The Concoction

An Ethiopian woman's musings on Africa, the world and everything in between

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        Thursday, August 31, 2006
        Born in Africa, a killer in America
        Apparently, 4 out of 5 storms that affect the US (including Hurricane Katrina) start in Africa. Claire Soares of The Christian Science Monitor has an article here about a NASA-backed study of storms that start off the coast of West Africa.

        For about a month ending in mid-September, the NASA-backed researchers will collect information about the initial stages of a storm. Once the storm's life cycle is complete, and scientists know whether it ultimately intensified or weakened, they will look back over the early data and try to pick out the characteristics that gave birth to a big storm.

        Personally, I'm all for some technology which would "shoot down" storms in the Atlantic before they reach the US. I'm just a little fed up of "preparing" for bad weather every summer.

        Related links
        History of hurricanes which affected the US
        posted by Fikirte @ 12:46 PM   1 comments Digg!
        Clinton against AIDS in Africa
        The New York Times has a very interesting and entertaining article about Clinton's recent visit to African countries where his foundation is assisting people living with HIV/AIDS. Although the Clinton Foundation works with other programs such as his climate initiative, he's scoring big time with the AIDS project. He was so warmly accepted in Africa that he even got away with a quick apology in Rwanda for not doing anything about the genocide while he was in the White House.

        Clinton's main achievement in the fight against AIDS is his success in making cheaper generic medicines available for the poor. A 180 degrees back flip from what he stood for – protecting pharmaceutical companies interest – while he was in Office. Still, his change of heart is not too late (or too little) for the people whose lives are spared because of his foundation.

        His foundation also has negotiated steep cuts in the price of AIDS medicines through deals with drug companies that cover more than 400,000 patients in dozens of countries, helping propel momentum for treatment of the destitute. …Dr. Bernard Pécoul, who led a campaign for access to medicines for Doctors Without Borders from 1998 to 2003, [said] "They have been very clever in supporting generic policy in the United States, a country where it’s not easy,” he said. “And sometimes they’ve been even more courageous than the United Nations system, which is under pressure from member states."

        I guess once a sleek politician, always a sleek politician.

        The Clinton Foundation
        Inspiring stories of a community based HIV/AIDS treatment initiated by the Parnters in Health
        WHO's endorsement of traditional healers in the fight against AIDS
        posted by Fikirte @ 11:55 AM   1 comments Digg!
        Wednesday, August 30, 2006
        Never mind women, improve the lives of donkeys!
        Certain charitable programs can't help trigger a "what the…" reaction however noble their intentions. I guess there is often a cultural factor to such a reaction, but still a sanctuary for donkeys??? I say again, what the…!

        However cool donkey's look and however cute their eyes are, a world-wide sanctuary for donkeys to "improve [the lives] of donkeys…" is pushing it a bit too far. Funding scholarships "to attend the 5th International Colloquium on Working Equines" is just ridiculous. This is not a joke! There is a UK based NGO called The Donkey Sanctuary which is organizing a seminar on donkeys in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

        We are actively seeking scholarship funding for up to 58 overseas delegates to attend the 5th International Colloquium on Working Equines being held in 2006 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

        • The Colloquium aims to promote and share knowledge and expertise about topical issues concerning working equines throughout the world.
        • Donkeys act as a lifeline to many communities, in particular within Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, providing essential agricultural assistance and transportation solutions.
        • The Colloquium provides an ideal arena to promote the value of these and other equines
        • It covers a range of topics including sustainable methods of education and extension (long term improvements in equine care), welfare issues, animal legislation and environmental considerations.

        Caring for animals is all very good, but first things first please. Women in Africa do the donkey job of fetching firewood and water, but you don’t hear about a sanctuary for over worked and burnt out women.

        I urge the donkey seminar participants to go up to Entoto and see whether it is the women carrying firewood on their backs negotiating the steep roads or the donkeys that need the sanctuary.
        posted by Fikirte @ 4:54 PM   0 comments Digg!
        Monday, August 28, 2006
        Get food, but you may be raped
        It has been three months since the peace agreement was signed between the largest rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Movement, and the Sudanese Government. Unfortunately, the agreement has not brought about any significant change to improve the situation in Darfur.

        Reports of militias raping civilian women is one constant disaster that comes out of the Darfur civil war. Fetching fire wood or water often ends up in the women being raped. Just imagine running to the grocery store to get a gallon of milk and there is a very high possibility of you being raped. Just imagine.

        I was curious to find out how war rapes have been dealt with in other parts of the world – I admit that I suffer from this conspiracy theory that there is little interest to human rights abuse in Africa and abuse against African women, forget it! Nonetheless, it is interesting to see how a problem is dealt with in different contexts.

        Dorothy Thomas and Regan Ralph of John Hopkins University have an interesting chapter on Rape in War: Challenging the Tradition of Impunity (via Human Rights Watch). The bottom line is that rape should be taken for what it is - a strategy in achieving a military objective. "In the former Yugoslavia, rape and other grave abuses committed by Serbian forces are intended to drive the non-Serbian population into flight."

        While there are international rules on how to be fair in wars – which I think is ironic – raping women has not been given the attention it deserves.

        But while other abuses, such as murder and other forms of torture have long been denounced as war crimes, rape has been downplayed as an unfortunate but inevitable side effect of sending men to war…. Despite the pervasiveness of rape, it often has been a hidden element of war, a fact that is linked inextricably to its largely gender-specific character. The fact that the abuse is committed by men against women has contributed to its being narrowly portrayed as sexual or personal in nature, a portrayal that depoliticizes sexual abuse in conflict and results in its being ignored as a war crime. A more accurate understanding of the political function of wartime rape and the complexity of its motivation is necessary if adequate and responsive remedies are to be applied.

        What makes the Darfur situation even sadder is that international law cannot protect the women there. Civil wars and the gruesome effect of them are the business of individual countries.

        As for civil wars, unfortunately, international law today has fewer rules regulating the conduct of internal conflicts, which many States consider part of their domestic jurisdiction and, consequently, there is a shorter list of war crimes. (source)

        More links
        Darfur: Rape as a Weapon of War
        Amnesty International on rape in Darfur
        Testimonials of rape as ethnic cleasing in Darfur
        posted by Fikirte @ 12:45 PM   2 comments Digg!
        Sunday, August 20, 2006
        Where there is demand, there is supply – at least in capitalism
        The New York Times had two completely unrelated articles which made me think about the subject of this post. The first is about the plummeting mosque attendance in Baghdad “because more and more Iraqis associate the neighborhood mosque…with the Kalashnikov rather than the Koran”. Businesses are jumping right in to capitalize on this disaster and are providing an alternative. CD’s with religious lectures “have boomed”. How clever!

        The second article is about Colombia’s coca production and the fruitless US plan to uproot it. Six years and $4.7 billion later, American streets still see the same “price, quality and availability of cocaine….” Coca farmers and dealers are changing their strategies constantly to beat a US policy, and they are succeeding. The production has been reduced into smaller bits and redistributed throughout Colombia making it harder to be reached.

        It is amazing how supplying demand for profit manages to survive the harshest conditions and restrictions. Then I seriously wonder, how come the same – even a lesser degree will do – type of resilience, innovativeness and zeal is lacking from development policies and projects. Could it be because we (human beings) are at our best for maximum production and innovation when we are greedy and self-centered? Could the same reason be a factor why capitalism, despite its many evils, easily flourishes while socialism, although it is supposed to be based on "equality for all", fails drastically?

        Perhaps it’s time that we try a bit of capitalism for development. Somebody somewhere is making profit out of it anyway. Therefore, we should stop labeling development as ‘non-profit’. Legally make development for profit and get on with it. This, by the way, is a serious suggestion.


        An interesting history of capitalism
        posted by Fikirte @ 5:06 PM   0 comments Digg!
        Wednesday, August 16, 2006
        The rich giveth. The rich taketh away
        Development aid has gone a full circle without much effect on poverty in Africa. Direct aid to governments was outdated as ineffective and politically intrusive. Then, we had a wave of NGOs of all forms, shapes and sizes – secular/religious, relief/development, local/international, vague/confused (this one is my addition). Now, well since last year, the OECD decided to flip back to direct aid because there is no evidence that there NGOs are any better than corrupt governments. Ouch!

        I have difficulties buying the "recipient governments use aid for political purposes" argument as if donor countries don't have political motives. Let's face it aid is the most effect carrot for every one.

        During the Cold War, governments often received aid for geo-strategic reasons with very little money actually reaching poor people. One example was US support for the late dictator of Zaire, Joseph Mobutu, because he was seen as anti-communist. (BBC )

        The thing is, not much have changed today. Donor countries still use aid for geo-strategic reasons. The Cold War may be over, but a much warmer war has replaced it and aid is proving to be a very handy instrument.

        What is very annoying about the whole aid discussion (bickering rather) is that the same old arguments get recycled to death, and those who are really "involved" in development aid are afraid to get political. OECD’s "one of a kind" evaluation of direct giving admits...

        While there were increases in expenditure in areas such as health and education, any increase in the incomes of the very poor is not yet evident.

        Well, that’s news!

        A few success stories here and there get trumpeted so loud in a desperate effort to say "you see, you see, it can work". I often wonder if a major breakthrough is ever to come for development thinking and doing or if the words of Palagunmi Sainath would still resinate 2 dacades from now...
        Development is the strategy of evasion. When you can't give people land reform, give them hybrid cows. When you can't send children to school, try non-formal education. When you can’t provide basic health to people, talk of health insurance. Can't give them jobs? Not to worry, just redefine the words "employment opportunities". Don't want to do away with using children as a form of slave labour? Never mind. Talk of "improving the conditions of child labour!" It sounds good. You can even make money out of it. — Palagunmi Sainath, Everybody Loves a Good Drought; Stories from India’s Poorest Districts, (Penguin Books, 1996), p.421
        Via Global Issues
        posted by Fikirte @ 9:17 PM   0 comments Digg!
        The face of VAW

        Kamilat - victim of acid burning The face of VAW - violence against women. It should and can be stopped with enough commitment. Helping one woman at a time is a start.
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