And so a New Year begins: a time to make resolutions and face the future with a clean slate, ready to write a better narrative. Maybe this is the year you will get that promotion or lose those 10 pounds or spend more time with your children. I encourage you to nurture such hope. From it can spring the flower of positive change.
At the same time, we realize that the New Year begins amid many problems around the world.
You are aware of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and how Catholic Relief Services—with your help—is responding to thousands of people affected by this deadly virus. Children who are now orphans need our support, and the virus has dealt a major blow to economies still recovering from years of war. These effects will be felt for a long time to come.
Beyond West Africa, we can point to crises in other countries, including Syria, Iraq and Central African Republic. Violence rooted in politics has taken on religious dimensions, forcing millions of people from their homes.
Then there’s South Sudan, the world’s newest nation. Fighting there is entering its second year and making it difficult to get support to those who need it the most.
Such tough challenges can make you wonder if New Year’s Day really marks the beginning of something new or just a recurrence of old problems.
But you are making a difference, and progress against malaria is one example of that. The World Malaria Report 2014 shows that the incidence of this disease dropped by 30% from 2000 to 2013. Mortality rates have declined by 47% worldwide and by 54% in Africa. Among children under age 5, the mortality rate declined by 53% worldwide and by 58% in Africa.
Your support of CRS has made you a part of this. We have distributed millions of insecticide-treated bed nets to keep mosquitoes away from pregnant women and young children. We have shown people how to use the nets, and explained the symptoms of malaria. We have helped them access proper treatment.
Malaria killed more than 600,000 people—most of them children in Africa under age 5—in 2013. Not long ago, it was believed to be unconquerable—too widespread among a population that is too poor to interest drug companies in working on a vaccine or cure. But the concern and compassion you have shown proved that theory wrong. Even as research ramps up in the laboratories, CRS and others in the fight against malaria are helping to save tens of thousands of lives.
So we know that the work we do together has made a difference, and will continue to make a difference in 2015 and beyond. As we have made progress against malaria, we will also with Ebola. And we will continue to foster peace and justice among the people we work with in Central African Republic, South Sudan, the Middle East and in all of the 93 countries where we serve.
God has entrusted this work to us and we must carry it out. January 1 is the World Day of Peace, when the Holy Father calls on us to recommit ourselves to seeing that God’s peace reigns in the world. If it did, there would be no problems in South Sudan, the Central African Republic or the Middle East. If peace had reigned in West Africa, then its health systems might have been able to contain Ebola quickly.
So let us look to the New Year with the optimism that comes from a bountiful God. He has given us what we need to make the world into his peaceable kingdom. The rest is up to us.
May blessings overflow,
Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
President & CEO
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