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Archive for May 10th, 2013

Kenya: How poverty drives minors into child labour

Posted by African Press International on May 10, 2013


Stella Barasa, 13, a resident of Webuye suburb Malaha estate,wakes up at 4am each day and trudges to a nearby river to fetch water for his bosses.Stella also helps prepare and serve the family with meals and sweeps the whole compound among other chores.

surprisingly, stella has no shoes but a half-heel chopped off red flappers which she uses to protect her cracked feet.

Stella narrates that she found herself in this horrible situation four years ago at a tender age of nine years after she lost both of her parents due to deadly HIV.

After her parents death,she was adopted by her aunts in Nakuru but her stay there was short-lived. Circumstances forced her to quit the place due to harassment from family members.

The poor girl while at her aunt’s place,she was forced to sleep on an empty 90 kg sack.  Narrating to this scribe,the young girl said was often beaten up on the slightest provocation of her aunt who forced her to feed on leftovers that dropped from the family table.

Now Stella,is a young domestic worker who does know her fate.The child labor ,which is now broadly defined as the employment of minors, is often a harsh and most exploitative condition among children.

But the vice has remained in practical both in developing and even industrial countries.The human cost of child labour leaves the victims gaunt, crippled, illiterate and sick.

International Labour Organisation(ILO) that was founded in 1919 has since transformed into special agency of the United Nations (UN)

The introduction of child labour conventions by ILO among members,including a minimum age of 16 years for admission to all kinds of work. While others including a higher minimum age for particular employment,medical examination and regulation of right work.

In early 21st Century,ILO was compelled to add the worst forms of child labour to its list including slavery,debt bondage(where children work to pay off loans owed by parents)prostitution and forced military services.

A growing concern now in Bungoma County has been the increase in prostitution among young girls in urban ares especially in drinking spree.Some of the children have been forced in the ugly practice due to abject poverty.

The 1997 Unicef report concerning child labour stated most employers try to hire workers who are easier or cheap to exploit.It was also estimated that over 3 million minors in Kenya engage in child labour, usually working under hazardous conditions.

The report also highlighted that the most vulnerable and weakest workers are children usually paid less than the adults and are often ignorant on their rights or how to protest against poor working environment.

“Poverty plays an enormous role in the phenomenon.Desperate for money,poor families around the world including Kenya are forced to push minors to increase overall income among the families. “The report read in part.

The poor families,the small contributions of child’s income or the assistance can make a huge difference between a bare sufficiency and hunger, the survey reveals.

In various towns of Bungoma county,a stroll in the streets at night leaves one gasping for breath over the ages of girls frequently visiting clubs at night for prostitution.

A study carried town in seven districts in Kenya in 1997 by child Welfare Society of Kenya indicated that child prostitution is widely practised in big towns. Some victims were as young as 11 years old. Malindi and Mombasa topped underage children selling sex.

In Nairobi,the number of street children has risen to 60,000 with the Government estimating their numbers to grow at 10 percent annually. The children are often involved in drug trafficking,assault, theft, trespass and property damaging.

A survey carried out in 1996 in a lower class estate in Nairobi found that 30% of households employed children.In 1997 the figured dropped by 12%.

In Kenya, a study of girls working as housemaids found out that 25 girls aged 9-16 years,18 were HIV positive. Most of the girls  had worked in homes had reported sexual abuse in all or most of them.

Statistics available in labour officer in larger Bungoma region indicates that more than 13,000 underage girls in the region have been lured or forced into commercial sex by wealth men.

According to Hariet Owulo, a child rights activists in Bungoma, says that apart from prostitution, a high percentage of underage children in the region are involved in stone crashing,charcoal kilns and bricking making as others are employed as housemaids.

On the other hand,a survey in six districts in Bungoma county reveals that most children drop out of school due to a rigid curriculum to an extent they prefer to look interesting jobs.




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Is there evidence that mHealth is an effective and suitable health delivery intervention in the developing world?

Posted by African Press International on May 10, 2013

NAIROBI,  – We’ve read the stories: From bedridden patients sending text messages to their health workers, to young people receiving HIV prevention messages via SMS, the mobile phone seems to have morphed from communications device to essential life-saver. But is the evidence there yet that mHealth is an effective and suitable health delivery intervention in the developing world?

IRIN, like others, has been reporting for years on mHealth’s potential: This communication technology could provide the answer to distant and under-resourced health services, in particular for Africa’s poor. Kenyan health workers have recounted how mobile phones have made it easier to track their patients’ progress; there have been anecdotal reports of lower maternal mortality rates as a result of Ghanaian mothers being able to call for ambulances during labour.

In Africa, with some 63 mobile phones per 100 inhabitants (compared to Asia and the Pacific’s 89 per 100 inhabitants), the cell in your pocket can become a direct channel for receiving public health messages, improving communication between patients and health providers, boosting data collection and, increasingly, assisting in diagnosis.

But a systematic review – published in January in PLOS Medicine – into the effectiveness of mHealth technology in improving health delivery found mixed results from 42 trials of mHealth interventions. SMS appointment reminders, for example, were found to have modest programmatic benefits, while using phones to send digital images for diagnosis actually led to a drop in the correct analysis in two trials examined.

A 2012 study by the mHealth Alliance, which advocates the use of mobile technologies in health care, found that sub-Saharan Africa had a higher number of mHealth projects compared to Asia and Latin America, with more than half of all mHealth projects related to communicable diseases such as HIV and malaria.

Insufficient evidence

Despite the rapid growth, “there is currently a gap in terms of evidence linking mHealth to improved health and operational benefits, and this is particularly true when it comes to studies in low- and middle-income countries,” Patricia Mechael, executive director of the mHealth Alliance, told IRIN.

The PLOS review found that “none of the trials were of high quality – many had methodological problems likely to affect the accuracy of their findings – and nearly all were undertaken in high-income countries.”

Rajesh Vedanthan, an assistant professor at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Centre who is currently working with AMPATH, an academic health programme involved in research and health care in Kenya, told IRIN via email that some of the practical challenges with the use of mHealth technology included “optimizing the user interface, ensuring that users have an easy and error-free working experience with the mHealth device, not impeding the workflow of clinicians, issues related to network connectivity, access to a central server, coordination of individual devices with a central coordinating office, systems integration, etc…

“mHealth has the potential to assist with several aspects of the ‘supply chain’ of care for non-communicable diseases – including screening/diagnosis, linkage to care, treatment/decision support, retention and follow-up, systems coordination, etc.,” he added. “Whether mHealth will be effective in all of those arenas is still not robustly known, and rigorous research is still required.”

A need for standards

The mushrooming of mHealth pilot projects has caused concern around monitoring. Uganda has declared a moratorium on pilot mHealth initiatives as it seeks to bring them in line with national health policies.

“We first needed to study them [mHealth and mHealth initiatives]… Some of these people are duplicating what is already there,” Asuman Lukwago, the permanent secretary in Uganda’s Ministry of Health, told IRIN. “As a ministry, we only implement innovations that have been tested and approved. At the moment, we are suggesting reforms to put into practice for these new innovations.”

The mHealth Alliance recently released a review of standards in the use of mHealth among low- and middle-income countries, which found that as mobile health systems “move towards scale, existing guidelines and strategies will need to be revised to reflect new demands on executive sponsorship; national leadership of eHealth programmes; eHealth standards adoption and implementation; development of eHealth capability and capacity; eHealth financing and performance management and eHealth planning and architecture maintenance”.

Scaling up mHealth

Mechael noted that mHealth could only meet its potential if it was fully integrated into general health programmes, becoming “so much a part of health systems that we no longer need to use ‘m’ as a designation”, something that cannot happen unless mHealth projects move beyond the pilot phase and really reach scale at a national or regional level.

Importantly, experts say, the use of mHealth and other humanitarian technology should be allowed to be driven by the communities who benefit from it.

“There has been a recognition – belatedly, in some cases – of the ways beneficiaries are using technology, voting with their wallets and their feet… We can see that the most innovative models of humanitarian technology are driven by communities themselves,” Imogen Wall, the coordinator of communications with affected communities for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told IRIN.

She noted that humanitarian agencies would increasingly need to increase their engagement with the private sector as partners in preparedness and response, recognizing that the private sector is no longer merely a support system, but a humanitarian service provider as well.

OCHA recently released a report, Humanitarianism in the Network Age, which stresses the importance of information and communication in humanitarian work and urges new ways of thinking that adapt to the changing realities of communities around the world.

“In order for humanitarian technology to meet its full potential, there must be a willingness – an openness – to innovate, to think outside the box, to test new ideas and to risk failure and success in both the processes and the deliverables – essentially, a willingness to accept change,” Wall said.

kr/so/oa/cb  source


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Lack of Justice: A Malian survivor of abuse with her four-month-old baby

Posted by African Press International on May 10, 2013

Little support, no justice for Mali rape survivors

A Malian survivor of abuse with her four-month-old baby

GAO/BAMAKO,  – During the rebel takeover of northern Mali in April 2012, many women said they were subjected to rape or sexual assault. Since then, little or no support has come through for these women, say aid workers.

Aminata Touré* was on her way to her uncle’s house in the city of Gao in June 2012 when she was stopped by two men on a motorbike. “I had no choice. They were armed and threatened to kill me,” she said. While one of the men held her baby, the other took her to a nearby bush. “They took me and they did everything they could do, they raped me. Afterwards, they left me in the bush,” she told IRIN.

Since the insurgency began in the north soon after the March 2012 military coup, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has registered 2,785 cases of sexual and gender-based violence, though its Mali spokesperson, Eduardo Cue, says the real figure is much higher. Most of the cases involved rape; others included forced marriage and sex work.

When insurgents entered Gao they systematically went through each neighbourhood, stealing from some and assaulting others, said residents.

Local journalist and activist Ami Idrissa managed to stay safe by hiding in her house. Others were not so fortunate, she said. “Everyone has a sister or cousin who was raped. Daughters were assaulted in front of their fathers, women in front of their husbands. Many are still traumatized by what they saw or experienced that day,” Idrissa told IRIN.

Many residents told IRIN that members of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) were usually the perpetrators. MNLA spokespeople in France were unavailable for comment.

When Islamic militant groups arrived soon afterwards, they perpetrated different kinds of abuse, said Idrissa, who was forced to quit her job as a radio host by Islamists who would not tolerate a woman’s voice on the radio.

“MNLA raped women. MUJAO [the Islamist rebel Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa] instead forced women to marry them; in the end their marriages resulted in another system of rape when only one man married the woman and many men participated in the marriage,” she told IRIN.


The number of forced marriages among northerners and insurgents has not been fully documented. A UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) protection team found one case of forced marriage when questioning 105 displaced people in Mopti who hailed from Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu. They also uncovered eight rapes, including that of a 13-year-old girl, and 44 cases of sexual abuse.

Gao resident Mouna Awata, whose daughter was arrested for not wearing the hijab, told IRIN: “Girls were arrested, brought to the mayor’s office and then transferred to the prison. That’s where they raped the women. They had mattresses there and everything.”

One father who withheld his name told IRIN his 15-year-old daughter called him from inside the prison in Gao. “She told me there was a naked man waiting for her on the roof. She escaped… that’s when she called me.”

Gao resident Miriam Maïga*, 18, was forced to marry a man twice her age in mid-2012. When she moved to her husband’s house she found out what she had feared all along – that he was part of MUJAO. “He forced me to sleep with him. When I refused he beat me,” she told IRIN. When she finally managed to escape she took a bus to Bamako. Afraid her husband will follow her to the capital she is hoping local NGO Sini Sanuman can help her to find a place to stay.

With little to no administration in the north, there is insufficient for women who have been abused. Local and international NGOs and UN agencies such as UNICEF, are helping women in the north and south, but resources are limited. UNICEF is supporting community-level child protection committees and is raising awareness of protection norms among social workers to try to avert further incidents of abuse.

Gao-based local NGO GREFFA has set up a clinic giving medical help to survivors of abuse, and help in preventing sexually transmitted diseases at the regional hospital. Survivors also receive medical attention in local clinics, said Gao midwife Mariam Maïga.

Meanwhile, women who fled south to Mopti and Bamako often face financial as well as medical problems. In Bamako Sini Sanuman provides medical and psychological help to survivors of abuse, but its director, Alpha Boubeye, said they could not help northerners who arrive in the capital with their food or rent requirements, “something that they desperately need”.

The organization is struggling to keep up with the scale of need. In one Bamako neighbourhood Sini Sanuman identified over 300 cases of sexual assault among women who had arrived from the north since April 2012.

“Before the conflict no one was really tending to women who were victims of sexual abuse. We have had to set up a whole new strategy, training social workers and psychiatrists,” Boubeye told IRIN.


Uncovering the extent of abuse continues to be very difficult in a country where rape is considered shameful.

“Many women do not dare to talk about being raped. They are afraid that their husbands will leave them and that they will be segregated from society,” journalist Idrissa told IRIN. “Before MNLA and MUJAO rape outside the house was not a problem in Mali. The rebels made it an issue.”

“Being raped is a very shameful thing in Mali and our social workers often visit the women many times before they open up,” said Boubeye.

And pursuing justice is not even considered an option by many abuse survivors. Touré returned home to her husband in Gao, but she has not pursued a case against her attackers. “I want the men who raped me to go to jail, but I’m ashamed for everyone else to see me,” she told IRIN.

Her focus is to support her family in increasingly difficult humanitarian conditions, she added.

According to Daniel Tessogué, state prosecutor in Bamako, only one case of sexual assault linked to the 2012 conflict is being prepared to go to court.

*not their real names

kh/aj/cb source

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Kenya: One person died with scores injured in Nyando area.

Posted by African Press International on May 10, 2013

  • By Maurice Alal, API Kenya

One person died and 10 others suffered serious injuries following a road accident at Awasi on the Kisumu-Nairobi road.

Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) West Kenya region assistant manager Emmanuel Owako said the victim’s body was removed to the Ahero District Hospital Mortuary.

“The accident took place at around 5 am Tuesday morning and we responded immediately by carrying the victims to Ahero District Hospital, most had sustained head injuries, fractures on limbs and were later taken to Aga Khan Hospital in Kisumu for treatment”, Mr Owako said.

The accident involved an Easy Coach bus travelling from Nairobi to Busia. The driver lost control on reaching Awasi. The bus had 35 passengers on board.

“The accident was heightened by the fact that the Awasi road is very steep and under construction and there was a heavy downpour at the time of the accident.

This worked against the driver,” Western region Easy Coach Operations Manager Samuel Nyakundi said.

Mr Nyakundi said the bus rolled several times and the injured were receiving treatment at the Aga Khan Hospital in Kisumu.

“So far, I have been able to talk to one girl who sustained a fracture. The rest have been taken for surgery,” said Mr Nyakundi.

Nyando police boss Elias Gitonga confirmed the accident saying that investigations had been launched.

“We cannot, of course, rule out the situation of the road and the heavy downpour, one sure thing is that there was no other vehicle involved in the accident, the driver just lost control,” Mr Gitonga said.



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