Treat Cattle with Diseases
More than 500 million Africans gain money to support their families through the practice of small scale farming. As a result, healthy cattle are crucial because they offer meat, milk and labor. Keeping cattle healthy is critical to farmers who are trying to earn a living. However, many farm animals die every year in Africa from preventable diseases, especially in Ethiopia, which has the largest population of livestock in Africa. VetAfrica, a mobile app that first debuted in 2014, provides tips to farmers on how to diagnose and treat cattle with diseases.

Who Does it Reach?

VetAfrica tackles diseases in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda because more than 80 percent of people in those countries work in farming. Some diseases that the app included are anaplasmosis (a disease that tick bites cause) and fasciolosis (a parasitic worm infection).

How Does it Work?

There are three main parts to the app: VetAfrica Mobile, VetAfrica Hub and VetAfrica Expert. VetAfrica Mobile gives information about disease symptoms to farms in order to educate them about how to identify them in their cattle. It also allows farmers to share data with other farmers to spread awareness and possible paths to treat cattle with diseases. VetAfrica Hub is an online website to sort and evaluate data that farmers upload to the app. Through VetAfrica Hub, farmers and health care specialists can learn about cases of cattle diseases and be aware of possible disease outbreaks. VetAfrica Expert lets medical professionals add information to the app about possible diseases.

Criticisms

One of the main criticisms of VetAfrica is that many Africans cannot use it because they may not have access to a smartphone or WiFi. To address the problem, VetAfrica creators designed the app to work offline. Proponents for VetAfrica also explain that purchasing a smartphone to use will provide various benefits to farmers outside of just saving their cattle, such as educational tools for their children.

Successes

The VetAfrica app has diagnosed more than 2,000 cases so far and 80 percent of the app’s diagnoses matched those of professional veterinarians. The app also helped farmers find quick diagnoses and treatments for their cattle, improving the quality of life and overall lifespan and productivity of their cattle. Data that uploaded to the VetAfrica database also helped spread the word about possible disease outbreaks to health care officials.

Overall, the implementation of VetAfrica to treat cattle with diseases has drastically changed the lives of East African farmers. The app provides a new perspective to farmers about cattle diseases, allowing them to be more knowledgeable and active in keeping their cattle healthy. VetAfrica, an app that is saving cattle from diseases every day has brought a newfound sense of economic prosperity to East African farmers.

Shveta Shah
Photo: Flickr

Bicycles and Poverty Alleviation
While the discussion of bicycles may elicit thoughts of expense or leisure, bicycles and poverty alleviation link together. Bicycles first came about in the 19th century as a means of transport in response to the dearth of horses. Transportation has continued to be the vital use of the bike. Additionally, people around the world have begun seeing the additional benefits of cycling, particularly in less wealthy areas.

People bike all over the world. This fact has held true since 1817 when German inventor Karl von Drais crafted what people widely accept as the first bicycle. Some cities and countries boast more bicycles than people. For instance, in the Netherlands, 22.5 million bicycles outnumber the 17 million person population. In less financially stable areas of the world, there might be fewer bicycles. However, the importance of bicycles to the livelihood and health of residents is just as strong.

Food Security

Food security is an area where the connection between bicycles and poverty alleviation is particularly prevalent. In addition, food security refers to a state of living in which nutritious and sufficient food is physically, socially and economically available to a person. When an area struggles with poverty, food security can be a constant source of stress for residents. In developing countries, small-scale rural farmers are often responsible for an area’s main food production. However, these farmers can face difficulty selling their crops when transport options to markets are not available. Additionally, when transport to markets or cities is available, the cost can present another barrier to those living in poverty.

On a small scale, a bicycle can help a farming family gain buyers for their crops. Also, it helps lift the community out of poverty. Moreover, when food is available for purchase, productivity increases and food distribution improves. This benefits the entire community. One nonprofit, Cycling out of Poverty (CooP), has created a program called Bike4Work, which provides farmers access to bicycles and trailers to haul their food. Bike4Work is an innovative contribution to some of the struggles that poverty has created in rural farming areas.

Access to Water

The method of sustainable transport can also help ease the burden of accessing safe and clean water. When water sources are not readily available in a town, residents must expend great physical effort and time in order to access this necessity. In addition, bicycles can help shorten the journey and lessen the amount of energy they need to obtain water.

Additionally, bicycles have cropped up in a more unusual manner in Kenya as a response to increased difficulties of farming and water access due to climate change. In Kenya, seasonal farmers rely on yearly rainy seasons to create a successful harvest. However, changes to the local climate have made water more scarce, creating issues with the irrigation of crops. CooP, the same charity that used bicycles to help ease food scarcity, has implemented an innovative bicycle-powered water pump in Kisumu, Kenya.

Kisumu is the third-largest city in Kenya. Climate change and lack of water for irrigation affected Kisumu. CooP partnered with organizations in Kenya and neighboring cities in Uganda to install this bicycle-powered pump at The Green Hub Shop, a local store in Kisumu. The water pump efficiently and inexpensively sucks water from local streams and rivers to provide irrigation for farmers across Kisumu.

Bicycles and Public Health

Bicycles and poverty alleviation efforts have combined in another seemingly unlikely manner in Kibibi, Uganda. Village health teams have begun using bicycles with adapted trailers as ambulances in emergency situations. This adaptation is crucial for Uganda because 77 of the 121 districts lack an ambulance service.

Bicycle ambulances are just one way that cycling has been improving public health in impoverished areas. Riding a bicycle also has undeniably beneficial health effects, both on the physical body and on the mind. Cycling is a form of exercise that can benefit the heart without having the same strain that activities such as running can bring.

Erik Wright, Program Director for Bike and Build, a U.S. charity that links bicycles and poverty alleviation through affordable housing, argues for the positive effect cycling has on mental health. Wright speaks of the “feeling of freedom” that having a bicycle can elicit, along with a sense of independence owning and riding a bike can bring. Psychiatric studies have proven the benefits that riding a bike has on mental health. In addition, when combined with increased ease of access to food, water and health care, the link between bicycles and poverty alleviation efforts strengthens.

Pedaling Onwards

Bicycles are not an all-encompassing solution to poverty by any means. Yet, the benefits that bicycles bring to impoverished areas are undeniable. Bicycles provide increased access to necessities while providing physical and mental health benefits, all at a cheaper cost than most transportation systems. In the fight against all the struggles that poverty brings, the link between bicycles and poverty alleviation proves beneficial on a personal, familial and regional scale.

Elizabeth Baker
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation In Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa has 52 countries, all of which have large swaths of their population’s using toilets that encourage disease, or worse, relying on open defecation as the only way to dispose of waste. With 1.094 billion people on the continent, there is plenty of room for improvement. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Africa.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Africa

  1. Socioeconomic Status: sub-Saharan Africa’s sanitation issues correlate with an individual’s socioeconomic status. Essentially, the poorest individuals are 18 times more likely to practice open defecation, which amounted to over 220 million people in 2015.
  2. Improved Sanitation in Uganda: In Uganda, 45 percent of the rural population and 27 percent of the urban population need to walk over 1 km to access an improved sanitation facility. Improved sanitation facilities include “flush or pour-flush to a piped sewer system, septic tank, pit latrine; ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrine, pit latrine with slab, [or] composting toilet.”
  3. The Millenium Development Goal (MDG) for Sanitation: Western Africa, Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and Central Africa were not on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal for sanitation in 2008. In fact, out of 52 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, only one allocated 0.5 percent of its GDP to sanitation measures. Budgets have 0.5 percent as the minimum for sanitation. Goal 7 of the Millennium Development Goals was to ensure environmental sustainability, and that included climate change aspects in conjunction with improved drinking water access and improved sanitation access. When looking at the sustainable development goals, out of the 52 counties, the vast majority are reaching stagnation. Reaching goal 6, which is for clean water and sanitation, will require internal mobilization and increased funding from external sources to meet the 2030 deadline.
  4. Return on Sanitation: When governments allocate funding for improved sanitation options, it tends to be lower than necessary because they do not consider it an economic venture that will have a monetary return. This is especially the case for developing countries because they often want as much money as possible for investments to receive large returns and get the most value from their dollars. The World Health Organization estimates that the return on sanitation spending is 550 percent or in other words, $5.50 for every $1 that a government invests in improved sanitation methods in Africa.
  5. The Loowatt Toilet: Loowatt provides a toilet made of horse dung that is perfect for use in developing countries. It is a waterless system, which is fantastic for drought-stricken countries and regions. Additionally, it turns human waste into energy biofuel at a reliable rate if people use it regularly. The best part is that it has a low cost of 12 Euros as a deposit and a 3 Euro monthly service fee. In the country of Madagascar, it went beyond proof of concept, and the company was maintaining over 100 toilets that serviced over 800 people in 2017. Since then, over 100,000 customers in both the U.K. and Madagascar have used Loowatt toilets.
  6. South Africa: South Africa determined that access to water is a right in 2002 and it set the supply to 25 l/c/d or 6 kiloliters per connection a month. However, South Africa has just recently made the transition from supply to sanitation access. For both rural and urban sanitation, over 50 percent of the annual and per capita investment requirements are unavailable due to a lack of ability to provide the full $1.218 billion the country requires.
  7. Ghana and Open Defecation: No district in Ghana has a 0 percent open defecation status, and three out of 10 rural households practiced open defecation. Over 81 percent of the Ghanaian population lack access to improved sanitation. Organizations are trying to bridge the gap between the people who cannot pay upfront to build the improved sanitation facilities by providing WaterCredit. WaterCredit is essentially a way for the poor to get water and sanitation loans. Currently, Water.org has facilitated $2.4 million through its partners in microloans for water and sanitation purposes in Ghana.
  8. Peepoo: With the creation of the Peepoo, those with communicable toilets can access safe sanitation and prevent others from getting the disease they may be infected with. Peepoo is a biodegradable bag that sanitizes human feces and allows it to become fertilizer in about a month. It attacks the problem of sanitization at the source by giving an alternative to open defecation that does not require a sizable investment to build a toilet. Peepoo sales have mainly occurred in Kenya, where the company continues to do research and build the foundation for easier use. A study that Peepoo conducted with a grant examined 37 schools with about 6,500 students to determine the effectiveness of Peepoo sanitation and deworming, both independently and combined. The results in 2016 included improved attendance and overall improved health due to the reduction in diarrheal diseases in the school children.
  9. Open Defecation in Urban Areas: The number of those practicing open defecation is increasing in urban areas due to the rapid size increase of the overall area, without proper permits for building or a focus on providing latrines and washrooms. Additionally, including cost as a factor, urban slums are sometimes cheap and an affordable option for the poorest individuals. In particular, open defecation in the Kampala Slum is at about 28 percent while estimates determine that 1 percent of Uganda’s urban population openly defecates.
  10. The Leave No One Behind Pledge: The Sustainable Development Goals emerged to replace the Millennium Development Goals, and goal 6 of providing clean water and sanitation aims to “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” These goals also focus on helping those furthest behind first through the Leave No One Behind pledge. The pledge itself is a way to ensure that those facing the worst of poverty end up at the forefront of progress by confronting the inequalities as a method of reducing the number of individuals living in extreme poverty. This pledge is an overarching goal for all of the sustainable development goals and encompasses the fact that those worst off should be a primary focus in order to achieve the goal at hand. Even with this pledge, it is likely that about 60 percent of the countries will not reach the target of full implementation by 2030. However, Uganda is a leading example of the potential countries that may achieve goal 6, thanks to its national development plan which includes policy in line with the sustainable development goals but with adaptations to reflect cultural and national contexts.

Sanitation in Africa, specifically Sub-Saharan Africa, is still vastly below the goals, although the continent is making progress. With the continuing improvements and government’s investments into sanitation, African nations could see increased levels of productivity and return on their investments. Northern Africa had met the Millennium Development Goals and continues to increase its standard of sanitation. As the world progresses towards 2030, it can expect to see dramatic sanitation improvements after the completion of thorough research regarding the investments and implementation of sanitation techniques.

– Cassiday Moriarity
Photo: Pixabay

Ghetto Research Lab of Uganda
From piles of discarded plastic, solutions arise. Sustainability is the work of the dedicated, passionate leaders of the Ghetto Research Lab of Uganda. In Kamwokya, an area with 10,000 residents in Uganda’s capital city of Kampala, Ghetto Research Lab of Uganda develops innovative projects that improve the lives of impoverished residents while solving environmental pollution.

The Borgen Project interviewed CEO and Ghetto Research Lab Founder Patrick Mujuzi, who creates jobs and a better future for ghetto youth in the slums of Kamwokya. His dynamic vision for Ghetto Research Lab entails re-purposing plastic while creating a positive environment. He hopes to unite people worldwide to build an understanding of the need and impact of GRL’s work. He hopes that each person will understand their role in eliminating plastics from the environment.

Ghetto Research Lab undertakes an incredible range of projects, which people can study for replication. The garbage of others becomes its scientific tool. It turns what would otherwise be waste into urban farming opportunities, building materials and a sense of community. As a research lab, it learns by doing and through trial and error, not with the advantage of advanced equipment. Here are some of Uganda’s Ghetto Research Lab’s projects.

Support of Ghetto Youth

Ghetto Research Lab transforms the lives of young adults by nurturing their social development and creating job opportunities. One hundred and seventy youth currently work with GRL. Participants learn to forge a positive path, gain life skills and receive support. The number of participants continues to grow. Mujuzi refers to this work as “positive living and rehabilitation.”

Plastic Management

Ghetto Research Lab creates plastic bricks by stuffing collected plastic bottles with discarded polyethylene bags, referred to as kaveras. These bottle bricks create buildings and serve the dual function of removing this waste from their environment. Local residents make extra income packing the bricks. Many plastic bottles (25,000) make up one building, each stuffed with 200 plastic bags, removing five million plastic bags from the environment.

Anther project includes creating pavers out of the discarded plastic by melting it and adding sand. GRL also develops compostable toilets in plastic bottle brick structures that provide a sustainable sanitation solution.

Urban Farming

Ghetto Research Lab practices several types of sustainable, urban farming including aquaponics which is the combination of conventional aquaculture and hydroponics. Aquaponics reduces fishing from polluted waters while providing good nutrition, improving the overall health of residents.

Hailey Bruce, the Aquaponics Administrator, has been with GRL for three years. When The Borgen Project interviewed him, it learned that he raises tilapia, catfish and vegetables, including cabbage and spinach, and that GRL members eat and sell crops. Bruce believes that aquaponics is a sustainable food security solution because it is accessible, affordable and holds the potential to generate income and create jobs without harming the environment.

GRL practices animal and poultry rearing, raising rabbits, goats, sheep and chickens. The sale of meat helps to fund GRL’s endeavors.

GRL grows vegetables such as tomatoes which it grafts and breeds. It plants them using sack gardening which avoids ground pollutants. Additional crops include lettuce, cucumbers, beets and strawberries. It also engages in food value projects, collecting unwanted seeds from fruits such as papaya and avocado from nearby markets. It cleans and dries them in the sun, pounds them into a powder and mixes them into a nutritious drink. Next, it packages the drink and distributes it to people at risk of malnutrition. It also makes organic manure, pesticides and liquid soaps.

Technology, Art and Design

Through its technology department, Ghetto Research Lab works on renewable recyclable energy projects such as harnessing wind turbine electricity and the development of solar heaters. It created a machine that people run on to produce and store energy to be able to use electricity in nighttime hours when it would not otherwise be available.

GRL also engages in art and design projects such as painting and beautifying the buildings that people create from the bottle bricks.

Film, Media and Storytelling

In addition to GRL’s sustainability, technology and food security projects, it engages young people through a storytelling and film production center called the Ghetto Media Lab. The Borgen Project spoke with Media Lab Administrator Edris Adams, who is a Ugandan filmmaker and produces documentary films for the Ghetto Media Lab. These films have the impact of building skills and empowering young people with the ability to create social change in their lives. The collective talent and inspiration produce impactful stories.

Edris Adams would like the world to hear the voices of ghetto youth. He would also like for the ghetto conditions to change for the better. He hopes for an increased understanding of poverty in Uganda. Adams aspires for everyone to engage in the battle against plastic and to encourage the planting of trees for an environmentally sustainable future. Everyone has stories and through sharing and learning, they can work to make not only the slums of Kamwokya a better place but also the world.

Patrick Mujuzi would like to see continued collaboration between Ghetto Research Lab and those interested in learning about it. In addition, he would like for GRL to become more commercial, but its limited space is an obstacle. Mujuzi sees that skill sharing with young people around the world holds potential. Ultimately, he would like to see plastics and polyethylene as things of the past.

With its hands-on success of projects and its willingness to work through trial and error, the Ghetto Research Lab of Uganda can be a model for results. GRL would like to become more established in its endeavors. Hopefully, it will have continued opportunities to educate others on its successes.

– Susan Niz
Photo: Ghetto Research Lab of Uganda

Eight Facts About Education in Uganda

Uganda has seen significant improvements in enrollment of children in primary school over the years. As one of the youngest countries in the world with one of the fastest-growing populations, the country must work even harder to continuously improve education as a means to ensure the productivity of its increasing youth population and help reduce poverty levels. Below are eight facts about education in Uganda that show where the country stands and what more it can do to improve.

8 Facts About Education in Uganda

  1. Uganda’s Education System: The first of the eight facts about education in Uganda is that the country organizes its education into three different school levels, totaling seven years. These include primary school followed by secondary school, which is sectioned into two levels – the first lasting four years, followed by another two years. Finally, people attend post-secondary education, which lasts from three to five years.
  2. Universal Primary Education (UPE): In 1997, the Ugandan government introduced Universal Primary Education (UPE). This means that the government pays the tuition fees of all orphans in the country as well as the fees of up to four children per family. After the introduction of UPE, the number of students tripled between 1997 and 2014, from 2.63 million children to more than 7.6 million children. In 2007, the government rolled out a Universal Secondary Education (USE) program to help children continue their education.
  3. Uganda’s Literacy Rate: Estimates determined that the literacy rate in Uganda was 78.4 percent in 2015 with 85.3 percent of males being literate and 71.5 percent of females being literate. One can explain the lower rate of female literacy by the fact that about 52 percent of girls drop out at the primary school level either because of pregnancy or marriage. Local organizations, including GirlUp Initiative Uganda, are playing an important role in ensuring that girls get a chance to receive an education.
  4. School Completion Rates: While the enrollment rates of students shot up after the introduction of UPE, the number of students completing school is not as high. Only one in four students who start primary school make it to secondary school. Some factors that explain these high dropout rates include lack of school fees and money to buy important materials like uniforms, stationery and textbooks, violence in the form of caning and other corporal punishments and sexual abuse, with almost 24 percent of students experiencing sexual abuse in school.
  5. Disabled Children: Children with disabilities often receive neglect when it comes to education in Uganda. According to UNICEF, only 9 percent of children with disabilities enrolled in school from the pre-primary to secondary level. The exclusion of these children from formal schools could be because of the lack of accessible facilities as well as a shortage of special needs teachers. Organizations such as Cheshire Services Uganda are working at bridging the learning gap for students with disabilities.
  6. Teacher Absenteeism: Teacher absenteeism is high. About 60 percent of teachers in nearly half of Uganda’s public schools are not in class when they need to be. This is because of poor, inadequate facilities and overworked and demotivated teachers. Classrooms in Uganda often have up to 100 students.
  7. Uganda’s Education Investments: Education expenditure as a share of the national budget in Uganda is around 10 percent. This is significantly lower than the average for Sub-Saharan Africa, which is 16 percent. By increasing its investment in education, the government can improve the productivity of its citizens and help lower the poverty levels in the country.
  8. Improving Ugandan Education: Several organizations are working with the government to improve education in Uganda. Examples include USAID, UNICEF and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). Organizations like these are working to enforce gender equity in schools, improve access and completion rates at the various levels of learning, increase literacy and improve early childhood development and adolescent development. The government also builds 15,000 primary school classrooms each year to accommodate any additional students.

These eight facts about education in Uganda highlight the urgent need to ensure that education in Uganda continues to improve in terms of both quality and access. The government’s and other humanitarian organizations’ efforts will help Uganda reduce poverty as well as significantly improve the lives of its citizens.

Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Empowering Women Through Local Libraries
Digital literacy, career training and access to the internet are all becoming more commonplace throughout the developing world. While the majority of the population reaps the benefits of these programs, however, some certain groups, particularly women, are staggering behind. In order to combat this, various organizations have taken a unique and innovative approach in sharing these essential resources and empowering women through local libraries.

READ Centers in Nepal

In countries like Nepal, the men in women’s lives often control their level of education, knowledge of finance and mobility. These men expect women to ask permission to leave their own homes and women must always have male accompaniment when they do. This lack of personal freedom makes it hard for these women to know how to go about making their own decisions. Luckily, organizations like READ Global aim to circumvent such barriers with innovative programs with the hope of empowering women through local libraries.

READ Global, a nonprofit organization in South Asia, achieves this by creating safe centers for women through local libraries in Nepal. Known as READ Centers, these places not only provide free educational and financial programs, but they also provide a safe, public spot for women to gather and learn.

Livelihood skills training and other offered lessons enable women to pursue careers like beekeeping, sewing and vegetable farming. When women have the opportunity to earn and save for themselves, they become empowered to distribute their money in ways they see fit. A 2010 study indicated that the ability to earn their own income positively affects women’s autonomy and READ Centers programs have supported this finding.

Eighty-six percent of women who participated in the center’s skills-training programs reported that they were able to increase their income after taking the training classes. In the same survey, 73 percent of participants reported being able to buy their own food, 68 percent reported easier access to health care and an amazing 63 percent of all participants could afford to send their children off to school after completing one of the training programs. READ Centers are a striking model of empowering women through local libraries with innovative and affordable programs.

The National Library of Uganda (ICT) Project

A case study indicated that 83 percent of Ugandan women work in the farming and agricultural industry. This means that women alone contribute 70 to 75 percent of farm produce in the country. Since women are responsible for such a large chunk of the farming industry, it is quite alarming that most of these women have extremely limited access to modern farming resources. One library in Uganda saw the need for these resources and made empowering women through local libraries a top priority.

Kyangatto, a rural village in Uganda, serves as a hub for the farming community of the Nakaseke district. In this particular village, women carry the majority of the farming workload and must depend on traditional farming techniques. The women’s reliance on less effective farming methods stems from limited access to information about modern farming, plant and animal disease, and knowledge of market prices.

To combat this deficit in information, The NLU (National Library of Uganda) collaborated with the Nakaseke district’s multi-purpose community telecenter on a project that could provide proper resources and offer solutions for these challenges. In 2012, the partnering organizations launched The Electronic Information Empowering Women Farmers Service (EIFL). Through this service, women could participate in an information and communication course, which included computer/internet researching skills training, and a feature that sends farmers educational messages to mobile devices via SMS in various languages, including Luganda, a native language to a majority of participants.

The partner organizations also benefited greatly from a generous grant of $15,000 from the EIFL Public Library Innovation Programme. Through the grant, they were able to purchase four new computers and 15 mobile phones for trainees. Among other accomplishments, the program developed the first-ever women’s ICT training course in the Nakaseke district and trained 64 female farmers in digital literacy for the first time. The service has also expanded to Bulkalabi Primary School in Kyangatto, has successfully organized follow-up courses for 60 previous participants and recently registered 15 men in the program due to community demand.

While there is a lot of work necessary to improve life for women in the developing world, local libraries and the innovative programs they are launching have made a huge impact already. In fact, empowering women through local libraries has become a global trend that continues to grow.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr

App to Help Refugees in Uganda
Uganda has been accepting refugees for many years. Unfortunately, these refugees have limited access to economic opportunity. That is where LevelApp comes in. The nonprofit Refunite created the app to help refugees in Uganda. The program creates small tasks for refugees to complete in exchange for payment. It is not a substitute for a regular income, but it provides some money on the side that refugees can save for the future. The work pays well too; a refugee may normally make around $1 a day, but the app gives them the potential to make up to $20 a day.

Uganda’s Refugee Crisis

Refugees have been seeking shelter in Uganda for many years now. Here are some facts about refugees in Uganda.

  • The refugee population in Uganda rose by 48 percent in the past year.
  • There are over 1.3 million refugees in Uganda.
  • Over 60 percent of those refugees are from South Sudan.
  • The South Sudanese are coming to Uganda to escape an oppressive government.
  • Many South Sudanese refugees are between 15 and 25 years old.
  • Almost 30 percent of refugees come from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • The Congolese are escaping ethnic violence and an Ebola outbreak.

How LevelApp is Helping Refugees

Refugees need to be able to save money if they are to lift themselves out of poverty. The app helps women, who are important in local economies, by giving them tasks they can do from home. Almost 30 percent of users are women and they can use extra money in many beneficial ways. Some ways are to send kids to school, buy livestock and access health care, which might make them less dependent on foreign aid. Another important benefit is that by using this new technology, refugees learn new skills that they can use when they return home.

How LevelApp Works?

Refugees complete simple tasks like categorizing images and datasets. The more tasks they complete, the more money they make. They can download tasks and complete offline, which is important because many refugees do not have access to a consistent internet connection. Refugees can make almost $200 a month with this simple work. As of July 2019, LevelApp had around 1,500 users and the hope is that this number will grow.

The tasks are to help Refunite develop artificial intelligence. The basic tasks refugees complete, like labeling and mapping, help the AI learn. For Refunite, this is a win-win scenario because it is helping refugees climb out of poverty while developing AI.

Unexpected Benefits of LevelApp

While LevelApp is helping to lift refugees out of poverty, there are also some other positive effects. Using the app, refugees are beginning to learn English, which is an incredibly useful language to know. Also, through LevelApp, young people can new people. This is beneficial because a high number of refugees are young, and they are often stuck in limbo socially and economically. The youth often have difficulty making friends and progressing their careers. The app has also benefited the careers of young people by teaching them 21st-century skills that they can use when they return home.

LevelApp is helping refugees by providing an income that they normally would not have. It is a unique economic opportunity that greatly benefits refugees by providing them with 21st-century technological skills to use to access higher-paying jobs when they return home. The creator, Refunite, is also benefitting because the work refugees do for the company helps develop its artificial intelligence program. The company could easily develop this technology at home in the United States, but giving this opportunity to refugees is beneficial to combatting poverty. This app to help refugees in Uganda has created benefits that stretch beyond just poverty reduction and display the need for innovative solutions to global poverty.

– Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr

Obstetric Fistula in Uganda

Obstetric fistula is an injury that is caused by a prolonged labor. Obstetric relates to childbirth and the postpartum period, and fistula is Latin for hole. The hole occurs between the birth canal and the bladder or rectum. The side effects of the injury commonly result in uncontrollable leakage of urine and feces.

Uganda’s fertility rate is ranked 11th in the world. Although there has been a decrease in the fertility rate, maternal mortality remains high. Much of this is attributed to mothers suffering from obstetric fistula. There are an estimated 140,000 women living with obstetric fistula in Uganda. Ugandan women are at high risk due to limited access to quality maternal care, and transportation costs to the repair facilities also contribute to the prevalence of the pregnancy-related injury.

Hidden Costs of Repair

In 2015, USAID supported a research study to better understand the financial barriers that Ugandan women face when seeking fistula repair surgery. Aside from medical expenses for fistula care, Ugandan women struggle with the cost of food and water during their recovery period at the facilities. In addition, the cost of child care or hiring employees to manage businesses create a larger financial burden. Thus, this injury has a direct impact on women living in poverty.

Most of the mothers both interviewed and in focus groups struggled with loss of income, lack of quality health services and transportation expenses. The non-medical costs of care like transportation, food and lodging become expensive for surgical patients. Ugandan women spend up to $25 on one-way transportation to a fistula repair facility. For these reasons, even free surgery is rarely actually free.

Care for Repair

In 2004, the USAID created the Fistula Care Plus Project, which has supported more than 51,124 fistula repair surgeries around the world. A total of 3,534 of these repair surgeries were for women with obstetric fistula in Uganda. Along with providing care, Fistula Care Plus trained 26 doctors and 761 nurses to perform fistula repair surgery in the country.

The project focuses on expanding efforts for community awareness, family planning services and maternal health care. Fistula Care Plus is working with three private, faith-based hospitals: Hoima Hospital, Kitovu Mission Hospital and Kagando Mission Hospital. It also works with two government-run hospitals: Kamuli Mission Hospital and Jinja Hospital. There are also other projects that work to provide care for Ugandan women.

As an international nonprofit organization, the Uganda Village Project works directly with community based organizations and local government. This project educates the community and maximizes public health. The Uganda Village Project collaborates with Uganda Childbirth Injuries Fund to repair women with the injury.

Through village outreach, health center referrals, radio shows, and word-of-mouth communication, the Project is able to identify women with obstetric fistula in Uganda. After gathering groups of women, the Uganda Village Project transports them to repair camps at the Kamuli Mission Hospital. Once the women arrive, they are repaired by surgeons from the Uganda Childbirth Injuries Fund. These organizations are making an effort to maximize the aid and services that Ugandan women need.

– Francisco Benitez
Photo: Flickr

Rescued Child Soldiers
At the age of seven, Judith became an accomplice to a murder. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) raided her village and forced Judith to participate in the killing of her mother. The LRA then kidnapped Judith and her siblings and forced them to serve Joseph Kony. Thousands of children share Judith’s story. Today, the rescued child soldiers in Africa are finding healing and restoration through art.

The Rise of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army

The World Economic Forum found that poverty, social marginalization and political disenfranchisement were fertilizers for extremist groups to take root and grow. In the 1980s, poverty, social marginalization and political disenfranchisement hit Uganda hard. Estimates determined that one-third of the population lives below the poverty line.

Uganda government officials did little to improve the dire situation. As a result, rebel groups and organizations began to pop up throughout the country. The Holy Spirit Movement, a militaristic and spiritual rebel group, formed to fight against the oppression of the people in northern Uganda. Joseph Kony joined the movement in the mid-1980s. After the Holy Spirit Movement’s defeat in 1988, Kony kept the organization. He renamed the group the Lord’s Resistance Army. Kony used religion and traditional beliefs to continue the support of the people living in northern Uganda. His operation expanded to the nearby countries of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. The tactics Kony and the LRA used became more violent over time.

Kony and the LRA caused the displacement of more than 1.9 million people. Authorities issued a number of arrest warrants for Kony and leaders of the LRA on counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The LRA raided villages, burned down homes and murdered or mutilated thousands of people.

Child Soldiers in Africa

Kony lacked support for his cause and army. As a result, he abducted children and forced them into his service. Estimates state that the LRA kidnapped between 30,000 and 60,000 children. The LRA trained males to be child soldiers and females to be sex slaves. Fear was a major driver for children to remain in the LRA. Many children, like Judith, had to kill their parents and other loved ones for survival.

Art Is Restoring Peace to Rescued Child Soldiers

The U.N. called the LRA crisis the “most forgotten, neglected humanitarian emergency in the world.” A 29-minute film became the most effective tool in mobilizing the world into taking action against Kony and the LRA.

Art and social media were the key components of the success of the film “KONY 2012.” The U.S. advocacy group, Invisible Children, launched a digital campaign with the release of the film. The campaign’s goal was to make the infamous warlord famous in order to mobilize world leaders to stop him. The film garnered over 100 million views in six days. Public outcry and celebrity support increased the pressure for global leaders to take action against Kony. Eventually, authorities sanctioned a universal manhunt to capture Kony and put an end to the LRA. People have rescued many of the child soldiers in Africa but Kony still remains at-large. Today, the LRA has reduced to a group of fewer than 300 members.

Art has also been an effective tool for healing and restoration for the child victims of the LRA crisis. For many of the rescued child soldiers in Africa, there were some elements in their story that were too painful to put into words. Art became an avenue for those children to confront the past and face the future. Exile International, a nonprofit organization, has been providing healing to war-affected children through art-focused trauma care since 2008.

Recently, Exile International partnered with award-winning photographer and artist Jeremy Cowart to share the faces and powerful stories of child survivors. The Poza Project utilized the children’s art and Cowart’s talent to create a healing opportunity for the children to tell their own story of survival. Unique photographs and mixed art media created by the children were available for purchase. All the proceeds helped provide art therapy and holistic rehabilitation to children survivors of war. The Poza Project showcased a dozen children including Judith.

Judith spent nearly two years in captivity before being rescued. Today, she is back in school and working to become a psychiatric doctor. With the help of The Poza Project, Judith is one step closer to her dream of helping the other victims of Kony and the LRA.

– Paola Nuñez
Photo: Flickr