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Archive for August 16th, 2013

Norway: Experiencing Karaoke music in Expressen Pub in Oslo Business District

Posted by African Press International on August 16, 2013

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“I am deeply concerned over the difficult working conditions for humanitarian workers in Somalia; Says Norwegian Minister

Posted by African Press International on August 16, 2013

“I am deeply concerned over the difficult working conditions for humanitarian workers in Somalia, and the security risks for those seeking to access aid. The population is in need of humanitarian support in many areas of the country, and the right to safely receive aid should be respected by all parts of the conflict,” said Minister of International Development Heikki Eidsvoll Holmås.

Somalis has been suffering from armed conflict for more than two decades. Despite some political progress over the last year, the security situation remains difficult and unpredictable in many areas. Yesterday, Médecins Sans Frontières announced the closure of all its medical programmes in Somalia due to unacceptable working conditions including the killing of staff and attacks on medical facilities. The organisation carried out more than 624 000 medical consultations in the country in 2012 alone, and their efforts will be greatly missed by those in need.

“Médecins Sans Frontières has performed life-saving and courageous work for the people in Somalia for 22 years. The fact that they have now made the tough decision to pull out of the country sends a strong message on the extent that humanitarian space is being compromised. People in dire need should be able to receive the assistance they need and aid workers should be able to carry out their duties without risking their lives,” said Mr Holmås.

Norway provides extensive humanitarian and development aid to Somalia, and will continue its efforts to promote political stability and peaceful development in the country. In 2012, Norway started to cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Norwegian Red Cross on the initiative “Health Care in Danger”. The initiative aims to increase awareness of the consequences of attacks on health personnel and facilities in crisis situations, and how this can be mitigated. 

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An estimated 2.3 million people remain displaced as a result of the decade-long conflict and insecurity in Darfur

Posted by African Press International on August 16, 2013

Analysts fear local means of solving disputes in Sudan’s Darfur can still collapse

NAIROBI,  – The UN estimates that the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region has seen some 300,000 people displaced so far in 2013 – twice as many as in 2011 and 2012, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Darfur has seen a new wave of fighting in many areas in 2013. More than 300,000 people have had to flee their homes to escape violence since the beginning of the year, including over 35,000 people who have crossed the borders into Chad and the Central African Republic. The crisis is getting bigger,” Mark Cutts, OCHA head of office in Sudan, told IRIN.

An estimated 2.3 million people remain displaced as a result of the decade-long conflict and insecurity.

IRIN looks at the humanitarian situation in Darfur and the causes of the current wave of conflict there.

What is the humanitarian situation like in Darfur?

UN agency figures indicate there are 1.4 million people living in the main camps in Sudan’s Darfur region.

Cutts, however, told IRIN that the “actual numbers of IDPs [internally displaced persons] in camps are significantly higher as many of the IDPs living in smaller camps/settlements are not included in these figures and many IDPs in the bigger camps remain unregistered.”

Many of those affected by the conflict are unable to receive any humanitarian assistance as insecurity has hampered efforts by aid workers to reach them. In total, 3.2 million people – more than a third of Darfur’s population – are in need of humanitarian assistance in Darfur.

“Road insecurity remains a major problem affecting movement of humanitarian staff and supplies in Central Darfur. The problem has been compounded by recent increased clashes between Misseriya and Salamat tribesmen in different parts of Central Darfur, as well as the reported movement of armed groups in the state,” OCHA said in a recent bulletin.

A recent survey by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) revealed that the violence in Darfur was a major cause of mortality among refugees and Chadian returnees crossing into Tissi to escape the violence in Darfur.

According to MSF, “61 percent of the 194 reported deaths were caused by violence, most of them (111 out of 119) by gunshots and linked to specific episodes of violence preceding the two major waves of displacements, one in early February and the other in early April.”

Nine out of 10 deaths MSF recorded during its assessment were caused by gunshot wounds. In east Darfur alone, an estimated 305 people had been killed as a result of violent clashes between the Rizeigat and Ma’alia tribes in August alone.

Peacekeepers, too, have not been spared. In July seven peacekeepers with the UN mission there were killed in an ambush – the worst in the five-year history of the UN peacekeeping operations in Sudan – bringing to 13 the number of peacekeepers killed in Darfur since October 2012.

Some 50,000 Darfur refugees have crossed into Chad. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has described it as the “largest influx of Sudanese refugees into Chad since 2005”.

“[The] state is not in control of the situation nor is it able to disperse the fighting”

Officials in Darfur have admitted that the violence is now beyond the control of the state.

“[The] state is not in control of the situation nor is it able to disperse the fighting,” Abdul Hamid Musa Kasha, governor of east Darfur, told Radio Dabanga.

What are the challenges facing aid agencies in Darfur?

The deteriorating security situation has meant many aid agencies are unable to keep their staff on the ground in Darfur. Some have had their field offices looted.

In July an international NGO was robbed of an estimated US$40,000 when armed men entered their office in Central Darfur’s capital, Zalingei. In the same month, armed men stopped two buses and five trucks near Thur in Nertiti Locality while on their way from Zalingei to Nyala in South Darfur. The drivers and passengers were robbed of all personal items; one passenger was shot and injured while resisting the attack.

In May, two vehicles rented by an international NGO and carrying seven staff were carjacked in Wadi Salih Locality.

Earlier in February, the rented vehicle of another international NGO was ambushed north of Zalingei. Staff were robbed of all personal possessions.

“Commercial transporters are currently unwilling to transport relief supplies from El Geneina (West Darfur) and Zalingei to areas in the southern corridor localities – mainly Mukjar, Um Dukhun and Bindisi – due to security concerns,” OCHA said in its July bulletin.

Sudanese analyst Eric Reeves, a professor at the Smith College (USA), said in a recent analysis that “over the past year and more… violence has called into serious question the viability of any substantial ongoing relief efforts in the region. Virtually no international (expatriate) staff remain in Darfur, certainly not in the field or in remote locations – either for critical assessment work or to provide oversight for aid distribution. And as the recent killing of two workers for World Vision in their Nyala compound makes clear, there is no place of real safety in Darfur.”

OCHA’s Cutts told IRIN that while aid agencies have access to most of those in need in Darfur, “the continued insecurity and fighting and government restrictions on movement” had clearly affected aid agencies’ ability to operate.

“This has a direct impact on the ability of humanitarian actors to assess humanitarian needs and to ensure that people in need receive the assistance they require, particularly in areas of ongoing conflict,” he added.

In its 2013 World Report, Human Rights Watch said the Sudanese regime “continued to deny peacekeepers from the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) access to much of Darfur” and that “lawlessness and insecurity hampered the work of the peacekeepers and aid groups. Armed gunmen attacked and killed peacekeepers, including four Nigerians in October, abducted UNAMID and humanitarian staff and carjacked dozens of vehicles.”

According to Smith College’s Reeves, “opportunistic banditry has grown steadily and become a deeply debilitating threat to humanitarian operations. Fighting among Arab tribal groups has been a constant for a number of years, and has contributed steadily to instability and violence in Darfur.”

The Sudanese government too stands accused: “Khartoum has deliberately crippled UNAMID as an effective force for civilian and humanitarian protection. Opposed from the beginning by the regime, the mission cannot begin to fulfil its UN Security Council civilian protection mandate, and indeed operates only insofar as Khartoum’s security forces permit,” Reeves noted.

Who are the combatants in Darfur?

The conflict in Darfur is being waged on many fronts and by different actors. It involves three main rebel groups fighting the government: the SLA(Sudan Liberation Army)-Abdul Wahid faction, the SLA-Minni Minawi faction, and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). And while all these rebel groups are fighting under the auspices of the Sudanese Revolutionary Front, they are also divided largely along ethnic lines, with the SLA-Abdul Wahid faction being drawn mainly from the Fur tribe, and the SLA-Minni Minawi and JEM originally being drawn many from the Zaghawa tribe.

Peacekeepers and aid workers have not been spared the violence in Darfur

Meanwhile, there is inter-tribal violence between the Misseriya and Salamat, and another conflict between the Reizegat and Beni Hussein ethnic groups.

Cutts told IRIN: “This year we have also seen a new wave of localized conflict, including not only the familiar fighting between Arab and non-Arab tribes [e.g. between the Beni Halba and the Gimir; and between the Beni Halba and the Dajo] but also an increase in intra-Arab fighting [e.g. between the Salamat and the Misseriya; and most recently between the Rezeigat and the Maaliya].”

There have been clashes between government forces and militia too. In July there were violent clashes between government forces and Arab militia in the Darfur capital of Nyala, leaving many dead and many more displaced.

What is driving the conflict in Darfur?

“Underpinning almost all of the conflicts in Darfur are the disputes over land ownership and land use. Indeed, much of what is commonly referred to as “inter-tribal fighting” or fighting over “economic resources” actually relates primarily to disputes over land and access to water and grazing for animals,” Cutts, told IRIN.

The recent clashes in Darfur have mostly been as a result of inter-tribal disputes over grazing land and gold-mining rights.

In January, violence broke out between the Northern Reizegat and Beni Hussein ethnic groups over control of gold mines in the Jebel Amir area of North Darfur State.

“The gold rush in Sudan is further complicating matters. At the beginning of the year there were over 60,000 migrant gold workers in North Darfur alone. In January, disputes over gold mining rights drew two Arab tribes, the Beni Hussein and the Northern Rezeigat, into a conflict that resulted in many deaths and the displacement of over 100,000 people. And this was not the first violent incident related to gold mining in Darfur,” said Cutts.

Analysts fear the competition for other resources such as gum Arabic might lead to future violent inter-communal conflicts.

In July, Human Security Baseline Assessment for Sudan (HBAS), part of the Small Arms Survey, a project of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, noted: “New conflict trends have emerged in 2013. The most prominent of these, resource-based conflict in the Jebel Amir area of North Darfur over control of artisanal gold mining and trade, began in January 2013…

“Other resources have also generated inter-communal violence: in South Darfur, the Gimir and Bani Halba have clashed over the harvesting of gum Arabic,” it added.

What is the status of the peace process?

Numerous peace processes to end the conflict between the government of Sudan and the various armed groups operating in Darfur have not borne much fruit. These include one in Abuja in 2006, and another in 2007 in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. The latest such initiative was in Doha.

Signed between the Sudanese government and armed groups, they have generally been dogged by a lack of legitimacy and deemed not inclusive enough.

“The second challenge concerns poor implementation of the DDPD [Doha Document for Peace in Darfur] and a lack of inclusivity. Promised funds from both the government of Sudan and donors have been slow to arrive, which has further delayed the activities of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA), established in December 2011 as the lead actor for the implementation of the agreement,” said the HBAS report.

“The third challenge to the formal peace process is the significant deterioration in security across Darfur in 2013, as local peace mechanisms struggle to contain inter-communal violence, exacerbated by government actions.”

Locally, state officials say they are mulling the idea of bringing together leaders of the warring tribes to cease hostilities and bring the conflict to an end.

ko/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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South Africa; Almost 20 years after the end of apartheid, small-scale black farmers are still marginalized

Posted by African Press International on August 16, 2013

Almost 20 years after the end of apartheid, small-scale black farmers are still marginalized

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Dropping “willing buyer, willing seller”
  • Proposed new laws still problematic
  • Lack of good data
  • Need to define beneficiaries

DURBAN,  – This year marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the South African Land Act, which restricted black people from buying or occupying land except as employees of white people. The Act gave white people ownership of 87 percent of land, leaving the black majority to settle in the remaining 13 percent.

Although the law was replaced by a policy of land restitution when the African National Congress (ANC) government came to power more than 19 years ago, South Africa is still struggling to reverse the Act’s impact. There have been problems and controversies with both policy and implementation of the land reform agenda, which uses redistribution, restitution and tenure reform to make the much-needed changes.

IRIN takes a look at some of the problems that have slowed reform.

Willing buyer, willing seller

The government’s restitution policy has taken a “willing buyer, willing seller” approach, as opposed to the expropriation route adopted by neighbouring Zimbabwewhich resulted in political, social and economic instability.

The South African government has been paying market value for the disputed land before it is handed over to the original owners, who were dispossessed during apartheid.

But the government admits the process has siphoned off its resources and delayed the reform process considerably. It had been paying twice as much for land restitution as it was for distribution.

Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti told parliament recently that from 1994 to 31 January 2013 the government spent over US$1.2 billion buying 4.1 billion hectares of land for redistribution, while spending over $1.6 billion on 1.4 billion hectares for restitution.

“The small, white landed class has benefitted R10.8 billion [over $1 billion] from land acquired, while the 71,292 working class claimants benefited R6 billion [about $600 million],” said the minister. Nkwinti also indicated that “claimants have chosen financial compensation over land restoration. This is a reflection of poverty, unemployment and income want”.

Critics on the left argue it also reflects the lack of a coherent strategy to enhance food security, aid poor urban populations living on marginal land, aid the predominantly black rural population, and support emerging black small and commercial farmers. Government detractors on the right have called land reform a ticking time bomb that could turn South Africa into Zimbabwe.

In response to criticism, the government has introduced several new initiatives in recent months, such as the Property Valuations Bill, the Expropriation Bill and the Restitution Amendment Bill]. But the new legislation has only stirred up more debate.

Just and equitable compensation

To shorten the time taken to finalize claims and to reduce the amount of money spent, the government said earlier this year it is dropping the “willing buyer, willing seller” principle, pursuing instead a “just and equitable” principle for compensation, which is set out in the constitution.

The constitution allows for expropriating property “even in cases where the owners of that property are unwilling to part with the property… if the expropriation is aimed at redistributing land to address the effects of widespread colonial and apartheid-era land dispossession “, writes legal expert Pierre de Vos, who teaches law at the University of Cape Town.

But the constitution says a “just and equitable” compensation must be paid for the property expropriated; it says nothing about paying market value. The proposed Valuations Bill will create an Office of the Valuer-General to develop criteria for determining what just value and compensation are.

De Vos says the proposed bills will provide the government with a new approach to accelerate land reform. He also suggested that setting up a valuations court could guard against corruption and help keep the process valid.

The government has also proposed amendments to the 1994 Restitution of Land Rights Act, which would re-open the processing of restitution claims for people who missed the 31 December 1998 deadline.

But Ruth Hall, a senior researcher with the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), writes that the bill might delay the process of restitution by another two decades. It also requires claimants to prove that they will use the land productively.

“It is astonishing that such conditionality is being proposed; existing (mostly white) landowners do not have to prove that they can use their land productively in order to keep hold of it,” Hall wrote.

“Land restitution is a very complex issue, and it straddles over various departments. We are doing as much as we can, and now we are all working together to try and speed up the process,” said Palesa Mokomele, spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Lack of good data

But there is not enough “reliable and detailed empirical data on small-scale farming in South Africa, and in particular on farming by land-reform bene?ciaries,” said Ben Cousins, senior professor at PLAAS.

According to the government, between 1994 and the end of March 2013, 4,860 farms have been transferred to black people and communities through the redistribution programme, totalling over 4 million hectares. Almost a quarter of a million people have benefitted through land reform, including over 50,000 women, 32,000 youth and 674 people with disabilities.

Yet is unclear whether the transfer recipients have retained the farms. There is no national registry of farmers in the country, but pilot studies have shown that many new black farmers may have given up on their farms. There is currently no tangible way to determine whether the transfer of land to black hands has been successful or transformed the lives of the needy.

Additionally, much of the policy literature in South Africa tends to overlook class dynamics, using terms such as “smallholder” and “small-scale” farmer, which ignore differences within these broad categories, Cousins said in a paper. There is a failure to acknowledge how these differences will impact the effectiveness of agricultural support.

Many researchers tend to lump black farmers into groups – a large group comprising “subsistence or semi-subsistence” farming households and a smaller group of “commercially oriented, ‘semi-commercial’ or ‘emerging commercial’ smallholders,” wrote Cousins.

The government has said that “black commercial farmers” are the main beneficiaries of its land redistribution programme. But as Donna Hornby, a PhD student at PLAAS points out, the government’s definition of what constitutes a black commercial farmer is not very clear.

Financial support

In 2004, the government launched the comprehensive agricultural support programme (CASP), which was meant to help black farmers.

“CASP accounts for a large share of the agricultural support budget but, despite dramatic increases in this budget over the years, it is supporting progressively fewer people. [Our analysis shows] the available funds are being diverted to relatively few capital-intensive projects, leaving most black farming households with zero, or nearly zero, support of any kind,” Hall wrote in a paper co-authored with Michael Aliber, another PLAAS senior researcher.

The “subsistence-oriented households” do not get any support; in fact, they have to rely on social grants to keep themselves out of poverty, according tonumerous studies by PLAAS.

In her research of a land reform project in KwaZulu-Natal Province, Hornby found that even when black farmers did receive support, “farm income gains go mainly to 20 percent of the households who own most of the cattle, and the total income from farming does not exceed the total income from social grants.”

Aliber and Hall suggest that the government “provide generic support and infrastructure” where small farmers are concentrated.

Relying on the private sector

The government, meanwhile, has been advocating more reliance on the private sector to provide support to small emerging commercial farmers. Mandla Buthelezi is one farmer who has benefited from the private sector; he and several other black small-scale farmers in KwaZulu-Natal recently landed a deal to supply potatoes and other vegetables to the food processing giant McCain Foods Limited.

Buthelezi and the others struck this deal themselves, but the government has been involved in public-private partnerships benefiting other farmers, most of whom are black. One such partnership involved growing maize to supply the beer maker SABMiller.

But Cousins points out that this kind of support is not always sustainable and only benefits a limited number of people. “It cannot replace government support – the government needs to spend on agriculture,” he told IRIN.

The government’s spending is still short of the required 10 percent of GDP African governments agreed in 2003 to invest in agriculture to address food insecurity on the continent.

cnm/jk/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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South Sudan is yet to replicate its success in eradicating polio in eliminating other diseases

Posted by African Press International on August 16, 2013

South Sudan is yet to replicate its success in eradicating polio in eliminating other diseases

JUBA,  – South Sudan is doing its bit for global polio eradication efforts, but huge gaps in immunization against other diseases remain.

Targeted polio immunization efforts started in the area more than a decade before the country’s independence in 2011 and have remained a top priority. There has not been a single case of polio for more than four years.

Health officials and humanitarian groups are trying to build on this success to improve other immunization efforts, including neonatal tetanus and measles, but more funding and a better health infrastructure are urgently needed.

To combat the re-emergence of polio, Anthony Kirbak, the director of the country’s expanded programme on immunization (EMI), said the Ministry of Health and humanitarian organizations have had to figure out how to circumvent low routine childhood immunization rates.

Every child in the country is supposed to be vaccinated against tuberculosis, polio, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and measles by its first birthday. Kirbak said that only happens for about 65 percent of the country’s children due to a scant health infrastructure, poor roads and cyclical violence in some areas of the country.

To bump up the vaccination rates for polio, the Ministry of Health sends thousands of volunteers out across the country four times a year to immunize every child they can find who is under six. Kirbak said they regularly reach more than 90 percent of the children.

He said South Sudan’s specific focus on polio vaccination stems from the international pressure to completely eradicate the disease.

“The emphasis is because the whole world is supposed to eradicate polio,” Kirbak said. “The only way to do that where there is fragile health system and weak routine immunization, it has to go in the form of campaigns so that many children are reached in a short time.”

The global public health community was originally gunning for full eradication by 2000. They missed the deadline, but according to the World Health Organization (WHO) polio cases worldwide are lower than ever before – there were only 223 in 2012, down from nearly 2,000 a decade before. Kirbak said South Sudan has an international obligation to stay vigilant until well after that number hits zero.

Emergency campaign

Meanwhile, health officials are rolling out an emergency vaccination campaign next week following polio outbreaks in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp in April, and an outbreak in Somalia in May. There are now 110 confirmed polio cases between the two countries.

“Due to our proximity [to Kenya and Somalia] and the low immunization coverage in the country, we actually made an assessment of the risk areas,” Kirbak said. “It was found that we have four states (out of 10) that are at risk of importation, if at all any wild polio outbreak is brought into the country, then we’ll be in danger.”

So vaccines are being distributed to the four states and an additional county in South Sudan where people travelling from Kenya and Somalia are most likely to arrive. For four days next week volunteer vaccinators will immunize every child they can find.

Awareness up

Kirbak credits the country’s efforts to keep polio at bay with strengthening the health system generally. By training volunteer vaccinators and health workers to immunize against polio, they have increased general awareness about the importance of all immunizations.

That does not mean the routine immunizations are always available, even if people want them, either because they are cut off from health centres or because there are no staff to administer the vaccines. Kirbak said there has been improvement – routine immunization rates were up to 65 percent last year from 20 percent in 2007 – but acknowledges that it is still too low, which is why South Sudan will continue to deploy targeted vaccination campaigns until the health system gets stronger.

Officials are borrowing the polio campaign model for an ongoing neonatal tetanus vaccination campaign that has so far reached seven states and a measles immunization outreach that should start next year.

UNICEF provides almost all polio vaccines

Polio eradication efforts are propped up by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) which provides almost all of the vaccines in the country. WHO covers the logistics of transporting them. The government contributes money to cover some of the health workers’ salaries, but Kirbak said the resources simply are not there for the state to do much more. That is why the measles campaign next year is only tentative as EMI waits to see if funding becomes available.

Meanwhile, Daniel Babelwa Ngemera, an immunization specialist with UNICEF, said that as South Sudan searches for funds to launch campaigns or strengthen routine immunization coverage, it is falling further behind other countries in the region, like Kenya. Their basic immunization package includes vaccines against pneumococcal – a strain of pneumonia – and rotavirus, which can cause severe diarrhoea in infants and children.

“Our children in South Sudan, they are not benefiting on that,” Ngemera said. “We are trying our level best to make sure at least the country is able to catch up, to be moving also with the other countries in the region.”

South Sudan will soon submit a proposal to the GAVI Alliance, a public-private partnership that helps countries access vaccines, asking for money to help strengthen the health system. Kirbak would not say how much they were asking for, but said it should boost the health system enough to “avert the issue of campaigns”.

MSF action in refugee camp

In the meantime, state officials ask NGOs and humanitarian organizations to introduce immunization coverage where they can.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) started a three-part pneumococcal vaccination campaign in Yida refugee camp in South Sudan’s Unity State last month. The camp holds more than 75,000 refugees, mostly Sudanese who have fled violence in Sudan’s South Kordofan region.

“They’re living in makeshift structures,” said Christopher Mambula, MSF’s country medical coordinator. “It’s more densely populated. They’re not living under normal conditions in buildings and structures like that, which makes for easier propagation of pneumococcus from one person to another.”

Roughly a quarter of all in-patient treatment in the camp last year was for lower respiratory infections.

Mambula said in the first round of the campaign vaccinators were able to reach about 4,300 children under two. They will go back out this month to administer the second dose and the third will follow in September.

Kirbak said the pneumococcal vaccine is one of many on the list of vaccines he plans to introduce to the country as soon as he can find the money.

Immunization data in South Sudan is patchy. WHO and UNICEF’s “estimates of immunization coverage” for 2012 note that immunization rates “are based on data and information that are of varying, and, in some instances, unknown quality”.

ag/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

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