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submitted by Hope Randall
10/01/2014 at 09:59

“Hello? Are we together?” That’s the first sentence of our new story series, “Together against diarrhea.” We borrowed it from our colleague, Alfred.

Whenever Alfred breaks from a moving story or a passionate argument with this affable refrain, it’s meant to be rhetorical, like when someone ends a sentence with, “You know what I mean?” Implicitly, the answer is yes, but we don’t have to say it. Of course, we know; of course, we are together. To me, it is a subtle reminder that what makes us tick as human beings is the same no matter where we’re from, and one of those universal truths is that our hearts respond more to stories than they do to facts and figures.

Stories remind us that we’re all in this together.

At the recent Social Good Summit, which focused the ways social media and technology can help make the world a better place, New York Times columnist Nick Kristof used science to explain the warm fuzzies we get whenever we donate to charity, do volunteer work, or otherwise take action for a cause we care about: These activities increase oxytocin levels in our brains, the hormone associated with… well, warm fuzzies. It’s almost as if this is nature’s way of telling us that we are designed to help one another.

I’m lucky to have met most of the people featured in our new story series. In Kenya, I shared many meals and laughs with Alfred. In Zambia, I held Teresa’s youngest son, Vusi, just after he received the rotavirus vaccine that will protect him from the most fatal form of childhood diarrhea.

Whether you realize it or not, you know these people, too. You know mothers like Jane who offer advice and encouragement. You see a younger version of yourself – or maybe children of your own – in the boundless energy of Zambian schoolkids freestyling outside the school house.

That’s what I love about our new story series: it reminds us of our common humanity and our common responsibility to one another. And it provides a simple, yet powerful way to make a difference: by sharing these stories with others.

So if you’re thinking you’re a little low on oxytocin levels these days, do yourself – and the world – a favor, and share the stories that move you. It’s going to take a global village to create a world where no child dies from diarrhea. Will you lend your voice?

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submitted by Tarun Vij
09/24/2014 at 12:23

As world leaders gather this week and next at the United Nations for the General Assembly, the focus will be on an ambitious post-2015 sustainable development agenda. The UN will continue to work with governments, civil society, and other partners to build on the momentum generated by the millennium development goals (MDGs).

It is heartening that India has made some progress in reaching its MDGs, despite the global economic slowdown that hindered all countries’ efforts to close the gaps between those with access to health, education, and economic opportunity and those for whom these basic services are out of reach. While achieving all the MDGs is vital, it might be said that Goals 4 (Reduce Child Mortality) and 5 (Improve Maternal Health) are fundamental to progress across the board.   

Given India’s great geographical breath and width, and its diverse population, its challenges in reaching the MDGs have dwarfed what other countries face. At the same time, India has many of the ingredients for success – as its groundbreaking work to eliminate polio demonstrated.

While we in India have made strides in reducing child mortality, maternal mortality still remains a challenge.  And yet we know that maternal health is critical for the health and wellbeing of the whole family. Helping mothers with all their health needs–reproductive services, prenatal care, and safe births–pays dividends for their children. Similarly, keeping young children healthy through immunization and other basic care relieves mothers of long journeys to remote health facilities, as well as the burden of caring for malnourished and sick children, and the high cost of treatments that often are ineffective.

We need to do a great deal more in this area: increasing our investment, improving access to skilled delivery services, and educating families about care-seeking behavior while making it easier for them to reach trained health providers.

With a focus on improving the health of mothers and children, we can create a virtuous cycle. Healthier children and families are better able to pursue education, improve hygiene and sanitary practices, and generally improve their economic circumstances. Importantly, progress on the other MDGs–water and sanitation, gender, education—in turn will contribute to further reducing infant and maternal mortality.

With the slew of announcements since the new Indian government came into power, it has already shown its commitment to child health. This focused initiative can have a big impact even as nations prepare to enter the post 2015 phase. To accelerate and sustain progress, we will need dedicated resources and savvy strategies. These are the ingredients India used in making great strides in immunization. With its efforts on Japanese Encephalitis, India has shown resolve to reach for that last mile to that last child. We can build upon our success in eliminating polio and progress on so many health fronts to keep up the push to achieve all the Millennium Development Goals.

 

Photo credit: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

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submitted by Dr. Richard Walker
09/18/2014 at 12:21

As you might have guessed, hearing good news about declining diarrhea morbidity and mortality rates among children is always exciting news for someone like me. But, I’m also thrilled when donors recognize and support promising new interventions that require a critical financial investment to move them closer to saving young lives.

PATH recently announced a new award from the United Kingdom’s Wellcome Trust, which is funding the development of a unique Shigella vaccine candidate through our enteric vaccine project. Infection with Shigella bacteria, or shigellosis, causes bloody diarrhea and represents a major health threat to children living in poorer countries where access to clean water and appropriate hygiene and sanitation practices to prevent such diseases are lacking. Currently, there is no licensed vaccine available to prevent shigellosis.

Since 2010, our team has been working in partnership with Drs. Bill and Wendy Picking, who were researchers at Oklahoma State University (OSU), to develop a vaccine to prevent the short- and long-term negative effects of shigellosis. Unlike other Shigella vaccines currently under development, the approach used with this candidate, DB Fusion, targets proteins found on the surface of the bacteria to provide broad protection. Since different types of Shigella are found in different parts of the world, a vaccine that targets only one or two of them wouldn’t be ideal for everyone. But, this novel approach may be able to provide the broadest coverage possible across all of the different types of Shigella bacteria with one simple vaccine.

Another exciting thing about the DB Fusion is that it’s intended for administration via a small needle that goes only into the skin’s outermost layer (known as intradermal immunization). Though intradermal immunization is a procedure that has long been in use with other vaccines, this represents one of the first times that it will be tested with a Shigella vaccine candidate.

In collaboration with the Picking team, we completed preclinical research studies demonstrating the DB Fusion’s protection against several types of Shigella, and we are now collaborating on developing a process to manufacture the vaccine for clinical use. With the Wellcome Trust award, we plan to take the DB Fusion a few steps further, conducting early-stage clinical studies on the vaccine’s safety in humans and, if warranted, a subsequent trial to show that it can protect humans against illness caused by Shigella.

As a result, I am truly delighted that the Wellcome Trust recognized the incredible potential that the DB Fusion has to save children’s lives, and that they decided to support us along this exciting journey. 

 

Photo credit: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

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submitted by Hope Randall
09/12/2014 at 11:36

Last year around this time, we had our doubts about whether a toilet calendar concept would fly – or whether it would get flushed down the drain (I know, I know – I can’t help myself).

I remember our graphic designer’s trepidation; a toilet-themed calendar challenges basic preconceptions about aesthetically pleasing visual design principles. Even if we, and our sanitation colleagues, loved the idea, would it translate well to others who aren’t necessarily talking toilets on a daily basis?

The results exceeded our expectations; our printer couldn’t keep up with the demand. Hearing the gleeful giggles of calendar recipients over the toilet-shaped design was like a gift in itself. We received photos from partners and US government officials proudly displaying their personal copies in their respective workplaces. People started asking us about a 2015 edition in August.

The calendar did more than make people smile; it opened the door for holding critical conversations about sanitation in settings where they might not otherwise have occurred. And for us, that was the best part. The decision to hold another call for photos this year was obvious.

The foundation of last year’s success? Your photos! We can’t cause a commode-tion without you. Help us make 2015 another great year for the loo!

Ready to get started? Details here. 

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submitted by Case Keltner
09/10/2014 at 10:17

Originally posted on the WASH Advocates blog

On August 27, 2014, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) released a Request for Applications (RFA) funding opportunity for its Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) for Health Project in Ghana. Aimed at augmenting WASH practices and reducing undernutrition among Ghanaian populations, the RFA provides a structured framework for establishing collaborative global health partnerships between the Government of Ghana, USAID, international NGOs, and community health organizations.  USAID hopes to bolster cross-sectoral collaboration to mitigate the effects of undernutrition and the plethora of negative health outcomesassociated with limited access to WASH.

The RFA represents a crucial step forward in the global fight to end extreme poverty by improving access to vital health education and services, and underscores WASH as a pivotal piece to achieving this objective.

While recent data revealed significant improvements in the water sector, sanitation remains a severely neglected issue in Ghana. The country must make considerable strides in the coming months to reach its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) goal of 54 percent coverage by 2015. USAID’s new RFA proactively addresses this issue by emphasizing the nexus of nutrition, WASH, and public health.

USAID is also putting the Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy into practice by integrating WASH and nutrition efforts through WASH for Health’s collaboration with nutrition programs such as the SPRING Project and Feed the Future to improve nutrition in Ghana. By accentuating the importance cross-sectoral integration and leveraging public/private partnerships, USAID can leverage resources more efficiently to address issues like WASH, maternal and child health, and nutrition. Certain program components, such as the development and distribution of “Essential WASH Actions” and “Essential Nutrition Actions” packages, utilize WASH and nutrition education as a means to curtail correlated illnesses such as diarrheal disease and stunting.  Similarly, USAID’s attempt to amalgamate key elements of projects like the Communicate for Health Project and Systems for Health Project with the new WASH for Health project establishes a precedent for responding to multifaceted health challenges concurrently.

Adequately addressing the interrelated issues of WASH and nutrition requires enhanced collaboration, strong public-private partnerships, and most importantly, ambitious initiative. Through this opportunity, USAID will aim to simultaneously combat undernutrition and improve WASH access and transparency rather than disconnecting these fundamental issues and placing them in separate policy silos. WASH Advocates is optimistic that this RFA will positively impact the lives of Ghanaians who lack access to essential health services.

For more information on this RFA, please visit http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/search-grants.html?keywords=WASH%20for%20HealthAll application submissions must be finalized by September 24, 2014.

 

 

Photo credit: (USAID/Kasia McCormick) 2012

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