Experts: Africa facing "persistent famine"

The United Nations just reported that hunger will kill more than 300,000 children in West Africa this year if donor nations fail to stump up enough money to provide international food aid.

Drought is striking Africa harder and more often, presenting new challenges to those providing emergency international aid and those struggling to find long-term solutions for an impoverished continent.

James Morris, executive director of the World Food Program that feeds 20 million people affected by the drought, says, "I'm not a scientist, but there is a change in the world's weather pattern that disproportionately affects Africa. The rain cycle has been in a steady downward trend."

"I would argue that we are now entering a time of persistent famine" in Africa, concludes Calestous Juma, a development expert at Harvard University.

Disasters have struck elsewhere in the world, from the Asian tsunami to the Pakistani earthquake to flooding in Latin America to today's earthquake in Iran, "but the toughest issues are in Africa, there's no question," Morris said. "We've been stretched to our capacity. Overwhelmed."

As we read new articles like this, one can’t help but reflect on passages like the following from the Gospel of Matthew:

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, his disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

Jesus answered: “…Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. … Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold …

“For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now.”


Why Hamas is so popular in Palestine

On the day Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and his 24-member Cabinet were sworn in to take the Palestinian helm, the United States and Canada formally cut ties with the government, thereby cutting off international aid.

Hamas has so far refused to give up their stubborn stance against Israel, whom they consider an oppressive occupier. But why is Hamas so popular to the Palestinians who voted for them enmasse?

Veteran CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour, who has covered her share of political conflicts, offers this insight:

You would think that after more than 50 years of one of the most intimately chronicled conflicts in human history -- Israelis vs. Palestinians -- there would be nothing new to say, no surprises.

You would be wrong.Hamas, the radical Islamic movement that has launched suicide attacks in Israel, won the Palestinian elections in January, thereby creating two firsts:
1. The first time a regime has changed in the Arab world democratically through elections;
2. The first time an Islamist group has come to power through elections.

Hamas gained support in Palestine through two decades of building an effective and affordable social welfare system in Gaza. It runs most of the kindergartens, funds health clinics, and provides welfare checks to widows and orphans.

During this year's election, Palestinians fed up with the rampant corruption and lawlessness of the late Yasser Arafat's government turned to the only alternative, Hamas.

So when people ask: "Why did the Palestinian people elect a terrorist group?" The answer is because they see them as a lifeline.

Each time I go to the Palestinian territory of Gaza, I am shocked by the reality on the ground. On a recent visit, I passed through a short tunnel from the First World in Israel and emerged into the Third World that is Gaza. The poverty there is among the worst in the world.

Hamas officials told me they did not expect to win the election as overwhelmingly as they did. They say their main priority now is to meet the demands of the people for a better life.

But that may be impossible, because Israel and the United States refuse to deal with Hamas and have already cut funding to the new Palestinian government.

Posted By Christiane Amanpour


God Blesses Helping the Poor

- From Bono's Speech to the 2006 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Jesus says that [in the New Testament, Luke 6:31].

“Righteousness is this: that one should...give away wealth out of love for him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and the beggars and for the emancipation of the captives.” The Koran says that (2.177).

Thus sayeth the Lord: 'Bring the homeless poor into the house, when you see the naked, cover him, then your light will break out like the dawn and your recovery will speedily spring fourth, then your Lord will be your rear guard.' The Jewish scripture says that [in the Old Testament, Isaiah 58].

That is a powerful incentive: “The Lord will watch your back.”

Sounds like a good deal to me.


Making it illegal to do the right thing

Over the past week, protesters organized by immigrant supporters have rallied in cities across the country, loudly objecting to legislation that would require churches to check the legal status of parishioners before helping them, impose new penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants, not to speak of making it a felony for them to be in the U.S. illegally.

Fortunately, an amendment being considered would protect church and charitable groups, as well as individuals, from criminal prosecution for providing food, shelter, medical care and counseling to undocumented immigrants. (Last December the House voted to make offers of such aid a felony!)

Shouldn’t charitable organizations be able to provide humanitarian assistance to immigrants without fearing prosecution? This excerpt from a Washington Post article examines the human and moral side:

When Tim Holt spotted Maria Rabanales of El Salvador lying still in the Arizona desert, he believed he had a God-given duty to save her. He forced water through the woman's swollen jaws and poured ice down her shirt. Border Patrol agents later took Rabanales to a hospital, where she was revived.

This action was praised by some, but his actions might soon be considered a crime, punishable by up to five years in prison or property forfeiture.

"The overriding Biblical mandate is to care for the stranger or the alien because that stranger or alien might very well be God," said Joan Maruskin, the Washington representative for the Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program.

In Arizona, where immigrants cross the desert each year by the thousands and die in the hundreds, groups such as No More Deaths try to save some. About the penalties for helping, Stuart Taylor [a pastor and founding member of No More Deaths] said, "We think such legislation would be a very dangerous precedent, a government trying to make it illegal to do the right thing."

"People of faith and conscience will continue . . . because that is the nature of our faith and our moral duty," Taylor said.


Will 2006 rise to the challenges laid down by 2005?

Last year failed to meet expectations of a significant shift in the nature of international development aid.

2005 began with high hopes — after two decades of relative neglect. In addition, certain events dominating the headlines in 2005 reinforced the message. Most dramatic was the devastation caused by the Indian Ocean tsunami in the closing days of 2004.

It is essential that those demanding political recognition of such needs maintain their demands in 2006.

But drawing up a list of good intentions is only the first step. More difficult is persuading those holding the purse strings. Yet again, efforts to place a significantly greater emphasis on the use of aid to build economic capacity in developing countries — including the need for investment in both the concrete and the 'knowledge' infrastructure required to achieve this — were derailed by supporters of protectionist policies from industrialised nations.

This is the case that must be made in the years ahead. The positive lessons of 2005 are, firstly, that the intellectual argument about the role of science and technology in meeting the needs of developing countries has largely been won, and secondly that — even if only to a limited extent — this argument is finding a growing place in the repertoire of those responsible for effective international aid policies.

[Excerpts of an article byDavid Dickson, Science and Development Network]


Darfur: huge funding shortfall threatens 2 million

Nearly 2 million children in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region are threatened by severe funding shortfalls, with only 11 per cent of the urgently needed $89 million either committed or pledged, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported.

“Without significant and immediate funding, and given existing problems with security and access, the humanitarian crisis that was averted only last year will return,” country representative Ted Chaiban said.

Conflict in Darfur has entered its third year and is no longer front page news. UNICEF is sounding the alarm that lack of funding for essential water and sanitation, health, education and protection programs is an additional threat facing children.


God and the Poor, and International Aid

- From Bono's Speech to the 2006 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC

[All faiths and ideologies] agree that God is with the vulnerable and poor.

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives.

And God is with us if we are with them.

It's not a coincidence that in the Scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It's not an accident. That's a lot of air time, 2,100 mentions.

The only time Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor, “As you have done it unto the least of these My brethren, you have done it unto Me” (Matthew 25:40). As I say, good news to the poor.

"If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places." (The Bible, Isaiah 58)


1 in 6 countries facing food shortage

One in six countries in the world face food shortages this year because of severe droughts that could become semi-permanent under climate change, UN scientists have warned.

Wulf Killman, chairman of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's climate change group, said the droughts that have devastated crops across Africa, Central America and Southeast Asia in the past year are part of an emerging pattern.

"Africa is our greatest worry," he said. "Many countries are already in difficulties … and we see a pattern emerging. Southern Africa is definitely becoming drier and everyone agrees that the climate there is changing. We would expect areas which are already prone to drought to become drier with climate change."

The Food and Agriculture Organization says that 34 countries are now experiencing droughts and food shortages and others could join them. Up to 30 million people will need assistance because of the droughts and other natural disasters.

Henri Josserand, the UN's famine early warning system director, said: "In southern Africa especially, there is no question that drought has become much more frequent in the past few years. There has been a sequence of drought years for four or five years. What is unusual is the repeat patterns."

[Excerpt of an article by John Vidal and Tim Radford, The Guardian]


World Water Day

Not many people were even aware that yesterday (March 22) was World Water Day. In 1992, the UN General Assembly designated March 22 as “World Water Day” to draw international attention to the critical lack of clean, safe drinking water worldwide.

Water is an absolute essential to life. Water is something most of us take for granted. But unfortunately, not everyone in the world has access to safe, clean drinking water. A little known fact is that the Global water crisis is the leading cause of death and disease in the world, taking the lives of more than 14,000 people each day, 11,000 of whom are children under age 5.

While everyone in the West has the option to just turn on a tap and fill up whatever container with drinking water, most in the developing world spend a great deal of time every day hauling water from water sources of questionable purity. The average woman in Africa and Asia walks 4 miles each day just to collect water.

This amounts to more than 200 million hours spent every day by women and girls walking to collect water from distant, often polluted sources—time that could be better spent on more productive endeavors such as work and school.

Thankfully, millions more people in developing countries now have a sustainable supply of clean water thanks to innovative programs spearheaded by international aid.

However, an estimated 1.1 billion persons still lack access to an improved water source, and 2.6 billion persons lack access to adequate sanitation. Waterborne diseases account for 4 billion episodes of illness and 2.2 million deaths every year, disproportionately affecting young children.


Bono on Millennium Development Goals

From Bono's Address to the 2006 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC

These goals - clean water for all; school for every child; medicine for the afflicted, an end to extreme and senseless poverty - these are not just any goals; they are the Millennium Development Goals, which this country supports. And they are more than that. They are the Beatitudes for a globalised world.

A wise man told me “Stop asking God to bless what you're doing. Get involved in what God is doing - because it's already blessed.”

Well, God, as I said, is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing. And that is what he's calling us to do.

…I truly believe that when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for three things: the war on terror, the digital revolution, and what we did - or did not do - to put the fire out in Africa.

History, like God, is watching what we do.


Millennium Goals: Are we on track?

There is a long way to go, but the Millennium Goals could be achieved with sufficient global political support, strong partnerships and coordinated efforts.

Goal 1 Eradicate extreme poverty & hunger
Global poverty rates are falling, led by Asia. But millions more people have sunk deep into poverty in sub- Saharan Africa, where the poor are getting poorer. Millions are chronically hungry in sub- Saharan Africa and in Southern Asia, where half the children under age 5 are malnourished.

Millennium Goals 2 - 4: On track?

Goal 2 Achieve universal primary education
Five developing regions are approaching universal enrolment. But in sub-Saharan Africa, fewer than two thirds of children are enrolled in primary school.

Goal 3 Promote gender equality & empower women
The gender gap is closing — albeit slowly — in primary school enrolment in the developing world. This is a first step towards easing long-standing inequalities between women and men. In almost all developing regions, women represent a smaller share of wage earners than men and are often relegated to insecure and poorly paid jobs.

Goal 4 Reduce child mortality
Death rates in children under age 5 are dropping. But not fast enough. Eleven million children a year — 30,000 a day — die from preventable or treatable causes. Most of these lives could be saved by expanding existing programs that promote simple, low-cost solutions.


Millennium Goals 5 & 6: On track?

Goal 5 Improve maternal health
More than half a million women die each year during pregnancy or childbirth. Twenty times that number suffer serious injury or disability. Some progress has been made in reducing maternal deaths in developing regions, but not in the countries where giving birth is most risky.

Goal 6 Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria & other diseases
AIDS has become the leading cause of premature death in sub-Saharan Africa. In the European countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and parts of Asia, HIV is spreading at an alarming rate. Malaria and tuberculosis together kill nearly as many people each year as AIDS, and represent a severe drain on national economies. Ninety per cent of malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, where prevention and treatment efforts are being scaled up. Tuberculosis is on the rise, partly as a result of HIV/AIDS, though a new international protocol to detect and treat the disease is showing promise.

[Source: The Millennium Development Goals Report – 2005]

Millennium Goals 7 & 8: On track?

Goal 7 Ensure environmental sustainability
Most countries have committed to the principles of sustainable development. But this has not resulted in sufficient progress to reverse the loss of the world’s environmental resources. Access to safe drinking water has increased, but half the developing world still lack toilets or other forms of basic sanitation. Nearly 1 billion people live in urban slums because the growth of the urban population is outpacing improvements in housing and the availability of productive jobs.

Goal 8 Develop a global partnership for development
The United Nations Millennium Declaration represents a global social compact: developing countries ensuring their own development, with developed countries supporting them through aid, debt relief and better opportunities for trade. To achieve the Millennium Development Goals, increased aid and debt relief must be accompanied by further opening of trade, accelerated transfer of technology and improved employment opportunities for the growing ranks of young people in the developing world.

[Source: The Millennium Development Goals Report – 2005]


Cost of Iraq war could surpass $1 trillion

"Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist puts the final figure [of the war in Iraq] at a staggering $1 trillion to $2 trillion, including $500 billion for the war and occupation and up to $300 billion in future health care costs for wounded troops. Additional costs include a negative impact from the rising cost of oil and added interest on the national debt." [MSNBC]

$30,000 is .00003 of a billion dollars, .00000003 of a trillion. Compare what this amount ($30,000) can do to save lives.

What $30,000 can accomplish for a Developing Nation

Acute need – and opportuntity to do good for just a few dollars -- abounds in the Third World. Here's what just $30,000 can accomplish:

Indonesia - It will take more than houses and roads for people devastated by the tsunami to rebuild their lives. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 200,000 people remain traumatized.This grant equips 45 new counselors in Medan who will help more than 4,000 survivors become functional once again.The cost per life averages $6.80.

Liberia in West Africa is trying to recover from more than a decade of civil war. Women in that country suffered deeply as their husbands were killed, they were raped and their children kidnapped and forced to join the fighting. Their tragedy was often compounded by looting and burning of their homes.$30,000 invested into this project enabled 305 such women to receive trauma counseling, job training and microloans so they can become self-reliant. They, in turn, provide for nearly 2,000 extended family members. The cost per changed life averages $16.38.

Ecuador - Widespread poverty forces families to send their children, as young as age 7, to full-time work. Most of these children never complete elementary school. $30,000 invested here frees 450 boys and girls from the child labor trap. They receive scholarships and other support including legal assistance to prevent further exploitation. The program provides health care for the families and special training for hundreds of teachers on how to work with these special needs students. The cost per life changed through this program is $17.06

Burundi - Burundi is dealing with drought on top of severe poverty, a recent genocidal war and widespread HIV/AIDS. $30,000 invested in this program brings increased income to more than 500 farming families by providing animals, seeds, supplies and training. More than 2,500 relatives and neighbors benefit from improved nutrition and basic medical services. The average cost per life changed is $11.77.

Egypt - HIV and drug abuse have been relatively low in Egypt, but appear poised to climb rapidly. $30,000 invested now certifies 12 drug abuse workers to run prevention programs for 12,000 people at risk in the first year including intensive assistance for 300 addicts who join rehabilitation.The average cost to impact a life through this program is $2.44.

Kenya - Prolonged drought in the Eastern Province of Kenya makes daily life a struggle. Safe water is in short supply and crops are withering. $30,000 for this project combines with partial funding from the local government to construct wells in the Machakos District.This provides safe drinking water and supports small scale farming to benefit more than 12,000 people for an average cost per life changed of $2.49.

Myanmar - Residents of the remote areas of what was formerly known as Burma lack even the most basic health services.$30,000 opened two dispensaries which treat 44,000 villagers. Mosquito nets and plastic toilet pans inhibit the spread of disease for 4,000 people.Thousands of people feel the effects for a cost per person of $0.69.

Source: genevaglobal.com


What’s a Billion here or there?

I recently posted that the Bush Administration’s much-touted Millennium Challenge Corporation has failed to follow through on the $5 billion commitment to help poor nations.

Meanwhile on the 3rd anniversary of the Iraqi war, we learn that most of the just-passed House spending package, that is nearly $68 billion, is to pay for further military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Furthermore, this will push total war costs since Sept. 11, 2001, to nearly $400 billion. (Not that it matters now, but before the Iraq invasion in 2003, our administration officials predicted that costs related to the war would total less than $100 billion.)

A 68 Billion dollar increase. 400 Billion dollars total. These are big numbers, unfathomable really. Well, at least with a simple calculation I can figure that in relationship to the aforementioned $5 Billion committed (but not delivered) to help the World’s Poor, the US has spent 80 times that much on War these past few years!

A couple questions linger: One, as a taxpayer, do I want politicians spending our tax money that way? And two, how much is a “billion”, a figure tossed around rather casually in government circles?

One advertising agency did a good job of putting the “Billion” figure into some perspective:
a. A billion SECONDS ago it was 1959.
b. A billion MINUTES ago Jesus was alive on the earth.
c. A billion HOURS ago supposedly our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.

A billion DOLLARS ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes ago, at the rate our government is spending it.

When $8 Trillion Isn't Enough

Treasury Secretary John W. Snow informed Congress that the government has now taken "all prudent and legal actions" to avoid bumping up against the debt ceiling. The limit will need to be raised from its current level: $8,184,000,000,000.

If you aren't used to deciphering that parade of zeros, let us translate for you: $8.184 Trillion isn't enough. The administration is asking for an additional $781 billion.

President Bush has managed to rack up more new debt during his five years in office than the entire debt amassed by the United States through 1988.

And there is more to come: The president's budget envisions the debt rising to $11.5 Trillion by 2011.

"Future generations shouldn't be forced to pay back money that we have borrowed," Mr. Bush said in March 2001. "We owe this kind of responsibility to our children and grandchildren." Where is that responsibility now?

[From a Washington Post editorial]

Strong on defense

"If we say we need it, the American people can afford it," a high-ranking Pentagon official once told Vice Admiral John Shanahan years ago.

By "it" he meant weapon system after weapon system.

Today America can't afford it.

But still the Pentagon wants it all and what Shanahan terms the "Military-Industrial Congressional Complex" happily says yes, under the guise of appearing "strong on defense."

[Excerpt of an Opinion column, The Nation]


Bush does more for foreign banks than the needy

"Not only has President Bush broken his word on funding, he has not put in the effort required to turn this excellent idea into a lifesaving reality," says Jamie Drummond, executive director of DATA, the international aid organization co-founded by Bono.

Even leading conservatives who initially supported the program are now blasting the Millennium Challenge Corporation. "The great promise [of the MCC] was met with tremendous hope and anticipation," said Rep. Henry Hyde, who voted to authorize the initiative as chairman of the House International Relations Committee. But now, he said, "we see a program struggling to get off the ground . . . lacking the boldness necessary to break the cycle of poverty" - a failure that "belies the original vision."

Conor Walsh, who represents Catholic Relief Services, testified to Congress, “Many Hondurans were left disillusioned." In June, five African leaders visited the White House and "complained bitterly," about the program's failure to deliver on its promises.

The MCC steers aid to support business, while meanwhile slashing funding for children's health in the world's poorest countries. "Resources for fragile states in Africa … have been cut from last year, despite unmet needs they have right now," said Rep. Nita Lowey, who initially supported the MCC. "I find it extraordinary that the MCC model is being touted by the administration as an ideal and successful solution to poverty alleviation."

Bush got a tremendous PR boost by announcing the MCC, winning the support of Bono and other high-profile aid advocates. "Maybe this is all … a political game to make people think that the US government is committed to reality," says Rieffel of the Brookings Institution. "When, in reality, the US government doesn't care."

[Excerpts of an article by Joshua Kurlantzick, Rolling Stone]


Millennium Challenge Corporation: Bush's Fake Aid

In March 2002, with one war raging in Afghanistan and another looming in Iraq, President Bush announced that he intended to undercut terrorism by attacking poverty overseas through his aid initiative - the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

Under his watch, the president said, America would increase its annual foreign aid to $5 billion. And instead of giving handouts, Bush's plan recognized that poverty cannot be conquered without economic development, and that countries should continue to receive aid only if they use it effectively.

In a pattern that has become a hallmark of the administration, however, Bush's aid initiative - the Millennium Challenge Corporation - has become an object lesson in dramatic ideas followed by disastrous action.
- 4 years into the initiative, the Millennium Challenge Corporation has only offered assistance to 6 countries, offering just $1.2 billion out of the $5 billion promised.
- In some cases, the MCC appears to be using aid to reward countries that support the president's war on terror - even though it is not supposed to base assistance on political favoritism.
- Did we mention that those charged with setting up the MCC were drawn not from the world of international aid but from the Treasury Department and the White House budget office.
- Instead of bolstering America's image in the world, as Bush envisioned, the MCC is fueling frustration toward the US.

[Based on excerpts of an article by Joshua Kurlantzick, Rolling Stone]


The Millennium Development Goals

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight goals to be achieved by 2015 that respond to the world's main development challenges. The MDGs are drawn from the actions and targets adopted by 189 nations-and signed by 147 heads of state and governments during the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000.

These Millennium Development Goals are, in brief:
Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

MDGs Opinion: United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan
"We will have time to reach the Millennium Development Goals – worldwide and in most, or even all, individual countries – but only if we break with business as usual. We cannot win overnight. Success will require sustained action across the entire decade between now and the deadline. It takes time to train the teachers, nurses and engineers; to build the roads, schools and hospitals; to grow the small and large businesses able to create the jobs and income needed. So we must start now. And we must more than double global development assistance over the next few years. Nothing less will help to achieve the Goals."

MDGs Opinion: Authors of Paper For World Debt Day 2005 (Caroline Pearce, Romilly Greenhill and Jonathan Glennie) “The Millennium Development Goals … will not be met for 100 years at current trends! These are not notional goals for the TOTAL eradication of poverty, but were intended as achievable, realistic goals simply for the partial alleviation of EXTREME poverty, by 2015.”


UN seeks $680 M in Aid for Congo

The international community must provide $680 million in aid for Congo this year to stop a humanitarian disaster that kills -- every 6 months -- as many people as the 2004 Asian tsunami, a top UN official said.

“Too few understand that four million people have died and many more can die unless we put it right," U.N Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland told Reuters.The current daily death rate of 1,200 people was equivalent to a tsunami "every six months, year after year after year," he added.

In what some experts call the deadliest humanitarian crisis of the last 60 years, an estimated four million people have died in Congo, mostly from hunger and disease, since civil war began in 1998. It ended officially in 2003, but deaths continue.

In 2005, the world body received $125 million for Congo, half of what it sought and just one-tenth of what it received for the Asian tsunami. Non governmental organizations brought in another $125 million, he said.

[Excerpt of an article by Ingrid Melander, Reuters]


U.N. Claims Victory Sustaining Pakistan Quake Survivors

An airlift of aid carried by helicopters into the snowy mountains of devastated Kashmir has averted a second disaster for residents in the aftermath of the earthquake last October that killed more than 80,000 people.

The United Nations declared that the battle to sustain more than three million homeless survivors through the winter had been won, because of a comparatively mild season and a huge quantity of international aid.

Donor countries pledged $6.2 billion for quake relief and reconstruction last November. It was not immediately clear how much of that had been received.

The United Nations has secured only $376 million of the $552 million it sought from donors to sustain emergency relief operations for six months.

[Associated Press]


War on Terror needs more humanitarian efforts

Pentagon officials’ recently released counter-terrorism strategy acknowledged that "the American military's efforts to aid [2004] tsunami victims in Indonesia and to assist victims of Pakistan's [2005] earthquake did more to counter terrorist ideology than any attack mission."

Indeed, according to the Navy's commanding officer, Admiral Michael Mullen, the change of Muslim public opinion as a result of American aid is nothing less than "one of the defining moments of this new century."

The statements of our military's leaders point to a dramatic reconsideration of the means necessary to prevail against global terrorists.

For the first time since 9/11, both the Indonesian and Pakistani people - the largest and second-largest Muslim populations in the world - expressed a favorable opinion of the US, and at the same time, turned against support for Mr. bin Laden and terrorist attacks.

It is time we listen to our foremost military experts on what is truly required to win the war on terror. American humanitarian leadership is the proven path to winning Muslim hearts and minds. As the Navy's top officer Admiral Mullen said, "shame on us" if we fail to heed this message.

[Excerpt of an editorial by Kenneth Ballen, The Christian Science Monitor]

Pakistan and Indonesia Polls on USA

Reaching out to people on a human level was once a much larger part of U.S. policy, and successful in winning hearts and minds. If only the administration would listen to some of their military experts who do “get it”, as per this Christian Science Monitor op-ed:

The number of Pakistanis with a favorable opinion of the US doubled from 23 percent in May 2005 to more than 46 percent after earthquake aid was received from America. At the same time, the number of Pakistanis who disapproved of bin Laden doubled at almost the exact same percentage as those who became favorable to the US.

The effects of American aid in response to the Pakistani earthquake were clear: 78 percent of Pakistanis said that American aid to earthquake victims has made them favorable to the US - a figure that held even among bin Laden supporters.

The data from Pakistan is buttressed by similar findings from Indonesia. After the tsunami, 65 percent of Indonesians had a favorable opinion of the US as a direct result of American assistance, while support for terrorism declined in tandem.

A nationwide poll in Indonesia shows that one year after American tsunami assistance began, and despite the reports on Koran desecration and the eruption of violence over Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, Muslim public opinion has not only remained favorable to the US, but has increased as a direct result of American humanitarian assistance to the Indonesian people. Indeed, for the first time since 9/11, more Indonesians are favorable to the US than not.


Poverty, Aid and Terror

Have western governments asked themselves the simple question, “Is the poverty in some of these countries contributing to or causing terrorism?”

The United Nations seems to think so. Or, at least that's what a recently released report -- The Inequality Predicament: Report on the World Social Situation 2005-- says.

According to the report, the growing violence associated with "national and international acts of terrorism" is the result of stark economic and social inequalities and competition over scarce resources.

It also points an accusatory finger at the allegedly harmful effects of market and trade liberalizations, privatization and private enterprise.

As an antidote to this, the United Nations predictably prescribes more foreign aid.

For example, earmark more foreign aid for frontline states in the war against terrorism. Countries like Afghanistan are desperately in need of infrastructure after decades of war. Foreign aid, if used to build basic capacity structures -- like roads, bridges, sanitation and power plants; the type of things that we in the developed world take for granted -- would greatly assist in stabilizing a country like Afghanistan.


Rep. John Murtha: Despite Another $67 Billion

“Iraq continues to be mischaracterized by the President as the center for the Global War on Terrorism.

“It is estimated that there are less than 1,000 Al Qaeda in Iraq.

“What is happening in Iraq is a civil war. It is Iraqis killing Iraqis and our troops are also targets.

“We are depleting our resources in Iraq. [A couple nights back] the House Appropriations Committee passed the President's supplemental request, providing an additional $67 billion for the continued military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“With this supplemental, Congress will have appropriated nearly $450 billion for the war, running our federal deficit higher and higher while this country had a surplus when George W. Bush took office.”

--Rep. John Murtha, speaking at National Newspaper Association related


Doctors Without Borders’ independent funding

A commitment to quality and independent funding are key to the success of Doctors Without Borders, its U.S. head, Nicolas de Torrente, said during a lecture at Meredith College in Raleigh.

De Torrente is executive director of the U.S. office of Doctors Without Borders, an international humanitarian relief organization whose 2,500 field staff, including doctors and nurses, provides free medical care in about 80 countries worldwide.

The group works to alleviate suffering in locations devastated by crises, including war, famine and natural disasters.

The goal of Doctors Without Borders is to "reach people, whoever they are, without discrimination and to be able to focus efforts on those who need it the most," de Torrente said

To do that well, he said, the group relies on private funding.

"We've developed an independent funding base so we can focus on areas of biggest need with the most flexibility possible," he said. "We can't be reliant on government funding, or we can't do this."

[From an article by Ret Boney, Philanthropy Journal]


Literacy Dilemma in the English-speaking world

English is a global language, spoken by at least 1.3 billion people. And some also read English. But how well?

Amazingly, Bob C. Cleckler, claims from his research that there are more than 90 million functional illiterates in the U.S. alone, which amounts to a shocking 47% or more of U.S. adults.

Furthermore, the worldwide solution application as proposed by the author of Let's End Our Literacy Crisis
(1) has been recommended for more than two centuries by dozens of scholars.
(2) has been implemented in several nations smaller and larger than the U.S.,in both advanced and developing nations;
(3) has been proven effective by the founder of Laubach Literacy International (who taught adult illiterates in 300 languages, 98% of which--295 languages, his students became fluent readers of in less than three months)
(4) all reasonable objections to this approach have been debunked by Thomas Lounsbury, LL.D., L.H.D., emeritus professor of English, Yale University



Amnesty International Ambassadors of Conscience

Bono and the other members of the U2 rock band were named Amnesty International Ambassadors of Conscience for 2005 in Santiago, Chile, receiving praise for their efforts to bring worldwide attention to human rights abuses and promote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Sunday Business Post reported.

The iconic band, fronted by debt relief campaigner Bono, were given the honor by Chilean President-elect Michelle Bachelet in the National Stadium in Santiago de Chile.

Irene Khan, Amnesty International’s secretary general, said U2’s efforts to highlight human rights’ abuses had been unwavering.

“Their leadership in linking music to the struggle for human rights and human dignity worldwide has been ground-breaking and unwavering,” she said. “They have inspired and empowered millions with their music and by speaking out on behalf of the poor, the powerless and the oppressed.”


International Aid and Activism

A quarter of a million people filled the streets of Edinburgh last year to demand that the rich nations of the G8 take action to make poverty history.

Now, some of that cash is buying placards, flyers, badges and banners - and many of the donors are standing up to take a more active role in the increasingly politicized climate surrounding aid and development.

Aid has risen up the national and international policy agendas. The Make Poverty History (MPH) campaign saw Tony Blair ostentatiously sport a white wristband, while new Conservative leader David Cameron has put poverty among his six priority policy areas. Beyond the domestic arenas of Westminster and Whitehall, the summits of the World Trade Organization, or meetings of the G8 or EU ministers have become the focus of an international social justice movement - and are met everywhere by demonstrations.

Richard Miller, director of ActionAid, says charities have been "catching the mood" of a public that is increasingly engaged in social justice issues. At Oxfam, the charity's own figures show the scale of the huge rise in committed activism. The database of people who want to be involved in campaigning has grown from 20,000 names to 220,000 in the past four years.

Benedict Southworth, director of the World Development Movement - sees the big international charities repositioning themselves as more activist bodies. He welcomes this as a "fantastic" move.

Not all international aid agencies are stepping up their political activity, however. Jean-Michel Piedagnel, director of humanitarian aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières UK, says his charity stays clear of political activity in order not to compromise humanitarian access.

[The Guardian]


New philanthropists social investors

"Relative to the corporate environment, we are in the 1870s. But philanthropy will increasingly come to resemble the capitalist economy," predicts Uday Khemka, a young Indian philanthropist and a director of the SUN Group investment company owned by his family. Like many of the new generation of philanthropists, he has big but well-defined ambitions. "I want to help develop the infrastructure of philanthropy," he says.

The need for philanthropy to become more like the for-profit capital markets is a common theme among the new philanthropists, especially those who have made their fortune in finance. As they see it, three things are needed for such a philanthropic marketplace to work.

1. There must be something for philanthropists to "invest" in, something that, ideally, will be created by "social entrepreneurs", just as in the for-profit world entrepreneurs create companies that end up traded on the stock market.

2. The market requires an infrastructure, the philanthropic equivalent of stock markets, investment banks, research houses, management consultants and so on.

3. Philanthropists themselves need to behave more like investors. That means allocating their money to make the greatest possible difference to society's problems: in other words, to maximise their "social return". Some might operate as relatively hands-off, diversified "social investors" and some as hands-on, engaged "venture philanthropists", the counterparts of mainstream venture capitalists.

[Excerpted from The Economist]


Segway creator bringing water and electricity to the world's poor

Dean Kamen, the engineer who invented the Segway, is puzzling over a new equation these days. An estimated 1.1 billion people in the world don't have access to clean drinking water, and an estimated 1.6 billion don't have electricity. Those figures add up to a big problem for the world—and an equally big opportunity for entrepreneurs.

To solve the problem, he's invented two devices, each about the size of a washing machine that can provide much-needed power and clean water in rural villages.

"Eighty percent of all the diseases you could name would be wiped out if you just gave people clean water," says Kamen. "The water purifier makes 1,000 liters of clean water a day, and we don't care what goes into it. And the power generator makes a kilowatt off of anything that burns."

Kamen is not alone in his quest. He's been joined by Iqbal Quadir, the founder of Grameen Phone, the largest cell phone company in Bangladesh. Last year, Quadir took prototypes of Kamen's power machines to two villages in his home country for a six-month field trial. That trial, which ended last September, sold Quadir on the technology.

[From CNNmoney.com article]


Entrepreneurial power

Dean Kamen’s electric generator is powered by an easily-obtained local fuel: cow dung.

Each machine continuously outputs a kilowatt of electricity. That may not sound like much, but it is enough to light 70 energy-efficient bulbs. As Kamen puts it, "If you judiciously use a kilowatt, each villager can have a nighttime."

A satellite picture of the earth at night shows swaths of darkness across Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. For the people living there, a simple light bulb would mean an extension of both their productivity and their leisure times.

The real invention here, though, may be the economic model that Kamen and Iqbal Quadir, the founder of Grameen Phone, hope to use to distribute the machines. It is fashioned after Grameen Phone's business, where village entrepreneurs (mostly women) are given micro-loans to purchase a cell phone and service. The women, in turn, charge other villagers to make calls.
"We have 200,000 rural entrepreneurs who are selling telephone services in their communities," notes Quadir. "The vision is to replicate that with electricity."

During the test in Bangladesh, Kamen's Stirling machines created three entrepreneurs in each village: one to run the machine and sell the electricity, one to collect dung from local farmers and sell it to the first entrepreneur, and a third to lease out light bulbs (and presumably, in the future, other appliances) to the villagers.

Instead of putting up a 500-megawatt power plant in a developing country, he argues, it would be much better to place 500,000 one-kilowatt power plants in villages all over the place, because then you would create 500,000 entrepreneurs.

[Village Energy]


Entrepreneur’s plan for clean water

Dean Kamen, the engineer of the Segway, has invented a water-cleaning machine which he calls the Slingshot.

"Eighty percent of all the diseases you could name would be wiped out if you just gave people clean water," says Kamen. His water purifier makes 1,000 liters of clean water a day.

The Slingshot works by taking in contaminated water – even raw sewage -- and separating out the clean water by vaporizing it. It then shoots the remaining sludge back out a plastic tube.

"Not required are engineers, pipelines, epidemiologists, or microbiologists," says Kamen. "You don't need any -ologists. You don't need any building permits, bribery, or bureaucracies." He predicts, "In the 21st century, water will be delivered by an entrepreneur."

Kamen's goal is to produce machines that cost $1,000 to $2,000 each. Iqbal Quadir is going to try and see if the machines can be produced economically by a factory in Bangladesh. If the numbers work out, not only does he think that distributing them in a decentralized fashion will be good business -- he also thinks it will be good public policy.

[From CNNmoney.com article]


Google Philanthropy To Take On Disease

Public-health expert Larry Brilliant, who was named the head of Google Inc.'s new philanthropic arm, is forming an organization that will try to detect early signs of emerging, global health crises, such as bird flu.

The project will cost about $10 million to get off the ground.. Technology companies Google and Sun Microsystems Inc., as well as venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and the Omidyar Network, an investment group started by eBay Inc. founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, have expressed interest in supporting the project though none has made a commitment.

Dr. Brilliant wants to link his new group -- which he said could be a for-profit enterprise or a nonprofit -- to an existing Canadian-government group that monitors early cases of disease outbreaks, called the Global Public Health Intelligence Network. Dr. Brilliant said he has started negotiating with the Canadian government about the possibility of buying the group and integrating it with his new effort.

[Excerpt of article by Rebecca Buckman, The Wall Street Journal]