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submitted by Riksum Kazi
10/06/2014 at 14:05

 Monday, October 6th is World Habitat Day – an event created by the United Nations to draw international attention to the importance of the built environment in achieving development goals and to raise awareness of healthy shelters as a basic human right. This year’s theme, Voices from Slums, will draw global attention to the conditions in informal housing settlements around the world, facilitate the development and implementation of processes to alleviate the numerous problems faced by residents, and call upon both local and international policy-makers and leaders to address the manifold problems associated with slums in a substantive manner.

The sad reality is that the poorest and most vulnerable among us face the harshest and deadliest of living conditions. With rapid urbanization, dense and dangerous slums are a common feature in many cities around the world. High rates of disease and premature deaths are often hallmarks of these substandard living environments. Diseases of poverty, such as tuberculosis, malaria, and diarrheal illnesses, are rapidly transmitted and have devastating effects on the families and communities.

As an organization working at the intersection of architecture and public health, we at ARCHIVE Global address many of the issues highlighted by this annual event. We believe that healthy homes are vital to health and well-being. We work in some of the world’s most vulnerable environments to develop and deliver architectural interventions within impoverished communities. In Haiti, we are working on improving ventilation in a community suffering from the dual burden of TB and HIV/AIDs. In Cameroon, we are implementing interventions to reduce malaria rates in urban homes. In Camden, New Jersey, we are tackling the common indoor triggers of respiratory illnesses to combat crippling rates of asthma among children living in poverty. Our goal is two-fold. We implement cost-effective solutions that can be easily replicated and scaled up by the larger community, while also directly training community members on the most critical health issues and building practices to create a sustainable future for these communities.

A powerful way you can support our work and World Habitat Day is by signing our online petition urging world leaders to prioritize housing as an essential pillar of public health and, more broadly, development.

We are excited about High Fives, our new project in Savar, Bangladesh, where we are working with residents of a marginalized community to replace disease-spreading dirt floors with cleaner concrete floors. Over 750,000 children die each year as a direct result of diarrheal sickness. We want to drastically cut down that number. The fact is that this heavy morbidity and mortality is preventable. Dirt is literally a breeding ground for parasites and bacteria. High Fives is based on the public health principle that children who survive past their 5th birthday are more likely to live into adulthood.

High Fives will reduce rates of diarrheal diseases among children in one of the poorest communities in Bangladesh. Working with our local partners in Dhaka and with a team of dedicated and talented architects from various universities and firms, we have developed a cost-effective and scalable flooring project. We are replacing dirt floors with strong, cleanable concrete floors and empowering the local community with the financial resources and training needed to replicate this model.

This project is unique in that we’re using a crowd-funding model that allows and relies on individuals, organizations (such as schools, student groups, and clubs), and businesses to create their own campaigns to fund the floors for individual families. We hope that this project will allow donors and supporters to take on a more active and rewarding role as part of a high impact development project. We strongly believe that, working together, our supporters can deliver simple, powerful, and lifesaving housing solutions for families and communities around the world. 

 

Photo credit: ARCHIVE Global, 2014

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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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