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Health Care in Ghana

The West African nation of Ghana is a vibrant country filled with natural beauty and rich culture. However, like many of its neighbors in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana suffers from a high poverty rate and lack of access to adequate health care. In fact, according to the Ghana Statistical Service, 23 percent of the total population lives in poverty and approximately 2.4 million Ghanaians are living in “extreme poverty.” That being said, many organizations and groups — both national and global — are working to improve health care in Ghana.

Malaria in Ghana

A disease transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes, malaria is a common concern throughout much of West Africa, including Ghana where it is the number one cause of death. In fact, according to the WHO’s most recent World Malaria Report, nearly 4.4 million confirmed malaria cases were reported in Ghana in 2018 — accounting for approximately 15 percent of the country’s total population.

All that in mind, many NGOs, as well as international government leaders, have taken up the mantle to eliminate malaria in Ghana. This includes leadership from the United States under the President’s Malaria Initiative or PMI which lays out comprehensive plans for Ghana to achieve its goal of successfully combating malaria.

With a proposed FY 2019 budget of $26 million, the PMI will ramp up its malaria control interventions including the distribution of vital commodities to the most at-risk citizens. For instance, the PMI aims to ensure that intermittent preventative treatment of pregnant women (IPTp) is more readily accessible for Ghanaian women. Progress has been made, too, as net use of IPTp by pregnant Ghanaian women has risen from 43 percent to 50 percent since 2016. This is just one example of the many ways in which PMI is positively contributing to the reduction and elimination of malaria in Ghana.

National Health Care System

National leaders are also doing their part to positively impact health care in Ghana. In 2003, the government made a huge step toward universal health coverage for its citizens by launching the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). As of 2017, the percentage of the population enrolled in the scheme declined to 35 percent from 41 percent two years prior. However, 73 percent of those enrolled renewed their membership and “persons below the age of 18 years and the informal sector workers had significantly higher numbers of enrolment than any other member group,” according to the Global Health Research and Policy.

It is difficult to truly understand Ghana’s health issues without considering firsthand perspectives. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Dr. Enoch Darko, an emergency medicine physician who graduated from the University of Ghana Medical School, commented on some of the health issues that have plagued Ghana in recent decades. “A lot of problems that most third world countries, including Ghana, deal with are parasitic diseases such as malaria and gastroenteritis. Though health issues like diabetes and hypertension still remain in countries around the world, and even the United States, the difference is that some diseases that have been eradicated in Western countries still remain in countries like Ghana,” Darko said. “Many people in Ghana simply do not see a doctor for routine checkups like in the United States. Rather, most people will only go to see a doctor when they are feeling sick. As a result, lesser symptoms may go unchecked, thus contributing to the prevalence and spread of disease and infection. Combined with the fact that many Ghanaians in rural communities may not have sufficient money to afford treatment or medicine, this becomes a cycle for poor or sick Ghanaians.”

That said, it is hoped that with continued support from international players as well as government intervention, the country can continue to make strides in addressing health care for its citizens.

Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

 

Convoy of Hope is Making an ImpactFounded in 1994, Convoy of Hope is a faith-based, nonprofit organization that works domestically in the U.S. as well as internationally in more than 120 countries around the world. Convoy of Hope as a rating of 96.46 from Charity Navigator and has also made its way to Forbes’ list of the 100 largest charities. The organization has reached millions of people through its focus on disaster relief, children’s feeding programs, women’s empowerment and more. Here are five ways Convoy of Hope is making an impact.

5 Ways Convoy of Hope is Making an Impact

  1. Convoy of Hope provides meals to more than 200,000 children in 14 countries while monitoring the health and growth of these children each day. The organization partners with various food companies and also has its own campaign, feedONE. The goal of providing these meals is to create a starting point to build strong communities, healthy living environments, education and eventual career opportunities. Convoy of Hope is also committed to providing clean water and filtration systems so that these communities are able to access safe drinking and cleaning water.
  2. Through an agricultural program, piloted in Haiti in and now used in eight countries, the organization trains and educates farmers to grow their own crops and has helped schools, churches and orphanages around the world to start their own urban gardens. For instance, since 2012, the on-the-ground team has trained more than 5,000 farmers in “best management practices for culturally relevant agriculture.” Convoy of Hope proudly notes that in 2018, the team provided some 1.2 million meals through its school feeding program — locally grown by the farmers the organization trained.
  3. The organization is also focused on empowering women through Convoy:Women by providing training and education programs covering topics like finance, nutrition, literacy, cooking and health. Since 2011, almost 17,000 women across four countries have been trained through these programs, receiving the help and empowerment needed to make independent life choices. Importantly, the organization also provides start-up capital as a way to promote entrepreneurship and economic empowerment. In addition, there is also a spin-off program called Empowered Girls that focuses on young girls in various schools and communities. More than 4,000 participants are enrolled in this program which covers topics like self-esteem, gendered violence and gendered cultural beliefs.
  4. Convoy of Hope prides itself on being one of the first relief programs to respond to natural disasters around the world. The organization offers on-the-ground response teams as well as shipment of relief supplies from their distribution center in order to bring both immediate and long-term relief and recovery to affected areas. Convoy of Hope has also responded to 379 disasters so far, helping more than one million people in 2018 alone. The organization has also offered help to refugees in the Middle East and Europe since 2014, providing meals, supplies and finances.
  5. Convoy of Hope has partnered with Dr. Kerri Miller, CEO of Make People Better, LLC, in order to provide “reiimmune” to thousands of children. Re:iimune is an “oral hydrobiotic therapy” full of probiotics used to treat dehydration and provide intestinal support to help children absorb important nutrients and medications effectively. To date, Convoy of Hope has distributed 80,000 doses of reiimmune.

It goes without saying that Convoy of Hope has made strides helping those dealing with poverty around the world, with more than 115 million people receiving various forms of assistance since 1994.

– Jessica Winarski
Photo: Flickr

healthcare systems in Togo

Togo, a country located in West Africa is occupied by eight million people and currently faces a healthcare crisis. Nations across the globe have been successful in transforming inadequate healthcare systems into those that successfully prevent and treat ailments. That said, according to a 2017 story by Development and Cooperation, Togo is often referred to as having the worst health systems in West Africa.

Many factors contribute to the sub-par healthcare systems in Togo, including insufficient staff, outdated medical instruments and practices, and ineffective financial and insurance resources. These components combine to create the current healthcare system in Togo.

Despite this complicated health matrix, efforts have been made by the government in tandem with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to reduce the burden of disease and to improve the healthcare systems in Togo.

Diagnosing the Problem

According to a story run by Deutsche Welle (DW), a German international broadcaster, Togo only sports three healthcare workers for every 10 thousand residents, which DW claims is approximately a quarter of the number of healthcare workers per 10 thousand residents for Ghana. Insufficient staff across the nation – not only in the larger centralized hospitals of Togo, contribute to the poor health systems present.

Inadequate staffing at clinics and hospitals alike can escalate quickly. Lack of properly trained and licensed doctors, nurses and medical personnel often leads to overcrowding in emergency and waiting rooms alike, which complicates matters further. Keeping patients awaiting treatment in confined places increases disease transmission between patients, especially those that can be transferred via skin contact and via the air. Furthermore, the same 2017 Development and Cooperation story recounted several instances where patients tragically passed away while awaiting treatment in some of Togo’s largest hospitals.

In addition to overwhelmed and insufficient staffing, the hospitals themselves are not properly stocked with the supplies necessary to diagnose and treat incoming patients. Outdated medical instruments and practices also have the potential to contribute to inadequate healthcare systems in Togo. Equipment may become faulty over time, or the technology used may simply just not be correct.

While outdated medical technologies are certainly lacking, hospitals also appear to lack basic amenities such as beds. In 2011, Togo only sported seven hospital beds per 10,000 population.

Insufficient staffing and medical supplies seemingly stem from one arena, however: lack of financial resources available. As of 2015, over 55 percent of Togo’s population lived under the global poverty line – approximately four million people. Because of this extreme poverty, patients cannot afford the necessary treatments which leads to a lack of funding for hospitals, resulting in smaller staff and inadequate supplies.

As of right now, healthcare systems in Togo seem to operate on a “pay or die” approach, according to the Development and Cooperation story. Patients and loved ones of those who have fallen ill often have to borrow money in an effort to receive treatment for diseases and ailments. Even then, sometimes it is not enough.

Current Remedies

Global efforts have been to improve the inadequate healthcare systems in Togo. Currently, Togo is in the midst of a five-year project aimed at ending neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). This integrated NTD control currently receives funding from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) among others.

This funding goes directly to combatting and administering diagnoses and treatments for neglected tropical diseases present in Togo. Furthermore, a significant portion of the funds dedicated to reducing the burden of these NTDs in Togo is allocated toward the training of health workers, hopefully providing stability in the healthcare sector for years to come.

Aside from these efforts to combat NTDs, other global institutions have made efforts to improve Togo’s healthcare system in general.

The International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI), an institution set on improving healthcare systems and structures using peer-to-peer models, has begun to lay the groundwork for strengthening the healthcare systems in Togo. Much of IANPHI’s work goes toward strengthening disease surveillance, as well as equipping Togo’s Ministry of Health with laboratory and research facilities, hopefully promoting new science and health-related job opportunities.

Moving Forward

The healthcare systems in Togo have a significant and difficult path in front of them. The issues of staffing, supplies and financial insecurities must be addressed in order to increase health promotion and disease prevention in the country. That said, significant progress has been made in laying the groundwork of the future of Togo’s healthcare systems, hopefully paving the way for significant reform and a brighter future.

– Colin Petersdorf
Photo: Flickr

sub-Saharan witchcraft accusationsThe sub-Saharan region in Africa includes 46 of the 54 countries that make up the continent. While numerous cultural and political differences show variance between the sub-Saharan nations, many of them share a paranoid commonality: children are often accused of witchcraft. These sub-Saharan witchcraft accusations show that the fear of mystic powers is not a superstition of the past, but that it exists and is growing even in the 21st century.

The origins of these witchcraft accusations are unclear. UNICEF records that these accusations are falsely believed to be a piece of African tradition, and this phenomenon is the symptom of social, economic and political struggles.

Who’s Accused?

There are three categories of children who are at risk for the sub-Saharan witch accusations. All of them represent a marginalized category in which noticeable difference leads to suspicion.

The urban myth of the “child witches” is the first. Accusations are most often cast towards the most vulnerable children in a community, such as orphans and those with a physical or learning disability. Children with behavioral oddities are also targets, including those who are talented, precocious or rebellious.

The second group of individuals at risk are babies who experience a peculiar birth. This can mean that they were born premature or were delivered facing an abnormal way.

Thirdly, children with albinism are often accused of witchcraft and believed to contain magic power within certain organs.

Many of these “bewitched” children believe their families, pastors and instructors when they are told they are agents of evil magic.

A Human Rights Violation

The sub-Saharan witchcraft accusations lead to negligence of international laws protecting children. In the countries where accusations are most rampant, police and judicial forces are inefficient in upholding national law.

Accusations manifest in a number of ways. Violence, abandonment, sexual exploitation and even murder are acts leveled against witch children. Some victims view these aggressions as rituals to release evil spirits. It is recorded that about 81,000,000 African children suffer from severe psychological issues due to the punishment they have endured.

As the accusations of witchcraft have escalated in recent years, the U.N. has expressed concern for the issues and has been pressing awareness and regulation. The U.N. Refugee Agency records that the abuse endured by these children is somewhat responsible for the uptick in displaced individuals around the world.

Efforts to Hinder the Problem

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one sub-Saharan country that suffers abundantly with witchcraft accusations. The nation has an inordinate number of vulnerable orphans living in impoverished conditions due to its recent civil war. As such, many NGOs focus their attention on this particular country in the sub-Saharan region.

The International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE) is one NGO that is specifically fit to deal with this humanitarian issue in the DRC. The organization is involved in a mission to incorporate a child’s rights into state law. Sub-Saharan witchcraft accusations in the DRC have been hindered by BICE’s local activities across the country. The group has established rehabilitation and learning centers. These work to eradicate the notion that child witches are responsible for societal ills, as well as to reintegrate banished children into their communities.

BICE has been active in the DRC since 1996 and continues to work with the central government to better protect Congolese children.

More Needs to be Done

While the U.N. and its partner NGOs have worked to bring attention to and provide for the children suffering from the sub-Saharan witchcraft accusations, the issue is unlikely to disappear in the near future.

The belief that child witches are plaguing society is one that results from what UNICEF calls the “multi-crisis” pressuring many African nations. Left behind in the journey to modernization, many African communities have carried the weight of failed political systems and unfulfilled economic promises. If the sub-Saharan region is to leave behind ancient superstitions of witchcraft, international actors must aid these countries on the pathway to development.

– Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

child labor in Ghana

Ghana, a small African country nestled between Togo and Ivory Coast, is one of the highest achieving nations in the sub-Saharan region. It is the world’s second-largest producer of both cocoa beans and gold, and this generative economy has propelled much of the Ghanaian population out of poverty.

While ahead in some regards, Ghanaian children are still subject to human trafficking. According to the United Nations’ International Labour Organization, over 152 million children around the world are forced into the workforce. Africa is among the worst offending areas, and as such, brings child labor in Ghana to international concern.

Child labor is a National Issue

Currently, one out of every six children is involved in child labor in Ghana. Offending sectors are numerous and widespread; 88 percent of children work in agriculture, typically harvesting cocoa beans, while 2.3 percent are fishermen. Others are subjected to domestic or sexual work.

Many Ghanaian children participate in child labor due to desperation and ignorance. While free public education is available in Ghana, many families cannot afford the uniforms and books required to enroll in school. Poverty is, therefore, cyclical in these circumstances – much more than cheap labor is being exchanged. A child is also selling his or her childhood, dignity and future potential to their traffickers.

Lake Volta Region

Lake Volta is the largest man-made lakes in the sub-Saharan region. It is notoriously known as an area where the worst forms of child labor prosper. Here, one-third of children between the ages of seven and 14 work full-time.

Children are valued workers on Lake Volta because their labor is affordable and efficient. Recently, the lake’s fish population has decreased considerably. Fishermen, therefore, do not have the financial means to accommodate other sources of labor. Furthermore, children provide the nimble fingers needed to untangle fish from the minuscule-sized holes in fishing nets.

Aside from posing as a serious human rights violation, work on Lake Volta is quite dangerous for Ghanaian children. Nets often get stuck on objects underneath the surface. This forces children to go diving in order to prevent tears in the nets. Drowning is a concern, as well as contracting several illnesses including bilharzia and guinea worm.

Government Effort

The central government made several, moderate efforts to control the unbridled child labor in Ghana. In 2017, the National Plan of Action for the Elimination of Human Trafficking was enacted. With it, the government identified itself as an entity against the exploitation of its young generation. Children working in mines are a specific concern for the government, as mercury poisoning is prevalent among workers in this sector. Feeding programs have also been instilled in schools and refugee camps in order to protect children from malnourishment.

These efforts, while well-intentioned, are not efficiently enforced in the country. This leaves many children in enslavement, or at risk of falling into this dark reality.

International Action

Child labor is a human rights violation to which the international community has responded with animosity and vigor. There are countless organizations working to end all forms of child labor and trafficking.

APPLE is just one NGO that specifically works to hinder the growth of child labor in Ghana. This organization has stationed itself in fishing villages around the Lake Volta region. Their efforts to eliminate child labor compromises of immediate and long-term solutions. The banning of nets with small holes is believed to decrease the value of children on the lake, and education is provided in order to warn families of the calamities that human trafficking inflicts.

While the sub-Saharan region is not the only area that violates international human rights laws, child labor in Ghana is on the rise. Efforts to protect the most innocent collection of the population need to be mobilized with the utmost zeal. These children need aid in order to liberate, educate and relocate those displaced by this practice.

– Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

health policyKerala, a state within India, is renowned for its effective policies in education, literacy, and healthcare. Kerala has the second-lowest rate of poverty in India, and that figure has been steadily declining since 1994. Health policies that provide affordable and accessible healthcare to the state’s low-income populations have been critical in its success defeating poverty, but relatively high levels of inequality and emerging health challenges, including an aging population and lifestyle diseases like diabetes, remain policy challenges for Kerala moving forward.

Kerala’s Current Health Needs

One of Kerala’s most pressing healthcare challenges is caring for its rapidly aging population. Kerala’s population over the age of 60 is expected to double by 2050, and as a larger proportion of people are retired, the state needs a healthcare infrastructure designed to support the health needs of the elderly.

A trustee of an NGO focused on healthcare for the underprivileged in Kerala, who wished to remain anonymous, pointed out changing lifestyles as the cause of some of Kerala’s growing health issues. Non-communicable diseases are on the rise; cancer and diabetes have become the two largest causes of death in the state.

While infectious diseases remain under control compared to other parts of India, re-emergence of certain diseases have led to rather high morbidity in some areas. Additionally, despite significant efforts on the part of the state to place healthcare in the hands of local authorities, and what the NGO trustee says is the highest ratio of doctors to the public in rural areas of any state in India, rural parts of Kerala still do not receive the same quality of care as do urban areas. Likewise, although Kerala has the lowest infant mortality and maternal mortality rates of any Indian state, the government still aims to reduce these rates further.

Policy Solutions

Because healthcare in India is managed at the state level, Kerala’s state government is responsible for formulating its own comprehensive healthcare policy. The state has a history and culture of providing health services to the public; as early as 1879, vaccinations were made mandatory for specific subsets of the population. Since India’s independence in 1947, Kerala has worked to expand easy, community-based access to primary care, prevention services, and specialized treatments.

Kerala’s decentralized healthcare model is a key component of its success in providing affordable and accessible care. After a statewide movement towards expensive private healthcare in the 1980s due to a lack of resources in the public health sector, in 1996, Kerala’s state government decentralized public healthcare through the People’s Campaign for Decentralized Planning. Decentralization shifted approximately 40 percent of state healthcare funding to local governments, prioritizing creating community-based services that are accessible to all regardless of income or caste, as a private-dominated system was consistently barring the poor from accessing care across Kerala.

Looking to the Future

Another key element of Kerala’s healthcare successes has been its willingness to generate policies anticipating future healthcare needs. As the state’s population ages rapidly, policy is already being generated to combat this coming issue. Senior care facilities are already being constructed across the state, existing facilities are being made more equipped for geriatric care, and the Pain and Palliative Care Policy of 2008 has increased the amount of home-based care at the local level.

Likewise, to combat the re-emergence of infectious diseases like diarrhea, typhoid, and Dengue fever, Kerala has invested in information-gathering at the household level in order to observe the spread of such illnesses. As diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease came to account for more than half of all deaths in Kerala, the National Programme for Prevention of CVD, Diabetes, Cancer and Stroke (NPCDCS) was introduced in Pathanamthitta district in 2010 and has since been expanded statewide.

This year, Kerala’s government passed a policy for comprehensive healthcare reform. This new policy seeks to reshape the state’s health services to better account for an aging population, re-emerging infectious diseases and non-communicable lifestyle diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and to expand mental healthcare. It will increase public spending on healthcare more than eightfold in order to further lower the price of public health services as well as providing treatment guidelines to ensure a more even quality of treatment across the state. This comes at the same time as the state is expanding its public health insurance coverage.

Impact on Poverty

Despite the government’s continued efforts to decrease the cost of healthcare and the fact that privatized healthcare services are still largely inaccessible to the poor, Kerala has accomplished several significant victories in providing affordable and accessible healthcare. According to the NGO trustee, no one needs to travel more than 10 kilometers to a primary health centre (PHC), and medicines are provided for free at PHCs across Kerala. Decentralization of healthcare has cut costs significantly, and the state’s new health policy seeks to encourage subsidized public healthcare even further while increasing insurance coverage.

Certainly, Kerala’s innovative health policy is a critical component of its low and steadily decreasing poverty rate. However, underprivileged individuals–including the poor, those in rural areas, women, and the elderly–continue to receive lower quality care and less of it. That is why NGOs and nonprofits like the trustee’s organization must continue to exist, and why the government continues its fight for constant improvement of Kerala’s health policy.

Macklyn Hutchison
Photo: Flickr

 

Fight Poverty with TechnologyIn the past two decades, Télecoms Sans Frontières (TSF), an international NGO, has provided more than 20 million marginalized people with means of communication which not only saves lives but also helps to make strides in poverty reduction. Headquartered in Pau, France, Télecoms Sans Frontièrs has assisted disadvantaged groups such as refugees and migrants in more than 70 countries. This is done through its use of emergency-response technologies.

For example, when a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit numerous Indonesian islands on Sep. 28, 2018, Télecoms Sans Frontièrs quickly began to distribute aid. The NGO set up internet connections with local providers to ensure efficient humanitarian aid coordination in larger cities. Following this, the team visited isolated, comparatively poorer villages in Indonesia that lacked internet access to provide them with mobile WiFi. This is only one of more than 140 crises that Télecoms Sans Frontièrs has responded to since its founding in 1998.

TSF is currently undertaking eight humanitarian missions across seven countries. All missions involve means of technology access and adaptation. Keep reading to learn more about the organization’s mission to fight poverty with technology.

Télecoms Sans Frontièrs: 8 Global Missions To Fight Poverty With Technology

  1. The Information Diffusion System in Mexico aims to provide migrants and refugees with important information regarding their location. This is made possible through a network of micro-computers in eight centers across the nation. Screens at each center present news alerts and legal information such as asylum procedures. According to one Salvadoran migrant, “The screen helped me to ask for refuge, to know my rights as a migrant and to know the location of the consulate of El Salvador.”
  2. Technological management for Guatemala’s food aid program plays a critical role, especially because TSF combats the effects of brutal droughts in the Dry Corridor region. TSF partnered with the government and four other NGOs to efficiently run the “Operation Opportunity” food aid program, which financially supports the extremely impoverished. Among other technological roles, TSF determines the necessary equipment for fields and configures administrative technology.
  3. Emergency call centers for Venezuelan refugees in Brazil offer the ability to communicate with their relatives through an IP telephone solution. Moreover, the centers have proven essential for the refugees to carry out asylum applications, and for aid distributions. Efforts that help migrants obtain legal standing are key to escaping poverty.
  4. Internet connectivity for Middle Eastern and North African migrants and refugees in Bihać, Bosnia, not only allows them to contact their families but also benefits the humanitarian actors aiming to mitigate the issue. Organizations such as the Red Cross Society of Bosnia and UNHCR are few and are in desperate need of financial and human assistance. By providing internet connectivity that covers a total of 20,000 square-meters, humanitarian efficiency and coordination are vastly improved as Bosnia faces growing refugee populations.
  5. The community telecenter in Burkina Faso, in partnership with the Zoramb Naagtaaba Association, works to bridge the digital divide between the capital Ouagadougou and the rural region of Guiè. While the Internet proved to be a ground-breaking tool in industrializing Burkina Faso from 1997 onwards, Guiè has remained relatively isolated from technological and economic progress. Until late 2010, inhabitants of Guiè needed to commute up to 12 hours just to access the Internet. The region’s community telecentre not only provides internet connection and modern computer equipment but even offers computer training tailored for many occupations, such as for students and farmers. Education efforts like these are key to enabling social mobility and reducing poverty.
  6. A cybercafé established in Miarinarivo, Madagascar provides locals with the ability to carry out personal work with internet access. Additionally, the café provides its users with technological equipment such as computers and printers. Considering how the café’s users are predominantly adolescents, in partnership with the NGO IT Cup, these students are given introductory computer lessons essential to escaping poverty.
  7. The mLearning project for Syrian children has provided displaced and refugee children in war-stricken areas with educational resources all through the use of digital technologies. With tablets offering a range of tools such as courses, interactive documents, and quizzes, TSF’s digital program is a clear example of how the NGO aims to fight poverty with technology. Providing the younger generations of vulnerable regions with education is a central milestone towards escaping poverty.
  8. Connectivity between Syrian medical centers allows for coordination in TSF’s mission for hospitals to efficiently aid the country’s wounded. Since 2012, TSF has connected 53 hospitals, pharmacies and clinics by creating broadband connections and establishing over 20 satellite lines. In the last seven years, this has equated to the transferring of 35.9 TB of medical data along with the treatment of 3.2 million patients across these medical centers.

There’s no doubt that the critical role of technology in the 21st century is continuing to grow. Rather than feeling threatened by this change to tradition, TSF embraces any challenge to orthodoxy as an opportunity. For the past three decades, TSF has consistently adapted to and used these changing conditions to its advantage. In fields ranging from global health to economics, Télécoms Sans Frontières continues to fight poverty with technology and ultimately aims to secure human rights internationally.

– Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

Gender equality and nutritionWomen are disproportionately affected by malnutrition in developing countries, and as such it is now the focus on many global food programs to simultaneously improve gender equality and nutrition by providing better education and resources for female small farm holders.

Impact of Sociocultural Norms

Sociocultural norms have placed many women in secondary decision-making roles in their families. Women are less likely to receive any education on general health and nutrition, less empowered in financial decision-making within their families and less able to control what food they put on the table. Oftentimes, the main breadwinner in a family is male, while women are reduced to more supporting and complacent roles.

Additionally, many programs are male-centric, neglecting the specific nutritional needs of women. As a result, women in developing countries have more iron deficiencies and have higher rates of being an unhealthy weight (obese or underweight). When women suffer from more chronic illnesses, it further reduces their ability to contribute meaningfully, and they further relinquish control on financial decisions. Gender equality and nutrition both improve when women are the focus of food security initiatives.

Integrating Gender Equality and Nutrition

Antonelle D’Aprile, the country director for the World Food Programme in Nicaragua, is a leader in combining gender equality and nutrition into a cohesive program that truly empowers women farmers. The WFP Women Economic Empowerment Strategy was first implemented in 2016 and has helped 300 female farmers reach higher financial independence and economic development.

The strategy ensures that women are the decision-makers by providing them with proper agricultural training and access to agricultural equipment that optimizes their crop yields. There are courses for women to improve their financial education and business planning skills so that they can begin growing above the sustenance level and sell excess crops for income. This program to improve gender equality and nutrition also focuses on a man’s role in sharing domestic chores with women and supporting the economic development of their wives. It has been so successful, officials in El Salvador, Guatemala and Peru are replicating the program in their own countries.

The Role of the Private Sector in Gender Equality and Nutrition

While nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are the backbone of nutrition-improvement programs, private sector companies are also necessary if female farmers are to reach their true potential. CARE has partnered with the PepsiCo Foundation to implement one of the largest gender equality and nutrition programs in the world called “She Feeds the World.”

With the help of the PepsiCo Foundation, CARE has initiated several projects throughout the world, such as one in Peru, which teaches women how to test soil quality to optimize crop yield. Other initiatives to improve gender equality and nutrition, focus on teaching women to more efficiently use natural resources like water, seeds and natural fertilizer. With this boosted production, these female farmers have enough extra income to send their children to school, feed their family nutritious meals, expand their business, employ others and make substantial savings.

Private sector companies are also very important in terms of collecting data and analyzing information to improve gender equality and nutrition. It is very difficult to measure an abstract concept like “decision-making power,” but private sector companies have the financing, personnel and expertise to collect adequate data so that resources are making the largest impact.

Empowered Female Farmers Feed Others

Empowering women is the key to improving nutrition for everyone. According to studies, the relationship between gender equality and nutrition is strong. Giving women equal access to basic resources and services could increase yields on female-owned farms by 20-30 percent. This would translate to an increased agricultural output of 2.5-4 percent in developing countries.

A 20-30 percent increase in agricultural output on female-owned farms would lift 150 million people out of poverty.

Women are the backbone of many developing countries. In Sierra Leone, an initiative has focused on empowering grandmothers to be the champions of improved nutrition practices in families. As very respected members of their families, they are teaching and cultivating healthy habits in infants and young children, an approach which has already seen success.

Female small farm holders are central to improving nutrition security in developing nations. World food initiatives are ensuring that women are not left behind – in fact, they are making sure that women lead the fight to improve gender equality and nutrition around the world.

– Julian Mok
Photo: Flickr

reduce poverty in Malawi
In 2016, about 51 percent of Malawians lived in poverty, an improvement from 65 percent in 1997. Still, with more than 80 percent of the population employed in the agriculture industry, frequent droughts and floods are major issues that devastate farmers and Malawi‘s economy. Keep reading to learn how irrigation projects are working to improve the situation of poverty in Malawi.

Flood Control and Irrigation Systems

Flood control and irrigation systems funnel floodwater into areas of storage for future use. One system is diversion canals, such as the Red River Floodway in Winnipeg, Canada. The diversion canal prevented 10s of billions of dollars in damage since 1968 and is the second-largest earthmoving project after the Panama Canal. Diversion canals are artificial floodways that send floodwater to ponds, rivers, reservoirs and irrigation systems. Most farmers do not relocate unlike the displacement that a dam causes to locals in the dam’s region. Although the Red River Pathway is a highly ornate design, a basic diversion canal helps indirectly reduce poverty in Malawi and benefit those that crop-damaging floodwaters affect.

The pathways direct flooded water away from homes and crops in order to flow into rivers, ponds and artificial lakes. The plan is to use collected in the future. The pathways directing floodwater that destroy homes and land are a long-term solution to floods and droughts. The downside to these pathways is the unknown cost of infrastructure necessary to accomplish this system as no one, including Malawi, has proposed or implemented major developments in the country.

Infrastructure Development

A prerequisite to water management is infrastructure development to provide stored water from floods to irrigation systems. Pipes allocate water to farmers, whether above or below ground and irrigation systems, such as surge flooding, bring a simple solution to irrigation for a country where only 9 percent have electricity. Surge flooding is a system of gradually releasing small amounts of water into the land. This allows for better infiltration and less runoff.

Malawi relies heavily on charities and countries for aid, and developmental progress has been slow. The country ranks as one of the least developed countries. Investment in the county’s infrastructure could reduce poverty in Malawi, help the economy grow and diversify into other areas besides agriculture, such as the energy, telecommunications, banking, manufacturing, information technology and tourism sectors. Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima has been Vice President of Malawi since 2014 and stated a need for change in not only investment in infrastructure development, but also many other areas that are undeveloped. He understood that half of all Malawians, particularly women in rural regions, are in extreme poverty and that an emphasis on development is the key to the countries future success.

Climatic Effects on the Economy

Climatic changes frequently affect Malawi, though it receives support externally. Recently, the World Bank donated $70 million to Malawi to help it recover from Cyclone Idai, yet external aid is simply a short-term solution. Improving infrastructure to combat climatic changes, such as cyclones, floods and droughts, supports the people of Malawi that have crops that natural disasters easily damage. Floods and droughts destroy crops in which more than 80 percent of Malawians rely on for food and a meager income. One solution to reduce the cycle of flood, drought and famine is through an intelligent design implementing irrigation and flood control across Malawi.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

NGO Innovation AwardEach year the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) and the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) host more than 500 representatives of nongovernmental organizations around the world in their Annual Consultations in Geneva. These delegates debate refugee issues affecting both international and regional audiences as well as discuss new advocacy issues.

These annual consultations discuss data analytics as a pathway to better welfare systems; the implementation of the 2018 Global Compact on Refugees; the maintenance of moral, legal and safe aid to refugees; and UNHCR’s transition to an increasingly decentralized, local system.

Starting in 2018, the UNHCR has presented annual NGO innovation awards to celebrate NGOs they believe embody innovative practices required to truly integrate refugees into their new societies.

Honoring Partnerships and Connectivity in NGOs

Through the NGO Innovation Award, the UNHCR showcases exceptional NGOs with new kinds of solutions in refugee aid in order to inspire further innovation in the field. Recipient NGOs fall into two categories: inclusive partnerships and connectivity.

UNHCR describes previous winners of the partnership category as having people-centered, community-based, non-traditional and creative partnerships. Focusing on inclusion and diversity, these organizations drive solution-based, positive interventions in their environments.

In the category of connectivity, UNHCR looks for organizations that demonstrate creative and novel solutions to connectivity challenges of displaced people (e.g. literacy or access to finance).

The Winners Are Archetypes of Innovative NGOs

One of the 2018 winners was SINA Loketa (SINAL), a team of six Africans from different countries helping young refugees and marginalized youths become self-sustainable and self-actualized members of their (new) communities. Specifically, this NGO aims to help individuals from these two disadvantaged communities to design and launch social enterprises from their refugee camp and host community in Uganda.

Each year, SINA Loketa leads 90 new scholars through a personal and professional transformation based on project-based learning and hands-on experimentation. After being matched with a mentor, these individuals go through training covering team building, trauma healing, one-on-one life coaching, social innovation and entrepreneurship.

SINA Loketa envisions directly creating thousands of jobs by their startups and reducing Ugandan youth unemployment by three percent by 2028.

The second winner of the 2018 NGO Innovation award was Artemisszio, a charitable foundation based in Budapest, Hungary. It strives to build an open, tolerant society based on interculturality. Artemisszio focuses on young people disadvantaged by rural circumstances, incomplete schooling, Roma ethnicity and migration. This organization helps them integrate into the labor market and into society as a whole.

Artemisszio works with central members of these marginalized individual’s communities to create supportive relationships outside of the NGO. For example, the organization hosts classes for health care workers, educators, police and military personnel, about interculturality and stress management. Artemisszio also spearheads a multitude of other innovative outreach programs, including teaching at local primary and secondary schools.

An Archetype for Future NGO Innovation

The first two winners of the NGO Innovation Award, SINA Loketa and Artemisszio, engage disadvantaged members of society as well as society as a whole to create cohesion between them. Their multifaceted approach bridges what initially seems like a fixed divide between these two groups in both Hungarian and Ugandan communities.

UNHCR is calling for innovative solutions to issues that are constantly evolving. Each year they celebrate solutions that introduce refugees as positive influences in their new communities.

The answer to what is the NGO Innovation Award lies in the annual celebration of organizations that fill a need in their communities that had not been duly addressed previously. These two winners can serve as an inspiration for current and future NGOs to better their communities.

– Daria Locher
Photo: Flickr