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polio eradication in Nigeria
For the last three years, Nigeria has not had one case of polio. As the last country in Africa to still record the wild polio disease, this new health milestone of the eradication of polio in Nigeria has proven the success of public health campaigns for the entire continent of Africa.

The Decline of Polio

Back in 1988, polio paralyzed more than 350,000 children in over 125 countries around the world. Although the devastating disease infected children in almost every country, cases of wild polio decreased by 99 percent after 1988. While the wild polio disease exists in nature, several vaccine-derived outbreaks have occurred in six African countries. In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that Nigeria held more than half of polio cases worldwide. Total immunization then became the primary goal for the eradication of polio in Nigeria to ensure that the population has protection from the vaccine-derived and wild virus. Persistent efforts of immunization have helped immunize over 45 million children under the age of 5 in Nigeria. An estimated 200,000 volunteers in Nigeria have aided in giving polio vaccines in the last five years.

Children and Polio

At the start of the polio epidemic in Nigeria, 600,000 children did not have the polio vaccine and an estimated 90 percent of polio cases were within northeast Nigeria. Due to this area encompassing largely scattered communities, satellite imaging has aided volunteers with finding unvaccinated children. Vaccinators will also frequently set up clinics within local markets to find all the unvaccinated children.

Dr. Pascal Mkanda, the leader of the eradication of polio in Nigeria for WHO, set out to eradicate the disease within three years by first vaccinating children under 5 years of age. The poliovirus remains highly infectious and mostly affects children. In the worst cases, polio causes irreversible paralysis. No cure for polio exists, but the eradication of the disease through immunization has prevented outbreaks. Estimates determine that the eradication of polio in Nigeria has saved 16 million children from paralysis.

Women and Vaccinations

Many Nigerian women are at the forefront of the battle against polio. UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation hire mostly young Nigerian women as vaccinator volunteers because Islam is the most prominent religion in northern Nigeria, and it prohibits men that are not family members from entering a Muslim home. The women volunteers go door-to-door to educate families about the vaccine and receive clinical training to give vaccinations.

Today, more than 30 million Nigerian children have received the polio vaccine. The volunteers are also in a continuous battle with skeptical anti-vaccination parents and the militant group Boko Haram. Boko Haram intentionally spreads misinformation about the vaccine and violently targets volunteers in order to keep Islam pure in Northern Africa. Some Nigerian people still have doubts about the vaccine, but now only 1 percent of people refuse the vaccination.

Overall, the eradication of polio in Nigeria represents an achievement for global health. The commitment of global health organizations and neighboring communities to the eradication of polio proves that investing in foreign aid can have a worldwide benefit.

– Nia Coleman
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Biggest Global Issues
Hundreds of millions of people around the world experience insufficient living conditions due to environmental factors, displacement, disease, poverty or some combination of the four. Here is a list of the biggest global issues that plague humankind.

The Biggest Global Issues Facing Mankind

1. Food and Malnutrition

  • Food and nutrition are essential for just about every life form on the planet, especially humankind. Although countries such as China, India, Brazil and the United States produce vast amounts of food for the world, about one in nine people will not eat enough food today. Malnourishment leads to the inability of about 795 million people to lead active and healthy lives around the globe.

  • Malnutrition leads to poor health and can stunt development in education and employment. According to The Food Aid Foundation, 66 million school-aged children will go to school hungry today. Consistent hunger in schools is linked to a lack of concentration.

  • World hunger has decreased by about 219 million people within the past two decades. It is through the innovative and ambitious work of organizations like the World Food Programme, in partnership with governments and communities, that the world can fill empty stomachs and provide communities with the resources to fill their own stomachs without aid, overtime.

  • The World Food Programme provides the Home Grown School Feeding Programme to counter the effects of consistent hunger in schools. One model of the  Home Grown School Feeding Programme in Kenya provides school meals to over 600 million schoolchildren. The organization purchases the meals from local farmers which helps boost Kenya’s agriculture-dependent economy. Constant meals in school serve as an incentive for poor families to send their children to school every day and enhance the quality of children’s education by reducing hunger.

2. Access to Clean Water

  • Water covers about 70 percent of planet Earth. Inadequate water supply, water supply access and lack of sanitation kill millions of people annually. Used for drinking and hygiene practices, lack of water sanitation is a leading cause of child mortality around the world.

  • Two days of the year educate the world about one of the biggest global issues facing humankind: the global water crisis. World Water Day and World Toilet Day are reminders that 700 million people around the globe could be facing displacement due to decreased access to fresh water by 2030. Severe droughts are a major reason for displacement. When there is no more water for drinking or for crops and livestock, people must leave their homes in search of a place where there is an adequate supply of water.

  • Within the past two decades, the percentage of countries without basic sanitation services decreased by 17 percent. Forty countries are on track to receive universal basic sanitation services by the year 2030. In the meantime, 88 countries are progressing too slowly in their sanitation advancements and 24 countries are decreasing in their advances toward universal sanitation coverage.

  • The Water Project is committed to providing safe water to Africa. It builds wells and dams to provide access to safe water. The project also delivers improved technology for more sanitary toilets that keep flies away. The Water Project provides and monitors 157 water projects in Sierra Leone including wells, dams and sanitary toilets. The Water Project builds these projects in schools and communities in the Port Loko region of Sierra Leone, serving some 7,000 Sierra Leoneans. The Water Project’s save water initiative impacts over 40,000 people on the continent of Africa.

3. Refugee Crisis

  • The refugee crisis is one of the biggest global issues facing humankind today. Refugees are seeking asylum from persecution, conflict and violence. A grand total of 68.5 million people have been forcibly displaced from their home countries. Some 54 percent of those displaced are children.

  • Developing countries host a third of the world’s refugees. Many refugees reside in the neighboring countries of those they left behind. Turkey, Jordan, Pakistan and Lebanon lead the world in hosting refugees.

  • Asylum seekers from Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan continuously flee ongoing persecution, conflict and violence in their home countries. More recently, four million Venezuelans have fled their home country, 460 thousand of whom are seeking asylum in Spain, Central America and North America.

  • Venezuelans are fleeing dire political unrest and hyperinflation. Shortages in food, water, electricity and medicine also afflict the country. The Red Cross now provides at least $60 million worth of aid to Venezuela, reaching at least 650,000 Venezuelans. The World Vision Organization delivers aid to Venezuelan refugees in Venezuela’s neighboring countries. For example, in Colombia, World Vision provides economic empowerment, education, food and health essentials to some 40,000 refugees.

4. AIDS Epidemic

  • Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a longstanding global issue. With at least 36.9 million AIDS or HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) infections around the world, the disease is one of the biggest global issues facing humankind. Since 2004, AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by over half. In 2004, almost two million people worldwide died of AIDS-related illnesses, compared to 940,000 in 2017.

  • Organizations like the International AIDS Society, UNAIDS, Kaiser Family Foundation and PEPFAR are dedicated to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS. These organizations help to ensure that infected people have access to treatment and the opportunity to live healthy lives. Adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) are 14 times more likely to contract HIV than boys. The DREAM initiative by PEPFAR and partners prioritizes the safety of AGYW against new HIV infections. PEPFAR is reaching at least 144,000 AGYW in Kenya, one country where HIV infections are most prevalent.

  • Although there is currently no cure, UNAIDS has a Sustainable Development Goal of bringing the number of new HIV infections down to zero by the year 2030. The Kaiser Family Foundation conducts research and analyzes data regarding U.S. AIDS policy and funding, both domestic and globally. It serves as a source of information about AIDS and other global health issues for U.S. policymakers and the media.

5. Eradicating Poverty

  • Poverty is the lack of income necessary to access basic everyday needs and/or living below a specific country’s standard of living. Living in poverty can result in malnutrition,  poor health, fewer opportunities for education and increased illness. With an estimated 783 million people living in poverty, eradicating poverty is one of the biggest global issues facing humankind.

  • Malnutrition, contaminated water, the refugee crisis and the AIDS epidemic all contain some aspects of poverty. Organizations like the United Nations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation focus on sustainable development strategies to alleviate global poverty. The number of people living in poverty has decreased by half, thanks to the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Development Goals have lifted at least one billion people out of extreme poverty within the last two decades.

  • The Gates Foundation is proving that poverty can be ameliorated through Agricultural Transformation. Increasing a country’s food production can counter malnutrition and boost the country’s economy by increasing farmer’s crop productivity. Poverty in Ethiopia has decreased by at least 45 percent since the Gates Foundation first started investing in agricultural development there in 2006. Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world, is witnessing an overall increase in its economy.

With the help of innovative organizations partnered with governments, the world is implementing practical techniques to help eliminate hunger, water scarcity, AIDS/HIV and poverty from the list of the biggest global issues facing humankind. Eliminating these problems will improve the living conditions of millions of people around the world, including refugees and internally displaced people.

– Rebekah Askew
Photo: Flickr

DREAMS Fights Against AIDS
Today, approximately 36.9 million people are living with HIV globally and 25 percent of that number do not even know their status. Of those millions, HIV infects about 1,000 young girls and women each day and accounts for 74 percent of new HIV infections among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV/AIDS continues to be at the forefront of global public health issues in the world today and appears to be most prevalent in low and middle-income countries. However, the organization DREAMS fights against AIDS and initiatives like the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is helping it accomplish its goals.

What is PEPFAR?

PEPFAR emerged in 2003 and has received strong support ever since, resulting in the United States becoming a global leader in the response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and PEPFAR being a model for development programs around the world. PEPFAR has helped transform the response to HIV/AIDS by working with over 50 countries, as well as causing a significant decline in new HIV diagnoses among young girls and women through the DREAMS partnership.

The DREAMS Partnership

DREAMS is a public-private partnership between PEPFAR, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Girl Effect, Johnson & Johnson, Gilead Sciences and ViiV Healthcare to implement an ambitious HIV/AIDS reduction program. This initiative launched in 2014 on World AIDS Day and targets 10 African countries in which 65 percent have extremely high HIV rates, especially among young girls and women. This movement aims to support affected women, as well as prevent any further spreading of HIV/AIDS. It has resulted in the integration of DREAMS activities into the plans of the involved countries.

The DREAMS Impact

The DREAMS organization fights against AIDS in 10 countries including Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. These countries’ populations account for more than half of all new HIV infections that occurred in young girls and women globally in 2015.

DREAMS’ plan consists of multiple solutions surrounding the main problem of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the world. It delivers a package that combines evidence-based approaches addressing structural drivers that directly and indirectly increase the risk of HIV in girls, such as poverty, gender inequality, sexual violence and a lack of education. More specifically, this comprehensive package of interventions has four focus groups including educating girls and young women through a range of activities to prevent their risk of HIV and violence, targeting men and boys within the community for treatments, strengthening families through social protection programs and the implementation of parenting programs related to adolescent HIV risk and shifting norms to mobilize communities and change to prevent violence and the further spread of HIV/AIDS.

Currently, 80 percent of young girls and women ranging from 15 to 24 years old and living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa. By the end of 2016, new HIV incident recordings in young girls and women decreased by 25 percent in the hardest-hit countries and further reduced by 40 percent by the end of 2017.

The DREAMS Innovation Challenge

While DREAMS has made significant progress since its formation, HIV/AIDS is still infecting an alarming number of young girls and women every day. Fifty-five organizations won the DREAMS Innovation Challenge and are now implementing solutions in six main focus areas such as strengthening leadership and capacity of community-based organizations (such as nonprofit or grassroots organizations) to support the expansion of intervention, ensuring girls’ access and smooth transition into secondary school, creating new methods to engage men in HIV testing and counseling and treatments, supporting pre-exposure interventions, providing employment opportunities to young women to decrease their risk of exposure to HIV and increasing the availability and use of data to inform, increasing impact and further producing innovative solutions.

Selected solutions resulting from this challenge were those that introduced new innovations in the 10 countries where DREAMS fights against AIDS. It also offers sustainable, long-lasting solutions and countries can implement them rapidly within two years. More than 60 percent of the challenge winners are small, community-based organizations that not only received funding but also became new PEPFAR partners.

Continuing on its innovative path to preventing and reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, PEPFAR recently announced its investment of nearly $2 billion to empower and support women and girls, with it channeling nearly $200 million through the DREAMS partnership. This will allow more girls to avoid contracting HIV at birth, keep more adolescents HIV free and support vulnerable women and children while treating HIV positive women. Additionally, the partnership has recently grown to provide more than $800 million to 15 African and Caribbean countries since its founding in 2015. PEPFAR has helped 2.4 million babies to be born HIV free from HIV-positive mothers and has saved about 17 million lives through its efforts as DREAMS fights against AIDS. Thankfully, this organization shows no sign of slowing down in the fight against HIV/AIDS for young girls and women around the world.

– Adya Khosla
Photo: Flickr

HIV Drug Implemented in Kenya
In 2017, there were approximately 36.9 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. Additionally, 6.1 million of those with HIV were located in western and central Africa. Kenya, a country in eastern Africa, had approximately 1.5 million people living with HIV/AIDs in 2017. That same year, an HIV drug implemented in Kenya started to successfully combat this deadly immune system virus. Unitaid and the Kenyan government simultaneously introduced it to the country.

Dolutegravir and Antiretroviral Therapy

The new HIV/AIDS drug, Dolutegravir or DTG, received approval in 2014 and is the most recent and effective antiretroviral drug used in the treatment against HIV/AIDs. DTG has been the drug of choice in high-income countries for its antiresistance properties, few side effects and easy one pill a day treatment. In 2015, the World Health Organization recommended this drug replace other first-line regimens for adults and adolescents. Recently this drug was not available in low-income countries, like Kenya, because of its high cost.

In 2018, only 62 percent of people with HIV/AIDs had access to antiretroviral therapy, which was an increase from the previous year. This corresponds to the 23.3 million people who were able to receive treatment, however, approximately 14.6 million people could not access treatment. In Kenya, 75 percent of adults with HIV/AIDs received treatment in 2018, which increased from 2016, when only 64 percent of people received treatment. One reason for the increase in HIV/AIDs testing is the partnerships between the government of Kenya and Unitaid that began in 2017 which introduced the generic brand of DTG.

Now, the generic brand of this life-saving drug has been available to people in Kenya since early 2018. This new HIV drug implemented in Kenya has the potential to make life-saving drugs more accessible to those who would normally not be able to afford it. In 2017, a number of nonprofits including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Unitaid, USAID, PEPFAR and others agreed to a pricing agreement to help make the drug more affordable in developing countries. This pricing agreement would allow public sector purchases at $75 per person, per year.

Side Effects of Other Drugs

Before the introduction of DTG, the first-line drug in Kenya was Efavirenz, an antiretroviral medication with side effects for some users including nausea, dizziness, rash and headaches. When the pricing agreement first emerged, the Kenyan Ministry of Health decided that the first round of DTG it distributed would go to 27,000 people who suffered the negative side effects from efavirenz. Then, the Ministry of Health assigned various other health clinics to receive the drug until it could become available to the entire country.

The number of new HIV/AIDs diagnoses in Kenya has halved over the last decade to approximately 80,000 people a year. The new HIV drug implemented in Kenya will only help decrease the number of people suffering from HIV/AIDs. Comprehensive sex education, HIV/AIDs testing centers and the continuation of drug pricing agreements will help alleviate the prevalence of HIV in developing countries, like Kenya.

Hayley Jellison
Photo: Flickr

Enteric and Diarrheal DiseasesEnteric and diarrheal diseases affect 1.7 billion children around the world every year killing over 500,000 children under five annually. The most common enteric and diarrheal diseases are rotavirus, cholera, shigella and typhoid.

Types of Enteric and Diarrheal Diseases

Rotavirus: Rotavirus is a highly transmittable disease and is one of the main causes of severe diarrhea in children. The disease affects millions of individuals around the world every year and is the cause of death in over 215,000 cases. The disease most often transfers via consumption of fecal matter, which can occur when individuals do not have access to proper handwashing and sanitation facilities. The Rotavirus vaccine can help prevent rotavirus. It is effective in preventing severe rotavirus in 90 percent of cases and the WHO has recommended it for use. Typically, children that are two to six months old receive two to three doses of the vaccine. Individuals who do not receive this vaccine and contract rotavirus (or cholera, typhoid, or shigella) most often receive treatment with either zinc supplementation or rehydration therapy or both. Zinc supplementation can reduce the severity of diarrhea in an individual while oral rehydration therapy can help rehydrate an individual that has become dehydrated due to diarrhea.

Cholera: Cholera is another diarrheal illness that individuals can contract by consuming contaminated food or water. It affects roughly three million individuals around the world every year and is the cause of death in nearly 145,000 cases. Furthermore, there have been recent outbreaks in countries like Haiti, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe and Guinea. Like rotavirus, a specialized vaccine can prevent cholera as well as sound sanitation techniques. Individuals older than six receive the vaccine in two doses while younger individuals receive three doses.

Typhoid: Like rotavirus and cholera, typhoid is transmitted through fecal contamination. It affects 22 million people annually and is the cause of death in roughly 200,000 cases per year. Before recently, no one had developed a vaccine to treat typhoid; however, in 2018, the WHO approved a vaccine called Typbar TCV. Scientists from Bharat Biotech International, a biotechnology company based in Hyderabad, India, developed the vaccine. Hundreds of thousands of individuals have received the vaccine and it has played a key role in stemming a recent typhoid breakout in Pakistan.

Shigella: The last major form of an enteric/diarrheal disease is shigella. Over 165 million individuals contract shigella every year (causing one million deaths), in large part due to the fact that there is no preventative vaccine for the disease. Because of this, much of the effort that has been given to prevent Shigella recently (as well as rotavirus, cholera and typhoid) have focused on ensuring proper hygiene and sanitation in areas that are at risk for fecal contamination. Listed below are some promising solutions to improve hygiene and sanitation in developing countries around the world.

Solutions to Reduce Enteric and Diarrheal Diseases

Janicki Omni Processor (JOP): The Janicki Omni Processor is an innovative solution that can help turn waste into clean drinking water. To do so, wet waste enters the JOP which dries and burns the waste in a controlled fashion. The JOP filters and condenses the resulting steam from the burning process, distilling the water. This water then receives treatment in order to meet clean drinking water standards. The JOP is environmentally friendly (the entire process is self-sustainable) and, through heavy funding from NGOs such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it is a cheap and efficient way to provide clean water to communities throughout the developing world.

Nano Membrane Toilet: The Nano Membrane Toilet is a promising solution with regards to sanitation practices throughout the developing world. The toilet is sustainable and requires no water or electricity to function. It works like this: after an individual uses it, the toilet utilizes a waterless flushing system to separate the urine from the feces. The feces are then chopped up into small bits and placed into a combustion chamber. After roughly a week, the feces will turn into a substance similar to ash and people can safely deposit it in the trash. The water, meanwhile, enters a separate tank to purify. The purified water then enters a tank at the front of the toilet for the purpose of outdoor irrigation and cleaning. The Nano Membrane Toilet is a promising solution to help reduce feces contamination because it does not require water to function and is easily implementable in many communities around the world.

Hand Washing: Hand washing isn’t a new technology, but it can go a long way towards preventing a multitude of enteric and diarrheal diseases. Research indicates that diarrheal deaths could decrease by as much as 50 percent if the prevalence of handwashing increased around the globe. NGOs such as The Global Handwashing Partnership and World Vision have done great work in recent years to lead handwashing programs in developing nations and increase awareness about the importance of handwashing.

Looking Ahead

The prevention and treatment of individuals with rotavirus, cholera, typhoid and shigella are some of the biggest challenges facing the world in the coming years. The transmittable nature of these diseases makes them difficult to eradicate, and people cannot fix many of the reasons that they are prevalent (lack of sanitation, poor water quality, etc.) overnight. Continued investments from governments and NGOs around the world in promising technologies like the Janicki Omni Processor and the Nano Membrane Toilet are a step in the right direction towards the prevention of enteric and diarrheal diseases in individuals around the world.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Pexels

Fragile Vaccines

Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, have developed a possible breakthrough with regards to the storage of certain fragile vaccines. They have found a way to protect these vaccines from direct heat, negating the need for them to be stored in a cool environment. The implications of this innovation are massive. If organizations like Health Canada approve it, the reach of vaccinations to rural areas will increase, and with that, disease and sickness should decrease.

Coating on Vaccines

The researchers found that placing a gel-like coating over the vaccines was the best way to protect them from the heat. To make this coating, researchers mixed two sugars, trehalose and pullulan, with the vaccine and let it dry. As the sugars dried, the researchers coated the vaccine, making it resistant to heat and rendering the cold chain (the process of storing vaccines at temperatures ranging from 2 C to 8 C) unnecessary. Heat resistance is important because many people living in more rural areas of the world do not have access to refrigeration. Now, individuals living in impoverished areas will have access to a number of vital vaccines, helping protect them from diseases such as Ebola and influenza.

The technology’s development was the result of countless years of testing and hard work. But it is clear that the end product will be more than worth the time spent. When asked about the significance of the technology, Vincent Leung, an Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at McMaster and one of the masterminds of the testing, said that it is “very exciting that something we worked on in the lab has the possibility of saving people’s lives one day.” Leung has reason to be proud; the technology is filling a clear need and will undoubtedly have a massive impact upon its implementation.

What Happens Next

Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration must still provide approval for the new technology. These organizations will analyze the effectiveness, practicality and safety of the technology. These organizations are likely to approve it because both have already accepted trehalose and pullulan.

The researchers have received funding from many organizations around the world, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They are now working with commercial partners in an effort to get the technology to market upon approval. Once accepted, it will likely see heavy usage in more rural parts of the world, such as in many regions of Africa. In many of these areas, individuals do not receive vaccinations for preventable diseases. In fact, more than 7.6 million children in Africa are not vaccinated each year.

This new innovation to transport fragile vaccines has immense potential to shape the future in a positive way. Vaccines will now become cheaper and more efficient to transport around the world. In addition, as more individuals obtain vaccinations, rates of disease and poverty should decrease and life expectancy should increase. While there are still many steps for this new technology to take before implementation, the promise of the technology provides immense hope.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Flickr

Speed Breeding Technology
While the earth’s rapidly changing climate and growing global population have caused concern about the future of the agriculture industry, there now appears to be a reason for optimism. Researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia have recently developed a new speed breeding technology that allows for quicker harvesting of plants. Researchers have been developing the technology for almost a decade and NASA’s past experiments with growing food in space are an inspiration. This technology has massive implications for the agriculture industry; with it, food production should significantly increase, which will be a necessity since the global population might grow to 9.8 billion by 2050.

How it Works

To speed up the harvesting process, special red and blue LED lights are shone on the crops (which are kept in greenhouses) for up to 22 hours a day at temperatures between 62 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. This near-constant lighting and precise temperature help speed up the photosynthesis process, allowing for crops such as wheat, barley and chickpeas to grow up to three times faster than with traditional practices.

Crops produced with speed breeding technology also show to be of higher quality than those harvested with more conventional methods. In addition to increases in speed and quality, crops bred in this new way can be more resistant to extreme heat and droughts. To do this, speed breeding is combined with the usage of tools like CRISPR, a family of DNA sequences that allows for the removal of unwanted portions of a crop’s DNA. Such unwanted portions are often ones that cause decreased yield for a given crop; for example, CRISPR could remove a gene that causes a crop to prematurely germinate after rainfall.

Implementation and Implications for the Global Poor

Currently, the researchers from Queensland are traveling to locations such as Mali and Zimbabwe, as well as India, to train farmers on how to use these new techniques. The researchers receive funding from organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics. This funding is likely to have a massive impact on individuals in developing countries, as speed breeding has enormous potential to help the world’s poor. Part of the reason for this is that people can use this technology anywhere. For example, people can power LEDs using solar power instead of electricity in countries where electricity is lacking. This makes the technology one that people can easily implement throughout the developing world.

Global Impact

Speed breeding will help produce crops at a quicker rate so that more people around the world can receive food. In addition to this, speed breeding technology is a sustainable technique that, if growers implement in conjunction with other practices (such as the usage of tools like CRISPR) could make crops more resistant to heat and disease. All in all, speed breeding technology is, without question, an integral part of the future of the agriculture industry.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Flickr

hygiene and sanitation
In November 2018, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing. The Expo was the latest iteration of the Reinvent the Toilet challenge that was started in 2011 to help bring clean, safe sanitation to millions of people living in poverty in the developing world. The expo unveiled the world’s first pathogen killing toilet along with small-scale wastewater treatment plants ready for sale to both private and municipal entities. Innovations showcased at the Expo have the potential to greatly decrease human and economic losses because they provide improvements in sanitation and hygiene.

The Importance of Sanitation and Hygiene

Unlike most modern toilets, where waste is flushed away with water, these reinvented toilets separate the waste and water and were designed to be used in areas where no sewer systems exist and to safely reduce waste byproducts  With 2.3 billion people worldwide not having access to basic sanitation facilities, it is no wonder that as many as 892 million people defecate in open places like street gutters and bodies of water. This creates serious sanitation concerns as it contributes to the spread of diseases including Hepatitis A, typhoid and polio, as well as intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and trachoma.

Poor sanitation and hygiene along with inadequate water kill as many as 842,000 people in low and middle-income countries each year, affecting children under five the most. According to a 2013 UNICEF report, “2,000 children under five die every day from diarrheal disease, and of these 1,800 deaths are linked to poor sanitation, water and hygiene.” These figures underline the importance of hygiene and sanitation around the world, showing just how important the work done with the Reinvented Toilet Expo is.

Decreasing the Number of Sanitation and Hygiene Related Deaths

The innovative ideas displayed at the Reinvented Toilet Expo aim to significantly decrease the number of deaths from poor sanitation over the course of the next 10 years, especially in urban areas.  The World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the African Development Bank were among the financial institutions that have pledged financial commitments with the potential of reaching $2.5 billion toward urban sanitation projects, which is the largest ever coordinated commitment to urban sanitation.

Currently, 55 percent of the world’s population resides in urban areas, and that number is expected to increase to 68 percent by 2050. This poses a growing challenge for sanitation and hygiene for impoverished people in urban areas where sanitation is at a premium. What limited data exists on urban sanitation suggests that human waste is discharged directly into rivers, lakes and oceans. Making improvement in sanitation and hygiene in urban areas will not only create a healthier population but it also is good for the overall economy.

Better Sanitation Equals a Better Economy

According to The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, poor sanitation and hygiene lead to more than $200 billion lost in healthcare costs, decreased income and productivity. The new toilets would greatly reduce that number. The reinvented toilet could represent an estimated $6 billion in the global market by 2030 and could even help open up a new sanitation sector. The World Health Organization reported that every dollar invested in global sanitation could have an average return of $5.50.

Since 2011, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested over $200 million towards improvements in sanitation and hygiene and plans to invest another $200 million into decreasing the cost for nations where improved sanitation and hygiene will have the most impact. The continued improvements in sanitation and hygiene will decrease the mortality rate, boost the global economy and have the potential to offer new sources of renewable energy and water.

Peter Zimmerman
Photo: Flickr

PATH: A Global Health InnovatorFour of the U.N.‘s sustainable development goals in some way deal directly with health issues, whether they are concerned with decreasing world hunger or improving maternity health. Many of these goals have been addressed in a significant way, with improvements in health made across the board. However, there are still limitations on surveying health innovation effectiveness, as well as accessing and administering new technology.

Despite these issues, there are several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working toward bridging the gap between technology and innovation where these services are needed the most. PATH and its partner organization, Innovation Countdown, are doing just that.

Path is a global health innovator that has inspired and pioneered global health solutions. PATH has built its vision on accelerating technology availability by arming its team with entrepreneurial insight, scientific proficiency and public health knowledge, in order to produce measurable outcomes across many sectors in the healthcare industry. PATH was founded on the idea that healthcare should be available to everyone – especially women and children – and most importantly, where it is the least accessible. PATH believes that the antiquated notion of “population control” is not the solution to extreme poverty issues, but instead the solution lies in providing a more wholesome life that will in turn empower millions of people to take control of their lives and health conditions. The trickle-down, beginning with adequate health, has the potential to stabilize populations and churn out productive members of society.

Innovation Countdown, led by PATH, is a nonprofit dedicated to providing a platform for global health innovation, providing data resources and technology resource information. Supported by the Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, Innovation Countdown brings together different donors and investors in order to raise awareness of technologies and make them more accessible to areas that are difficult to reach or have minimal resources.

The work of PATH, along with Innovation Countdown, brings hope for all people – no matter of their socioeconomic status – to be able to access and reap the benefits of necessary global healthcare innovations.

Casey Hess

Photo: Flickr

Blockchain Technology and PovertySince its conception, blockchain technology has become widely synonymous with the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. However, the utility of blockchain comes not necessarily from its manifestation in online currency but the nature of its security and accessibility. These two features are what make blockchain technology and poverty so interlinked. It holds promise as a secure and equalizing tool for the world’s poorest and most rural.

The inner mechanisms and mathematical coding of blockchain are highly complex. The principle is simple. It is a public ledger, stored and spread across multiple networks in countries around the world, making an impermeable information network. The decentralized nature of the data stored on blockchain allows for its application across all sectors without risk of disruption.

Significant to alleviating poverty, blockchain technology’s secure nature allows for it to be used as a financial services platform. In both urban and rural areas of developing countries, banks can be hard to come by, expensive to set up an account in and somewhat unreliable.

Cryptocurrency services can be scaled up and down to be incorporated into everything from the most basic phones to the world’s most sophisticated smartphones. This cryptographic technology would allow its users to send money directly to other individuals without a middleman or “trusted third parties” which take a percentage as a fee for its services and can be largely inaccessible.

Estimates suggest that by 2020 over 70 percent of the world will have access to smartphones. With financial technologies such as blockchain services, there is a real chance for those in rural or economically unstable countries to secure themselves without huge risk. Blockchain technology and poverty could have a progressive and important relationship.

By using cryptocurrencies or internet-money, individuals in financially insecure nations can take steps to avoid financial vulnerabilities, such as fraud or hyperinflation. M-PESA, a mobile money-transfer and micro-loan financing company, operates all across Africa and in parts of central Asia. Numbers from early 2017 suggest that M-PESA’s user base allowed approximately 186,000 families, two percent of Kenyan households, move from poverty into sustainable working conditions.

Blockchain’s financial services allow for mass participation in the most remote parts of the world. A wide range of business owners can build financial credibility. Currently, Chinese pharmaceutical companies receive assistance from Yijan, a blockchain created by IBM and Hejia, a Chinese supply management company.

Significant and notable players on the international landscape are quickly getting involved in blockchain techniques. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Level One Project aims to use digital financial services to bring the impoverished into the formal economic ecosystem, providing them with the tools necessary for financial mobility.

In early 2017, the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) incorporated blockchain technology and cash-based transfers into its humanitarian aid outreach in Pakistan. By using mobile-transfers, the WFP ensured that those in need were receiving financial aid without the risk of the disruption possible with cash-based aid. The technology-based transfers also allowed for the WFP to streamline its tracking system. Since the success in Pakistan, the WFP has chosen to expand blockchain to other humanitarian efforts.

These are a few of blockchain’s many applications. Its reach and potential as a tool for poverty alleviation are great, especially if utilized jointly by governments and NGOs. Although it may be no panacea, the incorporation of blockchain technology may be a significant macro approach in solving the systematic issue of poverty. Blockchain technology and poverty disruption may be one of the most exciting aspects of the new digital age.

Sydney Nam