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Posts Tagged ‘gambia’

Photo: Fabio Nascimento/Outlaw Ocean Project.
Investigative reporter Ian Urbina on an Indonesian patrol ship chasing Vietnamese fishing boats suspected of illegal activity.

Because we face so many monumental problems around the world, it’s easy to get discouraged and say, What can one person do? But as Pete Seeger once sang, “One and two and 50 make a million.” In other words, individual efforts add up.

Mark Trumball at the Christian Science Monitor interviews a journalist who covers the work to protect the environment and human rights on the high seas — and shares how the informed consumer can help.

“Ian Urbina is what you might call a globe-trotting journalist, except he focuses his reporting on the oceans, not the land.

“Earlier this year he was honored for his investigative writing by the Society of Professional Journalists, for stories tied to the treatment of migrants in Libya (and off its Mediterranean coast) and disruption in Gambia’s fisheries, published during 2021 in the New Yorker and the Atlantic. Another story from his Libya reporting – about Europe’s treatment of African migrants – ran here in the Monitor.

‘Now Mr. Urbina’s Outlaw Ocean Project is launching a podcast series based on his work, in partnership with the Los Angeles Times and CBC Podcasts. …

Trumball: You explore what you call the ‘outlaw ocean.’ Why are oceans so different from land – and so difficult to police?

“From the perspective of governance, you have this situation where the high seas belong to everyone and no one, and therefore jurisdictionally it’s an unusually complicated, murky space. … The second issue is geography. The reality of the high seas is it’s so incredibly sprawling, two-thirds of the planet.

“And then when it comes specifically to the category of abuses of crimes that pertain to people – murder on camera and slavery and abuse of stowaways and wage theft and abandonment of crew, you know, all these human rights and labor abuses – a contributing factor to that subcategory of crimes is who’s getting harmed. Most often the victims of those sorts of crimes are poor, are folks from developing nations. … A lot of them are not literate. A lot of them have signed contracts in languages they don’t even speak. …

“And the boss of the [floating workplace] is from one country. The flag of the factory is to another. The guys working in there, getting abused, are from a third. The catch is being all loaded on a fourth. …

Many of us might feel like, well, my connection with the ocean is when I buy some fish for dinner. But is it much more than that?

“If you think of the planet Earth as a living organism, maybe metaphorically, it has inherent systems. It’s got lungs. The lungs of the planet – 50% of the air we breathe – are cleaned by the oceans. So the lungs of the planet are at stake. If you think of it as the commercial circulatory system, 80% of our [global] commerce gets to us cheaply and efficiently … by ship. So not just fish, but iPhones and, you know, tennis shoes and grain and oil. … The oceans are also a temperature stabilizer of our body, you know, of the body planet. … They take off a lot of the heat. …

You have a seven-part podcast with the goal of shedding light on these varied challenges. … Does the stress on the oceans amount to a disaster in the making? 

“Yes, it is a disaster. But that doesn’t mean we have the luxury of being demoralized. … Do I think it’s unsolvable? No, I think there are lots of ways in which things can be done to mitigate the disaster and better govern.

A lot of people are doing lots of things in different places, in individual fights, in individual battles.

One episode features the nonprofit group Sea Shepherd chasing down a ship on Interpol’s wanted list for illegal fishing.

“Sea Shepherd [said] We’re going to go after these guys and we’re going to find them wherever they are, and we’re going to chase them and harangue them and draw a lot of media attention on them. …

“And they succeeded. You know, they found the Thunder, which was at that time ranked the top worst illegal fishing vessel on the planet, $67 million worth of illicit catch. And they found these guys – nets in the water – and proceeded to chase them for 110 days all across the planet. And all sorts of dramatic stuff happened in the interim. And ultimately the Thunder – spoiler alert here – sunk itself and all the crew were rescued … by Sea Shepherd, handed over to law enforcement, and the officers were prosecuted and served time. So I think there are cases like that where you see various actors make savvy use of the media and the law to try to make a difference. ….

“There’s more wind in the sails of the advocates and the academics who were in the trenches already fighting this fight. Now they’ve got more media behind them. I think you also see more market side players having an awareness that, you know, this issue isn’t going away. 

“Whether it’s the issue of slavery and the use of captive labor as a cost-saving tactic on fishing vessels, or intentional dumping of oil as a cost-saving tactic, or illegal fishing – meaning going places you’re not supposed to or using gear you’re not supposed to – all these things are cost-saving tactics. And who benefits from that but the companies? And the companies writ large, you know, the ship-owning companies, the insurers, the fish sellers, wholesalers, grocery stores, restaurants, all these market players are the ones who turn a blind eye. … The decentralization of the supply chain has allowed them to say, ‘Well, we don’t know what’s happening.’ You know, ‘we outsource’ … and so they can’t be held accountable. Well, I think there’s a reckoning coming on that. …

“We’re catching wild caught fish in places like Gambia that historically was eaten by the locals and was free at the market, often, because it was so plentiful. Now the locals can’t touch the stuff because they’re priced out, because it’s all going to the factory to get ground up and exported. That’s the crazy economy we have.

What can the average person do in their own actions? What would you recommend?

“First, I’d say, don’t get demoralized and don’t think that you should or can solve the war. Just think about battles, and choose which of the many battles interest you most, whether it’s sea slavery or plastic pollution or whaling or illegal fishing or murder and violence at sea or whatever. Just narrow it down, choose a bite-size thing, and then focus on that.” 

More at the Monitor, here.

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Photo: Samantha Reinders for NPR
Midwives at the Brufut Minor Health Center in Gambia don’t administer pain medication during childbirth because, in their view, most of the time it’s “not needed.” A recent NPR feature shows that the scarcity of opioid pain medication in Africa is not such a bad thing.

Here in the land of plenty, we have an opioid crisis that started when patients got hooked on legitimately prescribed medications. But in Gambia, where “luxuries” like opioids are scarce, doing without seems to lead to better outcomes.

Jason Beaubien at National Public Radio (NPR) interviews a Gambian nurse determined to care for patients without leaning on pain medications like opioids.

“Growing up in the Gambia in West Africa, Nabia Drammeh always knew she wanted to be a nurse. ‘My auntie was a nurse,’ she says. ‘I used to go to the clinic and see the way she works. I told her, “I really want to be a nurse in the future!” So I’ve loved this job since when I was a child.’ …

“She now works at the Brufut health clinic just outside the Gambian capital of Banjul. It’s a modest government clinic housed in a cluster of single-story cement buildings.

” ‘The cases we see here are mostly malaria cases, pneumonia cases, ear problems,’ she says. Drammeh and her colleagues at the clinic also treat a lot of urinary tract infections. They stitch up cuts from minor car crashes. They deal with sick kids and fractures from farming accidents. One constant among most of the cases, Drammeh says, is pain.

” ‘Eighty to 90 percent of patients that come here already have pain’ she says. Patients arrive with back pain, muscle pain, stomach pain. … ‘Most of the cases that come here are in pain either physically or psychologically,’ she says.

“So you might think that Drammeh would want to dole out powerful opioid-based medications that have been shown to provide incredible reductions in pain. But she doesn’t. And it’s not just because she doesn’t have any opioids.

‘When taking care of the pain you don’t only deal with drugs,’ Drammeh says with a hint of indignation. ‘Drugs are last when it comes to nursing.’

“The Gambia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Even doctors at the main teaching hospital in Banjul, the capital, don’t have regular access to opioids or other powerful pain meds. …

“But Drammeh says this lack of painkillers is not a problem. Her goal as a nurse isn’t to exterminate that pain. The pain is a clue to help her find the real underlying problem. Instead of drugs Drammeh uses her ‘nursing skills’ to address a patient’s pain.

” ‘First of all we have to receive the patient well,’ she says. ‘Show the person that he or she is welcome [at the clinic].’

“And then she lets them know that a solution to their pain exists. A burning urinary tract infection — there’s medicine for that. A pounding headache? could be a sign of malaria and a dose of malaria pills will do the trick. …

“Just convincing a patient that their particular health problem can be treated will cause their pain to go down, she says. But first, Drammeh insists, you have to connect with the patient and win their trust.

” ‘Tell the patient that this thing is normal, that we have many patients that come here with that problem or even more serious cases than that problem,’ she says. ‘But they were treated and they’ve gone home.’

“What she doesn’t do is rush to quell the patient’s pain with drugs. …

“[Midwife Rohey Jallow also] sees her role as comforting the patient, letting the woman know that pain is normal in childbirth and that she will get through it. …

“Drammeh explains how a woman had come in earlier in the day complaining of lower back pain. The patient seemed uncomfortable to be talking in the open courtyard. …

” ‘So I told her, if you want I can take you privately so I can know what the problem really is.’ They slipped off to an empty part of the ward. It turns out the woman with back pain also had hemorrhoids and had been constipated for weeks. Drammeh told the woman that she must deal with the constipation immediately. She advised her to add more fruit to her diet and gave her laxatives and some hemorrhoid cream.

” ‘I made her understand that these are the medicines that can take care of you.’ …

” ‘That is the best way of managing pain.’ ”

More at NPR, here.

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I think this children’s book, reviewed at Brain Pickings, is one I need to buy.

Maria Popova writes, “This Moose Belongs to Me (public library) — a disarming story about a boy who believes he owns his pet moose Marcel, only to discover that so do other people, who call him by different names, while the moose himself doesn’t quite get the concept of being owned and is thus oblivious to the boy’s list of rules for being a good pet. …

“For the backgrounds of his illustrated vignettes, Jeffers reapporpriates classical landscape paintings by a mid-century Slovakian painter named Alexander Dzigurski, rendering the project a sort of posthumous collaboration and a creative mashup.”

Read the intriguingly philosophical Brain Pickings review here.

And here is a children’s book reviewed by Asakiyume that embraces insights about both the environment and other cultures.

She writes, “Discarded plastic bags are more than just an ugly nuisance in the West African nation of the Gambia. There, plastic shopping bags kill livestock that eat them and provide a breeding ground for malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

“A woman named Isatou Ceesay found an ingenious solution. She learned how to make plarn [yarn made from plastic bags], and, with her friends, started crocheting small change purses from the discarded plastic bags, which she and her friends sold. The trash problem — and attendant health risks — disappeared, and Isatou and her friends had a new source of income. The project was so successful that Isatou started teaching women in other villages, and in 2012 she won the International Alliance for Women’s World of Difference award.

Miranda Paul, a writer who has lived and taught in the Gambia, wrote about Isatou in One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia (illustrated by the fabulous Elizabeth Zunon).” Lots of reasons for buying that book here, at Asakiyume’s blog.

Art: Oliver Jeffers

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