HIV and AIDS and NGOs

NGOs have been playing a critical role in addressing the HIV and AIDS issue in developing countries. Their role was widely acknowledged even before governments in many countries hardly began doing anything against HIV and AIDS. They have been working as key partners for governments and international agencies in not only in the prevention of the spread of HIV and AIDS but also for its treatment and support for those living with the disease and also working towards removing the stigma associated with it. NGOs working in the field of HIV and AIDS include organizations promoting awareness and education about it, specific AIDS service organizations, women’s organizations, organizations which have been formed by or for people living with HIV and AIDS, rights-based organizations, international development agencies, faith-based institutions and others.

Some of the programmatic interventions made by NGOs in this field include advocating for and mainstreaming people living with HIV and AIDS and establishing networks and coalitions for lobbying policies to protect their rights; supporting governments, inter-governmental agencies and international organizations in achieving the goal of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support; building local capacities of communities, CBOs and local governmental agencies in responding towards AIDS; strengthening leadership at the local-level; undertaking research on the effects of the disease on the society and supporting the government in improving the health infrastructure to provide treatment for those suffering from it.

Civil Society

Civil Society comprises of all those civic and social organizations working for the betterment of the society but is completely independent from the state and commercial institutions in the market. Although the definition of term, “civil society” can be complex, it usually refers to those groups which are working collectively for improving the society as a whole and undertake a share responsibility and interest to achieve their goals. Civil society organizations can include: NGOs, international development agencies, charities, social clubs, community-based organizations, professional associations, SHGs, faith-based organizations, trade unions, social movements, business associations, coalitions, networks, advocacy groups etc.

Civil society is being increasingly recognized as a vital player in sustainable development. In developing countries, it is being considered for various advocacy and development actions by international donor community, governments of developed nations and also local authorities. A major chunk of funding is often allocated by multilaterals and bilaterals for civil society organizations to implement programs and activities for equitable development.

Civil society also plays a critical role in advancing international campaigns for promotion of human rights, anti-globalization and recently for reducing the effects of the climate change. Civil society networks have been at the forefront to pressurize governments and multilateral agencies to increase funding commitments for the sustainable development of communities in developing countries.

ICT and Sustainable Development

Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) has been increasingly recognized as a significant tool for poverty reduction in poor and low-income developing countries. Currently, there is high level of interest and commitment from various quarters, including governmental agencies, private organizations, international development organizations and NGOs to explore, adapt and implement technology-based projects to speed up activities aimed for sustainable development of rural and marginalized communities in remote and inaccessible areas. The rapid advancement and consumption demonstrated by technology users in developed countries and also in progressive cities and towns in developing countries have encouraged interventions extending ICT to the poor and the underprivileged.

Technology demonstrates the most immediate impact over a community struggling to become sustainable. The impact becomes visible when a poor and old woman suddenly has a mobile handset in her hand and she is using it to communicate with her migrated children. An underprivileged woman farmer in a remote village is found using a telephone to find out the vegetable prices in the market. An unemployed youth opens a cyber café in a village and provides education on ICT to children. Remotely located health centers adopt telemedicine to provide advanced healthcare services to communities.

Such situations demonstrate community empowerment in the most swift manner. Years and years of skill development and knowledge transfer get quickly sustainable when technology is found right in the hands of the poor community. When technology gets adapted, the community is able to react, feel the power and also explore new opportunities. This is where sustainable development begins…

Human Rights

According to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), human rights are “basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled.” These can include right to life, liberty, freedom of expression, equality before law and economic and social rights, right to work, right to education and right to food. The UDHR, from where the definition has been taken, is actually a non-biding resolution adopted in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly, but it has gained increased relevance in international law.

The United Nations Human Rights Council has a mandate to investigate violations of human rights. It is a subsidiary body of the United Nations General Assembly and ranks below the United Nations General Assembly. The membership in the council has been set for a term of six years, but it can be suspended if members are found to have been involved in gross human rights violation. The Council can request the Security Council to take action against violations of human rights taking place. This action can include not just sanctions but also referring cases to the International Criminal Court. There are independent experts working for the Council to investigate alleged human rights abuses and report the same on a regular basis.

Besides this, there is also the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) which leads several treaty-based bodies or committees of independent experts monitoring the implementation of the core international human rights treaties. These treaties have been ratified varyingly by different countries and states. The treaties and bodies emerged after the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Program of Action. Some of these committees include Human Rights Committee, Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Committee on the Rights of the Child etc. In addition to all these, there are also different regional treaties agreed by countries.

Developing Countries

The term, “developing countries” is often used in international development and many of us think that we are clear in what it means. But the fact is that despite the World Bank’s profound classification, there is considerable contradiction in accepting and analyzing what actually developing countries are. This is because people in many developing countries enjoy high standard of living despite having other low indicators.

The United Nations has given a geographical understanding of the developed and developing countries in this definition: “In common practice, Japan in Asia, Canada and the United States in northern America, Australia and New Zealand in Oceania, and Europe are considered “developed” regions or areas. In international trade statistics, the Southern African Customs Union is also treated as a developed region and Israel as a developed country; countries emerging from the former Yugoslavia, except for Slovenia, are treated as developing countries; and countries of Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (code 172) in Europe are not included under either developed or developing regions.”

While the World Bank uses the per capita income as the basis for classifying the world into developed and developing countries, the UN uses the Human Development Index to rate the development of various countries. It has been noted that the countries which have high population are also the ones that are still in the developing phase. Now, countries have also been further classified as those that are in transition or those that are emerging economies. According to the International Monetary Fund’s 2009 World Economic Outlook report, the countries with developing and emerging economies are: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, The Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burma, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, The Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Indonesia, India, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Lithuania, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Marshall Islands[18], Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia[18], Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Palau[18], Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Samoa, São Tomé and Príncipe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Sustainable Development

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines the term, “sustainability” as (the ability to) “keep (something) going over time or continuously.” In context of a community-based service delivery program, it can mean to be the ability of the program to provide the services continuously or for over a longer period of time.

A sustainable program should not just be self-sufficient, but also self-reliant. The emphasis on sustainability of a program is to reduce the dependency on external support, ensure participation and ownership of the community through their contribution and to adopt cost-effective approaches for success. A sustainable project is one which has to be well-managed by a skilled and trained community demonstrating leadership and vision. A sustainable project is possible when the community is involved from the day one of the intervention and a clear withdrawal strategy is placed by the organization providing the support. A sense of ownership should be integrated into the community so that they are able to manage the process willingly at some point. The respective role of the community and sustainability of the program is directly related.  If the community is not involved and does not perceive that it has a stake in the success of the scheme, it will lose interest and fail to join it, thereby leading to winding up of the scheme.

The question of external support and sustainability often comes into debate. Some projects receive support from donors, but after some time, when the support ends, the projects fail to continue.  Projects should be developed independent of any support.  However, it is also recognized that initially the projects cannot operate under absolute independence. It is important for projects to recover recurrent costs for maintenance of operations and activities.  Without recovering the costs, projects cannot be financially viable and may eventually fail.

Read about…NGO Sustainability

Poverty

A condition of life where people are unable to afford basic human needs such as food, clothing and shelter is referred to poverty. But poverty can also be relative when compared to other existing standards of living or incomes. When economies produce little, then poverty conditions are high. It has also been observed that countries which have high population level also have high levels of poverty. The most industrialized nations in the world have better economies and therefore, the poverty levels faced by its people are also low. These nations are classified as the developed countries. But developing countries whose economies are developing, least developed and in transition have a large population that is poor leading to more vulnerability and marginalization.

Poverty as a root cause has several negative effects on people suffering from it. Foremost among the effects is the health. The poor are known to suffer from various diseases including conditions arising from hunger and starvation. The life expectancy of the poor is also very low. The health impact of poverty is most seen on women and children, the most vulnerable of the groups and they often suffer death and diseases arising out of little or no access to healthcare, hygiene, clean water, good clothing and sufficient food. Other effects of poverty are visible in education, livelihood development, migration, violence etc.

While relative poverty is one where income levels are compared between people and countries to determine the standards of living, the absolute poverty is a definition set to understand and respond to such a condition. In absolute poverty, a person earns less than a dollar a day. There is also moderate poverty where a person may be earning more than a dollar a day but it will be less than two dollars a day. According the latest statistics, there are more than a billion populations living under absolute poverty around the world.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Although the term, NGO or non-governmental organization means any organization that is not controlled or managed by a government, it has been increasingly used and understood to large and small agencies or groups that work towards some sort of development for a community. The term is mostly applied to such organizations working in developing and low-income countries while in the west, the word, ‘nonprofit’ is more popular. Even international nonprofits headquartered in the developed world are also referred to as INGOs because their field work is mostly confined in the Global South.

Historically speaking, Rotary International, previously referred to as Rotary is known to be one of the oldest NGOs, but such organizations came into the prominence only during the popular movements of the nineteenth century such as the anti-slavery movement and the movement for women’s suffrage. But NGOs emerged globally with the establishment of the United Nations during which time, independent organizations were also involved in the international consultation process. The Chapter 27 of the Agenda 21 of the United Nations recognizes the relevance of NGOs in contributed towards sustainable development. Following this, governments and other bilaterals and multilaterals began involving them in their programs. But it was finally the advent of the twenty-first century globalization that created a whole NGO movement across all countries, specifically working for poor and developing countries.

Now, NGOs have become as diverse as issues faced by the society. From human rights to livelihood development, from healthcare services to conflict resolution, from socio-economic research to policy advocacy, NGOs in general have expanded their scope to address problems and challenges, mostly of the poor and the vulnerable groups in the society. NGOs both at the grassroots and at the global-level have become critical mediums to reach out the millions and millions of marginalized communities around the world.

NGOs also face several challenges themselves. In developing countries, NGOs are mostly dependent upon foreign aid. Although there are government programmes, they do not provide the proper ground for them to evolve. Most NGOs at the grassroots-level lack skills in organizational management and resource mobilization, which limit their own capacity to sustain. Sustainability remains a vital issue for NGOs in developing countries.

A Health Microinsurance Project

A health microinsurance project can cover the following benefits under its plan of operation:

(1) Basic Health Care: Preventive health care, health education, immunization, family planning etc; part of curative care such as medical consultations, nursing care, medical care etc

(2) Hospital Treatment: Hospital accommodation, medical, surgical, technical expenses and medicines.

(3) Specialised Treatment: Includes consultations with specialist doctors (gynaecologists, paediatricians, surgeons, dentists etc) and medical interventions such as radiology and clinical biology, which are carried out either during hospitalisation or during an external consultation.

(4) Dental Care: Administered through dental clinics

(5) Medicines: Medicines under prescription

(6)Transportation: Transportation costs of bringing patients to health centres

(7) Other categories of health care coverage include paying a fixed rate for loss of compensation during the hospitalised period for the earning member of the family, maternity cash allowances, funeral allowances etc. However, it has been observed that these extra services require a large contribution from members.

Read about…what is health microinsurance?

What is Health Microinsurance?

Health micro-insurance – referred by different names such as community-based health insurance, micro-health insurance, mutual health insurance, community-based health financing, community health insurance etc -is a form of micro-insurance in which resources are pooled to mitigate health risks and cover health care services in full or in part. Health micro-insurance schemes are more complex in nature compared to life insurance schemes, as they provide services towards specific risks or illnesses and involve the role a health care provider, whether independent of or in partnership with the scheme.  The scheme can be provided by government, a private insurance company, an NGO or a CBO.

Health microinsurance is important for the poor because health risks are often identified by the poor as the greatest and costliest risks among all other natural, social, economic etc risks faced by them. Health problems not only impact expenditure of the household, but also reduce the productivity and lessen the opportunity for growth.  Long-term illnesses have serious implications on the poor, leading to other unhealthy social conditions such as alcoholism, domestic violence or psychological complications. The poor are considered to be more vulnerable to illnesses and epidemics than the rich as the former usually live in unhygienic conditions, they have low-levels of health awareness and fail to take up preventive measures. According to Devadasan and others in the ACCORD Community Health Insurance: Increasing Access to Hospital Care,  the poor become further impoverished in the process of seeking health services.  Nearly 40% of hospitalised patients sell assets or borrow money to afford treatment and an average of 24% fall further down the poverty trap in this process. One of the reasons for lack of a proper health-seeking behaviour within the poor community is the expensive medical treatment especially at private health clinics in addition to the bad facilities available at public health centres. There is a close relationship between the health conditions of the people and the economic growth of the country in which they live.  It becomes necessary for the government to ensure affordable services for the poor to improve and maintain their health well-being. Some of these factors prove that health microinsurance is critical to reduce poverty and improve household conditions in poor and developing countries.

Read about… What benefits can be covered under a health microinsurance project for the poor?