I apologize for my recent absence from here. I was mostly away from the internet for a couple weeks, as I was house-sitting for a South African couple. Thank you to all those that told me they missed reading this, it makes it easier to write.

For all those who don’t want to read about a few highlights from monitoring visits (which I detail below), here is a picture of a monkey that I saw in Zanzibar.

Hilarious Monkey

As for the rest of you, as you may or may not know, I recently was able to go on a Joint Programme Monitoring Mission, which began in Dar yesterday and will continue in Zanzibar next week. This means that I, along with 5 other representatives from UN agencies, get to visit the implementing partners of a few of our UN Joint Programme activities in emergency preparedness.

Some highlights from yesterday:

We went to the Ministry of Livestock and Development, where we learned about the use of Digital Pens to track trans-boundary livestock diseases (rabies, avian flu, etc.) across the country.

What a digital pen looks like

Instead of reporting monthly by paper and sending that information by mail (which can sometimes take months), the field offices in ten “hotspots” around Tanzania now send data by literally writing data into a template by using digital pen. They then use their cell phones to connect to the internet, and send that information to the Ministry of Livestock and Development, where data is tracked, mapped out, and disseminated. This is a very effective way to increase reporting, and thus, put the Ministry in a better position to respond quickly the spread of diseases. Pretty neat stuff. There is even some talk of using this to track diseases in humans (hopefully, more on this later).

We also went to the ship ports (harbour) to see some of the now upgraded laboratories for the inspecting of pests (rats, insects, etc.) that come from ships that are importing into Tanzania. It was interesting to see the process of what happens when ships enter, and how the grain and other imports are inspected. Before anything comes off the boat, they have to make sure that there are no insects or pests… if there are, the captain is advised to fumigate or use “Cat-Rats” (I am guessing they put cats on the ships to catch the rats?). If there are still insects after that… then the boat is taken outside of the harbour, to be further fumigated. This is not so ideal because of the threat of pirates, and you have to put the crew up in hotels. From there, if the shipment is off loaded, and pests are found, then they send information to the Ministry, who may decided to take international legal action. You can see how this would be a massive inconvenience for anyone receiving those goods, especially if there is a lot of money involved. I am unsure of how many cases are reported, or what they find, or what countries they have trouble with— that wasn’t the point of the mission. Our job was to see how/if the funds where be utilized and progress that has been made. I am going to try and see if I can go out with one of the inspectors one day, although that would be very unlikely.

Today, we went to the Department of Disaster Management at the PMO to discuss their current activities. This morning was a bit of a run around, because this meeting was cancelled and then back on again, but I am getting used to impromptu meetings. One of the best outcomes from the meeting (for me anyway) is that I will be going on another monitoring visit to Lindi next month to make sure the warehouse has been rehabilitated.

All in all, it was a great few days of visiting partners. It was nice to finally  be able to put faces to names, and names with certain projects and ministries. I also really enjoyed seeing the different offices… it reminded me of the photographer, Jan Banning, who took pictures of bureaucrats from around the world. We went from office to office of Directors in small offices, with paper piled on high, and usually a picture of Jakaya Kikwete smiling behind them.

I will post some more of my exploits and some international news items tomorrow and, if you are lucky, maybe some video of me being chased by a monkey.