If you have followed my travels or have read my blog over the years you know that Ethiopia is my favorite country in the world. There is something about the people, the culture, its beauty and the sheer size of the country I love. Even though I love Ethiopia I have never been under a grand illusion that it is a unified country. There have been mass arrests and killings in Oromia, journalist and freedom fighter imprisonments, and now a civil war with mass atrocities and forced starvation against the people of the Tigray region. In fact, just this week reports of an airstrike on a market near Tigray’s capital Mekele killed at least 64 people and wounded over 100.
Even as war is still happening in Ethiopia’s northernmost region, its national election officially wrapped on Monday without voting in Tigray, of course. Now, ballots are being tallied across the country with the likelihood that the current prime minister Abiy Ahmend will be reelected.
I have worked with Save the Children in some capacity for the past five years whether seeing their work around the world, blogging on pro-bono campaigns or partnering as a consultant. That’s why I can personally vouch for the amazing work they do for the most vulnerable children who have experienced psychological trauma from all-too-routine natural and man-made disasters. Many people think Save the Children solely provides aid during global catastrophes that happen in far away places, but they also provide substantial aid here in the United States. Save the Children was instrumental during hurricanes Katrina and Sandy as well as the tornadoes that continually tear through the mid-west. They also were there for both the Lousiana and eastern North Carolina floods last year. I am confident in their ability to focus on not only the physical but the mental well-being of the smallest among us.
In a climate where some national organizations are coming under increased scrutiny about their ability to adequately help families with simple supplies, supply lines, and logistics during stateside national disasters, Save the Children continues to be a rock for children and their families. I wasn’t asked to write this post, but feel strongly it’s necessary to urge as many people to donate to Save the Children during Harvey relief efforts. Thus far Save the Children has brought truckloads of infant and toddler supplies to four shelters in Austin while strengthening its work to support children in area shelters.
Officials anticipate that more than 30,000 Texas residents will need shelter including in three mega shelters located in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Save the Children has teams on the ground, and at the request of the City of Austin, is en route to the city’s four major shelters with essential items including portable cribs and sheets, strollers, baby wash basins, hygiene kits and lotion packs.
Save the Children is also opening child-friendly spaces in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.
“Child-Friendly Spaces are a hallmark of Save the Children’s emergency response, and are essential in helping children cope and build resiliency during disasters,” said Jeanne-Aimee De Marrais, the organization’s senior director of U.S. emergencies. “We are working hard to make sure that children and families in Texas are getting the supplies and care they need.”
“We are evaluating the immediate needs of families who are being rescued in Houston, and those who are still stranded,” added De Marrais. “We know the longer-term needs will be in Houston and we’re determined to get child care and early education programs up and running as quickly as possible.”
In February the United Nations officially declared a famine in South Sudan. What is most disheartening about this most recent famine in the world’s youngest country is it’s largely man-made. Constant infighting among South Sudanese opposition forces and the government makes growing crops nearly impossible. And, the instability in the country continues to drive up food costs. 100,000 people are directly suffering from famine, and another 4.9 million are living in extremely food insecure situations according to the United Nations. One million children in South Sudan are malnourished.
In April, Congress unanimously called upon the Unites States Agency for International Development (USAID) in partnership with the World Food Program to continue food aid to the millions affected by the famine. Congress, however, did not appropriate new relief funding to the region keeping in step with the Trump administration’s continued cuts in foreign aid.
The Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said last week that if nothing is done, 20 million people could starve to death within the next six months in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and northern Nigeria combined.
“Famine does not just kill people, it contributes to social instability and also perpetuates a cycle of poverty and aid dependency that endures for decades,” said the UN FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva.
While the problem is monumental there has been a budget put aside for famine relief by the international aid community. Governments will also have to do their part to help stabilize the region including the United States, even though the task of some in Congress to attach new funding to the cause seems well-intentioned, but probably a pipe dream for now. There are organizations that you can support with your own donations to support famine relief.
There are organizations that you can support with your own donations. Here are five I recommend because I have seen their work in the field and have always remained impressed by their infrastructure and aid relief. Links go directly to donation pages.
When everyday Americans think about women dying during childbirth it is probable that their initial thoughts travel directly to Africa where it is quite well known that maternal mortality is rife. Chances are their thoughts never focus on the deaths and near deaths during childbirth that women experience right here in the United States. After all, the overwhelming consensus is that the United States has the best medical care, superior health workers and health system in the world despite some of its inherent challenges. This thinking renders maternal mortality in the US thoroughly inconceivable to many even while data reveal it should not be inconceivable at all. In fact, maternal mortality is on the rise in America having doubled over the past 25 years all while global maternal deaths are steadily declining. Globally, maternal mortality was effectively reduced by 44 percent according to the World Health Organization.
The United States, while not the overall leader in maternal mortality among all countries, it is the leader among all developed nations. The United States ranked number 33 out of 179 countries in Save the Children’s 2015 Mothers’ Index Ranking and 46th in the world due to the rate of women who die from pregnancy and childbirth complications. Compared to other developed countries, the United States’ ranking is abysmal, especially with Norway, Finland, and Iceland ranking in the top three overall. Even countries like Estonia and Belarus, whose GDPs are considerably lower than ours, far outrank America.
It may sound cliché, but a child’s future deeply rests on their ability to learn and to be educated. It starts early and it doesn’t matter where a child lives whether it’s in Kenya or the Philippines or right here in the United States.
Oftentimes we see children who live in impoverished countries who desperately need books, schools that are close to their homes, and just the simple right to an education and we are compelled to help. In the United States, too, there are also many poor children who long for books and don’t have access to them. In fact one in five American children live in poverty and do not have one book in their home. This is heartbreaking because books really hold the keys to one’s future, creativity, imagination, and ability to be a productive adult.