Busy, busy, busy…

I haven’t posted any new articles for quite awhile now, so you’re probably thinking I’ve been sitting at home all day eating bon-bons and watching Oprah. No way! I’ve actually been taking a conscious break from article writing to focus on a book… or two. What started out as an idea for one middle grade book has now become a picture book biography of Emmanuel Yeboah AND a teen how-to guide for Youth Venture! I’m not sure working on two so totally different books at the same time is a good idea, but they’re slowly moving along.

I also joined the Advisory Committee of our regional SCBWI chapter last year, and was very busy helping to organize our 17th Annual Writing and Illustrating for Children Conference. It was one of the most daunting, eye-opening and rewarding experiences of my life, and I truly can’t wait to do it again!

And now, back to work…

Unprecedented victory against measles

Here’s some encouraging news. The Measles Initiative partnership recently announced that worldwide measles deaths fell 60% from 1999 to 2005, from 873,000 down to 345,000 deaths per year. That’s 528,000 lives saved every year.

“One of the clearest messages from this achievement is that with the right strategies and a strong partnership of committed governments and organizations, you can rapidly reduce child deaths in developing countries,” said Dr. Julie Gerberding, Director, United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

We’ve seen that it can be done. What’s next?

Get talking, America!

Doctors Without Borders recently released a list of the 10 most under-reported humanitarian crises of 2006, which they say “accounted for just 7.2 minutes of the 14,512 minutes on the three major U.S. television networks’ nightly newscasts for 2006.”

  1. Central African Republic
  2. Tuberculosis
  3. Chechnya
  4. Sri Lanka
  5. Malnutrition
  6. Democratic Republic of Congo
  7. Somalia
  8. Columbia
  9. Haiti
  10. Central India

World's Deadliest Catastrophe

On May 14th, the UN sought to remind people that the Congo remains world’s deadliest catastrophe. The problem is, who in the world even knows that 1,200 people are dying there every day, or that three months ago the United Nations launched an appeal for $682 million to provide the needed water, food, medical assistance, shelter and protection? Yes, we’re all distracted. Yes, there are other crises to tend to in Africa and elsewhere around the world. But let’s face it, there are countries in the world who can, and should, step up. The people of the Congo have suffered long enough.

Reducing birth defects benefits the entire population

Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah was born in Ghana without the tibia in his right leg, leaving it deformed and useless. His father abandoned him. His mother was told to kill him. That is just what it means to be disabled in Ghana.

Fortunately, his mother was strong, and raised Yeboah to have high expectations for himself, even if nobody else did. In 2002, at the age of 25, he rode a donated bicycle 360 miles across Ghana – with one leg – and showed his entire country that the disabled could be very able indeed. His story became a movie that continues to inspire.

When I heard Emmanuel’s story, I too was inspired by his incredible triumph. I was enraged by the plight of the disabled in Ghana. But even more, I wondered what causes all those disabilities in the first place? Could they be prevented, and if so, what effects would that have on Ghanaian society?

The March of Dimes Global Report on Birth Defects might offer some answers, and will hopefully spark some positive change. According to a March of Dimes press release about the report:

“…it is a common misconception that attention to birth defects will draw funding from other priority public health efforts — when, in fact, increased efforts to reduce birth defects in children contributes to the health of the entire population.

Experience from high-income countries shows that overall mortality and disability from birth defects could be reduced by up to 70 percent if the recommendations in this report were broadly implemented…

Among the interventions that would have immediate impact are:

  1. folic acid supplementation to prevent neural tube defects;
  2. iodination of salt to prevent severe congenital hypothyroidism; and
  3. rubella immunization to prevent congenital rubella syndrome.”

I think it’s a great place to start. If you agree, go to http://www.marchofdimes.com/howtohelp/howtohelp.asp.

Mountains Beyond Mountains

If you ever find yourself searching for inspiration about the feasibility of attempting to change the world, then you must read Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World, by Tracy Kidder. It is about the efforts of Dr. Farmer to bring health care to the poorest of the poor, mostly in Haiti, through his organization Partners in Health. While he focuses on the needs of his individual patients, Dr. Farmer has achieved and continues to work for true global change. Tracy Kidder shows that Dr. Farmer is an extraordinary human being, but is nonetheless extraordinarily human.

Simply elegant

I first learned about the Riders for Health organization on PBS’ Rx for Survival television series. The concept is simple: give motorcycles to Africa’s health workers and train them to ride and repair them themselves. With this transportation, they can effectively distribute aid and administer basic health care to remote villages. The impact is nothing short of revolutionary. 

ONE

What does one of the world’s most famous rock stars know about poverty? Plenty. Bono not only makes great music, he is making big changes in the world as well. In 2002, Bono founded DATA, Debt AIDS Trade Africa. He now influences popular culture AND the world’s most powerful leaders. In recognition of his achievements, TIME magazine named him one of 2005’s Persons of the Year.

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