Unclogging the Blockages: Building sustainable markets for sanitation products and services

Despite growing attention to sanitation being paid by donors and governments, and the declaration by the United Nations that access to basic sanitation is a human right, progress remains slow. In an effort to get things moving (pun intended), on Tuesday, February 18, the first ever Unclogging the Blockages in Sanitation workshop will commence in Kampala, Uganda.

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The Daily Impact: Zimbabwean Government Makes Male Circumcision Push

February 18, 2014

Zimbabwe’s government is encouraging more men to get circumcised in an effort to fight AIDS. From VOA:

The deputy head of Population Services International [PSI] Zimbabwe, Dr. Karin Hatzold, said her organization is using the 25-year-old singer and other entertainers to persuade young men to get circumcised.

“We have campaigns that are specifically targeting adolescents, people in schools, so during school holidays we doing massive mobilizations on mass media… ‘So get smart, get circumcised. Male circumcision is not only HIV prevention intervention, but it is improving hygiene, you are cleaner, you are smarter.’”

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the part of the world most affected by HIV and AIDS. Zimbabwe was hit hard in the early years of the pandemic, but has made progress in reducing AIDS-related deaths and the HIV prevalence rate.

Research has found that circumcision reduces the chance of men contracting HIV by up to 60 percent, good reason for Zimbabwe to undertake the current program after it received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as the U.S. and British governments.

A self-described “ambassador” of voluntary medical male circumcision, Jah Prayzah, revealed what convinced him to undergo the procedure. “It is about my health, mainly and that of my wife,” he said. “As “brand ambassador of male circumcision,” he said he must lead by example, so that many more people can come in and get circumcised.

Since last year, more than 200,000 Zimbabwean males have been circumcised. Officials are hopeful their goal of 1.3 million circumcised men can be achieved.

To reach the goal, the government says it will increase the number of centers that offer free male circumcision.

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Laxmi’s Story

Ed note. Indrani Goradia, Founder of Indrani’s Light Foundation, just concluded a trip to India to visit PSI-India’s pilot projects to combat gender-based violence. These are her reflections.   

Laxmi strode confidently into the hotel ballroom where we were holding the launch of Wajood – a project developed in partnership between Indrani’s Light Foundation and PSI India to stem gender based violence in Delhi.

She’s slight, dressed in skinny jeans and unmistakable in her confidence, her beauty and for the scars covering her face and arms.

We had not exchanged a single word but I could feel the life and purpose flowing from her, and I loved her immediately.

A little later, we sat down to talk and with self-assurance and boldness, she shared her story. When she was only 15 years old, she refused the marriage proposal of a man twice her age in her New Delhi neighborhood. As revenge, the man enlisted his friend to help him punish her. At a crowded upscale market in India’s capital, the two men approached her and threw a glass of acid in her face.

Now at 23, after multiple surgeries, she is speaking out on the issue of violence against women and mentoring women who’ve experienced similar abuse. She is giving voice to victims and hope to women, and she is pushing for change.

There is something painfully beautiful about the human spirit that allows Laxmi to take such an unimaginable tragedy and turn it into fire and light and love.

Too many young girls and women share Laxmi’s experience. She’s determined to stop the cycle. I am, too. It’s why I am here in Delhi launching Wajood with PSI India. The timing is critical and the women I met are ready for change in one of the most dangerous places in the world for girls and women.

I leave our conversation restless, determined and impatient. Laxmi inspires my work and she challenges me to do more.

What one thing can we do today to help create change? It could be a simple as sharing Laxmi’s story.

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The Daily Impact: US and WHO join 26 Countries to Head off Global Epidemics

February 14, 2014 – Happy Valentine’s Day

The US and 26 other countries launched a new effort to prevent and fight outbreaks of dangerous infectious diseases before they spread around the globe. From the AP:

U.S. health officials called the Global Health Security Agenda a priority because too many countries lack the health infrastructure necessary to spot a new infection rapidly and sound the alarm before it has time to gain a foothold and even spread into other countries.

Germs “do not recognize or stop at national borders,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Thursday as representatives from participating countries, the World Health Organization and other groups met to discuss plans. “A threat anywhere is indeed a threat everywhere.”

Yet fewer than 20 percent of countries are adequately prepared to respond to emerging infections, she said.

Infectious diseases are a growing concern. Just in the past year, China alerted the world that a new type of bird flu was sickening people; a mysterious and deadly new respiratory virus emerged in the Middle East; and scientists detected the spread of some older diseases to new locales including the first appearance of mosquito-borne chikungunya virus in the Caribbean.

New diseases are but a plane ride away, warned Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“There are too many blind spots around the world,” he told reporters in preparation for Thursday’s meeting.

The goal of the new effort: Over five years, the U.S. will partner with other countries to bolster local disease monitoring, develop tests for different pathogens and help regions create and strengthen systems to report and respond to public health emergencies.

Last year, the CDC began a pilot project in Uganda to improve detection of such diseases as cholera, drug-resistant tuberculosis and hemorrhagic fevers. Motorcycles raced samples from sick patients in remote parts of the country to provincial capitals, where they could be shipped overnight to a laboratory that could rapidly report the results back.

It “showed that very rapid progress was possible,” Frieden said.

This year, the CDC and Defense Department together will spend $40 million for similar projects in 10 other countries, which are yet to be named. In 2015, the Obama administration is seeking $45 million in new funding to further expand the work.

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Healthier lives for Mozambique’s children, one sprinkle at a time

On February 5, 2014, the first sale of Super Bebe happened in Mozambique, after awaiting approval from the Ministry of Health. As advertised in the commercial above, Super Bebe is a simple, once-a-day nutritional supplement in the form of a powder that can be sprinkled onto any baby food mothers are already using.

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The Daily Impact: Progress to Increase Family Planning Access Fragmented – UN

February 13, 2014

Significant gains have been made to reduce maternal and child deaths as well as increase family planning access, over the past two decades. However, UNFPA warns that the progress has not reached all women. From the Guardian:

The number of women dying in pregnancy or childbirth has dropped by almost half, and total global fertility rates have fallen by nearly a quarter. But access to health services remains patchy, particularly in rural areas of Africa, Latin America and parts of Asia, and sex discrimination remains deeply entrenched.

“A belief in, and commitment to, gender equality is not universal, and gender-based discrimination and violence continue to plague most societies,” says a report by the U N population fund, the UNFPA, which reviewed progress against commitments made at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo in 1994.

The wide-ranging study, which examines progress in more than 170 countries that signed up to the Cairo programme of action, found that people with disabilities, those from indigenous groups, and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender have also faced persistent discrimination.

It says governments had talked the language of gender equality by introducing laws to ensure women’s rights were protected, but had been selective about their implementation.

One in three women has experienced physical and/or sexual abuse, and in some places men openly admit they have raped and face no consequences. In no country are women equal to men in political or economic power, it says.

“While the core message of the ICPD was the right of all persons to development, the rise of the global middle class has been shadowed by persistent inequalities both within and between countries. While we have made important gains in health and longevity, these gains are neither equally shared, nor accessible for many,” says the report.

The outcome of the ICPD in 1994 was considered groundbreaking. It was the first time member states agreed that equal rights and universal access to sexual and reproductive health services were essential for sustainable development.

Discussions about population control moved from slowing growth rates through family planning policies to look instead at ways to improve the lives of women and girls more broadly, emphasising their social and economic empowerment, women’s right to control their bodies and their fertility through access a range of modern contraceptive methods, along with universal access to education for girls.

The outcome document contained more than 200 recommendations, with a deadline of 2015. It sought to address the environmental impact of population growth and emphasised the elimination of all forms of violence against women, the reduction of maternal mortality rates, and an end to sex discrimination. It also touched on migrants’ rights to services and the support of indigenous groups.

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The Daily Impact: Polio Returns to Kabul After 13 Years

February 12, 2014

The first case of polio in more than a decade has caused Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul to launch an emergency polio vaccination campaign. From AFP:

The three-year-old from a nomadic family living on the northeastern edge of the city was diagnosed after being admitted to hospital in neighbouring Pakistan, a spokesman for the Afghan public health ministry said Tuesday.

The spokesman, Kaneshka Baktash Turkistani told AFP it was not clear whether the girl had contracted the virus in Kabul or Pakistan.

The highly contagious polio virus remains endemic in both countries, but Kabul city has not had a reported case since the Taliban regime was ousted by a US-led invasion more than a decade ago.

Turkistani said the Pakistani authorities had informed his ministry of the incident.

“After this, we launched an emergency polio campaign in Kabul and luckily so far, we have not found any other cases of polio,” he said.

Besides Afghanistan and Pakistan, Nigeria is the only other country in the world where polio, a disease that paralyses children, is still endemic.

Due to massive internationally-backed efforts the number of cases has dropped significantly in Afghanistan in recent years, with most reported from the insurgency-hit south.

Despite targeting health workers associated with the government, Taliban insurgents have allowed polio vaccination teams to visit their areas in recent years, a move that authorities say has helped to contain the disease.

This contrasts sharply with the situation in Pakistan, where militants have branded polio campaigns as cover for espionage and routinely attack vaccination teams.

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