I arrived in Haiti on Tuesday after a day and a half stop in Ottawa to unpack, do laundry and repack. It's been another whirlwind but here are some photos to keep this blog fresh while I ponder deep and important thoughts, which of course I'll save for the pieces I write anyway rather than blogging them.
I was going to write an actual post, but it's late (okay, 9:30 p.m. local, but for some reason in Tanzania I function like I'm 70) so instead I offer some photos of my recent trip to Tabora region. It's a relatively rural area with the country's worst indicators. Despite that, it struck me as less impoverished than Singida - the houses I could see from the roads we travelled seemed sturdier and larger, fewer people seemed to be just hanging out or standing around, and most people's clothes were cleaner and in better condition. I'll have to do a bit of digging to find out which region actually has the higher income to see if those observations are born out in fact.
On a totally unrelated note, thank you to those who have been asking about my dad. He got out of the hospital soon after I left and he is doing really well. He had great care.
Before I get to more of the loveliness...behold the bathroom I had for the past two nights.
I now have much improved accommodation in a much bigger centre. Never has a lukewarm-to-cold shower made me as happy as today's.
I'm on the road again tomorrow to do more interviews, and trying to cram in one or two on Friday, but I'm starting to sort of hope they fall through so I have some time to transcribe and just gather my thoughts a bit. I have transcribed most of the first two days of interviews, but I have another three days' worth to do, nevermind what I gather tomorrow. Plus I should be blogging! The internet situation the first half of this week didn't help with that.
Anyway. Loveliness abounds, even steps away from that bathroom.
There's a wide array of development work that Canadian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are doing around the world. They've done it, in some cases, for decades, and will keep doing it no matter what happens to the funding from the Canadian government.
But it's sometimes hard to conceive of what that work might entail. If you look through the project browser on the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development's website, you'll see that maternal, newborn and child health projects can include anything from helping build clinics or train community health workers to teaching people about healthy foods and how to get them. From what I've seen and heard in interviewing NGO spokespeople over the years, it's also shifted a bit - in 2010/2011, a lot of people were talking up micronutrients and vaccinations to help improve children's health. Now they're talking a lot more about birth registration and other data collection.
All the problems are multi-layered and lead seamlessly to all kinds of other challenges in a way that you can't really have a focused conversation about any one solution because it inevitably segues into something separate but related - like how if a child isn't registered when she's born, how do we know whether she survives to age five? And how do we know whether her country is hitting its targets for decreasing the number of children under five dying?
When she's older, if she doesn't have a birth certificate, there may be a law against child marriage in her country, but without one she can't prove she's too young. If she's married as a young teen and impregnated - very possibly because she's been raped - she's more likely to have complications because her body isn't developed enough to handle the pregnancy. And more likely to have a child with health problems.
Last year, the Canadian Network for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health gave out bags with small samples and leaflets to MPs to explain what kind of work its members are doing through Canada's funding. Some of those samples are in the photo above.
The gloves, soap and plastic sheeting are examples of what you might find in a clean birth kit (this one came from World Vision Canada). They cost less than 50 cents.
The two little red pills, provided by the Micronutrient Initiative, cost four cents to make and are aimed at helping the 190 million children who are vitamin A deficient.
The little foil package provided by SickKids' Centre for Global Child Health contains sprinkles, which are a blend of micronutrients.
The green and red string of beads is from Save the Children and helps community health workers count the number of breaths a child takes in a minute. If he hits the red beads, then the worker knows the child has pneumonia and needs treatment, according to the information provided with the beads.
These are all pretty simple things. There are so many more layers - including education, empowering women and broad health policy - but for pulling a life-saving solution out of a bag, those look pretty good.