AMREF: Lasting Health Changes in AfricaSurgeons Michael Wood, Archibald McIndoe, and Tom Rees came up with a plan to provide medical assistance in remote regions of East Africa in 1957. Today, the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) is the most respected health development organization based in Africa. Their mission is simple: bringing lasting healthcare improvements to Africa.

AMREF’s strategy is based on seven priority areas:

  1. Maternal health, including safer pregnancies, support for reproductive rights and cervical cancer prevention for disadvantaged women.
  2. Child health, including integrated management of childhood illnesses and improved childhood nutrition.
  3. Fighting diseases like HIV, TB and malaria with prevention, care and treatment.
  4. Improving access to safe water and sanitation to prevent epidemics of waterborne diseases.
  5. A wider reach of quality clinical and diagnostic services by strengthening health facilities.
  6. Research and advocacy to distribute knowledge to healthcare workers across the continent.
  7. A strong, united AMREF Health Africa.

AMREF works to make significant healthcare improvements in African countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Senegal. AMREF has been successful in developing community-based healthcare models and programs with communities, which is the heart of their system. It reaches and respects communities and brings lasting healthcare improvements to Africa from within.

AMREF launched the successful Stand Up for African Mothers campaign to ensure that mothers are given adequate medical care during pregnancy and childbirth. It aimed to train 15,000 midwives to reduce maternal death by 25 percent. One trained midwife was projected to provide care for 500 women each year, including safe deliveries of 100 babies.

AMREF set up the Kenya eLearning Nurses Upgrading Programme in 2005 and a few years later, it expanded to include the AMREF Virtual Nursing School. The program has further evolved to implement projects such as:

  • Conversion of the Diploma in Community Health program to eLearning
  • Conversion of six distance education courses to eLearning
  • The Center for Disease Control-supported infection prevention and control program
  • Conversion of the national antiretroviral therapy guidelines to eLearning
  • Replication of the eLearning program in various countries across the region including Uganda, Tanzania and Senegal
  • Support for the Ministries of Health in non-AMREF countries to implement eLearning, including Zambia and Lesotho.

More than 220 women die each day due to pregnancy and childbirth complications in Sub-Saharan Africa, and children in Africa are 16 times more likely to die before the age of five than in developed regions. This highlights the serious need for healthcare improvements in Africa. AMREF has shown that when women have more control over their life and health, they become more effective and have a great impact on their own community.

AMREF has taken the lead to improve the situation by partnering with and empowering communities and strengthening healthcare systems. Their priority areas address the most pressing healthcare concerns, bringing lasting healthcare improvements to Africa in the places where it is needed most.

Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr

Since 2013, the U.N. has celebrated October 31 as World Cities Day in support of global urbanization and sustainable urban development. This year’s theme of “Innovative Governance, Open Cities” highlights the important role of urbanization as a source of global development and social inclusion. Urbanization in developing countries contributes to poverty reduction, access to sanitation facilities and education equality if managed correctly.

Urbanization is the result of an increase in population in urban areas. Urban areas differ from rural areas due to numerical and occupational differences in population. For the most part, urban areas have more inhabitants with more industrial professions than the less populated, more agriculture-centric rural areas. Each country sets certain criteria to distinguish urban areas; “some countries define any place with a population of 2,500 or more as urban; others set a minimum of 20,000.”


These six numbers represent urban development in the world:

  • 54.5 percent
    In 2016, more than half of the world’s population resided in urban areas. From 30 percent in 1950, the urban population of the world has grown rapidly. An estimated 54.5 percent of the globe now resides in urban agglomerates. By 2030, 60 percent of the world is expected to reside in urban areas.
  • 33.2 million
    The biggest city in the world today, Tokyo, has a population of 33.2 million. Tokyo’s high population, over 10 million, qualifies the city as a megacity. In 1970, Tokyo and New York were the only megacities in the world. Today, Tokyo is one of 23 megacities, including 13 in Asia, four in Latin America and two each in Africa, Europe and North America.
  • $600 million
    UN-Habitat has set aside $600 million to focus exclusively on urbanization issues, including “growth of slums, inadequate and out of date infrastructure and escalating poverty and unemployment.” While urbanization brings many positive changes, the related potential for dislocation and destabilization is the focus of the UN-Habitat for a better urban future.
  • 99 percent
    According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies 2015 report, “nearly 99 percent of urbanization between now and 2050 will take place in the developing world.” The report maps out urbanization as an economic opportunity for donors of developing nations, as long as urban challenges are addressed.
  • 80 percent
    In 2013, the World Bank reported that over 80 percent of global goods and services are produced in cities. Just the year before, “large cities made up 33 percent of the world’s global population, but produced more than 55 percent of all global economic output.” The amount of goods and services produced in cities exceeds those produced elsewhere in the world.
  • 82 percent
    The most urbanized region in the world is Northern America, with 82 percent urbanization, according to the U.N. Latin America and the Caribbean follow with 80 percent urbanization and Europe with 73 percent urbanization. Africa and Asia are urbanizing faster than any other region. While they are mostly rural now, Africa and Asia are projected to become 56 and 64 percent urban respectively by 2050.

Urbanization is spreading across the world at a growing pace. If managed properly, urbanization in developing countries can help lift many people out of poverty by providing better access to jobs, education and services. Supporting this goal is a worldwide effort.

Eliza Gresh

Photo: Flickr

Innovations Against PovertyEven with active funding partners, some development agencies may fall short if lacking internal infrastructure. While funding is certainly an important aspect of achieving sustainable development goals, it may be just as important to ensure that the strategists and support for development projects are up to date and relevant. SNV: Smart Development Works is a nonprofit that works toward providing such resources through an expansive network of professionals in a variety of different sectors. SNV works with policy experts, local governments, private business and institutes of higher learning to provide lasting differences in extremely poor communities.

SNV was founded in the Netherlands in the mid-’60s and has since established itself in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Expertise in sectors relating to agriculture, energy, water, sanitation and health have helped solve problems locally and provide sustainable solutions to poverty. SNV is funded by the Swedish International Development Agency and managed in partnership with BoP Innovation Center and Inclusive Business Sweden.

SNV has several projects on the ground and one in particular worth noting. Innovations Against Poverty is working in the private sector to develop products and services that can aid in fighting global poverty. This particular mission has focused its efforts on younger demographics as well as women in order to empower groups to shift gender and age paradigms. Companies can apply for the Innovations Against Poverty program to get funding that incentivizes innovation, entrepreneurship and consumption of goods and services in their communities.

Innovations Against Poverty was created with the idea that the private sector is a powerful mechanism for creating jobs and increasing incomes while also providing necessary goods and services to a community. Low-income markets in impoverished communities contain business opportunities that can be sustainably exploited with adequate startup funds and resources. Innovations Against Poverty exists to stimulate development where it otherwise would not exist, with financial support ranging from $60,000 to $200,000. Innovations Against Poverty gains a non-reimbursable capital return and provides advisory support for its investors. This support includes training and coaching from international experts. The program also narrows its support to cases that are not seen as “risk free”, thereby investing in businesses that may not receive support in most cases.

Innovations Against Poverty has registered over 1300 companies since its inception and is expected to grow. These innovative solution investments have primarily been made in Cambodia, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Zambia, with a focus in the agriculture and energy sectors. With continued success, Innovations Against Poverty can foster development in more countries all over the world.

Casey Hess

Photo: Flickr

Education_SuperpowersIn 2015, 72 countries participated in The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OCED) triennial Programme for International Student Assessment. The test examines 15-year-olds’ aptitude in reading, math and science. Singapore, China, Japan, South Korea, Estonia, Canada and Switzerland are consistently among the top 10 performing countries in all subjects, with Singapore ranking number one across the board.


  1. Singapore
  2. Japan
  3. Estonia
  4. Chinese Taipei
  5. Macao (China)


  1. Singapore
  2. Canada
  3. Ireland
  4. Estonia
  5. South Korea


  1. Singapore
  2. China
  3. Japan
  4. South Korea
  5. Switzerland

What makes these countries different from low performing ones? Four notable components emerge from experts’ conversations about what makes education superpowers successful.

  1. Equality and a strong education policy
  2. High-quality instructors
  3. Parental involvement
  4. Objectivity

Equality and education policy
There is only a narrow socioeconomic discrepancy between schools in the top-ranked countries, proof of a remarkably consistent educational system. For example, Canadian students score high regardless of being an economically advantaged or disadvantaged student.

In Macao and Vietnam, students with unfavorable socioeconomic conditions still outperform advantaged students internationally on PISA exams, citing a successful and consistent educational framework as one of the reasons for this.

High-quality teachers
The support and training for teachers in education superpower countries is extensive. These countries tend to have high salaries and comprehensive policy frameworks that support teachers and reflect the importance of teacher quality and preparation.

In a three-year study, the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education’s leading researcher Linda Darling-Hammond found that countries that best prepare their students focus on two things: building an effective and long-term educational system and professionalizing the teaching career.

The qualifications and training process of becoming a teacher are denser, but systems are in place to make this a more affordable process. In Canada, teachers are paid salaries comparable to that of engineers and other societal professionals. Singaporean primary school teachers earn an average of S$51,000 annually.

Parental involvement
In a comparative study reading parents’ involvement in the learning process between American and Chinese students, Cecilia Sin-Sze Cheung and Eva Pomerantz found that parental involvement was positively associated with the child’s achievement in both countries, especially in the education superpower of China.

Andreas Schleicher, OECD’s education director, argues that Singapore’s success is in part due to the high priority that parents in Asian countries put on education. This ultimately contributes to their child’s educational success and achievements.

Education superpowers don’t buy into the myths
Contrary to popular belief, a high rate of immigrants does not necessarily contribute to a lower success average in schools. In Canada’s case, embracing immigrant students has contributed to the overall success of the Canadian educational system.

OCED acknowledges that counties with high immigrant student populations are not associated with poor student performance.

The cost of being an education superpower
The top-performing countries also rank high on the World Health Organization’s adolescent suicide rate chart. Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea all near the top of both lists. Countries such as Albania and Peru that are among PISA’s lower test performers have a higher proportion of students who enjoy school.

Though preparing students for a global economy and cultivating abilities to compete on a universal level is worth applauding, it may be at the cost of happiness. The most important things for education superpowers to work on are reducing the stress put on students and making their education enjoyable as well as enriching.

Sloan Bousselaire

Photo: Flickr

Innovations for Poverty Action Conducts Research That Changes LivesWhen people donate money to nonprofits, they want to know that their money is being used well. The same goes for governments allocating funds for international aid. While money intended for alleviating poverty is rarely wasted, there are many different ways the funds could be used to help those in need. Sometimes, it is not clear what program the money should be put towards. Thankfully, there are organizations such as Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) that are dedicated to researching how to best help the poor.

IPA finds evidence of what works to help the poor and helps turn that evidence into better programs and policies. Working with top researchers in the field, IPA conducts randomized controlled trials. This method allows researches to isolate the effects of a program from other factors. Researchers will assign participants to separate groups, at random. One or more groups, known as “treatment” groups, receive a program and another group functions as the “control” group.

IPA develops strong connections in the countries in which they conduct research. These partnerships, along with a knowledge of local contexts, help make their research projects successful. Their teams work in 20 countries, with various NGOs and government institutions. IPA has more than 1,000 research staff who conduct research on the ground. Studies can last from a few months to years or even decades.

Jeffrey Mosenkis, a policy communications manager at IPA, told the Borgen Project that one IPA study in particular strikes him as particularly influential: a study on school-based deworming conducted from 1998 to 2001. The study took place within 75 primary schools in Busia, Kenya. The school-based deworming reduced serious worm infections by 61 percent and reduced school absenteeism by 25 percent. The study only cost $0.60 per child per year. A long-term follow-up study found that the deworming increased the rate at which girls passed their secondary school entrance exam by 9.6 percent and increased the likelihood that men would work in higher-wage jobs than their peers or engage in entrepreneurial activities. School-based deworming campaigns have expanded into Ethiopia, India and Kenya, reaching over 200 million children. Since then, researchers have also discovered that treating kids for parasites also helps their siblings do better in school.

“I think it was also an eye opener for the field of development, says Mosenkis, “because it showed that one of the most cost-effective education interventions was actually a health intervention, and helped sparked interest in using data and evidence to find the most effective programs, which might not be the ones we’d normally think of.”

Other important studies conducted by IPA include improving financial behavior with a tablet app, improving math skills in Paraguay, reducing child mortality with health promoters in Uganda and using mobile technology to fight malaria. These and other studies are conducted in places all over the globe. Sometimes the exact location of the study can present unique challenges. “It’s not just the country but the local area,” says Mosenkis, “how good the infrastructure, like the roads are, or electricity and phone access, that makes more of a difference in our day-to-day work collecting data than the national picture.”

IPA was started by Dean Karlan, after traveling throughout Latin American before grad school. What began originally as an idea pitched by Karlan to his graduate advisers at MIT became a nonprofit organization bridging the gap between academia and development policy in practice.

IPA plans to continue building on what it has already achieved. The plan is to continue creating useful evidence to answer the questions of decision-makers at the front lines of development. The work of IPA has been and will continue to be instrumental in improving the lives of the global poor.

Brock Hall
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Advancement in Developing CountriesMore countries are becoming developed, according to the 2016 Human Development Report done by the U.N. Development program. People are living longer, there are more social service programs and more children are enrolled in school. There is still more progress to be made in developing countries but, more than ever before, more countries are making significant advancements. While developing countries start to industrialize, it is important to keep in mind the environmental costs caused by more emissions in the air. To cut down on emission levels, it is important to invest in sustainable advancement in developing countries, so their economies can still grow but they can cut down on pollution at the same time.

According to CAIT Climate Data Explorer, there are a few developing countries – including Indonesia, India and Brazil – that are on the list of top 10 highest emitters of greenhouse gases. Additionally, CAIT’s 2017 report analysis shows that all developing countries contribute 60 percent of global emissions. This means that developing countries are growing industrially, but it also means there is a more negative impact on the environment that comes with this growth. In compliance with the Paris Agreement, developed countries are initiating programs to be more sustainable, so it is important to invest in sustainable practices in developing countries as well.

Sustainable advancement in developing countries is not hard to achieve. For example, the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project by ClimateWorks is a global collaboration program that identifies problems of carbon emissions and finds solutions, while still sustaining economic growth. Research done by the World Resource Institute shows that 21 countries have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by using sustainable practices, while still maintaining economic growth.

Knowing how beneficial sustainability can be for economic growth as well as for the environment, the U.N. has adopted Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. These goals are aimed at increasing human prosperity by giving access to education and equal rights, but balancing this with sustainable practices that will protect our planet. By combating these two issues at once, programs such as the Sustainable Development Goals will help developing countries prosper.

Deanna Wetmore

Photo: Flickr

The Egyptian EconomySince the Arab Spring rocked the Middle East in 2011, the countries fortunate enough to avoid devastating civil war were nonetheless impacted by the political turmoil in the region. Egypt was no exception.

However, even with several issues persisting in the Egyptian political and security spheres, the country looks to move forward with privatizing more sectors of its economy and has an overall positive economic outlook. The Egyptian economy, which has suffered from decades of bloated public sector employment, looks to revitalize its push for privatization in various sectors.

“That is the brake on reform,” said an anonymous government official in 2010, prior to the Arab Spring movement. His comments were pertaining to the overreliance on public sector employment. “They have grown up with the state doing everything: ‘You educate me, give me a degree, you give me a job, when I die you bury me — and I do nothing.'” While public sector employment is not altogether a negative, it is essential for private sector companies to flourish if there any hopes for growth.

In 2017, the privatization of the Egyptian economy is being rebooted by the government after encountering setbacks in years prior. The political fallout of the Arab Spring and subsequent policies undertaken by the Morsi and Sisi administrations had left a bad taste in the mouths of Egyptians regarding privatization.

However, after a tragic train collision this year on a government-owned rail line, it was understood that something needed to be done. Officials began drafting new laws that would allow private companies to improve existing lines, as well as grant them permission to operate their own stations. This will inevitably lead to the creation of jobs for Egyptians, a population that still suffers from almost 12 percent unemployment. Fortunately, this is the lowest it has been since the 2011 uprisings.

The Egyptian economy is slowly becoming a destination for foreign investment as well, even beating out South Africa for the top spot on the continent. In tandem with government reforms and an improving business climate, Egypt is attracting large sums of foreign money, most notably from Beijing.

“Currently [the European Union] is the biggest but I think China investors will grow rapidly… We’re in discussion with major players in terms of textiles and automotives. Those are two main projects we are in discussions with,” stated Trade Minister Tarek Kabil. This is in line with China’s growing presence on the continent.

Tourism is one of Egypt’s largest industries, and it has taken a severe hit since 2011. Fortunately, the country is seeing a slight uptick in tourism due to cheaper hotel deals as a result of certain currency policies. While the security situation continues to be a major factor in deterring potential tourists, this short-term low-cost trend will assist the tourism sector, which is a major pillar of the Egyptian economy.

The Egyptian economy undoubtedly suffered enormous setbacks in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. However, its position as the most populous Arab country paired with a strong economic outlook will allow Egyptians to look to the future with optimism.

Daniel Cavins

Photo: Flickr

Female Literacy Rate
In September 2017, a BBC News correspondent reported a 60-year old woman from East Africa, Florence Cheptoo, learning to read for the first time. This feat is surprisingly uncommon for Cheptoo’s demographic in Kenya.

Although Kenya is one of the “best-educated low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa,” the literacy rate among females, particularly the elderly, are lower than males. According to Global Ageing Campaign, “literacy rates among older people – especially older women – remain low and are often lower than for the population as a whole.”

The literacy rates among women have increased exponentially within the last 30 years, since the National Literacy Campaign launched in Kenya in 1979. During this time, according to a study from the International Review of Education, around 35 percent of males 15 and older and 70 percent of females in the same age group were illiterate. Furthermore, 93 percent of women over the age of 55 could not read.

In 1993, women comprised 70 percent of those enrolled in the adult literacy programs in Kenya, due to a lack of available educational opportunities for girls. Prior to the National Literacy Campaign, Cheptoo, who was born in 1957, did not receive support from her parents for education, encouraged instead to get married and have children. This is typical in sub-Saharan Africa, where females are often persuaded to marry early and are “unlikely to find any professional opportunities that enable economic self-sufficiency,” according to Daraja Academy.

Today, the female literacy rate is 74.9 percent, compared to the literacy rate of males at 81.1 percent, a stark difference from the literacy rates of the past. The female literacy rate is continually increasing with the support of secondary schools for girls including Daraja Academy and Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy, which allow females of the future generations to secure an education.

Adult literacy programs are bridging the education gap for women who did not receive proper schooling in their youth. These literacy programs are a turning point for women, like Cheptoo, and provide them with learning opportunities to increase their knowledge of the world that surrounds them.

Ashley Howard

Photo: Flickr

Global EducationAustralian Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop has been very vocal about her devotion to global education. With 264 million youth out of school across the globe, Bishop has recognized the importance of supporting this cause.

Australia, a new member of the United Nations Human Rights Council, has been setting an example for other countries to assist in raising money for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) fund.

Australia’s role in supporting global education is vital. The GPE is in need of $3.1 billion, which will only be attainable if major G20 countries increase their contribution by at least 30 percent. Bishop’s decision to increase Australia’s contribution is paving the way for other countries to follow suit. Thus far, Australia’s dedication to global education has had a positive influence in other countries.

Recently, Australian Vocational Education and Skills Assistant Minister Karen Andrews visited Sri Lanka, a country in close collaboration with Australia in its global education efforts. Andrews used this mission to look at higher education and research opportunities in Sri Lanka, specifically in fields of engineering, information technology, maritime services, hospitality and tourism.

Many Sri Lankans are looking to migrate to Australia, so the partnership is beneficial to both parties. Together, Australia and Sri Lanka are creating more education opportunities that are affordable, high quality and have the ability to reach more youths.

Australia’s investment in Sri Lankan education has reflected the efforts discussed by Bishop, making Australia’s words into more powerful actions.

“I will be speaking to Foreign Minister Bishop about further opportunities for Australia and Sri Lanka,” Andrews said regarding the budding relationship between the two countries.

With the efforts Australia is making, the work it has done in Sri Lanka and Bishop’s devotion to global education, Australia has the power to change the fate of the 264 million children who currently do not have the privilege of receiving an education.

Kassidy Tarala

Photo: Flickr

Importance of Global Education
There are several nonprofit organizations whose missions are to better education in developing countries so that every student has access to equal opportunities. A lot of these programs include funding for teacher associations to ensure that schools are not just well equipped with supplies, but with qualified teachers as well. The Harvard Graduate School of Education is one university whose graduates are qualified to teach any group of students around the world. Their program teaches the importance of global education and prepares students who have an interest in teaching internationally.

The program is called the International Education Policy (IEP) and its aim is to teach students a wide variety of understanding so that graduates can help multiple groups of students around the world. Students learn things from how to improve girls’ education to ways to deliver HIV/AIDS education. Students also learn to design their own innovative programs for schools and how to effectively use those programs to improve the quality of education. Other things that the students learn is how to promote peace, teach about relevant issues and empower students.

Some IEP graduates work with nonprofit organizations such as UNICEF, Save the Children and the World Bank. As education specialists within these organizations, they are policy makers for education worldwide. Some graduates also act as social entrepreneurs and create their own organizations to help with global education.

One graduate of the program, Sara Ahmed, co-founded the Elm International School in Alexandria, Egypt. Ahmed started the school with three goals that she wanted the school to meet. She wanted it to be a student centered environment, use technology as a tool and be internationally minded while still being locally rooted. Ahmed said in an interview, conducted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, “I wanted a school that I would dream of for my own children.”

Another graduate, Jeff Decelles, started a program called Ragball International, which is based in South Africa. This program takes soccer balls that are created with thrown away plastic by local youths and sells them internationally. The youths making the ragballs also participate in a program that teaches them how to save and set financial goals. The program also teaches students the importance of recycling and re-enforcing the positive impact that reusing has on the environment.

There are many more positive steps that graduates of the IEP program are making towards global education. The most important outcome of this program is that it promotes the importance of global education. With more teachers equipped with knowledge and initiative to make a difference in global education, they can help improve education for students worldwide.

Deanna Wetmore

Photo: Google