The first time I saw open defecation was in a slum in Delhi. I was taken aback. I had always heard about open defecation, but until that point I had never seen it and couldn’t imagine it happening in an overly crowded urban area. It was also at that moment that I knew I had to learn as much as possible about the ways in which people use the bathroom, if they have one at all.
2.5 billion people lack improved sanitation and 1 billion people do not have access to a bathroom and must resort to the undignified practice of open defecation. There are 7 billion people on the planet.
Women who must defecate in the open and who also have to use the community toilets are at increased risk of violence and rape.
When I visit communities and families in low-income countries I always look for toilets and latrines to see the conditions in which people relieve themselves. Below are some photos of toilets I took in India, Ethiopia, Philippines, and South Africa.
On November 8, the world will recognize the one-year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan, the superstorm that devastated much of the Philippines and claimed 6,300 lives. 1000 people are still reported missing.
It’s difficult to believe that it has already been a year since we were stunned by the horrific photos that raced across the wires of bloated bodies lining the streets, people sitting listless in the middle of rubble, and a huge ship in the middle of Tacloban City. While Haiyan is the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines, the 7100 islands country experiences 19 typhoons every year.
Next Monday I will head to the Philippines along with Social Good Mom and Global Team of 200 member Jeana Shandraw with our partner World Vision USA to see their recovery work on the ground since Haiyan hit the islands last year. We will see devastated areas that are a part of a “no build’ zone, community savings groups that have helped families rebuild, child trafficking protection programs funded by USAID, health centers, and area development programs. On November 8 we will attend a one-year anniversary vigil.
If you follow my work you know I travel often to see NGOs work on the ground. This will be my first time traveling with and seeing World Vision’s work and am interested to report on its recovery efforts in the Philippines. To date, World Vision has reached 760,000 people with a goal of reaching 1 million beneficiaries. World Vision has also provided 51,000 temporary shelter kits and is working with the government to ensure homes are built in safer areas among a long list of recovery services it provides.
Last month, a United Nations team travelled to Western Equitoria, Central Equatoria, and Western Bahr El Ghazal in South Sudan to assess road conditions, an important task when famine looms in a region that is mostly agrarian. Without passable roads it is impossible for lifesaving, critical health supplies, health workers, aid agencies, and most importantly food to reach remote areas that are cut off from main city centers especially during the rainy season and when the need is most critical for vulnerable populations.
Aid agencies including UNICEF, the Jesuit Refugee Service, and the World Food Program have warned the world that a famine is quickly nearing in South Sudan amid continued failed peace talks and violence. Famine is an extremely strong word to use when it comes to food insecurity and no one wants to utter it until the very last moment when people, especially children, are already on the brink of dying.
Logistics Clusterposted a telling map of South Sudandated from May 2, 2014. In Western Equitoria, Central Equatoria, and Western Bahr El Ghazal there is little infrastructure save for some primary roads, which are questionably passable, and a few primary cities. The lack of reliable infrastructure continues to make humanitarian relief difficult to fulfill.
According to UNICEF, nearly one million children in South Sudan will require treatment for acute malnutrition this year and according to Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, 50,000 may die from malnutrition in the coming months.
“The world should not wait for a famine to be announced while children here are dying each and every day,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake in a statement, speaking after a visit to the devastated city of Malakal, where tens of thousands of people still take shelter on a UN base. “Today we spoke to mothers who have struggled through conflict, displacement and hunger to stop their children from dying. We all have to do more, and quickly, to keep more children alive.”
One thing is certain: I do not know how to read a fiscal budget, but I have sat in awe watching experts dissect the President’s budget line by line and then meticulously explain what programs have been cut and programs that have been relatively spared. So, when our partner, End 7, reported that funding for the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Neglected Tropical Disease Program has been cut by $13.5 million I know that as a community of passionate moms we need to do something.
Neglected tropical diseases are “neglected” because they don’t get the big funding and recognition like HIV/AIDS, malaria, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and diarrhea, for example. They are diseases that people can usually live with for some time despite discomfort and debilitating ailments and a lowered social standing.
According to End 7, neglected tropical diseases, like hookworm, trachoma, and lymphatic filariasis affect 1 in 6 people worldwide and keep them in a perpetual cycle of poverty. Most people don’t know about these diseases. Their names are too long and technical and don’t grab headlines, but they can be prevented. The global health community has committed itself to controlling and eradicating these neglected tropical diseases by 2020. In order to reach this goal the funding cannot stop now, especially when so much progress has already been made.
In 2012 the London Declaration Committment brought together an array of partners from the World Bank to USAID to GlaxoSmithKline to set strategic goals to eliminate the most common neglected tropical diseases by the end of the decade. A recent update report was released showing that more low income countries are implementing programs to control neglected tropical diseases in their own populace, the demand and allocation of drugs to prevent the diseases is higher, and more research and development is going into fighting these diseases. Even more importantly since 2012 the global efforts to control or eradicate neglected tropical diseases has now turned into a global movement. Read Delivering on Progress and Driving Progress.
End 7 is asking its supporters to encourage members of Congress to rethink the proposed spending cut to USAID’s Neglected Tropical Disease Program and to thank Congresswomen Granger and Lowey for keeping neglected tropical diseases on the funding agenda.
Exactly how does the global community end poverty by 2030? According to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), it’s by working together.
Today marks the official launch of USAID’s Global Development Lab, a new initiative that uses science and technology to improve global health and development outcomes around the world. Utilizing data and analytics USAID is quickly moving towards more efficient ways to track, report, scale, and improve the ways in which hundreds of millions of people worldwide can plausibly leave poverty behind in 16 years. Poverty is currently calculated as those who live on less than $1.25 a day.
The depth and scale of global poverty obviously requires increased innovative methods to tackle what many attest is an attainable goal by 2030. That is why USAID has brought together leading organizations and foundations from the private sector, universities, as well as corporations to tackle the issue collectively under the wide-reaching umbrella of the development lab.
“We do know things are improving and the interventions that are most cost-effective,” said Karen Cavanaugh, Director, Office of Health Systems at USAID during a recent discussion about global health best buys. “We need to invest in implementation science.”
NGOs like CARE and Save the Children have already become “Cornerstone Partners” that have committed to using their expertise and data driven global programs to join this poverty eradication effort. For example, CARE is already using cell phones to monitor pregnant women in Bihar, India and is helping savings group members in Kenya and Tanzania access their funds.
Corporations such as Coca-Cola and Unilever are lending their consumer-driven insights about scale and distribution of goods to the lab and innovative companies like Microsoft and Intel will likely bring their technology expertise to the table. Thus far, $30 billion in investments have been pledged by the Cornerstone Partners as well as by USAID to bolster the efforts and outcomes of the lab.
USAID is also rallying the most brilliant minds through global challenges, open data, and fellowships to accelerate the rate in which technology and science is used to save and improve more lives.
Today USAID Administrator Raj Shah will give the keynote at the official Global Development Lab launch in New York City. Only months into his administration Shah had already laid the framework for the lab in speeches about the ways in which USAID can advance to save more lives through “embracing innovation, science, technology and research.”