Disarm/Global Health Partners was established in 1976 as the Disarm Education Fund, a gun-control organization whose aim was “to ban all private ownership of handguns, and to require the licensing and registration of all rifles and shotguns.” During the Reagan administration, Disarm’s interests expanded to include also opposition to America’s development of nuclear weapons and “such first-strike systems as the Strategic Defense Initiative” (which was actually intended to serve as a protective shield against a first strike). As the 1980s progressed, Disarm began to describe itself as a “persistent [advocate] for a reduction of the bloated [American] military budget and the redirection of government resources to education, the alleviation of poverty, and other pressing human needs.” To further convey its “ongoing commitment to a world without nuclear weapons,” Disarm became a staunch supporter of the Plowshares movement.
Also in the eighties, Disarm stepped forward as “a prominent critic of … U.S. intervention in the internal affairs of other nations in the Americas,” a stance the group continues to “vigorously maintain.” Disarm was “especially active,” for instance, in working “to end U.S. military aid and support for the right-wing death squads” of El Salvador while “helping [that] country’s popular liberation movement [the Communist FMLN] gain a still-fragile peace.” Moreover, Disarm helped build the movement to cut off U.S. military aid to the Contras in Nicaragua, who were seeking to overthrow that nation’s Marxist Sandinista government which was backed by such enemies of America as the Soviet Union, Fidel Castro‘s Cuba, and Yasser Arafat‘s Palestine Liberation Organization.
In May 2000, Disarm endorsed the Million Mom March—an anti-gun rally in Washington, DC that drew some 750,000 participants and has since evolved into a national organization bearing the same name. Not long thereafter, Disarm became a member organization of the United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition which was created in 2002 and was headed by the pro-Castro socialist Leslie Cagan.
In May 2013 the Disarm Education Fund merged with [Global Health Partners] to form a new entity, Disarm/Global Health Partners (DGHP), whose mission is to “promot[e] peace and social justice by forming strategic partnerships—bolstered by humanitarian and technical aid—with popular social movements in developing countries, and through advocacy in the United States for a foreign policy focused on human rights and human needs.”
No longer confining its activism to issues of violence and weaponry, DGHP today identifies its “primary focus” as helping “our neighbors in Central America and the Caribbean” to deal with financial and public-health-related hardships allegedly exacerbated by a host of “misanthropic U.S. policies of both the past and the present.” Indeed, the “core principle” around which all of DGHP’s activities center is this: “An immoral and unjust U.S. foreign policy—particularly the practice of ‘punishing’ foreign governments by withholding medicine from civilians—has had a devastating impact on innocent people around the world.”
DGHP works to “reverse and address this travesty” by: “supplying medicine and medical supplies to hospitals and clinics; providing teams of specialists and surgeons to treat local citizens; launching public education campaigns to mobilize concern here at home and achieve change; advocating to change U.S. government policy—especially the devastating embargo on Cuba; [and] empowering local people by educating health care workers and creating self-sustaining systems.” Toward these ends, DGHP administers 4 major programs:
* The Cuba Travel Program seeks to end “the illegal, immoral U.S. embargo against Cuba,” with “vigorous advocacy focused on ending the travel ban that still bars most Americans from visiting the island.”
* The Cuban Medical Project is a humanitarian initiative that delivers “desperately needed medicines and medical supplies—made inaccessible or scarce by the embargo—to the Cuban people.” DGHP claims that between 1976 and 2013, it donated $102 million worth of such items to Cuba’s hospitals and community clinics.
* Through its Healthy Futures for Children Program, DGHP partners with the Nicaragua-based Los Pipitos, Central America’s largest non-governmental organization dedicated to providing services to children with disabilities and their families. Since 2007, DGHP has sent teams of volunteer occupational therapists, speech therapists, and graduate students to train Los Pipitos staff and parent caregivers.
* The Maternal Health Campaign was launched in 2011 to train midwives and community health workers to ensure safe childbirth conditions for impoverished women in Nicaragua, a high percentage of whom typically go through their entire pregnancies without receiving any prenatal care and then give birth without assistance from a skilled health professional.
DGHP’s national advisory board includes such notables as Aris Anagnos, Ed Asner, Daniel Berrigan, Ramsey Clark, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Casey Kasem, Sister Pat Krommer, Spike Lee, Mario Obledo, Michael Ratner, Pete Seeger, and Martin Sheen. Among the former members of this board were the late Philip Berrigan, Peter Yarrow, and the late Howard Zinn.
Over the years, DGHP has received grants from the East Bay Community Foundation, the Firedoll Foundation, the Hilda Mullen Foundation, the Lynn R. and Karl E. Prickett Fund, the New York Community Trust, the Ralph E. Ogden Foundation, the San Francisco Foundation, the Silicon Valley Foundation, and the Thomas H. Maren Foundation.