Hopeful not Hopeless
Posted by Br Bill Firman on 11 October 2017
La Salle District of Austrailia, New Zealand, Pakistan & Papua New Guinea
I have sometimes been asked what hope is there for South Sudan?Tribal divisions have become very deep, and almost everybody has lost relatives and friends in this senseless violence.
Amnesty International quotes a staggering, horrible statistic: A survey conducted in 2015 by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) found that 72% of women living in four UNMISS Protection of Civilians (PoC) sites in Juba reported having been raped since the conflict broke out, mostly by police and soldiers.’
Has all respect and order disappeared? Certainly as one local writer, Jacob Lagu, states: ‘War is a dirty business. It inevitably degrades us all. It diminishes our humanity as steadily as we dehumanize our adversaries. We are all locked in conflicting victimhood narratives. Each side believes wholeheartedly that they are the victims of injustice. Each side believes that their adversary is the unrepentant aggressor.’
It seems to me that civil war must surely be the worst kind of war. In a civil war, your enemy is not ‘out there’ but can even be your near neighbour. South Sudanese now ask, ‘Whom can I trust in my own country?’ ‘Where can I go and be safe?’ Hundreds of thousands ask, ‘Will I ever be able to leave this Protection of Civilians camp where I feel like a prisoner?’
Yet, in spite of all this, there are people getting on with life. I have attached photos that show the reality of the poverty of many in South Sudan poor, but not maudlin. Children dressed in rags laugh and play and there are some fine young people growing up with a little help along the way.
In early 2010, a good friend in Australia raised some money to help a young, thin boy, called Augusto. Augusto’s father had died when he was only 18 months old.
He was being raised by his grandmother and the helpful families of his school friends. Augusto’s school fees were paid by overseas donations. Augusto has now just graduated from secondary school with a 73% average, a wonderful achievement giving the personal adversity he had to overcome let alone the turmoil in the country. Now he is trying to find the means to go to University.
Another of our neighbours, Naomi, is soon to graduate as a registered nurse from our Catholic Health Training Institute (CHTI). Her twin brother, Wonderful, (yes, that is his name), is well on the way to becoming a doctor.
There are 80 applicant seeking places in the CHTI for next year. There are currently 110 in the CHTI and so far 145 have graduated after successfully completing the three-year programme. So amid the tales of gloom, there are many good news stories, many lives that are progressing well.
In another photo taken in 2009, there is a small boy called Danny sitting next to Fr. Joseph. Last Saturday, I woke to find our vehicle had a flat tyre. I called Danny who quickly changed the wheel for me. He has one year to go to finish secondary school: he has grown from a happy, inquisitive young boy, into an obliging, sensible young man.
There are plenty of signs of hope as we help produce better educated people. Sadly, many South Sudanese have to learn to live with hunger and the trauma of rape, looting and deaths of loved ones, but they still get on with life. We help them when we can, as do almost 500 missionaries from many countries as well as the UN and many resourceful NGOs delivering essential services.
There is hope because children and young people are especially resilient.
Yes, the scars are deep and, in the trauma healing workshops we conduct, many older people reveal their nightmares and flashbacks. But somehow the children in South Sudan are among the happiest and least complaining I have known.
One does not feel hopeless here. Many people continue to hope and dream of a better future. A new, better-educated generation might just deliver the new South Sudan for which we all hope and pray.
Author: Br Bill Firman
About: Br Bill is the Executive Director of Solidarity with South Sudan.
In a deal similar to the one that turned the tide against
AIDS, manufacturers and charities will make chemotherapy
drugs available in six poor countries at steep discounts.
OCT. 7, 2017 | NAIROBI, Kenya — In a remarkable initiative modeled on the campaign against AIDS in Africa, two major pharmaceutical companies, working with the American Cancer Society, will steeply discount the prices of cancer medicines in Africa.
Under the new agreement, the companies — Pfizer, based in New York, and Cipla, based in Mumbai — have promised to charge rock-bottom prices for 16 common chemotherapy drugs. The deal, initially offered to a half-dozen countries, is expected to bring lifesaving treatment to tens of thousands who would otherwise die.
Pfizer said its prices would be just above its own manufacturing costs. Cipla said it would sell some pills for 50 cents and some infusions for $10, a fraction of what they cost in wealthy countries.
The price-cut agreement comes with a bonus: Top American oncologists will simplify complex cancer-treatment guidelines for underequipped African hospitals, and a corps of IBM programmers will build those guidelines into an online tool available to any oncologist with an internet connection.
“Reading this gave me goose bumps,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said after seeing an outline of the deal. “I think this is a phenomenal idea, and I think it has a good chance of working.”
It reminded him, he said, of his work in 2002 helping design the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Pepfar, as it is known, has been a success: over 14 million Africans are now on H.I.V. drugs, many of them thanks to American aid.
“It’s exactly what we went through then,” Dr. Fauci said. “Finding the countries with the highest burden, figuring out how to approach treatment differently in each one, and getting the prices down.”
Cancer now kills about 450,000 Africans a year. By 2030, it will kill almost 1 million annually, the World Health Organization predicts. The most common African cancers are the most treatable, including breast, cervical and prostate tumors.
But here they are often lethal. In the United States, 90 percent of women with breast cancer survive five years. In Uganda, only 46 percent do; in Gambia, a mere 12 percent do.
The complicated deal was struck by the cancer society, along with the Clinton Health Access Initiative, founded in 2002 by former President Bill Clinton; IBM; the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of top American cancer hospitals; and the African Cancer Coalition, a network of 32 oncologists in 11 African countries.
“I have a friend back home whose daughter has cancer, and I can’t believe the outpouring of support she got, like special lacrosse games and T-shirts,” said Megan O’Brien, the cancer society’s director of global cancer treatment and the chief organizer of the deal.
“There’s nothing like that in Africa — but I can save a child with leukemia for $300. That’s a disease that has a 90 percent cure rate in America, and a 90 percent death rate in Africa.”
An Ill-Prepared Continent As more Africans survive into middle or old age, cancer rates are climbing rapidly. But most countries here are ill-equipped for the fight.
There are few oncologists, radiotherapy machines or advanced surgical suites. Tumors are often misdiagnosed or even blamed on witchcraft, and 80 percent go undetected until they have spread to lymph nodes or distant organs.
Doctors often see cases far worse than Western doctors ever do: babies with growths half as big as their heads, women with breast tumors the size of softballs that have broken the skin, putrid and weeping blood.
On a recent day in July, Brenda Nakisuyi, 17, sat silent and despondent in a darkened room at Kawempe Home Care, a cancer hostel for children in Kampala, Uganda.
Burkitt lymphoma had torn open her left cheek, leaving a crater that looked as if a cherry bomb had exploded in her mouth.
“In our village, they know malaria, they know HIV, they know typhoid — but they don’t know cancer,” said her mother, Florence Namwase, 48. “People said Brenda was bewitched, and they began to shun her.”
Many Africans who get cancer assume they are doomed.
“I came here to see if I was condemned to death,” said a wry George Odongo Ogola, 73, a retired high school principal being treated for prostate cancer at the M.P. Shah Hospital in Nairobi.
“But the doctor says they got it in a nascent stage and gave me a 99.9 percent chance that it will be contained,” he added. “I brought all my children and their wives so they could hear this. Here, once you are diagnosed with cancer, they treat you like a dead person.”
Even doctors — especially rural ones — may be slow to recognize the disease.
Paul Mugumya, a lively 7-year-old in the Kawempe hostel, had three hernia operations before surgeons realized that something else was swelling his abdomen, which now has a football-shaped tumor with tangerine-sized blisters on it.
And Flavia Anyesi, 4, who stood in her crib at the Uganda Cancer Institute in pink and white hair beads matching her pink nightgown, was first sent to a dentist to have a tooth pulled, said her mother, Teopista Nafuna.
Only when Flavia’s jaw kept swelling did doctors realize something else was amiss. She, too, has Burkitt lymphoma.
Even when in agony, victims may be too poor to travel for treatment. Patients who find the money to reach urban hospitals often sleep on mats on the verandas or in parks between their daily infusions, or while waiting for biopsy results, which can take weeks.
Reporting by Rami Amichai and Mustafa Abu Ghaneyeh, Writing by Ori Lewis; Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Peter Graff
October 8, 2017
October 8, 2017: JORDAN RIVER, West Bank (Reuters) – Thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women trekked through a biblical desert landscape on Sunday, converging on the shores of the Jordan River in a march for peace.
The women, many of them dressed in white, descended through the arid hills leading to the river, where they erected a “peace tent” named for Hagar and Sarah, scriptural mothers of Ishmael and Isaac, the half-brother patriarchs of Muslims and Jews.
“We are women from the right, the left, Jews and Arabs, from the cities and the periphery and we have decided that we will stop the next war,” said Marilyn Smadja, one of the founders of the organizing group, Women Wage Peace.
The organization was established after the 50-day Gaza war of 2014 when more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians.
Some 5,000 women participated in Sunday’s march, organizers said. It began last month at several locations across Israel and will culminate in a rally later in the day outside the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
by Arthur Neslen Guardian
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
More than 40 Catholic institutions will make largest ever faith-based divestment, on the anniversary of the death of St Francis of Assisi.
More than 40 Catholic institutions are to announce the largest ever faith-based divestment from fossil fuels, on the anniversary of the death of St Francis of Assisi.
The sum involved has not been disclosed but the volume of divesting groups is four times higher than a previous church record, and adds to a global divestment movement, led by investors worth $5.5tn.
Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who helped negotiate the Paris climate agreement, hailed Tuesday’s move as “a further sign we are on the way to achieving our collective mission.”
She said: “I hope we will see more leaders like these 40 Catholic institutions commit, because while this decision makes smart financial sense, acting collectively to deliver a better future for everybody is also our moral imperative.”
Church institutions joining the action include the Archdiocese of Cape Town, the Episcopal Conference of Belgium and the diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, the spiritual home of the world’s Franciscan brothers.
A spokesman for the €4.5bn German Church bank and Catholic relief organisation Caritas said that it was committing to divest from coal, tar sands and shale oil.
In a symbolically charged move, the Italian town of Assisi will also shed all oil, coal and gas holdings the day before a visit by the Italian prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, to mark St Francis’s feast day.
Assisi’s mayor, Stefania Proietti – a former climate mitigation professor – told the Guardian: “When we pay attention to the environment, we pay attention to poor people, who are the first victims of climate change.
“When we invest in fossil fuels, we stray very far from social justice. But when we disinvest and invest in renewable and energy efficiency instead, we can mitigate climate change, create a sustainable new economic deal and, most importantly, help the poor.”
The origins of the latest church action lie in last year’s climate encyclical by Pope Francis – himself named after St Francis of Assisi – although the project was advanced by the Global Catholic Climate Movement.
JUBA, 02 October 2017 [Gurtong]-The project worth 33 million U.S. dollars grant from the Chinese government will cover establishment of three departments, including the Out-patient and Emergency Block, Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, and China Medical Team Dormitory.
Part of the grant will be used for Kiir Mayardit hospital in Rumbek and the construction will commence in November this year.
President Salva Kjiir Mayardit after laying the foundation stone said despite the country having the worst health care indicators in the world, the situation is gradually improving.
“We will ultimately improve with tremendous support for the health sector,” Kiir said. The president said efforts exerted by the Ministry of health with consistent backing by all the partners in the health sector and “sisterly countries with China on top” will improve the situation of health care in the country.
Kiir said the Ministry of Health which has been training adequate human resources for health, and developed the needed infrastructure and policies for the country will make quality health care services available, accessible and affordable for the people of South Sudan.
“With the modernization and expansion of Juba Teaching Hospital along with all the infrastructural development project in the health sector, the landscape of the health sector will completely change for those who have been deprived of accessing and enjoying quality services since time immemorial,” Kiir said.
President Kiir said with the modernization and expansion of Juba Teaching Hospital, he will be the happiest person to see that all those who go abroad for medical treatment including himself access medical services in Juba.
To achieve the plans of the Ministry of health, the president directed the Minister of Health and other health partners to scale up the training of health care cadres at all level for Juba teaching hospital and other hospitals.
“People of South Sudan have been waiting for long to enjoy basic health services that are part and parcel of the basic human rights,” he said. With the support of the health partners, he said, the health sector in the country will never be the same again.
The Chinese Ambassador, He Xiangdong said Chinese government will provide modern medical equipment and one year technical cooperation after the completion of the project.
“The project is another corner stone of China-South Sudan friendship,” Xiangdong said. Two years from now on, we are going to see a modern health facility and a new land mark in Juba,” he said.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Riak Gai Kok said it is a turning point in health care system to modernize and expand Juba Teaching Hospital.
He said his ministry is trying hard to train more health care providers in the country.
(September 1, 2017) VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Environmental destruction is a sign of a “morally decaying scenario” in which too many people ignore or deny that, from the beginning, “God intended humanity to cooperate in the preservation and protection of the natural environment,” said the leaders of the Catholic and Orthodox churches.
Marking the Sept. 1 World Day of Prayer for Creation, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople issued a joint message.
They urged government and business leaders “to respond to the plea of millions and support the consensus of the world for the healing of our wounded creation.”
Looking at the description of the Garden of Eden from the Book of Genesis, the pope and patriarch said, “The earth was entrusted to us as a sublime gift and legacy.”
But, they said, “our propensity to interrupt the world’s delicate and balanced ecosystems, our insatiable desire to manipulate and control the planet’s limited resources, and our greed for limitless profit in markets — all these have alienated us from the original purpose of creation.”
“We no longer respect nature as a shared gift; instead, we regard it as a private possession,” the two leaders said. “We no longer associate with nature in order to sustain it; instead, we lord over it to support our own constructs.”
Ignoring God’s plan for creation has “tragic and lasting” consequences on both “the human environment and the natural environment,” they wrote. “Our human dignity and welfare are deeply connected to our care for the whole of creation.”
The pope and the patriarch said prayer is not incidental to ecology, because “an objective of our prayer is to change the way we perceive the world in order to change the way we relate to the world.”
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople established the World Day of Prayer for Creation in 1989. In 2015, shortly after publishing his encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si’,” Pope Francis established the day of prayer for Catholics as well.
The object of Christian prayer and action for the safeguarding of creation, the two leaders wrote, is to encourage all Christians “to be courageous in embracing greater simplicity and solidarity in our lives.”
Echoing remarks Pope Francis made Aug. 30 when the pontiff announced he and the patriarch were issuing a joint message, the text included a plea to world leaders. “We urgently appeal to those in positions of social and economic, as well as political and cultural, responsibility to hear the cry of the earth and to attend to the needs of the marginalized,” they wrote. No enduring solution can be found “to the challenge of the ecological crisis and climate change unless the response is concerted and collective, unless the responsibility is shared and accountable, unless we give priority to solidarity and service.”
Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew also highlighted how “this deterioration of the planet weighs upon the most vulnerable of its people,” especially the poor, in a more pronounced way.
“Our obligation to use the earth’s goods responsibly implies the recognition of and respect for all people and all living creatures,” they said. “The urgent call and challenge to care for creation are an invitation for all of humanity to work toward sustainable and integral development.”
SANTIAGO, Aug 29 2017 (IPS) – “There are 33 million rural dwellers in Latin America who are still living in extreme poverty and can’t afford a good diet, clothes or education, and we are not going to help them move out of poverty if we use the same strategies that worked 20 years ago,” FAO regional representative Julio Berdegué told IPS.
Since 1990, rural poverty in the region was reduced from 65 per cent to 46 per cent, while extreme poverty fell from 40 per cent to below 27 per cent.
But while the proportion of rural extreme poor decreased by 1 percentage point a year between 1997 and 2007, the rate of decrease was only 0.2 per cent a year between 2007 and 2014.
To break that pattern in the most vulnerable rural group, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) are launching this last week of August in Santiago, Chile the “Alliance to end rural poverty in Latin America.”
“There is a strong deceleration in the reduction of poverty, five times slower than before, only just 0.2 per cent per year,” noted with concern Berdegué, who attributed the phenomenon, among other causes, to a regional economic slowdown which has had an impact on employment and incomes.
“The strong, sustainable, solid solution to rural poverty is economic development in rural areas. Quality jobs, better wages: that is the best strategy to reduce rural poverty,” said Berdegué, who is also FAO deputy director-general, in the body’s regional office in the Chilean capital.
For Berdegué, “social policies compensate for the effects of economic development, but what we want is for people to stop being poor because they have better jobs and not because of good social programmes…that is a second best option.”
In his interview with IPS, the Mexican senior U.N. official said the region has already done a great deal to reduce poverty and extreme poverty and what remains is to eradicate the most difficult part of poverty, harder to combat because it is structural.
He cited the example of Chile, where less than three per cent of the rural population suffer from extreme poverty, but the people affected are indigenous women in remote areas, which makes the task of rescuing them from deep poverty especially complicated.
According to Berdegué, the policies and programmes created and implemented in Latin America to eradicate poverty successfully served their purpose ,“but not necessarily the same strategies and same programmes are the ones that will work for us in the final push” of putting an end to hard-core, entrenched poverty.
Luiz Carlos Beduschi, a Brazilian academic and policy officer in the FAO regional office,pointed out to IPS that one of the most significant programmes to combat poverty in Nicaragua consisted of giving extremely poor people chickens, pigs or pregnant cows along with technical assistance.
Specific policies for women
“The same policies that help rural men move out of poverty don’t work for rural women,” said Julio Berdegué, who stressed that in the region “we have a generation of women with levels of education that their mothers never dreamed of.”
“We must soon achieve labour policies that allow these women to fully accede to formal employment. They are all working a lot, but on their farms or in unpaid, informal work,” he explained.
“These young rural women under 35 are going to stay on their farms producing food, but many of them are going to be employed in manufacturing and services, in nearby cities or in the rural communities themselves,” he added.
The FAO senior official stressed that “economic empowerment and autonomy are key, absolutely key, and this requires policies designed with a gender perspective. Without this, we are not going anywhere.”
Another thing that is essential, he added, is access to financing because “a poor woman farmer goes to ask for a loan and a poor male farmer goes, and the chances that the woman and the man get it are very different.”
“In all elements that are necessary for the development of family agriculture: access to markets, to technical assistance, land, etc, we need to multiply them by two, three or four in order to guarantee women equal opportunities,” he concluded.
“A woman from District 7, in the periurban area of Managua, discovered a dormant entrepreneurial potential. She was given a cow, and today, eight years later, she has 17 cows. Her oldest daughter left to study and graduated as a dentist. The woman sold three cows to finance a clinic (for her daughter) in the neighbourhood. She is now involved in the economic and social fabric of that area,” Beduschi said. Her second daughter is now studying medicine.
He added that the beneficiaries of this programme do not so much need advice as other elements such as credit at an interest rate lower than the 20 to 30 per cent offered by local creditors.
“We have to design a new plan for new times,” he concluded.
Launching the new Alliance
More than 25 experts, researchers and decision-makers are meeting Monday 28 and Tuesday 29 in Santiago, summoned by FAO and IFAD to seek new strategies and instruments to combat rural poverty.
In this new Alliance Launch Workshop, the participants are identifying and disseminating a politically viable and technically feasible package of proposals to be implemented by Latin American governments, for each country to face the challenge of ending rural poverty from an innovative perspective.
The activities of this initiative will be carried out from now until July 2019, and will count on FAO resources for the initial phase.
Berdegué said the first successful result of the Alliance was bringing together this group of experts with the commitment of “putting their shoulders to the wheel” in seeking innovative solutions to put an end to rural poverty.
“We want to release the 1.0 version of a proposal that we are going to offer to the countries. Not more of the same, because that has us at a five times slower rate. And we want to produce the first ideas, the best that we can, but we don’t want to spend the next six months writing documents. The best that we can, the sooner we can, and with those instruments we will go to the countries,” he said.
“The meeting will be a successful one if we come out of it with a very concrete working plan, detailed in such a way that the following week we can be going to the countries, as we have already started to do in Ecuador and Nicaragua,” he told IPS.
“We have a specific work agenda for collaboration to put these ideas into practice, with public programmes and policies,” he added.
Among the new tools that are being discussed in the world and in Latin America, Berdegué pointed out the concept of a universal basic income, which has its pros and cons, and is hotly debated.
There is also the issue of rural labour markets “which are in general in a state of true disaster, with high levels of informality and very low female participation rates, among them young women who have received 10 to 12 years of schooling and have no job offers in line with this human capital they have acquired.”
And a crucial issue in the new agenda, not taken into account in the past decades, is inequality.
“Many of these 33 million poor are poor because they are first victims of inequality. A rural indigenous woman, in a less developed area, is victim of more than four inequalities: gender, ethnicity, rural and territorial. Besides, economic inequality, on grounds of social class,” Berdegué said.
“Good quality employment, better wages, that is the best strategy for reducing rural poverty. And we have an accumulation of inequalities that, if we do not solve them, it will be very hard to return to the rate of one percentage point of reduction of rural extreme poverty,” he concluded.
Academics, as well as government officials and representatives of social organisations are taking part in the FAO and IFAD meeting, joining forces to think about how to keep on combating rural poverty with the goal of eradicating it.