Witchcraft in the Central African RepublicIn the Central African Republic (CAR), up to 50% of prosecutions are for allegations of witchcraft, based on a law which, of course, can not be proven and therefore not challenged. This law targets the most vulnerable of the population- impoverished women, children and the elderly. With an ongoing civil war, the legislation’s role in shaping society and power is instrumental in identifying how culture, tradition, government and conflict work to create an impoverished society.

However, with greater international awareness being brought to the issue in recent years, many organizations are doing their part to help. Here is everything you need to know about witchcraft in the Central African Republic.

The CAR Is in the Midst of a Brutal Civil War

Since its inception in 1960, the CAR has suffered from decades of instability and violence. In 2020, the Patriots for Change (CPC) was formed to disrupt the 2020-2021 CAR election. Most recently, the CPC renewed its attacks on the government in early 2023, equipped with better weaponry. As the CAR delves deeper into intraregional conflict, the humanitarian crisis worsens, contributing to poverty and poor living conditions.

Witchcraft and Vulnerable Groups

In the CAR, the law specifies that suspected witchcraft in and of itself is not a crime but rather its “harmful use.” This applies explicitly to accusations of witchcraft, which refer to intentions to do harm to people, damage property and disrupt the public.

Accusations of witchcraft are intrinsically tied to social marginalization and contribute to the filtering out of unwanted people, most especially elderly women. Most of the people who are accused of witchcraft are around the age of 55, with an increased emphasis on isolated women who may be divorced, widowed, childless or otherwise alone. From January 2020 to June 2021, almost 60% of the defendants held in the women’s remand prison in Bangui could be classified into one of these categories.

The CAR’s Rule of Law Is Difficult To Enforce

Prosecutions are almost entirely sourced from the confessions of the accused. Accused people who refuse to confess face an increased risk of vigilante justice and mob violence. At the same time, within the judicial system, refusing to confess may be the only way to avoid conviction. Cases of witchcraft are considered carefully due to their sensitive nature, which causes judges to search for a conviction by whatever means necessary. Accusations of witchcraft are significantly more common in rural areas where law enforcement and the judicial system have limited power.

Communities Rely on Support From Local NGOs

Caritas CAR is one such NGO providing services since CAR’s inception in 1960. Among its primary goals of alleviating the pressures of poverty in the CAR, Caritas CAR also focuses on building a stronger society. Most accusations of witchcraft come from somebody the accused knows and by providing social resources, Centralis CAR targets this problem at its root.

The CAR still has a long way to go with some of the highest rates of remand detention in the world, unparalleled conflict and levels of poverty and a targeted system of persecution of the most vulnerable people in society. However, the CAR and its people continue to work toward a better, more connected society through NGOs like Caritas CAR.

– Anjum Alam
Photo: Flickr

BRAC in LiberiaThe Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) is a nongovernmental organization that has been making significant strides in improving the lives of Liberians through its diverse range of programs and initiatives. With a mission to alleviate poverty and empower communities, BRAC has established a strong presence in Liberia, working towards addressing key challenges such as education, health, livelihood support and community development.

How Did BRAC Begin?

Founded by Sir Fazle Hasan Abed in 1972, BRAC has grown into one of the largest NGOs in the world. While working as a senior corporate executive at Pakistan Shell Oil, his life changed dramatically when the 1970 cyclone and 1971 Liberation War in Bangladesh unfolded. This prompted him to leave his job and relocate to London, where he played a crucial role in starting Action Bangladesh and HELP Bangladesh to support the war.

Why Is BRAC Helping Liberia?

Liberia is a country that struggles with extreme poverty, with more than half of its population living below the poverty line. The wars that took place until 2003 have left a devastating impact on health care and educational facilities, with buildings being destroyed and equipment being stolen. As a result, most health care workers, university faculty and hospital and medical school administrators decided to flee the country. This has caused a decrease in life expectancy, a significant dropout rate, substandard learning conditions and a lack of qualified teachers.

Sustainable agricultural production in Liberia also often receives insufficient attention regarding policies and programs. Poor investment in this sector has resulted in reduced farmland, mismanagement of water resources and negative impacts on food distribution and production. Pest management practices and technology adoption are also hindered, while fertilizers and modern cultivation methods still need improvement. Additionally, inadequate road networks and high transportation costs decrease food production, further aggravating the situation.

How Is BRAC Helping Liberia?

Established in 2008, BRAC Liberia adopts a community-driven strategy to create tailored and influential initiatives. With a focus on urban, rural and refugee populations, the program’s interventions prioritize the fair involvement of all community groups. It directly engages with communities, ensuring their voices and stories remain at the heart of  BRAC’s programs.

Agriculture

Regarding agriculture, the programs conducted by BRAC Liberia focus on training farmers in climate-smart agriculture techniques and poultry and livestock management. These programs provide valuable knowledge and equip farmers with essential resources like seeds, tools, poultry and livestock. Additionally, to ensure ongoing assistance, the organization recruits and trains local leaders who act as community promoters, offering on-site support and helping farmers overcome difficulties.

BRAC Liberia is also committed to improving the adoption of nutrient-rich crops to address child malnutrition in impoverished communities. The organization actively involves lactating, pregnant women and young mothers in nutrition forums and awareness campaigns to achieve this. These initiatives aim to educate them on the significance of breastfeeding, child nutrition, hygiene practices and food safety measures.

Education

BRAC Liberia’s education program is based on a community-led model that aims to foster and maintain high-quality education in Liberia. This approach prioritizes child-centered learning, teacher development and preserving children’s well-being. Teachers are also trained to ensure they have the necessary skills and knowledge to provide an excellent education to their students. In June 2021, a remarkable majority of the 750 participants in UPGI (Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative) completed their studies, with an impressive graduation rate of 85%.

Health

Regarding health, the organization has developed an integrated network in Liberia consisting of community health promoters and health program personnel. This network aims to provide vital health care services in five crucial domains: reproductive and child health care, Malaria control, Tuberculosis (TB) control, family planning and basic curative services. This network also plays a pivotal role in the emergency response efforts for Ebola and COVID-19.

Microfinance

BRAC Liberia’s main objective is to offer various financial services to individuals at the base of the socioeconomic ladder, with a focus on empowering impoverished women residing in remote rural areas who face significant challenges in accessibility. By providing self-employment prospects and strengthening financial stability, it aims to empower them economically. As of July 2023, $19.9 million was distributed and granted as loans.

Conclusion

BRAC’s work in Liberia encompasses a comprehensive approach that tackles socioeconomic challenges and fosters community development. The organization’s efforts to improve access to education, enhance health care services and empower individuals through entrepreneurship have significantly impacted lives in Liberia. Furthermore, BRAC’s agriculture and community development initiatives have contributed to sustainable livelihoods and empowered local communities.

– Sara Hatab
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Sanitation in TogoAmid the vibrant tapestry of Togo’s cultural heritage and natural beauty, the state of sanitation plays a crucial role in shaping the country’s public health landscape. As the nation strives for progress and development, the need for sanitation is a factor in influencing the well-being of its citizens. In examining Togo’s sanitation practices, five key facts come to light, shedding light on the challenges and opportunities within this essential domain.

Increased Exposure to Diarrheal Diseases

Regarding sanitation in Togo, open defecation has become a significant contributor to the increased prevalence of diarrheal diseases. With a lack of proper sanitation facilities, many individuals resort to defecating in the open, exposing themselves to a heightened risk of waterborne infections.

The presence of flies that land on the feces and subsequently carry bacteria into nearby households exacerbates the aftermath of open defecation. More than six million people, or 88% of the 7.3 million people living in Togo, lack a toilet in their homes. An outdoor pit latrine is a toilet, but they are rare. According to reports from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization, 54% of Togolese people defecate outside. This can result in outbreaks of cholera, typhoid and other diarrheal illnesses, resulting in hundreds of avoidable deaths annually.

Provision of Clean Drinking Water by the World Bank

The World Bank has approved a new initiative to improve sanitation and provide clean drinking water to as many families in Greater Lomé as feasible. With a $100 million budget, this initiative will enhance access and the quality of water and sanitation services through several private sector partnerships and investments.

The project will fund many initiatives, including the construction of a wastewater and fecal sludge treatment plant, the restoration of the water supply systems, technical studies for the long-term expansion of large-scale water production capacity and the integration of a distribution network.

Inclusive Sanitation in Urban Centres in Togo

A €1.25 million (about $1.3 million) initiative by the African Development Bank aims to enhance sanitation in ten Togolese cities, including Sokode, the country’s second-biggest metropolis. According to Minister Tiem, the initiative supports the government’s sustainable access to clean drinking water and excellent sanitation in Togo.

In Sokodé, where just 34% of households had a toilet in 2010, there is a severe deficiency in hygiene and sanitation. The African Development Bank had 16 ongoing projects regarding sanitation in Togo valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. Addressing this issue involves improving sanitation infrastructure and implementing comprehensive awareness campaigns to promote healthier hygiene practices and break the chain of disease transmission in communities across Togo.

Laws for Solid Waste Management

Due to the industry’s rapid expansion and the resulting 2427.2 tons of waste produced daily, Togo is also experiencing difficulties with its social and environmental operations. Due to population expansion, 54 million tons of solid garbage will be generated nationally by 2030. The predicted average annual production of municipal solid waste is 305.340 tons, of which 89.428 tons are collected and buried.

On July 3, 2023, the University of Rostock (UR) and the West African Service Center for Climate Change and Adaptive Land Use (WASCAL) jointly released the draft of the National Sustainable Strategy (NSS) on integrated municipal solid waste management by 2023 with a Vision to 2030 and projection to 2050. To achieve the goals, action areas and infrastructure requirements must be considered, together with the financial arrangements for investments and the capital recovery strategy for waste management operations.

Implementation of Green Industrial Companies

Green Industrial Companies (GICs) are industrial enterprises that integrate certain green concepts into their operations to protect the environment, either directly or indirectly. Generally speaking, the legislative’s goal is to create regulatory frameworks to encourage more businesses to become GICs and integrate some form of green strategy into their daily operations. At the end of 2018, the rate was 43%, while the share of renewable energy in total electricity production rose to 3%.

Green growth entails promoting economic development and growth to ensure that natural resources continue offering resources and environmental services essential to our well-being. Today, low- and middle-income economies rely heavily on the commercial, export-focused economic activities that arise from their natural resource endowments. The fact that primary product exports, such as food, fuel, ore and metal commodities, dominate export revenue for these economies highlights Togo’s need for natural resources to compete in the global economic spectrum.

Conclusion

The alarming rise in diarrheal diseases, linked to the widespread practice of open defecation, highlights the urgent need for comprehensive sanitation reforms. Organizations like the World Bank and the Project for the Promotion of Inclusive Sanitation in Urban Centres in Togo are committed to providing clean drinking water. They aim to achieve this through strategic operations addressing a critical aspect of public health, offering a lifeline to communities grappling with waterborne infections.

– Mahima Bhat
Photo: Pixabay