It’s been raining virtually nonstop since we arrived in Kathmandu on Sunday morning. There were downpours all day without any let up until the evening. I hope we get to see the sun on Tuesday. It’s the end of the monsoon season in Nepal, but I don’t think the weather quite wants to get rid of the rain yet.
Today was our very first site visit for this Nepal trip to see Coca-Cola’s rebuilding efforts after last year’s earthquake as well as their work with women in their global #5by20 program that will empower five million women by 2020 across Coca-Cola’s value chain.
Today, we focused on how Coca-Cola is helping local NGOs rebuild after the quake as well as how Coca-Cola employees joined as a team to push through the crisis they endured after two very sizeable earthquakes.
You can read about our visit to a village about an hour and a half away from Kathmandu and how a local NGO is using innovative ways to create sustainable communities.
Last year I remember exactly where I was when the 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal on April 25. I was on my way to Haiti to report on maternal health, and really good friends of mine from the International Reporting Project had been in Nepal for a very short time on a reporting trip when the quake hit. I remember tweeting them to see if everything was okay. Thankfully they were and wrote amazing, insightful articles from their harrowing experience on the ground. Even though I wasn’t in Nepal, knowing people who were and reported once the quake happened brought the crisis close to home.
The way in which countries respond to disasters varies. One thing is certain: governments cannot shoulder massive disaster relief alone. I learned this once I saw the coordinated one-year disaster relief in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan. Relief, I’ve learned, is always a combination of public and private partnerships that work in tandem to benefit citizens that have been hardest hit. Sometimes it is not easy and the coordination may be a bit slow-going, but the truth is private companies that have apositive, established footprint in countries with an excellent track record can benefit government and NGO partners with logistics support, private enterprise expertise, and most importantly finances.
This morning for breakfast, I joined the PSI India team with their partners and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to learn that they are building toilets and developing a sanitation system in Bihar by turning the traditional nonprofit model on its head. PSI India has developed a social enterprise and is treating the open defecation problem like a business problem.
The idea is to make toilets convenient, affordable and attractive in a state where 80% of the population currently lives without them.
When communities lack basic sanitation, kids die (more than 450,000 did in India last year due to diarrheal disease), people get sick, and girls and women are at greater risk of rape and violence when they’re simply trying to find a private place outdoors to relieve themselves.
Intermittently the media has covered the plight of the Rohingya people in and out of Burma (now known as Myanmar). You may have seen stories of boats full of refugees escaping the country and of other countries refusing to take them in, but awareness is scarce. Even finding information for this article has proven to be a challenge with an absence of consistent coverage and lack of statistics.
The Rohingya are a minority group of Muslim people who make up approximately 5% of the primarily Buddhist Burmese population. Their history and the conflict surrounding them is extremely complicated with both roots to the British annexation of Burma in 1826 and religious/political issues. There is also disagreement about just how long the group has existed. Some say for several decades, while others say for several centuries.
Speaking with Dr. Priya Agrawal, Executive Director of Merck for Mothers, for this latest interview in our Maternal Health Heroes Summer Series, I instinctively realized that she is not only a gifted communicator with a passion for women’s health, but also an infectious advocate for safe motherhood both in the United States and worldwide.
Merck for Mothers, a 10-year, $500 million initiative aimed at reducing maternal mortality, was launched in 2011 and initially set robust goals to reduce women’s deaths during childbirth in low- and middle-income countries. Like many in America, Merck for Mothers failed to initially realize at the time that maternal mortality in the United States is a persistent problem that is steadily worsening. In fact, that line of thinking is quite understandable given most of the 800 women who die every day during childbirth live in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.
The good news for women living in low- and middle-income countries, however, is maternal mortality has drastically been reduced by 45 percent since 1990, a marked change despite the future reductions that still need to occur during the Sustainable Development Goals era. Sadly, in the United States the numbers are not improving. “The United States is the forgotten child when it comes to maternal mortality,” Agrawal mentions. “We learned very quickly that even in our backyards we had to do something. Maternal mortality has more than doubled in the United States. The trend is going in the wrong direction.” Given the amount of money spent on health care in the United States, we experience the highest maternal mortality ratio than any other developed country in the world.
It has been three months since the earthquake in Nepal. Over 9,000 people lost their lives and several more were injured. The latest figures state that over 117,000 people are displaced from their homes and over two million children have been affected. Like many countries at this time, Nepal is in great need of humanitarian assistance and help in rebuilding efforts. However, disaster relief is a short-term issue. The fate of the country in the long term must be considered by the international community.
Nepal was already listed as one of the poorest countries in the world prior to the earthquake, and moving forward they will not be able to break from their rank anytime soon. However, the country does have the means to be self-sufficient with the right help.
Nepal has many natural resources, particularly minerals like zinc and copper, but they are in limited supply and hard to get to. Agriculture is the largest source of income for the country and employs the most people. Many crops grow in the region but the most popular now are rice and corn. There is great potential for agriculture in the country if they can gain access to newer methods of farming and education. Agriculture will not only help Nepal feed its people, but boost international trading potential.
Rape has always been used as a weapon of war and women and girls are typically the victims of these heinous crimes.
To bring more awareness to sexual violence during conflict the United Nations General Assembly created the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict that will be commemorated on June 19 each year.
“Rape and other forms of sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict constitute grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law,” President of the 193-member Assembly, Sam Kutesa, declared as he greeted the resolution’s adoption. “Yet these depraved acts still occur and are used to terrorize and control civilian populations in conflict zones.”
Featured Photo:Psychological and Social Work with Survivor and Affected Families in Liberia (UN Photo/Martine Perret)
Across the board there has been a global call for a strengthening of health systems particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Now, atop that, key partners including USAID, WHO, and the World Bank along with specific countries have laid out a road map and a 5-point Call to Action Plan to establish improved measurement systems on health outcomes at the country level.
“Accurate and timely health data are the foundation to improving public health. Without reliable information to set priorities and measure results, countries and their development partners are working in the dark,” said Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. “Investing in measurement is an investment in health and countries that build and strengthen local capacity are better positioned to achieve greater long-term success and better health outcomes.
If there is one thing we’ve seen over the past month or so after the earthquakes in Nepal in April and May is there is an overall concerted effort to help women who are expecting babies during the aftermath of the natural disaster.
A new, first-of-its-kind report, The Ultimate Investment in the Future Profiles of Corporate Engagement in the Health and Development of Newborns [PDF] was recently released that catalogs 48 corporations and their financial commitments to saving the lives of more newborns globally. Currently there are 2.6 million stillbirths every year and 2.8 million newborns do not make it past four weeks. Most of these deaths occur … Continue reading 48 Corporations Step Up to Curb Newborn Deaths
A 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal today roughly two weeks after the last earthquake shook the impoverished nation that took the lives of 8,000 people.
Aid workers and NGOs are already in Nepal providing assistance and supplies are in the pipeline and have reached Kathmandu for distribution to remote areas. In sharp contrast to last month’s earthquake at least 48 people have been confirmed dead and more than 1,000 injured by the quake as opposed to an immediate count of thousands during the last disaster. The epicenter of today’s earthquake occurred closer to the Chinese border. Reports said aftershocks could be felt as far away as India where 17 people have died.
Direct Relief staff in Nepal were assembling tents to augment a birthing clinic that was damaged in last month’s tragic earthquake when the second earthquake hit today. They reported that it visibly shook the mountains around them and brought down nearby buildings. Within the hour, Direct Relief reports people with injuries filled the clinic and two women went into premature labor. One of the women was experiencing serious complications, so staff raced through traffic to a referral hospital on the other side of town where she could receive more advanced care. Continue reading “Aid Workers Continue Assistance After Second Nepal Earthquake”
When you think about very low- and middle-income countries you might assume that the poor in deep rural pockets in these countries have the highest chance for maternal and infant mortality. That isn’t the case according to Save the Children’s latest State of the World’s Mothers report released today.
The report says that it is the urban poor in countries like Haiti, Somalia, Niger and Mali, for example, who are suffering the most and have less access to health care, nutrition services, sanitation and clean water. Even as child mortality has decreased by 49 percent since 1990, the numbers do not fully tell the entire story. While resources have successfully helped the rural populations, the urban poor continue to suffer from a lack of overall services that will allow them to live and thrive.
“Our new report reveals a devastating child survival divide between the haves and have-nots, telling a tale of two cities among urban communities around the world, including the United States,” said Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children in a statemtn. “For babies born in the big city, it’s survival of the richest.”
New data says there are 54 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. 860 million people live in urban slums in big cities like Delhi, Nairobi, Rio, and Johannesburg where the disparity between the rich and poor is incredibly stark. In fact, poor children in urban areas are two times more likely to die than their richer peers. In some countries, poor children are up to five times more likely to die before the age of five than their peers in a much higher income bracket.
Urban slums continue to grow because poor migrants from rural areas seek jobs in cities. This causes squatter communities and slum-dwelling as well as a perpetual cycle of poverty. These migrants often believe that it is better to live in crowded slums in the city than in their rural home towns because they can at least find work. The tradeoff, however, comes in the form of poor living conditions.
The best way to help in this disaster situation is to donate money to international NGOs that are well-versed in disaster relief. They have entire teams who are trained how to start, ask the right questions, and can deploy emergency shelter, food, water, and everyday necessities. They also know how to provide medical relief and aid and in the long run can help families with work in order to earn money in an environment that has been reduced to rubble.
I saw the wide-sweeping and effective relief efforts of international NGOs after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines when I visited with a World Vision USA team for the one year anniversary in 2014. I know that because of large NGOs’ experience and coordinated efforts they can help disaster relief rapidly and in tandem with the Nepalese government. In fact, the UN has a coordinated system already in place called Cluster Coordination so that NGOs work together and not in vacuous sylos.
Today starts World Immunization Week which is a time to reflect on the major accomplishments we’ve seen on routine vaccinations of children worldwide, but also to look critically at the challenges that children face who are still not fully immunized.
This year the World Health Organization is calling upon the global health community, governments, civil society, and other key actors to close the gap for under-immunized children. Today immunizations curb 2 – 3 million child deaths from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), and measles. each year, but that number of saved lives can be larger. Today 84 percent of children have received three doses of the DPT vaccine, but a whopping 21.8 million infants do not have complete vaccines, that is 1 in 5 children who still lack all of their basic vaccines.
“World Immunization Week creates a focused global platform to reinvigorate our collective efforts to ensure vaccination for every child, whoever they are and wherever they live,” said Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director-General, Family, Women’s and Children’s Health. “It is critical that the global community now makes a collective and cohesive effort to put progress towards our 6 targets back on track.”
Fifteen years ago an educational framework was set in Dakar, Senegal at the World Education Forum that established goals to achieve “Education for All” by 2015. Since then, the number of children who are now out of school has fallen by half, but there are still 58 million children out of school globally and around 100 million children who do not complete primary education according to the report.
Of course, it is the world’s poorest children who are largely not attending school. In fact, poor children globally are four times less likely to attend school than the world’s richest children. And since the World Education Forum in 2000, only one third of countries have achieved all of the measurable Education for All (EFA) goals.
There has been some progress since 2000, however. 184 million children were enrolled in pre-primary education worldwide, an increase of nearly two-thirds since 1999. And yet, for older children, especially those who live in sub-Saharan Africa, 20 percent of enrolled children drop out before graduating.