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Archive for August 27th, 2013

Kenya: Conquering visual impairment

Posted by African Press International on August 27, 2013


When you thought that being blind defines you,then meet Mr. Chrispinus  Waswa a  teacher at Mbakalo Friends Secondary school in Bungoma North District who has conquered his visual impairment.

Mr.Waswa,36,succumbed to blindness at a tender age but has stood out in his teaching profession by helping many of his students pass with  sterling colours..

But a single day that doomed his visualness, while practicing for a school tournament in standard five, was hit by the ball on his right eye which lost sight immediately and unfortunately it also affected the left eye and was taken to Kakamega General  hospital for operation.

Worse of it,was discovered that his condition was a permanent agony hence he had to be transferred to a special school so as to further his education using the special Braille machines.

He says that it was the most trying time in his life as he came from a humble background and his parents could not afford to take him to a special school forcing him to stay at home as they looked for well wishers to fund his education.

After  years,Mr.Waswa got sponsorship through the ministry of education which bought him the Braille machines as well as trained one of the teachers at his former Namamuka primary school to teach him as he went back to standard five.

Suprisngly, he turned up to be a very bright pupil and by topping in  class a position he maintained up to the KCPE examination where he scored 476 marks out of 700.

He secured a Form one chance at  Bungoma high school and sat for his KCSE exam in 2000 and managed a direct entry to the university with a grade B. He however ventured  into  teaching course by specialising in Kiswahili and History subjects.

After he  graduated in 2006 and soon the uphill task of job hunting was a thing to engage  as he had to dance the tune of job seeking.

I however he managed to secure a chance at Bungoma high school where I  taught for some short period of time before the Teachers Service Commission advertised for a vacancy at Mbakalo Friends Secondary school and i was confirmed.

To Mr.Waswa,it was miraculously as among the fifteen applicants who showed up he was the only one who qualified and has been a teacher at the school since the year 2010 and thanked the school principal Habil Malika for providing a conducive environment for him.

“My  colleagues are  supportive and also the students are very comfortable with me”said Waswa. Apart from teaching he has been delegated with other responsibilities of being the teacher in charge of drama as well as the head of Kiswahili as a subject saying he enjoyed being in company of his students.

His advice to  people living with disabilities is that they should not to be demoralized by their condition but rather work hard towards achieving the best for themselves as his own is a true testimony that anything is possible with determination.

Married with three children and has also been able to purchase land for himself as well as constructing a house for his mother back at home something he says could not have been possible if he could have allowed his condition to overcome his ability.


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Kenya: Jigger increase reported in Teso Constituency

Posted by African Press International on August 27, 2013

 Residents from Okuleu area of Teso North Constituency in Busia County have raised concern over the rampant  increase of jiggers menace in the area.

Several elderly persons have so far died due to jigger infestation and the latest case is of a 70 year old granny who died at the Kocholya Teso District Hospital.

The late Ann Asitei succumbed to Jigger infestation before  she was rushed by the neighbors to the hospital after the problem had persisted.

Led by Martin Isara, the locals appealed to the County government to move in with haste and rescue them from Jiggers menace which they said is disturbing them and their families.

“The drugs that are being distributed by community health workers are not effective and we urge the County government to provide us with jigger solution,” said Isara adding that many elderly persons are falling prey of jiggers.

Apart from the elderly persons who are very susceptible to the problem, School going children notably nursery and primary school pupils are entirely affected.

The issue is posing a danger in education sector in the district as such children cannot walk to school hence miss a lot in schools. The schools mostly affected are Kamolo, Amoni, Totokakile and Ikapolok where jiggers have invaded the children and hamper their learning.

Many NGO’s have moved in to curb the infection but according to Villagers the problem is still persisting since the jiggers have invaded a vast area.

The locals are calling upon Busia County leaders to find a long lasting solution to the problem that is slowly killing people and affecting the education sector.


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Technology can help reach disaster-hit communities

Posted by African Press International on August 27, 2013

Technology can help reach disaster-hit communities

DAKAR,  – Difficulty reaching conflict- or disaster-hit communities slows down aid delivery, hampers assessment and can lead to groups in remote areas being left out of the aid equation altogether. But new technology, while not a panacea, is helping to remove access barriers.

Aid agencies are increasingly seeking innovative solutions to old challenges. For example, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has teamed up with technology firm Spigit to launch “UNHCR Ideas”, an ideas lab where staff, refugees, academics and partners can brainstorm and crowd-source solutions to common problems. Their first challenge is improving access to information and services for urban refugees; the winning idea will be piloted in 2014.

Olivier DelaRue, UNHCR head of innovations, said: “We hope this project will give a voice primarily to refugees, because the solutions are very often with them. What we are trying to achieve is a higher degree of empowerment, a higher degree of self-reliance, in order to increase dignity.”

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also set up ideas labs to stimulate new approaches. Labs are currently at work in Denmark, Kosovo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Below, IRIN explores five access innovations being piloted by aid agencies.

Digital school in a box

UNICEF is piloting a digital school-in-a-box project in Uganda. Sixty schools, each with between 100 and 200 children, have received a pack containing a solar-powered laptop with internet connectivity, a projector, a speaker and a document camera. The idea is to connect rural schools to wider learning networks and tools. The equipment can also be used to link remote communities to health resources, emergency information and entertainment.

UNICEF currently procures the equipment from different suppliers, but says it is seeking to have the kits manufactured in Uganda. Finding low-cost, high-quality equipment and training community members on maintenance are keys to the success of the project, the agency says.

Mobile phones to assess food insecurity

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) uses a process called Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) to gather accurate data about how many people are food insecure, who and where they are, and how their situation came about. In the past, much VAM information was collected through on-the-ground, face-to-face interviews, but these can be slow, expensive and at times impractical, particularly in remote communities or when access is hampered by natural disasters, poor roads or violence.

WFP is now piloting a mobile VAM (mVAM) project to survey communities via SMS polls, which ask people simple questions about food availability and meal patterns to gather key data about the levels of food insecurity.

“With barely any roads, or seriously damaged ones, collecting data on food security and monitoring the situation is a real logistical challenge. [mVAM] has the potential to be a quicker and more cost-effective way of gathering data, allowing us to us to assist faster those people who need our emergency supplies most,” said Koffi Akakpo, head of WFP’s VAM unit in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where a pilot of this programme was conducted in January. The plan is to extend the pilot to other locations in DRC and also to try it in Somalia.

The agency has secured funding from the Humanitarian Innovation Foundation (HIF), a grant facility of the Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA) programme, which supports organizations and individuals developing innovative and scalable solutions for humanitarian challenges.

Mobile phone apps to trace missing children

Reuniting children with their families in the aftermath of a natural disaster or conflict, known as Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR), has long involved hand-written lists, which can be a slow and inefficient process. Now UNICEF is trying a RapidFTR system, which uses an open-source mobile phone application that was conceived from a master’s thesis and brought to reality by ThoughtWorks, an IT consulting firm.

Unaccompanied children are logged and photographed, and their details instantly uploaded to a central database that can be shared with other UN agencies and NGOs. Parents can then consult the database to see if their missing children have been registered and, if so, to find their whereabouts.

Kim Scriven, a manager at HIF, which is also funding this project, said: “This is replacing what was previously done on paper with printed photographs and photocopied lists. That used to take weeks, or even months to centralize, but now it is done instantaneously using mobile phones and the internet.”

RapidFTR uses the kinds of security measures employed by mobile banking programmes to ensure that sensitive data about vulnerable children, especially photographs, are only accessible by authorized users.

A pilot of this project is currently being carried out by the Uganda Red Cross and Save the Children in the Nyakabande transit centre and Rwamwanja refugee camp in eastern Uganda, where many displaced people from DRC have sought refuge.

3D printing to create spare parts

Officially known as “rapid prototyping”, 3D printing sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but in fact it offers real and potentially sustainable solutions for communities in the developing world and those affected by disasters.

In 3D printing, a three-dimensional model of an object is scanned and digitally stored, then shared, downloaded and printed out, one thin layer of material – usually plastic – at a time.

This is giving remote communities unprecedented access to things like irrigation pipes, agricultural tools, water pumps, wind turbine blades and health aids, all items that previously would have had to be imported at great time and expense.

William Hoyle, CEO of techfortrade, a UK-based charity that aims to find technological solutions to trade and development challenges, told IRIN: “Printer costs are coming down, mobile phones are the new computer and internet access is widening, so the opportunities are endless.

“Many developing companies struggle to source spare parts for machinery, but the idea that you just make a spare part by downloading a file and printing it out really changes everything,” he said.

Hoyle said techfortrade was in talks with a company in India to recycle plastic to make filament, for use in a 3D-printing project to make farm tools. “Waste plastic is everywhere, and if you can put it to good use then that is environmentally sustainable as well.”

In May, global experts and innovators met in Trieste, Italy, at an event hosted by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics to discuss how low-cost 3D printing could be used for science, education and sustainable development.

Pooling malnutrition information

A number of organizations, including Save the Children UK, WFP and Concern Worldwide, are using the Minimum Reporting Package (MRP), a monitoring and reporting tool that allows organizations to collect and pool standardized data on emergency Supplementary Feeding Programmes (SFPs), which treat moderate severe malnutrition.

MRP not only allows aid and humanitarian agencies to better monitor the effectiveness of emergency SFPs, it also allows them to quickly deliver standardized information to donors and governments in times of crisis.

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