By Audette Exel AO, Founder & Chair
Baby Rose came into the world yesterday. She opened her eyes, curled up her fists, and yelled to announce herself.
Rose’s Mum lives in a remote Ugandan village a long way from care, and she was afraid when she came to the hospital. Her baby was coming early and, in this time of COVID19, she didn’t know if she would be safe. Her courage was rewarded. Care and warmth awaited her at Kiwoko Hospital – an incredible centre of excellence in the bush. Kiwoko is the result of 30 years of passion and commitment of thousands of skilled Ugandan staff and clinicians, supported by partners from as far away as Ireland and Australia.
Instead of danger, Rose’s Mum found a safe delivery suite, trained doctors and nurses, and a bed in a clean, fully equipped maternity ward. Because Rose came to the world early, she was moved to the Neonatal ICU, into an incubator for tiny babies, with a warm lamp and a knitted cap to help her thermoregulate. When she goes home, as more than 89% of the babies in the unit will, she will be growing, happy and ready to take her place as a girl – and then a woman – who will contribute to her community and to her country.
Baby Rose is one of more than 35 babies in the Adara Kiwoko NICU yesterday and more than 1,200 in the last year. Her Mum is one of more than 3,000 who will give birth safely there this year.
This story is replicated over and over. Approximately 365,000 babies were born yesterday to Planet Earth. In the bush, the mountains, the deserts, the cities and the landscape of our world, life came yesterday. Joy came.
At the same time, hundreds of millions of care workers went to work yesterday in the service of others. They are frontline workers – educators, clinicians, first responders. Many of them are unpaid or low-paid. Despite worrying about their own families and their own need for food and shelter, they went to work, unheralded. Yesterday they made our world a better place. We may not know their names, but they are examples to every single one of us. I am lucky enough to work with hundreds of them across the globe.
In Nepal yesterday, Adara’s amazing Country Director, Pralhad Dhakal, supervised the outfitting of a 10 bed children’s respiratory ward in one of the remote communities we work with. He also checked in with our Nepali team – educators, social workers, child protection and development specialists – to make sure all our programmes are OK – from the Indian border assisting with safe return, to the furthest mountains and kids in 16 schools with radio education, health clinics, greenhouses and anti-trafficking work, and much more. We are only one of many, many, great development organisations who stand with those in need every single day.
In Seattle and in Sydney, our business team is working on a new mandate, and our global support teams are making sure our staff in all locations, our donors and our partners have all they need before they log off.
When we put our mind to it and we work together, incredible things can happen. More than 1.2 billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty since 1990 – down to 9.2% of the global population compared to nearly 36% at the start of that period. Progress has been made towards many of the Sustainable Development Goals – not fast enough, not wide enough – but steps forward have been taken. Kids have been educated. People have been fed. In all corners of our world, amazing people have worked to help others, and bend that arc of moral justice just a little bit forward. COVID19 demands of us that we re-double our efforts, and we will answer that call.
Less than 150 years ago, a handful of scientists and clinicians began to create vaccines. The WHO tells us that we now have licenced vaccines for more than 25 different preventable infections. The size of that achievement cannot be understated. Smallpox is estimated to have killed up to 300 million people in the last century – and it was declared eradicated by the WHO in 1980. Polio, tetanus and measles are in retreat. Multiple vaccines to help protect us against COVID19 have been developed at record speed, have high efficacy rates, and are evolving to meet the changing variants day by day.
Armies of nameless people, health workers, front line workers, clinicians, scientists, administrators, philanthropists, governments, universities and not-for profits have made it so.
Here in Sydney – we are in lockdown. Delta has arrived. It is spreading throughout much of the world, and like a flame through low-and-middle income countries. People we love have COVID19, and we are afraid. Many of our neighbours are in a state of extreme suffering. It is hard not to despair.
But here is the good news. Baby Rose and many more like her are arriving into our midst, ready to have joyous lives. Many more will arrive tomorrow. And they have an army of good people standing with them.
We will come out on the other side of this hard time in history with a better and fairer world. We know that because history tells us that, and because we have seen it.
Human beings are magnificent.
We can, and we will, beat COVID19.