By Maria Saporta
The 6th annual Atlanta Summit on Global Health became a reunion of the past and present leaders of CARE – the Atlanta-based international relief organization.
Helene Gayle, CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based McKinsey Social Initiative, had helped launch the annual Global Health Summit when she was running CARE for a decade until 2015 – nearly two years ago.
Her successor, Michelle Nunn, joined CARE as its CEO in 2015.
Both of them shared the stage at the Ritz Carlton Buckhead for the all-day Summit on Monday, May 8 – demonstrating their respect for each other.
“Helene has left an extraordinary mark on CARE,” Nunn said, elaborating that Gayle had really steered the nonprofit to focus on the needs of women and girls. “There are enormous humanitarian challenges in the world. I’m overwhelmed every day.”
For example, Nunn said there 65 million people around the world who have been displaced from their homes. She also was appreciative that the U.S. Congress recently appropriated more than $1 billion to be invested in areas and situations facing difficult circumstances.
Gayle complimented Nunn in all the travel she has made to the world’s trouble spots.
Nunn just returned from Nepal, Bangledesh and India – describing how important it is to tailor social services and aid to each particular country.
On May 22, there will be a CARE Action Network to focus on the need for federal funding to address some of the most serious problems facing humanity.
“A lot of things we have advocated for are at risk,” Gayle said. “There was just the narrow passing of a budget that did not make some of the cuts we were anticipating.”
But Nunn said the challenges remain.
“We live in political moments all the time, but there’s never been a more important political moment than where we are today,” Nunn said. “We are citizens of America, but we are also advocates for people who don’t have a voice.”
She said we as a nation need to have a modern day version of the Marshall Plan to address issues, such as the refugee crisis.
“We can’t forsake our leadership,” Nunn said, adding that there needs to be a bi-partisan way for a “huge call the action.”
Gayle, who jokingly said she wanted to launch a “Nunn for President” campaign, said U.S. international aid is a “paltry amount that we give, but it makes such a difference in people’s lives.”
Earlier, Anne Schuchat, acting director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said her great aunt Bessie died in childbirth, which ignited her interest in becoming a physician.
“Worldwide, the odds are getting better for women,” Schuchat said. Still, about 300,000 women across the globe die each year in childbirth. “In 2017, most of these deaths could have been prevented. We can make progress. We have seen a 46 percent decline in teen pregnancy.”
Later she said that “having babies is one of the most dangerous things women do,” but there are “massive improvements in medical care” that could have a major impact.
Other challenges that exist include the growing number of young women contracting HIV and the AIDS virus. Also road safety is an important issue impacting women and girls, with nearly half of those deaths occurring to pedestrians, cyclists and motorcycles.
Schuchat then closed her comments by saying that when girls and women are healthier, communities are healthier and safer.
The Summit also featured others who have been working in the field for decades.
Beatriz Perez, the Coca-Cola Co.’s officer for public affairs, communications and sustainability, reminded people of why philanthropy has been channeling their support to women and girls.
When a woman gets $1, she gives over 90 cents of the dollar to her children, family and community. But when a man gets a dollar, he used to spend 60 cents on others, but now that’s dropped to 40 cents, Perez said.
Meanwhile, Perez credited Helene Gayle – who serves as a director on the Coca-Cola Co.’s board – for keeping these issues “top of mind” within the company.
“The role the private sector can play is big,” she said. “We can bring money to the table, but we can’t do it alone.”
The Summit is put on through a partnership between the World Affairs Council of Atlanta, the Center for Strategic & International Studies and CARE. Several other entities also participate as sponsors and cooperating organizations – making it one of the largest local gatherings focusing on global health each year.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who had just come back from a visit to CapeTown, South Africa, where he said he was building on the foundation built by former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young.
“We have a genuine opportunity consistent with the work that Ambassador Young started for Atlanta to be the gateway to the African continent,” Reed said in an interview. “The city is so well known because of its civil rights history…. Andrew Young, for my entire time in office, has encouraged me to be that link.”