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viral hepatitis in IndiaViral hepatitis is one of the leading causes of death in India, where more than 60 million people are infected with this deadly disease. Known as a “silent killer,” hepatitis is a viral disease that can cause inflammation in the liver. Different types of hepatitis refer to the type of virus infecting its host. In India, Hepatitis A (HAV) is amongst the most common, particularly for children. However, other types of hepatitis, such as type E or type C, still pose a large threat to the health and wellbeing of Indian citizens.

Current Problems Regarding Viral Hepatitis in India

In India, Hepatitis B infects at least 40 million people, and Hepatitis C infects more than 6 million. As of now, viral hepatitis in India is becoming a serious health concern, especially amongst children. With few vaccinations available, many children aren’t able to prevent this disease. As of now, less than 44% of children are fully vaccinated against hepatitis. In contrast, Nepal and Bangladesh have more than 80% of their children fully scheduled for vaccinations. India has almost seven million children unvaccinated. As a result, this makes them more vulnerable to viruses such as hepatitis.

Only 1.2% of India’s national budget goes toward vaccinations. The lack of government assistance contributes to the overwhelming number of children that remain unvaccinated. Even this budget only goes toward six basic vaccinations, comprising diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, tuberculosis, polio and measles, meaning that it excludes hepatitis.

Another large contributor to the spread of this disease is poor infrastructure, often found in impoverished areas. Pipelines with water contamination are more likely to spread the virus, especially in urban cities. India has one of the largest water crises due to poor filtration and contaminated pipelines. Only 32% of piped water has been treated because rivers and lakes are more prone to sewage, leading to micro-contaminations. As Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E are waterborne viruses, it remains a priority for the Indian government to treat its contaminated water supply. This is especially vital for people living in impoverished regions. More than 37 million Indians have been infected with waterborne diseases, resulting in more than 10,000 deaths annually.

Promising Solutions for Viral Hepatitis in India

Although viral hepatitis in India is a large health concern, there are countless efforts to mitigate the spread of this deadly disease. For example, the World Health Organization and UNICEF have established the Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation. This program led 17 states in India to reach the Millenium Development Goal 7 (MDG). Additionally, the government of India established the National Virus Hepatitis Control Program, which gives access to more testing and treatment. This program focuses on rural areas and hopes to end viral hepatitis by 2030.

Some smaller nonprofit organizations are also working to prevent the spread of hepatitis. For example, Water.org has 34 partnerships in India, including with UNICEF and the World Bank. Additionally, Water.org has been able to provide more than 13 million people with water and sanitation with $599 million from its partnerships. The BridgIT Foundation has similar goals in solving the water crisis in the most affected counties. As of now, it has built wells in 30 villages. In addition, it partners up with the Rural Development Society and the Sri K. Pitchi Reddy Educational & Welfare Society to reach more than 30,000 people who don’t have access to clean water.

The Path Ahead to Reform

Although eradicating viral hepatitis remains a priority in India, reform begins with the basis of the problem. By improving its resources, such as sanitation and vaccination, India will be able to reduce the spread of viral diseases like hepatitis. With the number of government and local efforts, there is a large chance of mitigating viral hepatitis in India in the near future.

Aishwarya Thiyagarajan 
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in the Pacific
The COVID-19 crisis has cemented itself as a problem that all countries in the world must face. Complicating matters is the fact that circumstances surrounding COVID-19 are quite dynamic — changing by the day. As such, experts release new information and studies about the new coronavirus, constantly. Therefore, healthcare workers need to stay informed. For small, proximal nations in the Pacific, this is especially important. Healthcare in the Pacific faces a unique set of challenges. As Fiji’s Hon. Minister for Health and Medical Services, Dr. Ifereimi Waqainabete, says, “The global spread of COVID-19 to countries and territories indicates that ‘a risk somewhere is a risk anywhere’ and as a global village, the increasing incidence of the disease in some countries around the world is a threat to the entire Pacific.”

The Challenge

In many Pacific nations, it is challenging to ensure that all healthcare workers remain updated. “The majority of nurses and midwives in the Pacific are located in remote rural areas and outer islands, which means they often miss out on regular trainings and updates,” says UNICEF Pacific Representative, Sheldon Yett. These remote workers service more than 2 million people in the Pacific.

The Solution

To address this problem regarding healthcare in the Pacific, governments of nations therein have recently collaborated with UNICEF, the U.S., New Zealand and Japan to launch a new program called Health Care on Air. This is the first regional training program of the sort. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has invested $1.85 million in this program.

Health Care on Air consists of 33 half-hour-long episodes to be broadcasted on the radio and other communication channels. While standard communication platforms like TV and online training are available in the Pacific — they do not reach all workers. Importantly, radio is the only form of media that reaches every corner of the Pacific. These episodes will teach healthcare workers skills and give them the necessary knowledge to deliver effective services, during the pandemic. In addition to the training sessions, participants will be able to ask questions and share information through UNICEF’s RapidPro platform. Notably, the platform works with free SMS and other smartphone messaging apps.

Project Scope

The project is especially concerned with reducing human-to-human transmission and limiting secondary impacts of COVID-19. Secondary impacts, i.e. the additional burden and expense on healthcare systems caused by COVID-19. Efforts to limit these secondary impacts focus on preparing healthcare centers to quickly adapt to new knowledge and specializations. The focus on reducing transmission and increasing adaptability is key for Pacific Island countries. This is because they cannot handle large-scale infections in the same way that larger, developed countries do.

The first episode aired on July 10, 2020, in Fiji. The program will eventually show in 14 additional countries in the Pacific — including the Cook Islands, Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Tuvalu, Niue, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, Republic of Marshall Islands and Tokelau. Notably, more than 5,000 healthcare providers will benefit from this program.

Applying Lessons Learned

In the future, the lessons learned from the Health Care on Air program will be integrated into national nursing accreditation programs as well. While the COVID-19 pandemic is a major world crisis, it is the hope that these new and innovative communication systems will continue to serve communities in the Pacific for years to come.

Antoinette Fang
Photo: U.S. Indo-Pacific Command

UNICEF product innovationsUNICEF is using its global status and its passion for the rights of children to acquire investments from businesses that provide children with technology that improves their health and overall wellbeing. Many of these UNICEF product innovations are reverse innovations or low-cost technologies created in developing countries that can help save lives around the world. Out of 16 innovations, these five are exceptional for helping children thrive.

Complementary Feeding Bowl

A common problem in impoverished countries is hidden hunger, which is an essential vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Even if children are getting enough to eat, they may not be consuming the nutrients needed for healthy growth and brain development. This puts them at a greater risk of having a vulnerable immune system. Depending on the nutrient deficiency, children could also face problems such as anemia, childhood blindness and diarrheal disease.

UNICEF product innovations hope to address this problem with a complementary feeding bowl. It includes a design with nutritional facts, as well as a list of ages and measurements to ensure each child receives the correct quantity of nutrients. A spoon that comes with the bowl helps provide the first solid food for children after breastfeeding by assuring that it maintains the right texture and quality.

High-Performance Tents

Uganda has been facing extremely long droughts and intense rains, which facilitate the spread of disease. Cyclones threaten the Philippines, resulting in property damage, injuries and an increase in refugees. Additionally, Afghanistan is facing extremely cold winter weather. This intense weather plagues each country and imperils the survival of their residents.

Improving the quality of emergency response tents to be able to withstand various climate conditions is one of UNICEF’s goals, and the target product profile includes more than 1,000 requirements. Additions include a vertical wall design that resists high winds, electric and solar kits, winter liner and hard flooring. The tents are for multipurpose use: in addition to offering shelter from cyclones and earthquakes, they also provide protection against outbreaks of disease.

School Furniture Designs

Improving the quality of the school environment benefits the productivity of both teachers and students. Teachers in low-income countries in Africa and Asia work for very little money and are often unequipped with the training and resources they need.

UNICEF product innovations aim to solve this problem through furniture designed for children and teachers to engage in a productive and comfortable classroom environment, particularly in Africa and Asia. Because the design uses local raw materials and manufacturing, it will benefit local economies and leave less of a carbon footprint.

Disability-Friendly Squatting Plate

Children with disabilities in developing countries are often seen as a burden to society. As a result, many do not receive the accommodations they need in education or daily life. This can lead children with disabilities to have low confidence in their ability to be independent.

UNICEF’s disability-friendly squatting plate aims to provide children who suffer from disabilities such as immobility or impaired vision with more independence. This innovation includes two devices that work together to help children with disabilities. The first is a squatting plate that offers support and can be screwed onto the plate of a toilet seat. The second device is placed on top of the squatting plate, making it easier to move onto the seat. Handles will also be a part of the design, offering balance. UNICEF will send 2,500 devices across the world each year.

Oxygen Therapy

The high cost of oxygen equipment makes it inaccessible in developing countries. Hypoxemia, or a low concentration of oxygen in the blood, commonly occurs in children with pneumonia. It increases childhood mortality and contributes to the death of over 100,000 children in developing countries. In Nigeria, pneumonia accounts for 18% of childhood deaths.

UNICEF’s oxygen system planning tool helps countries map out the required oxygen equipment, technical specifications and guidance manuals for obtaining devices. UNICEF product innovations also include a range of products that provide oxygen, listed in its supply catalog. Responding to the need for oxygen during the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF has made this particular innovation a priority.

These five innovations are working to fight poverty in developing countries. They are just a few of many products that emerged through UNICEF that, though often simple, make a large difference in improving the lives of impoverished children around the world.

– Zoe Schlagel
Photo: Flickr

 

Poverty Affects Different Age GroupsExtreme poverty affects people all over the world in many different ways. Some countries experience endemic poverty where it is incredibly hard for their citizens to overcome their circumstances and break the cycle of poverty. On the other hand, some countries have been able to reduce their poverty rates due to economic growth, development and investment. However, regardless of these differences, many countries align on how extreme poverty affects different age groups.

Poverty’s Effect on Children and Teens

Firstly, adolescents are one of the most vulnerable age groups to be affected by extreme poverty. UNICEF reveals that 148 million children under the age of five are underweight; 101 million children are not enrolled in schooling, and almost nine million children under five years old die each year. These statistics are incredibly revealing especially when paired with the fact that malnutrition, lack of clean water and proper sanitation, diarrhea and pneumonia are the main causes of death among children.

Secondly, teenagers and young adults also experience difficulties in overcoming extreme poverty. For instance, lack of education and proper schooling is a major issue for many countries around the world. These young adults that are not in school may become subject to child labor or even become child soldiers in many countries. According to the UN Secretary General’s Global Initiative on Education, “Basic literacy and numeracy skills could lift 171 million people out of poverty, resulting in a 12% cut in global poverty.” This information elucidates the essential role primary education plays in breaking the cycle of poverty that many youths face in low-income countries.

One way to ensure adequate school enrollment is by supplying meals for children and teens. The World Food Programme explains how providing daily meals to children in school creates an incentive to send children to school. Not only do these meals increase attendance and decrease dropout rates, but they also improve children’s academic aptitude. Consequently, children acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to secure future jobs and escape extreme poverty.

Poverty’s Effect on Adults

Lastly, extreme poverty affects different age groups, the detrimental effects of which are also seen in adults. The main impact is the significantly lower life expectancy seen in lower-income countries. Life expectancy is “20-24 years lower in poor nations” for both men and women than it is in developed countries. Additionally, poor countries tend to have a higher maternal mortality rate for a variety of reasons ranging from improper and lack of healthcare and poor nutrition during pregnancy.

Although the way extreme poverty affects different age groups may seem separate and diverging, teenagers and adults face many similar hardships. For instance, illiteracy is a huge barrier to obtaining and maintaining a job. The World Literacy Foundation (WLF) explains that without basic literacy skills, tasks such as composing emails, reading daily memos, checking a bank account and even applying for a job in the first place become difficult. These examples do not even include the requirements of many white-collar jobs, such as interpreting data and spreadsheets or reading documents.

As a result, many citizens of developing countries cannot receive comparable income to those in developed countries. This leaves these poor citizens open to food scarcity and extreme poverty (working for less than $1.90 a day). These issues are especially taxing for adults with families and more than one mouth to feed.

Additionally, while children are more likely to die from malnutrition and lack of sanitation, many adults face similar realities. Poor nutrition can weaken one’s immune system, muscles, bones and sleep cycles which all contribute to the body’s healthy daily functions. If these body systems are not well-maintained, adults can struggle and even die from preventable diseases and health complications.

Organizations Working to Help

There are many organizations worldwide working to lift children out of poverty, such as the WLF, UNICEF and International Child Care (ICC). The former two work to improve education for young children, while the latter strives to improve health for children and their families. There are also numerous organizations that help young adults and adults, including End Poverty Now, Oxfam International and Global Citizen. These groups mainly work to tackle the systemic cycle of poverty by improving healthcare and income equality.

Poverty affects different age groups pervasively and it is difficult to alleviate. Impoverished people of all ages experience conditions and hardships that many developed nations do not face. To enact and obtain real economic and social change, it is essential to understand how extreme poverty affects different age groups. Then, governments, organizations, businesses and people around the world can work to implement strategies and policies to bring all ages out of poverty.

Sophia McWilliams
Photo: Pixabay

gender discrimination in niger
Niger is a country located in West Africa that spans more than 1.3 million square kilometers and is home to approximately 22.3 million people. It is ranked the lowest out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI). A prominent issue is its weakened education system, where children in Niger spend a mere two years on average. Additionally, there exists a gender gap that exacerbates discrimination against girls’ education. To combat this burgeoning issue, a variety of organizations have been working towards eliminating gender discrimination in Niger to provide better quality education for girls.

UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been focusing on reform of Niger’s education system for five years. Starting in May 2015, the project targeted several schools in the town of Torodi. While this small town has been left out of many national development programs, UNESCO is working to successfully implement accessible schooling services to all girls in the region. The program also facilitates tutoring sessions and encourages female teachers to be employed in local schools.

UNESCO recognized that due to the rapid population growth, empowering the youth through education would go a long way towards improving the country’s socioeconomic standards. Moreover, with organizations like UNESCO teaming up with the government of Niger, the country is seeing positive developments in girls’ education. They reported a jump from 27 % to 65 % in girls’ primary school enrollment between 2000 and 2014.

UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also played an active role in reducing gender discrimination in Niger’s education system since 2012. Through significant investments and thorough management, enrollment into primary schools has increased remarkably, especially with girls. Approximately 66% of the 71% of children enrolled in primary schools are girls. While these numbers are promising, factors like child marriages and safety concerns remain to be a significant barrier to girls’ education. UNICEF has laid out several objectives and solutions to overcome these issues.

According to a UNICEF representative in Niger, “only one in two girls goes to primary school, one in ten to secondary school and one in fifty to high school.” UNICEF partners with Niger’s government at the ministerial level to ensure that that access to girls’ education is a policy priority. In doing so, UNICEF monitors how Niger is meeting its education goals. Additionally, UNICEF works at the community level to monitor that both boys and girls receive quality education. For girls, UNICEF realizes the cultural and societal issues at play, like the expectation of housework and child marriages, and works with those effected to overcome these obstacles.

USAID

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has signed a ten year deal  (2014-2024) with Niger’s national education sector to help decrease the gender discrimination present in its education system. USAID also promotes parental education to the community as a whole. Well-educated parents are more likely to enroll their children in school as well as encourage the completion of their curriculums.

International organizations are continually working to help Niger’s government through funding and managing the country’s education sector. Reform of the country’s education system has been progressing over two decades and has made notable improvements in terms of enrollment rates. As the country progresses into the next decade, organizations like UNESCO, UNICEF, and USAID plan to further support children in Niger by working to provide them with equal and quality education. Such improvements in education and gender discrimination can have a ripple effect, bringing positive change to Niger’s social, political, and economic systems.

– Omer Syed
Photo: Flickr

Education Crisis in Syria
The Syrian Civil War began almost a decade ago and has effectively destroyed many aspects of governance and civilization throughout the historic Levant nation—including education. 5.8 million children from preschool to secondary school age were in need of education assistance in 2018, and about 3 million Syrian childrenboth in Syria and in surrounding countries as refugeeslack access to education altogether. Direct attacks on schools have been common since the conflict began, resulting in the damage or destruction of one-third of Syrian schools and the unemployment of almost 200,000 education workers. This situation has persisted for years, threatening an entire generation of Syrian children with a dire education crisis in Syria.

Dwindling Education Access within Syria

The general lack of access to education means that Syrians will have an increased difficulty enrolling in schools in later years. This domino effect will inhibit development and economic opportunities for millions of Syrians. A lack of development will perpetuate the country’s track record of conflict and humanitarian need. Poverty in Syria is a direct result of violent conflict. Poverty will only worsen as an increased number of uneducated Syrians enter the workforce. Although education is a fundamental right, it is becoming a rarity in Syria. Even those with access to schooling experience crowded classrooms, psychological trauma, curricula and language issues, poor teaching quality and lack of learning materials. These struggles associated with the education crisis in Syria have led nearly one-third of students to drop out before finishing primary school.

Over 6 million Syrians are internally displaced persons (IDPs), with about 50% of those IDPs being children. Fortunately, government bodies including the government of Syria, the opposition Syrian Interim Government and smaller local government bodies provide a semblance of education to IDPs. Non-Syrian government organizations are also involved, including Islamist groups, the U.N. and the Turkish government. There is very little coordination between these groups, though, endangering Syrian IDPs’ abilities to access reliable, standardized education.

Government structures and the Syrian economy incurred severe damage over the past decade. Many Syrian families deem it impractical to invest in education for their children, especially when that investment requires sacrificing food or shelter. Although this education crisis in Syria is certainly multifaceted, a lack of cohesion in the sector will worsen conditions. Families will increasingly turn to child labor and early marriage for financial stability.

Struggles for Syrian Refugees

The situation is just as dire for Syrian refugees in surrounding countries. About 1.5 million school-aged Syrians live in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, yet half do not have access to formal education. In these countries, the threat of child labor and language barriers are nearly insurmountable. However, the governments of those countries have made considerable efforts to provide education to Syrian refugees within their borders.

In spite of these government initiatives, Syrian refugees still face obstacles in obtaining a quality education. Only 25% of secondary school-aged children in Jordan are enrolled in school. Reasons for low enrollment are similar to those in Syria: poverty, lack of safe and affordable transportation and poor quality of education. For Jordanians, there is also little practical value in continuing education without reliable professional opportunities. Various administrative barriers exist to enrolling and there is a lack of accommodations for students with special needs.

The Jordanian government, with funds from foreign donors and NGOs, has a fairly successful primary education program, but international support has prioritized this program at the expense of valuable secondary school experience. As a result, this critical age group is neglected and left vulnerable to the implications of dropping out. Failing to enroll in secondary school undermines efforts to provide primary education, as students drop out after those first years.

Taking Action

Despite stark barriers for Syrian refugees throughout the region, international efforts provide some hope. UNICEF leads the response with a systematic approach, improving the capacity of the Syrian education system. They train teachers, rehabilitate schools, provide accelerated and self-learning programs and supply schools with essential learning resources.

On an international scale, UNICEF also works with Save the Children to target Syrian children in Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt by providing overall technical support. The NGO World Refugees School (WRS), backed by the internationally recognized City & Guilds, provides formal education to refugee and displaced children throughout the world. WRS has helped 6,000 students in northern Syria graduate in six pilot schools as of late 2019. It is also working toward its goal of expanding to 40 schools nationwide. WRS uses technology to compensate for poor access to materials. It focuses on the use of digitized textbooks, e-learning platforms and mobile classrooms to alleviate pressure on students and teachers.

The education crisis in Syria is severe and has gone unaddressed for years. The Syrian civil war has stolen an entire generation’s right to education. Even the multitude of government bodies and NGOs have struggled to form a cohesive system for Syrian children. However, the international community and humanitarian organizations provide hope for saving this generation from an endemic lack of formal education.

– Connor Bradbury
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Child Poverty in the Philippines
Child poverty is an immense issue the world over, and it has only become direr during the COVID-19 pandemic. Quarantine procedures mean that many people are no longer able to work. The effects of these procedures are pronounced in countries with high poverty rates. The high rate of child poverty in the Philippines means that the pandemic is affecting the most vulnerable.

Child Poverty and COVID-19

Poverty has a unique impact on children and can have long-lasting effects. UNICEF states that malnutrition, often due to poverty, can negatively impact children’s physical, social and emotional development. Poverty also increases the risks of children’s exposure to child marriages, violence, exploitation and abuse.

COVID-19 is increasing children’s vulnerabilities to these risks. According to the World Bank, 11 million people globally are at an increased risk of falling into poverty due to the economic shocks that the pandemic brought on. UNICEF and Save the Children claim that child poverty could potentially reach upwards of an alarming 700 million children globally if the world does not address the problem. Furthermore, children living in poverty may have increased risks from COVID-19 due to pre-existing conditions brought on by poverty, malnutrition and low-quality healthcare in poor communities, all of which can negatively impact their ability to recover.

What Does This Mean for Children in the Philippines?

The Philippines has made great strides in addressing poverty within the country in recent years. From 2015 to 2018, the country experienced a 5% decrease in its poverty rate. The World Bank suggests this decrease is unlikely to continue following economic shocks of the pandemic. The country is at risk of experiencing negative economic growth as a result.

Child poverty in the Philippines is significantly high at 31.4% in 2015. A rise in this figure could have potentially devastating impacts on the livelihoods of children in the country considering that 33% of Filipino children already suffer from malnutrition. In addition, 27% of the population lives in an urban setting. For those in poverty, this translates to cramped living spaces and a lack of access to clean water and sanitation. In 2011, 25% of the Filipino population lacked access to improved sanitation. These factors make social distancing and other health protocols to combat the spread of the disease increasingly difficult.

COVID-19 is also exacerbating a different crisis that Filipino children experience: cyber trafficking. Children in the Philippines are among those with some of the highest risks of cyber trafficking globally. With increasing risks of poverty in the Philippines, the online exploitation of children living in poverty will only grow. According to Senator Leila de Lima, former Justice Secretary for the Philippines, the vulnerability of online abuse for children is in part due to economic necessity. This relationship suggests a strong link between poverty and exploitation. COVID-19 prevention measures are also limiting activities to police this abuse. Lockdown measures have led to slowed investigations, the closing of courts and prosecutor’s offices. Human moderators of online abuse on social media platforms such as Facebook have also been being put on leave.

How to Help

UNICEF and Save the Children point to a need for increased services and programs for the poor, especially services or benefits that focus on children and families.

As poverty can reduce children’s resilience to combating the virus, aid relief is integral to increasing resilience and mitigating the potential increase in COVID-19 deaths due to child poverty within the Philippines. The Save the Children Philippines team, Building Urban Children’s Resilience against Shocks and Threats of Resettlement, is part of the response increasing children’s resilience to the virus. It distributes food relief packages and hygiene kits to poor families in Pasay City.

There are a number of actions one can take to support the reduction of child poverty in the Philippines. Calling one’s political leaders in support of the International Affairs Budget is one way a person could actively influence U.S. Foreign Policy to support the reduction of child poverty in the Philippines. Another option is to call in support of the Global Child Thrive Act which focuses on advancing early childhood development globally.

The Philippines receives $342,216,064 of U.S. Foreign Aid. However, only 25% of that goes to developmental food aid while a staggering 40% goes towards security. Making sure leaders are aware of the threat COVID-10 has on increased child poverty in the Philippines is one way to push them to support poverty reduction efforts.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr

Yemen's Healthcare System
For people across the globe, the battle against COVID-19 can feel hopeless. Developed countries like the U.S. have struggled to contain the virus; COVID-19 has infected over 5 million Americans since March 2020. However, extensive healthcare resources have helped developed immensely. Ventilators and ICU beds, access to proper sanitation, and the technology to work from home have left many unscathed and have allowed many to make a full recovery. Therefore, it is important to remember the countries that do not have these resources. For example, COVID-19 has been particularly devastating in Yemen, in part, due to Yemen’s healthcare system. 

Conflict, Cholera and COVID-19

Yemen has been enduring a civil war for over five years. The main conflicts are between Houthi rebels and the government of President Hadi. In addition to claiming over 100,000 lives, the violence has exacerbated already daunting public health statistics. Currently, about 50% of the country’s medical facilities are nonfunctional. The U.N. has reported that Yemen is enduring the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with about 80% of the population (or 24.1 million people) in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. In addition, the country is enduring the worst modern-day cholera crisis, reporting approximately 110,000 cases in April 2020.

With the backdrop of the ongoing civil war, Yemen’s healthcare system is unable to support the country. Yemen has 500 ventilators and 700 ICU beds for a population of over 28 million. The Associated Press reported that there are no doctors in 18% of 333 Yemeni districts. Although the country has reported one of the lowest transmission rates in the Middle East, this is largely due to an inability to test. In fact, the country has processed fewer than 1,000 tests; this is about 31 tests per 1 million citizens. There is also evidence of purposeful under testing. The Houthi Ministry of Public Health and Population stated that reporting statistics have negative effects on the psychological health and immune systems of citizens.

Hospitals have seen a 40% mortality rate and have resorted to admitting patients based on age and odds of survival, reported Marc Schakal, Doctors Without Borders’ Deputy Operations Manager for Yemen. The country’s health system has “collapsed” according to the UNHCR. Lise Grande, the U.N. head of humanitarian operations in Yemen reported that the COVID-19 death toll could “exceed the combined toll of war, disease, and hunger over the last five years.”

COVID-19’s Impact Beyond the Healthcare System

The virus has also driven up the prices of food necessities, adding to the high toll of families that rely on aid to survive day-to-day. The U.N. has been attempting to help, but with a lack of funds, it is only possible to provide half-rations for the 8 million-plus hungry people. Hunger has hit women and children the hardest; over 2 million children under the age of 5 are suffering from acute malnutrition.

The lack of international aid in the face of such a tragedy is saddening. Millions of people are essentially being left to die. The United States cut $73 million of aid towards Yemen in March 2020, just as the virus was becoming a global issue. The statistics clearly show it will take a greater effort from the global community to improve Yemen’s outlook.

How to Help

As Sara Beysolow Nyant, UNICEF’s representative to Yemen, expressed, without urgent funding, “The international community will be sending a message that the lives of children in a nation devastated by conflict, disease, and economic collapse, simply do not matter.” Unfortunately, most countries have focused on containing the virus internally. Hopefully, some of the international community will turn its attention to the countries in the greatest need.

For individuals looking to help, donations to groups like UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam will provide aid. Additionally, calling and emailing Congress can also have a profound impact.

Abigail Wilson
Photo: Flickr

health sector communication
Communication is key when it comes to developing a well-performing healthcare system. Ineffective communication within healthcare systems “increases the likelihood of negative patient outcomes,” overall costs for healthcare systems, and “patient utilization of inpatient and emergency care.” Meanwhile, sound health sector communication ensures the maintenance of overall health and helps prevent diseases and premature death. Thus, it is important to ensure that healthcare systems across the globe are well equipped and supported. Recent developments in mobile technologies have made it easier to do so and transformed health-sector communication in several countries.

mHERO

A recently developed mobile application, called mHERO, has become one of the latest mobile applications to demonstrate the powerful and wide-reaching role that technology plays in health-sector communication. Created in 2014 by IntraHelath International and UNICEF, mHERO is a mobile-based application used by healthcare workers and ministries of health in order to communicate and coordinate effectively and efficiently. The application was developed during the 2014 Liberian Ebola outbreak after recognizing the need for a way to communicate urgent messages to frontline healthcare workers, to collect data concerning outbreaks development, and to provide support and training.

Messages sent through the application are transmitted through basic text or SMS. The app is compatible with most cellular devices. By merging existing health information systems, such as Integrated Human Resources Information System (iHRIS) and Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), with popular communication platforms, such as RapidPro, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, mHERO acts as a cost-efficient, accessible and sustainable resource for many healthcare systems.

Implementation in Liberia 2014

The 2014 West African Ebola outbreak overwhelmed the Liberian healthcare sector. The absence of effective communication channels blocked the supply of vital information from health officials to health workers. UNICEF and IntraHealth International created mHERO to address the communication challenge. The application was initially designed to suit the needs of the Liberian healthcare system, utilizing the technology that was already available in the country. It then became the responsibility of the ministry of health to effectively manage and maintain the application’s implementation and its continued use.

Liberia utilized mHERO to validate healthcare facility data, to update health workers and to track which facilities need additional resources. Today, health officials use mHero to coordinate the country’s response to COVID-19. mHERO has become an integral part of the Liberian healthcare system, maintaining a vital role in health-sector communication.

Development and Reach

Guinea, Mali and Sierra Leone followed Liberia’s lead with the mHero integration process. The implementation guidelines and intent of use in these countries have generally remained the same as Liberia’s. Mali, however, has implemented the application with a need to train and develop the skills of healthcare workers.

Uganda, as of 2020, has also incorporated mHERO into its healthcare system with the intent of reducing the spread of COVID-19. The application has allowed for easier COVID-19-related communication between ministries of health, health officials and healthcare workers.

Uganda employes a developed form of the application with an extension called FamilyConnect. The extension sends “targeted lifecycle messages via SMS to pregnant mothers, new mothers, heads of household and caregivers about what they need to do to keep babies and mothers safe in the critical first 1,000 days of life” as long as they have been registered with the Ministry of Health’s Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH). Mothers can register themselves or can choose to have registration done by a community health worker.

Future Plans

UNICEF and IntraHealth International want to expand access to mHERO. Counties in East and West Africa have indicated an interest in implementing the application. UNICEF and IntraHealth International intend to continue to support the ministries of health and healthcare systems in which mHERO has already been implemented. They also hope to find new ways to encourage ministries of health “to understand the interoperability of the technology, the processes for implementation and best practices to using mHero data.”

Overall, mHERO has substantially improved health-sector communication within several countries, proving the application’s potential for revolutionizing health-sector communication throughout the world. Developments can be made to expand the application’s capabilities and reach, as proven in Uganda. The application is a sustainable and cost-efficient resource for healthcare systems and helps reduce the chances of premature death along with the spread of diseases and misinformation. It provides crucial support to healthcare workers, especially during times of epidemics, increasing the overall quality of healthcare and life.

Stacy Moses
Photo: Flickr

Innovations in Poverty EradicationA new job-search platform in South Africa seeks to put an end to youth unemployment. Entrepreneurs Anish Shivdasani and Shafin Anwarsha founded an online company called Giraffe in 2015 to help reduce the staggering youth unemployment rate. Securing jobs for young South Africans is key to alleviating life-long poverty, as well as improving education and access to resources. The startup uses a specialized algorithm to match job-seekers to employers, making it one of the many innovations in poverty eradication in South Africa.

Solving Unemployment in South Africa

Around 40% of South Africans are unemployed, and the youth unemployment rate is even higher at nearly 50%. The government has made efforts to dismantle poverty and inequality since the end of apartheid in 1994 by building over two million new houses, improving access to clean water and distributing social grants to millions of people in poverty. The economy grew by roughly 3.5% yearly from 1998 to 2008, producing millions of new jobs. The financial crisis of 2008 halted some of this progress, but all efforts for improvement will neutralize if half of the country’s young people grow up outside of the job market.

With the long-term effects of youth unemployment in mind, Shivdasani and Anwarsha set out to curb the trend. In 2015, they introduced Giraffe to South Africa’s smallest province Gauteng, home of the country’s largest city Johannesburg. A year later, with 100,000 job-seekers signed up, they brought Giraffe to the greater metro areas of Cape Town and Durban. Today, over 1 million people have joined the platform as well as thousands of businesses, both small and large, looking for the right match.

The App That is Not Just for Smartphones

As one of the innovations in poverty eradication in South Africa, Giraffe’s success is a direct result of its ease of use and technological innovation. Anyone with a cellphone that has an internet browser, not necessarily a smartphone, can use the service. Job-seekers must first visit Giraffe’s website from whatever device they have available, and then fill out a form that takes about eight or nine minutes. The company then creates a CV for the user and uploads it to their database. Employers have a short sign-up process as well.

From there, Giraffe’s algorithm does all of the work, matching the right candidates to the right jobs. The algorithm will even set up the interview at an agreed-upon time. Most recruitment agencies require an agent to contact both parties and review qualifications by hand. Giraffe works faster and keeps costs extremely low for businesses by employing technology instead, charging up to 30 times less than other recruitment agencies. The platform is free for job-seekers.

The Future of Giraffe and UNICEF’s Innovation Fund

In July 2020, Giraffe became a recipient of funding from UNICEF’s Innovation Fund, along with 10 other start-ups around the world that are focused on eradicating inequality of opportunity for young people. In recognition of the importance of education and skill-level on employability, Giraffe intends to use the money to build a job-seeker content portal, drawing from Giraffe’s labor market data and highlighting the most in-demand skills. The new feature will help educate and upskill young people to improve their career prospects and will hold Giraffe to a higher standard as one of the newest innovations in poverty eradication in South Africa.

In addition to the funding, Giraffe now has access to UNICEF’s team of innovators and networks, and plans are in place to make both the matching algorithm and content portal open source for other global organizations to use.

McKenna Black
Photo: Flickr