Information and stories about developing countries.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 1.24 million people die every year on the world’s roads. As well as 20 to 50 million incur nonfatal injuries as a result of road traffic crashes. The WHO report, ‘Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013: Supporting a Decade of Action,’ attributes road traffic casualties to be the eighth leading cause of death globally with an impact similar to that caused by many communicable diseases, such as malaria.

Current trends suggest that, by 2030, traffic accidents will become the fifth leading cause of death unless urgent action is taken. While the report offers recommendations that focus on legislative reforms, there are also corporate examples, like that of Chevron’s, which help promote awareness of road safety.

Road traffic deaths are the leading cause of death for young people aged 15–29 years, and as a consequence, take a hefty toll on those entering their most productive years. Economically disadvantaged families are hardest hit by both direct medical costs and indirect costs such as lost wages that result from these injuries.

At the domestic level, road traffic injuries result in considerable financial expenses, especially to developing economies. “Road traffic injuries are estimated to cost low- and middle-income countries between 1–2 percent of their gross national product, estimated at over US$ 100 billion a year,” which is a serious impediment to poverty eradication.

Only 28 countries, representing 449 million people (7 percent of the world’s population), have adequate laws that tackle all five risk factors for road traffic (speed, drunk driving, helmets, seat-belts and child restraints).

The WHO report recommends that all governments enact legislation to make the roads safer and invest money and human resources to help enforce those traffic laws. Pedestrian safety should also be considered when planning for infrastructure.

The Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP) is an organization supporting the WHO report. Its role is to create and support multi-sector road safety partnerships that are engaged with front-line, good practice, road safety interventions in countries and communities throughout the world. The partnerships include businesses. Current business partners with the GRSP include Bridgestone, Michelin, BP, Chevron, Honda, Shell, Nestle and Toyota.

Many businesses support road safety to benefit their corporate image, to develop new markets through demonstration projects, or to brand their products as safe. Also, corporate sponsorships have been used for social marketing campaigns to increase the public’s awareness of road safety. In the end, businesses benefit from the lower costs associated with fewer road crashes and safer driving practices.

One American company, Chevron, has implemented what they call the Arrive Alive program. The program strives to protect people living in high-risk areas from traffic related injuries and fatalities.

Depending on the country’s needs, Chevron will form a coalition between non-profit organizations, other companies and the local government. The Arrive Alive coalitions have made significant strides on two continents and in four countries since its inception in 2004.

A coalition in Nigeria founded in 2006 advocated for stricter regulations on okada (motorcycle) riders. That year, laws went into effect to regulate the operation of okadas.

To address the 12,000 lives lost annually on South Africa’s roadways, Chevron formed another coalition to implement a publicity campaign aimed at the most vulnerable pedestrian population – youth and teens. Extensive use of poetry in print, radio and billboard communication directed messages towards youth about irresponsible road behavior and its consequences.

– Maria Caluag
Sources: WHO, GRSP, Chevron
Photo: My Legal World


In 2012, the United States provided nearly $12 billion in official development assistance (“ODA”) to African nations. The ODA is allocated to education, health, infrastructure and economic development programs in recipient countries. Currently, the United States allocates foreign aid to 47 African nations and USAID operates 27 missions on the continent.

US Foreign aid to Africa began in the 1960s as many African nations gained independence and the United States sought strategic alliances to counter the influence of the Soviet Union. With the exception of disaster and famine relief, most foreign aid to Africa began to decrease with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In the 2000s, President Bush more than tripled aid to Africa by establishing programs such as the Child Survival and Health Programs Fund as well as the Global HIV/AIDS Initiative.

Though foreign aid programs are designed to assist recipient nations with development, they also benefit the United States in a number of ways.

First, these programs help build strategic alliances and foster support for democratic transitions. It also stimulates Africa’s growth and development, which provides opportunities for increased trade and direct investment in the continent’s emerging markets.

But for all the benefits, foreign aid to Africa has no shortage of detractors. Many critics point out that much of the money allocated to Africa never reaches the people who most need the assistance. “Eighty percent of U.S. aid to Africa is spent right here in America — on American contractors, American suppliers, and so forth,” said George Ayittey, president of the Free Africa Foundation.

In more corrupt nations, politicians and civic leaders are often charged with misappropriating funds designated for the people. Others critics claim that foreign aid to Africa simply does not work—after 50 years of assistance, Africa still confronts the same issues.

But even critics would have to agree on one crucial point: foreign aid is an integral part of U.S. foreign policy. In Africa, aid programs support a large framework of social and economic assistance for developing nations.

Critics are correct that American companies and corrupt politicians siphon a large portion of foreign aid. But aid to Africa has also done much to improve infrastructure, bolster economic development and improve health care conditions for millions of people on the continent.

– Danial Bonasso
Sources: Foreign Policy Initiative, Washington Post, NPR,
Photo: James Bovard

Last Sunday, the Brookings Institute held its 10th annual Blum Conference on global development. This year, the conference emphasized the increasingly significant role of the private sector in lifting the world out of poverty.

Currently, 1.2 billion people still languish in extreme poverty, which is defined as living on less than $1.25 a day. The head of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, recently made sweeping promises that by 2030, that number will have dwindled to less than 300 million. And, by all appearances, Kim’s claim has a solid basis: in the past decade, global extreme poverty rates have been cut in half.

The recent Brookings conference in Aspen, Colorado confirms that hope. And, more importantly, it lays out the path to achieve it: by engaging the private sector on a large scale. World leaders like Partners in Health co-founder Paul Farmer, UN Human Rights commissioner Mary Robinson, and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice used their voices on Sunday to reinforce this principle. Major development agencies have already been operating with this idea, including USAID which leveraged over $525 million in private investment last year alone.

The road forward, however, contains many obstacles. Homi Kharas, the author of Brookings’ policy brief, “Reimagining the Role of the Private Sector in Development,” lays out three major hurdles for partnerships between the private sector and the public, academic, and civil sectors.

The first is the massive project of adapting to private funding in development. As part of the process, Kharas recommends that development agencies project “leverage ratios” that link public dollars to private dollars. He applauds the Power Africa Act for using $7 billion in government spending to guarantee $9 billion in private investment pledges.

Secondly, innovation is the key to increasing agricultural productivity and improving access to necessities like water and medicine. Kharas argues that public subsidies for private-led innovation in these areas need to increase to harness the creative power of for-profit businesses.

Finally, Kharas suggests that perhaps the greatest obstacle to engagement is mistrust of private companies by public and civil actors. To build confidence and pave the way for future partnerships, companies need to make their footprints and supply chains more transparent.

“Every high-level development report and project now has private sector involvement,” wrote Kharas. “The time is ripe to systematize this approach and experiment with new forms of partnerships.”

– John Mahon

Sources: Devex, Brookings
Photo: Carnegie

President Obama and Congress’ plan to double power to sub-Saharan Africa has people buzzing about an Africa where energy poverty is a thing of the past.

During a recent whirlwind tour of Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania, President Obama announced his Power Africa initiative, which would invest $16 billion to combat Africa’s energy deficit. Meanwhile in Congress, a bipartisan contingent led by Representatives Edward Royce (R-CA) and Elliot Engel (D-NY) introduced the Electrify Africa Act of 2013, which would provide over 20,000 megawatts of electricity to 50 million Africans by 2020.

So, why is the U.S. government so interested in turning on the lights in Africa?

The fact that millions of Africans are trying to get out of the dark certainly has something to do with it. In Senegal, only 42 percent of citizens have access to electricity. The situation in South Africa is much better where electricity is available to 75 percent of the populous. However, in Tanzania only 14 percent of the population is on the grid. This lack of energy availability continues to curtail the continent’s development.

Furthermore, the fact that the U.S. has the opportunity to reap enormous economic benefits also has something to do with it. By eradicating the energy gap and lifting Africa out of poverty through aid-based and market-driven approaches, the U.S. will be able to access markets that were previously closed.

The U.S. has a very successful track record of providing aid to countries in order for them to develop and then establishing trade partnerships with them.

Unlocking the trade potential Africa holds could be the answer to the economic woes the U.S. has been experiencing. An immense new consumer base could be created, which could mean more jobs and increased productivity.

The benefits to Africa could be profound as well–millions of people could enjoy an improved standard of life–while ushering in a new era for Africa from a hopeless continent to a legitimate investment and trade partner.

Diminishing global poverty by narrowing the energy gap is essential for any of these benefits to take place.

– Aaron Faust

Sources: White House Press Release, H.R. 2548: Electrify Africa Act of 2013, Access to electricity in SenegalWorld Bank
Photo: Philips

The injustice of ableism is often overshadowed by sexism, racism and LGBT discrimination in the media. The US International Council on Disabilities, however, hopes to raise ableism’s profile. USICD aims to cultivate global empowerment of disabled people by prioritizing the rights of the disabled in U.S. foreign policy. As an organization, it also strives to foster a mutual understanding between disabled and abled individuals within the United States and in foreign countries, thereby creating a united front of advocacy for the disabled.

Mentally and physically handicapped people are among those most susceptible to human rights abuses and poverty. Because they are often stigmatized by employers and assumed to be virtually worthless in the workforce, members of the disabled community are systematically denied access to jobs and, thus, opportunities for upward social mobility. Lacking stable means to earn an income, many disabled people struggle to support themselves. USICD is intent on striking down these common misconceptions and insists that the disabled have much to contribute to society.

Disabled people are also among those most vulnerable to the chains of modern slavery. In China for instance, there have been several documented cases of forced sweatshop labor among the mentally handicapped. Human traffickers often prey upon the disabled, being fully aware of the disadvantage they have in being able to advocate for themselves. Even if they escape such terrible circumstances, their plight will likely be ignored by the justice system, in which their testimony is often discredited based on assumption of their intellectual defects.

Throughout this past year, USICD has worked to lobby on behalf of passing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities through the Senate. If CRPD is ratified, countries participating in the Convention would be obligated to grant their disabled citizens with the same legal rights and protections afforded to disabled Americans under the 1990 Disabilities Act. This would mean that the rights to employment and basic healthcare services would be guaranteed to disabled individuals under international law.

Moreover, by compiling content for a digital database, USCID aspires to develop among its constituency budding human rights activists for the disabled cause. Armed with knowledge that then translates to power, its members realize that although the struggle for equality between disabled and abled people is far from over, it is nonetheless a battle worth fighting.

– Melrose Huang

Sources: USICD, Huffington Post, National Council on Independent Living, China, U.S. Department of State
Photo: RFA

WASH advocates
For many people in the third world, getting access to clean drinking water  is an every day struggle. WASH Advocates is trying to change this reality. The organization works in Asia, Africa and Latin America to bring awareness and solutions to impoverished areas of the world.

Although one of the main goals of WASH Advocates is to spread awareness of the consequences of ingesting unsanitary water, the group does not stop there. The organization improves communication and connections between other groups, like corporations, religious associations, schools and nonprofits, to maximize each group’s efforts to help as many people as possible. Another aspect of WASH Advocates is collaborating with USAID and the State Department to engage the United States in providing clean water in developing countries.

Some of the methods WASH Advocates endorse are Rotary International clubs that install wells, curriculum programs that offer opportunities for students to learn about clean water and sanitation, Engineers Without Borders which creates water filtration systems, church programs that raise funds for clean water initiatives, and students and universities. According to WASH Advocates, over 1,500 students participated in a challenge to drink only water and then donate the money that would have gone towards other drinks to helping Rwanda develop systems for clean water.

Given that 780 million people are currently lacking sanitized drinking water and 2.5 billion do not have basic sanitation, the work WASH Advocates is carrying out is critical for a healthy and safe lifestyle for millions of people. The organization reiterates that investment in clean water technology and techniques offer huge payoffs in productivity levels in that community.

– Mary Penn

Sources: Wash Advocates, Bright Funds

Youth around the world, primarily in Latin America, Southern Africa and the United States, have an ally with INMED Partnerships for Children. This organization is dedicated to helping children who have been devastated by “disease, hunger, abuse, neglect, violence or instability” and works with them to build a healthy and successful future. Rather than simply focusing on curing immediate threats to children, although INMED does that too, the group is adamant about treating the root causes of their struggles.

INMED transforms the lives of children in harmful environments by developing programs to target the specific needs of villages, regions, or entire countries. These programs include Health and Nutrition, Education and Skills Building, Adaptive Agriculture and Aquaponics, Youth Development, and Family Services. All of these programs create an opportunity for youth to change their lives for the better.

Children are not the only ones affected by INMED’s development programs. As children begin to change many aspects of their lives, these changes carry over to their families and communities. As these changes become dominant in communities, more and more people are lifted out of poverty and have the opportunity to create a better life. INMED calls for “sustainable change that crosses generations,” not just helping a few children for a brief amount of time.

The numerous success stories of INMED Partnership for Children show that this organization is making a difference in the world. By focusing on “long-term opportunities for children’s success in life” and community outreach, INMED is doing what all similar organizations should be striving towards: improving the future of impoverished children. INMED’s programs will likely be implemented in communities long after the organization leaves, which is the key to true progress.

– Mary Penn

Sources: Guide Star, INMED Partnerships for Children
Photo: Hands for Latin America

Coffee, cocoa, and other major products have become the food faces of the fair trade market. Soon, shea butter may well be added to those ranks. But what does this mean for shea butter workers and farmers?

Grown in the Sahel region, farmers extract shea butter from a small almond like nut which grows on the karite tree. From South Sudan to the western shores of Senegal, shea butter extraction provides major labor employment opportunities for women.

Shea butter, used mostly in the cosmetic field, provides multiple dermatologic benefits. These include healing burns, ulcerated skins, stretch marks, and dryness by moisturizing the skin. Recently, the Shea Butter Trade Industry hosted its first conference in North America. The event allowed African producers to meet with L’Oreal, the Body Shop, and other cosmetic industry players. With an expanding demand for shea butter, the creamy exfoliant has potentially reached a level that allows African producers to negotiate fairer prices for their labor.

Currently, the extraction and production of shea butter employs millions of women on in Africa. To access the butter, the nut is crushed. It is then boiled, cleaned once more, packaged and sold in local markets or exported. Despite the individual preparation of shea nuts, women create cooperatives to sell their product in their local markets.

With a rise in demand for their product, many women have also found an increase in income. Empowering women both in their own household and community has given rise to shared decision-making in family and community structures. This sense of freedom through successful employment is set through a traditional service, and many daughters learn it from their mothers who pass down the craft.

But not only do prices and gender equality rise with demand, fair trade over the production market rises as well. As the popularity of shea butter and other new products have reached new levels, Fair trade organizations such as Fairtrade International, have set their efforts towards promoting fair prices that protect producers. “Fair trade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which too often leave the poorest, weakest producers earning less than it costs them to grow their crops. It’s a bit like a national minimum wage for global trade. Not perfect… but a step in the right direction.” stated Harriet Lamb, CEO of Fairtrade International.

However, there are others that do not believe farmers and laborers benefit from fair trade, citing that there is little evidence of their benefit. Philip Booth, Editorial and Program Director at the Institute of Economic Affairs, contends that “no clear evidence has been produced to suggest that farmers themselves actually receive higher prices under fair trade. Fair trade may do some good in some circumstances, but it does not deserve the unique status it claims for itself.”

Despite a difficulty to decipher between marketing and real action, quantifiable claims made by companies such as L’Occitane, allow agencies to verify what companies claim. Unlike your average marketing attempts, L’Occitane’s claims have been analyzed and reported on by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The written report detailed L’Occitane’s collaboration with 15,000 rural women producers, paying $1.23 million in revenue each year to their shea butter laborers.

– Michael Carney

Sources: How We Made it in Africa, Alaffia
Photo: Tree Aid

The United Nations estimates that a minimum of 1.5 million children every year die of dehydration and disease caused from a lack of access to clean water. 783 million people around the world lack clean water, which represents 11% of the population. Technological innovations have recently been developed around the world focused on addressing this deadly issue.

One of these innovations, the mWater mobile app uses data to test the cleanliness of water. It tracks all of these measurements online, allowing officials to map areas with clean water and those with the most deadly levels of contamination. All of the information picked up by the app is stored in an online database, which is free and available to the public. Its measurement capabilities also allow users to determine immediately whether or not the water is safe to drink. By increasing access to information and using scientific measurements to track the problem areas of water sanitation, the mWater mobile app decreases the workloads of health organizations and governments looking for solutions to the clean water dilemma.

The Life Straw is also a new technology with great potential for saving the lives of millions. The Vestergaard Frandsen Company of Switzerland developed the Life Straw as a filtration system used to purify up to 700 liters of water, approximately a year’s supply of water for one person. The Life Straw is a pipe structure allows producers to make the product for under 5 USD. The pipe contains carbons to filter out parasites and a resin to kill bacteria. The straw is small enough to be worn around a person’s neck, making it convenient for transporting. Anyone can use the Life Straw simply by placing the tube in water and drinking through it, like a regular straw.

In addition to mobile apps and filter pipes, the Stellenbosch University of South Africa Water Institute’s HOPE Project seeks to improve the availability of clean water to people all over the world. This group has created a water filter known simply as the ‘teabag.’ This filter stands out as a promising solution as it costs less than half of one cent to produce and also withstands multiple uses. One teabag can purify up to one liter of water.

The filter works by using carbon and nano filters to separate out bacteria and pollutants. The South African Bureau of Standards completed testing on the teabag filter and deemed it safe and effective. Stellenbosch University signed a deal with the corporation Aquacare in South Africa to begin manufacturing this helpful new project.

These exciting new developments in the world of water technology ignite hope for many.

– Allison Meade

Sources: The Hope Project, El Paso Inc., How Stuff Works
Photo: The Daily Aztec

Access to clean drinking water is a worldwide problem. One billion people, or roughly 1 in 7 persons across the globe, lack access to safe water. Without potable water, these millions of people are exposed to waterborne pathogens that can cause sickness and death. Each year, waterborne pathogens make tens of millions of people sick and lead to 1.8 million deaths. And all of these are preventable.

Researchers are working on cheap and practical ways to provide safe drinking water across the globe. Ramakrishna Mallampati, an investigator at the National University of Singapore, has devised a new way to purify dirty water. By using the peels of fruits and vegetables, Mallampati believes that he can effectively and economically filter out impurities from water to make it safe to drink.

The fruits and vegetables are used to purify dirty water by drawing out toxic ions and organic pollutants from liquid. Tomato peels effectively remove “dissolved organic and inorganic chemicals, dyes and pesticides, and…can also be used in large scare applications.” Tomatoes are the second most consumed vegetable in the world. With the vegetable’s widespread availability, using tomato peels to purify water could prove to be a convenient, easy, and cheap way to purify drinking water.

Like tomato peels, apple peels are also able to draw out a number of pollutants from dirty water. The peels can extract anions such as “phosphate, arsenate, arsenite, and chromate ions from aqueous solutions.” While the apple peels must first be treated with a zirconium oxide before they can effectively remove impurities from water, the wide prevalence of the fruit throughout the world means that it could also be used to treat drinking water on a large scale.

The newly designed water purification methods could prove revolutionary in the developing world. Many large scale treatment processes used in developed nations are simply inaccessible to the impoverished across the globe due to a lack of the financial capital needed to implement them. The process of purifying water by using tomato and apple peels mitigates the financial obstacle that prevents many in the developed world from having clean drinking water. Ramakrishna Mallampati hopes that by using his new purification process, those living in developing areas will be able to live healthier and more productive lives.

– Jordan Kline

Sources: ScienceDaily, Care2, National Academy of Sciences
Photo: She Knows