Mail Call: Making a Difference

Readers applauded the health initiatives and other philanthropic projects described in our cover story "Giving Globally: How to Heal the World." One wrote, "The question is, how can we tailor solutions that empower local communities and lessen long-term dependency on foreign aid?"

Healing the World
The stories of children suffering from AIDS and malaria in Africa ("How to Heal the World," Oct. 1) are as heartbreaking as the stories of children suffering from diseases like cancer in America's own backyard. And, when the U.S. government cuts cancer-research funding at home while proposing $30 billion to fight AIDS in Africa, where are its priorities? Because of these cuts, the clinical trial that is keeping alive my son and countless other children may not get the funding to continue. Hundreds of children will not get the lifesaving treatment they deserve. Before we try to "heal the world," maybe we should start with healing a little closer to home.
Randy Lea
Fredericksburg, Virginia

After reading "How to Heal the World," I am again struck by the conundrum: if we keep the children alive, and they become adults, how will we feed them? Certain continents are scarcely arable for thousands of square kilometers, devoid of firewood and incapable of supporting the present population. Are we thwarting what anthropologists have discovered, that populations migrate in search of food? It looks as if our humanity and generosity have run ahead of basic survival needs. And that says nothing about greedy rulers who suck out much of our charity.
Donald Ford
New Braunfels, Texas

How to "make a difference"? It's easy. The nonprofit organization Isabella's Little Miracles ( provides humanitarian aid to war-torn and impoverished nations. I work with an orthopedic surgeon who runs a free clinic in Kabul. I collect clothes, household items, blankets, shoes, school and medical supplies, books and toys from family, friends and our local hospital in the States. They are shipped to Baghram, Afghanistan, where the surgeon picks up the donations. Medical supplies go to clinics and hospitals; clothing, blankets and other supplies go to the very poor in Kabul. We have sent more than 22,000kg in aid so far. Older hospital beds, incubators and operating-room tables are welcome. Everything must be in good condition. Clothes that can't be worn in Afghanistan are given to poor tailors who sew kids' clothes from the material for extra income. Nobody in my organization is paid. Everyone who helps is a volunteer. First World nations need to donate their secondhand items to Third World countries.
Rita Iverson, R.N.

Even if effective vaccines against HIV, malaria and pneumococci are developed ("A Shot of Hope," Oct. 1) and made available to poor countries at very low cost, their administration to the target population would require massive efforts and resources. Most of these countries lack the infrastructure and logistics to provide basic health care, including vaccinations. India, for example, has yet to eradicate polio (the target for that was 2000) and is devoting enormous amounts of funds and manpower to give the polio vaccine to millions of infants and young children every year—money that could have been used to control other diseases. Provision of essential health facilities, safe water, adequate nutrition, education and vector control (mosquitoes cause other serious diseases besides malaria) must be the priorities in developing countries. Wealthy nations should consider how they could assist the developing world in tackling these problems. That would make a difference.
Rajendra n. Srivastava, M.D.
New Delhi, India

Every child who is born has the right to survive. We in the developed world take for granted that our children are vaccinated and can receive medical attention when needed. Yet we owe this to all the children of the world or we will never eradicate the diseases that still plague millions. My husband and I, along with two other Danes, have recently bought a farm in Zambia's copper-belt region. We have a catchment population of 2,874 people, including a nearby village to which we also provide health care so that diseases don't bounce back and forth. We aim to provide every child with vaccinations and every person with health care and a malarial combat plan, as well as education to make families aware of impending illnesses, how to tackle them and we hope to eradicate them. I appeal for help—not money, but used articles that clinics and hospitals in developed nations no longer need: beds, linen, medical refrigerators and hospital office equipment. Equipment that may be old-fashioned for your institution can be a lifesaver for others. Please give us your rejects and think of all those who will benefit from them. Nothing goes to waste in the developing world; surplus throwaways are seen only in First World countries.
Kyne Nislev Bernstorff
Munkumpu Farm
Somawhe Estates
Luancha, Zambia

Your cover story tells us of the major investments of international governments, corporations, civil society and high-profile individuals to help solve global issues. The question is, how can we tailor solutions that empower local communities and lessen long-term dependency on foreign aid? Mercy Corps is a global humanitarian agency that works with communities stricken with disaster, conflict and chronic poverty to develop long-term, sustainable economic solutions. It also provides essential technical training to create community self-reliance and economic independence. Access to financial resources, such as microcredit programs, help disadvantaged women gain much-needed credit, thereby providing them with livelihoods and, in turn, the means to obtain nutrition, health care and education for their children. Healing the world requires not an ad hoc strategy of foreign aid from multiple sources but an aggressive development program that breaks the cycle of dependency, fostering self-reliance and promoting citizen participation. Keeping women and children at the center of this agenda is sound policymaking that is quantifiable and transformative.
Shyama Venkateswar, Ph.D.
Mercy Corps
New York, New York

Bush and Cheney Hunt Oil
It seems to me that George Bush and Dick Cheney's plan all along has been about the oil in Iraq, and now we have proof ("Let's Make an Oil Deal," Oct. 1). Hunt Oil has received a contract with the Kurds. Bush now wants a permanent presence in Iraq to support the process? His policy will protect his repayment to Ray Hunt for his service. Hunt has donated money for the Bush library, helped with financing his re-election campaign and more. So what have the American troops been fighting and spilling their blood for? Blood for oil—Bush and Cheney's oil!
Robert Spooner
Via internet

Hong Kong and Singapore Rents
Your article "Living Large in Asia" (Aug. 6) states that office rents in Singapore increased by 105 percent in the past year, and that this was the fastest rate of increase in the world. But based on the official data on office rentals released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), the overall rents for office space in Singapore increased by 48 percent between 2006 and 2007—much lower than the hefty 105 percent you report. Perhaps you were referring to the rise in rents for prime office buildings? But you give the impression that typical or average rents of all office buildings in Singapore have increased by 105 percent over a year, which is not true. URA's rental data are computed based on rental contracts for all office buildings and are representative of the overall change in Singapore office rentals. You also say, "Singapore's minister for National Development … expects the population to hit 6.5 million by 2027, up 2 million from today—which implies a yearly influx of 100,000 foreigners over the next two decades." Our Minister has never expressed such expectations. Instead, what he said in Parliament was that we are adopting 6.5 million as a parameter for the purpose of long-term land-use planning. We do not set a population target—6.5 million is a reasonable population figure to plan for our needs for the next 40 to 50 years. It is a number for planners to base their projections on, so that we are ready for future growth.
Han Liang Yuan
Press Secretary to the Minister for National Development

Your article "Living Large In Asia" presented a biased perspective on the lack of affordable real estate in Hong Kong. As a U.S. expat living in Shenzhen, China, I've witnessed the enormous growth of luxury and midlevel housing in Shenzhen, an hour from Hong Kong. The commute is realistic with multiple transportation options—train, bus and ferry, all running on frequent and reliable schedules. Despite the booming China and Hong Kong real-estate markets, affordable housing in Shenzhen is available. True, Hong Kong real estate is skyrocketing, but many expatriates live in luxurious, affordable housing complexes in Shenzhen, and commute daily to Hong Kong.
Douglas Menelly
Shenzhen, China

Hong Kong and Singapore's economic success has become a lightning rod in Western media and the envy of neighboring nations. This success comes with a steep price—the sharp rise in the real-estate market, a high cost of living and an upsurge in education and medical fees. Their governments must decide if this spike needs to be curbed before it gets out of hand. The authorities are aware of things. Steps will be taken to cool things down to an acceptable level, as many citizens are already apprehensive of the consequences that come with the huge and continuous influx of expatriates. Progress is good, but not at an out-of-control speed.
Munti Dann
Penang, Malaysia

Protect Gorillas and Big Cats
I had just experienced the awesome thrill of tracking endangered mountain gorillas in western Uganda when I headed directly from Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, where more than 300 of them live, to Kampala airport. There, I saw your heartbreaking headline SLAUGHTER IN THE JUNGLE (Aug. 6) at the newsstand. No words can adequately describe what a face-to-face encounter in the wild with these magnificent animals feels like. It's been said that to look into a gorilla's eyes is to change the way you feel about yourself forever. And yet there is one mountain gorilla for every 10 million human beings. It is terrific that you highlighted the senseless murder of four of these majestic creatures because something must be done to preserve them. Their habitat must be protected and their safety assured so that future generations can continue to enjoy these apes. Uganda is doing an excellent job of ensuring the safety of its gorillas. But for those living on the borders of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the massacre happened, international intervention is badly needed if they are to survive into the next century.
Nick Pisani
London, England

I am writing about your article "Tigers by the Tail" (July 30). Interestingly, Eric Dinerstein, the chief scientist working with the World Wildlife Fund, sounds like the Pakistani tiger expert Norman F. Kadir, who says that "issues related to poaching, prey depletion and habitat loss should not be seen in isolation." Though a legal market for tiger parts might rescue the big cat from the grip of poachers, the real way to ensure their safety would be the total elimination of poachers and the creation of sound habitats. Anyway, what is happening in the Gir Forest in western India should be an eye-opener for lovers of big cats. The widely known yet systematically evaded harsh truth about poachers' growing influence has finally come to light with the brutal elimination of Asiatic lions in the Gir Forest. Incompetent forest officials enabled poachers to drive lions to the brink of extinction. All animal lovers and NGOs dedicated to the cause of animals need to shatter the prejudices of government officials, forcing them to check the menace of human predators. Only the "collective will" of dedicated individuals can protect the king of the jungle.
Arvind K. Pandey
Allahabad, India
Casper, Wyoming

In the developing world, population-growth rates are inhibiting solutions for the problems of hunger, environmental degradation, education, maternal and child health, economic development and even infectious disease. My former employer, the U.S. Agency for International Development, has sponsored research identifying the close association of infant mortality with children being born to adolescent mothers, or to mothers who become pregnant again shortly after giving birth, or to older women. You allude to this problem by referring to the high maternal mortality associated with childbirth. Emergency obstetric care, training in local caregiving and education for women are desirable but not adequate in dealing with this huge problem, while programs that provide widespread, easily accessible contraceptive supplies and information have proved to be low-cost and effective. Time is running out for many countries to increase the quality and reach of voluntary family-planning programs and avoid the coercive excesses resulting from waiting too long to address this situation. We can't afford to ignore the problem out of misguided, "politically correct" perceptions.
William D. Bair
Park Rapids, Minnesota

Thanks for putting altruism on your cover. As a volunteer coordinator, I consistently see that once people start donating their time and realize that it's almost infinitely more satisfying than donating their money—although that's important, too—they become hooked on volunteering and the good feeling it brings. The only reason the nature preserve that I work for has hike leaders, a nature shop and a museum is our expansive volunteer pool. More than 300 hearty souls contribute to us their most valuable resource—their time—every year, and they tell me that what they get out of the experience is truly priceless: a powerful sense of worth.
Jeff Robertson
Yellow Springs, Ohio

I recommend your Oct. 1 cover story as a must-read. As a former program consultant for UNICEF on child-survival and development projects in Nigeria, I understand humanitarian emergencies in Africa. The more we continue to highlight the existential crisis plaguing the poor and powerless in developing countries, the more informed and enlightened the rest of the world will be. Please do a story on the 40th anniversary of the Nigerian civil war and how the ghost of Biafra still haunts Nigeria.
Orikinia Osinachi
Via internet from Nigeria

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