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This year, 2007, there is some good news about the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The percentage of people living with AIDS has leveled off and the number of new cases has fallen. This is attributed to the prevention programs. However, risk remains high in sub-Saharan Africa. Eight sub-Saharan African countries represent one-third of all new cases and total deaths around the globe. This year there are still 33.2 million people living with AIDS, 2.5 million newly infected, and 2.1 million deaths. (Read the 2007 AIDS epidemic update) As with all good reports, "much good has been done, but more is needed." Events are happening all across the continent with dedication and promises. The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is leadership and "Stop AIDS, Keep the Promise!" While there is a lot of talk (read the statements) already this year about what will be done about the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
The conflict in the DRC is nothing new to the region. I would argue that the conflict began well before the assassination of the democratically elected leader, Lumumba, in 1961 and has only grown from there. After Lumumba was assassinated Mobutu Sese Seko gained power and ruled terribly for the next 32 years. He was overthrown by rebellion in 1997 by Laurent Kabila, who leader of the prominent rebel group. Unable to bring peace, Kabila faced his own rebel opposition until he was assassinated in 2001. Intense turmoil resumed in the DRC following Kabila's assassination, sparking a six country war including Rwanda and Uganda. In 2002 a peace deal was signed to officially end the DRC conflict, 17,000 UN troops were deployed and yet the conflict continues. In 2006 Laurent's son Joseph Kabila was elected in a tense, yet democratic and free election. Joseph Kabila faces opposition from his father's rule (as well as support from his father's popularity), calls that he is not Congolese - that his mother was Rwandan and he is not from the DRC, along with calls of corruption in his administration. When Joseph was born in Eastern Congo he was sent to live in hiding pretending to be part of a Tanzanian ethnic group. Later he recieved military training in China, which helps in the exploitation of the DRC's vast resources. J. Kabila has been able to broker a written peace, but how well can he create peace in reality?
From: !Enough: the project to abolish genocide + mass atrocities -
Dissident Congolese Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda's more than 3,000 loyal forces have carved out control of parts of North Kivu Province. The Congolese government has responded by realigning itself with the FDLR -- a militia composed of more than 6,000 Rwandan Hutu rebels, many with links to the 1994 genocide in their home country -- to fight Nkunda's more effective force. This threatens to draw Rwanda back into Congo's conflict, which would lead to rapid escalation and potentially plunge Congo back into regional war.
From the When not in Africa. . . blog.
Crunch, Mmm, the peanut chunks trapped in delicious caramel tastes oh so good. You bite and are rewarded with a mouthful of inticing caramel and nut flavors - all of a sudden that deliciousness is tainted by an odd sourish, crunchy, mushy apple flavor. What? Where did this apple come from, I like the outside best. This is the caramel apple of globalization - the outside is so delicious and appealing, but once you hit the apple and core, the fun has ended. Granted this all matters if you run with the majority and toss aside the age-old wives tale of eating an apple a day to keep the doctor away. Too many of us see this doctor everyday - there is no escaping this doctor because all too often globalization is used for ill, just to get the caramel and nuts, not the healthy fruit of the free market, fair trade, and multi-lateral agreements.
From the When not in Africa. . . blog.
The correlation between violent conflicts and health may seem to be very obvious, but there is more to the issue than what crosses the mind. Everyone can make the simple connection that there is direct impact of conflict on being unbenefittal for the betterment of health. For example it is easy to read this article and see the obvious connection to artillery shells hitting a hospital in Mogadishu. Internal clashes and conflict creates a more difficult situation for humanitarian operations all over Africa.
Africa represents the highest rates of internal conflict and disease, especially HIV/AIDS. This disease has been used as a weapon in conflict. Many times infected soldiers are sent to the front lines to spread disease and infect the opposition, which generally turns out to be the innocent population. Populations affected by armed internal conflicts end up experiencing severe public health consequences from food insecurity, displacement, and combat. All this ends in a collapse of basic health services which are essential to the survival of the population.
From the When not in Africa. . . blog.
April 25th, the first US Malaria Awareness Day. An award winning photographer, Chien-Chi Chang, traveled to Uganda to give image to the story that is very often never heard, to give a face to the people who are never seen. This is not just another award winning privileged person traveling to get pictures or a story because these images and story are accompanied by a call for action. The images were used to raise awareness and promote involvement with Malaria No More. This is an organization that is fueled by celebrity involvement and received great attention from American Idol, but this is an issue and conflict that does not require you to be a celebrity to make a difference. Everyone is a celebrity in their own right.
Surrounded by the dead and decaying behemoths of industrialization and the monsters of the modernized, civilized, material world, as cars and trucks alike race down the expressway next door, we, the youth, stop to build a cardboard tent city in a once barren parking lot in the middle of the massive, jutting, Chicago jungle. In that empty and barren parking lot of Soldier Field, we filled the void with our hearts, our minds, and our bodies to raise awareness and bring an end to a war. With the warring interests of commercializm, business, capitalizm, and the fast paced, go-go american society, we will break for a brief twenty-four hour period to be displaced. Displace me!
These past few months have been very exciting for S.C.O.U.T. B.A.N.A.N.A.. We have taken on 4 new projects dealing with basic health care and we are that much closer to achieveing official non-profit status. We have partnered with Blood: Water Mission and so far raised over $500 to help train community workers to build wells for a sustainable clean water source in communities in Uganda, Kenya, and Sierra Leone. We have also raised over $1,200 to support the Partners in Health Rwanda Programs which include: recruiting and training administrative and medical staff; rebuilding and equipping clinics; and securing reliable electricity, water, and communications systems. Two amazing organizations all working towards one over arching goal, which is to provide basic health care services to the world's people disproportionately affected by poverty, disease, and injustice.
My previous entry was about an major happening in my life. I can safely say that story and the events, experiences, and following actions have defined my life. Yes, defined my life. Traveling to Africa four summers ago after conducting a project that allowed me to meet so many incredible people and truly believe that I, and many others, have been able to make a difference in the world, has created the most indelible impression on who I am and what I do.
It all started on a Sunday in July 2000. I was at Mass in the church I had attended all my life, Holy Family Catholic Church, when there was an announcement made that a visiting priest from Uganda would be living in our parish for the summer.