Working Together to Eliminate Healthcare-associated Infections

By Alison Thompson, director of public-private partnerships, CDC Foundation

Alison Thompson, director of public-private partnerships, CDC Foundation

Alison Thompson, director of public-private partnerships, CDC Foundation

Did you know that on any given day, one in every 25 hospital patients in the United States has at least one infection due to their medical care? One of the reasons is that adherence to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hand hygiene recommendations is low, ranging between 20 and 40 percent, according to studies.

Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are infections that people acquire while receiving treatment for another condition in a health care setting. HAI statistics reflect the need for healthcare providers to follow infection control guidance including practicing hand hygiene at key points in time to disrupt the transmission of microorganisms to patients, visitors and healthcare workers. Patients and their loved ones can also play a role in helping to prevent infections by practicing good hand hygiene themselves as well as asking or reminding their healthcare providers to perform hand hygiene.

wash hadnsTo better protect patients from this ongoing problem, the CDC Foundation recently announced a new partnership with GOJO to provide hand hygiene educational materials and tools for patients, healthcare providers and caregivers in U.S. healthcare facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes and other settings. The goal of this initiative is to promote hand hygiene practices in these settings to help reduce the number of HAIs. This project is part of the Safe Healthcare Initiative, a partnership program coordinated by CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion (DHQP) and the CDC Foundation to eliminate HAIs.

Learn more about what you can do to prevent HAIs at www.cdc.gov/HAI.

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Those Left Behind

Many Syrian refugees have dubbed the journey to Europe as the ‘Death Road’ because of its perilous nature, especially at sea. Despite this, thousands continue to make the trip with more than 3,500 people this year already having lost their lives at sea.

Below is the story of 33- year-old Hanan as told to CARE staffer Lucy Beck. Hanan’s husband left for Germany to seek a better future for his family. She stayed in Jordan to look after her family of seven, including her mother-in-law, sister-in-law and five children.

Hanan with two of her children. Credit: Lucy Beck/CARE

Hanan with two of her children. Credit: Lucy Beck/CARE

My husband left Jordan on June 16 and arrived in Germany in July. He had been working in Jordan without permission and got caught twice. We were worried we would get sent back to Syria. The last time he was caught I spent the whole day crying to the police and begging them not to send us back. We have to pay the rent on our apartment which is 200 JOD (around $US280) per month and if he can’t work, then we can’t pay. If we don’t pay, then we have to leave.

In spite of the risks, my husband traveled to Europe because of better living conditions there, schools for the children —  and because of the difficult situation for us living in Jordan. It’s all about our children; they are the main reason. He went from Jordan to Turkey to Greece and then up through Europe. He took loans from friends (a total of $2,000) to pay his passage from Turkey.

The last time I spoke to him he told me he’s near Frankfurt in a camp. He says the country is good. The journey was very hard, though, and he went with only the clothes on his back. We spent a lot of time without contact – sometimes I went four days without hearing from him. He told me he used all his food and water early on and was eating from the trees and forests and drinking from rivers along the way. The worst part, though, was the boat trip, which took 10 hours. At the end of journey the water was coming up over the sides of the boat and they nearly capsized.

It’s so hard with him gone. Now I have to take care of the whole family alone. I have many new responsibilities: taking the children to and from school and caring for my elderly mother-in-law. I have to take out loans from friends and neighbors to pay the rent. I am waiting for my husband to find work so he can start sending us money. We were expecting it would take one year before he would be able to start providing for his family again and then we could join him in Germany, but already things are taking longer than we thought so I will have to keep borrowing and maybe look for work myself.

I miss him so much, too much, and so do the children. This is the first time we have been separated for this long in 11 years of marriage. Before this, the longest period we spent apart was one month when he went on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. I miss everything about him, but the hardest thing is seeing how much the children miss him. They are always asking when they will see him, and I don’t know what to tell them.

I know it won’t be easy in Germany, but it is still better than here. My husband and I were teachers in Syria, so we can always learn the language and it will be worth it for the children. If my husband doesn’t get us over to him in a year, I will try to take out a big loan and join him there with our children. I am scared to death by the journey, but I know that after a while no one will give me any more loans and I won’t be able to survive.

To help lift some of her financial burdens, Hanan received CARE’s emergency cash assistance of US$183 and is now being considered for CARE’s winter assistance of approximately US$560.

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World Leprosy Day

By Katie Pace, MAP International

Katie Pace, Marketing Communications Officer, MAP International

Katie Pace, Marketing Communications Officer, MAP International

World Leprosy Day is celebrated on Sunday, January 31 to coincide with the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination.  Gandhi worked tirelessly to impact those afflicted with leprosy.  

Each day, more than 50 children worldwide are diagnosed with leprosy.  An additional 50 children will go undiagnosed and many of them will face permanent disabilities from the disease.  If detected early, leprosy can be cured.

While in West Africa recently, I had the pleasure to meet numerous leprosy patients including cases caught early as well as severe cases that have left permanent deformities.

Even though leprosy is curable, many people with leprosy are stigmatized and shunned from their communities – at times comparable to that of biblical times.

GH 2I was lucky enough to meet Leticia, she lives in the Taabo Village of Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa.  Even though she’s just seven years old she has been through than most people in her life.  She was born with cleft lip and MAP International and our partners worked to provide her with surgery, a surgery that sutures and wound care items were essential for.

In early 2015, Leticia was brought back into a clinic that MAP works with because of the high number of leprosy and Buruli ulcer cases.  Her right arm was noticeably swollen and the doctors were called in for a consult.  This seven year old child had somehow contracted leprosy and Buruli ulcer, both strains of flesh eating bacteria’s.  Thankfully, the staff trained on identification by MAP immediately began with the courses of antibiotics needed for treatment, but that wasn’t all her wounds needed to heal.  The clinic had gauze, bandages and ointments on hand from MAP, and they were able to save her from the scars that come with leprosy.  Eight months later, Leticia is healed and healthy because of MAP and their generous partners.

GH 1I also had the privilege of meeting Grace in a rural village in Cote d’Ivoire.  She’s been suffering with leprosy since she was only three years old.  Suffering from leprosy hasn’t been easy.  Early on, no one knew why this young child had patches on her hands.  Leprosy, even though curable has a stigma that causes people, even children to be alienated from the community.  Seeking a normal life for herdaughter, Grace’s mother sent her to Chinese healers in the community and for a short time – it worked.

When the same patches reappeared on her hands, her mother took her to a rural clinic where MAP International and American Leprosy Missions work together to stop the spread of leprosy and the disfigurement it causes.

Grace said, “The nurse gave me some injections and a few days later my hands were back to normal.”

GH 3The leprosy came back this year and Grace knew just where to go – the clinic.  She received a full course of treatment for leprosy and her patches have now cleared up and the leprosy is cured.  After reading Grace’s story from our field team early in 2015, I just knew that I had to meet her while I was in Cote d’Ivoire.  This beautiful little girl was glowing and I almost didn’t recognize her because after the treatment she was no longer malnourished and she was just a lovely normal little girl.  She told us that she wants to be a school teacher when she grows up and thanks to the antibiotic she received for the leprosy, she will no longer be stigmatized because she has no visible deformities.

MAP International has been engaged in the fight to end and prevent the spread of leprosy in West Africa since early 2002.  We have joined with the best leprosy partners in the world: American Leprosy Missions, Effect:Hope and The Leprosy Mission Ireland to stop leprosy.

The fight against leprosy and related diseases in West Africa includes strategies that focus on cure, care and ending leprosy. In addition to teaching awareness, prevention and treatment of these diseases to the local people, we also train healthcare professionals to identify symptoms and begin treatment in the earliest stages of the disease to save lives.  We also provide medicines and medical supplies to over 100 countries each year, including medicines that fight leprosy and leprosy like diseases.

World Leprosy Day, Sunday, January 31, please join us in standing with some of the poorest and most marginalized people in the world – those affected by leprosy.

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Surveillance Training Helps Prepare Developing Countries for Next Ebola Outbreak

By Mark Rosenberg, Chief Executive Officer, The Task Force for Global Health

Mark Rosenberg, MD, MPP, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Task Force for Global Health

Mark Rosenberg, MD, MPP, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Task Force for Global Health

From 2014-2015, we witnessed the most widespread outbreak of Ebola virus disease in history. The outbreak reached epidemic status and caused more than 11,000 deaths across the West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Ebola even showed up in Atlanta when Emory University Hospital staff successfully treated and discharged four Ebola patients transferred from West African health facilities.

A major factor in Ebola’s spread during this outbreak was weak surveillance systems in countries affected by the disease. In response to this need, TEPHINET, a program at the Decatur-based Task Force for Global Health, has been actively involved in strengthening the capacity of West African countries to detect and respond to Ebola.

Beginning in spring 2015, TEPHINET partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) to organize basic-level field surveillance training for frontline public health workers. The program, called Surveillance Training for Ebola Preparedness (STEP), ran through last summer and consisted of hands-on training sessions for public health practitioners in disease surveillance and outbreak response.

TEPHINET provided expert trainers and mentors from its global pool of senior epidemiologists and CDC developed the training curriculum. STEP targeted countries deemed to be at risk for Ebola outbreaks, beginning with Côte d’Ivoire in early 2015. The training program was later rolled out in Guinea-Bissau, Mali, and Senegal, where more than 200 public health professionals received training. One-week teaching sessions were followed by three weeks of fieldwork. Participants also received critical mentorship from senior epidemiologists.

“STEP takes what these epidemiologists already do in their everyday jobs—surveillance, outbreak investigation, and data analysis—and fine tunes it to deal specifically with Ebola,” explains Biagio Pedalino, a resident advisor for a TEPHINET field epidemiology training program (FETP) who served as a trainer in three countries.

STEP trainees also learned to use mobile data collection technology to record and share daily updates on Ebola outbreaks.

“In controlling Ebola, time is everything,” says Pedalino.  “Our ability to quickly share information allows us to respond much more rapidly so that we can contain this deadly disease.”

The outbreak proved the value of FETPs supported by TEPHINET. FETP graduates and trainees in African countries and from around the world have been critical in providing assistance to countries affected by Ebola. In fact, the Nigeria FETP served as the backbone of the workforce behind the outbreak in Nigeria.

Since its inception in 1997, TEPHINET has become an alliance of 62 FETPs engaging residents to strengthen global public health capacity in 88 countries. TEPHINET joined The Task Force for Global Health in 2008. Its FETPs are affiliated with local and national organizations including research institutes, institutes of public health, universities, and other nongovernmental organizations. At the beginning of this year, more than 10,000 residents had graduated from a TEPHINET program.

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Announcing CDC Foundation’s Next President and CEO, Judy Monroe

Being a board member of an organization has a number of responsibilities, but I don’t believe any is as important as selecting that organization’s leader. As the CDC Foundation board chair, I’m pleased to announce that the next president and CEO of the CDC Foundation is Dr. Judith Monroe. Judy currently serves as director of CDC’s Office for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support.

Dr. Judith Monroe, CDC Foundation CEO & President

Dr. Judith Monroe, CDC Foundation CEO & President

For those of you who follow the CDC Foundation regularly, you know that Charlie Stokes, the Foundation’s current president and CEO, last May announced his plans to retire, which set in motion our search for the next leader.

I know that all of our board members join me in celebrating Judy’s selection. She is an extraordinarily intelligent, forward-looking, collaborative and celebrated national public health leader. She brings with her extensive experience in public health from a variety of perspectives—a student, a practicing physician in multiple health settings, a leader in a hospital system, state health commissioner for Indiana and working with the world’s premier population health agency, CDC.

Judy knows firsthand the important role of government in ensuring the health of its citizens. But she also knows the critical role that the philanthropic and private sectors play in making our world healthier and safer. As Judy said in the release announcing her appointment, “Today, public-private partnerships between the government, private and philanthropic sectors are crucial to improving health outcomes for people in America and around the globe. Together, we can do so much more than any of us can do alone.”

While we are delighted to welcome Judy to the CDC Foundation, I can tell you that she is equally excited about this opportunity. On behalf of the board of directors and staff at the CDC Foundation, we look forward to working with Judy as she implements her vision and moves the CDC Foundation forward in building partnerships to help CDC save and improve lives.

I also want to thank Charlie Stokes for his leadership of the CDC Foundation. Charlie has been a true visionary in public-private partnerships to advance health and a strong proponent for extending CDC’s vital life-saving work in this country and around the world.

We welcome Judy to the CDC Foundation, and we wish Charlie and his family the very best.


Doug Nelson, CDC Foundation Board Member

Doug Nelson, CDC Foundation Board Member

Doug Nelson is chair of the CDC Foundation’s board of directors and retired president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.


 

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A Global Ray of Hope for People in Poverty

By Tonya Rawe, senior advisor for policy and research in Food and Nutrition Security, CARE

Tonya Rawe is CARE’s senior advisor for policy and research in its Food and Nutrition Security unit

Tonya Rawe is CARE’s senior advisor for policy and research in its Food and Nutrition Security unit

On Dec. 12, 195 countries agreed on a way to tackle the climate crisis — together.

The Paris Agreement – hammered out at the United Nations climate negotiations known as COP21 – is historic. It’s the first time all the countries that signed the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have committed to taking concrete actions to address climate change.

I just returned from the negotiations and am honored to say I was a part of that history. As a food and nutrition security policy expert at the poverty-fighting organization CARE, I – and the people I work to support — have plenty of skin in the game.

Climate change is not a problem for the future. It’s a problem today. And it isn’t a problem that affects only a few countries or a few people – it affects us all. However, while its effects will hit everyone, they will hit – and are already hitting – people in poverty hardest.

Those living in poverty by and large are not responsible for the climate change we see today. Their greenhouse gas emissions are miniscule compared with those from wealthier populations and countries. Yet, they face the brunt of the consequences – like higher temperatures, erratic rainfall patterns, shifting seasons, extreme weather and water scarcity. Because of their poverty, and a host of other factors over which they have little control, they have the least capacity to deal with the results. They live on the edge of crisis. Climate change threatens to push them over.

For CARE, addressing climate change and participating in the global negotiations is part of our mission to eradicate poverty, and particularly to end global hunger. Ours is a world in which 795 million people are chronically hungry. Climate change could drive that number up by another 600 million people by 2080.

CARE’s participation in COP21 brings a human face to the negotiations, because every day in so many poor communities around the world, CARE sees the need to support vulnerable people to adapt to a changing climate. It is, therefore, encouraging to know that the agreement 195 countries delivered in Paris will provide some support to the world’s most vulnerable communities and people, offering them hope and assurance that the world is committed to addressing one of the most significant challenges they, and we, face.

The Paris Agreement puts in place a system to ensure that countries reconvene on a regular basis to increase their individual and collective ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It makes clear that our shared goal is to keep global temperature rise well below 2°C, and that we should in fact limit that increase to no more than 1.5°C. It seems a small number, but the latest science tells us that a 2°C rise is not a safe world. With 1 degree of warming so far, we already witness more erratic rainfall, more extreme weather and retreating glaciers. The difference between 2°C and 1.5°C could mean substantial increases in heat extremes, higher risk of crop reductions in tropical areas, and greater reductions in water availability in sub-tropical regions like Central America.

The agreement puts adaptation to climate impacts, particularly for vulnerable populations, on an equal footing with efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And it recognizes the critical need for countries to collaborate to address impacts that go beyond what can be adapted to – impacts like sea level rise that result in loss and damage for island nations watching their countries disappear beneath the waves.

The agreement also recognizes human rights and gender equality as fundamental building blocks.  We cannot take a step forward in tackling climate change if in doing so we step backward on human rights or gender equality.

The Paris Agreement is not the final word on a solution to the climate crisis – it was not intended to be. Rather, it lays out our path to success and with it, countries have the tools and the moral obligation to ramp up their mitigation ambition, speed up their transition to renewable energy, and support poor countries and vulnerable communities in their own efforts to adapt.  Now it’s time for countries to work at home and internationally to secure the promises made.

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Are we really changing the world? A look at Georgia’s key role in changing the world.

By Katie Pace, Marketing Communications Officer MAP International

Katie Pace, Marketing Communications Officer, MAP International

Katie Pace, Marketing Communications Officer, MAP International

A new report from CNBC names Georgia-based global health nonprofit MAP International  number two among the “Top 10 Charities Changing the World in 2015.” Among the top 10 charities included on CNBC’s list, MAP has a score of 99.92, based on financial health, accountability and transparency of reporting. We had to stop for a moment of reflection with such a distinguished title and think on what exactly what are we doing to change the world?

At MAP, it’s our mission to provide medical aid to the world’s poor.  We do this through thousands of field partners serving in the world’s poorest countries, but we’re not alone in this world changing endeavor.

The great state of Georgia is increasingly becoming an international global health hub.  A large number of the world’s leading health organizations are literally at your backdoor.  MAP has been based in Georgia for over 30 years, providing medical aid to over 10 million children and families each year in over 100 countries.   MedShare, based just outside of Atlanta, has been impacting clinics and hospitals around the world with medical equipment since 1998.  Since 1995, the CDC Foundation has provided more than $620 million to support CDC’s work, launched 800 programs around the world and built a network of individuals and organizations committed to supporting CDC and public health.  The Carter Center has been in Atlanta since 1982 and led a coalition that has reduced the cases of Guinea worm around the globe from 3.5 million in 1986 to 126 cases today.  The Task Force for Global Health has also been based in Georgia for 30 years has saved countless lives through global vaccinations.

haiti1In 2015, Georgian’s played a key role in stopping the Ebola outbreak in West Africa – saving countless lives of not only those infected but the healthcare professionals working to stop the virus as well.  You aided millions of people in Nepal devastated by the earthquake and even treated and prevented over seven Neglected Tropical Diseases on every continent.

We met Erica in August in Cote d’Ivoire, she’s just a frail little six year old.  She’s spent most of 2015 suffering from Buruli ulcer, a Neglected Tropical Disease that MAP International works to treat and prevent in West Africa.  Without treatment and training from NGOs based right here in Georgia, this little girl would have been deformed for the rest of her life, instead she only has a small scar and is now a healthy little girl that dreams of one day being a doctor.

Haiti 2You have literally been a part of saving tens of thousands of lives around the world.  We’ve seen firsthand the role Georgian’s play in Global Health and we are thankful to call Georgia home.

So this Holiday season, consider joining with one of these world changing NGOs right here in Georgia and become a part of something bigger – something life changing.

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Smartphone System Aids in Fight Against Infectious Diseases

By Mark Rosenberg, MD, MPP, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Task Force for Global Health

Mark Rosenberg, MD, MPP, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Task Force for Global Health

Mark Rosenberg, MD, MPP, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Task Force for Global Health

Big changes to global health can come in small packages – namely, smartphones. Via mobile health, or mhealth, health workers in developing countries are leveraging the handheld technologies to track health data about their communities in real time. At present, an mhealth platform called LINKS is being used in developing countries where neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) such as elephantiasis and blinding trachoma are endemic. Scientists at The Task Force for Global Health in Decatur developed LINKS to track how those diseases are being transmitted – with the potential application for tracking all types of health information.

LINKS, which is named for its ability to link data from the field to the cloud, is an information system that streamlines the data collection process. The Android app was created at The Task Force’s Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center using Open Data Kit – an open-source set of tools for data monitoring. Since 2012, LINKS has been used in conjunction with donated smartphones in more than 50 countries. The system has been vital to The Global Trachoma Mapping Project, the largest disease mapping project ever undertaken. It is also currently being used by the World Health Organization Africa Region to map five NTDs on the continent; for research studies to support NTD control and elimination programs; and in several clinical studies in developing countries.

The Decatur-based Task Force for Global Health has deployed hundreds of smartphones in combination with LINKS, a custom Android app, to collect and analyze data for mapping the prevalence of neglected tropical diseases that threaten at least one billion people worldwide (Photo courtesy of Alex Pavluck).

The Decatur-based Task Force for Global Health has deployed hundreds of smartphones in combination with LINKS, a custom Android app, to collect and analyze data for mapping the prevalence of neglected tropical diseases that threaten at least one billion people worldwide (Photo courtesy of Alex Pavluck).

How does LINKS work? When researchers or country program managers request LINKS for a project, Task Force staff work with them to set up a customized survey that is loaded onto phones. The survey instrument is flexible and can collect any relevant data such as the age, gender, and GPS location of the person who is interviewed for a particular study. The app also has a barcode scanner, which helps to track test results from blood, urine, or other samples taken. LINKS works on any cell phone network and does not require access to Wi-Fi.

Among other benefits, LINKS helps countries spot high levels of disease transmission and respond in real time with interventions. Similarly, if problems arise during data collection, the surveys can be easily modified. That flexibility also means that LINKS can be used to track different diseases or to collect and monitor all kinds of health data – an invaluable resource for countries with resource-poor health systems.

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Working Together to Meet Complex Health Challenges

By Pierce Nelson, vice president for Communications, CDC Foundation

In the United States and across the globe, society faces urgent health challenges. In some cases, governments are able to meet these challenges independently. In most cases, however, solving complex health challenges—whether treating and preventing long-term chronic disease or fighting unexpected outbreaks—requires the support of the public, philanthropic and private sectors working together.

I was reminded of this recently when I heard a speech by our President and CEO Charles Stokes at the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business Terry Third Thursday event. In his remarks at the November event, Charlie discussed how the thinking on partnerships had evolved during the past 50 years.

Charlie Stokes speaking at the UGA Terry College of Business Third Thursday event on 11/19.

Charlie Stokes speaking at the UGA Terry College of Business Third Thursday event on 11/19.

“In the past, government had the good fortune of being able to pay for much of what it needed to do, while business and philanthropy could focus on their own issues independently,” he said. “Today, we are in a flatter world with fewer resources. We cannot afford to paint each other into separate corners.”

A poignant example Charlie shared is the West Africa Ebola epidemic and response. From the CDC Foundation’s perspective, this effort began when CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden requested our assistance in finding support for the agency’s Ebola response. The CDC Foundation immediately activated our Global Disaster Response Fund.

“In crisis situations, CDC may not initially have access to all of the government funding needed for a full response or may be limited in how it can spend funds,” Charlie noted. “A central objective of our disaster fund is to help CDC staff respond quickly to changing circumstances and needs.”

National 117 Ebola call center operators use computers provided by the CDC Foundation to chart calls from their desks at the District Emergency Response Center in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

National 117 Ebola call center operators use computers provided by the CDC Foundation to chart calls from their desks at the District Emergency Response Center in Freetown, Sierra Leone. © David Snyder/CDC Foundation

For CDC’s response, the CDC Foundation raised $56 million, primarily over the span of five months. This funding supported work in infection control, lab screenings, border health, health promotion and a vaccine trial in Sierra Leone. Donations were provided by individuals and organizations, such as The Paul G. Allen Ebola Program, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, HCA, and many others. (A recent CDC Foundation video provides perspective on this response.)

In recalling trips to West Africa taken earlier this year Charlie said, “Everywhere we went CDC staff expressed their gratitude for the speed, flexibility and practical application of the funding provided by our donors. In times of crisis, flexible, unrestricted resources are crucial. For CDC, knowing they would have funds that could very quickly be mobilized made a tremendous difference in catching up with an epidemic that was raging in the late summer and fall of last year.”

Charlie, who will soon retire, reflected on his 46-year career in public health, including more than 20 years leading the CDC Foundation. “We live in a world facing many daunting challenges—just hit the news feed on your smart device and you’ll see an example,” he said. “Working across all sectors we can collectively do so much more together than we can alone.”

We at the CDC Foundation are thankful for CDC’s dedicated professionals helping to defeat Ebola and other disease threats. We are also grateful to our partners who provide vital support for so many programs that are protecting the health, safety and security of America and our neighbors around the world.

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CARE’s History Tells Us: No Fear Can Match American Compassion

By Michelle Nunn, President and CEO of CARE

CARE President & CEO Michelle Nunn

CARE President & CEO Michelle Nunn

The last week has shaken people around the world. Terrorized us. We have been left disturbed and off balance in the wake of the violence in Beirut and Paris. It makes us question what it means to be human and wrestle with our capacities for evil. But it also reminds us of the capacity for bravery, sacrifice, and goodness. Within minutes of the attacks, the response on Twitter was the “porte ouverte” movement – people opening their doors to strangers who sought sanctuary in the streets of Paris. Ordinary people invited Parisians into their homes for shelter and solace in a night of fear. There is a human instinct that allows people, at their best, to overcome fear in order to help others. And this instinct is at the heart of CARE’s history and our mission.

Next week, we at CARE will mark our organization’s 70th anniversary. It gives us an opportunity to reflect on seven decades giving expression to our human capacity to serve, often in places of vulnerability and danger. We were founded on Nov. 27, 1945, in the aftermath of World War II, when refugees, having escaped unthinkable violence, struggled to rebuild their lives in a devastated Europe. They were trying to regain their foothold in a chaotic world where all had been lost. Compassionate Americans sent CARE Packages with food that sustained the bodies and lifted the hopes of millions of Europeans.

Michelle Nunn visits with 9-year-old Syrian refugee during a recent trip to Jordan. Credit: CARE

Michelle Nunn visits with 9-year-old Syrian refugee during a recent trip to Jordan.
Credit: CARE

Among the most inspirational stories from that time come from German families. They recall the surprise of packages arriving from Americans. The people that they had been fighting just months before. They had assumed everyone across the Atlantic saw them as the enemy. It was a moment in history when we showed our best selves, when we looked past regimes and ideology and saw real families in real need. CARE’s history over these 70 years has been to focus on those people in the world who are living in the most fragile and perilous places. Today, we face a similar moment where we are writing history in how we respond to Syrians fleeing their own unimaginable violence – an all-consuming chaos that has driven more than 4 million refugees from their country and displaced another 6.5 million Syrians inside the country. Not long after coming on board as CARE’s CEO, I visited Jordan and Turkey, home to nearly 3 million Syrian refugees between them. I heard harrowing accounts of the violence that has forced so many from their homes and families, the kind of violence that so tragically ravaged Paris and Beirut last weekend.

One mother’s story sticks with me still, partly because, at 9 and 13, two of her children are about the same ages as my own. But there’s another reason. As I talked with her, I thought of the burden she must carry trying to protect and anchor her family. All this in a strange land, far from home and farther from any hope right now of returning. I considered how powerful the force must have been to drive her to leave her home and everything she knew.

When I asked what made her leave Syria, she raised the shirt of her youngest child, age 6, revealing the jagged scar from shrapnel that had ripped through his body.  “What choice did I have but to leave?” she asked.

There are millions of other stories like hers, from people who have no choice but to flee violence and terror. Their search for a better future is taking them most often to Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan but in some cases into Europe or even across the Atlantic to us in the United States. Americans and organizations like CARE have an opportunity to rise to the urgent demands of history — to move toward those that are in greatest need. I hope that like so many others in the last 70 years, Syrian refugees experience the compassion, far-sightedness and goodness of Americans, a power that I know — and CARE’s very history teaches us — is our most significant force.

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