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On Fertile Ground

posted in: 2011, Mozambique - 1 Comment

In the 30 days since my arrival in Mozambique I have witnessed the tremendous impact IRD is making in the lives of persons who participate in their programs. From the corporate headquarters in Washington DC to the various offices throughout the provinces, one can’t help but be impressed with the coordinated effort that unites donors and beneficiaries in such a transformative way. IRD’s effort to reduce the burden of mortality and morbidity caused by HIV/AIDS has been a textbook example of transforming communities. Their motto of ‘Improving Lives…Building Livelihoods’ is appropriate since so much of their work seems to focus on helping individuals by strengthening the existing communities in which they live. By giving technical support and forming partnerships with dozens of neighborhood associations, local CBOs, provincial health departments, non-governmental and governmental organizations alike, IRD provides a more sustainable and measurable impact in the local community. From the dozens of orphaned children whose parent(s) have died from AIDS to the local farmers learning new methods in agriculture, IRD has helped to improve their lives through strengthening local capacities and experiencing community with those they aim to serve. READ MORE


posted in: 2011, Zimbabwe - 1 Comment

Written June 17, 2011

Patrick Gallagher (in back) and his fellow Emory/IRD intern Chantalle Okondo (middle front) with their survey enumerators.

We’ve returned to Harare after 10 days in the Zimbabwean district of Buhera in Manicaland Province.  Things went about as well as we could have hoped!

To remind you, my Emory colleague Chantalle and I have been charged with designing, conducting, and analyzing a quantitative survey seeking to understand the impact of IRD-Zimbabwe’s REVALUE program on the wellbeing of children of rural groundnut farmers.

We began the field visit by training our four survey enumerators on the specifics of our survey, including how to ask certain questions, probe for answers, and verify crucial information such as the age of the respondent.  In turn, the enumerators provided us with insight on which parts of the survey might be difficult to administer due to linguistic nuances or cultural differences.  Our enumerators shined from the beginning, as they had all conducted a different survey just two weeks previously.  Their experience and honesty enabled us to quickly work out most of the kinks and begin surveying the same day. READ MORE

Not a Job, but a Way of Life

posted in: 2011, Laos - No Comments

June 7, 2011


Today I was really touched by one of our IRD staff. He’s the project manager for the Safe Educational Opportunities program, Sausavanh. The thing is, he did nothing particularly special today. In fact, he did pretty much what he does every day. Sausavanh didn’t save a drowning child, rescue a cat from a tree, or make the winning touchdown. Instead, he met with a few people, picked us up from the market, and generally just did his job.

Out of everyone in our office (maybe even including Heather and me), Sausavanh has the best English. Unlike others, he has the language capabilities to communicate fully with Heather and me. If he wanted, he could bring us into his office every morning and tell us about the impact he has made throughout his career in development. He could tell us how he has worked with IRD from the beginning, when IRD came to Laos, and how he has stuck with them the entire way. He could tell us about villages that now have access to clean water, children who no longer go hungry during the school day, and mothers and fathers whose daughters now come home smiling after school. He could tell us of villages transformed, schools rehabilitated, and lives changed because of his work. He could tell us of all these things, and I assure you they are true. READ MORE

Food Distribution, Colombia

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June 1, 2011

Beneficiaries wait their turn at Distribution Day, where IRD distributes aid to displaced families.

On Tuesdays and Fridays IRD does distributions of aid for displaced families. The (mostly) women sit on chairs under an IRD tent and wait to be called – from there they go into the office where they are interviewed and a survey is taken. After that they go back outside where the children under five are weighed and have their height taken. Families with children under five get extra food and IRD monitors how the children are growing, looking out for malnutrition, stunting and wasting. If a case is found, the child is referred to the Center for Nutritional Recuperation, which I wrote a little about in the last post (that is where I met Lady). The child is supposed to stay there for 30 days until he or she is fully recovered. And they do a great job, too. Earlier I told you how I went to that nutrition training; during that training, the presenter showed a series of very malnourished children they had treated. They were the worst cases they had seen. On Friday, Ibeth, the IRD staff member who had taken me to the training, pointed out a child who was running around, telling me that this was the same child from the one of the pictures from the training session.

On Friday I helped with measuring the children (later I will help with interviews). If the child is over 2, they can go on a regular scale and we take their height standing up. If the child is under 2, they are weighed on an infant scale and their height is taken lying down. We then compute the child’s Z-score (look at me applying what I’m learning in school!) to assess their nutritional status. Most of the children are “at risk for malnutrition,” and a lot of them are adequate. READ MORE

Out in the field

posted in: 2011, Mozambique - 2 Comments

June 9, 2011

Dirt road to field site.

I have been in the town of Maxixe about two weeks now, working with the IRD office here. For our project, and also because this is the “fun stuff” of development work, I have been trying to go out in the field as much as possible.

First, a little more about our project in Maxixe with IRD’s program for orphans and vulnerable children. Mozambique is deeply affected by HIV/AIDS, with a national prevalence of 15% and a prevalence in the southern region (where Maxixe is located) of 21%. READ MORE

Better Vision for Better Life

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June 1, 2011

During a training of district level health and education administrators in Thakek, Khammoune province, Dr. Sambath Darasouk, the province’s only opthamologist, explains the two visual acuity charts used for eye health screening.

Once again Peggy Jean and I were attending a training session for the Better Vision for Better Life (BVBL) project. Overall, the project has met a need for eye screening and care at the village level in Khammoune province, as well as built capacity for screening from the teachers and village health workers (VHWs) at the community level all the way up to administrators at the district level. Also, the project provided needed ophthalmology equipment at the provincial level.

At the beginning of the week, we made it for the second, and last, day of a refresher course for clinicians working at health centers in Xiaboutong district. After over an hour on a dirt road, we arrived at the rather impressive district office where the training was held. Over thirty men and women filled the front of a large conference hall. All were prepared for the last few hours of the program with IRD-produced eye health manuals and paper and pen ready to jot down important notes. All participants were quietly attentive, listening as Dr. Sambath Darasouk, the only ophthalmologist for Khammoune province, reviewed common eye diseases. READ MORE

A picture of severe malnutrition

posted in: 2011, Colombia - No Comments

May 28, 2011

Lady is one of the severely malnourished children who are in Tumaco’s nutrition clinic for recovery.

I’ll quickly sum up today. I was picked up at 7:20 and taken to a training that another organization was holding on nutrition. They were teaching nurses how to diagnose severe malnutrition, which is a big problem in Tumaco. I was then introduced to the presenter and we went to their nutrition clinic, where malnourished children are kept for a month to recover. When we got there, we met the doctor, who showed us around while he talked about the situation in Tumaco. While we were talking, we were standing next to a crib with a baby with severe malnutrition named Lady. She had big eyes and was just sitting, staring and scared. The doctor showed us the lesions all over her skin, which is an indicator of severe malnutrition. Finally, I couldn’t help myself and picked her up and held her for about 30 minutes, rocking her until she finally relaxed, putting her head on my chest and closing her eyes. READ MORE

Documenting a school food program: You live and learn…Lao!

posted in: 2011, Laos - 1 Comment

June 1, 2011

Before receiving her last take-home ration, a primary school girl signs her name with a fingerprint.

As part of my work here in Laos, I’m filming some of IRD’s programs and interviewing some beneficiaries. This means I get to walk around filming and talking to folks, which is great.

When I first arrived in Laos, I was told the children were out of school for the summer. I was disappointed, since IRD’s Safe Educational Opportunities (SEO) is all about transforming the lives of children through improved school environments, health education, mid-day snacks, take-home rations, and school gardens. The summer break would make it nearly impossible for me to capture SEO in action among the children. On Monday, I received good news. The last distribution of take-home rations for the school year at a school in Sai Buatong district would take place on Tuesday. I would get the footage I needed after all!

Yesterday morning, we left early for Sai Buatong district. When we pulled up to the school, the students were already lining up waiting for the distribution to begin. At least 100 students came to the school dressed in their school uniforms on a day when school was not in session to receive their take-home rations consisting of four bags of rice and a bag of black beans. The female students are given two cans of salmon in addition to the rice and beans. READ MORE

Patrick Gallagher — Zimbabwe

posted in: 2011, Zimbabwe - No Comments

Patrick GallagherGreetings all. I’m Patrick Gallagher, a Master in Public Health student at Emory University and summer intern at International Relief and Development (IRD) in Harare, Zimbabwe. I’ll be periodically posting news about my work and other observations to let Candler friends and family know about Emory’s involvement in international development work. Thanks for reading!

I spent a week at IRD headquarters in Washington, DC, becoming acquainted with the organization and its activities. The breadth and depth of IRD’s programs around the globe is impressive (see for more), especially for a relatively young organization, and its people were experienced and energetic. The five-day orientation left me excited to get to the field.

After arriving in Harare, Zimbabwe, on May 22, I got down to business the next day. A thorough explanation of the nuances of IRD-Zimbabwe’s REVALUE program gave me insight into the complexity of agricultural programming in international development, a field to which I had no previous exposure. READ MORE

Getting Started

posted in: 2011, Mozambique - No Comments

June 6, 2011

Our first week as IRD interns began in Washington, DC at the IRD headquarters. During that week, we learned about the different sectors of IRD, such as logistics, health, infrastructure, and community development. IRD does such diverse work in the area of development. It was fascinating for me as a public health student to learn more about projects in other development sectors, and I can’t wait to see some of these programs at work in Mozambique.

Also during our week at IRD headquarters, my internship partner, Marques, and I learned more about the projects we will work on. First, we will be working with a program caring for orphans and vulnerable children through partner organizations in the province of Inhambane. We will help to create guides for volunteers working with these organizations to better meet the special needs of vulnerable children. This might include assuring that they have identification documents, access to school, and proper nutrition. READ MORE