Web to SMS

for future reference:

I use Twitter’s direct messages to send out an occasional text message. I’m trying to set up a Twitter account for my family in Blantyre. The idea would be to DM them via Twitter. But somehow, the cell phone authentication is *not* working. (Any ideas?)

As an alternative, I found this page listing services that offer free text messages from a web interface, mostly for Switzerland:

http://www.tiptom.ch/gratis/sms.html

A third alternative is to upload a couple of Euro/$/CHF to my Skype account and text directly from my Skype client. I’ve used this in the past for text messages and voice. Works great.

Searching for a new, versatile WP theme

I’ve been browsing around (aimlessly) looking at WordPress themes.

Uploaded a couple and tried them out, but there’s always something that I don’t like. Typography, comments, additional plugins I need to use the theme. After a while I return to my 3 column version of K2.

What I don’t like are hard-coded navigation or list links.

I guess, I’m looking for a simple, minimalist theme. Maybe a tumbler kind of layout which focuses on the posts.

The current short list:

  • Barthelme
  • Bogart
  • MiniBits
  • Grid Focus Public

(update) I found a theme i like.

Zimbabwe’s Future

Newspaper column by Peter Godwin in an Australian newspaper:

“Did you know that Zimbabweans have the highest IQ in the world?” she says. Hmm, that seems a little over-patriotic. “Yes,” she continues, “I queue for sugar, I queue for salt, I queue for fuel, I queue for cooking oil.” And she bursts into peals of laughter at her joke.

(…)

It’s estimated that nearly 75 per cent of Zimbabweans between the ages of 18 and 65 have now left the country. That’s getting up to Irish Potato Famine ratios. It’s a veritable exodus. Imagine any city – imagine Adelaide – suddenly losing that proportion of its population. That’s how bad things have become in my homeland.

Godwin’s proposal: Set up an international conference and plan for the time after Mugabe.

This is a way to unlock our imagination on how reconstruction could start. The amounts pledged would help harness greed to good effect, signalling to the local Zimbabwean elite (who are wondering when to dismount the current horse) how well everyone can do under a new dispensation.

Such a conference, with its resultant document, can also begin the debate on how to fund specific reconstruction areas: agriculture (and different models of resuscitating commercial agriculture), education, health, currency stabilisation, energy, infrastructure, and so on. It also gets us away from a hectoring, negative binary on Zimbabwe to one where we lay out upon a heaving table the glittering goodies that will be available as soon as the venal autocrat is gone.

I think that this would help establish a profound paradigm shift, and change our attitude from one that is purely reactive to Mugabe’s latest felonies, to one that sees beyond him, by writing the tyrant out of the script for Zimbabwe’s future.

Peter Godwin is the author of Mukiwa and When the Crocodile eats the Sun, 2 books I enjoyed reading.

I don’t want to comment. I’d just like to encourage you to read the article (or the books for that matter), whatever your political background is…

CNN Report on Malawi Doctor Shortage

There’s a CNN TV report on the shortage of qualified medical personnel in Malawi. I zapped into it yesterday. It shows the dire situation at Mulanje District Hospital and in a rural dispensary. They interviewed a volunteer doctor from Uganda, a midwife who works in rural villages, a couple of Malawian doctors that are working in Manchester, UK:

Part 1

Part 2

According to the report, at one point in time there were more Malawian doctors in Manchester than in the whole of Malawi.

I’ve seen some hospital wards and I agree that the task is daunting. The wards are overfull. Patients and their guardians often lie on the floor in the corridors, under the beds.

Regular readers of Chiperoni know that I’ve been pointing to various blogs and articles on this topic from time to time. The dire conditions described in the report are realistic.

How to stop the brain drain? This is not an easy topic, cos every employee will – and needs – to look at their personal situation. Although this is not only about money, the salary plays an important role. Cos one salary needs to supports a lot of dependents. As one of the UK-based doctors says in the report, he can support more relatives with the better UK pay. I read somewhere that the amount of money transferred by Western Union back to Africa exceeds the foreign aid provided by the US and the EU (cf Africa: Sending Money Home) and is probably a lot more effective.

I’m against policies that bar qualified Malawians from working in the US or in Europe as suggested in the report. That’s not the way to go forward on this. The better way is to improve the work conditions in Malawi. I believe that many Malawians would consider returning if some of the surrounding conditions would improve. Cos all is not golden in Europe.

In the 70s and 80s, most of Malawi’s doctors were trained in the US and in Europe. They had a hard time adjusting to the conditions they found when they returned back home. Many stayed in the West. In the 90s, medical schools were set up to educate doctors within the country.

Factors that influence a personal decision to emigrate:

  • Salary
  • Work conditions (i.e. availability of modern equipment, labs and tests, qualification and number of co-workers, quality of management, further training, work load, working hours, holidays)
  • Political situation
  • Corruption within the workplace and outside
  • Merit-based promotion
  • Economic situation within the country
  • Infrastructure (e.g. frequent power cuts, water supply shortages, very bad roads, no or very expensive telecommunication services)
  • Crime rate (e.g. clever guys that steal telephone cables as they are installed and sell them for much less than they are worth, increase in burglary, armed robbery and mugging)
  • Availability of good schooling for your children esp. in remote hospitals
  • Changes in Malawi family tradition (e.g. the rules that quasi-dictate how and when you need to take of your family relatives encourage some to search for kms of distance)

I studied at the Malawi College of Accountancy in Blantyre and we often discussed the greener pastures of Botswana and beyond.

Some figures I found from 2005:

There are only 100 doctors and 2,000 nurses for Malawi’s 12 million people because many health care workers trained in the country now practice in developed countries, which pay higher salaries. Rich countries also provide better working conditions for doctors, as the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa has added a “heavy burden” to health care on the continent, the Times reports. In addition, many health care workers in Malawi have become sick with HIV/AIDS or have died. Nearly 15% of Malawi’s adult population is HIV-positive. Some hospitals in Malawi have resorted to hiring retired medical workers to fill the gaps, according to the Times. Atta Gbary, the World Health Organization’s Africa adviser on human resources and health, said the shortage of medical workers in Malawi means that when donors offer funds “it is impossible to use them because the people are simply not there to work anymore.” According to Gbary, 23,000 medical workers leave Africa annually and there are only 800,000 medical workers working on the continent currently. Malawian Health Minister Hetherwick Ntaba said the country should require its medical workers to serve several years in the country after completing their training. He also said that foreign governments that employ medical workers from Malawi should compensate the country for the cost of training new doctors and nurses. The United Nations estimates that it costs $100,000 to train a specialist doctor in Africa.

And from May 2007:

A shortage of health workers in Southern African countries is undermining access to antiretroviral drugs in the region, according to a Medecins Sans Frontieres report released on Thursday, the AP/Houston Chronicle reports. According to the AP/Chronicle, the report focused on the conditions in South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique and Lesotho.

The report found that South Africa has 393 nurses and 74 physicians per 100,000 people; Lesotho has 63 nurses and five physicians per 100,000 people; Mozambique has 20 nurses and three physicians per 100,000 people; and Malawi has 56 nurses and two physicians per 100,000 people. According to the report, Africa has increased access to antiretroviral drugs among people living with HIV/AIDS from 100,000 people in 2003 to 1.3 million in 2006. However, the shortage of health workers is preventing further expansion of drug access programs, the report found.

(update)
As Victor rightly points out, the CNN report is very one-sided, esp. regarding the images and the way the sick are portrayed. There are many Malawi doctors and nurses that serve their country conscientiously against all odds.

Questions

Check out this music video by John Legend. It’s part of the Show Me Campaign.

John (…) recently shot and released a music video in Tanzania for the Show Me Campaign to introduce his fans to critical global issues. Watch this story of a young boy overwhelmed by the weight of the world who is asking questions and searching for answers.

For more see: http://www.showmecampaign.org/index1.html

Daily Tweets

  • just got a usb stick with joomla and a server installed. Thanks Joomla Switzerland! #
  • @mllea i haz joomla #
  • having a look at http://www.openmoko.org #
  • ubuntu iz cool #
  • i’ve been snitching candy/sweets everytime i walked past the ubuntu table #
  • @mllea how can i delete my technorati acc? (remembering attempt to delete stumbleupon acc….) #
  • 2 os developers of amarok (rediscover your music) howling at the booth next door #
  • Ready to catch ze train back to basel. Stanca. #
  • mt vs wordpress http://tinyurl.com/2y9wwb #
  • @mllea still following alchemy #

Daily Tweets

  • "SPIEGEL: Have met you Carla Bruni yet?" http://tinyurl.com/36pxba #
  • tibits in basel has WLAN. yay. #
  • sxsw panel on social media ads that went wrong: http://whiteafrican.com/?p=935#more-935. #
  • “This kind of advertising is hurting our online ecosystem. It needs to be self-policed by those within the industry.” via white african #
  • time to move on. they’re playing Jimmy Cliff on the radio… #

Daily Tweets

  • coffee time #
  • I signed up at a fitness center this week. Today was the first training session. Went well. Not regretting my decision. #
  • "free-wheeling anarchist individual blogger" http://tinyurl.com/32rfzm #
  • corporate blogging: "What we are talking about is something in between a real human voice and completely polished corporate speak." #

Director of The Fairtrade Foundation recommends Satemwa

and Lujeri Tea Estates in an interview with guardian.co.uk:

My favourite hotels are…

Locally run guesthouses. I stay in many around the world, but recently I was in the tea estates of Malawi and stayed at the Satemwa Guesthouse in Thyolo (00 265 1473 256; satemwa.com) and Lujeri Lodge (00 265 8 854 894). It was so beautiful just sitting out on the veranda of these old planters’ houses looking across to Mount Mulanje with the red earth of the land against the vivid green of the tea fields. The guesthouses are almost from another era – basic, but meet all your needs and are quite romantic, with cool marble floors, fans on the ceiling and large beds with mosquito nets.

Source:
Me and my travels: Harriet Lamb, Director of The Fairtrade Foundation | Travel | The Observer