Plan International-USA is a nonprofit, child-centered, humanitarian organization with a special focus on ensuring the health, education and well-being of girls and boys in developing nations. Educated in foreign service and economics, President and CEO Tessie San Martin comes to Plan with a 25-year career that saw her involved in a variety of international development roles in the public and private sectors, as well as academia. She estimates that, since its inception in 1937, Plan International-USA has helped more than 10 million children.
San Martin recently spoke with Providence Business News about Plan USA’s mission.
PBN: What do you see as the No. 1 problem affecting children in developing nations?
SAN MARTIN: MARTIN: It depends on the country that you’re looking at. I’ve done a lot of work in Pakistan and a clear problem there is diarrhea. It is the No. 1 killer of particularly very young children under 5 years old and it comes from just bad water.
In some of these post-disaster places where we work, such as Haiti, there may be other types of diseases. Obviously, cholera is a major concern now. But more generally, the No. 1 issue affecting young children in Haiti is that there are, literally, no safe havens or safe places to be, in part because the places where they usually were, [such as] schools or even their homes and so on, have been destroyed.
PBN: How does Plan International-USA improve the lives of children? What exactly does it do?
SAN MARTIN: MARTIN: We’ve got a number of projects in the health area, [addressing issues] such as infectious diseases, safe water, malaria.
So, for example, one very important thing you can do to immediately reduce the incidents of malaria and the number of children that actually die from that disease is to get parents to understand about the use of insecticide-treated nets. You get the parents to use the nets and that immediately reduces the number of kids getting bitten by mosquitoes and reduces the morbidity rate related to malaria.