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The Samsung Global Goals App, Supporting SDGs With a TapIn 2015, the United Nations General Assembly announced a pledge to change the world for the better by the year 2030. That pledge led to the Sustainable Development Goals, also known simply as the Global Goals, which aim to eradicate hunger, combat inequality and clean up the planet. To this end, Samsung has joined the efforts to see the world accomplish these goals and released the Samsung Global Goals app in 2019.

The Samsung Global Goals

The Samsung Global Goals app’s purpose is to “take action on the Global Goals and make the world a better place,” according to the app’s Google Play Store listing. The app has three intentions:

  1. Know the Goals: This allows the user to discover what all 17 goals are about and lets the user determine which one they care about the most and want to support the most.
  2. Get the Facts: Lets the user see statistics about the Global Goals and what important areas organizations are working on to alleviate global poverty and build a sustainable world.
  3. Monitor Donations: This function allows the user to track their donation history and see which of the Global Goals are progressing worst than others.

Donating With a Simple Tap

The app puts Samsung’s advertising revenue to good use. Every ad the user views inside the app earns money that can be donated toward a goal, the user can choose to keep donating to one goal or keep switching between goals. If the user is using the app on a Samsung phone or tablet in the U.S., Singapore, Canada or the U.K., they can use Samsung’s own payment system, Samsung Pay, or if they are on another Android device, they can use Google Pay.

Samsung will also match the user’s donation as the South Korean tech giant’s attempt to brand themselves as a “global corporate citizen.” If the user cannot donate, then they can raise funds by allowing the app to place ads on the user’s lock screen as they charge their devices and the user can select which of the goals those funds will go toward. After an update on January 2020, the app allows users to put inspiring messages and quotes from famous humanitarians and messages about the planet’s climate situation.

United Nations’ Initiatives to Accomplish its SDGs

The Samsung Global Goals app is just one of the new ways the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is attempting to advertise the Global Goals. The UNDP is partnering with different companies to promote the idea and raise awareness of the Global Goals. In America, the UNDP teamed up with iHeart Media to create short messages from famous pop stars about the Global Goals and how citizens can help accomplish them.

Even though the Samsung Global Goals app comes from a place of philanthropy, it would probably do more good for the Global Goals and the UNDP if the app was not limited to just Samsung and the Android platforms. Instead, it should become available to outside platforms, such as Apple’s iOS, to raise even more awareness for the Global Goals, and ultimately our planet.

As we grow closer to the deadline for the SDGs, the world should see more companies following Samsung’s lead and helping the United Nations build a sustainable world by 2030.

—Pedro Vega
Photo: Flickr

Quality and Inclusive Education in India, an Update on the fourth SDGThe fourth Sustainable Development Goal laid out by the U.N. is “Quality Education.” This SDG aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” India has made remarkable progress in increasing the enrolment of students for primary education over the last decade. Various schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan have played a major role in universalizing education in India. The Right to Education Act which makes free and compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 14 years under Article 21 (A) of the Constitution of India has made education in India a fundamental right. In India, Kerala is the best-performing state, whereas Bihar is the worst performing state with respect to the index score of the fourth sustainable development goal.

Efforts to Build Quality and Inclusive Education in India

  1. A mid-day meal scheme was launched in India for students in government and government-aided primary schools to increase enrolment, retention and attendance along with improving children’s nutritional status. It is a centrally sponsored scheme which was launched on August 15, 1995, to improve education in India. In 2008, the benefits of the scheme were extended to all areas across the country.
  2. Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (save the daughter, educate the daughter) is a 2015 initiative that was undertaken to primarily spread awareness about the current state of girls’ education in India. In the mass communication campaign, education was highlighted as a tool for women empowerment and how it would ensure a bright future for girls. The objectives of the scheme also include ensuring the survival and protection of girls and eliminating gender-biased sex selection.
  3. Over the past two decades, the Government of India has launched various schemes to ameliorate the predicament of gender and social gaps in education. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Education for All Movement) was a flagship program launched in 2000-2001 to make education universally accessible and to bridge the gap in education between gender and social categories. The intervention included investment in school infrastructure, such as opening new schools, construction of additional classrooms, toilets and drinking water, among other factors that would result in improvement of education outcomes.
  4. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced education to be shifted online in India. The shift to the online medium of learning has been challenging for students all across the country. But the effect of this crisis has had the worst implications on poverty-stricken people in remote villages who do not have internet connectivity, electricity or resources to access quality education.

The implementation of such schemes launched by the central government has led to significant progress in achieving universal primary education enrolment for both girls and boys in India. Despite an increase in inclusive education in India, it is imperative to study whether quality education is provided universally. With an increase in the enrolment for primary education, there is a need to ensure that issues, such as low absenteeism of teachers, lack of proper infrastructure, unsafe drinking water and improper sanitation facilities, are overcome.

The COVID-19 pandemic throws light at how disproportionally it affects the marginalized communities and economically weaker sections of the society by making education inaccessible. The need of the hour is to invest in education by making it inclusive and accessible, bridge the gap in education outcomes that arises due to inequality of income, and ensure quality education is provided to everybody.

-Anandita Bardia
Photo: Flickr

Yazidi CommunitiesHaving been targeted by ISIL during its military campaign in 2014, the Yazidis have gained significant international attention over recent years. However, few knew much about the importance of Yazidi communities to the overall stability in Iraq before their genocide.

Who Are the Yazidis?

The Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking minority located primarily in northern Iraq, where about 400,000 lived as of 2014. They have traditionally kept to themselves but experienced ethnic and religious persecution from both Saddam Hussein’s regime over the years as well as ISIL most recently. Such oppression crippled Yazidi communities as their members dealt with the economic fallout and social setbacks resulting from trauma. The novel coronavirus poses a new threat, and the consequences for peace and security in Iraq will be manifold — especially if the Yazidis are excluded from Iraq’s COVID-19 economic recovery strategy.

The COVID-19 Crisis

The spread of COVID-19 has hurt Iraq and its people on a grand scale, as it has in the rest of the world. Yet, despite a low number of cases in northern Iraq, Yazidi communities have been disproportionately affected by the virus due to safety measures taken by the Iraqi government. In Sinjar, where many Yazidis in Iraq live, most of the working population must travel for jobs located outside of the city or are farmers who rely on visiting other cities to sell their crops. However, this way of life is no longer possible under the imposed movement restrictions. Yazidis cannot leave Sinjar for employment, and farmers cannot travel to other cities. Therefore, many Yazidi communities have essentially lost all means of income.

The emergency measures have also adversely impacted the Yazidis on the healthcare front, as access to healthcare has been reduced. Those requiring medical attention can only receive it four hours away in Mosul, taking an ambulance so that they can cross various checkpoints throughout the province. Along with the long trip, some Yazidis do not seek treatment in Mosul because of the language barrier. These factors have further ostracized the Yazidis economically and socially, thus risking an increase in regional poverty.

The Resurgence of Poverty and of ISIL

Poverty’s resurgence in Yazidi communities because of the novel coronavirus has myriad implications for peace and security within the Middle East. In addition to trauma following the end of ISIL’s occupation of Yazidi land, the pandemic has created a mental health crisis within Yazidi communities. Those who previously received counseling at mental health facilities are no longer able to obtain that help due to COVID-19. Some experts are even predicting that 25% of Yazidis will require mental health care after the pandemic subsides.

Others have raised concerns surrounding the return of ISIL during this period of instability. Iraq’s government has acted on this issue militarily and can continue to fight ISIL’s revival by providing economic aid and building necessary healthcare infrastructure in Yazidi communities.

Humanitarian Solutions and NGOs

Ultimately, northern Iraq’s stability will not be achieved through military success alone. The long-term solution will be humanitarian. Following the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as developing better infrastructure, will lead to extraordinary progress on other pressing problems in Iraq, like reducing poverty and improving health.

Giving non-governmental organizations, like Yazda, a bigger role in community building is another way to strengthen Yazidi societies. Yazda focuses on helping Yazidis in various ways. It has already helped thousands obtain mobile medical services in addition to providing hundreds of mental health and socioeconomic assistance and supporting hundreds more in their pursuit of criminal justice.

For now, Baghdad is focused on reopening its urban and economic centers. However, including Yazidi communities in the reopening process during and after COVID-19, as well as supporting them to become more resilient in tumultuous conditions, will be crucial in preventing future conflicts and eliminating poverty in Iraq.

Alex Berman
Photo: Flickr

Solar-Powered Water PumpsAs much as one-third of territory in the Northern State of Sudan can support agriculture, a key industry for Sudanese living in poverty. However, unequal access to reliable electricity and water leads many farmers to rely on diesel pumps to irrigate crops. The introduction of solar energy, specifically solar-powered irrigation, reduces farmers’ reliance on fossil fuels. This technological advancement reduces the expenses of farmers while dramatically increasing agricultural productivity.

Risks of Diesel-Powered Irrigation

Solar-powered water pumps help farmers eliminate their dependence on fossil fuel and overcome energy scarcity. An estimated 20 million people live without access to electricity in Sudan, approximately 65% of the country’s population. In the rural regions of Sudan, that percentage is even higher. For instance, up to 80% of rural Sudanese farmers lack reliable access to electricity.

Due to this scarce access to electricity, many farmers rely on diesel-powered water pumps to irrigate their fields. Diesel pumps not only produce harmful greenhouse gases but also can reduce agricultural efficiency. Specifically, the expensive and fluctuating prices of diesel fuel limit growing seasons and prevents farmers from planting consistently. Furthermore, the pumps contribute to smaller-scale environmental hazards by contaminating the surrounding water and plants.

Benefits of Solar-Powered Water Pumps

Solar-powered water pumps overcome the issue of energy scarcity by powering irrigation without tapping into fossil fuels. This mechanism helps farmers by providing a fuel source for irrigation that is both stable and effectively cost-free aside from initial installation and regular maintenance charges.

Solar-powered water pumps also help farmers increase land cultivation. Confidence in the availability of energy to irrigate crops enables farmers to increase cultivation. One pilot program for the introduction of solar pumps in the Northern State, operated by the United Nations Development Programme, found that the introduction of solar-powered water pumps increased the amount of land cultivated by farmers by 47%.

For example, the dry summer months were previously not economically viable due to the need for increased water-pumping and therefore costly diesel fuel. Following the introduction of solar-powered water pumps, land cultivation grew by 87% during the summer. Overall, farmers reported dramatic changes regarding both savings and reductions in overhead costs for farm management.

Additionally, solar-powered water pumps allow farmers to enrich agricultural production with high-value crops. Although agriculture accounts for around 80% of employment and roughly one-third of GDP in Sudan, individual farmers are particularly susceptible to poverty and food insecurity. However, with extended growing seasons and cuts in the cost of irrigation, Sudanese farmers can produce higher-value crops such as lemons, mangoes and cotton.

The Future of Solar Irrigation in Sudan

The Global Environmental Facility granted 4.89 million U.S. dollars to install 1,440 solar-powered water pumps throughout the Northern State between 2016-2021. The statistics make it clear that the farmers involved in pilot programs experienced notable benefits by utilizing solar pumps.

In addition to these individual benefits, Solar-powered irrigation could have much wider implications globally. The Sudanese initiative alone is projected to ultimately eliminate 860,100 tons of CO2 emissions and save 268,800 metric tons of diesel. Applied on a global scale, this technology could serve to drastically reduce emissions from the agricultural industry as a whole.

– Alexandra Black
Photo: U.N.

4 Organizations Fighting World Hunger
Hunger and poverty integrally link together, because most people experiencing chronic hunger live in poverty. Further, most of the world’s hungry reside in developing nations. A 2018 report from the United Nations concluded that the number of people afflicted with chronic hunger was actually rising.  In 2017, there were 821 million people around the globe that were hungry. In other words, hunger affects one in every nine people. World hunger is an issue that demands attention because of its regression throughout the past few years. Additionally, improving food security should boost global health and support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030. There are countless organizations working tirelessly to make a hunger-free world a reality. Below are four organizations fighting world hunger.

4 Organizations Fighting World Hunger

  1. Oxfam International: Oxfam International is a global movement working in more than 90 countries on a multitude of issues. Between 2017 and 2018, Oxfam worked with 22.3 million people to fight inequality and beat poverty. The organization aims to build resilience in communities and campaigns for sustainable change. It operates as a confederation that partners with local organizations. Oxfam believes that hunger in a world of plenty is the result of inequalities such as economic and gender differences. One specific aim is to create a more fair and sustainable global food system. Various programs support small-scale farmers and workers in production with the capacity to provide for increasing populations and reduce poverty. Specifically, the implementation of these sustainable farming techniques in conjunction with advocating for necessary government investments helps to fight against world hunger.
  2. Biodiversity International: Biodiversity International is a global research and development organization working in 35 countries around the world with the aim of fighting world hunger. This organization has a regional presence in Central and South America, West and Central Africa, East and Southern Africa, Central and South Asia and Southeast Asia. It implements various research endeavors and programs based on the idea that agricultural biodiversity provides adequate nutrition for the global population by sustaining the planet. In 2018, Biodiversity International published 145 papers indicating that biodiversity aids in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, which includes ending hunger. In order to accomplish these goals, Biodiversity International partners with local communities and organizations in low-income countries to target issues specific to that population. All of the research and intervention methods are based around the use of scientific evidence, effective management practices and the implementation of policies to safeguard biodiversity, thus achieving food security globally.
  3. Rise Against Hunger: Rise Against Hunger is a hunger relief organization that aligns itself with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals in its efforts to end world hunger by 2030. In order to achieve this, the organization distributes food and aid to vulnerable populations. In 2018, Rise Against Hunger impacted 794,700 people by providing meals and aid. The organization implements safety nets in order to provide for basic needs while people are planning and putting long term solutions in place. Rise Against Hunger also provides effective and efficient food provisions along with aid during emergency situations. Additional focuses include efforts to build community resilience, self-sufficiency and empowerment. The organization also brings resilient food security by creating long-lasting solutions for fighting world hunger through implementing sustainable agricultural practices, teaching business skills and improving market access.
  4. UNICEF: UNICEF is an organization active in more than 90 countries that focuses on saving the lives of children around the globe. Development is a huge part of providing for vulnerable populations and is especially critical for youth. Combating hunger and implementing accessible food systems is an integral part of the development; it interweaves in almost all of UNICEF’s programs in developing countries. UNICEF’s Survive and Thrive initiatives address the health of children, including early childhood development, health, HIV/AIDS, immunization, water, sanitation, hygiene and nutrition. UNICEF understands that fighting world hunger is necessary for achieving these initiatives and creating a healthier young population. Additionally, the organization provides aid during crisis and emergency situations, which includes ensuring food security for children. Through these programs, UNICEF improved the quality of 15.6 million children’s diets in 2018. UNICEF primarily focuses on children’s issues, but the organization is aware that addressing hunger is a crucial aspect of addressing developmental issues.

Hunger and poverty are issues that inherently tie together. These four organizations address global hunger through diverse programs and disciplines. Through each organizations’ work, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of fighting world hunger has a profound possibility. 

Treya Parikh
Photo: Flickr

CodersTrustThe only things a person needs to survive is food, water and shelter, but they won’t thrive. To provide them with an opportunity to thrive starts by giving them access to education. While this seems relatively easy for some, others are not as lucky to have this opportunity. For those who are not as fortunate or not able to access education, putting forth legislation and supporting non-profits and other NGOs that give people this opportunity allow citizens who once had nothing to thrive and become productive members of society able to give back to the community. Organizations such as CodersTrust give people the opportunity for an education they most likely would not receive.

CodersTrust

CodersTrust was founded in 2014 in Denmark with the hope of providing access and marketable skills to children and young people around the world who are considered “underprivileged, disadvantaged and marginalized,” people who do not have access to education or opportunities to thrive in a professional setting. They welcome children and young people from all walks of life including women, those who are disabled or refugees, teaching them both digital skills and soft skills which give them the best chance at finding a job or internship opportunity; for one of the goals of the organization is to train as many people as well as possible. These are the people who have very few options in life, CodersTrust gives them an opportunity they might not have to get an education and be independent. 

Mads Galsgaard, the current CEO of CodersTrust, spoke more candidly about the reason behind the formation of CodersTrust saying, “CodersTrust was founded on the vision to create affordable education and job access to people in developing countries. The founders deeply believe in outsourcing work to talented people abroad and through their past projects, they came across several talented people in Bangladesh, helping them with accounting, etc.”

As of now the organization itself is rather small but is looking to expand. According to Galsgaard, there are three people stationed in Denmark, three people in Kosovo and two people in Kenya. The largest headquarters in Bangladesh with over 50 staffers there. Regarding the future plans for the company, Galsgaard states, “We are scaling up the business and will onboard new staff members in the coming months, to ensure that our online and franchise partners are given the full human interaction that is key for a successful education and job creation.”

CodersTrust was founded with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in mind. The Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, were created in 2016 with the idea that they were created to ensure that all countries will fight to end poverty, fight inequality and address climate change, all while ensuring all people are apart of the conversation and that people globally will benefit from these goals. The SDGs are based on the success of the Millennium Development Goals and address all countries to do their part, not just the wealthier countries. The goals combine the importance of ending poverty and social justice while trying to protect the plant and stop the adverse effects of climate change. There were seventeen rules implemented when the UN created this plan. CodersTrust works to follow rules 1, 4, 5, 8 and 10. These rules are no poverty (1), quality education (4), gender equality (5), decent work and economic growth (8) and reduced inequalities (10). CodersTrust’s dedication to these rules is something Galsgaard is extremely proud of with the organization. 

Opportunities for Women and Young Girls

Coderstrust has also done many projects to assist women and girls in obtaining an education and having a fair shot as well, for one of their main focus groups is women and young girls. They have partnered with other organizations, that too help with offering those in areas where education is not possible, an opportunity for education. When speaking of the impact CodersTrust has had on the battle for gender equity, Galsgaard says, “We have done several projects to focus on young women, in Kosovo with Women in Online Work (WoW) and recently in Bangladesh, where are training 1000 women to become digital freelancers.”

The interesting part of CodersTrust does that differs them from other organizations is that it works to combine education with job experience and job hunting, so people working with CodersTrust are doing both at the same time. They also encourage globalization through the internet by allowing their students and clients to branch out to businesses worldwide. The example they use on their website is “Companies in Bratislava can have their website built in Kenya and students in the Philippines can bid on managing the Social Media Portfolio for the Mountain Bike Shop in White Horse, Canada.” Since the foundation of CodersTrust, 11,525 people have received an education and graduated, 11 countries have been introduced to CodersTrust and 18 different courses have been offered to students. CodersTrust has mainly reached students in the Global South, as well as post-war zones, for education and job opportunities are the worst there. 

With the development of this organization, their goal and plans for the future involve globalization for their education plans, and job searching in order to improve themselves and help more people. With this vision, students will be able to take everything they have learned from their time at this organization and apply it to the job market. When asked if CodersTrust intended on expanding outside of technology and freelancing, Galsgaard said, “Our primary focus is training people in digital skills, but our marketplace could over time also provide a job market for tradespeople, such as carpenters, plumbers, etc. We focus on providing a transparent platform where companies can easily find workers and have a secure payment flow, where both parties can review validated reviews, certificates and other elements to build trust and easy operation.”

Plans For The Future

With the success and the growth of CodersTrust in mind, Galsgaard talks about plans for the organization five years from now and ten years from now and what he would like the see the organization accomplish from there. Galsgaard says, “We wish to have 1 million users by the end of 2020 and 5 million by 2025. If our scale-up goes as we hope and expect, our touchpoints will be both online and offline, to ensure that people all over the world can access our offerings, as long as the student has a laptop/mobile device and a stable internet connection. We also wish to provide certain entry-level education programs for free, to ensure that we also attract people with no or little IT skills and lift them out of poverty.”

Regarding the expansion of the organization and CodersTrust’s vision for the future, Galsgaard states, “Our expansion strategy is based on providing a global footprint reaching even more people, whilst still maintaining the human interaction so each student has direct access to support anytime and anywhere.”

– Sydney Toy
Photo: Flickr

end female genital mutilationThe international agencies UNICEF and UNFPA are now in their second year of Phase III of their joint campaign to end female genital mutilation (FGM). While this human rights violation receives less coverage than many other plights affecting the world’s poor, the world’s leaders have come together in recent years to agree on the need to end female genital mutilation. Complete elimination of FGM is recognized as part of the Sustainable Development Goals the global community hopes to reach by 2030.

The Issue at a Glance

The UNFPA defines FGM as “any procedure involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genitals for non-medical reasons.” Affecting 200 million women and girls today in 30 countries, FGM can take the form of a clitoridectomy, infibulation—a way of surgically sealing the vaginal opening—excision, or other damage to the genital area.

While FGM is most prevalent in Africa, it is widely practiced in parts of Asia and the Middle East as well. Egypt and Somalia have among the highest rates in the world, where over 90 percent of girls undergo FGM. In Indonesia and some Asian countries, FGM is so standardized that hospitals expect to perform it on all newborn girls.

Why FGM Should Be Stopped

Part of what makes FGM a human rights violation is that this treatment is typically done to girls under 15 who are not old enough to offer informed consent. Many agree to FGM after hearing myths of what will happen if they forgo the treatment, and the youngest never agree at all—their parents decide.

Not only does FGM violate a women’s right to make informed decisions about what happens to her body, which has physical and psychological repercussions, but it has a negative impact medically 100 percent of the time. Even when done by medical professionals with sterile tools and cutting-edge technology, FGM is a dangerous medical procedure that has no health benefits and frequently leads to a multitude of health issues later in life, including urinary problems, painful copulation and complications during childbirth, as affirmed by the World Health Organization. In short, girls are put through a painful procedure that has negative side effects down the road because of a cultural bias that women can’t be trusted to manage their sexual decisions.

How UNICEF-UNFPA’s Program Works to End Female Genital Mutilation

The reason FGM exists in the first place and has been so difficult for aid organizations to combat is that it is ingrained as a cultural norm. Girls grow up knowing that they will undergo this procedure and that their daughters will too—breaking that cycle appears inconceivable. Unfortunately, the reasons girls are guided to FGM are entirely myth-based and built on a sexist desire to limit female’s use of their sexuality. Girls are told that unless they undergo FGM, they will be dirty, impure or ineligible for marriage by either a religious sect or often by their community. This means that the work UNFPA and UNICEF does to fight involves looking for ways to change the social expectations around FGM.

Some of the specific ways UNFPA and UNICEF’s Joint Program is ending FGM include working with social groups and media to spread awareness of the health and human rights concerns associated with FGM and “to change perceptions of girls who remain uncut.” The agencies have also worked with government leaders to design policies that prohibit FGM to discourage the procedure for legal reasons and with religious leaders to “de-link FGM from religion.” As a result of their work, 31 million people have publicly declared abandonment of FGM. The focus has been on collective abandonment, since when only one or two individuals in a community give up the practice, they face being ostracized by their peers.

UNFPA and UNICEF, along with countless other international agencies, have worked to end FGM one girl at a time. Unfortunately, the procedure is still all too prevalent in large regions of the world. Removing taboos that FGM is too religious or too intimate of a topic to discuss will be necessary for the fight against FGM, and so women may be freed from this violation of their bodies.

– Olivia Heale
Photo: Flickr

Poor Countries Fail to Administer VaccinesOver the years, immunizations have prevented large numbers of infectious diseases from spreading worldwide. Between 2 and 3 million deaths are prevented each year in all age groups due to these vaccines. Expanding access to immunization has become a new United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal. Currently, 85 percent of the globe has vaccination coverage. In total, these efforts have drastically impacted the world over the last few years. However, there is still a major struggle to reach full coverage in certain regions. Here are three reasons why poor countries fail to administer vaccines.

Three Reasons Why Poor Countries Fail to Administer Vaccines

  1. Vaccines are expensive and difficult to spread across certain regions.
    In 2017, roughly 19.9 million infants globally did not receive a DTP vaccination. This vaccination helps prevent children from getting diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis if a child receives roughly five doses over the course of their life. However, poorer nations have difficulty providing clinics and the means of offering repeated vaccinations.

    People living in rural areas must travel for hours to urban cities to receive treatments. In addition, transporting these goods to rural regions is tough because the hot temperatures can kill the immunity components of the vaccines. Shortages in supplies and lack of trained professionals also hinder the process. This heavily contributes to why poor nations fail to administer vaccines to large amounts of people.

    On top of these issues, the costs of vaccinating a single child increased from $10 to roughly $42 since 2000. However, these heavy costs do not heavily burden extremely poor countries because the vaccine alliance, Gavi, funds them. Gavi encompasses many organizations such as the World Health Organization, UNICEF, The World Bank and others. This alliance has allowed the economic burden to lift for roughly 70 countries, and it is actively seeking ways to overcome the geographical obstacles in these regions.

  2. Many are hesitant to vaccinate due to a lack of trust in immunization.
    According to the WHO, vaccine hesitancy is the refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines. Lack of trust in immunization is a major reason why people in poorer nations face this issue. Many people fear the side effects and potential dangers of immunization, so they choose not to vaccinate their children. Another reason for this hesitancy revolves around cultural differences. Primarily Western nations have introduced these vaccinations and citizens have difficulties accepting them into their society.

    An example of this is the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s recent Ebola outbreak. For the past few months, a large percentage of Congolese citizens refused to take the life-saving vaccination. These people do not trust the medical system and the government that allowed for a different country to intervene in its lifestyle. Their exposure to the disease has meant that other communities isolate and neglect them, which means they are having a hard time letting outsiders into their homes, even if intentions are good. Some citizens even attacked treatment centers in Katwa and Butembo in February 2019 to make a statement.

    Health officials in the DRC, as well as other countries, are making efforts to interact more with the communities during the vaccination process. A major step is finding ways to educate people on these medicines while respecting the cultures that they are entering. Recent campaigns such as the WHO World Immunization Week 2019 have made efforts to demonstrate the value of vaccines and immunization to start this process.

  3. Conflict and natural disasters prevent access to health care.
    War-torn countries are some of the most difficult places to administer vaccinations. Hospitals and clinics can become damaged and make it harder for people to receive the treatment they need. The Syrian War is an example of this. Before the war began, child vaccination coverage against DTP was 89 percent. However, in 2016, the number dropped to 61 percent as children received less than the three recommended doses of the vaccine. Syria and other countries at the bottom of the WHO’s vaccination coverage list were experiencing a civil war or conflict in their country.

    In addition to wars, natural disasters also hinder the vaccination process with widespread destruction. In Mozambique, a deadly hurricane swept through the country in March 2019. Not only did the storm destroy hospitals and clinics, but it also made reaching citizens living in rural areas with life-saving medication difficult. Natural disasters generally exacerbate issues that many countries already face, making it more difficult for health care officials to work until recovery ends.

    In recent years, Gavi has funded initiatives to help administer vaccines in countries facing these issues. Gavi offered to purchase vaccinations and other equipment to assist vaccinating millions of children exposed to preventable diseases in Syria. Also, the organization funded an influx of oral cholera vaccinations in 2017 to Sierra Leone after flooding and landslides.

Overall, there are many reasons why poor countries fail to administer vaccines to their citizens, but there are even more efforts going on today to overcome these obstacles. With the efforts of many health care organizations, the path to total global immunization might not be far out of reach.

– Sydney Blakeney
Photo: Flickr

AI to Meet the Sustainable Development Goals
Tech giants are using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to create innovative strategies to meet the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and eradicate global poverty by 2030. A central barrier to development in third-world nations is in-access to high-quality, timely and accessible data.

Big data platforms like AI expand capabilities to acquire accurate, real-time, micro-level information, while ML allows pattern recognition at a macro-level. Combined, these data advances can make data more accessible, applicable and finely scalable while accelerating the speed and scale for private and public development actors to implement change. Companies are partnering across public, private and nonprofit sectors to broaden the collective impact.

Take a look at the innovative approaches tech giants are taking to help global poor communities with data and what the incorporation of AI technologies means for the future of global poverty initiatives. These approaches aim to employ AI to meet the SDGs within its allotted time frame.

Education and Digital Training

On June 19, 2019, the day preceding World Refugee Day, Microsoft announced the inception of two projects partnering with Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP) and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). These projects supplement its AI for Humanitarian Action group to help incorporate AI to meet the SDGs.

The AI for Humanitarian Action group is a $40 million, five-year program part of Microsoft’s larger AI for Good suite (a $115 million, five-year project). The projects will provide AI tools to help staff track court dates, prioritize emergency cases and translate for families with AI speech-to-text. Microsoft also has continuing partnerships to incorporate AI/ML into educational services for refugees with the following groups:

  1. International Rescue Committee (IRC): This committee works to provide humanitarian aid through the creation of sustainable programming for refugees, displaced populations and crisis-affected communities. This includes career development programming and digital skills training to empower refugees and make them relevant for the job markets in each affected country. Microsoft and IRC’s Technology for Livelihoods in Crisis project in Jordan is an example of this.
  2. United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF): Together with the University of Cambridge, the UNICEF is developing The Learning Passport. The digital platform will ensure better access to education and facilitate learning opportunities for youth displaced by conflict and natural disasters. It creates scalable learning solutions tailored to each child. Crises have affected the quality of education for 75 million youth.
  3. Norwegian Refugee Council: This council is providing an AI chatbot service that uses language understanding, machine translation and language recognition to deliver high-quality education and digital skills training to refugees. This helps to close the education gap for the millions of youth affected by conflict. It will also help humanitarian workers communicate with migrants who speak other languages, which will help them best provide the best service.
  4. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): UNHCR plans to provide 25,000 refugees in Kakuma with access to high-quality, accredited, context-appropriate digital learning and training by 2020 for development in Kakuma markets. UNHCR intends this project to expand across multiple countries.

Food Security and Agricultural Development

The fact that farms do not always have power or internet security limits technological developments that address food security and agricultural development. Here are some efforts that consider the capabilities of farmers and the respective developing regions:

  1. Microsoft FarmBeats: It aims to enable data-driven farming compatible with both the capabilities of the farmer and the region. FarmBeats is employing AI and IoT (Information of Things) solutions using low-cost sensors, drones and vision and ML algorithms. This combined AI and IoT approach enables data-driven improvements in agriculture yield, lowered costs and reduced environmental impacts of agricultural production, and is a significant contribution to help AI to meet the SDGs.
  2. Apollo: Apollo uses agronomic machine learning, remote sensing and mobile phones to help farmers maximize profits in developing markets. Apollo delivers scalable financing, farm products and customized advice to farmers while assessing the farmers’ credit risk. Apollo customizes each product in order to double farm yields and improve credit. The beta project is starting in Kenya.
  3. The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)/CGIAR research group: It aims to implement preemptive solutions rather than reactive solutions to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030. CIAT has developed a Nutrition Early Warning System (NEWS), which uses machine learning to make predictions on malnutrition patterns based on current and future estimates of crop failures, droughts and rising food prices. This approach is able to detect an impending nutrition crisis and take action instead of responding after the crisis has taken hold.

Socioeconomic Data Collection

According to a report by The Brookings Institute as a part of its “A Blueprint for the Future of AI series,” data providing national averages “conceal more than they reveal” and inaccurately estimate and map patterns of poverty. Survey data is often entirely unavailable or otherwise low in quality in many of the poorest countries where development needs are greatest. 39 of the 59 countries in Africa conducted less than two surveys between 2000 and 2010.

Even in large countries with sophisticated statistical systems, such as India, survey results remain inaccurate, with the gap between personal reporting and national accounts amounting to as much as a 60 percent difference in some countries. Companies are addressing this by utilizing big data from remote sensing satellites.

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is using Earth Observations (EO) to provide finely-tuned and near-real-time data on economic activity and population distribution by measuring nighttime luminosity. Researchers have noted a correlation between luminosity and GDP as well as subnational economic output. Collecting socioeconomic data in this way can ensure higher quality data important to policy implementation and direction to countries with the greatest development needs.

Timothy Burke and Stan Larimer launched Sovereign Sky in 2018, putting satellite data into action. Sovereign Sky is the world’s first space-based blockchain which provides secure private internet networks and powers a new Free World Currency to redistribute the world’s wealth with a goal of eradicating poverty by 2032.

The eight current satellites cover Africa and India and the organization will send boxes of StealthCrypto phones, digital wallets, smart cards and modems to people in need. Sovereign Sky will deploy 36 satellites within three to 10 years to cover the entire world in a secure blockchain internet connection, closing the gap on technological interactions between all nations and including the world’s remotest and poorest areas in internet connectivity.

Pitfalls of AI-Driven Global Development Initiatives, and Moving Forward

AI and ML have crucial capabilities in reshaping education, agriculture and data collection in the developing world. However, these technologies have a history of producing unethical racial profiling, surveillance and perpetuating stereotypes, especially in areas with a history of ethnic conflict or inequality. AI and ML applications have to adapt in ways to ensure effective, inclusive and fair distribution of big data resources in the developing world. Development experts need to be in close collaboration with technologists to prevent unethical allocations.

This diversification is why it is important that tech giants like Microsoft, and projects like those by the ICAT/CGIAR, are created in collaboration with various nonprofit, public and private sector groups to ensure interdisciplinary ethical liability for big data applications in sustainable development contexts. Ensuring the use of AI technologies is context-specific to the affected regions and populations will help prevent misappropriation of the technology and increase quality and effectiveness.

Working with local companies and sectors can create long-lasting engagement and grow permanent technology sectors in the developing areas thus contributing to the local economy. These strategies can put forth effective, ethical and productive applications of AI to meet the SDGs.

– Julia Kemner
Photo: Flickr

zero extreme poverty
The Philippines ranks on the top twelve list of the most populous countries in the world. Yet, in 2015, the number of Filipinos living under the poverty line made up over 21 percent of an already large 100 million people. While this rate indicates improvement, in 2006 the rate was 5 percent higher, NGO leaders such as Armin Luistro and Reynaldo Laguda knew that more could be done.

Specifically, operational changes for NGOs Philippine Business for Social Progress (BSFP), Habitat for Humanity Philippines and Peace and Equity Foundation had to be made. These NGOs rolled out plans dedicated to special and long-term interventions that targeted extremely impoverished Filipino families. The focus of these plans centered on rural fishing and agriculture communities, as well as marginalized indigenous peoples.

The Zero Extreme Poverty Goal

In 2015, 17 NGOs unified to form The Philippines’ Zero Extreme Poverty Goal (ZEP PH 2030). Together, they strive to lift at least one million Filipino families from extreme poverty by the year 2030. This is the year that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are due which adds momentum to the cause.

Beginning as a coalition of a handful of NGOs, ZEP now houses corporations who wish to join the Filipino fight against poverty. Indeed, ZEP prides itself in maintaining a diverse team made up of groups with unique strengths. Different members and partners of the coalition are organized into eight different clusters. They are as follows:

Various Programs

  1. Education seeks to ensure that youth have access to education and employment opportunities. ZEP aims to ensure that two million youth are employed by 2030.
  2. Health supports the health of Filipinos in impoverished communities. The program conducts awareness campaigns on maternal, child health and nutrition in target areas to promote health policy advocacy.
  3. Livelihood is led by the Peace and Equity Foundation within ZEP, and with fellow committee members, ensures the coalition’s ability to provide assistance to the extremely poor.
  4. Environment works to maintain and improve upon ecosystem services within The Philippines in order to sustain healthy communities. They aim to guarantee a number of benefits to the country, like a 10 percent increase in agricultural areas by 2028.
  5. Agriculture and Fisheries seeks to bring complete self-sufficiency to small fisheries and farms by 2030, through initiatives such as market empowerment and accessible support services.
  6. Housing and Shelter provides safe and sufficient homes with basic facilities to extremely impoverished families. Involved organizations within the cluster, including Habitat for Humanity, also work with local governments to implement social housing programs and projects.
  7. Partnerships for Indigenous Peoples helps build self-sustaining indigenous peoples communities, whether it be through advocacy means or by establishing community-based plans. Implemented programs include promoting women and children’s rights.
  8. Social Justice serves as the overarching cluster and theme of ZPH, in which the coalition’s diverse private and public groups align in the Filipino fight against poverty. By engagements with local governments and through policy programs, ZPH aims to end conditions within the Philippines that prevent the poor from finding self-sufficiency.

A Personal Approach

A primary strategy used by ZEP in order to maximize their efficiency is community consultation. Participating NGO programs employ a personal approach. They ask local Filipinos for their experiences and stories to truly understand the needs of poor communities. Organizations within the community can then easily refer to other member organizations of ZEP, whether they be businesses or NGOs, who specialize in the community’s needs.

In one case study, ZEP assisted an indigenous father of two in the foundation of a basket business. His business has since expanded, employing dozens of workers. ZEP reports that 63 families have benefitted in the process. In another case, ZEP assisted a single mother of seven children in improving her family’s living conditions. Moreover, the education cluster is supporting the families oldest child to pursue her academic career. Stories like these illustrate the promise of the ZEP goals.

Hope for the Future

By December of 2018, the coalition had implemented poverty-reduction programs in 109 cities. 10,000 families were provided with aid and assistance. However, ZEP’s Filipino fight against poverty is far from over. They continue to relentlessly assist communities in need as well as work to further expand themselves as a coalition. Nevertheless, the Zero Extreme Poverty goal coalition always stays true to its core values of social justice, service and diversity.

Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr