A new promotional video released last week by the non-partisan anti-poverty organization ONE raises some important questions about Americans' view of foreign assistance in the developing world, namely how money sent to Africa should be spent.
The clip (see below) called "Why Bother?" strings together typical taxpayer complaints about U.S. budgetary spending on programs in the world's poorest countries:
"Those people in Africa don't want to help themselves."
"It's like throwing money down a rat hole."
The PSA, which urges support for childhood vaccinations worldwide, is one of the most talked about in ONE's history -- and may prove even more effective than its previous celeb-heavy approach in convincing American citizens to use their voices (not their money) to motivate legislative change.
Attention all moms: if resident hunks George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon weren't enough to get you involved in ONE's advocacy work in the past, then maybe this multicultural passel of under-12 cuties in "Why Bother?" will persuade you to sign a petition to President Obama to ask for funding for childhood vaccines against pneumonia and diarrhea across the globe:
The facts cannot be avoided: In certain countries, more kids die from pneumonia or diarrhea than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined, a total of nearly 3 million each year. And these deaths can be prevented by inexpensive vaccinations.
Imagine if your child died from a bout of diarrhea? Not every mother has access to electrolyte replacement drinks or an afternoon trip over to the E.R. for a bag of I.V. fluid.
Ninety percent of all deaths caused by diarrheal diseases are children under 5 years of age, mostly in developing countries. In addition to improved sanitation and hygiene efforts, two recent studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that vaccinating babies against rotavirus significantly cut deaths from diarrhea by 61 percent in Africa.
"In the last 50 years, we've cut childhood deaths in half with the help of vaccines," American Academy of Pediatrics President-elect Robert Block, MD, FAAP told ONE. "As a pediatrician, I know the power of vaccines to protect a child for a lifetime. The AAP is proud to be a part of ONE's campaign to dramatically reduce childhood deaths and give every child a healthy start in life."
The release of the "Why Bother?" video was timed to stir up interest in funding for new vaccines prior to a July 13 pledging conference in London for partners of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI). GAVI, a partnership made up of governments and civil society organizations as well as groups such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, WHO, UNICEF, and the World Bank Group, exists to introduce innovative new immunization technology and accelerate access to underused vaccines. GAVI uses a combination of public and private donations, advance-market commitments, and direct funding.
With this campaign, the ultimate goal of both ONE and GAVI is to prevent millions of deaths worldwide and contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal for child health -- a two-thirds reduction in the number of deaths in the children under the age of five by 2015.
Moms, there's no catch: ONE doesn't want your money, just your voice -- or, in this case, the click of your fingertips. To sign the petition to advocate for funding for these life-saving vaccines, click here.
As for ONE's effectiveness as an advocacy organization? The actions of its more than two million members were key in the preservation of certain poverty-fighting programs funded by the U.S. government's FY11 budget as passed by Congress in April; in the months leading up to the vote, ONE members delivered a petition of over 150,000 signatures to lawmakers, made over 16,000 calls to members of Congress, and arranged hundreds of in-district meetings with their representatives and senators. The current budget bill provides $2.5 billion for the Global Health and Child Survival account, $80 million more than last year. (Keep in mind that the entire International Affairs Budget has accounted for around or less than 1% of the total U.S. budget in recent years.)