We failed the people of Malawi when Africa, through its observers, gave the election of 21 May 2019 its blessing. We ought to have paid greater attention to what took place in that most important of activities in a democratic state – the exercising of the will of the people.

The African Union election observer mission reported that “the elections took place in a peaceful, transparent and orderly manner, and thus met national, regional, continental and international standards for democratic elections”. What a pity! We were not alone in our failure to properly observe that election. The missions of the European Union and Commonwealth also gave the faulty outcome their approval with minor misgivings.

Fortunately, the people of Malawi were saved by their courageous Constitutional Court. Its judges unanimously declared the election null and void and ordered that a new one be held. It insisted on a democratic outcome that would reflect the will of the people.

The Court found that the winner had been declared before less than a third of the results from the more than 5,000 polling stations had been certified by auditors. It also noted that there was widespread use of Tippex correction fluid to alter numbers on result sheets.

Judge Dingiswayo Madise rejected the electoral commission’s contention that another election would be too costly. “Democracy is expensive. Citizens’ rights are paramount. The court will not stop the pursuit of constitutionally sound elections on account of cost,” he said. We must salute the Court’s principled professionalism and integrity especially under extreme political pressure.

Getting it right…in a pandemic

The time is fast approaching for the Court’s remedy to be implemented in the form of fresh elections on 23 June 2020. While there was poor oversight by the international community last time, there is likely to be far less scrutiny this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which limits international travel and prevents close oversight at polling booths due to social distancing requirements.

This is deeply concerning. In the previous election, the European Union’s Election Observation Mission had 83 observers reporting from 342 polling stations in 27 of 28 districts. Yet it still failed to check electoral abuses or report the malpractices that led the Constitutional Court to annul the elections. There is a very grave apprehension that this second election may be as flawed as the first unless ways are found to shine the spotlight on voting along with result collation, transmission and declaration. But there are still steps that can be taken.

The world must monitor the Malawian election using the limited resources at its disposal. We must see to it that African country representatives with their Western counterparts in Malawi take steps to observe, gather, share information and verify allegations of abuses. Many African and Western countries continue to have diplomatic representation in Malawi despite the pandemic. These representatives should be prompted to step into a leading role in providing some independent verification of the free and fairness of the election. They and their staff ought to be deployed on the ground to observe the voting, tabulation, transmission and declaration process as closely as is possible under the circumstances.

To continent-wide democracy

The legitimacy and success of Malawi’s election is essential if we are to strengthen the movement towards democracy and legitimate governance on the African continent. What is of deep concern is that some governments carrying out elections during the coronavirus crisis may attempt to use the cover of the pandemic to strengthen authoritarian control and limit democratic participation. The blanket of isolation brought about by severely limited air travel has been compounded by restrictions on the movement of people, some of which are necessary, but some of which are excessive and have a chilling effect on public life.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres has put it very strongly, saying: “We must act now to strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate”. With democracy short-circuited, frustration, despondency, despair will set in, leading to societal explosion. The UN was very concerned that the pandemic was stirring the stigmatisation of foreigners and that states were being overly aggressive in their security response and policing of the pandemic.

African leaders – and indeed global leaders – need to find ways to prevent the closing down of the democratic space lest we wake up after Covid-19 and find that our continent has slid back towards authoritarian governance. We should start by making sure that the Malawian election is free and fair, and that the result reflects the will of the people as an example of how democratic practices should unfold under this pandemic.

Source: African Arguments 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses have been given unprecedented media attention for their daily, selfless sacrifices. Make no mistake: COVID-19 patients recover largely because of the nursing services they receive. Yet, hidden within the layers of care rendered by nurses are the psychological traumas they endure.

Now, as nurses are hailed as health care heroes during the pandemic, we’re faced with what to do about these psychological injuries, not only for the 4 million nurses in the U.S. – the largest health care workforce in America – but for the rest of us who depend on them.

For the past five years, I’ve examined the types of psychological trauma that nurses experience. Along with Dr. John Thompson, my co-author, I’ve described them in our 2019 book, prophetic as it was published six months before COVID-19 first appeared in China.

Prior to the pandemic, nurses faced ethical and personal safety dilemmas during disasters and other emergencies. They saw patients suffer, not only from illness itself, but because of health care interventions, otherwise known as medically induced trauma (think of a patient on a ventilator).

In a follow up study after the book was published, I dug deeper, collected information from nurses, and learned of yet another type of psychological injury: insufficient resource trauma. This occurs when nurses don’t have the staff, supplies, knowledge or access to other professionals to fulfill ethical or professional responsibilities. The pandemic has been a dark catalyst to seeing this urgent concern. In a survey of 32,000 nurses just completed by the American Nurses Association, 68% of nurses said they are worried about being short-staffed and 87% are very or somewhat afraid to go to work.

Demands for resources largely ignored for decades

A particularly big part of insufficient resource trauma comes from inadequate nurse staffing levels, which may lead to bad outcomes for both nurses and patients. The evidence for these outcomes, both compelling and consistent worldwide, is based on more than two decades of research. Having to forego what you know is right when there’s just not enough staffing in a high-stakes environment feels like a betrayal of one’s spirit. A nurse’s sense of morality, of what is right and wrong, is endangered.

Many traumatized nurses report symptoms of PTSD. Dean Mitchell/Getty Images

More recently, there has been a shortage of PPE (personal protective equipment) throughout U.S. hospitals. But I know nurses who were told by employers to take care of COVID-19 patients regardless of whether or not adequate PPE was available. Clearly this was a danger to both nurses and patients; surely this qualifies as a traumatizing experience.

Other nurses – some new, some working previously in non-acute care – have been deployed to critical care units. Understanding the technology of these complex environments requires a steep learning curve. The knowledge, then, to competently care for these patients may be considered an insufficient resource.

The toll on patients and nurses

Nurses, more than anything, strive to deliver high-quality care and connect with patients during their most vulnerable times. But often there isn’t the time. The inability to achieve that goal causes stress. Imagine being forced to choose between giving morning meds and sitting down with a patient newly diagnosed with cancer – or spending time with the family of a patient with COVID-19. Choices like that leave nurses focused on tasks and morally injured.

In my pre-pandemic study, traumatized nurses report symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder): intrusive thoughts, sleep disturbances, hypervigilance, “brain fog” and flashbacks. They felt unsafe, isolated and dissatisfied with the profession. As nurses, they felt like failures. One former bedside nurse quit, opting instead for office work, where her “level of trauma and stress is virtually nonexistent.”

Nurses in St. Paul, Minnesota, protest the lack of PPE equipment available during the COVID-19 pandemic. Getty Images/Education Images

Some traumas may be unavoidable. That happens when the nurse fully engages with the patient and co-experiences suffering. This is called secondary or vicarious trauma. That’s why we need to offer trauma-informed care to both nurse and patient. Meaningful connections with others is critical, but so is psychological safety.

The pandemic has focused our attention on the mental health needs of health care providers. Nursing organizations have responded, and these efforts are to be applauded. But until we appreciate the sovereignty of nurses, who practice in a way no other health provider does, solutions to avoid trauma will be stalled. And nurses will continue to struggle.

Compassion helps to heal

While I haven’t been at the bedside for a number of years, I still remember how it felt to report to the acute care center at the hospital, hoping no one had called in sick. When that happened, I was assigned an extra patient or two. I knew I couldn’t give the care I wanted to the paraplegic young man. I knew I couldn’t spend more time communicating with the older adult who had a sudden right-sided stroke. I couldn’t give them the things so important to healing – the physical care, the nursing presence and the compassion they needed and deserved.

Those experiences stay with you. It’s a heck of a feeling.

Nursing care is both an art and a science; it is a distinct profession that wields enormous influence on those who need the most help. They do not merely follow instructions from other providers. It’s a beautiful profession, unlike any other, founded on intellect, judgment and a caring spirit. It pushes a person to examine values such as social justice and the ethics of life, and it becomes a part of who a nurse is.

Until all of us see nursing this way – and until organizations provide sufficient resources to prevent avoidable trauma, which will allow nurses to provide safe, quality care – nurses will continue to suffer. More will choose to leave the profession. Particularly now, that’s a loss society can’t afford.

Source: The Conversation 

Last month, social media became awash with footage of authorities in China maltreating African residents. In the city of Guangzhou, African migrants were evicted from apartments and denied access to restaurants. A McDonald’s put up a notice saying “black people cannot come in”.

The reaction across Africa was of widespread indignation. #ChinaMustExplain trended as some called on their governments to close Chinese embassies, deport Chinese nationals and recall their ambassadors from Beijing.

African governments scrambled to respond. Ministers made statements on twitter, held meetings, and insisted they would not tolerate such behaviour. Analysts wrote of a “unprecedented rupture” in Africa-China relations.

Just as quickly as it had started, however, the furore subsided. On 12 April, China’s foreign ministry made an announcement in which it did not explicitly apologise but insisted it had “zero tolerance for discrimination” and was “working promptly to improve their working method”. Shortly after, officials across Africa suggested they considered the matter resolved.

Nigeria’s foreign minister, for example, commended the Chinese government for its response to what he described as “unfortunate” incidents. Moussa Faki, Chair of the African Union Commission, explained that China’s foreign minister “reassured me of measures underway in Guangzhou to improve the situation of Africans”.

Crisis moments

By treating the episode as an anomaly caused by local officials, leaders in Beijing and African capitals were able to quickly reset their elite-level relationships. Sino-Africa relations are driven by these connections through which ministers on the continent offer up resources to their Chinese counterparts for desperately needed mega-infrastructure. Other features of partnerships – such as person-to-person exchanges, the pursuit of votes in the UN, and access to new markets – all flow from that central elite bargain.

The agency of African leaders in this dynamic is complex and multi-layered. Some actively take advantage of China’s presence for their own agendas. However, in general, African countries hold a much weaker bargaining position. Experts and activists across the continent have long called for their governments to take a more collective and assertive stance towards their superpower partner.

The “Guangzhou moment” – coming amid a global pandemic – offered a rare opportunity to make this a reality. Whereas the role of leaders is usually to manage day-to-day processes, crises disrupt ordinary patterns. They provide occasions for active leadership to transform societies and relationships. The epoch defining crisis brought about by COVID-19 is creating vast numbers of such moments for potentially meaningful change.

A missed opportunity

The sudden continent-wide outrage at discrimination against Africans in China was one such opportunity. After all, for all its pushback against criticism, the Chinese government is intensely image conscious. It recognises that a significant part of its appeal in Africa rests on it being seen as a more friendly Great Power than yesterday’s imperialists. This is why it puts so much emphasis on “south-south cooperation” and “win-win” scenarios.

With active leadership and collective action, African governments could have called out Beijing’s hypocrisy and demanded a shift in their relationships. Heads of State could have spoken out publicly – in a respectful rather than antagonistic manner – in order to signal to both their own citizens and Beijing that the incident was a top-level priority. African embassies and ministries could have established new communication structures through which their citizens in China could communicate their grievances. This too would have indicated that African governments take seriously how their citizens are treated abroad. With actions like these, African leaders could have started to use local perceptions of China as a more effective tool in their relationships with Beijing.

Instead, the moment was missed and relations were reset – at least for elites. While political leaders may have been forgiven and forgotten, the same is not true for many others in Africa. Following their governments’ inaction, some people’s frustrations spilled over into animosity and violence.

Calls for diplomatic action shifted into more vitriolic anger against Chinese nationals and demands such as #DeportRacistChinese. A few days after Nigeria’s foreign minister suggested the matter was resolved, protesters in Ogun state burned down Chinese-owned shops and factories chanting “enough is enough, we are tired of disrespect”.

Coordinate not kowtow

Relations with China are crucial to many African countries’ economies. They will perhaps become even more so in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. This might have informed the responses of governments afraid of angering China during ongoing discussions about debt relief.

With more active leadership and foresight, however, African governments might have recognised the opportunity presented by their citizens across the continent – and beyond – momentarily uniting in outrage at the scenes in Guangzhou. They might have realised that now was not the time to kowtow but coordinate as a more united bloc. A moment to re-position the continent with the support of their populations.

Instead, leaders prioritised their elite-level relationships with their Chinese counterparts. This was not only a missed opportunity but has deepened divides between themselves and their own citizens who will have noted how their outspoken anger forced a response from their leaders, but nothing more.

Source: African Arguments 

The New York Times opinion editor James Bennet resigned recently after the paper published a controversial opinion essayby U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton that advocated using the military to put down protests.

The essay sparked outrage among the public as well as among younger reporters at the paper. Many of those staffers participated in a social media campaign aimed at the paper’s leadership, asking for factual corrections and an editor’s note explaining what was wrong with the essay.

Eventually, the staff uprising forced Bennet’s departure.

Cotton’s column was published on the opinion pages – not the news pages. But that’s a distinction often lost on the public, whose criticisms during the recent incident were often directed at the paper as a whole, including its news coverage. All of which raises a longstanding question: What’s the difference between the news and opinion side of a news organization?

It is a tenet of American journalism that reporters working for the news sections of newspapers remain entirely independent of the opinion sections. But the divide between news and opinion is not as clear to many readers as journalists believe that it is.

And because American news consumers have become accustomed to the ideal of objectivity in news, the idea that opinions bleed into the news report potentially leads readers to suspect that reporters have a political agenda, which damages their credibility, and that of their news organizations.

The op-ed column by Sen. Tom Cotton. New York Times screenshot
How news and opinion grew apart

Long before newspapers became institutions for collecting and distributing news, they were instruments for the personal expression of individuals – their owners. There was little thought given to whether or not opinion and fact were intermingled.

Benjamin Franklin ran the Pennsylvania Gazette from 1729 to 1748 as a vehicle for his own political and scientific ideas and even just his day-to-day observations. The Gazette of the United States, first published in 1789, was the most prominent Federalist paper of its time and was funded in part by Alexander Hamilton, whose letters and essays it published anonymously.

Front page of the inaugural issue of the Gazette of the United States, from April 15, 1789. Library of Congress

In the early 19th century, newspapers were often nakedly partisan, since many of them were funded by political parties.

Over the course of the 19th century, though, newspapers began to seek a popular audience. As they grew in circulation, some began to emphasize their independence from faction.

Coupled with the rise of journalism schools and press organizations, this independence enshrined “fact” and “truth” as what scholar Barbie Zelizer calls “God-terms” of journalism by the early 20th century.

Newspaper owners never wanted to give up their influence on public opinion, however. As news became the main product of the newspaper, publishers established editorial pages, where they could continue to endorse their favorite politicians or push for pet causes.

These pages are typically run by editorial boards, which are staffs of writers, often with individual areas of expertise (economics or foreign policy or, in smaller papers, state politics), who draft editorial essays. They are then voted on by the board, which usually includes the publisher. They’re then published, usually with no author attribution, as the official opinions of the newspaper. There are variations on this process: Often the editorial board will decide on topics and the paper’s opinion before these writers get to work on their drafts.

James Bennet, The New York Times opinion editor who resigned, acknowledged in an article on the paper’s website that was published in January 2020, months before the Cotton essay, that “the role of the editorial board can be confusing, particularly to readers who don’t know The Times well.”

Through most the 20th century, newspapers reassured their readers and their reporters that there was a “wall” between the news and opinion sides of their operations.

Unbiased journalism is a relatively new phenomenon. Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Publishers relied on this idea of separation to insist that their news reporting was fair and independent, and they believed that readers understood that separation.

This is a particularly American way of operating. Readers in other countries usually expect their newspapers to have a point of view, representing a particular party or ideology.

The creation of the op-ed page

One way that newspapers found to allow a greater range of opinion in its pages was to create an op-ed page, which publishes opinions by individuals, not those of the editorial board. As journalism historian Michael Socolow recounts, John Oakes, the editorial page editor of The New York Times in 1970, created the first op-ed page because, he felt, “a newspaper most effectively fulfills its social and civic responsibilities by challenging authority, acting independently, and inviting dissent.”

“Op-ed” is short for “opposite the editorial page,” not “opinion and editorial” or opinions that are opposite from those of the editorial page. Literally, the name comes from the fact that it was located across from – opposite – the editorial page in the print newspaper.

The op-ed page of a print newspaper typically includes the newspaper’s opinion columnists. These are employees of the paper who write regularly. The paper also usually publishes a selection of opinion pieces from outside writers. Newspapers around the country emulated the Times after the op-ed page debuted.

Online opinions, changing norms and blurred lines

With the expansion of opinion pages online, the Times was publishing 120 opinion pieces a week at the time of James Bennet’s resignation.

While the move online allows The New York Times op-ed page to vastly increase its output, it also creates a problem: Opinion stories no longer look clearly different from news stories.

With many readers coming to news sites from social media links, they may not pay attention to the subtle clues that mark a story published by the opinion staff.

The Washington Post homepage on June 19, 2020. Opinions at top right; reporting to the left. Screenshot

Add to this the fact that even readers who go to a paper’s homepage are met with news and opinion stories displayed graphically at the same level, connoting the same level of importance. And reporters share analysis and opinion on Twitter, further confusing readers.

The news sections of the paper also increasingly run stories that contain a level of news analysis that casual readers might not be able to distinguish from what The New York Times designates as opinion.

In 1970, when the op-ed page debuted in The New York Times, daily newspaper circulation was equivalent to 98% of U.S. households. By 2010, that number had dropped below 40% and has continued to dip since then.

Even if readers in 1970 could clearly differentiate between news and opinion, they likely do not have the same level of critical engagement when news exists online and in almost unmanageable volume.

If news organizations such as The New York Times continue to maintain that a robust opinion section, separate from their news reports, serves to further the public conversation, then those institutions will need to do a better job of explaining to news consumers where – or if – the “wall” between news and opinion exists.

Source: The Conversation 

As protests advocating for an end to racial inequality and police brutality continue to grow in communities around the country, many children may have questions about the images they’re seeing on the news and the conversations they’re hearing.

For children, current events can be difficult to understand. However, experts say positive discussions about race and racism are important to have with children right now — especially in homes where it hasn’t been a topic of discussion before now.

“Unfortunately, our children of color — especially our black children — have been aware and probably to some extent have experienced the direct and indirect result of systemic racism,” said Ana Marcelo, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of psychology at Clark University in Massachusetts.

One of Marcelo’s academic focuses has been on ethnic-racial identity in early childhood and the experiences children have in regard to their race and ethnicity.

“Conversations about racism and discrimination have been part of the daily lives of black families even before George Floyd,” Marcelo explained.

But because of the social media coverage, she said most kids probably have at least some awareness of recent events and issues surrounding race — even those who don’t identify as black themselves.

How to start conversations about race and racism with kids

While Marcelo said these conversations have been happening in black families for a long time now, she explained that white families need to be engaging in conversations about race, racism, and oppression regularly with their children, too.

“White parents and caregivers can play an instrumental role in making their children aware of privileges and inequalities that are related to one’s race,” she said.

To do this, she said parents can start by gaining a sense of what their children already understand.

Talk to them. Ask questions. What do they know about recent events? Why do they think is happening? What do these events mean to them?

“It is important for parents and caregivers to follow their children’s lead — explaining what they may not understand and answering questions they may have. This is a better approach than dismissing their questions or preventing them from knowing more about the recent events,” Marcelo said.

Monique Stanton holds a master’s degree in social justice and is the president and CEO of CARE of Southeastern Michigan, a group committed to providing a variety of social services to the local community, to include parenting support and education.

She said that children are fully aware of what’s happening right now, and that avoiding conversations about the deaths that have occurred unjustly will not protect them or help them feel safe and secure.

“Regularly talking to your children about what is happening in the world is essential. If you haven’t started already, this is the perfect starting point to begin dialogue about racism with your children. This is a process — it’s not a one and done conversation,” Stanton explained.

How to keep conversations about race and racism age-appropriate

Katie Lear is a licensed clinical mental health counselor specializing in childhood anxiety and trauma. She said that even young children recognize differences in hair color and skin tone, though they may lack the vocabulary to discuss those differences and may not have been given opportunities to have conversations about race.

“You can help your child discuss race and racism in an age-appropriate way by first normalizing that race is really something that’s okay to talk about: It’s not a taboo, even though it may feel uncomfortable,” Lear said.

She explained that it’s important to help children understand that there are people in this world who judge others unfairly based on their skin color, and to be honest with them about why people are angry right now. To include the fact that this unfair treatment sometimes comes from powerful people and those who are supposed to protect us, like police officers.

“Children are very tuned into fairness and what’s right and wrong, so framing this as a discussion of fair vs. unfair can help them understand,” Lear said.

How to talk to kids about riots and looting

Explaining the protests is one thing, but in many areas impacted by riots and looting, parents may be hesitant to talk about what’s going on because they don’t want to frighten their children.

Experts say those are conversations that need to be happening, though.

“Again, it is important for us to recognize that our children of color, especially our black children, have been living in fear for their lives and the lives of other people in their ethnic-racial group,” Marcelo said.

For this reason, white parents shouldn’t have the luxury of looking away and shielding their children from it.

“White parents need to talk about these uprisings in the historical context of systemic racism,” Marcelo explained. “We can’t just talk about these events in the context of George Floyd’s killing.”

To have those conversations, she said it’s important to first get a feel for how your children are already perceiving these events. Are they scared? Can they articulate what they’re scared about? Do they understand what’s going on?

Once you have a feel for where your child is at, you can better approach these discussions with them.

“We must reassure children that it is OK to be scared or concerned about these events,” Marcelo said, adding that we should be honest with our answers.

“It is important for us to listen to our children about their fears and their thoughts about the situation and give them a safe space to ask questions and express these feelings,” she added.

But she explained that parents also have a responsibility to ensure their kids understand the influence of context in these events. In other words, it’s important to talk to them about why this is happening.

Even in areas affected by riots and looting, though, Stanton said the focus should be on the protests when talking to kids.

“The overwhelming majority of people that are coming to protest have been, and continue to be, peaceful. Protests have occurred in all 50 states, in large and small cities, and in some cities throughout the world,” Stanton said.

Focusing on that — and on the historical context of how protests have led to change in the past — can help kids to better understand and react with less fear.

Bringing kids to protests

“Protests can be an excellent learning experience for children and model that it’s important for kids of all races to take action: It’s not enough to not be racist, we need to be anti-racist,” Lear said.

Of course, deciding whether or not to bring your children to a protest is very personal.

While Stanton said it can be a powerful way for kids to engage in their community, she suggests parents may want to consider the age and size of the child, and the time and location of the protest.

If you do decide to bring your child to a protest, she said there are steps you can take to better ensure the safety of all involved.

“Make sure to talk to them first about what they will see,” Stanton said. “Similar to other large events, if your children are a little older, make sure you have a plan of what to do if they were to get separated from you.”

She suggests everyone attending should have emergency contact information on them — this can be written in permanent marker on a child’s arm.

“There is still a concern about COVID-19 so you and children over the age of 2 should wear a mask,” she added.

Resources for talking to children

The experts that spoke with Healthline suggested several potential resources for helping parents address issues of race, oppression, and inequality with their children such as:

  • The Sesame Street Town Hall on Racism.
  • The book “Something Happened in Our Town,” which discusses race-related violence in a developmentally appropriate way for 4 to 8 year olds.
  • This anti-racism book collection for kids.
  • Diverse book boxes.

There are also some great resources for parents who need additional help talking to their kids:

  • The Children’s Community School: Social Justice Resources
  • Parent Toolkit
  • The Center for Racial Justice in Education
Modeling anti-racism

“I cannot emphasize enough the importance of talking to children about ethnicity, race, racism, oppression, and inequality,” Marcelo said. “However, conversations about these topics should not only focus on the negative experiences involving race.”

She said she wants parents to teach children to acknowledge and appreciate ethnic-racial diversity.

“We must recognize that race is an important part of a person’s identity and development even at an early age, rather than professing (or trying) to operate as a colorblind society,” she said.

Above and beyond just talking about racial identities and discrimination, our experts all agreed that modeling anti-racism is an important step for parents to take.

Stanton said parents need to continue to educate themselves about how to combat racism, and that starts by looking at the media they consume — particularly for parents who aren’t people of color.

“Read, watch, and listen to media created by people of color. Look at your social media and make a conscious effort to follow people and organizations that are engaged in anti-racism work. Question your own beliefs, actions, and inactions,” Stanton said.

She added that children are watching and listening right now.

They’re paying attention to how you respond when a friend or family member makes racist jokes. They’re aware when you choose to slink away instead of confronting racism when you see it.

“It’s your responsibility to stop those jokes and comments. Your children see what you do. It’s not enough just to say you are an ally, you need to do the uncomfortable work of calling out racism when you see it,” she said.

The more uncomfortable it feels, the more necessary it likely is.

But perhaps if we do the hard work today, our children will be able to grow up into a different, better world tomorrow.

Source: Healthline

In Uganda and Kenya, it might appear that history is collecting dust. Attendance and awareness of museums is low, archives are inaccessible, and the reading culture is dwindling. The Internet, however, tells a different story. There is a new generation of young historians in East Africa developing online channels to educate people, preserve their countries’ heritage, and make history more accessible to the general public.

In 2018, there were 23.2 million mobile telephone subscriptions in Uganda and 49.5 million in Kenya. It is only natural that history and heritage conservation should move into this sphere as well. Many of the individuals behind these  initiatives are not professional historians, but promote the past digitally in their free time.

Here are six online museums and historical projects in Kenya and Uganda to check out and follow on social media:

HistoryKE
Sept. 1959: Tom Mboya (centre, in dark suit) poses with US-bound Kenyan students who were part of the airlift program.

The 2nd lady to Mboya’s left is Wangarî Maathai. The beaming, bespectacled man standing third from right of the photo is none other than Barrack Obama Snr.

View image on Twitter

Designed as an online museum for people to learn about and appreciate Kenyan history, HistoryKEpublishes photographs taken throughout various moments in Kenyan history on its handles on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The photographs vary widely from those taken during Kenya’s colonial era; to street scenes of Nairobi, Mombasa or Kisumu over the decades; to politicians, colonial officials and or colonial-anthropological photographs.

History in Progress Uganda

This website collects and digitises old photographs taken in and around Uganda, sourced from institutional and personal archives. It was founded by two artists Andrea Stultiens and Canon Griffin who also post photographs to Facebook and Twitter pages. On both, the comments are often full of people sharing memories of the time period or location of the image or, occasionally, pointing out a grandparent or a great-grandparent. The audience also sometimes guides the project team in the direction of further photograph archives. This interaction ensures an increasingly personal relationship between the public and the history shared, as well as growing the project’s archives.

Uganda’s Built Heritage

This is a mobile app created by the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda and European Union. It depicts historical buildings and monuments across Kampala, Entebbe and Jinja. Enabling the location function on their phone, users are able to see what historical buildings are in their immediate vicinity. The app include short descriptions and guides users to the buildings, allowing them to recognise the historical value of buildings they may walk past every day.

African Digital Heritage
A screenshot of a 3D reconstruction, part of the Saving Railways project.

A screenshot of a 3D reconstruction, part of the Saving Railways project.

Apearheaded by Chao Tayiana, this initiative uses technology and digitisation “to increase awareness, participation and engagement with African Histories”. The team uses interactive maps, mobile apps and virtual reality to bring Kenya’s history to life in innovative ways. Past projects have included “Save the Railway”, which documented the history of Kenya’s railway (also known as the “Lunatic Express”) through photographs and oral history interviews, and “Changing Perspectives”, which traced Nairobi’s history through its buildings.

African Digital Heritage, in collaboration with the Museum of British Colonialism, have also worked on a project that mapped and reconstructed Mau Mau camps around Kenya, using 3-D technology, of which a digital exhibition is available online.

Wulira!

This is an all-women podcast about Ugandan history with a particular focus on the role of women. Producer Rebecca Rwakabukoza and co-hosts Jacky Kemigisa and Godiva Akullo are hobby historians who share their country’s history using humour and accessible language. The hosts discuss a range of topics from female politicians to women’s security in Uganda. They also discuss women missing from history books, such as Sugra Visram, who was instrumental in introducing family planning to Uganda. The podcast aims to create a medium the producer and hosts “wished [they] had access to when [they] were younger.”

Google Arts and Culture: Kenya National Archives and National Museums of Kenya

As part of Google Cultural Institute, Google Arts and Culture works in cooperation with museums around the world to publish images and collections online for the public to access for free. In Kenya, they work, amongst others, with the Kenya National Archives, featuring exhibitions of independence struggles, national heroes, carvings and sculptures. The National Museums of Kenya also have online displays that depict the craftsmanship, carving and pottery of Kenya’s various ethnic groups as well as advertising the country’s museums and UNESCO world heritage sites.

Source: African Arguments 

The big idea

A recent national survey we conducted shows that social service nonprofits are estimating on average that over the next six months, their revenue will decline by between 19.3% and 37.3%.

They are already reacting by cutting staff and some of the services they provide: 69% of nonprofits have already had to cut their programs, while 39% have seen demands for their services grow.

The responses we collected from these nonprofit leaders suggest that during the initial weeks of widespread social distancing brought about to slow the spread of the coronavirus, most nonprofits dramatically shifted their staffing, programs and plans for the future.

And they were already bracing for even more challenging times.

Why it matters

About 110,000 charitable organizations provide social services, ranging from assisting with housing and food to operating job training and child care centers. These groups also help communities respond and recover from disasters.

During recessions, demand for their services tends to rise while their revenue falls, making it harder to meet urgent needs.

How we did this work

Once the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses, schools and countless other venues to close their doors, leaving the economy reeling, we wanted to see how the downturn was affecting different kinds of nonprofits.

We sent nonprofit leaders across the country a short survey to learn about what they are going through. About 400 social service groups responded between April 20 and May 8 – including organizations based in all 50 states.

As data starts to trickle in, others have also found similar results. In San Diego, for example, 71% of nonprofits had scaled back some of their services. In Nebraska, nonprofit leaders say that the crisis is hitting them hard. In Ohio, 15% of nonprofits have already furloughed staff. And in Florida, 73% of nonprofits have seen a disruption in services.

What’s next

Many nonprofits have obtained some financial relief from the federal government through the relief packages Congress has approved so far. But early indications are that larger organizations were three times more likely to receive a Paycheck Protection Program loan than smaller community-based groups, leaving unmet gaps in community services.

Without an infusion of additional federal support, perhaps as part of an initiative many local officials have called for, we expect many social service nonprofits to continue to struggle to meet the needs of the communities they serve.

Source: The Conversation 

COVID-19 has only been around for a few months, so at this point scientists don’t know that much about it. But more is being learned every day. We now know, for example, it can live on surfaces for up to nine days and survives in the air for a few hours. We also now know that the virus particles are shed through saliva and fluids coughed up from the lungs. And that the virus can also be shed from our faeces.

It’s easy for an infected person to spread the virus particles through coughing, touching other people or leaving the virus on surfaces. Undoubtedly, hand-washing after being in public spaces is key to reduce the spread of COVID-19. But what should we be doing in our homes to eliminate it?

Two recent studies have investigated how long coronaviruses survive on different surfaces. The research looked at a number of different viruses including SARS-CoV-2 – the coronavirus that has caused COVID-19. And it found that the survival times varied according to the type of surface.

The virus survived for longest on stainless steel and plastic – for up to nine days. The shortest survival times of one day was for paper and cardboard.

Table of time surviving in air and on surfaces. Lena Ciric

The amount of virus particles during this time does reduce, but it’s worrying that the particles can last for days rather than hours or minutes on a surface. So, how good are the cleaning products already in your cupboards at killing SARS-CoV-2? There is some good news in the list below.

Soap and water

Soap and water are your first line of defence to remove the virus from surfaces. Soap interferes with the fats in the virus shell and lift the virus from surfaces and this is then rinsed off by water. Of course, you also need to wash your hands when you come in from the shops and wash your food as normal.

Bleach

The active ingredient in bleach – sodium hypochlorite – is very effective at killing the virus. Make sure you leave the bleach to work for 10-15 minutes then give the surface a wipe with a clean cloth. The bleach works by destroying the protein and what’s known as the ribonucleic acid (RNA) of the virus – this is the substance that gives the blueprint for making more virus particles when you become infected. Be sure to use the bleach as directed on the bottle.

Surgical spirit

Surgical spirit is mostly made up of the alcohol ethanol. Ethanol has been shown to kill coronaviruses in as little as 30 seconds. Like bleach, the alcohol destroys the protein and RNA that the virus is made up of. Moisten a cloth with some neat surgical spirit and rub it over a surface. This will evaporate and you will not need to wipe it off.

Target your home’s high-touch surfaces. Stock-Asso/Shutterstock
Surface wipes

The active ingredient in surface wipes in an antiseptic –- usually benzalkonium chloride. The wipes work by physically removing germs through the pressure you apply when you use them, and the germs then attach to the wipe.

They also leave a layer of the antiseptic on the surface that works to kill germs. The antiseptic works well on many different pathogens by disrupting the fats in their cells and has been found to be effective at eliminating SARS-CoV-2.

Hand sanitisers

A word of warning though about hand sanitisers. The main ingredient in hand sanitisers that will kill SARS-CoV-2 is ethanol, the alcohol in surgical spirit. But its concentration in the sanitiser is very important –- it has to be over 70 % or it will not kill the virus effectively.

One thing you can also do is make sure you air out the spaces you are spending time in regularly. An infected person will produce thousands of tiny droplets which contain the virus every time they cough. SARS-CoV-2 can survive in the air for up to three hours. So by opening the window, you can remove and disperse the droplets and reduce the amount of virus in the air – which will reduce the risk of infection for others.

We are living in uncertain times but it’s reassuring to know that we have some weapons we can use to fight COVID-19 in our homes. The bottom line: keep washing your hands, use 70% hand sanitiser, dust off the bleach and open a window to let in the spring air.

Source: The Conversation 

Last month Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire jointly conducted Operation Comoé along their borders. They captured 38 suspected terrorists, killed eight, and dismantled training camps. The operation reflects growing concern in these and other West African coastal states about a spillover of violent extremism and the need to prevent attacks from being staged in their territories.

But the spread of attacks isn’t the only problem terrorism brings, and these operations shouldn’t be the only way countries address it. They need to also focus on the factors that allow these groups to function. Extremists are increasingly tapping into a terrorist economy, using Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo as sources or transit zones of funding and logistics.

Institute for Security Studies (ISS) research shows that livestock stolen from Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger is sold in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana at below market prices. The profits are ploughed back through the networks of accomplice dealers. Various accounts point to terrorists being among the armed groups funded by this illicit trade. They use the income to buy arms, fuel, motorbikes and food.

Motorbikes are valuable to extremists because of their robustness and mobility through difficult terrain. They are also easy to maintain, light on fuel and can carry more than one person for combat and combat support operations.

Terrorist economy affects West Africa’s coastal states
Terrorist economy affects West Africa’s coastal states
(click on the map for the full size image)

Many motorbikes found in Niger’s Tillabéry region are trafficked from Nigeria through the Togolese border town of Cinkassé and Burkina Faso’s Boucle du Mouhoun Region. Some are also trafficked from Togo to Burkina Faso with a few trafficked further to Niger.

Both Tillabéry and Boucle du Mouhoun are hotspots for violent extremism. Although groups may not be directly involved in trafficking, they gain access to goods through vendors or criminal entrepreneurs who organise their procurement.

Evidence is also emerging of extremists sourcing materials to make explosives from Ghana. Ghanaian officials say fertiliser, a key ingredient for improvised explosive devices, is smuggled in sizable quantities to Burkina Faso. Police frequently arrest smugglers and seize consignments in northern border towns such as Hamile, Kulungugu and Namori.

In July 2019, Upper West Region Minister Dr Hafiz Bin-Salih said Ghana had lost US$12 million to fertiliser smuggling from Ghana to neighbouring countries the previous year. Although terrorist groups may not be directly involved in the smuggling, an apparent rise in availability of the material in Burkina Faso means increased access and affordability.

Also, a 2018 counter-terrorism operation in Ouagadougou’s Rayongo neighbourhood led to the seizure of an electric cord for making improvised explosive devices which was traced to northern Ghana. This suggests the involvement of trafficking networks from Ghana’s north where artisanal and small-scale mining is a long-standing economic activity.

Interviewees told the ISS that the northern Ghanaian town of Dollar Power has many West African illegal miners, including Ivorian former rebels and Burkinabe nationals, and is known for armed robbery. In eastern Burkina Faso, gold from some mining sites controlled by violent extremist groups is purchased by buyers from Benin and Togo. This may be providing valuable funding to terror groups, although the scale is unclear.

Leaders of coastal states are preoccupied with preventing a southward spread of attacks. This informed the February 2017 meeting of the presidents of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo in Accra. They had called for an extraordinary Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) summit on terrorism, and launched the Accra Initiative in September that year.

At the 14 September 2019 ECOWAS summit in Ouagadougou, leaders also decried the spread of terrorism in the region, though there was no specific reference to coastal states.

Burkinabe officials have often alerted their coastal counterparts to suspected extremists crossing into their northern territories to avoid arrest. Such alerts followed the March 2019 Otapuana operation in southern Burkina Faso. In Ghana extremists hide or rest in the north, counter-terrorism officials told the ISS – a situation that elicits complaints from Burkina Faso about the country’s commitment to countering terrorism.

Coastal states acknowledge the importance of addressing the root causes of violent extremism, including governance and developmental deficits. Extremists could exploit the lack of basic services, such as roads, health and education facilities, and socio-economic opportunities, to penetrate and implant themselves in communities. The 2020-2024 ECOWAS Priority Action Plan outlines actions to tackle these shortcomings.

But capacity to address the vulnerabilities that enable terror groups to source and move funds and logistics remains limited. These vulnerabilities include weak border surveillance and security, porous borders and strong communal, family and socio-economic ties. The content of cross-border trade transactions is largely untracked as border officials don’t have sufficient capacity and the necessary technology.

To prevent violent extremism, the various dimensions of the problem must be understood, particularly terrorists’ covert dealings. This will enable officials to strike a much-needed balance between counter-terrorism operations and breaking the funding and logistics supply chains used by violent extremists.

West Africa’s coastal states must also address the weaknesses that allow these groups to operate. Capacity is needed to track trade consignments between countries, beef up border control and surveillance, enhance intelligence gathering and analysis, and garner the support of people living in border areas. This could help identify extremists who may be exploiting cross-border ties.

The disruption of supply chains could set the stage for more terrorist attacks. Violence could be used to protect hideouts, secure supply routes, or attack border posts that extremists believe are impediments to their supply of materials. This means that – to avoid generating community resentment – strategies aimed at disruption must be balanced with preserving the livelihoods of individuals and communities who rely on cross-border trade.

Source: ISS Africa 

The world’s youngest continent has not been able to avoid the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Africa, where almost 60% of people are under the age of 25, the economy is expected to lose tens of billions of dollars. The risk of food insecurity has increased and the reliance on the informal sector has made many particularly vulnerable.

In the face of these challenges, however, young people have found new ways to survive and transform their lives and communities. In many cases, they have done so by harnessing the power of digital technologies. These innovations have both helped them respond to the current crisis and could shape the future for the better with the right support.

Here are three areas in which young people are utilising technologies in ways that could have positive repercussions going forwards.

1) Amplifying action and accurate information

Accurate information is essential to help counter the risks of COVID-19 and, in many places, the youth have proven crucial in this.

In South Africa, young people have mobilised through choirs to send prevention messages. In Liberia, youth started a prevention campaign and are sewing masks from African wax prints. Rural Uganda has seen young members of village health teams sharing vital health information through radio, TV and social media. And in Ghana, young health workers and volunteers are visiting high risk areas to spread health messages and, where possible, test residents.

It is essential to ensure young people are provided with new technologies that can help them build on existing networks and disseminate knowledge about issues such as public health.

Technology and digital platforms can also enhance other forms of young people’s mobilisations. They can allow youth-led networks, associations, religious groups and cooperatives to strengthen individual actions and act as catalysts for new forms of civic participation.

In an interview earlier this year, Dr Shakira Choonara, a member of the African Union Youth Council, said: “I don’t think Africa needs leaders, I think Africa needs activists”. Many youthful activists have mobilised during the pandemic. Their efforts must be supported and could be enhanced through investments in young people’s digital literacy and development.

2) Innovating businesses

Around the world, businesses have had to find ways to adapt to the current situation. For many companies, this has meant turning to delivery services and finding ways to operate remotely. In Uganda, for instance, several restaurants, supermarkets and online shops have been able to continue operating through delivery applications such as Jumia and SafeBoda. These apps are mainly accessed, used and operated by young people.

Digital platforms such as these are thriving in Africa and more than 80% of them are homegrown. This is a positive trend given that one in four young people say they are planning to start their own business in the next five years.

Across the continent, youth have also responded to the current crisis by starting new businesses. In Ghana, young people have been making reusable masks and designing automated, contact-free and solar powered hand washing facilities using local materials.

The recession that will be caused by the coronavirus, however, poses many risks for start-ups. Some governments have unveiled stimulus packages, which may help protect people’s livelihoods, but young people’s agency and business innovation also need to be nurtured. Ghana’s Coronavirus Alleviation Programme Business Support Scheme to micro, small and medium enterprises is an example of how this support could be provided.

3) Digital payments

Unbanked young people have traditionally struggled to access financial services that are often too costly, located too far away or simply ill-suited to their needs.

By contrast, mobile money accounts are booming. In 2019, there were nearly 500 million mobile-money users in sub-Saharan Africa. They collectively carried out 23.8 billion transactions last year worth a total of $456 billion. This figure is over triple the value of transactions recorded in South Asia, the second highest ranked region for mobile money services.

The pandemic has only accelerated this trend as people increasingly switch from cash to mobile payments. Mobile telecommunications networks such as MTN and Airtel in Uganda have facilitated this development by reducing transaction charges during the pandemic.

This presents an important opportunity. Our research has found that, with some financial management training, young people can significantly increase their savings and success in accessing business loans. Teaching financial literacy and entrepreneurship skills through digital tools can be crucial in helping youth plan their lives as well as start and manage businesses.

At the same time, governments will need to take seriously the increased risks of cybercrime and phone scams. Collaborative efforts will be needed to tackle these dangers, including by implementing effective online security measures and digital IDs to prevent fraud.

After COVID-19

Young people will be central to both tackling the coronavirus crisis now and rebuilding economies after the pandemic subsides. Technologies and digital platforms have the potential to help in the process, such as by reducing costs and facilitating access to new opportunities. For this to reach its full potential, however, investments will be necessary in areas such as infrastructure, digital skills, online security and social protection for gig workers.

As the importance of young people’s initiative and technology are highlighted during the COVID-19 crisis, this is the perfect moment of governments and international partners to prioritise the digitalisation of the economy, education and financial sectors.

Source: African Arguments