Cosmetic products which bleach dark skin have found an ever-growing market on the Ivorian Market and it seems to be affecting women of every caste.  One women when asked to describe the products said they work by  ‘making the skin more beautiful and facilitates relationships.’ This video from Africanews shares more about the phenomenon.

Uganda Bans Female Mutilation

December 12, 2009

The Uganda parliament has unanimously passed a bill banning female genital mutilation, a practice mostly used in the northeastern region of the country.

Female mutilation, or female circumcision, involves the removal of a female’s clitoris or other genital parts at a very young age in hopes of ensuring virginity and in preparation for marriage. Critics say it prevents pleasure for women during sexual intercourse, leads to complications during childbirth and increases other health risks such as infection and bleeding.

Anyone convicted of female circumcision may face up to10 years in jail, or a life sentence if a victim dies as a result of the surgery.

In some countries FGM is seen as a way to ensure virginity (BBC)

MP Alice Alaso told the BBC’s Focus on Africa program that, “It’s a very bad practice. It’s cruel, it traumatizes people, it’s led children to drop out of school, it’s a health hazard.  This is a warning signal – whoever dares practice female genital mutilation will be subject to the law.”

And another MP, Lulume Bayiga, said the ‘law would liberate both men and women – who often face being ostracised for shunning the custom.’

Uganda’s shadow health minister, Francis Epetait, told AFP, “This operation is so painful, so cruel, and these so-called surgeons are paid to do it.  I supported the bill with all my strength and heart.”

In 2007, the United Nations passed a resolution which labeled female genital mutilation “irreparable, irreversible abuse” and deemed it  a violation of the rights of women.   The United Nations estimates that 100 to 140 million women worldwide are victims of female mutilation.

Zimbabwe HIV/AIDS Rate Drops

December 12, 2009

Zimbabwe’s HIV/AIDS infection rate has dropped to below 14 percent.

According to Voice of American, Zimbabwe’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, which started at least 23 years ago, used to record infection rates of more than 25 percent of the population,but  a demographic survey conducted in 2006 found the infection rate had dropped to 18 percent.

Now, health care authorities, say it is at 13.75 percent.

South Africa has promised to overhaul the treatment of HIV/AIDS patients within the African nation.  In a speech marking World AIDS Day, December 1, President Jacob Zuma outlined a number of policy changes, which he hopes will be put in place before April 2010.

The BBC reported that UK’s Department for International Development welcomed the changes, saying, “South Africa has turned a corner and is embarking on a new and bold drive to take responsibility for tackling HIV and Aids.  The UK will continue to support South Africa to realize its ambition of reducing new HIV infections and increasing access to effective treatments.”

Zuma announced all South African babies under the age of one will be treated if they test HIV-positive and promised more anti-retrovirals – ‘drugs which the previous government said were too costly’, according to the BBC.

In his speech, President Zuma said, “Let there be no more shame, no more blame, no more discrimination and no more stigma. Let the politicization and endless debates about HIV and Aids stop.”

The speech conveyed a completely different message than the previous president who outright denied any correlation between the HIV virus and AIDS.

However, not every is so confident in the leaders abilities to raise awareness. Al-Jazeera English reports, “In some ways, Zuma is an unlikely champion for Aids activists.  In 2006, while being tried on charges of raping an HIV-positive woman, he was ridiculed for testifying that he took a shower after sex to lower the risk of Aids.

An estimated 59,000 babies are born with HIV every year in South Africa, adding to a country with highest number of people living with the virus- over 5 million.

AIDS IN SOUTH AFRICA

5.2m people with HIV

17% of people aged 15-49 HIV-positive

1.5m adults need Aids drugs in 2009

106,000 children under 15 need ARVs

413,000 new infections in 2009

59,000 of these are children

Source: Statistics South Africa

The case against news editor, Chansa Kabwela, from Zambia’s newspaper The Post has  been thrown out after the court failed to prove their case against the journalist.  Kabwela faced pornography charges and jail time after sending graphic photos of woman giving birth on a pavement to the country’s president.

The photos were taken during the country’s doctor strike in June, which left many in the country without proper medical help.  The infant, unfortunately suffocated and later died.

Ms Kabwela told reporters, including those from The Telegraph,

“This victory to me is a victory for those that suffered during the strike. I was confident that I would be acquitted.”

The Post is Zambia’s only private newspaper and there is speculation that the charges may have been a politically move to halt the reporting of corruption in the government.

In article in The Post, Professor Muna Ndulowritten, an Ivy League law professor, writes,

“The average person in Zambia, while no doubt being shocked and disgusted by the picture, would not regard the publication of pictures of a woman giving birth in order to expose the plight of ordinary people during a national strike by medical personnel as being prurient and having the effect or as intended to deprave and corrupt morals.

Instead, the pictures should lead to outrage and anger at those who were not making maximum efforts to end the strike.”


Click here to hear more about the strike earlier this summer in an interview from the BBC.

With strict anti-smoking campaigns and tobacco laws now becoming common place in North America and Europe, the tobacco industry has found a new place to focus their attention- Africa.

Advocates are concerned with the recent upward trend in smoking on the continent.  The American Cancer Society and the Global Smokefree Partnership fear that more than half of African countries will double tobacco use within 12 years if the epidemic is not put to a stop.  Many warn the highest increase will be among developing countries.

There are less stringent laws on advertising in many African countries, many of which are geared at youth or the less educated, and hark back to old cigarette ad’s which portray smoking as sexy, cool, and a sign of success.

In this short special from This World, one journalists attempts to uncover how the British American Tobacco is attempting to target the youth in Africa and are more than aware that  “new smokers enter the market at a very early age, in many cases as early as 8 or 9 years.”

And sadly, there is less education on the effects of tobacco or even secondhand smoke in many regions. In an article by Red Orbit, they suggest that in Abuja, Nigeria, for example, 55 percent of students are unaware that secondhand smoke is harmful to health, and smoke-free laws protect just 1 percent of the population.  A new report ‘Global Voices: Rebutting the Tobacco Industry, Winning Smoke free Air’ has raised alarm that 90 percent of Africans are exposed to second hand smoke.

But not all countries are taking the epidemic lightly. Kenya, Niger, and Mauritius are just a few that have recently passed some-free laws. But, it has proved not to be so easy in many other places.  Dr Twalib Ngoma, president of the African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer (AORTIC), said in an article by the BBC that while many governments in Africa have signed up to legislation on tobacco, it is difficult to enforce those laws.

“We have legislation in Tanzania… but enforcement of that legislation is not easy. Tobacco companies are all too powerful. They lobby and lobby and lobby.”

In the same BBC article,  Adam Spielman, a tobacco industry analyst with Citigroup, says that the African market is only at 10% or less of the profits of the biggest companies, the demand is growing and companies see that demand as an opportunity to boost prices.

“If a consumer is addicted to tobacco, then it is possible to put prices up and they will go without lunch.”

However, some are concerned how the decline in tobacco will effect the economy in many countries who depend on the revenue tobacco garners each year.  In the Scientific American, Evan Blecher, a tobacco control economist with the ACS in South Africa, notes:

“There are some costs associated with declines in consumption,” including loss of livelihood for tobacco farmers and increased smuggling… “although these costs are outweighed by the benefits.”

There is fear that too many are focused on the current AIDS, tuberculosis, or malaria endemics on the continent to take notice of what many see now as a tobacco epidemic, which has a potential to claim many of the 60 to 80 million projected smokers on the continent.