Tag Archives: News

Rebel atrocities in Mali

While French and Malian troops continue their drive to force rebels out of major centers in northern Mali, World Vision communications manager Maria Mutya Frio spoke to those who have fled conflict zones.

Do you let the media influence you?

On a recent Friday afternoon, I happily engaged in my favorite nerdy end-of-week work habit, the kind only indulged on a slow week in the world of disaster relief: catching up on the week’s news in disasters while listening to talk radio.

While perusing various news sites, I happened to catch an interesting interview with Nobel laureate and psychologist Daniel Kahneman, whose renowned work focuses primarily on behavioral economics, which is more or less the study of why we do the crazy things we do. During this very interesting discussion on cognition and biases, the subject of the media briefly arose, in the context of how we decide what issues are important to us. Kahneman noted that we “tend to judge the importance of issues by how frequently they are mentioned.”

Perhaps your immediate reaction is to say, well, that seems obvious enough. It probably feels somewhat intuitive that most of us conflate the importance of a certain topic -- such as the national debt or the release of Apple's iPhone 4S -- with the amount of time we hear or see the subject filtered through any of our media lenses, be it national television, social media, print news, radio, etc. The very existence of the word “trending” makes one feel like we’ll probably never escape the Kardashians.

World population reaches 7 billion: 7 things you should know

For some time now, the UN has estimated that today, October 31, the world’s population is set to reach 7 billion. That's a big number, but what does this mean for all of us? How much do we really know about how the rest of the world lives? If you're asking yourself these questions, start here: 7 things you should know...

1. The highest rates of population growth are in less developed countries. Too many people are born in poverty and live out their days with little hope for better lives.

2. Good news! In developing regions, the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day dropped from 46 percent to 27 percent from 1990 to 2005. Even with the economic downturn, the world is on track to meet Millennium Development Goal #1 -- to halve extreme human poverty by 2015.

Report: U.S. poverty rate at highest level since 1993

For some time now, the struggling U.S. economy has dominated headlines and shaped conversation among Americans. New data released Tuesday in a report from the U.S. Census Bureau, "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States (pdf)," paints an even starker picture of the challenges our nation faces:

  • The U.S. poverty rate rose to 15.1 percent in 2010 -- up from 14.3 percent in 2009, and to its highest level since 1993.
  • About 46.2 million people are now considered in poverty -- 2.6 million more than last year. That's nearly 1 in 6 people.
  • More Americans were living in poverty in 2010 than at any time since at least the 1950s.
  • The situation has hit black populations the hardest, with their poverty rate rising from 25.8 percent to 27.4 percent.
  • Meanwhile, child poverty rose from 20.7 percent to 22 percent.

GLOBAL GLIMPSE -- Disaster response in 5 hotspots around the globe

Providing you with a quick snapshot of what's happening in five hotspots around the globe -- where your generous support is literally helping people cope with and recover from disasters and crisis situations. Thank you and please continue to stand by us as we respond to multiple disasters around the world.

Drought and famine in the Horn of Africa (current)

[caption id="attachment_7560" align="alignright" width="297" caption="Children at Melkadida refugee camp in Ethiopia, where some 76,000 of the refugees fled into the border town of Dolo Ado due to the current drought in Somalia. ©2011 Gebregziabher Hadera/World Vision"][/caption]

The first UN-declared famine of the 21st century, caused by a convergence of political strife, drought, and increasing global food prices, is affecting more than 12 million people in four countries in the Horn of Africa: Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. More than 30,000 children from Somalia alone have perished of acute malnutrition and other related illnesses during the past three months, and hundreds of thousands have fled into refugee camps scattered throughout the region. Forecasters expect the drought to continue until December, so millions more are at risk.

To add to the misery of Somalis suffering in the drought, an epidemic of cholera has begun ravaging survivors in the Mogadishu area.

Tipping points: First famine of the 21st century in Somalia, East Africa

Editor's note: Following yesterday's UN declaration of famine in two regions of southern Somalia, Tristan Clements, country program manager with World Vision's humanitarian emergency affairs team in Australia, comments on the complexities of drought and hunger, and their impact on vulnerable communities in East Africa.

We hear the word "famine" a lot, particularly in reference to Africa and food-related problems. In fact, the word is often overused.

Famine is a very specific event -- a really, really terrible one -- in which we see lots of people of all ages dying as a result of food shortages. For the United Nations, the word has a technical definition of two or more people out of 10,000 dying each day, and acute malnutrition among a third of young children.

In reality, famines don’t happen much anymore. There were a handful in the late 20th century, most notably in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Sudan, but it’s been quite a long time since we’ve seen a real famine.

So it is with great significance that the United Nations is now using the word "famine" to describe the situation in parts of East Africa.

'We may be poor, but we’re not stupid' -- the reality of life in Africa

Stories are powerful. They can bring hope, or despair. Laughter, or sorrow. And, as we who work for World Vision and other humanitarian agencies know very, very well, stories can educate and enlighten people. They can help achieve a lot of good.

One woman whose story last week received a lot of accolades and criticism is Zimbabwean writer NoViolet Bulawayo. Her book, “Hitting Budapest,” has won what many consider to be Africa’s top award for literature, the Caine Prize.

“The language of ‘Hitting Budapest’ crackles," the prize’s leading judge commented to CNN. "Here we encounter…a gang reminiscent of ‘Clockwork Orange.’ But these are children, poor and violated and hungry. This is a story with moral power and weight [that] has the artistry to refrain from moral commentary."

However, not everyone has praised Ms. Bulawayo’s story. One blogger, Aaron Bady, who writes under the name “zunguzungu,” contends that the book “traffics in the familiar genre of Africa-poverty-pornography.”

Four days old: Many hopes, many challenges in new South Sudan

Chants of “Republic of South Sudan Oyee” will forever be etched in the minds of many South Sudanese as they reminisce over their independence -- today, only four days old.

An overflowing crowd of people, both young and old, showed up at the John Garang Memorial to mark the historic event on July 9. Tens of thousands of South Sudanese endured the blistering sun, all along energized, as they erupted into song and dance when the country became the world’s 193rd country and Africa’s 54th.

I saw men and women faint as the declaration was made. Others openly broke into tears as the new flag was hoisted.

Rich Stearns on Independence, God, and South Sudan

God wasn't the first thing on my mind on Monday, the Fourth of July. Truthfully, the only credit I can give myself is that I was thanking God for the three-day weekend.

It's not far-fetched to say that most Americans likely think of Independence Day as more of an outdoor show than an obvious reason to thank and honor God.

That's why articles like Rich Stearns' in the Huffington Post are kind of a divine challenge for me -- a reminder that peace and freedom are reasons to thank God, and that with Independence there is struggle, but also hope.

May South Sudan's first Independence Day be that of the latter. And may Rich's article challenge you as it has me.


The following is an excerpt from Rich Stearns' "Celebrating Independence and Honoring God -- Half a World Away" in the Huffington Post:

Last Monday, July 4, I was holding David, my 5-month-old grandson, and savoring his facial expressions as we watched his father grilling hamburgers, celebrating his first Independence Day.

In a few years, he will begin learning about courageous individuals who fought an oppressive government whose armies incited unspeakable violence for more than a decade. But the death and destruction that resulted could not suppress the freedom fighters' undying faith in democracy over tyranny, freedom over injustice. Their perseverance and faith demonstrated why ballots are stronger than bullets.

South Sudan: Countdown to independence [video]

You can almost feel the excitement in Juba from half a world way here in our office in the United States.  As I talk to our staff from South Sudan's capital city nearly every day, I hear it in their voice and the stories they tell me.  The city is on edge, eager for tomorrow's independence ceremony, colorful banners hang in the streets and people wear t-shirts emblazoned with the new country's flag. As the world watches and waits, I'll be watching and waiting too, praying for a safe transition and peace for the children of South Sudan.


South Sudan will become the world's newest country tomorrow, July 9. As the South Sudanese prepare for their grand celebration, children are voicing their hopes for the future -- that problems of the past can be put behind them.

“I would like to see a good education system in South Sudan after the independence to enable me and other children on the streets to continue with education,” said James, a young boy who lives on the streets in Warrap.

News that matters: HIV and AIDS, South Sudan, and maternal health

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated our periodic series, “News that matters,” but I’m heading out on maternity leave here in a few weeks and wanted to post about news coverage on some of today's most relevant humanitarian issues.

In this post: HIV and AIDS, South Sudan, and child and maternal health. I hope the coverage below can offer some insight into these issues and provide some good food for thought.

Back in October!
Amy

HIV and AIDS

On June 5, 1981, doctors reported the first cases of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Over the past 30 years, HIV and AIDS have changed the way that many people -- both in the United States and around the world -- live their lives and speak out for the lives of others. Because this month marks the 30th anniversary of the introduction of AIDS into our national health discussion, I wanted to include some of this month’s coverage about the disease -- and efforts to stop its spread.

Factbox: HIV/AIDS numbers from around the world
Reuters, 2 June 2011
An estimated 33.3 million people worldwide had the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS in 2009, according to the latest figures issued by UNAIDS. There were 26.2 million in 1999.

News that matters: Tornadoes, conflict minerals, maternal health

Editor's Note: This is the second post in a new, periodic series called "News that matters," meant to highlight coverage in news articles and blog posts about important, current issues that affect those living in poverty around the world.

Recent breaking-news headlines might lead you to believe that some of the less prominent stories lack significance and aren't worthy of our attention. The truth is, there are many equally critical issues that directly affect the lives of the world’s poor and dispossessed – and so many of them don’t see the kind of coverage they really deserve. I’ll let you follow the breaking news on your own, and I’ll highlight some other stories that you may not see otherwise.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about these issues and others that you find interesting!

Tornadoes in the U.S. South

Late last week, the media heavily covered the damage and loss of life caused by a series of tornadoes that touched down in Alabama and other states in the American South. Although the headlines have moved on to other issues, the damage there remains. World Vision and other organizations are now part of a rebuilding effort that could take years.

Storms Ravage Alabama; Death Toll Rising Fast
Crosswalk.com, 28 April 2011
World Vision plans to begin moving in emergency supplies -- including personal hygiene items, paper supplies and even mattresses -- within 24 hours. The organization also plans to aid with rebuilding efforts, focusing on families who do not have any insurance or enough insurance to cover the damage costs.

After the storm: How you can help the South rebuild
USA Today, 28 April 2011
World Vision's domestic relief team is preparing to deploy this Saturday morning from the Dallas area to Alabama and nearby states hardest-hit by last night's storms. They plan to work with local churches and other organizations to identify families with limited means, families left destitute, or people who may have difficulty accessing other assistance.

Conflict minerals

When I started at World Vision about 10 years ago, we were part of a multi-agency campaign trying to end the trade of diamonds that were mined in several West African countries. At the time, the trade of those diamonds was used to fund related civil wars going on in Sierra Leone and Liberia, as well as conflicts in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

World Vision responds to storms and tornadoes in American South

Editor's note: At World Vision's office in New York, Mindy Mizell is coordinating media efforts concerning our response to the deadly storms and tornadoes in the American South.

URGENT: World Vision is responding to the devastation left by deadly storms in Alabama, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Mississippi, as well as the levee break in Missouri. We are working with local partners to distribute first aid kits, hygiene supplies, and other essential products to some of the hardest-hit communities.

An assessment team is also preparing to survey the damage in Alabama and look for ways to partner with churches and other local organizations to help the most vulnerable children and families.

News that matters

This is the first post in an ongoing, monthly series called “News that matters.” The purpose is to highlight coverage in news articles and blog posts about important, current issues that affect those living in poverty around the world.

You'll find that I've selected three issues I think are worth paying attention to, and some recent news coverage that addresses those issues. While these selections are based on my personal judgment calls, I’m hopeful that these stories inspire you to learn more, challenge you to think about your own views of the world, and encourage you to join the conversations going on this blog and among your own circle of friends.

I'm curious to know what you think about this post and these issues. Please share your comments, questions and ideas in the comments section. I’m eager to hear what you all think!

Foreign aid and the U.S. federal budget

There is much heated debate about how the U.S. government should prioritize its spending, given the increasing federal deficit.  World Vision has taken the position that the Federal government does have a role to play in funding poverty-reduction programs and that Congress should improve U.S. fiscal responsibility by cutting programs that don’t heavily affect the poor here or internationally. Agree? Disagree? What do YOU think and why?

Tai Anderson responds to comments on ONE’s budget petition
ONE.org (blog), Tai Anderson, 31 March 2011
“It’s not the government’s job to help the poor. It’s the Church’s.” There is a lot of truth in that statement, and it also comes as a terrible indictment to the Christian church. If we were doing our job as people of faith, there would be little need for our government to have to do anything. I agree. But, we’re not doing our job.... how many of our churches even take one sermon a year to focus on these issues? Again, just as my pastor challenged me about my family budget being a moral document, I would challenge American Evangelical churches the same way.

Why We’re Fasting
New York Times, Opinionator (blog), Mark Bittman, 29 March 2011
I stopped eating on Monday and joined around 4,000 other people in a fast to call attention to Congressional budget proposals that would make huge cuts in programs for the poor and hungry. By doing so, I surprised myself; after all, I eat for a living. But the decision was easy after I spoke last week with David Beckmann, a reverend who is this year’s World Food Prize laureate. Our conversation turned, as so many about food do these days, to the poor.

Doing aid right

As World Vision’s staff – and staff at other aid agencies will tell you – relief and development work is incredibly complex. World Vision is constantly working to improve the quality of the work we do. We’ve learned over decades of activity that there are ways to do aid and development well and there are ways to do it poorly. We’ve learned that when aid is done poorly, it can be very damaging for those who are most in need. The coverage below addresses some of the issues being discussed within the aid community about how to do humanitarian aid work better.

A Tragedy of the Commons in Selling Tragedy
Center for Global Development, Views from the Center (blog), Charles Kenny, 23 March 2011
If it is much easier to communicate tragedy than success, it clearly makes sense for each individual agency or NGO to get their message out by trumpeting catastrophe.  But there are real negatives to that approach. Rothmyer mentions that it skews policymaking towards disaster management, deters investment and is dispiriting to people in Africa working for change.

In partnership news...

Companies face hundreds of decisions every day, decisions that have the potential to affect people’s lives. So when companies choose to partner with World Vision, it’s a decision that always humbles me. It says a lot about a company’s ethos when they choose to give their time and resources to bettering the world around them. It says we want to help make a difference in our world; we want to positively affect people’s lives.

A special thank you to these companies who have recently shared with us in the incredible opportunity we have to partner with one another in building a better world for children.

Rich Stearns on the Japan quake and tsunami [Video]

If the Japan earthquake and tsunami had happened 100 years ago, most of us would not even be aware that it had happened. Perhaps a telegram would have been sent to the U.S. and perhaps a small story might have appeared in major newspapers, but other than that, it would have had little effect on our consciousness...

Japan quake and tsunami updates + video

The latest updates on World Vision's efforts and response following Friday's 8.9-magnitude earthquake that struck Japan and triggered a devastating tsunami. Two ways to donate to Japan quake and tsunami relief -- Text '4JAPAN' to '20222' to give a $10 donation. Or donate online. For updates....

8.9-magnitude earthquake hits coast of Japan, island nations face tsunami warning

An 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit near the northeast coast of Japan today. Pacific Rim countries are bracing for potential tsunamis. World Vision staff members are on high alert, preparing to respond.

Staff on high alert across region, preparing for response: Asian, North American, and South American countries on the Pacific Rim are facing tsunami...