Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Devex - Criticism over Ebola response 'far from reality' — WHO official

"More than a year has passed since the first human contracted the deadly Ebola virus that led to an unprecedented outbreak in West Africa. So-called patient zero, a two-year-old in the remote Guinean village of Meliandou, became ill on Dec. 26, 2013, and died two days later.

The World Health Organization, however, did not publish any official notification of Ebola on its website until March 25 of this year.

Since then, WHO, global aid organisations and governments from around the world have battled to halt the disease. As the start of 2015 draws nearer, the epidemic is still raging and has now topped 19,340 reported cases resulting in 7,518 deaths, according to the latest figures released Monday by the U.N. health agency.

Devex caught up with Dr. Maria Neira, director of WHO’s Public Health and Environment Department, which focuses on preventative measures and the root causes of diseases, to know more about how the Ebola epidemic has affected her work, as well as what lessons she has learned so far from the response to the outbreak, and how it might change future WHO operations as a result..."

Read the full article on Devex.com

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Devex - Gordon Brown’s future global development plans

"Former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown plans to increase his focus on global development after stepping down as a member of the parliament at the next election, according to aides who supported him during his term in office.

Brown’s resignation after the U.K. general election in May 2015, will end a 31-year career in national politics. However, in recent years the former leader of the Labour Party has increased his development profile, especially on issues affecting children. Shortly after being appointed U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education in 2012, with his wife Sarah Brown he co-founded the international charity Theirworld, which campaigns for universal access to education and encourages business leaders to accelerate progress toward achieving this goal.

Alison McGovern MP, who worked for Brown as his parliamentary private secretary from 2010 until his resignation and is now a shadow minister for education, told Devex there was “no sense in which Gordon is retiring at all..."

Read the full article on Devex.com

Friday, 5 December 2014

TES - Life and learning under the shadow of the Ebola virus

"In September, teacher Foray Turay should have welcomed 300 children to his primary school in the Sierra Leonean village of Samaya. But not a single child in the country has attended lessons since 31 July, when the government declared a state of national emergency to contain the deadly Ebola virus.

Across the three worst-affected West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, 5 million children aged between 3 and 17 are currently out of education. With more than 16,000 reported Ebola cases and in excess of 6,900 deaths, it is safer for children to stay at home than sit on crowded school benches where physical contact – the way the virus spreads – is unavoidable.

But with the outbreak still far from being under control, educationalists are concerned that pupils will miss an entire academic year, or never return to their studies..."

Read the full article on TES online

Friday, 21 November 2014

Devex - Peter Piot's 4 tips to fight Ebola

With the Ebola crisis still far from unresolved, Devex spoke to the scientist who helped to discover the Ebola virus almost four decades ago to learn more about what the global development community needs to do right now to tackle the disease.

Peter Piot, director and professor of global health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and founding director of UNAIDS, traveled in 1976 to Zaire — now Democratic Republic of the Congo — to help quell an outbreak that was rapidly spreading from village to village. After identifying the virus from a Belgian nurse, Piot’s team put infected people into quarantine and was able to contain the epidemic within three months and after the disease had killed over 300 people.

Here are Piot’s four pieces of advice for the ongoing international effort to contain Ebola in West Africa and beyond...

To read the full article, go to Devex.com.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Devex - 'New R&D models needed to tackle drug-resistant TB'

"Tuberculosis has killed more people than any other infectious disease in human history, yet before 2013 no new drugs to treat the illness had been developed for more than 40 years.

Access to treatment varies from country to country, depending on the strength of health care systems and ability to buy drugs that can cost thousands of dollars. TB is treatable and curable, but 1.5 million people died from the disease in 2013.

Delegates from all around the world came together last month in Barcelona, Spain for the first international parliamentarian TB summit, where attendees declared a commitment to end TB in a generation..."

Read the full article on Devex.com

Thursday, 23 October 2014

New Internationalist - ‘Lost generation’ threat of Ebola

‘My two siblings and I lived with our parents before they both came down with the virus… one by one they died.’ These words, spoken by 13-year-old Liberian Ndebeh Kporloi, have become a familiar story in countries hit by Ebola. Across the worst-affected regions of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, at least 9,191 people have now been infected and 4,546 have died, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). While Ebola has dramatically changed everyone’s lives in these regions, children are experiencing a degree of suffering for which childhood cannot prepare.

One of the biggest concerns for children is the escalating number of orphans. In September Unicef estimated at least 3,700 children had lost one or both parents to Ebola. That number is growing, as Unicef’s Liberia spokesperson Laurent Duvillier explains: ‘WHO data shows the most Ebola-affected age group is aged 25 to 36 – that means most of them are parents. We have anecdotal evidence that the number is growing, following the exponential growth of the number of cases.’ The WHO has warned that by December there could be as many as 10,000 new infections each week...

Read the full article on the New Internationalist website

Devex - Four innovative solutions to deliver on education amid Ebola crisis

When government officials in Ebola-hit Sierra Leone and Liberia ordered schools to close over the summer to prevent the spread of the deadly virus, they probably didn’t expect the shutdown would last so long.

Ebola is transmitted through bodily contact, making children crowded onto classroom benches a high-risk situation. Months later, children of all ages are still confined to their homes and missing out on vital education.

As infection rates continue to rise — more than 9,191 across the most-affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to latest World Health Organization statistics — education ministries and nongovernmental organizations are considering other ways to deliver education in an such a challenging environment.

Here are our top four innovations to delivering non-contact classes...

Read the full article on Devex.com

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Sunday Times - A land shuts down to fight ebola

"WHEN Oliver Johnson, a British doctor, left home on Friday to drive to work in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, the normal buzz of street life was hushed.

A three-day nationwide lockdown — the government’s extraordinary experiment to combat the lethal ebola virus — had begun.

“The streets were deserted except for small groups of people in bright white T-shirts saying ‘ebola is real’ on them,” said Johnson.

Soldiers patrolled streets to ensure residents stayed indoors. Anyone moving around was escorted home under threat of arrest. Police set up checkpoints and allowed only official cars to pass..."

Read the full article on the Sunday Times website.

The Independent on Sunday - Ebola virus outbreak: A first-hand Liberian tragedy – 'We begged, take the baby to hospital... They refused'

"Princess Mayers sobs as she describes how Ebola has destroyed her life. The 17-year-old Liberian, whose story The Independent featured in May, had already suffered profoundly before the deadly virus struck the country.

Aged 14 and an orphan, she was forced to work as a prostitute to survive, and bore a child. A British charity called Street Child found her in the streets of West Point, one of the largest slums in the capital, Monrovia. It intervened and set Princess and her daughter on a path towards a brighter future. But because of the impact of Ebola, she is now struggling to go on. And her baby is dead.

The Ebola epidemic has claimed more than 2,600 lives across West Africa, with more than half of those deaths in Liberia. Last week, Barack Obama called the outbreak “a threat to global security”, and announced that he would send 3,000 US troops to affected regions.

Princess’s child Angie did not die of Ebola..."

Read the full story on the Independent website.

Princess and baby Angie in March 2014

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Children & Young People Now - Head teachers for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils

"Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) children are among the lowest achieving at every level of education.

In April 2012, a cross-departmental ministerial working group published 28 commitments to tackling inequalities faced by GRT communities. Six focused on education. Among plans to improve low school attendance and prevent bullying was a Department for Education pilot to appoint virtual head teachers for GRT pupils inspired by the successful virtual school heads model for looked-after children.

The pilot set out to raise attainment levels among GRT pupils by addressing common barriers to education including tackling mistrust between parents and teachers created by historic persecution of GRT communities, and engaging parents who may not have completed formal education themselves and be unfamiliar with school systems..."

Read the full article on the CYP Now website.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

New Internationalist - Fighting Ebola on the frontline

"British doctor Oliver Johnson is fighting Ebola on the frontline in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown. He leads a team of volunteer doctors and nurses from the Kings Sierra Leone Partnership at the country’s Connaught Hospital. They have been treating cases in an isolation unit since the outbreak emerged in March.

The virus is now present in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and Senegal. It has so far killed more than 1,550 people and infected more than 3,000. Last week the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that cases could exceed 20,000 before the outbreak is halted. There is no known cure for Ebola.

In this interview, Oliver Johnson talks about the situation in Sierra Leone, and warns that without urgent international assistance Ebola threatens to undo all the reparations the country has achieved since the end of its decade-long civil war in 2002..."

Read the full interview on the New Internationalist website.

King's College has launched an emergency Ebola appeal.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Sunday Times - Liberia lifts Ebola slum siege

"CROWDS cheered and danced in the streets yesterday after Liberia, the country worst hit by west Africa’s ebola outbreak, lifted the quarantine on the slum of West Point, near the capital Monrovia.

Lewis Brown, the information minister, said the decision did not mean there was no ebola in the shanty town, which houses more than 50,000 people. But he said the authorities were confident that they could identify any new cases and that the community was co-operating with the fight against the disease.

The imposition of quarantine and a night-time curfew 10 days ago led to protests in which three boys were shot by security forces..."

Read the full article on the Sunday Times website.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Sunday Times - Violence and hunger stalk quarantined ebola slum

"WHEN Titus Nyman, 17, left his home in Liberia’s West Point slum to buy water for his grandmother, he feared being struck down by the deadly ebola virus rather than by gunfire.

"His homeland, together with neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone, is at the centre of an epidemic that has already killed at least 1,400 people across west Africa, and slums such as this one on the edge of the Liberian capital, Monrovia, have been quarantined to stop the disease’s spread.

"On Wednesday, however, an angry mob had gathered to protest against the government’s decision to isolate the community of about 75,000 people. As Titus passed the military blockade, security forces opened fire. He and two other boys were left bleeding on the ground..."

Read the full article on the Sunday Times website

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Observer - Ebola crisis in Liberia brings rumours, hygiene lessons and hunger

"Another day has just broken in Liberia's capital, Monrovia. Outside a block of humble flats on Centre Street, two women in long overcoats jump out of a taxi, avoiding the torrents of rainwater pouring along the gutter as they carry a large plastic bucket. On the porch, a crowd of young homeless men take shelter. They are about to receive a lesson in handwashing, non-contact and recognising symptoms of the deadly Ebola virus. It has killed 249 of their countrymen so far since March, 961 worldwide, and prompted 1,779 reported cases internationally.

"The fact that Ebola is spread through bodily fluids such as sweat and saliva means that reducing physical contact has become a national obsession..."

Friday, 8 August 2014

Channel 5 News - reporting on Ebola from Liberia

While working in Monrovia, Liberia with youth development charity Y Care International I gave a skype interview to Channel 5 News to explain the Ebola situation on the ground.

Y Care International has launched a fundraising appeal to help spread awareness of Ebola. You can read more about the work its doing to combat the disease here.

The Independent - 'Ebola outbreak: Liberia - a country plagued by fear'

"Ebola is real. This is the slogan that permeates daily life in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia. It blasts constantly from car radios. It is emblazoned on billboards and a giant banner hanging outside City Corporation HQ. It is printed on A4 paper taped above colourful plastic handwashing buckets outside shops. And it is on everyone’s lips.

"The haemorrhagic fever has so far claimed 255 lives and prompted 468 reported cases nationwide...

Read the article in full on the Independent website.

Friday, 13 June 2014

TES - Hope blooms in Sierra Leone's schools despite lack of support

I wrote this article for TES from Sierra Leone, after visiting schools in the remote northern chiefdom of Tambakha.

The schools were built by charity Street Child. Incredibly, before 2009 when the charity began working in the area, Tambakha had only three schools and two qualified teachers for 9,000 primary-aged children.

Building the schools and training teachers has been an incredible achievement, but the area is struggling to maintain the institutions without government backing.

I was amazed to see how hard locals were trying to support their children's education despite so many barriers. In some classes the children had no books or pencils - they were learning everything aurally.

This piece was written to coincide with a Street Child fundraising campaign. A film shot during my trip explains more about the charity's work in the area.

To read the full article, visit the TES website.

Watch the film at about Street Child's rural schools project.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Children & Young People Now: Female Genital Mutilation in the UK

This feature for Children & Young People Now explores how children's services in the UK should act to prevent and support children and women affected by female genital mutilation (FGM).

More than 20,000 girls aged under 15 could be at risk of FGM in England and Wales every year, while 66,000 women living in England and Wales had undergone FGM.

I spoke to representatives of local authority children's services, social workers, health and education professionals and charities to find out how they are dealing with the issue, and what still needs to be done.

You can read the full piece on the CYP Now website (behind a paywall).

Monday, 26 May 2014

Guardian - How to tackle youth unemployment in conflict-affected Senegal

Civil conflict has raged for 32 years in the Senegalese region of Casamance. Yet it is rarely reported on and it's young people - hit hardest by the disruption - have been forgotten.

Following the ceasefire called by rebel leaders, I wrote this piece for the Guardian using previously unpublished research produced by Y Care International.

Y Care International has worked in the region since 2006 alongside YMCA Senegal to support young people back into training or employment.

You can read the full article on the Guardian Global Development Professionals Network

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The Independent - One girl's story of survival in a Liberian slum

In this feature for the Independent, I described the tragic story of a girl living in the West Point slum in Liberia's capital Monrovia.

I met Princess and her baby on a trip to the country when I was visiting projects run by charity Street Child. Thanks to Street Child's staff in Monrovia, Princess is safe and on her way to a better future.

I also shot the pictures for this piece.

You can read the full article on the Independent website

Friday, 25 April 2014

BBC World Service - From Our Own Correspondent - Liberia's Decoration Day

I witnessed this unusual public holiday on a trip to Liberia. It was far from the day of honouring the dead I expected.

In this piece for the BBC World Service I describe how celebrations in Monrovia's cemeteries turned into public raves, with dancing, singing and drinking on the graves.

Sadly, I also discovered practices in the graveyards that threaten people's rights to live in clean environments and access safe water.

You can listen to the broadcast on the BBC World Service website.

Graves inches from houses

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Observer Exclusive - plea to Sierra Leone's prodigy athlete

In these exclusive interviews for the Observer, I presented the story behind the case of missing marathon runner Mamie Konneh Lahun and highlighted the plight of Sierra Leonean athletes.

A week after Lahun disappeared following the London Marathon, I spoke to her manager and co-runner Idrissa Kargbo about the events leading up to the race and why she might have absconded.

Their comments revealed the struggle athletes face in a country still recovering from a horrific civil war, and the commitment and talent they have which, if nurtured, could inspire a nation.

Read the full article on the Observer website.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Alcoholism and neglect - advice articles for young people

These moving stories from two young women who experienced parental neglect and alcoholism are designed to help other young people in the same situation. They are accompanied by advice articles on TheSite.org intended to help young readers spot warning signs and find help.

Living with an alcoholic parent
My mum was an alcoholic

My parents don't care about me
I was neglected as a child

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Highlighting appalling detention conditions in Togo

In this article for the New Internationalist, I reported on the Week of the Detainee - a unique event in Togo - that aims to highlight the plight of detainees in the West African country's 12 prisons.

The event, created by Togo YMCA, is little known in the UK. Now in its fourth year, it is one way Togo YMCA and UK charity Y Care International are trying to improve conditions in prisons and tackle Togo's exceptionally high levels of pre-trail detention.

A detainee delivers a speech at the opening ceremony.
Pic: Togo YMCA
Currently around 70% of the prison population of Togo's main jail, in the capital Lome, have never had their case heard by a judge. Many will wait years before anyone reviews their case, even after committing petty crimes, or in some cases, no crime at all.

You can read the full article on the New Internationalist website.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Guardian - Breaking the silence about breast ironing in Cameroon

In this article for the Guardian Global Development Professionals Network I spoke to young victims of breast ironing in Cameroon. This little-documented practice needs more attention to enable the girls affected by it, and the mothers who do it, to understand the risks it carries to women's physical and mental health.

The article sought to demonstrate the importance of empowering girls in Cameroon to speak out about harmful practices, including early child marriage and rape.

You can read the article in full on the Guardian Adolescent Girls Hub.

A small London-based charity set up by Cameroonian women is campaigning to raise awareness of the issue here and in Cameroon. The Came Women and Girls Development Organisation needs more support to continue its work.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Investigation: How government cuts have decimated play services

My investigation into how children's play services have been affected by central government cuts to local authority budgets, revealed nearly a third have removed some staffed and unstaffed play provision since 2010.

The findings of my freedom of information request provided the first concrete data to backup anecdotal evidence that children's play has suffered drastically under the current government.

You can read the article in full on the Children & Young People Now website (subscription only).

Play expert Tim Gill wrote this blog about the results.