August 19 is recognized worldwide as World Humanitarian Day, when “[w]e honor â€¦ those who have lost their lives in humanitarian service and those who continue to bring assistance and relief to millions,” a Manila Bulletin editorial states. “World Humanitarian Day is a collaborative global celebration of humanitarian aid work joining the United Nations and over 500 national and international non-governmental organizations aimed at engaging and inspiring the general public to get involved,” the editorial notes.
“If the moral test for a society is the way in which it treats its most vulnerable citizens, then the release of a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) marks a sad day for South Africa,” a Lancet editorial states.
“We were deeply perturbed to learn that the negotiations for the Outcomes Document of the U.N. High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), a mere month or so away, had stalled because member states failed to reach consensus,” Nalini Saligram, CEO of Arogya World, and Sandeep Kishore, an MD/PhD candidate at the Cornell/ Rockefeller/ Sloan-Kettering Institute, write in a Huffington Post opinion piece.
The “reports during the past two weeks of two recent infections and another death” from H5N1 (avian) influenza “raised little concern except among public health officials,” Robert Gatter, co-director of the Center for Health Law Studies and professor of law at Saint Louis University, writes in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution opinion piece, adding that “[t]he fact that bird flu in developing nations receives little public attention reveals that the world has become complacent about this threat.”
Referring to a Maternal Health Task Force infographic depicting maternal mortality worldwide, Jen Quraishi, editorial coordinator for Mother Jones, writes in a post on Mother Jones’ “Blue Marble” blog that “there are lots of ways to juggle [maternal mortality] numbers, and ultimately I find the death rate per capita more useful than the total number of deaths â€¦ Charts like these obscure the point that the relative wealth and size of a country do have an effect on its maternal mortality, but they’re not everything.” She goes on to state, “At the end of the day, I find it disheartening that a rich country like the U.S., which prides itself on its treatment of women, has the same maternal mortality rate as a country that doesn’t let women drive (Saudi Arabia) and a worse rate than countries with a fraction of its GDP per capita” (8/15).
In a New York Times essay, journalist Donald McNeil writes, “To a doctor, all epidemics are objectively different â€¦ But to the mortals they mow down, all epidemics are emotionally alike â€” an onslaught of fear, awe, repulsion, stigma, denial, rage and blame â€” and doctors would be foolish to forget that.”
“Outside of immediate crisis relief,” such as the administration of measles vaccinations or oral rehydration therapy for children affected by diarrheal diseases, the U.S. government’s “past investments clearly are paying off” in the fight against drought and famine the Horn of Africa, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. “U.S.-supported early-warning networks identified the famine threat a year ago,” the government is working with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the U.N. to lessen the risk of corruption and looting of food aid, and “the multi-year, multi-agency Feed the Future program [is] stimulat[ing] research into making plants more nutritious and crops more drought-resistant,” he notes.
Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, and Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) write in a USA Today opinion piece about their visit last week to the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya, stating, “Amid the devastation, we saw the impact of [U.S. and international] aid. We saw inexpensive oral rehydration packs bring listless babies back to life. We saw children getting vitamins and vaccines that will stop the spread of deadly diseases throughout the camps.”
In the wake of the agreement to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, and “[w]ith 20 percent cuts already on the table, the international affairs budget is in for a tough fight throughout the fall,” Richard Parker, director of communications for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, writes in a post on Devex’s “Obama’s Foreign Aid Reform” blog, stating, “It is more critical than ever for the development community to demonstrate how strategic and effective its programs are for U.S. national security, for our own economy, and as a demonstration of our leadership in the world.”
Ambassador Ertharin Cousin, U.S. representative to the U.N. Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome, writes about her recent visit to the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya in the State Department’s “DipNote” blog. “There is something remarkable about seeing how U.S. contributions â€“ both from our government and the private sector â€“ can be transformed into something as concrete and life-saving as a simple meal for a little girl. Washington has committed around $580 million to the relief effort. Hopefully that will save a lot more children here in Dadaab and around the Horn. The international community has provided around $1.4 billion, but it’s not enough â€“ I know that and we continue to push for more support from other donors. But it is a start and it is making a real and lasting difference,” she writes (8/12).