Thursday, February 28, 2008

Kenya power sharing deal signed

In breaking news, a power sharing deal in Kenya has been signed between President Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, the opposition leader.

The BBC reports: Details of the agreement have yet to be released, but correspondents say it appears to be a significant peace deal.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rioting spreads to Yaoundé

The rioting that had hit Cameroon's economic center Douala has apparently spread to its political capital Yaoundé.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Douala in flames

The UN's IRIN news service has continuing coverage of the rioting in Douala, Cameroon's economic capital.

So does the Voice of America.

Oddly enough, the BBC doesn't.

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Africa's top internet countries

Grandiose Parlor blog has a graph about Africa's Top 10 Internet Countries. Many of the top ten are countries with repressive state environments for traditional media: Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. Not that most of the other countries aren't without their own issues. I think it shows that even authoritarianism can't kill people's hunger for knowledge.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Don't let them eat cake

It wouldn't be a February without Zimbabwe's crook-in-chief throwing a lavish $300,000 birthday party while his countrymen starve.

Another thing that remains unchanged: South African president Thabo Mbeki's delusions that 'quiet diplomacy' with Mugabe might actually work.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

User fees and health care

Piece originally published in Friends of Guinea's blog. Reposted with permission.

The IRIN news service has a good piece on the debate over user fees in African health care.

Late last year, the Liberian health ministry suspended the imposition of user fees for primary health care and set up a committee to investigate the impact of such fees on the country's extremely poor population.

The research is in part to show the level of revenue gained from fees contrasted with the extent fees keep people away from health services, one development expert in Liberia said. Many who advocate lifting fees say they do not contribute significantly to government coffers, reported IRIN.

The World Bank is working with Liberia to figure out alternative ways to fund health care. A health economist with the organization pointed out that World Bank does not support user fees, as is commonly assumed. “We’re neither for nor against user fees – what we’re for is that the poor and children have access to health care.”

A spokesman for Britain's Department for International Development said, “We think the evidence is clear that user fees are not desirable because they don't attract a lot of revenue in a typical African country, but nonetheless act as a significant disincentive for poor people to seek health care."

The Globalist, for its part, took a broader look at the challenges of health care in Africa. Particularly, how to make the biggest positive impact on public health with limited resources.

Some of the key problems it cited:
-The problems of childbirth
-The scarcity of physicians
-The 'brain drain' of domestic health workers toward Europe and North America
-Deadly diseases like tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria
-Curing the stigma against AIDS

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Circumcision undermines anti-AIDS efforts?

As I blogged about earlier, there is some scientific evidence that male circumcision can significantly reduce the risk of contracting HIV-AIDS.

However, part of the medical community in Rwanda is concerned that the country's current circumcision campaign could actually harm anti-AIDS efforts. They fear that the campaign could lull people into believing that the procedure is tantamount to a vaccine against the disease, particularly in a country where knowledge of sexual health issues is low.

"Most of the difficulties relate to convincing men that circumcision does not exclude the use of condoms during sex," notes one general practitioner in the capital Kigali.

While circumcision may reduce the chances of the man contracting HIV by one half, a risk still remains. And obviously it does nothing for the women.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Progress in Liberia

The Center for Global Development has a report detailing the progress made in Liberia since the inauguration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Most underreported humanitarian stories of 2007

An annual story that I forgot to blog about when it came out...

Around the New Year, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) issued its annual report of the top ten most underreported humanitarian stories. Of course, most humanitarian stories are underreported but this is a list of some of the most important ones.

The ten were...
-Displaced fleeing war in Somalia face humanitarian crisis

-Political and economic turmoil sparks health-care crisis in Zimbabwe

-Drug-resistant tuberculosis spreads as new drugs go untested

-Expanded use of nutrient dense ready-to-use foods crucial for reducing childhood malnutrition

-Civilians increasingly under fire in Sri Lankan conflict

-Conditions worsen in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

-Living precariously in Colombia's conflict zones

-Humanitarian aid restricted in Myanmar (Burma)

-Civilians caught between armed groups in Central African Republic

-As Chechen conflict ebbs, critical humanitarian needs still remain

Note: You can support MSF's excellent work by clicking here.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Global Witness

Congratulations to Global Witness. The small NGO was given the 2007 Commitment to Development award by the Center for Global Development and Foreign Policy magazine.

The award honors individuals or organizations for "raising public awareness and changing the attitudes and policies of the rich world toward developing countries."

According to the CGD, Global Witness has repeatedly exposed "the corrupt exploitation of natural resources and the international trade system" as well as human rights and environmental abuses.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Biofuels push hurts the poor?

The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization warns about the impact of skyrocketing crop prices.

It estimated that Africa will see a 49 percent rise in their cereal import bill. International wheat prices have skyrocketed by 83 percent in the last year.

Poor countries will pay a record total for cereal imports, despite a fall in the total amount they will import.

The Christian Science Monitor ran a good piece exploring to what extent the skyrocketing food prices have been affected by the global push for ethanol and other biofuels.

An economist at Iowa State University estimates that one-fifth of all the acreage in the US now devoted to the crop will grow corn destined for ethanol, rather than food. Soybean prices have also been affected by this trend.

With huge amounts of crop-growing land in the US devoted instead to energy, it's no surprise that food prices are through the roof.

So we're taking food out of the mouthes of poor people to devote to an energy inefficient fuel.

Talk about the law of unintended consequences.


Friday, February 15, 2008

The new slavery

Vienna is hosting the first major international forum dedicated to the fight against human trafficking. UN officials rightly call it the hidden crime of globalisation and nothing short of modern day slavery.

It's an 'industry' with annual profits of an estimated $32 billion.

Astonishingly, one of the conference attendees called human trafficking more lucrative than the trafficking in arms.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Child exploitation in Guinea

The UN's IRIN news service explores the phenomenon of child exploitation in Guinea.

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Words matter

Great example of how headlines can be reckless if chosen poorly

Yahoo headline: Opposition leader killed in Kenya
First sentence of AP article: Opposition legislator killed in Kenya.

Especially given the situation there, it's a pretty big difference!


Friday, February 01, 2008

AU selects new leaders

The continent's heads of state selected new leaders for the African Union at the organization's annual summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The new chairman of the AU is Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete.

The new chairman of the AU Commission and effectively leader of the organization is Gabon's foreign minister Jean Ping. Ping will take over from Alpha Oumar Konaré, who headed the AU's executive branch since 2003.

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