Scolastica, a 33-year-old single mother and urban chicken farmer in Tanzania, set up her poultry business in 2005, itself a brave step for a woman to make in such a patriarchal society. Things ticked along relatively well. But when three years ago, a virus swept through her flock and killed 600 of her 900 birds in less than a week - even someone with the drive and determination of Scolastica thought her dream was over. That's when Comic Relief stepped in and her luck began to change.
Rabies is one of the world's most tragic diseases, not only because of the dreadful effects it has on the people and animals who become infected but also because it is entirely preventable. Its greatest burden falls on poor rural communities across Africa and Asia, where it causes one death every 10 minutes and where tragically children under the age of 15 are at a particularly high risk of dying.
Only 4% of women in Tanzania work in formal employment and only 5% have access to financing from banks, leaving them with fewer resources to invest in their businesses. These challenges stem from a number of gaps where women tend to be left behind in East Africa, such as insufficient business management skills, marketing know-how, networks and access to capital. Often women are pushed into running a business as a last resort rather than making the choice themselves. There are huge demands placed on women in East Africa in particular and yet they are offered little support.
As I sit typing on my laptop, I'm aware of an irresistible urge: to check my emails; check social networking sites; check whether there's been any update since I last checked five minutes ago! The thing is, I'm not crazy about technology, but if you're anything like me, you'll know it's easier said than done escaping it.
As a former treasury minister, I understand how markets can be used to benefit people around the world. We recognised that public funding, and specifically aid, alone could not solve all of the challenges faced by developing world countries. There was a clear need to harness private sector capital and expertise.
Today we celebrate volunteers and volunteering across the world. But for us this is not just a celebration of volunteers as a token, 'useful' contribution to enable the paid staff to carry on with their work; but as true partners, fellow family members working together to bring lasting change to people who are in pain.
What can't be emphasised too strongly here is that these are analyses of real deaths and actual weather. They are not simulations or models - and it reflects the great strength of the INDEPTH Network that it is possible to analyse factual information in this way from parts of the world where reliable data are usually in short supply.