s.c.o.u.t. b.a.n.a.n.a.

Our mission is to combine efforts to save lives with commitment and determination in Africa. S.C.O.U.T. B.A.N.A.N.A. as an organization has a purpose dedicated to converting passion into action. All too often people are presented with extremely moving and emotional experiences, but without an opportunity to act on their new found feelings of empathy. SB believes that ONE person can make a difference in the world. All ONE needs to decide is what kind of a difference they want to make. SB works to link individuals and groups in North America and Western countries with projects creating sustainable solutions to the crisis of access to basic healthcare in Africa. With the understanding that `big plans’ will not solve the problems of the world, SB seeks out the people and organizations, who are making effective and sustainable change on the ground in Africa. SB is focused on partnering student chapters in the West with projects in Africa.

The necessity of basic healthcare as a basic right of all people is huge issue in Africa as people die needlessly from preventable diseases and a lack of access to the right to health. Clean drinking water, secure sources of food, access to medications, need for emergency transportation, and supporting health infrastructures are the overarching goals of SB. We are committed to using the power and privilege of where we live to save lives in Africa. We are not imposing our ideas on the people of Africa, but working with them to find the best solutions to provide the necessary basic healthcare.

SB is not interested in giving handouts, but in providing sustainable aid for people and projects who will change and shape their communities in need. SB believes in the idea of a global community and that no matter where you live or what your desires – every person has the same wants and needs: to have clean water to drink, food to eat, medicines to get well, to be healthy. SB is dedicated to uplifting the oppressed and assisting them in turning their dreams into futures by way of health.

We are students, parents, teachers, activists, artists, musicians, and community leaders combining forces to create sustainable and healthy changes for the health crisis in Africa. We are an organization committed to working innovatively to provide what is most needed by people suffering from the health crisis. SB’s goal is to raise awareness about the health crisis in Africa and also raise funds to support projects effectively reaching the people in need on the ground in Africa.

People are dying, that is our reason for action; that is our rally cry. People are dying and they shouldn’t be. We have the access and the ability to give the dying a face and a voice and a life. The short time I spent in Uganda four summers ago, I ate, played, sang, smiled, and met with people who I know are no longer there and that is why I continue to tell their stories and ask for help.

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the US policy on africa

What is the US’s policy on Africa? Do you know? Many people do not and now is your chance to find out. On the US government page on African Policy the first thing I notice is the picture displayed on the top, not just because it is a picture, but because it is President Bush and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia at a ‘Partners in Democracy’ forum. As you can see Bush is pointing off into the distance and Ellen looks quite fed-up and dismayed. First, is this the US policy on Africa point to the distance and not involve the African leadership. Second, did we forget that Africa is not a country and that there are 54 countries within the continent. Africa as a whole does not have one policy on the US, each different country has a policy – why doesn’t the US have a policy for each country in Africa? Maybe it is just not strategic enough or worth the US’s time? Whatever the case I find the picture very telling of the US goverment approach to Africa. They then jump right into the Darfur conflict and the subsequent peace agreement in the works. This I find very disturbing as all the US government has done for the Darfur conflict is give it lip service and some nicely written statements. After scrolling down the page, to what is almost the bottom, you will find the outline of the US policy on Africa:

“In Africa, promise and opportunity sit side by side with disease, war, and desperate poverty. This threatens both a core value of the United States—preserving human dignity —and our strategic priority—combating global terror. American interests and American principles, therefore, lead in the same direction: we will work with others for an African continent that lives in liberty, peace, and growing prosperity. Together with our allies and friends, we must help strengthen Africa’s fragile states, help build indigenous capability to secure porous borders, and help build up the law enforcement and intelligence infrastructure to deny havens for terrorists. An ever more lethal environment exists in Africa as local civil wars spread beyond borders to create regional war zones. Forming coalitions of the willing and cooperative security arrangements are key to confronting these emerging transnational threats.”

Bush’s Africa policy has three pillars which mostly are comprised of holding lots of meeting with various groups and on different issues affecting African countries (ie: AU, malaria, HIV/ AIDS, growth and opportunity act, etc.) Meetings a indispensible when one does not want to act. I am afraid the US’s policy on Africa is just a bunch of words, no action.

Another great site that I found helpful in my search of US’s African policy was Africa Action. Each year they write a full report on the US policy for Africa. They critique and offer potentials and what needs to happen in years to come. Africa Action opens the report with this quote, “2006 will help clarify whether the compassionate concern for the African continent, worn like a badge by western leaders last year, is a true determinant of Africa policy, or whether it merely masked other, more ‘strategic’ and less ‘benevolent’ impulses and interests.” 2005 was a great year for more focus and interest in African issues. It was a year of more advocacy and awareness about Africa and thus there was more talk of doing something on the continent. I find this is a beautiful quote to begin critiquing the US African policy. What has 2006 shown? It seems that US policy is focused only on strategic advancement and leans no where to the benevolent side. Africa Action begins by outlining the year from Live 8 to Live X. Concerts which raised funds and awareness for Africa to US military sweeping into the continent to be sure America is secure. This comes with the development of the Africa Command as well. This military shift in Bush’s Africa policy obviously speaks to the ‘War on Terror’ focused on intelligence gathering and keeping al-Qaeda out of Africa. Yet even with this upswing of troops and US intelligence in Africa a genocide continues and conflicts spread, threatening regional security.

Another development to note in US policy is the potential of African oil. It is estimated that over $10 billion a year will be invested by the US in African oil activities. Many policy analysts say that the US needs to shift its oil dependence from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Guinea, however as many analysts fail to realize, African oil is a creates a great deal of conflict by itself without the US involvement. The US may only intensify conflicts and make themselves a target. Lastly, the Africa Action report notes the slim mention of security in the US Africa policy. With the growing threat to public health and differences on global issues, a great disparity is enlightened between African priorities and American interests. The report also highlights the hypocrisy of the current Administration focused on showing its humanitarian side and not its creeping military and strategic involvements. The US African policy is also not within in the lines of what most Americans would like to see as the US policy towards Africa. The US needs to adapt its policy to involve African leaders and to include the voice of the American people. I encourage you all to read the site on US Africa policy and the Africa Action report. After reading let your politicians know how you feel and what you want to see happening in Africa from the US.

2010: access for all, stories of hope

HIV/AIDS – Part III:

20 million dead, 40 million infected, 4 million new infections each year, and counting. As the numbers grow, so too should your hope. At the heart of the issue is access to treatment and drugs for all those infected with HIV/AIDS – the number with access is growing, however it is not growing at a rate equivalent to the spread of the epidemic. Nevertheless, hope is on the horizon and is always dawning. Now here are some stories to strengthen your hope in regards to the AIDS pandemic and Africa.

At the Saint Leo clinic in small, dusty village in central Lesotho a small cluster of patients gather to be diagnosed. A thin woman sits waiting to hear advice about her racking cough. A mother of five, she said her husband had died two years earlier and had also coughed incessantly. She does not know what killed him. With these common symptoms of tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections, many of these patients will today learn about HIV and will be tested. The test results will take a few days to be sent back from the city and many patients question why it will take so long. “We have no money and no manpower” says the clinic manager, “I have to manage everything, but neither do I feel comfortable referring patients elsewhere. They often do not show up because they are too sick, or don’t have money, or transport.” The Saint Leo clinic presents an ideal site to introduce a program to involve community members with training for HIV testing and counselling, leaving nurses time to focus on more complex aspects of treatment. Providing HIV testing and counselling at primary health clinics is key to enabling access to HIV prevention and treatment services. Lesotho has a very high rate, where 23% of adults were estimated to be infected in 2005.

When Rose Dossou became pregnant she did everything she could to have a healthy baby. SHe visited an antenatal clinic at the university hospital in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. She had lost 2 babies before and was tested because she wondered if HIV had killed her babies. The test came back positive. Rose wondered how she was going to handle this, at six-months pregnant and how would she tell her husband. The doctors told her the baby may also be infected. She told her husband who remained supportive and found he was HIV positive as well. Rose wanted to do everything she could to stop the transmission to her baby and began volunteering for a clinical trial of AZT in pregnant women. Even with a good trial and a smooth birth, her new-born son at 12-months was HIV positive. Rose dropped out of school and turned her HIV positive status into her life passion. Her son spent the first three years in the hospital and she became an expert on HIV. Soon both Rose and her son were recieving treatment from a french charity. Rose’s son is now 10, goes to school and rides his bike. Rose is 42 and runs Chigata, an organization that supports children who need HIV treatment and AIDS orphans. Chigata, means Hope in the local language, organizes discussions, courses in theatre , distributes food kits, and provides drugs through a community-based pharmacy.

In Rwanda, Mwavita acquired HIV at birth, or as a result of breastfeeding. Once diagnosed Mwavita was urgently treated for both TB (tuberculosis) and HIV. She finished her TB treatment successfully, but had to stop the HIV treatment because the medicines had to be taken with food and after one month there was nothing to eat. Thankfully a neighboring family agreed to give Mwavita food whenever her family had none so she can continue her treatment. Most dosages of antiretrovirals (ARVs) are unavailable for children, so health workers have to cut and divide tablets designed for adults in order to treat children infected with HIV. This makes pediatric care extremely difficult and puts children at a much greater risk. After a few months of restarting treatment, Mwavita is healthier than ever, she has put on weight and has returned to school.

These are just a few of many stories (from WHO) that can offer great hope to the future of combatting HIV/AIDS and other disease in Africa. The HIV/AIDS pandemic highlights many issues and brings the inter-related issues of health under one lense. The lack of health workers and health infrastructure are made painfully clear, the lack of pediatric medicines and focus, and the greater problem of the lack of access to basic treatment and food almost screams at us as we examine the HIV/AIDS pandemic.