Though cases of “nodding disease” were reported in the 1960s in Southern Sudan, outbreaks emerged in Uganda in 2003 and have recently drawn a lot of attention. In 2009, the Ugandan government requested the help of Western organizations.
This mysterious disease is without a known cure or cause. The children affected are between the ages of one and nineteen, but the worst affected are three to eleven. The first symptoms are much like the beginning of epilepsy. When the children are encountered with food or a change in temperature, seizures begin. They start convulsively nodding and losing focus. This is where the name derives. Eventually, it leads to debilitation, causing brain atrophy, mental retardation, and stunted growth. The children are left as empty shells in their bodies until they die, usually from secondary causes.
Overwhelmed parents do not know what to do. Out of desperation, they tie their children to posts. If they don’t, when they leave to go to the market or simply work in the field, the children wander off and get lost for days or sometimes never return. The infected often break out in violent tantrums, act paranoid and hide from nonexistent pursuers, or lose focus and, while seizing, fall into cooking fires or drown. Some victims have reported feeling suffocated or weighed down by an unseen, heavy object. With each seizure, parents report that they lose a part of their child. They recover but are never quite the same, until one day they lose the ability to function completely.
Without a known cause for this horrifying disease, there is also no cure. 93% of cases are found in children also affected by the parasitic worm, Onchocerca Volvulus, which causes river blindness. However, experts cannot find a direct relationship. Many children with this parasite are not affected by nodding disease. Studies also show a deficiency of vitamin B6 in the victims.
Since 2009, nodding disease has killed at least 200 children. More than 3,500 others are currently affected, and the numbers grow daily. Some villages are completely without medical attention. Where there are medical outposts, limited patients are treated with drugs that control epileptic seizures. These drugs have produced only a retardation of the symptoms, and there is a very limited supply. Ugandans feel that the government is neglecting them and have lost all faith in the government. Hon Beatrice Anywar, a Ugandan politician, became so distraught over the lack of aid, that he took 25 children to a hospital in the capital, Kampala, forcing people to pay attention. More clinics were opened and people were trained, but not nearly enough supplies, food, and funds to expand the clinics’ capacity were given. Recently, two lawsuits were filed against the Ugandan government for negligence. The government says they will fight the lawsuits “filed out of ignorance,” because they claim they have been working hard to help their people. In 2009, they asked for the help of the World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF, who all paired up with local health teams.
Though the outbreak is most prominent in Uganda, Liberia, Sudan, and Tanzania also suffer from the mysterious disease.
For more information:
The Real Battle in Uganda (Foreign Policy)
Are We Not Ugandans? (Foreign Policy)
By Caitlen Sellers, 2012 GTS Fellow
We at the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh are always looking for ways to help out our students and teachers learn more about the world. In that vein, we have put together a list of some of our favorite online educational resources. These links include a wide range of information, including facts, photos, videos, podcasts, books, discussion boards, and lesson plans.
We have identified some general international resources at the top of the list. After the break, you’ll find information and resources relating to Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East.
CIA World Factbook An excellent compilation of country facts (i.e. population, geography, etc.).
CNN for Teachers and Students Spotlights the day’s current events and offers printable quizzes, discussion questions, and maps.
National Geographic Kids A variety of resources are present on this website, including an online atlas with road, satellite, physical, and theme maps (population density, weather, and natural resources) as well as country profiles and pictures from around the world.
New York Times for Teachers and Students This blog highlights the day’s events, but also offers everything from lesson plans for teachers and comment boxes for students.
Outreach World This website offers a wealth of information for teaching students about the world. Under ‘Download Instructional Materials,’ it is possible to search for lesson plans by region of the world and age group.
PBS for Teachers Exclusively for teachers, this site acts as a network for lesson planning, programming, and resource guides.
PBS News Hour for Teachers and Students Offers lesson plans for teachers, but is also a great resource for students looking to comment on and follow world events.
Peace Corps World-Wise Schools Also provides lesson plans and resources created by Peace Corps volunteers around the world.
Time for Kids Interactive and informative, and is applicable to teachers and students. The site has sections with age-specific material.
Region-specific resources can be found after the jump.
Happy New Year, everyone! 2012 is off to a snowy start here in Pittsburgh, and this seems like a perfect time to review what has happened over the past 360-some odd days.
As always, the global stage was full of tumult and change: 2011 saw the deaths of influential world figures (Warren Christopher, Muammar Gaddafi, Vaclav Havel, Steve Jobs, Kim Jong-Il, and Osama bin Laden, for example); uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa; the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq; devastating natural disasters (earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, typhoon in the Philippines, floods in south-east Asia, and famine in the Horn of Africa); and economic crisis in Europe.
We’ve scoured the web to find some of the best of the “2011 in Review” resources, and compiled them below. Are there any we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments.
2011 Year in Review (Reuters): Photos and descriptions of the most important news stories of the year, including a dramatic 60-second multimedia video presentation of the key stories, and some of the top images from 2011.
Best Articles of 2011 (Foreign Policy Magazine): Although not necessarily highlighting the most important news stories of the year, here are the most-read articles from foreignpolicy.com in 2011.
Best International Relations Books of 2011 (Foreign Affairs): In every issue of Foreign Affairs, scholars review recent academic and nonfiction books. At the end of 2011, the reviewers were asked to select the best ones. Here you will find the best books in a number of categories, including: Western Europe; the Middle East; the Western Hemisphere; Eastern Europe; Economic, Social, and Environmental Subjects; Asia; Africa; the United States; Military, Scientific, and Technological Subjects; and Political and Legal Subjects.
Personal Favorites from 2011 (A Realist in an Ideological Age): Stephen M. Walt is a professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and writes a blog, A Realist in an Ideological Age, for Foreign Policy. In this post, he shares his favorite blog posts from the past year, all of which are worth a read.
Shots Seen ‘Round the World (Foreign Policy Magazine): Fifty of the best/most important photographs from 2011, as selected by Foreign Policy.
Top 5 Foreign Policy Books in 2011 (Foreign Policy Association): The FPA asked its staff, editors, writers and bloggers to select the best books about foreign policy. Here is what they came up with.
Top 5 International Documentaries of 2011 (Foreign Policy Association): The FPA asked its staff, editors, writers and bloggers to select the best international documentaries on issues related to U.S. foreign policy. Here is what they came up with.
Twitter’s 2011 Year in Review (Twitter): It is no secret that social media is playing an increasing role in current events. Here is a look at some of the key stories, hot topics, and important moments of 2011 — as seen on Twitter.
Your Top 10 Stories of 2011 (The Guardian): Links to the top ten news stories of the year, as selected by readers.
The Year in Foreign Policy (Foreign Policy Association): The FPA looks at several key foreign policy events that promise to shape the coming year, including the 2012 election.
Year in Review (Foreign Policy Blogs Network): The FPA’s blog network has a number of great, topic-specific “Year in Review” posts, all of which can be found here. Read about 2011 in Russia or Israel, or the year in Global Food Security or War Crimes (to name just a few).
The extreme bout of starvation in Somalia precipitated an additional refugee crisis in the Horn of Africa. Somalis who seek humanitarian aid have migrated to bordering Ethiopia and Kenya. Particularly, the Kenyan refugee camp of Dadaab – which was established twenty years ago and designed to hold only 90,000 people – has housed tens of thousands of refugee in recent weeks, bringing its total number of inhabitants up to 380,000. These extremely high levels of resettlement will become unsustainable without further assistance from the international community. Refugee camps like the Dadaab rely on both donations from foreign governments and relief efforts from humanitarian aid organizations to continue to provide food, water and shelter to famine-stricken countries. Recently, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres has recently called for “massive support” from the international community, which the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs approximates will need to be around $2.5 billion. Shortly after this call for aid the White House announced that it will contribute an additional $105 million, bringing the total amount of humanitarian aid for East Africa up to $565 million.
Despite the work of humanitarian aid organizations, such as UNICEF, the Red Cross and the World Food Programme (WFP), Somali insurgents have obstructed these relief efforts and, therefore, exacerbated the crisis. Discussing the complexity of relief services in Somalia, WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran explains, “Operations in Somalia are among the highest risk in the world. WFP lost 14 relief workers there since 2008.” The Members of the al-Shabaab Islamist rebel group have not only denied that the famine exists but, moreover, they have tried to prevent aid organizations from entering the country to administer relief. Though the militant group officially lifted its ban on aid agencies on July 5, group members have continued to kidnap, terrorize and kill aid workers in an attempt to force their departure. Johnnie Carson, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, has discussed the impact of al-Shabaab, asserting, “Al-Shabaab’s activities have clearly made the situation much worse. We call on all of those in south-central Somalia who have it within their authority to allow refugee groups and organizations to operate there to do so.” In response, African Union (AU) peacekeepers have launched a counterattack against al-Shabaab to protect relief workers. Though discussions with the group have seemed to progress recently, their opposition to relief efforts continues to pose a serious threat to crucial food, water and emergency medical treatment for all suffering East Africans. As the situation worsens, governments and NGOs must work together to overcome insurgent obstacles and coordinate more effective relief efforts, thereby preventing the further development of an already tragic crisis.
Learn more about the famine in Somalia from this Economist essay.
For information on international aid organizations currently working in East Africa and how you can help, please click here.
By Alex LePore, World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh Intern
Earlier this month, Americans celebrated the 235th anniversary of the country’s independence with picnics and fireworks displays. Just five days later, on July 9th, another country celebrated its Independence Day, except in this case for the very first time. That country was South Sudan. Here are links to some essential articles on this historic event, so that you can learn all you need to know about the world’s newest country.
Overview and Background
If you are looking for a good starting place – or simply want a brief and succinct overview of the key details – look no further than these two BBC features:
- South Sudan Independence: What You Need to Know covers all of the basics in a minute and a half-long video.
- The South Sudan Country Profile summarizes the country’s geography, key historical events since the 1950s, economy and central conflicts – and all in just some 600 words.
For even more background on the conflicts and events leading up to Sudan’s “divorce,” check out these two links:
- The New York Times Topics Page for South Sudan provides a concise yet thorough history of the region from the 1950s to today, including information on the 2005 Peace Accord and recent developments and challenges. Here you can also find links to the latest New York Times news articles on the subject.
- Bashir’s Choice, an article from Foreign Policy, explains how Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir’s choice to rule through violence and repression have shaped recent outcomes.
Finally, Sudan: One Country or Two? – an interactive map from the BBC – provides a graphic depiction of the differences between north and south.
The Role of the U.S.
In his blog entry Welcome to South Sudan! Nicholas Kristof notes the important role diplomacy played in managing the situation:
“Today’s peaceful separation is, in part, a triumph of diplomacy over war. … The situation is fragile and troubled — but still better than many expected a year ago, and it’s a reminder that diplomacy can be an incredibly powerful tool to avert humanitarian catastrophes.”
Two articles also explain how conservative Christian groups pushed for government action in Sudan, while Hollywood celebrities raised awareness of the country’s issues among the general population:
- Hollywood’s Role in South Sudan Independence from BBC News
- Sudan Movement’s Mission is Secured: Statehood from the New York Times
News coverage of South Sudan’s Independence Day depicts what happened on July 9th, and provides some general insights into potential future challenges.
- South Sudan Becomes an Independent Nation from BBC News
- After Years of Struggle, South Sudan Becomes a New Nation from the New York Times
World Leaders Welcome New Nation (BBC News) gives an overview of some of the statements and reactions made by leading international figures.
Challenges Ahead: Implications and Analysis
There is a lot involved in creating a new country – choosing an anthem, designing currency and forming national sports teams are just a few. You can read more about some of these challenges in How Do You Set up a Nation? (BBC News)
However, South Sudan faces many even graver challenges: ethnic violence, armed rebels, low levels of economic development, conflict at the new border, dividing the oil profits, and the role of the army as the country’s mentality shifts from civil war to governance, among others.
In an interview with The Economist, Roger Middleton of Chatham House, an expert on the region, covers many of these challenges and how South Sudan can manage the high expectations its citizens have for the future.
These articles also analyze what South Sudan must overcome moving forward:
- South Sudan: Avoiding State Failure – Brookings Institution
- South Sudan: Time to Focus on Challenges – Brookings Institution
- How Long Will the Smiles Last? – BBC News
- South Sudan’s Enemy Within – BBC News
- New Countries, Old Problems – New York Times editorial
- Free at Last – Foreign Policy
- Ready, Steady, Invest – The Economist
What implications does Southern independence have in “North” Sudan and for the rest of the world? Check out the following articles for some insights:
- Will South Sudan set a precedent for independence in other disputed territories? Redrawing the Map (Foreign Policy) explains why new countries are increasingly rare.
- Why a Free Southern Sudan is Bad News for Darfur. This Foreign Policy article (though written before the referendum on independence took place) looks at the implications of an independent South Sudan for the Darfur region, where genocide has been taking place since 2003.
- Bashir to Sudan: The Good Times are Over (Foreign Policy). The loss of key oil revenues has economic implications for Sudan.
- Sudan Back on the Brink (Foreign Affairs) analyzes Sudanese President Omar al Bashir’s regime and its prospects for survival following the succession of the South.
- What happens to southerners who fled from violence, often to the north? Independence for South Sudan, Uncertainty for Those Displaced from the South (Brookings Institution) explores this problem.
Today’s Summer Seminar topic was Africa, and more specifically, Sustaining the New Wave in African Governance, led by Dr. Jean-Jacques Ngor Sene, a Senegalese citizen and assistant professor of History at Chatham University.
He began by emphasizing the importance of understanding the historical precedents to Africa’s current situation. Long ago, much of Africa was organized into communal societies that functioned quite well, until the dynamics of the slave trade crystallized authoritarian reflexes. Later on during the imperial era, Western powers “carve the cake,” dividing up Africa to prevent a war amongst themselves. However, between 1957 and 1964, 40 African nations gained independence. Unfortunately, many of these new countries came under authoritarian rule, while meanwhile the US and the USSR were fighting their conflict through proxy wars, often in Africa. Once the Cold War ended, this enabled a wave of political change to sweep across Africa.
Today, however, the conditions from country to country remain disparate. This was Dr. Sene’s second point: that each country in Africa is different, with its own history and circumstances. While democracy has taken place in some countries, many are ruled by an authoritarian leader. One factor that the speaker said explained why authoritarianism is prevalent in Africa can be summed up in an African saying: “You can never point to a man and say he’s a former chief.”
Good governance could be defined by three characteristics: First, that there is popular support for the state; second, that the government is legitimate; and third, that democracy has been consolidated. The following criteria can serve as a measure of a country’s governance level: emergence of an active civil society, a free and independent press, a parliamentary system, an independent judiciary, experimentation with federalism (that is, decentralization of power) and citizen satisfaction. The students were introduced to the idea of Mo Ibrahim’s good governance index, which ranks countries on a scale of zero to 100.