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Archive for October 29th, 2012

Locusts on the move, a threat to northwest Africa

Posted by African Press International on October 29, 2012

Desert locusts likely to invade northwestern Africa

DAKAR,  – Swarms of desert locusts are likely to migrate to Algeria, Libya, Mauritania and Morocco in the coming weeks from West Africa and the Sahel region, says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which urges the four countries to prepare for pest control.

Clouds of adult locusts are developing in Chad and are about to form in Mali and Niger after plentiful rains during the June-September rainy season favoured the breeding of two generations of locusts and increased their population 250 times.
When they migrate to northwestern African countries, they are “expected to arrive in areas where there has been recent rainfall and with green vegetation… there could be impacts on associated livelihoods,” Keith Cressman, FAO’s senior locust forecasting officer, told IRIN.
Prevailing winds and past trends make it likely that the swarms, once formed, will fly to Algeria, Libya, southern Morocco and northwestern Mauritania, he said in a statement on 23 October.
The insects initially migrated to northern Mali and Niger in June from Algeria and Libya. Insecurity in northern Mali, a region overran by Islamist rebels, has made assessments difficult. In Chad, ground teams began spraying the insects in October, and Niger, where pest control teams have to be accompanied by the military, has recently begun spraying.
“The control operations are reducing locust numbers and infestations in both Niger and Chad. This will in turn reduce the scale of migration, but migration is still expected to occur since it is difficult to find and control all locust infestations in the large expanses of northern Niger and Chad,” Cressman said.
Swarms of tens of millions of locusts can fly up to 150km a day with the wind. Female locusts can lay 300 eggs in their lifetime and an adult desert locust can eat food about its own weight every day (around two grams). A very small swarm eats the same amount of food in one day as about 35,000 people, says FAO.
In 2004 swarms of locusts up to 20km long and 5km wide devastated pastures, crops and vegetation across the Sahel from Dakar, the capital of Senegal on the Atlantic coast, to N’djamena, the capital of Chad, half a continent away.
ob/cb

source http://www.irinnews.org

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Considering needs of women: Information is important for preventing and coping with disasters

Posted by African Press International on October 29, 2012

Information is important for preventing and coping with disasters

NAIROBI,  – Better management of disaster risk requires paying more attention to those directly affected, especially women, according to experts.
“At the community level, we also need good practices, not policies… How do we enhance people-centred early warning systems? We also need the engagement of the local population,” said Pedro Basabe, the head of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) regional office for Africa.
Basabe was speaking at a media event to mark International Disaster Risk Reduction Day; this year’s theme is “Women and Girls – the [in]Visible Force of Resilience”.
While women contribute to making their communities more disaster-resilient through activities such as better land use and food storage, their efforts often go unrecognized because they are frequently excluded from planning processes.
“In order to enhance adaptability to environmental change and raise coping capacities in the event of a disaster, the people affected have to be comprehensively integrated into the political decision-making processes at community and national level[s], with equal participation of women being ensured. This also applies to the coordination and allocation of disaster relief,” states the 2012 World Risk Report.
Recognizing vulnerabilities
Women form one of the most vulnerable populations segments during disasters; recognizing their vulnerabilities and working to address them is key. In conflict situations, for example, women often bear the brunt of the violence.
“We realize that women have a big role in family and national affairs; they should take a lead role [in risk reduction] because when disasters strike they suffer the most,” said Lt Col (Rtd) Jeremiah Njagi, the deputy director of Kenya’s National Disaster Operations Centre (NDOC).
“In Nairobi, when fires strike – mainly at night – the sufferers are mainly women and children, as the men are often out of the house. We need to teach them [women] the mitigation factors,” he said. “Wanjiru [a woman’s name], goes out, locks the children in the house, yet the stove is on and she does not inform the neighbours, then a fire breaks out.”
Fires are common in Nairobi slum areas. These and other recurrent, often preventable, man-made disasters have been attributed to impunity for dangerous behaviours and late reaction to early warning messages.
Common disasters in Kenya include droughts, floods, sporadic ethno-political violence and outbreaks of disease.
Policy needed
Political commitment, comprehensive disaster planning and coordination mechanisms are also important to reduce risk, according to UNISDR’s Basabe.
Kenya has yet to finalize a disaster management policy – a framework that would help it set up a central body  to coordinate all institutions in activities of prevention and mitigation. “We are almost coming up with a disaster management policy… It is now between the cabinet and parliament,” said NDOC’s Njagi.
NDOC was formed in 1998, after the 1997 El Niño rains, to monitor and coordinate the response to disasters nationally. Its operations have, however, been hampered by the absence of the policy.
At present, NDOC manages disasters under different laws, such as the Nairobi City Council’s bylaws, the Traffic Act and others, Njagi said. “The disaster management policy will be a common policy [document] to address all disasters to harmonize all these laws.”
The policy would also clearly spell out roles and enable better resource mobilization.
“When these disasters come right now, it is only the government and well-wishers who come to assist,” he said. “Disasters, when they strike, they leave you running to save lives, and they cost a lot of money.”
The reduction of disasters is both a moral imperative and an economic necessity, says the World Risk Report, noting that “not only do large-scale disasters cause immense human suffering, they also create massive costs for the economy. Within next to no time, they can wipe out years of progress in development.”
The provision of sufficient information is important for preventing and coping with disasters, adds the report. “For this reason, governments ought to systematically make risk assessments, establish threat potentials, compile contingency plans and calculate the costs of possible disasters ex ante… All this information ought to be provided to the public free of charge.”
aw/rz

source http://www.irinnews.org

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Humanitarian challenges

Posted by African Press International on October 29, 2012

On 5 August 2012, the Bahr Azoum wadi (river) burst its banks, flooding several IDP and refugee sites around the town of Koukou, Eastern Chad

NAIROBI,  – The number of flood-affected people in Chad has risen to 700,000, up from 445,000 in September, according to humanitarian agencies, which also report the loss or damage of 255,720 hectares of cropland, 94,211 houses and 1,015 schools. Some 70,000 people have been displaced by the flooding, one of several challenges to the country’s humanitarian situation.   The areas worst affected by the floods include the regions of Moyen Chari, Tanjile, the two Logones, the two Mayo Kebbis and Salamat, according to a 15 October update by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). At least 16 of the country’s 22 regions have been affected, with 20 deaths recorded.

As of 13 October, about 18,800 displaced people from Walia District  were seeking refuge at two sites on the outskirts of N’djamena, according to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Assistance needed

“These are the worst floods that N’djamena has seen since 1962. About 30,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in parts of the city flooded by the Logone and Chari rivers. Thankfully, it looks like the water levels are slowly going back down, but people will need help to rebuild their lives and repair their houses, schools, hygiene facilities and wells,” Pierre Péron, a public information officer at the OCHA office in N’djamena, told IRIN.   The current flooding, which started in August, has damaged infrastructure, crops and homes, according to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).   “Over the last two months, the rains have continued steadily while the authorities and humanitarian agencies provided emergency relief to the most affected,” said IFRC’s 21 October emergency appeal to help 30,800 people in Mayo Kebbi Est and N’djamena. The organization is requesting 775,716 Swiss francs (US$ 832,265) to cover assistance over a six-month period, with the main needs including emergency health services, clean water, sanitation and hygiene promotion activities, as well as basic household items and protection.

A UN Central Emergency Response Fund grant has also just been approved for $3 million to respond to flooding in the south, according to OCHA’s Peron.   As of 15 October, over three million had been affected by flooding in the West and Central Africa region, according to a situation report by the OCHA.     Food insecurity   The flooding in Chad follows a period of high food insecurity in Chad’s Sahelian belt. In Bahr-el-Ghazal, Guéra, Kanem, Ouaddai and Sila regions, food insecurity rates increased from 45 percent in December 2011 to 48 percent in June 2012, according to the UN World Food Programme’s October global food security update.   The number of children being newly admitted for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition, a deadly condition, in Chad’s Sahelian region has been high compared to previous years, according to UNICEF. In 2010, some 59,260 new admissions were recorded; in 2011 that number was 69,936, and from January to August 2012 it was 98,664.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continues to admit new patients to its emergency feeding programme in eastern Chad, according to an update. At present, more than 1,000 children are being treated in MSF’s emergency feeding programme in the eastern Biltine District.

“Since April, more than 500 severely malnourished children requiring intensive care have been admitted to MSF’s nutrition ward in Biltine District hospital. The team hopes the number of admissions will decrease as the harvest comes in and the annual ‘hunger season’ comes to an end,” the update states.

MSF will continue its emergency nutrition programme there until early December.

Locusts

Chad is also grappling with the growing threat of desert locusts.

“Immature swarms are currently forming in northeast Chad [adjacent to Darfur, Sudan] near Fada and further west,” Keith Cressman, the senior locust forecasting officer with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told IRIN. “So far, damage has been reported to pastures and subsistence crops, both important to livelihoods of herders and farmers, respectively.”

“The desert locust threat should continue to be monitored in Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania. A potential threat to crops in 2013 exists should locust numbers multiply,” he added.

On 23 October, FAO issued a new locust warning for northwest Africa alerting Algeria, Libya, Mauritania and Morocco to prepare for the likely arrival of locust swarms from the Sahel.

“Any locust infestations that can be found and treated now will decrease the scale of migration from the Sahel to northwest Africa and also reduce the threat to crops in the Sahel that are about to be harvested,” said Cressman.
aw/rz

source http://www.irinnews.org

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