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Africare Gala Puts Africa in Spotlight

Barrington M. Salmon | 4/24/2013, 9 p.m.
Dr. Darius Mans (right), president of Africare, presents Dr. Mo Ibrahim with the 2013 Africare Leadership Award as Stephen D. Chashin (left), Interim Board Chairman and Dinner Chairman, watches on Saturday April 20, 2013, at the Hilton Washington Hotel in Washington. Photo by Roy Lewis

Defying Expectations.

These words – emblazoned on the front page of Africare's 2013 annual report – embody the organization's 40-year quest to present an African reality to the world that is fact not fiction.

On Saturday, April 20, more than 1,500 guests at the Bishop John T. Walker Memorial Dinner heard from speakers as varied as President Barack Obama, former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva, Africare President Darius Mans, corporate leaders and diplomats who lauded Africare for the work it has done on the continent.

"In this report, we aim to defy your expectations by sharing the Africa that we know. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 11 of the world's 25 fastest growing economies. It is where farmers are multiplying crop yields, where women are becoming leaders, where babies are born healthy – where development is taking hold. Africa ... demands that the world leave the perceptions of last century behind and take a fresh look," according to the annual report.

"Tonight, we celebrate the 43rd anniversary of Africare," said Mans during an interview prior to the gala. "We've invested $1 billion across the continent for food security and to develop active lives. The big challenge is how do you scale this up, replicate it into strong organizations, increase robust organizations ... and make investments in the infrastructure."

Africare has helped eradicate polio in Angola; developed a national malaria prevention plan in Benin; cooperates closely with the South African government to combat the AIDS epidemic in that country; helped a women's cooperate in Chad get into the global market to sell the Shea butter products they produced; and is deeply involved in bolstering food security for millions of people across Africa.

"Food security is absolutely essential," Mans said. "It's an issue that we've been working on for decades."

This year's honorees were Obama and billionaire businessman and telecommunications magnate Mohamed "Mo" Ibrahim. Dr. Johnnetta Cole, Ph.D., served as mistress of ceremonies.

Obama contributed $100,000 of his $1.4 million Nobel Peace Prize monetary award to Africare in 2010 which used it to create the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Health (WASHH) Project in Ghana. The project raises awareness of basic hygiene and hand washing and provides access to safe and clean water for four communities in the Wassa Amenfi District in Ghana's Western Region.

"Before Africare implemented the WASHH Project in Ghana, more than 90 percent of the population shared a latrine with up to 60 other people, and basic hygiene, was in some cases non-existent," said Mans. "With President Obama's donation, Africare was able to significantly improve water access in Ghana. In the two years that followed, the water quality remains very good and the school latrines that were built continue to help schools retains pupils who spend more time in class learning."

Obama received the Bishop John T. Walker Humanitarian Award. He wasn't present at the function because he was focused on the Boston Marathon bombing that occurred earlier in the week, but recorded a video which was played for the guests.