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Archive for March 2nd, 2013

Important elections: Al Jazeera will cover the Kenyan Monday 4th.March General elections

Posted by African Press International on March 2, 2013

Al Jazeera has announced its coverage plan for the 4 March 2013 Kenyan elections.Three TV correspondents and one online reporter will provide viewers with in-depth reporting and analysis from across the country before, during, and after polling day.

Nazanine Moshiri and Mohammed Adow will be reporting from Nairobi, with Peter Greste in western Kenya. Al Jazeera English online will also provide the latest analysis and coverage through a special spotlight page carrying exclusive features and reports from Al Jazeera’s James Brownsell in Nairobi.

The Al Jazeera team will highlight key electoral issues, such as youth unemployment, which affects 41 per cent of Kenyans; the increased use of technology in the election campaign; and the importance of tribal loyalty during the elections.

Already Al Jazeera has been the only international news organisation to run coverage of both presidential debates live. The channel has also conducted exclusive 30-minute interviews on Talk to Al Jazeera with two of the top presidential candidates, Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta. The special coverage will further intensify in the days leading up to polling day.

Ordinary Kenyans will also have a chance to get their voices heard through Al Jazeera’s Kenya Speaks and Kenya Voices campaigns, which will be gathering SMS and voice messages of election comments and concerns.

As social media will be playing a key role in the elections, The Stream will be pouring over the online conversation during the election, while Inside Story, Al Jazeera’s flagship discussion programme, will debate the key election points before and after the vote.

The online spotlight page can be viewed at

Al Jazeera English’s on-screen and online branding for the Kenyan elections can be downloaded here

The Twitter handles of Al Jazeera reporters in Kenya are @moadow, @nazaninemoshiri, @petergreste, @jamesbrownsell

This message is Issued by: Kevin Kriedemann, Publicist, On behalf of Osama Saeed | Head of international and media relations, AL JAZEERA MEDIA NETWORK

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African migrants pay high prices

Posted by African Press International on March 2, 2013

JOHANNESBURG,  – New data from the World Bank has revealed that African migrants pay more to send money home to their families than any other migrant group in the world.While South Asians pay an average of US$6 for every $100 they send home, Africans often pay more than twice that – and in South Africa, which has the highest remittance costs on the continent, nearly 21 percent of money set aside for family members back home is spent on getting it there.

With an estimated 120 million Africans depending on remittances from family members abroad for their survival, health and education, the World Bank argues that high transaction costs are cutting into the impact remittances can have on poverty levels.

To address this, the Bank is partnering with the African Union Commission and member states to establish the African Institute for Remittances, which will work towards lowering the transaction costs of remittances to and within Africa. It will also leverage the potential of remittances to influence economic and social development.

“The World Bank’s approach supports regulatory and policy reforms that promote transparency and market competition and the creation of an enabling environment that promotes innovative payment and remittance products,” said Marco Nicoli, a finance analyst at the Bank who specializes in remittances.

Costly and difficult

Owen Maromo, a 33-year-old farmworker who lives in De Doorns, a grape-growing region in South Africa’s Western Cape Province, told IRIN that his family in Zimbabwe relies on the money he sends home every month.

“I’ve got a house there and I need to pay rent. I’m also taking care of my youngest brother – since my mum died four years ago – and my wife’s family.

“Almost every Zimbabwean here is budgeting to send money back home,” he added. “If they could, they would send money home on a weekly basis.”

In a 2012 report by the Cape Town-based NGO People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP), interviews with 350 Zimbabwean migrants revealed some of the reasons sending money home from South Africa is both costly and difficult.

“There are a lot of people whose money just disappears. Almost on a daily basis, you hear those stories”

A key impediment is the stringent regulatory framework that governs cross-border transfers from South Africa. Exchange control legislation, for example, requires money transfer operators (MTOs) to partner with a bank. According to PASSOP, this has had the effect of stifling competition that would likely reduce transaction costs.

Legislation intending to counter money laundering and terrorist financing requires that customers provide proof of residence and proof of the source of their funds before they can access financial services. This effectively excludes the many migrants living in informal settlements and those who are paid in cash.

PASSOP found that even among migrants who do have access to banks and MTOs like Western Union and MoneyGram, many lack the financial literacy to make use of them.

“Some have just come from rural areas in Zimbabwe, so it takes time for them to know about such things,” said Maromo, adding that lack of documentation was another major obstacle. “If you’re undocumented, you can’t go through the banks.”

Three-quarters of the Zimbabwean migrants interviewed by PASSOP relied instead on “informal” remittance channels, such as giving money or goods to bus drivers, friends or agents to send home. This is often not much cheaper than using banks or MTOs, and it is significantly riskier. Of the respondents who used such methods, 84 percent reported negative experiences, including theft of their money, loss or destruction of their goods and long delays in remittances reaching intended recipients.

Maromo relayed his own experience sending money home through an agent who charged a 15 percent commission to channel the money through his South African bank account before handing it over to Maromo’s relatives in Zimbabwe. “Some time ago, I nearly lost 2,000 rand ($225) because I deposited it in [the agent’s] account and he was saying he didn’t have it and giving excuses. In the end, we got the money, but it cost us nearly 1,000 rand ($113) in airtime calling Zimbabwe,” he said.

“Some are using bus drivers or those people who are going home, and you have to trust them because you’re desperate, but there can be a lot of problems,” he added. “There are a lot of people whose money just disappears. Almost on a daily basis, you hear those stories.”

Lowering transaction fees

Now, Maromo uses a UK-based online transfer service called, which is popular with many Zimbabweans living overseas. The proof of residence and source of funds requirements are the same as for traditional MTOs, but the site charges 10 percent on transfers from South Africa to Zimbabwe – less than most banks.

The South African Reserve Bank and the treasury have committed to bringing the cost of remittances down to 5 percent by relaxing regulations for smaller money transfers, negotiating with regulators in the Southern African Development Community on exchange control regulations, and removing the requirement that MTOs partner with banks.

However, at the time of writing, the Reserve Bank has not yet responded to questions from IRIN about how these changes will be implemented and within what timeframe.

Rob Burrell, director of, said achieving the 5 percent target would be tough considering the numerous costs that MTOs have to cover, including fees paid to the companies that collect and pay out the money, the cost of supporting transactions through a call centre, and licensing and reporting requirements. “We would need everyone pulling together,” he said.

Burrell noted that less stringent laws governing MTOs in the UK mean more competition but much weaker anti-money laundering controls. To operate in South Africa, has to comply with the regulation that they partner with a local banking license holder.

“In the UK, it’s easier to obtain your license,”he told IRIN. “There are 4,000 [MTOs operating in the UK] compared to 12 in South Africa, but the downside is that it’s very difficult to police them all.”


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Measles epidemic affects thousands

Posted by African Press International on March 2, 2013

KINSHASA,  – A measles epidemic has affected tens of thousands of children in northern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), overwhelming health facilities, says medica l charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

“Most health centres are either not functional, out of medical stocks or inaccessible for the majority of the population. Many children die in their villages because the health facilities cannot provide adequate care,” Anja De Weggheleire, MSF Medical Coordinator in DRC, told IRIN via email.

“The disease is extremely contagious and can spread quickly in countries like DRC, which have large gaps in their healthcare system,” MSF said in a statement.

Measles mostly affects children and can cause complications including pneumonia, malnutrition, severe dehydration, ear infections and eye infections that can lead to blindness. Despite the availability of a vaccine for the disease, measles remains one of the biggest killers of children.

According to MSF, measles can kill between one and 15 percent of unvaccinated children who contract the disease and up to 25 percent of malnourished or vulnerable groups with limited access to healthcare.

Since March 2012, MSF says it has treated more than 18,000 patients and vaccinated 440,000 children in DRC’s Equateur and Orientale provinces.

“This situation is only the latest development in an ongoing epidemic that has affected the entire country since 2010,” said Amaury Grégoire, MSF deputy head of mission.

MSF officials said they counted 35 dead children in one of the villages they visited. ko/rz

ko/rz source

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Boosting youth disaster preparation

Posted by African Press International on March 2, 2013

LONDON,  – NGOs and UN agencies warn that natural disasters disproportionately affect youths and that more creative use of media is needed to help brace them f or natural calamities.

According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), at least half of those affected by natural disasters are youths under 18. Experiential learning (learning by doing), games and animated films are some ways entertainers and educators are using to teach youths disaster risk reduction (DRR) skills.

“Feeling and experiencing it [disaster simulation] empowers them. There are gains, especially in flood and cyclone areas of Asia where games have been helpful,” said Jordan Naidoo, a senior education adviser with UNICEF in New York.

The Asia-Pacific region has been hardest hit by natural disasters, with an estimated two million people killed from 1970-2011, or 75 percent of global deaths from natural disasters in that period.

Helping children handle stress before a disaster hits is critical, especially as countries confront slow-onset disasters in addition to rapid-onset ones, said Naidoo.

“While in Asia there tend to be more sudden onset emergencies such as earthquakes, volcanoes, typhoons (flood and wind hazards), in the Middle East the types of emergencies are slow and complex, such as conflict, war and drought. In [each of] these situations, we use games differently, to help children deal with their emotional stress.”


Games are effective in helping children prepare for calamity, said Unni Krishnan, head of disaster response for international NGO Plan International.

The agency helped design a DRR board game, Riskland, in Viet Nam. Similar to “snakes and ladders” (known as “chutes and ladders” in some countries) the Vietnamese adaptation includes illustrations from schoolchildren that depict local geography to teach about climate change and local environmental threats, such as flooding and winds. Like the original game, the object is to navigate from start to finish, helped or hindered by ladders and snakes/chutes.

According to a recent Plan International and UN Office for Disaster Reduction (UNIDSR) report, games help children socialize and boost their confidence to discuss disasters with peers and family.


Thai and Indian youths have learned about flood preparation from a whale and elephant, respectively. A locally produced Thai animation broadcast during late 2011 flooding in Thailand called Roo Su Flood (Know, Fight Flood), attracted over 78,000 “likes” on YouTube the day it was uploaded, a number that has since grown to more than 650,000, according to the channel’s counter.

Thailand-based Asia editor Jon Russell from the internet technology blog The Next Web, said he believed the cartoon’s popularity came from the perception its information was “unbiased and reliable”. Up to that point, Russell said government officials had provided conflicting flood assessments, announcing that the floods were under control one day, only to issue threatening warnings soon after.

Over six months, flooding in Thailand killed at least 628 people, affected more than 13 million, and damaged 20,000sqkm of farmland.

Elsewhere in the region India’s government and the UN Development Programme turned to an elephant figure popular among children to teach the dangers of floodwaters through colouring books.

Slum art

In some slum districts of Dhaka – Bangladesh’s capital that is listed among the world’s most natural disaster-prone cities – even a relatively small amount of rain can cause flooding due to poor drainage systems and even poorer construction.

NGOs there have helped children create murals and community plays in some of those settlements outlining fire hazards and just how dangerous a clogged drain can be.

UNICEF and the Dutch government worked to strengthen national DRR education following the country’s Cyclone Aila in May 2009, which killed an estimated 190 people. The same area was hit two years earlier by another cyclone that killed 3,500.

To reach children not in schools, NGOs have used community plays in one of Dhaka’s slums, Jatrabari, to teach children living in overcrowded, fire-prone bamboo-and-tin homes about fire hazards.

No matter the media, children must be central to DRR learning, said Krishna from Plan International, who credits them with being excellent information and education “sponges”.

She said a 2010 tropical storm in El Salvador tested schoolchildren from El Zapotal, some 120km from the capital of San Salvador. “Children were in the forefront of evacuation and thus saved 415 people in their village from certain death of being buried alive by landslides.”

In consultations UNISDR held with more than 200 youths from six Asian countries in 2012, almost all those interviewed said they did not want to be viewed as victims, but rather as people protecting their communities.


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