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Action needed for the eradication slavery and child labour in Ghana

Posted by African Press International on December 5, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 3, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ The United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Gulnara Shahinian, urged the Government of Ghana to consolidate the important steps it has taken with strong and sustainable implementation strategies with measurable impact on groups at risk as well as victims of slavery.

“Further progress on eradicating the various forms of modern day slavery and exploitation in Ghana can only be achieved by addressing the root causes sustaining these practices, including poverty, regional disparities and the lack of access to livelihoods, education and health,” the expert said. A human rights-based approach is essential to do this.

“During my visit, I have seen that child labour, including in its worst forms continues to thrive in some communities. Children, some as young as 4 years of age, continue to be sent to work in fishing communities where they do dangerous work, are deprived of an education and are not paid,” she noted.

Ms. Shahinian hailed the steps taken by some of these fishing communities to ban child labour in their villages and to extend their child protection work to neighboring areas. “More community awareness raising and livelihoods are needed,” she explained. Children also work in hazardous and slavery conditions in the artisan mining sector, and in the cocoa sector – though the latter has seen significant improvements.

“I had the opportunity to speak to girls engaged in survival and commercial sex in Accra and Kayayes in the market who sleep in the open in appalling conditions with very young children and are regularly exposed to rape, exploitation and abuse, the the Special Rapporteur said. “These women and girls, as well as the children who accompany them are vulnerable to become victims of trafficking, sexual exploitation, forced and bonded labour and other forms of slavery. In addition to poverty, some are fleeing from early and forced marriages.”

Domestic servitude, often involving young children is another form of contemporary slavery which is believed to be rampant and must be studied and addressed. Equally there is a need to understand better the dynamics of forced labour and other forms of slavery along the person’s life cycle and pay greater attention to the situation of adults, on which there is too little effort and information.

The independent expert noted that many of these situations of exploitation increasingly occur in the context of the large waves of internal migration from poor rural areas to urban centres. “It is critical to invest in areas of origin and to invest heavily in the management of urban development, so that poor informal settlements or slums do not become sourcing centres for all forms of slave labour and trafficking for criminals,” Ms. Shahinian stressed.

The government of Ghana has taken the important step of recognizing the existence of slavery, of adopting legislative frameworks, and putting in place a number of institutional mechanisms and programs, such as in the area of child labor, and human trafficking. They have adopted the National Plan of Action (NPA) for the Elimination of the Worst forms of Child Labor, which aims to eradicate such practices by 2015, and ratified a number of international agreements, including key human right and ILO Conventions.

“I commend the authorities for these efforts and for establishing these frameworks,” the Special Rapporteur said. “I now urge the Government, in partnership with other stakeholders, to ensure that these frameworks become genuine tools for change.”

The expert warned that “budgetary allocations from the national budget to relevant ministries, departments and programs are inadequate, as is data collection, which is necessary to inform actions and understand the magnitude of the problem.”

In her view, greater and urgent efforts are necessary to ensure that social protection programs are rationalized, purposeful, and sustainable. These must be able to effectively identify and target the most vulnerable, be sufficiently resourced, and informed by a truly participatory and bottom-up approach.

Other challenges include coordination between relevant government structures and programs, the need for greater inclusion of civil society and affected communities at every stage, and genuine decentralisation which is more representational, able to reach all communities and supported with sufficient resources.

“The importance of education was stressed by everyone I encountered on this visit,” Ms. Shahinian noted. “Communities explained how critical education was to keep children out of child labour, while mothers working in terrible condition in the streets or in markets explained their objective was to earn money to send their children to school. Effective access to basic services such as primary education, adequate housing and health continue to be a challenge for many, despite favorable legislation.”

“Using a human rights-based approach can empower all stakeholders, including Government, and affected communities to address these rights as well as other socio-economic rights from the point of view of good governance and accountability,” she underscored.

During her nine-day mission, The Special Rapporteur visited various fishing communities in the lake Volta region, a rehabilitation centre, outdoor markets and other areas in Accra. She met with Government representatives, law enforcement agencies, victims, traditional community chiefs, teachers, members of community child protection committees, and international and civil society organisations.

Ms. Shahinian will present the findings of the visit to the Human Rights Council in September 2014.

 

SOURCE

United NationsOffice of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

 

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Ghana’s criminal justice need critical attention to be more humane

Posted by African Press International on November 16, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 15, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, today expressed deep concern about the situation of overcrowding in prisons in Ghana. “The overcrowding rate in some places that I visited is easily between 200 to 500%,” he warned at the end of his first official visit* to Ghana.

“Overcrowding gives rise to other human rights violations such as poor quality and quantity of food, poor hygiene, lack of adequate sleeping accommodation, insufficient air ventilation, a high risk of contamination of diseases, as well as very limited access to medical treatment, recreational activities or work opportunities,” Mr. Méndez said.

“These conditions constitute in themselves a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” stressed the independent expert charged by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor a report on the use torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the world.

The UN expert came across and documented a clear case of caning used as a disciplinary measure against several youth at the Senior Correctional Centre in Accra, the only facility dedicated to juveniles. “I have urged the authorities to conduct an immediate independent and impartial inquiry to establish accountability for this serious act of torture against children,” he said.

“The Government must ratify and implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture as a matter of national urgency. Among other things, this will allow a national system of regular prison monitoring by independent experts,” the rights expert stressed.

Mr. Méndez learned that family visits from children under 18 years old are not allowed in the Ghanaian prisons. “Denial of visits by children constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment not only of the inmates but of the children as well,” he cautioned.

“The Government should reconsider this issue, which is not resource dependent and could go a long way to help the mental state of inmates, in particular of female prisoners with small children,” the independent expert noted.

“In all places visited,” the Special Rapporteur said, “an extremely poor standard of equipment, absence of qualified doctors, an apparent lack of medicine and limited medical screening.” He also received numerous complaints regarding the quantity and quality of the food provided by the prison authorities.

The human rights expert pointed out that family visits are an issue of survival in detention facilities throughout Ghana. “Inmates told me they are dependent on their families to bring them medicines,” he said. “If transferred to a prison far from the family inmates may not receive additional food or medicine.”

Visiting the Psychiatric Hospitals in Accra and Ankaful, Mr. Méndez noted the lack of resources, the insufficient training and limited medication. “I am particularly worried about the application of electro-shock therapy as practiced at the Psychiatric Hospital in Accra,” said the independent expert. “It is administered without adequate anesthetics, not as a last resort, nor with free and informed consent.”

 

During his eight-day mission, the Special Rapporteur also visited two prayer camps north of Cape Coast. “I saw patients chained to the floor or walls of their cells or chained or tied to trees for prolonged periods of time,” said the expert. The practice of shackling is alleged to be due to the risk of escape or the aggressive behavior of some patients. “Many of the patients say they have been shackled for extensive periods of time, from a number of months to several years.”

The rights expert, who visited Ghana at the invitation of the Government, met with relevant authorities, the judiciary, national human rights institutions, civil society, international and regional organisations, victims and their families.

The Special Rapporteur will present a country report with his observations and recommendations to be presented at the next session of the Human Rights Council in March 2014.

(*) Check the long end-of-mission statement:http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=13990&LangID=E

 

SOURCE

United NationsOffice of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

 

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Worrying climate outlook

Posted by African Press International on July 27, 2013

DAKAR,  – Drastic water loss in West Africa’s River Volta basin – covering Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, and Togo – could deprive millions of people of food and hydropower in coming years due to climate change, researchers predict.

Higher average temperatures, seen to be rising by up to 3.6 degrees Celsius over the next century, and reduced rainfall could see water flows in the basin drop by 24 percent by 2050, and 45 percent by 2100, according to a new study by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

By 2050 there would be enough water for only 50 percent of current hydropower production, the study found. Ghana’s Akosombo dam, the world’s largest man-made lake, currently generates 1,020 megawatts.

The roughly 24 million people living in the basin are mainly dependent on agriculture, which accounts for around 40 percent of the region’s economic output. This population, however, is expected to reach 34 million by 2015, up from 19 million in 2000, adding to pressure on water resources.

Matthew McCartney, the study’s lead author, told IRIN climate change effects were already being felt in the basin.

“Climate change warning signs in the Volta Basin are an upward trend in mean annual temperature,” he said. “Because of the natural variability, rainfall trends are much harder to assess than temperature, but there is some evidence of declining trends in rainfall, at least over Ghana.”

Climate change would make planned additional water storage in the basin unattainable.

In the absence of climate change about 78,000 hectares would be irrigated and 11,800 gigawatt hours per year of hydroelectric power would be generated in the coming years, explained Tim Williams, IWMI’s director for Africa. But, he said, climate change would mean that “only about 75 percent of the irrigated area will be possible and only about 52 percent of the potential hydroelectricity will be generated by 2050.”

“We do notice two trends: The increasing demand on the available water resources which is population driven – that is already affecting the water availability. On top of that there is anecdotal evidence by farmers who point to shifts in the onset of rains as well as variability within the season in terms of frequency of dry spells within the growing season,” he told IRIN.

The study’s predictions are based on a moderate impact scenario which the report says are “relatively conservative, but not overly cautious…

“In general, climate change predictions point to extreme weather events. A middle impact climate change scenario mimics the way nature works in a long period of time,” Williams said.

Solutions

Improving ground water by filling local aquifers with water from the local rivers or reservoirs as well as relatively simple solutions such as building small ponds on farms, or roofed water tanks are important for sustaining water supply, said the study.

Cooperation by the riparian states on future dam projects and incorporating climate change impact in those developments are other ways of ensuring that water from one of the world’s largest river basins continues to sustain lives.

“In many countries there has been almost no systematic evaluation of the possible implications of climate change for water resources…”

Robert Zougmoré, West Africa programme leader for Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security at Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), said offering reliable weather and climate information would help farmers plan better to avoid losses due to extreme weather conditions.

“If we are able to provide communities with up-to-date weather forecasts, this can help farmers on how to effectively manage their farms without suffering much of the effects of climate change.

“If a farmer knows that the rainy season will have above-normal rainfall he will, for instance, decide to grow rice rather than millet,” he said.

However, the study noted that climate change was not a priority in many sub-Saharan African countries. “In many countries there has been almost no systematic evaluation of the possible implications of climate change for water resources and it is given little consideration in the planning of future water resources development.”

Uncertainty about climate change impact, the fact that predictions tend to be in the distant future and that the priorities for many sub-Saharan African governments are mainly basic service provision, discourage timely climate change adaptation, the researchers argued.

“In the Volta, riparian states need to develop ‘no regrets’ options for water planning and management that are socially and economically viable over a range of possible climate futures. They also need to think much more about more integrated water planning and management across the whole basin, with all the states cooperating rather than the piecemeal ad hoc water resource development that has occurred to date,” said McCartney.

IWMI’s Williams, however, said African governments were gradually becoming more aware of the dangers of climate change, “but the rate and magnitude of climate change adaption response is not yet sufficient.”

ob/cb source http://www.irinews.org

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Guinea-Bissau is very much behind on education

Posted by African Press International on June 5, 2013

Ministry of Education building in Guinea-Bissau capital, Bissau. Prolonged instability is lowering education standards

BISSAU,  – Guinea-Bissau’s chronic political turmoil is depriving children of quality education. Access to education remains low, learning is often disrupted by teachers’ strikes and the country spends the lowest portion of its budget on education in West Africa.

Since independence from Portugal in 1974, the small West African country has been jolted by a string of military coups and a deadly civil war (1998-99) which have undermined social and infrastructural development and made it one of the world’s poorest states.

The current interim government came into being after a coup in April 2012. In the three months after the military takeover, more than 90 percent of state primary and secondary schools were closed due to the absence of effective government, said Tomoko Shibuya, head of education programmes at the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Guinea-Bissau.

“Schools are in a deplorable state; there are no desks; roofs are in disrepair and children cannot learn during the rainy season,” said Armando Correia Landim, head of the country’s 10,000-strong parents’ association.

UNICEF Guinea-Bissau spends US$3.5-4 million annually supporting primary education with textbooks, teacher training and curriculum revision, among others. By contrast, the government spent roughly US$11 million on education in 2010 (the most recent year for which figures are available).

In that year the government spent 11 percent of the budget on education – the lowest proportion in West Africa. At 30 percent Ghana allocates the highest amount to education in the region. More than 90 percent of Guinea-Bissau’s education budget pays salaries, leaving little or nothing for teacher training, buildings and equipping schools, according to the UNICEF.

Many Guinea-Bissau donors also withdrew budgetary aid after the latest coup; some had done so earlier owing to perennial instability.

Teachers only recently called off a strike they began in early May – the third strike this school year, resulting in the loss of about a third of annual tuition time. The teachers’ union said some of the dues owed to their members date back to 2003.

Teachers’ union leader Luis Nancassa blamed the government: “An empty sack cannot stand upright. It’s inhuman to employ someone for 4-5 months without a salary,” he said, referring to newly recruited staff. “We decided to paralyse learning because the teachers no longer have the energy or the will to continue working without pay.”

Audit required

Education Minister Vicente Poungoura admitted that the “education system is poorly organized” and that an extensive audit was required to determine the exact number of schools and teachers in order to better manage the education sector.

The government must first have a clear idea of what problems it faces in the education system. Only then can it ask for help from other partners,” said Poungoura who took up office as part of the interim government.

“An evaluation will help us understand what should be done. That is why I have insisted that a census must be done in the education sector.”

He explained that lack of a clear policy to manage free primary learning had also contributed to the country’s education crisis.

“We embarked on free education without regard to financial implications. There is also the problem of staff. We had poorly trained teachers under the free education system. In a poor country like Guinea-Bissau [free education] is sometimes utopian,” Poungoura told IRIN.

Quality poor

While the net attendance rate for primary and secondary schools rose to 67 percent in 2010, up from 54 percent in 2006, the quality of education has been poor. Only about 60 percent of children complete primary school, and the same goes for secondary school. Overall, only 22 percent of children who enter the school system complete secondary school, according to UNICEF.

The primary school completion rate is among the lowest in West Africa.

Shibuya also noted there were few female teachers. “This discourages girls from continuing with studies because they don’t have role models.”

Widespread poverty, insufficient learning materials and teachers, inadequate teacher training, early marriage for girls, the seasonal use of child labour, and long distances that some students have to cover to get to school, are some of the other barriers to education in Guinea-Bissau.

Self-help

Meanwhile, some parents have been taking matters into their own hands.

“As parents, we cannot just sit back and do nothing,” said Landim. He explained that a scheme set up by the parents’ association in 2010 had ensured that the main state schools in the northeastern Gabu and Bafata regions as well as in Tombali and Quinara in the east were functional during the teachers’ strike.

Parents make a monthly contribution of 700-2,000 CFA francs (US$1.3-4) depending on the region, to pay teachers up to 30,000 CFA francs ($60). The scheme is meant to complement their pay (they get an average of $140 per month from the government) during lengthy salary delays.

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

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AFRICAN MEDIA AND MALARIA NETWORK ASK GOVERNMENTS TO STEP UP WAR AGAINST MALARIA

Posted by African Press International on April 30, 2013

  • By Dickens Wasonga, 
As the World marks Malaria Day, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership(RBM) is set to launch a three-year campaign under the theme “Invest in the Future: Defeat Malaria.”
The campaign is to help strengthen political will and generate the funding needed to continue averting deaths in malaria-endemic countries.
According to sources mapping progress against key milestones on the road to 2015 shows how the collective efforts of the global malaria community contribute to creating a healthier and more prosperous world.
The source adds that the RBM campaign will help mobilize the resources and support the malaria fight through 2015 and beyond.
The African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN), a Network with membership in 10 African countries engaged in malaria control advocacy, believes the global malaria community is doing the right thing by taking stock of the promises and realities of ending malaria deaths at the targeted date of 2015.
According to Mrs Charity Binka of Ghana who is also the AMMREN CEO, many African countries missed the 2010 Abuja targets to reduce malaria morbidity and mortality by half.
Binka pointed out that with less than two years to meeting the 2015 targets of further reduction of 75% in morbidity and 50% reduction in mortality, countries are now scaling up efforts to at least sustain the modest gains made over the last decade.
The CEO said her AMMREN is of the view that the gains made in malaria control are fragile and could easily be reversed unless malaria continues to be a priority for decision-makers, donors and the communities.
According to her ,this is because the efforts and resources that will be invested in control efforts over the next years will have an impact on whether or not the malaria map will keep shrinking or expanded by the malaria parasites.
While commending, governments, donors, health officials and other key players for efforts made in past decade to bring down malaria morbidity and mortality figures, she said AMMREN is of the view that the widespread negative practice of the treating malaria without diagnosis is likely to hinder the acceleration of the control efforts.
Over 80% of cases of malaria is still being treated without diagnostic testing in many malaria –endemic countries in Africa according to WHO.
The world health body reveals that the universal diagnostic testing will ensure that patients with fever receive the most appropriate treatment, and that antimalarial medicines are used rationally and correctly.
AMMREN is now calling for the scaling up of diagnosis before treatment and a massive deployment of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) to ensure that appropriately diagnosed cases are treated promptly and correctly.
Some African countries have made significant gains in this regard. The WHO indicates that 60 African governments were providing ACTs free of charge to all age groups as at 2010.
The network is of the view that there must be a scaling up of these laudable efforts so that millions of African who still lack ready access to appropriate treatment will be covered to ensure that every confirmed malaria case gets treated.
It is also asking for a focused attention on preventive activities through the use of treated bed nets. This is because in the fight against malaria, prevention is the best of all options. The higher the number of people using bed nets, the bigger the rate of reduction in malaria cases.
It shares in the optimism of African scientists, the donor community and stakeholders, that malaria can be pushed out of Africa this century.
However, this optimism must be measured against promises made about 13 years ago, when 40 African Heads of State made a declaration in Abuja, Nigeria to reduce the malaria burden on the continent by setting targets.
Many countries have missed the 2005 and 2010 targets and also likely to miss the 2015 targets unless conscious efforts are made increase access to essential malaria interventions such as diagnosis, treatment and prevention.
The continued existence of taxes and tariffs on commodities for malaria control in some countries shows lack of commitment towards dealing with malaria.
Taxes and tariffs and non-tariff measures make these life-saving products unaffordable to the poor and vulnerable.
Despite challenges, in the last decade, there have been some investments in new tools such as long lasting insecticidal nets, rapid diagnostic tests, indoor residual spraying and ACTs. The scaling up of these activities has resulted in modest progress as some countries are now moving from control activities to malaria elimination.
Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe in 2009, according to a Roll Back Malaria report, have joined other countries in their region to form a sub-regional malaria elimination initiative known as Elimination 8.
The Gambia, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe and Madagascar have also secured global funds to prepare for elimination. And since 2007, countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has shown the intent to eliminate malaria.
“As of 2010, the total number of reported cases of malaria in Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland were relatively low raising hope of elimination,” the report added.
With talks of malaria elimination slowly making its way to the front burner, the question of malaria vaccines, as an additional tool must be given urgency and supported by all stakeholders to ensure that it is quickly incorporated into the National Immunization Day schedule once a vaccine receives licensure.
So far the RTS,S, appears to be most promising malaria candidate vaccine. If all goes well the vaccine could be available for targeted use in the next couple of years for young children.
Indeed there is hope on the horizon and AMMREN will continue to lead in providing accurate and timely information on malaria as part of its effort to wipe out the disease from the face of the globe. AMMREN also urges other African journalists to join in the malaria elimination crusade.
Kicking out malaria from Africa is a responsibility of governments, identifiable organizations, communities and individuals. April 25 should be seen as a day of renewal of commitment to work towards a malaria free society.
END.

 

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