diarrheal disease in sub-saharan africaEvery year, millions of children under the age of 5 die. Of those children, almost 40% come from Africa. The chance of death for a child living in Africa is seven times higher than that of a child in Europe. This marks the need for improved medical care and foreign aid, especially because many of these deaths are caused by diarrheal diseases. Diarrheal diseases are the second highest cause of death around the world, with over 1.5 million deaths each year. While any country’s children can be susceptible to this illness, developing countries have a marked disadvantage. Many of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where the disease is prevalent, don’t have access to proper sanitation, clean water or viable medical care. Here are five facts about diarrheal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa.

5 Facts About Diarrheal Diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa

  1. Mortality varies greatly by region. There is a higher prevalence of diarrheal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa, but especially in impoverished nations. Additionally, within sub-Saharan Africa, certain countries have much higher mortality rates than others due to these diseases. More than half of the global deaths that occurred in 2015 due to diarrheal diseases came from just 55 African provinces or states out of the total 782 that exist.
  2. The problem is partially economic. Diarrheal diseases don’t only impact the health of these countries’ citizens, but they also take a massive toll on the economy. An estimated 12% of governmental budgets go toward treating these diseases in some countries. Moreover, the World Bank estimates that almost 10% of these nations’ total GDP goes toward the treatment of these health issues. Individual members of each country also feel the monetary blow of obtaining treatment. In many of these countries, the salary of the average citizen is around $1.00 a day. One Kenyan mother named Evalyne was unable to save her son from a diarrheal disease because she couldn’t afford the $0.25 needed for oral rehydration therapy.
  3. There are more victims of these diseases than just children. A lot of the information about diarrheal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa focuses on children under the age of five. However, people over the age of 70 are also very susceptible to diarrheal diseases. The demographics of these two groups are unique. Most children die from diarrheal diseases in Chad, the Central African Republic and Niger. Nevertheless, most elderly people die from diarrheal disease in Kenya, the Central African Republic and India. The differences don’t end there. Most children who contract a diarrheal disease are plagued by the rotavirus, but the elderly have proven to be most prone to another virus named shigella.
  4. The diseases are treatable and even preventable with the right precautions. There are many precautions that can be taken to avoid catching diarrheal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa. One of the most important preventative actions is to do everything possible to consume clean water. Around the world, 40% of the population doesn’t have easy access to adequate sanitation. Many children and adults don’t have soap to wash their hands with after using the bathroom, and oftentimes, the water they use is contaminated. Washing one’s hands and working to improve local water supplies can drastically improve one’s chances against diarrheal diseases. Treating citizens with supplements like zinc and vitamin A can also lessen the severity of diarrheal episodes. Other than supplements and better water, oral rehydration therapy is a great way to treat the illness. Families can use oral rehydration at home by combining salt, sugar and clean water to prevent crippling dehydration. Another potential solution is a rotavirus vaccine.
  5. Education and competition can change the future. In some countries, access to clean water and proper sanitation seems impossible. However, providing communities with the resources and knowledge of how to improve sanitation and lower the risk of diseases has demonstrated that change is possible. In Cameroon, the World Wildlife Fund partnered with Johnson and Johnson to provide training and resources to the members of various communities. This helped them build more sanitary bathrooms and create new and viable water sources. One reason that these programs were so successful is that they created competitions among villages. This became a friendly way of motivating each other toward success.

Diarrheal diseases in sub-Saharan Africa continue to plague areas without clean water or access to healthcare. However, as time goes on, more and more programs and organizations aid in the control of these illnesses. For example, since 2018, ROTAVAC, a rotavirus vaccine, was prequalified by the World Health Organization for use in Ghana. This qualification is specifically focused on providing vaccines to those in countries without easy access to vaccination. Ghana is now the second country in Africa to place ROTAVAC as part of its program to immunize citizens against diarrheal disease. Doing this raises awareness across regions about a future where disease prevention is all the more possible.

Lucia Kenig-Ziesler
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in GhanaGhana has a population of 30.4 million people, and over 100,000 of these people are homeless on any given night. Though most of the population does have access to safe, affordable housing, not every Ghanaian does. Here are five facts about homelessness in Ghana.

5 Facts About Homelessness in Ghana

  1. Around 39% of Ghana’s urban population lives in slums. This equates to roughly 5.5 million people. Poor households and domestic violence victims are at higher risk for homelessness. In urban areas, single women with children are also at risk for homelessness. Obtaining ownership of a house can be difficult for some women because in matrilineal tribes when a man dies, there are limits for women regarding inheritance of spousal property.
  2. In urban areas, there is a shortage of housing. These shortages are caused by a lack of adequate financing, costly building materials and delays in getting permits to build. It is also challenging to gain access to urban land in order to build there. There are not enough governmental rental properties available, and those that do exist are mostly inhabited by government workers.
  3. COVID-19 has made things worse. Many homeless Ghanaians cannot comply with lockdown orders, and do not always have access to masks, gloves and hand sanitizers. Their previous jobs of carrying shoppers’ wares or helping to load passengers became obsolete during the pandemic. Some volunteers are helping to distribute food and water to the homeless, though others argue that the government should distribute raw ingredients and money instead of cooked food.
  4. Housing policies and programs are being implemented. One such project is the Tema-Ashaiman Slum Upgrading Facility (TAMSUF). This project aims to upgrade slums, develop low-cost housing and facilitate urban development projects. TAMSUF completed its first housing project in 2011, which involved constructing a building that contained 31 dwelling units and 15 commercial shops. In addition, it also involved a commercial toilet and bath facility. TAMSUF also constructed a sanitation facility containing six bathrooms, which can hold 12 people. Similarly, The Ghana Federation of the Urban Poor Fund (G-FUND) seeks to grant homeless Ghanaians access to funds in order to provide for themselves. Created in 2010, this fund provides low-income households in Ghana with credit for housing and business development. This funding also improves infrastructure.
  5. The Urban Poor Fund International is working to improve living conditions. UPFI has built over 60,000 houses and improved 3,000 dwelling units in various countries. Examples of their projects include a community-led waste management initiative and also a housing construction in Amui Dzor, Ashaiman, in Ghana. The Amui Dzor housing project has housed 36 families and provided many dwelling units, bathrooms and rental stores since its creation in 2009. One of the project’s most famous sponsors was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Many of Ghana’s homeless require help from the government and housing projects to get back on their feet. Efficient rental control laws and housing for low-income individuals are just some of the many policies that can help lower or diminish rates of homelessness in Ghana.

– Ayesha Asad
Photo: Flickr

Ghanaian women in poverty
It is undeniable that, right now, the makeup, skincare and haircare industries are flourishing globally and are predicted to continue their economic rise well into the future. According to Euromonitor International, in 2020, the beauty industry’s net profit reached $500.5 billion — a more than 5% increase from 2019. Broken down by category: general cosmetic care earned $307 billion, skincare acquired $145.2 billion, haircare collected $79.2 billion and premium beauty earned $139 billion. The industry’s forecast predicts an annual net profit of $756.63 billion by 2026

Right now in Ghana, the beauty industry is experiencing a cultural role shift and growth in profit. The increasing population of young people is beginning to explore skin, beauty and hair care — and they’re looking locally. As this industry grows, Ghana-based brands are looking to do more than just provide beauty products. Through outreach programs and innovative business plans and programs, personal care companies are working to provide financial aid, job opportunities, equitable support and empower Ghanaian women. Here are three Ghana-based beauty brands empowering Ghanaian women in poverty.

3 Beauty Brands Empowering Ghanaian Women in Poverty

  1. FC Beauty Group Limited: Established more than 30 years ago in Ghana, FC Beauty Group Limited (FCBGL), not only provides and distributes high-quality hair and beauty products at a wholesale price to local salons but also hosts extensive outreach programs for impoverished women. FCBGL launched the Grace Amey-Obeng Foundation International in the summer of 2007. This foundation has made it a priority to aid Ghanaian women in poverty, with the purpose of providing young women an education, training and a sense of self. Through this program, FCBGL has focused its outreach to young homeless women, some of whom must engage in prostitution to financially support themselves. For women who engage in transactional sex consensually, the foundation provides them with skills to prevent difficulties in their profession. These skills include preventing pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and exploitation. For women who do not wish to continue this work, the brand offers job prospects and training that allow them to change their economic direction. The brand continues its outreach work by partnering with the Osu Girls’ correctional facility to provide inmates with hirable skills for future economic success. FC Beauty Group Limited hosts another program titled the “Tutsi Project.” The Tutsi Project’s agenda is to act as insurance for the women who have completed FCBGL’s training programs and are now pursuing a career. Since its conception, the FC Beauty College has trained more than 6,000 economically successful students. Seed money is provided to women looking to start their own businesses. Many trainees are full-time mothers as well as entrepreneurs and FCBGL’s investment at the beginning of their career allows them to feel financially supported.
  2. Nokware Skincare: With old-school natural products and innovative ideas, the brand Nokware, meaning “truth,” creates all products from recipes and raw materials passed down through Ghanaian women’s lineage. Remaining local is an important piece of Nokware’s business plan and the brand solely uses materials that can be found and farmed by local African women. By practicing fair trade and pricing deals, Nokware can work towards its overall mission: economic inclusion. Recognizing the financial disparity many Ghanaian women face, this brand works to exclusively buy locally to put money back into the community and create a space for those who have been neglected in the workforce. By situating “community commerce” at the forefront of its company, Nokware works to stimulate the Ghanaian economy from the inside out. Empowerment of Ghanaian women in poverty is very important to Nokware Skincare. The brand works to accomplish that goal by primarily hiring women who face a substantial wage gap. Recognizing them as powerful resources, Nokware also staffs its executive boards and factory floors with Ghanaian women in an effort to minimize the prevalent wage gap in the country. The company’s “Nokware for Women” fund is an educational scholarship program available to the daughters of Nokware employees to diminish gender inequalities in education.
  3. True Moringa: Named after the extensive benefits of the plant found in northern Ghana, True Moringa is a brand that creates a diverse selection of products that all contain the oil of the True Moringa tree. On a trip with MIT’s D-Lab to Ghana, Kwai Williams and Emily Cunningham learned about the aforementioned tree, known as the “miracle tree,” from local farmers. The plant contains high levels of Vitamin A, calcium and protein. It also has the ability to grow and strengthen other crops in any climate. After learning this, Williams and Cunningham realized that the plant could minimize poverty and malnutrition in the country, and bring economic opportunities to farmers while providing consumers with high-quality skin and hair care products. The founders were aware of the lack of training, reliable commerce and income insecurity Ghanaian farmers face. As a result, they created a business plan that could compete with more established beauty brands and source locally to raise the monetary value of the brand’s contributing farmers. The company’s website states that the creation and application of the True Moringa brand has served more than 5,000 farming families, planted more than 2 million trees and increased local Ghanian farming revenue tenfold. In addition to the economic growth created through local sourcing, True Moringa allows customers to make an impact. With every purchase made, True Moringa will plant a tree which, in turn, combats deforestation and malnutrition in the small farming communities the brand works with. The True Moringa skin and hair care brand not only works to contribute to the beauty industry and empower Ghanaians by providing high-quality products, but also looks outside to create sustainable incomes and resources to empower Ghanaian women in poverty and their families.

All of these brands have created a positive impact on Ghanaian women in poverty. They have done so by looking beyond the cosmetic aspects of their products and focus on empowering women through their incomes, access to food and financial well-being. These brands have given hope to women and families for a better future, and have continued to walk alongside them as they move into a more financially secure future.

– Alexa Tironi
Photo: Flickr

skin bleaching in AfricaThe continent of Africa is revered as one of the most diverse continents on Earth, toting genetic, linguistic, cultural and phenotype diversity. Unfortunately, some of that diversity is lost when beauty standards are dictated by other cultures that are not native to Africa. Skin bleaching in Africa is one result. While many African women prefer to refer to this method as “heightening your glow” or “skin lightening,” it involves skin bleaching. Market trends project these bleaching products, many containing mercury, will make $31.2 billion in profits by 2024.

A Legacy of Colorism

Skin bleaching in Africa is not a new beauty phenomenon. The practice finds its roots in the transatlantic slave trade and continued during the European colonization of African nations. The caste systems that entitled European slave owners and traders to reduce African blacks to indentured servants perpetuated disparities in political status, wealth and beauty, furthering discrimination based on skin color.

The legacy of racist views which positions white Europeans as superior has remained a structural belief system among the women who choose to use the skin lightening products. They believe that darker skin is associated with unsatisfactory traits such as inferior beauty, education and social class. In other words, darker skin is stereotypically associated with a life of economic disadvantage and struggle. Consumers of these bleaching products, wanting fairer skin, believe they will achieve a higher level of social capital, be viewed as “pure” and more desirable for marriage.

Doctors who have studied the phenomena of skin bleaching in Africa have concluded that while some women bleach their skin for vanity reasons, others are very calculative in their decision. The retailers selling these products sometimes refer to and promote skin lightening creams as “up-marketing” one’s appearance. The pay-off comes in the form of job security, progress, and power. Skin bleaching in Africa is therefore a business-oriented decision. Anecdotally, the appearance of lighter skin means faster and easier access in landing higher paying jobs, particularly in sales and marketing.

Education Is Key: Addressing the Trend as a Public Health Problem

The messaging surrounding these products, whether via word of mouth or straight from the packaging, appear to be working. Data collected by the World Health Organization (WHO) determined that 40% of African women regularly use skin lightening or bleaching creams. The trend is not isolated to one specific region either. Nigeria leads the purchasing trend with 77% of women using skin bleaching products (cream and non-cream based), followed by 59% in Togo, 27% in Senegal and 25% in Mali. It’s estimated about one of every three women in South Africa uses the products, even though mercury-based products have been banned in the country since the late 1970s.

The modality for these products used in skin bleaching in Africa varies by age group as well. While the older generation prefers lotions and creams, the younger generation opts for injections and pills such as glutathione capsules. More concerning is pregnant women’s use of glutathione capsules to manipulate the skin tones of unborn children.

Common health issues related to regular use of skin lightening products are mostly topical, but nonetheless dangerous. The most common side effect of topical lotions and creams is skin thinning due to the high-dose steroid, hydroquinone and mercury ingredients. Other effects include burning, scaling, scarring and boils. These applied products can also trigger further skin discoloration, also known as exogenous ochronosis, or blue-black pigmentation of the affected areas. Other, more serious health issues including blood cancers like leukemia and cancers of the liver and kidneys have prompted doctors monitoring the skin bleaching trend to call the phenomenon a public health crisis.

Appreciating Natural Beauty

African nations spread across the continent are moving toward full or partial bans against skin bleaching creams and lotions, citing their dangerous topical and chronic health implications. Most notably, the countries of Rwanda, Ghana and the Ivory Coast have banned these products. More recently, the #BlackLivesMatter protests have prompted top beauty and skin brands such as Unilever and Johnson & Johnson to scrub manipulative marketing and even pull some products promoting fairer skin from their portfolios.

Unfortunately, skin bleaching in Africa is persistent, even in countries where these products are banned. Many experts and medical professionals assert that in order to fully eliminate the skin bleaching industry, the idolatry of fair or white skin needs to be eliminated. In other words, we must create a world where dark-skinned women are welcome in all spheres of society, not discriminated against. Thankfully, a number of nonprofit organizations, including The Beautywell Project and Melanin Foundation, are tackling skin bleaching in Africa and its harmful effects.

– Vicki Colbert
Photo: Flickr

Technology in Ghana
Ghana has been the hub for technology production in sub-Saharan Africa for decades. In terms of recent technology progression, Ghana stands out for its IT programs, sustainability training and more. Accra is one of the metropolitan cities in the country, known for its technological innovations. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Accra has been working tirelessly to safely and efficiently produce technology that provides aid to sub-Saharan Africa. Here are six facts about technology in Ghana during the COVID-19 pandemic.

6 Facts About Technology in Ghana

  1. The Ministry of Health established a partnership with Zipline, a U.S. company that delivers medical supplies using drones. Zipline is distributing supplies and test kits to 1,000 medical facilities across the country. The company loads the drones with tests and return packets to go back for testing. This has helped Ghana complete 68,000 tests during the lockdown and distribute more supplies as the virus has spread.
  2. Cognate System, a software company, is tracking cases of COVID-19 throughout Ghana. Cognate System uses a platform called Opine Health Assistant (OHA), a phone app that people use to report and record their symptoms. Once someone tests positive, they can use the platform to report their symptoms and determine when they are COVID-free. The application asks questions like where the user has traveled recently and whether they are in need of food, shelter or water. After the lockdown, OHA tracked and recorded approximately 3,000 cases.
  3. As the COVID-19 virus spread through Africa, hospitals began to fill up and medical personnel quickly realized they did not have adequate supplies to prevent further spread of the disease. Ultra Red Technologies (URT), a 3D printing company in Nairobi, got to work immediately to help. The company printed out plastic face shields to send to Ghananian medical staff to help them protect themselves while tending to patients. Mehul Shah, at the URT, wanted to do his part and find a way to help without needing to import products. His work represents the benefits that technology in Ghana has had on the country’s coronavirus response.
  4. Fablab, an innovation hub in Kenya, has been developing tracing applications. The applications track positive patients on public transport to determine who experienced exposure to the virus. If users are in a taxi, for example, they could scan the code onto the application to mark the vehicle as exposed. If everyone uses the application properly, it could trace the positive patient and notify others who may have had exposure to the virus.
  5. The Academic City College in Accra worked alongside the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, located in Kumasi, to build a ventilator that takes merely an hour to assemble and costs only $500 to $1,000. This effort resulted from students who noted that most oxygen bags required hand-pumping to keep patients breathing. The low-cost ventilators use a wooden box with pipes and electrical programming that push oxygen into the patient’s mask, eliminating the need for hand-pumping. Ventilators are quite difficult to distribute as they are expensive to build and maintain, even in wealthy nations. Lowering the cost and production of ventilators can save the lives of millions of COVID-19 patients.
  6. Ghana has been able to test 100,000 people through drone testing. This has likely contributed to the country’s relatively low death toll, which rests only at 486, or 18% of the 2,700 positive cases recorded. Each death has been due to previous underlying conditions that prevented patients from fighting off the novel coronavirus.

Technology in Ghana during the COVID-19 pandemic relies on the good use of resources and accounting for cost and efforts. During the pandemic, Ghana and its neighboring nations have stepped up to the plate to prevent further spread and manage cases so that citizens can get back to work soon. Since March 2020, Ghana has cut down on costs for ventilators while reducing importation needs and sustaining the current quality of production. The sooner the case numbers fall, the sooner citizens and students of Accra can get back to working on more technology to sustain and grow the region. Technology in Ghana has only progressed during the COVID-19 era, and is working toward helping the nation get rid of the virus.

– Kim Elsey
Photo: Flickr

Solar WashWith the rapid spread of COVID-19, public health and hygiene habits are being promoted unlike ever before. The importance of handwashing has been particularly emphasized as it is, according to The World Bank, “one of the most effective ways to prevent transmission of disease,” including COVID-19. However, in many countries where access to clean water is rare, disease and unsanitary conditions present an even greater threat.

Access to Water in Ghana

In Ghana, more than five million people utilize surface water to meet their basic needs.  Utilizing contaminated water is often the only option many people have. However, it leaves populations vulnerable to water-related diseases, infections and illnesses. In many cases, this discourages populations from practicing handwashing, taking daily baths, and ensuring their body is sufficiently nourished. As a result, the transmission of water-related diseases increases. This establishes and encourages poor hygiene, sanitary and personal care habits.

Solar Wash

Two native Ghanian brothers, Richard Kwarteng and Jude Osei, have developed a solar-powered handwashing basin in efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 and “encourage regular hand-washing etiquette,” Kwarteng said. The invention, called Solar Wash, uses just a few components. It comprises of an alarm, a sink, a sensor, a faucet, a motherboard and a solar panel. Solar Wash resembles a regular hand-washing sink but works in an even more hygienic, sustainable and cost-efficient manner.

Solar Wash’s sensors ensure users do not have to physically touch the faucet’s tap. First, upon sensing motion, the sensor dispenses soapy water and enacts an alarm for 25 seconds. This is in accordance with the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). After the 25 seconds, the tap dispenses just enough water for users to conclude washing their hands. Solar Wash acts as a handwashing station for 150 people during just one charging cycle.

The Ghanaian Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation is working with Kwarteng and Osei. They are working to ensure the continuation of Solar Wash manufacturing and its accessibility to people in all of Ghana.

Global Potential of Solar Wash

Solar Wash emerged in Ghana as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, continued manufacturing and placement of the invention would greatly improve conditions around the world, particularly those living in poverty. Continued use of Solar Wash, or similar technology, would:

  1. Reduce the spread of water-transmissible diseases – According to the CDC, “about 1.8 million children under the age of five die each year from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia.” The spread of pneumonia and diarrheal diseases can be significantly reduced with proper handwashing practices, protecting “about one out of every three young children who get sick with diarrhea and almost one out of five young children with respiratory infections like pneumonia.”
  2. Offer a sustainable solution to the global water crisis – In 2019, about two billion people were living in a country engulfed by high water stress. In other words, there were about two billion people without access to enough water to fulfill their basic needs. To globally address the water crisis, the world needs an affordable, sustainable and accessible solution, which Solar Wash offers.
  3. Reduce global poverty – UNICEF and the WHO said, “over half of the global population or 4.2 billion people lack safely managed sanitation services.” This contributes to the spread of many diseases and illnesses, including COVID-19, diarrheal diseases, cholera, adenovirus and salmonella. By reducing the spread of these infections, illnesses and diseases, populations have a lower chance of being engulfed by poverty. They will be able to work, attend school and so forth.

Conclusion

Innovations like Solar Wash demonstrate simple but important practices and solutions needed to alleviate poverty. Solar Wash offers a simple, affordable and sustainable means of practicing handwashing with its simple build and technical structure. An innovation like Solar Wash can play an immense role in reducing health-related concerns in Ghana. It can also help throughout the world with continued production and implementation.

– Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

the Marist Brothers
Saint Marcellin Champagnat formed the Institute of the Marist Brothers in 1817 with the mission of helping poor and marginalized children around the world. The community of Marist Brothers has now grown to include almost 3,000 members. In 2007, in the spirit of Champagnat’s vision, the Congregation of the Marist Brothers of the Schools established the Marist International Solidarity Foundation (FMSI) in Rome. Its mission is to provide quality care and education for all children. Today, the foundation directly improves the lives of more than 650,000 youth around the world. It does so through its presence in educational, social and youth centers. Three of FMSI’s important mission projects are in Ghana, Haiti and Lebanon.

Ghana: Marist Junior High School

With a fast-growing youth population, experts claim that Ghana has a unique opportunity to utilize its “demographic dividend” as a positive force for its society and economy. Without a strong educational system, however, the growing demographic could exacerbate the country’s poverty. Problems in the Ghanaian educational system, especially in rural settings, include shortages of qualified teachers, adequate teaching spaces and school materials. Additionally, literacy and learning standards are low. Educational institutions struggle to provide quality, inclusive teaching across gender and socioeconomic disparities. Thousands of children drop out of school because their families cannot afford the economic burden.

Fortunately, the Marist Brothers have been quietly contributing to the betterment of Ghanaian education. In 1998, the Marist Junior High School emerged in Sabin-Akrofrom. In this rural area, families cannot afford the transportation costs to send their children to city schools. Since its establishment, the Marist Junior High School has taught more than a thousand students who would have not received schooling otherwise. Its students meet high academic standards, and the facility is now prominent for its effective, inclusive and quality education for children living in remote areas of Ghana.

Haiti: the Collège Alexandre Dumas

In Haiti, thousands of children do not receive an adequate education because families cannot afford to make such financial sacrifices. Because of this, child labor is widespread in Haiti. As of 2019, more than 34% of children between the age of five and 14 were in the labor force. Child labor drastically reduces children’s opportunities to go to school. The government is unable to enforce a minimum age requirement for its workers or prohibit the use of children for dangerous work. Children left at orphanages also often work in hard domestic work.

The Marist Brothers have taken action to advocate for child rights and reduce child labor in the region of Latiboliere. The mission of the Collège Alexandre Dumas secondary school is to improve the lives of children who are vulnerable to exploitation. After successful negotiations with children’s families, the Marist Brothers are now able to host 100 boys and girls per year. In addition to providing basic schooling, this program offers nutritional meals, medical care, and recreational activities like sports and arts. These activities contribute to the Haitian children’s academic, emotional and social advancements. Overall, the school reduces the labor exploitation of minors by educating their families on the importance of schooling.

Lebanon: the Fratelli Project

Lebanon also faces the issue of widespread child labor, which impedes youth access to school. Immigrant children, whose parents experience exclusion from the Lebanese labor market, are especially vulnerable to labor trafficking. They can receive less pay and employers do not require identification papers. However, Lebanese families living in the poorest areas of the country face similar problems to those of immigrant families. Thus, Lebanese child labor is also on the rise. This cycle forces children to become the only source of income for many poor families who cannot afford to lose their support by sending them to school. Consequently, even the children enrolled in an educational institution have poor levels of attendance when due to seasonal labor.

The Marist Brothers’ school, Les Frères, has been helping children in Lebanon since before the Lebanese civil war. Now, in cooperation with the La Salle Brothers, the Marist brothers in Lebanon have introduced a new educational project called Fratelli. The Fratelli project supports hundreds of Lebanese and refugee children who have fallen behind in school. It incorporates socio-academic and vocational training to help them reintegrate into the Lebanese education system. FMSI provides funds to buy school materials, pay activity costs and finance the enlargement of buildings to make Les Frères accessible to more children.

Ghana, Haiti, and Lebanon are just three of the 81 countries around the world where the Marist Brothers have improved children’s lives. By protecting the world’s children, the Marist Brothers are effectively protecting the world’s future.

– Margherita Bassi
Photo: Flickr

Ghana Has Developed Its Technology to Produce Solutions
Over the last two decades, the Republic of Ghana has been the hub for technology production in sub-Saharan Africa. Ghana has developed its technology to produce solutions in its IT programs and sustainability training. One of the metropolitan cities in the Republic of Ghana, Accra, has always been the first to discover a new method or tool useful for technology and solutions. In the last 20 years, Ghana started with virtually no institutions for health, economy and environmental sustenance.

F.K.A. Allotey of the government of Ghana said that”We paid the price of not taking part in the Industrial Revolution…because we did not have the opportunity to see what was taking place in Europe. Now we see that information and communication technology has become an indispensable tool. This time we should not miss out on this technological revolution.” Here are seven ways Ghana has developed its technology to produce solutions.

7 Ways Ghana has Developed its Technology to Produce Solutions

  1. The Republic of Ghana has been making plans to promote economic growth for the last decade. Ghana has developed its technology to produce solutions due to a substantial lack of such in the last decade. It is shooting for a low to middle-income status in the upcoming decade. In order to accomplish this, the focus has shifted heavily on agriculture. Agriculture is the ticket to a sustainable living environment with food security, supplies and clothes, etc. The issues hindering productivity in Ghana have been farmland, economic conditions and infrastructure. This is due to the lack of fundamental training in land management and equipment. To combat this, widening the use of technology to make farming in Ghana easier should accelerate productivity. When technology makes things more convenient, people can accomplish more in one day.
  2. Productivity in Ghana is at a higher rate than its neighboring nations. Ghana uses 6% of its gross domestic product to pay for education, one of the highest percentages in the world. It is a participant in world trade. Gold, cocoa and oil are three of Ghana’s primary exports. This keeps profits high enough to continue to educate and train younger citizens to farm and harvest. For example, the GDP (gross domestic product) of the neighboring country Togo is less than Ghana. Meanwhile, 30% of the population in Togo lives below the poverty line (2,366,700 people). Ghana’s percentage of those below the poverty line is 23.4% (6,966,180 people).
  3. Ghana has made a shift to incentive-driven economic policies to improve leadership. In order to do this, smaller land rural farmers will now be able to identify their needs (crop production, improvements on harvest/post-harvest procedures and finding the value in their commodities). There will be more incentive to increase productivity when farmers feel that others are hearing and taking their needs into consideration. An NGO project by Obrobibini Peace Complex emerged to open sustainability training centers in Ghana, as being a regenerative nation is paramount. This project raised $18,194 out of its $20,000 goal. These training facilities should work to expand sustainability knowledge for marginalized Ghanaians. This project improved the health and livelihoods of the citizens in Ghana who are otherwise struggling with farming and equipment.
  4. In 2017, students at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology developed a solar-powered vehicle for transport called “aCar” to further explore the transportation needs of the country. Mostly, Ghananian farmers need transportation to and from the town markets (especially rural farmers) and also carry the goods that they need to sell. The aCar became a convenient way to transport goods and trade with other farmers at markets in town. The car is solar-powered, does not require fossil fuel and saves farmers money.
  5. In 2020, Accra is the hub for technological advancement and the future of the nation’s development. It is home to many tech firms and startup ideas. Accra acts as a host for pharmaceutical companies like “mPedigree” and “Rancard” that provide telecommunication services with other companies in the region. Setting up these telecommunication companies in the heart of Ghana’s metropolitan city has helped thousands of students growing up in Ghana find a path and way of learning. The median age in Ghana is 21 years old (5,230,050 people within the age range of 15-24). The future of Ghana is relying on young citizens to develop and further produce technological solutions to the prominent issues that currently lack such.
  6. Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) in Accra is providing complete IT training, funding for software startups and even mentorship for all students. Having more young people trained in IT is helpful for the progression of technology and productivity within the nation. These schools and programs give young Ghanaians inspiration, hope and prosperity for their future and that of the nation. Students originating from rural cities and towns are learning skills that they can use internationally or locally. They are learning environmental and technological problem-solving. Tech hubs like Impact Hub Accra, iSpace and MEST are working the minds of those who want to learn to develop their communities.
  7. After making executive decisions since 2000 to implement a plan to technologically develop and advance, there will always be room for further development and Ghana is reaching its peak. The introduction of the internet and wireless technology over the last 10 years has extended information to reach otherwise marginalized cities. Where the internet has yet to reach, radio broadcasting comes behind and reaches further into the rural corners of Ghana to keep people educated and informed.

Ghana has developed its technology to produce solutions and increasing more today than ever three years ago. The Ghanaians are young and flourishing constantly learning new things and adding programs to their hub for technological development to continue growing, developing and improving. In the next decade, Ghana hopes to become a self-sustaining, middle-class economy. In the next decade, technology improvements in Ghana will advance far beyond where they stand even now.

Kimberly Elsey
Photo: Flickr

Some developing countries are using a forgotten testing method called pool testing to control COVID-19 spread. This method requires fewer tests, costs less and provides a quicker turnaround time than the traditional method of testing each person individually. This article will explain three main points about this form of testing:

How Pool Testing Works

The basic principle behind pool testing is as follows: between five and 50 samples are collected from different individuals. These samples are then all mixed together and tested as one big pool. If the pool results are negative, it can be safely assumed that none of the individuals are COVID positive. If the pool results are positive, each individual’s sample must be tested separately to determine which sample contained the positive test.

In regions expected to have generally low rates of positive tests, this method saves an enormous amount of materials, as well as reduces cost for individuals and government agencies. A recent paper that details the optimal algorithms behind the testing hypothesizes that this method could reduce costs by a factor of “ten to a hundred or more.” The paper also recorded data from real-world settings. They took 1,280 real samples from Rwanda, and found only 1 positive test. It only took 64 total tests rather than the 1,280 it otherwise would have taken.

Pool testing was originally developed in the 1940s to test US army drafts for syphilis, by Robert Dorfman. Developing countries such as Rwanda and Ghana have been the first to implement this strategy in response to COVID-19. This form of testing is most effective, though, in regions with an expected low density of positive tests. In an area where lots of positive tests are expected, such as New York City, a large pool would more often come back positive, requiring more tests. This would mitigate much of the benefits that this form of testing provides.

Rwanda and Ghana’s Success With Pool Testing

Rwanda has responded quickly and effectively to COVID-19, partially due to recent experiences with other outbreaks, but also in part because of pool testing. The country is home to 12.3 million people, but has only reported five deaths. Similarly, Ghana has seen impressive results. As of July 22, the country, with 30 million people, has only had 153 deaths.

The Chinese city of Wuhan, the former epicenter of the pandemic, was able to conduct over 6.5 million tests in only nine days due to the utilization of pool testing.

Applications for developing countries in the future

As was mentioned earlier, pool testing is far more effective in areas with a lower density of positive cases. Most of Africa, home to lots of poor and developing countries, has yet to see the cases spike as they have in Western Europe and the United States. Since pandemics have the potential to cause far more damage to economically fragile countries, implementation of pool testing as early as possible would be incredibly beneficial for developing countries. Since costs are a particularly pressing issue for poor countries, pool testing’s reduction in costs would help immensely. Beyond mere financials, the logistical problem of the raw number of tests is aided through pool testing.

Novel solutions to the COVID-19 crisis exist. Strategies such as preemptive pool testing in developing countries could save millions of dollars and, more importantly, thousands upon thousands of lives. Developing countries should implement pool testing whenever possible, and continue to search for unique solutions to help minimize the negative impacts of COVID-19.

Evan Kuo
Photo: Department of Defense

Ghana, a small country located in West Africa, has dealt with tremendous economic struggles since the 1990s. Positive strides are being made to alleviate the economic crisis and improve the situation today, specifically for people experiencing poverty in Ghana. For example, in recent years, Ghana has achieved astronomical progress toward alleviating the economic burdens on its citizens. In the last two decades, Ghana has lowered its poverty rate by more than 30%. Its GDP increased 8% by 2006, the highest it has ever been. Significant changes were made to facilitate this progress in Ghana. First, the nation diversified its economy to create more products and services in different sectors. This led to increased consumerism and employment amongst the residents, which allowed Ghana’s economy to flourish.

Ghana Still Faces Poverty Challenges

Although many improvements were made to foster a steady economy in Ghana, many of its citizens still face significant challenges. Similar to the United States, when Ghana adopted a consumerist culture it consequently increased the wealth disparity within many regions. This affected the Upper West and the Upper East Regions, where the poverty rate has either increased or remained static.

The disparities among poverty rates in Ghana are a direct effect of geographical locations and climate. The lack of infrastructure, such as roads, in the Northern Region of Ghana, makes it difficult to transport goods and products. Despite these disparities, many families in both the Upper West and Upper East Regions have found creative means of accumulating extra income, such as the production of Shea butter. Some businesses, like Star Shea, provide loans for women as a means of starting production and accommodating transportation costs. 

In fact, many women believe these loans were advantageous in pursuing more educational opportunities. For example, Mrs. Atorneygene, a local resident in Ghana, utilized the proceeds from her Shea butter production to provide educational tools for her granddaughter. Changes being made on a local level, such as the production of Shea butter,  have proved to be beneficial in providing opportunities to marginalized regions.

Big Changes for Ghana

Changes on a national scale have also been instrumental in Ghana’s progress toward poverty reduction. According to the United Nations, Ghana plans to enact a Development Fund for its northern regions, especially areas with limitations in technology and other resources. In contrast to past politicians, John Nabila, former President of the National House of Chiefs, reinstated $1 billion toward the Development Fund. The government plans on prioritizing funds toward infrastructure and communications in order to unify Ghana and limit the economic disparities between these regions.

In addition, external organizations, such as The Hunger Project, are working toward alleviating poverty in Ghana. Since 1995, The Hunger Project has aided over 300,000 people by focusing on improving infrastructure, education reform and sanitation. The project focuses on building community centers, or “epicenters”, in order to collectively unify communities within Ghana and provide resources, such as electricity and clean water. As of now, over 40 epicenters receive clean water and sanitation, and almost all of them have health committees and clinics.

Even with the problems that Ghana has faced in the past, the nation has reached tremendous milestones and has made effective improvements within the last decade. With the help of the government, The Hunger Project and people in the community, Ghana has been able to make positive changes relating to its economy and wealth disparities. Now, a precedent has been set by Ghana regarding the instrumental changes needed to alleviate poverty.

– Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Flickr