Hunger in Lithuania
Lithuania, located in the Baltic region of Europe, is known for its history of the Crusades, Soviet occupation and interesting dishes — like cold beetroot soup, among others. However, like all countries, Lithuania has to find hunger solutions. Lithuania has a Global Hunger Index score of less than five, but faces increased poverty rates. Additionally, the country’s level of poverty risk was the third highest in the E.U. Yet, the government of Lithuania and organizations like the Red Cross are combating hunger in innovative ways. Below are five facts about hunger in Lithuania.

5 Facts About Hunger in Lithuania

  1. Lithuania is one of 17 countries with a GHI score of less than five, signifying a low hunger level. The Global Hunger Index is a peer-reviewed yearly report intended to measure and record hunger at the global, regional and country levels. GHI scores evaluate progress and impediments in battling hunger. The GHI takes food supply, child mortality and child undernutrition into account.
  2. The depth of the hunger score is encouraging. The calculation, measured in kilocalories per person per day, is based on a malnourished person’s diet and the minimum amount of dietary energy needed to maintain body weight and engage in light activity. The higher the number, the greater the hunger in the country. The depth of hunger reported in Lithuania was 120 in 2008. Among countries in transition, Lithuania has one of the lower scores.
  3. In 2019, Lithuania elected Gitanas Nauseda as President. Before becoming president, Nauseda was an economist and a banker. Nauseda plans to develop Lithuania into a welfare state and hopes to address inequality in healthcare and education. His proposals provide a positive outlook for those in poverty or at risk of being impoverished.
  4. The poverty level in Lithuania has been a complicated measure over the years. It is difficult to differentiate between poverty and inequality and between urban and rural. Eurostat concluded that 22.9% of Lithuanians are at risk of poverty. This means that their disposable income is less than 60% of the national average, after taxes. To explain Eurostat’s measure, Romas Lazutka, an economics professor at Vilnius University, stated that, “There is a controversy in Lithuania. Some say such data is unacceptable, nonsense because the poverty figures did not fall even though people’s incomes grew, wages almost doubled and pensions rose.” Lazutka asserts that the calculation represents the relative poverty threshold, meaning a measure of social participation (not survival).
  5. The European Federation of Food Banks (FEBA) comprises 253 food banks in 21 countries, including Lithuania. The organization’s goal is to reduce food waste and fight hunger. In 2012, Maisto Banks, an organization under FEBA, provided more than 6.6 million meals. Another organization, the Lithuanian Red Cross, also seeks to help those facing poverty. When discussing the Red Cross’s campaign in 2003, Virginia Sereikaite, the Lithuanian Red Cross Youth Director, stated the need to “spread the word on poverty among the population for the first time. Children at schools learned humanitarian ethics with the Red Cross. This year many more of us came out onto the streets and the message was already familiar to people. It provided us with a better foundation for fundraising this year.” The funds went toward food and distribution to schools, social institutions, hospitals and soup kitchens.

Elevating the Quality of Life

Although hunger in Lithuania is a serious issue, the cooperation between the government, organizations and the people has improved people’s access to food. Lithuania’s new outlook on addressing poverty will ensure that more people’s needs are met. The Lithuanian president not only seeks to provide healthcare and education, but a more elevated quality of life.

Mia Mendez
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

McCartney's Humanitarian Work
Sir James Paul McCartney, known professionally as Paul McCartney, is a singer, songwriter, poet, bass player and animal rights activist. He is best known for his work with the English rock band The Beatles. During his 63-year-long ongoing career that revolutionized the world of music, McCartney has amassed a fortune of over $1 billion. This drove him to begin making significant charitable donations to organizations. McCartney’s humanitarian work emphasizes spreading awareness about causes for which he advocates.

5 Facts About Paul McCartney’s Humanitarian Work

  1. As of June 2020, Paul McCartney has supported 45 charities. Throughout his life, he has donated millions to several charities and has participated in many benefit concerts, such as Live 8 and Change Begins Within. Change Begins Within was a 2009 benefit concert in Manhattan, New York, hosted by the David Lynch Foundation. It helped raise money and awareness for at-risk youth and encouraged the use of meditation to combat stress and achieve success. Other significant charities and organizations that McCartney has supported include Adopt-A-Minefield, Cruelty Free International, Everyone Matters, Greenpeace, PETA, Red Cross and the St. Francis Food Pantries and Shelters. McCartney is a patron for Adopt-A-Minefield, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the problems of landmines, raising funds to help survivors of landmine accidents and helping clear landmines. From 2001 to 2005, McCartney performed in five benefit galas for the organization. In total, he helped raise $17 million for the now-inoperative charity.
  2. Paul McCartney is a huge advocate for providing aid for childhood diseases. McCartney has four biological children, Mary, Stella, James and Beatrice, and an adopted daughter, Heather, who is the biological daughter of the late Linda McCartney. McCartney also has eight grandchildren and used them as inspiration for his children’s book “Hey, Grandude!”, which was published in September 2019. His devotion to his own children and grandchildren is evident, but it is also apparent that he cares a great deal for the welfare of children around the world. McCartney’s humanitarian work has included donations to the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes, Keep a Child Alive, Children with Leukemia and Teenage Cancer Trust. These are organizations dedicated to focusing on the needs of children affected by significant diseases or disorders. Additionally, in 2012, McCartney performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London for the Teenage Cancer Trust, helping raise over $382 million.
  3. Paul McCartney’s humanitarian work dates back over 40 years. In 1979, McCartney was one of the lead organizers of the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea, a series of concerts that ran from December 26-29, 1979 and took place at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. The concerts raised awareness and donations for the victims of war-torn Cambodia (then known as Kampuchea) at the start of the Cambodian-Vietnamese War. The proceeds went directly toward United Nations agencies’ emergency relief work in Cambodia. In addition, in 1989, McCartney participated in a charity version of the song “Ferry Cross the Mersey.” The proceeds made from the single were used to aid victims of the Hillsborough disaster, a human crush that occurred at a soccer match in the Hillsborough Stadium in South Yorkshire, England, killing nearly 100 people. The song held the number one spot on the U.K. chart for three weeks after its release.
  4. Paul McCartney supports the eradication of poverty. McCartney’s humanitarian work also includes dedicating time and money toward helping those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged. His most notable involvement with an organization dedicated to ending poverty was when he performed at a Live 8 concert in 2005. Live 8 was a series of benefit concerts organized in support of the U.K.’s Make Poverty History coalition and the international Global Call to Action Against Poverty campaign. The goal of the concerts was to raise $50 billion in aid toward impoverished African countries by 2010 (the concerts raised about $30 billion). McCartney has also supported the Worldwide Orphans Foundation, Aid Still Required and the Prince’s Trust. These organizations assist people in underdeveloped countries and unfavorable socioeconomic situations.
  5. In April 2020, Paul McCartney performed in the One World: Together at Home benefit concert. The current international COVID-19 outbreak has affected people worldwide. Global Citizen, a worldwide movement dedicated to ending poverty by 2030, hosted a charity special in the form of a virtual benefit concert starring many famed musicians. The concert was titled One World: Together at Home. It raised $127 million for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and for charities providing food, shelter and healthcare to those in need. McCartney sang a solo rendition of the Beatles’ song “Lady Madonna” while playing the piano.

Paul McCartney’s humanitarian work proves his unwavering dedication toward improving the welfare of humans and animals alike. His aid has made him one of the celebrities best known for generous donations. His championship for nearly 50 charities and organizations proves how one can use their wealth to better the state of the world.

Kia Wallace
Photo: Flickr

NGOsNon-governmental organizations (NGOs) are nonprofit associations founded by citizens, which function independently of the government. NGOs, also known as civil societies, are organized on “community, national, or international levels” to help developing nations in their humanitarian, health care, educational, social, environmental and social issues. These citizen-run groups perform various services and humanitarian functions by advocating citizen concerns to governments, overlooking policies and encouraging political participation by providing information to the public.

History of Non-Governmental Organizations

Non-governmental organizations started emerging during the 18th century. The Anti-Slavery Society, formed in 1839, is the first international NGO. This organization had a profound impact on society, and it stimulated the founding of many other NGOs since opening its doors. Of note, many civil societies began to form as a result of wars. For example, the Red Cross formed after the Franco-Italian war in the 1860s, Save the Children began after World War I and Oxfam and CARE started after World War II. The term non-governmental organization emerged after the Second World War when the United Nations wanted to differentiate between “intergovernmental specialized agencies and private organizations.”

NGOs engage in many different forms throughout communities in the sense that they are a “complex mishmash of alliances and rivalries.” Some have a charitable status, while others focus on business or environment-related issues. Other non-governmental organizations have religious, political, or other interests concerning a particular issue.

The World Bank identifies two broad types of non-governmental organizations: operational and advocacy.

Operational NGOs

An operational non-governmental organization is a group of citizens that focus on designing and implementing development projects and advocacy. NGOs promote and defend particular causes, and operational NGOs fall into two categories: relief and development-oriented organizations. They are classified on whether or not they “stress service delivery or participation.”

An example of an operational NGO is the International Medicine Corps (IMC) in Afghanistan. The IMC installed a vaccination campaign against measles. They trained about 170 Afghani’s how to vaccinate children between the ages of 6 and 12, and conducted a two-week-long “vaccination campaign.” These efforts assisted 95 percent of children in the capital of Kabul.

Advocacy NGOs

Advocacy non-governmental organizations use lobbying, press work and activist events. This is in order to raise awareness, acceptance and knowledge on the specific cause they are promoting or defending. An example of an advocacy NGO is America’s Development Foundation (ADF). This NGO provides advocacy training and technical assistance in efforts to “increase citizen participation in democratic processes.”

Non-Governmental Organization Funding

Since non-governmental organizations are nonprofit organizations, they rely on membership dues, private donations, the sales of goods and services and grants. These funds cover funding projects, operations, salaries and other overhead costs. NGOs have very large budgets that reach millions, even billions, of dollars because of heavy dependence on government funding.

Another chunk of NGO funding belongs to the individual, private donors. A few of these donors are affluent individuals, such as Ted Turner who donated $1 billion to the United Nations. Most nonprofits, however, depend on multiple small donations from people to raise money.

Overall, non-governmental organizations function to build support for a certain cause whether it is economic, political or social. In addition, NGOs tend to bring people together, especially advocacy NGOs.

– Isabella Gonzalez Montilla
Photo: Pixabay

dengue fever in the Philippines

The Philippines Department of Health declared a national dengue fever epidemic. The southeast Asian nation is experiencing one of the worst outbreaks of the disease in years with over 160,000 cases this year. This is an increase of 97 percent from this time last year. The surge in cases has caused over 600 deaths, already doubling the amount from 2018.

What is Dengue Fever?

Dengue fever is spread by the Aedes mosquito that lives primarily in tropical and subtropical regions. Once bitten, it takes four to seven days before flu-like symptoms set in. These symptoms include headaches, joint and muscle pain, rash and fever. If left untreated, some severe cases can lead to dengue hemorrhagic fever or dengue shock syndrome, which can lead to death. The median age of those infected in the Philippines is 12 years old. Most of the deaths in the Philippines are children between the ages of 5 and 9.

There is no known cure for dengue fever, once infected a person can only manage the symptoms until they dissipate. This is done by keeping a patient well hydrated with IV fluids and the use of pain medications with acetaminophen. Dengvaxia, a vaccine for dengue was discovered in 2016 but it is currently not licensed in the Philippines.

Philippines Hospitals Overwhelmed

With 1800 hospitals taking care of a population of over 108 million people, the Philippines struggles to deal with the rising cases of dengue fever. Of those hospitals in the Philippines, there are only 19 in the five regions that have been hit hardest by the epidemic. Southern Tagalog, Bicol Region, Western Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula and Northern Mindanao are past the epidemic threshold. West Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula and Bicol Region are also three of the poorest regions in the Philippines and struggle with the cost of care for its citizens.

Over the past 50 years, dengue fever cases rose, according to the World Health Organization(WHO). In the past five years, there have been over 200,000 cases of dengue fever in the Philippines. This includes just over 1000 deaths in that same time period. The country may exceed these numbers by the end of 2019 alone.

Global Forces Rally Against Epidemic

The European Union donated 100,000 euros in humanitarian aid to help treat those already infected and to help with prevention. These funds will help the Philippines Red Cross to provide emergency medical units, nurses and wards at hospitals specific to treating dengue fever in the Philippines. It is expected that this funding will benefit 300,000 people that are living in some of the poorer and infected areas.

The WHO and the government of the Philippines are currently taking the steps needed to prevent the increase in fatal cases. The government also tries to educate its citizens on what they need to do to prevent the Aedes mosquito from continuing to breed and how they can protect themselves. This includes cleanup efforts that help reduce the stagnant water areas where the mosquitoes breed. The WHO advised the people to wear insect repellant and long sleeve pants and shirts at all times. The organization also recommends fitting every bed and crib with mosquito nets to provide protection while sleeping.

Despite the ever-growing danger imposed, the fight continues around the world to protect and prevent dengue fever in the Philippines. Simple measures can be put into place at home and around communities that can minimize those who are infected and provide a safe and healthy environment.

– Sam Bostwick
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 facts About Living Conditions in the Central African Republic

The Central African Republic is a landlocked country in Africa with 16 prefectures. The Central African Republic is among the poorest nations in the world even though the country has an abundance of natural resources. Roughly 90 percent of the population lives in poverty, with little access to food, decent housing, water or sanitation. One of the main causes of poverty is the ongoing conflict that shattered the country. This conflict caused the living conditions in the Central African Republic to deteriorate along with the way of life for many citizens. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in the Central African Republic.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in the Central African Republic

  1. The country and many humanitarian organizations are making a desperate call for aid. Around 2.9 million people of the current 4.8 million living in the Central African Republic will need assistance. This is more than half of the population. On Jan. 7, the country’s government teamed up with the U.N. to launch the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan, requesting nearly $431 million to provide humanitarian assistance.
  2. For a majority of the population, the living conditions in the Central African Republic are too dangerous. Many were displaced from their homes and thrown into chaos. As of January 2019, the current number of people displaced from their homes inside the country is 640,969 people. Living mainly in churches, mosques, public buildings and the airport, the conditions the displaced live in are not any better. Refugees are often forced to sleep in the open, making them vulnerable to harsh weather conditions. They have little access to clean water, food or medical aid.
  3. For those who are able to cross the borders to refugee camps, the conditions aren’t much better. Over 598,000 refugees from the country are forced to live in crowded villages or scattered along the borders. The neighboring country to the west, Cameroon, hosts the largest population of Central African refugees according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Approximately 275,700 refugees took refuge in the country as of December 2018.
  4. Nearly half of all Central Africans are under the age of 14 years. Of note, 370,000 of these children are orphans who will grow up without one or both their parents. The SOS Children’s Villages in Bangui and Bouar are home to thousands of children, many orphaned by AIDS or civil war.
  5. Malnutrition is a major problem in the Central African Republic. A USAID survey conducted in January 2019 found that 10 of the country’s prefectures have excessive levels of severe acute malnutrition. Around 1.9 million people in the country face severe levels of food insecurity. In efforts to help, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) distributed food aid to more than 5,000 people at the Saint Jean de Galabadja parish in Bangui. In December 2018, the USAID partnered with the U.N.’s World Food Programme to provide emergency food assistance to more than 628,000 food-insecure people.
  6. Diseases such as malaria, leprosy, tuberculosis, nutritional diseases and sexually transmitted diseases are major health concerns in the country. Unfortunately, there is little support offered by clinics and first-aid posts available. The capital of the country, Bangui, only has one hospital and there is little to no health aid outside of the city.
  7. As the violence continues and more and more citizens are displaced, access to clean water is becoming harder to achieve. In rural areas, clean water is often not available at all, which allows the spread of numerous diseases. In response to this issue, the ICRC helped established 11 taps connected to the municipal water network and three water tanks fitted with a total of 24 taps for around 35,000 displaced people gathered at the airport in Bangui. The ICRC plans to have more taps and latrines set up at different sites to increase access.
  8. Transportation can be hard in the Central African Republic. The country only has about 400 miles of paved roads and no access to railways to the sea. However, most of the country rely on the rivers passing through for communication and trade. Because it is hard to navigate the unpaved roads or the lack of access to ferries, the displaced live scattered throughout the country and around the borders.
  9. Many NGOs try to improve living conditions in the Central African Republic. One of them is the Mercy Corps which worked in the country since 2007. The Mercy Corps helps the residents in various ways. It gives immediate assistance to displaced families and orphaned children fleeing from the violence that plagues the country. It also operates as a survivor support center that offers linkages to medical care, counseling and legal services for survivors of gender-based violence. Other services include the Corps’ members training vulnerable people in income-generating activities, constructing wells and leading play therapy and child protection committees that help kids heal from traumatic violence.
  10. The World Food Programme also works in the Central African Republic alongside the UNHCR, UNICEF and NGO partners to provide vulnerable communities basic food and nutrition by distributing food. The WFP also helps to support smallholder farmers in restoring and enhancing their productive assets. When school meals and general food distributions programs purchase from smallholders, it will be benefiting 46,000 farmers. 60 percent of them are women.

As the country currently stands as one of the world’s poorest countries, there is still a lot of work to do. However, there is still hope for the improvement of living conditions in the Central African Republic.

Madeline Oden
Photo: Flickr

Red Crescent Society of AfghanistanIn Kabul, Afghanistan in 1929, a charitable foundation was created by philanthropists to aid the victims of domestic disasters. This organization would go on to become the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan in 1934, and officially was recognized in 1951 by a declaration by the King.

The Red Cross Society of Afghanistan

Similar to all Red Crescent and Red Cross organizations around the world, the Red Cross Society of Afghanistan works to accomplish its goals by the Seven Universal Principles proclaimed in Vienna in 1956: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, volunteer service, unity and universality. These principles were adopted based on the experience of aid workers of the time. Although challenging, these principles have helped the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan claim many accomplishments in its years of active service.

The Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan is organized into five different departments:

  • Disaster Management
  • Health Services
  • Organizational Development
  • International Relations
  • Financial, Legal, and Gender

In addition, the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan also has three special issue groups:

  • Frostbite prevention
  • Marastoon
  • Poor houses

All eight departments work to tackle prominent recurring issues throughout the country.

Combatting the Elements

For example, the frostbite prevention group provides detailed advice on their website about how to prevent frostbite and how to handle a case of frostbite. Frostbite may sound like an odd injury to receive in Afghanistan (as many people picture the country as strictly a mountainous desert) but nighttime temperatures can drop significantly in a desert due to the lack of moisture to retain heat; in addition, average temperature can drop quickly as elevation increases.

Temperature is not the only environmental hazard that the people in Afghanistan must deal with — earthquakes also often strike Afghanistan. In 2015, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake shook the Hindu Kush Mountains; in Afghanistan, 77 people were killed by the earthquake and 2000 more were injured. The Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan responded with volunteers to aid the injured and rebuild infrastructure.

Heavy snowfall must also be contented in the Hindu Kush Mountains as it causes avalanches and detrimental aftermath. In 2015, heavy snowfall and rain caused flooding, avalanches and mudslides in 22 provinces in Afghanistan, killing over 200 people and damaging over 600 homes. During and after the precipitation, Red Crescent members handed out foodstuffs along with blankets and heaters to those in need. In true fashion of the Red Cross Red Crescent Society, other Red Crescent Societies delivered aid and volunteers to Afghanistan.

Partnerships for Change

Cooperation between Red Cross Red Crescent Societies around the world is not uncommon, and the 2015 aid to Afghanistan is not the first time the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan worked with a partner. In 2013, the Red Cross Society of Canada and the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan launched a mission of cooperation.

The collaboration’s main goal was to mitigate the damages caused by common natural disasters in Afghanistan, and this arrangement lasted until 2017. The Red Cross and Red Crescent societies would work with the Afghan National Disaster Management Authority to improve the government capability to deal with natural disasters. Technology, money, and advanced planning techniques would be shared by the Canadians, who in turn would learn much from their Afghan cohorts.

The Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan took over the operation and funding of the Marastoons (orphanages and poor houses), from the Afghan government in 1961. In 2015, over 1000 individuals lived in these Marastoons. Aside from providing safe housing for individuals, the Marastoons also help to provide, food, education, job training and other health services.

For example, the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan helped to construct a high-school at the Marastoon in Kabul. The school was eventually recognized and accredited by the Afghan government, and now provides math, religion, English and computer courses to those who can attend.

Debunking Social Stigmas

In 2013, the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan opened their Gender department. Its goal is to implement gender-sensitive education programs within the organization and the national population of Afghanistan. This is an important issue facing a conservative country, and it’s estimated that there are over one million widows in Afghanistan due to the ongoing war.

Often social stigmas prevent widows from returning to a normal life after the loss of a husband, and these “norms” sometimes relegate this population to second-class citizenship. On March 11, 2018, the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan celebrated International Women’s Day, in solidarity with other countries in the international community.

More Work to Be Done

The President of the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan gave a speech. In his speech, he marked the increasing education level of women in Afghanistan and professional training but also said that there is still work to be done; as a result, the Red Crescent Society will continue to work to further women’s rights in Afghanistan. The Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan and the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement recognize women’s rights as human rights.

The ongoing conflict in Afghanistan affects people at all levels of society throughout all of the provinces of Afghanistan. This combined with rampant corruption and tribal conflicts make aid work difficult in the country. Hopefully continued work by the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan and those around the world will help mitigate the effects of these issues on certain populations.

– Nick DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

Sri LankaRecently, many acres of Sri Lanka have been deluged by torrential rains from a slow-moving tropical depression in the Bay of Bengal. 22 of the nation’s 26 districts have suffered heavily from flash flooding and landslides. Officials say this is the worst flood to hit Sri Lanka in over a quarter of a century, and with the monsoon season set to arrive within the next few weeks, there will be no chance of a reprieve. International aid in Sri Lanka is sorely needed to help house and feed displaced persons.

According to Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Center, 82 people have been killed and over 500,000 have been displaced by the flooding and landslides. The death toll could rise even higher as 118 people are still missing, according to the Press Trust of India.

Displaced persons are being housed in 594 temporary camps across Sri Lanka, according to a press release by Sri Lanka’s Red Cross.

The UN’s Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka has met with President Sirisena. Together, they discussed the emergency provisions needed to provide life-saving aid in Sri Lanka.

The UN released a statement, saying: “We met the president this morning for a briefing on emergency response and coordination. We remain committed to assist all the affected people.”

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has deployed 10 medical teams with supplies in the areas of Kolonnawan, and Kaduwels MOH divisions and the Columbo Municipal council area have been given medical supplies, according to the World Health Organization.

However, it seems the Red Cross has taken the lead in the effort to provide aid in Sri Lanka. As soon as the landslide occurred, the Sri Lankan Red Cross Society’s Kegalle Branch deployed its Disaster Response Team to Aranayake.

Shortly after their arrival, Red Cross officials coordinated with government authorities in search and rescue efforts, as well as in creating temporary camps where they have provided food, first aid and psychological support to survivors.

In Gampaha, one of the worst affected districts in Sri Lanka, Red Cross volunteers provided evacuation via boats and first aid support to people stranded in Biyagama.

The predominant presence of the Red Cross is notable since they have been previously denied access to victims of displacement in the region. In 2009, the Sri Lankan government denied the Red Cross and many other NGOs access to civilians in refugee camps following the Tamil Tiger rebels’ final battle.

Veronica Ung-Kono

Photo: Flickr

Tanzania Red Cross Society Uses Mobile Phones to Aid Disaster Relief- BORGEN
Mobile phone technology is sweeping across Africa in the rapid, all-encompassing style of a pandemic. However, mobile phone usage and supporting networks actually offer a solution to treating disease and other disasters.

Using Open Data Kit (ODK), a set of free, open-source tools organizations can use to author, field and manage mobile data collection, the Tanzania Red Cross Society has been able to facilitate data collection through phones.

Red Cross volunteers are able to upload surveys to their mobile phones that they then use to interview beneficiaries of Red Cross relief efforts about the aid they received. After completing each survey, volunteers can remotely upload results to the server. From there, the collected data is analyzed, allowing Red Cross officials to determine the effectiveness of various emergency relief efforts.

Kibari Ramadhan Tawakal, disaster management coordinator at Tanzania Red Cross Society, reports that Volunteers prefer the mobile platform, referencing how easy it is to use in comparison to pen and paper surveys.

“Using the mobile phones is exciting for them, and helps increase their confidence when interviewing beneficiaries. It also enables us to collect more consistent data,” Tawakal said.

It is true that recording and distributing data in the developing world can be a challenge. Without guarantees of a power source or specialized hardware and network access, information is not always current or reliable.

Created by researchers at the University of Washington, ODK was designed to offer an accessible solution to data collection in developing nations.

Cellular service is uniquely reliable even in the developing world. This enables data to be sent and analyzed in real-time. Mobile phones also contain cameras and GPS units, which ease data collection, and are capable of establishing USB and WiFi connections to desktop computers. Smartphone cameras additionally function as a tool for reading barcode information.

With telecom companies investing millions in rural mobile networks, cell phones are accessible even in the most remote areas of countries like Tanzania. The nation’s Communications Regulatory Authority reports that as of 2015 there are approximately 33 million mobile subscribers in the country.

For this reason, ODK software offers an extremely promising solution to data collection challenges. With dependable real-time information about the appropriateness of disaster relief efforts, Red Cross officials will be able to quickly make informed decisions with regards to future aid.

Improved data collection may also feed directly into Red Cross efforts regarding HIV/AIDS. As a part of their project in Tanzania, the organization cites improving knowledge about HIV at a community level and reaching 35,000 people “through community-based educational activities that focus on preventing HIV and reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with this disease.”

Having accurate, region-specific information about HIV/AIDS can only help when it comes to community outreach.

– Emma-Claire LaSaine

Sources: IT Web Africa, IFRC, Ars Technica, Open Data Kit
Photo: Flickr

Recovering from Natural Disaster
Water, wind, fire and earth are four key elements which, when combined properly, create a perfectly harmonious world. But if one decides to go slightly awry, disaster can strike.

When disaster strikes, media coverage of the event and its aftermath is extensive and intense. After all of the tragic glamour of the disaster subsides, however, the public rarely hears any more about the victims, who are forced to rebuild their lives for years.

Water strikes in the form of a tsunami, one of which hit Japan rather brutally in 2011 and whose mark can still be seen four years later. While Japan is rather used to getting hit with natural disasters, as it has been home to some of the worst disasters in the 21st century, according to the Japan Times, it still has around 230,000 people living in temporary housing four years after the tsunami. Recovery has been slow partially because of the involvement of another element, earth: Soon after the tsunami hit, an earthquake followed. This came as a result of Japan existing within the “Ring of Fire,” which is the area of the world most susceptible to earthquakes due to tectonic plate positioning. The combined damages from the earthquake and the tsunami totaled to around $300 billion.

This earthquake caused a crack in a nuclear reactor close to Japanese water supplies, and this small, fiery crack led to a whole host of issues. Contaminated water was only another issue on a long list of things that needed to be fixed after this collection of tragic events. To repair the damage, Japan enacted a seven step plan, which has been slowly making progress and is almost complete. But none of this would have been possible without the aid of foreign nations and the support systems they have in place.

In the United States, there are organizations such as the Red Cross and FEMA, which allocate money and volunteers to help in the event of an emergency. Internationally, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies act to help nations develop and carry out their disaster relief plans. While the IRFC has developed several guidelines and regulations, few states have followed these regulations without contradicting one another. Recently, the organization has strived to perfect its work by releasing guidelines that strictly adhere to those adopted by state parties at the Geneva Convention, and have also created model acts and disaster law databases to permit governments to ensure that they are getting the best help possible.

Disaster can strike without warning and the side effects can lasts for years afterward. It is imperative for the global community to understand the old economic theory of the butterfly effect — when one problem occurs, even if it is halfway across the world, it will have repercussions for everyone. By helping each other grow and recover we preserve industry, trade and the lives of individuals who do not have a place to call home. Disaster can ruin lives, but that does not mean that we should let it.

Sumita Tellakat

Sources: IFRC, Live Science
Photo: The New York Times


Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), recently warned the public that the consistent growth of several regional conflicts has encumbered the organizations efficacy in responding to such global crises.

Noting that the operational budget of the ICRC has surged by nearly 50% in only the last three years, Maurer cited the “extraordinary period” of persistent humanitarian emergencies as the leading cause for such large increases in operational costs.

Maurer also stated that the inability of diplomatic and government officials to secure political resolutions for the ongoing violent conflicts within the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe led the ICRC to spend an additional $1.1 billion last year in efforts to strengthen their global response to such crises.

Referring specifically to the failure of diplomatic talks within the embattled country of Syria, Maurer questioned, “Isn’t it a bit of a symbol that high-quality negotiators have not been able to move anything significant in the Syrian context?”

Maurer has openly contemplated how the failure of such negotiations has resulted in a “striking absence” of political progress towards ending the current “proxy war” within Syria, a region which has been strife with conflict since civil war broke out in 2011.

Physicians for Human Rights, a healthcare monitoring agency, reported last year that within Syria, a healthcare worker was killed at least every other day and a medical facility was attacked at least every four days. This report highlights the increasing prevalence of violent attacks towards medical personnel and facilities, and has caused Maurer to publicly express warnings for the future of humanitarian aid delivery.

In regards to the increased prevalence of regional conflicts in recent years, Maurer explained, “The international system is having difficulty getting to grips with those conflicts; countries have difficulty moving to consensus on how to deal with those crises.

He continued in stating, “That seems to open spaces for disorder and conflict and we have those dynamics–which may be distinct and different in each and every country–but together they nevertheless refer us to an international system that does not seem to have international institutions with the ability to negotiate solutions to conflicts or to the big, increasing and accelerating impact of crises. Basically, it increases the necessity for us to respond.”

In a recent speech delivered to the ICRC entitled Ethical Principles of Health Care in Times of Armed Conflict and Other Emergencies, Maurer discussed the adverse effects of violent regional conflicts on the success of his organization’s initiatives and operations.

He pointed toward the increasing commonality of assaults on medical facilities, workers, and patients often observed in conflict zones as concerning developments. Such violence significantly compromises the efficacy of aid delivery by the ICRC and similar agencies, and diminishes the overall impact of organizations working to improve healthcare infrastructure within developing regions.

The Health in Danger Project, a collaborative effort formed by the ICRC and Red Crescent Movement in 2011, reported earlier this year that between January 2012 and December 2014 over 2,000 attacks were conducted against healthcare facilities and initiatives. The attacks resulted in at least 500 healthcare personnel being killed. The association of such dangers with healthcare programs in developing regions is complicating the efforts of many organizations to increase community participation, as many residents affected by the violence fear the possibility of facing arrest, harassment, assault or death.

– James Thornton

Sources: The Guardian, International Committee of the Red Cross
Photo: The Guardian