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FPOP_Philippines_Family_Planning
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of Health commended a volunteer based organization in the Philippines named the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP). The group, located in Iloilo City, teaches young students in poor villages about preventing unplanned pregnancy and provides reproductive education. Many low-income families living in the Philippines do not have access to family planning services, so the Filipino volunteer organization has been working diligently to provide this much needed information.

Volunteers for FPOP complete extensive training in preparation to teach adolescents about reproductive health. These volunteers are able to educate students on family planning, the importance of preventing teen pregnancy, and birth spacing. The FPOP also reaches out to the LGBT community for peer counseling, thus providing a safe and open place for these students to ask questions and learn about sexual health.

The FPOP in Iloilo City has partnered with the Department of Education to incorporate reproductive education and family planning into the current school curriculum. Now, students in the 5th and 6th grade may learn about preventing pregnancy in science, health or social studies classes. So far, one elementary school and one high school have begun to include FPOP information in their classrooms.

Six barangays, or small villages, have seen the benefits of the FPOP. Not only are students better educated on topics that greatly affect their futures, but they also have the opportunity to positively interact with mentors from the FPOP. Clearly, this is a wonderful organization that deeply impacts its community and deserves praise from USAID.

– Mary Penn

Source: Sun Star Iloilo
Photo: FPOP

India_USAID_Maternal_Health
The U.S. Agency for International Development has partnered with two other philanthropic organizations to improve health care for mothers, adolescent girls, and children throughout India. Along with USAID, the Kiawah Trust and Dasra have created a $14 million collaboration to tackle the health issues that women face. Currently, nearly 67,000 women in India die annually due to childbirth or pregnancy, and nearly 50 percent of children under five years old experience continuous malnutrition. The three organizations hope to commission various other parties in creating new solutions that fight current maternal and child morality rates.

Administrator of USAID, Dr. Rajiv Shah, said that although India has made great strides towards eradicating hunger and poverty, innovation alone will not be enough to completely end the issues that plague the poor in the country – local collaboration and partnerships are crucial “to achieving unprecedented gains in human health, prosperity, and dignity.”

Dr. Shah went on to address India’s various businesses, financial organizations, and investors aid in the fight against barriers to increasing development by creating alliances between the private and public sectors, and asserted that solutions created in India could also be put into practice in other developing nations in order to fight poverty.

Dasra, India’s largest philanthropic organization, published a report on female health in India showing that “the root cause of maternal and child mortality is closely linked to the age of marriage and first pregnancy.” Other crucial factors for health affected by age of marriage and pregnancy are hygiene and sanitation, level of education, and access to clean drinking water.

Dasra’s representative, Deval Sanghavi, said that many types of involvement and capital is needed “to collectively find impactful and scalable solutions for the millions of women and children living in poverty in our country.  This collaboration has the potential to build collective action and attract like-minded parties.”

Christina Kindlon

Source: USAID
Photo: UNICEF

SXSW-Interactive-Festival
There is some unimaginable technology in this day and age, especially when it comes to its application in developing countries. Many of us are aware of the wonders that small-tech devices can have in education and micro-financed businesses. But when it comes to health related technology, things can get more expensive and less mobile. Premiering at this year’s SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas is a series of devices that may be the new tools for health clinics around the world with the potential to reduce the cost of expensive equipment, improve patient record keeping, and most importantly save lives.

The Interactive Festival at SXSW is one of the earlier showcases of the multi-tiered festival in Austin. From ‘TED talk’ like presentations to interactive gaming and activities, festival goers can peruse and try-out different gadgets and new technology.

One of the larger exhibits displays products centered around the “quantified self” movement. Recently, apps and personal devices have come on the market and allow individuals to monitor and track certain aspects of their daily lives to better improve their health. While many of these programs are not quite adjusted for use in developing countries, there were some products that have the potential to be used in countries where large machinery and regular doctor visits are uncommon and difficult.

As part of GE’s Healthymagination Initiative, a new blood glucose monitor has been developed that is not only physically smaller than a normal monitoring system, but stores and charts information such as insulin, glucose, and carbohydrate levels. While blood sugar levels may not be the biggest concern in areas with a number of cases of communicable diseases, its a health concern nonetheless that can now be easily monitored by health clinic workers.

Another invention is the breast cancer-detecting bra. Mammograms run a bit expensive and thus may be low on a priority list for women who struggle to barely feed their children. An initial investment in these bras that monitor on the longer-scale any signs of breast cancer can help women in villages without immediate access to a doctor

While all these life saving devices sound truly amazing, it is of course only with time that their affordability will come to a level in which organizations can buy and or donate them to health clinics around the world. What would work even better is if those at GE’s Healthymagination Initiative focused on the needs of those living in more impoverished conditions and how certain devices would lower their risks of diseases and other health risks. Or even better, if they came together to donate the devices directly to families in need.

– Deena Dulgerian
Source: NPR

Golden_Rice_End_World_Hunger
Dr. Gerard Barry, project leader for the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), is developing a type of genetically modified rice called “Golden Rice.” This rice contains the essential nutrient beta-carotene, the source of vitamin A, which is often lacking in the diets of people living in poverty. The GMO rice is referred to as “Golden” because beta-carotene produces an orange color once added to the rice. Dr. Barry and IRRI are working to address vitamin A deficiency in developing countries and hope that Golden Rice is the answer.

In an interview with National Public Radio, Dr. Barry spoke enthusiastically about engineering new types of rice pointing out that it is the staple food of a couple billion people. His passion for the crop led to a career at IRRI and he quickly began working on Golden Rice which he explains has the potential to greatly benefit those living in impoverished conditions. IRRI hopes to distribute the GMO rice in Bangladesh and the Philippines, where the institute is located.

Vitamin A deficiency is a result of malnourishment and a limited diet. The consequences of this deficiency include tissue damage, blindness, and a weakened immune system. For those millions of people affected by vitamin A deficiency, one cup of Golden Rice a day could provide half the amount needed for a healthy diet. “This product has the potential to reduce the suffering of women and children and save lives,” said Dr. Barry. IRRI is working with nonprofit organizations to ensure the super rice reaches those who need it most. Once it has passed food and safety regulations, we will begin to see the real impact of Golden Rice.

– Mary Penn
Source: IrishCentral
Photo: Forbes

indonesia-shackling
For many Indonesians, having a mental health condition can be like a prison sentence — literally. “Pasung,” or shackling, is still a common practice in many areas of the country, particularly in rural areas with little capacity for medical treatment. Those who are seen as suffering from mental illness are sometimes bound and held captive behind their home, or inside a small room. Those who engage in “pasung” believe that they need to restrict the mentally ill from attacking or hurting themselves or others. However, shackling has been banned as a solution for mental illness in Indonesia since 1977.

As a member of a Parliamentary Health Commission, Nova Rianti Yusuf claims that “pasung” persists because people “cannot afford mental health care and [try] to escape stigma associated with mental illness.” Unfortunately for many of those individuals who are shackled, there was often no official diagnosis before they were victimized.

Indonesia is working to centralize its mental health system in order to better serve its large population, which is the fourth largest out of all the countries in the world. A psychiatrist known simply as Asmarahadi, who works at a state mental hospital in Jakarta, claims that conditions have drastically improved over the past decade. The old problems, like a lack of infrastructure and medication, have faded away. New problems remain, but they seem less impossible to solve: Asmarahadi explains that nowadays, “treatment failure is usually caused by a lack of patients’ compliance and family support.” And as far as “pasung” goes, the director of mental health at the Health Ministry, Diah Setia Utami, lists ending the practice as one of her priorities for 2013.

Jake Simon

Source: IRIN News

Energy_Poverty_Healthcare_Africa_India
According to this year’s “Poor People’s Energy Outlook,” published by the NGO Practical Action, more than 1 billion people have been left with inadequate medical care because of energy poverty. The report cites such circumstances as emergency surgeries performed in the dark, lack of proper sterilization of supplies, and health centers being unable to store temperature-regulated vaccines.

The report states that over half of all health centers throughout India have no access to electricity – these centers are responsible for the health care of over 580 million people. The situation is similar throughout sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly 255 million people are serviced by healthcare facilities that lack power.

The report also highlights that even if health facilities do have access to electricity, it can be unreliable and frequently cause blackouts. In Kenya, only 25% of facilities have consistent energy services, making it extremely difficult for staff to aid patients at night, and putting emergency patients and mothers giving birth and their babies at risk. The Kenyan centers experience blackouts on an average of 6 times per month. “It can also lead to wasted vaccines, blood and medicines that require constant storage temperatures,” the report says.

Although the Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4All), sponsored by the UN, has pushed energy access for all people by 2030, the report warns that health and education should be the top priority, not simply energy development and efficiency. The report states that the program has put too much emphasis on energy “mostly on domestic use and access for enterprise,” ignoring the critical needs of huge numbers of medical facilities and clinics.

The report also addresses the need for consistent energy access in schools, and asserts that over 291 million children throughout developing countries attend schools with no access to electricity.

The report suggests that attaining numbers on poor people’s access to energy will be much more efficient than examining solely large-scale energy development, and has proposed a new system for doing so with World Bank and UN cooperation.

Christina Kindlon

Source: The Guardian
Photo: Belinda Otas

US_Military_Belize_Aid_opt
A collaboration between the U.S. military and Belize will extend supplies and human capital to the country in a program called New Horizons 2013. The exercise will show the military’s capacity for nation-building efforts in construction as well as health care, with supplies slated to arrive in Belize this spring.

The program will run for 90 days and will include collaboration between medical personnel from both countries in providing care for the citizens of Belize. The U.S. and Belize are also working together on several construction assignments, including improving local school buildings. The military will use this exercise to aid Belize for valuable training in completing a deployment “from start to finish,” coordinator Chris Donovan said. Donovan also stated that these exercises provide experience for the military that can be used in a future “real-world humanitarian need or crisis-type situation.”

U.S. Air Force Captain Richard Hallon said that one of the most vital parts of the exercise is the training that military personnel receive from transporting the necessary supplies needed for the project. This builds personnel experience in preparing, storing, and transporting equipment and materials properly, which requires planning and collaborating with parties outside of the military and from within the participating states.

The New Horizons program is not new, having originated in the 1980s, and has since operated in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. This year, the military will work closely with the Belize Defence Force, who will receive, store, and guard the supplies until military personnel arrive in the spring to start the exercise. The U.S. is no stranger to the Belize Defence Force, having partnered with them often throughout the last 20 years on various emergency relief exercises and scenarios.

Christina Kindlon

Source: U.S. Dept. of State

Developing Toilets and Sanitation
How is poverty fought? Well, there are many different approaches that are currently being tried and some may seem more self-explanatory than others. For example, there is micro-lending, education aid, anti-corruption efforts, and attempts to create jobs and industry. But what about sanitation? Specifically, what about the toilets?

Toilets, and the access to toilets and established sanitation standards, are actually a very, very important issue in much of the developing world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated in 2010 that 2.5 billion people worldwide didn’t have access to a toilet. The lack of toilets can lead to many serious sanitation problems; exposed fecal matter can lead to any number of a long list of diseases and can cause infection, lead to dysentery, and provided a breeding ground for many parasites.

More than reducing levels of infection and disease, however, the sanitary importance of toilets offers an increased sense of dignity. The people living without toilet access are not all living in rural areas. Many live in city slums and must go about their business without the luxury of privacy. The availability of toilets is even shown to increase the school attendance of teenage girls, who may not go to school during their menstrual cycle. The non-governmental organization Charity Water works to provide clean water and sanitation in the developing world. Increased access to toilets has been one of their goals for years. Check them out here!

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Charity Water
Photo: The Guardian