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Better World Books Promotes LiteracyThe ability to read and write is one that is vital to a person’s capacity to function and excel in today’s world. Better World Books, an online new and used book retailer, has set out to provide for this need. Through programs that supply books to those in need and the funding of educational efforts, Better World Books promotes literacy across the globe.

The Mission Of Better World Books

Better World Books was founded in 2002 by three University of Notre Dame students who began selling textbooks online to earn extra cash. However, the business quickly became a social enterprise focused on literacy.

Better World Books does not approach philanthropy like typical companies. A focus on social and environmental good is at the heart of the organization’s business model, not an extra cause tacked on. The company’s mission integrates a focus on literacy and education, so much so that they offer paid time off to employees who are volunteering.

Better World Books collects books from book drives, college campuses and libraries, helping divert used books out of landfills and back into the hands of readers. Additionally, any books not sold are recycled in an attempt to be earth-conscious.

How Better World Books Promotes Literacy

For every book sold, Better World Books promotes literacy by donating a book to those in need. To date, the organization has donated 26,059,744 books to people around the world who do not typically have access to them. The company also gives grants and donations to projects that promote literacy, with a whopping $27,559,358 currently donated.

Better World Books promotes literacy with the help of three main partners: Books for Africa, Room to Read and The National Center for Families Learning. Each of these organizations has unique ways of promoting literacy and education worldwide which they are able to accomplish with the support of Better World Books.

Partnering for Literacy

Books for Africa’s mission is a simple one: bring an end to the “book famine” in Africa. Currently, the organization is the largest transporter of donated books to the African continent having shipped over 41 million books since the company began in 1988. Last year alone $2.5 million was used to send books to students all over Africa. The partnership that Better World Books has established with the organization has been impactful, allowing for more books to be provided to those in need.

Another partner of Better World Books, Room to Read, focuses on providing an education to children everywhere, specifically by increasing literacy and concentrating on gender equality. To date, 10.7 million children have benefitted from Room to Read’s programs, 8,703 teachers and librarians have been trained by the organization and 20.6 million books have been distributed.

Furthermore, Better World Books also partners with The Robinson Community Learning Center in South Bend, Indiana, The Prison Book Program and Ride for Reading. These smaller, domestic organizations were some of the first to benefit from Better World Books’ partnership and began the company’s interest in literacy.

With 750 million illiterate adults worldwide, the work Better World Books is doing is sorely needed. One of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is to ensure that all youth and most adults are literate and numerate by 2030. With the help of Better World Books, that goal seems more than attainable.

– Sarah Dean
Photo: Flickr

Facts about the Lake Chad Basin Crisis
The Lake Chad Basin crisis is a humanitarian emergency that is among the most severe in the world. This crisis began in 2009 with the violence caused in Nigeria by Boko Haram, an Islamic jihadist group that was formed in 2002. Since then, the conflict has also spread to Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

This humanitarian disaster has caused hunger, malnutrition and displacement in the region. Additionally, violence continues and Boko Haram even aims to prevent the delivery of humanitarian aid. Because the crisis is often overlooked, it is important to address the facts about the Lake Chad Basin crisis.

10 Facts About the Lake Chad Basin Crisis

  1. Although its mission now is to overthrow the Nigerian government, the Boko Haram group was originally created to resist western education and influence. The group is also against things like voting in elections, an education system without religion and dressing with shirts and pants because this reflects western influence.
  2. As of May 2016, around 20,000 people had been killed by the extremists. Additionally, as a result of the crisis, many children have been separated from their families and are often killed or recruited to join armed groups. Females are also subject to physical abuse, forced labor, rape, forced marriage and sexual assault.
  3. There are more than 17 million people living in the affected areas across the four Lake Chad Basin countries. Many who are living in these affected areas are solely dependent on humanitarian aid for survival.
  4. The conflict has resulted in around 2.4 million people being displaced. More than half of those who were displaced were children. Of these children, 50 percent were under the age of five when displaced from their homes.
  5. There is an increased risk of disease in the area since malnutrition rates have reached critical levels. Those who are suffering from the conflict often depend on international aid for medical assistance. This can be extremely problematic due to Boko Haram’s efforts to stop foreign aid from reaching the area.
  6. There are 5.2 million people in need of food assistance as a result of the conflict. Approximately 745,000 suffer from acute malnourishment. Of these people, 490,000 are children.
  7. Currently, around four million people are food insecure in the affected regions. Unfortunately, it is predicted that this will increase to almost five million in the lean season between June and August.
  8. The severity of the conflict and its consequences continues to increase. Civilians are frequently still under attack by the Boko Haram group. The number of internally displaced people continues to substantially rise in the region, even though millions of people have already been displaced.
  9. The U.N. estimates that nearly 11 million people in the region require and depend on humanitarian assistance for survival. Approximately 7.7 million people requiring aid are located in the northeastern region of Nigeria in the three most affected states: Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.
  10. Currently, it is estimated that around $1.58 billion will be required in aid to the region for 2018. Unfortunately, only $477 million, or approximately 30 percent of the goal, has been funded. It is important to encourage international assistance for this particular cause in order to ensure the survival of millions.

Many NGOs and foreign governments are working together to improve the living situation of those suffering from the Lake Chad Basin crisis. However, it is still important to urge senators and representatives to pass legislation that can assist in this humanitarian emergency that has left millions in need due to hunger, violence and displacement.

– Luz Solano-Flórez

Photo: Flickr

Waste-to-Energy in Ethiopia Increasing Electricity and Decreasing WasteIn Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, a landfill the size of 36 soccer fields is being turned into renewable energy, meeting the needs of 30 percent of the city’s electricity. The landfill, previously the only waste disposal site in Addis Ababa, made the news in 2017 due to an onsite landslide that killed 114 people. The new energy plant, known as Reppie Waste-to-Energy in Ethiopia, plans to turn 80 percent of the city’s waste into energy each day.

Waste is turned into energy through incineration, a process already popular in many European countries. About 25 percent of European waste is turned into energy and there are over 100 waste-to-energy plants in both France and Germany. Strict European Union emissions standards ensure that no harmful emissions from the incineration process enter the atmosphere, standards that the Reppie project will be held to as well.

Electricity is produced directly from the burning of the waste. As garbage is burned in a combustion chamber, heat is produced. The heat boils water, creating steam, which in turn produces energy in a turbine. The emissions that occur in this process are cleaned before they enter the atmosphere, making this a renewable and sustainable source of clean energy.

The Reppie facility came into development out of a partnership between the government of Ethiopia and several international partners, including Chinese and Danish companies. This partnership came together to tailor the needs of the new energy plant to sub-Saharan Africa, as opposed to the waste-to-energy plants already operating in Europe.

The Ethiopian project further protects the environment and its citizens from harmful toxins that are released into groundwater supplies and the atmosphere at landfill sites. Methane is a harmful greenhouse gas that adds to the negative effects of climate change and is typically produced at landfill sites; this project will reduce methane emissions, as well as save space and generate electricity.

In addition to providing energy to three million people, the Reppie project plans to make an additional three million bricks from the waste and recover 30 million liters of water from the landfill. These materials will be additionally used to benefit the population of Addis Ababa. Furthermore, the plant will create hundreds of jobs for people who previously relied on scavenging at the waste site, a dangerous occupation.

In Ethiopia, only 27 percent of the population has access to electricity. While that number includes rural areas, in only urban areas such as Addis Ababa, the number rises to almost 92 percent. However, the Reppie plant is connected to the national grid and the introduction of waste-to-energy in Ethiopia will spread from urban areas and be able to serve rural areas as well, increasing access to electricity to all Ethiopians.

The Reppie Waste-to-Energy in Ethiopia will aid in reducing poverty conditions through increasing access to electricity, creating jobs and improving the environment to the benefit of human health. The plant will additionally be a model for similar plants across the continent of Africa. Already, seven other plants are being planned. These plants together will leave a lasting positive impact on both the environment and the energy needs of people across the continent.

– Hayley Herzog

Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Aid to GuineaA West African country bordering the North Atlantic Ocean that has been called potentially one of Africa’s richest, Guinea is a mineral-rich state with a population that is among the poorest in Africa. Humanitarian aid to Guinea is an important step in improving the livelihoods of Guineans.

Situated between Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone, Guinea is home to about a third of the world’s bauxite reserves which have not been smelted and refined into aluminum largely owing to the political instability in the country. Chronic underdevelopment has also angered many locals who have, in desperation, disrupted operations at the country’s mines to bring attention to their plight.

According to the U.S. State Department’s Office of Investment Affairs, Guinea suffers from “persistent corruption and fiscal management.” However, the country is not only resource-rich but also filled with economic potentials in the energy and the agricultural sector.

With over four billions tons of untapped high-grade iron ore, abundant rainfall, gold and diamond reserves, off-shore oil reserves and indeterminate amounts of uranium, Guinea has many economic drivers. The country’s natural geography also makes it very hospitable to renewable energy sources such as hydroelectric dams and turbines.

In May 2015, the 240 megawatt Kaleta Dam project was built after a $526 million investment by China. Kaleta more than doubled the country’s electricity supply and encouraged the government to seek aid for more energy infrastructure, mainly in the solar and hydroelectric sector.

According to USAID, Guinea suffered heavy losses to its economical revenue and outlook in the wake of the Ebola outbreak. Many widespread preventable and treatable diseases, such as malaria, prevail in the country and infant and maternal mortality rates remain very high. Furthermore, the agricultural sector is not able to completely function to provide the much-needed source of income and revenue for the people and the government.

The success of humanitarian aid to Guinea is underlined by USAID’s work in the country. In March 2015, USAID provided more than $7 million through the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to improve food security and nutrition as a means to combat poverty and hunger in Guinea.

This culminated in WFP making the largest-ever purchase of locally-produced rice, which supported the local agricultural sector and provided children with meals in hundreds of schools across the country. Furthermore, farmers were educated about the business and contracting process, including working with development partners, and were encouraged to establish relationships with banks to obtain credits and rates they could use to sustain their farms.

It has been said that Guinea’s entire population of 12 million people is at risk of malaria. Malaria control efforts and prevention policies are underway in the country, but the damage is ongoing. According to the Ministry of Health, most of the hospitalizations, consultations and deaths in Guinea are a result of malaria.

Aid organizations such as Plan International have been working for decades to provide humanitarian aid to Guinea. Plan International improves children’s access to health, education and sanitation. This is done by ensuring that sustainable, quality education is provided to all children. Children are afforded access to clean water and sanitation facilities. Furthermore, a safe environment designed to empower children is nurtured.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) Guinea actively helps vulnerable people and migrants to resettle in other countries by advocating on their behalf and lending support at every step of the resettlement process, including performing medical health assessments on behalf of the resettlement countries. Funding for IOM Guinea is mainly provided by the same governments of resettlement countries, and the international community can and should support the efforts of these countries.

With more humanitarian aid to Guinea, this resource-rich country certainly carries the potential to infuse its wealth of resources into the livelihoods of all Guineans.

– Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Flickr

African Countries Are Behind in EducationThe U.N. has created 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for developing countries in order to mobilize efforts to improve the quality of life for people living in poverty. The fourth goal of the SDGs is to have access to quality education. In the SDG 2017 report, research showed that enrollment in primary education is going up, but some countries, such as African countries, are behind in education.

A Global Education Monitoring (GEM) report done by UNESCO found that in sub-Saharan Africa, 41 percent of students in primary education don’t complete basic education. The report also said that 87 percent of students don’t reach the minimum proficiency level in reading. This equates to more than one in four young people in the region that can not read or write proficiently.

There are many factors as to why African countries are behind in education, one of them being poverty. But other factors for this issue have to do with organization of the education system. The GEM report found that less than half of developing countries had created standards for primary education. Additionally, education systems did not have a means to monitor how students develop or teachers progress. The lack of organization of an educational system causes classrooms to be overcrowded and poorly resourced with teachers that are not qualified.

There are some programs that are addressing these issues. For example, UNESCO is working to improve quality of teachers’ abilities and to develop a curriculum to improve learning experience for students. The program also focuses on teaching students skills that are relevant while also providing gender inclusive literacy programs.

Another way to improve education in African countries is to invest in technology in schools. Internet access is common for people in developed countries but is not distributed equally around the world. Students that live in African countries could benefit from Internet access because of the access to information and connection to resources.

SDGs are obtainable for all developing countries, including countries in Africa. Further investment in the educational systems, the creation of plans and providing a curriculum that is beneficial for students will help provide children with quality education. Investing in technology will also help students learn and help teachers teach, providing a better future for young people in developing countries.

Deanna Wetmore

Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in AfricaLife expectancy is one of the methods used to measure health in various countries. Countries with low life expectancies usually have problems maintaining health and longevity, while countries with higher life expectancies generally have better healthcare and longevity. Africa is a continent that has long had a very low life expectancy; however, in recent years the life expectancy in Africa has fortunately been on the rise.

Since 2000, the average life expectancy in African countries has increased from 20 percent to 42 percent. That is the biggest increase in  life expectancy recorded in that time frame in all regions around the world. One of the biggest life expectancy increases has occurred in Malawi. Malawi’s life expectancy in 2000 was 44.1 years. In 2014, it was reported that the new life expectancy in Malawi was 62.7 years – a 42.2 percent increase.

Health and welfare improvements are one of the main reasons why life expectancy in Africa has been on the rise. One of the biggest health issues that Africa has been plagued with is the HIV/AIDS epidemic. HIV/AIDS has tragically claimed many lives in Africa, which is a large reason why life expectancy was so low. Treating these diseases was difficult at height of the epidemic, so many Africans unfortunately died. Because HIV/AIDS has been such a huge issue, there has been a lot of research done to help alleviate the problem. Improvements in medication and treatment have helped Africans and others around the world combat the AIDS epidemic. Not only is there now medicine available to help suppress the disease, but this medicine has become much more affordable for all people, including those in developing countries.

Although an epidemic, HIV/AIDS was not the only problem that African countries suffered from. Malaria was also an issue that affected life expectancy in Africa. However, strides have since been made to alleviate that issue as well. The World Health Organization (WHO) in Africa has reported that the rate of malaria has decreased by 66 percent since the year 2000. More importantly, malaria in African children under the age of five has decreased by 71 percent. This is important because more children are surviving in Africa. Prior to these improvements, HIV/AIDS and malaria have claimed many lives of children under the age of five. Since healthcare – and access to it – has increased in Africa, more children are surviving past age five. Once these kids clear the first five years of their lives, it is much more likely that they will grow up to reach the age of 60.

Life expectancy in Africa has increased and things are only looking to get better. Not only has the life expectancy dramatically increased, it is beginning to look like malaria may be eliminated by 2020 and HIV/AIDS by 2030. This will surely serve to further increase the life expectancy of African countries, as well as elsewhere around the world.

Daniel Borjas

Photo: Flickr

AMREF: Lasting Health Changes in AfricaSurgeons Michael Wood, Archibald McIndoe, and Tom Rees came up with a plan to provide medical assistance in remote regions of East Africa in 1957. Today, the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) is the most respected health development organization based in Africa. Their mission is simple: bringing lasting healthcare improvements to Africa.

AMREF’s strategy is based on seven priority areas:

  1. Maternal health, including safer pregnancies, support for reproductive rights and cervical cancer prevention for disadvantaged women.
  2. Child health, including integrated management of childhood illnesses and improved childhood nutrition.
  3. Fighting diseases like HIV, TB and malaria with prevention, care and treatment.
  4. Improving access to safe water and sanitation to prevent epidemics of waterborne diseases.
  5. A wider reach of quality clinical and diagnostic services by strengthening health facilities.
  6. Research and advocacy to distribute knowledge to healthcare workers across the continent.
  7. A strong, united AMREF Health Africa.

AMREF works to make significant healthcare improvements in African countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Senegal. AMREF has been successful in developing community-based healthcare models and programs with communities, which is the heart of their system. It reaches and respects communities and brings lasting healthcare improvements to Africa from within.

AMREF launched the successful Stand Up for African Mothers campaign to ensure that mothers are given adequate medical care during pregnancy and childbirth. It aimed to train 15,000 midwives to reduce maternal death by 25 percent. One trained midwife was projected to provide care for 500 women each year, including safe deliveries of 100 babies.

AMREF set up the Kenya eLearning Nurses Upgrading Programme in 2005 and a few years later, it expanded to include the AMREF Virtual Nursing School. The program has further evolved to implement projects such as:

  • Conversion of the Diploma in Community Health program to eLearning
  • Conversion of six distance education courses to eLearning
  • The Center for Disease Control-supported infection prevention and control program
  • Conversion of the national antiretroviral therapy guidelines to eLearning
  • Replication of the eLearning program in various countries across the region including Uganda, Tanzania and Senegal
  • Support for the Ministries of Health in non-AMREF countries to implement eLearning, including Zambia and Lesotho.

More than 220 women die each day due to pregnancy and childbirth complications in Sub-Saharan Africa, and children in Africa are 16 times more likely to die before the age of five than in developed regions. This highlights the serious need for healthcare improvements in Africa. AMREF has shown that when women have more control over their life and health, they become more effective and have a great impact on their own community.

AMREF has taken the lead to improve the situation by partnering with and empowering communities and strengthening healthcare systems. Their priority areas address the most pressing healthcare concerns, bringing lasting healthcare improvements to Africa in the places where it is needed most.

Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr

Schistosomiasis Control InitiativeOne of the many challenges hindering the alleviation of global poverty is the health conditions that afflict those in poverty. Poor health contributes to higher child mortality, premature death and inconsistencies in the ability for the public at large to function. Many impoverished countries experience lower rates of student attendance due to the effects of health conditions. However, many of the ailments experienced by the extremely poor are preventable or curable, but without access to appropriate medicines, they can be detrimental to a productive life or in many cases fatal. The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative is an organization working in sub-Saharan Africa to help those that suffer from such diseases and infections.

In 2015, 218 million people lived with preventable diseases, one of which was soil-transmitted schistosomiasis, or parasitic worms. This infection originates from poor sanitation and a lack of clean water and water treatment facilities. The parasite lives in contaminated freshwater and the recipient becomes infected when they come in contact with the water. There are effective treatments for schistosomiasis once it is contracted, but in some places, these medicines are scarce, unavailable or expensive.

The Schistosomiasis Control Initiative works in several ways to help generate support for administering medicine for schistosomiasis as well as public outreach and communication to prevent such diseases. Schistosomiasis Control Initiative collaborates with local and global government and nonprofit agencies to ensure access to treatments and helps develop strategies for prone communities to prevent transmission. In line with the United Nations Development Goals, Schistosomiasis Control Initiative’s goal is to make a significant impact on health conditions for the extremely poor by 2030, thereby improving quality of life across many standards such as school attendance, child mortality and general productivity.

As of 2015, 74.3 million people have been treated worldwide for schistosomiasis, in part due to the efforts of Schistosomiasis Control Initiative. In the following decades, simply due to the nature of the disease and the availability of treatment, one can expect these statistics to improve, thanks to groups willing to transport treatments to the locations that need it most and arm communities with the knowledge to prevent it in the future.

Casey Hess

Photo: Flickr

Education in MozambiqueMozambique has a population of about 29 million people. Statistics from various organizations, such as USAID, have shown that the adult literacy rate in the country is around 47 percent. In the surrounding countries of Zimbabwe and Malawi, the rate is much higher at 89 and 66 percent respectively. There are many contributing factors to the standards of education in Mozambique.

Here are seven things to know about education in Mozambique:

  1. Primary school is mandatory for children, but secondary school is not. In fact, there are only 82 secondary schools in the country.
  2. Poverty is a big contributor to the standards of education, as many children aged 14 must work rather than go to school. The children have to earn money for their families since resources can be spread so thin. Girls tend to drop out of school at a young age to get married and start families of their own.
  3. Mozambique abolished primary school fees in the early 2000s. This abolition caused the primary student population to double in less than a decade.
  4. Teachers are outnumbered heavily by their students. This causes the quality of education in Mozambique to suffer.
  5. Children are also inclined to drop out of school altogether if their parents die because of poor living conditions or other extenuating circumstances.
  6. Studies by organizations such as UNICEF have shown that the early moments of childhood matter the most. There are 15 countries with policies in place that allow mothers to have the time to devote to their children’s early years. Mozambique is not one of them and this affects the level of education in Mozambique.
  7. The government and various aid organizations, such as UNICEF, are also working to certify and train more teachers so that more are available for students.

The battle is being fought on all ends: teachers, funding and attendance. Hopefully, literacy and education in Mozambique can be improved within the country and pull many out of the vicious cycle of poverty.

– Dezanii Lewis

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in GuineaSituated in West Africa, Guinea is a country populated with around 12 million people. As in many impoverished countries, hunger and malnutrition are issues primarily affecting the rural areas of the nation. Over half of the population lives in extremely poor conditions, and 17.5 percent are food-insecure. Coupled with poor socioeconomic conditions and a weak government, natural disasters and disease further add to the chronic malnourishment issue. There are several programs, however, that have contributed to alleviating the consequences of hunger in Guinea over the past few decades.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has been working on reducing hunger in Guinea since the mid-1960s. In the time the organization has spent in Guinea, WFP has effectively improved nourishment by promoting education programs in schools, providing nourishment to women and children specifically with HIV, tuberculosis and Ebola and promoting locally grown foods. Another area of focus for food insecurity that the WFP is addressing is access to healthcare supplies by supporting government incentives for air transport.

Similarly, Action Against Hunger (AAH) is helping Guinea move forward in food security and nutrition. AAH began work in the mid-1990s and has worked to fight disease such as cholera, while also promoting better practices relating to hunger in Guinea. AAH assisted 264,124 people in 2016.

Earlier in 2017, two native Guineans were celebrated on International Women’s Day for their contributions to the fight against hunger in Guinea. The food security, resiliency and archeology project team of the Stop Hunger foundation awarded the two women for their work in involving local parboiling in schools in rural areas that experience food-insecurity. Supported by local government, the program is an excellent example of mobilization of local communities and the effectiveness that larger nonprofits have in sparking efforts toward reliving hunger in Guinea.

Casey Hess

Photo: Flickr