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Archive for July 27th, 2012

Kenyan woman wanted in the US to be deported

Posted by African Press International on July 27, 2012

The woman is seen in the video above beating an elderly man she is supposed to provide with care. She was cought in a candid camera in the act.


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No more child soldiers?

Posted by African Press International on July 27, 2012

A group of captured child soldiers in Kachin State

KACHIN STATE,  – A captured government soldier in a military compound in Kachin, Myanmar’s most northerly state, recalls the night his “tuk-tuk” three-wheeler taxi ran out of fuel, but rather than being given the assistance he expected, he was forced to join the army. He was 15 at the time.

“I was walking into town to get petrol and a man on the road offered to help me out and give me a meal.” Instead, Thet Naing* was guided to a military office in the government-controlled city of Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin. He was served a plate of beans and rice, issued with a fake birth certificate and ordered to enlist in the army. “The soldiers threatened to kill me if I tried to escape – so I signed up,” he said. 

After four months of training, Thet Naing became a member of Myanmar Battalion 121 and was sent to the front lines to fight against the Kachin Independent Army (KIA) until his capture in 2011.

The KIA is the military wing of the Kachin Independence Organization, which wants greater autonomy and improved recognition for the ethnic group it represents. The KIA plans to release Thet Naing. 

A new plan

Cases of forced enlistment and falsifying ID records are well documented in Myanmar, which is why a government plan to halt the recruitment of child soldiers, while discharging those under the age of 18, is being welcomed.  

A UN task force – headed by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and including international NGOs World Vision and Save the Children – signed a joint Action Plan with Myanmar’s Ministry of Defence on 27 June.

The 18-month plan sets a timetable and measurable actions for the release and reintegration of children associated with government armed forces, and the prevention of further recruitment. 

“This is an ambitious plan agreed by the Government and the United Nations to deal with this long-standing issue, and the international community must support it. This is a testament – but also a test – of Myanmar’s engagement for children, and I hope to see it through,” said Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

“Little is yet known, in terms of concrete numbers, of [people aged] under 18 working in the armed forces, therefore the scale of discharge, release and reintegration (DRR) will only become clear after the initial identification and registration process takes place,” Ramesh Shrestha, the UNICEF country representative in Myanmar, told IRIN.
In 2011, the International Labour Organization (ILO) reported to Human Rights Watch (HRW) that it had received 236 complaints of underage forced recruitment, and that 57 child soldiers had been released or discharged in response to ILO complaints.

Photo: Contributor/IRIN
Thet Naing’s future remains uncertain

But with an army of 400,000 soldiers and hundreds of bases across a country larger than France, the task of obtaining accurate numbers is daunting. Shrestha stressed the need for UN access to monitor the identification, registration and release of child soldiers in order to draw up a more specific record.


“There are concerns about the government’s commitment to providing unfettered access to all military facilities, including detention centres where child soldier deserters await trial, and [also] to ethnic areas… [so as] to monitor the use of child soldiers by non-state armies,” said Matthew Smith, a HRW researcher in Myanmar. 

The UN also recognizes that besides the Burmese military, seven ethnic armies in Myanmar are also using child soldiers – the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, the Shan State Army-South, the United Wa State Army, the Karen National Liberation Army, the Karen National Liberation Army-Peace Council the Karenni army, and the KIA. Some of these have signed ceasefire agreements with the government.

“In ethnic areas it is common to find child soldiers who volunteer for a variety of nationalistic reasons, or families who hand over troubled children to the ethnic army in hopes the child will gain discipline,” said HRW’s Smith. “Neither type of recruitment is excusable or defensible, and both are violations of international law.”

Under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 18 is the minimum age set for the participation of children in armed conflict. 

“The government of Myanmar has agreed in their joint action plan that they will facilitate access to ceasefire groups, and we are hopeful that in the near future that we will be able to start the parallel processes with the ceasefire groups,” said Steve Marshall, Liaison Officer for ILO in Myanmar. 

UNICEF hopes that added safeguards will help. “The CTFMR [ Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting ] will also receive ‘alerts’ on continuing underage recruitment, which it will share with the government and army to better enable… [them] to address anything that may slip through the cracks, and ensure that the procedures under the plan are indeed working as they should,” Shrestha said. 

A committed effort lies ahead if Myanmar’s armed forces are to be delisted from the UN Secretary-General’s Report on parties to conflict committing grave violations against children by 2014.

HRW’s Smith said, “The real test will be if the army is willing to give full access to the UN and hold soldiers and officers accountable for falsifying documents, and for other crimes related to the recruitment of child soldiers.” 

*Name has been changed



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Norway aligns itself with tougher EU sanctions against Syria

Posted by African Press International on July 27, 2012

The civil war in Syria is escalating, with fighting in central parts of Damascus and Aleppo, and a growing death toll. This underscores the need to find a rapid solution to the conflict, in line with Kofi Annan’s six-point plan.

Norway therefore aligns itself with the new EU sanctions that were introduced today and seek to stop all deliveries of weapons to Syria. The measures also include a freeze on assets and travel restrictions for 26 persons and three companies that are directly linked to the use of violence by the authorities against the country’s population.

Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre commented, “Syria is caught up in a spiral of violence that is having terrible humanitarian consequences. The international community must do what it can to stop this tragedy. Norway will continue to support measures that put pressure on the regime in Damascus to comply with its obligations under the Annan plan. We are therefore aligning ourselves with the more stringent measures adopted by the EU to intercept deliveries of weapons destined for Syria.”

Norway is deeply disappointed that the UN Security Council once again has failed to reach agreement on a binding resolution on international sanctions against Syria. It is important to ensure that the UN continues to have a role in Syria, with a view to paving the way for a political process that can bring about democratic rule. We therefore welcome the extension of the UN observer mission, UNSMIS. We also commend Major General Robert Mood for the huge effort he has made as head of UNSMIS under extremely difficult circumstances.




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UNITAID’s money – part of a three-year grant

Posted by African Press International on July 27, 2012

Point-of-care technology provides health workers with access to complicated test results at the clinic level (file photo)

WASHINGTON DC,  – International medicines financing mechanism UNITAID will invest more than US$140 million to evaluate point-of-care HIV diagnostic and monitoring technology in seven African countries.

New technology could help put more people living with HIV on treatment faster and improve care, UNITAID partners said at the international AIDS conference in Washington DC. 

Point-of-care (PoC) technology provides health workers with access to complicated test results at the clinic level, but can also change how patients use the health system – not always for the better. The evaluation will investigate what new PoC technology will mean for patients and health systems.

UNITAID’s money – part of a three-year grant – will go towards field-testing new PoC technology to diagnose babies born to HIV-positive mums early, and monitor HIV viral loads (the amount of virus in the blood) and CD4 counts (which measure the immune system’s strength).

The new technologies will be rolled out in projects run by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Clinton Health Access Initiative, and medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

Most HIV tests only detect the presence of HIV antibodies – proteins produced by the body in response to HIV infection – and although babies born to HIV-positive mums inherit antibodies, they are not necessarily for HIV. Special polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests are needed look for the actual virus, not the antibodies, to diagnose HIV in infants.

Blood for these tests can be collected at clinics, but PCR tests and those to determine CD4 counts and viral loads are usually only available at district laboratories. Clinics often wait weeks to get the results, delaying treatment for patients and increasing the likelihood that they will be lost to follow-up because they lose interest in getting treatment.

The first step to treatment

Whether or not people access HIV treatment depends on how easy it is to get the tests and the results, according to UNITAID Executive Director Denis Broun.

“While we’ve made progress in reducing life-saving ARV prices for low-income countries, access to these medicines has been stymied by limited availability of diagnostics,” he told IRIN/PlusNews. “Until we bridge this access gap for diagnostic technologies, it will be impossible to really turn the tide on HIV in low-income countries.”

Viral load testing also plays a part in allowing healthcare providers to better identify drug resistance in HIV patients, so doctors and nurses can switch patients to second- or third-line drugs when their current treatment no longer works. Importantly, it also decreases the chance that healthcare providers will switch patients to these more costly regimens unnecessarily, MSF said. 

Research published in British medical journal, The Lancet, and released at the international AIDS conference in Washington, shows a rise in drug-resistant HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Rates of drug resistance are increasing the fastest in East Africa, where about seven percent of all HIV patients have some form of drug resistance – double the proportion of patients with similar resistance in southern Africa. 



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