Stunning Images of International Aid Since 1950

UNICEF just posted this fascinating photo slideshow of photographs that have supported their aid and awareness raising of humanitarian and health interventions since the 1950s. It shows how various iconographies (“starving african child,” or “happy aid child”) evolved over time as part of advocacy efforts.

There are some stunning photos here. Have a watch.

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Daily Impact: China Braces for Incoming Typhoon

October 7, 2013 Two typhoons are barreling across the Pacific toward China and Japan. Eastern China is bracing for the arrival of the first one, Typhoon Fitow:   Hundreds of fishing boats, cargo vessels and oil tankers have been ordered back into port on the coast of Zhejiang Province. This came after China issued a […]

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Leaving Our Legacy

By Jennifer Abrevaya, Sr. Manager, Customer Feedback and Response at Merck

By the final week of our Fellowship assignment, it was hard to believe how quickly the time had flown.  In the time since my previous blog post, we created and refined our toolkit content, traveled back to Tanzania to pilot our work, made final changes based on the pilot, and were preparing to present the completed toolkit to the PSI home office staff.  It had been a whirlwind, but so rewarding to look at this amazing resource and see the volume and quality of work we were able to accomplish in such a short time.

Our PSI supervisor Mary refers to the toolkit “our legacy.”  Once this short assignment was done, and we went back to our regular jobs next week, PSI would be using our work for years and years to come.  It will be translated into several languages and made available to all 69 PSI platforms around the world.  Years from now, Representatives will still participate in our workshops to improve their customer interactions; Marketing Directors will be referring to our guides to make sure they create resources that are relevant and compelling; and Supervisors will be running their operations and coaching their teams more effectively.  The private sector expertise that we have at Merck will be applied in a nonprofit way, all in the name of improving the health of patients in need.

Even though this toolkit will be used for a long time, we were already able to see some immediate results.  For instance –in Tanzania, we conducted several  Advanced Communication workshops with the sales team, and after the meeting went out in the field to see how they were able to start incorporating their new skills into their customer conversations.  Every single representative used what they had learned in the workshops, and the already high-quality of the medical discussions compared to our first trip in May had improved even more.  Seeing such results just a day after the workshops, it was breathtaking to think about how this would be multiplied over the years, as more and more of PSI’s sales teams were coached on these new skills through our work.  And combined with even better visual resources and coaching, they will have the opportunity to save a lot of patient lives as they give providers the important medical information they need.

Often at Merck, we don’t often take the time to stop and enjoy the fruits of our labor…  we focus hard on our projects and tasks, and then move on as each box is checked.  We don’t always think about our work as a legacy that contributes long-term to the health of patients worldwide.  I’ve come back to Merck with this new mindset – thinking of how my contributions will have an impact on public health for years to come.

Our RTC Fellowship assignment was the experience of a lifetime.  Our team is so grateful to PSI for the opportunity, as well as the hospitality and inspiration that we were given every single day.  And we look forward to continuing our relationship with the organization – Merck gives each of us 40 hours per year of volunteer time, and we’ve already offered our hours to PSI so that we can continue to help care for Sara.


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Daily Impact: UN Holds High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development

October 4, 2013 The UN General Assembly is holding a High-Level Dialogue on Migration and Development:   “The aid agencies, including the Agency for International Development, are considered part of the national security apparatus,” said Andrew S. Natsios, a professor at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Public Service and a former administrator of U.S.A.I.D. […]

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Taking care of Sara

By Jennifer Abrevaya, Sr. Manager, Customer Feedback and Response at Merck

In our first days at PSI, our team worked to absorb as much information as we could.  Mary, our PSI project manager, put together a great onboarding that helped us learn about PSI’s work directly from their subject matter experts.  We spent the first two weeks learning about PSI’s products and services for family planning, safe water, malaria prevention, and much more…  all geared towards a woman we learned about named Sara.

In the world of Customer Experience (my main focus at Merck), a person such as Sara is a really powerful tool for connecting with your customer.   A persona is an archetype of one of an organization’s key customers that helps bring the customer to life – it takes you beyond basic demographic and purchasing data, and instead creates a vivid portrait that makes the archetype feel like a real person.  It helps in making customer-focused decisions, because you see the world through that customer’s eyes instead of your own.

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The Same Same, but Different

By Jennifer Abrevaya, Sr. Manager, Customer Feedback and Response at Merck

Tuesday morning – my teammate Myla and I were headed out on our first field visit in Tanzania.  Our rep (aka “Medical Detailer”) Phidman had planned a full day of visits to clinics in Dar Es Salaam.  We were accompanied by Frederick Mwamba and Robinson Katule, on the sales leadership team for PSI Tanzania.  And we were being taken from clinic to clinic by one of PSI’s drivers, which was a new experience for us – in the US, reps are alone every day, driving themselves around their territories.

Our 4-wheel-drive vehicle slowly lurched and tumbled over the unpaved roads as we navigated enormous rocks and craters on our way.  I grinned as I braced myself in my seat, noticing sights that showed some commonalities with the US with a twist – a woman carrying a bucket of water on her head, wearing a Facebook t-shirt; little buses bursting at the seams with commuters;  and of course, the fact that we were tackling the bumpy side roads this morning so that we could avoid Dar Es Salaam’s morning rush hour mayhem.  As our PSI manager Mary often told our team, it’s “the same same, but different.”

Over the course of the day, Phidman brought us to some of his top providers in that week’s routing.  Clinic by clinic, they showed us hospitality by finding seats for our entire motley crew so that we could meet with the provider in comfort.  Even one of the tougher doctors in Phidman’s territory made sure that we all sat in the big plastic lawn chairs that the nurse wedged into his small office.   Compared to the US, even the nicer clinics have the barest of necessities to treat patients…  but they work to make sure that everyone they see, be it a client or a crew of sales people from PSI, is comfortable.

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Daily Impact: Afrobarometer Survey Shows Economic Growth Not Helping the Poor

October 2, 2013 Contrary to popular belief, improved economic growth and prosperity does not automatically help the poor. From Al Jazeera:   The Afrobarometer survey, released on Tuesday, said that despite playing host to some of the world’s highest economic growth rates, many Africans still reported shortages of basic needs, including water, food, healthcare and cash. […]

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Roadblock to Treating Kids with MDR TB

A study in India founds that there are few treatment options for children with MDR TB, a problem that is growing in India. Andheri’s Kokilaben Hospital, a referral center for pediatric TB cases, says nearly three-quarters of the twenty-one children referred with TB have a multi-drug resistant form.

As the Times of India reports:

Worse, all of them had MDRTB as the primary infection with no previous history of tuberculosis whatsoever.

Six of the patients had contracted TB in the lungs, five in the lungs as well nodes (glands), two in lymph nodes, and one in the central nervous system.

Commonly, in adults, non-adherence to TB drugs is what pushes them to its drug-resistant form but this was not found to be the case among these young patients.

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Daily Impact: Massive Floods Ravage Mauritania

October 1, 2013 Mauritania’s capital city, Nouakchott, and the surrounding regions have suffered massive damage due to flooding. Over the past several weeks, the area has been reeling from the effects unprecedented heavy rains:   More than 5,600 people have been affected by the flooding, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red […]

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