03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Oprah and the Power of 10

Ten dollars.

It's not a large sum of money. In this country, 10 bucks doesn't really buy that much -- maybe a decent glass of wine, a previously viewed DVD, a couple cans of tennis balls.

In the humanitarian world we go to great lengths to describe in simple terms for donors, the media, the public in general, how the smallest amounts, the smallest interventions can save lives.

How many times have I watched a parent arrive at one of our nutrition centers in Chad, or Ethiopia, or the Democratic Republic of Congo carrying a severely malnourished, limp, unresponsive child -- a child whose time left on earth may be fewer than 24 hours? And then, a week later, the child is reversing course after receiving the proper therapeutic food. Ten bucks can do that.

How many times did I meet a new mother who faced a one in 22 chance of dying due to complications in childbirth -- but because she had appropriate pre- and postnatal care from one of our trained midwives, she was alive and healthy, lying in a recovery room, gazing into the eyes of her beautiful newborn. Ten bucks can do that too.

In volatile, fragile environments in the developing world, the margins separating life from death can be razor thin.

This past week, International Medical Corps and Oprah teamed up once again to tackle some of the gravest threats to the health of women and children in Sub-Saharan Africa. Oprah made a powerful appeal on her show and online that we join her "For All Women" campaign and give something, anything back. Thousands upon thousands of her viewers answered her rallying cry and have donated $10, $50, $100 to International Medical Corps.

I suspect those viewers cannot truly picture the enormity of the impact they're making with even a modest donation. I suspect that's true of most people who want to give to charity and make a difference -- particularly at this time of year when we are all trying to keep perspective on what matters most to us.

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But I can attest that small sums do have an enormous impact. I think back to one father in eastern Congo who was transported to our clinic, along with about 30 other parents and kids from a displacement camp. All the children were severely malnourished and needed immediate attention. As he cradled the daughter he knew was slipping toward death, he looked at me and our staff with eyes that said, "You're my last hope." He handed her off to our chief nutritionist. Within a few weeks that little girl had made a full recovery.

When we say that $10 can save a life, we mean it.

If you want to learn more or to donate to the For All Women campaign, go to International Medical Corps' site directly or