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Archive for March 24th, 2013

Kenya: Mfangano residents urged to use treated water to curb waterborne disease

Posted by African Press International on March 24, 2013

  • By Maurice Alal, API Kenya


The Mfangano Island residents in Homabay County, Nyanza Region have been urged to use treated water to curb the rampant waterborne diseases in the area.

According to health statistics in Suba district, there have been many cases of cholera, bilharzias, diarrhea, dysentery, amoeba and typhoid among others that has claimed many lives in the region.

This has been attributed to direct use of raw water from the lake where they wash their utensils and even bathe hence contributing to the diseases.

Speaking during official handing over of Gethsemane Garden Christian Centre Secondary School water project constructed by Living Water International at a cost of Ksh. 5.5 million, the Regional Vice President for Africa Dr.Victor Madziakapita said such diseases will reduce with the unveiled project.

However, Dr.Madziakapita urged residents and the students to observe sanitation adding that it was the best way to reduce high rate of deaths especially the infants and the old people.

The 2.1cubic metres per hour (2100litres per hour) water system have now put a smile on the face of both Gethsemane Garden Christian Centre Secondary and Primary Schools alongside the communities.

The launched water project is anticipated to benefit over 600 pupils and 300 households around the Mfangano Island with communities expected to pay Ksh. 2 to 3 for maintenance of the water plant.

However, Mr. Jacktone Akello, the Living Water Kenya Representative revealed that the organization majorly focus on providing water to communities through the institutions in the country.

Akello said several water projects have been constructed in various areas such as Dr. Aloo Gumbi, Our Lady of Mercy schools (Kisumu County), Mbooni (Makueni County), Tegecha Secondary (Narok County), Ngiya Girls (Siaya County) Kayole (Nairobi County) and Butere (Busia
County) among others.

He further said that Living Water International Organization has set up plans to embark on spring’s protection and putting more water projects across the country basing on the chosen districts in the 47 Counties.

During the handing over ceremony, over 41 students graduated from the last year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) to go to various universities and colleges.

End

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The risks and rewards of easing Somalia’s arms embargo

Posted by African Press International on March 24, 2013

NAIROBI,  – The UN Security Council earlier this month relaxed a long-standing arms embargo on Somalia, allowing the government to purchase light weapons for 12 months.

“On the arms embargo, originally imposed in 1992, the Council decided that it would not apply to arms or equipment sold or supplied solely for the development of the government’s security forces, but it kept its restrictions in place on heavy weapons, such as surface-to-air missiles,” UN Security Council Resolution 2093, adopted on 6 March, said.

The government – or member states delivering weapons – are required to notify the Council’s sanctions committee of any such deliveries.

Below, IRIN has put together a briefing on the implications of easing the embargo.

Why ease the embargo?

For more than two decades after the fall of Siyad Barre in 1991, Somalia experienced widespread gun violence in the form of clan conflict and, more recently, conflict involving the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)-supported government and Islamist insurgent group Al-Shabab.

According to the UN Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea, between May 2004 and July 2011, some 445 instances of arms transfers or seizures, involving almost 50,000 small arms and light weapons, took place in Somalia. Also in violation of the embargo, arms continued to flow into Somalia by land, air and sea from countries like Eritrea, Ethiopia and Yemen.

But following more than a year of relative stability in Mogadishu and many other parts of south-central Somalia, some analysts expressed a desire to see the UN relax the embargo. In February, the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies (HIPS), a Mogadishu-based think tank, urged the US to “lobby for a gradual end to the arms embargo on Somalia… so that the Federal Government can take a qualitative monopoly on the instruments of legitimate violence”.

Easing the arms embargo would, according to HIPS director Abdi Aynte, “gradually give the Somali National Army [SNA] the qualitative edge over their principal adversaries, such as Al-Shabab”.

“At the moment, the SNA is battling Al-Shabab using the same [old] AK47s. They’d have to change, especially if we want the SNA to ultimately defeat Al-Shabab,” he told IRIN. “It would allow the Somali government to gradually monopolize the use of legitimate force. Currently, all actors are armed to the teeth, and that won’t change for some time, but it could be reversed over time.”

In a statement, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud welcomed the decision to lift the embargo as a reflection of “a new and steadily improving political situation in Somalia”.

“Thousands of Somali National Army recruits, trained by our international partners, have returned to Somalia but have been unable to perform their security duties effectively alongside AMISOM troops because the government was unable to access the equipment they needed,” he added. “Lifting the arms embargo was the missing element, and now the gap has been filled.”

“At the moment, the Somali National Army is battling Al-Shabab using the same [old] AK47s. They’d have to change, especially if we want the SNA to ultimately defeat Al-Shabab”

Abdullahi Boru Halakhe, a Horn of Africa analyst, said the resolution made necessary compromises between the need for legitimate weapons and the fear of illegal ones. “The way the resolution was crafted struck a balance between the concerns of those who feel the country is still [too] awash with weapons for the embargo to be lifted, and those who consider the government needs to be able to purchase weapons to provide security for its people,” he said.

What are the risks?

Halakhe warned, however, that “even the best laid plans can go awry”.

“The immediate danger is if the weapons find their way in the hands of groups like Al-Shabab through corrupt government officials/security officers,” which could lead to “an incredibly difficult situation, where these weapons could fuel further conflict”.

Two days before the embargo was lifted, rights group Amnesty International called on the UN Security Council to keep the embargo in place, and even strengthen it, citing the possibility of groups like Al-Shabab becoming better armed.

“For several years, the arms embargo on Somalia has been continuously violated, with arms supplied to armed groups on all sides of the conflict. The flow of arms to Somalia has fuelled serious human rights abuses,” Gemma Davies, Amnesty International’s Somalia researcher, said in a statement that stressed the risks of “removing existing mechanisms of transparency and accountability”.

“Without adequate safeguards, arms transfers may expose Somali civilians to even greater risk and worsen the humanitarian situation,” she added.

Countries within the region are wary of the easing of the embargo, fearing that it could, if managed poorly, allow illegal weapons to flow out of Somalia and into the region, where they could be used to create instability.

“As a sovereign state, Somalia is entitled to strengthen its security and defence. The present situation in Somalia, however, is still fragile… The institutions that control and manage small arms are not yet stable, with the AU still the factor holding the peace and return to stability. Already, there are so many illegal guns within Somalia and these are yet to be properly accounted for, managed and effectively controlled,” said Joe Burua, of Uganda’s National Focal Point on Small Arms.

“Letting more arms into Somalia will only give credence to the illegal ones [as] trade commodities, basically supporting illegal trade in firearms as security tightens.”

He noted that while experts believe few guns have so far left Somalia for other countries in the region, “the fear is, like the Cold War era of the West and Eastern bloc countries, when the war is concluded, unscrupulous characters will seize the opportunity to engage in illegal trade in firearms”.

What safeguards are needed?

According to Burua, if the lifting of the embargo is to work, Somalia’s government will need to, among other things: strengthen internal measures for the safe storage of firearms; sensitize armed communities about the dangers of possessing illegal firearms; conduct a robust demobilization and disarmament programme; enact an amnesty for armed communities that voluntarily surrender their firearms; strengthen the capacity of the law enforcement agencies to manage firearms; strengthen laws and regulations on firearms; and partner with neighbouring states to strengthen border points and curtail illegal cross-border transfers.

“At this current juncture during the problematic early stages of the Somali Federal Government, the initial issue before armament should be country-wide disarmament,” Kainan Abdullahi Mohamed said in a recent opinion piece for the Somali new service, Garoowe Online. “Firstly and foremost in the capital, where guns are found as easily as any other product such as soap and groceries.”

He further argued that there would be a need to harmonize and reform the army if the easing of the embargo was to work.

Al Jazeera correspondent Peter Greste notes in a 21 March blog that beyond guns, there is a need for ongoing negotiations on an Arms Trade Treaty to impose strict controls on not just weapons, but ammunition as well.

“As it stands, the treaty places trade in weapons themselves under encouragingly tight controls,” he said. “But the treaty shunts ammunition and spare parts to an annex with far loser restrictions. If those restrictions continue to allow a black market to flourish, the treaty fails, especially in places like Somalia.”

Amnesty International has also made the case for stronger controls on ammunition.

Somalia has attempted disarmament several times in the past. The Islamic Courts Union’s disarmament efforts in 2006 were met with stiff resistance by warlords. In 2007, the prime minister of the Transitional Federal Government extended an amnesty to Islamists and established collection points for arms around Mogadishu. This, too, was met with resistance.

There is also the issue of how much of a role AMISOM should play in supporting the purchase or monitoring of weapons. HIPS’s Aynte says that while AMISOM should not, in the long term, be an intermediary in the procurement of weapons, the Somali government needs to first put in place “verifiable mechanisms for purchasing, accounting and accountability before going on an arms shopping spree”.

“There are groups and communities in Somalia and abroad that are legitimately concerned about the capacity of the SNA to buy arms… The government must allay these fears by reforming the SNF and making it more competent, credible, inclusive and, above all, accountable to a strong and transparent judicial system,” he added.

President Mohamud’s statement made it clear that the Somali army would continue to work with AMISOM to execute its duties. The SNA and the country’s police force are undergoing a process of reform with the support of AMISOM, the UN and neighbouring countries like Uganda.

Halakhe, the analyst, said, “I hope besides providing security, the AU forces will able to monitor that these weapons do not find their way into the hands of Al-Shabab and other similar destabilizing forces… We need to move slowly.”

kr/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Support for IDPs outside DRC’s formal camps

Posted by African Press International on March 24, 2013

NAIROBI,  – Humanitarian agencies in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) North Kivu Province are working to increase their support for hundreds of t housands of displaced people living outside formal camps with little humanitarian support, often relying on the kindness of sometimes equally vulnerable host communities.

Fighting in North Kivu in 2012 displaced some 590,000 people, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In total, some 914,000 people are displaced in the province. According to the NGO Refugees International (RI), some 802,000 of these are living outside formal camp settings.

“Only 112,000 North Kivu IDPs live in UNHCR-operated camps, while 230,000 are in spontaneous settlements, and the rest are living with host communities,” RI advocate Caelin Briggs told IRIN following a mission to the province.

“Across the board, we found extremely harsh conditions, particularly in the non-official camps – spontaneous settlements and people living with host families,” she added. “Food is the number one need mentioned. For instance, between July and December 2012, there was no food distribution in Masisi [territory]. They try to get day labour on nearby farms, but there is just not enough work to go around.”

Briggs noted that protection was another issue of concern. “In Goma, there is a big threat to women fetching firewood, especially as they now have to go deeper into the forest for it,” she said. “They are advised to go in groups, but this is not really helpful against a group of armed men.”

The DRC government has not yet ratified the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) 2009 – also known as the Kampala Convention – the world’s first legally binding instrument aimed specifically at aiding people displaced within their own countries.

Harmonizing programmes

“Until recently, there was very little assistance and coordination of activities in spontaneous sites and for IDPs living in host families and other displacement situations,” Simplice Kpandji, the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) public information officer in DRC, told IRIN. “Over the last few months, the humanitarian community has sought to create a new, more holistic coordination/assistance system which includes not only CCCM [camp coordination/camp management] camps but also other displacement situations.”

“Approaches to distribution, registration, security… etc. are being harmonized to ensure that all IDPs in various situations of displacement are treated equally,” he added.

RI is making the case for the “the activation of a national-level CCCM cluster to jointly address the needs of displaced persons living in CCCM camps as well as those living in spontaneous settlements and with host families”. In some countries, humanitarian actors working within a particular field, such as shelter or health, coordinate their activities through “clusters”. CCCM activities in the DRC are handled by a “working group” under the larger protection cluster.

Kpandji said that although the CCCM working group has been working “very much like a cluster”, it lacks access to funding mechanisms available to clusters, such as the Central Emergency Response Fund and pooled funds.

In January, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) joined UNHCR in coordinating spontaneous sites in North Kivu.

“Little is done for IDPs outside the formal camps, which is why IOM has developed a strategy to care for IDPs in spontaneous sites and those living with host communities,” said Laurent de Boeck, chief of IOM’s mission in the DRC.

“IOM has a three-tier approach to IDPs outside the camps: understanding and registering the people displaced using a displacement tracking matrix; analyzing the pull-push factors leading to displacement, and assessing the ability of host families to cope with crisis; and, based on the needs, deliver the immediate needs of the IDPs [including] food and non-food items, and encourage other humanitarian actors to help as well.

“Finally, we aim to build the resilience of the IDPs, both where they are and in their places of origin – when and if return is safe. We aim to create durable solutions, whether this means insertion into host communities, return back to their places of origin or… formal re-localization,” he added.

Addressing the risks

De Boeck noted that displacement from one community to another could create tensions and make host communities vulnerable to possible insecurity.

He said access and identification of host families was particularly difficult. “Often both the displaced and the host families are vulnerable so there is a dilemma on who to focus on,” he said.

“One risk for UNHCR and partners is encouraging the creation of collective sites in areas with insufficient/inadequate conditions to provide effective protection and assistance,” said Kpandji.

“Contingency plans in the province should be updated regularly to ensure that suitable reception areas are identified in advance, and that the humanitarian community is prepared,” he added. “Close cooperation with authorities – who should identify land for displacement sites in advance – should be maintained.”

According to De Boeck, there is also a need for better harmonization between national humanitarian policy and regional implementation.

“In the overall approach, there is a misunderstanding between Kinshasa and the provincial level. Efforts are focused very much on North Kivu, with no systematic approach in other provinces,” he said. “There are good initiatives by the government, i.e., the ministerial and national policy on development as well as a new governmental decree giving the Ministry of Humanitarian Action a coordination role. This needs to be reflected at the provincial level.”

He added, “There is a need to dialogue with the population to better understand their needs and how to meet them.”

Kpandji also pointed out the need to develop the agencies’ ability to rapidly evaluate and respond to displacement, “in particular with regards to child protection and support to community-based protection mechanisms”.

Funding

“Funding is a major challenge. We are really advocating for increased funding for IOM and UNHCR, as well as for OCHA’s US$30.5 million request to cover the basic needs of IDPs in North Kivu,” said Briggs.

“Our needs are $13 million over 12 months, and we will have $4 million before the end of the month, allowing us to work for six months… This is all for our work in North Kivu,” said de Boeck. “We will also be appealing for funds for our operations in Province Orientale and South Kivu.”

“Funding remains an issue. Sure, it is important, but equally as important – and arguably more important – is the end of fighting, an end to these sporadic bouts that prevent access and [hinder] aid organizations’ work,” said one aid worker, who preferred anonymity. “Money without access does not get us anywhere.”

kr/rz
source http://www.irinnews.org


 

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Aid worker kidnappings rise

Posted by African Press International on March 24, 2013

LONDON,  – Aid workers have experienced a rise in kidnappings over the past 10 years, from seven in 2003 to a high point of 95 in 2011, according to Humanitarian Outcomes, which keeps a database of such incidents.

Abby Stoddard, who works on the Aid Worker Security Database, told IRIN, “Those numbers clearly show kidnapping to be a major and growing threat. In 2011 the numbers of kidnapping incidents outnumbered shootings – roadside and otherwise – as the main form of attack used against aid workers.”How to respond

Several major aid agencies have begun training staff on how to cope with kidnappings, and agencies have had to formulate policies on how to respond if they are asked for ransom.

A Save the Children spokesperson told IRIN, “Anyone who goes near a difficult or dangerous zone has to do a week’s intensive course. Aid workers are kidnapped, and we are under no illusions that we are going to be untouched.”

Save the Children had two people kidnapped in central Somalia in 2010. “We relied on negotiating through local clan elders. We achieved their safe release, and we are incredibly grateful to all the people who helped,” said the spokesperson, adding, “Save the Children does not pay ransom. That is absolute. It’s our belief that paying ransom would make us more of a target.”

Oxfam agrees. “We never pay ransom,” said Heather Hughes, Oxfam UK’s security advisor. “Although, to be honest, we at Oxfam have never really been tested. A number of our people have been kidnapped, but we have always been able to rely on our contacts in the country to get them released.”

But hostage negotiations are complicated, Stoddard points out. “The vast majority of these kidnappings ended in negotiated release of the victim, but it is impossible to know in how many cases there was a ransom payment made, as agencies do not admit publicly to paying ransoms – or contracting third-party negotiators who cut deals with kidnappers – for obvious reasons,” she said.

Oxfam’s Hughes recognizes things are not always black and white. “There are many ways in which money can change hands,” she told IRIN. “It’s not always the agency which pays. Sometimes the victim’s government pays, and governments differ in their attitudes. For the big agencies, their international staff can be very international indeed. We are British, but our most recent member of staff to be kidnapped was actually Swiss.”

Legal concerns

Ransom payments to designated terrorist groups are prohibited under international law. But countries such as France, Germany and Spain are alleged to have paid tens of millions of dollars over the past decade to secure the release of nationals taken hostage by groups linked to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), circumventing the prohibitions by making the payments through intermediaries. This put such countries at odds with the UK and the US, which refuse to pay ransoms, even indirectly.

“The payments of ransoms of this kind prove themselves to be beyond irresponsible,” said Peter Pham, director of US-based research group Ansari Africa Center. “You can’t even pretend you don’t know where that money is going to: to purchase men and arms to use in violent conflict.”

But while the UK government has taken a strong public stance against the payment of ransom, a recent meeting on the issue at the House of Commons revealed a more nuanced policy. The policy – “we do not pay ransom or make any substantive concessions to kidnappers” – allows, through the use of the word “substantive”, a small amount of wriggle room. Officials also say they are willing to negotiate and will talk to anyone who might be able to help.

People who may one day have to negotiate the release of a captive fear that hardline policies against ransom could criminalize choosing to pay. But this is not necessarily the case; even though the UK government does not pay ransom, it has not attempted to prevent its citizens from doing so when the kidnappers are criminal groups rather than terrorists.

Shipping companies commonly pay ransom to retrieve their vessels from Somali pirates. The going rate for a large merchant ship is believed to be around US$5 million. For them, and for oil companies working in the Niger Delta, ransom is one of the recognized costs of doing business. Some Nigerian employees have been kidnapped and released several times.

These companies are inclined to pay up quickly, rather than engage in long, delicate negotiations to reduce the ransom amount. But what these companies pay ends up setting the price kidnappers expect, regardless of what organization their victims work for.

There are security companies that, for a fee, will advise on and assist with ransom negotiations. While their job is to reduce kidnappers’ demands as much as possible, these professional negotiators oppose legislation criminalizing the payment of ransom. They point out that various attempts over the years to outlaw ransom payments have failed to achieve their aim, largely because the families of victims – even when threatened with prosecution – will always find a way to pay.

eb/aj/am/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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