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Digital Healthcare in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is a land-locked country located on the eastern side of the African continent, making up the greater part of the distinctive “Horn of Africa.” It is home to one of the fastest-growing populations in the world, increasing by around 2.5% annually. Ethiopia’s manual, primarily paper-based health care system has proven to be ill-equipped and ineffective at efficiently providing for citizens. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic made the inadequacy of the country’s current system even more apparent. It propelled the development and expansion of digital health care in Ethiopia.

The Need for Digital Health Care

As of 2020, the World Bank still classifies Ethiopia as a low-income country (LCI). Nearly half of the country’s population lives below the international poverty line. More than 18% were in need of humanitarian assistance in 2021. This is a result of the pandemic among other recent hardships, including drought and internal conflict.

The current life expectancy in Ethiopia is 66.24 years at birth, well below the world average of 72.6 years. This is largely due to the “severe underfunding of the health sector,” resulting in an inadequate number of existing health institutions, the inefficient delivery of medical supplies and great challenges when it comes to extending much-needed health services to those living in pastoral areas.

With 79% of Ethiopians residing in rural lands, this is a huge problem. Furthermore, greater than 50% of the population must walk more than 6 miles to reach the nearest health facility, according to the JDC study. This means that many Ethiopians go untreated for conditions such as malaria, tuberculosis, meningitis and COVID-19. The expansion of digital health care in Ethiopia will help mitigate disparities between rural and urban areas. It could extend the reach of health care providers to those in need.

The United States’ Role

In December 2019, just before the onset of the pandemic, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) partnered with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Health. It invested $63 million in Ethiopia’s health sector. The project launched in Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa, with the name “Digital Health Activity” or DHA.

The Digital Health Activity aims to modernize Ethiopia’s health information systems in the following ways:

  1. Consolidating patient medical information by transitioning from paper-based records to an electronic medical record (EMR) system.
  2. Training both policymakers and health care providers in the utilization of technology to better reach rural Ethiopians in need of health care.
  3. Partnering with local universities to develop courses in innovative health and inspire young Ethiopians to choose career paths in the health sector.
  4. Creating a digital COVID-19 surveillance system that allows for better contact tracing and expedited test results.
  5. Supporting the development of the Digital Health Innovation and Learning Center in Addis Ababa to encourage the continued modernization of Ethiopia’s existing Health Information Systems.

By the end of its first year, the DHA had already made great progress. Its first annual report showed that the DHA provided supervised assistance to more than 3,000 health facilities.

It trained 1,100 health care professionals in open-source software to better collect and manage health data. The DHA also created an online ordering system. This allows health facilities to process orders more efficiently and provide medications to patients in a more timely manner.

Digital Health Care and COVID-19

The Digital Health Innovation and Learning Center (DHILC) experienced its inauguration as the first of its kind in August 2020 in Addis Ababa. The Ministry of Health funded the center in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It serves a variety of purposes, including the development and testing of new digital applications. This will help revolutionize health care in Ethiopia as well as the establishment of a call center to offer remote support to users.

The prediction is that the DHILC would solve approximately “85% of users’ minor health information system-related problems.” It has been crucial in the testing and development of applications related to COVID-19.

There are now several apps that aid in the management of COVID-19 in Ethiopia. This includes a toll-free recording app that has provided accurate and reliable COVID-19 health information. Various applications work to educate patients on COVID-19, screen travelers for the virus and deliver timely test results. They provide contact tracing services and help manage the spread of the virus in Ethiopia.

The development of digital health care in Ethiopia was long overdue. But thanks to the innovative efforts of the Ministry of Health and USAID, citizens who once struggled to obtain access to quality health care can now access it remotely.

By providing more accurate information and up-to-date training for professionals, this new age of digital care has the potential to raise Ethiopia from low to middle-income status. It could improve the health and well-being of citizens in every area of the country.

– Hannah Gage
Photo: Flickr

U.K. foreign aid cuts
On July 13, 2021, the U.K. government voted in favor of a £4 billion ($5.5 billion) cut to its foreign aid budget in an effort to recover from debt that its COVID-19 response imposed. Parliament voted in favor of the measure, with 333 for and 298 against the cut. Those voting against the foreign aid cut included 25 Members of Parliament (MPs) of the ruling Conservative party. Surprisingly, this is an unusually high number for a government that stigmatizes voting against party lines. Among those who voted against the cut were former Prime Minister Theresa May and former cabinet ministers Jeremy Hunt and David Davis.

Backbench Rebellion

Before the vote, a far more sizeable group of Conservative MPs planned to rebel against the government’s line. However, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak persuaded many to vote in favor of the measure. He assured them that the cuts would only be temporary until the country’s public finances were healthier post-COVID-19. However, experts predict it will be years before the national budget reaches ‘healthy’ levels.

The Response

Many members of the opposition believe that the U.K. foreign aid cuts will adversely affect thousands of lives, predicting a possible 100,000 deaths and millions facing malnutrition.

Even former Conservative Prime Ministers opposed the move. David Cameron, whose government adopted the 0.07% pledge, called it a “grave mistake” to undermine the U.K.’s 2013 promise. Sir John Major questioned why the government could afford “a ‘national yacht’ tha[t] no one either wants or needs” while also claiming the necessity of cutting aid to “the most miserable and destitute people in the world.”

Long-time recipients of foreign aid are also aghast at the likely repercussions of this decision. After the recent resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, NGOs such as Afghanaid fear that reduced aid will only exacerbate the extensive instability in the region, with the hardships falling largely on the poorest members of the population.

NGOs Step Up

NGOs and aid organizations have responded to the cuts in a number of different ways. For example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged £93.5 million ($192.6 million) to help cover the costs rescinded by the U.K. government. Other organizations, such as the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the ELMA Foundation and the Open Society Foundations pledged similar funds to make up for the cuts. Specifically, a number of global life-saving treatments will go unfunded without the help of these organizations.

In addition, several NGOs also made last-minute pleas to the Foreign Office to halt the cuts to foreign aid. The International Development Committee (IDC), aided by leading foreign aid experts, published an inquiry into the results of the cuts. This inquiry predicts that the U.K. government will turn away from severely war-affected areas such as Syria and Yemen. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), an organization that receives 5% of its funding from the U.K. and works in places such as Syria and Yemen, is also concerned. The NRC cautions that “It is more important than ever that aid from the U.K. reaches those who are most vulnerable, in line with humanitarian principles,” rather than with “political or economic interests.”

Looking Ahead

Despite the monumental damage predicted as a result of the U.K. foreign aid cuts, the global response from philanthropists and aid organizations is very encouraging. Hopefully, their willingness to step forward will reverse some of the damage and encourage others to do the same.

– Augustus Bambridge-Sutton
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Period Poverty in KenyaPeriod poverty in Kenya, or poor access to menstrual hygiene facilities, products and education, marginalizes women. In the year 2016, “a report funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation” noted that about half of Kenyan girls could not openly talk about menstruation due to a negative societal response to the topic. However, organizations and initiatives aim to combat menstrual stigma and fight period poverty in Kenya.

5 Solutions to Fight Period Poverty in Kenya

  1. Increasing Access to Sanitary Products. To fight period poverty in Kenya, it is important to ensure free or affordable access to sanitary products for all young girls. Access to menstrual products can keep girls in school, which will reduce the disproportionate dropout rates between boys and girls when transitioning into high school. In May 2021, a Kenyan citizen filed a petition to have the Kenyan government provide sanitary products in schools for free.
  2. Proper Policy Implementation. The government must properly implement policies that aim to combat period poverty. In 2017, the government of Kenya passed a law that would have seen all girls receive sanitary products for free while enrolled in school, but this law was not properly implemented. In addition, the government, where possible, must allocate more state funds to ensure more girls can access sanitary products regardless of economic status.
  3. Private Sector Involvement. Procter & Gamble, the company that produces the Always menstrual brand, created the Always Keeping Girls in School program to address period poverty in African countries. Since 2008, this program has donated more than 13 million pads to more than 200,000 girls in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. Similarly, Bayer employees have shown initiative by providing free menstrual cups to girls in Kenya. Involving the private sector in the fight against period poverty would also help the Kenyan government implement its policies better.
  4. More Education Initiatives. Innovative programs focused on key populations have emerged to fight period poverty in Kenya. For example, the United Nations Population Fund partnered with a grassroots organization called This-Ability Trust, which has been providing menstrual education to those with disabilities. Puberty education is also crucial. Currently, only about 50% of girls are willing to openly discuss menstrual health matters in family settings. Breaking the silence by educating pubescent teens and adolescents on the importance of menstrual health will encourage them to approach their teachers, parents and guardians for further guidance.
  5. Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Lastly, aid is needed to help Kenya recover from the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic, which had indirect effects on period poverty. Quarantine measures in Kenya meant that women and girls could not access health services that provide sanitary products for free. Economic stresses also meant girls and women could not afford sanitary products. Organizations like Plan International have been able to lend a helping hand to girls who live in slums. Plan International distributed almost 3,000 sanitary products to women in Kenya’s Kibera slum in partnership with the Kenyan organization ZanaAfrica. Since 65% of women and girls in Kenya are unable to access sanitary products due to economic reasons, these humanitarian efforts help fight period poverty in Kenya.

Looking to the Future

By focusing on such solutions to fight period poverty in Kenya, the Kenyan government and nonprofit organizations can empower and uplift impoverished Kenyan women. Reducing period poverty in Kenya ensures that the lives of girls and women are not disrupted simply due to the inability to afford menstrual products.

– Frank Odhiambo
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Soccer Programs Addressing Global PovertySoccer is one of the most popular sports on the international stage, with more than four billion fans. Additionally, roughly 30 billion people watch the FIFA World Cup. This proves that soccer can bring many people together despite different linguistic or cultural backgrounds. With this in mind, soccer programs across the world are harnessing people’s love for the game to help the impoverished. Three particular soccer programs are addressing global poverty and are making the world a better place.

3 Soccer Programs Addressing Global Poverty

  1. Football for Change: Founded by British national team player Trent Alexander-Arnold, Football for Change is a nonprofit organization working to alleviate youth poverty in the United Kingdom. Alexander-Arnold wanted to use his platform to raise awareness for youth poverty, so he launched Football for Change to fund educational programs in low-income neighborhoods. Other professional soccer players, including Conor Coady and Andrè Gomez, have joined the nonprofit to show young people that success is possible despite economic hardship.
  2. Girls Soccer Worldwide: This nonprofit organization was founded by a husband and wife duo to address female poverty around the world. The organization’s mission includes securing equal opportunities for women on and off the field. These opportunities include equal access to soccer leagues, education and politics. To accomplish this goal, Girls Soccer Worldwide establishes all-female recreational soccer teams across the world, and most notably in Paraguay, to uplift women’s voices. Girls Soccer Worldwide also encourages others to contribute by participating in fundraising events such as walkathons and 5k runs. Its most recent 5k run for a cause occurred on July 11, 2021.
  3. Grassroots Soccer: This organization combats global poverty by supporting athletic and academic programs around the world. To date, Grassroots Soccer has helped implement soccer, health and educational programs in 45 countries in Latin America, South America, Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia. The organization raises awareness of both global poverty and health risks associated with HIV/AIDS and malaria. Currently, it is introducing an HIV treatment delivery service program in Zambia to provide people living with HIV medicine and support. Notable supporters of the Grassroots Soccer organization include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the U.N. and the CDC. However, anyone can support the Grassroots Soccer Foundation by launching personal fundraising campaigns and playing soccer for a cause. Educational institutions including Brown University, Vassar College, Georgetown University and Yale University have launched campaigns to raise money for the organization in the past.

Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon states that sports are “increasingly recognized as an important tool” to help “create a better world.” People’s shared admiration for soccer can provide the basis for a common goal of helping the world’s most impoverished people. Soccer programs addressing global poverty, like Football for Change, Girls Soccer Worldwide and Grassroots Soccer, lead the way in using sports to help combat poverty.

– Chloe Young
Photo: Flickr

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