Immunisation programmes have reached billions of children and come close to wiping out diseases like polio and measles, which can be deadly and devastating. But there are millions who aren’t receiving these life-saving vaccines.
One of the main causes is conflict zones – two thirds of those twenty million children are living in areas disrupted by conflict. Displacement, damage to infrastructure, education and healthcare all disrupt the efficacy and reach of vaccination programmes.
But inequality also plays a huge part. Across the world, poor children are twice as likely to die before the age of five, compared to the richest children. The correlation of child deaths to areas that have high levels of poverty and low levels of immunisation is stark.
Financial restrictions can directly impact a child’s access to vaccinations if there are travel costs or parents unable to take time off work to go to clinics. Information and access to resources is lower and children may not be attending school, a base for many of the programmes. It is also indirectly linked: living in overcrowded conditions with poor nutrition and sanitary systems can hamper vaccination programmes and also make it more likely for children to contract disease.
This is an increasing problem, the urban poor are increasing in Africa and Asia living in poor conditions in overcrowded areas in towns and cities. This will provide a challenge to health services and education, affecting immunisation programmes. There is a distinct possibility the number of children missing their vaccinations could increase.
Universal healthcare is an important issue for the Gardiner Foundation. Coupled to which our Trade to Aid initiative provides investment for individuals building businesses that can raise them, their family and their community out of poverty. This extra income can be used on education, on healthcare and housing.
The United Nations Economic and Social Council, known as ECOSOC, is one of the main bodies that make up the UN. A big part of their work is in agriculture, where the examine how best to develop global practices in a sustainable way for people and the environment.
A recent conference took a place in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, and looked at global food security, approaches to climate change, developing agro-industry and public-private partnerships among other issues.
The President of ECOSOC said after the meetings that we must “go beyond past and current models, beyond individual areas of expertise, beyond separate locations and beyond institutional frontiers,” adding that, “In doing so, we can unleash the full potential of infrastructure development and sustainable industrialization, including agro-industries, to generate growth and employment while preserving planetary boundaries.”
The challenges facing people in rural areas, particularly in the least developed countries, are many. Innovative new approaches are necessary to harness the power of agriculture to provide livelihoods for local people, boost national economies and balance food security across the world. Agricultural growth also needs to look to the future and be sustainable to protect against climate change and the instability that comes with it.
This should see innovative new programmes emerging, targeted investment plus co-operation between governments and businesses as well as charities. It’s only by taking a holistic and innovative approach to these challenges that we can move forward.
At the Gardiner Foundation we favour the holistic and innovative. Our microinvestment model is different from the more common microcredit as it provides investment that is only paid back when businesses are in profit, not a line of credit that could lead to further debt. Small businesses and entrepreneurs of all kinds can receive investment and support and their profits can sustainably lift individuals, families and communities out of poverty.
On Friday the UK went 24 hours without using energy generated by coal – for the first time since 1882. It has been described as a watershed moment and a good sign for plans to phase out coal power stations by 2025.
Elsewhere the news on climate change is not looking so good. The Elders, a group of veteran independent global leaders, wrote to the G20 leaders urging “bold and decisive action” on climate change. They were concerned that climate change might be slipping from the agenda when there was no mention of it having been raised in a recent meeting of finance ministers and bank governors from the G20. The letter urged it be looked at in the next meeting.
Of particular concern is fossil fuel subsidies and that they should be phased out – reminding politicians of the Paris Agreement on limiting global warming. The Elders want the G20 to commit to getting rid of fossil fuel subsidies by 2025.
There is concern that limiting the production of energy from the most obviously available source could in turn limit economies, particularly in developing countries, and hold back their progress. Britain, the United States and Europe used the coal-powered Industrial Revolution to catapult their productivity and economies to another level very rapidly.
It’s an understandable concern but investment in renewable energy sources is money well spent both now and in the future. Climate change is responsible for increasing numbers of humanitarian crises, creating disruption and refugees. This will only get worse if it is not tackled and will affect the poorest people in the world, particularly in southern Asia in countries like Bangladesh which is subject to terrible flooding, and drought and famine across central Africa.
In tackling climate change we also see innovative solutions and entrepreneurship spring up. There are projects training solar panel installers in rural Africa and new business opportunities. At the Gardiner Foundation we encourage people to seek out these opportunities and have a micro-investment initiative set up to help build businesses that can lift individuals, families and communities out of poverty in a sustainable way both for them and the environment.
Microcredit is small-scale (micro) lending (credit) in developing countries to help fund businesses and self employment, new projects and specific causes. Some microcredit platforms are more like crowdfunding, where thousands of individuals come together to provide funds. Others are run by large banks and businesses.
The backlash against microcredit has been growing in recent years as those who were supposed to benefit fall into a debt cycle in trying to pay back their loans and the interest rates on the credit start to bite.
Such schemes are now seeing opposition and limits across the world. In Cambodia, where the microcredit industy is worth $4 billion, an interest rate cap has been mandated by the government against banks offering microcredit loans. Interest rates are limited to 18%. This has caused debate as some people believe it will limit what the banks lend and could force those in need back to much more expensive and dangerous informal lending.
In Bangladesh, another big market for microcredit, microinsurance is now available – paying to insure debt against the death of the borrower, natural disasters and so on.
While microcredit has its success stories the Gardiner Foundation doesn’t believe it is the most sustainable way to lift people from poverty. Instead, we practice microinvestment. This is money invested into businesses run by local people. It goes directly into income generating activities and is only paid back on profit – not to a loan schedule. Support and training is also offered as it is in everyone’s best interests that the business succeed. When the business succeeds the individuals, their families, and their communities all benefit.
New research has shown that the money provided by migrant workers is supporting one in seven people worldwide and could total half a trillion dollars.
In the furore gripping the West over immigration the simpler, more human side of migration is often overlooked. For the benefit of their families up to 250 million people are willing to live in a foreign country, away from those families, in order to work and support their families from afar. Often this is by doing jobs that local people do not want to – agricultural labourers in the USA, construction workers in the Middle East.
The money they send home, this half a trillion dollars from 250 million people, is thought to support another 750 million people worldwide. It can make up half of a family’s income and allow them better access to schooling, housing and healthcare.
The Director of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, Adolfo Brizzi, highlighted these figures and talked about their importance.
Crucially he also highlighted that the families receiving the funds could benefit still more if they had access to better, cheaper, financial services. The IFAD sets up programmes to help people invest this money into employment and for business development.
The work that the Gardiner Foundation does through the Trade to Aid initiative is very similar to these programmes but does not rely on having a family member away from home providing cash. The principle that investment in self employment and businesses is the best way to sustainably lift people from poverty is the same. The Gardiner Foundation provides microinvestment to local business people that allows them to grow, expand and invest in their business. The income provided lifts individuals, families and whole communities out of poverty.
“Gender equality is the focal point for human progression” is the bold statement made in an article addressing the twin issues of girls’ access to education and to medical care.
Packed with facts that are at turns either inspiring or shocking, the article on The Elders details the interconnectedness of health and education and the massive impact it can have. This is an impact not only on individuals but their families, communities and national economies.
Education and health is key in a workforce that can rise from poverty and toward economic growth. In turn that reduces inequalities and provides a sustainable path towards reinvestment, building of essential infrastructure, consideration of environmental impact and better health provision.
Nor are they two isolated concepts. Better education leads to a higher uptake of vaccinations, more family planning, cuts birth rates, improves nutrition, and lowers child and maternal mortality. Medical problems or the prohibitive cost of treatment reduce access to education as this becomes the greater focus for a family, especially one with limited resources. So the two feed into one another.
At the Gardiner Foundation we believe in the power people have to sustainably work lift themselves from poverty with the right support and investment. Not only does this benefit the individuals but their families, communities and wider economy. The profits from self employment or a small business are reinvested into education, healthcare, family and the community. The positive effects are felt everywhere.
This weekend saw the start of a huge effort to eradicate polio in Central and Western Africa. All children under five will be vaccinated in the thirteen countries of Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
It is hoped that this massive effort will be the final push necessary to eliminate polio from the continent.
The World Health Organisation Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said that twenty years ago “every single country on the continent was endemic to polio, and every year, more than 75 000 children were paralysed for life by this terrible disease. Thanks to the dedication of governments, communities, parents and health workers, this disease is now beaten back to this final reservoir.”
And UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Marie-Pierre Poirier added that, “Polio eradication will be an unparalleled victory, which will not only save all future generations of children from the grip of a disease that is entirely preventable – but will show the world what Africa can do when it unites behind a common goal.”
Over 190,000 volunteers and health workers will be administering the vaccination between 25-28 March. Extreme conditions of heat, when the vaccine must be kept chilled, are just one example of the barriers faced, along with often-poor transport links especially in more rural areas.
The quote above from Ms Poirier is inspirational and a very similar philosophy to that of the Gardiner Foundation. We believe that the most sustainable way to bring about change – whether in reducing poverty or providing healthcare – is to empower local individuals, families and communities.
Yesterday was the International Day of Happiness. How was it for you?
It can be a challenging concept, happiness. What it is, how it works, how best to get it. The pursuit of it. Health, wealth and happiness is the common toast. Research shows that the first is pretty important to happiness and the latter not as much as we might think. There are dozens of books on the subject, all claiming to have the key to happiness.
But what about happiness on a national scale? Yesterday also saw the release of this year’s World Happiness Report. The report ranks countries on caring, freedom, generosity, good governance, honesty, health and income. Scandinavia normally does well, its five countries all in the top ten – clearly average temperature is not too much of an issue. They are joined by Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. For comparison, the United Kingdom came 19th, up two places on last year.
The first African country to appear on the list is Algeria, at number 53. The second, Mauritius, 64th. The other end of the scale, the unhappiest countries, are mostly in Africa, punctuated by Syria, Yemen, and Haiti as obvious exceptions.
UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, gave a speech to mark the day where she highlighted the importance of sustainability, poverty eradication, happiness and wellbeing. The UN has also established a Global Happiness Council and drew attention to the 2030 sustainable development goals. These objectives read very similarly to the factors in the happiness report, basic human needs combined with striving for a better quality of life for all.
Ms Mohammed emphasised how working towards happiness needs to be approached holistically – not as development at the cost of the environment, the poor, health, work-life balance or family relations.
The Gardiner Foundation believes in the fulfilment and happiness that can be found in the autonomy and independence of building a sustainable small business that can lift people out of poverty. This entrepreneurship has huge benefits for individuals, their family, community and on a national scale.
With all the years of stability and growth in the West it is easy to discount the massive importance of our infrastructure and fail to acknowledge it.
In 2012 President Obama came under fire from opponents for a campaign speech in which he pointed out that enterprise and industry benefitted hugely from infrastructure that was essentially free to them. The “you didn’t build that” phrase hopefully made people think twice about everything they take for granted.
In many countries across the world this is not something that can be assumed. Political unrest, natural disasters and military action can take decades to fully recover from. Road networks, telecoms and transportation can fall lower down the list of priorities when schools and hospitals also need rebuilding. And yet they are essential for the economy.
Being able to start a business in the UK and other developed countries is a challenge but an exciting one. It also relies on the infrastructure we enjoy every day – a cheap and reliable postal system, blanket mobile phone coverage, ample fuel available, fast broadband internet, to highlight just a few. This allows us to carry out our business services and gain support very easily. Not to mention the free education and healthcare that we don’t need to account for – both for ourselves and our dependents.
Yet in the developing world there are barriers of literacy and numeracy, no welfare safety net to fall back on, extra fees for school and medical bills, unreliable transport and shipping, lack of investment and access to support and information.
The Gardiner Foundation believes that small businesses are the best way for people to sustainably lift themselves out of poverty, bringing a benefit to their families and communities as well. These extra hurdles require extra investment, which Gardiner Foundation initiative Trade To Aid can provide.
Africa is the youngest continent in the world with 226 million 15-24 year olds, more than any other. This is only set to increase and it is thought that in 30 years there will be over 500 million young people in Africa.
This youthful vigour is turning to entrepreneurship as an outlet. Recognising that traditional companies are not going to be able to provide jobs for all of this generation they are starting their own businesses.
Entrepreneurship is rarely just about self interest for these young people. They are concerned with tackling the big issues of poverty, access to health and education, and increasing employment. Often this involves using new technology to address old problems, such as Farmerline in Ghana where four young founders used mobile phones to support rural farmers.
The Africa Leadership Academy is known as a centre of excellence in academics but also encourages the entrepreneurial spirit. They say that, “While there will always be a need for doctors, lawyers, accountants and teachers, entrepreneurial ventures are important for job creation and Africa’s overall growth.”
Entrepreneurship and business are essential to the sustainable reduction of poverty in Africa. The Gardiner Foundation initiative, Trade to Aid, supports people with microinvestment in their business that helps them grow. We believe that successful, profitable business is the best way for an individual to lift themselves from poverty, as well as their family and local community, contributing to the national economy.