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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - Clearing a PATH to Better Health in Developing Countries

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This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

This year is the thirtieth anniversary of the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, or PATH. PATH is a nonprofit organization based in Seattle, Washington.

A Young HIV positive orphan lies in his cot at the Nyumbani children home, a hospice for AIDS orphans in Nairobi, Kenya
A Young HIV positive orphan lies in his cot at the Nyumbani children home, a hospice for AIDS orphans in Nairobi, Kenya

It was created to deal with technology needs for world health, especially reproductive health. Since then, it has expanded into other areas including vaccine research and prevention of AIDS and malaria.

It has programs in sixty-five countries. PATH works with local partners to design and test new technologies. It also works with companies to manufacture and sell them.

One of its products is called the BIRTHweigh scale. This is used to identify babies who have a dangerously low birthweight, less than two and one-half kilograms.

The scale was designed for health workers with low reading skills. At first it used colors to show different weight levels. But tests in Indonesia found that it also had to be readable in low-light situations, like at night in a house without electric power. The handheld scale was redesigned so a person could feel a button sink into the handle if a baby is a healthy weight.

Now the scale is being designed to provide a guide to the right amount of nevirapine to give a baby. Nevirapine is a drug that can prevent the spread of H.I.V. from an infected mother to her child. H.I.V. is the virus that causes AIDS.

Teresa Guillien at PATH says the group will spend about one hundred sixty million dollars on its programs this year. PATH gets money from the United States government and other countries and international agencies. Donations also come from companies, individuals and foundations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Last Wednesday, on Africa Malaria Day, PATH marked the first year of an expanded campaign to prevent malaria in Zambia. The aim is to provide protective bed nets to about eighty percent of the population.

PATH has also developed a nutritionally enriched grain called Ultra Rice. Ultra Rice is being used in Colombia, Brazil and India.

Among other projects, PATH is trying to make sure the new cervical cancer vaccine is available in developing countries. And, in the future, Teresa Guillien says PATH hopes to work more on strengthening health systems in those countries.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Jill Moss. To learn about other groups working in the developing world, go to www.unsv.com. I'm Shep O'Neal.

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