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Sustainability Vs. Urgent Utility



“Our international partner organization has been heavily funding our health projects, even purchasing medications and fuel to power our water wells, but the entire health ministry is on hard times nevertheless.” My colleagues in southern Africa continue, “As the national economy goes, so goes life for us all. And at this moment, both are spiraling downward.”


What’s this? An outside organization funding ongoing healthcare year after year in a developing nation? Isn’t such a practice antithetical to all the principles of sustainability, self-sufficiency, and independence – precepts held so dearly and preached so emphatically by we in the international health community?


The reality is that sustainability must constantly be balanced with urgent utility; the commitment to principle held in check by the needs of the moment. When a child is thirsty and dehydrated, for example, shall we in healthcare say, “I apologize that we can’t give you water. We’ve no money for diesel to pump from our wells, and we refuse to accept available outside donations because it’s against our ethics.” May it never be that a child is turned away thirsty when we have a solution, even a temporary one, that can preserve her life today.


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