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Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act
Malala Yousafzai is a Noble Peace Prize laureate. After surviving a Taliban encounter, she wrote the memoir, “I Am Malala.” She advocates for education and against discrimination.

On September 26, 2019, Hakeem Jeffries introduced the Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act. Communities of Pakistan and the United States have aligned with Malala’s text, principles and initiatives while many support her opinions on terrorism and poverty. The Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act intends to ensure that young adults and Pakistani students live without fear of discrimination, and can successfully garner an education.

The Malala Yousafzai Act

There are government programs that guide access to education throughout the diaspora communities of Pakistan. The Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act is pushing for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to support education initiatives for all in Pakistan, but in particular, for women and children. In Pakistan, approximately 22.8 million children under 16 are not enrolled in school. There is a significant gender disparity too as boys tend to outnumber girls.

This is the main reason for the Malala Yousafzai Act and Congress intends to uphold the very nature of equality. The purpose of the bill is to enhance opportunities for women to obtain a scholarship. If the bill passes, USAID will leverage the number of scholarships available to women in Pakistan.

Rurally, Pakistani women face many obstacles. The development of health, nutrition and the overall labor force is a determinant in the education of women. Issues such as early marriage, transportation and societal pressures as housewives prevent women from enrolling in higher education. The World Bank states, “The benefits of education go beyond higher productivity for 50 percent of the population. More educated women also tend to be healthier, participate more in the formal labor market, earn more income, have fewer children, and provide better health care and education to their children, all of which eventually improve the well-being of all individuals and lift households out of poverty.”

The Malala Yousafzai Act continues to mitigate discrimination and gender inequality. Malala Yousafzai frequently discusses the war on terrorism and how violence is a harsh reality for the vast majority of Pakistani women. These women continue to face seclusion and exclusion on the basis of patriarchy. Terrorists actively threaten girls and women to remove them from advancement opportunities in higher education and the public sphere.

Conclusion

For her 16th birthday, at the United General Assembly, Malala said, “So let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism. Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution.”

Currently, Malala is a student at the University of Oxford. She is studying politics, economics and philosophy. She continues to engage with women from across the globe, inspiring emerging adults to voice opinions. Anyone can make a direct impact by sending an email to Congress via The Borgen Project. For more information on how to advocate for the bill, visit here.

– Zach Erlanger
Photo: Flickr

Traditional Cham Script
Vietnam is a multiethnic state, home to a myriad of indigenous peoples in addition to the dominant Vietnamese (or Kinh) ethnic group. Centuries of conflict and cooperation, from Han Chinese domination, Vietnamese southward imperial expansion, Mongol invasions, French conquest and American intervention, molded the complex dynamics between these various groups. The Cham, inheritors of an ancient civilization with a culture and language all their own, are one of the unique groups of people within Vietnam.

The Marginalization of a Culture

Now diminished to a small minority in their central Vietnamese homeland, with much of the population diasporic, the Cham people seek preservation of their unique culture. Their cultural heritage includes their traditional script, an integral aspect of their cultural heritage and their link to the wider Indian Ocean sphere. The Eastern Cham, residing along the coast of present-day central Vietnam, preserved the traditional Brahmic alphasyllabary-based Cham script despite centuries of foreign domination. Unfortunately, decades of pedagogy neglected the classic script in favor of a simplified but less logical, modified one. However, efforts are underway to ensure the predominance of the traditional Cham script through digital means.

While the annexation of the northern Cham lands by Nguyen Vietnam in 1471 diminished Champa’s sovereignty, Cham culture persisted in the still unconquered regions to the south. Po Rome, a 17th century King of Champa, established a uniform version of Cham script. Originally developed for bureaucratic communications, the traditional script came into regular use in the everyday lives of the Cham people, particularly the Western Cham of present-day Vietnam.

Opponents of a Modified Script

Now, modified Cham script in educational institutions threatens the survival of the former script. Though both traditional and modified Cham scripts derive from the Brahmic alphasyllabary, the modified form introduces characters not present in the traditional script, creating substantial differences between the two. The Cham Textbook Compiling Committee, the organization responsible for developing the modified Cham script, seeks to improve primary school education through the use of the script, but in doing so precipitates pedagogical neglect of the traditional Cham script. Standing athwart the Cham Textbook Compiling Committee’s preference for the modified Cham script is a cross-section of the Western Cham, ranging from elders to students and intellectuals.

Opponents of the modified script’s ascendancy over the traditional script insist that favoring the former and marginalizing the latter will hinder the transmission of Cham customs and values from the older to younger generations. In turn, assimilation of the Cham minority into the hegemonic Vietnamese majority will accelerate. Defenders of the traditional script fear that loss of the traditional script may lead to the physical destruction of precious historical documents, as functional illiteracy will plague students taught the modified script. Moreover, traditional script proponents emphasize that the traditional script is more stable when one compares it to the less rule-bound character of the modified script. Continued relegation of the traditional script will compromise the Cham cultural identity and sever the people’s links with its history, all while replacing a rational system with an arbitrary one. Yet cause for optimism exists, thanks to multinational initiatives aimed at restoring the traditional Cham script’s predominance through the script’s integration into digital interfaces.

Digitizing the Traditional Cham Script

The USAID-backed SPICE program, with the company BREOGAN, made significant strides in promoting the use of the traditional Cham script in Cambodia through the development of digital technology. This initiative emerged from a policy seeking to secure at-risk languages by providing an easily-accessible online communications medium. In the case of Eastern Cham, the SPICE program designed a downloadable keyboard based on the traditional script, resolving the failure of earlier systems to reproduce all Cham phonemes with success.

With the increasing prevalence of online communication, even in more remote parts of the world, the creation of a digital access medium in an accurate rendering of the traditional Cham script will, through continual use, encourage greater use of it. The language’s classic script could undergo a revival and replace the modified script that dominates Cham schools in Vietnam. An open-access license for the font and keyboard further facilitates the SPICE program’s mission to revive the traditional script.

USAID is not alone in its efforts to restore the use of traditional script to daily Cham life. In 2015, the Faculty of Education of the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, designed a process to convert Cham in Latin script to traditional Cham script with minimal errors. Although traditional script fonts already exist in Vietnam, flaws beset these fonts. Moreover, before the completion of this study, no process existed in Vietnam to convert Cham Latin font to traditional Cham script font. The digital font conversion that the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia team developed accounts for the intricacies of vocabulary, grammar and semantics in traditional Cham script. Testing the accuracy of the process by converting the fonts of three poems, the study’s authors found 100 percent accuracy for two poems and 99.88 percent accuracy for the last. Many expect that the study will vastly improve the odds of traditional script preservation.

Developing methods that facilitate accurate online communication in the traditional Cham script promises to undo decades of the script’s marginalization. The future of the Cham people and their culture lies with their ability to communicate across the diaspora in their ancestral language. Before, the use of a modified script limited the exposure of the Cham youth to their written language. Now more opportunities exist for the younger generations to internalize the traditional written language. This progress will ensure that the link to their ancient cultural heritage lives on.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Life Expectancy in Senegal

The Republic of Senegal is a country on the West African coast bordered by Mauritania, Mali, Gambia and Guinea-Bissau. Around 46.7 percent of Senegal’s 15.85 million residents live in poverty. Today, life expectancy at birth in Senegal is 67.45 years, representing a significant improvement from 39.24 years in 1970 and 59.7 years in 2000. Many factors contribute to a country’s life expectancy rate including the quality and access to health care, employment, income, education, clean water, hygiene, nutrition, lifestyle and crime rates. Keep reading to learn more about the top eight facts about life expectancy in Senegal.

8 Facts About Life Expectancy in Senegal

  1. Despite decades of political stability and economic growth, Senegal is ranked 164th out of 189 countries in terms of human development. Poverty, while decreasing, remains high with 54.4 percent of the population experiencing multidimensional poverty. The World Bank funds programs in Senegal to reduce poverty and increase human development. This work includes the Stormwater Management and Climate Change Adaptation project which delivered piped water access for 206,000 people and improved sanitation services for 82,000 others. Additionally, the West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program helps cultivate 14 climate-smart crops in the area.
  2. Senegal’s unemployment rate has substantially decreased from 10.54 percent in 2010 to 6.46 percent in 2018. This is a positive trend; however, 63.2 percent of workers remain in poverty at $3.10 per day showing that employment does not always guarantee financial stability. To help the most vulnerable 300,000 households, Senegal has established a national social safety net program to help the extremely poor afford education, food, medical assistance and more.
  3. The maternal mortality rate continues to decrease each year in Senegal. In 2015, there were 315 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births compared to 540 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990. Maternal health has improved thanks to the efforts of many NGOs as well as the national government. Of note, USAID has spearheaded community health programs and launched 1,652 community surveillance committees that provide personalized follow-up care to pregnant women and newborns. In 2015, trained community health workers provided vital care to 18,336 babies and conducted postnatal visits for 54,530 mothers.
  4. From 2007 to 2017, neonatal disorder deaths decreased by 20.7 percent. This is great progress, however, neonatal disorder deaths are still the number one cause of death for children under the age of 5 in Senegal. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides technical and financial support to establish community-based newborn care, including Kangaroo Mother Care programs. This low-cost and low-tech intervention has reduced the risk of death for preterm and low-birth-weight babies by 40 percent and illness by 60 percent. With financial help from UNICEF, 116 health workers have been trained in 22 health centers and seven hospitals. The long-term goal is to have Kangaroo Care introduced to 1,000 health centers across Senegal.
  5. Senegal has been lauded as an African leader in the fight against malnutrition. Notably, from 2000 to 2016, undernutrition declined by 56 percent. Improvements in the health sector, making crops more nutrition-sensitive and helping increase crop yields have been major contributors to recent nutrition success. 
  6. Despite progress, hunger is still a major issue in northern Senegal. Successive droughts have left over a quarter of a million people food insecure. In the district of Podor, rains have decreased by 66 percent from 2016 to 2017. Action Against Hunger is working to keep cattle, which is the main sustenance source for thousands of shepherds, from dying in the drought by funding new drinking troughs. This will benefit 800 families in Podor. Action Against Hunger also covers monthly basic food expenses for 2,150 vulnerable households to prevent further increases in acute malnutrition.
  7. There is a high risk of waterborne diseases in Senegal. Diarrheal diseases are the third leading cause of death. The Senegalese Ministry of Health has recently adopted the WHO diarrhea treatment policy of zinc supplementation and improved oral rehydration therapy. This is a life-saving policy that is taking effect around the country.
  8. Around 41 percent of children aged 6-11 in Senegal are not in school. The largest percentages of out-of-school children are the poorest quintile and rural areas. To increase school enrollment, the government and USAID are making efforts to increase access to school facilities in rural areas and support poorer families with cash transfers through the social safety net. USAID is working to ensure that all Senegalese children, especially girls and those in vulnerable situations, receive 10 years of quality education. The agency has built schools, supported teacher training, increased supplies of books and access to the internet and increased opportunities for out-of-school young people. Since 2007, 46 middle schools and 30 water points have been built and equipped.

These eight facts about life expectancy in Senegal have shown that the combined efforts of nonprofits and the Government of Senegal are making real progress on many fronts that contribute to life expectancy. These efforts must continue and intensify to reduce poverty and increase life expectancy in Senegal.

– Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Honduras
Honduras is a country located in Central America. Guatemala borders it to the west, Nicaragua to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the south, which makes Honduras a hub of activity in Central America. These 10 facts about human trafficking in Honduras highlight the critical information about human trafficking in general and what groups are fighting for the rights of human trafficking victims.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Honduras

  1. Human Trafficking: Globally, about 80 percent of human trafficking victims end up in the sex trade and another 19 percent of human trafficking victims find themselves subjected to labor exploitation. In total, approximately 13 million children and 27 million adults across the world find themselves subjected to human trafficking.
  2. Luring: While human trafficking is a worldwide phenomenon, rampant poverty in other countries influences it. Human traffickers often entice victims with promises of better opportunities to isolate them from those who could help them. This tactic is a common way to lure victims into both sex and labor trafficking.
  3. The Honduran Government’s Efforts: As of 2019, the U.S. government labeled Honduras a tier-two country in reference to how it fights against human trafficking. This classification means that while Honduras does not meet the minimum requirements for the eradication of human trafficking, the Honduran government is making significant strides to investigate and convict sex traffickers. An example of this is that the Honduran government increased funding to the Inter-institutional Commission to Combat Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking in Persons (CICESCT).
  4. Global Communities’ First Phase: Many non-governmental organizations work on the Honduran human trafficking crisis. One such NGO is Global Communities. Global Communities’ two-step program highlights efforts to eliminate human trafficking. The first phase of this program consists of raising awareness among Honduran citizens and increasing the ability of the regional government and NGOs to help victims.
  5. Global Communities’ Second Phase: The second phase of Global Communities’ plan is to provide a more advisory role when it comes to fighting against human trafficking in Honduras. This advisory role involves working as facilitators for CICESCT, which primarily worked to fight against sexual exploitation before 2012. With Global Communities’ help, CICESCT started lobbying the Honduran government for support for long-term campaigns against human trafficking.
  6. Human Trafficking Victim Ages: In Honduras, the average age when victims enter the human trafficking system is between 14 to 16 years old. A potential reason behind this is that family members of people in their hometown bring most young trafficking victims into the industry. Given that children would be much more likely to listen to someone they know as opposed to a stranger, this could explain the average age of entry.
  7. Forced Crime: Honduran trafficking victims not only find themselves used for labor and sex; another common form of trafficking is forced crime. A victim of forced crime trafficking will often find themselves thrust into drug-related crimes such as smuggling. Twenty-four percent of all human trafficking victims in Honduras are forced to commit crimes to the benefit of their captors.
  8. Gender Disparity: There are differences in trafficking rates between Honduran men and women. For example, 42 percent of labor trafficking victims are male, while 55 percent are female.  Only 13 percent of sex trafficking victims are male, while an astronomical 81 percent of sex trafficking victims are female.
  9. USAID Recommendations: As of 2018, USAID gave a list of recommendations that the government could use to improve its fight against human trafficking in Honduras. CICESCT has already enacted some suggestions, such as increased awareness among youth and LGBTQ individuals through programs. The CICESCT is lobbying for other improvements like expanded services for trafficked individuals.
  10. SEDIS: The Honduran Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion (SEDIS) works diligently to provide former victims of human trafficking with counseling, economic support and medical attention when necessary. SEDIS also distributed small loans to 21 victims to give them a leg up on starting a small business. These programs are incredibly beneficial to the well-being and recovery of former human trafficking victims.

These 10 facts about human trafficking in Honduras show that while Honduras has some catching up to do in the fight against human trafficking, the country is well on its way to eliminating it. Honduras will be able to take on the difficulties of modern-day human trafficking with groups like USAID, Global Communities, SEDIS and CICESCT. As these 10 facts have shown, eliminating human trafficking may be difficult, but it is most certainly a just and attainable goal.

– Ryan Holman
Photo: Flickr

Food Shortages in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia that is home to 9 million people, many of whom have grappled with instability and poverty since its independence in 1992. In fact, half of Tajikistan‘s population lives in poverty today. Furthermore, the country is currently experiencing a food shortage crisis that is exacerbated by a number of factors including a heavy dependence on imported food products as well as inadequate agricultural practices.

Aid from US Initiatives

At least 30 percent of children under the age of five have stunted development. Increasing production in the local agriculture sector is a boost for Tajikistan’s economy, nutrition and general food supply. With equipment and training also provided by USAID, around 16,000 farmers were able to produce higher quality products that increased food security and nutrition. Improving agricultural production is a major step in alleviating the shortages that have plagued the population that currently live below the poverty line as well as helping the local farmers who struggled to make ends meet.

WFP Assistance

The World Food Programme has provided assistance to Tajikistan since 1993 and developed programs that aided people in need. The WFP helped with drafting policies and providing food to over 2,000 schools in rural Tajikistan, allowing over 370,000 students access to regular daily meals. Additional programs alongside the WFP have helped an estimated 119,500 infants under the age of 5 with their nutrition. Assistance is also provided to build new or improve infrastructure to provide security for supplies to rural areas, including additional agriculture production, disaster relief efforts and enrolling children into feeding programs to combat malnutrition. With aid from this program, Tajik children, alongside their parents, gained access to accessible food and medical facilities.

Domestic Poultry Market

Tajikistan’s domestic poultry market has been a major focus on increasing the country’s food security. An investment of expanding domestic poultry farming production in 2015, building new farms and increasing the number of eggs and meat produced for local markets. The poultry industry also got an additional boost in 2018 when the government lowered taxes on imported machinery and tools in 2017 to bolster internal production, though importing poultry still remains as one of the main drivers to meet domestic demand. There are currently 93 farms poultry farms with over 5 million birds currently in the poultry industry. The importance of poultry has on both the economy and the role it plays into combating hunger paves the way to alleviate the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan’s effort, normally criticized for being lacking, has expanded upon its agriculture sector with significant investments. Much of Tajikistan’s battle against its internal food shortages have been from foreign aid programs, with various UN members providing the arid country with supplies and equipment to expand internal agriculture and food security alongside Tajikistan’s own national investment to expand them. The efforts have been slowly paying dividends in the Central Asian country, but it still remains a difficult road in alleviating the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr

 

 

Bacha Posh girls Afghanistan’s patriarchal society forces parents to make tough decisions as daughters are viewed as a burden while sons can earn money, care for their aging parents, and carry on the family legacy. To counter economic dependency on males and social stigma surrounding daughters, some Afghan families practice “bacha posh,” a centuries-old tradition reassigning their daughter’s gender at birth, which allows girls to experience the same freedom as boys.

Bacha posh girls are raised as sons. They dress in boys’ clothes and may go outside alone, bring their siblings from school, go shopping, and play a sport. These girls act as sons and do what the sons would do. While the roots of the tradition are unknown, it is becoming increasingly practiced.

Life For Girls In Afghanistan

Afghanistan is one of the most challenging countries to live in as a woman. Eighty-five percent of Afghan women have no formal education or are illiterate, 50 percent are married or engaged by the age of 12 and 60 percent are married by 16. Three decades of war have led to increased risk of rape and kidnapping of females which has prompted families to force child marriage. Some are forced into marriage to settle a dispute or repay a debt. Many men were killed in armed conflict, leaving the child brides as widows. Most young widows have four children to support and are often forced to beg or participate in prostitution. Child marriage increases the risk of health problems and death because of childbirth in the teenage years. Young wives are also more likely to be abused by their older husbands. Females also have lower legal standing and fewer economic opportunities. Women are hidden from society unless accompanied by a male relative and fully covered.

Widespread poverty encourages families to get their daughters married to avoid having to care for them. Afghanistan is one of the poorest nations in the world with 42 percent of both urban and rural populations living below the national poverty line. An additional 20 percent are at risk of falling into poverty.

Bacha Posh Girls

In poverty-stricken families, bacha posh becomes a normal thing to do. Because boys have a higher status, they are more desirable. The tradition allows families to avoid social stigma affiliated with not having any male children by enabling their daughters to take on the role of a boy in society.

Life for bacha posh girls becomes difficult as puberty reveals their biological gender. The girls often face harassment, risks to their safety, humiliation, and separation from their communities. Others call them transsexuals and Anti-Islamic. Some girls even stop going to school because of the harassment. Families also want their girls to start dressing and behaving like women during puberty, but bacha posh girls do not want to live as a woman in a country that gives them little possibility after experiencing the freedom of males.

Women for Afghan Women, an Afghanistan advocacy group, sees at least two bacha posh girls’ cases at its women shelters throughout the country each year. Most girls, between the ages of 14 – 18, are struggling emotionally, mentally and financially.

NGOs and Government Organizations Leading the Fight

USAID has had direct involvement in Afghanistan’s moves toward gender equality. While the problem of gender inequality remains, there have been positive strides in women’s health and education. Over the past 15 years, the life expectancy for a female in the Middle Eastern nation has “increased from 47 years old to over 60.” Female education has also seen a spike as 3.5 million girls are in school, and 100,000 attend university. USAID aims to continue to develop gender equality by assisting Afghan girls through programs offering support for survivors of sex trafficking, increasing educational opportunities, assisting female entrepreneurs with economic growth and infrastructure, and partnering with the Afghan government to focus on women’s rights.

Mullahs and volunteers from the United Nations have partnered together to travel throughout Afghanistan to conquer cultural and social norms to work towards gender equality in both rural and urban regions. The advocacy groups travel around the country in hopes to eliminate violence against women, increase female access to healthcare and education, and economic equality for women. Volunteers from the UN are working to strengthen the Enhancing Gender Equality and Mainstreaming in Afghanistan which hopes to bolster the Ministry of Women Affairs.

– Gwen Shemm
Photo: Flickr

Diseases in India
India is a sub-continent in Southern Asia that boasts the second largest population in the world following China, with roughly 17 percent of the world’s population. India plays a vital role in multiple international organizations including the U.N., World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). While India has sustained large economic growth—up to 10 percent annually—and a GDP amounting to roughly $1.6 billion, not everyone has reaped the benefits of these feats. India ranks as one of the poorest nations in the world with approximately 68.8 percent of its citizens living in poverty—that is over 800 million people. A life of poverty for these citizens hastens the spread of diseases that inevitably lead to chronic impairment or death. These are the top eight diseases in India.

Top 8 Diseases in India

  1. Ischemic Heart Disease – Commonly referred to as coronary artery disease (CAD), this condition is the number one cause of death in India. Independent groups such as the Indian Heart Association work to raise awareness of the issue through cardiac screenings and informational sessions. Indian dietary habits can be poor with many foods involving butter, grease and fatty foods. This is especially true for poorer segments of the population where this type of food is cheaper and easily accessible. From 2007 to 2017, there was an approximate 49.8 percent increase in the number of deaths in India caused by ischemic heart disease.
  2. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – People primarily contract this disease through smoking, second-hand smoking and fume inhalation. Roughly 30 million Indians suffer from a moderate or severe form of COPD. Early detection of COPD can lead to successful treatment and survival of the patient. Factory pollution in India is rampant and the use of cigarettes is all too common, especially among poorer sections of the population. The impoverished have limited access to medical clinics with 56 percent of the population lacking health care, and thus, unable to get adequate treatment for COPD.
  3. Diarrheal Diseases – Diarrheal diseases account for a significant portion of childhood mortality in India. It is the third leading cause of childhood mortality and studies have correlated this to hygiene, malnutrition, improper sanitation and an impoverished upbringing. A lack of affordable care and education for families will lead to further prominence of diarrheal diseases in Indian society. Currently, the U.S. Agency for International Development is working to implement effective and affordable solutions to counteract sanitary related diseases in India.
  4. Lower Respiratory Infections – Respiratory infections such as influenza, pneumonia and bronchitis are all diseases that harm lung function in the body. Indians are extremely susceptible to these due to the high concentration of air pollution throughout the country, especially in poor rural and urban areas. In 2018, 14 out of 15 of the most polluted cities in the world were in India according to the World Health Organization. Further, air pollution also led to roughly 1.24 million deaths in India over the course of 2015.
  5. Tuberculosis – In 2016, there were 2.8 million reported cases of TB and about 450,000 deaths. This disease is rampant among the impoverished in India because there is not a sufficient amount of clinics and professionals to resolve the issue. The vaccine for tuberculosis is not accessible for Indians in the poor parts of the nation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi aims to eradicate tuberculosis by 2025. Through a $1 million partnership with USAID, India hopes to strengthen the detection and treatment of tuberculosis.
  6. Neonatal Disorders – While incidences of neonatal disorders in India have decreased from 52 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 28 per 1,000 in 2013, this is not an indicator of sustainable progression in India. The truth of the matter is that neonatal decline simply boosted the infant mortality rate because of a brief time-lapse in the survival of the newborn. In India, one can attribute neonatal deaths to asphyxia, pneumonia, sepsis, meningitis, tetanus and an array of other preterm abnormalities. Further, studies show that there is an inverse correlation between socioeconomic status and neonatal deaths. In impoverished rural parts of the country, the neonatal mortality rate is 31 per 1,000 live births whereas it is 15 per 1,000 live births in urban parts of the nation.
  7. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) – Contrary to popular belief, CKD impacts lower-income countries as well as developed ones. In more developed countries, individuals are able to get access to life-saving treatments. Lower-income nations and portions of nations do not share the same luxury. Scientists predict that there will be 7.63 million deaths from CKD in India in 2020; this is up from the 3.78 million CKD deaths in 1990. The poor in India do not have the finances to receive transplants or the means to attend a reputable hospital.
  8. Tumors – Accounting for 9.4 percent of deaths in India, tumors are the product of pathogens and the buildup of harmful germs in the human body. While not extremely common, these tumors are affecting young and middle-age individuals at an alarming rate. Tumors are also root identifiers of cancer. In the last 26 years, the cancer rate in India has doubled and caused significant economic loss, exemplified by a $6.7 billion loss in 2012. Breast cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer and oral cancer are extremely prominent in the nation. The costs of treatment are not attainable for all of the affected and thus cause an increase in mortality. India aims to increase the number of physicians and centers for treatment and research through a $20 million initiative. Nongovernmental organizations are also working to raise awareness and supporting early detection methods across the nation.

Since its independence in 1947, India became one of the strongest nations on the planet. With an unprecedented economic boom, India is an emerging global superpower. Despite India’s successes, it is still lagging behind many western countries in its accessibility to medicine, medical facilities and equal wealth distribution.

The top eight diseases in India are pressing problems the nation can resolve through adequate reform. While the situation may appear hopeless, India is taking strides forward to ensure that each citizen lives a prosperous and meaningful life. Technological advances such as new surgical techniques and radiotherapy equipment continue to help counteract malignant tumors and potent cancers. Furthermore, the Indian government has enacted the National Clean Air Plan to reduce air pollution by 20 to 30 percent by 2024. This has prompted individual cities throughout the nation to limit their carbon output through the use of more efficient technologies and stricter regulations. India can continue to thrive as a global economic power while working to resolve its internal problems.

– Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr

The Butterfly iQ

Two-thirds of the world lacks life-saving access to medical imaging. However, new technology — such as portable ultrasound machines — brings modern medicine where it might not otherwise take root. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 70 percent of technology designed in developed countries does not work in still-developing nations. Fully-equipped hospitals can be hours, or days, away from villages, leaving conditions undiagnosed and untreated.

A Handheld Ultrasound Finds A Wide Variety of Uses in Africa

In recent years, multiple companies have developed portable ultrasound technology, often with these remote areas in mind. The Butterfly Network, a Connecticut-based company, is one such organization, which launched its prototype known as the Butterfly iQ in 2017. The device costs approximately $2,000 and is around the same size as a cell phone. The company’s founder, Jonathan Rothberg, has donated scanners to 13 low-income countries, partnering with organizations like the Canadian Charity Bridge to Health and Uganda-based Kihefo. The organization also has backing from USAID to help further its reach.

Portable ultrasound machines like the Butterfly iQ, are largely being used to test for and treat pneumonia, which causes 15 percent of the deaths of children under 5 years old, killing more than 800,000 children in 2017 alone. The technology has also been used to examine goiters, tumors and other conditions that were otherwise difficult, or impossible, to assess.

In 2014, portable ultrasound machines in Africa took on a new life. Bridge to Health and Kihefo worked to offer women the opportunity to see their unborn children. They brought suitcase-sized ultrasounds to clinics and pulled in six times the normal number of visitors, among them women who had only seen traditional healers before.

In addition to its uses in ruling out tuberculosis and helping to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates, ultrasound technology is also an important diagnostic tool for patients with HIV.

Portable Technology Carries Back Into the Developed World

The Vscan Access from GE Healthcare was originally intended for frontline health care workers in Africa and Southeast Asia. However, the portable ultrasound machine has now found a place in developed countries such as Norway, where it offers an unobtrusive ultrasound in the maternity ward.

Compared to standard ultrasounds, which can not only be uncomfortable but also intimidating to expectant mothers, the Vscan Access is small, deterring worry. Its screen is still large enough to provide a full view of the womb, including the fetal position. Dr. Birgette Kahrs of St. Olav’s Hospital in Norway also notes how easy it is to teach midwives how to operate Vscan’s touchscreen technology.

An App Expands the Reach of the Portable Ultrasound

In 2018, Philips launched Lumify, an app-based portable ultrasound system in Kenya. The new tech was announced at the launch of Beyond Zero Medical Safari, an event hosted by Beyond Zero, an organization founded by the First Lady of the Republic of Kenya that aims at preventing child and maternal deaths.

Lumify unifies portable ultrasounds and mobile devices, creating channels for secure image exchange and processing. It is primarily designed for emergency centers and urgent care centers. The app would, through a subscription service, connect health care professionals around the world. Lumify will additionally offer support, training and IT help.

Lumify is compatible with soft and hard tissue scans. It allows for audio-visual calls, which can connect doctors to remote patients, allowing for diagnosis and treatment across the body and across the globe.

Portable ultrasound technology is still relatively new, so long-term benefits are still unmeasured. Still, portable ultrasounds in Africa, like the Butterfly IQ, already show massive potential in improving the medical status of people without access to first-world medical care. With supporters including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Butterfly iQ and devices like it, are only just getting started.

Katie Hwang
Photo: Unsplash

Kore Lavi Ends, Yet Haitians Look to Future with OptimismIn Aug. 2019, a USAID food insecurity program in Haiti, known as Kore Lavi, ended after five years of providing nutritious meals to malnourished Haitians. This comes at a time when an estimated 2.6 million Haitians — about a quarter of the population — still face food insecurity. Yet, Haitians are optimistic about the future. The Haitian government looks to build on Kore Lavi’s successful model through MAST, the SIMAST vulnerability mapping system and CARE’s micro-loan system.

Background

Today, Haiti is the most poverty-stricken nation in the Western Hemisphere; almost 60 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line. Corruption, natural disasters and high inflation are seen are the most prevalent impediments to Haiti’s economic growth. After the devastating earthquake in Jan. 2010 that decimated much of Port-au-Prince, the country was in dire need of a food insecurity program.

Kore Lavi, meaning “supporting life” in Creole, began in Sept. 2013 and has benefited 18,000 households from 21 food-insecure communes in the Northeast, Southeast, Central Plateau and Artibonite regions of Haiti, as well as the Isle of La Gonave. The program was originally scheduled to end in 2017, but after Hurricane Matthew destroyed many of the nation’s homes and crops, USAID extended Kore Lavi for two more years. The consortium was administered by MAST, Haiti’s Ministry of Public Works and Social Affairs, along with the help of four NGOs: Action Against Hunger, World Vision, the World Food Programme and CARE International.

Kore Lavi’s Success

The initiative’s strategy for combating food insecurity involved promoting the consumption of fresh, locally-produced food such as meat, fish and vegetables, which could be purchased at vendors approved by the program. Laurore Antoine, the coordinator of the program, believes this was an innovative method at the time. “We wanted to divorce ourselves from the traditional approach. We wanted to kill two birds with one stone, so we boosted local production, as well,” Antoine told VOA.

Kore Lavi provided participants with monthly vouchers and the opportunity to participate in a formal market. This, according to CARE, provided Haitians with an increased sense of dignity by making their own food choices and gave local farmers the opportunity to participate in a stronger economy. In its first year alone, Kore Lavi provided 109,790 people access to locally produced foods. In its first four years, the program provided malnutrition treatment to 83,000 children under the age of 5.

Building on Progress

From the outset, Kore Lavi’s plan was to cultivate local ownership through collaboration with local officials at every level of program implementation. The vision was always for Kore Lavi to phase out and have the Haitian government take the reins, according to CARE. The program was designed to implement a sustainable social safety net and, in the future, to be “country-led and county-run.”

One objective of Kore Lavi was to implement an equitable and effective means of reaching the most at-risk households. To that end, MAST developed the SIMAST vulnerability mapping system, which allows the government to more effectively identify and target households most vulnerable to food insecurity. Alexis Barnes, acting senior development, outreach and communications officer for USAID in Port-au-Prince, explained to VOA that this mapping system is now “supported by other donors such as the European Union, and international NGOs working on activities serving the most vulnerable.”

CARE also implemented a micro-loan system to support the food program. Antoine believes this system will “motivate former participants to unite and borrow money to launch small businesses that can pick up where Kore Lavi left off.” Youri Latortue, a Haitian lawmaker and poultry farmer, believes it is time for the Haitian government “to step in to do its part.” By boosting national food production, Latortue is hopeful that Haiti can end the food insecurity crisis. “That’s the only way out of this crisis,” he said in an interview. Although, Antoine acknowledges that MAST must secure financial resources to continue funding the program.

Looking Towards the Future

Barnes is optimistic Haiti will continue the progress: “The program succeeded in demonstrating that the government of Haiti can manage a predictable social transfer activity to the most vulnerable in this country in a well-targeted and transparent manner.” Though Kori Lavi has officially ended, its food voucher-based safety net system remains in place. This system has changed the lives of many beneficiaries over the past five years, many of them among the most vulnerable. Kore Lavi has lifted many of those facing extreme hunger and malnutrition out of desperation and provided hope for the future.

Adam Bentz
Photo: USAID

Best Poverty Reduction Programs
In the global fight against poverty, there have been countless programs to effectively downsize this issue. Poverty reduction programs are an important part of the fight against poverty and because of this, countries should be able to cooperate and learn from one another. Thankfully, with the help of the U.N., the world has been making progress in terms of cooperating to implement good poverty reduction programs. In no particular order, these are the five countries with some of the best poverty reduction programs.

Five Countries with the Best Poverty Reduction Programs

1. China

For the Middle Kingdom, poverty reduction is a key contributing factor to its rapidly growing economy. China has helped reduce the global rate of poverty by over 70 percent, and according to the $1.90 poverty line, China has lifted a total of 850 million people out of poverty between 1981 and 2013. With this, the percentage of people living under $1.90 in China dropped from 88 percent to less than 2 percent in 32 years. China’s poverty reduction programs have also benefitted people on a global scale by setting up assistance funds for developing countries and providing thousands of opportunities and scholarships for people in developing countries to receive an education in China.

2. Brazil

Brazil has taken great steps in reducing poverty and income inequality. Brazil has implemented programs such as the Bolsa Familia Program (Family Grant Program) and Continuous Cash Benefit. Researchers have said that the Family Grant Program has greatly reduced income disparity and poverty, thanks to its efforts of ensuring that more children go to school. They have also said that beneficiaries of this program are less likely to repeat a school year. Meanwhile, the Continuous Cash Benefit involves an income transfer that targets the elderly and the disabled.

3. Canada

Canada has implemented poverty reduction programs such as the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the National Housing Strategy. The Guaranteed Income Supplement is a monthly benefit for low-income senior citizens. This program helped nearly 2 million people in 2017 alone. Meanwhile, the National Housing Strategy in an investment plan for affordable housing that intends to help the elderly, people fleeing from domestic violence and Indigenous people. With its poverty reduction programs in place, Canada reportedly hopes to cut poverty in half by 2030.

4. United States

Although the United States has a long way to go when it comes to battling poverty, it does still have its poverty reduction programs that have proven to be effective. According to the Los Angeles Times, programs such as Social Security, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Earned Income Tax Credit and food stamps have all helped to reduce deep poverty. In particular, people consider the Earned Income Tax Credit to be helpful for families that earn roughly 150 percent of the poverty line, approximately $25,100 for a four-person family. Social Security could help reduce poverty among the elderly by 75 percent.

5. Denmark

Denmark has a social welfare system that provides benefits to the unemployed, the disabled and the elderly, among others. People in Denmark are generally in good health and have low infant mortality rates. Denmark also has public access to free education, with most of its adult population being literate.

It should be stressed that none of these countries are completely devoid of poverty, but they do provide some good examples of how governments can go about reducing this issue. With the help of organizations like the USAID, it is clear that this is an issue many take seriously.

Adam Abuelheiga
Photo: Flickr