Development

Treat Everyone

The trade-off outlined in David Batstone’s “The HIV Trade-Off” (February 2006) doesn’t have to be made. While it is true that antiretroviral treatment of AIDS is expensive, it need not be. The reason it is expensive is because the drug companies charge a lot for the drugs.

Brazil has figured out a way to provide treatment and do preventive work. Written off 15 years ago because of the burgeoning HIV/AIDS epidemic and the perceived lack of options, Brazil fought back. Today, the country has contained the spread of the disease; those infected are getting antiretroviral treatment. Public health messages are frequent, visible, and effective. Brazilian leaders even addressed the problem of illiteracy that made compliance with complex drug instructions difficult.

They refused to abandon those already infected; they didn’t accept that they would have to choose the infected over the uninfected. They did both. How? They started manufacturing their own antiretrovirals.

Each country, as each person, must develop its own moral sense. Is it acceptable to ignore patent laws, or should they condemn generations to death?

Susan Oatis
Seattle, Washington

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Sojourners Magazine April 2006
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Hopeful Dreams

I loved the cover of the February issue with the African children playing and pumping water (“Fighting Global Poverty: What Works,” by Stephen Smith). They looked so happy and well. I only wish their future lives will be that happy.

Elsewhere in the article was a section on the “Girls’ Dreams Program,” which gives girls a chance for self-expression. Here there is some hope. I have become convinced that many of the world’s poor lack dreams. While working with the poor in the United States, I came face to face with this poverty of dreams. Most of the young people I met had no great hopes or desires for the future. I feel less blame than sorrow; nobody has taught them to dream and hope. Without dreams, sometimes even outrageous ones, and hopes, sometimes impossible ones, people cannot break through the limitations placed on them.

Lucy Fuchs
Brandon, Florida

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Sojourners Magazine April 2006
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Turning Tables

Once each year, the quiet and spectacularly beautiful Swiss mountain village of Davos is taken over by top business and political leaders from around the globe for the World Economic Forum. The motto of the event is “Committed to Improving the State of the World.” This year’s meeting saw 1,200 of the world’s leaders of governments, corporations, and civil society gathered, carefully protected by 8,000 security personnel. The topics were wide-ranging, the panelists among the most famous people in the world, the discussions often quite provocative.

The kind of globalization that drives for unbridled economic growth and unlimited corporate profits, while imposing financial conditionality on poor countries—often to their detriment—has been a persistent problem for real development in the global South, and an offense to the requirements of justice. The many sessions I attended included a serious critique of those practices and structural problems, especially in regard to the crises of global health care and extreme poverty. That was a sign of hope.

Since Sept. 11, a few religious leaders have been invited to join the conversation, creating interfaith dialogue to breach dangerous divides and add broader moral and ethical perspectives. During a “West-Islamic World Dialogue” meeting, participants said they hoped to “understand the differences and affirm the commonalities.” This year, 24 religious leaders came from around the world, including six of us from the United States, to talk with each other and with the business and political leaders. The group was convened each day by Dr. George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, and then dispersed to listen and present to the many interactive sessions.

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Sojourners Magazine April 2006
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What Works

A simple merry-go-round, propelled by children’s feet, is a playground staple that we remember from childhood. The Play-Pump, an ingenious product from Roundabout Outdoor, uses just two moving parts to channel the tireless energy of playing children into a well pump that fills a 30-foot-high tank.

Hundreds of Play-Pumps have been installed in South Africa and elsewhere, often right next to schools—giving children an added incentive to attend. The children get a delightful playground toy, and their fun helps to improve their families’ access to water. The only problem is convincing the kids to get off the Play-Pump when it’s time to go home.

Health begins with safe water. But in South Africa, the poor often live a mile or more from water sources. Risks of cholera and other diseases from contaminated water are high. Because many public hand pumps are placed directly over the borehole, spilled water can seep back in—often after contamination by animals. Most public water tanks are empty, and, even where electricity is available, the poor cannot afford the piping and power pumps used by the rich. So women and girls must spend tremendous time and energy trudging twice a day to draw water.

The suffering, vulnerability, and powerlessness of poverty are a daily reality for a staggering number of people worldwide. But in the last two decades, the share of the world’s people living on less than a dollar per day has fallen from almost two in five to one in five. Striking successes in developing countries’ public health include reductions in river blindness, polio, guinea worm disease, Chagas disease, and infant deaths due to diarrhea. Fertility has fallen dramatically in most developing countries.

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Sojourners Magazine February 2006
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Missing the Kairos Moment?

Missing the Kairos Moment?

The year 2005 has been a chosen focus of civil society groups working to end poverty, especially in Africa. These groups have concentrated on three main areas: aid, debt cancellation, and trade justice.

Yet September’s United Nations World Summit, intended to further progress on internationally agreed development targets—the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—ended in disappointment for many campaigners who were hopeful that world leaders would have made stronger commitments to new policies to “make poverty history.” Instead, even U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan agreed that the summit’s outcome document had been watered down. This reflected the difficulty of having so many countries agree to joint strategies, with the U.S. government in particular playing a problematic role on the language concerning the MDGs. The United States’ U.N. ambassador, John Bolton, worked to limit new commitments on development made by the U.S. and other rich countries.

As the U.N. Millennium Campaign noted in its statement on the summit’s outcome document, “The current slow progress on achieving the Millennium Development Goals should have led to a much greater sense of urgency among world leaders on the need for action, compelling them to announce concrete measures to meet the goals at a minimum by 2015.”

What did happen in the three areas of aid, debt, and trade? On aid, those countries that had already made a commitment to contribute 0.7 percent of their GDP towards overseas development assistance (and only those countries) were asked to create a firm timetable to meet this goal by 2015.

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Sojourners Magazine December 2005
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It's the Sprawl, Y'all

The Hunters Brooke subdivision in Charles County,

The Hunters Brooke subdivision in Charles County, Maryland, is the postcard-perfect example of what is often meant by "the American dream of homeownership" - large houses (more than 300 are planned) going up against a backdrop of woods and fields, within extended commuting distance of the Baltimore-Washington job core. This dreamland for some is a waking nightmare for others, such as environmentalists concerned with what the runoff from the large development will do to a nearby bog.

One night in early December of last year, several large homes under construction in Hunters Brooke went up in flames. No one was injured, but 10 houses were destroyed and 16 severely damaged, at a cost of around $10 million.

News reports cited the possibility that "eco-terrorists" were to blame, since environmental and local citizens’ groups had failed to block the development through the courts. Rush Limbaugh, for one, didn’t wait for an investigation - that day’s transcript on his Web site is headlined "Kooks Burn Down Houses to Save Bugs, Weeds."

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Sojourners Magazine May 2005
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Spectacular Works, Simple Obedience

Before leaving for Africa, I signed a liability release that said, "risks include, but are not limited to, the risk of death, incarceration, torture, bodily injury…exposure to war, terrorism, hazardous diseases." I didn't mention this to my mother, who when I was studying to be a photojournalist would say, "Just don't go off to some war zone."

But I wanted to tell a story that few others were telling. In Sudan, an Islamic fundamentalist regime wages war against the predominantly Christian and animist South. The regime—aided by the investments of multinational petroleum corporations—has been attempting to convert the region to Islam and drive civilians from oil-rich lands. Seventeen years of civil war have killed 2 million people. More than 4 million have been made homeless.

A Ugandan child waits in line with his father to receive medical care.

Our team of seven, all but myself from a Mennonite church in Pennsylvania, felt compelled to respond to horror stories of religious persecution and slavery in Sudan. A member of their congregation was now the Africa director for Safe Harbor International, the Christian relief organization that would host us. We hoped our emergency medical aid and the testimonies we'd take home would somehow make a difference.

We arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, and waited for clearance from the Ugandan government to fly to a base in Uganda and then to Sudan.

The clearance never came.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 2000
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