Enticing Pregnant Women With ‘Baby Pictures’


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):

Continue reading “Enticing Pregnant Women With ‘Baby Pictures’”

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. 

  • Yesterday, Oct. 23, the International Crisis Group issued a brief calling on the Supreme Court to delay the election for at least 30 days.
  • 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.

Continue reading “Suspense in Kenya’s 2017 Election Re-run”

Run-Up to Kenya’s Election 2017

Kenyan Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Director, Chris Msando, addresses a news conference 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.* 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.

Continue reading “Run-Up to Kenya’s Election 2017”

Say It Ain’t So, Joe

Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is supposed to leave office today, but he has refused to hold elections and seems intent on staying put. This article in African Arguments, by two researchers at The International Crisis Group, looks at the country’s difficult economic state, which ICG calls both a cause and consequence of political instability.

N.B. My dissertation advisor would yell about putting a single variable on both sides of the equation.

Gambia Election 2016


The West African country of The Gambia held an election last Friday. To everyone’s great surprise, the incumbent president lost. Adama Barrow defeated the autocratic Yahya Jammeh, who seized power in a coup 22 years ago.

“As returns coming in from major regions clearly indicated that he was going to lose, [incumbent president] Mr. Jammeh asked his key advisers to annul the votes… He then gathered at the statehouse his top military security advisers, police officers and intelligence officials and asked for their support to discredit the vote. The officers told him that chaos would break out if they did so.”

The Gambia, which is around the size of Delaware, is surrounded by Senegal and has a population of approximately 2 million people. Election coverage appears in Al Jazeera and the New York Times, among other places. NYT’s coverage is unusually in-depth for such a small African country.

So, hooray for the first electoral change in power in Gambia’s history! Ghana, a bigger, richer, better governed country in West Africa, votes on Wednesday.

Styrofoam Homes

Go figure: Folks are trying out styrofoam homes in Kajiado District in Kenya. They’re apparently economical, pleasantly insulated, and environmentally friendly in a timber-poor environment.

To make houses, polystyrene foam is sandwiched between two slabs of steel wire mesh. Once these have been joined together, they are sprayed with cement to support and strengthen the walls.

The tiny air bubbles trapped in the foam mean polystyrene houses can control climatic conditions better than buildings made of timber or concrete. Because air is a poor conductor of heat, the house stays cool when external temperatures are high and warm when it is cold outside.

A little internet searching reveals that such construction isn’t new: there’s a polystyrene panel manufacturer that’s been operating since at least 2012.

(Photo courtesy of Koto Housing Kenya)

Yellow Fever (Not) in the News

There’s currently a  yellow fever outbreak in Angola that is wildly under-reported. The Economist makes this remark about the disease that really struck me:

“It occupies a strange place on the spectrum of infectious tropical diseases. Not as important as malaria. Not as terrifying as Ebola. Not as revolting as elephantiasis. Yet yellow fever is a grave illness, incurable once contracted. It kills 80,000 Africans a year. And that is a scandal, both because it can be prevented by a single inoculation and also because yellow fever now risks spreading to Asia, where it has never before taken hold.”

(Image courtesy of ZEISS/R. Heinzen, E. Fischer, and A. Mora/Flickr)

Published! Perceptions Affect Conservation

An article that Elizabeth King and I co-authored has been published in Ecology & Society! It’s called Kenyan Pastoralist Societies in Transition and it talks about the role that perceptions of scarcity play in people’s decisions about how to use natural resources (pdf here). Not surprisingly, when people don’t perceive a resource as scarce, they’re less likely to conserve it!