On the final day of the UN conference on the Millennium Development Goals in Melbourne, delegates endorsed a call by World Vision Australia’s Tim Costello for a two-year debt moratorium for Pakistan in the wake of the recent flooding.
Costello noted that Pakistan’s annual debt servicing is on average US$3 billion, almost three times the amount the government of Pakistan spends on healthcare annually.
Meanwhile, Harry O’Brien, AFL player for Collingwood, and a nominee for the All-Australian team, wrote about his work with the UN in this recent article for ABC online. He has also filed it for Croakey readers.
Harry O’Brien writes:
“The suffering we see in developing nations—through poverty, disease, and famine—can be overcome. Understanding such suffering, we should be empowered with the knowledge that we are connected with those who suffer. We are two sides of the same coin. The key to effectively changing things is in acting together, in unity.
I recently endured and overcame an experience which caused me and my family great suffering. In March last year I received an unforgettable phone call from my mother.
I could sense her devastation on the other end of the line as she managed to murmur the words that would turn my world upside down, “The police have found Dad’s body.”
My father had been missing for six days. He had chosen to end his life. I had to make a four-hour flight back to Perth—the longest flight I have ever taken. My emotions took over my body and, as I sat trembling in my seat, I became a shadow of myself.
At some point during that flight I came to the realisation that everyone faces tragedy at some stage in their lives and will suffer as a result. Such suffering is natural.
But there is another kind of suffering which is not natural, but which we have collectively accepted. While visiting local NGOs in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo six months prior to my father’s death, I experienced that suffering, suffering as a state of life. Australia is a country founded on opportunity, democracy and equality. But in my travels I saw places where the foundations lie on disease, dysfunction and destruction.
If we are ever going to move closer to the Millennium Development Goals to end poverty and disease, we must be empowered by the awareness that despite our differences we are all the same and interconnected.
My visit to the town of Chimoio located in Manica Province in Mozambique showed me the significance of a united front. At a centre for orphans we were greeted by 20 or so children who were malnourished, dirtied by mud and in desperate need of the love and affection all children should be entitled to as a birthright.
After playing and interacting with them, it was time to leave. As we hopped back into the car, the children began to wave.
I immediately felt helpless. One person alone does not have the ability to alleviate their suffering. We must stand united. The same principle applies to the many NGOs working around the world.
This large number of NGOs with differing intentions and agendas spreads the available energy and does not lead to the most effective and efficient change. A focused intention must be established. Unity is the only way forward.”
Lifeline’s 13 11 14 service is staffed by trained volunteer telephone counsellors who are ready to take calls 24-hour a day, any day of the week from anywhere in Australia.
Other posts from the conference:
Is the UN doing enough to improve global health?
Yoga for global health
From world poverty to the other extreme: “disease development”