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Archive for June 5th, 2009

OPT: Gaza reconstruction project hit by Israeli sanctions – UNDP has already given cash handouts to 8,000 families to help them do minor repairs

Posted by African Press International on June 5, 2009

Photo: Erica Silverman/IRIN
A tented camp in the Ezbet Abedrabbo area of northern Gaza

GAZA CITY, – Thousands of non-refugee Palestinians in Gaza receiving financial assistance from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) are finding it difficult to reconstruct and rehabilitate their homes, because they are unable to access sufficient quantities of building materials, UNDP programme officer Husam Toubil told IRIN.

Of Gazas total population of 1,416,539, according to the UN Population Fund, 1,073,303 are registered as refugees by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). The remainder are non-refugees who cannot get assistance from UNRWA so UNDP is trying to assist them.

About 13,300 homes/households are registered as recipients for this UNDP aid. Some 1,300 homes which were completely destroyed and 1,000 which sustained major damage (in the 23-day Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip which ended on 18 January 2009) are scheduled for reconstruction, according to Toubil.

UNDP has already given cash handouts to 8,000 families to help them do minor repairs: Some 11,000 of the registered homes sustained minor damage estimated at US$100-5,000, according to UNDP.

However, about 1,000 families who are due to receive more substantial UNDP aid have had problems getting the money due to Gazas liquidity crisis.

Gaza lacks all kinds of building material primarily cement, steel, aluminium, aggregates, glass and wood to begin reconstruction, said Toubil. And materials are unavailable on the local market, or too expensive for families trying to repair minor damage.

Thip Mansour, aged 24, his wife and their four-month-old daughter, Fatima, are living with nine other family members in their house which was badly damaged.

The UNDP gave Thip, unemployed, 1,200 NIS (shekels; about US$300) to repair his home in Jabalyia. Three rooms of his home and the windows were destroyed when the neighbouring house was targeted by Israeli forces during the offensive.

The money is not enough to rebuild one room, and cement and wood is unavailable or too costly, said Thip. We covered the windows with plastic sheeting, but it tore apart and now we are using cloth-sheets.

Photo: Erica Silverman/IRIN
Houses destroyed by the Israeli army in Al Qerem area of East Jablia, Gaza

UNDP still awaiting response

Toubil said that the reconstruction of damaged homes and buildings would require 170,000 tons of aggregates (gravel, sand, etc.) to rebuild totally destroyed houses, and about 20,000 tons of aggregates for partially destroyed houses. In addition, 50,000 tons of cement are needed to rebuild completely destroyed houses and 41,000 tons to rebuild public buildings.

The UNDP placed a request in early April via the logistics cluster led by the World Food Programme to bring building materials and equipment into Gaza but is still awaiting a response.

Israeli Defence Ministry spokesperson Shlomo Dror said it was difficult for Israel to allow building materials to enter Gaza, since they cannot be sure the materials will not be used for terrorist activities by Hamas.

Fighting during the offensive destroyed some 4,000 homes and damaged another 40,000. Donor countries have pledged billions of dollars but work on reconstruction cannot start because of the Israeli blockade, said the top UN humanitarian official in OPT, Maxwell Gaylard on 28 May.

Meanwhile the tunnels, though an important economic lifeline, are not much use when it comes to large quantities of heavy building materials, and are used for smaller items, like cash.



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SOUTHERN AFRICA: Feeling more food secure – Growing returns

Posted by African Press International on June 5, 2009

Photo: Train4dev
Growing returns

JOHANNESBURG, – Southern Africa’s food security has “greatly improved”, according to the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS-NET), and unofficial estimates predict a better cereal harvest than last year.

“The total regional deficit for the 2009/10 marketing year is projected to be much lower [two million metric tons] than last year [2008], due to improved harvests, especially of maize, particularly in Malawi and Zambia,” said the May issue of the FEWS-NET bulletin.

“Most projected deficits are for wheat, which all SADC [Southern African Development Community] countries produce in deficit and import from outside the region.”

Only two of the SADC’s 14 member states have released harvest estimates: Malawi is expecting a harvest of 3.88 million tons – a 30 percent increase over last year – while Zambia’s estimated crop of 2.2 million tons is 51 percent higher than the previous year.

“Zimbabwe’s preliminary estimates also point to an improved harvest this year, despite the February dry spell and other production challenges. The maize harvest is estimated at 1.24 million tons, a 92 percent increase over last year’s worst ever production levels,” FEWS-NET said.


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BURKINA FASO: President launches bid to reduce FGM/C – Half of all women in Burkina Faso undergo female genital mutilation/cutting

Posted by African Press International on June 5, 2009

Photo: Claire Soares/IRIN
Half of all women in Burkina Faso undergo female genital mutilation/cutting, according to 2005 figures (file photo)

OUAGADOUGOU, – Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaor has launched a campaign to reduce female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) by 30 percent by 2013.

Burkina Faso has made more progress on reducing FGM/C than its neighbours, lowering the percentage of girls undergoing the procedure to 50 percent in 2005 from 77 percent in the 1990s.

But following a governmentoutlaw of the practice in 1996, some women perfoming excisions are cutting babies, rather than young girls, to escape scrutiny.

Marie Rose Sawadogo, permanent secretary of the National Committee against Female Circumcision (CNLPE), told IRIN: I am calling on the entire population to unite behind this plan to reach zero tolerance to FGM/C by 2015.

On 2 June President Compaor travelled to Kaya, 100km north of the capital Ouagadougou where resistance to stopping FGM/C has been high to garner the support of traditional and religious leaders.

Some 260 young girls underwent FGM/C in Burkina Faso in 2008, 40 percent of whom required medical treatment following the procedure, according to the CNLPE.


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SRI LANKA: Growing concern over nutrition of displaced children – 300,000 internally displaced persons

Posted by African Press International on June 5, 2009

Photo: World Vision Lanka
A young girl receives food assistance at an IDP camp in northern Sri Lanka. The nutritional status of thousands of children in the camps is a source of concern for aid workers on the ground

COLOMBO, – Concerns are growing that the number of malnourished children is higher than earlier estimated among thousands of recently displaced in Sri Lanka.

Some 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDP), many of them children, live in more than 40 government camps in the north, after fleeing fighting between government forces and the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

It is estimated that 13 percent of the IDP population is younger than five, with one in four or some 10,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition, humanitarian sources told IRIN.

According to a survey by the Colombo-based Medical Research Institute in March in six out of the then 13 camps, 25.5 percent of children suffered from global acute malnutrition, of whom 5.2 percent were severely malnourished and needed immediate rehabilitation with therapeutic food and treatment.

However, since that survey was conducted, the number of camps and IDPs has ballooned, leaving many believing the numbers are significantly higher now.

We are obviously concerned about this, but as we dont have access to the camps, were clueless as to the true extent of the problem, an international aid worker in Colombo said.

Since 20 April, at least 210,000 people have fled to government-controlled areas and into the camps, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sri Lanka reported.

Those who arrived most recently from the conflict zone suffered the most, enduring acute shortages of food and water for extended periods.

The most vulnerable and most needy – including the injured, sick, elderly and small children are often the ones that miss out since they dont have the ability to wait in queues for up to 10 hours, David White, deputy country director for Oxfam GB,told IRIN in Colombo.

The UN Childrens Fund (UNICEF) is constructing 21 nutrition centres across the camps and supplied more than 250 metric tonnes of food for malnourished children.

UNICEF, however, said access difficulties were preventing it from meeting all needs.

The nutritional situation of children is a huge concern for UNICEF, and restrictions on access at this most critical of moments diminish our ability to help malnourished children,” James Elder, UNICEFs spokesman in Sri Lanka, told IRIN, adding that any restrictions on access to camps had damaging consequences for children given the enormous amount that needs to be done in terms of sanitation, health, nutrition, protection and education.

Photo: Contributor/IRIN
A young girl at the Cheddikulum primary school, one of more than 40 camps set up by the government to accomodate the 300,000 ethnic Tamils who fled the conflict

Access restrictions

Since 18 May, access to Menik Farm, the largest IDP centre with more than 220,000 people, remains restricted, OCHA reported.

The restrictions were placed on the number of vehicles entering the site, particularly those carrying personnel. Some UN staffers report being prevented from moving freely inside camps, citing security requirements that the vehicle remain within 15m of personnel.

However, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), which has been transporting food supplies into the camps, the restrictions have not hampered its activities.

Food supplies have never been affected by access restrictions, Adnan Khan, WFP country director, told IRIN, conceding, however, that some staff were unable to accompany vehicles given restrictions on vehicles entering the camps.

The restriction on movement of vehicles inside the camps affected our ability to do some of our monitoring work. We as an agency have to monitor our food distributions since we must be accountable to our governing bodies, Khan said. Access in recent days had been easing and that staff were now able to move more freely within the camps.

We continue to work with the government on this issue and hope that there will be more improvement in access in the coming days, the UN official said.

contributor/ds/mw source.

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