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INTD Team Project: Health in the Developing World

The International Response to Health Crises

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The International Response to Health Crises
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The international community feels a responsibility to come to the aid of those in the developing world during times of health crises as most developing nations are unable to help themselves.  Whether the response is to an epidemic such as AIDS or malaria, or to a natural disaster such as the December 2004 Asian tsunami, the third world turns to the developed world for humanitarian aid.  While globalization has provided greater access to developing nations in need of aid, many countries largely depend on the media, politicians and NGO’s to get the word out.  Unfortunately, sometimes such as system can fail as many crises are overlooked or recognized too late.

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The Famine in Niger

Firstly, and perhaps the most current example of a system failure is the 2005 famine in Niger.  In summer 2005 about 3.5 million people in Niger were on the verge of starvation.  This had been a problem which began in November 2004 with a locus invasion but the world did not notice.  It was not until the summer that aid began to arrive, unfortunately it was too little too late.  As of July 29th, 2005 Niger had only been promised about 30% of what it would take to address the immediate needs of the country[1].  Neither the media nor aid agencies were able to get the word out.  As a result, the people of Niger starved in silence and any aid that was received was not enough for the desperate situation that had transpired.  This failure of the system resulted in many preventable deaths.

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HIV/AIDS in Uganda 

In order to prevent a crisis from becoming an overwhelming catastrophe, it is essential for developing nations to appeal to the Western world.  To guarantee a nation’s safety, many developing countries must meet demands set forth by developed countries to obtain aid.  A prime example of this type of interaction can be seen in Uganda.  Uganda has been very successful compared to many African countries in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  However, in recent years there seems to have been a shift from safe sex education to primarily abstinence only education.  This may have to do with the fact that the United States has pledged 100 million dollars to combat HIV/AIDS in Uganda and of that, significantly more will be spent on abstinence education rather than safe sex education[2].  This raises the question: Is the US, and by enlarge the developed world exporting its own ideas at the expense of the safety of the Ugandan citizens?  Will the need for aid set Uganda back in the fight against AIDS?  While the results have yet to be seen, one has to wonder if the interference of the Western world is doing more harm than we realize?

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        The Asian Tsunami
         One of the largest aid crises in history is the 2004 Asian tsunami.  More than 79,000 people died, and unlike many disasters in developing nations, this occurred without warning, preparedness was never an option.  While the relief effort was one of the most successful in terms of donations, the long term well being of those affected was not properly addressed.  According to the UN, as of summer 2005 some of the most industrialized nations, namely Australia, Canada and the United States had only delivered on about one-third to two-thirds of the aid they promised to affected countries[3].  The transition from short term to long term aid is difficult as donors often experience “donor fatigue” after being bombarded with, and contributing to numerous causes.  While this crisis is not only a health related topic, those affected by the tsunami are at high risk of diseases resulting from overcrowded conditions and water borne diseases.  

Globalization and the media have helped significantly in recent years in terms of creating more opportunities for international aid to being able to reach those in need.  However, there is still much progress to be made.  Individuals need to increase their own awareness of what is going on in the developing world.  It is only when that awareness is accomplished that the developing world can be relieved of some of its health burdens.            

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