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Norway gives NOK 20 million to UNICEF’s work in the Central African Republic

Posted by African Press International on December 14, 2013


Norway gives NOK 20 million to UNICEF’s work in the Central African Republic

 

OSLO, Norway, December 13, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/  “The situation in the Central African Republic is now so serious that the UN humanitarian system has decided to operate collectively at the highest level to mobilise staff, equipment and other resources. Norway is therefore allocating NOK 20 million in funding to UNICEF for its efforts to protect children in the country. In wars and conflicts, children are the most vulnerable group of all,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

 

The UN and aid organisations are reporting a dramatic deterioration in the humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic, as a result of the escalating armed conflict in the country. Violence against civilians is on the rise, including in the capital Bangui, and a growing number of people are being driven from their homes.

 

“Some of UNICEF’s most important work is protecting children from abuses and suffering caused by conflict. UNICEF ensures that families with children have access to water, shelter and food, and it establishes safe, child-friendly spaces where children can take part in activities and receive help to overcome traumatic experiences. Norway is now making a major contribution to this important work,” said Mr Brende.

 

Norway is providing humanitarian assistance in the Central African Republic through the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières. Following this latest allocation, Norway’s humanitarian contribution will total NOK 52 million. This sum comes in addition to Norway’s contributions to UN funds and programmes in the country.

 

SOURCE

Norway – Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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IOM Appeals for Funds to Assist Ethiopian Returnees from Saudi Arabia

Posted by African Press International on December 10, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 6, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ IOM is appealing for USD 13.1 million to address the needs of a projected 120,000 returning Ethiopian migrants from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The numbers of the returning migrants is increasing rapidly and there is an urgent need to provide round the clock assistance. As of Thursday 5 December, over 100,000 migrants had been received by the Government of Ethiopia. Out of these, IOM provided direct assistance to over 90,000 individuals. The arrivals continue at over 7,000 migrants per day.

The funds will help to maintain and increase the assistance that IOM is currently providing which includes: transportation, post-arrival medical and psychosocial first aid, provision of meals, water and high energy biscuits, temporary accommodation for migrants who arrive at night, as well as accommodation and transportation for unaccompanied minors. IOM is also distributing shoes and other non-food items to the extremely vulnerable returnees.

The Government of Ethiopia requested IOM’s assistance in managing this influx, with the government taking the lead in arranging for the returns.

Since the onset of the operation, IOM has provided support to 167 unaccompanied minors. The minors stay at the transit centre for an average of 10 days pending family tracing. On Thursday, IOM in coordination with UNICEF and the Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs, sent home 58 children in the company of social workers from the Ministry. The re-unification process after family tracing takes approximately six days.

IOM has already received USD 2.5 million through the Humanitarian Response Fund and Central Emergency Response Fund, leaving the gap of USD 13.1 million. The cost per beneficiary is estimated at USD 130. In-kind contributions from UNICEF, UNHCR, WFP, IRC, ICR, Ethiopian Red Cross Society and other partners are being used to assist the arriving migrants. The donations range from water and sanitation kits, dignity kits, to ambulances, medicine, water tanks, blankets, tents, high energy biscuits and mobile toilets among others.

 

SOURCE

International Office of Migration (IOM)

 

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Managing the Influx of Vulnerable Ethiopian Migrants Returning from Saudi Arabia

Posted by African Press International on December 4, 2013

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 3, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Government of Ethiopia are working together to manage the influx of vulnerable Ethiopian migrants returning from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Ethiopia’s Bole International Airport receives an average of 7,000 migrants every day, as the Ethiopian government works around the clock to facilitate organized movement of its citizens from Saudi Arabia. Over 75,000 migrants have returned to Ethiopia since the operation began on 13 November 2013.

Out of the migrants that have arrived to date, 47,479 are men, 25,000 are women and 3,391 are children. 51,000 migrants are still expected to arrive in Addis Ababa in an exercise that the government estimates will be completed by 15 December.

IOM is facilitating airport reception, registration and transportation from the airport to the Transit Centres and onward to the bus station. For their transport home, IOM is providing $50 bus fare. Water and high energy biscuits are also given to the migrants at the airport reception and meals, water and high energy biscuits are provided at the Transit Centres. IOM has set up clinics at the airport where the arriving migrants can receive medical assistance. The arriving migrants have been treated for Upper Respiratory Tract Infections, Trauma, Urinary Tract Infections, pneumonia, dyspepsia and coughs. In collaboration with the Ethiopian Red Cross and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, ambulances are on standby to transfer patients that may need specialized medical attention.

The Ethiopian government has dedicated seven Transit Centres with a carrying capacity of 6,000 individuals in the capital Addis Ababa. In addition, the World Food Programme has provided seven tents that are used for accommodation. Migrants who arrive in the evening are hosted in these Transit Centres overnight and allowed to go home in the morning. Migrants who arrive during the day are allowed to get a bus home. This ensures that the Transit Centres have room to accommodate new arrivals.

Unaccompanied minors are temporarily hosted at the IOM Transit Centre in Addis Ababa as efforts are made to trace their families. In coordination with Ethiopia’s Ministry of Women, Children and Youth Affairs, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), IOM is assisting in family tracing and re-unifying the minors with their families. The unaccompanied minors are transported to their areas of origin in the company of a social worker and handed over to their parents or guardians.

IOM has set up clinics within these reception centres and migrants who need medical attention are able to readily access it. The clinics are supported by five IOM doctors and 17 nurses including some medical personnel from the Ministry of Health. Psychosocial counselors have also been availed at the Transit Centres for migrants in need of counseling.

In support of the IOM and government initiatives, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has donated non-food items worth $100,000 for use at the Transit Centres. The IRC has also donated NFIs worth $60,000.

Thousands of irregular migrant workers have reportedly been arrested and deported after the expiry of an amnesty period during which the workers were allowed to legalize their status. The measure prompted an exodus of over 1 million foreigners.

 

SOURCE

International Office of Migration (IOM)

 

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Sudan: The killing of two Ministry of Health staff in West Darfur

Posted by African Press International on November 30, 2013

Statement attributable to the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Mr. Ali Al-Za’tari, on the killing of two Ministry of Health staff in West Darfur

KHARTOUM, Sudan, November 29, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Ali Al-Za’tari, strongly condemns the killing of two Sudanese Ministry of Health staff, a vaccinator and a driver, who were part of a team vaccinating vulnerable children against measles in West Darfur.

“My deepest condolences go to the family and friends of those killed,” said Mr Al-Za’tari. “I call on all parties to ensure the protection of all personnel working to deliver assistance to populations in need throughout Sudan,” he said.

UNICEF and the World Health Organization are helping to ensure that every child in Sudan is getting vaccinated, whoever they are and wherever they live.

 

SOURCE

UNITED NATIONS

 

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Mali: A new school year in northern Mali has started with difficulty

Posted by African Press International on November 3, 2013

A new school year in northern Mali has started with difficulty

BAMAKO, – The ravages of Mali’s conflict, which paralysed education for almost two years, have disrupted the start of a new school year in the country’s north, where damaged schools, staff shortages and insecurity have set back learning.

Schools reopened across Mali in October. The government and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched a back-to-school campaign to help 500,000 children and 9,000 teachers restart schooling. Bamako also set up ascheme to pay civil servants to return to the country’s north.

Northern Mali was overrun by Islamist militants and separatist rebels after the government was overthrown in Bamako in March 2012. The Islamists, who imposed a harsh form of Islamic law, were dislodged by French forces in January. However, security is yet to fully return to the region.

“Despite the measures taken by the government, many teachers have not yet resumed duty in Timbuktu,” said Mody Abdoulaye Cissé, the Timbuktu education director. He explained that some teachers considered the US$500 government incentive to return to the north too small and felt that it was still unsafe to go back to the region.

“It’s not only a question of money. It’s a matter of life too. Everybody knows that the conflict is not over and there are suicide attackers everywhere. The government is putting the lives of teachers and pupils in danger by opening schools under such conditions. That is why I have decided not to return for the moment,” said Sekou Sala Koné, a teacher in Timbuktu who is currently living in Bamako.

Years lost

The conflict and the food crisis that hit the Sahel region in 2011-2012 kept some 800,000 Malian children out of school for two years, according to the education department. Even before the conflict, education levels in Mali were already low, with an estimated 1.2 million school-age children, most of them girls, not attending school.

“The major problem is that too many children have lost two years of schooling. This can have a carry-on impact of discouraging children from returning to school,” David Gressly, the UN deputy representative in Mali and the humanitarian coordinator, told IRIN.

With the start of the new school year, learning in Timbuktu Region has resumed without severe disruptions. However, Mohamed Lamine, whose children just returned to school, said the lack of teachers has forced double shifts while the academic calendar has been skewed.

In the northern city of Gao, the teachers union has called for a strike over pay. Union leader Ibrahim Touré said that around half of the 2,597 teachers there had not been paid the return-to-work grant.

Schools have not even started in the northeastern Kidal region, where the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), a separatist Tuareg rebel group, exerts control.

“Here, in fact, schools have been closed since the start of the crisis… Thousands of children are deprived of their right to education,” said Adama Kamissoko, the governor of Kidal.

Ransacked

Sixty-seven percent of schools in northern Mali were ransacked during the crisis. The militants occupied around a quarter of the schools in the region. A smaller percentage of school buildings was damaged or destroyed, according to UNICEF. Gao schools were looted the most.

The nine-month Islamist occupation wrecked public services, with hospitals, bank services, water and electricity only just resuming in most areas.

For Oumar Touré, a teacher who recently resumed duty in Timbuktu, “it is the future of these poor children that we should consider. They need us.”

“I am not scared of the suicide bombers. You know, whether you are in Bamako, Sikasso or Kidal, you may still die,” he told IRIN.

ob/sd/rz  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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India: Abortions in the rise

Posted by African Press International on October 28, 2013

There has been a rise in the number of abortions cases amongst tribal women in the Attapadi settlements in Palakkad. During the last 20 days, 10 abortion cases were reported among tribal women in Attapadi. All together 26 cases of abortion has been reported in Attapadi.

More than half the abortion cases here is of mothers in their second delivery.The alarming increase in abortion cases shows that the measures exerted by the government to identify high risk mothers and provide them medical care and nutritious food has failed.

Moreover the UNICEF directive for improved surveillance to prevent recurrence of infant deaths has not been implemented yet. The UNICEF had suggested community based integrated maternal and new-born child illness scheme and improved dietary practices for pregnant women and lactating mother.

 

End

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Disasters and conflicts hinder girls’ access to education

Posted by African Press International on October 16, 2013

Disasters and conflicts hinder girls’ access to education

NAIROBI, 16 October 2013 (IRIN) – During disasters, girls fare worse than the rest of the population, according to a new report released on 11 October by child rights NGO Plan International.

“Men, women, boys and girls experience disasters in different ways. Pre-existing inequalities and vulnerabilities will be exacerbated in disasters and will affect girls and women more,” said Plan International regional director Gezahegn Kebede at an event for the launch of the report.

“In emergencies, given their gender, age, and humanitarian status [girls] experience triple disadvantage,” said Kebede. However, education can be a powerful mitigating tool, and can significantly improve their livelihoods.

The report entitled The State of the World’s Girls 2013: In Double Jeopardy: Adolescent Girls and Disasters argues that a combination of political, economic, social and cultural attitudes can lead to discrimination of girls during disasters.

“Three of the four main categories of rights that are most relevant to adolescent girls – rights to protection; development through education; and participation – are also among the lowest priorities and often receive the least funding in the humanitarian community. This is because these rights are not seen as immediately life-saving – like food, water and shelter,” the authors noted.

“In general, when times are tough and there are less household resources for school fees, school uniforms, then there is a son preference. If families have to make a choice, they would rather continue education for boys than girls,” said Plan’s Kebede.

Research conducted by the report’s authors in Zimbabwe, South Sudan and Mozambique indicated that boys are more likely to attend school after a disaster than are girls.

“Girls in the developing world tend to draw the short straw in life. They are intrinsically vulnerable, and face everything from the threat of early marriage and violence to the simple fact that their parents do not think girls important enough to go to school,” said Rose Odhiambo, CEO of the Gender and Equality Commission of Kenya.

More child marriage in emergencies 

According to the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), one third of girls are married before the age of 18, and one in nine do so before they turn 15, globally.

Child marriage often increases in emergencies, for a variety of reasons, some of which have to do with income for parents,” said Kebede.

Earlier research shows that fear of gender-based violence and pregnancy out-of-wedlock can motivate families in fragile states to marry-off girls at very young ages as a protective measure.

“Child marriage often increases in emergencies, for a variety of reasons, some of which have to do with income for parents”

Girls under 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth compared to those that give birth in their twenties, and those married before the age of 18 were also twice as likely to be physically abused or threatened by their spouses when compared to those who married later.

In Mozambique for instance, roughly 60 percent of girls with no education are married by 18, compared with just 10 percent of those who have completed secondary school, according to the ICRW.

Gender-based violence during disasters 

Poorly thought-out humanitarian programmes, too, increase the dangers girls face in disaster situations. “We are all aware of the risk of exacerbated gender-based violence based on WASH [water, sanitation and hygiene] programming that doesn’t take into account how latrines and water points are established, for example,” said Kebede.

“Gender-based violence in and around school is a major issue that needs to be addressed and teachers are often exploiting rather than protecting girls, according to various studies,” said Elke Wisch, deputy regional director for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Eastern and South Africa

In fragile countries like Somalia, lax or non-existent regulatory frameworks coupled with cultural attitudes can increase violence against women and girls.

“The issue in Somalia is that, to many, gender-based violence still only means rape. Denial to education, denial to resources, female-genital mutilation, forced early marriage – none of these are considered gender-based violence,” said Ilwad Elman, programme director at the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre in Mogadishu.

Somalia is yet to ratify the Convention to Eliminate all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). “Innovative strategies to actually support Somalia women and girls are paramount,” Elman added.

Education as the solution

“There is overwhelming evidence that girls’ education is a powerful transformative force for societies and girls themselves,” UNICEF’S Wisch noted. “It is the one consistent positive determinants of practically every desired development outcome, from reductions in mortality to poverty reduction and equitable growth, to enhanced participation and democratization.”

“A girl who has completed her education is less likely to marry and have children whilst she is still a child herself. She is more likely to be literate, healthy and survive into adulthood, as are her children,” said Kebede.

Needed: Policies to address girls’ vulnerabilities during disasters

But conflict hinders girls’ access to education. Plan International believes that half of the estimated 57 million primary-school children out of school reside in countries affected by conflict.

“When we include cyclical or protracted disasters this figure is of course even higher,” Kebede said.

Research conducted looking at disasters over a 20-year period in 141 countries shows that boys generally received preferential treatment over girls in rescue efforts.

The use of new technology, as well as innovative partnerships and policies, can help improve access to education, particularly for girls in disasters.

In Bangladesh, solar powered floating schools enable communities affected by seasonal rains and rising sea levels to continue with their educationdespite flooding.

By prioritizing education during emergency responses, disaster situations provide an opportunity to get more girls into school. “Education in emergencies provide safe spaces for girls and boys, provide psycho-social support and peer support spaces and are often used to communicate life-saving messages throughout the first phases of a disaster,” said Kebede.

The report calls for, among other things, greater gender-disaggregated data to better inform policy, and specific initiatives to address the vulnerabilities exacerbated by gender, especially in disaster prevention and response.

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

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Arsenic creep: Arsenic-free public tap in Nepal, but for how long?

Posted by African Press International on September 14, 2013

Arsenic-free public tap in Nepal, but for how long?

HANOI, – Millions of people in South and Southeast Asia may be at risk of arsenic poisoning as massive pumping of groundwater pushes tainted water closer to uncontaminated aquifers, scientists warned in a new study published in the journal Nature.

The study, published by experts from Switzerland, the US and Vietnam, examined changing groundwater flow over one decade in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi.

Hanoi is expanding rapidly, as is water demand. Pumping for municipal water supplies doubled between 2000 and 2010, to around 240 million gallons daily. In the city, water is filtered and treated, but in areas just a few kilometres outside, near the Red River, many households use private untreated wells.

In the past, higher water levels in the aquifer (underground layer of water-bearing rock, sand or silt) meant water from these wells was generally safe. But as more groundwater has been pumped, water from arsenic-rich sediments is increasingly intruding into the previously uncontaminated aquifer.

Arsenic, one of the most common inorganic contaminants found in drinking water worldwide, can be highly toxic to humans. Even in low concentrationsarsenic can damage health if ingested over long periods. It is associated with cancer of the skin, lungs, bladder and kidneys.

At some sites in Vietnam investigated for the study, arsenic concentrations were up to 50 times higher than the internationally recommended limit of 10 micrograms of arsenic per litre.

The study focused on a village on the outskirts of Hanoi, Van Phuc, where residents have private wells. Although the sample was small, it is believed similar processes may be underway elsewhere in large Asian cities that are pumping more groundwater, said co-author Michael Berg, a geochemist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology.

“The processes in nature should be the same anywhere,” he told IRIN, adding that changes in water quality were easier to study in this village because groundwater flow was in one direction – to Hanoi.

“We know exactly where the groundwater is flowing to and we precisely identified where this contaminated water is now intruding into previously safe water,” he explained.

Arsenic creep

Over the last four to six decades, water from the contaminated aquifer has migrated more than 2km toward the city centre, according to the study. However, substantial arsenic contamination moved at a slower pace, only about 120m.

“In some ways it’s not a hugely alarming picture. The water is moving but the arsenic isn’t moving nearly as fast as the water,” said co-author Benjamin Bostick, from Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

This could buy time, perhaps decades, for water managers to try and solve the problem, lead author, Alexander Van Geen, a geochemist at the same observatory, told IRIN from New York.

“But I think there are enough people in trouble now, and this needs to be addressed. We can’t sit back and wait for things to happen. There’s action needed now,” he said.

Solution

To tackle contamination, authorities in Van Phuc set up a water cooperative and built a water-treatment facility next to the local health station that serves around 1,000 households.

Berg said this is a good long-term solution and called for local governments to centralize drinking water systems with large treatment facilities capable of serving up to 10,000 people. Residents on Hanoi’s outskirts currently rely on private wells drilled into a patchwork of clean or polluted sands with no central filtering system.

“The challenge there is setting up a distribution network. You have to pipe this water, and the piping is difficult. It’s costly, of course,” said Berg.

Setting up a piped water system is even more difficult in a country likeBangladesh, where there is generally a low level of formal education and weak governance in villages, Van Geen added.

In Bangladesh, the acceptable level of arsenic in drinking water has been set by the national government at five times higher than the international limit. Of the estimated 8.6 million tube wells nationwide, some 4.7 million have been tested, according to UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF); of these 1.4 million were contaminated.

UNICEF estimates some 20 million people in Bangladesh are drinking water from wells with higher-than-government approved levels of arsenic.

The first step across the region should be to test every well, Van Geen said. “This is not happening enough anywhere in South and Southeast Asia, and we’re trying to come up with a semi-commercial approach to the problem.”

Van Geen and researchers in India recently tested the willingness of rural households in the Indian state of Bihar to pay for arsenic testing. Of some 1,800 households offered a test, almost 1,200 agreed to pay a fee to test their tube wells. The researchers found that two out of three households were willing to pay the 20 rupees (US$0.31) necessary to cover the tester’s time and travel, but not the total actual cost of testing (up to $2.37), a gap that would need to be subsidized in a testing campaign.

These and other solutions should be explored now, said Van Geen.

“What we did in Vietnam was important to make people understand that if you have a safe well, it’s not going to become unsafe overnight, so the 10-year policy [timeframe of study] should be for countries to take advantage of that rather than throwing their hands in the air saying ‘I don’t see a solution to that’ or coming up with solutions that are not practical.”

mb/pt/rz  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Technology can help reach disaster-hit communities

Posted by African Press International on August 27, 2013

Technology can help reach disaster-hit communities

DAKAR,  – Difficulty reaching conflict- or disaster-hit communities slows down aid delivery, hampers assessment and can lead to groups in remote areas being left out of the aid equation altogether. But new technology, while not a panacea, is helping to remove access barriers.

Aid agencies are increasingly seeking innovative solutions to old challenges. For example, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has teamed up with technology firm Spigit to launch “UNHCR Ideas”, an ideas lab where staff, refugees, academics and partners can brainstorm and crowd-source solutions to common problems. Their first challenge is improving access to information and services for urban refugees; the winning idea will be piloted in 2014.

Olivier DelaRue, UNHCR head of innovations, said: “We hope this project will give a voice primarily to refugees, because the solutions are very often with them. What we are trying to achieve is a higher degree of empowerment, a higher degree of self-reliance, in order to increase dignity.”

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also set up ideas labs to stimulate new approaches. Labs are currently at work in Denmark, Kosovo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Below, IRIN explores five access innovations being piloted by aid agencies.

Digital school in a box

UNICEF is piloting a digital school-in-a-box project in Uganda. Sixty schools, each with between 100 and 200 children, have received a pack containing a solar-powered laptop with internet connectivity, a projector, a speaker and a document camera. The idea is to connect rural schools to wider learning networks and tools. The equipment can also be used to link remote communities to health resources, emergency information and entertainment.

UNICEF currently procures the equipment from different suppliers, but says it is seeking to have the kits manufactured in Uganda. Finding low-cost, high-quality equipment and training community members on maintenance are keys to the success of the project, the agency says.

Mobile phones to assess food insecurity

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) uses a process called Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) to gather accurate data about how many people are food insecure, who and where they are, and how their situation came about. In the past, much VAM information was collected through on-the-ground, face-to-face interviews, but these can be slow, expensive and at times impractical, particularly in remote communities or when access is hampered by natural disasters, poor roads or violence.

WFP is now piloting a mobile VAM (mVAM) project to survey communities via SMS polls, which ask people simple questions about food availability and meal patterns to gather key data about the levels of food insecurity.

“With barely any roads, or seriously damaged ones, collecting data on food security and monitoring the situation is a real logistical challenge. [mVAM] has the potential to be a quicker and more cost-effective way of gathering data, allowing us to us to assist faster those people who need our emergency supplies most,” said Koffi Akakpo, head of WFP’s VAM unit in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where a pilot of this programme was conducted in January. The plan is to extend the pilot to other locations in DRC and also to try it in Somalia.

The agency has secured funding from the Humanitarian Innovation Foundation (HIF), a grant facility of the Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA) programme, which supports organizations and individuals developing innovative and scalable solutions for humanitarian challenges.

Mobile phone apps to trace missing children

Reuniting children with their families in the aftermath of a natural disaster or conflict, known as Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR), has long involved hand-written lists, which can be a slow and inefficient process. Now UNICEF is trying a RapidFTR system, which uses an open-source mobile phone application that was conceived from a master’s thesis and brought to reality by ThoughtWorks, an IT consulting firm.

Unaccompanied children are logged and photographed, and their details instantly uploaded to a central database that can be shared with other UN agencies and NGOs. Parents can then consult the database to see if their missing children have been registered and, if so, to find their whereabouts.

Kim Scriven, a manager at HIF, which is also funding this project, said: “This is replacing what was previously done on paper with printed photographs and photocopied lists. That used to take weeks, or even months to centralize, but now it is done instantaneously using mobile phones and the internet.”

RapidFTR uses the kinds of security measures employed by mobile banking programmes to ensure that sensitive data about vulnerable children, especially photographs, are only accessible by authorized users.

A pilot of this project is currently being carried out by the Uganda Red Cross and Save the Children in the Nyakabande transit centre and Rwamwanja refugee camp in eastern Uganda, where many displaced people from DRC have sought refuge.

3D printing to create spare parts

Officially known as “rapid prototyping”, 3D printing sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but in fact it offers real and potentially sustainable solutions for communities in the developing world and those affected by disasters.

In 3D printing, a three-dimensional model of an object is scanned and digitally stored, then shared, downloaded and printed out, one thin layer of material – usually plastic – at a time.

This is giving remote communities unprecedented access to things like irrigation pipes, agricultural tools, water pumps, wind turbine blades and health aids, all items that previously would have had to be imported at great time and expense.

William Hoyle, CEO of techfortrade, a UK-based charity that aims to find technological solutions to trade and development challenges, told IRIN: “Printer costs are coming down, mobile phones are the new computer and internet access is widening, so the opportunities are endless.

“Many developing companies struggle to source spare parts for machinery, but the idea that you just make a spare part by downloading a file and printing it out really changes everything,” he said.

Hoyle said techfortrade was in talks with a company in India to recycle plastic to make filament, for use in a 3D-printing project to make farm tools. “Waste plastic is everywhere, and if you can put it to good use then that is environmentally sustainable as well.”

In May, global experts and innovators met in Trieste, Italy, at an event hosted by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics to discuss how low-cost 3D printing could be used for science, education and sustainable development.

Pooling malnutrition information

A number of organizations, including Save the Children UK, WFP and Concern Worldwide, are using the Minimum Reporting Package (MRP), a monitoring and reporting tool that allows organizations to collect and pool standardized data on emergency Supplementary Feeding Programmes (SFPs), which treat moderate severe malnutrition.

MRP not only allows aid and humanitarian agencies to better monitor the effectiveness of emergency SFPs, it also allows them to quickly deliver standardized information to donors and governments in times of crisis.

lr/jl/aj/ob/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also set up ideas labs to stimulate new approaches. Labs are currently at work in Denmark, Kosovo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Posted by African Press International on August 25, 2013

DAKAR,  – Difficulty reaching conflict- or disaster-hit communities slows down aid delivery, hampers assessment and can lead to groups in remote areas being left out of the aid equa tion altogether. But new technology, while not a panacea, is helping to remove access barriers.

Aid agencies are increasingly seeking innovative solutions to old challenges. For example, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has teamed up with technology firm Spigit to launch “UNHCR Ideas”, an ideas lab where staff, refugees, academics and partners can brainstorm and crowd-source solutions to common problems. Their first challenge is improving access to information and services for urban refugees; the winning idea will be piloted in 2014.

Olivier DelaRue, UNHCR head of innovations, said: “We hope this project will give a voice primarily to refugees, because the solutions are very often with them. What we are trying to achieve is a higher degree of empowerment, a higher degree of self-reliance, in order to increase dignity.”

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also set up ideas labs to stimulate new approaches. Labs are currently at work in Denmark, Kosovo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Below, IRIN explores five access innovations being piloted by aid agencies.

Digital school in a box

UNICEF is piloting a digital school-in-a-box project in Uganda. Sixty schools, each with between 100 and 200 children, have received a pack containing a solar-powered laptop with internet connectivity, a projector, a speaker and a document camera. The idea is to connect rural schools to wider learning networks and tools. The equipment can also be used to link remote communities to health resources, emergency information and entertainment.

UNICEF currently procures the equipment from different suppliers, but says it is seeking to have the kits manufactured in Uganda. Finding low-cost, high-quality equipment and training community members on maintenance are keys to the success of the project, the agency says.

Mobile phones to assess food insecurity

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) uses a process called Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) to gather accurate data about how many people are food insecure, who and where they are, and how their situation came about. In the past, much VAM information was collected through on-the-ground, face-to-face interviews, but these can be slow, expensive and at times impractical, particularly in remote communities or when access is hampered by natural disasters, poor roads or violence.

WFP is now piloting a mobile VAM (mVAM) project to survey communities via SMS polls, which ask people simple questions about food availability and meal patterns to gather key data about the levels of food insecurity.

“With barely any roads, or seriously damaged ones, collecting data on food security and monitoring the situation is a real logistical challenge. [mVAM] has the potential to be a quicker and more cost-effective way of gathering data, allowing us to us to assist faster those people who need our emergency supplies most,” said Koffi Akakpo, head of WFP’s VAM unit in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where a pilot of this programme was conducted in January. The plan is to extend the pilot to other locations in DRC and also to try it in Somalia.

The agency has secured funding from the Humanitarian Innovation Foundation (HIF), a grant facility of the Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA) programme, which supports organizations and individuals developing innovative and scalable solutions for humanitarian challenges.

Mobile phone apps to trace missing children

Reuniting children with their families in the aftermath of a natural disaster or conflict, known as Family Tracing and Reunification (FTR), has long involved hand-written lists, which can be a slow and inefficient process. Now UNICEF is trying a RapidFTR system, which uses an open-source mobile phone application that was conceived from a master’s thesis and brought to reality by ThoughtWorks, an IT consulting firm.

Unaccompanied children are logged and photographed, and their details instantly uploaded to a central database that can be shared with other UN agencies and NGOs. Parents can then consult the database to see if their missing children have been registered and, if so, to find their whereabouts.

Kim Scriven, a manager at HIF, which is also funding this project, said: “This is replacing what was previously done on paper with printed photographs and photocopied lists. That used to take weeks, or even months to centralize, but now it is done instantaneously using mobile phones and the internet.”

RapidFTR uses the kinds of security measures employed by mobile banking programmes to ensure that sensitive data about vulnerable children, especially photographs, are only accessible by authorized users.

A pilot of this project is currently being carried out by the Uganda Red Cross and Save the Children in the Nyakabande transit centre and Rwamwanja refugee camp in eastern Uganda, where many displaced people from DRC have sought refuge.

3D printing to create spare parts

Officially known as “rapid prototyping”, 3D printing sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but in fact it offers real and potentially sustainable solutions for communities in the developing world and those affected by disasters.

In 3D printing, a three-dimensional model of an object is scanned and digitally stored, then shared, downloaded and printed out, one thin layer of material – usually plastic – at a time.

This is giving remote communities unprecedented access to things like irrigation pipes, agricultural tools, water pumps, wind turbine blades and health aids, all items that previously would have had to be imported at great time and expense.

William Hoyle, CEO of techfortrade, a UK-based charity that aims to find technological solutions to trade and development challenges, told IRIN: “Printer costs are coming down, mobile phones are the new computer and internet access is widening, so the opportunities are endless.

“Many developing companies struggle to source spare parts for machinery, but the idea that you just make a spare part by downloading a file and printing it out really changes everything,” he said.

Hoyle said techfortrade was in talks with a company in India to recycle plastic to make filament, for use in a 3D-printing project to make farm tools. “Waste plastic is everywhere, and if you can put it to good use then that is environmentally sustainable as well.”

In May, global experts and innovators met in Trieste, Italy, at an event hosted by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics to discuss how low-cost 3D printing could be used for science, education and sustainable development.

Pooling malnutrition information

A number of organizations, including Save the Children UK, WFP and Concern Worldwide, are using the Minimum Reporting Package (MRP), a monitoring and reporting tool that allows organizations to collect and pool standardized data on emergency Supplementary Feeding Programmes (SFPs), which treat moderate severe malnutrition.

MRP not only allows aid and humanitarian agencies to better monitor the effectiveness of emergency SFPs, it also allows them to quickly deliver standardized information to donors and governments in times of crisis.

lr/jl/aj/ob/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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Dry winter bad news for farmers

Posted by African Press International on August 17, 2013

MASERU,) – On a windy day in Thaba-Bosiu, 40km from Lesotho’s capital, Maseru, Nkoliopa Mosotho is inspecting his parched fields. Like many other rural farmers in Lesotho, he was banking on winter snowfall to soften the iron-hard ground and allow him to plough, but none fell.

“It is a very worrying situation; normally by this time of the year it is good to prepare your soil so that in October, it will be easy to cultivate, but it’s so dry,” he told IRIN. “It will take many days to finish ploughing my fields, and my oxen will tire or even die after that.”

Ntsieng Mafeto, 65, in nearby Qeme, is also struggling. “I should have planted some hay for my sheep, but we last had good rains in March, and I am really concerned because its lambing season now, but the streams are dry and there is no single shoot of green grass on the ground.”

After two disastrous years for Lesotho’s farmers, the 2012/2013 planting season yielded much improved harvests of maize – the staple crop – and sorghum. However, the lack of early rains and snow needed for winter cropping and soil preparation suggests a less promising outlook.

Winter cropping poor

Snow only fell in the mountainous areas of the country and not in the lowlands, which have the most productive land. “It’s true we received some rain, but in general it was below average and generally, the winter was warm,” said Mokoena France, climate statistician with the Lesotho Meteorological Service.

The consequences are far-reaching. Winter cropping is crucial to the livelihoods of many people in rural Lesotho. Wheat, one of the main staple foods, is mostly sown in winter to take advantage of the moisture from snowfall and early spring rains. Thousands of Basotho who live in mountainous areas, where crops such as maize and sorghum do not do well, rely heavily on growing wheat, which can then be exchanged for maize with people in the lowlands. Winter cropping also includes planting peas and hay for animals, but the farmers IRIN spoke to said they have not succeeded in growing either.

Like many farmers in her area of Ha Moruthoane in Maseru District, Maletuka Moroka, 70, relies almost entirely on a nearby spring to water her vegetable garden, but the lack of precipitation has caused the spring to dry up. “I make all my living from the vegetables I plant here, but if there is no water it means I will have to stop and wait for rain. I tried planting some vegetables, especially peas, a few months back, but they have now dried up,” she said.

Sekhonyana Mahase, senior crop production officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, said the lack of moisture this winter was bad news for farmers and for the government’s crop-sharing scheme, which is running in eight of the country’s 10 districts. In return for paying the full costs of seed, fertilizer and tractors for planting wheat, the government takes 70 percent of the harvest, leaving farmers with the remaining 30 percent. But Mahase said yields are expected to be low due to the lack of rain.

Forecasts not promising

“The dry winter has had an impact,” confirmed Victor Ankrah, a child survival and development specialist with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Lesotho.

According to a recent household assessment of nutritional status carried out by UNICEF, 12 percent of the population is currently food insecure. “The reason they’re food insecure is because the winter harvest was not good,” Ankrah told IRIN.

Although the figure is down from the same time last year, Ankrah said the number was likely to increase between January and April – the peak of the lean season before summer crops are harvested.

Ankrah said that the wells and boreholes rural communities rely on for water were not expected to dry up, providing the country received normal rainfall levels between August and December. “However, for quite some time now the rainfall pattern has been very erratic, with very low rainfall levels during those months.”

The Lesotho Meteorological Service has forecast that rain will be average or below average over the next three months, and that many areas will remain dry.

According to Mahase, of the Ministry of Agriculture, this is likely to have a negative impact on summer cropping. “We are really faced with a momentous task. Even if it rains now, it may be a little too late for some farmers who have not prepared their soil,” he told IRIN.

ms/ks/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

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Cholera resurgent – The need to conduct a vaccination campaign

Posted by African Press International on August 17, 2013

West African cholera cases highest in Guinea-Bissau

DAKAR,  – More than 700 people have been sickened by cholera in Guinea-Bissau, the highest number of cases so far this year in West Africa, which has nonetheless seen a significant drop in cases this year compared to 2012.

Isolated health centres, insufficient medical personnel and detrimental traditional beliefs have contributed to the prevalence, explained Inàcio Alvarenga, an epidemiologist with World Health Organization (WHO).

Guinea-Bissau’s southern Tombali region is the worst hit, with 225 cases and 21 deaths as of late July, said Nicolau Almeida, a health ministry director.

Tombali is the poorest region [in the country] in terms of human resources. There is only one nurse per health centre. The health system cannot properly cater for patients. This is in addition to superstitions by people who don’t believe the scientific explanation of cholera,” Alvarenga told IRIN.

Continuing epidemic

As of 22 July – when the latest data was available – the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported 742 cases in Guinea-Bissau, 416 in Niger and 368 in Sierra Leone. The outbreak in Guinea-Bissau is a continuation of the 2012 epidemic, when 3,359 people contracted cholera.

“To confirm a new epidemic, the 2012 outbreak should have been declared over” by demonstrating the absence of vibrio cholera in diarrhoea, said Alvarenga.

“For reasons I’m not aware of, the government did not test cases in the first weeks of the year. These cases did not disappear but got spread around,” he continued. “I don’t think we will hit the 2008 level [when 14,204 people were infected and 225 killed], but the disease risks will be lingering for several months like in 1996-1998.”

Most cases have so far been reported in Catungo and Mato Foroba localities in the country’s south. “These are rice-growing areas where vibrio cholera can easily reproduce,” Alvarenga said.

Other cases have been reported in Catio area and in Quinara region – all in the south. Almeida said that the cases in Catio town indicated that the disease was spreading. Two cases have been confirmed in the capital, Bissau, said hospital sources.

“Residents of the city’s old town district are very concerned,” Alvarenga said. The water and electricity company has been unable to supply water to the capital in the past weeks due to financial difficulties, although it recently resumed partial service. “People are seeking all possible means to get water. It’s not rare to see water transporters on the streets.”

Need for medical personnel, drugs

Almeida, from the health ministry, said the government’s priority was to contain the disease in Tombali, where a medical team – comprising an epidemiologist, two doctors, two nurses and a community outreach specialist – has been sent.

“We, however, need to boost the medical team with three more nurses and five doctors to better guide the health sector in the region. We need to set up different teams in the different areas. There is also a huge requirement for medicines,” he said.

In neighbouring Guinea, cholera has infected 146 people and killed 10 since March, according to aid group Action Contre la Faim (ACF). In Sierra Leone, where around 300 died of cholera in 2012, 369 people have been infected so far this year, mainly in Kambia area, near the border with Guinea.

“Fish is often a factor of cholera infection in this region,” said Jérôme Pfaffmann, a health expert with UNICEF; fishermen criss-cross between the islets off the Guinean coast. The movement of people across the borders of Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone are also factors in transmission, said ACF’s Jainil Didaraly.

Guinea is conducting a vaccination campaign targeting 4,679 people.

Africa – and West Africa in particular – is the only part of the world wherecholera cases are steadily increasing.

cr/dab/ob/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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Small-scale traders face constant harassment from security forces and corrupt government officials

Posted by African Press International on August 14, 2013

Goma, the capital of the Congolese eastern province of North Kivu, continues to face serious challenges

GOMA, – Three years ago when Jean*, 41, applied for a license to open a hardware shop in Goma, capital of North Kivu Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), he had to pay a fee of US$1,500 to the General Tax Directorate, and the whole process took a year.

“Every time I went to the [tax] office, they denied I ever paid the money, yet I had an official receipt from the General Tax Directorate. I had to pay a bribe to get the license,” he told IRIN.

Since opening, Jean has had to contend with different people claiming to be government officials coming regularly to his shop asking him to pay additional taxes.

“Here nothing works because all the time, people come to you saying they are from the General Tax Directorate but they have no identification at all. You just have to pay them. The tax they ask for is never uniform and depends on the mood of the person who comes to collect it,” he added.

Jean’s experience highlights the incapacity, or virtual absence, of state institutions and endemic corruption in this part of DRC.

Another example: The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that two thirds of children in North and South Kivu provinces do not have a birth certificate, though you have to have one (in theory at least) to be enrolled in school in the DRC.

But it is not just the lack of an effective state bureaucracy that worries some observers – many health and education services in eastern DRC are funded or controlled by aid agencies.

A March 2013 paper by Koen Vlassenroot and Karen Büscher of the Conflict Research Group argues that in Goma and elsewhere in eastern DRC, power, authority and state sovereignty have been transferred to aid organizations.

“Due to a lack of means, capacity, motivation, vision, corruption and mismanagement, state services have been constantly hollowed out and have increasingly been replaced by new coalitions of local and international development actors.”

One effect “of the humanitarian sector’s presence and interventions is the encouragement of state withdrawal from public services and a transfer of power and legitimacy to the advantage of international actors. This sector has largely taken over education and health care, and even the rehabilitation of road infrastructure,” they said.

For instance, in the provinces of North and South Kivu, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) runs 40 health centres, nine health posts, and four referral clinics and supports 11 government-owned health clinics.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) appealed for nearly US$6 million to fund educational activities in North and South Kivu in 2012; and $9 million for education and 2.8 million for nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene services for the whole of DRC in 2013.

According to Büscher and Vlassenroot, international aid agencies have replaced the state in key sectors. They say development “is understood locally as a responsibility of the humanitarian sector” – meaning that citizens see development, or the lack of it, as the effort or failure of aid organizations operating in the area.

“Governance by substitution”

Marc-Andre Lagrange, Central Africa senior analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG), told IRIN: “The Congolese administration based in Kinshasa has chosen governance by substitution in managing the affairs of the country’s eastern region” in which the government appears to have handed over the responsibility of providing services to aid organizations.

Small-scale traders face constant harassment from security forces and corrupt government officials

This, Lagrange argues, is not “something new in DRC as it was the Mobutu regime that introduced that practice of weakening the state apparatus and handing over social services to humanitarian and charitable organizations. Education and health care have long since been taken over by the Catholic Church in most of the country. Organizations such as MSF were present in DRC long before 1994 [and have provided health care since].”

Problems are many

Pacifique Borauzima Buluhukiro, a programme officer in Goma with International Alert, told IRIN: “The roads are in disrepair; electricity is irregular in town and absent in rural areas. Schools and health facilities are in poor condition and are in inaccessible areas [even] for humanitarian organizations.”

Armed groups continue to control large swathes of the region. A result of these conflicts has been the internal displacement of an estimated 2.7 million people, the third largest internal displacement in the world.

“The government doesn’t provide anything”

Those who live in camps around Goma, uprooted from their homes by armed rebel groups, say they do not receive any assistance from the government.

Nadia, a 27-year-old mother of three from Ruthshuru, told IRIN from Mugunga 3, a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) on the outskirts of Goma: “We have no food, water or even [security] and the government doesn’t even visit to see how we live. Only NGOs at times come here to help.”

Lack of access to clean water has made cholera and waterborne diseases endemic. The absence of government investment in the health sector has meant the few clinics, operated mostly by aid agencies, are overstretched and unable to cope.

“At times people come and we just look at them because we don’t have any way of helping them. We have no drugs. At times some organizations offer to help but it is too little and it runs out quickly. The government doesn’t provide anything,” a nurse at a government-owned health facility, told IRIN.

Corruption

A Congolese human rights activist who preferred anonymity told IRIN that even though taxes are levied through the General Tax Directorate, the revenue ends up in the pockets of government officials.

“Corruption in DRC is endemic. The country has an undemocratic, authoritarian and untransparent governance system that supports patronage networks based on the exchange of favours and murky resource transfers”

“Corruption in DRC is endemic. The country has an undemocratic, authoritarian and untransparent governance system that supports patronage networks based on the exchange of favours and murky resource transfers,” Marta Martinelli, a programme officer at the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), said in a recent report.

A senior civil servant in the North Kivu governor’s office told IRIN political leaders are focused more on retaining political power than providing services.

“The resources available are used to extend political patronage. In the eastern part, the conflict is a good excuse for government officials to say `when there is peace, we will come to help’,” he said.

Francois Rumuzi, a 24-year-old trader in Goma, told IRIN that seeing the poorly paid local police, who do little to protect residents from criminals, is the closest he gets to feeling the government’s presence.

“When you listen to the radio, you hear government officials talk about this or that, but the government doesn’t help people here. Even the police here say they can’t protect us because the government doesn’t pay them,” he said.

Fidel Bafilemaba, a Goma-based researcher with the Enough Project, said the absence of an effective state presence has made eastern DRC the “nerve centre” of what he called DRC’s “non-state status”. He said conflict had exposed “the government’s failure in security, health and education sector reforms”. He said the situation had led many to declare the DRC “a failed state”.

Traditional chiefs

Analysts have accused the government of leaving governance and development to traditional leaders in rural areas, something they say has failed because local chiefs have no constitutionally defined roles.

In a July 2013 analysis entitled Understanding Conflict in Eastern Congo (I): The Ruzizi Plain, ICG said; “The government remains ineffective in rural areas, leaving customary chiefs, whose role is recognised by the constitution but not fully defined, virtually in charge. They use their key position between the state and communities to benefit from any state and international investments and to protect their own interests. This fuels conflict, with intercommunal rivalries playing out in state institutions and among local and national politicians.”

To solve this problem, ICG said the Congolese authorities should “disseminate the laws on customary powers to the population and customary authorities, and train customary chiefs so they can assume their functions in accordance with the law.”

In its 2012 report Ending the Deadlock: Towards a new vision of peace in eastern DRC International Alert argues that for the state to have more legitimacy there needs to be better access to, and management of, land in rural areas; a more rational division and management of political power; better management of returning refugees and IDPs; and recognition of the importance of security.

According to OSISA’s Martinelli, DRC has serious flaws in its democratic system, a weak justice sector, deeply entrenched corruption and a “neglected or non-existent infrastructure, which prevents the effective delivery of public services”.

*not a real name

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

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Severe drought is killing everything

Posted by African Press International on August 14, 2013

Kariamakuju Kauta’s plot of land has turned to dust

OPUWO,  – The arid hills of Namibia’s northwestern Kunene Region make for a harsh environment at the best of times. With agriculture limited by the region’s dry, sandy soil, most of the local population rely on livestock farming, leading a semi-nomadic existence dictated by the search for fresh pasture for their cattle and goats. But following two years of failed rains, pasture is almost non-existent; where there used to be grass, there is now little more than dust.

“The drought is killing everything,” said Teemuime Mbendura, who lives in a Himba homestead, about one hour’s drive north of the regional capital, Opuwo.

The Ovahimba have largely managed to maintain their traditional way of life in northern Namibia, including the women’s practice of applying a mixture of animal fat and ochre to their skin and hair to achieve a distinctive reddish hue. But increasingly erratic rains – which are expected to grow even more variable in the future, according to climate change predictions – are threatening the sustainability of their pastoral existence.

Mbendura does not know her age – “Maybe a thousand years,” she says – but she is certain this is the first time in her life that the rains have failed for two consecutive years. “The old men used to consult the ancestors to ask for rain, but now there are no old men left at the homestead, and the younger ones don’t do this,” she told IRIN.

The younger men are noticeably absent from the homestead, which consists of huts encircled by a makeshift fence. Most have taken their cattle to distant patches of pasture in an effort to keep them alive.

“My husband is at the cattle post,” said Maikotoka Mbendura, pointing towards some mountains on the horizon. “He’s been gone two months. He left us with some maize meal, but it’s not enough. The children are hungry.”

Mbendura is preparing a watery porridge for her three year old, using what is left of the maize meal purchased from the sale of a few cattle. “We’re worried the rest will die from the drought; some have died already,” she said, adding that the starving cattle no longer produce milk.

National emergency

Although northern Namibia has been hardest hit by the current drought, the entire country has been affected, according to Hellen Likanda, deputy director of the Directorate of Disaster Risk Management, which is coordinating the drought response. “People did not harvest enough food in all the regions,” she said.

President Hifikepunye Pohamba declared the drought a national emergencyon 17 May after an initial assessment found that 331,000 people were in need of food aid. That figure has since climbed to over 460,000 and continues to rise, said Likanda, who admitted that the 52,000 metric tonnes of maize meal already distributed by the government was not enough.

Click to view more photos

Following the emergency declaration, the government allocated 200 million Namibian dollars (US$20.1 million) to the drought response, but Likanda said that more funding was needed and that the government was currently drafting a gap analysis that would be used to appeal to international donors to help meet the shortfall. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has launched its own appeal to raise $7.4 million to respond to the needs of women and children while the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is appealing for $1.48 million.

Current assistance insufficient

The government’s initial procurement of maize meal came from local small- and medium-sized millers that lacked the capacity to fortify it with much-needed nutrients. Likanda noted that future procurements would stipulate that maize meal be fortified and supplemented with rations of meat, fish and pulses.

Kunene’s governor, Joshua Hoebeb, said that the 49,000 bags of maize meal the region had so far received did not match the numbers of people registered for food aid, which was in the 70,000s and increasing on a daily basis. “We need to provide aid until the first harvest [in March] next year,” he told journalists gathered at his offices in Opuwo, “and we don’t know where the next shipment of maize is going to come from.”

None of the households that IRIN interviewed in Kunene had received food assistance. “The government promised food, but it hasn’t come,” said Teemuime Mbendura. Her extended family at the homestead is now largely dependent on the 500 Namibian dollars ($50) a month one or two family members receive in old-age pensions. The men are reluctant to slaughter or sell their cattle to buy food, partly because the meat is fetching significantly less than it would in a normal year, even with the additional 300 Namibian dollars ($30) per cow that the government is offering as an incentive for destocking. Cattle also represent a Himba man’s pride and prosperity.

Kapara Mbinge, 35, has returned to the homestead for a funeral, following a three-day journey from a cattle post 140km away. So far, he has lost six animals to the drought and sold two, but he still has a herd of 65. “I don’t normally sell them,” he told IRIN. “They are my wealth.”

The Zemba, another traditional group in the region, depend less on livestock farming and more on cultivating crops, but they are faring no better. Kariamakuju Kauta, 55, estimates that she has enough maize left from this year’s meagre harvest to feed her family of 12 for one more week. The parched soil did not yield any vegetables, and the family’s six cattle have all died. “For now, we are eating once a day,” she said. “The children are going to bed hungry, and when they wake up, there’s nothing to give them.”

“The children are going to bed hungry, and when they wake up, there’s nothing to give them”

Five of her family members have gone to Opuwo in search of work, an increasingly common response to the drought, according to Kakarandua Mutambo, regional manager for the Namibia Red Cross Society (NRCS).

“Government aid is taking time,” Mutambo said, adding that it is only targeting rural households. With more families move closer to town in the hope of earning an income, NRCS is about to open a soup kitchen there that will initially feed 200 children once a day.

UNICEF is also partnering with NRCS to provide funding and technical support for the training of volunteers in four of the most affected regions, including Kunene. They will be deployed to communities to educate residents about basic health and hygiene practices and to screen vulnerable children for signs of malnutrition. A pilot health extension workers programme in Opuwo District, also funded by UNICEF, has similar goals of providing basic health services and information to under-served communities.

Malnutrition rates rising

Nhamoinesu Mudadi-Benhura, acting principal medical officer at the Engela District Hospital in hard-hit Ohangwena Region, said that admissions for paediatric malnutrition had increased by 76 percent since March, with 30 cases recorded in June and eight deaths. Nationally, a total of 46 malnutrition-related deaths had been recorded by July this year, but how many of the deaths were directly linked to the drought is difficult to determine.

Namibia is classified as an upper middle-income country by the World Bank, but malnutrition remains a chronic problem in many poor households, with 29 percent of children affected by stunting, according to UNICEF. Children are often only diagnosed after the malnutrition has become severe and follow-up is frequently lacking, said Mudadi-Benhura.

“The problem is support after they leave hospital,” he said. “Even if you give Plumpy’nut [a peanut-based paste used to treat malnutrition], that child has siblings, and it will be shared.”

Mudadi-Benhura noted that the majority of malnourished children admitted to his hospital came from makeshift settlements on the outskirts of towns, where there is no space to grow crops and poor sanitation causes diarrhoea and other illnesses that contribute to the problem.

Riondjovi Mupia, 28, and her three children moved to one such settlement near Opuwo four months ago, when the vegetable patch she had relied on for an income failed due to lack of rain. For a few weeks she earned a small income working in a shop in town, but that job has since ended. There was nothing to feed the children besides a few maize kernels, which she was toasting over a fire when IRIN arrived.

“I registered for food aid, but I haven’t received anything,” she said.

ks/rz source http://www.irinnews.org

 

 

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