Much has been written about the gender gap in mobile phone usage, specifically on why women are less likely to have access to this technology than men; why women are less likely to be technically literate than men; and why women are less likely to be aware of the many potential benefits of a mobile phone. We recognize that there is a gender gap, as high as 38 percent in South Asia. Within the development community, there is no disagreement that this digital gender divide needs to be addressed in order to drive women’s economic empowerment and ensure a more equitable future. However, there are varying points of view on how to close this gap.
Now, more than ever, is a time to stand up for science. The U.S. administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 calls for severe cuts to several key science-generating institutions, including the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These cuts would result in a deterioration of the science that has allowed the United States to be the global leader in medicine, public health and environmental science. They would also stall progress in global development, an area which has benefited greatly from the many lifesaving solutions produced through science.
Given the administration’s apparent disregard for science, we should take a step back and ask ourselves what may seem like a simple question: What is science and why does it matter? Of the many definitions, the most basic is the standard dictionary definition: a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular matter. More importantly though, science is a process or way of thinking that seeks to reveal the “truth.” Not knowing the truth about something is like driving through a heavy fog. Science can cut through this fog and reveal the truth.
The proposed cuts to the U.S. development and diplomacy budget may signal a new era in international development. But what’s behind the numbers and what does it mean for U.S. global leadership and for the Sustainable Development Goals?
In 2010, the United States Agency for International Development formulated a bold, new agenda for modernizing U.S. foreign assistance. Christened USAID Forward, one of its most notable features was an objective to program 30 percent of development assistance directly to local governments and civil society organizations.
At the time, only about 10 percent of USAID’s funding was awarded to local organizations. Earmarking U.S. assistance for local organizations was cheered by developing country partners and U.S. advocacy groups, such as the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network and the Center for Global Development, who had long argued that international NGOs, however well-intentioned, crowded out local actors and limited the growth of local capacity.
As elsewhere in Africa, a woman in rural Malawi often must walk for miles to reach the nearest health clinic. When she finally arrives, long queues await and a preferred contraceptive, Depo-Provera®, is often unavailable. Even if the barriers of distance, long waits and stock-outs did not exist, a busy clinic would not be an ideal venue for those who seek contraception in a private setting away from the prying eyes of neighbors and acquaintances. Many women use Depo-Provera because it is effective, requires only a single injection every three months and can be used without the knowledge of a sexual partner.
In many villages in Malawi, and other countries, an auxiliary nurse sells a wide variety of over-the-counter medicines, as well as condoms and oral contraceptives, in a small drug shop. Women in these villages wish that injectable contraceptives were as easily and discreetly available as the pills and condoms in the drug shop.
This situation may soon change with the arrival of a new, lower-dose formula of Depo-Provera called Sayana® Press. Sayana Press provides the same three months of safe, effective pregnancy prevention as Depo-Provera but comes in an easy-to-use, pre-filled injection device designed to allow low-level health workers, and even users themselves, to inject the product. To further simplify the injection, the long needle formerly required for deep muscle injections has been replaced by a much shorter needle for a simple injection just beneath the skin.
Several countries in Africa, such as Senegal and Uganda, are beginning to use Sayana Press in their family planning programs, especially those in which community health workers provide contraceptives. More importantly, a few countries will soon begin stocking Sayana Press in pharmacies and perhaps rural drug shops.
Good nutrition is critical in preventing child and maternal deaths. Deficiencies in micronutrients, such as iodine, iron, vitamin A and zinc, can lead to impaired physical and cognitive development, poor pregnancy outcomes (for example, a low birth weight baby), a weakened immune system, anemia, night blindness and even death. It is estimated that micronutrient malnutrition affects more than 2 billion people worldwide.
For more than a decade, the Food and Nutritional Technical Assistance (FANTA) project, funded by USAID, has been a key contributor to the global effort to reduce micronutrient deficiencies. Our work has focused on the development of new methods to identify dietary gaps, through research on the impact of lipid-based nutrient supplements on the health status of vulnerable populations and dissemination of the most up-to-date, relevant information to a wide range of nutrition stakeholders.
Recently, FANTA contributed to the development of software called Optifood, which can be used to identify local food combinations that can fill (or come as close as possible to filling) micronutrient gaps based on local foods and diet. Optifood results contribute to the development of cost-effective, context-specific approaches.
An Interview with
Elizabeth Hume, Technical Director for Peacebuilding and Conflict Mitigation, FHI 360
Anne O’Toole Salinas, Program Director for Peacebuilding and Conflict Mitigation, FHI 360
Why is the PEACE IQC significant?
Through the PEACE IQC, USAID can draw upon experienced and trusted partners to respond to crisis and fragility and to develop a comprehensive program across sectors. Task orders issued under the PEACE IQC will ensure that USAID and its partners understand the causes of conflict, identify the best approaches for mitigating conflict, and gather learning and evidence to inform future programming against conflict and extremism.
What is unique about the approach of FHI 360 and the PEACE Consortium?
FHI 360’s PEACE Consortium, comprised of 18 member organizations, is uniquely able to assist in conflict-affected contexts because we bring an integrated approach to addressing the varied root causes of social and political tensions. With almost two decades experience, we have learned there is never a single driver of conflict, and we have developed the tools to identify the sources and then design cross-sectorial interventions that address the real needs on the ground. We offer an integrated model that encompasses experts working across 122 countries, with the ability to mobilize high-quality teams in quick response to crises.
What does it REALLY take to ensure young children get the proper nutrition to grow strong and healthy? This is an especially important question in poor rural communities in Guatemala, where about half of the children under five years of age are stunted (too short for their age—a sign of long-term deficits in the quantity and/or quality of food, including the right vitamins and minerals). In some parts of western Guatemala, more than eight in ten young children are stunted.
Now there’s a new tool to help answer the question: Optifood is a computer software program, developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance III Project (FANTA), and Blue Infinity, that provides scientific evidence on how to best improve children’s diets at the lowest possible cost using locally available foods. Optifood identifies nutrient gaps and suggests food combinations the local diet can fill—or come as close to filling. It also helps identify local foods’ limits in meeting nutrient needs and test strategies for filling remaining nutrient gaps, such as using fortified foods or micronutrient powders that mothers mix into infant or young children’s porridge.
The Government of Guatemala is fighting stunting through its Zero Hunger Initiative, which aims to reduce stunting by 10 percent by 2015 and 24 percent by 2022 through nutrition, health, agriculture, and social safety net programs. The U.S. Government and USAID are supporting these efforts through Feed the Future and Global Health Initiatives focused on the Western Highlands. USAID/Guatemala asked the USAID-funded FANTA/FHI 360 to help find strategies to improve the nutritional quality of children’s diets in the region. The challenge was to develop realistic and affordable diets for children that both meet their needs and are firmly based on scientific evidence. FANTA worked with its local partner, the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP), to collect the diet data needed for Optifood from communities in two departments of the Western Highlands, Huehuetenango and Quiché. FANTA then used Optifood to analyze the information.