Our thoughts are with all those affected by the floods in Nepal, where severe flooding from monsoon rains has caused significant damage and loss of life this week. Many Hilton Prize Coalition members are in the region working to provide relief as best as possible in affected areas.
When disaster strikes, the Coalition activates internal protocols under its Disaster Preparedness and Response Program to connect member organizations working in the affected region. This connection allows the organizations to share information with each other about the ongoing impact as well as resources needed. Such a connection is in process now in Nepal, where Sumnima Shrestha, Hilton Prize Coalition Collaboration Coordinator and Communications and Resource Mobilization Manager for Heifer International Nepal, is establishing contact with other Coalition members to share information and identify potential opportunities for collaboration where possible.
Earlier this year Sumnima organized a Coalition-led Disaster Preparedness and Response Planning (DPRP) workshop in Kathmandu that focused on developing objectives of joint disaster preparedness. The workshop, which was attended by representatives of nine Coalition member organizations, built on a collaboration that had been initiated through the production of the Coalition’s documentary film, “On Shifting Ground,” about the response of six member organizations to the great earthquake of 2015. A resolution of this event was the formation of a task force comprised of BRAC, Handicap International, Heifer International, and SOS Children’s Villages to develop an official Coalition response plan for future disasters. To read more about that event, click here.
For updates on the impact of the disaster and Heifer International’s work to respond, visit Heifer’s website and blog.
(Photo from Heifer International’s blog)
Sarah Baker recently completed a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship with SOS Children’s Villages – USA. Sarah holds an MA in International Media from American University and graduated summa cum laude with a BA in Communication from Auburn University at Montgomery. In this blog post, Sarah reflects on her experience supporting media relations and communication initiatives as a member of the communications and marketing team at SOS headquarters in Washington DC.
Becoming a Global Communicator through My HPC Fellowship
by Sarah Baker
Growing up at the foot of an extinct volcano in Germany’s Swabian Alps didn’t make me strive to become a great global communicator—being uprooted from there and plopped onto the dry, red clay roads of Alabama did.
It took me a long time to realize the value of living a life between two very different cultures, but when the realization came, it profoundly influenced my professional ambitions. I came to understand that in order to be effective in most anything—both professionally and personally—one must be able to communicate.
Equipped with this revelation and an endless supply of idealism, it only made sense to try to put my experiences and education to use effecting meaningful change in the world. Being named a Fellow by the Hilton Prize Coalition has given me a foothold in the non-profit world as well as an unmatched opportunity to learn about what it takes to succeed in a fast-paced, globally-minded and dynamic communications team.
I believe that one of the key components to solving global issues of all sorts is effective communication. For non-profits, one of the most impactful ways to spread their message is through the creation and implementation of communications campaigns built on strong, cause-driven narratives. At SOS Children’s Villages, I have been afforded the opportunity to advance and contribute to such campaigns.
SOS Children’s Villages builds families for orphaned, abandoned and other vulnerable children in 134 countries around the world. The organization’s most recent campaign implores donors to “Invest in a Girl” and complements its mission of child protection and empowerment by focusing on a group that often finds itself facing many more barriers than other segments of the global population.
Studies have shown that investing in girls creates long-term social and economic benefits for the whole world. If a girl has a stable family, an education and a healthy and safe environment, she can lift herself and her community out of poverty.
This belief in the idea that meaningful investment is integral to success permeates every part of SOS—from its work in the field to its management of its offices. Decisions there are made to promote long-term success rather than short-term gain. And so it has been for me throughout my fellowship.
As a marketing and communications fellow, I’ve been regarded as a full-fledged member of the team and have been tasked with eye-opening responsibilities that are nothing short of crucial in furthering my professional development. My time at SOS has been spent doing media outreach, crafting media pitches, copy writing, brand management, exploring potential editorial opportunities for our various campaigns and so much more. At SOS, my ideas are welcomed, my input is valued and my contributions are recognized.
One of my earliest assignments was an exercise in brand awareness and campaign promotion that led to me receiving a byline on Global Moms Challenge, which supports the United Nations’ Every Woman Every Child Initiative to help women and children around the world lead healthy lives. The story I wrote revolves around Olympic soccer star and SOS alum Mavis Chirandu. Mavis cites her experience growing up in an SOS Village in Zimbabwe as the reason she felt empowered to pursue her dreams of soccer stardom. It was inspiring to read about her success and to see just how right SOS is about the importance of providing a home and family for every child.
This type of experience was not unusual. Another media outreach effort for which I was given sole responsibility led to positive engagements with a number of renowned media outlets, including TIME magazine. Yet another work day found me attending an event on Capitol Hill with my teammates, where we were able to share the impact and importance of SOS’s work to provide families to abandoned, orphaned and otherwise vulnerable children.
The SOS team’s focus on ensuring that my time with them was meaningful, coupled with my own desire to contribute to the organization’s mission, made it easy and enjoyable for me to invest myself in my work. The Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program has given me an incredibly valuable experience that I know will influence me both personally and professional throughout my life.
Meaningful investment can take many forms—for me it manifested itself as genuine support and guidance from a team that is truly committed to its mission. What has set this experience apart from any other that I’ve had is the willingness that the SOS team has shown to invest its time and energy in me. It’s clear to me that the organization’s nearly 70-year track record has been made possible by its focus on making meaningful investments in all areas, and that in order for me to succeed that I, too, must make meaningful investments.
HPC Fellow, Sarah Baker, was put to the test in an Escape Room Live experience with her SOS – USA team.
This article by Peter Laugharn, President and CEO of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, offers a perspective on the current migration crisis, with reference to Syrian refugees and those displaced by impacts of climate change. A shorter version of the article was published in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Many Prize Coalition members are working to face this crisis, including the International Rescue Committee (IRC), who is mentioned in the article. Four other Coalition member organizations currently working in Lebanon and Serbia will be featured in the next Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program project: Handicap International, HelpAge International, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) and SOS Children’s Villages.
Mobilizing for a Century of Dislocation
By Peter Laugharn
Nearly 35,000 people flee war or persecution each day. These brave men, women, and children join a record 65 million others — nearly 1 percent of the globe’s population — who can’t return home. Not even World War II uprooted as many people.
Migration will only worsen in the years ahead. Political and economic disorder continue to reign supreme across much of the world — and climate change will soon make life untenable in many communities.
Humanitarian organizations, donors, host countries, and their citizens can mitigate the suffering caused by the coming century of dislocation — but only by cooperating on sustainable development initiatives.
The Syrian civil war is the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis. Already, 13.5 million Syrians — more than half the pre-war population — have fled their homes. And the flow of migrants shows no signs of abating.
In our lifetimes, rising sea levels and desertification will force tens of millions to leave their homelands. Widespread flooding, and the resulting economic strain, could displace 15 million people in Bangladesh alone by 2050.
The humanitarian community must better prepare for these unprecedented refugee flows. Its aid distribution system dates to the post-WWII era. Then, most refugees needed donations of food and clothing as they waited out conflicts in camps.
Nowadays, three in four refugees live outside a camp. Nearly nine in ten reside in low- and middle-income nations, often those bordering their home countries. Lebanon, for instance, has taken in 1.5 million Syrians, who now make up a quarter of the tiny Mediterranean nation’s population.
Host governments frequently view these arrivals with suspicion, worrying that they’ll destabilize fragile political systems and take jobs from citizens. So they box refugees out of the labor market and make them dependent on charity or black-market work. Those fleeing the hell of war and disaster find themselves in purgatory — unable to return home but barred from building new lives.
Unfortunately, the current administration is limiting the number of refugees being resettled in the United States and is proposing cuts to our foreign aid budget at a time when we need it most. Instead, our government is turning to other sources of funding, like philanthropy, to fill the gaps.
That’s not sustainable. It’s time for new approaches.
Consider Oxford’s Alexander Betts, who heads up the university’s Refugee Studies Centre. He urges host countries to allow refugees to work, pointing to Uganda as a model. Over 20 percent of refugees in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, “own a business that employs other people, and 40 percent of those employees are nationals of the host country.”
Host nations have a choice. They can either let refugees burden the economy — or contribute to it.
If refugees join the labor force, they’ll inevitably disperse into cities and towns. It’s logistically difficult for aid organizations to deliver food or clothing to these dispersed populations. That’s why David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee — which my organization previously honored with the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize — urges donors to simply give refugees cash.
Cash — which currently accounts for just 6 percent of all humanitarian aid — empowers refugees to buy exactly what they need. IRC studied 90,000 Syrian refugee families in Lebanon who received pre-loaded ATM cards. Families overwhelmingly spent the money on food, water, winter clothing, and shelter. And cash keeps kids in school — “households receiving cash assistance were half as likely to send their children out to work,” according to IRC.
Cash and work permits help refugees contribute to the economy and become partly self-sustaining.
But refugees can’t reach their full potential without an education. Two-thirds of refugee children aren’t in school. Yet less than 2 percent of humanitarian aid was devoted to education in 2016. My organization is working with international nongovernmental organizations, including Save the Children and Theirworld, to demonstrate how education initiatives for the most vulnerable young people are a smart investment for future peace and sustainability. Together, we’re supporting education programs for the children of Syrian refugees close to the epicenter of the crisis.
A long-term vision has been articulated in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with its 17 Global Goals and 169 targets for improving lives around the world. By collecting and tracking more data on different aid projects, donors could better identify best practices — and make funding contingent on host nations adopting those practices. Donors could also preemptively identify areas where environmental migrants will likely flee — and work with local governments to make sure they’re able to handle large migration inflows.
Regular Americans can encourage this shift by making financial donations to organizations that implement modern approaches to humanitarian aid. They can also volunteer locally to support refugees who are beginning their new lives in the United States.
Conflict, a lack of economic opportunity, and climate change will make this a century of dislocation. By quickly adopting new approaches, aid agencies, donors, and host nations — including the United States — can turn the challenges of mass migration into opportunities.
(Photo by Jodi Hilton/IRC)
Reprinted with permission of The Hilton Foundation
July 30th marks the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, as recognized by the United Nations since 2013. Human trafficking is defined as the illegal transporting of persons between countries, typically for labor or sexual exploitation purposes, and is often referred to as modern-day slavery. It is the 3rd most lucrative illegal trade practice in the world. Human trafficking is an issue that crosses borders, leaving a trace in every country on the globe. 21 million people around the world are estimated to be trafficked for forced labor or sexual exploitation; 71% of them are women and girls, while one-third of them are children.
The global community recognizes this day in order to raise awareness for the victims of human trafficking and promote their rights as the fight to put an end to this illicit trade continues. Hilton Prize Laureates ECPAT International (ECPAT) and SOS Children’s Villages (SOS) are among the organizations at the forefront of this battle. In honor of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, the Hilton Prize Coalition would like to shine a light on the work these organizations do.
Leading the effort for 25 years, ECPAT is the only international NGO that is dedicated exclusively to advocating against the sexual exploitation of children. ECPAT began in Thailand but has since grown to have a presence in 88 countries. A recipient of the Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2013, ECPAT provides crucial research, programs, and campaigns that contribute to their vision of a world without child sex trafficking.
Tourism creates a hotspot for child sex-trafficking, and as it increases globally, it puts more of the world’s children at risk. ECPAT leads initiatives in raising awareness of this massive problem and forging strategic partnerships to combat it. This July in Madrid, ECPAT served as one of the co-hosts for the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Transition Meeting on Implementation of the Recommendations of the Global Study on Sexual Exploitation of Children in Travel and Tourism (SECTT), demonstrating their expertise and global leadership on the subject. This meeting placed pressure on the global community to prioritize the protection of children in lieu of the increase in tourism and its positive correlation with sex trafficking. Reports that resulted from the meeting are available here.
SOS Children’s Villages
2002 Hilton Humanitarian Prize winner SOS is dedicated to the care of orphaned and abandoned children. The organization provides care, education, health services, and emergency response for children who have lost their families or are at risk of losing them, with a priority on ensuring the rights of children and giving them a safe space just to be kids.
Displacement in areas such as Syria puts millions of children on the move and can often lead to the separation of families. Children in such areas under the pressures of conflict or socio-economic stress are at higher risk of becoming victims of child sex-trafficking. SOS Children’s Villages Emergency Response programs bring shelter and safety to vulnerable children in areas experiencing violence; these measures protect children who have lost everything from becoming victims of sexual exploitation.
The work of SOS to protect children in Syria and the surrounding region will be featured in the next project of the Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program. Stay tuned for updates.
(UN Photo by Alessandro Scotti)
We were thrilled to receive this letter from 2017 Fellow Ana Rabogliatti that offers a glimpse of the work she is supporting through her placement with member organization Operation Smile, an international medical charity that has provided hundreds of thousands of free surgeries for children and young adults in developing countries who are born with cleft lip, cleft palate or other facial deformities. The Hilton Prize Coalition Fellows Program seeks to develop and nurture emerging humanitarian leaders by providing opportunities for them to work with these best-in-class organizations. Thank you, Ana!
Dear Hilton Prize Coalition,
I am writing to inform you of my past month as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow and to express my appreciation for the opportunity that has been granted to me. Within such a short period of time I have already gained a much greater appreciation of the humanitarian work in which both the Hilton Prize Coalition and Operation Smile are immersed.
I have always been fascinated by the medical field and the belief that there are issues that need to be addressed on a global scale. This is a core belief of Operation Smile and I am so proud that I have the chance to share my compassion and values with them. I owe it to the Hilton Prize Coalition for making this all possible. This Fellowship has allowed me to work firsthand to combat health obstacles faced in many countries, known as the barriers to care, and the difficulties faced when there is a lack of access to safe and timely surgery. Although I am thousands of miles away, by experiencing the procedures, organization, and undertakings an NGO as large as Operation Smile [operates across the world] on a daily basis, I have been able to work on the front lines with some of these issues and broaden my competence in the logistics of engaging in both the business industry and humanitarian field.
In this last month, I have worked closely with [co-founder] Kathy Magee and the Office of the Co-Founders, collaborating in several projects, which include coordination regarding IFS research (International Family Study) for identifying the genetic and physical determinants leading to cleft lip and palate, the Birdsong Peanut RUTF Program that provides malnourished individuals with a Ready To Use Therapeutic Food that enhances nourishment in order to achieve the optimal weight for safe surgery, and involvement in the logistics and development of Operation Smile’s International Student Leadership Conference in Rome, Italy.
I am also helping to organize Operation Smile’s 35th Anniversary gala in November. Operation Smile has taken this anniversary not only to celebrate the progress achieved in the past but to move forward in the future, with the goal of eradicating the backlog of cleft. To be part of this ambition is an honor, and I cannot express my gratitude enough for the opportunity to be so involved in such influential affairs. The Hilton Prize Coalition’s consideration and enthusiasm for the humanitarian mission is helping set a new standard for the future of Operation Smile and for philanthropic aid entirely, and I cannot wait to see the subsequent progress of my involvement, the Coalition’s relationship, and global development with Operation Smile.
2017 Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow, Operation Smile
(Operation Smile Photo-Marc Ascher. Child Life Specialist Jennifer Kreimer in the OR during Operation Smile’s first mission to the Dominican Republic.)
Today’s post was written by Regine A. Webster, Vice President at the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. The organization aims to transform the field of disaster philanthropy by providing educational, fund opportunities and strategic guidance to increase donor effectiveness throughout the lifecycle of disasters. In this piece, Ms. Webster provides an overview of the current refugee crisis with an eye on what smart funders are doing to achieve greater impact.
Trends in the Refugee Crisis: Tips for Smart Funders
By Regine A. Webster
[ref-u-gee: noun A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or violence.]
The global refugee crisis has continued to grow, and more than 65 million people are forcibly displaced around the world. More than half of those refugees come from three countries: Syria (4.9 million), Afghanistan (2.7 million), and Somalia (1.1 million).
The United Nations Refugee Agency notes that a record 34,000 people a day, or roughly 24 people a minute, are displaced from their homes by conflict and violence daily. Children make up 51 percent of the world’s refugees. The organization lists three main reasons:
- Conflicts that cause large refugee outflows, like Somalia and Afghanistan – now in their third and fourth decade respectively – are lasting longer.
- Dramatic new or reignited conflicts and situations of insecurity are occurring more frequently. While today’s largest is Syria, wars have broken out in the past five years in South Sudan, Yemen, Burundi, Ukraine and Central African Republic, while thousands more people have fled raging gang and other violence in Central America.
- The rate at which solutions are being found for refugees and internally displaced people has been on a falling trend since the end of the Cold War, leaving a growing number in limbo.
As stated by UNHCR, “We are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record.” This comes as we enter the seventh year of the Syrian civil war. And, at the same time that the world is witnessing four countries tumble into famine. In effect, we are not just witnessing the largest displacement, but rather, it is the largest human displacement coupled with the largest number of food insecure people across the globe since World War II. If that fact is not enough to stop you in your tracks, then I am not sure what could.
And yet, remaining complacent is not an option. Doing nothing is not an option.
To make a real difference, I recommend that your organization look to follow in the footsteps of smart funders who are taking the following actions:
- Educate yourselves about the crisis. Funders are learning about effective actions taken by other members of the U.S. funder community, researching what they can DO to make a difference, and working to understand the refugee journey. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) has authored a series of resource guides that support this investigative effort. CDP is also always available for a phone conversation to help you and your organization craft a strategy to support the global refugee crisis.
- Give your time, talent, and resources. Smart funders are working outside of normal bounds by volunteering locally for a refugee resettlement organization (or one of their local partner organizations like a food bank). They are also lending their legal, financial, or computer expertise to local resettlement organizations or national NGOs. Lastly, smart funders are investing their own personal dollars or recommending organizational investments to finding solutions to the refugee crisis or providing life saving services to refugees and internally displaced persons globally.
- Share and discuss. Smart funders are talking about the refugee crisis with their work colleagues and friends to let them know what they are reading, how they are working to help mitigate suffering or resolve the crisis, and how they are investing their dollars (or recommending institutional dollars be channeled) for good.
- Be a champion. Smart funders are paying careful attention to the proposed changes to the federal budget. The proposed budget cuts 31 percent from the State Department and foreign assistance budgets. It also cuts the U.S. Refugee Admissions budget by 11 percent and the Department of Health and Human Services Refugee and Entrant Assistance budget by 31 percent. All told, more than $1 billion dollars in cuts to programs that not only help the world’s most vulnerable, both at home and abroad, but help preserve our national security interests around the world. As it pertains to these budgetary issues and welcoming refugees, smart funders are making calls, and sending letters or emails to members of Congress. According to Georgetown Professor Emeritus and CDP Advisory Council member, Susan Martin, members of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee are being asked by smart funders to:
- Provide full funding to organizations that aid and protect refugees and internally displaced persons.
- Maintain robust levels of refugee admissions so that the US can continue to provide much needed leadership with regard to refugee resettlement.
- Ensure that US asylum and temporary protection policies protect refugees who are already in the United States from return to life threatening situations at home.
I started this post with the definition of a refugee – A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or violence. Imagine packing one bag per person as you are forced, by fear or famine, from your home. I urge you to read that definition out loud – make it real to you, make it real for your work, make it real for your community.
Links and Additional Resources:
(Photo by Sean Sheridan for Mercy Corps, courtesy of CDP)
Giovany Delgado recently completed a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship with Casa Alianza Nicaragua (Spanish for Covenant House). Giovany holds an MS in Latin American Development from King’s College London. He completed his BA degree in International Studies and Political Science from the University of Miami and received a Diploma in International Relations from a European Perspective from the Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid, Spain, where he was a Benjamin Gilman Scholar, an initiative spearheaded by the U.S. State Department.
In this post, Giovany reflects on his experience working with at-risk adolescent youth in his native Nicaragua and its effect on his career goals. (All photos appear courtesy of the author.)
Reconnecting to My City through Grassroots Development
By Giovany Delgado
Ever since I came back to Nicaragua after my studies abroad, I’ve been reconnecting with the bustling city of Managua, Central America’s 2nd largest capital city. I call this city home. Yet, I hadn’t lived here for over a decade when I began my fellowship with Casa Alianza Nicaragua.
Youth participating in the annual Peace Festival, an activity developed to promote peace, unity, respect and solidarity among adolescents, their families and local communities.
At a midpoint in my career, I had dedicated my goals to strengthening civil society organizations and implementing development projects. The fellowship I was awarded by the Hilton Prize Coalition allowed me the opportunity to connect directly with one of its member organizations in my native country. For eight months, I worked with Casa Alianza, an organization with over 19 years of experience helping at-risk youth facing homelessness, drug addictions and multiple forms of violence, including human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
My fellowship made it possible for me to put my education and experience into practice, working to solve the complex in-country problems NGOs face in terms of economic sustainability, program development, evaluation and implementation. Casa Alianza is one of the few civil society organizations in Nicaragua with a unique and holistic approach to supporting at-risk youth in terms of protection and care. Its programs include social work support, health and medical care, family reintegration services, psychological support, legal services, a rehabilitation from substance abuse program and recreational, cultural and sporting activities. Throughout its 19 years, Casa Alianza has managed to provide recovery services to over 50,000 at-risk youth.
At Casa Alianza Nicaragua, adolescents have an opportunity to participate in alternative therapies as part of their recovery process. Yoga, floral therapy and Reiki are among the options available to them.
While working at Casa Alianza, I had the opportunity to go out on community site visits with the Street Outreach Program, and was able to witness the extensive network of services available to youth residing in either of Casa Alianza’s two residential centers. I worked to improve this network of services, re-organizing the services and implementing a strategy for their monitoring and evaluation. This strategy helped track and record the quality and number of services provided by the program while finding areas that needed further improvement and innovation. Additionally, I developed a methodological framework to enhance data collection for the family reintegration program, a community research tool responsible for investigating the socio-economic dynamics of each adolescent and his/ her family within the program.
During my fellowship I also assisted in elaborating a fundraising strategy focusing on international cooperation agencies, private sector companies and multilateral organizations. I used my multimedia communication skills to develop and market the Casa Alianza Nicaragua brand both nationally and internationally, boosting the overall online presence of the organization by 80%.
Lunchtime – Listening to the adolescents’ stories regarding their hopes and dreams brought meaning to the operational and administrative work I was performing.
These past eight months of my fellowship have been professionally and personally rewarding, as this work has allowed me to reconnect with Nicaragua and contribute to development efforts here. I have witnessed, through a grassroots lens, the work implemented and complexities faced by civil society organizations such as Casa Alianza. I have participated in developing short and long-term programmatic solutions. Moreover, seeing my work contribute to positive results in the recovery process of the adolescents whom I encountered was truly a touching and unforgettable experience. Thanks to the Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship, I have reassured myself that this is the professional path on which I wish to continue.
Chytanya Kompala is currently completing a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellowship with PATH, a global health and innovation NGO based in Seattle, WA. Chytanya holds a Master of Science in Public Health degree in Nutrition from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
In this blog post, Chytanya writes about her experience working with PATH’s Nutrition Innovation team to explore the effects of tobacco use during pregnancy on childhood stunting. She is also currently drafting a policy brief to highlight interventions that could help to reduce chronic undernutrition.
Stepping Out of the Silo: Advocating for Interdisciplinary Approaches to Undernutrition
By Chytanya Kompala
Global nutrition is my passion. In graduate school, I was trained to think about nutrition problems in the developing world from a certain perspective. My training came from nutritionists and did not emphasize collaboration with sectors outside of nutrition. My peers have been nutritionists. All of my previous work experiences have been completely focused on nutrition. As a global health nutritionist and researcher, I was eager to work with the Nutrition Innovation team at PATH and gain an insider’s perspective into one of the most reputable global health NGOs in the world. When I started my fellowship in February 2017, I was expecting something similar to my previous nutrition-centric experiences. I was anticipating joining a team that worked similarly to other organizations in this field. I was expecting to rely on my existing knowledge of nutrition. Instead, I had an entirely different experience. I found myself learning so much about new topics from a team with diverse backgrounds and next-generation ideas.
The issue of chronic undernutrition (technically known as stunting) has been at the center of my fellowship research. Chronic undernutrition among children under age five is one of the largest burdens of malnutrition and is an unavoidable topic in the developing world.
Chytanya Kompala at the PATH 40th anniversary celebration in Seattle, WA (courtesy of Kelsey Miller)
Early this spring, I attended a presentation at PATH’s headquarters by Roger Thurow, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the author of The First 1,000 Days. “Stunted children have a life sentence to under-performance and under-achievement,” he said. As Thurow described, stunting during childhood impacts a child for the rest of his or her life. Long-term consequences of stunting include reduced educational attainment, impaired cognitive function and development, poor economic productivity, and even an increased likelihood of having stunted children. Stunting is an intergenerational condition that hinders the growth and development of individuals, families, communities, and even countries.
The Lancet 2013 Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition was a seminal set of papers that acted to coalesce the nutrition and development communities around a set of proven, “nutrition-specific” interventions to address stunting. They estimated that scaling up 10 nutrition interventions to 90 percent coverage would reduce stunting by about 20 percent. While this finding gave the community renewed focus, it also highlighted how much we still do not know about the complex determinants of stunting. What about the remaining 80 percent?
One of the aims of PATH’s Nutrition Innovation team is to help answer that question. During my six months at PATH, I worked on two projects: an ongoing systematic review and meta-analysis on the effects of tobacco use during pregnancy and its association with stunting, and drafting a corresponding policy brief on “nutrition-sensitive” risk factors that may be contributing to stunting—those that were not highlighted in The Lancet 2013 Series.
I never thought that my research would be focused on tobacco use. At first, I was skeptical about researching this topic. I have no background or experience working on tobacco, and I was unsure about how relevant tobacco would be to stunting. But through our meta-analysis, my eyes have been opened to the idea that much more cross-sectoral research still needs to be done to explore the intersection and overlap between different health and development issues and nutrition outcomes.
“Meet the Future” panelists discuss innovation and diversity at the PATH 40th anniversary celebration in Seattle, WA (courtesy of the author)
Working on the Nutrition Innovation team at PATH has taught me an invaluable lesson about the interdisciplinary nature of global health and nutrition. Too often, people try to do great work in silos. Echoing this message at PATH’s 40th anniversary celebration in May, a diverse panel of innovators and young leaders discussed the importance of making connections across sectors to solve the world’s problems. By working collaboratively and moving away from the “business as usual” mindset, we can achieve greater impact. Thinking about stunting outside of the “nutrition-specific” lens enables us to better understand the complex and broad, sweeping determinants of the problem. Our research on tobacco is just one example of this.
We are currently in the process of drafting our policy brief with the aim of broadening the conversation about stunting to address issues beyond the nutrition interventions highlighted in The Lancet. We are exploring sound evidence on additional determinants of stunting, such as household air pollution, tobacco use, hygiene and sanitation, education, and delaying the first birth and birth spacing.
Part of our message is to advocate for more interdisciplinary approaches among people working in different sectors—to encourage researchers, program implementers and policymakers to expand their approach to include cross-sector indicators in their research and programs. Many health and development studies and programs do not include stunting as an outcome of interest, even when evidence indicates that there may well be an effect. We hope our work can help guide the conversation out of the box and lead to new, creative, and interdisciplinary approaches to end undernutrition around the world.
I am grateful for this fellowship and exposure to the great work of the Nutrition Innovation team at PATH. My time here has greatly expanded and shaped my perceptions and approach to thinking about global nutrition.
June 20th marks World Refugee Day as recognized by the United Nations. This year the world has reached unprecedented numbers of people fleeing their homes for fear of persecution or violence. On this day, the international community honors and recognizes the profound struggle of those who have no choice but to abandon their homes and face a future of impermanence and instability. As the refugee crisis persists, many agencies fight to advocate for and provide humanitarian assistance to the voiceless.
Hilton Prize Coalition members are at the forefront of response to the refugee crisis, providing leadership in their practices and partnerships. The Hilton Prize Coalition’s next Storytelling project will shine a spotlight on some the powerful and collaborative work being done by Coalition members in their efforts to aid refugees in the Middle East. Storytelling Program Director, Steve Connors, is spending the month of June traveling throughout Lebanon and Serbia to connect with Coalition members as they work with refugees in the region. The project will feature SOS Children’s Villages, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), Handicap International, and HelpAge International. Read more about the Storytelling project in this blog post.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “What is at stake is nothing less than the survival and well-being of a generation of innocents.” In honor of World Refugee Day, below are some more highlights of work being done by Coalition member organizations to respond to the crisis.
Women for Women International (WfWI)
The winner of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2006, WfWI leads the world in empowering marginalized women in regions plagued by humanitarian emergencies. They harness the skills of women and provide them with the necessary resources to support themselves and their families, promoting community development.
In the context of the refugee crisis, WfWI offers invaluable resources to women and their families around the world. Programs include mental health counseling to women who have suffered the trauma of being forced to leave their homes and who often take on the leadership role for their families. WfWI also has a strategic partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, which have been long been affected by displacement. Programs under this partnership combine their areas of expertise to teach women useful skills that help create economic opportunities for them as they search for stability in an unfamiliar place.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC)
The IRC received the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 1997, and has been a global leader in response to humanitarian crises for 83 years. In regions all over the world, the IRC provides best-in-class aid, promoting safety, health care, education and economic development for people affected by disasters and conflicts.
One recent initiative illustrates the power of collaboration and technology in the response to the refugee crisis. The IRC has recently partnered with Air BnB, the popular home rental service, in the creation of their “Open Homes” platform. This philanthropic endeavor will allow the IRC to connect refugees with Air BnB volunteers around the world who are willing to temporarily open their homes to refugees—for free. Temporary housing will then give the IRC time to resettle the refugees in a more permanent home.
Stay tuned for more stories about Coalition members as they continue to lead efforts to alleviate the suffering of refugee populations around the world.
Photo: Syrian women from a refugee camp in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley plant seeds in a local farmer’s field. (Steve Connors)
During the month of June, Hilton Prize Coalition Storytelling Program Director, Steve Connors, is traveling through Lebanon and the surrounding region to connect with several Coalition member organizations and document their work with refugees to mitigate some of the devastation. In this first blog post of a new series, Steve sets the stage of the Coalition’s next collaborative Storytelling project, which will feature SOS Children’s Villages, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), HelpAge International and Handicap International.
Peering Over the Edge
by Steve Connors
Amid the towering reconstruction of today’s Beirut stand the war-ravaged buildings of the Lebanese civil war. Once beautiful homes such as this one on Damascus Street – the front line during the fighting of 1975 to 88 – serve as an almost sculptural testimony of the price, the folly, and the pity of war.
Since the middle of the last century Lebanon has seen more than its fair share of violence, tragedy and misery. Bookended by mass influxes of people fleeing from regional conflicts have been years of devastating civil war followed by invasion and occupation by foreign powers. The 1990’s through to 2007 saw a brief period of stability, during which the country was able to invest in reconstruction, filling the skyline with modern apartment blocks and business towers. But as protest led to unrest and violence in 2011, neighbouring Syria descended into civil war, triggering a regional conflict for domination and turning the country into a cockpit of regional and geo-political tensions.
As tens or hundreds of thousands died, millions of Syrians fled into neighbouring countries seeking refuge from the escalating violence, desperate to secure an increasingly tenuous grip on their survival. At the time of writing, the United Nations estimates that one and a half million Syrian refugees live in tiny Lebanon. The Lebanese government claims there are more than two million, a figure lent credibility by the author’s visits to camps, in which some thirty percent of refugees remain unregistered with the UN. Confirmation of that number would mean an increase of fifty percent in the population of Lebanon.
In 2015 with the country’s infrastructure and patience stretched well beyond the government’s capacity to cope, and with international assistance cut to levels below those necessary to sustain life, the official border crossings from Syria were closed to refugees. But they still come, desperately crossing the dangerous – often mined – mountain paths to reach safety.
Some of the people, if they have the resources, rent apartments in Beirut, Tripoli or other towns. Some settle in the already teeming Palestinian camps established after 1948 – the Badaawi camp in Tripoli is now stretched beyond capacity by an estimated 70,000 Syrians living in tiny rented rooms. This, in a one square kilometer area occupied by eighteen thousand Palestinians. But the overwhelming majority of refugees are eking out an existence in the Bekaa valley, at the foot of the mountains that form the frontier between Lebanon and Syria.
Syrian women from a nearby refugee camp in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley planting seeds in a local farmer’s field.
Tens of thousands of families living in the squalid conditions of temporary shelter are scattered up and down the valley floor, the only services provided by UN agencies and NGOs with scant resources and funding.
With wholly inadequate daily allowances, many of the refugees there are forced to cope with food insecurity on top of the misery and indignity of their everyday lives. Unable to afford the cost of registration with the Lebanese authorities, most refugees are unable to pass through the many checkpoints on the roads leading out of the valley so cannot move around the country. In an effort to feed their families the only solution for them is to seek casual labour in the valley’s fields, where local landlords – some of whom have smuggled the refugees into the country in the first place, and put them to work as repayment of their debt – are only too eager to exploit the opportunity for cheap labour. The going rate for five hours of planting under a baking sun is four US dollars.
With the labour market flooded by desperate workers – the cheapest and most employable of whom are women and children – wages for Lebanese workers have plummeted, and tensions between local people and the refugees have risen to dangerous levels. Increasingly, whole camps are forced to move to other parts of the valley because of violence or the threat of violence as the war next door drags on, and the tolerance of the hosts wears progressively thin.
The Syrian war has no end in sight, and whomever one asks in Lebanon, whether they are Lebanese, Syrian or the foreign nationals working with the overstretched humanitarian organisations, the belief is that the refugee problem in the country is of such a chronic nature that it will severely test the peace that the country has only so recently been able to enjoy.