Tag: Sub-Saharan Africa


THE VANISHING BLACK AFRICAN WOMAN – A Compendium of the Global Skin Lightening Practice

Skin-lightening is currently one of the most common forms of potentially harmful body modification practices in the world and African women are among some of the most widely represented users of skin-lightening products.

Author Yetunde Mercy Olumide‘s new two volume book, The Vanishing Black Africa Woman: A Compendium of the Global Skin Lightening Practice provides an up-to-date evidence-based recommendations for reducing the global burden of cosmetic skin bleaching and preventing injuries related to skin bleaching in sub-Saharan Africa and Africans in diaspora. 

The book aims to do several things – firstly to offer an appraisal of all relevant literature on cosmetic bleaching practices to-date, focusing on any key developments, secondly to identify and address important medical, public health issues as well as historical, genetic, psycho-social, cultural, behavioral, socioeconomic, political, institutional and environmental determinants, thirdly provide guideline recommendations that would help attenuate the burden and possibly eliminate the injuries related to skin bleaching, and lastly discuss potential developments and future directions.

Since skin bleaching is an offshoot of slavery, racism, colorism, colonialism and neocolonialism, the historical institutions that are related to skin bleaching are well characterized. The global magnitude of the problem is well defined. Nigeria is regarded by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the country with the highest prevalence of the skin bleaching practice globally, hence the chapter on Nigeria can truly be regarded as the microcosm of the skin bleaching culture in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The skin bleaching stories on representative countries in West, Southern, East, Central and North Africa are also discussed. In a globalized world, cosmetic skin bleaching has no boundaries. Hence, some insight is given about skin bleaching in the Caribbean, India, South East Asia, Latin America, North America and the United Kingdom. Furthermore, skin bleaching is not only practiced by homeland Africans but also diasporic Africans.

The paradigms and determinants that provide social and cultural impetus towards skin bleaching are extensively characterized, since these factors must be taken into account if meaningful intervention strategies are to be created and employed to counteract the trend towards skin bleaching. The chemicals, products and methods used for skin bleaching and the adverse health effects are clearly described. Finally, guideline recommendations that would help attenuate the burden and possibly eliminate the injuries related to skin bleaching are prescribed. Potential developments and future directions are also discussed.

There are twenty three chapters in the book and it is published in two volumes. The book is already available on Amazon.com, African Books Collective, konga.com, Barnes & Noble etc.

Uber Launches In Ghana!

trotroGhana is a wonderful country. And one of the biggest parts of Ghanaian life is transport. You can find anecdotes about practically any mode of transport, from car, to boat, to the humble tro-tro which has been a loyal medium for many. The landscape of Ghanaian transport has been changing over the past few years, with work underway to drag Kotoka International Airport into the 21st Century, as well as the much-acclaimed ‘made-in-Ghana- cars manufactured by Kantanka and work all across the nation to improve the roads and travel infrastructure.

Now, one of the biggest travel sensations in the world is finally arriving on the shores of Ghana. 0c838fdf-fbd8-44d4-942b-039b7cbe577bAt midday on Thursday 9th June 2016, Uber finally arrives in Ghana as Accra becomes the 8th sub-Saharan African city to utilise the acclaimed ride service! The cab-hailing behemoth will commence operations with immediate availability of its UberX cars, and hopes to expand its fleet nationwide just as we have seen time and again in territories all across the world.

Uber is a cab-hailing smartphone app which allows passengers to summon cars at real time and at affordable prices. It’s rating system, easy-to-use app and good service has taken the world by storm, allowing Uber to have a presence in more than 460 cities worldwide. Already, Uber’s research has seen that there is a great demand for its service in Ghana. Uber Technologies Inc. have moved their focus onto Africa in recent times and are steadily expanding their services across the continent. Ghana is the 5th sub-Sharan African country it has added to its global network, with Tanzania hoping to follow later in June.

uber-750x400Uber has seen the demand for its services on Ghana’s shores, and the increasing way technology is being embraced to help improve living. Accra has been selected to be the starting point for Uber in Ghana, with its thriving population of 2.27 million having access to efficient transport through its ride-sharing platform from June 9th. “We see Accra as a natural fit!” proclaimed Alon Lits, who is Uber’s general manager for the Sub-Sahara territory. “Accra is a bustling, connected city that Uber is proud to be launching in. Its people are willing to embrace innovation and technology, and love products that are cool, exclusive and offer a new experience. We are able to deliver just that – safely, reliably and affordability”

So if you’re in Accra, download the Uber app now and await launch. Follow @Uber_Ghana on zvfasfatwitter for more details!

*Note: Uber are offering 6 free weekend rides (up to the value of GHS 20 each) on launch weekend, from midday on Thursday 9th June to midnight on Sunday 12th June. Here’s how to redeem the free rides:

  1. Visit m.uber.com or download the free ‘Uber’ app on your SMART phone ( iPhone, Android, Blackberry 7, Windows Phone)
  2. Sign up and activate your 6 free rides with the promo code: MoveGHANA
  3. Request your ride

By Dr. Jermaine Bamfo

Tech boon for children as Ghana puts autism on the app

Good job, high five!” enthuses Victoria Nyarko in her classroom at a community centre in the Ghanaian coastal city of Tema. It is Monday morning, and classes at HopeSetters autism centre – where shelves are filled with puzzles and learning aids, and walls covered in colourful posters and slogans – are a little different from normal.

The privately funded centre, which provides education for 18 autistic children aged between five and 15, is one of the first organisations in the country to use a locally designed autism aid app that uses audio and visual educational tools to help youngsters learn.

“Today we are doing the kitchen materials,” Nyarko says. “They like it because it kind of talks back to them … it communicates with them, and they like to touch it a lot.”

With its learning tools, SMS helpline for parents, and information centre, the app, believed to be the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa, is helping to further autism education and awareness in Ghana. Its creator, Alice Amoako, says the app provides teaching material that helps teachers and parents to improve communication skills among children.

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Autism Aid founders Alice Amoako and Solomon Avemegah

A neurological disorder characterised by communication and social difficulties, autism is believed to affect one in 68 children globally. Statistics for Ghana and other African countries are lacking: one study suggests one in 87 children under the age of three in Ghana is autistic.

Children with autism face discrimination and the same prejudices as people with mental illnesses, activists say.

Amoako and other teachers are hoping to change attitudes. While studying for a degree in IT at the Ghana Technology University, Amoako founded Autism Ambassadors of Ghana (AAG).

“I [visited] an autism centre and had interactions with the caregivers and children, and I realised there was a need to help raise awareness,” says Amoako, 24. “In my final year [at university], I had to do a project to complete my studies and we developed the app.”

Amoako and co-founder Solomon Avemegah developed the app last year, after winning a competition, the digital changemakers award, run by the mobile company Tigo. Backed by Reach for Change International, Tigo’s non-profit partner, the prize is designed to support social entrepreneurs in Ghana.

The app utilises the picture exchange communication system (Pecs (pdf)), using visuals to instigate communication in children. The program comes with image sections, sign language tools for those unable to communicate verbally, and even a list of local foods and transport.

“They can learn all kinds of things,” Amoako says. “We were able to modify it in such a way that it even has the list of Ghanaian foods. If a child wants to eat banku[fermented corn and cassava], for example, they can just click on the picture. We have the Ghanaian transport system with taxis and tro-tros [public minibuses], and we hope to include local languages on the platform in the future too.”

The app, which is free to download, lists autism centres and facilities in Ghana, and has a detailed autism awareness section. Raising awareness is critical in a country, and region, where people with any kind of disability can be banished from society and sent to “prayer camps” to be “healed”.

Marilyn Marbell-Wilson, a developmental paediatrician, believes the technology could improve children’s communication skills. “Children with autism can definitely do better with modes of communication other than talking,” she says.

“It makes it a more familiar tool because most of them love the phones and gadgets, so they wouldn’t look in a book or the normal Pecs cards … it can improve the neural circuits of communication and so definitely it makes a better tool for communication instead of just looking at the pictures.”

One of only three autism specialists in Ghana, as well as a member of the app’s helpline team, Marbell-Wilson says the program could help change attitudes and bring more autism cases to light.

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Children and staff at the Autism Awareness Care and Training centre in the Ghanaian capital Accra

“If a child is not developing typically, some parents or relatives will say, ‘Oh, this is spiritual, this is not medical’, so they will either hide the child or do something untoward to the child,” she adds.

“If the child is sick, having a tantrum or [doing] something peculiar [and] the parent doesn’t know exactly what to do, we are able to answer and give some help … I think that will be great for parents.”

Kwaku Offei Addo, whose four-year-old son, Joel, has autism, says: “He likes to use the phone a lot and it will be helpful catching up with words and identifying objects.”

Offei Addo meets other fathers of autistic children to discuss their experiences. He says it can be particularly difficult for Ghanaian men to deal with having an autistic child.

“[People think] it demeans your status as a man,” he says. “It was really difficult for me to accept [but] over time, with the effort, it has built me up to a level … I think of the positive things and it motivates me.”

To mark world autism awareness day on 2 April, AAG organised a march of more than 400 people through Accra’s streets. The Autism Society of West Africa recently held a three-day conference in Accra bringing together advocates from Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal.

“I think it is empowering people to take the information they know here out to their families, neighbourhoods and communities, and to start talking more about what they saw here,” said the society’s founder, Casey McFeeley. “It opens up the idea that it is OK.”

Article via The Guardian

Meet Watly: The Three-Pronged Solution to Africa’s Biggest Needs

When you think of rural Ghana, and the rural Sub-Sahara, the big issues can usually be distilled into three components – a need for clean drinking water, a need for sustainable sources of power, and a need for internet connectivity. Take a second now to imagine a machine that can turn contaminated water from a river, ocean or even sewage into drinking water, while at the same time generating enough electricity to power itself with surplus, and connecting everywhere within a kilometre radius to Wi-Fi.

160503160150-watly-ghana-environment-test-super-169It sounds too good to be true. And yet Spanish-Italian start-up Watly have managed to create just that! The Watly machine is a car-sized solar-powered water-purification machine which can service 3000 people, and aims to provide to rural African communities the three fundamental pillars of modern civilisation: electrical power, clean water and internet access. It is ‘H’-shaped to follow the Sun throughout the day. An incredible technological feat, it works by capturing solar energy through photovoltaic panels that line its shell, before converting that solar energy into electricity through an internal 140kwh battery.

 

“The only thing it needs to run are dirty water and a lot of sun”, says Marco Attisani, the 160503162032-watly-team-in-ghana-super-16944-year old founder and creator of the Spanish-Italian start-up Watly. Ghana was chosen as the host of the first trials, with Watly machines having been provided to many villages to see just how useful and effective they are.

The solar energy generated through the solar panels helps produce clean drinking water by using a patented graphene-based filtering process. Watly’s purification process is based on the physical principle of vapour compression distillation. It is by far the most effective and powerful method of water purification available. Watly water quality is outstanding, absolutely pure, low mineralized and with a perfect pH balance. Water quality remains constant over the 15+ years of a Watly machine’s lifespan. One Watly device can deliver 5000 litres of safe drinking water each day!

 

160506154544-watly-hub-super-169It does not need to be connected to an electric grid. Watly produces off-grid electricity to power its own internal electronics (computers, multiple-screens, 3D printers and different telecommunication devices), as well as powering a charging station for external devices (portable computers, mobile phones, portable lamps, radios, televisions, household appliances). The free electricity generated by Watly is made available to people via multiple battery chargers and electric plugs. The battery also powers a connectivity hub, providing wireless internet to an 800-meter radius of a device.

 

Those lucky enough to trial the Watly prototypes have been astounded by the capabilities of the machine, and are incredibly excited by the prospect of having this little hub be an adrenaline shot to their infrastructure and quality of daily living.

A solar-powered machine such as the Watly is seen as potentially providing a boost to 160503154117-watly-ghana-children-super-169development in Ghana’s rural areas, as well as rural areas across the Sub-Sahara, where approximately 625 million people are without electricity and approximately 39% lack access to safe water.

If the trials are successful, the Watly team will look to begin a continent-wide roll-out of the devices. Founder Attisani will be presenting the final design to potential customers and investors in July, having already cited interest from leading mobile and energy companies. The team hopes to install 10000 Watly units across Africa over the next 8 years, which will help in creating about 50000 jobs on the continent. After the initial cost of build, Watly will run for free for up to 15 years, the company estimates. And in that time it will provide 3 million litres of clean water a year, enough for 3,000 people, electricity for thousands of devices, and Wi-Fi for a kilometre-wide radius.

160503161042-watly-tried-in-ghana-super-169The project has received 1.4 million Euros from the EU’s Horizon 2020 research funding program, and are planning to collaborate with NGOs and civil society on a local level. “No technology can change the world without a human factor” ,continues Attisani. “Local partners will care for the logistics, spread the word, play a role in education and leverage functionality.”
The Watly team also hopes that their devices will lead to a surge of economic growth in the areas which they serve, by becoming a launchpad upon which local entrepreneurs can start their businesses. Creating jobs, and helping bring much needed aid in the development of rural areas in Ghana and beyond, are just some of the advantages of a project which is aiming to bring the underdeveloped areas of Ghana and Africa to the heart of the 21st century.

By Dr Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)

Dr. One – Bringing Sexual Health to Rural Ghana & Beyond

Healthcare provision is a big issue when it comes to Ghana and the African continent. There are many obstacles which prevent millions of people from getting healthcare which is on par with that received in the West – finances, lack of technology, an inadequately-trained workforce, lack of electricity and the various issues surrounding energy provision, etc. However, one of the biggest issues is the fact that there are large rural communities in Ghana and in various African countries that are situated in remote and hard-to-reach villages and towns. Places where a flood can shut down the roads for days and cut off supply chains. Places where an ‘act of nature’ could prevent healthcare professionals from reaching those in need in good time.

 

As 2014 drew to a close, a group of public health experts and philanthropists congregated to think about how to improve contraception access and sexual health provision to women in these areas. A light-bulb collectively switched on, as they took inspiration from Amazon, the American electronic commerce behemoth which is pioneering the use of unmanned delivery drones.

 

A-drone-in-operation-at-the-Accra-Trade-Fair-Centre-800x445Enter Dr. One – a successful pilot program jointly funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the government of the Netherlands, which gained support from the Ghana Health Service. The Dr. One program has been using 5-foot-wide drones to successfully fly birth control medications, condoms and other medical supplies from urban warehouses to rural areas of Ghana which would be otherwise very difficult to reach. A healthcare worker waits for the drop at a predetermined area, picks up the supplies and then distributes them to local residents in need.

 

Delays in the provision of health treatments to rural areas have been eased by this program, with the drones delivering treatment to hard-to-reach areas.

“Delivery to the rural areas used to take two days,” said Kanyanta Sunkutu (public health specialist with the UNFPA) at the International Conference on Family Planning in Bali, Indonesia.

“It will now take 30 minutes.” Such has been the level of success, the program is now looking at options to expand into more territories in order to spread this sexual health revolution across the continent.

 

In a domain such as Sub-Saharan Africa, which sees less than 20% of women using modern Teen-Mums-Ghana-UNI190989-1200x800contraception, access to adequate and appropriate birth control is a big issue. It’s more pressing when you appreciate World Health Organisation estimations that approximately 225 million women in developing nations worldwide lack reliable birth control methods despite desiring to hold-off pregnancy or maybe not bear any children.

 

These kind of figures betray how much of an issue the lack of access to appropriate birth control is, with very high rates of unintentional pregnancy observed in these areas. Unintentional pregnancies are married to problems such as child pregnancy and marriage, as well as lack of female education (with young ladies falling pregnant and having to drop out of school to tend to their babies and generate income). Many young girls and women also find themselves seeking abortions following the confirmation of an undesired pregnancy. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that seeking an abortion in areas where adequate healthcare is scant and a lack of appropriate treatment exists, is a minefield fraught with danger – approximately 47000 women die yearly from complications related to such unsafe abortions.

 

145-ghana-girls-meetingThe pilot program in Ghana has been so successful and cost-efficient (with each delivery flight costing only $15) that the governments of several countries have offered to take over the program and pay for it themselves. Tanzania, Rwanda, Zambia, Ethiopia and Mozambique have all expressed interest in using the drones for family planning.

Programs such as Dr. One may seem uncomplicated, but their influence and power have a wide-ranging benefit both logistically and ideologically. Such invention could go a long way in helping Ghana and the continent bypass seemingly insurmountable obstacles to finally making the massive inroads required to improve African sexual health, reduce maternal/infant mortality and morbidity rates, and drag African healthcare to the standards its inhabitants deserve.

 

By Dr. Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)