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Tropical storm EtaIn November 2020, over 250 people from Central American countries were either missing or dead due to tropical storm Eta. Floods and landslides left behind a large number of vulnerable populations. Those who suffered from poverty lost their shelter, food and even loved ones. However, the storm triggered people into action and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) came to help Honduras. The latter resulted in “Operación Eta.”

How Does It Work?

The campaign’s main goal is to raise funds to support the families affected by tropical storm Eta. Funding comes from crowdsourcing. Thus, Operación Eta has established a Gofundme profile. Behind the profile, a group of non-profit organizations has come together. In addition, Honduran college students who intended to create a social change in their country instituted NGOs. They started as separate initiatives to counteract poverty, hunger and social inequality during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, tropical storm Eta has united them as one effort to look out for their country.

How the Coalition Starts?

  1. Operación frijol: Frijol means bean, which is the primary source of nutrients for Honduran families. College students founded the project during the first months of the Covid-19 health crisis. “A group of friends from school, who were studying abroad, wanted to help their country. When they found out about the initiative, they donated money. Now we reach 110 volunteers,” Hugo Caballero, member of Operación frijol told the Borgen Project. Donations enabled them to provide basic food baskets for people that suffered the economic consequences of the pandemic. Since tropical storm Eta struck Honduras, Operación frijol transformed its platform into a donation site for the victims. They collected food, water, lanterns, clothes, blankets, masks and personal hygiene products. Moreover, they broadcasted the location of shelters. “There are children, pregnant women and disabled people among the victims,” Caballero said.
  1. Abrazos de Plata: Operación frijol joined forces with several NGOs in order to accomplish a higher impact. One of them was Abrazos de Plata. The organization’s name means Silver hugs. It claims to be a “group of young people whose mission is to support elders living in nursing homes.” Abandoned elders, left to their own devices, trapped the NGO member’s attention. They reacted by supporting them in order to prevent social inequality, poor hygiene and malnutrition. Since the Honduran president declared a state of emergency due to the storm, the project focuses on gathering donations and setting up shelters for those who have lost most of their belongings. They recollected donations and provided supplies. “We are amazed by the effective response of our Honduran brothers, everyone donates what they can,” Rocío Pavón, a medical student volunteer told The Borgen Project.

Tropical storm Eta has wrecked homes. However, this has united the Honduran people and increase their generosity and sense of belonging. The natural hazard has triggered college students into action and made them compromised citizens who embody hope for those who lack it.

Paola Arriaza Avilés

Photo: Pixabay

Wipe Every TearThere are currently over 12,000 women trafficked for sex in Angeles City, Philippines. Because of high levels of poverty, many cannot escape because they have no other means for paying off their debts. Other jobs are hard to obtain with anything less than a college degree. Wipe Every Tear is a Christian organization that is helping victims of sex trafficking in three ways: a way out, safe homes and education.

A Way Out

In the Bible, the Book of Revelations chapter twenty-one verse four reads, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or crying or mourning or pain.” The organization aims to take away the mourning and pain from women who have been trafficked in the sex trade. They are given a new way to live a life where they are surrounded by love and taught valuable skills to survive in the world.

The organization is fueled by women who are former sex slaves who want to help save others. They go back into bars in the red light district of Angeles City and invite women who are interested in getting out of sex trafficking back to their safe house in Manila. If the women are interested in escaping, Wipe Every Tear gives them a bed to sleep in, pays off their debts and enrolls them into school.

Safe Homes

Once any former sex slave has escaped, she is given any support needed to help her recover. This may include a weekly allowance and care for her children. Because many women are drawn into sex trafficking as a means to pay off debt or fuel a drug addiction, Wipe Every Tear aims to give them a safe home to gain back control of their life. Sexual exploitation is more common than it should be, with one in every four girls being the victim of abuse.

Wipe Every Tear provides a fully holistic approach to healing the women who come to safe homes. Women can receive medical and dental care. In addition, over 200 women and children have gone through its safe houses and received the opportunity at starting fresh.

Education

Many employers in the Philippines will not hire anyone with anything less than a bachelor’s degree. Wipe Every Tear provides tuition fees to women so they can pursue a college degree. If anyone needs transportation, Wipe Every Tear provides that too. The foundation began in 2008. By 2015, they celebrated their first college graduate. As of 2020, they have helped 30 women receive college degrees.

Wipe Every Tear also works with several other organizations to help provide education and jobs that teach business skills. Bella Goose Coffee is a fair trade coffee company that opened a shop in the red light district to give these women a better career opportunity. A proper career and education are fundamental in helping women stay out of sex slavery.

Wipe Every Tear continues to advocate within the global community to help women trapped in the sex trade. With community events, volunteer trips and business partners, it has established a successful method to help many women and their families. Wipe Every Tear is bringing light and happiness to many and ending their mourning and pain.

Tawney Smith
Photo: Flickr

Schistosomiasis and Poverty

Schistosomiasis (also known as bilharzia) is a disease that is rarely heard outside of scientific circles. This has less to do with the severity of schistosomiasis, and more to do with the fact that its parasitic sibling, malaria, is a far more common and well-known illness. The largest concentration of schistosomiasis in the world, a staggering 90 percent, is in Africa.

Schistosomiasis: What is it?

While schistosomiasis tends to be overshadowed by its well-known cousin malaria, there is still a wealth of information on how it functions, spreads and affects the human body. Schistosomiasis is caused by parasitic worms that inhabit the bodies of some freshwater snails. Humans are infected when they interact with bodies of water containing these snails. Common recreational and domestic activities like swimming and washing clothes in and near infected waters are attributed to the spread of schistosomiasis.

Schistosomiasis comes in two different types: urinary schistosomiasis and intestinal schistosomiasis. Urinary schistosomiasis is characterized by extensive damage to the kidneys, bladder and ureters. Intestinal schistosomiasis is characterized via symptoms of an engorged spleen and liver, which leads to intestinal damage and hypertension in the abdominal blood vessels. The first symptom of schistosomiasis is a light skin rash known as “swimmers itch.” Once a human is infected, symptoms (chills, aches and coughing fits) can appear within one to two months. However, many infections are asymptomatic; the infection is there, but no symptoms appear.

Schistosomiasis is transferred from person to person when an infected individual’s excrement reaches a water supply. The parasitic eggs from then hatch, infect another snail (or human) and the cycle begins anew. Proper sanitation and potable water are the main ways to prevent the spread of this disease.

The disease schistosomiasis does not always result in death. Schistosomiasis commonly ends in stunted growth and anemia in children, and can even lead to infertility in cases of urinary schistosomiasis. Children can also find themselves with a reduced ability to learn due to the crippling symptoms this disease comes with.

There is no vaccine to cure schistosomiasis and no antibiotic has proven effective in preventing infection. However, there are effective means to diagnose and treat schistosomiasis before the infection truly takes hold. The drug, praziquantel, has proven useful in removing the worms and their eggs from the human body. Although there is poor access to praziquantel, this treatment has reached more than 28 percent of people around the world.

Where Schistosomiasis Congregates

Africa has a truly staggering number of schistosomiasis cases compared to the rest of the world. Nigeria has the most cases out of any African country, with approximately 29 million infected. The United Republic of Tanzania has the second-most cases of infection at 19 million with Ghana and the Democratic Republic of Congo tied at 15 million.

Schistosomiasis and Poverty: The Correlation

Schistosomiasis is predominantly found in areas of extreme poverty; where ever this disease goes, destitution soon follows. Schistosomiasis and poverty are intrinsically linked, and the most common reasoning for this occurrence is that extreme poverty often restricts access to clean water sources, which in turn causes people to use unsanitary water sources where schistosomiasis thrives and infection occurs. From there, the infected individual will succumb to the crippling disabilities that schistosomiasis infection eventually brings. This leads to reduced productivity in the community as the disease continues to spread, ensuring no end to this vicious cycle of poverty without outside intervention.

What Next? The Future of Schistosomiasis

There is hope, however, as NGO’s like the SCI foundation (founded in 2002) have dedicated themselves to the eradication of parasitic worm diseases. The SCI foundation’s biggest success in the fight against schistosomiasis is in Mozambique, where SCI has treated more than 30 million people of parasitic worm diseases. Further, SCI has already treated more than 12 million people in Tanzania alone since 2004. The foundation also recently (as of 2016) started to extend their treatment programs to Nigeria. With more than 2 million people already treated in such a short time, the SCI foundation can be trusted to reach Tanzania levels of treatment soon enough.

The future is bright for communities burdened with schistosomiasis and poverty, as many countries have been able to eradicate this disease from their lands. Tunisia and Japan were able to completely eradicate schistosomiasis within their borders, and China, Brazil and Egypt are well on their way to reaching that end goal.

Given this information, and the fact that Africa has the backing of a great NGO like the SCI foundation, a schistosomiasis free Africa is certainly on the cards.

– Ryan Holman
Photo: Flickr

Staving Off Post-Hurricane Hunger in DominicaDominica, the first Caribbean island hit by Hurricane Maria, reported 27 people dead and hundreds of others missing as of October 9, 2017. Hunger in Dominica increases as the wait for food and other supplies to the island lengthens.

While Maria marks the fifth time that Dominica has withstood a direct hit from a hurricane, it has never been hit by one of such incredible force and magnitude, according to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

According to onsite volunteers, a month after Hurricane Maria struck Dominica, island residents still lack clean water, adequate food and medical attention. One of two airports serving the country is out of commission. Roofs blew off in 95 percent of Dominica towns such as Portsmouth and Mahaut. No information exists on nearly nine remote communities, as communications are down in the more rural areas.

However, signs of the island nation’s restoration are finally becoming visible. Principal seaports have reopened, allowing NGOs to deliver food, water and necessities consistently.

The World Food Programme (WFP), working with the government of Dominica, distributed over 66 tons of food to approximately 30,000 people, supplying almost half the residents. Over 40 United Nations workers are on the ground to help the struggling community. WFP reports it now can distribute water and supplies to nearly all people, although the organization expects future hurdles.

On September 29, over 11 tons of WFP wheat biscuits containing high-protein cereals and vegetable fat arrived in Dominica. The organization distributed aid by helicopter to interior communities and waterfront communities by ship. Ultimately, the WFP intends to distribute food to approximately 25,000 residents over the next three months. The organization is in discussions with the government to develop a functional system to supply Dominica’s residents with meal vouchers that will be valid once local shops reopen.

The U.N.’s central goal is to help people feel confident and stable. WFP officials project that if residents of Dominica have access to food, water and shelter, belief in that security provides the psychological lift necessary to withstand hunger in Dominica.

Heather Hopkins

Photo: Flickr