Archive for August, 2007

On holiday

I am going to Nepal for three weeks. So no more blogging until then.

Jungle 1, Tim 0. Idiots, Doctors and Nurses

In nearly fifty years of work, VSO has sent tens of thousands of volunteers to placements around the world, and inevitably, there have been accidents and some fatalities. Typically these are road – related, although someone did die of Rabies a few years ago. It’s not something we ever really think about; but at the same time you don’t want to add to the statistic. However, I’m not sure how it would look if ‘fell down a waterfall’ got included in the VSO ‘deaths during service’ book. It might be hard to be sympathetic, and an observer might rather just wonder what a total moron that person must have been.

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A new proposal to alleviate poverty in Bangladesh

[This has been cross-posted at Drishtipat here]

Please download the Rickshaw-Development-proposal.pdf

The challenge was to propose an idea which would have the greatest impact on poverty alleviation in Bangladesh. After nine months of living and working in the country as volunteers, my colleague Thomas Wipperman and I realised that the answer was all around us. There are many marginalised groups in Bangladesh; indigenous people, farmers afflicted by the Monga famines, HIV sufferers – but they compromise a tiny minority in a country of over 145 million. When the purpose of intervention is to reach as many people as possible at the lowest end of the social scale, the stand-out constituency is the rickshaw pullers. Rickshaw pullers are the essential cogs in Bangladesh’s machine. And they deserve better.

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The Chittagong Hill Tracts

One of the benefits of VSO is that you can go and work in other areas of the country if a partner NGO has a particular need for some work that you’re able to do for them. It’s similar to a mini-secondment system. And so last month I left Sylhet for two weeks and went to work with some other indigenous community rights NGOs on their IT systems. This normally would be astonishingly boring, except these NGOs are based in the dangerous, treacherous, primitive and absolutely wonderful Chittagong Hill Tracts.

 

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Human Rights Watch letter to Bangladesh

Put better than anyone else can:

Bangladesh: Protecting Rights as Vital as Ending Corruption

(New York, August 1, 2007) – The Bangladeshi government should take the protection of human rights as seriously as the fight against corruption, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the chief advisor of the Caretaker Government of Bangladesh (http://hrw.org/english/docs/2007/08/01/bangla16556.htm). The letter addresses problems of extrajudicial killings, torture, and arbitrary arrests.

For additional Human Rights Watch reporting on Bangladesh, please visit:

· Bangladesh country page: http://www.hrw.org/doc?t=asia&c=bangla

· “Judge, Jury, and Executioner: Torture and Extrajudicial Killings by Bangladesh’s Elite Security Force,” December 2006: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2006/bangladesh1206/

· Bangladesh chapter of Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2007: http://hrw.org/englishwr2k7/docs/2007/01/11/bangla14864.htm

For more information, please contact:

In London, Brad Adams: +44-790-872-8333 (mobile), or adamsb@hrw.org

In India, Meenakshi Ganguly: +91-9820036032 (mobile), or gangulm@hrw.org

Floods in Bangladesh

‘The Inheritance of Loss’, which won this year’s Booker prize is set in northern India, and there’s a scene around p.170 where one of the characters, an aging snob is reading a paper during monsoon season, and idly remarks that ‘the Bangladeshis are up their trees again’. I didn’t like the book, but that line of mild racism did stand out amidst the otherwise meandering pomposity. I didn’t think it was serious though.

 

However, the rain really has been coming down across South Asia and especially in Bangladesh this week, causing hundreds of deaths and millions of people to be stranded, and losing everything. Bangladesh in the rainy season has more surface water than the whole of Europe, but now half the country is submerged and it’s apparently going to get worse before it gets better.

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