Cooperation can saves lives

Developed nations probably could do more to alleviate hunger and illness in third-world countries. But blaming ourselves solely for every outbreak and famine that occurs simply is not honest.

Dr. Peter Salama, head of the United Nations’ World Health Organization, engaged in a bit of self-recrimination this week. The WHO should have sent more vaccine to Yemen to combat a surge of cholera there, he told reporters.

Perhaps so. But this summer, when the agency planned to send a million doses of cholera vaccine to Yemen, that country’s government said no. Salama, acting as an apologist for Yemeni officials, explained they felt a million doses was not enough.

It could have saved lives, however. Some of the about 2,000 Yemenis killed by cholera this year might have survived had their government accepted WHO’s offer.

Similar frustration is experienced often, as corrupt regimes either take donated medicine and food and sell it, or, as occurred a few years ago, allow an entire shipment of vaccine to sit in trucks so long it becomes useless.

Yes, we could do more. But part of any plan to accomplish that will have to be convincing some third-world governments to act in their people’s best interests.