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August 26, 2004

Congratulations to Kenya

A 1-2-3 sweep in steeplechase--that is definitely a call for congratulations!

Nairobi, Kenya, 08/26 - The four medals Kenya scooped in Athens Tuesday night pushed the east African state to the 30th position in the Olympics medals table with one gold, four silver and one bronze medal.

Ezekiel Kemboi led Kenya in posting a 1-2-3 victory in the men`s 3000m steeplechase in a race that saw the Kenyans repeat the feat that saw them sweep the boards in the same event in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.


Posted by zombyboy at 10:59 AM | Comments (1)

August 24, 2004

Will Polio Make a Comeback?

The World Health Organization had thought that polio was a thing of the past--a disease on the verge of being eradicated by an aggressive and long campaign of immunization. Now they warn of a growing threat fueled by ignorance, a lack of funding, and the continuing difficulties facing the organization as they try to administer vaccinations in 22 African nations.

Africa could be on the verge of a major polio outbreak, the World Health Organization has warned.

Mali and Guinea have reported their first cases of the disease in five years. Three cases have also been reported in the Darfur region of Sudan.
These latest cases are being blamed on problems vaccinating people in parts of Nigeria last year.

Islamic clerics in Kano state condemned immunisation campaigns as an American plot to make Muslim women infertile.

What are the root problems of many of Africa's most crippling problems? Ignorance and paranoia. Certainly, there are other issues (the fact that tribal loyalty is more important than national patriotism through many African nations, for instance), but many of the health, hygiene, and food production problems can be traced to a lack of education and paranoia about solutions provided by Western agencies.

While non-African developed nations and world organizations (like WHO) pour money and effort in feeding and immunizing Africans, and while aid throughout the cold war came often in the form of military and industrial equipment, education for Africans was often neglected (or, at least, the educational assistance was of mixed effect).

A baseline of education is needed to understand and combat some of the misconceptions about health and hygiene issues. While I would never suggest that humanitarian aid in the form of food or health care be shoved aside in favor of more focus on education, I would suggest that as long as general education remains insufficient, the cycle of dependence on outside aid will not only continue but also grow massively.

An effort to educate (specifically in rural areas) Africans in many nations remains a difficult task. There simply aren't enough teachers, isn't enough money, and families often simply don't see the value of sending their children to school.

If the goal is self-sufficient African nations that no longer rely on outside help for subsistence, who can join the world as developed nations, and who can begin to actually develop the economic potential that is trapped in their resource-rich continent, then the key isn't just shipments of grain. The key is to find a path to give the next generation the knowledge that it will take to rise above their current circumstance.

If the goal is to make ourselves feel better, then, by all means, let's just keep shipping grain and Band-Aids.

Polio is a preventable disease--and, at least nearly, an eradicable one. When the citizens of a nation are convinced that vaccination is just an American trick to cause infertility, the stumbling block isn't our capacity to fight that disease; the problem is that ignorance and paranoia are standing in our way. We need to find more effective ways of combating that ignorance.

Of course, recognizing the problem is the hard part. Finding a solution--well, that's far more difficult.

I'm open to suggestions.

Read the rest.

Posted by zombyboy at 11:18 AM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2004

Female Genital Mutilation

I've sat and had conversations with otherwise rational people who insist that I, being a white, American male, cannot judge the activities of people in other cultures. They insist that there is no culture that is "better" (they almost always use the little finger motion to indicate that better is really just an illusion) than any other culture, and that the reasons and differences of all cultures should be appreciated for the beautiful things that they are.

When it comes to haiku, traditional Basque music, and such, I'm inclined to agree with them. But when it comes to things like female genital mutilation, I'm more than happy to insist that my culture (which doesn't indulge this barbaric and vile practice) most certainly is better than those cultures that do accept the practice.

Police in Burkina Faso have arrested 14 people for carrying out female genital mutilation on girls aged between 2 and 10 years, a campaign group in the West African country said today.

One of the 16 victims would have bled to death without immediate medical help because her arteries were severed during the procedure, medics said. Adama Barry, who has four previous convictions for practising female circumcision, was arrested with 13 other people after an anonymous tip-off to the National Committee for the Fight against Excision (CNLPE).

Thank God the tide is turning against this kind of barbarism--but the practice is too widespread to see it vanish overnight (or, indeed, in the near future).

I've been asked whether I feel comfortable judging another culture, and my answer is that I'm comfortable judging the actions of other cultures. This is one of the acts that I have no problem judging as wrong--and I don't even need scare quotes to give it the proper post-ironic twist.

Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 01:26 PM | Comments (4)

August 17, 2004

Passion of the Present

People who know me know that my interest in Africa runs deep. From the time that I lived in Zimbabwe as a little boy until now, I've dreamed of being an expat living far away in Africa. One of the things that makes my dream harder to achieve is the constant turmoil that plagues the continent, leveling the most beautiful nations under murderous tyrants, genocidal rabble, disease, and hunger. What you might not know is just how sick it makes me to watch, helpless, from a distance as Africa burns.

Right now, while we wait for Zimbabwe's inevitable collapse, we turn our eyes to Sudan. The UN may not want to acknowledge the genocide and may not want to commit to anything other than harsh words for the Sudanese government, but the rest of us might be able to help.

We can't stop the killing, but we can encourage our representatives to commit to action. We can see the terror for what it is and face it with our eyes wide open. We can donate in hopes of easing the burden of those who are suffering.

August 25th will be a "Day of Conscience" for; a day devoted to raising awareness of the crisis in Sudan.

With the rainy season starting in late May and the ensuing logistical difficulties exacerbated by Darfur’s poor roads and infrastructure, any international monitoring of the shaky April ceasefire and continuing human rights abuses, as well as access to humanitarian assistance, will become more difficult. The United States Agency for International Development has warned that unless the Sudanese government breaks with past practice and grants full and immediate humanitarian access, at least 100,000 war-affected civilians could die in Darfur from lack of food and from disease within the next twelve months.

I've always hated the people who run around shouting "we have to do something" when they have no idea what actually needs to be done. This time, though, there is a clear path: helping those displaced by war by helping to provide food, water, and medical supplies.

Read more about the situation in Darfur.

(Thanks to those at Passion of the Present.)
(Cross posted to ResurrectionSong.)

Posted by zombyboy at 02:44 PM | Comments (2)

August 10, 2004

If it isn't Genocide...

If it isn't genocide, is it somehow more acceptable? If it it's only the slow, torturous slaughter of tens of thousands, but they is isn't in the name of ethnic cleansing, is it somehow less tragic or less worthy of our attention? If the murder is spread carefully so that there are a number of ethnic groups suffering the rape and destruction, is it suddenly reasonable for the UN to turn away?

The EU said yesterday there was widespread violence in the Darfur region of Sudan but the killings were not genocidal, a potentially crucial distinction which underlined its reluctance to intervene.

"We are not in the situation of genocide there," Pieter Feith, an adviser to the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said in Brussels after returning from a fact-finding visit to Sudan.

"But it is clear there is widespread, silent and slow killing and village burning of a fairly large scale. There are considerable doubts as to the willingness of Sudan's government to assume its duty to protect its civilian population against attacks."

And if it isn't genocide, then what precisely is it?

The politics of defining "genocide" is a nasy, brutish business that has little regard for the lives lost.

Read the rest of the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 12:58 PM | Comments (5)

Back in the Fold

Sorry for the break in blogging--I took a quick trip to the land of Mickey. Regular blogging will resume tomorrow.

Posted by zombyboy at 12:49 PM | Comments (0)

August 02, 2004

Sudan's Response

If you wonder how the Sudanese government is taking the new UN resolution, you might want to read these posts:

From Passion of the Present, and Black Looks.

Posted by zombyboy at 09:31 AM | Comments (0)

August 01, 2004

Useless Words

More reason to believe that the UN is a toothless organization: its timid response to the unrest in Sudan.

Last Friday, with the eyes of the world's press turned to the warrior's apotheosis in Boston, a resolution was passed 200 miles away in New York. The UN security council, by 13 votes to none and two abstentions, voted to give the Sudanese government 30 days to disarm the militias that have been devastating the Western province of Darfur, killing up to 30,000 civilians and displacing hundreds of thousands more.

The resolution requires Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, to report back every month and threatens 'to consider further actions, including measures as provided for in Article 41', if Sudan fails to respond. Article 41 of the UN charter does not relate to armed force, but could be used to impose economic restrictions or to sever diplomatic relations.

This resolution was only passed because an original and explicit mention of the imposition of sanctions was removed at the request of seven council members. Even so two countries, China and Pakistan, felt unable to support the weakened motion. China thought the measures were unnecessary because the Sudanese government was indeed co-operating, and both it and Pakistan felt that the Sudan was not being given enough time to sort things out.

Even those opposed to military intervention must have hoped for something more direct and aggressive. Diplomatic and economic pressure should have been the result of any UN decrees, not the tepid threat of some future response.

As the linked Beeb article notes, some of the sponsoring countries say that the resolution is actually one that guarantees a harsh response in the future if the Sudanese government fails to clean up the problem. But how meaningful is a resolution like this when the UN has already waited so long to act at all?

One more month of death and destruction and then we'll fiind out just what kind of teeth the resolution has. Most likely, we'll find that it was all talk and no action as the delegates debates over precisely what actions are allowed by the resolution, on what time frame, and how much leeway should be given to the Sudanese government.


Read the story.

Posted by zombyboy at 06:03 PM | Comments (5)
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