It is hard to imagine living in a place so remote that it can only be reached on foot or by horseback, but for the villagers of Thaba Khubelu it is a harsh reality they face daily. Surrounded by mountains, the tiny village in the district of Qacha’s Nek has been isolated from other villages and left without money for the essentials, but not anymore. Lesotho’s Child Grants Programme (CGP) is bringing a cash-in-transit operation to them, by air.
“It is a gift from the sky! Now I can buy clothes for myself and my brothers so we will look like all the other children when we go to school,” said Mamello, 16, who received the cash in phase two of the CGP, launched on 20 October.
Over 250 villagers gather to watch the military helicopter descend to deliver one of their quarterly installments of 360 maloti (US $48) each. While they consider themselves lucky to be helped by the CGP, most of these villagers still live far below the poverty line and suffer from chronic food insecurity. The aim of this program is to reach and benefit the most needy families and children and provide them with a predictable income to help alleviate some of the burdens of poverty and to help invest in the children.
Mr. John Odey, Minister of Environment in Nigeria, brought the health concern of disposing illegally imported goods and drugs seized by security agencies in Abuja to the general attention at a National Workshop on the Development of Technical Guidance Manual for Disposal and Handling of Hazardous Materials and Impounded Goods in Abuja. In his address, Odey spoke about the government’s intentions on putting an end to the disposal of expired drugs, fake drugs, and sub-standard goods in a manner that may cause health and environmental problems. As of now the methods of disposal include open air burning, dumping into seas, illegal dump sites, and burying underground.
The practice of disposing these types of goods improperly causes a serious health risk to citizens and livestock. According to John Odey, “a large portion of the chemicals improperly disposed today in Nigeria are considered volatile organic compounds or toxic, which could also be carcinogenic in nature. Uncontrolled burning of these hazardous materials results in trans-media transfer of harmful chemical compounds, which adversely affect our air, soil and water qualities.”
On the other hand, the burning of these materials is actually supported by many drug and trade related government agencies, stating that they feel that the public destruction of these materials was in effort to “build people’s confidence and discourage the illicit trade.” While I understand that this technique may help to build the morale of citizens, were they to know of the hazards it causes, I feel they might rather not risk their health and that of the environment. However, with these risks now acknowledged and the government’s position on the issue known, the National Workshop will serve as a venue for deliberations regarding such matters in effort to settle on a better means for disposing of these materials.
According to a recent report released by the United Nations, the growth of mobile phone use is more predominant in Africa than anywhere else in the world. In fact, the mobile cellular phone industry in Africa has eluded the worldwide economic crisis with an enormous surge in mobile phone subscriptions between 2003 and 2008. In five years the amount of subscriptions increased by greater than 500%.
Torbjorn Fredriksson, a representative of the U.N. conference on Trade and Development, believes the escalation in cell phone use is significant in both a social and economic sense. More specifically, he stated that “Companies can use the mobile phones to obtain information about market developments, farmers can get information about weather forecasts and increasingly we see new mobile services emerging such as banking transactions and new ways of transmitting remittances between people and that has a very strong impact on the way that people and companies can do business in Africa,”
While the growth trend represents the continent as a whole, the use of mobile phone connectivity from country to country is inconsistent. For example in countries such as Gabon, the Seychelles, and South Africa, mobile phone use is commonplace. Actually, in those countries there are 100 mobile subscriptions for every 100 people. However, in other areas, such as Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia, the industry has only reached 10% penetration of the population.
On the contrary, in the same U.N. report it was revealed that internet use remains inconsistent in both developed and emerging markets the area due to high costs and slow connections.
According to media, condom use in the sub-sharan country of Malawi is still just over 50% of the population. What is astounding is that although 20 million male condoms and 200, 000 female condoms are distributed, accourding to one AfricaNews report only half are actually used.
Luckily, religious leaders have softened their decisions against condom use. This may help because as National AIDS Commission Executive Director, Biziwick Mwale said “condom use seems to be low in long term partnerships and marriages” and if religious leaders find contraceptives more acceptable people in relationships like these may feel more comfortable having protected sex. This may alleviate the severe starvation that faces Africa, and also lower the country’s 12 per cent national prevalence rate for HIV.
Media reports say that condom use is still not used enough to halt the spread of the disease. However, this can be reversed with more education about the disease and condom use. Especially with religious leaders lightning up and allowing more condom use in the country, we may soon see schools allowing more sex education to be taught and more distribution in these settings.
I am proud that condom use and distribution are on the rise. This country, although making tremendous bounds must continue its fights against HIV because it is just a drop in the barrel of global HIV plague. We need more education in more countries, so we may have more acceptance of the use of contraceptives and more use of condoms distributed. Without HIV education we can not move forward. We can not just sit back and tolerate the spread of HIV, especially for religious cause.