Settled In

26 05 2012

By: Ben Ramsey

After more than 17 hours of flight time (through Ethiopia), and several days in Togo’s capital, Lome, I write to you from my home for the next 6 weeks. From learning that lizards here are like squirrels back home, to realizing not to take my malaria meds on an empty stomach, to already completing my first interview, the past 8 days have flown by.

Just while getting myself oriented, I am surrounded by issues of global health. I see cell phones, but no running water. I hear of a nearby abandoned NGO site, where the NGO aimed to help fund one child’s education per house…Togolese families, when having more than one child, simply sent excess children to live in homes where no children were present. I learn that people here are reluctant to accept the idea of insurance; one NGO for example hopes to vaccinate animals, but people in the area do not like the idea of how they could potentially be wasting money for vaccinations that aren’t needed, even when the price of the vaccination is much less than the worth of the animal. This example correlates to the health insurance system in Kuwde that a Duke student set up several years ago, and which we hope to refine and continue this summer.

My project dealing with researching youth migration has hit the ground running. My first interview proved very useful, and I hope to continue learning more information from different sources and opinions over the next month and a half. So far, it appears that children normally age 15-20 (but as young as 10), either seek out or are approached by intermediaries, known as “Waka”, who normally guide them to Nigeria. Parents claim to have no involvement, and youth often return home after two years of working every day from 4am to 6pm with as little as a sound system or motorcycle. I also already had an interviewee bring up the problem of girls returning home with AIDS after having turned from domestic work to sex work.

I must step back however and consider whether this migration is overall a positive or negative trend for the community. It appears so far that youth returning from Nigeria often remain in the village afterwards, whereas youth traveling south (towards the capital) often do not return home. I then ask myself, is it even negative for youth to leave the village? The terraced farming plots that people use here for mainly subsistence farming are not endless, and thus cannot repeatedly be split up among children generation after generation. Sitting in a courtyard, furthest from the entrance (where the children and visitors sit) Professor Piot points out the organization of seating placement by age, and how the generation of youth, perhaps desiring more than a life of subsistence agriculture, despite its ability to feed and house residents sufficiently, differs strongly from the older generation. I begin to ask myself what I can learn during my time here on a different level, completely independent of my official research…what I can take home with me to further influence my career path, and goals. Well I better get going (writing from another student’s laptop and the battery is low). Expect to hear from me every Wednesday from here on out.

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2 responses

29 05 2012
dukeglobalhealth

Happy to hear your project is getting off the ground!

29 05 2012
lysamackeen2

It sounds like you’ve hit the ground running. I’m looking forward to learning more about all the questions you are asking.

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