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Archive for May 20th, 2012

Harassment: African women are often taken to be prostitutes in Norway

Posted by African Press International on May 20, 2012 Elizabeth Mbaire Koikai __ Elizabeth Mbaire Koikai __


< Elizabeth M. Koikai reporting from Oslo, Norway 

The issue of Nigerian prostitutes in the streets of Oslo and other major cities has been intensely covered by both national and international media. As one reads various articles about this pressing issue, it is hard not to notice a trend.

Prostitution in Scandinavian countries is largely identified with african women, to the degree that african women feel harassed and stigmatised as prostitutes.

A few years after Norway banned the purchase of sex many ordinary african women still feel that the law has not improved the perceptions of women of colour in Norway. Before the implementation of the law it was almost impossible to walk down the Karl Johan Street in Oslo without getting proposals from willing sex-buyers.

Many ordinary african women welcomed the law hoping that it would make life easier for them and that they would walk in the city with a sense of pride. 

Despite a decrease in the number of sex workers in the city of Oslo many people argue that it has contributed to prostitution moving indoors, for example in pubs, restaurants and nightclubs. This has in turn created stigmatization and discrimination of African women.

The law that was introduced back in 2009 has resulted to regular african women to be met with even more malicious control when they want to get into pubs, restaurant or nightclub.

As managers and security guards try to protect their establishments against suspicions of sheltering prostitution, they openly refuse african women entry. Many women especially those married to norwegian men feel discriminated and stigmatised. The law has made things worse for couples when they appear together in public areas.

 “You people are not allowed in here” is a common phrase usually directed to african women by bouncers at nightclubs in Oslo.

Such establishments are required by the police to check identification. If one lacks a personal number which is equivalent to a social security number, they are refused entry to a pub or nightclub. But many anti-racist organizations argue that bouncers and bartenders  generally pass judgement and discriminate african women.

“An african woman in Oslo has come to be synonymous with prostitution. Many are exposed to harassment at nightclubs, hotels and even from police officers”, states a human rights activist in Oslo.

 A country like Norway that promotes human and gender rights should take action against this discriminatory practice that is evolving.

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Power to the people!

Posted by African Press International on May 20, 2012

When the men fled their village, Dan Gouchy Haoussa in Niger’s Zinder district after it ran out of food in 2010, Ayesha Yaou, organised the village’s women to hire a taxi to the nearest town to draw the local authorities’ attention

JOHANNESBURG,  – The UN Development Programme (UNDP) launched its first Africa Human Development Report today, stressing food security as a means to a better quality of life for all.

The argument is straightforward: Most people in Africa depend on agriculture, and better nutrition is good for human development. More food production means more food and income in people’s pockets, which has spin-offs which are beneficial for health and education.

The report is not another exhortation to farmers to grow more food. Pedro Conceicao, chief economist with the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, explained that exclusively looking at linkages between small-scale farmers and agriculture or gender empowerment and agriculture were “piecemeal approaches” and not helpful. “We have to move beyond silver bullet obsessions [such as agricultural subsidies] or attention-grabbing headlines.”

He reasoned that high economic growth rates in Africa had not necessarily resulted in a reduction in poverty and food insecurity – which points to accessibility to food and purchasing power as key factors. The report emphasizes “empowerment” and participation as important levers for change.

It argues that countries need to implement a more strategic vision of food security. An approach to emulate would be what Ethiopia had done to beef up its agriculture sector by setting up a separate Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) [ ] right next to the prime minister’s office. It is modelled on similar initiatives in Asia which helped accelerate economic growth in South Korea and Malaysia, for instance. ATA addresses bottlenecks in areas such as soil management, research and extension services.

''Damning judgments are made about African countries after less than 10 years of sustained and high economic growth''

The report calls for new approaches covering multiple sectors – from rural infrastructure to health services, to new forms of social protection and empowering local communities. It calls for action in four critical areas:

1. Increasing agricultural production: It acknowledges that boosting production would be integral to any approach to becoming food secure, and calls for investment in research, infrastructure and inputs and a Green Revolution in Africa;

2. More effective nutrition: Develop coordinated interventions which boost nutrition while expanding access to health services, education, sanitation, and clean water;

3. Building resilience: Investment in crop insurance, employment guarantee schemes, and cash transfers to shield people from risks and make them less vulnerable to shocks;

4. Empowerment and social justice: Gender empowerment, access to land, technology and information are important to make people food secure.

IRIN interviewed two leading experts on the issues.

Steven Wiggins, research fellow with the UK’s Overseas Development Institute, who has been studying agriculture and rural development in Africa since 1972:

Africa is not one unitary entity: “There are 56 countries in Africa… When Africa is considered as a single unit, there is a great danger that it is compared to other similar units, above all Asia, leading to analyses that suggest that if only Africa were more like Asia, then things would improve. Well, I’m not sure that Botswana has very much to learn from, say, Afghanistan, thank you very much. Hyperbole aside, the point is this: in Africa we have several, if not many, cases of admirable progress in food and nutrition security, but we overlook this.”

Real progress takes time: “A longstanding issue in African policy debates is the search not only for growth, but for growth that is `transformative’. Even when an African economy grows, the pessimists say `yes, but where is the transformation?’ usually noting that in Asia growth is transformative. Well, yes, where that has apparently happened in Asia… it is the result of 30 or 40 years of sustained progress. Yet damning judgments are made about African countries after less than 10 years of sustained and high economic growth.”

Too complicated and demanding: It would have been better had it [the overview [of the report] stuck to a few fundamental propositions that are well supported by the evidence, namely: smallholder development plus primary health plus clean water will almost always reduce child malnutrition. Yes, let’s add girls in secondary school to the list: that will strengthen these links. But it’s that simple.

Peter Gubbels, the West Africa co-coordinator for Groundswell International, a global partnership of local farming communities, has 30 years of experience in rural development, including 20 years living and working in West Africa. He is based in Ghana. He says:

Move beyond the Green Revolution: “The report… seems to embrace the Green Revolution approach to agricultural improvement, citing… the results… in Asia, and seeking to now apply those lessons to Africa. The report suggests implicitly, that one reason Africa still has hunger is because Africa has not benefited from `science-based, input-intensive’ support. This is highly misleading. There have been many efforts to promote Green Revolution in Africa. Almost all have failed.”

Missing bits: “There is no mention of Conservation Agriculture, or of the Brown Revolution [to promote soil fertility and conserve water].”

Under-funding in agricultural research: “This is true but is also misleading. There has been a great amount of funding in the CGIAR [Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research] system in Africa, including IITA [International Institute of Tropical Agriculture] in Nigeria, from the 1970s onwards. One reason donors reduced funding in the 1990s was because it was not generating good production results.

“But this report seems to assume that investing in new seeds, fertilizers, tractors, irrigation and training is what is needed… And how many very poor small-scale farmers can afford tractors?”

Understanding resilience: “Equally disturbing is the suggestion that long-term resilience measures can enable risk averse, poor small-scale farmers to adopt riskier, but more productive, agricultural technologies. This is twisting my understanding of resilience. The aim is to reduce (or at least manage risk), using low external inputs and local ecological systems, not to increase risk by creating dependence on external expensive inputs (insurance, etc) for poor, vulnerable farm families working in marginal conditions. The way forward would be to develop crops and technologies that both increase food production and reduce risk by conservation agricultural techniques.”

“Subsuming” nutrition into food security: “There is not just food insecurity in Africa. There is both food insecurity and nutrition insecurity. Currently in the Sahel, there is both a food crisis and a nutrition crisis. They may be linked, but the causes are quite different, and the solutions that are [rooted] in food security are almost always inadequate.

“Just as we need to change the strong association of agriculture with food security, we also need to move nutrition out of the confines of food security. There is still a very strong tendency to believe that food aid, and increasing food production, solves most of malnutrition. It does not. It only helps prevent major spikes in the already existing emergency level of chronic and acute malnutrition.”

Controversial issues side-stepped: “The report also almost completely sidesteps… genetically modified seeds… the role of agribusiness in land-grabbing, control of seeds, pushing pesticides and herbicides.”

jk/oa/cb source

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Fight against HIV has been the one of the best-funded health issues

Posted by African Press International on May 20, 2012

Fight against HIV has been the one of the best-funded health issues

NAIROBI,  – The large amount of donor funding that has gone into Rwanda’s fight against HIV has not affected efforts to prevent and treat unrelated diseases, such as malaria and measles, and may in fact have improved overall healthcare, a six-year study has found.

Researchers at Brandeis University in the US compared the performance of health clinics providing HIV services with those that did not by collecting data on the number of vaccines administered, visits to register child growth, and non-HIV/AIDS hospitalizations to monitor the attention given to non-HIV health issues.

“We wanted to examine how AIDS funding interacts with the rest of the health sector in Rwanda,” Dr Donald Shepard, a professor at the Schneider Institute for Health Policy at Brandeis and the study’s lead author, told IRIN/PlusNews. “There are conflicting views – some thought AIDS funding impacted the wider health system favourably, while others thought it worked the other way.”

The fight against HIV has been the one of the best-funded health issues in recent times. A study in 2009 by the UN World Health Organization (WHO) found that funding for HIV/AIDS accounted for almost one-third of total health overseas development assistance between 2002 and 2006.

There has been a backlash against the large amount spent on AIDS, with critics suggesting that funding for HIV is disproportionate to the global disease burden and is using vital resources that could be spent on other diseases.

The proponents of AIDS funding argue that the devastating impact of HIV justifies the high funding to fight the disease, and that the money has been used to strengthen health systems through improvements in infrastructure and functioning. The authors felt that Rwanda was a good case study because it has received strong HIV funding and has been used to support arguments on both sides.

“What we found in Rwanda was that large amounts of AIDS funding had not had an adverse impact, as some feared – there is no evidence that it detracted from the rest of the health system,” Shepard said. “On the contrary, the evidence suggests that the benefits have spun off into the rest of the health system. In health centres providing HIV services, for example, BCG [Bacillus Calmette-Guérin, a vaccine against tuberculosis] vaccinations increased at a higher rate than at those health centres that didn’t provide HIV services.”

The authors found that while there were neither “prominent diversions nor enhancement effects” after introducing HIV services to health centres, there was evidence that the health centres offering HIV services provided better preventive care than those that did not, including better immunization programmes.

According to Shepard, the fact that AIDS funding had been able to work well within the wider health system was no accident, but the result of a deliberate policy by the Rwandan government. “Rwanda made a thoughtful effort to integrate AIDS services into the general health system – staff who treated HIV patients also treated other patients, and systems set up using HIV funds supported other health issues in a systematic way,” he said.

Rwanda’s community-based health insurance, known as Mutuelle, and its performance-based financing for health centres, contributed significantly to the overall smooth and efficient running of the health system.

Shepard noted that the findings, while specific to Rwanda, meant that donors should continue their funding for HIV.

He suggested that “Other countries should look at Rwanda and adapt its systems to their own settings, using funding for HIV to broadly support the health system and strengthen the response to other diseases.”


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Obama finally gives in and will declare his genuine birthplace, birth certificate and the Kenya connection; a reliable source tells API

Posted by African Press International on May 20, 2012

It was bound to happen. The pressure involved. The American people waiting all this long and into Obama’s last year of his first term in office without knowing the truth about their president’s real place of birth.

A large section of the American voters will be angered because of the long wait for clarity, especially if their expectation owing to where they actually think their president was born, if in Mombasa or elsewhere, contrary to what they may have imagined, – whether Obama chooses to make his declaration immediately after elections in November or in January 2013.

The problem with the final revelation is the fact that it will come after the elections in November, according to API source, in order to avoid disrupting the president’s campaign, with a probability of hindering him from re-election for a second term.

It is believed that the president intends to make revelation during his inauguration speech, if he gets elected for a second term in office, or his departure speech should he lose the election.

Many observers say the President and his observers do not want to be undressed politically and probably sued by those who believe if born elsewhere, should not have been elected in the first place. There are also those routing for impeachment should it turn out that he held back information from the American people, on his genuine birthplace and birth certificate.

His final declaration will put to an end all the speculations that has rocked America since the middle of 1988, on his undeclared birth certificate, and the place of birth.

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Little assistance given: HIV widows on the edge in Nepal

Posted by African Press International on May 20, 2012

The widows receive little assistance

RAKAM,  – Widows living with HIV in Nepal’s remote hill districts in some of the country’s poorest and vulnerable communities face a particularly bleak future.

“My husband died four years ago. We had to sell our cattle and farm to pay his medical bills,” 32-year-old Sumi Karki* told IRIN in the tiny village of Rakam in Dailekh District, about 700km northwest of the capital, Kathmandu.

Infected by her husband, a former labour migrant to India, she has no idea how she will care for her three children in the future, much less pay for their schooling.

Most of Rakam’s more than 2,000 impoverished residents depend on subsistence agriculture and remittances from relatives working abroad as migrant labourers to get by.

Now, struggling to put food on the table, Karki cannot even afford the travel costs to Surkhet, the nearest town, to check her CD4 count (a measure of immune system strength).

Concentrated epidemic

According to the National Centre for AIDS and STD [sexually transmitted disease] Control in the Ministry of Health and Population (NCASC), there are more than 50,000 adults and children living with HIV, and an estimated overall prevalence of 0.30 percent in the adult population (15-49 years old).

Most new infections occurred among adult males (58 percent), followed by women of reproductive age (28 percent), while 8 percent of infections occurred among children under 15 years old.

With an estimated 29.4 percent of all HIV infections occurring amongst labour migrants – although many believe the real number to be higher – the significance of this group, and the affected women, cannot be ignored.

Each year, tens of thousands of men leave home in search of work abroad, mostly in neighbouring India. Estimates suggest that more than 1 million Nepalese men live in India alone. However, it’s not just money they bring back with them.

Many of these men frequent commercial sex workers and practice unsafe sex while they are away, and then infect their wives with HIV when they return home.

A 2010 Integrated Biological and Behavioural Surveillance Survey of 600 women in Nepal’s Far-Western region found that HIV prevalence among the wives of migrant labourers was 0.8 percent, and 22.5 percent amongst widows.

But despite these figures, assistance and support for these women is low. “The women remain so vulnerable because they never use, or even dare to ask to use, condoms when their husbands return home,” said Deepa Bohara, coordinator of Parivartan Ko Lagi Pahuch (Access for Change), the only NGO supporting the women in Rakam village.

The group distributes antiretroviral (ARV) drugs once every two months. In Dailekh District alone there are 185 cases, and more than half of them are widows, hospital officials say. Like Karki, most of these widows are desperately poor after spending what little money they had on medical care for their husbands before they died.

Government indifference

“There is no humanitarian aid or HIV/AIDS care for these poor widows, who are living in total despair because of government indifference,” said Nani Devi, coordinator of HIV-positive single women’s support group, Nava Prabhat Ekal Mahila Samuha.

Government agencies in the capital and the district were too busy blaming each other for their own ineffectiveness while these women continued to suffer, Devi claimed.

“We are tired and frustrated asking in Kathmandu for the government’s help while we watch these poor women suffer,” said Dil Bahadur Shahi, chief development officer of the Dailekh District Development Committee, the top local governmental body in the district.

The NCASC reportedly provides just over US$2,200 per year to support all 185 people living with HIV and AIDS in Dailekh.

“We have requested aid for these poor women for many years, but have not received any concrete response,” said Khagendra Jung Shah, chief of the district health office.

The NCASC coordinates most of the funding for HIVAIDS at the national level, but has neglected this district, local government officials and NGO workers claim.

Meanwhile, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has expressed concern over the plight of these women and has pledged to follow up with the authorities.

“We will address this issue strongly with the government officials so that these poor women will get all the support they can,” said Maria Elena Filio-Borromeo, the UNAIDS country representative.

Hemant Chandra Ojha, a senior medical officer at NCASC agreed, saying, “We have to start a very serious discussion and decide how we should proceed with help for these single women.”

*Not her real name

nn/ds/he source

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