ICT for Health (Education)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Mexican migrants to get US maps

from BBC News

A Mexican government agency is to issue some 70,000 maps marking main roads and water tanks for people wanting to cross illegally into the US.


Last year the Mexican government issued comic-book style pamphlets warning of the dangers of illegal migration, while also giving advice on how to stay safe.

Friday, January 20, 2006

LA Times Series on the UFW

UFW: A BROKEN CONTRACT, a multipart series from the LA Times
Farmworkers Reap Little as Union Strays From Its Roots, January 8, 2006 (first article in series)

Today, a Times investigation has found, Chavez's heirs run a web of tax-exempt organizations that exploit his legacy and invoke the harsh lives of farmworkers to raise millions of dollars in public and private money. The money does little to improve the lives of California farmworkers, who still struggle with the most basic health and housing needs and try to get by on seasonal, minimum-wage jobs.

Related photo gallery

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Political Unrest in Mongolia

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Bird Flu in Turkey

Turkey bird flu spreads further (BBC):

Turkey has confirmed a new human case of bird flu in central Sivas province, the latest to be affected by the virus which has so far infected 15 people.
TV broadcasts, a telephone hotline and leaflets are being used in Turkey to improve awareness of the disease and practices to stop it spreading further.
The scale of the problem has also presented difficulties. On Monday, health teams had yet to reach nearly 100 villages in the area.

Turkish health ministry deputy director Fehmi Aydin says a public awareness campaign is under way across the country.

Monday, January 09, 2006

From NPR

Two recent, interesting & relevant stories:

1. Vietnam's 411 Goes Beyond Phone Numbers A "411" service in Vietnam run by the state-owned telephone company is a highly trusted source of information, including for health-related issues. Rates are US $0.06 a minute. An interesting paradigm of a government-officiated, centralized information service. And of a market-driven service in a communist country. They predict imminent changes with the diffusion of Internet access.

2. Study: Mexican Migrants See Spike in HIV Based on a UC study by the University AIDS Research Program, this story indicates an HIV/AIDS incidence of 0.6% in farmworker communities in Fresno and San Diego counties. This is higher than some previous reports in such communities. The concern is that given the work/living situation and lack of access to educational resources, this could increase rapidly. And with the migration back and forth to Mexico, farmworkers contracting the virus in the U.S., they have already been importing the disease to rural Mexican communities (Mexico has a lower incidence of HIV/AIDS than the U.S.).

Monday, December 26, 2005

Bitter Debate Over 'Birthright Citizenship'

From the AP, via Wired:

Monday, December 26, 2005 1:21 p.m. ET
By DAVID CRARY AP National Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- A proposal to change long-standing federal policy and deny citizenship to babies born to illegal immigrants on U.S. soil ran aground this month in Congress, but it is sure to resurface _ kindling bitter debate even if it fails to become law.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Victims of Dangerous Pesticide Contamination Win Settlement

Nearby where we are working. Article from SF Independent Media Center.


In spite of Governor Schwarzenegger’s recent veto of a bill that would have required fines for violators of pesticide use rules, a judge ruled on Friday that Western Farm Service and Kirschenmann Farms must pay damages to residents of Arvin, California who were poisoned by pesticide drift on July 8, 2002. Eighty-four people will share a $500,000 award from Western Farm. Kirschenmann Farms was ordered to pay an additional $275,000 to the victims.

Senior scientist with Pesticide Action Network North America, Dr. Susan Kegley, has been working on the issues of pesticide drift for many years. According to Dr. Kegley, “This settlement should send a message to pesticide applicators that poisoning people as a routine part of doing business is no longer acceptable. The fumigant pesticides especially are too hazardous to be used safely and should be phased out. When "accidents" like this keep happening, it's no longer an accident, but a poorly designed system that ensures these such poisonings to keep happening will continue.”

Monday, November 28, 2005

Central Valley Brain Drain

An LA Times article sent to me by a friend: Fresno's Brain Drain Has Left the Town Smarting

California's vast Central Valley is one of the world's most fecund farming regions, but its vast agricultural fields separate midsize cities known for smog and sprawl from rural enclaves bursting with new immigrants.

Fresno, the largest city in the region, has far to go as an economic hub. Just last month, the Brookings Institution gauged Fresno as having the worst concentrated poverty in America. With 43.5% of its poor living in "extreme-poverty neighborhoods," Fresno even beat out No. 2 New Orleans with the depth of its misery. And Fresno, Kern and Tulare counties rank in the top 10 in America for the percentage of adults without a high school diploma, according to a 2002 report by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Border (SF Chronicle)

The Chronicle is running a six-part "occasional series" focusing on the Mexican-American border, "the world's longest border between a developed nation and a developing one." Below is a summary of the series, including links to the first 2 (parts 3-6 will be published in the upcoming days).

Part 1

Mission, Texas: A manufacturing boom along the Mexican side of the border has drawn people from the interior of both Mexico and the United States toward new jobs.

Part 2

Elsa, Texas: Young people in south Texas balance American individualism with Mexican American family traditions as they forge a path into the future.

Part 3

Nogales, Sonora: Hospitals in southern Arizona, plagued by the cost of caring for uninsured immigrants, improve hospitals south of the border and their bottom line at the same time.

Part 4

Sells, Ariz.: The Tohono O'odham people, whose ancestral land is bisected by the border, live and work where trafficking in humans and drugs is on the rise.

Part 5

Jacumba, Calif.: A Vietnam vet like many of the Americans who volunteered for civilian border patrols this year, Britt Craig feels he is serving his country with the Minutemen.

Part 6

Progreso,Baja California Norte.: Power plants and liquid natural gas terminals being built in Mexico to satisfy demand mostly north of the border affect the environment in both countries.

Monday, November 14, 2005

"Farm Workers: Are They Really Protected When Working in the Fields?" (New Mexico)

At a bookstore last night, I was browsing through the pages of Censored and happened upon a 2003 article with the same title as this post (by Ruben Nuñez, Olga Pedroza & Kitty Richards). I found some of the same information on the NMPHA site. Here's an excerpt:

Advocates working with farm workers relayed their experiences to professional public health workers and community residents at the New Mexico Public Health Association Meeting held in Albuquerque on April 8, 2003. They focused on farm workers working in the fields of the Mesilla and Rincon valleys. These two valleys produce the majority of agricultural goods for New Mexico, and are referred to as New Mexico’s agricultural belt.

Olga Pedroza, managing attorney with New Mexico Legal Aid, reported that farm workers have shorter life spans and suffer from many health problems because of their employment in the fields and their poverty. Olga Pedroza states, “The farm workers show me their arms, covered with red blotches caused by the pesticides that they handle.” Farm workers are unable to access health care for their families because they do not have health insurance or the money to pay the small fee charged by the clinics.

Farm workers work in the extreme heat of Southern New Mexico, up to 110 degrees on some summer days. They are constantly bending over because they are asked to hand weed the fields. Although short hoes have been outlawed, hand weeding is legal. Some farm workers, instructed by the labor contractors to apply toxic pesticides without protective gear, are unaware of the serious health risks that may result.

According to Ruben Nunez, a former farm worker who is now working with the Colonias Development Council, “Our bosses referred to pesticides as medicine for the plants. Because medicines cured us of our illnesses, we thought that pesticides were good for us. We did not know that handling pesticides was dangerous.” The Worker Protection Standard law, enacted by Congress in 1995, requires that farm workers attend worker protection training and become certified prior to working in the fields. Ruben Nunez states, “I was responsible for educating my fellow farm workers on the effects from pesticides. Unfortunately, the training only lasted from 30 to 45 minutes and did not begin to provide information on all of the different pesticides that we handled. After the mandatory training, the workers received their certificate, a necessity for work in the fields.”

Some of the fields do not have portable toilets, even though this is an illegal practice. When a portable toilet is located in the fields, it is often filthy and located in a distant part of the farm. Although there may be drinking water, there are often no cups to drink from, or there is one community cup provided for everyone. These unsanitary conditions contribute to infectious diseases, dehydration, and bladder infections when workers, who do not want to travel the long distance to the portable toilet because of the time taken away from work, decide to forego water so that they don’t have to urinate. Farm workers are hesitant to complain about their working conditions because they fear deportation or the loss of their only source of income, if fired due to retaliation.

Full text, 2 versions: MS Word; Google Word->HTML conversion

Renewable Energy & the Navajo Nation

This isn't directly related to ICT and health, but it has implications for sustainable design. I just returned from the ASME International Mechanical Engineering Conference and Expo (IMECE) where I heard Sandra Begay-Campbell speak about a joint rural electrification project involving the Navajo Nation, DOE, and Sandia National Labs. The work has been going on for more than 10 years now. Some basic facts that I learned during the talk: (1) 180,000 people live on the reservation; (2) the reservation is bigger than 15 of the 50 US states; and (3) 18,000 homes do not have electricity. The work to date has included 4 generations of renewable energy technologies, the latest a hybrid wind-solar generator to be used at the household level (many households live miles from their neighbors). More information: memorandum of understanding between Navajo Nation, DOE, Sandia (2000); project news release (2000); and NREL paper written by Sandra (2003).

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Mobile Phone Apps Rising: Banking in South Africa

From the article:
Open to anyone with a phone, mobile banking has proved a hit with people such as Mpanza in South Africa's townships and villages, and looks set to spread quickly across Africa. Account holders use text messages, or SMS, to pay for goods, transfer money to friends and family and top up the credit on their pre-pay phones. Bosses can pay salaries direct into cellular accounts and customers can deposit cash at Post Offices and some bank branches.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

"Federal Court Shuts Down Pay As You Go Wireless"

From slashdot today:

self assembled struc writes "BCGI has been found guilty of infringing on pay-as-you-go wireless patents owned by Freedom Wireless. This means that cellular providers who use BCGI pay-as-you-go billing systems must immediately stop selling new service. For the next 90 days, as they wind down their service, they will have to pay Freedom Wireless 2.5 cents per airtime minute used PER CUSTOMER. This heralds a farewell to Cingular's Go Phone and Sprint-Nextel's Boost services, both powered by BCGI."

If this holds up, potential increases in pricing for pre-paid services would disproportionately affect poor people, who rely on such services at a much higher rate in the US.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Cell Phone Use Changes Life in Africa

From the Y! news article of the same name:

Amina Harun, a 45-year-old farmer, used to traipse around for hours looking for a working pay phone on which to call the markets and find the best prices for her fruit. Then cell phones changed her life.

"We can easily link up with customers, brokers and the market," she says, sitting between two piles of watermelons at Wakulima Market in Kenya's capital.

Harun is one of a rapidly swelling army of wired-up Africans — an estimated 100 million of the continent's 906 million people. Another is Omar Abdulla Saidi, phoning in from his sailboat on the Zanzibar coast looking for the port that will give him the biggest profit on his freshly caught red snapper, tuna and shellfish.

Then there are South Africans and Kenyans slinging cell phones round the necks of elephants to track them through bush and jungle. And there's Beatrice Enyonam, a cosmetics vendor in Togo, keeping in touch with her husband by cell phone when he's traveling in the West African interior.


An industry that barely existed 10 years ago is now worth $25 billion, he says. Prepaid air minutes are the preferred means of usage and have created their own $2 billion-a-year industry of small-time vendors, the Celtel chief says. Air minutes have even become a form of currency, transactable from phone to phone by text message, he says.

And SMS for Ugandan farmers, including actual message content:

The CELAC Project seeks to collect and exchange this local agricultural content that works from the farmers. Dissemination methods include phone short text messages (SMS) - The project has a database of phone numbers to whom local agro-related information is sent every Monday. The category in the database is composed of farmers, Community Development Workers, Agricultural Extension Workers and any other interested person.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Followup: farmworker illnesses

This story from the last post hasn't gotten much press, but I did get some more information from one of our community liaisons in the area. The Fresno Bee (subscription required) has been one of the few newspapers to report on the incident ("Illness sends 17 laborers to S. Valley hospitals") and the followup investigation ("Field workers' illness still a mystery"). This all occurred at a Sunview Vineyards table grape farm in Tulare County. Aside from local media, several other organizations have been involved in the response and investigation to date: Tulare County Fire, Kern County Fire, Tulare Country Agricultural Commission, United Farm Workers, and the EPA. Ten days after the incident, "Tulare County agriculture and health officials still are puzzled over what could have caused 17 field workers to become ill."

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Investigators probe Central Valley farm worker illnesses

Following from Central Valley Business Times (original content):

September 29, 2005 8:15am

Tulare County investigators are trying to determine what caused 17 grape pickers to suddenly get sick on the job Wednesday in a vineyard in southern Tulare County.

Possible contamination of water in a container is suspected. There had been no pesticides used on the vineyard since Sept. 1, according to Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner Gary Kunkel.

Ambulances took seven workers to Delano Regional Medical Center while ten others were transported by private cars. All were treated and released or, in two cases, declined treatment. None was admitted.

More than 70 men and woman were working in the vineyard when the 17 complained of nausea and dizziness.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

New Plan for Farmworker Health

The Monterey County herald reports on a 3-year, $25 million community-building health initiative across 10 areas "with large agricultural and farmworker influences, from San Diego County to the Napa-Sonoma region." This project is initially funded by the California Endowment. "A recent endowment survey of 1,000 farmworkers throughout the state showed that 40 percent have never seen a doctor. About 50 percent have never visited a dentist." This project is primarily focused on prevention and health education.

The Threat of Bird Flu

H5N1 (aka "avian influenza A" aka "bird flu") has been confirmed in wild birds in northern Mongolia. Meanwhile, it was ruled out in the deaths of 50 birds in Oulu, Finland. Kazakhstan has also reported cases. National Geographic's cover story (October 2005) is on the potential for the bird flu to become a pandemic on the scale of the 1918 influenza (~21 million people died), accelerated by modern transportation. The interest here is in how ICT can enable higher quality surveillance and response given the potential speed of the outbreak.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Mongolia News: Homeless Deaths and Poverty Reduction

From today's news:

(1) Sharp temperature drop kills dozens in Mongolia: "ULAN BATOR, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Cold weather has killed 30 people in isolated, wind-swept Mongolia where temperatures plummeted from a warm 23 degrees Celsius on Friday to below zero, local media said. Most of the victims in the capital, Ulan Bator, were found over the weekend on the streets and at bus stops, the Daily News said. Alcohol abuse among the homeless in the city and across the vast steppe is also widespread and may have been a factor in the deaths, the newspaper said, adding that the victims were aged between 25 and 45. After a sunny and relatively warm first weeks of autumn, temperatures dropped from 23 C (73 Fahrenheit) to minus 10 C (14 F) in some parts of the country, followed by snow storms."

(2) Miner oppose legal overhaul in Mongolia: "Ragchaagiin Badamdamdin, the head of a parliamentary group promoting the [mining law] amendments, told a government hearing in Ulan Bator last week that the changes were needed to stop speculation in exploration permits and to fund anti-poverty and environmental spending."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Mongolia: Last Mile Initiative

From the CBDD (Center to Bridge the Digital Divide @ Washington State University) blog, a post detailing the Mongolia Last Mile Initiative (LMI) Assessment from April 2005, with specific recommendations for USAID/Mongolia & others. There is a strong emphasis on the need for stronger infrastructure in rural areas of Mongolia.