On January 13, India completed three years without a new case of polio. Six days later, the country conducted the first of two annual National Immunization Days. After 29 years of slogging away at this campaign, health workers were rejoicing this time when Immunization Day arrived. For the partners in polio—Rotary International, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control—polio’s end in India is the start of a new effort to push for routine immunizations throughout the country. Successfully eradicating polio can translate into better care overall.
Dr. Sunil Bahl, technical advisor to the National Polio Surveillance Project with WHO, refers to the polio program as the “gold standard in microplanning,” which will now serve as a blueprint for other immunization campaigns. The polio program in India built the meticulous infrastructure necessary for vaccinations. Now it’s being applied to measles, rubella, hepatitis, and tuberculosis.
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Registering babies at birth may be a routine, almost automated process in the United States, but it’s a rarity in some impoverished nations in both South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, according to a new report released on Tuesday by UNICEF. In all, there are nearly 230 million children in the world who are nameless and stateless. And they may languish in anonymity for a good portion of their early lives.
Living without any proof of your existence can be a major challenge. The associated paperwork is often necessary to secure healthcare, education, and other basic rights. And children who don’t have identification are also left at higher risk of displacement, exploitation, and human trafficking. In the chaos of war or disaster, reuniting children separated from their family can be difficult, if not impossible, without proper documentation. And with no formal proof of age, marriage, military service, and employment may all become a reality much sooner than appropriate.
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Listening to caregivers from other countries, it’s easy to feel exasperated about U.S healthcare. American hospitals are filled with good people trying to do good work, but at every turn the system of misplaced incentives gets in the way of good patient care.
Indeed, the most pressing problem with American healthcare is that it is too wasteful.
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Last week, I joined Shaadi.com, India’s oldest and most popular matrimonial website.
Call it anthropological curiosity; call it a metric of my own narcissism. Call it acclimating to the Indian single life after coming of age in the West, where India is often seen as a country of arranged marriages and impenetrable glass ceilings. If there’s truth to caricature, then call my joining the online matrimony network a modern-day leap onto a bandwagon of millennia-old social custom.
“Shaadi” is the Hindi word for wedding; Shaadi.com is, intuitively, a wedding arranged via the Internet. It’s one of more than 100 Indian websites that comprise the country’s thriving online matrimonial market, where an individual can browse for his or her ideal spouse among a catalog of potential candidates organized by the personal information that apparently matters most: religion, caste, income, fairness of skin, family background, and so on.
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An ongoing debate about the quality of outsourced code prompts a look at the country’s precarious economic and educational picture.
India is at the center of several nations undergoing massive change, but it’s struggling to cope with its growing refugee populations.
In countries where not enough girls are going to school, NGOs and policymakers have tried everything: giving people money as an inducement, building more schools, trying to make sure kids are safer as they walk to class — you name it.
In India’s northeastern state of Bihar — one of the country’s poorest regions — just 53 percent of women were literate, a rate 20 percentage points lower than that of its men. School is expensive for most and too far away for many, and by age 16, only about 45 percent of girls are still enrolled, compared with about 65 percent of boys.
"We found that the high school dropout rate soared when girls reached the ninth grade. This was primarily because there are fewer high schools and girls had to travel longer distances to get to school," said Anjani Kumar Singh, Bihar’s principal secretary overseeing education.
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Michael Cheng was six years old in 1962 when the police came to take him and his family away. They arrived, armed and in force, in the middle of the night. Some of the officers, many of whom had known the Chengs for years, were apologetic. They were just following orders, the men assured Michael’s mother, and the family was being taken somewhere safe “for your own good.”
The Cheng family wasn’t the only one. Andy Hsieh was a student at a boarding school in Shillong, in northeast India. One day, he and several of his classmates were called into the headmaster’s office and told that they would be going away for an indefinite length of time.
When police came for Wong Ying Sheng’s family, they were packed and ready to go. Wong’s mother had escaped the Japanese invasion of Singapore and knew the signs.
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In a country where dark women are referred to as “blacky” at work, one actress takes on a massive skin-bleaching industry.
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Inside the dark and dingy room on the terrace of a house in Tirupur, Coimbatore—the textile hub in the southern state of Tamil Nadu in India — six women are hard at work. “We have just two hours before the power is out and we have a target,” Indumati shouts over the blaring sound of a compressor in the room. Cotton-like dust fills the humid room, but the women seem to be at ease even without masks. I cover my nose with a scarf as I watch them make the biodegradable sanitary napkins.
The women bought the machines from a company called Jayashree Industries a little more than a year ago. A social entrepreneur, Arunachalam Muruganantham, manufactures them in a neighboring town, Coimbatore.
The women faced resistance from their families: Their mothers-in-law told them, “it was as good as selling shit,” and their husbands refused to fund them. So, they micro-financed the venture instead. With an initial investment of about $5,000 on the machines and less than $100 in raw material, they started production. Three of the teammates had never even seen a sanitary napkin before—let alone used one.
Mother Care Sanitary Napkins, as they call their product, has a range of napkins, from ones for heavier-flow days to panty liners. There is another variant for women who do not wear panties, which is particularly necessary in rural India. This variety has an elastic belt to hold them up.
The team has an interesting strategy that so far has generated sizeable profits: They sell napkins in small quantities, even one or two at a time. They’ve also sent napkins to Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Singapore after individuals and charity organizations there placed orders. This morning the team is working on an order of 2,000 napkins for Nigeria.
Read more. [Image: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters]