Ramadan is a Public Health Hazard. How Can We Reduce the Risks?

A lurch, a screech, my driver’s arm out the window banging on metal, a barrage of angry honks: I counted four near-misses and two streetside fights from the backseat of the taxi on my abnormally congested commute to work in Amman this morning. It is, not coincidentally, the first day of Ramadan. Sitting at 99 degrees Fahrenheit before noon, it’s no wonder frustrations were running high amongst those forsaking water during daytime hours in the desert.

As a religious and cultural phenomenon, Ramadan tends to dominate other standard obligations: work schedules may be shortened, and caregivers may switch to a nocturnal schedule to both prepare meals in a timely manner and to avoid hunger pains during daylight hours. What are the consequences of this month of fasting? About what you would expect:irritability skyrockets, psychomotor abilities deteriorate, and perceptual sensitivity is cut significantly. These effects are most often considered on the individual level — challenges of fasting to be overcome by faith and discipline — but they have dire health ramifications at the population level as well.

Rituals, both religious and cultural, are impossible to disentangle from the health of a community. Nowhere is this more evident at the moment than in West Africa, where the practice of washing bodies of the deceased prior to burial has not exempted victims of Ebola, helping to fuel an epidemic of unprecedented proportion. As a long-standing religious obligation, Ramadan isn’t exempt: just as with bubbly celebrations on New Year’s Eve on US roads or female genital mutilation across the globe, the holiday poses a number of health risks that ought to be confronted by health authorities in the region. Continue reading “Ramadan is a Public Health Hazard. How Can We Reduce the Risks?”

Ramadan is a Public Health Hazard. How Can We Reduce the Risks?

Nitpicking: The Logistics of Humanitarian Dronefare

Drones, as popular narrative would have it, are a cure-all for the logistically complicated humanitarian conundrums that have eclipsed us.

Violent atrocity beyond the realm of journalist access? Bear witness via aerial surveillance. Vaccine delivery in mountainous village with no cold chain? Propel freeze-packed parcels over the peaks. Difficulty obtaining specific parts for medical device repair in a remote region of the world? Drop off a 3D printer and let the Internet of Things spring forth from the empty vale.

To preface, I am optimistic about the potential drone use holds for all of the above purposes. But I am skeptical of whether entrepreneurs and hobbyists presently operating in this space are capable of achieving these goals, and whether interested funders are creating a space governed by rules and incentives that will guide the actors towards success – and, indeed, how success might be defined. That said, I’d like to present some challenges that as far I know have not yet been confronted in hopes of prompting a more nuanced conversation about the realities of humanitarian drone use. Continue reading “Nitpicking: The Logistics of Humanitarian Dronefare”

Nitpicking: The Logistics of Humanitarian Dronefare