Healthcare in the Pacific
The COVID-19 crisis has cemented itself as a problem that all countries in the world must face. Complicating matters is the fact that circumstances surrounding COVID-19 are quite dynamic — changing by the day. As such, experts release new information and studies about the new coronavirus, constantly. Therefore, healthcare workers need to stay informed. For small, proximal nations in the Pacific, this is especially important. Healthcare in the Pacific faces a unique set of challenges. As Fiji’s Hon. Minister for Health and Medical Services, Dr. Ifereimi Waqainabete, says, “The global spread of COVID-19 to countries and territories indicates that ‘a risk somewhere is a risk anywhere’ and as a global village, the increasing incidence of the disease in some countries around the world is a threat to the entire Pacific.”

The Challenge

In many Pacific nations, it is challenging to ensure that all healthcare workers remain updated. “The majority of nurses and midwives in the Pacific are located in remote rural areas and outer islands, which means they often miss out on regular trainings and updates,” says UNICEF Pacific Representative, Sheldon Yett. These remote workers service more than 2 million people in the Pacific.

The Solution

To address this problem regarding healthcare in the Pacific, governments of nations therein have recently collaborated with UNICEF, the U.S., New Zealand and Japan to launch a new program called Health Care on Air. This is the first regional training program of the sort. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has invested $1.85 million in this program.

Health Care on Air consists of 33 half-hour-long episodes to be broadcasted on the radio and other communication channels. While standard communication platforms like TV and online training are available in the Pacific — they do not reach all workers. Importantly, radio is the only form of media that reaches every corner of the Pacific. These episodes will teach healthcare workers skills and give them the necessary knowledge to deliver effective services, during the pandemic. In addition to the training sessions, participants will be able to ask questions and share information through UNICEF’s RapidPro platform. Notably, the platform works with free SMS and other smartphone messaging apps.

Project Scope

The project is especially concerned with reducing human-to-human transmission and limiting secondary impacts of COVID-19. Secondary impacts, i.e. the additional burden and expense on healthcare systems caused by COVID-19. Efforts to limit these secondary impacts focus on preparing healthcare centers to quickly adapt to new knowledge and specializations. The focus on reducing transmission and increasing adaptability is key for Pacific Island countries. This is because they cannot handle large-scale infections in the same way that larger, developed countries do.

The first episode aired on July 10, 2020, in Fiji. The program will eventually show in 14 additional countries in the Pacific — including the Cook Islands, Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Tuvalu, Niue, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, Republic of Marshall Islands and Tokelau. Notably, more than 5,000 healthcare providers will benefit from this program.

Applying Lessons Learned

In the future, the lessons learned from the Health Care on Air program will be integrated into national nursing accreditation programs as well. While the COVID-19 pandemic is a major world crisis, it is the hope that these new and innovative communication systems will continue to serve communities in the Pacific for years to come.

Antoinette Fang
Photo: U.S. Indo-Pacific Command

duolingo helps refugees“Language is what ties us all together in our cultures, in our own countries. Being able to communicate is a vital part of the human experience.” – Photojournalist Justin Merriman

Duolingo is a popular language-learning platform available on desktop and mobile phones serving to boost the language skills of people around the world. Known for its iconic green owl mascot, Duolingo offers free courses in 38 different languages. These include widely spoken languages like English and Spanish, as well as endangered languages such as Navajo and Hawaiian. It even offers courses in fictional languages like Klingon from Star Trek and High Valyrian from Game of Thrones.

While not specifically an original intent of the platform, Duolingo has grown in popularity among immigrants and refugees who seek to learn the language of their new homes. Recently, the company even made a documentary film about how Duolingo helps refugees.

The Importance of Communication

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that there were 79.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2019. Among the world’s displaced people, 20 million are refugees or asylum-seekers who have crossed borders into another country. Most refugees come from Syria, who have seen 6.6 million displaced people.

Language is extremely important to everyday life. In unfamiliar situations, language can act as a barrier to interactions and opportunities among those who can’t understand each other. For impoverished refugees, learning the local language is both vital and extremely challenging. The resources refugees need to learn a new language are often unavailable or not easily accessible.

Duolingo’s Role

In 2018, Duolingo’s creators noticed an intriguing pattern in their 300 million person user base. The most popular languages being learned in many countries were actually the native language of the area. In Miami, most Duolingo users were learning English and in Sweden, most users were learning Swedish. They found that most of these users were immigrants and refugees learning to speak the language of their new home.

Duolingo helps refugees by making language learning accessible and convenient. Available to anyone with access to an electronic device, the learning platform teaches basic conversational skills in a fun and easy way. It teaches reading, writing, listening and speaking through conversational situations where users simultaneously learn vocabulary and grammar. After receiving thousands of thank you letters from global users who benefitted from the app, Duolingo decided to create a documentary film following real refugee users as they learned new languages and navigated their new environments.

Something Like Home

“Something Like Home” highlights the stories of four refugees. Photojournalist Justin Merriman went to Turkey and Jordan to interview these refugees and create the film, which is available for free on Youtube or at duolingomovie.com. Merriman states that “It wasn’t really, in the beginning, about Syria and displaced refugees. It was about people using language to change their lives.”

One of the featured refugees, Noor, is a Syrian refugee who fled to Iraq, Dubai and finally to Turkey. Noor was the only refugee from the film able to attend its premiere at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in Pittsburgh, as her Iraqi citizenship allowed her to obtain a travel visa over the others who are Syrian citizens. She now works as a computer programmer and software engineer in Turkey, speaking five languages.

Another featured refugee, Ahmed, also fled Syria for Turkey where he now works as an engineer overseeing water and sanitation programs for internally displaced Syrians. Ahmed, formerly an engineer in Syria, was only able to find employment in Turkey after using Duolingo to learn the language and communicate his skills to employers. He is a prime example of how Duolingo helps refugees in these critical situations

Noor and Ahmed are just two examples of the global refugee experience—being violently torn from normal life and forced to start over somewhere completely unfamiliar. Duolingo helps refugees by freely offering an opportunity to make the transition into their new lives easier.

Kathy Wei
Photo: Wikimedia

Starlink Satellite System
As the world progresses through the 21st century, the internet has become an invaluable tool. In the United States, people widely use it for educational purposes. Unfortunately, the developing world is not so lucky. With Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite system, people across the planet should be able to gain access to high-speed internet.

The primary challenge with providing high-speed internet across the globe lies with the cost of fiber optic cables. It is very expensive to obtain and supply to certain areas of the world. On the other hand, using a satellite system to create connections in a vacuum is around 47 percent more efficient and does not require the use of fiber optic cables.

How Starlink Will Connect the World

Musk’s plan is to send 42,000 satellites into orbit. This substantial goal by SpaceX might be a dream, but a large number is necessary to ensure fast and widespread connections across the planet.

People who use the Starlink satellite system would require a device called a Starlink Terminal in their homes. It is a simple tool that they would plug in and point towards the sky. For those in hard-to-reach areas and whose internet connections are slow, this is fantastic news.

Ultimately, the hope is to provide all those who cannot obtain a strong internet connection with the means to connect with the world. The first step of the plan is to provide broadband internet to the west first and expand it into the developing world shortly thereafter.

The Global Impact of a Connected World

Global connectivity would provide an opportunity for anyone to receive the same education despite geographical location. Some of the latest reports regarding primary school-aged children in sub-Saharan Africa have indicated that 59 percent drop out of school.

Additionally, the quality of education is poor; many children across the globe are unable to read at a basic level. The main concerns surrounding the lack of education include cost, quality of teaching and a lack of schools and teachers. Fortunately, the Starlink satellite system could provide connectivity to reduce cost, provide proper tools and improve access to education.

The Starlink Terminal would cost between $100-$300 and several people could conceivably share it. A shared cost between multiple people, perhaps a school, would increase the affordability of the Starlink satellite system and terminal.

A growing global economy would likely also result from the Starlink satellite system. Specifically, the system has an extremely low latency for information transfer. This could give people in developing areas of the world more opportunity to participate in local and global stock markets.

Further, since the Starlink satellite system would likely be the fastest internet connection in the world, most of the financial markets would undoubtedly use it. Financial organizations using the system would provide customers the ability to send and receive money at the same rate, no matter the geographic location. Ultimately, the use of the Starlink satellite system would aid in the fight against global poverty by allowing the communities to participate in activities that developed nations regularly have access to.

The Timeline

As of right now, 362 Starlink satellites are orbiting the world and more should launch every other week. However, the recent pandemic might slow down the time frame.

Prior to COVID-19, the expectation was to have all 42,000 satellites orbiting by the end of 2021. Eventually, there will be enough satellites in orbit to provide global coverage. Even if the Starlink satellite system implementation takes more time than Elon Musk originally intended, the potential benefits are difficult to ignore.

The Starlink satellite system has the capacity to connect the entire world, changing the way people around the globe interact with one another.

Drew Pinney
Photo: Wikimedia

Technological Access in Bhutan

A mountainous landlocked kingdom of 766,000 people, Bhutan has been traditionally been isolated and disconnected from the outside world for a number of centuries, with previous rulers keeping the nation as a “hermit kingdom” prior to the legalization of television and Internet in 1999. Bhutan‘s economy relies heavily on its agriculture and forestry alongside the budding hydroelectricity industry, which has proven difficult due to the mountainous terrain of the country. The country’s main trade partners are India and Bangladesh, with no known relationship with the U.S. or other major U.N. members. The legalization of the Internet in 1999, as well as investments in technological advancement in the mountainous country, is a turning point for the kingdom as the developing technological access in Bhutan is expected to bring the country to the modern era.

Internet Development

Since the Internet’s introduction in 1999, Bhutan quickly was able to quickly build its telecommunication infrastructure and have much of the country connected. Cell phone services began in 2003, with 80 percent of the population owning a cell phone as of 2018, which includes 70 percent of the population that consists of farmers, making Bhutan one of the most connected countries in the world. This jump from the days of being isolated from the world allows the people of Bhutan to communicate both within and outside of the country’s borders.

Telecommunications

The continued developing technological access in Bhutan has also seen growth through Bhutan’s own investment into its communication networks. Bhutan‘s internal ICT development includes:

  • implementing protection lines for consumer purchases
  • building stations for mobile carriers and broadcasters and expanding upon broadband connections for wireless connections and private access for citizens
  • investing in cybersecurity and strengthening the overall connection quality

The investments in the internal network lines have allowed Bhutan to quickly connect the nation at a rapid pace. However, challenges remain in terms of developing the rural areas of the country within its mountainous terrain. That said, the government is actively looking at ways to change the status quo.

The National Rehabilitation Program (NRB) and the Common Minimum Program are two examples of initiatives focused on building new facilities and roads as well as easier access to electricity and supplies. Mountain Hazelnuts, a company headquartered in Eastern Bhutan has also made major tech investments for its farms, increasing employment and supplying smartphones for hired farmers that help with directions on the road and improve communication.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr

 

John Marks
In an increasingly polarized world, it is becoming more and more common for individuals to be split on issues. Although this may not be negative, such binarization certainly has the potential to breed conflict. Search for Common Ground (SFCG) is a non-governmental agency that seeks to prevent violence that results from differences. Here are ten facts about Search for Common Ground that provide a better understanding of what the organization does.

10 Facts about Search for Common Ground

  1. Search for Common Ground was founded by John Marks in 1982 in Washington D.C. His vision was to replace the dog-eat-dog mentality of the world with the premise that everyone is better off if we are all better off.
  2. SFCG is revolutionizing the way the world deals with conflicts. Through listening and cooperation, the company brings people together toward a common goal and away from conflict.
  3. They have 59 offices worldwide and work in the U.S., Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia.
  4. Search for Common Ground is dedicated to upholding human rights. As a result, they served as a signatory for a delegation in Nigeria known as the Steering Committee of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights Initiative.
  5. SFCG has a great global outreach program, as 795 thousand individuals volunteer with SFCG every year.
  6. Search for Common Ground has global initiatives such as “The Team.” This is a television series where soccer players must overcome their ethnic, social, religious and racial differences and use diversity to work together. This has proved to be an effective method to reach viewers as Richard Scudamore, the Chief Executive of the Premier League said, “football (soccer) is a remarkable tool which can break down barriers, foster understanding, and teach people valuable lessons on a wide range of social issues.”
  7. SFCG encourages cooperation in specific locations through dialogue, media and community work.
  8. SFCG has been successful in using dialogue to better relations. In one case, they transformed the reputation of police officers in the Terai region of Nepal through the Pahunch Project. This project invited Terai youth and police officers to play football and ask questions about one another. Notoriously there is tension among these groups, but afterward, one participant named Mamta said, “The football clinic has made my friends and me positive towards the police.” In fact, she even later decided to become an officer herself.
  9. SFCG created a video: L’Équipe to address gender-based violence. It revolves around the perspective of two African women soccer players that are victims of sexual violence. Despite their pain, the two women seek to better their situation and community. This is one of the many SFCG media tools that reaches 51 million people annually and provides encouragement for women to stand up against sexual violence.
  10. The Kpaika community within the Democratic Republic of Congo is a poor area that is prone to attacks from rebel groups. In response, SFCG organized the Secure, Empowered, Connected Communities (SECC) project. This project bettered communication within the community by establishing radio networks and emergency plans of action. As a result, the community has felt a lot safer and is more prepared for potential attacks.

Creating Change

These facts about Search for Common Ground do not encompass the entirety of the organization’s successes as a whole. To learn more about the organization or how to help, visit sfcg.org.

– Mary McCarthy

Photo: Flickr

AMAR_Foundation
The AMAR Foundation works to improve the conditions of approximately 3.4 million internally displaced Iraqis by utilizing local expertise to build long-term solutions.

The organization, founded in 1991 by Baroness Emma Nicholson, is a London-based charity with the goal of improving education, health care and emergency aid to some of the world’s most disenfranchised and impoverished people.

Their model is simple: AMAR works closely with on-the-ground experts, as well as local leaders, to implement entirely local programs that are tailored to the needs of the community.

In lieu of sending in volunteers from other countries, AMAR cooperates with existing services to locally source the materials and expertise needed to improve living conditions. Outside intervention is kept to a minimum and communities are encouraged to build themselves from the inside out.

Communication is the key to the success of this aid model. In a 2015 Jordan Times article reporting on AMAR’s efforts to stem an outbreak of cholera in Iraq, it is proffered that raising awareness about public health and common diseases is one of the most crucial pieces of improving the health of a community.

Communication is key not only in improving public health but also in ensuring the success of locally-based aid efforts like those the AMAR Foundation organizes.

Local collaboration is by no means a new idea, but the AMAR Foundation’s astonishing success utilizing this model within Iraq provides great hope for the future of foreign aid worldwide.

Without the help of major international funding, AMAR has managed to establish a clinic in northern Iraq that serves more than 600 patients a day, as well as multiple mobile health clinics that can be operated by locals. Since 2005, their clinics have helped over 4 million Iraqis.

Although today only a few organizations embrace a model that favors entirely local implementation, the AMAR foundation continues to provide an example of the great success that can come from on-the-ground solutions.

Sage Smiley

Photo: Defense Video Imagery Distribution System

Small Farmers WeFarm InternetNowadays, it seems everything can go viral on the Internet in seconds, from a social justice movement to a funny cat video. But what do people in developing countries do to share ideas, ask questions and communicate with their peers who live in remote areas without the Internet as a permanent fixture in their lives?

For small-scale farmers in developing countries, the slightest challenges can quickly become insurmountable. Issues like climate change, access to profitable markets and below-average growing seasons hit small farmers much harder than their larger counterparts.

According to the Huffington Post, there are currently about 500 million smallholder farmers around the globe. On average, these agriculturists live on less than $1 a day.

In order to survive year after year, many small farmers have developed low-cost, effective solutions to the everyday problems they face. Until recently, these solutions could travel no farther than word-of-mouth could take them.

In 2014, WeFarm was founded with the mission of becoming “the internet for people without the internet.” The organization offers peer-to-peer communication amongst farmers in developing countries. Users can ask and answer questions using SMS or text messaging. The service is offered to smallholder farmers free of charge.

The service translates queries and advice so that small farmers from around the world can communicate and share the valuable information they have accumulated through their personal experiences. So far, over 100,000 answers have been provided to the 43,000 farmers registered to the program.

The founders of WeFarm thought strategically about how to make information available to all the small farmers who live without the Internet. Six billion of the world’s seven billion citizens have access to a mobile phone but only 25 percent of the global population has an Internet connection. SMS is a far more trafficked channel of communication for the world’s poor, compared to email or Internet messaging.

WeFarm has big plans for the data collected by the service. The organization sees the questions farmers are asking and answering as an opportunity to address some of the major issues inhibiting food production around the world.

The data gathered by WeFarm’s service is sold to major food producers to give them a sense of the daily struggles faced by small-scale farmers. The buyer companies can use this information to better analyze the issues and develop long-term strategies to address them.

According to Zoë Fairlamb, a spokesperson for WeFarm, “Small scale farmers produce 70 percent of the world’s food globally. Global brands rely on what small scale farmers are producing, yet they have next to no visibility on what is going on at the bottom of the supply chain. A lot of food is wasted in this way through very preventable diseases.”

Though WeFarm has already taken significant strides toward a more sustainable farming system, this is only the beginning for the organization. According to the Huffington Post, WeFarm is currently seeking investments in order to expand and reach one million farmers by the end of 2016.

As a connector of major players in the food industry and small farmers across the globe, WeFarm is in a unique position to change the way the world grows food and transfers information.

As Fairlamb put it, “WeFarm wants to be about changing [the] conversation and giving [farmers] a voice, showing their knowledge is valuable and giving them a way to share that information.”

Jennifer Diamond

Sources: Huffington Post, WeFarm, Global Citizen, Space Innovation Congress
Photo: National Geographic

Caterpillar FoundationThe “Together.Stronger.” initiative, started by the Caterpillar Foundation works to alleviate poverty across the globe. “The world’s nations have united around the UN’s Global Goals that will guide international development for the next 15 years, and now it’s time for citizens in all communities to unite as well,” the organization says.

The “Together.Stronger.” approach is not one of competition, but one of collaboration towards a similar goal.

“No one individual, no one corporation, no one organization can do it themselves,” says Michele Sullivan, President of the Caterpillar Foundation. “But together, we are stronger.”

“Caterpillar has learned from its business and years of philanthropic work that the bigger the project, the better the team needs to be,” she says. “Together.Stronger. is our effort to build the best team possible… because ending extreme poverty is something that will take all of us.”

To accomplish this, the platform is based on three areas of focus:

  1. Stockholders: Delivering superior returns through the cycles.
  2. People: Attracting and developing the best talent.
  3. Customers: Taking pride in helping others succeed.

Caterpillar works to bring the world together to fix a problem that affects us all. With this in mind, the foundation works to create global citizens: a people that aren’t just citizens of a town or a country, but of the globe at large.

“The world is better when everyone stands together. Because together, we truly are stronger.”

 

Katherine Martin

Sources: Caterpillar, Global Citizen, ONE, Scene7
Photo: Needpix.com

ShareTheMealThere are 795 million undernourished people in the world today. That’s one in nine people who are not getting enough food to lead a healthy life.

Those numbers make hunger and malnutrition the number one risk to health worldwide. That makes malnutrition a greater threat than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

Enter the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger today. Each year, the WFP reaches 80 million people with food assistance in around 80 countries.

As an initiative that relies completely on voluntary donations, two managers at WFP, Sebastian Stricker and Bernhard Kowatsh, have created a way to make donating even easier by using technology to fight global hunger.

In fact, thanks to them, donating is right at your fingertips.

That’s because they’ve created an app. It’s called ShareTheMeal.

Currently being hailed as the first of its kind, this free app allows iOS and Android users to fund food rations for as little as $0.50. While a small sum to most in the Western world, in other, poorer parts of the planet, the value can be life-saving. The sum is enough to provide the vital nutrition an individual needs a day.

“The simple act of sharing a meal is how people all over the world come together,” said Ertharin Cousin, the WFP’s executive director, “This digital version of sharing a meal is a tangible way that generation zero hunger can act to end hunger.”

Pilot tests for the app were performed in June 2015 across Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Using the technology to fight global hunger, more than 120,000 users provided more than 1.7 million meals for schoolchildren in the southern African country of Lesotho.

The money coming from Thursday’s global launch of ShareTheMeal will initially be used to support 200,000 Syrian refugee children living in the Zaatari camp in Jordan who participate in the WFP’s school meals program.

“By Christmas, we hope to have gathered enough shared meals, to feed these children for one year,” ShareTheMeal’s head of growth Massimiliano Costa says.

Improvements to hunger and living conditions in refugee camps as well as among Syrian communities is widely viewed as crucial to encouraging Syrians not to embark on risky travel to Europe.

If the app does well, the project will expand to other countries and regions. The WFP is already looking at the numbers. With two billion smartphone users worldwide, that statistic outnumbers the hungry children in the world 20 to 1.

The United Nations’ has set the ambitious goal of ending world hunger by 2023. Perhaps ShareTheMeal is the answer.

Kara Buckley

Sources: ShareTheMeal, Forbes, Reuters, The Guardian                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Photo: Pixabay

Ending_Inequality
As the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit begins, the Third World Social Science Reform (WSSR) is meeting to find solutions addressing global poverty and ending inequality. For South Africa, this event will be particularly important as the country seeks to overcome issues of imbalance aross the nation.

The WSSR, which was held from September 13 through September 16, gathered over 850 delegates from 57 countries worldwide to bring social science knowledge to issues plaguing the world today including poverty and inequality, human rights, and the role of civil society action.

The four-day event was themed “Transforming Global Relations for a Just World” suggesting the collaboration from the world’s top researchers and stakeholders could bring about positive action to world problems.

South African Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor made clear that South African scientists and inventors must work harder to put the continent’s goals in line with the global standard.

“They [scientists and inventors] tend to be an indication of a worrying inequality. We don’t publish; we don’t have a significant numbers of PHDs and we are not innovative enough. We don’t even have new products and we also don’t introduce services. We come off rather dismally,” said Pandor.

This is exactly how Africa as a whole is viewed to the world: under-developed, poor and little-to-no education. Currently, 70 percent of the world’s poor resides in Africa.

This statistic can be changed with the collaboration from ambassadors and representatives to make Sub-Saharan Africa something to boast about. As problems continue to set the country back, there have been many success stories.

Local activist Desmond D’sa from the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance believes money should be focused on science & technology projects that can create jobs and be less harmful to the environment.

“Right here in Durban, we have the Moses Mabhida stadium. How many jobs has it created? Is it sustainable? Lots of money is being diverted to Moses Mabhida stadium. We have seen mega projects causing hindrances to climate change. Scientists in this forum need to address this,” says D’sa.

While South Africa continues to find solutions, it will be interesting to see how they incorporate their scientific knowledge and discover new, inventive ways to solve global poverty.

Alexandra Korman

Sources: SABC News, Sunday Independent, World Social Science
Photo: allafrica