Archive for August, 2012

Off the Grid: A Dispatch from Burundi

Posted on Tuesday, August 21st, 2012 at 10:17 am

By Jennifer Weiss, Health Advisor, Concern Worldwide US

I started my work in Burundi around a year ago. Before I visited the country, I remember my colleague describing Burundi to me. “It’s off the grid,” she said.

Jennifer Weiss forgoes the van and continues her journey cross the rickety bridge on foot.

The comment struck me as odd. I assured her that I had lived in Africa before and was more than prepared for the work that lay ahead.  I couldn’t possibly understand what she meant by “off the grid.”

I quickly learned. Burundi, despite its geographic proximity to Tanzania, Kenya, and Rwanda, countries with growing economies and booming tourism industries, is heartbreakingly poor. In fact, Burundi is one of the world’s five poorest countries. I knew this statistic before departure. However, it wasn’t until I arrived in Burundi’s capital city of Bujumbura that I completely understood my colleague’s description. While in other capitals there are new businesses and construction, in Bujumbura there are none to be seen. When I asked a friend of mine who had been in Burundi in the ‘80s to explain how the capital had changed since then, she frankly responded: “It hasn’t.”

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Passing the torch of political commitment to reduce hunger

Posted on Friday, August 10th, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Tom Arnold with children from Mankhwazi Village, Nkhotakota District, Malawi

I am writing this blog some hours after a wonderful young Irish woman called Katie Taylor won an Olympic Gold Medal for boxing. The country is ‘en fete’ and all our economic problems seem a little lighter.

Britain has had a wonderful two weeks of the Olympics.  The magnificent opening ceremony set the tone. Since then, the organization of the Games has been outstandingly good. British athletes have won more medals than anyone expected.

In 1992, Queen Elizabeth spoke about her ‘annus horribilis’ or her horrible year during her 40thyear of her accession to the throne.  Twenty years on, as she celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, this seems to be a year of wonders, an “annus mirabilis” for Britain.

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