Robert Lange, at work in a Maasai village in northern Tanzania, on one of his pilot solar installations.
A retired Brandeis University physics professor is helping to bring clean heat and light to Africa.
I wrote in Sunday's Globe about Robert Lange, who has spent more than 20 years working with villagers in Tanzania to help them use basic science and technology to make their lives better. His current work lets villagers buy very small solar-power units by building four efficient cooking stoves for themselves. It's an informal carbon-credit market that has the dual advantage of helping people make their huts less smoky, and also gives them a few more hours of clean indoor daylight from the solar-powered lights -- and they can charge their cell phones, too.
I heard the benefits first-hand: I spoke with Majuba Mohammed, a high school teacher on a tiny island off the coast of the main Zanzibar island, about the project. And Mohammed noted proudly that the phone he was using to speak with me had been charged on the solar unit that Lange's project had helped him install on his roof. That's pretty direct evidence of success. Nearly 200 of the solar units have been installed in two villages on the island.
For those who want to know more, here are some links to relevant organizations, as well as a number of photos that tell more about Lange's work.
Lange's small non-profit has the large name of International Collaboration for Science, Education and the Environment, which Lange runs out of his home in Cambridge. He also works closely with his friend of more than a quarter century, Robert van Buskirk, who has his own non-profit, Village Projects International, that has pursued similar stoves-for-solar programs in Eritrea and Ghana.
Lange is now hoping to expand his project to the Maasai areas of northern Tanzania and southern Kenya. He is working there with Jemma Enolengila, who helps run the Noonkodin School in a Maasai area near Arusha. Villagers there are eager to move forward with a stoves-for-solar program if Lange can find the $50,000 or so he needs to make it happen.
Lange in his Cambridge home-office, photo by the Boston Globe's Matthew Lee.
A footnote: I wrote that Tanzania is in southern Africa. A reader, airline pilot and air travel writer Patrick Smith, notes that Tanzania is better described as part of East Africa. While Tanzania is a member of the Southern African Development Community, it is more often said to be in East Africa, and Kenya is certainly in East Africa. I would have been better off using the less specific "sub-Saharan Africa" -- no doubt there. Patrick has an excellent blog about air travel on salon.com.
But it turns out that a Boston mining company, Cabot Corp., is one of the few processors in the world of tantalum, which is used in common electronics products that we all use every day.
Cabot -- which does not mine any tantalum in Congo -- is hosting a conference in April in Boston of members of the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition to make sure the industry only uses tantalum that is mined responsibly.
My colleague Emily Sweeney wrote a fascinating story in the Globe this week about the exploitative mining of tantalum and other minerals, and traces how Cabot and others are working to ensure they don't buy such "conflict minerals." The electronics coalition includes 40 global companies, among them Cabot, Dell, Apple, Intel, EMC Corp. and Best Buy.
Sweeney writes: The Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition and another industry group, the Global e-Sustainability Initiative, are working to develop a way to certify smelters who obtain tantalum through “socially and environmentally responsible mines’’ in Congo and surrounding countries."
In Uganda, wheelchair user and activist Fatuma Acan tests the lever-powered wheelchair with Amos Winter, in blue t-shirt, and student Tish Scolnik, in MIT cap.
I wrote in the Globe today about the work of Amos Winter, a doctoral candidate at MIT who has devised an innovative wheelchair for use in developing countries. This blog entry offers links to a number of useful resources in this daunting field.
Winter, a 30-year-old New Hampshire native, is testing a prototype of his lever-powered wheelchair in three African countries. He hopes it will prove easier for wheelchair riders to use in rugged, hilly terrain than traditional hand-rim chairs.
Amos's MIT web site is a great resource on his work. And here's the on-line catalog for the course he teaches at MIT in wheelchair design. He also founded a lab at MIT for mobility projects, called the M-Lab, which in turn is part of the innovative D-Lab of senior lecturer and inventor Amy Smith, which develops low-tech, low-cost sustainable technology.
I spoke with three of the testers, in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, and their response was uniformly positive. Winter soon will head to Guatemala for more testing of 30 more chairs, and hopes that the device he calls the "Leveraged Freedom Chair" could go into wide production with a couple years.
Readers responded with great admiration for Winter and his work, judging by the on-line comments posted with the story on Boston.com. Also be sure to see the video on Winter's project by Globe staffer Dina Rudick, below, and the cool interactive graphic by Javier Zarracina and Aaron Atencio.
Some people noted that powering a wheelchair with levers is not a new idea (and I did note that in the article). This Wheelchair Pride blog entry provides links to many of the existing lever-driven chairs. Many of those chairs are fairly pricey, however, and lack the simplicity of Winter's chair -- which he hopes to sell for about $200, similar to other basic chairs sold in the Third World.
But wheelchair design is complicated, as guru Ralf Hotchkiss told me. The engineering challenges are surprisingly daunting -- and mistakes can cause or aggravate serious problems such as pressure sores. Here are a few useful links to organizations doing noteworthy work in this field.
Hotchkiss founded Whirlwind Wheelchair International, a pioneer in the field. The site is a great resource for background information.
Another major international advocacy group is Motivation Charitable Trust, in the UK, which provides a range of products and services to increase mobility for physically disabled people in the Third World. Like Whirlwind, Motivation also works in Africa with some of the groups that Winter has worked with for the past five years.
In Nairobi and elsewhere in Kenya, a major ally is the Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya, which produces wheelchairs in great numbers.
In Uganda, see MADE Uganda, short for Mobility Appliances by Disabled Women Entrepreneurs. And in Tanzania, several organizations are based in the northeastern town of Moshi, including the Tanzania Training Centre for Orthopaedic Technologists (TATCOT), and the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center.
As more workers have gone on antiretroviral drugs to treat the symptoms, the researchers have also examined how well laborers are able to return to work once the drugs are working.
This applied research was carried out in the Kenyan tea town of Kericho, led by the team from the BU Center for Global Health and Development. Their work is captured in vivid depth in a package of articles and videos posted today on the BU Today news web site. It's also the cover story on the quarterly alumni magazine, Bostonia.
In November, the research team, led by Dr. Jonathon Simon, met with the plantation executives and local health officials to present the results they had compiled in a preliminary research study published in July in the Boston Medical Center Public Health journal: HIV-positive men, it turned out, are able to return to work with nearly full energy once on retrovirals. Women, however, often find it harder to resume full work in the fields, although they can return to other less strenuous work on the plantations.
The research has been conducted with the Kenya Medical Research Institute and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Simon is director of the BU global health center as well as principal researcher on the Kenya project.
The BU website account quotes Dr. Josephine Maende, a physician who works in a tea estate hospital, as saying: "We were very pleased to see these reports coming in. They affirm what we’ve been seeing: that even patients who were quite sick could take their drugs and return to work. We’re hoping this study will encourage the company to get people to come for testing much sooner, so we can start treatment before their productivity goes down. This is a very good incentive for better, earlier care.”
Rose Mapendo, the Congolese refugee for whom Mapendo International draws its name, enthralled an audience of more than 200 people at Temple Beth Avodah in Newton with her personal story of suffering, survival and renewal in America.
I went along to hear Rose Mapendo speak, having written an article in the Globe earlier this year about Rose and Mapendo International founder Sasha Chanoff and his work rescuing refugees. I also wrote on Saturday about Kitty Dukakis, the former Bay State first lady who has quietly worked for refugees for 30 years, and has been a key adviser to Chanoff since he launched Mapendo in 2003.
Dukakis offered an opening tribute to Rose Mapendo and to Chanoff, a Marlborough native who founded Mapendo International in Cambridge in 2003 to rescue the forgotten refugees who have fallen between the cracks of the United Nations and other major refugee organizations. Mapendo has rescued nearly 5,000 refugees since then and helped them resettle in the United States.
Often tearful, Mapendo recounted in heart-wrenching detail how she and her husband and children were arrested in 1998 in her Tutsi village in eastern Congo, how her husband was taken out and killed, and how she bore his twins on the cement floor of her cell. She and her nine children made it to a holding center, and Chanoff -- defying orders from his bosses -- helped her escape to a new life in Arizona. She was named humanitarian of the year by the US branch of the UN refugee agency this year.
She and other refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo sang a haunting song, and she said more than once: "God has been faithful to me."
Rabbi Keith Stern, welcoming the Mapendo team, noted the parallels of modern refugees with Europe's Jews who escaped the Holocaust or were consumed by it. "All of us understand that our roots are deeply connected to refugees who struggled, who suffered. And all too often, there was no one to extend a hand. If we, in this beautiful city of Newton, do not lend a hand, then we really cannot say that we learned anything."
Boston International, an organization of young professionals and students interested in global affairs, and MIT's Center for International Studies are co-hosting an evening forum on the continuing conflict in the Darfur region in Sudan.
And they will augment the panel discussion with a powerful exhibit of photographs from Darfur that interpret the suffering there visually.
The panel, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct., 15, at MIT's Stata Center, 32 Vassar Street, Cambridge, will feature Robert Rotberg, director of the Belfer Center’s Program on Intrastate Conflict and Conflict Resolution at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government; Susannah Sirkin, Deputy Director, Physicians for Human Rights; and Marcus Bleasdale, a photojournalist and member of the DARFUR/DARFUR team.
DARFUR/DARFUR is the name of the traveling exhibition of digitally projected images about Darfur conveying both the rich culture and the depth of horrors of the humanitarian crisis there. The exhibit is a product of Art Works Projects and curated by Leslie Thomas, the founding director of Art Works Projects.
The photographers include: former U.S. Marine Brian Steidle and photojournalists Lynsey Addario, Mark Brecke, Helene Caux, Ron Haviv, Paolo Pellegrin, James Nachtwey, Ryan Spencer Reed, and Michal Safdie, edited by Matthew Jacob and accompanied by Sudanese inspired music.
The number of immigrants living in Massachusetts increased slightly in 2008, Globe immigration reporter Maria Sacchetti writes on today's front page. While the national proportion of foreign-born residents fell by 0.26 percent, it rose in Massachusetts by 2.54 percent.
(In passing, let me note that it's eternally disheartening to read some of the vitriolic, mean-spirited and anonymous on-line comments triggered by almost any article on immigrants, including one that simply reports the findings of a government census study and tries to explain a trend.)
For those who want to look at the raw data and draw their own conclusions, here's a link to the key Massachusetts page of the US Census Bureau 2008 American Community Survey. This page provides the core data and quite a bit more to chew on in thinking about the Massachusetts immigrant population and other demographic issues.
Among the findings:
--The immigrants living in Massachusetts come from all over the world, and most have been here a number of years. Of the state's 6,497,967 residents at the time of the 2008 survey, 937,000, or 14 percent, were foreign born. Of those, 68 percent have been here since before 2000, and 32 percent, or 301,000, arrived in 2000 or later.
In identifying their region of origin:
--35 percent of the foreign-born residents said they were born in Latin America
--28 percent were from Asia
--25 percent were from Europe
--8 percent were from Africa
Asked to identify their ancestry, Bay Staters showed themselves to be from an equally vast array of home countries. At the top of the list:
--Irish -- 1.53 million, or 23.5 percent.
--Italian -- 907,000, or 14 percent
--English -- 745,000, or 11.5 percent
There's no ancestry category for Hispanics, but another page from the survey, on the state's demographics, shows how people identified themselves by race, and that indicates the proportion of people of Hispanic descent in Massachusetts..
White -- 82.5 percent
Black or African American -- 6.7 percent
Asian -- 5 percent
Hispanic -- 8.6 percent
On language, the survey notes on its very useful 'narrative' page: "Among people at least five years old living in Massachusetts in 2008, 21 percent spoke a language other than English at home. Of those speaking a language other than English at home, 35 percent spoke Spanish and 65 percent spoke some other language; 41 percent reported that they did not speak English "very well.""
Summer is clearly over. The calendar is once again overflowing with international events in Boston.
Harvard's Kennedy School of Government already has a full array of events and speakers in coming days and weeks, some of them related to the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly this week. These events are public, but some need RSVPs and have space limitations, so check in with the organizations directly.
I'll try to post more such events in bulletin-board fashion as I learn of them, so email me with any announcements of upcoming talks.
--Today at 6 p.m. at the Kennedy School's Forum, sponsored by the Institute of Politics, a discussion on Iran, with Elliot Abrams, former senior foreign policy adviser to Presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, and Karim, Sadjadpour, a Middle East specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The moderator is Kennedy School Professor R. Nicholas Burns, who was deputy secretary of state and a former US ambassador to NATO who knows US Iran policy better than just about anyone. (And sorry for the last-minute notice).
-- Thursday at 6 p.m., at the Harvard Divinity School, European Union international policy representative Javier Solana will speak on Europe's role in the world. The event, which runs until 8:30 p.m., is sponsored by the Kokkalis Foundation at the Kennedy School; the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard; the Karamanlis Chair, Fletcher School, Tufts University; and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard,. This is part of the “Challenges of the 21st Century: European and American Perspectives Series.”
One of Europe's most senior diplomats and political leaders, Solana was a player in Spain's transition to democracy after the Franco era, and was a Spanish cabinet member for 13 years. He was secretary general of NATO from 1995 to 1999, when he took up a senior role in the EU leadership. He is due to conclude his term as Europe's de facto foreign minister next month.
--On Friday, Sept. 25, at 6 p.m. at the Kennedy School, Colombia's president, Alvaro Uribe, will speak at the Forum. First elected in 2002 and reelected in 2006, Uribe has taken a hard-line stance against the country's leftist guerrillas, and has achieved dramatic military gains, although he also has faced criticism on human rights issues.
--On Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 5:30 p.m., Indonesia's president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, will speak at the Kennedy School's IOP forum. Yudhoyono became Indonesia's first directly elected president in 2004, after a military career. He has won applause at home for taking on corruption, ending the Aceh insurgency with a peace deal, and effectively handling of the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami. He won re-election in the first round in July.
Firle Davies didn't go on to university after finishing high school. Instead she plunged right into a career in journalism in southern Africa, first as a sound technician and soon as a prominent camerawoman and reporter for the British Broadcasting Corporation. Over the past two decades, she has covered some of the toughest stories in the region.
Now she is finally attending college -- the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, no less. Davies is the fifth annual Elizabeth Neuffer Fellow, a program named for the prize-winning Boston Globe foreign correspondent who was killed while covering the Iraq war in May 2003.
Davies arrived in Cambridge last week to begin a nine-month program at MIT that will focus on learning more systematically about human rights and what she calls "transitional justice," issues she has covered up close in countries including Rwanda, Congo, Sierra Leone, Sudan and South Africa.
MIT political science Professor Richard Samuels, director of the Center For International Studies, calls Davies "a tenacious journalist who tackles dangerous topics with finesse. Her vast work on domestic issues in Africa demonstrates both bravery and an arduous pursuit of social justice."
Davies, 39, was born in Harare, and as a child lived through the final years of the black-nationalist revolution in what was then Rhodesia. She moved around with her journalist parents, living in southern Africa, the Mideast and England.
A profile about Davies on the website of the International Women's Media Foundation, which sponsors the fellowship, notes that when money issues kept Davies from attending college after high school, she grabbed a job holding a microphone boom for a Visnews crew in Zimbabwe in 1988. She moved into freelance camera work based in East Africa, and nine years ago joined the BBC as a full-time journalist covering southern Africa., reporting mainly on human rights issues.
Profile author Peggy Simpson quotes Alan Little, a BBC correspondent, who worked with Davies on assignments in Rwanda, Congo and Sierra Leone, as saying: “She seems to me to be driven by a quiet outrage at human rights abuse and a faith that, in the long term, reporting the truth can be part of what makes a difference, and by the idea that those who have suffered have the right to be heard.”
Support for the fellowship comes from Peter Canellos, now the editor of the Globe's editorial page, and Mark Neuffer, Elizabeth's brother, as well as Carolyn Lee of the IWMF. The annual fellowship gives a woman journalist working in print, broadcast or online media the opportunity to focus exclusively on human rights journalism and social justice issues -- as Elizabeth Neuffer did throughout her career.
Two Boston-area institutions, Physicians for Human Rights and Merrimack College, are using artistic and cultural tools to raise awareness of the ongoing suffering in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Physicians for Human Rights, the Cambridge-based activist organization, is sponsoring a new exhibition by Boston artists Elizabeth Hathaway and Joan Ryan titled “Make Believe.” The exhibition, described as "a multi-media response to the effects of war on women and children in Darfur," opens with a reception from 5-8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5, at Atlantic Works Gallery, 80 Border Street, 3rd Floor, East Boston.
Also on show will be photographs from Darfur and neighboring Chad taken by doctors and human rights staffers, some of them taken on a November trip where doctors interviewed women in refugee camps in Chad who have been victims of rape and sexual abuse. Here's a link to the report, “Nowhere to Turn: Failure to Protect, Support and Assure Justice for Darfuri Women.”
Here's one photo, by Dr. Lin Piwowarczyk of Boston Medical Center, a co-author of the report who also is co-founder and co-director of the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights.
And Merrimack College in North Andover also is hosting a series of events on Darfur, during Darfur Week starting Sept. 28.
Events include a photo exhibit by six prominent artists, including rights activist Mia Farrow. Merrimack says the exhibit comes to the college through a partnership between Harvard Defense Against Genocide; Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur; The Sudanese Education Fund and Merrimack College’s Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations.
Other events include a film on Darfur, "The Devil Came on Horseback," and a workshop on the Sudan disinvestment campaign, presented by Eric Cohen, a co-founder and the Chairperson of Investors Against Genocide, a non-profit organization dedicated to convincing mutual fund and other investment firms to change their investing strategy to avoid complicity in genocide.
The Boston branch of the American Islamic Congress is co-sponsoring a series of events during the current holy month of Ramadan -- including a traditional Iftar meal that Muslims celebrate to break the daily fast.
The Iftar event and others are listed on the Boston-AIC website. They are open to the public but several require RSVPs.
In the spirit of charity toward others in need, the Iftar dinner on the evening of Sept. 10 is also raising donations for the Pine Street Inn for the homeless. It's free, but there's a catch -- you have to bring at least two cans of beans. Space is limited. There are several sponsors, including Project Nur, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, World Boston, Barakat, and Helmand Restaurant.
On Tuesday, Sept. 15, the same groups are co-sponsoring an event at 3:30 p.m. at the Massachusetts Statehouse marking Ramadan. Legislators will join state officials for the civic ceremony.
And to conclude Ramadan on Sept. 26, local Muslims are hosting a multicultural Eid al-Fitr ceremony at the Armory Hall in in Everett at 7 p.m. where several hundred families are expected to attend. The event is co-sponsored by the Bosnian Community Center for Resource Development. The AIC notes that the event is open to the public and people of all backgrounds are welcome and encouraged to attend.
(Senator Edward Kennedy in South Africa in January 1985 with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Rev. Allan Boesak. File photo, Reuters, Greg English)
Amid all the reminiscences about Senator Edward M. Kennedy's impact on the political life of the United States, people sometimes overlooked his very substantial influence on the key foreign issues of his time.
In few places was Kennedy's impact greater than South Africa. In one week in January 1985, he made a whirlwind tour of the country that was as controversial as it was spellbinding. I covered that visit as a correspondent for the Associated Press, based in Johannesburg at a time when the black uprising against apartheid was in full fury. Kennedy and his entourage of nine staff members descended on South Africa in a tumultuous moment when no one knew whether the movement would be crushed, or full-scale war would break out.
Much as his brother Robert did in an earlier and equally powerful visit to South Africa in 1966, Ted Kennedy stood toe-to-toe with South Africa's white leaders in repeated showdowns. And they didn't shy away from the confrontations. Kennedy also faced black protests from the small but noisy black-consciousness movement that wanted no white help in ending white domination. Those protesters forced him to call off his last, much-awaited speech in Soweto for fear of a riot.
But thousands of blacks welcomed him with whoops and ululations of approval everywhere he went, on whistle stops in big cities including Durban and Cape Town, and forgotten squatter camps and black villages slated for removal under the Group Areas Act.
In the text of the speech he would have delivered in Soweto, he was customarily direct in criticizing "the iron reign of injustice that shackles the land. Only one government on earth is now founded, in both law and life, on the unsupportable principle of racism."
See below for more details on Kennedy's South African visit.
In case you missed it, the Globe's Kathleen Burge offers a compelling account of Ugandans living in Waltham. The article ran in the Globe West section last Thursday.
The story of the 1,500 or so Ugandans living in Waltham tells as much about the former mill town and watch-making center on the Charles River as it does about the industrious Ugandans who have become the latest immigrant community there. For well over a century, Waltham has welcomed successive waves of immigrants, from the Irish to the Haitians. A Ugandan restauran, Karibu, has joined the many other ethnic eateries on (or just off) Moody Street that make Waltham one of the most diverse communities in Massachusetts.
A number of Ugandans are working in Waltham as nurses and in related fields. They are attracted by affordable housing and good transportation. Many send money home to support family members in the east African country.
And Burge writes that one of them, Wilberforce Kateregga, who has built up a cleaning company in Waltham, "couldn’t forget the young children, made orphans by AIDS, back home. Kateregga used $250,000 of his own money to build a boarding school that now has 300 students. He’s trying to raise another $300,000 for another building with classrooms, a library and a laboratory. Kateregga named the school after his new hometown: Waltham College."
The week began with rumors swirling about whether Dr. Paul Farmer, the visionary founder of Partners in Health and a Harvard Medical School professor, was still a contender to head the US Agency for International Development.
The week ended with the same lack of clarity, and even more frustration.
Several blogs in Washington this week have quoted unidentified sources as saying Farmer is no longer being considered. Those include The Cable at Foreign Policy, whose author Laura Rozen is very well plugged in at the State Department.
Farmer himself isn't talking. Andrew Marx, spokesman at Partners in Health in Boston, says Farmer is adamant that he won't comment. Farmer is currently in Rwanda, assisting the Rwandan Health Ministry to revamp its entire system for providing rural health care in a more coordinated, patient-focused manner. That program received an $8 million grant last week from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, just the latest endorsement of the critical need to reshape the way healthcare is delivered in developing countries.
Both the State Department and White House decline any formal comment on staff negotiations. Without citing sources, some of these blogs suggest the White House ruled out Farmer during its arduous vetting process. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton complained publicly a couple of weeks back about the frustratingly slow and detailed vetting process, suggesting it was what had had kept the USAID post vacant since the start of the Obama Administration in January.
The delay and the official silence only serve to feed the speculation frenzy, with blogs seeming to quote other blogs about Farmer's withdrawal until it seems that it must be true, but without any on-the-record confirmation. No staffer I could reach on Capitol Hill knew anything first-hand. So at this point, there's no clarity whether Farmer is still in the running, or, if he did pull out, whether it was because he became fed up with the bureaucratic infighting that was already engulfing him, or whether something had arisen in the vetting that made the Obama Administration decide it wouldn't be worth the resulting Senate confirmation battle. Or some other reason.
Of course, they must have known from the outset that Farmer has been critical for years of the US government's handling of development issues. Anyone who has read Tracy Kidder's "Mountains Beyond Mountains" gets that instantly. Presumably, the very reason someone wanted Farmer in the first place is because he is provocative, he thinks big and he's not afraid to take on vested interests.
Maybe the smartest thing he could have done was just what he did -- go to Rwanda and provide some real service to people in need while this Washington echo chamber drones on.
Laurie Garrett, the Pulitzer-Prize winning author on global health care and Council on Foreign Relations health and development analyst, captured the frustration this way to me via email:
"Nearly nine months into the Obama Administration we have absolutely no solid indication either that the White House intends to name a director for USAID, or that the agency will be given the sort of budget and political clout that health and development advocates insist are essential to making U.S. foreign assistance work. It's shocking. The merry-go-round we've been on regarding Paul Farmer's "appointment" has been disheartening."
Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard University and Boston-based Partners in Health have been awarded an $8 million grant to assess and refine a new approach to community healthcare in Rwanda.
The grant is from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, which has steadily increased its support for African health programs, particularly those aimed at keeping mothers and children alive and healthy. The grant to the Boston group is part of a package of four African project grants from Doris Duke announced last Friday, worth a total of $44 million and supporting health care programs that benefit 3.5 million people.
Partners in Health was cofounded by Dr. Paul Farmer, the Harvard Medical School professor who has developed community-based health systems in Haiti and elsewhere in the Third World. Farmer, who is under consideration for a senior Obama Administration position in global health and development, is currently in Rwanda working on the new initiative.
The Rwandan program is led by Dr. Michael Rich, Partners in Health's country director, and Dr. Agnes Binaghawo, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health. The Doris Duke-funded project will evaluate what works and what doesn't in the two rural districts where the integrated system is being built. Partners in Health has been working in Rwanda since 2005 to support local health officials as they improve and expand community health systems.
Rwanda is building integrated primary healthcare systems in two rural districts, involving community health workers, strengthened local health centers and district hospitals. If it works, the program will be used as a model for implementation nationally in rural areas that are home to nine million people.
Farmer says in a statement describing the new project: "“The emphasis of this unique grant is on evaluating large-scale models of care delivered within the public sector while simultaneously building clinical and research capacity at the local level. This represents a new paradigm in research in the developing world setting ... which simultaneously invests in research while attending to the professional development of a well-trained cadre of health workers and strengthening the public sector’s ability to deliver care.”
For those who want to learn about the latest developments in Sudan and Chad, two events are scheduled in coming days. Physicians for Human Rights, the Cambridge-based group, is co-sponsoring both events and sent out details.
Sorry for the late notice, but one of them is today at 4 p.m., in Land Hall at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. One panelist is Eric Reeves, a professor at Smith College who has done groundbreaking work on Sudan for the past decade. He has written extensively on the Darfur region in western Sudan, and on the human costs of the deadly conflict, since the outbreak of war there in 2003. The other speaker is Dr. Sondra Crosby of the Boston Medical Center, who conducted research in a refugee camp on abuse suffered by women in Darfur and in Chad. I wrote about that the Boston doctors' visit to Chad in a Globe article in May.
The second event is on Monday, August 10, at 7 p.m. at the Thomas Crane Public Library, 40 Washington St., in Quincy, to discuss the treatment of women in Darfur and Chad. Crosby will be joined by Dr. Lin Piwowarczyk, who is co-founder and co-director of the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights at the Boston Medical Center. Piwowarczyk and Crosby will talk about their trip to the refugee camp in Chad last November, and about the report they helped produce for PHR.
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and his Republican colleague Richard Lugar today introduced a bill to overhaul the US government's system for providing global development aid.
The bill would make numerous changes in the way American aid is handled, and would strengthen the US Agency for International Development, the key foreign assistance agency that has withered in recent years as aid programs were shifted to other departments, including the Pentagon.
It is widely expected that Dr. Paul Farmer of Harvard Medical School, founder of Boston-based Partners in Health and a leading global health activist, will be appointed to head USAID. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton complained publicly this month that the onerous vetting process of candidates for presidential nominations has delayed filling the USAID post and other senior positions.
The legislation co-sponsored by Kerry, Lugar and other senators from both parties would require increased coordination and transparency in US aid programs. It would reestablish a bureau for strategic planning within USAID, and give more authority to USAID staffers in the field. It would also create an executive-branch council that would evaluate US assistance programs.
Oxfam America, the Boston-based non-profit relief and development group, welcomed the bipartisan Senate bill.
Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, said in a statement, “Over the last two decades, USAID has had its legs cut out from under it – its resources and staff have been slashed while more development capacity has been shifted to the Department of Defense. Along with rebuilding USAID, the US must shift its focus from development projects that meet short-term political and security goals back to long term development goals that not only help more people escape poverty, but in the long run, create greater stability and good will for the US. Rebuilding USAID gives the US and its development policy a start down the right path.”
Many development groups have pushed the new Obama Administration to push fast to address the fragmented foreign aid process. Clinton said recently she would work to elevate foreign development to the level of defense and diplomacy in US foreign policy strategy. Legislation has also been introduced in the House to require a more strategic approach to development assistance.
Red Sox owner John Henry is proving to be eloquent in bursts of a few words in describing his experiences as he confronts the AIDS crisis in southern Africa.
Henry is spending his honeymoon far from Fenway, and for the most part far from the glorious beaches and mountains of South Africa. Based on his frequent Tweets on Twitter, Henry is plunging into some of the poignant symbols of the country's apartheid past and its present struggle with millions of cases of HIV and AIDS.
From Robben Island off Cape Town, where President Nelson Mandela spent most of his years in jail until he was released in 1990, Henry tweeted: "Spent the afternoon at Nelson Mandela's cell block with one of his fellow prisoners. Incredible stories of courage and unfathomable honor." And he added later: "27 years in a tiny cell for African freedom. Robben Island...penguins cavorting this afternoon where great men labored in a lime quarry."
Henry reported that he and his new wife, Linda Pizzuti, visited in Cape Town with retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, and the couple also made a stop at the storied Rustenberg vineyard estate in nearby Stellenbosch.
|Left to right, John Henry and his wife, Linda Pizzuti, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mass. General Hospital researcher Dr. Bruce Walker, and South African wine importer Andre Shearer (courtesy Cape Classics)|
Andre Shearer, chief executive of the Cape Classics wine importing firm, is also traveling with the group and posted this picture of the group's meeting with Tutu on his own Twitter page.
After a meal with former President FW De Klerk to discuss the AIDS epidemic, Henry and Pizzuti traveled across the country to the east, to Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal Province, the epicenter of the country's AIDS crisis. They were also traveling with Massachusetts General Hospital AIDS researcher Dr. Bruce Walker, who recently received a $100 million gift from Cambridge entrepreneur Phillip Terrence Ragon to set up an institute to develop an AIDS vaccine. I wrote about Walker's work in southern Africa in March, and about further work on the deadly links between AIDS and tuberculosis.
Henry tweeted earlier today: "Ground Zero. 200 babies are born with HIV infection each day in South Africa. 1000 per year in US. Doctors here are currently on strike."
Henry added more stark observations in subsequent tweets: "In a women's TB ward where 30% of patients die each day. Edendale Hospital."
"So what's causing the deaths here among those dying of aids? 48% due to TB. Prevention is not strong enough. The govt must get involved."
And he added: "70% of hospital admissions in this area are due to AIDS. Youngsters used to wheel in grandparents. Now grandparents wheel in youngsters."
Actress and refugee activist Angelina Jolie was among those in Washington today who honored a Congolese refugee, Rose Mapendo -- and the Cambridge organization she works with.
The emotion-filled event at the National Geographic Society headquarters this morning featured the presentation to Mapendo of the "humanitarian of the year" award from the US office of the United Nations refugee agency.
I wrote a story in the Globe today about Rose Mapendo and her extraordinary story of suffering and survival, and finally of escape, from the genocidal war in the Democratic Republic of Congo in February 2000.
|Rose Mapendo accepts UN "humanitarian of the year" award. Photo by J. Rae, courtesy UNHCR|
Mapendo's escape occurred thanks to Sasha Chanoff, the Marlborough, Mass., native who traveled to Kinshasa to handle the rescue of 113 Tutsi refugees who faced persecution and death in the Congo. Chanoff and his rescue team colleagues, from the International Organization for Migration, squeezed Mapendo and her nine hungry children aboard the last rescue flight.
Chanoff founded Mapendo International in 2005 to facilitate more rescues from Africa. Supported by Rose Mapendo and many others, Chanoff's group has rescued more than 4,600 refugees so far.
To a packed audience of 400 at the ceremony today, Rose Mapendo told her own story and told of her work with Chanoff in Mapendo International on behalf of many like her.
|Actress Angelina Jolie at World Refugee Day event today|
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also would have been there, but she broke her elbow in a fall last night on her way to the White House.
The ceremony comes two days before World Refugee Day. The UN agency, formally called the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, reported this week that there are 42 million people uprooted worldwide. that includes 16 million refugees and asylum seekers, and another 26 million internally displaced people in countries torn by war and conflict.
Jolie and her husband, Brad Pitt, donated $1 million to the UNHCR yesterday for its global work on behalf of refugees. Jolie has used her stardom to highlight the suffering of refugees as a UN roving ambassador since 2001.
Jolie told the gathering today: "I know the strength that diversity has given my country – a country built by what some would now dismiss as asylum-seekers and economic migrants – and I believe we must persuade the world that refugees must not be simply viewed as a burden. They are the survivors. And they can bring those qualities to the service of their communities and the countries that shelter them.
"The refugees I have met and spent time with have profoundly changed my life," Jolie added. "Today . . . I want to thank them for letting me into their lives."
As the debate heats up in the Obama Administration on the United States' global health and development priorities, consider a pair of recent reports from two member organizations of the Global Health Council:
WaterAid America and PATH, two non-profit global health and development groups, issued reports in May that after two decades of major progress in cutting mortality from diarrheal disease, there are signs that the severity of the problem is rising again. These diseases kill 1.6 million children under five a year -- 17 percent of all deaths in that age group -- but are getting "significantly less funding than other diseases," according to the reports.
PATH recently published "Diarrheal Disease: Solutions to Defeat a Global Killer", while WaterAid America issued: "Fatal Neglect: How Health Systems are Failing to Comprehensively Address Child Mortality." Here's the announcement, with links.
Studies and recommendations are coming thick and fast as the Obama Administration weighs how to revamp global health and development assistance. I wrote an article in the Sunday Globe about the global health priorities dilemma facing the new administration.
For those who want to wade into this debate, resources abound. Start with a report in January by Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow on global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, titled, The Future of Foreign Assistance Amid
Global Economic and Financial Crisis
The Institute of Medicine published recommendations in May on how to restructure and energize the American international health iniatitive.
The Global Health Council's resource pages offer an array of rich materials.
Also useful: the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, an alliance of organizations committed to restructuring the US aid system. Also see The Center for Global Development and its aid-effectiveness section.
Among politicians, Rep. Howard Berman of California has been a leading advocate of reform, along with Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois. They have introduced a bill requiring the administration to create a new strategy for global development and structures to implement it. Here's a summary of the bill, HR 2139, on the Bread for the World non-profit's website.
Oxfam America, which is headquartered in Boston, has a helpful introduction to how foreign aid works, called Foreign Aid 101. Oxfam America's president, Raymond C. Offenheiser, is among the leading agitators for reforming foreign assistance.
The Kaiser Family Foundation has a very comprehensive and usable global health policy website . Check out the very cool global map where you can roll your cursor over any country and see its basic health data.
Kaiser also produced a poll in May on Americans' attitude toward supporting global health. Some will be surprised to see that more Americans favor maintaining or increasing global aid than want to cut it.
Among readers who responded to my article about the continuing threat of rape for refugees from the conflict in the Darfur region of Sudan was Marisa Bono, a 20-year-old sophomore at Bryant College in Smithfield, Rhode Island. Marisa described a management class project this year in which her team tied for first place by raising close to $2,000 to buy fuel-efficient stoves for women in Darfur.
The use of fuel-efficient stoves means that women don't have to risk walking outside the refugee camps for hours, as they often do in Darfur and in refugee camps across the border in neighboring Chad. Marisa worked with a program called Stoves for Darfur, created by a Maryland high school student named Spencer Brodsky. Since 2007, he has raised $130,000, enough to buy 4,333 stoves. His website describes his initiatives, based on the belief that one person can make a difference.
Courtesy CHF International
Spencer Brodsky works with CHF International, a non-profit group that operates development projects in 30 countries around the world. A CHF International project has been producing and distributing the stoves in one of the refugee camps -- although it is on hold for the moment because the organization was among more than a dozen groups expelled from Sudan by the government recently.
The Darfur stove was devised by Ashok Gadgil, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, working with his colleague Christina Galitsky, an environmental energy researcher. They traveled to Darfur to learn about the cooking needs and to devise a simple, cheap stove, adapted from existing Indian technology. They describe it here in a 2007 Popular Mechanics video.
The basic metal stove, for which CHF asks a $30 contribution, is 70-percent more efficient than the traditional three-stone stove used used by women in rural Sudan. So they don't have to venture out from the camps so often, and can save time and money. The stoves are now produced in Sudan, creating jobs there. It's a simple solution that Americans like Marisa Bono and Spencer Brodsky are helping to get into the hands of Darfur's women.
In Sunday's Globe, I wrote an article about a disturbing new report that documents the continuing abuse of women who fled the civil war in Darfur but continue to face the threat of rape as residents of refugee camps in neighboring Chad. Here are some useful links to organizations involved in this work, as well as a video clip from my interview with one of the doctors who traveled to Chad to interview women in the Farchana camp.
The report was produced by Physicians for Human Rights, in partnership with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. Those two Cambridge groups have long records of investigating rights abuses in conflict areas.
I interviewed Dr. Sondra Crosby, an internist at Boston Medical Center who traveled to Darfur as part of a team of Boston-area medical specialists with extensive training in treating victims of abuse and torture. Others on the team were Dr. Linda Piwowarczyk, who is also based at Boston Medical Center and is co-founder and director of the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights, which treats hundreds of patients who have suffered abuse, including many who are refugees or seeking asylum in the United States.
|The PHR team in Chad, left to right: Dr. Linda Piwowarczyk, Dr. Julia VanRooyen, Karen Hirschfeld, and Dr. Sondra Crosby.|
Also in the field team were Dr. Julia VanRooyen, a gynecologic surgeon with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative with extensive experience treating rape victims, and Karen Hirschfeld, the lead author of the study who until recently was director of PHR's Sudan program. The principal investigator was Dr. Jennifer Leaning, who is co-director and co-founder of HHI and an expert in gender-based violence in warfare. Adrienne Fricke, a Boston-based attorney and expert on sexual violence and international law, did the legal analysis and traveled to six camps in Chad as part of the advance team.
You can find a link to the full report at PHR's microsite, darfuriwomen.org, which has many photos from the researchers' trip, as well as powerful excerpts and video interviews with women there. There's also a link to send messages to the women in the Chad camps.
Boston University's African Presidential Archives and Research Center has brought together ten former African presidents in Germany this week for discussions on land reform in Africa and other issues.
The director of the center, former US Ambassador to Tanzania Charles R. Stith, is chairing what has become an annual roundtable, being held this year in Berlin. The group also met German President Horst Köhler at a luncheon on Monday.
BU quotes Kohler as telling the visiting former presidents: "Expectations of the new US Administration under President Obama are high, especially in Africa. We Europeans and Americans should together do all we can to make the emerging partnership with Africa a success. I'm therefore very pleased that this year's roundtable is being held in Berlin.”
The former leaders are President Ketumile Masire of Botswana, President John Kufour of Ghana, President Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, President Nicephore Soglo of Benin, President Karl Offmann of Mauritius, President Festus Mogae of Botswana, President Aristides Pereira of Cape Verde, President Cassam Uteem of Mauritius, President Ali Hassan Mwinyi of Tanzania, and Prime Minister Frederick Sumaye of Tanzania.
Stith's APARC inaugurated the African Presidential Roundtable in April 2003, drawing in many former heads of state -- including some who have spent time in residence at BU -- as well as American academics. The goal is to brainstorm policy initiatives for African development and look for opportunities to improve US-African relations.
The Cape Verdean immigrant neighborhood of Fox Point in Providence, Rhode Island, was uprooted in the 1960s. But it seems that the Fox Point community survived.
Claire Andrade-Watkins, a Fox Point native who is a film-maker and professor at Emerson College in Boston, created an affecting, often personal documentary about Fox Point, called "Some Kind of Funny Porto Rican?" That was the description her fiance's brother used to describe Cape Verdeans, who had been immigrating to southeastern New England for more than a century. See her Web site here. She is at work on parts two and three of what she intends to be a trilogy of films.
I took note of her work to celebrate Cape Verdean culture in an article in the Sunday Globe on the impact of Cape Verdean diaspora in the homeland's extraordinary development in recent years.
Now, she is leading a group of Fox Point descendants who will take part in a procession through Fox Point to celebrate its rich history and show that the community's legacy still binds its people together, even if they are scattered around the region.
At 10 a.m. on May 9, the procession will mark the 75th anniversary of the St. Antonio Cape Verdean Association in Fox Point, Rhode Island’s first Cape Verdean Beneficent Society. Among the co-sponsors is the Fox Point Cape Verdean Project at the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University, where Andrade-Watkins is a visiting professor.
The invitation notes that St. Antonio was founded in 1934 "to provide health and death benefits to members and contributed to the social, cultural and spiritual needs of the second oldest Cape Verdean community in the United States, which was displaced from Fox Point in the l960s and l970s by urban renewal and gentrification."
Anyone wanting to learn more about Fox Point or any other aspect of the Cape Verdean community in New England should make sure to visit the Cape Verdean Museum Exhibit, located at 1003 Waterman Avenue in East Providence. Open afternoons on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, the small but lovingly built collection takes visitors through the history of whaling, emigration and building new lives and communities in the United States. I wrote a short "sidebar" article on the Cape Verde museum along with my overall story.
UPDATE: And let me correct a mistake that readers have pointed out. Denise Oliveira is the founder of the museum, as well as its president. I incorrectly identified two other stalwarts of Cape Verdean culture, Yvonne Smart and Virginia Neves Gonsalves, as co-founders, and neglected to mention Denise in my mention of the museum. Sorry to have left out the founder-in-chief! All three of these very effective ambassadors for Cape Verde in the United States received me graciously at the East Providence museum.
Also, a very useful Web site about all things Cape Verdean is www.forcv.com with a wealth of news and cultural information, much of it in English, about the Cape Verdean diaspora and the homeland.
David Harris, the long-time executive director of the American Jewish Committee, is just back from doing battle with the anti-Israel contingent at the United Nations racism conference in Geneva.
Harris says he was encouraged by what happened in Geneva -- especially the ways in which growing numbers of European countries were willing to stand up this time to those who he said had hijacked the first racism conference in Durban, South Africa, in 2001 to demonize Israel.
At a forum at the Andover Newton Theological School on Sunday night, Harris said the withdrawal of ten countries from the Geneva follow-up session was a major breakthrough. In 2001, only the United States and Israel boycotted the Durban racism conference.
"I think it's a threshold moment," Harris said. "And if we meet again in ten years, I hope each of you can name all 10, because they deserve, if nothing else, our memory."
He noted that in addition to the United States, Israel, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, five European countries also boycotted: Italy, Holland, the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany. "The five countres in Europe that broke the EU consensus, which is key to Europe, created a different kind of precedent in the EU."
Harris also applauded the 25 or so countries whose delegates walked out of the conference when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- the only national president to attend the conference -- used his seven-minute time slot to deliver a half-hour speech laced with anti-Israel language.
"The moral majority in multilateral diplomacy focuses on the EU. When they walked out, their statement was powerful, it was thunderous."
Harris said he respected the choice of some countries, including Britain and France, to stay within the conference process and to pressure for compromises on the final declaration, which eliminated the specific criticisms of Israel that had been in the draft declaration. Many countries that took part in the 2001 conference made the same argument. And the final version in 2001 also excluded most of the anti-Israel language, including clauses equating Zionism with racism, that had been in the early drafts.
"This is a classic argument of staying in or leaving. If you stay in you become tainted, but if you leave you become detached. Not every country will agree on what is the trigger point," he said. But compared with 2001, when Israel's supporters were outfoxed and outmaneuvered in the main conference as well as in the non-governmental forum and street demonstrations, Harris said that this time defenders of Israel were far more effective in blunting the attacks.
And he said that despite complaints from some Jewish organizations, the AJC and others engaged successfully with the Obama Administration to consider whether to participate in Geneva. That gave the AJC more weight in arguing ultimately against taking part, he said.
The Boston chapter of the American Jewish Committee created a Web site to track developments at the Durban II conference, including the evolution of the drafts. The site, www.bostonfreedomforum.org, offers the local AJC take on the Geneva proceedings.
It wasn't much discussed during the five-day standoff, but it's worth pointing out how unusual it was that the ship stormed by pirates off Somalia was flying an American flag. That meant that the crew and officers were well-trained members of American seafaring unions. Some of them were educated at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, and a number had training in handling arms and security through their unions.
As a former deck hand on American-flag ships during a year off from college several generations ago, I can attest to the rigors of US-flag vessels on issues of safety and security. It was evident that the officers and crew of the the Maersk Alabama put their training to particularly good use in driving off the pirates when they tried to board the ship.
The Seafarers International Union said all 12 of its crew members aboard the vessel had undergone safety training at the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education, in Piney Point, Md. The courses there include anti-terrorism briefings.
Some of the ships officers, who are members of the Master's Mates and Pilots Union and the Marine Engineers' Beneficial Association, also had received special training. Captain Richard Phillips is a 1979 graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, the oldest and probably best-known school in the country for training merchant marine officers.
The US merchant fleet has declined steadily, from 16% of the world's ocean-going vessels in 1960 to less than 1% in 2007. Many merchant ships fly what American unions disparagingly dismiss as "flags of convenience" from countries such as Liberia and Panama. Ship owners register their vessels in such countries even though the firms are not really based there. The American unions say those are transparent devices for shipping companies to avoid taxes as well as the rigors of safety and decent crew treatment and pay demanded of American-flag vessels.
American ships that ply coastal routes, and those handling government cargo like the Alabama, which was delivering humanitarian aid to Somalia, are required to fly US flags and to use union crews. That's why the crew aboard the ship was especially well-trained.
The Alabama is one of the 60 ships operating within the US Maritime Security Program, a federally funded program operating since the mid-1990s to ensure that a fleet of US-flag vessels is available to meet national security needs.
It's appropriate that the global anti-slavery campaign has generated renewed energy in Massachusetts, in the form of a movement of college students engaging in protests including "freeze-ins."
The Bay State, after all, was home to William Lloyd Garrison, the famed abolitionist from Newburyport who published The Liberator in Boston starting in 1831, and two years later founded the American Anti-Slavery Society. More recently, the American Anti-Slavery Group was founded in Newton in 1993 by human rights activist and modern-day abolitionist Charles Jacobs, with support from African anti-slavery campaigners from Sudan and Mauritania, to remind Americans that slavery persists in many parts of the world -- including the United States.
Now, students at Harvard and other universities are again mobilizing -- and they are offering a public symposium on Tuesday night to discuss modern slavery and human trafficking in more detail. The symposium is titled, "Destination Freedom: A learning approach to human slavery/human trafficking."
The symposium, being held from 4-9 p.m. at the Arts for Humanities Epicenter at Harvard, is sponsored by the Harvard branch of Free the Slaves; PANGEA of Tufts, a human rights group; Minga Groups, which fights sex-trafficking of teen-agers, and Human Trafficking Students of Boston alongside national organizations Free the Slaves, Love146, and The Not For Sale Campaign.
Kelli Okuji, a Harvard undergrad who is head coordinator of Harvard's Free the Slaves branch, says the purpose of the symposium "is to continue to promote community awareness and education about modern-day slavery, while also exploring avenues of student activism and ways to bridge the communities of knowledge and practice within the Boston-area and abroad."
She helped organize the "freeze-in" on Thursday in Cambridge, in which students freeze in position in public places for three minutes to call attention to the cause.
Okuji said the Harvard action was part of a national chain of freeze-ins at nearly two dozen college campuses nationwide, with more than 200 partipants. It was the first such national freeze-in by anti-slavery campaigners -- with the Harvard students taking a leading role.
Okuji wrote: "Many people today, especially within Western societies, are unaware that slavery still exists today. At the mention of slavery, people often conjure images of black bodies in chains or stooped over cotton plants during 1860s America. What we fail to realize, however, is that slavery is within our midst wherever we go, and may even be as close as our own backyard. "
One form of modern slavery, that of women trapped into lives of forced prostitution, is known to have Boston ties. The Globe's Ric Kahn wrote a detailed piece in 2007 about the long tentacles of sex-trafficking.
The American Anti-Slavery Group's website, Abolish!, offers details about the many forms modern slavery takes, including debt bondage and chattel labor as well as sex-slavery and forced labor.
Two Zimbabwean women's rights campaigners say the formation of a power-sharing government has done nothing to ease the humanitarian crisis and political repression facing ordinary people in the southern African nation.
Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu, who are visiting Boston to address the annual conference of Amnesty International USA this weekend, said the world needs to keep pressure on President Robert Mugabe to force meaningful change. They said that lifting economic sanctions now would merely entrench Mugabe's loyalists in power and prolong economic chaos and starvation in Zimbabwe.
After nearly a year of wrangling, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai joined Mugabe in a power-sharing government last month, taking office as prime minister. Tsvangirai's party has since asked that international sanctions be eased.
But Williams said in an interview that lifting sanctions would enable Mugabe and his inner circle to hold onto power and to retain Tsvangirai and members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change as figureheads without any real authority. Tsvangirai is widely believed to have defeated Mugabe in the March 2008 presidential election, but Mugabe clung to power.
Williams noted that even as Tsvangirai took office, his deputy agriculture minister was jailed by Mugabe's police for nearly a month.
"How does Morgan Tsvangirai allow his right-hand-man, Roy Bennett, to be arrested on his way to being sworn in, and then as prime minister can't get him released?" she asked. "When you have a dictator in place, and he puts his pillars of support in place and keeps them there with patronage, then power has not shifted in Zimbabwe."
Williams and Mahlangu are co-founders of Women of Zimbabwe Arise, or WOZA, which claims 70,000 members. Williams said she has been arrested 23 times since 2002, and Mahlangu counts 29 arrests. They were both jailed for nine weeks last year after leading protests for civil rights, and are facing a trial in April on charges of breach of peace.
They both said that simply bringing the opposition party into the government would not by itself lead to any change, recalling a history of failed unity governments dating back to the days when the country was white-ruled Rhodesia. And they said the opposition party has its own legacy of violence.
Williams said it was noteworthy that Mugabe is pushing Tsvangirai to appeal publicly for sanctions to be lifted and for fresh development aid because Mugabe himself is too discredited to make such an appeal.
Williams added: "We need the international community to help us with leverage because we are hostages in our own country. Zimbabwe might as well be a big jail cell, with the way life is, with the repression by these ruling elites."
South Africa's finance minister, Trevor Manuel, was quoted Sunday as saying that the sanctions should be lifted to let the power-sharing government start to repair the shattered economy. Manuel told the Observer newspaper of London that donor countries should inject cash directly to the government rather than limit their support to humanitarian organizations, as they are doing now.
The United States and Britain have indicated they will not ease sanctions until there is clear evidence that rights abuses have ended.
Mahlangu said the world should demand specific benchmarks of the Zimbabwean government in return for easing sanctions, including respecting the right of free expression, and should also demand the right to deliver the aid directly to those in need.
Williams said Western countries should work with progressive cabinet members in the power-sharing government to help strengthen their hand.
The West "must find an alternative way to get the aid to the people who need it, to get school chairs, to get exercise books, to put chalk into teachers' hands," Williams said. "It's a good test of the pro-democracy [cabinet] ministers to see how they will force that -- and it will give them some power."
Just days after the announcement of a new research center in South Africa to study the deadly link between the HIV virus and tuberculosis, a new World Health Organization report underlines how serious that dual affliction has become.
On world tuberculosis day, the WHO reports that "one out of four TB deaths is HIV-related, twice as many as previously recognized. In 2007, there were an estimated 1.37 million new cases of tuberculosis among HIV-infected people and 456 000 deaths."
The doubling in the estimate of HIV-related deaths from TB reflects in part improved testing, especially in Africa, the report says. In 2004, just 4 percent of TB patients were tested for HIV, compared with 37 percent in 2007. The improved testing helps more people get the appropriate treatment, including antiretroviral therapy, but the proportion tested still falls far short of covering all those affected.
The WHO report comes on the heels of the announcement last week that the Howard Hughes Medical Institute is funding a new $60 million research institute in Durban, South Africa, to study the coinfection of AIDS and TB in growing numbers of victims.
That research initiative is in turn linked to AIDS research by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and at the University of KwaZulu-Natal's Nelson Mandela Medical School in Durban. Field work by these teams has highlighted the sharp increase in patients with both HIV and TB, as well as the growing numbers of patients with multi-drug resistant TB and extensively drug resistant TB.
The WHO report says the two problems -- TB/HIV coinfection and drug resistant forms of TB -- present the greatest challenges. "In 2007 an estimated 500,000 people had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), but less than 1 percent of them were receiving treatments that was known to be based on WHO's recommended standards."
An activist group, Action to Control TB/HIV Internationally, or ACTION, noted today in a critique of the world's response to the crisis that the percentage of TB victims being tested for HIV still falls far short of the level needed.
"Currently, only an estimated two percent of people with HIV/AIDS have been screened for TB. This has especially dire consequences for sub-Saharan Africa where an estimated 1.1 million of the 1.4 million co-infected individuals live, and where more than half of TB deaths are among people living with HIV/AIDS," ACTION said in its own report.
The ACTION report said that "institutions including the World Bank; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria; the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the UK Department for International Development were all failing, to varying degrees, to adequately address this problem."
A leading Sudanese human rights campaigner says the government's expulsion of humanitarian aid groups from Darfur has put thousands of displaced people at risk of death from outbreaks of meningitis and other infectious diseases.
And Dr. Mohammed Ahmed Abdallah also says that two months into the Obama Administration, the United States still lacks a coherent policy to confront the worsening situation in the Darfur region of western Sudan. He appealed for tougher action and greater urgency.
Dr. Ahmed traveled to Boston this week to meet with Cambridge-based Physicians for Human Rights and other groups about the trauma facing what he says are more than one million Darfurians living without adequate water, food or medicine, as well as the inadequate international response to the expulsions.
He said the crisis had worsened since Sudan’s president, Omar Al Bashir, was indicted by the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court earlier this month for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. Bashir responded by expelling 13 humanitarian groups that had been helping to provide food and medicine to some of the 2.5 million displaced people living in camps in Darfur. That is the region of western Sudan where fighting between government-backed militias and rebels has left more than 300,000 dead since 2003.
Ahmed, a physician and professor who specializes in treatment of victims of torture and sexual violence, also is a long-time peace negotiator, working with militias on both sides to come to the bargaining table. He is part of the Sudanese Center for Rights Promotion and Peace Building, a reconciliation group, and won the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in 2007.
He said that after visiting with decision-makers in Washington, he is worried that the Obama Administration still lacks a clear strategy for the Darfur crisis.
“There is no clear plan yet to deal with Sudan in this country,” he said in an interview. “We are urging this country, which gives more than 70 percent of the aid to Darfur, that it is time to stand up and say the right thing…. Americans should be sure that this money and aid goes to the the targeted groups.
“We need a very transparent mechanism. And we need more pressure,” he said, adding that “US officials are sympathizing very much, but they still don’t have clear policies.”
Ahmed said the stress on internal refugees because of the food and water crisis may drive thousands more to make the dangerous trek from Darfur to camps in neighboring Chad. He said residents of some camps in Darfur are refusing to work with Sudanese government officials who are trying to take over the food distribution duties of the expelled groups. See this Los Angeles Times account for a recent update.
The expulsions put a sudden stop to a meningitis immunization campaign that Doctors Without Borders was about to start, just at the onset of one of the periodic outbreaks of the disease, which Ahmed said occurs every eight to ten years. The reduction of food rations for residents of the camps has left the elderly and children more vulnerable this time, he said, and there are also reports of increased tuberculosis and diarrheal diseases.
All of that raises the risk of more Darfurians trying to flee to Chad, he said.
Karen Hirschfeld, director of the Darfur Survival Campaign for Physicians for Human Rights who was escorting Ahmed in Boston, said she visited those camps in Chad in November while conducting a PHR study on women's rights violations.
“There is clearly not the capacity in the camps to deal with thousands of additional refugees," she said. "If 100,000 refugees come across border, the camps cannot cope. The security situation is precarious. Aid agencies are delivering just basic services. The infrastructure has been degreaded by already dealing with 250,000 refugees; they are not in a position to deal with tens of thousands more.”
Ahmed said solving the Darfur crisis demands a regional response, involving Chad, the Central African Republic, Libya and Egypt, and that US policy needs to reflect a regional approach.
“It is very urgent,” he said. “We are going to lose many of these innocent civilian lives.”
A vast South African AIDS research initiative is growing even larger with today’s launch of a $60 million dollar project to attack the deadly link between the HIV virus and tuberculosis.
At a news conference in Washington, DC, scientists from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa, announced the 10-year initiative, to be centered in a new research facility on the Durban campus of the university’s Nelson Mandela Medical School.
That will take forward an effort with deep Boston roots in the AIDS research laboratories of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Researchers from MGH and the medical school have worked on AIDS/HIV with Durban colleagues for a decade, led by MGH AIDS researcher Bruce D. Walker. He is also an investigator at the Howard Hughes institute and is closely involved in the new AIDS-TB project.
Last month, Walker's team received a $100 million gift from a Cambridge software entrepreneur, Phillip Terrence Ragon, to create a new institute to try to discover an AIDS vaccine. That work relies in part on research being conducted in Durban. More than five million South Africans are infected with the virus, accounting for 17 percent of the world’s HIV population.
The new Howard Hughes-funded project will focus in part on the worsening incidence of patients suffering from both HIV and TB, and especially the outbreak of extensively drug resistant tuberculosis among HIV victims. That very rare form of TB burst into an epidemic in Tugela Ferry in KwaZulu-Natal Province in 2006, where more than 200 people were infected in one town alone and most died, along with a number of hospital staffers.
Scientists have long wrestled with the complex problem of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. The problem of extensively drug resistant TB is even more vexing because it often occurs in patients who have already contracted and been treated for tuberculosis.
Dr. Salim S. Abdool Karim, who is director of the Center for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa, said one aspect of study will be the causes of recurrent tuberculosis, and the extent to which AIDS patients crowded into waiting rooms of clinics are spreading the infection.
He noted that tuberculosis was not as serious in KwaZulu-Natal as elsewhere in the country until the AIDS epidemic exploded in the 1990s. In the past, TB occurred in about 200 people of 100,000 in the province, but in recent years that number has soared to 800 per 100,000, Karim said in a telephone interview.
What’s more, the patient population has changed dramatically because of the convergence of the two infectious diseases, he said. Most TB victims now are much younger and are also infected with HIV compared with the older villagers who tended to contract TB in the past.
The new $20 million, six-story research institute will include two floors of high-level biosafety labs. The lab will be integrated with the Doris Duke Medical Research Institute that Walker helped establish at the medical school. The other $40 million in Howard Hughes funding will go toward research, training and related treatment programs over 10 years.
Karim said that in addition to researching the nature of recurrent TB, scientists will study problems in diagnosing TB in AIDS patients, which is especially complex, as well as understanding the genetic factors in drug resistance. In addition, researchers will study HIV immunology, and try to learn why HIV leads to more aggressive tuberculosis.
The research will be combined with patient treatment at three hospitals in the heart of the AIDS crisis in the province as well as extensive training of research and clinical staff to improve the skills base in South Africa.
The American Islamic Congress, a civic group that promotes interfaith understanding and awareness of Muslim culture, is sponsoring a series of five lectures in Boston this month, starting Monday evening at Boston University, to explore the diversity of Muslim culture from Africa to Europe to Asia.
There will be music and dance as well as talk. And the series will culminate in a cultural fair on Sunday, March 29, with poetry and other performances. Click here for the full program of the five conferences.
The AIC, which has offices in Boston and Washington as well as abroad, is avowedly moderate and non-religious. Born in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, it embraces women's equality, free expression, and nonviolence, and also confronts the stereotyping of Muslims -- noting that terrorism claims mainly Muslim lives.
The organization received a grant from the Boston Foundation to put on the five-part series on Muslim diversity, being staged at five different university venues at 6:30 p.m. every couple of days. The first, on Monday, March 16, focuses on Muslim mysticism. Then on Wednesday, March 18, at the Harvard Faculty Club, panelists will discuss the Subcontinent. And on Thursday March 19, the series moves to MIT for a session on Muslims in Europe.
Each event includes poetry and music.
The following week the series moves to the Mideast and Asia. On Monday, March 23, the discussion at the New England Conservatory will deal with Muslims in the Near East. And the final panel on Wednesday, March 25, focuses on the Far East, with with panelists including MIT Professor Alan Lightman, who recently helped build a mosque in Cambodia.
Nasser Weddady, who was born in Mauritania and came to the United States as a refugee in 2000, is civil rights outreach director for the AIC and works in the Boston office. He moved to Boston in 2007 from Kentucky. He says the lectures are part of a process of carving a civic space for Muslims in Boston, and moving the discussion beyond the usual simplistic focus on terrorism and religious extremism.
|Nasser Weddady (Globe file photo by Justine Hunt)|
"The conversation around Muslims is either conducted around counterterrorism -- a valid and real concern -- or else people think about theology and religion. But the reality is Islam stretches from Europe to the Far East, and in each area, it has taken on a local flavor. That’s what we’re showing through the series," Weddady said.
He added that looking at Islam through a religious lens, based on the premise "that the central foundation for the Muslim community is the mosque, is patently false.... Muslims don't look at themselves in terms of theology."
Thus the focus not only on discussion, but also on celebration that highlights the rich diversity of Islamic cultures.
Boston University's African Presidential Archives and Research Center is bringing former President Festus Mogae of Botswana to the campus for a three-month resident fellowship.
Charles Stith, the former US ambassador to Tanzania and Boston civil rights campaigner who is director of the BU center, announced the appointment of the center's sixth African president in residence since 2002.
The residency, funded by a grant from the Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation, invites democratically elected former African leaders to spend time at BU sharing ideas on African issues, and working with the university's African studies program.
Mogae, who was Botswana's president from 1998 to 2008, is the second former Botswana president to come to BU. His predecessor, Ketumile Masire, also was a resident at the center. Mogae will be in Boston through May.
Botswana has been one of Africa's most stable democracies. The landlocked southern African nation, which borders South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia, has also received plaudits for confronting its devastating AIDS epidemic head-on. Up to one in three adults is infected with HIV in the nation of two million people, the BU announcement noted.
Stith is the former senior minister of the Union United Methodist Church in Boston. He was founder and president of the Organization for a New Equality, which works to expand economic opportunities for women and minorities, and at ONE he helped broker a major community reinvestment program for poor and minority communities.
About this blog
About James F. SmithJim Smith came home to his native Boston in 2002 to become the Boston Globe's foreign editor after spending 22 years abroad. He was previously based in Buenos Aires and Mexico City for the LA Times, and in Johannesburg, Tokyo and The Hague for the AP. In 2007 he became the Globe's national political editor, coordinating presidential campaign coverage. He is a Yale graduate, and has an MBA. He is married to Maxine Hart and has two sons, Matthew and Daniel.
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