Archive for the ‘Social Entrepreneurship’ Category

Irish Medical News Feature

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

For most Irish doctors and nurses, the daily battle to save lives doesn’t begin until they reach their workplace.

In the southern Iraqi city of Basra however – about 600km south of the capital Baghdad – it’s a battle just to get to work safely through the dusty, rubbish-strewn and war-torn streets without being kidnapped or murdered.

4basra2.JPG  4basra3.JPG 

Nearly 150 doctors there went on strike earlier this year in July to protest against the assassinations, kidnappings, threats and blackmail they face, and to demand that the government protect them and their families.

According to the Basra Doctors’ Association, 12 doctors in Basra have been killed since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

One was a female gynaecologist who was murdered on her way to work one morning. Another was kidnapped, his body later found cut into pieces in a rubbish dump on the outskirts of the city.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s File on 4, sources in Basra say that a Shia Taleban “mafia” enforce a culture of fear and have a stranglehold on the city now that British forces have retreated to Basra airport. Having infiltrated the police force, many hospitals and the Basra Provincial Council, they rule with a deadly iron fist.

Educated people, such as doctors and nurses are especially in danger. Young girls are scared to go to school or university. According to another source at one of the city’s hospitals, 50 bodies arrive at the hospital’s morgue every day.

Meanwhile, on the outskirts of the city, an American USAID effort is spending millions of dollars, building a brand new children’s hospital. However, while it has been on-schedule and on-budget so far, the project might run into problems when doctors, nurses, surgeons and stocks of supplies and medicines need to be found to run it.

Faced with threats of kidnapping and murder, up to 75 per cent of Iraq’s doctors, pharmacists and nurses have left their hospitals, universities and clinics according to the Iraqi Medical Association.

In the only hospital with the means to treat serious conditions such as Leukaemia, when it can get the medicines, a third of the patients in one ward have to lie on the floor because there aren’t enough beds. Children seeking relief from illness arrive only to discover their suffering will be prolonged in uncomfortable conditions.

4basra1.JPG  4basra6.JPG

Hospitals from other towns and cities in southern Iraq continue to send their patients there because they know the hospital has access to medicines such as Pentostam, which is used to treat leishmaniasis, which is caused by the sandfly parasite.

Despite being surrounded by water, cases of cholera, dysentery and typhoid persist because many of those living in Basra do not have access to clean water. There are billions of barrels of oil lying under the sands of southern Iraq, but those that have not been able to leave have to queue for hours for petrol for their cars or generators. Electricity is also a rare luxury throughout the city.

4basra4.JPG  4basra5.JPG

News about the plight of the Iraqi people has edged out of the Irish media spotlight. Our politicians rarely mention the subject and people have grown immune to the bombings that frequently make the news headlines.

Concern for ordinary Iraqis was not at the top of the conference’s agenda when Labour Foreign Affairs spokesman Michael D. Higgins and Green Party Senator Dan Boyle spoke at a conference of the Irish Anti-War Movement in Dublin last week.

Instead they preferred to debate tired subjects such as Irish neutrality and US troops being flown via Shannon and ‘media propaganda.’ It’s a pity that the energy and sentiments of the Movement weren’t directed to real action or fundraising to help those who are struggling in the wake of the war.

Despite the horrendous conditions, one tiny charity based in Vienna, Austria has succeeded in refurbishing part of the existing Basra children’s hospital. Dull and dirty wards and corridors are now bright, clean and equipped with modern blood testing and other machines.

By co-operating with other NGOs such as Caritas, Aladin’s Wunderlampe Projekte has been supplying the hospital with medicines and supplies two or three times a year.

athra2.JPG  athra1.JPG

4Basra contributed €1,100 earlier this year after writing about the charity and we are now appealing to the Irish medical community to help in whatever way you can, with donations or offers to help with fundraising.

I hope that you will be part of a small group of Irish businesses, politicians and media personalities will also contribute to this effort

All monies raised will be used by the Aladin’s Projekte to pay for a shipment of medicine and supplies which will be sent to Basra. The cost is €150,000 and so far a third of the money has been raised.

With thanks to Donal Bergin at the Irish Medical News.




Basra needs your help

Friday, August 10th, 2007

The situation in Iraq has been worsening over the past few months.

A colleague of one of the doctors working in the children’s hospital in Basra was recently found dead in a rubbish dump, her body cut into pieces.

One important ward of the chilren’s hospital will close if my colleague in Vienna cannot help, and I hope to make a contribution to her fundraising efforts.

The next medical consignment is due to be shipped in October or November, so I’d like to try to raise some funds to contribute to that.

Oxfam recently published a report on the humanitarian situation in Iraq and I plan to contact them along with a number other people who might be able to help.

I’ve neglected to do any more on this due to pressure of other work and the Irish elections, which meant some of the people I was planning to contact were very busy.  

The initial fundraising target will be €5,000, but I hope to raise the bar as we go along.

I’ll organise things and contact people when I have the time, but other than that, it’ll be emails, calls and drinks if necessary to see who I can cajole into helping.

If you’ve got an idea for a quiz, an event, a whip-round or some other event, I’ll help when and where I can.

I hope some of you will get in touch.

Infant Mortality Soars in Iraq

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

According to The Independent, infant mortality in Iraq is now comparable to that of sub-Saharan Africa.

Figures come from a report by Save the Children.

Update: 4Basra’s work to raise awareness of the situation will resume after the election here in Ireland.

The focus will be on the medical community and a number of politicians with an interest in foreign affairs. We also hope to look at a number of creative ideas that might bring in funds on a regular basis.



Social Entrepreneurs: Changing the World

Friday, March 30th, 2007

I’ve just returned from an interesting and inspiring three days in Oxford at the Skoll Foundation World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship.

Who was there?  More than 700 people, including:

EBay, Participant Films and Skoll Foundation founder, Jeff Skoll

Nobel prize 2006 winner and founder of the Grameen Bank, Muhammad Yunus

Queen Rania Al-Abdullah, Queen of Jordan

Peter Gabriel, former band member of Genesis, founder of Witness (a Wikipedia/Youtube/Myspace -type human rights website)

Geoff Mulgan, Director of Demos thinktank and former adviser to Tony Blair

Writer Charles Handy

UK Minister for the Third Sector, Ed Miliband

Larry Brilliant, head of (Google’s philanthropy arm)

What did they talk about?

Social finance



Social innovation and entrepreneurship

Now that confidence in politics and the democratic process in the West is at an all-time low, social entrepreneurs are taking action to solve social problems using the most innovative and entrepreneurial means they can.

Having realised that corporations are not going to go away, they are talking the language of business and literally stealing some of their ideas; specifically the ones that get results and get things done. Not only that, but they’re adapting them and improving on them, maximising the social benefit.

I interviewed a 24 year-old who started his social business when he was 12. He and his friends washed cars and baked cakes to raise money. Last year his social business earned $10 million. It sells fairtrade clothing and textbooks and literally builds whole villages in Africa.

This was not just a global gathering of do-gooders though. Some big names in the finance world are being brought into the fold as well. Someone who used to work for global investment bank Goldman Sachs has set up a new social fund. GE Asset Management, Deutsche Bank, UBS and Morgan Stanley are other names getting in on the act.

Investment bankers sitting beside social entrepreneurs and NGO founders and workers. Collaborating, bringing ideas, models and plans to the table. Working together. Getting results. Changing lives. Changing the world.

For more details and blogs from the Forum, see Social Edge.

Patrick Cockburn in The (UK) Independent on Sunday

Sunday, March 18th, 2007

Patrick Cockburn is one of the few journalists now reporting from Iraq.

His reports can be read in The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.

His latest report is required reading for anyone concerned about the current state of the country and the fate of the Iraqi people.