Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Advance Global Health: Achieve the MDG's

The Millenium Development Goals (MDG's) are 8 time bound goals agreed upon by member states of the United Nations (UN) back in 2000 that, if achieved, would mean an end to extreme poverty by 2015. These goals are well off track. Easily preventable diseases like diarrhoea, pneumonia & malaria continue to run rampant in children under age 5, meaning that MDG 4, 'reduce child mortality by 2/3 by 2015' is startlingly behind and yet governments seem to be lethargic in their movements to change that.

Hence, the 63rd Annual United Nations Department of Public Information (UNDPI) conference was entitled "Advance Global Health: Achieve the MDG's." The conference sought to draw representatives from hundreds of international Non-Government Organisations (NGO's) together in Melbourne in August 2010 to devise how we're going to make poverty history

I was lucky enough to be chosen as a one of the youth delegates representing World Vision and eagerly jumped on the plane from Adelaide to Melbourne brimming with excitement about the groundbreaking steps we were going to collectively take toward 'advancing global health'. What I got, was a reality check.

I am not naive. At least I thought I wasn't. I know that there are no quick fixes to poverty. I know that there are many powerful forces that oppose the liberation the world's poorest people and I know that if it were an easy task, it would have been done by now. I thought this conference could have been an opportunity to spotlight the MDG's on a global scale and this was something I was so humbled and excited to be a part of but there, sitting in that room among 2000 people who share my desperation to see an end to poverty, I felt numb. Time and again people were stepping up to the microphone during question times to push their own personal agendas, seemingly ignorant of the fact that we were there to tackle the bigger picture - even keynote speakers deviated from the topic at hand. The lack of urgency experienced throughout the entire conference was disturbing... devastating even.

Don't get me wrong - the caliber of the delegates was amazing. I was so humbled to be in the presence of people who quietly go about their daily lives in deserts, jungles and everywhere in between championing equality, freedom and human rights on behalf of those who have been stripped of all three. Whether it be in a home for AIDS orphans in Kenya; nuns attending to the sick in the highlands of PNG or community health workers in the red centre of Australia, these people are the unsung heroes of humanity as they work tirelessly and selflessly for what they believe is just. Their actions are transforming lives everyday and it was incredible to hear their stories. Yet there seemed to be a common thread in all of these stories - a thread that Tim Costello identified in the 3rd Roundtable session.

"I know the purists among you with disagree with me when I say this, but I believe that representatives from the private sector should be here in the thick of these discussions around advancing global health."

NGO's & Governments more often than not form the framework for the discourse of advancing global health but when we neglect to include key private sector stakeholders that are responsible for a huge amount of anguish, we neglect to address the bigger picture. When pharmaceutical & mining companies are monopolising on much needed resources purely for their own gain, where does that leave the world's poor? They lay at the absolute mercy of a consortium of money hungry extortionists and paralyzed halfway to the finish line. When mining companies are ripping through areas of once fertile agricultural land, leaving only destruction in their wake and countless children are dying from AIDS simply because pharmaceutical companies jack up the prices of anti-retroviral treatment because they realise that desperate people are a profitable commodity, one has to question the humanity of these faceless giants. What I want to know is, who is holding these companies accountable? And how have they been able to get away with such atrocities for so long?

My colleagues and me with Dr Claudio "Rocks my World"
One man that particularly captured my attention was Dr Claudio Shuftan from the People's Health Movement (PHM). Dr Shuftan stunned UNDPI officials when he deviated from the pre-rehearsed Roundtable discussion, claiming that without a Human Rights approach the MDG's were not going to achieve their objectives. Whilst considered a bit of a radical by some of his peers, he was right in saying that the focus we need moreso than equality is equity. The MDG's, as they stand, only set quantifiable requirements for developing nations without placing any onus on OECD countries to set quantifiable goals for developing accountability and equity - particularly in regards to fairer trade and reducing consumption. It was so refreshing to hear someone speaking with passion and actually stirring the pot and challenging some of the ideas being put forward and bucking the UN custom of playing it safe.

"As we endure this fight, we must continue to ask ourselves: how great is our hope?" - Chris Varney

Despite the fact that I found the UNDPI/NGO conference frustrating for the most part, I remain optimistic that the global health situation isn't hopeless. My hope lies in the diligence and strength of those NGO leaders whose work we celebrated over course of the conference. My hope lies in a World Vision health worker named Sokha, whose commitment to training women in her Cambodian village is willingly privileged over every other aspect of her life. My hope lies in the passion of the youth I meet on a day to day basis who's cries for a better world refuse to be drowned out. With every one of our small victories comes a downpour of hope.

The declaration that was drafted and unanimously agreed upon last month in Melbourne is now, as I write, being presented to the member states of the UN in New York. Ban Ki-Moon, Barrack Obama & K-Rudd are probably perusing it over a cuppa right now...

The Lives You Can Save

"Every day, the equivalent of a major earthquake killing over 30,000 young children occurs to a disturbingly muted response. They die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dr Phillips

I think that when Cosmetic Surgeons become Cosmetic Surgeons they should each be required by law to change their name to Phillips.

"G'day my name is Dr Phillips. Phillips by name, I fill lips by trade!"

Everyone who's never had cosmetic surgery would laugh; everyone who has would try to join them and the world would make sense once more.
Dr Phillips.
(Formerly known as Ryan Zimmer.)

Photo courtesy of Klosterman Chiropractic. For health. For life.

Give a Thug a Hug Tonight

Photos & song title courtesy of Sam Evans

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Claiming emotional baggage

I often seem to find myself, inexplicably, in airports. I step onto the tarmac; fresh, non-pressurised air penetrates my lungs, as I leisurely make my way to the carousel a la baggage. I'm standing there about 3 or 4 metres back from the conveyor-belt and time and again, come to the stark realisation that at that moment, even if I saw my humble little baggy effortlessly gliding around the bend, I wouldn't be able to access my belongings due to the throngs of once beloved co-passengers now mounting the carousel. Please somebody explain to me, for I simply cannot fathom why people feel this irrepressible need to be so darn close to the moving platform of goodies. Notions of chivalry are all but forgotten in the bloody scramble to retrieve Roxy backpacks & Samsonite suites - elderly women and small children tossed thoughtlessly by the wayside in the wake of the silent stampede...

                                                                                      ...In my frustration I wish to remind my fellow bystanders that we are not eyeing off the same magical, little, mouth-watering morsels like one would find at Sushi Train where the belt whistles by at such a speed that it inhibits a swift retrieval. No, the baggage carousel moves slowly, allowing enough time for baggage owners to casually approach, grip, heave, lower & roll - so why does everyone freak out? Is it some sort of primal, survival of the fittest mentality that drives this panic? Is it a reflection of our time-bound, individualistic culture? Does the carousel emit some brand of alluring pheromone, to which, I am clearly immune? Who knows? All I know is, it is diminishing my faith in humanity's capacity for patience.

Friends, I implore you. Next time you're at the airport, loitering around baggage claim, can you please, please, stand the hell back?

I am one in a million

I feel I should begin my blogging career with a Disclaimer.
I am a student of the world. I do not profess to have expertise on any issue you might peruse during your time here. That which follow are mere musings of a curious mind - nothing more, nor less.

One may wonder, why "Camel Droppings?"
The answer is simple. Time and again, I have been likened to the Dromedary beast of the desert and this here web log will form the dumping ground for the shit, with which I drivel, as I wander time and space searching for meaning & hope in a world gone mad.
. . .

I am one in a million. Which means there are 22 others just like me in Australia alone.