Former US president Jimmy Carter has been travelling around West Africa - and blogging his trip. Really worth a read:
"Despite an 8.5 percent HIV/AIDS rate and exciting promises from Washington, U.S. embassy personnel in Togo informed us that HIV/AIDS funds would be slashed this year from $1.5 million to $250,000. Paperwork requirements also plague the relationship between almost all donors and recipient countries. In our conversations with them, administrators of humanitarian assistance acknowledge that their requirements for the granting of aid are extremely complex and often contradictory, and the forms for requesting funds and subsequent reporting are daunting even for a highly advanced bureaucracy.
"This presents a serious impediment to better education, health, or economic development. An apparently innocent restriction in the U.S. congress or a European parliament can block all expenditures for a well-meaning program. Throughout Africa, World Bank data indicate that needy countries are able to utilize only about 20 percent of funds that have been pledged or offered to them. Dedicated workers in the field are acutely aware of these restraints and deplore them."(more...)
"All our official duties having been completed, we departed Friday morning for Timbuktu and then Mopti and were met at each stop by dozens of government and military officials, a wide range of musicians and dancers, and hundreds of children holding up signs of welcome and thanks for our having ended the terrible scourge of Guinea worm in these areas. Both cities were located on the Niger River when founded in the 12th century, but the stream is now about 10 miles from Timbuktu as the Sahara desert has moved southward, and the sand has slowly taken over. When we visited the ancient mosque, consisting of nine concentric half-circles, we could see the top of the original entranceway now about a foot above floor level.
"There is a dramatic change in architecture and foliage as one moves from one side of the town to the other. Most buildings in the town were made of mud and straw bricks with flat roofs; then from the Peace Monument, dedicated to tranquility with neighboring nations and a global effort to control trade in small arms, we looked northward to a scene of camels and domed desert huts, with woven fiber mats covering frameworks of limber limbs and tree branches. This, they said, is where the Sahara begins, though it all looked like desert to us. The difference is that they can grow a little millet and livestock in the area. Beyond this there were only sand dunes extending 500 miles to Algeria. One of the most interesting visits was to a working museum, where ancient manuscripts are being catalogued, scanned into digital images, and preserved in special preservative boxes..."
"It became increasingly obvious to me that a basic problem was that Ghana's officials, from field workers to the president, considered the drilling of deep borehole wells as the primary solution to the Guinea worm problem. The common theme was "a deep well will eradicate our Guinea worms." Although highly desirable and much needed in every village, this is not the way to eradicate the disease. Extremely expensive and time-consuming, with no assurance of finding potable water in many areas, the borehole dream had become a substitute for simple filtering of each drink and keeping people with emerging worms out of the ponds. Most communities throughout the world have eradicated Guinea worm without drilling a well, and many people are still infected even when blessed with a good underground source of water. Just stopping by the local pond for one drink is all it takes."
"International election monitoring, such as we have done 47 times, is resulting in an increasing number of stable democratic governments. Africa is an exciting place, with highly diverse cultures, systems of government, and economic achievement. Dominated and exploited for centuries by colonial powers, the people now enjoy a degree of freedom, but often face extreme handicaps in attempting to compete in a global society where military, economic, and social power are held by rich nations where there is little concern or even awareness of their opportunities or their plight. This is the preeminent concern of The Carter Center."
Guinea worms are three foot long parasites that penetrate the skin gradually often permanently crippling the victim for life....Carter is determined to wipe them out, exposing Bush's bold African AIDS pledges as the cheap stunt they really are, and how Castro has delivered on socially progressive aid programs while terrorist-obsessed Washington can't see the forest for the trees.
Carter for President!