Posts Tagged ‘Liberia’

The Week of Health in Africa

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

(Photo credit: Dominic Chavez/ WHO)

This week comes with controversy and numerous calls for the eradication of various diseases by the WHO. Health workers in go on strike in another African country after South Africa’s months long strike. Liberian doctors said they would only treat “critical” patients. Tuberculosis is becoming more resistant among young people and HIV positive individuals, but more effort is being put into research.

WHO sees end to TB

Last week TB was discussed as a “forgotten disease for forgotten people,” but now it seems that the WHO has released a plan that identifies gaps in research to create faster treatment regimes. “There is an urgent need to scale up action against TB – 10 million people, including 4 million women and children, will lose their lives unnecessarily between now and 2015 if we fail,” Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general, said.

Its Time to End the Double-Standard of Food Aid

Tido von Schoen-Angerer, Executive Director of Doctors Without Border’s “Access to Essential Medicines Campaign” wrote on Huffington Post about how the US government continues to send sub-standard food supplies to areas in need. The United States, the world’s biggest food aid donor, continues to send the corn-soy flours that do not address childhood malnutrition. You would be hard pressed to find these foods in American grocery stores, because it’s food we would never feed our own children.

More: Can the story on US food aid get any worse from Aid Watch posting Financial Times

“Paradigm” Shift Needed in Health Care, Experts Say

In Africa there needs to be a greater focus on prevention and treatment of noncommunicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension and not just infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, health experts told the 2010 U.S.-Africa Private Sector Health Conference October 6. “Health is as critical as institutions, infrastructure and education for Africa’s economic competitiveness and growth. It is a prerequisite for human energy, entrepreneurship, dynamic markets and a productive society,” said Haskell Ward, vice-president of Seacom Corporation and chairman of the Global Health Strategic and Advisory Committee of the American Cancer Society.

Ending Africa’s Hunger Means Listening to Farmers

Africa is hungry – 240 million people are undernourished. Now, for the first-time, small African farmers have been properly consulted on how to solve the problem of feeding sub-Saharan Africa. Their answers appear to directly repudiate a massive international effort to launch an African Green Revolution funded in large part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “Food and agriculture policy and research tend to ignore the values, needs, knowledge and concerns of the very people who provide the food we all eat – and often serve instead powerful commercial interests such as multinational seed and food retailing companies,” said Michel Pimbert of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), a non-profit research institute based in London.

African cholera outbreak kills 2000

A preventable disease that is linked to the need for clean water sources has continued to kill people in a number of countries. WHO officials report that, as of October 3, there have been 40,468 reported cases of cholera and 1,879 reported cholera deaths in four countries, including Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. The outbreaks started a few months ago, officials said.

Obesity: an underestimated “silent killer”

There is a new “silent killer” in town. It joins the ranks of malnutrition, malaria, hypertension, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, etc. It is obesity. “We are eating our way to the grave’’ and “obesity is rising in rural areas.’’ Adults are overweight or obese, while children are malnourished – a paradox. In the men still look at a potbelly as a badge of pride and success.” The World Health Organization reports that more than one-third of African women and a quarter of African men are estimated to be overweight, and predicted that it will rise to 41 percent and 30 percent respectively in by 2016. Once considered a problem only in high income countries, overweight and obesity are now dramatically on the rise in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings.

United Nations Summit: Will health goals be achieved by 2015 deadline?

Monday, October 4th, 2010

(Copyright: ExpressVous)

As the United Nations Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (a set of eight goals aimed at eradicating poverty) comes to a close, one thing is apparent. The health-related development goals are in the most danger of not being met by the 2015 deadline.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon stressed the importance of the revamped push towards maternal health and reduction of child mortality rates. Throughout the summit, UN officials, world leaders and other speakers emphasized the progress made since the Millennium Declaration in 2000, rather than the shortcomings. Out of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), improving maternal health and reducing child mortality rates are the two goals lagging behind (and account for two out of the three health-related MDGs.)[1]

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United Nations Development Programme, 2000

Ban Ki-Moon declared the start of a $40 Billion Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health on the the last day of the summit. The project will involve several international health agencies and expects to reach 15 million women and children. Ki-Moon explained the importance of women’s and children’s health saying, “Investing in women’s and children’s health has a multiplier effect across the millennium development goals.” Queen Rania of Jordan emphasized that the shortcoming are an institutional problem, not an individual problem. The influential queen said, “These women are working hard…But their time is not efficient.” According to the U.N., improvement of women’s and children’s health is possible by 2015. [2]

The multi-billion dollar global strategy includes projects throughout the world in countries like Afghanistan and several African countries. The Nigerian, Liberian and Rwandan governments have pledged to spend more money on women’s health by increasing training of midwives. In Afghanistan, the government plans to increase access to contraceptives for women in need. In addition, Planned Parenthood will redouble their efforts in 173 different countries.

Although these efforts are admirable and additional attention to health related MDGs have proven necessary, is it possible to achieve thus far unmet needs by the 2015 deadline? And why are women’s and children’s health the most neglected of the MDGs? The United Nations has already been criticized for making too lofty a program without effective strategy. Only time will tell whether the United Nations, and the rest of the international community will actually make the effort to give more for women’s and children’s health.


[1] Oloruntoba, Bunmi. “Women and Children the Focus of Achieving the MDGs.” AllAfrica.com. 24 September 2010.

[2] Ward, Olivia. “$40 Billion promised at UN for maternal, child health.” TheStar.com. 22 September 2010.

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Olivia is the new Communications Intern who will be managing the blog and working with social media outreach. Apply to write a guest post or join the blog team [Learn more]

Why We Don’t Talk About It

Friday, January 29th, 2010

“News you can use.” This adage has been selfishly and regrettably adopted by a vast majority of western media sources, particularly those in the United States, failing to recognize that news about foreign conflict is news we can all use. Anup Shah discusses this problem with regards to the ignorance it has produced regarding African conflict in her article “Conflicts in Africa.” According to Shah, citing research performed by Media Tenor over the course of 18 months, only 0.2% of 23,587 reports from the United States, Great Britain, and Germany focused on conflicts in Africa. This is especially unnerving considering the fact that death tolls and refugee counts in several of the reported conflicts, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, and Liberia, far exceeded those of other conflicts which received far greater news coverage. An example cited in Shah’s article is that the Israeli-Pakistan conflict was given far more attention in western media sources than fighting in the DRC where deaths were much more numerous. The reason? Media sources with only the interests of their viewers as well as their government in mind.

In an increasingly globalized world that allows people to connect to each other around the world in seconds, this is a problem. Earth is quickly becoming a singular planetary community rather than hundreds of smaller, national societies. As a result, understanding and education about places not currently understood is absolutely vital.

The United States has been and will likely continue to be involved in the situation in Israel and Pakistan largely for our own interests in the Middle East. Therefore, people need to know what’s going on there for as long as we’re implicated in the situation. Conversely, besides any minimal foreign aid the US sends to places like the DRC and Sierra Leone, we have little vested interests in those areas (excluding the diamond-rich Sierra Leone countryside) that would make the American public want to become educated on affairs in these places. The major interest in these areas is, of course, consumer-driven, since the DRC is very rich in Coltan, an ore used to make myriad electronics so vital to our everyday lives. Unfortunately, this western business interest that has the potential to better the lives of the inhabitants, mainly serves to fuel pre-existing problems in the region.
Many Americans are sadly and disturbingly under the impression that Africa is a mysterious place that just naturally and inherently produces conflict, and that there’s really just nothing we can do about it. This is wrong.

Africa is a beautiful place with a history of peace and conflict resolution much longer than ours. Still, because of the discourse produced by those in power over the course of our history, people simply don’t realize this and never will unless something changes in people’s attitudes regarding the world around them.

Furthermore, western media has little to no interest in reporting on Africa, be it good or bad news, due to the historical implications surrounding it. Much of the problems that have arisen in war-torn countries came from severe cultural, economic, and social oppression inflicted during colonialism. Similarly to here in the US, people would just rather forget that dark period in history and not recognize the seemingly irreparable damage it has done to innocent peoples’ lives.

Now, this entire ordeal might seem hopeless and anyone reading this might be under the impression that there is nothing they can do. Well I am pleased to tell you that you are mistaken. The best solution to this problem? Education. Education leads to understanding; understanding leads to tolerance and acceptance. The latter both lead to compassion and desire to help, which is where groups like SCOUT BANANA and other international philanthropic organizations that want to help those who need it help themselves come in.

So next time you sit down to read the paper or watch the news on TV I’m presenting you with this challenge: for every story you read or watch about domestic affairs, read or watch at least one about Africa, or any other region of the world not typically covered on CNN, ABC, CBS, or in USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, or any other major news source. You might be surprised how much you have to learn.

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. (www.uswaternews.com, 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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