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Friday, April 30, 2010

Building Family Ties in Ethiopia and Elsewhere: “There are billions of eyes in this world…”

Tewabech Tano is 38 years old. She lives in Derashe district, Ethiopia, where HOPE International Development Agency recently finished delivering clean water access to nearly all of the 200,000 families living there. She is married with seven children.

She says, "We are one of the outcast and neglected community one gives us attention and helps us to enhance our life in a good way. As a result of this our annual income is very little…it isn’t enough to help our survival. Though we have potential…no one trusts us to borrow to run a business. Since HOPE provided us with seed money I received a loan. With this loan I have purchased more metals to produce farming, hunting, and domestic use hand tools and buy farming land. …I gain more profit than ever before and also am able to send four of our children to school with confidence, having saved some money through our cooperatives we organized. We now have enough food, clothing, medication and education materials. I am very happy to see my life in this position through Building Family Ties (BFT) project. There are billions of eyes in this world but few are looking at the neglected…this will be a good strategy for poor people (a person like me) to come out of absolute poverty."

Building Family Ties is a program HOPE International Development Agency established so that compassionate people could invest directly in a child or entire family's future. Tewabech's account is typical of the 'good news stories' BFT supporters receive all of the time. If you ever wanted to connect more personally with a family in need, then BFT might be the right option for you.

Learn more about Building Family Ties.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sudan: Politics and the Possibility of Change

Last week, for the first time in 24 years, the people of Sudan went to the polls to democratically choose their government.

Despite pre-election fears, the polling was largely peaceful and voter turnout was high. Still, the electoral process was and will continue to be heavily criticized by Sudanese opposition parties, local observers, and the international community. Few seem to expect that anything will change for the millions of Sudanese who live their lives in a constant state of uncertainty and stress. A democratically elected Omar al-Bashir government will be no more accountable to the citizens of Sudan.

Hala Al-Karib, a Sudanese human and women’s rights activist, writing in the Sudan Tribune on the last day of the elections lamented that: “Various factors have transferred the elections into a meaningless process and stolen the possibilities of change.”

For the people of South Sudan, the recent election was most significant as a dress rehearsal for the in many ways more important independence referendum scheduled for January 2011. That referendum would allow the people of South Sudan to vote to become an independent nation. Yet, as the dust of the recent election settles and attention turns to 2011, some observers are already calling South Sudan a “pre-failed state”.

But to believe that change is impossible and that Sudan has failed before it even began would be a mistake. It would mean abandoning millions of people who need us to act in compassion and solidarity now more than ever.

Sudan’s nation-builders do indeed have a monumental task ahead of them. Peace has remained elusive. Basic infrastructure is virtually non-existent. The World Food Programme has warned that, due to conflict and drought, the number of people who will need food aid in 2010 has more than quadrupled: 4.3 million Sudanese will go hungry throughout the year.

These are complex and pressing problems. Until they are addressed, it is hard to see how Sudanese citizens will truly be able to write a new beginning for themselves.

Thankfully, people are tackling the problems. HOPE International Development Agency’s colleagues in South Sudan have worked against incredible pressures to keep the possibility of change alive for thousands of South Sudanese families who have survived the past decades of conflict and who persist despite unspeakable acts of brutality. They will continue to stand with the poor and displaced in the face of violence, hunger, and insecurity. And we will continue to stand with them.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Haiti: Hunger is the Unrelieved Disaster

Before the earthquake, Haitians were contending with disaster. And this was a disaster in the true sense of the word: a sudden and calamitous break from the norm, an event that brings great suffering. Anybody with a cursory understanding of history or current events knows that Haiti is a poor country—poorer than poor. But while the many learned, in graphic detail, about the extent of hardship caused by this winter’s earthquake, comparatively few people knew exactly what the Food Crisis (which became acute in 2008) had done and was doing to the people of Haiti.

The Food Crisis is a phenomenon that is still playing out. It is little understood, although its effects are having a profound effect on the poorest of the poor, those who squeak just barely above or below the margin of survival, depending on how much money or labour they can trade for sustenance. We know that it is related to broad and deep factors, such as the dietary trends towards more meat-eating (which is more agriculturally expensive) in rapidly developing economies, or weather patterns that are growing more erratic. The world body has so far come up with only one solution to the problem of many millions more people for whom grain has become too expensive: more donations to the World Food Program, please. And quick.

But it seems the donations don’t come easily or quickly enough. In Steven Stoll’s excellent Harper’s article ‘Towards a Second Haitian Revolution’ (April 2010), he reports that after 2008, ‘Haitians lined up for rations and filled their bellies with fine silt, mixed with water, shortening, and salt, shaped into discs and set out to harden in the morning sun. Dirt eating in Haiti stems from a craving not for any trace minerals the eaters might ingest but for the sheer mass in the gut. As one woman said to a journalist, “Once you eat [the biscuits] you don’t feel hungry anymore. That and a glass of water and you feel satisfied.” To supplement the clay cakes, children compete with pigs for the gleanings along open sewers.’

Once every penny has been spent for earthquake relief in Haiti, we must tackle another disaster, a precedent calamity. What is the solution for hunger as profound as this? Not mere food donations, but investments into the ability of Haitians to feed themselves, mend their own health, and sustain their own communities. Unbeknownst to most, Haitians used to easily feed themselves on their own famously productive small farms. Is it time, as Stoll suggests, to ‘give Haiti a chance to recover the best part of its history and to stun the world again with the genius of its freedom’?

See an update on HOPE International Development Agency's work in Haiti.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The unseen but lethal threat to the lives of the world’s poorest families.

Trade places with the world’s poorest families and you’ll find yourself living the terrifying uncertainty and suffering that are hallmarks of life in the developing world.

When thinking about poverty and the plight of people toiling to survive under poverty’s yoke, we can quickly invoke some of the most obvious and ubiquitous images associated with the hallmarks of poverty: starvation, natural or man-made disaster, refugee camps, and the carnage caused by conflict.

For us, these images carry the threat of disturbing, if only for a brief moment, the relatively placid nature of our existence. For the poor, these images are an all too accurate depiction of threats they endure on a daily basis.

Yet of all the threats facing the world’s poorest families, there is one threat that is insidious by nature and deadly in outcome for the poor – a lack of basic medical care, caused by a lack of access to basic medicines and medical supplies.

In places like southern Sudan, northern Afghanistan, and Pakistan, common ailments easily diagnosed, treated and cured if basic medical supplies are available, have the very real potential of becoming deadly.

There is nothing common about common ailments in these parts of the world. Ailments easily remedied among populations in the developed world devastate populations in the developing world – sometimes en masse, but most often in the solitude of a small shack or hut as a family watches yet another child quietly slip from their embrace.

HOPE International Development Agency continues to address shortages in medical supplies and equipment in the world’s poorest communities by providing medical supplies and equipment to field clinics, community-based hospitals, and mobile clinics.

Generous and compassionate donors are enabling us to put life-saving medicines and medical supplies in the hands of doctors and nurses serving families in the poorest communities on earth. In their hands, even the most common of medicines or supplies becoming powerful tools in the fight to prevent disease, cure the sick, and health the injured.

Learn more about our life-saving efforts among the poorest families of southern Sudan, northern Afghanistan, and Pakistan.