This is a guest blog from Andrew E. Barrer, executive director of the U.S. Coalition for Child Survival and a member of the Global Health Council delegation to the 2010 World Health Assembly.
This afternoon at the World Health Assembly, the Global Health Council held an event that included the announcement of the 2010 Gates Award for Global Health winner. I’ve met several of the previous winners, including last year’s London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and I’ve seen firsthand the work of the Aravind Eye Care System in Southern India, winner of the 2008 Gates award.
However, this year’s winner has performed another set of miracles in Haiti, a country devastated by both a long term crisis of HIV/AIDS and a more recent natural disaster that we all know about — the earthquake that killed tens of thousands of men, women and children. In light of this environment, GHESKIO, a 30-year-old NGO that has been on the forefront of HIV/AIDS care has continued to provide life-saving drugs to thousands of people living with HIV and AIDS. Despite the worst of conditions, they remained open and “in business” soon after the January earthquake. Their director, Dr. Jean William Pape never gave up and continued to lead the work of GHESKIO.
What an inspiration this example can serve for the world to see. They not only win this award for themselves, but they win it for all the NGOs around the world who work under the most difficult conditions. I remember how difficult it was this winter to get around Washington, D.C. with 3-4 feet of snow! Did my friends, colleagues and I complain about how horrible it was and many of us stayed home rather than confront the elements of winter.
Dr. Pape and his colleagues in Haiti never gave up and never stopped their work. Not only did GHESKIO continue to treat its own patients, they provided care to thousands of injured in their own neighborhood to provide whatever medical care and comfort they could at their country’s time of need.
We should all learn from this experience and the work of Dr. Pape and his colleagues. We should never give up in the face of adversity. The Gates award rightfully goes to GHESKIO. To learn more, make sure you attend the 37th Annual International Conference on Global Health conference in Washington, D.C. June 14-18, where Dr. Pape will accept the award.