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Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Children & Drought

The drought currently gripping India has already affected 330 million people across a quarter of the country and with the relieving monsoon not expected for at least 7 weeks this looks set to surpass the recent disasters experienced in 2009, 2004, & 2002.Much has been written regarding this environmental crisis however the disaster is particularly severe for the youngest in society; one significant environmental shock can leave an irrevocable scar on a child’s development. The key areas at risk are primarily the child’s health and secondly the disruption to the child’s education.
There are two key influences wrought by drought on any affected child’s life; income and food, and changes in disease environment. Both the former and the latter are also linked a third significant effect which is disruption to a child’s education.In a country as hot as India drought is nothing new however due to the advances made in healthcare and particularly child-mortality the drought of 2016 will almost certainly affect more children than any other.
The most obvious impact will be to a child’s nourishment as lack of water affects not only drinking but also food supplies. Rural areas are heavily dependent on rain-fed agriculture for both sustenance and income. Villagers find themselves in a dangerous cycle; as crops fail they have less income to feed themselves, and also the price of replacement foods rises as wider-spread supply falls. There has been a growing trend of urban migration for men in recent years however the impact of drought conditions has also pushed women towards metropolitan areas in search of work to supplement the family budget. As a result children are left behind often to care for ageing relatives and sometimes putting their lives at risk to collect water from far-flung sources in the heat of the day.
With lesser levels of sustenance and greater exertion comes the threat of disease and infection as malnourished children are significantly more likely to succumb to illness. To make matters worse a paucity of water often leads people to drink whatever is available which is likely to be of poorer quality and increasingly rife with waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera. Children are intrinsically more likely to contract and succumb to such illnesses as their bodies are still developing.
Drought can wreak havoc on a child’s education as exams always fall during the hottest season.To compound matters, as Indian education is traditionally geared towards examinations (90% of grades are exam weighted),it is intrinsically the most crucial period of a child’s school year that is affected. Furthermore, in the face of such conditions schools in severely affected areas have been told to conclude the school year early to reduce the strain on water supplies. The smallest, rural schools are hit the hardest at a time when their pupils will be sitting exams that could affect the rest of their lives as they seek highly coveted places at the best schools.Once again, drought hits the poorest in society hardest and sadly it is these children who rely heaviest on education to provide them with a brighter future.
The crisis has certainly not been helped by the misuse of existing ground water in for short-term financial gains. Prominent campaigner Rajendra Singh has been particularly critical of the water-intensive crops (i.e. sugarcane) that have been grown in the worst affected areas. He has also noted that much of the worst offending farmland is under ownership of the political elites. The result has been a 72% drop in underground water sources across India, the highest depletion rate in the world.

Although coming at a heavy price, there is one possible benefit that can be reaped from such times; raising awareness for the value of water conservation. A number of schools and local communities in less affected areas have undertaken water saving schemes to benefit those less fortunate. Furthermore, it serves as a timely reminder of the Swachh Barat (Clean India) movement, particularly how is in everyone’s interest to clean India’s major waterways; the Yamuna and Ganges. We can only hope that increased attention and awareness to such worthwhile causes can be a by-product of what is clearly a humanitarian catastrophe.

Come Join our Green Earth ,Promote and Protect Environment Project .To Protect Place From Turning Into Drought . Let's Do It ! 

-Willam Lewis 
Picture -Heeals

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Indian School Bias !

With around 30% of Indian children attending private institutions, the Indian private education market is the largest in the world. This is hardly surprising given the population size but, for a variety of reasons, private schools are outperforming state run institutions despite recent study showing that the Government spends, on average, more than twice as much in educating a pupil. The key factors behind this imbalance are inefficiencies that have become imbedded in state schooling and efficiencies fee-paying schools have created. To lift the performance of their own schools issue the Indian government must take heed of both.
Most serious among the malpractices commonly associated with India’s free education are the attacks oneducation standards and teaching practices.Schools are accused not of completing the syllabi in the school year and the necessary equipment is not always available. Often much power is bestowed on individual teachers who have the ability to pass or fail their own pupils while offering extra-curricular tuition(for a fee). Teacher absenteeism is also rife and the authorities seem powerless to prevent.Additionally, there are stories of outright corruption including overcharging and bribes taken to admit or promote a child, or even issue qualification certificates.
The problems found in the provision of school infrastructure pose the most direct threat to a child’s education. A survey in 2013 found that of 780 schools across 13 states 30% were found to have inadequate toilet facilities and 60% had no playground. Given this it is hardly surprising how unfashionable it has become to teach in Government schools. Formerly a position of prestige and respect, teaching is now seen by many graduates as a last-resort career giving rise to a severe shortage and pushing the student:teacher ratio as high as 70:1 in extreme cases. The lack of mentorship or access to a professional network as well as antiquated career progression(often based on seniority rather than performance) are obvious changes the government must make to buck this trend.
Conversely, by operating in a private environment;fee-taking schools have learned to streamline their practices to remain competitive in a diverse market. Principles have far greater authority over their teachers and employment contracts include performance and attendance clauses. The teachers themselves are often less qualified so must strive to hit their targets to guarantee employment and command less salary, allowing the private schools to reduce the student: teacher ratios.
India’s stand out legislation on learning in recent years is the Right to Education Act (RTE) of 2009. This established free and compulsory education for every child between the ages of 6 and 14 and guaranteed 25% of places at private schools for pupils from economically weaker sections of society. The idea was to level the playing field for poorer students however, sadly this policy has had the effect of devaluing the education provided in state schools and, thus, exacerbating the superiority enjoyed by private institutions. Furthermore, the RTE included no provision for the improvement of the existing Government schools, embedding the problems outlined above.
However, the enforcement of this 25% has led to a number of malpractices being adopted by private schools where unfair financial barriers (high cost of uniforms or add-on admission and maintenance costs) are placed to prevent poorer students filling the RTE enabled places.  As a result it has been estimated that across India only 15% of RTE places at fee-paying schools were filled.
In response to these issues India’s education department has announced ambitious and far-reaching reform in two stages; peripheral and core. The first outlined fundamental infrastructure shortages that have been holding back Government schools and targeted 8000 new classrooms and 25 new schools are to be opened by the end of 2016 and a recruitment drive to employ 9000 new teachers. The core stage, yet to formally begin, proposes a radical change in teaching practices including a decentralisation of authority giving more powers to individual principles, incentivised contracts, and the creation of School Managers. And then perhaps most adventurous is the creation of a pilot “super-school” complex of 10 schools each specialising in different areas of education.

All in all it appears that the government has started to take note of the problems that have blighted their school system for a generation. Some issues (support for newly qualified teachers) are easier fixed than others (changing the mind-set that Government schooling is inferior) and in the meantime the private education sector will continue to innovate and dominate.

-William Lewis 

Monday, 25 April 2016

"End Malaria for Good"

World Malaria Day Theme for 2016 is "End Malaria for Good"

Since 2008 the 25th April each year is World Malaria day in association with the Malaria Consortium whose bold goal is to reduce infection by 90% (from the year 2000’s levels). Globally the achievements so far are impressive with a 60% reduction in mortality rates since 2000 and a 37% reduction in infection during the same period. Despite this there were still 214 million cases of the fever reported last year and nearly half a million deaths.
India has taken huge steps to eradicate the disease and in recent years has reduced its incidence to fewer than 1 million cases in the past two years. Those most at risk are pregnant women however the introduction of routine screening has been delayed by budgetary constraints.Familiarly, it is the least educated urban, and rural tribal communities where healthcare is limited who suffer most. Just 8% of the population accounts for 46% of all diagnosed cases.
The developing world is certainly fighting this oldest of diseases but will need continued support from all quarters to make the final push and end the misery that it causes.

-William Lewis 

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Malnutrition vs Religion

It will surprise few that India’s children are amongst the most likely to suffer malnourishment however the reasons behind this are certainly not as simple as one would expect (i.e. lack of food).

Fundamentally malnutrition is defined as not enough or too much of a single food group. This in turn leads to complications in utilising consumed sustenance and therefore hampering the body’s ability to fight off and recover from infection. The problem faced by Indian society is primarily related to a lack of protein in the diet of young children which is then exacerbated by the sanitary and religious conditions that they find themselves living in.

While there other forms of serious child malnutrition (such as iodine, vitamin A, or iron, deficiencies) lack of protein is by far the most lethal and, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), plays a major role 50% of all deaths under 5 years of age. The situation in India is particularly severe where 30% of the entire world’s under-nourished population can be found. In a country of the size, both geographically and economically, of India it is clearly not just a lack of food that is accountable.

One unique factor behind India’s child malnourishment is the influence that is held by India’s various religious sects and the dietary recommendations that are advocated. Contrary to popular belief India is by no means a vegetarian society, however the rise of fundamentally religious political parties who espouse the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle has restricted what food may be served at school’s midday meals (MDM). Most controversial is restriction on the serving of eggs which can provide a significant protein boost (one egg contains half of the recommended daily intake) and are easily digestible to those suffering with malnutrition.

Originally brought into practice in the 1990s India’s MDM programme has become a vital source of nourishment for the poorest children in society. However, respecting regional religions place strict vegetarian restrictions on the lunchtime menus. A current example is the region of Karnataka where 9 out of 10 children are suffering with malnutrition but as it is administered by the Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party are forbidden from the MDM on religious grounds. Perhaps the fact that milk is served in schools nationwide leads to a logical conclusion drawn by the nation’s Bapu (Mahatma Gandhi) who advised “he who can take milk should have no objection to taking sterile egg”.

Crudely nicknamed “the open defecation capital of the world” the state of India’s public sanitation is the other unique contributing factor to this problem.Particularly affected are rural areas where, according to the WHO, it was estimated that last year 61% of Indians defecated in the open. A staggering statistic, far higher than any other (reportable) country, that results in the deaths of 1000 children each day to diarrhoea related diseases and has a wide reaching impact on their ability to retain nutrition and maintain a healthy, growing body.

To combat this precise issue Prime Minister Nehendra Modi embarked on the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission in October 2014 to be concluded by October 2019 to mark Gandhi’s 150th birthday. Construction has been undertaken at a furious pace and there are signs that the tide is turning; between Oct ’14 and Jan ‘16 the number of rural families with access to a working toilet went from 42% to 49%, however, physical construction is only half the battle. The other side to tackle is convincing the (mostly) rural population of the need to cease open defecation. In a country proudly steeped in tradition this is no small challenge but one that must be overcome if India is to take its rightful place at table with the world’s other super-powers.

-William Lewis 
-Picture Credit Heeals 

Friday, 25 March 2016

Sanitation challenge: Turning commitment into reality

Making information flow; strengthening partnerships

Good information on sanitation and hygiene is essential for making the right decisions. Getting the most useful information to flow from those who produce it to the people who use it is the challenge. There are several types of relevant information: there is technical information for practitioners/professionals, there is right to know/public participation information (that includes the rights and responsibilities of citizens under legislation and regulations) and there is user data collected for monitoring purposes. The Internet and e-mail are rapidly increasing access to information throughout the world, even in many poor or remote communities. To complement these new electronic methods for disseminating information, broadcast media and printed materials are still needed to reach the most inaccessible audiences. Traditional approaches to informing people, such as drama competitions and songs, have been used in many settings and have been shown to be effective. Addressing the sanitation and hygiene crisis requires a global strategy that builds partnerships between national governments, external support agencies, NGOs, communities and households and the private sector. Increased sharing of information resources between agencies and organisations through partnerships will help to reduce duplicative efforts, to learn from past mistakes and to consolidate effective approaches. Partnerships are vital for leveraging scarce resources

Getting sanitation and hygiene right

Effective sanitation and hygiene programmes need to combine interventions to change behaviour with the selection of the right technology. Changing behaviour requires culturally sensitive and appropriate health education. People need to understand, in terms meaningful to their lifestyles and existing belief systems, why better health depends on the adoption of hygiene practices such as hand-washing (after defecation, after handling babies’ faeces, and before cooking), on the use of latrines for safe disposal of faeces, and on safe storage and handling of drinking-water and food. Raising awareness of why sanitation and hygiene are important will often increase motivation to change harmful behaviours. Selecting the right sanitation technology is about having effective alternatives and making the right choice for the specific circumstances. Making the right choice of technology requires an assessment of the costs (both for building the facility and for operations and maintenance) and its effectiveness in a specific setting. For example, it is inappropriate to introduce piped sewage if there is no capacity to adequately treat the effluents. The use of conventional sewerage systems in extremely water-short regions may also be unsustainable.

What can we do?

National governments can ensure that hygiene promotion is funded alongside sanitation in a well-balanced programme. This may mean additional central government support for hygiene promotion and sanitation marketing. National governments can also support reviews of technical norms and standards, of planning regulations and of the health impacts associated with different options; fund research into appropriate technologies; and provide incentives for district/local governments to review their own policies and to innovate. Health education, especially concerning sanitation and hygiene, needs to be added to the national school curricula, and effective school sanitation strategies need to be developed.
District/local governments can provide funds for hygiene promotion and sanitation marketing; fund and support local entrepreneurs and public sector agencies that seek to develop new appropriate technologies; review and revise restrictive planning regulations and technical norms; and promote the use of appropriate sanitation facilities.
Communities and civil society can develop their own local technological solutions; make an effort to find ways of working with local technical agencies; be flexible when it comes to balancing local needs (getting the excreta out of the house) with community needs (protecting the communal environment); and participate in hygiene promotion and sanitation marketing campaigns.
Households can adopt good sanitation and hygiene practices; innovate, take action, talk with neighbours about solving local problems; and encourage local political representatives to support locally developed solutions.
Entrepreneurs can invest in research and development; carry out needs assessments and marketing research; find out what people are already using and develop better versions; and develop products and services that comply with national and local legislation and regulations.
International organisations can ensure that external funds for sanitation hardware are bundled with appropriate hygiene promotion and sanitation marketing activities; encourage governments to consider appropriate, cheaper or more effective sanitation technologies; finance local sanitation research; develop guidance and tools for facilitating good practice; disseminate information; and actively endorse the idea of flexible technical norms and standards.

We’re inspired by…

… the PHAST approach 
PHAST stands for participatory hygiene and sanitation transformation. It is an approach designed to promote hygiene behaviours, sanitation improvements and community management of water and sanitation facilities using specifically developed participatory techniques. The underlying basis for the PHAST approach is that no lasting change in people’s behaviour will occur without understanding and believing. To summarise the approach, specific participatory activities were developed for community groups to discover for themselves the faecal-oral contamination routes of disease. They then analyse their own hygiene behaviours in the light of this information and plan how to block the contamination routes.

Mobilizing financial resources

Improving access to sanitation and changing hygiene behaviours provide large benefits to all members of society that justify the preferential use of financial resources by individuals, households, communities, governments and external agencies to fund sanitation and hygiene interventions. For countries with poor coverage, the focus should be on increasing access. This can be leveraged by steering public funding towards stimulating demand for sanitation and promoting hygienic practices in schools as well as at the household level; financing public and school sanitation services; and delivering targeted subsidies where these can be demonstrated to be effective in increasing access.

picture credit : heeals
source :who