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health sector communication
Communication is key when it comes to developing a well-performing healthcare system. Ineffective communication within healthcare systems “increases the likelihood of negative patient outcomes,” overall costs for healthcare systems, and “patient utilization of inpatient and emergency care.” Meanwhile, sound health sector communication ensures the maintenance of overall health and helps prevent diseases and premature death. Thus, it is important to ensure that healthcare systems across the globe are well equipped and supported. Recent developments in mobile technologies have made it easier to do so and transformed health-sector communication in several countries.

mHERO

A recently developed mobile application, called mHERO, has become one of the latest mobile applications to demonstrate the powerful and wide-reaching role that technology plays in health-sector communication. Created in 2014 by IntraHelath International and UNICEF, mHERO is a mobile-based application used by healthcare workers and ministries of health in order to communicate and coordinate effectively and efficiently. The application was developed during the 2014 Liberian Ebola outbreak after recognizing the need for a way to communicate urgent messages to frontline healthcare workers, to collect data concerning outbreaks development, and to provide support and training.

Messages sent through the application are transmitted through basic text or SMS. The app is compatible with most cellular devices. By merging existing health information systems, such as Integrated Human Resources Information System (iHRIS) and Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), with popular communication platforms, such as RapidPro, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, mHERO acts as a cost-efficient, accessible and sustainable resource for many healthcare systems.

Implementation in Liberia 2014

The 2014 West African Ebola outbreak overwhelmed the Liberian healthcare sector. The absence of effective communication channels blocked the supply of vital information from health officials to health workers. UNICEF and IntraHealth International created mHERO to address the communication challenge. The application was initially designed to suit the needs of the Liberian healthcare system, utilizing the technology that was already available in the country. It then became the responsibility of the ministry of health to effectively manage and maintain the application’s implementation and its continued use.

Liberia utilized mHERO to validate healthcare facility data, to update health workers and to track which facilities need additional resources. Today, health officials use mHero to coordinate the country’s response to COVID-19. mHERO has become an integral part of the Liberian healthcare system, maintaining a vital role in health-sector communication.

Development and Reach

Guinea, Mali and Sierra Leone followed Liberia’s lead with the mHero integration process. The implementation guidelines and intent of use in these countries have generally remained the same as Liberia’s. Mali, however, has implemented the application with a need to train and develop the skills of healthcare workers.

Uganda, as of 2020, has also incorporated mHERO into its healthcare system with the intent of reducing the spread of COVID-19. The application has allowed for easier COVID-19-related communication between ministries of health, health officials and healthcare workers.

Uganda employes a developed form of the application with an extension called FamilyConnect. The extension sends “targeted lifecycle messages via SMS to pregnant mothers, new mothers, heads of household and caregivers about what they need to do to keep babies and mothers safe in the critical first 1,000 days of life” as long as they have been registered with the Ministry of Health’s Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH). Mothers can register themselves or can choose to have registration done by a community health worker.

Future Plans

UNICEF and IntraHealth International want to expand access to mHERO. Counties in East and West Africa have indicated an interest in implementing the application. UNICEF and IntraHealth International intend to continue to support the ministries of health and healthcare systems in which mHERO has already been implemented. They also hope to find new ways to encourage ministries of health “to understand the interoperability of the technology, the processes for implementation and best practices to using mHero data.”

Overall, mHERO has substantially improved health-sector communication within several countries, proving the application’s potential for revolutionizing health-sector communication throughout the world. Developments can be made to expand the application’s capabilities and reach, as proven in Uganda. The application is a sustainable and cost-efficient resource for healthcare systems and helps reduce the chances of premature death along with the spread of diseases and misinformation. It provides crucial support to healthcare workers, especially during times of epidemics, increasing the overall quality of healthcare and life.

Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

How Goats Fight PovertyGoats are the animals of choice for many humanitarian groups across the world looking to provide life-saving, sustainable aid. From East Asia to Haiti, these animals have saved the lives of countless families suffering from poverty and starvation. Goats are particularly sought after in countries where agriculture is prominent. Nearly 85 percent of the world’s farmers are smallholder farmers, meaning that they limited resources. Smallholder farmers typically earn income through the cultivation of one or two crops planted on a tiny plot of land. Many humanitarian groups are highlighting how goats fight poverty through various campaigns.

How Goats Fight Poverty

Goats are the animal of choice for humanitarian groups for a plethora of reasons. From their behavior to their eating patterns, goats are easy to raise and supply marketable produce. For small farmers, goats are much less expensive to raise than cows or buffalo. Their diet mainly consists of grasses and shrubs, allowing them to survive even through inclement conditions such as droughts and crop failure.

Furthermore, goats reach sexual maturity at an early age and reproduce rather quickly. A female goat can give birth up to two times a year. In many impoverished areas, baby goats benefit the entire community as opposed to just one family – instead of being kept on the same farm as its mother, a baby goat is often gifted to an impoverished neighbor.

Goats and Children

Many children living in impoverished conditions do not have adequate access to a nutritious diet. Goats can provide the milk, cheese and protein needed to balance a child’s nutritional needs thus reducing dependency on protein from plant-based sources. This is particularly beneficial for children living in countries like Haiti where crops are often destroyed by natural disasters.

Rearing goats helps families living in poverty to support their children’s educational needs in more than one way. Goats offer a means to break the cycle of generational poverty, providing households with a source of income to send their children to school. Furthermore, with healthful meal options from goats, children will have full stomachs during the day allowing them to focus on their studies.

Recent Programs Involving Goats

One organization, in particular, has recently participated in the effort to alleviate poverty with goats. SIDA, short for the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, launched a program in western Mali following a 2014 drought. To help, SIDA provided families suffering from food shortage with two assets: goats and seeds. With these two resources, the organization was able to successfully stabilize Malinese livestock herds to combat the lack of flourishing greens.

SIDA was not only able to alleviate poverty with goats in western Mali, but the organization took things a step further by sharing best practices such as care techniques to ensure sustainability. To date, SIDA’s record in western Mali proves to be exemplary. About 2,610 households in the country received goats to combat food insecurity and provide hope for future generations.

The Future for Goat Farmers

Countless personal stories from smallholder farmers have shown the lifechanging effects a goat can have on a community. These creatures seem to be the perfect solution for rural penury, however, there is one problem that stands in the way: goats are not immune to diseases. Organizations like the African Union Inter African Bureau for Animal Resources have been readily responding to this issue, but it demands much more attention as goats have become an integral part of farming life for poor families around the world.

– Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

Electricity Coverage Rising in Africa
It is hard to imagine life without electricity. In the American standard of living, electricity pervades every aspect of a person’s life, from food storage to entertainment and everything in between. In Africa, however, only 30 percent of people have access to electricity.

Power Africa

Power Africa is a USAID agency that aims to provide people in Africa with access to electricity. They plan to make 60 new electricity connections and generate 30,000 more megawatts (MW) of electricity across the continent by 2030. The goal is to do this by harnessing the sun, wind, lake water, and natural gas to power rural areas that do not have access to electricity.

Power Africa tracks its progress on various projects by tracking business transactions with African power companies. For example, in 2016, they made a deal with the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative (ACEF), the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), and the U.S. Department of State to provide $30 million worth of financing of 32 renewable energy projects in 10 countries in Africa. With Power Africa’s help, 90 business transactions have been completed and 25 of Africa’s 55 countries now have access to some form of electricity. Examples from Power Africa actions are described in a text below.

Mali

Although the demand for electricity in Mali is currently greater than the supply, that does not mean that there is no supply at all. Electricity in Mali currently comes from mostly hydraulic and thermal energy (55 and 44 percent, respectively). Power Africa plans to help Mali produce an additional 80 MW of hydroelectric energy, more than 300 MW from biomass, and unlimited MW from the sun.

Electricity usage has already gone up in Mali. Major mining companies increased their energy consumption by 136 MW (189 percent) between 2008 and 2011. In 2016, the government passed a law mandating partnerships between public and private electric companies in order to increase MW production. The ultimate goal is to make an additional 20,000 MW of energy and distribute it to 50 million people by 2020.

Namibia

Currently, Namibia gets most of its electricity from power grids in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and other nearby countries. However, electricity demand in these countries is way higher than supply, forcing Namibia to find ways to generate its own electricity. As of 2008, Namibia can only generate 393 MW from 3 stations, while the national demand is 533 MW.

One of these stations, the Ruacana power station, is dependent on the flow of water from the Kunene River, which flows out of Angola. Another station, the coal-run Eck power station, is costly to operate and maintain. Eck, along with the oil-based Paratus power station, is only used for short-term peaks in electricity demand.

For the time being, Namibia still needs to have its electricity needs met by its neighbors. The Caprivi link is a transmission line that connects Namibia’s power grid to those in Zambia and Zimbabwe. This provides the country with an additional 600 MW, fulfilling Namibia’s electricity needs. In 2007, Namibia consumed 3.6 TWh of electricity.

Tanzania

Most of Tanzania’s electricity (90 percent) comes from biomass. This has resulted in mass deforestation and, thus, is far from ideal for the ecosystem. Only 18.4 percent of Tanzanian citizens have access to electricity in any form. Currently, the country is financially incapable of extending the power grid into all rural areas.

In 1975, the government founded the Tanzania Electric Supply Company Ltd (TANESCO). TANESCO has a nationwide monopoly on electricity production and distribution. However, the Ministry of Energy and Minerals (MEM) is trying to end this monopoly by allowing companies to get licenses to generate, transmit and distribute electricity. The Rural Energy Agency (REA) is slowly getting electricity into rural areas. With these services, the government aims to make electricity available to everyone in Tanzania, and one can see electricity coverage rising from their efforts.

Conclusion

In the modern day, electricity seems like a basic ingredient for life that it seems like everyone should have it. The people in Power Africa agree and we can see electricity coverage rising in Africa as a result of their efforts. Mali is making more energy from more sources than ever, Namibia is starting to make its own electricity, and Tanzania is spreading electricity out as far as it can. Africa is becoming more and more electrified, reaching the ultimate goal- provide access to electricity for everyone on the continent.

– Cassie Parvaz
Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in MaliMali adopted a new Family Code in 2011 which stated that men are to be considered the head of the household and women have to obey their husbands. The Family Code grants men sole parental authority and allows them to have up to four wives. In light of such discriminatory laws, biases and social norms, women’s empowerment in Mali remains a distant dream.

As per the 2013 International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) by CARE International, the following are the key factors that hinder women’s empowerment in Mali:

  1. The support for inequitable norms by men and women is extremely high.
  2. Younger men and women, those in urban areas and those with more education generally show support for more equitable norms but are in the minority.
  3. The vast majority of men continue to be resistant to women’s work outside the home.
  4. Polygamy, which is the reality for 18 percent of men and 47 percent of women, continues to be supported by many.
  5. Exposure to violence as children (witnessing and experiencing it directly) is strongly associated with women experiencing Inter-Partner Violence and men perpetrating it.
  6. High rates of violence, including sexual violence, both witnessed and experienced during childhood (in the home, in communities and in schools).
  7. Economic stress was reported frequently in qualitative results, particularly the pressure on men to provide for their families.
  8. Gender socialization of children in Mali continues to reinforce gender inequality.
  9. There is extremely limited participation by men in domestic chores and the care of children.
  10. High support for some traditional practices, including excision, which 95 percent of women interviewed said they had experienced.

However, a bold step has been made towards bringing about women’s empowerment in Mali by adopting a landmark gender quota bill that requires a minimum of 30 percent of elected and appointed officials to be women. Young educated men and women continue to struggle for gender parity.

Gender inequality has been reduced in primary education due to campaigns that encourage the enrollment of girls in school but no progress is visible in secondary education because of lack of targeted action and a prevailing sexist attitude.

The transition to women’s empowerment in Mali remains too slow and limited in the presence of strong resistance and gender biases by the women themselves. The most effective method would be to increase men’s understanding of the benefits of an equal society like family health, increased income and child survival. As per the IMAGES report, the key is to develop a more positive notion of masculinity and integrate men’s role in promoting gender equity.

– Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr

How Emergency Transportation Has Addressed Disparity Gaps in Women's HealthIn September 2017, the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) High Impact Health Services Project constructed emergency transport systems in Tienfala, a small community located in Mali, which has allowed for pregnant women to be transported to health facilities in order to give birth. This project was a part of USAID’s efforts to increase health outcomes around the world and close the consistently widening disparity gaps in women’s health.

According to USAID, the completion of the emergency transport systems were in large thanks to a community effort. People from the small Tienfala community worked together in order to help increase the health outcomes of pregnant women in their community. USAID’s project in Tienfala is very promising for the promotion of women and girls in developing countries.

Many other organizations have placed a focus on increasing the health outcomes of women and girls in developing countries in order to address the widening disparity gaps in women’s health around the world. In fact, the aim of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), in regards to women and girls, is to “promote the equal rights of women and girls and to support their full participation in the political, social and economic development of their communities.”

Like UNICEF, USAID has placed a value on promoting women’s health in developing countries like Mali. Specifically, according to USAID, the focus of the High Impact Health Services Project is to decrease the incidence of maternal and child deaths, and the construction of the emergency transport systems in Tienfala has greatly helped reduce such mortality rates.

Kadia Coulibably, a woman from Tienfala, lacked any sort of prenatal care during her fourth pregnancy, reports USAID. However, the emergency transport systems allowed Coulibably to experience an organized, healthy childbirth. Without the valuable help of U.S. foreign aid through the governmental agency USAID, Coulibaly may have faced complications during her childbirth due to the lack of proper care.

Of course, a focus on the health of women and girls in developing countries is incredibly vital to the empowerment of women in their respective communities. When pregnant women can receive accessible, adequate health care, they can thrive happily and healthily. Thus, the construction of the emergency transport systems for pregnant women in Mali is a step in the right direction for the advancement of women’s health.

Emily Santora

Photo: Flickr

Climate Change

A military coup has worsened Mali’s national security, amplifying the impact climate change has had on the country and its people. Conflict erupted in northern Mali in 2012. The violence of the proceeding five years has since destroyed the nation’s land, diminishing the abilities local farmers have to grow vegetation.

Since 2012, Mali has witnessed a wave of poor harvests, pushing a food crisis upon the country. Hostile physical and environmental circumstances have forced about 475,000 people from their homes to neighboring countries, and those who remain in Mali face food shortages and security threats. With 25 percent of families moderately to severely food insecure, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO) estimates that 270,000 people face starvation.

Two thirds of Mali is a desert or semi-desert that experiences long yearly periods of drought. Furthermore, the Sahara Desert is expanding southward at a rate of 48 km per year. Climate change has significantly decreased the amount of rainfall, dropping by 30 percent since 1998. Consequently, Mali is also suffering from water scarcity. Only three-fifths of Malians have access to safe drinking water and only about one-third have proper sanitation.

The water shortage has weakened Mali’s agricultural activities, taking an immense toll on its citizens. Agriculture employs 90 percent of the country’s rural population and 70 per cent of Mali’s entire labor force. Cotton, gold and livestock make up 80 to 90 percent of total export earnings.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has been working on generating food security, particularly between harvests. The organization built a total of 3,966 environmental assets such as ponds, dams, and canals to help alleviate Mali’s lack of water. Technical and economic assistance have been provided for local farmers, broadening Mali’s market and strengthening the agricultural sector.  WFP has also begun providing nutrition support for pregnant women, nursing mothers, underweight children and children under five suffering from chronic and moderate-to-acute malnutrition. Further assistance from organizations like WFP is necessary to lift Mali‘s people from the harsh grips of military conflict and climate change.

Tiffany Santos

Photo: Google

Hunger in MaliMali, the eighth-largest country in Africa sits landlocked in the western region of the continent. Hunger in Mali is often driven by drought and conflict in the region. There have been three major droughts that affected Mali in the last decade. In March 2012, the country faced a coup and a rebellion in the north.

According to a report from the World Food Programme, approximately 475,000 people were displaced from their homes after a major conflict in the northern part of the country. The country also suffered from food insecurity and faced issues of nutrition during this time.

In the northern regions of Mali, including Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal, about one-fifth of the households experience food shortages. Additionally, approximately 15 percent of children are afflicted with acute malnutrition in Mali, according to the report.

According to an article from Action Against Hunger, rates of malnutrition in Mali “exceed the critical threshold on a national level.” Specifically, the Sahel region of northern Mali is perpetually in a state of nutrition emergency.

Since 1996, Action Against Hunger has provided treatment for malnourished Malians and helped to develop support malnutrition management in public health facilities.

In 2015, the World Food Programme reported that 2.5 million Malians were struggling to feed their families, and just over 300,000 of the country’s residents were considered to be in need of severe food assistance.

The report also stated that over half of the women in Mali are anemic. Furthermore, approximately 80 percent of children in Mali suffer from anemia.

Hunger in Mali is also worsened by over half the country living below the national poverty line. However, aid from global organizations has helped Mali in respect to food insecurity.

According to their report, the World Food Programme utilizes a cross-border operation from Niger to transport food to northern Mali. This organization also assists the country’s residents by providing them with cash to purchase fresh produce.

While hunger in Mali remains a pressing issue, the stress of food insecurity has the potential to be lessened by global organizations.

Leah Potter

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Mali
As growth programs in Africa transition from aid to investment, the quality of life for its inhabitants improves. The effects of poverty vary from place to place. For example, let’s examine the causes of poverty in Mali.

The World Bank Group (WBG) strives to promote risk management in its development policy operations and its understanding of the adverse factors that could affect its operations in Africa. As a result, its strategies could help alleviate some of the causes of poverty in Mali.

The WBG uses Standardized Operations Risk-Rating Tools to evaluate the success of its Country Partnership Framework. These tools are significant in the coordination and execution of development programs. They set the tone for what is achievable in the WBG’s operations. As a technique for risk management, the WBG employs different factors to determine the key impediments to development plans and the success of poverty reduction programs in Africa. Consequently, in the WBG’s assessment of its multilateral investment framework in 2016, the bank outlines certain risk factors that impede growth and are the causes of poverty in Mali.

The process for improvements in Africa must consider political stability as a condition for allowing investment plans to flourish. For the development intentions such as providing education, electricity, infrastructure, food security and regional integration in Africa, there must be peace and an environment where violence does not frighten investors. In Mali, high poverty in densely populated areas, increasing youth unemployment, unfavorable climate and environmental disasters worsen living conditions. More causes include:

  1. Conflict Risk: Conflicts in the west of Mali have had a ripple effect on other parts of the country. For example, there has been an increase in violence in the country’s southern region. The longer the instability in the north persists, the longer impact it will have on stability in the rest of the country.
  2. Lack of Progress on Key Governance Reforms: The Systemic Country Diagnostic for Mali indicates that poor infrastructure has worsened the government’s ability to tackle physical security issues and create an environment for economic growth.
  3. Economic risks: As increased violence raises concern for foreign investments, development partners are expected to reevaluate supporting development plans.
  4. Lack of Key Sector Reforms: As reforms in key sectors such as agriculture and energy should contribute to the reduction of poverty, these growths are unlikely if the terms of peace agreements are not met.
  5. Security Challenges for WBG-Funded Activities: A solution is to simplify the implementation arrangements and close cooperation with partners on the ground, as there is a low institutional capacity to implement these programs.

As an important contributor to development in Africa, the World Bank Group is committed to programs that have the potential of achieving the poverty reduction goals for 2030. These causes of poverty in Mali are similar to the causes of poverty in other parts of the globe. Thus, success and peace are mutually inclusive as they are significant factors for growth in Mali and other parts of Africa. As a result, stability in Mali is necessary for growth to continue.

Ebuka Okoye

Photo: Flickr

Since 2012, human rights in Mali have been threatened by armed groups, impunity and a lack of national security. While the government has re-established its control, the northern part of the country is occupied by armed groups and uncontrolled by Malian authorities.

To escape the unrest, more than 135,000 Malians have fled to neighboring countries. The U.N. Security Council responded to the insecurity of Malian civilians with an additional 2,500 personnel for The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), maximizing its strength with 13,289 militia and 1,920 police, as well as authorizing French forces to intervene if imminent danger arises. Armed Islamist groups are restricting human rights in Mali by closing schools, cautioning against collaboration with the government and confining villages to their interpretation of Islam.

According to the U.N., insecurity caused 296 out of 2,380 schools to close in Gao, Kidal, Ségou and Timbuktu without alternatives. Kamissa Camara, a researcher specializing in Africa’s Sahel region, doubts that most Malian children have attended school since 2012 with the exception of those near Bamako. The U.N. Peacebuilding Fund has invested $12 million since 2013 to address unemployment, access to justice and education and communal tension.

According to the Human Rights Watch, state security services are improving but “Malian authorities have made no meaningful effort to investigate those implicated in violations.” Without action from the authorities, Malian communities face continual conflict with armed groups and their allegiance to their country.

Armed Islamist groups focus their recruitment campaigns on exploiting community frustrations over poverty and corruption. While they provoke fear in civilians, they also use communities’ vulnerability by filling their lack of governance, including investigating crimes, resolving deadly land disputes and reducing communal violence in certain regions.

Though the government is engaged in counterterrorism operations, perhaps one of the greatest strides it has made is increasing awareness of human rights violations in Mali. In 2016, the government accepted a bill increasing independence for the National Commission for Human Rights and a five-year action plan to strengthen human rights and access to justice.

Strengthening Mali’s rule begins with providing greater security and human rights to its civilians, eliminating armed groups and creating peace where there is conflict.

Sarah Dunlap

Photo: Flickr

Why Mali MattersWith no end in sight, the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali is the deadliest ongoing mission, and yet the country is rarely mentioned in the news. Since 2013, when the mission named MINUSMA was launched, more than 100 peacekeepers have been murdered. Despite the paucity of media coverage, there are a number of reasons why Mali matters and cannot be ignored.

Mali is located in a strategic area. It is a large country surrounded by poorly guarded borders. Its neighboring countries have been suffering from extremism and instability and could be devastated by turmoil in Mali. If Mali fell to extremists, it could become a launchpad for attacks on the surrounding countries. In addition, Mali has critical smuggling routes that help terrorists traffic in goods and people.

Mali is extremely poor. More than half the population live below the international poverty line, living on less than $2 a day. Though people from all socioeconomic backgrounds have the potential to become terrorists, extreme poverty seems to be a strong contributing factor to radicalization. One U.N. ambassador stated that “radicalization of otherwise law-abiding, responsible individuals [is] caused by a deep sense of collective frustration, deprivation and disillusionment.” Therefore, one of the ways to combat extremism is by improving socioeconomic conditions. MINUSMA aims to do just that by supporting political reform and assisting with humanitarian relief work.

The crisis that necessitated MINUSMA was largely caused by ineffective government. In 2012, Tuareg rebels joined Islamic militants in a coup d’etat. In 2013, with the help of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar Dine advanced south and defeated the Malian army. Former CIA director Leon Panetta stated, “We have a responsibility to make sure that al-Qaeda does not establish a base for operations in North Africa and Mali.” If peacekeeping efforts fail, Mali could become a new hotbed of extremism.

One of the reasons why Mali matters is that hundreds of thousands of people have already become refugees or been internally displaced. In a nation that was already rife with hunger and malnutrition, the crisis has further exacerbated the situation. Young children, in desperate need of food, have become targets for jihadist recruitment. If the country continues on such a trajectory, the future for the country and even the region will be grim.

The costs of keeping the peace in Mali have been high, but the costs of allowing Mali to fall apart would be even higher. Knowing this, it is clear why Mali matters.

Rebecca Yu

Photo: Flickr