the week in african health


Ethiopia a scene of over-grazing and desertification, making it difficult for both people and animals to survive. (From the MSF Photo Blog)

’There’s no reason only poor people should get malaria’

In an action that surprised many audience guests, Bill Gates, released a small number of mosquitoes into the crowd at the TED conference. Gates quit Microsoft last year to focus more on his philanthropic work. He spoke of the need, and his commitment, to put more funding towards developing drugs to combat malaria, one of the highest killers in the ‘developing’ world.
Watch the video:
Mosquito Genes Linked To Insecticide Resistance May Be New Target in Fight Against Malaria,
Insecticide malaria impact clue

When there is no village doctor

It is estimated that every fourth medical doctor and every twentieth nurse trained in Africa leaves the continent for better job prospects and better pay in wealthier countries. The UN Global Health Workforce Alliance warns that the economic crisis could further increase the medical workforce crisis across Africa.

For David Werner, who wrote the widely-translated 1970s village health care manual, “Where There is No Doctor,” medical specialization is not the best answer. “Experts come in and think they have all the answers, and end up drowning out solutions villagers could devise themselves.”

Need to Focus on Maternal, Child Health – Top AU Official

As the African Union meets in Addis Ababa, Commissioner for Social Affairs Biencé Gawana said in regards to the AU’s proposed launch of a continent-wide program,

“We will launch a movement to promote maternal and child health in the continent,” she told reporters. “It will be an advocacy campaign… together with partners like UNFPA [the UN Population Fund] and UNICEF [the UN Children’s Fund].

With 500,000 women dying in childbirth each year, Africa has some of the highest rates of maternal, infant, and child mortality. As part of the solution the AU report noted: “One of the main challenges in the promotion of maternal, infant and child health and development is access to health care facilities and services, especially at primary health delivery level and [in] rural areas.”

Zimbabwe: Cholera Infection Rate Climbs As UN Cleared to Assess Crisis

On Monday the WHO reported an increase of 2000 cholera deaths in Zimbabwe. The report was released just as President Mugabe agreed to allow a top level UN assessment team to tour the country to find solutions to curb the cholera pandemic as well as the current hunger crisis. Food security continues to plummet in may areas of Zimbabwe as many worry they will not receive aid in time.
More: Zimbabwe Cholera Statistics Rise Again As New Malaria Fears Grow,
Zimbabwe Diary: fighting cholera

South Africa: The Quiet Water Crisis

There is great concern with the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe, but what the South African government may be missing is its very own growing water crisis. With an aging infrastructure and rising demand, the potential for deadly bacteria to be released into its water systems is high. When Mandela’s government took power in 1994, an estimated 14 million South Africans lacked access to clean water supply and 21 million people lacked proper sanitation. Although the numbers have changed drastically, the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) reported in 2008 that 5 million people still lacked access.

Twestival and Charity: Water

Last year SCOUT BANANA conducted a ‘Year of Water’ Project to benefit the work of Charity: Water. The organization is now utilizing the social media tool, Twitter, to raise a large amount of money to build wells across the world. Charity: Water began its work by supporting well projects across the African continent.

South Africa: ‘Development Must Adapt to Water Resources We Have’

98% of water resources are being used in South Africa. Water security is becoming an issue as pollution from mining has been difficult to clean up and no other water resources remain unused.

Obama Lifts “Global Gag Rule”

Also known as the Mexico City Policy, this move is being applauded by women’s and productive rights groups across the globe.
More: Obama Reverses U.S. Ban on Abortion-Linked Aid

University Partnership Aims to Fight HIV/AIDS More Effectively

Backed by an almost $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, John Hopkins University is growing a partnership with Makerere University in Uganda in an attempt to combat the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic. The partnership is only in its initial steps.

Originally posted on the SCOUT BANANA blog. 

who speaks for whom?

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) peacekeepers are trapped in the middle of the fight. Checkpoints are all over the North Kivu province and the UN personnel are not exempt from interrogation. The UN peacekeepers are forced to live with a precarious relationship with the various warring factions in the DRC, including the government army. The DRC’s current government army is just a conglomerate of merged rebel armies and so there does not exist a common identity. You never know who you may have to deal with at a checkpoint. Recently a rebel leader in North Kivu surrendered to the UN forces. Kabila has given the green light to loyal troops to engage and disarm rebel General Nkundu. The recent fighting between government forces and rebels probably caused the small rebel group of about 30 to surrender. The resurgence of fighting has also brough with it human rights abuses. From 2005 – 2007, over 258 cases of rape were recorded along with 14,200 cases of sexual violence. Less than one percent of these made it to court. The UN Independent Expert on human rights has called for an end to the impunity of sexual violence cases and urged Kabila to take up a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy.

There is now talk of US military trainers coming to the DRC to train the mixed-up government army. A large Congolese delegation, along with President Kabila, will visit the White House on Friday to discuss the possibility. Is this yet another move by the US to gain ground over the Chinese resource grabbing machine? Will the US be able to bring together a divided government army? This is yet another great example of the US aiding the re-militarization of African countries. Well this case may be different I can’t see the US handling in a more focused approach of helping to create law and order in the security sector of the DRC.

In Sudan, we see the deployment of a UN-AU joint peacekeeping force. The force still lacks necessary equipment, notably from China, including specialized units in both air and ground support. A great step to ending a terrible conflict, but a step that I feel will meet the same difficulties as the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC. There are so many disconnected rebel movements in Sudan that it will again be hard to know who you are dealing with. In both countries peace deals had been signed to end the fighting, but fighting quickly resumed when rebel factions not associated with teh signing groups continued fighting. Somehow everyone needs to be brought to the table, but how? You have the government forces propogating a genocide and numerous, divided rebel groups fighting against the government and each other. The UN-AU peacekeeping force will be a help in Sudan. However in both the DRC and Sudan, peacekeepers will need to find out who is who and who speaks for whom if they are to broker a successful peace deal.

the value is the same

As I wrote earlier, I will now be writing on issues and thoughts that come to my mind while in Ghana. This will range from day to day adventures to reflections to just plain critical thinking. I will still write about the numerous and various experiences and field trips that occur, but there will be less of the play by play of the day to day. In ‘The Village of Waiting,’ the author writes about the certain desire and longing to live in a developing country. I can completely understand what he means, however there is no way that I can verbally express that magnetism. I attempt here to give you a glimpse of my African experience, but it is just that a glimpse. The author goes on later in the book to discuss how Westerners and ‘white’ people will never be able to experience the true Africa. You can be a tourist, an accepted member of the workforce, and an honored volunteer, but you will never be able to step out of your skin – your permanent suit from your wedding day with your identity does not come off. And so with those thoughts in mind, here is what happens when I am in Africa, Ghana to be more correct.

While watching the Champions Cup match, at halftime the Ghana television channel took over the feed and displayed commercials to explain the new Ghanaian cedi. The commercials played over and over, repeating until halftime had expired. The commercials emphasized the phrase that we just can’t get enough of here in Ghana, “the value is the same.” Throughout the entire match the message scrolled along the bottom of the screen: “The new Ghanaian cedi and the current cedi will have the same value. The value is the same.” Up and down the roadways hawkers carry the signs to explain the new currency and to show the neat new bills and coins. We have seen these posters everywhere and even bumper stickers, it has become a running joke with our group now. The value is the same.

Next year the cedi is set to change. The value will be the same, but the numbers will change. Instead of carrying around a huge wad of bills you will have only a few to carry now. The 10,000 cedi note will turn into the new 1 Ghanaian cedi note. Joseph, at the hostel, explained to us that this was a political move since in the next few years there will be a West African Union established, like the European Union. The new West African Union will have its own new currency so it is completely unnecessary and frivolous to create a new cedi now. The politicians are using this new cedi as a push to emphasize their dedication to Ghana. Wouldn’t it make more sense to invest that money in the country’s infrastructure? To me this represents the complete disregard for the well being of a country’s people. Needless to say, the campaign has gained amazing ground and even we, who will be here for 6 short weeks, understand the change completely.

This is an important and potentially positive event in Ghana, but there is a question that will not leave my mind. Will the value of corruption remain the same as well? On the way back from the beach the other night, our taxi was stopped at the simple police check point of a section of bicycle fence across the road and a smiling policeman with his AK-47. We happened to have more than the acceptable number of passengers in our car, but the taxi driver told us not to worry. We pulled up and stopped, the policeman shone his flashlight around, he exchanged some words with our driver, and then the two men shook hands. However as they did so, a seemingly minor transaction took place. We drove off and the taxi driver explained that this happened often. He said that just about every policeman in Ghana could get paid off very easily. The economics of a badge and a gun continue. This seems to be a scene that is repeatedly described in developing countries.

Yesterday Kyle bought the Daily Graphic, the New York Times of Ghana. It has been the premier paper and also the longest running in Ghana. It was really a well put together piece of daily literature and the authors for their articles wrote compelling pieces. The most interesting to me was an article on the World Bank, Wolfowitz, and Ghana’s role as the chair of the African Union (AU). The president of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz is resigning under intense pressure. In the unwritten code of the development world the President of the United States gets to appoint the head of the World Bank. In its inception the World Bank was used as a US tool to aid the European governments in their reconstruction after World War II. The US used to be the largest development aider in the world and was owed much by Europe. Now China is the top aider and can easily match the World Bank in capacity to give aid, but China gives aid without requirements. The author of the article called for Ghana to use its power as the new AU chair to unite Africa and other ‘developing’ country groups to join in calling for a reform in the process of appointing the leader of the World Bank. Wolfowitz’s reign was marked by calls to end corruption and reform corrupt systems. Now there needs to be a push to reform the very processes that Wolfowitz championed in the most influential development agency. Does it make sense that a, possibly unqualified, American runs the world’s most important development group? Why would there not be a World Bank president from the ‘developing’ countries?

The value may be the same, but there is still a lot to do before values across the board will be the same. In the past few decades the gap between the Western world and Africa has grown exponentially. In our brief time here we will spend at least, or more than the per capita of the average Ghanaian. Per capita income is placed at $450, the goal is to have it be $1000 by the year 2020. Roughly 20 students from the States will spend well over the per capita income of most Ghanaians in a 6 week time period – this is a fact that I hope most of us will not look past when we return.

zimbabwe, sudan, and the drc – enter ban ki-moon

As the new Secretary General of the UN completes his very <a href="
“>first official Africa tour, crises loom across the continent. Ban Ki-moon called on the DRC to make a pact for democracy and the AU to be unified on the conflict in Darfur. With the DRC still working to emerge from its long civil war, Ki-moon noted the successful elections last year. The DRC currently holds the largest deployment of UN troops anywhere in the world and the UN says it is committed to creating greater security of the region.

Ki-moon also spoke to the AU about keeping unified in the face of the Darfur crisis. With the potential of Sudan becoming chair of the AU there is worry for the conflict to fall from the priority list. Ki-moon condemned the recent bombings of villages in Darfur and called on Africa’s leaders to join together for peace as they did before to bring peace to Burundi and Sierra Leone. Ki-moon met with President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan at the AU summit and urged him to commit to a joint UN-AU peacekeeping force for Darfur. “I… am deeply concerned about the continuing violence and the suffering of the civilians there. This time we need action and to make real progress,” Ki-moon said. Four years of violence and genocide has killed over 400,000 people and has displaced over 2 million people. “Together, we must work to end the violence and scorched-earth policies adopted by various parties, including militias, as well as the bombings which are still a terrifying feature of life in Darfur,” he told the African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Ki-moon also announced that he planned to convene in March a working group on Africa and the MDGs, “a coalition of the willing” of African stakeholders and international organizations and donors, to accelerate progress on the goals, which also seek to reduce maternal and infant mortality and provide access to health care and education. He noted that many African countries have made remarkable progress, but there remains a lot to be done.

As the well-publicized conflicts in Africa continue to recieve support, a mostly unheard of crisis grows. The name of this crisis is Zimbabwe or more specifically Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe since 1980 and recently his term was extended for years. Mugabe has mis-managed economic policy and thrown out human rights. Hyperinflation and negative growth are a few of the problems which he attributes to Western sanctions and the legacy of white minoritiey rule. Reported in the news Zimbabwe is facing a massive food crisis. The government has refused aid agencies support and again combats calls of mis-management with the idea of an international plot to remove him from power.

The effects of the food crisis among many Zimbabwean issues is yet to be seen, however maybe we will not witness such tragedy. This July the popular band, Dispatch, will be reuniting for a cause. That cause is Zimbabwe. Their benefit concert has been sold out, a new date added, and again sold out. The proceeds are to be used to fight disease, famine, and social injustice. After reading that I inquired as to where exactly donations will be made, since funds in the government’s hands will not necessarily be used for good. “We are in the process of figuring out some existing NGO’s that are doing great work there–and some other projects we’d like to support. Once identified, we will make a post about them to the public!,” was the response I recieved. I was very pleased to get such a response from a well-known band working to make a difference in Africa. Supporting existing programs and projects that are working effectively will creat the most good. Check out the Dispatch Zimbabwe Team site, I think there are some remaining tickets for the concert this summer at Madison Square Garden.

Here at Michigan State University there is a push within the Student Assembly to revoke an honorary doctorate degree in law, which was presented to Mugabe when he spoke at MSU. The bill written in the Student Assembly will be voted on next week and after that will be referred on to the Administration. The international plot to overthrow continues. All jokes aside, the efforts of Dispatch should be commended and the pressure on Mugabe intensified as his people face certain death from his inactions.