Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Faith-based Groups Fueling African Health Care; UN Agency calls for More Recognition of Their Contribution

WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB. 19, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The World Health Organization says that in the fight against HIV, more support needs to be given to faith-based organizations.

The WHO made this observation in a study released last week at the Washington National Cathedral.

The report, "Appreciating Assets: Mapping, Understanding, Translating and Engaging Religious Health Assets in Zambia and Lesotho," estimates that 30% to 70% of Africa's health infrastructure is operated by faith-based organizations, or FBOs. Yet, there is little cooperation between these organization and public health programs, the report contends.

"Faith-based organizations are a vital part of civil society," said Kevin De Cock, director of the WHO's department of HIV/AIDS.

"Since they provide a substantial portion of care in developing countries, often reaching vulnerable populations living under adverse conditions, FBOs must be recognized as essential contributors towards universal access efforts," De Cock added.

According to the report, FBOs play much a greater role in HIV/AIDS care and treatment in sub-Saharan Africa than previously recognized.

Ted Karpf, partnerships officer in WHO's department of HIV/AIDS, said: "This data demands that we continue to explore and expand the field. This is the first serious study of FBO engagement in HIV/AIDS, but it cannot be the last.

"Donors and health-care funders need to take the role of FBOs into account. Without the FBOs, the hope of universal access to prevention, treatment and care is lost."

Thursday, February 15, 2007

You Did It!

A message from Susan McCue of The ONE Campaign.

Thanks to your work, the U.S. Senate secured the $1 billion dollars in poverty-fighting funds you sought, and they went a step further, allocating an additional $450 million in the fight to save hundreds of thousands of lives. Every ONE member made it happen.

Having worked on Capitol Hill for a long time, I know first-hand the pressures on Congress for funding. Being heard amid the intense lobbying is hard. Many special interests have vast resources to break through. But millions facing life-threatening situations living in extreme poverty have no voice. You came together and spoke for them. You gave them a voice. Lives will be saved, and our country is stronger for your leadership.

After hearing that $1 billion dollars was at stake in December, ONE members sent over 200,000 letters to members of Congress urging them to sign on to Durbin-Brownback "Dear Colleague" letter. 42 senators signed on to these letters and gave our champions the leverage they needed to secure this life-saving funding.

When you take this opportunity to thank your Senators for their vote you will also be reminding them that the fight against extreme poverty matters to you and you want America to reach out and lead the fight.

Congratulations. I look forward to writing you again about our plans for the year ahead and the future of ONE. As we build from this success, we can change who gets heard in Washington and give voice to those most in need around the world. You did it.

Thank you,
Susan McCue, ONE.org

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

...What Sort of Realignment?

EGR board member Debbie Shew forwarded me this editorial by Bill Sachs that talks about a new awakening in the church. The language jives with my experience of the global reconciliation movement. I've reprinted the beginning here and then you can click onto the Richmond Times-Dispatch site for the whole thing

I'd be interested in your comments:

As considerable attention focuses on discord in the Episcopal Church, a deeper reality is easily overlooked. Differences over human sexuality and the direction of church life merit consideration. There should be widespread discussion of what are momentous issues. But it becomes tempting to define the state of the Episcopal Church in terms of the divide over sexuality. Instead, by other parameters the Episcopal Church and other denominations are in the midst of a historic realignment. It is a shift that has less to do with the departure of a few parishes than with a refocusing of church life. Some might say that the Episcopal Church is in the midst of a spiritual awakening.

Periodically, American life has been remade by a pervasive religious awakening. Historians speak of two Great Awakenings, one in the 1740s, which awakened the ideal of religious freedom, and another in the early 19th century, which inspired various forms of charitable work. The fruits of these awakenings remain as both basic religious ideals and major social institutions.

Various writers have sensed the possibility of a new burst of spiritual energy that would instill new religious and moral direction. Historian Martin Marty has foreseen such realignment and noted that shifts in religious allegiance over moral issues such as homosexuality are only one aspect of it. The bigger picture concerns the building of faith anew, within and among the churches. Beyond conflict over sexuality the meaning of faith community is being discovered anew.

RELIGIOUS awakenings are diffuse in their sources and outcomes. Inevitably old institutions are remade and new forms of religious life emerge. Like a hurricane the origin and course of a religious awakening are difficult to predict. A variety of spiritual and moral issues surface and only in a few instances lead to a break with religious structures. Instead, awakenings build up community far more than they diminish it. Religious life is remade from within in ways that may become apparent only in hindsight. A quiet restlessness to find a deeper faith is the source of initiatives characterized not by protest but by exploring new forms of religious life.

Read it all here.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Delivering on the Promise of Africa

This is an important article from the World Economic Forum website -- and something to consider in your companion diocese relationships and other mission work abroad. We need to be about relationships that preserve and encourage local autonomy, build capacity and that don't create systems of dependency. I always go back to the lens of "seek and serve Christ in all people, and respect the dignity of every human being." For me, an integral part of "respecting dignity" and "serving Christ" is this emphasis not on providing aid without end but on helping people build their own capacity for success.

Anyway, interesting article. I welcome your comments.

Delivering on the Promise of Africa

Africa will top the agenda of the G8 (major industrialized nations) for three years in a row, said a high-level roundtable of political and business leaders. But there will be a growing emphasis on "building capacity" to translate developed world funds into enduring progress across the continent, they said.

Vital issues for developed nations include progress in world trade, debt cancellation and overseas investments in health, education and infrastructure. In turn, African leaders on the panel highlighted their ongoing efforts to ensure economic stability, good governance, regional security, transparency and stamping out corruption.

But the leaders gave candid, and repeated, recognition to the fact that ample funds from one side and political will from the other is not enough to ensure lasting progress and security unless there is a determined focus on building capacity.

Looking back on the multilateral consensus for his New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa, praised the agreements for setting up the implementing organs of the economic communities. They have "good staffs and headquarters", he said. "But when we came to the implementation of cross-boundary projects and commitments from development partners…we found that we don’t have the capacity to design a project. It is a discovery. [Programmes] won’t translate into reality if the commitments to capacity are not made."

"We need to refocus again on capacity," warned Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Otherwise the risk and danger is that the African Union may attempt peacekeeping and conflict resolution in places like Darfur and Somalia – what he called "the hard end of governance" – "but will lack the capacity to act on it".

"Liberia like so many African nations is very well endowed; for God’s sake we shouldn’t be poor," observed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia. But she added that when it was time to ensure that priorities reflect nations’ internally designed agendas, "money was not the issue, but the technical skills and capacity to put the money to effective use."

Amidst wide praise for the philanthropic work of his foundation, William H. Gates III, Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USA, expressed similar concerns about sustaining health system capacity in Africa.

Niall FitzGerald, Chairman, Reuters, United Kingdom, and Member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, asked: "Even if you bring all the right drugs and treatments," is there "a danger that the best trained medical professionals get sucked out of Africa to the north of the equator, leaving Africa bereft?" Gates observed that vaccines and treatments bring enormous multiplier benefits, and remittances home from skilled African migrants to the affluent world are a huge part of the continent’s economy. Still, regarding "the capacity of personnel in Africa," he agreed, "there definitely needs to be an increase."

Bernd Pfaffenbach, the German Chancellor's Personal Representative to the G8, affirmed that in 2007, "there cannot be any stop in what is happening…because Africa is a very proud continent. It needs more ownership and more capacity building and what we have is to offer partnership between G8 and African leaders." Sadako Ogata, President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, agreed that Africa’s need for capacity will remain high on the agenda for the G8 in Japan in 2008, the third year in a row.

When a Nigerian colleague expressed disbelief that incapacity is the primary impediment to progress, and suggested that enough skilled human resources could be found within Africa, both Sirleaf and Mbeki reaffirmed their positions. "We’ve lost all our talent, we can‘t afford the conversion levels," said Sirleaf. Mbeki also acknowledged that "we had been attracting too many doctors from neighbouring countries", worsening healthcare throughout the subcontinent. "There is a capacity constraint across the board, and we need a radical increase in every respect: teachers in math, science, nurses, doctors, engineers, all sorts of people, so that we don’t have to go to Paul Wolfowitz, to borrow money from his World Bank and then hire consultants from him to say how we should spend it."