Five years, five wishes
This is one of my favorite photos: the joy and playfulness of these children is a great reminder of why we do what we do! Photo credit: PATH.
In our last post, Deb talked about the exciting yet intimidating early days of the DefeatDD initiative that in many ways mirror the emotions of new, first-time parents. Since we've started our DefeatDD 5th birthday series, I've been reflective about the big hopes and dreams we had at our inception, and feeling amazed and grateful by how much we've accomplished with your help.
Because it's too hard to resist such an obvious hook, I am presenting five wishes from five years ago that have come to fruition in some surprising and unexpected ways.
Wish #1: “Decision makers have a basic awareness about the solutions against diarrheal disease so they know where to invest resources.”
We started at square one in a lot of ways. My first task on the DefeatDD team (before we even had a name!) was to assist the late-stage production and launch event for our report, “Diarrheal Disease: Solutions to Defeat a Global Killer.” We produced the report because we sensed the global health community lacked a quick and compelling reference guide on the prevention and treatment solutions for diarrhea as a technical and advocacy resource.
Today, we primarily use the DefeatDD website and social media deliver this information, but it's been illuminating to track global progress through the need to repeatedly update that first report. Fewer children are dying from diarrhea today than ever before. We went from saying that rotavirus vaccines “will soon be available” in high disease burden countries, to saying that, with assistance from groups like Gavi, children in 70+ countries are vaccinated against rotavirus, the most lethal form of diarrhea. Not only are decision makers more aware of the solutions against diarrhea; they see the benefit of investing in them, too.
Wish #2: “Integration of prevention and treatment solutions to address diarrheal disease is written into global policy guidance and implemented in field programs.”
It was such a perfect wish fulfillment that it may as well have been gift-wrapped: The Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea, the first-ever global plan to simultaneously tackle two leading killer diseases of children, was published by UNICEF and WHO in 2013. Talk about a huge check mark for our team objectives. But this accomplishment is just the beginning, and we look forward to helping country champions advocate for the rollout of the new global strategy in their local contexts. For more on why integrating pneumonia and diarrhea efforts makes sense, check out Lauren's blog post.
Wish #3: “So-called ‘unsexy' issues like diarrhea and sanitation get time in the spotlight.”
The UN officially designated November 19th as World Toilet Day in July 2013. Even more recently, the UN dedicated a campaign to ending open defecation. And Matt Damon, one of our favorite celebrities, used the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to draw attention to the water and sanitation crisis in a pretty epic way. We've said from the beginning: If we can't talk about diarrhea, we can't defeat it. We're lucky to have these key influencers in our corner.
Wish #4: “When people think of diarrhea advocacy, they think of DefeatDD.”
“What is DefeatDD doing for World Toilet Day?” It's not unusual for messages like these to start showing up in my inbox as early as August. And in recent years they've become more specific: “Are you doing the Poo Haiku Contest again this year? How about the toilet calendar?” In advance of the many global health observances that fall in November (like World Pneumonia Day and, yes, World Toilet Day), it's become a tradition for DefeatDD to sponsor a campaign in October, and to know that it has become something our audience looks forward to is wonderful and gratifying. When it comes to conversations about diarrheal disease, we set out to be inescapable, in the best possible way! And you, supporters of our cheeky campaigns, have enabled us to help move the needle in the child health conversations we care about most. (Suggestions for a 2015 campaign? You know where to find us!)
Wish #5: “We want caregivers everywhere to feel supported and empowered.”
Everywhere starts here. Since DefeatDD's inception, we've gained several new little lives (like Nate, Cody, and Hazel!) from whom to draw inspiration on the days we need aboost. Even after years of working on this issue, I felt a new sense of urgency about the work that I do when my niece, Lily, was born. My heart broke thinking about how she could have struggled had she been born in a context of poor nutrition or lack of access to basic care. I couldn't imagine my sister having to bear that burden; I can't imagine any mother having to lose a child from a preventable cause. “The Extraordinary Healing Power of Mom” remains one of our most popular videos, and I think it's because this strikes a common chord. As more of us on the DefeatDD team become mothers and aunts, we feel even stronger sense of solidarity with and commitment to caregivers around the world.
On behalf of children around the world who are happy and healthy due to simple interventions, thanks for helping make our wishes come true. Here's to five more years and many more wishes to come!
Other posts in the DefeatDD fifth birthday series:
-- Back to the birth of our movement: Five reasons the birth of the DefeatDD movement made us all feel like first-time parents. Deb would know: she just became one!
-- How DefeatDD broke my poo taboo: "Are those toilets on your office wall? DefeatDD newcomer Elayna had explaining to do to friends and family.
-- From pneumonia to poo-monia: Lauren remembers when her job turned to shit... the fight against it, that is. Pneumonia and diarrhea advocacy may not be such an unlikely alliance after all.
-- Take this job -- and LOVE it: Why DefeatDD's director says she has the greatest job in the world.
-- What it means to be five: Allison's son, Nate, also turns five years old this year, and he taught his mom some important things about this big milestone.
-- DefeatDD is five years old: And we wouldn't be here without you!