Getting in one more post...

....before the end of the year. My (free) Christmas gift to you.

I'm usually not a fan of remixes, but I had to give this modern take of "Osondi, Owendi*" by Flavour et. al. a pass since it does pay homage to Chief Osita Osadebe. The beginning skit is cute...the rest of the video - yawn. But then again, this group, while skilled at creating/remixing insanely catchy songs (I find the Anambra dialect used in their songs annoyingly endearing), they are not terribly known for their creativity.

Oh, by the way, my apologies for the screwed up search feature. Something happened when changing the website address. Oh, and yes, you can now find this blog at www.pyoowata.com !!

*It pleases some, it angers others.


"White is Bright"...and other stories

20-minute documentary on "shadeism" below. H/T Clutch.

Shadeism on Vimeo.

I feel like I should be more bothered by this topic, but for some reason, I'm sort off "meh" towards it, and have been so for most of my life. My first encounter with shadeism came when I was five, attending school in Massachusetts and a girl of biracial heritage told me that I could not play with her and her white friends because I was simply too dark. At the time, I could care less, because there were more than enough "dark" classmates to play with (especially this adorable Rasta child, of whom I was completely enamoured with - and of course, like any five year old girl, I displayed my affection by terrorizing him at the playground - I was a bit of a bully back then. So he was my first crush, my second was Michael Jackson...don't judge). It was only when I was older that I realized it was a pathology. But even now, when I encounter such instances of black-on-black discrimination, it hardly fazes me. Like for example, an older relative of mine expressed a desire for her children to wed men of other races in order that they may sire beautiful children (but beyond that, she also has some gripes towards Igbo men, which receives a bit of a "Kanye Shrug" from my end). On another occasion a family friend was lamenting that the others are reticent to discipline their mixed-race four-year-old because of the colour of his skin. Of course, the Nnewi man was not having it, and half-stated/half asked, "This child cannot be more beautiful than me?" Yeah...side eye....not at the instance of shadeism...but rather at the sheer ridiculousness of the question. (Oh, and I'm assuming/hoping that most of my extended family is not aware of my blogging exploits...an aunt was worried that I may get arrested for my opinions, or worse still, not find a husband, because of it. Had to reassure her that it wasn't that serious, yet).

I feel like I should be more aggrieved towards such statements in the same way that I am towards racism. I find that among the African American community, individuals are much more sensitive towards shadeism, while in other communities, such as those represented in this film, expressing a preference for lighter-coloured children has long been normalized.

But, beyond the instances I just mentioned, I feel that overt shadeism may not be as pervasive in the Nigerian community. From my limited personal experience, we tend to denigrate those with blotchy tell-tale signs of chronic skin bleaching, and we extol darker- skinned actresses like Genevieve or Clems Ohameze, who in his day, was known as "black beauty." I think there is an element of "Nigerian pride," which, perhaps in this day and age, trumps the need to adhere to Eurocentric ideal of lighter-skinned beauty. Or perhaps, which is more likely the case, I am trapped in my own, "Black is (unquestionably, regardless the shade) beautiful" bubble.

There are some other bloggers who covered in relation to this film (simply Google "shadeism") - but I have yet to see a Nigerian blogpost on the topic. Though, I have seen a number of them on the politics of hair - which at this point in my life gets a "meh" from me as well.


Eat, pray, and love...me

By habit, I always pick up a new book anytime I travel to a new place - even if it is just a couple states over. It's something I started in my teens when I had some access to disposable (or borrowed - still owing some folks) income. Repeated the same thing this time I travelled to the west coast for the first time ever. I think...can't ever say ever since I got in trouble with Canadian customs last year for sneaking across the border in '86. Note, I was barely crawling that year...yeah, a relative "borrowed" my social security number - ah the life and times.

Came to the realization some weeks ago that my paltry book/music collection, save for textbooks and lecture recordings, is crying for some diversity. I have a primarily black library - spanning various corners of the African diaspora - Harlem, Enugu, Kingston, Umtali (Mutare) etc. There's a spattering of brown lit - but again, the same resistance and post-colonial themes. Largely, it's symptomatic of growing up in public high school that zealously guarded the "black is beautiful" mantra and then proceeding to a liberal arts education that offered a buffet-style selection humanities courses for those in the sciences. I grew all too comfortable in books that felt like home.

So this trip, I made the mistake of looking for book that would be representative of this elusive whiteness, you know, like how some would assign Things Fall Apart for a two-week introduction to the African experience. Needless to say, I failed horribly at this assignment.

First, it was an impulse buy at an airport bookshop. Although, I have been lucky, at times, with such on-the-fly purchases, airport shops are largely known for bright, empty magazines and self-help books. Second, I was moved primarily by my pocket and some feigned interest in the environment. You see, there was a shelf dedicated to previously read books - pre-owned novels which were 50% off. Not only was a getting a sweet deal but I was doing my part to save this text from clogging up our landfills. And third mistake - and quite cliched - I judged a book by it's cover. If I was going to read the whitest of white, why not pick up the memoir plastered with with a picture of Julia Roberts on the front?

Yes, I bought the wildly popular Elizabeth Gilbert memoir, Eat, Pray, Love - chick lit made into a chick flick a couple of years ago. Yeah, it was somewhat embarrassing, especially considering that my travel mates had their microbio textbooks in tow (don't know how I forgot mine, but was able to get a hush-hush .pdf copy hookup...whoop whoop!)

While I find Gilbert's story, thus far, refreshingly open and honest, it's a bit too stereotypically white and Western for my liking. And somehow, I empathize. It appeals to that part of my American self that I consciously work to squelch out in the open. Her story represents that part of me that tends to exoticize the other, the one that doggedly personalizes the spiritual to the neglect of the communal, the part of me that in my quiet moments, is fastidiously self-absorbed. Elizabeth Gilbert is my id.

I have yet to finish the book (may hold it off until Christmas vacation, unfortunately - got to memorize those bugs.) I'm praying for a happy ending with this book, though I have yet to put to words what that looks like. But from the reviews I briefly looked through, I doubt it.


And we interrupt our regularly scheduled program...

...For yet another musical break. Big fan of Celestine Ukwu, who is my respite when I need a bit of a break from the faster-paced, "noisier," classics from the highlife era. Sharing a personal favorite, "Onwu ama eze" (Death Doesn't Recognize Royalty).

Onwu ama eze.

Other songs from Celestine Ukwu can be found here.
I know there is some unwritten code of blogging ethics which prohibits from from posting two musically related posts back to back, but suffering from persistent bouts of blogger's block. Biko, gbaghara m (please forgive me). If you care to know, I am somewhat active on Twitter.


Asa's Second Album Debuts October 25

As if October couldn't get any better.

She's back! Asa (Asha) that is. I'm probably late. Excited to see her evolution from her self-titled freshman album, to her forthcoming collection, Beautiful Perfection. The album drops October 25th - but her single, "Be My Man," is up on Youtube (H/T Asa Groupies on Facebook).

Not sure how I feel about her new look (a bit cliche***)...but she still remains incredibly adorable in my book. She recently gave an interview to HiMagazine (never heard of it, personally).

On her new style:

Its fun, I think it is part of finding myself because I spent the most of my life while growing taking care of people. I have been responsible for my siblings and so I had to grow up really fast and that took a lot of attention from me because I didn’t care about myself. So going out to various places and events has influenced me. I’m beginning to really like what I see and I tell myself that I’m beautiful and need to take care of myself. Its fun really because I enjoy the growth, I don’t think I have changed I just added more colour...[I'm] letting go of a lot of unnecessary baggage, so you can feel it because I’m happy.
In short, Asa explains that over the past two years, she's been more exposed and is learning to put herself first, all of which should reflect in her latest album.

***December update - Err, yeah, I'm a swagger jacker, and so totally just went and bought the Asa glasses not too long ago. Couldn't help it. But don't we all have a bit of cliche (sorry couldn't find that accent aigu) in us somewhere?


Life Begins at Fifty...

Quick! Check out the new series at NigeriansTalk.org entitled Nigeria@50. Since last Friday, Nigerian bloggers have been posting their thoughts on Nigeria as she approaches her 50th birthday. From the intro post:

As you can imagine, there are a lot of things to complain about...but we do not want to dwell on the failures. The articles will not write away the failures of the past — as if that were even possible. While acknowledging those failures, they will be forward-looking. In short, we hope to leave the series of articles feeling not only informed, but also inspired.
Check the Nigerianstalk.org website daily for fresh content from this series.

Picture taken without permission (kind of like many others on this site - trying to change my ways) from the photo exhibition, "1960: Nigeria at Independence."


I Believe in...Who?

July and August has passed and I promised myself that I would post at least something during the month of September. Sorry for the pause in communication – life (and laziness) got in the way.

So apparently Nigerian elections are slated for January 2011 – yeah, goodluck with that one. And speaking of Goodluck…our former Vice President, now President and (finally) presidential aspirant 2011 has recently hit the campaign trail and from the looks of things, he seems to be targeting the youth as evidenced by his widely popular presence on Facebook. Makes sense considering that Nigeria, like it's developing world contemporaries, features youth as its most popular age-bracket. But beyond making friends on Facebook, I have the sneaking suspicion – as has been mentioned elsewhere – that GJ is taking a page or two out of Barack Obama’s playbook.

Goodluck Jonathan – the next Barack Obama. I know to the most ardent Obama supporters this may seem like blasphemy, but the mercurial rise in popularity of the once (relatively) obscure Goodluck Jonathan in many ways mirrors that of the Obama during his bid for presidency in 2008. Like his American counterpart, GJ is well-educated, articulate, and compared to his competitors, somewhat scandal-free. Let us not forget that the Jonathan presidency and potential second-term carries historical weight. The United States welcomed its first black president fifty years after the death of civil rights champion, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. And now, fifty years post-independence, Nigeria may for the first time, elect a minority president. Jonathan’s wide support from a diverse number of groups in the south and the north confirm his (or rather PDP’s) ability to shatter ethnic barriers. No small feat. The smiling president, like Obama, is well-educated, articulate, and compared to some of his competitors, somewhat scandal-free.

Recently, I came across the Youtube (yes, loves, Youtube) campaign videos of Goodluck Jonathan (H/T NigerianCuriosity). Peep the English version, which features a litany of Nollywood actors and heavyweights (including my teen heart-throb Emeka Enyiocha…taking a moment…yessss…please don’t judge me).

Cute, though (surprise! surprise!) it bears an uncanny resemblance to will.i.am’s 2008 “Yes We Can,” Youtube sensation, a similarly star-studded gushy tribute to Barack Obama’s platform of hope and change.

All well and good – but hope, change, and lofty promises can only get you so far. Obama is learning that the hard way seeing that his support over the past few months has decreased, somewhat precipitously. Over the summer, I was surprised to find out that Goodluck Jonathan commands overwhelming support from the Nigerian populace – approval ratings of up to 75% (I know…no need). Such a figure, begs the question – why? I remain concerned about declarations that Jonathan is not only blessed with good fortune, but that somehow, GJ is divinely appointed and with him lies Nigeria’s way forward (see here, here and here). While GJ’s emphasis on the youth is commendable, any failure to deliver on campaign promises such as repairing basic infrastructure, stands to add to the increased jadedness of the youth whom he seeks to inspire.


on hiatus

So June has passed without as much as a peep from me...and unfortunately, it looks like pyoo wata will also remain temporarily inactive through July and much of August. Just wanted to let you all know that I'm still around, just not on this blog for the moment. Expect to see my random comments on your blogs, an infrequent tweet here or there or a belated response to your email from now until August.


The Poor [and their] Choices

This past Sunday, NYTimes columnist and self-designated poor-people-of-Africa expert extraordinaire wrote penned yet another op-ed piece that forced me to change the page shortly after the first paragraph. Here is where I changed the channel:

...if the poorest families spent as much money educating their children as they do on wine, cigarettes and prostitutes, their children’s prospects would be transformed. Much suffering is caused not only by low incomes, but also by shortsighted private spending decisions by heads of households.
As controversial as it sounds, it's not a terribly new argument. It tows the line of Bill Cosby's tirade against poor black America, who, in his opinion, would prefer to purchase the latest pair of Nike sneakers for Lil' Shaquan rather than invest in Hooked on Phonics. Time will fail me to address why his sentiments are problematic, but if interested, I recommend Michael Eric Dyson's Is Bill Cosby Right or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind.

Bill Easterly and Laura Freschi provide, what I think, is a more balanced response to the issue of the poor spending significant percentages of their income on non-essential, "recreational" items (H/T Change.org).
The larger issue is explaining the seeming irrationality of, for example, [the poor's] decision to spend his evenings in a bar while his children sleep without a mosquito net. Could it be that outsiders make simplistic assumptions about the perceived value of bed nets to [the poor]?...Perhaps it is that parents do not really believe in the efficacy of nets, drugs, or water purification tablets. Going even further than Kremer and Holla, we speculate that belief in the scientific theories underlying all these products is not so easy to achieve in a poor society. Rich people believe in scientific medicine not only based on their education, but also because they see it working for themselves and everyone around them. Scientific medicine is a harder sell in a society that has never had a well-functioning health system to demonstrate its benefits.
I think that in some instances, the degree to which a person perceives the efficacy of their actions in changing their situations, may explain seemingly irrational behaviors such as spending money on drinks rather than education. In essence, many of these individuals may possess a low internal locus of control, a phenomenon shaped by external historical and societal forces and perhaps personal decisions. Information alone, the post later stresses (such as in the form of malaria campaigns etc.), does not necessarily change behavior.

An example that readily comes to mind is the the ambivalence some may have towards the political situation in Nigeria (I know, some of you are cringing at the thought of yet another Nigeria/Africa generalization, but please bear with me). Despite clamors for active civic engagement and get out the vote awareness rallies, some may prefer the "siddon look" position rather than actively engaging in politics (through voting, participating in protests and the like). So while such activities are taking place, one may take the "irrational" route of ignoring the world, and taking a nap, instead. Sorry for the throwback pic...but I'm simply in love with it. And please, this is a very simplistic explanation for an incredibly complex phenomenon. A more concrete example of the relationship between locus of control, education, and irrational choices can be found here - I know, random, but just happened to stumble upon it sometime ago.


My name is Wally...

Last month or so I attended a K'Naan-Wale concert, and simply thinking about it induces a strong desire to curl up in my bed and forever shun the past-10pm, under-21 night scene. I am still tired. Never again...I seriously think I am getting too old for such "all-ages" soirees. Had no idea that "all-ages" meant 85% 18 and under and 15% other. Throughout the 3 hour or so concert, I found myself yearning for longer interludes in order to rest my aching back in the seated section of the club and wondering why I wasn't at home curled up in a blanket with a good novel (a delightful luxury these days). And my, I haven't been around so much weed since undergrad (and note, most in the audience seemed to be imported from CT's surburbs).

The ticket was more of an impulse buy and had I known earlier, I would have gone to the NYC version of the concert (which also featured Damian Marley and my guess, would have lacked the "High School Musical"-vibe). The show opened with Togolese-American rapper, Tabi Bonney, followed by ex-Fugees rapper/producer, John Forte (love him!) and finished with Wale then K'Naan, a combination of both, then encores by K'Naan. To be honest, I paid to see K'naan, though I was somewhat curious about the hype surrounding Nigerian-American rapper Wale. Prior to this, I only knew of one Wale song, My Sweetie, a modern day remix of the Bunny Mack classic and dedicated to "...everybody who ever was forced to go to african parties wit they parents in the 80s [and] 90s...." It was cute - but I have never been much of a fan of remixes.

Prior to the concert, I thought that perhaps Wale was probably the Nigerian Diasporan's answer K'Naan...


I left Wale's performance a bit disappointed that the only mention of his Nigerian heritage came when he corrected audience members (over and over and over again) that his name was Wale, not Wally (for the love of all that is right and decent, didn't Eminem effectively end the reign of my-name-is-like lyrics - please stop). And even at that, he provided no context. By the end of the night, I felt like ditching my green-white-greens and join the Somalis in waving their blues and whites.

The circumstances that gave birth to something-American/Canadian/French artists such as Tabi Bonney, K'Naan and Asa and other Africans-in-America/France/Germany etc are very different from that of Wale. While the other three spent portions of their formative years in Africa, there is no indication that Wale spent much time outside of the Washignton D.C.-Maryland area. I think for that reason, the transition back-and-forth between their "western" and non-western selves seems more fluid; but from the little I know of Wale - his Nigerianness seems to be more of an all-or-nothing phenomenon. To me, "My Sweetie" appears to be a fleeting reference to his African heritage. His "Nigerianness" seemed to be merely packaged into a 3-minute soundbite that hardly made it into his latest album.

Despite the initial disappointment, I am sympathetic. And considering my limited exposure, I am the last to provide a balanced critique of Wale's genre of music (I guess DC Underground rap or something). Admittedly, I almost left his performance embracing the attitudes I have criticized in some of our elders who have complained endlessly of the inevitable Americanization of their progeny in exile. (Elders, who oftentimes, remain incognizant to the Americanization of their homelands and probably would not be able to find the road back to their villas owing to the rapid changes that occurred since Abacha was in office...that is the last time they stepped foot out of the US...anyway, a conversation for another date).

So, when I am not drop-dead tired from a concert, I am of the opinion that there exists a spectrum of whatever you call, "Africanness" possessed by my fellow first-generationers born to immigrant parents. I guess you have the my-name-is-wally identities on one end and the the akpokwala-m-udi-aha-ozo** identities on the other, which, to me, all represent the diversity of what it means to be a first generation Nigerian.

And I couldn't help it, but had to include this old school video of Identity by Chief Oliver de Coque in honor of our musicians for whom music is simply in their nature and represents their identity.

**Translation: (in angry Igbotic "ascent") Don't call me that sort of name again...(feel free to insert fantastic threat re: Amadioha here) ...and forgive my laziness re: dotting of o's...

And yes, Akon is glaringly absent from this conversation...and for good reason.


"Bad Aid"

TIMES article on "bad aid" and the "T-shirts for Africa" controversy that busied the development/aid blogosphere for the past couple of weeks.

Bad Charity? (All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt!)


In Praise of (Naija) Pop

Chimamanda Adichie comments on a growing sense of Nigerio-centricity that has recently infused itself into several sectors of Nigeria media. Of note, she highlights, is the home-grown hip-hop sector, which is now "mainstream cool" and reflects "...a newly energized self-image that young Nigerians have of themselves."

Looking inward for inspiration, long gone are the days of the 90s and early 2000s where some Nigerian artists merely aped the beats (and sometimes hooks and lyrics) of their American or Caribbean counterparts. Today's Nigerian pop music scene is fresh, original, and fiercely pro-Nigerian (though, at times, critical of it's current state of affairs).

Hat tip to AfricaIsACountry re the Adichie article. Though, I'm not to crazy about the Banky W reference. He's cute and all, but not a big fan of his so-called remixes, which in essence borrows the hooks of others. I gave him a pass on Ebute Metta...but his Naija version of K'Naan's Wavin' Flag...was just about one remix too much. For someone with such a commitment to the rule of law, the copying...I mean...remixing of another artist's creation should not feature as a regular career move.


Too Late for Mama...Six Years On...

Over the weekend, I couldn't help but remember the flamboyant Queen of African Pop, Brenda Fassie, who six years ago from Mother's Day, lost her life to a tragic overdose. A more fitting remembrance from MIMI can be found here.

On an unrelated note...I decided against opening my private blog...which was more a notebook of sorts. I will continue to post intermittenly here at pyoo wata...couldn't let go, I guess.


Moving on...

I am sure that many of you have noticed that I have been blogging rather infrequently these days. After almost three years of pyoo wata, I have decided to retire from this blog.
I'm not retiring from blogging entirely. Nigerianstalk.org is very much active (and always looking for more contributors). Also, I will soon be opening up a formerly private blog, which features more of my current interests interests in health and disease - maka ọria na ahu ike. It's a bit lifeless, but hope to inject some pyoo wata spunk to it. Originally, MONAI served as place where I occassionally posted info I thought might be helpful in the future - but I figured that someone else might find it useful. So for now, I will be posting there regularly. Remember, I can still be found on twitter as pyoowata.

I am very appreciative of those who continued visit, despite my epileptic posting schedule at pyoo wata. For those who left comments and sent emails and responded to mine, I learned so much from you all over the past few years, months. Love you all...sort of.


Are you Up to Date?

I shared this on my Reader, but thought I should also highlight the opportunity on this blog as well.

GHDOnline is calling for applications to their UpToDate International Grant Subscription program, due May 3rd. The grant provides free access to the peer-reviewed, evidence-based clinical information database to clinicians and medical organizations outside of the US. The application and FAQ can be found on the GHDOnline site. Apparently there is an American version of the program, too. Sorry for the short notice, but the application doesn't look terribly involved. A demonstration of UpToDate can be found here.


The young shall grow...

General Ibrahim Babaginda declares that the younger generation of Nigerians is unfit to rule the country (thanks Omo Oba for the link).

In response to the question as to why he and his err...age grade...does not step aside for the youth, he replies, "Because we have seen signs that they are not capable of leading this country...May be they are not given the proper education that is why."

But of course, IBB has totally forgotten that our elders are inherently wiser than us. And like they say, what the young man sees by climbing a tree, the elder has seen while sitting down**...well, unless, there's a fence in his way...and IBB has been living behind his for far too long...

**Nkem Owoh, "Mr. Lecturer"


Short on good luck

In recent weeks, acting President Goodluck Jonathan has taken a number of radical departures from his former boss - such as the dismissal of nearly all cabinet members (particularly Yar'adua loylalists) and abandoning the failed PDP Seven-Point agenda. Impressive moves and well-timed, considering his former association Baba Go-Slow and predictions that he would largely serve as an extension of the previous administration. Such initiative on the part of Jonathan has received Akunyili-at-NAFDAC-like accolades from both print and online media (currently my only sources of gauging the national mood).

I hold my judgments for now - echi dị ime* - and only time will tell what his administration will bring forth. However, I am beginning to tow the line of a number of skeptics, who predict that Jonathan's less than one year term may prove lackadaisacal, at best. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I was under the impression that his installment as vice president was largely meant to appease the Niger Delta - what a success that was...

In the NYTimes interview "Out of Africa"**, Chinue Achebe also joins in the chorus of those expressing their doubts about the Jonathan administration stating that he "...doesn't seem to bring good luck," especially in light of his weak response to the recent crises in Jos.

Over the weekend, residents of Ajegunle protested against blatant police brutality, as enacted by the recent beating death of one of its residents, Charles Okafor, who was the target of a computer game shop raid. During the protest, police fired into the crowd, allegedly killing four protesters and injuring dozens.

In my book, Jonathan's deafening silence on human rights abuses such as this and those that occurred at Jos and continue to mar the Niger Delta, may serve mute any advances he may make over the next several months. You know, kinda like this.

* Tomorrow is pregnant...

**This had to be the worst interview I have read in quite some time. What was up with the title, "Out of Africa," when the interview was based on the 50-plus year old novel, Things Fall Apart. It's 2010, my dear - why no questions on his latest work, "Education of a British-Protected Child" It seemed like Achebe was quite pissed at how unengaging the interviewer's questions were - responding to the question "Are you still writing everyday? What are you working on?" with the court "I'm working on this interview." I'm sure he probably wanted to add something else - his patience astounds me.


Now this is how you give an ultimatum...

Nigerian National Assembly, take note.

US Official Apologizes for Joke About Gadhafi

"A senior State Department official said Tuesday he's sorry for a joking remark he made about Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi that prompted Libya to threaten diplomatic retaliation unless he apologized.Chief department spokesman P.J. Crowley said he regretted any offense caused by his response to a reporter's question about Gadhafi's recent call for a holy war against Switzerland. Libya said last week it might take action against American business interests there if a formal apology was not made."

...for want of mad men...


Score! Non-communicable Diseases Gets Some Much-Needed Shine Time

This was definitely worth another post this week.

Maybe by now, some of you have figured out beyond my penchant Nollywood, the mindless sputterings (made-up word, I think) of old Igbo men - such as this one and oh man, this one - I also have some interest in chronic disease management outside of the West (it's a budding interest, but an interest, no less). Even diseases traditionally thought of as acute (meaning you either get over it or die really quickly) are increasingly requiring a paradigm shift towards long-term care (namely, AIDS). Unfortunately, poor health infrastructure means that it is next to impossible to address such chronic disease care issues in the developing world (I know, I hate generalizations too, but bear with me)...I mean, seriously, check out the case of this guy...who happens to be the (former?) President of the the largest African nation, but has recently been relegated to receiving health care services at a glorified car park.

Developing nations find themselves in double jeopardy - battling acute infectious diseases while remaining horribly unprepared to face the rising threats of "first-world" health issues such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, motor vehicle accidents, mental illness, etc. Large-scale disease-centric interventions, at times serves to weaken overall health infrastructure, placing focus (and funding) on one or two diseases to the neglect of others - most oftentimes non-communicable or chronic diseases (NCDs). Consider NCDs as the latest addition to the category of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).

A recent study published in the the journal PLoS medicine (H/T Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report) found that high NCD burden served as a major barrier to achieving the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which excludes NCDs among its list of health priorities, but includes HIV, tuberculosis, infant and maternal mortality. In regards to progress towards MDGs, reduction in NCD burden by 10% was nearly the equivalent to a 40% rise in GDP (or at least five years of economic growth in developing countries). The study highlighted the fact that NCDs plays an important role in the complicated relationship between poverty and health and as a result, greater emphasis should not only be placed on addressing NCDs, but health systems as a whole.

Our findings suggest that achievement of feasible reductions in the impact of these chronic diseases on poor households could greatly enhance progress towards existing health MDGs. If not adequately addressed, high rates of NCDs in low-income countries may further impede progress towards the health MDGs.
To bring it closer to home, the World Health Organization estimates that Nigeria loses about 400 million dollars a year in national income from premature deaths from heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. I wonder, if that figure includes revenue lost from exporting the healthcare of our presidents to other countries...


Re-thinking Missions

Faith-based organizations recently received some good press over the weekend with the publication of Nicholas Kristof's New York Times op-ed piece - Learning from the Sin of Sodom. In it, Kristof chastises liberal do-gooders for their "snootiness" towards Evangelicals and sings the praises Christian NGOs and churches for engaging in the thankless task of battling the "common enemies of humanity" such as poverty and exploitation. Considering the complicated past of foreign missionary work during colonial times and the recent Haitian adoption scandal by American missionaries, I am sure that religious communities everywhere are grateful for the article. Indeed, the church has been responsible for bringing about some good to the communities they serve in the developing world. When working in a long-term capacity, churches and other faith-based organizations have established schools, hospitals, and other needed infrastructure that rivals that of some secular organizations and local governments.

While I commend the efforts of Christians to live out the tenets of our faith through service, I find problematic some of the more recent trends I have personally witnessed amongst churches and individuals - primarily the interest in short-term international missions projects. One to three weeks long, such short-term projects are typically glorified (or should I say, church-ified) versions of slum tours. Merely donating to an established local entity is not enough. Rather, some feel the need to "experience first-hand" the raw poverty and pestilence that plagues the non-western world. No real training or skills are needed other than a heart for down-trodden people (or an eye for poverty p*rn). The emphasis is thus taken away from selfless Christ-like service, and is rather placed on fulfilling the short-term missionaries' desire to be needed.

In providing the lay person with this short-term experience, oftentimes, no thought is given to long-term implications of the excursion. In the case of short-term medical missions projects, which are sometimes conducted independently of local hospitals and resources, thousands of patients are attended to but little consideration is given to follow-up care. The goal is to reach the greatest number of people in an allotted time frame. More than 70% of patients with chronic, non-communicable diseases live in the developing world; and therefore long-term management of such patients is required. To say that short-term medical missions is like putting a bandage on a festering wound would be an understatement. I guess it's more like saying to a brother or sister without clothes or food, "Go, I wish you well..." without doing anything for their physical needs.

I also find that with short-term missions projects, there exists little discussion on evaluation or assessment of their interventions. In order to meet fundraising goals, emphasis is placed on the wow factor a project can evoke - "we saw x amount of patients," "we donated x number of y," etc. And because record-keeping remains virtually non-existent, no one can definitely measure the long-term impact of such excursions on target populations. Such projects are only answerable to their congregations, who may not be terribly familiar with the nuances of outcomes measurement.

Admittedly, the aforementioned also applies to secular non-profits and organizations. However, I feel as if some of these issues are particularly aggravated in the Christian community, where motive trumps means or outcome. The attempt to shuttle scores of Haitian "orphans" to the Domincan Republic by a church group, highlights such pervasive attitudes. It seems as if faith has provided us with the license to embark upon hastily organized projects and missions, because regardless the means or outcome, our intentions are sanctioned by God. While Christian organizations such as World Vision, highlighted in the Kristof's oped piece, should be commended, I do think that for a vast number of faith-based organizations and initiatives, our strategies need to be re-evaluated.


you're one of them...

First, I apologize for the silence...schedule a bit crowded these days. A belated Happy New Year to all.
I tend to find it most difficult to fall asleep when I am busiest for some reason, and have taken to sneaking in a few pages of fiction as a new nighttime/early morning ritual. For the longest time I have been meaning to read Uwem Akpan's collection of short stories, "Say You're One of Them."
As a matter of personal principle, I try to stay away from reviews, particularly critical ones, until after I finish reading a novel. However, after delving into the first few pages I had to confirm my suspicion that I was in possession of 300plus pages of unadulterated poverty p*rn (sorry for the asterisk, trying to avoid the onslaught of strange comments I receive when I use such terms...such as in this post.) I was so naive....for only stories of child prostitutes and wonton African poverty would titillate the Oprah Book Club following.
While I have less patience for such genres, writer and blogger, Alligator Legs, takes a more balanced view (while confirming my initial gut reaction) and reviews his most recent contribution to the The New Yorker.