“Humanitarian aid can literally make the difference between life and death”

I am needed here in Sudan just as much, if not more so, as I was when I came here in 2007; so is the support of the international community.

Countries that should be at the forefront of efforts to prevent catastrophes such as famine and to relieve the effects of drought on some of the world’s poorest people are turning a blind eye. This sends a worrying message that leading economies are no longer interested in being part of efforts to mitigate suffering.

Part of the problem is that the narrative needs to change. Foreign aid has become a politically divisive issue. People assume the money is misspent, wasted on bureaucracy or that foreign aid just doesn’t work.

Of course, the system is far from perfect. In an ideal world, it would not just be about how much is spent to fix the immediate problems, but, rather, about the impact aid has on sustaining stable governments, tackling corruption, protecting human rights and the rule of law. Nonetheless, in the short term, I see what a positive impact humanitarian aid can have. It can literally make the difference between life and death.

There are people doing incredible work around the world every day to help preserve human life. These are not people tied to the international aid system, but people who independently tackle the needs of the most helpless and destitute and do so at great risk.

But individuals cannot tend to the world’s afflicted alone. The international community must provide the resources to help us better serve the people who need our services. At a time when famine is reaching a crisis point in parts of Africa, and countless children are dying of starvation, the need for support from the world’s richest nations is even more critical.

[Dr Tom Catena, the only doctor serving 750,000 in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains]

Further cuts to Australia’s Foreign Aid budget

In a disturbing trend, Australia’ foreign aid budget is being lowered again by $300 million over the next four years. Earlier this week The Australian reported that the money would be diverted to Australia’s intelligence agencies to boost the war on terror.

John Hickey, the CEO of Baptist World Aid, told Eternity, “We understand that protection and security is important, but the aid budget is vitally important for Australia as a wealthy nation to play it’s [part] as a global leader in helping to address the needs of vulnerable people around the world. … It seems that the government is not taking its responsibilities as seriously as we think it should around caring for vulnerable people around the world.”

With the hunger crisis across parts of Africa reaching catastrophic levels, Hickey says, “we believe it’s time to increase our collective commitment for the sake of people in extreme difficulty, rather than decreasing it further.”

Tim Costello, chief advocate of World Vision Australia, told Eternity, “At a time of the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War Two, yet another budget cut in aid is devastating,” says Costello, referring to the 60 million displaced people across the world. “The war in Syria, and famine in Africa; the only practical hope for them is humanitarian aid and development aid.”

“For Christians who take Matthew 25 seriously, both in their personal giving and lives, and in a nation (Australia) that still is the third richest on earth, to have checked out of sharing the load of desperate people, is really not just a failure of what Jesus teaches, but a failure of the Australian idea of a fair go.”

The CEO of Common Grace, a group of Christians passionate about justice, Scott Sanders, told Eternity, “As Christians, we should be deeply concerned at the latest round of slated cuts to Australia’s aid program. Our government has again chosen to place our self-interest above our responsibility to love our neighbor, to support our region, and to play our part in addressing the injustice of poverty in our world.

[Eternity]

A Surgeon in the Village

“A Surgeon in the Village” is the story of neurosurgeon Dilan Ellegala and his key role in a Norwegian-funded mission hospital in the hinterlands of Tanzania. The story neatly unfolds in three parts. The first traces Ellegala’s life from his birthplace in Kandy, Sri Lanka, through an almost natural trajectory to a medical career, which accelerated after his ever-supportive family emigrated to the United States. Ellegala eventually lands in Haydom hospital in Tanzania, where he discovers its austere conditions and unfamiliar cultural terrain. It is here that he meets and ultimately decides to train an assistant medical officer (AMO), Emmanuel Mayegga.

The second part puts Ellegala back in the U.S. where he struggles to balance his “day job” in an Oregon hospital with a persistent pull back to Tanzania. Ellegala soon cobbles together a non-governmental organization (NGO) of sorts in an effort to promote his “teach first” approach, which emphasizes the transfer of skills and knowledge as an alternative to the hand-out-driven paradigm of most global charities.

This story is compelling enough on its own, and author Tony Bartelme tells it very well. Embedded within it are two themes that thoughtfully converge upon the relationship between Ellegala and his Tanzanian counterparts in particular, and between the Western and developing worlds more generally.

First is global health. To get at this, Bartelme pauses occasionally to give the history of Western medicine and explain the basics of neuroscience. What this does is contrast the broader challenges of global health and the hard realities of practicing medicine in the African context. For instance, Bartelme notes that while Ellegala was at Haydom, there were a paltry three CT machines for all of Tanzania, and 70 surgeons for a population of 40 million.

The book’s second theme is anchored in what Teju Cole has elsewhere called the “White Savior Industrial Complex.” Here Ellegala confronts the tendency of Westerners to patronize Africans in order to provide an experience for themselves. For instance, he is driven to madness by foreign medical students sitting in the front row during Haydom’s staff meetings, treating Tanzanians like “the hired help.” Above all, Ellegala is dismayed by the cycles of dependency that seem to plague both large-scale development aid programs and short-term medical missions. Bartelme seems refreshingly aware that even thinking about such things amounts to a self-indulgent validation of privilege in and of itself.

[The Post and Courier]

Millennials are changing charitable giving

Many people think of Millennials as self-centered, selfie-snapping, uber-texting, uber-riding, narcissists. Even some Millennials share this opinion. Johnny Oleksinski, a Millennial himself, wrote in the New York Post:

“This is my number one rule: Do whatever millennials don’t. Definite no-nos include quitting a job or relationship the moment my mood drops from ecstatic to merely content; expecting the world to kowtow to my every childish whim; and assuming that I am always the most fascinating person in the room, hell, the zip code.”

He sounds like he’s loads of fun to be around.

But is this true? Are Millennials really the most selfish generation of all time? Are Millennials only obsessed with the Kardashians and Snapchat?

Millennials care more about others than you might think. The 2015 Millennial Impact Report reported that 84 percent of Millennials made a charitable contribution in 2015.

Read about 6 ways that Millennials are changing the face of charitable giving

Yemen war causing devastating humanitarian crisis

Pope Francis says he is praying for the safe return of a priest kidnapped 14 months ago in Yemen, yet again highlighting his concern for the country which is plummeting into what the UN is calling the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.

Millions of people continue to suffer in Yemen, a country struggling with military conflict, famine, and a failing health system, with a child dying every ten minutes. Humanitarian organizations are working hard to bring fresh water and medical aid to the people of Yemen, but their efforts are challenged by the ongoing situation in the nation.

“Sana’a airport has been closed since last August. Even if people have money, they cannot go for medical care. …It takes us, for example, three days … to send one person out of Yemen,” said CARE International Country Director Wael Ibrahim.

Ibrahim argues that it is the duty of humanitarian organizations and international governments to help. “Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East, at the bottom of the UN development index…Yemen cannot survive on aid alone. There has to be an investment in the development and recovery activities. We would like to see more money going into growing food, building infrastructure, facilitating the opening of the airport, and so forth.”

The Australian government recently announced their pledge to the humanitarian efforts in Yemen, saying they will give $10 billion. Ibrahim hopes this action will show the world that Yemen is important and needs to be addressed.

[Vatican Radio]

The motivation in humanitarian work

I stepped off the plane in Lima, Peru in 2009. Eight years later and I am living in Huaraz where I have created a humanitarian project called Changes for New Hope which reaches several hundred children each year.

What I have learned by being with these children and their families has been a deepened sense of my own compassion and love for humanity. Wealth is not measured by the accumulation of stuff. To recognize cash as the only measure of wealth is like recognizing potatoes as the only food.

There will be a tombstone with our names on it one day. The dash between our date of birth and date of death represents an entire life.

Most float through life without finding a purpose. I want to make sure there are passionate experiences that bettered the lives of many thousands on my dash.

[From an Opinion piece by Jim Killon, writing in ‘Living in Peru”]

Pope Francis delivers TED talk

The annual TED conference is known for featuring impressive speakers. But on Tuesday evening, one unannounced speaker took the audience by surprise: Pope Francis.

At first, the pope’s subject matter seemed familiar: “As I meet, or lend an ear to those who are sick, to the migrants who face terrible hardships in search of a brighter future, to prison inmates who carry a hell of pain inside their hearts, and to those, many of them young, who cannot find a job, I often find myself wondering: ‘Why them and not me?’ ”

But his message quickly moved to the conference’s core subject matter (technology and innovation). “How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion,” Francis said. “How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us.”

“People’s paths are riddled with suffering, as everything is centered around money and things, instead of people,” he said. “And often there is this habit, by people who call themselves ‘respectable,’ of not taking care of the others, thus leaving behind thousands of human beings, or entire populations, on the side of the road.”

Nearly 400,000 people around the world have already watched the pope’s video and seen him tell the tale of the Good Samaritan, which he called “the story of today’s humanity.”

“Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude,” Francis said. “It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility. Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.”

[NPR]

Unsung heroes: Dr Tom Catena

I met Dr. Tom Catena in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains — the site of an African war and famine few have even heard about — in a hospital overflowing with children. I saw bombs had ripped away their arms, flying shrapnel had taken out a baby’s eye, anti-personnel mines had shredded legs to jagged bone and ribbons of gangrenous flesh, infants suffering kwashiorkor and the other horrors of malnutrition.

Inspired by St Francis of Assisi, ‘Doctor Tom’ has worked almost every day, all day, since he arrived as the only surgeon for the Catholic hospital in Nuba nine years ago.

I asked him: “Why do you stay?” He replied: “There’s no other option. You leave and abandon everyone here or you stay and keep going.”

Heroes like Catena convince me that giving to charitable causes in Africa is the right thing to do, because at least some of what you donate will help rescue children like those in Nuba.

[The Spectator]

Who gives 0.7% of their gross national income to overseas aid?

Under legislation approved in 2015, the UK government is legally required to spend 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on overseas development assistance (ODA), popularly known as foreign aid. And Microsoft founder Bill Gates has urged the UK to maintain its promise to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas aid, warning that reducing the commitment would cost lives.

According to the latest figures from the OECD, in 2016 two G7 countries met this target: the UK and, for the first time, Germany. Other countries that spent at least 0.7% were Sweden, Luxembourg, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Denmark and Norway.

Earlier this year, British Prime Minister Theresa May described the target as a “critical pillar” of the country’s foreign policy. But some Conservative MPs and newspapers have suggested that the figure is too high and should not be maintained after the election.

The top 10 country recipients of UK aid in 2015 were Pakistan, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tanzania, India and Bangladesh. Humanitarian projects received the largest proportion of aid in 2015.

 [BBC]

Hillary Clinton warns President Trump of ‘grave mistake’ of cutting Foreign Aid

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that she thinks President Trump is making a “grave mistake” on foreign aid. In a speech on women’s rights at Georgetown University, Clinton said Trump’s proposed cuts to international aid in his budget would undermine American diplomacy.

“Turning our back on diplomacy won’t make our country safer,” Clinton said. “It will undermine our security and our standing in our world.”

Clinton’s comments about Trump came in a talk that was largely an impassioned call for advancing women’s rights around the world.

“Advancing the rights and full participation of women and girls is the great unfinished business of the 21st century, she said. “It is not a partisan issue, it is a human issue. A rising tide of women’s rights lifts entire nations.”

[TIME]

Africa has worst hunger crisis in 70 years amid US budget cuts

Africa faces the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since 1945, with more than 20 million people facing starvation, and any cut in funding to humanitarian agencies working in famine-affected areas will cause untold suffering, a spokesman for the World Food Program said, responding to questions about U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut $10 billion in foreign aid.

“Any cuts at this time are extremely significant, not just for us but for any U.N. agencies and any aid organization,” said David Orr, WFP’s Africa spokesman, at a media briefing in Johannesburg. “With the magnitude of needs at the moment is it vital that we continue with a high level of assistance.”

The current hunger crisis is in three African countries, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria, as well as nearby Yemen.

The U.S. is WFP’s largest donor and was one of the organization’s founders. Last year it contributed more than $2 billion, representing about 24 percent of WFP’s total budget, Orr said.

“The more dramatic cuts in any aid budgets … the more suffering there is going to be,” Orr said.

[Cox Media]

Bill Gates meets Trump to argue for foreign aid

Tech billionaire Bill Gates met with President Donald Trump and highlighted the “indispensable role that the United States has played in achieving these gains,” his foundation said in a statement.

Gates wrote a blog post Friday to argue that the U.S. shouldn’t slash humanitarian aid. Spending on projects overseas helps “keep Americans safe,” Gates wrote.

“By promoting health, security, and economic opportunity, they stabilize vulnerable parts of the world.”

American aid, Gates wrote, helps prevent and eradicate epidemics, citing polio and Ebola as examples.

To illustrate the security benefits of international aid, he praised former President Bush’s efforts to combat HIV/AIDS abroad with a program known as PEPFAR. Eleven million people with HIV are alive because of the program, Gates said, and “many more never got the virus in the first place because of the prevention efforts supported by PEPFAR.” What this meant, he continued is that there were more teachers, entrepreneurs, and other workers “contributing to strong, stable societies,” and Gates pointed to a study that showed that political instability and violence in African countries with PEPFAR dropped signficantly, compared to when PEPFAR was not in use.

[CBS]

The Christian case for foreign aid

The Bible is replete with references to caring for the poor in obedience to God. Jesus declares that loving our neighbor — wherever they live — is one of the greatest commandments, a corollary to loving God.

While the U.S. government doesn’t directly share this mandate, it plays a critical role in fulfilling the moral responsibility of all Americans to help those less fortunate. …Yet now, President Trump’s proposed budget threatens to severely cut that foreign aid.

At less than 1 percent of the federal budget — an amount analogous to the “widow’s mite” — foreign assistance promotes our values, our own prosperity and our nation’s security, all while providing a lifeline to the most vulnerable in the world, those Jesus called “the least of these.”

This isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do. If the U.S. government isn’t on the ground saving lives and promoting recovery and development — in solidarity with thousands of American aid workers and American allies — then global crises will proliferate and cause destabilization that eventually reaches our shores.

In an increasingly unstable world, this small but vital account is the ounce of prevention that is worth a pound of cure. Former secretary of defense Robert Gates has said, “Economic development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers.”

[Read full article by Richard Stearns (president of World Vision U.S.) and Sean Callahan (president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services)]

US no longer leads global efforts to mitigate suffering

President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to the United Nations, which runs agencies such as the World Food Program and UNICEF, come at a time when famine is reaching a crisis point in parts of Africa. The timing of the proposed cuts has sent chills through the international aid community, which fears that a retreat by the U.S. in relief funding could make a bad situation worse.

Just days before Trump’s budget was released, U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien warned that the globe is facing its worst humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II. Two years of drought and failed rains across much of Africa have affected 38 million people in 17 countries.

For decades, the U.S. has been the largest supporter of the World Food Program as part of a bipartisan congressional commitment to averting famine and starvation. In 2016, the U.S. paid 24% of the food program’s $8.6-billion budget, or about $2 billion. At present levels, the U.S. also funds 40% of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, 22% of the U.N. Secretariat, as well as 28% of the cost of U.N. peacekeeping operations.

Ben Parker, an analyst and editor at IRIN, a news agency specializing in humanitarian issues, said the U.S. humanitarian contribution was large in dollar terms, but in terms of the percentage of its economy, “the U.S. is not very generous.”

Scott Paul, senior policy adviser at the humanitarian agency Oxfam, said Trump’s budget blueprint sent tremors of alarm through the humanitarian community. “The message that it sends is that the U.S. is no longer interested in leading or being part of global efforts to mitigate suffering in the world,” he said.

[Los Angeles Times]

The US spends a lot less on foreign aid than you think

President Trump’s wants a 28 percent cut in America’s foreign aid funding, though some areas would go untouched — U.S. assistance to Israel, for example.

But Trump is playing to a strong feeling among Americans that we spend large parts of our national budget on international programs. That’s a persistent belief.

And a false one.

Guess how much of the U.S. budget is spent on foreign aid. Go ahead.

“When we ask the public to give us their best guess, we find on average they tell us 31 percent,” said Bianca DiJulio, associate director of public opinion and survey research at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

“The actual amount is 1 percent or less.”   Read more  

What a cut in US foreign aid could mean for this woman’s family

Last September, 19 months after fighting had erupted around her home in South Sudan, Alaakiir Ajok ran for the Uganda border. She found refuge in a settlement called Nyumanzi, where she was living with two of her four children. The other two disappeared in the chaos of conflict.

As of this week, Uganda is sheltering more than 761,000 other South Sudanese.

Ajok and her kids subsist on rations distributed by the World Food Program (WFP), and every month, she said, she would sell a portion of her sorghum for a bit of money to pay her children’s school fees. But when we met, WFP had just cut her rations in half, due to dramatic funding shortages. After that, Ajok had no sorghum to spare—which meant she had no money, and her son stopped going to school.

That was five months ago. On Tuesday, President Trump announced a proposal to cut the US State Department and USAID budgets by 30 percent or more.

The United States is by far the world’s largest contributor to humanitarian assistance in general, and the WFP in particular. International aid workers have been on edge ever since the election.

[Read full UN Dispatch article]

You don’t have to be rich to be a humanitarian

Rihanna, the Grammy Award-winning artist — whose full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty — was in Boston Tuesday to receive Harvard College’s 2017 Humanitarian of the Year award.

At just 18, Rihanna founded the Believe Foundation, which provided support to terminally ill children. And since then, she hasn’t much slowed down.

Her Clara Lionel Foundation — named for her grandparents — tackles a range of causes, from education to health and emergency response programs. And her work with the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project helped convince Canada to pledge $20 million to the Education Cannot Wait fund.

In thanking the university, Rihanna spoke about family, and her grandmother’s losing battle with cancer. She spoke of her upbringing in Barbados, and her childhood dreams of saving the world, one 25-cent donation at a time.

Mostly, she urged students to do their part, to make a commitment to help just one person.

“People make it seem way too hard, man,” she said. “You don’t have to be rich to be a humanitarian. You don’t have to be rich to help someone, you don’t have to be famous, you don’t even have to be college educated.

“My grandma always used to say if you’ve got a dollar, there’s plenty to share.”

[Boston Globe]

Rihanna named Harvard’s Humanitarian of the Year

Popular singer Rihanna has been named the 2017 Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year.

“Rihanna has charitably built a state-of- the-art center for oncology and nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat breast cancer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados,” said S. Allen Counter, the Harvard Foundation’s director.

“In 2012, she founded the nonprofit the Clara Lionel Foundation Global Scholarship Program [named for her grandparents] for students attending college in the U.S. from Caribbean countries, and supports the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project, which provides children with access to education in over 60 developing countries, giving priority to girls, and those affected by lack of access to education in the world today. ”

[Harvard Gazzete]

United Arab Emirates $8.8 billion in foreign aid

Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, Chairwomen of International Humanitarian City in Dubai, called for establishing a data bank to allow governments to document their humanitarian work. 

The Humanitarian Logistic Data Bank will depend on of the use of technology in charitable aid for a quick response to those in need, said Princess Haya, wife of Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, during the second day of the World Government Summit.

“We have to move away from conventional ways of providing aid. Innovation is necessary for humanitarian aid,” she said to a crowd of delegates, as she highlighted the role of smartphones in changing forms of aid in developing countries such as limiting the spread of Ebola in west Africa and targeting those in need in a quick manner. Drones and satellites were among the technologies that helped in providing aid.

Princess Haya noted that the United Arab Emirates has topped the list of donors to foreign aid, reporting a 34 per cent increase in 2015, reaching $8.8 billion.

She praised the UAE food bank initiative, recently launched by Shaikh Mohammed for the Year of Giving. “While reports show that current food waste is worth $2.6 trillion, which can feed three times of world’s population including the 800 million hungry people.”

[Khaleej Times]

Canadian view on xenophobic United States immigration and refugee fears

About 300,000 permanent immigrants come into Canada every year. That’s equivalent to about one percent of its population, one of the highest ratios in the world.

Canadians see immigration as critical to their economic success. The nation has invited in so many immigrants that today, one-fifth of the population is foreign-born. And Canadians don’t seem to wrestle with anti-immigrant nativism that has erupted in the U.S. and Europe.

These days, Canadians are taken aback when they look south. They see the climate of fear and anger that has broken out in America toward Spanish-speaking and Muslim immigrants.

“Canada has looked at the United States in many ways as an example of a welcoming society,” says Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. “And it’s disheartening for many Canadians to see the United States be so fearful, to be so xenophobic and not to be more welcoming to other folks in the world.”

Some Canadians wonder if that most American motto – E pluribus unum–”Out of many, one” – has moved north.

[NPR]