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Archive for October 12th, 2012

Poor living conditions: Over-crowded and poorly maintained refugee camps

Posted by African Press International on October 12, 2012

Refugee camps for Palestinians in Beirut are over-crowded and poorly maintained

JOHANNESBURG,  – New research has uncovered the hidden health toll that refugee life in Lebanon has taken on more than 400,000 Palestinians.

UK medical journal The Lancet has published a series of abstracts drawn from a meeting of public health researchers, The Lancet-Palestine Health Alliance, in Beirut in March 2012. The Alliance aims to “strengthen and expand the capacity of Palestinian scientists to study, report and advocate for the health of their own people,” explained Richard Horton, The Lancet’s editor-in-chief.

While much of the research investigates the negative physical and mental health impacts of living in the occupied Palestinian territory, several studies also explore the health and well-being of Palestinians living in Lebanon, which has hosted Palestinian refugees for more than 60 years.

Poor living conditions

According to one of the studies, by researchers from the American University of Beirut, “discriminatory laws and decades of marginalisation” have left Palestinian refugees in Lebanon socially, politically and economically disadvantaged. Over half of them live in increasingly overcrowded camps, where “the provision of housing, water, electricity, refuse and other services are inadequate and contribute to poor health”.

Out of 2,500 households surveyed, 42 percent had water leaking from their walls or roofs, and 8 percent lived in homes made of dangerous building materials such as asbestos.

Hoda Samra, a spokesperson for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in Lebanon, said many refugees live in shelters lacking ventilation and daylight. While about 5,000 shelters are in need of rehabilitation, the agency has funding to repair only 730. Samra added that there is also a lack of funding to address rundown infrastructure in four out of 12 of the camps.

Camp populations continue to grow but the land allocated for them has not; the resulting overcrowding has exacerbated public health problems.

“Some of the camps are growing vertically but not horizontally,” said Samra, noting that many of the structures were built haphazardly, too close together and without proper foundations.

The study found a direct correlation between poor housing conditions and poor health among respondents; 31 percent had chronic illnesses and 24 percent had experienced acute illnesses in the previous six months.

Poverty and illness

The researchers also found a strong link between poverty and ill health. Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon are ineligible for social services, including healthcare, and they are banned from some 50 professions. UNRWA and the International Labour Organization have lobbied the Lebanese government to ease employment restrictions, but amendments to labour legislation enacted in August 2010, which would make it easier for refugees to secure work permits, are still awaiting an implementation decree from the Department of Labour.

According to another study in The Lancet series, also by researchers from the University of Beirut, 59 percent of refugee households live below the national poverty line; 63 percent reported some food insecurity, while 13 percent were severely food insecure. Only the poorest – about 13 percent – qualify for food rations and small cash grants from UNRWA.

The combination of poor nutrition, unhealthy living conditions and feelings of hopelessness breed “all kinds of illnesses”, said Samra. But while primary health care is freely available through UNRWA’s clinics, and patients referred to UNRWA-contracted hospitals are treated free of charge, specialized care is only partially covered. Refugees in need of complex surgery or treatment must foot at least half of the bill themselves.

“This is a big, big challenge for them,” said Samra. “They often find themselves unable to cover the rest of the bill and have to run up debts they can’t repay or simply forgo surgery or treatment.”

She spoke of an 18-year-old in need of a liver transplant that costs US$95,000, which neither he nor UNRWA can afford. “We can’t cover that. We’re trying now to approach some private sector companies to collect the funds needed.”

Need for mental health care

Lack of mental health services presents another challenge. A 2009 study by UNRWA, also published in The Lancet, found that mental disorders related to chronically harsh living conditions and long-term political instability, violence, and uncertainty were a public-health concern among Palestinian refugees living in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. One of the recent University of Beirut studies found that 55 percent of respondents were “psychologically distressed”.

UNRWA offers only basic counselling services, referring refugees in need of psychosocial support to NGOs such as Médecins Sans Frontières. “We’re always pushing project proposals for mental health services to donors with the hope they get funded; there is a need,” said Samra.

“When taken together,” writes Lancet editor Horton, “these data expose the hidden crisis facing Palestinian refugees, whose health needs have been sorely neglected.”




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New research vessel for Africa

Posted by African Press International on October 12, 2012

For 20 years, the research vessel Dr Fridtjof Nansen has provided support for surveys of the fish resources off the coasts of more than 60 poor countries. The Government is now allocating around NOK 440 million to procure a new research vessel to replace Dr Fridtjof Nansen.

The work to procure the new vessel will begin in 2013, and it is expected to be completed in 2016.

“We have used the research vessel Dr Fridtjof Nansen to help poor countries survey their fisheries resources. Norway has valuable expertise and experience in this area,” said Minister of International Development Heikki Eidsvoll Holmås.

The research vessel is part of the EAF-Nansen Programme. So far, more than 60 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America have received assistance to survey and monitor their marine resources, as well as training and help to improve the management of these resources. The research also focuses on climate change and the environment in African waters.

“It is of great benefit to Africa’s ministers of fisheries that they have access to information of the highest quality about their sea areas. This can help to promote growth and better management of the natural resources,” Mr Holmås said.

The vessel Dr Fridtjof Nansen has been in continuous use for almost 20 years. It no longer meets all the scientific requirements of the EAF-Nansen Programme. The estimated cost of a new vessel is around NOK 440 million, at today’s value. These costs will be spread over four years. NOK 45 million has been allocated in the budget proposal for 2013 to cover the costs of concluding a contract.


source mfa.norway


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The ICC holds its tenth Seminar of Counsel from 15 to 19 October 2012

Posted by African Press International on October 12, 2012

The annual Seminar of Counsel, organised by the Registry of the International Criminal Court (ICC), will take place at the Kurhaus Hotel in The Hague, The Netherlands, on 15- 16 October 2012. The seminar will be followed by three additional days reserved for practical training, provided by prominent experts, on issues facing counsel representing the defence or victims before the Court.
In 2012, the ICC is commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the entry into force of the Rome Statute, its founding treaty. The Seminar, now equally in its 10th year, provides a unique platform to not only celebrate the important contribution of counsel to the mandate of the Court in its decade long practice, but also to engage in a mutually beneficial dialogue to learn from colleagues’ experiences and perspectives, and to collaboratively explore areas in need of improvement and how best to tackle existing challenges.
The Seminar will commence with the opening remarks by the President of the ICC, Judge Sang-Hyun Song and the ICC Registrar, Silvana Arbia. In addition, this year’s seminar will be honoured with the interventions of His Excellency Ambassador Christian Wenaweser, former president of the Assembly of States Parties, and Mr. Don Ferencz, President and CEO of the Planethood Foundation and Convenor of the Global Institute for the Prevention of Aggression.
Ms. Brigid Inder, Executive Director of Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice and recently appointed Special Advisor on Gender for the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, will contribute to the discussions on principles and procedures to be applied to reparations, supported by representatives of the Trust Fund for Victims. Other panels will investigate defence issues and provide update on victims.
As in previous years, in addition to representatives of, inter alia, legal associations and ad hoc tribunals, this edition of our seminar will once again be targeted towards a most important constituency – members of the Court’s List of Counsel, created and maintained by the Registrar. At this juncture, the List of Counsel consists of more than 430 lawyers from all corners of the globe.
The Registrar of the Court has expressed her gratitude to the European Commission for its generous financial support of the 10th Seminar of Counsel and Training program.


source icc


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