Taking credit

When you have a moment, I'd really like to see your source for that

While the Millennium Village Project’s shaky claim of reducing child mortality resulted in an impressive backlash, these sorts of assertions are not uncommon. Very frequently, donors, NGOs and philanthropists make unsubstantiated claims to impact which go unchallenged, either because they go unnoticed by those who know better or because we’re all just too busy to raise the alarm every time someone makes a bogus claim (or, perhaps, we’re being funded by said entity).

For example, take this tweet by Oxfam international:

That’s quite a claim. What does Oxfam have to back up this claim? The tweet links to an article in the Ghana Business News:

Speaking at a ceremony in Bolgatanga to introduce phase II of the project and to present the donation g, Mrs Rosemary Anderson Akolaa,, Health Advocacy Manager of Oxfam lauded the effort of the TBAs, the Community Health Committees and other stakeholders for their effort at bringing reducing mortality rate in the Region by seven per cent in 2010.

So, one of Oxfam’s managers in Ghana made the claim – what is it based on? To make this claim, Oxfam needs to:

  1. Describe the data it is using to estimate the 7% drop in maternal mortality.
  2. Convincingly show us that this drop is due to Oxfam’s (and partner’s) intervention. For example, did maternal mortality in the Upper East region fall faster than in other regions which did not receive the intervention?
As far as I can tell, Oxfam has done neither of these. Can we stop making claims we haven’t yet made an effort to back up?

Intentionally missing the point

BBC News is running an article about the recent arrest of Chansa Kabwela, the editor of the Zambian newspaper The Post.

Zambia’s public health system recently suffered a pay strike – one of the many woman that were unlucky enough to go into labour during this time ended up giving birth in the street, to a baby who ended up dying. Someone took photos of the whole event. Kabwela, apparently struck by the human cost of the crisis displayed explicitly in the photos, sent them on to government ministers.

How did the government respond? They arrested Kabwela and charged her with spreading indecent material, punishable with imprisonment of up to five years. Even worse, the penal code doesn’t clearly define what obscene material is.

A vibrant, intelligent and critital media is both one of the most needed and lacking institutions in this part of the world, where ‘democratic’ governments routinly crack down on a press they never really understood.