Flaxseed Oil
Around 689 million people, or 9.2% of the global population, currently live in poverty with less than $1.90 a day. In 2017, Global Citizen reported that “at least half of the world’s population did not have access to essential health care.” Global connections between health care and poverty are distinctly universal, even in the United States. A study by the Institute for Research on Poverty further indicates that practically 70% of the U.S.’s uninsured experience poverty or are on the brink of poverty. Consequently, poverty and low-income status have links to a variety of negative health consequences due to poor sanitation, such as shorter life expectancy. One way to improve sanitation in areas with high poverty is to use flaxseed oil.

Poverty and Sanitation

Research shows that 673 million people continue to defecate in public, such as in city gutters, behind bushes or in open bodies of water; the impacts of poor sanitation are severely detrimental. Poor sanitation exacerbates stunting and contributes to the spread of diseases like cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio. This issue is causing diseases such as intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and trachoma. Predictions have determined that poor sanitation causes 432,000 diarrheal deaths per year. Factoring in deaths from all of these diseases, countless people die every year in connection to poor sanitation.

A National Center for Biotechnology Information study found that there is a relationship between sanitation and types of floors. High levels of bacteria such as E. coli are more common in houses with dirt floors in comparison to houses with concrete floors. Proper floors and resources are a solution to this issue; however, concrete is expensive which means it’s hard for the poor to access it. This is where flaxseed oil comes in.

Flaxseed-Supported Floors

After Gayatri Datar traveled to Rwanda with her classmates from Stanford University, she wanted to address the prevalence of dirt floors as around 75% of the population had dirt floors, making people susceptible to certain illnesses. Datar partnered with Zuzow, one of her former classmates, and together they created “a flaxseed oil that, when poured over an earthen floor, dries to form a plastic-like, waterproof and sustainable resin that glues the surface together. The flaxseed is currently imported from India, but EarthEnable [Datar’s organization] is planning to harvest it in Kenya to keep the entire project more local.”

This flaxseed oil is a cheap and effective alternative to concrete floors. The flaxseed oil sealant costs between $2 and $5 per square meter, or around $50 per house, and residents pay it in either one sum or in six monthly installments. The cost is less than the $162 cost of the concrete floors used in Piso Firme, one of the first floor-replacement operations in Mexico.

Connecting Solutions

TECHO – a nonprofit organization – has been doing something very similar. It has “built one-room houses with hard floors, insulated pinewood walls and tin roofs for almost 130,000 families in Latin America since 1997.” All of this together has resulted in a “big drop in childhood incidence of diarrhea in these homes, down 27% or double the improvement Gertler measured for Mexican children whose dirt floors were replaced with concrete.”

Though simple, identifying contributing factors to poverty and poor health can be a meaningful step to increase the quality of life for millions. While EarthEnable and TECHO continue their work, they quite literally work to establish a stronger foundation for those experiencing certain forms of poverty.

– Noya Stessel
Photo: Flickr

Global hepatitis eliminationHepatitis-related illnesses kill someone every 30 seconds. While many strains have treatments, the disease is incredibly prevalent. About 354 million people have hepatitis B or C and around 80% are unable to receive the appropriate care. The illness appears all over the world, as 116 million have it in the Western Pacific Region, 81 million in Africa, 60 million in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, 18 million in South-East Asia, 14 million in Europe and 5 million in the Americas. Global hepatitis elimination is possible with additional steps and education. However, as of right now, hepatitis is clearly very significant across the globe.

What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver often from infection or liver damage. While acute hepatitis often does not have symptoms, some symptoms can occur including:

  • Muscle and joint pain
  • High temperature
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dark urine
  • Pale, grey fecal matter
  • Itchy skin
  • Jaundice

Types of Hepatitis

There are five prominent types of hepatitis:

  1. Hepatitis A: Caused by the hepatitis A virus, people usually catch it when consuming food or drink contaminated with the fecal matter of an affected person. It is more common in places with poor sanitation and typically passes within a few months but could potentially be life-threatening. While there is no specific treatment, professionals recommend vaccination if a person is at “high risk of infection” or traveling to an area where it is more prevalent.
  2. Hepatitis B: Caused by the hepatitis B virus, hepatitis B spreads through “the blood of an infected person.” Hepatitis B is very common globally and typically spreads from an “infected pregnant woman to her babies or [through] child-to-child contact.” Sometimes it spreads through injecting drugs or unprotected sex but that is fairly rare. This strain is significant in southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Most adults who get it recover in a couple of months, however, children often develop a long-term infection that can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. A vaccine exists for hepatitis B.
  3. Hepatitis C: The hepatitis C virus causes this strain and is fairly common globally. Typically, the virus spreads through blood-to-blood contact with an infected person, so sharing needles is significant. Since many do not have symptoms, most people may not know they are sick without testing. One in four people is able to fight off the infection, however, it will stay in others for years. Chronic hepatitis C could cause cirrhosis and liver failure.
  4. Hepatitis D: Caused by the hepatitis D virus, this strain only affects those with hepatitis B. Spread through blood-to-blood or sexual contact, it is prevalent in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South America.
  5. Hepatitis E: Caused by the hepatitis E virus, people usually catch it by eating raw or undercooked pork, venison, shellfish or offal. Typically, it is a “mild and short-term infection that does not require any treatment,” but people with a weakened immune system may be more at risk.

Other forms include alcoholic hepatitis, which occurs when a person drinks large amounts of alcohol. There is also autoimmune hepatitis, which is rare and occurs when “the immune system attacks and damages the liver.” A medication to reduce inflammation is available. Global hepatitis elimination needs to focus on all strains but especially B and C.

Methods of Reduction

By 2030, diagnostic tests, awareness campaigns, testing and vaccines could prevent 4.5 million deaths in low and middle-income countries. Currently, only 42% of children receive the birth dose of the hepatitis B vaccine. Nevertheless, global hepatitis elimination is very possible. A daily medication taken for 8-12 weeks cures most with hepatitis C and medications for hepatitis B are available. Both hepatitis A and B are preventable with safe and effective vaccines. Vaccinating more children would significantly reduce cases and be a major step towards global hepatitis elimination.

Additionally, since hepatitis A and E both spread mostly in areas with poor sanitation, improvements in sanitation could drastically reduce infections. Testing is another important step as many do not know they have it. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) “estimated that only 10% of people with hepatitis B and 21% of people with hepatitis C worldwide knew they were infected. Of these, 22% and 62% had received treatment, respectively.”

Goals for 2030

The World Health Assembly called for the near or total elimination of viral hepatitis by 2030. This would entail:

  • A 90% reduction in new cases of hepatitis B and C
  • A 65% reduction in deaths
  • Treatment for 80% who have the illness

The Global Immunization Strategic Framework has laid out how to achieve global hepatitis elimination. Goals include strengthening vaccination services, helping improve access to testing and improving the response to outbreaks. Safe vaccines for hepatitis A and B already exist, so improving access to them is important. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that only 10% of people with hepatitis B and 21% with hepatitis C know they are sick. That means that improvements in both testing and education are vital first steps before improving vaccination rates. Therefore, global hepatitis elimination is possible with increased testing and vaccination rates.

– Alex Alfano
Photo: Flickr

uses of human wasteHuman waste is typically overlooked, yet it can be a valuable resource capable of solving many of the issues surrounding the world today. As the global population continues to grow, coupled with environmental and sustainability concerns, a solution is needed. More than 700 million people worldwide live in extreme poverty. Some of the challenges they face are food insecurity and access to electricity, clean water and social services like healthcare. Human waste is a sustainable material and replaces non-renewable resources like coal, oil and natural gas. Technology and ideas emerge every day, including new uses of human waste. Interestingly, creative ways to solve the issues surrounding poverty and the future of an expanding world have also arisen.

Why Human Waste?

Each year, humans produce 640 billion pounds of feces and 3.5 billion gallons of urine. Lack of proper sanitation is one of the concerns surrounding poverty as human waste can enter water supplies and cause infections and diseases among people. Feces are typically made up of 55-75% water and the remaining portion is made up of methane and a solid. Once dried, the solid could provide the same amount of energy as coal. If converted into fuel, global human waste would be worth about $9.5 billion. Human waste contains minerals used in fertilizers for crops, which increases crop yields and the nutrition of plants and soil.

Biogas as Fuel

Biogas digesters break down human waste into methane, which is then piped through buildings and used in vehicles. The digesters submerge the waste in water where bacteria break down the solids without the presence of oxygen. The resulting fuel is one of the most valued uses of human waste, capable of powering homes, buildings and vehicles.

Sometimes, areas where poverty is common lack access to electricity. Biogas offers a cheaper solution. Installing a biogas digester uses an already present resource to produce fuel on-site rather than relying on an outside company to bring electricity. An example of this is a prison in Malawi that once relied on firewood to run its kitchens. Since installing a biogas digester, inmates at Mulanje Prison no longer have to spend five hours chopping wood in order to prepare food for the day. Moreover, the prison’s electricity bill went down by an average of $400 a month.

The procedure decreases the reliance on firewood, which in turn, slows down the rate of deforestation — a widespread issue in underdeveloped nations. Biogas digesters are also present in other prisons throughout Malawi. In the capital city, Lilongwe, the NGO Our World International takes household waste for its digester and sells the biogas for half the price of natural gas.

Clean Water

Around two billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water. A potential solution to this comes from the use of human waste, which involves turning urine into fresh water. Filters and machines rid the urine of salts and ammonia, leaving clean water to utilize for drinking or commercial use. The International Space Station uses a similar process to convert astronauts’ urine and sweat into drinking water. One Belgian solar-powered device removes 95% of ammonia from urine and has the capacity to be used in areas without electricity to provide fresh water. Although many people would not feel comfortable drinking water that came from urine, regions suffering water shortages due to natural disasters or violence will greatly benefit from a much-needed supply of water.

In addition, one of the other uses of human waste, fertilizing crops, is already practiced in many places. Wastewater and urine can also serve the same purpose as feces, adding minerals and nutrients to the soil. All of these uses show the functionality of human waste as an undervalued resource with the potential to decrease poverty and improve living conditions for millions of people.

– Madeleine Proffer
Photo: pxfuel

Lebanon's Water SystemAmid an escalating economic crisis, Lebanon finds itself in an incredibly vulnerable position. According to the United Nations, Lebanon’s water system is at critical risk of total failure. About 71% of the country’s population is at risk of losing water as the public water system is reportedly “on life support.” UNICEF emphasizes the need for emergency action and stands by to offer crucial support. Forecasts warn of an increase in disease due to lack of sanitation as well as the closure of essential facilities.

The Cause of the Water System Collapse

For nearly a year now, Lebanon has existed without a government, according to CNN. Furthermore, the World Bank describes Lebanon’s economic crisis as one of the three worst economic disasters since the mid-19th century. The country’s GDP per capita has plummeted by about 40% and its currency has lost more than 90% of its value since late 2019. As a result, about half the population has slipped below the poverty line.

Yukie Mokuo, a UNICEF representative in Lebanon, tells UNICEF that Lebanon’s water system difficulties due to the economic collapse raise three main issues. First, she emphasized the importance of adequately funding routine maintenance of the public water system, which Lebanon cannot sustain.  Second, the problem of non-revenue water, or water that has been lost before it could reach consumers, remains. Last, the state of the power grid and the growing cost of fuel is not positive.

Mokuo also adds that those struggling to get by during the economic crisis will be the most vulnerable to the water system’s collapse. People would have to make hard choices when it comes to sanitation, hygiene and basic water needs.

The Risk and the Need

Mokuo and UNICEF also warn that, without urgent action, essential public facilities will be rendered unable to function. Among the four million people affected, children stand to risk the most. Children’s health and hygiene would take a fall in the wake of such a crisis since the immediate effects would impact overall public health. The country would see an increase in diseases without effective sanitation. In particular, women and young girls would face specific challenges “to their personal hygiene, safety and dignity without access to safe sanitation,” according to Mokuo.

UNICEF requires $40 million a year to adequately support Lebanon’s water system. The fund would work to address supply and maintain adequate levels of clean water for more than four million people. The mission would aim to secure the “minimum levels of fuel, chlorine, spare parts and maintenance necessary.” This would enable the continued functioning of various key systems while safeguarding access and ensuring public operation.

A Plea for Lebanon

Mokuo affirms the importance of the necessary funding to support UNICEF’s mission in addressing Lebanon’s water system collapse. She says, “[W]e will remain steadfast in our support to communities as resources permit, but this alarming situation requires immediate and sustained funding.” She added, “UNICEF stands ready to support, particularly as the global pandemic evolves, to ensure that the most basic right to clean water is met for children and families at this critical time for Lebanon.” As such, UNICEF calls “for the urgent restoration of the power supply — the only solution to keep water services running.” In the meanwhile, UNICEF continues with COVID-19 relief efforts in Lebanon, providing “life-saving services” and supporting the vaccine rollout.

Though the situation remains dire, the commitment of UNICEF signals genuine support that Lebanon can rely on. In an imperfect, developing situation, UNICEF’s focus provides hope that even in the worst case, help stands ready.

Gene Kang
Photo: Flickr

cholera in nigeriaBetween January and August 2021, Nigeria experienced a surge in cholera cases with more than 31,000 “suspected cases,” 311 confirmed reports and more than 800 deaths. With close to 200,000 COVID-19 cases, a surge of cholera during the pandemic has heightened public health concerns in Nigeria. As such, addressing cholera in Nigeria is currently a top priority for the country.

What is Cholera?

According to the World Health Organization, “cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.” Despite being both preventable and treatable, cholera is very dangerous as it can kill an individual within hours without intervention. While mild cases are easily treatable with “oral rehydration solution,” more severe cases necessitate “rapid treatment with intravenous fluids and antibiotics.” These are resources that many impoverished developing countries simply cannot afford.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number “of people who die from reported cholera remains higher in Africa than elsewhere.” The WHO emphasizes that the “provision of safe water and sanitation is critical to prevent and control the transmission of cholera.” The WHO also recommends oral cholera vaccines in areas where cholera is endemic.

The Nigerian Government’s Efforts

The Nigerian government continues to implement policies to control the spread of cholera. Promoting basic sanitation, improving hygiene practices and providing clean water are ways the government does this. In an attempt to mitigate the spread of cholera in Nigeria, the government has also supplied solar-powered boreholes with the help of the International Organization of Migration (IOM). As of 2019, the IOM has maintained 58 of these boreholes in Borno state and created 11 new boreholes. The IOM also “rehabilitated 10 and connected them to solar power.”

An important way to stop the spread of cholera is through improving the vaccination system in Nigeria. After an outbreak occurred in 2017, the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency instated cholera vaccination programs. The next step will be to increase the supply of vaccines.

The MSF’s Role in Eradicating Cholera

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), otherwise known as Doctors Without Borders, is an independent global organization working to prevent cholera in Nigeria, among other missions. Its main focus is to provide medical aid in areas where it is most needed. Beginning in the 1980s, the MSF has responded to cholera epidemics across the world. Since then, the organization has worked to come up with new and more effective ways to eradicate cholera.

The MSF’s efforts to address cholera include supplying cholera kits, investigating outbreaks, establishing cholera treatment facilities, community education, improving access to water and sanitation and vaccinations, among other efforts. Cholera kits include “rehydration salts, antibiotics and IVs, along with buckets, boots, chlorine and plastic sheeting.” Sanitation improvements allow MSF to ensure the availability of clean water to citizens of Nigeria. Additionally, soap and clean water are provided for at-home use.

Promoting health is another major goal of the organization. At the time of an outbreak, those who work in the health field visit churches, schools and homes to help educate people on measures they can take to prevent the spread of cholera. Vaccinations are also employed to address Nigeria’s cholera outbreak. Providing vaccines is difficult, despite their ease of administration. Nonetheless, the MSF is working on vaccine campaigns. With patients receiving the proper care they need at the time they need it, the MSF states that deaths can potentially decrease from as high as 50% to as low as 2%.

The MSF’s Achievements

In 2019, the MSF supplied more than 231,000 cholera vaccine doses to endemic nations across the world. With the work of the MSF and increased government initiatives, it is possible to significantly reduce cholera in Nigeria.

– Nia Hinson
Photo: Flickr

poverty reduction in MalaysiaEstablished in 1963, Malaysia is a small country located in Southeast Asia. Since earning its independence, Malaysia has made considerable strides in working to reduce the national poverty rate, to the point where the country is expected to gain high-income status between 2024 and 2028. With the help of the United Nations and other organizations, poverty reduction in Malaysia is slowly reaching rural areas, which still remain disproportionally plagued by poverty.

A Flailing Poverty Line

Malaysia’s economic success cannot be explained without first noting the shift in an economic system previously dependent on agriculture to one built around commodity exportation. With about 40% of its labor force working in export activities, the country’s positive attitude toward trade and investment is responsible for the upwards trajectory in job growth and income expansion. Poverty reduction in Malaysia is apparent in its revision of the poverty line, increasing from $231.27 to $521.06 in 2019. That same year, however, rural households reported earning less than $2 per day.

Reports from government officials, which detail poverty reduction in Malaysia, ignore risks that many people face every day. The most impoverished 40% consist of rural villagers, migrant workers and refugees. These people are often left out of official poverty figures and lack a social safety net. Moreover, the dramatic economic growth seen in recent years is not accurately reflected in the poverty line, which is largely inconsistent with the current income levels of Malaysians. In his report, Professor Philip Alston explains that the impoverished have benefitted in gaining universal access to basic utilities. However, things like medical care and education are widely unattainable.

In areas such as Pulau Indah, an island not far from the capital Kuala Lumpur, many citizens live alongside heaps of garbage consisting of discarded plastic waste from Western countries. Here, sanitary living conditions are hard to come by. Education levels and medical needs prohibit people from building a life elsewhere. Most are even employed at illegal factories working to burn the waste that surrounds them. This leaves them in an inescapable cycle of poverty.

Villages Struggling to Stay Afloat

Problems are exacerbated in rural areas where the distance from hospitals, schools and jobs prevents residents from obtaining help. In water villages, which are clusters of homes sitting atop the water’s surface, the communities are subject to pollution and dangerous living conditions. While poverty reduction in Malaysia targets floating villages, providing them with basic necessities is still a hurdle. Access to clean water is a major problem as towns have no way of installing sewer systems. Even safe methods of electricity for heat or cooking are unaffordable. Thus, people resort to illegally extending power lines, risking engulfing entire villages into flames.

Casting a Safety Net

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is using an innovative strategy to aid poverty reduction in Malaysia. True to its mission of caring for the environment by improving people’s quality of life, UNEP sponsored a pilot project aimed at providing sewage treatment tanks to homes and schools in floating villages. This is major for a region like Sabah, which has 10,185 floating homes. These efforts are helping nearly 50,000 people gain access to sanitary living conditions. As part of a 36-month-long project, UNEP hopes to install 200 more treatment tanks in another village. Additionally, UNEP is encouraging the establishment of a facility where local people can work to produce the tanks themselves.

A business known as Hive Bulk Foods has also made considerable efforts at drawing attention to the waste issues in Malaysia and the impact of waste on impoverished communities. Founded by Claire Sancelot, The Hive encourages sustainable living and works with local farmers to source its ingredients. It operates as one of the only no-waste stores in Kuala Lumpur.

This push toward empowering rural communities to help eliminate poverty is apparent in the Malaysian government’s work as well. Legislation such as the 12th Malaysian Plan is based around promoting economic growth and poverty reform. Key policy measures that include providing help for undocumented citizens and re-evaluating the poverty line would ensure that poverty levels continue their downward trend for good.

– Nicole Yaroslavsky
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19’s Impact on Ethiopia 
As of August 2021, Ethiopia had 292,731 documented COVID-19 cases and 4,518 deaths in a population of more than 118 million. However, COVID-19’s impact on Ethiopia is far more complicatedAside from the clear health (medical and mental) implications of COVID-19, the pandemic affected other areas significantly, including poverty, nutrition and sanitation. The United Nation’s Ethiopia Assessment explored the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ethiopia.

Health and Nutrition

Despite being one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, 26% of Ethiopia’s population lives below the poverty line. In April 2021, there were studies on maternal and child nutrition and health during the early days of the pandemic compared to 2019. The studies showed a decline in these services in March and April 2020. The COVID-19 surge redirected nearly all resources and services. Therefore, there were few resources and services for other programs.

Healthcare workers, government and non-governmental organizations alike helped restore the services. A major factor in mitigating the negative impact of COVID-19 on Ethiopia’s health and nutrition was an awareness campaign. The campaign aimed to teach COVID-19 prevention utilizing volunteers in the community, including frontline workers and university students.

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

A major factor in winning the battle against COVID-19 is appropriate hygiene, such as handwashing. However, people in Ethiopia do not always have adequate access to water. This places further strain on the community. In Ethiopia, “60-80% of communicable diseases are attributed to limited access to safe water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene services.” For example, people in Ethiopia do not always wash their hands after using the latrine. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the many areas in which lower-income countries are at a disadvantage when it comes to keeping their citizens protected.

However, UNICEF partnered with the ONEWASH National Programme in 2013. This partnership established projects to guarantee access to a safely managed water supply, specifically to vulnerable groups like children and women. UNICEF and the ONEWASH National Programme aim to increase not only equitable and sustainable clean water supplies and sanitation services but also proper hygiene practices in rural and urban areas.

Government and Human Rights

The U.N. assessment on Ethiopia reported that the human rights situation in Ethiopia was improving. Due to government reforms and restructuring, opposition parties, women and different factions had a newfound voice in the government. However, human rights abuses remained. The pandemic exacerbated these abuses resulting in a state of emergency followed by delayed elections.

When the government postponed elections, the Tigray region chose to defy these orders and hold them anyway. This caused tension between the Tigray region and the federal government. Prime Minister Ahmed ordered military action against the Tigray region in retaliation for an attack on the federal government purportedly from the Tigray region. Additionally, in the western and southern parts of the Oromia region, “government counterinsurgency campaigns against armed rebel groups resulted in serious human rights and abuses against local communities by all sides.”

There are long-reaching implications of postponed elections. However, Ethiopia finally held elections in June 2021 with the ruling party winning a second term.

Looking Forward

COVID-19’s impact on Ethiopia is evolving as the vaccine rollout continues and the country implements information campaigns on COVID-19 prevention and hygiene and sanitation programs. The World Health Organization (WHO) through COVAX and the ACT accelerator shipped 38 million COVID-19 vaccine doses worldwide, providing vaccines to more than 100 countries. The efforts to fight COVID-19 in Ethiopia are not in vain and continue to positively impact countries around the globe.

– Tiffany Pate
Photo: Flickr

Social GoodThe private sector primarily employs data science, a relatively new field based in technology and data analysis, to improve sales, invigorate customer services and project businesses into the future. As it is creating great value for entrepreneurship, it also has the potential to aid social good causes as professionals in the field are adapting to function in public health, social policy and international aid.

Using Data Science

One such initiative is Data Science for Social Good (DSSG), which began at the University of Chicago in 2013. The organization focuses on training people and governments to work in projects of social impact using machine learning algorithms. Effective machine learning and data science deployment can be extremely beneficial for public and private initiatives, especially as the wave of big data sweeps over every industry and the need for well-trained professionals grows daily.

The need for data-trained individuals is urgent in nonprofit organizations: “most organizations with a primarily public mission,” like NGOs, are not always able to extract the full value of the information they collect. Data science is necessary for organizations to put their time, resources and funds into the right projects, avoiding corruption and obtaining fruitful results. According to one survey, almost 90% of NGOs in the United States are collecting data but “almost half say they aren’t fully aware of the ways data can (and does) impact their work.” This is mainly because NGOs tend to lack an adequate workforce to process large quantities of data.

Applications in Action

Data Science for Social Good leverages the power of data science in projects worldwide, enhancing aid in developing countries, deterring corruption and even reducing governments’ response time to their citizens’ requests. DSSG’s most prominent project has a connection to the World Bank Group. The World Bank grants more than $30 billion yearly to developing countries, but estimates say billions are lost every year due to corruption and fraud. The role of DSSG is to analyze patterns in the World Bank’s international contract biddings to detect and prevent the diversion of funds.

In Kenya, Sanergy provides impoverished communities with “sanitation facilities,” reducing deaths that bacterial infections cause. Data Science for Social Good tries to speed up waste collection services by using data to calculate which collection routes are the most efficient. Other organizations and technology efforts also make an impact. The project HelpMum aims to reduce child and maternal mortality in Nigeria. It will partner with Google AI to better allocate resources and analyze essential data. About 2,300 children under 5 die every day in Nigeria due to a lack of access to clean and affordable birth kits, essential resources and information.

When nonprofit organizations extract value from data, it is possible to more effectively monitor activities. This technology has many new opportunities: detecting patterns in statistical models, streamlining funds to find cost-effective ways to deliver aid and launching strategic marketing campaigns for fundraising.

– Arai Yegros
Photo: Flickr

UNICEF’s Work During COVID-19In June 2021, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released its annual report outlining the work done during the prior year. This year, the report focused on UNICEF’s work during the COVID-19 pandemic. While complete data on how COVID-19 impacted global poverty may never be available, what is available paints a dire picture. Compared to the baseline projection of global poverty prior to the pandemic, 2020 saw 144 million more people in extreme poverty. At least half of this rise “could be permanent.”

Beyond the immediate impact of families falling below the poverty line, the pandemic is also likely to impact growth. Without policy action, the pandemic may “trigger cycles of higher income inequality, lower social mobility among the vulnerable, and lower resilience to future shocks.

Despite the difficulty, UNICEF works hard to counter the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. UNICEF is an organization under the United Nations with the express purpose of protecting children’s rights across the globe. The organization mainly focuses on helping children in some of the toughest places in the world. It supports “child health and nutrition, safe water and sanitation, quality education and skill building, HIV prevention and treatment for mothers and babies, and the protection of children and adolescents from violence and exploitation.”

The Impact of COVID-19

The pandemic touched nearly every part of the globe in 2020. Its impact worsened global progress toward reaching the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. Progress was already off track due to a range of humanitarian crises, climate change and inequalities across the world. This led to 142 million additional children living in “monetarily poor households” in 2020. The pandemic led to about 15% of all children spending the majority of the year under stay-at-home orders. An estimated 94% of students were affected at some point by school closures. These disruptions caused the most harm to children living in poverty. At least one-third of students didn’t have access to remote learning, and food disruptions led to 44 million children facing hunger.

While absolute mortality appeared to be less of a danger for children, the effects of the virus had a negative impact on almost every key measure of progress. Disruptions to health services impacted children across the world. An estimated 80 million children under the age of one “may miss out on life-saving vaccines.” The pandemic and its secondary effects also led to a rise in abuse as disruptions to violence prevention and response services rose.

UNICEF’s Response

Despite these disheartening consequences, UNICEF’s work during the COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped. It has been working continuously to provide the necessary services to handle COVID-19. It also dedicates resources to responding to non-virus-related situations. This global crisis has highlighted UNICEF’s ability to adapt to new challenges and find new ways to help children living in poverty across the world. One way in which UNICEF’s work during COVID-19 had a large impact was its efforts toward providing necessary supplies and helping with the rollout of vaccines.

Throughout 2020, UNICEF provided “water, sanitation, hygiene services and supplies” for 106 million people. It also provided PPE to 2.6 million health care workers and training to an additional 4 million health care workers. UNICEF also worked with COVAX to make sure that vaccines were procured and distributed equitably across the world. UNICEF’s work to help children across the world extended to efforts not directly related to health care. The organization also used its leadership to reach more than 130 million children through its social protection initiatives and cash transfers.

Future Work

As the world moves forward, necessary work remains to help rebuild much of what the pandemic brought down. To this end, UNICEF’s work during COVID-19 continues. Executive Director Henrietta Fore laid out five goals for UNICEF to work on as nations rebuild and reimagine the systems children across the world rely on:

  1. Provide equal access to vaccines for all.
  2. Revolutionize learning through bridging the digital divide.
  3. Provide proper investment and attention to mental health.
  4. End discrimination.
  5. Address climate change.

The pandemic continues to have a massive impact on children across the globe. Not only did the virus directly affect millions, but it also shone a light on many already existing inequalities. UNICEF’s work during COVID-19 was vital and helped millions throughout the year. In the future, UNICEF will continue to work to improve the lives of children across the world.

– Taryn Steckler-Houle
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty Challenges Period poverty challenges women worldwide because many women cannot afford or do not have access to menstrual products. Whether in the United States, Ireland, Great Britain or South Africa, many women struggle with period poverty and need resources to properly manage their menstruation.

Period Poverty Challenges in Africa

According to ActionAid, one in 10 girls in Africa do not attend school because they lack access to menstrual products or private hygiene facilities at school. Moreover, 50% of schoolgirls in Kenya do not have access to menstrual products. In addition, community stigmas and taboos about menstruation lead to girls experiencing emotional and mental problems. Girls and women in these situations often feel the need to hide their periods because of the shame associated with menstruation. Understanding the anthropological impacts and possible solutions to period poverty reveals beneficial changes that could help women.

Anthropological Perspective

According to the anthropological perspective of menstruation, menstruation is the biological experience of young girls that notifies them of their body’s transition to womanhood. In a world with more than 300 million women menstruating per day, menstruation is still not openly discussed. In places where menstruation is considered taboo or dirty, women tend to have negative perceptions of themselves. This encourages secrecy and shame. Research suggests that menstruation as a topic of private discussion is universal. Women and girls are expected to deal with their menstruation in silence and invisibility.

Period Poverty Interventions

Sophia Bay, researcher of “Moving Toward a Holistic Menstrual Hygiene Management: An Anthropological Analysis of Menstruation and Practices in Western and Non-Western Societies,” proposes interventions that go beyond the issue of accessing menstrual products. Bay addresses the social stigma and shame as well. The first intervention recognizes the issue of access to menstrual products and the second addresses efforts to destigmatize the topic of menstruation.

When girls in lower-income areas have access to period products regularly, their risk of anxiety and fear is drastically reduced. Additionally, access to sanitation such as handwashing facilities and clean toilets is important to improve hygiene. Increasing privacy is also vital to sanitation as this will prevent young girls from improperly discarding used menstrual products. Lastly, puberty education needs to be prioritized. Many women do not know enough about menstruation. A lack of education about biological changes negatively impacts how girls see themselves and menstruation.

Qrate Workshops

Individuals and organizations are working to change the stigma surrounding periods and address period poverty challenges. Candice Chirwa, the founder of the organization Qrate, currently works with communities in parts of South Africa to educate people about menstruation. She is a passionate menstruation activist, speaker and scholar who uses artistic techniques to encourage conversation about periods and period poverty. Visual art, dancing and acting offer an opportunity for communities to discuss a usually challenging topic in a light-hearted way.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Chirwa explains that the girls play games to become more confident in themselves during the workshops. For example, one of these games requires the girls to pretend to explain different menstrual products to an alien. This helps them learn more about the products and become more comfortable talking about menstruation. Chirwa explains that the game also lets her know whether the girls are gaining the menstrual knowledge they need.

Ending Period Poverty

Facilitating workshops for young girls in South Africa has shown promise. Furthermore, understanding period poverty from an anthropological perspective offers explanations for the negative cultural stigma around periods. Using the work of researchers, making period products accessible, ensuring menstrual education and taking action to combat the stigma work hand-in-hand to alleviate period poverty.

Nyelah Mitchell
Photo: Flickr