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January 18 2014

Suriname Gets “An Eye For Art”

Srananart's Blog highlights an exciting new initiative, An Eye For Art: Every fortnight, an esteemed art critic discusses a piece of work from a Surinamese gallery's collection.

December 22 2013

The Challenges of Family Healthcare in Apatou, French Guiana

Henri Dumoulin with a child at the PMI center of Apatou, French Guiana (with his permission)

Henri Dumoulin, Global Voices contributor, recalls his stay in Apatou, French Guiana, located in the heart of the Amazon Forest. He explains how, as the physician of Mother and Child Health Protection programme there, he had to rely on the informal colloboration with the Suriname health system and navigate the multilingual setting of the community :

I shall be in the “Apoema tapu gezondheid zentrum” on November 28, 29 to work again with the same team, to vaccinate all people living on both sides of the borders in this franco–Surinamese archipelago. It appears that nobody was aware of our coming [..] So the account of injections was lesser than expected (109 in one day). Amalia [the coordinator]  send a radio call on Thursday morning and people came progressively [..] A little worried about the reaction of my boss regarding my way of managing our local health problems and crossing borders ..

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December 12 2013

Suriname: Trinidad Artist Wins 2013 Prince Claus Award

Srananart's Blog celebrates Trinidadian artist Christopher Cozier's winning of the 2013 Prince Claus Award, which “honors individuals and organizations reflecting a progressive and contemporary approach to the themes of culture and development.”

November 13 2012

Blogging Contest Focuses on Child Development

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has announced its first contest for bloggers, which will focus on issues related to child development:

Now is your chance to share your ideas! You can tell us about a child development success story in your country or analyze various innovative methodologies. The topic is open. In order to participate, you just have to get your creative juices flowing and share your winning idea with us.


August 30 2012

Innovations to Track Counterfeit Medicines in the Developing World

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), counterfeit medicines are found everywhere in the world. They include mixtures of toxic substances, and inactive, ineffective preparations. 700,000 people die annually from fake malaria and tuberculosis drugs alone. WHO also reports that the annual earnings from substandard or counterfeit drugs was about $200 billion USD.

Many innovative solutions are being proposed to help tackle the spread of counterfeit drugs in developing countries.

Technological innovations to track counterfeit drugs 

Ashifi Gogo from Ghana is an entrepreneur with an innovative solution involving mobile phones. In simplified terms, the idea is to place a scratch-off label on the products; the label contains a unique code, which the consumer sends via SMS and then receives a reply as to whether the product is authentic or not.

In this TEDx Boston talk, Ashifi Gogo explains how his solution works by combining cell phones, community, and the cooperation of governments and pharmaceutical companies:

After the Duo-Cotecxin incident in Kenya, Holley-Cotec, the company that manufactures the antimalarial, introduced a new technology to make the tablets tamper-proof. James Nyikal, director of Medical Services in Kenya explains :

New packets of the drugs will have three-dimensional hologram seals and other features to indicate the drugs are authentic.

“Is this drug real or counterfeit? SMS text with Pharma Secure to find out.” Image by Wayan Vota on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Rajendrani Mukhopadhyay reviews the solutions currently available to identify genuine medicines. He shares some surprising anecdotes :

The screening first consists of a close visual inspection. Inspectors scrutinize the packages, because they need to be certain that an intention exists to deceive the consumer. “If you just have the tablets or the capsules, even if they have no active ingredient, it still could have been an innocent mistake in the factory. […] Some of the packaging errors on counterfeit drugs are quite comical. On one, the expiry date was before the manufacturing date, so we knew something wasn’t quite right!”

He also mentions the challenges of screening in poor settings:

Challenges in developing countries mean that investigators have to think creatively and come up with effective analytical techniques that cost pennies and are robust. “We found out that many of the fake artesunates, posing as a particular brand produced in China, contained calcium carbonate,” says Green [Michael Green from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. Since the authentic brand did not contain calcium carbonate, he and his colleagues were able to distinguish counterfeits from the genuine tablets by adding vinegar to bits of the tablets.

A growing challenge for the developing world

More important than their economic impact, counterfeit medicines pose a significant global public health problem. Not only do they endanger the lives and the well-being of patients, they also undermine confidence in healthcare systems and health professionals.

The following chart by the Pharmaceutical Security Institute (PSI) details the geographical distribution of confirmed counterfeiting incidents in 2011. However, the issue is increasingly challenging to tackle for the developing world because of the growing volume of fake drugs and the required  infrastructure.

Total counterfeit drug incidents by year. Graph by PSI (public domain)

To the point, PSI notes:

The regions that are more frequently linked to incidents are not necessarily those with weak enforcement and inspection programs. Rather, countries in these regions are effectively identifying pharmaceutical crime through law enforcement activity and inspections by drug regulatory agencies.

Despite the innovation mentioned earlier, detecting counterfeit drugs is still a very difficult task and requires both advanced technology and the capacity to strictly enforce international regulations.

For instance, many defective and counterfeit antimalarials were reported in developing countries [fr] this year but only after patients had been treated. In 2012, a study showed that one-third of antimalarial medications in Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa failed chemical analysis, packaging analysis, or were falsified. In 2007, the Ministry of Health in Kenya issued a warning about counterfeit antimalarial medication Duo-Cotecxin being sold in Nairobi and how to detect it.

Lawrence Evans, a researcher who has conducted a study in Guyana and Suriname on the quality of antimalarial drugs says:

Besides the presence of medicines not included in the World Health Organization malaria treatment guidelines, the ease with which medications were procured without accurate diagnosis poses another major risk to patients' safety. In addition, this could have serious implications for the development of drug-resistant strains of Plasmodium parasites, particularly Falciparum, as novel treatments are not foreseeable in the near future.

Prisca in Madagascar explains [fr] why people do not go to pharmacies anymore and venture into the informal market:

 des personnes n'hésitent plus à revendre des produits pharmaceutiques sans ordonnance. Selon Fara, propriétaire d'un commerce prospère ” Les médicaments que nous vendons sont les mêmes qu'en pharmacie, puisque je les achète chez un grossiste agréé. Mais comme je n'ai pas autant de charges qu'une pharmacie, ils sont deux fois moins chers “. Le problème des consommateurs est donc le prix.

Many convenience stores do not hesitate to re-sell medicines without prescription anymore. Fara, the owner of one such successful store, says:”The medicines that we sell are the same as the ones in pharmacies since I purchase them from a certified distributor. But my fiscal charges are much smaller than the pharmacies so I can sell drugs twice as cheap.” For consumers, the issue here seem to be the cost of the medicines.

While it is important to determine the circuit of counterfeit drugs to fight efficiently against this trafficking, many countries warn that this cannot overshadow the need to innovate in other areas as well to fight diseases. Henry Neondo writes for African Science News that Malaria must be fought more effectively in Kenya, including the search for a vaccine:

Kenya has been selected among nine other African countries that will benefit from a new multi-billion shillings drive in search for an anti-malaria vaccine. [..] “New malaria drugs and a vaccine are urgently needed in Africa, where malaria has grown resistant to the cheapest and most widely-used treatments. As several promising new drugs and vaccines move through the research pipeline, there is a need to build African capacity to conduct large-scale clinical trials of these drugs and vaccines over the next decade,” said Prof Binka [Indepth Network Executive Director].

June 21 2012

Journeys Through Latin America

Since August 15, 2011, readers of the Blog de la Ruta (The Route's Blog) [es] have been traveling Latin America through the stories told by bloggers from the website Otramérica. The team behind Otramérica [es], a nonprofit initiative from Human Rights Everywhere, decided to enlist bloggers to tell stories “from the ground” while they traveled through little-known places in Latin America.

The post [es] that kicks off the journey explains that this project has two goals: to “tell” and to “connect”:

Contar las realidades que suelen pasar inadvertidas o que son invisibles para la mayoría de los medios de comunicación industriales; y enredar (en redes) a personas, movimientos y organizaciones en esta tarea de desenredar la vida para entenderla y transformarla.

To tell readers about the realities that tend to go unnoticed or that are invisible in the majority of industrial media; and connect (through networks) people, movements and organizations in this task of unraveling life in order to understand it and transform it.

The blog includes an interactive map where readers can keep up with the journey and click on related stories:

Interactive map routing trip through Latin America

Interactive map routing trip through Latin America

The Guianas

Paco Gómez Nadal [es], a well-known Spanish journalist who has covered Latin America extensively, launched the blog and the journey. He started by introducing readers to The Guianas in several posts [es] before his first stop in Cayenne, French Guiana.

In his next stop, Suriname, Paco writes about the capital city [es] (Paramaribo), the country's problem [es] with gold [es], old and new forms of slavery [es], gay rights [es] (see video, in English, below), and more [es].

The journey was interrupted [es] in September 2011 after a brief stop in Guyana [es]. But a month later journalist Victor Alejandro Mojica picked up the blog with a trip [es] to Honduras and Guatemala.

Honduras and Guatemala

Victor dedicates numerous posts to Honduras' past [es] and present [es]. He tells several stories of struggles that are rarely covered by mainstream media, like those of the indignados (outraged) [es] of Intibucá, who have been fighting for almost two decades against hydroelectric dams in their area:

Este Honduras ni se escucha, ni se conoce, es invisible al mundo occidental. Y aquí, donde parece que la tierra lo es todo, es donde ocurren las violaciones menos éticas. Porque los recursos naturales, aunque parezcan de ellos, están vendiéndose a capitales sin pudor.

Lo que no saben, o rehúsan saber, es que estos indignados, que se alimentan de café y pan, tienen casi dos décadas de existencia.  Y aunque no siempre ganan, siempre continuan…

This Honduras or is neither heard, nor known, it is invisible to the Western world. And here, where land seems to be everything, is where least ethical violations occur. Because natural resources, even if it seems like they belong to them, are shamelessly being sold to businesses.

What they don't know, or refuse to know, is that these indignados, who feed themselves on coffee and bread, have been outraged for almost two decades. And although they don't always win, they always keep going…

Salvador Zúñiga, an "indignado" of Intibucá. Photo by  Victor Alejandro Mojica, used with permission from Otramérica.

Salvador Zúñiga, an "indignado" of Intibucá. Photo by Victor Alejandro Mojica, used with permission from Otramérica.

In Guatemala, Victor looks at the legacy of the country's civil war through the perspective of a former guerrillero [es], family members of a missing [es] man, and an indigenous maya-ixil community [es]. He also looks at the issue of femicides [es] in Guatemala, stating that, “There is an ingrained sexism in all sectors of the population that makes hundreds of women die every year.”

The Southern Cone, Bolivia, and Mexico

The blog welcomed a new contributor, Solange González Henott, in early 2012. Solange began her trip through South America's “Southern Cone” (Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay) with a story about an attempted escape by inmates in a Chilean [es] jail.

In Argentina, Solange describes what summer [es] is like in Buenos Aires, and visits a villa (a marginalized urban settlement), where she meets two women who migrated [es] to the Argentine capital from Bolivia and Paraguay.

In Montevideo, Uruguay, Solange introduces readers to Llamadas [es], carnival parades that take place every summer. She also talks to unionized [es] sugarcane workers about their triumphs and struggles. In neighboring Paraguay, Solange writes about “the king of Soy” and the country's “gun culture” [es].

During a stop in Bolivia, Solange blogs about the “cowardly and cruel murder” of two journalists [es] in El Alto. She then describes the Aymara indigenous tradition of “ajtapi” [es], a communal meal.

Ajtapi in El Alto, Bolivia. Photo by Solange González Henott, used with permission from Otramérica.

Ajtapi in El Alto, Bolivia. Photo by Solange González Henott, used with permission from Otramérica.

Paco Gómez Nadal returns to the ‘Blog de la Ruta' to write about his experience in Mexico [es] during March 2012. There, he blogs about the complexities [es] of violence and death. He also looks at the current state of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity [es] and its leader, Javier Sicilia[es].

Latin America's low lands

In May 2012, Pedro González del Campo became to blog's latest contributor, covering Latin America's “low lands” [es], tierras bajas in Spanish: the places that have been most marginalized by the powerful and by history.

During May and June, Pedro has been discovering Paraguay's “low lands” by traveling [es] through [es] the Paraguay River. In one of his stops he meets Martín, a 36-year-old man working in a cattle ranch in the Paraguayan Chaco. The ranch is owned by a Brazilian man who is in the business of large-scale farming in Brazil. Pedro explains that ranching is taking a toll on the Chaco's nature and its inhabitants:

El Chaco es una ecoregión extensa que alberga hasta 3 ecosistemas diferentes y en el que viven de manera tradicional muchas personas que ven cómo la ganadería acaba con su medio, en el cual se sienten integrados como seres que habitan este planeta. Si nadie lo remedia, su destino es la desaparición y la pérdida de biodiversidad y biomasa que hará de este planeta un lugar menos habitable, además de la escandalosa degradación a nivel social que esto implica para sus pobladores.

The Chaco is a vast ecoregion that holds up to 3 distinct ecosystems, where many people who live in a traditional way are seeing how cattle raising destroys their environment, where they feel integrated as beings who inhabit this planet. If no one fixes this, the destiny of the Chaco is disappearance and loss of biodiversity and biomass which will make this a less habitable planet, on top of the outrageous social degradation that this implies for its residents.

Sharpening a saw to build a house in a ranch in the Chaco. Photo by Pedro González del Campo, used with permission from Otramérica.

Sharpening a saw to build a house in a ranch in the Chaco. Photo by Pedro González del Campo, used with permission from Otramérica.

Almost a year after the start of this journey, Pedro's trip through Latin America's “low lands” has just begun. Blog de la Ruta provides a glimpse into the continent's varied and complex reality. You can keep up with the journey and read previous entries in the Otramérica website [es].

Featured image from Otramérica, used with permission.

November 07 2011

Caribbean: the meaning of identity

Creative Commess hosts a blog symposium “about Caribbean people, about West Indian people, about our contemporary experiences … ranging through race & identity to culture, mental health to constructs of beauty and more,” with contributions from seven Caribbean bloggers.

June 28 2011

Suriname: On Art

SRANANART'S BLOG considers the work of Marcel Pinas to start a discussion about what constitutes art.

May 04 2011

Suriname: Street Art

Srananart's Blog says that “Suriname has known a flourishing culture of street art, with the painted buses and the colorful shave-ice carts as eye catchers that make a lasting impression on people”, explaining how it “resulted in a beautiful book…and with the book came a unique exhibition, taking street art to another level, and bringing the street to the gallery…”

April 27 2011

Suriname: Video Art

Srananart's Blog is excited about the launch of “a new art form for Suriname” - video art!

April 13 2011

Suriname: Mickey Mouse Art

Written by Janine Mendes-Franco

Mickey Mouse as “a customized symbol for progress”? Srananart's Blog explains.

March 04 2011

Suriname: Mickey Mouse art

Written by Nicholas Laughlin

Artist Wouter Klein Velderman, on a residency in the town of Moengo in Suriname, shares images of his current work in progress: a monumental Mickey Mouse sculpture made of wood, “a symbol for a certain kind of transition.”

March 01 2011

Suriname: On Beauty

Written by Janine Mendes-Franco

Srananart's Blog republishes Wim de Pauws' views on the true meaning of beauty.

February 02 2011

Latin America: Drawing Parallels with Egypt

Written by Silvia Viñas

As protests in Egypt continue, Latin American bloggers are drawing historical parallels with similar uprisings in the region and some are wondering: “Could it happen here now?”

In The Mex Files, Rich compares Egypt's situation to Porfirio Diaz’ 30-year rule in Mexico –which fell during the Mexican Revolution– in his post, “Walk like an Egyptian: Porfirio to Mubarak.” Rich concludes his analysis looking at Mexico today:

Mexicans are not — one trusts — as desperate as the Egyptians, or at least not in the numbers seen in Cairo.  But, what will happen if the Mexicans decide it is time for a giant leap in Mexican  power, in which the people of the largest Spanish-speaking nation demand that they be allowed to fulfill their potential?

Greg Weeks writes about the similarities and differences between Nicaragua and Egypt from a historical perspective in his blog Two Weeks Notice:

It is impossible not to make analogies between the current situation in Egypt and the implosion of dictatorships in Latin America. Anastasio Somoza in particular comes to mind. Broadly speaking, the U.S. had supported a dictatorship for decades because it was a strategic ally, then internal opposition began to boil, hoping to copy the toppling of another repressive regime in the region.

There are, however, also very important differences.

Global Voices author Rodrigo Peñalba was recently interviewed by Nicaraguan newspaper El Nuevo Diario. Rodrigo posted his answers to the newspaper's questions in his blog [es]:

¿En Nicaragua el fenómeno de Túnez y Egipto esta lejos de la realidad nacional?

Tunez y Egipto responden a contextos específicos de gobiernos autoritarios con lideres en el poder durante décadas y con el apoyo abierto de Estados Unidos. Si hubiera efecto domino entre ambos  paises, este pasaría antes a Siria, Libano, Jordanía o Arabia Saudí más que a Centroamérica.

Si la idea de la pregunta es que si podria pasar algo así en Nicaragua habría que buscar contextos más cercanos como son la narcoviolencia mexicana, los grupos de maras en Guatemala, Honduras y El Salvador, la inmigración en la región, el golpe de estado de Honduras, o las drama-novelas del poder de Panamá, Costa Rica, Venezuela o Colombia; o en el caso de Nicaragua el triple matrimonio a 3 bandas entre empresarios (anunciantes en los grandes medios), partidos políticos (que les dan entrevistas a los medios), y gobierno (al que amigos de los medios aspiran a manejar).

In Nicaragua, is the phenomenon seen in Tunisia and Egypt far from the national reality?

Tunisia and Egypt are responding to specific contexts of authoritarian governments with leaders in power for decades that have the open support of the United States. If there was a domino effect between both countries, this would happen first in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia rather than Central America.

If the question is whether something like this could happen in Nicaragua, we would have to look at closer contexts such as Mexican drug violence, groups of maras [gangs] in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, immigration in the region, the coup in Honduras, or the power drama in Panama, Costa Rica, Venezuela or Colombia; or in the case of Nicaragua at the 3-way marriage between businessmen (advertisers in mass media), political parties (which get interviewed by the media) and the government (which friends of the media aspire to manage).

In the post “Could instability spread to Latin America?” in Bloggings by boz, Boz focuses on the “global” –or “Tsunami”– theory: “An outside force created the conditions for these protests to hit many nations at the same time.” Boz explains:

it's the global factors I want to focus on, because if it is true, then the current crisis is not just affecting the Middle East. Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia could be next.

He goes through six points to answer the question: “If [2011] is a crisis year, what would it mean for Latin America?” and then writes,

If this is a “crisis year,” then governments are going to be destabilized in ways that you thought six months ago would be near impossible.

That said, most governments will survive. Even facing tough protests, governments tend to hold on to power more often than they fall. Not every protests or momentary difficulty will lead to a government falling. Also, in a region where democracy is the expectation rather than the exception, governments that do fall should return to democracy more quickly than in some other regions of the world.

Mike from Central American Politics responds in the open thread at Bloggings by boz on the subject. He breaks down his opinion by country:

Where to start? Interestingly enough, I think that if we survey the region, non-friendly governments of the US are the most likely to fall.

Ecuador - close to falling last year; recent history of extra constitutional removals

Bolivia - protests against gas prices recently; recent history of extra constitutional removals

Venezuela and Cuba are candidates, but will probably not see much instability. Honduras is a candidate as well, but there would have to be some spark to reignite things.

Asking “Could it happen here?” has been inevitable among bloggers who intently follow politics and social movements in the region. No one can know for certain if any Latin American country will get caught under the “political tsunami;” but what these bloggers do know is that in the history of Latin America, uprisings against the government are not unusual.

February 01 2011

Blogger asks: “Could instability spread to Latin America?”

Written by Silvia Viñas

Considering the recent and ongoing events in Tunisia and Egypt, Bloggings by boz asks: “If it is a crisis year, what would it mean for Latin America?”. Boz goes over several points to answer this question and opens up a thread to discuss Latin American stability with readers.

December 29 2010

December 10 2010

Suriname: Art & Houses

By Janine Mendes-Franco

“The Surinamese house from the 19th century is disappearing from the Paramaribo scene and with it a piece of our history”: Srananart's Blog features a painter who is passionate about “characteristic old wooden Surinamese houses.”

July 03 2010

La Guyane, l'eldorado des orpailleurs

Sources : ministère de l'environnement ; Bureau des recherches géologiques et minières (BRGM) ; Philippe Cart-Tanneur, L'Or dans le monde et en Guyane, édition Trame Way, Paris, 1990. / France Outre-mer, Guyane, Conflit, Développement, Matières premières, Suriname, Environnement - Amérique du (...) / France Outre-mer, Guyane, Conflit, Développement, Matières premières, Suriname, Environnement - Amérique du Sud

May 08 2010

Video: Kids News Network turns to web

By Juliana Rincón Parra

Image from Freevoice.nlIn many homes, children are not allowed to watch news because their parents believe that newscasts on TV might be to traumatic or violent. So how can children find out about national and world affairs? In Burma, Zambia, Surinam, South Africa, Peru, Indonesia, the Dutch Caribbean and Mozambique, children now have the opportunity to watch TV news magazines that are specifically geared towards them, also giving them a space to voice their opinions and find out about current events.

All of these newscasts are coordinated and supported during their first two years by Freevoice from the Netherlands, they are aired on national television networks in their countries, and many of the projects are also turning to the internet as a better mean of getting children's feedback and including more of them in the process of suggesting topics and approaches to news.

In Peru, we have NAPATV, where the letters NAPA stand for the phrase in Spanish that means not for adult consumption (No Apto para Adultos). Through the website youth can see the different videos, comment on them, leave a message on the chat board and participate on online polls. They also have a Facebook page, twitter and YouTube accounts. On this daily 30 minute show kids ask the president questions, tell the world what they would like to be when they grow up, discuss current events, and also say in front of the cameras what they dislike. For example [es]: Kevin, age 15, tells NAPA that he dislikes it when neighborhood security guards tell them they can't skateboard on the streets with his friends because they will “damage the pavement and plants”.

Following is a short news review section where subjects such as permits for school buses and transport, mining companies and environment and school children with high levels of lead in their blood are discussed [es]:

The Caribbean Kids Network also publishes the videos on their website, and the subtitled newscasts are both in English and in Papiamento. There are 5 journalists assigned to the different islands and they produce together the weekly show. Following is the latest episode [en, pap], where they follow a protest on the construction of a hotel in Aruba; talk about counterfeit goods, why they are illegal and how to recognize them, and also other topics such as green energy and music.

In Myanmar (Burma), the situation is a bit different. There, YouthVoices gives children a chance to receive relevant news. As freevoice explains:

Press freedom does not exist in Burma; the military regime detains critics on a regular basis and the state television only provides positive news of the generals. To produce an uncensored kids news with real news, the DVB team works from Thailand and receives its images from Burma through a secret network of camjo's (camera journalists). For the safety and protection of the journalists and the children being interviewed, the children wear (animal)masks in front of the camera, so they cannot be recognized, subsequently, they can give their real and honest opinions.

On the sample newscast made for YouthVoices you can see the masks being used. In the latest ones [mya], though, masks are no longer used, but some of those who are interviewed do have their faces digitally blurred.

You can read more about the Kids News Network and their projects in other countries at

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