Inter Press ServiceWomen’s Health – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 23 Feb 2018 03:45:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.5 Turning Promise into Action: Working Towards Gender Equalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/turning-promise-action-working-towards-gender-equality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=turning-promise-action-working-towards-gender-equality http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/turning-promise-action-working-towards-gender-equality/#respond Thu, 15 Feb 2018 07:54:24 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154332 Persistent and pervasive gender-based discrimination is undermining sustainable development and preventing communities and countries from reaching their full potential, said a UN agency. In a new first-of-its-kind report, UN Women examines the progress in realizing the globally adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a gender lens. Though SDG 5 specifically highlights the need to achieve […]

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Protesters gather outside the Lahore Press Club in the capital of Pakistan's Punjab province, to demand justice for victims of sexual violence. Credit: Irfan Ahmed / IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 15 2018 (IPS)

Persistent and pervasive gender-based discrimination is undermining sustainable development and preventing communities and countries from reaching their full potential, said a UN agency.

In a new first-of-its-kind report, UN Women examines the progress in realizing the globally adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a gender lens.

Though SDG 5 specifically highlights the need to achieve gender equality, the report points to worrisome trends in the implementation of all 17 SDGs and calls on the international community to accelerate its efforts.

“Unless progress on gender equality is accelerated, the global community will fail to achieve the SDGs,” UN Women Research and Data Specialist and author of the report Ginette Azcona told IPS.

1 in 5 Say #MeToo

Among the issues highlighted in the report is sexual harassment and violence.

UN Women found that approximately one in five women and girls aged 15 to 49 from around the world have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner within the last 12 months.

However, 49 countries still do not have laws that protect women from such violence.

The issue has gained international spotlight in recent months with millions rallying behind the #MeToo campaign which aims to reveal the magnitude of sexual harassment and other forms of violence that women all over the world experience every day.

Though the original #MeToo movement was launched ten years ago by activist Tarana Burke, the recent viral campaign has inspired many to come forward with their stories, including those who have exposed celebrities and public officials.

“The women’s movement has been working for many years to raise awareness of the different forms of violence ad abuse faced by women and girls. The current spotlight is therefore a welcomed insertion of energy to this important but too often neglected area,” Azcona told IPS.

Such attention will help advance a number of SDGs such as access to safe public spaces, she added.

Intersectional-Issue Lives

UN Women particularly pointed to the the report’s figures on poverty which reveal a persistent gap between women and men.

In 89 countries, 4.4 million more women than men live on less than 1.90 dollars a day.

This is partially due to the disproportionate burden of unpaid care and domestic work that women face, especially during their reproductive years.

Poverty often does not stand alone in the lives of women and girls as different dimensions of well-being, deprivation, and even racial identity often intersect.

For instance, a girl who is born into a poor household is more likely to be forced into early marriage and thus more likely to drop out of school, give birth at an early age, suffer complications during childbirth, and experience violence than a girl from a higher-income household.

“It is the intersection of gender with other forms of discrimination that pushes women and girls from poor and marginalized groups even further behind,” Azcona said.

In the United States, race and income are deeply intertwined.

UN Women found that Black, Hispanic, and Native American or Alaska Native women are more likely to live in poverty. The rates of poverty are highest for Black women at almost 24 percent.

Women who find themselves in the bottom of the income distribution are least likely to be employed and thus lack access to health insurance.

As the range of deprivations that women face span all 17 SDGs, the report highlights the need to make progress on more than the goal to achieve gender equality.

“Progress on some fronts may be undermined by regression and stagnation on others, and potential synergies may be lost if siloed approaches to implementation take precedence over integrated, multi-sectoral strategies,” it states.

Among the report’s recommendations for action is for governments to create and implement integrated policies.

For instance, providing free and universal child care to women would allow them to access employment and income and improve the family’s health and well-being.

Universal childcare can also create generate new jobs and revenue.

Azcona also highlighted the need for spaces for democratic debate in order to hold governments accountable on their promises, including a sustained involvement of women’s organizations.

“Addressing violence and inequality after all is key to greater social and political stability,” she said.

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How It Feels to Survive Slavery: Ira’s storyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/feels-survive-slavery-iras-story/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=feels-survive-slavery-iras-story http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/feels-survive-slavery-iras-story/#respond Wed, 07 Feb 2018 16:41:48 +0000 Olga Borzenkova http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154219 “A client called at night and ordered a girl. I was sleeping when suddenly I was told to go to the client. He was already drunk and aggressive. I was scared to stay with him. He made me drink and I had to obey. You feel neither pain nor shame when you are drunk. Everything […]

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By Olga Borzenkova
Feb 7 2018 (IOM)

“A client called at night and ordered a girl. I was sleeping when suddenly I was told to go to the client. He was already drunk and aggressive. I was scared to stay with him. He made me drink and I had to obey. You feel neither pain nor shame when you are drunk. Everything goes easier. I woke up in the morning and got ready to leave when he told me to stay. He told that he had paid for the whole day and I must work it off. The door was closed. He hid the door keys and my phone. He claimed that he had paid for my services and could do with me whatever he wanted… He fell asleep soon again. I didn’t find the keys. I thought I could exit through the window. It was the third floor and there was a fire escape ladder nearby. I decided to climb over the balcony to the ladder. And fell down… Everything happened very quickly. I felt no pain… I remember that I tried to stand up but couldn’t and saw my bones sticking out of my arms. I passed out. I came round in the ambulance. Later – only in the intensive care unit. There I told my name and where I came from. Doctors called my relatives. Later my family moved me back to Belarus. It was super expensive.”

Ira is a victim of trafficking in human beings. She survived sexual slavery.

It is hard to believe that slavery still exists in the modern world. Today this phenomenon is referred to as “Trafficking in Human Beings” and “traffickers” are subject to criminal liability for the recruitment, detention and exploitation of victims of trafficking. Victims are often psychologically and/or physically injured for the rest of their lives. Hardly ever do they tell their stories to others because most likely they will be criticized and blamed for what has happened to them.

Ira agreed to tell her story for other girls to be aware of a hidden danger. She tells that no matter how difficult one’s situation in life is, one should always doubt and check what one is offered. There is always a right and opportunity to refuse and leave. The important thing is to stay in touch with relatives before making a decision to accept an offer, and even after, if the decision is already made.

Ira is a person in a wheelchair. She has a daughter, work, a dacha where she likes to go in summer, and plans for the future.

We were a little bit nervous before meeting with Ira because we knew that her life was not easy. We expected to see a young depressed woman and didn’t know what questions we should ask and what to avoid.

When we met Ira, we saw a young woman with a strong will, because only such a person can pluck up all her courage and tell us her story, which she thinks about every day. We saw a brave woman who overcame pain and lives a normal life, works, raises a daughter. Ira is from a small town in the Vitebsk region. She says that she’s never had warm family relationships: her mother spent a lot of time at work due to her high and responsible position. Ira didn’t have close relationships with her sister either, because of a big age difference.

“Neither my mother nor my sister was a close friend to me. It seemed to me that my mother didn’t care a lot about us. She got married for the third time; her husband was a few years younger. But she always performed her mother’s responsibilities to ‘dress and feed’ us, and we never struggled to make ends meet,” Ira recalls.

Life with Ira’s mother and her new husband went wrong from the very beginning. Ira was a teenager when he moved to their place. The mother was jealous of him. On any occasion he tried either to pinch Ira or to hug her or to pat her hips. He constantly provoked her.

Ira ran away from home many times. But she was too young and didn’t have an opportunity to earn money to live on her own. Ira got married very early. Her husband seemed to be a like-minded person, a perfect candidate for her. Soon she gave birth to a daughter and in the beginning everything was quite fine. But years passed and relations became worse. Ira’s young husband didn’t want to work. The family lacked money and didn’t have proper accommodation to live in. They were all the time moving from her mother’s-in-law place to the rented flat and back.

“We were too young and fed up with the daily routine,” Ira explains.

Ira left her husband and returned to her mother’s place, taking the child with her. But it didn’t make her life easier. Ira’s stepfather turned his spouse against her own daughter, and got irritated if Ira’s mother helped her with the child. As a result, Ira’s mother stopped supporting her although she could. Neither husband nor mother supported and helped Ira.

Since the town was tiny and Ira didn’t have a high level of education, it was difficult to find a job. She got a job in a small company but then the company faced economic problems and Ira ended up with nothing. She was desperate about her life when her neighbor introduced her to a female friend from Saint Petersburg who earned her living by providing escort services.

“She wasn’t ashamed to talk about it openly. She assured me that it was always possible to choose a client and turn him down if you didn’t like him. She also emphasized that being an escort was not always about sex; it could be accompanying a client to a restaurant. The friend pointed out that it was possible to come back home any time and bring gifts for a child, for example. ‘This work means you always have money.’ She advised me that I try and said: ‘Look at the poverty around, you will be able to earn one salary at a time. In case you don’t like it you are always free to come back.’”

“I was puzzled. At first, I couldn’t bear any talk about it. What if people know what I do for a living? Later I made up my mind. I asked my sister to take care of my daughter. Nobody knew where I was going because I wasn’t used to sharing my plans and, frankly speaking, not many were eager to know about them.”

As Ira had no money, the neighbor’s friend paid for her tickets and joined her. Upon arrival she explained the working schedule and how to meet with clients. She didn’t work herself. Ira shared a two-room apartment with a few more girls.

“What was my job like? It was far from what I had been promised. It was difficult to admit that you were deceived. Everything was not the way I’d expected.”

“The clients were totally different, several clients per day. It was impossible to refuse a client otherwise you could be fined. There was always a lot of alcohol. You had to drink because if you were drunk it was possible to stay out of work. A lot of wealthy clients sought only a heart-to-heart conversation…”

Ira pauses. These memories are hard to recall and unpleasant to share with someone else.

“How did you leave?” we ask.

“A client called at night and ordered a girl. I was sleeping when suddenly I was told to go to the client. He was already drunk and aggressive. I was scared to stay with him. He made me drink and I had to obey. You feel neither pain nor shame when you are drunk. Everything goes easier. I woke up in the morning and got ready to leave when he told me to stay. He told that he had paid for the whole day and I must work it off. The door was closed. He hid the door keys and my phone. He claimed that he had paid for my services and could do with me whatever he wanted… He fell asleep soon again. I didn’t find the keys. I thought I could exit through the window. It was the third floor and there was a fire escape ladder nearby. I decided to climb over the balcony to the ladder. And fell down… Everything happened very quickly. I felt no pain… I remember that I tried to stand up but couldn’t and saw my bones sticking out of my arms. I passed out. I came round in the ambulance. Later – only in the intensive care unit. There I told my name and where I came from. Doctors called my relatives. Later my family moved me back to Belarus. It was super expensive.”

It took Ira two years to finally recover and feel the desire to live. She wanted to see and talk neither to her relatives nor her daughter.

“When asked about my life I had to lie. There was a lot of gossiping but relatives didn’t bother me. They understood my condition. Only acquaintances could ask me questions. For sure, I avoided answering, made something up. I have only one person to talk to about it,” Ira says.

We continued with our interview:

What helped you start a new life?

“Probably, it was my daughter. I picked myself up and changes happened. I don’t remember what I started with. I learnt how to get out of bed and sit into the wheelchair myself. To put on clothes myself. It took me an hour to get dressed in the morning. I ordered a Balkan crossbar. I learnt to be independent. Every day I discovered something new. Slowly did I realize that I didn’t have to ask for help any more. I remember my daughter’s surprise when I put her on my knees and brought her to the bathroom to brush her teeth. Now I even mop up the floors myself. My daughter sees me as a typical Mom.”

How did you find a job?

“At one of the events for the disabled people I met a lot of people like me. They advised me that I could work remotely on the Internet. I took a risk and it was a success. After having started as an assistant on the probation period I got a job with a fixed contract. Now I know everything about my job and even train new specialists.

What advice would you give to the people reading your story?

Ira keeps silent. It seems she is going to burst into tears. After a deep breath, we see a strong Ira again.

“I think about it every day. I shouldn’t have taken the offer to go. It was very hard. Having made such a silly decision, I ruined my life.

“Every person changes every day. And it’s natural. Changes influence the way how we see life. What seems acceptable now may become unbearable later and one will have to live with this for the rest of his life.”

“It’s also necessary to take care of your loved ones. Wonder what happens with them and what their lives look like. Don’t stay indifferent. If you have an opportunity to influence a person in a positive way – don’t miss it, help and guide a person.

“Such a foolish decision negatively affects your life. Yes, it may be a short-term solution, but later… you will regret it. It may seem that now and then your decision may help to solve current financial problems. But you can’t make an agreement with your conscience. Moreover, in the society we live in, you won’t avoid judgements…

“It seems to me that people may have some prejudices towards me or they may not, but I don’t care about it.”

Ira, is there any hope that you’ll walk again?

“I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to walk again. I’ve gotten used to myself. I’m independent.”

What are your next goals in life?

“There is always room for improvement. I don’t have any ambitious plans. My daughter is the centre of my life. I would like to become a real friend to her and support her as much as I can. I wish I could have an education. Perhaps, it wouldn’t open up new prospects but nevertheless… I like my job. I like being busy. At work, time flies. Now I know all the details of my work. And I would like to improve my professional skills. Perhaps I’ll decide to continue my education.”

Ira received psychological and reintegration assistance within the counter-trafficking programme implemented by the IOM office in Belarus and financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

Olga Borzenkova is a Public Information Assistant at IOM Belarus.

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“No Time to Waste” in Ending FGMhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/no-time-waste-ending-fgm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-time-waste-ending-fgm http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/no-time-waste-ending-fgm/#comments Wed, 07 Feb 2018 16:17:11 +0000 Will Higginbotham and Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154216 More than 200 million women around the world have experienced some kind of female genital mutilation (FGM) and more could be at risk, a UN agency said. Though the practice has declined in prevalence globally, alarming new figures from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) predict that any progress could be off-set as a further […]

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FGM is a taboo and complicated topic in Liberia and it is dangerous for women to speak out about it. Credit: Travis Lupick / IPS

By Will Higginbotham and Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 7 2018 (IPS)

More than 200 million women around the world have experienced some kind of female genital mutilation (FGM) and more could be at risk, a UN agency said.

Though the practice has declined in prevalence globally, alarming new figures from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) predict that any progress could be off-set as a further 68 million girls face the risk of FGM by 2030.

The statistics from the UN were unveiled today as the world marks the 15th International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

“The new figures mean that this practice is threatening the life and wellbeing of more girls and women than initially estimated,” the Coordinator of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Program on FGM, Nafissatou Diop, told IPS.

“You and I and everybody and the girl next door can be affected,” she continued.

FGM – sometimes called female circumcision or being ‘cut’ — is often practiced for religious, personal, cultural, and coming of age purposes. According to the UN, most cases are inflicted upon girls from infancy to the age of 15.

The increase in ‘at risk of FGM’ cases is partly due to population growth in countries where FGM is common – namely in parts of northern and western Africa, the Middle East and pockets of Asia.

In Egypt alone, more than 90 parent of women have undergone the practice.

Both UNICEF and UNFPA denounce FGM, calling it a “violation of human rights’ and a “cruel practice” that inflicts emotional harm and preys on the most vulnerable in society.

“It is unconscionable that 68 million girls should be added to the 200 million women and girls in the world today who have already endured female genital mutilation,” they said.

Life-Changing Harm

FGM can cause lifelong trauma, including urinary and vaginal problems, increased risk of childbirth complications, and psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and low self-esteem.

Liesl Gerntholtz, Executive Director of the Women’s Right Division at Human Rights Watch, told IPS that the predicted 68 million FGM cases was “unacceptable”.

“It’s a fundamental human rights violation that can ruin girls’ lives,” she said. “So often these girls don’t have a say – at infancy and childhood, how can you?

“There is no health benefit to women being cut, so you tend to see it in those societies that don’t have high levels of gender equality…This practice is rooted in gender inequality,” she added.

FGM = Gender Inequality

Gerntholtz highlighted that in order to tackle the practice, the international community needs to look at not just the specific act of FGM, but at the broader issue of entrenched gender inequality.

“As an international community, we can fight FGM not only by supporting FGM-specific initiatives, but also by looking holistically at the gender inequality in these regions, so investing in programs that support girl’s rights, girls’ education, community education on these things – that’s also key.”

UNFPA’s Executive Director Natalia Kanem echoed similar sentiments, saying that the world already knows what it needs to do to overcome FGM.

“We know what works, targeted investments that changing social norms, practices and lives,” Kanem said

“Where social norms are confronted villages by village…when there is access to health, education and legal services…where girls and women are protected and empowered to make their voices heard.”

Change has particularly come from the community level.

Fourteen-year-old Latifatou Compaoré became an advocate for ending the practice after learning of her mother’s experience with FGM.

“She told me that one of the girls who had been cut the same day as her had experienced serious problems and died following a haemorrhage that no one had taken care of,” Compaoré told UNFPA.

“When she became a mom, she made the commitment that if she had girls, she would never cut them. And she kept her word,” she continued.

In countries where UNICEF and UNFPA work, some 18,000 communities have publicly disavowed the practice and many African countries have moved to implement legislation outlawing it.

For instance, in 2016 after Kenya banned FGM, FGM rates fell from 32 percent to 21 percent.

Accelerated Action Needed

But legislation and verbal commitments are not enough, according to UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

“Without concerted, accelerated action, we could see a further 68 million girls could be subjected to this harmful practice,” he cautioned.

Diop similarly called for more efforts in allocating financial and human resources.

The goal of curbing FGM is highlighted in the globally adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Its inclusion was praised because it was seen as an acknowledgement of the far-reaching consequences that FGM has – consequences that go beyond the individual to include social and economic repercussions for entire communities.

“Sustainable development cannot be achieved without full respect for the human rights of women and girls,” Guterres said in a statement.

The Secretary-General called upon governments to enact and enforce laws that protect the rights of girls and women and prevent FGM.

He also announced a new UN global initiative called the Spotlight Initiative which aims to create strong partnerships to end all forms of violence against women and girls.

“With the dignity, health and well-being of millions of girls at stake, there is no time to waste,” he said. “Together, we can and must end this harmful practice.”

*Marked annually on 6 February, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation aims to strengthen momentum towards ending the practice which is globally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women as well as perpetuates deep-rooted inequality between the sexes.

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Gaza Health Sector on Verge of Collapsehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/gaza-health-sector-verge-collapse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gaza-health-sector-verge-collapse http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/gaza-health-sector-verge-collapse/#respond Wed, 07 Feb 2018 07:21:47 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154213 UN agencies have sounded the alarm on the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, pointing to the devastating repercussions of the ongoing fuel shortages. UN agencies have appealed for donor support as emergency fuel for critical facilities in Gaza are due to run out in 10 days. In a meeting, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres […]

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GAZA, Gaza City. Queuing in hope of fuel. Credit: Mohammed Omer / IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 7 2018 (IPS)

UN agencies have sounded the alarm on the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, pointing to the devastating repercussions of the ongoing fuel shortages.

UN agencies have appealed for donor support as emergency fuel for critical facilities in Gaza are due to run out in 10 days.

In a meeting, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that Gaza is a “constant humanitarian emergency.”

“Gaza remains squeezed by crippling closures…two million Palestinians are struggling everyday with crumbling infrastructure, an electricity crisis, a lack of basic services,” he said.

Fuel shortages are threatening Gaza’s hospitals and sanitation services that rely on backup generators to maintain operations.

If the energy supply is not replenished, at risk are emergency and diagnostic services such as x-rays, intensive care units, and operating theaters. Over 100 sewage pools, desalination plants, and solid waste collection capacity are also in jeopardy, said the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Hospitals have already begun to close. Without funding, more service providers will be forced to suspend operations over the coming weeks, and the situation will deteriorate dramatically, with potential impacts on the entire population,” said OCHA’s Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territories Roberto Valent.

“We cannot allow this to happen,” he added.

So far, 16 hospitals and health centers have suspended operations.

Hospitals such as the al-Durra children’s hospital were forced to drastically reduce services due to the lack of fuel.

WHO said that Best Hanoun hospital only has its Emergency Department functioning at minimal capacity and estimates its reserve fuel will only last until mid-March.

In 2018, approximately 6.5 million dollars is required to provide 7.7 million liters of emer-gency fuel.

“This is the bare minimum needed to save off a collapse of services,” OCHA said in its ap-peal.

For the full functioning of basic facilities, 10 million dollars is needed per year.

Meanwhile, hospitals continue to face challenges in coping with the influx of trauma pa-tients.

According to WHO, 40 percent of the supply of essential drugs has been depleted, including drugs used in emergency departments and other critical units.

The UN Country Team in Palestine has predicted that Gaza will become unlivable by 2020 unless action is taken to improve basic services and infrastructure.

“Immediate donor support is urgent to ensure that vulnerable Palestinians in Gaza can access life-saving health, water, and sanitation services,” Valent said.

Gaza’s humanitarian crisis is occurring in the wake of the United States funding cuts to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).

Approximately 65 million dollars has been withheld from the agency which serves over five million refugees with healthcare, social services, and emergency assistance in the Middle Eastern region.

Guterres expressed concern over the move, stating: “At stake is the human security, rights, and dignity of the five million Palestine refugees across the Middle East. But also at stake is the stability of the entire region which may be affected if UNRWA is unable to continue to provide vital services.”

Though it began in 2006, the energy crisis worsened in 2017 following a dispute between Palestinian authorities in Ramallah and Gaza over the funding and taxation of fuel and Israel’s subsequent move to reduce its electricity supply to the territories.

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UN Refugee Agency Calls for Aid and Peace in South Sudanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/un-refugee-agency-calls-aid-peace-south-sudan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-refugee-agency-calls-aid-peace-south-sudan http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/un-refugee-agency-calls-aid-peace-south-sudan/#respond Mon, 05 Feb 2018 15:35:10 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154190 As South Sudan quickly becomes Africa’s largest refugee and humanitarian crisis, the world must come to its aid, said the UN refugee agency. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has launched a global appeal to support displaced persons amid South Sudan’s rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation. “The human cost of the South Sudan conflict has reached epic […]

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South Sudanese refugee new arrivals wait in the registration tent at the Imvepi Refugee Settlement in Arua, northern Uganda. Credit: UNHCR/Georgina Goodwin

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 5 2018 (IPS)

As South Sudan quickly becomes Africa’s largest refugee and humanitarian crisis, the world must come to its aid, said the UN refugee agency.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has launched a global appeal to support displaced persons amid South Sudan’s rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation.

“The human cost of the South Sudan conflict has reached epic proportions,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

“The conflict is purging South Sudan of the people who should be the greatest resource of a young nation. They should be building the country, not fleeing it,” he continued.

Now in its fifth year, the conflict in South Sudan has displaced 1 in 3 of the country’s population with over 2 million fleeing the nation.

The number of refugees is projected to surpass the 3 million mark by the end of 2018, making South Sudan Africa’s largest refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide.

On Jan. 30, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) also launched an appeal for 103.7 million dollars this year to provide lifesaving relief assistance, support recovery and migration of people affected by conflict in South Sudan.

The insecurity and violence, which erupted in 2013, has also fueled famine conditions and a humanitarian crisis which has left seven million people in need of assistance.

“As civilians continue to bear the brunt of the crisis, experiencing violence and displacement, timely and effective humanitarian assistance is critical,” said IOM South Sudan Chief of Mission William Barriga.

“IOM remains committed to responding to these needs and reaching the most vulnerable, wherever they are,” he said.

Meanwhile, UNHCR launched a 3.2-billion-dollar appeal to help both internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees who have fled to neighboring countries such as Uganda.

South Sudanese twins, Jacob and Simon, meet UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, at Kakuma, Kenya. The boys walked for 21 days to reach the camp and are traumatised by the killing of their father and eldest brother. Credit: UNHCR/Georgina Goodwin

Grandi lauded Uganda’s “open border” policy which has welcomed almost 500 refugees per day.

“Uganda has the most progressive refugee policies in Africa, if not the world,” he said.

Uganda is now home to the largest refugee population in Africa, many of whom are from South Sudan.

Grandi noted that refugees often received portions of land to grow food, were allowed to work and access education, health, and judicial services.

However, if the conflict continues unabated, Uganda could end up hosting another quarter million refugees more and further strain on already limited resources.

“Please make peace,” Grandi appealed to warring parties while visiting refugee camps in Uganda.

“We can’t subject these people once again to exile, to suffering. We can’t always take for granted the generosity of the Ugandan people…everybody told me this morning, as in the past, ‘If there is peace I will go back, because this is where I belong. It’s my country.’”

Almost 90 percent of those displaced are women and children and nearly 65 percent are under the age of 18. Women have reported cases of sexual violence and other forms of violence including the abduction of children.

However, the South Sudanese refugee response program only received 33 percent of required funds in 2017.

“For as long as the people of South Sudan await peace, the world must come to their aid,” Grandi said.

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Business Unusual will Drive Africa’s Quest to achieve Health Care for Allhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/business-unusual-will-drive-africas-quest-achieve-health-care/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=business-unusual-will-drive-africas-quest-achieve-health-care http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/business-unusual-will-drive-africas-quest-achieve-health-care/#respond Mon, 05 Feb 2018 08:33:11 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee and Radhika Shah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154176 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Kenya. Radhika Shah, is Co-President Stanford Angels & Entrepreneurs

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Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) pledged his full support for the delivery of universal healthcare within the next five years, one of the pillars of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Action plan. Credit: State House

By Siddharth Chatterjee and Radhika Shah
NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 5 2018 (IPS)

Africa’s quest for health continues to be held back by a combination of factors such as natural disasters and pandemics, prevailing high rates of communicable and rising incidence of non-communicable diseases, sedentary lifestyles, road accidents and greater population mobility.

With the region accounting for approximately a quarter of the world’s disease burden and just 3 percent of its doctors, it is difficult to be optimistic about the future.

Every year for example one million people in Kenya, fall into poverty and stay poor due to a catastrophic health shock. Nearly 11 million Africans fall into poverty due to high out-of-pocket payments for healthcare, even as the continent is expected to provide access to essential health services, medicines and vaccines for all its citizens by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed on globally.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has prioritised universal health coverage (UHC) for all in his second term.

It is obvious that to achieve UHC, more resources will not only have to be mobilized for the health sector, new partnerships must also be forged, such as the one between United Nations, Government of Kenya and technology company Philips, to improve access to health care in hard to reach communities. New models of blended financing and impact investing need to take up the slack to address the scarce resources, which must also be used more efficiently and effectively.

The Better Business Better World Africa Report shows how challenges in the delivery of health care can be turned around into large business opportunities with a potential value of US$259 billion and could create over 16 million jobs in Africa by 2030.

More 21st century partnerships that connect the dots between innovators, health systems and patients are critical to the attainment of Universal Health Coverage by 2030. Credit: UNDP

Innovation Tech could be a game-changer in diagnostics, health information, supply chain management, health financing, and even remote tele-surgery performed by robotic arms.

Few frontiers provide greater potential for African countries to achieve UHC than information technology. “Just as mobile payments have transformed Kenyan markets, I think innovations in the health sector— from machine learning algorithms that help diagnose disorders, to digitized prescriptions that make drugs more affordable— could have a transformative impact on health, quality of life, and the efficiency of our investments in healthcare,” says Dr. Temina Madon Executive Director for the Center for Effective Global Action at U.C. Berkeley.

A crucial enabling factor is the continent’s impressive mobile penetration profile. Africa is getting more and more interconnected. With prices falling, smartphone penetration more than doubled between 2014 and 2016. By 2020, smartphone adoption on the continent is expected to surpass 50 percent, meaning that technology will be well placed to open up health systems to the poorest and most vulnerable people.

Increasing penetration and scaling of private, public-private and community insurance schemes could transform access to better healthcare, especially if the right insurance mechanisms, including forms of micro-insurance, are put in place. Digital solutions such as Kenya’s M-Tiba could play an important role in the realization of UHC.

Google researchers have trained image recognition algorithms to auto-detect signs of diabetes related eye disease by analysing retinas which could help prevent blindness.

Stanford University innovators are creating a cell phone based mosquito monitoring platform for anyone to submit a mosquito buzz – producing the most detailed global map of mosquito distribution that can help prevent mosquito borne diseases.

Drones, as those of Zipline, are revolutionizing supply chain management systems in Rwanda and Tanzania, drastically reducing the time of delivery of blood at the facility when patients are in need and at risk of dying.

With the ubiquity of smartphones and a shortage of specialist doctors, calling or texting a physician for a consultation and to obtain a prescription can be done in a flash, literally. With ICT prices dropping, telemedicine will be more than a niche application of cutting-edge tech; it could be the future norm of medicine.

Dashboard systems will help policy makers and implementing agencies monitor progress of programmes and identify areas in need of improvement. Likewise, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can provide geographically-referenced data to help in identifying relationships, patterns and trends in diseases.

Taken together, these innovations will ensure that each building block and therewith entire health systems can be strengthened and that resources mobilised in the health sector are used more efficiently and effectively.

Fortunately, these innovations are already in existence, albeit many of them at pilot-level implementation stages. Countries need to identify tools that are available in the market, especially those that are based on open source software that allow for adaptation, and take them to scale. The price of failing to take up such opportunities will be a slower march towards economic progress, as families continue to use up their life savings, sell assets, or borrow to meet the cost of health care.

A demographic dividend looms in Africa, and countries need to capitalize on the employment opportunities offered by the health sector while strengthening their health systems. A young army of community health workers who are tech savvy and can reach the last mile, could offset the chronic shortage of doctors and nurses through task-shifting.

One of the steps in the right direction is Kenya’s move to eliminate payments for primary and maternal health services in public facilities. Credit: Clinton Foundation

UNDP’s Administrator Mr. Achim Steiner has underscored the importance of multi-sectoral partnerships as a vehicle to attain UHC. Such partnerships he says, “are key in connecting players nationally and globally, across sectors and silos to drive progress on UHC”.

This is exactly what innovative Platforms such as the SDG partnership Platform in Kenya are beginning to catalyse – harnessing global tech innovations and intellectual firepower to serve the continent’s populations with public-private investments to achieve Universal Health Care for basic human dignity and as a springboard for greater economic growth.

And Kenya can lead the way in achieving Universal Health Coverage.

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Kenya. Radhika Shah, is Co-President Stanford Angels & Entrepreneurs

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Survival of Indigenous Tribes in Bangladesh Starts at Schoolhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/survival-indigenous-tribes-bangladesh-starts-school/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=survival-indigenous-tribes-bangladesh-starts-school http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/survival-indigenous-tribes-bangladesh-starts-school/#respond Mon, 05 Feb 2018 07:02:06 +0000 Rafiqul Islam Sarker http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154171 Just before sundown on Jan. 30, a group of women day labourers from the Shantal indigenous community are in a rush to wind up their work harvesting potatoes in a field in the village of Boldipukur, some 15 km away from Rangpur district in northern Bangladesh. One young girl looked indifferent and didn’t seem to […]

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Iraq’s Toxic Conflicthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/iraqs-toxic-conflict/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=iraqs-toxic-conflict http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/iraqs-toxic-conflict/#respond Fri, 02 Feb 2018 08:33:08 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154135 In Iraq, thirty years of armed conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people, wounded countless more, displaced millions and laid cities and towns to waste. Amongst all of this death and destruction, there is an often-overlooked victim whose harm has far reaching consequences: The environment. Whilst Iraq’s environment has suffered from degradation due to […]

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By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 2 2018 (IPS)

In Iraq, thirty years of armed conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people, wounded countless more, displaced millions and laid cities and towns to waste.

Amongst all of this death and destruction, there is an often-overlooked victim whose harm has far reaching consequences: The environment.

Whilst Iraq’s environment has suffered from degradation due to conflict for decades, in recent years it has been exacerbated due to the so-called Islamic State (ISIS).

“Wherever ISIS has been there has been huge environmental destruction and with that have come potentially major health threats to the public,” says Wim Zwijnenburg, a lead researcher at the dutch not-for profit, PAX.

Over the past two years, PAX has used public satellite images, social media and first-hand field research to track the environmental damage and the subsequent risk to public health in the northern parts of Iraq.

The findings are outlined in the report, ‘Living Under a Black Sky: Conflict Pollution and Environmental Health Concerns in Iraq.’

The report focuses heavily on ISIS’s destruction of oil refineries which were a signature move in their ‘scorched earth’ strategy.

In 2014, the group took control of the Qayyarah oil field and the Baiji Oil refinery, the latter being the nation’s largest, producing more than a third of Iraq’s domestic oil production. In both cases, Iraqi forces retook the facilities, but not before ISIS set fire to oil wells as they retreated.

“When we were there, there were burning oil slicks still flowing from oil wells,” Zwijnenburg said about his visit to the Qayyarah region last year. “I wanted to walk around to see more but had to wear a gas mask, you could already feel how the smoke affected young lungs.”

“We saw lakes that were full of solidified crude oil, that had spilt form the wells, and there were white sheep covered in black soot. It was surreal and apocalyptic.”

In each of these attacks, the threat to public health is substantial.

“The fires (from these oil wells) have burnt for months, releasing huge amounts of toxic residue into the air that people in the area – some people haven’t left, some can’t leave, some are returning – those people are inhaling this toxic air,” Zwijnenburg told IPS.

In the case of the Qayyarah, the Iraqi oil ministry estimates that about 20,000 cubic meters may have been released into the environment and haven’t been cleaned up yet.

In April 2017, the PAX team in conjunction with the United Nations Development programme (UNDP) conducted a survey with over twenty women from affected local communities about their concerns over the oil pollution in Qayyarah.

One of the participants voiced her worry for inter-generational health consequences.

“Locals have been suffering from burns, deformations and countless disability cases. Human genes are also affected due to the use of chemical weapons and the burning of oil wells and military remnants. The gene mutations will result in having more birth defects.”

Aside from oil pollution, the PAX report also highlighted the human health risks from what it called ‘urban damage’. That is, the dangerous amounts of toxic chemicals realized from damaged industrial sites and abandoned weapons facilities.

There has been extensive PCB (Polychlorinated biphenyl) contamination in Mosul, due to damage to the city’s electricity network. Similarly, the city has recorded extensive sulphur contamination, from when ISIS bombed a 50,000 ton stockpile of the toxin. That attack released some 6 million tons of the substance into the air, leaving 20 people dead and hundreds hospitalized.

These other pollutant concerns are not surprising, as even before the ISIS conflict, Iraq was named the world’s most contaminated country.

It continues to see high levels of radiation and other toxic substances flow into its environment – all left over from previous conflicts such as the Gulf War.

So the question now is, how to clean up the region?

In a statement to IPS, Dr. Zaid Noori, an ambassador of Iraq in Nairobi, admitted that “Iraq is an environmental disaster” and that the Iraqi government needs help in cleaning up affected areas.

“The Government is doing all it can to remedy the situation, but due to the great amount of damage, pollution and contamination Iraq is seeking support and assistance from the international community and UN agencies to ensure clean and habitable environment to civilians in the liberated areas,” the statement read.

The PAX report similarly noted that Iraq would not likely be able to clean up the pollution and manage health fallouts alone.

“It really needs to be an international effort,” says Zwijnenburg. “We should have States pledging and proving funding and expertise to relevant UN organizations such an UN Environment, UN Habitat and UNDP – all of who are working with the Iraqi government.”

Currently, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) is concentrating much of its efforts in Mosul, cleaning up ‘urban damage’.

There is no current international effort to clean up the regions oil pollution.

Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, told IPS that it is regrettable that environmental recovery work is not taken more seriously in reconstruction efforts.

“If environmental recovery work is built into the wider reconstruction effort – which it should be – recovery can and will happen in Iraq,” he says. “Now is the time for donors to make that investment, because we can’t afford to push it to one side.”

Zwijnenburg agrees. “Environment disasters like this are not always the top priority in recovery,” he says.

“The people living here know that and they’re concerned that as the fires die down, as time passes, that that their cause will be forgotten.”

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Thoughts on the Alcohol Ban for Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/thoughts-alcohol-ban-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thoughts-alcohol-ban-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/thoughts-alcohol-ban-women/#respond Thu, 25 Jan 2018 18:52:13 +0000 Tharusha Deegala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154050 “A majority of the country has criticised the decision to lift the ban arguing it would destroy family culture by getting more women addicted to alcohol” Oh yes, this country is a perfect mould of ethics and morality. This was only the cherry on top. What’s destroying the family culture is not women going out […]

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By Tharusha Deegala
Jan 25 2018 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

“A majority of the country has criticised the decision to lift the ban arguing it would destroy family culture by getting more women addicted to alcohol”

Oh yes, this country is a perfect mould of ethics and morality. This was only the cherry on top. What’s destroying the family culture is not women going out for a drink to cope up with the stress this country throws at them on a daily basis but the 70% cases of domestic violence and cases of marital rape that go unheard of, where the women have no say because alas, Sri Lanka is so morally and ethically articulate that we didn’t have laws against domestic violence until 2005 and we still don’t have laws against marital rape.

It’s a country where only 1% of domestic abuse cases go reported due to the encouraging pat-on- the-backs women receive when trying to be open about the abuse, telling them “gedara gini eliyata daana epa” a country where a woman can’t walk outdoors without getting cat called or worse, a country where women are silenced and portrayed as the dutiful submissive role in this family role-play while men are given the privilege to use alcohol and substance abuse as an excuse for their unruly and violent behaviour with their spouse.

A country where women are constantly judged, criticised, hated and judged again for every single miniscule thing they do be it wearing what they feel comfortable in or sitting in a particular position. All this discrimination and hatred against women amidst the hypocritical movements of encouraging female empowerment and employment while at the end of the day even their right to decide whether or not they trust themselves enough to take a pint is taken away.

Imposing this law 40 years ago may have been justifiable due to the fact that old times were careers of old fashioned, women oppressing and discriminatory notions anyway. However re-imposing the law in the name of prevention of the destruction of family culture is such a disappointing joke which screams the fact that the Sri Lankan government is a sexist old man that encourages women to remain sober in their homes, cooking and looking after the children while having no regard for whatever men do. People may believe that women have more rights to win before the right to drink a swig of beer but the truth is, if we don’t stand up against such deliberate, unashamed acts which continue to discriminate women, we have little to say when it comes to large scale problems.

On a different note, this is not about the alcohol ban at all. No, this is about the blatant sexism displayed by the leaders of our nation which should not be tolerated. We can live without liquor but we refuse to live with that. If you’re honestly concerned about the ethical and moral state of the country, dear government, you might as well ban alcohol for everyone, men and women alike because, in case you haven’t noticed, we’re all human desperately trying to find a spot of freedom at the end of the day after all the bad businesses life puts all of us through. This being a major one, excuse me while I go ahead and drink my worries out because if men are allowed to do that, what do I lack or have more for you to say I can’t?

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

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Thoughts on the Alcohol Ban for Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/thoughts-alcohol-ban-women-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thoughts-alcohol-ban-women-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/thoughts-alcohol-ban-women-2/#respond Thu, 25 Jan 2018 18:15:57 +0000 Tharusha Deegala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154146 “A majority of the country has criticised the decision to lift the ban arguing it would destroy family culture by getting more women addicted to alcohol” Oh yes, this country is a perfect mould of ethics and morality. This was only the cherry on top. What’s destroying the family culture is not women going out […]

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By Tharusha Deegala
Jan 25 2018 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

“A majority of the country has criticised the decision to lift the ban arguing it would destroy family culture by getting more women addicted to alcohol”

Oh yes, this country is a perfect mould of ethics and morality. This was only the cherry on top. What’s destroying the family culture is not women going out for a drink to cope up with the stress this country throws at them on a daily basis but the 70% cases of domestic violence and cases of marital rape that go unheard of, where the women have no say because alas, Sri Lanka is so morally and ethically articulate that we didn’t have laws against domestic violence until 2005 and we still don’t have laws against marital rape.

It’s a country where only 1% of domestic abuse cases go reported due to the encouraging pat-on- the-backs women receive when trying to be open about the abuse, telling them “gedara gini eliyata daana epa” a country where a woman can’t walk outdoors without getting cat called or worse, a country where women are silenced and portrayed as the dutiful submissive role in this family role-play while men are given the privilege to use alcohol and substance abuse as an excuse for their unruly and violent behaviour with their spouse.

A country where women are constantly judged, criticised, hated and judged again for every single miniscule thing they do be it wearing what they feel comfortable in or sitting in a particular position. All this discrimination and hatred against women amidst the hypocritical movements of encouraging female empowerment and employment while at the end of the day even their right to decide whether or not they trust themselves enough to take a pint is taken away.

Imposing this law 40 years ago may have been justifiable due to the fact that old times were careers of old fashioned, women oppressing and discriminatory notions anyway. However re-imposing the law in the name of prevention of the destruction of family culture is such a disappointing joke which screams the fact that the Sri Lankan government is a sexist old man that encourages women to remain sober in their homes, cooking and looking after the children while having no regard for whatever men do. People may believe that women have more rights to win before the right to drink a swig of beer but the truth is, if we don’t stand up against such deliberate, unashamed acts which continue to discriminate women, we have little to say when it comes to large scale problems.

On a different note, this is not about the alcohol ban at all. No, this is about the blatant sexism displayed by the leaders of our nation which should not be tolerated. We can live without liquor but we refuse to live with that. If you’re honestly concerned about the ethical and moral state of the country, dear government, you might as well ban alcohol for everyone, men and women alike because, in case you haven’t noticed, we’re all human desperately trying to find a spot of freedom at the end of the day after all the bad businesses life puts all of us through. This being a major one, excuse me while I go ahead and drink my worries out because if men are allowed to do that, what do I lack or have more for you to say I can’t?

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

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Thousands Still Dying at Sea En Route to Europehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/thousands-still-dying-sea-en-route-europe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thousands-still-dying-sea-en-route-europe http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/thousands-still-dying-sea-en-route-europe/#respond Mon, 15 Jan 2018 07:39:23 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153861 Amid concerns that 160 people may have drowned while attempting to cross the Mediterranean this week alone, the UN refugee agency have urged countries to offer more resettlement places. Though the influx of refugees and migrants has slowed, many are still embarking on dangerous journeys to Europe. “[We] have been advocating for a comprehensive approach […]

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Somali refugees on the Tunisian desert. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 15 2018 (IPS)

Amid concerns that 160 people may have drowned while attempting to cross the Mediterranean this week alone, the UN refugee agency have urged countries to offer more resettlement places.

Though the influx of refugees and migrants has slowed, many are still embarking on dangerous journeys to Europe.

“[We] have been advocating for a comprehensive approach to address movements of migrants and refugees who embark on perilous journeys across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean,” said spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) William Spindler.

On Monday, the Italian coastguard picked up 60 survivors and recovered eight corpses. Up to 50, including 15 women and 6 children, are feared to have drowned.

Most recently on Wednesday, an inflatable boat carrying 100 refugees sank off the coast of Libya. Libya is among the major countries of departure for refugees.

Approximately 227,000 refugees are estimated to be in need of resettlement in 15 priority countries of asylum and transit along the Central Mediterranean route.

Despite appealing for just 40,000 resettlement places last year, UNHCR has thus far received 13,000 offers of resettlement places.

“Most of these are part of regular established global resettlement programmes and only a few represent additional places,” Spindler said.

After stories of migrants being sold at an auction and being held in horrific conditions in detention centers were revealed, both UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have helped evacuate hundreds of vulnerable refugees from Libya to Niger.

However, the European Union has continued its policy of assisting the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept and return migrants in the Mediterranean.

“The suffering of migrants detained in Libya is an outrage to the conscience of humanity…what was an already dire situation has now turned catastrophic,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, adding that the EU’s policy is “inhuman.”

“We cannot be a silent witness to modern day slavery, rape and other sexual violence, and unlawful killings in the name of managing migration and preventing desperate and traumatized people from reaching Europe’s shores,” he continued, calling for the decriminalization of irregular migration in order to help protect migrants’ human rights.

Human rights officials have also criticized the EU-Turkey deal which returns migrants who have entered the Greek islands to Turkey. Many have found that asylum seekers are also not safe in Turkey as the country does not grant asylum or refugee status to non-Europeans.

UNHCR called for efforts to strengthen protection capacity and livelihood support in countries of first asylum, provide more regular and safe ways for refugees to find safety through resettlement or family reunification, and address the root causes of refugee displacement.

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UN Urges Comprehensive Approach to Sexuality Educationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/un-urges-comprehensive-approach-sexuality-education/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-urges-comprehensive-approach-sexuality-education http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/un-urges-comprehensive-approach-sexuality-education/#respond Wed, 10 Jan 2018 19:31:18 +0000 UNESCO http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153812 Close to 10 years after its first edition, a fully updated International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education published today by UNESCO advocates quality comprehensive sexuality education to promote health and well-being, respect for human rights and gender equality, and empowers children and young people to lead healthy, safe and productive lives. “Based on the latest […]

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By UNESCO
PARIS, Jan 10 2018 (IPS)

Close to 10 years after its first edition, a fully updated International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education published today by UNESCO advocates quality comprehensive sexuality education to promote health and well-being, respect for human rights and gender equality, and empowers children and young people to lead healthy, safe and productive lives.

“Based on the latest scientific evidence, the International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education reaffirms the position of sexuality education within a framework of human rights and gender equality,” says UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. “It promotes structured learning about sexuality and relationships in a manner that is positive and centred on the best interest of the young person. By outlining the essential components of effective sexuality education programmes, the Guidance enables national authorities to design comprehensive curricula that will have a positive impact on young people’s health and well-being.”

The Technical Guidance is designed to assist education policy makers in all countries design accurate and age-appropriate curricula for children and young people aged 5 – 18+.

Based on a review of the current status of sexuality education around the world and drawing on best practices in the various regions, the Guidance notably demonstrates that sexuality education:

• helps young people become more responsible in their attitude and behaviour regarding sexual and reproductive health
• is essential to combat the school dropout of girls due to early or forced marriage, teenage pregnancy and sexual and reproductive health issues
• is necessary because in some parts of the world, two out of three girls reported having no idea of what was happening to them when they began menstruating and pregnancy and childbirth complications are the second cause of death among 15 to 19-year olds
• does not increase sexual activity, sexual risk-taking behaviour, or STI/HIV infection rates. It also presents evidence showing that abstinence-only programmes fail to prevent early sexual initiation, or reduce the frequency of sex and number of partners among the young.

The publication identifies an urgent need for quality comprehensive sexuality education to:

• provide information and guidance to young people about the transition from childhood to adulthood and the physical, social and emotional challenges they face.
• tackle the challenges posed by sexual and reproductive health issues, which are particularly difficult during puberty, including access to contraception, early pregnancy, gender-based violence, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV and AIDS
• raise awareness of HIV prevention and transmission, of which only 34 per cent of young people around the world can demonstrate accurate knowledge
• complement or counter the large body of material of variable quality that young people find on the internet, and help them face increasingly common instances of cyberbullying.

The Guidance was produced in collaboration with UNAIDS, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN Women, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

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Marooned in Bangladesh, Rohingya Face Uncertain Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/marooned-bangladesh-rohingya-face-uncertain-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=marooned-bangladesh-rohingya-face-uncertain-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/marooned-bangladesh-rohingya-face-uncertain-future/#respond Wed, 03 Jan 2018 23:30:48 +0000 Sohara Mehroze http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153729 In this special series of reports, IPS journalists travel to the border region between Bangladesh and Myanmar to speak with Rohingya refugees, humanitarian workers and officials about the still-unfolding human rights and health crises facing this long-marginalized and persecuted community.

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Excerpt:

In this special series of reports, IPS journalists travel to the border region between Bangladesh and Myanmar to speak with Rohingya refugees, humanitarian workers and officials about the still-unfolding human rights and health crises facing this long-marginalized and persecuted community.

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Rise of Teenage Pregnancy Deters Development Goalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rise-teenage-pregnancy-deters-development-goals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rise-teenage-pregnancy-deters-development-goals http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rise-teenage-pregnancy-deters-development-goals/#respond Tue, 19 Dec 2017 20:02:45 +0000 Lorenzo Jmenez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153624 Lorenzo Jiménez de Luis, is UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Dominican Republic

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Teenage pregnancy: 2 out of 10 women between the ages of 15 and 19 in the Dominican Republic have been pregnant or have been mothers

Teenage mom with her baby. Credit: IPS

By Lorenzo Jiménez de Luis
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic, Dec 19 2017 (IPS)

A few years ago, someone shared a video with me that deeply impacted me. It was called “The Girl Effect”. In three minutes, the video demonstrates the fate of millions of girls and teenagers around the world.

Years later, when I arrived in the Dominican Republic and studied its challenges in terms of human development, I remembered that video and concluded that if the Dominican Republic does not resolve the problem of teenage pregnancy, despite its high sustained economic growth, its important social transformation and its modernization, it will never reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

A few days ago, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched its 2017 National Human Development Report for Dominican Republic devoted to this topic. This report is complemented in turn by another report presented by UNICEF and the World Bank in August and also by the report presented in November by the National Statistics Office (ONE in Spanish) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

The three documents make up a global and coherent product of a sinister reality. Two out of 10 women between the ages of 15 and 19 in the Dominican Republic have been pregnant or have been mothers; representing 15.9% of the country’s population. Surely it will be a higher percentage given that pregnancies begin to occur as early as twelve years of age.

The causes of this sinister reality, briefly described, are multiple; but its consequences are clear: low or very low quality of life, poor welfare, recurrent poverty, exclusion.

The link between poverty and child and teenage pregnancy is clear, and the UNDP National Human Development Report shows that the mentioned link is to be found in the opportunity cost that teenage pregnancy represents for the human development of these young women. That is, the opportunities that they lose as a consequence of those early pregnancies or maternities.

This reality, I insist sinister indeed, worsens when considered that it has an equally quantifiable impact on the young pregnant woman, on the family environment of the pregnant girl or teenager and of course also on the child, the product of that pregnancy.

We are talking about half of the population of the country. The good news, however, is that the spooky effects of teen pregnancy are not necessarily irreversible.

The trend could be reversed if a new architecture of policies that affect and integrate prevention is urgently introduced, as well as the mitigation of the effects of pregnancy through care and protection policies. Policies that ensure greater opportunities.

A new architecture with a multidimensional character, that reaches the local level (territorial approach) and is implemented over time.

If the above is adopted and introduced soon, the possibilities of complying with the commitments acquired by the State can be fulfilled. If it is not the case; I am afraid that we will be talking about a country with a half future. The one of the privileged half of the population.

 

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Excerpt:

Lorenzo Jiménez de Luis, is UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Dominican Republic

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No Health Protection for Migrant-Women Healthcare Givershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/no-health-protection-migrant-women-healthcare-givers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-health-protection-migrant-women-healthcare-givers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/no-health-protection-migrant-women-healthcare-givers/#respond Mon, 18 Dec 2017 14:51:47 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153596 While the media may be attracted by images of migrants drowning or sold as slaves, another flagrant but lesser-known drama is that of care workers, who are overwhelmingly women, often migrants, and who make a very large contribution to global public health, but are exposed to great health risks themselves with little or no protection, […]

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Credit: UN

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 18 2017 (IPS)

While the media may be attracted by images of migrants drowning or sold as slaves, another flagrant but lesser-known drama is that of care workers, who are overwhelmingly women, often migrants, and who make a very large contribution to global public health, but are exposed to great health risks themselves with little or no protection, let alone basic labour rights.

Migrant women care workers buttress health systems in countries where there are shortfalls in health-care provision, while their own rights to health and well-being can be eroded and their health-care needs unfulfilled, the UN leading health agency reminded on the occasion of the World Migrants Day on 18 December.

These migrant women care workers act as “a cushion for states lacking adequate public provision for long-term care, child care and care for the sick,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

Ageing in late industrial and middle-income economies, combined with rising demographic dependency ratios and female labour force participation, have led to emerging care deficits in many contexts in developed and developing countries, it explained.

“Around the world, more women are entering the labour force, taking them away from traditional unpaid caring roles in the home. Increasingly, immigrant women are being drawn into receiving country economies to care, often in informal settings, and frequently engaged by private households, without full access to social protection and labour rights.”

A striking fact is that fewer than 15 per cent of home-based long-term care workers are estimated to be formally employed.

For its part, the Organisation for Economic and Cooperation Development (OECD) International Migration Outlook 2015 reported on the percentage of foreign-born workers among the total home-based caregivers of long-term care in a number of industrialised countries.

These percentages amounted to nearly 90 per cent in Italy, around 75 per cent in Greece, over 65 per cent in Spain, and 50 per cent in Luxembourg.

WHO’s report deals with paid home-based care workers who attend to the varied needs of children, older people, people with disabilities and the disabled and the sick.

Shocking Facts

Here are some key facts provided by WHO:

— Those who are hired informally often lack the statutory labour rights accorded to them through a contract, including pensions and benefits, and may receive wages that are significantly lower than those paid for equivalent work in the formal health-care system,

— Migrant women care workers face particular challenges because of the vagaries of immigration laws in various destination countries, which often prevent them from entering the country legally or taking paid employment.

— This lack of legal status puts undocumented immigrants working in the care sector in many countries at risk of abuse by unscrupulous employers.

— The care sector itself is rendered unable to fully benefit from the work of immigrant workers who may want to provide in-home care but are unable to find a legal path to enter the country or obtain employment.

— Migrant care workers generally encounter harsher working conditions and have fewer rights and less adequate health coverage than do native workers. Because care work is frequently relegated to the informal sector, employees find that access to health care or insurance is not guaranteed but granted at the whim of employers.

In the United States in 2010, for example, almost one quarter of foreign-born workers employed in health care support jobs, such as nursing, psychiatric, or home health aides lacked health insurance themselves.

— Much has been written about the poor conditions that care workers, especially migrants, regularly face, including low wages, long hours, and inadequate housing and food for those who “live-in.” Many studies report that such work often entails lack of respect and status and even verbal, physical and sexual abuse,

— In the most extreme instances, when recruiters or employers confiscate workers’ passports and deduct travel costs and other expenses from their wages (or fail to pay them altogether), care work jobs become a modern form of indenture

— Many migrant women care workers experience poor reproductive and sexual health. There is also ample evidence that they are subject to physical violence, including sexual harassment/ assault and regular beatings.

For example, 44 per cent of Filipina migrants reported knowing another domestic worker who had experienced physical abuse, 27 per vent knew someone who had experienced sexual harassment, and 22.4 per vent knew someone who had been raped.

IOM marks International Migrants Day on 18 December with a series of worldwide events including a Geneva award ceremony for the Global Migration Film Festival. Credit: IOM

The Day

William Lacy Swing, director general of the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM), made an urgent call for “Safe Migration for a World on the Move” ahead of the International Migrants Day.

IOM plans to mark the Day with a series of worldwide events including a Geneva awards ceremony for the Global Migration Film Festival, which includes many public and private sector partners participating with IOM missions in over 100 countries.

In addition to film screenings in Geneva and New York, IOM also plans to participate in a UN leadership debate featuring UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres at Manhattan’s UNICEF House, touching on the global compact on migration, expected to be adopted by the end of 2018.

The UN leadership debate will explore the common ground on migration, rather than the divisions, said Swing. Despite often-sharp rhetoric, migration “is less a problem to be solved than a human reality to be managed.”

Planned UNICEF House events include the opening of the critically acclaimed art installation UNPACKED: Refugee Baggage (See: www.Together-in-NY.org), brining to life stories of refugees who have settled in the US by exploring past traumas through three-dimensional models of their homes mounted on suitcases they carried on their journeys.

Safe Migration, Not Leaky Boats

In an Op-Ed column penned for International Migrants Day: Our Right of Passage Should be Safe Migration, Not Leaky Boats), Swing wrote, “While we live at a time when a privileged elite considers global mobility virtually its birth-right, it is denied to countless others trapped in hopelessly bad economic or conflict circumstances.”

He warned that denial leads to “smuggling networks, human traffickers and modern-day enslavers who ply their trade these days with complete impunity.”

Hundreds of millions who are not part of the growing, truly global labour talent market find themselves outside looking in, and looking onto a world they can only dream of, Swing added. “They face enormous income disparities and hardships and no chance of getting a visa or a work permit.”

It comes as no surprise then that vast armies of hopeful young migrants want to climb aboard the “leaky boats” referred to by the UN secretary general, Swing continued, adding that driven by lack of economic opportunity, often exacerbated by climate change, they too are vulnerable to the siren song of social media.

“That’s where smuggling networks, human traffickers and modern day enslavers ply their trade these days with complete impunity. These cruel deceptions go unchecked, as the social media giants chase new markets in the global south.”

Just a quick reminder: a big power like the United States drew millions of migrants when it had an open-door policy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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Rohingyas: Lurching from Crisis to Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rohingyas-lurching-crisis-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingyas-lurching-crisis-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rohingyas-lurching-crisis-crisis/#respond Sat, 16 Dec 2017 15:00:33 +0000 Farid Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153586 In this special series of reports, IPS journalists travel to the border region between Bangladesh and Myanmar to speak with Rohingya refugees, humanitarian workers and officials about the still-unfolding human rights and health crises facing this long-marginalized and persecuted community.

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Newly arrived Rohingya people wait at an army camp in Sabrang in Teknaf on Nov. 29, 2017 before being shifted to a camp in Cox's Bazar. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Newly arrived Rohingya people wait at an army camp in Sabrang in Teknaf on Nov. 29, 2017 before being shifted to a camp in Cox's Bazar. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By Farid Ahmed
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Dec 16 2017 (IPS)

Ferdous Begum was cleaning her child after he had defecated in the open, using leaves she collected from a nearby tree at Bangladesh’s Teknaf Nature Park. The settlement is packed with Rohingya refugees who fled military persecution in Myanmar since August.

“Access to water is terrible here,” Begum said. “We’ve only a couple of hand-dug shallow wells and we don’t get enough water from the wells for so many people living in the camp.”“Initially we received patients with bullet, burn and stab injuries. Now we’re getting more patients with waterborne and cold-related diseases and the number is increasing.” --Dr. Dipongkor Binod Sharma

Other camps near Teknaf are also facing acute shortages of water, especially access to drinking and clean water, while aid workers face difficulties with hygiene management for the refugees crammed in squalid camps stretching from Teknaf to Ukhia in Cox’s Bazar.

The latest UN report shows an estimated 655,000 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh after fleeing violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, increasing the total Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar to 867,000 since Aug. 25.

The report said new arrivals were living in spontaneous settlements with increasing demand for humanitarian assistance, including shelter, food, clean water, and sanitation.

Ferdous Begum said her son was unwell last night, with a stomach upset. “Misfortune follows us anywhere we go,” Begum said.

Aid workers said refugees, especially pregnant women, lactating mothers and children were exposed to the risk of health hazards because of water shortages that led to poor hygiene management.

Diphtheria is rapidly spreading among Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned last week.

In one month, as of Dec. 12, a total of 804 suspected diphtheria cases, including 15 deaths, were reported among the displaced Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar.

The first suspected case was reported on Nov. 10 by a clinic of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Cox’s Bazar, according to the WHO.

A number of aid workers working in the field said hygiene was very important to prevent disease outbreaks in these overcrowded camps.

Many of the latrines made initially were already overflowing and faecal sludge was seen in the open in almost every camp. And many of the tubewells or hand-pumps are broken, shortening the supply of safe water.

Dr. Dipongkor Binod Sharma of Dhaka Community Hospital Trust, who has been working with Rohingya refugees since the latest influx began in August, said, “Initially we received maximum patients with bullet, burn and stab injuries. Now we’re getting more patients with waterborne and cold-related diseases and the number is increasing.”

Dr. Sharma said a large number of his patients were women and children suffering from acute malnutrition and anaemia, as most of the pregnant and lactating women were very young – many still in their teens.

“Hygiene is very crucial for them, but it seems they are not aware,” he said.

A Rohingya girl proudly holds up her drawing at a UNICEF school at Balukhali camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

A Rohingya girl proudly holds up her drawing at a UNICEF school at Balukhali camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

A Rohingya refugee named Gul Nahar rushed to a BRAC aid centre with her six-month-old boy, Mohammad Haras, seeking help. “He’s been suffering from high fever along with diarrhoea for the last 10 days,” Nahar said.

Nahar said the seven members of her family were living together in a single shanty room.

WaterAid Bangladesh country director Dr. Md Khairul Islam told IPS he was aware of water shortages in the camps in Teknaf. “The situation might be exacerbated when local farmers start irrigation for their crops in the area soon,” he added.

Executive director of the government’s Institute of Water Modelling, Professor M Monowar Hossain, told IPS there were plans to initiate a survey to ascertain the level of ground water there.

“It’s a part of the national survey… It’s not particularly for the Rohingya issue. [But] Until we do the survey, we can’t say there is any scarcity of water,” said Prof Hossain, a former dean of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET).

Local people fear the presence of over half a million Rohingyas will put additional pressure on water sources and that would worsen the situation in the coming months.

They warned about a severe water crisis in the later part of winter, when the groundwater level naturally goes down.

Rohingyas in the Jadimora area said that they were trying to collect water from tubewells in local communities, but on many occasions they’d been barred.

In the absence of safe water, Rohingyas in makeshift camps in Damdamia Nature Park, Jadimora, Alikhali, and Unchiprang areas of Teknaf are collecting water from ponds, waterfalls and other untreated sources.

“Nobody is supplying drinking water for us. We collect water from a nearby pond,” said a Rohingya community leader in the Damdamia area, Rashid Ullah.

Many Rohingyas built makeshift shelters in forest preserves, felling trees and setting up shanties on hilly slopes. Other have taken refuge at overcrowded registered and unregistered camps.

The haphazard sprouting of camps makes it hard to supply safe drinking water to Rohingyas, aid workers said.

Department of Public Health Engineering officials said for the Rohingyas who took shelter in wild forests and hills, safe drinking water facilities like tube wells are nonexistent.

“We can’t say we have reached all Rohingyas with safe drinking water and other facilities as they are living scattered,” Refugee Relief and Repatriation commissioner Mohammad Abul Kalam of Cox’s Bazar told IPS.

“Particularly in Teknaf, we wanted to relocate those Rohingyas facing shortage of water to other camps, but they were not interested,” Kalam said.

Aid workers say the Rohingya influx has slowed down, but several hundred refugees still arrive every day, adding pressure on both the government and humanitarian relief groups.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has constructed more than 3,800 latrines and 159 wells in six host community locations – Whykong, Palonkhali, Jaliapalong, Kutupalong, Rajapalong and Baharchora.

“Access to clean water and safe sanitation services is a problem for the communities hosting refugees in Cox’s Bazar,” said Alessandro Petrone, WASH Programme Manager for IOM’s Rohingya Response, in a statement earlier this month.

“A global and up to date WASH assessment providing a proper gaps analysis and an activities plan is urgently needed. IOM is developing a rated assessment tool and will deploy teams to the field in the coming days to support this work,” said Petrone.

The Inter-Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), of which IOM is a part, reported this week that the humanitarian situation for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh remained dire.

The inter-agency Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for 2017-18 identified the areas of WASH, health, nutrition and food security and shelter for immediate scale-up to save lives in both settlements and host communities, it said.

As per the HRP, the Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazar is highly vulnerable, many having experienced severe trauma, and are now living in extremely difficult conditions.

The limited WASH facilities in the refugee established settlements, put in place by WASH sector partners, including UNICEF, prior to the current influx, are over-stretched, with an average of 100 people per latrine, the report said.

New arrivals also have limited access to bathing facilities, especially women, and urgently require WASH supplies including soap and buckets.

Given the current population density and poor sanitation and hygiene conditions, any outbreak of cholera or Acute Watery Diarrhoea (AWD), which are endemic in Bangladesh, could kill thousands of people residing in temporary settlements, the report warned.

he series of reports from the border areas of Myanmar and Bangladesh is supported by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC)

The post Rohingyas: Lurching from Crisis to Crisis appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

In this special series of reports, IPS journalists travel to the border region between Bangladesh and Myanmar to speak with Rohingya refugees, humanitarian workers and officials about the still-unfolding human rights and health crises facing this long-marginalized and persecuted community.

The post Rohingyas: Lurching from Crisis to Crisis appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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SLIDESHOW: Tales of the 21st Century – Rohingyas Without a Statehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/153539/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=153539 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/153539/#comments Thu, 14 Dec 2017 17:42:36 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153539 IPS journalists have been reporting from the camp areas within Bangladesh. They have met and spoken to many Rohingya families and learned first-hand what happened to them - the women, children and men - and what their hopes are for the future. Our journalists captured images from far and wide that reflect the agony and fears of the Rohingya who are living in dismal conditions.

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A partial top view of Balukhali and Kutupalong camps in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

A partial top view of Balukhali and Kutupalong camps in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By IPS World Desk
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

The world has witnessed innumerable images of the long walk to ‘freedom’ of Rohingya women, children and men. Some trudged for endless hours and days, many carrying elderly parents and babies in baskets, with the women suffering the unimaginable trauma having been victims of rape, torture and harassment.

Some of them took boats and drowned, others floated their children in oil drums, not knowing how to swim. They fled their burning homes in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine, crossing over to Bangladesh, stateless, homeless and hopeless.

These images, which spoke a thousand words, shocked the world. The United Nations described the tragedy as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing. Over 600,000 Rohingya are now in living in camps Bangladesh, cared for by local and international NGOs, United Nations organizations such as IOM and government entities.

What lies at the root of this humanitarian crisis? Why have so many people been forced to flee their homeland? The exodus began in August after Myanmar’s security forces responded to Rohingya militant activities with brutality.

The Rohingya tragedy has been unfolding for decades, going back to 1948, when Myanmar gained independence. As the Rohingya felt insecure and feared genocide, amid growing international concern, former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan was appointed by the Myanmar government led by Aung San Suu Kyi to find ways to heal simmering divisions between the Rohingya and Buddhists.

In its final report, the commission urged Myanmar to lift restrictions on movement and to provide citizenship rights for the Rohingya in order to avoid fuelling ‘extremism’ in Rakhine state.

So, what must be done? While there are no simple solutions, Myanmar and Bangladesh have signed a deal for the possible repatriation of Rohingya Muslims. The question now is can they safely return to their lands and homes – many of which were burned to the ground – and live as free people with the same rights accorded to Myanmar’s Buddhist majority?

 

A partial top view of Balukhali and Kutupalong camps in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

A partial top view of Balukhali and Kutupalong camps in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

 

A group of Rohingya children emerge from a nearby religious school in Kutupalong camp. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

A group of Rohingya children emerge from a nearby religious school in Kutupalong camp. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

 

Rohingya women at Kutupalong camp. There are now over a million refugees in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

Rohingya women at Kutupalong camp. There are now over a million refugees in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

 

A Rohingya woman at Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

A Rohingya woman at Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

 

A Rohingya woman and child at Kutupalong camp, about 35 km from Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

A Rohingya woman and child at Kutupalong camp, about 35 km from Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

 

A dysfunctional tubewell in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

A dysfunctional tubewell in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

 

Rohingya women line up for aid. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

Rohingya women line up for aid. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

 

Rohingya women line up for food rations at Leda camp in Cox's Bazar. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Rohingya women line up for food rations at Leda camp in Cox’s Bazar. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

 

 

Cotton used for menstruation dried on roofs of shacks in Kutupalong Camp. Credit: Umer AIman Khan/IPS

Cotton used for menstruation dried on roofs of shacks in Kutupalong Camp. Credit: Umer AIman Khan/IPS

 

Rohingya women of Balukhali camp embarking on the trek to the toilets. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

Rohingya women of Balukhali camp embarking on the trek to the toilets. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

 

 

Girls taking religious education lessons at a Madrasah in the camps. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

Girls taking religious education lessons at a Madrasah in the camps. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

 

Newborn children in the Rohingya refugee camps. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

Newborn children in the Rohingya refugee camps. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

 

A Rohingya woman and her child at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

A Rohingya woman and her child at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

 

Two Rohingya children carries firewood crossing Tamru canal that has divided Bangladesh and Myanmar along Bangladesh's Naikhong chhari border in Bandarban district. Several thousand Rohingya people are still staying i no man's land along Naikhongchhari border. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Two Rohingya children carry firewood crossing Tamru canal that has divided Bangladesh and Myanmar along Bangladesh’s Naikhong chhari border in Bandarban district. Several thousand Rohingya people are still staying i no man’s land along Naikhongchhari border.
Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

 

A Rohingya boy shows his Myanmar currency at Shahparir Dwip in Cox's Bazar. Credit: Farid Ahmed / IPS

A Rohingya boy shows his Myanmar currency at Shahparir Dwip in Cox’s Bazar. Credit: Farid Ahmed / IPS

 

Rubina (extreme left) along with her friend at the Islamic School at Kutupalong camp, home to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Rubina (far left) along with her friend at the Islamic School at Kutupalong camp, home to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

 

A Rohingya couple, Mohammad Faisal and his wife Hajera, pose for a photo with their child at their camp at Teknaf Nature's Park, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

A Rohingya couple, Mohammad Faisal and his wife Hajera, pose for a photo with their child at their camp at Teknaf Nature’s Park, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

 

The series of reports from the border areas of Myanmar and Bangladesh is supported by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC)

The post SLIDESHOW: Tales of the 21st Century – Rohingyas Without a State appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

IPS journalists have been reporting from the camp areas within Bangladesh. They have met and spoken to many Rohingya families and learned first-hand what happened to them - the women, children and men - and what their hopes are for the future. Our journalists captured images from far and wide that reflect the agony and fears of the Rohingya who are living in dismal conditions.

The post SLIDESHOW: Tales of the 21st Century – Rohingyas Without a State appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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For Freedom from Poverty, Universal Health Coverage Is a Musthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/freedom-poverty-universal-health-coverage-must/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=freedom-poverty-universal-health-coverage-must http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/freedom-poverty-universal-health-coverage-must/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 07:29:14 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee and Githinji Gitahi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153471 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya. Dr Githinji Gitahi is the Global CEO of Amref Health Africa.

The post For Freedom from Poverty, Universal Health Coverage Is a Must appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Nearly one million Kenyans are pushed below the poverty line and remain poor as a result of healthcare expenses. Credit: Paul Nevin

By Siddharth Chatterjee and Dr Githinji Gitahi
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

Today is 12 December 2017 is an auspicious day, as it marks Kenya’s independence from colonial rule in 1963. Today is also Universal Health Coverage Day. It is the anniversary of the first unanimous United Nations resolution calling for countries to provide affordable, quality health care to every person, everywhere.

In Kenya illness can mean financial ruin.

Every day families are forced to sell their assets, rely on community support or see their modest life savings wiped out by medical bills.

Ill-health is a substantial burden not only on Kenyan families, but also on the country’s economic growth. Every year, nearly one million Kenyans are pushed below the poverty line and remain poor as a result of healthcare expenses.

Out-of-pocket expenses at point of treatment in Kenya make up a third of the country’s total health expenditure, far above the World Health Organization’s suggested 15 or 20%.

Universal health coverage should be [viewed] as a rights issue,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO). “Many families are getting into poverty because they are spending their savings for health care services.”

Across the globe there is a strong correlation between high rates of out-of-pocket expenses and catastrophic and impoverishing health expenditure. It is a powerful factor in inequality of access to healthcare, often forcing the poor to forgo medical treatment. It also increases costs, because when poor people finally seek treatment it’s either too late or else complications caused by delay have worsened their condition.

Approximately four out of every five Kenyans have no access to medical insurance, so the cruel reality is that most are just an accident or illness away from destitution. Among the poorest quintile a mere 3% have health insurance, this provided by the government’s National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF). This rises to 42% of the wealthiest fifth where private cover is also more common. Additionally, there are stark disparities between rural and urban populations, where rates of coverage are an average of 12% and 27% respectively.

“Over the next 5 years, my Administration will target 100% Universal Healthcare coverage for all households”. Credit: State House

To its credit, the Kenyan government is taking steps towards reducing these inequalities. Payments for primary and maternal health services in public facilities have been abolished, resulting in increased utilization and improved outcomes, particularly among the poorest. President Uhuru Kenyatta at his inaugural speech emphasized, “Over the next 5 years, my Administration will target 100% Universal Healthcare coverage for all households”.

Devolution of health care provision to county governments should also ensure more efficient resource distribution, accountable health services and improvements in equity that will eventually help decongest the overstretched Referral Hospitals.

Recent initiatives by the NHIF–such as inclusion of outpatient care and introduction of health insurance subsidies for the poor–are helping to expand coverage beyond those in formal employment. As a result, roughly 88.4% of households with health insurance are covered through the NHIF.

But as long as 33.6% of Kenyans survive on less than US$1.90 per day, there are still millions who cannot access quality healthcare.

Affordability is not the only barrier. Lack of public awareness, high loss ratios due to fraud, and reluctance among insurers to underwrite cover for the poor are also important.

Health insurance contributes only about 13% to national health expenditure, with the balance made up of out-of-pocket expenses at point of treatment, government and tax revenues, and donor funding. Such statistics undermine Kenya’s ability to achieve universal health coverage, enshrined in Kenya’s Vision 2030 and Sustainable Development Goal 3.

There is a clear need to develop low-cost, innovative solutions for expanding insurance coverage and technology must form part of such solutions. Technology-backed automation can improve efficiency and enhance transparency, both key requirements.

Mobile money can perform faster, more transparent and targeted health payments through health e-vouchers. Technology can process claims and enable healthcare consumers and providers to interact more efficiently, while offering more customized products to people of all incomes.

Efficient storage and sharing of patient data could reduce the cost of care by, for instance, tracing false claims, preventing repeat tests, or avoiding misdiagnosis.

Technology can also offer substantial savings in administration costs, which currently swallow a staggering 40% of the NHIF’s revenue, far in excess of the industry norm of 3-4%. Effective IT systems would help to reduce this astonishing disparity, as would improved governance and transparency. A lack of analytical capacity hobbles the NHIF’s ability to forecast and respond to increasing costs, hindering strategic planning and development. Better technology can address this.

However, such innovation must be accompanied by increased efficiency in health spending, through partnerships with institutions working to improving access to healthcare for the poor, and through policy dialogue between government and other stakeholders.

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta holds a new born baby when she visited Makueni County Referral Hospital during the handing over of the 30th Beyond Zero mobile clinic. Credit: State House

Ultimately, sustainability demands increased investment in preventive care and primary health. Diverting cash away from the 60% of the health budget that currently goes to curative care will pay dividends. Better primary care reduces ill-health and catches disease at an earlier stage, when treatment is cheaper and more effective. It also frees up resources to expand insurance coverage for the poor.

Launching the country’s SDG Platform with the United Nations in New York during the UN General Assembly in 2017, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Dr. Amina Mohamed remarked, “As a government we have clearly prioritized the Universal Health Coverage agenda because it is one of the ways to protect our people from the consequences of out-of-pocket health expenditure which in Kenya forms about a fifth of family spending”.

This Independence Day, let us join hands to free every Kenyan from the tyranny of poverty by achieving universal health coverage. It is the foundation for economic development and prosperity.

The post For Freedom from Poverty, Universal Health Coverage Is a Must appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya. Dr Githinji Gitahi is the Global CEO of Amref Health Africa.

The post For Freedom from Poverty, Universal Health Coverage Is a Must appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Rohingya Refugees: The Woes of Women (Part Two)http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rohingya-refugees-woes-women-part-two/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingya-refugees-woes-women-part-two http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rohingya-refugees-woes-women-part-two/#respond Fri, 08 Dec 2017 13:00:43 +0000 Sohara Mehroze Shachi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153404 In this special series of reports, IPS journalists travel to the border region between Bangladesh and Myanmar to speak with Rohingya refugees, humanitarian workers and officials about the still-unfolding human rights and health crises facing this long-marginalized and persecuted community.

The post Rohingya Refugees: The Woes of Women (Part Two) appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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A Rohingya woman and her child at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

A Rohingya woman and her child at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

By Sohara Mehroze Shachi
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Dec 8 2017 (IPS)

Under pouring rain, hundreds of young and expectant mothers stand in line. With her bare feet and the bottom of her dress covered in mud, Rashida is one of them, clutching her emaciated infant. She lost her husband on the treacherous trek from Myanmar to Bangladesh, and with nowhere to go and her resources exhausted, rain-drenched and standing in this long, muddy line for food and medicine for her child is her only hope.

Rohingya women line up for aid. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

Rohingya women line up for aid. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

Following the recent brutal campaign unleashed against the Rohingyas by the Myanmar military, over half a million refugees came to Bangladesh since August 2017, and more are arriving every day. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that there are nearly 150,000 newly arrived women of reproductive age (15-49 years), and according to the Inter Sector Coordination Group’s September 2017 Situation Report on the crisis, there are over 50,000 pregnant and breastfeeding mothers among the new arrivals in Bangladesh who require targeted food and medical assistance.

“We collaborate with some groups and help refugees living in the camp areas where there is a shortage of medical supplies,” said Andrew Day, who has been advocating for refugees for the past two years in Bangladesh. “They don’t have the means to see a doctor.”

While small scale interventions are being taken by development organizations to supplement hospitals, such the placement of 35 midwives trained by UNFPA in two camps, hospitals are underfunded, overcrowded and struggling to provide care to the burgeoning pregnant refugee population and thousands of newborns.

Newborn children in the Rohingya refugee camps. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

Newborn children in the Rohingya refugee camps. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

Early marriage and high birth rates are prevalent among the Rohingya community. According to a flash report on mixed movements in South Asia by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), a majority of the refugees were married young (at 16 or 17) and gave birth at an average age of 18.

In a Rapid Gender Analysis assessment conducted by Care in Balukhali Makeshift Camp at Cox’s Bazar, it was found that many female respondents between the ages of 13 and 20 years had children and others are currently pregnant.
The assessment uncovered that knowledge and practice of birth control was nonexistent or very limited among the Rohingya refugees, and religious sentiment was a strong factor contributing to the emphasis placed on pregnancy and the aversion to contraceptives.

“It (pregnancy) is God’s wish” said Jainul whose wife was expecting their sixth child. “God will help me feed the children,” he added. His wife echoed this belief.

According to locals, many Bangladeshis are donating money to the refugee camps as they believe helping fellow Muslims will earn them God’s blessings, and the resources are being used to set up Madrasahs – religious education schools. The imams of these madrasahs advise against contraception, so while the government and relief agencies such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are trying to provide birth control options and information on family planning, Rohingya women refuse to comply.

Girls taking religious education lessons at a Madrasah in the camps. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

Girls taking religious education lessons at a Madrasah in the camps. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

Dr. Lailufar Yasmin, a lecturer in International Relations at the University of Dhaka, who is conducting research in the refugee camps, said at first when she went into the camps, she saw a lot of elderly and middle-aged females, but there were very few young women.

“But when I asked them about their age, I found out they were in their twenties,” she said. Repeated childbirth coupled with the trauma they experienced in Myanmar had taken such a toll on them that they all looked decades older than their true age, she explained.

“Many Rohingyas married their daughters off very young so that the military won’t come and rape them because their bodies become less attractive after childbirth,” she said.

“It is a community decision, not the girl’s decision, but the girls have internalized it that they need to have a lot of children because they need to save their race which is being persecuted,” Dr. Yasmin explained, adding that this philosophy contributed to the Rohingyas having very large families.

With thousands of Rohingya children soon to be born in Bangladesh, the need for ramped up medical care is acute. However, an IRC/RI assessment in October 2017 found that nearly 50 percent of all pregnant women have not received medical care and 41 percent of families with pregnant women do not know where to go for medical care for pregnant women. The report concludes, “These results point to a need for health messaging and services, as well as antenatal care and emergency obstetric care across the makeshift settlements.”

The series of reports from the border areas of Myanmar and Bangladesh is supported by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC)

The post Rohingya Refugees: The Woes of Women (Part Two) appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

In this special series of reports, IPS journalists travel to the border region between Bangladesh and Myanmar to speak with Rohingya refugees, humanitarian workers and officials about the still-unfolding human rights and health crises facing this long-marginalized and persecuted community.

The post Rohingya Refugees: The Woes of Women (Part Two) appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Rohingya Refugees: The Woes of Women – Part Onehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rohingya-refugees-woes-women-part-one/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingya-refugees-woes-women-part-one http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/rohingya-refugees-woes-women-part-one/#respond Thu, 07 Dec 2017 13:58:48 +0000 Sohara Mehroze Shachi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153380 In this special series of reports, IPS journalists travel to the border region between Bangladesh and Myanmar to speak with Rohingya refugees, humanitarian workers and officials about the still-unfolding human rights and health crises facing this long-marginalized and persecuted community.

The post Rohingya Refugees: The Woes of Women – Part One appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Rohingya women of Balukhali camp embarking on the trek to the toilets. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

Rohingya women of Balukhali camp embarking on the trek to the toilets. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

By Sohara Mehroze Shachi
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Dec 7 2017 (IPS)

Afia* lines up her bucket every morning in the refugee camp for water delivery from humanitarian relief workers. On one particularly sweltering day, she kept four water pitchers in a row with gaps between them, hoping to insert another empty container in the space when the water arrived.

When another refugee saw this, she kicked away Afia’s pitchers, and a raging quarrel broke out. That night, the woman’s local boyfriend attacked Afia in her house, kicking her in the belly and hitting her mercilessly with a chair. Afia kept mum about the incident as her assailant threatened to kidnap and rape her in the jungle if she sought arbitration.

Afia is not one of the half a million Rohingyas who came into Bangladesh since this August from Myanmar. She is one of the thousands who have been living in the camps for years, and the water crisis has been exacerbated by the latest influx of refugees.

In the camps, men usually collect relief and water, with women going only when there are no males available. Since her husband left for Malaysia three years ago in search of work, she has not received any news from him and lives on her own in the camp, where scarcity of water is a heated issue and results in frequent altercations between the resident refugees.

While tubewells exist in the camps, many of them are dysfunctional as they are either too shallow and can no longer pump water, or have broken handles so no one can use them.

A dysfunctional tubewell in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

A dysfunctional tubewell in Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

Toilets

Women’s tribulations in the refugee camps do not end with water. Access to toilets is also a major problem. And the speed and scale of the recent influx – 624,000 arrivals since August and counting – have put basic services that were available in the camps prior to the influx are under severe strain. Spontaneous settlements have also sprung up to accommodate the new arrivals and these lack many basic amenities.

“There are no separate latrines for the women; the ones that exist do not have any lighting, are not close to their shelters and there’s absolutely no privacy,” said Shouvik Das, External Relations Officer of The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR in Bangladesh. “When we go to distribute food, sometimes the female refugees don’t want to take it because they then will need to go to the toilets and they dread that,” he added.

While many foreign and local NGOs and relief workers had set up tube wells and latrines for the refugees living in the camps, a safe distance was often not maintained between the latrines and the tubewells.

“Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that over 60 per cent of water sources tested in the settlements were contaminated with E.coli. Much of the contamination is a result of shallow wells located less than 30 feet away from latrines,” said Olivia Headon, Information Officer for Emergencies with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is providing vital WASH services to both the Rohingya and the communities hosting them.

“While IOM supports private WASH and sanitation areas to provide privacy and safety to women in the Bangladeshi community, similar areas are under development in the Rohingya settlements but are hindered by the lack of space,” she explained.

Cotton used for menstruation dried on roofs of shacks in Kutupalong Camp. Credit: Umer AIman Khan/IPS

Cotton used for menstruation dried on roofs of shacks in Kutupalong Camp. Credit: Umer AIman Khan/IPS

Risks of disease outbreak

Labeled as the world’s most persecuted minority by the UN, the Rohingya lacked access to many basic rights in Myanmar, including healthcare. A large number of the new surge of refugees had been suffering from various diseases before their arrival, including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Polio, and are now staying in cramped camps.

Their squalid living conditions, combined with scarcity of safe water and sanitation facilities, have triggered fears among health experts of disease outbreaks. And women, with their limited mobility and resources, are particularly at risk.

“Women will have to bear a disproportionate risk of the public health burden, and will be at the receiving end of all the negative environmental fallouts,” says Sudipto Mukerjee, Country Director of United Nations Development Program, Bangladesh.

The female refugees suffer the worst during their menstrual cycles, with most of them reusing unsanitary rags or cotton for months. This is not only increasing their risks of infection and skin diseases, but also affecting their mobility. As a recently published report by the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR reads, “Women and girls are limiting their movement because of not only the fear of being harassed, kidnapped or trafficked but also because of their lack of appropriate clothing and sanitary napkins.”

However, while development organizations have been supplying sanitary products to the refugee women, many of them do not know how to use them because they have never had access to them.

“Some of them put the sanitary pads as masks on their faces because they simply didn’t know what to do with them,” said Dr. Lailufar Yasmin, Professor of Gender Studies at BRAC University who has been working with the refugees in the camps.

“If the people who you are working with do not know what to do with the help you are providing, it will not be effective,” she added, “You will only be wasting money.”

*Names have been changed to protect the refugees’ identities.

The series of reports from the border areas of Myanmar and Bangladesh is supported by UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC)

The post Rohingya Refugees: The Woes of Women – Part One appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

In this special series of reports, IPS journalists travel to the border region between Bangladesh and Myanmar to speak with Rohingya refugees, humanitarian workers and officials about the still-unfolding human rights and health crises facing this long-marginalized and persecuted community.

The post Rohingya Refugees: The Woes of Women – Part One appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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