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Archive for July, 2013

Thai teachers insecurity

Posted by African Press International on July 31, 2013

Thai soldier on guard at an elementary school

BANGKOK, – Stronger security is needed for teachers in government schools in Thailand’s deep south, where an ongoing insurgency by Muslim separatist groups has left more than 150 teachers dead since 2004, say officials.

“The best thing we need to do for teachers and workers in the education field is to strengthen security measures,” Thai Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang told IRIN.

His comments come less than a week after a roadside bomb exploded in Chanae District in southern Narathiwat Province, killing two female teachers and seriously wounding one other, in what was described by local media as “the worst day for teachers for months”.

The 24 July attack – for which no party has claimed responsibility – highlights the fragmented nature of the conflict in Thailand’s southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat along the border with Malaysia.

According to a recent report by the International Crisis Group (ICG), since 2004 more than 5,000 people, mostly civilians, have lost their lives in the violence which successive governments, beginning with that of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (2001-2006), have been unable to control.

Barisan Revolusi Nasional
Labelled by the government as one of the southern conflict’s main insurgency groups, analysts have characterized Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) as a “central command of autonomous cells” and a “hybrid clandestine organization” whose members are mostly of Malay ethnicity, as opposed to Thai, Chinese-Thai and other local non-Muslims.Based on an interview with a former insurgent leader, International Crisis Group reported that most insurgents do not identify with BRN but, rather, refer to themselves as fighters engaged in a national liberation war for an independent Islamic state.

Despite recent peace talks between the government and separatists (described by ICG as “a formless movement comprised of autonomous cells operating within a central command”) held in Malaysia aimed at reducing violence during Ramadan, insurgent attacks have increased, according to local media.

Since the peace talks began on 28 February between Thai officials and members of Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) militant group, reported to be one of the main insurgency groups, nearly 50 people have been killed and close to 80 injured.

“It’s difficult [for the children] to catch up with all the lost time due to school closures,” said Boonsom Thongsriprai, chairman of the Confederation of Teachers of the Three Southern Border Provinces.

Since January 2004, ethnic Malay Muslim separatist insurgents have been implicated in the deaths of close to 160 teachers and education personnel from government-run schools, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a 2012 report, with teachers and schools (along with soldiers) routinely singled out for attack as representatives of the Thai state.

On 11 December 2012 ethnic Malay Muslim insurgents entered a school in Pattani Province at lunch hour and summarily executed two ethnic Thai Buddhist teachers.

Some 1,200 government-run schools serving more than 200,000 schoolchildren in four provinces were closed for two days.

On 23 January 2013, Chan Tree, a Muslim third grade teacher, had just begun mid-day prayers in the canteen at the Ban Tanyong school in Narathiwat Province with a room of elementary students when two armed men walked in and shot him. One of the students yelled out: “They’re going to shoot you, teacher Chan Tree”, before the men opened fire.

“Some of the teachers quit and some of them transferred. About five or six teachers have transferred to other schools,” Yai Nong Tohleh, another instructor, said afterwards.
Dozens of primary and secondary schools in Narathiwat and Pattani provinces closed down in the weeks that followed the January attack.

High teacher turnover 

One result of the attacks has been teachers leaving their jobs, giving administrators the added difficulty of attracting qualified teachers to replace them, authorities say.

Education has taken a hit in Thailand’s southern conflict

Starting salaries for teachers are about US$400 per month, with additional “danger pay” of roughly $80 per month. The average pay nationwide in this upper middle-income country is nearly $700; salaries lag in the deep south.

“They fear that if they withdraw or transfer themselves out of the south there won’t be sufficient teachers to provide quality education to children,” Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher for HRW in Thailand, explained.

“That is the incentive for both the Buddhist Thai and Malay Muslim teachers to continue working. That shows the commitment of those teachers who want to provide education to the children even though some of them have been at schools that have been attacked so many times before,” he added.

Meanwhile, many positions continue to be filled locally – with those recruited on temporary contracts and receiving less pay and benefits.

“Right now many of the staff aren’t officially appointed or registered because they aren’t fully qualified for the position but the government is working on a plan to register many of the new replacements so that they can [receive] better payment,” said Boonsom Thongsriprai.

The informal ceasefire agreed originally by the Thai government and the BRN to coincide with Ramadan ends after 8 August.

ss/ds/pt source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Kenya: Bungoma County Target recruitment of 800 Early Childhood Development (ECD) teachers

Posted by African Press International on July 31, 2013

  • BY GODFREY WAMALWA,API,KENYA

Bungoma county government in collaboration with the ministry of education have started a registration process that would in the end have at least 800 Early Childhood Development (ECD) teachers recruited.

Speaking while overseeing the exercise in Bungoma North District, the  county programs officer in charge of early childhood education Mr.Kennedy Sabwami Ndalila revealed that the process is aimed at strengthening the education foundation by motivating the teachers in the area.

Mr Sabwami further said that the  process is being conducted in the nine districts of Bungoma County and appealed to teachers  with valid certificates to show up.

According to the officer,Certificates of those who registered will be vetted by a selected team at the county level in order to attain the 800 qualified teachers that will be employed and dispatched to work in the eight hundred public schools within Bungoma County.

He also urged the parents to let their children pursue the ECD course saying it has now gained recognition among the education stakeholders that have seen the importance of investing in it.

The teachers who showed up for the registration process could not hide their joy and thanked the Bungoma county governor Kenneth Lusaka for his humble initiative to have them paid by the county government for their services saying they had suffered for long.

 

End

 

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Right abuses by DRC army and others

Posted by African Press International on July 31, 2013

GOMA,  – As fighting continues in North Kivu Province between the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) army and the rebel group M23, both sides have been accused of committing human rights abuses against each other and civilians, some of which amount to war crimes, according to rights groups. 

Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported the M23 rebel movement in eastern DRC had committed war crimes; a second major report by HRW, released 22 July, finds M23’s war crimes have continued.

Summarizing the report’s findings, lead author Ida Sawyer told IRIN: “What we’ve documented is that war crimes committed by M23 fighters have continued since March, and those crimes include summary executions of at least 44 people, and rapes of at least 61 women and girls, and forced recruitment of scores of young men and boys.”

Meanwhile, HRW, a report of the UN Secretary-General and other sources allege the Congolese army has also committed abuses, ranging from the desecration of corpses to mass rape and the killing of civilians.

The M23 rebellion began in April 2012, with the DRC army and M23 clashing intermittently since then. The most recent spate of violence began on 14 July in areas around Mutaho, Kanyarucinya, Kibati and in the mountains near Ndosho, a few kilometres from Goma, the provincial capital. M23 currently controls the areas of Rutshuru and Nyiragongo.

The group came into existence when hundreds of mainly ethnic Tutsi soldiers of the Congolese army mutinied over poor living conditions and poor pay. Most of the mutineers had been members of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), another armed group that in 2009 signed a deal with the government, which the dissidents felt Kinshasa had not fully implemented.

M23 response

In a September 2012 report on M23, HRW accused the group of deliberately killing at least 15 civilians since June and of executing 33 of its own combatants.

In its latest report, the group alleges that 15 civilians were killed by M23 over two days in April, and a further six were killed in June in reprisals for alleged collaboration with Congolese militias.

It says other civilians killed by the movement included a man who refused to hand his sons over to the rebels, a motorcycle driver who refused to give them money, and recruits caught trying to escape. It also reports that M23 tortured prisoners of war, including two who were killed.

HRW did not include any comments or reactions from M23 in its latest report.

Sawyer said her organization had arranged to interview M23 leader Sultani Makenga about its findings, but fighting broke out on the day of the interview. Makenga cancelled and was subsequently unavailable for a phone interview, Sawyer said.

Speaking to IRIN, M23 spokesman Kabasha Amani said: “When Human Rights Watch says people have disappeared in the territory we control, why doesn’t it give the names of those people?”

He dismissed the findings as rumours, describing the DRC as “a country of rumours”.

A lawyer working with M23, John Muhire, said that since the NGO has not given names of victims or the precise location of the supposed crimes, “they don’t mention anything which really can be a proof that the crime has been committed”.

Muhire accused a Congolese NGO that carried out field work for HRW of being biased against M23, adding that the rebel group had asked for a “neutral” investigation supervised by the UN.

HRW and other sources report that M23 has threatened to kill people who speak out against the movement; the organization does not name victims or precise locations of crimes to protect sources from possible harm.

The report has also been criticized by Rwanda – accused by Human Rights Watch of supporting M23, a charge Rwanda has denied – for wrongly stating that Rwandan soldiers had served with the peacekeeping contingent in Somalia. HRW published a correction but stood by its findings.

“We are very confident with our findings,” Sawyer told IRIN. “What we’ve included in our report is only the information that we have confirmed with several credible witnesses. We rely on information from eyewitnesses who were present during the events – victims and witnesses to abuses. We do very in-depth interviews with all the people we speak to, to document this, and we don’t include information that we think may be biased.”

As an example of information not included, Sawyer cited a claim by the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) that M23 had executed 26 farmers in two localities between June 16 and 19, allegations for which the NGO could not find sufficient evidence.

Right abuses by DRC army and others

M23 was the main focus of the report, which deals exclusively with abuses within the zone that M23 tried to control and with evidence of Rwandan support for the group.

But M23 is not the only armed group operating within this zone, and the report includes a brief mention of abuses – three people killed and four raped – by another armed group, the Popular Movement for Self-Defence (Mouvement populaire d’autodéfense or MPA) in the same area since March.

“The corpses of M23 fighters killed in combat on July 16 in a degrading manner, stripping them, making ethnic slurs, and prodding their genitals with weapons”

It also notes that, according to the UN Group of Experts on Congo, Congolese army personnel have recently supplied ammunition to the Rwandan rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which HRW says has long been committing “horrific abuses” against civilians in eastern DRC.

Additionally, a press release accompanying the HRW report referred to Congolese army soldiers treating “the corpses of M23 fighters killed in combat on July 16 in a degrading manner, stripping them, making ethnic slurs, and prodding their genitals with weapons”, an incident seen in widely circulated photos. The press release also refers to allegations the army harshly treated M23 combatants captured in recent fighting.

On 17 July, the army arrested a lieutenant in connection with the desecration of the M23 fighters’ corpses.

Col Olivier Hamuli, a DRC army spokesman, said the army condemned such behaviour, and added that the incident should be seen in context, as the actions of men suffering from “combat stress”.

The UN Secretary-General’s latest report on MONUSCO includes further references to abuses by Congolese army units in recent months. It highlights a mass rape, allegedly of more than 200 women, by Congolese troops at Minova, in South Kivu, in November 2012, and the killing of at least 27 civilians and the wounding of 89 others in clashes between the army and an armed group at Kitchanga, in North Kivu, in late February and early March.

UN and local sources told IRIN that most of the deaths at Kitchanga were attributable to the army’s use of heavy weapons in a town centre. The army unit involved was led by a colonel who had fought alongside M23 leaders in a previous rebellion and was alleged to be still in alliance with them.

A recent bombing raid by Congolese army aircraft against an M23 military camp at Rumangabo also caused several civilian casualties, according to M23. The UN noted that M23 caused several civilian casualties in Goma when its shells landed in a displaced people’s camp and other locations in the city suburbs in May and again this month.

Reporting “uneven”

Sources within MONUSCO commented that reporting of human rights abuses in DRC is uneven, tending to focus on more accessible areas and on groups – like M23 – which are considered to be a regional threat to peace.

Alleged abuses by other armed groups and by some units of the Congolese army may be under-reported compared to those attributed to M23. Complaints in December and January by a civil society organization in Tongo, North Kivu, alleging that an army unit there had been responsible for 93 rapes and eight murders over a six-month period have still not elicited an official response; MONUSCO could give no details of its investigation into these allegations.

Nevertheless, the Congolese army has suspended 12 senior officers and arrested 11 suspects in connection with the mass rapes at Minova. Nationally, the proportion of alleged rights abuses by the army that lead to prosecution has been increasing in the past few years.

Figures from MONUSCO show between July 2010 and July 2011, there were 224 convictions of DRC military personnel or police for serious human rights abuses (about half involving sexual violence), a big increase over previous years.

M23, which recently claimed to have appointed criminal investigators in its territory and to be carrying out trials, has yet to announce the results of any investigations of alleged abuses by its personnel. In reality, says MONUSCO, M23 has no real capacity to hold trials as there are no magistrates in its zone.

Civilians told IRIN that, in some cases, people accused of crimes by the rebels had already been put on trial. Some of them had been imprisoned, one civilian said, speaking just out of earshot of an M23 combatant.

“And some of them were killed,” he added quietly.

Another civilian said: “Those who are arrested and can pay a fine can be freed. As for those who can’t pay a fine, they can be put on forced labour or killed.”

An estimated 900,000 people are displaced in North Kivu, more than half of them by the M23 rebellion; tens of thousands more have fled across the DRC’s borders with Rwanda and Uganda.

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

 

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Human Rights abuses on the rise As fighting continues in North Kivu Province

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2013

The rebels are accused of summary executions, rape and forcible recruitment (file photo)

GOMA,  – As fighting continues in North Kivu Province between the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) army and the rebel group M23, both sides have been accused of committing human rights abuses against each other and civilians, some of which amount to war crimes, according to rights groups.

Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported the M23 rebel movement in eastern DRC had committed war crimes; a second major report by HRW, released 22 July, finds M23’s war crimes have continued.

Summarizing the report’s findings, lead author Ida Sawyer told IRIN: “What we’ve documented is that war crimes committed by M23 fighters have continued since March, and those crimes include summary executions of at least 44 people, and rapes of at least 61 women and girls, and forced recruitment of scores of young men and boys.”

Meanwhile, HRW, a report of the UN Secretary-General and other sources allege the Congolese army has also committed abuses, ranging from the desecration of corpses to mass rape and the killing of civilians.

The M23 rebellion began in April 2012, with the DRC army and M23 clashing intermittently since then. The most recent spate of violence began on 14 July in areas around Mutaho, Kanyarucinya, Kibati and in the mountains near Ndosho, a few kilometres from Goma, the provincial capital. M23 currently controls the areas of Rutshuru and Nyiragongo.

The group came into existence when hundreds of mainly ethnic Tutsi soldiers of the Congolese army mutinied over poor living conditions and poor pay. Most of the mutineers had been members of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), another armed group that in 2009 signed a deal with the government, which the dissidents felt Kinshasa had not fully implemented.

M23 response

In a September 2012 report on M23, HRW accused the group of deliberately killing at least 15 civilians since June and of executing 33 of its own combatants.

In its latest report, the group alleges that 15 civilians were killed by M23 over two days in April, and a further six were killed in June in reprisals for alleged collaboration with Congolese militias.

It says other civilians killed by the movement included a man who refused to hand his sons over to the rebels, a motorcycle driver who refused to give them money, and recruits caught trying to escape. It also reports that M23 tortured prisoners of war, including two who were killed.

HRW did not include any comments or reactions from M23 in its latest report.

Sawyer said her organization had arranged to interview M23 leader Sultani Makenga about its findings, but fighting broke out on the day of the interview. Makenga cancelled and was subsequently unavailable for a phone interview, Sawyer said.

Speaking to IRIN, M23 spokesman Kabasha Amani said: “When Human Rights Watch says people have disappeared in the territory we control, why doesn’t it give the names of those people?”

He dismissed the findings as rumours, describing the DRC as “a country of rumours”.

A lawyer working with M23, John Muhire, said that since the NGO has not given names of victims or the precise location of the supposed crimes, “they don’t mention anything which really can be a proof that the crime has been committed”.

Muhire accused a Congolese NGO that carried out field work for HRW of being biased against M23, adding that the rebel group had asked for a “neutral” investigation supervised by the UN.

HRW and other sources report that M23 has threatened to kill people who speak out against the movement; the organization does not name victims or precise locations of crimes to protect sources from possible harm.

The report has also been criticized by Rwanda – accused by Human Rights Watch of supporting M23, a charge Rwanda has denied – for wrongly stating that Rwandan soldiers had served with the peacekeeping contingent in Somalia. HRW published a correction but stood by its findings.

“We are very confident with our findings,” Sawyer told IRIN. “What we’ve included in our report is only the information that we have confirmed with several credible witnesses. We rely on information from eyewitnesses who were present during the events – victims and witnesses to abuses. We do very in-depth interviews with all the people we speak to, to document this, and we don’t include information that we think may be biased.”

As an example of information not included, Sawyer cited a claim by the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) that M23 had executed 26 farmers in two localities between June 16 and 19, allegations for which the NGO could not find sufficient evidence.

Right abuses by DRC army and others

M23 was the main focus of the report, which deals exclusively with abuses within the zone that M23 tried to control and with evidence of Rwandan support for the group.

But M23 is not the only armed group operating within this zone, and the report includes a brief mention of abuses – three people killed and four raped – by another armed group, the Popular Movement for Self-Defence (Mouvement populaire d’autodéfense or MPA) in the same area since March.

“The corpses of M23 fighters killed in combat on July 16 in a degrading manner, stripping them, making ethnic slurs, and prodding their genitals with weapons”

It also notes that, according to the UN Group of Experts on Congo, Congolese army personnel have recently supplied ammunition to the Rwandan rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which HRW says has long been committing “horrific abuses” against civilians in eastern DRC.

Additionally, a press release accompanying the HRW report referred to Congolese army soldiers treating “the corpses of M23 fighters killed in combat on July 16 in a degrading manner, stripping them, making ethnic slurs, and prodding their genitals with weapons”, an incident seen in widely circulated photos. The press release also refers to allegations the army harshly treated M23 combatants captured in recent fighting.

On 17 July, the army arrested a lieutenant in connection with the desecration of the M23 fighters’ corpses.

Col Olivier Hamuli, a DRC army spokesman, said the army condemned such behaviour, and added that the incident should be seen in context, as the actions of men suffering from “combat stress”.

The UN Secretary-General’s latest report on MONUSCO includes further references to abuses by Congolese army units in recent months. It highlights a mass rape, allegedly of more than 200 women, by Congolese troops at Minova, in South Kivu, in November 2012, and the killing of at least 27 civilians and the wounding of 89 others in clashes between the army and an armed group at Kitchanga, in North Kivu, in late February and early March.

UN and local sources told IRIN that most of the deaths at Kitchanga were attributable to the army’s use of heavy weapons in a town centre. The army unit involved was led by a colonel who had fought alongside M23 leaders in a previous rebellion and was alleged to be still in alliance with them.

A recent bombing raid by Congolese army aircraft against an M23 military camp at Rumangabo also caused several civilian casualties, according to M23. The UN noted that M23 caused several civilian casualties in Goma when its shells landed in a displaced people’s camp and other locations in the city suburbs in May and again this month.

Reporting “uneven”

Sources within MONUSCO commented that reporting of human rights abuses in DRC is uneven, tending to focus on more accessible areas and on groups – like M23 – which are considered to be a regional threat to peace.

Alleged abuses by other armed groups and by some units of the Congolese army may be under-reported compared to those attributed to M23. Complaints in December and January by a civil society organization in Tongo, North Kivu, alleging that an army unit there had been responsible for 93 rapes and eight murders over a six-month period have still not elicited an official response; MONUSCO could give no details of its investigation into these allegations.

Nevertheless, the Congolese army has suspended 12 senior officers and arrested 11 suspects in connection with the mass rapes at Minova. Nationally, the proportion of alleged rights abuses by the army that lead to prosecution has been increasing in the past few years.

Figures from MONUSCO show between July 2010 and July 2011, there were 224 convictions of DRC military personnel or police for serious human rights abuses (about half involving sexual violence), a big increase over previous years.

M23, which recently claimed to have appointed criminal investigators in its territory and to be carrying out trials, has yet to announce the results of any investigations of alleged abuses by its personnel. In reality, says MONUSCO, M23 has no real capacity to hold trials as there are no magistrates in its zone.

Civilians told IRIN that, in some cases, people accused of crimes by the rebels had already been put on trial. Some of them had been imprisoned, one civilian said, speaking just out of earshot of an M23 combatant.

“And some of them were killed,” he added quietly.

Another civilian said: “Those who are arrested and can pay a fine can be freed. As for those who can’t pay a fine, they can be put on forced labour or killed.”

An estimated 900,000 people are displaced in North Kivu, more than half of them by the M23 rebellion; tens of thousands more have fled across the DRC’s borders with Rwanda and Uganda.

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

 

 

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Malian refugees returning home face challenges

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2013

Malian refugees return home as stability improves

DAKAR,  – Malians are slowly returning from refuge in neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger as stability improves more than a year after a military coup and an insurgency shook the West African country.

Some 8,148 people who returned on their own were registered between 25 June and 12 July in Mali’s Gao, Mopti and Timbuktu regions. It is the most significant number of returnees since reports emerged of spontaneous returns, said Anouk Desgroseilliers, an information officer with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Mali.

“There are still explosive remnants of war, robberies in some regions as well as a sense of wariness, but the lull in violence over the past three months, and the presence of the army, the authorities and the local administration is encouraging returns,” said Boni Mpaka, OCHA’s deputy head of office in Mali.

More than 175,000 Malians are still living in refuge and 353,455 others have been displaced within the country since the outbreak of violence mainly in northern Mali following the March 2012 coup.

“We are not encouraging any returns at the moment. But we are assessing the needs the returnees will have,” Desgroseilliers said. Aid groups voice worry about high malnutrition rates in northern Mali’s Gao Region, which they say could worsen with the spontaneous return of refugees. The global acute malnutrition rate is 13.5 percent, slightly below the 15 percent emergency threshold.

The country’s elections set for 28 July are also encouraging returns, said Lucien Simba, a humanitarian affairs officer with OCHA in Dakar. “People hope things are going to change.” The authorities have set plans for refugees in neighbouring countries to vote.

“Search for pasture, preparation for next year return to school, the upcoming elections, people coming to verify the status of their homes and belongings; there are several reasons why people are gradually moving to Mali,” the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), told IRIN.

However, the returnees lack sufficient food, need to be helped in rebuilding their homes and restocking their animals. Children will also need conditions in place a part from safety, teachers and functional schools for returning to school next year. A lot of efforts should be channeled to work on social cohesion and rebuilding resilience capacities at the community level which has been weakened by the unrest, DRC said.

cr/ob/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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The government of the self-declared republic of Somaliland will stiffen penalties to curb smuggling and human trafficking

Posted by African Press International on July 30, 2013

Smugglers are increasingly kidnapping migrant Somaliland youths for ransom

HARGEISA,  – The government of the self-declared republic of Somaliland will stiffen penalties for people smuggling and human trafficking to stem irregular migration, particularly by the region’s youths.

“Of course there is an article in Somaliland’s penal code dealing with this issue, but we think it is not deterrent enough. For this reason, the government plans to pass new laws to prevent human smuggling,” Mohamed Osman Dube, Somaliland’s administrative director in the interior ministry, told IRIN.

At present, Article 457 of Somaliland’s penal code identifies the selling and purchasing of humans as slaves as offences punishable by prison terms of 3 to 12 years. Article 466 further provides for a three-year prison term for those found guilty of engaging in physical abuse, according to Mustafe Mahdi, a Somaliland lawyer.

The new laws are aimed at reducing irregular migration from Somaliland to Ethiopia and onwards to Sudan, Libya and Europe. When passed, they are expected to include tougher punishments for smugglers and to provide ways to rehabilitate youth migrants, added Dube.

While solid figures on people smuggling and human trafficking in Somaliland are not available, in late June, Somaliland President Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud (Silanyo) nominated a ministerial committee to address the problem, expressing concern over growing youth mass migration and related deaths.

According to a recent survey by the community-based Somaliland Youth Ambition Development Group (SYADG), for example, at least 15 Somaliland youths died in May in the Sahara desert, between Libya and Sudan, either from being shot dead by smugglers or due to the harsh conditions. The 15 were part of a group of 325 youths, from which 31 are still missing, with 83 and 80 others in Libyan and Tunisian prisons, respectively, according to SYADG spokesperson Ahmed Jamal.

Targeted

Most of the youths migrating from Somaliland have been from poorer families, but those from better-off families are increasingly risking the perilous journey to Europe.

“When I was looking for my son, I received a phone call from a stranger asking me to speak my son. The stranger told me to pay him US$5,000 in smuggling fees. I said, ‘I will look for the money’, but unfortunately, my son was shot dead,” Mohamed Da’ud, the director of planning in Somaliland’s interior ministry, told IRIN.

“My son is among youths who have been killed by smugglers or [who] died in the Sahara after they tried to run away from smugglers.”

According to Wafa Alamin, a human rights activist based in Khartoum, Sudan, “Illegal immigrants are treated like animals by the smugglers in the Sahara, between Sudan and Libya.”

Smugglers are also increasingly kidnapping migrant Somaliland youths for ransom.

“The youths are asked about their parents’ properties and jobs. If the smugglers identify that the family of the person can pay a ransom, they take him or her across the border without any payment only to later force the client to call his or her family to demand a ransom,” explained Abdillahi Hassan Digale, the chairman of the Ubah Social Welfare Organization (USWO).

Abdillahi Omar’s sons are among the smugglers’ victims.

“If the smugglers identify that the family of the person can pay a ransom, they take him or her across the border without any payment only to later force the client to call his or her family to demand a ransom”

“My two sons graduated from high school in 2011 and had no reason to risk their lives,” said Omar. “I sent one of them to university in Ethiopia, but he saved up the money I used to send him to make the risky journey to Libya. On different occasions in Sudan and Libya he was held hostage by smugglers who demanded a ransom, and I spent $14,500 on him. But he is lucky he reached Europe.”

Omar’s other son, the younger one, is now in Libya. “I don’t know what to do. I sold everything I had. My problem is not only being bankrupt but that I don’t know how to bring him back,” he said.

Way forward

The government, civil society and international organizations have been engaging in public awareness campaigns to sensitize the Somaliland population on the dangers of irregular migration.

But more needs to be done.

“Even though a lot of campaigns have been done, [especially] in the last several weeks, and youth migrants have decreased from 15 per day to eight per day, we believe that there are local smugglers connected to other smugglers based in Ethiopia, Sudan and Libya, and we don’t think it will stop soon,” said a Somaliland border immigration official who preferred anonymity.

The high rate of unemployment in Somaliland must be addressed amid an increasing number of university graduates, according to USWO’s Digale. “For this reason, there is a need for interventions by both the government and the local business community, as well as international partners working in Somaliland,” he said.

A past survey by the Somaliland National Youth Organization found about 75 percent of the youths there to be unemployed.

At present, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is implementing a regional mixed migration programme covering Djibouti, Ethiopia, Puntland, Somaliland and Yemen. In mixed migration, refugees, asylum-seekers, economic migrants and even victims of human trafficking use the same routes, means of transport and smuggling networks to reach shared destinations, but with different claims to protection and humanitarian assistance.

“The overall objective of this programme is to strengthen the protection of – and provide emergency assistance to – irregular migrants in Somaliland, Puntland [and] Djibouti, and potential migrants and returnees in Ethiopia, including the assisted voluntary return of the most vulnerable,” said IOM Somalia. Ethiopia is a leading source country of irregular migrants from the Horn of Africa region heading to the Arabian Peninsula.

IOM Somalia is also urging Somaliland to accede to the Palermo protocol, which aims to prevent the smuggling of migrants, promote cooperation among state parties, protect the rights of smuggled migrants, and prevent the worst forms of exploitation, which often characterizes the smuggling process.

On 17 July, Somaliland officials prosecuted 11 people on human smuggling charges. The Gabiley Regional Court “found the 11 men guilty of smuggling youths from Somaliland to Ethiopia en-route to Libya”, said an official with Somaliland’s immigration department. The arrests and prosecutions are the first of their kind in Somailland.

maj/aw/rz  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Kenya patriotic song in Kiswahili: Tushangilie Kenya by Thomas Wasonga

Posted by African Press International on July 29, 2013

Kenya is a country consisting of 42 different tribes, each tribe with their language, customs,  and traditions. Kiswahili language that unites them is the National language while English is the official language. This is a patriotic song sang in Kiswahili urging the Kenyan populace to put their efforts into loving the country and working for preservation of peace. love and unity for all.

The country has so far had 4 presidents including the present one. The first president was Jomo Kenyatta, followed by Daniel Arap Moi, Mwai Kibaki and now Uhuru Kenyatta being the fourth president. Uhuru is the son of the first president Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
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Za’atari camp for Syrian refugees costs $500,000 a day to run

Posted by African Press International on July 29, 2013

Za’atari camp for Syrian refugees, seen here in the foreground of Jordanian villages and towns, costs $500,000 a day to run

ZA’ATARI,  – Just on the other side of Jordan’s Za’atari camp for Syrian refugees, now one of the world’s most notorious camps, lies another Za’atari: a poor village inhabited by some 12,000 Jordanians.

“If I were given a tent like this, I would cherish it and protect it,” said villager Hamda Masaeed, while pointing at the ever-growing mass of tents with the logo of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) stretching from the Syrian camp into the heart of the village of Za’atari, from which the camp got its name.

The seventy-year-old lives with two sons and seven grandchildren, also in a tent – but she built hers herself using pipes, blankets and the remains of wheat bags. It is old and tattered; one side was recently burned; and she does not own the land it sits on.

What she does own are three worn-out mattresses, a one-ring stove, and an old fridge that works only when there is electricity. Masaeed siphons electricity from her neighbour for six Jordanian dinars (US$8.50) a month, but if often cuts out.

She and other residents of the village have watched as the Syrian camp has grown over the past year to become home to some 120,000 refugees.

“It is a massive city in the heart of our little village now,” she told IRIN.

According to the social council of the municipality, the village itself has so far taken in 3,000 Syrian refugees.

Refugees do not by any means live lives of luxury: camp life is harsh and unlike the locals, they have had to endure the long journey of displacement and the psychological trauma of losing loved ones.

But only one main road divides the two Za’ataris; and while trucks carry food, blankets, clothes and medicine to Syrian refugees in the camp, the other Za’atari remains “forgotten”.

“Don’t they realize that we need help too?” Masaeed asked.

It is not only donations that pass by Masaeed’s tent, but also international journalists, aid workers, diplomats, and the world’s top officials.

One taxi driver told IRIN he deliberately drives visiting journalists through Za’atari village before dropping them at the camp, to show them that poverty also exists on the other side of the camp.

“People come from all parts of the world to write about the conditions of Syrian refugees, but these people [villagers] are also living in miserable conditions,” said Iyad Salhi, a driver from the capital Amman.

In the village, there is one mosque, two schools, and a small charity – the Za’atari Charitable Society – that “operates occasionally in Ramadan”. Its office doors were shut when IRIN passed by and no one answered the phone.

While complaints about a perceived shortage of water by residents of the Syrian camp have made it to local and international media, residents of the other Za’atari have to beg truck drivers to stop to sell them water. As in many other parts of Jordan, government-supplied water is not regular.

“They drive past us every day. Although we are paying for water, they do not sell it to us. They prefer to [sign contracts with] the camp,” said Mohammad Masaeed, Hamda’s son.

“Some promise us to come back, but they never do,” he added.

Protest in Za’atari village

This month, local media reported that gendarmerie forces quelled a protest by residents of Za’atari village when they went to demand jobs inside the camp.

Hamda Masaeed sits in her makeshift tent in Za’atari village

UNHCR says the local community has benefited, if insufficiently, from the camp economy: some people have been hired as contractors and workers in the camp.

But Nadia Salameh says she was recently laid off from a cleaner’s job at the camp to be replaced by refugees.

“They recruited us on a temporary basis, but then they gave the jobs to Syrians,” she said.

“It is so unfair when they [Syrians] receive everything for free, but we have to pay for food, gas, clothes, and rent,” she told IRIN.

Aid agencies working with poor Jordanians say they struggle to help them now.

“Donors’ attention has been focused on Syrians. They ignored the locals, who have always lived in poverty,” said Abdullah Zubi, programme coordinator at the Hashemite Fund for Human Development. “Keep in mind numbers of needy Jordanian families are increasing.”

He said his organization, a semi-governmental development organization, has been gradually reducing the number of needy families they are helping during Ramadan, when Muslims usually increase their charitable giving.

“We were able to help some 1,800 Jordanian families with packages of food every Ramadan, but as donors have been reducing their donations, we can only help 500 families this year,” he told IRIN.

International aid agencies are increasingly looking to provide assistance to local communities to avoid tensions with Syrian refugees.

UNHCR, through International Relief and Development (IRD), has provided services in the community, including improved public transport facilities and sanitation equipment. UNHCR has also supported the Ministry of Health in providing health services there.

The NGO Mercy Corps has set up community dialogues to try to address social cohesion and peaceful coexistence. It is also implementing a $20 million project – funded by the US Agency for International Development – to improve water delivery in northern Jordan, including Za’atari village.

But the needs are large – the most cited are a waste water network, a new school and better health facilities. Humanitarian agencies responding to the Syrian crisis are already having to prioritize due to rising refugee needs and insufficient funding and aid workers says donor funding for host communities is always hardest to come by.

Sad twist

In a sad twist, some Syrian refugees are now donating to poor Jordanians, or selling them extra food they receive from aid agencies at a discounted price. In Mafraq, the governorate in which the two Za’ataris are located, food blankets, tents, and other items with UNHCR logos are publicly for sale.

That is how Um Saleem, a Jordanian resident of Mafraq, has coped over the last two years, as previous donations from generous Jordanians have slowed.

Um Saleem’s kitchen

IRIN visited her as she was cooking a chicken given her by a Syrian woman living in her neighbourhood. It was the first time she had eaten meat in a month.

When Hajjar Ahmad, a Syrian refugee who lives in Za’atari camp, visited her sister in a village in Mafraq, she was “astonished” how much poverty she saw. She gave her sister extra food and blankets to distribute to Jordanians.

“We are living better than them,” Ahmad said.

aa/ha/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

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Voters faced frustration before the voting day in Mali

Posted by African Press International on July 29, 2013

Photo: IRIN
Timbuktu in northern Mali. (file photo)

BAMAKO,  – Malians voted yesterday on 28 July in the first ever polls since a military coup and an insurgency 16 months ago, but complaints of missing voting cards and worries that the elections are rushed marred the run-up to the ballot.

Some 6.8 million Malians have been registered to vote. Two days to the poll, electoral officials scrambled to issue voting cards amid complaints of disorganization. Other voters nonetheless looked to the elections hoping they will set the country back on the path to recovery.

“Mali has suffered political and military instability these past months,” said Aboubacar Hamidine, a refugee in neighbouring Niger. “I am going to vote to end this instability.”, he said before the voting day.

Forty-year old Hamadikane Maiga, who was also forced to seek refuge in Niger told IRIN: “We hope that these presidential elections will bring lasting peace to our country. This will usher a new era in Mali.”

According to Mariam Sangaré, a teacher in the Malian capital, Bamako, “The top priority for the new president must be the reconciliation between all Malians, because we are divided, south versus north and vice versa.”

While Bamako shop-keeper, Oumar Oulk Mammouny, stressed the economy must come first. “The economy is in pieces. Everything has stopped…the new president has to give us confidence that we’ll be able to eat three times a day.”

Malian authorities have made plans for refugees in next-door Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger to take part in the election. However, only 19,000 registered to vote out of 73,000 refugees of voting age, said the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), which is helping with voting in the camps. The delay in issuing voters cards has affected many within Mali as well.

“I was here two weeks ago. I waited for two hours, before I gave up,” said Mariam Guindo, who had gone to Bamako to pick up her card. “I hope I will have my card today so I don’t have to come back a third time.”

France, which sent troops in January to beat back Islamist militants who threatened to march onto Bamako from Mali’s north, pressed for the vote to be held. Observers have raised concern over the timing of the elections, arguing that while they are important in helping Mali back on its feet, their credibility were as equally critical.

A UN peacekeeping force is currently rolling out in Mali, taking up from African troops who have been in the country for some months, but have largely been off the combat scene.

“Disastrous” process

Tiébilé Dramé, a former minister and chief negotiator between Mali’s interim government and Tuareg rebels, termed the elections preparations “disastrous”. He withdrew from the presidential race after his attempt to have the courts move the election date was rejected.

“Organizing elections without the full participation of the population in the [northern] region of Kidal, and possibly Gao and Timbuktu will only deepen the divide between the north and the south and possibly lead to new rebellions,” he said.

“What other country would accept an imperfect vote. If this is only to have an elected government in Bamako, why not wait two, three months until the situation has stabilized,” said Ousmane Maiga, who was displaced from his home in Mali’s northern Gao region and is now living in Bamako.

Disgruntled troops overthrew then president Amadu Toumani Touré in March 2012 on charges that his government had failed to tackle a Tuareg rebellion in the north. The coup however, eased the way for the Tuaregs to seize swathes of territory before being ousted by Islamist rebels, some linked to Al-Qaeda, who imposed strict Islamic law during their occupation of the northern half of the country.

The violence and insecurity has left more than 175,000 Malians living across the borders and 353,455 others displaced within the country, according to UNHCR.

In Mauritania and Burkina Faso only about five percent of the refugees had received voting cards by voting day.

“We made lists of all refugees who are eligible to vote and sent them Bamako. Out of 4,161 names on our list, the authorities could only identify 932 people,” said UNHCR’s Charlotte Arnaud.

“We were registered in Bamako in 2010 and I should be having my card, but I don’t,” said Ousmane Ag Dalla, the head of Tuareg refugees in Burkina Faso. “Things have been rushed and people are not ready.

“Mali is not ready to hold proper elections, but it’s better to do it because we will never be ready as there are so many problems. We from the north are hoping to have a president so that the underlying problems can be tackled by a legitimate president,” he said before the voting day.

The Malians expect results on Friday, a week after the vote..

kh/bb/bo/ob/aj/oa source http://www.irinnews.org

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Norway condemns the use of violence in Egypt

Posted by African Press International on July 29, 2013

Norway condemns the use of violence in Egypt. The transitional government and the army carry a heavy responsibility to stop a downward spiral of violence,” commented Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide.

Norway is following the situation in Egypt closely and is very concerned about the latest developments. Since the army removed President Morsi from power, Norway has emphasised that the transitional government must ensure that the democratic process is put back on track as soon as possible.

“Political detainees must be released and all political groups must be given a real opportunity to participate in the democratisation of Egypt,” said Mr Eide.

“In these dramatic days for Egypt, we urge all sides to show restraint.”

“The developments over the next days will decide how Norway will view the removal of president Morsi. We are very concerned about the use of force against the protesters. The Army and the transitional government must respect the right of the Egyptian people to demonstrate in support of their views,” said Mr Eide.

 

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Kenya: Press statement by Nyanza Council of Church Leaders

Posted by African Press International on July 28, 2013

We the Church Leaders in this Region view the turn of event of some other Jubilee Leaders trying to taint the Good Name of our former Prime Minister Raila Amolo Odinga that he wanted to overthrow the Government, those were analogue tactics of old reign to divide the attention of people of Kenya, Former Prime Minister  has done a lot in this Country  and he is a man of Peace all along.

We want Jubilee Government to fulfill their pledges they made to Kenyans during their campaign.

Beside that, he was the Co-Principal with the Former President H.E. Hon. Mwai Kibaki.  He should be given same treatment as the Former Head of State.

Now we are appealing to Jubilee Government, to accord him respect he deserve as the Former Prime Minister, and the six Government Vehicles should remain in his custody. By History, Kenyan people are more free because of the suffering of His Father and Himself, by steering freedom of speech and devolution, that now created County Governments.

We want a united Kenya, not confusion and suspicion among the leadership of this Country.

Let Government to give maximum Security to Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and the Former Vice President Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka for the great work they have done and maintaining peace in Kenya.

The Government Spokes Person Muthui Kariuki should not speak with a lot of bitterness while trying to address issues of Government. He should not be too personal.

God bless Kenya.

Signed on behalf of Nyanza Bishops By:

Bishop Dr. Washington Ogonyo Ngede

CHAIRMAN:  NYANZA COUNCIL OF CHURCH LEADERS

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USA: Angered Kickboxing Champion in a Brawl Over Raila Odinga-led CORD Governors Visiting Memphis

Posted by African Press International on July 28, 2013

—–Main mrssage—–
From: Anthony Elmore [mailto:anthony@elmorecarpets.com]
Sent: 28. july 2013 16:56
To: ‘African Press International’ and many others
copy: many
subject: Kenyan Governor visit cause Bickering in Memphis, Tennessee

  

Dear African Press International

How are you?  It has been a while since we last communicated.  We are still working at developing the “Safari Initiative.”  I was in Kenya in May of 2013.  On July 29, 2013 4 Kenyan governors will visit Memphis, Tennessee.  The Governors visit is a direct result of our “Safari Initiative” proposal.  A group of Kenyan appropriated our ideas in regards of the “Safari Initiative” and put those ideas in the banner of the “Ramogi Economic Forum.”  In our age of “Social Media” it is not good to steal ideas or mislead or misdirect others. 

Kenya Governors will be in Memphis tomorrow on July 29, 2013.  They are not coming to Memphis with “Clean hands.”  The backstabbing, political bickering that you have in Kenya is quite different in America.  Before they even arrive in Memphis they backstabbed me, defaulted on an agreement and they are political in nature.  This group has cause fights in Memphis before they make the 1st speech in Memphis.

Please read my News Release. We wrote a letter to the Kenyan Embassy in America and this nonsense will reach the Kenyan President.

Mr. Thomas Mwangi will you please forward our News Release to the Kenyan Press

————————–

Here below is a press release – in full – sent out to the media by the Kickboxer Mr Elmore who is critical about the visit accusing those who organised the trip to Memphis:

www.africanpress.me/ Kickbox Champ in Brawl Over Kenya Governors Visit to Memphis

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The Killing of Seven UN Peacekeeping Personnel in Darfur

Posted by African Press International on July 28, 2013

African Press International (API)

All evidence to date strongly suggests that the armed force responsible for the killing of seven Tanzanian members of the UN/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is a Khartoum-allied militia force led by Hamouda Bashir (seventeen peacekeeping personnel were wounded, some very seriously).  Radio Dabanga reports today (July 18, 2013), on the basis of a series of interviews with witnesses on the ground, the following (all emphases have been added; there are a few very small edits for clarity, chiefly punctuation):

[Excerpts]

• The UN says the identity of the armed group that ambushed a UNAMID patrol in South Darfur on Saturday morning “has not yet been established”; however, witnesses have told Radio Dabanga that “UN vehicles” were spotted in the area being driven by members of a known government militia.

• During his daily press briefing in New York on…

View original post 1,441 more words

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The Syrians fleeing creating refugee problem in northern Iraq

Posted by African Press International on July 28, 2013

ERBIL,  – On an empty plot of land in northern Iraq next to a beauty salon and opposite a hotel on Erbil’s busy Shoresh Street, Mohammed Hassan sits on a patch of crumpled purple carpet with his wife and their two-year-old son.

Above their heads is a sloping roof of cardboard and blankets, draped over sticks. It offers scant shade from the searing midday sun and their faces are flushed.

Gesturing to a pair of metal crutches on the floor, 24-year-old Hassan peels back his left trouser leg to reveal a reddened, scarred stump.

“I was hit by a bomb in Aleppo,” he said, matter-of-factly. “I had the amputation surgery there and then we decided to leave to come to Iraq. There was nothing left and too much violence.”

Hassan, who travelled with his brother and family in a group of 11, has joined 153,000 Syrians who have fled across the border to the northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of Iraq.

Many have settled at Domiz Camp, around 60km from the border.

But beyond the gates of Domiz, there are an estimated 100,000 Syrian refugees living in towns and cities, around one third of whom live in the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, Erbil.

More than two years into the Syrian crisis, the cost of rent in Erbil is soaring due to demand from both refugees and expatriate oil workers, and savings and job opportunities are dwindling. As a result, some refugees are being pushed out onto the streets – creating an urban refugee problem that aid agencies warn needs an urgent response before it gets out of hand.

Overcrowded camp

Close to the city of Duhok, Domiz Camp was initially planned for 25,000 people but is now home to more than 60,000, testing sanitation and other services to the limit.

Due to the overcrowded conditions at Domiz, even those in the most desperate conditions in Erbil say they do not want to go back to the camp.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in some ways enables this by offering its Syrian refugees renewable six-month work and residency permits. This gives the new arrivals permission to work, access to public health care and education, and freedom of movement, so they are legally allowed to settle in regular communities.

Many of the Syrians arriving in Kurdistan are professionals and most have found work, enabling them to pay for accommodation, or they have found lodgings with friends and family.

Begging for scraps

But according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), in Erbil alone there are around 650 families living rough in partly-constructed buildings and makeshift shelters. Many more are sharing rooms in small apartments, bed-hopping between shifts.

“We have people living in unfinished houses, with no doors, walls, windows or roofs, and sometimes there are three families in each room,” explained Wiyra Jawhar Ahmed, the manager of the Protection Assistance Reintegration Centre (PARC) in Erbil, run by Swedish NGO Qandil, but mainly funded by UNHCR.

“They are collecting rotten food from outside shops and begging at restaurants for scraps. They are also being in some cases exploited by people here who are giving them work but for very low wages,” he added.

Hassan’s brother, whose wife and five children occupy a similar stick and blanket shelter 100m away, has found work on a construction site. But Hassan, who was also a labourer in Syria, says he cannot work because of his leg.

For now he is relying on charity from host communities, who on the whole have responded generously to TV and radio campaigns by supporting the refugees with food and bedding.

A KRG official acknowledged that some of the urban refugees may have been equally vulnerable in Syria, but he said they still had the same right to assistance as other refugees.

Stop-gap solutions

A new refugee camp was supposed to have opened just outside Erbil in May to accommodate people like Hassan and his family, but funding and planning bottlenecks mean it is not likely to be ready until September.

In the meantime, UNHCR, in conjunction with Qandil, is compiling a database of the most vulnerable urban refugees to whom one-time cash payments of US$225 (paid in two separate installments) are being made available.

So far, of the 250 Erbil refugee families classified as “extremely vulnerable”, due to physical disability, chronic illness and other problems, 156 have received money to help pay for healthcare and other basic needs.

Acknowledging this is only a temporary stop-gap, Qandil’s Ahmed told IRIN: “It is critical that we get these families into a camp as soon as possible so we can provide them with food, shelter and health care.”

He added: “We already have other groups of internally displaced persons (IDPs) here, many from the disputed Nineveh Province, and there are growing tensions with people begging.”

Oil-rich Kurdistan?

Rizgar Mustafa, mayor of Khabat, the district where the new camp will be located, blamed a lack of money for the delayed opening. He said the central government of Iraq in Baghdad had failed to support KRG and that international donor funding had also been slow to arrive.

“There is an assumption that Kurdistan is rich in oil and therefore rich in resources so we can provide for the refugees ourselves,” he sighed.

Kurdistan’s economy is booming, thanks to a raft of new oil discoveries and a rush of foreign investment, but the oil industry itself is yet to earn money for KRG, amid a long-running dispute about revenue rights with the central government in Baghdad. Kurdistan’s current oil production – around 200,000 barrels per day – is one tenth of Nigeria’s.

As such, Khabat said, KRG needs donor funding like any other country dealing with the spillover of the Syrian crisis: “The voice of our government is not as strong as that of Turkey and other established states and we have not received the same response as other places,” he said.

As of 22 July, the aid operation in Iraq had received 22 percent of needed funding, compared to 22 percent in Egypt, 25 percent in Turkey, 36 percent in Lebanon and 45 percent in Jordan, according to the latest funding update.

Strategic approach

But funding is just one part of the picture. Both KRG and UNHCR have come in for criticism for how they have responded to Iraq’s urban refugees.

In a report published last month, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) warned that while Iraqi Kurdistan started with a “positive, durable approach” to protect and integrate Syrian refugees, the lack of funding and political and technical support was “presenting substantial economic and social challenges”.

Sara Eliasi, a protection and advocacy adviser with NRC, told IRIN: “The government was very willing to receive these refugees but they didn’t necessarily envisage or understand the implications and the commitment that it would imply.

“They didn’t prepare and they didn’t plan for it and unfortunately the international community and international NGOs did not come in and fill that gap and provide a strategic approach.”

Prioritizing urban refugees

One UNHCR staff member admitted privately: “Urban refugees were not seen as a priority, even though they numbered far more than those in camps, but now we are all working together on a new strategy going forward to address the issues.”

Aurvasi Patel, acting head of UNHCR’s North of Iraq office, said: “In consultation with the Kurdish authorities, we implemented a joint response to the refugees living in camps as a strategic priority…

“However, in recognition of the fact that the needs get bigger and that the non-camp refugees were as vulnerable as those living in camps, we started to proportionally direct assistance to ensure an equal response.”

Border closures

Since mid-May, according to UNHCR, the main river crossing point into Iraqi Kurdistan at Peshkapor has been largely restricted.

Dindar Zebari, a senior KRG Foreign Ministry representative, denied the unofficial crossing was totally closed but admitted security had been enhanced.

“There must be clear evidence; those who are crossing the border are very much in need of protection and support,” he said.

Al-Qa’im border crossing, controlled by the central government based in Baghdad, has been closed for months.

The closures have sparked outrage from rights groups but officials at Domiz camp have quietly welcomed the time to catch up with camp extension plans that had been constantly on the back foot due to the sheer volume of daily arrivals.

The new camp, known as Dara Shakran, is about 30 minutes’ drive north of Erbil and will have an initial capacity of around 10,000, though the final details are still being worked out.

Mayor Mustafa insisted the camp will have no fences and is aimed at providing basic services, not containing the refugees. But some urban refugees may want to stay put.

Community workers have warned this may test the patience of host communities that are increasingly unhappy about the rise in begging and other harmful coping responses such as sex work.

Hassan’s sister-in-law, Sharda, a mother of five with the youngest just three months, told IRIN: “If my husband has work here in Erbil, then I won’t go to the camp.”

lr/ha/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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On guard: Cholera down but officials vigilant

Posted by African Press International on July 28, 2013

DAKAR,  – Some 1,700 people in West Africa have contracted cholera since mid-June, a significant decline compared to the same seven-week period in 2012 when 11,834 were affected.

Overall, 50,439 people contracted cholera in West and Central Africa in 2012, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Sierra Leone and Guinea saw 30,000 people infected and 400 deaths.

This year, most of the cases are in Guinea Bissau (652), Sierra Leone (367) and Niger (354).

“It seems we are winning the fight thus far, but we must strictly monitor the West African coastal countries [Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone] since they were so affected by cholera last year,” said François Bellet, West Africa cholera focal point for UNICEF.

Cholera often follows two-year cycles, with immunity building following an epidemic.

In Guinea-Bissau between 11 March and 8 July, 158 cases were confirmed and 18 people died of cholera. Despite fatality rates of 11 percent, Guinea’s health minister declared on 11 July “there is no scientific evidence about a cholera outbreak.”

In Mali, where no new cases have been reported in the past five weeks, the government and aid agencies launched aggressive prevention actions when cholera broke out across the border in Niger.

Guinean health officials have worked with Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) and UNICEF to vaccinate 3,740 people in the Mènyingbé Islands, near Conakry, to prevent cholera from spreading. Last year MSF launched the vaccine in Guinea for the first time. Guinea has registered 115 cases and seven deaths since 19 March.

The cholera caseload may be higher than reported, said Bellet. “Some deaths are not reported in order to avoid high fatality rates or for political reasons. But if they’re not identified, we can’t provide adequate response,” he told IRIN.

Further, the caseload usually peaks towards the end of the rainy season (in September) so health workers must remain alert, said Bruno Ngandu Kazadi, information focal point for cholera for the West Africa office of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). “If rains are as strong as in 2012, we risk similar outbreak spikes,” he said.

Correctly diagnosing transmission contexts, reinforcing risk reduction strategies in the most affected zones, national planning, and promoting an intersectoral approach are also essential for prevention and treatment, say aid agencies and health officials.

cr/aj/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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