Hunger in Asia
According to UNICEF, “In 2015, more than half of all stunted children under five lived in Asia.” Further, the organization notes that the wasting rate in Southern Asia is close to being “a critical public health emergency.” In light of these concerning statistics, research has illuminated how an interdisciplinary female-focused approach to fighting hunger in Asia is the key to success for both child nutrition and the overall health of the community.

Gender inequality is more prevalent in South Asia than other parts of the continent, with a gender inequality index measuring .0536. This is on a scale from 0 being completely equal to 1 being not equal — the ratings in Singapore and The Republic of Korea are 0.088 and 0.125 respectively. Data suggests that improvements in women’s equality may hold the key to reducing South Asia’s current child undernutrition rate of 36%.

Groundbreaking research carried out in 1998 by the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C., showed that gender inequality plays a large role in malnutrition.

While analyzing global data, the authors Smith and Haddad showed that improvement in women’s status and improvement in women’s enrollment in secondary education was responsible for over half of the reductions in child malnutrition.

Other major factors, such as food availability and improvements in a health environment, contributed to only 26% and 19% of the malnutrition reductions, respectively.

Further publications such as the World Bank Global Monitoring Report of 2007 highlight how creating diverse opportunities for women can directly combat hunger in Asia. Education benefits child nutrition by increasing access to information for expectant and current mothers and child malnutrition decreases when women have more control of the household’s resources.

Nutrition is not only important for child growth but is also an investment in preventative health. The danger of not supporting female-focused initiatives is potent, due to the foundational importance of nutrition on well-being.

Over 5 million individuals are currently living with HIV in Asia, according to UNAIDS, with 19,000 new infections in children in 2015 alone. In malnourished patients, HIV quickly progresses toward AIDS due to the immune system’s lack of essential nutrients.

Other opportunistic infections, such as tuberculosis, which is present in its “latent” non-active form in one-third of the world’s population, can then thrive in the absence of a functional immune system and can threaten entire communities.

However, focused efforts are being made to improve nutrition with an interdisciplinary approach. CARE International, a U.K. based company, sponsored the Shouhardo Project in Bangladesh to fight child malnutrition through women’s empowerment.

By implementing community initiatives to confront early marriage, prevent violence against women, give more power to women in business transactions and have more political power in the local sphere, outcomes changed.

Before the project began, less than 25% of women reported being involved in decisions to buy or sell family assets, or use savings. At the end of the study period, almost 50% of women were included in such decisions. As a result, the data collected showed a 30% drop in child stunting.

More initiatives in Asia are focusing on women’s role in child well-being, such as the Every Woman Every Child movement, which recently launched a campaign to use mobile phones to educate women on nutrition for their children in India.

India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) has partnered with the Food and Agriculture organization of the U.N. to boost economic opportunities for women in rural areas, with the direct goal of fighting nutrition through such avenues.

These programs are evidence of why female leadership is so important, especially in an area where gender inequality is prominent. As such initiatives develop and are supported, communities will see unprecedented gains in the fight against hunger.

Patrick Tolosky
Photo: Flickr

Investing_in_WomenThis past month a division of the United Nations held a meeting in Kenya in support of women and children. It was a gathering of the U.N.’s Global Financing Facility (GFF) to provide funds for the Every Woman Every Child initiative.

The Every Woman Every Child program was created by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to address the issue of reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health (RMNCAH) in the developing world. By investing in women and children, it aims to reduce the number of maternal deaths from childbirth and also the number of children that die from lack of medical attention.

The funds from the GFF came at a perfect time, as Kenya is trying to address these issues at home. The health of women and children are of particular importance to Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta who was in attendance.

The First Lady addressed the Every Woman Every Child meeting to stress its importance for Kenya’s health and economy. “Investing in women and children is a smart foundation for sustainable development,” said Kenyatta. Improving the RMNCAH of nation helps lay a foundation for economic growth and development.

The funding for the Every Women Every Child program comes primarily from the GFF. The U.N. uses the GFF as its main financing platform for the program and uses a breakthrough financing model that unites nations, international donors, and the private sector. All of these parties contribute to help support advancements in the health of women and children.Investing_in_Women

The GFF was announced in September 2014 after exhaustive meetings with national governments and major institutions like the World Health Organization, the World Bank and UNICEF. Its mission is to close the $33 Billion financing gap between rich and poor nations for women and children’s health by 2030. This organization is unconventional in the sense that these multiple parties unite to invest in a nation’s domestic resources and its health infrastructure, rather than just giving aid.

This investment aid is essential for developing nations because it allows them to grow and sustain their infrastructures. The GFF pride themselves on smart financing that is based on evidence from the WHO to achieve results and sustainability. This developmental aid allows the healthcare infrastructure to become successful and grow larger which provides access to more people. It also ensures that the infrastructure grows at the same rate as the economy.

The GFF was primarily created to ensure the success of the U.N.’s Every Woman Every Child program. The UN believes this initiative can improve the lives of millions by investing in women and children.

It also believes it will determine whether its Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals will succeed. First Lady Kenyatta echoed these sentiments when she said that the SDGs will only be achieved with the proper support from leaders.

She also noted that the health of women and children is important to almost every aspect of human development and progress, and it is the cornerstone of public health. Healthy women and children create a strong base for a healthy nation. This healthy nation can then focus on improving the economy which in turn stabilizes the politics and creates social harmony. The basis of a developed nation is the good health of its women and children.

With an initial budget of $40 Billion, the UN hopes the Every Woman Every Child program will help reduce poverty and improve the lives of millions.

Andrew Wildes

Sources: Every Woman Every Child, Global Financing Facility, KBC, World Bank 1, World Bank 2
Photo: UN Multimedia, Flickr

10 Breakthroughs That Will Help Women and Children
Since the Millennium Development Goals were adopted in 2000, global poverty has nearly halved. There have been huge advancements in medicine and more people than before having access to clean drinking water.

However, despite these advancements, women and children are still the most at risk. Because of the uneven progress in reducing global poverty for women and children, the Every Woman Every Child movement was started. Policymakers, donors, healthcare professionals and many others come together to find a solution to the uneven progress in reducing global poverty for women and children.

PATH released a list of Top 10 Technologies in 2015 for Women and Children that will help achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Here is a summary of each:

For Women:
1. Nonpneumatic AntiShock Garment is used to prevent postpartum hemorrhaging. It compresses the body and circulates blood to the vital organs after the mother has given birth.

2. Magnesium Sulfate is a low-cost, effective drug in treating life-threatening convulsions, preeclampsia and eclampsia, all pregnancy-related conditions.

3. Sayana Press is a new form of injectable contraceptive that is packaged in a one-time use, simple to administer needle. This increases women’s access to contraceptives and eliminates the risk of transmitting disease through sharing needles.

For Newborns:
4. Helping Babies Breathe is a program and simulator created to train 1 million birth attendants to make sure the baby takes it’s first breath, regardless of where it is born.

5. Chlorhexidine is a low-cost antiseptic that prevents the disease from entering the baby’s system through the newly-cut umbilical cord.

6. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Device is designed to help premature babies breathe. It is an air and water pump system that gently flows pressurized air into the baby’s lungs.

For Children:
7. Kit Yamoyo is a bundled package of zinc and oral rehydration solution, which are affordable diarrhea treatment. Cola Life created the Kit Yamoyo to pack with Coca-Cola bottles that are delivered to Africa to spread the cure to diarrhea.

8. Phone Oximeter is a low-cost mobile health platform that allows people to test their blood oxygen levels using a sensor on the phone to test for pneumonia. The device then tells them the diagnosis and treatment options without needing access to a doctor.

9. Rotavac is an effective vaccine to cure rotavirus, the cause of deadly diarrhea. It costs $1 per dose and has already become widely available in India, changing the lives of thousands.

10. Backpack PLUS Project is a toolkit made to empower health workers in areas where the patients may never be within proximity to a doctor. The prototype includes medicines, diagnostics and supplies to increase the number of lives saved.

– Hannah Resnick

Sources: PATH, Every Woman Every Child
Photo: African Union


Access to contraception is a basic human right to which too few of us around the world have access. The 2012 FP2020 Summit in London, which brought together the U.K. government, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and over 20 national governments, agreed to help knock down the economic, political and cultural barriers that prevent women from having a say in how and when they have children. FP2020 is committed to providing access to contraception and educating women on safe and cost-effective methods of birth control. It is working to provide universal availability to voluntary contraceptive materials and services. Through promoting transparency and neutrality in government efforts to establish these resources, the Summit tracks data to ensure that the most at-risk, underprivileged women and girls are reached by their efforts.

To help provide materials and information to these women, the countries have pledged a combined $2.6 billion in funding. Its goal is to increase access to birth control and other contraceptives to 120 million women by 2020. To accomplish this goal, the Summit plans to:

  •  Track progress on fulfilling financial and political commitments through the U.N. Secretary General’s Every Women Every Child program
  • Report on the progress of individual countries toward the FP2020 goals
  • Identify obstacles standing in the way of Summit goals and propose solutions to them
  • Confirm contraceptive materials are distributed evenly and accepted voluntarily; ensure that there is no force in giving out and taking the materials
  • Publish annual updates on the progress of the Summit in individual countries

The predicted number of women at a reproductive age is 250 million, globally. Thus, the Summit commitments require innovation, such as technological development. One such invention is CycleBeads, a phone app that helps a woman track her menstrual cycle to plan for or prevent pregnancy. Developed by the Institute for Reproductive Health and iHub research, CycleBeads is available through both an online and text-based service and is based off the Standard Days Method for family planning that has been in use in the United States for decades. This invention has started in Nairobi, Kenya and will aid in the fulfillment of the FP2020 goals.

Marie Stopes International, an organization that attended the Summit, has recently pledged to provide contraceptives to 12 million women by 2020, reaching 10 percent of the population outlined by the FP2020 goal. Through partnerships and advocacy, Marie Stopes has already reached 3 million women in Sub-Saharan Africa. Through technological innovation and commitment by governments and organizations, the FP2020 goals, although lofty, can become reality.

– Jenna Wheeler

Sources: Impatient Optimists 1, Impatient Optimists 2, Family Planning 2020,
Photo: Family Planning 2020

Every Woman Every Child is working to save the lives of 16 million women and children by 2015. Focusing on addressing the major challenges facing women and children all over the globe, Every Woman Every Child works to enhance financing, strengthen policy and improve service on the ground for women and children in need.

Launched by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit in 2010, the initiative would mean saving the lives of 16 million women and children, preventing 33 million unwanted pregnancies, ending growth stunting in 88 million children and protecting 120 million children from pneumonia.

Improving the health of women and children is critical to nearly every area of human development and progress. Research shows that the health of women and children is the foundation of creating healthy societies.

According to Women and Health Alliance International, every year half a million women die during pregnancy or because of problems during childbirth. While the mother’s death is horrible enough in itself, the structure of the entire family is damaged to a point of collapse.

Economies cannot grow and social stability cannot increase without first building up public health services. The Every Woman Every Child initiative recognizes that all factors have an important contribution to make in the movement, from the private sector to civil society.

At the 2010 launch more than $40 billion was pledged to the cause. However, more help is necessary to reach the 2015 goal. The secretary-general is asking the international community for additional commitments not just fiscally, but in the form of policy and human service delivery on the ground.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described his enthusiasm for the project, stating,“Every Woman Every Child. This focus is long overdue. With the launch of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, we have an opportunity to improve the health of hundreds of millions of women and children around the world, and in so doing to improve the lives of all people.”

— Caroline Logan

Sources: Every Woman Every Child, UN Foundation, WAHA
Photo: Peace and Security