Category Archives: Ethiopia

“Who Are We To Sit Idly By?”

John F. Kennedy once said that, “in the final analysis, our most basic common link is the fact that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

I believe that to bring about a solution to the strife and conflict that plagues our world, we must recognize most basic of commonalities. We are all human.

What differentiates the health outcomes of a child from an impoverished family in sub-Saharan Africa and the child of a doctor or a banker here in the U.S.? The simple answer: Where and when they are born. Birth — an unforgiving lottery — is often judge, jury and executioner. Every day 21,000 children die, from starvation, from disease, from war and from abuse. Yet so many people sit idly by despite the need for help, for health, for life. We cannot change every factor in an environment, but the scope of a conflict or problem should not disarm us. We would move mountains to save our own children. Are we not torn asunder at the spectacle of their pain? Then when regarding the unforgiving lottery that is birth, why is it that so many people can label a conflict or injustice as “isolated?” Poverty, disease, war — these are not environments children choose to be born into, these are not insulated by walls chosen by the downtrodden. They are isolated in that people refuse their commonality, deny their fortune of birth and unwittingly wall the poor, the sick and the conflicted within barricades that forever grow. We are here, they are there: more importantly, we are here, not there.

It’s our duty to stand up 

AmeriCares’ founder Bob Macauley championed “The Starfish Story” – a story of a boy who believed in making a difference, one life at a time. Similarly, the scope of a problem is not a justification for inaction. We often hear that a problem is too big or too obscure for any individual or organization to make a difference. This has proven to be a dangerous and sometimes fatal misconception. One act by one person may only alter the life of one person or it may alter the lives of one hundred; regardless of magnitude, opportunity is birthed from  what was perceived to be abandoned.

Where do we fit in? We are the bearers of hope and change to those who had no reason to believe. We are AmeriCares. We are no different than other people. We are human just as they are. So, what makes us so profoundly different? The answer is nothing; we are neither superheroes, rich, nor powerful. However, we embrace the commonalities that bind us and disregard the barriers between us. We do what we do, because we know that any change for the better  is progress.  Regardless of the capacity by which we can deliver humanitarian aid to help people in need – the fact that we stand up and do what we do, as efficiently and effectively as we possibly can – is what makes the difference.

“In the final analysis, our most basic common link is the fact that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

-John F. Kennedy

Speech at The American University
Washington D.C., June 10, 1963

#FirstWorldProblems vs. #RealWorldProblems

#FirstWorldProblems: This popular Twitter hashtag highlights the most pressing problems faced by society today. Or does it?

The hashtag appears in up to 6 tweets per second and approximately 518,000 out of the estimated 400 million tweets per day. The nationality with the greatest number of people using this hashtag: American.

For most people, #FirstWorldProblems expresses the ironically “devastating” problems that users in the developed world face on a daily basis. Others don’t realize the irony of their words. For example:

“#FirstWorldProblems: I get over allergy season only to get a sinus infection.”

“#FirstWorldProblems: Oops forgot the hashtag for my possibly fractured toe!”

But to those who claim to be fully aware that what they’re saying is not a pressing issue and merely humor, the real question is: why waste time tweeting about a non-important issue when there are so many real problems in the world?


#RealWorldProblems: More than 1/3 of the poorest people in El Salvador lack access to both public and private medical care.

Here at AmeriCares, I learned that medicine prices in El Salvador are some of the highest in the region. Worse yet, the leading health problems and causes of death in the country are conditions like heart disease, respiratory infections, cancers, HIV/AIDS and digestive disease – conditions that require medications that are too expensive for most people. The AmeriCares Family Clinic is committed to providing quality primary health care to El Salvadorians who cannot afford it. The clinic, which celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year, provides quality primary care to more than 3,000 patients each month.


#RealWorldProblems arise even here in the United States. In May 2013, tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma, killing 48 people and leaving thousands homeless and at risk for diseases like tetanus. AmeriCares was there the very next day, assessing what medicines and supplies were needed and connecting with partner organizations in the area. In the first month after the disaster, AmeriCares delivered $3.5 million in aid — enough to reach 20,000 people in need.


“#FirstWorldProblems: My food gets cold so fast when the AC is on.”

“#FirstWorldProblems: We always get fat free and skim milk at our house, that 2% tastes funny.”

#RealWorldProblems: In Cambodia, 44% of children under the age 5 suffer from stunted growth due to poor nutrition.


In nearly half of the 10.9 million child deaths each year, poor nutrition is a factor. In Cambodia, child malnutrition rates are among the world’s highest. Malnourished children have a reduced ability to resist infection, making them less likely to survive common diseases including pneumonia, malaria, measles and diarrhea.

AmeriCares works with partners around the world to supply fortified, high-calorie meal packs to support programs that help thousands of patients achieve major reversals in malnutrition. In Cambodia, the body mass index (BMI) of 9 out of 10 children in the program improved enough to no longer be classified as underweight.


“#FirstWorldProblems: Trying to find a $5 bill but can only find $10s $20s $50s and $100s.”

“#FirstWorldProblems: Lol I randomly find $20 bills in my room but I just put them back bc I have nothing to do with them.”

#RealWorldProblems: Over 75% of Ethiopians live on less than $2 a day.

How can families in developing countries like Ethiopia stay healthy and well-nourished on such a meager income?  In my work here at AmeriCares, I’ve learned a lot about the #RealWorldProblems brought on by poverty, hunger, disaster and inadequate access to basic medical care. From Asia to Africa to South America, there are real problems everywhere, problems that AmeriCares is working to address to help people in El Salvador, Cambodia, Ethiopia, the U.S., and in all corners of the world.