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Technology in Sierra Leone
Ranking as one of the least developed nations in the world, Sierra Leone aspires to increase development through investments in advanced technologies. President Julius Maada Bio’s ambitious plans for digitization center around the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation led by Dr. David Moinina Sengeh. The creation of DSTI could have a revolutionary effect on the government’s capabilities to help its citizens and progress the technology in Sierra Leone.

What is DSTI?

DSTI is the main element of the Sierra Leone National Innovation and Digital Strategy. It emerged in 2018 and is based on the philosophy of “digitization for all.” Its primary mission is to use science and innovation to promote the Medium-Term National Development Plan, which strives to improve people’s lives through education, inclusive growth and a strong economy. Furthermore, DSTI hopes to make Sierra Leone a country where innovation can thrive and where people of all ages can come together to lead their own start-ups and initiatives.

Headed by the country’s first Chief Innovation Officer, Dr. Sengeh, DSTI has created an opportunity for the development of technology in Sierra Leone for its citizens. One of those opportunities presents itself in the form of a partnership between UNICEF Sierra Leone Country Office and DSTI. The organizations have come together to create government processes that revolve around the use of data for successful decision-making. The UNICEF Office of Innovation team provides its expertise and advises DSTI regularly. This support will strengthen and secure the partnership and aims to improve the lives of Sierra Leone’s women and children.

Current Technology in Sierra Leone

In 2020, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supported DSTI with a grant of $131,130. This grant assisted the plan for a viable and cost-effective drone-delivery system for Sierra Leone’s medical supply chain. Drones could potentially provide access to places in Sierra Leone that others previously thought were too remote or too difficult to navigate. The efficacy of these drones allows authorities in Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation to have on-demand delivery for essential medical supplies; restock rural community health centers and hospitals in a timely, cost-effective manner; extend limited diagnostic coverage and decrease response time to pathogen outbreaks. DSTI has joined forces with the National Medical Supply Agency and development partners and intends to plan a five-year project that integrates a nationwide medical delivery service in Sierra Leone using drones.

In April 2019, Sierra Leone became a drone-testing site to better the lives of children in the more rural areas of the nation. UNICEF and the government of Sierra Leone established a drone corridor aiming to develop and test drones for “aerial imagery and transportation.” DSTI and the Ministry of Transport and Aviation lead the project for the drone corridor. In addition to aiding Sierra Leone’s medical system, the drone initiative will set up education programs. These programs will help locals build the skills needed to use and maintain the drones.

The Importance of Technological Advancement

In September 2019, President Bio revealed the first portable DNA sequencer. This sequencer can provide quick, efficient information in multiple fields such as medicine, agriculture, food, water and education. Additionally, police can utilize the sequencer for investigating sex crimes. This is a huge breakthrough for Sierra Leone because President Bio had declared a national rape emergency earlier that year.

All these technological and scientific breakthroughs have a transformative effect on Sierra Leone’s government and its ability to meet the needs of its citizens. Along with improving the nation’s development, Sierra Leone could provide a blueprint for the rest of Africa and recognize the nation’s economic potential.

Addison Franklin
Photo: Flickr

Sub-Saharan Africa Digital Divide
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to some of the world’s poorest and most marginalized people. More than 1 billion people, constituting more than 14% of the world’s population, live in extreme poverty in the region. A multitude of problems plague sub-Saharan Africa, ranging from disease to malnourishment and violence. The crux of the matter lies in its deep history of a developing nation hindered by imperialistic roots. Through the progression of time, it has become clear that there is one major obstacle in the region’s way to betterment – technology. In other words, a stark digital divide in sub-Saharan Africa exists.

Reversing the Digital Divide

As technology spreads over the developed world at a record rate, lesser developed and developing countries fall behind. Tech giants like Apple, Google and Microsoft only cater to major markets in the United States, China, Europe and India. As a result, the 14% of the world population in sub-Saharan Africa that can barely afford a basic cell phone, much less a smartphone, usually cannot access these technologies. Around 90% of children in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to a computer and around 80% do not enjoy a basic internet connection. Thus, the sub-Saharan Africa digital divide has emerged as a major source of its current predicament.

To make matters worse, the global COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the issue and revealed new technological problems. However, hope is on the horizon. New nonprofit companies and the aid of notable philanthropists around the world are hard at work to eradicate the sub-Saharan Africa digital divide. Due to this, the field of STEM is heating up as a hot prospect for economic and developmental opportunities. Here are three strategies that sub-Saharan Africa has implemented and can work to implement to industrialize and develop the region.

3 Strategies For Reversing the Digital Divide in Sub-Saharan Africa

  1. Making investments for a digital future. Investing money into digital-based infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa is a future-proof way of bettering the region. Specifically, the distribution of technologies like phones, computers, cell towers and adequate internet connections continues to be a major priority for organizations based in the region. A survey revealed that only one in 100 people on average have access to television in sub-Saharan Africa. In contrast, this rate becomes only one in three when the sample size focuses on cities. The results of this survey unequivocally show that industrializing the region holds many positive results. In recent years, organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Computers 4 Africa have donated more to fuel this purpose. Computer drops for schools and other university institutions have also been a major part of this concerted effort. The results are showing. Since the early 2000s, internet penetration in the region has grown by a factor of 10. This increase shows the region drawing closer to bridging the gap of the sub-Saharan Africa digital divide.
  2. Creating new jobs in the Information Technology (IT) sector. Increasing employment opportunities in the IT sector is a major way to boost sub-Saharan African economies. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Jaishree Mahalingam, current project manager for AIG and former IT professional for Toyota in Dallas, said that “in the future, IT will have far more importance…[translating to] greater social mobility for many people who are interested in STEM.” For critics who argue against the viability of a proper university education system in computer science and IT, Mahalingam goes on to state that higher degrees like a Ph.D. are not necessary for a sufficient education. Instead, “a Master’s degree [is] more than sufficient in progressing in a career.” However, Mahalingam does acknowledge that there should be a balance in the education system, encouraging its teaching outside of high school because doing so allows “greater exposure to the field.”As for finding new solutions to address the digital divide, Mahalingam recommends “greater government investment into STEM schools and digitalization through banking and other mechanisms to help expand the IT field.”
  3. Tackling the finance sector through technology. As cell phone use expands in sub-Saharan Africa, more and more individuals look to the future of the financial industry. Now, banking applications that are common in the United States must transition over to another continent. Enter FinTech: the newest player in revolutionizing African financial technology. Currently, only around one-third of the sub-Saharan African population holds bank accounts. However, the ongoing mobile revolution has led to an increased demand for an easier money transaction system. FinTech allows for easy financial exchanges across countries in the region through a mobile platform. Additionally, it is not the only one of its kind. Startup companies like 22Seven, Nomanini, Cellulant and GetBucks are all growing in Africa as easy money-transfer digital networks. Collectively, they serve more than 45 million customers in Africa and hope to greatly expand beyond that figure. Mahalingam agrees that “expanding things like access to bank accounts would greatly add to the interest of millions.”

Sub-Saharan Africa is slowly digging its way out of the digital divide it faces today. With the help of several organizations, more emphasis on economic growth through STEM and new financial-based breakthroughs, the region is constantly facing more opportunities for improvement. By catalyzing a technological revolution in sub-Saharan Africa, the world is ensuring that its inhabitants lead more enriching, productive and prosperous lives for years to come. Technology drives the future; sub-Saharan Africa is taking one large step to embrace it.

Mihir Gokhale
Photo: Flickr

Private Sector BusinessesThe U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to be met by 2030, are 17 goals aimed at increasing environmental and socially sustainable solutions to poverty, inequality and injustice, among other things. The goals are both ambitious and achievable but funding gaps hamper the progress of these goals. Through conscious investments toward SDGs, private sector businesses could close this gap. The U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres calls on business leaders to use their positions of power, finance and influence to help meet the SDGs, to the benefit of the entire globe.

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, the U.N. created 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030. The overarching aim of the SDGs is, “peace and prosperity for people and the planet.”

The goals principally involve less discrimination worldwide, eliminating poverty, giving more individuals more economic and educational success, increased justice, prioritizing the environment, improving global health and more.

The SDGs are meant for everyone to tackle, from the average person to national governments and major corporations such as private sector businesses.

The Need for SDG Funding

Reaching all 17 SDGs by 2030 will cost between $5-7 trillion per year, according to the United Nations. Although in 2016, development assistance funds hit a high of $142.6 billion, there is still a need for a much greater infusion of funds and a significant need for the support of private sector businesses.

The lack of available funds from the public sector, specifically, is the main reason why there has not been more progress toward the SDGs. Public sector sources of funding are predominantly national governments and government organizations.

Referencing this lack of funding, Guterres lamented the lack of progress made toward the SDGs and urged business leaders in the private sector to step up. “We need business leaders to use their enormous influence to push for inclusive growth and opportunities,” states Guterres. “No one business can afford to ignore this effort and there is no global goal that cannot benefit from private sector investment.”

Businesses Leading Change Through SDGs

Because there is an apparent need for more corporations to invest in SDGs, it is important to recognize those businesses fighting poverty through a commitment to achieving the SDGs.

The U.N. and 30 leaders of multinational companies created the Global Investors for Sustainable Development Alliance in September 2019. They immediately began supporting initiatives for clean energy in Latin America, Africa and Asia, among other goals.

The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative drafted the Principles for Responsible Banking to serve as guidelines for banks to commit themselves to the SDGs. Worldwide, more than 200 banks have committed to these principles. This figure represents more than one-third of the global banking industry. The signatory banks must report on their achievements, goals and growth regarding the principles. They must also accomplish all principle requirements within a set timeline. This ensures tangible strides toward actualizing the SDGs.

The company, PepsiCo, is also making good strides with the SDGs. It is committed to multiple projects in agreement with specific SDGs. The company established a “Green Bond” worth $1 billion in 2019 to do so.

A notable project is the company’s aspiration to restore 100% of the water it uses for manufacturing to areas that are “high water risk.” It aims to do this by water reuse and recycling initiatives, supplying smallholder farmworkers with “water-saving technologies” and sustainable agricultural techniques. PepsiCo cites SDG 6, “Clean Water and Sanitation,” SDG 15, “Life on Land” and SDG 12, “Responsible Consumption and Production,” as aligning with this particular objective.

The Contribution of Foundations

Private sector businesses fighting poverty go beyond business transactions and profitable decisions. Many companies commit to progressing the SDGs by supporting foundations. Top contributing foundations include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund and Gothic Corporation. Total global funding for the SDGs from foundations is upwards of $216 billion.

All these examples of private sector businesses committing to the SDGs prove it is a worthwhile endeavor that needs support on a broad scale. In the words of Guterres, “Corporate leadership can make all the difference to creating a future of peace, stability and prosperity on a healthy planet.”

Claire Kirchner
Photo: Flickr

VillageReach is Improving Healthcare
The history behind VillageReach is very similar to The Borgen Project’s history. Blaise Judja-Sato, a native Cameroonian, founded VillageReach in 2000 after returning to Africa to aid in the relief efforts of a devastating flood in Mozambique. While he was in Mozambique, Judja-Sato saw a problem with the healthcare system. Since many citizens live in rural areas, the government could not provide them with the medical supplies they needed, which led to their frustration. Thus, she coined the phrase “starting at the last mile” and established VillageReach. Here is some information about how VillageReach is improving healthcare in low and middle-income countries.

Healthcare That Reaches Everyone

VillageReach’s mission is simple. It aims to reach “the last mile” in LMICs (low and middle-income countries) where people do not always have access to healthcare or any at all. Even with VillageReach, 1 billion people do not have access to healthcare. However, VR is working to improve the already existing health systems in different areas. It focuses on four pillars including healthcare accessibility, information availability, human resource constraints and lack of infrastructure. VillageReach is improving healthcare in these countries so that the people in and out of rural areas thrive.

Big Partners

Additionally, VR has over 30 partners that keep its organization running strong. From the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to UNICEF, VR has quite an array of influential partners. The President of the organization is Emily Bancroft. She stated that VR “could not have made an impact the last 20 years without the collaborative power of partnership.” The team is spread out over 13 countries. It has headquarters in Seattle, Washington and offices in Mozambique, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Drones

Furthermore, in 2019, VR collaborated with the Ministry of Health, Swoop Aero and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to launch the Drone Project in the Équateur Province of the DRC. The partners decided to pick this place in the DRC because of its many geographical challenges. More than half of the health systems in place are only accessible by river. The goal of the Drone Project is to increase vaccine availability in areas that are hard to reach. The drones, provided by Swoop Aero, can take off with the push of a button and land without guidance. It can also carry around six pounds. After the Drone Project’s first flights were successful, the partners are already thinking bigger, brainstorming on how to send other medical supplies and equipment.

COVID-19 Response

Also, VR is a supporter of the COVID-19 Action Fund for Africa. The initiative works to supply PPEs (personal protective equipment) to community health workers in Africa. PPEs are practically inaccessible in most African countries and the consequences are horrible. Health workers stay home or work without PPEs. With health workers not working, there is no way that Africa will be able to stop the spread of COVID-19. VR plays a crucial part in the initiative’s seven-approach plan, which focuses on the last mile and working with similar in-country organizations to accomplish its goals.

Recognition

As a 20-year-old organization, VR received recognition numerous times for its fantastic work in Sub-Saharan Africa. Recently, the Washington Global Health Alliance honored VR with the Pioneers Outstanding Organization Award. The WGHA awards winners that work hard to improve health equity all over the world. The judges select winners, and in 2020, WGHA board member Erin McCarthy led it. VR received an award for its innovative approach, collaborations with local governments in the places it works and its international emphasis on equity.

Overall, from COVID-19 response to innovating delivering vaccines by drones, VillageReach has covered it all in its 20 years of service to the world. VR is improving healthcare, one small rural village at a time.

– Bailey Sparks
Photo: Flickr

2019 Coronavirus
The 2019 coronavirus outbreak in China has infected thousands and killed hundreds of people in Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Germany, France, the United States and other countries. As a result, there are strict preventative measures, as currently, only supportive care exists – meaning there is no definitive cure. Understanding all relevant information about the virus itself and the reaction of the global health community is highly relevant, important and necessary.

The 2019 Coronavirus (2019-nCoV or COVID-19)

Originating in Wuhan, China, the 2019 coronavirus is a viral infection that causes breathing problems. The 2019 coronavirus is within the same family of viruses – but a different strand – that causes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome. It transmits from human to human through coughing, sneezing and other moist bodily particles. Symptoms include breathing difficulty, fever and cough, similar to typical viral infections.

Treatment

People can use supportive care for symptom relief, such as fever relief with Tylenol. No one has developed an antiviral for the 2019 coronavirus yet, which would consist of suppression of further viral infection of host cells, rather than viral eradication.

Prevention

The CDC recommends avoiding crowds to reduce the chance of interacting with infected persons. People should also practice hand-washing and good hand-hygiene practices. These measures include avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth, and covering the mouth and nose when sneezing. Moreover, people should disinfect surfaces frequently.

Monitoring

Those individual(s) who might have traveled on a plane or are concerned about becoming infected should monitor for symptoms. Symptoms are likely to occur between two to 14 days after traveling to China or interacting with individuals(s) who have traveled to China. Contact with the 2019 coronavirus can occur within six feet of a person and/or can occur directly when touching moist bodily particles. If symptoms occur, one should notify and visit a doctor’s office immediately.

Global Health Response

The WHO International Health Regulations Committee first met to advise the Director-General on disease control and prevention strategies. WHO then visited Wuhan, China in January 2020 to establish a plan with China’s President, Xi Jinping, in treating existing patients and containing the virus. Globally, WHO is currently conducting research to find a viable treatment for COVID-19; the U.S. is simultaneously conducting a vaccine trial to prevent further spread. WHO and various international health ministries are gathering up funding, projected to be about $675 million, to support the Strategies Preparedness and Response Plan. The plan outlines preparedness protocol for countries, in particular, those with limited health systems, to stop virus transmission, treat patients and collaborate between countries to carry out all necessary operations.

Global Response

Many countries and organizations, such as the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, Belarus, Brunei, Cambodia, Egypt, Iran, Japan and Pakistan among many others, are sending medical supplies and equipment to help China in addressing COVID-19 treatment needs. Doctors in China are administering care to patients in temporary treatment centers while other health officials are managing supplies and equipment to ensure appropriate use. Furthermore, various Chinese companies are investing in research; other organizations are fundraising to support disease control efforts. Chinese city locals and groups are also coming together to lend a hand in stopping the outbreak.

Globally, support is even coming in from philanthropists, international businesses and foreign aids. For example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $100 million. These efforts are all contributing to research, treatment and prevention funds. Foreign aid from the U.S. comes in the form of a medical advisory board going to China to work with its health officials while the European Union is providing $11 million USD for research on the virus.

Information regarding the 2019 coronavirus is emerging daily. Health organizations, governments, non-government organizations and businesses are pulling resources to contain the illness and its outbreak.

– Hung Le
Photo: Flickr

Five Billionaires' Projects
Nearly every person within the first 10 of the world’s highest net-worth individuals has a foundation in their name. These examples of philanthropy are often staples to a financier’s portfolio as reinvestment of wealth back into the nation or communities that helped fund his or her growth. In that sense, philanthropy is also a way to promote one’s image and associate one’s brand with a cause. Many investors have chosen to reinvest their wealth into the countries which groomed them such as Carlos Slim Helú and Françoise Bettencourt-Meyers, but there are many people who have started foundations that reach beyond borders to better those who are worse off. Several billionaires’ projects are actively changing downtrodden communities by eliminating hunger, eradicating malaria and bringing access to education and sanitation in otherwise distraught regions. Here are five billionaires’ projects that have changed the world.

5 Billionaires’ Projects that Have Changed the World

  1. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: Former CEO of Microsoft and his wife, Bill and Melinda Gates, started The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 1997. The goal of the organization is to make the world a better place by investing in research and actions that negate issues plaguing impoverished countries. Best known for its efforts to annihilate polio in India and malaria globally, other fiscal investments include refugee care, female education and economic invigoration (mobile money accounts). The foundation has a focus on sustainable change which in turn builds on itself to make a brighter future for the globe with a total investment of $3.9 million in global programs in 2018.
  2. Students Rebuild (Bezos Family Foundation): Jeff Bezos­—the well-known Amazon CEO—had the greatest global net worth for 2018 and 2019, surpassing Bill Gates. Although the Bezos Family Foundation primarily caters to local U.S. concerns relating to education, its Students Rebuild program takes a more global focus, involving students from all over the world to help solve planet-wide problems. Each year, the Bezos Family Foundation pledges a gift to a particular charity in response to a form of art shared by participants, usually K-12 students. In 2019, it raised money and awareness for world hunger by asking kids to submit creatively presented recipes. Students Rebuild is an organization that brings kids into today’s problems while helping fund the action-makers who are bringing about change.
  3. Bloomberg Philanthropies: Michael Bloomberg is the current Mayor of New York City and a democratic presidential nominee, but he did not earn his billions through public service. As a founder and primary funder of Bloomberg LP in 1981, he earned billions of dollars through his financial data-services firm. The Bloomberg family started Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has a diverse profile of charitable investments, ranging from environmental overhauls to global health. Bloomberg’s global impact focuses on data collection and management. Its investments primarily go into the education and growth of a field, working in over 480 cities in 120 countries. Previously, Bloomberg partnered with the King Baudouin Foundation to create Equal Footing, an online portal that tracks philanthropy efforts in Africa. Currently, it is reinvesting $120 million over the next four years to expand and intensify its data for health initiative.
  4. Larry Ellison Foundation: Larry Ellison is a technology entrepreneur who co-founded the software firm Oracle in 1977. The Larry Ellison Foundation manages financials regarding education, agriculture and global conservation efforts. Previous investments were targeted towards polio eradication and currently center around wildlife conservation and agricultural sustainability. For example, the Larry Ellison Foundation financed the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which reaches over 100 million children in 72 countries per year after beginning in 2013. Larry Ellison is currently supporting the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change in Africa and has been since 2012. This institute works with governing bodies and leading reformers in several African countries to create sustainable change across Africa.
  5. Howard G. Buffet Foundation: Howard G. Buffet is the son of Warren Buffet, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. Beginning in 1999, the Howard G. Buffet Foundation hopes to help jump-start change locally and globally in three focus areas: food security, conflict mitigation and public safety. Although these issues all overlap depending on the region of focus, by investing in research and implementation, this billionaire project incentivizes a strong basis for growth to develop from. Unlike the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Howard G. Buffet foundation’s foreign focus lie in the western hemisphere, primarily in Columbia and Mexico. Focusing on these areas in part aims to reduce mass migration from these southern countries to the U.S. The Buffet foundation relies on the values of individual rights, community ties and equality which leads to government-aided investment in small-holder farms and sustainable practices developed on American soil. In 2018, the Howard F Buffet Foundation invested a total of $11 million in all program sectors.

There are several billionaires’ projects that have changed the world up to this point as they have aided in the near eradication of polio, rigorously kicked malaria into surrender and implemented millions of research projects to bring the world closer to eliminating global strife. As these groups continue to grow and invest, one can expect that great positive change can occur.

 – Kayla Brown
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Sanitation in China
China has experienced record levels of growth since its 1979 free-market reforms. The Chinese people have seen impressive growth in standards of living and modernization over that time. As a part of these developments, China’s overall sanitation levels have also increased, however, there is still work that the country can do. Here are 10 facts about sanitation levels in China.

10 Facts About Sanitation in China

  1. In 2017, China launched 8,000 water cleanup projects. China launched these projects as a part of a massive effort to clean polluted rivers, lakes and groundwater sites. Examples of these projects include making land off-limits to livestock and poultry farms and the creation of 809 new water sanitation plants. Additional projects involve the appointment of river chiefs as a way to hold political officials accountable to the clean water plans.
  2. In 2008, Chinese students helped create a new system to filter water. During the modernization of China, the Huai river became extremely polluted and the water undrinkable. To solve the problem, China developed a new three-step process to decontaminate the water. Since China’s implementation of the new biological water purification system in 2008, health along the river improved greatly. The system has won multiple awards including one from the World Bank for sustainable development.
  3. China has experienced a toilet revolution in recent years. These new toilets aim to achieve many purposes in China including meeting the concerns of tourists, but ultimately it will sanitation in Chinese cities. The toilets also reduce the amount of waste going into the public sewage system. Additionally, these toilets create a more sanitary environment in households.
  4. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted a toilet expo in China. In 2018, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted a reinvented toilet expo in Beijing. The Foundation presented many different sanitation solutions to minimize pathogens and convert waste to fertilizers. One of the goals of the event was to reduce the deaths of children under the age of 5, due to unsafe sanitation conditions.
  5. UNICEF provides rural communities education on proper sanitation. UNICEF teaches the Community Approach to Total Sanitation. This promotes proper hygiene practices, such as hand-washing and how to design affordable latrines. The organization also continues to research ways to help improve rural sanitation in China.
  6. A French company, Veolia, has multiple contracts to help improve sanitation. Veolia has contracts in China to treat hazardous waste, operate water treatment plants and is looking to develop plastic recycling plants. The company sees this as both an opportunity for it to make a profit due to Chinese incentives, and also to improve sanitation conditions.
  7. Pepsi donated to help improve water conditions in China. In 2018, Pepsi donated $2 million to China’s Women Development Foundation as a part of the Water Cellars for Women program. It hopes the money will improve water conditions in the Danjiangkou reservoir. This donation also has the potential to provide water to over 10 million people.
  8. Since 1990, 37 percent of China gained access to improved drinking water. The massive gains are the results of efforts by private organizations, as well as the Chinese government. The additional 37 percent means that over 76 percent of the Chinese population has access to clean water.
  9. A city in China will open the world’s largest waste to energy plant in 2020. The facility in Shenzhen, China has been in development since 2017. This facility is finally close to becoming operational. The plant will turn more than 5,000 tons of garbage into energy a day. Additionally, the plant will also serve as a way to educate the citizens on trash disposal.
  10. China has massive plans for trash sorting. In China, 46 cities must now sort their trash. By sorting their trash, they are helping to reduce food waste, as well as create more sanitary conditions for trash disposal.

China is a country of over 1.6 billion people. A population this large creates a lot of waste and potentially unsanitary conditions. However, through a combination of water treatment plans, waste management programs and an increase in public awareness, China is fighting to create sanitary conditions throughout the entire country. These 10 facts about sanitation in China demonstrate the progress that China has made.

Josh Fritzjunker
Photo: Flickr

People who Fight Poverty
Poverty is a global issue that affects at least 80 percent of the world’s population. The number seems frightening and can intimidate any person who might want to help. Some come together to fight as a united front and tackle the worldwide issue due to the sheer magnitude of the dilemma. Either way, every solution starts with a single person and a single idea. Below describes the top five people who fight poverty today, who they are and what they do (or did) to combat poverty.

Top Five People Who Fight Poverty

  1. Suzanna Mayo Frindt Empowers Rural Communities
    She is the current President and Chief of Staff of The Hunger Project, a nonprofit organization which aids countries in South Asia, Latin America and Africa. The organization provides aid through the establishment of self-reliance within the community. The Hunger Project begins by encouraging women to take active roles within the locale by training them to obtain leadership positions. Then, it enforces self-reliance. It does this by having individuals mobilize their peers through local government to take action and improve the conditions of the area. Finally, The Hunger Project works closely with these governments to ensure it is aiding the people. This system helps bring entire communities out of poverty. As President, Frindt is in a powerful position to fight poverty. She earned her position through 25 years of experience in the field as she worked in impoverished areas, like Peru. Additionally, she co-founded the firm, 2130 Partners. The firm is another organization that dedicates itself to guidance and education. Though these are just a few of her accomplishments, these key points showcase why Frindt is one of the top five people who fight poverty.
  2. Ellen Gustafson Feeds the Hungry
    This woman is an entrepreneur, activist, author and speaker whose primary cause is to work to eliminate world hunger. She focuses on hunger of particularly impoverished areas where the problem is most prominent. Gustafson co-founded FEED Projects, a charity which provides food for people around the world. As of 2019, it has provided 60 million meals to schools around the world. She has also tackled the issue of obesity through educational activism. Overall, Ellen Gustafason’s goals may center around food, but her work has improved the lives of impoverished people in places where they often need help the most.
  3. Bono Advocates Against Poverty
    He is an American musician and frontman of the popular music group, U2. Bono’s infamy stems not only from his musical persona but also from his philanthropic efforts. The singer is the founder of ONE, an advocacy organization that works to raise awareness of poverty and fight against the issue. Similar to The Borgen Project, ONE addresses its cause through legislation and lobbying of governments. ONE focuses on reducing poverty in Africa’s poorest areas. It is just one of the few organizations Bono supports with a target against poverty. This fact showcases the musician’s dedication to both his art and beliefs.
  4. Anthony Lake Leads UNICEF in the Fight Against Poverty
    He has been the director of UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) since 2010. He earned his role through a longstanding career as a foreign policy advisor to various presidential candidates and officers of the United States. During the office of President Bill Clinton, Lake served as National Security Advisor. His political career prepared him well to undertake the leadership position of UNICEF, the organization responsible for a significant amount of the world’s humanitarian aid. Specifically, it focuses on the needs of children in over 190 countries. As Lake has taken directorship, his prominence in the fight against poverty has risen immensely.
  5. Bill Gates Shares His Financial Success with Developing Countries
    People primarily know Bill Gates as a technological innovator and a record-breaking billionaire. Through the creation of Microsoft, he has amassed substantial financial benefits. People also know Gates as an impressive philanthropist who gears his saving towards aid programs. Specifically, he has established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a joint project between him and his wife. The program receives a significant amount of his donations. Since its establishment in 2000, the foundation has “spent more than $36 billion to fund work in global health, emergency relief, education, [and] poverty,” as reported by Business Insider. The organization is using some of that money to fight malaria and ebola outbreaks in developing countries.

From political professionals to celebrities, these five people who fight poverty show that stepping up for the world’s poor does not require a designated hero. Anyone, with the right drive and ambition, can make a change for the better. The list features only a few prominent people who fight poverty, though it does not have to end there.

– Eleanora Kamerow
Photo: Flickr

Poverty-Related Diseases

Every day, billions of individuals around the world suffer from diseases. To make matters worse, many of these individuals are mired in poverty with limited access to health care services. Reducing the negative impact that these diseases have on individuals in poverty starts with identifying which diseases are affecting the most people. Listed below are three diseases that are closely linked with individuals in poverty.

Top 3 Poverty-Related Diseases

  1. Tuberculosis
    Tuberculosis, or TB, is a disease that stems from the presence of bacteria in someone’s lungs. It is common in many poorer, more urban areas because it can spread quickly when individuals are in close contact with each other. TB killed over 1.5 million people in 2018 and infected 10 million individuals in total. The disease takes advantage of individuals who have weakened immune systems, which can happen to individuals who are malnourished or who are suffering from other diseases simultaneously. When an individual in poverty is diagnosed with TB, their options are limited. Treating TB is costly and many people cannot afford treatment. However, not all hope is lost. Organizations like the TB Alliance aim to produce more affordable TB treatment for individuals in poverty. The TB Alliance has already helped many individuals and is working to expand its operations in the coming years.
  2. Malaria
    Malaria is a parasitic disease that is spread by the Anopheles mosquito. It accounts for roughly 435,000 deaths per year (affecting roughly 219 million people) and disproportionally affects individuals under the age of 5 (children under 5 accounted for over 60 percent of malaria deaths in 2017). One NGO that is leading the fight against Malaria is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They have partnered with the U.S. Government, the WHO and NGOs like the Global Fund to help protect individuals around the world from malaria-transmitting mosquitos. So far, their work has been beneficial, as the number of malaria cases has been reduced by half since 2000. However, there is still much work to be done, as malaria remains a deadly disease that negatively affects millions.
  3. HIV/AIDS
    HIV is a virus that is transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids. It affects nearly 37 million people worldwide every year, 62 percent of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV/AIDS (HIV is the virus that leads to AIDS) is common in countries where the population either does not have the knowledge or resources to practice safe sex. HIV can also spread in areas with poor sanitation, as individuals who use previously used needles can become infected with the virus. Many governments and NGOs around the world are doing good work to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDs. For example, in 2003, the U.S. Government launched The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Initiative. The goal of this initiative was to address the global HIV/AIDS issue by helping those who already have the condition as well as by spearheading prevention efforts. Since the program was implemented, the results have been positive- the program is widely credited with having saved millions of lives over the last 16 years.

Each of these diseases negatively affects millions of individuals around the globe on a daily basis. Yet there is reason for optimism — continued work done by NGO’s such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, TB Alliance and The Global Fund, as well as efforts from governments to improve the current situation, will lead to a better future, hopefully, one where individuals no longer suffer from there poverty-related diseases.

– Chelsea Wolfe
Photo: Flickr

Global Seed Industry
Lack of access to high-quality seeds is one of the greatest obstacles to reducing hunger around the world. Smallholder farms produce as much as 80 percent of all global food production (that is, farmer who operate between one and 10 hectares of land), but only about 10 percent of these farmers have access to seeds distributed by the world’s largest companies, which have been bred to withstand drought, increase yields and improve nutrition. This is the statistic which inspired the creation of the Access to Seeds Foundation, a Netherlands-based organization funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It examines the global seed industry to improve seed access for smallscale farmers.

The most prominent product of the Access to Seeds Foundation is the Access to Seeds Index. The index collects data from 60 different prominent seed companies in four major regions: Latin America, Western and Central Africa, South and Southeast Asia and Eastern and Southern Africa. The companies are compared to each other according to seven criteria, ranging from Research and Development (or the development of new seed technologies) to Capacity Building (or the training of local farmers in the use of new technologies and methods).

According to Ido Verhagen, executive director of the Access to Seeds Index, “Our main goal is just to show how this industry is performing and which companies are good candidates for partnerships with NGOs and research institutes.” While Verhagen stops short of suggesting that the Access to Seeds Index has singlehandedly levied great change to the global seed industry, he does acknowledge that the index has allowed experts to make observations about the seed industry which may be very useful in the future. Here are just three of the insights which the Access to Seeds Index of 2019 has allowed researchers to make about the global seed industry.

The Global Seed Industry is Local

Although the list includes big names in the agricultural technology sector like DuPont and Monsanto, the companies which rank highest tend to be smaller and more local. For instance, the top two spots in the 2019 Access to Seeds Index for Eastern and Southern Africa are occupied by East African Seed, a state-owned Kenyan company and Seed Co., a company based in Zimbabwe.

Agricultural technology companies are all over the world, in part because local companies have a better understanding of the particular needs of local farmers. In the case of Eastern and Southern Africa, the 2019 Access to Seeds Index found 13 companies in Zambia, five in Lesotho, and three in Somalia, among other countries.

Even when it comes to multinational corporations, the biggest corporations are not necessarily the ones that top the index. The highest ranking multinational corporation in both Asia and Africa is East-West Seed, a Thailand-based multinational company which is much smaller than its peers in the United States and China.

The Global Seed Industry is Starting to Respond to Climate Change

In the past, the global seed industry has focused mainly on yields, since high yields mean more money for farmers. Farmers have also preferred to purchase seeds which they could replant year after year. As a result, local companies limited the amount they invested in new technologies. It also meant that farmers were not preparing for climate change. For instance, farmers in areas that have not always been prone to droughts need to start acquiring seeds that are especially drought-resistant.

This trend appears to be changing. Out of the 13 companies in Western and Central Africa that the 2019 Access to Seeds Index listed, 12 of those companies reported that they are beginning to count climate change resistance higher among the traits they target.

This change has come about in part because of strong public-private partnerships. In Zimbabwe, for example, eight out of 10 farmers now get their seeds from private seed companies, ensuring that they are growing crops with the latest technology, capable of responding to climate change and also with the greatest nutritional value.

Seeds are Important, but so are Methods

Although the seed industry is most interested in the distribution of seeds, these seeds are less useful if they are not accompanied by the most recent farming methods. According to Verhagen, the executive director of Access to Seeds, Ethiopian farmers who used advanced methods doubled their yields, even without buying their seeds from companies. Documentation showed that new seed varieties made an even greater difference in yields, but advanced methods proved to be an important component to the increasing yields as well. This is why the Access to Seeds Index measures the seed industry’s success at educating local farmers in new farming methods in addition to their research, distribution and marketing of seeds.

The Access to Seeds Index is still a relatively new project and it is hard to know for sure how much of an impact it is having on the industry. Certainly, the Access to Seeds Index cannot take credit for all recent changes in the global seed industry. Still, the careful monitoring of the Access to Seeds Foundation has allowed insights like the ones listed above and this information may be very useful to farmers and companies in the future.

– Eric Rosenbaum
Photo: Flickr