Global Environmental Leader: Antônio Tembue Improves Lives in Rural Mozambique
In 2001, the Ford Foundation granted $280 million—the largest single donation in the Foundation’s history—to a new initiative called the Ford International Fellowships Program (IFP). IFP set out to prove that an international scholarship program could help build leadership for social justice and thus contribute to broader social change. What followed was the creation of a fellowship that provided access to higher education for talented leaders from marginalized communities, giving them an opportunity to further develop their skills and capacities and serve as better agents for social change.
Over the past decade, the program enabled a total of 4,314 emerging social justice leaders from Asia, Russia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America to pursue advanced degrees at more than 600 universities in almost 50 countries. Many Ford International Fellows have become leaders in the fields of environmental leadership, protection and research.
Antônio Tembue grew up on a subsistence farm in rural Mozambique. As in many other parts of Africa, the livelihoods of families in Mozambique are heavily dependent on agriculture and livestock. Farmers depend on crops they grow for food and drink the milk produced from their cattle.
Some families who have no other source of income will sell cattle to pay for food when their crops are not growing, or to afford basic supplies such as school registration fees and uniforms.
Tembue’s family raised cattle for generations, only rarely selling cows in times of great distress. One particularly harsh year, when money was short, Tembue’s family sold a cow in order to buy food and soap. Soon afterwards, Tembue’s favorite cow—his family’s source of milk—fell ill and suddenly died.
“It hurt me a lot,” Tembue remembers. “I decided if I ever had the opportunity to go to school, I would learn how to treat sick animals so they don’t die.”
His family belonged to the indigenous Shopi tribe and lived miles away from other towns and without access to many public facilities, including schools. Determined to educate himself and one day become a veterinarian, Tembue walked 24 kilometers every day to attend primary school, managing to return home each evening to complete his chores and schoolwork.
At that time, Mozambique’s public education system suffered from a severe lack of adequate facilities and qualified teachers. Tembue became disappointed with his educational experience at home, and at the age of twelve, he made the difficult decision to leave his village and move to Maputo City in search of a better education. He worked as a domestic servant to support evening classes at a city school where the curriculum was more challenging. Because of his high test scores, the government provided him with a scholarship to complete his secondary schooling. After finishing school, he beat the odds again, receiving yet another government scholarship that enabled him to earn a veterinary degree and establish a successful career in Mozambique.
In 2001, he was appointed the Head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Moamba District of Mozambique. There, Tembue implemented the Agricultural Sector Public Expenditure Program (PROAGRI) with the goals of creating market-based solutions to agricultural development and regulating the use of natural resources. PROAGRI shifted the structure of the Ministry of Agriculture from a top-down, operational style to a decentralized, client-focused model, vastly improving the efficacy of the Ministry, not to mention the agricultural conditions of Mozambique.
Tembue was awarded an IFP fellowship in 2005 to attend the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco in Brazil, where he earned a master’s degree in Parasitic Zoonoses Epidemiology. After completing his master’s, the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development in Brazil and the Ministry of Science and Technology in Mozambique jointly offered him a grant to continue his studies as a PhD candidate in Veterinary Science.
Tembue completed his PhD ahead of schedule in March 2012 and began working for the National Ministry of Science and Technology, combining his veterinary knowledge and his experiences at the Ministry of Agriculture to help farmers improve the health and yields of their livestock.
“Now that I have my PhD,” Tembue says, “I am more committed than ever to helping improve the lives of people in rural communities. I am able to work on projects aimed at improving livestock sanitation and providing veterinary assistance in places like my home community—places that had no such competence before.”
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With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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