Category Archives: Global awareness

Light is Life; #ElectrifyAfrica

Light is Life; #ElectrifyAfrica
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In rural Ethiopia a pregnant girl waits to give birth with her mother and baby brother by her side.

As I entered the antechamber of the neonatal intensive care unit at the Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I was engulfed by the smell of heated milk and enfolded in a blanket of warmth. The tiniest babies I’d ever seen lay in light box incubators just beyond the glass door. Illuminated by the heating lamps that kept them alive, tiny newborns looked like glowworms swathed in cotton cocoons, brand new eyes blinked at the warm lights. A sign on the wall from 2010 read “This department has been furnished by the Republic of Turkey.” Fragile lives being kept alive in a fragile system.

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A mother and her newborn at a hospital in Hawassa, Ethiopia

 

In 2013 this very hospital, the largest, and most advance public hospital in the capital city of Ethiopia, was left without power for seven hours. Blackouts in the city are frequent due to lack of reliable power. Time and again as I’ve learned and written about global health and development the common thread of energy poverty has woven its way through the narratives.  Lack of access to electricity limits the reach of advances in global health, potential economic development, and constrains the lives of people, trapping millions in extreme poverty.

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As I learned on my trip to Ethiopia last year to report on newborn health, many women there still birth at home. Most homes in rural areas are without electricity. Giving birth at home, often without a skilled health worker is dangerous enough. Giving birth at home during the night without power to light the way, is plain treacherous. In too many cases, light is life.

 

Mother and daughter at a birthing clinic.

Mother and daughter at a birthing clinic.

Through my advocacy for global vaccines I became aware that one of the biggest challenges in getting vaccines to those who need them most is the cold chain storage along the way necessary for the vaccines to remain effective. In clinics where power outages are frequent and refrigerators where the vaccines are kept lose power on a regular basis, life saving vaccines go to waste.

Several years ago one of my fellow contributors at World Moms Blog , Alison Fraser, launched a non-profit called Mom2MomAfrica to help furnish school supplies to students in Tanzania. She came to realize that the students she worked with did not have electricity to be able to do school work at home, and needed to add a lighting solution to the plan to ensure real academic progress.

The factors that lead to extreme poverty are so layered and complex, but one thing is clear. Without energy true progress can not be made.

The facts about energy poverty on the African continent are startling .

  • 7 out of 10 people living in sub-Saharan Africa don’t have access to electricity.
  • 30% of health centers and over a third of primary schools in Africa have to function with no electricity at all.
  • 8 out of 10 people in sub-Saharan Africa heart their homes and cook food using open fires. Inhalation of the smoke and fumes produced from burning traditional fuels results in over four million deaths per year, mainly among women and children. That is more deaths than from malaria and HIV/AIDS combined.

Congress has the opportunity right now to pass a bill that would help bring electricity to 50 million people in Africa for the very first time, at no cost to US tax payers. You can help. You can sign the Electrify Africa Act Petition and let your members of congress know that you care.

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 8.04.09 AMThis post was written as part of the One.org #LightForLight campaign where all this month photobloggers will be sharing their favorite light filled images and encouraging readers to sign the Electrify Africa Act Petition.

Coming up tomorrow, our friends at Our Collective are posting a photo essay! Be sure to check it out! 

 

I traveled to Ethiopia last June on a Fellowship with the International Reporting Project to report on Newborn Health.

Show Your #Strengthie #WithStrongGirls Everywhere

Show Your #Strengthie #WithStrongGirls Everywhere

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Show your #Strengthie #WtihStrongGirls everywhere! What is a #Strengthie? Inspired by the Iconic Rosie the Riveter image One Girls and Women has launched the #WithStrongGirls movement as part of their larger #PovertyIsSexist Campaign that focuses on the impact of poverty on girls and women. One of the calls to action is to take a “Strengthie” which is a selfie that shows your strength in the style of that iconic Rosie the Riveter image. The pose shows that we stand with girls and women around the world to call on world leaders to recognize the disparity between the sexes when it comes to poverty. Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by poverty, and by uniting in this campaign we signal that we stand together to change that. Poverty can only be eradicated when women and girls are put in the forefront of development.

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In support of this campaign, nine of Africa’s most talented artists, Victoria Kimani, Vanessa Mdee, Arielle T, Gabriela, Omotola, Judith Sephuma, Waje, Selmor Mtukudzi, Yemi Alade, and Blessing, came together.  The artists from seven different countries, created a new anthem called “Strong Girl” that celebrates the power of girls and women everywhere.  And I am definitely adding this to my workout playlist! It truly inspires the inner strong girl in me.

Each artist contributing in the writing of the verses. The lyrics of “Strong Girl” call out the importance of standing with girls and women everywhere. All over the world, girls and women are showing their strength and achieving extraordinary things, despite the barriers they face. It’s time to stand with girls and women, because together we’re stronger. – ONE Girls & Women

Join us! Here are three ways to stake a stand:

1. Share the ”Strong Girl” music video.

2. Sign our Poverty Is Sexist petition for world leaders to deliver real change.

3. Take part in this visual and virtual demonstration by taking  a #strengthie (your own version of the iconic ‘Rosie the Riveter’) to show the world you stand #WithStrongGirls, post it to social media and then tag your family and friends and encourage them to do the same. Here’s mine.

strengthie

 

SOS Children’s Villages in a #Relay4Kids

SOS Children’s Villages in a #Relay4Kids

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SOS Villages is in a #Relay4Kids

SOS Children’s Villages, Johnson & Johnson and the Huffington Post launch Relay for Kids – a virtual relay that will help provide shelter, food and medical care to children in crisis

Ethiopia is home to 5.4 million orphans and vulnerable children, as is evidenced along the streets of Addis Ababa, where it was not unusual to see groups of kids seeming to fend for themselves. I was there last summer on a fellowship with the International Reporting Project, and when we pulled into the SOS Village as one of our visits, it was strange to feel that these were the “lucky” orphans. This was the first time I had heard of the organization and was truly impressed. Technically the SOS Village kids are no longer orphans, they are taken in by their SOS Village to become part of a family and larger community. Founded in 1949 by an Austrian named Hermann Gmeiner, his vision for SOS Villages was to place children in a home where they would grow up with a mother, siblings and a community. Read the rest of this entry

The Origin Of Coffee

The Origin Of Coffee

 The Origin of Coffee

 

SAMSUNG CSCBefore my trip to Ethiopia last summer with the International Reporting Project I’d had no idea where coffee had originated. Imagine my thrill upon discovering that I was heading to the very birthplace of my favorite morning elixir.   Coffee, called Buna in Ethiopia, is central to the Ethiopian culture, and much to my delight, its intricate ritual of preparation takes place throughout the day in every possible setting.

The legend is that back around 800AD a young goat herder named Kaldi noticed his goats had increased energy and would begin jumping around the field every time they had eaten from a certain tree.  Kaldi gathered the tiny fruits from one of the trees and brought them to the village elders. The elders tossed them in the fire due to the bitter taste of the fruits, dismissing the young Shepard and his claims, but when the smell of the coffee roasting in the fire wafted out, their interest was piqued. The roasted seeds left behind were taken out of the fire and placed into water to cool, creating the first drink of coffee.  Now we grind the roasted seeds from inside the fruits, which are what we refer to as the coffee beans, and millions of people worldwide consume coffee each day in all sorts of permutations.

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Look familiar?

“When you drink a cup of coffee ideas come marching in like an army”- Balzac

I fell madly in love with thick rich Ethiopian coffee while on our trip, and became enchanted by the ritual coffee preparation that I witnessed in factories, restaurants, homes, or on the sidewalk throughout our days.

North of Addis Ababa, exploring the islands of Lake Tana in Bahir Dar we passed wild coffee trees with branches of coffee fruit lining the paths, and again south of Addis, in the fields of Yetebon, coffee trees lines the fields. Ethiopia produces more coffee than any other African country, and coffee is its largest export. The climate is ideal for coffee growth, and most of the major coffee producing countries of the world lie in that same swath of tropical latitude.

Coffee beans growing in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Coffee beans growing in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

The seeds, or fresh coffee beans are hand roasted over hot coals, and or fire, in wide flat roasting pans called baret metad, with what I perceived as a cathartic patience, until they are perfectly done.

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Trying my hand at roasting the beans

The coffee beans are crushed and then added to the hot water in the traditional Ethiopian clay coffee pot called a Jebena. IMG_2879

Once the coffee boils up the long neck of the Jebena it is done. Popcorn is the traditional coffee ceremony snack accompaniment when the coffee is served.

SAMSUNG CSCI travelled to Ethiopia as a New Media Fellow with the International Reporting Project to report on Newborn Health.

Of Oil & Water in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Of Oil & Water in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Of Oil & Water in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

The Author in Riyadh

Like a shimmering oasis the city of Riyadh rises out of the sand.  Located in central Saudi Arabia the capital city is 250 miles from the nearest coast.  Although the Arabian Peninsula is surrounded by water, humans cannot drink saltwater.  Saltwater can be turned into drinking water through a process called desalination however, and desalination is increasingly used as global populations grow.

When my husband and I visited Riyadh in 2012, one gallon of water cost three times a gallon of gas.  We could see why.   The population of the city has grown from 100,000 to over five million in the past century. To supply this precious resource seven desalination plants work to provide about 70% of the potable water for the use of its inhabitants. Desalination is a costly process that takes high energy though, deep underground aquifers and scarce ground water provide the rest.  Our host told us that he had dug a well for a new home that he is building on the outskirts of the city.   When he said that they had to dig 500 feet down to reach water, my husband jokingly asked if they had stuck oil as well. Read the rest of this entry