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By Binta Diallo, Global Health Issue Analyst

Eleven months after the earthquake hit Haiti, the country is now faced with its worst health challenge; cholera.  As of November first, the cholera outbreak in central Haiti had killed more than 250 people and infected more than 3,000 people.  Until the current outbreak, cholera has not been documented to be found in Haiti since the 1960s.  Due to the lack of familiarity with the disease, many people are said to be frightened by the news of the outbreak and unsure of what steps to take to avoid the disease.

For those of you unfamiliar with cholera here are some key details about the disease.  Cholera is an acute infection of the small intestine that causes a large amount of watery diarrhea and vomit.  It is caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.  The diarrhea and vomiting leads to severe dehydration, and can become deadly within 24 hours if left untreated.  It is easily treated through rehydration and antibiotics however may be difficult in Haiti’s current poor sanitary conditions.

Although, it is very tempting to link the outbreak to the January earthquake, it is very uncertain as to where the outbreak came from.  Many experts including Dr. Brigitte Vasset from the international organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Paris are reluctant in linking the outbreak directly with the quake.  Sanitary conditions were poor in many parts of Haiti even before earthquake.  In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that after the earthquake while cholera testing should have been carried out, the disease was “extremely unlikely to occur.”  Many health experts agree that for cholera to occur, bad sanitation and hygiene have to coincide with people carrying the Vibrio cholerae bacterium.

There are many other hypotheses of how the disease appeared in Haiti.  Read the rest of this entry »

By Kyle Fluegge, Environment Issue Analyst

Imagine giving $100 to a charity that helps people in poverty better their lives regardless of their background circumstances.  A noble gesture on your part.  Then you find out that only $7.00 of your gift actually went to help who it was intended to help. That’s only 7%.  Outraged?  It would have me asking “Why…?”, but not for the reasons you think.

That’s the situation in Haiti right now – 10 months after the devastating earthquake ripped apart the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.  Only $686 million of $8.75 billion promised for reconstruction has reached Haiti so far.  After the natural disaster, my initial thought was “Pick on somebody your own size.”  After all, isn’t that like a 12th grader bullying a 5th or 6th grader?  The little one doesn’t stand a chance, and neither did Haiti.  And the country is continuing to suffer the consequences.

An outbreak of cholera was confirmed in Haiti on Thursday, October 21. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 5,000 cases of cholera have been documented, and 300 people have died.  Cholera, you ask?  Significant breaches in the water, sanitation, and hygiene infrastructure used by groups of people have allowed large-scale exposure to food or water contaminated with Vibrio cholerae organisms.  In this case, it doesn’t take a well-reasoned fellow like John Snow to capture the essence of the problem…or does it?

Read the rest of this entry »

By Binta Diallo

Binta is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Binta below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Nine months ago, Haiti was struck by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake affecting as many as 3 million people.  Immediately, aid organizations and governments from around the world responded to this disaster by providing medical attention, food, shelter, and safe drinking water.  There was such an enormous effort in helping the country; immediate support and help coming from students and young adults from around the world.

After the earthquake hit, I started to come up with fundraiser ideas for the student body once I returned back to school.  About two days after everyone returned from winter break, my inbox was flooded by students proposing service and fundraiser ideas.  Food drives, dance-a-thons, bake sales, concerts, anything you name it was sitting in my inbox waiting to be read and executed!  I was excited to see that my fellow peers were ready to get involved. 

Okay, so many of you may be wondering what does this have to do with global health?  With every natural disaster, there are many health issues that arise.  In the case of Haiti, plenty of health issues arose such as concern for safe drinking water, malnutrition, infection and disease.  Although, it was almost impossible to physically go to Haiti to help with the efforts, students around the nation and world participated in various ways.  They worked with international organizations, their schools, their communities; all in hopes to make sure that they were doing as much as possible.  Without the efforts and help for the youth, students, young adults, there would have been a much different turn out. 

I am going to leave you with a quote by Mahatma Gandhi “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  Until next time, think about how you can change the world, you have the power!

My name is Binta Diallo and I am a St. Mary’s College of Maryland 2010 alum.  I majored in Studies of Developing Countries and International Public Policy!  I am looking to go to medical school within the next few years and then work as a physician in developing countries.  Global health is one of my biggest passions, it is absolutely fascinating and by increasing the involvement of students around the country and world huge differences will happen!

An inspiring news article from Grassroots International:

Six Organizing Principles for a Sustainable Future
Lessons from Wendell Berry and Grassroots International Partners

By Carol Schachet
July 27th, 2010

Some of the most important lessons I know about grassroots organizing come from the poet Wendell Berry, who advises, “Invest in the millennium; plant Sequoias.”

Growing trees, like organizing for social change, may not provide the short-term gratification. (A tomato plant will feed you this summer, and a bake sale might provide books for a single classroom, but a forest preserves soil for generations, and good educational policy funds entire school systems.) While they are not planting Sequoias but other indigenous trees, grassroots organizers from Latin America to the Middle East and beyond personify the vision that Berry describes. Combining their great work with Berry’s insights, here are some of the organizing principles on which our survival depends.

1. Hope is a tangible thing.

If we are going to invest in the future – or at least the millennium – then we need to shift our return-on-investment timeframe. If, as Berry says, you see your “main crop is the forest that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest,” you have to believe someone will ultimately be in a better place because of your work.

Read the rest of this entry »

Post by Claude Joseph, Brooklyn College.

The CARE’s National Conference 2010 is the most far-reaching event that I have participated in in the past three years. The reasons are twofold: first of all, it approached the eradication of global poverty with a paradigm focused on empowering women. Since women are the cornerstone of any society, this approach is, in my opinion, the best one. I was so proud to meet Her Excellency Sia Nyama Koroma, First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone and Her Excellency Ida Odinga, wife of the Prime Minister of Kenya–two women who are committed to play a significant role in the fight against global poverty.  I had the opportunity to chat briefly with these two venerable women about the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit my country, Haiti, on January 12, 2010. In this short meeting, I realized how deeply struck they were by what was happening in Haiti, despite being an ocean away.

Secondly, thanks to this conference, I have joined the CARE Action Network, a social network of great magnitude in terms of people who are committing their lives to the struggle for a better world. I am proud to join these people who welcome each other with open-minds and share their experiences on many subjects.

Also, it is worthwhile to mention that the CARE conference inspired me to further engage with the Haitian Youth Leaders’ Symposium, held in Haiti last week, where more than two thousand young people gathered to discuss reconstruction efforts.

Read the rest of this entry »

On March 24th, President Obama sent his request to Congress for a supplemental spending bill to support relief and reconstruction efforts in Haiti. Millions of people in Haiti could use that aid to feed their children and begin rebuilding their lives, but Congress still has not passed this crucial bill.

Contact your members of Congress today to tell them to pass the aid bill now!

With more than 230,000 people killed, 300,000 people injured, and at least 1.7 million forced from their homes by the earthquake, Haiti will require ongoing support throughout 2010 to address emergency needs in health, nutrition, shelter, sanitation, rural livelihood and food. The rainy season has already started and hurricane season will soon start in June; this desperate situation will only be exacerbated in the coming months.

The need could not be more urgent or the cause more important, but Congress is still just sitting on the bill! So, we need your help to push them forward.

Please click here to write to your representative and senators today.

Today at the UN Headquarters in New York, an international donors’ conference kicked off with the goal of raising money for Haiti’s recovery and reconstruction after the devastating earthquake this past January.

However, beyond Haiti’s president, no other Haitian voices will be at this conference. No community leaders or poor people from Haiti were invited. The people who need this money most need to be a part of the recovery process, and that means calling on Secretary Clinton to push for a Haitian presence.

Click here to make sure that Haitian voices are heard at the UN donors’ conference!

Click here for more information on the survey Oxfam just conducted in preparation for this conference.

Click here for more information on recovery and autonomy in Haiti.

Yesterday, Oxfam America and Foreign Policy Magazine gathered diplomats, aid practitioners, journalists, and advocates to talk about Haiti.  What opportunities does the current situation in Haiti provide for the US and the development community at large to finally get development right?

What exactly does it mean to get development right?  According to Paul O’Brien, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at Oxfam America—a man with five years of experience as advisor Afghan government—doing development right means grounding our discussion in the reality and struggles of the people we aim to help.  Superpower we may be, we cannot develop other people’s countries for them.  The US certainly has a role to play, but people need to be able to hold their own governments accountable and those governments need to be able to responsibly manage the challenge of long-term social and economic development.  Ownership, says O’Brien, is the key to effective and sustainable development.

The current challenge and the topic of yesterday’s discussion is: how do we translate “ownership: into meaningful policy change and practice?

You can watch the complete panel discussion with Haitian Ambassador Raymond Joseph, Root’s editor Joel Dreyfuss, Trinity College’s Robert Maguire, and Management Sciences for Health’s Paul Axila here.

A few of my own notes/thoughts:

Read the rest of this entry »

Greetings AID Community!

My name is Abby and I’m thrilled to be the new Global Development intern with Americans for Informed Democracy.  I just want to briefly introduce myself and then get right down to posting about the urgent need for debt relief in Haiti.

I’m a junior taking my spring semester off from Harvard University where I’m a Social Studies major with a self-designed focus on collective action in Western Europe and the United States.  While on campus and in my hometown of Boston, I’ve been involved with local labor organizing, youth empowerment, and the LGBTQ and allied community.  However, this past summer, I interned for the largest student union in France, and the need for a global movement for social justice really hit home.  I hope that, by working with AID and living in DC for the semester, I can become more involved and better informed about the global issues impacting our world.

I want to start with Haiti.

The devastating earthquake that hit Haiti on Jan. 12th of this year resulted in thousands of lost lives, billions of dollars in damage, and prompted an outpouring of international relief efforts.  But these efforts won’t be enough to help Haiti for the long term.

Why you ask?

Debt has plagued Haiti ever since it became a free nation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Hi, I’m Lisa – the new Global Environment intern here at Americans for Informed Democracy.

Yesterday morning I had the opportunity to attend a breakfast briefing celebrating International Women’s Day. The breakfast was organized by Women Thrive Worldwide and UNIFEM to educate policymakers and private sector leaders about successes and challenges facing women in Afghanistan and Haiti. Speakers included The Honorable Maria Otero – Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Ines Alberdi – Executive Director of UNIFEM, Kathy Mongones – UNIFEM Haiti Program Coordinator, Suraya Pakzad – Founder of Voice of Women in Afghanistan, and Ritu Sharma – President and Co-founder of Women Thrive Worldwide.

The take away message was clear: it’s time to make women’s empowerment a central focus of U.S. foreign policy. But how do we do this? According to Ritu Sharma, you listen.

Read the rest of this entry »

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