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.
In 2000 world leaders gathered at the United Nations to agree on a set of eight targets for international development. Since then, the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs have become the single most important organizing principle of the international community’s fight against extreme poverty and disease.
World leaders gave themselves a deadline of 15 years to reach these goals. Fast forward to April 2013 and we are now 1000 days until the MDGs are due. So how far have we come? What is left to do? What should replace the MDGs once they expire? And most importantly, what can ordinary citizens of the world do to help the cause?
Following the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that shook Haiti and killed an estimated 316,000 people in 2010, the world has provided over $9 billion in foreign assistance to the Caribbean nation. Immediately after the quake, President Obama was quick to launch what TIME magazine called a “compassionate intervention”, disbursing $100 million of humanitarian aid to Haiti. But three years later, the country remains in ruins. What explains the failure of federal aid to help Haiti?
Perhaps Haiti’s own political dysfunctions are to blame. But such reasoning does not explain why the United States, a well-governed and wealthy nation, witnessed a similar breakdown in rule of law unfold in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Some argue that the U.S. aided Haiti because Obama hoped to redeem the failure of the federal government to effectively help the people of New Orleans. Ironically, the carefully planned federal assistance failed on both accounts.
When I was growing up, my father wanted my sisters and me to have the same opportunities our brother had. This was not a traditional mindset in African families. My father instilled in us the belief that even if we were girls we could achieve whatever we wanted.
There was a tug of war all the time between my father and my grandmother, who believed that African girls were supposed to simply be given the tools to grow up, get married, and have children. My father was a policeman so we lived in town, where we went to school. But my grandmother insisted that every Saturday I go to her house in the village so that I could acquaint myself with village life. And I am thankful for that, because I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to empower women because of the taste of village life that I had as a child.
On January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, leaving 220,000 people dead and 1.5 million people displaced. As the world scrambled to provide disaster relief, Remedy at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) mobilized rapidly. Remedy at UCSF is a medical student organization whose mission is to recover unused medical supplies from UCSF Medical Center for responsible redistribution globally and to reduce local waste production. The post-earthquake relief effort for Haiti tested Remedy at UCSF’s capacity and organizational capabilities. Over two years later, this student-run organization continues to support health care in this country by donating supplies to organizations that work in Haiti and to medical student volunteers traveling to Haiti.
At the frail age of 85, most people in the developing world are either bed-ridden or buried six feet under. Abdul Sattar Edhi defies both norms. In fact, Edhi remains a force to be reckoned with, bringing welfare and change to a nation stricken with poverty; ethnic, religious and political violence, a myriad of gender issues, and a healthy dose of natural disasters.
His name is synonymous with goodwill. Edhi’s contributions to Pakistani society – and now globally – are too many to count. Over a span of 60 years and counting, the Edhi Foundation (led by A.S. Edhi and his wife, Bilqis) has been bringing relief in the form of ambulance services, emergency assistance, orphanages, homeless shelters, animal hostels and food banks; and the list of services just keeps growing. The Edhi Foundation has almost singlehandedly been the saving grace of a nation whose state has failed them generation after generation.
The GAVI Alliance, formerly known as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, has been on the front lines of the fight against preventable diseases and childhood deaths since its establishment in 2000. By bringing public and private enterprises to the table, GAVI has innovated new ways of meeting the demand for vaccines in the poorest parts of the world, and has managed to bring the world a good deal closer to achieving the 4th Millennium Development Goal’s mission of reducing the under-five mortality rate by two-thirds before 2015. To understand how GAVI is so successful in the vaccination business, we sat down with the Alliance’s Board Chair, Dagfinn Høybråten.
Mr. Høybråten, in addition to being GAVI’s Chair, is the 5th Vice President of the Norwegian Parliament. Prior to these roles, he was the leader of the Christian Democratic Party, the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, and the Minister of Health.
However, this great news, they cautioned, means we are at the most dangerous point in the battle against TB.
Last year, the United Nations held a High-level Meeting on the Prevention and Control of NCDs during the General Assembly in order to address the epidemic. However, national governments cannot fight this issue on their own. Extensive public-private partnerships and cooperation with civil society efforts will be required to combat the spread and control of NCDs.
To find out more about how civil society organizations are dealing with this growing health issue, the Diplomatic Courier sat down with Kimberly Reed, Executive Director of the International Food Information Council Foundation. Ms. Reed has more than 15 years of senior level experience in both the public and private sectors, and also serves on the National Board of Directors of the Alzheimer’s Association.
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