AUSTRALIAN satellite telecommunications provider Pivotel has partnered with humanitarian group Internet for Humanity to provide communication hardware and 2G internet access to remote communities in Uganda.
With a population of 41 million people – but only 5 million having internet access – the partnership in Uganda aims to increase internet connectivity for those living in poor communities, helping improve frontline services including healthcare and education.
Pivotel executive director Robert Sakker said while the focus in Australia was on faster communications like 4G LTE and high speed NBN, millions of people in countries like Uganda have no access to a computer to gain knowledge or communicate with others, or even know how to send an email.
“We are committing over $13,000 of hardware and more again in ongoing services in the first phase of our partnership, which continues a 10-year relationship already valued at over $130,000, thanks to our newly acquired satellite data business, Global Marine Networks (GMN),” Mr Sakker said.
There is a hyperactive humanitarian organisation – Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance – working at high speed to prevent outbreaks of disease around the world and particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. With the help of the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the alliance has launched about 350 vaccines. But Gavi regularly finds itself in a race against time and this innovative organisation could do with more help, especially from business leaders across the Asia-Pacific region.
WHEN a yellow fever outbreak occurred in Angola about 18 months ago, a dozen Chinese nationals working there brought the virus back to China, where the mosquito that carries this virus, as well as dengue fever, is common all across Asia.
Had the scourge not been contained, up to three billion people could have been infected with this viral serial killer.
In this digital age of globalisation, where business people and travellers cross time zones and borders at jet speeds, potential pandemics like this are growing threats.
Stockpiling vaccines to combat such diseases as cholera, ebola and meningitis is one of the main aims of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
Recently, this public-private partnership announced a new US$85 million drive to support typhoid conjugate vaccines.
In a statement, Gavi board chair Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said, “This disease has long been eliminated from most industrialised nations, but it is still a serious threat in developing countries where the vast majority of deaths occur.
“I lost my cousin and nearly lost my son because of typhoid. This vaccine will be a lifesaver for millions of children, especially those living without access to clean water or sanitation.”
Before the press conference in Bangkok to announce the new effort, Gavi’s CEO, Dr Seth Berkley, expounded on the foundation’s history and mission.
CHILDREN VACCINATED: 640M
So far, Gavi has helped to vaccinate more than 640 million children in dozens of countries, saving an estimated nine million lives.
Over the course of its 17-year history, working with partners like the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the alliance has launched about 350 vaccines.
As a boy growing up in a poor part of New York, Dr Berkley saw how diseases ravage such communities.
Those experiences informed the now 61-year-old’s decision to become a doctor and epidemiologist who Time magazine included on its list of ‘The 100 Most Influential People in the World’.
After working in Uganda for three years to set up the country’s first HIV surveillance system and running Rockefeller Foundation health programs in Asia, he took over as the alliance’s CEO.
In spite of Gavi’s success stories, “the needs remain enormous,” said Dr Berkley. In the case of cholera, he said, “four years ago there were 200,000 dosages available. This year there’s 17 million and next year 25 million.”
Working in developing countries poses many problems, like the lack of health care services and even basic infrastructure.
DRONES HELP DELIVER
In Rwanda, for example, where there are no private aircraft and many roads are impassable during the rainy season, Dr Berkley said, “42 percent of the blood is being delivered by drone”.
“So if a woman comes into a clinic and starts hemorrhaging and she’s five or six hours away from a real hospital, you just type in Type A blood and 20 minutes later it’s delivered to you by drone.”
Rawanda has been a testing ground for this delivery system, which is now being expanded into Tanzania, a bigger country with greater challenges.
Zipline, the company developing this technology, is a Silicone Valley start-up.
By pairing them up with United Parcel Services (UPS), Gavi can combine the creativity and experience of the private sector with its own altruistic mindset to make inroads that would be difficult for many bigger organisations, hampered by bureaucracy, or donor-driven foundations, constrained by limited budgets, to navigate.
With the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Gavi launched a program called Innovation for Uptake Scale and Equity (INFUSE) to harness “their network of tech pioneers and social entrepreneurs of companies to bring these technologies forward”.
“Our role is not to fund, but to connect companies that have already had some proof of concept and to connect them with developing countries where there are problems and to work on trying to scale,” Dr Berkley said.
That dedication to creative partnerships also extends into the realm of financial mechanisms.
A program called International Financing Facility for Immunization (IFFM), gets governments to guarantee long-term payments to IFFM.
With the World Bank serving as the treasurer, they can go onto the capital markets and raise vaccine bonds for IFFM that can be cashed in when they need them. Floated around the world, these bonds have raised another US$4.5 billion dollars for Gavi, saving untold lives in the process.
Securing advanced purchase commitments for ebola vaccines to make sure there are sufficient reserves in case of an outbreak, the CEO said, was another way Gavi has been preparing for more pandemics such as the outbreak of yellow fever in Angola 18 months ago.
“It’s easy to say that you live in a country with a good healthcare system, but you can’t put a wall up to stop infectious diseases,” Dr Berkley said.
BRISBANE-BASED Great Men Consultancy founder Grace Stewart used the recent World Mental Health Day to emphasise to business leaders that a greater awareness of men’s mental health – in the workplace and beyond – could help save many lives.
Ms Stewart called for a greater awareness of depression and psychological issues amongst men and boys – and encouraged men to speak out and get help if experiencing serious low points in their lives. She said there was no better place to highlight this issue than the workplace.
“When you’re busy and tired and perhaps focussing on significant changes in relationships and lifestyle, sleep deprivation and work or even school or sporting demands can all impact on male mental health, the ability to think clearly, manage emotions and think logically,” Ms Stewart said.
“We need to reduce stigma around men’s mental illness, create more openness and empathy in discussing mental health concerns for males who tend to use counselling services less often than women, due to a number of issues including the stigma attached to their illness, the discrimination they experience because of it and the lack of opportunity they face because of these issues.”
According to the Mental Health Council of Australia, 70 percent of people suffering from mental health conditions do not seek medical help. This is where social acceptance and support is a big part of the treatment process.
Ms Stewart and her collagues emphasized that everyone could participate in mental health awareness every day. Education is the number one key.
“Men experience depression probably just as much as women, but resist treatment in the belief that depression is a woman’s disease,” Ms Stewart said.
“Males often have the misconception that depression is a ‘feeling’ and men don’t talk about ‘feelings’. Depressed men often get angry at others, are less likely to seek help and often turn to abuse with alcohol or drugs.
“Depressed women, on the other hand, may blame themselves, but then they ask their doctor for help,” she said.
Great Men Consultancy research has identified that ‘stigma’ is a significant source of suffering for many people with mental health concerns, according to Ms Stewart. Fathers with a mental illness can be subject to unique forms of stigma which can influence their perceptions and experiences in a number of ways.
Depression is a leading cause of disability so many men cannot work. Depression also puts men at a high risk for suicide. They are four times more likely to take their lives than women.
“As experts in the field of men’s help-seeking, we can’t stress enough the need for males to seek help early when they are not coping, we are here for men and boys when they’re at their most vulnerable with life-stresses, alcohol and substance use,” Ms Stewart said.
Our sessions seek to expand personal insight and develop personal responsibility, the key ingredients to personal success.”
When husbands have depression and/or anxiety, it can tear apart marriage and family. Wives may take over and hope the problem will go away, or at the opposite end, withdraw – feeling betrayed and angry.
Ms Stewart said, more often, they alternate back and forth between these behaviours and emotions. About 50 percent of wives caring for a depressed husband will develop depression themselves.
“We want people to know that whatever their circumstances, there is no stigma to seeking help, you are not alone,” Ms Stewart said. “Most of us go through some difficult times in our lives. Depression is one of the most common reasons people seek therapy, and the condition is highly treatable.
“Unfortunately, though, stigma surrounding depression inhibits many people from seeking treatment. Because an individual with depression may view themselves as flawed or weak, that person is likely to feel shame regarding his condition, and he may fear the consequences of disclosing the experience to employers, health care providers, family, and friends,” Ms Stewart said.
Great Men Consultancy teams focus on seeing men supported men through life; navigating topics such as relationships, parenting, substance misuse, career advancement, mental health and wellbeing.
“One of the main strategies is to work closely with the people close to you: your partner, children, parents and friends as we recognise their role in creating a positive and purposeful life,” she said.
Great Men Consultancy is a Brisbane-based professional counselling and support service for men and their families to help ensure they maintain a healthy and positive life. Backed by 25 years’ experience in cognitive and behavioural therapy (CBT), and other theoretical frameworks, the consultancy utilises the latest in counselling and psychological theory to help men address their problems and realise their full potential.
“Talking about issues like separation or mental health problems openly helps to break down some of the barriers or stigma men may experience in tough times. Our aim is to normalise help-seeking, and to offer men a variety of ways in which they can do so,” Ms Stewart said.
“As fathers, partners, sons, brothers, as well as employers or employees, men can often feel overwhelmed with responsibility.
“Therapy helps by teaching new ways of thinking and behaving, and changing habits that may be contributing to the depression. Therapy can also help men understand and work through difficult situations or relationships that may be causing their depression or making it worse.
“We work with men everyday who had reached a level of despair, counselling has had a positive impact and given them hope and great recovery outcomes,” Ms Stewart said..
World Mental Health Day is held in October each year in recognition of mental health and the affects it has on people all over the world.
ONLY 13 percent of Australian workplaces are compliant with the First Aid National Code of Practice, while more than 65 percent of Australian employers are unaware of their First Aid obligations.
This is a statistic Australian Red Cross is looking to change as part of World First Aid Day on the September 9.
Research shows only 50 percent of Australian workplaces offer first aid training to their staff.
Red Cross trainer Janie McCullagh said with less than 5 percent of people being trained in first aid, Australia was far behind other developed nations in ability to respond effectively in an emergency situation.
This lack of First Aid knowledge is costing businesses financially, with Safe Work Australia reporting that work related injury and illness were estimated to cost $60.6 billion in the 2008–09 financial year, representing 4.8 percent of GDP.
“While accidents can’t always be prevented, ensuring you have staff on hand that have fundamental first aid training and knowledge ensures the workplace is prepared and that you get the best outcome for those injured,” Ms McCullagh said.
In the lead up to World First Aid Day, Australian Red Cross is encouraging business owners and management to put the safety of their staff first and book First Aid Training for the workplace.
As an added incentive, Australian Red Cross is offering 10 percent off all workplace First Aid training booked. Refresher courses are also available.