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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Afghanistan: Taking action to save lives

Basic medical clinic in Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, one in four children will not see their sixth birthday. In a country that has 16 times fewer doctors per person than Canada this should not surprise us – but it should spur us to action.

Most deaths in Afghanistan can be avoided. Respiratory infections, diarrhea, tuberculosis, malaria, malnutrition, and measles are all preventable and easily cured with medicines and basic health services that cost only pennies per day per person. There is no good reason why these diseases, which have largely been controlled in other countries, should continue to cause so many senseless deaths in Afghanistan.

It is true that the challenge of providing comprehensive healthcare to all Afghanis is immense. Even before the war, the country’s healthcare infrastructure was among the worst in the world. Government and NGOs have made progress in recent years: more clinics and hospitals have been opened, more doctors and nurses have been trained, and healthcare is provided freely to the poorest.

But the gaps in the system are still great and people continue to fall through them.

One of the biggest gaps is the shortage of available medical supplies. Where antibiotics, bandages, and scalpels are not available, lives are lost.

HOPE International Development Agency has taken action to fill this gap in eastern Afghanistan. Earlier this month a shipment of life-saving medicines, disposable medical supplies, and basic clinic equipment was delivered to Jalalabad. The shipment will help supply several rural clinics for the next year.

More importantly, the arrival of the shipment has been a source of encouragement and hope for the doctors and nurses working tirelessly to prevent the preventable. Writing to express gratitude for the supplies, HOPE International Development Agency's local director said that the donation was a sign of compassion that is pasted in the hearts of Afghanis.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Philippines: Imagine 30% of One Third

Howard Dee, founder of the Assisi Development Foundation, recently hosted David S. McKenzie on a visit to the Philippines. HOPE International Development Agency and Assisi have collaborated for decades on strategies to combat poverty and establish peace in the Philippines. Behind this institutional partnership are many long-standing friendships, prominent among them being the one between Howard and David.

Howard Dee is a quiet dynamo. A former ambassador to the Vatican, former advisor to the government on Indigenous Affairs, and recipient of many of the international peacebuilding community’s highest honours, he remains an elegantly humble presence. For example, when receiving the 2006 Aurora Aragon Quezon Peace Award, an event that saw his country’s luminaries gather to fete him, Dee said:

"My heart is filled with gratitude yet I feel no sense of triumph. I feel no pride of achievement in the face of so much injustice and widespread poverty that condemns so many of our people to a life of subhuman existence."

During their time together in February, Howard explained to David, in a typically transparent moment, how much it grieved him that one third of the Philippine population is under 12 years old, and a full 30% of these children are malnourished.

It is, naturally, a stunning statistic, and a surprising one at that—especially when the Philippines’ reputation as a ‘better-off’ developing nation is taken into account. The fact remains that many nations totter between security and dreadful instability, if they are not already failed states, and that this fearful margin is populated by young children—those who will succeed and those who will starve. The Philippines is no exception.

It takes intelligent policies to tackle systemic problems like war and poverty, and the people of Assisi certainly do not lack these. But it takes something else to get to the point of seeing the problem and demanding a solution. This is a quality that men like Howard Dee possess in abundance. It might be called an imaginative heart. When Howard talks about one third of the Philippines’ children, he is truly grieved because he is not engaging with a statistic, but rather his real knowledge of children, of their faces and hands and voices. Howard Dee is a man who can feel the presence of people, and this presence remains with him, informing his ethics, his interests, his sense of the way forward.

In order to address a problem as tremendous as malnourishment among children, we need to invest in the solutions that we know work. But perhaps to get to the point of being ready to make this investment, we need to exercise that quality that comes so naturally to men like Howard Dee. We need to simply see people, even when it pains us.

Learn more about the work of HOPE International Development Agency by visiting

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The suffering of Ethiopian mothers can be deadly for the children

When a mother is trapped in poverty so are her children. In fact, the longer a mother remains impoverished the greater the likelihood that her children will never be free from poverty.

When poverty denies a mother an education, vocational training, employment, disease prevention knowledge, and access to clean water, the outcome is devastating for her and often deadly for her children.

In Ethiopia, for example, one in eight children die before reaching the age of five - a direct result of the poverty that punctuates life in the poorest villages, towns and cities of Africa.

Each of these children has a mother who, despite her best efforts and tremendous sacrifice, feels absolutely helpless against the poverty that holds her captive.

To save the children, we need to save the mothers.

HOPE International Development Agency continues to work among the poorest mothers in Ethiopia, helping them gain access to clean water, education, vocational training, and small start-up loans that will transform their lives.

Learn more about our efforts to help the mothers and young women of Ethiopia free themselves and their children from poverty by visiting