music education in developing countries
Around the globe, music education represents an influential force in the fight against poverty. Studies show that learning a musical instrument entails numerous cognitive advantages for children and young adults, improving memory, attention and communication skills. Music also builds confidence and allows students to express their creativity. In addition, the music industry creates space for new economic developments and possibilities. Here are four examples of music education in developing countries and the ways in which it makes a difference in the lives of the world’s poor.

Haiti

Amid political upheaval and the domestic challenges of daily life, music offers impoverished Haitians a source of comfort and strength. Organizations such as BLUME Haiti aim to utilize music as an avenue for education and community building.

After a deadly earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, BLUME Haiti began delivering musical instruments and supplies to help the nation rebuild. Through summer music camps, professional development workshops for Haitian music teachers, music classes in schools and other programs, BLUME Haiti continues to reach talented youth as they learn new skills and imagine broader possibilities for their futures.

In partnership with the Utah Symphony Orchestra, BLUME Haiti unveiled the innovative Haitian Orchestra Institute (HOI) in 2017. The program invites top music students from around the country to develop their craft alongside professional musicians. Chosen through a selective audition process, participants join Utah Symphony’s Music Director Thierry Fischer for a full week of rehearsals, sectionals, lessons and a final concert. Each year, HOI affords hundreds of young artists a life-changing experience.

The Dominican Republic

In the Dominican Republic, public schools are often unable to fund enrichment programs that allow students to express their creativity outside the classroom. Without a creative outlet, many students find themselves disengaged from the curriculum and choose to drop out of school.

The DREAM Music Education Program is taking steps to combat this issue. DREAM introduces music programs in public schools to improve students’ educational experience and strengthen their cognitive abilities. Since undertaking these efforts, the organization has found that students who participate in a band or other musical ensemble are seven times more likely to graduate from high school.

In all DREAM programs, students receive training in basic musical skills, work together in a group setting and develop an appreciation for Dominican musical traditions. Performance opportunities and interactive classes throughout the year celebrate all students’ achievements. Meanwhile, hoping to instill in them a sense of identity and belonging, DREAM works particularly hard to reach at-risk youth.

Rwanda

Music education also plays a critical role in Rwanda, where people are still reeling from the trauma of genocide. Two programs have initiated a joint effort to use music as a means of therapy, aid and economic development for the Rwandan people.

Music Road Rwanda sponsors live music events throughout the country that feature both classical and traditional Rwandan music. The organization also raises money for students to train at the Kigali Music School. Generous scholarships, funded by Music Road Rwanda’s “adopt-a-student” model, allow under-resourced youth to prepare for careers as musicians and music therapists.

Musicians Without Borders Rwanda expresses a similar mission of hope and healing through music. Working in concert with its medical partner We-ACTx for Hope, the organization hires local artists to teach singing and songwriting in traumatized communities. In 2012, Musicians Without Borders introduced its Music Leadership Training campaign, encouraging students to embrace music as a vehicle for empathy and social change.

Bangladesh

The Mirpur district of Dhaka, Bangladesh is one of the poorest areas in the world: 32% of residents live on less than $2 a day, and 48% of children suffer from malnutrition. Illiteracy rates are also among the world’s highest. Two music teachers from the Playing for Change Foundation are working to make a difference here through music education.

Their free music classes take a unique, interdisciplinary approach to help students develop vocabulary, reading and pronunciation skills as they learn their instruments. The two teachers spend nearly 100 hours each month with their students, who range in age from 5 to 12 years old. All students come from the approximately 950 children receiving education from the poverty-relief organization SpaandanB.

Donors from around the world have contributed funds to purchase keyboards, acoustic guitars and ukuleles for Mirpur music students. Each instrument costs between $80 and $100 and affords students the invaluable gift of cherishing music for a lifetime.

Young musicians worldwide, especially those living in poverty, benefit from the rigor of music education. Music connects people through a language that transcends the bounds of time, space and nation. At the same time, it supports the development of critical life skills. It is imperative that we continue to provide music education in developing countries and foster the innumerable advantages it promises to bring in its train.

Katie Painter 
Photo: U.S. Air Force

poverty in Bangladesh
About one in four Bangladeshis live in poverty, making poverty in Bangladesh an ongoing fight for the nation. However, there has been significant economic growth and improved education and infrastructure. With international development assistance, poverty in Bangladesh is on a downward trajectory, especially in rural areas. These seven facts about poverty in Bangladesh show the country’s improvements.

 7 Facts About Poverty in Bangladesh

  1. International Assistance. The International Development Association (IDA) has been a large part of Bangladesh’s success in education, health and infrastructure. Funded by member countries, IDA coordinates donor assistance. Additionally, IDA also works to provide development assistance to countries around the world. Bangladesh is one of the largest recipients of IDA funding, with its program totaling $11.3 billion. Multilateral organizations, like the Asian World Bank and the United Nations, have worked with the IDA to lower poverty in Bangladesh.
  2. Economic Growth. Through sustained economic growth in recent years, Bangladesh has made strides in alleviating poverty. Steady growth in its GDP allowed Bangladesh to reach lower-middle-income status in 2015. Bangladesh remains one of the fastest-growing economies among developing nations, and its GDP in 2018 was $274.02 billion, a 9.73% increase from 2017. With these steady increases, the GDP should grow another 8% in 2020.
  3. Education. Bangladesh has seen an increase in education enrollment and more girls are going to school. Enrollment rate at the primary school level increased from 80% in 2000 to above 90% in 2015, and from 45% to 62% at the secondary school level. Bangladesh has also achieved gender equality in education enrollment; it sent almost 6.5 million girls to secondary school in 2015. This makes the nation a frontrunner among developing countries to achieve gender parity in education.
  4. Health. Bangladesh has made important progress in its health indicators over the past few decades. This includes improvements in maternal and child health. There was a 40% reduction in maternal mortality, from 320 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 194 deaths in 2010. USAID has worked with local groups to provide high-quality reproductive services and bring integrated health care to Bangladeshis as well.
  5. Agricultural Growth. The agriculture sector is essential to Bangladesh, and its growth has been among the highest in the world for the past 25 years. Through IDA, more than 1 million households have modernized food practices and 500,000 households have increased grain reserve. Natural disasters are a primary threat to Bangladesh’s success in agricultural production. IDA is also financing almost $1.5 billion in aid to Bangladesh’s resistance against natural disasters. This leads to further increases in agricultural production and promoting food security.
  6. Sustainable Development Goals. According to the United Nations Development Programme, Bangladesh is making strides in attaining the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty and improve quality of life. For example, Bangladesh is well on its way towards reaching the access of 100% of households to electricity by 2025, which is SDG 7. Bangladesh has also seen improvements in sanitation and access to clean water, which the SDGs also include. In 2019, 87% of the population had access to clean water and access to sanitation increased by 26%.
  7. Rural Infrastructure: Efforts to alleviate poverty in Bangladesh have occurred in rural areas, and IDA has provided support to build roads and increase access to water in these areas. According to the World Bank, 1.1 million people in rural areas now have access to clean water, and support measures have led to the paving of 800 kilometers of new roads in these areas. This infrastructure allows for easier transportation to school and the creation of jobs for men and women, improving the quality of life in several rural areas.

These seven facts about poverty in Bangladesh show that efforts to alleviate poverty in the country have been remarkably successful in the past few decades. Still, much work remains essential in order to alleviate poverty in urban areas and bring about continued growth in Bangladesh’s economy, infrastructure and access to food security. However, with continued international assistance and Bangladesh’s commitment to reducing poverty, there is hope that Bangladesh will continue to be a global model for poverty reduction.

– Anita Durairaj
Photo: Wikimedia

Children with Developmental Disabilities
Across all countries, 20.4 percent of children have at least one developmental disability. In developed countries like the U.S., many schools have resources for children with developmental disabilities, but in countries where a solid implementation of an education system is struggling to find a foothold, people with learning disabilities often face an additional, invisible hurdle.

Medical professionals conducted a study that screened populations for developmental disabilities throughout the world. A developmental disability is a type of disability that occurs before adulthood. Some of these are learning disabilities, but all of them impact a child during the prime educational years. The study first sorted countries based on HDI (Human Development Index) a score the U.N. gives to countries according to life expectancy, education and gross domestic product (GDP). In general, this means that countries with higher HDI are more developed, and those with lower HDI are less developed.

Out of a pool of 16 countries, this study included 101,250 children averaging 5 years of age. The countries with the highest number of children with developmental disabilities include Thailand, Bangladesh and Iraq.

Thailand has an HDI of 0.755, Bangladesh has one of 0.608 and Iraq has one of 0.685. For scale, Norway has the highest HDI at 0.953. Thailand ranks 83rd in the world for high human development (though still developing), whereas Bangladesh and Iraq lay in the “medium developed” range.

Thailand 

The study concluded that Thailand had 12,911 children with a developmental disability. In Thailand, communities, professional groups and other social institutions provide education and learning centers, which serve as Thailand’s primary agents of education. Thailand has separate schools available for children with developmental disabilities. Thailand gives other resources, like communicative devices, to children with disabilities to aid in education. Thailand has different classifications of disabilities, like intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities and behavioral disorders, and different sorts of schooling options available to accommodate these different groups. The parents and the children can choose which system they would like to use, and it is available as a lifelong educational resource for them.

The Education for Development Foundation (EDF), founded in 1987, started a scholarship in 2003 with the intention of making education more accessible to children with developmental disabilities. This scholarship aims to support the physical, social and emotional development of Thai youth. To qualify, candidates must already demonstrate a certain level of communicative and learning ability.

Bangladesh 

The study also found that in Bangladesh, there were 36,987 children with developmental disabilities. It also determined that the rate of enrollment for a primary school in Bangladesh was 97 percent, but only 11 percent of disabled children received any sort of education.

Approaching education with respect to disabilities, methodical diagnosing and treating physical ailments is not possible. A child’s environment has a larger role in deciding how a disability might appear. As such, many early childhood education specialists recommend an approach that relies more on the stage of development the child is in to see what children with disabilities are capable of learning. Similar to how Thailand’s education system handles children with disabilities, Bangladesh has different types of schools to choose from. Unfortunately, that sort of data is not readily available or consistent.

Many international efforts to improve educational and social infrastructure have aimed to support the needs of children with developmental disabilities in impoverished countries. As a result of the UNESCO Declaration on Education for All (1990), the Dakar Framework (2000) and the Salamanca Declaration on Inclusive Education (1994), Bangladesh is working to offer children with developmental disabilities an inclusive education alongside able-bodied children.

While this sentiment does bring the needs of children with developmental disabilities to light, it is not sufficient in clearing various obstacles that arise. One study surveyed educators on the barriers of educating children with disabilities. The results were that 11 out of 15 respondents answered ‘yes’ to a lack of the proper instruments and learning materials.

Iraq

The study showed that Iraq had 11,163 children with developmental disabilities. Malnutrition, an issue in many developing countries, can inhibit cognitive development, leading to learning disabilities and difficulties.

Further, one in three children suffers from an iodine deficiency in the Iraq and Afghanistan areas. This deficiency can result in a slew of health issues including goiter, learning difficulties and severe mental impairment in the worst cases. Statistics have shown that this environmental factor contributes to the rate of mentally disabled individuals. This adds pressure on Iraq to determine adequate educational accommodations for children with developmental disabilities.

Although, since the Iraqi society is advancing technologically, there are diverse ways to deliver education to children. This means that a wider range of people can receive education, including children with developmental disabilities. The United Nations Children’s Fund launched a series of e-projects in an attempt to standardize accessible, inclusive learning. These projects were available to all students – disabled or otherwise. About 4,000 schools had access to these e-projects, not only making education accessible to all but also providing equity to education.

Solutions

Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI), established in 1981, works on behalf of all disabled individuals to give them a proper place in education, the workforce and society alongside able-bodied counterparts. DPI is active in 139 countries and seven regions, including Africa, Asia and the Middle East. DPI also develops educational materials, promotes the rights of disabled people and collects data on disability issues.

In working with MPhasiS F1 Foundation, the organization is creating a Global Youth with Disabilities Network. This network will advocate for the representation of children with developmental disabilities throughout all levels of decision-making. The organization plans to ensure these youths have access to public transportation, health care, education and employment opportunities.

Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

5 Developing Nations Harnessing Solar Power
Approximately 840 million people lack access to electricity, most of whom live in developing nations in South Asia, Latin America and rural Africa. In India, around 300 million people live without electricity. In addition, the number is twice as high in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, the majority of developing nations have enormous solar power potential. Almost all of Africa receives 325 days of strong sunlight a year. Countries in Central Asia have an average of 250 days of sunlight a year. Additionally, many nations are capitalizing on that resource to increase access to electricity and alleviate energy poverty. In 2017, the developing world surpassed first world countries in renewable energy production, largely due to investments in solar. Here are examples of five developing nations harnessing solar power.

5 Developing Nations Harnessing Solar Power

  1. China: China has more solar energy capacity than any other nation in the world, with 130 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV). If all the solar grids were to operate at once, it would generate enough electricity to power the entire United Kingdom several times over. In addition, China is home to many solar farms, including the world’s largest solar plant located in the Tengger Desert. The advent of solar power has directly benefited more than 800,000 poverty-stricken families. Since 2014, when the Chinese government launched a Solar PV for Poverty Alleviation Program, more than 7.9 gigawatts of power has gone to impoverished rural areas. These solar-powered facilities provide employment opportunities and boost household income, in addition to supplying affordable and reliable electricity.
  2. India: Although India’s power system is one of the largest in the world, per capita electricity consumption is less than one-third of the global average. This is largely due to the need for reliable, affordable and sustainable power. To alleviate energy poverty, the Indian government announced an ambitious target of 175 gigawatts of power. Additionally, around 100 gigawatts would come from solar by 2022. Starting with less than 1 gigawatt of solar in 2010, India has around 34 gigawatts of solar power today. In addition to alleviating energy poverty, estimates determined that this project could create over 670,00 new, clean-energy jobs.
  3. Bangladesh: Bangladesh is pursuing solar home systems and microgrid programs to alleviate energy poverty in rural areas. The country has installed more than 5.2 million solar-home systems. This provides electricity to almost 12 percent of Bangladesh’s 160 million people. In cooperation with the World Bank and other private organizations, the government supplies more than 1,000 solar irrigation pumps and microgrids. Off-grid solar power is rapidly transforming the lives of Bangladesh’s rural population, where more than a quarter still lack access to electricity. The introduction of solar power has brought reliable, sustainable energy to households, allowing families to work, study and go out after dark.
  4. Kenya: More than a quarter of Kenyans still lack access to electricity. In response to this challenge, the Kenyan government launched the Kenya National Electrification Strategy. This strategy outlines a plan to achieve universal access to electricity by 2022. Additionally, this roadmap emphasizes the importance of solar power as a means for electrifying rural areas. The government’s commitment to increasing access to clean electricity and partnership with private institutions is working to alleviate energy poverty. For instance, a local company called Solibrium provides affordable solar panels and lamps to more than 50,000 households. Another example is M-KOPA Solar, a private Kenyan corporation, that has installed 225,000 solar energy products in the country.
  5. Rwanda: Rwanda is home to Africa’s fastest built solar power project, which builders constructed within six months in 2014. The power plant has some 28,360 solar panels that produce 8.5 megawatts of energy. The grid increases Rwanda’s generation capacity by 6 percent and powers more than 15,000 homes. Other solar plants across the country provide sustainable and affordable electricity. Rwanda is conducting feasibility studies on the development of further solar power plants in Rwanda.

Energy poverty or the lack of, including electricity and clean cooking facilities, remains a barrier to global prosperity and individual well-being. That is why ensuring basic energy for 100 percent of the world’s population by 2030 is one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. These five developing nations harnessing solar power are leading the way in turning the lights on.

Kayleigh Rubin
Photo: Flickr

Women in the Garment Industry
Breaking the ceiling of the minimum living cost per day remains a challenge for millions of the poorest people on the earth, especially women. Amongst the causes of poverty, the fact that women are often not part of the labor force is one of the biggest quagmires that keeps them struggling. However, one area that women in the developing world often work in is the garment industry. In fact, there are many women working in the garment industry in Bangladesh today.

Bangladesh’s garment industry’s products make up the majority of what it exports. The expansion of the garment industry is quickly pulling people out of poverty in Bangladesh. Women are the major source of labor, where they make up 80 percent of workers. One might ask whether the garment and textile industry could be a gateway for women in the rest of the world to escape poverty.

Demand for Growth

Despite the fact that international trade has recently encountered uncertainty, a report from Mckinsey pointed out that the demand for growth from major populated countries, such as India and Indonesia, will continually saturate the market. With the demand continually persisting, many expect that the supply will continue to expand as well.

Beyond Asia, many in Africa see opportunities in the rising garment industry. Case studies from the African Development Bank Group indicate that women make up a significant part of the garment industry in Africa. In Ethiopia and Cote d’Ivoire, the two major cotton cultivators in the world, 80 percent of garment workers are women. Moreover, these countries’ start-up entrepreneurs are largely women.

Lifting Women Out of Poverty

The rising figures of women in the garment industry excite people’s outlook on the economy, but this is not the final answer to lifting women out of poverty. The problems of delayed or no and low payment, forced labor, dangerous working environments and other exploitation of women pull the world’s attention and push for reform. From a global perspective, the campaign for humanitarian improvement is one major goal of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. Beyond economic growth, acquiring decent work conditions, gender equality and opportunity for education matter when it comes to empowering women workers.

In Bangladesh, the international garment industry used to benefit from cheap labor because of loose legislative regulations and awful working conditions. More recently, the situation of underpayment has received challenges. For example, garment workers in Bangladesh raised their issues of low wages and poor working conditions, causing unrest and subsequently leading to Bangladesh increasing the minimum wage by 5 percent. This may seem minor, but it greatly impacted the garment industry in Bangladesh and started the process of reform. Consequential bills, including the signing of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, constantly forge the formal framework to ensure the well-being of women in the garment industry.

The development of the global garment industry is a good hammer for women to smash the wall of poverty, but they still require more. The problems rooted in the most impoverished countries are not only “money concerned.” Social injustice and gender bias also influence the liberation of women. Luckily, the action of women and their social power is opening another window for reforms and improvement.

Dingnan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Bangladesh
Between 2000 and 2016, Bangladesh has lifted 8 million people out of poverty. According to a World Bank report, the rate of poverty in Bangladesh went from 44.2 percent to 13.8 percent between 1991 and 2017. Improvements include increased life expectancy and nutrition, easier access to electricity, safer water and sanitation and broad-based expansion in education that is accessible to more than 164 million people. The road to ending poverty in Bangladesh is a challenging one, but the country and several organizations are making efforts to accomplish this.

History of Poverty in Bangladesh

About 61 percent of the country is rural while 39 percent of the population is urban. The urban regions experienced their turnaround from poverty at a slower pace than the rural regions with the help of industrial services, which resulted in solving the problems quicker and better for those living in the urban regions. Despite the 1:4 ratio of people still suffering from poverty, the progress has been remarkable. In fact, Bangladesh’s rural areas experienced a 90 percent decrease in poverty.

With the improvements that the country has made towards ending poverty in Bangladesh, the nation’s finance minister Mustafa Kamal has announced that the nation should expect to be poverty-free by 2030. With plans to improve more vulnerable, urban areas, the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) have been key contributors in investing to rebuild the nation by creating 10 million jobs over the next decade. SEZs are areas in a country that is subject to economic regulations that differ from other regions in the same country. For instance, since the urban regions have a slower rebuilding process from the rural, that means that they may be more favorable towards the urban region which has not caught up to the rural region in terms of progress, despite the improvement regarding poverty. With job creation on its agenda, Bangladesh could earn $100 billion in remittance from now until the deadline to wipe out poverty, which equals $1 trillion.

Pizza Hut and KFC

To make matters better, corporate food chains Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken have formed a partnership to launch a campaign called the World Hunger Relief, which supports the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). Founded in 2009, the WFP not only raises funds to provide vitamin and mineral fortified biscuits among other snacks to children in small rural areas, but it also promotes the importance of basic education to help others rise from poverty in the long run.

Yum Incorporated owns Pizza Hut and KFC and has been using its network to raise awareness in the hopes of making a difference on top of the improvements that Bangladesh has made independently. Its success rate has included reaching over 4 million children and calling for customers of the respective food chains to make a contribution. This campaign will be a key asset to ending poverty in Bangladesh by the start of the next decade and preventing it from returning.

The Investment Component for Vulnerable Group Development (ICVGD) Program

The WFP has also partnered with the Bangladeshi government to help women break away from their gender roles through livelihood training and food assistance programs. The Investment Component for Vulnerable Group Development (ICVGD) program’s participants come from all 64 districts of the country, which tend to be remote areas where natural disasters are likely to occur. The implementation of this program received positive feedback after improving food security, income and diet variation in those districts.

The organization is now bringing focus to financial management, life skills and personal hygiene. There is a training period where the women will receive a grant of $180, as well as fortified rice as their rations. The ICVGD is part of the Vulnerable Group Development program that the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs runs, which boasts the largest safety net to aid poor women and children across the country.

Tom Cintula
Photo: Flickr

Telemedicine In BangladeshBangladesh, a South Asian country known for its river deltas and coastal regions, has faced rapid urbanization and environmental degradation due to large-scale flooding across the country. Increasing population density and environmental erosion have made many Bangladeshis the subjects of devastating poverty. In 2018, The World Bank reported that, while the situation in Bangladesh has drastically improved since the 1990s, 22 million people still fall below the poverty line. For many, this means their health is in jeopardy, health care education suffers compromise and access to medical services is nearly impossible.

Today, there is still a stigma surrounding the need for health care in certain rural regions of Bangladesh. One common saying is “rog pushai rakha.” In Bengali, the phrase translates to “stockpiling their diseases.” This refers to the lack of importance Bangladeshis have placed on their health care. In some cases, portrayals still show medicine as inaccessible and unnecessary. This mindset can spell trouble for those living in rural Bangladesh where medicine was not always widely available.

However, the emergence of new medical communication technology, known as telemedicine, is changing the outlook for health care in Bangladesh.

What Telemedicine is and How it Works

Telemedicine, sometimes called telehealth, is “a direct line — whether it’s a phone call, video chat or text message — to a physician or care provider via telecommunication.” It is a rapidly growing technology in the health care field around the world as it ensures easier access to those who may not otherwise receive medical care.

While the technology initially focused on elderly patients and those with disabilities, telemedicine is now helping people in countries with critical health care gaps caused by geography, limited numbers of physicians and financial restraints.

Telemedicine in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, access to health care largely concentrates in urban areas. This means there is a large gap in health care between rural and urban areas. Seventy percent of Bangladeshis live in rural areas, according to the World Health Organization.

Telemedicine in Bangladesh is a recent advancement. In 1999, it first entered rural regions of Bangladesh that did not have easy access to medical care. While the initial care lacked critical technology infrastructure, the recent expansion of bandwidths and networks into rural areas has made telemedicine more accessible for Bangladeshis.

Moreover, the Bangladeshi government has taken steps to facilitate health care needs by establishing new telemedicine programs. In 2001, the government established a cooperative known as the Bangladesh Telemedicine Association to promote telemedicine organizations. In 2003, the Sustainable Development Network Program emerged to promote cooperation between different providers.

A boat delivers laptops, medical tools and prescription printing devices each week to rural areas in Bangladesh. Individuals in need of care can travel to temporary medical centers where they receive access to physician care through the internet. These checkups are similar to checkups that established medical centers offer where patients can describe their condition, ask questions and obtain prescription drugs.

Telemedicine in Bangladesh is beneficial for more than sickness. This new technology also allows individuals to ask questions concerning their personal development, their child’s development and their nutritional needs. For many, this is a life-changing experience that not only helps with illness but also expands the general knowledge and understanding of people who did not previously have access to such education.

Nonprofits Helping the Cause

The introduction of telemedicine in Bangladesh would not be possible without local cooperation. One non-governmental organization (NGO) helping the cause is Friendship Bangladesh. Friendship Bangladesh, an NGO started in 1994, emerged to “help poor people in remote and unaddressed communities in Bangladesh.” Its aid includes a variety of programs, including those focused on education, economic development, disaster management, citizenship and cultural preservation. The organization’s special emphasis on health care has led to the emergence of telehealth solutions.

The development of mHealth, an app that can diagnose up to 32 common illnesses, and SATMED, a satellite service that allows local NGOs to share patient information using the internet, are innovative solutions to the health care problems in Bangladesh. These programs, developed by Friendship Bangladesh, have dramatically increased access and improved the efficiency of health care.

In 2017, Friendship Bangladesh provided a total of 4.2 million people with access to Friendship’s health care, including 48,000 who garnered access to the mHealth app. Friendship also employed three floating hospitals with access to satellite communication and conducted 1,392 nutrition demonstrations to help educate people on nutritional needs.

In 2020, Friendship aims to increase the number of satellite clinic days, strengthen the nutritional demonstration sessions and maintain the current floating hospitals.

The Future of Medicine in Bangladesh

Most recently, in 2018, a new telemedicine technology entered Bangladesh. Teledaktar (TD) is the newest virtual medical service that is helping expand access to medical care, according to  NPR. By creating makeshift medical centers in rural regions with little access to health care, TD is further closing the gap between doctors and patients in the most rural areas of the country.

Despite the challenges in Bangladesh, access to adequate health care is possible. The inclusion of telemedicine into common health care practices is one development in improving health care. An increase in trained physicians, along with an increase in rural health facilities, are among the recent successes to Bangladeshi health care. Moreover, the government initiation of a stakeholder dialogue with the U.N. Human Resource for Health (HRH) has created more effective dialogues that advocate for the expansion of health care across the country. With new programs, new partners and new technologies, the future of medicine in Bangladesh is hopeful.

Aly Hill
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about sanitation in BangladeshBangladesh, a diverse and culturally rich nation located in South Asia, is loved for its beautiful green scenery and numerous waterways. With sound economic policies and political reforms, Bangladesh has become one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Bangladesh’s remarkable economic growth has helped lift the majority of the population out of poverty. Millions are now able to enjoy fundamental living necessities such as access to clean water and sanitation that were not available before. However, there is still room for improvement. Here are the top 10 facts about sanitation in Bangladesh.

10 facts about sanitation in Bangladesh

  1. Contaminated water: Over 40 percent of all improved water sources in Bangladesh are contaminated with E. coli which could cause diarrhea, dysentery or cholera. Arsenic was also found in Bangladeshi groundwater, which could lead to cancers and social stigma. About 12.4 percent of the population was exposed to arsenic-affected water in 2012, a significant improvement from 26.6 percent in 2000. However, with 19.4 million people drinking this unsafe water, Bangladesh remains the country with the largest proportion of people exposed to arsenic contamination globally.
  2. Open defecation: Bangladesh has made incredible progress in reducing the practice of open defecation. Through the implementation of innovative behavior change campaigns and the construction of new latrine facilities, the rate of open defecation in the population declined from 34 percent in 1990 to only 1 percent in 2015.
  3. Menstrual hygiene: The taboo around menstrual health is prevalent in Bangladesh, emerging from an absence of proper awareness and knowledge. Only 36 percent of adolescent girls know about menstruation when it first occurs, and only 10 percent use sanitary pads during their periods. Additionally, only 22 percent of schools have separate toilet facilities for girls. This lack of knowledge and proper menstrual hygiene management directly impacts the education and well-being of Bangladeshi girls. About 40 percent of girls miss three days of school during menstruation, and nearly one out of three adolescent girls said that menstruation affects their school performance.
  4. Hygienic behavior: A 2013 UNICEF survey found that only 59.1 percent of the population wash their hands with water and soap. Another survey in 2014 reveals that only 40 percent of households have water and soap available for handwashing, compared to only 16 percent of the poorest households. The South Asia WASH Results Programme has helped to improve hygiene practices by teaching hygiene habits to over 4.1 million primary school children from 2014 to 2018.
  5. Economic cost: Inadequate sanitation and hygiene cost Bangladesh an estimate of $4.23 billion, which is 6.3 percent of the GDP. The largest contributors to this economic impact are health-related losses, which account for 84 percent of the impact, or 5.3 percent of the nation’s GDP. Costs of accessing cleaner water, welfare and time losses, productivity losses also contribute to the high economic impact.
  6. Access to hygienic toilets and sanitation facilities: The rate of sanitation coverage is only 61 percent, growing at 1.1 percent annually. More than 40 percent of all latrines in Bangladesh is still unimproved, and the sanitation facilities for children with disabilities are still lacking. Bangladesh is working towards increasing access to hygienic sanitation facilities with several projects supported by the World Bank, focusing on low-income and vulnerable communities.
  7. Disparities between different regions and households: UNICEF found that only 31.6 percent of people in Sylhet Division have access to E. coli-free water, comparing to 71.8 percent in Rangpur Division. Poor households are less likely to have drinking water on their premises, and thus have to spend more time collecting water from outside sources. They are also 10 times more likely to use unimproved sanitation than the rich.
  8. Universal access to improved water sources: 98 percent of the Bangladeshi population now has drinking water from technologically improved sources. This is incredible progress since only 79 percent of people had such access in 1990. About 83 percent of the urban population and 71.9 percent of the rural population had improved water sources available on their premises.
  9. Floods: Bangladesh is prone to flooding and water levels could remain high for months, which could damage freshwater ponds and shallow wells. Toilets also tend to overflow and become unusable due to the floods, contaminating water sources and exposing people to dangerous diseases. Since 2011, a local NGO called Uttaran has helped to construct improved toilet facilities that could survive floods and wells that provided safe water that benefited more than 2,000 people in these vulnerable communities.
  10. Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS): The successful innovative approach from Bangladesh has since become an established approach used in many other developing countries to improve hygiene and sanitation. The approach aims to eradicate open defecation with the combination of community pressure and NGO support. It also focuses on personal responsibilities to finance one’s own toilets without imposing external designs and promote low-cost homemade toilets using local materials, which makes toilets a lot more accessible and affordable even to the poorest population. This approach has enabled hundreds of rural villages to reach 100 percent sanitation coverage in less than a year.

With the continuing efforts of the government and the aid from different NGOs, Bangladesh has achieved considerable progress in sanitation developments. Though many challenges still remain, Bangladesh is committed and making great strides to progress towards clean water, sanitation and hygiene for all.

– Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

10 Improvements in Women’s Rights in Bangladesh
Bangladeshi women are no strangers to fighting for what they believe in. In 1952, the women of Bangladesh fought against the patriarchal regime alongside their husbands for the recognition of the Bengali language. Below are 10 improvements in women’s rights in Bangladesh.

10 Improvements in Women’s Rights in Bangladesh

  1. Health. The USAID assisted in joint communication between husbands and wives regarding women’s health. Therefore, decision-making is mutual and focuses on the future of the family, including healthier pregnancies for both mother and child. Bangladeshi women formed NGOs to mobilize and provide door to door health services, family planning and income-earning opportunities.
  2. Agriculture. Bangladeshi women are not only homemakers, but they are also income earners. Female farmers utilize a new technology, known as the fertilizer deep treatment method. This method uses less fertilizer and produces a higher return on investment. Additionally, Bangladesh also encourages women to sell in markets and pursue other areas of earned income, such as culturing fish and shrimp.
  3. Gender-Based Violence. The USAID works to implement the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act of 2010 in training 50 percent of Bangladeshi women. Further, Bangladesh also supports grassroots efforts of social protection groups as well. Groups act as the ears and eyes of the community, as well as enforcing current human rights laws and providing resources to legal channels. Groups include social workers, doctors, religious leaders, teachers and students.
  4. Voting Rights. The country has set an example of women’s equality in voting. In 1972, the Constitution of Bangladesh guaranteed women the same voting rights as their male counterparts. The constitution also guaranteed equal opportunities, such as serving in parliament. For example, in 1991, there was the election of the first female Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia. Today, Sheikh Hasina holds the seat as Prime Minister. Furthermore, Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury holds the seat as House Speaker.
  5. Women and Children Repression (Special Act). In 1995, Bangladesh passed the special act for severe punishment for anyone guilty of forcing women to marry against their will, as well as marrying for dowry. In 2018, the high court also banned and prohibited the two-finger test; it deemed this test irrational and belittling to rape victims. Instead, the government adopted a more appropriate form of health care protocol in line with the World Health Organization.
  6. Education. Research finds that access to education and employment plays a positive role in helping women avoid becoming victims of dowry-related transactions. Illiteracy stifles the opportunity for growth and empowerment for women. The Centre for Policy Dialogue completed a study and found that if homemakers received pay for what people believe is
    non-work, they would receive 2.5 to 2.9 times higher pay than paid services income.
  7. Mass Awareness. Bangladesh also encourages mass discussion, debates and programs to bring awareness to gender inequality. According to lawmakers, mass public initiatives must include legislations and policies; this includes awareness that people teach and model at home.
  8. Working Women. Bangladeshi working women increased from 16.2 million in 2010 to 18.6 million in 2016-17. In 2017, the Gender Gap Index reported Bangladesh in the first spot amongst South Asian countries.
  9. Education. In 1990, the implementation of stipends exclusively for female students in efforts to end gender disparity for secondary schools occurred. Also, 150,000 primary school girls improved their reading skills. Participation increased from 57 percent in 2008 to 94.4 percent in 2017. Moreover, 10 million rural and underprivileged women in 490 Upazilas of 64 districts gained technology access. Bangladesh tops the Gender Gap Index in education in the primary and secondary education category.
  10. More Achievements. Bangladesh initiatives thus far include a reduction in infant and child mortality, poverty alleviation, increased female entrepreneurs and increased education and health. Other initiatives include strengthening workplace treatment and security for women against violence. There have also been income-generating initiatives to train over 2 million women at a grassroots level. Finally, Prime Minister Hasina created the Reserve Quota aimed at increasing the number of women in government, judiciary and U.N. peacekeeping missions and roles.

These 10 improvements in women’s rights in Bangladesh continue to set an example for other countries where inequality is extremely pervasive. While Bangladesh still requires significant work, these improvements bring more opportunities for Bangladeshi women to succeed in the future.

Michelle White
Photo: Flickr

HYDRO IndustriesWater is essential to life, but unfortunately, there are people all over the world who do not have access to clean water. Pollution, poverty and weak infrastructure are often the causes of a lack of clean water. The world’s poor population has often been obligated to travel great distances in order to get clean water. Dirty water often leads to unsanitary conditions and the spread of disease. Thousands die each year from diseases due to a lack of clean water. Fortunately, a company called HYDRO Industries has a new way to provide water to those in need all over the world.

HYDRO Industries

HYDRO Industries is partnering with BRAC, one of the biggest non-governmental organizations in the world, to bring clean water to Bangladesh. BRAC was founded in Bangladesh, so this is their way of giving back to the community. In Bangladesh, five million people lack access to safe water, and 85 million people do not have access to proper sanitation. The current setup is not working well enough, so a new way to provide water is needed. The two organizations plan to begin their operation in Bangladesh in the spring of 2020.

HYDRO Industries will provide its products and BRAC will use its connections with local communities to establish the water treatment plants. The project aims to help around 25,000 people in the first phase and then continue to improve their product and increase the number of people they are serving. HYDRO hopes to expand all over Bangladesh and neighboring Nepal and India.

How Important is Clean Water?

  • Almost 800 million people do not have access to safe water
  • Two billion people don’t have a good toilet to use
  • A child under five dies every two minutes because of dirty water and poor toilets
  • Every minute a newborn dies because of infections from an unsanitary environment and unsafe water
  • For every $1 invested in clean water, there is a $4 increase in productivity
  • Every day, women around the world spend 200 million hours collecting water
  • Almost 300,000 children under age five die annually from diarrheal diseases

The world’s poor population sometimes has to spend hours looking for clean water. If the water is no longer a worry, they will have more time to be productive and focus on their economy. Clean water also reduces the likelihood of disease. Better health and productivity can result in a better community in the world’s poorest places.

What Does HYDRO Do?

HYDRO is a Welsh tech company that creates innovative water treatment plants that can treat water and raise it to drinking standards. The company also uniquely treats the water. Instead of using chemicals to purify water, they use electric power, which makes the entire process more sustainable and effective than chemical-based purification.

Bangladesh is not the first place that HYDRO is planning on helping. In fact, the organization has already provided clean water to multiple poverty-stricken areas around the world. In 2016, HYDRO provided clean water for 82 East African villages. There the water treatment plants provided locals with 8.5 million liters of water every day.

Finding a new way to provide water to those in need is important to work. HYDRO Industries has an innovative method that could potentially help millions of people around the world. Using electric power, HYDRO’s water treatment units can provide water at levels above western standards. Clean water is such an immense benefit to people all over the world. Clean water helps people fight disease and death. Providing a consistent and clean source of water close to people’s homes makes communities more productive and provides a better chance of reducing poverty.

Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr