On September 12th Advance played host to a panel of three impressive and altruistic Australians working within the humanitarian field; Dr Peter Salama (Child Survival and Immunization Unit Health Section, UNICEF), Dr Richard Brennan (Director Health Programs, International Rescue Committee), Ms Michelle Brown (Senior Advocate and UN Representative Refugees International) and guest moderator Mrs. Diana Hill (Special Representative to UNICEF in New York).
Over fifty members attended, and were privy to learn of the successes and obstacles facing Government, NGOs and advocacy groups today. 
Dr Peter Salama informed members that the major cause of death within war-torn regions was not in fact due to weapon related injuries as many may have thought, rather high mortality rates are due to people being unable to access clean and sanitized water, resulting in fatal cases of diarrhea and measles. Shockingly, in the case of Afghanistan during 2001, these were responsible for 31% and 21% of deaths respectively.
Reinforcing the importance of sanitization, Dr Richard Brennan’s group, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), directs 25% of their funds towards providing healthcare and clean water around the globe. Unlike aid agencies that are focused on dealing with emergency crises, such as Medicins Sans Frontieres and the Red Cross, the IRC works with effected communities and regions for an average of 9-10 years. With operations in 25 countries, it is an organization geared towards enabling people to rebuild their lives by providing education, training and economic assistance.
Despite the picture looking somewhat bleak for countries in the African, Middle-Eastern and South-East Asian regions, Michelle Diana hill (special representative to unicef in new york) & keren davies (australian mission to the un advisor)Brown reminded us that people can make a difference. In the case of Darfur, huge campaigning efforts from advocate organizations including Refugees International, politicians and individuals writing letters to newspapers and media, the world witnessed a recent ceasefire in Darfur, which may not have occurred had it not been for their efforts. Michelle was keen to remind attendees of the power of the press, highlighting the problem with Chad and the lack of interest from the world press to profile the crisis; the importance of rallying local politicians and leaders cannot be underestimated, as it is these simple efforts that brings these matters to the world’s attention.
Mr. Robert Hill, Australian Ambassador to the United Nations, ended the session noting evenings like it are essential to not only recognize the tremendous work that Australians abroad have accomplished, but to remind us of what we can do to help.

Audio from the evening is available for you to download: