This is a question that’s puzzled me for a long time.
I’m not in any way denigrating or minimizing the efforts of Americans who go to other countries to help people and/or animals. I’m certain the work they do is worthwhile, and often lifesaving.
One medical example: Americans affiliated with Doctors Without Borders:
One helping-animals example: American author Delia Owens.
According to a July 19 New York Times article, in 1974 Delia and husband Mark Owens…
“…moved to Africa to study wildlife, an experience they wrote about in their co-authored nonfiction books, The Eye of the Elephant, published in 1992, and Secrets of the Savanna, released in 2006. At their research camp in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, they studied the migration patterns and social behaviors of lions and hyenas. In 1985, they moved to Zambia, where they maintained a 5,000-square-mile preserve to prevent poaching of elephants and other wildlife.”
The Owens were in Zambia until 1996, when they moved to Idaho.
So – important work by Doctors Without Borders, important work by Delia and Mark Owens.
It’s just that…
Doctors Without Borders is spread out over 70 countries.
While here in this country, according to government agency HRSA (Health Resources Services and Administration), there are millions of medically underserved people.
Here’s a 2021 HRSA map of U.S. medically underserved counties in green:
Why would a U.S. doctor or nurse go to Haiti, for example, when her/his services are so desperately needed for so many people right now in the U.S.?
This article from 2019 demonstrates what I’m talking about:
“In the medical desert that has become rural America, nothing is more basic or more essential than access to doctors, but they are increasingly difficult to find. The federal government now designates nearly 80 percent of rural America as ‘medically underserved.’
“It is home to 20 percent of the U.S. population but fewer than 10 percent of its doctors, and that ratio is worsening each year because of what health experts refer to as ‘the gray wave.’ Rural doctors are three years older than urban doctors on average, with half over 50 and more than a quarter beyond 60. Health officials predict the number of rural doctors will decline by 23 percent over the next decade as the number of urban doctors remains flat.”
Then there are Delia and Mark Owens, and others who leave the U.S. to help animals in other countries.
While in this country, in September 2021 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service…
…proposed delisting 23 species from the Endangered Species Act due to extinction.
While the Owens were in Africa (1974-1996), here are three of those 23 species that were going extinct:
It’s not my intention to single out the Owens – many people go to other countries on behalf of animals, and this article lists 10 ways to do that:
Why are people going to other countries, while animals are going extinct here and now?
The Owens story came to my attention in a roundabout way.
I’ve mentioned that Delia Owens and her husband co-authored two nonfiction books about their African experience. They also wrote a bestselling 1984 memoir, Cry of the Kalahari.
Then in 2018 Delia published her first novel, Where the Crawdads Sing, and it’s been phenomenally successful: 168 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and 15 million copies sold. A movie based on the book opened in mid-July and brought in $17 million on its opening weekend.
All of this has drawn a lot of attention to Delia, some of it not what she was looking for, according to this article:
“…the novel’s, and now the film’s, commercial success has been clouded by renewed questions about Owens’s conservation work in Zambia, which was clouded by controversy following the death of a suspected poacher in 1995. The death happened during an anti-poaching patrol, which was part of a conservation project run by Owens and her then-husband, Mark Owens. The shooting was recorded by an ABC crew that was filming a documentary about the work the Owens did there. After the episode aired in 1996, Zambian officials opened an investigation, but the victim was never identified and the case was never solved.”
When Delia was asked about the incident during an interview with the New York Times in 2019, this was her response:
“I was not involved,” she said. “There was never a case, there was nothing.”
The July 19, 2022 New York Times article above references this article:
Author Jeffrey Goldberg says, in part:
“The country’s director of public prosecutions, Lillian Shawa-Siyuni, confirmed what officials at the Criminal Investigation Department of the Zambian national police told me: Mark, Delia, and Christopher Owens [Mark’s son] are still wanted for questioning related to the killing of the alleged poacher, as well as other possible criminal activities in North Luangwa. ‘There is no statute of limitations on murder in Zambia,’ Siyuni said. ‘They are all wanted for questioning in this case, including Delia Owens.’”
While in this review of the Crawdads movie, the author notes:
“The release of the film version of Where the Crawdads Sing has drawn fresh attention to Owens’ troubled past as a wildlife conservationist and bestselling nonfiction author in Africa. In short, Owens’ husband Mark ran what was effectively a lawless armed militia while battling poachers in Zambia and eventually the couple was forced to flee the country, where they are still wanted for questioning in a 1995 murder case.”
Perhaps it would have been better for the Owens to stay stateside and help keep the Bachman’s warbler and those 22 other species from going extinct.
Perhaps it would have been better for these three aid workers from Doctors Without Borders to have stayed home, as well:
So, circling back to the beginning of this…
If anyone out there can answer my question – and educate me – I’d be grateful: