Thursday, 12 March 2009

12/03/09: Brazilian arrives in Mali bound for the 2010 Football Cup in South Africa

Zé's contact in Mali: +223-65850146

Facing temperatures superior to 42° Celsius, the Brazilian José Geraldo de Souza Castro (Zé do Pedal - a.k.a. Pedal Joe), 51, arrived at Bamako, capital of Mali, in his first leg of the second stage (Dakar-Lagos) of his trip, in a pedal go-kart, prepared specially for the trip by the Dutch company Berg Toys, bound for South Africa, where he intends to attend the Football World Cup in 2010.

Pedal Joe, who left from Paris on the 10th of May 2008 and has already travelled over 8 countries and 8000 kilometers, and intends to arrive in Johannesburg by the 15th of June 2010, was received in this city by the members of the Lions Clube, Bubo Diarra, Cheickna Diawara and Deidia Katara.

The objective of the trip is to focus the attention of the international community on two of the biggest problems that affect vision, especially children's: Cataracts, Glaucoma and on the great world-wide project of the International Lions Club to combat preventable blindness, the campaign Sight First.

The Lions International Club, a non-governmental organisation recognised by the United Nations (and advisory member thereof) started in 1917, due to the social preoccupations of a man from Chicago, MELVIN JONES, and, only three years after its foundation, in 1920, the Association became international when the first club was established in Canada.

The altruism is from the beginning the principal purpose of the Association that counts, at present, with more than 1,4 million members, men and women, who integrate around 46.000 clubs located in more than 200 countries. Thanks to the appeal launched by Helen Keller in 1925 at the International Convention in Cedar Point, Ohio, in the USA, the Lions Clubs became the champions of the blind and visually impaired, launching in 1990 its extraordinary campaign "Sight First".

In Mali, Lionism was born on the 13th of January 1958 with the creation of the Club Sokala Bamako. It took 34 years in order to see the birth of other Lions Clubs, like the Bamako Melina (essentially feminine), Yeelen Bamaco, Sigui Bamaco, Sikasso Deme, Phoenix Bamaco and Caïlcédrat Bamako. The country has also two Leos Clubs.

As in other countries, the Lions Clubs of Mali carry out large scale actions in the struggle against preventable and reversible blindness and, thanks to the actions of the Lions Club International Foundation (LCIF, acronym in English), more than 5 million dollars were invested in renovation (or construction) of schools and hospital buildings, donation of hospital equipment and the formation of students and specialists. Campaigns of awareness are also carried out, through communitarian radios and construction of latrines in the rural environment.

Other areas of deployment of the Club in Mali include the struggle against diabetes, tuberculosis, esquistossomosis, support for non-seeing persons, lepers and mental patients and the construction of the SOS Children's Village, for children in risk. As regards the environment, another important area of action and concern for the Lions Club International, the Clubs of Mali carry out plantation of trees.

Environment, one more problem for the Africans


Pedal Joe, ambassador for the environment of the ONG APUA Meadow of the Flowers and ex-adviser for the environment of the District DLC12 of the Lions Clube, affirmed that the great preoccupation of the rulers of the countries south of the Sahara (and of the international community) is the encroachment of the Sahara desert towards the south.

With this preoccupation in mind, the president of Senegal, Abdulah Wade, and the first Minister, Cheikh Adjibou Soumaré, urged recently in Dakar the African States to make the Great Green Wall (GMV) a priority project of the continent for the next 10 years. 15 kilometres wide and seven thousand kilometers of long, the Great Wall is going to tie Senegal to Djibouti, passing by 9 other countries - Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Niger, Tchad, Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritreia, aiming to curb the desertification.

Nevertheless, and regrettably, in the case of Senegal, the desertification begins inside towards the outside. In the last 40 years the extraction of wood for domestic use as fuel practically put an end to the woods and there is not a single reforestation project in the works or any sustainable handling of the few areas where there still exist large trees (which, not so slowly and in vain, are being turned into coal).


" The Great Green Wall is going to be an inheritance of the humanity and an inexhaustible fountain of several essential productions to our rural communities up to now weakened by the conditions of existence in the saharo-salian zone ", he declared, adding that the Africans must not let the situation in which they live go on, which generated a degradation of the natural resources of the referenced countries.

If on one hand the forests and woods of Senegal are a preoccupation, the situation of the water for human consumption in Mali is still more worrying. In accordance with a document of the Spanish ONG INTERVIDA, an organization that offers aid to more than 25.000 students of public schools in Ségou and Macina, approximately 65% of the children younger than 15 years old of Mali suffers from diseases linked to water (for example malaria, typhoid fever, conjunctivitis, diarrheas and bilharziosis), a consequence of using non-drinkable water to drink as well as to cook.

In spite of the actions of awareness of the ONG, through the existent communitarian networks of hygiene and sanitation, as well as national and local campaigns of treatment of water, the consumption of non-drinkable water by part of the population of Mali is quite difficult to eradicate because of different factors. On one hand, there are not enough boreholes nor waterworks and the existing points of water are far away from the houses. Another reason for the continuing use of water in unsafe conditions is that cistern water is in many cases contaminated (one of the principal causes of the contamination of the water is the lack of protection of the cisterns) by the human and domestic animals excrements. Also the wells that dried during the dry spell are recuperated without being cleaned beforehand, are turned into a source of illnesses and parasites.

Present in different countries of Latin America, Africa and Asia, giving support to almost five million persons, the ONG works towards the improvement in the accessibility of water in the zone and tries to educate the population to adopt an appropriate behaviour in the use of drinkable water.

Pedal Joe thanks his Lions companions Brito Rocha, Álvaro Drurão, Joaquim Miguel, Julia Lima and Caty Soares, all from Portugal, who are always phoning to provide moral support.

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