June 23, 2013 § Leave a comment
One in 7 homicides worldwide, and over one in 3 homicides in women specifically are perpetrated by an intimate partner. These were the findings of a new Lancet systematic review and World Health Organization report.
Considering these facts, I have little doubt that if intimate partner violence was a disease it would garner greater (both more and better) attention in our public conscience, mass media, and health research priorities. Yet without being a disease, intimate partner violence still acts as health burden and has serious health consequence prior to and including death.1 You might not think it’s disease, but it acts like one:
Disease: any harmful, depraved, or morbid condition, as of the mind or society (dictionary.com); The term disease broadly refers to any condition that impairs normal function, and is therefore associated with dysfunction of normal homeostasis (wikipedia)
We need to reframe our conception of intimate partner violence. It is a societal disease. Thinking about it in this way may garner greater public retaliation when the media treats it lightly or glorifies it. Perhaps as a disease intimate partner violence will also attract more members to organizations like this, and more observations like this (DISCLAIMER: this video contains strong language and subject matter).
With the proportion of female homicides by an intimate partner being six-times larger than that of males, it is reasonable that the news has largely focused on women as the victims. But we should not neglect the also shocking statistic that 1 in 7 homicides at large (i.e. of both men and women) are perpetrated by an intimate partner. This is a crime and a public health burden that clearly represents why we should not ask for whom the bell tolls.
1 Which is why the World Health Organization and the Lancet (a leading medical journal) funded and/or published the recent reports. Intimate partner violence, though we often may not think of it like this, is a health as much as a social issue.
June 19, 2013 § 1 Comment
My sense of humanity remains untouched. But my ability to assume that people have good intentions has definitely been hampered by all the things that I’ve seen. It does make me question humanity as a whole, and how, in spite of all of human kind’s achievements and advancements… barbaric acts of war continue to be implement and used, and how people actually believe that violence is a means to peace. – Kate Brooks, Photojournalist
It’s a reasonable quandary: the non-linear logic of healing conflict with violence. And yet it exists and allows violence persist. Perhaps this is because, aside from the manifold reasons that one might first become involved in a conflict1, eventually conflict can become a part of one’s identity. And although new information technologies (such as youtube, texting, twitter, and GIS) can prevent some acts of violence, these same technologies can also fail to alter the cultural norms and citizen identities that become entwined with and eventually entrench conflict over years. In fact, these technologies can engrain rather than excise such identities by allowing people to rally and polarize around them. In a recent post on A View from the Cave, Andrew Blum of the US Institute of Peace highlighted that there is more to the prevention of violence than the mere acquiring of information:
Atrocity prevention from the local to the international level is an intensely and inherently political process. Those working on atrocity prevention must find creative ways to confront illegitimate authority, disrupt the configuration of identities that contribute to violence, and craft new means to provide legitimate authority for those with the power to prevent atrocities.
The desire, in other words, for a simple solution to an entrenched conflict (physical or ideological) is likely frivolous. The conflict in Syria, for example, burns on and who knows precisely how or when it will end (though likely not soon). Thousands of families have been swept into this war(s) by the persuasion to catalyze change, defend their rights, seek revenge, or merely survive and keep their family safe. Whatever the case, this war and its causes have become a part of many people’s identity.
So what to do?
Surely one thing to do is to refrain from expressions of simple solution. But another is to maintain hope, because hope prospers an endurance to care for those innocently involved. The humanitarian needs evidenced in a conflict like Syria are certainly ‘complex’, but this complexity shouldn’t strike paralysis into aid organizations and the donors who support them.
Today it is estimated that 6.8 million (one in four) Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance. By year end, there are expected to be 3.85 million Syrian refugees. That is approximately equivalent to the entire population of Oregon being displaced on foot with little to no provisions. In April of 2013, Syrian refugees had already increased the population of Lebanon by 10%.
“On 7 June, the UN and its partners launched the largest appeal for humanitarian funding in history: US$4.4 billion to help Syrian refugees and people in need inside of Syria, as well as $830 million to help the Jordanian and Lebanese governments cope with this crisis over the course of 2013. The appeal replaces an earlier appeal for $1.5 billion for aid operations in the first half of the year” (cite).
This need is effect of the conflict, and of the massacre, torture and other human rights violations that accompany it. Entangled though it may be with an intervention, we should not allow humanitarian aid to dry up as the number of those in need continues to surge. As one development blogger notes, “Donor fatigue is leading to less money available and causing relief agencies to look to non-traditional partners, like Coca Cola, for funding and support” (cite). Don’t think for a second that Coca Cola wouldn’t care if you, a potential customer, took the time tell them your approval of their donations.
The war in Syria is not likely to end soon or simply, but I can think of three simple actions that can be taken very soon. They will take one hour or less and will allow you to say that you’ve done something with regard to the millions of families affected by the Syrian war: (1) learn more, (2) give*, and (3) ask others (i.e. politicians or companies) to give via email, mail, or phone. The companies you buy from and the politicians that represent you care what your think about them and about what they do. Be a actor in the international community your are inherently a part of.
The Bell Tolls, this time (again) for Syria.
* Human Rights Watch, Doctors without Borders (read their mission), IRC, Save the Children, Islamic Relief Worldwide, OxFam, Red Cross/Red Crecent, etc.
1Imagine conflict springing up around you and your family; in your very city without your provocation. Can you predict what would you do to protect your family? I can’t.
2A thought question: does the fact that the Syrian civil war is happening in Syria (with a multitude of splinter rebel groups) inhibit your donating, even if that donation goes to reputable humanitarian group such as the International Red Cross? Listen here for a similar conversation:
June 19, 2013 § 1 Comment
In a recent report, study authors discussed the unintended effects of an mHealth (mobile phone) intervention designed by a team of researchers from Yale University, the NGO Interaction Poverty Lab, the Grameen Technology Center, and Google.
The abstract to this report reads [with some notation],
We evaluate[d] the impact of a health information intervention implemented through mobile phones [mHealth], using a clustered randomized control trial augmented by qualitative interviews. The intervention aimed to improve sexual health knowledge and shift individuals towards safer sexual behavior by providing reliable information about sexual health. The novel technology designed by Google and Grameen Technology Center provided automated searches of an advice database on topics requested by users via SMS. It was sponsored by MTN Uganda at no cost to users. Quantitative survey results allow us to reject the hypothesis that improving access to information would increase knowledge and shift behavior to less risky sexual activities. In fact, we found that the service…
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June 1, 2013 § 2 Comments
Foreign Assistance by CountryClick image to enlarge. Source: http://foreignassistance.gov/countryIntro.aspx
The term ‘Dashboard‘ is defined as “a control panel placed in front of the driver of an automobile, housing instrumentation and controls for operation of the vehicle.” In the aftermath of Memorial Day patriotism, I found this definition fitting. The United States is democracy, after all, so its citizens have a voice that can create and catalyze change. It happens every day. And in that respect, the Foreign Assistance Dashboard is a tool for empowerment.
The United States provides billions of dollars in foreign assistance each year. Those are tax dollars, of course, but this is the first time that the raw data for tracking their use has been placed in the hands of citizens. Begun in 2010, this dashboard is one among many fruits of the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government (the Open Government Directive). Though it certainly displays weaknesses inherent in our nations data gathering mechanisms–and though in certainly displays weaknesses of its own1–this dashboard also stands as a sign of progress, transparency, and accountability. Voters are essential drivers behind one of our greatest national vehicles for good1: foreign assistance. It is only fitting that we now have a road map–however incomplete.
“The Foreign Assistance Dashboard was created in response to the principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and President Obama’s Open Government Initiative. The goal of the Foreign Assistance Dashboard is to enable a wide variety of stakeholders, including U.S. citizens, civil society organizations, the Congress, U.S. Government agencies, donors, and partner country governments, the ability to examine, research, and track U.S. Government foreign assistance investments in an accessible and easy-to-understand format.
The Dashboard is still in its early stages of development. Future versions will incorporate budget, financial, and program data in a standard form from all U.S. Government agencies receiving or implementing foreign assistance, humanitarian, and/or development funds. Those agencies include but are not limited to:
|Department of Agriculture||Department of the Treasury|
|Department of Commerce||Department of Transportation|
|Department of Defense||Environmental Protection Agency|
|Department of Energy||Federal Trade Commission|
|Department of Health & Human Services||Inter-America Foundation|
|Department of Homeland Security||Millennium Challenge Corporation|
|Department of the Interior||Peace Corps|
|Department of Justice||U.S. African Development Foundation|
|Department of Labor||U.S. Agency for International Development|
|Department of State||U.S. Trade Development Agency|
Currently the Foreign Assistance Dashboard website provides both raw data and summarized data/interactive infographics for evaluating (among other things) the planned, obligated, and actual spend out of US tax dollars toward foreign assistance.To learn more, visit the FAQ page of foreignassistance.gov