African Press International (API)

"Daily Online News Channel".

Posts Tagged ‘India’

Civil war is creeping in slowly in South Sudan

Posted by African Press International on December 21, 2013

OSLO, Norway, December 20, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ – “The political leaders in South Sudan must take responsibility for stopping the violence and resolving the conflict through political talks. Unless the violence is brought under control soon, I am afraid the situation could develop into a new civil war,” said Foreign Minister Børge Brende.

The civil war that raged in Sudan for more than 20 years, and finally ended in 2005 when a peace agreement was signed between the north and south, caused terrible suffering for the population.

“The current violent conflict in South Sudan and the constant reports of attacks on civilians on the basis of ethnicity give serious cause for concern. I urge the UN, theAfrican Union and other regional organisations to do what they can to persuade the parties to stop the violence and find a peaceful solution to the conflict. Norway is prepared to assist where needed with the resources we have at our disposal,” said Mr Brende.

The spread of violence from the capital to other parts of the country is further cause for concern. The UN has confirmed that at least two peacekeepers and two civilians were killed in an attack on the UN base in Jonglei state in South Sudan on 19 December. A group of civilians had sought refuge in the UN base.

“I condemn the killing of the two Indian UN peacekeepers serving in South Sudan in the strongest terms. Attacks on the UN mission and on civilians who have sought protection from the UN are completely unacceptable,” said Mr Brende.

 

SOURCE

Norway – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

 

Advertisements

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

India: Kerala Police honoured

Posted by African Press International on October 28, 2013

Kerala police has been selected for the Asia-Pacific information security leadership Achievement award 2013 for its innovative and timely initiatives in ensuring cyber security.

The award will be handed over to state police chief K S Balasubramaniyam at Trivandapuram. The award was meant for the initiative of the police to spread awareness on cyber security, investing their time and energy to monitor and educate the people of different segments of the society.

 

End

 

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

India: Formulating a law to eradicate the social evil of sale of woman and children

Posted by African Press International on October 27, 2013

The kerala high court held that the recommendations of the law commission of India for formulating a law to eradicate the social evil of sale of woman and children deserves immediate attention by all stake holders who are interested in the welfare of women and children.

The court made it clear that sale of children should be termed as an offence by incorporating a penal provision after bringing in suitable amendment to the Indian penal code.Justice S.S Satheesh chandran made the observation while granting bail to prima of kasaragod,an accused in a case related to the selling of her two children when they were three months and six months old.

The allegation was that two tender children were sold by first accused Ratheesh with the support of the second accused prema.The first child was sold for a sum of 50000 rupees while the second child for 1 lakh. The court observed that the incident of parent selling two infants after receiving money was shocking and revolting. The court held that the statutes contained no provision to penalise a person for sale of woman and children.

The law commission of India after taking in to account the social evils of sale of women and children had recommended penal provisions including punishment by amending the IPC. The recommendation is yet to be adopted and deserves immediate attention by all stake holders,the court mentioned.

End

 

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Markets in smaller countries could be under threat: Need to reopen talks on subsidies at WTO

Posted by African Press International on October 24, 2013

Markets in smaller countries could be under threat

JOHANNESBURG,  – The combined effects of the global economic slowdown and increasing climatic shocks are threatening food security in developing countries, prompting many to re-open World Trade Organization (WTO) discussions on limits to support for farmers.

A group of developing countries – known as G33 – is asking to exceed their agreed domestic support limits when they buy, stock and supply cereals and other food to boost food security among the poor; they want these changes to be exempt from any legal challenge.

Essentially, these countries want the freedom to buy grains at set prices from producers and to use that grain to build stockpiles for distribution. The WTO rules do not prescribe limits on the amount of food that can be bought at market prices for food stocks, and it does not limit the amount of food that can be provided as domestic food aid at subsidized prices. The WTO only disciplines buying cereals at administered prices.

The proposal will be discussed at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia, in December.

Developed countries and some developing countries are concerned that the G33 proposal – which is backed by India, China and Indonesia – could affect food security in neighbouring countries. They fear these measures could lead to surpluses in stocks, which the G33 members might dump in the global market, disrupting global prices.

Ashok Gulati, chairman of India’s Commission for Agriculture Cost and Prices (CACP), reckons India wants more leeway to provide support for its farmers and consumers because the government is launching a massive subsidized food scheme through a public distribution system that will reach two-thirds of its population – nearly 800 million people. He told IRIN that a situation where India would be in a position to dump excess stocks could arise “once in 10 years.” He added, “the larger distortion will be domestic,” referring to disruptions to local markets.

A representative from one of the G33 countries at the WTO, who did not want to be named, said not all the members of the group were supportive of the proposal. “India is already the largest exporter of rice in the world… Small exporters will lose their competitiveness because of Indian subsidies… Rice prices are already going down, and with further subsidies it can lead to a price crash,” the representative said.

The delegate estimated that support for rice production in India – both in the form of agricultural inputs and procurement – ran into billions of dollars. Even more support could “ruin” agriculture sustainability and “create food insecurity instead of food security” in the region.

“Although agricultural markets have evolved dramatically since 2007, global trade rules have not”

Gulati has publicly come out against the government’s plan to stockpile staple grains because of the effect it would have on prices in the local markets, according to interviews with the Indian daily theEconomic Times and news agency DNA.

He maintains that dispensing subsidized food will not address malnutrition, a significant problem in India, where almost half the population of children are malnourished. Gulati believes this problem can only be addressed by comprehensively tackling the various dimensions of food insecurity, such as by increasing access to clean water and improving the status of women.

But a new paper, produced jointly by the Geneva-based International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), takes a sympathetic view of positions on both sides, and uses the proposal to flag the need to reform global agricultural trade rules. The paper contends there has been minimal reform to agricultural trade rules since the Uruguay Round of multilateral negotiations that led to the formation of the WTO two decades ago.

“The G33 proposal can more broadly be seen as symptomatic of the challenges many countries face in designing policies to achieve food security goals in the new price environment,” the paper notes.

“Although agricultural markets have evolved dramatically since 2007, global trade rules have not,” it adds.

To subsidize or not

Agricultural subsidies have been a contentious issue for years. The WTO has placed ceilings on how much the US and the European Union (EU) can spend on agricultural subsidies that distort trade, but these are still rather high, food rights groups say.

A drought in the US in 2012 and fluctuating food prices have led policy-makers there and in the EU to rethink protection and support for their farmers, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) pointed out.

The US’s agriculture policy is governed by the Farm Bill, which is updated every four years, but the 2008 legislation was extended to September 2013, when the two parties – the Democrats and the Republicans – were unable to come to an agreement on subsidized food for the country’s poor. The new proposed bill recommends an expanded insurance programme with new crop insurance subsidies, which would see farmers receive money when income from certain crops falls below a targeted level. It also sets higher target prices for crops that trigger payments when revenues fall for several consecutive years. The bill is likely to come up for negotiations in the coming weeks.

The EU has largely done away with export subsidies that support the disposal of surplus production abroad, but the EU Common Agriculture Policy still ensures high levels of direct support to farmers and protects EU markets. The EU has substantially reformed farm support over the years to reduce its impacts on trade and production, but some still question whether the support provided continues to give European producers an advantage over competitors elsewhere.

On the other hand, the economic slowdown and its impact on local currencies have forced developing countries like Zambia to remove subsidiesfor farmers and millers because the expenditure is perceived as draining the country’s limited resources.

More imbalances?

If richer nations are strengthening support to their farmers while the poorer countries cut back, could global imbalances grow?

Jamie Morrison, a senior economist with FAO and a co-author of the ICTSD/FAO paper, says that, generally, when considering support to farmers in times of disasters, countries should take into account the kind of support they have to fall back on. In rich countries, farmers have access to insurance and other safety nets, which might not be the case in developing countries.

He says rich countries use public funding to “underwrite potential losses [for farmers] which private sector insurance institutions may be less willing to cover. This type of support is considered to be less distortive of markets and trade.”

But developing countries tend to intervene directly in the market to stabilize prices for their producers while providing their consumers “with some level of protection against high food prices”, Morrison said. This generally leads to buying grains at prices above the market value and managing cross-border trade. This support not only drains the country’s coffers but “is considered to be distortive of markets and trade.”

Often these subsidies, whether in the form of cheaper agricultural inputs or higher prices for produce, do not get to the intended poorest farmers, and they are often driven by political opportunism – appeasing the majority of the people in developing countries who depend on agriculture for income and food.

“…for many countries, direct support for farmers ‘may be essential in facilitating agricultural transformation’ and the ‘only practical option available given weaknesses’ in other public institutions that could have supported production”

CACP’s Gulati, who formerly headed IFPRI’s Asia office, said, “Subsidies on fertilizer, power and irrigation are not targeted. Subsidies have risen much faster than public investments in agriculture [in India]. The marginal return on subsidies is less than one-fourth of that from investments. Yet subsidies multiply due to higher political returns. So India wants more leverage on subsidies.”

Yet Morrison adds that, for many countries, direct support for farmers “may be essential in facilitating agricultural transformation” and the “only practical option available given weaknesses” in other public institutions that could have supported production. “Greater use of a system more reliant on market-based instruments may make a more efficient use of resources, but may be impractical at the current time”.

Jonathan Hepburn, agriculture programme manager with ICTSD says, “WTO rules need to take into account the reality that countries are in different situations, and that some have fewer resources at their disposal to achieve public policy objectives. “

Negotiating

In the recent past, negotiating groups at the WTO have sought preferential treatment. The least developed countries (LDCs), for instance, are negotiating to enjoy some flexibility in their implementation of import tariffs on agricultural products. However, even the LDCs face limits on the amounts and kinds of subsidies they provide – although many lack the resources to provide the amount of farm support that would be capped by WTO rules, points out ICTSD’s Hepburn.

Part of the problem in creating new rules on trade, Hepburn said, has “been striking a balance between the rights and responsibilities of different groups of countries – especially as the global economic landscape has evolved dramatically over the last decade or so.”

In December, according to the WTO, countries might decide on a “temporary “waiver” (a formal legal exemption allowing some member states to exceed their limits), a non-binding political statement by the conference’s chairperson or some option in between. Flexibility along these lines has sometimes been called a “peace clause” or “due restraint”, because members would avoid bringing legal disputes against developing countries in these circumstances.”

jk/rz

 

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Forced or servile marriage – Debt bondage

Posted by African Press International on October 22, 2013

A young boy works as a labourer near Kathmandu (file photo)

NAIROBI,  – More than two centuries after slavery was outlawed, 29.8 million people globally continue to be subjected to new and diverse forms of servitude, a new index ranking 162 countries shows.

Haiti, India, Nepal, Mauritania and Pakistan have the highest prevalence of modern-day slavery, according to the first edition of the Global Slavery Index(compiled by Australian-based rights organization Walk Free Foundation), while in absolute numbers, China, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and Pakistan have the most people enslaved. In India, almost 14 million people are believed to be victims of modern slavery.

Contemporary servitude, however, is “poorly understood, so it remains hidden within houses, communities and worksites”, it stated.

According to Gulnara Shahinian, the UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, its causes and consequences, “contemporary slavery… often occurs in hard to reach areas of the country or what is perceived as the `private realm’, such as in the case of domestic servitude…

“In today’s world, slavery takes many different forms: human trafficking, forced labour, bonded labour, servitude… These people are controlled and forced to work against their will and their dignity and rights are denied.”

IRIN looks at some of the major forms of modern-day slavery.

Forced labour: The International Labour Organization (ILO) considerscompulsory or forced labour any “work or service exacted from any person under the threat of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily.”

Common forms of forced labour can be found in under-regulated or labour-intensive industries, such as agriculture and fisheries, construction, manufacturing, domestic work, and the sex industry. A 2013 ILO report, highlighted some of the brutal conditions under which people are made to work in the fisheries industry. This category can apply to multiple forms of slavery, with people being forced to work in a variety of ways, often including the threat of violence or debt bondage.

ILO estimates that around 21 million people are victims of forced labour.

Debt bondage: This is the most common form of contemporary slavery, according to the London-based NGO Anti-Slavery International, which says “a person becomes a bonded labourer when their labour is demanded as a means of repayment for a loan. The person is then tricked or trapped into working for very little or no pay, often for seven days a week.”

In Pakistan, the Asian Development Bank estimates that 1.8 million people are bonded labourers, primarily working in brick kilns as well as in agriculture, fisheries and mining. In Brazil’s rural sector, a 2010 UN report found that many poor workers were enticed to distant areas by intermediaries, who charged an advance on their salaries, promising high wages. The workers found themselves paying hefty off loans for the cost of their transport and food, without any clear indication of how their debt or wages were being calculated.

Similar practices occur in Bangladesh.

Human trafficking: The UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime defines human trafficking as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons”, through the threat or use of force or other means of coercion “for the purpose of exploitation”.

In Benin, the International Office for Migration estimates that more than 40,000 children are the victims of trafficking. The Global Slavery Index notes that many of these children are trafficked to countries within the region, as well as from rural to urban areas within one country.

Forced or servile marriage: This occurs when an individual does not enter into a marriage with full and free consent. The 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery considers illegal any practice where “a woman, without the right to refuse, is promised or given in marriage on payment of a consideration in money or in kind to her parents, guardian, family or any other person or group”. Transfer of a woman by her husband in return for payment, as well as inheritance of a woman following the death of her husband, is also outlawed. While the definition only applies to women and girls (who bear the brunt of forced marriages) there have been calls for it to cover boys and men too.

Child slavery: Child slavery and exploitation, including the use of children in armed conflict, is another common form of contemporary slavery. The Worst Forms of Child Labour, defined by ILO include the sale and trafficking of children, compulsory labour, serfdom, and the compulsory use of children in armed conflict. In Haiti, children from rural households are sent to urban areas to work as domestic house helps for wealthier families and can then be exploited. Around 1 in 10 children in Haiti are exploited, according to the Global Slavery Index.

While child slavery remains a significant problem, the number in child labour around the world reduced to 168 million in 2012 from 246 million in 2000, according to ILO.

Chattel slavery: A situation where a person or group of people is considered the property of a slave-owner, and can be traded, is the least common form of slavery today. Slave-owners in these situations control victims and their descendants, and therefore individuals are often born enslaved.

Although slavery was finally criminalized in Mauritania in 2007, leading to the freeing of many people, few slave-owners have been convicted of the practice, and chattel slavery remains a serious problem. The Global Slavery Index estimates there are 140,000-160,000 slaves in Mauritania.

aps/aw/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

They voted in TNA – now what?

Posted by African Press International on October 7, 2013

Despite widespread criticism, the ruling party still won 18 percent of the vote

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Tamil National Alliance to challenge power limits
  • Governor holds power in new provincial council
  • Looking to diaspora as way to bypass government
  • Jobs trump power as basic need

ODDUSSUDDAN, 7 October 2013 (IRIN) – Nearly two weeks after  the Tamil National Alliance’s (TNA) resounding victory in a local election  in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, analysts and voters are debating  what the party will be able to achieve as the province recovers from more than two decades of a brutal civil war.

By the end of polling on 21 September, 67 percent of 719,000 eligible voters had cast their votes in the north’s first provincial election – long-awaited by international donors and local political activists – since fighting ended in 2009.

The TNA, the party with the largest representation of the ethnic Tamil minority in parliament, won 30 out of the 38 seats on the Northern Provincial Council; the governing United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) secured seven. The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress won one seat.

The TNA campaigned for more political autonomy for the north, while the UPFA appealed to voters with its massive development campaign for the province. The region was devastated during two and half decades of sectarian violence that followed demands by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam rebels for a separate Tamil state.

Frustrating decades-long yearnings for some degree of autonomy carries certain security risks.

Despite its overwhelming victory, the TNA will dominate a council that is largely impotent under the control of the provincial governor, who is appointed by the president. According to the 13th constitutional amendmentthat established the provincial councils in 1987, the governor is the only official with executive powers, including control of provincial spending.

Top TNA leader Rajavarotiam Sampanthan has criticized the governors of the Northern and Eastern provinces as “laws unto themselves”, accusing them of deciding on provincial affairs without consulting locally elected representatives.

Power, but to whom? 

Even before the election, few analysts saw a TNA-led provincial administration as a substantive devolution of power.

“The general view of voters is that …the Northern Provincial Council will have no autonomy, with the chief minister [the council’s top elected official] serving as a messenger of the governor, who in turn is the messenger of the president,” said a pre-election report released by the national election monitoring body the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence on 20 September.

But any path to power needs its starting point, say TNA leaders.

“The election is a means to work towards meaningful power devolution,” said TNA parliamentarian Abraham Sumanthiran.

According to Jehan Perera, executive director of the Colombo-based National Peace Council, despite the constitutional imbroglio, the newly elected council may play a decisive role in northern politics and development.

“The general view of voters is that …the Northern Provincial Council will have no autonomy, with the chief minister [the council’s top elected official] serving as a messenger of the governor, who in turn is the messenger of the president”

“Right now the discussions are taking place at the parliament or at donor-level, but the provincial council has the potential to become the best forum for discussion and possibly decision-making on provincial affairs. Its immediacy to the province can make the process faster as well as better informed,” he said.

The largely top-down process of managing the north now means issues are not addressed quickly, with information filtering through several layers of bureaucracy in multiple departments, Perera said.

However, he added that the TNA-led council needs to be mindful to not allow political demands to overshadow basic needs, like employment. “It [the council] would have to strike a delicate balance.”

The TNA has said it will use its victory to enforce hitherto ignored provisions of the13th amendment, which give control of policing and local economic planning to provincial councils.

In addition TNA leaders have said they will push to expand provincial powers. But in order to do that, they would need to repeal the 13th amendment and support a new amendment.

India

But scrapping the amendment and replacing it with one that grants provincial councils more authority is unlikely, according to analysts in neighbouring India, which helped broker the amendment that created the councils through the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord.

The accord set up provincial councils as a way for the state to share power with the north; a long standing grievance of minority Tamil parties has been that power is concentrated at the national level, marginalizing ethnic minorities. Over 90 percent of the voters in the north are Tamil, Sri Lanka’s second largest ethnic group.

India has strong interest in the situation due to ethnic ties between Tamils living in India – where they form close to 6 percent of the population – and Tamils in Sri Lanka. ButRamani Hariharan, who was head of intelligence for the Indian peacekeeping force based in north and east Sri Lanka from 1987 to 1990, told IRIN that though India took on Colombo to advocate for Sri Lankan Tamils last time, it is unlikely to do so now.

“It comes at an inconvenient time for India,” he said, noting that, with national elections to be held in 2014, India is less willing to risk potential humiliation if Colombo does not agree to expand provincial powers.

They voted in TNA – now what?

Analysts also predict that India will not want to call attention to dissatisfaction with the current amendment so that its role in negotiating power sharing is regarded as an accomplishment.

Power struggle?

The TNA has also indicated it will try to raise development funds outside of Sri Lanka, particularly from the global Tamil diaspora – estimated to be some 700,000 people, mostly concentrated in Canada, the UK and the rest of the European Union – to invest directly in the province, without going through the national government.

But since 2009, when the government created the Presidential Task Force (PTF), the state has controlled all humanitarian and development activities in the north.

“Mainly the Task Force is…to coordinate activities of the security agencies of the Government in support of resettlement, rehabilitation and development, and to liaise with all organizations in the public and private sectors and civil society organizations for the proper implementation of programs and projects,” said a government announcement.

Run by the Defence Ministry, PTF approves all humanitarian and reconstruction work in the north.

However, according to national human rights activist, Ruki Fernando, since no “clear law” created or sanctioned the task force, “it would not be illegal for anyone to bypass that body”, setting the stage for a potential power struggle over who controls humanitarian and development work in the north.

Priority setting

Pushing political demands aside, Muttukrishna Sarvananthan, who heads Point Pedro Institute of Development, based in northern Jaffna, advised the newly elected council to focus on jobs by developing the region’s agriculture and fisheries sectors, the main sources of income for northern residents.

“Raising the voice for more devolution should be a low priority for the newly formed Northern Provincial Council. It is not only the central government but the provincial government as well that should get its priorities right. People are more interested in livelihoods and day-to-day issues.”

The Central Bank estimates the government has invested more than US$3 billion in infrastructure since the end of the war; critics say this multi-billion dollar development has largely been out of step with residents’ needs.

“When the northern people were asking for bread, [the Mahinda] Rajapaksa government offered them cake”

Sarvananthan said that while there is urgent demand for jobs, the government’s main focus has been almost exclusively on highway development and boosting power supply to main towns.

“When the northern people were asking for bread, [the Mahinda] Rajapaksa government offered them cake,” he told IRIN.

“Big roads are ok, but we need money to take the bus or to buy a motorcycle to ride on them,” said 21-year-old first-time voter Nishanthan, who goes by one name, from the village of Oddusuddan in the north’s Mullaittivu District

Kumaravadivel Guruparan, a lecturer in the Department of Law at the University of Jaffna, said the vote was a signal of deep-rooted disappointment with state policies.

Despite massive infrastructural repair and the recent extension of train service to the north for the first time in 24 years, voters were expressing their discontent, Guruparan explained, with the state’s continued military presence in the province.

But then there are the 82,000 residents who voted for the ruling party, like Ramalingam Sudhaharan from Dharamapuram, a village in Kilinochchi District, who said that, given the post-war devastation, what has been achieved in the last four years has been “remarkable”.

“We have good roads for the first time in my life, a very good hospital in Kilinochchi [town], new power stations. Jobs [are] the next logical step, and they will come with time,” he added.

Meanwhile, Sarvananthan from Point Pedro Institute said told IRIN via email that even with limited powers the council can still create  change, for example, by passing an equal opportunities law to benefit the estimated more than 40,000 female-headed households in the province.

“Northern Provincial Council could show the central government the correct [and] genuine path to reconciliation in lieu of building a sports stadium to international standards or constructing eight-lane highways (four lanes in each direction) in [Mullaittivu] District where [the] cattle population outnumbers human population,” he said.

contributor/pt/rz

source http://www.irinnews.org

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Newly built latrines in Myanmar – but will they be working in 12 months?

Posted by African Press International on September 20, 2013

Newly built latrines in Myanmar – but will they be working in 12 months?

STOCKHOLM,  – The success in achieving the Millennium Development Goals’ (MDGs) water target and massive growth in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes have masked a little-discussed secret: WASH interventions frequently fail.

Rather than focusing on what is almost literally pouring money down the drain, donor reports and NGO websites prefer instead to boast of the numbers of water pumps drilled or toilets installed.

“You don’t take photos at a funeral,” said Dutch water expert George De Gooijer, who is based at the Netherlands’ embassy in Benin. “The lack of a link between results on the ground and the proposals is the one that needs to be solved.”

In 2012, an audit by the European Union (EU) sought to make that link between its officially completed WASH projects in sub-Saharan Africa and the reality on the ground – but found that more than half of the drinking water schemes surveyed had failed to deliver.

“Negligible positive outcomes” 

A key failure was in the management of the projects rather than the installation of the equipment.

Overall EU spending on water and sanitation projects in sub-Saharan Africa, from 2001 to 2010, amounted to more than one billion euros – and much of it is likely to have failed to produce the intended outcomes.

Hundreds of short-term WASH projects were implemented in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti – rapid construction schemes that have had little long-term impact, says Sasha Kramer, an ecologist and co-founder of the sanitation NGO Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods.

“This approach to sanitation interventions results in massive spending in the sector, impressive implementation statistics for NGOs and negligible positive outcomes for community beneficiaries,” Kramer said.

The UN in Haiti is actually blamed by many analysts for causing the world’s worst recent outbreak of cholera, which killed more than 8,000 people and infected at least 600,000.

This year, the UK’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact found that a government water project in Sudan’s Darfur region had created “aid dependency” with little focus on creating a durable solution.

The long list of failures is all the more painful because water and sanitation are universally recognized as critically important.

Low-quality water and sanitation systems create acute vulnerabilities during natural disasters. When earthquakes and floods strike, it is frequently the subsequent population movements, water-source contamination and unsanitary conditions that create the most dangers to human life.

Sixty percent of the world’s population has dysfunctional or non-existent sanitation, says Arno Rosemarin, a researcher at the Stockholm Environment Institute. There is “no other global statistic leading to high risk that comes close to this one,” he said.

Speaking at this month’s World Water Week in Sweden, he said WASH – particularly sanitation – was “a failing chapter in human development.”

Humanitarian accounting

Donors like concrete, measurable targets. In a WASH sector looking to reduce open defecation and control human waste, this has often meant building toilets – what some analysts call a “vending machine” approach.

Rosemarin says, “There’s a big difference between having a toilet and having a toilet that works.”

In India, which has some of the highest rates of open defecation in the world, the government has embarked on a vast programme of toilet building. The results are so far extremely mixed, says Prakash Jumar from the WASH Institute in India.

Jumar says communities have often been completely left out of the implementation process; sometimes to the extent that they do not use the new toilets because they fail to realize the toilets were built for them.

Poor construction quality has meant that 30-40 percent of toilets have been abandoned, repairs are nearly impossible because of nonexistent supply chains for spare parts, and even when still standing, many are used for storage rooms rather than for defecation.

“We have a lot of lessons learned, but we are not implementing [them] in national and major sanitation programmes. We need to integrate these failures,” Jumar said.

He says the key is community engagement.

“When the community is [involved, they] often don’t then need support from the government. That was one of the major lessons learned from 10 years in the region.”

Global water sector figures say half of water projects end up failing because of a lack of community involvement.

Emergency aid 

Many WASH projects are implemented during humanitarian emergencies, when broken water and sanitation systems can create massive health risks.

“There’s a big difference between having a toilet and having a toilet that works”

But in the rush to intervene in places like refugee camps, basic steps are often not taken – like building adequate drains in areas with high rainfall and not installing flush toilets where water is scarce, according to Katarina Runeberg, an environmental advisor with the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB).

There are often multiple actors seeking to respond in a crisis, with no one looking holistically at the whole WASH cycle.

And in many cases, humanitarian actors are trying to implement adequate water and sanitation systems where none existed even before the crisis.

Even before its earthquake, Haiti had the lowest sanitation coverage in the northern hemisphere and the world’s highest incidence rates of diarrhoea, for example.

Long-term perspective 

But even in the world of development, donor deadlines are frequently tight, adequate measurables can be difficult to find, and construction continues to be favoured over operation and maintenance.

“WASH systems inherently require long-term operations and maintenance. And to ensure the ongoing maintenance of a WASH system, community engagement and long-term planning are critical,” said Kramer.

But projects implemented from outside rarely have the sort of long-term funding needed for maintenance and regular assessment. One rare example is the Netherlands, which is attempting to make sure implementing partners aim for 10-year sustainability, says De Gooijer, but this can be difficult to implement.

“We are very frequently limited through time-framing that we need to complete by a certain date, and spend money by a certain date,” said Patrick Fox, an advisor to the disaster unit at the Swedish Red Cross.

They have begun using “Look Back” studies to check up on WASH projects two to five years later. In the case of their work in North Korea, they initially found 80 percent of projects were no longer functional. Problems included a lack of local familiarity with the materials used (like PVC piping), and the use of sewage as fertilizer before it was safe to do so – issues they were able to correct.

“If you think you’ve discovered something good, leave it alone in the field for two years and then see if it is working,” said Peter Morgan, an award-winning WASH inventor and scientist who has been implementing projects in Zimbabwe for decades.

A Syrian refugee in Iraq tries to unblock a ‘grey’ water channel at his camp

But donors have yet to establish concrete funding mechanisms for these kinds of long-term assessments.

This leads to the broader question of just how practical it is for outside humanitarian and development actors to be even trying to implement large-scale WASH systems.

Morgan says the success of a mass-deployment of specially designed ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines could be attributed largely to the fact that it was approved and implemented by the Zimbabwean government itself. He says governments and users need to be strongly associated with any projects if they are to avoid failure.

“Local people are incredibly innovative, and if you are a humble character you need to open your eyes and look at that,” he said. “People live there. They don’t drive off in a fancy 4×4 vehicle and vanish in the dust. They actually live there.”

Few, if any, countries can claim to have a large-scale WASH system thanks to international NGOs, which Kramer says frequently lack “cultural fluency” and have an “inability or unwillingness to engage with local communities.”

Donor pressure 

Canada’s Engineers Without Borders produces an annual “Failure Report”. The organization found that around half of all failures were not related to conditions in recipient countries, but rather derived from internal planning, communication, decision-making and personal leadership.

Yet it remains extremely difficult for UN agencies, international NGOs and local actors to say that their WASH projects were failures. Donors want to see successful track records, and no one wants to fund a fiasco.

“It’s not fashionable enough to talk about failure,” said Rosemarin

For communities receiving water and sanitation projects, the lack of honest engagement can create barriers.

“The walls of fear, distrust and misperception affect international interventions in all sectors, but are particularly disruptive to WASH interventions, where quick fixes are not possible and successful projects are completely dependent on community engagement,” said Kramer.

Otherwise, as one aid worker from Uzbekistan reported, villages may be successively visited by different NGOs installing the same sanitation project one year after the next.

“Getting negative feedback could be more valuable than the opposite,” said Morgan. “If you have failures, then the very least you can do is to find out what went wrong.”

jj/rz  source http://www.irinnews.org

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

HIV still on the – not yet inside the comfort zone

Posted by African Press International on August 4, 2013

Sound science, but no thank you

KATHMANDU,  – Despite years of scientific advances in HIV treatment and prevention, more than two million people are newly diagnosed with HIV annually, demonstrating how community-driven approaches to prevention are still needed to curb the epidemic, experts say.

For years evidence has mounted that anti-retroviral therapy (ART) – virus-suppressing drug combinations that are the primary treatment for HIV – can also be used effectively in prevention.

However due to the complications associated with ART procurement, distribution, uptake, adherence, and potential behaviour change in patients (some studies have linked increased risk-taking behaviours in HIV patients post-treatment), a fresh local approach to implementing ART-based prevention programmes is needed, new research argues.

“Research in HIV prevention needs to get out beyond its comfort zone and meet with the people who have very different ideas about what HIV means,” Jim Pickett, the project director for Mapping Pathways, an international research and advocacy project, told IRIN.

Despite international research and policy developments that have boosted awareness and popularity of
what is known as “treatment as prevention”, local-level implementation of it remains murky and piecemeal.

“We talk a lot about the results of science and figuring out how to `make it make sense’ in local contexts. But science is itself a process that should involve communities from the very beginning,” Pickett said.

From efficacy to effectiveness

According to Mapping Pathways, the ideal approach to implementing treatment as prevention should consider not only the clinical goal of efficacy (works in a lab), but also effectiveness (how to apply the solution in a community).

“I know that if you get anti-retroviral drugs into someone’s blood, they suppress the virus. We have amazing proof of that – it’s a major scientific breakthrough in the history of humankind,” said Linda-Gail Bekker, chief operating officer of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, based in South Africa.

“But now we have to put this together so it works, which means engaging with a wide range of human beings who live very different lives than those of us who run these programmes might imagine,” she said.

Effectiveness requires behaviour change and, therefore, varies across cultures, governments, and communities based on “the firms that produce the drugs, the healthcare clinics that deliver the drugs, the community centres that provide education, and the partnerships developed,” according to Mapping Pathways.

Human beings will behave like human beings. What does that mean? Well, social sciences have been trying to figure that out for centuries and don’t have one single theory, so why should our HIV programmes?” asked Bekker.

“The notion that in HIV programmes `one size fits all’ has backfired on us and it has been a humbling moment for those of us who work in this field.”

Local” science

According to Molly Morgan Jones, a researcher at the international public policy think tank Rand Corporation and lead author of Mapping Pathways’srecent report, the varied applications of science must be taken into account when designing programmes: “Uptake of new ideas or products is contingent on a lot of factors that might have nothing to do with what’s created in a lab or recommended by policy experts…

“ART has been around for a while, the innovation at this point is how we are going to use the drugs – a new way of thinking about how communities access, understand, and employ this technology,” she explained.

Development of the Mapping Pathways model relied on research carried out with partners in the US, UK, South Africa and India.

In each of the locations, local stakeholders – including clinicians, researchers, policymakers, the medical industry, patient advocates and coalition groups – interpreted scientific evidence differently, which had “profound” effects on how HIV prevention and care was carried out, the researchers noted.

“Here’s all this science – now what?” said Pickett, referring to the conventional top-down approach to HIV interventions, which often assumes that scientific proof a drug works will be enough to convince patients to use it.

“We need these processes to be local from inception,” he said, echoing arguments from the UN special rapporteur on the right to health that the participation of affected populations in decision-making is key to successful interventions.

However promising, concerns about putting this theory into practice remain.

The World Health Organization recently published recommendations that call for the number of people enrolled on ART to be increased by up to 25 million worldwide (up from the current 9.7 million). Financing the scale-up while also boosting local buy-in will be a challenge, say analysts.

But, the effort must be made, argued Pickett: “Just because something adds complexity to a methodology or a protocol doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done – go there, to the places where the results of the scientific endeavour are meant to be utilized, and have a conversation with the people about what it can do, and most importantly, what they need it to do.”

kk/pt/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Kenya: Polio vaccination targetting 750,000 children

Posted by African Press International on July 3, 2013

  • By Maurice Alal, In Kenya.

THE government targets to vaccinate 750,000 children under the age of 5 years against polio infection in four counties out of the six in Nyanza region.

The outgoing Nyanza Director for Public Health and Sanitation Dr Jackson Kioko said the vaccination will kick off on July 6 to July 10, 2013.

Dr Kioko said the exercise will be conducted in Migori, Homabay, Kisumu and Siaya counties to prevent the children against polio infection.

He disclosed that extensive mapping is being carried out by district public health officers in these counties to identify where the children are.

He said awareness campaign is going on in the markets, schools, public chief barazas and churches to encourage parents to avail their children for the vaccination.

“We want parents to understand the importance of polio vaccination to protect the children against the infection,” he said.

He stated that the vaccination will be conducted door to door saying they will mark the households that children have already been vaccinated.

According to Dr Kioko polio prevention has improved tremendously since 2010 which is above the national index.

He disclosed that Nyanza region stand at 90% under the Oral Polio Vaccine 1 and 81% under the Oral Polio Vaccine 3.

He said the national index stand at 80% under the Oral Polio Vaccine 3 and called upon health providers in the counties to ensure they hit 90% target.

The medic appealed to the parents, chiefs and other stakeholders to bring their children under the age of five for the vaccination.

He said the street children will not be left out in the exercise saying they are working closely with the children departments in these counties see them vaccinated.

“Street children need a lot of medical attention given the risk they undergo in their daily lives,” he said.

 

END

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Beating wild weather

Posted by African Press International on May 15, 2013

 COLOMBO,  – Planners in Sri Lanka should do more to mitigate the effects of extreme weather in order to help those most likely to be affected, experts say.

According to Sri Lanka’s Disaster Management Centre (DMC), in 2012, 1.2 million people were affected by drought and over half a million by floods, while in early 2011, floods affected over a million and displaced more than 200,000 – a trend expected to increase in the future.

“There is nothing to indicate that this trend will slow down. All the signs are that it will increase,” Bob McKerrow, head of delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Sri Lanka, told IRIN.

In 2012, the island nation experienced two dramatic back-to-back weather events. Between January and October, the island’s Northern, Eastern, Southern and North Western regions suffered a severe drought. A mid-year forecast by the Socioeconomic and Planning Centre of the Department of Agriculture released in August 2012, when the drought was at its worst, warned of a loss of around 23 percent of the seasonal paddy harvest due by September.

The drought was only broken by the onset of heavy rains in the first week of November, made worse by Cyclone Nilam which struck Sri Lanka and southern India on 1 November, killing 45 people, temporarily displacing 80,000 and resulting in damage to over 10,000 houses, DMC reported.

According to an assessment by the ministries of economic development and disaster management, and the World Food Programme (WFP) in January, around 20 percent of the island’s main paddy harvest of around 2.6 million tons was lost to the floods. Of the 550,000 people affected by the floods, some 172,000 – 31 percent of surveyed flood-affected households – were severely food insecure, while 44 percent were borderline food insecure, the report said.

Tens of thousands were affected by flooding in 2012

Sixty-seven percent of the surveyed flood-affected people had also been affected by the drought, the report noted.

Migration up

At the same time, Sri Lankan officials report that with extreme weather events increasing in frequency, people are increasingly migrating to cities in the hope of securing a stable income.

“We have seen that when the harvests fail, the migration to nearby cities increases with people looking for temporary income,” Sarath Lal Kumara, DMC deputy director explained.

Regional experts say the situation in Sri Lanka is not dissimilar to what is happening elsewhere in the region.

“If one asks, ‘is displacement by weather-related events a serious issue in South Asia?’, then the answer is `yes’,” Bart W. Édes, director of the poverty reduction, gender and social development division at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), told IRIN, noting the risk of increased migration.

“Combined with large and growing populations living in vulnerable areas – and a forecasted increase in extreme weather events – South Asia is likely to confront continued environmentally driven displacement and migration,” he said.

Need to build resilience

IFRC’s McKerrow said humanitarian agencies should look at increasing community resilience against natural disasters as a core requirement when carrying out projects in vulnerable areas.

The SLRC is currently building around 20,000 new houses in Sri Lanka’s former northern conflict zone, the same region hit by severe drought and multiple floods in 2012.

“Wherever we build houses, we now look at two main things – either to control flood water or to provide water where there is not enough,” McKerrow said. He said the requests for such work had come from beneficiary surveys.

Kumara, the DMC deputy director, also noted that preventing victims of natural disasters from abandoning their homes was increasingly featuring in policy discussions among government and humanitarian agencies.

ADB’s Édes said policy planners should look to increase income generation opportunities, as well as build safety and early warning capacities in vulnerable regions.

“The aim should not be to stop human mobility, but rather to reduce the number of situations where people move because environmental factors force them to.”

ap/ds/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Norway condemns the recent killing of UN staff in South Sudan

Posted by African Press International on April 17, 2013

Norway condemns the killing of 12 UN employees in South Sudan. Today’s attack is an attack not only on the UN, but also on the population of South Sudan, which the UN is there to assist,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide.

Five Indian UN soldiers and seven civilian employees serving in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) were killed today in an ambush in Jonglei state, South Sudan. The attack took place in an area that has seen considerable ethnic unrest and violence since South Sudan became independent in July 2011.

“It is vital that the international community and our partners in South Sudan take a united stand against the destructive forces responsible for today’s attack,” Mr Eide said.

 

End

 

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“One on One” with South Sudan Ambassador Bol Wek Agoth

Posted by African Press International on April 11, 2013

African Press International: “One on One” with H.E Ambassador Bol Wek Agoth, Republic of South Sudan. He is the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary based in Oslo Norway, representing his country in the Nordic Countries. The Ambassador discussing with African Press International corruption in his country South Sudan and the volatile situation in  Jonglei area where 4 Kenyans, 5 Indians and three South Sudanese from the region working with the United Nations were murdered on Tuesday. Nine others were seriously injured when the UN convoy in the area was ambushed by over 200 people said to be loyal to a Morle tribe theologian-turned rebel leader David Yau Yau.

Bodies of Kenyans killed in South Sudan arrive in Kenya

The bodies of two Kenyans killed in South Sudan on Tuesday arrived in Kitale in readiness for their burial. The two were among four kenyans killed by some 200 militants who attacked a convoy of the united nations in southern sudan. The bodies were brought via road to Kitale in Trans Nzoia county even as the family called on the government to address the plight of kenyans working in other states and to beef up security for its citizens in south sudan.

End

 

Posted in AA > News and News analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: