Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I read a disturbing report today. I hope this isn't true, or some misinterpretation of events. In short, the Susan G. Kommen for the Cure Foundation has a rule against giving grants to non-profits under investigation. This rule has led them to cut funds to Planned Parenthood, under investigation by a lone congressman at the behest of anti-choice groups.

I witnessed the Kommen Foundation's efforts in Liberia. Cuttington is just a few minutes away from Phebe Hospital. The hospital has only a handful of doctors and a cadre of nurses. Some of the nurses are dedicated professionals. Others are young women who see nursing as the best job opportunity available in a male dominated society.

Phebe has a state-of-the art mammography machine. An administrator showed me the machine on a tour of the facility. It sat on a wooden pallet, still wrapped in plastic. I could see a book of installation instructions on the console. I asked, naively, why the machine wasn't hooked up. The genial, exhausted administrator explained that a mammography machine required professional technicians to install and calibrate the machine, a constant supply of power, trained technicians to operate the device, film supplies, processing equipment, and film technicians to develop the pictures, and an oncologist to interpret the results. Phebe, he explained, had none of these, but feared saying "no" to an American charity would hurt future efforts at donation.

By the time he'd explained all of this, we'd come to a row of four cargo containers. Each was filled with similar donations, pricey and feel-good stuff that had little value in the field. Phebe desperately needed diesel for its generators, painkillers and anesthetics, and anti-malarials, and trauma supplies. We don't have colored ribbons for those. 

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