WiRED invests 95% of all donations into our health training programs in low-resource countries. Our administrators, writers and fundraisers are volunteers. We have never had a media or public relations staff, and yet, because our work achieves notable health training results, it occasionally draws public attention on its own.
In 2001, WiRED began work on a network of health information centers in Kenya, including 19 Community Health Information Centers (CHICs). WiRED’s primary goal is to raise health standards of Kenyan communities, and members of the community believe these Centers are ideal resources from which to obtain current information about health care.
The war in Iraq presented many challenges, not only to the military but to everyone who became involved in the reconstruction efforts and other programs to assist Iraq’s professionals with training and resources. The medical community, in particular, had been disadvantaged by Saddam Hussein who blocked doctors from travel and from access to the latest research, journals and textbooks.
Few features defined the landscape of Iraq’s cities in the early 2000s like the 12- to 18-feet tall, three-feet wide, seven-ton blast barriers, sometimes called Texas-walls or T-walls, that stood shoulder to shoulder around key buildings and meeting places vulnerable to insurgents’ attacks. These interlocking structures could withstand or at least impede a truck crash and divert explosions upward, protecting structures and people on the other side.
WiRED’s work in Iraq began in the spring of 2003, just as international coalitions were setting out to assist with the reconstruction of the country’s core facilities. Projects included repairing the electrical grid and critical government buildings and upgrading the telecommunications system to contemporary standards.
We have recently republished several stories about our early work in the former Yugoslavia. Readers may recall from these articles that in the late 1990s and early 2000s, in six countries across that region, WiRED installed dozens of Medical Information Centers (MICs). The MICs provided doctors, nurses and medical students with interactive training programs on CD-ROMS and then online training, as soon as we were able to establish Internet connections.
We supplied a wealth of medical information, but one problem faced by users of our MICs was their inability to access the latest medical journals. In the early 2000s, most medical journals provided articles online, but they charged steep access fees. The former Yugoslavian countries, and the other low-resource countries we served around the world, could never afford the fees charged by the journals.
WiRED began working in Iraq in the spring of 2003, and over the next few years we installed 39 Medical Information Centers (MICs) in hospitals and clinics from Basrah in the south to Dehuk in the north. The U.S. Department of State was our primary sponsor, and we had support from other organizations and companies that contributed equipment and helped with logistics. As we recognize our 25th Anniversary this year, we will provide other stories about our projects in Iraq.
WiRED started its education mission 25 years ago in Croatia, one of six countries in the former Yugoslavia. Soon after we set up computer facilities in a school in Vukovar, Croatia, the U.S. Department of State asked if we would expand the project into several other countries by supplying computers and training local high school teachers how to use computers in education. Those other countries included Bosnia, Montenegro and Albania (not formally in the former Yugoslavia).
At the same time WiRED was working on the two-country project discussed in this story, we had projects underway in Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, Iraq, Sierra Leone and elsewhere. The common element in many of WiRED’s projects at the time was the need to deal with conflicts or the significant aftereffects of conflicts. A common element in all conflicts is that people see each other as different by race, religion or political ideology. Nicaragua had recently ended a war, known as the Revolution, that took at least 30,000 lives and left many people wounded physically and psychologically. The battle lines in that conflict were drawn around political ideology.
WiRED began working in Kenya in the early 2000s, under a developmental grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Our initial objective was to determine if we could use computers to teach young Kenyans about the prevention of AIDS, at a time when the mysterious illness was killing thousands around the world and decimating entire villages. We have written extensively about WiRED’s HIV/AIDS prevention programs in other posts on this Website.