African Myths, Busted

We’re all guilty of some stereotypes about Africa – I’ve never been there and I can assure you I have my own, mostly based on literature and my academic interests in development studies. That’s not the problem, but we should ask ourselves why. This powerful video confronts them spectacularly and challenges many of the most common ones.

I’m surprised so many ridiculous myths about what Africans live, work and play like are so powerful, and so monochromatic.

For a continent the size of the US, China, India, Japan, Eastern Europe, UK and eight other European countries combined, the fact that there are still only a handful of images of its life and people is outrageous.

 

I hope you enjoy this thought-provoking video and its message. It’s high time we started a proper series of conversations about why we are painting an entire continent with one stereotype (and let’s not shy away from the racism inherent in all of these assumptions) and thinking nothing of it.

Felicity Kendal: On World Africa Day Isn’t it Time We Start to See Africa Differently?

This is a reblog from Huffington Post UK. Felicity Kendal is a British film, theatre and television actress.
In a taxi somewhere on the streets of West London the cab driver turned to me and said “What continent has got six of the fastest growing economies in the world?”

“Well it’s Asia isn’t it!” I replied firmly.

And there an awkward silence ensued…

Ok, so this wasn’t a real conversation but a line from a new short film I’ve made with an online campaign from Comic Relief called See Africa Differently. And yes, the correct answer is Africa! Whilst the driver was an actor and the dialogue was scripted, the cab and the statistic are 100% real.

If I’ve learnt one thing as an actress over the years it’s that there is more than one way to tell a story and this is no truer than when talking about Africa. So often in the media we’re faced with a continent ravaged by war and famine, but this is just one narrative among the many untold stories.

This is why I have become involved with this brilliant campaign, See Africa Differently, which aims to tell the good news from the continent which is so often ignored in the news agenda.

There’s an African proverb that says “When the music changes, so does the dance.” See Africa Differently has a new take on the continent and I think it reflects the changes we’re seeing across Africa.

So what have I learnt? Well, I’ve always known the arts have been at the heart of African culture but did you know that every year the Nigerian film industry produces more movies than Hollywood? I should probably take a trip to Lagos!

Women are also making themselves heard across the continent; 16 African countries have a higher proportion of female MPs than the UK!

This new film hopes to illustrate that Africa is a lion on the move, it’s diversity and richness in all things from music to fashion and film and business doesn’t leave much room to doubt why it is home to six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world.

You can find the campaign on http://www.seeafricadifferently.com follow them on twitter @see_africa and you really ought to like them on Facebook at facebook.com/seeafricadifferently

I really enjoyed making this film and its time we all opened our eyes to Africa!

 

Jeffrey Sachs: Global health within our grasp, if we don’t give up

This is a reblog, courtesy of CNN International

Jeffrey D. Sachs

There is a hidden revolution at work that can transform the lives of a billion of the poorest people on the planet.

The dream of health for all, even the poorest of the poor, can become a reality because of recent breakthroughs in technology and health systems. Scientific results that our Millennium Villages Project team published this week in The Lancet, coupled with broader trends around the world, should be a wake-up call: We can end the deaths of millions of young children and mothers each year by building on recent innovations.

In 2006, the Millennium Villages Project and impoverished communities around Africa jointly embarked upon the fight against extreme poverty, hunger and disease. The idea was to use low-cost, cutting-edge technologies to overcome ancient scourges like malaria and mothers dying in childbirth. Today, there is no deep mystery about what to do to stop these deaths, since the diagnostic tests, medicines and procedures are known. The challenge is to scale up these life-saving approaches.

In three short years, starting from conditions of massive death tolls and a lack of health services, the Millennium Villages were able to reduce the deaths of children under 5-years-old by around 22%, roughly three times the rate of improvement of the countries at large. The progress is continuing as low-cost health services expand. The lessons extend far beyond this specific project.

Poor children die of three main categories of disease: infections, nutritional deficiencies and conditions around childbirth. The technologies and procedures to fight all these causes of death are improving dramatically. Therein lies a great hope.

Consider malaria, one of the biggest killers of children in Africa. A dozen years ago, all seemed lost: The standard medicine had lost its efficacy as the parasite became resistant; insecticide-treated bed nets were little used because they had to be regularly retreated with the insecticide, a practical burden that poor villages could not manage; and diagnosis required that the mother and sick child trek to a distant clinic in the desperate hope the clinic had a functioning laboratory.

Now all this has changed. A new generation of low-cost and highly effective medicines has been deployed. The nets now last five years without the need for retreatment. A trained village-based worker, as part of an expanded health system, can make the diagnosis at the household using a simple rapid test, without the need for a life-and-death journey to a distant clinic. The Millennium Villages have slashed malaria deaths, but much more to the point, malaria deaths are falling sharply across Africa, down by around one-third from their peak roughly a decade ago.

A child receives an oral polio vaccine in Ivory Coast. Improved vaccines are helping save children’s lives globally.

The advances are widespread. New vaccines can fight diarrheal and respiratory diseases that have traditionally killed vast numbers of children. Thanks to vaccines, deaths from measles have plummeted, and polio is on the verge of eradication. New medical procedures can end the transmission of the HIV virus from mother to newborn. Technologies to support higher farm production and low-cost nutritional supplements can bolster inadequate diets.

Perhaps most important, information can flow through even the remotest of villages, thanks to the massive increase in mobile telephones across regions that just a few years ago had no phones at all. The spread of mobile phones may mark the fastest global uptake of a technology in history. From a few million mobile phone subscribers worldwide in 1990, the number has climbed to more than 6 billion today, with more than 250 million subscribers in Africa.

Mobile connectivity and the spread of wireless broadband are greatly strengthening rural health systems. In all of the Millennium Villages, and in more and more villages around the continent, lay community workers are bringing health services from the clinics right to the community. Mobile phones are critical in supporting these outreach workers, enabling them to call the doctors and nurses for advice, summon an ambulance or connect to a computerized expert system via text messaging.

The big picture is thrilling. Globally, deaths of young children are falling. In 1990, the worldwide deaths of children under 5 totaled around 12.5 million. By 2010, the deaths were down to around 7.6 million. The proportionate progress in the Millennium Villages has been even faster. Yet this technology-based revolution in human well-being is at the risk of stalling.

The improvements required international help to support the expansion of services in the poorest regions. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and Malaria and the U.S. PEPFAR initiative to fight AIDS exemplify the new kinds of support introduced during the past decade.

Total funding for primary health care in the poorest countries has risen by roughly $15 billion per year from the low levels of aid a dozen years back. That’s a good sum, but modest in the scheme of things, amounting to around $15 per person per year from the high-income countries, with a combined population of 1 billion. It’s about half the support needed to complete the job.

Alarmingly, the funding has come to a standstill and has even started to decline. The United States and Europe claim they can’t afford to do more because of budget crises, but the needed sums could be filled many times over just by ending the loopholes that allow the richest companies to park their profits in Caribbean tax havens.

If children continue to die by the millions, it will be the result of misguided priorities, not true budget limits. Instead of making excuses for lives lost, let us celebrate the remarkable progress we are making and commit ourselves to finishing this historic and worthy task.

No Comment: “I’m so Happy”

Ivorians killed in fresh anti-government protests

Four protesters were killed in the Ivory Coast this morning in demonstrations against incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo. Three men and a woman were killed in Abidjan.

Last week, seven protesters were killed by army forces loyal to the president.

Witnesses told the AFP that until shots were heard, yesterday’s protests weren’t met with any military resistance. Demonstrators planned to march in honour of International Women’s Day.

These protests have their roots in two conflicts threatening Ivory Coast – a disputed election and its cocoa industry.

Elections were held in November, after which candidate Alassane Ouattara was widely recognised as the victor, winning by a margin of 54% to 46%. However, Gbagbo has refused to step down.

Clashes have been sporadic – Ivorian dissent has been expressed in the form of protests and demonstrations rather than violent clashes. However, many of these clashes end in conflict and bloodshed.

AP reports that clinics in Abidjan have been overwhelmed with casualties.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees says violence in Abidjan and nearby towns has forced around 300,000 from their homes since the elections. Approximately 70,000 Ivorians are said to have left the country, fleeing west to Liberia.

The African Union, after suspending Ivory Coast’s membership in the wake of disputed elections, has invited Messrs. Gbagbo and Ouattara to hear its proposed solutions to the crisis.

The BBC’s correspondent reflects that should these talks fail, Ivory Coast could see a return to its brutal civil war.

John James says that while there is calm along the ceasefire line between the rebel-controlled north and the government-controlled south, the west of the country is experiencing the worst of the violence.

Rebels are claiming back land close to the border with Liberia, and say they wish to prevent mercenaries from Liberia joining government forces.

No Comment: The Clock is Ticking

This video is courtesy ‘The Girl Effect’, a global movement which aims to empower adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world.