President Obama: Personal Connections to Global Health
EDITOR’S NOTE: This post marks the second in a series from the ONE Campaign about their support of the international vaccine program to “save 4 million children’s lives in 5 years.” Look for another here every week until the end of May.
With uprisings in the Arab world, soaring gas prices and persistent unemployment, it seems unlikely that global health would show up anywhere on President Obama’s radar this month. And yet with our child vaccines campaign in full swing (featuring a petition asking the president to support funding for new life-saving vaccines), we have two new reasons this month to feel encouraged that the president gets the importance of our work on these issues in a very personal way.
First, we noticed an announcement by Africare that they had completed a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Project in Ghana, thanks to generous funding by a little-known donor named Barack Obama. As it turns out — apparently without much fanfare — President Obama used some of his Nobel Peace Prize money to fund new waterpoints (wells and boreholes), the rehabilitation of non-functional waterpoints, school latrines and a community-led behavior change campaign.
According to Africare, “the WASH project was implemented in four communities of the Wassa Amenfi District, where over 80 percent of people were dissatisfied with the quality of their water, 90 percent of the population shared a latrine with up to 30 other people, the incidence of diarrhea among children under five was high and knowledge of basic hygiene was limited and in some cases non-existent.” Those of you following our child vaccines campaign know that diarrhea is one of the top two killers of children under 5 across the developing world, and as we blogged about, WASH programs complement vaccination programs in efforts to reduce child deaths.
Then, in conjunction with a news item receiving slightly more attention, President Obama gave an interview to 60 Minutes about the death of Osama bin Laden. While many were fixated on the gripping details of the raid in Pakistan that led to bin Laden’s death, we were struck by another one of president’s offerings: when asked about the atmosphere in the Situation Room, he said “it was the longest 40 minutes of my life, with the possible exception of when Sasha got meningitis when she was three months old and I was waiting for the doctor to tell me that she was alright.”
For President Obama to relate such a tense moment in his presidency with his daughter’s illness conveys so clearly the emotions of millions of parents around the world when their kids are sick, and strengthens our resolve to ensure that more children are able to access the tools needed to keep them healthy. We care so strongly about improving access to vaccines because we know how horrific and common vaccine-preventable diseases can be in the developing world and how gut-wrenching their impact can be on children and their families.
From these examples and many of his other efforts (including the Global Health Initiative), we know that President Obama cares about global health and understands the importance of keeping kids and communities healthy. This June, we hope this care translates into leadership in support increased funding to help save 4 million children’s lives over the next 5 years. Doing so would represent another milestone of which his administration could feel proud.
This post was originally posted by ONE.