Aid frustrations: A Doctor’s View Into Humanitarian Aid

Guest Poster: J Chan. She captures quite nicely the frustrations of development work:I'm back in Mozambique again, now in the 2nd largest city in the country- Beira. It's nice to be back in Mozambique and the 30hr plane rides are getting more monotonous. I hope to spend a little bit more time checking out the towns along the way while I'm working.I'm here for the 2nd phase of another project. We were able to get the lay of the land of the flood situation back in May and now we are back to perform a more rigorous assessment of the water and sanitation activities in the resettlement camps (like refugee camps in some ways) by the Zambezi River. We will try to link this information with the risk for cholera outbreaks to help the project guide … [Read more...]

Dysfunctional Programme Management

Calling in overwhelmed today ... these are generally about the software industry, but applies to any field where you have to work in a team! Asshole Driven development (ADD) - Any team where the biggest jerk makes all the big decisions is asshole driven development. All wisdom, logic or process goes out the window when Mr. Asshole is in the room, doing whatever idiotic, selfish thing he thinks is best. There may rules and processes, but Mr. A breaks them and people follow anyway. Cognitive Dissonance development (CDD) - In any organization where there are two or more divergent beliefs on how software should be made. The tension between those beliefs, as it’s fought out in various meetings and individual decisions by players on both … [Read more...]

The concept of Peace post-conflict

Mental health trauma after years of war is naturally extensively studied in public health. But even living in Cambodia for many months now hasn’t dawned understanding on me of the ravages of the Khmer Rouge period until I took meditation courses with some Khmers. The most popular meditation techniques, usually associated with spiritual activity, are of Eastern origin ie. martial arts and yoga. The premise of meditation is to gain insight or focus, by relaxing the body and calming and focusing the mind. It’s a skill that allows positive energy to be summoned at will. And one of the methods used for clearing the mind is to recall a feeling of peace. I can easily recall such moments: standing on top of a mountain and looking out over the … [Read more...]

Past Plagues Are Prologue

Disease is a fascinating study, a microbiological commentary and defensive mechanism to the stresses placed on our socio-economic environment. Given the Avian Flu situation here in SE Asia, I thought I’d dig up an article by Andrew Nikiforuk. It’s a well-written piece geared at the Toronto policymakers in response to the SARS scare several years ago. But in light of recent announcements by WHO on the possible pandemic Avian Flu presents, the editorial still bears relevance. Past Plagues are Prologue by Andrew Nikiforuk edited 10 Feb 2010: since the above link no longer works, here it is re-posted: Epidemics always teach us something, says author ANDREW NIKIFORUK. One SARS lesson is that we're too dependent on hospitals - which … [Read more...]

Fish tales and banana jams– Koh Kong or BUST!!!

The blistery summer sun finally yawned and shifted attention elsewhere, allowing a lively tropical storm to play in the Cardamom Mountains. Screeching winds and driving torrents of rain obliged the topographical audience of trees and flora to bend and sway in spirited waves. Onstage in the heavens thunder raged while spectacular light shows illuminated our path. Range Rover engineers were done proud on those unpaved jungle passes. Such backdrop commands resonance with the soul, a harmony of earth and spirit, a communion of----what the--?As we awaited transport to cross the river, a curious contraption, defying the tedium of logic, bobbed into view. It asked to be stared at rudely. The apparatus comprised planks of wood wrongly secured atop … [Read more...]

Free Trade and Pharmaceuticals

The average NGO or civic group does not have adequate capacity to actively participate in the increasingly complex policy and legal environment of global trade. This puts decisions and actions taking place in corporate headquarters and multilateral assemblies out of reach of the ordinary citizen. Here is the short-version international legal framework for essential medicines, proprietary drugs, and CAFTA.From GATT to the WTOThe end of WWII saw the creation of the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to regulate international economic cooperation. These are known as the "Bretton Woods" institutions, named for the town in Vermont, USA, where negotiations took place. The package of trade rules which came out of this … [Read more...]

Free Trade: Patents versus Patients

It's been several years since US-backed Big Pharma sued South Africa for obstruction of profit when it bypassed patent laws to provide cheaper generic medicines for its burgeoning AIDS epidemic. The suit was retracted under furious backlash from advocacy groups worldwide. That battle has since stepped up with the ascendancy of IP (intellectual property) and trade imperatives. At issue are patent regimes affecting life-saving pharmaceuticals. It is critical to have flexibilities in global IP rules that accommodate situations whereby a country simply cannot afford brand name originator drugs to respond to a crisis. In protection of public health, and "to promote access to medicines for all", the WTO TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of … [Read more...]

About fieldwork: "and oh, the places you’ll go!"

I'm more often than not in the provinces for one of my bigger projects, an STI (sexually transmitted infections) survey*. I am the only foreigner, and no one on my survey teams or the provincial offices that I interact with for days on end is competent enough in English that every utterance does not need to be repeated multiple times, loud and punctuated by wild gesturing. Even my translator needs much explaining. This can be draining...Although communication difficulties are a given, that daily reserve of energy sometimes isn't enough to stay afloat deep waters of frustration. Especially when you are hot, tired, dehydrated, waiting to finish the day's work, and you catch one of your lab techs taking ice out of the cold chain for his drink. … [Read more...]