Government Programs Reduce Poverty

Julian Omidi discusses government programs

Today, Julian Omidi discusses an interpretation of new data from U.S. Census data on poverty levels in the nation. It seems government safety nets are doing some good.

You often hear debate about whether certain government programs do anything worthwhile. Most of the time it is just baseless speculation.

A new study from PEW Charitable Trusts offers some real data from the U.S. Census Bureau to shed some light on the subject.

Social Security, food stamps, unemployment benefits and earned income tax credits all seem to have an effect on the poverty level. Some of the study’s findings include:

  • The official poverty rate in the U.S. was 14.5 percent (45.3 million people)
  • Without food stamps, the poverty rate would be 17.1 percent (an additional 8 million people)
  • Without Social Security, poverty rate for Americans 65 and over would be 52.67 percent instead of 14.6 percent currently
  • Without programs like earned income tax credits, poverty for children under 18 would be 22.8 percent (19.9 percent currently)

These numbers are staggering. Consider what America would look like if each of these programs were removed or cut back significantly. That is what safety nets are for. No one wants people to live in poverty, but America continues to have problems with income inequality.

The great poverty divide

In the current political debate on poverty, both sides have answers, but they seem to be coming from opposite directions. Those on the right wish to see these programs cut or changed, and those on the left wish to see them improved, for the most part.

Most Americans are somewhere in the middle. Some reform is certainly necessary, but these programs are helping people currently. How can we improve things and make sure no one slips through the net while curtailing abuses? This is one of the most difficult questions of our time.

We can certainly use some better metrics on the matter. Census information only considers income level to determine whether someone is under the poverty level. This doesn’t include things like food stamps and other programs that help people.

In 2010 our government introduced the supplemental poverty rate, which considers consumer spending on necessities like shelter, food and utilities. Someday this measure may be used as to determine assistance levels. It has the potential to reign in abusers and find those eligible people who need help.

Things keep getting better, as a whole, for all of us. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continually try to improve. Look for solutions and not ammo. Our public discourse will be much better off.

Thanks for reading,

Julian Omidi

Julian Omidi and his brother, Michael Omidi, are co-founders of No More Poverty, a charity committed to the eradication of income inequality.

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Poverty Rates in Los Angeles Greater than National Average

The state of California’s poor

Julian Omidi talks about poverty in Los Angeles

Julian Omidi talks about the ongoing issue of poverty. Here, he examines the alarming poverty rates in Los Angeles County.

The U.S. Census bureau has released new estimates that show poverty is more widespread in Los Angeles County than in California or the U.S. as a whole. Eighteen percent of people in LA County live below the poverty line. This isn’t a new development, but rather a lingering reminder of just how bad things are for the area’s residents.

Poverty rates are even worse, a staggering 20 percent, for county residents who were born in another country. The foreign-born often have a tough time finding work due to language barriers and a lack of social support systems. Los Angeles County is home to many unskilled immigrants who are forced to live on the economic fringes of society.

California’s poverty rate was reported at 16 percent, while the overall number for the U.S. is 15 percent. The country has been slow to pull out of the recent recession and still needs job growth. The national unemployment rate is near 5.9 percent, though California’s has stayed above 7.3 percent. The state’s poverty rate likely won’t improve much until the national economy begins to grow.

What does this mean for LA County and California?

LA County has suffered with chronic poverty for decades. Government programs help many citizens get what they need, but often fall short. High housing costs in the area make it difficult for poor people to find affordable homes and apartments.

High unemployment rates create a large group of people starved for work. These people are likely to settle for lower pay, driving local wages down or keeping them stagnate.

People in poverty tend to experience higher levels of stress, which makes logical sense. If you have your needs met, you have less to worry about. It’s a simple as that. These problems are not purely economic in nature. The health of our communities is at stake. Money problems can quickly turn into housing and nutrition problems.

My brother, Dr. Michael Omidi, and I founded No More Poverty to help alleviate some of these issues. These problems are close to our hearts and we want to do what we can.

While government programs do help the less fortunate, they cannot do it all. Find a charity or food basket near you and help out however you can. If you’re concerned about poverty, vote for politicians who share your concerns. Together, we can make a difference.

Thanks for taking the time to read about this important issue,

Julian Omidi

Julian Omidi works with a number of charities. No More Poverty was established by Julian and Dr. Michael Omidi to support individuals and charities making a difference.

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Culling of Kangaroos in Canberra, Australia

aus_kangaroos

Julian Omidi discusses the culling of kangaroos in the Australian city of Canberra.

Whether it stems from global warming or just unpredictable meteorological phenomena, occasionally, climates will become inhospitable in the form of draughts, floods or freezing weather.  These changes can – and often do – result in the deaths of various species of animals and the overpopulation of others.  When floods of animals overrun their environment because their natural predators have been extinguished, they will starve to death, or spill into human territories.  Recently, the flood of kangaroos in the Australian city of Canberra, and opinions differ strongly over how to handle it.[1]

Should the residents cull the kangaroo population?  Will this prevent the torturous starvation and physical danger of the animals, or is it a cruel solution, not based on science but on the desire to hunt helpless animals?

Canberra is known for its easy proximity to wild kangaroos.  Rather than trek to the outback, tourists can often see a healthy kangaroo population right on the sidewalks.  The ‘roos are on residents’ lawns, in parks and golf courses.  However, human and kangaroo encounters aren’t always peaceable.  Kangaroos can be highly aggressive when frightened, and they have tremendous strength.  Citizens have been beaten and scratched by rogue kangaroos, and the kangaroos will occasionally break into people’s homes.

When animals are driven by hunger and thirst from their natural environments and into neighboring cities, they don’t necessarily behave with caution.  Many are highly stressed, starving and sick.  They will act desperately and aggressively, and are a greater threat than they would be if they were well fed and otherwise healthy.  Seeing a kangaroo in your front yard isn’t always charming; it can be quite dangerous.

Territory and Municipal Services minister Shane Rattenbury, backed by Australian National University professor and conservation expert David Lindenmayer, is advocating culling 1,600 kangaroos in order to stave off over-grazing and save the resources for other small mammals.  The culling would be achieve by shooting, which, while not 100 percent clean and accurate, is nonetheless the most efficient method for killing wild kangaroos.

Australian animal welfare advocates are rallying against this cull, saying that the shooting of over a thousand kangaroos is a deceptively cruel solution.  One reason being that, being marsupials, they carry their young in pouches, which can conceal the offspring from sight.  Once the mother is killed, an underdeveloped joey could die shortly after.  Also, it is very difficult to shoot a kangaroo cleanly, since it is incredibly fast, and tends to spring up and down at the slightest disturbance.

There are no easy solutions to this problem.  It is incredibly difficult for humans to either morally or ethically make decisions best left to nature, so we often, by necessity, defer them in order to offend nobody.  Of course, this strategy fails to address the question, which is more humane: Allowing an overpopulation of animals starve, grow sick and die in agony, or indiscriminately kill them by the thousands?

By Julian Omidi 

 

[1] Neubauer, Ian Lloyd: Animal-Welfare Groups Hopping Mad Over Canberra’s Kangaroo Cull Time Magazine 5/27/2014 http:// time .com/115385/animal-welfare-australia-canberra-kangaroo-cull/

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“Fed Up” – New Documentary About Childhood Obesity

Fed-Up

Julian Omidi discusses the new documentary film “Fed Up,” which is about the obesity healthcare crisis, particularly childhood obesity.

The food industry is making us fat, according to a recently released film exposé.  “Fed Up,” a 90-minute documentary by the team of filmmakers who produced “An Inconvenient Truth,” explores the food industry practices that could be actively contributing to our current obesity health crisis, with particular emphasis on the toll both the practices and the crises are taking on children.  Even products marketed as being “low-fat” are misleading and contributing to the problem, since they contain more sugar than their full fat alternatives.  It is the world’s addiction to sugar that is causing the massive obesity epidemic, but the food manufacturing industry is nevertheless wholly reluctant to yield.[1]

The Grocery Manufacturers Association and other major organizations in processed food production have a tremendous amount of political influence, which not only affects the foods sold in the United States, but also all over the world.  According to the documentary, in 2003, the Bush administration stopped the publication of a World Health Organization report that advocated the calories in the human diet contain no more than 10 percent from added sugars with the threat of pulling all funding.

The federal program to combat childhood obesity, “Let’s Move,” might also have felt the power of food manufacturing lobbying interests.  Again, the documentary posits a theory that the presidential administration could have been influenced by the food industry, and moreover may have backed down from making meaningful changes.  While the beginning of the anti-obesity initiative seemed to promise that childhood obesity would be attacked from every direction, the food industry wanted to appear to partner with the “Let’s Move” program, which would have taken off much of the outside pressure to significantly change its manufacturing and marketing strategies.

Among other revelations from the film, childhood bariatric surgery as an anti-obesity option is being discussed and even embraced by the medical industry.  While the idea of performing surgical weight loss procedures on teenagers would have once filled medical professionals with horror, today it isn’t uncommon.  The adolescent obesity problem is so severe that many medical professionals and parents are willing to risk the potential for nutritional deficiency in growing teenagers by agreeing to gastric bypass surgery.

Ultimately, the convenience food industry has effectively changed the public mindset about what real food and convenience are.  Since we’ve convinced ourselves that cooking whole foods is more expensive in terms of time and money, is it possible for us to disengage ourselves from prepackaged foods and go back to preparing food from scratch?  According to “Fed Up,” we might have to sacrifice a bit of time and comfort in order to ensure our own health and the health of our children.

Once we’ve gotten used to relying upon ourselves for our food and not large corporations, we might be able to combat obesity in an effective and enduring way.  This new film might be provocative and even divisive, but if it asks us to ask difficult questions about ourselves, our habits and our futures, it can only lead to more discussion on a critically important topic.

By Julian Omidi

 

[1] Morgan, David: Documentary: “Fed Up” With Rising Childhood Obesity CBS News 5/9/2014 http://www.cbsnews.com/news/documentary-fed-up-with-rising-childhood-obesity/

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Animal Testing for Cosmetics in China

comestic_testing

Julian Omidi discusses China’s new initiatives regarding animal testing in cosmetics.

Although historically, China might not exactly have its hands clean when it comes to the safety and well-being of rhinos[1] and elephants, it is beginning to make significant strides in terms of its tolerance of animal testing in cosmetics, something that even the United States government has, as yet, been unable to do in a meaningful way.

Animal testing in cosmetic products has become anathema in the Europe.  The European Union, in fact, enacted a law in 2013 forbidding the sale of animal-tested cosmetics. However, China hasn’t had the same active abhorrence for animal testing that many other nations has, and has only recently begun to question its methods for testing common products.  Until recently, there haven’t been any non-animal related testing procedures for cosmetics firms in China, and imported products that weren’t tested in accordance with their own procedures can’t legally be sold.  However, China’s Food and Drug Administration recently announced that it was beginning its own non-animal testing training program, and in June of 2014 will begin to allow the manufacture and sale of domestic “non-specialized” cosmetics whose ingredients have undergone European Union non-animal safety testing.[2]

Because of China’s regulations regarding the sale of non-animal tested cosmetics, some corporations that had previously abandoned animal testing began to again use animal testing methods to satisfy Chinese official safety standards.  While the new regulations do not yet relax the criteria for imported products, ultimately, if the new standards prove successful, China may open the door to the importation of non-animal tested products from Europe and elsewhere.

However, China’s history of animal testing to the exclusion of all other methods has the scientific and animal welfare community concerned that it may not be able to effectively conduct newer tests.  The new regulations specify that the laboratories will only be able to conduct non-animal tests if they possess the requisite expertise on par with that of the European Union and other established alternative testing laboratories.  Unfortunately, it seems that Chinese laboratories are still far from achieving this standard.

The new regulations are a turnaround from the attitudes expressed by Chinese officials as recently as 2012, when the animal testing standards were broadened to include animal testing on certain over-the-counter skin treatments.

Hopefully, China’s burgeoning acceptance of non-animal cosmetics testing will spark some new regulations in the United States, where cruel and unnecessary animal testing still occurs.  Even though more accurate data can be compiled from cosmetic testing through donated human tissue samples (which is also cheaper and faster), laboratories continue to torture animals for the production of soaps, shampoos and anti-aging creams.  If stopping animal cruelty isn’t enough, shouldn’t the significant monetary savings be an enticement, at least?

By Julian Omidi

 

[1] Hongqiao, Liu: China’s many roles in the illegal rhino horn trade 12/16/2013 China Dialogue https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/6577-China-s-many-roles-in-the-illegal-rhino-horn-trade?_ga=1.14420276.2043734224.1399942373

[2] Huang, Shaojie: Interest Grows in Animal Testing Alternatives 5/2/2014 New York Times http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/02/interest-grows-in-animal-testing-alternatives/

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Poverty Rate in Appalachia & Causal Factors

Appalachian_region_of_United_States

The war on poverty is hardly over, and in some areas, the progress that was made in the 1960s is now coming undone.  Julian Omidi discusses the poverty rate in Appalachia, and its causal factors.

In the United States, poverty can hit a community as quickly and effectively as a sledgehammer; a region whose economy was largely based on one particular industry finds itself destitute if that industry folds.  While many of us might think of the economic downturn as being the harbinger for the new and rapidly dividing economy, there are some segments within the U.S. that were never prosperous, and whose statistics seem unlike what should even be possible in the nation that was globally viewed as the “Land of Opportunity” for more than a century.

In Appalachia (the region in the Eastern and South Eastern United States stretching from the southern portion of New York State down to Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi), there was always poverty; during the Great Depression, photographs of locals created the widely recognized face of rural hardship.  However, in the 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” was established largely to address this horribly underserved community by providing welfare and meal stability programs.  The bit of federal security combined with the coal mining industry managed to keep the locals in a manageable economic condition for a time, even though the poverty rate was still high, tens of thousands of people were saved from destitution.[1]

Fast forward to the 1990s, when the coal mining industry was on the decline.  The residents with the highest levels of education, the most drive and the most prospects were beginning to leave for greener pastures, and those who remained were largely older, less educated and dependent upon governmental assistance to get by.  Combined with a burgeoning drug culture and an increase in unplanned teenaged pregnancies, the poverty rate began to climb – and climb and climb.  Today, in the southern portion of West Virginia, the poverty rate is a staggering 41 percent among families with children.

The fact that nearly half of families are living in poverty is nothing short of astonishing; the fact that 46 percent of children in McDowell County do not live with a biological parent is heartbreaking.  These statistics are due to the absurdly high number of parents either in prison, dead or simply gone – having abandoned their kids to the care of relatives or neighbors.  Furthermore, the use of narcotics and prescription drugs is overwhelming.  According to data from Welch Community Hospital, out of 115 babies born in their facilities, 40 had been exposed to drugs prenatally.

Drugs, entire industries leaving communities and crime have all played a part in creating a seemingly hopeless environment.  There are no simple solutions; we can only open our eyes to the way our fellow Americans are being forced to live and do our best to ease some of their burdens.

By Julian Omidi

 

[1] Gabriel, Trip: 50 Years Into the War on Poverty, Hardship Hits Back New York Times 4/20/2014 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/21/us/50-years-into-the-war-on-poverty-hardship-hits-back.html?src=me&_r=0

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Humanitarian Crisis in South Sudan

south_sudan

A medical and humanitarian crisis is burgeoning in South Sudan, as hundreds of thousands of people face mass famine after months of deadly conflict.  Julian Omidi discusses the reaction of representatives from Doctors Without Borders to the United Nations peacekeeping response to the devastating events in South Sudan.

In South Sudan, the peacekeeping operation initiated by the United Nations came under critical fire from representatives from the international medical nonprofit Doctors Without Borders, due to the gruesome conditions in the Tomping compound, located in Juba, the capitol of South Sudan.  There are currently 21,000 refugees sheltering in the compound, which has become a massive public health hazard.[1]

The United Nations has worked with Doctors Without Borders providing aid in numerous nations in crisis states, and both organizations have served South Sudan throughout its turbulent history.  Currently, South Sudan is in the middle of a catastrophic humanitarian event, made worse by the rampaging violence.

Nearly 4 million people face starvation, and several hundred thousands find themselves without shelter save what is provided by the United Nations.

Doctors Without Borders has released a statement lambasting the reaction of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (known as Unmiss) during this crisis.  In the statement, the UN is accused of ignoring the pleas to assist with improvements at Tomping, which is currently situated in low ground.  During the rains, latrines were overturned, and the waters flooded the compound with sewage, causing the immediate threat of water-borne illnesses.  The compound is surrounded by barbed wire fencing, and just beyond the fence is higher, dryer ground with warehouse space.

The refugees within the compound are experiencing an overwhelming flood of diarrheal, respiratory, and skin infections all due to the bacteria-laden water in which the inhabitants are situated.  The Doctors Without Borders staff say that such diseases account for over 60 percent of the illnesses reported in the compound.

The fact that the UN has refused to allow the residents to relocate has confounded the relief workers, particularly since better conditions are relatively close by.

Representatives from the UN insist that the camp will be closed by the end of April, and that they acknowledge that the compound has turned into a massive health hazard and have already relocated approximately 1,300 people.

Nevertheless, it is not clear if the remaining refugees can be moved before the rainy season begins.  According to the UN, there is simply not enough space for all of the inhabitants in the Tomping compound, but the aid workers insist that better, dryer conditions are so close by, that they are actually within eyeshot.

In addition to the crisis in sanitation for the Tomping refugees, the displaced residents, unable to tend to crops after facing months of unimaginable violence, could potentially face starvation.  According to the United Nations South Sudan relief coordinating officer, the region needs approximately $230 million in order to combat what could be the most devastating example of mass starvation since the famine in Ethiopia.

By Julian Omidi

 

[1] Gladstone, Rick: U.N. Ignores South Sudan Camp Crisis, Charity Says 4/9/2014 New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/10/world/africa/medical-charity-sharply-criticizes-un-operation-in-south-sudan.html?ref=africa

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Leslye Borden – Founder of Handmade Especially for You

leslye_borden

Julian Omidi profiles the founder of Handmade Especially for You, Leslye Borden.

Sometimes, having someone make a kind and thoughtful gesture, even if it is small, can make all the difference in our feelings of self worth.  People who have suffered years of abuse might have been conditioned to believe that simple kindness is something they will never either experience or deserve, but one organization, Handmade Especially for You, seeks to give people without hope a ray of handmade sunshine.[1]

Leslye Borden’s organization Handmade Especially for You, gives battered and abused women heartfelt, hand-knitted comfort scarves, which might be one of the few pieces of clothing the women have managed to retain after fleeing their dangerous conditions.  These scarves are colorful, lovingly packaged and created by groups of volunteers from all over the world.  Ms. Borden works with legions of recruits from church groups, retirement communities and community centers in order to produce the brightly patterned, cheerful scarves.  Since the organization’s inception in 2008, more than 57,000 scarves have been knitted and distributed to women in abuse shelters all over the United States.

Ms. Borden’s organization was founded shortly after she sold her stock photo business in 2007.  An avid knitting enthusiast, she spent her days knitting gifts for her grandchildren.  Scarves, sweaters, slippers, mittens, hats; any item of clothing that could be fabricated with yarn and needles.  When the number of articles began to overwhelm her family, she began donating the items to local shelters, and actively seeking organizations that needed knitted clothing.  When she found a Chicago shelter looking for knitted scarves for the rape survivors it helped, the concept of Handmade Especially for You was born.

Many of the volunteers are abuse survivors themselves.  Domestic abuse survivors are underrepresented members of society; they have little political or economic clout, so they are woefully unserved.  Organizations such as Handmade Especially for You bring the problem of domestic violence to the fore by encouraging survivors, witnesses of domestic abuse and those who haven’t been personally affected to work together to give a neglected segment of society a gift and a helping hand.

Handmade Especially for You is currently seeking facilities to house the supplies and scarves, as well as serve as a workshop for volunteers.  Currently, Ms. Borden keeps the supplies and donations in her home, which, thanks to the generosity of benefactors and volunteers, is becoming overwhelmed.

There are several satellite workshops where people can gather to knit and inspect scarves in accordance with Handmade’s specifications.  However, for those whose schedules or obligations do not allow them to visit one of the organized workshops, Handmade has patterns and kits for people to use when working on their own.  The organization has been highlighted by Oprah.com, as being a worthy volunteer opportunity for people who want to serve a charity from home.

We at Civic Duty would like to applaud Ms. Borden and her organization, not only for the invaluable service they provide to a vulnerable segment of the population, but also for bringing the problem of domestic abuse to greater public consciousness.  Handmade Especially for You also gives survivors as well as people untouched by domestic violence the opportunity to gather together and learn about each other, which is essential if we are going to increase empathy and understanding of this tragic problem.

By Julian Omidi

 

[1] Lubinskey, Annie: Local ‘Hero’ Offers Comfort to Abused Women Palos Verdes Peninsula News 3/5/2014 http://www.pvnews.com/news/local-hero-offers-comfort-to-abused-women/article_c9640b6e-a492-11e3-a0f4-0019bb2963f4.html

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Doctors Without Borders Removed from Myanmar

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Myanmar Protesters surround Sittwe in Rakhine late February – Photo credited to CNN.com

In the following article, Julian Omidi discusses the expulsion of Doctors Without Borders from the Rakhine region of Myanmar.  The organization was dismantled due to the government’s assertion that Rohingya Muslims were being favored over the Rakhine Buddhists, but tensions between the two groups extends far beyond access to medical services.  Julian Omidi is cofounder of the organization No More Poverty with his brother, Dr. Michael Omidi.


The activities of the nonprofit organization Doctors Without Borders have been suspended in Myanmar, due to governmental accusations that Rohingya Muslims were receiving preferential treatment over Rakhine Buddhists.  The two ethnic groups have been in conflict since the British colonial era, and the hatred of the Muslim population is widespread and generally accepted.  It has been theorized that, by shutting down Doctors Without Borders, there will be fewer international witnesses to violent outbursts against Rohingya Muslims.[1]


The medical services provided by Doctors Without Borders are the only treatments available to the Rohingya Muslims.  They have been denied citizenship in Myanmar by order of law, and in 2012 were forced to relocate to internment camps and ethnic ghettos.  Although Doctors Without Borders has been accused of giving Muslims special favor, there are no medical facilities available to the Rohingya Muslim population, as the government-run clinics are situated outside of the districts in which the Muslims are allowed to live.


Although the International Red Cross is still permitted to operate, Doctors Without Borders is the largest healthcare provider in the Rakhine region.  More than a quarter million people receive treatment from Doctors Without Borders facilities.  Since the restriction of services began, it has been estimated that 150 people have died due to having been denied medical care.


Doctors Without Borders was the only resource for chronically ill Rohingya Muslims.  Those with tuberculosis, malaria and H.I.V. who have depended upon medications supplied by Doctors Without Borders might not have a reliable supply for the foreseeable future.  Government officials have stated that medications donated by Doctors Without Borders will continue to be distributed, but exactly how this is to be achieved has not been made clear.


For the past several years, anti-Muslim actions have been intensifying.  Monks regularly include anti-Muslim rhetoric in their sermons; local politicians are lobbying to prohibit the Rohingya from identifying themselves as such on the national census for fear of confirming the numbers are higher than governmental estimates.  However, the most disturbing trend is the violence against whole families – including children.  One gruesome incident involved the slaughter and decapitation of 10 Rohingya men, whose heads were left in a water tank.  While the violence is not technically sanctioned by the government, little has been done to prevent it or punish those who have perpetrated it.


Because Myanmar is working to gain international acceptance, it is critical that the United Nations as well as both western and eastern governments make it perfectly clear that ethnic cleansing will neither be encouraged nor tolerated.  The lessons of Rwanda, Bosnia and Sudan have been recently learned – we can only hope that they have also not been quickly forg [1] Perlez, Jane: Ban on Doctors’ Group Imperils Muslim Minority in Myanmar New York Times 3/13/2014 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/14/world/asia/myanmar-bans-doctors-without-borders.html?src=recg&module=Ribbon&version=context&region=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Recommended&pgtype=article&_r=0 By Julian Omidi

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How Donated Unusable Medical Equipment Impacts Under Developed Regions

medical_equipment

Julian Omidi discusses the impact the donation of unusable equipment has upon medical clinics in under developed regions.

Many hospitals and private organizations donate their unused supplies and medical equipment to clinics and nonprofit health initiatives in remote, undeveloped locations in order to give them the opportunities to perform the best and most modern treatments that they can.  Without these donations, many medical centers in poor regions wouldn’t have access to life saving drugs, gloves, sterilization tools, swabs, bandages and numerous other items that are essential for proper medical care.

However, there are many items that, although delivered with the best intentions, wind up being thrown away.  These items clog up landfills, waste valuable time for volunteer workers who have to sort through the equipment and cost quite a bit of money in shipment fees.[1]

Medical supply companies and hospitals who wish to donate equipment more often than not believe that health care centers are glad to get anything they can.  While this is largely true, it is unfortunate that the donations aren’t given much consideration.  Heavy electronic devices are sent without their instruction manuals, or even with all of the appropriate parts and accessories.  Machines that require consumables – fuel, water and electricity, which simply aren’t available in extremely deprived regions – are sent and are never operational.  Machines that are operational can’t be fixed when something goes wrong, and there is no one qualified to make repairs.  As a result, clinics are overrun with heavy equipment that is, essentially, junk.

Even the equipment that is useable can put tremendous strain upon delicate operations.  Clinics that operate with generators or old electrical systems can have most of their useable power eaten up by energy-sapping equipment.  This can actually put people’s lives in jeopardy.

In a report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), it was found that only between 10 and 30 percent of all donated equipment is ever used by the receiving hospitals.

How can foreign hospitals and medical suppliers ensure their donations are put to good use?  They can send only what all clinics, without exception, need.  Gloves, crutches, bandages, sanitation materials, feminine hygiene products, bandages and other supplies that developed world hospitals take for granted are desperately needed in the undeveloped world.

Another way donators can save themselves and the recipients time and money is to go through all of the equipment slated for donation and determine whether or not it actually works, if the parts and accessories are available and if the instructions are included.

The third and most effective method for donating successfully is asking the healthcare workers in the clinic exactly what they need and what equipment their facilities can handle.  If the donating party knows that the region has no one available to repair nonfunctioning equipment, or if the repair service is only qualified to work on the devices from a certain manufacturer, then they won’t waste resources shipping devices that cannot be maintained.

Many health centers in the developing world exist using exclusively donated equipment and supplies, so it is crucial that hospital and medical supply services keep giving.  However, it is no less important to donate only what can be used effectively.

By Julian Omidi


[1] Jones, Andrew: Medical Equipment Donated to Developing Nations Usually Ends Up on the Junk Heap Scientific American 5/6/2013 http ://www. scientificamerican .com/article/medical-equipment-donated-developing-nations-junk-heap/

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