Reflecting on the last 45 days #Kigali #Nairobi #Brussels #Abuja #Kampala #Moyo #Mbarara


Sans prejudice, this is my first post since I defended my PhD thesis or better yet, when I became a Doctor of Public Health-not that I know a lot in public health, but rather evidence of never ever quitting. Believe me, it crossed my mind not once or twice. The journey was characterised by the infamous imposter syndrome:-the 2nd non incurable disease after relgiblindasia (nomenclature coined by myself, this is a form of blindness caused by exotic religion). I would, as hell knows, author a bible about my PhD experience: From being lied to by my first University over their potential to provide adequate support needed (and I lost money having quit 2 months into the programme), to studying (literally on a toilet seat), sublimation of supervisors (folks call it ghosting! Damn,  how times have changed), rejection by potential supervisors over ‘incompatibility reasons’ (Whatever the dickens that is), missing my own life (I lost count of how often I told folks I preferred not to be asked how I was doing) to FINALLY…*Congratulations upon…successfully…*. I called my parents about it and some real friends…and what a calm night that was. Enough shit! 4 years, 4 bloody years, It’s done. Or is it?

Between 1st and 3rd October, we had the East Africa Disaster Management in Kigali:- a town for which I’m able to catch 2 birds with 1 stone: First, ofcourse the work mission takes precedence but also I normally take the chance to see 2 of my favorite folks I have studied and worked with for longer years than I can count. Major take-homes were around the opportunities (read curses) brought about by the emerging wave of oil in the region, Community Resilience Fund at Branch Level- Community level:- alittle bit like VSLA Approach, Airlines, climate induced and economic migration.

That paved way to the participation in the Global Meeting Localisation Workstream of the 23-24 October 2014, Brussels following a series of regional consultations with the African one taking place in Addis Ababa. Just as a background, Under Workstream 2 (“More support and funding tools for local and national responders”), the Grand Bargain has established localisation as a key normative principle of humanitarian action (GB Independent Report 2019). GB signatories’ self-reports show that many of them are actively taking steps towards meeting one or more of the six localisation commitments. There has been a great deal of piloting of various approaches, research into best practice and barriers, as well as internal policy changes among signatories.  The co-conveners (Switzerland and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC)) convened this global meeting at EU ECHO to discuss progress to date, identify which barriers and opportunities are most amenable for group action to resolve/seize, and set out strategic directions for the localisation agenda to move forward.  This meeting followed from a series of inter-agency missions to “demonstrator countries” in Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific, where good practices were shared, priority issues were identified, and planning propositions made on how to move the localisation agenda forward.  What I liked a lot is the push to have further recognition of Women-led organisations, elimination of Capacity Building in favour of Capacity strengthening and or Capacity exchange (I’ve not been a fan of this word either as far back as when I first heard of it) and extension of Localisation agenda to the South Americas. In my view, mindset shift amongst all actors is key. Who is a donor? Who is an INGO? Who is a local NGO? What are their respective interests? It wont be easy to find the responses at breakfast, but the fact that one of my favourite humanitarians Jemilah Mahmood got Localisation agenda to feature at the World Humanitarian Summit 2016 is the a right step to the forthcoming miles. Overall progress, is slow and ad hoc; a tipping point for major system change is not yet achieved.  When I came back, I had a chance to debrief internally but also the Humanitarian Platform in Uganda;- a C4C group with ToRs is being established, thanks to Oxfam and Im really looking forward to seeing how we roll on country wide. We have a finishinertia in the humanitarian sector (a tendency to start things/ideas, usually without finishing, scaling up and sustaining them). I have a colleague who is obsessed by the word *Pilot programmes*, but atleast a pilot flies and lands the plane. Most pilot programmes never really land:-hopefully this is a good pilot trained and operating Uganda Airlines.

Speaking of the devil, I took my first flight about Uganda Airlines…that’s right! Uganda Airlines is BACK! And who doesn’t like Comebacks? My man Thierry Henry loves Comebacks and Comebacks love him too. The never-afraid-to-express-himself, Monsieur Hnery has joined Impact as their HeadCoach. Probablement, that will help him become our Arsenal Manager since we were sold you know what it is:-a Good Ebening! Ah, the Airlines…yes, it took me to Nairobi and I was able to co-facilitate alongside the legends in the game:- Corrine Trahenne, Sandra Dúrzo, Antonella Vitale and Dipti Hingorani at the Africa Regional Shelter Technical Training 28th October 3rd November 2019. My most curious topics were around the PASSA, Spehre standards on Shelter, Local building practices, Technical and support education, Settlements and infrastructure planning,  Design, implement and build an emergency shelter. I also missed my flight back:-but I won’t say more because there is more that’s not your business! Haha!

Between 11th-15th November 2019, through our collaboration with the IFRC DRR Law Unit, I participated together with our DRR Law Project Officer in A Disaster Law Policy workshop towards Climate Smart Policy Frameworks that leave no one behind in Abuja, Nigeria. With a number of countries, regional and continental bodies developing laws and policies related to DRR, it can be said millions of times that such policies must be backed by evidence, appropriate funding mechanisms (in this case considering innovations like CBI and FbF), gender in DRR, youth and children, and getting communities at the heart of all the actions. After the 5 day event, a team of regional ‘’experts’’ (and dang I don’t feel that word too) graduated from the championship to the premier league:-and I look forward especially to peer support within the region, considering we’re championing disaster law legislation in Uganda, through the Partners for Resilience Programming.

It’s been quite a roll-coaster of events. The challenge is to make sure I (like most of you all) keep the eye on the ball, make carefully timed tackles, interceptions, passes and provide as many opportunities as possible to score goals. This is a challenge real humanitarians (read pracadaemics) prepare their entire lives for.

Safer Christmas break inadvance (if you can)

Brian’s Column: Why do our leaders rarely take public #roadtransport?


Tuesday, 1 October 2019, Brian Bilal Mwebaze

Brian's Column: Why do our leaders rarely take public road transport?

Brian is back with his  regular columns of road safety through the eyes of a young person in Africa. He asks the question, Why do our leaders rarely take public road transport? Hear his take on all things African Road Safety.

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“Dude!’’ he hurled, “This is the dumbest question I have ever heard you ask”. That was the response my friend Charles (Full names: Charles aka The Top Shooter) gave on our way to watch Fast and Furious Hobbs and Shaw. The story of how he earned this strange name shall be told another day but I can guarantee one thing and one thing only; nothing illegal is involved. We’re both ardent fans and have previously been diagnosed with a new viral infection called Fasta and Furiousa. 

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We booked a 7:15pm show and drove to the Cinema. We’d barely done 4km than an ant-count of vehicles appeared on our side mirrors flashing those scary lights you have seen in a horror movie. Traffic was, like One Direction would say “paralysed’’. We couldn’t move any longer. We became certain as day and night that we were never catching our movie. May be we should have left our car behind as well and jogged, I wondered.

Then, a smartly dressed policeman, beckoned us to drive, releasing traffic at once even when the traffic light signalled red. This isn’t new phenomenon by the way. There is hooting from everything that moves. The driver behind us is screaming ontop of his lungs, the motorcyclists are at a hair’s breadth off my side mirror, pedestrians are struggling to cross to the other side of the road, in the process rubbing their whatever-they-are-carrying against my car, a hawker is trying to sell me a chicken. The sound of break neck speed engine pistons is everywhere, but hallelujah! It’s a miracle! Somehow, we’re driving, and no one has been run over. After about 200m, we again find ourselves cursing between our teeth, as the traffic took its toll. This is a daily routine for most people. Charles, bless him, he hasn’t quite managed the art and science of holding his tongue.

“Ono Sitane abadde ani?’’ (loosely translated, Who the hell was that?), he managed to ask one of the already resigned drivers. The driver responded without looking at him“Bakulembezze bbo”’ (Literally, your political leaders). A moment of dead-silence passed between myself and Charles. That’s when I broke it with THAT infamous question. It wasn’t a smart question but I had asked anyway.

But of course, public transport in most of our countries is not prioritised. As a matter of concern, the society is unforgiving to leaders and managers who don’t drive. They’re referred to as broke, poor, mean <delete where applicable>. Public transport is probably the most unreliable option you would consider. Quite simply, people take public transport because they can’t afford private means.

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A Ugandan Traffic Jam in Kampala


The chronic delays, hygiene, recklessness, poor conditions of the vehicle, risk of speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs:-and yes, these can happen in private cars, but atleast, there is a higher level of control to monitor what your driver is doing. Our leaders don’t experience these challenges, so they assume (wrongly) that they don’t exist. While they are croozing in V8s, they never really feel the potholes and poorly maintained roads. They never get asked to show their driving licenses and forced to pay some ‘lunch’ even when you got everything in place. They seem to be immune to the challenge of giving first aid to an injured person without a first aid kit in a car. And yes of course, they don’t feel the excruciating pain of spending more time in a traffic jam than we spend at work. (Sometimes).

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Some of the benefits of ‘effective and sustainable public transport’.

I read an article years ago, about why our leaders are busy and so don’t have time to waste on the road. Mind you, most of these leaders are not protected by the Country Traffic and Road Safety Law to grant them right of way. So, we aint busy? One can argue, the real reason they don’t take public transport is because there is no public transport in the first place. What shall happen if we get the same number of cars as the population in this city? No wait, we shall expand the roads. This is already happening, but it doesn’t solve congestion in most cities. If anything, it encourages more traffic. Oh, there is another idea, government makes cars more expensive. Yep, that works, but then, how shall people do businesses? Increasingly, smarter countries are investing in public transport to curb down on carbon emissions, encourage non-motorised transport, providing jobs for especially the young people and getting their leaders to use public transport! Heck, why is this so freaking hard to do here. Did we make it to the movie on time? Ask me on Twitter, I’ll let you know.

Original article: http://www.youthforroadsafety.org/news-blog/news-blog-item/t/brian-s-column-why-do-our-leaders-rarely-take-public-road-transport

Brian’s Column: Why are roads chronically being designed for vehicles?


Monday, 24 June 2019, Brian Bilal Mwebaze

Brian's Column: Why are roads chronically being designed for vehicles?

Brian is back with his  regular columns of road safety through the eyes of a young person in Africa. He asks the question, Why are roads designed only for vehciles? Calling out the system to take a human centered approach.

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A safety risk guaranteeing future casualties in Africa.

What’s the easiest mode of transport to get to and away from most airports here? I find myself asking this rather strange question to my guide-turned-friend Hannes Kaltenecker during the International Students Week at the Technical University of Ilmenau, Germany earlier this month. Not only are we both “certified health freaks”, but we’re also owned by 2 dogs! Well, he adjusts his eyeglasses, turns and looks at me, as if he didn’t hear me at first. “Train, of course”, he responds. “What about you?”, he asks of me.

Where does one start? The start of course…

There’s a growing repute for most African countries to venture into the Airline business. A few months ago, Uganda brought in a few aircraft to rejuvenate her airline hopes, sadly not on time to fly the National Team to Egypt where the #AFCON2019 is set for kick off. Google that. Ethiopia has now, an undisputed busiest Airport able to serve 21 million people a year: -the closest rival is OR Tambo in South Africa at an estimated 17 million. Casablanca still topping the size charts as the elephant in the room. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya could take gold if it were a marathon. We all know those Kenyans can run don’t we

However, apart from those few airports, getting to and fro airports in our continent can be quite the hell. Let’s see…

The commonest way is to grab an airport taxi. This is equivalent to being driven to the airport by a friend (or whatever you prefer to call him/her). We all know how this will go, as you will be chillaxing in a traffic jam for more time than you will be on that plane. It won’t be long before you begin to curse your gods.

A safety risk guaranteeing future casualties in Africa.

What’s the easiest mode of transport to get to and away from most airports here? I find myself asking this rather strange question to my guide-turned-friend Hannes Kaltenecker during the International Students Week at the Technical University of Ilmenau, Germany earlier this month. Not only are we both “certified health freaks”, but we’re also owned by 2 dogs! Well, he adjusts his eyeglasses, turns and looks at me, as if he didn’t hear me at first. “Train, of course”, he responds. “What about you?”, he asks of me.

Where does one start? The start of course…

There’s a growing repute for most African countries to venture into the Airline business. A few months ago, Uganda brought in a few aircraft to rejuvenate her airline hopes, sadly not on time to fly the National Team to Egypt where the #AFCON2019 is set for kick off. Google that. Ethiopia has now, an undisputed busiest Airport able to serve 21 million people a year: -the closest rival is OR Tambo in South Africa at an estimated 17 million. Casablanca still topping the size charts as the elephant in the room. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya could take gold if it were a marathon. We all know those Kenyans can run don’t we

However, apart from those few airports, getting to and fro airports in our continent can be quite the hell. Let’s see…

The commonest way is to grab an airport taxi. This is equivalent to being driven to the airport by a friend (or whatever you prefer to call him/her). We all know how this will go, as you will be chillaxing in a traffic jam for more time than you will be on that plane. It won’t be long before you begin to curse your gods.

The second best alternative, take public transport? A suicidal mission? Maybe! Many will agree for its sheer consistency in delays most often making unsolicited stopovers literally anything and everywhere: from dropping a passenger 100m from where they were picked to someone wanting to buy a fruit from the hawker et.al. Mind you, this bus or whatever it is, shall stop 5+km away from the airport. You can (almost) be guaranteed to arrive too early for your next probable flight.

The third option, let’s explore them, shall we? Consider Commercial Motorcycle Service. There has been growth spurts in this line of business, with innovations from Safeboda, Uber helping to connect the customer and the biker through a tap on the phone. 

They will manoeuvre through the monstrous lanes of traffic, leaving jealous, stuck drivers and passengers alike cursing at the back of their teeth as you glide past them. It’s still dangerous though. There’re no clear lanes for 2 wheeled vehicles. Traffic lights don’t signal for 2 wheeled vehicles. There’re no established schools training and certifying these bikers, so you have to say a prayer (literally) on safe arrival. When it does make it though, you will hi5 the biker, become bros and sis for real until you probably need that liver transplant. God bless thee.

Fourth option, bike your way to the airport. Possible time saving, environment, health and energy benefits. The weak clammy grip of hope doesn’t lie. Truth is, you can’t bike to most airports. Designated places for parking are inexistent in addition to the many challenges stated already for 2 wheeled vehicles.

There have been meetings on meetings,  calls on calls for African countries to halve traffic deaths including THIS that was made at this year’s UN Road Safety Week by the UN Economic Commission for Africa. In South Africa, the new Transport Minister declared 3 days ago, Road Safety as a National Crisis citing ineffective law enforcement and the need to introduce safer cars. YOURS was in Stockholm, Sweden and gave input on the importance of meaningful youth participation within the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety. This included some great progress preparing the 2nd World Youth Assembly for Road Safety! Keep your eyes open to this.

Without fixing our road designs to be human-focused, despite the development indicators we project to brand ourselves, we’re all future casualties. Major ambitions should focus on vision zero for road traffic deaths.

See link below for original post: http://www.youthforroadsafety.org/news-blog/news-blog-item/t/brian-s-column-why-are-roads-chronically-being-designed-for-vehicles

Call for applications: Africa Regional – Structured Operational Research and Training Initiative on tackling Antimicrobial Resistance


 Entebbe, Uganda.  Application deadline: July 5, 2019

TDR, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, hosted at the World Health Organization and its implementing partners invite applicationsfromGhana, Sierra Leone and Uganda for the first Structured Operational Research and Training Initiative (SORT IT)course on tackling Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) though operational research. The training will start in Entebbe, Uganda on September 2nd– 14th2019.

Participants will be drawn from institutions actively engaged in human, animal or environmental health programmes.  They could include doctors, nurses, veterinarians, laboratorians, pharmacists, monitoring and evaluation officers and other public health professionals.

This is a very practical and output-oriented coursewith clear milestones and measurable targets. Failure to fulfil the expected outputs linked to each module means the candidate will not proceed to the next module. This training is solely aimed at improving research capacity of participants and there is no other remuneration of any kind. A total of 12 candidates will be selected (four participants by country).

Eligible candidates who are not selected for the Africa regional course may be re-considered for the national course (which follows) if their research subject is considered relevant and interesting.

Applications will only be accepted through the online link:https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Africa_Regional_AMR_SORT_IT_2019-20

Please note: The following link contains the course brief and the templates for letter/statement from applicant and supervisor- https://www.dropbox.com/sh/cg8uysocft33nrx/AAAGPUP7a6p3uLu5anbAnzA9a?dl=0

Before filling the online application, a) go through the course brief – this contains details about course rationale, description and application process b) ensure that you have the following documents ready: your CV, concept note, letter/statement from applicant (yourself) and letter/statement from your supervisor.Your application will be rejected without the letters of commitments in the prescribed format.

Only successful applicants will be informed of final selection around July20, 2019

For more details about the TDR SORT IT programme, please go to: https://www.who.int/tdr/capacity/strengthening/sort/en/

ABOUT TDR

TDR, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, is a global programme of scientific collaboration that helps facilitate, support and influence efforts to combat diseases of poverty. TDR is hosted at the World Health Organization (WHO) and is sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and WHO. For more information, visit: www.who.int/tdr

INNOVATION FALLACY: Force-feeding ill-conceived technology in developing countries.


World Bank WSP Cartoon Calendar
World Bank WSP Cartoon Calendar: Published on May 27, 2019
Takudzwa Noel Mushamba

Takudzwa Noel Mushamba

WASH Delegate at Swedish Red Cross

It is common to hear words like game-changing or disruptive technology in the development sector nowadays. Innovation has become a cliché globally but the effects of ill conceived technological innovation are particularly evident in developing countries. When Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) were launched at the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 innovation became an instant hit and buzzword. Since then every strategy, programme, job description and report contains the term innovation or one of its synonyms.

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Do not get me wrong, I support innovation but, appropriate and well thought innovation. In the same vein I firmly believe to drive sustainable development the time for nudging is gone. There is need to address traditionally taboo topics when it comes to why most developing countries. Experts shy away from tackling key reasons the real reason why success remain evasive despite the high number of development partners working particularly in the Sub Sahara African region. Justification for development is aid is very well articulated. However, it also seems the presence of development aid has inadvertently lulled upper echelons in developing countries into a deep slumber.

According to OECD, “ Innovation is the implementation of a new or significantly improved product (good or service), or process, a new marketing method, or a new organizational method in business practices, workplace organization or external relations

Credit: Ig professionals

The world is changing with natural disasters becoming more frequent hence the need for innovation and sustainable development. Good governance and accountability must precede these. In the absence accountability funding development initiatives is tantamount to throwing money down the drain. In the absence of appropriate policy the needy barely benefit while tenderpreneurs and politicians continue to fatten their pockets. I am digressing, well back to technological innovation; this concept is very common in the development sector to the extent that most practitioners believe it is one of the key drivers of success. In the books of many practitioners innovation is about technology, new techniques, rapid change. Some believe it is about finding that niche that transforms everything. The development sector is different from the private sector both are hinged on good policy and governance but the latter is driven primarily by profit. The same cannot be said about the development sector in a context where the majority fail to meet basic needs. With high rates of unemployment in developing, everyone wants to be an innovator or entrepreneur. Innovation created a rush in the development sector over the years. Below are some outcomes and indicators of the innovation rush in the last decade:

  • Major bilateral donors are working independently to fund innovations and support startups
  • Founding of humanitarian and development innovation funders such as The Global Innovation Fund, 
  • A multitude of innovation hubs have been established in the last few years to foster private sector partnership projects

At this point technological innovation must be taken with a pinch of salt in developing countries. This is because of the 10 reasons below.

1. Most of the challenges in developing countries are not related to lack of innovative technology but rather lack of will, corruption, lack of accountability and poor governance. 

2. Technological innovation only works when certain preconditions are met such. Failure to meet these renders innovative ideas futile or the technology redundant. 

3. Not everything can be turned into business in developing countries. Given the low rating in most Human Development Indicators (HDI), it is difficult to turn major development sectors into business models. These only look good on paper but fail dismally in practice. 

4. Most developing countries fail to do the basics well, there is blatant disregard for policy and related instruments hence at this stage innovation that works is one that addresses aforementioned challenges. 

5. There is lack of understanding of underlying challenges and disregard of red flags by innovators. Although there has been some success of “donor hand held” technologies. For obvious reasons the sustainability of such initiatives remains questionable. 

6. What most developing countries need now is improvement. Once current basic systems are working well there is huge room for technological innovation.  

7. Introducing technological innovation is one thing, developing a sustainable solution is a different story. The only innovation required in most developing countries is management and policy innovation. These will pave way for other forms of innovation.

8. Most development practitioners shy away from controversial topics such as corruption mainly because it poses a risk to their ability to operate. Such should be confronted before we talk of innovation. 

9. It is important to understand not only the difference between innovation and improvement but also the value of each. An innovation may be an important improvement, but an improvement may not be innovative at all.

10. Innovation must be coupled with well-documented research so that we do not reinvent the wheel and repeat of mistakes. Most innovators are very good marketers unfortunately most developing countries buy into these without properly considering the long-term impact of such. 

Innovation is often lauded as a force for growth and development in developing nations. However, when most speak about innovation, they usually refer to the technovation (technological innovation), and many times policy and institutional innovations are often overlooked.

Disclaimer: Views, thoughts & opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s current or previous employers. 

You might not enjoy your viva (and that’s okay)


Kirsten J Lees

I recently had my PhD viva, and I passed with minor corrections. Everyone congratulated me, but actually I felt like a failure. Why? Because I didn’t enjoy my viva.

As I was preparing for the exam I was given lots of encouragement from my supervisors and from my friends who had already gone through it. One thing I heard more than anything else was ‘You’ll enjoy it!’ People told me this in conversation, I heard it on podcasts, and I read it in blogs.

Enjoy it!

The pervasive narrative as you approach your viva is that this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to have two experts focused entirely on your work. Once you get past your initial nerves, you should enjoy discussing your work at a high level. And that’s great, if it happens for you. I’m definitely not trying to say that you shouldn’t enjoy your viva.

My problem was that I…

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