Rural Clinics Entice Pregnant Women With ‘Baby Pictures’ (NYT)

Bridge to Health Medical & Dental, via New York Times.

This tickles my happy bone, if there is such a thing. A clever way to draw women to prenatal care and serve a larger public health purpose (including preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV): tapping into expectant moms’ desire to “see” their developing baby.

From the New York Times (by Donald G. McNeil, Jr., published 11/10/17):

“Getting women into medical care when they are only a few months pregnant is a top priority of public health officials, because simple interventions often save the lives of both mother and child. Early treatment for H.I.V., syphilis and high blood pressure, as well as vaccines like tetanus and vitamins like folic acid, can make enormous differences in whether mother and baby survive the birth…

“A group of Canadian doctors is pioneering what appears to be a very effective way to entice rural African mothers to visit clinics long before their due dates. They offered ultrasounds advertised on local radio with the words: “You will be able to see your baby.”

“The medical charity Bridge to Health Medical and Dental tested the concept in the highlands of southwest Uganda in 2014. Their study, published by PLOS One this year, found that when doctors set up temporary clinics in rural villages, six times as many pregnant women visited when free ultrasounds were advertised, compared with the turnout in villages where the ultrasounds were not offered or were advertised only by word of mouth.

“Women who previously had seen only traditional healers were nine times more likely to show up if the ultrasounds were advertised. “It’s magic to be able to see your unborn baby,” said Dr. Michael S. Silverman, an infectious disease specialist at Western University in London, Canada, and a study co-author.

“The ultrasound scanners in the study cost $10,000 new or $2,500 refurbished, said Dr. William Cherniak, the executive director of Bridge to Health and another co-author. They are battery-powered, do 40 scans per charge, and can survive bouncing along rutted dirt roads. The group hopes to test inexpensive new scanners that plug directly into smartphones; the technician can view the fetus on the phone and transmit the image to a radiologist anywhere in the world, Dr. Cherniak said.”

Suspense in Kenya’s 2017 Election Re-run

This is a brief update on the the status of Kenya’s presidential election re-run, which is scheduled for Thursday, October 26. Here are two main facts to know, followed by a little more background information. 

  1. Yesterday, Oct. 23, the International Crisis Group issued a brief that called on the Supreme Court to delay the election for at least 30 days.
  2. Today, Oct. 24, the Supreme Court announced it will hold a hearing about the election. It will do so tomorrow, the day before the scheduled national vote.

Brief background: On September 1, the Kenyan Supreme Court overturned the election of Uhuru Kenyatta in the two-round presidential vote in August. The court mandated a re-run of the poll because of irregularities in the vote counting process (and not because of any particular finding of cheating). Kenyatta, who’s the incumbent, is widely expected to win. 

The re-run process has been politicized and very contentious. Kenya’s legislature has changed the law to limit the Supreme Court’s ability to overturn elections in the future. A member of the electoral commission has fled to the US in fear for her safety. Probably most importantly, the main opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, says he will not participate in the new vote, which is, again, scheduled the day after tomorrow, because of concerns it will merely repeat the previous procedural problems. 

You can read the Crisis Group’s note here. Here’s a direct cut-and-paste of its Executive Summary:

  • “What’s happening?  On 26 October, Kenya is scheduled to hold repeat presidential elections following the Supreme Court’s annulment of the previous vote held on 8 August. Proceeding in current conditions risks escalating the political crisis.
  • “Why is the vote contentious?  President Uhuru Kenyatta says he is ready for the vote, while opposition leader Raila Odinga refuses to participate, citing the lack of electoral reform since 8 August. The election commission chairman has said that he cannot deliver a credible election on 26 October.
  • “Why does it matter?  The risk of clashes between rival supporters or between security forces and protesters seeking to block the vote is high. New violence would be devastating for Kenya, the economic hub of East Africa.
  • “What should be done? The election commission chairman should petition the Supreme Court for an election postponement of 30 to 45 days, which would permit a delay without violating the constitution. All parties should contest the new vote, accept the outcome or pursue complaints through the courts.”

Here is the New York Times’s note on the newly-scheduled Supreme Court session:

Jina Moore is the new NYT correspondent in Nairobi. African political science Twitter views her as a big improvement on the previous journalist. So do I.

As always, I’m hoping for a peaceful, life-saving, and just resolution to the political uncertainty.

Personal Reflections after Charlottesville

I wrote this post for Small Stones last month. -E


Resist! Protesting the Ku Klux Klan. Photo by Ézé Amos.

In another part of my life, I help run a newsletter of social justice events. There’s a joint Jewish-Muslim event coming, and yesterday I received an email that read, in part, “The Palo Alto Police Department recommends not putting it on social media, so we are refraining from that.” And I’m, like, “Let’s advertise it! Bring on the white supremacists! Let them show their faces.” I’m not going to do that, but a substantial part of me wants to.

Folks should know: Jewish people (me. my family.) attend synagogue under armed guard in California. I grew up attending a Bay Area synagogue burnt down by white supremacists two years before my birth. Our Holocaust-survivor Cantor was injured trying to rescue the Torahs. The texts are considered holy, so they are buried and memorialized in the synagogue courtyard, for everyone to see. When I was 10, the synagogue was grafitti’d with swastikas. I never liked going to temple very much, and still don’t. I carry around the feeling, “Really? You want me to deal with this sh*t in the name of something I’m not sure I believe?” with the competing feeling of, “I’ll be damned if some bigoted jerks are going to change my behavior.”

I’m not scared, I’m angry. Incandescent, actually. Black, brown, Muslim, and immigrant lives matter. Yes, all lives matter, but especially the ones that face daily targeting and could use some extra moral support and physical protection.

Continue reading “Personal Reflections after Charlottesville”

The Run-Up to Kenya’s 2017 Election

Kenyan Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Director, Chris Msando, addresses a news conference at the commission’s headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, July 6, 2017. Msando was murdered a few days ago.  Photo by Thomas Mukoya. Original here.

Kenya votes for a new President next week.[1] Elections are contentious in Kenya. My abrupt departure from field research in December 2008, after a scary evening listening to gunshots, was related to the presidential election later in the month.

The 2008 election was followed by 1,000+ deaths and an ethnic “unmixing” of the country, in which ~600,000 people move more or less permanently to areas where their own ethnic group is in the majority. Basically, when ethnic identity becomes salient (in this case, via the move to murder folks simply for being the “wrong” ethnicity), people feel they have to be with “their own kind” in order to be physically safe.

Three days ago, this happened:

Kenya election official tortured, murdered before vote, officials say: A senior Kenyan election official was found murdered on Monday, three days after he went missing, poll officials said.

Another article about the killing, from VOA, notes that “the nationwide vote is one week away, and the organization of the elections has been a source of tension during the past year. Msando was to oversee the use of biometric voter technology.”

Another related set of events has been happening over the last year as well. The run-up to an election is a time that politicians and citizens make “moves” to grab new benefits, in hopes that after the election, newly-elected leaders will allow them to keep what they grabbed. This article uses the area where I did my dissertation research, Laikipia, to illustrate a larger point about conflict associated with land pressure:

Loss of Fertile Land Fuels ‘Looming Crisis’ Across Africa — Climate change, soil degradation and rising wealth are shrinking the amount of usable land in Africa. But the number of people who need it is rising fast.

I’ve met some of the pastoralist families (herders) and white landowners mentioned in the article. (N.B. I’m not usually a fan of Jeffrey Gettleman’s articles and don’t generally recommend him as a resource. I think this article is reasonable, though.)



It gives a sense of the “stew” of problems in the area–and in various other parts of the continent–all of which are difficult and inter-related. Among them: colonialism, bad policy, land degradation, greed, and on and on (e.g. weak property rights, climate-change-exacerbated drought, population growth, collective action problems, election-year politics).

It’s heartbreaking and infuriating—and it goes without saying that the most vulnerable suffer the most (kids, impoverished families, etc.).

[1] I’ve previously written about Kenyan elections, including the 2008 presidential election when things got really violent (here, here, here, here, and here); in 2010 when they amended their constitution; and in the 2013 presidential election (here and here).

Election 2016 and My Grandmother

“Institutions are just habits. They’re nothing. When they’re broken, they’re broken.”

[This post originally appeared on July 14, 2017 on the Small Stones blog.] Eva Kaye-Zwiebel is a co-founder of Small Stones. In June she attended a Voice of Witness oral history workshop, where she talked about the 2016 presidential election against the background of her grandmother’s life. She told this story in an interview, which we’ve edited to create a first person narrative.

Eva on Nov. 8, 2016 after casting her vote.

My brother was at my house on Election Day, November 8, 2016, when a giant box arrived from my Cousin Nancy. I looked at it and thought, “What the heck is this?” As we were opening it, I remembered Nancy had told me she had the steamer trunk Manna used to move from Germany to the United States. I’d said Nancy could send it to me. Manna was my grandmother. Her name was Marianne, German for Mary Ann. When she was little she called herself ‘Manna’ because she couldn’t pronounce her own name, and that became the family variation on grandma.

Before the election my brother and I talked a little. My reputation is as the professional worrier in the family and I didn’t want to dump too much of that on him. He knew I was worried and that I had gone to Nevada to knock on doors because I didn’t have a good feeling about the election. I wanted to be able to say I’d done what I reasonably could.

The box was absolutely empty. It’s an empty wooden crate. I guess I expected a more finished trunk. The wood is raw, like, ‘be careful when you touch it, you might get a splinter.’ It has metal hinges and a place to put a lock on it. It’s maybe three feet by eighteen inches by twenty inches. It’s sturdy. It has Hamburg Line stickers on it and the address she was going to in Harrison, New York.

Manna’s trunk on Nov. 8, 2016.

I laughed when we opened the box because it was too ‘neat’ for it to arrive the day of the election. Manna left Germany in 1935, and this is the trunk. If it happened in a story, you’d get mad and throw the book because it’s too neat.

Manna was a force of nature, and she was grumpy. I think she was like that before her country fell apart and the whole family left. But she left early; she was one of those people. She was in medical school in Switzerland and, if I remember my history right, the Nuremburg laws or some of Hitler’s legislation went into effect in Switzerland before it did in Germany. She had to leave school because she was Jewish. As a result, she looked around and said, “This is not the place for me. This is not going to go well.” And she up and left before the family. She ended up getting her US citizenship the week before Pearl Harbor. Of course then Germans couldn’t get it and my grandfather was an enemy alien in Los Angeles during World War II.

Continue reading “Election 2016 and My Grandmother”

New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, and Acknowledging History

Original image at
Baldcypress trees can be found along the Bayou Coquille Trail at the Barataria Preserve. Credit: National Park Service.

On Friday, May 19, Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans gave a speech marking the removal of Confederate leaders’ statues from prominent city sites. His words strike me as the sort of thoughtful, nuanced words of persuasion and loving critique that the United States needs. I’m not a Southerner, but I hope I could ‘take in’ analogous words on the issues where I have blind spots. The text of Mayor Landrieu’s speech, below, is from the Times-Picayune newspaper’s website.


“Thank you for coming.

The soul of our beloved City is deeply rooted in a history that has evolved over thousands of years; rooted in a diverse people who have been here together every step of the way — for both good and for ill. It is a history that holds in its heart the stories of Native Americans — the Choctaw , Houma Nation, the Chitimacha. Of Hernando de Soto, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the Acadians, the Islenos, the enslaved people from Senegambia, Free People of Colorix, the Haitians, the Germans, both the empires of France and Spain. The Italians, the Irish, the Cubans, the south and central Americans, the Vietnamese and so many more.

You see, New Orleans is truly a city of many nations, a melting pot, a bubbling cauldron of many cultures. There is no other place quite like it in the world that so eloquently exemplifies the uniquely American motto: e pluribus unum—out of many, we are one. But there are also other truths about our city that we must confront. New Orleans was America’s largest slave market: a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were bought, sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor of misery of rape, of torture. America was the place where nearly 4,000 of our fellow citizens were

Continue reading “New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, and Acknowledging History”

Waltzing Mathilda

Making memories with some favorite kids

Tomorrow, I’m leaving on a 2-plus week vacation. I’ll visit my brother and his wife in London and then meet my second cousins at Heathrow for a trip to Australia. I’m accompanying them as a ‘mother’s helper’—because they have four little girls aged 10, 7, and twins who are 3. The eldest was my first baby: she was a toddler in Cambridge when my now-husband had a postdoc there. Now, her baby sisters are older than she was at the time! I’m looking forward to making memories with these four young people.

Me and little Hazel

.smallstones. repost: Migra Watch

.small stones.


This is a personal post. Yesterday, I, Eva, participated in the first post-election event that made me feel potentially useful — beyond marching, phoning, or attending a meeting. I am sharing in case you want to look for similar opportunities. The event was a 2-hour training to be a witness to ICE immigration raids.

Community groups in Santa Clara County, California, are setting up a rapid response network that will have its soft launch this week: a hotline for undocumented immigrants, and their family and friends, to call if ICE shows up at the door. A dispatcher will answer the phone, guide the caller through his/her rights, and text a network of citizen-witnesses who will come to the site of the raid to document it.

Here’s how my event was advertised:

Come learn how you can be a rapid responder so that we can respond to calls from community members…

View original post 301 more words

.smallstones. repost: About the Rage You May Feel

Featured Image -- 2658

.small stones.

Fridays are good days to cut yourself some slack and enjoy the approach of the weekend. In that spirit, we thought you might enjoy this easy read, “Embrace Authenticity: How to Break Free from the Tyranny of Positivity.

The article is a conversation between psychologist Susan David and Maria Shriver. We urge you not to get hung up on the participants or the jargony language of “authenticity” and “resilience”. Just be reminded that feelings can’t be wrong.

Instead of struggling with whether we should or shouldn’t feel something, it’s important for us to say, “What is the function of this emotion? What is the value [it represents]? What is this emotion trying to tell me?”

Within that, it’s important for us to recognize that our emotions are data, not directions. Because you feel guilty doesn’t mean you need to feel guilty. Because you feel angry doesn’t mean you…

View original post 270 more words