Information and news about innovations

innovations in poverty eradication in ugandaWhen it comes to the fight against poverty, innovation is just as important as in any other field. Coming up with creative, sustainable solutions for such a massive problem is critical in any nation. However, it is more important in developing countries, where funds allocated for poverty reduction are often limited. By thinking outside the box, governments, private sector organizations and NGOs can effectively accomplish poverty reduction efforts across many sectors. Here are just a few innovations in poverty eradication in Uganda.

The Private Sector

In fact, the private sector is often where innovation originates and forward-thinking people thrive. Normally, many people think of poverty reduction as a job for governments and NGOs. However, by involving private corporations, the fight against poverty can work outside the bureaucracy that often impedes the work of governmental agencies.

Additionally, there is a large incentive for private businesses to get involved with poverty reduction. The world’s poor represents a largely untapped market of consumers. By lifting them out of poverty, businesses will create a larger client base and ultimately more profit. Today, 4 billion people are living on less than $8 a day. This segment of the population provides opportunities for expanded market development and human capital. Indeed, there is no shortage of entrepreneurs looking to work with this demographic.

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Uganda

The private sector is where many innovations in poverty eradication in Uganda emerge. One particular business-focused innovation that has taken hold in Uganda is microfinancing. Microfinancing practices give small loans to fledgling entrepreneurs. Recipients use the loans to grow their businesses, create jobs and positively impact their communities. This opportunity for those traditionally excluded from the banking system to obtain credit has done lots of good, particularly in Uganda.

For example, The Hunger Project is taking its microfinancing efforts one step further. Not only is it promoting economic self-reliance, but it is ensuring the inclusion of women. Women even lead its microfinancing program, giving them an influential voice in their communities. Thus, microfinancing is one among many innovations in poverty eradication in Uganda.

Empowering Women

Another success story is the Women’s Microfinance Initiative (WMI). WMI’s mission is “to establish village-level loan hubs. Local women administrate the loan hubs to provide capital, training and support services for women in East Africa. This is to help them engage in income-producing activities.” Since 2008, WMI has issued over $7.2 million in loans to more than 17,500 women in East Africa. The organization estimates that each loan provides a positive economic outcome for at least 20 people. Overall, this means that this program has reached over 350,000 individuals in the past 12 years.

The anecdotal evidence above as well as the available data show that microfinancing initiatives are effective innovations in poverty eradication in Uganda. According to the World Bank, the percentage of those living below the poverty line in Uganda decreased by 11.4% from 2006 to 2013. The organization credits much of this progress to agricultural innovations, many of which use microfinancing. This goes to show that often, innovation and progress happen from the bottom up.

Moving Forward

However, if this progress is to continue, innovators looking to further innovations in poverty eradication in Uganda need to focus on malnutrition, education, sanitation and electricity. Without access to these services, innovation efforts will fall short. Therefore, a potential approach to poverty reduction in Uganda would be a blend of governmental, NGO and private sector efforts. Long-term, inclusive and sustainable solutions can go a long way toward reducing poverty in Uganda and elsewhere.

Addison Collins
 Photo: Flickr

sanitation during covid-19COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is often spread through airborne droplets released by breathing or talking and by touching infected surfaces. Good hygiene is therefore an initial line of defense in preventing viral infection. However, hand washing requires access to clean water and effective sanitation. While COVID-19 has changed the way people think about hygiene, the lack of access many people in developing countries have to sanitation during COVID-19 remains the same.

Water Crises and Sanitation During COVID-19

More than one half of people around the world do not have access to high-quality sanitation facilities. Furthermore, COVID-19 has exacerbated this already tenuous water and sanitation situation in many parts of the world. Areas with hotspots, like Cairo and Mumbai, are often crowded with restricted public services.

To manage the immediate effects of COVID-19, governments in developing countries have turned to various short-term solutions. For example, Rwanda has installed mobile hand washing stations, while South Africa has begun to use water trucks. The Chilean government has also suspended water and sanitation charges for citizens. In a pandemic, automated water management systems are especially helpful in reducing loss, expanding access and preserving social distancing. In addition to these governmental reforms, many companies have used technology to shore up water and sanitation during COVID-19 in developing countries. Here are five organizations looking to improve sanitation during COVID-19.

Five Companies Improving Water and Sanitation During COVID-19

  1. Wonderkid: This start-up delivers smart solutions to the city of Nairobi, Kenya. The organization supplies water management software to utility companies to help address customer problems, billing, payments and running water meters. Wonderkid’s smart water meters track non-revenue water that does not reach the customer or leaks out of faulty pipes. Thus, Wonderkid allows water utilities to function more effectively and service more people. As of 2018, Wonderkid had expanded to help 36 utility companies in Mozambique, Nigeria, Malawi and Liberia.
  2. CityTaps: This organization provides poor families in Niger access to water at a much cheaper price than water vendors. Its smart water meters give water utilities more financial stability. Importantly, they can then expand their services to more poor families. This allows companies to meet the current needs for effective hygiene to fight COVID-19.
  3. Drinkwell: Impoverished people in Dhaka, Bangladesh often rely on illicit or expensive water sources. The social enterprise Drinkwell, a brainchild of American English Fulbright fellow Minjah Chowdury, provides water through ATMs. Drinkwell works with mobile service provider Robi Axiata and Dhaka WASA, a local water utility, to do so. It is also collaborating with Happy Tap, a mobile hygiene provider, to provide hand-washing services to people in Bangladesh.
  4. Sangery: Container-Based Sanitation (CBS) like Sanergy are an up and coming sanitation alternative for people in low-income areas. These systems are simpler and cheaper than sewer systems, but they are also cleaner than latrines and open defecation. CBS systems use a container to capture waste, which then turns into fertilizer. Sanergy uses this technology to resolve the sanitation crisis in Nairobi, Kenya. Run by three M.I.T. students, the company provides Fresh Life Toilets that fit into cramped urban dwellings and empty safely. The ability to have a private toilet is essential in practicing social distancing during the pandemic. During COVID-19, Sanergy has also provided 18 hand-washing stations that allow residents to practice good hygiene.
  5. Mosan: Similar to Sanergy, Mosan is a sanitation project based in Guatemala that provides container-based system toilets to people’s homes. The toilets have a durable, urine-diverting design, which keeps urine and feces in separate containers. They cover feces with dry materials like ash instead of water and eventually recycle them into usable fertilizer material. Such innovations make it more likely that people will stay at home during the pandemic. Additionally, Mosan is providing contactless pickup of containers to encourage people to stay home and social distance.

The Future of Sanitation in Developing Countries

COVID-19 has exposed weaknesses in global abilities to provide safe, clean water and sanitation in developing countries. Now, many people lack the water they need to combat the coronavirus. While it is not clear if COVID-19 can spread through human waste, proper sanitation also stops the spread of infectious disease in general.

By shoring up water services and sanitation during COVID-19 in developing countries, governments and other organizations in have provided stop-gap solutions to water and sanitation issues. Technologies like digital water meters, water ATMs, container-based toilets are now saving lives in a new way. Because they help people stay home and keep clean, these solutions allow developing countries to better fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Joseph Maria
Photo: Flickr

Limited access to healthcare is a challenge that millions of people face globally. According to data collected by the World Bank and W.H.O., roughly half of the global population had no way to access necessary health services in December 2017. The high costs of getting healthcare forced nearly 100 million people into poverty that year. For hundreds of millions of people across the world, even basic healthcare is economically out of reach. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has put additional strain on healthcare systems around the globe. The pandemic has disrupted medicine supply chains in many parts of the world, preventing vital medical supplies from reaching hospitals in a timely manner. This is particularly dangerous for developing countries with healthcare systems that were already struggling to meet their countries’ needs. However, recent technological innovations like BraineHealth are seeking to revolutionize healthcare to overcome these issues.

How BraineHealth Can Help

This problem may seem insurmountable, but not to BraineHealth. The Swedish company is hoping to use artificial intelligence and robotics to make healthcare more accessible for people throughout the world. BraineHealth’s healthcare innovations can apply many areas of healthcare, such as primary healthcare, senior healthcare and mental health services. In all these areas, BraineHealth hopes to connect doctors and other medical professionals with their patients in a way that is easy, affordable and safe.

With BraineHealth’s system, patients could potentially receive diagnoses and expert medical consultations without having to leave their homes. This would reduce medical costs and travel expenses for patients, and it would provide a safer alternative to in-person appointments. Here are four BraineHealth programs that seek to revolutionize healthcare.

4 BraineHealth Programs Revolutionizing Healthcare

  1. Artificial Intelligence: BraineHealth is developing an AI program that will allow for quicker and more efficient remote diagnoses. This program receives information about a patient’s symptoms provided by the patient and analyzes this report. By examining it against a database of thousands of documented diagnoses, the algorithm can provide as accurate a diagnosis as possible.
  2. Diabetio: This program combines social robotics and artificial intelligence to assist diabetic patients with managing their diabetes. The Diabetio robot will help manage the patient’s carbohydrate intake, and it will keep the patient informed about whether they are at risk of developing diabetes. To help the patient most efficiently, this program will retain and process information about the patient’s daily activities.
  3. Medipacker: BraineHealth is also looking to revolutionize healthcare by expanding access to medical information and education through its Medipacker education program. This program aims to give backpackers the opportunity to become qualified first-aid providers at little to no cost. By removing economic barriers to first-aid education, BraineHealth hopes to encourage more people around the world to learn about emergency medicine.
  4. InEmpathy: Recently, BraineHealth has partnered with the charity InEmpathy. InEmpathy’s work focuses on building better systems of healthcare in developing countries. Crucially, this organization is now helping to bring BraineHealth’s technological innovations to communities in need. BraineHealth will therefore be able to adapt its technologies to best fit the needs of their destination countries.

Looking to the Future

Millions worldwide lack adequate access to healthcare. Even in areas that have hospitals, the costs of health services are often too high for poor communities. Using technological innovation, BraineHealth is working to revolutionize healthcare so that the people in these communities can have access to healthcare that would otherwise be out of reach.

Marshall Kirk
Photo: Flickr

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Turkey
Turkey is a nation that sits on Europe’s gateway to the Middle East. The country is physically located between Greece and Bulgaria on the European front and Syria, Iraq and Iran in the Middle East. Concerning rates of absolute poverty in Turkey, the numbers have decreased from 36.5% to 9.3%, since 2003. Also, Turkey ranks as the 19th largest economy in the world. However, recent financial challenges are threatening that status and potentially, future progress. Before there was a need to deal with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, Turkey tackled the Syrian refugee crisis. In this line of action, Turkey took on the responsibility of integrating and assimilating 4 million refugees. Fortunately, foreign organizations like the World Bank have made innovations in poverty eradication possible, empowering Turkey to pursue avenues of poverty eradication through domestic ventures.

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Turkey (Rural Poor)

Policymakers in Turkey are aware of the weakest sector, namely agriculture. Both geographically and socially, workers in the agriculture sector in Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia, experience the highest poverty rate in the country. This figure is reported at 46.6%.

Development projects have been proposed by Turkey and are supported by a specialized U.N. agency called the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The rural poor have been receiving aid for the last 30 years from the IFAD, amounting to about $189 of $661 million, spent across 10 projects. Notably, this aid has impacted 1.3 million households. Importantly, the IFAD has targeted rural infrastructure, which has been their greatest investment. The construction of roads in villages, as well as investments in irrigation, led to the improvement of markets and mobility. In a broad analysis, these elements in society help improve the quality of life for the rural poor. Moreover, it is the rural poor who are most affected by inequality and a lack of resources.

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Turkey (Refugees)

The Emergency Social Safety Net program (ESSN) was implemented in November 2016, to provide refugees with their essential needs via monthly cash transfers. Innovations in poverty eradication in Turkey are crucial as poverty affects about 76% of ESSN refugees. The Facility for Refugees administers ESSN in Turkey and the E.U. (i.e. its member states) also have a financial stake in the program. This makes the ESSN the largest-ever humanitarian aid program financed by the E.U.

The World Bank also plays a major role in poverty eradication efforts and calculations in Turkey. The World Bank recently reported that the implementation of phone surveys is underway, to help mediate the refugee population. As a result, Turkey is now able to track levels of poverty and assimilation among refugees within five subnational regions.

Ultimately Turkey has the right programs and the right international bodies in place to continue trying to combat poverty. Yet, poverty in Turkey remains complex. In addition to the reality that COVID-19 disproportionately affects poorer communities, Turkey must be mindful of integrating millions of refugees with different backgrounds, into Turkish society. Having fewer resources to do so, the government agenda necessitates a shift to a focus on the economic crisis.

– Ilke Arkan
Photo: Flickr

Global Food SecurityThe global population has been growing exponentially in the last few decades as compared to earlier times in human history, given that 42% of the population is under the age of 25. With a rapidly growing population, global food security is threatened and it is expected that without major agricultural enhancement, there will not be enough food for future generations. By 2050, crop production must grow by 60-100% from 2005 levels in order to avoid this fate.

Youth hold the future of the global food system in their hands. There are many young people working to combat the global food security crisis in a way that puts sights on the future, not the present. Through scientific innovations, advocacy and more, these young men and women not only give hope for a world with less hunger but also vehemently encourage others to join them. Some examples of their work follow. 

Kiranjit Kaur: Kisan Mazdoor Khudkushi Peedit Parivar Committee

Kiranjit Kaur of India, a 23-year-old political science postgraduate student from Punjab state, is a pioneer in the fight against farmer suicide. Losing her own father to suicide spurred her to focus on community engagement to address the statistics of over 16,000 farmer suicides in India each year. With 39% of the employed population working in agriculture, success is important for the health and well-being of farming families.

Punjab was an agricultural haven during the Green Revolution, but since the 1990s, with increased land productivity and the cost of agriculture, loans have become a norm and financial stress has increased. Kaur motivates the women in her community to participate in a social campaign that focuses on mental health, mutual support and activism. As for now, she spends most of her time working with the group but plans to do a Ph.D. on farmer suicide in the future.

Craig Piggott: Halter

A New Zealand native, Craig Piggott dedicates his talents to agricultural innovations in herding and tracking cows. His invention involves a GPS-enabled and solar-powered collar for cows, Halter, which enables farmers to herd the animals remotely; using sounds and vibrations to both direct the cows and alert the farmers of any issues. Piggott developed the app through three years of testing, and a few dairy farmers in Waikato are eager to implement the technology within their own herds. With more testing and exposure, he hopes to extend the program nationally to aid New Zealand’s agricultural field.

This innovative app will save time and resources by decreasing the farmer’s workload and using grazing grass more efficiently, thanks to the virtual fences. Piggott’s company was founded in 2016 when he was 22-years-old and has grown to a current team of more than 40 scientists, engineers and other professionals.

Sophie Healy-Thow: Scaling Up Nutrition

Sophie Healy-Thow, a 20-year-old Irish college student, is a prominent European name in the rural development advocacy and global food security spaces. She and her team’s natural bacteria project won the BT Young Scientist Exhibition in 2013, and she was also named one of Time magazine’s Most Influential Teens. Healy-Thow also speaks out about calling leaders to action, and hopes for a time when young people are listened to and engaged instead of just getting a pat on the head.

Today she speaks at the U.N. conventions and TED talks and is part of a team developing a Kenyan project called Agrikua, which focuses on encouraging women’s involvement in agriculture, providing education and other support. After university, she plans to work for a charitable organization that helps women, inspired by her current involvement in ActionAid U.K.

Jefferson Kang’acha: The Eden Horticultural Club

Food security is not a new issue in 19-year-old Jefferson Kang’acha’s life in Kenya, and he works to grow tomatoes in order to protect the staple ingredient of many Kenyan households. Due to declining yields, the price of tomatoes has spiked to high prices that most Kenyan families cannot afford. In response, Kang’acha developed the hydroponic production of tomatoes, which grows the plants with no soil and in a controlled climate.

By founding the Eden Horticultural Club, he is able to provide tomatoes to his community, including schools and hospitals in the area. In the first few months alone, he was able to distribute 2.5 tons of tomatoes to more than 100 households. He hopes to one day use this process to assist global food security throughout Africa and beyond.

The Future of Global Food Security

The future of the agriculture industry is hard to predict, but the U.N. encourages youth participation and innovation to solve the problem. Goal 2 of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development) seeks to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” Vast problems require bold solutions, and these four young people are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to innovators doing their part to protect global food security.

Savannah Gardner
Photo: Pixabay

Education in South Korea
After the Korean War, South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world with a GDP per capita of $79. Today, it is home to many innovative technology companies and has a GDP of $1.619 trillion. This massive progress is largely due to the high standards of education in South Korea. With a strong cultural emphasis on education, the country was able to develop a flourishing economy and facilitate poverty reduction.

The Principles of Education

Education has always been important for Koreans. In the 18th century Korea, neo-Confucianist ideals and a stringent class system framed the Korean social order. Many considered education essential to slowly eliminate social stratification and offer equal opportunities. In fact, King Sejong the Great, the fourth king of the Joseon dynasty, created the Korean alphabet Hangul for that specific purpose. He wanted all of his people to be able to read and write, not just those of higher social class.

During the Japanese colonization of Korea, which lasted from 1910 until 1945, Japanese became the official language and Hangul was completely banned. Despite Japan’s imposed restraints on potential educational opportunities for Koreans during this time, the desire for education persisted. It was so tremendous that after Korea gained independence, the Korean people overwhelmingly demanded more opportunities for education. It evolved into a standard of economic and social mobility, or the fairest way to move up the socio-economic ladder. The industrialization process began through this principle, subsequently making education essential for employment.

South Korea’s Rise to the Top

In 1945, around the end of Japanese colonization, South Korea’s literacy rate was 22%, among the lowest in the world. To eradicate illiteracy, South Korea launched campaigns that aimed to educate those who did not have primary education. Additionally, in the 1950s, the government made elementary school obligatory by law. As a result, South Korea’s literacy rate rose to 96% by 1958.

The policies used to increase literacy rates also contributed to the rise in post-secondary education. South Korea ranks as the number one most educated country, where almost 70% of individuals between the ages of 25 and 34 have completed college, university or any other form of higher education.

Along with education in South Korea, the country’s economy transformed tremendously. Many consider South Korea’s economy to the most innovative economy regarding technology and has ranked number one in innovation for several years, raising its GDP to $1.619 trillion. Its ratio of research and development program spending to GDP is the highest in the world. South Korea has one of the most intricate and interconnected economies, leading in exports of information and communications technology as well as automobiles. It is also the first country to introduce 5G internet services for mobile carriers.

Education, Labor and Technology

The South Korean government believed that economic development on a national scale required high learning abilities and cognitive skills. By investing in education, students would develop skills and knowledge that would help in becoming excellent workers. The economy then flourishes and begins to invest back into education. The government also made sure to provide vocational or technical training which, alongside education in South Korea, has contributed to the low unemployment of 3.7%.

The emphasis on education in South Korea extends beyond national economic improvement. Technological companies such as Samsung encourage corporate-academic collaborations with universities like Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejeon where they collaborate on research in electrochemistry and the development of new energy sources. Samsung has also provided technology to classrooms in an attempt to reduce the education gap.

Reduction of Poverty

The international community has long-since known that education alleviates poverty. There is a strong correlation between education, economic empowerment and low unemployment. Education helps economies grow and infrastructures develop. In South Korea, it was government policy that made education the biggest portion of the budget, next to defense. Government policy also used land reform to boost education. Land reform redistributed land which significantly reduced land ownership inequality. It thereby changed social policy, reduced poverty and aided in bringing educational levels to an all-time high. Rural populations with higher levels of education in South Korea produced a large workforce of well-educated individuals that served as a catalyst for industrialization and reduction of poverty. Today, although South Korea still battles poverty and an education gap between the rich and the poor, the country and its economy have greatly transformed since 1945.

Nada Abuasi
Photo: Unsplash

Innovation in Poverty Eradication in Costa RicaCosta Rica, a country in Central America known for its beautiful Caribbean beaches and biodiversity, has the lowest rate of poverty in Central America. However, rural areas still struggle somewhat with poverty. About 20% of Costa Ricans are currently living under the poverty line, making less than $155 a month. Thankfully, there are many innovations in poverty eradication in Costa Rica helping those most affected. New technologies, for example, are helping with education both remotely and in school. Here are a few innovations in poverty eradication in Costa Rica.

Education in Costa Rica

Academically, Latin America falls behind in mathematics. Children at a young age need to learn math to get a good start in school. But without resources, children in Costa Rica struggle to get a quality education. This not only affects their test scores but also their mindsets.

High-level education is also a problem in Costa Rica. As a small country, Costa Rica lacks the required resources to provide high-quality education for all of its students. About 4% of the country’s population 15 or older currently doesn’t know how to read and write. Poor early education often leads to illiteracy in teenagers. With preschool starting at the age of four, it is important that kids get a good start right away. Thankfully, there are innovations in poverty eradication in Costa Rica working to improve education in Costa Rica.

Tech Innovation in Costa Rica

To solve this issue, researchers and the country’s education ministry have implemented a pilot program focused on math and programming skills for preschool students. The Pensalo program offers a highly intelligent robot named “Albert” to assist students. This robot scans a series of flashcards, helps with sharpening memory and shows instructions that use mathematical and numerical concepts. This innovation in poverty eradication in Costa Rica has impacted 392 schools in four different provinces. So far, this robot has given children a great start to education.

Albert’s Impact

SK Telecom designed Albert after an agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to figure out a solution so that kids can have more opportunities to grow and learn in Costa Rica. With IDB being a good source of development in financing for Latin America, it was able to provide 1,500 robots for schools. Not only does this help education in Costa Rica, but it can also set a good influence in different countries. Albert shows that Costa Rica is able to create a sustainable level of quality education.

This is one of many innovations in poverty eradication in Costa Rica that have helped provide a good education to young students. Thanks to the Albert robot, children can now get a strong start to their education. This will have a ripple effect in the future, as education is a significant obstacle for children to overcome to escape poverty.

Rachel Hernandez
Photo: Pixabay

coronavirus in kenya
Stephen Wamukota wanted to help his community fight the coronavirus in Kenya. The nine-year-old from the western Kenyan county of Bungoma used his ingenuity and what little resources he had to create a semi-automatic hand-washing machine for his community. His hard work has led to the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, to present him with the Presidential Order of Service.

The Coronavirus in Kenya

As of mid-August 2020, there had been more than 30,000 cases of coronavirus in Kenya. Of those, more than 500 patients have died. Currently, there are more than 18,000 Kenyans who have recovered from the virus and are out of the hospital. With a population of 52.5 million, the East African nation needs to act quickly if it wants to stop the coronavirus in its tracks.

However, Kenya’s hospitals lack the equipment required to fight the pandemic. Many hospitals are in desperate need of oxygen, gloves, waste storage and specialists who are familiar with the symptoms of the coronavirus. The situation is especially challenging in rural areas, where there is very little medical care for the people living away from big cities. Kenya’s Bungoma County is no exception, being one of the poorest counties in Kenya. Despite these challenges, Wamukota and his father stepped up in a big way to help out their community fight the coronavirus in Kenya.

The Hand-washing Machine

Held together by some nails and bits of wood lying around the outside his house, Wamukota’s hand-washing machine is a straightforward but smart design. It works by using two foot pedals at the base of the machine. When users step on one, it releases the soap into their hands, and the other pedal releases the water. This design allows those in the community to wash their hands and not have to touch the same surfaces as others to prevent the potential spread of the virus.

Wamukota thought of this design and implemented it with the help of his father. His father had wanted to use the wood to build a window, but that changed when he saw the work his son put into imagining the machine. Wamukota came up with the idea when he saw on the local news station that it was essential to wash your hands to keep safe from the virus. For his efforts, Wamukota received a presidential award, along with many others who have fought to contain the spread of the coronavirus in Kenya. Since receiving the award, Wamukota has expressed interest in going to college to be an engineer. In response, the governor of Bungoma County has offered him an engineering scholarship once he is old enough to attend college.

Moving Forward

With limited resources and a strong drive to help those around him, Wamukota has shown that you don’t need much in order to make a difference in your community. While there is still much to do to fight the coronavirus in Kenya, both in the rural and urban areas, the country is making progress. This comes from the ingenuity of people like Wamukota, who are willing to do their part to keep their communities safe during these hard times.

Sam Bostwick
Photo: Flickr

poverty eradication in Switzerland
The Central European nation, known as Switzerland, may have a reputation for being a country full of bankers while holding nearly the highest GDP per capita. However, an ignored (and perhaps somewhat surprising) problem about the country is poverty. Though Switzerland has a relatively generous social benefit program, in addition to great schooling — those who do not quite fit the seemingly “well off” stereotype end up struggling. Moreover, for these people, the country’s very high cost of living exacerbates the problem. Innovations in poverty eradication in Switzerland, both public and private, have done solid work to help remedy the complex problem of poverty, to a certain extent.

Swiss Solidarity

One of the private aid organizations, which are currently influential in Switzerland, is “Swiss Solidarity.” This private organization is not only crucial in helping Swiss citizens who fall into poverty, but also citizens of other nations, abroad. One of the key examples of how this innovative, private aid organization operates is through direct monetary assistance to its citizens.

Swiss Solidarity has a program titled, “Severe Weather Assistance Program” that directs funds to disadvantaged individuals within Swiss society affected by severe weather. This fund for natural disasters is vital in creating a strong social safety net that stops people from going into unbridled bankruptcy — if and when disaster strikes.

In addition to their specific programs, Swiss Solidarity partners with many other organizations that attempt to fight poverty and its downstream effects. Swiss Solidarity officially partners with 26 NGOs, including Save the Children Switzerland, SolidarMED, Swiss Red Cross and Nouvelle Planète, among others.  This cooperation between organizations helps to maximize the effectiveness of their outreach.

Switzerland’s Successful Programs and Policies

Though Switzerland does not have a generous welfare state, like some other Western European countries and the United States, Switzerland leverages the power of prudent policy decisions to reduce poverty within the country. One of the key policy decisions that Switzerland has implemented is called a “social insurance” program. In Switzerland, every business and citizen pays into this program. The program covers things such as sickness, disability and other tragedies that might put people out of work. Alternatively, in other nations, disability or sickness may plunge people into poverty without much hope for relief.

Another of the key innovations promoting poverty eradication in Switzerland is its brilliant foresight concerning public policy. Switzerland actively tries to write legislation that preemptively addresses the roots of poverty — rather than trying to focus on alleviating at the back end, when millions of lives already experienced despair. Also, Switzerland places a very high priority level on education and makes sure that each child has access to quality education. This, in turn, serves to point them toward a field in which they can work and support themselves.

These are just two examples of how both private and public industries can evolve to help the poor in Switzerland. Specifically, Switzerland’s culture of shared responsibility and relative cosmopolitanism helps private organizations thrive. Moreover, foresight and intelligent planning make public governance work best for all of the people. Both of these factors are innovations in poverty eradication in Switzerland that also help increase overall well-being within the country.

– Zak Schneider
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

africa innovation challenge“What’s New?” This is the question engraved on a medallion for the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research. Johnson & Johnson (J&J) created the award in 2014 to honor Janssen, a prominent pharmaceutical researcher who passed away in 2003. Janssen would pose this two-word question daily to his research and development lab. Now, every year, the award is given to an innovative and passionate scientist or team of scientists alongside a $200,000 prize as part of J&J’s Africa Innovation Challenge.

The Africa Innovation Challenge

The challenge is part of J&J’s Champions of Science initiative. Seema Kumar, J&J’s vice president of innovation, global health and policy communication, explains that the initiative is designed to “champion science” because “science needs champions.” The 2016 launch of J&J’s Africa Innovation Challenge 1.0 was part of a geo-specific initiative to support scientific advancements in Africa. Such developments are key to improving healthcare in impoverished areas.

J&J sought applications from Africa-based entrepreneurs who were creating new healthcare services and products in “early childhood development and maternal health,” “empowering young girls” and “overall family well-being.” Winners received mentorship from J&J’s team of researchers, engineers and scientists as well as up to $100,000 in funding.

The Need for Innovation

Access to healthcare is often a hurdle throughout Africa. Twenty-seven of the world’s 28 poorest countries are located in Sub-Saharan Africa. As of 2015, the majority of the world’s poor reside in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the average poverty rate is 41%. In comparison, data from 2018 suggests that approximately 8.6% of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty.

With such high rates of poverty, it is estimated that less than 50% of Africans have access to modern healthcare facilities. In 2009, sub-Saharan Africa spent only 6.1% of its GDP on healthcare. For the majority of African countries, less than 10% of their GDP goes toward health expenditures. The continent consequently has the highest mortality rates in the world and is the sole continent in which deaths from chronic diseases are outnumbered by deaths from infectious diseases.

J&J’s Africa Innovation Challenge aims to alter these statistics and improve healthcare in Africa through science-based initiatives. After naming three Africa Innovation Challenge winners in 2017, J&J launched the Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0 in 2018. This time, the six challenge categories were “botanical solutions,” “packaging innovations,” “mental health,” “health worker support,” “digital health tools” and “essential surgical care.” J&J announced six winners, who each received up to $50,000 in funding. These are the nine companies that have won the Africa Innovation Challenge since its launch in 2016.

Winners of the Africa Innovation Challenge

  1. 2017 winner SaCoDé makes washable and re-wearable pads that tie around the waist for girls and women in Burundi. The pads prevent infection among the many Burundian women who cannot afford disposable pads. Since winning the Africa Innovation Challenge, SaCoDé has opened two new manufacturing locations and created jobs for 20 women in Burundi.
  2. 2017 winner Innov Asepsis makes hands-free faucets. There is an approximately 60% chance of contracting an infection from unclean faucet handles in Uganda, but these hands-free faucets reduce the risk of infection by eliminating contact. PedalTaps fit onto existing sinks to reduce the spread of diseases related to faucet handles.
  3. 2017 winner J-Palm is a makeup and skincare brand made from cold-pressed palm oil. Makeup products imported into Liberia are affordable and popular but are often made with chemicals that may be toxic. J-Palm addresses this issue by providing customers with affordable, safe makeup products. The company supports local farmers and has created 330 new jobs in Liberia.
  4. 2019 winner LifeBank is a digital platform with the goal of increasing safety, efficiency and efficacy in Nigeria’s blood supply chain. Approximately 8% to 14% of HIV cases in Nigeria are a consequence of poor safety and regulatory measures in the blood donation system. LifeBank works to deliver the necessary blood for transfusions to Nigerian hospitals in less than 45 minutes to improve the quality of the blood supply chain.
  5. 2019 winner The Hope Initiative uses a validated metric to measure “hope among nurses and mothers” in Rwanda and to “understand how hope intersects with healthcare worker burnout and perinatal health outcomes,” according to the J&J website. An estimated 50% of healthcare workers are classified as “high risk” for experiencing burnout. Based on demonstrated research that hope decreases burnout, The Hope Initiative’s goal is to diminish burnout among emergency care workers by identifying the “interventions that positively influence hope.”
  6. 2019 winner Dreet is a Botswanan phone application that uses hearing device tests and remotely connects children in rural Africa to healthcare professionals. Approximately 67% of the world’s hearing-impaired population resides in developing countries. The Dreet application helps families navigate life with a hearing-impaired child while working to mitigate high or unnecessary healthcare expenses.
  7. 2019 winner Crib A’ Glow is a “solar-powered, foldable phototherapy crib provided to hospitals, health centers and parents” in communities across Nigeria to treat infant jaundice, according to the J&J website. Infant jaundice most commonly occurs when babies’ livers have not matured sufficiently in order to remove a chemical compound called bilirubin from the bloodstream. An estimated 6 million babies worldwide do not receive treatment for jaundice. Left untreated, jaundice can cause hearing loss, developmental issues, cerebral palsy and, in some cases, death. Crib A’ Glow helps to give poor infants a chance.
  8. 2019 winner Uganics manufactures mosquito-repelling soap that is both affordable and organic. Africa has the world’s highest rates of malaria transmission. In 2018, the continent was home to 93% of the world’s malaria cases and 94% of malaria-related deaths. Sixty-seven percent of those deaths were children. Uganics’s soap helps prevent malaria from spreading in Uganda.
  9. 2019 winner M-SCAN aims to help pregnant women in rural Ugandan communities who do not have access to ultrasounds. The company’s device uses a portable probe and smartphone, laptop or tablet to perform ultrasounds. This device helps healthcare professionals and/or midwives prepare for any risks that may arise during delivery.

The winning companies, or “Champions of Science,” have helped increase healthcare access among Africa’s poor while also improving healthcare safety. Through J&J’s Africa Innovation Challenge, these sustainable solutions to public health problems have also created jobs, providing workers with stable incomes and helping boost countries’ economies. By expanding support and funding for public health innovations, companies, organizations and governments can continue to “champion” change.

– Zoe Engels
Photo: Flickr