Adequate sanitation and toilets are basic necessities that ensure and promote the health of people in developing countries. The importance of sanitation and toilets lies in helping reduce the spread of diseases. Sanitation systems aim to protect health by providing and promoting a clean environment.

Developing countries face challenges in accessing sanitation and hygiene care. The CDC states that hundreds of millions of people do not have access to adequate clean drinking water and that over one million deaths are a result of diseases transmitted via unclean water, poor sanitation and lack of hygiene. Access to soap is an importance of hygiene, and often a challenge in availability for developing countries. The CDC offers an effective hand washing station within communities in need of proper hygiene. Known as Tippy Taps, these stations use less water and soap than other means of hand washing.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is approaching the importance of sanitation and toilets by partnering with several organizations to reduce water-borne diseases. The Water, Sanitation & Hygiene initiative aims to reduce disease and improve lives by looking closely at communities and governments to understand their environment and what is suitable for providing hygiene and water. The Gates Foundation also supports establishing an end to open defecation and upgrading latrines in order to encourage people to practice good hygiene as well as increasing the demand for sanitation.

The World Bank is addressing the importance of sanitation and toilets through the Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) initiative, which assesses the relationship between poverty and hygiene to properly develop methods in bringing hygiene and water. The World Bank found that the effects of unsafe drinking water and lack of proper hygiene result in various other health issues, such as child stunting. WASH, in coordination with other organizations, works to provide appropriate services. The WASH program aims to reduce childhood mortality via investing clean water access to rural communities.

Shedding light on the importance of sanitation and toilets can lead to proposing and establishing sustainable sanitation for communities with no access to sanitation. The disparities of hygiene access need to be addressed to ensure the health of communities and generations to come.

– Jennifer Serrato

Photo: Flickr

Maternal ImmunizationMaternal immunization is a necessary solution to reduce mortality rates for newborns as well as pregnant women. These vaccines must be monitored for safety and effectiveness. Systems must also be enforced to make the change, especially in low and middle-income countries, as the neonatal (first 28 days of life) period mortality rates are significantly higher in developing countries. 99 percent of all neonatal deaths occur in low and middle-income countries. Vaccinations in a pregnant woman protect herself, the fetus, and the newborn by transferring maternal antibodies across the placenta, guarding them both against life-threatening infections.

A system that identifies, evaluates and responds to the potential events after immunization is called the Pharmacovigilance system. This system is vital for pregnancies but unfortunately, it is still uncommon in developing countries. Fortunately, however, GAPPS (Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Still Birth) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have created a report that discusses the monitoring of existing systems for safety,  identifies the gaps, and outlines a plan to implement this program in low and middle-income countries.

The analysis brings in a range of organizations including the WHO (World Health Organization), UNICEF, and MNCH (Maternal, Newborn and Child Health) to develop the strategy further. The report also discusses key necessities such as the need for regulations, response to events including the health of pregnant women and their offspring, training in the Pharmacovigilance system, model creation of dates, and linkages between the systems and collaborators.

If a pregnant woman is at a high risk of being exposed to any diseases that would be a high risk to both her and the fetus, the benefits of maternal immunization would typically outweigh the risks. The two vaccinations for pregnant women that are most encouraged are whooping cough (Pertussis), and the flu (Influenza) vaccines. The whopping cough can be life-threatening for newborns, but with the vaccine, the body will produce protective antibodies for the mother and the baby which protects against whooping cough. The flu vaccination is a necessity for pregnant women because they are more susceptible to the virus with the changes in their immune system, heart and lungs. If a pregnant woman catches the flu it can potentially cause serious problems for the fetus including premature birth.

With these systems and an increase in maternal immunization, pregnant women can have confidence in their pregnancy and labor as well as lower the global maternal and newborn mortality rate.

Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett is known for being on the top of the world’s most wealthy list. Today, he sits at number two on Forbes 2017 Billionaires List and runs the multinational Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate. While he may be most recognizable for his wealth, Buffett is a proven philanthropic powerhouse as well. He utilizes his status around the globe as a platform to promote his philanthropic movements and build support for global aid.

In 2006, Warren Buffett made the “the biggest single gift anyone ever gave anybody for anything” when he donated $30 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In 2010, Buffett coupled with Bill Gates to build The Giving Pledge, which asks wealthy individuals around the world to join them in “publicly dedicating the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.”

This year, Buffett made his largest summer donation yet of nearly $3.2 billion in one day. Buffett is one of the most philanthropic individuals in the United States and his reputation amongst the wealthy serves to boost the motivation of others to donate.

On October 3, 2017, Warren Buffett spoke about the national poverty epidemic at the Purpose Built Communities conference in Omaha. At the meeting, Buffett called on the “government and philanthropists (to) do more to ensure that poverty doesn’t remain a barrier success.”

Buffett’s call to action is not lost on the global poverty front. As part of the 1 percent of the world that owns more than the other 99 percent, Buffett’s words reverberate around the world. His recognition of the importance of government and philanthropist involvement is something that should spark action worldwide, leading to global changes in poverty reduction efforts.

Reducing poverty is a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional and cross-sectional goal that requires the support of all able members of societies. Buffett’s involvement with the Gates Foundation and The Giving Pledge exemplify his understanding of the collective power. Buffett has pledged to give more than 99 percent of his fortune to charity and has garnered similar pledges from over 170 donors in 21 countries.

With the promises of other wealthy individuals, Gates and Buffett have collected funds for humanitarian efforts around the world. His partnership with Bill Gates augments the publicity for their mutual missions to combat global issues such as poverty, hunger and human rights.

By funding and creating charity-focused endeavors, Buffett has proven his status as a powerhouse in the philanthropy sector. Buffett’s notoriety and wealth bring attention to his actions and put a global spotlight on his philanthropic efforts, to garner support for poverty reduction and encourage global humanitarian movements.

Eliza Gresh

Photo: Flickr

Polio EradicationAround 30 years ago, 350,000 people annually were disabled by polio. Since then, the disease has been reduced globally by 99.9 percent. Only eight new cases were reported this year. Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan are the three remaining countries where polio exists. Nonetheless, governments and non-profits continue to work toward polio eradication, with some experts believing the disease could be eradicated as soon as 2020.

In June 2017, at Rotary International’s annual convention, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Rotary International jointly announced their pledge of $450 million toward polio eradication. At the same time, world governments and other donors pledged a total of $1.2 billion to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).

GPEI is a collaborative effort among Rotary International, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and UNICEF to combat polio.

The good news continued in August of this year when the United Kingdom announced that they would be pledging £100 million to the fight against polio. This funding will provide immunizations to 45 million children per year until 2020.

Though prior to this summer there was a funding gap of $1.5 billion for polio eradication, that shortfall has now been reduced to $170 million due to the contributions of Rotary International, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom as well as others.

While the focus now is on the three countries where polio still exists, the GPEI and its partner organizations still monitor polio in other at-risk countries.

Although the United Nations declared Somalia polio free, President Farmaajo stated that vaccination campaigns remain crucial. He noted that Somalia is still vulnerable and that polio eradication in Somalia “…was [a] collective effort and commitment by many young men and women who sacrificed their lives.”

The infrastructure built to combat polio in Somalia continues to be used to respond to other outbreaks including measles and cholera. Polio also tends to infect regions marred in conflict. In 2013, there were polio outbreaks in Central Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. The GPEI managed to end the outbreaks less than a year later.

Nigeria, one of the three countries on the endemic list, was taken off the list at one point after two years with no reported cases. Soon after, four children were paralyzed by polio in northern Nigeria. In response, the GPEI strengthened its polio surveillance operations.

It takes three years with no reported cases of a disease for it to be declared eradicated. Smallpox is the only eradicated disease in history. The United Kingdom International Development Secretary, Priti Patel, stated that, “The world is closer than it has ever been to eradicating polio, but as long as just one case exists in the world, children everywhere are still at risk.”

Due to the contributions of multiple governmental and non-governmental organizations, polio eradication is an achievable goal for the international community.

Sean Newhouse

Photo: Flickr

 Mobile Marketplace
Let’s grow together. This is what MasterCard enabled with the launch of the 2KUZE mobile marketplace in January, which connects smallholder farmers, agents, buyers and banks in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Users can buy, sell and receive electronic payments for their crops through a mobile app. 2KUZE mobile marketplace makes the selling of crops more efficient for farmers, eliminating the need for them to travel long distances to markets. The platform also gives them access to a wider marketplace, allowing them to seek out the best price for their crops. Women will benefit from selling their crops through the platform, as their duties often prevent them from leaving home.

Through the app, buyers can post orders with the help of an agent. Farmers can see the orders and accept them. Agents then collect the produce from farmers and deliver it to buyers. The agents also pay farmers through a bank transfer or cash.

Eighty percent of African farmers are classified as smallholder farmers, who own small plots of land and rely mostly on family labor and grow only a few cash crops. Smallholder farmers often work with limited resources and incomes, which makes it difficult for them to improve the profitability and sustainability of their crops.

Named after the Swahili words for “let’s grow together,” the 2KUZE mobile marketplace was developed through MasterCard Labs for Financial Inclusion. There are currently 2,000 smallholder farmers in Nandi Hills, Kenya using the marketplace to sell their produce and work with agents to reach the best buyers at the best price.

MasterCard Labs for Financial Inclusion, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, collaborates with local expertise to improve access to financial services. The initiative works to empower the 500 million people previously excluded from financial services and promote more inclusive growth.

MasterCard also collaborated with Cafédirect Producers Foundation to introduce the 2KUZE mobile marketplace. This British nonprofit works with 280,000 smallholder farmers across Africa, Asia and Latin America. The smallholder farmer-led organization allows farmers to share knowledge and develop their own projects.

Cell phones are now as popular in Nigeria and South Africa as they are in the U.S. While smartphones are not as widely used in Africa as basic cell phones, the availability of low-cost smartphones has caused smartphone ownership in Africa to increase rapidly.

In 2016, the Pew Research Center reported that 40% of adults in Kenya own a smartphone or use the internet. Twenty-one percent of adults in Tanzania and 11% of adults in Uganda reported in the same study that they use the internet or own a smartphone.

Cassie Lipp

Photo: Flickr

Preparedness InnovationsWhen the Ebola virus broke out in 2014, the world was ill-prepared to respond. In all, there were more than 15,000 confirmed cases and 11,000 deaths. Although the outbreak was concentrated in West Africa, a handful of cases reached the United States and Europe. With the rise of globalization and intercontinental travel, the next epidemic could easily become a pandemic.

To combat this danger, a multinational coalition is needed. The formation of such a group — the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) — was announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations is backed by the governments of Norway, India, Japan and Germany. These countries are partnering with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to invest in vaccines to prevent diseases that have the potential to cause the next great epidemic.

Given the cost-efficiency of immunization programs, the development of vaccines is an effective component of epidemic preparation. With an initial fund of $460 million, CEPI will be well worth the investment. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Lione lost approximately $1.6 billion in GDP in 2015 alone. A worldwide pandemic would be drastically more costly; the World Bank estimates a flu pandemic would cost $3 trillion globally.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations will initially focus on three viruses: MERS-CoV, Lassa and Nipah. These viruses are among the diseases identified by the World Health Organization that warrant prioritization. For each virus, CEPI hopes to develop at least two vaccines. This head start is critical, as vaccine development is a long, arduous process. On average, a vaccine takes about 10 years to reach the market, and epidemics take far less time to spread.

Although CEPI is a major step in the right direction, a more comprehensive strategy is necessary to control a potential pandemic. As shown by the Ebola outbreak, a global surveillance system is needed. In addition, vaccines cannot prevent all cases of disease; treatment development is also needed. The current members of CEPI have demonstrated admirable initiative in showing the world that everyone is a stakeholder concerning global health.

Rebecca Yu

Photo: Flickr

Elimination of Malaria by 2040: How Developing Countries Benefit
Malaria is a parasitic condition that is contracted primarily through the bite of an infectious Anopheles mosquito. Currently, sub-Saharan Africa suffers from the greatest disease burden of malaria as a consequence of widespread poverty and poor living conditions.

Malaria has serious social and economic implications. It is estimated that each year, Africa incurs a health care cost of $12 billion as a result of malaria. This cost imposes a significant strain on the continent’s financial resources. It also forces compromises to be made in other aspects such as a provision of schooling facilities and treatment of debilitating infections.

The elimination of malaria has always been an important but elusive objective of the global health care movement. Despite years of investment in research, no vaccine is currently available that offers complete protection against malaria. According to the World Health Organization, efforts are being focused on developing a clinically efficacious vaccine that protects against the most serious variant of malaria that is caused by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum.

Recently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a humanitarian organization aimed at improving lives of the poor, has declared an ambitious objective: to eliminate malaria by the year 2040. The organization aims to achieve this goal through increased involvement of world leaders in the process of ending malaria. The foundation also aspires to involve countries afflicted with malaria in the movement by encouraging them to implement local strategies to tackle malaria.

The motive behind the movement is simply the fact that if malaria is not eliminated completely, countries could be tirelessly working toward the development of new vaccines, medications and prevention strategies to contain the spread of cases. This is not an economically viable solution for controlling malaria transmission — it represents a drain on valuable health care resources that can be used for the treatment of other life-threatening conditions such as cancer.

Increasing drug resistance of the organisms involved in the causation of malaria has limited the effectiveness of strategies targeted at the elimination of malaria. Currently, in Seattle, several research projects are experimenting with novel methods such as genetic modification to eliminate malaria.

With approximately 3.2 billion individuals globally estimated to be at risk of malaria, it is essential to control the spread of this disease. Malaria tends to be concentrated in regions of poverty, further exacerbating standards of living. As a result of the increasing connectivity of the world and the ease of access to different countries, travel has further increased the risk of spread of malaria to countries that are not typically affected by the condition.

The elimination of malaria by 2040 is a glorious yet difficult objective to achieve. Implementing pragmatic measures over the next few decades such as increasing awareness about malaria, improving sanitation and hygiene in poor countries, and prevention campaigns can bring us one step closer to the complete eradication of malaria.

Tanvi Ambulkar

Photo: Flickr

Green Revolution in Africa
Agriculture is the key industry in developing countries. It grants a generous number of employment opportunities to the local population and therefore, is an important source of income for poor households. Farmers are responsible for harvesting fresh produce and contribute significantly to the health of the local community.

The Green Revolution, with its roots predominantly in Africa, proposes specific targeted measures to increase yields from farming. It advocates the use of scientific research to complement traditional farming techniques. By doing this, farmers can be advised on the optimum conditions to grow their crop, the comparative effectiveness of fertilizers and even the best technology that can aid farming.

Approximately a decade ago, Africa substantially increased its core investments in agriculture. The investment not only involved increasing support for farmers but also directing more resources towards research and development to discover more effective farming strategies.

One important objective of the Green Revolution in Africa is to transition from a highly human labor dependent farming system to a mechanized system, whereby machines perform repetitive tasks with greater efficiency.

Ren Wang, Assistant Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, expresses his belief that “mechanization in its broadest sense can contribute significantly to the sustainable development of food systems globally, as it has the potential to render post-harvest, processing and marketing activities and functions more efficient, effective and environmentally friendly.”

The Green Revolution in Africa also aims to improve farmers’ links with external supply outlets to maximize incomes and increase job prospects.

Increasing farming productivity and output is likely to contribute to better incomes for farmers and greater opportunities for entrepreneurship. Farmers are more likely to be encouraged to continue farming if equipped with good quality resources such as fertile soil, controlled climatic factors and efficient machinery.

Organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have demonstrated support for this ambitious revolution by donating millions of dollars to the cause. The reasoning for these donations lies in the fact that the agriculture industry has made considerable progress, yet poor nutrition remains an important cause of mortality and morbidity in Africa.

Malnutrition, especially in younger children, has resulted in approximately 18 percent of children under the age of five being underweight. This not only has detrimental consequences for normal physical development, but also future social capital. If children do not receive adequate nutrition, their ability to learn is impaired and they will only be able to contribute to society in a limited number of ways.

According to the United Nations, by 2050, Africa is estimated to have approximately 2.4 billion individuals — nearly double its current population. With such a precipitous increase in population, the Green Revolution can only aspire to transform farming into a profitable and productive proposition.

Tanvi Ambulkar

The Good News: Polio Eradication by 2020
With the support of public and private institutions such as WHO, Rotary International, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, polio case numbers have decreased by 99 percent since 1988.

Moreover, 80 percent of the world’s population is now living in certified polio-free regions. There are just three countries that have been unable to stop the spread within their communities: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

In these countries, progress had been slowed due to weak health infrastructures as well as ongoing political conflicts and security concerns.

Just last year as Nigeria had been declared free of polio, new cases appeared in Borno state. This area had been inaccessible due to the control of the militant group Boko Haram; thus, medical professionals were unable to provide the vaccinations and preventative measures needed to stop the virus from circulating.

Despite these setbacks, complete and successful polio eradication in all countries is still expected by 2020. According to Bill Gates, fulfilling this timeline would require the last case of polio to be recorded in 2017, where a three-year period will ensure that the virus has completely disappeared.

Polio, which has not been a huge health crisis in the majority of countries, has existed in low-income countries where it has affected mainly children under the age of five. One in 200 infections lead to irreversible paralysis. However, preventative measures are easy.

Although there are two forms of the vaccine, oral polio vaccine (OPV) and inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), just one dose of OPV costs as little as 14 cents.

Last week, with the help of Gates, billionaire philanthropists such as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Ray Dalio, chairman and co-chief investment officer of Bridgewater Associates LP, collectively donated more than $70 million toward the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. These costs have brought the efforts a step closer to the $7 billion required to fund these low-cost vaccines and overall eradication efforts.

Dalio, through a representative, said, “Just from an investment perspective, eradication makes sense. It will eliminate the future financial burden, and unlock doors to economic productivity around the world.”

With a proven track record of eliminating polio in various countries and with the additions of donated funds to this global initiative for polio eradication, WHO and participating institutions can achieve the goal of polio eradication by 2020.

In 1988 polio-affected 125 countries and paralyzed 350,000 people every year, but there are now less than 100 cases — soon this number will reach zero.

Priscilla Son

Photo: Flickr