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Archive for June 27th, 2009

Norway: 75% of Immigrant organizations in Oslo are getting money from the municipality through false pretences and by colluding with some corrupt municipal officials participating in making the scam a success.

Posted by African Press International on June 27, 2009

Oslo municipality has fallen victim of a number of immigrant organizations that through false pretences get funding for projects that do not exist.
Most of the organizations in question use projects that do not exist to get the money and thereafter file false reports to indicate that the projects have been completed and yet none of the said projects ever took off at all.

Some organizations even after being reported by to the officials who give them the money have not been punished.

API can now reveal that the said organizations have not been punished because some of the officials in the municipality collude with the organization leaders so steal the money from the Municipality,.

The scheme is simple. The organization files a false report and acquire the money and the officer in the municipality aware of the false documentation agrees with the applicant to approve the documents on condition that the money be shared 50/50 between the organization and the official releasing the money. This has continued now for a number of years.

Misusing public funds – Leaders summoned to the municipality to answer the charges

During a KIM (An advisory committee that advices the government on immigrant issues) meeting in Oslo recently, the question as to why the Municipality is allowing the organizations to steal tax-payers money was raised and the politicians present during the meeting promised to take action in order to put a stop to the scam.

API has now learnt that the officials in the municipality have decided to take steps and have now started summoning some organizations to meetings starting Monday 29th, June to go and explain how they have used the money they were given. The scam has to be stamped out.

Some of the organizations that misused the money will not be able to satisfy the municipality. They never started any projects as alleged in the documents they filed in the municipality as returns showing completed projects that never was.

In some cases, the municipality demands that the organizations getting funding must have members who pay their membership fee to the organization. Many organizations have been managing to fool the municipal officials by submitting false lists to indicate that they have members and yet they do not.

They simply get the telephone directory and randomly pick names and addresses, thereafter sign for them as members of the organization. The same leaders pay the membership fees for non-existing members. By doing this, they manage to get money for each member from the municipality because in some cases money is paid to organizations according to how many members they have. Some organizations are even going further than that.

Where has the money gone – Proforma business?

Some organizations have misused all the money while others have only misused half of the money given to them. In some cases the money goes to help persons dealing with proforma marriages, people who need to come to Norway and do not have the money to show as guarantee to the authorities in order to get visas. When these people who get help from organizations get settled in the country, they are asked by the same organization leaders who stood for them in the first place to pay a thank you fee for the help they got to enter and settle in the country. The money from the municipality, instead of going to projects as stipulated in the organization’s application, is put into criminal activities when it is used to fool the authorities in connection with required quarantees before people are issued with visas to travel to Norway.

Organization leaders should be investigated by the police

Leaders of these organizations should be refused any more funds and made to pay back what they have stolen and at the same time they should become subject of police investigation.

Recently an immigrant organization led by a Pakistani group accused by TV2 of misuse of funds and false membership register. It remains to be seen what the municipality will do with the organization that also got over 200 thousand kroner from the ministry of foreign affairs to host a seminar on religion.

Making public the names of organizations and board members

API will soon publish the list of all suspected organizations and the names of their registered board members. This information (names of organizations and leaders is not subject to the secrecy act and may be made public due to the fact that they have been receiving public funding.

In the future, API will also be publishing the names of all the organizations and its leadership, including the money they get and the projects they propose to start when they ask for the money. By making everything public like the accounts, places the projects are said to have taken place, and how many people participated in the events will stop scams and corruption.

It is important that organizations getting the money by application and using members names to acquire such monies must use the money given on the projects that benefit the members instead of putting the money in their own pockets and turning them into private use in private business promotions.

December 6th, 2006, API raised the alarm for the first timeabout questionable immigrant organization leadership and the misuse of funds. There was a follow up story on the same subject on the 10th of January 2007. The authorities are yet to take action to stamp out the scam practised by some organizations.

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Written by Chief Editor Korir – African Press International (API)

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MYANMAR: Disabled battle stigma, lack of funds – Thung Mai, 21, disabled by polio, learns tailoring

Posted by African Press International on June 27, 2009

Photo: Contributor/IRIN
Thung Mai, 21, disabled by polio, learns tailoring at a vocational training centre for the disabled in Yangon earlier this month

YANGON, – Nay Lin Soe, aged 28, campaigns for the rights of the disabled in Myanmar, a marginalized group with few rights and little support.

He contracted polio at the age of three, gets around on crutches, and has devoted his adult life to raising awareness of, and dispelling negative attitudes towards, disability.

“People in Myanmar think about disability in a traditional way,” Nay Lin Soe told IRIN. “A family will usually regard a disabled person as a burden. And often a disabled person can feel like a burden because he or she doesnt have a chance to lead a productive life.”

Government-funded facilities for the disabled are limited. For a nation of 56 million people, there is just one school for disabled children, one vocational training centre for adults, and one rehabilitation centre – all in the commercial capital Yangon.

The disabled make up around 2.3 percent of the population, or some 1.3 million people, according to government figures.

Stigma and lack of mobility hamper them in their efforts to get a good education and a job. “They are isolated and excluded from society. As children they cannot go to school; as adults they have little or no income because it is almost impossible for them to get employment,” said Nay Lin Soe.

The Education Ministrys policy is to provide opportunities for disabled children in ordinary schools, but problems remain.

This month, the Disabled People’s Development Organization (DPDO), a local NGO established in 2003, will open its first office in Yangon. It aims to change attitudes towards disability, campaign for equal rights and provide a place where its 120 members can come and share their experiences.

Photo: Contributor/IRIN
Pictured on the far right, Nay Lin Soe is eager to make a difference

Nay Lin Soe, who is on the executive committee, told IRIN: “Lack of capacity is our biggest problem in promoting disability awareness and helping people living with disabilities.”

Rehab programme

Nay Lin Soe is also the project manager of a community-based rehabilitation programme run by AAR Japan, one of the few foreign NGOs funding projects for disabled people in Myanmar.

AAR runs a vocational training centre in a suburb of north Yangon, where disabled people from across the country learn tailoring and hairdressing.

Chit Hinn Wai, who had both legs amputated above the knee after falling from a train at the age of 13, is learning hairdressing on a three month residential course. Since her accident five years ago she has lived in a government-run orphanage and this is the first time she has been able to share her experiences with other disabled people.

“I’ve made new friends and I’ve learned so much. I hope to use my skills and one day lead an independent life,” she said.

AAR also runs community-based rehabilitation programmes in three areas affected by last year’s Cyclone Nargis. They offer physiotherapy, free crutches and braces, and aim to make schools more accessible for disabled children.

But the one-year programme is a tiny contribution. “There just isn’t enough support, from both inside and outside the country,” said Nay Lin Soe. “My hope is that all disabled people in Myanmar can live with dignity.”


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ETHIOPIA: Erratic rainfall threatens crop yields – Ethiopia produces 90-95 percent of its total cereal output during the main rainy season

Posted by African Press International on June 27, 2009

Photo: Anthony Mitchell
Ethiopia produces most of its cereal output during the main rainy season, called ‘meher’, which runs from June to October – file photo

ADDIS ABABA, – The late start of Ethiopia’s wet season and the unreliability of the rains could affect crop production this year and increase the number of those in need of aid, officials said.

“The rainy season will start late particularly in the northeastern part of our country,” Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told reporters at his office on 24 June. “That means the cropping season for some types of crops may not be appropriate this year.”

Ethiopia produces 90-95 percent of its total cereal output during the main rainy season, called ‘meher’, which runs from June to October.

According to the US Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fews Net), the `meher crop season is likely to experience below normal rains. The `belg (early rains, February-June) season, which normally accounts for 5-10 percent of total cereal output, has also been unpredictable.

“Forecasts for rainfall during the main cropping season and in northern pastoral areas are below normal, particularly in areas of the east where production was poor this year, raising concerns that a serious food crisis could emerge in Ethiopia over the next year,” Fews Net said in a 24 June statement.

The late start of the early rains meant that only 50-70 percent of land planned for planting was sown by mid-April, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).

Fews Net said the lowland pastoral and marginal production areas in the eastern regions had also received “below normal” rains.

Photo: Jane Some/IRIN
An Ethiopian farmer whose crop failed in 2008: The late start of the wet season in Ethiopia could affect crop production this year, officials said – file photo

Food crisis denied

Meles denied the country was facing a food crisis. “We have hundreds of thousands of tons of wheat in our store houses here in Ethiopia.”

However, according to aid workers, Ethiopia has almost five million people requiring emergency food assistance.

A total of 7.5 million chronically food insecure people also receive assistance through a social welfare scheme called the Productive Safety Nets Programme.

To meet immediate needs, the Stakeholder Food Prioritization Committee has asked the government to release 11,000 tons of cereals.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the governments Disaster Risk Management Food Security Sector and WFP also have 30,000 tons of food in the pipeline.

“However, this quantity covers only one third of the monthly requirement,” OCHA said, adding that the food in the pipeline was likely to be available only in late July or August due to congestion at Djibouti port.

“We have given priority to the transportation of fertilizers because we need fertilizers now,” Meles said. “But we have spare strategic reserve food in our stores. So it does not make sense to prioritize transport of food from the port at the expense of fertilizers. If [WFP] is facing any problem in terms of transport… go to these [strategic reserve] warehouses and take out loans to be replenished later when their food in the port is transported to the country.”


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MAURITANIA: Force-feeding on decline, but more dangerous – Saying no to obesity- at the gym

Posted by African Press International on June 27, 2009

Photo: Seyid O. Seyid/ IRIN
Saying no to obesity- at the gym

NOUAKCHOTT, – As perceptions of beauty change and obesity-related diseases rise, more women in Mauritania are fighting back against force-feeding, according to the government. But even as some women refuse to fatten up, up to one-third of the countrys women are still risking their lives to put on weight to conform to a longstanding aesthetic standard.

Never again, said Mbarker Mint Mhaimid, 55. I was forced to eat by my mother who said beauty and culture required it. When I got older, I hated going out. My friends called me the mother of the group because I developed so many illnesses.

She told IRIN she now takes medication for blood pressure and heart disease. It was only recently that I understand just how deadly [the heavy eating] was.

Mhaimid told IRIN she forbade her daughter from high-risk eating.

Word is spreading about the danger of obesity in classroom presentations to young girls, community radio programmes discouraging unhealthy eating and documentary films produced by local non-profits. Amintou Mint Moctar, the head of local NGO Female-Headed Households, told IRIN graphic films about force-feeding have made an impact.

We show a 12-year-old who has the tired sagging flesh of an unhealthy 40-year-old woman. She is forced into marriage [and] ends up divorced with children in an abandoned home or tent. The outcome is this can happen to any of you if you do not avoid this practice of obesity,” Moctar told IRIN.

The Mauritanian government plans in 2010 to launch a programme with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) with funding from the Spanish government to fight practices harmful to women, including force-feeding.

Health fallout

The National Centre of Cardiology Care, based in the capital Nouakchott and founded in March 2009, is expected to develop a heart health education outreach programme, according to staff doctor Hadj Sarr. Half of the 300 patients we have seen thus far have heart health problems as a result of force-feeding or optional obesity, [in part] through non-prescribed medication, he told IRIN.

''…Half of the 300 patients we have seen thus far have heart health problems as a result of force-feeding''

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over the next decade, Africa will have the biggest increase in deaths worldwide from chronic diseases already the worlds number-one killers. Major chronic diseases include heart disease and diabetes, both linked to nutrition.

Nouakchott pharmacist Abdurrahman Ould Abdel Wedoud told IRIN that women consume large quantities of multivitamins to increase their appetites. They want to eat more to be fat. It is their choice because they are not forced to do it as it used to be the case. At US$10 a box, most women use two boxesa month, or save money by purchasing them on the black market, said the pharmacist.

A 2008 Ministry of Social Affairs study estimates that at least 20 percent of all women overeat either of their own will or through coercion.

But the rate is declining, said UNFPA gender specialist Mariem Mint Ahmed Sabar. This practice is going to disappear because the criterion of beauty has changed; we are following the world rhythm slowly.


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UGANDA: HIV-positive mums struggle to find safe food for their babies – The price of cow’s milk has recently gone up by more than fifty percent

Posted by African Press International on June 27, 2009

Photo: Charles Akena/IRIN
The price of cow’s milk has recently gone up by more than fifty percent

GULU, – The rising cost of food in northern Uganda is forcing HIV-positive new mothers to turn to risky alternatives to formula milk or exclusive breastfeeding, as recommended by health professionals.

Despite the insecurity caused by a two-decade-long war in the north, prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programmes in the region are reported as largely successful.

The Italian NGO, the Association of Volunteers in International Service (AVSI), says that in its programmes in the districts of Kitgum and Pader, HIV testing and counselling acceptance rate are above 90 percent; more women are also coming to health centres to deliver their babies.

However, health workers and local NGOs trying to provide post natal support are finding it increasingly difficult to ensure that the women continue with safe feeding methods.

Health Alert-Uganda, a local NGO that provides funds for HIV-positive mother’s to buy milk, is struggling to meet the demands on its services. The NGO usually provides women with enough money for a month’s supply, but the price of milk recently jumped by more than 50 percent, which has forced cuts to its programme.

Powdered milk, while available in local grocery stores, is unaffordable for the vast majority of mothers in the country.

Ignoring the guidelines

World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines recommend that HIV-positive mothers opt for replacement feeding if it is affordable, feasible, acceptable, sustainable and safe; if not, it recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of the infant’s life.

“The problem has been that some of the mothers breastfeed their children while giving replacement feeds,” said Walter Anywar, a project officer with Health Alert. “We can reduce transmission of HIV to babies if support towards baby feeding is provided to these mothers who can’t afford the costly replacement feeds.”

Grace Adong gave birth eight months ago and was lucky enough to find a local NGO to supply her with a daily litre of cows’ milk, but her baby now requires more than a litre a day. Adong can’t afford to buy more milk, so dilutes her ration with water.

“I add half a litre of water to the milk so that it can take the baby through the day,” she said.

Uganda’s PMTCT policy follows WHO guidelines, but acknowledges that the majority of Ugandan mothers cannot formula feed because of high levels of poverty, the low status of women, stigma and an almost universal breastfeeding culture.

“The fact is that most mothers in Uganda, and especially those in post-war northern Uganda, currently cannot afford infant formula,” said a recent reporton the failures of PMTCT, Missing the Target, by the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition. “There was a feeling among pregnant women that their breast milk was insufficient due to moderate malnourishment, and they were likely to try to supplement it with other feeding, a step that eliminates the risk-protective factor of exclusive breastfeeding.”

“The Ministry of Health and non-government service providers should mobilize resources for nutritional support for replacement feeding for babies born to HIV-positive mothers who have registered for prevention of vertical transmission services,” the report recommended.


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GUINEA-BISSAU: Another go at stability – 28 June election (Former president was assassinated)

Posted by African Press International on June 27, 2009

Photo: Fid Thompson/IRIN
People at a rally for ruling party candidate Malam Bacai Sanha in the town of Bafata

BISSAU, – Guinea-Bissauans hope a presidential election process that opened with a political killing will end with a peacefully elected leader who will help move the country toward long-elusive civilian rule and stability.

Voters from the West African nation go to the polls on 28 June in a special election to replace former president, Joo Bernardo Vieira, who was assassinated in March hours after the army chief of staff, Batista Tagme Na Wai, was killed in a bomb blast.

On 5 June state security agents killed independent presidential candidate, Baciro Dabo, and a former minister allegedly for resisting arrest for their part in a coup plot.

The feeling at the international and national level is one of powerlessness and reluctance to believe that Guinea-Bissau can have a different situation in the future, said Franco Nulli, head of the European Union delegation in the country.

But there are positive signs, hesaid. After the March assassinations, the army stayed in [its] place and did not as is the case in other countries take power. He also pointed to successful legislative elections in November 2008.

Since gaining independence from Portugal in 1974, Guinea-Bissau has been hit repeatedly by coups and attempted coups, political assassinations and military uprisings. In the last 15 years, no president has completed the five-year term and in the last nine years, three chiefs of staff have been assassinated, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG).

Instability has favoured drug traffickers, who have used the country as a transit point for cocaine shipments to Europe.

Photo: Fid Thompson/IRIN
A vendor in the capital Bissau surrounded by campaign posters

In a recent report ICG said: The election has the potential to help move the country beyond the present impasse, but it could also provoke further instability.

ICG wrote that a lack of transparency and a failure by one segment of the society to accept results would be dangerous. Losing politico-military factions are likely to pose the greatest threat, the think-tank concluded: Even if the immediate aftermath of the election is calm, continuing factional infighting in the military may threaten stability for years.

Of the 11 presidential candidates, Malam Bacai Sanha of the ruling African Party for Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) and Kumba Yala of the opposition Party for Social Renewal (PRS) are favoured by some analysts to makeit to arun-off.

Sanha served as interim president from 1999 to 2000, but was defeated in subsequent elections by Yala, who comes from the majority Balanta ethnic group, dominant in the armed forces.

Analysts saythe historical ties between politicians and the military constitute a significant obstacle to the reforms needed to build solid civilian rule.

An election alone is not enough to end Guinea-Bissau’s militarization of politics, ICG said; the country needs to reduce the armed forces and keep them out of politics,security sector reform must be better coordinated between the UN and the EU and there must beaccountability for political violence, the group said in its report.


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