Outcome of the abduction of 4 British missionaries in Nigeria

The British government says one UK missionary who was kidnapped in Nigeria last month has been killed but three others have been freed.

The Foreign Office said on Monday that Alanna Carson, David Donovan and Shirley Donovan have returned to their families, but Ian Squire “was tragically killed.”

The four were abducted in the Niger Delta region on October 13.

The missionaries had been operating a series of clinics in Nigeria for the past 14 years, despite the high risk across Delta State from kidnappers, armed robbers and pirates.

Friends of Ian Squire branded his captors “despicable” as they paid tribute to the optician who had set up his own charity to save people’s sight in Africa. The 57-year-old ran his own opticians in Shepperton, Surrey, and had been founder and chairman of the Christian charity Mission for Vision since 2003. He founded the charity to provide training and eye equipment for clinics in countries including Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and Mozambique.

Monica Chard, a friend, said: “He was a lovely, quiet man who everyone knew and loved as the village optician. “He went out to Africa every year with the charity and his wife was also involved. He just wanted to help people see who otherwise would not have had any help.”

According to his website, Mr Squire had made 13 trips for the charity since 2003, accompanied by other opticians and volunteers, and in 2013 had joined forces with the Donovans on his first visit to Nigeria. Mr Donovan, a GP from Cambridge, and his wife, both aged 57, run their own Christian health charity called New Foundations, with a string of remote clinics in the Delta region.

[AP/The Telegraph]

Money spent on MDGs well-invested

A recent Brookings study revealed that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the development agenda set by the US and others for the first fifteen years of this century – were more successful than anybody knew. Bottom line: The study concludes that at least 21 million more people are alive today as a result.

This tells us that the simple MDG approach worked; the U.S. and other, smaller donors helped save a number of lives equivalent to the entire population of Florida. If USAID continues to focus on effective targets, the American public could be reassured that every dollar is achieving the most possible.

The reduction of childhood malnutrition deserves funds. Evidence for Copenhagen Consensus showed that every dollar spent providing better nutrition for 68 million children would produce over $40 in long-term social benefits.

Malaria, too, deserves attention. A single case can be averted for as little as $11. We don’t just stop one persons suffering; we save a community from lost economic productivity. Our economists estimated that reducing the incidence of malaria by 50% would generate a 35-fold return in benefits to society.

Tuberculosis is a disease that has been overlooked and under-funded. Despite being the world’s biggest infectious killer, in 2015 it received just 3.4 per cent of development assistance for health. Reducing TB deaths by 90 per cent would result in 1.3 million fewer deaths. In economic terms, this would bring benefits worth $43 for every dollar spent.

There are 19 such targets that deserve prioritization, because each dollar would do a lot to achieve a safer, healthier world – a result that leads to lasting benefits for the US. When it comes to development, everyone’s goal should be the same. Rather than slashing funds for development, the United States should maintain its global leadership by focusing on the areas where every dollar achieves the most good.

[Inter Press Service]

Donor fatigue grips USA

The charity World Vision International is a major provider of disaster relief across the globe. So when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, the group revved up its fundraising big-time. “We’ve raised just under $4 million in cash donations,” said Drew Clark, the charity’s senior director of emergencies.

Two weeks later Hurricane Irma roared through the Caribbean and Florida. This time World Vision brought in $900,000.

Then came the big earthquake in Mexico that killed more than 340 people. That fundraising appeal netted $150,000.

And for Hurricane Maria–which has left many of the 3.4 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico without reliable sources of power, food or even water–World Vision has only taken in about $100,000.

“There is clearly evidence of donor fatigue,” says Clark. “There’s just a limit to the amount of responses that we can successfully fundraise for.”

“I would say it is somewhat unprecedented,” says Leisel Talley of the epic cascade of disasters. She is leading the international component of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s response to the hurricanes. Talley says it’s not just that the U.S. has been clobbered with three disasters in a row. It’s that this happened alongside multiple other new crises since August.

[NPR]

LDS Church’s humanitarian aid to Africa and the Middle East

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will use $11 million in funds to assist victims of famine in eight countries in Africa and the Middle East. According to a press statement , “LDS Charities, the humanitarian arm of the Church, is partnering with 11 global relief organizations to support 25 projects in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen, Niger, Kenya, Uganda and D.R. Congo.”

The church’s donation of cash and commodities will benefit more than 1.1 million people for up to one year, according to the church.

LDS Charities is partnering with key non-governmental and faith-based organizations, including CARE International, Catholic Relief Services, Convoy of Hope, International Rescue Committee, Islamic Relief USA, Rahma Relief, Real Medicine Foundation, Save the Children, UNICEF USA, USA for UNHCR and the World Food Programme.

“With 20 million people on the brink of starvation and 5.7 million children dangerously malnourished in Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and northeastern Nigeria, it’s more important than ever for the international community to take action to prevent people from dying,” said David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme, in the church statement. “Our brothers and sisters in these countries need our help to beat back famine and stop the suffering of innocent people.”

“LDS Charities has consistently stepped up to help those who need it most in times of emergency,” said Prerana Issar, World Food Programme director of private sector partnerships. “Their trust in WFP and their compassion and drive to help those who cannot help themselves has made a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition around the world.”

[Daily Herald]

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]

Christians protest as new report shows devastating impact of Trump’s refugee policies

The global standing of the US when it comes to the world refugee crisis has dramatically slipped in the past six months, according to a new report released by Human Rights First, a leading non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization.

As a result of changes in US policy under Donald Trump’s presidency, global refugee resettlement is now predicted to fall by 30-40 per cent in 2017 as compared to 2016. The refugees most affected by this decline are women and children, including those who have suffered sexual and gender-based violence, as well as survivors of torture.

Emily Gray, the senior vice president for US ministries of the Christian charity World Relief, said: ‘In addition to women and children, the decision of the United States to allow fewer refugees also means that the US will accept the lowest number of refugees who have been persecuted for their Christian faith in a decade.’

Scott Arbeiter, World Relief‘s president, added that ‘we must appropriately balance security and compassion. This report clearly shows that we are not achieving that balance, and that people are suffering as a result.’

‘Through our work in Jordan, we see very directly the impact of the refugee crisis there, and these actions by the administration are compounding the struggles of refugees who are trying to find safety in countries that are already struggling,’ said World Relief CEO Tim Breene.

[Christian Today]

International Rescue Committee: “Americans oblivious to overseas suffering”

The vast majority of Americans are “oblivious” to the fact that more than 20 million people are on the brink of starvation in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria, according to a recent survey conducted by the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

A “staggering” 85 percent of Americans simply don’t know that these nations are facing such dire shortages of food and other necessary resources, IRC discovered.

Lack of awareness, however, does not imply deliberate lack of concern, IRC is quick to observe. Once Americans are briefed on the relevant facts, the organization notes, “the issue immediately rises to a top global concern.”

IRC goes on to note that “[n]ear-famine, which is affecting 20 million people in Africa and the Middle East, is likely the least reported but most important major issue of our time,” implying that the media is at fault for not keeping such a crucial issue at the center of public discussion.

The survey also found that most Americans favor providing more humanitarian aid, not less, as President Donald Trump has proposed: 68% of registered voters agree that foreign aid from wealthy nations like the U.S. is needed now more than ever.

“Millennials [78% concerned] see humanitarian aid as a defining issue for their generation, and the United States,” IRC‘s report notes. “On nearly every measure tested in the poll, millennials are more concerned than other generations, believe it is a moral obligation for the U.S. to provide assistance, and are most willing to engage.”

 [Common Dreams]

Former refugee: “Refugees will contribute to society”

In the 1980’s, faced with a swelling number of arrivals and growing reluctance from western governments to maintain resettlement opportunities, governments in Southeast Asia threatened pushbacks. In response, the multilateral Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA) was signed in 1989, bringing together commitments made by countries of origin, asylum and resettlement.

Saigon-trained architect Thanh Dang was among 63 people who packed onto a boat to leave Viet Nam in June 1989. After a week at sea, the crowded vessel reached Indonesia, where Dang ended up in the Galang refugee camp. He was ‘screened in’ as a refugee and subsequently resettled to the United States, where he became an architectural designer working on schools and medical facilities in Atlanta, Georgia.

Looking back on the life that the program gave him, he makes an impassioned plea to the international community and ordinary citizens grappling with today’s multiple refugee crises.

“Put yourself in the refugee’s position. They are just normal people. I don’t think anybody wants to uproot their lives and face an uncertain future if they don’t have to,” he said.

“If you give them a chance to rebuild their lives, refugees will contribute to society where they live. Please don’t be afraid of them, and welcome them.”

[Read full UNHCR article]

The best countries in the world to be an immigrant

A new ranking of the best countries to be an immigrant has placed Sweden in the top spot, closely followed by Canada, Switzerland, Australia and Germany. The United States, a country which was largely founded through mass immigration, came in seventh.

U.S. News and World Report, which compiled the ranking, said it looked at measures such as economic stability, income equality and job markets to create its list, using a special survey of the opinions of more than 21,000 business leaders and other elites, as well as members of the public.

Eric Gertler, co-chairman of U.S. News and the New York Daily News, said, “With the recent spotlight on immigration in the U.S. and abroad, we wanted to dive into its potential benefits and challenges on a country’s perceived economic status in the world.”

Specifically, immigration in Sweden became the subject of an unusual public debate in the U.S. this year, with President Trump suggesting at a rally in February that immigration had led to problems in Sweden and that the country should serve as a model for how the U.S. should not allow some immigrants in. “They took in large numbers and they are having problems like they never thought possible,” Trump said, sparking a flurry of angry responses from Swedes.

Sweden had become a popular destination for refugees from Africa and the Middle East over the past few years, taking in more per capita than any other European nation at the height of the migrant influx in 2015. Sweden wasn’t the only Nordic country to fare well–Norway, Finland and Denmark also took places in the top 10, largely due to favorable perceptions found in the survey about their economies and commitment to income equality. Other countries, such as Canada and Switzerland, were given positive marks not only for their economy but also integration measures for immigrants, such as language training.

[Washington Post]

Volunteers helping Syrian refuges in southern Turkey

This trip to the border was again a heart-wrenching trip.

Visiting several homes for amputees and victims of war left us stunned. This new center we visited is run by a single man, Abdulrahman, who with his own meager savings has pieced together two wooden dorms on a little plot of land for victims of the civil war. Thirty to forty people live in these little dorms, with separate parts for men and women.

Meeting the victims of the horrific bombing of Aleppo moved us all to tears. Seeing the blinding orange/white flashes of the bombs over Aleppo on your TV is one thing, but to meet the survivors of those flashes is something else. It adds a whole new dimension to the horrors of war, and will never leave you the same. We all were nearly speechless and incapable of even talking about this for days.

What do you say when you meet people so badly burnt, a mother with no legs, young men without arms or legs, how do you respond? Some of the worst cases cannot leave their rooms, or even their beds without great difficulty.

We delivered several truckloads of aid to families, and to a large orphanage. The orphanage has 24 rooms, and at times one room may house three mothers and their children.

The caretakers of the orphans told us that they were in desperate need of money for the rent before the 1st of the month or they would be thrown on the streets. One of our student volunteers gave his last 20 liras.The next day, I checked our mail and thankfully we can pay their rent for a few months. We can’t express how overjoyed we are, and they are, for your gifts, and helping us to adopt this family. We were elated, as it would be unimaginable to see these kids on the streets. They are in such difficulty, yet they recently received another mother and child, who had just crossed the border after fleeing Raqqa. Incredible!

The residents are eager for friendship, human warmth and radiate when you come visit them and treat them with dignity. They want you to stay, drink tea, and in their difficult situation, they will offer you a meal. How could we even think about complaining of our long hours in the heat when you meet those who have lost all?

Investing in poor children saves more lives per dollar spent, UNICEF study finds

Investing in the health and survival of the most deprived children and communities provides more value for money than investing in less deprived groups, saving almost twice as many lives for every $1 million spent, according to a new study by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“The evidence is compelling: Investing in the poorest children is not only right in principle, it is also right in practice – saving more lives for every dollar spent,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake in a press release on the study, titled Narrowing the Gaps.

The study backs up an unconventional prediction UNICEF made in 2010: the higher cost of reaching the poorest children would be outweighed by greater results.

“This is critical news for governments working to end all preventable child deaths at a time when every dollar counts,” Mr. Lake said, noting that investing equitably in children’s health also helps break intergenerational cycles of poverty and gives them a better chance of learning more in school and earning more as an adult.

The study analyzed new data from the 51 countries where around 80 per cent of all newborn and under-five deaths occur. It assessed access to six high-impact maternal, newborn and child health interventions: the use of insecticide-treated bed nets, early initiation of breastfeeding, antenatal care, full vaccination, the presence of a skilled birth attendant during delivery, and seeking care for children with diarrhea, fever or pneumonia.

[UN News Centre]

The man-made humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen

Batool Ali-yemen-civil-warBatool Ali is six years old, though you would never guess that from her huge, haunted eyes and emaciated frame. Ribs jutting out over her distended belly, Batool weighs less than 16 kilograms (35 pounds). She is one of nearly half a million children in Yemen suffering from severe malnutrition. (For photo of Batool Ali, click icon at top left.)

What makes these images particularly painful to look at is the realization that this humanitarian crisis is entirely man-made.

Yemen is in the grip of a vicious cholera outbreak and a near famine that have coincided to create one of the worst humanitarian crises on the planet.

But you won’t find the story splashed on front pages and leading news bulletins around the globe — Yemen’s grinding two-and-a-half-year civil conflict is often called “the silent war” because it receives relatively little attention in the media.

CNN has found that the Hadi government of Yemen and its Saudi Arabian-led backers are actively seeking to block journalists and human rights organizations from flying in on aid flights.

Jamie McGoldrick, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, warned CNN of the toll that the lack of media coverage is taking. He said the UN has been unable to raise even 30% of the funding it needs to deal with the crisis.

“Yemen is very much a silent, forgotten, I would even say a purposefully forgotten emergency,” McGoldrick says. “And because we don’t get the media attention, we don’t get the political support and therefore we don’t get the resources we need to address this humanitarian catastrophe.”

Since the conflict began, the Saudi-led coalition, which has US support, has imposed a blockade on the country that has left nearly 80 percent of Yemenis reliant on humanitarian assistance for their most basic needs.

[CNN]

The latest perk for tech workers … doing good

In the cutthroat technology industry where companies go to great lengths to attract and retain talent, employers have offered workers high salaries, company stock and unlimited vacation time. They’ve done free breakfasts, free lunches, free dinners and free booze. There’s kombucha on tap, ping pong and pool, nap rooms, yoga rooms and on-site gyms.

Now some tech firms eager to keep their employees engaged are turning to ways to have fun and do good.

“Millennials make up around 45% of the workforce, and they’d rather spend their money doing something cool and having an experience than buying or having material things,” said Jai Al-Attas, the 33-year-old founder of Loqules. “They’re a lot more socially aware, and they want to be part of companies or groups that give back to the community in some way.”

With Loqules, companies have the option of sharing the experience with people in need by partnering with a local nonprofit such as Safe Place for Youth, a homeless youth organization; A New Way of Life, which works with formerly incarcerated women; or the Salvation Army. Through these partnerships, companies often foot the bill so those in need can participate in workshops and experiences alongside employees.

This comes as little surprise to researchers and human resource experts, who in recent years have noticed a shift in how millennial employees want to be engaged and rewarded at work. As this demographic of workers continues to grow, “millennial values,” which Brookings describes as an emphasis on corporate social responsibility, a higher worth placed on experiences over material things, and community building, will come to shape the workplace.

“Years ago you never had a 25-year-old kid making $150,000,” said Karen Ross, chief executive of tech firm Sharp Decisions, who has seen her own employees increasingly express interest in doing more for the communities in which they operate. “Now they’re making good money. Nobody cares about free food or free beer. They’re more interested in making a difference.”

“People want to feel like they’ve had an impact,” Al-Attas said. “We’re not just saying, ‘Hey, we gave some money to a charity’ and then everyone pats themselves on the back. We get people from the charity into a room with employees so they can share stories and change their perspectives. That’s where this is going.”

[San Diego Union Tribune]

“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]