Mandy Moore: My Visit with Frontline Health Workers in Cameroon

By Mandy Moore, Global Ambassador, PSI

PSI Ambassador Mandy Moore visits with the patient of a community health worker in a small village in Cameroon. Courtesy PSI.

PSI Ambassador Mandy Moore visits with the patient of a community health worker in a small village in Cameroon. Courtesy PSI.

Two years ago I traveled to Cameroon with global health organization, PSI. We set out from the capital city of Yaoundé and traveled by car over dusty, unpaved roads to the small village of Ebanga.

Driving along the bumpy road, I thought about the millions of parents in developing countries who wake up in the middle of the night to find that one of their children is ill with a life-threatening fever. To get treatment many have to carry their children miles by foot to the nearest health center – all the while knowing they may not be able to afford treatment once they arrive.

This is why I was here in Ebanga; I wanted to see firsthand a program that could change that reality for thousands of Cameroonians, allowing them to receive care in their communities by a trusted health worker.

Read More

The Daily Impact: Humans Bear Climate Change Blame, Finds UN Panel

September 27, 2013 Humans are the significant drivers of climate change, said a UN panel in a new report. The group predicted temperatures would continue to rise this century. From CNN: The summary for policymakers was released early Friday, while the full report, which bills itself as “a comprehensive assessment of the physical science basis […]

Read More

Contraception: It’s Your Life, It’s Your Future, Know Your Options


World Contraception Day is an annual reminder of commitments made by the global community to expand access to information and methods of family planning for women and couples. Under the motto “Your Future. Your Choice. Your Contraception,” WCD 2013 focuses on empowering young people to think ahead and build contraception into their future plans, in order to prevent an unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Increased contraceptive use has the potential to reduce unintended pregnancies by more than two-thirds and prevent almost a third of maternal deaths that occur globally each year. Despite this, it is estimated that more than 220 million women in developing countries who want to delay or prevent a pregnancy do not have access to desired contraception options.

Read More

The Daily Impact: UN Agrees on Way Forward After MDGs

September 25, 2013

Members of the UN agreed on Wednesday to a document that outlines how to proceed with establishing the principles that will follow the Millennium Development Goals. From the Guardian:

United NationsIn the outcome document on the concluding day of talks on global development at the UN’s general assembly in New York this week, member states committed themselves on Wednesday to accelerating progress to achieve the eight millennium development goals (MDGs) by 2015, and then begin the process on creating a new set of targets that put poverty eradication and sustainable development at their centre.

The announcement follows more than a year of discussions on what should replace the MDGs when they expire. In theory, the MDGs are universal, but they have been billed as anti-poverty goals aimed at poor countries that are funded, rather than implemented, by wealthy nations.

The next set of goals will contain targets and indicators that all countries will be obliged to work towards.

The UN general secretary, Ban Ki-moon, said the post-2015 goals should particularly focus on improving the lives of marginalised groups, and empowering women. The framework “must be bold in ambition yet simple in design, supported by a new partnership for development … It must be universal in nature yet responsive to the complexities, needs and capacities of individual countries.

“It needs to be rights-based, with particular emphasis on women, young people and marginalised groups. And it must protect the planet’s resources, emphasise sustainable consumption and production and support action to address climate change. Guided by this far-reaching vision, we can define a concise set of goals that will capture the imagination and mobilise the world, just as the MDGs have done.

The document states: “We are resolved that the post-2015 development agenda should reinforce the international community’s commitment to poverty eradication and sustainable development.

“We underscore the central imperative of poverty eradication and are committed to freeing humanity from poverty and hunger as a matter of urgency. Recognising the intrinsic linkage between poverty eradication and promotion of sustainable development, we underline the need for a coherent approach which integrates in a balanced manner the three dimensions of sustainable development. This coherent approach involves working towards a single framework and set of goals – universal in nature and applicable to all countries, while taking account of differing national circumstances and respecting national policies and priorities.”

Read More

Join the Conversation: World Contraception Day 2013

This year on World Contraception Day, we’re raising our voices for the 222 million women worldwide with an unmet need for contraceptives.  World Contraception Day is held each year to advocate for a world where every pregnancy is wanted, and to empower young people to make informed decisions on sexual and reproductive health.

Join a twitter chat hosted by Women Deliver, IPPF/WHR, Pathfinder, IPM, Population Council, Population Institute, UN Foundation/Universal Access Project, USAID|DELIVER Project/JSI, MSH, ICFP, MSI, PPFA Global, MCHIP/Jhpiego, FP2020 and SHOPS Project/Abt Associates to share ideas, spark discussion, and engage leaders about how we can make sure that girls and women, everywhere, have access to the family planning information and services they want and need. On September 26th, from 11am – 12:30pm EST (3pm – 4:30pm GMT), follow the discussion using the hashtag #WCDchat.

We hope you can join our lively conversation! See you on Twitter.

@IPPF_WHR  @pathfinderint  @IPMicrobicides @Pop_Council @WomenDeliver @PopInstitute  @UnivAccessProj @deliverproject @MSHHealthImpact @FPAddis2013 @MarieStopes @ppglobe @mchipnet @FP2020Global @SHOPSProject

Read More

The Daily Impact: A New Pathway to End Extreme Poverty

September 25, 2013

A new report studying foreign aid and its impacts on poverty alleviation paves the way to ending extreme poverty by 2030. From IPS:

“Investments to End Poverty,” released by Development Initiatives, compiled the aid patterns of donor countries and recipients. The report argues that breaking down the different sources of aid and measuring their efficacy is vital if countries are to truly wipe out extreme poverty.

The study shows that that no one source of aid will suffice, said Judith Randel, executive director of Development Initiatives.

“If we are going to end extreme poverty by 2030, government expenditure will have to be supplemented by other resources,” Randel told reporters.

Aid figures in the developing world can be misleading.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), for instance, nearly seventy percent of the 7.5 billion dollars in official development assistance (ODA) received in 2011 was in the form of debt relief.  That money, given long ago, likely has little or no effect on the DRC of today.

In Ethiopia, debt forgiveness made up less than one percent of the 5.1 billion dollars in ODA. Cash and food grants, new loans and equity investments made up more than three quarters of aid inflows.

When deciding how to allocate funds, donors are faced more than ever with the decision to “invest in something with a known rate of return or something more risky,” said Randel.

Cash transfers, which provide direct monetary assistance to poor families, are viewed as a way to circumvent bureaucracy and empower recipients.

“They have to be seen as part and parcel of the development compact” said Charles Lwanga-Ntale, Africa director at Development Initiative.

In East Africa, the majority of recipients spend cash transfers on education, healthcare and in small investments like livestock. From a development perspective, that kind of spending is precisely what donors look for, Lwanga-Ntale told IPS.

Despite their success, cash transfers can’t fill in gaps in infrastructure. If there is no school or doctor, people can’t spend money on healthcare and education. Traditional forms of aid and direct foreign investment are as important as ever for poorer countries.

“There is no one size fits all approach to ending extreme poverty”, the report concludes.

Read More

Saving Lives Through the Power of Soap

photo(New York) - Handwashing with soap saves lives. It is really that simple agree leaders from the private, NGO and academic spheres at an event this morning. As a child dies every fifteen seconds around the world, the time is now to bring solutions that save lives to scale.

“The cost of inaction is higher than the cost of action,” said Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever.

Polman was joined by economist Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, PSI CEO Karl Hofmann and Indian actress Kajol. The four called attention to the way that partnerships can accelerate programs like handwashing so that more lives are saved.

Unilever’s Lifebouy soap brand partners with PSI to run handwashing education programs in Kenya. A similar partnership with Sachs’s Millennium Villages Program further increases the reach and impact of handwashing.

“The 2008 crisis showed that while many people improved their lives, many were still left behind,” said Polman.

Lifebuoy’s Help A Child Reach 5 campaign aims to eradicate preventable deaths from diseases like diarrhea one village at a time, by teaching lifesaving handwashing habits. Hofmann praised the marketing abilities and reach of Unilever. He said that PSI was initially interested in learning from Unilever to improve PSI’s social marketing. The formal partnership that later developed showed just how NOGs can work with the private sector.

“As we look at the burden of disease, there’s naturally an overlap with the consumer goods marketing done by Unilever,” he said.

The idea was put into action when Lifebuoy launched its Help a Child Reach 5 handwashing campaign in Thesgora, a village in Madhya Pradesh with one of the highest rates of diarrhea in India. Lifebuoy has committed to teach Thesgora and the surrounding five villages the importance of handwashing at the five key occasions – and to help them sustain this habit. The initiative will increase the practice of handwashing with soap among children and therefore reduce the disease burden of child diarrhea.

Unilever Panel

Early results are exciting. The 6,000 people reached helped decrease the diarrhea incidence rate from 42% to 11% in a matter of six months. The next step will be to bring the program to the rest of the state and eventually all of India. Achieving that can be done through partnerships.

“Governments can find it hard to engage with programs that involve behavior change. Hygiene is an area which has been often overlooked. No business, government or UN agency can achieve the agreed reduction of child mortality alone, but by working together we can combine the expertise, resources and policy needed to achieve real change,” said Polman at the UN yesterday.

By working with Indian actress Kajol, Lifebouy hopes to reach more people. She described how simple it is for people to wash soap with their hands. Being a mother, she described a motivation to ensure that all children in India are able to survive and thrive.

Handwashing is working, they all agreed. Fewer kids are getting sick and fewer kids are dying. With the expiration of the MDGs around the corner, we must keep pressure up to include Water Sanitation and Hygiene in the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Polman said he did not believe that handwashing will be a goal itself Post-2015, but was optimistic that it can be a key part of improving health and ensuring that fewer children die each year.

Read More

Handwashing in Action

By Chris Mallaband, Unilever

Every year, 2 million children don’t live to celebrate their 5th birthday. You can help change that by donating today. Better yet, Unilever will match your donation so it will go twice as far. Go here to donate today and read on to learn more.

PSI 3Every year, 2 million children don’t live to celebrate their 5th birthday. You can help change that by donating today. Better yet, Unilever will match your donation so it will go twice as far. Go here to donate today and read on to learn more.

Chris Mallaband is the Unilever Foundation Global Ambassador for PSI. Chris traveled to Kenya in June 2013 to visit schools participating in the Lifebuoy ‘School of Five’ handwashing program. This is day one of his experience at the schools.

The day I have been especially looking forward to is here. Today we will visit some of the schools in Kenya that follow the Lifebuoy ‘School of Five’ handwashing program. Helping children learn handwashing habits is a noble mission indeed.

Our destination is the Likoni region of Mombasa, stopping off on the way to talk with the Mombasa Ministry of Health before we reach the schools.

After finishing a rapid breakfast, we are off to visit the Ministry. It’s immediately apparent that the Mombasa traffic is just as challenging as that in Nairobi. We spend a lot of time standing still, giving the hawkers plenty of opportunity to stare through our windows and offer us anything from cakes to knives, and fruit to toys. Sadly for them, none of us are up for a deal.

We meet with Dr. Shikily, the Director of Health for the Mombasa region, and her team. Following the recent national elections, Kenya changed from 8 regions to 47 counties; a change in strategic direction perhaps going against the grain of most organizational design you see nowadays. Dr. Shikily explained to us how this has made her life much more complicated to get things done. We then discuss how Unilever, PSI and the Kenyan Government could collaborate further, to enable ever greater positive impact all round.

With the discussions concluded, it is time to tackle the short ferry that shuttles motorists across Kilindini Harbour. The ferry is a renowned bottleneck in the already-suffocated Mombasa transport system and lives up to its reputation. Back on land, our driver Peter skillfully avoids the stray goats and cows on the local roads, and we enter rural Likoni reaching our first school, Bethania Academy.

Bethania is a private school but a relatively inexpensive one. A look around the local community reveals that this is far from the land of milk and honey.

We receive a warm welcome from the headmaster and his pupils, who recited their Lifebuoy ‘School of Five’ pledge to us with wide smiles at an impromptu assembly. Two children in each classroom have the opportunity to be appointed as “Little Doctors” – kind of captains of handwashing practices. The pair has the responsibility to remind their classmates of the key times when they should wash their hands, and how they should do it.

Christine tells me how proud she is to be a little doctor. She kindly walks me from school to her nearby home to meet her family. To my surprise, the house is, in truth, really a few basic rooms within a communal building – certainly a way away from how I might have perceived a private school pupil to live.

Nine dwellings share three basic toilets, and all the rooms are separated with thin curtains. Her father Charles, a salesman, tells me how Christine educated the family on handwashing with soap based on the program that she has followed at school. Now, he, his wife and Christine’s sister all follow the ‘5 key occasions’ rules of washing their hands before the three main meals, after using the toilet and when in the bath.

As we depart, Charles introduces me to his neighbor Patrick. Charles says that he trained Patrick on the benefits of handwashing with soap, and how to do it properly. Here was community transference of behavior change being demonstrated in true community-led style.

After high-fives with many of the pupils at Bethania, it was time to move on to another school in Likoni district and, against the odds, to visit a state school. Despite a national teachers’ walkout, the headteacher of the fantastically-named Inspirations Primary School reported for duty so that she and her pupils have the chance to meet us.

We are ushered to the school hall, absent of seating and lighting. The children proceed to give us their Lifebuoy ‘School of Five’ pledge before a few of them act out a self-written play. The characters show how the learning materials come to life.

Another small group step forward to sing a song to us about the hope and potential that children can bring. Hearing these words sung within the surroundings of the basic facilities in which we stood was truly uplifting.

Inspirations by name and inspirations as pupils.

I greet the children with our thanks and stress the need for them to sustain what they learned. I am delighted when the headteacher tells me, as we leave, that the program has helped to increase school attendance by reducing sickness among the pupils.

Our final stop of the day is one particularly close to my heart. Having provided voluntary sports commentary for blind spectators at cricket matches in the UK for a number of years, I was especially keen to visit Likoni School for the Blind. It is one of only two schools for blind children in Kenya, and was founded in collaboration with the British Salvation Army back in 1965.

The familiar Salvation Army badge still adorns a number of the buildings. It presently has around 150 boarding pupils, with around 20% of these being albino children, for whom life in the country in which they live is an extremely tough challenge. The children here also completed the program, and it was great to see the enthusiasm that they had for the characters and the concept. Once more I spent some time with the ‘little doctors’ at the school.

A boy named Rufus tells me that I too must make sure I wash my hands at all the key times. I promise him that I will, and we shake hands on it.

A busy day behind us, we look forward to a straightforward journey back to our hotel. Just under three hours after we started what we thought would be less than an hour’s drive, we eventually reached it. Enough said.

Read More