Saturday, February 7, 2009

Global Fund is Billions Short

From the NY Times. I have been speaking to my US Rep about this to see what she can do about it. Please do the same with yours! -ccyl
Global Fund Is Billions Short

Published: February 2, 2009
Because of the economic downturn, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is running short of money, global business and health leaders said last week.

Mackson Wasamunu/Reuters
‘TIGHTEN OUR BELTS’ Rajat Gupta, chairman of Global Fund.
Pledges to the fund from donor nations are running about $5 billion short of what is needed through 2010, Rajat Gupta, the chairman of the fund’s board, said in a conference call with reporters from Davos, Switzerland.

One of the last rounds of support for poor countries’ disease-fighting programs was postponed, another was cut by 10 percent and countries making requests were told to expect 25 percent cuts.

“I’m hopeful and confident that donors will continue to finance this,” Mr. Gupta said, promising to scrutinize expenditures carefully and “tighten our belts.”

Jeffrey Sachs, the Columbia University development economist and one of those joining him on the call, was more vehement. The poor are refused $5 billion, he said angrily, while wealthy countries have found $3 trillion for bank bailouts and Wall Street bankers awarded themselves $18 billion in holiday bonuses while accepting those bailouts.

“This is absolutely in violation of the life and death pledges that the rich world made to the poor,” he said. “I would suggest the administration reclaim those bonuses and put the money into the Global Fund immediately.”

Friday, February 6, 2009

Obama signs Children's Health Care Bill (SCHIP)

At long last! The children's health care bill is law! This was in the Chicago Tribune yesterday-ccyl
Obama signs into law expansion of SCHIP health-care program for children

Passage of $33 billion bill marks historic shift in Washington's political landscape and provides the White House its biggest victory since Obama took office

By Noam N. Levey | Washington Bureau
February 5, 2009
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama signed legislation Wednesday to expand publicly funded health insurance for children, marking a historic shift in Washington's political landscape and providing the White House its biggest victory since Obama took office.

Less than 18 months ago, President George W. Bush had blocked similar bills by congressional Democrats, labeling the proposed expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program as a step toward government-run health care.

But with Democrats now firmly in control of the White House and Congress, the party's leaders easily pushed through a $33 billion bill that is expected to provide government-subsidized insurance to 4 million mostly low-income children.

That would reduce the number of uninsured children in America by about half over the next 41/2 years and boost the number covered by the program to 11 million.

The measure—funded primarily by boosting the federal tax on cigarettes by 61 cents, to $1 a pack—sailed through the House earlier Wednesday on a largely party-line vote of 290-135. The Senate approved the bill last week.

The swift passage came in marked contrast to the economic recovery package, which is mired in debate on Capitol Hill despite pleas from Obama for congressional action.

The children's health bill was an early benchmark in the planned Democratic campaign to reshape the nation's health-care system over the next two years.

"The way I see it, providing coverage to 11 million children … is a down payment on my commitment to cover every single American," Obama said before signing the bill in the White House.

The new president also drew on language from an era decades earlier, when Washington more openly embraced the expansion of the government-funded safety net. "We're not a nation that leaves struggling families to fend for themselves," he said.

SCHIP, as the program is called, was created in the late 1990s whenPresident Bill Clinton and a Republican Congress addressed concerns that families who earned too much to qualify for public assistance through Medicaid nonetheless could not afford insurance for their children.

The federal poverty line for a family of four was $21,200 in 2008, while family insurance premiums averaged about $12,680, according to the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured in Washington.

Most of the 7 million children now enrolled in SCHIP programs nationwide come from families with incomes less than twice that of the poverty line. However, several states have opened the program to families making more.

About 30 million of the nation's poorest children receive health care through Medicaid.

Democrats made expanding the popular SCHIP program a top priority when they took control of Congress in 2007 following 12 years of mostly Republican control.

Bush vigorously opposed the move, twice vetoing SCHIP legislation despite substantial GOP support for the bills. He vetoed just 10 bills during his presidency.

On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers echoed many of the former president's critiques.

"The Democrats continue to push their government-run health-care agenda—universal coverage, as they call it," said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who helped lead opposition to the bill.

Republicans also chafed at provisions that would allow states to provide insurance to the children of legal immigrants who have been in the country for less than five years and loosen identification requirements for those enrolling.

GOP lawmakers said that would result in illegal immigrants also receiving taxpayer assistance.

They also complained that the bill did not do enough to ensure that the most needy children receive coverage.

Republicans called for rules that would prohibit states from offering insurance to middle-income families unless states could ensure that more lower-income children had been enrolled, a requirement that many SCHIP advocates said was unworkable.

Facing overwhelming support for the SCHIP expansion, GOP lawmakers could do little to slow the momentum for the bill.

Groups ranging from the insurance industry to organized labor to the March of Dimes rallied behind the legislation.

Immigrant advocates applauded the end of the five-year waiting period that they said had prevented hundreds of thousands of children from gaining access to preventive care and driven up health-care costs by forcing many to rely on emergency rooms for health care.

But there also were signs of the difficulties that may confront Obama and his Democratic allies in their push to win GOP support for overhauling the nation's health-care system.

The SCHIP bill attracted 40 Republican votes in the House on Wednesday, fewer than the number won for similar legislation in 2007.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bread for the World 2009 Offering of Letters

Here is the Bread for the World 2009 Offering of Letters video about foreign assistance which has now been posted on youtube. It's an 8 1/2 min viewing that sums up our upcoming event quite nicely. Stay tuned for more details about the Offering of Letters!

2009 Offering of Letters


Monday, February 2, 2009

The End of Poverty

This is a beautiful essay written by 15 yr old Steven Fisher in IL. I think it's pretty amazing and I presented it to Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky this morning at our RESULTS meeting with her. I wish I had written at this level and about this topic when I was in high school!! Bravo, Steven. -ccyl
For each of us, there are moments of opportunity. The opportunity to turn a page, the opportunity to drink a glass of clean water, the opportunity to sleep on a bed. We are capable of climbing steep mountains because we look around and see our neighbors reach the roof of the world. We learn to hold a blazing torch while running through a crowded stadium or to vote for a chance of change.

But we may overlook a presence not visible within our sight. Their importance so obscure that we may forget them and replace them with shadows. The presences, our relatives, are the people of the African continent. And so I’ve come here to talk today about their state of not having enough money to take care of basic needs. I’ve come here to talk about their state of extreme poverty and our capability to change it.

Today we are under totally different conditions that separate us from Africans. Africans see poverty – as widespread as it may be – as a temporary obstacle to the continent’s future of prosperity. But why should we help them overcome this obstacle? Today it is painfully obvious that no man - and no nation - is an island. We are all a connected global community. They, like everyone else, are our neighbors and will remain so. More importantly, I have been told to love my neighbor as I love myself. I feel we have a global responsibility to support the hosts of men, women, and children who have hardship written on their foreheads. Ending extreme poverty in Africa will require action by the rich as well as the poor. Action that is bold but achievable. To end poverty is not only the conclusion of extreme misery but the launch of progress, hope, and security that accompany development. It is all possible.

The hardest part about action in this framework is getting to the first grips up the ladder of development. We must help lift the many nations in Africa which are stuck at the bottom of the ladder. This has been done before and can be done again. At present we see countries climbing the ladder of development, making progress, even if it is sometimes incredibly slow. My target is to be a part of the generation helping the poor begin their ascent up the ladder.
The conclusion of poverty will require international cooperation. The planet must be ready and willing to submit our time to such cooperation because it makes possible a dream which aims for the well-being of a continent. I dare you, hoping that this larger goal will tie us with universal cooperation, to be the generation that changed a people’s circumstances.

I dare you to provide basic health for Uganda.
I dare you to teach primary education to the children of Rwanda.
I dare you to offer clean drinking water and sanitation to the citizens of Burkina Faso.
I dare you to improve the transport, power, communication, and roads of Tanzania.
I dare you to supply the right nourishment for a person in Somalia to live, grow, and remain healthy.
I dare you to meet these challenges so we can start the way to move forward.
This is my hope

We can all begin our acts of bravery and trust that will shape human history. I hope many of us will have the immensity to shape human history. Let our children talk about us as the generation that fired a grand tide of hope. Let us leave behind our honor, sweat, blood, and even our dust, as the generation that healed the world.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Is the End of Poverty Actually in Sight?: Microfinance op-ed

An op-ed by Eliot Daley about recent successes in microfinance...
Is the End of Poverty Actually in Sight?

“Whatever banks did, I did the opposite.” With that contrarian resolve, a young professor of economics named Muhammad Yunus launched the world’s first microcredit program in Bangladesh some thirty years ago, triggering a global cascade of micro-prosperity that earned him the Nobel Prize for Peace two years ago. Unlike the big banks, he gave unsecured loans to the poorest women in the most remote villages, eschewing collateral in favor of trust in their resourcefulness and determination and honor. With their tiny fistfuls of capital, these enterprising women purchased what they needed to become self-employed: enough rattan to weave a chair to sell, or a sewing machine to set up shop as a seamstress, or, more recently, a cell phone that created a one-person telephone company selling individual calls to others.

Also the opposite of today’s miserably failed big banks, microcredit worked—spectacularly well. Recently Dr. Yunus and Sam Daley-Harris, founder of the Microcredit Summit Campaign which supports the global spread of microcredit programs, announced that in 2007 an astounding 100,000,000 borrowers held microloans. These loans enabled them to start on a path toward becoming financially self-sufficient and in the process start lifting themselves and their families (and neighbors they employ) above the poverty level. Taken together, this means that half a billion people are on track to escaping the relentless, heartless undertow that forever has sucked them and their ancestors down into daily misery and pinned them there.

The wisdom of Dr. Yunus’ mantra seems all the more prescient and wise given the troubling behavior of big banks today. All they seem to be doing in the midst of a nearly unprecedented crisis is sucking up billions in public funds and hoarding them for a rainy day, as if the monsoon drowning companies and jobs all around them doesn’t suggest that bad weather is already upon us. While they perpetuate the infamous “credit crunch”, the purveyors of microcredit are busily handing out loans every day to nurture millions and millions and millions of small-business startups all around the globe. More than one hundred million in 2007. Imagine that. And the new goal of the Microcredit Summit Campaign is 175,000,000 borrowers by 2015. Incredible though it seems, we may actually be witnessing the beginning of the end of global poverty.

With such a conspicuous and undeniable success sparking new prosperity and happiness in locales all across the globe, maybe it’s time for the rest of us to start doing the opposite of what we ourselves have been doing. For example:

We have believed that poverty is inevitable. (There’s even offhanded Biblical support for such a notion.) But we can change our minds about that. That’s the first opposite-course to adopt: stop accepting poverty, and start believing that we ourselves can be part of ending it forever.

We have believed (implicitly, at least) that poverty is the fault of the poor. The opposite: Recognize that the most resourceful, entrepreneurial people in the world are those who must scratch out their survival every day in the bleakest of circumstances. But their poverty, we now know, is caused not by them but by the inequitable distribution of capital. Microloans fuel their fierce will to thrive, and the results are stunning.

We have paid scant attention to how U.S foreign aid is spent or misspent. That’s the opposite of what is needed: Tell your representative in Congress that their colleagues who have pledged to reform U.S. foreign assistance should learn from the lessons of the Microcredit Summit Campaign: 1) focus on the poorest, 2) set targets to achieve bold and measurable outcomes such as the Millennium Development Goals and those of the Microcredit Summit, and 3) monitor progress to ensure we achieve results.

Taking that action will honor our own best impulses in working to drive poverty from the face of the earth in our lifetimes. It would also get us to another of Muhammad Yunus’ visions: putting poverty in the museums, where it belongs.

Eliot Daley is a writer based in Princeton, New Jersey, with a longtime interest in the microfinance movement. His writings are posted on He welcomes reader responses at