“All Rights For All Children, Worldwide.”

3954-19-11-12-unicefAs I been focused on my region, I could see that we are not used to hear news about Sub-Saharan Africa and that it makes difficult for us to know what it is happening there right now, but if we dig a little bit we can see that there are many issues going on in those countries.

For my International Current Day Observations course I interviewed Blanca Carazo Pérez who works for UNICEF as the head of government of UNICEF Spain in the Emergency Management and Cooperation department.

While talking to her I could appreciate that UNICEF is an organization that has a long history and has managed to achieve different accomplishments through the years, it was created after World War 2 in 1946 by the decision of the General Assembly of the United Nations, with the purpose of helping children in Europe. Since the beginning they work with children no matter their race, religion or nationality to protect their rights above all.

Blanca Carazo Perez the head of government of UNICEF Spain in the Emergency Management and Cooperation department and Myself.

Blanca Carazo Pérez the head of government of UNICEF Spain in the Emergency Management and Cooperation department and Myself.

One of the most importantly achieves of UNICEF is the adoption of The Convention on the Rights of the Child that was enacted in 1990 but created the 20 of November 1989 and is the world’s most widely ratified international treaty, a treaty in which most countries have signed.

“Is our guide, the one who frames the action of UNICEF worldwide in both developed and developing countries”

Their mission is to protect all the rights of all children that are set out at the Convention. In recent years they have focused on the equity approach for children and especially those who are most in need.

At a working level in developing countries, they make an analysis of the situation of children, raising awareness among the media by giving the message of poverty and how it is affecting children in the developing countries, as any decision on cuts or prioritize one thing over another at a political level, but it must be analyzed from the standpoint of how it affects children, since we are not as aware as we should. Even though they are still having small successes at various levels from the development of the poverty strategy that includes a section for children, commitment to help children.

“Even if it is a slow and insistent progress that involves talking to people and make them proposals, each time we are getting more things done”

In each country there is a UNICEF office who creates a work plan with the government, as they are a United Nations agency the way of working is always in collaboration with governments, so sometimes it is not easy but allows results to have impacts at a large scale and have a sustainability, because they are trying not only to make a program that consists of building schools but in working with the government, so they can ensured that all country’s children attend these schools, these projects are slowly as all governments do not have those resources. These programs are developed for about 3 to 5 years making a series of priorities.

UNICEF has clear priorities and major areas in which they must work, as they are changing their global strategic plan which will be put into force in January 2014 and it is define as the category of child survival: health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, education, protection, HIV / AIDS. Like the attempt to reduce child mortality since mid are 17,000 children under 5 die daily, to give every single boy or girl an education, bring clear water, fight childhood malnutrition with new ways, end with female genital mutilation.

Another big problem that may seem nonsense and it is very important, is child registration, most African children are not registered civilly and that greatly affects when is the time to do the statistics which are the point of reference of politicians when it comes to make huge decisions.

This International Organization has made a lot of progress through the years and may not seem that far away that they were only helping children in Europe, but it has grown because we helped and we made that possible, people perseverance has made this possible.

Is in our hand to make the difference and start changing the world by doing small things and in that way will be a step forward to progress and we should encourage others to do the same, this interview has shown me that the world need us, and need our help to developed itself.

By: Itziar Pérez de Landazábal García.

Spain’s Agency of International Cooperation for Development Celebrates 25 years

6a00d8341bfb1653ef019b011ddeb7970dSpain’s agency of International Cooperation for Development has recently celebrated 25 years, with the presence of the Queen of Spain, Sofia and many prominent political figures. The agency over the years has developed subsidiaries in 38 countries all over the world. Every four years the agency establishes priority territories and in those territories priority countries. During the period 2013-2016 the priority territories have been and are  Latin America, North Africa and the Middle East,  and lastly Sub Saharan Africa. Ana Jar Rodriguez-Mendel the coordinator of Southern, Central, and Eastern Sub Saharan Africa explains how a priority country is chosen. images

“There are many factors and actors that go into the decisión, political, historical etc. Factors that influence the decisión include the capacity Spain has to help a particular country, cultural unions that countries may have with Spain like Equatorial Guinea which used to be a spanish colony, if a special cultural or economic relationship exists with Spain and fundamentally the level of development a particular country has -the lesser the development the more likely Spain will make it a priority country. The agency belongs to the national Ministry of Exterior so actors include autonomous community’s like Galicia or Andalusia and any city council involved in the development of a country. Other actors include ONGD which are non governmental organizations for development and opinions from the private sector ,enterprises, are crucial as they offer jobs and produce essential items for living . All of these actors are present at a parliamentary based decisión making process.”

The agency then continues establishing offices in priority countries. Priority countries in Sub Saharan Africa include Senegal, Mali, Niger, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea and Mozambique. Equatorial Guinea as mentioned used to be a spanish colony until 1968 when it gained independence. The country has become sub-Sahara’s biggest producer of oil, but its citizens continue living in poor conditions. Less than half the population have access to drinking water. Mozambique was a portuguese colony until 1975 and since has been struggling with civil war, economic mismanagement and famine. Niger rated by the United Nations as one of the worlds least-developed countries has had to  struggle with a a long military rule, a drought that prevents it from feeding its citizens and widespread diseases caused by an inadequate health care system. The agency plans to help these countries by consolidating democratic processes, reducing inequality and vulnerability of the poor, promote economic opportunities for the most poor, respond to humanitarian crisis in a effective way among etc.

images-1Ana Jar explains how the agency not only helps developing countries but also helps Spain. Spain in recent years has seen a worrying increase in immigration especially from Africa. The agency indirectly somehow helps Spain and in consequence the rest of Europe since many european immigrants enter through Spain. Many people must leave there countries because they have no other choice. It is either starve, live in a violent environment or travel through dangerous areas to an unknown country. If their countries provided them with a sustainable life than they wouldn’t want to leave. So if the agency help countries develop enough to provide its citizens with basic living conditions they would not want leave and emigrate to other countries like Spain.

Another issue Ana tackles is one that everyone is tired of hearing of but has a particular consequence in the agency, the european economic crisis. The crisis has hit hard many countries one of which is Spain. The government of Spain in consequence felt that they had no other choice but to lower the amount of money used to subsidize governmental agencies.  Many agencies have seen there budget lowered quite significantly. The Agency of International Cooperation for Development  in particular has seen there budget lowered more than fifty percent. That is the reason why the amount of priority countries has been lowered in order to concentrate the budget in a few countries and have a larger impact.

Even though the agency has seen their budget lowered, Ana explains the agency’s accomplishments over the past twenty five years. Such accomplishments include the increase of budget that Spain destined to the development of third world countries, strengthening the country’s exterior image where  Spain has never been present, and fundamentally as proven by evaluations the agency has implemented programs to decrease poverty. Although Ana insists that real success will be met when there is no need for an agency of this type. When third world countries have a sustainable future and need no exterior help.

 By: Mercedes Rosendo

“The resources are never enough”


I got the pleasure of interviewing Marcos Rodriguez Jimenez, a Spanish business man who lives in Equatorial Guinea.

First of all, I may say that it has been very hard to do the interview with him because he is 6000 kilometers far away from Spain. He lives in a region where whether the internet connection is too slow or there is not, so the only way to talk to people from there is via phone or via mail. So, you may be wondering why anybody would want to live there, the answer is very easy: business.

Marcos, who is a technical industrial engineer, was offered to go to Equatorial Guinea as the General Director of the Spanish company he was working at in that moment. For accepting the position he had to pass an exam in Madrid and two psychological tests in order to see if he would be able to work, as he says, “in the middle of nothing, as this country is”. Once the results were available, he realized that he had been the one who got the highest scoring (from four hundred workers) what made him accept the position, even which meant living at 6000km abroad from his family. He arrived to Equatorial Guinea on April of 2008 in order to do works and electrification projects of low and high voltage.

At the end of last year, the company in which Marcos had been working at for years, filed for bankruptcy, what make him start thinking about creating his own company. The idea became a truth on February of this year, 2013, when he opened “Alemar.Ingenierias”.  The opening of the company wasn´t easy. For creating a company, which is mostly financed by foreign capital, in Equatorial Guinea you need to associate with someone from there who must have, at least, the 35% of the company shares. Once you have your shareholder, you must ask to the Equatorial Guinean Government for permission. All the process is very slow because the public institutions of the country are not computerized yet so everything is manually made what means that all the paperwork needs much more time than the time it would need in a country as Spain.

When I asked him about the Government, he said that “talking about the Equatorial Guinean Government is very complicated”. It is a dictatorship led by Teodoro Obiang after a coup made at the end of the seventies. This type of regime is not considered as one in more than eighty countries (Spain included) but Marcos says that the president is a “respectable person and worthy of admiration”. This is because he has converted Equatorial Guinea from being a poor Third World country (as 10 years ago) into the third producer of oil of all Africa. “He has created a new country in ten years by building schools, hospitals and airports, the only reason why they need foreign workers is because the country does not have professionals in any field” Marco says.

“Alemar.Ingenierias” has played a very important role in all these new infrastructure projects and in other works which have made the company be very well recognized by all sectors and with a lot of prestige. The way they work is not easy. The company has to import all materials from countries as Spain, who is the main supplier of Equatorial Guinea, because they don´t have the resources to produce what they need. This make the process be very costly and slower than it should be.  The company has to import everything: from the material and equipment to the people (workers) because, as I said before, the Equatorial Guineans are not qualified people.

But the problem with the resources is not just an issue that affects Marco´s sector, it is a country issue. He lives in a country in which poverty comes from not having drinking water to not having medicines. Sometimes Marcos tells that they had to bring their own doctors and medicines because “the resources are never enough”.

It is a problem about resources, a problem about not having enough to teach people how to be better workers, how to use what they have or how to know what they really need. But it also is a necessity, the necessity of knowing how to improve, how to face big countries. The government is trying to improve the country, but there is not improvement if people don´t have the chance of improving. Although Marcos and Equatorial Guineans speak the same language, they don´t share the same culture and this is the “big difference” that Marcos has realized, the difference of having the necessity and chance of improving, and just having the need. 


Alba Luque Granda

Interviewing Auxi Reula Arasanz, AMREF Spain.

AMREF Flying Doctors motto-logo

For this interview on the sub-Saharan topic, I focus my attention in one of the main aspects of relation between western countries and Africa: the cooperation. At this point in our blog on this thrilling region we saw most of issues related with conflicts, civil wars, health diseases, natural disaster and so all. But not all is bad news, and no whole Africa is a country.

Is actually one of the most developing areas of the world, and where we can see many progress in the democratic institutionalization of some countries. It’s true that some colonizing links still existing and these connections are, in some cases, holding up the correct evolution of a society which is demand for this progress.

In a more Eurocentric vision of the Sub-Saharan issue, the questions are about what we can do, and how we can help for the long awaited African progress, without a neocolonial attitude and without interfering on the natural evolutionary process of societies. There is two main ways: the institutional way in which the European governments should help in the building of a correct and democratic politic society (democratic institutionalism) and the other way is the one in which the NGO’s must work for the health, and the social issues, that will contribute in the composition of a strong social tissue; building with that a social society, which is essential in a truly and freedom democracy. These two concepts are in the Gramsci idea of the “superstructure” of any government, for our (their) purpose: democratic states.

Eduardo and Auxi at the AMREF office in Madrid.

With Mrs. Auxi Reula at the AMREF office in Madrid.

For this purpose, I had the chance to interview Mrs. Auxi Reula, current Project Manger of AMREF Flying Doctors Spain, and AMREF Spain is associated with AMREF international. As she explained, the organization has here a different juridical situation, but with the same objectives and principles. 

Obviously, my first question was about the organization, the work they do, and what kind of projects they are implementing. She told me that the African Medical and Research Foundation, Flying Doctors, was created in 1957 by three surgeons: Sir Archibald McIndoe, Sir Michael Wood and Tom Rees. These doctors start doing their work in East Africa driving a plane over this region, trying to reach the remotest corners. This project is now the most important African NGO, in which the 93% of the people working are from Africa. And to do a better work, AMREF international (headquartered in Nairobi –Kenya-) has created an international network of the organization to optimize and improve their work. In Spain, AMREF flying doctors establish three main acting points:

  1. Fundraising and membership recruitment (in Spain).
  2. Networking with civil society (mainly medical staff) and governments (in Africa).
  3. Advocacy of medical interests (a kind of lobbying for the medical interests of African states).

And they base their work and projects following six lines of preferential action:

Main actuation countries of AMREF Spain (Red)

  • AIDS, tuberculosis, and sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Malaria.
  • Family health,child health, women’s health.
  • Waterand purification systems.
  • Training local health workers and editing medical manuals.
  • Medical services and training to remote rural populations through the Flying Doctors 

With this, and to be more effective, they scoop their projects in seven countries:

  • South-Africa (to focus on Austral Africa
  • South Sudan
  • Senegal (west-africa)
  • Ethiopia
  • Uganda
  • Tanzania
  • Kenya (headquarter)

At this point my impression of this organization was very positive. Their work is objective and pragmatic, and focuses on structural problems, and not only in the juncture of single or critical situation. By creating a solid relationship between the local governments and training the native population in medical matters, they contribute tobuilda stable network of medical care. As the saying goes: Teach them to fish, and you will not have to give them fish every day”.

In the second part of the interview she told me about the work of AMREF Spain, and the projects carried. In their work, it’s very important the fundraising and the communication with the local administrations. It’s mainly technical and administrative work which will materialize in concrete actions in the place. AMREF Spain is so an organization serving AMREF international and have to respond the needs and acting plans required from the headquarters in Africa. They are also getting more involved in digital communication as an inexpensive way to publicize their activities, in places where they are not yet known, as in Spain. An example of that, is the  Twitter account they started for Spain, in the last November:

But the main part of their work in Spain is the fundraising, and in terms of this, the most interesting data is the proportion of donations between the public and the private, which is now in 75% and 25%, respectively. As she could tell me, the situation of the public administrations in Spain is very bad at these moments (because the “crisis”), when they have always been the major donors of the AMREF programs. The current situation has significantly increased the percentage of private contributions, but without falling into the trap: the corporate solidarity of Spanish companies still not rooted as social action (in contrast to countries like USA, where is widespread).

We ended the interview talking about the major project being carry out by AMREF, and in which is also working AMREF Spain. The project is calling “Stand Up For African Mothers”. As starts the song: “in sub-Saharan Africa, 1/39 mothers are at risk of dying during pregnancy and child-birth. No woman should die giving life…” The message seems clear; the situation of mothers is very vulnerable before infections or illness occurring in the pregnancy, and many of them end up dying. In one of the main AMREF actuation countries, South Sudan, the rate is 2,054 deaths per 100,000 live births (assuming that the fertility rate is 4.6 children per woman, results that nearly 10% die because of pregnancy).  That’s an unaffordable statistic, not only for the excessive human loss; but also for the social damage. As Mrs. Auxi points, apart from the human lives, the social value of the women in the African communities is enormous; both for the development, and for a family care lacking the minimum government social assistance. Therefore, this campaign aims to combat the problem; launching mechanisms for the training of midwives and medical staff to help in pregnancies. In this way, the most symbolic initiative of this campaign was to purpose the figure of the midwife (“accoucheuse”), for the Peace Nobel Prize.

We thought, along with Mrs. Auxi, that the best way to end this interview was providing a donation pathway for this campaign (Stand Up For African Mothers); and therefore anyone could participate, which in my opinion, is one of the best NGOs in Africa (if not the best, for all that was mentioned above).

Colabora con AMREF

Supports AMREF

Eduardo García Canal, UEM.

Need for human resources in primary care at sub-Saharan Africa.

Why there is an inverse primary-care law in Africa

Many sub-Saharan African countries are trying to develop ambitious plans for universal primary care, but they are failing to deliver them because of human-resource problems. For example, half of the health-workers posts were vacant in Uganda in urban and rural health centers in 2009.

Solidarmed picture of a Mission Hopital in Zimbawe

An analysis carried out by interviewing health workers born sub-Saharan Africa showed the reasons why they had not taken up these vacant posts in their own country. Instead of staying in their own country to deliver primary care, they have migrated to Europe (Belgium, the UK or Austria) or to Southern African countries. Some interesting arguments done by these migrated doctors and nurses are explained in the next lines.

The three main reasons given for choosing not to work in primary care in sub-Saharan Africa were a poor working environment, difficult living experiences, and a poor career path. The professionals explain in stark human terms that there is such an intractable gap between government aspirations and the actual provision of effective primary-care services in sub-Saharan Africa. The fact that there is a shortage of medicines and equipment, an unmanageable workload and no professional support affects the quality of the primary-care.

Many respondents had concerns about personal security in primary-care settings, and also about living conditions for them and their family (“There are no big schools”, said a doctor from Guinea). Another reason for migrating is the lack of opportunities to earn a good salary.

Although these difficulties are not restricted to the primary-care sector, they affect it most acutely, because of the exposure to poor social opportunities, personal insecurity, and the poor working conditions in the deprived areas where the primary services are placed.

Face of Malawi picture of an African hospital

It is known that it is not a new problem. It was in the UK in the 60`s, date when universal health coverage was getting introduced, that there was a failure in providing primary care in the areas where it was more necessary. More recently, in India and China, it is shown that good salaries to doctors is not as important as having good clinical resources (access to diagnostic and treatment facilities, incentive to work) to achieve effective universal health coverage.

It´s a pity to say that the general opinion of the 65 health workers who sit the interview was that effective primary care was not going to happen in most of sub-Saharan Africa. They strongly believe that clinicians are not going to work in the conditions of the actual primary care (which are even getting worse as the need for effective primary care increases). This is why the situation could be called the inverse primary care law.

The experts said that ”The policy discourse on universal health care in Africa has to focus on providing the human resources to staff and deliver primary care effectively” Some solutions could change poor working environments and career paths in primary care, and that will be the point for many health workers to return to its own country. Not only to have medicines or better buildings with medical facilities, but also better connections between villages and cities to have access to complete diagnosis and treatments even in the smallest areas. This kind of improvements would let primary health-workers cure properly, and they would find its place in sub-Saharan Africa.  Until some measures won´t be taken, the poorest areas are condemned to receive poor care or no care at all.

Would You be a Mother in Sub Saharan Africa

The importance Sub-Saharan governments put in women and children is ridiculously low. In this region women and children besides having to struggle with discrimination also have to fight for basic civil rights like health care or education. Unfortunately this part of the world is known for corruption, political unrest, diseases like malaria but what about child birth.


Pregnant African Woman.

One in every six women in Sub Saharan Africa have more chances to die during pregnancy or child birth in comparison to one in every four thousand in industrialized countries. This statistic is shocking it is the largest difference between countries.The causes of deaths are very diverse and include infections, hemorrhage, obstructed labor, and hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. The cause of such high morality is due to the inadequate healthcare provided to these women.

34 percent of women do not receive paternal attention during their pregnancy. Sub-Saharan Africa has just 11 doctors, nurses, midwives for every 10,000 people. Even more shocking in countries like in Guinea, Niger, Sierre Leone and Somalia there are less than two health care professionals for every 10,000 people.

As the inadequate health care affects mothers in consequence it also affects new borns in Sub Saharan Africa. According to a report by Save the Children forty percent of first day newborn deaths are in Sub-Saharan Africa. At least 20 percent of illnesses that kids less than five suffer are correlated with the mothers health during pregnancy. Also it is very typical for women to have children at a very young age, when their bodies are not mature enough to sustain a child. In too many cases this leads to the mothers or childs death.

Orphan Children in Nigeria

Orphan Children in Nigeria.

Another issue to point out is that if mothers do die during child birth many children become orphans. These children have a ten percent more chance to die during their first two years of life.

This tragedy can be easily prevented because the cause is mostly due to bad health care provided by governments. Governments should pay more attention to the health care they provide and also to educating these young woman about such issues like preservatives. Not only should Sub Saharan African countries contribute but countries all over the World should try to make a difference either though economic help, education, or directly offering medical help.

Central African Republic: Political Revolution or Religious Genocide

What seemed to be a coup to overthrow President Francois Bozize has now become a national conflict between Muslims and Christians. The country’s turmoil began on March 22nd when the Seleka, a coalition of rebel groups took over the government and placed Michel Djotodia as president.

François Bozizé, the previous President of The CentralAfrica Republic.

François Bozizé, previous President of The CentroAfrica Republic.

The Central African Republic has been fighting instability since its independence from France in 1960. The Central African Republic is one of the poorest and most undeveloped country in the world even though it has a considerable amount of agricultural water and mineral resources. Corruption, and illegal weapons roam throughout the country. This has led to several coups one following another adding to the instability of the country. On March 2013 the most recent coup occurred when the Seleka took over.

Michel Djotodia, formal President of the CentroAfrica Republic.

Michel Djotodia, formal President of the CentroAfrica Republic.

New president Michel Djotodia says he is determined to dissolve this rebel group. Although it is highly unlikely he will dissolve what put him in power. In the capital city Bangui many soldiers and officers are present which gives the impression of stability but as soon as you travel away from the city one can just tell the terrible situation the country is in.

Centroafrica @ONU_RCA Instead of applying the laws of Justice, the  PURCHASED THE SILENCE.This is the worst of corrupters @MICHELDJOTODIA

Where both Muslim and Christian communities lived peacefully, and made business together there is now violence and death. There is not only death,  but rape, child soldier recruitment and weapon proliferation are also present. The Islamist rebel group Senekal is inciting this violence.  Both communities are being killed and hundreds of Christians and Muslims are forced to leave the country or live in refugee camps. Many villages have been deserted or burned.

The United Nations is worried the conflict will evolve into a religious genocide. The United Nations have been working with the country since 2007 and is planning to send hundreds of troops to help the country. The African Union is also planning a 3600-member peacekeeping mission, but it is unlikely that it will be operational before 2014.