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mobile phone developmentWith simple communication, monitoring and data collection, the full capabilities of mobile phone technology in developing countries are being put to work. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of mobile phone development in developing countries.

Monitoring

Monitoring and regular, real-time updates on the conditions of everything from crops to the spread of disease are a huge help for organizations dedicated to mobile development. Farmers can use a wireless sensing network (WSN) to monitor crop and soil conditions as well as irrigation systems for better water management. Simple, inexpensive and low-powered sensing nodes communicate information directly to farmers’ mobile devices. Farmers can also use their mobile devices to check and monitor rising and falling market prices.

In 2013, UNICEF partnered with Ugandan farmers to track and monitor the spread of banana bacterial wilt, a disease that threatens bananas, one of Uganda’s major food staples. Through mobile phone polling, UNICEF was able to map the areas of farmland where bananas were infected and bring that vital information directly to farmers.

Health workers are also utilizing mobile monitoring particularly to track and prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Innovative Support to Emergencies Diseases and Disasters (InSTEDD) is a data collection software used to record incidents of communicable disease. Health departments in Thailand and Cambodia have piloted an early warning disease surveillance initiative. Using SMS, InSTEDD has been used to track diseases at the local and national level. Health officials hope that the use of such mobile development will help them track, prevent and prepare for potential disease outbreaks.

Communication and Information Delivery

SMS provides a cheap and fast means of communication. Although a very basic messaging service, it is compatible with even the cheapest mobile phones. Even this simple text service is being put to work to improve lives around the world. In 2014, IntraHealth International and UNICEF created mHero, a two-way mobile phone-based communication system. Using SMS, ministries of health exchange real-time information and data with health workers in the field. This timely flow of communication helps health workers perform better-informed care and provides them with reliable support.

Rapid communication is also being used to alert residents in Bangalore, India to water availability. In Bangalore, people may have to wait up to 10 days for water to be available. NextDrop is a phone-based program that uses text messaging to notify residents when their water will next be available. With 75,000 registered users, NextDrop communicates vital, timely information about the water availability, so that residents need not waste their days waiting.

Data Collection

Polling, surveys and civilian reports have long been used to supply organizations with information about the populations they are serving to provide better and more efficient aid. Mobile phones reduce the need for face-to-face interviews to collect data as well as cut costs of landline calls, allowing health workers to reach more people in less time. With larger pools of responders, health surveys inform officials of a more complete summary of the population. The Performance Monitoring and Accountability 2020 (PMA2020) is a global survey project with the goal of providing women and girls with access to modern contraceptive methods by 2020. Through household surveys, PMA2020 collects fertility data to estimate the total fertility rate of a given country.

UNICEF created their own reporting system using mobile devices called U-Report. This messaging and reporting tool empowers users to speak out about issues that matter most to them. Active in 53 countries and with more than 6 million users, U-Report has been used to engage in issues from employment discrimination to child marriage. Data is then shared with policymakers so that they can make informed decisions. U-Report can be used with multiple messaging services including SMS so that even users with basic mobile phones can participate. The service is free and anonymous to encourage as many users as possible to report. UNICEF utilized U-Report’s messaging system to send alerts to users living in the path of Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria and using SMS shared vital information with families during the major floods in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

With the help of mobile devices, almost every corner of the world is reachable, from the poor living in the largest cities to the most rural communities. Aid organizations are making vital use out of the communication and data collection capabilities to help those who are most in need. Mobile development is helping to ensure that everyone has the tools and information to make informed decisions, ask for assistance, and pull themselves out of poverty.

– Maya Watanabe
Photo: Flickr

Health care in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), once lauded for its health care system, is now a country with a lack of resources and access. In the past few decades, the DRC has experienced political unrest, war and military disputes, leaving the country’s health care system in shambles. Now, almost 70 percent of Congolese people have little or no access to basic health care.  Here are the top four facts about health care in the Democratic Republic of the Congo:

Top 4 Facts About Health Care in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

  1. Hospitals- As of 2016, there were 401 hospitals in the DRC.  Despite this, access to medical care remains sparse in rural areas. In fact, it is still difficult for many citizens to obtain necessary medical aid. Additionally, these hospitals often lack proper equipment and staff to meet some of the needs of the patients. Many times, hospitals run out of essential medicines and supplies required for various treatments. Multiple organizations recognize the gravity of this situation and are reaching out to help. This includes a health program from USAID, which provides more than 12 million citizens of the DRC with primary health care services.
  2. Vaccines- In 2018, The Emergency Plan for the Revitalization of Immunization was implemented with the goal of increasing vaccinations for children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This plan is also known as the Mashako plan, in honor of the DRC’s former minister of health, Professor Leonard Mashako Mamba. The goal of the Mashako plan is to increase the coverage of children vaccinated by 15 percent by 2020. This means that, under the Mashako plan, 220,000 children who would otherwise be susceptible to life-threatening, preventable diseases will now have access to vaccines.
  3. Health Care Workers- The number of health care workers in the DRC averages out to .09 physicians to 1,000 individuals. This is drastically less than many other countries, such as the United States with almost 3 physicians per 1,000 individuals. Additionally, there are more than 4 physicians to 1,000 individuals in Italy. Furthermore, one-third of health care workers are over 60 years old. These numbers are odd and surprising, considering the country produces up to 9,000 new health care workers each year. Despite this, there is a significant shortage of health care workers in many areas and facilities in the DRC. This is due to a lack of proper record keeping. In recent years, however, the DRC has been working with IntraHealth International to implement iHRIS. This program aims to aid the country in recording and managing data pertaining to the health care workforce. The goal of iHRIS is to help record missing information and better disperse doctors throughout the DRC.
  4. Government Spending- The Government of the DRC (GRDC) has recently given more attention to health care and is making the health of its citizens a higher priority. In 2015, the government increased health care spending to almost 9 percent of the overall budget, in comparison to 3.4 percent in 2011. Also in 2015, and for the very first time, the GRDC reserved funds specifically for drugs and contraceptives, which are crucial for various parts of the population. Despite these improvements, government spending on health care in the DRC continues to be among the lowest in the world.

Over time, recent government changes and shifting priorities are making significant and notable improvements to the health care system in the DRC. These top four facts about health care in the Democratic Republic of the Congo demonstrate that access to health care is critical in both citizens and the country’s future.

– Melissa Quist
Photo: Flickr

health care system in Senegal
The health care system in Senegal is focusing its reforms on expanding the range of health services offered. For example, increasing access to traditionally underserved populations and introducing social protection measures.

Health Care Sections and Structure

Both private and public health sectors exist in Senegal. Employees receive coverage from the IPM (Institut de Prévoyance Maladie) Health Fund, a public health care system in Senegal. In fact, employers have the responsibility of providing health care to employees.

However, employees must contribute to the workplace for at least two months before receiving coverage. Some services of these health care systems in Senegal include partial coverage of pharmaceutical and hospital costs, primary care, vaccinations and emergency treatment.

The public health care system in Senegal includes a Social Security department, but the responsibility of health care and employment are not inclusive. Therefore, if an individual is not employed but wants to receive public healthcare services, they have the option to use Welfare services, which covers primary care. On the other hand, private health services are also available for those unemployed, not receiving health care services.

Addressing Access to Health Care Services

While the health care system in Senegal is improving, there is still a lack of effort to address health disparities within the population. As a result, only 32 percent of rural households have access to regular health care.

Many organizations are working to provide aid ensuring wider access to health care in Senegal. For example, Health Systems Strengthening, a program stemming from USAID, is working to establish a performance-based financing project in six regions in Senegal. Additionally, it is working to provide services to three-quarters of the population.

The Role of International Aid

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also providing health care services in Senegal. Their initial focus is on providing medical services for HIV/AIDS through the HIV sentinel surveillance program. Widening their goals for the health  care system in Senegal is due to the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative of 2006 and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief of 2010.

Work in Senegal

In 2015, the Global Health Security Agenda, in partnership with the CDC was able to establish an office in Senegal. Through this, there has been additional development of networks and partnerships. For example, the CDC is now working with the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health and Social Action.

Furthermore, IntraHealth is an organization working in Senegal for over a decade. Their goal is to help increase services for family planning and education about Malaria. So far, training has been provided for more than 1,000 workers. These workers specialize in family planning services. On a broader scale, 15,000 home visits throughout Senegal have. been conducted; Ultimately, to raise awareness about Malaria.

Overall, groups, such as USAID and the CDC are working with the government to address the health care system in Senegal. In partnership, there are increasing quantities of awareness and involvement.

– Claire Bryan
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Armenia

Armenia, a country nestled in the mountainous region between Asia and Europe, has faced many devastating blows in its colorful past and is, unfortunately, still dealing with the aftermath. Ever since the election of Nikol Pashinyan as Prime Minister in 2018, the country of Armenia has experienced an exorbitant amount of welcome change. However, recovering from years of corruption is not something that can happen overnight or at the hand of just one man.

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Armenia

  1. Riddled with dilapidated buildings, Armenia is still recovering from a 1988 earthquake. More than 30 years have passed, and the 517,000 people left homeless have had to live in dorms or single rooms. Many buildings do not have heating or cooling systems, so residents rely on burning wood as their source of heat. Over 50 percent of apartment buildings are due for renovations that will make them more earthquake resistant and energy efficient. Since 2015, Habitat for Humanity has provided housing to 4,323 families who would otherwise be homeless or living in broken-down buildings.
  2. Though there is a vast supply of natural water due to Armenia’s location in a mountainous region, the country has not yet achieved unlimited access to tap water, though about 99 percent of the population now have running water for twenty-one hours a day (formerly it was six hours). Companies like Veolia, which also deals with Armenia’s wastewater treatment, are responsible for the improvements in water accessibility and cleanliness.
  3. Attempts to improve health care brought about the Basic Benefits Package, which Armenia introduced in 1999. Under this package, Armenians are supposed to have access to state-funded health care services. However, the state pays out so little that patients end up having to pay out-of-pocket for services. Due to lack of funding, many people rely on home remedies or wait to see if symptoms pass before seeking out a medical professional.
  4. Educating the population about the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases has also become a priority. In 2004, the Center of Dermatology and Sexually Transmitted Infections, along with IntraHealth International, taught a course about the management of STIs for obstetrician-gynecologists and STI specialists. Since 2010, new HIV infections have decreased by 31 percent.
  5. Students have access to free schooling. While instruction is mainly in Armenian, schools teach English as a second language. The main public universities are Yerevan State University and the Yerevan Architecture and Civil Engineering Institute, whereas the American University of Armenia is a private university.
  6. Services for students with special needs are limited, so UNICEF is working to provide an inclusive early childhood education to all children, making sure to train school staff to accommodate those with special needs.
  7. The average monthly salary is 55,000 Dram, which is roughly $115 USD. In March 2018, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of Armenia was drafting a new labor law to allow for open communication between employees and employers to discuss working conditions and overtime hours. The new law would also encourage the involvement of trade unions in negotiations.
  8. Armenia is one of many countries who participate in compulsory military service. Armenia drafts Armenian men to the army for two years when they turn 18. However, those pursuing higher education may defer their service until obtaining their Bachelor’s degree, at which point the government would require them to serve for three years. Many students complain that the required military service interrupts their education, making it difficult to return to school after this mandatory hiatus.
  9. Most Armenians welcomed Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan with open arms because he made them feel hopeful about their future. After his election, he pled with his people to join him in protecting their country, “We’re waiting for everybody! This is a new Armenia, where we do not shy away from military service, from where we do not emigrate, where we return – to incur their share of duty and duty for the sake of the future of Armenia.” Because of the trust they had placed in him, 320 citizens returned to serve in the army, 156 of which had previously evaded service.
  10. Upon election, Pashinyan called for the arrest of many corrupt government officials and filled the open positions with members who intend to drive Armenia forward. In addition, the government audited several businesses that had been working closely with the previous Republican Party.

With its history of corruption, Armenia was struggling to thrive in its war against poverty. Bearing in mind that it has only been a year since Pashinyan’s election, one cannot expect instantaneous improvements. However, these 10 facts about living conditions in Armenia point to positive changes in the future of its people.

– Sareen Mekhitarian
Photo: Flickr

IntraHealth DoctorsIn developing countries, many lives are lost that could have been saved if given proper treatment. Unfortunately, those in poverty are not likely to have access to this treatment. That is why the organization IntraHealth International aims to help healthcare workers treat the impoverished in over 100 different countries.

Founded in 1979 at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Medicine, IntraHealth hopes to strengthen the medical support given to those in need. This could mean lending support to the victims of maternal complications, the HIV/AIDS virus or the current Ebola epidemic.

IntraHealth accomplishes this by sending health workers to where they are most needed and making sure they are trained and educated to treat their patients. They also educate others on reproductive and contraception, which they claim “could prevent the death of more than two million children annually and up to one-third of maternal deaths.” On top of that, IntraHealth tries to form support groups in communities where mothers, especially those who are facing HIV/AIDS, can mentor and comfort each other.

Additionally, the organization prioritizes gender equality, an often overlooked issue that is present in many developing areas. IntraHealth health workers make sure to advocate for equal rights in whatever country they are located in and are quick to treat any victims of gender-based violence they come across. They are also vocal about the stigma that comes with an HIV/AIDS diagnosis. The workers of IntraHealth do not only work as health workers, they work as activists.

IntraHealth has also recently introduced “SwitchPoint” in 2013, an annual conference where supporters and workers can collaborate on new ideas to solve health-related issues. People listen to speakers to be inspired and come up with new ways to save lives around the world. Among previous speakers are former President Bill Clinton and Bill and Melinda Gates. The next SwitchPoint conference will be held in Saxpahaw, North Carolina on April 23 and 24, 2015.

IntraHealth International believes that by providing the best technologies, tools and training to health workers, people around the world can have their life be dramatically improved or even saved.

– Melissa Binns

Sources: InterAction, IntraHealth, WHO

Photo: Flickr