Category Archives: Health

Women and malnutrition: the case of South Sudan

KODOK – Pregnant and breastfeeding women are the demographic group most at risk of malnutrition in South Sudan after children, making up some 12 percent of all those on supplementary feeding programmes. Read more…

photo by Jason Patinkin

A bitter ‘happy birthday’ for warring South Sudan

 

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir prays at the John Garang Memorial in Juba during events marking the third anniversary of South Sudan’s independence. Andrea Campeneau/Reuters

South Sudan marked its third anniversary of independence amid a civil war that has killed thousands of people and displaced more than 1 million. So the birthday mood in the world’s newest nation does not resemble the complete jubilation of recent years.

In the capital of Juba yesterday, independence celebrations were large – but the pride on display was sharply mixed with ambivalence and disappointment. The festivities stood in stark contrast with the hope a year ago of a bright future for an oil- and water-rich land, and the widely shared sense now that the country’s leaders have failed.

The public sentiment was articulated by “Fox,” a man draped head to toe in South Sudanese flags: “Today I’m happy…[but] I’m crying from this war…. I feel fifty-fifty.”  Read more…

US sanctions tread lightly on Uganda’s ‘odious’ anti-gay laws

 

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni gestures after signing a new anti-gay bill in Entebbe, Uganda, Feb. 24, 2014. Rebecca Vassie/AP/File

A loud cry rose from the West early this year when Uganda passed an anti-homosexuality law that would put “repeat offenders” in prison for life.

European countries slashed aid to Uganda and gay rights activists loudly condemned the legislation, which came at the same time that Nigeria also cracked down on homosexuals with similarly draconian laws.

The “odious law,” as US President Barack Obama called Uganda’s initiative, would “complicate” the US partnership with Kampala. He ordered a review of the largely military US-Uganda relationship, with the intent of imposing sanctions.

Those sanctions got announced last week. They are the toughest actions taken against anti-gay laws overseas by the Obama administration, and include the redirecting of US aid to Uganda to its NGOs, the cancelling of a planned hospital, the cancelling of a military exercise, and the dropping of some police funding.

In the US, Vice President Joseph Biden and US Secretary of State John Kerry touted the sanctions as significant during June Pride Month.

But the sanctions also represent a conundrum for the US as it tries to affirm some of its own values and viewpoints abroad at a time when its leverage is lower.

Many human rights activists say the Uganda sanctions are too little, too late – even as some foreign affairs specialists say a US single-issue focus on gay rights actually strengthens a new “anti-West” narrative in parts of Africa and an attendant crackdown on civil society.  Read more…

Boston Marathon: five runners and why they’ll be at the starting line

‘I know there is a strong team this time around. But even last time it was strong. I trust myself. I trust my training.’ – Sharon Cherop (Brian Snyder/Reuters/File)

Sharon Cherop is part of the so-called elite field for the Boston Marathon. These runners, who will vie for the championship medals, hail from a dozen countries and numbered 46 as of March 3. Ms. Cherop, a Kenyan, won the women’s race in 2012.

Last year in Boston, she placed third. In fact, she crossed the finish line so far ahead of the bombings that she was already back at her hotel and in the shower when she found out what happened. “I heard something on the TV outside of the bathroom,” she says. “People were crying outside, and then we realized it was a bomb blast.”  Read more…

Kenya: a safe haven for persecuted gays?

Nairobi (dpa) – While homophobia is on the rise across Africa, the gay community in Kenya has managed to win a small degree of acceptance despite homosexuality remaining illegal in the East African country.

Gay people have been able to stage small public protests to advocate equal rights. The community has even hosted its own film festivals, and social media has discreetly facilitated same-sex dating.

In 2013, David Kuria Mbote became the first openly gay person to run for public office in the country. In January, acclaimed author Binyavanga Wainaina declared his homosexuality in a heartfelt essay that received praise from many Kenyans.

Gay activists credit backstage lobbying with achieving better equality in public health. Kenya’s National AIDS Council, for example, provides gays with targeted treatment and disease prevention services.

Whilst in other countries in Africa, “people import lubricant under cover,” lubricants and condoms are easily available in Kenya, says Kevin Mwachiro, who works in Nairobi for the gay rights group Hivos Forum and wrote a book about homosexual and transgender Kenyans.

Kenya has become a safe haven for gays fleeing discrimination in Uganda, where President Yoweri Museveni signed a law in February that foresees lengthy prison sentences – in certain cases, even life sentences – for homosexuals.

Dozens of Ugandan gays and lesbians have travelled to Kenya as harassment and violence against them have increased in their home country. More than 20 have been registered as refugees with the United Nations.

Yet with anti-homosexual sentiment on the rise across Africa, Kenyan gay, lesbian and transgender people worry of a rollback on the modest but growing movement for equal rights in their country.  Read more…

Hunger and disease wreak havoc in war-devastated South Sudan

Government soldiers in South Sudan. File photo. CHARLES LOMODONG / AFP

Juba, South Sudan — A long queue forms every morning in frontof a clinic in Tomping refugee camp  of South Sudanese capital Juba, where thousands have sought shelter for fear of being killed for their ethnicity.

Mothers bring children wrapped in blankets whom nurses place on scales to weigh for malnutrition. But one afternoon, the small bundle in the arms of one mother was silent and no longer moved.

“It’s a shame,” said Matthieu Ebel, coordinator of the clinic run by the aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), after he arranged for the tiny body to be collected for burial.

“People think of the fighting. But these are the consequences, too.” Disease and hunger are taking a toll across South Sudan, four months into the conflict between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar.

Thousands of people have been killed and more than 900,000 displaced in the power struggle.

An unknown number of civilians have perished from disease and malnutrition as armed groups have ransacked medical facilities and displaced people have missed the planting season.  Read more…