THE disabled need appropriate technology more than most. Of the 140 million disabled children in the world (one in ten). 120 million live in developing countries, and most of those are in villages where there is no hope of advice, let alone rehabilitation.
The success of the PROJIMO project in Western Mexico suggests a way forward - making aids for the disabled from cheap and available materials.
A commercial aluminium-based walker for example,could cost the family of a child with spina bifida one third of its year’s earnings. Yet wooden walkers are cheaply and easily made and work just as well. Similarly, the commercial cost of leg braces can be anything between two and four hundred dollars, yet village workers are able to make their own braces using plastic buckets at a cost of only six dollars.
Wheelchairs are more of a problem, but it is possible to make ‘rough terrain’ chairs out of steel pipe and strengthened bicycle wheels - normal wheelchairs are expensive and next to useless on the unpaved ground on which the poor live.
Able-bodied therapists can demand three or four times the pay of other workers. So the PROJIMO team has decided to train only those committed to their cause. These people are often disabled themselves, and the coordinator of both the project and the local primary health care programme is a man disabled by rheumatoid arthritis.
Help to the families of the disabled children is almost as vital as physical rehabilitation. This involves giving advice on how to help children become self-reliant; teaching simple therapy exercises, usually in the form of games; and improving communication between families suffering from similar problems.
Preventive measures, where they can be taken, are also of vital importance. PROJIMO found, for instance, that one in three polio cripplings were caused by vaccinating injections being given to children already suffering from undiagnosed mild polio. Campaigningfor polio vaccinations but against irresponsible over-use of injections involves a very close relationship with the local community.
Project Projimo, a booklet which details the techniques, is arailable for $4.00 from:
THE Reagan administration has moved in to snuff out one of the few progressive initiatives that have appeared on the official US aid scene in many years.
The Inter-American Foundation has now had its Board taken over by White House appointees - proof if proof were needed that the Foundation had become an effective channel for funds to progressive groups in Latin America.
The Foundation’s money came from the US government but it was administered by an independent Board outside the government aid machinery. So it could reach many small groups that governments would not normally deal with. Some 1,600 grants were made over its 13 years of existence and the 1983 budget was $23 millions.
Suspicions arose because many people found it difficult to believe that such an organisation could operate completely independently. Once contact was made with peasant co-operatives, it was argued. these channels could be used for the gathering of intelligence. The CIA must be tnvolved somewhere.
The New Internationalist believed these suspicions were groundless, supported the Foundation (see NI 126) and argued that this was a model that could well be copied in other countries.
But the Foundation’s freedom of action has not proved to the taste of President Reagan who has been trying for the past three years to get a majority on the seven-person Board. By December 1983 he had succeeded and promptly fired the Foundation’s Director, stimulating widespread press coverage in the United States and angry protest from members of Congress.
The new policy, say the Reagan appointees, will be to involve the US embassies and Latin American governments in project selection. This violates the Foundation’s mandate from Congress
There are fears now for the similar, and newly created, African Development Foundation whose Board the Reagan Administration has taken over completely. However, its strict legislative mandate to support community-based development projects may protect it.
Video has India taped
VIDEO is sweeping India. You’ll find video recorders in wayside tea shops and buses and in the smallest towns. Even Leh, the remote capital of Ladakh in the Himalayas, has half a dozen video centres and the most popular recreation there is watching English films.
It’s a strange phenomenon in one of the world’s poorest countries. Prices are exhorbitant by local standards, $1,000 for a recorder and $20 for a cassette but the business is booming. In a little over two years $800 million worth of recorders have been imported and twenty factories in India have been licensed to make them.
Video must owe some of its success to the stultifying tedium of Indian television. TV programmes are largely used as a vehicle for government propaganda and are remarkably dull (see NI 119). Broadcasting is limited to a few hours.
The Indian film industry - the biggest in the world - has up till now provided the bright and breezy alternative. Hindi commercial films, packed with noisy violence and cheap romance, offer people a temporary escape from routine and misery of their surroundings. But now the 80-year old industry is so unnerved it is demanding government action against the pirating of cassettes of their most popular products.
India’s tradition of media piracy is certainly accelerating the video boom. Piles of smudgily printed paperbacks by Harold Robbins and Len Deighton are on sale on many street corners. But now the pirates have their eyes firmly fixed on the video screens,and cassettes of new films are sometimes available from the mushrooming video libraries long before they are released to the cinemas.
For the mass of the people, video provides entertainment in cosy surroundings and a chance to see the latest movies - they might otherwise wait four or five years to see the latest foreign films.
The rich are getting hooked on video because it gives them pornographic entertainment in their own homes. For middle-class women,very few of whom work outside the home, video also provides an answer to daytime boredom.
The government has now promised legislation to fight piracy and some of the state governments are planning to licence the wayside teashops showing video films - if only because they offer the government an additional source of income.
D.K. Joshi, Gemini
Flooding the forest
THE constitutional rights of the poor are being systematically ignored by the wealthy and land-hungry as Brazil continues its destruction of rain forests.
Brazil’s huge external debt has led it to embark on a drive to exploit the vast natural resources of Eastern Amazonia, an area bigger than France. The main beneficiaries of the ‘Carajas Programme’ will be European,US and Japanese multinationals.
Most of the initial investment is having to be made by Brazil. Some 1.8 billion dollars have been borrowed to build a new railway and port and the state electricity company, Electronorte, is now flooding large areas of uncut forest for the Tucurui dam for which it has borrowed 7.5 billion dollars. The main beneficiaries of the hydroelectricity, however, will be foreign aluminium companies.
The Carajas Programme has totensified land conflict. Smallholders and posseiros (peasant farmers who have worked their land for years without formally owning it) have been displaced by the new construction works. Around 20,000 people have been evicted by the port works at Sao Luis,
and by a multinational industrial complex nearby. Under threat of expulsion - often after intimidation - families have left with just the few possessions they could carry.
Land-grabbing in this part of Brazil is almost institutionalised. Wealthy families hire gunmen and can so influence police and federal agencies that they operate out of reach of the courts. One woman whose family now grows tomatoes on rented land was glad she no longer had a plot of her own, because so many neighbours had been killed defending their land.
Agribusiness interests in the developed world - particularly the Japanese - are exploring the potential of Eastern Amazonia as a future food basket. The Japanese International Cooperation Agency last year identified 28 potential export crops. Local sources fear plans to establish land colonisation schemes, settling thousands of Japanese along the railway export corridor, an area of acute land conflict.
THE British had a taste of pepper in the fourteenth century, decided they liked it, sailed off to find it and ended up conquering the East because of it.
By the early 1970s the international spice trade was worth $350 million from an estimated 220,000 tons. But during the 1 970s it started to take off again as Western tastes in particular become more cosmopolitan. Today there are 32,000 tons of spices moving around the world each year - worth around $800 million.
The Canadians’ liking of pizza, for example, pushes up the demand for oregano. Italian salami makers have a strong preference for a certain type of black pepper from India. The Danes are said to
be cooking more exotic and highly seasoned foods. And even Britain. notorious for its bland food is an important and growing market for spices - though in this case it is the ethnic minorities, like the Indians, who are the most avid consumers.
So important has the trade now become that a new international spice group has now been set up between producing and consuming countries to regulate the trade.
Spices share many of the problems of other primary commodities like cotton or cocoa. One is price. India, for example, is the dominant force in ginger production and produced 27,932 tons in 1980.But bumper crops between 1979 and 1981 resulted in record low prices.
Another is substitution by artificial alternatives. Vanilla is produced in Madagascar, the Comoros and Réunion. But the industry is plagued by the synthetic version which can be produced more economically from waste sulphite liquor from paper mills and from coal tar extracts.
BABYFOOD companies from all over the world met in Mexico City this February — and decided to suspend the Nestlé Boycott for six months. The reason for this suspension is that Nestlé, who once said it would never negotiate with a pressure group, has signed an agreement with the International Nestlé Boycott Committee making a firm promise to follcw the WHO/UNICEF International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes ‘in all its facets’.
If after six months Nestlé has broken this promise the Boycott may be resumed.
Many health workers in developing countries and most New Internationalist readers are aware that, though there have been significant changes in promotional tactics, Nestlé has still been distributing more than essential supplies of babymilk through the health care system. Babies are still dying and Nestlé must be made to keep their promise.
So the next six months will be a crucial test of Nestlé’s good faith. They are sensitive to public opinion and would not want to be seen to violate a signed agreement. UNICEF, who acted as mediator during the recent negotiations, will undoubtedly also be keeping a close watch on the situation in the coming months.
A programme of intensive monitoring has been initiated and we urge all New Internationalist readers to support it.
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