Wordy Wednesday

{photo by Barbara Goldberg}

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Crusade to Fight 10 Tropical Diseases

Crusade to Fight 10 Tropical Diseases
By Pat Landowska

Thirteen major pharmaceutical companies, government groups and health charities will work together in a push to eliminate or control by 2020 10 tropical diseases that affect more than a billion people in poor countries. The partners, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, call it the largest coordinated effort ever to combat neglected tropical diseases.

The government groups and charities alone are committing just over $785 million in new funding. The companies also will work together to speed up development of new treatments, and the partners will work on improving drug delivery and treatment programs, including prevention and education.

“These ancient diseases are now being brought to their knees with stunning speed,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, the organization’s director-general.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the project’s biggest donor, with a five-year, $363 million donation to support research and operations.

“Today, we have joined together to increase the impact of our investments and build on the tremendous progress made to date,” Bill Gates said in a statement, adding that improving people’s health would help them become self-sufficient.

According to the Gates Foundation, more than a billion people – more than half of them children – are affected by neglected tropical diseases, which either kill or cause malnutrition, serious disability, disfigurement and even social discrimination.

The diseases are common in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia and contribute to poverty. They are caused by worms and microscopic parasites or infections, generally acquired from insect bites, contaminated drinking water, or contact with infected people.

In Niger, where we work, three of the 10 diseases on the list, Guinea worm, bilharzia and trachoma are very prevalent. They all are caused by contaminated water. Untreated trachoma leads to blindness. 40% of Nigeriens suffer from it, including one-third of children under the age of ten. Guinea worm lives and grows in a human body causing acute pain, swelling, and itching. Bilharzia is a water-borne parasite that although not deadly can severely damage internal organs. It is the most devastating parasitic disease after malaria.

We salute the Gates Foundation and drug companies for including these diseases on their list. The challenge, however, is getting these drugs to the villagers. In a recent trip to Niger, the Wells Bring Hope team traveled 2 1/2 hours one way over very rough dirt roads, through the desert, to reach remote villages. We will be interested to know what steps are being taken to deliver these much-needed drugs to the remote areas that most need them.

A Shorter Walk to Water Saves Children’s Lives

By Barbara Goldberg

We thank Wells Bring Hope supporter, Scott Fischler, for bringing this to our attention. A new study by Stanford researchers published by the journal Environmental Science and Technology shows that decreasing the amount of time families must walk to obtain clean water can help save the lives of young children. In sub-Saharan Africa, where Wells Bring Hope works, 84% of the people do not have access to clean water. The Stanford study analyzed data from 26 African countries, where it is estimated that some 40 billion hours of labor each year are spent hauling water, a responsibility often borne by women and children. The Stanford study is the first quantitative analysis of the relationship between the time devoted to fetching water and health outcomes.

“The time that women devote to water fetching is time that can’t be used for child care, food preparation, cleaning the household environment, or generating income,” explained Amy Pickering, lead author of the study and post-doctoral fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “All of these factors can have direct influence on the health of children.”
The study found that cutting the walking time to a water source by just 15 minutes can reduce under-five mortality of children by 11%, and slash the prevalence of nutrition-depleting diarrhea by 41%.

In Niger, the many women we’ve talked to say that their work time is reduced by half when they no longer have to spend time walking many miles to get water. Therefore it is natural that when women have this new-found time, they can take better care of their children and can use that time to prepare better food. The elimination of hours spent walking to get water improves the physical health of the mother, enabling her more able to address the needs of her children. It also reduces the overall stress level that women experience when they are rushing to get water.

We are very pleased to see that there is now a quantitative study that documents the health benefits to children when there is a reduction in the time that it takes for women to get water.

LIfe Lesson from a Well

by Barbara Goldberg

October 27, 2011 was the date of Wells Bring Hope’s major fundraiser for the year, and, auspiciously, the tarot reading for that day brought greater meaning to “a well” as we know it. Those of us involved with Wells Bring Hope know that safe water comes from drilling deep into the ground to reach the artesian water level, 250-300 feet deep. Shallow wells typically yield water that is or becomes contaminated from above the surface. The analogy of a well for greater personal understanding is what we’d like to share with you. The message below is a powerful one, and reminds us that exploring the depths of our soul, having the courage to do that, can produce the greatest clarity and deepest personal insights.

From the ancient Chinese I Ching, or “Book of Changes” for October 27, 2011

48: The Well

General Meaning: Throughout various cultures and political systems of the world, the well has served as a universal symbol for that which sustains life and provides a constant, inexhaustible source of life-giving nourishment for mankind.

Like the well, human nature is the same around the world. The passage of time does not change its essential dimensions, nor take anything away. Still, just as a well can be deepened to produce clearer, cleaner water, so can we enrich our lives by delving deeply within — into our natural selves, or souls.

Beware of shallow thinking. Like a little learning, it can be dangerous. The image of the well suggests that along with depth comes clarity. Be patient, and penetrate both your problems and your own nature to the core. If you do not lower your bucket to the depths, you’re very likely to come up empty. When greater depth is desired, a lessening of speed is often required.

Soulful Celebration

On Friday night, March 2nd, Wells Bring Hope was honored to be a part of Vistamar School’s 4th Annual “Soulful Celebration” in honor of Black History Month. It was a celebration expressed through music, dance and poetry, a thoroughly joyful evening presented by some very talented students and featured guest performers, Kym Foley, Phil Brooks and the Ohio Trio Plus Band.

Vistamar has taken up our cause, making WBH the beneficiary of their fundraising for Black History Month. They have also started the Vistamar School Water Circle for on-going fundraising efforts. Founder Barbara Goldberg was a featured speaker at Friday’s event. She talked about the connection between our cause, benefiting the people of West Africa and the resilience of the people of Niger, a characteristic worthy of being passed down from generation to generation. She told the audience about Halima, a Nigerien woman who lost 11 out of 12 children as a result of contaminated water. Barbara explained how her profound loss has motivated many donors to help prevent this from happening to other women.

We owe a deep debt of gratitude to WBH volunteer Iyob Tessema, originally from Eithiopia, who initiated our contact with Vistamar and brought about this fruitful connection.

The Famine is Coming…Again

By Barbara Goldberg

When I was in Niger a month ago with a team of Wells Bring Hope volunteers, we visited about 15 villages in the areas of Maradi, Zinder and Tillaberi. Although we were there to visit villages where we had drilled wells, we couldn’t help but bear witness to what was happening regarding the food supply.
In mid-January, they weren’t calling it a famine—yet. But it was coming, there was no doubt of that. Food storage bins were very low and the drought, again, another year of drought, was clearly evident.
I’m proud to say that our partner, World Vision, who does our well drilling, was doing their best to address the food crisis. In one village, Miyaki, a village where we drilled a well and visited in January 2009, there were nutritionists giving out peanut-based food packets for the children and educating mothers on how to use them and how to help their children in this very difficult time.
For the poorest of the poor in Niger, the second poorest country in the world, World Vision has a Food for Work program that is in operation to provide people with needed food by having them work the land. Their goal was to keep people sustained in their villages, preventing the migration that occurs when food storage bins are depleted and people have nowhere else to turn but to the nearby city, hoping that someone will provide for them. We talked to Doctors without Borders people we met and they too, were gearing up for a tough time. All of the relief agencies working in Niger were in the same crisis mode.
Today, February 19, 2012, you can read about what we experienced in the CNN newsfeed. What they are writing about is what we saw a month ago. Here’s what they say: “Nearly half of Niger does not have enough to eat. The 5.4 million people struggling to stay alive are part of a wider crisis affecting at least 10 million people across the swath across Africa that borders the Sahara, known as the Sahel. This is the third time in the last decade the people of the Sahel have faced severe food shortages.”

Read more from the CNN newsfeed.

Make a one-time $50 gift to our partner, World Vision, for hunger relief in Niger.

The Hope of Market Gardens

by Sophie Glander

As of 2:30pm today, February 1, 2012, there are approximately 914,079,179 malnourished people in the world today. And today, it would cost about $21,567,000 to feed them all. But, instead, the USA and Europe spent that money, plus another $7 million, on food for their precious felines and canine (1). Yes, we all love our pets, but I think that the life of a child is slightly more important. World hunger is an immense issue to tackle, made more complicated by reoccurring droughts, high food prices, and disputes over land and water resources. However, the cause is not entirely hopeless.

Small farming in developing nations is one of the promising areas that should be focused on in order to reduce world hunger. Many of the West African Economies are agriculturally based, but due to limited and irregular rainfall, two harvests per five–year period are unsuccessful. The solution to this problem is an inexpensive, manageable irrigation system, which will allow farmers to survive the unpredictable droughts, therefore increasing food production and income while lowering poverty. Such technology, known as micro irrigation, is now a reality in West Africa, thanks to the efforts of the International Crop Research Institute for Semi–Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the World Vegetable Center (AVRDC). These African market gardens, as they are called, are drip systems that supply the plants’ roots with the minimum amount of water they need, reducing water usage by 80% and lowering the amount of weeds, which in turn cuts down on fertilizer and labor. The gardens use solar water pumps that are more expensive to purchase than diesel pumps, but in the end are cheaper to use and maintain.

In Niger, 120 women were given a plot of dry dirt and the supplies to set up some market gardens. Soon, they were able to transform the useless land into a sustainable farm that provided them and their families with healthy food and handsome profits. The system is easy for women to learn and operate, and gives them a sense of independence and pride. Yet again, it is the women who are the forces of real change in the community (2).

Wells Bring Hope recognizes the importance of educating people on farming techniques,particularly drip farming, when a village is provided with a safe water well. As part of what we do for every village, we teach people about how to use the grey water so that maximum use of a precious resource is achieved. Women are provided with seeds for growing vegetables which they then sell in the local market and give to their families to improve their diet. It is a critical part of improving quality of life in a village.

1. http://www.stopthehunger.com/
2. http://www.trust.org/alertnet/blogs/climate-conversations/micro-irrigation-
with-bollywood-backup-points-to-new-way-to-beat-hunger

It is Heartbreaking and Almost Inconceivable

by Kristin Allen

I want to tell the story of each and every experience that I have had in Niger, West Africa…they all deserve to be told. However, what happened today is the real reason why I am here, and it needs to be told first.

I have been in Niger for 3 days. We have visited 5 villages so far…some without any safe water, some with a well, and some who have been able to start micro-financing programs now that their villages have safe water (i.e. raising goats and sheep, or selling granite oil). In all five villages, we have had the opportunity to speak with the women to learn about their lives. We heard stories of unimaginable suffering, and saw the faces of the amazing children who are the victims of not only extreme poverty, but who are also robbed of the most basic need for survival….safe water. It is heartbreaking, overwhelming and almost inconceivable.

Today, we were driving from Zinder to Maradi for the next leg of our trip. As we traveled, we saw a public watering hole with many women waiting to fetch water. We stopped to shoot some video, because although we have heard the stories, we had not yet had the opportunity to really see the process at work. There were about 30 women and young girls at the watering hole. The “watering hole” was a filthy, muddy reservoir of stagnant water. The women would wait in line until it was their turn to fill their containers. Once they filled their containers with the murky, brown water that would be used to feed themselves and their children, they would place the large, heavy container on their heads and walk back to their villages…sometimes as far as 4 hours away.

As we approached the women, we were greeted with smiles and warmth (as was the case virtually every other time we approached any Nigerien). The women and girls patiently allowed us to videotape them and take pictures, and all the children crowded in to be in the picture. When we were done, they all said gracious words of thanks, and started to walk away…..a long line of beautiful, amazing women and children making their long trek home.

When we got back into the car, another member of our team, Ida, asked me my thoughts. Ida had been to Niger 3 years ago, so she had some preparation for what to expect. As I tried to form my words, I started to cry. “It is so embarrassing.” I said. “When I picture my life, and what I think is difficult, and then I see the incredibly hard lives and suffering of these women…yet, they handle it with such grace and dignity. It’s just embarrassing.”

Very few people know anything about Niger, the second poorest country in the world. I certainly didn’t know anything about it until a very short time ago….including the fact that so many people in the world were living without the most fundamental basic of survival…..clean, safe water. But the people of Niger need desperate help. No matter how hard their government tries, it cannot do enough to help its people. The people are suffering from a lack of safe water, and now, a lack of food, due to the “food shortage” (which will become a famine in a few months). It is mind-numbingly horrendous.

It is my hope and prayer that I can help the people of Niger…not only through my own actions, but by using my words to inspire others to learn more about the critical and life-threatening challenges that they face. $30 brings one person safe water for 30 plus years. How is it possible not to help? So little, goes so far.

Please take a minute to read and find out more at www.wellsbringhope.com. It has changed my life, it can change the lives of others, and it may just change yours…

Niger: The First Meeting

by Kristin Allen

OK, it is really sinking in….

I am going to Niger, West Africa with the amazing organization I am affiliated with, Wells Bring Hope. I am traveling with them to write about their efforts and success so far, and also to witness first-hand the desperate amount of work and hardship that still needs to be addressed.

So….

• Visa…check
• Air….check
• Registering with the U.S. State Department as a precaution………..ummmmm, check?

I will be honest. This is the first time I have made this type of a trip. I have been out of the country before, but this is a whooooole different scenario. This is the second poorest country in the WORLD. Nearly two-thirds of the people living in the rural areas do not have safe water to drink. 97% in the rural areas do not have proper sanitation or toilets. We will be spending our time in the rural areas…. Get it???

To make matters worse, there is a severe famine ravaging the country. We don’t know exactly what we will see when we get there, but the bottom line is that people are starving on top of everything else. Heartbreaking…

So, although we go into this with heavy, serious hearts, we are still filled with optimism for what we can and will do, and the impact that is being made from the generous donations of people who have answered the call to help. It makes a difference. It matters.

On Tuesday, I had the chance to meet the team for our first pre-trip prep. The group will be:

• Sam: National Director of Philanthropy for World Vision – the partner to Wells Bring Hope
• Barbara: Founder of Wells Bring Hope
• Ida: One of the original members of Wells Bring Hope
• Hadiara: A Wells Bring Hope member, and native of Niger
• Dan: A cameraman with the critical job of visually documenting the trip
• Yours truly

These people are AMAZING. They are so committed, passionate and singularly focused on the important work being done. We all know that the trip will be extremely challenging – both physically and emotionally. But we also know that it is critically important to the mission.

So sit tight and follow along….I intend to blog my way through this phenomenal, life-changing journey.