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

Save the Children Builds on MDGs - Goals for 2030Save the Children has proposed its goals for a post-2015 development agenda. Ending Poverty in Our Generation lists ten major goals, aiming to end extreme poverty globally by 2030. Building on the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), whose progress on its 8 development goals have not been consistent, Save the Children hopes to play a part in realizing the eventual global impacts by delineating their priorities.

Save the Children’s Chairman Harpal Singh praises the MDGs for raising 600 million people out of poverty and providing 56 million children access to schools and education. This significant improvement in the past couple of decades shows that the end of extreme poverty is attainable. To work towards that end, Save the Children acknowledges the faults in the MDGs’ framework, which should be addressed dynamically, while also proposing new targets for creating a sustainable future.

The report proposes that the political process at the level of the UN needs to be cohesive, that inequality has to be tackled at its roots for the progress of every group of people to advance, and that a mechanism should be created to hold governments accountable in global cooperation for development.

The 10 goals proposed by Save the Children, aiming for progress by 2030, are as follows:

  1. Ending extreme poverty by generating growth inclusively
  2. Securing universal access to sustainable food, water and sanitation
  3. Providing universal basic health care, and preventing child and maternal mortality
  4. Providing education for children everywhere, and ensuring that the children are learning
  5. Creating a global environment where children can live free from violence and are protected in any conflict
  6. Creating accountable governance
  7. Establishing strong global partnerships in working for development
  8. Creating societies that remain resilient through disasters
  9. Creating a sustainable and healthy environment universally
  10. Delivering sustainable energy universally

This proposal puts forward a set of universally common goals that draw on the strength and successes of the MDGs to ultimately create a brighter and more sustainable future.

– Pimrapee Thungkasemvathana

Source: Trust
Photo Source: Save the Children

"Survival Still" Offers Help in DisastersThe “Survival Still” System was announced a few months ago by inventor Glenn Meder. It is a new water distillation system that changes unsanitary, undrinkable water into water that is completely safe for human consumption. Contaminated water of any kind can be transformed into drinkable water, including muddied or ocean water. This product could be incredibly helpful to people in disaster situations, or even those who normally live with limited access to safe drinking water, as most of the world does.

The system relies heavily on distillation; it boils the water and collects the steam, which is the only pure part of the process. The Survival Still is made of stainless steel and does not need any filters. As seen in the photograph above, the Survival Still only needs the water and heat to provide fresh drinking water for the user. In any case, the process can be done in almost any location, provided there is an acceptable heating source.

Although the Survival Still was primarily created for victims of catastrophes such as Hurricane Sandy or other devastating natural disasters, it can be used by those who constantly struggle for access to clean drinking water, such as those in the developing world who face poverty on a daily basis. Many people do not have easy access to clean, safe drinking water that many U.S. citizens enjoy. They travel miles to reach clean water, and if they choose to drink water closer to their homes, they run a high risk of receiving potentially fatal waterborne diseases.

The design of this product was mastered over 20 years, and the current version is simple but functional. The reason Meder created the Survival Still was both to give one to every home in the United States (just in case) and also to help attempt to solve the water crisis that is occurring on a global scale. The lack of water in developing countries is one of the biggest issues of today, and the Survival Still, if distributed properly, could help move us towards a sustainable solution.

– Corina Balsamo

Source: Water World

Curbing Maternal Death In EthiopiaWhile Ethiopia’s health system has improved, women are still dying from common birthing complications that can occur before, during and after childbirth. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) reports that approximately 25,000 maternal deaths occur annually.

Luwei Pearson, Chief of the Health Section at the UN Children Fund (UNICEF) in Ethiopia said, “There must be efforts to ensure that health facilities are not just available but that they are also functional by, for instance, fitting them with electricity and piped water.”

As of 2011, Ethiopia recorded 676 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births. In 2005, there were only 673 maternal deaths recorded. Ethiopia aims to decrease its current maternal death rate to 267 as of 2015.

The five major causes of maternal mortality in Ethiopia are ruptured uterus, abortion complications, postpartum hemorrhage, puerperal sepsis, and preeclampsia/eclampsia.

The Ethiopian government has created steps to lower the rates of maternal death. These initiatives include the use of a scorecard to determine the effectiveness of the health system as well as the creation of a health extension program that has trained about 30,000 extension, health workers.

Currently, only 1% of expectant mothers deliver with the supervision of extension health workers. The Ministry of Health reports that these workers have individually helped 2,500 people. The number helped will increase as more extension health workers are trained.

Rural areas require particular attention as around 83% of Ethiopia’s 87.1 million residents reside in rural areas. There is a drastic difference between the percentages of babies delivered with the help of skilled personnel in urban versus rural areas with 45% in urban areas and only 3% in rural areas.

Health facilities must also be built in order to ensure hygienic birthing conditions in rural areas. The University of Addis Ababa determined in 2009 that in the rural Tigray Region, 80% of maternal deaths occur in the home and 50% were the result of failed transportation to a health facility.

“We are optimistic that [the] goal [of reducing child and maternal mortality] is achievable… because we have seen Ethiopia achieve a more than 40 percent reduction in child mortality [among children] under five in the last five years. We have seen sub-Saharan Africa achieve a 39 percent reduction,” said Rajiv Shah, administrator at the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

– Kasey Beduhn

Source: IRIN
Photo: World News Network

Bill Gates on "Why Measurement Matters"

Bill Gates currently leads one of the most successful and far-reaching humanitarian organizations. Despite constant criticism on his attempts to maximize investments, Bill Gates’ focus on ‘Why Measurement Matters’ in his 2013 Letter may be the perfect question to “help drive global change”.

Every year Bill Gates writes a letter on behalf of his and his wife Melinda’s foundation. Inspiring stories, powerful words, and optimism fill up several pages along with photos of villagers. This year however, Mr. Gates sounded more similar to a business consultant than a humanitarian. His campaign “Why Does Measurement Matter” discusses the need to think in the most basic terms: quality over quantity. Instead of asking governments to increase their funding for foreign aid, organizations must begin training their volunteers and workers to begin thinking like business owners. Collecting data, mapping progress, accepting failures, and brainstorming for solutions all need to be incorporated into the daily tasks for health clinics, schools, and centers around the world.

Mr. Gates illustrates that keeping records, enforcing strict organization, and creating a comfortable environment for workers are key to ensuring the effectiveness of a non-profit humanitarian organization. In a business, financial analysts track the rising and falling of stock prices over decades; marketing directors report successful or failing advertisement techniques; CEOs receive reports on company losses and gains. These techniques must become commonplace within humanitarian organizations not only to ensure their donors that their money is being put to good use, but be able to guarantee successful projects.

But does mimicking a business model go against the basic purpose of a non-profit? A business’ goal is to make profit while an NPO or NGO focuses on increasing the well-being of individuals or a community. So then why do most people automatically associate the word ‘profit’ with money? Business models work for for-profit companies not only because they are designed specifically to help increase the company’s sales and worth but because they incorporate common sense and basic administrative work to achieve set goals.

One of the examples in Bill Gates 2013 Annual Letter of how new measuring techniques can bring about efficiency is the increase of children’s immunization in Ethiopia. Even with health clinics spread out in the most rural areas, accurate record keeping of birth certificates and simple organization helps clinic workers collect a significant amount of data. These records identify which areas need focus, as well as mapping the appearance and disappearance of diseases.

Bill Gates does not suggest a dramatic increase in funding or introduce expensive materials. He does not suggest holding conferences with major donor countries or criticizing local organizations for failing to meet their goals. The simple solution comes down to “quality monitoring…setting clear goals, picking the right approach, and then measuring the results to get feedback”. Yet as simple as this approach may be to a business manager, this solution is much harder to achieve naturally in poorer countries. Heads of organizations must create a work environment in which volunteers and employees will feel comfortable reporting negative results. Therefore, it is important understand the necessity of not cutting corners when taking down vital information of patients who come into the clinics.

Through simple and realistic propositions, Bill Gates 2013 Annual Letter offers: a focused resolution for revitalizing humanitarian organizations, to debunk the myth that foreign aid is a waste, and to encourage organizations around the globe that defeating extreme poverty, child mortality, and the spread of diseases is an obtainable goal.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: Gates Foundation
Video: Gates Foundation

UN Declares 2013 The International Year On WaterThe U.N. has declared 2013 to be the International Year on Water Cooperation, and the United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization, (UNESCO) was appointed to lead preparations. The UN-Economic Commission for Europe, (UNECE) and the UN-Departments of Economic and Social Affairs, (UNDESA) will cooperate with UNESCO. The UN-Water Decade Program on Capacity Development, (UNW-DPC) and the UN-Water Decade Program on Advocacy and Communication, (UNW-DPAC) have offered support.

The U.N. first established World Water Day (WWD) in 1993 on March 22nd as a means to highlight the importance of fresh water, and to emphasize the need for its sustainable management.

Each year WWD focuses on a different aspect of freshwater. In 2013, UNESCO will educate the public about the need for international water cooperation.

Demand for freshwater resources is ever rising. Access to water is linked to poverty reduction as well as economic improvement. Preservation of water benefits the environment as well.

Most importantly, UNESCO aims to start a conversation about water cooperation in order to find innovative means to ensure the sustainability and availability of freshwater resources.

The International Year on Water Cooperation will serve to remind people throughout the world that they are stakeholders in water, and that we must begin to work together to ensure the sustainability of freshwater resources.

– Kasey Beduhn

Source: UNESCO
Photo: LGC News