Category Archives: Popular Posts

Hurricane Sandy’s Aftermath in Haiti

Hurricane Sandy left death and destruction along its path through the Caribbean and upwards through the northeast United States over the past week. The latest death toll in the United States is nearing 100 and property and environmental damages will cost billions of dollars to repair. But, in Haiti where hurricanes and tropical storms are rife and where development projects remain too few the flooding, disease, and homelessness are harder to bear.

Even though Sandy roared through the Caribbean last week flooding is still a major concern particularly as cholera cases rise. The flooding also damaged newly planted crops that may result in spikes in food prices.

“Several thousand kilometres of agricultural roads were destroyed and thousands of heads of cattle were swept away by the flood waters, which also destroyed thousands of hectares of plantations,” Agriculture Minister Jacques Thomas said as reported by South Africa’s Times Live.

Yesterday the Haitian government declared a month-long state of emergency to accelerate infrastructure and electrical repair and restore drinking water. Johan Peleman, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) operation in Haiti, told UN Radio that it is still too early to assess the full range of damages.

There are, however, concerns about food insecurity. “Already, the drought and the previous storm had hit the northern part of the country very badly and we had seen the levels of food insecurity rise there,” Peleman said. “With the south being hit now, we are going to face in the next couple of months very serious problems of malnutrition and food insecurity.”

Hurricane Sandy passed to the west of Haiti October 25, 2012 causing heay rains and winds, flooding homes and overflowing rivers.
Photo Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH
A woman walks through a flooded market in Port au Prince. Hurricane Sandy passed to the west of Haiti October 25, 2012 causing heay rains and winds, flooding homes and overflowing rivers.
Photo Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH
Residents stand on the banks of a river that swept away five homes in Port au Prince. Hurricane Sandy passed to the west of Haiti October 25, 2012 causing heay rains and winds, flooding homes and overflowing rivers.
Photo Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH
A coastal town is flooded. Hurricane Sandy passed to the west of Haiti October 25, 2012 causing heay rains and winds, flooding homes and overflowing rivers.
Photo Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH

Catapult: A Game Changer in Crowdfunding

There are a lot of crowdfunding platforms on the Net, but we’re seeing more and more of them become increasingly targeted to niche communities and specific causes. Catapult, a crowdfunding platform for women and girls’ projects, is one of these new, hyper-targeted crowdfunding platforms.

A digital project of Women Deliver and funded by the Gates Foundation, Catapult will provide funding opportunities for NGOs that work to better the lives for women and girls’.

“We know that when we invest in girls and women, everyone wins,” said Jill W. Sheffield, President of Women Deliver. “Catapult is a new opportunity to deliver millions of dollars over the next decade to organizations that are making real progress for girls and women.”

One hundred percent of all donations will fund projects rather than organizational overhead. This is immensely important as it builds goodwill for those who fundraise for causes and for those who donate. Through Catapult’s transparency requirements there will be no question about where your dollars go. NGOs are responsible for providing detailed follow-up at the 90 day mark and one year mark after full funding has been reached. These follow-ups will typically be in the form of photos and videos.

Catapult will officially launch this Thursday on International Day of the Girl. To  get a better idea of Catapult watch this video that explains it all.

On the Net:

Correction: The original text stated that the Gates Foundation, the United Nations Population Fund, and the Global Fund for Women among others fund Catapult. The United Nations Population Fund and the Global Fund for Women are partners of Catapult, but have not funded the site.

Female Genital Mutilation Banned Under New Somalian Constitution

Somalia has a new government and with it a new provision in its constitution in Title 2: Article 15: Liberty and Security of the Person that bans female genital mutilation (FGM). The new law states:

Circumcision of girls is a cruel and degrading customary practice, and is tantamount to torture. The circumcision of girls is prohibited.

According to several reports between 90% to 95% of all girls undergo female genital mutilation in Somalia. FGM is a procedure where the outside of girls’ genitals (clitoris) is removed in order to take away sexual feeling from the vagina. It is a cultural practice to keep girls pure for marriage, but causes undue health problems throughout one’s life including urinary tract and bladder infections, infertility, cysts, and a need for later surgeries according to the World Health Organization.

While this new law in the Somalian constitution is a move in the right direction it will be another fight entirely to enforce it.

UN Photo/Stuart Price

Why One Woman Traveled from Algeria to Niger for Fistula Surgery

We are happy to publish the latest news from our partner Worldwide Fistula Fund. They do amazing work for women with obstetric fistulas. Please make a donation to help them continue the work they do.

From the Worldwide Fistula Fund:

Summer has been busy at the Danja Fistula Center. In July, a team of six people flew to Niger to assist the staff with patient care at the hospital. Over the course of the month, 40 surgeries were performed on women suffering from obstetric fistula. These women came to Danja hopeful that our team of medical experts would have the ability to repair their fistula and help them begin a new chapter to their life. Nearly everyone has returned to their village optimistic about the opportunities that lie ahead. One of those women is Habibati. We wanted to share her story with you.

Habibati immediately stood out to us as she did not look like most of our patients. Her skin was much fairer and softer and her hair was longer and braided. Unlike many of the women who traveled from nearby villages and spoke Hausa, Habibati is Algerian.

Habibati had a pre-arranged marriage at 13 and became pregnant at 14. For three days she labored in her village. Eventually the baby passed and was stillborn. Immediately she started leaking urine and her parents arranged for her to have surgery in Algeria. She had three surgeries there and none were successful. While in Algeria, she heard a news report from a North Africa BBC affiliate about a new fistula hospital in Niger and traveled to Danja in hopes of receiving another surgery.

Habibati’s relationship with her husband is unlike that of many of the patients who come through our door. Her husband came to Danja with her and stayed at a place close to the hospital so he could visit her daily. While so many women with fistula are abandoned by their husbands, it was heart-warming to see Habibati’s husband treat her with such care.

Communicating with Habibati required an extensive game of medical telephone and we were fortunate she also arrived with a friend who served as a personal translator. Our doctor spoke in English to our translator, who spoke in Hausa to one of our nurse’s aides. The nurse’s aide translated Hausa to Fulani to Habibati’s friend, and Habibati’s friend translated Fulani into Arabic for Habibati. Each response was translated back, from Arabic to Fulani to Hausa and then English. While time-consuming, the system worked and we were able to communicate with Habibati and prepare her for surgery.

It took Habibati some time to warm up to the surroundings in Danja because of the language barrier, but once the nurses learned to say hello in Arabic she quickly perked up. She received surgery and is recovering in the patient village. We all hope that this fourth surgery will be her last.

Please stay tuned to our blog for more news out of Danja, stories of the women we’ve served and updates on our progress.

To continue supporting the Danja Fistula Center — and help bring healing and medical care to thousands of women living with the agony of obstetric fistula — please make a tax-deductible one-time or recurring gift today. We thank you for your incredible generosity.

Photos: Worldwide Fistula Fund

Path’s Sure Start Program Ensures the Reduction of Maternal Mortality

Sita Shankar Wunnava, the Director of Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition at PATH India, knows about maternal health and women in India. An outspoken leader and NGO director Wunnava has over two decades of international global health experience under her belt and knows that behavioral change in India’s rural areas is what will ultimately save more mothers’ lives.

Each year 78,000 women die in childbirth in India and one million babies die before two months. Those numbers are devastatingly high. To combat this high mortality rate PATH implemented the Sure Start program in Uttar Pradesh and Mahrashtra, Indian’s two most populous states, seven years ago.

The Sure Start program works with women in rural areas to teach them how to stay alive when pregnant and delivering their baby. The Sure Start program was created with the understanding the very first step to reversing maternal and child mortality rates begins with education and behavior change. For instance, Sure Start teaches women that if they have swollen feet it’s not just something that normally happens, but there is a great chance she has high blood pressure which can lead to preeclampsia. They also teach women that colostrum, or a woman’s first milk, is essential for a baby’s health and survival whereas traditionally women in rural areas typically squeeze the colostrum out of their breasts in order to get to the white milk. Also, women are educated about the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding instead of supplementing with water and cow’s milk. Now twice as many women in these two Indian states exclusively breastfeed during their baby’s first week of life. Sure Start  also teaches women to wrap babies when they are first born instead of immediately washing them which can lead to hypothermia.

In order to change cultural practices the Sure Start program encourages women to have institutional births, that is delivering in a health center instead of at home with untrained birth attendants. They also had to change the way rural people view pregnancy. Women and their husbands did not view pregnancy as an illness and believed health centers and hospitals were unnecessary for delivering a baby. However, through education over the past three years births in health centers have doubled in Uttar Pradesh.

PATH’s Sure Start program recognizes that the key to reducing maternal mortality is to encourage communities to take collective actions to work together from mothers’ groups, to mothers-in-law, health workers, towns’ mayors, and the village as a whole.

While the Sure Start program has been implemented for seven years in Uttar Pradesh and Mahrashtra, there is only one more year of the program remaining. Sita Shankar Wunnava says that program administrators are sharing data with government officials so they can implement these changes through a larger scaled effort.

For more information visit

Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki