Tom Murphy

Correspondent

Tom Murphy is a Boston-based reporter for Humanosphere. Tom is a prolific writer-blogger and editor of the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy(at)humanosphere.org.

Author Archives: Tom Murphy

Video of the Day: 5 Myths about Immigration in the US | 

This video comes from the pro-immigration reform group FWD.us, so it should be said that it comes with a political and activist slant. The founders are some big names, including Bill Gates, Sean Parker and Mark Zuckerburg. It’s supporters include some more stars of the tech industry, one that admittedly would benefit from the easier migration of high-skilled workers.

Though limited in information, given its intent to support immigrants, it does knock down some major myths. Here are the five:

  1. It’s easy to gain legal status in the U.S.
  2. Undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes.
  3. Most new immigrants come from Latin America.
  4. DREAMers affect the U.S. economy negatively.
  5. Most immigrants are undocumented.

Watch the video to learn the facts.

Revealed: USAID’s Twitter-like attempt to ferment unrest in Cuba | 

Students in Cuba gather behind a business looking for a Internet signal for their smart phones in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, April 1, 2014.
Students in Cuba gather behind a business looking for a Internet signal for their smart phones in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, April 1, 2014.
AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa

A report by the AP today reveals that a US-backed program attempted to develop a Twitter-like service with the goal that it would help spark political unrest in Cuba.

Most surprising is that it was backed by the humanitarian arm of the US government, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). By channeling funds through offshore accounts and working with US and Spain-based contractors, USAID helped to establish ZunZuneo (a slang term for a Cuban hummingbird’s tweet). At its peak, the text-message based application had more than 40,000 users.

There are already concerns that the revelation will cause harm to US foreign policy and future US humanitarian work.

ZunZuneo was built on the back of the state-owned mobile phone company Cubacel. The contract between USAID and Creative Associates International, was to build a system where people could connection on issues related to news, sports and entertainment. Data was to be collected about the users so that more political messaging could be shared, at the direction of USAID.

Taking a page out of Iran and other places where social media aided civil unrest, the hope was ZunZuneo would lead to “smart mobs” and other actions that may “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society,” as a USAID document obtained by the AP, states.

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Two important visuals for new global migration data | 

Migration is a much debated subject around the world. We are investigating the impacts that migration on countries, migrants, business and more. Read more on Migration Matters.

We have looked previously at visual representations of migration, but these two visuals manage to capture the scale of movement and its impacts. Also, they are interactive and really interesting.

First up is a visualization of 20 years of migration collected by geographers and published in the journal Science. The interactive version is even better as it reveals changes over five year periods from 1990 to 2010. You can also isolate out by country or region over the periods and see just where people are going, quickly and easily.
vid_global_migration_datasheet_web-gimp3

Among the interesting trends is the contraction of migration out of Africa over the past two decades. The big changers over the period are North America, Europe and South Asia.

Zooming out a bit more, the bigger trends point to a steady global flow of migrants since roughly 1995. As is already known, the big movement is coming from the middle income countries like Mexico and India, not the poor ones.

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Meet Big Oil’s Big Men in Nigeria and Ghana | 

Masked rebels in the oil-rich Niger Delta of Nigeria.
Masked rebels in the oil-rich Niger Delta of Nigeria.
Big Men

Companies have been taking oil out of Nigeria for nearly half a century, making it one of the wealthier nations in Africa.

But the wealth is not well-distributed. What should have been a boon for Nigerians has left out most of them. Corruption, domestic and foreign, a series of coups and the concentration of oil wealth has actually undermined progress and development. At least half of all Nigerians live in poverty.

In the oil-rich Niger Delta of Nigeria, some have taken up arms to steal from and sabotage the oil pipelines. It has made for a continuously insecure situation in the region and a burgeoning health disaster caused by oil spills, both intentional and accidental.

A new documentary film, Big Men, explores if the ‘resource curse,’ will repeat itself elsewhere in Africa.

Other African nations already have had experiences somewhat similar to Nigeria. The citizens’ hope that follows the discovery of oil frequently loses out to the realities of competition and corruption. The ‘resource curse’ applies as much to coltan in the Democratic Republic of Congo and diamonds in Angola as it does to Nigeria’s oil.

That’s why some were immediately worried when a small US oil company discovered oil in the ocean off the coast of south Ghana. The Dallas-based Kosmos Energy tapped into some 3 billion barrels in 2007. The company had negotiated a favorable contract with the government of Ghana that would give them exclusive drilling rights for finding such a field.

At that time filmmaker Rachel Boynton was looking for a new project. Her documentary, Our Brand is Crisis, provided a look inside the workings of politics through the political consulting firm Greenberg Carville Shrum’s work in the 2002 Bolivian election.

“I was feeling very ambitious. I wanted something very big and very difficult,” she said to Humanosphere.

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Attacks on hospitals hamper South Sudan humanitarian response | 

South Sudanese refugees in Uganda.
South Sudanese refugees in Uganda.
ECHO

The ongoing fighting in South Sudan continues to put the people living in the country at risk, as well as the people trying to provide humanitarian assistance. Its impact has extended beyond the young country’s borders and into neighboring Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

Hospitals run by the medical NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have experienced attacks and evidence of patients murdered in their hospital beds. The challenge to provide medical aid coupled with insecurity and poor living conditions in camp are making for a worrying combination says the group.

“This lack of respect for medical care has deprived people lifesaving care at a time they need it most,” said Chris Lockyear, MSF’s operations manager for South Sudan, in a press call last week.

Equally concerning is what MSF sees as a lack of respect for humanitarian actors and medical facilities. On February 22, the MSF team working at the Malakal teaching hospital discovered fourteen dead bodies. The evidence suggested that they were shot dead in their hospital beds, said Lockyear. A similar report from Bor in December cited patients killed in their beds.

In another incident earlier this year, a team working in Unity State were forced to evacuate when fighting began to affect the hospital, leaving thousands of people with no access to medical care. MSF staff are back working at the hospital, but the situation remains tenuous.

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Infographic: How mobile money is faring in Africa | 

The story of mobile money in Africa is as much a one of success as it is one of failure. The rapid rise of M-PESA in Kenya and other competing ways to send money from cell phone to cell phone has been heralded for years. Today, nearly 70% of Kenyans who own a cell phone regularly send or receive money on their phones.

The growth has been staggering considering that M-PESA turned 7 years old this month. Estimates show that one-quarter of Kenya’s gross national product travels through mobile phones. As a result, it has helped to make it easier for people to send money home, pay for goods and services, and gain instant access to a savings account.

Due to the success in Kenya, the belief has been that mobile money can work elsewhere. Advocates are buoyed by the fact that the continent managed to leap past land-line phones for mobile technology. It means more people are connected by phones and as higher speed coverage expands, by the internet.

That is why USAID, the Gates Foundation and other funders have been making the bet to support the growth of mobile money elsewhere in the world. So, how are things faring in Africa?

tumblr_n33rkiFrPS1qiuwg7o1_1280
Afrographique

It’s still early, but the results are not so great. As seen in the infographic of use across the continent, there is a steep decline from leading Kenya to Uganda to South Africa. There is reason for hope that mobile money will catch on elsewhere in the world, but it is evident that copying the success of Kenya is not enough. The trend also seems to be making its way north. T-Mobile is now letting its customers deposit checks in a mobile money account, which they can then access at ATMs.

“Some of the factors behind Kenya’s lead cannot be copied; but many of them can, which means it should eventually be possible for other countries to follow Kenya’s pioneering example,” said The Economist blog last year.

American teenager is the face of global TB | 

Washington, DC Jake paused when he entered the room. He pulled out his phone to take a picture of the empty seats facing the empty table where he and his mom, Caryn, will soon sit.

The Irvine, California high school Freshman is dressed in a sharp suit and polka-dot bowtie. A young embodiment of California cool, Jake jokes with his mother as he decides what Instagram filter to apply before sharing the photo.

He is every bit the normal American kid, except for one unapparent difference. Jake has tuberculosis (TB).

(l to r) Dr Felice Adler, Jake Kaufman and Caryn Kaufman
(l to r) Dr Felice Adler, Jake Kaufman and Caryn Kaufman
Courtney Miller

He shows no evidence of active TB, the kind that can spread from person to person, but cannot know for sure if the preventative therapy worked. Jake is a perfectly healthy teen who lives with the possibility that he is still infected by TB.

Nearly 1 million children around the world developed TB in 2010, says a new study. The researchers also estimated, for the first time, that more than 30,000 children were infected by a multidrug-resistant form of TB.

Jake and Caryn are in Washington to put a face on the problem of TB and encourage lawmakers to provide support for the research and development of treatments, diagnostic tools and preventative steps against TB. They lobbied with the advocacy organization RESULTS and participated in a briefing at the Senate Visitors Center on Wednesday.

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