The Spark of Hope for Afghan Women May Come to an End

[Extra Credit Post]

After the horrid 9/11 attacks made by the Taliban, Afghanistan was given public attention to worldwide. America sent its troops to create order and diminish the rates of crime. The inequality faced by women was taken given particular attention to. Women living under the Taliban control were denied education, banned from medical treatment by male doctors, and publicly executed for ‘immorality’. With the fall of Taliban power, the rigid system of rules ceased and Afghani women and girls were provided with several well-deserved basic freedoms and rights. While such changes were promised and given, some issues persisted. Due to gender inequality, women continued to endure domestic violence and imprisoned for “moral crimes”.

As international military forces plan to depart the region, women in Afghanistan fear that they will be abandoned again and denied all the positive changes that have been made throughout the past decade. Although a law has been passed stating that violence against women is a crime, Afghan women are more vulnerable now more than ever. The international community has given so much effort and money to help reach out the individuals whom are seen as “secondary to men” by their community, and therefore the support for women’s right must continue. It is too risky to allow things to go back to the way they were before the international intrusion.


Since when do men have a say in Birth Control?

The Feldman-Savelsberg article highlights the politics of the womb and control over reproductive rights of women in Cameroon. The government was seeking to provide neonatal tetanus shots to school girls, however they all tried to run away thinking that they would sterilize their abilities to have children. Throughout the medical history of Cameroon, there have been various incidents where there is a constant fear of being sterilized by the government; however they have not been proven.  Additionally political turmoil has led for the people to be in constant fear and anxiety which leads to more of a reason to not accept the medication of the problematic government.  It is also interesting to note that the effects of such a rumor has not allowed the people in Cameroon to take advantage of health vaccines necessary such as the tetanus which would help prevent neonatal deaths. Additionally, mothers are having their children at an earlier age, for fear of being sterilized, this limiting their access to education.

It is interesting that the conversation regarding the trauma of the control of reproductive health entails on a woman, especially with the constant clashing on the ideas of Birth Control in the United States. Presidential candidates and media players like Rush Limbaugh are continuously criticizing the act of taking Birth Control. This fight has caused many low-income women and teenagers throughout the US losing access to birth control because it is no longer affordable. Birth control for these women is necessary in considering their backgrounds and the likelihood of getting pregnant. Men in the political world are trying to control women’s abilities to have control over their own reproductive health, with one man state that “it is [birth control] not okay, it’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”  Why should lawmakers have control over our decisions and sexual lives? Why is this a problem when our world is overpopulating and women and men are now out in the workforce together. In a sense we are living in a Cameroon like state, there is a constant fear that our rights as women in control of our own bodies will eventually diminish from our control.


Food, Violence, and Health

As Kalofonos’s article points out, there is a wide range of interventions that are necessary in the treatment of HIV/AIDS in Central Mozambique. This concept can be extended to most diseases throughout the world. Treatment in the form of drug therapy is not enough; people need adequate access to food, clean water, sanitary conditions, among other treatment components in order to combat their illness most effectively. As this article points out, in the case of HIV/AIDS, the side-effect of hunger presents a problem due to the food shortage and widespread poverty in Mozambique. While people with HIV/AIDS may have access to ARVs to combat their disease, if they lack access to proper nutrition, their treatment will likely not be as effective.

As Paul Farmer has pointed out in the case of treatment for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in Haiti, it has been shown that drug therapy is more effective when combined with other lifestyle treatments such as a food allowance and periodic health visits to ensure proper medication. As this U.S. News article explains, in Farmer’s comprehensive plan, “patients receive not only lifesaving medicines and surgical care but also food, clean water, housing, education, and other social services, all delivered by locals trained in nursing skills and paid as community health workers.”

Much in the spirit of Farmer’s view of our interconnected world, violence and food also intersect in a global health context. For example, violence in Nigeria has led to an increase in the desperation of the food situation there. As the frequency of attacks by militant groups increase, the people in Nigeria living in poverty who already struggle with access to food are brought to an even more desperate situation. As the food crisis becomes even more severe, the health status of Nigerians will decline as well. In order to improve the food situation in Nigeria, the widespread violence needs to be quelled in order to prevent the ongoing “cycle of crises”, as this article highlights.


“Cacophony of Voices”

Feldman-Savelsberg, Ndonko, and Schmidt-Ehry demonstrate that the imposition of Western ideology can often backfire, even when intentions are noble. What started out as an attempt to help vaccinate an “unprotected” population in Cameroon, resulted in various rumors, suspicion, and ultimately a vast number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions. One concept I found particularly interesting was Geertzian’s “cacophony of voices,” defined as “the miscommunications emerging from a clash of perspectives and interests” (Feldman-Savelsberg). Public health officials believed they were introducing a necessary technology and hoped to attain their goal of 80% vaccination by the end of 1980, but the local population was very suspicious. Why were Westerners offering free vaccines when the local clinic recently implemented fees for their services? Why were only women forced to get the vaccine with very little background information? These were only a few of the various suspicions they possessed.

The girls and women also faced various traumas after being mandatorily vaccinated. They attributed their experience as one of submission to authority, leading to extreme fears of sterility. These two quotations describe how traumatic the experience was for a couple teenage girls:

“I heard the news from students that the vaccine was to stop delivery. My heart was bubbling and I was afraid.” (Eusekia, 21 years, Kumbo)

“I was very annoyed. I could not eat for a day because I was afraid. I was thinking that maybe in future I won’t be able to deliver.” (Eurika, 22 years, Bali)

This article talks about a similar incident in Nigeria, where the local population was also convinced polio vaccinations were part of a Western conspiracy to sterilize Nigerian girls. It is interesting how this idea of “cacophony of voices” is present in many different places, one example of the many of paradoxes of aid.

Sources: Continue reading

The Cycle of AIDS, Poverty, and Hunger

In Kalofonos’s article, the paradox of “saving lives” through high-tech treatment, while inflicting more hunger upon HIV-positive patients in undernourished countries is a rude awakening. What’s more ironic is that many HIV-negative individuals in Mozambique are “brought to tears by a negative test” and feel resentment towards those with who test positive. Educated individuals in the developed world are aware that optimum health can be reached when illnesses are not contracted. Yet in developing countries like Mozambique, benefits like food aid are given to families living with HIV-positive patients, which leave those not inflicted with the virus to attain food sources through different means. I can only hope that the desire for food aid through programs that benefit HIV-positive patients does not directly increase the rates of the AIDS. The non-infected individuals should understand that the cost of having AIDS is not worth the food aid benefit that comes along with it.


When looking at statistics, it is understandable as to why limited food aid must be divided amongst those who “deserve” the food they receive due to belonging to an AIDS-affected family. It has been studied that when dealing with the link between AIDS patients and hunger, “food consumption in the household can drop by as much as 40 percent due to increased productivity and earnings, leaving children at a higher risk of malnutrition and stunting”.  NPOs and other aid programs are incapable of tending to all citizen needs at the same time, so they must cleverly organize how treatment and aid is distributed.

Lastly, I would like to comment that the best way to live life, especially during desperate times like these, is by being thankful and grateful for what is bestowed upon you, and volunteers attempt to enforce this best when those living in poverty complain about what they do not have rather than what they do. 

The Bigger Picture of Health

We can clearly see that this week’s reading connects to the greater notion that health is connected to our social and political lives.  As much as biomedicine focuses on treating the individual, there are greater notions in health than putting a band aid on a person for the time being. We have so many problems throughout the world that arise not by one single factor but rather multiple, and in order to find a solution, such additional aspects of the problem should be addressed. Additionally when can see political clashes such as war affect the way in which health and sanitation is provided.

We can see the problems of past societies in the effects of war in their situtiatons however we also can see the effects of war on people during the Iraq war. American forgets that there are civilians who have nothing to do with the conflict, and they are paying the costs of threats and massacres in their communities. This conflict in Iraq like any war restricts people’s personal security causing the restricting and access to food because of the fear of leaving their homes. Such a fear will lead starvation, others do not have access to medicine and medical supplies leading to inadequacy of proper medical treatments. Once a person is restricted from movement, you are hindering their abilities to fulfill their primary needs of health. Additional war causes extreme trauma and suffering if electricity is cut, then hospitals cannot function, shelter is damaged and mortality rates begin to increase. Once the war begins to causes water issues whether being inadequate access or contamination, you are experiencing a rise in cholera, typhoid and dysentery. The belief that by engaging in war there is a protection of the greater world is creating such aftermaths as those presented by the World Heath Organization. There is a bigger picture in treatment and eradicating disease, and we should start considering the community and regional problems to fully understand origins of disease and methods of eradication. 

Inaccessibility of healthcare due to the conflict in Syria

[Extra Credit Post]

Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers set up an aid station in a mosque in Homs, Syria. Photo by I. Malla/Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

The United Nations has reported that in the last year, nearly 7,500 people have been killed due to the political unrest in Syria. I was recently listening to a story on NPR titled, “Red Cross Restricted As Killing Continues In Syria”, talking about the inability of the Red Cross to enter Baba Amr, which has been a target of attack by the Syrian government. I thought the story was very relevant to this class, as we have studied various underlying factors that lead to inadequate health care. The obvious obstacle in this situation is war and violence. The Associated Press states, “activists have said residents face a humanitarian catastrophe in Baba Amr and other parts of Homs, Syria’s third-largest city with a population of 1 million. Electricity, water and communications have been cut off, and recent days have seen frigid temperatures and snowfall. Food was running low, and many are too scared to venture out.”

I see this as a clear violation of human rights. Under the UDHR, all humans are to be guaranteed food, and adequate health care, which is being hindered by this ongoing conflict and refusal to led the Red Cross provide aid.

The Integration of the Natural and Social World Lead to Public Health Concerns

As I was reading the chapter “Can the Mosquito Speak?” in Timothy Mitchell’s book, I realized the recurring concepts that were discussed in many of the previous readings throughout Professor Smith’s class. The same ideas are brought into light through the introduction of a new region not focused on before during the course–Egypt. “Dams, blood-borne parasites, synthetic chemicals, mechanized war, and man-made famine coincided and interacted”, which created powerful transformations affecting Egypt as it was heading towards modernity. As the powerful and wealthy took advantage of what they could benefit from, the underprivileged where often left without sufficient access to water and livestock to make a decent living. By being robbed of their basic needs, most Egyptians were more prone to suffering from the disease that “moved with the changing movements of people”. What made matters worse was that the river and dams allowed for the rapid spread of malaria across the surface of water, which helps them breed in high numbers. The mosquito was a public health problem that was for the most part heard by deaf until towards the end of the epidemic. Globalization has led to the interconnectedness of the world and surely the increasing rate of disease, as shown in Egypt. The spread of disease epidemics occurs due to many other underlying factors.

Both nature and society affected much of what was occurring during the modern era. War was not the cause of all the chaos, but it did play a role in how the events were played out. This article particularly mentions the link between violent wars and disease epidemics. As the field of research continues, time and time again it is proven that disease continues to be inextricably linked to war. Today we can prevent many diseases and reduce the rates of poverty and conflict which propel diseases to spread, but it takes time. Overall, the goal of public health advocates is to improve the well-being of the world’s population.

An Intersectional Look at the 1942 Mosquito Invasion

The interconnectedness of war, disease, and agriculture in the 1942 mosquito invasion is interesting, and extremely relevant as we have looked a lot at the importance of intersectionality in this course. In his article titled, “Rule of Experts”, Timothy Mitchell talks about a mixing of the natural and social worlds that contributed to this disaster. First was the creation of a dam, which was beneficial agriculturally and demonstrated the strength and progressiveness of a state; however, it was also an ideal breeding place for mosquitoes carrying malaria. The production of synthetic chemicals used as fertilizer helped agriculture flourish; yet fertilizer plants were also used to manufacture explosives.


A health worker inspecting a village pool for Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes, Egypt

Because of our group’s topic on violence, I am particularly interested in the effect the war had on the epidemic. Because of globalization and the major flow of people during the conflict (due to trade, migration, and conflict), it was much easier for mosquitoes to travel, transporting malaria with them (both by airplane and boat). The war also decreased the supply of synthetic fertilizer, severely harming agriculture and making people more at risk of contracting a parasite. The war was also directly correlated to malnutrition.

Similar to the effect of the Egyptian conflict in the malaria epidemic, was the effect of World War I in the Influenza Pandemic of 1918. Outbreaks of the flu spread through Europe, Africa, North America, Asia, Brazil, and the South Pacific via human carriers. The rapid diffusion of men during the war who were in the army and on ships helped the flu to spread quickly and broadly. Fortunately, modern technology today, like vaccines and antibiotics have helped solve this problem to a certain extent. But it is still important to look at the possibly detrimental effects of globalization in the spread of disease, especially during times of war when flows of people often increase dramatically.

Sources: Continue reading

The Inequality of Food Distribution Leads to Conflict

Kristin Phillips conducted research focusing on the relationship “between citizens and the state, between the powerful and powerless”, with an emphasis on food shortage and how food aid is distributed. The article states that “when politicians refuse to frame food aid as an entitlement, they affirm their own right to private property, and to become rich and powerful individual. They deny claims of the masses to the resources at their disposal, even when it is not their own property” (Phillips, 39). The public continually witnesses politicians ‘filling their bellies’, but it is morally wrong to take advantage of the power bestowed upon them and use it for their own benefit and financial gain, especially when it is at the expense of people carrying the “burden of ‘sickness’, ‘poverty’, and ‘hunger’” (Phillips, 34). Essentially, when a region encounters a shortage of food supply, food aid converts into political power.

I encountered an article that provides readers with world hunger and poverty facts/statistics. A pie chart (shown below) is provided showing the percentage of individuals globally who are living in poverty and hunger, with Asia and Africa being the top two areas encountering the harsh suffering of starvation. It should not come as a surprise that developed countries experience less shortages of food, but the statistics should be of a concern. The site also answers questions that are worthwhile to read. Readers of the article learn that although the world does produce enough food to feed everyone, many people in the world are left with an insufficient amount of environmental resources and financial assets. Therefore, as people become more desperate for their basic essentials, like food, conflict arises and violent tensions become prominent, in hope for a positive change. With violence come many unbearable consequences. This ongoing cycle needs to come to an end. With the surplus of food available in the world, it’s possible, yet politicians must begin to invest concern for the welfare of the poor, and not only their own. Many regions continue to experience states of emergency, and the rates of malnutrition shall decrease with the help of concerned political figures.

Number of Hungry People Worldwide