Friday, March 27, 2009

Bread for the World's 2009 Offering of Letters

Hundreds of Bread for the World Covenant churches around the nation are holding the Offering of Letters with their congregations. Maybe the best way I can explain it is by posting my opening remarks I've written for my own congregation this Sunday.... -ccyl

Welcome to “Offering of Letters” Sunday!

This is my favorite Sunday at First Church. Easter’s coming up and it’s very impressive, but today is when we collectively take on one of the biggest tasks Christianity calls us to do… you and I will take action together in an effort to do no less than end poverty.

Bread for the World is a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad. Every year at Bread for the World’s Offering of Letters, we sit down after worship in the Great Hall to write letters to Congress on behalf of people in poverty. We each write 3 letters (to 2 Senators and one Representative) to join over a hundred thousand more letters from other churches pushing for policies reflecting our moral obligation to aid the poorest people in our world.

This year, we have a simple request about a complicated system of Foreign Aid. All the money the U.S. sends to fight global poverty is regulated by a 48 yr old Foreign Assistance Act. It’s outdated and now has aid going through across 12 departments, 25 agencies and nearly 60 government offices – all with different and sometimes conflicting priorities.

Foreign aid works for people like Nubia Bacca of Nicaragua. Two years after nearly losing her dairy cattle when her husband died, she is now running a self-sufficient farm employing 9 others in her community using farming and husbandry techniques she learned from a US development assistance program. So, our aid works, but we need it to work better and for more people.

We’re not even asking for more money this year. We just want better use of our tax dollars in a time when we have none to waste.

Here’s our message today: Reform foreign aid. Make it efficient, accountable and effective for children, women and men living and dying on less than $1.25 a day. A poverty-focused foreign assistance system would provide help faster and more effectively when the world needs it most.

Please join us in the Great Hall after worship today. Your letters are a fit offering to God.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Today is World TB Day: AIDS/TB info

From ACTION, a sister organization to RESULTS which focuses on advocacy to control TB internationally...
TB is the leading killer of people living with HIV/AIDS. WHO’s annual report showed that 1.4 million people were found to be co-infected in 2007, double the number reported the previous year due to improvements in data gathering. Despite the very high rates of TB among those who are HIV-positive, many people living with HIV/AIDS lack access to TB testing and treatment. Currently, only an estimated two percent of people with HIV/AIDS have been screened for TB. This has especially dire consequences for sub-Saharan Africa where an estimated 1.1 million of the 1.4 million co-infected individuals live, and where more than half of TB deaths are among people living with HIV/AIDS.

"Living with HIV, Dying of TB: A Critique of the Response of Global AIDS Donors to the Co-epidemic," the report released by ACTION, found that institutions including the World Bank; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria; the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR); and the UK Department for International Development (DFID); were all failing to adequately address this problem. In some cases, the institutions lacked the means to even monitor whether funding was provided for TB-HIV efforts, let alone the efficacy of such investments. Where funding had been allocated, the report found that resources were insufficient.

The growing problem of multi-drug resistant (MDR) and extensively drug-resistant (XDR) TB has had a particularly devastating effect on those who are HIV-positive. There is a significant danger that the massive scale-up of HIV/AIDS related services, if not matched by a comparable investment in TB and TB-HIV efforts could actually be worsening the situation - as TB can spread rapidly in congregate settings like HIV/AIDS clinics. The need for universal TB screening and treatment, and effective infection control for people living with HIV/AIDS is urgent.

ACTION’s report recommends that all major HIV/AIDS donors increase their investment in combining efforts to fight both diseases, and institute practical measures to monitor progress.