Grass Returns to the Sundarban Delta

Four years after Cyclone Aila ravaged the Sundarban Delta, causing saline floods and the loss of dependable food sources, grass is finally returning to the land. Recent soil data shows that salt is reducing naturally due to rainfall in the past two years. This is a good sign, as it means that farmers can return to growing staple crops, like rice, and livestock can be brought into the region and enter the diet of the severely undernourished population. GHS  has been working with the people in the village Chotto Sehara since April 2012, and is happy to help people to begin to return to their normal livelihoods.

July 2013, sheep return to graze on grass surrounding rice fields

July 2013, sheep return to graze on grass surrounding rice fields

The Sundarban Delta is home to 4.5 million people, who often have poor access to roads, education, clean water, and medical attention. It is also uniquely vulnerable to climate issues due to its location. GHS is working with seven progressive local farmers, including two women, to introduce flood and salt tolerant crop varieties, and techniques in diversifying crops, shaping the land, and managing fallow land using nitrogen fixing plants in field trials. We are also working to make medical care more reliable by establishing televideo connections to doctors in more populated areas.

February 2012, many rice fields are dry and barren

February 2012, many rice fields are dry and barren

February 2012, a farmer stands on a grassless hillside

February 2012, a farmer stands on a grassless hillside

Only last year, the ground in Chotto Sehara remained mostly barren, those who were fortunate enough to own livestock were forced to pay to feed them costly food, rather than allow them to graze. However, this year there has been remarkable growth in the grasses, along with the planting of nitrogen fixing plants, which has helped to reinvigorate the soil to and bring back much needed grazing animals. This is a sign that the soil is becoming more hospitable, and will allow GHS to move forward with plans to help form group farming and mixed farming projects. We believe the successes achieved in Chotto Sehara may be able spread throughout the Sundarban and pull more families and farmers out of poverty.

February 2012, cows eating out of baskets

February 2012, cows eating out of baskets

July 2013, cows able to graze on grass

July 2013, cows able to graze on new grasses

Diarrheal Disease Treatment: Why It’s Important

Diarrheal Disease is the second leading cause of death of children under 5 years old. Each year around 760,000 children are killed by diarrheal disease, which is both preventable and treatable. It is generally contracted from contaminated food and water sources, resulting in an intestinal infection of a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasitic organisms. Dehydration is the most severe threat posed by Diarrheal Disease, due to the extreme amount of water and electrolytes that are lost. Once a child reaches a dehydrated stage, they must be treated with Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS), a mixture of water and electrolytes, or given an intravenous dip. Unfortunately, ORS are not always available, and many doctors are reluctant to prescribe them at an early stage because they traditionally do not have any preventative abilities against diarrhea onset. While ORS continues to save millions of lives, it was originally designed to treat dehydration caused by diarrhea and does not treat the disease agents that cause it, like the cholera bacteria, E. coli, and rotavirus. Therefore, a more efficacious formulation to combat disease-causing agents while facilitating the absorption of nutrients and water is greatly needed.

Ray and Somen meet at the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh to discuss new Super-ORS

GHS hopes to formulate a new ORS, called Super-ORS which is designed to replace the lost water and electrolytes and fight infection. In order to do this, we have researched the power of breast feeding, which gives children an antimicrobial community and a strong immunity to many diseases. Preliminary studies show that when components of breast milk are added to ORS, the diarrheal disease time can be reduced by one-third. We are collaborating with physicians and researchers from the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) and others to help lessen the burden of diarrheal disease around the world.

See the World Health Organization’s Diarrheal Disease Fact sheet: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs330/en/

Global Health News: Children in slums get an education

Young children in the slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh are getting an early start on education. While the slums in Dhaka are generally characterized as dingy and sad, the people and especially children bring life to the city. The children begin school at age 4, and are placed into government primary schools when they complete pre-primary school. The parents of these children are mostly day laborers, and are often deprived of the basic rights to proper health and hygiene, nutritious food, and education. UNICEF,B, as well as BRAC work constantly to secure proper education for these children.

© UNICEF/BANA2013-00707/Ahsan Khan

© UNICEF/BANA2013-00707/Ahsan Khan

“The children of pre-primary slum schools are smart and confident and are also good performers at school. They can easily adapt to their environment and are always eager to learn” – Fatema Yasmin, Senior Branch Member, BRAC pre-primary education

Find out more here: http://www.unicef.org/bangladesh/media_8276.htm

Global Health News: Malaria deaths in Africa decrease by 1/3 since 2000

Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership announced this Saturday that Malaria deaths have decreased by a full one-third since 2000. Members of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership and others met this week at the in the Malaria Situation Room at the AU Abuja +12 Special Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Malaria Situation Room is an intelligence gathering that focuses on the cure and control of Malaria in the 10 most affected African countries. While many contributors claim that these gains were mostly confined to smaller countries, where it is easier to co-ordinate efforts, this is promising progress in the race to eliminate one our most detrimental diseases.

Read the Premium Times Nigeria article here: http://premiumtimesng.com/news/140905-malaria-deaths-in-africa-reduced-by-one-third-from-year-2000-official.html

Girls Who Code Summer Update

Currently only 0.3% of programmers and 12% of computer science majors are women. This number is startling because it shows a decrease from 34% of computer science majors who were women in 1984.  In an industry which is arguably becoming the most prominent in our daily lives, we believe that women should play a more prominent role. This summer GHS and UC Davis are hosting Intel’s Girls Who Code program, empowering highly motivated high-school women to become engaged in computing, science, and math. UC Davis is proud to be the first university training site for Girls Who Code. This summer twenty students are being taught at UC Davis by Ms. Kristen Beck, a postgraduate student at the UC Davis Genome Center. The program kicked off June 25, and as we near the halfway point of the program, the girls are already showing tremendous progress and promise for the future. GHS looks forward to seeing the great things that the girls are accomplishing and the Girls Who Code graduation, which will occur this August.

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“Girls Who Code was founded because we believe that female engineers, entrepreneurs and innovators are our future. The Intel Summer Immersion Program is an important part of our movement to change the face of technology in America,” said founder Reshma Saujani.

Find out more about Girls Who Code at the website: http://www.girlswhocode.com/