Packing Up At The Wrong Time

This blog was written by Michael Wilson, field intern at HKI Vietnam. 

As our time in Vietnam winds down, things at HKI Vietnam are doing just the opposite. Since we arrived in Hanoi close to eight weeks ago, things have progressively become busier around the office. The dog days are over here in Hanoi. Since arriving, the staff in Hanoi’s small but productive office have been busy preparing for the implementation of ChildSight® in three provinces starting in August- Ha Dong, Quoc Oai, and Nam Dinh.

HKI Vietnam has also recently received confirmation to begin the Homestead Food Production program here in Vietnam. This is an exciting new venture for Vietnam to now expand their reach and partnerships, starting in the Son La province in the coming months.

It is hard to believe that we will be packing up and leaving the beautiful Hanoi in just a few short days. We have learned so much from the staff at HKI and have enjoyed working on various projects, particularly the materials and surveys used to educate and measure knowledge and Quality of Life of the children enrolled in Vietnam’s ChildSight® program.

We are sad to leave, especially at what seems like such an exciting time the office is in- preparing for the launch of four programs and the hiring of three additional support staff.

Much thanks to all who made this opportunity possible for Casey and I. Of course, it will be hard to leave the Bánh cuốn, Khúc mía, motorbike rides, and the stifling humidity (kidding), but what will be hardest to leave will be the staff at HKI who have taken us in like family and taught and shown us many valuable, unforgettable lessons about their culture and their hearts towards the blind, hungry, and less fortunate people of Vietnam.

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Categories Asia-Pacific, Preventing Blindness

Dreaming of cows in rural Bangladesh

This blog was written by Hannah Taylor, a field intern with HKI Bangladesh.

Women in Bangladesh benefit from HKI's Project Laser Beam. Photo: c. HKI

I recently joined the HKI Bangladesh team as a Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition intern as part of my Masters of Public Health program with Columbia University. Like any start to a new adventure in life, I set goals for what I hoped to accomplish for myself and for the team, and I made plans for my future. During a visit to HKI’s Project Laser Beam in the Southern regions of Bangladesh, I found a few women who were also making big plans for their future and looking to learn from HKI as well.

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Categories Asia-Pacific, Reducing Malnutrition

National Sovereignty, Nutrition and Neglected Tropical Diseases

Launch of NMDs 1999. Children singing that vitamin A “saves sight and lives”. June 30, 1999. Photo: c. HKI

Flying into Niamey, the capital of Niger, always feels like coming home. Since starting development work in 1981 it is the country that has the most marked me and where I have traveled the most extensively. We are accompanying a columnist from The New York Times, Nick Kristof, and his annual “Win-A-Trip” participant, Erin Luhmann and their videographer, Ben Solomon during their West Africa visit. They will go on from Niamey to a leprosy hospital further to the East, and then on to Chad. The flight in is at the perfect time of day in the perfect season. The beginning of the rainy season has washed off the dust and the foliage is a brilliant green, contrasting with the red earth. The end-of-day light gives the perfect glow to the landscape. Immigration at the airport is more nervous than usual about having journalists visit – perhaps because of the heightened security concerns. However with a little explanation on several fronts the team is out of the airport and off to their first visit in Niamey. more…

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Categories Africa, Preventing Blindness

The Front Line of Eye Health

This blog post was written by Douglas Steinberg, HKI’s Regional Director of West Africa.

MAMBIRI, KITA  (MALI), July 3, 2013. When we arrived at the community health center in the village of Mambiri, there was already a throng of patients waiting. In the days prior, the local health workers had canvassed the area surrounding Mambiri, informing people that a team would be visiting to conduct trachoma screening and surgery for those with trichiasis. The team consisted of three ophthalmological nurses who have traveled from Mali’s capital city, Bamako. The team is mid-way through a ten day circuit of the local health centers, in remote communities such as Mambiri. The team works with the local health center staff to get the word out, to screen and to follow up patients who need further care or treatment.

Nurse Adama Sangaré (left) and the Eye Health team in Mali. Photo: c. HKI/Douglas Steinberg

One nurse, Adama Sangaré, works the through the crowd who are seated along with wall under the awning of the health center, consulting with each individual. They come with a variety of eye care issues, many of which can be easily treated with tetracycline or other antibiotics, and the patients sent on their way. Some will present issues, such as cataracts, that are referred to the district or regional hospital. Around a half dozen will require surgery for trichiasis, which is performed on the spot by two other nurses. Their goal is to perform an average of seven operations a day.

I am greatly impressed by the team of nurses. They are skilled in their work, and take the time to discuss (in the local language Bamabara) with each patient. They advise the patients how to avoid getting infected again, for example through face washing. The few who need surgery are coached through the procedure, with gentle words. The operation is fairly painless (patients say), but it still takes some nerve to submit to it. And all go away pleased with the results. The health care workers who provide this service are working in very basic conditions. They are away from home long periods, staying in remote areas with no amenities – not even running water or electricity. They are really the front line of eye health in Mali, and they perform their work with great pride and good cheer.

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Categories Africa, Preventing Blindness

Timbuktu, Terrorism, Trachoma

For centuries Mali has been known for the mythical city of Timbuktu. Unfortunately, events in the last two years have also made it known for terrorism. In public health circles it has long been known as a major part of the trachoma belt – a band of Africa where the leading infectious cause of blindness is concentrated. Our trip up North made us hope that Timbuktu will be resurgent and that the days of terrorism will be but distant, if painful, memories. Today’s trip also gave great hope that trachoma, which has caused so much suffering for generations of Malians, will be consigned to the past and that the country can look forward to a future free of this scourge.

We are accompanying a columnist from The New York Times, Nick Kristof, and his annual “Win-A-Trip” participant, Erin Luhmann and their videographer, Ben Solomon during their West Africa visit. Today we left the capital of Mali, Bamako, to head to the Kita district. more…

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Categories Africa, Preventing Blindness

Paddy Fields, Fried Tarantulas and Success Stories

This blog was written by Caitlin Gruer, a field intern with HKI Cambodia.

A young beneficiary learns about nutrition. Photo c. HKI

Monday morning I was greeted with an excellent surprise when I arrived at the HKI headquarters in Phnom Penh: I was going to have my first opportunity to go into the field and meet with some of our program beneficiaries! Along with 3 of my colleagues here at HKI Cambodia, I traveled to Kampong Thom and Kampong Cham districts to conduct interviews about our Micronutrient Powder (MNP) program.

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Categories Asia-Pacific, Reducing Malnutrition

Our Short Trip to Timbuktu

This blog post was written by Douglas Steinberg, HKI’s Regional Director of West Africa.

TIMBUKTU, JULY 1: Our short trip to Timbuktu today has brought back memories from when I worked in Mali in the early 1990s. I spent much time in the Timbuktu region, plying the Niger River in large canoes to visit communities located on the banks of the Niger River. Timbuktu is a mythical place for people in the West, who think of it as the end of the world, and in many respects it is about as remote as you can get. But it has also been for centuries a center of learning and trade on the edge of the Sahara. While much of Timbuktu’s heritage was destroyed during the Islamist occupation last year, the area surrounding Timbuktu remains constant.  It is a land that depends on the annual floods of the river for rice farming, where large herds gather in lush pastures when the waters recede, and where a rich catch of fish can be taken year round. Life moves at the slow pace of the Niger River current, but all together the local diet is rich and diverse. Were it not for the political crisis, the region would be relatively well-nourished. more…

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Categories Africa, Reducing Malnutrition

Timbuktu: 15 years on

The last time I was in Timbuktu was 15 years ago when HKI was just developing programs in Mali and we were providing technical assistance to a partner NGO working in the region to carry out a baseline survey on anemia and other nutritional problems. A colleague from HKI and I spent 10 days working with the local team preparing the survey design, finalizing and field testing questionnaires and training survey workers. The trip to Timbuktu was brutal as when we turned off the paved road in Douentza we spent 15 hours crossing usually dry scrubland that had been transformed into mud flats by a downpour. We were thrown around in the back of a double cabin pick-up truck when we were not up to our ears in mud trying to get the truck unstuck.

This time I am accompanying a columnist from The New York Times, Nick Kristof, and his annual “Win-A-Trip” participant, Erin Luhmann and their videographer, Ben Solomon. more…

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Categories Africa, Reducing Malnutrition

A day with the big shots

Michael and I had a really great week at work last week. We are finally getting settled into a little routine in the office and making some solid progress.

We had the opportunity to attend the 29th Nutrition Cluster and Partnership Group at the National Institute of Nutrition.  Michael and I were so grateful for this opportunity.
We sat next to people from UNICEF, WHO, FHI 360, Irish Aid, Save the Children, PSI, and many more highly thought of NGOs. It was incredible. To think, we, simple summer interns, had the opportunity to listen to and interact in discussions concerning maternal and child nutrition from some of the biggest names in the game. more…

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Categories Asia-Pacific, Reducing Malnutrition

Hello from lovely Cambodia!

Hello from lovely Cambodia!  My name is Caitlin Gruer and I am a masters of public health student at Columbia University.  I am studying Sociomedical Sciences with a concentration in Global Health and a personal interest in child health.  As part of my studies I have the pleasure of interning for HKI Cambodia for the next six months.

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Categories Asia-Pacific