Jason Swensen, Deseret News
NEW YORK CITY — After decades of helping the poor and needy, LDS Charities will take its place today at an international table with other major humanitarian organizations, and its representatives will talk about the work The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is doing to improve the lives of women.
The discussion will be led by Sharon Eubank, the first woman to serve as executive director of LDS Charities.
The LDS Church is hosting a United Nations side event as part of the United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women. Featured speakers will include Eubank; Charles T. Ntwaagae, Botswana's ambassador to the United Nations; Anna Thompson-Quaye, deputy director of the GAVI Alliance, a Geneva-based agency that provides vaccines to children in poor countries; and Dennis C. and Nancy C. Hughes, LDS humanitarian medical trainers.
During the past quarter-century, the church has provided assistance to nearly 30 million people in 179 countries. It is an effort, at the most basic level, "to share the love of God" across the globe, Eubank said.
Much of that assistance — given in the form of emergency response after disasters and through major initiatives that provide, among other things, clean water, medical training, vision care, immunizations and wheelchairs to those in need — directly benefits women and children.
For example, in recent months, as tens of thousands of Syrian refugees fled their war-torn country and sought refuge in Jordan, the LDS Church answered the Jordanian government's call for additional assistance — providing more than $2 million in humanitarian aid and supplies. Eubank said the largest refugee camp in Jordan has nearly 100,000 people, almost 80 percent of them women or children.
Valerie M. Hudson, professor and George H.W. Bush Chair in the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, said the welfare of women undergirds every thread in the social fabric. "When women are subordinated, research has shown that nations are poorer, less healthy, hungrier, overpopulated, have higher child mortality and are more bellicose. Educating and empowering women is the single most effective means of attacking most social problems facing the nations of the world today. Nations cannot thrive when men dominate women, as we show in our recent book, 'Sex and World Peace.' "
She said the LDS Church is increasingly seen as an important player in the world humanitarian aid community. "Furthermore, the church is known for its willingness to partner with other aid organizations having long-standing interests and capabilities, which engenders a real multiplier effect in terms of efficacy," Hudson said. "The church also has a network of stakes around the globe whose capabilities can be added to the material assistance the church is able to provide from centralized depots. All in all, the LDS Church is becoming known as an experienced, dependable and organized 'white hat' in humanitarian aid circles, and this is reflected in its participation … at the United Nations."
Kim Nemire, manager in the Innovative Finance group of the GAVI Alliance, said LDS Charities has worked with her organization for almost two years. GAVI — an organization that has helped vaccinate 370 million children since it was founded in 2000 — was aided by LDS Charities in 2011 in Kenya and again in 2012 in Ghana. GAVI provided vaccines that fight pneumonia and severe diarrhea in children; LDS Charities provided the social mobilization for the efforts.
This year the organizations will partner in additional countries.
"LDS Charities is really earnest in its interest with helping save children's lives," said Jonathan Stern, senior manager of media and communications for the GAVI Alliance.
He said LDS Charities has pledged $4.5 million to GAVI, an amount that is being matched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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