Friday, October 1, 2010

Grasping the real challenges of the global village

With all the focus o bad news, it is refreshing to be able to report on successes in Israel which positively affect the impoverished and hungry around the world.

With thanks to Israel 21c, it a good to report that MASHAV, the branch of overseas development of the Israeli government, was founded in Israel 1958 as a vehicle for sharing Israel's creative solutions with the rest of the developing world.It is located not more than 10 mins from where I live on the Carmel ridge in Haifa.

MASHAV has long focused on the same objectives that the United Nations recently formalized as its priority development goals: Poverty alleviation; food security; sustainable development; empowerment of women; child and maternal health; social equity; environmental sustainability; and upgraded public health and education systems.

MASHAV professionals have trained some 200,000 people from approximately 140 countries, including Israel. In countries across the world, they have developed dozens of demonstration projects in fields of Israeli expertise.

Divon, the current head, came to MASHAV in 1995, after serving in diplomatic postings in Bombay, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka. "It was more than eye-opening to see what was happening out there," he says. "What hits you is the real meaning of poverty and human suffering. In the western hemisphere we live in a bubble and we don't grasp the real challenges of this global village of ours, which is getting smaller."Concentrating on key 'agents of change'

Mashav holds courses on nursing care at the Dina School of Nursing in Petah Tikva.

Among MASHAV's current projects are helping the mayor of Kisumu, Kenya's third largest city, to establish a strategic planning unit to empower periphery cities and training Ethiopia's head agronomist in biotech and irrigation methods, to enhance yields at a mango and avocado nursery that it established in that African nation. "They must boost their quality and diversity for local consumption, and exports must meet certain standards. We can show them how," Divon declares.

MASHAV has a long history of dispatching medical aid around the world. A recent example was a delegation of six doctors from Sheba Medical Center that was sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo following a
July 2 fuel tanker explosion that injured some 200 people. Also this year, MASHAV facilitated the creation of neonatal and intensive care units at hospitals in Ghana and Kenya and a new ICU for the hospital in Port Au Prince, Haiti is underway.

However, whenever possible the preferable approach is to bring key "change agents" from beneficiary countries to Israel to see programs in action and hear from experts on the ground. This summer, for instance, MASHAV hosted a contingent of educators from Moscow for pedagogic training.

Focus on contributions, not conflict.

Beyond practical solutions, MASHAV also strives to pass along the can-do spirit that visitors invariably marvel at. This spirit is personified in the multilingual Divon himself, his New York-born wife, Linda, and their three grown children. In their frequent and extensive travels, members of the Divon family have initiated and participated in projects such as a Canadian 'peace camp' for Israeli and Palestinian children.

Demands for Israeli know-how continue to grow, especially now that Israel is a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. There is the hope that one day the high level of appreciation for Israeli aid that emanates from developing countries will be matched in the rest of the world. That can only happen, he believes, when the media pays as much attention to Israel's contributions as to its conflicts.

"Imagine how people would look up to Israel if every activity in every country we are involved in would get front-page headlines," he concludes.

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