June 18, 2011
The Weirdness of Walking to Raise Money
By TED GUP
IT’S a peculiar institution, this walking to raise money.
Not long ago, I stood on a corner near my home and watched as some of the 42,000 men, women and children participating in Boston’s Walk for Hunger strode by. Their 20-mile round-trip trek was a success, raising $3.6 million for food banks. It was as if, by burning calories, they were feeding the hungry.
Still, the logic that united the walkers, the donors and the hungry mystified me. After years of witnessing such events I still wonder why we must be a nation in motion to secure aid for the needy.
Why are benefactors moved by the sight of urban hordes headed for the suburbs and back? Why do such exertions trigger the charitable impulse?
What I saw that morning in Boston was a resource diverted from its true purpose. Imagine those 210,000 man-hours (42,000 times a five-hour walk) put into direct service to benefit the poor. Think of the houses that might be built, roofs repaired, gardens planted and harvested, public spaces improved, and meals delivered to shut-ins. (And add in the efforts of the 2,000 volunteers that day and the contributions of 50,000 donors.) Now multiply that by the millions of man-hours that are represented by such events in cities across the nation, from Los Angeles to Louisville, Ky., from Austin, Tex., to Grand Rapids, Mich.
In the charitable ritual that has evolved, two sides expend energy, but only the sponsors’ efforts directly aid the poor. The others’ is pure sweat equity that goes nowhere but down the necks of the participants. Consider, too, the public resources expended: the rescue squads and medics along the way, the police sealing off urban arteries, the snarling of traffic. We tie our cities in knots. Enduring such inconvenience is what each of us gives to the cause.
I do not question the sincerity of the participants, but in these mass mobilizations I see many lost opportunity costs. I recognize the value of exercise and companionship, but question why society values these schemes.
The easy explanation, of course, is that there would be no giving — or not nearly so much — without the walks. Fund-raisers recognize that the nobility of giving is often stimulated by activities that conjoin the selfless with self-interest. For giving, we often offer value received. Raffles and auctions and naming rights are among the inducements used to win support. But that’s not what’s going on here.
Those who oversee such fund-raising spectacles argue that there is more to these events than meets the eyes — mine included. These walks and runs are incubators for future volunteers and donors. They constitute a public proclamation that others matter. They make the invisible visible. More to the point, it is easier to get relatives, friends and colleagues to open their pocketbooks than it is to win over the largess of strangers.
That is the genius of such events. Where abstract appeals on behalf of the faceless needy may fall on deaf ears, appeals from family and neighbors do not. Ultimately, it is not the mass of walkers that moves us to give, but the knowledge that a familiar face — a nephew or friend — is among them. It personalizes the issue, quite literally turning the abstract into the concrete, converting perspiration into philanthropy. There is an exquisite — albeit attenuated — logic to it all.
In the end, getting others to give is as much art as science, and if traversing great distances is what it takes to discover that charity begins at home, then so be it.
These events have become so deeply rooted in our cities and culture that their eccentricities and irrationalities escape our notice, lost in the blur of matching T-shirts, sponsors’ logos and banners. Through my puzzlement, I too applaud and cheer them on.
Ted Gup, the chairman of the journalism department at Emerson College, is the author, most recently, of “A Secret Gift: How One Man’s Kindness — and a Trove of Letters — Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression.”
June 22, 2011
The Breast Milk Cure
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
DOGON DOUTCHI, Niger
What if nutritionists came up with a miracle cure for childhood malnutrition? A protein-rich substance that doesn’t require refrigeration? One that is free and is available even in remote towns like this one in Niger where babies routinely die of hunger-related causes?
Impossible, you say? Actually, this miracle cure already exists. It’s breast milk.
When we think of global poverty, we sometimes assume that the challenges are so vast that any solutions must be extraordinarily complex and expensive. Well, some are. But almost nothing would do as much to fight starvation around the world as the ultimate low-tech solution: exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months of life. That’s the strong recommendation of the World Health Organization.
The paradox is that while this seems so cheap and obvious — virtually instinctive — it’s also rare. Here in Niger, only 9 percent of babies get nothing but breast milk for the first six months of life, according to a 2007 national nutrition survey. At least that’s up from just 1 percent in 1998.
(In the United States, about 13 percent of babies are exclusively breast-fed for six months, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Then again, most of the rest get formula, which is pretty safe in America.)
Next door to Niger in Burkina Faso, fewer than 7 percent of children get breast milk exclusively for six months. In Senegal it’s 14 percent; in Mauritania, 3 percent.
These are some of the countries we’re passing through on my annual win-a-trip journey, this year with a medical student from Atlanta, Saumya Dave, and a teacher from Newark, Noreen Connolly. It’s heartbreaking to see severely malnourished children and to meet mother after mother who has buried children when such a simple life-saving solution is not applied.
The biggest problem is that many mothers believe that breast milk isn’t enough, and that, on a hot day, a child needs water as well.
On a rural road near the remote town of Dogon Doutchi, in southern Niger, we ran into a family of Tuareg nomads traveling north.
“On a hot day, babies need water,” Gayshita Abdullah, the mother, told me. She said she tries to get water from a well, but if there is no well nearby she gets it from a mud puddle.
In fact, most nutritionists are adamant that babies are best off with nothing but breast milk for the first six months of life (they used to recommend four months, but now say six months). And water in poor countries is often contaminated and dangerous for a baby.
Even when the mother is herself malnourished, her body will normally provide enough milk for a baby, nutritionists say.
A 2008 report in The Lancet, the British medical journal, found that a baby that is partially breast-fed is 2.8 times as likely to die as a baby that is exclusively breast-fed for at least five months. A child that is not breast-fed at all is 14.4 times as likely to die.
Over all, The Lancet said, 1.4 million child deaths could be averted each year if babies were breast-fed properly. That’s one child dying unnecessarily every 22 seconds.
“As far as nutritional interventions that have been studied, we have crushing evidence of breast-feeding’s efficacy in reducing child mortality,” said Shawn Baker, a nutrition specialist with Helen Keller International, an aid organization that works on these issues.
“It’s the oldest nutritional intervention known to our species, and it’s available to everybody,” Baker added. “But for a development community too focused on technological fixes, it hasn’t gained the traction it should.”
The challenges with breast-feeding in poor countries are not the kinds that Western women face, and many women in the developing world continue nursing their babies for two years. The biggest problem is giving water or animal milk to babies, especially on hot days. Another is that mothers often doubt the value of colostrum, the first milk after childbirth (which is thick and yellowish and doesn’t look much like milk), and delay nursing for a day or two.
One mother near the town of Dosso, Fati Halidou, who has lost four of her seven children, told me that after childbirth, it is best to give a baby sugar water or Koranic water. This is water made by writing a verse of the Koran on a board and then washing it off; the inky water is thought to protect the child.
It’s not clear why a human instinct to nurse went awry. Does it have something to do with the sexualization of breasts? Or with infant formula manufacturers, who irresponsibly peddled their products in the past but are more restrained now? Or is it just that moms worry that their babies need water on hot days? Nobody really knows.
But what is clear is that there’s a marvelous low-tech solution to infant malnutrition all around us.
I invite you to visit my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.
August 22, 2011
The Rugged Altruists
By DAVID BROOKS
Many Americans go to the developing world to serve others. A smaller percentage actually end up being useful. Those that do have often climbed a moral ladder. They start out with certain virtues but then develop more tenacious ones.
The first virtue they possess is courage, the willingness to go off to a strange place. For example, Blair Miller was a student at the University of Virginia who decided she wanted to teach abroad. She Googled “teach abroad” and found a woman who had been teaching English in a remote town in South Korea and was looking for a replacement.
Miller soon found herself on a plane and eventually at a small airport in southern South Korea. There was no one there to greet her. Eventually, the airport closed and no one came to pick her up. A monk was the only other person around and eventually he, too, left and Miller was alone.
Finally, a van with two men rolled in and scooped her up. After a few months of struggle, she had a fantastic year at a Korean fishing village, the only Westerner for miles and miles. Now she travels around Kenya, Pakistan and India for the Acumen Fund, a sort of venture capital fund that invests in socially productive enterprises, like affordable housing and ambulance services.
The second virtue they develop is deference, the willingness to listen and learn from the moral and intellectual storehouses of the people you are trying to help.
Rye Barcott was a student at the University of North Carolina who spent a summer sharing a 10-by-10 shack in Kibera, the largest slum in Nairobi, Kenya. One night he awoke with diarrhea and stumbled to the public outhouse. He slid onto the cement floor and vomited as his bare body hit puddles of human waste.
He left his soiled pants outside the hut, but when he went to find them later they were gone. He was directed to another hut where a stick-thin girl, with missing clumps of hair, had the pants, scrubbed and folded, in her lap. Barcott said softly, “I’m grateful,” and asked her why she had cleaned them. “Because I can,” she replied. A week later, she died of AIDS and her body was taken in a wheelbarrow to a communal grave.
Over the next several years, Barcott served as an officer in the Marines in places like Iraq and created an inspiring organization called Carolina for Kibera, which offers health services and serves as a sort of boys and girls club for children in the slum.
The greatest and most essential virtue is thanklessness, the ability to keep serving even when there are no evident rewards — no fame, no admiration, no gratitude.
Stephen Letchford is a doctor working in Kijabe, Kenya. One night, years ago, when he was working at a hospital in Zambia, a man stole a colleague’s computer. Letchford drove the police down the single road leading from town. The police found the man carrying the computer and, in the course of the arrest, shot him in the abdomen.
They put the man in the back of the car and rushed him back to the hospital to save his life. Letchford pressed his wounds to stem the bleeding, using tattered garbage bags as surgical gloves. He had scraped his hands gardening that day and was now covered by the man’s blood.
They saved the thief’s life and discovered he was infected with H.I.V. For several days, Letchford and his family were not sure whether he had been infected by the man who robbed them. Their faith was tested. (They later learned that he was not infected.) When the man recovered, he showed no remorse, no gratitude; he just folded in on himself, cold and uncommunicative.
This final virtue is what makes service in the developing world not just an adventure, a spiritual experience or a cinematic moment. It represents a noncontingent commitment to a specific place and purpose.
As you talk to people involved in the foreign aid business — on the giving and the receiving ends — you are struck by how much disillusionment there is.
Very few nongovernmental organizations or multilateral efforts do good, many Kenyans say. They come and go, spending largely on themselves, creating dependency not growth. The government-to-government aid workers spend time at summit meetings negotiating protocols with each other.
But in odd places, away from the fashionableness, one does find people willing to embrace the perspectives and do the jobs the locals define — in businesses, where Westerners are providing advice about boring things like accounting; in hospitals where doctors, among many aggravations, try to listen to the symptoms the patients describe.
Susan Albright, a nurse working with disabled children in Kijabe, says, “Everything I’ve ever learned I put to use here.” Her husband, Leland Albright, a prominent neurosurgeon, says simply, “This is where God wants us to be.”
August 23, 2009
The Women’s Crusade
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF and SHERYL WuDUNN
IN THE 19TH CENTURY, the paramount moral challenge was slavery. In the 20th century, it was totalitarianism. In this century, it is the brutality inflicted on so many women and girls around the globe: sex trafficking, acid attacks, bride burnings and mass rape.
Yet if the injustices that women in poor countries suffer are of paramount importance, in an economic and geopolitical sense the opportunity they represent is even greater. “Women hold up half the sky,” in the words of a Chinese saying, yet that’s mostly an aspiration: in a large slice of the world, girls are uneducated and women marginalized, and it’s not an accident that those same countries are disproportionately mired in poverty and riven by fundamentalism and chaos. There’s a growing recognition among everyone from the World Bank to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to aid organizations like CARE that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism. That’s why foreign aid is increasingly directed to women. The world is awakening to a powerful truth: Women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution.
September 28, 2011
Just Look at What You Did!
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
In a Mother’s Day column in the spring, I suggested that readers commemorate the day not only with flowers but also with a donation to lift up women around the world. Readers showered one group that I mentioned, www.MothersDayMovement.org, with more than $135,000 that was forwarded to a slum empowerment group in Kenya.
So while in Kenya recently, I dropped by to see what was being done with your money. In the grim alleys of the Kibera slum in the capital of Nairobi, I found a dazzling girls’ school being built with some of those donations — and, yes, I found a love story.
The saga begins with a young man named Kennedy Odede who grew up in the slum. He never received a formal education and lived homeless on the streets after the age of 10, but he was exceptionally bright and taught himself to read.
When he was about 15, a visiting American gave him a book about Nelson Mandela — a biography that captivated Kennedy. Another American visitor, charmed by hearing of the impact of the first book, gave him a biography of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “That book changed my life,” Kennedy recalls.
Dazzled by Mandela and King, Kennedy resolved to fight for social justice. Already active in Kibera, he bought a soccer ball and announced the formation of a youth soccer club that would wrestle with social issues.
Kennedy had become outraged at the abuse of women, partly because his 16-year-old sister had been raped and become pregnant. So his soccer club began to hold street theater performances to denounce sexual violence.
Jessica Posner, a Wesleyan University student interested in theater, heard about the performances and decided to spend a junior year abroad helping the group. She arrived in Nairobi — and then insisted on living inside the Kibera slum itself.
“I thought she was crazy,” Kennedy remembers. He told her that there was no indoor toilet or running water, and plenty of rats. She is white, and Kennedy told her that no white people lived anywhere nearby. But Jessica got her way, sharing a room with four other people — and a romance blossomed.
Kennedy told Jessica of his dream to get an education, and Jessica nudged the Wesleyan admissions office into offering him a full scholarship — even though he had never gone to formal school before.
So Kennedy flew to Connecticut to begin college as a freshman at the age of 23, and, after her graduation, Jessica flew out to Nairobi to help expand his program, called Shining Hope for Communities (ShiningHopeforCommunities.org). They won grants from Newman’s Own Foundation, Echoing Green and DoSomething.org, and they used the money and Jessica’s savings to start the Kibera School for Girls.
Jessica, now 25, showed me around — chattering with local people in the Swahili and Luo languages. It’s staggering what she and Kennedy have created. The Kibera School for Girls now has 64 students in pre-kindergarten through second grade, adding one grade a year. Almost 500 children competed for the 19 slots in the current pre-kindergarten.
The school looks like a good American school, and classes are taught in English. Even though English is a second or third language for these children, 82 percent perform at American grade level — and these kids are ravenous to learn.
“Some of the first and second graders are reading at seventh-grade level,” Jessica said proudly.
Still, obstacles are enormous. This broke my heart: At least 20 percent of the girls have been raped, the teachers say. Rapes have left two of the kindergarten girls with fistulas, internal injuries causing them to leak wastes.
The school has helped prosecute an alleged rapist of a 4-year-old kindergartner who required surgical repairs and is working to end the impunity on sexual violence in the community. It also provides a dormitory for half-a-dozen girls who are at risk of sexual violence in their own homes.
With the money from Times readers, Shining Hope is now building a much larger school that is expected to accommodate 500 pupils. It has also bolstered services, including free family planning, for women at a clinic it runs. It trains women entrepreneurs and has just installed a new water tower that is expected to become the slum’s largest source of clean water. It operates a public library and computer center where slum-dwellers can earn money by performing Internet piece work.
Shining Hope also oversees a network of public toilets, one of which produces biogas used to cook meals for children at the school.
All this may be just a beginning. Kennedy says his dream is to expand Shining Hope across East Africa.
So that’s what your money has wrought. You should be proud. And one more thing to make the story perfect: In June, after Kennedy graduates, he and Jessica plan to marry.
November 2, 2011
The Birth Control Solution
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
What if there were a solution to many of the global problems that confront us, from climate change to poverty to civil wars? There is, but it is starved of resources. It’s called family planning, and it has been a victim of America’s religious wars.
Partly for that reason, the world’s population just raced past the seven billion mark this week, at least according to the fuzzy calculations of United Nations demographers. It took humans hundreds of thousands of years, until the year 1804, to reach the first billion. It took another 123 years to reach two billion, in 1927. Since then, we’ve been passing these milestones like billboards along a highway. The latest billion took just a dozen years.
In 1999, the United Nations’ best projection was that the world wouldn’t pass seven billion until 2013, but we reached it two years early. Likewise, in 1999, the U.N. estimated that the world population in 2050 would be 8.9 billion, but now it projects 9.3 billion.
What’s the impact of overpopulation? One is that youth bulges in rapidly growing countries like Afghanistan and Yemen makes them more prone to conflict and terrorism. Booming populations also contribute to global poverty and make it impossible to protect virgin forests or fend off climate change. Some studies have suggested that a simple way to reduce carbon emissions in the year 2100 is to curb population growth today.
Moreover, we’ve seen that family planning works. Women in India average 2.6 children, down from 6 in 1950. As recently as 1965, Mexican women averaged more than seven children, but that has now dropped to 2.2.
But some countries have escaped this demographic revolution. Women in Afghanistan, Chad, Congo, Somalia, East Timor and Uganda all have six or more children each, the U.N. says. In rural Africa, I’ve come across women who have never heard of birth control. According to estimates from the Guttmacher Institute, a respected research group, 215 million women want to avoid getting pregnant but have no access to contraception.
What’s needed isn’t just birth-control pills or IUDs. It’s also girls’ education and women’s rights — starting with an end to child marriages — for educated women mostly have fewer children.
“In times past, the biggest barrier to reducing birth rates has been a lack of access to contraceptives,” the Population Institute notes in a new report. “Today, the biggest barrier is gender inequality.”
The seven billion population milestone is also a reminder that we need more research for better contraceptives. One breakthrough is an inexpensive vaginal ring that releases hormones, lasts a year and should not require a doctor. Developed by the Population Council, it has completed Phase 3 trials and seems highly effective. It could even contain medication to reduce the risk of an infection with the AIDS virus.
Traditionally, support for birth control was bipartisan. The Roman Catholic hierarchy was opposed, but Republican presidents like Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush provided strong support. Then family planning became tarnished by overzealous and coercive programs in China and India, and contraception became entangled in America’s abortion wars. Many well-meaning religious conservatives turned against it, and funding lagged. The result was, paradoxically, more abortions. When contraception is unavailable, the likely consequence is not less sex, but more pregnancy.
Contraception already prevents 112 million abortions a year, by U.N. estimates. The United Nations Population Fund is a bête noire for conservatives, but its promotion of contraception means that it may have reduced abortions more than any organization in the world.
Republicans are seeking to cut more money from global family planning — which, in poor countries, would mean more abortions and more women dying in childbirth. Conservatives have also sought to slash Title X Family Planning programs within the United States. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that in a year these domestic programs avert 973,000 unintended pregnancies, of which 406,000 would end in abortions.
Guttmacher calculates that these family-planning centers in the United States actually save taxpayers roughly $3.4 billion annually that would otherwise be spent on pregnancies and babies.
Finally, a ray of hope: A group of evangelical Christians, led by Richard Cizik of The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, is drafting a broad statement of support for family planning. It emphasizes that family planning reduces abortion and lives lost in childbirth.
“Family planning is morally laudable in Christian terms because of its contribution to family well-being, women’s health, and the prevention of abortion,” the draft says.
Amen! Contraceptives no more cause sex than umbrellas cause rain.
So as we greet the seven-billionth human, let’s try to delay the arrival of the eight billionth. We should all be able to agree on voluntary family planning as a cost-effective strategy to reduce poverty, conflict and environmental damage. If you think family planning is expensive, you haven’t priced babies.
I invite you to visit my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook and Google+, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.
Hashoo Foundation seeks to empower Pakistani women
Murtaza Ali Shah
Friday, October 14, 2011
LONDON: Women in the UK have been urged in a landmark campaign to bond with needy Pakistani women to help empower them and increase their social and economic prospects.
Philanthropist and Chair of Hashoo Foundation, Sarah Hashwani made this appeal at the launch of the Hashoo Foundation's UK Chapter launching here at a gala dinner on Wednesday night.
Sarah Hashwani announced the launch of the campaign “500 for 500”, which will focus on fundraising to help empower women living in the remote regions of Northern Pakistan.
Former UN ambassador to Pakistan Sir Mark Lyall Grant, Pakistan's High Commissioner to the UK Wajid Shamsul Hasan and Sadruddin Hashwani, Patron in Chief, were present on the occasion, with a host of special guests and dignitaries in attendance. Sarah Hashwani said: “We started work on this initiative a few weeks back and I have been amazed, delighted and touched by the level of support that the UK women have already given to the idea. We have women from all walks of life coming forward to lend their support and use their networks to engage more women.
The simplest proposition can change the lives of so many in Pakistan.”
The 500 for 500 campaign aims at inviting and engaging 500 women from the UK to join hands with 500 women in the Northern Areas of Pakistan, through the foundationís award-winning Plan Bee project, which provides women in the Northern region of Pakistan with the opportunity to become beekeepers.
It is based on a system of social barter, designed to promote social change and enhance women ability to work independently and in their spare time.
Sarah Hashwani told The News that the focus will remain to increase household incomes so that the standard of living of families could improve and they could get better access to education and health.
“We want to expand and there are so many Pakistanis here in the UK who wants to invest in Pakistan, but want a transparent organisation to contribute with comfort. We are sure we will work with fairness and will be able to utilise the money of donors in the right way.”
Sarah said she was very happy with the response and many leading professional Pakistani women have come forward to announce their help. “Our supporters will arrange dinners at their houses to raise funds and to create connections with the Pakistani women for their betterment,” she said.
Sir Grant appreciated the remarkable commitment of Hashwani family to help the poor people of Pakistan and the efforts made the foundation to increase the self-reliance of some of the most vulnerable sections of the Pakistani society.
He said the Hashoo Foundation had in a short time come from being a family-based charity to emerge as a leading global development organisation.
Sir Grant said he was impressed by the resilience and resourcefulness of Pakistani people and their eagerness to aspire and pursue a better way of life for themselves. He spoke of his familyís historic links with Pakistan and the remarkable qualities of Pakistan that he remembered.
He said there were many challenges that needed to be met head-on, but they should not “hide the underlying qualities of the people of Pakistan”.
Sadruddin Hashwani informed the audience that his foundation's vision is to help create an ethical and inclusive society in which people live with dignity and have power over their own lives.
He said those who have been gifted with wealth and resources should never forget those who are in need.
“One day, we all have to go back,” Hashwani said, emphasising the need for generous giving.
A number of Pakistani women have come forward to become volunteer first set of ambassadors, which include: Adeeba Malik, a business women; model and TV presenter Gulzaeb Beg; the UK’s youngest Muslim female Councillor, Rabia Bhatti; fashion designer Raishma Islam; Dr Shaheena Janjuha-Jivraj, a businesswoman, broadcaster and presenter Yasmeen Khan and make-up artist Zaynab Mirza.
International Group - The Institute of Rural Education and Development
During a three year work assignment in Chitral, Pakistan, Aly Nanji saw
it was absolutely apparent that a change was put in place to better the
lives of children and adults. IREAD's best solution to the problems of
poverty, ignorance and hopelessness was to start with the younger
children and give them the best possible education.
"Visiting the villages we found that people were leading a very poor
lifestyle, said Aly Nanji. "They were badly situated in the sense that
there were no schools and there was no hope for the children."
The Institute of Rural Education and Development was formed in 2009 by
Aly Nanji and Dr. Noorali Jaffer to advance education in the developing
world by establishing and operating Early Childhood Education Centres in
the remote regions of the Chitral District in Pakistan.
"The impact to me is that I had tears in my eyes because these people
are so thankful for what you're doing," said Dr Nooralli Jaffer. "That
basically sealed the deal that I was coming back and I was going to help
IREAD has worked on numerous projects and all with the same goals in
mind - long term sustainability, advancement in education and a safe and
healthy place for children to grow and learn. Aside from building Early
Childhood Centres and training teachers, IREAD has also sponsored 64
students to begin schooling at the High School level.
IREAD wants to give young boys and girls hope and support to finish
their High School education and pursue careers and a better life.
With future goals of expanding across the world, IREAD wishes to bring
hope, stability and peace in the much needed areas of the third world.
December 8, 2011, 9:30 pm
Keeping the Water Flowing in Rural Villages
By TINA ROSENBERG
Fixes looks at solutions to social problems and why they work.
health, Third World and Developing Countries, Water
Keeping projects in business for the long term has been a constant theme of the Fixes column, and if sustainability has a poster child, it would be a water pump. Travel anywhere in Africa or South Asia or Central America, and you will find a landscape dotted with the rusting skeletons of dead water pumps or wells..
In most developing countries, these water points are installed with great fanfare by the government or a charitable group. They greatly improve the lives of villagers. Having a water point in or near the village means that women don’t have to spend 6,8, even 12 hours a day on perilous journeys to fetch water from rivers or lakes. The pumps allow girls to go to school instead of staying home to help their mothers fetch water or take care of siblings. They allow villagers to drink reasonably clean water instead of risking their health with every sip.
Then something breaks on the pump — a huge catastrophe like an underground pipe bursting, or a small one, like the loss of a bolt or a washer. And it never works again.
Early death is shockingly widespread for water pumps. Perhaps the biggest study of this ever was carried out in 21 African countries by an organization called Sustainable Water Services at Scale. It found that 36 percent of pumps were not working. “This level of failure represents a waste of between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion in investments in 20 years,” said the organization.
In Tanzania, mapping of water points showed that nationally, less than half the existing rural water points were working. Of water points that were less than two years old, a quarter had already stopped functioning.
Why, when communities benefit so obviously from water, do so many water points fall out of use? The short answer is that keeping the pumps running usually falls to the community or local government. But it requires specialized skills, spare parts, tools and funds. None of these are found in rural villages.
One group taking a hard look at how to solve the problem is the British-based charity WaterAid. When the organization analyzed why water points failed in Tanzania, it found something interesting: the most sustainable were those maintained by private contractors. This is not a ready-made solution; it won’t work everywhere — really poor areas won’t be able to pay. And in some regions, problems like price gouging were associated with private operators. But WaterAid felt it might be able to solve these problems. So in the north of India, it came up with an ingenious way to do just that.
Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state in India — it is also one of the poorest and most drought-prone. The government has been aggressively installing new water pumps, but they quickly fall into disuse. In the Mahoba district, south of the state capital of Lucknow, there are about 12,500 community water pumps, said. K.J. Rajeev, WaterAid’s general manager for the northern region of India. “But 40 percent of them are usually down, especially in summer,” he said. And when they break, they stay broken — three-quarters of the repairs take at least a month, and many are never repaired at all.
Shanti Devi and Ram Sakhi fixing a handpump in the Mahoba district of Uttar Pradesh, India.WaterAid/Marco BettiShanti Devi and Ram Sakhi fixing a handpump in the Mahoba district of Uttar Pradesh, India. CLICK TO ENLARGE
Now things are different in Mahoba. In May, Lisa Millman, WaterAid America’s director of development and communications, was visiting a town called Charkhari. She was sitting in a small storefront office, a shop lined with shelves of hand pump parts, when a cellphone rang. The call was from the village of Kotedar, where the main hand pump had broken. A master mechanic took the call and asked some questions. This was apparently going to be a big job — five mechanics piled onto two motorbikes, along with the 10-year-old son of one of the men. They reached the village 20 minutes later. As a throng of villagers watched, they took out huge wrenches. They disassembled the pump and began pulling up heavy segments of pipe. At the tenth segment they found a hole and patched it. Two and a half hours after they arrived, the pump was reassembled and working. They got on their bikes and rode off into the sunset.
Millman, who had followed in a car, had asked the 10-year-old if he wanted to be a mechanic like his dad. “He was smirking and laughing,” she said. “But after he watched his dad repair the pump, he was in awe.”
WaterAid and its local partners have set up four workshops, called Community Participation Centers, in the Mahoba district, and the project is now expanding into the neighboring state of Bihar. A call to the workshop reaches a master mechanic. He or she can choose the appropriate mechanics in the group, depending on location and skills, to send to address the problem. Each is is equipped with a cellphone, tool kit and a bike, moped or motorbike. Including mechanics-in-training and several who work part time, the centers have 27 female mechanics.
Many of the women were landless agricultural laborers before they learned hand pump repair, and many were members of the Dalit, or Untouchable, caste — the most downtrodden in Indian society. In a very traditional region, where women cover their faces and do not speak in public, it was at first hard to find women who wanted the job. Even some who completed the training didn’t want to go out to villages and work in public, said Rajeev. Now, however, wherever they go, village men accept them and women embrace them. Seeing a mechanic in yellow hardhat and sari has opened up the spectrum of possibilities for village women.
In 14 months of work, the center mechanics have repaired more than 1,100 pumps in Mahoba. Ninety-three percent of the repairs were made within 24 hours of the phone call, and only 3 percent took more than two days. A simple repair costs a village 100 rupees — roughly $2.00 — with more complex repairs costing up to $6. Water quality testing costs $1.20. The mechanics guarantee all work.
Rajeev said that the four Mahoba workshops cost WaterAid about $40,000 to set up — to train mechanics, buy parts and tools, provide bikes and cellphones and visit village councils to promote the new service. But now WaterAid is tapering off financial support to the workshops, which are all operating sustainably and on the verge of meeting their profitability goals. “We will be providing only technical assistance and hand-holding,” he said. To keep the workshops running, the mechanic keeps 70 to 90 percent of the repair fee and deposits the rest in the workshop’s account.
More From Fixes
Read previous contributions to this series.
This isn’t the first time WaterAid tried to train mechanics in the area. In 2004, its local partner recruited men and women and trained them to do preventive maintenance and minor repairs in their own villages. It didn’t last. The trainees learned only the most basic repairs and often had to leave work incomplete. They also earned very little money. So WaterAid then decided it needed to create a real business, using high standards of training, aggressive outreach to village governments and attractive practices like guaranteed work.
Why couldn’t the market take care of this problem? There are hand pump mechanics in Mahoba, after all. But they tend to live in major market cities. Rajeev said they demanded very high fees to go out to remote villages — often too high for villages to pay. There are also information disconnects – they do no outreach to villages, so some village councils don’t know about these mechanics or how to call them.
The market also can’t finance major repairs — most villagers are too poor. The center program can work because the government has a fund that village councils can use to pay for hand pump maintenance. The fund can take 45 days to pay — too long for most traditional mechanics. Center mechanics, however, don’t mind. (Very minor repairs can usually be paid on the spot.) And now four villages have signed maintenance contracts with center workshops, paying directly from the government’s fund.
What’s happening in Mahoba is promising. But the key to this process is that the Indian government pays the bills. In the places where this problem is most serious, government is AWOL. On Wednesday I’ll look at why it has been so difficult to keep water points running, mistakes that water groups have made and what poor villages might do to keep the water flowing.
A doctor treats a patient in pain in Kerala, India.Last year in Mexico, just a couple of days into my vacation, I fractured my kneecap. In the emergency room, through pain so severe I found myself yelling at all helpful parties around me, particularly my wife, the doctors noted that they did not have painkillers to send home with me. “WHAT!?” I screamed. “No oxycodone, hydrocodone, nothing?” They explained that Mexico’s drug laws had grown so strict due to the actions of the narcotraficantes that pain meds were tough to come by (and only provided to patients who had been admitted to the hospital).
Two days later at the airport, the gate agent for American Airlines nearly refused to let me fly because she could see how much pain I was in and thought I might force the plane to make an emergency landing. After much haranguing I was finally allowed to board and made it back home for surgery and painkillers. But this incident compelled me to look at the state of pain management in developing countries.
It is clear that we live in a world where inequities of healthcare are paramount: there are millions dying of AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa for want of drug therapy, while expensive surgeries for cancer, heart disease, or even to repair an injury like mine is out of reach for the world’s poor.
But what of the inexpensive palliative measures for those experiencing pain? I don’t have to dig very deep in my memory to pull up countless images of people I’ve witnessed in excruciating, seemingly never-ending agony. In Cambodia I came across a man who had lost half of his arm clearing mines, and hours later at a health clinic, he still hadn’t received so much as a Tylenol.
The good news is that public health workers around the world have identified palliative care as a priority: The Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association advocates for inclusion of palliative care in medical curricula and key government health strategies. Public health professionals in Vietnam have focused on expanding pain treatment services, and their efforts have resulted in more reasonable pain medication prescription regulations and new academic training courses on palliative care.
A nurse works with a cancer patient in Kampala, Uganda.Just across the border from my home in Rwanda, Hospice Africa Uganda has collaborated closely with the Ugandan Ministry of Health to increase institutional support for palliative care, especially for AIDS patients.
Read other Josh Ruxin posts
One group that stands out on the cutting edge of pain management is Global Access to Pain Relief (GAPRI), an international initiative of the global cancer community. GAPRI has put the issue of untreated pain at the forefront of the global cancer agenda for the first time, working to improve market access to morphine while empowering governments to loosen restrictions on pain relief treatment.
Nonetheless, we still have a long way to go to respond to chronic and situational pain around the world. Some countries have legitimate reasons for implementing strong laws to deter illegal drugs, but distinct inequities remain in the distribution of pain relief globally. Indeed, only six percent of all palliative care services are located in Asia and Africa – the regions where the need is undoubtedly greatest.
The international community – led by groups like GAPRI – is beginning to pay heed to the staggering numbers of people unnecessarily suffering each day, but institutional support for such initiatives is critical. HIV treatment programs funded by the United States should provide pain relief for people living and dying with the virus. In fact, the United States President’s Plan for Aid Relief (PEPFAR) released its first guidance brief on the importance of HIV/AIDS pain management and palliative care in 2006, but it ought to be dedicating far more resources to the issue.
The World Health Organization should treat the lack of palliative care as the global health emergency it is, and create and fund an agenda and strategic plan for increasing access to pain relief.
On the ground, donors and aid workers need to step up and tackle different kinds of health challenges. Effective health care is not simply about supporting the diseases that are waiting for a new drug or vaccine, but also about fixing the broken health systems that keep solutions we already have out of the hands of patients who desperately need them. Alleviating pain – in my relatively lucky case as well as millions of others– means reducing suffering and increasing productivity to help people be more happy, and of course more healthy. That’s what health care is all about. It’s high time we got on with it.
Josh Ruxin is the founder and director of Rwanda Works and the Access Project. A Columbia University expert on development, Dr. Ruxin has extensive experience operating at the intersection of business, international development, and global health. He lives in Kigali, Rwanda, with his wife and three children.
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
To watch the video, press the play button on the image.
If you want to understand some of the best new ideas to chip away at global poverty, an excellent place to start is the Nasoni family hut here in the southern African nation of Malawi.
Alfred Nasoni and his wife, Biti Rose, have had seven children in this village of Masumba. Two died without ever seeing a doctor. Alfred and Biti Rose pulled their eldest son out of school in the fourth grade because, they said, they couldn’t afford $5 in school costs for a term. And they farmed only part of their 2.5 acre plot because they lacked money for seeds.
Yet poverty is sometimes romanticized, and it’s more complicated than that. Alfred, 45, told me that even as his children were starving, he spent an average of $2 a week on local moonshine and 50 cents on cigarettes. He added that he also spent $2 or more a week buying sex from local girls — even though AIDS is widespread.
All this hints at an uncomfortable truth: The suffering associated with poverty is sometimes caused not only by low incomes but also by self-destructive pathologies. In central Kenya, a recently published government study found that men, on average, spent more of their salaries on alcohol than on food.
It’s a vicious circle: despair leads people to self-medicate in ways that compound the despair.
Yet there are escape hatches. In 2005, Biti Rose joined a village savings group founded by CARE, the international aid group. These “village savings and loans” are among the hottest ideas in development work. They now serve some six million people in 58 countries.
After recent financial crises, plenty of Americans love to hate banks, but many of the world’s poor don’t have that luxury: more than 2.5 billion people worldwide don’t have a bank account, according to a landmark World Bank report, “Measuring Financial Inclusion.”
The poor typically receive a pile of cash once or twice a year, at the end of a harvest, and then have no good way to save it. That increases the risk that some of it will be squandered.
In some African countries, cellphones are emerging as the new banking system. But here, and in much of the world, the solution is savings groups like Biti Rose’s. She and 19 other members met weekly and each deposited the equivalent of about 10 cents. The money was then lent out to members, and CARE coached them on how to start small businesses.
With a loan of $2, Biti Rose started making and selling a local version of doughnuts, which she initially sold for 2 cents each. “People really liked my doughnuts,” she noted, and soon she was making several dollars a day in profit. Inspired by her example, Alfred began growing vegetables and selling them; he turned out to be a shrewd businessman as well.
Seeing an upward trajectory in the family fortunes, Alfred cut out the girlfriends and curbed his drinking, he says.
Biti Rose and Alfred then had the resources to buy seed and fertilizer for all their own land and to lease an additional two acres as well. These days, they hire up to 10 farm laborers to work for them. In the old days, they harvested less than one bag of corn a year; this year, their harvest filled seven ox carts.
All savers aren’t that successful, of course, but there’s no doubt that the nudge to save money and start businesses can be transformative and self-sustaining. CARE moved on in 2009 to take its model to more needy areas in Malawi, but the savings groups around this village multiplied anyway. Other farmers envied Biti Rose and Alfred replacing their leaky grass roof with a tin one, and they decided to start their own savings groups. The idea has even spread, without CARE’s help, across the border to villages in Mozambique.
Yet I think there’s something going on here beyond microsavings and entrepreneurship. Esther Duflo, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-author of an exceptionally good book called “Poor Economics,” argues that outside interventions sometimes work partly when they give poor people hope. That’s precisely what I’ve seen in many countries: Assistance succeeds when it gives people a feeling that a better outcome is possible, and those hopes become self-fulfilling as people work more industriously and invest more wisely.
For Alfred and Biti Rose, their hopes are now focused on their younger children (the oldest has married). Biti Rose never went to school at all, but she is planning to send her younger children to university.
She is also planning future purchases, including the first television in the area. But don’t think Biti Rose is going to kick back. She sees the TV as an investment.
“I’m a businesswoman,” she said firmly. “I can’t give anything away. If there’s a soccer match or something, anybody who comes in my house to watch will have to pay a fee.”
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The farm fields here are cemeteries of cornstalks: a severe drought has left them brown, withered and dead. Normally, a failed crop like that signifies starvation.
Then television cameras arrive and transmit images of famished children into American and European living rooms. Emergency food shipments are rushed in at huge expense.
Yet there is a better way, and it’s unfolding here in rural Malawi, in southern Africa. Instead of shipping food after the fact, the United States aid agency, U.S.A.I.D., has been working with local farmers to promote new crops and methods so that farmers don’t have to worry about starving in the first place.
Jonas Kabudula is a local farmer whose corn crop completely failed, and he said that normally he and his family would now be starving. But, with the help of a U.S.A.I.D. program, he and other farmers also planted chilies, a nontraditional crop that doesn’t need much rain.
“Other crops wither, and the chilies survive,” Kabudula told me. What’s more, each bag of chilies is worth about five bags of corn, so he and other villagers have been able to sell the chilies and buy all the food they need.
“If it weren’t for the chilies,” said another farmer, Staford Phereni, “we would have no food.”
President Obama has made agriculture a focus of his foreign aid programs with mixed results. On the plus side, these initiatives are smart, cost-effective and potentially transformative. On the negative side, they’re boring. At a time when there’s a vigorous political debate in America about foreign aid, outreach to African farmers doesn’t wow Congress or the American people.
But if it’s boring, it’s also succeeding. I’m on my annual win-a-trip journey with a university student — this year, it’s Jordan Schermerhorn of Rice University — and we have seen fields here being irrigated for the first time, powered by foot pedal treadle pumps (resembling elliptical machines from an American gym).
Some of the farmers are trading up from foot power. Evelyn Kadzamira, a barefoot entrepreneur, showed off a $110 gas pump that she purchased with help from her village savings and loan association. She waters her crops with it and plans to soon start renting it out to others as well.
U.S.A.I.D. can work with only a tiny minority of farmers. But agricultural innovations can go viral, and that’s how Kadzamira got started.
“We saw others irrigate last year and were successful, while we didn’t irrigate and went hungry,” she said. “So, this year, we decided to irrigate.”
The backdrop is that for half a century, agriculture has been one of Africa’s failures. Agricultural yields in Africa are only one-third of the global average, and they have risen much more slowly than in the rest of the world. As a result, Africa’s share of global agricultural trade has fallen from 8 percent in 1960 to around 3 percent today, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute.
Only 3.5 percent of African crop land is irrigated, compared to 39 percent in South Asia, according to the United Nations. Asia applies almost 20 times as much fertilizer as Africa. And plant scientists have developed few crop varieties tailored for Africa.
The upshot is that about 47 percent of children under 5 years old in Malawi are stunted from malnutrition.
Yet now there are signs that African agriculture is poised to surge, despite warnings from climate scientists of weather changes linked to rising carbon emissions. The improved prospects reflect growing efforts to place agriculture at the center of efforts to fight poverty.
Malawi itself has also made progress by defying global experts and subsidizing fertilizer. This went against international advice — African governments have been pressured to cut subsidies of all kinds — but more fertilizer use led to huge increases in harvests, and Malawi has become a net corn exporter.
Another challenge for farmers has been poor storage: Up to 40 percent of the corn crop is lost after harvest because of rodents, insects and moisture. So CARE, the international aid group, is showing farmers how to construct mini-silos — made of mud, and resting on stilts — that reduce spoilage to about 5 percent.
In Kasungu, in northern Malawi, a woman named Viknesi Chimbonga showed me two of these new mud silos that she has built. These allow her to store her corn for months and sell it in the “hungry season” just before the next harvest, when prices are five times higher. Chimbonga never went to school at all, but she is planning to use the profits to send her son to university. He would be the first student from her village to go.
So, sure, there’s no less glamorous kind of foreign aid than chilies, irrigation pumps and mud silos. But if this kind of assistance can help end famine and emergency aid, and if it can send kids to college, then let’s celebrate boring aid!
In the poorest places, the lack of proper clothing costs lives. Now a simple and efficient program in India is attacking the problem with the urgency it deserves.
One of the most glaring oversights in the field of development is the lack of attention to clothing. Countless organizations work on food, energy, education, health care, economic opportunity — but beyond disaster relief efforts, you hear little about the need for clothes. In India, this makes no sense. Despite the explosion of growth in recent decades, hundreds of millions of Indians still live in conditions of extreme material deprivation. Somewhere between 40 percent and 80 percent of the population subsist on 50 or 60 cents a day, according to government estimates.
For very poor people, clothing is shelter. “In earthquakes, the shake kills people; in a tsunami, the water kills people; but in winter, the cold does not kill people. It’s the lack of proper clothing,” says Gupta. “Why don’t we consider lack of clothing a disaster?”
An awkward truth for bleeding hearts like myself is that there has never been much rigorous evidence that outside aid can sustainably lift people out of poverty.
Sure, evidence is overwhelming that aid can overcome disease, boost literacy and save lives. But raising incomes is trickier — and the evidence in that arena has been squishier.
Now that’s changing. A vast randomized trial — the gold standard of evidence — involving 21,000 people in six countries suggests that a particular aid package called the graduation program (because it aims to graduate people from poverty) gives very poor families a significant boost that continues after the program ends. Indeed, it’s an investment. In India, the economic return was a remarkable 433 percent.
The heart of this aid package? A cow. Or a few goats. Even bees.
Why would a cow have such an impact? This gets interesting: There’s some indication that one mechanism is hope. Whether in America or India, families that are stressed and impoverished — trapped in cycles of poverty — can feel a hopelessness that becomes self-fulfilling. Give people reason to hope that they can achieve a better life, and that, too, can be self-fulfilling.
Bleeding hearts, rejoice! One of the lessons of modern research is so simple and human: the power of hope to ease poverty.
In the graduation program, recipients of livestock were inspired to work more hours, even in areas unrelated to the livestock. They took more odd jobs. Their savings rose. Their mental health improved.
“Poverty is not just poverty of money or income,” noted Sir Fazle Abed, founder of a Bangladeshi aid group called BRAC that developed the graduation program. “We also see a poverty of self-esteem, hope, opportunity and freedom. People trapped in a cycle of destitution often don’t realize their lives can be changed for the better through their own activities. Once they understand that, it’s like a light gets turned on.”
Esther Duflo, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a co-author of the study, believes that’s right. “The mental health part is absolutely critical,” she said. “Poverty causes stress and depression and lack of hope, and stress and depression and lack of hope, in turn, cause poverty.”
Could hopelessness and stress create a “poverty trap” — abroad or here in the U.S. — in which people surrender to a kind of whirlpool of despair? Some economists and psychologists are finding evidence to support that theory, and experiments are underway to see if raising spirits can lift economic outcomes.
One study found that Ethiopians randomly assigned to watch an hourlong inspirational video ended up saving more and spending more on their children’s education, compared with participants randomly assigned to watch an hour of comedy television. The forward-leaning behaviors persisted in a six-month follow-up.
Researchers are now studying whether exposure to religion might have a similar effect, improving economic outcomes. If so, Marx had the wrong drug in mind: religion would not be an opiate of the masses but an amphetamine.
The graduation program is a bit similar to the model of the well-known group Heifer International, which I’ve written about before and provides “gifts of hope” such as heifers, goats and chickens to impoverished families. “There was a lot of excitement — with just a hint of smugness! — at Heifer at the published results,” said Pierre Ferrari, the president of Heifer. But the graduation model includes a couple of other elements.
The graduation program starts with a cow or other animals, as well as training on how to raise them. It includes months of food or cash support, partly to reduce the need to eat or sell the animal in a financial crisis. There’s a savings account (microlending has disappointed in randomized trials, but microsaving works very well), health education and regular coaching to reinforce skills and build confidence.
The study, which was just published in the journal Science, found that the graduation model was enormously successful in India, Ethiopia, Ghana and Pakistan, and somewhat less effective in Peru and in Honduras (where some animals died). A follow-up found the effects still strong three years after the donation of the animals.
Dean Karlan, a Yale economist who is co-author of the study, said that aid groups focused on very similar approaches include Trickle Up, the Boma Project, Village Enterprise and Fonkoze. Professor Karlan’s students in a seminar on philanthropy were given a pool of money from a foundation and the challenge to donate it where it would do the most good; they spent the term reviewing the evidence and, in the end, voted to donate it to Trickle Up.
So bleeding hearts, rejoice!
Much of the news about global poverty is depressing, but this is fabulous: a large-scale experiment showing, with rigorous evidence, what works to lift people out of the most extreme poverty. And it’s exhilarating that one of the lessons may be so simple and human: the power of hope.
Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has said he will donate his entire $32bn (£20bn; €29bn) fortune to charity.
Prince Alwaleed, 60, is one of the world's richest people.
He said he had been inspired by the Gates Foundation, set up by Bill and Melinda Gates in 1997.
The money would be used to "foster cultural understanding", "empower women", and "provide vital disaster relief", among other things, he said.
Mr Gates praised the decision, calling it an "inspiration to all of us working in philanthropy around the world".
Prince Alwaleed is at number 34 on the Forbes list of the world's richest people.
The money will go to the prince's charitable organisation, Alwaleed Philanthropies, to which he has already donated $3.5bn.
'Intrinsic part of my faith'
The prince, who does not hold an official government position, is chairman of investment firm Kingdom Holding Company.
The company owns stakes in hotels The Four Seasons, Fairmont and Raffles, as well as News Corp, Citigroup, Twitter and Apple.
The prince will be donating his personal wealth. "This is very much separate from my ownership in Kingdom Holding," he said at the announcement.
"Philanthropy is a personal responsibility, which I embarked upon more than three decades ago and is an intrinsic part of my Islamic faith," he added in a statement.
He said he hoped the gift would "help build bridges to foster cultural understanding, develop communities, empower women, enable youth, provide vital disaster relief and create a more tolerant and accepting world".
Prince Alwaleed's announcement comes during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims are encouraged to give charity and help the needy.
He said the donation would take place over several years and would be overseen by a board of trustees, which he will head.
Not whose turn it is to wash the dishes or take out the garbage, it seems, but headier stuff. The prospects for eradicating polio. The utility of empowering women. The best ways to save lives.
Oh, and maybe how much to acknowledge to a prying columnist that they sometimes do argue.
It has been 15 years since Bill and Melinda Gates created what is now the largest foundation in the world. This milestone seemed the right moment to ask them what they have learned from giving away $34 billion, what mistakes they have made, and what they disagree about.
But first, just a reminder of how historic this foundation has been. It has played a central role in a campaign to transform health and nutrition for the world’s poor.
In all of history, humans have eradicated only one disease affecting them, smallpox. Bill and Melinda Gates foresee eradicating four more in the next 15 years: polio and Guinea worm disease and, for the other two, perhaps elephantiasis and blinding trachoma. They say, quite plausibly, that we’ll be poised to eradicate malaria soon afterward and to make enormous progress against AIDS, too.
By my conservative back-of-envelope calculations, the world has saved more than 33 million children’s lives since the foundation was established (although obviously the foundation doesn’t get all the credit). And Bill and Melinda Gates foresee the world saving 61 million children’s lives over the next 15 years with the right investments, as child death rates drop more quickly than they ever have in the history of the world.
That’s the amazing news. In contrast, they acknowledge, the foundation’s investments in education here in the United States haven’t paid off as well.
“There’s no dramatic change,” Bill acknowledged. “It’s not like under-5 mortality, where you see this dramatic improvement.”
But both Bill and Melinda insist that they aren’t dispirited by the lack of transformational progress in education. “We’re still very committed,” Bill says.
One giant leap: Bill and Melinda say the foundation is now going to further expand beyond K-12 to also invest nationwide in early childhood programs. I’m thrilled, for I’m a believer that helping children aged 0 to 5 (when the brain is developing rapidly) is crucial for the most at-risk children.
So what mistakes did they make in their philanthropy? They say they started out too tech-focused. Now some of the measures they promote are distinctly low-tech — like breast-feeding, which could save the lives of more than 800,000 children worldwide each year.
Likewise, they say, they didn’t appreciate how hard it was to translate scientific breakthroughs into actual progress in remote villages. The challenges of delivering real impact, in environments where nothing works as anticipated, were far greater than expected.
That challenge is what led them to focus on gender and empowering women, which they initially had neglected but came to see as crucial to getting things done. The foundation has invested in areas like contraceptives, women’s self-help groups and battling sex trafficking.
There’s sometimes a debate about who saved the most lives worldwide. Edward Jenner, of the smallpox vaccine? Fritz Haber, who laid the basis for modern fertilizers (and also explosives)? Norman Borlaug of the green revolution? James Grant, who directed child survival campaigns? Bill and Melinda Gates could be contenders if their health and nutrition investments pay off in coming decades.
But when I asked about their legacy, Bill didn’t much want to talk about it.
“Legacy?” he asked. “We don’t optimize for that.”
So, finally, what do Bill and Melinda disagree on?
Ah, here the conversation gets a little awkward. Bill clams up; Melinda is only a bit more forthcoming.
“On the foundation, there’s always a lot of pillow talk,” Melinda said. “We do push hard on each other.”
There is a hushed marital discussion.
I gather from hints that follow that Melinda has been more enthusiastic about gender issues and family planning, while Bill worried that metrics in the area are squishy. Conversely, Bill is fervent about science research and polio, while Melinda pushes him to consider how well those investments will translate into real-life gains.
It also seems that on trips, Bill thought Melinda focused too much on field visits, while Melinda thought Bill spent too much time with officials. But they seem experienced at listening to each other, adjusting, and working things out. “We trust each other,” Melinda says. Kind of like any good couple, I guess — just with higher stakes.
They also teach each other, Melinda says. In the case of gender, they’ve followed her lead in investing in contraception but also they developed new metrics to satisfy Bill.
So among their lessons learned from 15 years of philanthropy, one applies to any couple, even nonbillionaires:
Generation empowered: UBC social entrepreneurs lighting up rural Tanzania
When Naeem Mawji, M.Eng 2015, and founder of Jamii Power, talks about bringing sustainable, profitable electricity to rural Tanzania, you hear the words not of a dreamer, but those of a problem solver.
His message has resonated with audiences at last year’s UBC President’s Installation Panel Discussion, “Generation Empowered,” and five years ago at TEDxTerryTalks 2010.
“We are not doing this because we are doing something good. We are doing this because we think we can. It’s a massive challenge. We want to be the ones to resolve it, and we believe we are the ones who can resolve it.”
Mawji grew up the son of a civil engineer in Tanzania. He and his younger brother, Aleem (co-founder of Jamii and now a UBC mechanical engineering student), spent their school breaks in rural villages with their father, Anil, a builder of schools, community centre and dams.
“Unlike people from cities, we spent a lot of our childhood in the villages. We speak Swahili and could absorb the culture. That’s how we were exposed to the challenges these communities face.
“And, coming from a family of entrepreneurs, we saw opportunities in these areas, and saw ways to open up possibilities,” says Mawji.
Mawji was also inspired by his Ismaili faith, and particularly the words of the Aga Khan, who urges the fortunate to touch the less fortunate “with the spark which ignites the spirit of individual enterprise and determination.” While an undergrad in chemical engineering at UBC, Mawji started an electrification project in the village of Masurura, near his home town of Musoma. The project, called “Kuwasha” (“to ignite” in Swahili), was a collaboration between the Masurura village, the Musoma District Council, and the UBC Centre for International Health.
“I grew up during power rationing, and have seen how people in rural areas use kerosene to illuminate their homes and some of the dangers associated with that,” says Mawji. “So Aleem and I started Kuwasha to address the lack of electricity and lighting in small Tanzanian villages.”
Mawji and his brother wanted to prompt interactivity in the village by using solar power to illuminate the village’s community gathering places. The project helped “open up time,” in Mawji’s words, so that villagers could interact outside the working day.
While a success, the project illustrated the limitations of small electrification projects. Private solar generators only replace one source of illumination (kerosene) with another. Moreover, they are difficult and expensive to maintain. Worst, because they are DC-power systems, useful appliances cannot be hooked to them without more investment.
“We needed a new approach that would give them the same sort of system any urban person would have,” says Mawji. “We wanted them to just be able to plug in to have broadly useable electricity.”
The Mawji brothers came up with Jamii Power, a concept built around a central 33kWp solar plant sufficient to supply 230V AC power to 150–200 village homes. The power plant is modular and can be installed in just two weeks.
“We build the grid the week before the container [containing the power plant and solar panels] shows up, using locally sourced wires, poles, etc.,” says Mawji. “Once the container arrives, we set up the plant, and then use the container as housing for the plant.”
The Jamii Power model addresses all the challenges raised in Mawji’s Kuwasha project.
“First, we supply AC power, so they can use appliances. Second, we make the necessary investments in the plant, depending on demand. And third, our team handles maintenance, which we can do far more cheaply than an individual could.”
But the success of the first Jamii Power project raised scaling issues, which kept the idea from being a sustainable business. So Mawji turned to UBC and Sauder for help.
“The issues were not technical so much as they were social,” says Mawji. “For example, the community does not have access to banks or credit, so collecting revenue is a nightmare once you expand from a few units to a whole village or many villages.”
Load management was also an issue. Solar power can only be generated in daytime and can only be stored in batteries. There is no way to import power from another village with a surplus.
“To solve the capacity problem, I wanted to look at other sources of electricity. So I joined the UBC Engineering’s Clean Energy program to learn more about technologies, such as bio-mass and micro-hydro power, I could incorporate into the project.
“And I wanted to use the entrepreneurship track to learn more about the business side. That’s where Sauder came in,” says Mawji.
In September 2013, Mawji joined UBC’s Lean LaunchPad accelerator program: an intense eight weeks where the ideas of budding entrepreneurs are ruthlessly picked apart from every angle.
“[Instructor] Paul Cubbon and [entrepreneur] Blair Simonite helped us narrow down to the four key ‘pains’ so we could explain it to people who are unfamiliar with Africa and rural electricity.
“The semester after that, I got into the Technology Entrepreneurship course taught by Cubbon and [Professor] Thomas Hellman. And that is where we took the idea further, getting into the details of what the Jamii business model would look like,” says Mawji.
Armed with his education from UBC, Mawji, 28, now works full-time at Jamii Power in Tanzania, using the firm to also complete his masters project. Brother Aleem, who is 21, divides his time between his UBC engineering co-op work for Teck Highland Valley Copper in Logan Lake, and working at a distance on the Jamii project.
Cubbon continues to follow Mawji and Jamii Power with interest: “Naeem is a UBC entrepreneur that put his company front and centre to help solve a major global societal problem. Sauder and e@UBC continue to stay in contact with Naeem and Jamii to support him where possible.
”Naeem is still developing Jamii Power’s business model, but he is determined to bring sustainable electrification to the villages in a way that all parties, not least Jamii Power, profit and develop. He sees it as an obligation.”
Mawji reflects: “I believe people shouldn’t do things because they feel good about it. They should do it because they can. Because once you have the ability, you have the responsibility. If you don’t, you have denied yourself and the world. Simple as that.”
This article originally appeared on the Spring 2015 issue of Viewpoints magazine.
Creator of 5-hour Energy Wants to Power the World's Homes—With Bikes
The mystery man behind the popular caffeine shot plans to roll out 10,000 stationary bikes next year in India.
The man who created the 5-hour Energy drink says he has more money than he needs—about $4 billion more. So he’s giving it away, spending his fortune on a quest to fix the world's biggest problems, including energy.
Manoj Bhargava has built a stationary bike to power the millions of homes worldwide that have little or zero electricity. Early next year in India, he plans to distribute 10,000 of his Free Electric battery-equipped bikes, which he says will keep lights and basic appliances going for an entire day with one hour of pedaling.
Bhargava, who dropped out of Princeton University after a year because he was bored and then lived in ashrams for 12 years in his native India, doesn’t stop at bikes. He’s working on ways to make saltwater drinkable, enhance circulation in the body, and secure limitless amounts of clean geothermal energy—via a graphene cord.
“If you have wealth, it’s a duty to help those who don’t,” says Michigan resident Bhargava, 62, in a documentary released Monday, Billions in Change, about his Stage 2 Innovations lab. “Make a difference in people’s lives,” he says, “Don’t just talk about it.”
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Could his bike really work? Will people want it or even have room for it in their homes? It holds “huge potential and opportunity for rural households,” says Ajaita Shah, CEO of Frontier Markets, a company selling solar lamps and lighting kits in India. (Read about her work.) She says she’d like to test the bike with her rural customers.
“It’s so simple that we think we can make it for $100 … A bicycle repairman anywhere can fix it,” Bhargava says in an interview. Pedaling turns a turbine generator that creates electricity, stored in a battery. The first 50 bikes will be tested in 15 or 20 small villages in the northern state of Uttarakhand before a major rollout in the first quarter of next year. He says they’ll be made in India but doesn’t give details.
WATCH: See the trailer for the film Billions in Change.
Who Is He?
Bhargava’s a bit of a mystery man. He grew up in an affluent home with servants in India, but his family struggled financially after coming to the United States when he was 14. He worked odd jobs and got academic scholarships. “It was worth a year,” he says of studying math at Princeton. After a spiritual quest in India, he built companies, including Living Essentials, maker of the popular two-ounce caffeine shot that’s sold at checkout counters.
Though generally low-profile, he’s not without controversy. He’s sued to fend off copycats of his blockbuster product and countered challenges from state attorneys general for alleged deceptive marketing. The Center for Public Integrity dubbed him the “political kingmaker nobody knows,” saying he’s donated millions to mostly GOP political candidates via limited liability companies.
Also unknown: exactly how much money he has. The documentary says his net worth is $4 billion, but Forbes does not list him among America’s richest 400 people, which includes those with at least $1.7 billion. Bhargava has said it’s difficult to put a specific valuation on his private companies, but he’s signed the Giving Pledge, a Bill Gates-led challenge for the rich to donate their fortunes to charitable causes.
He says he didn’t want to “ruin” his son by giving him money. “I told him when he was 10, 'You’re not getting anything.' His attitude: 'Great. I want to do it on my own,'” Bhargava says about his now adult son.
Instead Bhargava has funded hospitals in India and his cutting-edge Stage2 lab in Farmington Hills, Michigan, begun in 2011 with former Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda. “It’s the most well-funded playhouse for engineers you can possibly have,” lab engineer Kevin Moran says in the documentary.
This is going to affect a few billion people.
Big Problems, Simple Fixes
Bhargava’s team has come up with innovative ideas in health, water, and energy. It’s pursuing Renew, a medical device that functions as an auxiliary heart by squeezing blood from the legs into the body’s core.
To address drought, it’s building the Rain Maker to convert 1,000 gallons an hour of any kind of water into drinkable water. Bhargava says potable water could be piped from offshore barges with this machine, now being tested at a desalination research facility in New Mexico.
He has an even grander idea—one aimed at nixing the world’s reliance on fossil fuels, which emit greenhouse gases when burned. Whatever people think of climate change, he says in the documentary, “pollution is a problem.” His answer: tap the heat from deep beneath the Earth.
While geothermal energy is already widely used in some countries, including Indonesia and Iceland, Bhargava takes a novel approach. Rather than using steam—mixed with chemicals—to bring the heat to the surface, he would instead pull it up with a graphene cord. He notes graphene, stronger than steel, is an incredible conductor of heat.
“You don’t need to burn anything…Once you bring [heat] up, you don’t change any of the infrastructure,” he says, explaining that utilities could simply distribute it instead of coal, oil, or natural gas.
“That’s going to be, in my mind, the final answer,” he says, estimating this type of geothermal could replace 85 percent of today’s fossil fuels. He says maps show half of the world has plentiful underground heat, and since graphene cables could run horizontally, they could route it to the other half as well.
“I think someone’s going to kill me,” he says with a laugh, noting how such an idea could upset geopolitics. He’s working with a graphene research center in Singapore to develop a cable and plans to have pictures available later this year.
It’s not giving back. It’s what else am I going to do?
The Bike Ridden Round the World?
Bhargava gets most animated when talking about his graphene cable, but he sees the most immediate potential in Free Electric. He says it could provide electricity for the developing world and offer post-storm backup power in wealthier countries.
SAN FRANCISCO — THE enduring credo of Silicon Valley is that innovation, not money, is its guiding purpose and that world-changing technology is its true measure of worth.
Wealth is treated as a pleasant byproduct, a bit like weight loss after rugged adventure travel.
The tech world is home to some of the planet’s wealthiest entrepreneurs and most dynamic philanthropists, 21st-century heirs to Carnegie and Rockefeller who say they can apply the same ingenuity and zeal that made them rich to making the rest of the world less poor. San Francisco also has one of the highest levels of income inequality in the nation, with the wealth distortion most concentrated among the very people who are driving the economy as a whole.
A similar paradox seeps into philanthropy. Tech entrepreneurs believe their charitable giving is bolder, bigger and more data-driven than anywhere else — and in many ways it is. But despite their flair for disruption, these philanthropists are no more interested in radical change than their more conservative predecessors. They don’t lobby for the redistribution of wealth; instead, they see poverty and inequality as an engineering problem, and the solution is their own brain power, not a tithe.
The fabulously wealthy who won’t be leaving a fortune to their kids
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More and more rich people are only leaving their offspring a fraction of their fortune, for a variety of different reasons. We take a look at 20 famous names whose kids won’t be inheriting their wealth.
DURING this season of giving, I will join millions of Americans in volunteering to feed the homeless, contributing to clothing drives and donating to poverty-fighting charities. Yet I worry that through these acts of kindness, I absolve myself of asking deeper questions about injustice and inequality. We Americans are a remarkably bighearted people, but I believe the purpose of our philanthropy must not only be generosity, but justice.
The origins of formal philanthropy date from at least 1889, when the American industrialist Andrew Carnegie composed his “Gospel of Wealth.” He drafted this intellectual charter at the peak of the Gilded Age, when inequality had reached extreme levels. Carnegie argued, as many still do, that inequality on this scale is an unavoidable condition of the free-market system — and that it was even desirable, if the promise of wealth incentivized hard work. Philanthropy, he believed, would ease the pressure of rising social anxiety that followed from inequality — ameliorating the afflictions of the market without altering the market system itself.
During the 20th century, an entire field of institutional philanthropy emerged and flourished in the pattern of Carnegie’s mold. Iconic American families — Gates, Knight, MacArthur, Mellon, Rockefeller — endowed and expanded foundations that built schools and libraries, developed new vaccines, revolutionized agriculture and advanced human freedom. My own organization, the Ford Foundation, has given billions to support everything from public television in the United States to microlending in Bangladesh.
Our work has been indisputably for the good: Millions of people around the world have access to new tools and resources with which to improve their lives. A few months ago, the World Bank estimated that, for the first time in history, fewer than one in 10 human beings lives in extreme poverty. This is progress.
And yet, for all the advances made in the last century, society’s challenges may have outpaced philanthropy’s resources. Today, the cumulative wealth of the most generous donors seems a pittance compared with the world’s trillions of dollars’ worth of need. Generosity, blooming as it may be from legacies of both Carnegie’s age and the newly enriched, is no longer enough.
The world may need a reimagined charter of philanthropy — a “Gospel of Wealth” for the 21st century — that serves not just American philanthropists, but the vast array of new donors emerging around the world.
This new gospel might begin where the previous one fell short: addressing the underlying causes that perpetuate human suffering. In other words, philanthropy can no longer grapple simply with what is happening in the world, but also with how and why.
Feeding the hungry is among our society’s most fundamental obligations, but we should also question why our neighbors are without nutritious food to eat. Housing the homeless is an imperative, but we should also question why our housing markets are so distorted. As a nation, we need more investment in education, but not without questioning educational disparities based on race, class and geography.
Our self-awareness — our humility — shouldn’t be limited to examining the problems. It should include the structures of solutions, like giving itself. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said not long before his assassination, “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.” It is, after all, an offspring of the free market; it is enabled by returns on capital.
And yet, too often, we have declined to question our own circumstances: a system that produces vast differences in privilege, and then tasks the most privileged with improving the system.
Whatever our intentions, the truth is that we can inadvertently widen inequality in the course of making money, even though we claim to support equality and justice when giving it away. And while our end-of-year giving might support worthy organizations, we must also ask if these financial donations contribute to larger social change.
In other words, “giving back” is necessary, but not sufficient. We should seek to bring about lasting, systemic change, even if that change might adversely affect us. We must bend each act of generosity toward justice.
We, as foundations and individuals, should fund people, their ideas and organizations that are capable of addressing deep-rooted injustice. We should ensure that the voices of those most affected by injustice — women, racial minorities, the poor, religious and ethnic minorities and L.G.B.T. individuals — help decide where and what philanthropy puts money behind, not in simply receiving whatever philanthropy decides to give them.
We can wield data and technology, see through a diversity of viewpoints, and draw upon a century of philanthropy’s success and failure to identify and address the barriers holding people back.
This modern giving charter should look different in different settings. At the Ford Foundation, our efforts will focus on inequality: not just wealth disparities, but injustices in politics, culture and society that compound inequality and limit opportunity. We will ask questions like, are we hearing — and heeding — those who understand the problems best? What can we do to leverage our privilege to disrupt the drivers of inequality?
Others in philanthropy will take different, but no less effective, approaches. Many already are answering King’s call, working intensely toward a world that renders philanthropy unnecessary. Ultimately, we each must do our part to ensure that giving not only makes us feel better, but also makes our society more just.
It’s hard to think of a tougher challenge than accelerating humanity’s transition to nonpolluting energy sources and limiting global warming, especially in a world with abundant fossil fuels and fast-growing energy needs.
But that’s the assignment that Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder and world’s richest person, has set out to tackle with a new multibillion-dollar fund that will invest in research on potentially breakthrough clean-energy technologies. He expects to double his clean-energy investments to $2 billion over the next five years.
Mr. Gates sat down recently with me to discuss the undertaking in his first extended interview since he announced the effort in December at the Paris climate conference. He called himself an “impatient optimist” but acknowledged that transitions in the field of energy were implicitly harder and slower than in sectors like information technology and medicine, where he has experience.
SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a goal that's even more ambitious than connecting the entire world to the internet: He and his wife want to help eradicate all disease by the end of this century.
Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan are committing $3 billion over the next 10 years to accelerate basic scientific research, including the creation of research tools — from software to hardware to yet-undiscovered techniques — they hope will ultimately lead to scientific breakthroughs, the way the microscope and DNA sequencing have in generations past.
The goal, which they are unlikely to live to see accomplished, is to "cure, prevent or manage all disease" in the next 80 or so years. They acknowledge that this might sound a crazy, but point to how far medicine and science have come in the last century — with vaccines, statins for heart disease, chemotherapy, and so on — following millennia with little progress.
Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan Pledge $3 Billion to Fighting Disease
SAN FRANCISCO — Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, last year said they would give 99 percent of their Facebook shares to charitable causes. Now they are putting a large chunk of that money to work.
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the limited liability company into which Mr. Zuckerberg and Dr. Chan put their Facebook shares, on Wednesday said it would invest at least $3 billion over the next decade toward preventing, curing or managing all diseases by the end of the century.
Philanthropy 360º: Aleem Walji, CEO, Aga Khan Foundation USA
Published on Oct 4, 2016
Philanthropy 360º is a series of interviews with leaders in the world of strategic giving. Produced by the Global Philanthropy Forum, Philanthropy 360º seeks to inspire and inform. Each video includes a unique perspective on effective philanthropy and strategic giving.
To join the conversation, follow @GPForg on Twitter or visit philanthropyforum.org.
Surat diamond merchant gifts 400 flats, 1,260 cars to his employees as Diwali gifts
Nav Gujarat Samay | Updated: Oct 28, 2016, 12.47 AM IST
Savji Dholakia, Surat-based diamond merchant..
SURAT: Savji Dholakia, a Surat-based billionaire diamond merchant who famously made his son do odd jobs to learn the value of money, has gifted 400 flats and 1,260 cars as Diwali bonuses to his employees. .
Hare Krishna Exports, Dholakia's diamond firm, has spent Rs 51 crores on Diwali bonuses this year, its golden jubilee. As many as 1,716 employees were named as the company's best performers. .
The bonuses, which were announced at an informal meeting of employees on Tuesday, have been an annual ritual at Hare Krishna Exports since 2011.
Last year, Dholakia's company gifted 491 cars and 200 flats to its employees. The year before that, it spent Rs. 50 crore on performance incentives, Dholakia said.
Dholakia, who hails from Dudhala village in Amreli district, established and grew his diamond business using a loan from his uncle. His considerable wealth wasn't earned overnight, and he has sought to impart that wisdom to his son Dravya, whom he sent to Kochi with three sets of clothing and Rs 7,000 emergency money, so that the young man could learn what's it's like to stand on his own feet.
For Melinda Gates, Birth Control Is Women’s Way Out of Poverty
Credit Jemal Countess/Getty Images
Melinda Gates has made providing poor women in developing countries access to contraception a mission. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which she leads with her husband, has donated more than $1 billion for family planning efforts and will spend about $180 million more this year.
Since 2012, she has helped lead an international campaign to get birth control to 120 million more women by 2020. Four years later, a report explains why achieving that goal is proving tougher than expected. This is a condensed and edited version of our conversation about family planning.
Why is this the cause of your life?
If you allow a woman — if you counsel her so it’s truly voluntary — to have a contraceptive tool and she can space those births, it unlocks the cycle of poverty for her. In the early days, I’d be out traveling for the foundation, I’d be there to talk to women about vaccines, I’m going be frank, for their children, and what they would say to me is: ‘O.K., I have questions for you. What about that contraceptive, how come I can’t get it anymore?’ To me, it’s one of the greatest injustices.
One of the statistics in the report that most struck me was that contraception prevented tens of millions of unsafe abortions by preventing unwanted pregnancies. You’re Roman Catholic. Is that part of the moral imperative for you?
Yeah. I mean this is obviously something I’ve had to wrestle with very deeply. The Catholic Church doesn’t even believe in these forms of modern contraceptives. I’m in the developing world minimum three times a year now, and I’m out in slums, in townships, in the rural area, and when you see a needless death of a woman or a child because she literally just didn’t have a very inexpensive tool that we not only believe in, we use in the United States — more than 93 percent of married Catholic women report using contraceptives — the moral imperative is that we give these women what we believe in and actually use.
Bill Gates says the world is not prepared to cope with a deadly flu epidemic
Bill Gates has warned that the world's emergency response systems are not yet strong enough to cope with a deadly flu epidemic - one he is crossing his fingers will not arise in the next 10 years.
The Microsoft co-founder said the Ebola and Zika virus crises showed that global health infrastructure had room for improvement, the BBC reported.
The philanthropic Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation counts tackling disease, including pneumonia, malaria and polio, among its objectives.
Mr. Gates told Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England, on the Today program:
“When we've seen Ebola or even now Zika, we realize we still haven't done enough.
“Our ability to create new drugs and vaccines quickly where we have an emerging disease, our emergency response system where we get people in and try and stop these epidemics - we don't have a strong enough system.”
Bill Gates is teaming up with world leaders to stop the next deadly pandemic
In partnership with several world leaders, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has launched a coalition to prevent pandemics through the development of new vaccines.
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 18.
Governments from Germany, Japan, and Norway have pooled funds along with the Gates Foundation to raise a total of $490 million so far. The target is $1 billion, which CEPI says will help finance the first five years of research and development.
"Ebola and Zika showed that the world is tragically unprepared to detect local outbreaks and respond quickly enough to prevent them from becoming global pandemics," Bill Gates said in a statement. "Without investments in research and development, we will remain unequipped when we face the next threat."
Between 2014 and the end of 2016, when Ebola and Zika outbreaks hit their peak, cases rose into the hundreds of thousands. Roughly half of all Ebola cases in West Africa — or some 286,000 diagnoses, according to the CDC — led to death. They were concentrated primarily in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s manifesto about community, released last week on Facebook, wisely analyzed the state of journalism: He decried sensationalism, and declared that “a strong news industry is also critical to building an informed community.” Giving people a voice, he said, “is not enough without having people dedicated to uncovering new information and analyzing it.” He even noted that “reading local news is directly correlated with local civic engagement.”
Unfortunately, his memo ignored two major points — the role that Facebook and other technology platforms are playing in inadvertently damaging local news media, and the one way they could actually save journalism: with a massive philanthropic commitment.
Local news is weak in large part because the business models have collapsed. The main reason: As advertising spending shifted from print, TV and radio to the internet, the money didn’t mostly go to digital news organizations. Increasingly, it goes to Facebook and Google.
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