Sunday, April 25, 2010

Malaria can be prevented and cured so let's do it!

Today is World Malaria Day 2010 - and this year, in an effort to sustain positive forward momentum and hold on to important gains achieved in the fight against Malaria, we have been busier than usual contributing to building awareness and ensuring governments - both those managing malaria prevention or treatment programs and those supporting through donations and development - remain committed on all fronts. 

One of the newer elements we produced this year was our very own TV debate (pictured below) where we transformed our main meeting room at Geneva head office into a TV set. We invited key people from the world of malaria prevention, treatment and financing to provide another platform for discussion and engaging new audiences. The final edited result is made available to all our partners and national red cross / red crescent societies for use in their own constituencies. 

In addition to this we release a new updated report containing more evidence-based data on the effectiveness of community-based action in malaria prevention; we produced a photo slideshow for web-based communications and an opinion piece for national media markets. In Brussels we distributed our report to more than 4000 parliamentarians and staged a photo exhibition. We also partnered with different media organizations including World Radio Switzerland and the Financial Times.

Many of our national red cross / red crescent national societies are also extremely active. The Canadian Red Cross for example, as part of their successful Malaria Bites campaign, launched a cool Facebook application which allows you to cover your avatar with a mosquito net -- every action helps build awareness!

Since 2002, the Red Cross/Crescent alone has protected over 18 million people with long-lasting insecticide treated nets, saving over 300,000 lives in the process. Malaria can be prevented and cured. We have evidence of what’s working, so let’s do it.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Jackie Brown Meets Bugsy Ratzinger

Is Quentin Tarantino a Catholic? The latest sequel of sordid revelations in the Vatican’s pedophile priests collusion and cover-up campaign is reminiscent of a scene from ‘Jackie Brown’ where crime-don Samuel L. Jackson opens the trunk of his car to show Robert de Niro a corpse:

Who’s that ?
That’s Beaumont.
Who’s Beaumont?
An employee I had to let go.
Wha’d he do?
He put hisself in a position where he was going to have to do ten years in prison, that’s what he did. An’ if you know Beaumont, you know ain’t no goddamn way he can do ten years. An’ if you know that, then you know Beaumont’s gonna do anything he can to keep from doing them ten years - including telling the Federal Government any and every motherfuckin’ thing about my black ass. Now that, my friend, is a clear cut case o’ him - or me. An’ you best believe it ain’t gonna be me.

When German weekly magazine Der Spiegel opened the trunk of the popemobile last week, in Beaumont’s place it found the allegorical remains of Fr. Gerhard Gruber, the vicar-general of the archdiocese of Munich in 1980 when Pope Benedict – then Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger –approved a proposal to allow pedophile priest Peter Hullermann to return to full pastoral duties where he had unrestricted access to – and influence over young boys.

"Take the Pope out of the firing line"
Hullerman had been accused by three sets of parents in Essen of sexually abusing their sons, including forcing an 11-year-old boy to give him oral sex. Initial questions about Ratzinger’s failure to protect children by ensuring that Hullerman was barred from working with minors were fuelled by allegations of complicity, and as pressure on the Pontiff increasedchurch authorities issued a statement placing exclusive responsibility for the decision to reinstate Hullerman on Father Gruber.

Der Spiegel however had a copy of a letter from a friend of Father Gruber saying that he had been pressured by Church officials last month to sign a prepared statement accepting full responsibility – to “take the pope out of the firing line”. A clear cut case of him – or Ratzinger, and we all know from Ratzinger’s past record of evading responsibility for his role in covering up for pedophile priests how Gruber ended up in the trunk of the popemobile (right).

"Rejoicing" the protection of pedophile priests
In another astonishing episode, Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, author of a 2001 letter congratulating a French bishop for colluding with a pedophile priest who was later convicted for the repeated rape of a boy, also ended up in the trunk of the popemobileHoyos revealed last week that Pope John Paul II had approved the letter and authorized him to send a copy to bishops all over the world as an example of how to resist pressure to report offending clergy to the civil authorities. 

Father René Bissey was given an eighteen year prison sentence for the repeated rape of one boy and the sexual assault of ten others. His bishop, Pierre Pican had known about the abuse but refused to report Bissey to the police. Pican was sentenced to three months in prison for failure to report Bissey’s crimes. 

Cardinal Hoyos (left) was head of the Vaticans Congregation for Clergy, and a colleague of Cardinal Ratzinger. He wrote – with the approval of the Pope, he says, – to Pican, praising him for covering up for the rapist priest: “I congratulate you for not having reported the priest to the civil authorities. You have done well, and I rejoice at having an associate in the episcopate who, in the eyes of history and of all the other bishops of the world, will have chosen prison rather than speaking out against his priest-son”. Hoyos added that he would be sending a copy of the letter to all the bishops’ conferences “to encourage the brothers in this very delicate area.”

Excommunication the price of Cooperation
In another clear cut case ohim or me, the Vatican responded to the horror generated by the revelations about Hoyos’ letter by issuing a press release claiming that this was another example of why it was necessary to bring all these cases under the “competence of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith” to ensure a “rigorous and coherent management” of abuse cases. The truth is that the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith responded to its new responsibility by issuing a letter – signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – to bishops and cardinals warning them that such cases should be referred in secret to the Vatican and that breaching the pontifical secret – by, for example, reporting pedophile priests to the police – carried penalties up to and including excommunication.

So, we have an Archbishop, a future pope, who – knowing that a priest had admitted to sexually abusing young boys – allowed him to take up a new posting where he was free to take advantage of other young boys; and a high-ranking Vatican cardinal (a close colleague of the same pope) who writes and distributes a letter congratulating a bishop for refusing to take action against a priest who has repeatedly raped a young boy and assaulted ten others.

Brady must go
Meanwhile Cardinal Seán Brady (right) head of the Catholic Church in Ireland continues to serve as the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Brady - who admitted he was part of a church cover-up squad that forced a 10-year-old and a 14-year-old who had testified against notorious pedophile priest Brendan Smyth at a church enquiry to sign secrecy oaths – has rejected repeated calls for his resignationSmyth later admitted to molesting and raping about 100 children in Ireland and the United States and was convicted and jailed. 

Many of these offenses were committed after the abuse enquiry that Brady was involved in. Brady maintains that he will only resign if the Pope asks him to do so. Another clear cut case of him or me.

And these are the people who lead the Catholic Church? You couldn’t make it up.

Why are these people above the law? Where are the criminal charges against the church officials like Brady who colluded in and covered up for rapist priests and christian brothers and facilitated their transfer to new parishes where they were free to prey on other children?

Please take time to join the Facebook campaign to break the silence and bring Cardinal Sean Brady and the Irish Catholic Church to justice.

/SD is Sean Deeley, a HDEO newcomer - this is his second installment, read the first one here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Haiti: How they Live

A favorite at HDEO is the audio slide show. Basically, photographs melded together are narrated by the photographer to form a compelling story-telling format. Here we have a 5 min slide show, narrated by lens man Michael Goldfarb for gold standard aid agency Medicins Sans Frontier. This slideshow portrays how the people of Haiti remain resilient, getting on with the business of life, while the rubble all around providing a daily backdrop to the violence wrought by the earthquake three months ago.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Haiti: Enormous challenges remain, three months on

Recent heavy rains and their mud-soaked aftermath have once again turned the spotlight back onto Haiti.

Along with the immediate shock at the continuing human suffering, the images we’re seeing are also provoking another reaction; why, when so many of us around the world have given so much, are those affected by the earthquake still living in such appalling conditions?

Why, when the world knew that the rainy season was coming, are people still forced to shelter under tarpaulins? Where are the new houses for the homeless? Where, in short, is the relief effort which might seem to have dissolved under the rains?

In truth, aid agencies in Haiti are working harder than ever to provide relief and protect people from the rains.

So far, shelter distributions led by the International Red Cross have reached close to 1.2 million people. Haiti represents one of the fastest distribution operations ever undertaken. This in spite of well-publicised problems including a port too damaged to operate, blocked roads and a clogged airport.

Some obstacles undoubtedly persist, but humanitarian agencies in Haiti continue to perform logistical miracles to get aid to those in need.

In the United States, one of the the richest countries in the world, with teams of the most well equipped experts on earth, it took two years to clear the rubble of the World Trade Centre.

Haiti, it hardly needs to be pointed out, is not the United States. Rubble clearance and reconstruction is an enormous task, and to achieve long-term, sustainable recovery we have to be realistic about the size of that task and how long it will take.

That is why emergency shelter has been the focus. We have to reach the most vulnerable people with the most effective forms of aid possible within the time available. In Haiti that means mass distribution of waterproof tarpaulins to get shelter to as many people as possible. Gradually, as rubble is removed and new land made available, families will receive metal roof sheeting and timber and steel frames to construct more durable shelters.

We need to help people as quickly as we can, but must not let pressure to increase the speed of our response lead to errors of judgement which could undermine recovery, and jeopardise people’s lives, in the long term.

All aid agencies are working round the clock to make sure people are protected in the short-term and ensure a safer future in the years ahead but it is a sad reality that, with the rains coming, the situation for people living in the camps will get worse before it gets better.