Celebrating Sustainable Development

In my view, there is an urgent need to communicate with the public and help to explain where there is consensus, and where are there doubts about the issues of sustainable development. -Jeffrey Sachs @JeffDSachs


The celebration of the first Earth Day in 1970 was just the beginning of a worldwide movement to improve various issues involving the environment. It was not long after that landmark laws such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act made significant impact in the way we view and approach our environment. With over 22,000 partners in 192 countries the Earth Day Network was established and has successfully executed environmental campaigns on various issues such as climate change and drinking water. Now, almost half a century later, Earth Day 2014 in consortium with Green Cities campaign will focus on the issues revolving increasing urbanization, its effects on climate change, and a progressive evolution of our cities towards green and sustainable projects.

SustainableDevelopment_520pxDid you know that in 1990, less than 40% of the global population lived in a city, but as of 2010, more than half of all people live in an urban area? By 2030, 6 out of every 10 people will live in a city, and by 2050, this proportion will increase to 7 out of 10 people.[1] The human population is growing rapidly and as it continues to grow so will its effects on our environment. One individual who is familiar with the strife for sustainability is American Economist and Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, Jeffrey Sachs, who spoke at this year’s Unite for Sight Global Health & Innovations Conference in Yale University.  In a 2012 Lancet article Sachs discusses the need to transition from the current Millennium Development goals (MDGs) to Sustainable Development goals (SDGs), a global conversation we would like to introduce in honor of Earth Day 2014.

For over a decade the MDGs have served as a global Report Card for countries around the world, some excelling while others required a little bit more work. As the world nears it’s MDG deadline of 2015, it will be noted that a majority of countries have made positive progress and reached their statistical quotas within some if not all their MDGs while a large portion have failed to effect similar change. But let this not discourage us, rather, let it inspire us to see the need for more sustainable and long term development post 2015 goals. The goals, also referred to as the triple bottom line, will focus on economic development, environmental sustainability, and social inclusion… a hallmark of sustainable development and a broad consensus on which the world can build. The SDGs will also require participation and efforts of all countries, regardless of their social and economic standing, as opposed to the current developed-helping-developing relationship that the MDGs have fostered. Success in anyone category will be dependent on success in all three. Moreover, the three bottom lines will depend on a fourth condition: good governance at all levels, local, national, regional, and global.[2]

In June of 2012 Sustainable Development was officially recognized by the United Nations at the UN Rio+20 Summit as the organizing principle for post 2015 goals. A team of specialized individuals called the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, operating under the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, recommends the adoption of the following SDGs: The focus of the first SDG will be the eradication of extreme poverty. Followed by Promotion of Sustainable Growth and Jobs, Education for All, Social Inclusion, Health for All, Sustainable Agriculture, Sustainable Cities, Sustainable Energy and Climate Change, Sustainable Biodiversity, and Good Governance.

Jeffrey Sachs will be hosting a Q&A at 12:30PM ET. To ask questions or to learn more about his views on the SDGs you may follow him at @JeffDSachs


[1]Urban Population Growth. (n.d.). WHO. Retrieved , from http://www.who.int/gho/urban_health/situation_trends/urban_population_growth_text/en/   

[2]Sachs, J. D. (2012, June 9). From Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals.Retrieved , from http://jeffsachs.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/From-MDGs-to-SDGs-Lancet-June-2012.pdf

Report of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. (2012, June 22).United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20). Retrieved , from http://www.uncsd2012.org/content/documents/814UNCSD%20REPORT%20final%20revs.pdf

Earth Day Network . Retrieved , from http://www.earthday.org/

World Health Day 2014

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The link between local community health and global health is often overlooked. When poor health systems are discussed it is often in the context of “us vs. them” a developed to developing relationship that has very few parallels.  In many ways this is true: the diseases that plague the developing world are not as prevalent in the Global North, including HIV, diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria… However understanding the interconnectedness of these two healthcare systems and the their treatment is vital for global eradication.  Today on World Health Day the international community looks towards vector borne diseases such as Malaria and Dengue Fever.  There has been a resurgence of 335 infectious diseases between 1940 and 2005, mostly caused by increased urbanization and development.1 This year the World Health Organization is focusing their attention on control and eradication of those diseases which are not exclusively limited to the developing world.

The WHO focuses on “Integrated Vector Management” which correlates between the environment and healthcare to reduce the spread of vector borne diseases. Factors such as inadequately designed water systems, poor irrigation and housing design, and loss of biodiversity due to development, all help to spread vector borne diseases.  Environmental management, such as redesigning water systems and biological controls including the use of larvivorous fish to kill larvae without the need for harmful chemicals, is a strategy that is proving to be effective. Another tool that can be implemented is called geographical profiling, it is a statistical tool used traditionally to locate suspects involved in crime.  However, it can be used in global health to map the spread of infectious diseases and locate the main sources of infection, such as a contaminated water source.  Non-traditional measures such as geographical profiling could be useful methods for integrated control strategies by providing information for targeted reduction in the spread of disease.

Multi sector work between the global south and global north will be needed to augment real change, and sustainable reduction in the spread of vector borne diseases. Together both environmental, biological, and new innovative strategies can reduce the spread of deadly vector borne illnesses.

[1] Le Comber, S. C., Rossmo, D. K., Hassan, A. N., Fuller, D. O., & Beier, J. C. (2011). Geographic profiling as a novel spatial tool for targeting infectious disease control. International Journal of Health Geographics, 10(1), 35-35. doi:10.1186/1476-072X-10-35

Empowering Girls through Education

“I want this school not only to empower Kenya’s girls, but also their mothers, fathers, and entire villages.” -Kakenya Ntaiya @KakenyaN


Did you know that women’s literacy rates are significantly lower than men’s in most developing countries? Education is important for all, but essential for the survival and empowerment of women and girls. Investing in girls' education is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty.5 Women who are educated are more likely to marry later, have smaller families, understand healthcare and how to access it, and be cognizant of their rights within their society. While global parity for education has been achieved in certain countries, there are still discrepancies between boys and girls in developing regions. Children with educated mothers are more likely to survive than those whose mothers did not receive an education. Children of mothers with a secondary school education are more than 3 times as likely to survive.

Significant progress has been made in achieving parity between 2000 and 2011 with the total enrollment rate for girls increased from 79 to 89 percent for primary education. Despite this progress that has been made in enrolling students in primary school, secondary enrollment has only increased from 67 to 79 percent between 2000 and 2011. 1

Millennium Development Goal 2 ensures that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling. MDG3 aims to promote gender equality while simultaneously empowering women. The target aims to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015. While the 2005 portion of the goal has unfortunately not been met there are individuals around the world who are working to provide education and opportunities for marginalized women and girls in regions where they would otherwise be lacking.

While these many successes must be celebrated and passed on, the improvement of equality in the lives of women and girls must continue to be stressed. Women today still face issues such as female genital mutilation, and child marriage, sex trafficking, and misrepresentation in government.  Many individuals from around the world, men and women alike, are working to reduce these inequalities and empower women. By articulating the rights of children and women these men and women have created a strong incentive to further equality through the work that they, and others like them, are doing.

Humaira Bachal began to teach at age 13, since then she has encountered constant resistance towards her endeavors to improve the education of both herself and others. Despite the opposition she has faced, she successfully built the Dream Model Street School in Pakistan that now teaches more than 1,200 students. Her work efforts are focused on providing education for girls that would otherwise not have an opportunity to attend school, but does not exclude boys in the process.  To see more of the amazing work she is doing in Pakistan, and to read more about her follow them on twitter and facebook.

Malala Yousafzai has become a global inspiration and champion for girls right to education ever since before being shot by Taliban in 2012 for speaking out against the oppressive regime. Malala has since been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and continues to promote the right to education and founded the Malala Fund that supports educational opportunities around the world.

"I am only talking about education, women's rights and peace. I want poverty to end in tomorrow's Pakistan. I want every girl in Pakistan to go to school."

“I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I am afraid of no one.”

Ziauddin Yousafzai is a Pakistani educator and advocate for the rights of both boys and girls to a decent education, equality, and a life for women that is free from discrimination. In October of 2012 his daughter, Malala Yousafzai, was targeted and shot by the Taliban.  Despite this consequence, he continues to support and encourage women within Pakistan. It is only when progressive women and men such as Ziauddin Yousafzai join together that true equality may be achieved.  To hear what he had to say in a recent TED talk, and to learn more about him click on the links below.

Urmi Basu is the founder of the New Light Foundation, a non-profit that works out of slums in India to provide protection and education for young girls.  The foundation promotes gender equality and provides services for women and girls that are at risk of both physical and sexual violence.   To see more of the work she is doing to educate girls in India visit the website below: Urmi Basu.

Kakenya Ntaiya grew up as a young Maasai girl in Kenya. She convinced her father to let her attend school in exchange for agreeing to circumcision, a feat that is fairly impressive in a  district where only 11% of girls continue their education past primary school.  She later attended University in the US earning a Ph.D. in education, and has started a school for girls in an area where the education of girls is not invested in, since most will be married by 13.  To learn more about Kakenya and the school she has built visit the links below:


International Children's Book Day

“Most of the people who will walk after me will be children, so make the beat keep time with short steps.” -Hans Christian Andersen

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Today, on April 2nd, International Children’s Book Day is being celebrated around the world to inspire a love of reading and celebrate children’s literature.  This day has been celebrated since 1967 on the birthday of famed children’s author Hans Christian Andersen who wrote stories such as the Little Mermaid and The Ugly Duckling. Sponsored by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), the day calls attention to the importance of education and the promotion of literacy for children around the world and provides an excellent opportunity to discuss the importance of Millennium Development Goal 2 to expand universal primary education.

Around the world 57 million children are not enrolled in primary school and 18 million teachers are needed worldwide to alleviate net primary school enrollment gap. The issues do not end there, those schools that are operating are often times not safe environments conducive to learning and do not have the child’s best interest in mind. In fact, almost two-thirds of children who are not attending primary school live in conflict heavy zones.  These children not only lack access to a quality education, but simple provisions for learning such as books and basic school supplies. Only 64% of boys and 61% of girls enroll in secondary school, with more than a third of the enrollment discrepancies occurring in developing countries. MDG 2 emphasizes that millions of children do not have the opportunity to attend school and do not have a safe learning environment needed for them to thrive. In fact, UNICEF recommends additional methods to increase school enrollment including increasing teacher training, reducing school fees that deter enrollment, and the promoting sanitation and hygiene at schools among others.

“If one reads enough books one has a fighting chance. Or better, one’s chances of survival increase with each book one reads.” - Sherman Alexie @Sherman_Alexie; poet, writer, and filmmaker.

Education is the single greatest intervention for increasing equity and furthering development.  However, before a child attends secondary school, or primary school, they must first learn to read.  Children’s books offer both an imaginative escape, and an opportunity to foster a love for learning. On this International Children's Book Day, what's your favorite children's book/author?

The Battle Against TB & HIV

“We are all here because of our commitment to fighting AIDS. But we cannot win the battle against AIDS if we do not also fight TB. TB is too often a death sentence for people with AIDS.” -Nelson Mandela, 15 July 2004, XV International AIDS Conference, Bangkok

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In 1988 Nelson Mandela, received a tuberculosis (TB) positive sputum test while still imprisoned during the apartheid. His recovery from the not yet drug-resistant disease took over two years of treatment and although he survived the disease he did not survive it unscathed. The disease left him with damaged lungs making him susceptible to future infections.

Today we are faced with different types of TB such as the multi-drug resistant (MDR-TB) strain that is resistant to the two main types of anti-TB drugs, isoniazid and rifampicin, that has infected well over half a million people annually since 2012. Less than one in four of those infected were successfully diagnosed, posing a significant health threat to the others within their immediate circles. The ball doesn’t stop rolling at MDR TB, now we are also faced with extensively drug resistant TB (XDR TB), that is resistant to both first line and second line anti-TB drugs, making options for those whom contract it very limited. Individuals who are HIV positive are often times victims of the opportunistic qualities of TB, including those taking antiretroviral treatment. TB makes a significant portion of HIV related deaths; with Sub-Saharan Africa bear[ing] the brunt of the dual epidemic, accounting for approximately 75% of the estimated burden in 2012. Although many countries have made significant progress for reducing TB and HIV, the global reduction targets have not yet been met.

Worldwide the rate of children taking antiretroviral drugs to combat HIV is estimated at 34% compared to 68% in adults. Children, under the age of 15, account for 10% of all new global HIV infections.  Even more alarming, a recent publication from Harvard Medical School suggests worldwide TB cases in children to be nearly double than previously suggested and quantified that nearly one million children contract TB annually, contrary to the estimate of 500,000 in 2010.  Approximately 30,000 are estimated to have a multi-drug resistant strain. TB affects children differently than adults, with rapid progression from infection to disease and significant difficulty of diagnosis after the onset of symptoms, it is highly likely that a child will die before they even reach a healthcare provider.

The expansion of prevention and treatment programs is essential if the most vulnerable individuals in the population hope to be impacted.  Many public, private, and non-governmental organizations around the world are working to combat the global HIV epidemic by raising awareness, providing HIV testing, and give treatment and health services to at risk populations. But as Nelson Mandela said, the world has made defeating AIDS a top priority. This is a blessing. But TB remains ignored. Today we are calling on the world to recognize that we can't fight AIDS unless we do much more to fight TB as well.

Meet some of the organizations working to reduce the global burden of HIV and TB. As they applied for the 2013 Children’s Prize, we’d like to take a moment and recognize the noble work they are doing.

Catholic Relief Services (The Gambia Program) is working to eliminate new pediatric HIV infections and improve maternal newborn and child health and survival.  They work to expand coverage of quality prevention of mother to child transmission services, based on national guidelines.  They respond to HIV and AIDS through home-based care, community prevention and mass-media activities.

Humana People to India works throughout the country in the areas of education, community development, microfinance, the environment, and of course health.  Humana People to India specifically works to reduce the risk of HIV transmission, and has intervention strategies that train community health care workers, counsels patients, and provides mass community information.

Lubangaber Community Medical Center and Preventive Services (LUCOMCEPS) is working in northern Uganda to support various health strengthening programs with the theme of giving back to the community.  The center offers free services including HIV/AIDS counseling and testing, antenatal care, post natal care, immunization, family planning, and health education.

Texas Children’s Hospital in collaboration with Baylor International Pediatric AIDS initiative (BIPAI) provides HIV/AIDS treatment for approximately 200,000 children in underserved areas, more than any other program worldwide. TCH and Baylor College of Medicine created the Texas Children’s Center for Global Health in March of 2011 to expand BIPAI’s mission beyond HIV/AIDS in a broad and unique initiative to improve the health of children around the world who suffer from a wide variety of inherited and acquired childhood conditions including sickle cell disease and HIV/AIDS infection.

University of Nairobi works with rural communities in Kenya to give all children a healthy start to life through innovations that support vaccination and reduce infant mortality at birth. They have successfully piloted a new system for child vaccination in rural Kenya villages to reduce the vulnerability of children under five in impoverished households headed by young mothers or older siblings whose parents have been infected with HIV. The University of Nairobi is embedded in a teaching, research, and national/regional think tank institution that provide intervention resources across the continuum of care for mother and child.