Inter Press ServiceAfrica – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 21 Aug 2018 02:08:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Poverty-Stricken Communities in Ghana are Restoring Once-Barren Landhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/poverty-stricken-communities-ghana-restoring-barren-land/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poverty-stricken-communities-ghana-restoring-barren-land http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/poverty-stricken-communities-ghana-restoring-barren-land/#respond Mon, 20 Aug 2018 13:53:53 +0000 Albert Oppong-Ansah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157270 In the scorching Upper East Region of Ghana, the dry seasons are long and for kilometres around there is nothing but barren, dry earth. Here, in some areas, it is not uncommon for half the female population to migrate to the country’s south in search of work, often taking their young children with them. “We […]

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Drone visual of the area in Upper East Region, Ghana that have not been restored. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah /IPS

By Albert Oppong-Ansah
GARU and TEMPANE, Ghana, Aug 20 2018 (IPS)

In the scorching Upper East Region of Ghana, the dry seasons are long and for kilometres around there is nothing but barren, dry earth. Here, in some areas, it is not uncommon for half the female population to migrate to the country’s south in search of work, often taking their young children with them.

“We realised that the long dry spell, bare land and high temperature of 40 degrees and the absence of irrigation facilities for farmers to [allow them] to farm year-round…effectively made them unemployed for the seven-month dry season,” Ayaaba Atumoce, chief of the Akaratshie community from the Garu and Tempane districts, tells IPS.“But for this initiative, our younger and future generation may have never known the beauty and importance of such indigenous trees as they [would have] all been destroyed." Talaata Aburgi, a farmer from the Garu and Tempane districts in Ghana.

The Garu and Tempane districts, which encompass 1,230 square kilometres or 123,000 hectares, had large portions of barren and degraded land until just three years ago. Now, there are pockets of lush grass, neem trees, berries and indigenous fruit growing on some 250 hectares of restored land. The dry earth is beginning to flourishing, albeit it slowly.

Atumoce remembers that growing up in the area, there was dense forest cover. But it gradually diminished over time as the mostly farming communities here supplemented their income by making charcoal and selling it at regional centres. According to the 2015 Ghana Poverty Mapping report, the rate of poverty in these two districts is 54.5 percent or 70,087 people—accounting for the highest number of impoverished people in the entire region.

The rate at which trees were cut down surpassed the rate at which new trees grew, if they did at all. And soon there were less and less trees for people to make charcoal with. Sprouts were soon unable to grow also as the land became hard and lacked nutrients.

And rainfall patterns changed.

“Previously, we would prepare our farmlands in early February and start planting when the rains begin in late March or early April and ended in late September or mid-October. Now, our planting is pushed to the end of June or early July and ends just around the same period it used to. We are getting low yields,” Atumoce says.

Carl Kojo Fiati, director of Natural Resources at Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency, tells IPS that deforestation and indiscriminate bush burning in the Upper Region has reduced the natural water cycles band, a natural cycle of evaporation, condensation and precipitation, and resulted in the reduced rainfall pattern and unproductive land.

“When the shrubs are allowed to grow it draws water from the ground that evaporates into the atmosphere and becomes moisture. This moisture adds to other forms of evaporation and this is condensed and comes down as rain,” he explains.

Women and children affected

The reduced rainfall affected this community significantly. According to the Garu and Tempane districts Annual Report, 2014, large portions of the population migrated south in search of jobs from November 2013 to April 2014. According to the report, 53 percent of women in the Kpikpira and Worinyanga area councils migrated with their children to the southern part of Ghana to engage in menial jobs, exposing their children to various forms of abuse, and depriving them of basic needs such as shelter, education, health care and protection.

But three years ago, World Vision International (WVI) Ghana began implementing the Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) programme. FMNR is a low-cost land restoration technique.

“After watching the video [presented by WVI] we got to know and accepted that we are suffering all these consequences because we harvested trees for timber, firewood, and constantly cleared our farmlands, engaged in indiscriminate burning and cutting,” Atumoce says.

But by this time, farmers in Garu and Tempane already knew that their crops like maize, millet, groundnuts, onions and watermelon would not grow without the use of chemical fertilisers, Atumoce explains.

“For the past 20 years, our parcels of land have not been fertile because one cannot plant without applying fertiliser. There was a long spell of drought; I observed that because the rainy season was delayed and the period of rain has now shortened. It decreased our crop yield and left us poor,” Atumoce says.

Asher Nkegbe, the United Nation Convention to Combating Desertification and Drought focal person for Ghana, explains to IPS that Ghana has adopted Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) and set nationally determined contributions (NDCs). NDCs are commitments by government to tackle climate change by 2030. As part of Ghana’s NDCs, the country has committed to reforesting 20,000ha of degraded lands each year.

This includes identifying highly-degraded areas, establishing a baseline and increasing the vegetation cover. The Garu and Tempani districts are considered LDN key areas.

Ghana’s natural resources are disappearing at an alarming rate. More than 50 percent of the original forest area has been converted to agricultural land by slash and burn clearing practices. Wildlife populations are in serious decline, with many species facing extinction, according to a World Bank report.

The Garu and Tempane districts were the second and third areas in which the project was implemented, run in conjunction with the ministry of food and agriculture, the Ghana National Fire Service and other government agencies. From 2009 to 2012 the pilot was conducted in Talensi, Nabdam District, which is also here in Upper East Region.

The projects have been handed over to the communities and another one is now being introduced in Bawku East District, also in Upper East Region.

Farmers undertaking periodic pruning at vegetation Susudi, in the Upper East Region of Ghana. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS

Simple restoration methods

The restoration in Garu and Tempane began using simple principles. This community of mostly farmers selected a degraded area and were asked to not destroy the shrubs there but to protect and allow them to grow.

They were also taught by the ministry of food and agriculture how to periodically prune away weak stems, allowing the shoots to grow into full sized trees rapidly. They were also advised to allow animals to graze on the vegetation so that their droppings could become a source for manure.

“The critical science behind regeneration and improved soil nutrient are that the leaves of the shrubs or vegetation drops and decay. The decayed leaves constitute carbon in the soil and that promotes plant growth,” says Fiati.

So far, 23 communities in Garu and Tempane have adopted the approach, and 460 people were trained by the ministry of food and agriculture. Volunteers were also trained in fire fighting techniques by the Ghana Fire Service. Community volunteer brigades were then formed, and these play an active role in quashing bushfires threatening the land.

New bylaws to regulate the harvesting of surplus wood, grasses, and other resources were also passed and enforced to prevent the indiscriminate felling of trees.

The Garu, Tempane and Talensi districts are estimated to now have over 868,580 trees, with an average density of about 4,343 trees per hectare, compared to a baseline of around 10 trees per hectare.

“We gave the farmers animals to keep as a source of an alternative livelihood so that farmers do not go back to the charcoal burning,” Maxwell Amedi, Food Security and Resilient Technical officer of WVI Ghana tells IPS.

A significant number of people, including mothers and their children, now remain in the area thanks to this alternative source of livelihood.

Amedi notes that forests are essential to realising the world’s shared vision for its people, and the planet. Forests, he says, are central to future prosperity as well as the stability of the global climate.

Talaata Aburgi, 60, from Susudi community in the Garu and Tempane districts, tells IPS that neem trees have always been used here to cure ailments including diabetes, skin ulcers, birth controls, malaria fever and stomach ache. She is glad that these trees are now repopulating the area.

In addition, red and yellow berries and other indigenous fruit have started growing again. Birds, butterflies and wild animals, like monkeys and rabbits, have reappeared. As IPS travelled through the region and visited Aburgi’s farm, we saw a significant number of farmers adopting FMNR.

The FMNR project, Fiati says, is an excellent method of correcting the problem of reduced rainfall by bringing the production cycle in sync with nature.

Nkegbe is optimistic.

“With lessons learned and the results observed with regeneration initiatives, there is hope. We are scaling it up and have even expanded it to include traditional healers and have set up 14 herbaria. It may not be 100 percent but for sure there are positive signs. More support is needed,” Nkegbe says.

Meanwhile, Aburgi says that adopting the initiative has contributed to young herders spending less time seeking grazing land and allows them to attend school for longer periods.

“But for this initiative, our younger and future generation may have never known the beauty and importance of such indigenous trees as they [would have] all been destroyed,” Aburgi says.

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How Ghana’s Rapid Population Growth Could Become an Emergency and Outpace Both Food Production and Economic Growthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/ghanas-rapid-population-growth-become-emergency-outpace-food-production-economic-growth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ghanas-rapid-population-growth-become-emergency-outpace-food-production-economic-growth http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/ghanas-rapid-population-growth-become-emergency-outpace-food-production-economic-growth/#respond Fri, 17 Aug 2018 09:27:15 +0000 Jamila Akweley Okertchiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157229 Paul Ayormah and his fellow farmers make their way home after hours spent manually weeding a friend’s one-acre maize farm in Ghana’s Eastern Region. “Tomorrow it will be the turn of my maize farm,” he tells IPS. This year, Ayormah and his colleagues who live in Donkorkrom in the Kwahu Afram Plains District of the […]

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Paul Ayormah and his friends on his maize farm in Donkorkrom in the Kwahu Afram Plains District of Ghana’s Eastern Region. Credit: Jamila Akweley Okertchiri/IPS

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri
ACCRA and DONKORKROM, Ghana, Aug 17 2018 (IPS)

Paul Ayormah and his fellow farmers make their way home after hours spent manually weeding a friend’s one-acre maize farm in Ghana’s Eastern Region.

“Tomorrow it will be the turn of my maize farm,” he tells IPS.

This year, Ayormah and his colleagues who live in Donkorkrom in the Kwahu Afram Plains District of the Eastern Region, have resorted to alternative means of cultivating their farms. The farmers group together and travel to each other’s farms, where they work to prepare and weed the farmland, taking turns to do the same for everyone else in the group. They have also resorted to using cattle dung to fertilise their crop.

“We are doing this to cut down on the cost involved in preparing our land for planting our maize,” Ayormah tells IPS.

Ayormah, a father of five, inherited his two-acre maize farm from his late father. And as the breadwinner in his family, Ayormah relies solely on his produce as a source of income.

Ayormah says that in a good season he is able to harvest 40 bags of maize, which he then sells in Koforidua, the capital of the Eastern Region, for an average of USD27 per bag.

“The money I make is what I use to take care of my family. Two of my children are in tertiary [education], one is in high school, and the other two are in junior high and primary school [respectively]. So there is hardly enough money at home,” he explains.

Ayormah believes he will have a good enough harvest this season, but says “I cannot promise a bumper harvest.”

Food Security

Ghana’s economy is predominately dependent on agriculture, particularly cocoa, though the government has taken steps to ensure that the cultivation of staples such as rice, maize and soya is also enhanced.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) says that 52 percent of the country’s labour force is engaged in agriculture, which contributes 54 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. However, it notes that the country’s agricultural sector is driven predominately by smallholder farmers, and about 60 percent of all farms are less than 1.2 hectares in size and are largely rain-fed.“Already our economy is not developing at the level we want it to and then we have this huge number of people depending on a small population for survival. So the little income or food must be shared among many people and this retards our economic growth and development.” -- Dr. Leticia Appiah, National Population Council director

Last April, president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo launched Ghana’s flagship agricultural policy, Planting for Food and Jobs, a five-year plan geared towards increasing food productivity and ensuring food security for the country. The policy’s long-term goal is to reduce food import bills to the barest minimum.

The programme also provides farmers who own two to three acres of land with a 50 percent subsidy of fertiliser and other farm inputs, such as improved seedlings.

Farmers who enrol in the programme enjoy a flexible repayment method where they pay their 50 percent towards the fertiliser cost in two instalments of 25 percent prior to and after harvest. Each payment is estimated to cost USD12.

Ayormah benefited from the programme last year, and had hoped that the use of chemical fertiliser would increase his farming yield and income. However, delayed rains and an armyworm infestation caused him to lose almost half of his produce.

He says although the programme was helpful, he cannot afford to pay the final USD12 he owes the government.

“With the little I will get from my farm produce this year, I will pay the money I owe the government so I can benefit [from the fertiliser] next year and get a bumper harvest,” he explains.

“If all goes well I hope to [harvest] my 40 bags. But this year is going to be a little difficult for my family because I am not getting the government fertiliser,” Ayormah laments.

A report by the ministry of food and agriculture assessing the one-year implementation of the Planting for Food and Jobs policy, notes the negative impact of delayed rains and armyworm infestation on maize production in the country. So far, government interventions such as the routine pesticide spraying on farms is bringing the armyworm infestation under control. But 20,000 hectares of land have already been affected.

Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Ghana’s minister of food and agriculture, tells IPS the situation faced by farmers in other parts of the country, particularly the Northern Region, poses a potential threat to food security for this west African nation.

Agenda 2030

Hiroyuki Nagahama, vice chair of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP) at the Asian and African Parliamentarians, spoke with IPS during a three-day visit this August to learn the opportunities and challenges that Ghana faces.

Nagahama says that if the current grown rate on the continent, in excess of two percent, is not checked, U.N. Population estimates and projections put Africa at a risk of contributing 90 percent to the increase in the world’s population between 2020 to 2100.

He further notes that the population growth rate does not correspond with the food produced on the continent and this poses a threat to food security.

“According to calculations by the FAO, food security can be possible through cutting down on losses from food and engaging appropriately in farm management and production. But, economic principles compels us to ask difficult questions about how the population of Africa will have access to food supply,” Nagahama says.

A new project by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) and the JPFP, which focuses on enhancing national and global awareness of parliamentarians’ role as a pivotal pillar for achieving the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, was launched this year. The project also supports parliamentarians as they implement necessary policy, legislative changes and mobilise resources for population-related issues.

It is a platform to examine the ways in which both developed and developing countries can, in equal partnership, serve as the driving force to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and create a world where no one is left behind.

Rashid Pelpou, chair of Ghana’s Parliamentary Caucus on Population and Development, tells IPS it is estimated that 1.2 million of Ghana’s 29.46 million people are currently food insecure.

And that a further two million Ghanaians are vulnerable to food insecurity nationwide. In the event of an unexpected natural or man-made shock, their pattern of food consumption can be greatly impacted.

He says that as representatives of the people, parliamentarians’ priorities are to ensure that laws and budget allocations translates into constituents having physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.

Reproductive Health

In Ghana, the National Population Council (NPC) stated last August that the country’s current 2.5 percent population growth rate was high above the global rate of 1.5 percent, calling it a disturbing trend.

Dr. Leticia Appiah, NPC director, tells IPS that population management is an emergency that requires urgent action. She previously said that the “annual population increase is 700,000 to 800,000, which is quite alarming.”

Appiah tells IPS that when people give birth to more children than they can afford, not only does the family suffer in terms of its ability to care for these children, but the government becomes burdened as it provides social services.

“Already our economy is not developing at the level we want it to and then we have this huge number of people depending on a small population for survival. So the little income or food must be shared among many people and this retards our economic growth and development,” Appiah explains.

African Development Bank Group data shows that “economic growth fell from 14 percent in 2011 at the onset of oil production to 3.5 percent in 2016, the lowest in two decades.” In April the Ghana Statistical Service announced an 8.5 percent expansion in gross domestic product.

“We have to really focus on reproductive health otherwise we will miss the investment we have made in immunisation and create more problems for ourselves,” Appiah says.

Nagahama addresses the issue of Africa’s population growth: “It is an individual’s right to choose how many children they will have and at what interval. But in reality there are many children who are born from unwanted pregnancies and births.”

“To remove such plight, it is important for us parliamentarians to legislate, allocate funding and implement programmes for universal access to reproductive health services in ways that are culturally acceptable,”Nagahama says.

Niyi Ojoalape, the U.N. Population Fund’s Ghana representative, tells IPS that strong government coordination is the way to harness demographic dividend—the growth in an economy that is the resultant effect of a change in the age structure of a country’s population.

Ghana currently has a national population policy with strategies to manage the country’s population for long term benefit, but implementation of this has lacked political will over the years.

Ojoalape notes that without sustainable implementation over the long term, Ghana will not be able to reap the benefits.

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Music: Nigeria’s New Cultural Exporthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/music-nigerias-new-cultural-export/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=music-nigerias-new-cultural-export http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/music-nigerias-new-cultural-export/#respond Thu, 16 Aug 2018 12:19:51 +0000 Franck Kuwonu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157227 It is a cold evening in Antwerp, Belgium’s second-largest city, famous for diamonds, beer, art and high-end fashion. Inside a small restaurant, a mix of the latest American pop and rap—clearly enjoyed by diners—is playing on a radio. Nigerians Olalekan Adetiran and Adaobi Okereke, enjoying a kebab dinner, are startled when the radio begins playing […]

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Wizkid performs in London, United Kingdom. Photo: Alamy/Michael Tubi - Nigerian music is drawing interest from beyond the borders, showcasing the vitality of a creative industry that the government is now depending on, among other sectors, to diversify the economy and foster development.

Wizkid performs in London, United Kingdom. Photo: Alamy/Michael Tubi

By Franck Kuwonu, Africa Renewal*
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 16 2018 (IPS)

It is a cold evening in Antwerp, Belgium’s second-largest city, famous for diamonds, beer, art and high-end fashion. Inside a small restaurant, a mix of the latest American pop and rap—clearly enjoyed by diners—is playing on a radio. Nigerians Olalekan Adetiran and Adaobi Okereke, enjoying a kebab dinner, are startled when the radio begins playing the unmistakable “Ma Lo”—a catchy, midtempo and bass-laden song by popular Nigerian artistes Tiwa Savage and Wizkid.

The song, currently a hit in Nigeria and across Africa, awakens thoughts of home; they cannot stop smiling at the pleasant surprise. They are visiting Belgium as part of a tour of European countries and their cultural landmarks.

A week earlier, barely two months after its release, the eye-popping video of the song had been viewed on YouTube more than 10 million times—and counting.

For Mr. Adetiran, hearing “Ma Lo” on a Belgian radio station not known to cater to African communities confirms that music from Naija (as Nigerians fondly refer to their country), is going places. It reflects the greater reach of a new generation of Nigerian artists.

Just like the country’s movie industry, Nollywood, Nigerian music is drawing interest from beyond the borders, showcasing the vitality of a creative industry that the government is now depending on, among other sectors, to diversify the economy and foster development.

 

 

Greater recognition

Last November, Wizkid won the Best International Act category at the 2017 MOBO (Music of Black Origin) Awards held in London, the first for an Africa-based artist. He beat back competition from more established global celebrities such as Jay-Z, Drake, DJ Khaled and Kendrick Lamar.

At the same MOBO Awards, Davido, another Nigerian artist, took home the Best African Act award for “If,” one of his hit songs—a love-themed ballad with a blend of Nigerian rhythms and R & B.

Since its release in February 2017, the official “If” video has racked up more than 60 million views on YouTube, the highest number of YouTube views for any Nigerian music video and one of the highest ever recorded for a song by an African artist.

Across the African continent, other musical groups, such as Kenya’s boy band Sauti Sol, Tanzania’s Diamond Platnumz and South Africa’s Mafikizolo, have collaborated with or featured Nigerian top stars in attempts to gain international appeal. Reuters news service calls Nigerian music a “cultural export.”

The Nigerian government is now looking to the creative industries, including performing arts and music, to generate revenues.

 

A billion-dollar industry?

“When we talk about diversifying the economy it is not just about agriculture or solid minerals alone, it is about the creative industry—about the films, theatre and music,”
Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s minister of information and culture


In rebasing or recalculating its GDP in 2013, the Nigerian government included formerly neglected sectors, such as the entertainment industries led by Nollywood. As a result, the country’s GDP increased sharply, from $270 billion to $510 billion, overtaking South Africa that year as the continent’s biggest economy, notes the Brookings Institution, a US-based nonprofit public policy think tank.

Brookings reports, however, that the GDP rise didn’t show an increase in wealth and that a recent crash in the price of oil, the country’s main export, is slowing economic growth.

Nigerian music sales revenues were estimated at $56 million in 2014, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), an international accounting and auditing firm. The firm projects sales revenues to reach $88 million by 2019.

Globally, the creative industry is among the most dynamic economic sectors. It “provides new opportunities for developing countries to leapfrog into emerging high-growth areas of the world economy,” the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), a UN body that deals with trade, investment and development issues, said in a 2016 report.

Over the last decade, Europe has been the largest exporter of creative products, although exports from developing countries are growing fast too, UNCTAD reported.

According to PwC, lumped together, annual revenues from music, movies, art and fashion in Nigeria will grow from $4.8 billion in 2015 to more than $8 billion in 2019,.

Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics reports that the local music sector grew “in real terms by 8.4% for the first three months of 2016” and that in the first quarter of 2017, the sector grew by 12% compared with the same period one year prior.

The growth may be attributed to a reversal in music consumption patterns, according to local media reports. Up to the early 2000s, the music in clubs and on the radio in Nigeria was dominated by British and American hit songs.

Not anymore. Reportedly, most Nigerians now prefer songs by their local artists to those by foreigners, even the big ones in the West.

“When I go out, I want to hear songs by Davido or Whizkid or Tekno; like other people, I cannot enjoy myself listening to songs by foreign artistes anymore,” says Benjamin Gabriel, who lives in Abuja. With a population of about 180 million, Nigerian artists have a huge market to tap into. The big ones like Whizkid and Davido are feeling the love—maybe the cash too!

 

The new oil

“We are ready to explore and exploit the ‘new oil,’” Nigeria’s minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, commented ahead of a creative industry financing conference held in Lagos last July.

“When we talk about diversifying the economy it is not just about agriculture or solid minerals alone, it is about the creative industry—about the films, theatre and music,” Mr. Mohammed said.

He was reacting to UNCTAD’s findings that the creative industry contributed £84.1 (about $115.5) billion to the British economy in 2014 and $698 billion to the US economy that same year. “Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind,” Mr. Mohammed declared.

The Nigerian government is already providing incentives to investors in the sector, including a recent $1 million venture capital fund to provide seed money for young and talented Nigerians looking to set up business in creative industries.

The government is also allowing the industry “pioneer status,” meaning that those investing in motion picture, video and television production, music production, publishing, distribution, exhibition and photography can enjoy a three- to five-year tax holiday.

Other incentives, such as government-backed and privately backed investment funds, are also being implemented.

Yet as hopes of a vibrant industry rise, pervasive copyright violations could stunt its growth.

 

Profits are “scattered”

In December 2017, the Nigerian police charged three people in Lagos with copyright violations. Their arrests had been widely reported in the country months earlier. “Piracy: Three suspects arrested at Alaba with N50 million [US$139,000] worth of materials,” Premium Times, a Lagos-based newspaper, announced in a headline.

Alaba market in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, is famous for electronics, but it is also notorious for all things fake and cheap, attracting customers from across West Africa to East Africa.

Recent efforts by the authorities to fight piracy led to police raids of Alaba and other markets in the country, resulting in the seizure of pirated items worth $40 million.

Despite such raids, the business of pirated music and movie CDs continues unabated, turning enforcement efforts into a game of Whack-A-Mole. With minimal returns from CD sales, Nigerian artists rely on ringtone sales, corporate sponsorship contracts and paid performances to make ends meet. Most Nigerian artists now prefer online releases of their songs.

Still, online release poses its own challenges. For example, Mr. Adetiran and Mr. Okereke recall visiting in March 2017 a club in Dakar, Senegal, where DJs spun Nigerian beats nonstop. The two realised only much later that those songs had been downloaded from the Internet.

“When you create your content and put it out, it’s scattered,” Harrysong, a Nigerian singer, told the New York Times in June 2017, echoing Mr. Adetiran and Mr. Okereke’s experience. He was expressing performers’ sense of powerlessness as they lose control of sales and distribution of their music.

The Times summed it up like this: “Nigeria’s Afrobeat music scene is booming, but profits go to pirates.”

*Africa Renewal, a magazine published by the United Nations, was launched in 1987. It was formerly published as Africa Recovery/Afrique Relance. 

This article was originally published here

 

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Let Food Be Thy Medicinehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/let-food-thy-medicine/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=let-food-thy-medicine http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/let-food-thy-medicine/#respond Tue, 14 Aug 2018 10:10:59 +0000 Adelheid Onyango and Bibi Giyose http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157204 Adelheid Onyango is Adviser for Nutrition at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Africa and Bibi Giyose is Senior Nutrition and Food Systems officer, and Special Advisor to the CEO of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

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Health is more than the absence of disease: adequate nutrition is a critical part of the equation

Typical food store in Brazzaville, Congo. Credit: WHO

By Adelheid Onyango and Bibi Giyose
BRAZZAVILLE, Congo, Aug 14 2018 (IPS)

When faced with a crisis, our natural reaction is to deal with its immediate threats. Ateka* came to the make-shift clinic with profuse diarrhoea: they diagnosed cholera. The urgent concern in the midst of that humanitarian crisis was to treat the infection and send her home as quickly as possible. But she came back to the treatment centre a few days later – not for cholera, but because she was suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Doctors had saved her life but not restored her health. And there were others too, who like Ateka eventually succumbed to severe malnutrition.  

This scene could have taken place in any of the dozen or so African countries that have suffered a cholera outbreak this year alone. Experience from managing epidemics has shown that when the population’s baseline nutritional status is poor, the loss of life is high.

Beyond malnutrition’s damaging impact on bodily health, it weakens the immune system, reducing the body’s resistance to infection and resilience in illness.

Most of the diseases that entail catastrophic costs to individuals, households and national healthcare systems in Africa could be avoided if everyone was living actively and consuming adequate, diverse, safe and nutritious food. After all, a healthy diet not only allows us to grow, develop and prosper, it also protects against obesity, diabetes, raised blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

On the flipside, integrating the treatment of malnutrition in the response to humanitarian crises assures survival and recovery better than an exclusive focus on treating diseases.

As countries across the continent commit themselves to Universal Health Coverage (UHC), the same lessons need to apply. UHC is ultimately about achieving health and wellbeing for all by 2030, a goal that is inextricably linked with that of ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition.

With 11 million Africans falling into poverty every year due to catastrophic out-of-pocket payments for healthcare, no one can question the need to ensure that everyone, everywhere, can obtain the health services they need, when and where they need them, without facing financial hardship.

As wealth patterns and consumption habits change, the African region is now faced with the triple burden of malnutrition – undernutrition coupled with micronutrient deficiencies and increasing levels of obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases.

In 2016, an estimated 59 million children in Africa were stunted (a 17 percent increase since 2000) and 14 million suffered from wasting – a strong predictor of death among children under five. That same year, 10 million were overweight; almost double the figure from 2000. It’s estimated that by 2020, non-communicable diseases will cause around 3.9 million deaths annually in the African region alone.

Yet most of the diseases that entail catastrophic costs to individuals, households and national healthcare systems in Africa could be avoided if everyone was living actively and consuming adequate, diverse, safe and nutritious food. After all, a healthy diet not only allows us to grow, develop and prosper, it also protects against obesity, diabetes, raised blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

To tackle malnutrition, achieve UHC and ultimately reach the goal of health and wellbeing for all, governments need to put in place the right investments, policies and incentives.

As a starting point, governments need to assure the basic necessities of food security, clean water and improved sanitation to prevent and reduce undernutrition among poor rural communities and urban slum populations in Africa. For example, reduction in open defecation has been successful in reducing undernutrition in Ethiopia, parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Tanzania.

Then, to influence what people eat, we need to do a better job at improving food environments and at educating them about what constitutes a healthy diet. Hippocrates asserted that “all disease begins in the gut,” with the related counsel to “let food be thy medicine.”

Current research on chronic diseases is reasserting the health benefits of consuming minimally-processed staple foods which formed the basis of traditional African diets. This information needs to be communicated to the public through the health and education sectors and complemented by agricultural innovation to increase production of the nutrient-rich grains, crickets, herbs, roots, fruits and vegetables that were the medicine for longevity among our hardy ancestors.

But until that awareness is in place, policies and programmes are urgently needed to protect and promote healthy diets right from birth. This includes regulating the marketing of breast milk substitutes and foods that help establish unhealthy food preferences and eating habits from early childhood.

In South Africa, for example, the country with the highest obesity rate in Sub-Saharan Africa, the government has introduced a ‘sugar tax’ that is expected to increase the price of sugary soft drinks. The hope is that this will encourage consumers to make healthier choices and manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar in their products.

Finally, governments must create incentives – and apply adequately dissuasive sanctions when necessary – to help food manufacturers collaborate in promoting healthy diets through reformulation and informative labelling, for example. In cases of food contamination, we are very quick to take products off the shelves. Yet we are much slower to react to the illnesses caused by processed foods containing high quantities of salt, sugars, saturated fats and trans fats.

A shortcut to achieving Universal Health Coverage is to reduce the need for costly treatments. And there is no better way to do that than to ensure that everyone, everywhere, preserves their health and has access to safe and nutritious food: let food be thy medicine.

*name has been changed

 

The post Let Food Be Thy Medicine appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Adelheid Onyango is Adviser for Nutrition at the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Africa and Bibi Giyose is Senior Nutrition and Food Systems officer, and Special Advisor to the CEO of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

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Which Way Now for Zimbabwe as Constitutional Court Receives Petition Against Election Results?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/way-now-zimbabwe-constitutional-court-receives-petition-election-results/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=way-now-zimbabwe-constitutional-court-receives-petition-election-results http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/way-now-zimbabwe-constitutional-court-receives-petition-election-results/#respond Mon, 13 Aug 2018 07:12:06 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157186 Many in Zimbabwe are questioning whether the country can break with its horrid past or embrace a new future after a watershed election that saw Emmerson Mnangagwa win the presidential race by a narrow margin and the opposition lodge a formal petition challenging the results in the Constitutional Court. Mnangagwa–a trusted and past enforcer of […]

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Voters queuing ahead of Zimbabwe's Jul. 30 general elections. The election saw Emmerson Mnangagwa win the presidential race but the opposition has lodge a formal petition challenging the results. Courtesy: The Commonwealth/CC By 2.0

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Aug 13 2018 (IPS)

Many in Zimbabwe are questioning whether the country can break with its horrid past or embrace a new future after a watershed election that saw Emmerson Mnangagwa win the presidential race by a narrow margin and the opposition lodge a formal petition challenging the results in the Constitutional Court.

Mnangagwa–a trusted and past enforcer of former president Robert Mugabe–won the vote by 50.8 percent against the 44.9 percent garnered by Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-Alliance).

Mnangagwa’s 2.46 million votes, against Chamisa’s 2.15 million, gave him the mandatory 50+1 percent required to be declared winner.

But the MDC-Alliance on Friday afternoon, Aug. 10, lodged a petition with the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe challenging the results, halting the inauguration of Mnangagwa that had been slated for Sunday, Aug. 12.

The Constitutional Court will consider the matter over 14 days but political watchers say that what the ruling will be, remains unclear. The court could reject the MDC-Alliance petition and confirm Mnangagwa’s win, or it could confirm Chamisa’s presented evidence and rule in the opposition’s favour. The court could also order another election, which could be held within the next 60 days.“The future of Zimbabwe lies in a negotiated settlement now because of what the country stands to lose [rather] than gain if a political resolution is not found soon.” -- Political analyst and human rights activist, Effie Ncube.

Political analyst and human rights activist, Effie Ncube, says that should the court rule in favour of Chamisa and order a rerun, this could stoke tensions. He says that a preferred solution would be inclusive discussions out of court between Mnangagwa and Chamisa.

“Keeping away from a re-run is the best solution for Zimbabwe because the tension on the ground now is not ideal for an election without triggering violence,” Ncube tells IPS. “The future of Zimbabwe lies in a negotiated settlement now because of what the country stands to lose [rather] than gain if a political resolution is not found soon.”

Mugabe may have been ousted, but his brutal legacy lingers over a country desperate for a fresh start. Zimbabwe’s Jul. 30 elections–the first since Mugabe was toppled last November–did not disappoint on the dearth of harmony. Violence, in all its forms, has been emblematic of Mugabe’s rule and is something that president-elect Mnangagwa sought a clean break from.

But violence, intimidation, killings and disputed results soiled the elections.

Two weeks ago police clashed with opposition supporters who staged a demonstration outside the offices of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) over the delayed announcement of the presidential election results. The army fired on protesting supporters, killing six people and injuring scores more. The tragedy stained the polls despite pleas from both the ruling Zimbabwe Africa National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) and the opposition MDC for a violence-free election.

“Mugabe’s legacy of brutality has returned to haunt us again but at least it was clear who was in charge,” Dumisani Nkomo, director of Habakkuk Trust, a civil rights advocacy organisation, notes. “Right now it is not clear who is charge and many centres of power seem to have emerged and even within the army there appears to be many centres of command as evidenced by the mystery of who deployed soldiers in Harare.”

Nkomo says the credibility of the electoral process has been severely eroded by issues around the voters roll, postal voting and election results.

“This is a really complex situation because contested election outcomes have been an issue since 1980 and more visibly in 2000, 2002 and 2013 and we seem to be moving in circles,” Nkomo tells IPS. “The election result cannot in all honesty be termed free and fair because of the uneven playing field and the clampdown on civil liberties after the announcement of the results.”

The elections had a semblance of being free on many fronts; the polls were relatively peaceful, there was a new biometric voters’ system, a well-organised and resourceful ZEC, and a plethora of candidates and parties vying for power.

While observers from the Southern African Development Community and African Union have endorsed the elections as free and fair, the European Union has pointed to irregularities.

Economist and lawmaker, Eddie Cross, says he expects the presidential ballot to stand up to the court challenge.

“Any legal challenge should therefore be short lived,” Cross said in post-election commentary on his website. “The big challenge facing Emmerson Mnangagwa is now to unite the country under his leadership and heal the wounds of past battles–the struggle for independence… the struggle against the MDC since 2000 with 5,000 abductees, tens of thousands beaten and tortured, hundreds of deaths and the near total destruction of the economy, all in the name of fighting the restoration of real democracy.”

Time to build bridges

Mnangagwa has scoffed at the idea of a government of national unity, an arrangement his predecessor, was forced to enter into in 2008 with the opposition MDC, which had been led at the time by the late Morgan Tsvangirai.

“I have two-thirds majority and you are talking about me abandoning my two-thirds majority to set a government of national unity?” Mnangagwa commented on Skye News television during an interview last week.

“Not that it’s a bad idea, but it doesn’t show that there is any need. I am saying politics should now take the back seat because the elections are behind us. We should now put our shoulders to the wheel for purposes of modernising our economy, growing our economy together. Those who have voted against me, those who voted for me, we say Zimbabwe is ours together.”

In spite of the violence that has marred the election outcomes, Zimbabwe was banking on a smooth assumption of power as a ticket into the fold of the international community.

However, in a move set to pile pressure on the new government to double its effort to reengage the international community and institute a raft of political and economic reforms, the United States last week renewed sanctions on Zimbabwe, which have been in place since 2001.

The economy remains a key challenge Mnangagwa has to address swiftly.

Mnangagwa has been on an international investment charm offensive, promoting Zimbabwe’s new open business approach.

The country needs an economic vision to ensure growth, unlock business opportunities, jobs, restore trust in the banking sector and hopefully bring back a local currency.

“Mnangagwa has the opportunity to turn the country round, he has made the right pronouncements on the economy that he needs to follow up with action. I think he wants to play a [Nelson] Mandela come in as a person who transforms the country and moves it to democracy and move away from the dictatorship,” says Ncube.

“Should the court confirm Mnangagwa as the winner, there could be less tension. But the credibility and legitimacy of the regime will be questioned and that will challenge its ability to organise international investment and undermine political stability.”

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How the Lack of Affordable Vegetables is Creating a Billion-Dollar Obesity Epidemic in South Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/lack-affordable-vegetables-creating-billion-dollar-obesity-epidemic-south-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lack-affordable-vegetables-creating-billion-dollar-obesity-epidemic-south-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/lack-affordable-vegetables-creating-billion-dollar-obesity-epidemic-south-africa/#respond Fri, 10 Aug 2018 10:51:04 +0000 Nalisha Adams http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157170 Every Sunday afternoon, Thembi Majola* cooks a meal of chicken and rice for her mother and herself in their home in Alexandra, an informal settlement adjacent to South Africa’s wealthy economic hub, Sandton. “Vegetables is only on Sunday,” Majola tells IPS, adding that these constitute potatoes, sweet potato and pumpkin. Majola, who says she weighs […]

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The number of young South Africans suffering from obesity doubled in the last six years, while it had taken the United States 13 years for this to happen.

Fruit and vegetable prices in South Africa have increased to the point that poorer people have had to remove them from their grocery lists. Credit: Nalisha Adams/IPS

By Nalisha Adams
JOHANNESBURG, Aug 10 2018 (IPS)

Every Sunday afternoon, Thembi Majola* cooks a meal of chicken and rice for her mother and herself in their home in Alexandra, an informal settlement adjacent to South Africa’s wealthy economic hub, Sandton.

“Vegetables is only on Sunday,” Majola tells IPS, adding that these constitute potatoes, sweet potato and pumpkin. Majola, who says she weighs 141 kgs, has trouble walking short distances as it generally leaves her out of breath. And she has been on medication for high blood pressure for almost two decades now.“It is precisely a justice issue because at the very least our economy should be able to provide access to sufficient and nutritious food. Because, at the basis of our whole humanity, at the very basis of our body, is our nutrition." -- Mervyn Abrahams, Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group

“Maize is a first priority,” she says of the staple item that always goes into her shopping basket. “Every Saturday I eat boerewors [South African sausage]. And on Sunday it is chicken and rice. During the week, I eat mincemeat once and then most of the time I fill up my stomach with [instant] cup a soup,” she says of her diet.

Majola is one of about 68 percent of South African women who are overweight or obese, according to the South African Demographic and Health Survey. The Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition’s Food Sustainability Index (FSI) 2017 ranks 34 countries across three pillars: sustainable agriculture; nutritional challenges; and food loss and waste.  South Africa ranks in the third quartile of the index in 19th place. However, the country has a score of 51 on its ability to address nutritional challenges. The higher the score, the greater the progress the country has made. South Africa’s score is lower than a number of countries on the index.

Families go into debt to pay for basic foods

Many South Africans are eating a similar diet to Majola’s not out of choice, but because of affordability.

Dr. Kirthee Pillay, lecturer of dietetics and human nutrition at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, tells IPS that the increase of carbohydrate-based foods as a staple in most people’s diets is cost-related.

“Fruit and vegetable prices have increased to the point that poorer people have had to remove them from their grocery lists.”

The Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa), a social justice non-governmental organisation, noted last October in its annual food barometer report that while the median wage for black South Africans is USD209 a month, a monthly food basket that is nutritionally complete costs USD297.

The report also noted that food expenditure from households arise out of the monies left over after non-negotiable expenses, such as transport, electricity, debt and education needs have been paid first. And this resulted in many families incurring debt in order to meet their food bills.

“Staples are cheaper and more filling and people depend on these, especially when there is less money available for food and many people to feed. Fruit and vegetables are becoming luxury food items for many people given the increasing cost of food. Thus, the high dependence on cheaper, filling staples. However, an excessive intake of carbohydrate-rich foods can increase risk for obesity,” Pillay tells IPS via email.

Majola works at a national supermarket chain, with her only dependent being her elderly mother. She says her grocery bill comes to about USD190 each month, higher than what most average families can afford, but agrees that the current cost of fruit and vegetables are a luxury item for her.

“They are a bit expensive now. Maybe they can sell them at a lesser price,” she says, adding that if she could afford it, she would have vegetables everyday. “Everything comes from the pocket.”

Monopoly of Food Chain Creating a System that Makes People Ill

David Sanders, emeritus professor at the school of public health at the University of the Western Cape, says that South Africans have a very high burden of ill health, much of which is related to their diet.

But he adds that large corporates dominate every node of the food chain in the country, starting from inputs and production, all the way to processing, manufacturing and retail. “So it is monopolised all the way up the food system from the farm to the fork.”

“The food system is creating, for poor people anyway, a quite unhealthy food environment. So for well-off people there is sufficient choice and people can afford a nutritionally-adequate diet, even one of quite high quality.

“But poor people can’t. In most cases, the great majority, don’t have a kind of subsistence farming to fall back on because of land policies and the fact that in the 24 years of democracy there hasn’t been significant development of small scale farming,” Sanders, who is one of the authors of a report on food systems in Brazil, South Africa and Mexico, tells IPS.

According to the report, about 35,000 medium and large commercial farmers produce most of South Africa’s food.

In addition, Sanders points out that a vast majority of rural South Africans purchase, rather than grow, their own food.

“The food they can afford tends to be largely what we call ultra processed or processed food. That often provides sufficient calories but not enough nutrients. It tends to be quite low often in good-quality proteins and low in vitamins and minerals – what we call hyper nutrients.

“So the latter situation results in quite a lot of people becoming overweight and obese. And yet they are poorly nourished,” Sanders explains.

The Sugar Tax Not Enough to Stem Epidemic of Obesity

In April, South Africa introduced the Sugary Beverages Levy, which charges manufacturers 2.1 cents per gram of sugar content that exceeds 4g per 100 ml. The levy is part of the country’s department of health’s efforts to reduce obesity.

Pillay says while it is still too early to tell if the tax will be effective, in her opinion “customers will fork out the extra money being charged for sugar-sweetened beverages. Only the very poor may decide to stop buying them because of cost.”

Sander’s points out “it’s not just the level of obesity, it is the rate at which this has developed that is so alarming.”

A study shows that the number of young South Africans suffering from obesity doubled in the last six years, while it had taken the United States 13 years for this to happen.

“Here is an epidemic of nutrition, diet-related diseases, which has unfolded extremely rapidly and is just as big and as threatening and expensive as the HIV epidemic, and yet it is going largely unnoticed.”

Overweight people have a risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and hypertension, which places them at risk for heart disease. One of South Africa’s largest medical aid schemes estimated in a report that the economic impact on the country was USD50 billion a year.

“Even if people knew what they should eat there is very very little room for manoeuvre. There is some, but not much,” Sanders says adding that people should rather opt to drink water rather than purchase sugary beverages.

“Education and awareness is a factor but I would say that these big economic drivers are much more important.”

Sanders says that questions need to be asked about how the control of the country’s food system and food chain can “be shifted towards smaller and more diverse production and manufacture and distributions.”

“Those are really the big questions. It would require very targeted and strong policies on the part of government. That would be everything from preferentially financing small operators [producers, manufacturers and retailers]…at every level there would have to be incentives, not just financial, but training and support also,” he says.

Pillay agrees that the increase in food prices “needs to be addressed as it directly influences what people are able to buy and eat. … Sustainable agriculture should assist in reducing the prices of locally-grown fruit and vegetables and to make them more available to South African consumers.”

Mervyn Abrahams, one of the authors of the Pacsa report, now a programme coordinator at the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group, tells IPS that the organisation is campaigning for a living wage that should be able to provide households with a basic and sufficient nutrition in their food basket. The matter, he says, is one of economic justice.

“It is precisely a justice issue because at the very least our economy should be able to provide access to sufficient and nutritious food. Because, at the basis of our whole humanity, at the very basis of our body, is our nutrition. And so it is the most basic level by which we believe that the economy should be judged, to see whether there is equity and justice in our economic arena.”

*Not her real name.

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Q&A: Honouring Women of Africa and the Diasporahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/qa-honouring-women-africa-diaspora/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-honouring-women-africa-diaspora http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/qa-honouring-women-africa-diaspora/#respond Thu, 09 Aug 2018 08:27:15 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157058 IPS correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage spoke to Ambassador Amina Mohamed, Kenyan minister for education, science, technology and innovation, about her life-long work, particularly her work with women’s empowerment and girls’ education in Kenya and around the world.

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Ambassador Amina Mohamed, an international civil servant and the current Kenyan minister for education, science, technology and innovation, is this year’s recipient of the African Woman of Excellence award.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 9 2018 (IPS)

This year, the African Union and the Diaspora African forum are honouring the first woman minister for education in Kenya for her long and outstanding work in girls’ education and governance.

The annual African Women of Excellence Awards (AWEA) recognises and honours women of Africa and the diaspora who have contributed to the struggle for political, social and economic independence.

This year’s theme pays tribute to the first iconic recipient of the AWEA Committee’s Living Legends Award Winnie Madikizela Mandela."Girls fail to acquire an education because of violence, which includes kidnapping, maiming as well as sexual abuse, exploitation and bullying. Statistics indicate that less than five percent of girls in rural-conflict settings in Africa complete secondary education." -- Ambassador Amina Mohamed, Kenya's minister for education, science, technology and innovation.

Receiving the honour during a celebration in Sept. 29 to 30 will be Ambassador Amina Mohamed, an international civil servant and the current Kenyan minister for education, science, technology and innovation.

Previously, Mohamed served as the minister for foreign affairs and international trade, deputy executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme and permanent secretary in the ministry of justice, national cohesion and constitutional affairs where she played a key role in creating the 2010 Constitution in Kenya.

Most recently, she has worked tirelessly in the arenas of women’s empowerment and girls’ education in Kenya and around the world, especially as co-chair of the Commonwealth High Level Platform for Girls’ Education which works to put 130 million out of school girls back in the classroom.

IPS spoke to Ambassador Mohamed about her inspirations, career, and ongoing challenges in education. Excerpts of the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): What does it mean for you to be receiving the African Woman of Excellence award? How does this award advance the key issues you work on?

Amina Mohamed (AM): The AWEA is a great honour which I accept with humility and gratitude; and which I share with my family, colleagues and friends who have encouraged me all along.

The award is recognition that I have made a demonstrable contribution towards the progress of my country and in enriching the lives of our people. It is a very important award that will no doubt inspire other women in the country, and especially young girls, to develop confidence in themselves and in their ability to make positive and tangible impact in their communities and nations.

The award reinforces my commitment to bequeath the youth a legacy greater than my heritage. I feel re-energised and challenged to keep doing more.

IPS: You have a long and distinguished career as a diplomat and international civil servant. What drove you where you are today?

AM: I have always believed that the script of your life is yours to write.

I grew up in a society where existing norms defined a lesser role and position for womena notion I was uncomfortable with from an early age having been brought up by a strong mother. I therefore made a conscious and deliberate decision to cultivate my own success in the knowledge that great careers are not hereditary; they must be seeded, grown and nurtured.

My humble upbringing reinforced my commitment to serve others and to emphasise with different situations in the knowledge that every challenge has a solution and everyone has the capacity to live a dignified life and to make a contribution.

At every stage in my professional journey, I have learned to embrace those virtues that define successful careers particularly those moral and civic values that are needed to not only make us better people but to also make our country a better place in which to live for all.

IPS: Would you say that the millions of girls who don’t go to school is a global crisis? What have been some of the challenges you have faced or seen working towards girls’ access to education, and what has Kenya done differently to address this issue?

AM: It certainly is a global crisis. The Global Education Monitoring Report, 2018 indicates that only 66 percent of countries have achieved gender parity in primary education, 45 percent in lower secondary and only 25 percent in upper secondary. Other statistics are more frighteningUNESCO [U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation] estimates that 130 million girls aged between six and 17 are out of school. An additional five million girls of primary-school age will never enter a classroom.

What this means is that millions of girls are being denied a fair and just chance in life. Without education, girls are exposed to serious insecurities and dangers, including early marriage, sexual exploitation, diseases, poverty and servitude. This crisis goes beyond the unfulfilled lives of girls who miss out on education and involves serious loss of economic benefits and opportunities.

Among the critical challenges that impede girls’ education are poverty, conflict and violence, early marriages, harmful traditional practices, long distances to school, and inadequate menstrual hygiene.

In Kenya, we have been implementing wide ranging measures to address these challenges including readmission of girls who get pregnant while in school; outlawing FGM [Female Genital Mutilation] and introducing rescue centres for girls running away from FGM or early marriages; provision of sanitary towels to girls in public primary schools; and introduction of free primary and day secondary education, which has ensured that no child, boy or girl, misses out on education needlessly.

As a global crisis, concerted global action is required to ensure all girls access education. Multi-sectoral approaches and the sharing of best practices in a collaborative effort involving governments, civil society organisations, multilateral organisations and the private sector holds the key to addressing this crisis.

IPS: Conflict has proliferated in many parts of the world, making education even more inaccessible for many children. How should the international community address the issue of education for refugee or displaced children?

AM: Emergencies and protracted conflicts ruin the education systems of affected countries. Girls fail to acquire an education because of violence, which includes kidnapping, maiming as well as sexual abuse, exploitation and bullying. Statistics indicate that less than five percent of girls in rural-conflict settings in Africa complete secondary education.

Humanitarian aid for education is acknowledged as a way forward in ensuring provision of education for refugee and displaced children.

Despite this recognition, humanitarian aid for education remains very lowcatering, by 2015 estimates, for only two percent of requirements. To overcome this challenge, a possible way forward is for humanitarian agencies and development actors to come together and set up a specialised funding stream that meets the other 98 percent of the requirements for education in conflict situations.

IPS: Recently the ministry of education launched a policy on disaster management in response to the impacts of heavy rains on schools and the education sector. How important is it to have such a policy, especially as extreme weather and disasters become more prevalent? Is this a move that other countries should consider?

AM: We have experienced many disasters in Kenya, including droughts, floods, fires, and even conflicts. These have routinely disrupted learning and damaged education infrastructure in affected areas.

While efforts to address climate change gets underway, it is clear now that extreme weather events are getting more frequent and intense. There is every indication, therefore, that we will experience severe flooding, landslides and droughts into the future.

We must therefore prepare for these eventualities so that we do not experience the same disruptions and losses in the education sector that we have undergone in the past. This underscores the need for comprehensive disaster risk reduction and management policies. The launch of this policy was in fact long overdue.

In the modern world, preparedness or risk reduction is a necessity not a choice. Countries that fail to plan will bear the heaviest burden as the effects of climate change intensify.

IPS: What is your message to Kenyans in light of this award?

AM: The well-being of our country, now and in the future, lies in our hands. Building a country is a collective responsibility and exercise in which each one of us has a role to play and a contribution to make. In making our contribution, in whatever capacity, we must embrace the virtues of hard work, careful reflection, patriotism, honesty, accountability, justice and fairness and the pursuit of public good. I believe that my adherence to these virtues have inspired this award.

In so doing, I recall the words of the late Nobel Laureate Professor Wangari Mathai that: “Every one of us can make a contribution. And quite often we are looking for the big things and forget that, wherever we are, we can make a contribution. Sometimes I tell myself, I may only be planting a tree here, but just imagine what’s happening if there are billions of people out there doing something. Just imagine the power of what we can do.”

The post Q&A: Honouring Women of Africa and the Diaspora appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage spoke to Ambassador Amina Mohamed, Kenyan minister for education, science, technology and innovation, about her life-long work, particularly her work with women’s empowerment and girls’ education in Kenya and around the world.

The post Q&A: Honouring Women of Africa and the Diaspora appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Along with Peace, Eritreans Need Repression to Endhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/along-with-peace-eritreans-need-repression-to-end/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=along-with-peace-eritreans-need-repression-to-end http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/along-with-peace-eritreans-need-repression-to-end/#respond Wed, 08 Aug 2018 14:50:43 +0000 Laetitia Bader http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157137 Laetitia Bader is a senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch

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The rugged landscape of Tigray, Ethiopia’s most northern region, stretches away to the north and into Eritrea. Once Eritrea was Ethiopia’s most northern region until gaining independence in 1991. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

The rugged landscape of Tigray, Ethiopia’s most northern region, stretches away to the north and into Eritrea. Once Eritrea was Ethiopia’s most northern region until gaining independence in 1991. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By Laetitia Bader
ROME, Aug 8 2018 (IPS)

“Military service was the only prospect on my horizon — I didn’t want that,” a 20-year-old Eritrean who fled the country last year told me. “My dad had spent his whole life in military service.”

The young man, whom I recently met at an informal settlement in Rome, dreaded Sawa camp, where most Eritrean students spend their final year of high school before indefinite national service. To avoid that system, which has destroyed citizens’ lives since the border war with Ethiopia began in the late 1990s, hundreds of thousands of people, including children, have fled into exile. One young Eritrean we recently spoke to described national service as “bad treatment without any end in sight.”

On July 9, in a significant turn of events, Eritrea’s long-serving president, Isaias Afewerki, and Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, signed a declaration announcing “a new era of peace and friendship” between the countries.

Since then, each government has appointed an ambassador to the other country and reopened telephone, road and air connections for the first time in decades. Officials now discuss the possibility of land-locked Ethiopia using Eritrea’s Red Sea ports, unimaginable only a year ago. Ethiopia’s official news agency even announced a friendly football match scheduled for late August.

 

Peace has been a long time coming

In May 1998 a bloody border war erupted, and an estimated 100,000 people, mainly soldiers, are believed to have died and countless civilians were displaced, detained or summarily deported.  While active fighting ended in December 2000, enmity did not: Ethiopia rejected an international border commission’s ruling that the town of Badme, where the war began, was Eritrean territory.

Laetitia Bader - Along with Peace, Eritreans Need Repression to End

Laetitia Bader

President Isaias and Eritrea’s ruling elite have used this “no war no peace” as a justification to hold much of the country’s population largely hostage. Many of those with contrary or critical views of governance were jailed or forced to flee, deemed to have undermined Eritrea’s national security.

Repression is well-entrenched. The president has refused to hold elections since independence in 1993 and to implement the constitution with its bill of rights. The country has no functioning legislature nor independent judiciary.

Eritrea’s horrific prison system is bursting with political prisoners. The government has effectively eliminated independent public criticism. It is one of the leading jailers of journalists in Africa,  and does not permit independent domestic media, non-governmental groups, or opposition political parties. Rare public protests – such as November 2017 protests at a private Islamic school in Asmara against the arrest of the school’s nonagenarian honorary president – are met with mass arrests and occasionally with lethal force.

Freedom of religion, seen as a threat to loyalty to the nation, is severely restricted. Members of “unrecognized” religions are regularly incarcerated until they renounce their faith.

Eritrea’s horrific prison system is bursting with political prisoners. The government has effectively eliminated independent public criticism. It is one of the leading jailers of journalists in Africa, and does not permit independent domestic media, non-governmental groups, or opposition political parties.

Indefinite endless national service — which channels Eritreans, some underage, into either the military or civilian positions — is ultimately the government’s main system of control over the population. Inside, they face serious abuses, including torture, lack of food, and insufficient pay to support a family.  In 2016, a United Nations Commission of Inquiry characterized national service as “enslavement.”

But with the July 9 declaration, the Eritrean government’s– never legitimate justification for its repressive policies and system suddenly disappeared.

In recent weeks, there have been unconfirmed reports in the media of a handful of releases of detainees, including Jehovah’s Witnesses.

But the jury is still out as to whether the government will start to dismantle the systematic repression. Many Eritreans have taken to social media calling for key rights reforms, but so far, such reforms have not occurred.

President Isaias has often been impervious to condemnation for this human rights record, but regional and international entities reengaging with Eritrea should encourage him to take concrete steps to end government repression.

They should urge the government to immediately release the surviving members of a group of 21 journalists and prominent government officials held incommunicado since September 2001, at least 10 of whom are believed to have died in detention, and confirm the whereabouts and conditions of other political prisoners held incommunicado.  The government should also immediately release prisoners held for their religious beliefs, including the patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox church and at least 53 Jehovah’s Witnesses, 3 of whom have been held for 24 years.

International actors should call on the government to cooperate with United Nations’ and African Commission’s independent experts and allow them to visit the country to monitor detention facilities. The government should also make a public commitment to abide by the 1997 constitution, which would provide a framework for more substantial reforms.

Finally, it should announce a timetable for demobilizing national service conscripts and start by immediately releasing those who have served more than five years.

High-level public rapprochement is important, but if Eritrea wants the full benefits of peace, it needs allow its citizens the freedom to enjoy them and give its youth the chance to hope again.

The post Along with Peace, Eritreans Need Repression to End appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Laetitia Bader is a senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch

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Beyond Boundaries – Cultural Literacy in Indiana & Rwandahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/beyond-boundaries-cultural-literacy-indiana-rwanda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=beyond-boundaries-cultural-literacy-indiana-rwanda http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/beyond-boundaries-cultural-literacy-indiana-rwanda/#respond Wed, 08 Aug 2018 12:08:02 +0000 Vera Marinova http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157129 Vera Marinova is Associate Director of Indiana University's Global Living-Learning Community and director of Books & Beyond

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Vera Marinova is Associate Director of Indiana University's Global Living-Learning Community and director of Books & Beyond

By Vera Marinova
BLOOMINGTON, Indiana, Aug 8 2018 (IPS)

For ten years now, in special partnership with the community of Musanze, Rwanda, Indiana University (IU) has created meaningful programs and connections across the country. It is an unlikely partnership, one that formed over 10 years ago with a university alum recognizing an opportunity for not only cultural literacy but friendship.

It was 2005 and IU alumna Nancy Uslan was traveling in Rwanda when she noticed none of the school children in the local primary school had books. She came back to the states and turned to her alma mater to create a program that would not only provide high-quality books to students at the Kabwende Primary School, but would also provide a cultural exchange between U.S. elementary-school students and Rwandan students.

Fast forward 10 years later, and IU’s impact in Rwanda has grown exponentially. For the past 6 years, we have expanded the program in a variety of ways and this summer (Aug. 10-18, 2018), in efforts to commemorate our 10 years of service in Rwanda, we have invited a number of faculty and professionals who will each work on specific projects associated with the promotion of literacy and education.

We still provide books — 20,000 total this year — but we have grown to include teacher training; a three-week, literacy-focused camp for students; the school’s first library and three playgrounds.

And we’re not done. This year, we are providing eye exams and glasses for hundreds of students. We will also be providing 3-D prosthetic hands to four young people in the area, along with partnering with a local high school to teach 3-D printing and bring those vocational skills to the community to create tools needed in construction, that are hard to find locally in Rwanda.

In essence, this holistic approach has helped us to look “beyond” as the program continues to grow and find new ways to share and partner with communities in Rwanda. We remain committed to create, grow, and further educational opportunities for children in both Rwanda and America.

I am extremely proud of the work IU is doing in Rwanda and the commitment and enthusiasm our students and faculty have for making a difference both at home and abroad. In celebrating ten years of successful engagement between our two nations, we have created lasting partnerships and friendships that will last a lifetime to come.

The post Beyond Boundaries – Cultural Literacy in Indiana & Rwanda appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Vera Marinova is Associate Director of Indiana University's Global Living-Learning Community and director of Books & Beyond

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Winds of Change on Kenya’s Northern Bordershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/winds-change-kenyas-northern-borders/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=winds-change-kenyas-northern-borders http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/winds-change-kenyas-northern-borders/#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2018 15:09:48 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157082 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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At the Global Peace Leadership Conference in Uganda, President Museveni flanked by high level leaders from Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, Inter-Governmental Authority for Development(IGAD). Credit: State House 03 August 2018

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 6 2018 (IPS)

Previously characterised by belligerence, based on competition for resources, the border regions of Eastern Africa can sense the blissful wind of peace approaching.

It is not a wind being blown by strict military enforcement of borders, but rather by the opening up of them, and empowerment of former warring neighbours to find collective coping mechanisms for environmental and economic shocks which have previously driven them to battle.

The charm of soft power as an alternative to aggression and inter-tribal warfare was a key highlight at the 6th annual Global Peace Leadership Conference held in Kampala, and whose theme was Moral and Innovative Leadership: New Models for Sustainable Peace and Development.

In the region, the new paradigm is being inspired by successes of the Kenya-Ethiopia Cross Border Programme, which was launched in December 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia. In a joint article by Ambassador Amina Mohamed, the former Foreign Minister of Kenya and Dr Tedros Adhnom, the former Foreign Minister of Ethiopia, said, “peace and development initiative offers hope of resolving conflicts in border areas of Kenya and Ethiopia”.

The initiative, driven by the need to foster peace and sustainable development in the cross-border area of Marsabit County, Kenya, and the Borana/Dawa Zones, Ethiopia, is supported by IGAD, the European Union and Japan and implemented by the United Nations family in Kenya and Ethiopia together with local authorities on both sides.

“The programme we are launching today is transformative in its ambition…our task is to end the conflict, make certain that Kenyans and Ethiopians along the border have the same opportunities as those of other citizens in the two countries,” remarked Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta during the launch of the programme.

That programme was ignited by the United Nations, under the leadership of the former Resident Coordinator, Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas. The current Country Team has given it momentum, and it has morphed into what is now recognized as a global best practice.

In an independent assessment, the United Nations University Centre for Policy Research hailed Kenya’s multidimensional cross-border programme for “simultaneously addressing violent extremism, human trafficking, economic development, local governance and inter-communal peace with mutually reinforcing objectives and means”.

The initiative slots in well with the vision of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in his report on Peace-building and Sustaining Peace, which observed that UN agencies must “rally stakeholders to action within the entire peace continuum – from prevention, conflict resolution and peacekeeping to peacebuilding and sustainable long-term development”.

The programme has now inspired a similar initiative in what is known as the Karamoja Cluster, also a conflict-prone border region shared by four countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda.

Map of the Karamoja area

On 26 July 2018, ministers from the four countries held consultations in Uganda, where they signed a communique on cooperation for the development of cross-border areas in the Cluster.

It was signed by Uganda’s State Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees Hon Musa Ecweru, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Devolution and ASAL Areas Hon. Eugene Wamalwa, Ethiopia’s Minister for Livestock and Fisheries Prof Fekadu Beyene and South Sudan’s Minister for Environment and Forestry Hon. Josephine Napwon.

“The conflicts in South Sudan, Congo and Somalia are causing proliferation of arms into Kenya and Uganda, and this is curtailing the development in the area. What we are doing now will give a more lasting solution,” said Uganda’s Minister for Karamoja Affairs Hon. John Byabagambi.

Kenya’s Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa said that “peace will not prevail in the absence of basics such as water and food, and in the case of pastoralists, pasture for their herds“.

The Governments of Kenya and Uganda supported by their respective UN Resident Coordinators are developing a concept note that will put in place concrete modalities of cooperation by the affected countries. The mission is to develop the Karamoja Cluster as a single socio-economic zone, with joint policies and programs that will build resilience to overcome resources and erode current fault-lines–critical if this region is to realise SDGs.

The long term vision is that prevention strategies will be driven by private investment as a sustainable pathway to countering inequity and promoting inclusivity for the region’s peripheral communities.

There are already some good vibes coming from the region; last April 2018, leaders from South Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda joined their counterparts from Kenya in the fourth edition of the Turkana Cultural Festival in Lodwar, Kenya.

In place of belligerence, the speeches harped on forging of trade relationships and unifying the region’s populations. Clearly, falling back into the safety of tribal enclaves is now recognised as an outdated sophism.

Slowly but surely, a light of peace is piercing through the Pearl of Africa, and it is sure to cause a rainbow of friendship between communities in the region.

The UN Country Teams in the region have the persistency of purpose, the determination to continue as the ‘sinews of peace’, so that neighbour shall not be forced by socio-economic circumstance to rise against neighbour.

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Helping Indigenous Peoples Live Equal Liveshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/helping-indigenous-peoples-live-equal-lives/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=helping-indigenous-peoples-live-equal-lives http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/helping-indigenous-peoples-live-equal-lives/#respond Mon, 06 Aug 2018 10:51:37 +0000 Emily Thampoe http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157067 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

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Mapuche indigenous peoples from Chile celebrate their new year. Credit: Fernando Fiedler/IPS

By Emily Thampoe
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 6 2018 (IPS)

Although indigenous peoples are being increasingly recognised by both rights activists and governmental organisations, they are still being neglected in legal documents and declarations. Indigenous peoples are only mentioned in two of the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and only seen in two of the 230 SDG indicators, says indigenous rights expert Chris Chapman.

According to Chapman, an indigenous rights researcher from Amnesty International, even recognition by governmental bodies is not enough to ensure that indigenous peoples are on an equal level as “regular people”. But this recognition is a move in the right direction and securing land rights for indigenous peoples is being increasingly seen as an urgent and necessary global priority.“Indigenous peoples will be the moral measurement of achievement and nurturers of a new relationship with nature.” -- Joshua Cooper, director of the International Network for Diplomacy and Indigenous Governance Engaging in Nonviolence Organising for Understanding and Self-Determination.

“Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In particular, indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions,” he tells IPS via email.

He adds that effectively helping indigenous peoples, “means empowering indigenous peoples to help themselves, ensuring that their voices are heard, and enabling them to set the agenda in terms of development. This is in accordance with the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples.”

At a side event titled ‘The Land, Territories, and Resources of Indigenous Peoples’, held during a two-week High-Level Political Forum on SDGs this July in New York, representatives from different nations spoke about the treatment of immigrants and the scarcity of resources available to them.

“Indigenous peoples will be the moral measurement of achievement and nurturers of a new relationship with nature,” shares Joshua Cooper, an activist and the director of the International Network for Diplomacy and Indigenous Governance Engaging in Nonviolence Organising for Understanding and Self-Determination.

“The 17 [SDGs] outline an opportunity to organise, to overhaul global governance, to be honest for future generations. [The goals are] rooted in a philosophy of ‘no one left behind,’ with a human rights blueprint dedicated to ‘furthest behind first.’”

The meeting was held and organised by the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development (IPMG), which aims to respect, protect, and fulfil the rights of indigenous peoples.

The group maintains that as well as helping with these rights, it is imperative that indigenous peoples are involved with, “the development, implementation, monitoring and review process of actions plans and programmes on sustainable development at all levels.”

According to a representative from the African branch of IPMG, across the continent different groups of indigenous peoples live according to their unique lifestyles. It is important for governments to recognise ways of life that divert from the norm of living in a family home—where indigenous peoples live in savannahs or deserts.

African Union’s African Agenda 2063 guidelines aim to help improve the state of the continent’s socio-economic climate over the next five decades. There are seven goals or aspirations that stress the importance of growth and sustainable development. These include a politically united continent; a continent that upholds the values of democracy and respects human rights; a continent that embraces its strong cultural identity and values and ethics; and a continent that uses its citizens to help create progress and develop society.

While discussing what is being done to help indigenous peoples in terms of the U.N.’s SDGs Joan Carling, the convenor of IPMG, said this of Africa: “In their national report they relayed that in Congo, indigenous peoples are subjected to land grabs and conflicts. There is no clear action on those issues.”

According to the Centre for Research on Globalisation agricultural companies are reportedly behind these land grabs that have prevented local communities from using land for farming and raising livestock—even on land that is no longer in use by the company.

During the meeting, a representative from the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact shared that the continent is home to approximately 411 million indigenous peoples, who in their poignant words, “are the guardians of our nature”. The representative also shared that the following Asian countries legally recognise the presence and importance of indigenous peoples; the Philippines, Cambodia, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Carling says that IPMG and other organisations working with indigenous peoples are hoping that, “more countries will implement the ideas of the sustainable development goals into their action plans and strategies.”

“We see some progress in certain countries where they have inclusion in reference to indigenous peoples, but these are the countries that were already supporting indigenous peoples in the past; they are now adding the element of SDGs,” she says.

In terms of helping indigenous peoples on a global scale, Carling stresses the importance of quality education.

“Education has to respect the use of [indigenous peoples’] mother tongue at the primary level. How can kids adjust when the language being used is completely alien to them? It doesn’t really help facilitate their learning at a higher level. In terms of land rights, change is important. Without land rights, we can not achieve sustainable development not only for indigenous peoples, but for the whole system,” she says.

It is also important to sample data correctly, in order to precisely determine the demographics of a society and their needs. This is a dire need, in Carling’s eyes, as more can be done if governments know how many indigenous peoples are not well off, for example. If information about lifestyles and certain ethnic groups are distributed, progress in terms of indigenous peoples rights will be more easily made.

The world is on the right path towards creating more sustainable societies that are fulfilling for all groups of people but in Carling’s words, nations need greater political will and attention at state level rather than focusing attention on the matter at global level.

The post Helping Indigenous Peoples Live Equal Lives appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds initiated by IPS on the occasion of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, on August 9.

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Land Degradation: A Triple Threat in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/land-degradation-triple-threat-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=land-degradation-triple-threat-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/land-degradation-triple-threat-africa/#respond Fri, 03 Aug 2018 08:41:45 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157041 Sustainability, stability, and security—the three overlapping issues are an increasing concern among many especially in Africa where land degradation is displacing citizens and livelihoods. African ministers and United Nations officials convened at the U.N. as part of the Initiative on Sustainability, Stability, and Security (3S), which aims to address migration and instability caused by land […]

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A rice farmer in Northern Ghana during better days. Croplands that were once fertile in northern Ghana are now unproductive, which has led to decreased incomes while water sources are drying up due to prolonged droughts. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 3 2018 (IPS)

Sustainability, stability, and security—the three overlapping issues are an increasing concern among many especially in Africa where land degradation is displacing citizens and livelihoods.

African ministers and United Nations officials convened at the U.N. as part of the Initiative on Sustainability, Stability, and Security (3S), which aims to address migration and instability caused by land degradation across the continent.

“We need to take ownership of our responsibility,” said minister of environment and sustainable development of Senegal Mame Thierno Dieng. The west African nation was one of the countries that helped launch the 3S initiative."We need to ensure people have jobs within their communities and environment. We want them to stay on their farms and farm." -- Ghana’s deputy-minister of environment, science, technology, and innovation Patricia Appiagyei.

Among its objectives, 3S hopes to stabilise “at risk” areas by creating new, green jobs for the most vulnerable communities through investments on land rehabilitation and sustainable land management.

Without any such action, the dangers for communities are undeniable.

Globally, 80 percent of land degradation is caused by agriculture. Since 1950, 65 percent of Africa’s cropland, which millions depend on, has been affected by land degradation by mining, poor farming practices, and illegal logging.

Meanwhile, an estimated 375 million young Africans are estimated to enter the job market within the next 15 years. Of this population, 200 million will live in rural areas.

As resource-based sectors such as agriculture account for 80 percent of employment, young people will be left without a healthy environment to survive on. According to 3S, this could lead to conflict over natural resources, instability caused by the lack of income-generating opportunities, and increased exposure to extremist groups.

Ghana, renowned for its tropical forests and cocoa farms, is already seeing this scenario play out.

Approximately 35 percent of the west African country’s land is under threat of desertification especially in the north where land degradation and climate change have exacerbated poverty.

Croplands that were once fertile in northern Ghana are now unproductive, which has led to decreased incomes while water sources are drying up due to prolonged droughts.

Such losses have forced northern residents to migrate to the southern region of the country where they live in “highly deplorable” conditions, Ghana’s deputy-minister of environment, science, technology, and innovation Patricia Appiagyei told IPS.

“It is about time that we find ways of ensuring we neutralise the high rate of degradation,” she said.

“[3S] is an initiative we are very passionate about and we believe that we need to join to address these issues because land degradation and desertification issues is not just affecting the land but it is also affecting water, energy, food baskets, and livelihoods of the people who live within those communities,” Appiagyei continued.

While Ghana has begun investing in agricultural development in the north, conflicts are beginning to escalate between farmers and herders who are losing grazing land for their cattle.

The Gambia is facing similar challenges, with almost 80 percent of its woodlands degraded in alongside a rapid decrease in the productivity of its cropland.

As 64 percent of its population are young people, Gambians have been forced to move to urban areas or abroad for greener pastures.

Many Gambians have also been returning which is proving to be an additional challenge, said minister of environment, climate change, and natural resources Lamin Dibba to IPS.

“There was a particular month that there were about 400 people returning from abroad. This is very worrying for the fact that when they stay long without any livelihood support system, this can bring a lot of social disorder,” he said.

In an effort to avoid such instability, the Gambia hopes to create 25,000 green jobs for youth in their communities as well as returning migrants in the fields of agriculture, tourism, and conservation.

To achieve this, education is a crucial component, both Appiagyei and Dibba said.

“[We need] to reach out to the communities to explain to them what is climate change, what are the causes, what are the likely impacts…this is why we call it integrated—we want to look at all aspects of people’s livelihoods,” Dibba said.

Supported by the Great Green Wall (GGW) initiative, the Gambia is implementing an education project targeting schools about GGW and land restoration methods.

Appiagyei noted the importance of including farmers, especially women, in such initiatives through education on agricultural practices and new technologies.

“They are currently suffering from the agricultural practices they are undertaking and the weather doesn’t really help…we need to ensure people have jobs within their communities and environment. We want them to stay on their farms and farm,” she said.

While Ghana is considering a lift on a ban on small-scale mining, which has impacted swathes of forests and water bodies, Appiagyei told IPS that sustainable land management comes first.

“We are thinking about lifting the ban, but not until we are able to improve on land management practices and apply the right legislation. Not until we are convinced that we have the right measures to curb the activities of small-scale illegal mining,” she said.

But no one of this will be possible without meetings and support from the international level.

“We want to ensure these projects become a reality,” said Dibba.

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Save the Children Warns Untraceable Minors in Italy May be Traffickedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/save-children-warns-untraceable-minors-italy-may-trafficked/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=save-children-warns-untraceable-minors-italy-may-trafficked http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/save-children-warns-untraceable-minors-italy-may-trafficked/#respond Thu, 02 Aug 2018 12:08:14 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157020 Thousands of migrant minors placed in reception facilities upon arrival in Italy, as a first step in identification and later relocation into other structures for asylum seekers, are untraceable and feared trafficked. A report, Tiny invisible slaves 2018, released this week by the non-governmental organisation Save the Children, states that 4,570 minors migrating through Italy […]

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The redistribution of asylum seekers from Italy and Greece, which are the main landing territories of migrants heading to Europe, was stopped mainly because of opposition to the refugee quotas from some EU member countries. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS.

By Maged Srour
ROME, Aug 2 2018 (IPS)

Thousands of migrant minors placed in reception facilities upon arrival in Italy, as a first step in identification and later relocation into other structures for asylum seekers, are untraceable and feared trafficked.

A report, Tiny invisible slaves 2018, released this week by the non-governmental organisation Save the Children, states that 4,570 minors migrating through Italy are untraceable as of May.

Once they escape the facilities, their vulnerable position—having no money, not knowing the language and being often traumatised after their trip to Italy—places them at the mercy of traffickers and exploiters.

Many of these children end up in networks of sexual exploitation, forced labour and enslavement. Save the Children reported that some girls are forced to perform survival sex—to prostitute themselves in order to pay the ‘passeurs’ to cross the Italian border or to pay for food or a place to sleep.

“I left Nigeria with a friend and once we arrived to Sabha (Libya) we were arrested,” Blessing, one of the victims, told Save the Children.

“I stayed there for three months and then I moved to Tripoli. For eight interminable months I was forced to prostitute myself in exchange for food,” she added.

Blessing then reported that her nightmare continued in Italy where she was sexually exploited by a compatriot. She ultimately was able to enter a protection programme thanks to Save the Children. But her story is a rare case of rescue as many other children find themselves enslaved with no end in sight.

According to testimonies collected by the NGO, minors leave reception facilities because they judge the processes of entering the child protection system as a useless slowing down towards the economic autonomy they aspire to and usually leave the centres a few days after identification.

This has been occurring largely in the southern regions of Italy.

But according to the report, “the flow of minors in transit through Italy to northern Europe is, by its own nature, difficult to quantify.” Though it noted that minors transiting through Italy between January and March, make up between 22 percent and 31 percent out of the total transitioning migrants across the country. The minors are mostly Eritrean (14 percent), Somalis (13 percent), Afghans (10 percent), Egyptians (9 percent) and Tunisians (8 percent).

“The fact that the European Union relocation programme was blocked in September 2017, has contributed in an important way to forcing children in transit to re-entrust themselves to traffickers, or to risk their own lives to cross borders, as well as it continues to happen for those minors who transit through the Italian north frontier with the aim of reaching the countries of northern Europe,” Roberta Petrillo, from the child protection department of Save the Children, Italy, told IPS.

The redistribution of asylum seekers from Italy and Greece, which are the main landing territories of migrants heading to Europe, was stopped mainly because of opposition to the refugee quotas from the EU member countries of Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary.

The EU’s initial plan provided for the relocation of 160,000 refugees from Italy and Greece to other European countries within two years. As of May, 12,690 and 21,999 migrants were relocated from Italy and Greece respectively. To date, the Czech Republic has accepted only 12 refugees, Slovakia 16, with Hungary and Poland having taken no refugees.

According to estimates from the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation, in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), almost 10 million children and youth across the world were forced into slavery, sold and exploited, mainly for sexual and labour purposes in 2016.

They make up 25 percent of the over 40 million people who are trafficked, of which more than seven out of 10 are women and girls. According to the ILO estimates, nearly one million victims of sexual exploitation in 2016 were minors, while between 2012 and 2016, 152 million boys and girls aged between five and 17 were engaged in various forms of child labour. More than half of these activities were particularly dangerous for their own health.

“When we talk about data of this kind we must be very cautious because we are dealing with numbers that only concern the emergence of the phenomenon, without keeping track of the submerged data,” Petrillo added.

There were 30,146 registered victims of trafficking and exploitation in 2016 in the 28 EU countries with 1,000 of them minors.

However, according to 2016 figures from the ILO, 3.6 million people across Europe were reportedly modern day slaves.

According to the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force, human trafficking is the second-largest criminal industry in the world, second only to the illegal drug trade. It is estimated to be an industry worth USD32 billion annually.

The most targeted

Nigerian and Romanian girls are amongst the most targeted by the trafficking networks.

According to Save the Children, for the journey that will take them to Italy, the Nigerian girls contract a debt between 20,000 and 50,000 euros that they can only hope to repay by undergoing forced prostitution.

Like their peers from Romania, they enter a mechanism of sexual exploitation from which they cannot get free easily.

While Nigerians escape mainly for security issues and political instability, Romanian girls flee their country because of a total lack of opportunities and economic autonomy there. Their deep economic deprivation makes them highly vulnerable and easy targets for traffickers, who deceive or coerce them to enter into networks of sexual exploitation. 

According to the Save the Children Report, in 2017 there were a total of 200 minor victims of trafficking and exploitation who were put into protection programmes. The vast majority of these, 196, were girls with about  93.5 percent Nigerian girls aged between 16 and 17 years.

In addition, almost half of the minors were sexually exploited 

Riccardo Noury, spokesperson for Amnesty International Italy,  told IPS that migrant men were welcomed with open arms because they were useful for working under exploited conditions.

However, migrant women were welcome only because they were used for prostitution.

“By not guaranteeing legal and safe paths for those fleeing wars and persecution, by not organising and recognising the presence of migrant workers, we just do a favour to the criminal groups, who build real fortunes on trafficking in human beings,” Noury told IPS.

While Petrillo said that “the Italian and the EU legal framework is solid and a good one,” she cautioned that  “what is needed, instead, is a unitary intervention that closely links the issue of anti-trafficking reality with that of minors in transit. And we must be able to guarantee universal protection for the victims.”

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Zimbabwe’s Election of Great Expectationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/zimbabwes-election-great-expectations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zimbabwes-election-great-expectations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/zimbabwes-election-great-expectations/#respond Tue, 31 Jul 2018 10:21:35 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156969 Counting is underway today across Zimbabwe as the country voted in an historic election on Jul. 30, which many expect will bring political and economic transformation. It is a long-awaited change for many after autocratic leader, Robert Mugabe, was ousted in a soft coup in November 2017 after 37 years in power. A post-Mugabe future […]

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The Commonwealth’s team of observers began their assessment of the electoral process in Zimbabwe, leading up to general elections on Jul. 30. Courtesy: The Commonwealth/CC By 2.0

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Jul 31 2018 (IPS)

Counting is underway today across Zimbabwe as the country voted in an historic election on Jul. 30, which many expect will bring political and economic transformation. It is a long-awaited change for many after autocratic leader, Robert Mugabe, was ousted in a soft coup in November 2017 after 37 years in power.

A post-Mugabe future has provided a kindling of hope among citizens that a new Zimbabwe, which can offer a better life for all is still possible.

The country has survived a myriad of crises that have traumatised its citizens, scared investors and left this resource-rich country isolated internationally. It was an election pregnant with expectations for change and transformation. Economic restoration, jobs, unity, peace and prosperity have been key election expectations. “A non-violent election is a big step but of course at the end of the day the real crisis is still here, the economic crisis." -- David Moore, researcher and political economist.

On election morning in the Bulawayo suburb of Famona, the lines where short and it took most people less then 10 minutes to cast their votes. But people were trickling in. And soon most of the 10,000 polling stations across the country had long queues.

No reports of violence have been reported so far. Though the Zimbabwe Republic Police told a local radio station yesterday that a few voters had been nabbed for sloganeering outside voting stations in direct violation of election rules.

Political analysts told IPS that while Zimbabwe has all the potential to turn around its fortunes, it is a tall ask that this election needs to deliver on. The voter turnout yesterday was high as more than 75 percent of the five million Zimbabweans registered to vote went to the polls to choose a president, members of parliament and local government councillors. There were 23 presidential candidates and more than 100 political parties with registered candidates to contest the 210 seats in the House Assembly.

The presidential contest – the most important of all – appears a largely two horse race pitting current Zimbabwean president, Emmerson Mngangwa (75) of the ruling Zimbabwe Africa National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) against president of the Movement for Democratic Alliance (MDC), Nelson Chamisa (40).

Mnangagwa is a lawyer and was Mugabe’s point man for many years, having served in government since independence where he held the portfolios of minister of state security and minister of justice. He was the vice president until he was fired by Mugabe in 2017.

Chamisa, also a lawyer and firebrand activist, is a founding member of the MDC under the late Morgan Tsvangirai. He succeeded Tsvangirai in March 2018 in a controversial manner that split the party and which saw Thokozani Khupe lead a breakaway faction. Khupe is one of four female candidates vying for the presidency.

Calling the presidential race a “male” race, pitting men from the privileged classes against each other, Professor Rudo Gaidzanwa, a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe and social commentator, told IPS this contest excluded even elite men who are perceived to be competent but “alien” because they do not exhibit the earthy, violent and killer characteristics that can win a party the election and appeal to the grassroots.

“Men of violence and force are admired and accepted because they are perceived as being able to fight for their constituents and followers. This is a legacy of Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence that extolled the virtues and legitimacy of violence as a means of achieving political ends. That legacy continues to haunt us,” said Gaidzanwa.

He said that Zimbabwe needed to transcend the values and politics of the past that focused “on colonists as the enemy and accept that even the elites amongst the former oppressed people are not angels.”

“They have shown us what they are capable of doing to their own people! If you look at Zimbabwe’s political and nationalist elites that pillaged diamonds, agricultural and land you will realise that in Africa, we are yet to embark on a class war that attempts to restore to the working people the wealth of their countries.

“The nationalists continue to use nationalism to justify their pillaging of national resources and they use nationalism to dupe the peasants and workers to think that it is ok for their clansmen, tribesmen to loot “on their behalf” when in fact the clansmen and some women get crumbs.”

A vote for change

Zimbabwe has a harsh history of violence, dating back to before this southern Africa nation became independent in 1980. The price of that violent past has been dear—deep divisions and polarisation along ethnic, and political lines, economic ruin and palpable corruption. These are some of the legacies blamed on Mugabe who led Zimbabwe for 37 years before a coup forced him into permanent retirement.

“Zimbabweans have to break with the violent past, because that will be a real symbol of something that is new no matter who wins,” David Moore, researcher and political economist at the University of Johannesburg, told IPS. “A non-violent election is a big step but of course at the end of the day the real crisis is still here, the economic crisis. What took Zimbabwe out of the 2008 crisis was the Americanisation of the crisis you cannot do that now. How long does it take for a dream of floods of billions of dollars in investment that remains to be seen?”

In 2008 Zimbabwe’s economy had been on the brink of collapse, experiencing hyperinflation of unprecedented levels. The country was forced to abandon its currency, the Zimbabwean dollar, and replaced it with the United States dollar, to stabilise the economy.

Moore said the 2018 elections were different for many reasons. There was no Mugabe—at least on the ballot paper—and neither was there his erstwhile political foe, Tsvangirai.

Former president Mugabe, in an election eve press conference at his home in the capital Harare, on Jul. 29, said he would not be voting for the Zanu PF because it still harboured his tormentors and the reason he was out of power.

“Neighbours have been fooled into believing this was not a coup d’état. Nonsense, it was a coup d’état.. ….I cannot vote for a party and those in power who have caused me to be in this situation.”

Legitimacy and credibility are at stake for political contenders

Chamisa is seeking legitimacy. He is a young contender for the highest political office in the country and has made his own blunders along the way. But he is seeking to prove he can lead and change the future for Zimbabwe. For Mnangagwa, who has been at the helm for seven months, the key is to legitimise his rule and to cement international relations. ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’, has been his campaign mantra.

“Usually processes like an election after a coup are not that successful because a coup has its characteristics of using force and not wanting to give up but when you look at the effort of the coup makers to legitimise this coup by having free and fair elections you have a certain amount of pressure from the donors and the investors,” Moore told IPS.

“It is actually been a pretty peaceful election given Zimbabwe’s history, the Gukurahundi, the 1980s election has a lot of violence and the British were debating whether to let it go. In 2008, there is intimidation but its minor. I think there is a real appetite and hope for serious change. There could be a turning point whoever wins if the elections are seen as credible and the people accept them as credible. It could perhaps be the most important election since 1980.”

A compromise of sorts like a semi-government of national unity could be in the office, Moore believes.

“If Mnangagwa wins, he could bring in a few people inside, people who can interface with capital and people with money. But it’s a volatile situation too and Zanu PF will have to work very hard to make it acceptable to the main opposition,” said Moore. “The MDC has really fired up a lot of people especially young people, who are really hoping for something and if they feel this election has not been credible one could possible expect some pretty tense situations. If it is a victory for the MDC, there will have to be a lot of bridge building and lot of horse trading as well.”

The jury is out still about the choice Zimbabweans made at the ballot this week, and whether that choice will take the country out of its conundrum and raise it to a new level.

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Q&A: Leprosy Increases as World Gives Attention to Newer Endemic Diseaseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/qa-leprosy-increases-world-gives-attention-newer-endemic-diseases/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-leprosy-increases-world-gives-attention-newer-endemic-diseases http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/qa-leprosy-increases-world-gives-attention-newer-endemic-diseases/#respond Mon, 30 Jul 2018 14:38:45 +0000 Elisio Muchanga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156945 IPS correspondent Elisio Muchanga spoke to the World Health Organisation goodwill ambassador for leprosy elimination, Yohei Sasakawa, during a recent visit to Mozambique to evaluate the country’s progress in treating leprosy patients.

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A young boy from the Philippines with leprosy. The chronic disease is curable, and if treated in time disabilities related to the disease can be averted. Courtesy: moyerphotos/CC By 2.0

By Elisio Muchanga
MAPUTO, Jul 30 2018 (IPS)

In the first six months of this year, the southern African nation of Mozambique has already registered 300 more cases of leprosy, some 951 cases, than it registered for the whole of 2017.

The country, which had previously eliminated the chronic disease in 2008, is receiving funding from the Nippon Foundation—a non-profit philanthropic organisation from Japan that is active in many countries across the globe in eliminating leprosy—to provide free multi-drug therapy (MDT) to leprosy sufferers. Leprosy is curable, and if treated early enough disabilities related to the disease can be averted. But treatment can take between six to 12 months.

The chair of the Nippon Foundation and the World Health Organisation (WHO) goodwill ambassador for leprosy elimination, Yohei Sasakawa, recently visited the country to assess Mozambique’s progress in identifying and treating leprosy.

He told IPS that the increased attention by health authorities on relatively new endemic diseases such as Malaria, HIV and Tuberculosis (TB) may have contributed to the increase of new leprosy cases in the world.  This is despite the fact that treatment for the disease remains free. The WHO has provided MDT for free since 1995 thanks to initial funding from the Nippon Foundation.

Sasakawa said that while the WHO has indicated that a prevalence rate of one leprosy case per 10,000 inhabitants indicates elimination of the disease, “this indicator is simply a milestone. Eradication has not yet been achieved, so we must continue to work towards eradication and elimination.”

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): There has been a massive decline in the prevalence of leprosy following the global implementation of MDT in the 1980s by the WHO. However, there are still over 200,000 new leprosy cases recorded every year. And we have seen the emergence of multi-drug resistant leprosy in recent years. How has this affected the prevalence rate?

Yohei Sasakawa (YS): Both in the past and now, MDT is supplied by our foundation and distributed free of charge. Although the medication continues to be distributed free of charge, there are many patients with HIV, Malaria and TB, and these diseases get more attention from ministries of health than leprosy. This fact increases new cases of leprosy. There was a complication caused by multi-drug resistant leprosy, which also contributes to the increase in the number of patients, but it is a very small number, a much lower percentage.

IPS: How can Zero Leprosy be achieved?

YS: It starts from talking about the disease by using a social approach, because leprosy is a social problem. So the leaders of a country, teachers in schools etc, must work to spread the knowledge that leprosy is a curable disease. It is possible to cure with the correct treatment, which starts with the diagnosis of the skin. (Initial symptoms are patches of skin that are paler than normal.) If this message is spread exhaustively, for sure leprosy will be zeroed.

IPS: Do you find it difficult to reach the level of Zero Leprosy?

YS: Achieving Zero Leprosy is not such a difficult process. As I have said, we just need an exhaustive dissemination of the message that it is possible to treat the disease and that the medication is free at health centres. This is the only way that Zero Leprosy will be reached because this disease is not so difficult to diagnose, it is easy to identify.

IPS: Treatment of leprosy costs nothing. But we are seeing a shift towards complacency about the disease among government policy makers, and hence an increase in the prevalence of the disease in some areas. This is unfortunate. Why is this the case? And how do we address this?

YS: Leprosy is not a medical disease it is a social problem. This disease has no symptoms like pain, and this fact alone makes some people chose not to go to hospital when they come across spots on their skin etc. But with time, deformation takes place and then the person feels ashamed to go to hospital because of discrimination… For a long time, history has shown that people with leprosy were highly discriminated against.

And this discrimination still exists quite strongly amongst almost every population…I had the opportunity to see in Nampula (northern Mozambique) that those recovered from leprosy work as volunteers in the search for other people with leprosy in need of treatment. I think this is very good and would be even better if it were spread throughout the country.

The chairman of the Nippon Foundation and the World Health Organisation (WHO) goodwill ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, Yohei Sasakawa, recently visited the country to assess Mozambique’s progress in identifying and treating leprosy. Credit: Elisio Muchanga/IPS

IPS: What concrete actions is your foundation carrying out, especially in Africa, to eliminate leprosy.

YS: Over the last 40 years the foundation has been working to provide the necessary assistance to people with leprosy through the WHO, and we will continue providing this assistance.

In Africa, specifically in countries with cases of leprosy, I try to talk to the top leader, the president. I explain the situation to them in order for them to take action. I think in talking to presidents it makes it easier for a ministry of health to get a bigger budget and carry out its activities.

The number of people with leprosy is much lower than those with HIV, Malaria and TB. So it is very difficult for the government to allocate a larger amount to the ministry of health to tackle this disease, and this is not prioritised. So I go to these countries and ask the government to increase funding to the ministry of health to combat the disease.

IPS: Your foundation has given support to many countries towards eliminating leprosy. What is the feedback from these countries and what can be taken as model or case for success?

YS: The feedback is very positive. We are experiencing a significant reduction in cases of leprosy with countries declaring themselves free from leprosy, although there are new cases. India is a great example, the country has the greatest number of leprosy sufferers in the world—about 70 percent of the world’s cases of leprosy are in India—and the work that has been developed there is positive.

However, one concrete case of success was in Indonesia where I met a girl who developed the disease at 18 and was cut off from her family. I had the opportunity to have a meal with this girl, and that gesture demystified that leprosy was a cursed disease.

IPS: As part of efforts to sustain the quality of leprosy services and reduce the burden of leprosy in the world, the WHO has recognised the important contribution that people affected by leprosy can make. What have some of the contributions that you have seen that have positively affected leprosy services?

YS:  Well, India, you know that this country has a massive number of people with leprosy, and many of those who have been treated and recovered from leprosy have nothing to live on and end up begging on the streets.

I spoke to the Dalai Lama to see what we can do for these people. He wrote a book, sold it and donated the money from the sale of the book to our foundation. Later we created an association to support people affected by leprosy by giving them a small pension. We also provide microfinance and teach people how to make their own living.

We also offer university scholarships to the children of people who have recovered from leprosy, but this type of support, unfortunately, only happens in Ethiopia and India.

IPS: Why only in these countries?

YS: I don’t know. What a pity (it is limited). We also wanted to do the same in Indonesia. Now here in Mozambique, from what I understand, there is no a colony where only people with leprosy live. But if people get together and form an association, maybe we can offer support. I understand that those recovering from leprosy want to work but do not have the opportunity. We can help create this opportunity.

IPS: Your foundation managed to lobby the United Nations to pass a resolution for the “elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family.” How do you measure the result of this lobbying today with regards to the commitment and actions from member states?

YS: It is true that we have been able to mobilise countries and pass this resolution, but what happens is that this rule contains its principle and guideline but has no penalty. Some countries have included this rule in their policies but unfortunately there are only a few countries that have done that.

Recently, a leading rapporteur was elected by the Directorate of Human Rights (in the U.N. Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner), and will have to visit countries and see why they are not complying with the U.N. recommendation of 2010.

IPS: There still remains significant stigma attached to the disease. And the stigma placed upon people with leprosy has been considered one of the greatest social injustices. In some parts of Africa people with leprosy are still separated from society, when research and science proves there is no need to. How do we overcome this?

YS: In fact there is discrimination against leprosy sufferers and this is difficult to remove from people. Stigma and discrimination are ancient and deeply rooted. So it is not only with my efforts that we are going to end this stigma, we need to have the participation of all of us working together to change this situation.

The post Q&A: Leprosy Increases as World Gives Attention to Newer Endemic Diseases appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Elisio Muchanga spoke to the World Health Organisation goodwill ambassador for leprosy elimination, Yohei Sasakawa, during a recent visit to Mozambique to evaluate the country’s progress in treating leprosy patients.

The post Q&A: Leprosy Increases as World Gives Attention to Newer Endemic Diseases appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Eradicating Leprosy in Mozambique, a Complicated Taskhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/eradicating-leprosy-mozambique-complicated-task/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eradicating-leprosy-mozambique-complicated-task http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/eradicating-leprosy-mozambique-complicated-task/#respond Sat, 28 Jul 2018 12:14:02 +0000 Elisio Muchanga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156930 It takes Faurito António, 42, from Lalaua district, Nampula Province, two hours to reach his nearest health centre in order to receive the drugs necessary for his treatment of leprosy. António, whose foot has become affected by the muscle weakness that occurs when leprosy goes untreated, says this long walk while ill is the reason […]

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World Health Organization goodwill ambassador for Leprosy Elimination and chair of the Nippon Foundation, Yohei Sasakawa (left), holds the hand of a leprosy patient. Sasakawa visited Mozambique’s rural Namaita Centre to assess the progress of leprosy patients. The Nippon Foundation has been providing funds and medication in order to eliminate leprosy in Mozambique. Credit: Elísio Muchanga/IPS

By Elisio Muchanga
NAMPULA PROVINCE, Mozambique, Jul 28 2018 (IPS)

It takes Faurito António, 42, from Lalaua district, Nampula Province, two hours to reach his nearest health centre in order to receive the drugs necessary for his treatment of leprosy. António, whose foot has become affected by the muscle weakness that occurs when leprosy goes untreated, says this long walk while ill is the reason why many don’t continue treatment – which can take between six to 12 months.

“There are people who drop out of treatment for alleged fatigue from going long distances to gain access to a hospital,” he tells IPS of the rural distribution of Mozambique’s health centres.

In the deeply rural and poor northern province of Nampula, some six million people, according to the Mozambique ministry of health, are serviced by one health centre in each of the 23 districts.

The lack of development—many of the villages in the region do not have electricity or even paved roads—also often makes these centres difficult to access.

This southern African nation was in a 16-year civil war that ended in 1992 and ranks 181 out of 188 countries on the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index, sharing its place with conflict-ridden South Sudan. World Bank data shows that more than half, 63 percent, live below the poverty line of USD1.90 a day.

A source in the health ministry says that on average, about 5,000 people are treated in Nampula’s health centers, leaving the remaining population without access.

Distances to Health Care Centres

Nampula Province was ranked in a study as one of the areas with the highest number of villages located 60 minutes away from a health centre. The province’s main 500-bed Nampula Central Hospital, in Nampula City, serves a population of approximately 8.5 million from the three provinces of Nampula, Cabo Delgado and Niassa.

This province has the most cases of leprosy in the country. In the first half of this year, the ministry of health registered a total of 553 cases, most of them from the districts of Lalaua, Meconta, Mogovolas and Nampula, in Nampula Province. This was followed by Zambezia and Cabo Delgado with 121 and 84 new cases respectively.

Leprosy is a chronic disease. Initial symptoms are patches of skin that are paler than normal, and this makes the disease difficult to diagnose. But if left untreated, the World Health Organization (WHO) says it “can cause progressive and permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs, and eyes.”

Last year, Mozambique’s national director of public health, Francisco Mbofana, raised concern that the disease was still going undiagnosed and untreated. Club Mozambique quoted him as saying that often patients appeared for the first time at health centres already suffering from second degree malformations “where mutilations of their fingers and toes are evident.”

The disease, which is transmitted via droplets, from the nose and mouth, during close and frequent contact with untreated cases, is curable with multidrug therapy (MDT), and early treatment averts most disabilities. The WHO has provided MDT for free since 1995 thanks to intial funding from the Nippon Foundation. The Nippon Foundation, a non-profit philanthropic organisation from Japan, is active in many countries across the globe in eliminating leprosy, including here in Mozambique.

The MDT treatment that António is on was donated by the Nippon Foundation and is available for free for all leprosy patients across the country.

António has been on the therapy for two weeks now, and says that he can report an improvement.

A community in Mozambique’s Nampula Province listen to a talk about identifying and treating leprosy. This province has the most cases of leprosy in the country. In the first half of this year, the ministry of health registered a total of 553 cases, most of them from the districts of Lalaua, Meconta, Mogovolas and Nampula, in Nampula Province.Credit: Elisio Muchanga/IPS

Promoting early identification of the disease through education

Unlike António, Ermelinda Muelete, 23, was fortunate enough to have been diagnosed early on when white patches appeared on her body. But Muelete, who had been on medication for the disease for some weeks, stopped the treatment because she felt that the patches on her skin were not going away quickly enough.

But she regrets the decision.

“I want to return to the treatment,” she tells IPS from the Namaita Centre, a small clinic in Mozambique’s district of Rapale, Nampula province. Muelete says that while members of the small rural community here have not rejected her outright, she felt that some of their attitudes and actions discriminated against her.

But this Thursday Jul. 26, as a small rally was held in the area to sensitise people about the disease, she felt more confident.

The WHO goodwill ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, Yohei Sasakawa, visited Namaita Centre to evaluate how funding from the Nippon Foundation, of which he is chair, has been able to assist treating Mozambicans with leprosy.

The foundation has been on the forefront of combatting the disease. In 2013, along with WHO, Nippon Foundation held a leprosy summit during which 17 countries that reported more than 1,000 new cases a year issued the Bangkok Declaration to reaffirm their commitment to achieve a leprosy-free world.

Here in Mozambique, the foundation has provided both funds and medication to the health ministry to implement post-elimination interventions at community level in the endemic districts of the central and northern parts of the country, especially for the active search for patients for early diagnosis and treatment. The Nippon Foundation initiative, which began last year, will continue until 2020.

According to Sasakawa, the process of diagnosis of this disease has been difficult, because the symptoms can take a significant time to present and they are not specifically painful. This long incubation period, on average five years, but in some cases up to 20 years according to WHO, means that people don’t always seek treatment immediately.

However, he challenged communities to be vigilant, and to try to identify if their relatives have any skin discoloration so that they can be referred to a hospital for screening and treatment.

“In fact, the appearance of white patches on the patient’s body is one of the main forms of suspicion that may lead to a specific diagnosis to determine the disease,” he says.

“Do not take long with symptoms of leprosy you have to see a doctor in the nearest health centre to get treatment, which is free.”

In addition to providing money and MDT, Nippon Foundation also support public awareness campaigns that sensitise local populations about leprosy, how to identify it and where to receive treatment.

In rural areas, poor understanding of the disease makes it difficult for people to identify it and obtain necessary treatment. Only nine percent of the country’s 28 million people have internet access, according to the World Bank data.

So the education rally made a difference to Muelete.

“Now I don’t feel rejected because of my situation. I feel strong to overcome discrimination and go ahead with the treatment,” she says.

The struggle to eliminate leprosy

Sasakawa says that Nippon Foundation has been struggling to eliminate the disease. There over 210,000 new leprosy cases registered globally in 2016, according to official WHO figures from 145 countries.

Mozambique had been declared free from leprosy in 2008. However, a few years later, it experienced an outbreak of the disease.

The country’s health minister Nazira Abdula, says that just in the first six months of this year, Mozambique registered about 951 new cases of leprosy, compared to 684 cases in 2017.

“The cases may increase, but mini-campaigns are foreseen in the provinces that register some cases of leprosy,” she says from her office in Maputo as she received the foundation delegation.

Manuel Dias, a community leader in Namaíta reiterated the request for support to combat leprosy.

“We ask Mr. Sasakawa to continue bringing the leprosy drug here in Namaíta, because there are many people suffering from this disease.”

Sasakawa reaffirmed his commitment to continue supporting communities with a view to eradicating the disease, particularly in rural areas.

  • Additional reporting by Nalisha Adams in Johannesburg

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After Elections, Hard Work Starts for Zimbabwe’s Civil Societyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/elections-hard-work-starts-zimbabwes-civil-society/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=elections-hard-work-starts-zimbabwes-civil-society http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/elections-hard-work-starts-zimbabwes-civil-society/#respond Fri, 27 Jul 2018 13:06:15 +0000 Teldah Mawarire http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156923 Teldah Mawarire is a campaigns and advocacy officer with global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

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Women activists in Zimbabwe have long demanded a fair share of power. Credit: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS

By Teldah Mawarire
HARARE, Zimbabwe, Jul 27 2018 (IPS)

For many Zimbabwean voters, casting their ballots on July 30 is sure to be a somewhat surreal experience. For the first time since the country’s independence, the ever-present face of Robert Mugabe will not be staring back at them on the ballot paper.

But that new experience – while perhaps inspiring hopes for positive change among some – is likely to be preceded by an old, familiar feeling of déjà vu. The road to the 2018 general election has been littered with the same potholes of electoral irregularities and restrictive laws of previous polls.

And for Zimbabwe’s embattled civil society, the fact that none of the repressive laws that were used against them have been touched since a bloodless military coup eight months ago is cause for concern.

This vote is proving difficult to call. It’s not the first time the race has seemed too close to call for analysts and opinion pollsters. The 2008 poll posed the same dilemma. It later emerged that the opposition was cheated of victory and a government of national unity among the political opponents was later formed.

The latest survey released by think tank, Afrobarometer last month showed that the ruling Zanu-PF party would get 42%, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) 31% and the voting intentions of the remaining 26% of respondents were unknown.

Whilst these figures create the picture of a competitive race, it does not mean the conditions on the ground are favourable for a fair and credible election.

The incumbent Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s former right-hand man and vice president who took power after the coup, is desperate for a win to rip off the “coup plotter’’ tag on his back.

The opposition, coming from a troubled and fractured past, have been re-energised by emergence of a more youthful leader, Nelson Chamisa and need a win badly to avoid being again relegated to the dustbins of ineffectiveness. The poll’s outcome will be highly contested and could spill over into the courts, if not the streets.

Zimbabweans have been concerned with electoral irregularities, particularly related to a voters’ roll that has not been made fully transparent, and issues concerning the validity of profiles of voters appearing on the roll.

Questions have also been raised around the independence of the poll’s administrators, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and allegations that the printing of the ballot paper was compromised and done without consultation with all contesting parties. Civil society concerns however, go beyond the administration of the electoral process.

Although there is a notable peace and an absence of the politically motivated violence that has hounded Zimbabwean elections since 2000, conditions impacting freedom of assembly, association and expression remain constrained by restrictive legislation.

Zimbabwe’s civil society at home and abroad have no time to rest after the historic election and must already be strategising on giving the next administration a timeline on intentions to open civic space.

Before the coup, CIVICUS Monitor, a tool that tracks threats to civil society in all countries, rated Zimbabwe’s rated civic space as a ‘repressed’. That assessment remains – just one step away from the worst rating: ‘closed’. The Democratic Republic of Congo currently the only nation in the Southern Africa Development Community region regarded as ‘closed’.

On the eve of the election, outstanding human rights issues remain largely untouched and unamended restrictive laws are yet to be aligned to the constitution the country adopted in 2013, remain active, casting doubt on the country’s ability to hold a truly credible and fair election.

This legislation includes the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which was used to persecute and harass journalists. Under AIPPA, it is compulsory for all media houses, foreign and local journalists to be registered with it with restrictive requirements and expensive costs. Even non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that produce publications for small or specialised audiences must be licensed.

Another law needing reform is the Broadcasting Services Act, which in its current form is an impediment to media freedom and the growth of independent media, and has been used by government for political interference in the news media sector.

While the political opposition has been largely able to assemble with less administrative and physical interference from security agents post-Mugabe, the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) remains a huge concern.

Provisions that violate the right to assemble and protest such as protesters’ needing to give police four days’ written notice of an intended demonstration or the power of police to ban a gathering for three months if they believe it would endanger public safety, awkwardly remain.

NGOs will also have to work hard to have the law governing NGO registration and operations amended. The Private Voluntary Organisations Act (PVO) creates a web of bureaucratic red tape for NGO registration, which can take three months to a year Organisations that work to protect LGBTIQ rights are unable to operate openly and require specific legislation protecting their freedom to exist and operate.

It is also no secret that NGOs operating in rural areas at the district level have been routinely and illegally made to secure police clearance and sign a memorandum of understanding with the District Administrator to operate. This control over NGO activities has contributed to the strangling civic space in the rural areas.

And of course, there remains the glaring lack of protection for human rights defenders who have borne the brunt of brutal attacks under Mugabe. For the rights community, it has also not inspired confidence that there is still no meaningful investigation into the case of Itai Dzamara, an activist who disappeared on 9 March 2015.

Whichever way the election results swings, civil society has much work that is essential to holding Mugabe’s successors to the promise of opening civic space, so desperately needed in Zimbabwe.

The post After Elections, Hard Work Starts for Zimbabwe’s Civil Society appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Teldah Mawarire is a campaigns and advocacy officer with global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

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Peace & Equal Political Participation of Women in the DRChttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/peace-equal-political-participation-women-drc/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=peace-equal-political-participation-women-drc http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/peace-equal-political-participation-women-drc/#respond Fri, 27 Jul 2018 12:12:45 +0000 Justine Masika Bihamba http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156920 Justine Masika Bihamba is President of Synergie des Femmes, a women’s organization based in Goma, DRC, and partner of global women’s group Donor Direct Action.

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Congolese Women's Forum Meets in Kinshasa, DRC in Sept 2017

By Justine Masika Bihamba
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 27 2018 (IPS)

I am a women’s human rights defender and President of Synergie des Femmes, a platform of 35 organizations working for the improvement, promotion, defense, respect and protection of women’s rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

We offer particular support to women who are victims of sexual violence, and work towards the establishment of lasting peace in North Kivu in the east of the country.

On July 26th I briefed the United Nations Security Council on the current situation for women in the DRC in the areas of the UN mission (MONUSCO), the growth of insecurity and the increase of cases of sexual violence against women and girls, and the tense political climate following the failure to hold elections before the constitutional deadline.

The recent decision to close some bases of MONUSCO has exposed the civilian population in sensitive areas. We are left in a precarious position. Despite the rapid deployment, interventions often arrive too late, when irreparable damage has already been done.

Following a decrease in financial resources, the Joint Human Rights Office is no longer present on the ground and, as a result, can no longer effectively document the cases of serious human rights violations that are now reported.

We fear disorder during the proposed elections at the end of this year and really hope that MONUSCO will ensure that Congolese police are properly trained so that order can be maintained and that polling stations can be secured. This is extremely important as fair and transparent elections are at the core of ensuring a peaceful and prosperous nation.

Meanwhile, the situation of women – and particularly those victims of sexual violence – is worsening day by day. The increase in armed groups as part of the ongoing war here has meant that mass rapes have continued, while populations have been displaced. In North Kivu alone, cases of rape and violence have increased this year by more than 60%.

The political climate has also made things more dangerous. Things are very tense at the moment as elections were not held before the end of last year as expected. This goes against our constitution.

At the time various demonstrations were shut down by the police, civilian deaths occurred, material damage was extensive (especially convents and Catholic churches), arbitrary arrests took place of the leaders of the citizen movement, of human rights defenders and of opposition politicians.

With only five months to go before the elections are due to take place (again), the political environment continues to be extremely difficult.

In addition to this political instability and the brutal repression of dissident voices, several legal reform projects initiated by the Congolese government have further reduced Congolese freedom of expression and civic spaces. One of these aims to change how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are run here, which could have major ramifications.

Against this backdrop the participation of women in the electoral process – a tried and trusted way of increasing the chance of lasting peace – has remained very low. A problematic electoral law brought in at the end of 2017 is a serious obstacle to our rights and freedoms.

It imposes many constraints, including the requirement of candidates to reach a threshold of support of at least 1% of votes at the national level. As a result, no provincial election nomination file was filed by the deadline date in some constituencies.

This law also discriminates specifically against women in the electoral contest and doesn’t take into account their socio-economic conditions. It states that a deposit of $ 1,000 must be made by candidates. This is an astronomical sum for women and young people living for the most part on an income of less than $1 per day.

UN Security Council Resolution 1325, adopted in October 2000, calls for an increase in the participation of women in all peacebuilding and security efforts. In late 2017, I co-ordinated a group of over 60 women from all provinces of the DRC to make this a reality for Congolese Women.

We set up the Congolese Women’s Forum to be able to achieve this and have pleaded with the government to change this discriminatory law, which is likely to reduce rather than increase women’s political participation in the DRC.

The upcoming elections will also be problematic in terms of how they are likely to be run. The proposed use of the voting machines will cause significant challenges and may lead to fear of electoral fraud. The DRC currently has a population that is 65% illiterate – mostly women and young people – who would have enormous difficulties using these machines.

This is the environment in which we currently live in the DRC. Every day we have new obstacles to overcome but we are also hopeful for a better future. In my statement to the Security Council and Member States I recommended that five steps are taken.

We want them to put pressure on the DRC government to implement policies which truly promote women’s participation in decision-making and women’s candidatures for elections.

We want them to ask the government to respect the freedom of expression, the right to demonstrate and the civic space of the Congolese population, that the New Year’s Eve Agreement, the Constitution and the rule of law are all respected, that MONUSCO restore its bases in sensitive areas to ensure the effective protection of civilians, that it supports the ongoing electoral process and ensures that the Joint Human Rights Office effectively documents human rights violations.

Finally, we recommended that the Security Council really supports civil society organizations that work for the promotion and defence of women’s rights – particularly in training women in leadership to be able to access decision-making positions. This is a key component of ensuring we finally see lasting peace in this country.

The post Peace & Equal Political Participation of Women in the DRC appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Justine Masika Bihamba is President of Synergie des Femmes, a women’s organization based in Goma, DRC, and partner of global women’s group Donor Direct Action.

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No Time to Slow Down While HIV/AIDS is Threatening a New Generationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/no-time-slow-hivaids-threatening-new-generation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-time-slow-hivaids-threatening-new-generation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/no-time-slow-hivaids-threatening-new-generation/#respond Fri, 27 Jul 2018 11:49:12 +0000 Dr Chewe Luo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156916 Dr Chewe Luo is Global Chief of HIV/AIDS for UNICEF

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Credit: UNICEF

By Dr Chewe Luo
AMSTERDAM, Jul 27 2018 (IPS)

As the 22nd International AIDS Conference wraps up in Amsterdam, I can’t help but reflect on how far we have come on this journey with the AIDS epidemic.

When I first qualified as a pediatrician in Zambia some 30 years ago, Southern Africa was only just awakening to the magnitude of the AIDS crisis starting to play out in the region. Some governments famously refused to acknowledge the severity of the epidemic and questioned even the existence of HIV and its connection to AIDS.

Zambia had its moment of shocked awareness when the 30 year-old son of President Kenneth Kaunda died, and his father announced that the cause had been AIDS.

Around us, the epidemic was taking its toll on the able-bodied as mothers and fathers fell ill and died, leaving their children – sometimes infected, sometimes not – in the care of grandmothers, or aunts, or orphanages, or to fend for themselves any way they could.

We are a long way from that place now. What has made the difference? Availability and accessibility of treatment, of course, but perhaps even more importantly, concerted action from entire segments of society focused on bringing the epidemic under control.

Among the heroes in the fight against the epidemic, I would single out:

• Activists like ActUp, GMHC, South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign, and others, who galvanized global outrage at the glaring disparities between global North and the global South.

• The Governments of Brazil, South Africa, and India, which asserted the right to access for medicines by all, persisting in the face of implacable corporate resistance, till the pharmaceutical industry allowed generic versions of the treatments which inhibit HIV.

• The numerous researchers who tested combinations of drugs, and adapted them for different populations, such as young children and lactating mothers.

• The generic manufacturers who were able to combine drugs into fixed dose combinations that were affordable and accessible to poor countries.

• And ordinary health workers, intergovernmental and to civil society organizations who believed that the epidemic could be defeated.

 

Where are we now? UNICEF’s latest report, Women: At the heart of the HIV response for children allows optimism. Take Southern Africa as an example. Some 57,000 babies became newly infected with HIV in 2017 in the region. This is still far too many, but infections in the region peaked in 2002 at 170,000, so this is a massive decrease in 15 years. Deaths in the region are also coming down, from a peak of 110,000 in 2004 to 33,000 last year.

However, if there is one thing that came across very clearly in Amsterdam this week, it is that we cannot afford to let up. This is especially crucial for the children and young people who are now face to face with the virus.

The child population is set to rise in sub-Saharan Africa, from 560 million in 2018 to 710 million by 2030. The region still has the overwhelming share of HIV/AIDS cases, and it is not coming down in key groups such as adolescents. So ‘youth bulge’ is about to meet HIV/AIDS – and that could be a cataclysmic crash.

HIV/AIDS is not under control in West and Central Africa, which we project will overtake Eastern and Southern Africa by 2050 as the region with the highest number of new HIV infections – without urgent action now.

What we know is that despite the progress, what has brought us here is not enough to take us all the way. We need passion and leadership, which served us well in the past, but we also need innovative technology – like the promising HIV self-testing which removes some of the barriers for adolescents.

We need advances in treatment and prevention. We need to strengthen the human rights approach to HIV. All people, whatever their age, should have the right to the service that will keep them free of HIV or keep them healthy if they get it. And we need continued investment in programmes and people.

Finally, we need bold and inspired leadership, infused with creativity, energy and optimism — a new generation of activist leaders, to tackle these challenges directly.

The post No Time to Slow Down While HIV/AIDS is Threatening a New Generation appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Dr Chewe Luo is Global Chief of HIV/AIDS for UNICEF

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Educating Girls, The Only Road To Achieve the SDGshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/educating-girls-road-achieve-sdgs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=educating-girls-road-achieve-sdgs http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/educating-girls-road-achieve-sdgs/#respond Thu, 26 Jul 2018 21:27:31 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156908 Better and prolonged education can bring down high rates of illiteracy, sexual abuse and early marriage among girls. “When girls stay in school, HIV goes down, child marriages go down and sexual violence goes down,” shared Alice Albright, chief executive officer of Global Partnership for Education, a multi-stakeholder partnership and funding platform that aims to […]

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More girls in rural Bihar, India are going to school after mini-grid-powered household lights give mothers and children two extra hours of evening work and study time. Experts say that when girls receive prolonged education this reduces HIV prevalence, child marriages and sexual violence. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 26 2018 (IPS)

Better and prolonged education can bring down high rates of illiteracy, sexual abuse and early marriage among girls.

“When girls stay in school, HIV goes down, child marriages go down and sexual violence goes down,” shared Alice Albright, chief executive officer of Global Partnership for Education, a multi-stakeholder partnership and funding platform that aims to strengthen education systems in developing countries.

She was speaking at the side event ‘Keeping girls in school: What impact on the fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria?’, during the 2018 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, this July.

Agreeing with Albright, the spokesperson from the international NGO Camfed, or Campaign for Female Education, told IPS: “the cycle of poverty and ill health is perpetuated when girls don’t have access to quality education.”

The relationship between health and education among females has long concerned member states as an issue to address using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The panel, which included Brian Flynn, deputy permanent representative of Ireland to the U.N.; Jens Frølich Holte, deputy minister, ministry of foreign affairs from Norway; Marijke Wijnroks, chief of staff at the Global Fund; Sonita Alizadeh, champion, Girls not Brides; Mohamed Sidibay, a youth representative; and Albright, emphasised a critical issue: keeping girls in school.

The U.N. Women’s report ‘Turning Promises into Action: Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Action’ revealed that 15 million primary-school age girls don’t learn to read or write in school (10 million boys don’t either); 15 million girls between the ages of 15 and 19 have been forced sexually; and 750 million women were married before they turned 18. These numbers can only go down with better and prolonged education, highlighted Albright.

Issues like child marriage, sexual abuse, lack of healthcare products, and responsibility for household chores create a greater disparity between boys and girls when it comes to education.

For Camfed, the reason these issues affect boys and girls differently seemed obvious. “Girls are different from boys in their level of vulnerability to sexual exploitation, especially in a context of rural poverty, where pressure to have transactional sex to raise money for food and school going costs can result in life threatening infections, early pregnancy, the life threatening complications resulting from this, early marriage, and domestic violence.”

With 2.4 million women between the ages of 15 and 24 living with HIV, addressing this issue seems more urgent than ever for political leaders.

“Girls and young women face widespread social, cultural, political and structural barriers in accessing their right to health, particularly around sexual and reproductive health and rights,” Nazneen Damji, U.N. Women policy advisor, stated.

A year of education can change a girl’s life completely. According to the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), an extra year of secondary school can increase a woman’s income by 15 percent in the future, generating a virtuous cycle. However, it is very hard for a girl to access that extra year. She would have less time to study, as her household chores might occupy most of her time and families will count on her daily work, which can be interrupted if she attends school.

“Secondary schools are few and far between in rural areas, and the long and tiring walk to school can also be dangerous for girls (sexual exploitation, dangerous rivers to cross, wild animals). In addition, most schools in rural sub-Saharan Africa are ill equipped to support girls while they are menstruating,” the Camfed spokesperson told IPS when asked what other obstacles a girl child has to overcome to access education.

But once that education is accessed, the consequences are hugely beneficial.

“We know that educating girls, especially adolescent girls, creates cascading benefits, producing a ripple effect,” explained the UNICEF spokesperson.

“Educated girls are less likely to marry or have children early; they are better able to protect themselves from HIV and AIDS, from sexual exploitation and abuse. Educated women are far less likely to die in childbirth and far more likely to have healthy babies who survive their infancy and thrive,” he added.

Safeena Husain, founder of Educate Girls, an NGO in India that has helped 200,000 girls to return to school since 2007, also shared her organisation’s experience with girls’ education with IPS.

“We do see that with more girls in school they are getting married later. These educated girls feel empowered to make informed decisions and stand up for their rights,” she said.

As an example, Husain commented: “Some girls who we managed to enrol and stay in school through primary education made a conscious decision to call off their engagement to boys who were less educated. It’s a brave move for a girl living in a rural, patriarchal society where she has seen women covered under the veil all her life.”

Most importantly for her, the effects of education are long-term and affect society as a whole.

“The big multiplier effect with educating girls is that they will become the decision makers of the future. It will be the women who choose how to look after the next generation and if they know how to look after themselves during pregnancy, and when bringing up their children there will be an immediate impact on the health of the next generation,” she said.

What can be done?

As to who should be the stakeholder leading these changes in girls’ education, the answers vary. National governments, civil society groups and the private sector—through investments—all have a role to play.

For the UNICEF spokesperson, the key lies within national political leadership.

“We help countries build stronger education systems that deliver quality education to boys and girls,” he said, adding that making sure that national education plans and policies consider gender was key to ensuring that girls and boys alike enter and succeed at school.

Gender could be taken into account, he explained, by removing gender stereotypes from learning materials or educating teachers on the importance of gender biases.

Damji, from U.N. Women, believes civil society is crucial. While Camfed believes that both governments and civil society must interact: “Policy needs to be driven by the expertise of girls and young women who face these barriers, and we need local coalitions to break them down, holistically, with all duty bearers involved: parents, schools, local and traditional leaders, local and national education authorities, social and health workers,” the Camfed spokesperson concluded.

It is Hussain, from Educate Girls, who advocates for the collaboration between these three political actors, including the firms and enterprises.

“The private sector can bring funding and a risk-taking appetite to help fuel innovation and evidence building about what works. Civil society is closest to where the problems lie, they have the community access and know the community voice.

“Once solutions have been found, real scale will only happen when the government gets involved and either integrates the change into policy or funds the delivery of solutions at scale.”

When asked whose responsibility is it to lead the change, she replied: “Essentially it is the responsibility of everyone.”

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