Coding in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is primarily an agricultural country, with more than 80 percent of its citizens living in rural areas. More than 108.4 million people call Ethiopia home, making it Africa’s second-largest nation in terms of population. However, other production areas have become major players in Ethiopia’s economy. As of 2017, Ethiopia had an estimated gross domestic product of $200.6 billion with the main product coming from other sources than agriculture.

Today, 1.2 million Ethiopians have access to fixed telephone lines, while 62.6 million own cell phones. The country broadcasts six public TV stations and 10 public radio shows nationally. 2016 data showed that over 15 million Ethiopians have internet access. While 15 percent of the population may not seem significant, it is a sharp increase in comparison to the mere one percent of the population with Internet access just two years prior.

Coding in Ethiopia: One Girl’s Success Story

Despite its technologically-limited environment, young tech-savvy Ethiopians are beginning to forge their own destiny and pave the way for further technological improvements. One such pioneer is teenager Betelhem Dessie. At only 19, Dessie has spent the last three years traveling Ethiopia and teaching more than 20,000 young people how to code and patenting a few new software programs along the way.

On her website, Dessie recounts some of the major milestones she’s achieved as it relates to coding in Ethiopia:

  • 2006 – she got her first computer
  • 2011- she presented her projects to government officials at age 11
  • 2013-she co-founded a company, EBAGD, whose goals were to modernize Ethiopia’s education sector by converting Ethiopian textbooks into audio and visual materials for the students.
  • 2014-Dessie started the “codeacademy” of Bahir Dar University and taught in the STEM center at the university.

United States Collaboration

Her impressive accomplishments continue today. More recently, Dessie has teamed up with the “Girls Can Code” initiative—a U.S. Embassy implemented a project that focuses on encouraging girls to study STEM. According to Dessie, “Girls Can Code” will “empower and inspire young girls to increase their performance and pursue STEM education.”

In 2016, Dessie helped train 40 girls from public and governmental schools in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia how to code over the course of nine months. During those nine months, Dessie helped her students develop a number of programs and projects. One major project was a website where students can, according to Dessie, “practice the previous National examinations like SAT prep sites would do.” This allows students to take practice tests “anywhere, anytime.” In 2018, UNESCO expanded a similar project by the same name to include all 10 regions in Ghana, helping to make technology accessible to more Africans than ever before.

With the continuation of programs like “Girls Can Code” and the ambition of young coders everywhere, access to technology will give girls opportunities to participate in STEM, thereby closing the technology gender gap in developing countries. Increased STEM participation will only serve to aid struggling nations in becoming globally competitive by boosting their education systems and helping them become more connected to the world in the 21st century.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr

Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus
The silent killer, otherwise known as maternal and neonatal tetanus, is a life-threatening bacterial infection in newborns and their mothers that is associated with nonsterile delivery and cord-care practices. Although it is vaccine-preventable, when tetanus develops, mortality rates are extremely high. This is especially true when the appropriate medical care is not available, which is often the case in low-income counties. In 1999, there were 57 countries where tetanus posed a considerable risk for women giving birth. Today, that number has dropped significantly, but maternal and neonatal tetanus remains a public health threat in 13 countries: Afghanistan, Angola, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen.

Kenya has put in great effort to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus where it once was a common problem. The commitment the country made has drawn global attention and is inspiring other countries to do the same.

Kenya’s Initiative

As of 2018, Kenya has been removed from the list of countries that sees maternal and neonatal tetanus as a public health threat by attaining elimination status. Elimination is only attained when there is a reduction of neonatal tetanus incidences to below one case per 1,000 live births per year. Kenya’s progress towards achieving this important public health milestone began in 2001, proving that this process takes time. A pre-validation assessment took place in Kenya in September 201 by the Ministry of Health with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. A WHO-led validation process took place in 2018 to confirm the elimination of the disease.

Eliminating maternal and neonatal tetanus takes a lot of planning, and Kenya has set a great example. In 2002, Kenya introduced a five-dose tetanus toxoid vaccination schedule and in 2003, the country began to implement immunization campaigns in high-risk areas. Kenya also focused on providing free maternity services to increase skilled birth attendants. Over time, they began including tetanus toxoid vaccines into the routine antenatal care packages. Today, Kenya is still working on strengthening health facilities and resources and plans to provide free medical care to children under five years of age.

The involvement of schools is another factor that helped Kenya eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus. Aliaphonse’s Katuit primary school is a prime example of the success seen from the campaign. Ann Talam, one of Katuit primary school’s teachers, explained in an interview with UNICEF that the campaign not only reaches members of the student body but also their sisters or relatives who may not attend school. Education ensures that all girls, even those from poverty-filled communities, are immunized.

Kenya’s Impact

Reducing deaths from neonatal tetanus is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to reduce the neonatal mortality rate. As of 2012, Kenya’s immunization coverage for newborns protected against tetanus reached 73 percent — and it continues to rise. WHO estimates a 94 percent reduction in neonatal deaths from 1988, when an estimated 787,000 newborn babies died of tetanus within their first month of life.

As Kenya eliminates maternal and neonatal tetanus, it has inspired the country to combat other diseases as well. They plan to identify the unreached and design an innovative approach to reach these populations with immunizations. On February 22, 2019, WHO representative, Dr. Rudi Eggers, addressed the recent measles outbreak in the country, attributing it to lapses in the routine immunization system since the previous measles and rubella outbreak in 2016.

“There is an urgent need for all stakeholders to come together and work to increase immunization coverage and address inequities,” Eggers said.

The Kenya campaign also aims to vaccinate nearly 14 million children between the ages of nine months and 14 years — nearly 40 percent of the population — for other common viruses.

Since Kenya’s elimination of maternal and neonatal tetanus, more than 153 million women around the world have been immunized with two or more doses of vaccines fighting against tetanus. The Eliminate Project, funded by the Kiwanis Children’s Fund, plans to learn from Kenya’s success and use it to inspire other countries to follow their lead. In 2018, The Eliminate Project raised a total of $502.282.72 to save and protect mothers and their babies worldwide.

Along with planning and taking initiative, Kenya recommends planning outreach activities for remote places, promoting delivery in health facilities and strengthening knowledge of health workers on the immunization schedule. Kenya sets an example of how small changes can overcome the silent killer of maternal and neonatal tetanus.

– Grace Arnold
Photo: Flickr

 

Victories Against FGM in AfricaToday, there are an estimated 200 million women and girls living with female genital mutilation, or FGM. FGM is widely practiced in 30 countries around the world.  At least 65 to 70 percent of FGM victims live in Africa.

According to the World Health Organization, FGM is a broad term including “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” Traditionally, it is used to control female sexuality, but it often leaves a myriad of health and social problems for survivors. Despite the ingrained nature of this practice, in recent years there have been several victories against FGM in Africa.

Seven Victories Against FGM in Africa

  1. Liberian Abolishment: After years of political negotiation, the Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf fulfilled her 2015 vow to abolish FGM. FGM affects more than 50 percent of Liberian girls and is used as a ritual in the Sande secret society’s coming-of-age ceremony.

    Many traditional organizations have threatened death toward activists who expose their rituals. Despite these challenges, Africa’s first female executive leader executed one of the largest victories against FGM in Africa.

  2. The Girl Generation: This NGO works to connect girls from across the continent to “end Female Genital Mutilation in this generation.” It has given over $1.6 million in grants to grassroots organizations in eight African countries from Nigeria to Mali. It focuses mainly on changing social attitudes about the practice in rural areas where it is common.

    Regarding the organization’s work, one woman said, “I am now a changed person. When I came here yesterday, I never thought anyone will convince me FGM is bad, but now I’m convinced, and will stand up for my younger sisters and cousins not to be subjected to the cut.”

  3. The American Doctor: Dr. Marci Bower, a San Francisco native, spent two weeks in Nairobi surgically repairing the scars left by FGM. Victims of FGM often experience complications in childbirth and infections in the cut area.

    In Kenya, about five million women are living with FGM, though the practicing rate of 27 percent is much lower than that of the countries in northern Africa. Dr. Bower operated on 44 local women and trained others to do the same when she returned to the United States.

  4. Kembatta Women Stand Together: One Ethiopian woman, Bogaletch Gebre, has worked for decades to eliminate FGM in her native country. After a traumatic cutting at the age of 12 and an education as a Fullbright scholar, Gebre founded Kembatti Mentti Gezzina or Kembatta Women Stand Together to fight FGM. Her organization has been lauded for reducing FGM rates in parts of Ethiopia from 100 percent to three percent through community outreach and information campaigns.
  5. Kenyan Girls App: Five teenage girls from the Luo ethnic group in Kenya invented an app to help their peers escape FGM. The girls were the only African team to compete in  2017’s Technovation contest, sponsored by Verizon, Google and the U.N.

    Their entry, called “I-cut,” includes options for users to seek medical treatment, report FGM in their local communities, donate to the cause, escape the ritual and learn more about FGM. One team member, Synthia Otieno, said their goal for the app was to “restore hope to hopeless girls.”

  6. Masaai Women: In the nomadic Masaai community, FGM is commonly practiced as an initiation ceremony. However, after witnessing her sister undergo FGM and an abusive child marriage, Nice Leng’ete decided to use her high school education to make a difference.

    After years of bargaining and dialogue, Leng’ete has saved over 15,000 girls from cutting, winning one of the largest victories against FGM in Africa. Leng’ete became the first woman to speak before the highest Masaai elder council, which formally abolished FGM for all 1.5 million Masaii people.

  7. African Men Against FGM: It is not only women who are achieving victories against FGM in Africa. Male activists, such as Kelechukwu Nwachukwu from Nigeria and Tony Mwebia from Kenya, are working to inform African men about the realities of FGM.

    Despite the prevalence of FGM in their communities because of the secretive nature of the practice, many African men are unaware of the pain FGM causes. Nwachukwu commented, “I’ve seen girls who have died [from FGM] but the parents don’t make the link. Many will tell that it’s just God’s will.” Despite the challenges, male activists have become an essential part of the movement to end FGM in a generation.

Female genital mutilation contributes to poverty in areas where it is practiced. Girls are cut at young ages to prepare them for child marriage, a practice linked to lower development. As the British NGO ActionAid put it, “Girls who marry young are more likely to be poor and stay poor.” Each victory against FGM in Africa is a victory against extreme poverty and the violation of women’s human rights.

– Lydia Cardwell
Photo: Flickr

facts about global povertyGlobal poverty has been a worldwide concern for the last 200 years. At the close of 2016, global facts about poverty showed that 815 million out of 7.6 billion people were suffering from hunger, equal to one in nine people. However, statistics reported at the conclusion of 2017 bring new hope for 2018. The fight against poverty is working, as these five positive facts about global poverty demonstrate.

Five Positive Facts About Global Poverty

  1. Facts about global poverty in China—previously a country with one of the largest populations in extreme poverty—reveal that it is set to lift more than 10 million people out of poverty in 2018. This positive news adds to the constructive changes that have happened over the past five years in China. By 2017’s end, the poverty rate dropped to 3.1 percent from 10.2 percent, encouraging China to continue its drive to help the poor. Millions will be relocated to better living establishments this year as well.
  2. Poverty in Ethiopia continues to decline. Once one of the most challenged nations regarding poverty, Ethiopia’s strong improvement in agriculture has brought about a decrease in the number of people living with hunger. In an end of the year report for 2017, it was reported that Ethiopia’s poverty rate dropped from 44 percent in 2000 to 23.5 percent. The trend is expected to continue, marking more positive facts about global poverty.
  3. Indonesia continues on a positive economic course. Its poverty level, both relative and absolute, remains on a steady decline. Indonesians suffered terribly during the Asian Financial Crisis, leaving millions suffering in poverty, at a rate of 19.9 percent in 1998. Some 20 years later, Indonesia continues to slash its poverty rate. The poverty rate has declined to the country’s lowest ever at 10.2 percent, and plans are in place to drop that number to less than 10 percent through social assistance measures.
  4. Pakistan’s poverty rate once reached 64 percent. According to the World Bank, that rate has declined to 29.5 percent, making it the second lowest in South Asia. While challenges to Pakistan’s economy still remain, as well as many social concerns, the government is hopeful the poverty rate will continue to drop.
  5. Myanmar reduced its poverty rate from 32.1 percent to 19.4 percent in just under ten years. A report from the Myanmar government and the World Bank notes that the decrease in people living in poverty has to do with the improvement of the overall standard of living. Agricultural and rural developments have made this possible, setting one more positive trend concerning facts about global poverty.

Positive changes are happening, but society must never forget that one person being hungry is already too many. Together, the world can continue to move the needle in the right direction: the end of global poverty.

– Naomi C. Kellogg

Photo: Flickr

The World is Getting Better
Bill Gates recently named
Enlightenment Now his “new favorite book of all time.” Written by Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now makes a persuasive case for the numerous ways in which the world is getting better, safer, healthier and more prosperous. Acutely aware of our negativity bias — the tendency to respond more strongly to negative news — Pinker seeks to provide a contrasting story to what leads in the news. The result is a holistic view of human progress. Here are three ways Pinker demonstrates how the world is getting better:

Life

Life expectancy has risen dramatically since the late nineteenth century, while child and maternal mortality has fallen dramatically. What is more, these trends are not exclusive to wealthy, developed nations. While increasing life expectancy in Africa and Asia has lagged behind Europe and the Americas, people all over the world are living 35 years longer than they did in 1860.

Health

To demonstrate the dramatic breakthroughs in human health in the past few centuries, Pinker runs through the dwindling impacts of the worst infectious diseases, as well as a graveyard of afflictions conquered by science, economic development and humanity’s “expanding circle of sympathy.”

By Pinker’s measure, the chlorination of water and eradication of smallpox and measles alone contributes to 428 million saved lives.

Peace

The constant coverage of conflict zones in the news belies the diminishing currency of war. Pinker points to three downward trends as evidence — great power wars, battle deaths and genocide deaths. Pinker holds “trade, democracy, economic development, peace-keeping forces, and international law” responsible for a world that is becoming more and more peaceful.

Pinker is remarkably thorough in his treatment of human progress. Not only does he include the obvious indicators like life-expectancy and mortality, Pinker throws in improving equal rights, wealth, quality of life and the prevalence of lighting strikes, among other esoterica.

However, Pinker is well aware that while the data supports his argument, human nature does not. As a result of our negativity bias, there is a gulf between the facts of progress and our perception of it. Bridging this gulf is the reason for the book, and likely the reason Bill Gates, who dubs himself an “impatient optimist,” is so fond of it; things are getting better and nobody is noticing. Or more accurately, things are getting better and people think things are getting worse.

Maintaining a Positive Outlook

The first graph that appears in the book — one of seventy-five charts and figures — measures the tone of the news over time by tracking the prevalence of positive and negative-associated words appearing in world broadcasts and the New York Times. According to the news, the world is becoming gloomier; Pinker begs to differ. It is no justification for complacency, but in his perspective, the world is getting better.

– Whiting Tennis

Photo: Flickr

Global Poverty GapAccording to Our World In Data, there is good news about the global poverty gap: it is falling. The global poverty gap index is defined as the “mean shortfall in income or consumption from the national poverty line.”

While many countries still face an extreme poverty gap, especially in sub-saharan Africa, this study shows that the gap is improving. Today, the global poverty gap is about half of what it was just ten years ago, and the total amount of resources needed to deplete that gap entirely is becoming smaller each year.

A large part of the poverty gap decrease is due to the “Chinese Effect.” The Chinese Effect refers to the great increase of wealth in China that is unparalleled to any other country. In 2014, China raised their GDP by nearly 49-fold, and took 800 million people out of poverty.

Our World in Data estimates that there is now 160 billion international dollars needed to eliminate the poverty gap for good by lifting people past the global poverty line of $1.90 a day. The United Nations is taking steps toward solving this issue, as their tenth goal in Sustainable Development Goal project is to “reduce inequality within and among countries.”

The targets for this Sustainable Development Goal include:

  • Achieve sustainable growth of income at the lowest 40 per cent of the population at a rate that is higher than the national average.
  • Empower and promote the inclusion of all in politics, the economy and society.
  • Increase equal opportunities and decrease the inequalities of outcomes, and adopt policies to achieve greater equality.
  • Higher regulations and enforcement on regulations in the global marketplace.
  • Create well-planned and well-managed migration policies to increase the mobility of people.
  • Give special treatment to developing countries, following World Trade Organization agreements.
  • Encourage flow of assistance to states that need it most.

If the U.N.’s objectives are met, and if countries send more aid to nations where the poverty gap is staggering, the gap may continue to decrease and, someday, become nonexistent.

Téa Franco

Photo: Flickr

Pumpkins

Every year, the citizens of Bangladesh have to contend with monsoon season, a cool, rainy period that usually lasts from June until October. Most parts of the country get at least 2000 millimeters of rain per year, and 80 percent of that falls during monsoon season. Northeastern Bangladesh is typically hit hardest, sometimes receiving over 4000 millimeters per year.

The heavy rains bring another problem: flooding. When rivers flood, they destroy both crops and nutrient-rich topsoil. As flood waters recede, they often leave behind large quantities of sand and silt, which reduces the availability of arable land.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) blames this problem in part for Bangladesh’s malnutrition epidemic. According to USAID, 25 percent of Bangladeshis remain food insecure, and women and children are affected most. Of children under five, 16 percent are acutely malnourished and 41 percent have stunted growth.

But one organization believes it has found a solution. Practical Action, an international NGO that uses technology to alleviate poverty in developing countries, has spent several years experimenting with various “sandbar cropping” techniques in Bangladesh. Their solution? Pumpkins.

Practical Action’s tried-and-true technique for farming pumpkins in the sand is to dig a pit in the sand and fill it with compost and a dozen pumpkin seeds. The pumpkins can grow and be harvested before monsoon season rolls around again.

Pumpkins provide a variety of health and logistical benefits. They can store for a year, providing a stable, reliable source of food. They are also a good source of Vitamin A, a nutrient often lacking in Bangladeshi diets. And in a nation where rivers often change course during monsoons and farmers thus lose their land, sandbar cropping provides more security.

This is why Practical Action started Pumpkins Against Poverty, a project to train 50,000 Bangladeshis with no land of their own to grow up to 600 pumpkins a year. Participants can use the extra income generated by selling the crop to buy livestock or send their children to school. The project will last until March 2018 and has the potential to be replicated nationwide.

Bangladesh is far from the only country to realize the value in farming pumpkins as a solution to poverty. Uganda has also embraced the crop as a profitable, nutritious foodstuff. Pumpkin varieties in Uganda are numerous and include Sweet Cream, Bala, Dulu, Onziga, Sunfish, Anderina and Sugar Pie, among others.

Fatuma Namatosi, founder of Ugandan agribusiness firm Byeffe Foods Company Ltd., decided to center her business on pumpkins, citing them as her favorite crop. The company makes pumpkin porridge, which is popular among children and gives them a vital nutrition boost. Byeffe also helps teach young Ugandans agricultural entrepreneurial skills and creates jobs in the field that employ thousands of young people.

Namatosi founded Byeffe in 2015. Since then, she says, “I’ve provided more accessible and nutritious food options to communities across Uganda, created a variety of agricultural jobs that generate income for families, and empowered more people like me, especially young women, to create their own path in the agriculture industry.” All that progress comes down to pumpkins.

Chuck Hasenauer

Photo: Flickr


The nonprofit organization Voices of South Africa has helped numerous South Africans realize their aspiration of a life beyond their impoverished communities, by enabling them to pursue their dreams of singing opera. In a country where over 50 percent of people live in poverty, the struggle to fulfill one’s everyday needs can easily eclipse such faraway dreams as a college education or the pursuit of a career which one is truly passionate about. Such is the case for many in South Africa, where poverty has been on the rise over the past decade. Today, poverty in South Africa affects over 30 million people, and high rates of violent crime, drug use and HIV/AIDS continue to be major sources of concern.

It would seem unlikely, then, given these conditions, that South Africa could have produced an astonishing number of world-class opera singers and been dubbed the “vocal breadbasket” in the past decade – but that is precisely the case. These singers represent the triumph of ambitious aspirations over considerable situational odds.

South Africa has a longstanding and rich choral tradition, which has sparked an interest in opera and studying classical voice in many young South Africans. Embarking on an operatic career, however, requires a significant amount of time and money, as well as access to specialized training and advanced levels of education. As indicated by the poverty rate, these resources are not available to the average South African. Recognizing this divide, opera singer Njabulo Madlala, a South Africa native, founded Voices of South Africa’s national opera singing workshops and competition in 2010, as a means of inspiring and supporting the next generation of South African opera singers. This registered nonprofit has played a key role in facilitating the education and career launch of several of the South African singers who have recently been hailed as some of the most promising newcomers to the international opera industry.

Each year, the organization selects a handful of the most talented singers who audition to participate in an intensive two-week program that involves individual vocal coaching, mentoring and career guidance and culminates in a gala concert. Each of the selected singers receives the necessary financial support to attend the program as well as the invaluable chance to work with respected members of the opera community for free. The singers are further supported during the application and audition process for music schools and professional programs. Moreover, a chief tenet of the program is helping the singers build the requisite skills to take advantage of opportunities that exist and create work for themselves so that they are able make a living, whatever their current situation may be.

The organization’s founder and artistic and executive director has sung at some of the most prominent opera houses in Europe, but comes from an impoverished background similar to that of many of his program’s participants. Njabulo Madlala grew up in an economically disadvantaged, single-parent household in Durban, where he was surrounded by poverty and crime. He was given the chance to escape poverty in South Africa and pursue his dream of singing when he was awarded a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. Madlala founded the Voices of South Africa program with the desire to help give other singers the same chance he was lucky enough to receive.

Soprano Noluvuyiso Mpofo is one past Voices of South Africa participant, who has now embarked on a successful career. Mpofo came in third place in the prestigious international Operalia competition, hosted by Plácido Domingo in 2011, and won second place in the International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition – the “world cup” of opera – in 2013. The international acclaim focused on Mpofo and other South African opera stars such as Pretty Yende and Pumeza Matshikiza has undoubtedly been an appreciated source of national pride for a country beset with hardship.

Although it caters to a small niche, Voices of South Africa is an example of an initiative working to transform lives through education and mentorship programs for young adults. This organization has impacted the lives of numerous young South Africans by offering them the opportunity to escape their vulnerable situations and follow their dreams. The establishment of similar organizations catering to a wide range of interests and groups would surely go a long way toward reducing poverty in South Africa.

Savannah Bequeaith

Photo: Flickr

SCORE's Electricity-Producing Cookstove
Around the world, close to three billion people cook on energy inefficient open fires. These fires produce smoke that puts one’s respiratory health at risk. Four million people globally die each year due to air pollution.

A project created in 2007 known as SCORE has worked to create a stove that is both clean and can provide electricity to an entire home. This was done through conducting research in social understanding and technological development.

SCORE’s main goal is to reduce wood consumption and smoke inhalation in order to improve health, education and wealth. Health-wise, by reducing the amount of smoke emitted into the air, prevalence of respiratory illness like pneumonia and lung cancer decreases.

SCORE hopes the new cook stove’s production of electricity will improve education. Electricity will create light at night and improve access to lessons and knowledge by enabling access to cell phones, computers, radios and televisions.

The stove is able to produce electricity by converting excess heat into sound waves which generates electricity. Three hours of cooking should produce enough electricity to light a home for a night. Light at night allows children to continue to read and learn once the sun goes down.

The electricity produced will also provide better access to improved farming equipment and methods that will help improve the wealth of communities. Families within communities will also gain business opportunities such as selling the new stoves or electricity. Money and resources will also be saved, as the stove uses three times less fuel, like wood or dung, compared to other cook stoves.

SCORE looks to impact countries like Nepal where many people, especially women, suffer while they use wood-fire stoves inside their homes. Hopefully a fair cost for the stove can be negotiated to make the stove more affordable for developing countries to buy.

Casey Marx

Photo: Flickr

Gum Chewing gum is becoming more than just a flavorful chewy treat with the help of innovators under The Sweet Bites Team. It’s also helping to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.

Underdeveloped countries don’t have access to proper oral care. Therefore, the people living in these countries are unable to maintain the healthy mouths necessary for a healthy lifestyle.

According to the Huffington Post, close to 4 billion people worldwide suffer from untreated oral diseases.

The average number of dentists to general population in Africa is 1 to 150,000. In industrialized countries the average ratio is 1 to 5,000.

Due to improper care, adults and children in underdeveloped countries suffer from both deadly diseases like Noma and other oral diseases such as cavities and gingivitis, according to the World Dental Federation.

That’s where the Sweet Bites team swoops in to make improving oral health much easier. The team invented a chewing gum augmented with xylitol, a sweet-tasting crystalline substance which inhibits bacterial growth and reproduction.

Chewing the gum is an inexpensive and painless way  to prevent future oral problems such as tooth decay especially in young children. It has also been approved by the American Federal Food & Drug Administration.

Through Sweet Bites’ prevention of oral infections, the overall health of a person also improves. Recent research has discovered connections between improving oral health and decreasing life-threatening conditions including heart disease and cancer. Therefore, chewing the Sweet Bite gum for five minutes after meals would fight against these more harmful diseases that may not be treated due to lack of professional access.

Sweet Bites also helps communities and families looking to develop economically. The Sweet Bites Team hopes to inspire entrepreneurial women to sell the product in poorer communities which would help spur economic activity and growth. By propelling economic growth, poorer communities will develop while Sweet Bites continues to spread worldwide to underdeveloped countries.

Much of the new chewing gum’s success is based off donations from supporters. Although the invention is extremely new, the team hopes to impact 1.4 million Indian children in the near future. The more money the team is able to raise, the more kids they will be able to reach and help. If they see success and continue to raise money, the team looks to spread their idea to Kenya and South America.

Casey Marx

Photo: Flickr