Category Archives: Health

Young Zimbabweans ditch drugs for performing arts

Young Zimbabweans ditch drugs for performing arts
by Jeffrey Moyo
Thomas Reuters Foundation
March 12, 2018

Young people with the Ngoma Yorira Theatre Association get ready for a performance at “Theatre in the Park” in Harare, Zimbabwe, as they campaign against drug abuse, on Feb, 2, 2018. Photo: Thomson Reuters Foundation/Jeffrey Moyo

HARARE, March 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Jimmy Gata, 19, recites an anti-drugs poem at “Theatre in the Park” in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, jumping and gesturing on the stage, as spectators clap and cheer on the former addict.

Before finding his passion for the spoken word, Gata regularly took BronCleer, a cough syrup often smuggled in from South Africa that contains codeine, a painkiller similar to morphine. If enough is drunk, it also intoxicates like alcohol.

“Since Ngoma Yorira Theatre Association took me in to learn about film-making and acting and poetry, I have had no time for (BronCleer),” said Gata, a trained motor mechanic.

There are no accurate figures on the number of drug users in Zimbabwe. The Ministry of Health and Child Care says about 3,000 people nationwide are suffering mental illness directly related to drug abuse.

For 19-year-old Innocent Ndaramashe, an emerging R&B and hip-hop music star who was addicted to substances like BronCleer, the performing arts came to his rescue just in time.

“My music encourages my peers not to consume drugs because they damage our health,” Ndaramashe told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “As a young man who has been taking drugs, I decided to preach against the abuse of drugs through my music career.”

In a country where many people struggle to earn a living in the informal economy, the theatre association has also helped out the poor and hungry.

“(It) gives food parcels, groceries to the needy in my community of which I am also a beneficiary because I am very old,” said 73-year-old Tambudzai Mlambo, a resident of Mbare township in Harare.


As Zimbabwe battles drug abuse made worse by a shortage of jobs for young people, the government acknowledges the contribution of the community arts scene.

“Groups that have of late emerged have helped to keep former drug addicts focused on theatre or art. This diverts their attention from drugs to concentrate on something new and positive for their wellbeing,” said Dorcas Sithole, deputy director of the Ministry of Health’s mental health department.

The state is doing what it can to fight drug abuse in tough circumstances, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We are trying to prevent drug users from turning into addicts,” she said, explaining how the government puts them on withdrawal programmes in hospital and is also planning to open rehabilitation centres.

In addition, anti-drugs activists say there is a need for occupational therapy such as theatre, which also helps young people build their self-esteem.

“Nurturing talent provides an avenue for accomplishment as opposed to helplessness which is associated with the onset of drug use,” said Hilton Nyamukapa, programme coordinator for the Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network.

Established seven years ago, the national network advocates for strategies to address problems linked to drug use in Zimbabwe and across Southern Africa.
Former drug addict Innocent Ndaramashe, now an up-and-coming musician, works in a studio in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Feb. 14, 2018.

Former drug addict Innocent Ndaramashe, now an up-and-coming musician, works in a studio in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Feb. 14, 2018.


A pioneer of the idea of using theatre to tackle drug problems, Ernest Nyatanga, founder and president of the Ngoma Yorira Theatre Association, said his organisation pays former addicts for their acting.

“Rewarding former drug users for their performances in theatre helps to motivate them and cultivate in them a desire to work for themselves,” he told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Recently the association shot films highlighting social and economic issues facing the country, such as “The Delinquent” which depicts a misled young man who takes drugs while in school. The films are shown at Harare’s “Theatre in The Park”.

Nyatanga said the association donates some of the proceeds from its performances – which it stages in townships in remote areas too – to local orphanages and poor widows.

And it has helped feed people going hungry when drought hit food supplies in rural and urban areas.

It also recruits community members to sell recordings of theatre productions on a commission basis by the roadside.

“We are an association that lives amongst ordinary people, and we care for their needs,” Nyatanga said.

So far, the theatre association has helped more than 340 individuals change their lives for the better, 30 percent of whom were hooked on drugs, he said.

Parents like Linda Masarira, 36, whose 18-year-old son was an addict but has now resumed his secondary-school studies, are grateful for its work.

“It is a miracle – my son is reforming; he is now an upcoming hip-hop star while he is also into theatre and as a result he has… stopped using drugs,” Masarira said.


Community religious groups like the Christian Youths Fellowship Association (CYFA) based in Chegutu, a farming town 100 km (62 miles) west of Harare in Mashonaland West Province, have also joined the fight against drugs.

Patrick Imbayago, founder and director of the CYFA, said his group has shown anti-drugs films in urban and rural townships.

“After seeing these kinds of films, few would return to drug abuse because… drug abusers are shown as eventually losing their marbles, going mad,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The CYFA also funds football training for young people. “The more we occupy them with social activities like soccer, the less our youths turn to drug abuse,” said Imbayago.

Reporting by Jeffrey Moyo; editing by Megan Rowling.

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As Cancer Tears Through Africa, Drug Makers Draw Up a Battle Plan

New York Times

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.

Paul Mugumya, 7, lying in the Kawempe Home Care facility for children in Kampala, Uganda, had three hernia operations before surgeons realized he had a blistering football-shaped tumor. Cancers — many of them treatable — kill about 450,000 Africans a year. Credit Charlie Shoemaker for The New York Times

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.

Read the full NYTimes Article and view more photos.
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Foundation Stone Laid For Expansion And Modernization Of Juba Teaching Hospital

By Jale Richard

foundation stone so sudan
President Kiir (C), Chinese Ambassador to South Sudan, He Xiangdong(R) and the Minister of Health Dr. Riak Gai Kok (L) laying the foundation stone on Saturday. [Photo by Jale Richard]
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.

Hysteria Over Ebola Fuels Racism, While the Real Disease Is Capitalism

Common Dreams

Sonali Kolhatkar

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Thomas Frieden attends via teleconference, while U.S. Representative to the U.N. Samantha Power and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey listen as President Obama speaks to the media about Ebola during a meeting at the White House on Wednesday. (Photo: AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Thomas Frieden attends via teleconference, while U.S. Representative to the U.N. Samantha Power and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey listen as President Obama speaks to the media about Ebola during a meeting at the White House on Wednesday. (Photo: AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

The Ebola crisis has gripped the American media, and by extension the imagination of the public, punctuated by breathless pronouncements from TV news reporters of the medical status of actual and potential victims of the disease; hysteria-inducing magazine covers, like this issue of Bloomberg Business week sporting the message “Ebola Is Coming” in blood- smeared letters; and Facebook feeds dominated by click-bait images of microscopic photos of the virus with eerie back-lit tangles of fat worms symbolizing the foreign bodies that could invade us all.

But the foreign bodies of the Liberian man, Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person to have developed the disease while on U.S. soil, and those of West Africans represent the common targets of an age-old American disease: xenophobia. Continue reading Hysteria Over Ebola Fuels Racism, While the Real Disease Is Capitalism

In Nation’s Capital, It’s Native Americans and Ranchers vs. KXL ‘Death Warrant’

Common Dreams

‘Cowboy and Indian Alliance’ protest encampment on national mall culminates with ceremonial procession to ‘protect sacred land and water’
– Sarah Lazare, staff writer

"Reject and Protect" mobilization pictured Saturday, April 26 (Photo: Reject and Protect)
“Reject and Protect” mobilization pictured Saturday, April 26 (Photo: Reject and Protect)

Native American tribes, farmers and ranchers, and thousands of their allies flooded the National Mall Saturday with a ceremonial procession calling for President Obama to reject the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Continue reading In Nation’s Capital, It’s Native Americans and Ranchers vs. KXL ‘Death Warrant’

The unpalatable reality of working for Apple

New Internationalist
Since the death of Steve Jobs, allegations have surfaced accusing Apple of exploiting it's workers. Under a CC Licence A fresh wave of reports unveiling exploitation in the iPad empire are forcing Apple to clean up up its act, reports Mark Engler.
‘Help wanted: factory worker to install small components into items manufactured by hand – iPhones and iPads. Shifts may average 12 hours per day, six days per week. You may be expected to stand throughout. Some exposure to hazardous chemicals. Base pay: $42/week. Additional benefits: shared dorm room with five other employees; safety netting at facility to catch attempted suicides. Please note: applications will be checked against blacklist of union sympathizers.’
Continue reading The unpalatable reality of working for Apple

Pope encourages people fighting to rid world of land mines

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI called for continued efforts to rid the world of land mines so that people could be free to walk the earth without fear of injury or death. “I encourage all those who are working to free humanity from these terrible and insidious devices,” the pope said, as he expressed his closeness to all victims and their families.
The pope made his appeal at the end of his general audience talk April 4 as he recalled the U.N. International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, celebrated the same day. Recalling the words of Blessed John Paul II the day before a U.N. convention on the ban and destruction of anti-personnel land mines took effect in 1999, Pope Benedict said land mines keep people from “‘being able to walk together on the paths of life without fearing the threat of destruction and death.'”

About 72 countries in the world are thought to be riddled with land mines, and Colombia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Somalia and Libya are considered nations most at risk, according to a 2011 report by the non-profit Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor. More than 12 countries produce land mines, including China, India, Russia, Cuba and the United States, the report said.