Monday, October 19, 2009

Hopes, Meetings, and Outlines

I am extremely excited for our trip to both South Africa and Mozambique. From an educational standpoint, I am about to encounter a world completely unknown to me. So many African cultures and customs I’m only familiar with from books and films. I want to experience everything fully. I want to memorize every detail…the sights, the sounds, the smells of Africa. I want to come away with something I did not have before. What that is, I’m not sure. But traveling always seems to ground me and I gain perspective on the important things in my life.

So much of what I’ve concentrated on as an undergraduate is static. We are given articles to read, text to memorize…but the application of our lessons is still not understood. I am hoping to gain some experience in the realm of international healthcare during the course of this trip. I feel that it is one thing to throw around theories and policies, but until the situation to be addressed is encountered firsthand, everything remains impersonal and distant.

This relates to my individual project for the ADPM course. I want to learn more about how malnutrition, which is such a rampant problem in sub-Saharan Africa, plays a role in disease prevention and treatment. I hope to focus on malaria and HIV specifically. My individual project, ideally, will be more a review paper commenting on the current status of sub-Saharan Africa and Mozambique relating to malnutrition, malaria, and HIV. From published statistics and personal observation, I hope to first paint a picture of these epidemics. Next, I will compile applicable research that concludes upon possible associations between malnutrition and disease. Finally, I will research programs that have been implemented in both Mozambique and across sub-Saharan Africa with regards to the above public health concerns.

My group has been categorized under all things related to healthcare. Our project addresses three main questions regarding HIV/AIDS in Mozambique: 1) What are the methods of prevention?, 2) What treatment is available?, and 3) What obstacles are faced in the fight against HIV/AIDS? We recently met with Dr. Cohn, an infectious disease specialist who works at the Detroit Medical Center. Dr. Cohn spent a few years in Mozambique researching HIV and he was able to give us more insight into the structure of the country’s healthcare system. He also emphasized the lack of human resources. There are roughly 700 doctors in a country of 20 million. Many times people are unable to reach the hospital or clinic because of the geographic distance and thus are unable to receive a prescription and subsequent treatment. Corruption is also a factor when dealing with the healthcare system. Many times, financial aid is not distributed proportionally or received at all.

Until next time…bon voyage!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Politics of Mozambique

This week we were asked to read Carrie Manning’s The Politics of Peace in Mozambique: Post Conflict Democratization, 1992-2000. In this book, Manning describes Mozambique’s quest for democracy from a more positive, unbiased perspective than Anne Pitcher’s Transforming Mozambique. While each work was extremely informative, Pitcher chose to focus more on the statistical (i.e. political and economic) side of the country’s democratic progress. Manning gave Mozambique a personality through her use of perspective from its citizens. Manning more clearly describes the reasoning behind happenings, whereas I found Pitcher’s book to concentrate more on the results. In addition, the clarity of Manning’s book painted a better picture of the progress and successes of Mozambique’s struggle for democracy. The significance of this country’s journey and evolution distinguishes it from other African countries.

Another difference between the works of Carrie Manning and Anne Pitcher is their commentary on international relations regarding finance with Mozambique. From the view of Manning, donors are essential to furthering the progress of Mozambique. Donations can be interpreted as signs of support for government actions from foreign institutions. At one point, donors were referred to as “development partners.” However, Manning also points out that these donations are restricted and based on very conditional agreements. In contrast, Pitcher focuses on the adverse effects of commercialization in Mozambique. She is more critical of company involvement and the growing dependence of the Mozambican government on commercial funds.

Carrie Manning will in fact be visiting our class as a guest lecturer. It is such a great opportunity that we are able to meet leading experts on Mozambique, especially when we have just recently read their work. I want to ask Professor Manning in class about what she found most inspiring from her research. What can other African nations learn from Mozambique’s story?