Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A lot to catch up - Hajja Edition

I really wanted to write about my adventures in Hajja, but it's 4:38pm and I clicked send on my malnutrition project about 20 minutes ago and am completely drained. Relieved, but drained. So I'm going to let most of these pictures do the talking for themselves.

The bustling metropolis of Haradh, from the balcony of the "Duby Nights" hotel
Colleagues cooking up a delicious dinner each and  every night
See what I mean!

School girls fascinated by M and myself...but mostly M!
Waiting for the cash distribution to start
First man of the day to receive cash  
This is Amin. He's five, malnourished and blind.

Happier kids hanging around the distribution (fair enough, it was at their school!)
M and I try to hide from all the sand
Women receiving hygiene messages before a cash distribution in Abss District (I love how colourful they are)
There's nothing much more fun than sitting on a motorbike and making broom broom noises, as his smile clearly indicates

Pretty pathetic looking donkling
Shueeya was so welcoming to us, especially after we told her she was a cash beneficiary - she hadn't been told!
I had to organise a secret project for Oxford and these guys were some of the most willing participants. Such fun!

I'm so glad I had the opportunity to get out to some of the field sites to spend more time with my colleagues and the people we're working for! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A lot to catch up on - Hodeidah Edition

Wow, it's taken me a long time to get around to writing about my recent field trip to Al Hodeidah and Hajja Governorates. I'm really not sure where to begin, as I've written so much about them for my work, I'm not sure how much more I can write!

So I guess I'll just start writing and see where we end up...The purpose of my trip was to interview and document the beliefs and practices around key issues so over time they can be looked at to see what the links to malnutrition are. My technical colleauges in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Emergency Food Security and Livelihoods (EFSL) developed a list of questions that they were interested in finding out the answers to. These included questions around water usage and treatment, defecation, hand washing, and solid waste disposal on the WASH side, and breastfeeding, dietary diversity and income generation on the EFSL side.

A public health colleague M, who's from Sudan was tasked to work with me on it, and it was great to not only have a native speaker to do the interviewing, but also a technical person who could explain certain things to me (like what bilharziasis is). As we had cash distributions underway in both Hodeidah and Hajja that's where we set off to find people to interview. We spoke to 15 women over five days in the field, and the vast majority of them are really struggling: with the health of their families, with finding income, with poor sanitation and hygiene - all the things I, and I assume most of the people reading this take for granted.

We started at a cash distribution in Al Shokna district. The distributions are run from schools, and were relatively orderly in Hodeidah. Even the donkeys were well behaved.

After interviewing a couple of women at the distribution, we ventured out to a nearby village where we were introduced to Hind and her family. Hind is only 18, her son is 2 years 4 months, and her malnourished daughter is 14 months. She says her baby doesn't like to eat, and they tried to feed her the Plumpynut (a high protein paste designed to treat malnutrition) that they were given at a clinic, but she doesn't like it so they give it to her older brother. "Our daughter is sick from God. We boil water so there is no contamination, we give her the food we get from the health clinic and spend most of our money on her, but God chooses that she continues to be sick." With the money they received from Oxfam they were planning to repay some of the debts incurred by the medical expenses, and buy some chicken. They haven't been able to afford any meat in a long time.   

We spoke with Noura, whose 10 month old baby is malnourished. They've had to cancel appointments for his treatment recently because they can't afford either the cost of the treatment, or the transport to get to the clinic. Her husband, Mahfouz (below) spends most of the year working in Saudi Arabia to earn more money to support his family. Unfortunately for this family, they weren't being supported by Oxfam, or the government's Social Welfare Fund.
 In total we spoke to six families in Hodeidah, and there was quite a range of good and bad practices, and interesting beliefs. I was very interested in the beliefs around colostrum, some women thought that it causes diarrhoea and vomiting, one woman said it was stale, spoiled milk that needs to be thrown away. Another woman told us that if you breastfeed for too long it will firstly cause illiteracy in the child, and if it continues, eventually death. There's obviously a huge need for education.

After long days in the field it's nice to unwind with colleagues and get to know them better. The international women share a house and are all from East Africa. They invited me over one night and produced a delectable feast and entertaining conversation and it was lovely getting to know them all a bit better. Another night, I went out with some of the gents, who are all from South Asia. We went back to the fish restaurant I'd been taken to last time, and this is what it looked like when we were done.
Sometimes it's hard to reconcile eating so much when you've spent the day with people who have close to nothing. I've written before about the afternoon I spent in a malnutrition clinic in Pakistan and how difficult that was, and this was no different. What we can hope for is the cash that Oxfam is providing to over 100,000 people in Hodeidah will go some way to alleviate their current situations.

I'll write about the Hajja part of my trip at a later point.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Phone photos - food edition

Here are a few photos to tide you over until the good stuff comes - I'm heading back out to our field programmes tomorrow for 10 days and will actually get out of the office this time which is very exciting - I took these with my crappy Nokia phone, so don't expect much.

Firstly, around Halloween I was invited to a fantastic dinner, which featured a march of olive and carrot fantastic are they!!
A close second were the spidery devilled eggs (someone cruelly pointed out that the spiders were missing some legs - but frankly, anyone who chops up olives and artfully arranges them on eggs is a hero of mine!
Finally, I spotted this sign at the cash register at the supermarket the other day - i.e. a couple of months after Ramadan...
probably could've used some after eating so many penguins and spiders!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

City Max to the Max

A friend had his birthday on Thursday, and decided the best possible theme for his party would be City Max style. City Max is a large clothing shop not too far from where we live, and I'd heard stories about the outrageousness of the clothing but hadn't made it there myself before. This all changed as four of us went to find our outfits. We entertained ourselves in the men's section for ages, finding hilarious t-shirts and belt buckles, but then E and I hurried upstairs to check out the women's wear. Wow. The dresses get worn to wedding ceremonies (women and men celebrate separately) and apparently these are good occassions for potential mothers-in-law to scope out potential brides for their everybody wants to look their best.

We spent some time rummaging through the abaya racks, as we both needed plain abayas, and suddenly the guys were there and I was forced to make a decision in a very short space of time. Of course, there are no changing rooms, so I just grabbed a dress (for the princely sum of $7.50) and hoped that it would fit.

So this is what I looked like at the start of Thursday night (abayas are really handy for covering up inappropriate attire)...
 I couldn't manage to take a stable photo.

And this is the after shot:
Probably wouldn't look too out of place on the Gold Coast wearing this huh!! Now, you were already pretty impressed with the leopard print, and the cape...but there was an extra special little touch on the bodice:
Now, normally I would be horrified if someone turned up to a party wearing the same thing as me, but thankfully, a lovely German girl had bought the same dress is a different colour scheme so it wasn't too bad. I even shelled out $10 for a pair of wedges that had leopard print on the wedge, which lasted all of about 10 minutes before the ankle strap snapped!

To protect the reputations of everyone else at the party, I won't upload any other photos here, but it's safe to say there were some spectacular outfits, and a great night was had by all!

Birthday shout-out



Saturday, November 3, 2012

It's Caturday

This is the cat that lives in the embassy residence where we play volleyball. When I first arrived she was just a wee little kitten, but has obviously now turned into a cat. Before we started playing she was entertaining itself at the base of the net, rolling all over the place and attacking a bit of paper. 

 And then knew it was time to head off, prize in mouth, as it was time for us to play.