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Articles by Category for ‘Issues We Address’

Burundian Community Organizer Uses US Nonprofit’s Drama as a New Tool

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

MUREMERA, BURUNDI–Jeanne d’Arc Butoyi’s phone rang on June 24, 2014. When she answered, she didn’t know she’d be talking about something that had so profoundly helped her in her life. That was the first time she talked with someone from Population Media Center.

Jean Sacha Barikumutima, who works on promotions in Population Media Center’s Burundi office, dialed her number that day as part of a random sample telephone survey he conducts each month to assess listenership and reaction to a radio drama produced by Population Media Center (PMC), a US nonprofit dedicated to improving the health and well-being of people around the world through the use of entertainment-education.

“When I heard her story,” says Jean Sacha,” I was so moved. Here was a woman trying to bring information and change to her community, working so hard, and our drama was helping her to make progress.”

Just a short time later, on August 28, 2014, members of the PMC-Burundi team traveled to Jeanne’s village to hear more of her story and how the PMC drama, Agashi (“Hey! Look Again!”), was impacting her.

Jeanne is Burundian and, yes, her name translates to Joan of Arc. She lives in Muremera, in the Ndava region of Cibitoke Province. She’s in her mid-30s and works as a community organizer addressing many sexual and reproductive health issues, including condom usage, family planning, and visiting health clinics.

During the interview, Jeanne described how one character in the drama, Muhorakeye, has taught men and women to go to a clinic for prenatal care instead of relying on folklore or witchcraft and how this same character’s adamant attitude that pregnant women in Burundi should eat liver, because it’s a food that’s available and packed with nutrients, has many women rethinking their refusal to eat it.

“I invite women to listen to Agashi with me, and we all listen to the show very closely. I have seven children. I invite women who don’t yet have seven children and tell them, ‘Come, listen to these messages on Agashi. Listen to the misfortune Tengenge has to go through – giving birth to so many children and not being able to feed them.’ When I used her case as an example, people really began to understand the problem.”

But it’s not just women that Jeanne finds have been impacted by the drama. She’s also using the drama to reach out to adolescents, explaining the importance of condoms, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, and the risks of teenage pregnancy.

“What I like about the series is that Agashi has plenty of advice. There are plenty of lessons. There’s a community organizer on Agashi, and she teaches us a lot. She helps us with our community education and advocacy work. She teaches people even more about what I already teach, and people that didn’t used to listen to me are now convinced that they should.”

“I am one of those girls that had their first pregnancy too young,” says Jeanne. “I had her at 16 or probably younger. I was still living at my parents’ house.” Jeanne explains that she was lucky, the father stayed and helped her raise their daughter and they’re now married. But Jeanne works hard to help other girls stay in school and avoid pregnancy or disease.

Jeanne held discussion groups about Agashi with youth, and things weren’t easy or smooth. She explains that the youth began with comments like “You mothers and your questions mess with us! Things are different now than they were when you grew up!” But this didn’t dissuade Jeanne from using Agashi characters and actions to open up conversations about sex and condoms. Little by little, she says, some of them opened up.

“Later on, some of them came by to ask me for condoms because I have them. And some of them even told me what they did. Most of them have become friends of mine, and I give them advice.”

Jeanne explains that many youth now come to these discussion groups to share, one of whom is an orphan from Kayanza who lives with a foster mother in the village. When she arrived, many people talked about her, saying that “she had been with lots of boys.” Jeanne went to see her, and although the relationship began one-sided, Jeanne continued to visit her and Jeanne says that she realized she was a friend.

“She’s open to me now. I advised her to go get tested. She went to do it and, thank God, she is HIV negative. She came back to tell me that ‘It’s hard to abstain.’ I then advised her to use a condom. Today, she sensitizes the other girls, who still make fun of her condom use. I don’t understand anyone who doesn’t realize the importance of condoms. More and more girls, age 14 and older, are following my advice. And often they come back to tell me thank you.”

This cascading system of information, where more and more people are informed and educated about health issues is exactly PMC’s hope. The dramas are designed to model behavior, not tell people what to do, so that the audience can discuss the different characters and actions and make decisions that are right for them.

“Jeanne’s story was so powerful,” says Jean Sacha. “She was already doing incredible work, and it’s wonderful to hear that Agashi has given her another tool to be even more effective. We need people in the communities to carry these messages if we’re going to see real change.”

“What’s at stake in the series reflects the reality of the country. It really exists,” says Jeanne. “There’s a community organizer on Agashi, and she teaches us a lot. She helps us with our community education and advocacy work. She teaches people even more about what I already teach, and people that didn’t used to listen to me are now convinced that they should.”

 

ABOUT POPULATION MEDIA CENTER (PMC):

Population Media Center is a nonprofit, international nongovernmental organization, which strives to improve the health and well-being of people around the world through the use of entertainment-education strategies, like serialized dramas on radio and television, in which characters evolve into role models for the audience for positive behavior change. Founded in 1998, PMC has over 15 years of field experience using the Sabido methodology of behavior change communications, impacting more than 50 countries around the world. www.populationmedia.org

Niger’s malnourished children

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Niger’s malnourished children

In Niger, children with dusty blond hair are ubiquitous: It’s a sure sign of widespread malnourishment. Resources are scarce, while fertility rates are soaring. Yet family planning is an uphill struggle.

See original/source content: http://www.dw.de/nigers-malnourished-children/a-17997260

Sometimes, when she has no more food to give to her children, Haowa has to watch as they cry themselves to sleep. “It doesn’t take long for them to calm down”, she says, staring at her hands. Her voice is quiet, almost dispassionate.

 

Haowa’s husband is a subsistence farmer, and often, she says, the maize and millet he grows just isn’t enough to feed his two wives and their 12 children. The slight 31-year-old is constantly hungry: She regularly skips her dinner, she says, so she has more food to give to her eight children.

 

Malnourishment is common in Niger

 

She shrugs and stares down at the two tiny toddlers she’s cradling in her arms. Haowa has pulled up her bright, colorful blouse to let them suckle her breasts.

 

As she looks on impassively, one of her sons slowly extends his hand and feebly tries to push his brother away – almost, it seems, as if he’s fighting his triplet for their mother’s milk.

 

His mother leans forward and gestures to his thin body. “You can see from the eyes, the head, the stomach and the arms”, she whispers.

 

The two children, she says, are both severely malnourished. Their hair is dusty blonde, a sure sign that they are lacking vital proteins and minerals.

See original/source content: http://www.dw.de/nigers-malnourished-children/a-17997260

Opinion: The World Food Prize’s disservice to Borlaug

Monday, October 20th, 2014

The World Food Prize’s disservice to Borlaug 

By Mr. Jonathan Wilson

See source/original content: Source Des Moines Register
I don’t like to rain on a parade, but I feel compelled to join with those expressing some reservation over the near-deification of Norman Borlaug. In the Des Moines Register, Sharon Donovan wrote an article that, ever-so-gently, called attention to the potentially adverse environmental impact of genetically modified agricultural practices (GMOs) and, in particular, the use of compatible fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides that have tended to devastate small, more sustainable farmers in favor of “capital-intensive, high fertilizer, pesticide, and irrigation use” by large corporate farming operations.

 

In a separate article Rekha Basu makes a similar point but casts it in the context of the resulting distribution of wealth growing from the shift to GMO agricultural practices. No doubt, there’s money to be made in agricultural and those with money tend to be the more “industrial” farming operations. That money gives them political power and they can be expected to wield that power in favor of making more money.

 

She quotes the World Food Prize President, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, as saying that all perspectives are welcome at its workshops. “We will address numerous issues that affect all farmers, from water shortages to soil quality.” . . . “We will endeavor to bring together all stakeholders to be part of the solution to nutritiously and sustainably feed our growing population.”

See source/original content: Source Des Moines Register

U.S. FAMILY PLANNING EFFORT IMPROVES WOMEN’S HEALTH

Monday, October 20th, 2014

U.S. FAMILY PLANNING EFFORT IMPROVES WOMEN’S HEALTH

New Analysis Quantifies the Wide-Ranging Benefits of the Contraceptive, STI and Cervical Cancer Prevention Services Provided as Part of Publicly Funded Family Planning Visits
See source/original: http://www.guttmacher.org/media/nr/2014/10/14/index.html

 

U.S. women have long relied on publicly funded family planning services as a critical source of preventive care. A new analysis shows just how vital this care is to ensuring the long-term health of women and their families.

 

According to “Return on Investment: A Fuller Assessment of the Benefits and Cost Savings of the US Publically Funded Family Planning Program,” by Jennifer J. Frost and colleagues, the public investment in family planning services not only helps women and couples avoid unintended pregnancy and abortion, but also helps them avoid cervical cancer, HIV and other STIs, infertility, and preterm and low birth-weight births-all while saving substantial public dollars. Services provided at Title X-supported health centers alone account for more than half the overall benefits.

 

As the Institute reported previously, contraceptive care provided during publicly supported family planning visits in 2010 helped women prevent an estimated 2.2 million unintended pregnancies, which would have led to 1.1 million unplanned births. This new analysis shows that approximately 288,000 of these births would have been spaced more closely than is medically recommended and 164,000 would have been preterm, low birth weight or both.

 

Without the STI services provided during family planning visits, an estimated 3.2 million women would have forgone chlamydia or gonorrhea testing, which would have resulted in tens of thousands of undetected and untreated STIs. In 2010, the STI testing provided during publicly supported family planning visits averted an estimated 99,000 cases of chlamydia, 16,000 cases of gonorrhea, 410 cases of HIV, 1,100 ectopic pregnancies and 2,200 cases of infertility.

See source/original: http://www.guttmacher.org/media/nr/2014/10/14/index.html

Ebola: Another Avoidable Crisis

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Ebola: Another Avoidable Crisis

See source/original content: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-walker/ebola-another-avoidable-c_b_5953208.html

In the wake of the recent Ebola outbreak, public health officials in this country are quick to assure the American public that there is no cause for panic. Ebola, we are told, can be contained in this country. We have some of the best medical facilities and personnel in the world, and our public health system is robust.

 

The same, however, cannot be said of West Africa. Ebola has the capacity to do incalculable damage in developing countries with inadequate medical facilities and compromised public health systems. If it is not adequately contained, Ebola could destroy whole economies and undo much of the progress that has been made in reducing poverty and improving public health. Unless the world commits thousands of health workers and provides the West African governments with the necessary logistics and food aid, the region could suffer one of the greatest humanitarian disasters of our time.

 

Ebola, if it is not stopped soon, is likely to have a cascading effect. Unless medical personnel in these countries are given the proper training and equipment, many doctors and nurses could die, leaving the populace to care for itself. Unless more is done to educate the general public, many — if not most — of the caregivers, many of them mothers, could also die. Panic, both informed and ill-informed, will ensue and lead to the disruption of agriculture, commerce, and civil order. Relief workers in some areas are already being physically assaulted, even killed, making the task of caring for the afflicted potentially more hazardous than it already is.

 

Two months ago John Campbell, the former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, cautionedthe Council on Foreign Relations that:

“Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia are very, very weak states” that have been weakened by protracted conflict. The greatest danger, he warned, is that the growing urban density in these countries puts them at heightened risk, as people from the villages are moving to “urban slums where the transmission of disease, any disease, becomes easier than in villages where the population density is very low.”

 

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Family Planning Has Yet to Take Hold in West Africa-But Change Is Coming

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Family Planning Has Yet to Take Hold in West Africa-But Change Is Coming 

See source content: https://www.k4health.org/blog/post/family-planning-has-yet-take-hold-west-africa-change-coming

West African countries have the highest fertility rates in the world, with an average of 5.5 births per woman; they also have the lowest levels of contraceptive use.
As a longtime physician and family planning/reproductive health trainer at IntraHealth International, I see several reasons for this. When I started training male health providers in family planning services in West Africa in 1997, I was met with a lot of resistance. Many men thought that female clients wouldn’t want to talk to male health providers. But I told them, “It depends on how they see you. When you return to your facility, you need to tell people what you can do for them, advertise your new skills in family planning services, encourage women to come with their husbands so they can trust you as a couple, and build trust within community.”
Now, 17 years later, I do not think that much has changed. Last year, when we were training mentors and tutors on a range of high-impact services, there were no male participants at the family planning training sessions. In health centers, the midwife is in charge of all maternal health services, including antenatal care, deliveries, postnatal care, and immunization. The male nurse is in charge of curative care. This division in exclusive territory limits clients’ access to services.

See source content: https://www.k4health.org/blog/post/family-planning-has-yet-take-hold-west-africa-change-coming

IN TEXAS, PLANNED PARENTHOOD WILL EXPAND SERVICES WITH NEW CENTER

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Planned Parenthood will expand services with new center

See source content: http://www.expressnews.com/news/local/article/Planned-Parenthood-will-expand-services-with-new-5816986.php

SAN ANTONIO – Last year, legislators approved a far-reaching change in abortion law that made it more difficult and costly for abortion clinics to provide services to women in Texas, resulting in more than 30 clinics closing throughout the state.

 

But at least one new facility is scheduled to open by the end of the year at 2140 Babcock Road – the location of Planned Parenthood South Texas’ new ambulatory surgical center.

 

An existing 22,000-square-foot building near the heart of the Medical Center, its two stories are in the midst of a major renovation made possible by donations that poured in from across the nation, one Planned Parenthood board member said.

 

Not only will the $6.5 million project allow the local affiliate to continue performing abortions under the new law, it will enable the nonprofit to expand the volume and type of services it can provide to include an array of gynecological care, such as day surgeries for uterine polyps and tubal ligations.

 

“This building is the physical expression of our commitment to the health and safety of women, and our respect for their ability to make decisions about their own lives,” said CEO Jeffrey Hons. “If the governor or anyone else thought we were going to close our doors, well, they were wrong.”

See source content: http://www.expressnews.com/news/local/article/Planned-Parenthood-will-expand-services-with-new-5816986.php

Low birth rates can actually pay off in the U.S. and other countries

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Low birth rates can actually pay off in the U.S. and other countries 

See source content: http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2014/10/09/birth-rates/

As birth rates decline in many countries that include parts of Europe and East Asia, threatening the economic slowdown associated with aging populations, a global study from UC Berkeley and the East-West Center in Hawaii suggests that in much of the world, it actually pays to have fewer children. The results challenge previous assumptions about population growth.

Researchers in 40 countries correlated birth rates with economic data and concluded that a moderately low birth rate – a little below two children per woman – can actually boost a country’s overall standard of living. While governments generally favor higher birth rates to maintain the workforce and tax base needed to fund pensions, health care and other benefits for the elderly, it is typically families that bear the brunt of the cost of having children, the study found.

“Higher fertility imposes large costs on families because it is they, rather than governments, that bear most of the costs of raising children. Also, a growing labor force has to be provided with costly capital such as factories, office buildings, transportation and housing,” said UC Berkeley demographer Ronald Lee, an author of the far-reaching study to be published Oct. 10 in the journal, Science.

“Instead of trying to get people to have more children, governments should adjust their policies to accommodate inevitable population aging,” added Lee, who co-authored the report, “Is low fertility really a problem? Population aging, dependency, and consumption,” with Andrew Mason, an economist and senior fellow at the East-West Center.

See source content: http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2014/10/09/birth-rates/

True Altruism: Can Humans Change To Save Other Species?

Monday, October 20th, 2014

True Altruism: Can Humans Change To Save Other Species?

A grim new census of the world’s dwindling wildlife populations should force us to confront a troubling question: Are humans capable of acting in ways that help other species at a cost to themselves?

by Verlyn Klinkenborg 

See source content: Yale Environment 360

Ever since Darwin, biologists have been arguing about altruism – the concept that an individual may behave in a way that benefits its species, at a cost to itself. After all, the self-sacrifice implicit in altruistic behavior seems to run against the grain of evolutionary theory, which proposes that the well-being of a species depends on robust, individual self-interest. Many biologists argue that in the non-human world what looks like altruism – benefiting another at a cost to oneself – may be merely the final refinement of self-interest, self-interest operating not at the level of the organism or the species but at the level of the gene.

This is all very interesting. But the discussion nearly always concerns the behavior of individuals within a single species – the warning cries of vervet monkeys, which alert their fellow monkeys to predators while calling attention to themselves; the self-abnegation of a stinging bee. What I wonder is this: Is altruism possible across species boundaries? Can an individual from one species, at cost to itself, act in a way that benefits individuals from another species? And – the crucial question – can an entire species learn to shape its behavior, to its own cost, for the good of other species?

I ask because we need to know now. According to a new study from the World Wildlife Fund, the population of aquatic and terrestrial animals on this planet has dropped by half since 1970. Let me choose a better verb. Half the animals on this planet have been destroyed in the past 44 years. Let me put it another way. We’ve destroyed half the animals on this planet since 1970, even while our own numbers have doubled.

See source content: Yale Environment 360

Paul Krugman and the Limits of Hubris

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Paul Krugman and the Limits of Hubris 

See source content: http://www.postcarbon.org/paul-krugman-and-the-limits-of-hubris/

Economist Paul Krugman evidently feels irked and irritated by the notion that there might be limits to economic expansion: he has followed up his New York Times op-ed of September 18 (“Errors and Emissions” to which I replied here) with a new piece titled “Slow Steaming and the Supposed Limits to Growth” . It’s interesting to examine his latest assertions and arguments one by one, as they reveal a great deal about how economists think, and why they tend to disregard physical science when it comes to questions about finite resources and the possibility of infinite economic growth on a small planet.

Mr. Krugman begins by noting: “We seem to be having a moment in which three groups with very different agendas-anti-environmentalist conservatives, anti-capitalist people on the left, and hard scientists who think they are smarter than economists-have formed an unholy alliance on behalf of the proposition that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is incompatible with growing real GDP.” He omits mentioning a fourth group-ecological economists like Herman Daly, who take the position that, in the real world, the laws of physics and ecological limits trump economic theory. For Krugman, only mainstream economists are to be trusted; everybody else is prone to misconceptions. He seems perplexed why so many people are coming to the same mistaken conclusion from different directions.

Could it be that they are all recognizing an unavoidable physical reality?

Next Mr. Krugman fires a volley at physicist Mark Buchanan’s recent essay, Economists are blind to the limits of growth. Back in the 1970s, Krugman’s mentor, Bill Nordhaus, led mainstream economists in denouncing the classic book Limits to Growth. Unfortunately for Krugman, Nordhaus’s attack looks in retrospect like mere hand-waving: analysis of relevant data from the last 40 years shows that the most pessimistic scenario from the 1972 Limits to Growth study is tracking reality quite closely.

See source content: http://www.postcarbon.org/paul-krugman-and-the-limits-of-hubris/