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Archive for May 15th, 2013

Norway congratulates Pakistan on historic election

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2013

“I would like to congratulate Pakistan on a historic election. For the first time in the country’s history, a democratically elected government will be replaced by another democratically elected government,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide.
“Pakistan’s democracy is developing. Although the final assessments of the election may identify mistakes and shortcomings, the election has shown that the democratic will is there. Important steps have been made, such as amendments to electoral legislation, the establishment of an independent election commission and improved electoral lists,” Mr Eide said.
There were more female candidates and registered voters than in the last parliamentary election. Having said this, in some areas women were still prevented from voting. Norway has provided support for increasing women’s participation in the election and for the election commission’s work.
Pakistani women and men have defied threats of violence in order to cast their vote. They have every reason to be proud of this,” Mr Eide said.
Anti-democracy extremists have used terror tactics during parts of the election process and have killed several hundred political activists in the lead-up to the election. There are no official figures for voter turnout, but preliminary figures indicate a higher turnout than in the 2008 election. 


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Kenya: ”We have the potential and the capacity to perform exceedingly well; School head proclaims

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2013

Seated on a black swivel chair behind a maiden table with trophies and files neatly stacked at all corners of his office, Mr.Edward Namasaka is the man in charge. But underneath the tranquil exterior he radiates lurks and understandable task to perform daily.

Mr Edward Namasaka is the Principal of Bungoma High School, in Bungoma south district, Kanduyi constituency,one of the giant provincial schools in Bungoma County.

As the Principal, it is not the task of heading a populated school which to Mr.Namasaka considers it as a rare privilege, but the monumental expectations that come from a top provincial school beating national schools in just recent concluded national drama festivals speaks volumes about the school.

When the school proved to be national champions in drama (choral verse) where educationists in region are still elated by its sterling performance.

And there exist little doubt that with his long experience as educationists, the school boss  Mr.Edward Namasaka is nursing ambitions of steering his school competently.

The school which recently made a dramatic comeback by winning the top honor in the Kenya Schools and Colleges National Drama Festival Choral Verse.The two week event held at Agha Khan High School in Mombasa saw the school restore its lost glory.In the recent years the school had always ended at provincial level or as first runner-up losing out to new entrants.

In his leadership, the school has risen into a dominant both academic and co-curriculum force in Bungoma County  but the modest  on the achievements the institution has attained under his watch. The staff is dedicated and emphasise on  discipline. Dedication and determination that has made the school appear on the national map.

Through this,the school has proved to be among the giants in co-curriculum and curriculum activities ranging from zonal level to National level.

The vibrant High School has produced its greatest share of prominent including Pro Henry Mutoro the Principal University of Nairobi Kikuyu Campus, Peter Munya Governor for Tharaka,B ungoma County Speaker Mr.John Makali and Bishop Wilfred Lai of Jesus Celebration centre Mombasa among others.

This scribe has also learnt that the performance in national examinations has been impressive with more than average candidates attaining a university entry point’s year in, year out.

Founded in 1961 on a self-help foundation through a joint effort of the Elgon Nyanza Country council and District Education Board, the school boasts of high population and a large experienced teaching staff establishment. The school broad curriculum has created a multitude of opportunities for all students for both academic and co-curriculum activities. The principal says the school has been long overdue. ”We have all the hallmarks of performing better in academics and co-curriculum activities”stated Mr.Namasaka.

Regardless of being a regional school, students from all walks of life has been admitted there thus enhancing cultural diversity and cohesion among the students. Bungoma High has been also one of the fiercest academic rivals to St Mary’s Kibabii,Friends School Kamusinga and Lugulu Girls’ High School.The academic battle between the four schools have been epic and decades old.With almost an equal number of students, Bungoma High has been fighting Friends School Kamusinga for top slots in the provincial academic ladder as well as other co-curriculum activities. However, it is expected that their rivalry will intensify given the fact that Bungoma High ousted its rivalries in drama.

The school head is determined that his school will compete on equal footing with other two elevated school which is Friends School Kamusinga and Luguli Girls both academically and other co-curriculum activities.”We have the potential and the capacity to perform exceedingly well.We are able to deliver just as other national schools”he says.

Timothy Simiyu,former student at the school who is now practicing law in Nairobi says the school has undergone various dynamics and soon County Government may develop a headache in deciding its future.









A cross section of Administration block of Bungoma High School






By Godfrey Wamalwa,Bungoma,14/5/2013

Take your children to school,urges officer

Bungoma  East Education office has urged parents to take their children to institutions that are fully registered by Ministry of Education.

The district education boss Mrs. Emmaculate  Obari has also warned the parents of dire consequences after taking their studies in unregistered schools.

The officer was speaking at Ndivisi Girls ’High School during the Education day.The officer also underscored the need for parents to take their children to school to eliminate illiteracy in the society.”I urge parents to play their role effectively by making sure their sons and daughters go to school” said the officer. She further took the opportunity to  appeal  to teachers in the district to work extra hard to ensure that area posts good results than they posted in the past.

In a rejoinder, Bungoma County Private schools Association Chairman Mr.Brown Wanjala concurred with the officer adding that only health education can be obtained from registered schools approved by the ministry of Education. Mr Wanjala also applauded the ministry of Education for its efforts of making sure that bogus institution in the district is out of existence.

However, Kenya National Union of Teachers Bungoma East Branch has assured the ministry of Education that it is going an extra mile of encouraging teachers to cooperate with school heads as one way of beating the education curriculum.

Bungoma  East (KNUT)Secretary General Mr.Agrrey Namisi said the recent general election disrupted classes and he added that the union will continue encouraging its members to field the syllabus on time.”KCPE and KCSE students education cycle was disrupted by the general election” said the unionists.




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Somali women parliamentarians – the predicament of finding a voice

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2013

  •   By Farhia Ali Abdi.

 “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear” Nelson Mandela.

Parliamentary democracy is described as a political system based on the idea that parliament is supreme or “sovereign”. This means that parliamentary democracy is one in which the people choose representatives at regular elections and are responsible for the following:  the formation of  government, the passage of legislation by majority vote of the parliament, the scrutiny and monitoring of the executive government and the public service and other authorities and institutions created by parliament. Most importantly, this scrutiny extends to monitoring the expenditure of public money.

The general belief is that Somalia has never had a free parliamentarian election; in fact Somalia did have its first and the last civilian parliamentary public election in 1960 following the country’s independence. Somali Youth League (SYL) won the majority of the seats by 69 of the 123 seats.






Somali Youth League





Somali National Congress





Somali Democratic Union





Somali Independent Constitutional Party





United Somali Party





Giovani S Partito Liberale





Somali National League





Somali African National Union





Other parties










Source: Nohlen et al.







Current Somalia Parliament:

Inaugurated in August 2012, the Federal Parliament of Somalia and in particular its Lower House composed of 275 clan-based representatives included only fourteen percent (14%) female parliamentarians ended the Transitional Road Map. In September, the same year, Parliament elected a new President of Somalia and adopted the Somali Provisional Constitution. On October 2012, the President nominated the new Prime Minister and in November 2012, Parliament formally endorsed the Council of Ministers as selected by the Prime Minister. Understandably the country has undertaken a historical process of change and has moved forward towards peace and stability after decades of violent conflict that ravaged the country and resulted in widespread suffering to its people. Rebuilding Somalia’s withered institutions with a stable government and a parliament representing the will of its citizens will take a lot more effort and strength, and it is the key to building the country into a peaceful and prosperous nation.

The Voice of Somali Women

“I don’t mind being a symbol, but I don’t want to become a monument. There are monuments all over the Parliament Buildings, and I’ve seen what the pigeons do to them” Tommy Douglas.

As mentioned above, Somali women’s hold about 14% of the seats in parliament is an achievement and does represent progress, compared to the country’s past regimes; civilian or military administrations alike. However, the failure in 2012 to meet the stated commitment on 30% reserved seats for women in the Federal Parliament was largely due to the lack of agreement between the clans which govern the country to allocate an adequate number of seats to female representation. Putting the faith of women in the hands of elderly men in a patriarchal society was misguided ideology. Nevertheless, some regions fared better than others, i.e. Puntland, which is one of the largest regions in the country in terms of land and population, only returned two existed seats occupied by female parliamentarians to the Parliament and failed to fulfil the new 30% seats allocated for women pledge; providing a glimpse into the depth of culturally embedded gender inferiority and biases in the country.

Somali women are not, however, unaccustomed to the idea of pursuing equality. They started the women’s movement during the 40s and 50s, against all odds, to become the beacon of Somali’s hope for independence from the British and Italians. If there is one thing that all generations of Somali women share, it is the desire to keep their country together. They have put this notion of  “country” at the forefront, even at the expense of their own gender equality aspirations, whether they are fighting for freedom from colonization or picking up the pieces in the aftermath of civil war. It was women, for example, in the country’s countless peace accords, noticeably in Arta, Djibouti in 2000, who challenged the delegates to think beyond clan boundaries in drafting a resolution to end the deadlock of indecisiveness.

In the more recent Parliamentary elections, women’s networks within the country and the diaspora took a stand and campaigned and advocated for greater women’s involvement in the political arena and the protection of their human rights. This outpouring of support and advocacy from women inside and out of the country was focused on achieving adequate representation of women in the national recovery process and to obtain political rights in order to gain positions, both in the government and in the parliament. Despite, these strong efforts, the engagement of the current women members of parliament  remains very low and very disappointing, particularly in their silence on the issues of widespread and epidemic sexual violence in the country. While the country and the international community were outraged by the deplorable action of the rape and the arrest of Somali woman and the reporter who accused government soldiers of rape, the women MPs remained quiet.

For the underlining causes of their silence, one can hypothesize that Somali women MPs are perhaps, intimidated by structural obstacles that may be looming behind the male-dominated parliament. Perhaps they are inexperienced and ill-equipped in dealing with the nation’s affairs; or maybe they don’t know what their specific roles and responsibilities are; or conceivably, the media ignores their place and doesn’t draw any attention to the voice of women and their agenda, effectively keeping “women’s” issues from the public eye?

Whatever the causes; these are questions percolating in the minds of all the Somali women who have fought, or have observed the fight, for women’s rights to be productive members of parliament. These women deserve adequate representation and to hear the voices from their members of parliament. Parliaments are not gender-neutral institutions; they have their own cultural norms and rules and there is no illusion that women’s increased representation in parliament will necessarily lead to a quick fix or change; however, for any changes to occur it will require on the part of the women MPs a great deal of effort and time. 

Suggestion for women MPs to move forward:

In this context, increased women’s involvement in Somali political institutions is crucial. Women constitute over 50 percent of the Somali population, and they should be proportionally represented in all legislatures and decision-making bodies. The general belief is that women’s presence in parliament will broaden priorities on the political agenda to include a range of previously important, but unconsidered issues. For Somali women MPs, it’s paramount that the issues of childcare, women’s health, sexual and physical violence against women, gender discrimination, and women’s education, to name but a few, are given far greater prominence. The current Minister for Human Development & Public Services in the Federal Republic of Somalia, Dr. Maryan Qasim gave an interview to IRIN news in 2000; then as a new Member of Parliament and was asked if there are women issues, they (women MPs) would focus on specifically. She responded as follows: “Yes, there are certain issues we would like to focus on – women’s issues, if you would like to call them that. First of all, we would like to strengthen the role of women to the government. Secondly, we would like to draw attention to those issues which affect women and children, such as health care and income generation for women. We would like to address women’s education and schools catering for the education of women and girls. And we want to make sure that women realize that this is their government, not one just for men”.

These are the issues (and there are many more) that are shared by most Somali women. Both the women MPs, and the female Cabinet Ministers, including the author of the above quote have a common responsibility to address all areas relevant to the promotion of gen­der equality and the empowerment of women. Women MPs need to continuously enhance and push forward a Somali women’s political agenda by:

  1. Identifying opportunities to develop equita­ble legislation and gender-sensitive programs that are conducive to change.
  2. Increasing the visibility and influence of women MPs
  3. Establishing a formal mechanism or committee structure through which women MPs can meet and present its work and recommendations to the government.
  4. Advocating the principle of equality and gender sensitivity within the government
  5. Creating comprehensive strategies to develop sustainable programs on women’s issues, and in particular, a strategy to remedy the current gender imbalance in political participation and representation in parliamentary seats.

Somalia government and support for women’s capacity building.

  1. Government has to assist in building women’s confidence and to strengthen their capacity to fulfil their mandates appropriately; which is a crucial ingredient for both government and society at large.
  2. Government has to facilitate an environment in which women feel comfortable to exchange information and to bring forward proposed legislative changes fairly and freely.
  3. Government needs to assist women legislators in addressing specific national gender priorities and to provide all the necessary assistance required to achieve this objective.
  4. Government has to support women parliamentarians by establishing an alliance between women and men in favor of gender equality, thus avoiding the marginalization of gender issues.

Researchers have confirmed, time and time again, that there are differences in gender styles between men and women with respect to leadership and conflict resolution. Women tend to be more participatory and tend to work in a less hierarchical and more collaborative manner than their male counterparts. Somalia’s road to justice and sustainable development cannot be paved with a half measured; it requires sound investments and a resolute commitment to equal liberty, and good governance.

Somali women parliamentarians today, and hopefully more so in the future, have an opportunity to guide the country towards a right and just direction that will benefit all citizens; a direction that will not be buckled down with tired cultural segregation and subordination. Somali women MPs need to speak up and make their voices heard. Lofty ambitions, good intentions and nice words will not produce a progressive Somali society. A gender-balanced approach to politics is required; one that will truly protect Somalia’s future, anything less than that will only amount to a democratic deficit.



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Kenya: Brothels of Kisumu breeds prostitution

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2013

It is ten in the morning. Along a street down town Kisumu, a few cars zoom past.
Apart from the Mpesa shops dotting the place, not much activity is going on along the lonely street near Kamas area.
Being a Monday morning, the street could be deserted probably because most people are at their places of work.
But curiously, a rowdy group of young and skimpily dressed ladies emerge from an old and desolate building adjacent to the street. This gang immediately grabs my attention.
They appear drunk. Very drunk and one of them is shouting and gesturing wildly. She is on top of her voice.
Apparently, two of them have disagreed. From their heated argument, it’s clear the dispute is about a man.
It turns out these women are prostitutes fighting over a male client. The man, I learn has vanished, may be out of fear of a possible backlash.
If you thought sex peddlers are only found in Mombasa – going by the recent sex scandal story doing the rounds in the media, then you are wrong.
Dear reader, welcome to the world of brothels of Kisumu.
Just by the roadside and a few meters away from the two ladies, there is a bar. Here, all manner of alcohol is served.
I am told, as early as 7am, one can partake of the drinks although the place is not even a restaurant.
The pub is already full as I make my way in to piece together my story .Customers here are of diverse ages; after all what matters most in this place is money and not age.
The music playing inside the pub is so loud you can’t hear yourself speak. Never mind there is a law that prohibits selling of beer to patrons this early in the day.
Mututho law which expected people to engage in nation building at this particular hour does not apply here.
Inside the noisy bar one cannot escape noticing the swelling number of these skimpily dressed women.
Almost every male customer here is sharing a table with at least one of them.
At the face of it, what goes on here appears so harmless but soon, things begin looking a little strange as the new-found ‘’ love birds’’ begin to walk in and out of the pub in turns.
Believe me; you haven’t seen anything yet out there. Behind the bar, there are over 30 rooms that can each accommodate at least a bed.
Strangely, they all have their windows wide open and as one makes his way to the washroom meant for the bar patrons, you are able to see clearly through the windows what happens inside the rooms.
Here, in a broad daylight sex trade is thriving. The women parading their naked bodies outside these rooms located in the dingy corridors of the down town building are not afraid of anyone or anything.
One cannot help but wonder whether this trade has been legalized by the authorities in this lake side city.
So daring they are that approaching any man they see within the vicinity for sex isn’t a bid deal.
I gather from one of the waiters in the pub that each day, all the women operating from this brothel hire a room at sh 600 which they must pay for by midnight.
According to the waiter who requests to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal , sometimes the hookers agree to split the bill and use the room in turns , each time they get a client for what they call here ‘’short time’’
She tells me that the place is so famous it attracts both men and ladies from far and wide. Some of the ladies servicing men here, she says are from the neighboring countries.
And if you thought there could be shortages, then think otherwise for she adds “as some goes away, new faces keeps trooping in each day”.
May be as a sign of improved business the owner of the bar has just thought it wise to give the building a face lift. The paint is still very fresh.
I try to find out who owns the bar and the brothel but no one, including the waiters and the bar man would dare talk to me about that subject.
To satisfy my curiosity about the existence of sex trade and more brothels within Kisumu City, I decide to investigate further.
Away from this bar, I take a ride on a motorbike and after about 15 minutes, am dropped next to the Kisumu main bus terminus, at a place popularly known as beer belt.
The place is abuzz with activities. Most of the traders here sell their wares in kiosks. Most of them are selling khat and cigarettes. Eateries also dot the place which remains noisy and chaotic.
Several Boda boda operators can be seen waiting for passengers at one side of the road that leads towards the united mall as you leave the Bus Park.
Everything appears normal at least from the open air market. But one thing still stands out- the unusual high number of lodging and boarding houses surrounding the vicinity.
The lodgings, most of which are cheap and dirty offer a perfect hideout for these hookers and their clients.
Unlike the first place I visited earlier, here the ladies are not so young and trendy. They appear low-class judging from how they dress.
Most of them can be seen milling around the bars and the lucky ones leads their catch away into the ‘’service’’ rooms.
After about 20 minutes or so, they emerge from the rooms and the trend repeat itself again and again.
But it is while under the cover of darkness that this operation is moved a notch higher in this part of the city, as I discovered.
Dressed in clothes that are more revealing than to cover their bodies, you spot many of them standing in strategic places behind the lodgings or parked vehicles, mostly Lorries whose drivers are also probably here to hunt.
Tucked safely behind these hide outs, the ladies can be heard giving catcalls to men passing by, even dropping in the ears of the strangers how much it would cost to sleep with them.
Occasionally they disappear into the brothels to escape being noticed by the police on patrol or simply slip into a bar to avoid being arrested by the cops.
This is the same story in Kondle area which is more vibrant at night given the high number of bars there some of which even have live band playing throughout the night.
While most of these ladies operate from brothels, majority hop from pub to pub seeking clients.
Along the Kisumu-Busia road, more brothels are to be found at Otonglo. Here the truck drivers are the main clients. It is not unusual to see several trucks parked there
Back to the CBD, along the Oginga Street and just before the central Square, twilight girls here lay in wait. This group of mostly young and trendy prostitutes targets the high-end clients, mostly with cars.
Usually they can be spotted pacing up and down the pavement and once in a while stepping on the road as cars approach to grab the attention of the motorists.
Along the same street also exists a brothel where those who are lucky to get a client can take them. In fact most of the twilight girls operating along this street reside at the brothel.
Kisumu, like the other urban centers all over the world has been bitten by the bug which is prostitution, a trade as old as man itself.


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Kenya: The Catholic University of Eastern Africa donates drugs worth Ksh 210.000 to help flood victims in Kisumu County

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2013

  • By: Maurice Alal, API – Kenya

A great gesture of good-will for the benefit of flood victims has been realised. The Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) has donated drugs worth Ksh 210,000 to for evacuation centers in Kisumu County where flood victims have been camping after floods invaded their homes.

The University’s Community Service Deputy Director Phyllis Gichimo who toured the area to assess the flood situation said they have provided the drugs to for evacuation centers in Kisumu County to assist the victims of floods who have been affected after the River Nyando burst its banks causing major floods in the areas.

The Centers are Sango Rota, Asawo Urudi, Gem Rae and Nyakwere all in Nyakach Constituency in Kisumu County.

She said about 1300 flood victims from the four evacuation centers have benefited from the program which is part of the University’s Corporate Social Responsibility.

The Kenya Red Cross Assistant Secretary General Emmanuel Owako said the situation had been overwhelming but they are monitoring it for any eventuality.

He said already teams were dispatched to the various evacuation centers where the society has donated food and other essential items to the flood victims.

Owako said the number of families who have been affected as a result of the flood is increasing in the region thus making the society to be overwhelmed in its volunteer work of helping the flood victims

Kisumu Deputy Governor Ruth Odinga who assessed the flood situation in the region said the County Government of Kisumu will work to ensure that the issue of flooding in the region is fully addressed.

She said the County Disaster Management Team will ensure the various regions within the county which are normally affected by the flood are looked into properly.

The flood situation in Kisumu County has led to closure of a secondary school in Nyando District making its nearly 1,000 students sent home as the floods continue to cause havoc in Western Kenya Region.

The Management of Ahero Girls Secondary School was forced to shut it down after River Nyando burst its banks and its waters submerged the institution.

The residents also said they lost many properties including livestock as a result of the floods.




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Status conference – Deputy President Mr William Ruto at the ICC Yesterday

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2013

Kenya‘s Deputy President William Ruto accompanied by his wife Rachel appeared at the International Criminal Court in person during the status conference Tuesday.

The court is to decide when his trial will commence. Mr Ruto wants the trial to start in November or thereafter. His trial has been postponed and will now not take place as scheduled from the 28th of this month – May 2013.
Mr Ruto was allowed to address the court in person after his lawyers had made their submissions.
He asked the court to allow him to travel back to Kenya the same day in the evening, a request that the judges saw no reason to reject.
The status conference will continue today Wednesday without Ruto in court. His cooperation with the court makes things easier for him and that is the reason why the judges granted him leave to travel back to Kenya at the end of yesterday.
Ruto’s lawyers had told the court that as Deputy head of State of a Member State of the Rome Statute who cooperates with the court, he should be allowed to go home and take care of his responsibilities to the Kenyan people.

Mr Ruto assured the court that he will cooperate and recognises the court’s jurisdiction. He wants his court, when his case starts, to allow him to appear through a video link direct from Kenya so that he is at the same time able to attend to his duties as Deputy Head of State. The request is being opposed by the prosecution.


Mr Joshua Sang was also present. He, like Ruto, wants his case to start later in the year. His lawyers told the court that Mr Sang will attend the trial in person.



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Beating wild weather

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2013

 COLOMBO,  – Planners in Sri Lanka should do more to mitigate the effects of extreme weather in order to help those most likely to be affected, experts say.

According to Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Centre (DMC), in 2012, 1.2 million people were affected by drought and over half a million by floods, while in early 2011, floods affected over a million and displaced more than 200,000 – a trend expected to increase in the future.

“There is nothing to indicate that this trend will slow down. All the signs are that it will increase,” Bob McKerrow, head of delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Sri Lanka, told IRIN.

In 2012, the island nation experienced two dramatic back-to-back weather events. Between January and October, the island’s Northern, Eastern, Southern and North Western regions suffered a severe drought. A mid-year forecast by the Socioeconomic and Planning Centre of the Department of Agriculture released in August 2012, when the drought was at its worst, warned of a loss of around 23 percent of the seasonal paddy harvest due by September.

The drought was only broken by the onset of heavy rains in the first week of November, made worse by Cyclone Nilam which struck Sri Lanka and southern India on 1 November, killing 45 people, temporarily displacing 80,000 and resulting in damage to over 10,000 houses, DMC reported.

According to an assessment by the ministries of economic development and disaster management, and the World Food Programme (WFP) in January, around 20 percent of the island’s main paddy harvest of around 2.6 million tons was lost to the floods. Of the 550,000 people affected by the floods, some 172,000 – 31 percent of surveyed flood-affected households – were severely food insecure, while 44 percent were borderline food insecure, the report said.

Tens of thousands were affected by flooding in 2012

Sixty-seven percent of the surveyed flood-affected people had also been affected by the drought, the report noted.

Migration up

At the same time, Sri Lankan officials report that with extreme weather events increasing in frequency, people are increasingly migrating to cities in the hope of securing a stable income.

“We have seen that when the harvests fail, the migration to nearby cities increases with people looking for temporary income,” Sarath Lal Kumara, DMC deputy director explained.

Regional experts say the situation in Sri Lanka is not dissimilar to what is happening elsewhere in the region.

“If one asks, ‘is displacement by weather-related events a serious issue in South Asia?’, then the answer is `yes’,” Bart W. Édes, director of the poverty reduction, gender and social development division at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), told IRIN, noting the risk of increased migration.

“Combined with large and growing populations living in vulnerable areas – and a forecasted increase in extreme weather events – South Asia is likely to confront continued environmentally driven displacement and migration,” he said.

Need to build resilience

IFRC’s McKerrow said humanitarian agencies should look at increasing community resilience against natural disasters as a core requirement when carrying out projects in vulnerable areas.

The SLRC is currently building around 20,000 new houses in Sri Lanka’s former northern conflict zone, the same region hit by severe drought and multiple floods in 2012.

“Wherever we build houses, we now look at two main things – either to control flood water or to provide water where there is not enough,” McKerrow said. He said the requests for such work had come from beneficiary surveys.

Kumara, the DMC deputy director, also noted that preventing victims of natural disasters from abandoning their homes was increasingly featuring in policy discussions among government and humanitarian agencies.

ADB’s Édes said policy planners should look to increase income generation opportunities, as well as build safety and early warning capacities in vulnerable regions.

“The aim should not be to stop human mobility, but rather to reduce the number of situations where people move because environmental factors force them to.”

ap/ds/cb  source

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DRR doesn’t always get sufficient funding – Sometimes the donors don’t put a priority on disaster risk

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2013

AQABA, – Investing in preparation for potential disasters is a “no brainer”, Elizabeth Longworth, director of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), told a recent disaster risk reduction (DRR) conference in Aqaba, Jordan.

And yet a report published last month by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said DRR funding accounts for only 3 percent of humanitarian aid and just 1 percent of all other development assistance.

Last year (seen as a relatively quiet year by natural disaster experts), the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) recorded 310 natural disasters, leading to 9,930 deaths affecting 106 million people.

In total in the last three years, disasters have caused more than US$300 billion of recorded damage.

So, if the scale of the damage is not in dispute, why is DRR not better resourced? Has the funding argument not yet been won?

Improving funding

“Funding is a challenge,” said Jordan Ryan, director of the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery at the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

“DRR doesn’t always get sufficient funding. Sometimes the donors don’t put a priority on disaster risk. They don’t always come through. So, I think we need even more attention.”

But natural disaster experts are emphatic that DRR funding is fundamentally a good investment. Estimates vary about how much can be saved, but the most conservative figures say that every $1 spent on DRR is worth $4 later on.

One example of the difference preparation can make is in what is now Bangladesh where in 1970 the Bhola cyclone killed up to 500,000 people. Nearly four decades later when another destructive storm hit (Cyclone Aila, 2009), early warning systems, hundreds of cyclone shelters, and disaster volunteer networks helped keep the country’s death toll below 200.

When natural hazards meet unprepared communities, populations are left extremely vulnerable, as seen when Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in 2008, a country without early warning systems or storm shelters.

Perceptions of the importance of disaster preparedness vary from country to country.

“In Japan people understand this is money well spent,” Kimio Takeya, visiting senior adviser for the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), told IRIN, saying the country had been buffeted by earthquakes, typhoons and floods in the last 50 years: “Everything hit Japan.”

This follows a clear pattern. Governments find it difficult to appreciate risk and the need for risk reduction, until disaster strikes.

Changing perceptions

“I suppose that if we had won the argument [about DRR funding], we wouldn’t be making the case for increased donor commitment anymore as much as we do, so I guess the simple answer is no, we haven’t won it yet. But I do also believe that it is changing,” said Jo Scheuer, team leader for DRR and recovery at UNDP.

“It is very difficult to convince the political leaders or the people to spend money before the disaster. This needs something like far-sightedness”, Kimio Takeya, JICA

“The recent events, including in Japan and US, have shown clearly that they disasters affect everybody. It is an increasing risk that we are facing, particularly in terms of climate change, and if you look at the global discussions around also humanitarian aid and the resilience debate, there is a clear movement – I would say a political will – to move away from just responding to humanitarian crises or disasters, to actually building resilience.”

For donors, agencies like UNDP make the argument that DRR spending can be a means of reducing the long-term emergency humanitarian aid needed annually to deal with each new natural disaster.

“Donors are now increasingly putting money into preparedness and resilience, so that there aren’t only these millions of dollars that are for response, but that you can actually prepare countries beforehand for building their resilience, particularly in urban cities, where there’s growing infrastructure and the risk of massive potential economic damage,” Aditi Banerjee, disaster risk management specialist in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region at the World Bank, told IRIN.

But beyond donors, experts say there needs to be a change of attitude in governments, which find it difficult to reallocate funds from areas like health and education to DRR.

“Of course it is very difficult to convince the political leaders or the people to spend money before the disaster. This needs something like far-sightedness,” said Takeya.

He has been looking at the impact of DRR spending on GDP growth. “We are modelling and trying to calculate and analyse for each country. There’s a definite positive pattern – we can show the evidence that… your GDP growth will go down without DRR investment,” he said.

Convincing governments that they are not yet spending what they should on DRR is crucial, said Longworth.

“The sustainability of DRR is when budget-holders, whether they be governments, local governments, or other entities actually start re-orientating their budget allocations to DRR, and that’s why we’re putting so much attention on the economic case. It is absolutely well established now that the scale of economic losses from disasters justifies significantly more investment in reducing risks.”

More data, a growing awareness of the link between the scale of a disaster and preparedness, and international initiatives like the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), agreed in January 2005 just after the Indian Ocean tsunami, have helped change perceptions about DRR.

For Banerjee at the World Bank, even in the MENA region, which has been less affected by natural disasters than others, thinking is clearly changing.

“To me this shift has been the most intense in MENA, because MENA is not typically a region that is like Asia or Latin America that is hit by a disaster every few months. It’s hit by big disasters but over time, which is why sometimes the institutional memory is forgotten. But in the five years that I’ve been here there’s been so much more dialogue on this.”

Using climate funds

One potential source of funding for DRR projects that garnered a lot of interest from delegates at March’s first DRR conference in the Arab world is climate change resource streams.

“This is already happening. If you look at some of the projects, programmes, entities that have been funded from the various existing financial instruments related to climate change adaptation, many of those activities are actually classic DRR activities – from early warning systems to agricultural livelihood measures and so on,” said Scheuer.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is in charge of three climate funds: the Adaptation Fund, the Least Developed Countries Fund, and the Special Climate Change Fund, set up under the Kyoto Protocol to offset the negative effects of climate change in the developed world.

The first two projects under the Adaptation Fund were to help handle rising sea levels in Senegal, and water management in Honduras.

Another recent US$7.6 million project in northern Pakistan funded by the Adaptation Fund is to help communities better prepare for sudden glacial lake flooding.

“If it’s rising sea levels, or depleted water table, when you address it, you are reducing the risk, you’re also anticipating what’s coming in terms of global warming,” said Longworth.

Several Pacific countries are drawing up joint strategies at a national level to tackle DRR and climate change adaptation together.

“The issue here is not that you get a transfer from the climate pots into the disaster pots of money. The issue is that programmatically and substantively speaking, we make sure that we have the synergies between those two funding streams,” said Scheuer.

“It doesn’t matter where the money comes from; it matters that we address the issue of risk and build resilience,” he said.

But preparedness is not all about big money – much DRR work, experts stress, can be relatively cheap things like training volunteers, teaching basic first aid techniques, and making better use of tools like mobile phones that many people already have.

Sometimes it can even just be a question of remembering former ways of living that were more resilient in terms of natural hazards.

In Japan, flood prone areas in traditional communities normally had an elevated building somewhere in the area that people could escape to, with second floors commonly storing a boat to help residents escape.

Build back better

In reality, it is very difficult for governments to grasp the value of DRR until they have been the victim of a major disaster.

In the case of Algeria, it was only after the Boumerdès earthquake of 2003 and the deaths of around 3,500 people that the government beefed up regulations for the construction of schools and hospitals, according to Hichem Imouche from the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The same thing happened after the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake, which levelled most of Tokyo. Building regulations were strengthened again in Japan after the Great Hanshin earthquake near the city of Kobe in 1995; rubber blocks were placed under bridges and earthquake proof shelters constructed.

“Once disaster happens it is of course a bad situation but it is a chance to revise the way of thinking,” said Takeya.

No doubt the debate will move forward when DRR experts and officials meet on 19-23 May for the Fourth Session of the Global Platform for DRR in Geneva, Switzerland.



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Some Donors stopped all development funding in Guinea-Bissau following the 12 April 2012 coup d’état

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2013

BISSAU/DAKAR,  – The World Food Programme (WFP) has not received the money it needs to run basic nutrition and food security schemes in Guinea-Bissau, leaving projects in jeopardy or at a standstill. 

The organization needs US$7 million immediately to cover its food security and nutrition programme targeting 278,000 people for 2013; and a further $8 million to extend the project through 2014. The project involves school-feeding, preventing moderate and acute malnutrition, and boosting rice production, and was supposed to start in February this year.

WFP head of programmes Fatimata Sow-Sidibé told IRIN the money is lacking because traditional donors suspended all development cooperation following the April 2012 coup.

“We have some promises [from donors],” said Sow-Sidibé, “but the programme was supposed to start in February and we have no resources to buy the food we need.”

Traditional donors more or less stopped all development funding in Guinea-Bissau following the 12 April 2012 coup d’état, leaving infrastructure projects and basic services at a standstill across the country, but humanitarian funding was supposedly untouched. LINK The problem for WFP is that their project spans development and emergency activities and thus is not just eligible for humanitarian funding.

The African Development Bank also suspended its funding for rural agricultural development projects, following the coup. The cuts “are having a direct impact on food security in Guinea-Bissau, where we already have severe cereal deficits due to inadequate local production,” said a civil servant in the Ministry of Agriculture who preferred anonymity.

Food insecurity in Guinea-Bissau is driven mainly by an inability of people to access food because prices are beyond their reach. Most Bissau Guineans rely on imported rice as they grow mainly cash crops (cashews) and not grains.

Food prices have risen year on year since 2008 (imported rice is currently U$1.20 per kg), and the most recent countryside hunger assessment (2011) cited high prices as the biggest barrier for vulnerable households to access food.

The coup put off a planned countrywide food security assessment in 2012 but a rapid assessment in the regions of Biombo, Oio and Quinara in June 2012 revealed one in five people were food insecure (regions in the east were not included in the survey). Some 65 percent of households at the time had under one month’s supply of food stocks and more people were resigned to further indebtedness, selling animals and producing wine from the cashew fruit, to get by.

Cashew crisis

People’s ability to buy food has been severely hampered by a crisis in the cashew industry: 80-95 percent of Bissau-Guineans depend on cashew sales to purchase food as well as meet other household expenses. Terms of trade for cashews have been deteriorating since 2011: In a good year 1kg of rice can be roughly exchanged for 1kg of cashews; this shifted to 1.5kg of cashews to buy 1kg of rice in 2012, and to 2kgs of cashews for 1kg of rice in 2013, according to Ministry of Agriculture and WFP research. “Everything here is linked to cashews,” said Sow-Sidibé.

The poor terms of trade are linked to a poor 2012 cashew crop, and plummeting cashew prices following the coup (from 80 US cents per kg in May 2012 to 50 US cents one month later), and also linked to low fixed prices on international markets.

Cashew farmers are further stymied by exorbitant petrol prices (US$1.50 per litre) which makes it increasingly expensive for them to get their crop to market.

Ongoing projects

WFP continues to run food assistance programmes where it can. In two districts in Gabu, eastern Guinea-Bissau (Mancadndje Dara, Madina Madinga), and in two districts of Bafata (Djabicunda and Sare Biro), the organization helps villagers improve their farming techniques to boost rice production, including giving them improved seeds and helping them rent animals to get their crops to market. It also helps villagers grow market gardens to improve their food diversity and boost household income.

Mutaro Indjai, head of the village committee of rice producers in Saucunda village in Gabu, told IRIN: “This project helped us improve our production to last through four months, whereas before we only produced enough for one month.”

If the project comes to an end, they will continue to use improved techniques of production, but they would lack the seeds needed to plant next year. “We won’t have access to improved seeds, nor to the animals we need to speed up planting and to help us transport our harvest to nearby villages,” he told IRIN.


Nutrition programmes have also been affected. WFP pushes food diversity, given that feeding practices are a key component of high chronic malnutrition levels in Guinea-Bissau.

The organization tries to push a more varied diet (than the starch-dominated fare given to most infants) including fish soup, peas, carrots, tomatoes, and millet-based cereal. They also support local NGOs to make regular visits to health centres and villages on vaccination days to talk about how to prepare nutrient-rich meals for infants made out of corn flour, peanut powder, bean powder, oil and sugar, among others. Programmes target children in their first 1,000 days of life.

Some 17 percent of children under-five are underweight, and 27 percent are stunted due to inadequate nutrition, according to a December 2012 UNICEF-Ministry of Health nutrition survey.

Hunger specialists fear chronic malnutrition levels will rise if prevention is not stepped up.

UNICEF supports the Ministry of Health to set up nutrition treatment centres; provides therapeutic food for severely malnourished children; and helped update the government’s strategy to manage acute malnutrition, in February 2013. “Lack of funding, very few partners in nutrition, and limited human resources trained in nutrition” are the major challenges facing UNICEF, said Victor Suhfube Ngongalah, head of child survival there. UNICEF needs US$750,000 to implement its projects in 2013 and 2014.

Guinea Bissau is ranked 176 out of 187 countries assessed in the UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report. Political instability has also marred development. Since 1994 no elected president in Guinea-Bissau has finished his mandate.

aj/dab/cb  source

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