Much of Bangladesh under water as flood devastation widens

As the world’s media trains its sights on the tragic events in Texas and Louisiana, another water-driven catastrophe is unfolding throughout Bangladesh and parts of Nepal and India. Some 41 million have been affected by flooding since June, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The IFRC has described the flooding in Bangladesh as the most serious in 40 years. The organization estimates that 700,000 homes have been partially or totally destroyed and up to a third of its terrain — much of it farmland — left submerged, raising fears of a coming food shortage, as the country grapples to deal with a shortfall in staple produce.

At its peak on August 11, the equivalent to almost a week’s worth of average rainfall during the summer monsoon season was dumped across parts of Bangladesh in the space of a few hours, according to the country’s Meteorological Department, forcing villagers in low-lying northern areas to grab what few possessions they could carry and flee their homes in search of higher ground.

And still the rains keep coming. In Bangladesh alone, floods have so far impacted over 8.5 million.

“Providing clean water and sanitation are our major priorities right now. The floodwaters will soon become a breeding ground for deadly diseases such as diarrhea, malaria, dengue and Japanese encephalitis,” said Antony Balmain, IFRC‘s Communications Manager in Asia Pacific.

[CNN]

Worst flooding in Nepal in 15 years

600,000 people are affected by the worst floods in 15 years in Nepal. Thousands of houses have been inundated across the Terai province, and 80% of the arable land has been destroyed.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes, threatened by a sudden rise in water levels across the country. Heavy rains are still expected in the coming days. The death toll is likely to rise, and hundreds of thousands of people need emergency assistance.

Displaced people have been suffering from various infections due to contaminated drinking water and environmental pollution caused by the floods. Water borne diseases, fever, common cold, gastritis, conjunctivitis and skin infection are common among the flood victims. Children, women, older people and people with disabilities are particularly vulnerable.

[ReliefWeb]

Flooding in six Indian States –and climbing!

Months of flooding in six Indian states have caused huge economic losses and heaped misery on the millions of people. With millions struggling to cope in the flood-hit states of Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur and Gujarat, the Indian government is now warning of more floods to come in 12 other states over the next week.

“Flooding during the monsoon season normally happens from June to September, but this year’s floods have been much worse,” Hari Balaji, a consultant on disaster management, told DW. “It has wrecked the village economy and ravaged cities. We have failed to predict rainfall intensity and its impact.”

India’s disaster mitigation and response mechanisms have once again come into question as for weeks the floods have caused immense damages to barrages, crops and entire villages. Aid agencies and the Indian government’s own estimates reckon that over 1,000 people have been killed and more than 32 million affected – displaced or stranded –in this round of flooding.

Humanitarian organizations have warned the floods also have knock-on effects on children by disrupting their education and severely impacting their well-being in the future. “We haven’t seen flooding on this scale in years and it’s putting the long-term education of an enormous number of children at great risk,” Rafay Hussain of Save the Children in Bihar told DW.

“Unfortunately, like flood risk mapping, India fails miserably on forecasting. We have to modernize the flood forecast network and invest in better flood forecasting policy,” Sandeep Duggal, an expert on disaster risk reduction, told DW. Duggal also maintained that a lack of coordination and inadequate training at the ground level remained the biggest challenges in mitigating losses.

[Deutsche Welle]

Promoting STEM amongst young women in Lebanon

‘Girls Got IT’ is a joint Initiative between five Lebanese NGOs, led by Lebanese League for Women in Business (LLWB) in collaboration with the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education, in partnership with UNICEF and funded by the Kingdom of Netherlands.

Female students participate in hands-on activities and to learn more about the future of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), with influential speakers inspiring the girls and sharing their knowledge on the topics.

“The main goal of ‘Girls Got IT’, one of the initiatives UNICEF supports through its Youth Innovation Labs programme, is to promote digital literacy amongst young girls by introducing them to various careers and enriching their knowledge and developing their skills in digital and STEM fields, thus bridging the gender gap,” said UNICEF Representative Tanya Chapuisat.

The skills being taught and developed through the ‘Girls Got IT’ program aim to make young females better qualified for job positions and increase their experience in the STEM fields.

[UNICEF Lebanon]

New Orleans looks to Amsterdam for a new flood plan

Twelve years after Hurricane Katrina became the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, New Orleans is still struggling with infrastructure issues that make it difficult to stave off floods. As the city scrambles to fix its broken water pumps for the remnants of Hurricane Harvey, engineers are working with the Dutch government on a longer-term, environmentally friendly plan to let the water in and make New Orleans look more like Amsterdam.

“We can’t simply address the hard infrastructure issues,” like drain pumps and levees, said Justin Ehrenwerth, president and chief executive of The Water Institute of the Gulf, an independent research group. “We have to look at green infrastructure and develop better practices of living with water.”

Last month, The Water Institute joined forces with a Dutch research company, Deltares of the Netherlands, to develop nature-based solutions to New Orleans’ water problems. Dutch designers have been collaborating with New Orleans engineers and architects since 2006, but the work grows more urgent each year as climate change exacerbates the storms and coastal erosion that threaten to sink New Orleans. If the city can learn to embrace and store the water in productive ways, as Dutch cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam have done with their canal systems, flooding will cease to be as much of a threat.

[Huffington Post]

Ensuring women’s access to technology

Small scale irrigation technologies and practices at the household level is growing rapidly in Africa and Asia. Such small scale irrigation—like the use of small pumps—can increase incomes, improve livelihoods and strengthen resilience.

After a technology gets to a household however, men often become its de facto “owners”, even if the pump was awarded to the woman for example. Moreover, women often miss out on the benefits, as they are generally unable to control produce sales and the use of that income, except under limited conditions.

So how can we increase women’s participation and empowerment in small scale irrigation where there are no common water governance bodies, and no place for quotas, since the technologies do not fall under public schemes or irrigation projects of management institutions?

Projects that promote irrigation for women should first of all be aware that targeting women with irrigation technology alone is unlikely to give them full rights over the technology, since the rules of the household often override any project-level rules and expectations. Likewise, projects should be aware that attempts to empower women may fail if they do not also secure support from the men within households.

[International Food Policy Research Institute]

Muslims have assimilated well in Germany

Muslim immigrants in Germany have an easier time finding a job and building a community than those in Switzerland, Austria, France and Britain.

That’s according to a new study from the Bertelsmann Foundation. The researchers spoke to more than 10,000 Muslims who were either born in Europe or arrived before 2010, which means they did not interview the millions who traveled to Europe from Syria and the Middle East during the recent refugee crisis.

There are presently 4.7 million Muslims in Germany. According to researchers, 96 percent said they felt connected to the country.

About 60 percent now hold a full-time job, and an additional 20 percent are employed part time. These rates are similar to those for ethnic Germans, and higher than Muslim employment rates in the other western European countries studied. It’s probably thanks to Germany’s booming economy.

Muslim migrants do lag, however, when it comes to finding good jobs–they make less money than their German peers. And the most religious Muslims, who often dress differently and require time to worship during work hours, struggle to find employment in Germany. Devout Muslims had an easier time finding employment in the United Kingdom.

“When it comes to participation of Muslims in society, [it] isn’t as bleak as it is often presented in the media,” says Ayse Demir, spokeswoman for the Berlin-based Turkish community organization TBB. “It shows that a lot of Muslims feel integrated, but there is a lack of acceptance–and that’s also our perception. Participation isn’t a one-way street: It needs to come from both sides.”

[Washington Post]

The four famines in South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen

The so-called “four famines” currently afflict South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen.

The numbers are staggering. Some 20 million people are at risk of starvation. UNICEF estimates that nearly 1.4 million children face an imminent risk of death.

The US ambassador to the UN has called the famines “the largest food security emergency since World War II.” The UN seeks nearly $5 billion to help halt the four famines; only half of the necessary funds have come in. At least $2.2 billion more is needed this year to stave off the worst.

Despite the Trump administration’s general skepticism of foreign aid, the United States has largely answered the call. Washington has pledged nearly $1.2 billion for famine relief since November.

Germany, Britain and Sweden have given generously and disproportionately, while others, like Saudi Arabia, have failed to meet their pledges. Still other countries, like Russia, have yet to meaningfully get in the game.

It’s here that President Trump could rack up a win for his administration and for humanity. When a president conveys the gravity of an impending catastrophe to the American people and explains the country’s role in averting it, they tend to support it.

The administration should challenge other wealthy countries to follow our lead, and publicly recognize those who do. In a divided country and jumbled world, foreign policy successes are difficult to come by. A victory against famine would not make a bad first year accomplishment.

[CNN]

Climate migrants might reach up to one billion by 2050

Imagine a world with as many as one billion people facing harsh climate change impacts resulting in devastating droughts and/or floods, extreme weather, destruction of natural resources, in particular lands, soils and water, and the consequence of severe livelihoods conditions, famine and starvation.

Although not yet based on definite scientific projections, this could be the scenario by 2050. If so, 1 in 9 human beings would be on the move by then.

For its part, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) forecasts 200 million environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis. Many of them would be coastal population.

Another warning comes from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which estimates that some 135 million people may be displaced by 2045 as a result of desertification alone. Up to 12 million hectares of productive land become barren every year due to desertification and drought alone, which is a lost opportunity to produce 20 million tons of grain, adds the Bonn-based Convention secretariat.

[All Africa]

The latest on refugee traffic to Europe

During the first seven month of 2017, 119,300 refugees and migrants have arrived by sea and land to Europe, mainly through Greece, Italy, and Spain.

There is now a decrease in the number of refugees and migrants entering Europe via Italy (by 43%) compared to the same month last year, coupled with an increase through the Western Mediterranean route to Spain by more than triple. Arrivals to Spain however remain much smaller than those arriving via the Central Mediterranean route.

Meanwhile arrivals through the Eastern Mediterranean route to Greece increased during July 2017 in comparison to last year. Refugees mainly originate from Syria (37%) and Iraq (13%). While the number of sea crossings between January and April this year was vastly lower (97%) than during the same period in 2016, the number of arrivals between May and July this year was 37% higher than in the same three-month period last year.

[UN High Commission for Refugees]

The coming confrontation between Assad and jihadists in Syria

Once famous for its olive groves and archaeological ruins, Idlib is now the last redoubt of Islamist opposition to Assad. The capital, Idlib City, has been under Islamist control since 2015, and today the two million people living in the province — many of them refugees from other parts of the country – could be caught up in a disastrous final confrontation between jihadists and the Assad regime.

The prospects offered by life in Idlib remain dire, with unemployment, petty crime, and psychological trauma prevalent among the population.  Ahmad Awad, a civil society activist, laments “There is no real government here at all. All that people are thinking about is trying to make a living and their fears about what may come in the future.”

The main group currently in control of Idlib is the Al Qaeda-affiliated militant group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly the Nusra Front. Under HTS, Idlib has also become a haven for international jihadists who have migrated to Syria, transforming parts of the provincial territory into a strangely multicultural world of Uzbeks, Chechens, Europeans, and others.

A negotiated “deescalation” with the Syrian government and its allies has prevented a major external assault on the province, but this cold peace is unlikely to last forever. Eventually, Idlib will likely face a full-blown military attack by the Assad government and its Russian, Iranian, and Lebanese allies. In a panel discussion in Washington, D.C. last month, the U.S. special envoy for the coalition against the Islamic State described  Idlib as “the largest Al Qaeda safe haven since 9/11,” signaling that the international community is also unlikely to tolerate a province under HTS’s control.

When the battle for Idlib does come, it may be the biggest humanitarian catastrophe in a civil war that has already claimed over 400,000 lives.

[The Intercept]

Saudi coalition to blame for half of Yemen child casualties

A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition was responsible for an “unacceptably high” 51 percent of child deaths and injuries in Yemen last year, according to a draft United Nations report seen by Reuters.

The draft report on children and armed conflict, which still has to be approved by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and is subject to change, blamed the Saudi-led coalition for more than 680 child casualties and three-quarters of the attacks on schools and hospitals in Yemen.

It will be up to Guterres to decide whether to return the Saudi-led coalition to a child rights blacklist annexed to the report. The coalition was briefly added last year and then removed by then-U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon. At the time, the Saudi-led coalition had been named on the blacklist after the U.N. report blamed it for 60 percent of child deaths and injuries in Yemen in 2015, plus half the attacks on schools and hospital.

The Saudi-led coalition began an air campaign in Yemen in March 2015 to defeat Iran-allied Houthi rebels.

[Reuters]

A future outside the camp

Soe Meh is 21 years old. She was born in Ban Mai Nai Soi refugee camp in Thailand, where her parents fled to more than 20 years ago, running away from the violence that was blighting their village in Myanmar.

Soe Meh doesn’t know how life is outside a camp: she grew up, studied, made friends, fell in love, had a daughter… all within the camp where she was born. However, since 2015 she has been working with ACTED to help the members of her community to be prepared for a life away from the camp.

ACTED has been providing vocational and life skills training to young refugees since 2013, aiming to prepare them for a potential voluntary return by developing skills in line with Myanmar labor market needs. Hairdressing, computer, motorcycle repair or hotel services are some of the courses offered, all of them complemented by a life skills course designed to ensure that the participants have all the necessary information and tools to jump into the work world outside the camp. How to manage time, take decisions, communicate, work in a team or develop a CV are some of the topics covered during the life skills course provided by Soe Meh, now an ACTED Life Skills Trainer.

Soe Meh is very talkative and always smiling. Among the refugees, this is not a very common feature, as they are usually shy and quiet. She hopes that, one day, her two-year-old daughter will enjoy a life outside the camp and she is proud to say that she will be able to help her and guide her in her path.

[ReliefWeb]

Hello Neighbor – Up close and personal with a refugee family

It all started with a Thanksgiving dinner last November, when Sloane Davidson, a Pittsburgh native, hosted a family of Syrian refugees to share in the great American tradition of roast turkey, cranberry sauce, and pecan pie.

“They are such kind and sweet people,” Davidson said, recalling the November evening. “I would sit with them and drink Turkish coffee and they would tell me about their journey” from Turkey, where the family had spent two years after fleeing from Syria.

The two families kept in touch, and soon Davidson invited them to more of her family gatherings. The friendship has now grown into something bigger: Hello Neighbor, a mentorship program that matches American families with refugee and immigrant families who have recently arrived in the United States.

Refugees arriving in the United States are assisted by one of nine resettlement agencies, which help families with essential services like housing, employment, food, medical care, and counseling. But the agencies only provide assistance for the first 90 days, after which the refugees are basically on their own.

It is here that Hello Neighbor steps in, helping refugees with the long process of adjusting to a new culture and integrating into life in the United States. So far, twenty-five families from Bhutan, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan have been matched with 25 American families through Hello Neighbor’s pilot program in Pittsburgh. Over a four-month period, the mentor families are encouraged to have “one quality interaction a week” with their assigned refugee family. Hello Neighbor also organizes regular get-togethers, like potluck dinners, picnics, and a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game.

Hello Neighbor taps into “this feeling of neighborhood, of community, and this longing for how we used to support new people who moved into our neighborhood,” said Davidson. “We are social creatures, and we like to share, and we like to be there for each other,” she added.

While the program establishes mentor-mentee relationships between families, Davidson said that the goal is to educate and empower both sides. “There’s as much to learn on one side as there is on the other,” she said. The refugees “are people to look up to. These are people who have persevered,” she added.

[Washington Post]

Honoring a great humanitarian Dr. Ruth Pfau

Very few Americans are familiar with the work of one our greatest humanitarians, the late Dr. Ruth Pfau. The German-born nun and physician devoted more than half a century of her life to the cause of eradicating leprosy in Pakistan and died last week at the age of 87.

Pfau was born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1929. Her earliest memories were of a world disfigured by evil: the flash of swastikas, the inexplicable disappearance of Jewish schoolmates, the screams of friends and neighbors during Allied bombing campaigns. As an undergraduate studying medicine at Mainz she met a Dutch concentration camp survivor who spoke of her ability to forgive those who had imprisoned her. Her encounter with this exemplar of mercy changed Pfau indelibly. She was received into the Catholic Church and after completing her medical studies she joined the Daughters of the Heart of Mary.

Later, as a missionary nun assigned to work in Bombay she found herself held up with visa issues in Karachi, Pakistan. Here by another providential turn of events she happened to visit a so-called leper colony in which sufferers from Hansen’s disease had been left to die in conditions of indescribable agony. Pfau saw this and refused to leave. At first she worked with nothing but a tent. Three years later she was able to found a clinic, the first of what would eventually be more than 150, many of them in areas of astonishing remoteness. Her patients, many of them children, often came to her from caves or remote hills where they had been left by relations who feared that seeking treatment for them would spread their infection.

In 1996, Pakistan was declared officially leprosy-free, and the vast network of hospitals and clinics Pfau established continue to this day to provide treatment for a variety of illnesses, including tuberculosis, and to coordinate relief services in the event of natural disasters.

In the words of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Pfau “may have been born in Germany, but her heart was always in Pakistan,” where she came “at the dawn of a young nation, looking to make lives better for those afflicted by disease, and in doing so, found herself a home.” It is unsurprising that in her adopted country she was one of the most admired living people or that, in this officially Muslim nation, her Catholic requiem at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Karachi will be an official state funeral.

In the rotting flesh of Pakistan’s lepers Pfau saw the beauty of men and women made in the image of God. Her example reminds us that the world, even at the worst of times and in the most wretched and miserable of places, can be full of light.

[The Week]

Why migrant flow to Italy shrinking dramatically

Italy’s top law enforcement official recently said that his nation’s aggressive approach to halting migration across the Mediterranean was making progress, amid a steep drop in the number of migrants arriving on Italy’s shores in the past month.

The sharp drop in the number of asylum seekers entering Italy comes as migrant advocates warn of rising dangers for those who remain in Libya or who set out into the Mediterranean for the perilous voyage. There are fewer ships rescuing migrants after several aid organizations suspended their operations in recent days, following a muscular declaration by the Libyan coast guard that it plans to expand its patrol zone beyond national waters.

If the traffic holds steady, migration pressures on Europe could significantly ease after years of mounting strain. But a calmer Europe probably means worse conditions for the asylum seekers in Libya, a war-torn society where migrants have been subjected to torture, slavery and imprisonment, critics say.

Italy’s stepped-up approach to the migrant flow came after a June ballot-box blow to the governing center-left party in local elections, when a wave of anti-migrant mayors and local councilors were swept into office around the country. Italian leaders have imposed strict rules on rescue ships, and they have also pushed the Libyan government to do more to patrol its frontiers. The pressure from the Italians has been accompanied by promises of aid to Libya. But critics say that Italian leaders are pursuing short-term electoral gain at the cost of migrants’ lives.

Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children also suspended their rescue operations after the Libyan decision. The aid groups are concerned that the Libyan coast guard might menace their ships. The coast guard has boarded and impounded rescue vessels in past years, and it has also fired warning shots at rescuers.

[Washington Post]

South Sudan refugees in Uganda exceed one million

As the number of refugees from South Sudan in Uganda passes one million – the vast majority of whom are women and children – the United Nations refugee agency reiterated its call for urgent additional support.

“Over the past 12 months, an average of 1,800 South Sudanese have been arriving in Uganda every day,” said the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in a statement to the press. “In addition to the million there, a million or even more South Sudanese refugees are being hosted by Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic,” it added.

More than 85 per cent of the refugees who have arrived in Uganda are women and children, below age 18 years.

“Recent arrivals continue to speak of barbaric violence, with armed groups reportedly burning down houses with civilians inside, people being killed in front of family members, sexual assaults of women and girls, and kidnapping of boys for forced conscription,” emphasized UNHCR, explaining that even as thousands of refugees arrive, aid deliveries are increasingly falling short.

The UN agency underscored that although $674 million is needed for South Sudanese refugees in Uganda this year, so far only a fifth of this amount, or 21 per cent, has been received. “Elsewhere in the region, the picture is only marginally better,” the statement continued, saying that while a total of $883.5 million is needed for the South Sudan situation, only $250 million has been received.

The funding shortfall in Uganda is now significantly impacting the abilities to deliver life-saving aid and key basic services.

[UN News Centre]

August 19 celebrates World Humanitarian Day

Every year on August 19, the international community recognizes World Humanitarian Day—a day to celebrate the hard work of aid workers everywhere, to remember the friends and colleagues our community has lost, to advocate for stronger protections and better and safer access to people in need, and to demand accountability and justice for violations of international humanitarian law.

Worldwide, attacks against aid workers have tripled in the past ten years. In 2016 alone, statistics on major attacks against aid workers are alarming:

  • Attacks against national aid workers in 2016 are almost triple the number of attacks against international humanitarian personnel, with 245 national victims and 43 international victims.
  • In 2016, 158 major attacks against aid operations were documented, in which 288 aid workers were victims: 101 aid workers were killed, 98 were wounded, and 89 were kidnapped.

This year, the global community is coming together for World Humanitarian Day to stand against attacks on aid workers and civilians: because the people who put their lives on the line to help those in need and the civilian men, women, and children who live in the midst of war and conflict are #NotATarget.

[Action Against Hunger]

Global warming and crop harvests

Each degree of global warming will cut into harvests of the world’s staple crops, according to a new study that takes a broad view of the agricultural research field. Twenty-nine researchers published the paper this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Wheat, corn, rice and soybeans make up two-thirds of humans’ caloric intake. Each crop reacts differently to rising temperatures, and the effects vary from place to place. On average, though, the world can expect 3.1 to 7.4 percent less yield per degree Celsius of warming, according to the research.

The Paris climate agreement, which the United States plans to quit, has committed the international community to less than 2 degrees Celsius of warming by the end of the century.

Rice, a main food source for developing countries, could decline an average of 3.2 percent. Some research pointed toward an even greater impact — as much as 6 percent. Soybeans, the world’s fourth-most important commodity crop, could yield 3.1 percent less per degree.

The researchers only studied the direct effect of rising average temperatures, but indirect effects could change things, too. Water stress and drier soils might drag down harvests. So could more frequent heat waves. Climate change could also affect pests, weeds and diseases.

The United Nations predicts the world’s population will grow to 9.8 billion by 2050 from 7.6 billion today. Warmer conditions could make it harder to grow enough food for so many mouths, and the crops that do grow could offer fewer nutrients.

[Climatewire]

3 things US medicine can learn from Doctors Without Borders

On any given day, Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) stations up to 30,000 doctors, nurses and other volunteer personnel in more than 60 countries. In recognition of its pioneering efforts across several continents, the nonprofit was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999.

Meanwhile the United States is suffering a major health crisis. Tens of millions of Americans live without health insurance while the uncertain future of healthcare policy threatens the coverage and well-being of millions more. Hundreds of thousands of patients die each year from avoidable medical errors, preventable diseases and unnecessary complications from chronic illness. Our medical technology is outdated, our drug prices continue to skyrocket, and our physicians have become so frustrated that most (58 percent) would discourage their children from pursuing a career in medicine.

I am optimistic that our problems can be solved. To that end, I believe Doctors Without Borders can teach us three valuable lessons.

  1. The Power of Mission. On volunteer trips, physicians work 14 to 16 hours each day, often in scorching heat and without pay. Upon returning home, they almost never mentioned the travails. Instead, they spoke of the camaraderie, their sense of purpose, and the memories they will cherish for the rest of their lives. Compared to working in hot, dirty and under-resourced environments, you’d think the American medical office – with its air conditioning and running water – would feel like a vacation. Surveys demonstrate the opposite. One-third of doctors are dissatisfied with their work. Many describe being depressed. They lament all the time spent filling out forms, the isolation of working alone, and their frequent battles with health plans over prior-approvals and reimbursements. Unless physicians can reconnect with the fundamental purpose of their profession – helping patients – the cynicism and “burnout” afflicting doctors today will only worsen. Understanding how Doctors Without Borders has revived and nurtured this sense of purpose in its physician volunteers would be a great place for our country to start.
  2. The Essentials of Organization. Inefficiencies in U.S. medical centers have become the norm. The failings of U.S. healthcare – namely, its high costs and under-performance – aren’t the result of flawed doctors, nurses and staff. They’re the consequences of a broken delivery system, one that lacks operational efficiency and clinical effectiveness. Relief organizations like Doctors Without Borders place great importance on getting the right support in the right place at the right time. If our nation did the same, we could raise clinical quality and make health coverage more affordable for all.
  3. The Importance of Clarity. During volunteer endeavors, all doctors understand what they are doing and why. To a person, the goal is clear: Save as many human lives as possible. It’s hard to imagine a clearer “metric.” We may want to believe the U.S. healthcare system is designed to maximize the lives saved. But if that were true, we would not trail the 10 other wealthiest nations in health outcomes – not when we spend 18 percent of our GDP ($3 trillion annually) on healthcare.

Doctors Without Borders, and its tens of thousands of volunteers, has much to teach American medicine. … I hope my donations to Doctors Without Borders will serve as an investment in the health and medical education of both our country and our planet.

[Excerpts of Forbes article by Dr. Robert Pearl, a clinical professor of surgery at Stanford University]