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, 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.

Almost eight years ago, the U.S. government passed the Clean Diamond Trade Act, and an international process called the Kimberley Process was put into place to try to track diamonds to ensure that they were processed legitimately through every step -- from the mine to the jewelry store. Today, World Vision and other agencies are looking beyond diamonds to other minerals that are traded illegally to fund conflicts in several countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Firms Seek Supply Route Around Conflict in Congo
Wall Street Journal, Devon Maylie, 26 April 2011
While the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake is causing many companies to worry about the electronics supply chain, a different pall is hovering over a rare, blue-gray metal that is mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The substance is tantalum, an ingredient in components that are a mainstay of devices like smartphones, digital tablets and personal computers.

New Law Aims to Halt Sale of Conflict Minerals from Congo
Voice of America, Heather Murdock, 18 April 2011
In the Congolese countryside, there is said to be $24 trillion worth of precious minerals like tantalum, tungsten, gold and tin. They are used to make everything from light bulbs to airplanes, and have long funded the conflict in the country’s tumultuous eastern provinces. With as many as five-and-one-half-million people dead, and millions of others displaced in a war that only slowed when it officially ended in 2003, activists say they want the economic heartbeat of the conflict, the mining industry, to be demilitarized.

Apple, Intel Avoidance of Conflict Minerals May Spur Congo Sales to Asia
Bloomberg, Michael J. Kavanagh, 1 April 2011
Rules backed by Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Intel Corp. (INTC) to stop sales of minerals used in electronics from funding war in Central Africa took effect today, forcing miners from the region to seek new buyers in Asia, according to exporters. “There is a de-facto embargo, it’s very clear,” said John Kanyoni, president of the mineral exporters association of North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Maternal health

Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday, making this an appropriate week to talk about maternal health. (Since I’ve got my own little one due in July, I’m also personally interested in reading about how women in different countries are able to care for their children -- in utero and as infants.)

Over the past few weeks, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Save the Children have released new information about two issues that touch on maternal and infant health: the issue of 2.6 million infants who are born dead each year, and the need for skilled birth attendants during labor and delivery. I suppose Sunday is not just a day to be thankful for our mothers, but also to be thankful for the healthcare they -- and we -- received during our early years.

Global stillbirths: 2.6 million a year, overlooked and often preventable
Washington Post, David Brown, 13 April 2011
About 2.6 million babies are born dead each year, a largely ignored and silently grieved loss of life, about half of which could be prevented. That’s the conclusion of a huge project unveiled Wednesday to enumerate stillbirths country by country and propose ways to reduce them.

Breaking the Silence Around Stillbirths
Huffington Post, Melinda Gates, 18 April 2011
I talk a lot about the amazing progress the world has made in child health, especially that we have dramatically reduced the number of childhood deaths each year from 12 million to 8 million in the past 20 years alone. A lot of that progress has come about because we as a world simply decided that the death of these children was unacceptable. We knew we had the proper tools, but it took our voices to raise the issue and the collective will to do something about it. Last week, with the release of a seminal publication on the topic, an equally important challenge stands before us -- stillbirths -- and it's again time to break our silence and our complacency.

Midwife shortage costs over a million lives worldwide: report
Reuters, Emma Graham-Harrison, 1 April 2011
Over a million mothers and newborn babies are dying each year from easily prevented birth complications because of a chronic shortage of midwives across much of the developing world, a new report from Save the Children said on Friday. In the world's least developed countries over half of mothers give birth without any trained help -- compared with only one percent in Britain -- and some 2 million women face one of the most frightening days in their life entirely alone.

Read related post: News that matters


    Loved these updates - so nice to hear about issues that really do matter!

    Thanks for your kind feedback, Liz. It's so helpful to hear that you're enjoying these updates. Look for our next "news that matters" post in the next two weeks!

    I so agree. Looking forward to read more updates like these!

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