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Archive for September 13th, 2012

Helping people recover from floods: Comorians working to get back on their feet

Posted by African Press International on September 13, 2012

Comorians working to get back on their feet

PRETORIA,  – In April, the archipelago nation of Comoros was lashed by its heaviest rains in decades, uprooting families and destroying the crops and incomes of its poorest people. At a donor conference last week, the country, backed by the UN and the South African government, made an appeal for justover US$19 million to help the country get back on its feet.

“The amount of money needed [for the country’s nine-month recovery plan] is rather small compared to disasters elsewhere,” said Sivu Maqungo, chief director of the East Africa desk in the South African Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation, which organized the donor conference for Comoros in South Africa. It should not be a problem to raise the requested amount, he added.

The five-day downpour in April was nearly equivalent to the country’s annual rainfall, flooding three islands and affecting 9 percent of the country’s population of more than 750,000 people.

Douglas Casson Coutts, the UN resident coordinator for Comoros, was emphatic that Comorians “are not looking for hand-outs. They want the knowledge that will help them protect themselves from any such future shocks.”

He had been prompted to work on the appeal when five elderly mayors called on him soon after the floods, saying they wanted the know-how to never be taken by surprise again. The recovery plan will help set up a disaster risk reduction (DRR) strategy for the country.

''Comorians ‘are not looking for hand-outs. They want the knowledge that will help them protect themselves from any such future shocks’''

The Comorians are no strangers to disaster; in 2005, the eruption of the Karthala volcano displaced between 180,000 to 250,000 people on the main island of Njazidja. Yet the country does not have a DRR plan in place. Moreover, the April floods destroyed the seismological surveillance equipment on Mount Karthala and damaged several meteorological stations, leaving the country even more vulnerable.

South Africa is going to help Comoros with technical skills to set up a DRR strategy, said Maqungo. The island country is also seeking support from the University of South Africa to set up a long-term planning capacity in Comoros.

Climate change and poverty

Storms on the islands have been getting more intense and frequent over the last decade, said Col Ismael Mogne Daho, the director general of Civil Security, an agency established last year to respond to disasters. He blamed increasing weather severity on the changing global climate.

Gary Eilerts, programme manager of the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), run by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), said in a study published in 2011 that the Indian Ocean was rapidly warming, drawing all the moisture off the African continent and causing heavier downpours over the ocean and the islands in it – like the Comoros islands.

One of the world’s poorest countries, Comoros has few natural resources to support its rapidly growing population. Almost 80 percent of Comorians depend on agriculture, which accounts for 40 percent of the country’s GDP. Most families get by with the help of remittances from 150,000 Comorians living abroad, who sent about $12 million home in 2006.

Rural poor most affected

Most of the people affected by the floods in April are small-scale farmers, who depend on food and income from growing banana, cassava, sweet potato, coconut and rice. Some grow cash crops like cloves, ylang-ylang, vanilla and black pepper.

The affected farmers are in their lean season, and agriculture in Comoros is not geared to withstand shocks, explained Coutts. Comorian farmers are usually besieged by several factors that hold them back, such as lack of seeds and agricultural tools, poor storage facilities, poor water management and infrastructure, and lack of credit services.

Even before the April rains, most people in the country did not have enough to eat. Malnutrition among mothers and children under age five as the leading underlying cause of child mortality. Eleven districts out of 17 have a malnutrition rate of at least 10 percent, which, in the presence of aggravating factors such as destruction of crops, loss of livelihoods, income, affected health and water services, is considered by the World Health Organization to be a serious situation requiring nutritional support.

The Early Recovery Plan seeks to create emergency employment schemes and micro-enterprises that target women in particular, restock of lost farm animals, and provide seeds and farming tools. The plan also aims to bring the World Food Programme to the islands, and to repair and rebuild water supply networks, schools, health facilities and houses.

Donors at the conference expressed some concerns about how the funds and programmes would be monitored. UN’s Coutts explained that part of the plan, drafted with support from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), was to build capacity in Comoros.

“With that, we think transparency and accountability will follow,” he said.

jk/rz source

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Norway, who has been part of secret talks, now welcomes talks to end the armed conflict in Colombia

Posted by African Press International on September 13, 2012

– Norway welcomes the announcement from Bogota that direct talks are to be held between the Colombian Government and FARC-EP, says Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre.

– It takes courage to seek peace. I would like to commend the parties for entering into a dialogue that could bring an end to the protracted armed conflict in Colombia. As the parties have requested assistance from Norway to find a peaceful solution, we have signalled our willingness to assist, Mr Støre says.

It has been announced that the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP will meet for talks in Oslo in the first half of October.

– A great responsibility rests on the parties to find a solution to the conflict, which has caused so much suffering and the loss of so many lives. In the phase they are about to enter, they will face major challenges. We share the hopes of the Colombian people that a peaceful solution is within reach, says Mr Støre.

Together with Cuba, Norway has helped to facilitate the secret talks that have taken place in Havana over the last six months. The role as facilitator has involved fostering a good and secure environment for the talks and building confidence between the parties.

– We have acted as facilitator on the request of both parties. Norway will do its best to continue to assist the parties in the time ahead. We look forward to receiving the parties in Oslo, Mr Støre said.

Norway is engaged in peace and reconciliation processes in a number of countries and regions, with a view to contributing to the prevention and resolution of armed conflicts. We assess our ability to make a difference before becoming involved in peace and reconciliation efforts.





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Kenya: Bodies of six people drowned in Lake Victoria still missing

Posted by African Press International on September 13, 2012 Maurice Alal.API reporter Kisumu.Kenya Maurice Alal.API reporter Kisumu.Kenya

By Maurice Alal, reporting from Kisumu, Kenya.

The search for five bodies of the fishermen who drowned in Lake
Victoria during their routine fishing activities hit a snag when the noxious water hyacinth plant clogged the shores of the lake. This made it difficult for those trying to retrieve the body to access the lake.

According to the eye witnesses, six fishermen drowned over the weekend when their boat was hit by a hippopotamus and capsized off in Goye beach in Bondo district, Nyanza Province of Kenya.

The six together with four others were from their routine fishing
expedition in the morning when they suddenly met the hippo.

The area Chief Daniel Tiang’ said the four managed to get hold of the overturned boat as their colleagues drowned and they were rescued by others who were in another boat during the incident.

‘The boat had ten fishermen on board but luckily four of them escaped death narrowly when they managed to hang on the floating boat before they were rescued by another boat,’ said Mr Tiang’.

He said that so far only one body has been retrieved from the water and the search is still on. However, the Bondo deputy police boss Paul Kiarie confirmed the incident saying the search for the five bodies is on.

The area councillor Aggrey Dimo said there have been several cases of human-wildlife conflict but the government has not shown any commitment in controlling the conflict.

He appealed to the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) to control the rogue hippos to prevent the loss of more lives.

Mr. Tiang’ revealed that so far 30 people have lost their lives in a span of three months along the shores of the Lake Victoria especially Bondo district, Nyanza Province due to the attacks by hippos making the fishermen to live in fear now.

Meanwhile, more than 70 fishermen who were trapped in the lake for three days after their boats were noosed by water hyacinth have been rescued.

The fishermen were rescued with the help of a chopper from the Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS), which arrived on the scene on the fourth day of being trapped.

Nyanza Provincial Commissioner, Francis Mutie said the chopper airlifted 12 fishermen who were in the three boats that were far from the shore.

However, 62 others managed to get to the shore on their own way as they struggled to push the water hyacinth out-of-the-way.

The victims were rushed to the nearby hospital were rushed to the nearby hospital where they were treated and later discharged.

The fishermen who come from Seko, Rakwaro and Rambira beaches went fishing last week in the evening in about 24 boats but got stuck after water hyacinth blocked the lake.

The boats got stuck at different parts of the lake after the noxious weed came in a storm and clogged the entire area where they were fishing.

This made the efforts by the fishermen to get out of the water fruitless. The PC has called upon the fishermen to be very vigilant especially now that the weed is moving in a stormy manner to prevent cases of death adding that the government is working on ways to reduce the situation in the lake.


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