Ambassador Jimmy Kolker is the Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Office of Global Affairs, in the Office of the Secretary, leads the Department’s efforts to better the health and well-being of Americans and of the world’s population through global strategies and partnerships and working with other U.S. government agencies in the coordination of global health policy. Now the Department’s senior health diplomat, Jimmy previously served as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the office (2011-2014).
As the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) deadline looms nearer, global leaders must re-evaluate initiatives for the post-2015 development agenda. As enumerated in the final and eighth MDG, the original development goals inherently rely on donor aid and multilateral financial partnerships for progression. With less than a few months before the global deadline, five of the eight goals are not likely to be achieved. MDG Five, created to reduce maternal mortality rates (MMR), measures dead last on fulfillment.
With just under 500 days remaining until the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, countries are pushing to achieve and exceed all of the goals. Yet, despite our best efforts, our work will not be done when 2015 ends.
After the financial crisis of 2008, the United States, Europe, and many other nations around the world began to debate austerity measures in order to reduce their stock of sovereign debt. One sector considered for reduction was healthcare expenditures. Critics of this approach argued that a reduction in healthcare expenditures would reduce the quality of life for people in that country. Shortly after the crisis, the World Health Organization (WHO), argued for direct investment in healthcare as a means of improving the quality of life.
According to Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan, in 2009: “Health is a global concern. It is a vital investment in economic development and poverty reduction. It is central to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Access to health care is a fundamental entitlement and responsibility of governments the world over… Progress in one direction depends on all the others. We compromise on any one of these elements at our collective peril.”
The Karakoram Highway cuts a rugged path through the high black mountains that separate China from Pakistan, where mirror-like lakes reflect the snowy peaks and azure sky. The highway runs 800 miles, connecting the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistani Kashmir with Kashgar, a city in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. It is the only land link between the two countries, and it follows an ancient caravan trail that was once part of the Silk Road.
Many voices have called for the global community to ensure adequate food and nutrition for a growing world population, a goal that must take into account changing climates, both physical and political. The call to feed the planet comes from influential individuals, NGOs, universities, national and international governing bodies, and the private sector.
A woman in Nigeria teaches young girls to blog so they can “share their thoughts to the whole world.” Thousands of miles away in California, a teenage girl uses the internet to raise funds for United Nations programs that benefit marginalized adolescent girls in developing countries.
The interface between the public and private sector is becoming more important in how countries innovate. A country’s wealth can be judged by natural and manmade resources, but also the intangible resources, as President and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies Dr. John Hamre puts it. A sense of legitimacy of government, the quality of education and legal systems, and a feeling of common purpose are all unseen qualities that are held by the most wealthy and successful countries. Dr. Hamre stressed that these qualities are the products of good government and there is in fact a correlation between good government and wealth. It is because of this that governments should have a keen interest in helping the private sector and creating conditions for the growth of innovation and infrastructure.
As a teenager in the 1960s, Bogaletch Gebre lived in a village where every girl her age was subjected by their families to female genital mutilation—a practice the World Health Organization defines as a procedure “mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15…that intentionally alter[s] or cause[s] injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” In 1989, Gebre returned to that village to challenge her community’s continuation of the practice, helping to spark a mentality shift that by 2002 would reduce the rate of the harmful traditional practice to 3 percent.
Mothers from around the world are raising their voices and rallying their social networks as one of the most powerful forces for positive change for women and children. Beginning on International Women’s Day, moms and their friends came together as part of an innovative series of online conversations to share stories, advice, and inspiration about motherhood as part of the Global Mom Relay, a revolutionary virtual relay with a goal of improving the lives of women and children around the globe.
Created by the United Nations Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, BabyCenter, The Huffington Post, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Mom Relay unites the power of mothers with the power of social media to raise awareness and funds to improve the health and welfare of mothers and children globally. This “virtual relay” consists of 60 days of online conversations, bringing together networks of people around the world to join in the relay by commenting, sharing stories, making donations, and taking action. It represents a movement of people who are anxiously engaged in the face of startling statistics about women’s and children’s health—nearly 7 million children under the age of 5 will die from preventable diseases each year, and every two minutes, a woman dies from complications related to pregnancy. The Global Mom Relay will connect people to take action and change these statistics.
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