Why are American women dying in childbirth?

Al Jazeera English

The United States is not the first place that springs to mind when considering women dying in childbirth. So the fact that two American women die of pregnancy-related causes every day may come as a surprise.

According to the World Bank, The US ranks 50th in maternal mortality globally - falling behind every other industrialised nation. A woman in the US is as likely to suffer a maternal death as a woman in sanctions-hit Iran, and four times as likely as a woman in Germany.

“It is a preventable health issue,” said Amnesty International’s Rachel Ward. “It isn’t something that we’re waiting for a cure for. We’re waiting for political will.”

Read more….


Seattle group offers hope, medical care to Kenyan women often shunned by families

ELDORET, Kenya — After three days in labor, Susan Kapkarich’s baby was stuck, only one of her legs protruding from her mother’s body.

Fearing for her life, her husband and other villagers carried her on a wooden chair for four hours to the clinic closest to her home in western Kenya. She woke up the next morning in a clinic bed soaked in urine. Like some 2 million women around the world, Kapkarich had developed a fistula.

Every minute around the world a woman dies in childbirth, but for every woman who dies in childbirth another 25 suffer a debilitating injury such as obstetric fistula. An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 new cases occur each year.

A fistula occurs when a hole is torn in the bladder or rectum, most often when a woman’s labor is obstructed and she doesn’t have access to quality maternal health care. Without surgery, she will constantly leak urine, feces or both for the rest of her life…

…read more at The Seattle TimesFistula

Sex for fish

FishSexAl Jazeera Magazine

The Health Issue

After a long night’s fishing, wooden boats full of weary men slid off Lake Victoria’s murky waters and up the shores around Kisumu, the hub of Kenya’s fishing industry. Dozens of women anxiously await their arrival. After bargaining with the fishermen, some of the women will walk away empty-handed; others will elave with enough fish to sell for the rest of the day.

Locally, it is known as jaboya or, more crudely, as fish for sex.

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Gay Briton appears in court in uganda

The Times Africa

A gay British man living in Uganda appeared in court today charged with trafficking obscene materials after his laptop was stolen and pictures of him having sex with a man were published by a Ugandan tabloid.

Bernard Randall, 65, is facing a two-year sentence while his partner, Albert Cheptoyek, faces more serious charges of gross indecency, which could result in seven years in prison.

The case has attracted widespread attention in Uganda, where homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. A bill currently before the country’s parliament seeks to punish repeat homosexual offenders with the death penalty.

Mr Randall’s case has been exploited by local politicians to incite further homophobic sentiment. Solomon Male, a Ugandan pastor, has accused him of corrupting the youth of Entebbe, the town in Uganda where he lives with Mr Cheptoyek.

Writing in an e-mail this weekend, Mr Randall said that public hostility had left him “in a high state of panic”.

The tabloid that showed Mr Randall’s private images also published the names and photographs of 100 gay Ugandans in 2010 under the headline “hang them”. One of the published names was the prominent gay activist David Kato, who was later bludgeoned to death.

“Gay people in Uganda are facing a two-pronged attack from right-wing extremist politicians and Christian fundamentalist pastors; both seem to be scapegoating LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people for Uganda’s ills and failings. They’ve become the enemy within,” said Peter Tatchell, the human rights activist, at a protest in London today in support of Mr Randall.

The trial was adjourned today until December 4 because of the “complexities of the case”, Mr Randall’s lawyer, Annette Bada, said.



At Kenya mall, a brother’s anguish turned to joy

Robert Mburu was an hour-and-a-half away from Nairobi, Kenya, when he heard that Westgate Mall was under attack.

Thousands of Kenyans were inside, many of whom he probably knew. Westgate isn’t far from where he grew up and was a mall he frequented regularly.

But at the time, those thousands didn’t really matter. All that mattered was that his little sister, Dorcas Mwangi, had been in the mall, where she went almost daily, shopping for groceries when she heard the first gunshots.

Mburu jumped in his car and drove at breakneck speeds back to the city. Mburu has U.S. and Kenyan citizenship and splits his time between Nairobi and Atlanta. He is a contractor and when the mall was attacked, he was at a project site well outside of the city.

During the drive, he stayed in constant communication with his sister through text messages.

“Please hide … don’t text if it will jeopardize your self … what is the situation and where are you hiding?” he texted.

“Nakumatt upstairs,” she replied, describing the supermarket inside the mall where she was hiding.

Dorcas Mwangi was back in her hometown on summer holiday after her first year of university in Britain. She had just paid for her groceries and was walking out of the supermarket when she heard gunfire nearby. She ran back inside the store and up the stairs to the second floor of the market.

She found a pile of suitcases to hide inside, along with another woman who was nearby. She could hear some of the gunmen talking and endless gunfire. Eerily, the mall’s soundtrack continued, Bruno Mars playing in the background.

“We were both Christian, and so we prayed together,” Dorcas Mwangi said later of the woman she hid with for nearly four hours.

Mburu heard from the network of text messages and tweets circling the city that the attackers were separating Muslims from non-Muslims. They were letting Muslims go and in some cases, killing everyone else. He forwarded this text to his sister:

“Just heard following from a friend: They are asking everyone to recite the Shahada (the Muslim declaration of faith) and if they don’t know it are being shot dead. Send it on to everyone in case anyone you know is in there and needs it …”

When he arrived at Westgate, he tore through police barricades and ran up the front steps of the mall trying to get to his sister. Police stopped him from getting past the front door.

Inside, he could hear explosions and endless rounds of ammunition being fired. Bodies already littered the parking lot.

“She’s only 20 years old you know? And she’s all by herself … I felt so helpless,” said Mburu, during a joint interview with his sister last Monday.

Knowing that immediate medical attention often means the difference between life and death, he tried to get the attention of medical teams that could help his sister as soon as she got out.

“Tell the police to come inside Nakumatt,” she texted.

With every text, he knew she was still alive.

Through texts and calls with friends, police and bystanders, he found out that police were inside Nakumatt evacuating as many people as they could.

Mburu stood on the steps watching civilians come out of the mall. He waited with his father, who had also arrived at the mall. Mburu was also close friends with Mbugua Mwangi, the nephew of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was trapped inside with his fiancée, Rosemary Wahito.

Mburu waited with his father and Mbugua Mwangi’s mother for news from inside.

Tragically, they would later find out that both Mbugua Mwangi (who is no relation to Dorcas Mwangi) and Wahito had been killed.

Escorted by police, victims exited the mall covered in blood from gunshot wounds or splattered with the blood of other victims.

“People would get outside of the doors and they would just collapse onto the steps when they realized they had made it outside,” said Mburu.

“I had no idea what kind of state she was going to be in when she came out,” he said of his sister.

Eventually, Mburu and his father saw his sister, Dorcas Mwangi, make it outside of the doors alive. Miraculously, she was uninjured.

They didn’t leave once they knew Mwangi was safe. Their friend Mbugua Mwangi was still inside, and countless other Kenyans with family and friends in the mall were also waiting in agony to find out if their loved ones would make it out alive.

“Everyone waited. Just because your people had gotten out safely didn’t mean you were going to leave. Their people were still inside,” Mburu said.

He was struck by the solidarity of everyone present. The owners of an Indian restaurant nearby opened their doors and offered food and water to everyone. Policemen and civilians entered the building without regard for their safety to rescue those still inside.

In a city too often divided by class and race, those divisions, at the least for the moment, dissolved.

“The woman (Dorcas) was hiding with probably (was) from Kibera [a slum in Nairobi],” said Mburu. “But there they were together, for that moment in the same situation.”

Abby Higgins, a journalist from Seattle based in Nairobi has previously written about the Kenyan slums for The Seattle Times.

Read the story at The Seattle Times here.



In Nairobi, an Attack at the City’s Most Conspicuous Symbol of Western Drift

This morning in Nairobi, a tower of thick, black smoke pierced the sky, darkening the area around the glittering Westgate, the city’s most upscale shopping center, opened in 2007. Inside, an unknown number of Kenyan hostages were still being held by militants linked to the Somali terrorist group Al Shabaab. (Government forces now say all the hostages are accounted for).

The sounds of helicopters thrummed the air above, and at one point a loud crack reverberated through the streets nearby. The keyed-up crowd scattered at what sounded like gunshots, but was actually tear gas being released by the Kenyan police to drive onlookers away.

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“If you have any common sense you can’t stay in this place,” said Jackson Shivanda, a plumber and Nairobi resident, who had reluctantly ventured close to the shopping center to fix a leaking pipe nearby.

“People are nervous, they want to know what is happening, they want to know whether the people inside are still alive, whether they are dead,” said Stephen Wachira, a student at The University of Nairobi who was also at the scene. “That is the purpose of everyone being around here — they want to know about their fellow Kenyans.”

Seattle journalist in Kenya deals with gut punch of mall shootings |

I was hanging on the words of Teju Cole, the Nigerian American writer who is one of my literary heroes, when I found out that two miles away, Nairobi’s Westgate Mall was under attack.

“If you’re too loyal to your suffering, you forget that others suffer too,” Cole said in one of his many moments of profundity during the talk.

Beneath that quote in my notebook I drew a thick line and wrote “found out that there has been a shooting at Westgate.”

Story Moja Hay Festival, where Cole was speaking this weekend, celebrates African literature and represents Nairobi at a high point.

At its best, Nairobi is a diverse, cultured city boasting all of the promise of the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative. It has leading modern artists, innovations that are altering the face of technology and development, and a


growing educated middle class that is interested and excited to invest in their country.

At its worst, Nairobi is racist and divisive, populated by a diverse cross-cut of the world’s popul

ation who live parallel lives, existing within minutes of each other and yet never touching. It grapples perpetually with insecurity and violence, a threat that hits home too often for those of us who live here.

As I hung on Cole’s words, my friend’s cell phone buzzed in her purse on the floor next to me. Moments later, she held it out in front of me to show me a text reading:

‘Stay away from Westgate, shooting and hostage situation going on there’

Continue Reading at Humanosphere…