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Maternal Care in BangladeshBack in 1972, Fazlé Hasan Abed started a small organization called the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee (BRAC). Originally dedicated to helping refugees after Bangladesh’s war for independence against Pakistan, the organization has since grown to serve 11 countries across Asia and Africa. One of the key focuses of BRAC is poverty alleviation and includes categories such as improving maternal care in Bangladesh.

BRAC’s Strategies for Poverty Reduction

BRAC engages several strategies to combat poverty, such as social enterprises. Social enterprises are self-sustaining cause-driven business entities that create social impact by offering solutions to social challenges and reinvesting surplus to sustain and generate greater impact. Some social enterprises include those seeking to promote access to fisheries, give people access to jobs in the silk industry and businesses that give seed access to farmers.

BRAC also prioritizes social development. These initiatives refer to BRAC’s on-the-ground programs. Social development efforts aim to build communities up by attempting to foster long-term development through the promotion of microfinance and gender equality and by eradicating extreme poverty.

The third focus of BRAC is investments. BRAC seeks to invest in local companies in order to create as much social impact as possible. This includes initiatives to expand affordable internet access for all and a range of other financial support services.

Finally, the organization founded a tertiary education institution called Brac University. The University, located in Bangladesh, aims to use its liberal arts curriculum in order to try and advance human capital development and help students develop solutions to local problems.

The BRAC Manoshi Maternal Care Initiative

Founded in 2007, the Manoshi program is specifically tailored to serve mothers and newborns by providing accessible care. There are a couple of unique methods that make this maternal healthcare initiative especially effective in reaching its goals of improving maternal care in Bangladesh.

One-third of people in Bangladesh live under the poverty line and a greater part of this group live in slums, making it difficult to access and afford necessary healthcare. Manoshi focuses primarily on empowering communities, particularly women, in order to develop a system of essential healthcare interventions for mothers and babies.

Manoshi’s Focal Areas for Community Development

  • Providing basic healthcare for pregnant and lactating women, newborns and children under 5
  • Building a referral system to connect women with quality health facilities when complications arise
  • Creating women’s groups to drive community empowerment
  • Skills development and capacity building for healthcare workers and birth attendants
  • Connecting community organizations with governmental and non-governmental organizations to further their goals

The main methods used in the Manoshi project to achieve desired outcomes are social mapping, census taking and community engagement.

Manoshi’s Impact on Maternal Care in Bangladesh

BRAC projected that improvement in healthcare access would cause neonatal mortality to decline by 40-50% and the most recent data from the Manoshi program shows just that. Manoshi’s data shows that from 2008 to 2013, both the maternal and neonatal death rates dropped by more than half. From 2007 to 2011, the percentage of births at health facilities increased from 15% to 59%, while national averages only increased from 25% to 28%, suggesting that mothers served by Manoshi have more access to resources and facilities for safe deliveries. Prenatal care also increased from 27% to 52% in the same years.

With the substantial impact of organizational programs like Manoshi prioritizing the wellbeing of women and children, advancements with regard to maternal care in Bangladesh will hopefully only continue upward.

– Thomas Gill
Photo: Flickr

Drinkwell Systems, Purifying Drinking Water for Water-Scarce CommunitiesDrinkwell is an innovative technology platform that won the first Imagine H20 Urban Water Challenge. The objective of the technology company Drinkwell Systems is to provide critical clean water infrastructure in a way that is both environmentally and socially sustainable. Drinkwell Systems not only purifies and provides clean water for underserved communities, but it also provides jobs in the communities in which the water ATMs are installed.

How Does Drinkwell Work

Drinkwell is a system that is able to purify water at an impressive rate with a lower waste rate than reverse osmosis. The Drinkwell system purifies water by using the patented HIX-Nano technology, which only wastes 1% of the water put into the system, compared to 40 to 60% of input water. This company operates in three stages.

These stages are separated into design, build and operation and maintenance. In the design phase, the company tests raw water samples and uses its cloud-based database to paint a clearer picture of where water quality is the poorest and access to drinking water is lowest. During the building phase, the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority build sheds while Drinkwell makes and installs the ATM and treatment system. Finally, in the operation and maintenance phase, the local water authorities maintain the systems through the usage of mobile applications. Through these applications, the water authorities are able to report issues that may arise in their systems as well as keep an eye on finances.

Drinkwell’s Current Initiatives

Currently, the company is focused on serving communities in Bangladesh and India. Bangladesh is currently facing a water and sanitation crisis. In a nation with 165 million people, there are 5 million citizens who do not have a reliable source of safe drinking water. The great waterways, such as the Ganges, Meghna and Brahmaputra rivers, all begin within the borders of other countries. Bangladesh is left with only 7% of the land that makes up these large watersheds, which leaves them with very little control over how much water they can access from these sources. Paired with rising salinity levels in the water and arsenic contamination in the groundwater, Bangladesh’s residents are suffering from a severe lack of access to clean water.

In India, fewer than 50% of the 1.353 billion population face water insecurity. Similar to Bangladesh, India’s water is often contaminated by chemicals like fluoride and arsenic. This contaminated water is found in nearly 1.96 million households. In addition to concerns surrounding contaminated drinking water, India also struggles with a quickly declining groundwater source. This is in part due to increased drilling over the last few decades. In a region with a high number of people who do not have access to safe water, services like Drinkwell are critical to helping people gain access to these essential services.

Looking Ahead

After winning the H20 Urban Water Challenge, the company partnered with the Chittagong Water Supply and Sewerage Authority. This partnership led to the implementation of four water ATMs in Bangladesh. With these water ATMs, Drinkwell’s systems were able to provide clean drinking water to 5,100 people. Drinkwell Systems currently has plans to install an additional 96 water filtration systems and ATMs in Bangladesh’s second-largest city in 2020 and 2021. In total, the company has been able to roll out water ATMs in more than 230 locations across India and Bangladesh. In addition to providing people with access to clean drinking water, Drinkwell has been able to create 340 jobs for locals.

In a relatively short amount of time, Drinkwell Systems has served 300 to 2,000 households in water insecure areas of India and Bangladesh, as well as created jobs for people living in these water-scarce areas. Advancements in water supply technology such as Drinkwell are an important step in solving water insecurity worldwide.

—Maddi Miller
Photo: Flickr

GoliathonGoliathon is a nonprofit organization located in New Jersey, that uses obstacle courses to raise money for another organization, charity: water, which is based in New York. These two organizations jointly work to bring clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries.

Water: A Universal Human Right

In 2017, 2.2 billion people worldwide did not have access to clean water, which is roughly one in 10 people. The lack of access to clean water is due to the contamination of water as well as the location of water. With 144 million people sourcing their drinking water from untreated lakes, ponds and streams, disease is a massive concern. Unsafe and untreated water is responsible for the transmission of diseases like cholera and dysentery. Diarrhea alone claims almost 485,000 lives a year. The matter of location is equally vital. Efforts to create safe water sources mean little if they are not easily accessible for those in need. More than 200 million people must walk more than half an hour to reach a safe water source.

The U.N. recognizes access to water as a universal human right. In the effort to solve this crisis, the General Assembly argues that water must be safe, acceptable and affordable and has to be within 1,000 meters of the home. The value of water is a key reason why Goliathon has chosen to work with charity:water.

charity: water

Founded in 2006, charity: water is committed to providing clean drinking water to developing nations. The majority of its work has been centralized in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, with a few projects located in Central America. These projects include well construction, water purification systems and rainwater harvesting.

Founder and CEO, Scott Harrison, recognizes the opportunities offered by technological advancements. He sees the solution to the water crisis as a possibility. He believes “It’s just a matter of getting the right resources to the right people.”

Charity: water prides itself on transparency, promising that 100% of proceeds go toward hands-on development of the projects.

Goliathon

Goliathon was founded by a group of friends who value athleticism and altruism. Their mission statement is “It’s not a race. It’s a mission.” This mission statement reflects that the water crisis is not one problem to fix but a collective mission to undertake. Goliathon’s fundraising for charity: water has resulted in several completed water projects in Bangladesh, Nepal, Ethiopia, Cambodia and Malawi. Three more water projects have been funded and are currently under construction.

By signing up to take part in Goliathon obstacle courses, participants raise money for charity: water efforts. The courses are not a competition but a challenge that encourages everyone to be an advocate for global issues like water access.

The obstacle courses are open to all and vary in difficulty to appeal to both beginners and the more experienced. The Goliathon team has created several different obstacles for participants to overcome, each unique in design and requiring equally clever solutions. A particularly notable challenge in the course is the water carry challenge, which has participants cart jerrycans full of water as a way of connecting to those in developing nations who must do the same.

Impact of Goliathon and charity:water

Goliathon’s October 2017 event resulted in $50,000 raised for charity: water efforts in Ethiopia. Completed in September 2019, the project oversaw water spring protection and the creation of safe pipe systems. Over 1,600 people in Ethiopian communities were helped.

The most recent Goliathon event held in October 2019 had $34,000 raised for BioSand Filters in Cambodia. These BioSand Filters offer a simple and low-cost solution as a form of filtration. Their effectiveness is amplified by charity: water committing to educating the families that use them, ensuring a healthy cycle.

COVID-19 has prevented Goliathon from hosting any events in 2020. However, the Goliathon team is optimistic and is planning for a possible event in June 2021, with protocols in place if necessary.

– Kelli Hughes
Photo: Flickr

Rohingya refugee campsLow-income areas with a high population density are at the highest risk of contracting the coronavirus. This threat is very prevalent in the Rohingya refugee camps, especially for women and girls.

The Issue

Currently in Bangladesh, there are over 860,000 Rohingya refugees living in camps. The Rohingya people, a minority ethnic group from Myanmar, are fleeing from genocidal violence, persecution, discrimination and human rights violations. The Rohingya face violence because they mainly practice Islam while the majority of Myanmar is Buddhist. The large mass of people fleeing into Bangladesh has caused the refugee camps to become immensely populated. The result is overcrowding, only temporary shelter, communal bathrooms and water facilities and limited food space.

Overcrowding and limited space in refugee camps result in the Rohingya having an especially high risk of contracting COVID-19. Currently, the best way to prevent the spread of this disease is to social distance, wear masks and increase testing. However, the Rohingya refugees do not have the space or resources to do this. As of June 2020, there were four deaths and 45 confirmed cases within the Rohingya refugee population. However, because there is a huge lack of testing, these numbers are most likely not accurate. The hospitals in city centers no longer have resources themselves to treat any more people. As such, many infected Rohingya aren’t being accepted.

How Women are Fighting Back

Oxfam, an NGO fighting poverty, traveled to the Rohingya refugee camps to help build better water, sanitation and hygiene stations. This includes systems like water taps and hand washing stations, which could be potential risk areas for disease spreading. When designing the new water and sanitation facilities, Oxfam interviewed many girls and women to hear their thoughts. The women and girls contributed to design aspects like how the stations should stand, where hooks should go, and even suggested a mirror. All of the expertise given by those Rohingya women and girls has spread to other camps. Now 300 hand-washing and water stations are implemented in three different refugee camps.

Women also have taken on the important role of spreading information and discounting myths surrounding COVID-19 in the refugee camps. One woman, Ashmida Begum, walks around the camp dispelling myths. Begum explained that she uses the Quran to help explain the virus and disease prevention. She mainly helps other women and children who are a large majority of Rohingya refugee camps. Misinformation has led Bangladesh to lift internet restrictions on the Rohingya refugees. The barriers were originally in place to quell panic and stop rumors. Instead, rumors and myths spread and local women like Begum worked to stop them.

Why Women

Women have been so effective in helping the refugee camps because the local people trust them. They have special access in reaching other women, who normally do not leave their homes often and do not have internet.

Women are traditionally the primary caregiver of the family, so they especially need to be healthy and informed to keep the rest of the family safe. This is also why women’s input is needed in the sanitation and water stations; women will be using them the most.

Impacts of this Work

The work that the women and girls of Rohingya refugee camps have impacts beyond fighting COVID-19. Oxfam reports that the design process helped girls take a more active role in their own lives. They were able to think and speak for themselves.

The rise in panic and social tensions in the camps resulted in a rise in domestic violence and violence against women. Rohingya women stepped into leadership roles and formed networks to help combat that panic around the virus to counter the gender-based attacks.

The work done by the women in Rohingya refugee camps to fight COVID-19 is helping to increase cleanliness and knowledge about the virus. They are slowing the spread of the virus and giving women and girls a way to be leaders in their communities.

Claire Brady
Photo: Flickr

Glamour BoutiqueThere are a number of advancements in legal gender rights across the world. However, social norms still play a large role in preventing women from attaining economic independence. Globally, women are almost three times more likely than men to work in the unpaid sector—namely domestic work and caring for children. When the women who are confined to this lifestyle are able to find paid work, it is often part-time and low-wage. This sets them at a significant financial disadvantage. They must depend on their husbands and families to provide for their basic needs.

The Fix

The Inclusive and Equitable Local Development (IELD) sector of the United Nations Capital Development Fund fights to right these wrongs. They invest in small businesses in developing countries that are largely run by women. Through their investments, these businesses expand, hire more people, increase their consumer market and earn more money. When women achieve financial independence, the reward is multiplied. Economically secure women are likely to invest in education, health and their community.

The Entrepreneur

One of these businesses that the IELD benefits is Glamour Boutique—a fashion business in Jessore, a small town in southwestern Bangladesh.

Glamour Boutique was officially founded in 2007 by Parveen Akhter. Akhter had been kidnapped and forced into child marriage when she was in the ninth grade. Her husband—her kidnapper and a drug addict—made it a habit of abusing her throughout their seventeen-year marriage. Encouragement from her oldest son, 16-years-old at the time, led her to file for divorce and set up the Glamour Boutique House and Training Centre. It was based in her home and capitalized on the embroidery and tailoring skills Akhter had taught herself over the years. Once business picked up, she moved into a rented space.

This is when the IELD stepped in. Akhter had little money, a small market and limited machines. They loaned her nearly 30,000 USD to expand. Since then, Glamour Boutique has employed over 50 women and consistently trains around 20 in tailoring and embroidery.

More than anything, the company is female-friendly. It helps to lift women out of poverty and give them a purpose and community. Additionally, she is sensitive to her employees having outside commitments. She offers short four-hour shifts for women who are enrolled in school, have children or have other situations warranting a flexible schedule.

Mussamad Nafiza, an employee at Glamour Boutique, testifies to the beauty of working there. She describes her own and others’ financial gain and independence as well as her dreams of opening a business similar to Akhter’s. Dipa Monjundar, a friend of Akhter’s and fellow small business owner, commends Akhter’s work and celebrates the economic empowerment of women across Bangladesh.

Next Steps

Although important, investing in women’s businesses is not the only way to help women achieve economic prosperity. Commitments from men and the government are essential. They need to respect, uphold and uplift women’s rights to sustainably change the way communities approach gender disparity.

Jessore’s mayor participated in several gender equality training sessions before starting any major projects. If other community leaders encourage participation in similar training courses, economic gender parity may no longer be a far-fetched dream.

Rebecca Blanke
Photo: Flickr

workers in BangladeshBangladesh’s economy is mostly dependent on the textile/garment industry. Garments account for around 80% of the country’s exports. Some 3.5 million workers in Bangladesh, 85% of which are women, work long hours with pay too low to support themselves and their families. Not only is the pay low but they also work in cramped, dangerous conditions without any financial protection. Majority-female workers are also subject to sexual harassment and other forms of sexism in the workplace.

Moreover, in the recent global climate, many factories have shut down resulting in layoffs, pay cuts and a struggling economy (not to mention workforce). Many of these factory workers are struggling to make ends meet; forced to figure out just how to survive. Here are three ways that the garment workers of Bangladesh are struggling.

3 Ways Garment Workers in Bangladesh Are Struggling

  1. Working conditions in sweatshops are hazardous and violate workers’ rights. These workers often work long hours and have little time between shifts. They have very little workspace as it is typically cramped with other workers. This makes for quite a dangerous working environment. Making matters worse, factory owners have taken strides to limit and prevent labor unions from forming, even though they are legal. These factory owners are suppressing their workers and taking advantage of the situation.
  2. The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly affected these laborers. Workers in the factories were struggling to get by — even before the pandemic closed many factories and lowered the level of garment exports. Many Western brands have canceled their orders from the factories due to decreased sales resulting from the pandemic. Western companies canceled their orders — a large percentage of them. This hurt both the factories and the workers. Factory owners are no longer able to pay their workers and 58% of factory owners reported having to shut down their factories because of such low demand. Management then consequently lays off many of these struggling workers. Without jobs, they have no way to support themselves and certainly not a family.
  3. Even though women account for 85% of the textile workforce in Bangladesh — they are still given neither the rights nor conditions they deserve. Women face sexual harassment and improper maternity leave. While the government guarantees maternity leave for at least 100 days for their first two children — one report noted that around 50% of all women interviewed in said report never enjoyed the proper break. Many of the women who do get maternity leave have to return to a lower position, regardless of the fact that it is illegal for companies to demote a woman simply because of maternity leave.

Organizations Making an Effort

Global Giving is a non-government organization that aims to educate women working in sweatshops and lift them out of poverty. The hope is that in turn, they would also encourage others to do the same by fighting for their rights. Global Giving is a great organization to support because not only does it directly improve the lives of individual women, it also helps women as a whole become more equal and independent. This may help women stray away from sweatshops.

Workers’ Rights

Bangladesh is facing widespread hardship within its working-class because of inadequate and unfair treatment. Adding to the already unsustainable pay — the global pandemic has caused even more layoffs and pay cuts than pre-outbreak outbreak times. The problem that existed before the pandemic was simply highlighted in these recent months. Sweatshop workers in Bangladesh are of course worthy of fair treatment and should receive the rights they deserve.

Samira Akbary
Photo: Flickr

Skateboarding is creating changeA skateboard for most children in the U.S. is just another toy, hobby or sport, but halfway around the world in Bangladesh, a simple skateboard deck and four wheels is becoming a beacon hope for the future. The organization Bangladesh Street Kids Aids (BSKA) for ten years now has used skateboarding as a way to connect with street children of Bangladesh.

There are approximately 600,000 children left homeless or at-risk on the city streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh, the country’s capital. And the harsh reality of the everyday lives of street children is reflected in the staggering 1.56 million children predicted to live on the streets by 2024. Most of these children face hunger, extreme and dangerous work conditions, drug abuse and a refusal of education on a daily basis. Many are forced to beg for food and in the entire country of Bangladesh, there is a daily average of 75 women and children sex-trafficked.

BSKA identifies these children and attempts to provide them with different resources that will guide them on a path of success through skateboarding, mentorship and education. There is a dark history of treating street children in Bangladesh as “non-human beings.” So another goal of BSKA is to instill a sense of confidence and interpersonal skills in the children that will allow them to be safe and successful in their futures and functioning members of society.

Different Ways BSKA is Making Change Through Skateboarding

  1. Skateboarding Lessons: BSKA’s skateboarding program is the second most popular service the organization offers, with their Drug Awareness and Mentorship program being the most popular. Skateboarding is creating change in the country of Bangladesh because the sport teaches discipline and determination. BSKA aims to provide its members with different skateboarding tricks within the program to boost their confidence in learning new skills, and the organization has seen many members now interacting with their community empathetically since participating in the program.
  2. Drug Awareness/Mentorship Program: According to the Bangladesh Human Rights Forum, 85% of street children in Bangladesh abused drugs in 2018. Now, skateboarding is creating change in the lives of these children because BSKA has taken it one step further and created a Drug Awareness/Mentorship Program. The program recognizes the exposure and proximity young children have to harmful drugs and began to educate their participants on the risks and consequences of drug abuse. Many street children have parents that abuse drugs themselves, which put them at a higher risk of drug use in general because of its accessibility. Also, many street children specifically in Dhaka, become addicted to inhalants to ease hunger aches and other pains. One of the most prevalent inhalants street children in Dhaka are addicted to is sniffing dendrite or glue. BSKA’s drug awareness program provides education on the adverse effects of this drug abuse and created an alternative outlet through sports teams to promote health and fitness for the country’s youth.
  3. Education: Street Children in Bangladesh are an extremely marginalized social group that lacks basic education. Many children cannot afford to attend a private school and most are often classified as “working” children and in turn, refused a public education. One of the most significant barriers street children face is that there is not a policy in Bangladesh’s government that requires 100% of children to be enrolled in school, and the National Child Policy 2011 and National Education Policy 2010 of Bangladesh exposed this flaw in the education system.

Now skateboarding is creating change in 800 Bangla children’s’ lives daily. Since the beginning of this year, BSKA has seen tangible improvements in the lives of street children through their education programs. Most of their participants are currently attending private schools, writing their names in Bangla and English, utilizing BSKA’s tutoring services and improving behavioral tendencies.

Skateboarding is becoming a popular phenomenon around the world and is recognized by millions as a legitimate sport. The 2021 Tokyo Olympic is even going to include skateboarding as an Olympic game. But BSKA sees that skateboarding is merely a stepping stone for underprivileged children and that this sport will lead them to more opportunities on a path of success and confidence.

Josie Collier
Photo: Flickr


For decades, Myanmar’s Rohingya minority has suffered from discrimination; in 2017, an ethnic cleansing began. Three years later, with more than a million Rohingya refugees forced from their homes, the International Court of Justice declared a way forward for Myanmar — Will there be justice for this Rohingya crisis?

The Persecution of the Rohingya

Forced from their homes, thousands of Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Myanmar, fled to Bangladesh. In 2017, Myanmar’s security forces attacked the ethnic minority in the western state of Rakhine, triggering the Rohingya crisis. Myanmar’s armed forces, otherwise known as the Tatmadaw, participated in abuses against the Rohingya, inciting massacres, gang rape, burning and looting. More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees fled to Bangladesh, while other Rohingya were internally displaced in Myanmar. Most fled without any belongings, so the refugees rely on Bangladesh’s refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar to provide life-saving assistance: food, water, healthcare, shelter and proper sanitation.

The U.N. considers this conflict to be an ethnic cleansing with “genocidal intent.” Yet the Rohingya had endured ethnic persecution for decades. In 1982, while Myanmar was governed by a military junta, the government passed a Citizenship Law stating that citizens in Myanmar could only be from certain ethnic groups — the Rohingya did not make this list. With their citizenship rights taken away, institutionalized discrimination began as the Rohingya were labeled as foreigners, illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Because of this, the Rohingya were often denied access to healthcare and education; permission was also needed before marrying or traveling to a different village. Now, for the thousands of refugees, returning to their country seems impossible. For the half-million Rohingya that remain in Myanmar, targets of laws and practices that overlook their abuse, the threat of genocide persists.

Will Myanmar be Held Accountable?

While Myanmar’s civilian government and its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, adamantly deny any ethnic persecution or cleansing, in January 2020 the International Court of Justice ruled that Myanmar must protect the Rohingya from persecution and prevent the destruction of any evidence related to the genocide allegations. The case was brought to the ICJ by The Gambia on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to advocate for the Rohingya Muslims, as Myanmar ignored previous international calls to investigate human rights violations.

With this ruling, Myanmar’s government is required to do everything possible to prevent the persecution, killing and any other bodily or mental harm of the Rohingya by the military or any other civilian group. For further accountability, Myanmar must submit a report to update the ICJ on its proceedings, and then send in additional reports every six months until the court is satisfied that the Rohingya crisis has ended. It will take several more years before the ICJ can determine whether Myanmar committed genocide.

However, the ICJ does not have enforcement power, which means that Myanmar faces a choice: to comply with the ICJ rulings or ignore them and continue the current treatment of the Rohingya. Aung San Suu Kyi believes that the case presented before the court showed “an incomplete and misleading factual picture” of the Rohingya crisis in Rakhine. She assured the ICJ that military leaders would be put on trial if found guilty; however, the court’s ruling suggests that the case was not misrepresented and that Suu Kyi’s assurances may not be fulfilled. Therefore, the future remains uncertain for the Rohingya.

Looking Forward

While it is up to Myanmar alone to comply with the ICJ, the international community can still pressure Myanmar to follow the court’s ruling. In 2019, Senator Benjamin Cardin introduced the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act (S.1186) which aims to address the Rohignya’s humanitarian crisis. If passed, it will provide needed aid and help with resettlement. This aid will only be given once Myanmar and its military can prove they have made progress in keeping to international human rights standards. Showing support for this bill is key to get it through Congress, so contacting local representatives by calling or emailing is imperative.

The Special Rapporteur for Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, stated “it is not too late for the country to change course and reorient itself to transform into a democracy that embraces human rights for all.” They believe that by addressing issues of discrimination, implementing victim-centered justice mechanisms, rewriting laws and holding those who have violated human rights accountable, Myanmar can build a new future where the Rohingya are welcome, and the refugees, like Aziza, can return home without fear of persecution.

Zoe Padelopoulos
Photo: Flickr

HYDRO IndustriesWater is essential to life, but unfortunately, there are people all over the world who do not have access to clean water. Pollution, poverty and weak infrastructure are often the causes of a lack of clean water. The world’s poor population has often been obligated to travel great distances in order to get clean water. Dirty water often leads to unsanitary conditions and the spread of disease. Thousands die each year from diseases due to a lack of clean water. Fortunately, a company called HYDRO Industries has a new way to provide water to those in need all over the world.

HYDRO Industries

HYDRO Industries is partnering with BRAC, one of the biggest non-governmental organizations in the world, to bring clean water to Bangladesh. BRAC was founded in Bangladesh, so this is their way of giving back to the community. In Bangladesh, five million people lack access to safe water, and 85 million people do not have access to proper sanitation. The current setup is not working well enough, so a new way to provide water is needed. The two organizations plan to begin their operation in Bangladesh in the spring of 2020.

HYDRO Industries will provide its products and BRAC will use its connections with local communities to establish the water treatment plants. The project aims to help around 25,000 people in the first phase and then continue to improve their product and increase the number of people they are serving. HYDRO hopes to expand all over Bangladesh and neighboring Nepal and India.

How Important is Clean Water?

  • Almost 800 million people do not have access to safe water
  • Two billion people don’t have a good toilet to use
  • A child under five dies every two minutes because of dirty water and poor toilets
  • Every minute a newborn dies because of infections from an unsanitary environment and unsafe water
  • For every $1 invested in clean water, there is a $4 increase in productivity
  • Every day, women around the world spend 200 million hours collecting water
  • Almost 300,000 children under age five die annually from diarrheal diseases

The world’s poor population sometimes has to spend hours looking for clean water. If the water is no longer a worry, they will have more time to be productive and focus on their economy. Clean water also reduces the likelihood of disease. Better health and productivity can result in a better community in the world’s poorest places.

What Does HYDRO Do?

HYDRO is a Welsh tech company that creates innovative water treatment plants that can treat water and raise it to drinking standards. The company also uniquely treats the water. Instead of using chemicals to purify water, they use electric power, which makes the entire process more sustainable and effective than chemical-based purification.

Bangladesh is not the first place that HYDRO is planning on helping. In fact, the organization has already provided clean water to multiple poverty-stricken areas around the world. In 2016, HYDRO provided clean water for 82 East African villages. There the water treatment plants provided locals with 8.5 million liters of water every day.

Finding a new way to provide water to those in need is important to work. HYDRO Industries has an innovative method that could potentially help millions of people around the world. Using electric power, HYDRO’s water treatment units can provide water at levels above western standards. Clean water is such an immense benefit to people all over the world. Clean water helps people fight disease and death. Providing a consistent and clean source of water close to people’s homes makes communities more productive and provides a better chance of reducing poverty.

Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr

rice farmer povertyRice is a universal food staple, featured in dishes from across the globe, feeding the rich and poor alike. It has the second-largest cereal market in the world, only second to corn. Over 470 million tons of rice were harvested in 2017, and that number continues to grow, with a harvest of 495.9 million tons predicted for the 2019 season.

Despite the massive rice market, many rice farmers live in poverty. Nine hundred million of the world’s poor depend on rice either as a consumer or producer, with 400 million directly engaged with growing rice. The majority of these farmers are based in Asia, the heart of the global rice market.

Technological Improvements Reduce Rice Farmer Poverty

The rice crop is notoriously demanding on the environment, requiring an immense volume of water, especially when grown at high intensity. Rice farming consumes over half the freshwater in Asia. Much of the focus on improving rice production lies in reducing the amount of water used. Organizations, such as the CGIAR Research Program, have advocated the use of alternate planting systems, such as the Alternate Wetting and Drying system (AWD), which can reduce water consumption by up to 30 percent.

Greater water efficiency means greater productivity for farmers. Production costs are lower, so farmers profit more from their harvest and can afford to sell their crop for less, allowing those in deep poverty to afford rice. AWD has been shown to increase farmer income by 38 percent in Bangladesh, 32 percent in the Philippines, and 17 percent in Vietnam.

Not Just Rice

Even in areas with a booming rice market, rice farmer poverty continues. The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) spans six Asian countries, including China and Vietnam, and accounts for 44 percent of global rice exports. The six countries, save China, of these nations are net producers—they produce and export more rice than the nation can consume. Despite this, poverty stands at 19 percent across the GMS, and 15 percent of the population is malnourished.

There has been much improvement. GMS-member Cambodia, for example, has undergone a 35 percent decrease in poverty since 2004. However, much of it is unstable. Past expansions in the GMS rice-production have relied on favorable weather conditions, massive increases in farmland, and far-reaching use of fertilizer. These conditions are not favorable for agricultural or economic growth, with increases in land production outpacing that of productivity, 8.7 percent to 3.4 percent between 2004 and 2012.

The GMS and other rice-producing regions are now changing policy to focus on diversifying crops. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) encourages farmers to convert rice-rice and rice-wheat plants to rice-maize plants, which will allow farmers to optimize their resources, widen their range of income inputs, and reduce the risk of crop disease. Studies have shown that planting disease-vulnerable rice crop and disease-resistant crop together results in 89 percent greater yield.

This measure may also be needed in the more distant future. Though rice will always be a world staple, Asian consumers may begin to purchase more vegetables and meat as they grow wealthier, decreasing the world demand for rice.

Genetic Modifications

With rice featuring so heavily in the global diet, rice developers have prioritized the quality of rice grown, both in resilience, and health benefits. The Research Program on Rice and IRRI both work to improve the quality of rice seeds provided to rice farmers. In Africa, AfricaRice has lifted 8 million out of poverty with their improved seed quality.

By using a greater variety of improved seeds, farmers of 16 sub-Saharan countries were able to vastly improve their yields. Forty-five percent of farmers saw themselves lifted out of food insecurity following the 2008 food crisis.

Improvements in agriculture and the betterment of rice farmer poverty go hand in hand, and as one improves, the other will, as well. There’s been significant progress already, with the rice market acting as an escape from food insecurity for millions. There is still much work to be done, but organizations like the IRRI make steady progress to a healthier, wealthier world.

– Katie Hwang
Photo: Flickr