Category: Philanthropy

World Humanitarian Day tribute to aid workers on the front lines

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Today, World Humanitarian Day, the world honors all humanitarians – many working in their own communities – who are going to extraordinary lengths in extraordinary times to help women, men and children whose lives are upended by crises and the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Amid a global pandemic, unprecedented needs and growing insecurity, aid workers and health-care responders are staying and delivering to the world’s most vulnerable people.

  • The dedication, perseverance and self-sacrifice of these real-life heroes represent the best of humanity as they respond to the COVID-19 crisis and the massive increase in humanitarian needs it has triggered.
  • Last year was the most violent on record for humanitarians, with 483 attacked, 125 killed, 234 wounded and 124 kidnapped.

Humanitarian workers are being tested like never before, struggling with unprecedented movement restrictions and insufficient resources as needs are outpacing funds.  And all too often, they risk their own lives to save the lives of others. Read more

[WHO]

Doris Buffett and the Sunshine Lady Foundation

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Doris Buffett, a self-styled retail philanthropist, who once declared that her billionaire younger brother, Warren Buffett, “loves to make money and I love to give it away,” has passed away at age 92.

When Doris inherited millions in Berkshire Hathaway stock from a family trust in 1996, instead of clinging to it like a security blanket, she dedicated the rest of her life to giving it away—all of it—mostly to individuals in trouble through no fault of their own. She gave away well over $100 million of her own money. She said she wanted to give it all away; that she wanted the last check she wrote to bounce due to “insufficient funds.” 

She began the Sunshine Lady Foundation, helping battered women, sick children, and at-risk kids who otherwise would never have had the chance to go to college. She also funded college programs for prison inmates, lowering recidivism. And she did it through “retail philanthropy,” often making personal phone calls to those who needed help, one by one. 

Doris shunned what she called “the S.O.B.’s” — symphonies, operas and ballets — and instead concentrated on the underprivileged.

Despite a life filled with negative experiences, Doris kept her heart open, focusing on the needs of others. She’d been knocked down repeatedly, only to get up, brush herself off, and go on. So there was no greater joy for her than knowing she had given someone else a hand up.

Americans can’t travel to Europe

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We’re used to thinking of our blue US passports as keys to almost anywhere. Due to Covid19 spread in the US, we are now forced to experience travel as others do.

We now find ourselves in the uncomfortable position more familiar to the Syrian, Nigerian and Iranian citizens who are routinely, unilaterally denied entry to the US and other countries, no matter their individual actions, belief systems or political persuasions.

Being stuck on the sidelines while the rest of the world gets to experience the joy of travel also provides us with a rare opportunity to think critically about the meaning of global citizenship. An awareness of and compassion for the kinds of challenges other people and communities face is a cornerstone of global citizenship.

{Might this be a time to reflect on making] visitors to the US – from tourists to refugees – feel more welcome and accepted.

Another change should involve never again taking our own sense of welcome and acceptance for granted, in Europe or anywhere else. After all, this sense of entitlement has often led to bad behaviors like insulting Spanish ticket sellers for not speaking English, carving names into Rome’s Colosseum, and bathing in the Trevi fountain. Such actions not only cast a negative light on Americans but result in penalties that affect all tourists, such as barricades around major attractions. They also put a wedge between visitors and residents that threatens to cut off the kinds of cross-cultural exchanges that are such important elements of global citizenship. How can we build connections to other people when they – often rightly – believe we don’t respect their homes?

It’s also time to think more critically about global travel. We must acknowledge its costs in terms of both climate change and “overtourism”, which encompasses the diverse environmental, social and cultural impacts of tourism to already heavily trafficked areas. If we want to bequeath any elements of our current world to future generations, we must reduce our carbon footprints and overall impact on the locales we visit. This may mean forgoing trips to bucket-list destinations in favor of lesser-trod locales or simply exploring closer to home.

[Excerpts of an Opinion piece in The Guardian by Tamara J. Walker]

Twitter CEO donates $1 Billion to coronavirus relief

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Billionaire Jack Dorsey is joining a growing list of celebrities and business leaders who are using their wealth to help in the battle against coronavirus.

The 43-year-old, who is CEO of both Twitter and digital payments service Square, announced that he will be transferring $1 billion to focus on providing relief for victims of coronavirus, and then shift to girls’ health and education when the disease is finally tamed.

“I’m moving $1B of my Square equity (~28% of my wealth) …to fund global COVID-19 relief,” Dorsey wrote on Twitter.

“After we disarm this pandemic, the focus will shift to girl’s health and education, and [universal basic income].”

[People]

Ten-minute coronavirus test for $1 could be a game changer

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Already exhausted from testing for monkeypox and Lassa fever, Nigerian molecular bio-engineer Nnaemeka Ndodo had to work well past midnight earlier this month to find out if six Chinese construction workers were infected with the coronavirus. Ndodo had to collect samples from a hospital an hour away in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, then wait for six hours to get the results in what’s one of only five laboratories able to test for the virus in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation.

In about three months’ time, U.K.-based Mologic Ltd., in collaboration with Senegalese research foundation Institut Pasteur de Dakar, could shorten that wait to 10 minutes with a test that will help a continent with the world’s most fragile healthcare system cope with the pandemic.

With few resources and staff, authorities are racing to contain the spread of the disease in Africa, which accounts for 1% of global health expenditure but carries 23% of the disease burden, including hundreds of thousands of deaths each year from malaria, HIV/Aids and tuberculosis.

Thirty-six of 54 countries on the continent have the capacity to test for the coronavirus, but a spike in cases could overwhelm laboratories. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Sunday he struck a partnership with Chinese billionaire Jack Ma to distribute between 10,000 and 20,000 test kits and 100,000 masks per African country, as well as newly developed guidebooks for treatment.

Separately, the Ethiopia-based Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention expects to distribute 200,000 tests across the continent next week, mostly from Berlin-based TIB Molbiol GmbH, according to the group’s head of laboratory, Yenew Kebede.

“There is no shortage of lab tests in Africa, but what we want is the faster, cheaper test to quickly confirm if there is an outbreak and contain it before it gets bigger,”said Rosanna Peeling, chair of diagnostics research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Using technology from home pregnancy and malaria tests, Mologic’s saliva and finger-prick kit could be ready for sale by June for less than $1 apiece.

“We are ensuring that these tests are made accessible at the cost of manufacture,” said Joe Fitchett, medical director of Mologic, which received a $1.2 million grant from the U.K. government to develop the test.

The current Covid-19 tests, known as PCR tests, detect the genetic material of the pathogen in a laboratory process that can take several hours and cost over $400 in some private facilities.

[Bloomberg]

Coronavirus emergency aid funding

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The costs of responding to coronavirus are challenging healthcare systems and governments in some of the world’s richest countries. In poorer countries and war zones, as well as host countries for refugees and other people on the move, the costs could be overwhelming.

In the most vulnerable countries, where public healthcare is weak at the best of times, adding to public debt is not an attractive solution. The numbers that really matter are for grants – to governments, aid groups, or service providers. Aid funding can pay for more staff, treatment facilities, drugs, and protective equipment.

Some of that money will have to be redirected from existing pots of funding: for example in Afghanistan, a contingency fund managed by the UN has allocated $1.5 million for corona preparedness. The Global Fund for HIV, TB and malaria – a large multi-donor aid pool – will allow some funds to be redirected to coronavirus. The UN’s global emergency response fund, the CERF, has put up $15 million. Aid budgets may have to be adjusted in the coming months more radically as the pandemic evolves, potentially diverting spending from other priorities.

It’s likely to become a major area of international aid spending.

The WHO had, as of 1 February, estimated new global spending requirements of $675 million for three months of “priority public health measures”, uses a three-step process:

  • It ranks 194 countries on five elements of preparedness and response needs: community transmission, localized transmission, imported cases, high risk of imported cases, preparedness.
  • On average, it proposes a country would need roughly $65 million in extra expenditure. 
  • Then, the document tabulates the amount of foreign aid needed proportional to the country’s readiness: “category 5” countries would need 100 percent of the spending package and “category 1” countries can look after themselves. 

As for its own role, the biggest donors to the WHO are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the US and UK governments – all three paying over $7 million.

[The New Humanitarian]

MacKenzie Bezos sells $400M in stock after pledge to give away billions

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife, MacKenzie Bezos, has divested herself of about $400 million worth of the Amazon stock she received as part of the couple’s divorce settlement — potentially providing the wherewithal for the charitable activities she’s planning.

There’s no indication what the proceeds were used for, but shortly after the divorce was announced, MacKenzie Bezos said she signed the Giving Pledge, which commits her to giving half her fortune to philanthropic causes.

[Yahoo News]

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet’s wealth doubles in a decade despite generous giving

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Bill Gates and Warren Buffett may have pledged to give most of their wealth away to charity but the billionaire philanthropists appear to be engaged in a losing battle with that as latest figures show their wealth over the last decade has in fact doubled.

In August 2010, Gates and Buffett spearheaded a movement of the U.S.’ richest people to promise to give away most of their wealth to address problems in society. Known as the Giving Pledge, it now includes 200 people around the world with the aim of setting a “new standard of generosity among the ultra-wealthy.”

But The Bloomberg Billionaires Index released on Friday shows that the Microsoft co-founder can’t outrun the growth of his fortune, which is worth $22.7 billion more than it was last year, putting his total net worth at $113 billion. (Back in 2010, he was listed as having a net worth of $53 billion.)

Meanwhile, Buffett, the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, according to the latest Bloomberg list, is worth $89 billion. (In 2010, he was listed as having a net worth of $47 billion.)

That the billionaires have been generous is indisputable. According to one estimate by Vox, published in April 2019, the founder of Microsoft had given away more than $45 billion through The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, mostly to causes working to combat global poverty.

Buffett had made charitable contributions of $27.54 billion in the 10 years to 2017, according to USA Today.

[Newsweek]

Christmas celebrates the birth of a refugee

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Jesus was born in a dirty, stank manger because there was no room in the inn. Shortly after, Joseph and Mary are forced to flee to Egypt with their young child. In other words, our scriptures say Jesus came to us as a refugee.

As a homeless rabbi he said, “Foxes have holes, birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Jesus was homeless.

After a short 33 years, he is arrested and tortured, charged with all sorts of things, and eventually executed by the state, a victim of state-sanctioned murder dying on a cross with a condemned man on his left and another on his right. From the cradle to the grave, Jesus felt the pain of the human condition.

The world we live in, like the world Christ lived in, is ravaged with violence and poverty. Being a Christian in the current era should mean preaching good news to the poor … The Christmas story teaches that God is with us — if we are with the poor.

That is what Christmas should be … but it is easy to forget the story. Read more