Anthropology is a social science that revolves around the tool of observation. Yet, for a discipline that appears rather basic it becomes relatively complicated as one examines the subsections of the science. Such is the case when referring to discipline of applied anthropology. Applied anthropologists do not solitarily research, observe and analyze a condition, but more, provide a practical solution to a human problem.
It takes conscious effort for one to leave their culture in order to observe another, but this is what must be done in order to ensure that all studies and probable solutions are as unbiased as possible and that no ethical codes are broken. Doctor Michael Elmore-Meegan is facing similar tribulations as he attempts to assist the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) crisis in Kenya, Africa; and the orphans it continues to leave behind. When dealing with individuals and a dilemma that threatens to wipe out their entire civilization, one must make every effort to ensure the right steps are taken and that they have long-term consequences.
My paper is going to discuss an anthropologists challenge as he challenges to preserve a culture and maintain his personal morals; while attempting to not invade the privacy of those already suffering from the wrath of AIDS. One of the prime challenges applied anthropologists presently face is tackling one of the most devastating trends sweeping Africa: children orphaned by AIDS. Before the AIDS epidemic began, about two-percent of children in developing countries were orphans. Now, in African countries struck worst by the disease, one out of every ten children is an orphan (1).
According to the US Census Bureau, there are currently thirteen million AIDS orphans in Africa; that is children who have lost at least one parent to the epidemic, (2). These numbers are predicted to only increase unless something is done to cause this epidemic to abate (2). This social earthquake, rooted through AIDS, has particularly been devastating in Kenya. It houses 1. 2 million AIDS orphans and the number is expected to double by the end of the decade (5). The Kenyan government is failing to ensure that the millions of AIDS orphans, or children whose family members are suffering from the disease, are being taken care of (7).
As Joanne Csete put it, The rights of children have been the missing piece of the AIDS crisis. If their parents had died in any other way, these children would have been at the top of the agenda. But because the parents died of AIDS, with all of the stigma that implies theyre at the bottom, (6). AIDS is becoming much more than a disease slaughtering a country; it is now the cause of a marginalized society in which children are being forced into poverty and out of school in order to fend for themselves or remaining family members (6).
The government of Kenya has promoted the grave futures of their youth by not speaking out against the stigma that is held against them. This is leaving the children uneducated, vulnerable and alone due to the fact that extended family members can only take in so many orphans and are beginning to close their doors. Individuals are unable to cope now and there is a dire need for outside assistance to come and evaluate what can and must be done in order to save a nation. Kenya is now working with applied anthropologist Doctor Michael Elmore-Meegan, part of the Internal Community for the Relief of Starvation and Suffering (ICROSS).
ICROSS is a group who serves the poorest of the poor in Africa and across the globe. They live amoung the community they serve, while formulating strategies to improve the livelihoods of those surrounding them (10). The general goals of ICROSS are explained in their mission statement, which is, to reduce disease, suffering and poverty among the most deprived communities through development projects run by the people themselves, using their language and their belief and value systems, (10).
AIDS prevention has been one of ICROSSs major involvements since 1986, while also providing final stage homecare to individuals with AIDS (10). With the help of Doctor Elmor- Meegan, who is part of the epidemiology department and medical anthropology for ICROSS Kenya, they are currently working to determine what is occurring to the children who have lost their parents through the devastation of AIDS. Doctor Elmor-Meegan evaluated through participant observation and recording the trends of children whose parents have died as a result of AIDS compared to those who still reside with both parents (8).
The focus of the study was on school attendance and performance, the amount of time spent in unpaid work (primarily in the home), who was caring for these children and who was inheriting their parents land (8). After observing both groups Doctor Elmor-Meegan established that there was a significant differentiation between children with parents weighed against those without (8). Statistics proved that, 52% of the cases were not attending school regularly compared with the 2. 1% of controls, (8).
This is comprehensible because once a child lacks the income of their parents they are left with no alternative but to fend for themselves financially. As, they are pulled out of school they are often forced to take on potentially dangerous labor that is inappropriate for children, (6). It was also not unforeseen that the drop-out ratio for females was higher than it was for males at 56% versus 47%. This is because many girls are left with no choice but prostitution, as a full time job, in order to provide income for themselves (8).
Grade averages were lower in those confronting the traumatic experience of losing a parent, but I consider this a direct correlation to the attendance level of those children. The majority of individuals require a scheduled amount of class lectures, as well as time set aside after school to do homework, in order to excel academically. This allotted time is not plausible for these children and therefore, their marks reflect the current situation they face. The section of the study dealing with the number of orphans doing additional tasks in the home also proved that these children have more to deal with than most adults.
They are not only trying to fit in a daily schedule of an education but also maintain a home and keep a family together. I can only imagine the stress level these children face as they attempt to balance death and growing up at the simultaneously. The question dealing with who the caretaker of the children is begins to get complicated as time continues. If one parent is dead than the child continues to reside with the other parent (8). For children who are faced with the death of both parents they are living with extended family members (8).
This does not seem complicated but as time goes on the numbers of orphans only continue to increase and individuals do not have the resources to care for more children (1). The final observation dealt with the inheritance of the parents land after being deceased. This issue follows a similar trend of the caretaking, as the land first goes to the other parent and if both parents have passed away then extended family members. For children that do not have caretakers, the chances of ever owning that land are very slim because of the complicated legal process that they must go through to do so (? ).
This is an obvious discrimination and exploitation of orphans due to the fact that the family land is often all they have left. Based on the observations of Doctor Elmor-Meegan, he recognized the dying necessity for a solution to be posed as Kenyas situation only promised to get worse. When Doctor Elmor-Meegan entered the devastating situation in Kenya he was aware that the condition would be one that never lost its shock-value. The distress of the tragedy would remain constant and knowing this, he must enter the study with an open-mind and make an effort to not judge what he soon would be dealing with.
Applied anthropologists struggle with not utilizing their belief systems to the varying projects they become involved with. Every individual is shaped by the ideologies of their culture and applied anthropologists cannot permit this to interfere with their line of work. Based on the American Anthropologist Association (AAA), applied anthropologists must adhere to a strict code of ethics in order to ensure that results are unbiased and not solely built on the culture rooted in the researcher (9). The culture the anthropologist enters he does so as a visitor, but for those he is attending to it is a reality.
The project is their life, and in order to respect that they must, protect and promote the rights and welfare of all those affected by their work, (9). There is another and related problem when dealing with the ethics of applied anthropology. Too often, attempts at applied anthropology have been made in the flush of superficial understanding. This happens in particular when anthropologists are sent into a location to provide answers for administration. Saving the world through anthropology, must be paced and done slowly. When an anthropologist penetrates into another way of life, he or she must do so in layers or stages.
These stages include months of fieldwork, time of insight and an attempt at understand, and then a proposed solution. In order to ensure that everyone is given fair opportunities within the project known of these steps must be skipped. Therefore, the goal of an applied anthropologist is to go into a situation willing to learn not only about the problem, but the community experiencing it as well. They must seek to apply anthropological knowledge in order to direct social change. By allowing this opportunity there is more room for understanding and an earnest covet to aid in a human problem.
Although, there was a visible dilemma in Kenya, Doctor Elmor-Meegan recognized that this problem was part of Kenyas day-to-day life. That is why when dealing with a subject such as AIDS he had to enter with an open-mind, not ready to judge individuals for practices. Although, we may scrutinize Kenya at fault, for their, prevailing ignoranceabout the way the virus is transmitted, (2) it is iniquitous to subject that viewpoint on those who are familiar with a lifestyle no different. The subjects must be viewed in neutral terms as applied anthropologists seek to provide solutions that will educate and allow the situation to change ceaselessly.
Doctor Elmor-Meegan was also forced to not extend attachments to individuals within his study. Part of human nature is to develop relationships, but when dealing with tragedy it will do nothing but negatively influence the study. Applied anthropologists must seek a solution for the greater good of all, not only the individuals they have become close to. Additionally, although Doctor Elmor-Meegan sought to change the AIDS situation in Kenya, the solutions uncertain of having long-term effects could not be shared with citizens of the community.
As said before, this is individuals daily lives so posing solutions to it will only cause more pain if they do not work out. When publishing his findings Dr. Elmor-Meegan had to ensure not to invade the privacy of those he studied. AIDS within Kenya holds a stigma that causes individuals to be marginalized within society. Knowing this, Doctor Elmor-Meegan had to be certain that all those involved in his work were ensured of full anonymity. Ethical issues are something that every applied anthropologist becomes involved in when attempted to use their knowledge and expertise to deal with problems in the real world.
Although, ethical challenges are one of the biggest hurtles applied anthropologists must overcome like any other social scientist there are practical problems that must be dealt with when researching. Doctor Elmor-Meegan was entering a country facing an epidemic in large proportions. The fear would have been of contracting the disease himself. In addition to the worry of not getting AIDS, the healthcare system in Africa is not comparable to what Doctor Elmor-Meegan was use to. Therefore, any basic health problem occurring while in Kenya was given more concern than it would have been otherwise.
Another difficulty when entering a foreign country is a language barrier. Language is one of the chief tools of communication and must be developed in order to ensure that the most amount of information is being conveyed. When two cultures collide they are likely to have varying viewpoints in many areas of life. This is applicable when discussing different approaches to medicine. Doctor Elmor-Meegan had to enter Kenya with the realization that it was a different culture and that their practices would not necessarily be parallel with those he was use to.
Applied anthropology is a profession that attempts to deal with the balance of different cultures with diverse ideas of normality, while still endeavoring to explain a human problem. The solutions Doctor Elmor-Meegan proposed are excellent because they attempt to provide long-term solutions. He is not simply stating what must be done in order for change to occur, but more educating the people so that they can change their future. He set-up a home care training program in which for five years the citizens of Kenya would be involved in a course allowing them to become better caretakers of those with AIDS (8).
It was also a hope to work with Frank Plummer on a group of other Ethnographic studies. Doctor Elmor-Meegans biggest solution is education. He feels there is an, urgent need for more rigorous social and anthropological study as the solution in Kenya depends on modifying high risk behavior, (8). Also, there must be more ways to coach individuals community health education in order to prevent epidemics such as AIDS from being contracted further. Doctor Michael Elmore-Meegans fieldwork, analysis, and conclusions are very similar to the approach I would have taken.
It is extremely troubling that there can be an entire nation subjected to things such as poverty and a lack of education because of a disease taking over a continent. I think working directing with the people, rather than studying statistics and analyzing them is the correct method because one only fully understands a problem the closer they become to it. Watching AIDS take the backbone of a society has a much more of an impact than reading about it. Doctor Elmor-Meegan is right when he advises further studies into similar situations.
Society is silencing those less-fortunate by ignoring their needs and refusing to assist in a solution. I agree that education is the only solution that will promise long-term change. It is not until the people understand the problem that they can help fix it. Educational programs should initiate at a young age so that safe habits are engrained within society, leaving less room for an epidemic like AIDS to destroy again. Although, Kenya has lost many to AIDS it is through applied anthropologists like Doctor Michael Elmor-Meegan that continuing generations of Kenya will not be struck by the same tragedy.