Friday was World Malaria Day 2008. Global health depends on controlling this global disease. It is the leading cause of death in African children and a major health concern in Haiti. It overwhelms fragile health care systems and hurts economies - the annual economic loss in Africa due to malaria is estimated to be $12 billion (1.3% loss in GDP.) Yet, we know how to prevent it and how to treat it. There has been tremendous progress made in the past year, so much so that the international community increasingly agrees that we should begin working toward eradication - in other words, a world without malaria. It would be a better world indeed.
Malnutrition is a threat to health but it is treatable. The cure is the appropriate kind of food. There is no reason why children should die either from malnutrition or infectious diseases they are vulnerable to because malnourishment has weakened their immune systems. Earlier we wrote about Plumpynut, a Ready to Use Therapeutic Food that has revolutionized the way we treat malnourished children - and saved many of their lives in the process. Current sent us a video about Meds and Foods for Kids, organization in Cap Haitian that decided to make their own version of Plumpynut from local ingredients. They have been very successful and now the World Bank is supporting them to provide "Medika Mamba" nationwide. It is an innovative idea that is now having a nationwide impact.
It is not easy to find a library in Haiti. The Fondation Connaissance & Liberté (FOKAL) wants to change that. FOKAL supports 35 community libraries throughout Haiti. FOKAL also supports arts and culture programming, a debate program, grassroots initiatives, a preschool program and even water projects. FOKAL staff will speak at the Library of Congress in Washington DC on June 10th. If you do not live in the Washington DC area, you can catch the live webcast. In the meantime,take a look at their website to learn more about this organiztion. Education is fundamental to solving Haiti’s economic, environmental, and health related challenges.
Haiti Innovation expressed disappointment and irritation with last week's New York Times article describing a solution to Haiti's hunger. Today, circulating through blogs all over cyber space, human rights lawyer Bill Quigley released a compelling report: "America's Role in Haiti's Hunger Riots". He goes beyond the trite phrases describing Haiti and delves into the truth behind high food costs. So although Haiti "needs to better feed itself", countries such as the US need to allow this to happen. Mr. Quigley raises the question, "Thirty years ago, Haiti raised nearly all the rice it needed. What happened?".
A colleague of mine worked in Dhaka for several years, a city infinitely more crowded than Port au Prince. Yet, Dhaka is much cleaner. In Port au Prince, plastic bottles and trash clog the waterways creating a flooding hazard and a breeding ground for mosquitoes that transmit diseases. It is a great place to be a goat but a hard place to be a human being. What is the difference between Dhaka and Port au Prince? Bangladesh has recycling plants while Haiti does not.
Thought you might enjoy reading a Boston Globe piece about progress being made by Partners in Health in Rwanda. It really is an inspiring story. Rwanda was torn apart during the Genocide, but is coming together again. Health is clearly playing an important role in the reconciliation process. Working closely with the Clinton Foundation, the Government of Rwanda, and a large team of dedicated communicate health workers, there are making a real difference with the knowledge and experience they gained in their +20 years of experience in Haiti.
Benjamin Skinner wrote an article in Foreign Policy about the modern face of human slavery. According to Skinner, there are now more slaves on the planet than at any time in human history. He states true abolition will elude us until: (1) we admit the massive scope of the problem; (2) attack it in all its forms; and (3) and empower slaves to help free themselves. Even in Haiti, the only country to have led a successful slave rebellion, slavery thrives. Slavery has many gusies and "restaveks" are just one.
After travelling to Haiti for the first time, High School Civics Instructor Larry Pahl, founded Aid to Haiti with the intention of building relationships with and raising awareness of quality organizations operating in Haiti. His latest effort has been the creation of a handbook of photos, narrative, and infromation about organizations making a difference in Haiti right now. All proceeds will go to supporting educational programming in Haiti.
Last week, the New York Times ran an article about the relationship between hunger and insecurity, with considerable attention given to Haiti. It notes the food rioting, the mud cookies, and the desperation that comes from not being able to feed onself and one's family. Hunger is not new to Haiti. While this article has raised awareness about hunger in Haiti, it does not go into why or offer up solutions which is unfortunate.
With the Prime Minister of Haiti having been voted out as a result of the recent food riots, expect biofuels to get put on the backburner for a while – at least as far as the government is concerned. The new Prime Minister will need to assemble a new Cabinet and we hope that the Ministers of Finance, Agriculture, and Energy will all take a close look at the potential of biofuels. In the meantime, the non-governmental organizations keep working away. A successful war on poverty in Haiti must be fought on different fronts at the same time, chief of which are food security and energy independence.