VillageReach is Improving Healthcare
The history behind VillageReach is very similar to The Borgen Project’s history. Blaise Judja-Sato, a native Cameroonian, founded VillageReach in 2000 after returning to Africa to aid in the relief efforts of a devastating flood in Mozambique. While he was in Mozambique, Judja-Sato saw a problem with the healthcare system. Since many citizens live in rural areas, the government could not provide them with the medical supplies they needed, which led to their frustration. Thus, she coined the phrase “starting at the last mile” and established VillageReach. Here is some information about how VillageReach is improving healthcare in low and middle-income countries.

Healthcare That Reaches Everyone

VillageReach’s mission is simple. It aims to reach “the last mile” in LMICs (low and middle-income countries) where people do not always have access to healthcare or any at all. Even with VillageReach, 1 billion people do not have access to healthcare. However, VR is working to improve the already existing health systems in different areas. It focuses on four pillars including healthcare accessibility, information availability, human resource constraints and lack of infrastructure. VillageReach is improving healthcare in these countries so that the people in and out of rural areas thrive.

Big Partners

Additionally, VR has over 30 partners that keep its organization running strong. From the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to UNICEF, VR has quite an array of influential partners. The President of the organization is Emily Bancroft. She stated that VR “could not have made an impact the last 20 years without the collaborative power of partnership.” The team is spread out over 13 countries. It has headquarters in Seattle, Washington and offices in Mozambique, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Drones

Furthermore, in 2019, VR collaborated with the Ministry of Health, Swoop Aero and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to launch the Drone Project in the Équateur Province of the DRC. The partners decided to pick this place in the DRC because of its many geographical challenges. More than half of the health systems in place are only accessible by river. The goal of the Drone Project is to increase vaccine availability in areas that are hard to reach. The drones, provided by Swoop Aero, can take off with the push of a button and land without guidance. It can also carry around six pounds. After the Drone Project’s first flights were successful, the partners are already thinking bigger, brainstorming on how to send other medical supplies and equipment.

COVID-19 Response

Also, VR is a supporter of the COVID-19 Action Fund for Africa. The initiative works to supply PPEs (personal protective equipment) to community health workers in Africa. PPEs are practically inaccessible in most African countries and the consequences are horrible. Health workers stay home or work without PPEs. With health workers not working, there is no way that Africa will be able to stop the spread of COVID-19. VR plays a crucial part in the initiative’s seven-approach plan, which focuses on the last mile and working with similar in-country organizations to accomplish its goals.

Recognition

As a 20-year-old organization, VR received recognition numerous times for its fantastic work in Sub-Saharan Africa. Recently, the Washington Global Health Alliance honored VR with the Pioneers Outstanding Organization Award. The WGHA awards winners that work hard to improve health equity all over the world. The judges select winners, and in 2020, WGHA board member Erin McCarthy led it. VR received an award for its innovative approach, collaborations with local governments in the places it works and its international emphasis on equity.

Overall, from COVID-19 response to innovating delivering vaccines by drones, VillageReach has covered it all in its 20 years of service to the world. VR is improving healthcare, one small rural village at a time.

– Bailey Sparks
Photo: Flickr

literacy rate in mozambiqueBefore 1975, the education system in Mozambique was selective and disproportionally catered to the Portuguese populations. Churches owned private schools to serve the upper-class Portuguese. The only schools available for Mozambique natives were missionary schools. This system discriminated against Mozambique natives and led to some disastrous results. In particular, many Mozambique natives attended a school that taught inefficiently because the missionary schools had low budgets. Some teachers did not show up, and schools did not provide enough textbooks; if they did, they were outdated. This combination created antiquated learning curriculums with no standardization or structure. When Mozambique declared its independence from Portugal, the National System of Education (SNE) was created to run standardized education for all populations in Mozambique. Over time, the literacy rate in Mozambique has increased, a change that can be attributed to the SNE as well as other important initiatives.

The Current Education System

Mozambique law requires that all citizens attend school through the primary levels, grades one to six. After grade seven, the law requires students to take a national exam in order to qualify for entrance into secondary school, which runs from grades eight to 10. After secondary school, the majority of students either return to their parents’ subsistence farms, gain employment as teachers or are unemployed due to limited space in universities.

However, Mozambique’s primary school population more than tripled from 1995 to 2005, going from 1.3 million to 3.8 million. The number of unenrolled children in primary school accordingly decreased from roughly 470,000 in 2010 to 354,000 in 2018. Meanwhile, the gross enrollment ratio for students in secondary school has steadily increased, going from roughly 25% in 2010 to 35% in 2017. The gross enrollment ratio for students in university (tertiary) education has increased slowly from roughly 4.5% in 2010 to 7% in 2018. The end result of these numbers naturally increased the literacy rate in Mozambique. For example, the literacy rate in Mozambique among those 15 or older has increased from 25% in 1980 to 60% in 2018.

Increasing the Literacy Rate in Mozambique

The Ministry of Education initiated a new program to decentralize curriculum development and monitoring so that only 20% of the national curriculum would be allocated for “local” curricula. These local curricula would teach students specific skills or techniques they may need in their particular region or district. Importantly, the initiative has led to the increased enrollment of students as well as an increased literacy rate in Mozambique.

The Mozambique government has also made great strides to increase access and efficiency of the education system. It has taken away school fees and invested in creating more schools while providing more resources for students at the primary level. The education secretary now receives almost 15% of the state budget, which has significantly helped push for an increased enrollment rate and literacy rate in Mozambique.

The 2012–2019 Education Strategic Plan and the 2015–2018 Primary Education Operational Plan focused on two areas to improve upon: quality and access to education. The government wanted to focus on pre-primary and primary education so that students receive a solid foundation for learning. This would increase the population’s and future generations’ literacy rate. To accomplish this, the government has cited the following priorities: promote increased access to early learning and school readiness, improve quality of primary education, promote increased access for vulnerable children, retain adolescent girls and create efficient capacity building for better planning, management and monitoring at the national, sub-national and local levels.

International Aid and Assistance

World Education is an organization that creates programs to help improve education in countries all over the world. It has contributed significantly to the Ministry of Education’s planning for increased literacy rates within the country. In particular, World Education has helped implement the Early Grade Reading Project. This project would train more teachers in creating instruction materials, evaluating students and understanding reading improvement. World Education has also introduced the Let’s Read program to Mozambique. This program helps develop students’ skills in writing and reading in the local language. It also improves their speaking and listening skills in Portuguese.

The World Bank has also provided significant funds and assistance for the increased literacy rate in Mozambique. In 2015, the World Bank approved more than $107.9 million to support quality, access and equity of education. Some of the activities these funds help to support include improving school readiness through early childhood development programs, implementing curriculum reform, adding more teacher-training, enhancing local and state governance in curriculum creation and focusing on resources for more vulnerable students.

What Is the United States Doing?

The United States has recently allocated $15 million to the Mozambique Ministry of Education during the COVID-19 pandemic. These funds will help set up a crisis management team; provide distance learning programs through technology; enforce psycho-social support for children experiencing distress, anxiety or trauma; re-stock textbooks when school re-opens and adjust classes  for students who are falling behind or have special education needs.

Final Takeaway

The Mozambique government has persevered in improving its literacy curriculum, increasing access to education and resourcing schools. The literacy rate in Mozambique has steadily increased since 1980 as a result. Importantly, this increased literacy rate will continue to serve the Mozambique people as they work to further improve education.

Aria Ma
Photo: Flickr

Efforts and Solutions for the Refugee Crisis in Mozambique
Mozambique is facing a refugee crisis. Around 600 people have been killed and over 115,000 people are displaced due to violence in Cabo Delgado. Most internally displaced people fled to Pemba, with others opting to escape to Mocimba da Praia, Ibo Island and Macomia. The region, one of the poorest in Mozambique, is prone to violence, disease outbreaks and extreme weather events, such as 2019’s Cyclone Kenneth.

Conflict in Cabo Delgado

Ansar al Sunna is allegedly responsible for much of the recent violence. It carried out attacks more frequently beginning in 2020. Violence in Cabo Delgado has now spread to most of the province’s 17 districts. Because of the attacks, agricultural workers have stopped planting crops. As a result, there is rising food insecurity and loss of income. In addition, the increased violence is preventing students and teachers from being in schools, threatening to lower the current literacy rate of 44% in the province.

The Refugee Crisis in Mozambique

The most urgent need for refugees is shelter, but this presents several challenges. Dozens of people have been living together in the same home after fleeing violence in Cabo Delgado. Additionally, thousands have been residing in schools set up as makeshift shelters, causing COVID-19 to spread more easily.

Additionally, violence has caused people to abandon numerous hospitals in Cabo Delgado. Before the violence, Cabo Delgado had limited medical infrastructure and hospital space, making it difficult for it to respond to disease outbreaks, like cholera and COVID-19.

Solution for the Refugee Crisis

One possible solution is to increase coastal security. Natural gas fields are located off the coast of Cabo Delgado, and the groups use this as an opportunity to smuggle drugs.

Another potential solution is for greater regional cooperation in southern Africa. According to Mail & Guardian, this is difficult because of Mozambique’s aspiration to have control over the situation and using armed forces to commit human rights violations, such as accusing IDPs of being the perpetrators of violence and treated as criminals. While military action might be necessary, there needs to be a regional response to poverty and security in the province to stop violence in Cabo Delgado. The South African Development Community would spearhead this. This organization consists of 16 countries, including Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Cooperation is necessary to protect stability throughout the region.

Organizations That Alleviate Refugee Crisis in Mozambique

Various organizations have taken steps to help alleviate the hardships the refugees face. This includes a collaboration between the United Nations Development Program and Japan. Through a $643,000 grant, more than 3,000 households and roughly 16,000 people in poverty will receive help. The grant aims to address the root causes of poverty to help alleviate violence. Meanwhile, the United Nations Refugee Agency committed $2 million in February 2020 to address the issues in Mozambique. This includes helping roughly 15,000 people through additional resources and representatives on the ground. Similarly, in July 2020, The European Commission agreed to provide 65 million Euros to several countries in southern Africa. About 5 million Euros will go to Cabo Delgado specifically to address security, food, shelter, disaster readiness and health care relief efforts, with emphasis on COVID-19 relief.

Within Cabo Delgado, The Bishop of Pemba has been one of the loudest voices for humanitarian aid. He recounted the violence of churches burning and suffering destruction by insurgency, the growing humanitarian crisis and the importance of aid to the region. As a result, Vatican News described him as a “voice of the voiceless.” In April 2020, he said that it was complicated to tell whether all of the violence was government-sponsored or a result of extremist groups. The Bishop of Pemba claimed that even though the province has offshore oil, the government’s failure to address poverty and unemployment has only led to more exploitation in the region. Through his appeal to The Vatican, The Bishop was able to get Pope Francis to mention specifically the humanitarian crisis in Cabo Delgado in his Easter message.

Bryan Boggiano
Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa
As tuberculosis (TB) kills more than a million people each year, a new strategy to detect the disease has emerged: using rats to identify TB positive samples. TB remains the world’s deadliest disease, infecting 10 million and killing 1.5 million people in 2018. Tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa is also the main cause of death for people living with HIV.

In Mozambique, where 13.2% of the population has HIV, more than half of the people with TB also have HIV. Along with malnutrition and other diseases, HIV reduces resistance to TB, so people living in poverty are especially susceptible to TB. Those experiencing poverty are also more likely to have fewer healthcare options and spend most of their lives in overcrowded conditions and poorly ventilated buildings where TB can easily spread. However, TB is treatable; it just needs to be caught in time. APOPO, a Belgian NGO, works to detect tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa by training rats to sniff it out.

How Can Rats Detect Tuberculosis?

For nine months, African giant pouched rats are trained to sniff out TB from samples of sputum — the mucus produced from coughs. Much like the Pavlov’s dog theory, trainers condition rats to associate the sound of a click with a reward; the rats only hear a click and receive a reward when they interact with TB positive samples. The rats have to hold their snouts over the sample for two to three seconds to indicate the positive sample. To “graduate” and become heroRATS — the official name for APOPOs rats — the rats go through a testing process where they have to detect every TB positive sample among rows of sputum.

Since 2007, APOPO has partnered with local clinics that send potential TB samples for the rats to check. Health clinics perform smear microscopy tests that often come up negative when they are actually positive. The heroRATS help to correct this problem by accurately identifying the TB positive samples. Their detection rats can check up to 100 TB samples in 20 minutes while the same task might take a lab technician up to four days. After the APOPO lab confirms the TB samples tested by the rats (using WHO methods), they alert the clinic about the results. So far, the rats have screened 580,534 TB samples and prevented 126,375 potential TB infections, raising TB detection rates of partner clinics by 40%.

The Relationship Between TB and Poverty

When medical professionals are unable to detect tuberculosis and treat it in time, the disease can augment poverty rates, making living conditions even worse for people who have it. Because TB is highly contagious, those with the disease are not allowed to go to work or school, leading to a loss of income and education. The stigma surrounding TB is also detrimental; people are often excluded from the community, so they can no longer rely on support from previous outlets. APOPO’s work to increase the TB test’s accuracy and speed helps those infected to know their correct results and then seek more immediate treatment.

Progress Detecting Tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa

The three main countries APOPO operates in  — Tanzania, Mozambique and Ethiopia —  are all considered high burden TB countries.

  • Tanzania: Tanzania has one of the highest TB burdens in the world at approximately 295 TB cases per 10,000 adults. With a poverty rate of 49.1%, almost half of Tanzanians are susceptible to TB’s spread. To help alleviate the effects of this disease, APOPO began in Tanzania in 2007 and has since expanded to 74 collaborating clinics across the country. A new testing facility in Dar es Salaam opened in 2016 and delivers results to clinics in 24 hours. Along with increasing accuracy, the APOPO facilities and rats boost the TB detection rate to around 35%.

  • Mozambique: After its success in Tanzania, in 2012 APOPO developed programs in Mozambique, where approximately 62.9% of the population lives in poverty. In partnership with Eduardo Mondlane University, APOPO built a new testing facility on the university’s grounds in Maputo. This center works with 20 local healthcare clinics and delivers results in 24 hours, which increases the probability of the patient starting treatment because it reduces the time and effort it takes to track down a patient to inform them of the results. Due to this partnership, the TB detection rate has increased by 53%.

  • Ethiopia: With a 30.8% poverty rate, Ethiopia ranks 10th for the highest TB burden in the world. To help identify these cases, APOPO is currently building a detection facility with the Armauer Hansen Research Institute. Additionally, this center will not only partner with clinics in Addis Ababa to test for TB, but will also screen up to 52,000 prison inmates and staff located in 35 prisons across Ethiopia. At the clinics, the goal is to increase identified TB cases by 35% while developing its program to create a long term impact in Ethiopia.

Armed with its innovative thinking — and its heroRATS — APOPO is making progress in detecting tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa and limiting its spread.

Zoë Padelopoulos
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Sanitation in Mozambique
Mozambique is a Sub-Saharan African country located on the Southeast coast of Africa bordering the Indian Ocean. The country has a population of nearly 28 million people and is both culturally and biologically diverse. Global statistics classify Mozambique as one of the world’s poorest countries with a national poverty average between 41-46%. Slow economic growth and informal government control have led to unhealthy and unstable living conditions. Issues regarding sanitation and water services are prevalent in the country. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Mozambique.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Mozambique

  1. According to WaterAid, 14.8 million people in Mozambique do not have access to clean water, which is over half of its population. High levels of poverty make building and maintaining services difficult, or even unattainable. The government of Mozambique needs funding to make commitments to its citizens, but in 2016 following a drop in commodity prices, donors like World Bank halted all aid—furthering the economic crisis.
  2. Water is an essential daily resource for all people including those in Mozambique. People in Mozambique use it for direct consumption, cooking, irrigating fields and sanitation. Rural communities often have to obtain their water from natural sources like rivers, hand-dug wells or ponds.
  3. UNICEF identified that in rural areas, one in five people use surface water as their primary drinking water source. Water from rivers, lakes, ponds and streams can contain bacteria, parasites, viruses and possibly other contaminants. To make surface water fit to drink, treatment is necessary. In fact, UNICEF has taken efforts to improve water services in the form of implementing Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) in Mozambique.
  4. The World Bank allocated a $75 million International Development Association (IDA) grant to Mozambique in June 2019 to help with water services and institutional support projects. The grant will fund water production, expansion and refurbishment on wellfields, water treatment facilities and intake to improve all water services, as well as building the country’s resilience to droughts.
  5. WaterAid stated that three in four people in Mozambique do not have a decent toilet, amounting to 21.4 million people. Access to proper sanitation leads to the ability to have good hygiene that affects livelihood and sustainability. Citizens have to travel even a few days to find a decent toilet or care for older relatives, so they are unable to work or attend school. Women and girls often suffer the most due to this as it can impact their ability to garner an education, as well as their health and personal safety.
  6. Mozambique has one of the highest open defecation rates in Sub-Saharan Africa at 36%. Nine million Mozambicans use unsanitary or shared latrines and have no latrine at all, defecating in the open. The poorest quintile is four times more likely to practice open defecation than the richest.
  7. As many as 76% of the population do not have or use improved sanitation facilities, with the rate being 88% in rural areas compared to 53% in urban and peri-urban areas. Citizens need access to improved water supply or better sanitation but often cannot obtain the necessities if they live in low-income, informal or illegal settlements or on the outskirts of cities.
  8. Poor sanitation costs Mozambique $124 million (US), yet eliminating the practice would require that the country build two million latrines. Mozambique loses $22 million per year due to open defecation. People that practice open defecation spend 2.5 days out of a year on average looking for a private location, which often leads to economic losses. The country also experiences a $22 million loss due to health care costs relating to open defecation illnesses. Additionally, the country spends $79 million due to premature death costs.
  9. WaterAid identified that over 2,500 children under 5-years-old die every year from diarrhea due to dirty water and poor toilets. Fragresse Finiassa, a mother of six, obtained training from UNICEF’s WASH Program. Finiassa stated that “We used to suffer a lot from diarrhea. When we had severe diarrhea, we would have to walk five hours to the health center for treatment.” The lack of a toilet meant that “At night, our shoes would often get dirty, because we couldn’t see where we were treading, and my children would also get scared to go out in the bush (to defecate) in the dark.” However, that all changed in 2016 when her community learned the dangers of open defecation and received training for toilet construction. Men in the community learned how to build latrines and covered them with concrete slabs for proper defecation and contribute to improved health.
  10. According to UNICEF, 246 of every 1,000 children born in Mozambique die within their first five years, with 13% of deaths directly due to a lack of access to proper sanitation and clean water, and poor hygiene practices. Cholera infection is the most common waterborne illness that citizens face due to stagnant water sources. Reports determined that there was a cumulative total of 6,382 cases and eight deaths as of April 2019.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Mozambique have shown that it may be able to eradicate poverty through improved sanitation and management of water resources, as these could foster economic growth.  Access to proper sanitation could greatly improve Mozambique’s economy and start to lift the country out of poverty.

– Anna Brewer
Photo: Flickr

 

Schistosomiasis and Poverty

Schistosomiasis (also known as bilharzia) is a disease that is rarely heard outside of scientific circles. This has less to do with the severity of schistosomiasis, and more to do with the fact that its parasitic sibling, malaria, is a far more common and well-known illness. The largest concentration of schistosomiasis in the world, a staggering 90 percent, is in Africa.

Schistosomiasis: What is it?

While schistosomiasis tends to be overshadowed by its well-known cousin malaria, there is still a wealth of information on how it functions, spreads and affects the human body. Schistosomiasis is caused by parasitic worms that inhabit the bodies of some freshwater snails. Humans are infected when they interact with bodies of water containing these snails. Common recreational and domestic activities like swimming and washing clothes in and near infected waters are attributed to the spread of schistosomiasis.

Schistosomiasis comes in two different types: urinary schistosomiasis and intestinal schistosomiasis. Urinary schistosomiasis is characterized by extensive damage to the kidneys, bladder and ureters. Intestinal schistosomiasis is characterized via symptoms of an engorged spleen and liver, which leads to intestinal damage and hypertension in the abdominal blood vessels. The first symptom of schistosomiasis is a light skin rash known as “swimmers itch.” Once a human is infected, symptoms (chills, aches and coughing fits) can appear within one to two months. However, many infections are asymptomatic; the infection is there, but no symptoms appear.

Schistosomiasis is transferred from person to person when an infected individual’s excrement reaches a water supply. The parasitic eggs from then hatch, infect another snail (or human) and the cycle begins anew. Proper sanitation and potable water are the main ways to prevent the spread of this disease.

The disease schistosomiasis does not always result in death. Schistosomiasis commonly ends in stunted growth and anemia in children, and can even lead to infertility in cases of urinary schistosomiasis. Children can also find themselves with a reduced ability to learn due to the crippling symptoms this disease comes with.

There is no vaccine to cure schistosomiasis and no antibiotic has proven effective in preventing infection. However, there are effective means to diagnose and treat schistosomiasis before the infection truly takes hold. The drug, praziquantel, has proven useful in removing the worms and their eggs from the human body. Although there is poor access to praziquantel, this treatment has reached more than 28 percent of people around the world.

Where Schistosomiasis Congregates

Africa has a truly staggering number of schistosomiasis cases compared to the rest of the world. Nigeria has the most cases out of any African country, with approximately 29 million infected. The United Republic of Tanzania has the second-most cases of infection at 19 million with Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo tied at 15 million.

Schistosomiasis and Poverty: The Correlation

Schistosomiasis is predominantly found in areas of extreme poverty; where ever this disease goes, destitution soon follows. Schistosomiasis and poverty are intrinsically linked, and the most common reasoning for this occurrence is that extreme poverty often restricts access to clean water sources, which in turn causes people to use unsanitary water sources where schistosomiasis thrives and infection occurs. From there, the infected individual will succumb to the crippling disabilities that schistosomiasis infection eventually brings. This leads to reduced productivity in the community as the disease continues to spread, ensuring no end to this vicious cycle of poverty without outside intervention.

What Next? The Future of Schistosomiasis

There is hope, however, as NGO’s like the SCI foundation (founded in 2002) have dedicated themselves to the eradication of parasitic worm diseases. The SCI foundation’s biggest success in the fight against schistosomiasis is in Mozambique, where SCI has treated more than 30 million people of parasitic worm diseases. Further, SCI has already treated more than 12 million people in Tanzania alone since 2004. The foundation also recently (as of 2016) started to extend their treatment programs to Nigeria. With more than 2 million people already treated in such a short time, the SCI foundation can be trusted to reach Tanzania levels of treatment soon enough.

The future is bright for communities burdened with schistosomiasis and poverty, as many countries have been able to eradicate this disease from their lands. Tunisia and Japan were able to completely eradicate schistosomiasis within their borders, and China, Brazil and Egypt are well on their way to reaching that end goal.

Given this information, and the fact that Africa has the backing of a great NGO like the SCI foundation, a schistosomiasis free Africa is certainly on the cards.

– Ryan Holman
Photo: Flickr

Scuba Diving Can Alleviate Poverty
Scuba diving is the practice of underwater diving with a SCUBA, an acronym for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. The United States Special Force’s frogmen initially used this during the Second World War. Through this technology, divers can go underwater without connecting to a surface oxygen supply. The main aim for many scuba divers today is dive tourism, with marine conservation trailing closely behind. It is through these conservation efforts and tourism businesses in coastal areas that plenty of communities have found themselves being alleviated from poverty. Scuba diving can alleviate poverty due to the new employment opportunities that arise through environmental efforts, as well as the work scuba diving training businesses provide.

Although the Earth’s equatorial belt possesses 75 percent of the world’s most productive and beautiful coral reefs, this area is home to over 275 million individuals living under poverty. These are individuals who depend directly on coral reefs, fish and marine resources for their food, security and income.

According to Judi Lowe, Ph.D. in Dive Tourism, these incredible bio-diverse coral reefs have immense potential for dive tourism. However, conflicts are currently present between dive operators and local communities due to a limited supply of essential resources. If businesses in the diving industry turned to greener practices and focused on indigenous local communities, they could achieve marine conservation, along with poverty alleviation.

Integrated Framework Coastal Management and Poverty Alleviation

Without a doubt, efforts to preserve the marine environment must include local communities to preserve the marine environment. By including people whose livelihoods are dependent on fisheries and aquaculture into recreational scuba diving, there will be greater benefits for the community and the environment. One of the pre-existing frameworks that ensure this mutual symbiosis is the integrated framework of coastal management.

Integrated framework coastal management is a tool that ensures a successful and profitable outcome for all parties involved in the use and conservation of marine resources. Through this model, locals integrate into the administration and the use of natural resources in several water-based industries. Supplemental payments and employment within other businesses create employment opportunities, should fish bans or similar legislative actions displace primary jobs. This has occurred in Northern Mozambique and Kenya.

Scuba Diving and Poverty Alleviation in Mozambique

Mozambique is a country with a history of the slave trade, colonization and 15 years of civil war. Nevertheless, it is a nation in the equatorial belt that has significant tourism potential. After the civil war, tourism was its quickest growing industry. Forty-five percent of the country’s population participates in the tourism industry.

Poverty is lowest in the province of Ponta do Ouro, located in the southern-most area of Mozambique. Ponta do Ouro is home to the greatest levels of marine tourism, where tourists and locals collaborate to participate in water-based activities such as scuba diving. The area particularly favors scuba diving due to the presence of bull sharks, tiger sharks and hammerheads. It also has year-round warm water and is home to humpback whales from August through November. As it holds pristine marine biodiversity, the area is a marine protected area (MPA).

Scuba activities in Ponta do Ouro mainly happen within scuba diving management areas that follow the diver code of conduct. Most diving in the area is done to maintain the biophysical environment through the monitoring and assessment of ecosystem health and management of marine pollution by maintaining low levels of plastic pollution that accumulates in the bays along the coastline.

Not only can scuba diving alleviate poverty through dive tourism, but MPAs have also been influential. For example, MPAs have helped promote and facilitate the involvement of Mozambicans to monitor their fisheries, map different user groups that can overlay with physical and biological data and conduct research. All of these actions help locals find employment and elevate their living standards.

In the future, a greater exploration of the Mozambican Indian Ocean should be explored and strategic planning to maintain the attractiveness of the area and avoid loss of biodiversity is imperative. This will open up greater possibilities for locals to set up dive sites and cultivate diving enterprises, conserve the biological species and obtain greater income.

SPACES, Diving and Poverty Alleviation in Kenya

The Sustainable Poverty Alleviation from Coastal Ecosystem Services (SPACES) Project is a collaborative initiative funded by the U.K. Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) and SwedBio. The project aims to uncover the scientific knowledge on the complex relationship between ecosystem services, poverty and human wellbeing. The project studies sites in Mozambique and Kenya.

The concept of ecosystem services (ES) that the project uses determined that humans derive great benefits from ecosystems. People can apply these benefits to environmental conservation, human well-being and poverty alleviation. People can also use them to inform and develop interventions. If people implement the integrated framework coastal management, there is a large possibility for ecosystem services to inform the development of ES interventions that contribute to poverty alleviation through entrepreneurial activities. If locals cultivate diving enterprises, these communities would reap the benefits of the cash-based livelihood that many diving businesses currently possess.

Lobster Diving in Honduras

In Honduras, diving has been a primary livelihood. In the Central American country that shares its borders with Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, lobster diving serves as a way of living, particularly in the indigenous community of Miskito. Mosquita is one of the most impoverished areas of Latin America.

Despite the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) setting safe standard diving techniques, one that calls for a gradual ascent to the surface and a limit to the number of dives a person can make in one day, the divers of Mosquita dive deeply, surface quickly and go back for more. They race to collect as much lobster as possible, fishing to take their families and themselves out of poverty. These conditions make them prone to nitrogen decompression sickness, a sickness that disabled over 1,200 Miskitos since 1980.

Nevertheless, a diver receives $3 for every pound of lobster they get and 28 cents for every sea cucumber. This is a significant amount of money for the area and for that reason, many take the risk. The boats where the divers spend their time between dives also only have rudimentary safety equipment, using aging tanks and masks. These divers need to do their jobs to raise themselves out of poverty. Until the government implements necessary training to divers, as well as health insurance provisions, divers will remain at risk. Lobster diving has great potential for promoting marine biodiversity, poverty alleviation and sustainable coastal development; however, health precautions must be a priority as well in order for lobster diving to be a truly sustainable solution.  

Looking Forward

Scuba diving can alleviate poverty with its safety practices and dedication for marine conservation, which opens up many opportunities for technological and economic advances through educational, conservation and entrepreneurship potential. Aside from igniting passion and dedication to fighting for the underwater environment, scuba diving urges divers to fight for their survival, their protection and their businesses as well. It is therefore understandable why many have come to value scuba diving as one of the most potent ways to educate society about environmental conservation, and with it, help increase living standards for coastal communities.

– Monique Santoso
Photo: Flickr

 

Sex Trafficking in Mozambique
Located in southeastern Africa, Mozambique is a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking. Traffickers deceive girls migrating to Mozambique by promising education and employment opportunities to coerce them into sex trafficking. As a result, women are exposed to drugs, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS and violence. Free the Girls is one of many organizations fights sex trafficking in Mozambique.

About Free the Girls

Dave Terpstra, a priest at Duneland Community Church in Denver, and Kimba Langas, a church member, co-founded Free The Girls. This international nonprofit aims to help victims of sex trafficking by collecting bra donations. Originally starting as a Facebook page, Free The Girls quickly gained popularity and success.

Every six weeks volunteers gather at Duneland Community Church or “The Bra Church.” This is where they sort new and gently used bras and send them to Mozambique. Upon receiving these donations, survivors can start their own businesses selling bras at local second-hand clothing markets while they recover and build a new life.

Free the Girls fights sex trafficking in Mozambique by creating a pathway to economic freedom, restored health, social well being, education and opportunity for a more hopeful future.

Success

In 2015, volunteers packed 833 boxes containing 166,600 bras and shipped 769 boxes overseas containing 153,800 bras. Donations to correction facilities, domestic violence shelters and trafficking shelters totaled approximately 2,000 bras. In addition, the organization reached 23,400 supporters on social media. Through the help of the program, nine women bought land, three women bought or rented a house and one woman enrolled in university.

In 2016, donations totaled 183,000 bras, volunteers sent out 685 boxes and 59 boxes of bras went to women’s correctional facilities, shelters and pregnancy assistance centers. Likewise, Free the Girls gained 27,040 social media supporters. Most importantly, 13 women graduated from the program, seven pursued educational opportunities and four built a home or purchased land.

Selling bras has tremendously impacted the lives of women in Mozambique. It provides the opportunity for women to become financially and spiritually independent. Free the Girls has launched an empowering approach for women to reintegrate into society and take control of their futures.

– Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

Environmental conservation is an often-forgotten aspect of reducing global poverty and providing sustainable income for coastal communities. Conserving the ocean has become an even more pressing issue now because of overfishing. However, one company is putting this at the forefront of their work. Rare’s Fish Forever campaign is working to end the unprecedented endangerment of our coastal waters and protect the families who depend on them.

What Is Rare’s Fish Forever?

Founded in 1995 by Brett Jenks, Rare is an organization with a focus on conservation as a means to protect the world’s most vulnerable people and ensure that the wetlands, forests and oceans they depend on continue to thrive. Fish Forever is a campaign that targets coastal revitalization and conserving biodiversity along coastlines through bottom-up solutions. Jenks says, “The aim isn’t to teach a community to fish; it’s to help ensure they can fish forever.” Ensuring a future for these coastal communities relies on sustainable fishing practices.

Rare’s Fish Forever campaign uses community-led initiatives to provide solutions to issues like overfishing and coastal mismanagement because it empowers local populations and incentivizes future compliance with new regulations. These local people work with all levels of their government to come up with solutions that fit their unique situation. Active in Brazil, Indonesia, the Philippines, Belize and Mozambique, Rare’s Fish Forever acts as a guide for communities while also providing tools the improve the data needed for these countries to make informed decisions.

Fish Forever in Mozambique

Mozambique is an African country with more than 1,500 miles of coastline, sustaining millions of people. Half of the population lives on the coastline in fishing communities. In fact, the economy is largely dependent on fisheries, particularly small-scale or artisan fisheries. Almost 85 percent of all fish caught in Mozambique are done so on a small-scale. Communities such as those in the Nampula, Sofala, Inhambane, Maputa and Cabo Delgado regions are good candidates for Rare’s Fish Forever solutions because they are home to most of the small-scale fisherman.

The country’s coastline is very diverse, second only to the Coral Triangle. However, due to climate change and unregulated fishing, the size of the fish catches has declined. In the last 25 years, small-scale catch sizes have declined 30 percent, and it is continuing to decline. Additionally, fisherman asserted that some species of fish had all-together disappeared. Climate change would only worsen these issues, so Rare’s Fish Forever worked with communities to come up with solutions to this threat. Together with Rare’s Fish Forever program, communities came up with four broad solutions to revitalize coastlines, protect biodiversity and ensuring sizeable fish catches for families.

  1. First, they decided to adopt government frameworks to better regulate fishing behaviors and make fishing more sustainable.
  2. Then, they built and strengthened community-based management of coastal fisheries.
  3. Thirdly, communities established fishing areas with managed access – places where fishing was prohibited or limited – and provided social and economic benefits to communities who abided by these rules.
  4. Lastly, they made environmental conservation more of the social norm through education and marketing campaigns.

All in all, Mozambique is on its way to recovery. With more than 100 organizations and institutions supporting Rare’s Fish Forever program, the country’s coastal waters and fishing communities are in good hands. That means a higher chance of conserving the ocean.

Rare’s Fish Forever in the Philippines

Coastal communities in the Philippines face the same sorts of issues as those in Mozambique. Looc Bay is a beautiful location that is home to many communities and attracts its fair share of tourists. Unfortunately, a combination of overfishing by local fisherman and environmental degradation from irresponsible tourism have caused a significant decline in the fish populations. This has only been accelerated by climate change.

The communities in the area have always been wary of external intervention. Their greatest worry when initially approached by Rare’s Fish Forever program was that coastal management would restrict fishing to a point that families could no longer sustain themselves through small-scale fishing. This distrust was fortunately misplaced.

Today, more than 4.4 square miles of coastal waters have been declared as Managed Access Areas and sanctuaries. These protected critical habitats require exclusive clearance, which is only granted to fisherman who comply with sustainable practices. To date, more than 800 fishermen have been granted exclusive access area, meaning that they are also faithful practitioners of sustainable fishing.

Jose Ambrocio, the Looc Municipal Councilor and chairperson of the Agricultural and Environmental Committee, has noted that “With Rare’s Fish Forever program, we are working to balance the economic needs of the people and the need to conserve the resources for the future generation.”

By challenging communities to develop their own solutions, Rare’s Fish Forever program is sustainable and empowering. Through this program, and programs like it, more sustainable fishing practices can be put into place, thus working towards a better future by conserving the ocean.

Julian Mok
Photo: Flickr

Cyclone Effects on Mozambican Students
Six weeks after Cyclone Idai ripped through central and southern Mozambique in March, Cyclone Kenneth added further destruction in the northern portion of the country. Having these consecutive disasters is highly abnormal in the region, and the impact of both storms has left over 650 people dead in Mozambique alone. Time Magazine reported that Mozambique would need $3.2 billion in order to recover after the damage caused by the storms.

The Cyclones

Mozambique is already a developmentally challenged country, suffering from high poverty rates due to high population growth, low agricultural productivity, illnesses and unequal distribution of wealth. These storms have left many citizens with nothing, further impoverishing the country. One of the most impactful yet overlooked aspects of the storms is the influence they have had and will continue to have over students. Cyclone effects on Mozambican students have made it difficult — and sometimes simply impossible — for the young population to continue their educations.

Impact on Students

More than 600 schools in Mozambique were damaged, impacting more than 300,000 students’ access to education. School records have been destroyed, roofs are missing from schools, and the water damage to classrooms is significant. School supplies have also been destroyed, meaning students have no access to notebooks, textbooks or writing utensils. Because of the damage to many classrooms, students are being forced to overcrowd classrooms, forcing multiple teachers to use the same room. This has proven to be highly distracting for students, and their focus is not fully on the content they are learning.

Along with schools being damaged and inadequate, other cyclone effects on Mozambican students come from the storms’ impact on their lives outside of school. With the devastation of the cyclones, many students come from families who have lost their homes, or even someone who had lived with them. As a result, children are unable to attend school, and both the ones who do and don’t attend school are suffering from lack of proper food and water — often going without either.

Additionally, the psychological toll that these storms have taken on kids has led to disruptions in their learning abilities. Many kids have seen the effects of the storms firsthand, having lost family members, neighbors and friends in the floods. School attendance rates are already low, with less than half of children under 15 fulfilling the country’s mandatory primary school program. That number decreases to less than 20 percent when it comes to high school attendance because many families cannot afford to pay school fees.

Aid Organizations

Various organizations have stepped up to provide relief and spread awareness about the disastrous effects of the storms, both in general and specifically for students. The Red Cross was among the first groups to arrive in areas of Mozambique severely affected, providing immediate aid to people in need. World Vision is another organization that has been active in its media coverage of what’s going on within Mozambique, in addition to its relief efforts. In Mozambique specifically, its focus is on providing food, water, child protection services and further education. It has also established two Child-Friendly spaces where kids are sheltered and given activities to do.

Save the Children, an organization based in the U.K., has consulted children and their families on their experiences with the storms. Affected children have shown varying sign of psychological stress, ranging from general anxiety that another storm will come to bedwetting. The organization has been in Mozambique since before the first cyclone made contact, and it has been providing child protection, emergency shelter and healthcare.

Overall, there is much to be done in terms of relief when it comes to Mozambique’s recovery. Much of the aid will go toward providing people with the essentials: food, water and shelter. However, attention should be paid particularly to the cyclone effects on Mozambican students. Access to education should be afforded to all children, regardless of socioeconomic status. Thankfully, there are a number of organizations that recognize that education needs to be prioritized in the aid they give.

— Emi Cormier
Photo: Wikimedia Commons