Dignity that Cannot be Seized — Interview of Women in a Zimbabwean Village

[“SHARE” JUL – SEP 2019 ] FOCUS ~ The Poor and Dignity


Written by: Tony Chan (Senior Partnership Development Officer)


“Although I’m HIV-positive, you can take photos and videos of me. I’m not scared of being seen,” said Branda, a 17-year-old girl grown up in a Zimbabwean village in Africa.
Branda lived in in Bulawayo Province of Zimbabwe. Many young people left their homes to South Africa or Botswana for a better life. However, in view of financial restraints, Branda stayed with her mother and grandmother in the village.


Branda in red long dress stood in front of my camera and performed her poems enthusiastically. Her smiles and actions showed her extraordinary self-confidence.

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Myanmar – elections and health

The 8 November elections were a major waypoint in Myanmar’s transition from authoritarian rule.  The victorious National League for Democracy (NLD) needs to identify key appointees wisely to prepare for taking power in March 2016.  There are high expectations that NLD will deliver the needed political and economic changes.  Success will depend on the cooperation between a new capable president and the armed forces.  NLD’s limited experience of government, a shallow pool of skilled technocrats and the difficulty of reforming key institutions all constrain how much can be delivered quickly.  Other hurdles include serious armed clashes in Shan and Kachin states, macro-economic turbulence, and grievances of the disenfranchised Muslim Rohingya.

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Ukraine’s Political Crisis Putting People’s Health at Risk

[ePrayer – Pray for Ukraine]


The deteriorated health of Ukrainians probably get worsened because of the political crisis in the country.

Ukraine, once a Soviet socialist republic, became independent with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Ukraine is in a very important strategic position to both Asia and Europe and thus has always been a significant and political base. Russian and American influences are particularly strong in the country. East Ukraine is mostly populated by Russian-speakers who believe in Orthodox Christianity and being in favour of Russia. West Ukraine is mostly populated by pro-European Ukrainian-speakers believing in Roman Catholicism. People staged fierce protests in last November at the President’s refusal to sign an EU association agreement. Deadly street conflicts resulted in multiple deaths in mid February this year.

Ukraine’s prime minister stepped down from power then and a pro-European new government started to rule the country in February. Pro-Russian forces began to gradually take control of the Crimean Peninsula, a Russian military base in South Ukraine. Over 95% of the voters in the Crimean referendum on 16 March support the move to join the Russian Federation and Russia immediately took an action and signed the reunification treaty with Crimea. European Union and United States strongly opposed this and imposed sanctions on Russia afterwards.

Russia, the dominant supplier of natural gas to Ukraine, threatened to withdraw discounts on natural gas from Ukraine in April. This will further weaken Ukraine’s economy and push the country over the brink into bankruptcy. United States, European Union and International Monetary Fund are now considering subsidies for Ukraine. Ukraine’s future is however still uncertain at least until the Presidential elections which will be held on 25 May 2014.

The health of Ukrainians has been profoundly affected by economy and politics. In the 1930s, Stalin’s collectivism of agriculture led to food shortages, and life expectancy in Ukraine fell briefly to record lows of 7 years in men and 11 years in women. World War II and the Stalinist repression in the late 1940s caused further setbacks. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, former Communist countries that developed reasonably functioning democracies see earlier and stronger life expectancy growth than those countries remaining under partly autocratic or partial democratic rule, such as Ukraine where life expectancy see no improvement only until 2005. In a recent analysis that compared the performance of 43 European countries in health policy areas, Ukraine is the worst of all.

Within Ukraine there is a clear east-west gradient, with western regions having lower mortality than eastern regions, suggesting that the Ukrainian health situation is largely determined by cultural backgrounds and positions. More specifically risk factors including smoking, alcohol, and lack of access to good quality health care account for the difference, other than the desperate economic situation. In late 1990s, people lived under absolute poverty in Ukraine rose to more than 30%.

The remedy of Ukrainian health recovery, therefore, is political change: a peaceful transition to full democracy, and the establishment of effective institutions that promote the public good. The outcome of the current struggle will determine whether this will happen or not. The new government in Kyiv needs to tackle money shortage and will likely require funding and support from the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, etc. Yet these potential donors might be tempted to prescribe stringent austerity measures which will likely bring bad consequences for the Ukrainians. [TheLancet]

Meditate on Scriptures:

‘Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.” So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labour…’ Exodus 1:8-11

The change in a country’s government significantly influences the fate of its people. May God be in ultimate control in these leaders’ tactics, strategies and policies.

Pray for Ukraine:

  • Pray for the presidential elections in Ukraine which will be held on 25 May 2014. May it be an open and fair election, and a president who truly cares about people’s needs will be elected;
  • Pray for wisdom and mercy be given to the new government, that it knows and will be committed to introduce favorable policies for the well-being of its people and deliver the country out from its crisis;
  • Pray for improvement in the country’s health policies and systems, that the health and living of Ukrainians will be improved and protected.

Minorities Suffer Worse Health Outcomes

[ePrayer – Pray for the health of minorities]


Minority groups suffer worse health outcomes than the rest of the population, according to a new report published by Minority Rights Group International (MRG). They call for greater measures to combat disparities in global health outcomes between minority groups and majority communities. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have resulted in much that is good. But one of the fundamental flaws with them has been the lack of a right or equity perspective. Minority and indigenous communities often are marginalised from all aspects of life in their countries. For example, infant mortality among indigenous groups in China’s Yunnan Province was 7.8%, compared to 5.4% for non-indigenous groups in Yunnan and a national average of 2.6%. In Papua, Indonesia, HIV infection rates among minority groups are 15 times the national average. In Guatemala, indigenous children suffer approximately 20 percent higher malnutrition than majority communities. According to the report, lack of access to healthcare and systemic patterns of discrimination are major causal factors behind these figures. [IRIN]

Pray for the health of minorities:

  • Pray for sufficient and proper health care and assistance to the minorities;
  • Pray for an end on any kind of discrimination to minorities and indigenous groups.

Urbanisation Brings Africa New Health Risks

[ePrayer – Pray for Africa]


According to a World Bank report, urbanisation in sub-Saharan Africa accelerates rise in health problems, while more cars on the road are pushing up accident rates. The region has the highest number of accidents, but the fewest vehicles on the road. Younger and poorer people are disproportionately vulnerable: accidents on the road are expected to become the biggest killer of children aged between five and fifteen by 2015, outstripping malaria and IDS. ‘The poorest communities often live alongside the fastest roads, their children may need to negotiate the most dangerous routes to school and they may have poorer outcomes from injuries, due to limited access to post-crash emergency healthcare,’ the report says. The report concerns road safety alongside rising rates of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes and cancer. The shift towards urbanisation is a case in point. City residents typically take less exercise, and thus are prone to diabetes and cardiovascular problems. Rising incomes are driving demand for processed foods that are higher in sugar, fat and salt, as well as alcohol. [Guardian]

Pray for Africa:

  • Remember the plight of the disadvantaged communities under urbanisation;
  • Pray that the government and the NGOs can foresee the new challenges of urbanisation, take the preventive measures and provide appropriate assistance to those in need.

Environmental Threats Could Push Billions into Extreme Poverty

[ePrayer – Pray for the intensifying environment threats]

International Environment Day

A UN report said more than 40 countries have done better than previously expected on the UN’s human development index (HDI), which combines measures of health, wealth and education, with gains accelerating over the past decade. Yet the report warned that the number of people living in extreme poverty could increase by up to 3 billion by 2050 unless urgent action is taken to tackle environmental challenges. It said climate change is already exacerbating chronic environmental threats, and ecosystem losses are constraining livelihood opportunities, especially for poor people. Inaction on climate change, deforestation, and air and water pollution could end gains in the world’s poorest countries and communities. [Guardian]

Pray for the intensifying environment threats:

  • Pray for prompt actions taken by all nations to tackle environmental challenges;
  • Pray also for those especially the poor who are affected and suffer from environmental threats.