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Archive for May 22nd, 2013

Kenya: National slum upgrading and prevention policy aims to improve livelihoods

Posted by African Press International on May 22, 2013

  • By Maurice Alal, API Kenya

The government has embarked on national slum upgrading and prevention policy to improve the livelihoods of 5.4 million Kenyans in slums and informal settlements.

The policy requires adequate housing for Kenyans as in the constitution to facilitate the realization of the Vision 2030 which aspires for a slum free nation.

Currently it is estimated that more than 34% of Kenyan’s total population lives in urban areas with this number projected to hit 63% by 2030 in not well addressed.

It s also estimated that 71% of the urban population lives in slums and are facing various challenges such as social, political and economic exclusion.

Other vital problems faced by slum dwellers include, housing, resource allocation, deprivation marginalization, employment or underemployment, health and insecurity among others.

According to Mutuva Mutisia who represented the Director of Slum Upgrading Department, Charles Shikuku the slum agenda is aimed to arrest the situation from escalating beyond manageable proportions especially where there is no slum with devolution in place.

“We can no longer ignore the urbanization of poverty and growth of slums in effort to address city and town developments,” said Mutuva adding this is the way to achieve the Millennium Development Goals for significant portion of the population by 2015.

He also expressed the risk of massive social deprivation and exclusion with all of its attendant consequences for peace, social stability and security.

Mutuva made the remarks during a formulation of slum prevention and upgrading policy forum held in Kisumu yesterday adding that the government needs a comprehensive policy to address the challenges facing our rapidly growing towns and urban centres.

This, he said have resulted in proliferation of slums and informal settlements that will greatly affect the housing flagship projects in Vision 2030.




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Malaria accounts for about a third of outpatient consultations in DRC clinic

Posted by African Press International on May 22, 2013

KAMPALA,  – Gaps in the healthcare system in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are hampering the fight against malaria, a leading killer of children, say experts.

Malaria accounts for about a third of outpatient consultations in DRC clinics, Leonard Kouadio, a UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) health specialist, told IRIN. He added, “It is the leading cause of death among children under five years and is responsible for a significant proportion of deaths among older children and adults.”

Kouadio continued: “Recent retrospective mortality surveys have revealed that in all regions of the country, the fever is associated with 40 percent of [deaths of] children under five.”

Malaria is also a leading cause of school absenteeism in DRC, and it may have other adverse effects. “In cases of severe malaria, children who survive face serious health problems such as epilepsy, impaired vision or speech,” he said.

According to UN World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, out of about 660,000 malaria deaths globally in 2010, at least 40 percent occurred in DRC and Nigeria.

In DRC, malaria accounts for about half of all hospital consultations and admissions in children younger than five, according to the government’s National Programme for the Fight against Malaria (NMCP). On average, Congolese children under five years old suffer six to 10 episodes of malaria per year, according to UNICEF’s Kouadio.

Other leading causes of death among under-five Congolese children include acute respiratory infections, diarrhoeal diseases and malnutrition, according to UNICEF’s 2013-2017 DRC Country Programme Document.

A deficient health system

“It is apparent that major deficiencies in the health system have contributed to the severity of recurrent outbreaks [of malaria],” Jan Peter Stellema, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) operational manager, told IRIN via email.

“Mosquito nets are not being sent to vulnerable areas, and there are shortages of rapid diagnostic test [kits and] drugs and the equipment for carrying out blood transfusions vital for children suffering from anaemia caused by malaria.”

Other problems include costly care and management challenges.

For example, the treatment of an uncomplicated bout of malaria ranges from about US$22 to $35, and treatment for severe cases can cost $75 to $100, according to NMCP. Such costs are prohibitive for a large number of people, many of whom live on about one dollar a day.

“The fight against this scourge must remain a top priority of the country, despite the lack of financial resources”

“In DRC, the absence of other healthcare providers and overstretched health systems leave people vulnerable to contracting malaria. Too many health centres lack the supplies necessary for coping with a new outbreak, and as a result children are dying because they did not receive care for malaria,” MSF’s Stellema said.

According to the DRC Country Programme Document, “Governance, management and coordination problems plague the [health] system at the national, provincial and local levels, thereby undermining political commitment, planning, budgetary expenditure, coordination and alignment of partnerships, the accountability and transparency of service providers, and the participation of the population in management of the services.”

It adds, “Combined with extreme poverty, these factors create financial barriers hampering families’ access to nutrition and services, and weaken the social standards that are essential for keeping families together and maintaining a protective environment for children.”

Investment in healthcare needed

“The absence of government investment and the fragmentation of public assistance have eroded the capacity of civil society and of functional public facilities to maintain quality services,” adds the DRC Country Programme Document.

“The re-mergence and expansion of certain epidemics (polio, measles and cholera) are proof of that. In addition, little has been done to modernize infrastructure. Essential supply systems, such as the cold chain, have not been put in place,” it states.

There is an urgent need to address the struggling health system to fight malaria, experts say.

“The fight against this scourge must remain a top priority of the country, despite the lack of financial resources,” said UNICEF’s Kouadio. “The government and its partners should increase the funding for the fight against malaria in the DRC, in particular, acquisition and universal distribution of mosquito nets to households, provision of essential drugs and rapid diagnostic test [kits], and dissemination of environmental sanitation measures.”

Malaria occurs almost year-round in DRC due its tropical climate and its river and lake system. The country has some 30 large rivers totalling at least 20,000km of shoreline, and 15 lakes totalling about 180,000km, which offer environments conducive to the proliferation of diseases and disease vectors, including the Anopheles mosquito, which spreads malaria.

According to MSF’s Stellema, the DRC government and national and international health actors need to take rapid and sustainable measures to prevent and treat malaria in order to avoid unnecessary child deaths. In 2012, MSF treated half a million Congolese for malaria, many of them children under five.

“MSF’s emergency response is saving lives in the short term. But in the longer term, the organization cannot address the [malaria] crisis alone,” said Stellema.

so/aw/rz  source


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Settling land disputes between returning refugees and their neighbours, is making significant headway

Posted by African Press International on May 22, 2013

MONROVIA, ) – The Liberia Land Commission, which was set up in 2009 to help settle land disputes between returning refugees and their neighbours, is making significant headway, say land experts, but non-conflict related land disputes are increasing, most of them as a result of weak land laws.

Tens of thousands of Liberians were displaced during the 1999-2003 civil war. Many returned to their villages to find their land had been sold on or taken over by neighbours. Disputes over land occurred all over the country, but were mainly concentrated in Nimba, Lofa and Bong counties, which had high levels of displacement.

Since 2009 many of the neighbour-neighbour disputes have been resolved without too much difficulty, given that the conflicting parties already had an established relationship, and thus a shared interest in negotiating. said Gregory Kitt, project manager with NGO Norwegian Refugee Council, which has helped resolve hundreds of land disputes over the past decade.

In recent years, such disputes have reduced slightly, said Kitt. “This is an indication of the progress Liberia has made to become more stable.”

Land reform was identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Report as one of the priorities for boosting long-term stability.

“We’ve made a lot of progress over the past three years. We’ve sorted out at least five dozen cases,” Cecil Brandy, chairman of the Land Commission, told IRIN. But dozens of cases continue to come in each month, he added – many of them related not to displacement but to weak land ownership laws that insufficiently respect people’s property rights and can lead to corrupt practices. “On a daily basis we are intervening in land fights across the country. Our files are filled with too many cases. Families are at loggerheads. It is hectic.”

Parallel laws

Land ownership in Liberia is based on Common Law which requires an owner to have a title deed. But a parallel system of traditional law, based on verbal agreement, is also prevalent, creating widesperead confusion over who owns what. Landowners as a result, often sell to multiple buyers, opening up room for conflict.

During the civil war, fraud was rife with many illegitimate land-related documents registered. “This criminal practice must stop. They make fraudulent transactions without the involvement of the real landowners. Because of this, now as Liberians return from Ghana, Sierra Leone and Guinea, they are facing major problems with their land,” said Brandy.

The Commission is trying to set up a better land registry system so citizens can more easily access land ownership documents, and at least know what their legal ownership status is. And it has submitted a criminal conveyance bill to the Liberian legislature to deal with suspected criminals involved in multiple land sales. Brandy hopes the bill will soon become law.

The Liberia Land Commission is an autonomous government body, with a staff of 25 civil servants, set up to shape land reform policy in Liberia.

Ciapha George, 45, is currently battling another family for ownership of his plot of land in the capital, Monrovia: unbeknown to him, the land had been sold to someone else before he bought it.

The case went to court and the judge recently ordered him to demolish his house and turn it over to the former owner. “The seller misled me. Right now I am the loser. All my efforts have been in vain,” he told IRIN. George’s family is currently living in an abandoned building in the capital.

But the governance bodies set up to protect these laws remain weak, said Kitt, and until they are strengthened, civil society groups will continue to have to step in to try to resolve disputes before they end up in court.

The Land Commission must be more proactive in tackling this problem of multiple ownership, said Monrovia resident Prince King. “I have seen lives and properties destroyed because of land disputes. Liberia is just from war and we need to put these things behind us.”

Some vulnerable families have never been given formal access to their land, said Brandy, who pointed out that one of the Commission’s priorities is to make ownership more equitable by re-examining how deeds are distributed.

Communities versus investors

According to environmental NGOs, including Friends of the Earth Liberia, the local authorities and landowners have sold more than 1.5 million acres (607,028 hectares) of land to palm oil companies in Liberia over recent years, seriously threatening some communities’ property rights.

“Over the past year and a half we’ve seen an increase in land conflicts between communities and investors trying to develop natural resources. It is clear that challenges are emerging,” said Kitt.

pc/aj/cb source

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