“Rethinking Health and Human Rights”

Although Paul Farmer’s book “Pathologies of Power” dissects how poverty and lack of basic human rights has direct effects on health, the last chapter gives the reader hope as it discusses an agenda to alleviate the issues that aggregate the relationship between human rights and global health. Farmer tries to track the root of health discrepancies by saying society should make health and healing the symbolic core of this new agenda. Since most individuals find nothing wrong with promoting health and healing, rallying around these themes is something people would find no trouble in supporting. Farmer also emphasizes that we must make provision of services central to the agenda, in other words, we must make changes based on the advice of the sick and poor rather than blindly  following the policies implemented by those in power. Farmer’s agenda for improving health in relation to rights also includes establishing new research agendas that are not biased against the poor, assuming a broader educational mandate by spreading health awareness, achieving independence from powerful government and bureaucracies so that the voices of the people and for the people are heard, and securing more resources for health and human rights.

Thankfully we live in a time in which the connection between global health and human rights is becoming ever more clear. There has been a shift in the way people think about medicine and more of a push towards social equality. In a rapidly advancing and globalizing world, we have the tools to start changing the health system so that human rights and health around the globe are protected. Although genocide is not yet a stark reality of the past, a movement towards Farmer’s agenda ensures that we analyze the social, economic, and political factors that produce conditions in which genocide is able to take place. Thus, the faster we act upon the issues highlighted by Farmer, the faster we can take away the justification for an action as inexcusable as genocide.


For more information on Paul Farmer:



North Korean Prisoners (Extra Credit Blog)

In this class I’ve been thinking a lot about power structures, genocides, and the vulnerable. Woman and children tend to be the most vulnerable, but in a way prisoners are as well. They are stripped of their rights and isolated from the rest of the population for the crimes they have committed. But what happens when the crimes is that a person isn’t loyal enough to their country. How can we have concrete evidence when all the evidence is hearsay and is similar to that of a modern day witch hunt? In North Korea, there has been much speculation of crimes committed against prisoners. There has even been talk of human experimentation on the prisoners. One of the biggest prisons, is Camp 22 in Haengyong, and is thought to hold about “50,000” political prisoners and their families. One man who worked as head of security at camp 22 was asked in an interview if he felt any remorse for the experimentation and eventual death of the prisoners, and even children; he replied “I had no sympathy at all because I was taught to think that they were all enemies of our country and that all our country’s problems were their fault. So I felt they deserved to die.” Even with testimonies such as this one, and from others who have escaped, North Korea still claims that there is no harmful treatment of its prisoners and that no human experimentation has occurred.


More information on Camp 22:




Genocide in the Dominican Republic (Extra Credit Post)

It’s been years since I’ve read or watched the movie “In the Time of the Butterflies” by Julia Alvarez. In it, we see the Mirabel sisters fighting the militaristic government, which resulted in their deaths. I was young when I read the book, and though the book mentioned that people were disappearing, I never considered that what was really happening was genocide. In my young mind, the Holocaust was the only genocide that ever occurred, and that was stopped after WWII.

In 1937, dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered the massacre of “15,000 to 20,000 Haitians,” and when news came to light about what he did, he was made to pay  reparations of “$750,000, of which $525,000 were paid… of the 30 dollars per victim, only 2 cents were given to survivors.” The number is absurd, and the reparations are a slap in the face to those that lost family and loved ones. In my opinion, allowing Trujillo or any other person to get away with killing thousands of people with nothing more than a slap on the wrist shows to public that people lives, in this case, Haitian lives are not important, and that no real repercussions will happen if the Haitian population is exploited or exterminated.

More information on Dominican Republic massacre:



Trapped Inside the Separation Wall (EXTRA CREDIT BLOG)

The Israeli separation wall has had a huge impact on Gaza’s economy, as poverty levels, closely linked to public health, have steadily increased. Most of this economic distress is caused by the restriction of movement in the occupied territory.

While much of the land and infrastructure in Gaza has been destroyed, there is virtually no way for them to leave Gaza to seek work or medical assistance. There are currently three main crossing points, one of which is only used for cargo, leaving the Erez Crossing in the north and the Rafah Crossing into Egypt in the south, which was closed from 2007-May 2011 (following the end of Hosni Mubarak’s regime). This means until recently, there was only one way for Gazans to leave the occupied territory, and even this passage was severely restricted. The Erez Crossing serves as a pedestrian and cargo passage only open to Egyptian citizens, foreign aid officials, and Palestinians with an authorized permit to work, seek medical treatment, or visit immediate family members in jail. Since most Palestinians are denied permits into Israel, this crossing is essentially only for foreigners. Of the 1.7 million Gazans, only 5,000 have been granted permits use the Erez Crossing, which is often closed by Israeli officials. Most of the permit-holders endure harassment and long waiting periods in the process of crossing, while many permits have been confiscated by border officials. The blockade has crippled Gaza’s economy, doubling the unemployment rate to more than 45% since 2007. With essentially no way to leave the overpopulated tiny strip of land, 1.7 million people are stuck in what can be viewed as an open-air prison.

Introduction to the documentary, “The Wall”

Many people view the separation barrier as an apartheid wall, and the virtual inability to leave such horrid conditions as an act of genocide.
For more information on the implications of the barrier:

“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian”

Sherman Alexie’s children’s novel, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” is a heart-warming tale of young boy growing up on a Native American Reservation with excessive cerebral fluid. Overcoming his less than likely odds of survival, Junior tries to lead the life of a normal Indian boy until he realizes that to be successful he must leave the reservation. He wants to break the monotonous cycle that most Indians on the res get stuck in, and he realizes to find more opportunities he must enlist in the white school outside his reservation. Becoming an outcast to the rest of his community and seen as a traitor for trying to be “white,” Junior faces harassment both on and off the res.

The novel discusses how Native Americans are discriminated against, and are essentially stuck on the res since it is hard for them to find jobs anywhere else. Not only does discrimination prevent them from leaving, but in an extremely tribal society, it is very rare for families to split up. In one of the chapters, Junior asks his parents why the Indians celebrate Thanksgiving, since shortly after the first celebratory feast, the Caucasians embraced a full on genocide of the Native Americans, systematically kicking them off their lands and destroying their livelihoods.

For more information about the author and his book:



The Impacts of International Medical Aid

Andreas Kalofono’s article “All I ate is ARV’s” and Pamela Feldman-Savelsberg “Sterilizing Vaccines or the Politics of the Womb” highlight how foreign medical aid in the form of new technology sometimes garners undesirable effects in local communities. The introduction of antiretroviral medication for PLWHA (people living with HIV/AIDs) in central Mozambique ended up causing more problems than expected. As a side-effect of the new drugs, people would feel extremely famished, but because of lack of resources in the community, were unable to meet their hunger’s needs. This is proof of how various technologies work differently in different parts of the world, depending on the community’s history, economy, and resources. PLWHA in Mozambique did not want to be singled out as having the taboo disease by accepting medication, and those who did often suffered severe symptoms that disrupted daily life.

Feldman-Savelsberg article discussed the introduction of anti-tetanus vaccines in Cameroon, which the local population was extremely wary of. Since the vaccines targeted school-children, many women and girls believed the vaccines to be part of a government plot to impose population control by inducing sterilization in young females. The rumors spread about the vaccines shed light on the extreme mistrust people had of the Cameroon state government, and is an example of how foreign technology brought can be a cause of fear and suspicion.

Many earlier drugs were tested on minority groups, or in more vulnerable parts of the world, where people were uninformed on what was going on, did not question motives, and were desperate for medical solutions. In 1990, Kaiser Permanente launched a new vaccine for measles which was tested on many minority children (mainly African-Americans and Hispanics) in the Los Angeles Area. The vaccine was quickly recalled a year later, after more than 1,000 vaccinated children died. This targeted testing of a vaccination was labelled as genocidal activity with the intent to ethnic cleanse a specific community.

For more information on the Kaiser vaccination scandal: http://horror.kaiserpapers.org/meashots.html

Egypt in the wake of WWII: Malaria, War, and Famine

Timothy Mitchell’s “Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity” sheds light on the malaria epidemic that ravaged Egypt during World War II. The disease, combined with war conditions and the construction of the Aswan Dam which depleted the region of agricultural resources, sending Egypt into a state of famine, claimed the lives of more than 1 million people. However, the epidemic was severely underplayed, and even kept from compatriots within the country. The Europeans, who used Egypt as a war route, were most likely responsible for the spread of the epidemic, while the construction of the Aswan Dam reallocated local water to industrial crops, leaving local agricultural crops dependent on synthetic chemical fertilizers which sent the country into a famine.

As a result of the European instigated World War II, Egypt and her resources were sucked into the conflict, resulting in a devastating epidemic that was kept quiet to not only the rest of the country, but the rest of the world. The catastrophic malaria epidemic in combination with war and famine conditions that were also connected to European actions demonstrate the manipulation of Egyptian land and resources for European advantages. This structural violence can be viewed as form of genocide, since the epidemic was exacerbated by government actions, while the majority of the population remained unaware of the country’s dire conditions.

For more information on Egypt’s role in World War II: http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/2WWegypt.htm