95% Discount on HPV Vaccines for Girls in Poverty

HPV vaccines costing an average of $130 a dose in the United States will now be offered in poor countries for as low as $4.50 a dose, a monumental step made possible by the generous and focused work of the GAVI Alliance. These vaccines help prevent strains of human papillomavirus, or HPV, that cause almost 75% of cervical cancers.

According to GlaxoSmithKline and Merck, the two pharmaceutical companies offering these deeply slashed prices, more than 85% of cervical cancer deaths occur in the developing world. “We hope that this will help reduce the burden of cervical cancer and positively impact future generations,” said GSK President and General Manager Christophe Weber in a press release. GSK already supplies 80% of its total vaccine volume to developing countries.

The GAVI Alliance, formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, was launched under a generous donation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 1999; the Alliance works to partner charitable donations with private pharmaceutical companies by negotiating significantly lower vaccine costs for countries in need. This model has allowed over 370 million children to receive immunizations since GAVI’s founding.

In the next few months, GAVI will provide support to countries worldwide by carrying out demonstration programs that raise awareness among the vaccination target group — pre-adolescents — which will allow countries to incorporate the vaccine into their own immunization programs.

– Naomi Doraisamy

Sources: GAVI Alliance, Merck
Photo: Polifaso

Health Care Sector in Nigeria Receives $60M

The African Health Markets for Equity partnership is taking a $60 million investment from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development to work with the International Finance Corporation to improve the health care sector in Nigeria.

AHME’s focus is on increasing coverage of priority health technologies and interventions for poor Nigerians by building on past investments. The partnership works with organizations that are already strong in specific areas, including: Marie Stopes International, Grameen Foundation, SafeCare, Population Services International, PharmAccess, and the Society for Family Health Nigeria. IFC will give technical support to AHME’s partners in Nigeria.

According to the AHME website, the five-year program will focus on increasing the scope and scale of franchised health care. This will mean expanding from family planning and sexual and reproductive health to also focus on malaria, acute respiratory infections, nutrition, maternal care, diarrhea, HIV and tuberculosis. AHME also operates in Kenya and Ghana.

In Nigeria the investment will target health care providers like hospitals, pharmacies, and clinics. By the end of the five year program the World Bank said it expects at least 300 rural health facilities will have benefitted from the support funneled through the AHME project. More than 60 percent of health care in Nigeria is currently supplied by private providers.

Khama Rogo, the lead health sector specialist with the World Bank said in a World Bank Facebook post about the Nigerian partnership, “there is a big health market in Nigeria that’s untapped, leveraging on this through private providers would improve access to the poor… Nigerians have specialists all over the world. If these needed facilities are here, there is nothing stopping them from coming to be of service here. “

Rogo estimated that 1 million people over the next five years could gain access to healthcare through the project. Currently many potential patients are effectively denied healthcare because they must pay for it at the point of delivery.

The project will invest in upgrading health facilities and supporting staff strength and resources by strategically working in several different areas, including policy, quality improvement, and health care provider access to capital and demand-side financing in the form of innovative ways to address how patients can afford healthcare.

– Liza Casabona

Sources: World Bank Nigeria, African Health Markets for Equity, The Eagle Online
Photo: Telegraph

The future of toilets in poor countries
What does the future of toilets in poor countries look like? The Gates Foundation hosted a competition to reinvent the toilet to process human waste without utilizing piped water, sewer or electrical connections and to transform waste into useful resources like water and energy.

The grand prize design was a solar-powered toilet that creates hydrogen and electricity. The second place prize was taken by a toilet that creates biological charcoal, minerals and clean water. A toilet that sanitizes feces and urine and recovers resources and creates clean water won third place.

Why all the excitement about toilets? In a nutshell, return on investments in sanitation is huge. For every dollar spent on sanitation, 5.5 dollars are returned. At a national level, lack of access to proper sanitation costs countries up to 7 percent of their GDP. In addition to being a smart investment, investing in sanitation is also a moral imperative. Diarrhea is the cause of an estimated 5000 child deaths every day. In areas where people defecate in the open or share large community bathrooms, women and girls are more frequently victimized.

Despite these striking numbers, improved sanitation is neglected at every political level. Without a drastic shift in strategies and the courage to undertake this stigmatized issue, the Millennium Development target of cutting the proportion of the population without access to clean water and basic sanitation by a half will be missed by a long shot.

In addition to the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, the government of India is running multiple campaigns to improve sanitation such as the “No toilet, no bride” campaign and an information and shaming campaign aimed at changing the culture of open-space defecation.

The World Bank also recently wrapped up a sanitation hackathon where mobile phone application developers were challenged to create apps to improve sanitation. Many involved mapping public toilets and reporting malfunctioning toilets. Several were designed as games to teach children good sanitation.

Katherine Zobre

Sources: Gates Foundation , Global Poverty Project
Photo: The Guardian

Digital Green Strengthens Food Security

With children suffering from malnourishment all over the world, and people hungry for food, it would be amazing if simple tools could be implemented to create substantive change. The incredible reality is that so many researched techniques have now been established, with dramatic benefits. The problem is that most small, rural farmers in the developing world do not know about them.

For example, a fern called Azolla which can be easily cultivated, if added to animal feed can boost the production of cows milk by 15 to 20 percent.  Or a System of Rice Intensification (SRI), which involves transplanting rice saplings, and tending them in a certain way, can produce marked crop increases. SRI is called one of the most important agricultural innovations of the past 50 years, yet it is only known to a fraction of farmers.

For Rikin Gandhi, one of the great paradoxes of today’s world is that information is so easily transmitted, yet efforts share life-saving information to critical people is so ineffective. This was a problem he wanted to solve. An American-born software engineer working in India for Microsoft Research, Gandhi spent six months in villages experimenting with communication formats — posters, TV shows, locally-made videos, public screenings, home screenings. His impactful discovery was that short, 8 to 10 minute videos that featured local farmers (both men and women, as most agricultural work in India are done by women) talking about their experiences was the most effective method of information dissemination. Films were screened locally with a facilitator who engaged discussion, and farmers were finally highly engaged with the new information, and consequently utilized the practices. Gandhi found that when sessions were actively facilitated, people remained and participated, if not, farmers left quickly. Farmers were more likely to adopt new practices if they heard about them from someone of a similar socio-economic background, speaking the same dialect, and without too much formal expertise.

Kentaro Toyama, Gandhi’s boss at Microsoft, set up trials to test Gandhi’s approach. Among 1,470 households in 16 villages, they found that increased adoption of some agricultural practices increased by seven-times, and the cost to get one farmer to adopt one new practice dropped by ten-times (from $38 to $3.70, with this video-based model).

So Gandhi created Digital Green – a platform and process for extending knowledge and influencing behavior. Gandhi and his colleagues established the NGO and The Gates Foundation provided support. It produces locally made videos in India’s rural areas, using locals, requiring only a battery-powered “pico” projector and mini speakers, which can fit in a backpack, then projected onto a wall or sheet – a major logistical advantage. See some here.

Today, Digital Green works in 2,000 villages in India, 100 in Ethiopia, and 50 in Ghana. Working with a variety of partners, it has produced 2,600 videos that have been viewed by 157,000 farmers. It reports that 41 percent of viewers in the last two months have adopted at least one practice. Gandhi now has 60 colleagues working with him and plans to be reaching 10,000 villages by 2015.

– Mary Purcell

Source: NY Times

Gates Foundation Wants New Condoms

Bill Gates is asking investors and scientists to develop a new gadget—an improved condom.

It may seem like a job for Trojan, but the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation wants new condoms. The unique request is part of its “Grand Challenges in Global Health” initiative. The program awards grants of $100,000 and follow-up grants of as much as $1 million to individuals who develop solutions to global health issues. The latest report details successful recipients combating malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis.

According to the Grand Challenges website, “Condoms have been in use for about 400 years yet they have undergone very little technological improvement in the past 50 years.” The only major improvements include the switch to latex and quality control measures to test each individual condom during production. Both of these measures increased the effectiveness of condoms, but the basic design of condoms has yet to transform.

Condoms are the most ubiquitous defense against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. This undervalued resource is a lifesaver in developing countries.  Condoms should be necessary for sexual health, but many men and women shy away from using them due to discomfort, societal stigmas, and reduced sensation. Some cultures perceive condom use as a sign that the person has AIDS.

The Gates Foundation hopes to eliminate these concerns so more people will use condoms regularly. The challenge seeks to make prophylactics more user friendly. “If we could make something better, we could have a really substantial effect on HIV prevention and unintended pregnancy in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia,” said Stephen Ward, a program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The program is limited to condoms rather than multi-purpose prevention devices (such as vaginal rings) because these programs are not readily available worldwide. The condom is still simple enough that it can be distributed at a low cost. Not to mention, condoms are useful even in communities that lack health care professionals.  “Any advance or new design that gets people to use condoms would be a big plus,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the world’s leading AIDS researchers.

Applicants must complete a two-page application by May 7. Two frontrunners have already emerged. Origami, a California company, focused on usability and comfort. They are creating a new silicone injection-molded condom.  University of Washington researchers look to increase the effectiveness of anti-HIV drugs.  Their model features electrically spun fabric that allows sperm-blocking drugs to dissolve more quickly.

Whitney M. Wyszynski
Source: Co.Exist
Photo: CNET

It was announced on Monday that President Obama will nominate a former Gates Foundation official, Sylvia Burwell, as the next budget director. The announcement comes at a time of severe administrative budgeting issues and strong disagreement between the parties over how best to fix them. In the role, Ms. Burwell would assist the White House in developing its overdue 2014 budget proposal.

Sylvia Burwell’s background in economic policy and non-profit administration qualifies her for the position. She was president of the Gates Foundation Global Development program from 2006 to 2011, and served as the organization’s chief operating officer from 2001 to 2006. She has run the Walmart Foundation, the company’s philanthropic and charitable branch, since 2011.

The fact that Obama will nominate a former Gates Foundation official for the position of budget director is encouraging for those engaged in the fight against global poverty.

The Gates Foundation, headquartered in Seattle, WA, is a $36 billion national organization dedicated to improving health and fighting poverty worldwide. The Global Development division is devoted to finding and implementing solutions to extreme global poverty in the areas of agricultural development, family health care, and many more.

Founded by Bill and Melinda Gates, the Gates Foundation shares many of the same goals as the Borgen Project and the Millennium Development Goals.

Kat Henrichs

Sources: Seattle Times, New York Times
Photo: Gates Foundation

Bill Gates on "Why Measurement Matters"

Bill Gates currently leads one of the most successful and far-reaching humanitarian organizations. Despite constant criticism on his attempts to maximize investments, Bill Gates’ focus on ‘Why Measurement Matters’ in his 2013 Letter may be the perfect question to “help drive global change”.

Every year Bill Gates writes a letter on behalf of his and his wife Melinda’s foundation. Inspiring stories, powerful words, and optimism fill up several pages along with photos of villagers. This year however, Mr. Gates sounded more similar to a business consultant than a humanitarian. His campaign “Why Does Measurement Matter” discusses the need to think in the most basic terms: quality over quantity. Instead of asking governments to increase their funding for foreign aid, organizations must begin training their volunteers and workers to begin thinking like business owners. Collecting data, mapping progress, accepting failures, and brainstorming for solutions all need to be incorporated into the daily tasks for health clinics, schools, and centers around the world.

Mr. Gates illustrates that keeping records, enforcing strict organization, and creating a comfortable environment for workers are key to ensuring the effectiveness of a non-profit humanitarian organization. In a business, financial analysts track the rising and falling of stock prices over decades; marketing directors report successful or failing advertisement techniques; CEOs receive reports on company losses and gains. These techniques must become commonplace within humanitarian organizations not only to ensure their donors that their money is being put to good use, but be able to guarantee successful projects.

But does mimicking a business model go against the basic purpose of a non-profit? A business’ goal is to make profit while an NPO or NGO focuses on increasing the well-being of individuals or a community. So then why do most people automatically associate the word ‘profit’ with money? Business models work for for-profit companies not only because they are designed specifically to help increase the company’s sales and worth but because they incorporate common sense and basic administrative work to achieve set goals.

One of the examples in Bill Gates 2013 Annual Letter of how new measuring techniques can bring about efficiency is the increase of children’s immunization in Ethiopia. Even with health clinics spread out in the most rural areas, accurate record keeping of birth certificates and simple organization helps clinic workers collect a significant amount of data. These records identify which areas need focus, as well as mapping the appearance and disappearance of diseases.

Bill Gates does not suggest a dramatic increase in funding or introduce expensive materials. He does not suggest holding conferences with major donor countries or criticizing local organizations for failing to meet their goals. The simple solution comes down to “quality monitoring…setting clear goals, picking the right approach, and then measuring the results to get feedback”. Yet as simple as this approach may be to a business manager, this solution is much harder to achieve naturally in poorer countries. Heads of organizations must create a work environment in which volunteers and employees will feel comfortable reporting negative results. Therefore, it is important understand the necessity of not cutting corners when taking down vital information of patients who come into the clinics.

Through simple and realistic propositions, Bill Gates 2013 Annual Letter offers: a focused resolution for revitalizing humanitarian organizations, to debunk the myth that foreign aid is a waste, and to encourage organizations around the globe that defeating extreme poverty, child mortality, and the spread of diseases is an obtainable goal.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: Gates Foundation
Video: Gates Foundation