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The Pratt PouchThose living in poverty often have limited access to basic necessities such as food, water and shelter. Beyond these basic necessities lies the need for free or affordable healthcare, yet so many countries are still lacking in that regard. Insufficient health centers and medical treatments do little to stop the spread of life-threatening diseases such as HIV. Mothers with HIV have up to a 45 percent chance of transmitting the disease to their babies during childbirth and breastfeeding. The invention of the Pratt Pouch has helped in the reduction of that risk to just 5 percent.

How It Works

Every year, 400,000 children are diagnosed with HIV as a result of their mothers being HIV positive. Robert Malkin of Duke University hopes that the Pratt Pouch will reduce that number to fewer than 100,000 cases a year. Malkin and his team created the Pratt Pouch at the Pratt School of Engineering. The “foilized, polyethylene pouch” is filled with pediatric doses of antiretrovirals. The pouch gives the medication to have a shelf- life of up to twelve months. Other containers such as cups, spoons or syringes have a much shorter shelf-life because the containers absorb the water inside the medication, causing it to solidify.

The medication is provided to mothers during prenatal visits, but it is usually administered to the baby at home. The Pratt Pouch has a perforation, so it easily tears open. Since it contains a pre-measured dose, there is no need for a syringe, and it is taken orally. To be effective, the medication should be administered within seventy-two hours of birth; however, the ideal window of time is in the first twenty-four hours. The child takes the medication for six weeks.

The makers of the Pratt Pouch have partnered with IntraHealth International, which is providing training for pharmacists and community health workers. These trained individuals then go out and educate mothers about the proper methods to use to treat their children.

Who Is Using It?

So far, Uganda and Ecuador use the pouches. Malkin partnered with Fundación VIHDA in 2012. Since then, they have distributed the pouches to four hospitals in Guayaquil and Quito. Humberto Mata, the co-founder of Fundación VIHDA, estimates that more than 1,000 babies have received antiretroviral medication through the use of the pouches.

In Ecuador, a pharmacist manually fills and seals the pouches. However, a high-tech facility constructed at Hospice Uganda in Kampala is equipped with special machines that fill and seal the pouches in four seconds. That is a fraction of the time it takes a pharmacist to fill by hand.

Future Goals

It is one of Malkin’s goals to help medicate 40,000 infants in Uganda over the course of the next three years. In addition, Malkin hopes to use the pouches to deliver treatments for diseases besides HIV. “For example, HIV and pneumonia often occur together, so I could imagine giving mothers two sets of color-coded pouches, one set for HIV and one for pneumonia,” said Malkin.

The Pratt Pouch has been effective in decreasing the chance of an HIV positive mother transmitting the disease to her baby during birth. By making the antiretroviral medication easily accessible and easy-to-use, the creators of the Pratt Pouch have helped put the minds of worried mothers at ease. A mother can be at peace knowing she has done everything she can to keep her child healthy.

– Sareen Mekhitarian
Photo: Pixabay

Ebola Virus DiseaseImagine traveling 1,316 kilometers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to Uganda seeking medical help for your nine-year-old daughter who seems to have been infected with the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).

On August 29, 2019, a nine-year-old girl from the DRC was exposed and later developed symptoms of this rare and fatal disease. She was identified at the Mpondwe-Kasindi border point and then sent to an Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) in Bwera, Uganda. Sadly, not too long after her arrival, the child passed away.

This sporadic epidemic has come back yet again and bigger than last time. This disease has infected the North Kivu Province and has caused more than 2,200 cases, along with 1,500 deaths just this year. Thus, making this the second-largest outbreak in history following behind the 2014-2016 outbreak that killed about 11,000 people. As of September 4, 2019, a total of 3,054 Ebola Virus Disease cases were reported. Out of that total number of cases, 2,945 of them were confirmed reports and the rest of the 109 were probable cases. Overall, 2,052 of those people died.

This disease has had a total of 25 outbreaks since its first flare-up in the Ebola River in 1967. It has plagued countries spanning from the West to sub-Saharan Africa and has a 25 to 90 percent fatality rate. Even though reports are coming from 29 different health zones, the majority of these cases are coming from the health zones of Beni, Kalunguta, Manima and Mambasa. About 17 of these 29 health zones have reported new cases stating that 58 percent of probable and confirmed cases are female (1,772), 28 percent are children under the age of 18 (865) and 5 percent (156) are health workers.

This 2019 case is different because of the way that Ebola Virus Disease is affecting an area of the country that is undergoing conflict and receiving an influx of immigrants. The nation’s “political instability,” random acts of violence and “limited infrastructure” also contribute to the restricted efforts to end the outbreak.  As of June 2019, the disease started its expansion to Uganda, with four cases confirmed near the eastern border shared with DRC, South Kivu Province and Rwanda borders. The World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative of Uganda, Yonas Tegegn, stated that whoever came into contact with the nine-year-old patient had to be vaccinated.

Out of the five Congolese who had contact with the little girl, four of them have been sent back to their country for “proper follow-ups.” Another 8,000 people were vaccinated against Ebola due to “high-risk areas in the country.”  Overall, 200,000 people in DRC have been vaccinated against EVD along with “health workers in surrounding countries.” With this being said, there is no official vaccination that is known to effectively protect people from this disease. Therefore an “effective experimental vaccine” has been found suitable enough for use. Also, a therapeutic treatment has shown “great effectiveness” in the early stages of the virus.

Ugandan authorities have taken matters into their own hands, strengthened border controls and banned public gatherings in areas that have been affected by EVD. According to the August 5, 2019 risk assessment, the national and regional levels are at higher risk of contracting EVD while the global level risk is low.

The Solutions

The World Health Organization (WHO) is doing everything they can to prevent the international spread of this disease. They have implemented the International Health Regulations (2005) to “prevent, protect against, control and provide international responses” to the spread of EVD.

This operational concept includes “specific procedures for disease surveillance,” notifying and reporting public health events and risks to other WHO countries, fast risk assessments, acting as a determinant as to whether or not an event is considered to be a public health emergency and coordinating international responses.

WHO also partnered up with the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) to ensure that proper “technical expertise” and skills are on the ground helping people that need it most. GOARN is a group of institutions and networks that use human and technical resources to “constantly alert” one another to rapidly identify, confirm and respond to “outbreaks of international importance.”  WHO and GOARN have responded to over 50 events around the world with 400 specialists “providing field support” to 40 countries.

– Isabella Gonzalez Montilla
Photo: Flickr

War Survivors in Uganda

The Republic of Uganda is a landlocked country in sub-Saharan Africa surrounded by Kenya, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Tanzania. The northern parts of Uganda suffered from a 20-year long war between its government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) which was led by Joseph Kony. The war has left Uganda as an impoverished nation and its people with unhealed emotional and physical wounds. However, thanks to the efforts of organizations including The Comfort Dog Project, more focus has been placed on addressing the mental health needs of war survivors in Uganda.

Background

The war forced more than a million people to abandon their homes and live in camps for more than 10 years. Estimates show that the LRA abducted around 20,000 children to become their soldiers. They killed men and raped women. As a result of these atrocities, seven in 10 people suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) today. And, the lack of mental health care services in the country is driving these survivors towards suicide and substance abuse. Uganda spends 9.8 percent of its GDP on health care and less than 1 percent of this goes to mental health. Overall, Uganda has 1.83 per 100,000 beds in the mental hospital with an occupancy rate of 100 percent.

The Birth of The Comfort Dog Project

The Comfort Dog project is a program of The Big Fix Uganda, a registered international NGO in Uganda. It operates the only veterinary hospital in Northern parts of the country. Francis Okello Oloya started this program in his hometown, Gulu in 2014. Oloya lost his sight to a blast at the age of 13 while he was working in his family garden. Despite these hurdles, Oloya managed to graduate from a community college with a degree in psychology. To fill up the gap in mental health care consequent to lack of resources and poverty in the country, this project provides psychosocial rehabilitation to the war survivors in Uganda who are suffering from PTSD.

The Comfort Dog Project uses the healing effect of the human-dog relationship. It is based upon the Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI) initiative to improve a wide range of physiological and psychological outcomes in humans. The project helps by providing one on one and group education as well as counseling to those who suffer from PTSD followed by bonding with dogs through playing, nurturing and team activities.

Who Does The Comfort Dog Project serve?

The Comfort Dog project helps three groups of people: the LRA abductees, Uganda’s People Defense Force (UPDF) veterans and war-affected community members. The team assesses clients through psychological interviews for symptoms and refers those with severe symptoms to the regional hospital. Those who show the ability to create a bond with the animals are matched with an animal. The program also rescues and serves the dogs which have been homeless, neglected or mistreated. The project team spay, vaccinate and perform temperament tests on the dogs before matching them with their humans.

The Comfort Dog project has been successful in reducing the symptoms of PTSD among its participants. It also improved the public’s perception of dogs and animals. This project is a shining example of the concept ‘local solutions for local problems.’ Although not sufficient, the Big Fix Uganda is effectively fixing two problems of the country cost-effectively using a single project. With so many regions affected by war all around the world, this project shows a possible path to recovery for those who have suffered for long.

Navjot Butta
Photo: Flickr

Soccer without bordersSoccer is more than just a sport. It connects people from all around the world, crossing boundaries and eliminating limitations. Soccer Without Borders embodies exactly what soccer’s purpose is. Soccer Without Borders is dedicated to building a more inclusive world using the world’s universal language. Founded in 2006, Soccer Without Borders achieves its vision through youth-development programs serving underprivileged youth in more than 65 countries.

Soccer without Borders

The nonprofit organization believes that creating meaningful change is more important than the actual sport. They build their programs around the interpersonal element of the sport to meaningfully impact their youth’s physical, social and individual progression by using soccer as an agent of positive change in the development of skills necessary to overcome obstacles.

Impacting nearly 2,000 children on a yearly basis, Soccer Without Borders stretches across 10 countries. In the United States, the organization is stationed in Baltimore, Greely, Seattle and Oakland. Refugees seeking asylum in the United States comprise more than 70 percent of Soccer Without Borders participants. Internationally, Soccer Without Borders has program offices in Uganda and Nicaragua. In the past, Soccer Without Borders has worked in several countries in Latin America and Africa.

Soccer in Nicaragua

As one of the poorest countries in Latin America, more than two million Nicaraguans live in poverty with 20 percent of the population living in extreme poverty. Children are the first to suffer from poverty. Faced with health problems, violence and abuse, children lack the same opportunity. In particular, young girls are often victims of sexual exploitation, child marriage and human trafficking, increasing gender inequalities. Many children, especially girls, do not receive an education because of these disparities.

Founded in 2008, Soccer Without Borders hosts a program in Granada, Nicaragua. The organization works with girls ages 7 to 20 through the league with year-round programs, camps and clinics. In Nicaragua, the participants of Soccer Without Borders are 100 percent girls. The organization also provided education scholarships to 99 girls between 2013 and 2016.

Soccer in Uganda

Soccer Without Borders also founded a program based in Kampala, Uganda in 2008. There, the organization serves male and female youth refugees from Uganda, Rwanda, DR Congo, South Sudan, Somalia and Burundi. Ages range from ages 5-23, and they participate in tournaments, festivals and a variety of community events. Forty-one percent of the participants are female, and most of the coaches are refugees themselves.

A 2016 poverty reduction assessment shows Uganda has reduced poverty from a monetary perspective, but the nation still lags behind in non-monetary areas such as sanitation, health and education. Children often end up living in the streets, victims of child labor, child trafficking and child abuse. Both young girls and boys are forced into harsh situations. Boys become members of the armed forces while girls are forced to prostitute themselves. Young girls are often victims of violence and child marriage.

How Sports Can Help

Soccer and other sports can act as an agent of change. While they cannot eradicate poverty, sports help blur the divisive lives of inequality that poverty creates. Sports focus on building children’s developmental needs to then address the larger needs of the surrounding communities. Education through sports like soccer can provide children with skills such as decision making and taking responsibility that apply both on and off the field. The goal of sports is to help children develop the necessary skills to break the cycle of poverty.

For its efforts, Soccer Without Borders was named the winner of the 2016 Barry & Marie Lipman Family Prize by the Wharton School and the University of Pennsylvania. The organization was also awarded the 2017 Urban Soccer Symposium Impact Award by U.S. Soccer as well as the 2018 Sports Award Winner by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Most notably, Soccer Without Borders earned the FIFA Diversity Award in 2017.

Gwen Schemm
Photo: Cloudfront

Coffee farms fight world povertyCoffee is the world’s second-favorite drink, only behind water. In the U.S., Americans drink more than 580 million cups of coffee per day. Worldwide, more than three billion cups are consumed per day. To support the world’s love of coffee, many developing countries rely on their coffee-growing industries supported by small farmers. The majority of these small farmers, unfortunately, live in impoverished conditions. With the popularity of coffee and the market, there is a way that coffee farms can fight world poverty.

An Unsustainable Business

Small farmers produce about 80 percent of the global coffee supply. These farmers, known as smallholders, are defined as “owning small-based plots of land on which they grow subsistence crops and one or two cash crops relying almost exclusively on family labor.” An estimated 25 million smallholder farmers produce the world’s coffee supply. Unfortunately, they earn less than 10 percent per pound of the sale value of their coffee. Combined with the added costs of production, this quickly becomes an unprofitable business.

With the current situation being so hard economically, more and more coffee farmers have moved out of the industry. The past couple of years have brought drought and an increase in crop diseases like “coffee rust.” Coffee prices have dropped to a 12 year low.

Not only are farmers unable to support themselves and their families, but there are also a number of other challenges that have pushed them out of the coffee growing business. The environment in which coffee grows best requires a high altitude that is usually in remote and mountainous areas. This limits access to markets and adds the cost of transportation and middlemen. Changing weather conditions and lack of environmentally sustainable practices along with weak management and poor training have led to the inefficiency of coffee production.

In the department of Risaralda in Colombia, lies a small coffee farm known as a “Finca del Café.” Here, there are 10 hectares of land dedicated to the growth of Arabica coffee, a type of coffee that does best in the high altitude. The winding path through the Finca reveals the complex process of coffee growing that takes years of time. The farmer, who learned to grow coffee from his grandparents, expressed the unsustainability of the coffee business in 2019. They had to turn to other sources for revenue such as capitalizing on tourism of the area and building conference buildings.

Is Fair-Trade The Solution?

Despite the current situation of coffee production, the demand for the drink is increasing. If the current trend continues, there is predicted to be a shortage by 2050. In order to help small farmers and the coffee business, many companies are turning to fair-trade. According to the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics, “the promise of the fair-trade movement is that coffee growers in poor nations will receive a higher price for coffee if it is produced in better working conditions with higher wages.”

Unfortunately, no solution is perfect. Fair-trade impacts farmers by artificially raising the sale price of coffee, targetting production and not poverty. Other initiatives that focus on coffee farmers’ operations and management have shown more success. NUCAFE (National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises) works to facilitate services for Ugandan coffee farmers while having them take ownership of their crops. In Colombia, coffee farmers are investing in digital tools to better manage their farms and transactions.

Coffee and Culture

There are many coffee farms in Colombia’s Cafetero region facing these issues. While some are forced to give up coffee due to the lack of profit, others try to maintain the culture of coffee growing. Coffee farms like the aforementioned “Finca del Cafe” make it their purpose to inform others of the coffee-making process and also to bring awareness to the problems modern coffee farmers are facing.

Local coffee is sold all around the region and coffee is a large part of Colombia’s larger society. The problems encountered by coffee producers can ultimately change Colombia’s culture, a country that prides itself on its coffee.

– Margarita Orozco
Photo: Flickr

SolarAidHaving access to working electricity and lights is something most first-world countries tend to overlook and forget to point out how fortunate it is to have such a thing. Unfortunately, there are countries who do not have that privilege and have to cut the day short, which interferes with work and children’s studies. SolarAid is a charity founded in 2006, to combat poverty and provide electricity to developing countries such as Uganda, Malawi and Zambia. They are responsible for many innovations including solar lamps, study lights and solar light libraries. SolarAid charity works alongside numerous partners and even created their own social enterprise, SunnyMoney in 2008, located in Africa so that rural communities have a local main seller and can receive information on how to use solar lights. This charity has done many projects that have transformed and impacted the communities within Africa.

Uganda

In 2014, SolarAid started doing projects in Uganda. Households in small, remote villages in Uganda rely on expensive kerosene for lighting where residents have to travel back and forth to trading centers to buy the kerosene which can get expensive over time. Many schools were also affected by the lack of light until SolarAid created the “world’s most affordable light”. The SM100, also known as a study light, is the world’s most affordable light selling in rural communities for as little as $5, tax-free. This light can be charged in low sunlight and provides light for about five hours. It has a stand attached so that it could easily be set up on the ground and it can also be hung on the wall. Because of its rectangle shape, the SM100 can be taken off its stand and can be attached to straps so that residents can carry it around or use it as a head torch.

A 70-year-old widow, who raises her four grandchildren, lost their hut due to her grandchild knocking over a kerosene lamp sparking a fire. With the SM100, this light is safe for her young grandchildren to use. Students at the Star Light primary school have successfully increased their grades due to having an adequate light source.“My teachers used not to plan their lessons at night and candidate class was limited to the use of three kerosene lamps but ever since I purchased 40 SM100 for my pupils and teachers, everything changed”, said Okello George, the director of the school board. This light has provided many solutions for the community in Uganda that are safe and efficient with doing everyday tasks.

Malawi

On April 1, 2019, SolarAid launched Project Switch in the Mandevu village in the Kasungu district of Malawi providing the village with solar light for the first time. This village has zero access to electricity cutting days short once the sunsets. During the execution of Project Switch, SolarAid provided this village with a solar charging station which is essentially a building with different solar energy enabling options such as renting solar lights for a few pennies and rent to own lighting options including phone charging systems. There is also an option to outright buy solar lights systems. SolarAid has also provided lights and switches inside of households where people are able to turn on a light with just one light switch, something this village has never experienced before.

Along with this, SolarAid teamed up with the Malawi Red Cross after Cyclone Idai hit neighboring countries and caused flooding and high winds forcing 86,000 people to leave their homes and into emergency camps. Interested to see how light can have an impact in aid relief, the Malawi Red Cross and SolarAid provided the emergency camps with 100 solar home systems, and 100 portable solar lights. These systems can help charge phones, keep women and children safe and reduce the risk of dangerous animals or reptiles such as poisonous snakes.

Zambia

Just like in Uganda, SolarAid’s participation in Zambia has positively impacted the school environment. In January 2019, SolarAid’s social enterprise team SunnyMoney in Zambia sought out to rural areas where the majority of the community is living without electricity power lines. They visited a rural school in the Rufunsa district and delivered a solar light library. The solar light library is available for children to use throughout the day to study and do homework, mostly after dark. Throughout the day, there are household chores, farm work, etc., and children, especially girls considering they tend to the majority of the daily household tasks, have little daylight left to do schoolwork. They rely on battery-powered torches or candles, items that don’t last long enough to get an adequate amount of homework done. There are 50 lights available to borrow in the solar light library for as low as 25 Zambian Kwacha (which is roughly two U.S. dollars).

SolarAid is the perfect example of a charity who is taking advantage of the knowledge of renewable energy and using that knowledge for a great cause. With their brilliant innovations made specifically for developing countries, communities will no longer have to suffer to do important tasks throughout the night. As the fight for solar-powered energy continues to increase, these three countries now have the help they need to continue to shine the light in their communities.

– Jessica Curney
Photo: Flickr

5 Ways Uganda is Improving Mental Health Care
Following Uganda’s independence in 1964, the nation went through devastating periods of unrest that significantly impacted its population of 42.8 million people. While Uganda has seen major improvements in recent years due to reaching their millennium development goals, such as lowering poverty from 33.8 percent in 1998 to 19.5 percent in 2012, the nation is still struggling with an epidemic of mental illness. As much as 35 percent of the population suffers from mental illness, 15 percent of which require treatment.

Changing Precedents

Major improvements have been made to Uganda’s healthcare system, raising the average life expectancy from 44 to 59-years-old. However, less then 1 percent of the 9.8 percent of GDP Uganda dedicates to healthcare goes towards mental health. The majority of this funding goes towards the national mental health hospital in Butabika, which holds 500 beds and is still almost always overcrowded.

Mental Health Still Neglected

The rest of Uganda’s mental health budget is spread out over a network of 28 out-patient facilities that specialize in follow-up care. These services are starved of the funding needed for proper medication. According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization in 2006, only 57 percent of clinics had at least one psychotropic medication in each class, meaning medication someone needs is highly unlikely to be available in Uganda.

The stigma around mental illness in the nation comes in particular from traditional beliefs that associate illnesses of the mind with spirits and witchcraft. Due to religious culture in the area, mental illness is viewed as a spiritual curse.

While mental health care in Uganda is struggling, many improvements have been made in recent years to help those who are affected by it.

5 Ways Uganda is Improving Mental Health Care

  1. Ending the stigma around mental illness is the first step that must be taken to tackle the problem. According to the Community Development Officer of the rural district, “…most people think that [mental illness] is bewitching. Others associate it with disagreements with their elders.” Bringing awareness about the true cause of mental illness is allowing the healthcare system to grow and make room for mental health care. This may be the most important of the 5 ways Uganda is improving mental health care.
  2. Increased aid would drastically improve the living conditions in Uganda. For every dollar invested in mental health, the economy sees a return of $4 due to an improved ability to work. In Uganda, the mentally ill often have trouble finding employment, however, increased aid would allow them to become contributing members of society. Organizations such as Basic Needs are working to tackle both poverty and mental illness by supporting locals to create small businesses. By helping the mentally ill and their families, organizations such as this are increasing peoples means and helping them afford the care that can save them.
  3. The Mental Health Action Plan for 2013-2020 was released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the spring of 2012. The plan cites its goal “is to promote mental well-being, prevent mental disorders, provide care, enhance recovery, promote human rights and reduce the mortality, morbidity and disability for persons with mental disorders.” In order to accomplish this, the WHO has set out to achieve four goals: strengthen government leadership, provide integrated mental health care in community-based areas, strategize prevention techniques, and strengthen information and research for mental illness.
  4. Grand Challenges Canada, an organization that supports “Bold Ideas with Big Impact,” has trained nearly 500 faith healers, otherwise known as witch doctors, to recognize symptoms of mental illness and refer them to physiatrists. This unlikely tactic takes advantage of the abundant number of traditional healers in Uganda. While there are only 32 western-trained, psychiatrists in the country, there is a ratio of one witch doctor for every 290 Ugandans. As a result, most suffers of mental illness go to faith healers for their symptoms. This new technique is building a bridge between traditional healing and western health care.
  5. New Legislation in Uganda such as the Mental Health Act of 2018 is improving health care conditions. The Act provides mental health treatment at primary health centers, along with emergency treatment and involuntary admission and treatment for those who need it.

Mental health care is a complicated system and as Uganda improves life expectancy and poverty reduction, improvements and funding for mental health will become more available. There is a long way to go for the Ugandans suffering from mental illness, but enhancements are present as indicated by these 5 ways Uganda is improving mental health care.

Maura Byrne
Photo: Pixabay

 

31 bits
Currently, 80 percent of the world population lives on less than $10 a day. Needless to say, this is a time where the global poverty rate, although at the lowest it has ever been, is still in desperate need of improvement. The estimated unemployment rate as of 2017 was 7.9 percent, a 0.4 percent increase from 2016.

Fortunately, there are organizations and companies such as 31 Bits that are striving to combat the current unemployment dilemma that is actively contributing to global poverty. Starting its journey selling jewelry at local school events and craft fairs, nearly a decade later, 31 Bits is a thriving company composed of strong women whose success has been driven by their desire to help struggling and poor artisans in providing them with dignified job opportunities all throughout the world.

How 31 Bits Came to Be

The young women who started 31 Bits were college students by day while learning about marketing and international development at night. They had no background in business whatsoever; however, they did not allow this obstacle to hinder them. After returning from a life-changing trip to Uganda in college, International Director and Founder Kallie Dovel met many women, most who were single moms without jobs or an education that were the same age as herself.

Although they lacked an education, Kallie was instantly drawn to their exceptional skills and resourcefulness; they were making jewelry out of old posters. Bringing a box of jewelry back home, she was able to sell all that she had to her friends with ease.

Kallie was hit with the realization that with the skills that these women possessed, they needed a market – this is how 31 Bits has come to flourish. Producing products that are thoughtfully designed and ethically made, the mission statement of 31 Bits is, “We use fashion and design to drive positive change in the world by providing artisans with dignified opportunities and inspiring customers to live meaningful lives.”

How 31 Bits is Carrying Out its Mission

Actively defying cruel sweatshops where the worker is not paid fairly and is treated poorly, 31 Bits puts the treatment of its artisans at the forefront. The workshops contain quality materials and the necessary protective supplies, and the organization’s goal is to ensure that each artisan is able to make a sustainable monthly salary so that they are able to provide for their families.

31 Bits sells jewelry, bags, home décor, ceramics, textiles and more. Its brass jewelry is crafted by hand in Bali and its beads are also handmade in Uganda. Its website explains the religious reasoning behind the name 31 Bits, saying, “We called the company 31 Bits because Proverbs 31 describes a diligent woman providing and caring for her family using her gifts and talents. Oh, and the ‘bits’ comes from our original and bestselling jewelry that uses beads made out of ‘bits’ of paper!”

Combating Poverty and Assisting Artists

Because 31 Bits recognizes that there are many countries that suffer from corruption and a poor infrastructure which, as a result, limits many from access to the global market, it works to actively decrease the poverty rate for these countries while sustaining a family atmosphere and preserving tradition. “We’ve been able to take age-old practices and give them a modern twist,” the company explains. “Through 31 Bits, [artisans] now have a place to sell their meaningful work and tell stories of their heritage.”

Artisans who work with 31 Bits also receive health care and treatment, counseling, financial education and more. 31 Bits is not only combating the vast amount of global poverty that millions are attempting to grapple with, it is also promoting and encouraging these artisans to pursue their dreams.

– Angelina Gillispie
Photo: Flickr

Pumpkins

Every year, the citizens of Bangladesh have to contend with monsoon season, a cool, rainy period that usually lasts from June until October. Most parts of the country get at least 2000 millimeters of rain per year, and 80 percent of that falls during monsoon season. Northeastern Bangladesh is typically hit hardest, sometimes receiving over 4000 millimeters per year.

The heavy rains bring another problem: flooding. When rivers flood, they destroy both crops and nutrient-rich topsoil. As flood waters recede, they often leave behind large quantities of sand and silt, which reduces the availability of arable land.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) blames this problem in part for Bangladesh’s malnutrition epidemic. According to USAID, 25 percent of Bangladeshis remain food insecure, and women and children are affected most. Of children under five, 16 percent are acutely malnourished and 41 percent have stunted growth.

But one organization believes it has found a solution. Practical Action, an international NGO that uses technology to alleviate poverty in developing countries, has spent several years experimenting with various “sandbar cropping” techniques in Bangladesh. Their solution? Pumpkins.

Practical Action’s tried-and-true technique for farming pumpkins in the sand is to dig a pit in the sand and fill it with compost and a dozen pumpkin seeds. The pumpkins can grow and be harvested before monsoon season rolls around again.

Pumpkins provide a variety of health and logistical benefits. They can store for a year, providing a stable, reliable source of food. They are also a good source of Vitamin A, a nutrient often lacking in Bangladeshi diets. And in a nation where rivers often change course during monsoons and farmers thus lose their land, sandbar cropping provides more security.

This is why Practical Action started Pumpkins Against Poverty, a project to train 50,000 Bangladeshis with no land of their own to grow up to 600 pumpkins a year. Participants can use the extra income generated by selling the crop to buy livestock or send their children to school. The project will last until March 2018 and has the potential to be replicated nationwide.

Bangladesh is far from the only country to realize the value in farming pumpkins as a solution to poverty. Uganda has also embraced the crop as a profitable, nutritious foodstuff. Pumpkin varieties in Uganda are numerous and include Sweet Cream, Bala, Dulu, Onziga, Sunfish, Anderina and Sugar Pie, among others.

Fatuma Namatosi, founder of Ugandan agribusiness firm Byeffe Foods Company Ltd., decided to center her business on pumpkins, citing them as her favorite crop. The company makes pumpkin porridge, which is popular among children and gives them a vital nutrition boost. Byeffe also helps teach young Ugandans agricultural entrepreneurial skills and creates jobs in the field that employ thousands of young people.

Namatosi founded Byeffe in 2015. Since then, she says, “I’ve provided more accessible and nutritious food options to communities across Uganda, created a variety of agricultural jobs that generate income for families, and empowered more people like me, especially young women, to create their own path in the agriculture industry.” All that progress comes down to pumpkins.

Chuck Hasenauer

Photo: Flickr