Information and stories on awareness.

HIV/AIDS in SenegalHIV/AIDS is an epidemic that is most prevalent in Africa. Many countries across the continent are acutely affected or struggle to control the disease. One country that has handled the crisis expertly is Senegal. A low-income country in West Africa, Senegal would look to be a prime candidate for a difficult path regarding HIV/AIDS. However, HIV/AIDS in Senegal is relatively low in cases and in damage.

HIV/AIDS in Senegal

Senegal has become a model for controlling HIV/AIDS across the developing world. The country of 16 million people manages to keep the prevalence and spread of HIV/AIDS low while providing many methods to increase knowledge of the disease. There are only 41,000 people in Senegal living with HIV/AIDS as of 2019.

The prevalence rate of people living with HIV/AIDS stands at 0.4 among adults between 15 and 49, with men having a 0.3 prevalence rate and women having a 0.4 prevalence rate. There were only around 1,400 new cases of HIV/AIDS in Senegal in 2019 and 1,200 deaths. There has been a 37% decrease in HIV/AIDS cases since 2010 and a 26% decrease in deaths. Roughly 70% of people with HIV/AIDS receive antiretroviral treatment. Senegal was the first sub-Saharan country to establish an antiretroviral treatment program in 1998 and is one of the few countries in Africa that provides such treatment for free.

Smart Senegalese Strategies

Senegal’s success is due to several methods of raising awareness about HIV and increasing treatment and prevention plans. Senegal took HIV/AIDS very seriously even in the earliest days of the spread. In 1986, Senegal was one of the first African nations to develop a National Council Against AIDS, which has remained effective and stable. The country was also one of the first to focus on securing antiretroviral drugs and negotiated deals with pharmaceutical companies in order to provide them for free or at a low cost.

The Senegalese government has continued to make HIV/AIDS a priority. In 1992, Senegalese president, Abdou Diouf, showed leadership by asking other leaders to make a commitment to addressing HIV/AIDS at a summit for the Organization of African Unity. This attitude has led to sustained success. Since 1997, Senegal’s HIV/AIDS prevalence rate has remained below 1%, a remarkable achievement as prevalence rates across Africa have frequently soared above 10%.

Senegal’s basic strategy has remained consistent. The country emphasizes awareness, provides medical resources and works with the powerful local regional communities to stop the spread. Public health initiatives including blood screenings, education programs in schools and condom distribution are common. NGOs also provide a lot of help in health initiatives and raising awareness.

Crucial in the success of preventing HIV/AIDS in Senegal is the support of religious leaders and the role of religion. Senegal is a 95% Muslim-based country, and generally, strict adherence to the religion leads to fewer incidents of casual sex and infidelity. In a largely religious country, the words of religious leaders are very important, especially as conspiracy theories around HIV/AIDS are common. Many religious figures talk openly about HIV/AIDS and promote solutions, which lends credibility to the danger of the disease and the government’s efforts to combat the disease.

A Role Model

HIV/AIDS in Senegal is well under control, which should be a great source of pride for the country. Senegal has taken HIV/AIDS seriously since the beginning and has a consistent and effective strategy that keeps the disease largely at bay.

Clay Hallee
Photo: Flickr

5 Nonprofit Organizations Founded By Celebrities
Movie stars, singers, athletes and comedians spend a large portion of their time entertaining people, giving interviews and writing autographs. On top of that, many celebrities participate in charity events like fundraisers or benefit concerts, some even going as far as to create their own organizations to give back to those in need. Here are some nonprofit organizations that celebrities founded to benefit the world’s most vulnerable.

Charlize Theron – The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project

Charlize Theron is a famous Hollywood actress and U.N. messenger of peace who cares about charity. She has especially been working hard to fight AIDS in Africa. While the disease continues to be an immense issue throughout the entire continent, it remains the most prevalent in South Africa, which is Theron’s home country. She established The Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP) in 2007. The organization aims to raise awareness of the disease and contribute to its prevention. CTAOP especially focuses on younger people and collaborates with local programs to inform and support the youth in Africa. Furthermore, CTAOP partners with several companies and nonprofit organizations to successfully provide preventative means and guidance to South Africans.

Shakira – The Barefoot Foundation

The Barefoot Foundation is one of many nonprofit organizations that celebrities founded. Famous pop star Shakira has shown the impact nonprofit organizations can have. As such, she created the Barefoot Foundation in 1997. The organization acknowledges the importance of education and provides organizational and financial support to assure that children can go to school. In addition, the Barefoot Foundation also partners with the Pies Descalzos Foundation, an organization from Colombia that shares the same mission.

The Pies Descalzos Foundation opened its fifth Colombian school in 2009 to provide education, advice and general support in life to 1,800 students in the country. In 2010, Shakira promised that the Barefoot Foundation would build a school in Haiti and assured that the children attending the school would be able to obtain their academic and basic life needs.

Rihanna – The Clara Lionel Foundation

Rihanna founded the Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF) in 2012. Its name is a homage to her grandparents Clara and Lionel. The organization’s goal is to provide education and guidance to children and teenagers all over the world. The approach of Rihanna’s nonprofit organization is to tackle problems on both a local and global level. She wishes to raise awareness of several kinds of issues that the world’s youth is facing. Moreover, CLF is working closely with government organizations and companies to be more efficient and help as many people as possible. The organization has successfully established programs to provide basic education in places like Malawi, Senegal and Barbados. Furthermore, it provides a scholarship program to support students in their pursuit of higher education.

Bono – ONE and RED

ONE and RED are two nonprofit organizations that Bono created. The lead singer of the Irish band U2 has put a lot of effort into his charity work over the years. He has specifically focused on tackling important issues in Africa. ONE’s mission is to completely eradicate extreme global poverty and improve the lives of the poor. Bono’s lobbying efforts and the organization’s financial support have established programs. These programs aim to prevent the deaths of millions of people.

RED is a sister organization to ONE. It aims to spread awareness about AIDS and has successfully raised around $650 million to treat the disease in Africa. On top of that, Bono also co-founded The Rise Fund, a financial program that focuses on supporting progress for social and environmental matters.

Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore – Thorn

Actress Demi Moore and actor Ashton Kutcher founded Thorn together in 2012. The couple’s goal was to fight against child sex trafficking. A documentary about the issue in Cambodia motivated them to create Thorn. Thorn’s approach is to develop technologies for free and share them with law enforcement and federal agencies in order to save children. The use of technology against child sex traffickers has proven to be very successful since the organization’s establishment. Moreover, Thorn’s technologies helped identify 5,894 kids who were victims of the crime in 2017. Moreover, Thorn rescued more than 10,000 children rescued one year later.

These organizations that celebrities founded have shown vigor in countering numerous challenges from AIDS to providing child sex trafficking. The endeavors of the prominent celebrities above have led to improvements in the lives of many across the globe.

– Bianca Adelman
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Serbia
As the Hungarian migrant crisis rages on, migrants and refugees living in Serbia face dangerous conditions in the Serbian winter. Currently, 100 people a day are attempting to get to Hungary from bordering countries such as Serbia and Romania. Many migrants, fleeing wars from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, come in masses to the border to Hungary. There, the country is now erecting a massive fence along its Serbian border.

Between January and July 2020, official records state that 90,000 refugees moved into Serbia and another 103,000 moved into Hungary. The European Union estimates that many more are still undocumented. Hungarian border police are calling this movement a new “migrant surge.”

Hungary’s Borders to Migrants

Hungary has been building its 13-foot high razor-wire fence since the migrant crisis of 2015 when more than a million migrants arrived in Central Europe. According to The New York Times, some see the fence as “a very physical manifestation of the quandary of the migration crisis and the lack of cooperation among European Union nations as they struggle to deal with it.” Hungary has defined this issue as a “state of migrant emergency,” since approximately 400,000 migrants crossed its borders in 2015, a flux of numbers that have since slowed to a trickle.

Migrants often experience horror in the form of police brutality, with those in Hungary having to move back into Serbia. A 14-year old boy told BBC about how police beat him up near the Hungarian border, poured cold water on him and forced him to walk barefoot back into Serbia. Of these accusations, the Hungarian authorities responded to BBC, saying, “Hungarian police and soldiers are defending the Schengen border of the EU for the sixth consecutive year, legally and without violence, against illegal migrants arriving on the Balkan route.”

Refugees living in Serbia, awaiting an opportunity to move into Hungary, are living in dangerous conditions. Without access to food, water or heat, many of them find limited shelter in abandoned factories. In the small Serbian town of Subotica, 10 km from the Hungarian border, an estimated 500 men currently reside in unheated tents.

Father Varga

Among the gloom, a glimmer of hope exists for the migrants of Subotica. That hope comes in the form of Protestant pastor Tibor Varga, whom the migrants endearingly refer to as ‘Father Varga.’ Varga has been working with an Eastern European charity for four years. Through his work, he has helped refugees in Serbia gain access to necessary amenities. Daily, Varga brings bread, eggs and toiletries to the migrants. For years, Varga had been the only one assisting those in Subotica. The authorities there supplied only water during the heatwave of July and August in 2020.

During the cold Serbian winter, Varga also brings heating. He builds stoves for the migrants to keep warm out of old barrels in his garden. Varga makes more than three a day. He reinforces the base and walls of the barrel with roof tiles, which a mixture of sand and clay keeps in place. He also manually scrapes off the poisonous red paint from the barrels. Varga then loads each stove, approximately 66 pounds each, into his van. He then drives and delivers them to the migrant camps.

Love and Care

Varga explained that the Hungarian border fence is a cause for concern for refugees in Serbia. However, he said that “looking at the other fences around the world, you can say that these people are very determined to get through it. They have already been confronted with major problems in their lives.” Varga looks at his volunteer work as his Christian mission, saying “these people are desperately in need of help. I hope we can just alleviate this situation with love and care.”

Nina Eddinger
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Misconceptions of Human Trafficking
An estimated 25 million individuals are trafficked globally on any given day. About 5.4 people per every 1,000 people in the world were victims in 2016. Additionally, one in four of these victims were children and three in four were women or girls. Approximately 89 million people have experienced some form of human trafficking within the last five years. Some victims suffer for a few days while others suffer for several years. Human trafficking is widespread and pervasive, and it is imperative that people understand the problem before addressing it. There are several common misconceptions of human trafficking that can make it difficult to identify and provide relief to victims. Here are five of these misconceptions.

5 Common Misconceptions of Human Trafficking

  1. Human Trafficking is Always Violent and Involves the Use of Force: Human trafficking is more than just kidnapping. The United States Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.” Human trafficking also includes any commercial sex act induced by force, fraud, coercion in minors, as well as organ harvesting and the use of child soldiers. Kidnappings and abductions are not the only factors in classifying human trafficking, as people typically traffic victims through fraud or coercion. Many victims may lack the personal documents or financial resources to escape. They may also fear for their safety.
  2. Human Trafficking Only Involves Commercial Sex: Sex trafficking is the most sensationalized form of human trafficking in the news. However, experts believe that there are more instances of labor trafficking worldwide. It is difficult to measure the scope of labor trafficking because sex trafficking cases receive more attention from the media and law enforcement. Labor trafficking receives less awareness largely due to this misconception of human trafficking.
  3. Human Trafficking Only Happens in Illegal Industries: Illicit and legal industries both report cases of human trafficking. Trafficked individuals often work alongside free employees. Some of the many legitimate industries in which trafficked individuals might work include restaurants, hotels, cleaning services, agriculture, construction and factories. However, people can also be exploited for criminal activity such as in street-level drug distribution businesses and cross-border drug smuggling schemes. Gang and drug dealing activity often occurs alongside sex trafficking business models as well.
  4. Human Trafficking Only Happens in Developing Nations: Both developed and developing nations experience human trafficking. Depending on their vulnerabilities, certain individuals are at a higher risk of being trafficked. Rachel Parker, the Program Manager of the Anti-Human Trafficking Division at World Relief Triad, told The Borgen Project these vulnerabilities include poverty, lack of education, violence and gang activity. She highlighted that native populations are an especially vulnerable demographic. Additionally, Parker noted familial factors, including having “too many mouths to feed” or parent-child separation as a result of immigrating in search of work. Lastly, she cited institutional variables such as a “lack of appropriate government support” as risk factors.
  5. Individuals Being Trafficked Always Want To “Get Out”: Victims of human trafficking do not always identify themselves as victims. Every trafficking situation is complicated and unique. Perpetrators often manipulate victims into human trafficking. In addition, some experience shame, guilt, fear and even feelings of loyalty towards their trafficker. These circumstances can prevent a victim from seeking help. Parker states, “Even if they don’t see [trafficking] as the worst thing to happen to them, we still have to respond.” She says they often see this in cases with minors who have experienced other traumas such as sexual assault. They might see their trafficking situation as the lesser of two evils. Parker emphasized that this is one of the largest misconceptions of human trafficking: the question of “Why didn’t they leave?”

Parker stated the one thing she wishes she could tell everyone about human trafficking is that “it is a crime of egregious exploitation, and if unaddressed in partnership throughout the world, it will continue to grow.” Furthermore, she emphasized that people should not fight by themselves, but that “the community and world need to take responsibility.” For example, governments can work with local providers to disseminate information, attend to gang violence and develop service infrastructure for survivors.

Human trafficking is a global problem that requires global solutions. First, however, education and awareness must eradicate misconceptions of human trafficking. Only then, can this widespread issue be adequately addressed.

– Margot Seidel
Photo: Flickr

The Future of Eco Building Materials
Green building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible. Additionally, it is resource-efficient throughout a building’s life-cycle from siting to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction. Green building is the future for more developed countries and for impoverished nations. Re-using already existing materials for structural foundations greatly benefits impoverished regions. Several of these eco-building materials consist of discarded plastics, trash and compost.

The need for more environmental-friendly building materials arose from atmospheric pollution and the lack of energy conservation. Furthermore, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is what jumpstarted this movement to create eco-building materials. Moreover, this resulted in the creation of several organizations.

Organizations Fighting for Greener Building Materials

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) strives to transform the way people design, build and operate buildings and communities. In addition, it enables an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life. This is one of the primary organizations that began to actually shed light on the urgency of the issue. Since then, numerous companies have emerged to offer newer and greener alternatives to current building materials.

Additionally, Rammed Earth Works is another company devoted to providing eco-building materials. The housing concept incorporates exposed earth walls. Housing infrastructures recognize rammed earth as a low carbon releasing process that offers an environmentally safer and more sustainable option. Furthermore, this particular process involves the layering of sediment and waste runoff to structure an exposed wall of rock that creates somewhat of a retro aesthetic. This method is more environmentally friendly and is accessible to people in areas of extreme poverty.

Recent Developments

Many people imagine fluffy pink fiberglass when considering insulation. However, a much safer and less carbon-emitting alternative is sheep wool. Yet, the actual aggregational makeup of fiberglass is harmful to the touch. Other greener insulating alternatives offer an easier installation process. In addition, it generally consists of 70% recycled materials. Sheep wool is a much more accessible product to countries currently fighting immense poverty.

One of the more recent developments in the invention of a building brick comprised entirely of recycled plastics. This new brick is not only a greener alternative to concrete blocks but is also reportedly seven times stronger and more durable. Nzambi Matee creates the bricks by breaking down plastics that can no longer be recycled or repurposed. Matee’s factory is in Kenya and has already recycled 20 tons of plastics since 2017.

Developing countries are on the path to environmental and economic success with the discovery and creation of new, greener building technologies. Having access to these materials allows these countries to evolve structurally and economically while preventing pollution.

– Caroline Kratz
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Myanmar
Period poverty is when women do not have adequate access to sanitary napkins and other resources to aid them during menstruation. This leads many women to use the same napkin for an extended period of time, increasing the risk of urinary tract infections. Period poverty in Myanmar is particularly prevalent.

Period poverty research is a relatively new topic. There are no formal records documenting how many women lack access to pads. Additionally, the investigation into period poverty is more recent in Southeast Asian countries. Based on the information that some have acquired, here are five facts about period poverty in Myanmar.

5 Facts About Period Poverty in Myanmar

  1. Women Often Stay Home: Period poverty has long-term effects on women. For example, when women are on their period, they tend to stay at home, where they are closer to sanitary napkins and other supplies. Women spend about 10-20% of the year at home due to their period and a lack of sanitary items. In addition, disabled women and women in prison have little to no access to pads.
  2. Organizations Providing Sanitary Products: Organizations such as Bloody Good Period and The Pad Project have been working hard to raise money to donate sanitary napkins to women in countries facing period poverty. Zuraidah Daut is a social activist in Malaysia who places empty boxes outside of storefronts to collect donations. Many people donate pads and sanitary napkins for those who cannot afford them.
  3. Adequate Sanitation Facilities: Another reason women and girls might stay home during their periods is a lack of adequate sanitation facilities at school or work. For example, in many schools, girls and boys share toilets, which increases the likelihood of girls staying home during their periods. Public facilities also do not always have soap, water or a place to dispose of sanitary products.
  4. Cultural Stereotypes: Many people hold stigmatizing cultural stereotypes about periods in Myanmar. For example, some people in Myanmar believe that periods are dirty. As a result, about 50% of women think periods are a disease. Furthermore, about 80% of women reported feeling embarrassed by their first period. People in Myanmar commonly believe that women should not wash their hair, go to temples or eat tea leaf salad to cleanse themselves during their period.
  5. Changing Mindsets: The good news is that women in Myanmar are improving their mindsets about periods. Burmese artist Shwe Wutt Hmon displayed an art exhibit exploring the shame surrounding periods and menstruation in Yangon, Myanmar. The piece involved asking 30 different women about their experiences and opinions of their period. Hmon encouraged women to accept menstruation and respect their bodies. Her exhibitions depict women eating tea leaf salad and kneeling with their legs chained and sitting beside one another, which are all superstitions the Myanmar people connect to the perception that periods as dirty. This effort and others like it are essential for changing long-held beliefs about women and menstruation.

Period poverty in Myanmar prevents many women from having access to sanitary products or adequate sanitation facilities. Cultural stereotypes around menstruation also make managing periods difficult for women. Fortunately, many organizations and individuals are intervening and educating others on better and safer practices. Over time, sanitary products will hopefully become more accessible as the stigma surrounding menstruation decreases.

– Alyssa Ranola
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in BrazilHuman rights in Brazil are under attack by the country’s own presidential administration. Having campaigned on his famous “anti-human-rights rhetoric,” President Jair Bolsonaro is now turning his words into concrete actions that affect millions of Brazilians. Activists in Brazil are not backing down, relentlessly fighting for the human rights of the Brazilian people.

Human Rights Concerns in Brazil

  • Bolstering of police impunity for use of illegal force
  • Government complicity with torture in detention facilities and the systematic disassembly of government monitoring programs tasked with preventing torture
  • Funding cuts to environmental protection programs, approval of new pesticides for use without proper monitoring of toxicity levels in rural communities, minimization of consequences for illegal logging and ignoring reports of increased deaths of forest defenders
  • Civil and property rights of indigenous people, quilombolas, women and LGBTQI communities
  • Limiting the independence of nongovernmental agencies and restricting access to government information and public records

Despite the wave of policy change threatening human rights in Brazil, there is an equally powerful movement rising to meet it; real people and organizations dedicated to the fight for all humans and their right to exist freely in a peaceful, healthy and safe country.

Damião Braga

At 54 years old, Damião Braga is an experienced activist. He is the leader of Pedra do Sal, a community of African slave descendants in Rio de Janeiro called quilombolas. For 30 years, Braga has been in a judicial struggle over land in a historical part of Rio because he believes it should belong to his people whose ancestors arrived there as slaves.

This land is currently owned by the state and claimed by the Catholic Church, two formidable opponents. Braga says granting quilombolas the property rights is an essential step in making reparations for these descendants of slaves. Because slaves freed in Rio were never given property to live on in the first place, forcing them to settle in the margins of the city that became known as favelas, many believe it is time the government makes amends.

It is not only important for the quilombolas to fight against racism and systematic marginalization but it is also important for them to fight for the right to have a place of their own. Here they can build a future in a land they did not arrive at willingly but now call home.

The Guardians of the Forest

This group, formally established in 2013, is made up of around 120 indigenous activists in the Araribóia Indigenous Reserve. Located in the Brazilian state of Maranhão, this reserve is one of the regions most at risk of illegal logging. Emboldened by the relaxing of consequences for illegal loggers by the Bolsonaro administration, violence is increasing and the local people are taking matters into their own hands.

At first, most of the group’s work entailed destroying the camps of illegal loggers, using guerilla tactics to make them feel unwelcome. The Guardians are now working to set up an NGO and website in order to raise awareness and donations to help fund a more organized resistance.

It is indeed dangerous work. In 2019, the Indigenous Missionary Council released a report saying that violence against the indigenous peoples of the Amazon went up 23% from 2017 to 2018, making for a total of 135 people murdered in 2018 alone. Thus, the Guardians take this work very seriously. Most of them are Guajajara, the indigenous people of the area, therefore, they see it as a sacred duty to protect the land they have lived on for centuries. “We will continue to confront the wrongs committed by the Brazilian system of justice against the lives of Brazilians.”

Marielle Franco

Born to a very poor family who immigrated to Rio, Franco grew up in the favela Maré. Because she was exposed to the injustice of police brutality at a young age, Franco’s experiences fuelled her political career.

In 2016, she became a councilwoman for the Socialism and Liberty Party, officially enlisting in the fight for human rights in Brazil. She worked hard in this position to improve the situations of women and people living in favelas.

The councilwoman proposed 16 bills but only two were approved while she was alive. Another five would pass after her death, a small comfort to those who saw her as a leader.

In March of 2018, a now-charged man shot the 38-year-old Rio councilwoman in an alleged assassination. Now, after her death, her life is celebrated by supporters wearing shirts that read, “Fight like Marielle” and her name is the inspiration and strength people need to keep fighting for their rights.

Inspiring Activism in Brazil

The danger of these and thousands of other activists fighting for human rights in Brazil is tangible and constant. Thus, the courage to continue this work even in the face of such great risk shows the world their commitment to stand up against an authoritarian government.

Kari Millstein
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in BrazilPeriod poverty is defined as a lack of access to menstrual hygiene resources and education. This includes access to sanitary products, washing facilities and waste management services. Financial barriers exacerbate period poverty in Brazil. Menstrual products in Brazil are taxed because they are not categorized as essential. In fact, in São Paulo, taxes form 34% of the price of menstrual products. Individuals and organizations are dedicating efforts to addressing period poverty globally.

Period Poverty in Brazil

In Brazil, not only is access to period products an issue but females also have no or limited access to hygiene facilities. Roughly 39% of schools lack handwashing facilities. This inadequacy directly impacts girls’ school attendance because, during menstruation, girls need a bathroom facility to change their tampons or pads and wash their hands. Outside of school, roughly five million Brazilians live in places that do not have adequate bathroom facilities.

Menstrual Stigma

There are about 5,000 known euphemisms for the words “menstruation” or “period.” This simple fact illustrates the shame associated with menstruation. Cultural taboos, discrimination, lack of education and period poverty perpetuate menstrual stigma. The consequences are that girls miss school while menstruating due to stigmas and taboos as well as a lack of access to menstrual hygiene products. Missing school means falling behind on education and increases the likelihood of girls dropping out of school altogether. Without education, girls are at higher risk of child marriage, early pregnancy and violence. Lack of education continues the cycle of poverty, limiting the futures of girls. This clearly illustrates how period poverty affects overall poverty.

Helena Branco

Ordinary young Brazilians are taking action to address period poverty in Brazil. Helena Branco is an 18-year-old Brazilian inspiring change and finding solutions to period poverty. After learning that the Brazilian government did not view period products as an essential resource, she took action. Branco and her teammates are part of Girl Up, a global movement for gender equality created by the United Nations Foundation.

After extensive research, the team’s first step was to focus efforts on supplying menstrual products to people suffering from the financial impact of COVID-19. The team developed the campaign #AbsorventeUrgente (#UrgentPads) to encourage local communities to donate menstrual products to organizations supporting vulnerable people during COVID-19. A total of 16 girl-led gender equality clubs from seven different Brazilian states took part in this effort. Through the campaign, the team successfully distributed more than 60,000 period products, raised $3,200 and directly impacted more than 3,000 people.

Eliminating Global Period Poverty

Branco and her team are bringing attention to the issue of period poverty in Brazil, highlighting barriers such as menstrual product taxes that discriminate against women. It is vital to address issues of period poverty in order to eliminate stigma and normalize the idea of menstruation in all nations. Efforts to address period poverty are essentially efforts to address global poverty overall.

Rachel Wolf
Photo: Flickr

Wheelchairs in Colombia
The country of Colombia is a land with four distinct geographic locations. In its Pacific and Caribbean lowlands are rolling hills that stretch east and reach the Amazon Rainforest. Both the Andes Mountains and the Cordillera Central mountain range run through the country as well. However, it is difficult for those who suffer debilitating physical injuries to travel around the country. As a result, wheelchairs in Colombia have improved many lives.

Colombia’s Half-Century of Conflict

The government of Colombia has conflicted with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) since the 1960s. As such, the conflict between the Colombian government has resulted in the displacement of 5.7 million people along with many deaths and disappearances. Additionally, there have also been paramilitary groups operating in the country that have contributed to the violence.

Improved Mobility for Victims of Conflict

Survivors of this long conflict have ended up with serious physical injuries. Many people have lost the ability to walk. This is especially troublesome when it comes to navigating around a country with various landscapes. In Colombia, around 200,000 people were living with a physical disability that resulted from the conflict. About 12,000 of them sustained injuries from anti-personnel landmines.

Researchers from various universities in Colombia realized that many of their fellow countrymen can no longer walk and have no way to get around their own country. Thus, these researchers set forth to create a solution called the All-Terrain Chair. These wheelchairs in Colombia had the specific design of helping people who suffered injuries from the ongoing conflict. Furthermore, these wheelchairs largely comprise magnesium, which is not only a strong material but extremely affordable as well.

MATT

The Colombian startup that people know as Mobility, Accessibility, Time and Work (MATT) has helped people with physical disabilities by providing them with employment. For example, MATT has organized three-hour wheelchair tours throughout the city of Medellin. People who can and cannot walk are welcome to join the tours. Furthermore, people with physical disabilities lead these tours. Wilson Guzman lost the use of his legs at the age of 17. Thus, these tours not only allow him to see the sights of Medellin but also gives the tourists who can walk a perspective on what it is like to not have the use of their legs.

Colombia’s economic productivity is low and has caused the economic growth of the country to lag. Additionally, Colombia has a sizable infrastructure gap. Despite the dire economic circumstances that the country is in, the government is doing its absolute best to provide jobs and a mode of reliable transportation for physically disabled people. The implementation of these wheelchairs in Colombia is a great first step in improving people’s lives.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Failed Humanitarian AidSeveral failed humanitarian efforts can be attributed to the fact that some programs developed with good intentions fail to take into account the local context in which they are implemented. Others are simply poorly executed. But, no matter the type of failure, failed humanitarian aid projects teach valuable lessons. If heeded, these lessons can ensure the success of future programs.

Unanswered Calls to a GBV Hotline in Kenya

Research shows that domestic violence affects 35% of women worldwide. Additionally, male partners are responsible for 38% of the murders of women.

Furthermore, gender-based violence across the globe perpetuates poverty. For example, violence and the fear of violence, affect the performance of girls and women in their educational pursuits as well as employment. It often results in girls dropping out of school and women leaving their jobs, thereby limiting their independence.

In 2015, NGOs like Mercy Corps and the International Rescue Committee implemented a toll-free hotline in Kenya. The hotline intended to make it easier to file reports of gender-based violence (GBV) and speed up criminal investigations and litigation.

Investigative reporting revealed that for parts of 2018, the gender violence hotline was out of order. When it was working, sometimes the experts manning the hotline were not escalating reports to the police. In addition, there were other staffing and technical issues. Also, several police officers were not aware that such a hotline existed.

Abandoned Cookstoves in India

Indoor air pollution is a leading risk factor for premature deaths globally. Global data reveals that death rates from indoor air pollution are highest in low-income countries.

In 2010, former U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, launched the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves initiative. The U.N. backed the $400 million initiative with the intention of reducing indoor air pollution in India.

Most of the clean cookstoves built were abandoned four years later, despite initial success. There are several reasons for the abandonment. Research found that the clean cookstoves required people to pay closer attention while cooking and necessitated longer cooking times. The stoves would also break down and then went unrepaired. Households also found it restrictive that the stoves could not be moved outside.

Repurposed Public Restrooms in Kenya

One in three people worldwide do not have access to improved sanitation and 15% of the world resort to open defecation. Lack of proper sanitation increases the risk of infectious diseases and diarrhoeal diseases. It is important to acknowledge that unsafe sanitation accounts for 5% of deaths in low-income countries.

On World Toilet Day in 2014, the Ministry of Devolution launched a program to construct 180 public toilets in the Kibera slum. The arm of government involved in construction built the toilets and sewer lines that would connect to the main sewage line. Local youth groups managed the restrooms. Water shortages and sewer lines in disrepair quickly decommissioned multiple toilets. The youth groups did not have the resources to address these issues so they then decided to rent out the restroom spaces for other purposes.

Focusing on the Lessons

These failed humanitarian aid projects were well-intentioned and there are key lessons to learn from each case.

The failed hotline in Kenya demonstrates the importance of program monitoring and investment follow-through. Efforts to foster awareness had little impact and staffing and technical issues went unaddressed.

The unused cookstoves in India show the importance of understanding the day-to-day needs of the people the program intends to help. The desire to cook outside while avoiding extended cooking times swayed people away from using the stoves.

The restrooms in Kenya lacked sufficient monitoring once handed over to youth groups. The youth groups also did not have the necessary support or resources to address the challenges that quickly became insurmountable financial obstacles for the groups.

By taking these lessons forward to new projects, people can leverage the understanding of failed humanitarian aid projects of the past as a way to promote future success.

Amy Perkins
Photo: pixabay