Posts Tagged ‘HIV/AIDS’

Innovations in African Countries for African People

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Western international development agencies tend to portray the continent of Africa as a basket-case, a place that needs to be saved by the “highly developed” western countries. Contrary to the conventional and paternalistic wisdom, African people throughout the continent represent huge sources of technological, environmental, and – especially – health innovations.  The western world could take a few notes from scientists and inventors throughout the African continent.

For example, the Clay House Project, a non-profit health organization based in Namibia has recently introduced new advanced dry toilet technology to improve sanitation throughout the world. The inventor of the dry toilet, a device that does what the name suggests, provides a sanitary mechanism that does not require precious water supplies and could improve the health of 2.6 billion people. Lack of access to proper sanitation, currently causes major sanitation problems that can be avoided by utilizing the new technology.[1]

Elsewhere, in South Africa, researchers have invented a vaginal gel which radically reduces a woman’s risk of the contraction of HIV.[2] According to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, more than 30 million people are living with HIV/AIDS on the planet.  It is well known that South Africa has a high rate of HIV infections.  New technology like this is a truly significant innovation and improvement in South African health.

An especially interesting and impressive environmental innovation was made by a Malawian inventor, William Kamkwamba. When Kamkwamba was 14 years old, he engineered and built an electricity-generating wind

mill for his family from parts he found around his home and village.[3] He taught himself this relatively complex technology from instructions he found in a book. Kamkwamba is featured in an inspiring video produced by the non-profit,

TED, featured here and pictured below.

If the Namibian inventors of dry toilet technology, the South African HIV/AIDS researchers, and innovators like William Kamkwamba can produce and distribute their innovative technology, they could improve the combined health of nearly 3 billion people.  That’s nearly half the world’s population, and three-quarters of the developing world.

[1]Smith, Jana-Mari. “Namibia: Locally Invented Toilet to Improve Lives of Millions.” 5 July 2010

[2] Brown, David. “Gel Found to Reduce AIDS Risk in Women.” The Washington Post. 20 July 2010



The Week of Health in Africa

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Army Takes Over, Access to HIV Treatment Halted by Strikes in South Africa

As South Africa’s health system is crippled by strikes the Government warns health workers of contributing to murder. HIV/AIDS treatment access has also been halted as the health system ceases to function. Strikers are demanding increased pay due to their insubstantial compensation. Should they be paid more?

Botswana: Acquiring a Taste for Recycled Water

The Water Utilities Corporation in Botswana is breaking ground on a facility to treat waste water in order to supply a water source for the country. Many citizens have expressed disgust at the thought of drinking waste water, but the program holds great potential as water scarcity increases across the continent and around the world.

Hillary’s “new approach” to Global Health

David Rieff takes on the US Secretary of State’s approach to global health and development calling it naive, contradictory and muddled.

Donor Fatigue New Threat to HIV/AIDS Fight

Doctors Without Borders has raised the alarm that this is, “No time to quit! The HIV crisis is far from over.” As economic recession hits, many countries around the world  are decreasing their aid funding for HIV/AIDS treatments. The Obama Administration has come under fire for their cuts to HIV/ AIDS and PEPFAR funding.

Mozambique: Maputo Central Hospital Bans Use of U.S. Dollars

Patients in Mozambique will no longer be forced to use U.S. Dollars to pay for treatments. This is an important move to increase access to health care in the country.

Cholera Outbreak Grips Nigeria

The need for clean water is demonstrated as cholera rapidly spreads across Nigeria and neighboring countries. As a common disease and treatable disease, the recent cholera outbreak calls for greater access to clean water sources for impoverished communities.

The Week of Health in Africa

Friday, July 2nd, 2010


American Food Aid: Saving Lives, or US Jobs takes on US food assistance and its implications for foreign countries. Most often US food aid has very negative and often damaging effects on local communities and economies.

Swaziland: Poor Health Services Hamper PMTCT Progress

While much progress has been made in reducing HIV transmission, many are worried that the lack of adequate health workers and centers will reverse the advances that Swaziland has made.

Who’s Tracking the World’s Biggest ARV Programme?

South Africa runs what is probably the world’s largest ARV programme – over 700,000 people are receiving ARVs at public sector facilities. The South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) reports on the national program to fight HIV/AIDS. With good and bad news, the report demonstrates that there needs to be better implementation, monitoring, and evaluation.

Cameroonians Arrested for Operating Illegal Hospital

The largest issue with this article was not that there was a hospital started by local Cameroonians, but instead that they were distributing unregistered and illegal Chinese medicines. Is this an example of the growing influences of Chinese investment and aid? The hospital registered and defrauded over 2,000 people.

Why Studying Human Migration Can Help Stop Malaria

You may often hear this argument when talking about the spread of Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and other STDs, but not often for malaria. One of’s authors gives a great history and background on the spread of malaria. The World Health Organization (WHO) has written since 1957 that population movement exacerbates the spread of malaria.

Uganda: HIV/AIDS Centers Turn Away New Patients

As a direct cause of the reduction in funding from US government agencies, centers that provide treatment and prevention have begun turning away patients because they have to make budgetting cuts.

Read more about the Obama Administration’s Global Health Initiative that is causing issues across Africa in regards to funding for HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention.

Also on Health in Uganda:

In Mali, Using Cell Phones to Create Patient Records

New Echoing Green fellow Josh Nesbit and his organization FrontlineSMS:Medic have partnered with the Mali Health Organizing Project (MHOP) to streamline and clean up patient records to improve health services.

Other Articles of Interest:

The Week of Health in Africa

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Rwanda’s Public Health Care Option

With so much debate and controversy over providing adequate health care, one African country is setting an example for both “developed” and “developing” health care systems.

Doctors Without Borders utilizes World Cup to raise HIV awareness

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is working hard to bring greater attention to the serious cut in funding for HIV/AIDS. The US, especially, is taking heat for its decision to reduce the amount of funding. More:

UNICEF marks Day of the African Child with Somalia

The often unseen side of conflict is the toll it takes on health care systems. UNICEF has done well to raise more awareness for the greater need for investment in health care systems in the war-torn country of Somalia.

Zambia to be more Transparent with Health Donors

In a promising move, the Zambian President Banda told donors that more effort would be put into putting greater transparency and financial management in the Ministry of Health.

World Bank missed the boat on Tuberculosis

Thirteen years of funding a program tasked with advocacy and controlling tuberculosis has lacked serious evaluation and focus. The Global Health Blog offers greater analysis in how the World Bank has failed in the fight against Tuberculosis.

These are just some of the key highlights from the end of this past week. Follow on twitter: @scoutbanana to get up to date articles related to Health in Africa.

The Week in African Health

Friday, March 19th, 2010

Photo Credit: African Health Platform

After a long overdue absence, The Week in African Health is back. Subscribe to the blog to continue to get the latest news and innovations related to health and health care across the African continent.

Bringing everything full circle, Alanna Shaikh provides us with a repost: Why you can’t understand global health

Alanna reminds us all that if we overlook the intricate relationship between poverty and ill-health then we are set to misunderstand global health. “If you can read this, that’s not you. By definition, you speak English and you have access to the internet. You earn more than a dollar a day. You can’t understand.” For all the talk, analysis, and good intentions – we must remember that it is the poor who know best what interventions will work for better health around the world.

The World Health Organization has released the first ever guidelines for procurement of effective anti-malarial medicines

The guidelines emphasize testing for effective treatment. The WHO cites in 2008 that only 22% of suspected cases were tested in 18 of the reporting African countries. Thanks to new quality assured Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) that use a dip stick, testing is easier and quicker.This emphasis on testing will assist in stemming drug-resistance issues with quick and effective treatment.

South Africa has launched a massive HIV Testing campaign that marks a definite reversal from its past HIV/AIDS initiatives more focused on denial.

Beginning on April 15th, everyone who enters a clinic will be offered an HIV test, regardless of history or symptoms. Every health facility “should” be prepared to test by April, but the larger problem will then be access to medications and clinics have not yet been certified to distribute ARVs, especially those located in remote or peri-urban areas.

One of the few good things that I have heard about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is that most countries are on track to reach the goal on access to clean water.

With 80% of all disease transferred by contaminated or dirty water, this MDG is a critical piece to improving health. Some countries are even set to exceed this goal by 2015. On the flip side the UN reports that unless “huge efforts” are made most countries will fail to achieve the sanitation MDG. This could be an unfortunate setback as clean water sources require proper sanitation to remain clean.

“If you kiss for five minutes you get it” HIV/AIDS in Namibia

This is one of the lessons learned by young students in one of Namibia’s HIV/AIDS after-school courses. The primary student ended by saying, “People with AIDS should keep to themselves.” Some of the teaching may be misguided, but the program offers much needed psychosocial assistance to young children who have difficulty coping. One student learned he was HIV-positive 3 years ago at age 8, but that hasn’t ended his dreams of becoming a doctor someday.

Need HIV/AIDS help? Look on the map!

A new program in East and Central Africa has printed 20,000 road maps that pinpoint the locations of roadside clinics where truck drivers can go for help with HIV/AIDS. One driver said, “Many of us want treatment but at times you might not know where to get it when you are on the road but these maps can help us now.” The wellness centres and clinics have been constructed in areas where high-risk populations converge.

Tweeting Against Malaria

The UN has selected a group of 24 social media envoys to tweet for malaria control. The WHO says that 3.3 billion people (half the world’s population) is at risk for malaria and sub-Saharan Africa is the epicenter where 90% of malaria deaths occur.

Other interesting articles of the week:

The Week in African Health

Friday, May 22nd, 2009
Nyala, Kalma camp, South Darfur - March 2007 (MSF Photo Blog)

Nyala, Kalma camp, South Darfur - March 2007 (MSF Photo Blog)

The impact of conflict on the environment and then the subsequent, direct effect on human health cannot be overlooked. This internally displaced peoples (IDP) camp in Sudan shows the seriousness of that impact.

Your Old Cell Phone Can Make a Difference in Global Health

Everyone in the global health sector is writing about the incredible reach of SMS technologies working for health in developing countries, and rightly so. Hope Phones has partnered with FrontlineSMS to provide old cell phones to communities in need through SMSmedic partner organizations.
Your Old Phone Can Change the World

A service that I just recently came across is one that is not being as widely talked about. TeleMed is different from FrontlineSMS: Medic because it connects local health care workers directly to patients in need via SMS technology. SMS: Medic is focused on health infrastructure. TeleMed does not have a website up yet, but is definitely one to watch:

Paul Farmer and the US Government?

The other big talk within global health is whether Paul Farmer will take a job within the US government. Some have expressed great hope for potential reform others voice their plea with him to continue his incredible community based work outside the bureaucracies. My opinion is that Partners in Health has developed into a strong organization and does not depend on Paul Farmer to further their work. If he wants to take on the inefficiencies and inadequacies of the US government and global health, then all the more power to him.

Southern Africa: Global Financial Crisis Leads to HIV Budget Cuts

Broken promises abound as the economic crisis deepens and the right to health falters, but activists are coming together to ensure that funding for health and HIV are not cut. International donors are expected to slash budgets for health due to the economic crisis and health experts fear that this will lead to, “less food security and quality of nutrition, which will in turn put more stress on already weak health systems.” Paula Akugizibwe, regional treatment literacy and advocacy coordinator of Windhoek-based AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) in Namibia demanded, “We need to ensure that African lives do not become a silent casualty of the global financial downturn. Our lives are not cheap or expendable. We expect health to be prioritised over weapons, sports and lavish politics.” Tanzania was the first sub-Saharan country to announce a 25 percent cut of its annual HIV/AIDS budget.
Other budget cut impacts:
Guinea: Medicines Running Out

Zambian High Court to Hear Groundbreaking HIV Case

On Wednesday, the Livingstone High Court was supposed to hear a ground breaking case about whether mandatory testing for HIV and discrimination solely on the basis of HIV status is constitutional in Zambia. Unfortunately two days later news came that the trial was postponed until mid-July. Be sure to keep watching this story.
Trial postponed until 15 July

HIV Prevention and Behavior Change

Mara Gordon writes on’s Global Health Blog about a direct campaign in Tanzania discussing behavior change. “This campaign is partially paid for by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, U.S. government money to fight HIV that’s notoriously had lots of conservative strings attached. Had I seen this ad a year ago, I probably would have dismissed it as unrealistic abstinence-only propaganda. But behavior change works. Behavior change – in combination with access to condoms, comprehensive sexual education, open discussion about HIV and sexually transmitted infections in general, all that good liberal stuff.”
Changing Human Behaviors: Sexual and Social
During a course on Africa’s environmental history I wrote about the need for changing human behavior in both the sexual and social arena to make a real impact in HIV prevalence. The major social change is the response from Western institutions and organizations in how they talk about HIV/AIDS and Africa while seeking to change sexual behavior.
Lesotho: Cultural Beliefs Threaten Prevention of Mother-Child HIV Transmission
Health workers note an encouraging response to the PMTCT program. The number of facilities providing PMTCT has risen from nine in 2004 to 166 by the end of 2008. The number of women who received PMTCT and subsequent antiretroviral (ARV) treatment increased from 421 in 2004 to about 5,000 by end of last year, according to 2009 National AIDS Council statistics. “The primary health care coordinator at St. James Mantsonyane Mission Hospital, Khanyane Mabitso, says stigma and cultural beliefs make it difficult for medical personnel to follow up on HIV-positive mothers and their babies.”

Progress on health-related MDGs mixed

Many advances have been made in health. Some argue that these advances have been dwarfed by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the economic crisis, or the failures of African governments. The WHO report shows that the only statistic with concrete results was the number of children dying before the age of five. Is this a solid example of the failure of big plans and blanket goals for development?

Sierra Leone: ACC Recommends Reform At Health Ministry

The Anti-Corruption Committee report provides a number of recommendations for reform all focused on improving the health care delivery services in Sierra Leone and eliminating the risk of corrupt practices in the health services across the country.
More on health service scale-up:
Chad: Paving the Way for Better Obstetric Care
Government meetings with UNICEF to help scale-up of health services for better obstetric care across the country.

Ten Things You Can Do to Fight World Hunger

The Nation provides an interesting set of things you can do in your everyday life to fight world hunger. They properly focus on how food, a basic human need, has been commodified in our global capitalist structure. “Our planet produces enough food to feed its more than 960 million undernourished people. The basic cause of global hunger is not underproduction; it is a production and distribution system that treats food as a commodity rather than a human right.” When in February I wrote that agricultural experts had said the food crisis of the last year was over evidence from this past week point to the contrary.
Tanzania: Food Shortage Unnecessary
“Tanzania has since independence sang the song of ‘Agriculture is the backbone of the economy’, but little has gone into strategizing and implementing viable actions towards surplus food production.”
Kenya: UN Agency Makes First Local Food Purchase from Small Scale Farmers
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has for the first time bought food from small-scale farmers in Kenya under a new initiative aimed at boosting agriculture by connecting farmers to markets.
Zimbabwe: Another Year Without Much Food
Rwanda: Nearly Half the Country’s Children Are Malnourished
Kenya: Over Three Million Face Food Shortages

Africa: High Level Engagement with Continent Has Started

Speaking at a gala reception in Washington marking the beginning of “Africa Week,” Carson said: “Most of the Obama administration’s Africa team is in place, and we are gearing up. We will continue to build on and strengthen the strong bipartisan consensus in Congress and among the people of America that has motivated U.S. policy towards Africa. Over the next four years, we will be focusing our efforts on strengthening democracy, promoting sustainable development, resolving or mitigating conflict, and dealing with transnational issues such as climate change and agriculture,” he pledged. While Obama has built a great team, the White House has yet to announce any Africa Policy, greater control and influence for the Bureau of African Affairs, or take any serious (or effective) action for the continent.
Tanzania: Obama, Kikwete Meet in Oval Office on Africa’s Conflicts

World Bank Resumes Zimbabwe Aid

Zimbabwe owes the World Bank and the African Development Bank more than $1bn, how much potential does renewed aid really hold for the country. If the debt is not forgiven there will be no way the country will be able to rebuild necessary infrastructures for health, water, etc. There are countless case studies to show this historical fact. It must also be noted that Western sanctions were a huge detriment to a country in need, maybe this marks a turnaround?

The Week in African Health

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

“No weapons” MSF in Nasir, Upper Nile State, South Sudan

“No weapons” MSF in Nasir, Upper Nile State, South Sudan

A Tale of Two Refrigerators
Fighting has renewed in southern Sudan, but its not just between militant groups – aid groups fall victim to needless fighting as well. Diane Bennet writes on William Easterly’s Aid Watch blog about the 2001 peace in Sudan and how it was a ripe time to treat disease and build health infrastructure. Unfortunately internal bureaucracy and politics became the largest hurdle.

Sudan: Darfur – Thousands Flee to African Union Safety
More recently, South Darfur has become the seen of violent clashes between government forces and militants. It is important to never forget the impacts that conflict has on health services.

Africa: Public Health Care Must Lead

Oxfam International has released a report [access here] “challenging the myths about private health care in developing countries.” The report emphasizes the role that private health care can play in developing countries, but reminds us that there is no way a scale-up of private health services will reach poor people in need. Key recommendations are to increase funding for free universal health care infrastructure, rejecting ineffective practices of the past, and combining efforts to fuel effective initiatives – sounds a lot like SCOUT BANANA

Global Health: Mobile Phones to Boost Healthcare

Revolutionizing access to health knowledge, the efforts of the Mobile Health Alliance (mHealth), supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, the UN Foundation, and Vodafone Foundation are making a mark across the African continent boasting 51 existing or to-be-implemented programs in 26 countries around the world. Harnessing the potential of growing technology in ‘developing’ countries for the purpose of health can only signal a major shift in access to health care across Africa.

Getting the Continent on Obama’s Agenda

It appears that Obama’s administration is stacked in the favor of Africa and in favor of better international development practices all around. With Susan Rice serving as Ambassador to the UN action against genocide may be bolstered, Gayle Smith more likely than not will be tapped as USAID Director, she was a major proponent of the HELP Commission creating a cabinet level position for foreign aid, and a well known name among insiders and outsiders in African affairs, Johnnie Carson, is expected to be named head of the Bureau of African Affairs of the State Department. The future of US relations in Africa has incredible potential and hope to change.

Zimbabwe: Staff Return to Hospitals, But Not to Work

As a massive cholera outbreak tears across the country, medical staff have returned to their posts, but the nature of their strike, that began in 2008 over poor working conditions and wages, is now “more like a sit-in.” In a country so crippled by Western exploitation and resulting politics, a strike of the health workers in the face of a rampant disease outbreak does not bode well for a vulnerable population.
Too Much Cholera, Too Little Food
Over 80,000 Zimbabweans Infected with Cholera

Africa: U.S. Naval Engagement Offers Health Dividends

Imagine the potential of the US’ military might if it was dedicated to coordinating naval and health care workers from 13 countries to bring aid and health services to communities in need. This becomes a reality with the African Partnership Station Initiative and Project Handclasp. I can only dream of a day where initiatives like this are more a norm than a surprising gesture of good will.

Mali: Raising Money and Hygiene Standards

One of the most innovative programs that I have read most recently is the work the Dutch based Gender and Water Alliance which is employing women to make soap as well educate and use it to increase hygiene and combat preventable diseases. Health benefits, a source of income and empowering women!

Food Crisis Over, Say Experts

Supposedly the global food crisis of last year is over! Agricultural experts from Africa and Asia are saying that we are no longer in a food crisis and that there needs to be an increased production of rice in Africa in order to keep the food crisis at bay. In my opinion, as long as we continue our unsustainable and capitalist practices that commodify a basic human need, we will remain in a global food crisis affecting both the US and Africa.
Rwanda: Food Production Up, Thanks to Green Revolution
Thankfully the increase is not due to the ‘Green Revolution,’ but instead to increase in practices that are focused on protecting the environment.

South Africa: Treasury Blamed for Shortage in Aids Drugs

Years of controversy seem to have brought the blame down on the South African Treasury. With an extensive bureaucracy, it is no wonder that the ARV roll-out program has taken much longer than it should – as many die without the proper medications. While the numbers of people enrolled in the ARV program has increased significantly there still exists a problematic policy of access. Access hinges on wealth, CD4 count, and location. To access the government’s ARV program your CD4 count has to be less than 300, which is at a point where you are already very vulnerable. This creates an issue of sustained treatment because it forces an irregular regimen. If your CD4 count is above 300, you will have to pay. Many cannot pay and if you live far from a government hospital access is just that much more difficult because of taxi fare and time sacrificed for travel. It seems the health and wellbeing of its citizens is not a high budget priority of the South African government.
Rapid HIV evolution avoids attacks
Much like the flu virus, HIV mutates and evolves in response to treatments. This really exposes the South African ARV program as highly ineffective.
Duncan discusses HIV/AIDS in Morocco
Little known to the world, the HIV/AIDS crisis grows in Morocco.

The Week in African Health

Friday, February 6th, 2009

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

"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.

In the (RED)

Monday, December 29th, 2008

What exactly is Product (RED)? According to the official website,

“Product (RED) is not a charity. It is not a cause. It is an idea.”

Launched by Bono and Bobby Shriver in 2006, the (RED) campaign defines itself as a business model which is designed to raise awareness and a sustainable flow of funds to the The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Private corporations agree to donate a portion of profit made on the sale of specific (RED) products directly to the Global Fund. These funds will then be used for the specific purpose of providing access to education, nutrition, counseling, medical services, and anti-retroviral medicine in Africa. Currently Product (RED) allocates it’s funds only to projects in Ghana, Lesotho, Rwanda and Swaziland, but there are plans to broaden their reach. Many popular businesses are already partners including American Express (UK only), Converse, Gap, Emporio Armani, Dell, Windows, Apple and Hallmark, with many more vying to get involved.

The basic idea is that for the same price of a comparable good, a consumer can purchase what they want and the company will make a contribution to the Global Fund. The percent of profit donated varies by partner and product. For example, at the Gap, 50% of sales on (RED) products, such as t-shirts that read, “Inspi(RED),” is donated. For every (RED) laptop computer sold, Dell and Windows will donate $50. Some companies are less specific about the percentage of sales that is actually donated but the philosophy remains the same throughout the stores: ‘lives can be saved through shopping.’ Buy a pair of shoes, save a life. Buy an iPod, save a life. The idea is not completely unappealing or inherently wrong. To date (RED) partners have generated more than $110 million for the Global Fund, money that would have otherwise just gone to the corporations. Still there are some unsettling aspects of this business model.

Product (RED) buys into contemporary feelings of wanting to get something for what we give and of wanting it to be convenient. It makes fighting AIDS trendy. The newest partner, Starbucks, is donating $.05 for every one of its three special seasonal beverages sold between December 1, 2008 and January 2, 2009. The Starbucks website states “It’s easy to do good”. And it is! All you have to do is spend $3.50 on a small peppermint mocha. You’ll get a sticker to place on a map of Africa to show your contribution and go on with your day feeling good about your 5 cent donation. 5 cents is nothing to scoff about. With as many drinks as Starbucks sells, it adds up, but what is the real message being sent? Who is really benefiting? Companies get to make a minimal donation and make themselves look really good. Consumers get to feel even better about their coffee and new clothes. It’s possible that a few of these consumers will be motivated to find out more about the AIDS epidemic in the developing world. They may visit a website and educate themselves, possibly making a larger donation in the future or just spreading their new knowledge to others. But how many purchasers of (RED) products will do this? How many others will feel they have done their part by purchasing their Product (RED) iPod, instead of a blue one?

Product (RED) is not necessarily a bad thing. I myself have purchased two (RED) iPods and love them. Funds are being raised to fight the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Still, I find this whole idea misses the point. Money is being donated while ignoring the root of the problem. Product (RED) uses the promotion of excessive consumerism to fight a problem that has been partially caused by excessive consumerism. It does not lead United States and European citizens to question global stratification and what their role in it might be. Instead it allows them to feel like they are doing something to help by shopping, rather than motivating them to make real changes. Money can always be given, but it’s hard to imagine any real improvements in the quality of living for everyone around the world without real changes to the economic and cultural systems we live in, including changes in how people think and act and view themselves as members of their neighborhood, country and world. A change between buying a Product (RED) t-shirt at the Gap or the plain gray shirt next to it on the shelf is not this kind of change. Product (RED) has the potential to raise awareness and make people think about global issues, but it also has the potential to make them feel satisfied with the way things are and the small part they are doing by purchasing a gingerbread latte at Starbucks. So for Product (RED) and other business models aspiring to follow it’s example, rather than a green, go for it, I give a yellow: use sparingly and with caution.

By Ruth Berger, VP MSU Chapter

Year of Water Project – Michigan

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Launched in September at Michigan Technological University (MTU) with the Michigan Organization of Residence Halls Associations (MORHA).

Charity:Water and SCOUT BANANA believe that access to clean water is a basic human right, and this year, 2007, we are doing something about it. Charity:Water was founded in 2006 and since has provided people with clean drinking water through construction and rehabilitation projects on wells. Through on-the-ground organizations Charity:Water has built 158 wells in five African countries that will give close to 100,000 people clean drinking water. SCOUT BANANA is an organization dedicated to providing access to basic health care. Access to clean water is extremely important to being and staying healthy as 80% of all sickness is due to unsafe water. In Michigan, we take for granted that we are surrounded by the world’s largest source of freshwater. The Great Lakes hold enough water for each of the 300 million people of the US to have 19 million gallons of water. Between 2000 and 2004, Michigan increased its water use by 1 billion gallons per day (gpd), to almost 11 billion gpd, or 4 trillion gallons per year, with 81% being withdrawn by power plants. This is enough to cover the entire land area of Michigan with 4 inches of water. 89% of water withdrawn in Michigan comes from Great Lakes sources. The remaining 11% comes from inland surface and groundwater sources (DEQ 2004 Report). There is a term in water management known as “unaccounted for” water. This is treated water that leaks from faulty pipes and is completely wasted. This water, ready for usage, that leaks from pipes every year in Detroit alone would be enough to give every person in the combined countries of the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Liberia, Malawi, and Uganda with 297 gallons of treated water. (, August 2002). In Africa just $20 can give a person clean water for 20 years. The estimated cost of the leak is $23 million worth of water that never reaches homes and businesses, this could provide over one million people with the clean water they so desperately need.

Charity:Water Facts
• Over 1.1 billion people on the planet do not have access to clean drinking water.
• 42,000 people will die this week from disease related to poor drinking water. 90 percent of them will be children under age 5.
• A child dies from unsafe water every 15 seconds.
• 80 percent of all sickness on the planet is caused by unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation. It kills 2.2 million people every year. That’s more than all forms of violence, including war.
• Millions of women in developing countries walk 3 miles every day, to get water is likely to make them sick.

Bobi, Uganda
The first six wells built and rehabilitated by Charity:Water were in the war-torn region of northern Uganda. In the village of Bobi, 31,000 people now have access to clean water. Here is the story from Charity:Water founder, Scott Harrison.
“20 years of war displaced nearly two million people in Northern Uganda. Seeking solace from Joseph Kony’s rebel soldiers, they gathered in camps for safety. Bobi is the largest IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp in the Gulu Province. When I visited in August, I found 31,638 people living there. They drank from only one working well. On October 24th our partners on the ground in Northern Uganda used those contributions to begin work in Bobi. The rehabilitation of 3 broken hand pumps and 3 newly constructed wells were completed in November. Water committees were formed and trained to maintain the new water sources. The wells have transformed the lives of the 31,638 men, women and children living there. Bobi, one of the most hopeless and depressing places I’ve ever visited in Africa, now looks to the future with hope and health.”

Uganda Facts
(CIA, The World Factbook)
• Slightly smaller than Oregon with a population of over 30,250,000.
• Life expectancy at birth is approximately 52 years.
• The high rates of HIV/AIDS have significantly increased mortality, impacting life expectancy and population.
• There is a very high risk for contracting waterborne diseases including: bacterial infections, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever.
• 35% of the population lives below the poverty line with average income at $1,500.
• The country hosts over 250,000 refugees from Sudan, the DRC, and Rwanda, along with 1 million internally displaced peoples (IDPs).
• Agriculture employs 80% of the workforce. The major export of the country is coffee.

To Fetch A Pail of Water
Of all the water on earth, 97.5% is salt water. The remaining 2.5% is fresh water, 70% is frozen in the polar ice caps and the other 30% is soil moisture or lies in underground aquifers. In all, less than 1% of the world’s fresh water is readily accessible for direct use. Moreover, there is a natural inequity in resource distribution that allows some countries to be rich in water, while others struggle.

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