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Lives Lost


Experts say the solutions to the annual loss of 8.8 million lives to preventable diseases, infections, and childbirth complications are within reach. Boston.com users share their thoughts on how to begin to solve this global health tragedy.

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Page 1

i was so moved in reading your 'lives lost' story on world deprivation. i am sending you a response that i hope you will put in the feedback section in full or part, but at least ask you to consider.

a peace corps volunteer in the late 1960s, i have since lived and studied in the countries of asia and africa on numerous occasions. each time i live with the people, eat their food, and experience their lifeways (as much as an outsider with a plane ticket home can). since my first visit overseas visit to a 'third world' people i have been outraged at the inequity on this plantation earth. since my first encounter with death -- a man holding my hand as he lay dying in a dirty hospital ward in the philippines for no reason other than the lack of funding for medicines and health care, after i had spent what money i had at the time on his care -- i have felt that each human being is sacred and that there are no political, racial, cultural, religious, or other boudaries that matter in terms of ultimate human kinship and the responsibility we all share for each other. the people suffering from hunger, disease, and persecution know no 'ism', and our response must be devoid of the vulgar political attitudes expressed in some of your responders' antagonistic postings.

reading some of these postings in your feedback section made me realize once again how ignorant, arrogant, and truly sub-human many pampered, materialistic, well-fed americans and others around the world of good fortune are. for people to say 'it doesn't matter, let them die' is beyond response, inhuman, something below even a one-celled paramecium. it's also frightening and sad to realize just how twisted the 'first world' consciousness can be, insulated by our degenerated mainstream media, political, and educational institutions, into a self-centered myopia. a condition that has historically plagued our so called 'leaders' in washington, including the present unelected regime.

your story penetrated the traditional media support of the status quo with a realistic, humane, and vitally-important insight into the real world as it is and has been for a long time. not the fabricated walt disney 'american dream' we are peddled 24 hours a day. for americans to find this as shoking is only to prove how isulated we are and how our media, government, and educational institutions have at best failed us, and at worst, lied to us. you helped us understand part of three aspects to this nightmare. the first is the historical causes, the second ther present condition, and third, the hoped-for possible solutions.

you focused on the personal lives of people paying the price for no medical care, insufficient food, education. this did not happen by accident or the people's own lack of self-development, as some of your responders unbelieveable say. i am humbled each time i live in the 'third world' by the superhuman ability of people to work, suffer, overcome, and even survive given the meager resources they have to work with. people capable or harder work than most americans, toiling 16 hours a day in 100 plus degree temperatures for a bowl of rice to feed their families. i, and most americans, wouldn't last more than a few days given the same conditions, as one of your story contributors acknowledges.

the people you interviewed are paying the price for 600 years of worldwide economic genocide begun with the post-renaissance expansion of european powers with gunboats, sailing ships, armor and gunpowder in the early 1400s. many different ethnic groups have historically been guilty of genocide and many still are today. no one group has a monopoly on human and planetary abuse. however, an objective look at history since the 1400s clearly shows the most systematic genocide in the history of humanity, and it has been and continues to be caused by the materialism and greed of the developed countries. the united states is one of these countries, and at the present, the country with the most worldwide penetration, the most stolen resources, and the most responsibility. we are a fraction of the world's population, yet we consume an absurdly inordinate amout of its resources. this is not ingenuity, it is theft, genocide, and a betrayal of our humanity. this historical condition of colonialism has created the past and current inequities and that we see in the world today: massive hunger, disease, lack of education, clothing, shelter, and meaningful work; in short a 603-year holocaust, one that won't become a mini-series on tv. we cannot gloss over this fact and pretend this didn't happen; if we are to realistically fight this fight to improve people's lives; we have to realistically see its causes and confront them. or else there will never be a realistic solution.

as you rightly point out in your introduction, all these deaths are preventable. 24,000 a day from health related causes. how many more from other causes indirectly related to inequities in the use of resources? even at 24,000, that is eight times the horrible toll we experienced on september 11, 2001. and this 24,000 happens every day. everyday is 9/11 in the third world. why don't we see our media, people such as brokaw, lehrer, et al, with their lapel pins on their well-manicured suits, mourning these people? is it because they are not potential consumers for our multinational corporations who sponsor and own the media?

with the resources, technology, and mobility we have at present in the world, we can as a world community prevent these atrocities. it is not easy or quick, and will not result in a utopia, but it is possible to create a planet community in which each person has adequate food, health care, clothing, shelter, education, and work to the extent that each society is self-sufficient and part of a thriving human family. until we address these underlying causes of the world's unequal access to resources and the necessities of life, we will never see a peaceful world. our blind governments try to treat the symptoms -- unrest, despots, military dangers, as we see in the current iraq situation -- through irrelevant and usually unsuccessful simplistic military 'solutions'. peace is not the mere absence of war, it is the active work and development of just societies. our 'leaders' have for too long seen the world upside down, themselves creating these inequities, due to their economic and political self-interest as part of the upper classes of the world. this is seen in thier actions, as opposed to their mouthing of time-worn and insincere platitudes that are accepted and uncritically regurgitated in the media.

since the invasions of africa, asia, and the americas in the 1400s by european powers and later, the united states, seeking political and economic advantage in the territories of europe and the world at large, there has been a continual story line of the outright slaughter and enslavement of people, destruction of culture, theft of resources, drain of human physical labor and brainpower, and first political control, and then more recently after the 'granting' of independence and only in response to national independence movements, economic control for power and profit.

the people in central and south america you portray are that way not by chance, but for a reason. columbus wiped out the arawak people of the caribbean; spanish and portugese conquistadores slaughted native americans in central and south america, john smith in virginia, john winthrop in massachusetts, and on and on. the eurpoean settlers wiped out or imprisoned native american, enslaved afircan captives, and has a history of using newer immigrants -- irish, asians, latinos, to name a few -- as menial labor and cannon fodder in wars to maintain the same political and economic order that destroys their lives. only the names, faces, dates, and places change, but the actions, motives, and results do not.

you also focused on africa as a center of suffering. your maps accurately show the historical and ongoing disdain the developed world has for this area and its people of color; race is clearly a factor in this abuse and neglect. in a long history of subterfuge, our government has actively sponsored coups and murders in many places: all over africa, diem in vietnam, allende in chile, bishop in grenada, el salvador, nicaragua, panama, and so on. the united states and its bought and bribed allies pursue a course of madness in military violence, masking the real problems you reveal to us. also masking the failures in our own national vision and solutions to problems in this country.

i have believed since my first international experience that we are all equal on this planet and that we are all responsible to and for each other. a responsibility of actual outcomes, not theoretical possibilities or opportunities that status-quo politicians hide behind. not the false darwinian and conservative lie that human nature is fixed in greed and materialism and incapable of change, this as a lame excuse for not caring or working to improve life.

i believe that to allow the world's peoples to suffer is morally the same as putting a gun to their heads and pulling the trigger. we are all part of the problem and we must act together to make a better world, a world within our grasp. to do so requires a complete change in consciousness and direction. only a well-informed people -- except for your article, a responsibility of media and education that has been abandoned in the last quarter century -- and leaders with a vision toward harmony with nature and cooperation with the earth's peoples, rather than control and competition over them, will make the efforts for ending human starvation and disease successful. we need a radical redistribution of the world's resources, including intellectual as well as material, to equality for all. not a theoretical equality of opportunity that is not responsible for outcomes, but a real equality of existence, because it is in existence, not theor, that people are hungry, sick, and die, or are fed, have health care, and survive.

your integrity in bringing this realy to us is the highest form of journalism, and you are to be honored for what you are doing. i hope you will continue this series indefinitely into the future, until the problem is atacked and solved. it is only through efforts like yours that we have hope for a human world, in contrast to the snake-oil medicine show we are daily bombarded with in our corporate bourgeois media and institutions.

when i travel and live with the people in africa and asia, i am always struck by the resilience of the people and their culture after so many centuries and generations of holocaust. while materially poor, they have a personal, cultural, and spiritual life that is rich beyond wealth. ironically, on return to this 'country' i am always struck at the exact opposite: general material wealth and waste admidst a general personal, cultural, and spiritual poverty. i feel that in our work for the victims of so many years of genocide, that we will also be helping ourselves, perhaps finding our spirituality once again that we have lost a long time ago in this wasteland of narcississtic blindness and alienation. in the end i believe that the world's peoples will give us more than we give them -- they will give us our humanity back.

ray, san jose, california

The Western world, led by the U.S., sets up systems for development,along with emergency food and medicine distribution. A special tax on the peoples of the Western wrold earmarked for the eradication of this castrophe could be levied ensuring additional resources. Using some of the Billions spent on making war, the emphasis by world leaders would be to get it done. What an amazing thought! Rather than going to war with Iraq, wouldn't this do more to promote peace and security?

John, Aurora, Ontario

Take the money being spent on the missile defence system and spend it on these items first.

Dan, sunderland

This report is a landmark in newspaper journalism. The Boston Globe and its remarkable team of reporters, photographers, and editors who put this work together have performed an incredible service to readers - and to those who are living in poverty in the least developed parts of the world today. Those of us who work in health, and who have made progress over issues of global health our defining measure of personal and professional direction, find it hard to develop a debate outside of a specialised audience. You have begun to do just that. One question I would like to ask of the medical profession in the rich world is this: what are we doing to address the diseases of the poor? With our vast financial and human resources, are we satisfied with our contribution to global health? And if not, what can we do to turn that failure of commitment around? Boston, of all the cities in the world, has probably the greatest concentration of fine physicians and scientists. Are each one of you - and am I - doing enough? For most of us, the answer is no. Let's open a dialogue about what more we can reasonably do. And let's start now. Editor, The Lancet

richard, london, uk

In my opinion the first and foremost barrier to the problem is the paucity of funds. The second problem which might sound absurd to some of us is the lack of infrastructure to handle any funds if they were available. The problem of insufficient funds is not something new. It might take a shift in the whole human mentality to be able to divert funds from nuclear programs and military expenditure, not just in the developed countries but also in the developing and underdeveloped world. The governments in the underdeveloped and developing nations are not the most efficient machinery known to mankind. It is hard to isolate and blame the government alone (at least the democratic ones) because with poverty comes the problem of corruption, illeteracy and a desensetization towards the sufferings of others. In the recent past there has been a considerable increase in formation of NGOs (non-governmental organisations) which because of their small sizes and freedom from excessive red-tapism can pentrate to the grassroot levels much quicker. But due to a lack of organised body it is harder to get the funds to the NGOs. In my opinion identifying these NGOs and funnelling funds to them presents a more viable solution to me than trying to go through governments mired in corruption. As an example, there is an organisation called "Pushti" which works in an impoverished village of West Bengal, India. They provide elementary school students with hard boiled eggs twice a week. Because it is not announced, as to when the eggs would be given out, the students are enticed to show up for school as much as they can. This NGO relies solely on philanthrophic donations. Most of the problems of the poor are related -- starvation, illeteracy, population explosion and health care, it is too difficult to eliminate just one of them.

Somnath, Arlington, MA

We hear all the time about the poor health systems in other countries, but to read about it in such detail was to put it into a perspective that was heartbreaking and nightmarish. Whose children deserve better healthcare? All deserve the same. Why not place a box on our tax forms and request that $1.00 (minimum) or up to any amount, is set aside for a global health fund? The funds could be used specifically for those countries reported on in "Lost Lives" - a remarkable piece of journalism. Thank you.

Rosemary, Winthrop

These deaths are indeed tragic and unneccesary. But there are also situations like this here in the United States - low income, unemployed, and homeless people who can't afford medical help. And yes, they die too. We just seem to prefer ignoring them. Are they less deserving of our concern and support?

Kim, Belmont, MA

Your report is, as usual, both touching and compelling. I imagine a similar report on the heath status of many in Iran might be similar?Surely we can spend our money better on raising other people up than on war. But we've been a presence in Agghanistan for a while now. Has the health status of the people there improved?

Something is missing from your perspective, though. You are profiling peoples who have been around for centuries. They did not prevail by dying off. It almost seems that just enough of Western patterns have been introduced into their worlds to disrupt those worlds but not to enhance them, yet their cultures no longer work and cannot stand up to the Western world. How, for instance, could change be introduced into the Mayan culture while preserving the dignity of the people? The father who did not want help reminded me of scenes from "The Yearling." Such proud independence is what gave this country its birth, and I respect it. To take on Western ways is to culturaly kill oneself. How can you introduce aid in the context of Mayan culture?

There is another issue that has to be faced here. Death is nature's way of population control. Do not misunderstand me; I grieve for the ones who have lost their family members. There are obviously more people than the conditions can support. We in the Western world have managed to "overcome" some of these limitations (though we may make up for it in say, cancer and heart disease) and it is natural that the people who are loving want to share our good conditions with the world. One cannot withold aid because there are too many people in the world, but it might behoove us to think about how overpopulation may play a factor in so many deaths.

Lucy, Hingham, MA

I think that these deeaths were completely unnecassary, but the United States should pull itself together before we reach out to help others.

Katy, Boston

Let's see now, when ever a Republican is in the White house you and the NYT drag out all the stories about the homeless and destiute, You never write these stories when a Democrat is in office. Now GWB is responsible for world hunger and health problems? Did you do one story like this when your boy Bill was in office? How come he didn't eliminate world hunger and the homeless. Sincerely Jean Foley

Jean , Fairhope, Alabama

Unnecessary deaths have been occuring in less fortunate countries for so long. I'm so relieved to see someone finally exposing these tragedies to our ignorant country. Thank you.

Amy , Boston, Ma

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