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Archive for October 1st, 2010

Thousands of Congolese refugees living in Burundi and vice-versa are set to return home

Posted by African Press International on October 1, 2010

In Brief: Thousands of DRC, Burundi refugees to return home

Photo: IRIN
Thousands of Congolese refugees living in Burundi and vice-versa are set to return home (file photo)

BUJUMBURA, 28 September 2010 (IRIN) – The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) will begin helping thousands of Burundian refugees living in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and vice-versa to return home from 5 and 20 October respectively.

The voluntary facilitated repatriation, which initially involves 5,000 Burundians living in DRC and 2,000 DRC refugees living in Burundi, according to a UNHCR statement, follows the December 2009 signing of tripartite agreements by the two states and the agency.

UNHCR spokesman Bernard Ntwari told IRIN the DRC refugees would return to the most secure areas in North and South Kivu, provinces still ravaged by armed conflict.

Burundi hosts some 41,327 refugees and asylum-seekers; of them, 40,458 are from DRC. According to UNHCR estimates, some 15,666 Burundian refugees live in DRC.

jb/am/mw source.irinnews

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One year on, still displaced in Metro Manila

Posted by African Press International on October 1, 2010

PHILIPPINES: Cities ill-prepared for typhoons

BANGKOK, 26 September 2010 (IRIN) – A year ago today, typhoon Ketsana hit the Philippines, killing more than 1,000 in the region and displacing hundreds of thousands, but many cities are still ill-prepared for a similar disaster.

The storm dumped a months worth of rain within 12 hours of striking the Philippines before moving on to Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Local authorities in the Philippines have received little response from the national government over appeals for money to move thousands still living in tent communities, said Paul del Rosario, humanitarian coordinator with Oxfam, which recently released its assessments of communities one year after Ketsana.

Without help relocating to safer areas, families started returning to unsafe communities around the [Laguna] lakes perimeter, said Rosario.

At 900 sqkm, Laguna Lake, the largest inland body of water in the country, spans six provinces and 61 towns and cities, including 29 lakeshore communities comprising poorly planned enclaves and residential areas.

Planning

While governments appreciate the need to prepare for weather events, it has not always translated into action, said Rosario.

Cities should be looking at their land use plans and mapping risks to see what areas are not suitable for [habitation]; investing in early warning systems like rain gauges and flood markers; improving building structures, and contingency planning A significant number have not.

About 35 percent of Manila’s 12 million people live in slums that are vulnerable to natural disasters, according to the UN.

The governments recent passage of disaster risk reduction and management legislation is a good start to shift focus from emergency response to preparation, but implementing the act requires sustained political commitment and heavy investment, said Rosario.

Response focused

It is still difficult to interest donors in disaster preparedness, he added. It was an exception that Oxfam was able to get support readily from the Australian government to support its disaster risk reduction work in the provinces of Rizal and Laguna from March 2010-2011.

Only 5 percent of US government funding through its Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) goes toward risk reduction, with most allocated to relief and recovery, said Gabrielle Iglesias with the Bangkok-based Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC), which has OFDA support for its Program for Hydro-Meteorological Mitigation in Secondary Cities in Asia until the end of the year.

Pasig, one of the hardest-hit cities, has worked with ADPC over the past year to brace itself against future disasters.

Greg Evangelista, the city officer in charge of village relations, ranked the citys preparedness as five on a scale of one to 10 when the typhoon hit, but told IRIN it had advanced to nine over the past year.

He said eight of the citys most devastated villages, known locally as barangays, had drafted disaster risk reduction plans and defined at-risk areas with ADPC support; 50 city officials who responded to the floods have received training in disaster response; volunteers have learned search and rescue techniques, and plans are under way to present disaster-preparedness seminars in the citys remaining 22 villages.

We want to make everybody disaster-conscious then we would be at a rank of 10, judged Evangelista.

pt/mw source.irinnews

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With less cash to go around, efficiency in HIV programming has never been more important

Posted by African Press International on October 1, 2010

HIV/AIDS: Value for money central to achieving universal access

Photo: Nic McPhee/Flickr

NAIROBI, 28 September 2010 (PlusNews) – A global shortage of funds for the fight against HIV means universal access to prevention, treatment and care is unlikely unless HIV programmes get better value for their investments, says a new report by UNAIDS, the UN Children’s Fund and the UN World Health Organization.

There is a need “to enhance the impact of current investments by improving the efficiency, effectiveness and quality of programmes, strengthening linkages between programmes, and building systems for a sustainable response,” say the authors of Towards Universal Access.

UNAIDS has noted that up to 80 percent of treatment costs are spent on getting medication to patients and keeping them on it.

Although 5.25 million people accessed life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV) medication in 2009 – up 1.2 million from 2008 the agencies note that funding shortages, limited human resources, weak procurement and supply management systems for HIV drugs and diagnostics, and other bottlenecks continued to hamper the scale-up of treatment.

An estimated 53 percent of pregnant women worldwide in need of prevention of mother-to-child transmission services received them in 2009, but only 28 percent HIV-positive children received treatment in 2009, compared to 36 percent for adults, and just 15 percent of children born to HIV-positive mothers were given appropriate infant diagnostics.

Joseph Kwaka, executive director of Community Aid International, a Kenyan NGO, told IRIN/PlusNews that cheap, practical measures would be needed to improve and increase the level of service.

“Building the capacity of all cadres of health workers and health facilities in developing countries is important, so that even a local health centre in rural Kenya is able to cater for those women who might not have access to [larger] district health facilities,” he said.

Other strategies include task-shifting where less qualified medical staff are trained to carry out tasks usually performed by doctors the integration of HIV with maternal and child health services, earlier diagnosis by more widespread and frequentHIV testing, and greater community mobilization.

UNAIDS’s proposed new strategy, Treatment 2.0, aims to use treatment as prevention, to develop better treatment and diagnostics for HIV, and drastically increase the numbers on treatment, among other measures, thereby reducing HIV morbidity and mortality, and the cost to health systems in the mid- and long-term.

Funding

Even with improved efficiency, significant investment will be needed to achieve universal access. “After years of considerable increases in international assistance from high-income countries for the global HIV response, funding remained essentially flat over the 200809 period,” the authors comment.

“According to recent estimates, commitments from donor governments totalled US$8.7 billion, the same as in 2008. In comparison, it has been estimated that $26.7 billion would be necessary from all sources, including domestic and international, for the global HIV response in low- and middle-income countries in 2010.”

James Kamau of the Kenya Treatment Access Movement, a lobby group based in the capital, Nairobi, points out that “Money plays a critical role in ensuring universal access … Donors and governments must be pushed to provide more funding, not only to HIV/AIDS programmes, but to health in general.”

''Money plays a critical role in ensuring universal access… Donors and governments must be pushed to provide more funding''

Under the Abuja Declaration, made in the Nigerian capital in 2001, African Union member states pledged to raise their domestic health allocation to at least 15 percent of the national budget, but few countries have met that commitment. The report notes that allocations would have to grow by over 50 percent, on average, to meet the Abuja target.

The authors also call on high-income countries, including the Group of Eight industrialized nations, to meet commitments made in Gleneagles in 2005 and reaffirmed at the United Nations General Assembly in 2006.

The Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is due to hold its third donor replenishment conference in October; the report notes that successful completion of the replenishment is “critical to protect and enhance current achievements”.

The international medical organization, Mdecins Sans Frontires (MSF) has joined calls for more funding to scale up HIV treatment.

“Thanks to the contribution of the Global Fund, countries like Malawi have been able to initiate programmes that save lives and rebuild communities devastated by AIDS,” said Marielle Bemelmans, MSF head of mission in Malawi.

“Over 200,000 people are still in need of HIV treatment in Malawi alone, and 10 million people are in urgent need worldwide. If donors miss this opportunity and fail to engage in the fight against the AIDS epidemic, we’ll be throwing away all the significant gains already made.”

ko/kr/he source.irinnews

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