Can one man change the world?

Over 200 high school students spent an inspiring, enjoyable Saturday in December at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Marcy at what was our largest Model UN conference yet.

Some students represented non-governmental organizations and told standing-room-only committees what they do.

“Partners in Health” began when Dr. Paul Farmer visited the remote village Cange in Haiti where health care was unknown. Farmer describes what he found in his book, “Mountains beyond Mountains,” and how he changed everything in that poorest pocket of Haiti.

Daily hot lunches served to 9,000 students at 41 schools in the Central Plateau help them prosper. He returns regularly and replicates his work in Africa and Central and South America. He is special adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on community-based medicine and lessons from Haiti. He chairs Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, and heads the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Recent books are “In the Company of the Poor” and “To Repair the World.”

Partners in Health co-founder Jim Yong Kim is now president of the World Bank Group, with two great goals: Reduce extreme poverty to 3 percent or less by 2030, and promote greater equity in the developing world. Kim directed the World Health Organization’s HIV/AIDS Department.

Haitians never knew cholera before 2010. Contaminated sewage leaked into a tributary of the 200-mile Artibonite River following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, causing a cholera epidemic second only to one now ravaging Yemen. Cholera kills within 24 hours from dehydration; Partners in Health treated 180,000 people and trained 3,300 community health workers in health centers they’ve established in Haiti.

Many in Liberia lack basic food, clothing, shelter, and health care. Partners in Health reduced maternal death by 85 percent in a year and a half, and they offer a full range of maternal care. Early child bearing, which often occurs from forced marriage, can result in obstructed labor that damages internal organs, causing unavoidable leakage of urine or feces. This condition, called obstetric fistula, ruins young lives because sufferers are isolated from their community, yet this malady is easily repaired in PIH clinics. The World Health Organization reports that 100,000 new cases of fistulas occur yearly.

In rural Chiapas, Mexico, chronic malnutrition affects 44 percent of children. There, and in remote areas in Peru, PIH clinics provide health care and educational workshops on good health habits. Mobile clinics visit families with young children at risk of developmental delays. PIH and Heifer International provide chickens to families with a malnourished child under five; eggs provide nutrition and are sold for additional income. PIH supports a community center for after-school activities for teens from poor neighborhoods.

The World Health Organization is implementing its Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan, calling for ending the stigma and discrimination that have isolated people since ancient times. Neuropsychiatric conditions are the leading cause of disability in young people everywhere. If untreated, these conditions severely inhibit one’s potential to live a fulfilling, productive life. Following childbirth, especially in poor countries, up to 20 percent of girls and women develop depression that causes mothers and children to suffer needlessly, because most mental disorders can be successfully treated by well-trained, non-specialist health providers.

The U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals describe 17 major world initiatives with 169 specific targets that will be achieved by 2030. Poverty dropped in East and Southeast Asia from 35 percent to 3 percent between 1999 and 2013, and decreased from 28 percent to 11 percent globally. But 42 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s people still live in destitution. The U.N., the World Bank’s International Development Association, and heroic Non-Governmental Organizations can lift 767 million people above the international poverty line of $1.90 a day — no one need be left behind, and this takes very little funding to achieve. Visit https://www.pih.org and https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld.

Carol S. White is president of the Upper Mohawk Valley United Nations Association. She lives in Clinton. You can find more information and images on the Model United Nations at www.umvuna.org.

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