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Many aid workers keep online journals called web logs, or "blogs" for short. Blogs tend to be very personal, to present unabashedly biased opinions and to be much less formal than an organization's web site. Blogs are sometimes provocative, and some may make you feel uncomfortable -- you certainly won't agree with everything you read in blogs, including those produced by aid workers.
The AWN blog portal presents a range of aid worker-produced blogs from around the world. However, AWN is not responsible for the content of any of these blogs, and inclusion here on the AWN blog portal in no way endorses their content by AWN. If you disagree with what a blog has presented, by all means, write the blog author ("blogger") directly and let him or her know what you think.
If you would like to submit a blog by an aid, relief or development worker, please complete this form.
Image one day noticing some tingling fingers and toes, and then that you can't pick up firewood that you would normally gather, then a rapidly progressive weakness, then complete paralysis. Patrick is a bright articulate 11 year old who was a normal kid a week ago, and tonight is in the ICU on a ventilator because his breathing muscles are too weak to sustain his life. His symptoms and tests point to a diagnosis of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare illness in which the body's own immune system attacks the nerve sheaths until the muscles have no impulse for movement. A once active boy over a matter of days has become a limp and helpless patient, without enough power to even breathe. But if we can keep him alive, the paralysis should recover, and he should slowly regain strength. Problem is, that might take weeks, or months. And staying alive on a ventilator, avoiding malfunctions and failure, escaping infection and sores and despair, in Kenya, is no small task.
Similar in some ways to my Dad's slowly progressive ALS, this is a disease that leaves the brain perfectly aware and intact as the body slips into a helpless passivity. So Patrick can talk to us, can ask for help, can listen, can cry. Saturday night as he panicked about his failing breath, I called Scott in to help me intubate him and put him on a ventilator. Today I told him with more conviction than I felt that he was going to recover, that this was temporary, that he would be out of the ICU within a month and playing football within a year. His tears of resignation and desperation as he looked at me pretty much made my sleep-deprived heart melt.
Would you pray for Patrick? Pray Is 40:31, which I asked Acacia to write out for him as God's promise. Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. . Pray that his heart would not give up as he faces uncertain weeks of complete dependence. Pray we would be able to keep him alive. His parents face a long course and a huge expense, and would be grateful for your prayers. Pray that Patrick would once again run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.
Best aeroplane movie I've seen in a while, following the adventures of some street kids in Kinshasa who start a rap group.
My favourite scene:Kid 1: What I want is to start a music band so I can escape to Europe. Kid 2: I want to be a policeman so I can steal in peace. Kid 3: Ah, you have to be a politician to steal with ease!
I read this blog by Seth Godin and it really hit where I am:
On owning it If you announce what you want, if you are clear about what's on offer, if you set goals...
Every time you use waffle words, back off from a clear statement of values and priorities and most of all, think about what's likely instead of what's possible, you are selling yourself out. Not just selling yourself out, but doing it too cheaply.
Own your dreams. There is no better way to make them happen.
What dream do you need to own?
New Issues of APRRN News, EJML, Gend. & Dev., HRQ, Humanit. Aid, IJMHSC, Intervention, J. IHLS, Migr. Stud.
APRRN Newsletter (Oct. 2013) [full-text]
- News from the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network.
European Journal of Migration and Law, vol. 15, no. 4 (2013) [contents]
- Mix of articles including one on Frontex.
Gender & Development, vol. 21, no. 3 (2013) [contents]
- Special issue on "Conflict and Violence."
Human Rights Quarterly, vol. 35, no. 4 (Nov. 2013) [contents]
- Mix of articles.
Humanitarian Aid on the Move, no. 12 (Oct. 2013) [full-text]
- Special issue on the environment.
International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, vol. 9, no. 3 (2013) [contents]
- Mix of articles including one on refugees with HIV in Canada and one on the oral health of Tibetan refugees in India.
Intervention, vol. 11, no. 3 (Nov. 2013) [contents]
- Special issue on "Long Term Perspectives on Mental Health and Psychosocial Programming in (Post) Conflict Settings." Includes a special section on Syria. The full-texts of several articles can be freely accessed, including the Introduction.
Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies, vol. 3, no. 2 (2013) [contents]
- Mix of articles.
Migration Studies, vol. 1, no. 3 (Nov. 2013) [free full-text]
- Mix of articles.
A quick note to say that Refworld has just posted the following documents:
I've updated this earlier post accordingly.
With the increased availability of forced migration information online comes an array of challenges. I wanted to touch on just three. The first is the impermanence of the web. Resources get moved, they aren't updated, or they may disappear altogether. I'm sure if I tested all the links in my blog, over half would no longer be valid! This is otherwise known as link rot. Apparently, I am in good company: The NYT reported recently on a study of hyperlinks in U.S. Supreme Court decisions that concluded 49% of them don't work anymore!
In a separate post, I'd like to highlight some of the available strategies for addressing link rot. For now, I'll simply say to any readers who have discovered invalid links on this blog, I hope there is sufficient bibliographic detail provided to enable you to track down the item elsewhere. Another option is to copy the URL (which you can do by right-clicking on it), then paste it in at archive.org to see if a version was captured by the Internet Archive. (Apparently, this strategy would not work if I had used link shorteners, as is commonly done on Twitter - yet another can of worms!)
What about resources that are discontinued? I can't begin to enumerate all the resources that have come and gone over the years, but let's take a look at one: the World Refugee Survey, which ceased publication in 2009 after a very long run. Today, the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) site only provides access to the last three issues, so what options do we have for getting a hold of older texts? Happily, there are several. One is through the Internet Archive, which I mentioned above. Through the archive, I can access complete Surveys dating back to at least 2002 (prior to that, information from the latest Survey was just used to update portions of the USCRI web site). Country of origin information databases like ecoi.net and Refworld are also helpful in this regard; while they don't provide access to the complete texts, they do allow you to retrieve older country profiles which represented the core part of the Surveys. And, of course, a third way is through libraries, particularly for the earliest issues. Use Worldcat.org to locate the nearest library that carries them.
Unfortunately, this particular scenario is not something we can expect for all information that disappears, so access over the long-term is going to remain an ongoing challenge.
Tagged Publications and Web Sites/Tools.
Map credit: WikipediaI have been referencing quite a few reports from the CARIM-East project, which is the "first migration observatory focused on the Eastern Neighbourhood of the European Union." Countries covered include those in the Eastern Partnership initiative (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, Ukraine), and the Russian Federation.
Here is the latest batch of reports:
Access of Refugees and Asylum Seekers to Socio-economic Rights in the Republic of Belarus, CARIM-East Explanatory Note 13/137 (Migration Policy Centre, Oct. 2013) [text]
Access of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and IDPs to Socio-economic Rights in the Republic of Moldova, CARIM-East Explanatory Note 13/145 (Migration Policy Centre, Nov. 2013) [text]
Asylum Seekers, Refugees, and IDPs in Azerbaijan: Issues and Perspectives, CARIM-East Explanatory Note 13/125 (Migration Policy Centre, Sept. 2013) [text]
Refugees, Displaced Persons and Asylum Seekers in Armenia, CARIM-East Explanatory Note 13/139 (Migration Policy Centre, Oct. 2013) [text]
Socio-economic Rights of Migrants, Refugees and Persons Who Were Granted Supplementary or Temporary Protection in Ukraine, CARIM-East Explanatory Note 13/135 (Migration Policy Centre, Oct. 2013) [text]
If you missed any of the papers I posted earlier, here is a complete list of titles that fall under the rubric "Asylum Seekers, Refugees and IDPs: Recognition, Social Protection and Integration."
The project web site has a number of other relevant resources that should be of interest, including:
The database also includes relevant national asylum policy and legislation.
Tagged Publications and Web Sites/Tools.
Humanitarian SnapshotFor sitreps and regularly updated information about the status of humanitarian assistance in the typhoon-affected provinces of the Philippines, visit Humanitarian Response: Philippines and ReliefWeb's Typhoon Haiyan pages. In addition, Thomson Reuters Foundation has a live blog about the unfolding situation, and Google has launched some new resources including a person finder and maps.
For recommendations on how best to respond to this disaster, see:
Tagged Publications and Web Sites/Tools.
Following on from yesterday's post: In addition to grey literature, I also track scholarly research, which is usually reported in the form of academic journal articles. While these materials are generally available online in full-text, they are not free, and therefore require someone (either you or an academic library!) to pay some kind of fee to access them. This situation is changing, though, as a result of the Open Access (OA) movement. I've already written a lot about OA on this blog, so if you aren't familiar with the topic, please take a look. You can also read Peter Suber's book on Open Access, which was published by MIT Press in July 2012 and conveniently became OA itself just recently!
Although I can't quantify the trend, I think it's fair to say that forced migration authors are increasingly making their academic journal articles Open Access in two ways:
1) By publishing in OA journals (referred to as the "Gold" route to OA). Just this year, Forced Migration Review (FMR), which has always been freely available, took further steps to underline its OA character by adopting a CC license and indexing its articles in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ); Refuge: Canada's Journal on Refugees, originally a traditional print publication, transitioned to being an entirely open access electronic journal; and Refugee Review was launched by the New Scholars Network as a fully OA, peer-reviewed journal. Many forced migration authors are also writing for OA journals in other fields, such as health, law, and migration (see, e.g., the health-related titles published by BioMed Central).
2) By publishing in traditional journals of their choice and depositing eprints of their manuscripts in an OA repository (referred to as "Green" route to OA), either Institutional Repositories (where you can also find many of the ETDs I mentioned in yesterday's post) or subject repositories like the Social Science Research Network (SSRN). In 2013 alone, I referenced 25 eprints of articles that were published in a variety of law reviews and other social science journals, and six eprints of chapters from recently published or forthcoming books.
In the interest of examining the OA habits of forced migration researchers more closely, I plan on updating a case study I did in 2010 on the self-archiving rates of Journal of Refugee Studies authors.
Tagged Publications and Periodicals.
Image credit: DFID on FlickrThe UK Department for International Development (DFID) hosted a high-level meeting in London today that brought together "donors, the UN and international NGOs to make commitments to ensure action is taken to stop violence and the threat of violence to girls and women during a crisis, and meet the needs of survivors of violence."
Learn more about speakers and key comments through DFID's Storify and by following #keephersafe.
Other related items include:
Forthcoming related resource:
Good Practice in Preventing and Responding to Gender-based Violence in Humanitarian Contexts [info]
- ODI project that aims to produce a literature review and HPN Network paper.
Recent systematic reviews focusing on sexual violence in humanitarian settings:
"Sexual and Gender-based Violence in Areas of Armed Conflict: A Systematic Review of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Interventions," Conflict and Health 7:16 (Aug. 2013) [open access text]
- See also related Letter published in World Psychiatry.
"Systematic Review of Prevention and Management Strategies for the Consequences of Gender-based Violence in Refugee Settings," International Health, vol. 5, no. 2 (June 2013) [abstract]
"What Evidence Exists for Initiatives to Reduce Risk and Incidence of Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict and Other Humanitarian Crises? A Systematic Review," PLoS ONE 8(5): e62600 (May 2013) [open access text]
Tagged Publications and Events & Opportunities.
Free Legal Training on New Immigration Rules on Statelessness, London, 5 December 2013 [info]
- Register by 21 November 2013.
Job: Research Officer, "Stateless Diasporas in the EU," Oxford Diasporas Programme [info]
- Apply by 22 November 2013.
Call for Presenters: First Global Forum on Statelessness, The Hague, 15-17 September 2014 [info]
- Deadline for proposals is 1 December 2013.
Al-Jedda, "Statelessness" and the Meaning of Words (Free Movement, Oct. 2013) [text]
- Discusses UK Supreme Court judgment in Secretary of State for the Home Department v Al-Jedda; see also the Equal Rights Trust's summary of the case. The Guardian reports that the UK Home Secretary is now working on a way to "strip British terror suspects of their citizenship and take away their UK passports even if it leaves them stateless."
A Boat without Anchors: A Report on the Legal Status of Ethnic Vietnamese Minority Populations in Cambodia under Domestic and International Law Governing Nationality and Statelessness (JRS Cambodia, Jan. 2013) [text]
- See also related Statelessness Programme blog post.
EU Citizenship for Stateless People? (ENS Blog, Nov. 2013) [text]
Image credit: Nowhere People on FBHolocaust Museum Bears Witness to Plight of Burma's Rohingya (Open Society Foundations, Nov. 2013) [text]
- See also Washington Post news story.
Out of Limbo: Promoting the Right of Stateless Roma People to a Legal Status in Italy (ENS Blog, Nov. 2013) [text]
A Ray of Hope for Stateless Sahrawis in Spain? (ENS Blog, Oct. 2013) [text]
Tagged Publications and Events & Opportunities.
There is an article in the Washington Post about humanitarian relief in the Philippines by Vij Ramachandran and me. (For those who quaintly enjoy their news etched on to dead trees, this will appear in the paper on Sunday, apparently.) We argue that the aid effort could be significantly improved by the use of technology and transparency. The full text of the article is below.
Vijaya Ramachandran is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. Owen Barder is a senior fellow and the director of the Center for Global Development in Europe. This essay is adapted from a post they wrote on the center’s blog.
The immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, such as the typhoon that devastated part of the Philippines on Nov. 8, can bring out the best in the global community. Already we are seeing the world’s governments and citizens responding generously to appeals for aid, reaffirming our shared humanity.
The challenge is to ensure that this generosity reaches the people who desperately need it. Relief and reconstruction efforts in the Philippines have much to learn from previous mega-disasters, including, most recently, the massive earthquake in Haiti in 2010. We should help the Philippines — just not like we helped Haiti. We can, and must, help better.
Lack of generosity is typically not the problem. Since Haiti’s quake, almost $6 billion in official aid has been disbursed in a country with a population of just under 10 million. Large nongovernmental organizations and private contractors, mostly in the United States or Europe, have been the initial recipients of most of these funds. But there are few publicly available records of what they have done with the money, and almost four years after the quake there is little to show on the ground: Even the Haitian capital still lacks decent roads, running water and reliable electricity, and an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 Haitians still live in tents.
Pierre Erold Etienne, director general of the Haitian Finance Ministry, put it clearly: “We are required to be transparent. We publish the financial information relevant to the execution of our budget. All we ask is for the same transparency from our donor friends, which should help both us and them.”Problems arising from a lack of donor transparency are not unique to Haiti. About five years earlier, after a tsunami devastated coastal communities from Indonesia to India, well-meaning but disjointed aid efforts led to bottlenecks, gaps and duplication. The Red Cross reported that there were too many doctors but not enough midwives in Indonesia’s Banda Aceh province. Children became ill with the symptoms of measles after being vaccinated three times by three organizations, because the NGOs did not share records of which immunizations children had received. In India’s Tamil Nadu state, victims complained that they had all the cooking pots they could ever want, but needed shelter.The international community can and must do better in the Philippines, and there is reason to be hopeful. The first crowdsourced map of the path of Typhoon Haiyan, compiled by volunteers around the world using publicly available data, was online less than 72 hours after the storm. In the days ahead, this open-source map can be used to track where people need help and what kind of help they need. But unless things change, some key data will be missing: official information from governments and private charities about their planned and actual responses.
Coordinating response plans can be very time-consuming, so it is understandable that it often takes second place to the urgency of getting help to people who need it. Transparency, on the other hand, does not require centralized coordination and would enable everyone to make smarter decisions, informed by the knowledge of what others are doing. Yet organizations that find the time to issue news releases and organize photo-ops do not seem to be able to spare the resources to post information about what exactly they are doing and where.
This could change fast, using platforms already in place. The Financial Tracking Service (FTS) of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is specifically designed for this role. The European Union has a compatible system, the European Disaster Response Information System, through which donors can exchange information with the FTS and one another. Both systems will soon be able to share data with the global standard for aid transparency — the International Aid Transparency Initiative. For humanitarian aid, the U.N. and E.U. systems are fully operational; the challenge is persuading leaders of relief and aid agencies to commit to using them.The response to Typhoon Haiyan can and should be the first major relief effort in which all humanitarian organizations and aid agencies publish the details of their planned and actual spending and activities online, in real time, using a common format. This simple step would enable donors and the Philippine government to identify where activities overlap and where gaps remain, and would allow everyone who contributes to see where the money is going.
The United States, which has announced $20 million in typhoon relief, with more likely to follow, should be a leader in this effort. The U.S. Agency for International Development is already required to report publicly on the activities of its primary contractors. But the actual work is usually done by subcontractors, and USAID does not collect or publish information about what they do.
This is not hard to fix: USAID Administrator Raj Shah should announce that, starting with the Philippine relief and reconstruction effort, the agency will require all primary contractors to publicly disclose project-level data on their subcontractors’ activities in a timely fashion. This would not only help avoid overlaps and gaps in aid in the short term but would also make it possible to learn lessons about what worked — so we can do better in future disasters. American taxpayers should settle for nothing less.Of course, national and global aid agencies are not the only purveyors of assistance; the far-flung Philippine diaspora will undoubtedly help the victims of Haiyan. Research by Dean Yang at the University of Michigan has shown that in previous disasters in the Philippines, increased remittances from Filipinos working abroad helped to make up for as much as 60 percent of economic losses. This is very good insurance; other developing countries thinking about disaster preparedness may want to consider following the Philippines’ example and actively support citizens’ efforts to temporarily work abroad.One area where the Philippines has done less well is in the provision of secure identification, such as biometric IDs that are viable even if physical identification cards and supporting paperwork have been destroyed. Biometric ID, which uses new low-cost technology for iris scans, fingerprints and other unique traits, makes it possible to provide large numbers of poor people with proof of their identity. Research by our colleague Alan Gelb has shown that effective identification empowers the poor. It is crucial for the fair distribution of relief assistance, for government cash transfers and for the secure delivery of remittances.
A good example of ID success comes from an unexpected place: Pakistan. In July 2010, floods covered a fifth of the country and millions of families lost their homes, with housing damage alone estimated at $1.5 billion. Many people sought refuge in temporary camps and urgently needed assistance to rebuild their homes and farms. Pakistan was able to take advantage of a national biometric-identification database to identify displaced people and provide them with cards that could be used at banks and other points of service to receive cash payments to help them rebuild.The first phase provided about $250 to each head of a flood-affected household, and a second phase brought the total to $1,250. The later phase is still being evaluated, but assessments of the first phase show that the payment mechanism succeeded; money reached the intended beneficiaries rather than being diverted. Recipients were easily able to withdraw their benefits, and most incurred only small travel costs to reach a location where they could get their cash.
Despite some difficulties with the process — for example, not all people had kept their information up to date in the national database — most wished to receive further transfers through the cards, and some also wanted to turn their relief card accounts into permanent bank accounts. About 85 percent of the initial grant was used for food, medicine, health care, clothing, shoes, reconstruction, tools and other investment goods. Beyond the flood response, Pakistan’s ID is now being used more widely to underpin the provision of social grants, such as programs for poor women.
The survivors of Haiyan have a lot to worry about in the days and months ahead, and the world is ready and willing to help. To make that aid effective, and to ensure that it reaches the people who need it, donors, starting with the United States, should commit to full and rapid transparency. Donors should also offer to support the Philippines in rolling out biometric ID, should the country want it. While it’s much better to put identification systems in place ahead of a disaster, India, which has implemented a massive program that has already identified half a billion people, has shown how quickly the technology can be rolled out.We must think ahead. Haiyan will not be the last typhoon to strike; nor is the Philippines the only vulnerable country. The international community must embrace the technology available to strengthen disaster preparedness, resilience and aid.Original article in the Washington Post.
Books – I have a review copy of Ben Ramalingan’s new book, Aid on the Edge of Chaos. I am very, very excited to read it. Earlier this summer, I read Reinventing Philanthropy: A Framework for More Effective Giving and was really impressed. It’s a drab looking book, but it’s a highly readable summary of a lot of good ideas on how to be a better donor. It won’t be new information for aid experts, but it would be an excellent resource for someone new to global philanthropy.
Global Health – My mother was diagnosed with MRSA, and is now struggling through her course of clindamycin. It’s like a tiny at-home lesson on the side-effects that people with TB face. If my science-educated mother has to steel herself to face all the miseries that go with it for the 40 doses she’s been prescribed, small wonder people with TB tend to abandon their drugs once their symptoms go away. Clindamycin’s not a TB drug, by the way, but its side effects area similar to those of some TB antibiotics. (My helpful commentary that clindamycin has survived as a useful drug because of the unpleasant side-effects and she should be grateful she’s not facing amputation leaves Mom unimpressed.)
Disaster Relief – The Center for High-Impact Philanthropy has a good set of basics up on how to give in response to Typhoon Haiyan. If you want my take on it, Nobody Wants Your Old Shoes still applies. The short version: give money (as much as you can), give it to the organization’s unrestricted fund instead of earmarked for the typhoon, don’t adopt an orphan, and don’t fly over to help. USAID has a useful page on the typhoon, too.
Me – Speaking of USAID, I work for them now. Those of you who’ve connected on LinkedIn already know, but I’ve taken a job as a USPSC health officer for Kyrgyzstan. I am really excited – USAID has been my donor agency for a lot of my career, and I think it’s going to be fascinating to work directly for them. That being said, here’s the important disclaimer:
NOTHING I SAY ON THIS BLOG REPRESENTS THE VIEWS OF USAID OR THE US GOVERNMENT. Everything written here is purely my personal opinion. The contents of this blog are the responsibility of me, Alanna Shaikh, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of USAID or the U.S. Government.
Photo credit: NASA Goddard
Teju Cole has an article on “The Oases of Lagos,” thoroughly covering all of my Lagos hang-out spots. Here’s an excerpt on Bogobiri, a boutique hotel where I can now feel cliche for spending so much time:
In the afternoons, quiet little groups of the culture set sit with their computers and coffees, taking advantage of the free WiFi and enjoying the tranquil, alternative Lagos, an echo of the hipster hangouts of Islington, in London, and Brooklyn. If the hotel bars at the Radisson Blu and the Eko Hotel are the places to find wealthy and eager-to-be-wealthy businessmen, then Bogobiri is where one is most likely to encounter graduate students in anthropology, independent filmmakers or owners of fashion houses.
H/t to Katie.
This is Daniel, looking feisty on his final day with us. When he was admitted 58 days ago, he was hours from death. His mom had defaulted on her own care and seemed completely unable to deal with his AIDS. I agreed to pay his hospitalization costs from our Needy Children Fund, never guessing how long he would stay or how expensive it would be. He was so malnourished and had so many infections. As we started to pull him out of the TB dwindles, he had a reaction to anti-retrovirals that meant we had to stop them. After nearly two months he is finally off oxygen and gaining weight. But the real story is his mom. Daniel saved his mom's life. Because over these two months she slowly came to accept her diagnosis. To allow herself to be helped. To resume her own treatment. In the last two weeks I hardly ever found her without her Bible open on her lap. She found life. I don't know how long Daniel will survive, but I do know his hospitalization was worth every shilling. Two lives were impacted, and I'm grateful for that.
Jonah continues to improve, very slowly. His spine is now stable, and he can be wheeled out into the sunshine. His mother came all the way from Samburu to this place where she knows no one and barely speaks the language of Swahili. She is brave. I am afraid Jonah is blind since his near-death in one of his operations. But he definitely hears, and stops his restless moaning when I talk to him. Jesus made the lame walk and the blind see. Jonah needs that kind of miracle. Kijabe and the Needy Funds have kept him alive and shown him love, putting him in the place where he can wait for the angel to stir the water, for the healer to pass by.
We've had a photography team at the hospital documenting stories like Daniel, Jonah, and this cute 4 year old who was brought to our outpatient Maternal and Child Health clinic Thursday. He is severely chronically malnourished, with very stunted growth due to his mother's inability to feed him enough every day. But here he is having the time of his life seeing his face in the camera. A kind pastor in his town brought him in for care.
Lastly, another vulnerable child, this one a refugee from the largest refugee camp in the world located in Dadaab, Kenya. The NGO's that work there send kids like this to Kijabe for diagnosis and treatment. I believe she has a genetic dwarfism syndome, something that is not easy for a family with seven other children to deal with in a refugee camp located in barbed wire fences in the desert.
So many children who live with too little care, space, food, medicine, opportunity. So many who dwindle without resources or care for too long, and come to us too late. But these four were helped, by our Needy Children's Fund, the Orthopedic Vulnerable Patient Fund, a local Kenyan church, and the UNHCR and other NGO's.
Thank you to all who have donated in the last month. The income and expenditure when I checked on Thursday were almost exactly matched. God knew our needs. I just keep spending the donations on these kids as fast as they come in, knowing the more we help, the more will be provided. THANKS.
Our Paeds department had quite a week. We are supposed to have 3 full time doctors, which includes one husband/wife pair who split the job 60/40. One of the three dropped out with preterm labor and between that and her upcoming maternity leave will probably miss 6-7 months. We are all terrified that work will push her to deliver early, and committed to going the extra mile to cover with just two instead of three. So every day has a bit less margin, a bit more push. December looks even more stressful because of the way leaves were planned, but I had hoped for a pretty stable November. Then on Monday my remaining colleague was feeling sick, so he went home early with abdominal pain. I wondered with his wife about appendicitis, but he didn't think he was really that sick. By Tuesday morning his appendix had ruptured and he was in emergency surgery. Thankfully we have good surgeons and immediate attention and he will be fine, eventually. But he's out for the indefinite future and so is his wife (mostly) to care for him, though she was able to work for the afternoon on Friday she will miss about a ten day stretch as well. I was running around the hospital on Tuesday while they were in the theatre, just thinking about making it through the day post-call and Scott's Birthday with a small party planned for the evening, while trying to take care of all the patients on the general floor, the ICU, the NICU, delivery rooms, casualty, outpatient, private . . it gets a little crazy.
We watched part of the "Home Alone" movie at our last class night, and Julia surmised that evening that we should call Paeds "Work Alone".
But over the course of the day, I realized how NOT alone I really am. As soon as I heard about my colleague going into surgery I texted the three clinical officers whom I had given an admin day "off" and they got out of their car and came right back to work. My RVA nurses rearranged that clinic. My friend and colleague in Nairobi who usually comes out to work and take call about 3 days a month called to say she was clearing her schedule and would come from Weds to Friday morning. A family medicine doc in casualty will help for three days next week, while his casualty work is done by another family medicine doc. Ironically I had finagled a way to get Scott off for 24 hours so we could spend an overnight together at a nearby resort for his Birthday (a few days late) on Thursday night. I wasn't sure until the last minute we could pull it off, but we did. I ended up back in for an ICU admit almost as soon as I got home, but it was a good evening/morning respite, it really felt like a true rest.
I confess I am tired. The sadness of some cases pulls my heart down, the endless press of work drains me, the feeling that there is no one to share the burden feels too hard.
But the truth is, my hope is not in my colleagues, in fairness or work, or in control of my schedule.
My hope is that I'm here serving a God who knew about the preterm labor, the appendix, leave schedules, and everything in between. A God who allows Sabbath, a 1 in 7 rhythm of true rest that is more and more necessary, and does not require apology, the harder the other six days get. It's November 15, and I've only had one full calendar day out of the hospital this month. I'm hoping for a couple more towards the end, asking God to provide.
In the moment when illness strikes, when admissions roll in, when patients crash, when someone says they can't help with something, when unforeseen circumstances press down, I find out my heart-size. A large heart absorbs the stressful circumstances and answers with grace. A large heart listens to each new plans-fallen-through and does not despair. A large heart is not self-protective, and always has room to pour love onto sadness.
My heart is not large enough for this task. But this verse jumped out today from Psalm 119: 32 "I will run in the way of your commandments, when you enlarge my heart." This is the same phrase used of Solomon, whose wisdom had to be accompanied by this character of large heartedness for his decisions to bless many. Immersion in God's word, running in the way of His commandments leads to a largeness of life that is the way I want to live. No counting the bitter hours of who does what, but a generous spirit of service with joy.
So that's my prayer this month, a prayer that the paucity of hands-on-deck will be compensated by a largeness of heart that lets me approach changes in plans with courage and peace. That lets me react with grace to each new stress and push. Please pray that for me.
I went on Newsnight to explain why humanitarian aid is important but can be improved. Terrifying.
A letter in today’s Financial Times by Caroline Fiennes, David Hall Matthews, Fran Perrin, Vij Ramachandran and me argues that relief efforts could be more effective if humanitarian aid agencies published details of what they are doing.
November 11, 2013 9:48 pmCo-ordinate aid using existing systems From Mr Owen Barder and others.
Sir, International relief is urgently needed in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan, and we hope that it will be provided generously and quickly. We also hope that it will be provided effectively: sadly, experience of previous humanitarian disasters is that aid is often badly targeted, such that some efforts are duplicated while other priorities are neglected. For example, after the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, at least one child reportedly suffered the symptoms of measles because she had been vaccinated three times by three different organisations.
Co-ordination among government aid agencies and non-governmental organisations is possible but doesn’t happen by magic nor by committee. If all agencies publish details of their planned and actual activities in real time, in an open, machine-readable format, these collisions can be avoided, and transparency gives donors confidence that their money is used where it is most needed. There are existing frameworks for sharing this information, including the International Aid Transparency Initiative, the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ financial tracking system and the European disaster response information system. We ask and hope that all humanitarian relief organisations use them.
Owen Barder, Center for Global Development; Co-creator, IATI
More than a year has passed since the following event happened. I’ve held off on writing about it for fear the person discussed would see the post, but I think that risk is now small and I think there are lessons (that I discuss at the end) that others can learn from this. Though this experience was extremely scary, I do have a bit of fondness for the story because the culprit is a European, not a Nigerian.
Before I started my Lagos fieldwork a friend did me the favor of sending out a mass email to his friends to see if anyone was willing to rent a room to me for a few months. A European man responded, saying that he lived by himself in a large house in a high-end housing estate, and would be happy to let me stay in one of the bedrooms for free. I was thrilled. Lagos is expensive. This offer was to save me thousands of dollars.
The house was nice and my room was perfect. The European man had an interesting background working in Africa for the past two decades. He had almost been killed in Cote d’Ivoire and Cameroon. He had been shot at in Maiduguri, imprisoned in another West African country. He had crazy stories that he shared with me in the evening. After two or three days at the house, though, I realized this man was a little odd. He spoke English fluently, but his comprehension was not good. He was insecure about this, and so rarely let me speak. He was not talkative in a quirky way, he was talkative in a super weird way. He would, no exaggeration, talk at me for an hour or more, where the only noise I would make was “mmm hmmmm.” I didn’t understand this man, having never met anyone like this before.
Prior to my arrival in Lagos, Boko Haram had sent this man videos that threatened him by name. As a result, the Nigerian government provided him with a personal police officer/body guard/driver. The European man rarely left his compound, but when he did his full-time police officer would drive him in a police truck. I rode with them twice, and it was so uncomfortable. The European man treated the police officer like a child. He patted him on the head, an extremely offensive action in Nigeria. He yelled at him whenever a commercial came on the radio, as the police office was supposed to be in charge of changing the channel whenever the music stopped. The European man yelled, or rather screamed, at his other staff not infrequently. When I first arrived at the house the security guard picked up my suitcase and carried it literally one step inside the house. The European man screamed at him at the top of his lungs, saying that he had not asked permission to enter the house. It was insane. This screaming happened frequently for all manner of reasons. The man was clearly living in a state of fear, but if he was going to get hurt it would be at the hands of his staff, not Boko Haram.
I had already started to consider moving out, but had no place to go. About five days into my stay I was taking a taxi to a meeting when I realized I had left my wallet in the house. The European man had asked that I keep him updated on my comings and goings so he would know if and when he should be worried. I didn’t mind doing this, and actually found it a little comforting that someone was keeping an eye out for me. I texted him something like “Just FYI, I left my wallet at the house. I’m coming back now to get it.” When I arrived at the house the European man had left his neighboring office and was waiting for me outside the house. He started screaming at me, telling me that I had to stop bothering him. I think he had not understood my text, thinking that I had asked him to come to the house to help me get my wallet, or something like that. Maybe he didn’t know what “FYI” meant. He was just screaming and screaming at me and not letting me say a word. “I HAVE A JOB. I AM BUSY. YOU HAVE TO STOP BOTHERING ME.” After a minute or two of this he stomped inside and crouched in front of his safe and started fiddling around with the lock. I had no idea what was happening, but in my frightened mental state imagined he was getting a gun.
I ran upstairs, got my wallet, and left. I was shaking. I asked the taxi driver to drive outside the estate and just wait. I sat in the car with him for 30 minutes, and then asked him to take me back to the house and wait. I had to get my stuff and leave. It had been raining, and the house was dark. The generator was not on. Whenever the European man was home he turned the generator on, so I assumed he wasn’t home. The guards let me in. I didn’t tell them what I was doing. I went into the dark house and called out the name of the European man, just to make sure he wasn’t there. No one responded. I ran up to my room, feeling my heart racing. I turned on my cell phone flashlight and threw my belongings in my suitcase, packing in probably 6 minutes. I ran downstairs. The police officer and security guard had seen the man yell at me, and saw me with my luggage. They realized I was moving out. “You can’t move out,” they told me, “Mr. _____ will be so upset.” They were trying to be nice, and what I was doing–moving out without saying goodbye–was probably a locally offensive thing to do. I told them I didn’t want to bother the man anymore, but they were gently insistent that I stay. “You should at least go say goodbye to him,” they said. I said he wasn’t home, but they said that he was. He had been inside the house while I was packing, and just sat in some dark room quietly. This fact freaked me out beyond words.
The door to get out of the compound was locked. I demanded they let me out, but they didn’t move. They watched as I walked inside the security house, took the keys off a table, and unlocked the gate. No one stopped me. I ran out to the taxi and, shaking, had the driver take me to a hotel. I didn’t leave the hotel for two days.
Complicating matters, the European man had asked that I bring him over some iPads and iPhones. I had given them to him, but he had not yet paid me. I was owed thousands of dollars, and was spending $2000 to stay at a hotel for two weeks. I sent the man a nice email apologizing for moving out in a hurry, and asked for the money. I received no response for 7 or 8 days. I then sent a slightly more aggressive email and his (very nice) assistant appeared at my hotel after a week with a money-changing man. They came up to my room, and the money-changing man literally emptied out a backpack of Naira on my bed. Thousands of US dollars is a lot of Naira, as the largest bill is $6. I felt like I was in a movie.
Thank God I have never seen this man since I left the house.
I think there are some lessons from this experience. One lesson I have taken away is to get out of a situation when you have the first hunch it’s bad. Another: there are some really weird expats in Africa and you shouldn’t think everything will be ok just because a person comes from a culturally similar background. Also: I was so lucky that I was able to afford to stay in a hotel for two weeks. I can’t even imagine how horrible it would have been had I been financially unable to get out of the situation.
Event and opportunity:
The Private Sector and the Global Refugee Regime, Oxford, 19 November 2013 [info]
- Work-in-progress seminar.
CFP: Humanitarian Innovation Conference, Oxford, 19-20 July 2014 [info]
- Deadline for proposed submissions is 31 January 2014.
"Making Space" in the Humanitarian World (HIP Blog, Oct. 2013) [text]
The Two Worlds of Humanitarian Innovation, Working Paper, no. 94 (RSC, Aug. 2013) [text]
UNHCR Ideas: "An online-management platform enabling UNHCR staff members and partners to share ideas and find innovative solutions to challenges in refugee protection and assistance." The first challenge was launched on 12 Aug. 2013 and asked "How can access to information and services provided by UNHCR and partners be improved for refugees and people of concern residing in urban areas?". The recently announced winner is Justin Senn with UNHCR Nairobi, who proposed an online information portal for refugees. Future participants are invited to sign up for the next challenge, to be presented in the fall.
For more information about this initiative, read:
- UNHCR Ideas: An Introduction (UNHCR Innovation) [text]
- UNHCR Crowd-sources Refugee Solutions (IRIN, Sept. 2013) [text]
To follow the challenge process, view:
- UNHCR Ideas: The 3 Most Popular Ideas (23 Aug. 2013) [access]
- UNHCR Ideas: "Hot" Users (5 Sept. 2013) [access]
- UNHCR Ideas: Expert Review (24 Sept. 2013) [access]
For updates, follow UNHCR Innovation's Facebook page
Forced Migration Innovation Project (SMU Anthropology Department) [access]
- "Researching the role of innovation, career-laddering, and the private sector in securing sustainable refugee livelihoods."
Tagged Events & Opportunities, Publications and Web Sites/Tools.