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Musicians Battle Malaria; Head of UNICEF Retires; Maasai Chief Educates His People About HIV/AIDS

Aired March 26, 2005 - 12:30:00   ET


TUMI MAKGABO, HOST: The power of people; African musicians gather in Dakar to use their creativity to help change their world and eradicate a deadly disease.
A Liberian doctor turns his passion into progress for his home and homeland.

As her responsibility of looking out for the world's children nears an end, Carol Bellamy gauges the stage of the continent's children.

And AIDS prevention, once step at a time, how one Maasai leader is working to make a world of difference.

These stories and more ahead on this edition of INSIDE AFRICA.

Hello. And as always, good to have you join us. I'm Tumi Makgabo.

Musicians from across the continent gathered recently to lift their voices and fight. They performed in a two-day concert in Dakar, Senegal to encourage their fellow Africans to protect themselves against malaria a disease which kills a child every 30-seconds.


MAKGABO (voice-over): Paris based rapper Lady Lefty keeping the nearly 40,000 fans on their feet. "What if I tell you my brothers that I love you? What if I tell you, you are irreplaceable?" She raps the message protect yourself against the deadly disease malaria. This is what the stars set out to do during this two-day concert, raise money and create awareness that deaths from malaria are preventable.

And this is the man behind the event, Senegalese superstar, Youssou N'dour.

YOUSSOU N'DOUR, SENEGALESE SUPERSTAR: Africans, you know, doesn't make important how (UNINTELLIGBLE) the of malaria. And when you talk to someone here, they say, "I have malaria. See you tomorrow." And they didn't know how important we can die in the next hour.

MAKGABO: The list of performers reads like a who's who in African music: Salif Keita, Baaba Maal, Angelique Kidjo, and Rokia Traore among others. For many, their inspirations drawn from personal experience.

ANGELIQUE KIDJO, BENINESE ARTIST: Growing up in Africa and feeling rot because you loose your friends from school. The next morning, the table next to you is empty. It's takes a huge toll.

MAKGABO: A huge toll indeed. The World Health Organization, or WHO, estimates that one million people in Africa die of malaria each year. It's the No. 1 killer of children under the age of five. And the most effective drug is not accessible to the majority of those who need it.

In recent years, the WHO has been promoting the use of Coartem, produced from a Chinese herb by Swiss pharmaceutical Lovartis. But Coartem is far more expensive than the most commonly used drug, chloroquine, which is becoming less resistant to the malaria parasite.

Many of the artists who took part in the concert joined the WHO in promoting the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets. And the day before the event, they traveled to the village of Guereo, about 100 kilometers from Dakar to give away some 2,000 nets. But even making the nets available is a challenge; they're usually sold, and many like those in Guereo can't afford them.

JEFFREY SACHS, U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY: But malaria still hasn't been controlled despite its importance, because we've been trying to sell things to people that have money. We have to give bed nets, give medicine to people who don't money so that they can be healthy enough to start earning money.

MAKGABO: Back in Dakar, the African stars hope that the fans, who packed this stadium to see them sing, would come away more prepared to use whatever means available to protect themselves against malaria. They're also hoping to get the international community to provide more support for the battle against the disease.

And after two nights of thrilling performances, these artists believe that somehow they've made a lasting contribution to saving the lives on the continent that's so much apart of their lives.


MAKGABO: Well, the problem of malaria certainly not new to the continent. They've always been efforts to prevent infection. But what kind of progress is being made through the decades?

Well, we put that question to the policymaker for the World Health Organization, Allan Schapira, who spoke with us from Geneva.


ALLAN SCHAPIRA, COORDINATOR, WHO POLICY: Yes, I think it's a good question. When we look at the situation in Africa on the ground, it's only during the last very few years that we've seen significant progress. We now have data on the coverage of insecticide-treated nets from the year 2000. At that time, the coverage of insecticide-treated nets, which is the best method of protection in Africa, was only around 2 percent.

And data from 2004 indicates that we have countries at 5 percent, several countries at 20 -- 10 percent, and some at 20 to 30 percent. So we are probably on the average around 15 percent. So we are now beginning to see a very important scale up, especially of insecticide-treated nets.

MAKGABO (on camera): The numbers that you say, even though they are a significant improvement from the situation earlier, they still only very low. Twenty percent is still a lot. You're still dealing with children dying every 30-seconds of malaria.

SCHAPIRA: We are absolutely still far from the target. But the important thing is that we have now cut into a dynamic that we needed to be in, that we really should have been in before.

But the fact is the international community talked a lot about malaria around 2000, but did very little. And really major investments from the international community have only started to come in for malaria control in Africa from 2002, when the Global Fund to Fight TB, AIDS and Malaria started to operate. And that was just the start of operations. The actual flow of the commodities to the countries has basically started in 2003.

But we have a long way to go. We'd like to reach 60 percent coverage as soon as possible and 80 percent coverage in 2010. So we need very concerted action now. But with the increased funding and the understanding of the need to provide the basic commodities, free of charge to people, there is really reason for optimism now.

MAKGABO: You point out that there is a need for commitment, sustained commitment from the international community. How much of a commitment are you getting from local governments themselves? How determined are they to stick with this program, even though it may cost money?

SCHAPIRA: They are determined. When you see the progress that has been made, for example in terms of coverage of insecticide-treated nets, in terms of access to better treatment, the progress that has started that can only start with the involvement of the health work forces of these countries. That involvement would not be possible without the strong support of governments and communities. It cannot be done only with foreign investments.

So we are seeing the commitment. And I am quite sure now in the next two to three years we will really see the reduction of malaria burden in some countries. And that, of course, will galvanize even more both the local and the international commitment.

MAKGABO: You've alluded to it a little before during our conversation, but perhaps you can give us more specific timeframes, deadlines, dates that you would like to see reached in the next coming years, five years for example.

SCHAPIRA: Yes. I think that we are now looking towards the 2010 horizon. And what we would like to see is that by 2010 we will reach 80 percent coverage levels for three basic interventions, especially in Africa. Namely: insecticide treated nets, which should be used by young children and pregnant women; intermittent and preventive treatments, which is a very good intervention for pregnant women; and finally, the use of effective artemisinin and base combination therapy for the malaria attacks that will still occur.

It's a big ticket but we know how to organize things. We are now beginning to see the scale of a funding. It should be possible.


MAKGABO: An excerpt from a conversation earlier this week with WHO policy coordinator Allan Schapira.

Now, if you do have access to the internet and would like to go online to read up a little bit more about the fight on malaria, go to our website is where you need to be. While you're there, do remember to take part in our "Quick Vote" on the subject. That address for you once again,

And still to come on the program, after a decade of service to the world's children, UNICEF's chief is preparing to step down. Her legacy and what still remains to be done on the continent, that's coming up after the break.

Hello, I'm Tumi Makgabo. This just in to CNN, former British Prime Minister Lord Callaghan has died. Lord Callaghan held four major offices of state: prime minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer, foreign secretary and home secretary. His death came just 11 days after the death of his wife of 67, Audrey. Lord Callaghan was 92.


MAKGABO: Welcome back.

A one-time student activist in Liberia now makes his home in the United States. But Dr. Dougbeh Nyan's heart still belongs to his homeland.

CNN's Denise Belgrave spoke with him about some of the groundbreaking work he's doing and what he hopes to do for Liberia.


DENISE BELGRAVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dr. Dougbeh Nyan is passionate about two things: science and his native homeland Liberia.

DR. DOUGBEH NYAN, UNIV. OF PENN. MED. CTR.: I would like living in Liberia because there I was born, there I was raised and there I come from. And it's -- I am always homesick.

BELGRAVE: He's been homesick for a long time, more than 15 years.

NYAN: I, in particular, was exiled as a result of the last student crisis in 1988 because I was a student leader.

BELGRAVE: A student leader, as well as a promising pre-med candidate. So he left Liberia. He moved to Leipzig, Germany. He learned to speak German in just one year and went on to study medicine at the Humboldt University of Berlin. Dr. Nyan says he's grateful for the opportunities that studying abroad gave him. But he never forgot where he came from.

NYAN: I play a very significant role in one of the political institutions there, which is the New Deal Movement of Liberia.

BELGRAVE: The New Deal, Nyan's party, will be part of Liberia's upcoming general election. But in addition to his political aspirations, Nyan has been pursuing scientific ones. While working for the National Institutes of Health in Washington, he led a project that devised an entirely new method for diagnosing stomach ulcers.

(on camera): Up until now, there were only three methods of diagnosing a stomach ulcer. And all three were invasive. The first, an endoscopy requires that this small camera be inserted through the mouth and down into the stomach. A second procedure is multiple blood tests. But those can sometimes bring back a false positive result during treatment. And the final invasive procedure requires the patient to drink radioactive material.

(voice-over): Nyan's new method is not invasive, it tests stool samples for DNA code from the bacteria that causes stomach ulcers. This breakthrough diagnostic method is awaiting patent approval.

Nyan credits his success both in the lab and on the political stage to the influence of his parent and his mentor at the NIH.

NYAN: Naturally, I'm a persevering kind of person. But that was reinforced and -- yes. I think that was one of the most important things, courage. Right. And those things my parents also taught me from the beginning, persevere, be courageous.

BELGRAVE: And it's those characteristics that have brought this exiled student activists turned politician, research fellow and doctor, along way from home.

Denise Belgrave, CNN, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


MAKGABO: Now for 10 years, Carol Bellamy has worked to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people in the world; it's children. Bellamy's term at UNICEF is coming to an end. She'll be leaving the organization April 1.

Our Johannesburg bureau chief Charlayne Hunter-Gault caught up with her during a recent visit to South Africa.


CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT, CNN JOHANNESBURG BUREAU CHIEF: A familiar face in Africa. For the past 10 years, Carol Bellamy has criss-crossed the continent trying to help its children. The poverty stricken, in places like Ethiopia, the war ravaged in places like Darfur, and everywhere the victims of AIDS. The millions of infected, the millions of orphans.

CAROL BELLAMY, EXEC. DIRECTOR, UNICEF: What I leave worrying the most about is how much over of the 10 years, two things that existed 10 years ago but weren't having the impact that they're having now. And that is war and AIDS. HIV-AIDS existed 10 years ago, but the scale and the impact of HIV and AIDS, not just in Africa; it's a global disaster of that out expands any kind of tsunami that anybody would ever experience.

HUNTER-GAULT: Bellamy says you have to look beyond children to appreciate the depth of the impact on them.

BELLAMY: When one talks about the impact on children, the loss of other critical adults, like teachers, health workers. The loss of adults who would otherwise have some impact on their lives.

HUNTER-GAULT: Bellamy says she's most distressed by the rise in child's mortality, a whopping 50 percent increase during her 10 years.

BELLAMY: In other words, the number of children dying before the age of five, and this could be the result of many things: lack of being immunized, not having access to clean water, diarrhea leading to dehydration, severe malnutrition.

In other words, the number of children dying before the age of five, and this could be the result of many things: lack of being immunized, not having access to clean water, diarrhea leading to dehydration, severe malnutrition.

HUNTER-GAULT: But Bellamy also points to what she calls bad governance in places like Zimbabwe.

BELLAMY: This is a country that was vaccine independent. It bought its own vaccines. It was able to do its own immunization. It's not able to do that now. So it's been a deteriorating situation, in part because of the governance.

HUNTER-GAULT (on camera): Many of the problems in Zimbabwe would ordinarily be no worse than in surrounding countries, Bellamy says. But per capita donor assistance to those countries, she says is about $70. In Zimbabwe it's about four.

BELLAMY: You want to understand governance is the problem. I mean bad governance is bad for children. Good governance is good for children. But to take out the bad governance concerns on children, which is how we see the external donors acting, is something that we think is not the way to go.

HUNTER-GAULT (voice-over): Bellamy says her 10 years at UNICEF has taught her that adults should listen more to children.

BELLAMY: Well, I think sometimes we think because they're smaller, because they're younger that they have nothing to offer. But you know what? Sometimes the voice of children can be a clearer and more honest voice than very often we hear from adults.

HUNTER-GAULT: Bellamy says caring for the children of Africa is in the world's best interest.

BELLAMY: About half of the population is 18 or below. So rather than using the argument, unless you invest in Africa some disease in Africa will be on your doorstep in 17 hours. I hate that kind of threat type of argument. I say think positively. Where are your future markets? Where are your future workers? Where are your future consumers?

There's an opportunity in the world today to invest in this youth bulge, I call it, out there. And by investing at least to create some greater stability in the world today, which will be better for everyone.

HUNTER-GAULT: Charlayne Hunter-Gault, CNN, Johannesburg, South Africa.



MAKGABO: Welcome back. You're watching INSIDE AFRICA.

A Maasai warrior is leading a life or death fight for his tradition in Kenya. Ole Romo is taking his an HIV-AIDS -- taking on HIV-AIDS with a vengeance.

Sally Graham has his story.


SALLY GRAHAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mopel Ali Romo says he didn't want to go down in history as a man who turned his back on his people.

The Maasai are thought to have migrated from the Nile Valley to the Great Rift Valley by the 1600s, and today make up less than 1 percent of Kenya's population. They tend their livestock across 160,000-square kilometers of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania; roughly half a million people spread across an area the size of England and Wales.


GRAHAM: Official government tourist videos prominently feature Maasai customs and colorful beadwork. Yet for the most part, the Maasai have had to rely on Kenyan radio and word of mouth for information about one of the world's most deadly diseases, HIV-AIDS; that is until recently.

(on camera): For the first time in recorded history a Maasai leader has set in motion new rules that some say will help fight the HIV-AIDS pandemic here.

(voice-over): Ole Romo is a senior spokesman for the men of his generation. But he sees himself primarily as an educator in the fight against HIV-AIDS. In 2003, hundreds of boys attended the traditional pre- circumcision ceremony, the first step in the journey to becoming a warrior, an adult. But this year there was something new: written rules for sexual and social behavior. A nongovernmental organization, SOS Children's Villages, paid for printing of brochures. A revered Maasai spiritual leader, Leinana, is on the cover.

OLE ROMO, MAASAI TRIBE SPOKESMAN (through translator): Leinana was a spiritual leader who unites us all. And we use his picture to inspire the younger generation. This is the law. And I expect all the chiefs in Maasailand to follow them.

GRAHAM: The 20 rules, written in both English and Maa: discourage wife sharing, require new warriors to carry two condoms at all time, and call for the carrying of AIDS orphans.

It's too early to tell how effective the rules are, but some people already see a positive impact.

MARY KOSON LUKAKA, MAASAI AIDS EDUCATION: We are trying to -- trying to talk to people, our people, to advise them to be -- somebody to be -- like be responsible. To respect his -- her life and the husband. And the husband to respect his life and his wife. So that to avoid this kind of disease, which have came in because a long time ago Maasai really didn't have. And that's why we used to share everything.

GRAHAM: December is time to celebrate because it's circumcision season when young boys are on school holiday. And our cameraman caught up with a new warrior who had been circumcised earlier in the day.

While 14-year-old Laena Ole Mpeti (ph) was learning the new rules from his cousin, Wilson, my producer and I were on the other side of the cow dung and stick wall. It's taboo for women to see a newly circumcised warrior. We shared the family's special feast of stewed beef, boiled potatoes and flat bread.

In the town of Kasarian, a main truck route and trading post, Monk's Video Theater replays Ole Romo's proclamation at the pre-circumcision ceremony.

Beyond the Ngong Hills made famous by writer Karen Blixen, an innovative chief introduces change in order to stop the spread of AIDS and save future Maasai generations.

Sally Graham, CNN, Olosho Oibor, Kenya.


MAKGABO: And before we go we'd like to send our well wishes to Charlayne Hunter-Gault. She's leaving CNN. Our managing director, Chris Cramer, aptly described Charlayne as the person who's often been relied upon to define much of our network's coverage from Africa over the past six years. From apartheid to the HIV-AIDS pandemic, Charlayne always went after the hard news. But she also knew how to cover an Africa unknown to many, a place of community and love.

Charlayne, we do wish you well.

And that's our look inside the continent for this week. I'm Tumi Makgabo.



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