By Jessie Date-Ampofo
Niger was recently recognized for its progress in reducing child mortality. According to The Lancet, research indicates that Niger has cut its child mortality rates by nearly 50 percent within the last decade. In 1998, there were 226 deaths per 1000 live births, a figure that has dropped to 128 deaths as of 2009.* Though this news is cause for celebration, Niger still holds one of the top child mortality rates in the world. The good news is that the country has proven it can move forward with the involvement of the Government.
Policy outcomes were measured by documenting maternal, newborn and child health programs and policies since 1995. Some of these policies include monitoring the provision of intermittent preventive therapy to prevent malaria during pregnancies, and the use of free mosquito nets. Researchers also used the Lives Saved Tool, which estimates the impact of different policies by evaluating various hypothetical scenarios.**
The drop in child mortality has occurred in part because the Government of Niger has taken responsibility for its citizens in this area. By implementing policies to increase access to free healthcare for pregnant women and children under five, the construction of health centers, and the distribution of bed nets and oral rehydration salts, the Government of Niger has taken significant steps to fight Malaria and diarrhea among children.
These findings are significant because they demonstrate that it is possible for a country, even in a dire situation, to take control of its progress and be successful in reducing child mortality. Other countries in Niger’s situation will hopefully realize that in order to develop there is a need for significant government involvement and commitment to following through. With the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) due in just over two years, there is discussion about whether the goals will be reached and what is holding them back. Reduction of child mortality is MDG 4, improving maternal health care is MDG 5, and combating malaria and other diseases is MDG 6.*** The strategy used in Niger has shown progress in addressing all three goals. Currently, only 23 of 74 Countdown Countries are expected to complete the MDG’s on time.**** Niger proves that government involvement in the well-being of the people is crucial. Though the role of government in health care is controversial, in Niger it has played an important part in making sure pregnant women and children under five get the health care they need.
While it may seem difficult to tackle all the issues fighting for recognition in a developing nation, Niger was successful using low-cost, effective strategies in a short amount of time. With the Government recently adopting a $2.53 billion dollar budget and the profits from its first oil reserves, it will be interesting to see how the country continues to tackle these issues.*****
* The Lancet, Volume 380, Issue 9848, Pages 1169 - 1178, 29 September 2012 doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61376-2
** "LiST (Lives Saved Tool) | Home." Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Department of Health, n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2013.
*** "United Nations Millennium Development Goals." UN News Center. UN, n.d. Web. 30 Mar. 2013.
**** Requejo, Jennifer, Jennifer Bryce, and Cesar Victoria. "Building a Future for Women and Children." Childinfo.org. World Health Organization and UNICEF, 2012. Web. <http://www.childinfo.org/files/CountdownReport_2012.pdf>.
***** Thurston, Alex. "With Eye on Mali, Niger Adopts New Strategy for Tuareg North." WPR Article. World Politics Review, 09 Oct. 2012. Web. <http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/12400/with-eye-on-mali-niger-adopts-new-strategy-for-tuareg-north>.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
by: David L. McCoy
When we think of development often times the conversation deals with one of two things; the individual or the community. The story often times goes like this…an organization comes into a community to help either the community or the individual and after a project is complete they move on to the next community. Development and the development community too often help communities but how many times do they become part of that community? The instances of this happening do exist but in our experience the communities we have worked, passed through and spoke with see development professionals as outsiders, passer-bys, helpful people that come and go. And while these communities are happy to take the help questions of motive often come up. This point became abundantly clear for us when we were speaking with a group of medical professionals. A community health worker asked, “we are here airing our dirty laundry, so what are you going to do for us? Are you going to be like so many other organizations that come here, stay for a short time and leave without really helping?”
GACD places a premium on partnership and collaboration with communities. We work hard to gain the trust of our partners and integrate ourselves into fabric of each community. But how do you accomplish something so integral yet often very difficult? It is through the simple every day experiences. The projects and the continued support are important, but the moments we saw understanding and trust develop the most was when we integrated ourselves into the daily lives of people. When we helped unload a tro-tro with the owner of the general store, helped make the evening meal, shared our culture, did our own laundry, and gave up our seats on a packed bus on market day.
These experiences showed the communities that we were not fragile, foreigners that needed to be coddled for a little bit then would escape back the western world. What it showed was that we were just people, people that have a common goal with these communities. That we are an organization that works hard on their behalf, while working just as hard to understand their lives by living it. The realization that we, as an organization, must be a part of a community as much as we must have an impact on a community has become integral to our philosophy.
We have been welcomed into the communities of Adaklu-Sikama and Klave as friends, colleagues and partners, which makes our work that much more impactful and effective…and you can participate in making us even more effective by clicking here.
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
by: John Costigan
The word Ghana means "Warrior King" and is derived from the ancient Ghana Empire. The search for oil in Ghana began in 1879, under the British colonial rule. The first discovery was made around 1969 and further reserves continue to be found today. Though Ghana’s empire is ancient, its 21st century clout grows with West Africans. Ghana is believed to have up to 5 billion barrels of oil in reserves, the 5th largest reserves in Africa. This revenue explosion has given Ghana’s government tremendous opportunity. Whether this opportunity enriches the few or the many will shape Ghana’s future.
According to revenuewatch.org Ghana received $164 million in revenue in 2011 from oil sales. 70% of this revenue was allocated to projects directly helping the population such as roads and agricultural modernization. Ghana’s transparency draws a sharp contrast to neighboring Nigeria, whose oil revenues are paid directly to bank account in New York and not national coffers according to Thisdaylive.com. Ghana’s governance has remained principled in the face of temptation. With oil revenue expected to grow 47% in the coming years the future of the West African nation looks promising.
Ghana’s economy, with a gross domestic product of $38 billion forecasted for this year by the International Monetary Fund, grew 14.4% in 2011, the fastest pace in Sub-Saharan Africa. This year, expansion of 9.4% is projected, according to the Finance Ministry. The IMF forecasts growth of 8.8%. With this expansion comes the need for improved infrastructure to facilitate further growth. Ghana needs to spend $26 billion on infrastructure such as roads and electricity to support economic growth led by the start of oil production for export in 2010, according to the World Bank. Without these investments revenue will fail to match government expenditures.
Oil has created a growing wealth and domestic job market in Ghana. Unfortunately complaints from aggravated workers in the oil industry have grown just as quickly. The Executive Secretary of the National Labor Commission, Mr. Edward Briku-Boadu, has reported to newafricanmagizine.com that the Commission sometimes receives up to 500 complaints from workers each month, describing it as worrying. These growing complaints illustrate Ghana’s need to balance growth fed by international investment with domestic conditions.
Over the last year, eight exploration wells were drilled in Ghana’s oil fields. Six of them resulted in oil and gas discoveries. This represents the highest number of exploration wells ever drilled in the country in a one-year period, and resulted in a high success rate of 75%, the industry’s success rate hovers around 10% according to Newafricanmagizine.com.
There is on-going appraisal work on all the new discoveries, and on four of them significant progress has already been made with very encouraging results. Appraisal work on a gas discovery in what is called the Sankofa Field was completed last year, and private energy companies have shown interest in developing these field. Over the next five years, the country expects commercial development and production of both oil and gas in all the discovered fields. If the resource can continue to be well managed, the future for oil and Ghana’s economic development looks bright.
As until the future becomes reality, Ghanians still need our help and you can be a part of ensuring Ghana's bright future. Support our work.
Monday, August 27, 2012
by: Jessie Date-Ampofo
India is one of many states using legislation to end child marriage. A New Delhi High Court recently ruled that husbands of girl children (females under the age of 18) cannot consummate their marriages until the female reaches the age of 20. At this time, she can bring her marriage before the court in hopes of it being overturned. The High Court also ruled that consummating marriage with a girl despite the law is to be considered rape even with her consent. In addition the man cannot be protected by any religious or personal beliefs that permit him to move forward with the relationship.
While this ruling is a step forward in the struggle to end child marriage, it remains to be seen if the law can alter traditions that communities have upheld for long periods of time. Though sometimes overlooked, there are rights that communities have which include upholding traditions. The Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of which India has agreed to be legally bound is an example of this. There is a discrepancy between cultural rights and individual human rights that India and other states are trying to reconcile with domestic law. The minimum age of marriage in India is 18 for females and 21 for males. However child marriage, particularly pertaining to girl children, continues for both economic and cultural reasons. The effects of forced marriage on young girls are negative both physically and psychologically. According to UNESCAP, young girls are unable to negotiate safe sex and are vulnerable to domestic violence (UNESCAP).
Labeled a human rights violation by UNICEF, child marriage violates Article 16 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which states that men and women are equal in marriage and that marriage must be entered into freely and with consent (UDHR). India is a signatory of the UDHR, and other international documents like the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women that are meant to uphold and enhance the rights of women, including rights concerning marriage.
Child Marriage is an issue many states are trying to address. The minimum age of marriage in Ghana is 18, though many underage marriages still occur. In the Volta Region of Ghana where GACD works, 30% of girls are married before age 18. While few initiatives are present, GACD works to increase access to education in this area by developing literacy and other skills. Without the responsibilities that come with an early marriage, girls can focus on school and maintaining good health. When they are older and educated, they can decide whom to marry and when.
Though child marriage is a serious concern, many countries are implementing international law by creating laws and programs aimed to end child marriage. Despite this, there are many regions where this tradition is upheld. By using community programs that improve education and health access as well as emphasizing the benefits of no child marriage, we can make child marriage a concept of the past.
How do you think countries should go about ending harmful traditions?
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
By: Yong Hang Wang
John Evans Atta Mills, the late president of Ghana, died shortly after his 68th birthday on July 24th, 2012. Known and praised for his contributions to making Ghana more democratic and more stable, his passing came with national sorrow but it also spotlighted the hope that lies ahead for Ghana. Hours after his announced death, the Vice-President, John Dramani Mahama assumed the presidency. This tremendously important event showed the peaceful passage of political power and the respect of institutional procedures outlined in Ghana's Constitution This event, while tragic and sudden adds to Ghana’s reputation as a model African democracy. In his death President Mills left a legacy that should help Ghana’s continued economic growth and leadership amongst African nations.
President Mills was a graduate of the University of Ghana, where he studied law and attained his J.D. He then earned a doctorate from the University of London and went on to be a Fullbright Scholar at Stanford University. In addition, he taught law for 25 years, which garnered him the affectionate nickname, “The Prof.” President Mills’ strong academic background was complemented by the leadership experience he gain before becoming President. From 1997 to 2000 he served as the Vice-President under President Jerry Rawlings and before that he served as the Commissioner of Internal Revenue.
His victory at the 2008 election was extremely narrow, but nonetheless as President he helped to strengthen Ghana’s economy by turning it into an oil producer. Adding the production of oil to Ghana’s exportable commodities, which include cocoa and gold, if done right will allow for huge increases in the quality of life in Ghana. Interestingly, early in his career the economy was seen by many as one of his greatest weaknesses as Ghana was very economically unstable. But as time passed President Mills is now more commonly acknowledged as the man responsible for Ghana’s impressive economic growth.
While President Mahama has taken over the executive helm, his time as President may will be truncated by the election coming up in December. This is going to be one of the most contentious elections yet, for whoever wins will have positioned themselves and their party strategically ahead. True, there will be a vast array of issues for the incoming president to address, but with the profitability of oil production the incoming president will most likely enjoy high public opinion and a comfortable budget to work with. This newest tragedy has once again shown the stability that exist in Ghana and the hope that Ghana’s future is bright. As the election plays out and the economy grows, perhaps addressing the rampant poverty through out Ghana will take a front seat. This is certainly a future that GACD would like to see.
Monday, July 23, 2012
By Jessie Date-Ampofo
Earlier this year, news outlets were in frenzy (albeit a brief frenzy) over the famine that devastated East Africa. The region experienced a drought which resulted in a lack of crops, food for survival and income for those who sell their goods. Unfortunately, the famine is by no means over; 2.8 million people are still without food solely because of this crisis, yet, the ordeal is over in the news and in many of our minds. There are now reports that a famine may soon hit West Africa. This news is devastating, the situation preventable and yet, what will we do to prevent it? Are we burned out in our giving?
Do we need to be in the midst of a horrifying event before we acknowledge and address it?
There exist many speculations as to how this crisis occurred including climate change, inaccessible markets and the failure of governments to find alternatives to rain aside from irrigation. What is clear is that if left alone, this food crisis will become a famine, a situation in which people no longer have enough food and water to survive.
Families affected by this crisis are unable to cope due to other famines that have occurred only in the past few years. Just getting back on their feet and still a little shaky, this recent blow is not only a dent in morale but it makes it so much more difficult to make ends meet.
Governments and aid agencies in the Sahel region are working to provide food and water for people and the livestock they need to make a living. However there are governments, like that of Mali, who are currently incapable of sufficiently providing for their people. The recent deposition of the Malian government has left the country unstable making it difficult for aid agencies to coordinate with the country and get civilians the resources they need. This political problem stretches beyond the food crises and although the United Nations and other organizations have expressed concern however little has been done to intervene.
Yet, political unrest is not the only hindrance of food insecurity. The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.” GACD is part of the movement working with communities to harvest and filter rainwater for safe drinking. Other important initiatives to prevent food insecurity include market accessibility for global south farmers and irrigation alternatives. Once safely out of the path of famine, governments and aid agencies in the region need to carefully pursue long term solutions to hunger.
At this point in time, we have the power to prevent the famine from developing. Don’t wait for the alarm to sound; together we can keep it silent. Support our efforts.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
By: Yong Hang Wang
Just this past week, Ghana's Presidential Candidate Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, leader of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), stated that his administration will make universal education possible for all Ghanaian children. He also proclaimed the need to change the polytechnic system into a mechanism that better prepares the next generation of skilled Ghanaians workers. UNICEF's latest statistics show the net enrollment ratio for boys in primary school to be 76%, and 77% for girls. This data suggests that providing basic education to all children might be a soon realized goal. Furthermore, that statistic extends to enrollment in secondary education in Ghana, although it does dip when it comes to upper secondary education. The gross enrollment rate for upper secondary is approximately 35% according to UN data collected between 2007-2010.
There are other great things happening in Ghana in regards to education. For example, earlier this year, in March, a new initiative called Partnering for Inclusive Education in Northern Ghana was launched with the goal of extending educational opportunities to more children in rural settings. Like other education programs, this one pays special effort to attracting and retaining female students. This is because, even though more girls have received more access to education in recent years they are still more vulnerable when it comes to not receiving a full basic education. A couple factors affect this reality, families wanting their daughters to stay home and be caretakers or girls being the victims of physical abuse are just two reasons. (UNICEF estimated in 2010 that worldwide between 133 to 275 million children face violence at home annually, most commonly in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa).
Perhaps the way forward to making education possible for every child needs to be paved with education for parents as well. Parents need to understand that the long-term benefits of having their children attend school is greater for them, their communities and their country than the short-term opportunity cost. This needs to be made explicitly clear, especially now that fees for primary school has been eliminated nation-wide.
Education changes and programs in Ghana are funded either by the national government or by international sources, such as the United Nations, United States (e.g. through USAID), United Kingdom (e.g. through the Department for International Development), Denmark and the European Union just to name a few.
There are also initiatives that grant a lot of power to the community in which a school is built. In January of this year, "School for Life" launched, with support from the UN, to help children who dropped out of school to return and catch up. The hours are flexible and the communities actually pitch in and select which days school will be held, this eliminates conflicts between family duties and educational opportunities. Future education programs should learn from this model, for the probability of success is multiplied when the community feels included. Community inclusiveness in all aspects of development, including education is key to Global Alliance for Community Development approach and vital to sustainable community development.
Sunday, July 15, 2012
Patience Sedor is full of joy and a positive outlook that cannot help but make you smile. This 54 year old women was born and raised in Klave and continues to make her home in this remote village in the Volta Region of Ghana. After spending five years in Accra trying to learn a trade she returned to Klave to make a home and a living. Rising at 5:30 in the morning this mother of two prepares breakfast for her children, grandchild and her husband. As a peasant farmer, Patience works hard to provide for her family but often times come up short. On a daily basis she walk 45 minutes to her farm and works until around 4:30 in the evening. To supplement her income Patience also produces palm oil, and while a common occupation for women in Klave, it is very labor intensive and yields little income.
Upon returning home, she will prepare dinner for her family, and more often than not the meal is her personal favorite of fufu, which is a delicious combination of stewed meat or fish and boiled-pounded cassava. Over fufu, her family talks about politics, current affairs and the happenings of the day. In speaking with Patience, her concerns are common of other community members, including the lack of proper health facilities, poor sanitation, the struggles of educating her children and earning a good living. This conversation quickly turns to the things that she loves, including her children, community service and the hardworking nature of her family, friends and the community. With a setting sun, we end the conversation with a hug and depart her modest home with feelings of warmth and hope that she instills in her community and those around her. Help us help her and the community of Klave.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
by: Kruti Patel
The difference between top-down and bottom-up development is an important point to understand especially when government, the public, donors and recipients of aid are defining expectations.
The top down approach is a strategy used by organizations and institutions to give aid to people, often times through the recipient country’s central government. Top-down institutions also are more willing to make drastic changes to the recipient country’s economy and society with the goal of shifting the way a country or society operates. While this is a laudable goal, it precludes amongst other things the need for well-organized and transparent government institutions. And as William Easterly, author of Design and Reform of Institutions in LDCS and Transition Economies, states 80% of aid is given to corrupt countries. As a result the large societal goals are often left unmet while people still suffer.
An example of the top-down approach lacking effectiveness is with the case of land titles in Africa. Some African countries seldom recognize property rights, as they are defined in the US and other industrialized countries. Institutions working on this issue are trying to make drastic changes to the property laws in Africa. Easterly points out that a colonial research commission conducted in 1938 and the World Bank in 2003 expressed the same views on the importance of land titles in Africa, however through much effort, time and funds this issue has gained little traction. Clearly, after 65 years the top-down approach on putting land titles on African property has not been working.
On the contrary, bottom-up institutions do exactly the opposite. These institutions, like Global Alliance for Community Development, research the needs of the people and make gradual changes to society. Institutions use the bottom-up approach by researching the needs of the aid recipients. These people are called “searchers” according to Easterly. He states, “Searchers look for any opportunity to relieve suffering,…and don’t get stuck on infeasible grand objectives.” (Easterly, Planners vs. Search in Foreign Aid pg. 3). This approach is illustrated well by the Red Cross relief efforts after the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka. The Red Cross provided a stipend of $50 every month to the tsunami victims. However, many of the victims refused to return to their lives because the stipend was more than their income before the tsunami. After learning about the community need and their own unique situation the Red Cross implemented a new plan in order to get the victims back on their feet. The victims only received their stipend if they committed to the clean up efforts of their hometowns. This strategy accomplished two key goals to the re-development of the area. It ensured that the damaged area would be restored and that the victims received enough money to survive and return to their lives. This is considered a bottom-up approach because the Red Cross was not trying to make any drastic changes to policy or society, while working from the ground up. Their goal was to get the tsunami victims lives back to normal. They did so by analyzing a small group of victims and improving the situation on a small scale.
The bottom-up approach that is used by NGO’s worldwide has made significant impact to thousands of communities and millions of people. Global Alliance for Community Development’s approach is part of a bottom-up strategy that is articulated here. This approach takes baby-steps to improving people’s lives while the top-down approach works for big policy changes to make enormous societal and economic changes while the day-to-day remains essentially unchanged.
What approach is best? Please comment.