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Global Social Event: North & West Africa

event re-cap by Global WA volunteer Saira Abbasey McDonald

El Centro de la Raza – Seattle, WA
October 21, 2009

Featured speakers:
·    Valerie Nkamgang Bemo, MD, MPH – Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
·    Carol Schillios – Founder and President of the Fabric of Life Foundation

Originally from Cameroon, Dr. Valerie Nkamgang Bemo worked with several field-based health non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Africa before joining the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  She is now engaged in work related to emergency medical response related to natural disasters like cyclones and flooding, food crises, and diseases like meningitis.

Dr. Bemo detailed some of the critical issues that affect development progress in West African countries today, including:
·    Conflict.  Though there is officially peace in most of the region, pockets of armed conflict remain in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cote D’Ivoire.
·    Population movement:  Conflict often gives rise to population movement.  Displaced people face a host of threats to their health and security, as well as issues of integration in their new environment.
·    Climate change:  Climate change has had great impact on the populations living near the Sahel, the arid band of land that stretches the continent.  Inconsistent rainfall has had significant economic impact on farmers and others who depend on the rains.
·    Health:  In the last ten years, West Africans have made significant progress in health.  Dr. Bemo noted several remaining issues, including:
o     Maternal and child health:  Many women are dying preventable deaths in childbirth, and child mortality rates remain very high.
o    Malaria claims many lives—especially those of children—due to the high cost of treatment
o    Meningitis outbreaks occur frequently due to the increasingly dry climate

Despite these troubles, Dr. Bemo noted that West Africa has great economic potential and an Read More

Featured Organization: Woodland Park Zoo

Featured Organization: Woodland Park Zoo

WPzooIs global development the first thing that pops into your mind when Woodland Park Zoo comes up?  No?  Well then, it may be time to take yourself down to the zoo again, with or without the accompaniment of children.  When you do, you’ll find that the exhibits not only display exotic animals and educate visitors about the environmental and man-made dangers to their natural habitats, but also engage those same visitors in actions they can take to help local people protect the animals and themselves.

Just take the African Savanna exhibit for example.  It showcases the huge varieties of animals, predators including lions and African wild dogs and large herbivores including giraffes, hippos, Grant’s gazelles, fringe-eared oryx, ostriches, zebras and patas monkeys, that inhabit the wild grasslands of East Africa.  But the exhibit also focuses on the reasons those habitats are endangered–excessive vegetation growth in the waterholes, human/wildlife conflict over shared wildlife corridors, long fences erected in wildlife corridors.  As part of its exhibit, the zoo supports and publicizes the work of the Waterhole Restoration Project in Kenya, which is restoring 18 natural waterholes for the benefit of wildlife in Merrueshi Group Ranch, a wildlife corridor between Chulu and Amboseli National Parks.  The founder of the Maasai Foundation, which administers the restoration work, is a cultural interpreter at the zoo during the summer.  He educates visitors about his culture, their links to savanna wildlife and how they can help preserve it.  Built on the edge of the Savanna exhibit, a reproduction of a modern rural village of East Africa shows visitors how people live who interact with the wildlife around them.  There young visitors get the opportunity to make an African beading project to help provide funding for the Waterhole Restoration Project.

Zoo_RyanHawk2Such projects help Read More

Where Were You on World Food Day? What can you do NOW if you weren’t there?

By Global Washington Policy Coordinator Danielle Ellingston

“In the first half of this century, global demand for food, feed and fibre is projected to increase by some 70 percent, while crops may increasingly be used for bioenergy and other industrial purposes. New and traditional demand for agricultural produce will thus put growing pressure on already scarce agricultural resources. And while agriculture will be forced to compete for land and water with sprawling urban settlements, it will also be required to serve on other major fronts: adapting to and contributing to the mitigation of climate change, helping preserve natural habitats, and maintaining biodiversity. At the same time, fewer people will be living in rural areas and even fewer will be farmers. They will need new technologies to grow more from less land, with fewer hands.”

-U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, High Level Forum on How to Feed the World in 2050

girl_eating world food dayThe problem is real, huge, and growing. People are dying of hunger, and not meeting their full potential.  Other world problems are compounded by hunger- for example, hunger makes people more vulnerable to disease.  On October 14th, individuals and organizations around the world stepped up the action and dialogue on World Food Day.  The UN FAO is hosting a World Summit on Food Security in November, and there is still time for representatives from the private sector and civil society and the NGO sector to sign up.

9 facts about child hunger from Save the Children USA:

1.    For the first time in history, more than a billion people live with chronic hunger — and at least 400 million of them are children.
2.    In the developing world, volatile, historically high food prices together with the ongoing impact of the global economic crisis continue to drive families Read More