Friday, February 26, 2016

Differences between the North and South of Nigeria


Nigeria is a big and beautiful country, home to the biggest population of any African country and with the fastest growing economy on the continent. 170 million people, 250 different ethnic groups and both Christian and Muslim populations - Nigeria’s diversity is huge. That means there are huge cultural differences between people in the country who live at either ends of the nation. Ripples Foundation works in rural villages in both the North and South of the country and we have seen for ourselves the difference in behaviours and traditions from the women we support.

Dress

In Northern areas such as Kano State, we have found the locals to be very modest and reserved. The women generally wear long flowing robes and headscarves but rarely cover their faces. This is different from the majority of Southern women who often choose to wear Western clothing in their everyday lives, but on Sundays they will put on their best traditional clothes and headdresses. Everyone wants to look their best at church and the traditional clothing is made from locally produced and dyed fabrics. Hand patterned cloths are called adire which local craftsmen are skilled at weaving.

Northern Nigerian women

Southern Nigerian women

Landscape

The South is undoubtedly greener than the North, with the unofficial capital of the country, Lagos, located there. Lagos is one of the largest metropolitan areas on the world! The main religion of the South is Christian, however there are Muslim populations in Yorubaland and other small areas.  The Niger Delta area is rich with oil, which is where most of the area’s profit comes from.

The population of the North is much larger than the South but the landscape is more sparse. The tone of the horizon is a mixture of warm browns and yellows, with a lot of flat plains compared to the rolling green hills of the South. This is due to the difference in weather, with Southern areas being in a tropical climate and experiencing more rainfall and humidity than the North where it is typically more dry and can have temperatures rising to above 40℃!

Sadly the North West has been living under the dark cloud of Boko Haram in recent years, the Islamist terror group that has been orchestrating attacks in many cities and villages near to the border with Cameroon. The huge Muslim population is targeted by the group and vulnerable young people are often recruited as foot soldiers to carry out vile suicide bombing missions. Ripples works in villages near to the city of Kano and has seen the victims of this needless violence first hand. Most recently we held a Medical MOT in Kabo village for  group of young orphans whose parents were killed by the militants. Our volunteers and staff on ground in these locations have to always be aware of the environment in which they work to ensure that everyone’s safety is guaranteed.

Northern Nigeria

Southern Nigeria

Language

The Yoruba tribe often use proverbs in their traditional language to enrich what they are saying, a famous example being “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” Other Southerners are more direct in their language, and are often louder compared to the softly spoken Northerners!


Community Culture

Everyone in Nigeria is fiercely proud of their home towns and villages, and during the big religious festivals millions of people travel back to their place of birth regardless of where they are now based in the world. Ripples Foundation has had the privilege of attending the Ogidi Day Festival in Ogidi village, Kogi State where the whole community gathers to celebrate the harvesting of the yams: a celebration full of colour, music and huge crowds.

Women dancing at the Ogidi Day Festival

One thing however does sadly unite the two halves of Nigeria. Although the country has the fastest growing economy in Africa, huge parts of the population are classed as living in poverty. In 2014 statistics from the World Bank show that 46% of people in the country are still living under the poverty line. For the fastest growing country in Africa, how can that be?

Ripples works in rural villages in both the North and South and the pattern is unfortunately the same. Families have become so used to having the burden of poverty handed down to them for generations and the rural locations where they live often means that they have no access to electrical power, higher education, hospital care and the technology that people in the West take for granted.

Ripples is working to improve the facilities and resources for villagers in these rural locations in order to break that cycle of poverty. We kickstart Women’s Enterprise projects so that women can generate income from their own sustainable businesses, we offer free healthcare to whole villages, we train the youths how to use IT - all of which is contributing to making change happen in their lives and breaking the cycle of extreme poverty that has been handed to down to rural families for generations.

You can help us. The villages we support in Nigeria need your donations in order to keep growing and improving their standard of living.
Please donate today by visiting http://www.totalgiving.co.uk/charity/ripples-foundation

Alysha Bennett Web Developer

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Thank you for your continued support




Only 1 month after we hit 5,000 views on this blog, we have already reached 6,000! The numbers just keep on growing and we are so very grateful for your interest in the work that Ripples Foundation does for village women and youths in West Africa. So much happens on our projects that we always have something to write about, so do keep coming back here for more updates and new stories.

And of course, if you want to go one step further and show your support by donating to our projects, you would be very welcome! 

Please visit http://www.totalgiving.co.uk/charity/ripples-foundation and make change happen.
Alysha Bennett Web Developer

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Myths About Africa Debunked


There have been so many stories from Africa over the years (and not all good!), that often people tend to get the wrong idea about the continent. To those who have never visited, every story they hear about the place is used to piece together their perception of Africa.

From the light hearted Disney film The Lion King, to something as real and serious as South Africa’s apartheid, these stories make people begin to see a picture in their heads of the continent: herds of wild animals, corrupt governments and extreme poverty to name a few. Although some of these stories are true, there is so much more to Africa that meets the eye. We are here to debunk some of the myths that the media has perpetuated and attempt to show you the real Africa!

So here we go...

Myth 1: Africa is a country

You would think that one this goes without saying, but unfortunately this shocking myth is more common than you would like to think! Africa is definitely not a single country, it is a whole continent made up of 54 countries - each with their own history, languages and cultures. In fact, Africa is so big that the USA, China and India could all fit in there with room to spare!
Myth 2: Africa is just a desert that is hot and sunny all of the time.

Africa is a huge place, with many different climates and landscapes. In the North, in countries such as Egypt, Libya and Morocco the land is mostly covered by the Sahara Desert, making the climate very hot and dry. However in West and Central Africa, in countries such as Ivory Coast and Ghana, the landscape is dominated by jungles - creating a very humid atmosphere. In the East, in countries such as Kenya and Tanzania, the climate is surprisingly moderate but the landscape is so varied. The 2 biggest mountains in Africa are here, Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya, and also the world’s second biggest lake, Lake Victoria. Even during hot weather, you can look up to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and see snow! In the Southern coastal areas, such as in South Africa and Namibia, they experience Mediterranean temperatures due to being near to the sea, with similar seasons to Europe - hot summers and wet winters.


Myth 3: Everyone in Africa lives in poverty

While it is true that 40% of people in sub-Saharan Africa are living in poverty, huge parts of Africa are home to very wealthy people and cities with big building developments. Lagos, Nigeria is the largest city in Africa and one of the fastest growing cities in the world. South Africa is home to tourist hotspots such as Cape Town. Egypt boats fantastic monuments in cities such as Cairo and beach resorts in Sharm El Sheik. So you see, Africa isn’t all just mud huts! People seem to be surprised to find that African cities have concrete roads and as many buildings as London does. In the more rural areas of East Africa, thousands of tourists flock each year to go on safari, mensing that there are a number of luxury resorts available for those who want to experience the beauty of nature without having to camp in it! In terms of business opportunities, Africa is seen as the place to invest today - with a number of promising startups and a lot of land to spare for farming and production, the long term economic outlook for Africa can only be good.


Myth 4: Africa is full of wild animals

It is definitely not true that you when you walk down a street anywhere in Africa you are at risk of being chased by a lion or elephant. That is the equivalent of thinking that everyone in the USA lives in fear of grizzly bears! In fact most of Africa’s famous wildlife, including the big 5 of lions, elephants, cape buffalo, leopards and rhinoceros, are almost exclusively found in East and South Africa - living and hunting on the great plains or savannahs. These places are usually fenced off by the locals to stop wild animals coming into civilian areas.


Myth 5: Africa is full of diseases

The media has been the main culprit of spreading this myth, being full of news about the Ebola crisis, AIDs, malaria and many more. The high numbers of deaths in Africa from diseases unfortunately come from the high number of people living in poverty who do not have access to the proper healthcare and medication that they need to treat them. While diseases such as these do take millions of lives every year, if you are a tourist who has taken the correct vaccines against the common viruses then you should be absolutely fine. It is not as easy to catch a disease as the media would like you to think, so as long as you do not come into direct contact with anyone infected then you will come away unharmed. The most harm you are likely to come to if you holiday in Africa is getting a sunburn!


Myth 6: Africa has no access to technology

Africa is actually leading the world in some areas of technology! Due to the fact that modern technology came late to the continent, Africans are always coming up with ingenious ways to use the technology they do have to improve their lives. For instance, mobile banking in Nigeria is very common, and Africa looks to be the first place on earth to use solar power more than any other source of power. In 2013 it was reported that 80% of African people had access to a mobile phone. In fact many rural villagers use mobile phones to stay in contact with the outside world, for instance you can see Maasai people in Kenya and Tanzania using mobile phones to trade information about cattle prices.


However…

Whilst all of these myths have been proved wrong, there are still a large number of people living in rural Africa who are struggling and need your support. As their city dwelling counterparts benefit from growing economies and technological innovations, many villagers are barely getting by and living on just $1 a day in villages such as the one pictured below.


Ripples is working very hard to give village women a hand up out of extreme poverty by kickstarting small enterprises in their communities. Through microfinance and their own hard work, village women can become empowered and start generating income for themselves without having to rely on their husbands or fathers. Women’s Enterprise projects we have run in the past include Cocoa butter production, Shea butter production, fisheries and Moringa farms. Ripples gives these women a rare chance to establish businesses and provides them with training and assistance to ensure that they can continue the business themselves without the support of Ripples one day.

By continuing to empower groups of women in villages across Africa, we are spreading a ripple effect of sustainable growth and economic growth throughout communities and inspiring them to make change happen for themselves. We want to see a world where no-one is classed as living in extreme poverty: where mothers have enough money to feed and afford health care her children, where all children have access to a quality education, and where young girls have equal opportunities to succeed in their dreams.
























But we cannot achieve this without your help. We need your donations in order to continue delivering great projects such as these and proving the myths mentioned above wrong.



We also welcome anyone who wants to join us and see the real Africa for themselves to register as a volunteer for our projects on ground in Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana. Are you planning a Gap Year? Looking to intern at an international NGO? We want to hear from you!

Together we can make change happen.
Alysha Bennett Web Developer

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Friday, February 12, 2016

Introducing the Media Apprenticeship Programme in Kano


An exciting new project has started in Kano, Nigeria: the Media Apprenticeship Programme! Dr Abdurrahman and Dr Maryam, our brilliant volunteers, are heading the project which is part of the Youth Development Programme.

But first I hear you saying, what exactly is the Youth Development Programme?

Our Youth Development Programme was put in place as part of our mission to empower the African youth to make change happen in their communities. Through education and skills training, our aim is to inspire young people so they can develop a love for learning. With more educated youths, more and more people will grow up to become adults who can make a real difference in the world. No ambition should be too big, from pursuing careers as doctors and nurses, to becoming farmers and teachers. Everyone should have the right to an equal education. Once more and more young people can secure high paying jobs in a region, then they act as a beacon of inspiration for the next generation. Through the combined efforts of Ripples to empower youths and the youths’ efforts to work hard, we can break the cycle of poverty that has been a part of families for generations. In time, that ripple effect will spread to neighbouring villages, states and eventually contribute to the strengthening of a country's economy.

Currently we are seeking to empower youths through the following skills training programmes:

  • Media
  • IT

But back to the Media Apprenticeship Programme in Kano…



Alongside empowering the youth as a whole, we are specifically looking at empowering young girls in Kano through the Media Apprenticeship Programme, which links into our women empowerment projects that we have been running in West Africa since 2011.

Some young people that we have worked with during our time in West Africa come from relatively large families, often up to 10 or more children. Obviously parents of this number of children may struggle to ensure that all of them are given the best possible education.  All too often it is the daughters who miss out on a complete education, because they’ll be married off into a new family. Since they will be the ones having children of their own in the near future, it is essential that they are educated to the highest levels to serve as examples to be followed by their own daughters. By empowering the girl child, we can tap into the as yet unused resources that they can provide and spread a ripple effect of development across rural communities. 

Through the Media Apprenticeship Programme, we are able to inspire these young girls and encourage them to become entrepreneurs by using the skills they learn on the course. Once trained, they will be able to start up their own media businesses by becoming professional photographers at local events in their communities such as weddings, where men prefer that the photographer be a woman to capture those special moments such as the bride getting ready for a marriage ceremony.


Within the Media training course, the apprentices will take part in weekly lessons, practical sessions and tests to to meet the requirements of the course set up and managed by our office in the UK.

As part of their training, the apprentices attend Ripples project visits to the villages where we work in Kano State, giving them a rare chance to use the projects as a tool for learning , and to test and develop their media skills to shoot photos and videos in a real life working environment.

The girls who are participating in our course are just normal teenagers and young women, and we simply want to help them achieve their dreams. There is a lack of females working in the media industry in Kano and also in the other areas of West Africa where we work, so the aim of this programme is to offer young women the chance to really tap into a market that could help them earn money and start businesses themselves while Ripples help them grow. Without Ripples Foundation providing this programme, these young women would not have any opportunities like this in their communities. Our course leaders, Dr. Abdurrahman and Dr. Maryam are both busy Doctors who have committed to working with Ripples to make change happen in Kano state.  Although the opportunities that this programme offers are huge, it requires a demand of resources that are often difficult to source in the local environment. Ripples wants to make these opportunities available to more young girls in Kano, Nigeria, and Africa, but we need your support.



This programme’s success relies on your support. 

The current apprentices are part of a small group of girls who have this opportunity, but in the future we hope that it will be open to many more people, giving young women the rare chance to add to their education and develop the skills to open their own small businesses. We need your kind donations to ensure that we can continue to run programmes such as these for women in West Africa. Unfortunately the way that the world works means that it does cost money to be able to provide the apprentices with the proper camera equipment, but the rewards we can see at the end of the process are so worth it. 

At this time we have 6 young women enrolled and actively taking part on the course in Kano. Our aim is to provide the apprentices with a camera each to take home at the end of the course in recognition of their success and to give them a hand-up towards starting their own businesses. However we do not currently have the resources available to make this a reality. With your help and donations we will be able to make this happen!

Could you help our volunteers deliver this project? Do you have any contacts with a camera manufacturer that could be interested in making change happen? Are you a media professional based anywhere in the world, determined to impact someone’s life? Do you have any advice you could give our apprentices? If the answer is yes to any of those questions, please do get in touch via info@ripplesfoundation.ngo for more information.

Please donate what you can to http://www.totalgiving.co.uk/charity/ripples-foundation

YOU can make change happen.
Alysha Bennett Web Developer

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Emerging and Re-emerging Diseases: Zika Virus


In the group of viruses transmitted through mosquito bites, a new comer has arrived and has people talking about it all over the globe. This emerging virus is called Zika virus. It is related to Yellow fever, Dengue fever and Chikungunya viruses. Like its cousins, Zika virus is not a new virus, it has been present since several years ago. However, it has not shown its epidemic capacity until recently. The World Health Organisation has declared Zika virus a global health emergency.
Zika virus distribution in January 2016

Historical Background
Zika virus was first identified in 1947. Scientists researching for the presence of Yellow fever virus placed a sentinel monkey in a cage in the Zika forest of Uganda. The monkey developed a fever and a transmissible agent was isolated from its serum. This agent was described as Zika virus in 1952. Further studies revealed that humans carried antibodies against Zika virus. The virus was isolated from humans in Nigeria in 1954. Subsequent studies proved the presence of the virus in other African countries (such as Uganda, Tanzania, Central African Republic), as well as Asia (India, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and so on).
The Zika virus has since moved outside its area of origin, with outbreaks occurring in 2007 and 2013 in Yap Island and French Polynesia, respectively. The first cases in the Americas were detected in Brazil in May 2015. There are two lineages of the Zika virus: the African lineage, and the Asian lineage. The virus currently circulating in Brazil is the Asian genotype.
Even though the virus has been in existence for many years, it took the outbreak of 2007 for the world to realise the epidemic potential of the Zika virus.  A major outbreak occurred in Yap Island, Micronesia in 2007. This epidemic affected about 5,000 people. More recently, epidemics have occurred in Polynesia in 2013 with about 55,000 people being affected.
In 2007, there was an epidemic of Dengue fever and Chikungunya viruses in Libreville, Gabon. Researches carried out then, showed that the inhabitants of Libreville were infected with Zika virus with the same frequency as the other two viruses. This means that there was a simultaneous epidemic of Chikungunya, Dengue and Zika viruses in Gabon.


Transmission
Zika virus is transmitted among humans by mosquito bites. The implicated mosquito is the daytime-active Aedes mosquito, or tiger mosquito as it is most commonly referred to. Aedes mosquitoes are visually distinctive because they have noticeable black and white markings on their body and legs, hence the name, tiger mosquito. Unlike other mosquitoes, the Aedes mosquitoes are active and bite only during the daytime usually at dusk and dawn, except Aedes aegypti, which can bite at any time throughout the day.  Aedes albopictus was identified as the primary vector for Zika virus transmission in the Gabon epidemic of 2007.

The tiger mosquitoes breed in small bodies of stagnant water such as in broken bottles, abandoned used tires, tins, flowerpots and so on. The Aedes aegypti can breed indoors such as in toilet tanks. The mosquito vector has a wide geographical distribution. It was originally found in tropical and subtropical regions, but now found on all continents except Antarctica.
There has been a lot of confusion as to the modes of spread of the Zika virus. The reality is that research is still ongoing.
There has been an increased rate of birth defects in Brazil since the arrival of Zika virus in 2015. This implies that there is a strong possibility of the virus crossing the placenta to affect unborn babies. There has also been a confirmed case of sexually transmitted Zika virus in Dallas, Texas, USA. Studies done have also shown the presence of Zika virus in the semen of infected people. Brazil health officials recently confirmed that the virus can be passed on through blood transfusion, so officials have discouraged blood donation by infected individuals.


Symptoms
Most individuals infected experience mild or no symptoms. About 25% develop symptoms in 2 to 10 days after infection, including rash (exanthem), fever, joint pain, red eyes and headache. Recovery is usually complete and fatalities are rare.
There are two conditions associated with Zika virus infection that have made the outbreak potentially more serious. Congenital microcephaly is a condition of abnormal smallness of the head which is associated with incomplete brain development. This condition has been associated with Zika virus infection in Brazil. While there are many other causes of microcephaly, there has been a surge in the number of cases during the current Zika virus outbreak in Brazil. Tests carried out on the amniotic fluid of pregnant women with microcephalic fetuses  has tested positive for Zika virus. Scientists at Centre for Disease Control and Prevention have also found Zika virus in the brains of 2 babies with the condition who have died within 24hours of birth. Whether or not Zika virus is responsible for the birth defect is not known.
Zika virus is also said to be associated with the development of Gullain-BarrŅ syndrome (GBS). This is a rapid-onset muscle weakness as a result of damage to the nervous system. The disorder can be life-threatening when the paralysis involves muscles of respiration. There is no clear evidence that the virus causes GBS but the Brazil Ministry of Health has reported increased number of GBS since the appearance of the Zika virus.
Treatment and Control
There is no specific treatment for Zika virus infection. Management involves treatment of symptoms. Patients are advised to get plenty of rest and stay hydrated by taking plenty of fluids. Drugs can be given to eliminate fever and to treat pain.
There are currently no antiviral drugs or vaccines for Zika infection. There is a safe and effective vaccine against a related virus, the yellow fever virus. Genetic modification can be a good approach to making a vaccine. However, testing of such a candidate might require extensive researches that can take years.
The only option to control the spread of the virus is through vector control. Mosquito control is of public health importance to manage the population of mosquitoes so as to reduce the damage to human health. This involves the use of long-sleeved clothing to reduce insect bite, use of insect repellents, mosquito netting, and the use of various types of pesticide sprays. Source reduction involves environmental sanitation and eliminating stagnant water thereby eradicating breeding sites of mosquitoes.
Child in a slum in Kampala (Uganda) next to an open sewer - Photo by I. Jurga https://www.flickr.com/photos/gtzecosan/3110617133
Biocontrol can also be used which involves a direct introduction of parasite pathogens or animal predators that target mosquitoes. For example, mosquitofish and tilapia which feed on the mosquito larvae; dragon flies, lizards and geckos which feed on adult mosquitoes.


Final Words

Zika virus is an old virus that is newly emerging which has great epidemic potentials. It is a disease of public health importance as it has a wide geographical distribution occurring in all the continents of the world except Antarctica. It produces symptoms similar to its cousins Dengue fever virus and Chikungunya virus but in the milder form. Unlike its relatives, Zika virus can be sexually transmitted. There is concern due to the risk of poor brain development in unborn babies. It is time to launch an all assault war on these pesky little insects that have destroyed more human lives than all the terrorist groups combined!
Ripples' Medical MOT Programme gives people living in rural villages in Nigeria the rare chance to receive medical treatment from our team of medical professionals, so they can have check-ups and even be diagnosed with illnesses that they may not have even been aware of. For many, the nearest hospital is inaccessible and so they and their children often suffer from easily treatable conditions.
Rural Africans desperately need your help. With limited healthcare, they are most at risk from epidemics such as the Zika virus. We are so lucky to be able to treat our illness with the advice of our local doctors, but for rural villagers this is currently not an option. Your donation can help us improve the healthcare facilities for thousands of people in the villages that we operate in and save lives in the process. Please visit http://www.totalgiving.co.uk/appeal/medicalmot and make change happen.

*Dr Maryam Nasir Aliyu is currently volunteering with Ripples Foundation and using her medical experience to help us deliver Medical MOT events to communities in Kano State as well as training media apprentices in Kano as part of the Youth Development Programme. 
Dr Maryam Nasir Aliyu Web Developer

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