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The first global health Issue Analyst training occurred exactly a week ago. Yes we did it, we discussed maternal health, reproductive health in crisis situations and HIV/AIDS all in one night! It is possible!

Slide from Maternal Health PresentationJodi Keyserling, a policy analyst with CARE, started off the night with a presentation on maternal health. Not only did Jodi highlight the issues surrounding maternal health and shocking statistics like the difference between a women’s risk of maternal death in Sub-Saharan Africa (1 in 36) versus those living in the U.S. (1 in 2,100), but also shared recent policy news including the Global MOMS Act.  Here is one of my favorite slides from her presentation that illustrates the intersections between other global health problems and maternal health.

Erika Larson with JSI Research and Training Institute’s reproductive health for refugees ASTARTE program, followed with a presentation on Reproductive Health (RH) in Crisis situations. I had no idea that “8 out of 10 countries with the highest maternal mortality are crisis-affected” or that conflict-affected countries receive 53% less official development assistance for RH activities than non-crisis countries. Here are some slides that I found really helpful (click on images for bigger size):

JSI RH-Crisis-Take awayJSI- What are the consequences

We ended the night with a bang as Kaytee Riek, Director of Organizing at Health GAP, gave us a fabulous presentation on the current HIV/AIDS landscape including how the US is contributing to the fight against HIV/AIDS. Prior to the presentation, I was not aware of Read the rest of this entry »

The following blog post was written by AIDemocracy member and Cornell student Ashley Binetti. She attended the 2010 CARE National Conference in Washington, D.C. with the AIDemocracy delegation.

One thing I love about Care’s national conferences is that they combine education with advocacy.  Participants are able to attend workshops on a plethora of humanitarian issues, and then take their knowledge to the Hill.  This year’s conference focused on food security, protecting mothers and preventing child marriage.  I chose to focus my lobbying efforts on chronic hunger.

Secretary Clinton made an address during the opening plenary, and her message about nutrition struck a cord.  She noted that malnutrition has adverse affects on education, health and the economies of developing nations.  We also heard experts assert that chronic hunger is a development problem, and it isn’t going to disappear with a quick fix.  Shipping food from the United States to developing countries has proven unsuccessful time and again.  These shipments are costly and depress market prices, hurting farmers who are already struggling.  A simple switch to supporting local/regional programs would eliminate these undesirable costs.

While speaking with congressmen in Washington, we specifically tried to garner support for The Global Food Security Act (H.R. 3077/S. 384).  This resolution would create a Special Coordinator for Global Food Security, emphasize a multi-sector approach, increase research on sustainable technology by partnering with universities, and create a Rapid Response Food Crises Fund.  It is fantastic step in combating chronic hunger.  However, because this bill involves appropriating funds for development assistance, some congressmen have hesitated to endorse it.  Debating this issue during our meetings on the Hill, I argued that reorienting our spending, even in this economic climate, is a moral necessity.  Every five seconds a child dies from hunger-related complications (www.bread.org).  These are preventable deaths: this is an outrage.

Call or e-mail (or visit!) your Senators and Representatives today.  If they are co-sponsors, thank them for their support and ask them to energize their fellow congressmen to join in the fight.  If they are not co-sponsors, ask them to support this basic human right by becoming a co-sponsor. Read the rest of this entry »

Last month, as a last organizing hoorah on campus (I’m graduating!), the Westminster Amnesty International chapter and I brought together a wonderful panel of women to highlight the incredible work that they and their respective NGOs are doing to combat violence against women, both here in Western Pennsylvania and globally.

On the panel were Jacqui Patterson, the amazing co-founder of Women of Color United (WOCU) and the director of the NAACP’s Climate Justice Initiative; Mary Day Kent, CARE’s Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for the Middle Atlantic region; and, for a local emphasis, Melissa Stellfox of the Lawrence County Crisis Shelter.

Speaking to an audience of around 60, Jacqui kicked things off with two clips from two great documentaries–No! The Rape Documentary and SASA!, which you can also find at WOCU’s webpage–that brought attention to the often perilous intersection between women of color, women infected with HIV/AIDS and women who are victims of systematic violence. Jacqui also told the stories of several women from the developing world, including Siri, “bringing the voices of women into the room”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Hi Everyone!  Just in from two great days at the 2010 CARE National Conference here in Washington, D.C.  We’ll have some more personalized news coming to you soon.  In the meantime, check out these videos of Senator Durbin (D-IL), U.S. Secretary of State Clinton, and Representative John Lewis (D-GA) and what they had to say regarding CARE and the “necessary trouble” of fighting global poverty.

Keep your eyes out for AID staff and interns in this one!

CARE partner YouthNoise recently interviewed CARE Policy Analyst Milkah Kihunahin an effort to highlight the issue of gender-based violence and encourage YouthNoise members to take action by supporting the International Violence Against Women Act. Read the complete interview and watch video here>

The International Violence Against Women Act is a piece of bi-partisan legislation that seeks to respond to violence against women in foreign countries.  Areas of conflict like the Democratic Republic of Congo are well known for the abuses that women suffer at the hands of armies and militias alike.  With increased violence prevention that would come from IVAWA, women who have suffered abuse could get the support that they need.

Violence against women is not limited to rape, but also includes domestic abuse, child marriage, female genital mutilation and sexual abuse in schools/homes/conflict areas.

Only 28 senators and 48 members of the House of Representatives have expressed their support for this bill.  This is an important piece of legislation! Contact your Senator to let Congress know the importance of this legislation!

Post by Giulia McPherson, Advocacy Alliances Manager, CARE USA

As a member of CARE USA’s policy and advocacy staff, I spend a lot of my time speaking with fellow advocates and elected officials about our programs and how the U.S. can impact real change in the developing world. Earlier this month I had the opportunity to see some of these programs first hand and better understand what “global advocacy” really means.

CARE has been in Ecuador since 1962 and implements a variety of maternal health, education and environmental programs. We also place a special focus on advocacy by working in solidarity with social movements, influencing attitudes concerning poverty and injustice, empowering local community organizations to engage in advocacy and bringing communities and elected officials together to address policy issues.

On February 8, I had the pleasure of visiting one particular program near the town of Otavalo in the Andean highlands. CARE Ecuador has been working closely with the Municipal Government of Otavalo, the Ministry of Public Health and the Provincial Department of Indigenous Health to implement an Ecuadorian law called the “Free Maternity and Child Health CARE Act”. Although this law called for universal access to healthcare for all Ecuadorian citizens, many indigenous communities were still experiencing high levels of maternal death. Since the majority of indigenous women give birth at home, several areas of concern were identified including an inability to recognize signs of maternal and neonatal risk, the lack of access to transportation in case of an emergency and the resulting delay in emergency care.

When CARE first began to assess this problem, it became clear that healthcare personnel were overlooking certain issues that were of concern to indigenous women. CARE worked closely with the indigenous community and local and federal government to ensure that pregnant women would feel comfortable delivering their babies in a hospital setting, if necessary.

As a result, CARE worked to implement certain changes in how healthcare was administered:

  • Most indigenous women are accustomed to being surrounded by their families when delivering their babies so CARE helped build a ‘Casa Materna’ (or Maternal House) to house families traveling many miles from remote communities.
  • The hospital now trains traditional midwives so that they are certified to both work in the hospital and preside over home births.
  • CARE worked to ensure that women who give birth at home still have access to emergency care if needed by setting up a radio communication system.
  • A garden was planted so that hospital staff could use medicinal herbs to treat labor symptoms.
  • The hospital now offers several indigenous birthing techniques including vertical birthing rooms.
  • Hospital staffs are now trained to speak the local Quichua language to accommodate women who do not speak Spanish.

This innovative program has since been replicated in other hospitals throughout Ecuador. By working closely with the government and local indigenous communities, CARE was able to influence real change and save the lives of women. As the Hospital Administrator reported during her presentation, there were no maternal deaths in this community in 2009 – and with such a dedicated team of doctors, midwives and community leaders the prospect for healthy women and healthy deliveries remains bright.

What does all this mean for CARE’s global advocacy work? It means that while goals like ending maternal mortality and extreme poverty huge undertakings, sometimes all it takes is small changes to empower a community –and women– to meet their own needs.

To learn more about CARE’s maternal health programs visit http://www.care.org/campaigns/2009/mothersmatters.asp. It’s also not too late to buy tickets to CARE’s International Women’s Day event, Half the Sky LIVE, taking place this Thursday at 7:30 pm EST in theaters nationwide.

Photos:

Presentation by Hospital Director

Casa Materna for families and recovering patients

House with a radio tower

Garden for indigenous medicinal herbs

Medicinal herbs used in birth room


Decades of research leave little doubt about the vital role of women in global development. While women often bear poverty’s heaviest burdens, focused investment in that portion of the population has proved a near-surefire way to build healthier, better educated, more prosperous communities. Last month, the Global Resources and Opportunities for Women to Thrive Act (GROWTH Act, S.1425) was introduced in the Senate. This legislation is an exciting opportunity to ensure that US foreign assistance and development efforts adequately (and smartly) invest in the power of women in the developing world.

Though women comprise a disproportionate percentage of the world’s extremely poor, studies have demonstrated that women who are given extra income are more likely than men to invest it in their children, improving the family’s health, lowering child mortality and malnutrition rates, and boosting education rates. Women’s successes in the microfinance industry over the last 30-40 years have been breathtaking as well. The GROWTH Act proposes much wider administrative and financial support for such initiatives, including microenterprise, improved land and property rights for women, more access to formal employment, skills trainings, and focused investments from trade (the latter four components have been widely absent from general microfinance initiatives).

CDTD cooking class

Somali refugees attending a cooking class that will enable them to secure better jobs and earn higher wages

I’ve had the luck to witness the results of such initiatives in Kenya, and am now very much a believer in the power of women in development. I spent several months in early 2008 interning at the Centre for Domestic Training and Development, an organization led by an inspiring Kenyan woman to help other impoverished women thrive. Edith Murogo, the Centre’s founder, is a wife and mother who recognized a problem in her community and began working to solve it, raising money slowly to establish and expand her organization. Today she is one of the most well-known and respected social entrepreneurs in Kenya.

Read the rest of this entry »

Today was Day 1 of CARE’s National Conference and Celebration.  Each year, roughly 400 500 CARE supporters from around the country gather in Washington, DC to hear the latest news from the field, learn more about pending legislation, celebrate together and take to the Hill to exercise our civil rights and let Congress know that eradicating global poverty is important to American citizens.

Tomorrow we tackle three issues:

  1. Fighting global hunger and modernizing our approach to food security
  2. Tackling climate change and reducing its impact on the world’s poor
  3. Protecting and empowering girls by preventing child marriage.

Believe it or not, all three issues are interrelated.  At climate change increases water scarcity and descreases agricultural productivity in places like Africa, food security becomes a serious issue for poor families.  Fathers faced with difficult economic decisions are more likely to marry their daughters at a young age to reduce household economic strain or repay a debt.

So, we are asking the US government to do four things:

  1. Make deep, immediate, mandatory cuts in US gas emissions.
  2. Provide substantial new funding to help developing countries adapt and keep those least responsible for climate change from suffering its harshest effects.
  3. Implement a comprehensive plan to combat global hunger–one that tackles its root causes by increasing funding for locally purchased food, in-country agricultural production and quicker emergency response.
  4. Develop a multi-year strategy to prevent child marriage in developing countries, requiring the Department of State to address child marriage in its annual Human Rights Report, integrate child marriage prevention strategies throughout US foreign policy, and scale up successful approaches to prevent child marriage.

If you are not in DC, but would like to support our efforts tomorrow, you can contact your respresentatives using CARE online advocacy tools at http://www.care.org/getinvolved/advocacy/index.asp#part3.

I also had the pleasure of interviewing singer/songwriter/social activist, Michael Franti, of Michael Franti & Spearhead this morning about his travels, his politicized lyrics, and his recent decision to join CARE as a CARE ambassador.  Stay tuned to the AIDemocracy website for that video coming soon!

Last night I was told that my stances on U.S. foreign policy are un-“American.”  While I personally believe that citizenship is an arbitrarily created concept and, therefore, does not automatically warrant greater attention than human solidarity, there is an economic logic to my critique that surpasses boundaries of nationality.

Take the issue of U.S. food aid.  In the most recent edition of Foreitimor_cpgn Policy Magazine, Helene Gayle, President and CEO of CARE USA, argues that U.S. food aid policy does “more harm than good.”  What she means is this:  under current U.S. food aid policy, the majority of food given to developing countries in crisis must be purchased from U.S. farmers and then shipped overseas on U.S. carriers in order to be distributed or sold at its final destination.  The problem: in an effort to ensure benefit for American workers and corporations into U.S. food aid policy, the U.S. Agency for International Development spends more on shipping and administration (65 cents on every dollar) than it does on providing actual food to the starving populations we aim to help.

Gayle points out that “the generosity of the U.S. government and its citizens would be far better served if more food aid came in the form of cash.”  Such a system would not only give humanitarian aid agencies more flexibility to respond more efficiently and appropriately, but would free up funds to be spend locally, stimulating production with developing countries towards stronger, more self-sufficient economies.

Is building stronger, more self-sufficient economies and communities abroad not the end goal of U.S. foreign assistance?  Some might say, “Well sure, but now you’ve cut out the American worker altogether.”  While this is true, the sacrifice is short-term.  We will spend less money in the long-term on foreign aid if we invest now in supporting developing countries as they build their own infrastructure and industries.  Countries with these qualities make better trade partners, a relationship which is and should be designed to create American jobs.

Besides, isn’t standing by inefficient programs simply because they create jobs something that the U.S. criticizes socialist governments for?

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