Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Travel and Iodized Salt consumption

Today the first ever Sudan Household Health Survey report was officially launched - this is the first research study of its kind encompasing all of Sudan since 1983. While the statistics were staggeringly horrible (the only health indicator that is stronger in the South than in the North is iodized salt consumption), the launch event itself was absolutely hilarious. Keep in mind that this was a high-level, Ministry of Health/Government event which was attended by the Vice President of Southern Sudan, Ministries, consulates, UN officials, NGOs, etc.
In the echoey main hall of the Beijing Juba Hotel, the dissemination started with a reception where printouts of graphs showing the indicators by state with labels hand-drawn in red marker were taped to the walls . Local artist John Junub lip-synched songs he had written with themes drawn from the health indicators being presented while 5 men in work attire plus one kid in a torn t-shirt danced on the stage next to him.
The ceremony started with a procession by all the VIPs. The opening remarks were all "Your Excellency" this, and "Your Excellency" that, and then the MC asked all the VIPs, who up until this point were all sitting at a panelist table facing the audience, to move chairs into the audience so they could see the Power Point Presentation that was prepared. At which time 2 chinese men hastily hoised up a white bedsheet with lengths of blue wire, which then hung lopsidedly between two pillars. A Power Point Presentation graced with cheezy clip art projected on the sheet which awkwardly billowed from the air of the ceiling fans. Awesome.
But in all seriousness, it is fabulous that this report is out, because now we can base our program design on solid reseach and hopefully measure progress, i.e. whether or not the work we are doing is effective compared to the data in this baseline.
The normal questions that you get asked every day by every expat you meet here in Juba have recently changed! The famous list of 3, which you cannot have a conversation without either asking or being asked,
1. Where are you from?
2. Who do you work for?
3. How long are you going to be in Juba?
has been replaced with simply "When are you leaving for the holidays?"

And when am I leaving for the holdiays? TOMORROW!!!!! Booyah. Nairobi tomorrow where I get to see the boy (he's from Nairobi originally), flight to London Thursday, and back in NY on Friday. Where I will go almost immediately to see Stefan, the hairdresser extroardinaire (my Mom has been getting her hair done there since I was 10. It's a family legacy at this point). Can you tell that I'm excited?
For those of you who care, here is my schedule for the next few weeks so you can make your holiday plans. Because the world does revolve around me, after all (j/k!):

12/21-22: NYC
12/22-23: Reading, PA (holiday party with 80 of my closest relatives)
12/24-12/30: Pawling NY & NYC
12/30-1/1: Washington, DC
1/1-1/8: Santiago, Chile (for Katina and Renzo's wedding - can't wait!!!)
1/9-1/10: Nairobi
1/10: Juba
And with that, I will say bon voyage and leave you with some pictures. And the jealousy of realizing how many frequent flyer miles I will accumulate over the next 3 weeks.
1. Normal road conditions in Juba
2. Road between Juba and Torit Junction (notice the rusty vehicle on the right - landmine casualty)3. SPLA Soldier stationed in Juba
4. Barracks (village) where SPLA soldiers are stationed at Torit Junction.
5. Nuer man at Torit Junction


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