Updates from the Field
More Than 15,000 Children in Vietnam Receive Vision Care
Thanks to Helen Keller International's Childsight® program in Vietnam, over 15,000 students throughout 27 primary and secondary schools in Hanoi, Vietnam recently received free vision screenings. Ten percent of students screened were identified as having refractive errors — commonly known as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism — and more than 1,000 of those students were provided with quality eyeglasses at no cost to their families. In addition, approximately 300 teachers with refractive errors also received free eyeglasses.
More than just providing vision screenings, the program has also trained 73 school and community health workers in vision screening and provided critical equipment to the district’s general hospital to improve their eye health services.
Helen Keller International Team Attends InterAction Forum
This week, the HKI team is at the 30th Annual InterAction Forum, an exciting gathering that unites nonprofit organizations with governments, philanthropy, civil society and corporations to collaborate and innovate in the fight to end global poverty. Check out our photos from the InterAction Forum and stay tuned for more!
Helen Keller International at the Micronutrient Forum
The Helen Keller International team is excited to play an active role in the 2014 Micronutrient Forum, held in Ethiopia this year. This annual gathering unites Helen Keller International with other leaders and innovators across the field of nutrition to share ideas and insights surrounding reducing malnutrition in some of the world’s most vulnerable places. Read more about our contributions at the 2014 Micronutrient Forum.
InterAction, USAID Sign Landmark Agreement on Global Food Security
The fight against hunger and malnutrition has strengthened with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on May 19, 2014 on Capitol Hill. The Memorandum of Understanding represents a commitment by NGO alliance InterAction and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to leverage NGO assets to achieve greater impact in accelerating the global fight against hunger and malnutrition. InterAction is the largest coalition of U.S.-based, nongovernmental organizations working in the poorest and most vulnerable communities throughout the developing world. The more than 30 InterAction members participating in this partnership (including Helen Keller International) also announced a collective pledge to spend $1.5 billion of their own private funds from 2013 to 2015 to advance food security, nutrition and resilience. “This unprecedented collaboration will help ensure that families have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food, and that communities are better able to mitigate, adapt and recover from crises,” said Samuel A. Worthington, president and CEO of InterAction. “Hunger is one of the most serious challenges of our time. About 842 million people in the world go to bed hungry every night; 98 percent live in the developing world.”
Since late 2011, Northern Mali has been plagued by heavy insecurity and conflict that resulted in occupation by rebel forces in 2012. These events halted critical humanitarian initiatives in the region for several years and led to the displacement of an estimated 500,000 people into neighboring Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger, and across southern Mali. On May 2, 2014, in the Kidal region of Mali, a historic event took place: the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) campaign was implemented for the first time since 2011, targeting 65,000 people for preventive treatment for elephantiasis and intestinal worms, debilitating and disfiguring diseases that cripple the health and development of communities across Mali. In the vast, desert region of Kidal, the NTD campaign was coupled with the child vaccination days for the first time in Mali, so that young children received their polio vaccination at the same time as older children and adults receiving deworming drugs to fight and prevent neglected tropical diseases. With funding from USAID, the END Fund, and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Helen Keller International provides ongoing technical and financial support to the Ministry of Health of Mali to eliminate and control major Neglected Tropical Diseases, and with accomplishments like NTD treatment returning to Kidal, Mali is well on its way to meeting national elimination and control targets.
Last week, members of the Helen Keller International team joined The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) 2020 Policy Consultation and Conference, a key gathering of more than 140 experts in health and nutrition, who shared insights about strengthening the resilience of healthcare programs and systems around the world. The conference kicked off on May 15, 2014, under the auspices of the prime minister of Ethiopia. The opening day included speeches by several other imminent persons including Shenggen Fan (IFPRI Director General), Kanayo Nwanze (President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD) and Ertharin Cousin (Executive Director of the World Food Program).
We were excited to see 2014 Helen Keller Humanitarian Award Recipient Tom Arnold, who participated in a panel on "coping with a world of shocks" that opened Day 2 of the conference. Mr. Arnold discussed the importance of early childhood nutrition as a foundation for healthy development, in addition to identifying strengths and weaknesses of systems, ensuring meaningful participation of people that benefit from programs, and understanding the chronic nature of vulnerability. On a separate panel, HKI’s Regional Director for West Africa Douglas Steinberg presented a framework of opportunities that can help the Sahel region of Africa build resilient nutrition programs that can withstand drought and resource scarcity. Later that day, HKI-Bangladesh's Jillian Waid participated in a panel on the long history of our nutrition surveillance program in Bangladesh, which dates back to the 1990s. Throughout the conversation, she emphasized the need for actionable data and the key roles that accessible, affordable healthcare and nutrition can play in eliminating poverty. Another key takeaway from the conference was that illness and healthcare expenses make up 80% of the causes for a household falling into poverty. Stop by our Facebook page for photos from this exciting event.
Seventy New Gardens in Mali
In the Zeina community of Mali, home gardening had virtually stopped because the gardens that women living there had worked so hard to tend often yielded a meager harvest, barely enough to feed their families. To address this, Helen Keller International empowered 70 women in Zeina with tools, seeds, and a brood of poultry through its Homestead Food Production program. Now, each woman has her own plot to cultivate and selects which plants she prefers for each growing season from a variety of higher quality seeds provided by HKI. The cultivation techniques HKI shared with these women have also led to great improvements in the amounts and types of crops that are grown, including the orange-fleshed sweet potato, a root vegetable that is bursting with vitamin A to protect eyesight and boost immunity. Mrs. Kone, the head of the village’s women’s group, is a strong and charismatic leader who keeps the women organized and cooperating, and is deeply grateful for HKI’s support. In response to overwhelming community demand, HKI has extended its agricultural training to reach 162 additional women and the women of Zeina will teach others in neighboring communities all they have learned about growing and maintaining nutritious food for their families.
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