Tuesday, May 11, 2004

African Emigration -- Word of Mouth and the Anti-AIDS fight

The BBC is doing a series on African emigration to Europe and the economic desperation that drives it. In one, a Guinean nicknamed Billy recounts his extraordinary tale of how he crossed the Sahara Desert to reach Morocco, where he smuggled himself into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. He is now working in Italy, where he has been given a residence permit, and has just been back to see his family for the first time since he set out on his adventure more than four years ago. He wrote of meeting a Senegalese man who'd made the trip across the Sahara: "He told me that because of the conflict with Islamic radicals, the Algerian police often shot on sight people they came across in remote areas. I also heard about armed robbers who would rob migrants of all their money and leave them for dead in the desert. "

The British broadcaster also did a piece on how many Guineans are afraid that with such a mass exodus of working aged men, only women, children and old men will remain. Billy's uncle, Mohamed Diallo, says that unless you have modern equipment such as tractors, it is hard to move beyond the subsistence agriculture. "Look at my father, he was born in 1922 and has worked hard all his life. All he has is the house he built himself, he does not even have a bank book," he says.

America's National Public Radio program Morning Edition reported on a study that suggested: word-of-mouth warnings about AIDS played a major role in helping Uganda reduce the spread of the disease by 80 percent. According to the study, the biggest factor in slowing AIDS wasn't condom use, but a drop in the number of Ugandans engaging in high-risk sex. The audio can be accessed by clicking here

The Nigerian paper This Day explored the challenges faced as the international community marked International Humanitarian Day on 8 May. The daily cited some of the challenges facing Africa: From all fronts, peacekeeping experts pointed to the availability of small arms, lack of good governance, human rights abuses and uneven distribution of material resources as causes of conflicts not only in Africa, but across the globe. Closely related to these is the issue of debt burden on the continent and other third world nations that has resulted into serious economic crises, and the citizens wallowing in abject poverty. Others include colonial legacy of illogical state boundaries and arbitrary creation of multinational states without the consent of the peoples. But the paper also doesn't fall into the trap of complacency by blaming everything on westerners. It points out However, among the urgent issues that must be addressed in Africa if the continent is to contain the level of crises and conflicts as well as the intensity of the violence, observers said, is to encourage good governance. There is indeed, too great a gap between the peoples and their respective governments across the continent", they noted. This has brought about the endemic, chronic and abject poverty that characterises social and economic life of the people, together with religious divide and the intolerance associated with it. There is the hegemonic-mission mentality of the ruling elites and the ethnic configuration, which are fertilising agents for ethnic hostility and war-fare within the national frontiers.

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