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Category Archives: Field notes

The Lives of Others

UPDATE: contrasting negative images offered by commentators on Twitter (see end of post)

My Ghanaian friends often tell me that if you want to understand Ghanaians at all, you have to understand how religious are most Ghanaians. I believed them of course, but it didn’t really become vivid until I attended the most amazing church service this morning. I am not saying this out of any religious motives, just to point out another side of…

Also posted in Aid policies and approaches | Tagged , , | 32 Comments

Is &%# allowed in aid?

My wife and I visited the village of Goyire yesterday, about 30km from Bolgatanga in northern Ghana, home to the Builse subgroup of the Talensi ethnic group. We were looking at a malaria bed nets project that I will discuss more in a future post.  The community had organized a skit to dramatize why bed net utilization is so important to prevent malaria. The amateur community Thespians doing the skit really hammed it up and the…

Also posted in Global health | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Greetings from remote places

Greetings Aid Watchers, just back on line, been busy touring remote places in northern Ghana. I’ll be writing up experiences in a future post, but I only have a few minutes right now. One very quick thought I have been having:

Q: what’s the difference between remote northern Ghana and downtown Manhattan?

A: my iPhone gets a signal in remote northern Ghana

Tagged | 13 Comments

Fitting Kwame the cabbie into the brain drain equation

The following post is by Yaw Nyarko, a Professor of Economics at NYU and founding director of Africa House.

Not too long ago I got in a cab in New York with a Ghanaian taxi driver named Kwame. He remembered picking me up several years ago. What a memory he has. Anyway, he told me he has four children: one is a doctor and the two youngest are in private school. He said his kids…

Also posted in Academic research, Global health | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

Universities in Africa: the forgotten link?

The following post is by Moussa P. Blimpo, who just received his Ph.D. in Economics from NYU, and has recently returned from conducting fieldwork in Benin and The Gambia. He is from Togo.

The working conditions are very poor in many African universities. I had a chance a few days ago to attend a class at The University of Lome, in Togo. My high school buddy, Zakari, is an assistant professor of mathematics there. With…

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A warning from Tajikistan

The following post was written by Alanna Shaikh. Alanna is a global health professional who blogs at UN Dispatch and Blood and Milk.

A polio outbreak is underway in Tajikistan. 12 people have died of the diseases since March. 32 cases of polio have been confirmed, and 171 cases of acute flaccid paralysis (a signal of possible polio) have been identified. That’s a full-fledged outbreak in a country with an 82% vaccination rate. Until this January,…

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Africa is Rich

…as well as Poor. I don’t dispute, and I do care very much about changing, the well known material and health deprivation in Africa. But Life doesn’t have only one dimension.


These thoughts were prompted by a recent seven-day journey on foot through the highlands of North Wollo, Ethiopia.[1] Going through a district with no roads, no electricity, no wheeled vehicles, no source of energy other than animal and human power, threshing and winnowing…


Respecting local values: Western confusion about African orphans


When a remote area of South Sudan was resettling from the long-running civil war in 2001, tens of thousands of returnees were threatened by the upcoming rainy season without food. A small team was dispatched to assess and prioritize the needs of internally displaced people (IDPs) resettling in a corner of South Sudan. (Sudan continues to have the largest number of IDPs in the world, even without exact numbers from half the country.)…

Also posted in Big ideas | 12 Comments

The Three Worlds of an Aid Worker in Lagos

by Jeffrey Barnes, veteran aid worker

I start my day in World One, the world of international flights, business class lounges, laptop computers, four star hotels and Internet. Although power in the country is expensive and infrequent, the hotel management has installed stand up air conditioners in all the public spaces, including the hallways, to ensure that the temperature is always low enough so that clients with three piece suits are comfortable. The hotel generator…

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Cry from the field in Nepal

by Scott MacLennan, veteran NGO leader resident in Nepal

A few weeks ago I was again trekking the Tamang Heritage Trail with a group of medical volunteers. We stopped for the night in the village of Thambuchet which is a short distance from Chilime. There I found a brand new government building that is supposed to be a birthing center. The government has a big push on to stop home births and get the people…

Also posted in Aid policies and approaches | 24 Comments