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Archive for July 5th, 2012

Husbands worse threat to women than gunmen

Posted by African Press International on July 5, 2012

Husbands in conflict-hit West African countries pose more threat to women’s lives that an armed attacker, according to a study by the International Rescue Committee.

DAKAR,  – In conflict-hit West African countries, husbands often pose a greater threat to women’s lives than an armed assailant, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said in a recent report, but even in more stable countries, violence against women is hard to eradicate.
“Domestic violence is like diabetes. It is a disease that kills and causes damage, but which has not been very well documented,” said Mariam Kamara, a mobilization officer at the UN Women-West Africa Sub-Regional office.
In post-conflict Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone – where the IRC conducted a study of domestic violence – women suffer cruelty with “shocking frequency”, said the report, “Let me not die before my time, Domestic Violence in West Africa”, released in May 2012.
“Even though the focus of the humanitarian community has often been on armed groups, the primary threat to women in West Africa is not a man with a gun or a stranger – it is their husbands,” the report said.
The three West African countries are emerging from conflicts that killed thousands of people, displaced hundreds of thousands more, and unleashed widespread lawlessness. Violence against women worsens in times of war and often continues even when conflict has subsided.
In Côte d’Ivoire, 40 percent more cases of violence against women were recorded during the unrest that followed the disputed 2010 presidential elections, the IRC said. Nonetheless, domestic violence is not unique to a particular region or country, and its causes are varied and complex, said Elisabeth Roesch, the author of the IRC report.
“It is clear across the globe that women face violence from their partners because they have lower status, and because they face really widespread discrimination enshrined in law, society and cultures,” Roesch told IRIN.
In Senegal, which enacted a law against domestic violence in 1999, only a handful of offenders are brought to court, mainly due to the difficulty of obtaining evidence – medical reports are expensive, while prejudice often puts overwhelming societal pressure on women, which prevents them from reporting abuse, experts said.
“In the Senegalese society, it is very important for a woman to be married. If a woman takes her husband to court, it is said that she is not a good wife,” said Benjamin Ndeye, the director of a state-run organization that mediates in conflicts. “I have never seen an abusive husband receiving more than a two-month suspended sentence.” Women also often face judges who tend to favour family unity, he noted.
However, years of sensitization in Senegal seem be paying off. “The police have made a lot of progress – they now tend to refer women to NGOs,” said Elisabeth Sidibé, a volunteer at the Committee to Combat Violence against Women and Children (CLVF).
The Association of Senegalese Women Jurists (AJS) and other NGOs have also stepped up the fight against domestic violence by conducting radio and TV talk shows, public debates and legal training. The Association offers legal help and has launched a hotline for reporting domestic violence. “We cannot say the issue is not taboo anymore, but more and more women are daring to look for help,” said Fatou Bintou Thioune, the CLVF’s coordinator.
This is not the case in Sierra Leone, Liberia or Côte d’Ivoire, said Roesch. Liberian women are demanding protection from abuse and the IRC cited a woman complaining of police complacence about domestic violence. “Some of the police officers say, ‘It’s because of your ways that your husband beats you’.”
Despite a 1981 Ivorian law protecting wives from physical abuse by their husbands, “The fight against this alarming phenomenon is not effective. The law alone is not enough. The whole community needs to get involved in the issue,” said Fanta Coulibaly, the head of the national commission against domestic violence on women and children, which is under the Women and Children Ministry.
“I have suffered abuse for three months at the hands of my husband. Whenever he is angry he beats me badly, “said Rokiatou Bamba*. “I have asked that we have a talk, but for him it’s a sign of bad upbringing. According to tradition, a woman does not ask her husband for talks.
“I’m doing all I can so that this doesn’t affect the children, even when he beats me in front of them, I look for somewhere to hide and cry,” she told IRIN.
The IRC said conflict “creates a particularly dangerous situation for women that the humanitarian community can no longer ignore.”
 cb/ob/he source

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Rescuing “failed” family planning with cash

Posted by African Press International on July 5, 2012

Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila

MANILA,  – The government of the Philippines is aiming to save its “failed” national family planning programme and drastically cut maternal deaths by spending 500 million pesos (almost US$12 million) on contraceptives in 2012, a move bitterly opposed by the influential Roman Catholic Church.

The Department of Health has said it will use the money to purchase “family planning commodities and supplies” – an official euphemism for condoms, intra-uterine devices (IUDs), birth control pills and other contraceptives – and distribute them on a large scale for the first time in largely underfunded community centres across the country.

It is a controversial decision that even public health officials and family planning advocates admit may not be carried out by local officials wary of angering the Church or losing the votes of Catholic supporters.

The Church frowns on contraceptives and discourages Filipinos from using them, so government support for family planning programmes has usually been limited. Earlier attempts to boost family planning services failed when strict congressional vetting scrapped any programme that involved paying for and distributing contraceptives.

The money for the new family planning initiative will have to come from 2012 general budget allocations of $990 million. Health department officials say the move is aimed at cutting maternal mortality rates, which went from just 162 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006 to 221 in 2011 – a rise of 35 percent – according to the government’s 2011 Family Health Survey.

Health officials say at this pace the Philippines will likely miss the UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing the 1990 maternal mortality ratio (MMR) by three-quarters by 2015.

“The Philippines started its family planning programme in the 1970s, when we had a similar population to Thailand of around 40 million. But now our population is roughly 95 million, while Thailand only has 65 million,” said Esmeraldo Ilem, head of the Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, the national maternity facility in the capital, Manila.

“This difference… is attributed to Thailand’s very successful [family planning] programme,” he said. “In other words, ours has been unsuccessful.” The hospital’s dark hallways and perpetually overcrowded maternity wards could symbolize the country’s inadequate health sector management.

A reproductive health bill that includes allocating funds for contraceptives and introducing sex education for primary school children has been bitterly debated in Congress for the past two years, but there is little sign of it being passed anytime soon.

Foreign governments and NGOs have so far filled the gap, but the global financial crisis and changing geopolitical priorities have forced them to cut back on aid, say Philippine government officials. In 2005 donors provided $4.4 million for contraceptives, with the US government contributing most of the money, according to the public-private Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition, which tracks shipments of reproductive health supplies.

Funding for contraception was half that amount in 2011. The International Planned Parenthood Federation, Marie Stopes International – a global reproductive health NGO – and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) together provided $2.2 million for contraceptives, with $836,000 coming from UNFPA.

As a result, some six million Filipina women reported an “unmet need” for modern family planning services, according to the health department.

“These are women who are too old or too young to give birth, or those who already have too many [children], yet still come here and bear babies because they do not have proper access to health services,” Ilem said as he made the rounds in Fabella’s crowded wards.

The city government of Manila hosts the national headquarters of the Catholic Church in a country where more than 80 percent of the people identify themselves as members.

“In Manila, there is no health centre where you can find free contraceptives.” The city banned contraceptives in government health centres about a decade ago.

President Benigno Aquino, elected in 2010 on a promise to end poverty, initially voiced support for the reproductive health bill, but intense lobbying by Church officials, whose views on key issues often shape public opinion, has softened that position.

“We will not meet the MDG [Millennium Development Goal] on maternal health,” Ilem said. “But at the very least the purpose of this spending is to help save our family planning programme by… mak[ing] contraceptives available to the public.”

The statistics and acronyms mean little to women like Irish Gili, 31, a mother of eight who had just delivered her latest baby at Fabella. She has never had access to family planning advice, much less free contraceptives. She nearly died while delivering her seventh child, but found herself pregnant again, barely a month after giving birth.

“I have been advised to have a [tubal] ligation already,” she said. “I suppose I need to that now. I have so many mouths to feed, and my body can no longer handle another childbirth.”


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Overpopulation and overfishing have forced fishing communities to look elsewhere for their income

Posted by African Press International on July 5, 2012

Overpopulation and overfishing have forced fishing communities to look elsewhere for their income (file photo)

KISUMU,  – Joseph Obiero, a 35-year-old father of seven, has been a fisherman on Lake Victoria since he was a teenager, but a decline in earnings in recent years means his family can no longer depend solely on fishing.

“When I was a boy helping my father in the lake, he could get five baskets full of fish in a night; now I struggle to get even one basket. I get very little money from fishing these days – there is no fish,” he told IRIN.

“These days… I go to Kisumu town [the largest town in western Kenya’s Nyanza Province] where I use my ‘tuk tuk’ [three-wheeled motorcycle taxi] to ferry people for money. If I don’t do that, I can’t even take my children to school… I used to save money in the bank, but now it is not easy to feed or clothe my family. It is a struggle to make ends meet,” he said.

When the fishermen return with boats almost empty after a night of fishing on the lake, fish trader Anastasia Magero has to supplement her income by selling vegetables.

“Selling vegetables doesn’t bring enough money. I used stay at the nearby market centre where I used to pay rent, but I can’t do that anymore – I have to walk to the beach from my rural home,” she said. “With reduction in fish, I am getting to know what poverty means.”
An estimated 65,000 people have already lost some income due to reduced earnings from fishing, and another 100,000 could be affected in the next two years, according to Nyanza’s provincial planning office.

The Ministry of Fisheries Development says the fisheries sector supports about 80,000 people directly and about 800,000 indirectly. An estimated 60 percent of households in western Kenya rely on fish for food and as a source of income.

“Our statistics show that many people who used to sell their goods to fishermen can’t do so because they have quickly lost their purchasing power… As fishermen lose jobs, others who depend on them to buy their stuff also do the same,” Dickson Mutwi, senior planning officer in Nyanza, told IRIN.

Lake under pressure

Experts say rising population and overfishing are deepening poverty for millions of residents around Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest fresh water lake. “Population explosion around the lake means many people turn to the lake and also destroy the environment around it, and in just a matter of years these people will experience poverty and hunger on a large scale,” warned Charles Mboya, a fisheries lecturer at Western Kenya’s Maseno University. “International and local demand for fish and its products is on the increase against a backdrop of reducing fish stocks, which might lead to a vicious struggle for it. We might witness fish wars soon,” he said.

The ministry notes that cross-border fish and trade conflict is one of the industry’s challenges; an estimated 3.5 million people depend on the lake for their livelihood, either directly or indirectly in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, the three countries that share the lake (Kenya’s share of the shoreline is 6 percent).

In 2009 a diplomatic row broke out between Kenya and Uganda over fishing rights on the tiny disputed island of Migingo, which is near a rich breeding ground for Nile perch.

In addition to overfishing, the effects of climate change – including prolonged droughts and increased lake salinity – are also contributing to the reduction in fish stocks.

“The biggest threat to Lake Victoria is the unsustainable use of its waters and the resources in it; excessive fishing devoid of any measures to replenish what is being used has seen fish diminish very fast, and particularly Nile perch,” said Mboya.

Support for fish farming

“It is important to have alternative ways to ensure that not all our fish resources come from the lakes, and for that reason the government is promoting fish farming as an alternative sources of food and income,” said Okumu Makogola, an official at the Fisheries Ministry.

The government has started a number of measures to boost fish production and provide employment to fishing communities; to date, 48,000 fish ponds have been constructed in160 constituencies across the country, creating 120,000 jobs, according to government officials.

At Dunga Fishermen Cooperative Society in Kisumu, local fishermen working on an International Labour Organization project are breeding thousands of fish which they later release into the lake. The cooperative is also discouraging fishermen from using nets that trawl smaller fish and deplete species.

“Through aquaculture, we have cages where we raise fish inside the lake, where they breed. Today we have some 20 cages each carrying 2,000 fish. We will breed more, and we will spread this initiative to other 285 fish landing beaches,” said Maurice Ochieng, head of the cooperative.

The cooperative is also discouraging fishermen from using nets that trawl smaller fish and deplete species. “The use of chemicals to catch fish is also increasing but we have started to help the police arrest such people,” said Ochieng.


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