The Jury is composed of individuals of high moral stature with a demonstrated commitment to the ideals of the United Nations who have distinguished themselves in their respective careers…(United Nations Statement)
Ten years after the Palermo Protocol, top world personalities will convene from December 10-12 in an International Forum in Luxor, Egypt, to outline a roadmap for ending human trafficking. The Forum is organized by End Human Trafficking Now! and The Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT).
The Luxor Forum will aim to achieve the following:
1. Fully capture the various dimensions of human trafficking as a modern form of slavery and the heavy toll it poses to human dignity and security;
2. Engage moral figures, business leaders, artists and academics to assume the role of champions of this worthy cause;
3. Build on the dynamism and power of youth to jointly develop tangible solutions to combat human trafficking. A special effort will be made to link with other campaigns such as human rights protection,violence against women and children, HIV/AIDS, and the campaign against missing children.
End Human Trafficking Now!, is an initiative of the Suzanne Mubarak Women‘s International Peace Movement (SMWIPM). It is the first global campaign to involve the business community in anti- trafficking efforts. Most anti-trafficking initiatives today have been undertaken by governments and NGOs. Very few programmes have actually engaged the business sector and made use of their global reach and network of connections.
“Luxor is a call to fully engage the private sector in the fight against human trafficking,” said Egypt’s First Lady. ”Today‘s economic engine is enterprises, and their social responsibility is pivotal for putting an end to this terrible scourge,” she added.
The Luxor International Forum has resonated well with the business community, which will be represented by CEOs of major corporations covering very diverse sectors – from Oil to Tourism.
One of the main messages of the Luxor Forum is that no country is exempt. With an estimated 27 million victims, Human Trafficking is the world‘s second most profitable crime, after Arms. And it is a crime that knows no boundaries. According to the International Labour Organizarion (ILO), forced labour of trafficked persons raises profits of US$ 38 billion a year, including US$ 28 billion from the sexual exploitation of women and children, half of which is in industrialised countries. This has been exacerbated by globalisation, including the use of the Internet.
Illegal trafficking also brings huge and quick benefits. Traffickers can be ‘reimbursed’ within three months of their ‘investment’, while the victims can be sold over and over again, making this crime highly lucrative.
“I thought slavery had died out hundreds of years ago,” said Sir Richard Branson, Chairman, Virgin Group. “It was only recently that I found out that human trafficking still existed.”
The Forum wants to make it clear that slavery is still very real and needs to be eradicated. With a unique mix of participants – youth, media, government, the entertainment industry – the Luxor Forum hopes to provide a platform for the business community to diversify its partners, understand its responsibility within its own area of operation, and identify and share its role within the anti-trafficking campaign.
On the last day a prestigious jury including Suzanne Mubarak, Princess Mathilde of Belgium and the 49th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, will present the first-ever award in history to recognize a business executive‘s energy and commitment in tackling human trafficking.
In a statement the United Nations said that the jury is “composed of individuals of high moral stature with demonstrated commitment to the ideals of the United Nations.”
The Evaluation and Selection process for the Award is as follows:
1. Qualifying entries were reviewed by members of the Advisory Committee who used an average score system to produce a shortlist of 25 candidates.
2. A detailed reference and fact check of the short listed candidates was then conducted by the award secretariat.
3. This was followed by a second round of screening by the Advisory Committee using a preferential voting system to select five nominees for consideration by the Jury.
4. A further evaluation of the five finalists was then conducted, including include site visits and one-on-one interviews to provide in-depth information on the businesses executive and the initiative.
5. The five final candidates were informed of their position and invited to the award ceremony to be held in Luxor in 12 December 2010, where a final decision on the winner of the award will be taken by the Jury .
The trophy will take the form of a glass sculpture of symbolic and artistic value, designed exclusively by luxury watch, jewellery, and accessories designer Chopard. This will be accompanied by a certificate of commendation signed by the jury members. There is no monetary prize attached to the award.
The Award Ceremony will take place every two years at the end of the award cycle.
The Jury and their Terms of Reference:
The Jury is composed of individuals of high moral stature with a demonstrated commitment to the ideals of the United Nations who have distinguished themselves in their respective careers. Members of the Jury serve in their individual capacity.
The Jury functions as an independent body responsible for the selection of the winner for each award cycle. The decisions of the Jury are final.
Her Excellency Suzanne Mubarak
Founder and President of the Women’s International Peace Movement
H.E. Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, wife of Egypt’s President Mubarak, is a social scientist and Founder and President of the Women’s International Peace Movement She spent her early career studying closely disadvantaged communities to understand better ways and means of improving their living conditions. These early experiences have greatly shaped her outlook and determination to place the human being at the centre of all development activities.
His Highness the Aga Khan
His Highness the Aga Khan, a direct lineal descendant of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), is the 49th hereditary Imam – spiritual leader – of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. Consistent with general Muslim tradition, the Imam’s mandate is to guide his community in matters of faith, and to work for its security and improved quality of life, alongside that of wider society. The Aga Khan is the founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a group of non-denominational international development agencies, active in 38 countries, dedicated to improving the quality of life of vulnerable societies.
Mr. Antonio Maria Costa
Mr. Antonio Maria Costa served as Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Director-General of the United Nations Office in Vienna (UNOV) from 2002 to 2010. Mr. Costa was born in Italy. He holds a degree in political science from the University of Turin (1963), a Degree in mathematical economics from the Moscow State University (1967), and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley (1971). From 1969 to 1983, Mr. Costa served as senior economist in the United Nations Department of International Economics and Social Affairs in New York.
Mr. Georg Kell
Georg Kell is the Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest voluntary corporate responsibility initiative with More than 6,000 participants in over 130 countries. Spanning More than two decades, his career with the United Nations began in 1987 at the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Geneva. In 1997, Mr. Kell joined the Office of the UN Secretary-General in New York
Mr. Henrik O. Madsen
Dr. Madsen is the President and CEO of Det Norske Veritas (DNV), a leading international provider of services for managing risk and an independent foundation with the purpose of safeguarding life, property and the environment. Dr. Madsen began his career in DNV in Oslo in 1982 as Chief Scientist in Structural Reliability Analysis. Since then Dr. Madsen has held various leading positions in DNV. In May 2006, Dr. Madsen assumed the position as President and CEO of DNV. He introduced ambitious strategic goals for DNV to grow and focus its services towards selected industry sectors. Dr. Madsen’s attention today is very much focused on corporate responsibility, environment and climate change issues, and how DNV can contribute to a safe and sustainable future. Dr. Madsen is a Council member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).
January 14, 2011
Sacrificing Microcredit for Megaprofits
By MUHAMMAD YUNUS
IN the 1970s, when I began working here on what would eventually be called “microcredit,” one of my goals was to eliminate the presence of loan sharks who grow rich by preying on the poor. In 1983, I founded Grameen Bank to provide small loans that people, especially poor women, could use to bring themselves out of poverty. At that time, I never imagined that one day microcredit would give rise to its own breed of loan sharks.
But it has. And as a result, many borrowers in India have been defaulting on their microloans, which could then result in lenders being driven out of business. India’s crisis points to a clear need to get microcredit back on track.
Troubles with microcredit began around 2005, when many lenders started looking for ways to make a profit on the loans by shifting from their status as nonprofit organizations to commercial enterprises. In 2007, Compartamos, a Mexican bank, became Latin America’s first microcredit bank to go public. And this past August, SKS Microfinance, the largest bank of its kind in India, raised $358 million in an initial public offering.
To ensure that the small loans would be profitable for their shareholders, such banks needed to raise interest rates and engage in aggressive marketing and loan collection. The kind of empathy that had once been shown toward borrowers when the lenders were nonprofits disappeared. The people whom microcredit was supposed to help were being harmed. In India, borrowers came to believe lenders were taking advantage of them, and stopped repaying their loans.
Commercialization has been a terrible wrong turn for microfinance, and it indicates a worrying “mission drift” in the motivation of those lending to the poor. Poverty should be eradicated, not seen as a money-making opportunity.
There are serious practical problems with treating microcredit as an ordinary profit-maximizing business. Instead of creating wholesale funds dedicated to lending money to microfinance institutions, as Bangladesh has done, these commercial organizations raise larger sums in volatile international financial markets, and then transmit financial risks to the poor.
Furthermore, it means commercial microcredit institutions are subject to demands for ever-increasing profits, which can only come in the form of higher interest rates charged to the poor, defeating the very purpose of the loans.
Some advocates of commercialization say it’s the only way to attract the money that’s needed to expand the availability of microcredit and to “liberate” the system from dependence on foundations and other charitable donors. But it is possible to harness investment in microcredit — and even make a profit — without working through either charities or global financial markets.
Grameen Bank, where I am managing director, has 2,500 branches in Bangladesh. It lends out more than $100 million a month, from loans of less than $10 for beggars in our “Struggling Members” program, to micro-enterprise loans of about $1,000. Most branches are financially self-reliant, dependent only on deposits from ordinary Bangladeshis. When borrowers join the bank, they open a savings account. All borrowers have savings accounts at the bank, many with balances larger than their loans. And every year, the bank’s profits are returned to the borrowers — 97 percent of them poor women — in the form of dividends.
More microcredit institutions should adopt this model. The community needs to reaffirm the original definition of microcredit, abandon commercialization and turn back to serving the poor.
Stricter government regulation could help. The maximum interest rate should not exceed the cost of the fund — meaning the cost that is incurred by the bank to procure the money to lend — plus 15 percent of the fund. That 15 percent goes to cover operational costs and contribute to profit. In the case of Grameen Bank, the cost of fund is 10 percent. So, the maximum interest rate could be 25 percent. However, we charge 20 percent to the borrowers. The ideal “spread” between the cost of the fund and the lending rate should be close to 10 percent.
To enforce such a cap, every country where microloans are made needs a microcredit regulatory authority. Bangladesh, which has the most microcredit borrowers per square mile in the world, has had such an authority for several years, and it is devoted to ensuring transparency in lending and prevented excessive interest rates and collection practices. In the future, it may be able to accredit microfinance banks. India, with its burgeoning microcredit sector, is most in need of a similar agency.
There are always people eager to take advantage of the vulnerable. But credit programs that seek to profit from the suffering of the poor should not be described as “microcredit,” and investors who own such programs should not be allowed to benefit from the trust and respect that microcredit banks have rightly earned.
Governments are responsible for preventing such abuse. In 1997, then First Lady Hillary Clinton and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh met with other world leaders to commit to providing 100 million poor people with microloans and other financial services by 2005. At the time, it looked like an utterly impossible task, but by 2006 we had achieved it. World leaders should come together again to provide the powerful and visionary leadership to help steer microcredit back on course.
Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.
Religious institutions, traditionally the principal drivers of philanthropy in India, are rethinking their strategies and anecdotal examples show this shift is happening across all denominations
Mumbai: Normally, the Rural Development and Self Employment Training Institute (Rudset), a programme kicked off by the Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara Educational Trust, would have been viewed as a routine project, albeit a little different, designed to provide a launch pad to budding rural entrepreneurs. It isn’t actually. The joint venture, which includes Syndicate Bank and Canara Bank as partners, is unique because of its third stakeholder: the Lord Manjutha Swamy Temple. Based out of Ujire, Karnataka, it is a pilot project, started in 1982 that helps unemployed young men and women set up businesses in just 30 days. “We help them get the business model in place, help them get loans, teach them the concepts of running a business, and hand-hold them as they become rural entrepreneurs,” said Veerendra Heggade, the chief priest of the temple.
Anecdotally, it is yet another example about how religious institutions, traditionally the principal drivers of philanthropy in India, are rethinking their strategies: teaching people how to fish instead of handing out fish. Empirically, it is difficult to establish. Not because of a lack of numbers. Instead, it has to do with the fact that there is no national database to tap.
For instance, the charity commission office of Mumbai knows there are more than 7,200 religious trusts in the city alone, but it is yet to reach out to counterparts elsewhere in the state and country to draw up a bigger picture. It is not surprising, therefore, that there is also no record of donations. A clerk who handles the religious trusts at the commission’s office in Mumbai, but did not want to be identified, admitted that even though all are required to submit audits under the Bombay Public Trusts Act, many of them do not do so until they are forced to.
Yet there are scores of examples to suggest that Heggade’s initiative is not the only one. According to him, the government now wants to take the programme national. “The bottom line is that if someone in the village wants to be self-employed, he should have help. We offer that help and monitor his progress for two years after,” said Heggade, adding that he already runs 25 such institutions across India and is willing to train personnel for all the new institutes the government will set up.
Other stories in the series
The field they deal with
The use of religion to spur this new brand of philanthropy could be potentially powerful. According to the 2001 census, of the country’s 1.02 billion population, the proportion of Hindus was 80.5%, of Muslims was 13.4%, of Christians was 2.3%, and of Sikhs was 1.9%. Significantly, the anecdotal examples throwing light on this shift in approach to philanthropy is visible across all denominations.
Several big religious institutions have already moved well ahead in stepping in to fill the gap, where the government infrastructure has been found wanting, particularly in health services. A good example of this kind of work is that provided by the Sathya Sai Baba chain of hospitals to address the health needs of the not so poor. Similarly, the Isha Foundation, pioneered by Sadhguru, has undertaken the Action for Rural Rejuvenation in 2003 improve the overall health and quality of life of the rural poor. This works by enhancing existing development schemes by supporting locally available models of health and at the same time supplementing them with healthcare support through their own qualified and trained personnel.
Now, religious institutions are effecting another shift in strategy. “Drop by drop, a lake is filled…so everyone gives. Some give Rs10,000, some give Rs100, some give Rs50, some give Rs10… But everyone gives for social causes, even the poor,” said Fr Alias Gonzales, director of the Center for Social Action, an archdiocesan body that is a wing for social work in Mumbai, Raigad and Thane.
Every year, the Catholic Bishops’ Commission of India (CBCI) chooses themes that will define the agenda for Catholic charities across the country. “For instance, we had a Right to Food project last year. This year, the theme is Right to Livelihood for the poor,” said Gonzales, explaining a project that hopes to help poor entrepreneurs set up businesses.
But the scope of the programme extends beyond entrepreneurship to protecting the livelihoods of marginalized groups such as the fisherfolk of Mumbai whose villages and traditional fishing grounds are threatened by infrastructure projects. “This city belonged to them once. Now, even the little pocket they have will vanish, and then what will they do? We want development and (want to) help the empowerment of people, but we also want to make sure that groups of people are not left behind,” said Gonzales.
His sentiment reflects the concerns within religious organizations, mirroring the ongoing debate on inclusion that is politically playing out across the country. For these organizations, the question is an important one as they seek to adapt to a new focus: how to balance charities that helps others help themselves, while continuing to help those who cannot help themselves? And as they choose to invest in individual empowerment, entrepreneurs and social causes that resonate with the masses, such as corruption and equal opportunity, the nature of religious philanthropy in India is transforming.
“Last week, on the NDTV show, We the People, they were talking about the ‘coming of age’ of philanthropy in India. One man said if he had Rs1 lakh and he had to choose between Mother Teresa and a businessman who would use it for education or entrepreneurship, he would give it to the businessman… People got upset with that. Rightly so... We cannot just forget the poor and the sick,” Gonzales said.
The Aga Khan Development Network embodies the idea that both ends of the spectrum must be served. Since Islam requires religious leaders to interpret the faith and also shoulder the responsibility of helping to improve the quality of life in their community and in the societies in which they live, this network of private, non-denominational agencies has focused on global issues of health, education, culture, and rural and economic development. At the same time, it runs free clinics and outreach centres such as the Cancer Rehabilitation Centre, where care extends from physical well-being to emotional wellbeing.
At the Prince Aly Khan Hospital in Mumbai, volunteers and cancer survivors help patients regain self-confidence and the tools to take back their lives. “I had cancer. I managed well, so the doctor sent a few patients to me after their surgery to talk and we realized that talking to someone who had been through a similar experience helped them,” said Anita Vesuwala, a breast cancer survivor who has run the centre since its inception.
Going forward, this trend will only accelerate, especially since the young demography—50% of India’s 1.3 billion is less than 25 years of age—would be ready to join the work force and opportunities may be hard to come by. By refocusing their focus on empowering people by providing them new skills, the philanthropy of religious institutions in the country could, if coordinated, provide an alternative path to economic inclusion.
January 31, 2011, 9:15 pm
When Microcredit Won’t Do
By TINA ROSENBERG
If you asked poverty experts to name the single most significant new concept in the field in the last few decades, chances are they would say microcredit. Microcredit is the lending of very small amounts of money to very poor people to help them invest in things that have the potential to bring income later on — a loan of $50 to buy a sewing machine to make clothes, for instance, or piglets to raise and sell. It reaches nearly 100 million clients in more than 100 countries.
One of the reasons that microcredit is so exciting is that its benefits can go beyond the women (and they are almost all women) who borrow money. Not only does their increase in income add to the economy of the whole village, they can start businesses that sell needed goods and services to their neighbors. After all, much of rural development involves bringing to villages the same things that city dwellers take for granted. For example, a borrower can use her loan to buy a cell phone and charge her neighbors for calls and messages. She has a new business and her neighbors have a link to the outside world.
But microcredit isn’t a panacea. It has always been vulnerable to abuse. The most recent example is a scandal in India, where banks have been luring microborrowers into excessive debt, just as predatory lenders lured millions of Americans into unsustainable mortgages. Loans can be malignant. Some people shouldn’t take on debt. Some businesses are too risky. And the temptation is always present to spend the loan on food for the family or shoes for the children.
In the hills of rural Guatemala, a different kind of microfinance, one that doesn’t involve loans, is doing something microcredit can’t. A company called Soluciones Comunitarias (“community solutions”) is selling products that improve the health and prosperity of villagers, and doing it in a sustainable way while providing rural people — the vast majority of them women — with new business opportunities that do not require risk or debt.
Dominga Akalo‏, a Guatemalan MicroConsignment Model entrepreneur, tracks sales and inventory in a village in Solola.Community Enterprise Solutions Dominga Akalo, a Guatemalan Soluciones entrepreneur, tracks sales and inventory in a village in Solola.
Soluciones Comunitarias uses the same model employed by second-hand clothing and furniture shops in the United States and elsewhere: consignment. It’s an old idea. What’s new is using it to improve the lives of the rural poor.
Take reading glasses. Imagine you are a rural Guatemalan in your forties. You make a living as a tailor, weaver, carpenter or mechanic, but to your horror, your close vision is getting more blurry each day. It seems like the end of your livelihood. If you were middle-class and lived in a city this wouldn’t be a big deal — you’d just get reading glasses. But not only were these not available in villages, few rural Guatemalans even knew about them. Their progressive blurriness seemed, to them, incurable.
Microcredit cannot help get reading glasses to Guatemalans in mountain villages. With microcredit, an entrepreneur would first take out a loan, then buy an assortment of glasses, sell them to her neighbors and repay the loan. But there’s no existing market for reading glasses. A good sales force can create one, by teaching people that their vision problems are curable — and that this is the cure. And while it’s not hard for an ambitious entrepreneur to learn to test eyes and find the right glasses, someone has to teach her. She has to be confident in her ability to sell people a product they don’t realize they need. She has to acquire the credibility to sell a health product. It’s one thing to take on debt to buy a cell phone or baby chicks to sell — she knows there will be a market for phone calls and chickens. Reading glasses are too much of an unknown. “Lots of women are afraid of debt,” said Clara Luz de Montezuma, a Guatemalan who trains women entrepreneurs for Soluciones. “When you borrow money, you fear you won’t be successful, and it will be very difficult to pay it back.”
Greg Van Kirk was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nebaj, Guatemala, a town of about 10,000 people in a mountainous Mayan region, when he thought of consignment as the solution. He was an unusual Peace Corps volunteer, having already had one career as an investment banker. He had worked in structured finance for UBS, helping companies do complex deals to buy, sell or lease airplanes and power plants.
Greg Van Kirk teaches Margarita, a Guatemalan entrepreneur, how to give an eye exam.Darby FilmsGreg Van Kirk teaches an entrepreneur how to give an eye exam.
Van Kirk’s adventures in less-structured finance didn’t start with reading glasses, but with cookstoves. He saw that families in the region cooked on open fires on the dirt floors inside their houses. Their ceilings were black from smoke. People coughed all the time and children were always sick. (Respiratory illnesses are a leading cause of death in poor countries, and indoor cooking is a significant cause.) Open-pit fires, moreover, were inefficient. The heat dispersed, and only one pot could be heated at a time. That meant the family had to collect or buy a lot of firewood. Moreover, fires were unsafe, especially for children, and cooking on the floor was unhealthy, luring ants and the family’s chickens into the house.
Van Kirk worked with a local mason named Augustín Corrio to try to find something better. Corrio took a standard stove design and rejiggered it in various ways. The best model had cement block legs, a brick chamber surrounding the fire on three sides, a metal sheet over the fire so several pots could be heated at once, and a chimney to take the smoke outside the house. This stove used 60 to 70 percent less wood than an open fire — so even though it costs about $100 it could pay for itself quickly. Buyers could pay in installments. It could be locally produced from basic construction materials.
The problem was how to sell it on a wide scale. No micro-borrower would take out the enormous loan necessary to buy a number of stoves to resell.
An Ixil Guatemalan woman with her improved cookstove provided through the MicroConsignment Model.Community Enterprise Solutions An Ixil Guatemalan woman with her improved cookstove provided through Soluciones.
Van Kirk thought that consignment was the answer. With consignment, a supplier gives a product to a retailer, who then sells it. After the sale is completed, the retailer reimburses the seller, keeping a commission. The risk is taken not by the retailer, but by the supplier. Van Kirk made a deal with Corrio: Corrio went around to groups of people in Nebaj and surrounding villages to talk about the stove and show pictures. When a family ordered one, Corrio built it right in their house with materials Van Kirk had bought for him. Families paid in installments about equal to the money they saved by buying less wood. As payments came in, he repaid Van Kirk and kept a commission.
The stoves and the consignment model were both successful. Soon Van Kirk and a fellow Peace Corps volunteer, George Glickley, began to train local women to sell the stoves and protective glasses, eye drops and reading glasses supplied by VisionSpring, a nonprofit organization that sells eye glasses to poor people all over the world. (My co-author, David Bornstein, is a member of VisionSpring’s board.)
VisionSpring had started out using microcredit for part of its sales — its retailers took out loans to buy glasses to sell. But it didn’t work very well. “We needed a financing arm — but we weren’t a microfinance institution,” said Malini Krishna, the company’s vice president of development. At Van Kirk’s urging, in 2004 the organization switched from microcredit to a consignment model. “Why put all that risk on somebody up front?” said Krishna. “Why not help them put the glasses out there and then get repaid when glasses sell?”
One of the first entrepreneurs Glickley and Van Kirk trained was Yolanda García. She was a primary school graduate and housewife — she knew the men because Glickley had lived in her family’s house when he was in the Peace Corps. Consignment was key for her, she said. “If I had had to take out a loan I wouldn’t have done it. I always felt I wanted to do something, but we didn’t have the economic resources beyond what we needed for the day.”
Maria, a Guatemalan MicroConsignment Model entrepreneur, administering an eye exam in a village in Quetzaltenango.Community Enterprise SolutionsA Soluciones entrepreneur administered an eye exam in a village in Quetzaltenango.
Van Kirk and Glickley trained her in how to test eyes and fit glasses, but more important was boosting her confidence to sell a mystery product. “No one knew about reading glasses,” she said. “People thought I was crazy.” That wasn’t the only obstacle. Her first customer was eager — she wanted to be able to read her Bible again. “But who will do the examination?” she said, looking around. Clearly, there was no doctor there.
“I will,” said García.
García nervously took out her charts and instruments. A few minutes later, the customer was reading small print and grinning from ear to ear.
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“Luckily, “the ‘aha!’ moment comes quickly,” says VisionSpring’s Krishna.
Still, García said, it was not a very successful campaign. She sold five pair of glasses and netted 65 quetzales — about $8. But García was thrilled to be earning anything. She spent the money on school supplies for her kids.
In 2006, Van Kirk and Glickley founded Soluciones. Its entrepreneurs — the vast majority of them women — now travel from village to village selling glasses, water-purifying buckets, solar flashlights, a solar panel that powers a lamp and cell phone charger, eye drops, sunglasses, energy-efficient light bulbs and vegetable seed packets. (The stoves are mainly sold around Nebaj.) A campaign in a village takes two days — one for publicity and one for sales — and usually nets each entrepreneurs some 200 quetzales, although once in a while a lucky salesperson can triple that. Van Kirk said that a new salesman started just two weeks ago and has already earned $100 — more than he would make in two or three months in a different job.
Soluciones is still very small. In the last two years, it has sold fewer than 7,000 pairs of glasses. The solar lamps are the most popular big-ticket item, with 3,000 sold since their debut. Soluciones today is owned and run by eight Guatemalans who were its original entrepreneurs, including Yolanda García and Clara Luz de Montezuma. By the end of the year, it will be running a consistent profit.
Soluciones is an incubator, testing new strategies and new products that may some day sell all over the world. (Van Kirk and Glickley have more information about their non-profit efforts at cesolutions.org.) Improved cookstoves, reading glasses, water purifiers, solar lamps — these are all products that can provide equity, in the form of ability to work and better health, to villagers who before only had access to microcredit debt. Yet the real news here isn’t the cookstove or the lamp. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of such practical and ingenious products exist. Yet they do little good if the rural poor can’t use them. A constant drumbeat of the Fixes column is that the more important innovation is the delivery mechanism.
Is microconsignment a system that can deliver these products on a sustainable basis and large scale to people who need them? If so, how? Saturday’s column will respond to comments, and will explore answers to those questions.
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Tina Rosenberg won a Pulitzer Prize for her book “The Haunted Land: Facing Europe’s Ghosts After Communism.” She is a former editorial writer for The Times and now a contributing writer for the paper’s Sunday magazine. Her new book, “Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World,” is forthcoming from W.W. Norton.
Family's challenging past inspires £2.6 million programme to encourage new generation of African leaders
A husband and wife, who were forced with their families to leave the brutal dictatorship of 1970s Uganda, are making a generous donation to help a new generation of African leaders develop their skills.
US-based Firoz and Najma Lalji have made an initial gift of almost £1 million through their charitable foundation to help establish the Firoz and Najma Lalji Programme in African Leadership at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).
Firoz and Najma LaljiEach year the programme will enable 30 high-achievers from Africa to attend an intensive executive training course in London . They will benefit from high quality teaching in areas including government, economics, development and law from LSE and partner universities around the world. Participants will later be invited to an annual forum in Africa to help refresh their skills and form leadership networks across the continent.
After meeting and marrying in their native Uganda, Mr and Mrs Lalji and their families were forced out of the country in 1972 when dictator Idi Amin expelled many of its Asian citizens. This came shortly after Mr Lalji had completed a degree in economics at LSE. The Laljis moved to Canada where Mr Lalji built up a successful chain of 225 camera stores in Canada and USA which was sold in 1997. He is now owner and chief executive of Zones Inc, a national provider of IT products and solutions to businesses, based in Seattle, Washington state.
The Programme in African Leadership will focus not on Africa in isolation, nor does it aim to teach Africans about Africa. Its main aim is to help some of Africa's most dynamic emerging leaders get access to high level academic thinking and policy ideas from around the world.
African Initiative logoThe programme, which will run for at least five years initially, will become a vital part of LSE's African Initiative. This was set up in 2009 to link African students and teachers into worldwide research networks and to improve international understanding of contemporary Africa. It is envisaged that the most successful of the Lalji leadership alumni will be invited back to LSE as occasional guest lecturers and will mentor students on the programme in future.
Mr and Mrs Lalji commented: 'This will be a highly-competitive programme that we hope will bring a new class of African leaders to the world stage. We know some of the difficulties that can hold back talent from Africa and we want to unleash and support the next generation of leaders.
'It is absolutely fitting that the programme should be established at LSE, whose alumni include many of those involved in the first wave of post-independence leadership, inspirational figures such as Jomo Kenyatta and Dr Kwame Nkrumah.We hope others will join us in supporting a venture which offers such an innovative approach to globalising African talent.
'Our vision is that the programme will foster emerging leaders who promote the best possible social and economic development in their countries and contribute to helping alleviate poverty in Africa.'
Mr Lalji added: 'One of my teachers at LSE, Margaret Mead, told me and my classmates to "never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." I have remained inspired by her words and it is bearing this in mind that Najma and I make our gift to LSE'.
The initial £1 million gift will help set up the programme's infrastructure. Once it is established, the Laljis have agreed to make a second donation of £1.6 million towards bursaries and final delivery.
The first participants will join the programme in September 2011. While most of the original course content will be provided by experts from LSE, it is hoped that faculty from some or all of LSE's global partner institutions will join the programme over the coming years. LSE's global partners are the University of Cape Town, Sciences Po in Paris, Columbia University in New York, Peking University and the National University of Singapore.
Professor Thandika Mkandwire, who holds the first Chair in African Development at LSE and leads the African Initiative, said: 'This is not just an extremely generous donation but an extremely well thought out initiative which can transform the relationship between African leaders and their peers around the world. For too long we have allowed Africa's best minds to be cut off from education and training of the highest quality.
'This programme will help give African leaders a sense of confidence and the ability to work on an equal footing with the rest of the world. I am proud and pleased that Firoz and Najma Lalji have chosen to work with LSE on this innovative project.'
A director for the programme will be appointed in early 2011 and will oversee curriculum development, with input from Professor Mkandawire. Key areas that will be addressed include governance, public management, finance, social policy, politics of policy advice, enterprise development, globalisation and strategy, international diplomacy, international economic law and international tax systems.
Firoz and Najma Lalji have already provided support of $1 million to endow a Master's scholarship at LSE, which targets students from Uganda. A third Lalji scholar is studying at LSE this year. The youngest of the Lalji's two daughters, Natasha, followed her father's path by studying at LSE, graduating with a BSc in Social Policy and Administration in 2009.
By Ali Al-Khateeb, translation by Sameer Kassam
Published on 28 February 2010
The Salamieh ReefNet Centre, in cooperation with the British NUHA Foundation, has launched its English Conversation Programme (ECP), which can be considered as the first activity of the ‘Public English Library’ Project that will be inaugurated soon in the centre of Salamieh as the first library of its kind in Syria.”
E-Syria was amongst the attendees of the first meeting for participants held on Wednesday 24th February 2010. There, Mr. Nabil Eid, head of the ReefNet Centre in Salamieh, commenced proceedings by speaking to us about the ‘Public English Library’ Project.”
“The Public English Library”, he said, “offers its visitors a large collection of diverse English language references which will allow for the building of students’ capacities and the strengthening of their skills in using the English Language. Additionally, it will offer several training and improvement courses specifically for the English Language, and all of this will be undertaken free of charge for the children of this region.”
Mr. Nabil Eid also spoke to us about the background to the launching of this distinctive project by reviewing the steps taken thus far. He said: “Recently, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the British NUHA Foundation and the ‘Strategic Programme for the Use of Information and Communication Technology in Social and Economic Development in Syria’, as represented by the Ministry of Communication and Technology and the UNDP through its ReefNet Programme, in the knowledge that NUHA is a British foundation which will supply books and various programmes on a complementary basis to the local communities.”
Mr. Nabil Eid added: “This library is the first of its kind in Syria and an agreement is currently in the pipeline for the development of a similar library in the Abu Kamal region in the Governorate of Deir Al-Zur, as well as for many other regions in Syria within local communities, and all this forms part of the guidelines to transform Telecentres into Knowledge Hubs.”
Mr. Sameer Kassam, a British national, is working as a volunteer with the UNDP programme, and is supervising the ECP, which is the programme’s first activity. Speaking to me about this, he said: “The ECP is divided into three parts, the first for University Students, the second for English teachers and the third for people actively involved in the local community in Salamieh. The courses will last for just over two months and during that period I will drill the students in the English language in a way that differs from school curricula. Both I and the team I work with will think about what the students need and want from this language, and then we will select a training curriculum, for I do not wish to impose my thoughts on them, rather they are the ones who should decide what they want to speak about.”
Mr. Sameer Kassam studied Arabic and Spanish, and he is preparing to take a Masters degree in Middle East Studies, having spent 6 months at the University of Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. However, in his remaining time here, he wants to give something to the city of Salamieh which, as he said with a smile, he loves.”
I also asked him about what motivates a young man like him to offer voluntary services in Salamieh. “My parents raised me to believe that the culture of giving is a wonderful thing”, he replied, “and through my numerous visits to this city it has endeared itself to me, and I want to give something back to its people in the time that I have before I leave. So, we researched as to what could be offered that would be both beneficial and sustainable, and as you can see, here we have the ECP which has begun today.”
On the extent of the participation of the students in the presentation session, he said: “Generally, when there is a large room filled with very many students, the participation level will be relatively low, for they are not very used to dealing with foreigners and they lack conversational practice, in addition to feeling shy, due to the somewhat different atmosphere of this session. However, I noticed, from their answers to the questionnaire, that they have written well and I will review these questionnaires to deduce the topics for future sessions.”
As a final remark he commented: “The enthusiasm which the students brought with them today perhaps represents, for me, a sort of responsibility – that of the necessity to benefit them in the greatest way possible.”
Mr. Ismail Al-Khateeb, a student of English Literature, works with the ECP team in his capacity as a volunteer with the British NUHA Foundation. He explained to me his goal from volunteering by saying: “I personally hope that a culture of exposure to sources in their original language is spread in my city, for the benefit to the reader would be even greater. I want to thank Mr. Nibras Aldibbiat who has played a great role in the accomplishments of the ‘Public English Library’ Programme and in the NUHA Foundation. I also wish to thank him as he opened the door for me to be here at its first activity.”
One of the student participants, Mais Habeel, had a simple comment to make: “I think that I am fortunate to be a participant in a programme that is being done for the first time in Salamieh. Truth be told, I am in need of an opportunity like this because it will go a long way in helping me to find employment opportunities inside and outside Syria, especially as I study Archaeology.”
A programme of this sort, if the efforts and opportunities are made available to complete its expansion to the national level, will surely open wider horizons in the thinking of our youth and, of course, in their various subjects of study. When all is said and done, I cannot but wish for it all the continuity and success.
Please click here to return to the ECP Pilot page, or here to find out more about NUHA in the press.
February 14, 2011, 9:30 pm
Villages Without Doctors
By TINA ROSENBERG
For the next few weeks, I’ll be writing about an idea that can make people healthier while bringing down health care costs, both in poor countries and in the United States.
The strategy is to move beyond doctors — to take the work of health care and shift down from doctors and nurses to lay people, peers and family. In the United States and other wealthy countries, lay people can fill in the gaps in left by doctors’ care. In poor countries, people with no or little formal medical training are successfully substituting for doctors and nurses.
This is fortunate, as villagers in many developing countries rarely see doctors or nurses. Especially in English-speaking parts of Africa and south Asia, doctors and nurses are often poached by better pay and conditions offered by Canada, the United States, Britain and Australia. Half the doctors trained in Ethiopia or Zambia, for example, have emigrated. (And each doctor who goes from, say, Kenya to Britain represents a transfer of about $600,000 from a poor country to a wealthy one.)
It's a short clip of Marc Keilburger, the co-founder of Free The
Children, in Motony, Kenya (the community where you helped us build a
school). We just received the video and we wanted to share it with you
and say Thank You!! It was because of your generosity that we were able
to make our dream a reality.
Now Latisha Daya who is 16 years old, is inspired by what Farzana and
Aly did for their wedding. So she has formed an Ismaili Youth Group who
is planning to go to Kenya this summer to build another school for the
same Charity- Free The Children.
They are holding a fundraiser. Please see Information below. Tickets
are $25 each, of which $15 will go to Sagan Banquet Hall and $10 to
A dinner and dance fundraiser event will be held on March 18th at Sagan
Banquet Hall ( www.saganbanquethall.com ). All proceeds will be going
towards our 'Me to We' trip to Kenya.
Most of the children in this village outside Nairobi are not literate
and have never gone to school. In addition, some of the others have been
taken out of school after the first couple years so that they may work
out in the fields ...and help their parents. Currently, a greater
understanding for the need for education has been seen in this village
and more and more children are looking to go to school. The schools
however are far and packed with students. One small school contains only
1 classroom and is packed with 300 students! Me to We and Free the
Children are working in these villages in Kenya and in other parts of
Africa to build more schools, to train more teachers, and to provide
free education for all. This trip to Kenya this summer will help the
children in this village, providing them with the vital education they
need, and in turn, helping to build the foundation of a successful
society for the future.
Exiled from Uganda as teen, New Westminster doctor returns to help children
New Westminster physician is responsible for establishing a club foot treatment campaign in Africa that is spreading internationally
By GERRY BELLETT, Vancouver Sun March 16, 2011
Dr. Shafique Pirani, an orthopedic surgeon, is one of the speakers at a Simon Fraser University symposium, “Engaging Diaspora in Development,” on Wednesday at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, 530 West Hastings St., from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Dr. Shafique Pirani, an orthopedic surgeon, is one of the speakers at a Simon Fraser University symposium, “Engaging Diaspora in Development,” on Wednesday at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, 530 West Hastings St., from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Photograph by: GLENN BAGLO, Vancouver Sun
In 1972, dictator Idi Amin read a message in the heavens telling him to expel all Ugandans of Indian origin from their African home.
The resulting diaspora included 15-year-old Shafique Pirani, who along with his parents, grandparents and five siblings, packed his life in a suitcase and fled before Amin’s 90-day deadline expired.
But it’s a measure of the human capacity for forgiveness that when the teenager grew up to become an eminent surgeon, he would return to his birth land to help cure Ugandan children of club foot deformity.
Dr. Shafique Pirani, an orthopedic surgeon, is one of the speakers at a Simon Fraser University symposium, “Engaging Diaspora in Development,” on Wednesday at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, 530 West Hastings St., from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The New Westminster physician is responsible for an international club foot treatment campaign that can be traced to a 1995 visit he and his parents made to Uganda, their first visit since the expulsion.
“It was only a five-day visit to see our home and the old school I went to, but the problem with club foot was apparent. By then I’d been practising several years and I had an interest in club foot because worldwide it affects one baby out of 150,000 born each year,” he said.
At that time, club foot was treated surgically, which placed it beyond the means of children in a poor country like Uganda. However, in 1997 Pirani discovered that an American physician, Ignacio Ponseti, had developed a non-surgical method of treating club foot. The Ponseti Method had been developed 50 years ago, but failed to catch on.
“I started using his technique. In club foot deformity the foot’s all there, it’s just twisted out of shape and people end up standing on top of the foot with their toes curled back,” he said.
Using the Ponseti Method “you push very gently and accurately on the foot to uncurl it and then put a cast on. You put another cast on five weeks later and make a slight incision in a tendon and after that the foot’s corrected and looks like normal. To keep it from coming back you put a brace on at night,” he said.
As the Ponseti Method doesn’t involve surgery, Pirani believed it could be taught to paramedics in Uganda, so in 1998 he put together the Uganda Clubfoot Project.
Beginning in 1999, he would revisit Uganda and on subsequent visits for the next four years would train paramedics in the Ponseti Method using $225,000 raised for the purpose by the Rotary Clubs of Burnaby and New Westminster.
In 2003, he evaluated the program and found the results had not been as successful as hoped.
“We found it hadn’t worked in all cases. There had been problems with supplies, a child would come back for the second cast and there was no plaster available, or no brace, or after we’d trained a paramedic they’d return to their clinics and their supervisors wouldn’t allow it,” he said.
“So now we formed the Uganda Sustainable Clubfoot Project. When I first went there as an orthopedic surgeon I didn’t have the skills to provide sustainability but now I brought with me public health professionals and the Uganda ministry of health became involved,” he said.
In 2004, the Canadian International Development Agency put up $1 million for a seven-year program to build capacity in the Ugandan health system so the procedure would be available at the country’s 38 clinics. It also trained medical and paramedical professionals and nurses to identify club foot in newborn babies. Last year, more than 700 children with club foot were treated.
“It costs about $150 per treatment which if you divide it by a life expectancy of 50 years comes out to $3 a year,” he said. “And when you realize that if you have such a condition in Uganda you can’t work, you won’t get married and the chances are you’ll live in poverty for the rest of your life. So it’s a bargain,” said Pirani who has visited Uganda 30 times in the last 10 years.
The program has been so successful that it has been expanded to Malawi, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Bangladesh and has drawn interest from Brazil, Honduras, India and Nepal.
April 2, 2011
Doctors Go Far Afield to Battle Epidemics
By CELIA W. DUGGER
MASHAI, Lesotho — At a clinic in the mountains, reached only by crossing a churning river in a rowboat, Dr. Paul Young, a pediatrician raised in the housing projects of Savannah, Ga., soothed a fussy baby. She stared at him, fascinated, as he made soft popping sounds with his lips and listened to her heart through a stethoscope.
“I used to be afraid to look at the babies’ test results,” he said after examining a bunch of children, who were born healthy despite having H.I.V.-positive mothers. “But now, most of them are negative.”
Dr. Young, 33, and the nurses he trained here have persuaded many pregnant women to get tested and take the drugs that prevent them from passing the disease to their newborns. It is all part of a charitable effort he joined in 2008 for $40,000 a year and the chance to work in this AIDS-afflicted country, which has just one pediatrician in its entire government health system.
“If this was the last thing I did, if this was the only job I ever had in life, I would have served my purpose,” he said.
Dr. Young represents the surging interest of young Americans in combating the deadly epidemics ravaging the world’s poorest countries, fueled in part by the billions of dollars that the American government, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other organizations have poured into international health in recent years.
Across sub-Saharan Africa, an extreme shortage of health workers remains a critical barrier to fighting illness. The region bears a quarter of the world’s burden of disease, but has only 3 percent of its health care workers, according to the World Health Organization.
Public health experts say efforts like the one involving Dr. Young have proved particularly useful on a continent that sorely needs pediatricians, surgeons and other specialists to train African doctors and nurses in the field.
And demand for such opportunities is rising. More than 70 universities in the United States and Canada now offer formal academic programs in global health, most of them developed in just the past five years, according to the Consortium of Universities for Global Health.
“Today’s students really want to make a difference in the world,” said Michael H. Merson, director of Duke University’s Global Health Institute. “They have a passion for sacrifice and service. It reminds me of the ’60s.”
The children of powerful politicians are part of this new generation of global health enthusiasts. Vanessa Kerry, 34, a Harvard-trained doctor and the daughter of Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, is advocating a Peace Corps-like federal program that would send American doctors and nurses to work and train health workers in developing countries.
And Barbara Bush, 29, a daughter of former President George W. Bush, co-founded the nonprofit Global Health Corps, which this year sent 36 college graduates from eight countries to work with nonprofit groups, mostly in Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi and Uganda. More than 1,000 people applied for the yearlong fellowships.
The Pediatric AIDS Corps that sent Dr. Young here, largely financed by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and the Baylor College of Medicine, never advertised for applicants after the first class of doctors was recruited in 2005. Word of mouth produced far more highly qualified physicians from universities all over the United States than the project could ever hire.
In addition to the salary, the program paid down as much as $40,000 of the doctors’ educational debt for each year of service — making it possible for Dr. Young to join, though he owed $170,000 after his undergraduate and medical studies. His mother was an assembly-line worker, and in hard times the family relied on Medicaid. Dr. Young himself never had a steady pediatrician as a child.
With a laugh, he said that his friends back home asked him if he had running water or used an outhouse in Africa. “We’re not roughing it here by any means,” he tells them. He drives a 10-year-old Opel Corsa, but lives in a pleasant town house in the sleepy capital, Maseru, with wireless Internet and a housekeeper who comes twice a week. For the first time in his life, he has gone skiing — in Lesotho’s breathtaking mountains.
But it is the work that gives the job its meaning, the doctors say. Lineo Thahane attended Princeton University and got her medical degree at Washington University in St. Louis. It was a 2003 rotation in Lesotho’s main public hospital during her residency — when children were still dying of AIDS for lack of antiretroviral treatment — that made her want to return to Africa. Her parents were both from Lesotho, but she was born and raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
Dr. Thahane, 35, joined the first crop of Pediatric AIDS Corps doctors in Lesotho, and now helps her mother, Dr. Edith Mohapi, 64, who for 20 years managed pediatric outpatient services at Arlington Hospital in Virginia, to run Baylor’s pediatric H.I.V. programs in Lesotho.
“I felt, ‘This is where the need is,’ ” Dr. Thahane said.
Over the past five years, the corps has had 50 to 60 doctors working in Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi and Botswana. The hospitals and clinics they supervise now care for more than 50,000 H.I.V.-positive children, Baylor estimates.
The project’s impact should also last beyond its financing, which ends in June. The 128 doctors who served in the corps in the past five years trained about 3,000 African professionals, who will carry on. And in July, Baylor will start another project with 32 pediatricians to work on a broader array of diseases.
Dr. Grace Phiri, an overworked Malawian who has been the only pediatrician in Lesotho’s government service for most of the past 17 years, said the arrival of 10 AIDS Corps doctors in 2006 — just as AIDS drugs for children were becoming more widely available — drastically improved the survival chances of H.I.V.-positive children.
Until 2005, not a single child with AIDS was on publicly financed antiretroviral therapy in Lesotho.
“Every morning, I had to check on who is alive and who is not alive,” she recalled. “So many passed away. Most of those dying were under the age of 2. It went on for years. You see, in the ’90s we didn’t even have enough kits for H.I.V. testing.”
Dr. Phiri, who spent every weekend on call for years, said the help from the corps doctors on the ward had lightened her load and improved care. She dreads their departure. “They have shared the weekends and covered me when I’m on holiday,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot from them.”
More than 6,500 children in Lesotho, a country with a population of two million people and the world’s third-highest rate of H.I.V. infection, now receive the lifesaving medications. While that is progress, it is still only about a quarter of those in need of treatment, according to Unaids, the United Nations AIDS agency.
Dr. Mphu Ramatlapeng, Lesotho’s minister of health, said the country could not have reached as many children without the corps.
“These were serious professionals willing to dirty their hands,” she said.
Dr. Young set off one recent morning for a village clinic he visits one day a month. He drove into the lush green mountains, past men draped in traditional blankets, through hamlets of mud huts crowned with conical thatched roofs, over crystalline streams flowing down from the peaks.
“They know me here in the mountains,” he said.
When he arrived at the clinic, families were already waiting on wooden benches to see him. Relebohile Mosehle, 27, an energetic nursing assistant he has trained, sat at his side in a small examination room. She lives at the clinic, which has neither running water nor electricity. She and a Kenyan nurse are the backbone of medical care in this area.
Tsiu Lerotholi, 49, and his grandson Mojalefa, 9, had come that morning, having hiked through the mountains for another month’s supply of antiretroviral medicines. Mojalefa’s parents had died of AIDS — and he and his grandparents have the disease.
The man and the boy took their almost empty bottles of pills from their backpacks. Dr. Young and Mrs. Mosehle quietly calculated, by how many were left, whether they were taking them properly. The pair’s adherence was nearly perfect.
“Inside you feel stronger?” Dr. Young asked the grandfather.
“Bit by bit,” he replied.
Mrs. Mosehle said the soft-spoken American doctor treated her like an equal and had taught her much. “He is a brother,” she said.
But she did not yet know that his three-year stint in Lesotho would end in June. When told, she could not speak for some minutes, pressing her fingers to her eyes to hold back the tears.
“We knew that he would go back home,” she said, “but our hearts are not ready.”
Meet the most influential people in the world. They are artists and activists, reformers and researchers, heads of state and captains of industry. Their ideas spark dialogue and dissent and sometimes even revolution. Welcome to this year's TIME 100
If anyone personifies India's economic transformation, it is Azim Premji, chairman of the information-technology powerhouse Wipro Ltd.
A pioneer of India's IT-outsourcing industry, Premji helped unleash a generation of skilled technical professionals who make up India's growing middle class.
Inspired by his belief that a strong educational system is essential to sustaining the economic growth needed to pull millions of Indian citizens out of poverty, Premji, 65, is deeply involved in efforts to provide universal primary education in India. The Azim Premji Foundation supports programs that reach more than 2.5 million children.
But it may be his pioneering leadership in India's nascent field of philanthropy that will be Premji's lasting legacy. His recent $2 billion donation to his foundation was the largest charitable contribution in the history of modern India.
Ultimately, how he approaches philanthropy could prove to be just as important as how much he gives. His philanthropic work has been characterized by collaboration and transparency. He is setting a remarkable example for those who have benefited so enormously from India's economic expansion and are looking for ways to give back.
Gates is a co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the chairman of Microsoft
B.C. Senator Mobina S.B. Jaffer visits Kampala, Uganda, in March of 2011.
Photograph by: Handout, Special to The Sun
It has long been known that the burden of malaria on the developing world is crushing. An entirely preventable disease affects 350-500 million people each year, kills upwards of one million and claims the life of an African child every 30 seconds. This is simply unacceptable.
What is even more unfortunate is that this disease preys on the most vulnerable population namely pregnant women and children.
It is estimated that 50 million women become pregnant in malaria-endemic areas annually, half of them in sub-Saharan Africa alone. The toll this disease takes on mothers and their children is not negligible as studies indicate that malaria indirectly causes at least 25,000 maternal health deaths and between 75,000 and 200,000 newborn deaths each and every year.
I am a child of Africa. I have drank water from the river Nile and I have swam in Lake Victoria. I have witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of malaria.
This is why throughout my career in the Senate I have been devoted to finding ways to help eradicate this disease. Most recently, I was in Uganda where I visited a maternal health clinic in Kawempe, which is located in Kampala, Uganda.
During this visit I was informed that this clinic is often over capacity forcing three or four women to share a single bed. In addition to space constraints, HIV positive patients are treated alongside non-HIV patients in an effort to avoid stigmatization. As a result several women are infected during their time at the clinic.
While I was in Kawempe I also received confirmation that maternal health and malaria do indeed go hand in hand. After speaking with several nurses and patients I learned that although these women were no longer as vulnerable to childbirth complications such as fistula, they still continued to battle entirely preventable diseases such as malaria.
Maternal health clinics like the one I visited in Kawempe allow pregnant women to receive the medical attention required to ensure that both pregnant women and their newborn are protected. They act as great resource to the community.
However, it is important to remain mindful of the fact that these very women are still susceptible to diseases such as malaria.
Maternal health clinics need to have the resources necessary to ensure that their patients are protected from diseases such as malaria. This can be done by distributing insecticide treated mosquito nets, providing rapid diagnostic tests in remote under-serviced areas, ensuring that intermittent presumptive malaria drugs are administered to pregnant women and that anti-malarial drugs are readily available and affordable.
Although non-profit organizations such as Buy-A-Net and Roll Back Malaria have made great strides towards combating this epidemic there is still great progress to be made.
Canada recently pledged $1.1 billion toward a maternal health initiative in an effort to ensure that pregnant women and children are protected.
However after working on the ground and visiting maternal health clinics like the one in Kawempe I strongly believe maternal health and malaria should be addressed simultaneously as the two go hand-in-hand.
As a Senator who represents that province of British Columbia I am extremely proud of the student body at UNBC just recently won the national Spread the Net Challenge and I would like to congratulate them for raising over $18,000.
This money will be used to send mosquito nets to Africa. By making such a generous contribution these students have made a great impact on the lives of thousands of families in Africa.
As we commemorate World Malaria Day on the 25th of April I strongly urge you to follow in the footsteps of the students of UNBC and donate $10 towards purchasing a net that can save a life.
Mobina S.B. Jaffer is the senator for British Columbia.
May 7, 2011
Mothers We Could Save
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
Here’s a Mother’s Day thought: There’s a way to save many of the world’s 350,000 women who die in childbirth each year. But it’s very controversial, for it’s called family planning.
Republicans in Congress have gone on the warpath this budget season against family planning programs at home and abroad. To illustrate the stakes, let me share a Mother’s Day story about a pregnant 30-year-old Somali woman named Hinda Hassan.
Ms. Hassan lived in a village near this remote town of Baligubadle in Somaliland (a self-ruling enclave carved from Somalia). She never used family planning, for none is available within several days’ walk. When her eighth child was still an infant, she became pregnant again.
“I was happy when she became pregnant,” said her husband, Muhammad Isse, who tends a herd of 13 camels with his family. “I was very happy, because I had faith in God.”
When Ms. Hassan went into labor, she was looked after by two traditional birth attendants, both of them unschooled, untrained and unequipped. “We try to wash our hands with soap and water,” one of them, Amina Ahmed, told me. “But sometimes we don’t have soap. And if there is no water, we rub our hands in the sand to clean them.”
Ms. Hassan’s labor did not go well. After 11 hours, her husband paid a man with a pickup truck $50 to drive her three hours to the clinic here in Baligubadle. The clinic couldn’t help Ms. Hassan and sent her on another two-and-a-half-hour bone-rattling drive in the back of the pickup to the Somaliland capital of Hargeisa. Shortly after Ms. Hassan arrived at the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital (mentioned in my last column), she died.
Her death was infuriatingly unnecessary — and I felt doubly saddened when I met some of her eight orphans.
There are any number of ways that Ms. Hassan’s life could have been saved. She had an off-the-charts hemoglobin level of just 4, reflecting a stunning level of anemia. A trained midwife could have given her a deworming pill and iron supplements early in the pregnancy, addressing that anemia and strengthening her. Later, Ms. Hassan developed a complication called eclampsia that would have been detected if she had had pre-natal care.
Yet maybe the simplest way to save her life would have been contraception. If Somali women had half as many pregnancies (they now average six births), there would be only half as many maternal deaths. But modern contraception doesn’t exist in this part of Somaliland.
“The only method of family planning we have is breast-feeding,” said Nimo Abdi, the midwife at the clinic here, noting that breast-feeding reduces the likelihood of a new pregnancy. Ms. Abdi thinks that some local people would accept modern contraceptives if they were available.
“If I had injectables and condoms, people would accept them,” she said. “They would want them.”
I wonder if that isn’t a bit optimistic; in a place like this, family planning requires much more than just handing out contraceptives. Ms. Hassan’s husband told me that he had never heard of contraception, and he sounded wary of the idea.
Many people in poor countries want large families, partly to ensure that some will survive despite high death rates. Or a woman may distrust contraceptives or fear her husband’s reaction if she is caught using them.
By United Nations estimates, 215 million women worldwide have an “unmet need” for family planning, meaning they don’t want to become pregnant but are not using effective contraception. The Guttmacher Institute, a widely respected research organization, estimates that if all the unmet need for contraception were met, the result would be 94,000 fewer women dying of pregnancy complications each year, and almost 25 million fewer abortions each year.
Greater access to birth control would also help check the world population, which the United Nations warned a few days ago is rising more quickly than expected. The U.N. now projects the total population in 2100 will be 10.1 billion.
Yet this year, Republicans in Congress have been trying to slash investments in family planning. A budget compromise last month cut international family planning spending by 5 percent, but some Republicans are expected to seek much bigger cuts in future years.
If they succeed, the consequences will be felt in places like this remote Somali town. Women won’t get access to contraceptives, and the parade of unwanted pregnancies, abortions, fistulas, and mothers dying in childbirth will continue.
Ah, but there was one Republican-sponsored initiative for family planning in Congress this year. It provided contraception without conditions — for wild horses in the American West. It passed on a voice vote.
Maybe on Mother’s Day, we could acknowledge that family planning is just as essential for humans as for horses.
I invite you to comment on this column on my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.
Donating - Interesting, ever wonder where that donation money goes?
Keep these facts in mind when "donating". As you open your pockets
for yet another natural disaster, We have listed them from the highest
(worse use of funds) to the lowest (least wasteful offender).
The worst offender was yet again for the 11th year in a row is, UNICEF
CEO, receives $1,200,000 per year, (plus use of a Rolls Royce for his exclusive use where ever he goes, and an expense account that is rumored to be well over $150,000.) Only pennies from the actual donations goes to the UNICEF cause (less than $0.14 per dollar of income).
The second worst offender this year is Marsha J. Evans, President and CEO of the American Red Cross... for her salary for the year ending in 2009 was $651,957 plus expenses. Enjoys 6 weeks - fully paid holidays including all related expenses during the holiday trip for her and her husband and kids. including 100% fully paid health & dental plan for her and her family, for life. This means out of every dollar they bring in, about $0.39 goes to related charity causes.
The third worst offender was again for the 7th time, Brian Gallagher,
President of the United Way receives a $375,000 base salary (U. S. funds), plus numerous expense benefits it's hard to keep track as to what it is all worth, including a fully paid lifetime membership for 2 golf courses (1 in Canada, and 1 in the U. S. A.), 2 luxury vehicles, a yacht club membership, 3 major company gold credit cards for his personal expenses... and so on. This equates to about $0.51 per dollar of income goes to charity causes.
Fourth worst offender who was also again in the fourth spot, for every year since this information has been made available from the start (1998) is amazingly yet again, World Vision President (Canada) receives $300,000 base salary, (plus supplied - a home valued in the $700,000 - $800,000 dollar value range, completely furnished, completely paid all housing expenses, including taxes, water/sewer, telephone/fax, HD/high speed cable, weekly maid service and pool/yard maintenance, fully paid private schooling for his children, upscale automobile and an $55,000 personal expense account for clothing/food, with a $125,000 business expense account).
Get this, because it is a "religious based" charity, it pays, little to no taxes, can receives government assistance and does not have to declare were the money goes.
Only about $0.52 of earned income per dollar is available for charity causes.
Of the sixty some odd "charities" we looked at, the lowest paid
(President/C. EO/Commissioner) was heading up a charity group
in Canada. We found, believe it or not, it was.......
Ready for this..
I think you might be surprised...
It is, none other than...
The Salvation Army's Commissioner Todd Bassett receives a salary of only $13,000 per year (plus housing) for managing this $2 Billion dollar organization. Which means about $0.93 per dollar earned, is readily available and goes back out to local charity causes... truly amazing.. and well done
Last but not the least: Two charitable foundations, one source.
Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) Project:World Patrnership Walk & Aga Khan Development Network
(AKDN) Project: Focus Humanitarian Assistance (disaster relief across the globe).
Not one cent is spent on administration (run by volunteers and paid
workers from private funds NOT donated funds).
100% of the funds raised, go directly to help alleviate global poverty in the poorest regions of the world and international development projects like: revitalizing rural economies, ensuring clean water and sanitation, strengthening community-based organizations, and educating new generations of girls and women.
No further comment is necessary...."Think Twice" before you give to your Charity of choice as to which one really does the best for the most - or the least for the most, for that matter. Remember charity starts at home.
Look after the people of your country.
99% of people won't have the guts to forward this.
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.
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