Inter Press Service » Africa http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 12 Feb 2016 16:40:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 Rural youth can be tomorrow’s entrepreneurshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/rural-youth-can-be-tomorrows-entrepreneurs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rural-youth-can-be-tomorrows-entrepreneurs http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/rural-youth-can-be-tomorrows-entrepreneurs/#comments Tue, 09 Feb 2016 10:36:27 +0000 Nteranya Sanginga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143835 Nteranya Sanginga is the Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture ]]>

Nteranya Sanginga is the Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture

By Nteranya Sanginga
Ibadan, Nigeria, Feb 9 2016 (IPS)

Bolstering widespread prosperity in Africa is a key necessity if the world is to achieve its commitments to eradicate poverty and hunger by 2030.

Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Courtesy of IITA

Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). Courtesy of IITA

The sheer numbers indicate the scale of the challenge, and also strong hints as to the path to pursue.

The continent’s population has doubled in three decades, and while urbanization has moved at a blistering pace, it has not offset the number of people living in rural areas. Agricultural productivity has in fact increased faster than the global average, but not fast enough to resolve the paradox of the continent with a majority of the world’s unfarmed arable land remaining a net importer of food.

Those are the facts. And they highlight some basic principles: Africa has huge potential, but progress must include the rural and agricultural sectors. Smallholders contribute around 80 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s food supply, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and these are the critical enterprises that must be tapped to produce incomes, jobs and opportunities.

Much work is being done by governments and international organizations to shore up food security, through social protection and targeted agricultural development programs.

What we at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture think is essential is that people themselves have to be enabled to truly leverage their own and their continent’s potential.

While there is absolutely a role for public policies and large private-sector initiatives to make this happen, individual empowerment is also essential.

On the surface, that is obvious. While our core mandate is to be the lead research partner facilitating agricultural solutions for hunger and poverty in the tropics, our core vision is based on the idea that the connecting links for the broad array of initiatives around the land, not always perfectly coordinated, are entrepreneurs.

Family farmers are far and away the world’s largest investors in agriculture. Likewise, bottom-up business activity is the most efficient way to maximize efficiency.

That is why IITA is investing heavily in spreading our Business Incubation Platform, a model closely linked to our Youth Agripreneurs programs and aimed at accelerating the rollout of a series of useful services to be offered along the value chain. Our approach is particularly geared to fostering productive and profitable opportunities for youth, especially rural youth.

Not all youth, after all, can permanently migrate to cities; and if they were to do so, the countryside would suffer from an ageing work force.

Let me emphasize that the goal here is to make money, not just spend it! I jest, but only to hammer home the point that real sustainability requires viable networks that can carry research ideas to positive fruition.

Consider NoduMax, one of our Business Incubation Platform’s star developments. This is a legume inoculant for soybeans that allows them to access more nitrogen from the air – which ultimately also improves soil fertility – and thus lead to up to 450 kilograms of additional yield per hectare. It’s easy to use and affordable.

The technology was developed in our Business Incubation Platform in Ibadan. Now the time is ripe to produce it in larger quantities and for sales networks to spread the word. All of this is a form of sustainably intensifying agricultural production and creating greater food security, and its driving force does not involve touching a till or needing to own new land.

We’re also developing aflasafe strains to combat the aflatoxins that are such a scourge to major staple crops across Africa. Aflasafe is a natural biological control product developed by IITA and partners to fight aflatoxin contamination. Again, we incubate its development, but it can easily be transferred to the private sector and scaled up in multiple sites, meaning more jobs in construction, manufacturing and as laboratory analysts.

Both products also of course increase the food supply – through yields or reduction of losses – and thus catalyze further commercial opportunities.

Projects in the works include an innovative fish-pond system and food-processing activities for our mandate crops: cassava, soybean, cowpea, yam, plantain and banana.

Operating our business incubation platform also means individuals naturally network, meeting partners, potential funders and others useful to an array of enterprises, which may range from innovative risk-sharing or credit-supply services to the discovery and establishment of new markets for both inputs and specialty crops. These “externalities” are intrinsic to the whole idea that agriculture is not an ancestral destiny for the poor but an exciting frontier that can be conquered by Africa’s burgeoning demographic group: Youth.

While policy makers have a lot of work to do to create enabling environments for smallholder farmer families to prosper, those environments must also be populated, and that is what we are trying to do.

(End)

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Press Crackdown Is Likely to Worsenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/press-crackdown-is-likely-to-worsen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=press-crackdown-is-likely-to-worsen http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/press-crackdown-is-likely-to-worsen/#comments Fri, 05 Feb 2016 08:08:46 +0000 Amy Fallon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143807 Ugandan journalist Andrew Lwanga, who is still recovering more than one year after allegedly being battered by a police commander while covering a protest. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

Ugandan journalist Andrew Lwanga, who is still recovering more than one year after allegedly being battered by a police commander while covering a protest. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

By Amy Fallon
KAMPALA, Uganda, Feb 5 2016 (IPS)

On October 2015, the day that Ugandan journalist Enoch Matovu, 25, was allegedly shot by the police for simply “doing my job”, the police had “run out of tear gas”, he claimed.

“So they had to use live bullets,” this journalist for broadcaster NTV Uganda told IPS. Matovu was injured in the head while covering the apparent vote rigging by contestants during the ruling party’s — National Resistance Movement (NRM) — elections in Mityana, central Uganda. “I only realised when I woke up in hospital what had happened,” he added.

Shockingly, since party elections in October, over 40 Ugandan journalists have been detained, beaten, had their tools and material taken, blocked from covering events and have lost employment, according to Robert Sempala, the National Coordinator for Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ) Uganda. Two other journalists besides Matovu have allegedly been shot by the police.

Ahead of the February 18 elections, in which President Yoweri Museveni, 71, and already in power for 30 years, is standing, there’s a “likelihood” the press crackdown “is going to get worse”, said Sempala. “The contest is neck-to-neck,” he told IPS, adding there was “stiff competition” from the three-time presidential challenger Kizza Besigye and former Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi. “According to our statistics, most of the victims have been those that cover either Besigye or Mbabazi, as opposed to the rest of the contestants,” he emphasised.

On January 20, Endigyito FM, a privately owned radio station in Mbarara, about 170 miles outside the capital Kampala, was shut down, purportedly over unpaid licence fees of $11,000. Mbabazi’s campaign team claimed that an interview with him two days earlier had been disrupted 20 minutes into the show, after officials from the Uganda Communications Commission stormed the building. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and others have called for the broadcaster to be allowed to resume operations.

In a January report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned of a media clampdown, saying radio reporters working in local dialects with an audience in rural areas particularly faced intimidation and threats from government. “Looking over the last decade, its clear that violations of press freedom have clearly increased during elections and also during times of political tension in Kampala,” Maria Burnett, HRW senior researcher for Africa, told IPS.

“For journalists working outside Kampala, in local languages, my sense is that media freedom has been very difficult during political campaigns and elections in recent times,” she added. Burnett said in terms of what is happening outside Kampala, HRW’s research indicated that “the patterns are fairly similar” to the 2011 elections: “Perhaps the only real difference is that some radio journalists are more able to state the pressure they are under and the problems they face, either via social media or other media platforms as the Kampala-based media houses expand coverage country-wide.”

Sempala said “on the whole” there were more cases of violations against the press outside Kampala, according to HRNJ’s statistics. Most journalists attacked anywhere in Uganda claim it is hard to get justice. “Each morning I wonder what to do,” said Andrew Lwanga, 28, a cameraman with local WBS station, who was assaulted last year by the then Kampala district police commander Joram Mwesigye, leaving him with horrific injuries and unable to work. His equipment was also damaged.

“I loved covering the election so much. I would love to be out there,” he added. He is now fund-raising for a spinal operation in Spain — Ugandan doctors told him he had no option but to go abroad – and spends his days sitting in a lounge, watching his colleagues on the TV doing what he most wants to be doing.

Lwanga, a journalist of eight years, was injured while covering a small demonstration involving a group called the Unemployed Youths of Uganda in January 2015. Online, there is footage of Mwesigye assaulting Lwanga, of the cameraman falling down and then being led away by police, holding his head and crying in pain. “Now I can’t walk 50 metres without crutches,” said Lwanga, who has a visible scar on one side of his head and a bandage on one hand. “For the past 90 days I haven’t been able to sleep more than 40 minutes… All of this makes me cry,” he added.

More than a year after the assault, Lwanga’s case is dragging on. Mwesigye has been charged with three counts including assault and occasioning bodily harm, and suspended from his role. But at the last hearing, when Lwanga had to be carried into court by two others, it was revealed that the journalist’s damaged camera – an important exhibit – had disappeared and still hasn’t been found. “(The police) are trying to protect Joram, he wants to retain his job and he (has) always confronted me saying ‘you’re putting me out of work’,” said the cameraman.

Recently, Museveni pledged to financially help this journalist. But Lwanga said he hadn’t received any communication as yet when the money was coming. The last state witness in the trial was due to be heard on February 4 but has been adjourned to the 29th. Despite his ordeal, if he eventually has the operation and recovers, Lwanga said he will get back to work: “I miss my profession”.

Matovu is back at work, but still suffers a lot of headaches after his alleged attack, and admitted “sometimes I’m scared to do my job” “The police are not doing anything about this, only my bosses,” he said of his case.

Sempala said so far HRNJ had only managed to take “a few” cases involving journalists being assaulted to court. More advocacy is required to put pressure on police to investigate cases, he said. Burnett said it was “important that journalists who are physically attacked by police share their stories and push for justice”.

Police spokesperson Fred Enanga told IPS that Lwanga’s case was an “isolated” one, but the fact that police had “managed” to charge Mwesigye was “one very good example” that the authorities did not take human rights breaches against journalists lightly. “Over the years there’s been this very good working relationship with the media,” insisted Enanga.

(End)

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Cameron at large: Want Not to Become a Terrorist? Speak Fluent English!http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/cameron-at-large-want-not-to-become-a-terrorist-speak-fluent-english/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cameron-at-large-want-not-to-become-a-terrorist-speak-fluent-english http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/cameron-at-large-want-not-to-become-a-terrorist-speak-fluent-english/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 11:57:02 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143783 A plaque targeting Prime Minister David Cameron, as demonstrators protest in Oxford Street, London, 26 March 2011.  Credit: Mark Ramsay | Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/neutronboy/5562337245/ | Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

A plaque targeting Prime Minister David Cameron, as demonstrators protest in Oxford Street, London, 26 March 2011. Credit: Mark Ramsay | Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/neutronboy/5562337245/ | Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

By Baher Kamal
Cairo, Feb 4 2016 (IPS)

“Do you speak English fluently? No? Then you risk to become a terrorist!.” IPS posed this dilemma to some young Muslim women living in Cairo, while explaining that this appears to be UK prime minister David Cameron’s formula to judge the level of Muslim women’s risk to fall, passively, into the horrific trap of extremism.

Here you have some answers: “He must be kidding, I can’t believe that…,” says Egyptian university student Fatima S.M.

“This is just insulting! What does language have to do with such a risk?,” responds Fakhira H. from Pakistan who is married to an Egyptian engineer.

“This pure colonialism, Cameron still dreams of the British Empire,” reacts Nigerian Afunu K. who works at an export-import company in Cairo.

“Oh my God! We knew that Muslim women are victims of constant stigmatisation everywhere, in particular in Western countries… But I never expected it to be at this level,” said Tunisian translator Halima M.

Of course this is not at all about any scientific survey-just an indicative example of how Muslim women from different countries and backgrounds see Cameron’s recent surprising statement: Muslim women who fail to learn English to a high enough standard could face deportation from the UK, the prime minister said on 18 January.

Cameron suggested that poor English skills can leave people “more susceptible” to the messages of groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (DAESH).

“After two and a half years they should be improving their English and we will be testing them,” the UK prime minister stated. “We will bring this in October and it will apply to people who have come in on a spousal visa recently and they will be tested.”

Cameron’s comments came as his Conservative government launched a $28.5 million language fund for Muslim women in the United Kingdom as part of a drive to “build community integration.”

Current British immigration rules require that spouses be able to speak English before they arrive in the UK to live with their partners. “…They would face further tests after two and a half years in the UK, said Cameron, before threatening them: “You can’t guarantee you will be able to stay if you are not improving your language.”

The number of Muslim living in the UK is estimated to be around 2.7 million out of Britain’s total population of 64 million.

The British government estimates that around 190,000 Muslim women (about 22% of the total) living in the UK speak little or no English.

“… If you are not able to speak English, not able to integrate, you may find, therefore, you have challenges understanding what your identity is, and therefore you could be more susceptible to the extremist message,” the UK prime minister affirmed.

Cameron further explained that a lack of language skills could make Muslims in the U.K. more vulnerable to the message of extremist groups. “I am not saying there is some sort of causal connection between not speaking English and becoming an extremist, of course not,” he said.

Significantly, Cameron’s cabinet did not ratify last summer the so-called Istanbul Convention, a pan-European convention establishing minimum standards for governments to meet when tackling violence against women. The UK had signed up on this Convention three and a half years ago. The Convention entered into force eighteen months ago.

The UK prime ministers’ statements came under fire in his own country.

This is about a “dog-whistle politics at its best,” said the UK Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron.

Cameron’s idea is “lazy and misguided”… a “stereotyping of British Muslim communities,” reacted Sayeeda Warsi, former Conservative Party co-chair. “I think it is lazy and sloppy when we start making policies based on stereotypes which do badly stigmatise communities.”

Andy Burnham, the Home Affairs spokesman for the Labour Party shadow cabinet, accused Cameron of a “clumsy and simplistic approach” that is “unfairly stigmatising a whole community.”

“Disgraceful stereotyping,” said Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the UK-based Ramadhan Foundation.

These are only a few selected reactions of a number of figures who have the chance for their voices to be heard.

But imagine you are a Muslim woman and live in the United Kingdom. Like any other woman, you already face many daily hurdles in this world of flagrant gender inequality.

Then recall that these challenges are augmented by the fact that you are a foreigner. Your religion in this case puts additional heavy stigmatisation weight in your mind and on your shoulders.

What would you think?

(End)

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Women’s Empowerment Will Accelerate Kenya’s Economic Prosperityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/womens-empowerment-will-accelerate-kenyas-economic-prosperity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-empowerment-will-accelerate-kenyas-economic-prosperity http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/womens-empowerment-will-accelerate-kenyas-economic-prosperity/#comments Wed, 03 Feb 2016 15:09:58 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143770 Ambassador Amina Mohamed, CBS, EAV, EHG is the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative to Kenya.]]> Amb Amina Mohamed, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade flanked by Siddharth Chatterjee, the UNFPA Representative to Kenya and Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas, the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya in Moyale, Northern Kenya on 07 December 2015. Credit: @UNFPAKen

Amb Amina Mohamed, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade flanked by Siddharth Chatterjee, the UNFPA Representative to Kenya and Ms Nardos Bekele-Thomas, the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya in Moyale, Northern Kenya on 07 December 2015. Credit: @UNFPAKen

By Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee
Nairobi, Kenya, Feb 3 2016 (IPS)

When President Barack Obama made his first visit to Kenya as US President in July 2015, one of the poignant messages he left was an exhortation for communities to shun cultures that degrade women and girls.

“Imagine if you have a team and don’t let half of the team play. That makes no sense,” he said, referring to the denial of opportunities for women to fully participate in development.

The president’s message could not have been more pertinent, coming as it did when the country, like most of Africa, is thinking how to reap a ‘demographic dividend’ – or boost in economic productivity – from its declining fertility rate and growing youthful population.

This occurs if the number of people in the workforce increases relative to the number of dependents.

Countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong also called the “Asian Tigers” lifted millions out of poverty by lowering the dependency ratio. Individuals and families were able to make savings which translated into investment and boosted economic growth. Combined with robust policies in education, health, employment and empowerment of women, they were able to capitalize on their demographic window during the period 1965 and 1990.

With over 70 percent of Kenyans aged below 30, we are at the cusp of a demographic dividend. For this dividend to become a reality, Kenya will have to surmount some formidable challenges, none more exigent than the empowerment of its women.

This youth bulge is “a window of opportunity”, which shuts in an average period of 29 years. We have to take advantage of it and understand that there’s nothing pre-ordained about a youth bulge producing a growth dividend.

The magnitude of the challenges Kenya faces was brought home through some sombre statistics in the just-released 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS). One emerging trend is the increasing role of women as stewards in Kenyan families, with one out of every three households in Kenya being headed by a woman.

This might not be of much concern were it not for another statistic from the KDHS: half of Kenyan women only have primary school education, meaning that their potential for participating in socio-economic processes is hampered, and their families are on the whole fated to the lower rungs of demographics.

In a new drive to change this narrative around the world, the UN Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon has established the first high-level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, which will take the lead in developing strategies and plans for closing economic gender gaps around the world.

Any strategies for enjoying the demographic dividend that do not prioritise the education and health of women will be futile. In Kenya, the train may not even leave the station if half the country’s women have only a rudimentary education and many do not have access to sexual and reproductive health services nor are empowered by understanding fully how family planning works.

The KDHS also confirmed that awareness of birth spacing and family planning rises with levels of education: fertility rates decrease from 6.5 among women with no education to 4.8 among women with some education and further to 3.0 among women with a secondary or higher education.

The survey showed that some counties in Kenya that had the lowest proportion of literate women also had the highest fertility rates, some as much as double the national rate which of 3.9.The pay-off from smaller families is in the all-round physical and cognitive development of children and, by extension, the workforce. In Kenya, this is a workforce that is mainly agrarian, and about 60 percent female.

Globally, it is estimated that if women in every country were to play an identical role to men in markets, as much as US$28 trillion (equal to 26 percent) would be added to the global economy by 2025.

Where women are healthy and educated, not only their families, but entire nations flourish as we have seen with the “Asian Tigers”. Conversely, where women are not empowered the demographic dividend will not be realised.

Kenya must focus on eliminating gender inequalities, not only in the health sector, but in traditional social norms and attitudes that effectively under value women’s roles.

These are norms that keep girls out of classrooms and women away from the workplace, and are often expressed through violence. The 2014 survey indicated the extent of violence with about four in ten women aged between 15 and 49 stating that their husband or partner had been physically violent towards them.

We all need to listen to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s message at last September’s global meeting on gender equality in New York, where he stressed that “development cannot be rapid and resilient, unless it is also inclusive and equitable…given that half of humanity are women, their empowerment is a must, not an option”.

(End)

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Rabbit Farming Now a Big Hit in Zimbabwehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/rabbit-farming-now-a-big-hit-in-zimbabwe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rabbit-farming-now-a-big-hit-in-zimbabwe http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/rabbit-farming-now-a-big-hit-in-zimbabwe/#comments Tue, 02 Feb 2016 15:43:35 +0000 Jeffrey Moyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143759 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/rabbit-farming-now-a-big-hit-in-zimbabwe/feed/ 0 Ebola Recovery Funds Impossible to Track, Says New Studyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/ebola-recovery-funds-impossible-to-track-says-new-study/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ebola-recovery-funds-impossible-to-track-says-new-study http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/ebola-recovery-funds-impossible-to-track-says-new-study/#comments Mon, 01 Feb 2016 19:40:31 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143749 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 1 2016 (IPS)

When the Ebola epidemic devastated three West African countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea two years ago – the international community responded with pledges of over $5.8 billion in funds to fight the disease which has killed over 11,300 people.

But six months after the International Conference on Ebola Recovery, hosted by the United Nations, about $1.9 billion worth of promised funds have not been delivered, while “scant information” is available about the remaining $3.9 billion, according to a new study released here by Oxfam International.

The pledged recovery funds has “proved almost impossible to track,” said the UK-based aid and development charity.
Asked if the lack of transparency is due to corruption, David Saldivar, Oxfam America’s Policy and Advocacy Manager, told IPS: “This lack of transparency is not due to a single cause – it is a systemic challenge that is the collective responsibility of all—donors, governments, and implementing organizations—to improve.”

Oxfam believes that more funding should be given directly to local governments and organizations, as they understand the context and need best and are more accountable to the local communities they serve, he added.

Asked about the gap between pledges and delivery, UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq told IPS: “It is important that the countries that did such excellent work in dealing with the recent Ebola crisis receive the funds that had been pledged to them.”

The Ebola outbreak has not only been a setback to the economies of affected countries but also shattered already inadequate health systems and ruined people’s livelihoods, according to Oxfam.

Still, the Ebola epidemic is not over yet. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced last week that another 150 people were exposed to the risk of Ebola in Sierra Leone.

“This is not the end of Ebola in West Africa or globally”, said Oxfam, pointing out that it has taken almost two years, more than 11,300 deaths, massive provision of resources, technical assistance and billions of US dollars from around the world to tackle the Ebola epidemic in West Africa – specifically Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.”

As African Heads of State meet in Addis Ababa this week to discuss making 2016 the year of Human Rights in Africa, Oxfam is calling on them to focus attention on the Right to Health.

“The slow identification and response by government health services to the recent cases in Sierra Leone and Liberia clearly demonstrate that they are still not capable of responding effectively to Ebola and other highly contagious diseases. “

In April 2001, heads of state of African Union (AU) countries met and pledged to set a target of allocating at least 15% of their annual budget to improve the health sector.

In 2013, just before the Ebola outbreak only 6 AU member States had met these commitments and the ECOWAS (West African) average was at only 8% with Sierra Leone just 6.22%, according to Oxfam.

Aboubacry Tall, Oxfam’s Regional Director for West Africa, said: “Although Oxfam and other organizations responded by mobilizing community volunteers, this is not enough. If we are going to succeed, communities need to be a part of the process and a part of the planning, from the very beginning.”

“After the recent outbreak of Ebola in Liberia, I was horrified to see the same patterns of distrust emerging. Rumors were rampant, some people didn’t believe it was Ebola and others felt that it had been re-introduced on purpose. Rumors like these are extremely dangerous and can lead to community complacency.”

In order to prevent the same tragedy from happening again, Oxfam urges the Governments of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to empower communities to take a leading role in their own healthcare, by making sure that local people are put at the heart of decisions about where resources go, and how they are used.

Oxfam’s experience during the Ebola response has shown that community leadership and trust in local health systems is absolutely vital and should be considered a medical necessity, he added.

Asked whether the decline in funds was due to the global economic recession and the fall in oil prices, Saldivar told IPS the global humanitarian system is stretched by an unprecedented number of simultaneous crises, which makes it all the more important that countries recovering from shocks like the Ebola outbreak have the tools and support they need, including the information they need to plan and manage the recovery.

“The biggest problem is with efforts to track recovery funds is the lack of a single system for consistently reporting clear, up-to-date information across all donors.”

He pointed out that different donors report information in different ways, making it difficult for local actors to follow the funds.

Over $1 billion of funds pledged from major donors are available for countries to draw from as governments determine their most critical recovery needs.

“It is reasonable that only 6 months after the UN conference, that not all pledged funds have been spent. But, the key issue is that local stakeholders deserve to have the most up to date information on the situation so they can monitor and have a say in how resources are spent,” he noted.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Women’s Rights First — African Summithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/womens-rights-first-african-summit/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-rights-first-african-summit http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/womens-rights-first-african-summit/#comments Mon, 01 Feb 2016 15:33:37 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143743 Mahawa Kaba Wheeler during a press conference in Addis Ababa. Photo: Courtesy of the African Union Commission

Mahawa Kaba Wheeler during a press conference in Addis Ababa. Photo: Courtesy of the African Union Commission

By Baher Kamal
CAIRO, Feb 1 2016 (IPS)

Despite the enormous challenges facing Africa now, the leaders of its 1.2 billion plus inhabitants have decided to spotlight the issue of Human Rights With a Particular Focus on the Rights of Women in their 26th summit held in Addis Ababa on 21-31 January this year. Why?

In an interview to IPS, Mahawa Kaba Wheeler, Director of Women, Gender and Development at the African Union Commission (AUC), explains that time has come to act to alleviate the multitude of barriers to gender equality: “These include, among others, economic exclusion and financial systems that perpetuate the discrimination of women; limited participation in political and public life; lack of access to education and retention of girls in schools; gender-based violence, harmful cultural practices, and exclusion of women from peace tables either as lead mediators or part of negotiating teams of conflicting parties,” she argued.

The African Union believes that removing these barriers that impede women from fully enjoying their human rights can empower the continent, she added. Asked about women’s social, economic and political role in the continent, the Director of Women, Gender and Development says that Africa is at a turning point emerging as “one of the fastest growing developing regions in the world, registering economic growth levels ranging from 2 per cent-11 per cent.”

“Women make enormous contributions to economies, whether in business, agriculture, as entrepreneurs or employees, or by doing unpaid work at home. But they also remain disproportionately affected by poverty, discrimination and exploitation,” explained the Director.

Mahawa Kaba Wheeler, Director of Women, Gender and Development at the African Union Commission. Photo: Courtesy of the African Union Commission

Mahawa Kaba Wheeler, Director of Women, Gender and Development at the African Union Commission. Photo: Courtesy of the African Union Commission

Women’s socio-economic disadvantages are reflected in pervasive violence, gender inequalities in earned income, property ownership, access to services including health and education as well as time use. To date, women in Africa, like women elsewhere, have not been included as full, equal and effective stakeholders in processes that determine and impact on their lives, Kaba Wheeler said.

“For example, women continue to have less access to education than men; they have less employment and advancement opportunities; their role and contribution to national and continental development processes are not always recognised nor fully rewarded; and they continue to be conspicuously absent from crucial decision-making positions,” she elaborated.

Kaba Wheeler also explained that the focus on these rights is an opportunity for the AU to take stock of how far it has come in addressing some of the impediments to women’s full enjoyment of their human rights.

This is also meant “to assess the extent of implementation of its gender and women’s rights instruments, consolidate the gains already made over the years and consider future priority areas of action to accelerate the effective and efficient implementation of commitments made on gender equality and women’s empowerment, ” she stated.

Kaba Wheeler recalls that the theme for the 26th African Union Summit in January 2016 derives from the declaration of 2016 as the “African Year of Human Rights, with a Particular Focus on the Rights of Women,” as this year marks “important milestones” in the continental and global women’s agenda for gender equality and women empowerment.

Among others, continentally, it is the 30th anniversary of the coming into force of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights in 1986 and the beginning of the second phase of the African Women’s Decade 2010-2020.

“Globally, 2016 commemorates 36 years since the adoption of The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), described as the international bill of rights for women, and the 21st anniversary of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which is the key global policy on gender equality.”

Regarding the main reasons why African women still face such huge hurdles, Kaba Wheeler cited a number of factors that create barriers between the present condition and gender equality in Africa: “Key amongst those is that African culture is largely patriarchal. Because of this, family control and decision-making powers belong to males. Since decision-making powers belong to males, the ability to make policy as well as the power to influence social norms also belongs to males.”

Consequently, she adds, “the male policy makers often maintain a firm grip on the traditional, gender-specific roles. This creates a sort of self-serving cycle, from which Africa is not yet free. Not unlike the women in many western states, the traditional role of women in Africa is that of the home-maker.”

As for women’s political participation in Africa, Kaba Wheeler explained to IPS that a huge progress has been made in the participation of women in politics since the transformation of the Organization of African Unity to the African Union.

In fact, she says, 15 African states rank in the top 37 amongst world classification for women’s participation in national parliaments with more than 30 per cent: Rwanda (63.8 per cent) , Seychelles (43.8 per cent), Senegal (42.7 per cent), South Africa (42 per cent), Namibia (41 per cent), Mozambique (39.6 per cent), Ethiopia (38.8 per cent), Angola (36.8 per cent ), Burundi (36.4 per cent ), Uganda (35 per cent) , Algeria (31 per cent) , Zimbabwe (31.5 per cent), Cameroon (31.3 per cent), Sudan (30.5 per cent ) and Tunisia (31.3 per cent).

But while Rwanda is the world leader in women’s parliamentary representation, it is lagging behind when it comes to women in executive positions. It is overtaken by Cape Verde, which has the highest number of women occupying ministerial positions in Africa. Out of 17 government ministers in Cape Verde, 9 are women, amounting to 52.9 per cent representation, Kaba Wheeler adds.

“It should also be noted that out of 54 African Heads of State and Government, three are women – the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; the President of Mauritius, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, and the Interim President of the Central Africa Republic, Catherine Samba Panza.”

In this regard, Kaba Wheeler explains that the AU envisions a 50 per cent representation of women in decision-making and member states are expected to use that as the yardstick. On that note, the AU adopted the gender parity principle at its first summit in 2001.

“To date, the AU is the only multilateral body that has maintained gender parity at its topmost decision-making level. In addition to the chairperson of the AUC, there are five women and five male commissioners and efforts are made to allow for the gender parity principle to percolate other AU organs and institutions such as the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights as well as the African Court- where women are in the majority, ” according to Ms Wheeler.

The AU recognises that, with women being half of the African population, achievement of gender parity would create a ripple effect through many sectors of society as more women would be inspired to aim for leadership positions.

“Not only would having women in leadership positions lead to a better quality of life for women themselves, but also for their families in general and children in particular. There can be no true democracy in a country where women are underrepresented in decision making positions,” she emphasised.

But while acknowledging the great strides that have been achieved in women’s political participation, women still continue to experience significant discrimination related to their participation in public and political life.

In some AU member states, she adds, national legislation and constitutions adversely affect women’s participation in public and political life by limiting their participation through exclusionary or discriminatory clauses.

“In Africa, structural impediments to gender equality are embedded within the constitutional texts, containing provisions that specifically subjugate constitutional equality to religious principles or exclude family and customary law from constitutional non-discrimination.”

Although many of the same constitutions articulate a commitment to gender equality, the exclusion of personal or customary law from constitutional protection can severely undermine that commitment to equality, because many issues that commonly affect women are located within the legal spheres regulated by these customary and personal legal systems, Kaba Wheeler underlined.

Asked to further develop on the situation of African women whose role is key in the field of food production, agriculture and food security, Kaba Wheeler explains that their contribution does not match the benefits they derive from the sector in general and little investment is directed to benefit them.

“While African women produce more than 60 per cent of agriculture, constitutes over 50 per cent of the rural population and remain the main custodians of food security, there is very little investment in their lot to yield commensurate results, tap their resources and help them unleash their potential.”

Although they spend 80 per cent of their time either in agricultural production and auxiliary process including informal sector business, their contribution to food production, family care and welfare activities as well as in the informal sector is not captured in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and unaccounted for in the Statistics of National Accounts, says Kaba Wheeler.

“In addition to women not owning land, they have no access to agricultural infrastructure including land rights, modern farming technology, farm inputs, credit, extension services and training. Majority of them have no access to physical infrastructure also because they are based in rural areas with no access to good roads, water, electricity among others.”

In that regard, she adds, even when they produce agricultural crops, they lack access to markets and loose most of their outputs between the farm and the market through wastage, or sell their produce to middle men at a throw away price due to the high transportation costs.

“Because of the majority of women do not own land, they produce the bulk of the agricultural produce as tenants on the land they still have no land rights on the land and also no inheritance rights.”

Access to land for women remains one of the critical impediments to women’s economic, social and political empowerment in Africa.

According to the Seventh Report of the AUC Chairperson on the Implementation of the AU-SDGEA (Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa), African women own roughly 1 per cent of the land, despite farming and producing most of the food from the land.

Dual application of laws-customary and civil/common laws, conflict of various laws, as well as inadequate harmonisation of family laws- in relationship to marriages and inheritance, land rights, and property laws is a major issue across Africa, Kaba Wheeler explains.

On the other hand, the lack of equal opportunity in education, particularly higher education is responsible for the low levels of women in the job market, including in the formal agricultural sector… Most of the women in the job market occupy low cadre job which earn little income compared to their male counterparts, says Ms Wheeler.

As a result, women have no disposable income and are not able to accumulate any savings and generate investible income. Majority of them are therefore, predominantly in the agricultural sector where they are predominantly involved in producing food for the family and the meagre income they generate from selling surplus food does not lift them from poverty. Women constitute the majority of people in our continent who live below US $1 a day.

Regarding women’s health, Kaba Wheeler explains that in Africa, gender related challenges manifest themselves in various ways including with unacceptably high maternal, new born and child morbidity and mortality: “Maternal health status is indeed a key indicator not only of the status of women but also of the health status (and well being) of society as a whole. The 2012 Status Report on Maternal New born and Child Health of the AU Commission noted that globally, more than half a million women die each year due to pregnancy and childbirth related causes. ”

Some specific data: 99 per cent of these deaths were identified to occur in developing countries, of which 50 per cent occur in Africa (specifically outside the North African region). For every death, at least another 20 women suffer illnesses or injuries related to childbirth or pregnancy.

“The lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy and childbirth in Africa (excluding North Africa) is 1 in 22 women, compared with about 1 in 8,000 women in the developed world. Furthermore evidence abounds that 80 per cent of those deaths could be prevented by simple, low-cost and quality interventions.”

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Combating HIV among Teenshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/combating-hiv-among-teens/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=combating-hiv-among-teens http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/combating-hiv-among-teens/#comments Mon, 01 Feb 2016 07:39:10 +0000 Miriam Gathigah and Jeffrey Moyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143737 High HIV rates among teens call for interventions on a war-footing.  Credit: Miriam Gathigah and Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

High HIV rates among teens call for interventions on a war-footing. Credit: Miriam Gathigah and Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah and Jeffrey Moyo
NAIROBI, Kenya / HARARE, Zimbabwe, Feb 1 2016 (IPS)

Keziah Juma is coming to terms with her shattered life at the shanty she shares with her family in Kenya’s sprawling Kibera slum where friends and relatives are gathered for her son’s funeral arrangements. While attending an antenatal clinic, Juma who is only 16 years discovered that she had been infected with HIV. “I went into shock and stopped going to the clinic, that is why they could not save my baby and I have been bed-ridden since giving birth two months ago,” she told IPS.

Juma’s struggle to come to terms with her HIV status and to remain healthy mirrors that of many teens in this East African nation. Kenya is one of the six countries accounting for nearly half of the world’s young people aged 15 to 19 years living with HIV. Other than India, the rest are in Tanzania, South Africa, Nigeria and Mozambique, according to a 2015 UNICEF report Statistical Update on Children, Adolescents and AIDS.

Yet in the face of this glaring epidemic, Africa’s response has been discouraging with statistics leaving no doubt that the continent is losing the fight against HIV among its teens. Julius Mwangi, an HIV/AIDS activist in Nairobi told IPS that some countries such as Kenya seem to have chosen “to bury their heads in the sand in hopes that the problem will go away.”Despite government statistics indicating that the average age for the first sexual experience has increased from 14 to 16 years among Kenyan teens, this has done little for the country’s fight to combat HIV among its young people.

The Ministry of Health’s fast track plan to end HIV and AIDS shows that only an estimated 24 per cent of teens aged 15 to 19 years know their HIV status. Still in this age group, only about half have ever tested for HIV. Mwangi attributes the country’s high HIV rates among its teens to lack of practical interventions to address the scourge. He referred to the controversy over the Reproductive Health Bill 2014 which provided a significant loophole for young people less than 18 years to access condoms and other family planning services, but was rejected.

Judith Sijeny, a nominated Member of the Senate who sponsored the Bill, says that the proposed piece of legislation was rejected in its original form on grounds that it was encouraging sexual immorality among young people. Sijeny said in addition to providing information on HIV prevention and treatment including advocating for sexual abstinence, the Bill was also “providing a solution by encouraging safe sex.” “Statistics are providing a very clear picture that teenagers, including those living with HIV, are engaging in sexual activities,” she said.

Government statistics show that one in every five youths aged 15 to 24 had sex before the age of 16 years. A revised version of the Bill, which will constitute Kenya’s primary health law for now, states clearly that condoms and family planning pills are not to be given to those under 18 years of age.

While other African nations like Kenya have chosen to be in denial, leaving their young populations vulnerable to early deaths due to HIV, others such as Zimbabwe have vowed to take the bull by its horns. Last year, the Zimbabwean government in conjunction with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) launched the Condomise Campaign where they distributed small-sized condoms to fit 15-year olds in a bid to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. This is despite this country’s age of consent to sex pegged at the age of 16!

The Condomise Campaign may, however, have come too late for several Zimbabwean teenagers like 16-year old Yeukai Mhofu who is already living with HIV after she was raped by her late stepfather. Regrettably, Mhofu said she may already have infected her boyfriend.“I had unprotected sex with my boyfriend at school and I am afraid I might have infected him. Although I was aware of my HIV status after my rape ordeal by my late stepfather, I succumbed to pressure from my school lover after he kept pestering me for sex and I feared to disclose my status to him because I thought he would hate me,” Mhofu told IPS.

For many Zimbabwean teenagers like 15-year old Loveness Chiroto still in school, the government move to launch condoms for teenagers has left her relieved at the fresh prospect of young people like her to survive the AIDS storm. “Now with government and UNFPA taking a position that we should use condoms, I’m personally happy that as young people we have been given the alternative on how to soldier on amidst the HIV/AIDS scourge,” Chiroto told IPS.

But irked by the Condomise initiative gathering momentum, many adults have vehemently castigated the idea. “Our children need strict grooming in which they are strongly taught the hazards of engaging in premature sexual intercourse; condoms won’t help our young people because even grown-up people are contracting HIV with condoms in their pockets,” Mavis Mbiza, a Zimbabwean mother of two teenage girls
in High school, told IPS.

Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) legislator and parliamentary portfolio committee on health chairperson, Ruth Labode, is however at variance with many parents like Mbiza. “Is there a difference when an adult is having sex and when a teenager is having sex? If teens are sexually active, condom use for them may be a necessity, I agree because there is also need for such young persons to be protected from STIs as well,” Labode said.

The UNFPA senior technical advisor, Bidia Deperthes went on record saying this Southern African nation’s teenagers from 15 years of age needed to be catered for in the condom distribution as some of them had become sexually active.

Statistics show that 24.5 per cent of Zimbabwean women between the ages 15 to 19 are married and is proof of teenagers being sexually active, which justifies the distribution of condoms to Zimbabwe’s teenagers according to UNFPA. An official from Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Care speaking on condition of anonymity for professional reasons, agreed with UNFPA. “We are highly burdened with HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) even amongst teens, so condoms are very important in reducing new infections of HIV and STIs,” the health official told IPS. In 2007, South Africa’s new Children’s Act came into effect, expanding the scope of several existing children’s rights and explicitly granting new ones.

The Act gave to children 12 years and older a host of rights relating to reproductive health, including access to condoms, this at a time SA’s persons aged 15–24 account for 34 per cent of all new HIV infections. In 2014, at Botswana’s Condomise Campaign launch in conjunction with UNFPA, the organisation’s representative there, Aisha Camara-Drammeh emphasised that condoms were equally crucial for the African nation’s teenagers. “This is an exciting and yet a very crucial moment for us as UNFPA and our stakeholders – including the Ministry of Health, UNAIDS and indeed the young people themselves – to be witnessing the inauguration of this campaign in Botswana. Ensuring access to condoms is a prerequisite for the Sexual and Reproductive Health of young persons,” Drammeh had said then.

According to the UNFPA then, Botswana’s young people were faced with numerous challenges which included high-risk sexual behaviour leading to high teenage unwanted pregnancies, high incidences of HIV infections, low comprehensive knowledge on SRH and HIV and limited access to SRH services and commodities. With condoms use rife amongst Botswana’s young people, the country is witnessing declines on new HIV infections, with the 15–24 year olds’ HIV incidence declining by 25 per cent, according to UNFPA. Even further up in Malawi, in 2013, government there moved in to launch the first-ever national HIV/AIDS prevention drive through a Condomise Campaign seeking to promote and increase condom use among teenagers there.

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WFP’s Chief Calls for Support for Those Most Vulnerable to Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/wfps-chief-calls-for-support-for-those-most-vulnerable-to-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wfps-chief-calls-for-support-for-those-most-vulnerable-to-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/wfps-chief-calls-for-support-for-those-most-vulnerable-to-climate-change/#comments Wed, 27 Jan 2016 12:30:44 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143710 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/wfps-chief-calls-for-support-for-those-most-vulnerable-to-climate-change/feed/ 0 Time to Repeal Anti-Terrorism Law in Ethiopiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/time-to-repeal-anti-terrorism-law-in-ethiopia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=time-to-repeal-anti-terrorism-law-in-ethiopia http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/time-to-repeal-anti-terrorism-law-in-ethiopia/#comments Mon, 25 Jan 2016 16:52:04 +0000 Anuradha Mittal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143689 Anuradha Mittal is the Executive Director of the Oakland Institute. ]]>

Anuradha Mittal is the Executive Director of the Oakland Institute.

By Anuradha Mittal
OAKLAND, California, Jan 25 2016 (IPS)

With the African Union celebrating the African Year of Human Rights at its 26th summit, at its headquarters in Addis, Ethiopia, the venue raises serious concerns about commitment to human rights.

Anuradha Mittal Credit:

Anuradha Mittal

Ethiopia’s so called economic development policies have not only ignored but enabled and exacerbated civil and human rights abuses in the country. Case and point is the ongoing land grabbing affecting several regions of the country. Under the controversial “villagization” program, the Ethiopian government is forcibly relocating over 1.5 million people to make land available to investors for so called economic growth. Since last November, the country’s ruling party, EPRDF’s, “Master Plan” to expand the capital Addis has been the flashpoint for protests in Oromia which will impact some 2 million people. At least 140 protestors have been killed by security forces while many more have been injured and arrested, including political leaders like Bekele Gerba, Deputy Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress, Oromia’s largest legally registered political party. Arrested on December 23, 2015, his whereabouts remain unknown.

Political marginalization, arbitrary arrests, beatings, murders, intimidation, and rapes mark the experience of communities around Ethiopia defending their land rights. This violence in the name of delivering economic growth is built on the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, which has allowed the Ethiopian government secure complete hegemonic authority by suppressing any form of dissent.

A new report, Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Law: A Tool to Stifle Dissent, by the Oakland Institute and the Environmental Defender Law Center, authored by lawyers including representatives from leading international law firms, unravels the 2009 Proclamation. It confirms that the law is designed and used by the Ethiopian Government as a tool of repression to silence its critics. It criminalizes basic human rights, like the freedom of speech and assembly. Its definition of “terrorist act,” does not conform with international standards given the law defines terrorism in an extremely broad and vague way, providing the ruling party with an iron fist to punish words and acts that would be legal in a democracy.

The law’s staggering breadth and vagueness, makes it impossible for citizens to know or even predict what conduct may violate the law, subjecting them to grave criminal sanctions. This has resulted in a systematic withdrawal of free speech in the country as newspaper journalists and editors, indigenous leaders, land rights activists, bloggers, political opposition members, and students are charged as terrorists. In 2010, journalists and governmental critics were arrested and tortured in the lead-up to the national election. In 2014, six privately owned publications closed after government harassment; at least 22 journalists, bloggers, and publishers were criminally charged; and more than 30 journalists fled the country in fear of being arrested under repressive laws.

The law also gives the police and security services unprecedented new powers and shifts the burden of proof to the accused. Ethiopia has abducted individuals from foreign countries including the British national Andy Tsege and the Norwegian national, Okello Akway Ochalla, and brought them to Ethiopia to face charges of violating the anti-terrorism law. Such abductions violate the terms of extradition treaties between Ethiopia and other countries; violate the territorial sovereignty of the other countries; and violate the fundamental human rights of those charged under the law. Worse still, many of those charged report having been beaten or tortured, as in the case of Mr. Okello. The main evidence courts have against such individuals are their so-called confessions.

Some individuals charged under Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law are being prosecuted for conduct that occurred before that law entered into force. These prosecutions violate the principles of legality and non-retroactivity, which Ethiopia is bound to uphold both under international law as well as the Charter 22 of its own constitution.

A few other key examples of those charged under the law, include the 9 bloggers; Pastor Omot Agwa, former translator for the World Bank Inspection Panel; and journalists Reeyot Alemu and Eskinder Nega; and hundreds more, all arrested under the Anti-Terrorism law.

It has been a fallacious tradition in development thought to equate economic underdevelopment with repressive forms of governance and economic modernity with democratic rule. Yet Ethiopia forces us to confront that its widely celebrated economic renaissance by its Western allies and donor countries is dependent on violent autocratic governance. The case of Ethiopia should compel the US and the UK to question their own complicity in supporting the Ethiopian regime, the west’s key ally in Africa.

Given the compelling analysis provided by the report, it is imperative that the international community demands that until such time as Ethiopian government revises its anti-terrorism law to bring it into conformity with international standards, it repeals the use of this repressive piece of legislation.

Case and point is the controversial resettlement program under which the Ethiopian government seeks to relocate 1.5 million people as part of an economic development plan. Research by groups including the Oakland Institute, International Rivers Network, Human Rights Watch, and Inclusive Development International, among others, as well as journalists.

Perhaps there is hesitation to confront this because it would implicate the global flows of development assistance that make possible rule by the EPRDF. Receiving a yearly average of 3.5 billion dollars in development aid, Ethiopia tops lists of development aid recipients of USAID, DfID, and the World Bank. Staggeringly, international assistance represents 50 to 60 per cent of the Ethiopian national budget. Evidently, foreign assistance is indispensible to the national governance. At the face of this dependency, the Ethiopian government exercises repressive hegemony over Ethiopian political and civil expression.

It is the responsibility of international donors to account for the political effects of development assistance with thorough and consistent investigations and substantive demand for political reform and democratic practices as a condition for sustained international aid. This will inevitably mean a new type of Ethiopian renaissance, one that seeks the simultaneous establishment of democratic governance and improving economic conditions.

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Tanzania: Girls Struggle to Avoid Forced Marriage, Yearn to Learnhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/tanzania-girls-struggle-to-avoid-forced-marriage-yearn-to-learn/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tanzania-girls-struggle-to-avoid-forced-marriage-yearn-to-learn http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/tanzania-girls-struggle-to-avoid-forced-marriage-yearn-to-learn/#comments Thu, 21 Jan 2016 07:18:54 +0000 Kizito Makoye http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143648 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/tanzania-girls-struggle-to-avoid-forced-marriage-yearn-to-learn/feed/ 0 Africa, Only If It Bleeds It Leads?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/africa-only-if-it-bleeds-it-leads/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-only-if-it-bleeds-it-leads http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/africa-only-if-it-bleeds-it-leads/#comments Wed, 20 Jan 2016 18:03:17 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143646 Seven Top Challenges Facing African Women.  Credit: Courtesy of the African Union Commission

Seven Top Challenges Facing African Women. Credit: Courtesy of the African Union Commission

By Baher Kamal
Cairo, Egypt, Jan 20 2016 (IPS)

Africa is clearly one of the most negatively impacted regions in the world, not helped by the increasing trend of the mainstream media to focus on tragic news, following a self-imposed rule: “if it bleeds it leads”.

Famine; hunger; malnutrition; indebtedness; piracy; wars; massacres; tribal fights; terrorist attacks; Boko Haram; Al Qaeda Maghreb; IS; western military interventions; corruption; human rights abuses, and repeated operations of humanitarian assistance, among others, are pure adrenalin for most media outlets.

Africa also jumps to the top of the headers when it comes to announcing massive oil purchases by China. Western politicians and media tend to denounce the lack of human rights in the Asian giant.

Regardless of what and why, the very fact is that this continent seems sentenced to be the source of negative news.

Not that all these facts are entirely false—Africa has indeed been the scene for a lot of “bad news”.

Meanwhile, a number of experts, analysts and activists attempt to systematically remind us of the deep roots laying beneath most African dramas.

This is the case of centuries-long colonialism; slavery; massive depletion of natural resources by voracious multinational corporations; big sales of western weapons to parties in conflicts; extensive land grabbing and the heavy impact of climate change caused far away from Africa by industrialised states, just to mention some.

Yet, their voices have never received the attention they deserve. And when they have this attention, it was temporary and did not produce any effective action to help put an end to all the problems.

Against this backdrop, the African continent has been moving ahead in spite of the recent strong falls seen in international markets of its main sources of income, such as oil, commodities and minerals.

An Agenda 2063 for Africa

When in 2013 the leaders of 54 African countries adopted Agenda 2063 to achieve socio-economic transformation of the continent in half a century, they probably did not expect that the market value of some key resources would fall so sharply in a very short period of time.

Nevertheless, this vast continent extending over 30,221.000 km2, home to 1,2 billion people speaking up to 2,000 different native languages, is taking several steps to move forward.

For instance, the theme of the 26th Summit of heads of African states (Addis Ababa, January 21-31, 2016) is human rights with a particular focus on the Rights of Women.

In fact, African women face seven major challenges: economic exclusion; financial systems that perpetuate their discrimination; limited participation in political and public life; lack of access to education and poor retention of girls in schools; gender-based violence; harmful cultural practices, and exclusion of women from peace tables, among others.

The Addis Ababa based African Union Commission (AUC) underlines that “Agenda 2063 is a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years. It builds on, and seeks to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development.”

Top Aspirations

Seven top African Aspirations shape Agenda 2063. These aspirations “reflect our desire for shared prosperity and well-being, for unity and integration, for a continent of free citizens and expanded horizons, where the full potential of women and youth, boys and girls are realized, and with freedom from fear, disease and want,” AUC underlines.

The aspirations as defined by the AUC are:

Aspiration 1: A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development.

“We are determined to eradicate poverty in one generation and build shared prosperity through social and economic transformation of the continent.”

Aspiration 2
: An integrated continent, politically united, based on the ideals of Pan-Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance.

Since 1963, the quest for African Unity has been inspired by the spirit of Pan Africanism, focusing on liberation, and political and economic independence. It is motivated by development based on self-reliance and self-determination of African people, with democratic and people-centred governance.

Aspiration 3: An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.

Africa shall have a universal culture of good governance, democratic values, gender equality, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law.

Aspiration 4
: A peaceful and secure Africa.

Mechanisms for peaceful prevention and resolution of conflicts will be functional at all levels. As a first step, dialogue-centred conflict prevention and resolution will be actively promoted in such a way that by 2020 all guns will be silent. A culture of peace and tolerance shall be nurtured in Africa’s children and youth through peace education.

Aspiration 5: An Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics.

Pan-Africanism and the common history, destiny, identity, heritage, respect for religious diversity and consciousness of African people’s and diaspora’s will be entrenched.

Aspiration 6: An Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children.

“All the citizens of Africa will be actively involved in decision making in all aspects. Africa shall be an inclusive continent where no child, woman or man will be left behind or excluded, on the basis of gender, political affiliation, religion, ethnic affiliation, locality, age or other factors”

Aspiration 7: Africa as a strong, united and influential global player and partner.

“Africa shall be a strong, united, resilient, peaceful and influential global player and partner with a significant role in world affairs. We affirm the importance of African unity and solidarity in the face of continued external interference including, attempts to divide the continent and undue pressures and sanctions on some countries.”

Whether the continent will manage to achieve all these objectives or not is something that belongs to the future. The point is that the aspirations of a whole, huge continent have never made the main headlines in western mainstream media.

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Fire a Hot Topic in Youth Employment in South Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/fire-a-hot-topic-in-youth-employment-in-south-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fire-a-hot-topic-in-youth-employment-in-south-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/fire-a-hot-topic-in-youth-employment-in-south-africa/#comments Wed, 20 Jan 2016 15:51:05 +0000 Munyaradzi Makoni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143642 Fire fighters from Working on Fire on fire line at recent Muizenberg fires. Credit: IPS-WoF1

Fire fighters from Working on Fire on fire line at recent Muizenberg fires. Credit: IPS-WoF1

By Munyaradzi Makoni
CAPE TOWN, South Africa, Jan 20 2016 (IPS)

Nolukhanyo Babalaza finished her final year of high school and received her diploma in 2000, but this was not an immediate passport to a good life. She was frustrated to see some people making it while she struggled to afford basic things like everyday food.

“It gives one negative thoughts. One ends up doing things you regret,” she said.

A breakthrough came three years later. Babalaza became a fire fighter. She joined the South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affair’s Working on Fire Programme (WoF).

Fires are considered a persistent problem in South Africa, a merciless destroyer of life, property and environment.

Either in the dry summer months in the Western Cape, or in the dry winter months in the rest of the country, wildland fires are started by lightning or, in mountainous regions, by falling rocks or accidentaly from careless individuals. Millions of properties are lost annually. Lives and the environment are wasted.

Good things have, however, emerged from this perennial problem.

South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affair’s Working on Fire Programme started in 2003 has become a means to fight unemployment and poverty.

Youths have been drawn from the ranks of the unemployed and poor.

“These young people are trained to help fight unwanted veld and forest fires across the country and often they use their skills as a stepping stone into the formal job market,” says Linton Rensburg, WoF National Communications Manager.

The youths are trained as drivers, brush cutters, dispatchers, helicopter safety leaders and in environmental education. It isn’t big money but it offers a gateway to the future.

The jobless rate in South Africa increased to 25.5 per cent in the third quarter of 2015 from 25 per cent in the previous period, according to Trading Economics. The unemployment rate rose 3.6 per cent while employment went up 1.1 per cent and more people joined the labour force. The unemployment rate in South Africa averaged 25.27 per cent from 2000 until 2015, reaching an all time high of 31.20 per cent in the first quarter of 2003 and a record low of 21.50 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2008. The unemployment rate data in South Africa is reported by Statistics South Africa.

Fire employees

Babalaza has grown with the programme. From her start as an ordinary fire fighter she became a crew leader, and then moved to become an administration assistant. Today she is a finance control officer in the programme in the Western Cape.

She admits the programme has greatly improved her life.

“Things are much better. I am able to at least support my family and I can pay my bills,” she said.

Babalaza’s story is one of many involved in the programme, Rensburg told IPS.

“Thousands of young people first found meaningful work opportunities in the programme and later on through the training and skills development aspects of WoF they were able to progress from being a fire fighter earning a stipend to being a salaried employee in WoF,” he said.

Take Justine Lekalakala’s story, for instance. Lekalakala, a former fire fighter at the Dinokeng Base in Hammanskraal North of Pretoria, now works in the South African National Defence Force.

“I was able to use the stipend I earned at WoF to apply for other jobs and educate myself by doing computer courses. It was easier for me to be absorbed into the military as I had the self-discipline and fitness which I acquired in WoF,” he said.

Christalene De Kella was clueless about what she wanted out of life after completing her secondary school in 2004. She grabbed the opportunity to become a fire fighter in her hometown, Uniondale. The single mother of a seven-year old daughter, she has since established a career path for development.

Starting as an entry level fire fighter, she attended several intensive fire management training courses and even participated in opening a new base. In 2005 she was promoted to a stock control officer for WoF.

In 2009 Kella became the media and community liaison officer in the Southern Cape Region and in 2013 she was given the opportunity of becoming a video journalist for the WoF video unit.

“Working on Fire has had a positive impact on my life,” she said, adding she currently travels across the country to interview and record stories for the WoF TV news as featured on You Tube.

The progression could not be sweeter for two former fire fighters who started two-year training in May last year to become spotter pilots at the Kishugu Aviation Academy in Mbombela, Mpumalanga.

Themba Maebela, 27, from Mpumalanga and Siyabonga Varasha, 26, from the Eastern Cape are employed as helicopter personal assistants.

“It was like I was dreaming, my family did not believe me when I told them that I will train to become a pilot,” said Maebela, who joined working for the fire unit in 2010.

South African youth who do not have this necessary diploma must excel in their work and employers will then recognise their talents and skills, he advised.

As Naome Nkoana patrols the streets as a metro police officer in Pretoria. She recalls how participation in the WoF programme, where she underwent advanced driver training in Nelspruit, helped her to not only pass the metro police fitness tests, but her advanced driving skills and made it easier to become a metro police officer.

Rensburg says since the Working on Fire Programme started, it has changed the lives of the 5,000 participants and indirectly benefited 25,000 other dependents.

A 2012 Social Impact Study on participants said that the training presented by WoF boosted beneficiaries’ knowledge and self-worth.

“Through the WoF programme, they were able to get to know their own weaknesses and strengths better,” the study concludes.

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Science: Not Just a Western Sector, It Can Help Africa Toohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/science-not-just-a-western-sector-it-can-help-africa-too/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=science-not-just-a-western-sector-it-can-help-africa-too http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/science-not-just-a-western-sector-it-can-help-africa-too/#comments Wed, 20 Jan 2016 07:51:31 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143638 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/science-not-just-a-western-sector-it-can-help-africa-too/feed/ 0 A Commercial Village Brings Business to Poor Kenyan Farmershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/a-commercial-village-brings-business-to-poor-kenyan-farmers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-commercial-village-brings-business-to-poor-kenyan-farmers http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/a-commercial-village-brings-business-to-poor-kenyan-farmers/#comments Tue, 19 Jan 2016 06:40:26 +0000 Justus Wanzala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143624 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/a-commercial-village-brings-business-to-poor-kenyan-farmers/feed/ 0 Seven Top Challenges Facing African Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/seven-top-challenges-facing-african-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=seven-top-challenges-facing-african-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/seven-top-challenges-facing-african-women/#comments Mon, 18 Jan 2016 17:13:01 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143622 Participants in the African Union Gender Pre-Summit on 2016 African Year of Human Rights, with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women in Addis Ababa | Courtesy of the African Union Commission

Participants in the African Union Gender Pre-Summit on 2016 African Year of Human Rights, with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women in Addis Ababa | Courtesy of the African Union Commission

By Baher Kamal
CAIRO, Egypt, Jan 18 2016 (IPS)

Economic exclusion; financial systems that perpetuate their discrimination; limited participation in political and public life; lack of access to education and poor retention of girls in schools; gender-based violence; harmful cultural practices, and exclusion of women from peace tables, are the major standing barriers to achieving gender equality in Africa.

These challenges are now top on the agenda of the “8thAfrican Union Gender Pre-Summit on 2016 African Year of Human Rights,with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women” taking place in Addis Ababa on 17 – 21 January.

The event is preparatory to the 26th African Union Summit which will bring together the heads of states and governments of the 54 African countries in Addis Ababa on 21-31 January. Significantly the Summit‘s theme is Human Rights With a Particular Focus on the Rights of Women.

More than 600 Million Women in Africa

Women represent more than half of the 1,2 billion African population living on a total of 30.2 million km2 and speaking up to 2,000 different native languages.
More than 50 percent of Africa’s population is under 25 years of age.

Due to the numerous armed conflicts in the continent-which is home to nearly half of the 42 ongoing conflicts – African women are in charge of the majority of households and are key food producers, and they represent more than 43 percent of the agricultural labour force, in addition to playing a major role in managing poultry, dairy animals, fisheries, aquaculture, and the marketing of handcrafts and food products.

The pre-summit event relies on a strong participation of civil society organisations, and includes an experts meeting of the Specialised Technical Committee on Gender and Women Empowerment, and a closed session of African ministers, among others, and will culminate with a joint meeting of all parties and stakeholders.

Both the pre-summit and the summit coincide with “2016, the African Year of Human Rights, with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women”.

Enormous Human Rights Challenges

According to the African Union Commission (AUC), the continent continues to face enormous challenges with regards to the respect, promotion, protection and fulfillment of human rights, which if not urgently and adequately addressed, may erase the human rights gains recorded over the preceding decades.

“These challenges include, but are not limited to: inadequate allocation of resources to human rights institutions, lack of capacity, insufficient political will, unwillingness by States to surrender sovereignty to supranational monitoring bodies, unwillingness by some States to domesticate international human rights treaties.”

These challenges also include “persistent violence across the continent which result in destruction of life, property and reverse human rights gains, widespread poverty, ignorance and lack of awareness, the effects of colonialism characterized by human rights unfriendly laws, bad governance, corruption and disregard for the rule of law.”

Why Now?

According to the AUC, “the year 2016 marks important milestones in the continental and global women’s agenda for gender equality and women empowerment.”

Among others, continentally, it is the 30th anniversary of the coming into force of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights in 1986 and the beginning of the second phase of the African Women’s Decade 2010-2020, it adds.

“The African Women’s Decade is the AU’s implementation framework which aims to advance gender equality through the acceleration of the implementation of global and regional decisions on gender equality and women’s empowerment.”

Globally, 2016 commemorates 36 years since the adoption of The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), an international treaty adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, which is described as the international bill of rights for women, and the 21st anniversary of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which is the key global policy on gender equality.

To commemorate “these important milestones,” the AUC reports, the African Union Heads of State and Government at their 25th Ordinary Summit in June 2015 in Sandton, South Africa, declared 2016 as “the Africa Year of Human Rights, in particular, with focus on the Rights of Women”.

“Considering that 2015 was declared the “Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development Towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”, the 2016 theme marks the second consecutive year that gender equality and women’s empowerment are adopted as the highest priority on the continental agenda, “ AUC underlines.

What For?

The overall objective of the Gender Pre-Summit is to bring together voices of key actors in the gender equality and women’s empowerment arena, to update and discuss critical developments in the field, assess the extent of implementation of commitments, especially the Declaration on 2015 Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development Towards Africa’s Agenda 2063 as well as the Mid-Term Review of the African Women’s Decade, the AUC reports.

It also aims at identifying future priority areas of action including the implementation of the 2016 year of Human Rights with a focus on the Rights of Women, and call for greater acceleration in the effective implementation of commitments on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The pre-summit event is expected to culminate with a document/communiqué including concrete decisions to be presented to the AU Summit of Heads of State and Government, for consideration and adoption.

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Maternal and Child Health Key to Kenya’s Economic Growthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/maternal-and-child-health-key-to-kenyas-economic-growth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=maternal-and-child-health-key-to-kenyas-economic-growth http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/maternal-and-child-health-key-to-kenyas-economic-growth/#comments Mon, 18 Jan 2016 11:08:18 +0000 Mette Knudsen and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143617 Ms Mette Knudsen is Denmark’s Ambassador to Kenya. Follow her on twitter: @metknu. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative to Kenya. Follow him on twitter: @sidchat1]]> Ms Margaret Kenyatta, the First Lady of Kenya visits a maternal health facility in Mandera County on 06 November 2015. Dr Babatunde Osotimehin the Executive Director of UNFPA looks on. Credit: @UNFPAKen

Ms Margaret Kenyatta, the First Lady of Kenya visits a maternal health facility in Mandera County on 06 November 2015. Dr Babatunde Osotimehin the Executive Director of UNFPA looks on. Credit: @UNFPAKen

By Ambassador Mette Knudsen and Siddharth Chatterjee
Mandera County, Kenya, Jan 18 2016 (IPS)

On Friday, 06 November 2015, we had the honor of meeting the First Lady of Kenya Ms Margaret Kenyatta, a tireless advocate for “every woman and every child”, during the launch of the Beyond Zero campaign in Mandera County, North-Eastern Kenya, a place which has often been described as ‘the worst place on earth to give birth’.

Mandera’s maternal mortality ratio stands at 3 795 deaths per 100 000 live births, almost double that of wartime Sierra Leone at 2 000 deaths per 100 000 live births.

Two out of every three cases of maternal deaths occur in areas affected by a humanitarian crisis or in volatile onditions, such as the North-Eastern region of Kenya where increasing focus is being put on giving pregnant mothers a real chance of surviving childbirth.

Some 6 out of every ten maternal deaths occur in this region. Poor education, little use of contraceptives, traditions such as marriage, that tend to derail women’s self-determination, together with inadequate health services have kept led to these very poor health indicators.

What we realized was that almost every child born in the region is really a throw of the dice, a hit-or-miss proposition that local communities face with stoicism, but a situation that development agencies are increasingly determined not accept.

For just over a year now, UNFPA has worked with the H4+ partners (UNICEF, WHO, World Bank, UN Women and UNAIDS), to find ways not only to save lives at childbirth but also to meet related challenges of reproductive health in the six counties of Kenya that have the most maternal deaths.

The government of Denmark supports UNFPA’s programmes globally and in Kenya this support is based on a Denmark-Kenya Country Programme 2016-2020 that seeks to give momentum to Kenya’s Vision 2030.

The policy’s thematic programme on health specifically identifies operational support for primary health care facilities at county and national government levels as well as support for sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The Danish government is committed to supporting UNFPA to further ongoing work in Mandera, Marsabit, Wajir, Isiolo, Lamu and Migori counties to deliver a comprehensive package of services in reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health.

Denmark has pledged US$ 6 million to help the six counties give greater focus to adolescent girls and young women, through targeted and evidence-based interventions in multiple sectors. Of key concern will be addressing drivers for early sexual activity among adolescent girls and boys, early childbearing and early marriage, and advocating for keeping girls in schools.

In a demonstration of how collaboration in development work can be done effectively, various private sectors partners have joined these efforts in the six counties, that are already showing positive results.

There is reason for optimism that we can expand the supply of quality services; that we can innovate for delivering cost effective interventions for family planning, emergency obstetric care, postnatal and newborn care.

Though it is the right thing to do, this partnership is not driven by morality but concrete evidence that reducing maternal and newborn deaths is the smartest investment for changing the fortunes of poor economies.

Our observations show that complex operations are not required to make a real difference; simple interventions such as ensuring more women give birth through a skilled attendant greatly increase chances of survival for mother and baby.

It is about convincing communities to eschew practices such as early marriage and others that invariably occur without girls’ consent, robbing them of their childhood, forcing them out of school, trapping them in poverty, and putting them at a higher risk of potentially dangerous pregnancies and childbirth.

It is about empowering women to plan whether and when to have children, thereby giving them a better chance to complete their education, increase their earning power and reducing poverty.

It is also about exploiting local resources, working with structures that local communities are comfortable with. In Wajir County for instance, local community health volunteers have been trained to identify pregnant women within clusters of some 10 000 people, linking them to local health facilities to receive antenatal care.

The volunteers provide health education to pregnant mothers on the importance of antenatal care, the importance of recognizing danger signs during pregnancy, during delivery and in post-delivery.

Already, deliveries under skilled care are increasing, assisted also the Kenyan government’s free maternity care scheme.

Global data indicates that the highest benefits from reducing unintended pregnancies would be seen in the poorest countries, with GDP increases ranging from one to eight percent by 2035. There are few interventions that would result in such wide-ranging impacts.

Sure as we are about the steps needed to move forward, it is, however a window that will not remain open forever and the urgency of the moment cannot be over-emphasized.

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Thousands Face Hunger and Pray for Enough Rain in Malawihttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/thousands-face-hunger-and-pray-for-enough-rain-in-malawi/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thousands-face-hunger-and-pray-for-enough-rain-in-malawi http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/thousands-face-hunger-and-pray-for-enough-rain-in-malawi/#comments Mon, 18 Jan 2016 06:42:46 +0000 Charity Chimungu Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143613 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/thousands-face-hunger-and-pray-for-enough-rain-in-malawi/feed/ 0 Once Bitten, Twice Shy: Teen Mother Fights the Odds and Wants to be a Nursehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/once-bitten-twice-shy-teen-mother-fights-the-odds-and-wants-to-be-a-nurse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=once-bitten-twice-shy-teen-mother-fights-the-odds-and-wants-to-be-a-nurse http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/once-bitten-twice-shy-teen-mother-fights-the-odds-and-wants-to-be-a-nurse/#comments Fri, 15 Jan 2016 07:03:42 +0000 Charity Chimungu Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143600 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/once-bitten-twice-shy-teen-mother-fights-the-odds-and-wants-to-be-a-nurse/feed/ 0 Zimbabwe: Poverty Stunting Minds and Growthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/zimbabwe-poverty-stunting-minds-and-growth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zimbabwe-poverty-stunting-minds-and-growth http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/zimbabwe-poverty-stunting-minds-and-growth/#comments Tue, 12 Jan 2016 06:10:55 +0000 Ignatius Banda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143557 A small boy plays with his toys. Poor nutrition in Zimbabwe is exposing vulnerable children nutrition to mental health challenges according to humanitarian agencies. Credit: Ignatius Banda/IPS

A small boy plays with his toys. Poor nutrition in Zimbabwe is exposing vulnerable children nutrition to mental health challenges according to humanitarian agencies. Credit: Ignatius Banda/IPS

By Ignatius Banda
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Jan 12 2016 (IPS)

Mildren Ndlovu* knows the mental toll of Zimbabwe’s long-drawn economic hardships in a country where a long rehashed statistic by labour unions puts unemployment at 90 per cent.

Ndlovu, a 27-year-old single mother is raising two children, both under 5-years old, and survives on menial jobs such as doing laundry and dishes in neighbouring homes, says she has watched their health deteriorate and not just physically.

“I know they are not growing up the way other children are,” Ndlovu said, as she changed the underwear of her four-year who had just soiled himself.

“At his age, he should be able to visit the toilet by himself, yet I still have to change him,” she said from her one roomed shack in one of Bulawayo’s poor townships that litter the city’s north.

Ndlovu’s concerns about the slow development of her children point to the broader effects of Zimbabwe’s economic decline on vulnerable groups, with the UNICEF early this month releasing the Zimbabwe Poverty Atlas 2015 (http://unicef.org/zimbabwe/resources_17478.html) showing high poverty levels across the country that are affecting children’s mental health.

At the launch of the report, UNICEF, the World Bank and government officials said the poverty atlas is an attempt recognise that “Children are rarely recognised in poverty alleviation efforts and their needs are not properly addressed.”

According to the report, no child from the poorest health quintile reaches higher education, with eight of the country’s ten provinces registering poverty levels between 65 and 75 per cent.

“Child poverty has reduced (their) mental health and is reponsible for poverty when they are adults,” said Dr. Jane Muita, UNICEF’s deputy resident representative in Zimbabwe.

“It (child poverty) results in lower skills and productivity, lower levels of health and educational achievement,” Dr. Muita said.

According Zimbabwe’s health and child welfare, the country has witnessed an increase in mental health diagnoses, and has put in place a Mental Health Strategy 2014-18 to deal with the crisis.

The ministry blames the tough economic conditions that have thrown millions into the streets of unemployment.

There are no available figures of how mental health has affected children, but concerns by parents such as Ndlovu are giving a human face to a crisis that has been highlighted by the UNICEF report on child poverty and their mental health.

In some parts of Zimbabwe in the south-west districts such as Nkayi were found to have up to 95.6 per cent of poverty, while Lupane poverty levels stood at 93 per cent according to the UNICEF’s Zimbabwe Poverty Atlas.

There are concerns that this will slow the country’s march towards realising its Sustainable Development Goals to reduce child poverty by 2030.

Last year, the Zimbabwe Vulnerable Assessment Committee found that up to 36 per cent of children in Zimbabwe have stunted growth which experts say has not only affected them physically, but has also slowed their mental growth because of poor diets.

“The problem with children’s health and their mental development is that the attitude of both parents and some health workers is that these children will soon grow out of these challenges,” said Obias Nsamala, a Bulawayo pediatrician.

“But what I have seen with many children under 5 years is that these mental deficits can be detected when they come for treatment but only become an issue by the time they have began school. I think that is why for a long time this country had something like special classes for children not intellectually gifted,” Nsamala told IPS.

“I believe its been a wrong approach because some of these children may be slow learners or intellectually challenged not because of some genetic deficit but because all the signs were ignored earlier on based on their backgrounds and access to adequate meals,” he said.

As the country seeks to improve the lives of vulnerable groups such as children with government officials saying the country needs to grow the economy in order to reduce poverty, there is no consensus on how exactly this will be achieved to attract investment, with the country continuing to rely on international development partners to create safety nets for the poor.

From 2014 to June last year, UNICEF says it spent 363 million dollars on social services, this at time the country’s critical social services ministries are facing budget cuts which officials have admitted made it impossible to provide adequate assistance such as health care.

Under the 2016 national budget, the health and child welfare ministry received 330 million dollars which will largely be funded by donor countries, leaving a huge deficit which Minister David Parirenyatwa said is not enough to meet such such sectors as the poorly funded psychiatric clinics.

Perhaps to highlight these funding challenges, officials at the country’s largest psychiatric institution which caters for adults, Ingutsheni Hospital in Bulawayo early this year told Minister Parirenyatwa that the mental health hospital requires 23 doctors but only had six.

The social welfare ministry, also previously offering financial support for vulnerable group’s such Ndlovu’s children, has complained of poor funding from government.

Aid agencies say millions will require food assistance in 2016, further pushing Ndlovu and many others on the edge of what UNICEF’s Poverty Atlas says are their mental needs.

*name changed to protect her identity

(End)

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