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Archive for June 25th, 2013

Need for more drugs and food – Uganda’s nodding syndrome centres

Posted by African Press International on June 25, 2013

No drugs, no food (file photo)

GULU/LIRA, – As scientists continue to search for the cause of and cure for nodding syndrome – a debilitating condition that causes seizures and stunting in children – health centres say they need better funding to continue to feed and treat those affected.

Some 3,995 children have sought assistance at four nodding syndrome rehabilitation centres set up by the government in 2012. The worst-affected districts, all in the country’s northern region, are: Kitgum, which has recorded 2,034 cases; Pader, with 1,210 cases; Lamwo, with 347; and Gulu, which has seen 330.

“We are out of food to provide to children,” Joseph Okwera, who runs the rehabilitation centre in Kitgum, told IRIN.

Short on drugs, food

Goretti Adero, whose 12-year-old son was admitted to a health centre in Lira District, said she withdrew him from the facility because there was insufficient food and an erratic drug supply.

“For me, I decided to bring my child back home where the family can feed him. At that time, there were no drugs at centre, so it was pointless to stay there,” she said. “His situation remains the same. Maybe he will get better or not, I don’t know, but I will struggle within my means.”

Patients at the centres are treated with anti-epileptic medication and nutritional supplements, including folic acid and vitamin B complex.

“We are seeing improvements among the children undergoing rehabilitation at the centre, but the challenge remains poor coordination where we have to follow up for the drugs, yet the district [administration] should have brought them to centre,” Robert Omiya, who is in charge of the rehabilitation centre in Gulu, told IRIN.


Children who improve return to their communities, but many say they face stigma from schoolmates and adults.

“When I go to school, pupils always tell me that I am demon-possessed. My friends no longer stay with me, and some teachers fear me,” 15-year-old Adoch* said. “Even at home, I feel lonely because our neighbours don’t want their children to play with me.”

Adoch has since dropped out of school.

Health workers say there is a need to hire trained psychosocial health personnel to follow up with children who have returned home from the centres. The government plans to train teachers in affected districts to deal with special-needs children, including those recovering from nodding syndrome, but poor funding has hampered these efforts.

“For Gulu, we need 25 teachers trained in special needs to handle the children. We are working on that, but it will depend on the budget we have,” said Vincent Ocen, Gulu District‘s education officer.

In the meantime, the government and international partners, including the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, continue to search for the cause of the syndrome. Possible theories include a link between the syndrome and river blindness, as well as a possible relationship between nodding syndrome and two parasitic roundworms – mansonella streptocerca and mansonella perstans.

First detected in the 1960s in parts of Tanzania, nodding syndrome also appeared in what is now South Sudan in the 1990s. It began attracting international attention in 2011 as hundreds of cases were reported in northern Uganda.

*not her real name

ca/kr/rz source


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Afghanistan: Worsening violence against children

Posted by African Press International on June 25, 2013

KABUL,  – One of the victims of last month’s attack on the International Organization for Migration (IOM) compound in the Afghan capital is still to be identified – a six year old boy.

The child’s body, found near the attack site, has not been claimed and the police have not been able to find the boy’s parents.

As a result of the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, the number of child casualties in the first four months of 2013 was 414 – a 28 percent jump from the 327 last year, according to the UN Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict. Of the 414 child casualties, 121 were killed and 293 injured.

“Afghanistan remains one of the world’s most difficult and dangerous places to be a child,” UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) spokesman Alistair Gretarsson told IRIN.

From 2010 to 2012, the UN report says 4,025 children were killed or seriously wounded as a result of the conflict in Afghanistan.

Child casualties for the country totalled 1,304 for 2012. However, the reported 28 percent increase in child casualties in the first four months of this year is fuelling concern that 2013 could be one of the deadliest years yet for children in Afghanistan.

“Every day when I leave the house, my Mum worries about us,” said Mohammad Qayum, a 14-year-old boy selling gum on the streets of Kabul. “There are more attacks in Kabul and my friends working on the streets are also scared. We are a lot more scared than we used to be.”

Continuing a trend from recent years, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are still the leading killer, contributing to 37 percent of the 414 conflict-related child casualties.

Children caught in crossfire made up 20 percent of the child-casualties; “explosive remnants of war” – 18 percent; with the remainder attributed to other causes.

According to UNICEF, the armed opposition accounted for most of the attacks. However, the Taliban, just one of many armed opposition groups in the country, deny the claim.

Indirect victims

Aside from being physically caught up in the violence, children suffer in a variety of ways from the conflict – from disrupted education, to forced recruitment as child soldiers, to the loss of family members.

Qayum’s father died in a suicide attack six years ago. He has three sisters and one older brother; so the US$4 he earns a day selling gum and flowers on the street is essential.

While the government and armed opposition groups, particularly the Taliban, have laws and regulations prohibiting the recruitment of children as fighters and suicide bombers, both continue to do so.

Ali Ahmad, 12 at the time, was searching for a job at the Spin Boldak border when he was abducted.

“Afghanistan remains one of the world’s most difficult and dangerous places to be a child,” Alistair Gretarsson, Unicef

“They took me to a training centre and trained me for 20 days. They taught me how to use guns and weapons and also taught me how to do a suicide attack by pressing some button and telling me that I will be given a lot of money,” Ali told IRIN.

Findings from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) 2013 torture report show of the 105 child detainees interviewed, 80 (76 percent) experienced torture or abuse at the hands of Afghan security forces – a 14 percent increase compared to previous findings.

Sexual abuse

Children described being beaten with cables or pipes, being forced to make confessions, being hanged, having genitals twisted, death threats, rape and sexual abuse. Of all the violations against children in Afghanistan, sexual violence remains one of the most under-reported abuses.

“Although sexual abuse of both boys and girls is a crime under Afghan law, the sexual abuse of boys continues to be tolerated far too often, especially when it takes place in association with armed groups where families of the children involved have no real recourse,” Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch told IRIN.

Bacha-bazi – the practice of “owning” a boy for sexual purposes, usually by people with money and power such as government officials and militia commanders – rarely receives attention.

“The reality is that it is very widespread and it’s very prevalent in the Afghan society. It’s something that Afghanistan as a society is not able to discuss openly. The society is not ready to face that this problem exists and something has to be done,” said one analyst who asked not to be named.

Last year in southern Helmand Province several cases of rape and abuse were exposed. A district governor was found keeping a 15-year-old “boy”, whose identity was only highlighted after he killed an international soldier.

Conflict-related violence continues to hinder children’s access to education. Most violations such as the burning of schools, intimidation and threats against staff are reportedly the result of armed groups. However, schools are also used by pro-government forces to carry out operations.

As a result of the growing violence across the country, more and more youth are seeking a way out.

“Unfortunately the number of young people leaving the country today is increasing,” Gen Aminullah Amarkhel, head of Interpol, told IRIN in a recent interview.

According to a UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) report released this week, Afghanistan is one of five countries that make up 55 percent of the world’s 45.2 million displaced people. One in every four refugees is from Afghanistan, making it the world’s largest contributor.

Children under 18 make up 46 percent of refugees worldwide. A record number of asylum seekers submitting applications in 2012 came from children, either unaccompanied or separated from their parents.

Conflict is the main cause, said the report.

“As the Qatar office opens and formal negotiations between the government and the Taliban perhaps finally start,” said Barr, “issues like protection of civilians and protection of children should be the first thing on the agenda”.

bm/jj/cb source


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International Criminal Court’s sex scandals

Posted by African Press International on June 25, 2013

African Press International (API)

ICC commissions an independent external review of the allegations of sexual assault

The Registrar of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has commissioned an independent external review of the allegations of sexual assault of four individuals under the ICC92s protection programme by a former staff member working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This decision follows the completion of an initial internal inquiry that was announced on 12 April 2013. The ICC is determined to address the serious allegations concerned with great rigor and transparency.

The results of the initial internal inquiry confirmed the seriousness of the= allegations and the need for more detailed investigation of the surrounding circumstances. Furthermore the incident highlighted operational and organizational issues that require more in-depth review. The Court is already in th= e process of implementing operational changes pending the outcome of the ind= ependent review.

Composed of four highly-qualified specialists with extensive…

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Hunger in Uganda: Getting more nutritious food on the table

Posted by African Press International on June 25, 2013

African Press International (API)

Malnutrition costs millions (file photo)

KAMPALA,  – Malnutrition costs Uganda an estimated US$899 million annually – as much as 5.6 percent of its GDP – according to findings of a new report.

The report, part of a wider paper dubbed The Cost of Hunger in Africa, launched on 18 June in the capital, Kampala, was conducted by the Ugandan government with the support of the African Union Commission, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the UN World Food Programme (WFP). Similar reports are planned for Egypt, Ethiopia and Swaziland.

“Hunger and under-nutrition are both a cause and effect of poverty,” Sory Ouane, WFP’s country director, said at the report’s launch. “Cutting hunger and achieving food and nutrition security in Africa is not only one of the most effective means of reducing vulnerability and enhancing the…

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Harstad: The Arts Festival of North Norway is spectacular

Posted by African Press International on June 25, 2013

The members of the public got what they expected when they rolled in to the concert hall in Harstad city center. They were not disappointed by Kari Bremnes and Ketil Bjørnstad, who wholeheartedly delivered good music performance.

Their concert “Separation” – in Norwegian “Løsrivelse” had a full house when the two performed Monday. It has scored high in popularity at the Festival so far.

This is one of three performances at the Arts Festival of North Norway marking the 150th anniversary of the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch.

Those who attended the concert were privileged to experience a band that worked at its very best offering excellent rhythms. A number of the songs, such as Scream left room for thunderous guitar solos that could easily lift the roof off the building.

The concert’s intense performance and technicality at its best – very good artistic moves to say the least, will be remembered by those in attendance!



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Africa’s pride – singer/songwriter Rokia Traorè, and company perform at The Arts Festival of North Norway June 2013

Posted by African Press International on June 25, 2013 - Singer/Songwriter Rokia Traorè performing at The Arts Festival of North Norway June 2013 – Singer/Songwriter Rokia Traorè performing at The Arts Festival of North Norway June 2013

It has come to pass that there is no doubt she is the new Star in her own right, who has found a place for herself nationally and internationally in the world of music. A Self-confident woman who says she knows what she wants and that her heart carries warm feelings and reaches out to everyone. She is Rokia Traore – a true African lady. She charmed a full concert hall in Harstad during her performance. Everyone went home happy and satisfied.

Malian singer Rokia Traorè on Monday the 24th and Tuesday the 25th of June 2013 was the talk of the town during the Arts Festival of North Norway after her thrilling performances.

SK-API Interview with Rokia Traorè:

Traorè is a very exciting artist with a clear message in her music. She convinced the festival enthusiasts during her two performances during this year’s Arts Festival of North Norway with her shows Damau/ Dream and Donke/ Dance that she is a talented African Musician.

Damau and Dream featured intimate and acoustic setting based on music and lyrics from the Malian storytelling tradition. During this performance, Traorè had two musicians with her on stage.




PART 4: - Rokia Traore` with her two-man band on stage in Harstad, during the Arts Festival of North Norway after performing Monday 25.June 2013 – Rokia Traore` with her two-man band on stage in Harstad, during the Arts Festival of North Norway after performing  – June 2013

Donke, a dance-based concert highlighted the event. In addition to her vocals, she also played the kora and ngoni instruments.

She is one of the most exciting singer and songwriter that the continent of Africa is proud to have.

This was her first time to perform during the yearly Arts Festival of North Norway.


  1. AUDIO:  Singer Rokia Traorè in Concert at the Arts Festival of North Norway June 2013
  2. “One on one” with Tone Winje, The Director of The Arts Festival of North Norway



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