Three interesting Africa-centric projects that came into my inbox today:
– NYU medical students are supporting a center for plastic surgery at Korle-Bu teaching hospital in Accra in an effort called The Ghana Plastic Surgery Project. In the US, we tend to associate plastic surgery with cosmetic procedures – in Africa plastic surgery is a critical service, helping repair cleft palates and other facial disfigurements. Albino africans, like my friend Bernard (featured in the header of this blog) have terrible problems with skin cancer – plastic surgeons help diagnose and remove malignant melanomas. The center at Korle-Bu is the first center for plastic and reconstructive surgery in West Africa and is helping train doctors from around the region in carrying out critical surgeries. The NYU students are raising money for the center by selling a beautiful calendar that features photos of Ghana – if you’ve got $20 and a patch of blank wallspace that would benefit from some African color, please consider helping them out.
– Alex Weir, a former Geekcorps volunteer in Rwanda, has compiled a CDROM filled with information useful for grassroots development projects around the developing world. The project – called CD3WD (CD Third World) – compiles documents from disks put together by organizations like VITA and other public domain information on agriculture, food processing, fishing, solar cookers, desalinization, biodiesel, pedal power, small-scale wind energy, construction techniques, computer training, and hundreds of other useful topics. The information can be downloaded and burned to CDs, so that if you’re heading to the developing world, you can burn CDs and hand them out to educators, village leaders or other people who can disseminate and use the information. Much of the information is available in multiple languages and all of it is availble under an open license. Alex hopes to ship this information with the device provided by the One Laptop Per Child project, but is encouraging other IT specialists working in the developing world to download and burn the whole CD, or select appropriate topics and download those specific documents.
– Human Rights First is trying to compile a list of 200,000 people who will “stand” for the victims of genocide in Darfur. It’s a petition to demand a high-level envoy to help jump-start diplomatic efforts… given the danger that the Sudan conflict will spread into Chad, diplomatic efforts seem like one of many fronts that need to be pursued.
I caught the beginning of Nick Kristoff’s appearance on Tom Ashbrook’s “On Point” radio show last night. Kristoff memorably challenged conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly to come with him to Sudan and get engaged with an issue significantly more important than “the War against Christmas”. O’Reilly refused, and Kristoff’s readers pledged more than $700,000 to cover O’Reilly’s travel expenses. While he still declined the invitation, Ann Curry, the co-anchor of Dateline, came with Kristoff and offered some moving reports from western Sudan. Whether or not Curry’s reports, Kristoff’s passion or HRF’s petition leads to concrete action – like replacement of the underfunded and undermanned AU force with UN troops – more attention to the situation can only help.