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Iceland’s Foreign AidIceland, located in the North Atlantic Ocean, has a population of fewer than 400,000 people. The small Nordic island is home to some of the most sought after natural landmarks and tourist attractions such as the northern lights. Although small, the country has provided big backing to countries triple its size through its foreign aid programs. In 2008, Iceland experienced what economists considered to be the most severe economic downturn in its history. After years of hard work, Iceland was able to rebuild its economy and rebounded successfully. Aside from the financial crisis in 2008, the country has been able to maintain relatively low poverty rates with rates remaining at 0.10% from 2013 to 2015. Iceland has paid its good fortune forward by offering assistance to countries experiencing economic fragility. The Icelandic government is committed to fighting poverty by providing support to nations in need. The main objective of Iceland’s foreign aid pursuits is to reduce poverty and hunger while advocating for human rights, gender equality and sustainable development. Three countries, in particular, have been supported by Iceland’s foreign aid.

Syria

Syria has a long history of political turbulence with numerous uprisings dating back to the 20th century. One event, in particular, was especially tumultuous. In 2015, Syria had experienced a major political uproar in one of the largest and oldest cities in the country, Aleppo. “The Battle of Aleppo” began in 2011 in the city of Deraa. Citizens who opposed the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad decided to rebel. This led to a civil war between the Syrian government and protesters who the Syrian government referred to as rebels. The civil war that lasted six years had a detrimental impact on the citizens. There were massive food and gas shortages. Multiple buildings were victim to mass bombings, including schools and hospitals. Civilians were caught in the crossfire and suffered greatly as a result. Iceland stepped in to offer assistance and allocated $600,000 to support civilians impacted by the war in 2015. The country continued in its efforts by supporting Syria with $4 million worth of humanitarian aid in 2016.

Malawi

Malawi holds one of the highest rates of poverty in the world, at 51.5.% in 2016. Malnutrition and infant mortality impact Malawi’s 18.6 million population. The country has experienced notable economic growth in the past three years, with a 4.4% increase in economy in 2019. Unfortunately, these economic gains have been stalled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In early November 2020, the Icelandic government donated $195,000 to the World Food Programme to assist with the COVID-19 response in Malawi.

Uganda

Uganda and Iceland established their relationship in the year 2000. The Icelandic government is committed to enhancing the livelihood of Ugandan fishing communities located in the Kalanga and Buikwe districts. Uganda is one of the largest recipients of Icelandic foreign aid with an annual distribution of $6 million. Iceland’s contributions have seen monumental success with safe water coverage now standing at 77%, up from 58% in 2015. The primary school completion rate in Buikwe is up from 40% in 2011 to a staggering 75.5%.

Iceland: A Foreign Aid Leader

While Iceland may be small in comparison to its peers, Iceland has been tremendously influential in its foreign relations. The three countries above are just a few of the nations that Iceland has assisted. Humanitarian efforts continue to provide support to countries in need through Iceland’s foreign aid.

– Imani Smikle
Photo: Flickr

Harmful Practices in MalawiDespite the enactment of the Gender Equality Act in 2013,  Malawi has much more to accomplish with respect to women’s rights. Traditional customs and harmful cultural practices are still deeply entrenched in Malawian society, leading to discrimination and marginalization of women and girls. These practices adversely affect their development, health, socioeconomic status and overall contributions to society. UNICEF defines harmful practices as discriminatory practices that transcend into communities and societies’ cultures and are viewed as acceptable. The most common harmful traditional and cultural practices include female genital mutilation (FGM), Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and child marriage. Such practices perpetuate gender inequalities, violate women’s rights and have detrimental physical and emotional effects on women. The Tilimbike Safe Community Space aims to reduce harmful practices in Malawi that affect women and girls.

Harmful Practices in Malawi

As a result of cultural practices, gender disparities remain pervasive across all aspects of society. Child marriage is a fundamental violation of human rights, with cascading consequences for young girls. For example, girls married as children are more likely to drop out of school, become teenage mothers and have higher rates of maternal mortality.

Malawi has one of the highest rates of child marriage in Africa, with the Human Rights Watch estimating that in 2020, one out of two girls will be married by the time they turn 18.

In addition to child marriage, Malawi remains a setting where gender-based violence is prevalent. One in five young women experiences sexual violence before they turn 18 and nearly 40% of married women have experienced intimate partner violence.

While adequate policies exist, the public and non-governmental sector responses have faced challenges in breaking down discriminatory cultural ideals and improving women’s rights. Harmful practices toward women continue unabated in Malawi due to the persistence of cultural attitudes. However, in rural communities, mentoring has proven to be efficacious in preventing harmful practices and empowering young girls and women.

Tilimbike Safe Community Space

The Tilimbike Safe Community Space is a mentorship program led by The Spotlight Initiative that serves at-risk girls and women in rural communities in Malawi by trying to eliminate harmful practices such as sexual and gender-based violence and child marriage. In mentorship sessions, mentors teach young girls about their basic human rights, sexual and reproductive health and other critical life skills. With this knowledge and interactions with their peers, girls are empowered to speak out and challenge harmful cultural practices.

Tilimbike Safe Community Space has 360 mentors, spanning across the high-risk districts of Dowa, Ntchisi, Mzimba, Nkatabay, Machinga and Nsanje. The program has educated and empowered more than 7,000 young women in these regions by equipping them with knowledge and skills to challenge the harmful practices that fuel GBV in their communities. The women and girls are now apt to speak out in their own communities, with crucial knowledge such as the importance of staying in school and the adverse effects of early marriage. Empowering girls and women is the first step toward change and fostering the foundation for solutions to these harmful practices.

Tilimbike During COVID-19

During COVID-19, women and girls are more confined to their homes due to school closures and travel restrictions. Therefore, they are at increased risk for GBV, teenage pregnancy and being coerced into childhood marriage. Despite the elevated risks, mentees of the Tilimbike Safe Community Space successfully prevented these harmful occurrences. Huge strides have been made to end the harmful cultural practices during COVID-19 restrictions, with no teenage pregnancies or child marriages among the mentees during the lockdown.

These women and girls have renewed hope for achieving their life goals and have enhanced their ability to make informed decisions about their lives and futures. The mentors in the Tilimbike Safe Community Space allow girls and women an opportunity to receive advice and support outside their home to reach their fullest potential. The Tilimbike Safe Community Space illuminates that mentorship programs are effective in breaking down cultural barriers and ending harmful practices.

Further Progression

Initiatives such as the Tilimbike Safe Community Space play a key role in eliminating dismantling gender disparities in society caused by cultural barriers. Mentoring and empowering women and girls will advance not just Malawi but the entire world.

– Samantha Johnson
Photo: Flickr

improving food security in Malawi
One of the key underpinnings of public health is food security — especially in a nation with a fast-growing population, such as Malawi. Many organizations, including the nonprofit — Soil, Food and Healthy Communities (SFHC) are working to empower communities through improving food security in Malawi. How do they aim to achieve this? By working with these communities in developing productive, sustainable agricultural practices.

The Current Situation

Malawi became independent from British rule in 1964 and has made steady progress in building a more resilient country since the nation’s first, multi-party, democratic elections in 1994. According to the World Bank — literacy rates in Malawi have improved but poverty rates remain high, with 51.5% of the population living in poverty as of 2016. Again, per the World Bank — poverty in Malawi is driven by factors including low-productivity farming and limited non-agricultural economic opportunities. Hunger is still a widespread problem, as 47% of children in Malawi are stunted according to USAID.

Smallholder farmers make up 80% of Malawi’s population — largely growing crops to feed themselves. Therefore, improving food security in Malawi must involve more efficient farming practices to promote food production and economic growth.

Initiatives of SFHC

SFHC is working to improve farming techniques, nutrition, soil/environmental health and food security in Malawi. The organization coordinates many projects to support farmers by doing research driven by their needs. SFHC initiatives include building more sustainable food systems and using agroecological farming methods for improving food security in Malawi. According to its website, SFHC assists more than 6,000 farmers in more than 200 villages in northern and central Malawi.

Joint Research in Improved Agricultural Methods

Olubunmi Osias, a Cornell University student, spoke with The Borgen Project about her experience working remotely for SFHC this summer as a Cornell CALS Public Health Fellow. Osias is a research assistant for Rachel Bezner Kerr, who holds a doctorate in Development Sociology from Cornell University and is an associate professor at the same university. Kerr works with SFHC on the effects of different agricultural methods on nutrition and food security. Kerr also uses an agroecological framework, which is the study of ecological systems as it relates to farming. Harnessing ecological analysis can help promote soil conservation, crop yield and pest management — offering a way to improve food security in Malawi. “Dr. Bezner Kerr is looking at a revival of agroecology, including intercropping, where you grow different crops together. It is better for the soil and productive yield. Other methods are being developed to manage pests,” said Osias.

Osias sees agroecological research as a way to alleviate some of the lasting deleterious effects of Britain’s colonial rule on Malawi. This includes but is not limited to their encouragement of planting corn and other cash crops as opposed to producing a variety of food crops for local consumption. Not only did British colonial forces kill peaceful protestors who advocated for change in the 1950s but they also undermined traditional farming practices, to the detriment of food security.

A Community-Based Approach

In order to make sure that SFHC research to improve food security in Malawi is driven by the needs of local communities, Kerr is using a community-based participatory research approach (CBPR). According to Osias, CBPR has many similarities to other forms of research. However, CBPR is unique in that it is a partnership between the researcher and the community — rather than a researcher studying people who have neither influence over the research-study design nor the goal.

Better Research Makes for Better Results

Research projects like the one that Osias assisted with can contribute to improvements in agricultural productivity. This can in turn improve health outcomes by providing communities with better food security and a more stable source of income. 

Tamara Kamis
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

gender gap in malawiFemale education has been an ongoing challenge for the East African country of Malawi. With 50.7% of the population living below the poverty line, the nation is one of the poorest in the world, and a large percentage of the poor are women. A significant reason why is that girls often fall behind early in their education especially in areas like math and reading and end up dropping out. Also, the average elementary classroom in Malawi has 76 students meaning faculty are frequently overburdened and unable to address the delicate situation many young women find themselves in.  The London based nonprofit organization Onebillion has developed the Onecourse technology that is closing the education gender gap in Malawi.

A Girl’s Challenge

While both boys and girls face high dropout rates in Malawian schools, girls are less likely to return due to factors such as labor demands at home, being discriminated against as the perceived weaker gender, absence of female role models and harassment by male teachers and fellow students. With typical teaching practices concerning math and reading in Malawi early grade schools, boys usually pull ahead of girls in math by second grade while girls pull ahead of boys in reading, but this advantage in reading disappears by sixth grade and girls are behind in both subjects.

The Onecourse Experiment

Onecourse is unique in its approach in that it is an all-digital platform where students are guided by a virtual teacher through a strategically crafted set of activities. Students are given a Onetab tablet loaded with Onecourse apps in their native language. For Malawian students this was Chichewa. One of the biggest challenges for developer Onebillion is to prove in trials that significant learning can happen in the absence of a teacher. “For the Onebillion trial, children were taken out of their huge classes, put in groups of 25 and given tablets loaded with math software; similar-sized groups were given tablets without the math software, to control for the possibility that children might benefit from any instruction given in smaller groups.”

Promising Results

Onebillion’s software has helped Malawian girls make significant advances. Evaluations by the University of Nottingham and the University of Malawi demonstrate that digital intervention can not only educate students but prevent girls from falling behind in their learning. Specifically, eighteen 30 minutes sessions with Onecourse early grade math apps prevent girls from falling behind early in mathematics. Early mathematics intervention may also promote girls more likely going to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics courses in the future.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Onecourse technology is closing the gender gap in Malawian early education. Digital learning platforms like Onebillion’s Onecourse have helped aid undertrained and over burned faculty in many developing countries like Malawi, Uganda and Tanzania and is also being used to help marginalized children in the United States. The Onebillion organization, in a tie with the Kitkit school (a similar digital program developer), was awarded the Global Learning Xprize that promotes organizations that create programs allowing children to educate themselves in reading, writing, and math. This program, and others like it, will be essential in ending the educational gender gap in Malawi.

– Joseph Maria
Photo: Flickr

E-Learning in Developing Countries
Education is being immensely influenced by the digital world. In the last 15 years, the global internet usage has surged from 5.6 percent to 56.8 percent. Despite the remaining gap in internet usage, there are still a multitude of digital opportunities for people using a variety of information and communication technologies (ICTs). The possibility of using e-Learning in developing countries is not limited by the internet or email, as it can also be disseminated by other ICTs, such as CDs, DVDs, audio and videotapes, satellite broadcasts and television. E-Learning in developing countries has the potential to fill gaps in education access and quality, including a lack of teachers, textbooks and classrooms.

5 Benefits of E-Learning in Developing Countries

  1. E-Learning can help reach people where there is a lack of infrastructure, such as roads or adequate transportation. In Nepal, a barrier to obtaining education and job training has been navigating dangerous terrain in the Himalayas. E-Learning has been a useful tool to combat this challenge. In 2015, USAID and the Nepalese Ministry of Education (MOE) launched a radio teacher training project. The following year, MOE also established a Distance Education Center.
  2. E-Learning compensates for reduced access to teaching information. The majority of people who do not have access to a consistent internet connection are in Sub-Saharan Africa. Learn Appeal, an organization based out of the U.K., found a solution for this challenge through the development of a tool they call “the capsule.” The Learn Appeal Capsule has a Raspberry Pi 3 battery in it, which lasts for at least 24 hours of constant use and is rechargeable with a USB cable. The Capsule also includes a WiFi router and can manage up to 150 to 200 users. The capsule can contain up to 1,000 hours of interactive educational material. It is also useful in areas where they use alternative energy sources, such as wind or solar power. The Learn Appeal capsule makes it possible to disseminate necessary information to remote areas in Kenya, Malawi and Northern Nigeria. Learn Appeal works with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and schools from each country to implement the use of the capsules.
  3. E-Learning has the potential to reach more people in rural areas. In 2016, Hewlett Packard (HP) implemented a $20 million program called World on Wheels, which aims to install 48 digital labs to bridge the gap in internet access in rural India. The program aims to reach 6,400 villages and over 15 million people by 2022. The program will support digital literacy, entrepreneurship and will connect community members to government aid. A branch of the program called HP LIFE is a free global e-Learning program that helps people start a business.
  4. E-Learning opens up possibilities for access to specialized training. Malawi has one of the lowest doctor to patient ratios in the world, at 1 doctor to every 50,000 people. To change this ratio, the Ministry of Health recognized that alternative solutions were needed to meet the country’s healthcare needs. In 2007, the University of Edinburgh launched a three year MSC program that uses virtual case scenarios to help trainees through the technical aspect of their training. Each Malawi-based enrollee to the program also obtains an e-tutor to guide them throughout the academic year. Outside of Malawi, more than 1,000 students worldwide in 60 different countries have adopted this program.
  5. E-Learning in developing countries can bridge the global gap in educational resources for primary school-aged children. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the world will need 3.3 million teachers to achieve universal primary education by 2030. UNESCO also reports that 250 million of the 650 million children who are primary school age in the world haven’t learned to read or count. E-Learning can bridge the gap and counter the teacher shortage. One of the largest regions in Brazil is the Amazonas, which is about 4.5 times the size of Germany. Although the area does fairly well in comparison with Brazilian education standards, it is also known to have low completion rates for primary school students (50 percent at age 16 versus the country average of 69 percent). To counteract this, in 2002 the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) developed a television-based education system using $150 million. The Amazonas Media Center or Centro de Mídias do Amazonas beams remote classes taught by teachers in Manaus through satellite to remote areas. This curriculum, which consists of 10,000 video hours of classes, is accompanied by an in-person tutor who provides further support.

E-Learning solutions in developing countries are rapidly evolving to solve global challenges that widen gaps in access to education. Each country has its own unique challenge, but the benefits of e-Learning can already be seen around the world.

– Danielle Barnes
Photo: Flickr

The U.S. Foreign Aid Freeze
On August 3, 2019, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ordered two federal agencies to temporarily freeze billions of foreign aid funding. This decision ordered the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide accounts for all unobligated resources of foreign aid. Rachel Semmel, a spokeswoman for the Budget Office, said the order aims to ensure accountability. According to the Associated Press (AP), the letter lists 10 areas that the U.S. foreign aid freeze targets, including development assistance, global health programs and United Nations peacekeeping. In total, the freeze puts $2 billion to $4 billion of congressionally-approved funding on hold.

Subsequent Response

The U.S. foreign aid freeze has met with bipartisan criticism. Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel said that the Trump administration has amounted to contempt and emphasized that congressionally-approved foreign aid is law and backed by the Constitution. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s criticism was harsher, labeling the freeze insane. In a letter to the OMB, lawmakers from both parties agreed that cutting foreign aid and development spending would not be in the interest of national security.

Critics of the OMB’s decision point to the fact that foreign aid spending makes up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the federal budget. Before the freeze, the U.S. spent $30 billion annually on programs to reduce global poverty. Liz Schrayer, the chief executive of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, claims the OMB is cutting one of the smallest portions of the federal budget, but one that could have catastrophic impacts on U.S. economic and national security interests.

Impacted Countries

The U.S. foreign aid freeze will directly affect Malawi, one of the world’s least developed countries. The nation consistently ranks very low in various health indicators, such as life expectancy, infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate. In addition, an estimated one million people or 9.2 percent of adults in Malawi live with HIV/AIDS with an estimated 13,000 deaths annually. In Malawi, USAID works to improve the quality of life by supporting development, education and health programs, especially those that prevent and treat malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. Due to the Trump administration’s order, Malawi may not have aid for the remainder of this financial year. According to documents that Foreign Policy obtained, the freeze could also affect foreign aid to countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Funding for UNICEF projects to protect children account for a large portion of the U.S. foreign aid freeze. One of these programs involves early childhood education and development in Uzbekistan. According to UNICEF, only 30 percent of Uzbek children attend preschool while 70 percent are unable to achieve their full potential due to a lack of early education. UNICEF is rolling its program out across six regions in Uzbekistan and it has designed it to increase access to quality education for children. Regional instructors have trained 2,159 preschool teachers in child-centered learning and model schools, which have increased enrollment by 2,841 children. The U.S. foreign aid freeze will have a direct impact on similar programs across the globe.

Bipartisan Solution

On August 15, 2019, the OMB sent an official rescission request to the State Department to cut foreign aid funding by more than $4 billion, yet canceled the request a few days later. Since taking office in 2017, the Trump administration has made numerous attempts to cut foreign aid funding, and in some cases by as much as 30 percent. Members of both parties in Congress firmly rejected all attempts. Daniel Runde, former director of the Global Development Alliance (GDA) in the Bush administration, says development, diplomacy and defense experts are in full agreement that the Trump administration should work collaboratively with Congress to create a more robust and sustainable approach to foreign aid and development.

– Adam Bentz
Photo: Flickr

First Malaria Vaccine
Malaria is a parasitic virus transmitted through mosquito bites, and those infected with the disease often experience grave fevers, chills and flu-like symptoms. Although malaria can potentially end in death, physical precautions such as safety nets in malaria-dense environments and prompt treatment can usually prevent it. Unfortunately, because malaria largely affects poorer nations, it can be a great strain on national economies and impoverished populations. The World Health Organization is enlisting pilot testing for the first malaria vaccine.

The Problem

Malaria reportedly infects tens of millions, killing over 400,000 people worldwide every year and mostly children; Sub-Saharan African countries are the primary nations in which malaria thrives—the World Health Organization estimates that over 250,000 African children die every year from the virus.

The malaria-carrying parasite is able to evade victims’ immune systems by constantly changing its surface, which is why developing a vaccine against the virus has been so difficult. With today’s modern technology and scientific insight, that is beginning to change.

Testing the First Malaria Vaccine

In April of 2019, a large-scale pilot test of what many are dubbing the world’s first malaria vaccine to give partial protection to children began in Malawi. Scientists from the drug company GSK first created the RTS,S vaccine in 1987 and has been refining it ever since. Organizations like Path Malaria Vaccine Initiative have been instrumental in supporting this initiative.

The new RTS,S vaccine is attempting to teach the immune system how to attack the malaria parasite. A patient needs to receive the vaccine four times—once a month for three months, followed by a fourth and final dose 18 months later. In 2009, Kenya held smaller trials of the vaccine and concluded with a 40 percent protection rate of the five to-17 month-olds who received the vaccination. Since then, malaria rates have plateaued rather than decreased, which is another reason the new pilot test is so vital in the modern-day.

Now testing is taking place in Malawi, Kenya and Ghana with aims to immunize 120,000 children aged two-years-old and younger. These three countries are ideal for two reasons: one, these nations already have large anti-malaria programs in place; and two, in spite of this, they still have high numbers of malaria cases. As Dr. Matshidiso Moeti (World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa) stated, “Malaria is a constant threat to the African communities where this vaccine will be given” and explains that the vaccine is needed because “we know the power of vaccines to prevent killer diseases and [hope to] reach children, including those who may not have immediate access to the doctors, nurses and health facilities they need to save them when severe illness comes.”

Looking Towards the Future

The purpose of the pilot tests is to build up evidence that can be reliably considered while WHO policy is debating its recommendations on the broader use of the RTS,S vaccine. The experiment will examine the reductions (if any) in child deaths, vaccine uptake rates (including how many children receive all four vaccinations) and the overall safety of the vaccine in routine use.

If the testing goes well, not only will the World Health Organization aid the vaccine to its core package of recommended measures for malaria prevention and treatment, but hopefully, it will begin a chain reaction that again sparks a decrease in malaria cases around the world.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr

Maternal Mortality Rate in MalawiThe maternal mortality rate in Malawi is one of the highest in the world. The country ranks at number 13 for the highest number of maternal deaths during pregnancy or after birth.

The maternal mortality rate in Malawi has decreased over the years, but it is still an alarming issue that the country is addressing. It is estimated that per every 100,000 live births, over 600 mothers die from mostly preventable causes.

In Malawi, the circumstances of maternal mortality are complex but preventable. Like most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the health care system in Malawi is not as developed as the rest of the world. Having better access to health care and qualified personnel will save the lives of mothers and children in developing countries.

Causes of High Maternal Mortality

There are several causes related to the high maternal mortality rate in Malawi. Poverty is one of the main contributing factors. Given that half of the country’s population lives in poverty, most women cannot afford conventional health care.

The majority of the population live in remote, rural areas, making it difficult for mothers to find access to quality maternal health care. In many cases, they cannot travel long distances on foot to the nearest available clinic. According to a 2014 study, 44 percent of women in rural areas attended at least 4 antenatal care visits whereas, in urban regions, the figure jumped to 51 percent.

In Malawi, women have historically given birth in their homes due to cultural beliefs and practices. In most cases, traditional birthing attendants were present. However, many of them were not trained to respond if something were to go wrong. This most commonly occurred in impoverished families. Today, the country recognizes the need for professionally trained personnel. In 2015-2016, 91 percent of women were recorded giving birth in a healthcare facility.

Most maternal deaths are related to diseases or complications during pregnancy or childbirth. The most common direct causes of maternal death are:

  • hemorrhages,
  • infection,
  • eclampsia,
  • obstructed labor and
  • abortion.

The indirect causes include malaria, anemia, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. In most cases, these diseases or complications would have been preventable if there was better access to health care.

Improving Malawi’s Maternal Mortality

Due to foreign aid, and the dedication of the Malawian government, the maternal mortality rate in Malawi is improving with every year. In 2001, out of 100,000 live births, 868 mothers died. Today, that number is significantly lowered to just over 600.

Former Malawian president, Joyce Banda made maternal health her top priority in 2014. Through her influence, the government of Malawi constructed new maternal health facilities in rural areas, created a new system to better train birthing attendants and changed cultural norms and attitudes regarding maternal health and pregnancy.

Banda also believed in the importance of educating young women about their reproductive health. A survey on Maternal and Perinatal Health has shown that women with lower levels of maternal education are at risk of high maternal mortality even if they have access to health care facilities.

Banda made lasting changes in Malawi for the women and children of today and the generations to come.

USAID Investments to Improve the Maternal Mortality Rate in Malawi

The United States financially supports Malawi by investing in maternal and child care. USAID is investing in maternal health facilities and quality care interventions in order to progress the country’s healthcare system. USAID is also supporting national family planning programs that promote maternal education and informed decision-making for the mothers of Malawi.

As the country continues to develop, the maternal mortality rate in Malawi is decreasing.

Due to more accessible facilities, better-educated mothers and the addition of trained professionals, the status of maternal health care in Malawi has made significant strides.

– Marissa Pekular
Photo: Flickr

Cyclone Idai SurvivorsCyclone Idai has wreaked havoc upon Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, leaving destruction in its wake. Survivors suffer from disease, hunger and mental health problems. Humanitarian organizations and governments are joining together to try and help people affected by the disaster.

Background

Cyclone Idai and the resulting floodwaters destroyed infrastructure, homes and crops. As the crisis comes into focus, it is clear that it could take some time for the region to recover.

The death toll between the three countries is over 750 people and rising as government and aid workers assess the damage. An estimated 1.85 million people have been affected and 36,000 homes destroyed in Mozambique alone. Rescue workers have been scrambling to save people stranded by floodwater.

Cyclone Idai is one of the top three deadliest tropical cyclones ever to affect the Southern Hemisphere. Many climbed trees to escape the rising floodwater, with rescue workers lifting 634 survivors out of trees. Others fell into the crocodile-infested waters as they became too exhausted to hold on.

Displaced people are migrating toward the port city of Beira, Mozambique and to makeshift camps to escape areas engulfed by water. The close grouping of people in the camps has created new concerns for aid workers. Disease, hunger and mental health problems threaten these survivors.

Disease Among Survivors

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has reported cases of malaria infections and cholera among Cyclone Idai survivors. Jana Sweeny, a spokesperson for the IFRC, told Earther: “In disasters like this one–one where there is a lack of clean water and sanitation, and potential overcrowding–outbreaks of waterborne diseases are common.”

The standing floodwater is a breeding ground for mosquitoes that may carry malaria. Cholera, a waterborne bacteria, could also infect the floodwaters.

Humanitarian Efforts

At least 16 different humanitarian organizations, several governments and the United Nations are contributing to help Cyclone Idai survivors. The United States government pledged the assistance of its military. IFRC Secretary General Elhadj As Sy said at press conference in Geneva: “We are seeing tremendous collaboration and partnership from National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from all over the world, and from our international and United Nations partners.”

The United Nations has unloaded 22 metric tons of food supplies, and 40 more are on the way. U.N. organizations have been active in the region, initially in rescue operations, then as aid distributors. The U.N. Central Emergency Fund has allocated $20 million to provide aid to more than 400,000 people.

The IFRC is appealing for over $30 million for disaster relief. They have been delivering Emergency Response Units, which include equipment and teams that can provide sanitation and water purification for 20,000 people per unit. The IFRC is also deploying a field hospital that will be able to administer medical care for at least 150,000 people.

The IFRC has set up an online portal for connecting displaced children with their distraught parents. Cyclone Idai has left many children unaccompanied as they were either separated from their parents or orphaned.  Save the Children is also working to help these child Cyclone Idai survivors.

There is difficulty distributing aid as some of the affected areas are remote. Helicopters are the only safe mode of distribution since the cyclone destroyed roads and communications infrastructure.

The damage done by Cyclone Idai on Southeastern Africa will not be fully realized until some time has passed. But for now, the global humanitarian community is helping the region recover from this disaster.

– Peter S. Mayer
Photo: Flickr

Solar Power in MalawiMalawi’s Ministry of Health has several ongoing efforts in developing its healthcare system and facilities. After experiencing continuous long-term power outages which interrupted the healthcare systems, the Ministry decided to start a solar power project to solve the issues in the healthcare facilities. Solar power in Malawi can change the future for the country’s hospitals and the overall healthcare system.

Not only have the power outages affected Malawi’s healthcare facilities throughout the years, but they have also affected many businesses and factories. For manufacturing companies, most of the production has stopped due to the lack of electricity. This interruption of work has threatened the growth of these businesses. Further, the generators that some businesses and buildings use are expensive to run, which has resulted in an increase in the retail price of goods and has hurt the economy in Malawi.

The power outages have been reported to last up to 8 hours at a time. As such, many of the machines required to save lives in hospitals, such as oxygen machines, are unable to run. These machines require constant power and with an unstable power source, it can have detrimental effects on many lives of the Malawi people.

The Ministry of Health, along with the Global Fund Project Implementation Unit, has decided to ensure solar power in Malawi. With a focus on the health facilities, the Ministry is installing solar power units at 85 health facilities throughout the nation. Its goal is to save lives with solar power by preventing disruptions, especially in important areas of hospitals such as the maternity wing, intensive care unit and the area for children under five. The solar panels being installed will provide 100kW of power for the hospitals.

Healthcare centers in remote areas have been affected by power outages the worst. While being affected less by power outages, the hospitals in the larger cities have still had to rely on generators to keep the hospital running, which tends to be expensive.

Malawi’s power outages have cost the country a lot of money as a result of relying on generators to keep many hospitals working. With the installation of solar panels, the country hopes to use the saved money to develop its healthcare system and facilities in other ways.

– Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr