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. 


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.