with the Boston-based nonprofit Partners In Health.

In the country of Rwanda, many of the communities are economically undernourished — the average monthly salary of citizens living in the impoverished city of Rwinkwavu is just $20 a month. Since Rwandans have little to spend on healthcare, Shooting Touch offers free healthcare to anyone who joins their program. In this way, the organization is not only advocating for healthcare; they are sponsoring it as well. The program also educates youth in Rwanda, with hands-on education.

“When we are on the court together, we are free,” says the mother of one of the players during a basketball tournament sponsored by Shooting Touch. Each player is provided a hot meal, and celebration ensues as the tournament ends. There is not a loss for one team, but rather a huge win for both sides, as all of the players walk away with free food and healthcare.

To educate youth in Rwanda and all over the world is essential to aid the growth of countries and is the first step to bringing families out of poverty. All of this is courtesy of one organization’s passion for lifting the spirits of struggling youth with the universal language of sports.

Vicente Vera

Photo: Flickr


The Young Heroes Foundation, founded in 2006, aims to provide financial support for the provision of basic necessities for orphans in Swaziland in addition to providing HIV testing and care programs. The nation is home to the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS globally, illustrated by a staggering number of 70,000 orphans and 15,000 households led by children as reported by Aid for Africa.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), rates of HIV among pregnant woman have reached 39.2 percent and approximately 17,000 children contract the disease every year. It is also reported that more than 120,000 Swazi children who are under 18 have lost at least one parent to AIDS, while more than 60,000 have experienced the loss of both parents to the disease.

Young Heroes has now reached more than 1,000 children in Swaziland by stabilizing households of orphans and vulnerable children, consequently improving the rates of school attendance among those receiving aid. Events such as the Swazi Cycle also help to raise monetary support for Swazi orphans by supporting the Young Heroes Foundation, where American cyclists embark on bike routes from border-to-border across the nation. In 2010 the cycling journey raised more than $100,000 for children in dire need of support in Swaziland.

In addition, citizens of Swaziland are affected by high rates of malnutrition, food insecurity, poverty and extremely unpredictable weather patterns, as cited by the World Food Programme.

Other programs such as the Centre for HIV/AIDS Prevention Services (CHAPS) have developed voluntary public health programs such as the Male Circumcision Strategic and Operational Plan for HIV Prevention, projecting to avoid an estimated 31,000 new incidents of HIV by 2028. The initiative utilizes tools of education through mentoring, sports programs and public health outreach administered by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

– Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr

South Sudan Education Sector
As the world’s newest country, South Sudan has made strong progress in improving its education sector. In just four years, the enrollment of children in primary school has doubled, and the chance for a child in South Sudan to receive schooling has increased by 20 percent in the past decade. South Sudan’s Alternate Education System is also helping over 200,000 youth and adults catch up on their education.

Unfortunately, education in the country is still considered among the worst in the world. The adult literacy rate is only 27 percent and 70 percent of children ages 6-17 have never set foot in a classroom. The dropout rate for children in their first six years of primary education is 60 percent.

Overcrowded primary schools are extremely common and qualified teachers are few and far between. Only 15 percent of teachers in South Sudan are qualified with just three out of five teachers receiving a salary from the government.

In a World Bank article, the Country Director for South Sudan stated that in order to catch up with the rest of Africa, South Sudan needs consistent investment in classrooms, more schools in rural areas, more trained teachers and an efficient distribution of educational resources.

In order to make those improvements and boost education in South Sudan, USAID has implemented various programs and projects benefiting both students and teachers across the country.

USAID has greatly improved the accessibility of education in South Sudan. The Agency has contributed to the construction and rehabilitation of 140 primary schools and five secondary schools across the country.

In the past five years, the Agency has awarded over 9,000 scholarships to girls and disadvantaged boys who were previously unable to afford secondary education.

USAID’s South Sudan Teacher Education Program is helping to improve teacher qualification through in-service training and the implementation of a curriculum and professional teaching standards.

In 2012, the Agency provided technical assistance for the drafting and passage of South Sudan’s General Education Bill. According to a member of South Sudan’s National Legislative Assembly, “The bill provides for compulsory and free education for all citizens of the country through primary level.”

Although education in South Sudan is improving, there is still a lot of ground to make up. Organizations like USAID, UNICEF and the World Bank are working with the government of South Sudan to develop a stronger, self-sustaining education system.

Kristyn Rohrer

Photo: Flickr