Aug 16, 2011

Sustaining Humanitarian Commitments During Impossible Times

August 16, 2011
Maharlika Elementary School
The "perfect storm" of international economic, social, political and environmental calamities is creating an increasingly difficult environment to sustain humanitarian responses. Governments and international institutions lack the resources with or without input of non-governmental organizations. In response to the urgent needs, Asia America Initiative's humanitarian and peace building programs are expanding despite the "impossible" conditions. We have little government funding and no input from U.S. Government. Our success, however, is due to our willingness to accept the sacrifices and to build unselfish team efforts within our organization and with local and global partners.
Our emphasis on accountability, consistent effort and building trust with local communities has tapped the idealism and energy of youth volunteers who have been our saving grace. We have learned that social entrepreneurship can involve private companies in ways where they can share material resources rather than money. During August 2011 we are conducting three substantial programs involving education and environmental awareness, conflict mediation between Christians and Muslims and Cancer Treatment and livelihood training for women and children from dramatically impoverished communities.
The AAI Peace Caravans have received increasing support, although modest in scope, from business and civic organizations in Manila. On August 5, 2011 Standard Chartered Bank employees teamed with AAI staff to conduct a day of fun workshops at Maharlika Elementary School where each overcrowded classroom lacks basic school supplies for an average of three daily shifts of 65 students per teacher. The bank also donated 5 computers to the school to enhance all-around learning activities. Many of the children are from "squatter" families who fled Mindanao and live in makeshift huts surrounding the community mosque. They are lucky to have one meal per day.
Philippines Armed Forces organized a public awareness and inter-agency team
The Human Rights office of the Philippines Armed Forces organized a public awareness and inter-agency team building run at their Headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo on August 12, 2011. AAI sent our "impromptu" marathon team including Muslims and Christians to participate in the event. We were joined by soldiers, members of the Philippines Red Cross, the National Commission on Human Rights, and the private GroupAid organization.
In August 2011, AAI has entered into a Global Challenge listed on the social networking web site. This program provides life saving medicines for 20 children and 30 women afflicted by cancer, especially mothers and grandmothers with cancer whose families earn less than $5 per day. The program includes an art component to instill positive attitudes, love and care. In addition, the program also provides essential literacy and basic livelihood training to help the women to overcome dire poverty and whose unexpected survival can inspire their communities. By surviving, and experiencing Hope, mothers will inspire their children. Adult literacy and education will enable surviving women to provide better lives for their families. For children living in dire poverty without their mothers or grandmothers, the influence of violent crime and militant extremism is a constant temptation. This holistic program intends to empower entire communities.
At the time of this mailing, we have met 3 of the 4 criteria required to be permanently listed on the web site. In order to achieve permanent partnership, we still need slightly more than $1,000 in contributions to qualify. These funds will be used specifically to purchase medications required by the children. You are welcome to assist us by sending contributions of any amount to the Global Giving link:

Jul 26, 2011

AAI Interns at the 2011 Asian Festival

The intern team just had an exciting weekend at the Asian Festival held at George Mason University. Despite the heat, there were plenty of fun activities to take part in at the festival. The food choices were endless, the singing and dancing was impressive, and the freebies were fantastic. It was also great to see people’s interest in our posters. We created a chart that compared AAI schools to the national schools. Schools in which AAI had intervened had both higher enrollment rates and higher graduation rates than national schools.

“It was super hot, but definitely a great opportunity to experience culture and show your creativity in fundraising events! Loved talking to the vendors and learning about their efforts to make a better life here in the U.S. in addition, to make contributions to the society! It was also wonderful to meet people who share the same vision as AAI does! Their personal experiences provide a different perspective that reinforces AAI's mission!”-Emily

“Being able to have a booth at the Asia festival greatly benefited the AAI team. Not only were the interns able to interact with different people outside the office and gain a good cultural experience (the different Asian music, merchandise and food), but they also raised awareness about the organization by talking to people in the local community. This outreach was a great way for interns to actively participate in increasing support for the organization.”-Francine

“It was HOT. Fortunately, we all had a nice shady booth to shield us from the worst of it. We also had the assistance of two industrious Filipino-English twins who were more than willing to run about on our behalf. We got to talk to a lot of interested people, and were able to solicit a fair amount of donations. Outside of our booth, the Festival was busy and exciting, with lots of things to see and taste. It was an excellent little slice of Asia.”-Nick

“Being able to participate in the Asian Festival was both a fun-filled and culturally enriching activity. I was not only able to know the different food, music, dance and cultures of other Asian countries but we were able to raise awareness in a creative manner about children and mothers from the Philippines that are suffering from cancer. It feels good to help raise funds for their treatment and at the same time share the wonderful works of AAI.”-Lalai

May 31, 2011

China's largest inland lake dries up as country battles drought

China's largest inland lake has disappeared in worst drought to hit the centre and east of the country for more than half a century.

China's largest inland lake dries up as country battles drought
A fishing boat is stranded on the grass lake bed of Poyang Lake Photo: ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images

The volume of water in Poyang lake in Jiangxi province, normally 100 miles-long and 10 miles-wide, is now a tenth of its normal level, according to Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency.

Fishing boats and house boats have been left stranded on a vast stretch of the lake bed, now a lush grassland.

The drought, which has seen no rainfall for two months, has struck the central Chinese provinces that are known as the country's "home of rice and fish".

Almost half of all the country's rice fields have been affected and four million people do not have access to drinking water.

At Honghu Lake, in Hubei province, fish farmers have seen 80 per cent of their stocks die. "More than 20,000 acres of fish farms have been severely damaged," said Zou Haibin, the local Communist party secretary in Dianhe, to Xinhua.

"I was born in 1967 and have never seen anything like this," added Li Liangjun, a fish farmer in Dianhe. "Even my father has never seen anything like it. It has not rained for nearly three months".

The drought has pushed up vegetable prices in major cities by as much as 30 per cent, and the government has warned that if it continues it may have an effect on this year's rice harvest.

However, the Chinese weather bureau has warned there is no rain in sight and that it expects the drought to continue until early June.

Also of note, see this link:

Apr 20, 2011

China in Focus 30 - Easter: Remembering China's Persecuted Christians

This week, Christians around the world will celebrate and observe Holy Week in preparation for Easter Sunday. In the People's Republic of China, authorities have increased pressure on Christians who refuse to subject their faith to atheist government control. In major cities and numerous provinces, authorities have forcibly dispersed and detained people who gathered privately to worship.

The very fact that there are a growing number of Believers and churches across China is symbolic of the resilience of the human spirit. Following the Communist victory in 1949, the Mao Tse Tung regime launched a brutal campaign to eliminate religious belief regardless of the Faith. Christians, whose belief in the Son of God was perceived by Mao as a threat to his own cult of personality, were especially targeted. Speaking to Western visitors in 1958, when the government had closed all visible churches, Mao's wife, Jiang Qing, boasted, "Christianity in China has been confined to the history section of museums. It is dead and buried." In the 1970s,following the Cultural Revolution, a visiting delegation from the United States reported, "There is not a single Christian left in China."

However, the radical communists underestimated the power of the human spirit. In 2008, the Chinese Government publicly estimated that there are 20 million Protestants and 10 million Catholics registered in government sanctioned churches. Unofficial estimates reveal that 65 million Protestants and 12 million Catholics risk incarceration by practicing their Faith, especially since most choose to worship in "unregistered" churches.

Intensifying the threat to Believers, the Jasmine evolution in the Middle East along with growing fears of social unrest in China have led to a worsening climate of persecution. The China Aid Association reports a fifth straight year of worsening religious persecution. In 2010, incidence of persecution rose by 17 percent over the 2009 total. The greatest increase was among those who were detained.

On Saturday, April 16, an outdoor service held by a large Christian congregation in Beijing's Haidian Park was broken up by authorities. Two pastors, Join Tian Ming and Li Xiao Bai and his wife were arrested. But the repercussions for Christians are not limited to Government police action. Human rights group China Aid reports on their website:

"Meanwhile, many members of the Shouwang Church, one of Beijing's largest house churches with about 1,000 members, have been forced out of their homes by landlords who have come under intense pressure to evict them, and others have been fired from their jobs for worshipping at Shouwang Church, according to a church leader."

The persistence of millions of Chinese people to suffer and abide by their Faith is a resilient symbol of Hope during these historic times that challenge humanity at all levels of society. The stubborn persistence of these uncompromising Christian Believers is an unwavering commitment to life. Liu Zhen Ying, known as Brother Yun, has survived numerous arrests, torture and denial of his most basic human rights, yet he persists as an unbroken man of Faith and Hope. In his book, The Heavenly Man, on page 66, Brother Yun cites the verse of the Biblical Psalm he repeated over and over in the torture isolation chamber to withstand the desolation and pain:

"Even in darkness, light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man... Surely, he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever. He will have no fear of bad new; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes." Psalm: 11.2, 6-8.

At this time of transcendence, when people around the world celebrate the Resurrection of Christ rooted in love and forgiveness, we should remember the religious believers in China. Whether Falun Gong, Buddhist, Muslims or Christians their courage and sacrifice, although often in the silence, are a testimony of strength and courage that should empower us all.

Mar 28, 2011

Spring announces itself in DC...

pink buds awaken

fragrant cherry blossom wafts

scent of winter's end

Mar 24, 2011

Vote for Semi-finalist Albert Santoli to be a member of the Energizer Hall of Fame! (Version française)

Albert Santoli
habite à Oakton, VA, travaille à Washington, DC

Docteurs ont constaté qu’Albert Santoli est handicapé pour 100% à cause des blessures de guerre et de maladie terminale conséquente. Cependant, il est le fondateur et président de ‘Asia America Initiative (AAI)’, une organisation à but non-lucratif qui soutient la paix et le développement du sens de communauté aux régions de l’Asie fortement appauvries et déchirées par la guerre.
Après les attaques terroristes du 11 Septembre, il a abandonné une position confortable au gouvernement américain pour établir son organisation pacifiste et anti-terroriste, commençant aux régions tribales des Philippines, où les plans pour plusieurs attaques terroristes contre les États-Unis étaient faits. Après avoir vaincu le cancer de foie en 2009, Monsieur Santoli a refus de capituler et a rassemblé et distribué de l’appui médical et éducatif privé avec une valeur de plus de 70 million de dollars américains. Avec ces initiatives, qui n’ont pas reçues de fonds du gouvernement des États-Unis, il a sauvé des milliers de gens et amélioré les vies de plus de 1,3 million d’enfants et jeunes.
AAI soutient l’éducation publique en améliorant l’infrastructure des écoles, en fournissant des livres et d’autres ressources et en offrant des bourses d’éducation pour protéger les enfants contre le recrutement par les organisations terroristes. Albert n’a pas influencé des vies seulement aux Philippines, il a aussi servi comme tuteur pour plus de 120 étudiants universitaires américains et étrangers, leur apprenant comment conduire des opérations humanitaires et soutenir le développement sur le niveau de base.
Les efforts inlassables de Mr. Santoli soutenant des milliers d’enfants qui sont redoutés et abandonnés par la majeure partie du monde, montrent comment on peut tourner des vies s’il y a quelqu’un qui refuse de perdre l’espoir.

Nous invitons tout le monde de soutenir Mr. Santoli et AAI par voter pour lui par le site Web du ‘Energizer Hall of Fame 2011’ ou la page consacrée de Facebook. Vous pouvez trouver un lien direct vers la page de vote ici. Ensemble nous pouvons y arriver!

Mar 21, 2011

"Google claims China attacked Gmail to suppress dissidents


The preemptive attacks by the Chinese government on Google email users apparently shows their fear that the many demonstrations that have occurred in the countryside -- which are largely unreported or unseen by outsiders -- could become a prominent issue in urban areas, as well.


Google and China's icy relationship hasn't exactly warmed in recent weeks. On Sunday, Google accused China of sabotaging connections to its webmail client Gmail to prevent unrest.

Multiple sources quoted a Google spokesperson's statement to the AFP, in which they said, "Relating to Google there is no issue on our side. We have checked extensively. This is a government blockage carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail."

That statement followed an earlier blog posting in which Google stated that a major country was using an MHTML flaw in Internet Explorer to attack activists. Writes Google security team members Chris Evans, Robert Swiecki, Michal Zalewski, and Billy Rios:

We’ve noticed some highly targeted and apparently politically motivated attacks against our users. We believe activists may have been a specific target. We’ve also seen attacks against users of another popular social site. All these attacks abuse a publicly-disclosed MHTML vulnerability for which an exploit was publicly posted in January 2011. Users browsing with the Internet Explorer browser are affected.
Google is upset because the loss of service both adversely affects its customers and its advertising partners -- its primary source of revenue.

China is being highly cautious in the wake of public unrest in North Africa and the Middle East. Disgruntled citizens flocked to the internet to create "Jasmine rallies", protest events that were planned in major cities for each Sunday. However, thanks to China's crackdown on internet communications, the rallies have thus far failed to materialize, according to U.S. reporters.

The Chinese government is also being cautious, as the Parliament's 10-day annual session has just ended. Typically this is the most heated time of year in China as people voice complaints about Parliamentary decisions.

Google and China have endured a rocky partnership. While Android is selling millions of smart phones in China and while Google Search remains the second most used search engine in the world's most populous nation, the pair have frequently been at odds. Google has accused the Chinese government of allowing hackers to steal parts of its source code, and even alluded that the government itself might be behind those efforts.

Last year Google temporarily uncensored its search in response to these attacks, and was promptly kicked out of China's webspace. Google eventually agreed to re-censor the search results, but it remains more liberal in its allowances.

China's largest search engine is Baidu, a local firm. The Chinese government recently launched its own search engine, Panguso, in a joint venture with telecom giant China Mobile. That search engine, which features even more strictly censored results, has yet to gain significant market share.

The people of China have used proxies to escape the oppressive censorship of the government. However, the Chinese government -- along with its crackdown of Gmail -- has silenced many of these proxy services in recent weeks. The Chinese government also blocked a Google tool designed to allow people to find loved ones in Japan in the wake of the earthquake. Chinese authorities appeared to believe that the tool could be used to organize protests.


Mar 17, 2011

Vote for Semi-finalist Albert Santoli to be a member of the Energizer Hall of Fame!

Albert Santoli
lives Oakton, VA, works Washington DC

Doctors have diagnosed Albert Santoli as a 100 percent terminally disabled veteran from war wounds and subsequent illness. However, he is the Founder and President of Asia America Initiative (AAI), a charitable non-profit organization that promote peace and community development in war-torn and highly impoverished areas of Asia.
Following 9/11 terror attacks, he gave up a comfortable position in government to form his peace building counter-terrorist organization, starting in tribal areas of the Philippines, where some of the terror attacks against the US had been planned. Since surviving liver cancer in 2009, rather than quit and although receiving no funding from US Government, Mr. Santoli has collected and distributed more than 70 million dollars’ worth of private live saving medical and educational support that has improved the lives of over 1.3 million children and young adults.
AAI supports public education through improving school infrastructure, providing books and other resources, and offering scholarships to rescue children from the clutches of terrorists. Not only is Albert making an impact on lives in the Philippines, he has also served as a mentor to more than 120 college students from America and abroad to teach them how to conduct humanitarian operations and promote development at a grassroots level. Mr. Santoli's tireless efforts in support of thousands of children who most of the world fears and would give no chance for better lives, show how lives can be turned around when someone who cares refuses to give up.

We call upon everyone to support Mr. Santoli and AAI by voting for him through the Energizer Hall of Fame 2011 website or the dedicated Facebook page. A direct link to the voting page can be found here. Together we can make it to the top 10 finalists!

Mar 15, 2011

Saudi and UAE troops invade Bahrain

- Gulf Region: battleground for Sunni - Shi’a rivalry.

- Bahrain: 70% Shi’as, run by a Sunni monarchy.

- UAE and Saudi Arabia: 85-90% Sunni's; governments are allies of the US.

- Iran (Shi'a) supports Bahrain protesters.

Read the article 'Bahrain declares state of emergency; new clashes erupt' on

Mar 10, 2011

Lethal Illusion: China's bubble economy

China's latest aircraft carrier

Is it possible that Chinese government in its pursuit to overcome its economic competitors in Asia and the West has copied the same systematic mistakes that led to the economic meltdown of the past five years? The rapid rise of the Chinese has fuelled the imagination of economic speculators who have predicted the dominance of the Middle Kingdom in the next century. Indeed, the thriving Chinese economy is flexing its newfound muscles in both financial and military sectors. The Chinese military budget has seen double-digit increases for the past decade. However, the dramatic paranoid reaction to a feared "jasmine Revolution" on China's own soil betrays the Chinese government's external swagger, as well as a fear of its own population. The Washington Post reported that:

"At least 100 activists have been rounded up, and some have been charged with 'crimes' that could lead to multi-year prison sentences. Three lawyers who did nothing but peacefully attempt to hold China to its own laws - Tang Jitian, Teng Biao and Jiang Tianyong - have been 'disappeared' by security agents, who took them away about three weeks ago and have yet to charge them or disclose where they are being held. Equally lawless, even under Chinese law, is the continuing house arrest of Liu Xia, the wife of imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo" (read more)

For 2011, the Chinese Government has recently announced a 12.7% increase in military spending which means the official spending of People's Liberation Army (PLA) currently stands at $91 billion. Yet, this huge amount revealed by the Chinese government does not reflect the actual military spending of the country. The full amount spent on the military that remains undeclared. The high degree of opaqueness and secrecy in military spending has caused fear and mistrust with regional neighbors, ensuing an arms race which has seen countries like Japan and Australia acquiring advanced military technology to balance the Chinese military might. In the words of a Southeast Asian country's defense attache in Beijing:

"[China] say thir strategy is peaceful development, but their military modernization, especially in the naval area, speaks another language." (read more)

In fact, the Chinese Navy's harassment of two Philippines patrol boats within Philippines waters which are believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits in March 2011 showed that the fears of China's regional neighbours are more real than imaginary (Wall Street Journal, March 2011).

Economists and bankers are warning that the glittering prosperity of China might be nothing more than an illusion. Apart from their high military spending, China's drive for modernity also consists of expanding their high-speed railway system and big ticket housing and commercial real estate construction projects that are largely empty do not benefit the Chinese people.

"Far from an economic powerhouse, China's economy remains a middleweight when its vast number of poor people is taken into account - the country's per capita GDP is only around US$4,500, 1/10th that of the U.S. As a share of the economy, household incomes have actually declined over the past decade. The problems will only get worse as China's massive population starts to age rapidly over the next decade. With almost nothing in the way of health insurance, welfare or a social safety net for retirement, Chinese feel pressure to save every penny that earn. At the same time, official policies that favour Chinese banks and exporters - namely artifically low interest rates, an undervalued yuan and cheap labour - come at the expense of household savers. Shanghai economist Andy Xie has cited local media reports that some 65 million urban homes reported zero electricity consumption over a six-month period, suggesting there are enough vacant homes in China to house 200 million people. China continues to build new steel mills, cement factories and aluminum smelters even though up to one-third of exisiting plants sit idle" (read more)

New construction, snapped up by speculators, stands empty in one of China's "ghost towns"

Critics of China's high-speed railway system that costs $274 billion have also pointed out that the high construction costs meant that high-speed rail tickets will have to be priced so high that they will be out of the reach of most Chinese. The huge budget set aside for the development of the high-speed railway system also provides Chinese officials ample opportunities to enrich themselves, given the high cottuption rate within the governing and patronage system. All these signs point to growth that is designed to awe the rest of the world but otherwise does not benefit the Chinese population. The dichotomy between the illusion of prosperity and the lack of real advancement of the Chinese people - including the burst if the economic bubble economy - may cause a serious crisis that may cause the rest of the world to feel the pain, as well.

Mar 1, 2011

Philippine Ambassador Willie Gaa receives Humanitarian Award from Asia America Initiative

On February 24, 2011 at the Philippine Embassy to the United States, outgoing Philippine Ambassador the Hon. Willie Gaa received a Certificate of Honor from the non-governmental organization Asia-America Initiative for outstanding Humanitarian Achievements during his diplomatic service in Washington

Between 2008 and 2011, Ambassador Gaa and the Philippine Embassy consular and military attaché office partnered with Asia-America Initiative to provide more than 50 million dollars of humanitarian medical and educational supplies which directly improved or saved the lives of more than 1.5 million indigent children in areas of severe poverty and armed conflict. Programs included emergency relief for refugees displaced by terrorism and war, victims of floods and other natural disasters, cancer victims and others suffering from rare diseases, health and nutritional support, clean water and a unique Gardens of Peace program as a form of conflict prevention.

Asia-America Initiative President Albert Santoli and Board Member Ms. Bing Cardenas Branigin presented the award to Ambassador Gaa. “The relationship between AAI and Ambassador Gaa and his staff, representing the Philippine government and people, demonstrates the highly effective service that can result from a partnership between non-profit organizations and altruistic public servants, “Mr. Santoli stated. “We will miss Ambassador Gaa’s presence in Washington, but will always consider him and his staff to be close friends and exemplary professional partners who helped make a difference by improving countless lives. We will always be grateful.”

Feb 24, 2011

Operation Sulu Rescue: Perceptions of an Intern

For five weeks, all has been still. Though kept occupied by our tasks researching current social, economic, medical, and natural developments in the Philippines and in the broader Southeast-Asian sphere, the interns in the Washington, D.C. office have not been laboring at a frantic pace. Until now.

Though floodwaters have since receded following torrents of rain earlier this month, the southern-most Filipino provincial island chain of Sulu has an extremely long road to full recovery. The concern of the locals is no longer drowning, but that of an unseen rising tide nonetheless. Though precautions may be made, there is no guarantee against contraction. Without access to adequate sanitation, mosquito netting and repellant, and water-purification equipment, mosquito-borne endemics such as malaria and dengue fever as well as cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever, may take root and decimate the indigenous population.

Unique to each illness is an underlying culprit, spread by means independent of their human hosts. Female mosquitoes deposit eggs into pools of non-moving water, which then hatch into larvae, remain dormant as pupae, and within a time span of about one week hatch and emerge as adult mosquitoes. At some point a parasitic protist of the genus Plasmodium infects the adult mosquito, and may then be transmitted to a human, causing malaria. The mosquito may also insert its proboscis into a person who has a serotype of the Dengue fever virus, and then transmit the virus to other people. Cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever are all caused by the bacteria Vibrio cholerae, of the genus Shigella, or Salmonella enterica, respectively, spread by the consumption of contaminated water, food, or direct contraction via bodily fluids. Such maladies are increasingly difficult to avoid after flooding because proper sanitation and hygiene practices literally cannot be enacted—the rising waters had carried with them human and animal waste and rubbish, polluting everything in their path. Wells were filled with sewage or runoff from what was once on the ground, and small tributaries were simmering pools of floating refuse. And as the floodwaters evaporated or were drained, left behind were literally millions of areas of stagnant water, from old tires to puddles—the breeding ground for female mosquitoes.

Imperative to the effort of disease-prevention is immediate action by the local people to stifle the spread before it becomes an epidemic. But with their clean water infrastructure contaminated, the only sources of fuel to burn and boil water wet, and homes destroyed, we at Asia America Initiative sought to do as much as we could in order to assist our Filipino brethren before diseases carved their niche and began to take their toll on the hapless men, women, and children of Sulu. AmeriCares of Stamford, Connecticut was contacted with regards to an endeavor entitled ‘Operation Sulu Rescue’, an emergency intervention of hygiene kits (soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, shampoo, and towels), pails, dry blankets, plastic sheets for temporary shelters, and water purification tablets to not only thwart the spread of disease, but also to bring a sense of normality to those who lost everything.

Our contact in the Philippines, Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman, had sent us the following statistics:

Total Families Affected: 4,816 (approximately 24,247)

Number of Deaths: 6

Number of Injured: 147

Destroyed Homes: 3

Partially-Damaged Homes: 1,454

At first AAI planned to ship the roughly five pallets of emergency supplies by air, but the 9,000-mile trip would be prohibitively expensive with AAI’s pitiful operating budget. Thus, it was decided that said supplies would be purchased in the Philippines with a donation from AmeriCares, supplemented with an input of capital from an amount that was set-aside for just such an emergency from a 2010 grant, courtesy of the government of Norway. The medical and sanitation supplies would then be transported by boat and by land caravan to their ultimate destinations, the counties of Jolo and Patikul.

As of 15:00 EST, we have sent a request but are awaiting an approval of our funding request from AmeriCares.

Thank you to all of those who have contributed and who are considering donating to the ongoing work of Asia America Initiative.

Feb 18, 2011

Asia in Focus 29 - Keeping our promise: return to Isabela

Changing weather patterns across the world have increased the intensity of storms and conversely, drought, in some of the most vital food production areas of the Asia-Pacific region. These natural disaster trends pose the risk of civil and international rivalries and conflict.

In December 2010, Asia America Initiative conducted an emergency needs assessment in the "rice bowl" area of the northern Philippines, which had been severely damaged by Typhoon Juan [codenamed Megi].
We found houses reduced to piles of wood, schools without roofs and textbooks destroyed, children without shoes and as far as the eye could see, once productive corn and rice fields rendered barren.

There was little outside intervention present. Communities felt abandoned but were not giving up. We started with small gifts of basic medicines and toys - such as plastic sort-of soccer balls - to make a difference in the children's lives. We promised to return. And on February 16, 2011 we kept our promise. A 20 foot, ten-wheeled truck carried around a half-million dollars of hospital equipment, school supplies, toys and sanitation equipment for the 12 hour drive through the Cordilleras mountains to Isabela Province.

AAI synchronized and coordinated the partnership between on-site and international humanitarian and environmental organizations, provincial government officials, private businesses and pharmaceutical companies, the Philippine military and the Philippine Department of Health, Customs and Foreign Ministry, as well as the U.S. and Philippine Departments of Agriculture. The desperate plight of between 300,000 and 2 million persons directly and indirectly victimized by the storms spurred all participants to voluntary action. A spirit of goodwill overcame the lack of financial resources by all partners and significantly deterred corruption and mismanagement.

Feb 10, 2011

Food prices rise due to climate and food insecurity

Rising food prices threaten social, economic and political instability across the world. The sharp increase of related inflation in India and China exemplify this disturbing trend worldwide. Climate patterns in consumer and producer countries such as Russia, Australia, Brazil, Vietnam and the US are seen by scientists as a long term reality. Even in China the expanding Gobi desert is wiping out essential wheat producing areas and in the South the melting of the Himalayan ice cap is creating irrigation nightmares. For example China's reaction of damming the Himalayan-based rivers threatens India, Vietnam, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia and Pakistan. This trend, although humanitarian and economic at face value more dangerously, has a profound impact on political and social stability. The following articles emphasize the major powers of Asia. However, food shortages and rising prices have already caused riots and revolutions across the African continent.

Read 'Inflation Worries Spread: China Raises Rates Amid Hit to Wheat Crop'

In the meanwhile India is being hit exceptionally hard by the surging food prices. Prime minister Manmohan Singh has warned that the country's rapid economic growth - GDP grew by 8,5% in 2010 - is under serious threat from inflation mounting up to 8,4%. He considers getting this inflation under control as a matter of urgency, raising the prospect of an 8th interest rate rise in under 12 months. Especially the food price inflation of 17% is considered to be unsustainable. 'Inflation poses a serious threat to the growth momentum. Whatever be the cause, the fact remains that inflation is something which needs to be tackled with great urgency', Singh stated.

Analysts believe that surging food and oil prices mean that India's central bank may have to raise interest rates before its next policy meeting, which is scheduled for March 17th. India's stock market has fallen this year on fears that high inflation will scare off foreign investors. Also wages are on the rise as workers demand pay that keeps up with the cost of living.

Read 'India's economic growth under 'threat' from inflation'

The last article about mounting religious turmoil in the Indian region of Kerala is an example of how the double impact of rising food prices and latent religious conflict can result into a situation of spiraling violence amongst otherwise peaceful communities.

Read 'In a pluralistic part of India, fears of rising Islamic extremism'