U.S. Delays Somalia Aid

By Jehan Nga for The New York Times  Bags of food stored in Galkayo, Somalia. Part of the country is teetering on the brink of famine.

Bags of food stored in Galkayo, Somalia. Part of the country is teetering on the brink of famine. (Jehan Nga for The New York Times)

The United States is withholding about $50 million in American aid to Somalia, fearing the donations are, in fact, filling the stomachs of terrorists, according to the New York Times.

“American officials are concerned that United Nations contractors may be funneling American donations to the Shabab, a Somali terrorist group with growing ties to Al Qaeda. United Nations officials say the American government has been withholding millions of dollars in aid shipments while a new set of rules is worked out to better police the distribution of aid.”

As talks continue throughout the United Nations, Somalis have enough emergency food to last them only four more weeks.

“The potential damage is huge,” said Kiki Gbeho, the head coordinator of United Nations humanitarian operations in Somalia, during a visit to a drought-stricken area on Thursday.

Overall donations are down this year due to the tough economy, even before the U.S. decided to delay their aid to the drought-stricken country. The outcome of this massive waiting game could be catastrophic.

“Simple,” Sheik Ali Gab said. “We will all starve.”

According to the New York Times, the American government is the largest donor to Somalia, providing about 40 percent of the $850 million annual aid budget, intended to feed more than three million people.

For more on this story: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/02/world/africa/02somalia.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=world

New “Lujo” Virus Causes Ebola-like Bleeding in Africa

The “Lujo” virus, named after the two cities in which it was found, Lusaka, Zambia and Johannesburg, South Africa has five confirmed cases.  Four of those five cases have resulted in death.

Coming into contact with infected rodent waste can infect humans, as researchers believe the virus comes from a family of viruses that is found in rodents.  The virus presents itself in the form of bleeding in the gums and at injection sites, much like the Ebola virus, as well as in the forms of fever, shock, coma, and organ failure.

The first confirmed case occurred in September in a woman in the outskirts of Zambia who had a fever like illness that quickly became much worse.  She was airlifted to Johannesburg, South Africa where she later died.  The next confirmed case of the “Lujo” virus was reported in a paramedic who was reported to have treated the first victim of the disease.  The following three cases were confirmed in health care workers in Johannesburg.  The disease is thought to have spread through infected human body fluids.
The fifth reported case of the disease did not result in death.  Researchers found the disease is distantly related to Lassa fever, and administered drugs that are commonly used to treat Lassa fever.  Researchers do not believe the deadly new virus will spread widely.

Students in Literacy “Red Zone”

Charleston County, South Carolina has a growing literacy problem. Recent test scores have shown that at North Charleston High School 46% of incoming 9th grade students read at a fourth-grade level or below.

In the Charleston County School District 23% of all incoming 9th grade students read at a fourth-grade level or below. The literacy problem often extends to learning other school subjects such as math and science due to students not being able to read textbooks, which are written for student’s actual grade level.

This problem also extends into the community where one in seven adults in the surrounding Charleston Counties read at an eighth-grade level or below. These adults are functionally illiterate. According to the Trident Literacy Association, up to 20,000 tri-county adults have less than a ninth-grade education.

These adults are often unable to read a newspaper article, fill out a job application, or follow instructions on prescription drug labels.

Now that the problem has been highlighted, school officials are pledging to work to focus more attention on literacy. School stimulus money will be allocated to teach reading and writing. The districts are looking to hire reading specialists who will teach older students without demoralizing them. Simply re-taking English classes is not enough, special attention is needed to help these students.

Swami Vivekananda

MIRONJILLA, DHAKA – The children of this poverty-stricken sweeper colony are educated by Dhaka University college students in a yellow three-story concrete building.

 

A young girl who lives in Mironjilla, Dhaka, Bangladesh, is getting a basic education at the Vivekanando School. The school is run by students at Dhaka University.

A young girl who lives in Mironjilla, Dhaka, Bangladesh, is getting a basic education at the Vivekanando School. The school is run by students at Dhaka University.

Although the school, which is named after Swami Vivekananda, usually operates at night, after the children have finished their jobs of cleaning the streets, today is special: there is an art and a jump rope competition.

 

A young boy pauses in the stairwell at the Vivekenando School in Mironjilla, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Ironically, the sign behind him reminds people to put trash in the trash can.

A young boy pauses in the stairwell at the Vivekenando School in Mironjilla, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

“They are so poor. The clean Dhaka,” says Mohit, one of the volunteers who teaches there.

However, this is not an all work and no play environment. These kids know how to jump rope. Even during a 90 degree day, jump ropes — and jump roping children — abound on the street in front of the school.

 

A student of the Vivekanando School leans briefly against a bamboo post supporting an awning at a shop. Behind him, the school hosts a jump rope competition.

A student of the Vivekanando School leans briefly against a bamboo post supporting an awning at a shop. Behind him, the school hosts a jump rope competition.

 

Kids playing outside vye to be the first one in the picture. Several of them are enjoying suckers that were given out today.

Kids playing outside vye to be the first one in the picture. Several of them are enjoying suckers that were given out today.

Not all of the students jump rope today. Some stay inside, either to draw, watch the jump roping, or allow a quick snapshot.

 

Two friends at the school pose for a portrait.

Two friends at the school pose for a portrait.

Today was much fun and game for the students, who also were visited by guests from Dhaka University, Bangladesh, and Winona State University, Winona, Minn., America (this author included).

At the end of the day, as with any other day, they go back to their homes, which, although conveniently located near the school, are still in the slums.

Their lesson for today: education is best path for them to advance to greater things.

The Dweller

A girl who lives in the Mironjilla colony stands outside her abode.

 

Making sanitary napkins in Dhaka

DHAKA, BANGLADESH — Today, I made a sanitary napkin.

I had lunch with Md. Kamal Uddin, the CEO of Arban, an NGO that aims to help the poor by funding and organising schools and construction projects. After eating (rice, lentils, and vegetables — yes, I used my hands, no silverware), an Arban driver took us to a housing project and then to Mirpur, a slum in Dhaka.

As sanitation — more aptly lack of it — is problematic in the slums, a project Arban has recently undertaken is helping with feminine hygiene. Instead of women using rags or anything else they may find, Arban employs people to hand-craft sanitary napkins.

It goes something like this: sit on the floor in a small room on top of the roof. A window lets natural light in. Pull apart cotton in an effort to fluff it, place it into a sheet of cotton about 8″x8″, roll it over several times, place that into some netting (like what the tree farm puts around Christmas trees), then sew little doubled-over cotton loops (they resemble a hair band) to that assembly, one on each end. Sterilize, place ten into a package, seal, and sell.

Price: 25 taka/package (69 taka/US Dollar)

Packages made per day: 17

Population of Dhaka: 15 million

Boy In the Rain

Boy In the Rain

You should follow the link above to get an idea of where Mirpur is. Do not be fooled by the few streets that appear on the map; this is not a sparse acre-size-lot-per-single-family-house suburbia. Rather, it is a dense jungle of concrete and brick structures that generally rise 4 to 7 stories, and single-level homes with rusty tin roofs. The streets are dirt. The buildings are from manual labor; there are no Caterpillars or John Deeres here.

A man carries a bamboo post used in the construction of poured-concrete buildings.

A man carries a bamboo post used in the construction of poured-concrete buildings.

FIRST PERSON: George Childs in Fresnillo, Mexico

This is George Childs. He is living in Fresnillo Mexico as a Missionary.

George Childs lives in Fresnillo, Mexico where he works as a Missionary.

The issue of poverty in Fresnillo is so complex that an unstudied observer struggles to begin an analysis. Individual problems can obscure systemic injustices. It’s hard to see the forest for the trees.
I’ve just arrived home from the championship of the local soccer children and adult leagues. The trophy ceremony was disbanded after numerous fights between gang members made it dangerous to continue. I have always been a proponent of the right to bear arms, but living in this neighborhood has made me glad for Mexico’s prohibition of civilian weaponry, and today we saw no more than knives and rocks.

At the risk of sounding myopic, Alcoholism is the most visible obstacle to advancement for most families in my neighborhood. Drugs, prostitution, and alcohol often consume a husband’s income before family is able to benefit from it.

Lack of employment opportunities seems to be another great disadvantage for those who live in my city. Education opens doors for many, but the schools in our disadvantaged area seem to suffer from the same setbacks as everything else. More specifically, these schools seem to suffer from lack of resources, lack of qualified instructors, and a general cultural devaluing of education. Good English language education would be an invaluable tool for many, lifting them out of the limited confines of our city and enabling them to compete in the global job market. Most of the children graduating from our local junior high school are not prepared to enter high school; the majority of them never will.

On a larger scale, we see corruption at almost every level of government and law enforcement. Corruption stifles business and progress and is the main thing I see standing between Mexico and economic success. I believe corruption begins at a very early age and the approach our organization has taken to fighting it is religious and moral education from a very early age. I see character, hope, and love, as antidotes to corruption, alcoholism, and apathy. This is not a short term fix but it could be a lasting one.

George Childs

Fresnillo, Mexico

Recycling Grey Water in The MENA Region

The recycling of grey water may reduce the shortage of water in the Middle East and North African Region (MENA).

Grey water is used water that comes from kitchens, bathroom sinks, bathtubs, and laundry. Black water comes from toilette and cannot be reused. The MENA region has 5% of the world’s population, but only 1% of the freshwater resources. (IDRC)

A sustainable solution is to treat the grey water for reuse. The treatment of grey water is a simpler  system and that is inexpensive to purchase. The system can be two to four barrels and are practical for people in the MENA region. The multiple use of water is a holistic approach that will eliminate wasting the lack of water. The reuse of waste water is a possible solution to many of the water shortage issues.

Farmers in Jordan are choosing to reuse grey water without treatment as a substitute source of water. This can have some issues because untreated grey water can contain elements that can be harmful to human health. There is the risk of E. coli is present because of the degrading organic material from the kitchen sink. There are also issues of an odor with grey water.

The EPA guidelines are apprehensive to the concept, but do report that,” With proper management, wastewater use contributes significantly to sustaining livelihoods, food security and the quality of the environment. “(IWMI).

This photo is of an at home grey water system.

This photo is of an at home grey water system.