Monthly Archives: February 2013

Advice on Food Crises in Haiti


Subsequent to the devastating earthquake in 2010, Haiti had five additional disastrous events in 2012 that drastically reduced its ability to grow and distribute food. These disasters, which included a severe drought, rising global food prices, hurricane Isaac, hurricane Sandy, and extreme flooding, “generated a loss of more than $250m, excluding the huge damage inflicted on infrastructure and livestock.” In 2011, “8% of Haitians (about 800,000 people) were living with chronic malnutrition; now, that number has leapt to 1.52 million.”

A guardian article from the development blog proposes advice on how to heal these reoccurring food crises. The biggest suggestion here is to start a seed bank in Haiti. The idea is that investing at the grassroots level would be a relatively easy and fairly non-interventionist way to make growing easier. Another idea is to get the Haitian government more involved with water-based infrastructure that would aid agriculture, for although Haiti has plenty of water resources, they currently aren’t being managed efficiently. This means full support of farmers on the part of the government, which would prove they value the agricultural community and its tribute to the national economy.

If food prices remain high, only real change to the current situation will save Haiti’s food problems. This means local and foreign government realization and activity. Otherwise inaction will prove to “destabilise the already tense political situation and throw [Haitians] all into yet another emergency, with programmes that simply cannot provide long-term solutions.”


The 100 Person World


This visual has been posted on multiple development and recreational sites recently. Although I first overlooked it as fairly elementary, the graphic is effective and straightforward when expressing the divergence of factors such as literacy rates and living conditions around the world. My favorite statistic, and that which I believe should demand more attention, is at the very bottom.

If the world were 100 people, 48 would live on less than $2 a day, and 1 out of 2 children would live in poverty.


Geocoded Tweets in African Cities

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As social media becomes ever more common and important to international politics, more methods of measuring its usage are arising. Here is a group of maps generated by tweet location from several of Africa’s largest cities.

Below are two of the most contrasting maps, those of Johannesburg and Mogadishu, with tweets identified by purple dots. The distinction between the two is obvious. These maps undisputedly show the divergence of technological progression and internet access in countries with stable democracies (South Africa) versus countries with a lack of government or highly deficient government (Somalia). As one commenter to these visuals pointed out, twitter admittedly may not be the best representation of general internet access. Nonetheless, with the awareness that sites like Twitter and Facebook played in the Arab Spring, we must acknowledge the importance of their availability.



Niger Delta’s Underground Oil Community


A NYTimes Lens piece recently shared the stories and photographs of residents in the Niger Delta. These people make a living off of collecting the lucrative oil of the swamp, despite it being highly dangerous and illegal work. The piece emphasizes the lifestyle of these locals, and their constant battle with the oil industry on the rights to the resource. The photos here are very stylized and powerful, and are reminding of the intense influence that images can add to a story.

“For the last 50 years, the Niger Delta’s multibillion-dollar oil trade has been the cause of intense conflict, legal debates and deep mistrust between the big oil companies and local residents who feel betrayed by the Nigerian government for not profiting from the lucrative industry. Almost 90 percent of those living along the delta survive on less than $1 a day. Many find the clandestine oil trade, even with the risk of prison or death, is the only way to support their family.”

The book A Swamp Full of Dollars by Michael Peel tells of similar oil looting in Nigeria, and how the industry has sabotaged the local economies and way of life of many Nigerians.

Jamaica’s Second Debt-Swap


Jamaica has announced this morning that they have plans to partake in another debt swap, in hopes of combatting their current economic crisis. A general rule for indebted nations is to keep debt payments under 25% of GDP, lest a country barely affords the interest payment let alone the debt itself. Jamaica’s debt is currently 140% of its GDP. Therefore to try and lower its current rates Jamaica has announced that it will (for the second time in three years) swap their debt to a lower-cost deal. It has been noticed that the nation’s funds are already stretched too thin, when roughly “55% of government spending goes towards paying the nation’s debt, while 25% goes on wages. That leaves just 20% for everything else – including education, security and health.”

Another reason for the urgency of the swap is so that the country does not fall through on a negotiation with the IMF, wherein Jamaica would get a loan provided they use the loan to reduce their debt. The island has had significant trouble with a decrease in tourists, as the “global financial crisis has cut visitor numbers severely.” With a main staple of their economy dwindling, it’s hard for private investors to see hope for real growth anytime soon.

President Woodrow Wilson said in 1913 that Caribbean and Latin American states “deserve nothing but the administration and applause of the world, [for] they have had harder bargains driven with them in the matter of loans than any other peoples in the world.” It’s curious that 100 years later, Jamaica remains chained by debt. It also certainly suggests something about debt and primary commodity traps.

Private Healthcare Mistreating Women in India


New stories and research studies are coming out on the unnecessary surgeries that private healthcare companies and doctors are performing in India. Recently in the nation private healthcare “accounts for 93% of hospitals and 85% of doctors.” This means that especially for rural women, a lot of whom are farmers, the one doctor or clinic available to them may very likely be suggesting completely unnecessary treatments. Often these doctors “‘make them scared that they have cancer and are going to die. They mislead them into undergoing surgery that is not necessary … in their greed for money,’ said Durga Prasad Saini” who works for the NGO discovering these malfeasance. The most commonly suggested surgeries are hysterectomies and caesareans, for they are some of the most expensive available. Apparently almost 70% of the women at three of five clinics had had their uterus taken out, demonstrating the vastness of this mistreatment.

India, though known for its problems with untrained or corrupted health workers, has supposedly be improving their health system nation-wide. So how is this type of severe risk by private healthcare providers possible? Here the blame is placed on “the absence of government regulation, [which] allows the appalling abuse of the country’s own people.” Some international institutions such as Oxfam are now “calling for the Indian government to make healthcare for all a priority – and is urging international donors to support them and back regulation of the private healthcare sector in developing countries.” It is terribly difficult, however, to broadly support private healthcare (for its capitalist purposes), while at the same time demanding regulation of it. There must be a huge sense of hypocrisy present, especially felt by those actually in need of the healthcare.

Tarsiers (that’s all)


This is just an acknowledgement of how awesome tarsiers are. I only just recently discovered the existence of these little guys from the Philippines, and they are so quirky. They’re like bush-babies on extra quirk. They remind me of a grade-schooler who got caught sneaking a valentine to his sweetheart and froze in his tracks. Sort of a deer-in-headlights, but in cute primate form.


Tunisia’s Assassination and Dangerous Dynamic


After Chokri Beliad was assassinated, Tunisian officials attempted to move swiftly to keep the politics of the still unstable nation from falling apart. Belaid was the head of an alliance of leftist parties, and with his death came the explosion of those already angered by what they see as the remaining lack of certain rights in Tunisia. What started with a Tunisia fruit vendor setting himself on fire in December 2010 eventually became mass riots all across North Africa and the Middle East from populations demanding a change in government. Though there has been much progressive change in nations such as Tunisia, the change is unfortunately still raw and many do not feel that their concerns have been properly met.

As a Foreign Policy article points out, this assassination and revolt is not only a tragedy for Tunisia, but may also prove dangerous for the other nations involved in the Arab Spring. Tunisia “is regarded by many onlookers as the Arab Spring country with the best preconditions for success. If it stumbles, the likelihood of a positive outcome for other democratic aspirants, like Egypt or Libya, starts to look even shakier.” What could be troubling is if the strife that has been accumulating in the past few months creates the second wave of revolutions that many Middle Eastern specialists have been fearing.