Donald Girskis Visits Borgen Project HeadquartersDonald Girskis, a business guru who has created grand success with Boost Mobile and ShoreTel, brought enthusiasm and encouragement to The Borgen Project today as he visited headquarters for the first time here in Seattle.

Girskis’ business talent saw him at the start and formation of Boost Mobile, which under his leadership grew from an innovative idea to $1.8 billion in sales in just 5 years. Additionally, Girskis’ expertise in business then led him into the position of Senior Vice President, World Wide Sales, at ShoreTel, in which he resided from February 2008 to March 2012. This exemplary background in business has granted him the extraordinary opportunity to travel across the globe.

Through his travels across the globe, Girskis has seen the realities of both developed areas and less developed areas. Traveling to less developed countries and seeing the harsh realities of poverty has impressed upon him a calling to aid those who are less fortunate. He realizes the extremely difficult situation that millions are born into out of no fault of their own.

Girskis finds that The Borgen Project is important to the global humanitarian cause and he is passionate about becoming a part of this team. He was brought to this Project because he likes the fact that we can and do make a difference through advocacy for the world’s poor through our economic, humanitarian, and security perspective.

Girskis’ particular travel to Kenya has impacted the way he sees global development. He describes his trip to Kenya as an unusual juxtaposition between the traditional red masai robes and spears of the villagers and their possession of cellphones.  It was a prime example of how markets open for US companies when poverty is alleviated and poor people’s lives are elevated.  This reinforces that not only does foreign aid help the humanitarian cause, but it is good for job creation right here in the US. Girskis’ prime experience and passion is a great fit with The Borgen Project. The potential is exciting and unending, welcome aboard Donald Girskis!

– Evan Walker

Meningitis Vaccines Created For AfricaProviding vaccines for children in Africa may be easier if vaccines created for Europe or the U.S. were redesigned for Africa. In 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) took the first step with the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP). The aim of MVP was to eradicate the meningitis epidemic internationally, with a particular focus on the African countries that had received financial aid from the Gates Foundation.

MVP developed the MenAfricVac vaccine. The Serum Institute of Indian Limited then produced and tested MenAfriVac on people between the ages of 1-29 in the meningitis belt, which includes countries like Mali, Gambia, Senegal and Ghana.

MenAfriVac was determined to protect people from ages 1-29 from meningitis caused by meningococcal A. It also was found to be the first vaccine that could be kept for up to 4 days at 40 degrees, and is currently priced at $0.50 a dose.

“This is the first time that a vaccine intended for use in Africa has been tested and submitted to regulatory review and approved for this type of use. And we expect this announcement to build momentum for applying the concept to other vaccines and initiatives, allowing us to save more lives in low-income countries,” said Michel Zaffran, director of Project Optimize, the PATH-WHO collaboration.

PATH and WHO believe vaccines against yellow fever, hepatitis B, HPV, rotavirus and pneumococcal disease could all be kept at higher temperatures than the typical 2-8 degrees prescribed by the manufacturers.

“We’re now working with one manufacturer to re-label hepatitis B,” said Simona Zipursky from the WHO. “It’s something people have become more and more aware of as possible, but as an immunization community we have been a little bit afraid.”

Evenly Adda, the Acting Municipal Health Director of the Kessena Nankana East, said the outbreak of meningitis has reduced significantly since MenAfriVac was introduced. Last year only one out of the six people diagnosed with meningitis died.

But, MenAfriVac remained unable to protect children under 1 year old.

This has been fixed with the Navrongo Health Research Centre’s (NHRC) discovery of a new conjugate vaccine which protects children under 1 year old from meningitis.

The new conjugate vaccine was created through the efforts of NHRC’s research team, health centre staff, district health management team, regional health directorate and with the help of collaborators that include WHO, UNICEF, MVP, and the University of Sienna.

The Principal Investigator of the Research, Dr. Abraham Hodgson, said the new conjugate vaccine will be available at EPI in 2015. He also said that the Centre is working on the development of a vaccine that can fight various types of meningitis.

– Kasey Beduhn

Source: The Guardian
Photo: Meningitis Vaccine Project

US AID Helping Eliminate HIV and AIDS in Nigeria

“The United States Agency for International Development, USAID, has expressed commitments towards ensuring that pregnant women and [sic]People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria are provided with adequate medical services,” report Vera Sam-Anyagafu and Prisca Sam-Duru of allAfrica.

The effort of providing proper medical equipment and training is part of the USAID mission to save one million lives, notes Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator, during his official visit to Island Maternity in Lagos, Nigeria.

This arm of US foreign policy emphasizes the fight against AIDS and the United States’ investment in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of providing adequate maternal healthcare worldwide. Having proper prenatal care and enforcing proper hospital procedures and training has helped eliminate disease transmission of HIV and AIDS in Island Maternity and Dr. Shah believes that this result bodes well for the elimination of HIV and AIDS in Nigeria as a whole.

In his words, “…if Nigeria can replicate what has happened in this hospital throughout this country, it will be well out of its way to achieving its goal of saving one million lives and the United States is proud to be the primary partner to help achieve that outcome.”

– Nina Narang

Source: allAfrica
Photo: The Guardian

Women's Property Rights Success in Rural KenyaLandesa’s Kenya Justice Project has successfully negotiated women’s property rights in rural Kenya. Landesa, actively fights to attain and provide land property for those in global poverty and has successfully worked with USAID to target the progress of women’s rights in Kenya.

Recently, the Kenyan constitution was amended to grant more freedoms and political access to women. Property rights (in the form of access to land), is often taken for granted in most developed countries. But many developing countries, like Kenya, have not guaranteed rights for women. Additionally, the majority of those denied secure access to land rights are rural women farmers. Therefore, the heavy advocacy for the inclusion of women in state practices and formal constitutions is necessary for successful development and in this case, development of Kenya.

Landesa’s program in Kenya has seen success in marriage disputes as women’s written consent is necessary before property transactions are approved. Women are also increasingly able to acquire their own land to live on and farm independently of men. Another vital aspect to the progress is that women are now eligible to become elected as an elder and make larger impacting decisions, a role that was previously male dominated. More girls also attend school, which has now balanced the gender ratio of students.

Women’s access to property rights allows greater individual and political security and is a forward step in progress. Gender equality is vital to development as it “has the potential to end the cycle of poverty by enabling women to contribute to community decisions and govern family resources and money wisely.”

Evan Walker

Source: ONE

Panel Discusses the Millennium Development GoalsLast Friday, a high-level United Nations panel met in Liberia to discuss the UN Millennium Development Goals, one of the few successful international efforts aimed at addressing poverty, beyond 2015. Co-chaired by President of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron, the panel made up of 27 world leaders is part of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s post-2015 initiative to discuss international development targets and advise on how to focus the international community’s efforts to end extreme poverty.

Started in 2002, the eight Millennium Development Goals of the UN Millennium Campaign are: End Poverty and Hunger, Universal Education, Gender Equality, Child Health, Maternal Health, Combat HIV/AIDS, Environmental Sustainability, and Global Partnership.

The objective of last Friday’s discussion was to renew, replace and replenish these goals and their sub-targets.  Present at the conference was Save the Children advocate Brendan Cox who commented that the members of the panel mostly differ on the foci of the new framework. “In our view, the framework can do lots of things: advance debates, encourage a normative shift, start to redefine development – but at its core must be abolishing absolute poverty in all its forms. That’s both because we think ending absolute poverty and focusing on the world’s poorest people is the most important thing, but also because we’re worried that without clear prioritization the panel and the ultimate framework will flounder, be unable to prioritize and unable to get specific. Such a framework would remain at 30,000 feet and struggle to gain political purchase if it could even be agreed.”

Prior to attending the panel, Prime Minister Cameron along with President Sirleaf visited a local school in need of books and computers. Cameron asked the children what they wanted to be when they grew up, to which many answered doctors and lawyers. “That is very impressive. In my country, they all want to be footballers or pop stars,” joked Cameron. Cameron made mention that he hopes to include higher quality education to be included in the world poverty goals.

Cameron has also emphasized the need to focus on extreme rather than relative poverty. “Liberia is a country that was absolutely devastated by conflict and civil war,” he said. “It is now recovering but there is still desperate poverty. I think it is very important we keep a focus on eradicating extreme poverty.

“Here in Liberia, one in 10 children do not make it to the age of five. But I also think it is important we look at those things that keep countries poor. Conflict, corruption, lack of justice, lack of the rule of law. These things matter, as well as money,” he said.

Key documents, reports and ongoing research on the post-2015 agenda are available on post-2015.org.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: Post2015UNUN Millennium GoalsThe GuardianThe Guardian
Photo:DFID

 

Accountability Promised on Aid PledgesAt the African Union Summit, British Prime Minister and Chairman of the G8, David Cameron re-asserted his conviction today to end extreme poverty. Patrick Wintour of The Guardian notes Cameron’s emphasis on “responsible capitalism” and accountability, the latter to which Cameron cited there will be “an accountability report when the G8 meets in Northern Ireland in June”.

Accountability seems to be a buzzword in recent politics as the pressure mounts for the United Nations to succeed in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, set to expire in 2015. The time is coming for individual nations to own up to the promises they had made to succeed in these goals in 2010.

The Guardian reports that Cameron promises to pressure western countries that have been less proactive on their aid pledges. The news source contends, “Britain has maintained its pledge to ringfence 0.7% of its gross domestic product for aid, something which has been fiercely opposed by some in Cameron’s party.”

This percentage yields a large impact and is a higher percentage of the gross domestic product than what the United States has contributed, which was reported to only contribute 0.19% of its gross domestic product in 2010. Although the size of the American economy is much bigger than that of most nations, the country may be held accountable for its false promises. In the past few years, the allocation of funding for foreign aid in the U.S. Budget has decreased because politicians seek to assuage the repercussions of the 2008 financial crisis.

– Nina Narang

Sources: The Guardian, The Huffington Post
Photo: The Muslim Weekly

Chinese General Secretary Visit To Fuping CountyXi Jinping who is a General Secretary of the Communist Party of China visit the Fuping County late last December. Fuping County is regarded as one of the most impoverished localities in China with an annual net income per capita that is less than half the set poverty line of 2300 yuan, or $390 USD.

Xi Jinping visited two villages’ homes, clinics, and businesses and spoke with each community concerning income, food, education and medical care. Xi’s visit was broadcast on national television to showcase the rural poor of China. Fuping County resident Tang Zongxiu imparted, “The General Secretary knows life here is difficult and he visited us to ask about our situation. He won’t let us suffer.”

Following his visit to Fuping County, government and private sponsors donated money, food, and other household items. Government work crews and researchers were dispersed and also aided the county. Xi stated, “The most arduous and heavy task facing China in completing the building of a moderately prosperous society is in rural areas, especially poverty-stricken regions.”

The General Secretary emphasizes a renewed focus on policies that support agriculture, rural areas, farmers, and poverty alleviation. Xi Jinping also condemns the embezzlement of poverty-reduction funds. Xi commented on Fuping County remarking, “I want to know how rural life is here. I want to see real life.” Xi Jinping is next in line to become president of China following incumbent President Hu Jintao.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: CCTVNY TimesShanghaiist

Measuring the Development of the WorldSince stepping down from his leadership role at Microsoft in 2008, Bill Gates has been writing an annual public letter on global issues as well as the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In the 2013 letter, Gates focuses on the issue of measuring development. Measuring progress would allow for a coherent assessment of the effectiveness of the efforts.

Gates’ letter proposes that philanthropy and government programs have to turn towards the business model example. This model emphasizes a clear evaluation of profit in order to measure their rate of progress towards their goals. Gates refers to the quantification of the decrease in child mortality rates in Ethiopia as an example of setting an explicit and measurable goal.

Along with Gates’ letter, Hans Rosling, Swedish academic and developer of the Trendalyzer, produced a video for the release of the letter. In the video, Rosling discusses why the world can no longer be simply divided into two poles of developed countries and developing countries.

Rosling’s study of the number of children per family and mortality rates explains the rapid development that has occurred in the world within the past 50 years. According to this model, a large number of developing countries have moved into the section of the developed countries.

By measuring these global trends, we can better understand the development of the world.

– Pimrapee Thungkasemvathana

Source: WSJ
Photo: Flickr

Syrian-Americans Head Directly to Front-Line of AidIf you want something done right, then you have to do it yourself. Even if that means traveling to dangerous locations with $1600 worth of baggage fees. For every report on monetary aid to Syria, there is an equally compelling report on how that aid fails to reach its intended recipients. Instead of refusing to donate money to avoid becoming part of the problem, many Syrian-Americans are completely skipping the middleman and heading straight to the heart of the matter themselves.

Every few weeks, Omar Chamma makes his way out of his Orange County home leaving behind his wife and three children. By the looks of the dozens of bags he carries with him, it’s clear he is not going on any normal trip. Omar Chamma, originally from Damascus, has been returning to the Syrian-Turkish border to hand-deliver much-needed supplies. “Every time I fly out of Istanbul, I will say, you know, this is my last time – I’m not going to go back again. Then I sit down and think about what I’ve seen. I’ve seen the desperation in their eyes down there. And every time I come back there, there is nobody there showing up to help them.”

There is no huge cargo plane, no guarded UN delivery trucks, and no transfer of money. In his luggage, Mr. Chamma stuffs as much food, medical supplies, and blankets as he can. The rest he will buy once in Turkey with the almost $1.5 million he has collected over the past year from fellow Syrian-Americans living in and around Southern California. He isn’t the director of a non-profit nor volunteering for one. This real-estate investor operates a one-man organization; no red tape, no bureaucracy, and no one to report to.

Except for his wife. Although his family has become used to his frequent trips (he has made 7 in the past year), it doesn’t take away from their constant worrying. His wife Mavis Benton Chamma states, “Every time he goes I just leave it to God. If it’s something is going to happen, at least I know he’s doing what he believes in.”

Although not as independent as Mr. Chamma, Sama Wareh has had the same calling to return to her homeland and help directly in any way she can. Her parents, however, were not in any way excited about it. Because of her promise to them not to cross into Syria on her trips, Sama has remained across the border in Turkey focusing on finding escapees who have not yet found a camp or somewhere to stay. She helps buy food for them and find somewhere safe and warm for them to live. She insists however that on her next trip, she has no intention of staying away from Syria despite her parents’ pleadings.

For many of us, leaving our families and jobs is not easy. Mr. Chamma has been blessed with the money he has raised and the support of his family to do what he feels in necessary to save his people. Sama Wareh, an artist, is able to work around her home lifestyle to go out to Syria and make an immediate difference in the lives of many. They may not be saving millions of lives, but the manner in which they do help Syrian refugees is unparalleled to the way in which the UN and other agencies and organizations deliver their aid.

When hearing these sorts of stories, remember that everyone is given a different path and purpose in life. Your heart may desire to drop everything and go out to the front-line but facing reality is equally important to make sure you make the right decisions. For many of us who donate money through an organization, read and write articles, and discuss global issues with family and friends, our jobs can be as effective as what these Syrian-Americans do. If the timing is perfect and the feeling is genuine, those who wish to eliminate all the unnecessary ‘fluff’ filling the gap between them and a cause they are passionate about will be able to. The millions of dollars donated to Syria and any other country will never compare to the face to face interactions and immediate life-changing moments that Omar Chamma and Sama Wareh have been lucky enough to experience and that many of us will hopefully have a chance to experience as well.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source:npr :All Things Considered
Photos:BBC News

Germany Contributes More to The Global FundDirk Niebel, Germany’s Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, made the announcement that Germany plans to provide a total of 1 billion euros to the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) when he spoke at the World Economic Conference on January 24th. The 1 billion euros will be distributed in the current period of 2012 to 2016.

Germany is already the third-largest supporter of the Global Fund. USAID boasts that with more than 1,000 programs in 151 countries,  “Global Fund support has provided 4.2 million people with antiretroviral treatment, detected and treated 9.7 million new cases of infectious tuberculosis, and distributed 310 million insecticide-treated nets to protect families from malaria transmission.”

Germany, USAID, private donors, and the rest of the international community keep striving for new ways to improve and implement life-saving strategies around the globe. It is great news that Germany is willing to step up with a large commitment and hopefully, it will encourage all member nations of the U.N. to consider following suit and increasing their donations.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: USAID