Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

Empowering Rwanda to Lead Fight Against HIV

Monday, April 30th, 2012
Rwanda nurse

Cécile Mujawayezu is a nurse at Bungwe Health Centre, one of the partner sites of the AIDSRelief program. She’s been counseling 12-year-old Jean-Claude about his HIV status. Photo by Helen Blakesley/CRS

Cécile is talking to Séraphine about her medicine. Séraphine is HIV positive. She lost her husband to the virus and is now bringing up their six kids in Bungwe, a village high in the hills of northern Rwanda.

A senior nurse at Bungwe Health Center, Cécile used to have to wait for a doctor to come to start people on antiretroviral therapy and conduct more complex medical evaluations—and those visits are only once a week. But now she can handle it by herself. She’s had the training courtesy of the Ministry of Health.

It’s just one of the changes since the center became an AIDSRelief site in 2005. Catholic Relief Services leads the consortium that runs the AIDSRelief program, which is funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Speed Dating in Rwanda: Technology Meets Development

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012
CAR iphone

A woman signs her information form on an smart phone at a CRS seed fair in Kaga Bandoro, Central African Republic. CRS tested a barcode tracking system in June 2011 to see if it was a more efficient and effective way to register and track people helped by the agency. Photo by Sandra Basgall/CRS

By Helen Blakesley

What brings together more than 170 people, from 5 continents, 34 countries and over 64 organizations, in a room in a hotel in the Rwandan capital of Kigali? Speed dating. Seriously. But all in the name of technology and development.

I feel I should explain. If we were going from table to table listening to someone’s alluring spiel, it was because we were at the 4th CRS Global ICT4D Conference, discovering the latest innovations in Information Communications and Technology for Development.

I’d been dispatched to the conference with instructions to “unleash my inner geek”. My concern was, did I have one? I own nothing prefixed with an ‘i’. I’m a firm believer that you can’t beat the feel and smell of a real book between your hands and I’ve never downloaded a song in my life. My techie credentials were not looking good. Still, off I went, to explore this new frontier, with absolutely no idea what to expect.

Bringing Peace and Development to South Sudan

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Sean Callahan, CRS executive vice president for overseas operations, recently traveled to South Sudan to witness first-hand the state of the new nation and Catholic Relief Services’ work there. Here are some of his reflections on peace and the role of the Church:

When South Sudan gained independence from its northern neighbor last year, it was a moment of tremendous victory for the new nation. But nine months after secession, the country—counted among the most impoverished in the world—continues to face significant challenges.
Tensions and violence on the border with Sudan remain, especially in the areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and the border itself has not yet been demarcated. In recent weeks, there have been concerns over oil revenue, with the South accusing the North of stealing its oil—subsequently shutting down all production. Since this is the major source of income for the government of South Sudan, it has put into place austerity measures, which could hamper development efforts.

East Africa Drought: In Somalia, ‘Mending a Crack in the Sky’

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
Somalia camp

A camp for internally-displaced persons in Somalia. Photo courtesy of a local CRS partner

CRS is working through local partners in Somalia as it begins to recover from a devastating drought. Here is a post from a member of one of them. For security reasons, we cannot identify the blogger or the partner. The first post is here.

“Why are they shooting?” I screech and dive to the floor. The other men are laughing; this is my first trip to Mogadishu.

“Oh my brother!” the driver shouts over the machine gun clatter, “There is a traffic jam. This way is more effective than a horn.”

East Africa Drought: ‘Somalias are Infinite’

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012
Somalia camp

A camp for internally-displaced persons in Somalia. An estimated 1.5 million Somalis have been displaced within the country due to drought, famine and war. Photo courtesy of a local CRS partner

CRS is working through local partners in Somalia as it begins to recover from a devastating drought. Here is a post from a member of one of them. For security reasons, we cannot identify the blogger or the partner.

Somalias are infinite.

There is the Somalia of Adel, who owns twenty camels with tasseled saddles; he rides across the sand with his cousins and brothers and a cluster of long-horned cattle, rising up and down and up like a fleet of tiny ships.
There is the Somalia of Wa’ail, who slipped away from the village in the cool of early morning and walked two weeks to find a school. Now he can read. “I would write home and tell them,” he says. “But there is no one to answer.”

The CRS Take on Kony 2012, Part 2

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

In the past week, there has been a viral web reaction to the Kony 2012 video and its campaign to stop the violence of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistence Army. In response to questions on how Catholics should respond, we offer these thoughts:

The video calls for Kony to be captured and brought to justice through the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment on him. As an American organization and targeting the American public, the video urges for continued support of the U.S. military advisors deployed in the LRA affected areas. CRS’ area of expertise is not in military action. CRS has been working for years to help the victims of Kony and the LRA. Even if Kony is captured or killed, the effects of the LRA will be felt for years and CRS will continue to work with the people of the LRA-affected areas on rehabilitation and reconciliation.

After US Catholics watch the Invisible Children video, the obvious next question they ask themselves is what they can do. The following are some suggestions, based on Church statements, the work that CRS and our partners do, and the US legislation, that can guide this conversation:

Sister Helps Bring Peace to Former Child Soldiers in Uganda

Friday, March 9th, 2012

CRS’ Sister Pauline Acayo of Uganda spoke to the Catholic Review about how the Church continues address conflict and help child soldiers.

“The Catholic Church has been very strong – they don’t shy away,” Sister Pauline said. “They go on the radio, hand out press releases and flyers telling about the things going on there. We’re lucky that in Uganda we have freedom of speech. That has given a lot of opportunities for our religious leaders to talk openly.”

Cross-border dialogue with political and religious leaders in nearby South Sudan and with rebel leaders provides some optimism, said Sister Pauline, who gets to see former rebels enjoy the childhood that was almost snatched from them. Since 2005, she estimates that more than 5,000 kids have been helped with the support of CRS.

“I feel so happy when the kids are happy where they’re at and when they’re doing well in their communities,” she said. “When they’re able to open up and share freely – some of them used to sit there and not talk at all. The little we’re doing, it’s bringing a bit of peace in the community and making these kids be normal human beings.”

Read the full story from the Catholic Review.

Senegal: ‘Daytime Disco’ Promotes Proper Nutrition

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
Sengal baby

A young Mom with her baby girl at a nutrition education event in Dindefelo village, Eastern Senegal. Photo by Helen Blakesley/CRS

By Helen Blakesley,

Only yesterday I was under the British rain, bidding farewell to my nearest and dearest. Today I’m back to my francophone, sun-filled Dakar days, catching up on the latest political intrigue as Senegal heads towards a contentious Presidential election. That, and trying to work out why my water’s been turned off.

The trick, as I see it, is to try to exist in the moment, to connect with the places and people around you. Let your several lives and worlds mingle to make a space where certain universal truths exist: we all laugh, we all cry, we all need love, we all need God’s grace. Not always an easy feat.

But sometimes, a trip to “another world” can be the eye opener you need when your status quo seems to leave something to be desired. A mini adventure into the Senegalese outback just before Christmas (otherwise known as my latest work trip) served to transport me—in mind, body and spirit.

I’d been feeling rather flat since returning from Benin after the Pope’s visit (hey, it’s a hard act to follow.), so getting back on the road was just the ticket for restoring my joie de vivre. A 12-hour car journey took us first past the urban sprawl of Dakar, through dusty savannah landscapes, and then—way out East—we reached the hills, the forests, the monkeys and the wild boar.

Benedict XVI in Benin: A Lasting Impression

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011
Benin priest

Father Eustache Nobime, Caritas Coordinator for the Diocese of Abomey in Benin, stands outside Ouidah’s Basilica where Pope Benedict XVI signed His latest Apostolic Exhortation. Photo by Helen Blakesley/CRS

By Helen Blakesley,

Here in Benin, the roads have re-opened, the banners are down, you could say “the Pope has left the building”.

But for one Catholic priest, working in the Diocese of Abomey, 2 hours north of the capital Cotonou, “out of sight” is certainly not “out of mind”.

Father Eustache Nobimè is Diocesan Coordinator for Catholic Relief Services’ partner organization Caritas. He’s been a priest for 11 years. And this was his first Papal sighting. Father Eustache got closer than most – he met Pope Benedict in the small coastal town of Ouidah when His Holiness came to speak to members of West Africa’s oldest seminary, Saint Gall.

Funding Cuts Threaten Life-Saving HIV Health Care

Friday, November 18th, 2011

By Kim Pozniak,

This week, the CRS-led AIDSRelief consortium is handing over its HIV care and treatment programs in Rwanda to the local Ministry of Health. After a six-year partnership, and a carefully planned transition period, the local government will fully own and implement those programs that bring lifesaving treatment, care and counseling to thousands of people living with HIV.

This is the first transition of a program supported by the President’ Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to a local government entity. But it comes at a time when PEPFAR and other life-saving aid programs are facing the possibility of drastic budget cuts from the U.S. Congress.