Monday, June 30, 2008

"The Impoverished of El Salvador: Economic Survival" -- by Dr. John Hammock

The impoverished of El Salvador live under the daily threat of hunger and destitution. Most survive on a daily ration of piecemeal work, luck and pure guts. Women do the housework and contribute to economic survival by washing the clothes or cooking the meals of the rich or working the land with their husbands. In rural areas men work the fields and in urban areas they work the streets for daily jobs. Impoverished families stare daily at the possibility of hunger. Most earn less than $1 a day.

The impoverished face the greatest risk from disasters. They are the most vulnerable to earthquakes, floods, droughts, fires, environmental degradation, economic dislocations and political decisions that eliminate their daily livelihoods. There are no insurance schemes to protect those most at risk. The national and municipal governments do not prioritize assisting the most vulnerable. 

El Salvador is a society in the throes into the maquila business. While the rich are richer and consumer spending has skyrocketed, the impoverished are no better off. With earthquakes at the beginning of 2001 followed by a drought that affected the first planting season, El Salvador's government continues to pursue policies that destroy its natural resources, thus making natural phenomena severe disasters. A large trade deficit is offset almost in its entirety by remittances from Salvadorans living in other countries (mostly the U.S.). Migration has been not only an escape valve for the society, it has also been a major financier of the Salvadoran transition into the globalized economy.

Economic Survival

The people most at risk are hard working members of the impoverished, working poor. Vulnerability is reduced when people own and accumulate assets that they can protect. Vulnerability is also reduced when assets can help to insure the person against the disaster and assist in attracting other services from government. Yet in El Salvador, the working poor live hand to mouth and cannot accumulate assets. Most do not have steady jobs or income. 

Following are how Salvadorans explain it in their own words. (Taken from interviews conducted in 2002):

"Before, people had cows and animals that helped them survive. But as this has become urbanized we are left with nothing. Now women either work in the homes of the rich or we sell. Some sell clothes or ice cream. Some take care of kids or wash or iron or cook for people in the urbanizations. I sell fruit. I go to the market every morning and buy fruit, like watermelon. Then I have a place to sell at a bus stop. I am lucky to have this place. Before, I used to sell on the street. If I need to, I also wash clothes for others to make some money.

"So, I have a long day. I get up early while it is dark to go to the market and I sell until my daughter takes over in the afternoon. Then I get time to come home to cook and to work on community issues." (Mendez)"

"I came to this community after the earthquake of '65. I was in my house when I felt the tremor. I grabbed one child under each arm and ran. none of us got hurt but the hut fell down. I had nothing. I was helped by neighbors. I really lived off charity for a while. A friend told me of this place, that this place was opening up. So I came, thought it was not a great place, living in this ravine. I live in a very humble house, but I have been fixing it up slowly. But every time something happens the house gets ruined, with the heavy rains or the earthquakes. I have seen it all here; but I have no place to go. So, I stay. I make some money sewing clothes. People know that I make dresses or whatever they need made. So I get a bit of business. But now there are so many used clothes that business is almost nonexistent. So, I have to wash or iron. Here you do what you have to do to survive. No one has a full time job, but everybody hustles." (Pastran)

"I am originally from San Miguel. I am 48 years old and have been here for 13 years. I have four children aged 22 to 16. They are all still here. None of them has any steady job. They go out to find day jobs to give us some money to survive. I have been a helper in the kitchen in a restaurant, a pizzeria. That is how we manage to get by." (Osorio)

"I live all alone. I am 61. my mother died not long ago. My wife died a while back. My kids are all grown up and gone. I have eight brothers and sisters. Two are in Guatemala. We are close to the border here, so they went up there to work and did not come back. One went to the United States. he is in Virginia. he sends nothing here. I have a small plot here. I do not have the strength to cultivate most of it; so I only plant what I can. Mostly I plant sweet corn and millet. It is just enough for me to survive." (Carran)

"I have nine kids. The eldest is 18; the youngest is just one year and four months old. Five are boys; four are girls. I am in my mid 30s. I was born here in El Chino. This community is dependent on the sugar cane cooperative that we have here. There are 53 members of the cooperative. The coop gives members a small plot for the family plot. on it we grow sweet corn and millet. We also work on the sugar cane fields. We get paid for three two week periods during the harvest. This is paid at 415 colones ($50) for each two-week period we work. That really is our only cash income for the year." (S. Ayala)

"I am 25 years old. I am a single mom living with my mother. I have two kids; the eldest is eight. I have been here for eight years. I am not a member of the cooperative. I do not have a plot of land. I work as a day laborer; sometimes I can get a job for two weeks at a stretch. Sometimes I can get hired by the cooperative, other times by others. I also fish and go to get shrimp. Fortunately, we live here near the water and can go fishing. The shrimp are there. Also, the community helps me. There is one woman particularly who has helped me. This year we went almost a month with no food. This woman helped me by giving me tortillas to survive." (Alfaro)

"I am 58 years old. I came to this place when I was two. I have lived here all my life. I have been with my wife for 19 years. We have four children -- all of them are boys. The eldest is 18, the youngest 7. When Mitch struck, things were horrible. The water kept rising. The police came to warn us and get us out. I sent my family to higher ground. I stayed to make sure that my house was safe. It did not collapse but it did fall sideways. It was damaged pretty badly. The worst is that I lost my corn. This really was a disaster because that is what we use to survive.

"Our community runs right along the road. We live here on the edge of this large private farm. As you can see he has fences running around his farm so that no one can get in. Some of us work for him when we can. none of us owns this land. He lets some of us grow food for our families on small plots. I do not have to pay rent to him for the two manzanas I farm; but it is his land. I grow sweet corn and millet. I also grow chili peppers. These I do not eat. They are for making a poison to control pests. I also grow some onions that I use to help store the corn. I store the corn in a green plastic garbage bag, mixed with onion. This year I grew a little bit of soybeans. I use this to eat, for meat and milk. It tastes just like meat when you cook it. And we like it. Most of what I grow is for our own use. But every once in a while I get enough so that I can sell some."  (Fuentes)

"Let me lay it out straight. If I go to buy one brick to build the wall of our house, we don't eat that day. If I go out to buy three bricks we die of hunger." (Castro)

But in El Salvador people do not die of hunger; they get by. They survive by working hard in a variety of urban and rural jobs that will never let them advance; but they keep people alive. The impoverished cannot earn enough to accumulate assets; they have no economic power to buy private insurance or insist on public policies and government actions to reduce the risks that plague them.

Dr. John Hammock is an Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at The Fletcher School, Tufts University. He is currently on leave until September, 2008 and working with Sabina Alkire as a senior research associate at the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative. John was Executive Director at Oxfam America from 1984-1995 and Executive Director at ACCION International from 1973-1980. John is the president of the board of EGR. 

Monday, June 23, 2008

"Sending a Better Message to the People of Iraq" by Siun at Firedoglake

Editor's Note: This post is from our friend Siun at Firedoglake. Meant to get it up on Friday for World Refugee Day but other factors conspired to delay. Please read and respond -- with prayers, words and dollars. -- Mike+

Friday was World Refugee Day. Thursday, the House passed an Iraq Supplemental with no deadlines for withdrawal and with funding for the occupation into next year.

Every day in Iraq, the Iraqi Red Crescent workers put their lives on the line to bring food, water, and medical care to their fellow Iraqis. Scores of these humanitarian workers have been kidnapped, murdered and harassed by death squads. Reports of raids on Red Crescent offices by our forces are frequent. Yet they keep on working – doing all they can to bring relief to internally displaced Iraqis and to their neighbors across Iraq. IRC is the only organization still bringing such aid to every region of Iraq and across all sectarian lines.

In honor of World Refugee Day, many of us are working to flood the IRC with donations – and even if you can only donate a little, they will put every bit to work. This is one small way we can show our opposition to the occupation and our concern for the devastation our country is causing the Iraqi people.

To send a donation, click here and select “Iraq Humanitarian Response” in the “I want my contribution to go here” box. 100% of your donation will go directly to assisting Iraq Red Crescent’s work. Here's what your donation will buy:

Every 15 days, Iraqi Red Crescent networks deliver food rations that include flour, rice, sugar, vegetable oil, tomato paste, salt, jam, spaghetti, lentils, tea, sardines, and cheese. The $33.50 USD cost per family ration covers the expense of the food, distribution, transport and security. (These rations are delivered to 200,000 families.)

A share of non-food items contains 4 blankets, a cooking stove, lantern, 2 jerry cans, a kitchen set and thermos, which are distributed every three months at a cost of $99.50 USD per family.
(These supplies are delivered to 50,000 families.)

Since it is World Refugee Day, here’s an overview of the work IRC did last year for the Internally displaced families in Iraq :

Since March 2006, the Iraqi Red Crescent maintained a humanitarian aid operation to assist IDP and destitute families through the distribution of food and non-food relief items. This is in addition to distribution of gifts on national occasions, kitchen sets, school kits, fuel and water and provision of basic medical care to IDP residing in the Iraqi Red Crescent camps. More than 11,625 volunteers are contributing to this operation.

Since March 2006, the Iraqi Red Crescent distributed 584,093 food shares, 322,134 shares of relief items and 271,481 hygiene kits to IDP and destitute families. This distribution took place through the Iraqi Red Crescent branches and offices in the 18 governorates. Other humanitarian aid distributions took place through the Iraqi Red Crescent Headquarters to local non-governmental organizations, orphanages and institutions serving special vulnerable groups. In April 2008, distributions took place in Baghdad, Basra, Diwaniya and Dohuk governorates, where the Iraqi Red Crescent branches distributed 3,559 food baskets and 767 relief shares, in addition to wheat flour and rice in Baghdad.

And you can listen here to hear IRC president Dr. Said Hakki describe their recent efforts during the Sadr City siege and their work to rebuild neighborhoods in Baghdad.

Sending a donation to support these efforts seems the least we can do as our Congress continues to approve funds for the very occupation that leads to these conditions.

Again, to send a donation, click here and select “Iraq Humanitarian Response” in the “I want my contribution to go here” box. 100% of your donation will go directly to assisting Iraq Red Crescent’s work.

Our friends at Crooks and Liars, EENR Progressive Blog, Main and Central, Florida Speaks, Slobber and Spittle, and Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation will be joining in (sorry we're late to the party - MK!) - let us know of any other links we can add to this list.

Two good posts for background can be found at A Refugee Story (h/t Laura) and at Cujo's Iraq's Refugees Eight Months Later.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"It's time to grow locally -- even in Africa" -- by Dr. Josh Ruxin

On the outskirts of Kigali, Rwanda’s biggest open air food market is bustling today and full of foodstuffs. There’s no shortage, but prices — particularly of maize flour — have climbed by as much as fifty percent in the last six months. While it’s easy to place the blame on oil prices, which have driven up transport and fertilizer costs and thus the price of food imports, the oil spike alone is not the cause. What the average Rwandan might not realize is that America’s thirst for energy is partly to blame for the increase in their cost of living.

Last week, lawmakers in the Senate and House began a bipartisan re-examination of their commitment to ethanol. The current spike in food prices has caused them to reconsider the validity of the idea that corn-based ethanol production provided the best short-term prospect for bolstering America’s energy independence. The facts are quickly becoming clear to Congress — including senators and representatives from corn-producing states — that ethanol is not the magic bullet it promised to be as recently as last year.

Far from it: With 25 percent of all U.S. corn production going to ethanol production, it has turned out to be the catalyst that’s helped transform the crisis in gas prices into a full-blown food crisis. This has been a disaster for the world’s working poor, but hopefully, our leaders’ eyes have been opened to the problem and the opportunities that exist for solving it.

One powerful long-term solution that needs our support is the suite of agriculture programs aimed at helping the world’s poor grow drought- and pest-resistant crops. As Keith Bradsher and Andrew Martin reported in the New York Times on May 18th, we have lost many of these programs to budget cuts due to our government’s and trade experts’ having been lulled by the plenty that American agriculture has always delivered. They outline how the U.S. is currently slashing, by as much as 75 percent, its $59.5 million annual budget for supporting global research focused on improving crops vital to agricultural commodities in poor countries such as rice, maize, and soy.

Despite the administration’s request for $770 million in emergency food aid, cuts continue to be pushed through. The World Bank, a longtime supporter of agriculture programs, has also dropped its commitment to crop research and development significantly over the past few years. This is terribly unwise. Global leaders now appear on notice that agriculture must be put back at the top of policy priorities. The UN just completed a conference yesterday loaded with recommendations that have long been known to policy wonks. Donald Kaberuka, the president of the African Development Bank and Rwanda’s former minister of finance pragmatically noted, “The test will be in implementing the solutions.”

Programs that allow the world’s poor to be self sufficient are smart on many levels. They allow more stability — indeed, those parts of the world with good agriculture programs have been less susceptible to the food rioting we’ve seen recently in the world’s poorer urban areas. Such programs are also more cost effective for American taxpayers since they cost less than emergency food aid. Most importantly, when they allow small farmers in Rwanda or Tanzania to grow hardy crops bred to be drought- and pest-resistant, these programs help the poor feed themselves.

They can also help local subsistence farmers make money and climb up from poverty into prosperity. Small farmers who work to meet local and regional demand end up putting more acreage into profitable cultivation, and the income they receive even allows them to invest in crops like pomegranates — a high-demand niche product for which wholesalers and food production companies will pay a premium.

The fruits of agricultural research projects — drought- and pest-resistant crops — cost less because they require less gasoline and other petroleum inputs, such as fertilizer, herbicides and pesticides, to produce. Locally grown crops can therefore provide cash-poor consumers with an inexpensive alternative to the now unaffordable crops being flown and shipped in from all over the world. It’s time for an African Green Revolution — improved seeds and practices that will increase productivity, self-sufficiency, and therefore, security. An African Green Revolution will not be as straightforward as Asia’s Green Revolution since there are new challenges — decreased rainfall due to environmental change, overpopulation, small farm size, and the AIDS pandemic — which Asia did not face. Nonetheless, helping farmers accustomed to living on the edge of starvation to be productive does not require heroic or financially untenable efforts. The Millennium Villages Project in Rwanda, for example, helped a community of several thousand farm families move from producing approximately 300 kilograms of food to 5 metric tons in the course of one season. All that was required was community leadership, advanced seeds, and good management. That’s a package of interventions that should be provided world-wide.

Making deep cuts to restore fiscal sanity in government makes sense, but great care must be applied when choosing which programs to cut, and which to keep. Just last week, John McCain spoke at length to an audience about pork barrel programs that needed to be cut: He mentioned agricultural research programs among those that must go. The presidential candidates need to consider the long-term costs to America in emergency-food-aid allocations and global security, and should think carefully before slashing. Divesting from agricultural programs while staring down the barrel of a global food crisis would be a decision certain to rank highly in the annals of poor public policy practices.

Josh Ruxin is a Columbia University expert on public health who has spent the last couple of years living in Rwanda, where he administers the Millennium Villages Project in Mayange. He’s an unusual mix of academic expert and mud-between-the-toes aid worker. His regular posts (including this one) can be found on the blogroll of Nick Kristof of the New York Times, and he has given his permission to be cross-posted here. Josh and EGR executive director Mike Kinman team-teach a global poverty module for Trinity, Wall Street's Clergy Leadership Project

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"Spreading the Gospel on the Cheap" -- by the Rev. Lauren Stanley

Quick: How many missionaries does the Episcopal Church have serving full-time overseas?

If you don’t know the answer to that question, don’t worry: Most Episcopalians aren’t even aware that the Episcopal Church has full-time overseas missionaries. Not because they aren’t paying attention, but because, sad to say, we don’t tell the story well enough (and by “we,” I mean the entire Church, top to bottom).

The fact is, the Episcopal Church has 70 missionaries serving full-time around the world in more than 30 countries. Each missionary is sent forth by the Episcopal Church of the United States, and thus represents not just his or her sending diocese, but the entire church.

The issue is not how many missionaries we as a Church have; there are far too few laborers in this field. The issue is how they are supported, or not supported, by the very same Church that is sending them forth.

(Full disclosure: I am one of those 70 missionaries, serving in the Diocese of Renk in South Sudan. This is not a letter from an unbiased observer, but from one who is affected deeply by the issues here.)

Each missionary gets some financial support from the Episcopal Church. Appointed Missionaries, who are commissioned directly by the Presiding Bishop, receive more than others, including stipends (which are small), transportation, visa fees, language training, and full participation in the Pension Fund, which depends on whether that missionary is lay or ordained. Volunteers for Mission receive health benefits only. Any shortfalls in expenses are covered by the missionaries themselves, who have to raise the rest.

The brutal truth is this: The Episcopal Church, which says that mission is its heart and soul, and both proclaims and encourages mission constantly, does not provide enough funding for the missionaries it has.

No missionary gives up everything the United States has to offer – jobs, security, safety and job benefits, not to mention such niceties as clean, running water, decent food, health care that you can trust, etc. – to make money, to live high on the hog, or to pump up the résumé. Being a full-time missionary overseas means living closely with the people of God as one of them, often in circumstances that would appall most Americans.

It is not easy to be a missionary overseas. It means leaving behind family and friends and jobs and security and sometimes safety. It means brushing your teeth using bottled water because the water you have will kill you, or cooking over charcoal stoves, or having electricity at most just a few hours per day, or bathing out of buckets, and then washing your clothes in those same buckets. It means setting aside the taken-for-granted privileges of the Global North to live as the majority of people do in the Global South.

Admittedly, few missionaries live on less than $1 per day, which is the truth for so many Global Southerners, but all live on considerably less than they would in the United States, and many missionaries live very close to the bone financially.

And yet, while the Episcopal Church proclaims that mission is at the very heart of our ministry, that same Church is not supporting those willing to go the farthest for the longest period of time.

Once again, by “Church,” I do not mean the “national Church” or “those folks at 815 in New York.” I mean the whole Church, the 2 million-plus members of this portion of the Anglican Communion. I mean all of us.

Earlier this year, the Mission Personnel Office in New York, looking at the budget that was set for missionaries, tried to figure out a way to make the pay system more equitable. In an effort to ensure that lay missionaries had access to the Pension Fund, it proposed that henceforth, all missionaries would receive full benefits and Pension Fund benefits, and that’s it. No longer would there be a differentiation between Volunteers for Mission and Appointed Missionaries; all would be treated equally in the financial realm. All other money – for stipends, living expenses, travel, visas, language training, etc. – had to be raised by the missionaries themselves. In essence, the Mission Personnel Office was trying to make the best of a bad situation. That plan, thankfully, has been removed from the table. The Standing Commission on World Mission now is seeking a different way to fund the missionaries more fully.

The question is, why was the Mission Personnel Office put in that position in the first place? Why isn’t the Episcopal Church more willing to fully fund missionaries, so that they don’t have to raise money to go off and answer the call God has issued to them? The Church allocates less than $1million per year for these 70 people. To fully fund them all – so that missionaries would receive full health and pension benefits, a stipend (which hasn’t changed in years, despite the constantly rising costs in living expenses), support, travel, visa fees, language training, etc. – would cost approximately another $1.8 million per year.

That sounds like a lot of money, and in overall scheme of the Church’s budget, it is. But if instead of looking at the “Church” as just those folks in New York, we looked at the “Church” as all of us, it would mean, literally, pennies per year per person. Really. Raising that amount of money would mean asking each Episcopalian in this country to give eighty cents per year just for missionaries.

Read the entire piece on Episcopal Cafe.

The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley is an Appointed Missionary of the Episcopal Church serving in the Diocese of Renk, Sudan. She is a lecturer at the Renk Theological College, teaching Theology, Liturgy and English, and serves as chaplain for the students.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"Jesus Weeps - and we share His Blood, Sweat and Tears" -- by Jenn Morazes

Over the past year, my faith in myself, in the world, in God and in justice has been formed and tested in a way I have not previously experienced. In contemplating how to capture my experience in this piece, I’m sitting here looking at the eight Millennium Development Goals and some of my past blogs on the EGR website. Among the core themes which emerge in my writing on this blog over the past year appear to be 1) emphasizing Fr. Lapsley’s recommendation of reconciliation as a Millennium Development Goal and relatedly, the centrality of anti-violence efforts in achieving the Millennium Development Goals 2) the importance of acknowledging the interplay between domestic and international dimensions of global poverty in achieving the MDGs 3) admitting and addressing the differences (as well as commonalities) in perspective and power between the first and two-thirds world, and 4) exploring the interrelatedness between physical and psychological consequences and dimensions of global poverty. The experience I have had recently vividly hits upon many of these core themes.

Millennium Development Goals two, three, four and five speak to the importance of health and equality for mothers and children in the enterprise of global poverty alleviation. From New Bedford, MA (the area where I grew up) to Marin County, CA (nearby my current area of residence in the Bay Area), ICE raids have made national headlines over the past year as family members have been split across national borders due to deportation. There is no doubt that children being separated from parents in an abrupt way can have ramifications upon physical and mental health. The effects of deportation upon parents and children are compounded when other elements such as poverty and violence are present. In fact, recent research called the Adverse Childhood Experience or ACE studies points to how challenging childhood experiences can affect one into the course of their adult life.

How does immigration to the US (documented and undocumented) relate to the MDGs? As acknowledged in a book I highly recommend called Jesus Weeps: Global Encounters on Our Doorstep by Harold Recinos, the author identifies how immigration patterns to the United States are influenced by global economic realities. Many of the mothers and fathers working in the factories and shipyards who faced deportation over this year (or were in fact deported) perhaps sought health and security for themselves and for their children – maybe because those conditions were not present in their country of origin. After the court hearings, some parents were unfortunately separated from the children they sought to assist. Although these raids have slipped from national attention, in my work over the past year of clinical training working with families in the Bay Area who have experienced violence, I have had my own confrontation with the impact of the ICE raids and with the weeping of Jesus. In the cases I have recently had involvement; I’ve personally worked with some mothers whose children in fact were US citizens when they themselves were not, so the risk of separation was even more present since the children would not have been necessarily deported along with them.

In two hearings, I participated in United States Federal Court Immigration proceedings, qualified as a clinically-trained “expert witness”. Some of the mothers I work with in family violence counseling are citizens of other countries, yet their children are US citizens due to their fathers’ citizenship. Some of the counseling I perform is due to domestic violence, as its not uncommon in cases like these to hear that the citizen parent had promised to marry the mother of the children, but then proceeded to use the mothers’ immigration status as leverage to continue the abuse (“Don’t tell, or I’ll tell and you’ll never see your children again”). In cases like these, its also not uncommon that when the mothers ultimately flee the abuse with their children and attempt to provide economically for them, ICE ultimately finds them. Sometimes, this can occur because the previous abuser or other family members call Homeland Security and provide a “tip” as “payback” for the mother’s leaving. The dynamics illustrate a microcosm of the interweaving of power relationships between male and female, and between first-world and two-thirds world.

The Violence Against Women Act or VAWA fortunately has afforded legal protection to parents and children in these cases. Yet the basis of this protection must be proven, many times by expert psychological testimony which can lend weight to the contention that the parent or children have been affected by abuse. Over the past six months, I was called upon to provide such testimony, for parents and children. Personally knowing the mothers and the children involved added an additional dimension to such an awesome responsibility. These were mothers and children I saw week to week – their smiles, their tears – I was a witness to their personal transformations as mothers emerged from violence to become more stable and secure for their children and children became more confident and were able to once again play and enjoy those around them. The thought of the parents becoming separated from their children was almost unbearable to me, yet I knew it happened everyday.

This experience shows in an interpersonal way how physical/psychological health, violence, domestic-international elements of global economic realities, and differences in perspective and power (as related in immigration policy) converge and impact real mothers and children. In the days before the hearings, I was preoccupied with mustering sufficient strength and faith. Many nights were sleepless. Here I was – a student of mental health and theology – enduring only a fraction of what some parents and children live everyday and, feeling a deep challenge to my faith. Finally, as I stood up on the stand facing the prosecuting attorney for the government, I felt like saying “You can’t handle The Truth!” like Colonel Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson) in A Few Good Men. Yet, the truth I couldn’t handle was the idea that even with my best effort in providing testimony, the rules and system could in fact separate these families - mothers and children I had known for the year of my training. I saw His tears in this possibility. Jesus wept.

Recently, I learned that the people in the cases for which I had testified had been granted green cards and allowed to stay in the United States with their children. I heard my heart pumping in my ears. After so many months – some “simple” pronouncements – and the waiting was over for these families. My waiting was over too. Yet the impact upon these families and the impact upon me still ring. They can stay together, remaining whole. I become more whole, too. I feel a profound honor to have served, to have used my skills in this way. And, it was an example to me of how we all share in the sweat and blood of an ongoing struggle for justice – a struggle which Jesus exemplified for all of us. This experience is an enduring reminder to me that the outcomes for Millennium Development Goals for which we strive – the alleviation of global poverty and violence -- live on in the lives of real mothers and children.

Some definitions of social development include anti-violence and peace efforts intrinsically within their frameworks; see Midgley (1995) for one example.

To protect the confidentiality of those involved, some of the descriptions and details in this account have been changed. The overall facts are preserved and true.

Jenn Morazes is a graduate of Episcopal Divinity School in the area of Theology and Contemporary Society. Currently studying in the School of Social Welfare in the MSW/PhD program at the University of California, Berkeley. Jenn has studied and performed community work in both Mexico and Southern Africa and also participated in the Young Adult Stewards Programme with the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland. She has also served as an anti-racism trainer for the national Episcopal Church. Her current clinical work and research focuses on the impact of trauma on particular communities locally and internationally, as well as homelessness,wealth distribution and the role of faith communities in social development.

Monday, June 16, 2008

"Doctors Without Orders" -- by Dr. Josh Ruxin

To improve global health, what we need isn’t just Bill Gates’ billions, but Microsoft's managers.

Two years ago, I saw a line of 30 people waiting for services at Nyamata Hospital in Bugesera, a rural region in southern Rwanda. Its approximately 300,000 residents live clustered around small villages. It was the epicenter of the 1994 genocide and remains one of the poorest districts in the nation.

The hospital is on a charming plot of land, and its infrastructure is welcoming, impressive, and modern. It has some 60 professional staff and half a dozen doctors, an adequate number of personnel for a district facility. But while a line of 30 people seems long to Americans, it’s not to Rwandans. I was surprised to find so few lined up for the sort of high-quality care that this hospital promised, on the surface, to deliver.

When my team asked why so few patients were there, the staff, the patients, and the community all pointed to the same cause: a malfeasant and incompetent director. "People go to that hospital to die because the director doesn’t care," they told us. Apparently, his attitude and style was such that it seeped into the rest of the staff. No one else cared either, even with state-of-the-art equipment and new facilities.

I wasn’t fully convinced of how poisonous the culture had become until two incidents a few weeks later. A nurse, who worked for one of my projects and volunteered at the hospital, told me she was appalled by the shoddy and rancid-smelling mattresses in the patient rooms. After pushing the issue with the staff, she learned that brand-new mattresses had been in a storage room awaiting use for years. Soon after, I bumped into an extremely poor woman who had recently had an emergency caesarean delivery at the hospital. When I asked her when she was returning home, she explained that she had been ready for four days, but that the hospital director insisted on her paying for the ambulance to travel the 30 kilometers to her home. The price demanded was higher than her monthly income, and no one at the hospital seemed willing to figure out how to resolve the dilemma.

Not surprisingly, performance and opinions changed rapidly when a new director arrived. This new manager cleaned up the hospital’s accounting, queried staff on major management and resource needs, fired incompetent and corrupt employees, and figured out how to respond in a timely, thoughtful manner to key challenges. Within two months, there were working X-ray machines for the first time in two years. Staff morale improved dramatically. Today the hospital sees more than 100 patients a day, and the community views it as a center for healing, not dying.

The lesson? In public health, just as in any other collective endeavor, management matters. It seems like an obvious point, and yet at the heart of some of the world’s worst public health crisis zones, it is one that has yet to sink in–with dire consequences for millions.

The history of public health in the twentieth century can be characterized as a losing battle for resources against a rising tide of epidemics and pandemics. In spite of some breakthrough solutions to massive problems like childhood disease and pandemics like polio, the failure to construct viable public health systems in the developing world has helped create the conditions for the pandemics of today: tuberculosis, AIDS, and cardiovascular disease, among many others. To make things worse, massive health problems predating these remain, from extraordinarily high maternal mortality rates to the scourge of malaria. The numbers are so breathtaking that they obscure the heartbreaking stories each represents. Globally, there are still an estimated 500 million episodes of malaria every year that claim at least one million lives, and in Africa more than 250,000 women die in childbirth annually. Over the past two decades, these grim statistics have scarcely budged, and in many countries, they have worsened.

If public health planners were business people objectively examining the sector’s progress today–particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where average life expectancy is now 46 years, versus 67 in the rest of the world–the answer would clearly point to a change of strategy. Many international public health programs are so poorly run–or at least achieve such poor results–that they resemble the management quality of a local lemonade stand rather than an Apple or Google.

It’s not that public health workers don’t have their hearts in their work. It’s that the global public health workforce has long had to make do with small initiatives that were perpetually under-funded and training that valued a flair for squeezing results out of miniscule funding. However, we live in an age when immense public and private resources are suddenly available. From major programs like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to bilateral ones like the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, along with major efforts led by nonprofits like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, global public health is now discussed for the first time in history as a venture warranting and receiving billions.

With so much money being committed and so many lives at stake, it’s time to revolutionize global public health. We need less do-goodism, and more do-it-rightism; we need more managers, not more doctors. The billions of dollars in new funds must propel an infusion of new management talent and practices based on private sector experience. We must upgrade the entire health system in countries–and in poor countries with few doctors, that means taking medical doctors out of management positions and replacing them with professional managers. It means encouraging nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to cast their nets wider when recruiting public health workers in order to pull leaders from the private sector rather than the public sector, and teaching the management of health delivery to soon-to-be minted public health graduates. And it means building new initiatives like we would a business, with rational accounting and delivery systems, while likewise reforming existing efforts.

This is not a popular position; it is, to be blunt, easier to treat the disease than the cause. For instance, programs for childhood health and family planning, which could revolutionize African public health, have been dwarfed by spending on HIV/AIDS, in spite of the far greater complexity and cost of rolling out such programs. This is not to argue that we should return to the days of limiting interventions based on appallingly small public resources: On the contrary, to fight AIDS effectively, improve maternal and child health, and meet all the other deep-seated public health challenges, we must build out health systems in poor countries. But relying on traditional public health workers will fail. It’s time to shake up the public health establishment and do nothing less than completely reinvent it.

Click here to download the entire article. Or read it online here at

Josh Ruxin is a Columbia University expert on public health who has spent the last couple of years living in Rwanda, where he administers the Millennium Villages Project in Mayange. He’s an unusual mix of academic expert and mud-between-the-toes aid worker. His regular posts can be found on the blogroll of Nick Kristof of the New York Times, and he has given his permission to be cross-posted here. Josh and EGR executive director Mike Kinman team-teach a global poverty module for Trinity, Wall Street's Clergy Leadership Project.

Friday, June 13, 2008

"A Biblical Model for Development" -- by the Micah Challenge

Today's post is from the Micah Challenge, a global Christian campaign to achieve the MDGs. Part of their mission is a weekly prayer emailing like the one you see below. You can receive it in your email box every week send a blank email to with the words 'subscribe prayer' in the subject line.


"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day….
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

‘On an international scale, this poignant proverb has moved hearts, opened wallets and enjoyed widespread popularity in relief and development literature.’ Says Pam Wilson from Operation Mercy.

But are the inherent assumptions this little proverb carries helpful and correct?

After having read the 10 assumptions that Pam raises we may be very hesitant to use the above proverb again - or only with considerable explanation!

The biblical book of Nehemia could be seen as an account of a development project. In Nehemia 2: 11-20 we learn of Nehemia’s needs and risk assessment and strategic plan. Chapter 3 is the beautiful picture of all people working together towards the completion of their building project.

‘The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding…’

Nehemia 2:20


Let us pray:

  • For wisdom and insight for development practitioners around the world as they seek to implement programs that build people up rather than create additional dependencies.
  • Please pray for Micah Challenge National campaigns around the world as they plan for the two major campaign mobilization activities this year.
    • UN Heads of State Summit on the MDGs on 25 September. At this stage, please pray particularly, that the Heads of State plan to attend the summit. This will likely encourage a renewed commitment to achieving the MDGs in their country.
    • Micah Sunday and ‘Stand up Take Action’ on 17-19 October.
  • Reflection on the recent HIV/ AIDS statistics below, we pray for good national leadership as policies on HIV are implemented and expanded and for adequate allocation of funds in the national budgets to accomplish the policies.

Meditate on the Statistics

As you spend time in prayer and reflection, you may like to take a moment to silently understand with your heart the focus statistic we include each week (see below). Our hope is that you will find this series of statistics a useful resource in preparing presentations.

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Target 7: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS

‘Since 2006, progress in the response to HIV is evident in many regions, reflecting a return on the substantial investments made to date. However, progress is uneven and the expansion of the epidemic itself is often outstripping the pace at which services are being brought to scale. In 2007, the number of new HIV infections was 2.5 times higher than the increase in the number of people receiving antiretrovirals.

Source: UN Secretary General report on HIV/ AIDS, 10 June 2008

Please see pages 2-4 for very useful key findings and recommendations.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

"Security Council Should Listen to Women Hurt by War" -- by Human Rights Watch

( New York , June 11, 2008 ) – The United Nations Security Council should effectively address sexual violence in conflict as a weapon of war and its destabilizing impact on communities, Human Rights Watch and the International Women’s Tribune Center said today.

June 11, 2008 , high-ranking military officials from countries involved in peacekeeping missions and women from war-torn countries will make recommendations to the UN Security Council on how to stop sexual violence in war.

“During wartime, it’s often more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier,” said Marianne Mollman, women’s rights advocate at Human Rights Watch. “As the guardian of international peace and security, it’s the Security Council’s job to deal effectively with the persistent problem of sexual violence in armed conflict.”

Thousands of women and girls have been victims of sexual violence in many conflicts around the world for many years. Even UN peacekeepers have been implicated in committing rape.

On May 27-28, UN military experts, government officials, and women’s rights representatives met in
Wilton Park near London to discuss concrete proposals for improving the UN’s record on preventing sexual violence through its peacekeeping operations.

Human Rights Watch and the International Women’s
Tribune Center said that the Security Council should provide peacekeepers with a clear mandate to prevent sexual violence.

“UN peacekeepers are charged with the protection of civilians, but they are not always told explicitly that this means stopping sexual violence,” said Mavic Cabrera-Balleza of the International Women’s Tribune Centre. “And the demands on peacekeeping troops are so great that they may ignore anything they are not asked explicitly to do. The Council should provide clear mandates on this key issue.”

Women’s groups from conflict zones have long promoted a stronger participation of women in peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts as a way to ensure that violence directed at women during and after a conflict is adequately dealt with. In January 2008, numerous women’s organizations from the Democratic Republic of Congo put together a short list of recommendations in this regard. Their focus was justice, health services, democratic participation, and accountability for perpetrators of sexual violence.

“Solutions work best when developed in consultation with those who are most affected,” said Mollmann. “The Security Council should consult closely with the women’s groups working on the front lines in seeking solutions to deal more systematically with sexual violence in wartime.”

Over the past decade, UN peacekeepers have been implicated in committing sexual violence against the very populations they were charged with protecting. The United Nations has admitted to some abuses and has announced a zero-tolerance policy regarding such sexual exploitation and abuse, but has yet to put into place a system to effectively prevent the violence. This has raised concerns among human rights and women’s rights groups about the UN’s ability to prevent sexual violence committed by others.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"What Does the Lord Require of Us?" -- by the Micah Challenge

Today's post is from the Micah Challenge, a global Christian campaign to achieve the MDGs. Part of their mission is a weekly prayer emailing like the one you see below. You can receive it in your email box every week send a blank email to with the words 'subscribe prayer' in the subject line.

'Our current political crisis is obviously not going to be solved by the usual tools with which we engage the powers. As with much of our life these days, we are stumped, baffled by all the technological changes around us side by side with the persistence of ancient wrongs that would not yield to all our efforts at social engineering.

That’s the conclusion that Dr Melba Maggay draws on the situation in the Philippines. She continues to ask:

‘As people of God, what does the Lord require of us in a time such as this?’

The prophet Micah answered with ‘peasant bluntness’ to the same question that was asked by the people of Israel in similar times as ours in Micah 6: 1-8.

‘There is no divorce between concern for justice and personal righteousness, governance and giving, liberation and loving acts of mercy…..Most of all, we walk with God, who is the source of all life and meaning. Without him, we become mere activists who degenerate into judge and executioner of those who don’t happen to fit our ideal social order, or mere social workers who get burnt out by do-gooding. Again and again, we need to ask: ‘where does the power come from?’ Is the force coming from a hard driven-ness or the Spirit’s gentle wind beneath our wings?’


Let us pray:

  • That we may not be, as Melba writes, ‘mere activists’ but be driven by the Spirit of God in our actions.
  • For Micah Challenge Malawi; Lloyd Mtalimanja, the coordinator of MC Malawi writes:

‘Please pray for Malawi and some crucial discussions between the ruling party and the opposition which now holds the majority since many ruling party members changed parties since the General election in 2004. The national budget needs to be agreed but there are many complicated issues that hold this up.

Needless to say, the poor are the ones who bear the blunt of such kinds of situations as described above. Kindly join the nation of Malawi as we pray for the MP's to always be mindful of the people they claim to be representing whenever issues like these arise.’

  • For the participation of Micah Challenge France at the 'Salon des Solidarités', a conference of NGOs and Civil Society with 20,000 visitors expected this weekend. MC France is mobilizing people to sign a “I am hungry for justice 0.7%” paper plate all of which will be presented to the French Minister of International Development at the end of the conference.
    • Please pray for good and active participation of the conference visitors.
  • Reflecting on the worrying statistic below regarding the growing world food crisis, we pray that:
    • The decisions made at the FAO summit in Rome will bring quick relief to countries where high food prices have already caused riots.
    • Resources for safety net programs and seeds and fertilizers will be made available and the export bans lifted.

Meditate on the Statistics
As you spend time in prayer and reflection, you may like to take a moment to silently understand with your heart the focus statistic we include each week (see below). Our hope is that you will find this series of statistics a useful resource in preparing presentations.

MDG 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Target 2: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger

‘Two billion people across the world are struggling with high food prices, and 100 million extra people in poor countries may be pushed into poverty by the crisis.’

Source: World Bank, 3 June 2008

(World Bank president Zoellick at emergency talks on the global food crisis called by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, 2-5 June)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"A $10 Mosquito Net Is Making Charity Cool" -- By Donald G. McNeil, Jr., The New York Times

Excerpted from the June 2, 2008 edition of The New York Times.

Donating $10 to buy a mosquito net to save an African child from malaria has become a hip way to show you care, especially for teenagers. The movement is like a modern version of the March of Dimes, created in 1938 to defeat polio, or like collecting pennies for Unicef on Halloween.

Unusual allies, like the Methodist and Lutheran Churches, the National Basketball Association and the United Nations Foundation, are stoking the passion for nets that prevent malaria. The annual “American Idol Gives Back” fund-raising television special has donated about $6 million a year for two years. The music channel VH1 made a fund-raising video featuring a pesky man in a mosquito suit.

It is an appeal that clearly resonates with young people.

Addressing a conference of 6,000 Methodist youths in North Carolina last year, Bishop Thomas Bickerton held up his own $10 and told the crowd: “This represents your lunch today at McDonald’s or your pizza tonight from Domino’s. Or you could save a human life.”

The lights were so bright that he could see only what was happening at his feet. “They just showered the stage with $10 bills,” Bishop Bickerton said. “In 30 seconds, we had $16,000. I’m just lucky they didn’t throw coins.”

Part of what has helped the campaign catch on is its sheer simplicity and affordability — $10 buys one net to save a child. Nothing But Nets, the best-known campaign, has raised $20 million from 70,000 individuals, most of it in donations averaging $60.

That is a small fraction of the overall need, which experts estimate at $2.5 billion. But it gives the effort a populist edge, and participation is psychologically rewarding for anyone whose philanthropic pockets are shallower than those of Bill Gates.

“The first time I donated money, after my bar mitzvah, it was for someone who needed a heart transplant,” said Daniel Fogel, 18, a founder of his Waltham, Mass., high school’s juggling club, which raised $2,353 for nets last year. “But I had the feeling: Am I really helping? But if you can say $10 saves a life, that makes students feel they can help a lot. And every student has $10.”

Emily Renzelli of West Virginia University learned about malaria on a trip to South Africa. She raised about $1,000 through bake sales and parties where students were snagged in nets and not released until they recited facts about malaria.

Naomi Levine, an expert on philanthropy at New York University, said young people “more than ever want to do something.”

“You won’t find them giving money to research,” she added. “It’s too far off. But a net is something you can hold in your hand. And any time young people get interested in any form of philanthropy, it’s a good thing.”

Read the entire article here.

Click here to find out more about Nets for Life, the excellent Episcopal anti-malaria program of Episcopal Relief & Development, Christian Aid and HopeAfrica.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Inspiration

There is a picture on the bookshelf overlooking my desk of a Haitian man standing on the crest of a mountain with a bright blue sky as the backdrop. His hands are on his hips in a determined stance as he looks across the peaks and valleys of his beloved country.

Fr. Andre Lozama, the Haitian in the picture, had reason to look determined. There was work to be done, a lot of work. He was in charge of pastoring five Episcopal missions in the rural southern region of Haiti near the town of Les Cayes. Each mission had a school, food program and church building with operating costs that well exceeded each congregation’s meager resources.

Despite this, he was never deterred. He was an energetic visionary with a practical side that knew how to put those visions into actions. He was always thinking of new ways to do things. On one of his rare trips to the United States, he once asked his host to stop the car so he could talk to a farmer who was out plowing the fields. Fr. Andre and the slightly surprised farmer chatted for an hour or so about agricultural techniques he might be able to apply in Haiti. Fr. Lozama didn’t know much about farming, but he knew that many of his congregation were subsistence farmers. He told his host that any bit of information that could help those farmers feed their families was worth asking about.

He preached the gospel on Sundays and lived it the other six days, rarely taking a rest.

And that’s how he died - working.

He was making the rounds of his missions before finally taking a much-needed vacation. He had diabetes and high blood pressure, and he had battled cancer into submission several years before. His doctor had told him he needed to take a rest.

When I gaze at the photo, I imagine him traveling up into the mountains to the remote villages to make sure everybody and everything was taken care of before he left for vacation. I am sure he was looking forward to spending time with his wife, Edith, and his children, who lived in Port-au-Prince most of the year.

But one night, a blood clot unexpectedly formed in his leg. One of his friends put him in his truck and sped into the darkness of the night over the unpaved and bumpy road to Port-au-Prince. I imagine, too, Fr. Andre’s pain. It must have been excruciating and having to be a passenger in a truck that was careening over rocks and skidding around large potholes must have made the pain almost intolerable.

Fr. Andre never saw his family again. He died before his friend reached Port-au-Prince. An unceremonious death for someone I consider a living saint. I think all saints should die performing God’s work. Fr. Andre had that privilege.

His example made me determined that one day I would find a way to ensure those pastors and priests on the frontlines on the war against injustice and poverty were not fighting a lonely battle.

Craig Cole is the executive director of Five Talents International, an Anglican microfinance nonprofit, a member of Diocese of Virginia's Mission Commission and an EGR board member.