July 26, 2006

Improving Food Security in Africa

Posted in Africa, Poverty at 5:26 pm by greatparanoiac

seed_fair.jpgOxfam issued a report on Monday calling for a review of current efforts to end hunger in Africa. The report, “Causing Hunger: An Overview of the Food Crisis in Africa,” argues that emergency assistance is usually inefficient, arrives too late and fails to addresses the causes of hunger and food security.

InterPress Service News Agency has a news story  on Oxfam’s new report. It states that humanitarian assistance to Africa increased from $946 million (US) in 1997 to just over $3 billion (US) in 2003. Nonetheless, there have been food crises during the past few months in the Sahel region, Southern Africa, and Horn of Africa.

According to the report, donors doubt the ability of United Nations agencies to administer aid effectively. This constitutes one of the reasons for insufficient or late funding of U.N. appeals. Nonetheless, Oxfam believes a one billion dollar commitment by donors to the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund is key to “quicker and more equitable assistance.”

The news story doesn’t state why Oxfam believes a billion dollar commitment to the UN Emergency Fund would be key to more equitable assistance. Is donor money in this central fund distributed to international NGOs and not UN agencies? Second–wouldn’t Oxfam or other NGOs experience the same difficulties in administering aid as UNDP, FAO or UNICEF? Better yet, how do international NGOs administer funds marked for emergency assistance differently than UN agencies?

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June 6, 2006

How to Stretch a Dollar in Zimbabwe

Posted in Poverty, Zimbabwe at 7:39 pm by greatparanoiac

cartoon.gifIn writing about Zimbabwe and its “Drive Out the Trash Campaign” a few days ago, which has displaced thousands in Harare. I wanted to share today’s post from This is Zimbabwe, which provides good analysis on how far money goes in a country where inflation is the highest in the world, reaching almost 1200% in May.

Zimbabwe was once an exporter of grain in southern Africa, but has suffered food shortages over the last five years as its agricultural sector faced drought and disruptions linked to President Robert Mugabe’s controversial land reforms which has seized white-owned farms to redistribute among blacks. In addition, the bloggers writes:

“The frightening thing about the rise of more than 1000% in school fees, is that large numbers of children will drop out of school, and others will not even be able to get any education at all. This is the second time this year that school fees have been hiked and, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) statistics for the period 1996 to 2004, only 44 percent of boys and 42 percent of girls who were enrolled in a secondary school actually attended classes (probably due to hunger and poverty). This is a grim future for our children, and for our country too.”

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June 1, 2006

Organ Trafficking Targets the Poor

Posted in Egypt, Poverty at 4:27 pm by greatparanoiac

organtrafficking.gifSince I’ve been on the subject of Egypt for the past couple of days, I’m posting this article that appeared on IRIN News on Wednesday. It’s a feature on organ trafficking in Egypt. I’ve haven’t heard of this in other places in North Africa. I found a couple of blog posts on this phenomena and how it targets the poor.

Poverty News Blog has an article on organ trafficking in Egypt from The Mail & Guardian. Also look at Oread Daily, which offers a commentary on this.

CAIRO, 30 May 2006 (IRIN)– In today’s Egypt, a human kidney can be bought illegally for less than US $5,000. A desperate donor sold his to Fawziya (not her real name) for as much. But even paying that sum of money did not cure the patient.

In Egypt, prior to any transplant, the Doctors’ Syndicate must conduct an investigation and only when a specialised committee has given approval can a transplant take place.

Fawziya from Upper Egypt suffers from kidney failure in both kidneys. With no relatives with matching tissue, Fawziya found herself with two options: to continue undergoing dialysis at run-down government health centres, or seek an unrelated donor willing to give up a kidney in exchange for money. She opted for the latter.

woman-organs.jpgIn Fawziya’s case the laboratory managed to bribe a member of the committee to approve the operation. “The laboratory had a contact in the syndicate, and we got the approval that way,” Mohamed said. “The doctors treating my mother were all paid, but my mother’s still sick.”

“Now she’s very, very sick,” said Mohamed, her son. “The transplant failed. Within hours of the operation, doctors discovered that her body had rejected the kidney. She is back on dialysis, and has no intention of undergoing surgery again.”

According to Mohamed, Fawziya had received a kidney from a donor from Cairo. The transplant was arranged by a privately-run clinic that officially operates as a laboratory. “We paid a total of US $15,600 for the entire procedure,” he said. “The kidney alone cost US $4,335.” Much of the family’s life savings, therefore, went to waste as a result of the failed operation. Read the rest of this entry »