HelpAge and HI Launch New Inclusion Standards for Humanitarian Response

On March 15, 2018, Hilton Prize Coalition members HelpAge International in partnership with Humanity & Inclusion co-hosted an event in Washington D.C. entitled “Putting Inclusion into Practice.” The event marked the U.S. launch of the Humanitarian Inclusion Standards for Older People and People with Disabilities. The standards, which have been developed by the Age and Disability Capacity Program and funded by the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID), consist of nine key inclusion standards and seven sector-specific standards, designed to work in conjunction with the Sphere Humanitarian Standards and the Core Humanitarian Standard for Quality of Life.

During the event, attendees heard remarks from Kate Bunting, CEO of HelpAge US, Jeff Meer, U.S. Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion, and a panel of humanitarian response experts. Each speaker discussed the importance of inclusion in their respective organizations and how they are bringing purposeful inclusion practices to not just their programs, but to their whole organization.

Each speaker echoed the same sentiment that, as we look to the future, inclusion needs to be more focused and not an added step in the process, but a key piece built into humanitarian response.

The panel consisted of experts in humanitarian response.

View and download the humanitarian inclusion standards for older people and people with disabilities.

(All photos courtesy of HelpAge International US)

About The Hilton Prize Coalition
The Hilton Prize Coalition is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the Fellows Program, the Collaborative Models Program and the Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat, Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow the Hilton Prize Coalition on Twitter and LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

Marcus with Children's Village sign

HPC Fellow: Marcus Miller, SOS Children’s Villages

Marcus Miller completed a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship with SOS Children’s Villages, the largest nongovernmental organization dedicated to the care of orphaned and abandoned children across the globe. Marcus holds a Master’s Degree in Film & Video Studies and a Bachelor’s Degree in Media Communications from George Mason University. He also received a Technical Diploma in Web Development from General Assembly in Washington, DC. In this post, Marcus reflects on his experience as a member of the Marketing and Communications team at the SOS-USA headquarters.

My Fellowship Journey
by Marcus Miller

When I first applied for a Hilton Prize Coalition fellowship for SOS Children’s Villages I knew very little about the organization, but what intrigued me about them was the work that they do for children across the globe. I state in my portfolio that my professional mission is to produce digital content that elevates humanity and society, so two things about SOS’s fellowship description that caught my eye were the phrases “digital content” and “serving children.” After reading that I was sold. I have friends around the city from various backgrounds across the world who raved about the organization and how popular they were on a global scale. This was exciting to me because my career goals have always been based on impacting culture and society, whether through an advertising agency, media outlet, or an awesome non-profit that benefits the needs of the people.

During my journey at SOS, my main responsibility was to create and improve digital content for the end of the year fundraising efforts. The end of the year/holiday season is always the most important time to raise money because that is when the majority of donations are made. I was very excited and up for the challenge of not only putting my new coding knowledge to the test, but also having an opportunity to really help vulnerable children across the world. My duties included building web pages for sos-usa.org, creating email templates and donation forms to engage donors and non-donors, and creating video content for social media, YouTube, etc. From the get-go, the organization made me feel very comfortable, giving me the green light on creativity, engagement, and ideas to further improve digitally. I adapted so quickly that I got to a point where I felt able to handle the maintenance of the website primarily on my own.

One of my goals was to grow professionally, especially at a high profile organization. As a global non-profit, SOS definitely gave me the chance to do just that. It was so exciting to work with people overseas, knowing that everyone had the same goals in mind. I’ve conducted meetings, learned new software that I know I will need in the future, and most importantly I’ve gained experience and knowledge from a marketing standpoint. My background is based on media and technology, but being able to work with experienced professionals and learn the strategies that it takes to not only reach an audience but also to impact people was gold for me. To cap it all off, 2017 was SOS’s highest grossing year, and I am so happy to be a part of that.

Last but not least, I am grateful for the people here at SOS. I always say that your workplace is your second home and that your co-workers are your second family, and man, did the people here confirm my view. The vibe here is just so family-oriented and loving. Everyone here is about the service business and everyone being equal. They have a very diverse group of people, and the children that we do work for are very diverse as well, as SOS operates in over 135 countries. We throw so many functions/events here, including happy hours, birthday celebrations, potlucks, holiday parties, etc. Bonding and experiencing joy with my new group of co-workers made me feel like I worked there for years. For that experience I cannot thank them enough, as those memories will always live in my heart.

I call this fellowship a journey because there were so many emotions that took place during my time here. I was fortunate to experience life working in a major city such as Washington D.C. just as I’m beginning my overall career path, especially during these changing times. With the political climate and the tragedies that go on in our world each and every day, these days just feel so different and more out of whack than ever before. With that being said, I have to admit that waking up every day to focus my energy and efforts towards REAL problems going on in our world such as taking care of starving and displaced children definitely made me feel like I was doing my part to make the world a better place, and I am so grateful. There were times I would work on photographs and images of the children and I would quietly just tear up knowing that I am actively doing my part to help them, and that my help was paying off. When I think about it, at the end of the day it’s not just about yourself. It’s about us as a whole and our future generation. We are only as strong as our weakest link, and during these times if you’re not standing for something then what are you doing?

About The Hilton Prize Coalition
The Hilton Prize Coalition is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the Fellows Program, the Collaborative Models Program and the Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat, Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow the Hilton Prize Coalition on Twitter and LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

Coalition Member Spotlight: Heifer International

In recognition of World Water Day, March 22, the Hilton Prize Coalition shines a spotlight on member Heifer International, focusing on the importance of clean water for livestock as well as for humans. Heifer’s initiatives affirm that healthy animals and healthy livestock practices lead to healthier people and communities.

Daily life of communities ahead of the digging of a well which will provide water for over 3,000 families in Linguere, Senegal. Feb. 2018 (Photo by Xaume Olleros/Heifer International)

For nearly 75 years, Heifer International has partnered with communities around the world to strengthen sustainable livelihoods and advance local economies. Heifer was awarded the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2004 for working to end hunger and poverty, while caring for the earth through training in environmentally sound agricultural practices.

Through its signature Passing on the Gift® practice, Heifer seeks to advance and raise awareness of food security and nutrition, women’s empowerment and others. Heifer's extensive partnerships, sound monitoring and evaluation practices and innovative programs around the world make the organization a leader in sustainable development with the goal of lifting farmers to living incomes.

Heifer offers sustainable development by leading a livestock revolution. Livestock provides nutritional and financial stability for small-scale farmers by producing goods to consume and sell. Healthy livestock help ensure economic security, empowering famers to take charge of their futures. Heifer works with communities to understand the needs and to identify the animals and farming methods that are most appropriate for the environment.

To achieve sustainable development, Heifer offers training and education in caring for animals. As part of the Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program, Heifer’s president and chief executive officer Pierre Ferrari explains in this interview how clean water, nutrition, and proper care significantly impact livestock, and how the relationship between livestock health and human health has positive effects on the community. Clean water, nutrients and proper care contribute to healthier animals, which increases their benefit to small-scale farmers. Without proper care for livestock, humans’ health and well-being may be put at risk. Heifer’s initiatives affirm that healthy animals, and healthy livestock practices, lead to healthier people.

WATCH THE VIDEO

In the same interview, Ferrari recounts a story of Nepalese farmers who had been raising goats for centuries. They were initially skeptical of the changes Heifer was introducing. To address this, Heifer proposed a competition between those who followed the traditional way of raising goats and those who took advantage of Heifer’s trainings. After one year, the goats raised with Heifer’s methods showed a significant growth over their counterparts, proving the importance of proper care and nutrition to livestock.

Improved animal and resource management is one of Heifer’s 12 Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development. The Cornerstones incorporate Heifer’s values-based principles to teach holistic community development, including improving the environment, gender and family focus, and sustainability and self-reliance. Heifer equips local leaders with the tools to improve their communities and develop sustainable economies.

(Photos courtesy of Heifer International)

About The Hilton Prize Coalition
The Hilton Prize Coalition is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the Fellows Program, the Collaborative Models Program and the Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat, Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow the Hilton Prize Coalition on Twitter and LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

Comics, Witchcraft and Produce – International Women's Day 2018

International Women’s Day was celebrated on March 8, 2018, with people of all genders showing support for women’s rights and appreciating their contributions to history. This year’s theme, #PressforProgress, encourages the global movement for gender equality. While positive developments are being made, the programs taking effect in different parts of the world reveal just how much progress is still needed.

Hilton Prize Coalition members are empowering women by changing the society around them. Programs that include community involvement have shown progress in expanding women’s roles in their community. As groups #PressforProgress, the focus is on encouraging communities to acknowledge the rights of women and come together to close the gender gap. Here is a glimpse of what several Laureates have been doing.

In Lebanon, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has produced an interactive comic book to instruct female refugees on how to handle dangerous situations. The comic book follows Hala, a Syrian refugee who encounters conflicts on her way to work. At checkpoint, Hala must decide whether to give the guard her number or find another way to work. If she takes another route, she may then encounter harassers or get lost in a foreign city. Hala’s story touches on issues that refugee women may relate to, or perhaps have experienced firsthand. The comic books are made available in women’s centers that provide counseling and other services to female Syrian refugees. The books are read in group settings to encourage discussion and allow women to share their own experience. Through their collective knowledge, the community of women grows stronger as they support each other. Together, they are better equipped to handle the dangerous situations that refugees may face.

Landesa’s “Girls Project” helps insure the rights of girls in West Bengal, India. The program seeks to change perceptions in a society that views girls as a burden. The first step of the program is to change the girls’ views of themselves. Through peer-leaders, girls are educated on their property rights, so that they will be prepared to make claims to their land and inheritance. The program also encourages girls grow “kitchen gardens.” The gardens may contribute food for their tables or serve as an additional source of income, helping families recognize the value that the girls can offer.
The second component of the Girl’s Project is to educate boys on women’s rights. Through Landesa’s curriculum, boys are sensitized to the vulnerabilities of girls, and acknowledge the benefit of their connection with land. With support from their communities, girls will be able to achieve economic and social empowerment. The Girls Program has reached more than 1,000 villages, resulting in more girls with assets in their names, and less child brides.

Young women and girls are not the only ones who face threats from their society. Elderly women are often targets for discrimination due to their age and sex. Even in the twenty-first century, accusations of witchcraft may force women to leave their communities or face harassment and death. HelpAge works with communities in Tanzania, where it is estimated that a thousand people are killed each year due to witchcraft accusations. The accused, who are mostly older women, are scapegoats for hardships that befall the community, such as disease or famine. Women who outlive their husbands may be targeted in order to dismiss their land rights or inheritance claims. HelpAge works with local NGO partners to educate the community and provide support to the accused women. By training village committee members in women’s rights, the organizations strengthen the justice system and support laws to protect widows. Community members are also taught about HIV and other illnesses, which are often blamed on witchcraft. For those who have been accused, houses and other resources are provided to help women who have been threatened or isolated by their community.

While there are many hurdles, progress is being made to lessen gender inequality. In "Prepared to Lead," a video clip from the Hilton Prize Coalition's "Leading Thoughts" Storytelling Program series, the president and CEO of Heifer International" describes the organization's efforts to educate and empower women. Given the opportunity, female leaders are stepping forward to make their communities safer and stronger.

Across the Hilton Prize Coalition, the theme of International Women’s Day continues through the year, as do efforts to #PressforProgress in communities, both locally and globally.

About The Hilton Prize Coalition
The Hilton Prize Coalition is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the Fellows Program, the Collaborative Models Program and the Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat, Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow the Hilton Prize Coalition on Twitter and LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

HPC Fellow: Catalina López Montero, Casa Alianza Mexico

Catalina López Montero is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow with Casa Alianza Mexico (CAM), the name by which Covenant House is known in Mexico. In this post, Catalina describes the way CAM developed a comprehensive model of caring for homeless migrant young people. Catalina is a Social Work Professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico with a specialization in Youth Intervention Models.

Behind the Scenes of Caring for Migrant Children in Mexico
by Catalina López Montero

During my time as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow at Casa Alianza Mexico (CAM) in Mexico City, I had the great opportunity to research, document and archive their 20+ year history of working with migrant children and adolescents. Importantly, this gave me the opportunity to interview many migrant youth and understand migration from their direct perspective, from young people who are forced, for different reasons, to abandon their places of origin, even at the expense of their very own lives. Within this global phenomenon I found CAM to be an institution that understands how migrant children and adolescents are victims of a serious problem—social abandonment—and how addressing this humanitarian problem requires an integrated model of care, completely different from the social welfare handouts approach found among many Mexican institutions and NGOs.

CAM’s model of care for migrants has evolved methodologically over the years, through a continuous effort of reflection, evaluation and adjustment in order to remain responsive to migration’s changing socio-political environment. CAM’s work with migrants began in the early 1990s with their Street Outreach efforts, a core pillar of their work with migrants that remains key to this day. When unaccompanied migrant children arrive to Mexico from Central America and other countries, many of them find themselves on the streets, and like their Mexican peers, are without any identifying personal documents.

In the beginning, CAM’s street educators began working with migrants without even knowing they were foreigners. Through the personalized care they provided, the staff began to discover how there were many unaccompanied migrant children in Mexico City, and that it was necessary to create specialized strategies to care for them. For example, the staff needed to contact consular authorities, coordinate repatriations with other Covenant Houses in Central America and to start to understand the children’s journeys in order to identify what each child wanted and needed to help them reestablish their lives.

In the early years, CAM was one of the few organizations working with child migrants living on the streets of Mexico City even before the government was involved, but its network has grown and changed over the years to involve other entities, including the Mexican government. To this day, CAM’s continuous work and monitoring of the status of migrant children has won recognition from government agencies such as the Mexican National Institute of Migration, with whom they have been working for more than ten years; in 2006, the agency declared CAM an official child migratory station. In CAM’s shelter, migrant children and adolescents wait to obtain refugee status while they reside in an environment that guarantees the protection of their human rights and the development of their full potential.

As a university professor and social worker by profession, I have had the opportunity to work with many civil society organizations who care for children and adolescents working or living "on the street" - a name given to those who spent most of their day in this place; an important note on the name is how CAM recognizes that children are not “from the street,” because the streets have never been an acceptable place for any child to live.

There are many different models of care for vulnerable youth populations, but never have I come across such a comprehensive model like that of CAM’s, one so respectful of the human dignity of each person, nor one so committed to what happens to the children throughout their stay from the moment their street educators make the very first contact, inviting these children to think about an opportunity to leave the streets, and changing their lives by encouraging them to live in a new, safe, reliable home along with other peers, while always respecting their decision-making capacity.

During my fellowship I was amazed at CAM’s great commitment to their children and youth not only when they are living in their shelters, but also throughout the process of transitioning to an independent life. CAM provides them with the skills they need to take care of themselves in order to achieve emotional and financial stability, and the confidence of knowing they will have the support of an institution like CAM, who is like family to them.

Without a doubt, I have respect and admiration for the work done by Covenant House in Mexico on behalf of migrant children and adolescents. They have awakened in many children the certainty of a better life and dream, not just the American dream.

Casa Alianza Mexico, opening doors for homeless children…

(Photos courtesy of Covenant House)

About The Hilton Prize Coalition
The Hilton Prize Coalition is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the Fellows Program, the Collaborative Models Program and the Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat, Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow the Hilton Prize Coalition on Twitter and LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

Dr. Dave Ross, The Task Force for Global Health, on Access to Health

"Access to health...is ultimately about doing things that strengthen a country's capability to have a health system." In this clip from the Hilton Prize Coalition's "Leading Thoughts" Storytelling Program series, Dr. Dave Ross, President and CEO of The Task Force for Global Health describes how the delivery of medical treatment is only part of creating community resilience.  Learn how the Task Force's collaborative approach to eliminating Neglected Tropical Diseases is creating a chain effect that fosters good economics.

WATCH THE VIDEO

HPC Fellow: Kevin Ryu, ECPAT, Thailand

Originally from South Korea, Kevin Ryu is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow based in Bangkok, Thailand with ECPAT International, an NGO fighting to end the sexual exploitation of children around the world. As a legal research intern within the Research and Policy team, he conducts research on relevant national laws and legal procedures as well as information on preventive measures and cooperation mechanisms.

Kevin completed a Dual Master's Program with a degree in International Law and the Settlement of Disputes from the UN University for Peace (Costa Rica) and in International Law and Human Rights from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (South Korea). In this post, Kevin reflects on why he is determined to protect children from exploitation and how his fellowship with ECPAT has provided him with training and knowledge to make a meaningful impact through his work.

A Drop of Water Transforms Rocks
by Kevin Ryu

My current career path stems from an unfortunate childhood experience. At that time, there was no one to help me escape that situation. I was alone, confused and unable to understand why it was happening to me. Having endured such a traumatic and painful incident during a very crucial time in my life left me with a desire to help others in similar situations.

As I got older, I began to think about the help that I could have received, and began to wonder what, if anything, I could do to help other children that are going through similar or worse experiences. However, I am from South Korea, where a heavily consumer-driven society almost forces people to follow career paths that promise a well-paying job. I felt this pressure while studying as an undergraduate student. However, I could not picture myself working in a standard corporate environment where I did not feel I belonged, at a company I could not identify with. So despite this pressure, I decided instead to pursue what I really wanted to do, and immediately after graduation, began searching for a Master’s programme in Human Rights, specifically International Human Rights Law. Later, I entered the United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica. During a course on “International Protection of Vulnerable Groups and Persons,” I was immediately drawn to the issues of children involved in abuse and exploitation.

After completing the Master’s Programme, I took advantage of an opportunity to intern at the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which not only allowed me to hone my interests and skills, but also allowed me to use the knowledge I had accumulated throughout my studies. However, I wanted more. The internship with the CRC further developed my interests in child protection, and I applied for another internship at an NGO. I joined the ECPAT International Secretariat based in Bangkok, Thailand in September 2017 as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow. ECPAT is an international NGO network dedicated to the fight against sexual exploitation of children.

As a member of the Research Policy Team, my primary duty is to draft Country Overview Reports on Sexual Exploitation of Children (SEC). I thought my previous experience and academic background would help me draft the reports, but I soon realised that I was still not an expert on the issue. ECPAT introduced me to the extensive literature focusing specifically on sexual exploitation of children, which takes many different forms: sexual exploitation in prostitution; online sexual exploitation; sale and trafficking of children for sexual purposes; sexual exploitation in travel and tourism; and child, early, and forced marriage. I also learned that it is not only children in vulnerable situations or from developing countries who are targeted, but that every child in the world has the potential to be sexually exploited.

Since I am intimately familiar with their specific contexts, I was assigned to draft reports on Japan and South Korea. I had to collect information and conduct research on the country-specific context of SEC, national legislation, regional/international commitments, preventive measures, child-sensitive justice mechanisms, and child participation measures. While writing these drafts, I was first shocked, then frustrated, worried and eventually angry. Thinking about those exploited children and the horrific crimes committed against them gave me a burning urge to join the battle against child sexual exploitation. Unfortunately, I simultaneously felt helpless, and questioned whether the changes or differences I may make in my career will have any significant impact. The current reality of socially or “culturally” accepted SEC, a lack of enforcement, and ignorance among relevant stakeholders are all huge obstacles to this work.

However, I decided to think of myself as a drop of water: even though a tiny drop of water is indeed nothing on its own, the constant efforts of many drops of water will gradually transform a giant rock to tiny grains of sand. I hope that many others like me will also gather their strength so we can participate together in the fight.

These past five months of my fellowship and internship have definitely enhanced my dedication, devotion and expertise for the career field that I am pursuing. This fellowship has allowed me to renew my passion. Moreover, the Hilton Prize Coalition provided me with a variety of online training courses to further expand my knowledge. I firmly believe that the time I have spent as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow with ECPAT will have lasting impacts on my professional path. Lastly, I want to express my sincere gratitude towards my colleagues and my supervisors at ECPAT, who did not hesitate to teach, guide and help me.

About The Hilton Prize Coalition
The Hilton Prize Coalition is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the Fellows Program, the Collaborative Models Program and the Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat, Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow the Hilton Prize Coalition on Twitter and LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

HPC Fellow: Mich Rakotomalala, Operation Smile, Madagascar

Mich Rakotomalala is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow with Operation Smile in Madagascar. Her fellowship consists of work as a program coordinator in charge of cleft lip and cleft palate international surgical missions and  trainings in Basic Life Support (BLS) and Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) for in-country volunteers. In this post, Mich provides a glimpse of the type of hazards faced by staff in the field that can impact their operations and the communities they serve.

Plague Hits Madagascar Before Operation Smile Medical Mission
by Mich Rakotomalala

Madagascar, my country, is a large island in the Indian Ocean located at the east coast of southern Africa. Due to the political and economic environment in August 2017, it was expected that a plague epidemic would spread at a catastrophic speed, and it would be difficult for the government to control the disease in the beginning. High rates of illiteracy and promiscuity within the population of the capital, Antananarivo, were major factors in the lack of awareness on the disease and the way it would spread.

In fact, the plague is a disease, an epidemic which does not belong to yesterday but is still found today, mostly in poor countries. As is the case in Madagascar, the plague is endemic to the central high plateau, manifesting every year as a seasonal upsurge during the rainy season. Between mid-August and April there is bubonic plague (transmitted by sting of a flea) and so-called pulmonary plague, which is the most serious, transmitted through contact with simple saliva from a distance of less than two meters. It is obvious to see why the disease would affect mainly the population of the big city of Madagascar. The plague outbreak that began in August 2017 killed 202 people, and 2,384 cases were reported all over the country. The Malagasy capital was the most affected, with more than 400 cases, as well as Tamatave on the east coast of the country.

As a program coordinator based in Antananarivo, I experienced how the August 2017 Plague affected Operation Smile Madagascar in many ways. We had scheduled our International Mission for November 2017 in Tamatave Hospital, but all of a sudden everything had to be postponed. CHU Analakininina (Tamatave Hospital), which was Operation Smile’s local mission site, admitted several patients and gave them the care they needed. A few doctors and nurses from the hospital became infected and were quarantined and given the same treatment as all patients. At this time, the Ministry Of Health issued a directive that everyone must wear a mouth cover once they go out of their homes. Schools were even closed for three weeks, and all big meetings and shows were canceled. By that point, people were scared to go out; children could not even play outside.

As you might not know, Operation Smile offers free surgery for cleft lip/palate patients. In Madagascar, we do annual registration by running an awareness campaign all over the country and calling patients on the phone. Due to the plague epidemic, the mission scheduled for November had to be postponed, and we needed to call the patients again to notify them of the change.

In the beginning of November our team went down to Tamatave and reached out to patients at the hospital who couldn’t be reached by phone and still thought the mission was happening. We had to explain to them that the mission was being postponed, and why. Many patients who live far from the big cities wouldn’t know what plague is exactly about. You can imagine their reaction to this news, how sad these parents were, when we informed them that their kid unfortunately wouldn’t get surgery this time, and that they would have to wait for the next mission in 2018.

We had to explain to them about the risk of exposing a patient or a team member to the plague, who could then infect the rest of the team. It was very difficult for them to understand the situation. “Can you promise us that my son will get surgery next year? We have been away from our village hoping that when we go back people will look at him differently,” said Rayan’s mother. The mother of Maimona, a girl born with a cleft lip, cried. “Oh my God, I am going back home with my kid not healed yet. People will keep judging us by saying the curse our family got is not gone yet.” These were the kinds of questions and reactions we heard from everyone, and we really took the time to counsel each parent present.

You should know that most of those patients come from a very rural area, from villages far from the city. Sometimes they have to walk for hours to reach their home, passing red dirt roads or crossing rivers. But it’s worth it. Patients with a cleft lip or palate here in Madagascar are always looked at differently—sometimes people who meet them on the road get really scared or think that it’s a curse on the family.

You can imagine the hope these families have in mind while going to the hospital, thinking that the time has finally come for their child to be healed. As I put myself in their shoes, I completely understand the feeling that they cannot wait for that moment when their kid comes out from the operating room with that very new smile, a moment that they will never forget. So many parents wait for years for that moment. Looking up, then closing her eyes with tears, Maimona’s mother continued to pray for her daughter’s life to change forever.

Surveillance and treatment of patients suspected of plague continued, then by end of November, the Malagasy authorities managed to put an end to the plague epidemic which was raging Madagascar.

Throughout this period of the plague, I did not do much, could not heal any plague patient, but my Hilton Prize Coalition fellowship with Operation Smile gave me the opportunity to counsel families, guiding them and sharing their feelings, which I believe was just as important. I cannot wait to see the new smile these children will get when the mission reinstates next April.

(All photos courtesy of Operation Smile)

About The Hilton Prize Coalition
The Hilton Prize Coalition is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the Fellows Program, the Collaborative Models Program and the Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat, Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow the Hilton Prize Coalition on Twitter and LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

Coalition Member Spotlight: Tostan

February 6 is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) designated by the United Nations to bring awareness to the dangers of FGM and “promote the sanctity of a woman's autonomy over her body and health.” The World Health Organization estimates that more than 200 million women and girls alive today have been subjected to FGM.  On this day, the Hilton Prize Coalition shines a spotlight on member Tostan, a global organization contributing to the abandonment of FGM as a component of its work to empower rural communities with sustainable development and human rights based education.

“Tostan” means “breakthrough” in the Senegalese language of Wolof. Awarded the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2007, the organization was founded in 1991 by Molly Melching, who had already spent more than a decade living and working in Senegal. Tostan’s flagship offering is the Community Empowerment Program, a three-year, human rights-based educational program offered in local languages that teaches literacy as well as values-deliberation and collective action for community led development. By empowering communities to lead their own development, Tostan has catalyzed a grassroots movement in West Africa for the promotion of human rights and the abandonment of harmful practices, including female genital cutting and child marriage. Tostan’s mission is to empower African communities to bring about sustainable development and positive social transformation based on respect for human rights, and to ensure every person—woman, man, girl, and boy—is able to live a life of dignity. As a result of this respectful, holistic approach, more than 20,000 women have been selected into leadership positions in their communities. More than 4.8 million people live in more than 8000 communities that have publicly declared an end to female genital cutting and child marriage.

Tostan’s unique approach to addressing deeply entrenched social norms and its method of organized diffusion relies on allying with religious leaders and former ritual cutters to speak out publicly about harmful practices and the need to respect the human right to health. The impact has been captured in this video, in which local imam Demba Dwara and cutter Oureye Sall share about their work helping to build the Tostan movement of dignity for all.

Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program is innovative in the following ways. First, it recognizes participants as the agents and architects of community change. Next, it provides a proven strategy for addressing deeply entrenched social norms. It strengthens community members dignity and individual and collective agency. It teaches, reinforces and formalizes leadership and governance skills through Community Management Committees, which are comprised of 17 people (nine of which are women), who often continue managing community issues following the formal program.

The Tostan Training Center, which was launched in 2015, shares Tostan’s model for replicability and regional and global systems change. Since opening to external trainings in March 2015, the Tostan Training Center has served more than 210 participants, representing 81 organizations from 34 countries, including 59 religious leaders. The Tostan Training Center supports grassroots movement builders and activists from which civil society leaders have been trained in Tostan's content, participatory methodology, human rights approach and movement-building strategies.

By providing high-quality human rights based education and dignity-enhancing leadership skills that advance women and girls and whole communities, Tostan has supported the original and new leaders of the Breakthrough Generation, as well as their historic and brave decisions. This recent video, New Leaders of the Breakthrough Generation, showcases how they are bravely shaping the communities of the future.

(Photos courtesy of Tostan)

About The Hilton Prize Coalition
The Hilton Prize Coalition is an independent alliance of the 22 winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the Fellows Program, the Collaborative Models Program and the Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat, Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit prizecoalition.charity.org, or contact prizecoalition@charity.org. Follow the Hilton Prize Coalition on Twitter and LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

Op-Ed: From Big Data to Humanitarian In The Loop Algorithms

This article was written by Miguel Luengo Oroz, Chief Data Scientist at United Nations Global Pulse, an innovation initiative of the Executive Office of the United Nations Secretary General with a mission to harness Big Data and Artificial Intelligence safely and responsibly as a public good. Here, Luengo Oroz describes an ongoing project which focuses on understanding how social media data can inform the perceptions of host communities on refugees and migrants fleeing conflict-affected areas across international borders. This op-ed was initially published in the UNHCR Year in Review 2017. Views are the author's own.

From Big Data to Humanitarian 'In-The-Loop' Algorithms
By Miguel Luengo Oroz

The Data Revolution is no longer a new topic but a reality trying to catch up with the expectations it has generated. The private sector is investing billions in new start-ups and technology companies that can ingest the vast amounts of data generated by citizens and which use artificial intelligence algorithms to predict when, how and what people are more likely to buy. In contrast, humanitarian organisations today have just begun exploiting the potential of big data to improve decision-making. Measuring the impact of these data-driven decisions will help make the case for further investment in big data innovations. Once humanitarian practitioners understand the return on investment of big data innovations, we can start measuring the costs (financial and human) of not using these data, and we can begin to streamline scaling and adoption mechanisms.

One of the factors contributing to the slow institutional uptake of big data and analytics within the humanitarian sector is a lack of knowledge and capacity to apply these instruments in operational settings. In general, humanitarian and data experts do not speak the same language; they do not share a common vocabulary or context, and often cannot align their goals. This challenge is not a new one. And for me has become a sort of “déjà vu.” Fifteen years ago I started working in development biology, where AI and data experts were helping to “revolutionise” the field the same way data scientists are trying to impact sustainable and humanitarian efforts today. New microscopes taking high-resolution images of tissues and organs were viewed the same way satellite imaging showing the impact and recovery from natural disaster is viewed today. Similarly, the same way that fluorescent markers allowed tracking of millions of cells migrating in the body, today we can track the movements of people fleeing conflict using aggregated mobile phone data. It took years for the field to mature while a new generation of researchers, technicians and biologists mutated into multidisciplinary profiles. This is also the case with humanitarian organisations that need to create hybrid profiles, i.e. data translators who can both understand the operational humanitarian contexts and have data intuition. They know what can and cannot be done with data and how to interpret and visualise data and algorithms to provide information for real impact.

At the beginning of this year, UN Global Pulse worked with UNHCR on a project to use realtime information on human perceptions to identify opportunities that can inform the organisation’s efforts on the ground, and more largely, its humanitarian strategy. The project combined UNHCR’s expertise in the field of humanitarian action, and the years of innovation work leveraging big data for social good from UN Global Pulse, to understand how social media data can inform the perceptions of host communities on refugees and migrants fleeing conflict-affected areas across international borders.

Using new data for insights into humanitarian contexts is a multifold process. Before we can test any innovation project in an ongoing emergency, we need to select a retrospective realistic scenario, or a simulation, to understand the value of the data. This is exactly what we did together with UNHCR, where we explored the viability and validity of Twitter data in the Europe Refugee Emergency crisis. Our goal was to see how we can bring more data-driven evidence into decision-making processes and advocacy efforts, particularly to help UNHCR develop an institutional policy against xenophobia, discrimination and racism towards migrants and refugees. For that purpose, we partnered with Crimson Hexagon, an analytics tool provider, and used their tools to access and analyse social media posts. The findings of the exploration can be accessed in the paper “Social Media and Forced Displacement: Big Data Analytics & Machine Learning.” The project has now entered a second phase, in which the aim is to create a real-time situation awareness tool. It will require finding the right balance to introduce a new approach into existing workflows and operations, respecting the unique strains on staff and responders during an emergency. The cocreation of prototypes with users on the ground is key to generating useful tools. This is why identifying the right partner, with the right complementary skills, is important.

Once you have created the right team and identified the right questions, the next step is data access and analysis. From UN Global Pulse’s experience working with many sources of data from social media, to radio feeds, to mobile surveys, to vessel tracks, postal traffic and so on, we have learned that clear and proven algorithms, and analysis methodologies are crucial to distilling insights from raw data. There is no silver bullet; and recent hype oversimplifies what can and cannot be done with big data and artificial intelligence. Data characteristics including sampling, demographics, completeness or inherent bias have different properties, hence analysis must always be put into context sooner rather than later.

When talking about machine learning and the new neural network architectures that have revolutionised AI in the past few years - aka deep learning- it is important to remember that the machine will be as biased as the data that is used to train it. Though current real-world applications are mostly limited to internet business, digital marketing, playing board games or self-driving cars, there is a wealth of opportunities for AI methods to perform tasks where certain patterns are repeated. One of the critical issues is the need for ethical principles that can govern how artificial intelligence methods are developed and used- and how and to which extent AI should be regulated. The use of autonomous weapons or viruses targeted to individuals with a particular trait in their DNA are clear examples of data driven threats. We also need to develop privacy protection principles on the use of data and agree on frameworks for the way in which these data are processed by algorithms. The principles of responsibility, explainability, accuracy, auditability, and fairness can guide how algorithms and AI programmes work. And although one size won’t fit all, especially in humanitarian situations, we can ask what expectations we should have in critical humanitarian scenarios where the well-being of vulnerable populations is at stake. Certainly, the benefits will depend on the nature of the crisis - a medical emergency is not the same as a natural disaster or a conflict-affected area - as will the potential risks and harms. If in certain situations the harm comes from not using the available data, in others, insights distilled from these data could be used to target populations and cause more damage than good.

So what will the future of big data analysis and AI bring for the humanitarian field? In my view, we should imagine a future where we have understood how to augment (and not replace) the human condition by leveraging technology. Data-driven benefits can certainly help reduce inequality. This will require a new research agenda where scientists and technology companies work to solve problems that apply to a wider range of social groups and that include the 17 global goals we have vowed to achieve by 2030. To serve humanitarian practitioners, the current deep learning revolution should pay increased attention to methodologies that can work in data-scarce environments, that can learn quickly with few examples and in unknown crisis scenarios, and that are able to work with incomplete or missing data (eg. “one-shot-learning”).

In humanitarian contexts, we could consider an extension of the “society-in-the-loop” algorithm concept - embedding the general will into an algorithmic social contract-, where both humanitarian responders and affected populations understand and oversee algorithmic decision-making that affect them. Before 2030, technology should allow us to know everything from everyone to ensure no one is left behind. For example, there will be nanosatellites imaging every corner of the earth allowing us to generate almost immediate insights into humanitarian crises. Progress will just depend on our actions and political will. What I also foresee is a not too distant future where data and AI can be used to empower citizens and affected communities in humanitarian crises. The digital revolution can help refugees protect their rights and their identities and even create jobs. Imagine a future where refugees could be granted digital asylum in other countries for which they can do digital work and contribute to the growth of that economy. From both public and private sector perspectives, we are living a unique moment in history with regards to shaping how algorithms and AI will impact society. What we need to make sure is that the data we produce is ultimately used to benefit all of us.

Read the UNHCR Year in Review 2017 at: http://www.unhcr.org/innovation/year-review-2017/.

(Photo courtesy of UN Global Pulse)

Subscribe to the HPC Newsletter