Posts

COVID-19 Relief in India and BrazilThe video game industry is doing its part in the global fight against COVID-19. The online video game storefront, Humble Bundle, is playing a major role in charitable efforts. As of May 28, 2021, Humble Bundle has raised almost $1.2 million for COVID-19 relief in India and Brazil.

What is Humble Bundle?

Humble Bundle is an online video game store founded in 2010. Since then, the video game bundles that give the company its name have raised money for a wide variety of charitable efforts, from the World Wildlife Foundation to Make-A-Wish. The funds primarily come through the sale of popular video games along with other entertainment items like comic books.

Humble Bundle has garnered almost $200 million through bundles. These often include selections from popular gaming franchises like Civilization, Saints Row and BioShock. Typically a portion of each bundle is donated either to the company’s featured charity of the month or the purchaser’s chosen charity. However, Humble Bundle took a bit more of a drastic approach in May 2021 to help several organizations in India and Brazil during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Humble Bundle created the live “Humble Heal: COVID-19 Bundle” from May 12, 2021, until May 19, 2021, in order to support four different charities working in Brazil and India during the ongoing pandemic. More than 54,000 bundles were sold. India recently experienced a record one-day COVID-19 death toll of more than 6,000 deaths on June 10, 2021. Around the same time, Brazil neared 500,000 overall deaths due to COVID-19. The relief efforts of Humble Bundle and other charities are vitally important for COVID-19 relief.

Humble Bundle COVID-19 Relief Support

The charities supported by the bundle primarily focus on providing medical equipment and care to those in need. For example, in February 2021, Direct Relief granted more than $500,000 in aid to Amazonas in Brazil for roughly 350 oxygen concentrators. The Brazilian state desperately needed oxygen concentrators for local medical facilities and people isolated in rainforests. Similarly, in April 2021, Direct Relief donated $5 million toward the purchase of oxygen concentrators in India as well.

According to a recent report by Doctors Without Borders, countries like Brazil were forced to ration treatments or prioritize some patients over others due to a lack of resources. Humble Bumble supported Doctors Without Borders with donations to ensure that essential health services continue with the necessary medical resources.

GiveIndia also incorporates oxygen supply efforts into its pandemic relief. The charity raised more than $6 million to help boost the oxygen supply in India. GiveIndia also provided financial support for low-income families who lost employed family members during the pandemic. Furthermore, the organization supplied food for those struggling with hunger.

The International Medical Corps, another organization supported by Humble Bundle, is also working to strengthen the healthcare system in India, provide crucial medical supplies and deliver personal protective equipment. Additionally, the nonprofit is working to combat vaccine hesitancy in the country to ensure a successful vaccine rollout throughout the country.

The Impact of Humble Bundle’s Efforts

Humble Bundle supports nonprofits like International Medical Corps and Direct Relief in a unique and creative way. It not only provides significant humanitarian funds to the organizations but also spotlights the organizations and increases awareness and engagement through its platform.

“The generosity received as a result of Humble Bundle’s effort is deeply inspiring and will serve as a force-multiplier to get more aid into these areas to improve the health and lives of those who are most vulnerable,” says Heather Bennett, vice president of Partnerships and Philanthropy at Direct Relief.

The nearly $1.2 million raised by Humble Bundle will certainly help these nonprofits continue their impactful work. This will provide COVID-19 relief in India and Brazil to help hard-hit communities recover and rebuild.

– Brett Grega
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in ArmeniaHundreds of thousands of civilians fled in search of safety when violence broke out in Nagorno-Karabakh on Sept. 27, 2020. Following these first violent clashes, organizations stepped up to provide humanitarian assistance for displaced civilians arriving in the capital Yerevan. The extensive damage to infrastructure and disruption of daily life, coupled with a harsh winter climate and COVID-19, will require help from the international aid community for many months to come. One area that this incoming aid will go to is mental health education and support. In 2019, the World Health Organization reported that one in five people in conflict-affected areas lives with a mental health issue. The longer a person lives with acute stress, anxiety or other mental health challenges, the more difficult it is for them to successfully secure basic needs. Aid groups are addressing the issue of mental health in Armenia with various programs.

Mental Health Support for Armenia

The Armenian Red Cross Society is providing humanitarian assistance to help people with basic necessities. This includes psychosocial support for returning soldiers and civilians. As of late December 2020, it had provided around 1,000 psychological services to wounded soldiers and their families.

The International Medical Corps, another emergency aid response group, is working with the Armenian Ministry of Health to assess current needs. In October 2020, the organization expressed its plans to provide training in psychological first aid for frontline healthcare workers. The organization will also provide mental health and psychosocial assistance to people who need it.

UNICEF Addresses Child Trauma

The UNICEF Armenia team and a local arts and music school called the Nexus Center for the Arts offer art and music-based support groups. These support groups give children and teenagers a chance to express themselves without having to talk. UNICEF reported testimonials of students who upon arriving were too afraid to open up but after participating in the support groups felt ready to talk about the trauma they had experienced. The groups also give students a chance to hang out, decompress and enjoy music in a comfortable and safe environment.

To help school teachers, UNICEF partnered with several civil society organizations to teach them how to address trauma in the classroom. UNICEF offered virtual lessons on trauma-informed teaching. The lessons gave 150 school psychologists and 900 public school teachers the skills to work in high-pressure situations and strategies to provide better psychological support to their students.

UNICEF Armenia also put together a psychological first aid guide. This guide has clear and concise information on how to respond to children in a mental health crisis. It emphasizes the importance of responding to children in an age-appropriate and individualized way.

The Increased Need for Mental Health Support in Armenia

Mental health in Armenia, especially following the conflict, is an issue that requires prioritization. The conflict and displacements have left 39,000 children out of school. The trauma caused by displacement has affected children in multiple ways. Ensuring the well-being of these children is a top priority for UNICEF and other organizations addressing mental health in Armenia. The hope is that these initiatives will combat the negative impacts of traumatic experiences in conflict-ridden areas like Nagorno-Karabakh.

Caitlin Harjes
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Libya
Libya is a country in North Africa that has been ravaged by an escalating civil war since 2014. This war has led to the collapse of infrastructure in many different sectors. Healthcare in Libya is one of the areas that has suffered most because of the armed conflict — and the problem has only been exacerbated by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The Context

Adequate healthcare in Libya has been scarce since the current civil war broke out. Libya’s healthcare system, according to the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), was already fragile before the unrest, and has only worsened because of the rise in both civil disobedience and military crossfire. Hospitals and other essential medical facilities have been destroyed, including the Al-Khadra General hospital in Tripoli. This had led to deaths and permanent structural damage that an under-resourced system cannot afford to fix.

Despite calls for peace, shelling, ground assaults and aerial attacks continue to devastate civilian infrastructures, resulting in water and electricity shortages for medical facilities and households alike. Healthcare workers and professionals are subject to threats on their life that force many into exile, contributing to the rising total of internally displaced persons (IDPs) within Libya. Access to essential facilities and services is increasingly limited due to road closures, delays at checkpoints and the palpable fear of sudden violent outbursts.

COVID-19 has only exacerbated citizens’ struggle for healthcare in Libya. While the coronavirus is relatively new to Libya — with 156 cases as of June 1 — the World Health Organization (WHO) identifies the country as being at-risk for a massive explosion in cases. The organization also speculates the number of confirmed cases is much lower than the actual number of infected persons, due to the following factors:

  • Limited testing capacity, with the only two operational testing labs located in Tripoli and Benghazi
  • Failure to implement an effective system of contact tracing, which has proven to be one of the best ways to streamline the tracking of infected persons
  • Cultural stigma against seeking medical aid
  • Breaches in widespread communication and an over-saturation of manipulative media
  • A shrinking number of open medical facilities due to a lack of training and technique among doctors
  • Lack of available treatments and staffing, heightening the challenge for medical facilities that have remained open
  • Displaced individuals, including refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, are more endangered and have lower accessibility to healthcare

Organizations Making a Difference

Libya relies heavily on foreign assistance to help quell its large-scale humanitarian crisis — one that threatens to become worse because of COVID-19. Several organizations are currently supporting healthcare in Libya. First, International Medical Corps (IMC) operates six mobile medical units that serve IDPs around large urban centers. The Corps also offers specialist training in reproductive health to medical professionals, provides mental health support for Libyan medical personnel and established a women’s and girls’ safe space. In 2019, IMC distributed more than 20,000 health consultations to displaced groups, trained 33 local staff members and reached more than 1,200 individuals during awareness sessions.

Another group, Medecins Sans Frontieres, deployed teams that operate within two regions of Libya: one in Tripoli and one in Misrata and the Central Region. The Tripoli team sends medical and humanitarian assistance to the local detention center and to migrants and refugees dispersed throughout surrounding urban communities. The team also conducts training seminars on infectious disease prevention and control in local medical facilities. Meanwhile, the Misrata and Central Region teams administer basic healthcare and psychosocial support, provide nutrition supplements and hygiene kits to detained people and offer primary healthcare and referral services to migrants who have survived captivity and trafficking — in addition to other services.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is also working to improve access to healthcare in Libya. The WHO provides resources to combat leishmaniasis, distribute medical supplies to more than 40 primary health care centers and referral hospitals and train medical professionals to control and prevent deadly diseases. The organization budgets nearly $30 million to treating and regulating both communicable and non-communicable diseases. It promotes health through education, funding corporate services, maintaining an emergency reserve and developing humanitarian response plans.

The financial contributions and services these organizations provide are vital for the state of healthcare in Libya. Many of the strategies and systems in place have been making a positive change. However, greater financial backing is necessary if Libya is to fully extinguish its deficiencies in healthcare. The United States has spent $16 million on aid to Libya, but statements on exactly which organizations the aid is being funneled to have been vague. Aid focused directly on strengthening Libya’s healthcare system by providing sufficient medical supplies, staff and training could mean the difference between life and death for many Libyan civilians.

– Camden Gilreath
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Cameroon
In 2010, the World Health Organization reported that for every 10,000 Cameroonians, there were 7.8 nurses and midwives and 1.1 physicians. In contrast, neighboring Nigeria had 16.1 nurses and midwives and four physicians. Rural areas in Cameroon had the fewest healthcare workers. A 2015 study further showed that money was an indicator of whether university students sought out healthcare treatment. The study also reported that the treatment and prevention of malaria, a disease that’s been linked to poverty, requires spending about 40% of family incomes. While access to treatment is limited, several organizations are working to improve access to healthcare in Cameroon. Here are five organizations that have improved the healthcare system.

The World Bank

From 2008 to 2017, The World Bank worked to improve healthcare in Cameroon through the Health Sector Support Investment Project. The World Bank provided additional funding to strengthen and scale-up healthcare institutions and improve the monitoring of vulnerable individuals. When the project concluded, it had helped about 3 million women in Cameroon.

The World Bank reported that the project also positively impacted immunizations, childbirth and healthcare access. Around 380,000 children were immunized. Skilled medical professionals helped with about 306,395 births. The number of people in Cameroon with access to “health, nutrition, or reproductive health services” reached 6.8 million. Overall, the project benefitted at least 7.4 million Cameroonians.

USAID and ECOBANK

USAID partnered with Ecobank in order to provide additional funding for healthcare in Cameroon, specifically to support local small and medium enterprises that offer health services. In 2016, USAID and Ecobank gave $3.7 million in funding in the form of loans to impactful organizations, specifically those focused on the health of women and children.

Management Sciences for Health

In 2012, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) partnered with the local Ministry of Health in order to improve healthcare in Cameroon. The organizations still have a partnership today. MSH has worked on improving family planning and reproductive healthcare, as well as improving healthcare practices when it comes to treating and preventing malaria, TB and HIV.

As a result of MSH’s efforts, 3,431 Cameroonians received contraception, and 10,497 women received education on family planning between October 2015 and September 2016. Information and referrals were provided to 13,000 women for reproductive health and family planning. Pre-birth counseling increased by 49% with the help of MSH’s Leadership Development Program. The program also increased postpartum counseling by 59%.

During 2016, healthcare facilities reported that antiretroviral medicines, which can be used to treat HIV, were out of stock only 9% of the time — down from 100% in 2014. Of 129 HIV treatment and prevention sites, 87% had “complete patient information” at the end of 2015, which helped keep track of HIV patient data. MHS also created the West Africa HIV & AIDS Commodity Tracking Tool and began using it to gather data to help HIV program managers make informed decisions.

MHS also helped with a national program to control malaria, increased the capacity of healthcare institutions to help with “torture rehabilitation” and improved management of tuberculosis through an internet tool called “e-TB Manager.”

International Medical Corps

The International Medical Corps works in Cameroon to train medical professionals and help with the provision of medical supplies. The organization extends to rural areas, as well as any areas that lack access to healthcare in Cameroon. The Medical Corps provides “preventive and curative services, mental health and psychosocial support services (MHPSS) and reproductive health services including ante- and post-natal care to both refugee and vulnerable host populations.” In 2018, The International Medical Corps reported providing 81,266 healthcare consultations to Cameroonians during a three-month time frame.

The Global Citizens Initiative

In 2013, the Global Citizens Initiative launched the Cameroon Healthcare Access Program. It was created to address the corruption present in Cameroon’s healthcare system. The World Justice Project reported that some citizens were forced to pay when seeking medical attention that should have been “free under the law.”

The goals of this project include addressing corruption through a National Healthcare Access Coalition, raising awareness about governmental healthcare policies, ensuring consumers are aware of their “basic right to healthcare” and tracking changes as the program progresses. When interviewed about the project in 2013, Tarh Frambo, Country Director of the Global Citizens Initiative in Cameroon, said that “the fund is going to help us implement our project on the Cameroon healthcare access, which aims at stemming the practice of corruption as it manifests itself in the public healthcare system of the country.” According to the World Justice Project, the program is still active and will decrease corruption and help give communities more access to healthcare in Cameroon.

In 2014, an update on the project showed that a “national coalition of multidisciplinary stakeholders” had been formed to address corruption. The coalition held workshops on the pros of being corruption-free and on healthcare law overall. Public service announcements were also being used to inform citizens about their healthcare rights.

Conclusion

The numbers show that access to healthcare in Cameroon is an ongoing problem. Since the WHO’s 2010 fact sheet on healthcare in Cameroon, however, The World Bank, USAID and ECOBANK, MSH, the International Medical Corps, and the Global Citizens Initiative have created programs that improved the healthcare system for the people of this country, leading to greater coverage and treatment for Cameroonians in need.

– Melody Kazel
Photo: Flickr

Airstrikes on Syria's Health Industry

In recent months, Syria has been subject to a series of airstrikes often brought on by its own government, which have had devastating effects on the country. In particular, Syria’s health industry has taken a hit from these bombings with the complete destruction of many medical centers, and the displacement of many doctors and other qualified medical officials. The harsh effects of airstrikes on Syria’s health industry have been devastating.

Located between Lebanon and Turkey and bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Syria is a tiny Middle Eastern nation with a massive global presence. Almost 20 million people make up the population of this country which is roughly one and a half times the size of the state of Pennsylvania. Particularly since 2011, Syria has been involved in a civil war with multiple failed resolution efforts. As a result, as of December 2018, more than 11 million Syrians remain displaced both internally and externally. Roughly 5.7 million Syrians have registered as refugees across Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and other parts of North Africa.

Effects of Airstrikes on Syria’s Health Industry

Since late April 2019, Idlib, a northwest province in Syria, has been under constant attack by government forces as well as its militia and Russian allies. Reports state that the violence has hit or completely destroyed 19 hospitals and medical centers in this time, leaving doctors without a location to practice. However, since the civil war began in 2011, others have attacked roughly 350 health care centers throughout Syria on more than 500 individual occasions, leaving almost 900 medical workers dead.

As a result of both the immediate violence that citizens face on a daily basis and the decreasing access to health care, life expectancy in Syria has dropped from almost 76 years in 2010 to 55.7 years in 2015. Additionally, many children under the age of one can no longer access vaccinations for preventable diseases such as measles. At the start of the civil war, 20 percent of these children were without access to vaccinations; by 2014, that percentage went up to 46. By 2017, that number had decreased to 33 percent, as medical professionals made efforts to reach and vaccinate children in areas often more challenging to access.

Due to the decrease in the availability of health care facilities and personnel, Syrian citizens are the ones who face the effects of airstrikes on Syria’s health industry the most. Much of the remaining medical care is focused on treating emergencies such as people injured from explosions or car accidents. Thus, specialized care like gynecologists or orthopedic care is limited. While people can still find emergency care, physical therapy and additional follow-up care are extremely challenging to locate. The violence has to have externally displaced many citizens for them to get this follow-up care to their injuries.

Efforts to Help

An organization called Hand in Hand for Aid and Development (HIHFAD) has been active in providing aid to those still living in Syria. It has mobilized on the ground in teams and worked diligently to provide care to patients. These teams specialize in diagnosing patients, providing equipment and treatment of said patients. Additional NGOs working to provide medical and health-related aid to Syria include Handicap International, International Medical Corps, CARE U.S.A, Save the Children and UNICEF U.S.A.

There is no way of knowing for sure when the civil war in Syria will end and the effects of airstrikes on the health industry continue to devastate Syrians that remain in the country. However, many NGOs are attempting to provide medical care, as are countries harboring an influx of Syrian refugees. The futures of the medical centers and personnel that remain in Syria are undetermined. But for as long as they can, they will continue to provide the best care they can to those in need.

– Emily Cormier
Photo: Flickr

Special Education in refugee camps
Lack of education is a contributing factor to the cycle of poverty. The 1989 ‘Convention on the Rights of the Child’ and the 1951 ‘Refugee Convention’ emphasizes the fact that access to education is a basic human right. However, approximately half of the world’s refugee children are out of schools. Access to schooling becomes increasingly difficult when countries enter conflicts and develop refugee camps.

The United Nations passed the ‘Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ in 2006. The declaration clearly stated disabled peoples’ right to an education. This right is only accessible in 28 percent out of 193 states, and although there are many initiatives to support special education in refugee camps, further support is needed to help refugees with disabilities obtain and maintain the education they need.

Classification of Disabilities

Disability can be categorized into two branches: mental disability and physical disability. A mental disability is any mental disorder that affects the everyday life of an individual, and examples include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, intellectual disabilities and schizophrenia. A physical disability is an impairment of the body and/or a person’s motor abilities. These are either acquired at birth or as a result of a traumatic experience and include cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy and amputations.

Obstacles Faced by Refugee Children

Special education in refugee camps is not an easy task to accomplish, and there are many obstacles that refugee children with disabilities must face in order to receive an education. The first obstacle is very simple to notice — the challenge of getting to school. In many large refugee camps, there are typically no more than a few schools that children can go to and children usually walk to school. For people with physical disabilities, transportation can pose a great problem, especially as most infrastructure is not built to accommodate disabilities. For example, an 8-year-old girl named Hayam lives in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan and suffers from muscular dystrophy. Hayam had to take a quarter-mile walk to her school every day, and her illness made this very difficult.

Another obstacle for people with disabilities is the misunderstanding of physical and mental disabilities in many communities. In many cases, people are taught to fear and look down on people who have disabilities. There are situations in which parents of able-bodied children do not want to have students with disabilities in the same classroom as their child for fear that their child’s education will be harmed.

Furthermore, integration into schools for refugee students can be a difficult task due to political, cultural, religious or linguistic differences. It can be extremely hard for schools to deal with these differences and misconceptions if they lack necessary resources, and such status is incredibly harmful to refugee children with disabilities as it can make it very difficult for them to receive schooling. Refugees are also likely to have PTSD and other related mental disorders due to witnessed trauma, and such effects can harshly affect education if there are no treatments for mental disorders that make it difficult for children to pay attention in class or attend school at all.

Organizational Support

UNICEF and Mercy Corps helped 100 students in the Za’atari refugee camps in Jordan. The two organizations have given wheelchairs to students who have physical disabilities and cannot walk. In another part of the world, the Karen Women Organization (KWO) works in Burma to support special education in refugee camps and rights for the disabled. Not only does KWO aim to ensure increased levels of education, but the organization also aims to support and expand care to children who have disabilities and educate the community.

In 2003, the KWO started the Special Education (SE) Project that runs in every Karen refugee camp. SE Project gives instruction to teachers in the schools and families at home to fully maximize the disabled child’s well-being and reach their goal of integration into society. KWO also helps to combat the misconceptions by creating various activities and workshops for those who are able-bodied and those who are not.

A nongovernmental organization helping refugees receive mental healthcare is the International Medical Corps (IMC). The IMC knows that mental illness is a huge limiting factor for education and they work to make sure there are ways that refugee children can acquire treatment. The group works with local partners in refugee camps to create spaces to talk and provide activities for children and adolescents to develop healthy habits and create relationships. IMC connects children to local youth support and sets up sustainable mental healthcare.

An Unalienable Right

Education is an unalienable right of every person, and special education in refugee camps is crucial for enabling the most endangered people to achieve this right. It is critically important that various organizations and governments continue to build systems that support the abilities of all, especially those most vulnerable.

– Isabella Niemeyer

Photo: Flickr

Toilet Hackers
A total of 2.5 billion, or about 40 percent of the world’s population, go through their daily lives without toilets and without satisfying basic sanitation needs. For lack of access to sanitation, one out of every three girls in sub-Saharan Africa drops out of school when they start menstruating, and a child dies every 17 seconds as a result of unclean water and poor hygiene. The members of Toilet Hackers have made it their mission to revolutionize the way people experience hygiene all over the globe.

Toilet Hackers is a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing and implementing successful sanitation projects in regions that lack adequate access to toilets. Their ultimate goal is to provide, in 10 years, a network of 10 million toilets worldwide.

In their first year, Toilet Hackers provided toilets in Kenya, Rwanda and Peru. In their second year, they provided toilets in Colombia, Uganda and Mumbai. In their third year, they have provided toilets in Brazil and Pune.

Additionally, Toilet Hackers clearly outlines how each donation impacts their cause. Their chart features three sections: cost, impact and system. For example, $12.50 impacts one child and can fund a hygiene scholarship, while $10,000 can fund hygiene training and 10 public latrines for up to 800 children and students. For donations in between, $50 can fund a ventilated latrine pit for a family of seven and a donation of $5,000 can fund a sanitation entrepreneur that will provide a village with education, training and access to better sanitation. Moreover, a donation of $1,000 can provide one public toilet with integrated hygiene training for 80 kids or people in a community.

Organizations such as UNICEF, Sprint, Water for People, Expedition Everest, MAMA Hope, Gensler, Falcon Waterfree Technologies, International Medical Corps, Second Muse, Random Hacks of Kindness and the Water and Sanitation Program have all partnered with Toilet Hackers to help them achieve their goal.

— Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: Huff Post, Gloabal Citizen, Toilet Hackers
Photo: WordPress