I met Eric Niragira in 2010, while backpacking through Burundi. After an introduction from a mutual friend, we met over dinner in a small restaurant in Bujumbura. I listened to Eric share his story and decided I had to try to do something to help him share his story. I arranged for us to meet the following day to do an audio interview, but when I woke up the next morning sick with food poisoning, I couldn’t make it.
Fast forward to a couple weeks ago when I was visiting New York City and found out via Facebook that Eric was in visiting. He was at the United Nation’s Headquarters to work with colleagues from around the world to advocate for victim assistance in the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty – something in itself was under-reported throughout the tiny news coverage of the Arms Trade Treaty.
By the end of the conference, the Arms Trade Treaty was passed — with some recognition of the need for victim assistance. The preamble recognizes ”that civilians, particularly women and children, account for the vast majority of those affected by armed conflict and armed violence” and “the challenges faced by victims of armed conflict and their need for adequate care, rehabilitation and social and economic inclusion” but I feel cynical in my beliefs that the support may only be on paper.
To continue to change the realities on the ground for many of the victims of armed violence and conflict, we need to continue to support organizations like CEDAC (Eric’s NGO) and help people like Eric Niragira carry out their inspiring work.
In 1979, a 16-year-old boy made a choice to rebuild a forest. And after 34 years of hard work, Jadav ‘Molai’ Payeng has certainly proved his conviction – and created a humbling monument to the power of a dream turned into action. Continue reading →
this trip to africa was all so i could come to ndera, rwanda. it’s just outside of the capital city kigali and but is just like most of rwanda– full of subsistence farmers that live in small rural communities. this is the land of a thousand hills with long and bumpy dirt roads and green plants everywhere. the rains that continue throughout the entire year make the earth extremely fertile– spit something out and in all likelihood it will grow– but when you go to a local health clinic and spend all day weighing 50 kids from the area with severe and moderate malnutrition you have to ask why is this happening and how can we stop it.
this is what the face of a child with malnutrition can look like. you would think all the children would just get thinner and thinner until their skin and bones– but you would be wrong. many times children actually start collecting fluid in their skin because their body can no longer hold it in the bloodstream (a condition nicknamed kwash). puffiness forms right under the eyes, the checks become rounded and the hair thins from the head. the tummy enlarges into a potbelly and the arms and legs become larger but with a skin that is pulled tight by all the fluid being collected. at first glance, the child can look healthy- making it hard for many people to notice. it’s the children with malnutrition that never develop kwash that are so striking to see- and let me tell you, when you see a seven month old baby that weighs six pounds, it’s hard not to start looking out to blame.
so how does this still happen? it starts with not eating enough and/or not eating enough of the right things but leads to issues of desperate poverty, education, access to land, local, national, and international politics, and flaws with how food aid works globally. all of these issues could be seen when we were at the clinic weighing and measuring the heights of the children to calculate their weight for height and weight for age measurements.
what got me was that this clinic had been reporting zero cases of malnutrition to fall in line with a new push to completely eradicate it from rwanda- which left many families and children hidden from aid for the sake of politics. to change this, brad had gone out to many villages himself to find them and tell them to come to get help. for the ones with severe malnutrition they get a fortified peanut butter called plumpy nut. for the moderate malnutrition cases, they should get a fortified corn and soy blend porridge (called csb) but because none of the supply has left the united states in a while they will get nothing.
and when the severe cases of malnutrition are healthy enough to be considered moderately malnourished, they will then get nothing. when production or trade of food aid from the united states doesn’t work out properly, people here will loose the little ground they have gained to have healthier children. this shows the dependency and sole reliance on handouts to solve global malnutrition.
and this is why food aid is broken. no more just giving out food assistance without realizing the true solution to this issue lives in the hands of the very families that can’t feed their children. let’s invest in them, believe in them, love and cherish them.
A book created in collaboration with Afghan Zareen Taj that tells the stories of many of the women and families that Zareen interviewed on her research trip to Afghanistan. This book does not display the women as merely victims of the oppression they endured, but as resilient survivors actively shaping their lives, communities, and country’s future. This acts as a timely message- about this vulnerable moment as they are still in need of support from the international community. Continue reading →
I started collaborating with Zareen Taj in 2007, to complete a short documentary to accompany her written thesis “Hazara Women Identities and Oppression”. She had collected over 700 photographs, 30 hrs of video footage, and countless hours of audio interviews Continue reading →
A taste of the spoken word, passionate stories, and rally speeches from an evening of awareness and remembrance hosted by the Jacques Initiative of the University of Maryland Medical School (2008). Continue reading →