Saturday, June 27, 2009

Health care via text messaging

A recent Guardian article on FrontlineSMS described a new effort to improve health care in low-resource, remote communities by using a basic function of the ubiquitous mobile phone: Short message service (SMS) or text messaging.

According to the World Health Organization, Africa accounts 24% for the global burden of disease but has only 3% of the health care workforce. The shortage has important ramifications for such domains as maternal health, tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV.

FrontlineSMS, seeks to address these shortages by offering an open-source software program that permits two-way text messaging and requires only a computer, modem, cell phones. According to Springwise,

Working with donations collected through Hope Phones, the initiative places a laptop running FrontlineSMS in a central clinic and then distributes cell phones to community health workers. Workers are trained in sending text messages to hospital staff to request drug dosing information or treatment instruction, for example, or provide status updates on a particular patient.

Clearly, this will not solve the critical shortage of skilled health-care workers in the region, but it makes clever use of existing technology to help provide access to medical care, even for those living in remote villages.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Enduro Africa 2008 on UK television

In this month's Enduro Africa Newsletter comes word that a film of the 2008 ride was made into a 5-part series on the UK program Men and Motors and will be aired at the following times:


Thursday 2nd July until Thursday 30th July @ 19.30
Friday 3rd July until Friday 31st July @ 11.30, 13.30, 17.30
Saturday 4th July until Sat 1st August @ 18.30

Those of us in other countries may need to rely on clips available online, such as the 9-minute clip that appears below and which is best experienced with the volume turned OFF. The first half has a terrible choice for soundtrack, IMHO.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

2009 Enduro Africa Itinerary

Here's the official Enduro Africa itinerary for this year's ride:
Day 1
Depart from Heathrow for Johannesburg, South Africa.

Day 2
Arrive in Johannesburg and catch a connecting flight onto the 1820 settler’s city of Port Elizabeth. This is where the fun begins! After the introduction to your team, a quick warm up on your trusty
Honda CRF 230 will ensure that you are well prepared for the adventure that lies ahead.

Day 3
With sirens howling and lights flashing we receive a very special send off as we head up to Addo and onto the beautiful
Zuurberg Pass. This is a long first day that is designed to be equally challenging and enjoyable. We travel through an area full of history with remnants of the Anglo Boer war and Xhosa wars scattered en route. The Katberg Hotel is our overnight stop.

Day 4
Today is a very African and remote day with beautiful forest footpaths, dams and rocky passes. We head back to the coast to Morgan’s Bay Hotel, some 50km north of the shipping port of East London. Morgan’s Bay is a remote holiday resort and is dominated by the Hotel.

Day 5
This is where the Wild Coast and true off-road adventure begins! We cross the mighty Kei River by motorised Ferry and embark on an epic 70km journey which takes about 8 hours. We are in the heart of
Rural Transkei populated by the very friendly Xhosa people. Our stop tonight is Mazeppa Bay Hotel, a beautiful family hotel situated on the rocky shores of the warm Indian Ocean.

Day 6
A well deserved rest day at Mazeppa Bay. This is where we service the bikes and get involved in a Touch Africa community based project where you are invited to get your hands dirty and “make a difference”. The rest of the day is spent at leisure on the beach, in the bar. It’s your day so enjoy.

Day 7
Our first challenge for the day is the mighty Qora Gorge, a steep 1000ft drop to cross the Qora River after which we traverse North up to
Hole in the Wall. The low road vs. the high road is your decision – with up to 10 hours in the saddle, today will challenge your riding ability so dig deep!

Day 8
Still heading north we follow the coast passing the
Hluleka Nature Reserve and arrive in Port St Johns, a small Hippie type town on the banks of the Umzimvubu River. Our overnight stop is Cremorne.

Day 9
Today is a first for
Enduro Africa. The distance is less than 50km but it will be one of the toughest with the teams having to build bridges, float bikes across rivers and most definitely work together. Planning and strategy is important as each obstacle is a race against time. Our overnight stop is the wonderful Mbotyi River Lodge.

Day 10
Our last day and the mighty Mtsikaba gorge awaits us. 2008 was the first time motorcyclists had crossed this river and for 2009 we have found a brand new crossing that is sure to challenge you. Our final destination is TO Strand at Port Edward. Tonight we celebrate our achievement and party hard!

Day 11
Breakfast, fond farewells and a transfer to Durban Airport for flights back to the UK and other destinations.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Who says white collar crime doesn't kill?

Greetings from sunny Beirut, where I'm participating in a fantastic manuscript writing workshop for Middle Eastern and North African scientists who are contributing to a special edition of AIDS in the coming year.

As usual, I've been monitoring HIV/AIDS updates in the news and came across an alarming Inter Press Service article that breathes life into concerns about the impact of the global economic crisis on HIV/AIDS prevention and services worldwide. Here's a snippet:
The IPS report indicates that Tanzania was the first sub-Saharan country to announce a 25 per cent cut of its annual HIV/Aids budget. It goes on to reveal, “The South African government has indicated that large private firms, especially mining companies, are likely to cut their HIV prevention programmes affecting thousands of employees and their families. Even worse, Botswana’s presidential spokesperson, Jeff Ramsay, recently announced that the government will not be able to include new patients in its free antiretroviral (ARV) treatment programme from 2016 onwards because it does not have sufficient funds to expand the programme.

The article goes on to report that many countries in sub-saharan Africa are preparing to cut drastically their provision of HIV treatment and care and that even the Global Fund is looking at significant financial shortcomings for critical prevention programming.

The article continues:
Researchers estimate the negative impact of this crisis will affect 70 per cent of people on ARV treatment in Africa within the next twelve months.

Unbelievable. This should help put the scandalous behaviors of the architects of this economic crisis into sharper relief, highlighting the true cost of unadulterated greed and poorly regulated financial systems. Time will tell if the Obama admin truly understands this and fixes financial markets.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Travel plans are set!

A week or so ago, I finalized all of my travel plans for my Enduro Africa adventure. I was fortunate to have enough air miles to get to/from South Africa, and I've now set up a flight within South Africa from Joburg (JNB) to Port Elizabeth (PLZ), where the ride starts. I'm also booked for the return trip out of Durban (DUR) to Joburg, then home (IAD).

Finally, I've reserved a hotel room for a night or so in Port Elizabeth for the day before we begin staging. I don't know what I'll do yet with a free day before the trek begins, but I have a few ideas

Sunday, June 7, 2009

National HIV programs in Africa fall short

A recent UNAIDS and World Bank report claims that the National HIV prevention strategies in 5 African countries are not reaching those most at risk of infection with the virus that causes AIDS. 

Epidemiological data collected in collaboration with health authorities in Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Uganda suggest a significant mismatch between the most common modes of transmission in each country and the prevention programs they implement. 

In other words, many of these programs do not target the behaviors and contexts that account for most transmissions in these countries, including concurrent partnerships, commercial sex work, same sex partnerships, etc.   

Commenting in a PlusNews article on the importance of maximizing the impact of HIV prevention programming, particularly in dismal economic settings, the World Bank’s Debrework Zewdie notes,

"These syntheses use the growing amounts of data and information available to better understand each country's epidemic and response and identify how prevention might be more effective" 

The report is worth the read, even if it reiterates others' findings about the need to improve the targeting of national HIV prevention programming. 

Saturday, June 6, 2009

$7,500 Raised for Enduro Africa!

It’s true, sportsfans. With your help, I’ve raised the minimum amount required to participate in Enduro Africa, the fundraiser and off-road motorcycle ride that will benefit 4 fantastic charities in Southern Africa.

You’ve heard me it say tens of times already, but here it comes again: Thank you! Without your incredible generosity, encouragement, and expressions of interest, this simply wouldn’t have happened.

I know that many people are still out there would still love to donate. My hope is to reach my final goal of raising another $2,500 by July 15. Doing so would require me to attract 250 $10 donations, or 100 $25 donations, or 50 $50 donations, etc.

Piece of cake. Given the huge response so far, I’m confident that I’ll be able to do it. E-mail me to learn more, or use my secure PayPal widget to donate today.

Up next: An inaugural Andrew’s Enduro Africa 2009 e-mail newsletter for donors, updates about off-road riding and fitness training, and assorted developments.

Stay tuned. The adventure continues. 

Friday, June 5, 2009

New business sponsor: Cosi

I'm thrilled to report that my local Cosi has generously donated a gift card to my Enduro Africa 2009 project. I'm just tickled that they were interested and willing to help.

I'll offer the Cosi gift card, along with my custom embroidered Enduro Africa tees, to donors in an upcoming pledge drive. 

Stay tuned. The adventure continues.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

My apologies for the silence

Sad news, these past two weeks. First came rather sudden news that my paternal grandfather passed away while he was traveling in the UK. Then, without missing a beat, came news of a rather concerning cancer diagnosis in the family. Needless to say, it has been a challenging few weeks. 

Many thanks for your warm thoughts and best wishes.