Safe and effective contraception is one of poverty’s biggest enemies. In fact, it can prevent up to 33 percent of maternal deaths through things like unsafe abortions (which lead to the death of over 50,000 women annually) and too many consecutive pregnancies, which can lead to harm for both mother and child.

As Joy Phumami, Co-chair of the World Health Organization’s Independent Expert Review Group, says, “delaying pregnancy and spacing births enables more young women to complete school, prevents death and disability among many young women and their children, and contributes to economic development.”

It seems like common sense when stated so plainly. However, worldwide, over 200 million women lack access to contraception.

Factors inhibiting access to and use of birth control include everything from lack of education, to lack of proximal availability, to lack of medical professionals available to administer the drugs.

Sayana Press, an injectable form of birth control, provides three months of contraceptive protection and is so simple that the possibility of self-administration is currently being researched. If achieved, this would allow for long-lasting contraception without the need for patients to enter a clinical setting. One study conducted over 12 months showed that 95 percent of women found self-injection to be a convenient option.

Even in its current state, Sayana Press is easy to administer, and doing so requires very little training. Because it lasts for three months at a time, women do not have to meet up with healthcare professionals so frequently that it is a major inconvenience.

How does it work? The popular birth control drug Depo-Provera is delivered using the Uniject injection system, a prefilled, single-dose, disposable, and compact device. Depo-Provera is widely known to be effective, and more than 88 million Uniject systems have been used since 2000 for such purposes as administering the Hepatitis B vaccine to newborns.

Thanks to the innovation and potential of the product, the Sayana Press was showcased in the Innovation Countdown 2030 Report, an initiative led by PATH to increase awareness and investment in technologies designed to improve global health.

PATH, a nonprofit that works to improve global health and save lives, does its work with a focus on accelerating innovation, making the efficiency and effectiveness of the Sayana Press a prime example of a product warranting their support.

PATH’s Sayana Press Pilot Introduction Project, an initiative that began in 2014 and will last until 2016, has brought the product to five countries in Africa and South Asia. If the results are successful, the product will likely be adopted more widely.

Because family planning is so important in the fight against global poverty, the more options there are, and the more widely available they are to those who need them, the better. Sayana Press is being called one of the most exciting innovations in global health today. Part of its beauty lies in its simplicity: a disposable piece of plastic that has the potential to save millions of lives.

Emily Dieckman

Sources: IC2030, NPR, Science Direct, Path 1, Path 2, Path 3, WHO
Photo: Path

girls in Malawi
The United States Agency for International Development will spend between $4.5 million and $10.4 million to encourage girls in Malawi to use birth control.

This plan intends to prevent pregnancy and STDs, especially HIV.

Part of USAID’s “Girls’ Empowerment through Education and Health Activity” plan, this grant will endow sexual and reproductive health and family planning education for young girls in Malawi. It seeks to combat the lack of HIV and sexual and reproductive health education and services.

The grant explains that “sexual acts that resulted in a pregnancy also place girls at risk for leaving school and/or contracting HIV.” Females, especially young girls, are disproportionately affected by HIV compared to men. In 2010, the HIV occurrence rate for girls between the ages of 15 and 19 was 4.2 percent as opposed to 1.3 percent for males.

The grant calls for more resources to teach about sexual reproductive health, HIV and family planning. USAID has stated it is important for young women to know correct information about these topics.

However, the 2010 Malawi Demographic and Health Survey exposed that even though there has been an increase in the use of modern family planning in Malawi, the HIV rate has remained.

Access to birth control and other methods does not appear to be a problem for women in Malawi.  However, Malawi ranks tenth in the world for the number living with HIV/AIDS, and ninth worldwide for the number of fatalities from HIV/AIDS.

The grant also aims to improve literacy skills for girls and access to schooling. The grant states that this will lead to more achievement for girls in school.

This initiative in Malawi is one more step in encouraging Family Planning 2020’s aim to provide 120 million more women and girls with contraceptives by 2020.

Colleen Moore

Sources: CNS News, Life Site
Photo: USAID

remote control contraceptive
In less than four years, women could be receiving a remote control contraceptive. The implanted microchip provides a reliable dose of hormones every day for 16 years, which could make family planning and contraception much easier for women in the developing world.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-backed project is based off of research done in the 1990s by Professor Robert Langer of MIT. Langer leased his technology to MicroCHIPS, a company currently developing implants to release osteoporosis treatments into the body over regular intervals.

The microchip, roughly the size of a Scrabble tile at 20mm x 20mm x 7mm, has wells filled with the hormone levonorgestrel. When activated, a small electric charge triggers every day, melting the covering of the wells and releasing 30 micrograms of levonorgestrel into the body. The wells are covered with a mixture of titanium and platinum, which causes no harm to the body when melted.

The chip can be implanted in the abdomen, upper arm or buttocks. The process to inject the contraceptive is fairly simple, taking less than 30 minutes and using a local anesthetic.

Since many women may want to take a break from the birth control before the end of 16 years, the remote control allows them to switch their treatment on and off themselves. This puts power in the hands of women. There are security issues, such as the possibility for hacking, which could be a major problem if women do not realize their dosing has been tampered with. MicroCHIPS has promised that the control must be used right next to the skin, so no one can interfere with a women’s contraception without her knowledge.

Another issue is that injectable contraceptives do not protect against STDs, and some have even been shown to increase the chance of contracting HIV. Also, becoming fertile again after using hormones can take a while. These issues have not been addressed by the company.

This is not the first injectable contraceptive, but it lasts the longest. The most durable contraceptive on the market right now lasts only five years. This microchip could simplify women’s lives all across the developing world. Injectable contraceptives are already popular in these countries, so making the switch would be easy to do.

Burkina Faso will soon implement the contraceptive Sayana Press, as will Niger, Senegal and Uganda. Sayana Press only lasts three months, and while the countries will provide delivery services for women who cannot come to hospitals or clinics every few months, it is still difficult to reach every woman in need of an injection. Some women may also forget to get a new injection.

South Africa currently has a system for a three-year contraceptive. The device is similar, except it cannot be remotely controlled and it must be replaced sooner. It is a Silicone, matchstick-sized implant made by Merck and marketed as Implanon. The Stanger Hospital in South Africa actually ran out of the implants and is struggling to provide enough for the women who want the contraception.

There is a large desire for this kind of contraceptive in the developing world, and a controllable device could be the key to making family planning easier for women.

There are also further applications for implantable drug dispensers beyond female contraception. The technology could be applied to other treatments, like MicroCHIPS’ work with osteoporosis treatment. If trials prove successful, it is possible that many other drugs could be put in the wells and released periodically.

The contraceptive will be submitted for testing in 2015, and by 2018 the microchips could be on the market. The claim is that they will be “competitively priced,” making the technology a real possibility for women around the world to have a worry-free method of birth control.

– Monica Roth

Sources: Elite Daily, Extreme Tech, The Guardian, CNet, Africa Science News, Daily Maverick, MicroCHIPS
Photo: The Telegraph

overpopulation public health
There is much debate whether overpopulation poses public health risks. Some believe it is the cause of hunger and poverty throughout the world while others feel that it has never been a problem.  It is important to shed light on this fear of overpopulation as its consequences are said to be evident in all developing countries.

Several reports about Africa’s growing population has been connected to the starvation of millions of people. Every year 32.5 percent of children in developing countries suffer from malnutrition. Sustainable population advocates have pointed to the approximate 200 million hunger-related deaths in the past twenty years. Deterioration in global biodiversity has also been linked to overpopulation. Substantial data of species loss has been presented by countries such as China, Brazil and Mexico. Human settlements that are gradually increasing according to the rate of population is said to ruin the benefits of nature and destroy habitats. The consequences of overpopulation is also suggested in access to education, primarily in Africa. In African classrooms, children are unable to learn due to overcrowding.  Access to water, medical care and housing are all diminished when there are more people that require aid. Data from the United Nations further suggests that by 2050, 10 percent to 15 percent of land that is farmed today will not be available. This could potentially lead to a food crisis as the current population increases at a faster rate.

Those supporting a sustainable population see hope in public policies being employed in countries such as Bangladesh, Iran and Thailand. Results from securing social services to women and families indicate a large decrease in undernourished people in Asia, from 23.7 percent to 13.9 percent. This downward trend from simply giving access to birth control and adopting policies that give aid to small families suggests that overpopulation is an issue that can be solved.  Policies that provide family planning to those in remote, rural areas in Asia has led to stability in undernourishment over time. By merely shifting the focus on public policy these countries quickly witnessed better health standards, quality of education and housing availability, all of which offer hope to the remaining developing nations.

– Maybelline Martez

Sources: Scientific American, Huffington Post, World Hunger

TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, is a global set of conferences owned by the private nonprofit organization Sapling Foundation. Under the slogan “ideas worth spreading,” TED events are held throughout the world, addressing a variety of topics, from science and culture to health, medicine, and global development. Here are some of the most memorable quotes made by TED speakers on the topic of poverty and development.

1.       “You don’t wake up one day no longer a racist. It takes generations to tear that intuition, that DNA, out of a soul of a people.”

Lawrence Lessig: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim

2.       “I’d grown up thinking that a [sanitary toilet] was my right, when in fact it’s a privilege — 2.5 billion people worldwide have no adequate toilet.”

Rose George: Let’s talk crap. Seriously.

3.       “Child mortality [since 2000 is] down by 2.65 million a year. That’s a rate of 7,256 children’s lives saved each day. … It drives me nuts that most people don’t seem to know this news.”

Bono: The good news on poverty (Yes, there’s good news)

4.       “What you do [to provide better aid is] you shut up. You never arrive in a community with any ideas.”

Ernesto Sirolli: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!

5.       “The challenge of development: abject poverty surrounded by corruption.”

Sanjay Pradhan: How open data is changing international aid

6.       “I have never met a villager who does not want a vote.”

Rory Stewart: Why democracy matters

7.       “You don’t have to get rich to have [fewer] children. It has happened across the world.”

Hans Rosling: Religions and babies

8.       “We get so little news about the developing world that we often forget that there are literally millions of people out there struggling to change things to be fairer, freer, more democratic, less corrupt.”

Alex Steffen: The route to a sustainable future

9. “Connectivity is productivity — whether it’s in a modern office or an underdeveloped village.”

Iqbal Quadir: How mobile phones can fight poverty

10. “We’ve seen how distributed networks, big data and information can transform society. I think it’s time for us to apply them to water.”

Sonaar Luthra: Meet the Water Canary

11. “Birth control has almost completely and totally disappeared from the global health agenda, and the victims of this paralysis are the people of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.”

Melinda Gates: Let’s put birth control back on the agenda

12. “Human development, not secularization, is what’s key to women’s empowerment in the transforming Middle East.”

Dalia Mogahed: The attitudes that sparked Arab Spring

13. “The United Street Sellers Republic — the USSR — [would be] the second-largest economy in the world after the United States.”

Robert Neuwirth: The power of the informal economy

14. “We need to deliver [mental] health care using whoever is available and affordable in our local communities.”

Vikram Patel: Mental health for all by involving all

15. “It was the buildings [in Haiti], not the earthquake, that killed 220,000 people, that injured 330,000, that displaced 1.3 million people, that cut off food and water and supplies for an entire nation.”

Peter Haas: Haiti’s disaster of engineering

– Nayomi Chibana
Feature Writer 


Read global poverty quotes.

Sources: TED, Reddit
Photo: Lingholic

Expanded Contraceptive Access
At the Women Deliver 2013 conference, one of the topics discussed was expanding contraceptive access in developing countries in Africa. The session was led by Melinda Gates and United Nations Population Fund, and the speakers discussed ways to reach women to create a strategy that would provide them greater access to forms of birth control. Melinda Gates explained that improving access to birth control would not only improve the women’s lives, it would also make their children healthier and would allow for a thriving family.

Also at the session, several political leaders discussed some of the success stories of implementing birth control access. Countries such as Senegal, the Philippines, Zambia, Indonesia, and Malawi have all taken the initiative to promote progress in the field of family planning and have had great success. Senegal’s budget for their national family planning program has doubled since November 2012. After 15 years, the Philippines was finally able to pass the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act, Zambia created their first family planning program, Indonesia increased funding available for contraceptives, and Malawi also strengthened their family planning program.

The leaders explained that these success stories should be proof that expanding contraceptive access is doable and can save lives, and it’s also very cost-effective. Not only will birth control help improve the lives of the current generation of mothers and babies, implementing a long-term and sustainable plan will improve the lives of the next generations as well.

To ensure that the efforts will remain strong, the Global Poverty Project’s CEO Hugh Evans has announce the It Takes Two campaign, which encourages young men and women to support family planning programs and services, as well as for them to make sure their government continues to support the programs.

Katie Brockman

Source: allAfrica

Pathfinder International

Aisha gave birth to her 9th child at home in Nigeria in 2009. Hemorrhaging and in shock, she was immediately rushed to the Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital in Kano, northern Nigeria. Upon arrival her blood pressure was very low and she had lost a lot of blood, a leading cause of maternal death in developing countries. Doctors immediately wrapped Aisha in an anti-shock garment that encourages blood flow to all parts of the body. In places like Nigeria, it can take several hours for a patient to receive the blood they need. In Aisha’s case, it took 4 and a half hours. Without this garment, Aisha would likely have died, waiting for blood.

Aisha’s story is all too familiar for millions of women around the world. Access to pre and postnatal healthcare as well as general sexual health resources, in developing nations is limited, if available at all, and women often die during childbirth. Pathfinder International, however, is an organization dedicated to bringing vital, life saving sexual and reproductive health care education and practices to the people that need it most.

222 million women today lack access to contraceptives. They have limited ability to choose when, if, and how often to have children. When women are educated and empowered with the ability to make these decisions, they are happier and healthier. Their children are more likely to stay in school longer and in turn lead longer, more productive lives.

Pathfinder International, founded in 1957, is active in more than 20 countries today in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. They have five key areas of focus in addition to maternal and newborn health. These include education and services for adolescents, HIV, contraception and family planning, abortion, and advocacy. Multi-level collaboration and data are key components of the work they do. They partner closely with NGOs, community and faith-based organizations, local governments, and individuals and emphasize collecting reliable, consistent data to improve programs and provide accountability to donors.

For more information about Pathfinder International and to find out how you can help, visit their website.

– Erin N. Ponsonby

Sources: Pathfinder International
Photo: Hope Ofiriha

New Pope, New Take on Contraceptives?The beginning of this March is an important time for the Catholic Church, as Pope Benedict XVI resigns from the papacy. With the seat of St. Peter empty, what global issues will the new Pope face?

Catholics and non-Catholics alike realize that the Pope and his decisions have an influence in many areas throughout the world. The next Pope, whoever that will be, is going to inherit the Church in a time of crisis. While there is a myriad of problems to be dealt with within the Church, one issue related to international poverty will be at the forefront: the use of birth control.

Pope Benedict famously stirred up no small bit of controversy in the international aid community back in 2009 when he claimed that the use of condoms does nothing to prevent the spread of HIV and that the availability of condoms actually makes the problem worse. Around the same time, the Pope offered a rare example in which the use of condoms would be acceptable in the case of a male prostitute using one. Such comments brought about different feelings about where the Church would be going with the issue; would it stay conservative or consider altering its’ stance on condoms?

The next Pope will have an opportunity to make his own statements about birth-control and perhaps his stance may be slightly more accepting than his predecessors. It would be irrational to expect the Catholic Church to reverse its position on the issue of birth control, but it is also important to remember the relationship between overpopulation and poverty. Even the smallest bit of change could make a difference for millions and hopefully, it will start to come about with the new Pope.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: The Guardian