Wednesday, December 2, 2009

World AIDS Day 2009

In today's class, Dr. Reid referred me to this article regarding South Africa's new HIV/AIDS policies. After learning about various policy structures from speaking to members of the Ministry of Health in Mozambique, it is interesting to see some of the similarities that President Zuma has mentioned in this article regarding prevention of maternal to child transmission.


THE NEW YORK TIMES: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/02/world/africa/02safrica.html?_r=1&ref=world#

JOHANNESBURG — President Jacob Zuma, taking a concrete step away from the South African government’s previous delays in providing drugs to treat AIDS and prevent women from infecting their newborns, declared Tuesday in a national address on World AIDS Day that drug therapy for H.I.V.-positive pregnant women and babies would be broadened and start earlier.

Waldo Swiegers/Associated Press

President Jacob Zuma of South Africa during a national address he gave in Pretoria on Tuesday, World AIDS Day.

The new policy on pregnant women, aimed at ensuring that babies are born healthy, is in line with the new treatment guidelines issued by the World Health Organization just a day before. Treating infected babies earlier is expected to help South Africa, one of only four countries where child mortality has worsened since 1990, improve the survival odds of its youngest citizens.

The alacrity with which the government adopted the health organization’s advice and extended access to AIDS drugs gives substance to Mr. Zuma’s break with the views of his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, who during almost a decade in office had questioned whether H.I.V. causes AIDS and suggested that antiretroviral drugs could be harmful.

More people are H.I.V. positive here than in any other nation, and Mr. Zuma called on South Africans to struggle against AIDS as they had against apartheid. “We have no choice but to deploy every effort, mobilize every resource and utilize every skill our nation possesses,” he said.

The policy changes he announced will expand access to treatment. Mr. Zuma said that by April the government would start treating H.I.V.-positive people with tuberculosis earlier, when their immune systems are stronger — a step the World Health Organization said would reduce death rates. Tuberculosis is the leading killer of South Africans with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, and deaths from tuberculosis have more than tripled here since 1997.

“What does this all mean?” Mr. Zuma asked in his address, broadcast on public television. “It means that we will be treating significantly larger numbers of H.I.V.-positive patients. It means that people will live longer and more fulfilling lives.”

Mr. Zuma’s emergence as the first South African president to seize center stage on AIDS comes with its own subplots. Just three years ago, he admitted while on trial for rape that he knowingly had had sex with a woman infected with H.I.V. without using a condom, saying he showered afterward to minimize his risk of infection. Though acquitted, his words became fodder for cartoonists and critics.

That tarnished personal record served as a backdrop to his speech Tuesday, as he rallied his fellow South Africans to learn their H.I.V. status, promised to get another H.I.V. test himself and urged the nation to “use condoms consistently and correctly during every sexual encounter.”

Harvard researchers estimated last year that the delay by Mr. Mbeki’s government in using antiretroviral drugs to prevent women from infecting their newborns earlier this decade led to the deaths of 35,000 babies, and that 330,000 people died prematurely for lack of treatment.

Despite Mr. Zuma’s break with Mr. Mbeki on AIDS, he has apparently rejected a rising public clamor here, even among some of his party’s allies, for an accounting of Mr. Mbeki’s culpability.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions said Monday that Mr. Mbeki should apologize to the nation for his failures in fighting an epidemic it has described as “destroying more lives than any invading army in history.” The Young Communist League has demanded that Mr. Mbeki be prosecuted for genocide.

Business Day, a newspaper, editorialized on Nov. 20 that a murder trial and cross-examination of witnesses offered the possibility of extracting some truth. “The prospect of having a bite at understanding the Mbeki madness beckons,” the paper wrote, “even if legal charges might not ultimately stick.”

Mr. Mbeki, asked in a rare interview with the newspaper The Sunday Independent published on Nov. 1 if he had any regrets about his nine years as president, made no mention of AIDS.

Mr. Zuma and his party clearly have no desire to open an inquiry into the government’s record on AIDS. Mr. Zuma was Mr. Mbeki’s deputy president until Mr. Mbeki fired him in 2005. And like virtually all the leaders of the African National Congress, Mr. Zuma did not publicly oppose Mr. Mbeki on AIDS.

In an article published Tuesday in The Star, a daily newspaper, Mr. Zuma defended the government’s record and said that under past presidents from his party, specifically mentioning Mr. Mbeki, the government had put in place “strategies to comprehensively deal with H.I.V./AIDS.” He argued that as the government seeks to do still more, “We should avoid being drawn into an agenda of blame and recrimination.”

Still, Mr. Zuma’s approach on Tuesday — to speak frankly to the nation about each individual’s responsibility to prevent the spread of AIDS by changing his or her sexual behavior and to lay out new policies on life-saving treatment — won him wide praise from the advocates who had despaired under Mr. Mbeki.

In another significant vote of confidence, Donald Gips, the American ambassador to South Africa, announced that the United States would give South Africa $120 million over the coming two years to help meet the growing demand for antiretroviral drugs. That comes on top of the $560 million the United States was already planning to give South Africa in the 2010 fiscal year to fight AIDS.

But South Africans may best remember Mr. Zuma’s speech for his embrace of those who have suffered because of the epidemic or been shunned by society and their families. Among those listening Tuesday at the Pretoria show grounds was the daughter of Gugu Dlamini, a woman stoned and stabbed to death in 1998 near Durban after she said on the radio that she was H.I.V. positive.

While Mr. Mbeki once said he had never known anyone who died of AIDS, Mr. Zuma offered his sympathy.

“To families looking after sick relatives, we wish you strength,” he said. “We understand what you are going through. To those who have lost their loved ones to the epidemic, we share your pain and extend our deepest condolences.”

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Honduras - So Much Drama!

Honduras voting for new president

Posters of Porfirio Lobo in a street in Honduras
Porfirio Lobo is considered the favourite to win

Presidential elections are under way in Honduras, five months after a political crisis ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

He was forced from Honduras at gunpoint in June, and replaced by Roberto Micheletti. Neither are candidates.

The favourite to win is conservative Porfirio Lobo from the National Party, and Elvin Santos from the Liberal Party is considered his nearest rival.

Mr Zelaya has called for a boycott of the election. Voting began at 0700 (1300 GMT) and will last nine hours.

Mr Lobo, 61, narrowly lost to Mr Zelaya in 2005, and Mr Santos, 46, was previously Mr Zelaya's vice president in the divided Liberal Party.

About 30,000 soldiers and police are to provide security for the elections, but many fear violence could erupt.


The political crisis and election have divided the region, with the US indicating it would endorse the result if the elections are deemed "free and fair".

Costa Rica, which has long been the mediator between the two sides in this crisis, has said likewise, but other Latin American countries have opposed the vote.

Argentina and Brazil have said they will not recognise any government installed after the election, arguing that to do so would legitimise the coup which ousted an elected president, and thus set a dangerous precedent.

The main regional grouping, the Organisation of American States, has declined to send an observer mission.

BBC correspondent Stephen Gibbs in the capital Tegucigalpa says that while supporters of Mr Zelaya are watching events with dismay, many Hondurans are expressing optimism that an end to the country's political crisis is in sight.

Congress is due to vote on Mr Zelaya's reinstatement on 2 December. His term ends on 27 January.

Mr Micheletti temporarily stepped down from office - for a week until 2 December - to allow the elections to proceed "peacefully and transparently", his spokesman said.

Mr Zelaya was forced into exile on 28 June after trying to hold a vote on whether a constituent assembly should be set up to look at rewriting the constitution.

His critics said the vote, which was ruled illegal by the Supreme Court, aimed to remove the current one-term limit on serving as president and pave the way for his possible re-election.

Mr Zelaya has repeatedly denied this and some commentators say it would have been impossible to change the constitution before his term in office was up.

He sneaked back into the country in September and has been living in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa.



Another country that I have been passionate about is Honduras. Last March, I traveled to Honduras on a medical mission trip. Soon after, the coup of the president made me realize the politics in this beautiful country was not quite as peaceful as I had imagined.

It will be very interesting to observe the elections in Honduras as it progresses!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Back Home

Well, it has been a few weeks since I returned from South Africa and Mozambique. After catching up a little bit with school, going to Chicago for the Federal Reserve Challenge, and taking a few midterms, I think I can finally reflect on my incredible experiences.

First, the opportunity to interview a former president of any country is something that is pretty unique. Former President Chissano's interview regarding his country's progress towards democracy is something that not too many people can say that they did. And I am very honored to have been a part of the experience.

The presidential election observing was the most profound when I was able to interview voters while they were waiting in line. The lines were pretty long and it was warm, but everybody was in order and patient. The most significant thing was that everybody that I spoke to was proud of their country's movement toward democracy and multi-party elections, but many also expressed hope for something better in the future. They recognized that the 2009 elections were not necessarily the best model, but they realized this flaw. The notion that the younger generation is pushing for MDM and the older generation is pushing for Frelimo may be true, but from my interviews, I got the message that Frelimo is preferred because people are afraid of change. They are nervous about a completely new party coming into office without having any experience. Well, of course they don't have experience...because the ruling party will go out of its way (plaster the city with Guebuza posters, fly in helicopters, spend incredible amounts of money on their campaign) in order to prevent any other party from having any experience.

What really made me realize the impact of Frelimo in Mozambique is the fact that everybody was censoring what they were saying about Frelimo when they were talking to us. Ministry officials even refused to talk to us...you know, probably because they will lose their jobs if anybody high in office heard about it. I wonder if there are any Mozambican "Will Ferrells" doing SNL sketches mocking President Guebuza? Probably not...


I truly hope that Mozambique is able to prosper and let their people have their say in government and have the ability to speak freely in their country. After seeing the election results and the breakdown of representatives within each of the provinces, I am not too sure how this is going to happen, but there is always hope.

So, what did I bring back??? Certainly, not a lot of souvenirs because 1) My luggage couldn't handle a 35 pound wood carving of a hippopotamus 2) I am a horrible shopper/barterer. (Michelle snatched about 10 canvas paintings when I only got 3....for the same price).
I did bring back some pretty cool things though. First would be some very neat friends. Meeting people and sharing adventures with them has formed a very quick bond between all of us and it is pretty exciting. As Sumate said on the first day we met, "we're all family". The second thing that I gained was inspiration and an increased confirmation of what I want to do with my life after medical school. I know that has always been a calling for me to serve others, but I was unsure of where I was supposed to go. The more I listen to the clues though, I have a greater sense of where that "where" is supposed to be.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gaza - Not the one in the West Bank


We were able to get out of the city for the day and travel to Gaza province. It was definitely a change in scenery and culture as we traveled for about five hours up north into the country. We saw plenty of cashew trees, dry vast lands, and friendly faces.


The road to Gaza was lined with cashew trees and children selling various items...including fish.
Deirdre had the wind in her hair...



Veronica looking out the window...




We met some election observers from the European Union as well!

Professor Deegan-Krause handing out some toys and American flag stickers...

Michelle and Sana on the bus...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Election Day!

Wednesday was the big Election Day here in Mozambique. Michelle, Nancy, and I along with our translator Charles went along to different polling stations in the city and spoke to voters waiting in line.


There was one lady who we met at the school who actually taught English/Portuguese to students in a private business. She explained that she was born in a small country on the coast of Western Africa in Cape Verde. Since her father worked for the bank, her family had to move to Mozambique when she was a little girl. Therefore, she considered herself a full Mozambican citizen. After we exchanged emails and said our goodbyes, Michelle and I went into the polling station and observed the process. Then, we went outside to look at the list of people who were allowed to vote. I tried looking for the name of our new friend, but I could not find it. Could she have been a victim of election fraud by Frelimo? We were debating whether or not we should go tell her while she was still waiting in line, but decided we shouldn’t because we were only election observers, not the election police.

Another man we spoke to was incredibly well informed and mature. He explained that he believes Mozambique to be his home and appreciates what Frelimo has done for the country, but he also expressed some doubts about how the election process tries to eliminate any competition. He was pretty hopeful about MDM and how it provided another alternative. However, I still think that he was a Frelimo supporter.

Finally, at the last polling station that we visited, I saw two very professionally dressed ladies sitting on the steps. I asked them whether or not they would like to share their views of the election. One of the ladies replied, “I am the Minister of Natural Resources – what do you think I am going to say?” I just smiled and walked away, but I felt really bad for her because she cannot express what she really thinks. While Mozambique has freedom of speech, do the people really have that freedom if they are so afraid of upsetting the ruling political party? I think not.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

High Profile Interviews

After our visit to the US Embassy yesterday, we were able to connect with representatives from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).


Our interview took us to the CDC building, a relatively newer high-rise skyscraper office building. The CDC office was elegantly decorated inside and we were greeted by the two physicians who worked there. We could definitely tell that the CDC was sponsored by foreign aid money. One of them was Dr. Kebba Jobarteh and the other was Dr. Klaus Sturbeck. Dr. Jobarteh graduated from Yale Medical School and worked in Malawi prior to coming to Mozambique. Dr. Sturbeck studied in Germany and practiced as a surgeon prior to working in the CDC in Mozambique. Our interview with them was not recorded because we were not granted permission. However, their insight of foreign aid in Mozambique was invaluable. They explained some of the treatment protocols that are used in Mozambique and the obstacles that are present. For example, without the specific laboratory equipment, the physicians are unable to determine a patient’s viral load count. Another interesting point was the fact that very little reports of economic indicator data are present in Mozambique. According to Dr. Sturbeck, this lack of information is not too much of a concern for Mozambique because instead of trying to take surveys and figure out the level of poverty, it is probably more important to work on improving the economy.

Our next interview was with Dr. Chavane at the Ministry of Health. His insight of government sponsored aspect of health care in Mozambique gave us a better idea of the protocol that needs to be maintained in a government backed institute.

An interesting point made by Dr. Chavane regarded the PM2CT, which is the program for maternal to child transmission of HIV. According to Dr. Chavane, almost $40 million of foreign aid was proposed for this program. However, an interesting analogy that he gave was that a family with a deteriorating home with a particularly bad kitchen decided to fix up and re-decorate the living room. While the family is able to enjoy the new living room, they end up dying from the bad food they had from the run-down kitchen. Basically, he was hinting to the fact that so much money is being directed towards programs that will affect a smaller population relative to the whole. In his position, as the Deputy Director of Public Health, he needs to allocate resources efficiently to the areas that will affect the largest percentage of the population.

It is pretty amazing to say that we were able to interview physicians today from the CDC and the Ministry of Health of Mozambique. I believe that the uniqueness of our project as well as the persistence and strong work ethic of our group will make this trip very rewarding.

Dinner at Mimmos!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Interviews Begin...

Today was the scheduled day for our interviews with two of the appointments made by the Chissano Foundation. After visiting the US Embassy and getting our certification for observing the elections, our translator, Lucio, met up with us at the hotel and we traveled into the city. The first was supposed to be a meeting with an infectious disease physician from the Ministry of Health. When we went to the infectious disease department, we were waiting in the lounge and brought into the office of a human resource officer. It turns out that the Chissano Foundation either gave us the wrong contact information or they were misinformed about the person they scheduled us with. However, the human resource officer was incredibly helpful and directed us to go speak with Dr. Leonardo Antonio Chavane MD, MPH, Deputy Director of Public Health.

When we went down to his office, we found out that Dr. Chavane was an incredibly busy man. He was booked with meetings back to back. Luckily for us, one of his meetings ended sooner and he was able to talk with us for about five minutes. After introductions, we were able to schedule another appointment for the next day. Even though he was a busy man, he was incredibly gracious and seemed very sincere.

Afterwards, we traveled to the National Center for HIV/AIDS in order to meet with our next interview appointment. We were able to speak to Flavio Quembo and his team of advisors. Our interview with him was incredibly comprehensive because he gave very detailed answers to our questions. Of course, he was obviously a government sponsored worker because his answers were very politically correct. For example, he explained how treatment plans were pretty much accessible to most of the people in the country. He explained how regional differences in Mozambique are addressed by having the government programs tailored for each of the districts.

Today was also the first day for us to use the video cameras and record the interviews for our documentary. Making sure the white balance and sound checking has never been more important. What we found out about the whole interviewing process is that it is important for the interviewer to warm up and make sure that all the people are comfortable. After everybody feels at ease, the interview will appear much more natural and relaxed.




This picture was taken after our interview.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fun Sunday

At dinner last night, Juanita Anderson, a documentary filmmaker/professor who came with us on the trip spoke with Sumate and Nunu and wanted to interview them about their two personal opinions about Frelimo and MDM. It was pretty interesting to see two pretty distinct political opinions within the same family.

We woke up early and got the camera equipment ready and met up with everybody in the hotel parking lot. It was Todd, Dawn, Sumate, Nunu, Urnesto, Sana, Michelle, Sebrina, Juanita, and me...9 people in a pick up truck: ultimate carpooling.

We decided on shooting the interview by a palm tree by the ocean. Sumate, Nunu, and Urnesto answered some of Juanita’s questions and seemed very comfortable in front of the camera. Watching them talk about their country’s democracy was inspiring because they seemed to be so passionate and caring about what happens in their country. Sumate and Nunu’s differing views on Frelimo and MDM was a summary of pretty much what we thought was the case. Frelimo is favored because it is the political party that Mozambicans are used to. They are familiar with Frelimo’s policies because they have been in office for so long. I guess you do have to give Frelimo credit though. From the point of independence, Frelimo has brought Mozambique a long way. However, there is always room for improvement. Right in time, MDM comes into the picture and offers something new for the people. MDM is attractive because the party promises change. Also, the presidential candidate for MDM is very popular amongst younger people because he is very charismatic. I won’t go too much into the interview because I am sure that it will be brought up in the finished documentary later on. Just a note, if anybody needs the world’s most stylish mic holder/assistant, call Sana.

Afterwards, our group decided to split up for a bit. Sebrina, Sumate, Nunu, Dawn, and I decided to go to the Assembly of God church, while the others were dropped off. When I first walked into the church, I felt a hard smack on my head – it ended up being Caitlin and the “culture/religion” group. Again, I was surprised at how the city of Maputo was. We were bumping into everyone here!

The church service was very interesting, but I definitely felt God’s presence. The songs were in Portuguese and Shangala, but fortunately, I happened to sit next to Alejandro, who was a university student studying to become a translator. He helped to translate all the lyrics of the songs as well as the sermon. I had to admit though, not understanding the language of the sermon made it pretty difficult to concentrate. It reminded me of the non-Korean speakers who come to Korean speaking services – they must feel really confused. Even though the service ended up lasting 2.5 hours, everybody in the church kept singing and dancing until the service was over. Seeing the people praising God so joyfully was incredibly inspiring.

Cameron enjoying his lunch at Mundos...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"We're Family"

After a morning of going to the market in order to obtain some supplies for the week, I received a call in my hotel room from the front desk. The receptionist said that there was somebody in the hotel lobby who wanted to see me. Honestly, who could be coming to see me in Mozambique? I was slightly confused. To my surprise, it turns out that Todd, Dawn, Luciana, and Sumate were in Maputo and decided to come to the hotel in order to meet with me and the group. It was pretty neat.

Todd was very gracious in helping us to learn about the city and constantly getting us in touch with people he thought would be able to help us on our trip. Dawn had just arrived in Maputo from Detroit only a few days ago, so she was still very new to the city, but she seemed very comfortable. Both Todd and Dawn had such a relaxed outlook on everything and just went with the flow. Luciana is originally from Brazil and works with Todd and Dawn at the Dream Project in Ponta D’Ouro in order to begin the construction of the orphanages.

Michelle, Sana, and I along with Sumate were in the back of the pick up truck and drove through Maputo with Todd and Dawn. Sumate and I started talking and asked me where I was from and how I got to know the Dream Project. After explaining about how I found out through Genesis back in Royal Oak, he said, “Oh, we’re family”. And I was like, “Ya, we are”. It finally occurred to me what it means when people say brothers and sisters in Christ….you’re literally family.

We stopped at the weekend art fair where we exchanged contact info with Carolina, another documentary film maker from Brazil. Then, we went to Maputo Central to see the clinic where HIV patients are treated. However, we got there too late because it was closed. We then picked up Nunu, Sumate’s brother and went to the walkway overlooking the ocean. Sumate and Nunu were pretty hilarious during our random photoshoot.

When it was time for dinner, we decided to go to Mimmos, apparently a local hotspot for Italian food. To our surprise, we saw our group there already sitting down and ordering drinks. We ended up joining the group and had dinner. Of all the places that we could have ended up in the city, we all came to the same place.

While many of the things that happened appear to be coincidences and random turns of events, I have a feeling that nothing is random here. We were all meant to meet the people that we encountered today and share our stories.


I think we are eating way too much pizza in Africa...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Lobstahh and Former President Chissano

This morning we boarded the plane from Johannesburg, South Africa to Maputo International in Maputo, Mozambique. South African Airlines wanted me to check my North Face hiking back pack because it weighed too much; however, I was pretty sure that meant that I would have to pay extra for checking a second bag. So, I sort of bent the rules and sneaked my backpack in. It all worked out in the end.

Flying over Mozambique is a completely difference experience than flying over South Africa. I was like, "whoa, I'm in Africa" as the plane flew over the coastline in Mozambique and we could see the low tide along the beach. Then, as the plane flew south, we could see the tall skyscrapers that were scattered throughout the downtown area. However, as the plane flew inland and got closer to the ground, it was evident that most of the country is living in less-than-ideal conditions. Instead of South Africa’s lego block homes, the houses in Mozambique looked more like tin cans. I have a feeling that the differences in houses and living conditions are a result of the civil war and fight for independence that Mozambicans had to endure from 1975-1992.

When we landed, we were greeted by the usual customs and passport agents. Then, we met Dr. Reid and Dawit at the airport who took our bags to the hotel and took us to Costo Do Sol, the seafood restaurant that Professor Pitcher suggested that we go to. The journey to the restaurant was pretty eye-opening. We passed through pretty rough neighborhoods, street children playing in the dirt, furniture makers selling carved wooden beds on the sides of the streets, posters of cell phone companies saying “ishh yowe”, Dentyne gum posters, and lots of Frelimo posters. I mean a lot – pretty much the entire city was draped in red Frelimo posters and Guebuza’s face eerily smiling at you. Then, we drove along the coast of the Indian Ocean and saw the incredibly blue water that surrounded this city. I will never be this close to Madagascar probably.
When we go to Costo Do Sol, Dr. Reid had arranged platters of various seafood items to be brought out. There were lobsters, crabs, shrimp, calamari, tuna filets, and much more. I got pretty excited for all the seafood on the table.

Soon after our royal lunch, we were told that our meeting with former President Chissano was going to be in a few hours. Hurriedly, my group and I had to prepare a question related to health care as the entire group brainstormed about various questions that we wanted to ask during the interview. Some included “what Chissano’s opinion was on the declining rate of voter turnout”, “traditional leaders”, “legalizing the multiple languages that are present in the country”, and “health care in Mozambique.” Most of the answers to our questions were well thought out and very politically correct; however, there were some glimpses of answers that were spoken without too much of a barrier.

Meeting Chissano was an exciting way to begin our discovery of Mozambican politics; however, a lot of us can attest to saying that for a man who is so vibrant and powerful on paper, he was pretty mellow and soft-spoken in real life. I was asking myself, was this man really the leader of the strong political party that ruled Mozambique since its independence?

Oh, and our rooms at Girassol Indy Village are pretty nice too…including the two twin beds that Cameron and I (usually) separate each night, haha.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Lion's Den

We arrived in Johannesburg yesterday and checked into our hotel at Southern Sun…it’s kind of like the South African version of Sheraton/Starwood hotels. I was pretty happy with them because there was free food in the lobby every evening!

For our full day in Johannesburg, South Africa, we were able to go explore the city with Jimmy, our outspoken tour guide. He took us to a Zulu village where the people were making camel hair sandals with the Nike symbol cut out, shops were filled with tribal clothing and weapons, and shops were filled with African “medicine”. The people in this part of town were not the friendliest in my opinion. Everybody seemed to be just staring at our group and thinking “why are these people here?” It was probably because there were no other visitors – except us.

Afterwards, Jimmy took us through Johannesburg and into Soweto – the infamous city where many riots and conflicts occurred due to apartheid. As we traveled into a shanty town filled with small houses with tin roofs, we encountered a group of 3 women who were just standing by the fence. Suddenly, Jimmy stopped the van and began asking the pregnant girl questions about her education and her family. Jimmy told the girl to stop having babies, get a job, and use condoms. While I can’t imagine having someone stop and say that to someone in the US, the young lady did not seem to be offended. Afterwards, some members of our group was very upset about what happened, but in my opinion, I felt that more people need to be told what is obvious in order to promote a more productive society.

In Soweto, we stopped on the side of the road and some of us entered some of the people’s homes in order to see the conditions and say hi. Again, this would not be acceptable in the US, but here in Soweto, it was alright. The homes were in pretty bad shape. However, what was saddening the most to me was the family structure. Most of the homes consisted of a grandmother and many young children. In comparison, most of the homes back in Honduras consisted of an entire family: dad, mom, and children. The effects of HIV/AIDS were heartbreaking to see as the old grandmother had to take care of her grandchildren.

Only a few minutes of traveling on the bus, we were at the site of the new stadium that South Africa was building for the 2010 World Cup games. The futuristic looking stadium was under heavy construction as workers were putting in the finishing touches. The main parts of town that tourists were going to see are building heavily retouched to look extra nice. Sod is being planted, roads near Nelson Mandela’s house are being redone, and posters of excitement and anticipation are plastered throughout the city. I hope that the visitors who come to South Africa not only see the improvements made to the city, but also realize the much work that still needs to be done in order to address the issues of race and health in the city. I know that the World Cup brought a lot of development and growth to South Korea, so I hope that South Africa experiences the same next year.

Finally, we went to the Apartheid museum where we were able to learn more about the history of this tragic period in human history. Apartheid means separateness in Afrikaans. From 1948 to 1994, blacks, whites, colored, and “Indians” in South Africa were all treated separately under the legislation. As I walked through the museum, I was amazed at how recent these acts of discrimination actually took place. Even after I was born, acts of incredible segregation were taking place in South Africa. All the opponents of the government were put in jail and many were never seen again. Finally, the South African government saw the wrong that they were doing and decided to repeal the apartheid laws and release all the prisoners who were being kept captive for breaking the unlawful laws.

The Apartheid Museum really got to me because the government of South Africa had absolutely no right to treat non-whites as second-class citizens. Not only were blacks racially discriminated against, but also Indians, mulattos, and Asians. However, even in the darkness, there were glimpses of light that were seen through the people who went against their government and stood up for what is right. While many of these people died for the cause, they never gave into accepting that apartheid was something that was justifiable. This just reminded me of Daniel and how he stood up to the King. He was thrown into the lion’s den, but God was with him throughout the entire time.

I definitely would like to come back to South Africa some other time and discover more about the cities and the countryside.

Oh P.S., and the Jacaranda trees along the roads are gorgeous.

Monday, October 19, 2009

1 More Day

It is the day before I leave for South Africa. I just threw all the things that I might need on the trip into my suitcase, but I am not sure how I am going to fit everything in and make sure that I meet the 50 pound deadline...The itinerary of this trip is pretty unscheduled, but I think I will learn a great deal and really see what I want to do with my life in the future. What I do not look forward to is the 18+ hour plane ride. Oh, and to make things so much more exciting, my credit card is being used by someone in California. hahaa...Hopefully, I will get some sleep and read on the plane! Until then, hope to see you on the other side of the world.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Final Preparation

So, it is two days before I finally leave for my anticipated trip to Africa. During the entire semester so far, our team of students have been working hard to prepare - from filling out lots of paperwork, getting vaccinated, reading about democracy, contacting people in order to set up interviews, learning how to use the video equipment, and learning Portuguese.

The other day, Michelle El-Hosni and I met with Julie Malacusky and Adriano at Camp Ticonderoga to get to know a little bit more about The Dream Project and how she became involved with the organization. Basically, when she was an undergraduate student at Wayne State, she was not sure of what she wanted to do with her life. So, she prayed and was called to becoming a physician assistant. Afterwards, she visited India and witnessed the street children who were living in unspeakable conditions. She said that she cried for months...however, she was able to use that passion to do incredible things. Julie later went on to Brazil in order to get trained for ministering and reaching out to street children. Then, she was finally asked to be a medical expert for orphanages in Mozambique, which became the Dream Project.

The main Dream Project location is in the northern part of Mozambique. Fortunately for us, the Dream Project is beginning another site in Ponta D'Ouro on donated land, which is approximately 3 hours from Maputo.She explained that she wanted to have a family style structure for the children instead of the typical orphanage. Therefore, there are many small homes in which the children who are affected by HIV/AIDS can stay with. In these homes, the Dream Project is able to provide treatment and raise awareness through prevention by building relationships with the children. As Julie said, the "children are the future of the country".

As far as the national health care system goes, it is very limited. Even though it is government sponsored, the reach of the health care does not go very far especially in the rural areas. She explained that the individuals at the highest risk are the street children. When mothers cannot afford to keep their children or when children run away, they become street children and live their lives without any purpose. I plan on reaching out and learning their stories and witness their conditions while I am in Mozambique.

It is so frustrating for me to see so many people in the world who are living without the basic necessities. While we all try to give and donate money to charities, I feel like there is always something more that we can do. I once heard a quote somewhere and it was "Sympathy is never a substitute for action". I think we are all a little guilty of this quote...we all feel sympathy, but we take relatively little action. My personal goal is that with our documentary on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Mozambique, we can inspire people back at Wayne State and in Michigan to take action.

The next day, we met with Dr. Johnathon Cohn, an infectious disease specialist at Wayne State who worked with Health Alliance International. His work focused mainly on the implementation of anti-retroviral medications in order to treat the HIV/AIDS patients. He was very knowledgeable about the structure of the current Ministry of Health in Mozambique as well as the various private organizations in the country. The Ministry of Health is composed of a limited staff and overshadowed by the big foreign agencies that have much more money. For example, he explained that St. Agnidio, the Italian group that oversaw the peace relations in Rome, plays a role in treating HIV/AIDS patients in the city of Maputo. He explained that their methodology for treating patients is very high-tech and utilizes highly paid workers. However, this type of "upper-level" treatment facilities is not realistic for the rest of the country due to limited resources. Other groups such as the CDC, World Health Organization, and American universities such as Columbia University and Vanderbilt University have set up extensive networks and staff sources in the country to address the health crisis.

This raises the question of what Frelimo and Renamo are doing in order improve the situation. When I asked Julie and Dr. Cohn, they were not too sure about the two political parties and what they were even up to these days. I am curious to see - if the foreign workers are not that knowledgeable about the presidential elections, are the Mozambicans going to be knowledgeable?

Dr. Cohn also cited a statistic. Of the 1.5 million people who are infected with HIV in Mozambique, approximately only 130,000 people are being treated with ARVs. While this seems like a pretty insignificant and unimpressive statistic, relatively speaking, it is very impressive. Mozambique, a country that used to be at war constantly, and considered to be the world's second poorest country - has been able to allocate its foreign aid resources and energy to provide medicine for the infected population. In the short period of time, they were able to achieve some pretty significant benchmarks. However, the work is not even close to being done.

Dr. Cohn suggested that we visit Maputo Central Hospital to gain an understanding of the national health care system, visit St. Agnidio to look at an upscale foreign sponsored clinic, visit some of his colleagues who are operating clinics within the city, and observe a clinic that is running on minimal means. In addition, Julie and the Dream Project said that we would be welcome to visit Ponta D'Ouro and visit the orphanages and speak with the children.

While this trip is called the African Democracy Project and deals primarily with learning about the presidential elections in Mozambique, my personal goal is to learn how government agencies in foreign countries are affecting the health of their people. I see myself not only as a physician in the US, but also as an international doctor who provides medical care to the poorest in the world. Through ADPM, I have already gained so much insight into the political structure and history of Mozambique, which I know will play a vital role in trying to influence government leaders in terms of health care.

Honestly, I have a feeling that this trip is going to be hectic and spontaneous. However, I think it will all be worthwhile because everybody's goals are in-sync.

P.S. If you are on skype, let me know!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mozambique: Hosting the World's Election Experts

The below article is a very interesting and pretty cool insight into the significance of the work that the Democratization Project is going to accomplish. To know that there are election experts in the country thinking and observing the same things that we are going to be observing is pretty neat.

Maputo — 24 long term election observers from the European Union on Sunday deployed to Mozambique's 11 provinces, where they will follow the current election campaign, the voting and the count.

Shortly before polling day, they will be joined by around 70 short term observers, plus representatives from EU member state diplomatic missions in Maputo. In all, the EU will have over 100 observers as Mozambicans vote. They come from 23 EU members plus Switzerland, Norway and Canada.

The head of the EU Observer Mission, Fiona Hall, who is a British member of the European Parliament, told a press conference that the mission had no intention of interfering in the elections, or of suggesting any changes or improvements while the election was under way.

"Our role is to collect and verify information about the electoral process", she said.

The mission will issue a preliminary statement of its initial findings two days after polling day and will publish a final report about two months later. Hall said the mission would analyse how far the elections "are in line with international standards, Mozambican legislation and best practices".

It would look at such issues as whether Mozambicans really enjoyed the right to vote and to be elected, whether the ballot was secret, and how the freedoms of expression, association and assembly were implemented.

The mission, she added, would distinguish between "complaints, rumours, accusations and verified fact". Its report would be based only on facts that had been verified.

Hall stressed that the Observer Mission is independent of all EU member states and of the European Commission and its delegation in Maputo. The mission would operate according to standard EU methodology for observing elections anywhere in the world.

Asked whether the EU would concentrate its observation on areas where there had been serious problems in the last election, in 2004, notably in Tete province (where a major fraud occurred, involving impossible 100 per cent turnouts in dozens of polling stations), Hall said the mission could not work like that.

The observers would be spread across the country, and Hall did not think it would make much sense to deploy observers "in accordance with what happened last time".

The mission has already met with the chairperson of the National Elections Commission (CNE). Joao Leopoldo da Costa, and with two of three presidential candidates, the incumbent, and candidate for the ruling Frelimo Party, Armando Guebuza, and the mayor of Beira, and head of the Mozambique Democratic movement (MDM), Daviz Simango. They had met a representative of the third candidate, Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the former rebel movement Renamo.

Hall has observed elections in Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola, and was head of the EU Observer Mission in Togo. allAfrica.com

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Carrie Manning

This week's reading assignment involved reading Carrie Mannning's The Politics of Peace in Mozambique: Post Conflict Democratization, 1992-2000. After reading Anne Pitcher's book in the beginning of the semester, it was very interesting to compare and contrast the tones that these two researchers used in describing Mozambique. Anne Pitcher describes Mozambique and its political development on a more technical and slightly more critical tone; however, Carrie Manning describes Mozambique and its continued efforts for democracy in an objective and optimistic tone. I say this because Anne Pitcher's book focused mainly on the economic struggles and problems that Mozambique had to deal with. However, Manning's book analyzed Mozambique and its problems in the people's point of view. I think this approach gave the book a slightly more personal feeling and made readers understand the situation slightly better.

For example, Manning explained that most of the information from Chapter 4 is directly "gathered through extensive, structured interviews with seventy-two Renamo officials at various levels of authority." By talking to the Renamo leaders, Manning obtained a valuable insight into what the Renamo party is all about. It is easy to just believe that Renamo is a "grotesque campaign of terror against Mozambican civilians." However, Manning does not leave the impression of Renamo here. Instead, she tried to understand the reasons why Renamo came to be that way in the first place. I believe this is why Manning treats Renamo not necessarily as a group of violent rebels, but as a group of people who are trying to have their say in government.

The most surprising thing that struck me during this reading was the incredible international financial support that was given to Renamo during the peace treaty talks in Rome. Renamo was promised $15 million from Italy and another $17 million from other opposition parties when they signed an agreement in December 1992. However, when they did not receive the money until March 1993, Renamo decided to stop all peace talks. At this point, Renamo had the international community in its hands because the UN set up a trust fund and it was initially deposited with $17 million. Not only was the Renamo party receiving support for the stability of their new party, but they were also receiving some nice perks as well. For example, Italy was providing Renamo with food and rent money (almost $65,000 for the month of March) and England was providing Renamo with $28,000 worth of office equipment.

Finally in Chapter 9, the most surprising thing that I read was that even though Frelimo won the election in 1999, an international post-elections team found that there were some doubts about the election. While Renamo's weaknesses were shown once again with their subsequent loss in 1999, the entire political system in Mozambique suffered a great loss with this discovery. People need to trust their electoral system and believe that their vote will count towards the appointment of their next president. With the continued "elite habituation" of the two political parties in Mozambique, it will be interesting to see how the elections will turn out when we are there. Only a few weeks ago I read an article that had Renamo party officials blaming Frelimo of tampering with the electoral system. Hmm, the elections did not even occur...
It will be interesting to connect what we read in class to what is going on in the country around us!


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Comparison of Various Governments

Having read about the "formal institutional architecture" of Mozambique (that means the constitutional and electoral system), what are the biggest differences between the country we are visiting and your country of origin (for most of that's the US). What seems most appealing about Mozambique's system compared to the US? What is least appealing?

As we continue to learn more and more about democracy and the constitutional and electoral systems that are set in place in Mozambique, it is surprising to see the similarities and differences between this country that is just beginning its democratic journey to the current
democracy in the United States. This week, we read Carrie Manning's work, Semi-Presidentialism and the Preservation of Ambiguity in Mozambique; Lijphart's Patterns of Democracy; and the IDEA National Handbook on Constitutions and Elections.

First, some basic facts. Mozambique began its multi-party elections in 1994. The system is set up so that the presidential candidate needs a majority of valid votes. (This is in comparison to the United States' electoral college system). This means that if no one obtains more than 50% of the votes in the election, then there will be another election between the two strongest candidates. After seeing the confusion and chaos of the Bush vs. Gore elections, perhaps Mozambique's system of elections are slightly more appealing. While there are strong opponents and supporters of the electoral college, I stand neutral because I believe that there are so many pros and cons on both sides. It is hard to compare the two election systems because the United States has more states and operates on a different level of complexity compared to Mozambique.

When the United States Constitution was first written, there was no provision put in place for the formation of political parties - it just happened. The Democratic and Republican parties have been the majority political parties for decades and they have been able to somewhat balance the power between them through the divisions of power in our government. However, when we look at Mozambique's relatively short history of democracy, we notice the obvious dominance of the Frelimo party. Renamo has always been the runner-up in elections. However, things are about to change. I think the upcoming election will be very interesting because the status quo of the Mozambican election between Frelimo and Renamo will be disrupted by the emergence of the Democratic Movement of Mozambique. According to Professor Pitcher, this is a "younger" party composed of many younger members. Will this new party have a strong enough influence in the election to change the distribution of the votes? It's going to be a great time to be in Mozambique.

Another slight difference is that the Mozambican president's term lasts 5 years compared to the American president's 4 years. Professor Pitcher had mentioned that a possible question we could ask former president Chissano is why he decided to step down after his two terms. According to Manning, "In the 2004 general elections, President Chissano, who had served the maximum two terms, was replaced by Armando Guebuza." Traditionally, African presidents are known for their persistence in trying to stay in office. He obviously had the power to change the Mozambican constitution so that he could stay for a few more terms; however, he stepped down. In this regard, I believe that the United States is better in establishing the two 4 year presidential terms.

In Manning's Semi-Presidentialism and the Preservation of Ambiguity in Mozambique, she mentions that Mozambique is a "highly presidentialized semi-presidential regime". This was a confusing statement, but as I tried to understand Manning's work more, I think I understood what she was trying to say. You see, Mozambique is categorized as a semi-presidential government because a president and prime minister both exist. However, it is "highly presidentialized" because the president ends up appointing his prime minister anyways. Manning describes the relationship between the president and the prime minister as the same relationship between American presidents and their vice-presidents. In comparison, the United States is set up as a presidential system with a division of powers. A true semi-presidential system would occur in a situation like France where the president and prime minister are from different parties.

The main point that I realized from reading Lijphart's Patterns of Democracy is that there is no perfect system in the world. Every country whether it is the United Kingdom, the United States, or Mozambique will face difficulties in establishing an electoral system. However, the obstacles should not prevent them from trying to obtain democracy. For example, in the United Kingdom, the religious rivalry between the Protestants in Northern Ireland the Catholics in Ireland have caused differences and violence between the opposing views. In the case of Northern Ireland, their population is so small that it is difficult for them to obtain any sort of majority position in Parliament. This situation is analogous to the differences between the rural and urban Mozambicans and the differences between Frelimo vs. Renamo. The strength and majority of the Frelimo party is preventing the Renamo party from expressing their opinions in government.

In the IDEA (Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance) Handbook, Chapter 4 stated that "In presidential systems...presidents who have clear majority support are likely to have much greater legitimacy and be in a stronger position to push their own policy agenda than those
elected on a small plurality of the vote. This has an important impact on relations
between the president and the legislature. A president elected by a clear absolute
majority of the population can command a great deal of legitimacy in any conflict with
the legislature". This is a pretty substantial statement for the American electoral system because with our current system of the electoral college, a presidential candidate might not win the majority of the popular vote and still win the election.

Analyzing the various government and electoral systems of nations around the world has shown me that there is no perfect system. We just have to make a system work for the specific country based on its historical traditions and current needs of the country.

It will be interesting to see how much Mozambicans care about their country's government system. I hope they are passionate and excited for the emergency of a democracy in their nation. On a funnier note, I really hope that our interviews don't turn out like a clip from Jay Leno's Jay Walk when he asks basic questions about our government.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Democracy

What does democracy mean to me? Well, the first time I was ever exposed to the word democracy was social studies in elementary school. We learned about the core democratic values of life, liberty, freedom, the pursuit of happiness, the common good, justice, equality, diversity, popular sovereignty, and patriotism. To me, democracy means a form of government that is ruled by the people through elected officials that people choose through fair elections. In addition, the core democratic values should be honored by the government and its citizens. It's a pretty simple definition, right?


This past weekend, I traveled to New York for a quick weekend getaway. Everywhere I turned, I could find examples of the core democratic values. LIFE was everywhere. From people running to catch a taxi to the massive stampede of people going down the subways, New Yorkers understand the value of LIFE especially after the September 11 attacks. LIBERTY is seen in the wide array of people and the choices that each individual makes in their life. We all have the freedoms of different political views, personal freedoms, and economic freedoms. The PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS is observed in the people who tan on a bright sunny day in Washington Square Park or the theater goers who go to Broadway to watch Hair or Billy Elliott. I see the effects of the COMMON GOOD when someone gets up from his seat on a subway train in order for an elderly couple to sit down. JUSTICE could be heard pretty much nightly as police cars speed through the streets in order to correct the wrongs being committed. I see EQUALITY and DIVERSITY at the Mexican Day Parade on Madison Avenue as Mexican Americans chant Mexico as they celebrate their native country's independence. I also see DIVERSITY in Little Italy, Chinatown, Koreatown, and Chelsea. Finally, PATRIOTISM is seen on Wall Street as the American flag is draped over the Stock Exchange.


I believe that the most important aspect of democracy is the people's power to vote and voice their opinions. No matter what your social status or income level is, when it comes to election time, my vote and Donald Trump's votes are equal. This fundamental feature is what makes democracy so appealing. For a brief period of time, everybody is truly equal - I think it is a very humbling phenomenon. Personally, it is truly exciting for me to know that my first presidential election was the 2008 election between Obama vs. McCain. It is one of those memories that will be cherished forever.


While my definition of democracy is quite simple, after reading the articles on democracy, my concept of democracy has become much more specified. For example, according to Linz and Stepan in their article titled Toward Consolidated Democracies, they outline three minimal criteria that are critical for a democracy to exist. First, a state must exist for a democracy. Second, the democratic transition must be complete. Third, the rulers must govern democratically. Finally, once these criteria are met, democracy is consolidated. Therefore, when "a strong majority of public opinion, even in the midst of major economic problems and deep dissatisfaction with incumbents, holds the belief that democratic procedures and institutions are the most appropriate way to govern collective life, and when support for antisystem alternatives is quite small or more-or-less isolated from prodemocratic forces."


For Mozambicans at this point, the most important aspect of democracy should be their right to a fair election and a non-corrupt government that will embrace all aspects of the core democratic values into their administration. However, the road to this ideal state is very long because African governments have a long history of corrupt governments (even if they were said-democratic states). So, if we look at the other countries who are full of corruption and failed promises, what do Mozambicans have to look forward to? Well, first of all, democracy is not socialism. And we already know that socialism did not work too well for Mozambique. Therefore, while democracy may not be the magical solution for this developing nation, it is the first step that is necessary in order to nurture growth.


I never took the time to truly appreciate what a democracy is; however, after reading more about it and realizing all the sacrifices that people have made to obtain this ideal, I am so thankful to be able to live in a country that practices it.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Contrasting Points of View of Mozambique

As I was searching for some Mozambique videos, I came across these two very contrasting views of Mozambique. The first one shows a fancy and elegant Maputo where the travel writer speaks of her stay at the Polano, an exquisite colonial building that has been renovated as a luxury hotel today.
However, most of Mozambique is far from glamorous. The other videos show the children of Mozambique who appear to be happy; however, they are not receiving the proper nutrition or education that they deserve. Take a look for yourself!

video video

Ann Pitcher's Insights

Ann Pitcher, the author of one of our course's books, Transforming Mozambique: The Politics of Privatization, came to our seminar class to speak to us about her work in Mozambique. It was truly an honor to have the opportunity to hear her speak about her life's passion. She spoke mostly about the general history of Mozambique and how it became the state that it is today. Basically, Mozambique was a Portuguese colony in the 1920s. It is an interesting case because Portugal itself was authoritarian, which meant that unlike British colonies, there was no real democratic model for Mozambicans to follow. However, in the 1950s, there was a slow resistance against Portuguese colonialism. In 1963, the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique or Frelimo was established and they won independence in 1975. After a Civil Conflict from 1977 to 1992, a peace accord was finally reached in 1992. After that, there were three national elections occurring in 1994, 1999, 2004, and the upcoming 2009 election.

When I reflect back on Pitcher's discussion of Mozambique, I can say that I was surprised by many things. However, the two most shocking points that she brought up would be the enduring effects of Mozambique's complex past and the fact that she cited: half of Mozambique's population is under the age of 15.

First, while Mozambique is trying to move into the future, the
effects of its past is still lingering. For example, due to colonialism and oppressive leaders, most Mozambicans have lost some part of their traditional history. Picther explained that the Portuguese replaced many village chiefs with pseudo-chiefs because they thought they could control them better. This mostly occurred in areas that the Portuguese had an economic interest in. For example, in Nampula, the people today could easily remember their village clan name before colonialism/independence. However, if you ask someone in Zambezia, a state of many commercial companies and plants, the people do not know their name or much of their history. This is surprising to me because geographically, the two areas are very close, yet the two regions are very distinct. On a personal level, I can identify with the Zambezians because I have heard stories from my grandparents of when Japan invaded Korea. The Japanese attempted to erase all Korean traditions and install Japanese ones instead. The schools would teach Japanese to Korean schoolchildren and try to oppress the people. It hurts to see that our human history has so many examples of oppression and violence where a one group of people tries to control another. When will we ever learn?

Another example of the enduring effects of Mozambique's history involves the liberation period. Ann Pitcher explained that during Mozambique's adoption of socialism, Frelimo received assistance from China and the former Soviet Union. As a result, a concrete example can still be seen today in the evidence of the street names. Take a look at the Google map below. You can go down Avenida Mao Tes Tung, pass Avenida Kim Il Sung, take a right on Avenida Vladmir Lenine and then go to Manhalgalene United Methodist Church. What an eclectic group of names and historical indicators!



The second fact that surprised me the most was when Ann Pitcher explained that almost half of Mozambique's population is under the age of 15. Could this be actually true? The only explanation that I could think of was that the children are the only survivors because all their parents passed away from HIV/AIDS. Or, they could have been killed during the country's Civil War conflict. I believe that finding the answer to this disturbing statistic is necessary in order to further understand the nature of this country.




Monday, September 14, 2009

First Class!

After our first class, it finally hit me that I will actually be traveling to Mozambique this October. This moment of realization came when Professor Krause began explaining the structure of our class and what his expectations were. This class and this experience...it's actually happening! After listening to Professor Krause, I have a feeling that this class is going to be unlike any other experience I have had at Wayne State so far. Professor Krause is pushing us to think outside the box and present ideas that go beyond the typical textbook.

Through research and persistent questioning of the nature of things; not just memorizing facts but fully grasping the events that lead to a particular event, we will hopefully make this seminar experience the best it can be!

While traveling to Mozambique is exciting, I also realized how little I currently know about the country. Although I researched some general facts about the country and read Ann Pitcher's book called
Transforming Mozambique : The Business of Privatization, 1975-2000, there is still a lot to learn about this country with a history of colonial rule, fight for independence, socialism, and the emergence of capitalism. One striking fact that always catches my eye is looking at the HIV/AIDS prevalence rates of developing countries. For example, according to the World Health Organization, approximately 12.5% of Mozambique's adult population is currently living with HIV in 2007. The number of children and adults who died from HIV in 2007 is approximately 81,000 people.

After learning these facts and figures, so many questions arose. How are all these people dealing with their disease? How are the people being educated by the government about safe sex practices? How are the deaths of so many people affecting the labor supply and thus the overall productions levels of the country? While there are many questions, my main question for Mozambique is how the health care system is meeting the needs of its people in order to maintain their overall health.

In order to research and find the answer to my question, I believe that prior to the trip, much reading must be done. Whether it is in the form of facts, statistics, or journal articles, the group of people interested in the health care aspect of Mozambique has to understand how health care is currently being delivered as well as its overall outcomes. I also believe that one of the best ways to get a firsthand glimpse about Mozambique is to ask people who have been to the country. For example, at our next class meeting, Professor Ann Pitcher, the author of the book we just read will be here to answer questions and explain her experiences in Mozambique. I think she would be an essential person to start asking questions, which will start our investigation.

When we are in Mozambique, I believe that the best way to obtain answers to our questions about health care in Mozambique will be to ask the leaders and politicians what they are currently doing to solve the HIV/AIDS epidemic as well as providing health care to all their citizens. In addition, I would like to ask the people on the streets about what they think about their government and the service they are receiving.

While writing a paper would be a good way to show the effects of health care in Mozambique, I believe it is more important to catch the people's spirit and discuss their concerns. In the United States, health care reform has sparked such an incredible amount of momentum amongst the population. I would not be surprised if it is not the same for Mozambicans if they were given a chance to talk about their frustrations!

However, since our small groups have yet to be formed and we do not have a clear understanding of our specific question, we will continue to research the health care sector of Mozambique for now.




Monday, August 24, 2009

Welcome to my Mozambique blog!

Last evening was our first class meeting where we were treated to an authentic dinner at Dr. Reid's home at the Park Shelton. I was slightly nervous to meet him at first because he was the university's president and all - but as soon as he opened the door, any feelings of anxiousness disappeared. His warm smile and personality is truly remarkable!
At the meeting, Professor Krause introduced the members of the class and discussed some basic information about the class. I honestly cannot remember much of what he said though because I think everybody suffered from a food coma that evening. Let me explain.

Dr. Reid invited a chef to cook an authentic Eastern African dinner for our class. Below is the menu.

Menu

Goat Light Soup & Bread Rolls

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White Yams & Boiled Eggs

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Red-Red, Black Eyed Pea Stew w/ Fish and Beef

and Ripe Plantain

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Groundnut Soup w/ Rice Balls and Chicken

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Plamnut Soup, FuFu w/ Smoked Fish and Cow Meat

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Fried Okra w/ Shrimp and Jollof Rice

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Coconut and Assorted Fruit (pineapple boat and watermelon)

We were able to learn a little bit about the food and how it is traditionally eaten. For example, the white yams an d boiled eggs are a kind of delicacy and reserved for special occasions. The chef explained that it is traditional to eat this dish with your hands, so Michelle, Mrs. Krause, and I all dug in - literally. Every course in the meal was incredible, but my favorite was definitely the Fried Okra with Shrimp and Jollof Rice. I think okra is such an interesting and delicious vegetable and since we are going to be spending two weeks on the continent that okra originates from...I'm sure I'll be eating plenty of okra.


Of course, while we enjoyed this culinary adventure, I can't help but think of all the people in Mozambique who are going hungry at this moment. According to the United Nations World Food Program, Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world - 172/177 to be exact. With devastating natural disasters such as floo
ds wreaking havoc on the food supply, Mozambicans are struggling to survive. The government reports that nearly 54% of the population is living below the poverty line. The issue of world hunger is something one cannot solve alone. It will take everybody's cooperation. However, I wonder how Mozambique's poverty levels fluctuated during the period of "socialistic" Frelimo reign in comparison to the modern "privatized" economy era? Are the people seeing and benefiting from a capitalistic economy?

I am sure that as the class begins some of my questions about Mozambique will be answered and much more will be raised. I look forward to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel and experience a country that is so different, yet still united through our desire for democracy.

Again, thank you Dr. Reid for providing such an amazing experience and starting our Mozambique journey with a bang!