The Human Impact

New MSF emergency health clinic in Haiti an “advance”

Medical aid charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has opened a new emergency health referral centre in Haiti, which will celebrate its official launch on Wednesday in conjunction with Haiti’s health ministry.

The move is part of a much-needed campaign to improve conditions in a country where the vast majority of people live below the poverty line.

“MSF is now supporting the Ministry of Public Health and Population with 600 hospital beds in Haiti for emergency care,” said Gaëtan Drossart, MSF’s head of mission in Haiti.

“This is still far from adequate, but is nevertheless an advance.”

The surgical referral centre is the third such emergency treatment facility opened by MSF in the capital Port-au-Prince since a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck the country in January 2010.

The quake killed about 300,000 people and left more than 1.5 million homeless.

The 107-bed Nap Kenbe, or Staying Well, centre was completed in February this year to treat trauma related to falls and road accidents, and victims of violence, such as beatings, assaults and bullet wounds.

Trafficking: When women are brutalised as “assets”

Last month I was writing on an “asset” widely traded globally: Women.

In early March, I came across the Saraniya tribe of the west Indian region of Gujarat, where women in a drought-ridden village have for decades been pimped by their male relatives for “easy money”.

Then, there were Bangladesh’s teenage girls trapped in the squalid brothels – forced to take cattle steroids to fatten them up and “make them look healthy” for the clients who prefer girls with a bit of meat on them.

Sri Lanka’s war-traumatised at risk as aid group leaves?

It was with a heavy heart I read the press release this morning.

A desperately needed aid programme run by the charity Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) – in English, Doctors without Borders – in Sri Lanka’s war-torn north has shut down after only 18 months of operation.

I had visited the project last September and I must say what MSF was giving was no ordinary aid.

It was not distributing food to survivors of the Indian Ocean island’s almost three-decade long conflict. Nor was it reconstructing the shelled and bullet-ridden homes, schools and hospitals of Kilinochchi district.

Not enough focus on child soldiers in “Kony 2012″ -War Child

The focus of a film calling for the capture of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony should have been on helping child victims instead, Amanda Weisbaum of non-governmental organisation War Child UK said on Wednesday.

The 30-minute film about Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who is accused of terrorising northern Uganda for more than 20 years, went viral on the Internet after it was released last month.

Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. He is accused of abducting children to use as fighters and sex slaves. So far, regional forces and foreign troops have been unable to capture Kony.

Invest in women in conflict zones to promote change

Where would you put your money as an investor? A leading campaigner against gender-based violence says there is only one answer – invest it in women in conflict zones.

“Conflict zones have the biggest potential for change,” Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women, told delegates at the Skoll World Forum for Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford last week.

“If I were an investor I’d invest in conflict zones and women who live there,” said Ensler, author of the award-winning play, “The Vagina Monologues.”

“No choice” for Afghan girls brought up as boys

In Afghanistan’s largely conservative, male-dominated society, a son is often viewed as a family’s most valuable resource.

So important for the family’s reputation that the parents sometimes decide to raise one of their daughters as a boy.

“When you don’t have a son in Afghanistan…people question the good life that you have,” BBC Persian reporter Tahir Qadiry told me in London last week.

“Rampant feminist” Cindy Gallop tackles love, sex, porn

Easy access to hardcore pornography on the Web and a general lack of sex education for youth is changing attitudes about lovemaking, according to entrepreneur Cindy Gallop.

“I date younger men – they tend to be men in their 20s – and in dating younger men I encounter the real ramifications of the creeping ubiquity of hardcore pornography in our culture,” Gallop, 52, said during an interview at London Web Summit, where she gave a presentation.

“I can personally testify we now have an entire generation growing up that believes that what you see in hardcore porn is the way that you have sex.”

Epidemiologist uses film in fight against S.Africa gold-mine TB

Jonathan Smith is trying to fight disease with facts, figures and – emotion.

Smith is using data-driven research as the basis for a documentary film he hopes will raise awareness about the plight of migrant workers in South African gold mines who, according to a 2011 report published in the American Journal of Public Health, contract tuberculosis (TB) at a rate 10 times higher than the populations from which they come.

Working conditions in the mines create a high-risk environment for TB transmission because of poor ventilation, exposure to silica dust and high HIV rates, said Smith, an epidemiology lecturer at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, in an interview.

Migrant workers are sent home “to die” by the mining firms once they contract TB, spreading it into other parts of Africa already hard hit by the disease, he added.

What good is ‘crowd-sourcing’ when everyone needs help?

In a recent blog post I referred in passing to some of the hype surrounding “crowd-sourcing” projects in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.

That’s not to criticise the volunteers – mostly in the United States – who collectively devoted hundreds of hours to charting the needs of quake survivors on online maps, based on SMS texts sent from the disaster zone.

My point was that their gate-crashing of the relief response in Haiti posed a welcome challenge to the traditional humanitarian system – but also generated hyperbole about the effectiveness of crowd-sourcing in actually saving lives.

After 20 years: still no aid for Bosnian rape and torture victims

Nearly two decades after war ended in Bosnia and Herzegovina, hundreds of women who survived rape and torture in the conflict are still seeking reparations and justice, with only 40 cases of sexual violence having been prosecuted so far, an Amnesty International report says.

“Justice is not only about seeing the perpetrators punished, but it’s also being able to function in everyday life,” Elena Wasylew, the campaigner for Amnesty’s Balkan team, told TrustLaw in a telephone interview from Sarajevo, where the report is being released on Thursday.

“When you ask the women, what does justice mean to you, they say justice means ‘I can access healthcare, that my children can access healthcare, that I can go to work and I don’t have to be ashamed about what happened to me,’” said Wasylew, who has worked closely with women survivors in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) over the last several years.

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