Inter Press Service » Extra TVUN Turning the World Downside Up Sun, 21 Sep 2014 12:38:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 New U.N. Mission to Fight Spreading Ebola Virus Thu, 18 Sep 2014 10:08:00 +0000 Gloria Schiavi By Gloria Schiavi

The current Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa is the largest the world has ever seen, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council Thursday.

“The number of cases is doubling every three weeks. There will soon be more cases in Liberia alone than in the four-decade history of the disease”, Ban told delegates.

The outbreak of the deadly disease is unprecedented in scale and threatens to undermine peace and security in Africa, according to the United Nations.

The spreading crisis also prompted a meeting of the Security Council, the most powerful body at the United Nations.

The Geneva-based World Health Organisation (WHO) has said more than 5,500 people have been infected and well over 2,500 have died.

The United Nations says at least one billion dollars will be needed over the next six months to halt the spread of the disease.

“The gravity and scale of the situation now require a level of international action unprecedented for a health emergency”, said Ban, who announced the establishment of an U.N. emergency health mission with a strong WHO component.

“This international mission, to be known as the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, or UNMEER, will have five priorities: stopping the outbreak, treating the infected, ensuring essential services, preserving stability and preventing further outbreaks.”

Margaret Chan, Director General of WHO, briefed the Security Council Thursday describing the spreading virus as the greatest peacetime challenge the U.N. has ever faced.

“This is not just a public health crisis. This is a social crisis, a humanitarian crisis, an economic crisis, and a threat to national security well beyond the outbreak zones.”

Briefing the Security Council, David Nabarro, Senior U.N. System Coordinator for Ebola, said the outbreak of the disease has advanced in an exponential fashion, while the response was increasingly on a linear graph.

“I estimate, that to get ahead of the outbreak, the level of response has to be 20 times greater than it is at the moment”, Nabarro added.

The outbreak had a strong impact on the health systems of the three most affected countries — Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone– and currently more people are dying for untreated common medical conditions than for Ebola, Ban said.

Women are mostly been affected since they constitute the bulk of health and care workers and get infected more.

The economic and productive system is also at risk, fields are not being farmed, and a food crisis is posing serious worries.

There has been a widespread appeal to major airlines, shipping companies and governments to resume services to the affected countries.

“Isolation only hampers international efforts to reach people in need”, said Ban.

Many member states and organisations have pledged consistent donations in cash, medical staff, infrastructures, laboratories, training, prevention kits and much more.

A Security Council resolution, initiated by the United States and aimed at battling the disease, was co-sponsored by more than 134 states.

“But if today’s resolution is not followed by action on a scale and scope commensurate to the virus, this resolution will be cited years from now as evidence that we raised hopes that we didn’t deliver on”, remarked U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power.

Chan said she will ensure actions will follow commitments.

]]> 0
Child Mortality Rates Falling Faster Than Ever Tue, 16 Sep 2014 10:03:55 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent
NEW YORK, Sep 16 2014 (IPS)

Child mortality rates, particularly those under five, have dropped by 49 per cent between 1990 and 2013.

The average annual reduction has accelerated – in some countries it has even tripled – but overall progress is still short of meeting the global target of a two-thirds decrease in under-five mortality by 2015, according to new in ‘Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2014’

The report, released Tuesday, shows that in 2013, 6.3 million children under five died from mostly preventable causes, around 200,000 fewer than in 2012, but still equal to nearly 17,000 child deaths each day.

“There has been dramatic and accelerating progress in reducing mortality among children, and the data prove that success is possible even for poorly resourced countries,” said Mickey Chopra, UNICEF’s head of global programmes.

“There is now a gathering momentum from countries in every part of the world to make sure proven, cost-effective interventions are applied where they will save the most lives.”

In 2013, 2.8 million babies died within the first month of life, which represents about 44 per cent of all under-five deaths. About two-thirds of these deaths occurred in just 10 countries, according to the report.

The study, ‘Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2014’ is produced annually by the United Nations Inter-Agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, which is led by UNICEF and includes the World Health Organization, the World Bank Group and the United Nations Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

While the number of neo-natal deaths have declined, progress has been slower than for the overall under-five rate.

In June this year, WHO, UNICEF and partners issued the first-ever global plan to end preventable newborn deaths and stillbirths by 2035.

The Every Newborn Action Plan calls for all countries to take steps to provide basic, cost-effective health services – in particular around the time of childbirth, as well as for small and sick babies – and to improve the quality of care.

“The global community is poised to end preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths within a generation,” said Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director General at WHO.

“We know what to do and we know how to do it. The challenge now is to move from plan to action – we are pleased to see countries like India beginning to lead the way.”

The leading causes of under-five deaths are pre-term birth complications (17 per cent); pneumonia (15 per cent); complications during labour and delivery (11 per cent); diarrhoea (9 per cent); and malaria (7 per cent). Under-nutrition contributes to nearly half of all under-five deaths.

“For continued progress, it is essential to invest more in health systems that deliver high-quality, affordable services to all women and children who need them,” said Olusoji Adeyi, Director of Health, Nutrition and Population at the World Bank Group.

]]> 0
UNIDO celebrates International Day for the Preservation of Ozone Layer Tue, 16 Sep 2014 09:58:54 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent
VIENNA, Sep 16 2014 (IPS)

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), along with implementing agencies of the Montreal Protocol, commemorated International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer.

The International Day commemorates the date of the signing of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which entered into force in 1989. The Montreal Protocol aims to help phase out a number of man-made chemicals that are Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS).

According to a new assessment by 300 scientists, published last week, the ozone layer that shields the Earth from cancer-causing ultraviolet rays is showing early signs of thickening after years of depletion. The ozone hole that appears annually over Antarctica has also stopped growing bigger every year. Scientists say the recovery is entirely due to political determination to phase out the man-made gases destroying ozone, according to a press release.

“Today is a great opportunity for us to reflect on the remarkable progress that has been achieved in reducing the damage to the ozone layer. UNIDO is very pleased that our major contribution to the implementation of the Montreal Protocol over the years is now bearing fruit,” said Stephan Sicars, Director of UNIDO’s Montreal Protocol Branch.

UNIDO became an implementing agency of the Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol in 1992. Through the promotion of clean production, UNIDO’s support has enabled industries to eliminate the use of ODS in manufacturing processes.

The Organization helps industries to either replace ODS with ozone- and climate-friendly substances, or to redesign their products entirely. UNIDO’s projects and programmes have helped a number of countries introduce new technologies that no longer use ODS.

Sicars said, “The Montreal Protocol has significantly reduced the atmospheric abundance of gases, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons that were once used in products such as refrigerators, spray cans, insulation foam and fire extinguishers. With full compliance with the Montreal Protocol, the ozone layer is expected to recover to 1980 benchmark levels – the time before significant ozone layer depletion – around the middle of the century. This is great news.”

]]> 0
Paucity of Funds to Fight Ebola Virus Mon, 15 Sep 2014 10:04:42 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Sep 15 2014 (IPS)

(GIN) – Between $100- and $180 million have been committed to the fight against the Ebola virus in West Africa – an amount considered way too little and reaching the needy way too slowly.

A 25 bed unit pledged by the Pentagon for Liberia, noted the international president of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), would treat only health care workers, not the broader population.

Further, it may not be delivered for another month. The slow U.S. response to the crisis has been sharply criticized by infectious disease experts.

New isolation and treatment facilities must be built quickly and on a large scale,” insisted MSF chief Joanne Liu, “in days, not weeks or months.”

Other shortcomings of the U.S. response include the limited number of hygiene kits, containing disinfectants, gloves and other materials that can prevent spread of the virus among family members.

The U.S. will deliver only 50,000 in about a month while 400,000 people live in highly infected areas of Liberia, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“The U.S. can do better than this,” wrote the New York Times in their Saturday editorial. “Even with its increased responsibilities in the Middle East, the Pentagon surely has enough logistical and technical resources to greatly augment aid to the Ebola-stricken countries.”

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in an urgent note to Obama wrote: “I am being honest with you when I say that at this rate, we will never break the transmission chain and the virus will overwhelm us.”

Meanwhile, a pledge to send 165 doctors and nurses to Sierra Leone from Cuba was announced this weekend. It would be the biggest commitment of personnel to the health crisis so far by any country, said Margaret Chan of the World Health Organization.

The new team, now receiving specialist training in Cuba, will deploy in the first week of October and will stay six months.

A Liberian ex-pat, highlighted in a recent news feature, appears to be having success with a different strategy that uses “zones” much as was done during the war to ensure that everybody received food and other vital supplies.

“Dr. Mosoka Fallah has taken the situation in West Point as if he were living here,” said an organizer in the West Point neighborhood. “We can say openly: Had he not been here, things would have gotten far worse.”

In a related development, the U.S. government gave $24.9 million to replenish the exhausted supply of ZMapp, an experimental drug.

]]> 0
Migrant Boat Rammed & 500 Refugees Feared Dead Mon, 15 Sep 2014 09:11:07 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Sep 15 2014 (IPS)

(GIN) – About 500 refugees are feared dead after their vessel was rammed by traffickers in icy Mediterranean waters, according to two Palestinians who survived the ordeal.

The boat had been carrying Syrians, Palestinians, Egyptians and Sudanese, including women and children, according to reports, and had departed from Egypt early this month.

It was the second sinking of a refugee boat in a month’s time. That boat, carrying 250 people, sank off the coast of Libya. Over 200 people are feared to have drowned in that incident.

Migration experts have put the number of people killed in boat sinkings while trying to reach Europe at over 3,000 so far this year.

The plight of North and East African refugees was highlighted in a report published earlier this month by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

They found that close to 7,000 East African refugees were illegally expelled from Israel to their home countries where they face persecution.

Under its Prevention of Infiltration Law, Israel detains asylum seekers without charge and holds them in a camp called Holot in the Negev desert for an unspecified period of time.

During that time they do not have access to non-emergency healthcare, work permits or other social services, but they are offered airfare and other stipends if they decide to leave.

The asylum-seekers find themselves with the choice of “living in fear of spending the rest of their days locked up in desert detention centres” or risking life-threatening abuse back home, said Gerry Simpson, senior researcher at HRW and author of the 83-page report.

Eritrea’s indefinite military service is a reason to ask for asylum that is accepted by other countries. In Eritrea, compulsory national service for adult men and women – which should be limited to 18 months – is prolonged indefinitely and keeps most young Eritreans “in perpetual bondage”, according to Human Rights Watch.

“We have become too used to seeing these people who are escaping from war, persecution, poverty and hunger as mere statistics,” José Angel Oropeza, of the International Organization for Migration’s Coordinating Office in Rome, said in a published statement.

“We urgently need to find ways to stop these people from dying at sea when all they are trying to do is to achieve a better life.”

]]> 0
LETTER TO THE EDITOR Fri, 12 Sep 2014 10:06:31 +0000 Poka Laenui By Poka Laenui
HAWAII, Sep 12 2014 (IPS)

Thank you very much for your analysis on the U.S., Security Council and invasion of Syria.

I write specifically on two paragraphs in your analysis:

1) A Russian official was quoted as saying the Obama administration would need to get a UNSC resolution before it launches air attacks inside Syria — which, of course, the Russians did not do either before they intervened in Ukraine.

2) Perhaps all this points only in one direction: the UNSC has time and again proved its unworthiness – and remains ineffective and politically impotent having outlived its usefulness, particularly in crisis situations.

As to the first quoted paragraph, you appear to have accepted the Russians having intervened in Ukraine. I think this conclusion should be clarified whether you speak of Crimea or Eastern Ukraine, and verified that there has indeed been such an intervention on behalf of the Russian government.

That issue still seems to be in contention although the louder voices of the U.S., NATO and Western media repeats that claim more often than the denials by the Russians.

As to the second, is it really the case that the UNSC has “proved its unworthiness”, or is it worthy by the fact that it stands as an important international yardstick to the world for a process governments which circumvent it can be identified as international delinquents before the world of public opinion and scrutiny.

On yet another matter, should the U.S. circumvent the UNSC in an invasion into Syria, and recognizing the causal effect such an invasion can incur, is there a future argument for personal and national liability of each participating national leader and nation, both civilly and criminally, either in national courts or international arenas?

Can the U.S. and its national leaders, (presumably even members of the U.S. Congress who support or funds these actions) be brought before national or international courts for the consequences of this war?

Finally, I have very much appreciated your reporting and only now has taken this opportunity to share some thoughts.

Mahalo and Aloha,

*Poka Laenui is Director of the Hawaiian National Broadcast Corporation which produces the radio programme “Hawaiian Potpourri.

]]> 0
Middle East Claims 40 percent of Journalists Killed in 2013 Wed, 10 Sep 2014 11:44:04 +0000 Gloria Schiavi By Gloria Schiavi

The strife-torn Middle East has accounted for around 40 percent of all journalists killed last year, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

“The media crisis in the Middle East is truly without precedent”, said Joel Simon, Executive Director of CPJ, at a U.N. press conference on Wednesday.

The political upheaval in the Middle East has resulted in journalists being kidnapped, jailed or killed by both governments and non-state actors.

As a result, CPJ has called on U.N. member states to take decisive action against these widespread criminal acts and support the first International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on November 2.

Sherif Mansour, CPJ coordinator for the Middle East and Northern Africa, told reporters that in February Egypt was added to the CPJ risk list because of the killing of six journalists.

Currently, Egypt is among the top five countries that jail journalists. The conviction of three Al Jazeera journalists (Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed) “exposed Egypt’s judiciary to global ridicule”, Simon said.

Mansour pointed out that self-censorship by news organisations, and censorship by governments threaten not only freedom of expression
but also force independent and critical voices into silence or exile.

Referring to Iran, CPJ said it is concerned that President Hassan Rouhani is not delivering on his promises to re-open the 4,000-member Association of Iranian Journalists, while dozens of journalists remain imprisoned, often with no charges and no access to their lawyers.

With around 35 journalists in jail each, Iran and China are heading the list.

Maziar Bahari, Iranian journalist and filmmaker, called on the media to challenge Rouhani, when he arrives in New York next week to address the U.N. General Assembly sessions – specifically about his country’s violations against the media.

According to CPJ, Syria is the most dangerous place for journalists, and it has been such since 2011, with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria increasingly posing threats.

“More than 70 journalists have been killed covering the Syrian conflict and about 80 have been kidnapped and 20 journalists are still missing”, Simon said.

Simon said governments should not pay ransom for kidnapped journalists, as ultimately this would make the environment more dangerous and would fund terror operations threatening journalists themselves.

“We have some countries that say they don’t pay ransom but actually do, and others that say they don’t pay ransom, and don’t” — like the US, Canada or the UK.

]]> 0
Oil Buyers Flee Nigeria Leaving Toxic Spill Tue, 09 Sep 2014 10:06:59 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Sep 9 2014 (IPS)

Angola’s crude oil is proving sweet to U.S. buyers who are snapping it up as fast as they are dropping purchases from Nigeria, according to data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Breaking a 40 year record, crude oil exports from Angola to the U.S. are averaging around 116,000 barrels per day (bpd) since the start of 2014, while imports from Nigeria are looking at 75,000 bpd.

“Right now, the US is no more importing from us because of shale oil that they have. Now we are looking to India and to others where our crude may not have a premium market,” Mike Olorunfemi, former executive of Nigeria’s national oil cartel told BusinessDay.

But the news is hardly comforting to Nigeria’s environmental activists.

Pools of spilled oil in the oil-rich Ogoniland still scar the landscape. A report by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) confirmed that Ogoniland was a ticking ecological bomb.

“After three years a situation that required the declaration of environmental emergency has yet to elicit any serious response,” declared Nnimmo Bassey, director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation in Nigeria.

“We are deeply shocked that we are marking three years of inaction on a report that clearly showed our peoples are walking and living in the valley of the shadow of death. We are scandalized that we are not marking three years of concrete actions to salvage what is left of the Ogoni environment,” he said.

“There are no tenable reasons for government and Shell to fold their arms and watch our people wallow in a chronically polluted environment all through their lives. Why should anyone have to drink water containing benzene, a known carcinogen, at levels over 900 times above the World Health Organisation guideline and 1000 times above Nigerian drinking water standards?” Bassey asked.

This month, the call to “Leave the Oil in the Soil” will be widely heard as thousands of people take to the streets of New York, London and eight other cities worldwide to pressure world leaders to take action on global warming. Organizers predict it will be the biggest climate march in history.

The march and rally precedes a U.N. summit on climate change organised by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the first time world leaders have come together on the issue since the landmark Copenhagen summit in 2009.

Ricken Patel, executive director of digital campaign group Avaaz, said the demonstration on Sept. 21 was intended to send a signal to the world’s leaders.

“Now is the time, here is the place, let’s come together, to show politicians the political power that is out there on there.

On the web site: , organisers explain: “With our future on the line and the whole world watching, we’ll take to the streets to demand a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities.”

]]> 0
Greenpeace Takes Aim at South Africa’s Power Utility Mon, 08 Sep 2014 10:09:19 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Sep 8 2014 (IPS)

Environmental activists at Greenpeace Africa have launched a global campaign to block efforts by Eskom, South Africa’s public power utility, to release more polluting coal dust in the air. The dust has been linked to an uptick in premature deaths now estimated at 2,700 every year.

Greenpeace is pushing its campaign in the wake of an application by Eskom to postpone compliance with new minimum emissions standards aimed at reducing the damaging health impacts of air pollution.

The new standards will impact the north-eastern Mpumalanga Province where 12 coal-fired power plants are clustered on the western high-altitude side of the province known as the Highveld.

Eskom responded by casting blame on local area residents. “It is well established that the brunt of poor air quality in South Africa are borne by people who burn coal and wood in their homes for cooking and heating,” they wrote. “The best way of improving this poor air quality is through the provision of affordable electricity.”

However, a July 2014 report by local environmental justice NGO groundWork, found that health risks related to outdoor air pollution resulting from Eskom’s emissions were three times higher than those associated with burning coal indoors.

“The poor disproportionately bear the burden of environmental exposure and yet are least able to mitigate the impacts,” said Rico Euripidou, groundWork’s environmental health campaign manager, adding that his organization agreed with Greenpeace’s figures on premature deaths caused by emissions. “If anything, they’re an under-estimate.”

“Soot pollution—a by-product from burning fossil fuels that results in small particles in the air composed of a mixture of metals, chemicals, and acid droplets—is one of the deadliest and most dangerous air pollutants,” notes the green advocate Sierra Club.

“The smallest soot particles are less than one-thirtieth the width of a human hair. Because of their minuscule size, this fine particulate matter can travel deep into our lungs and even enter the bloodstream.”

Coal-fired plants placed in Africa got a boost this summer from World Bank President Jim Yong Kim who used the term “energy apartheid” to describe how two-thirds of the continent lack access to power.

“We are very sensitive to the idea that Africa deserves to have power,” Kim said.

The Bank will “try to avoid” investing in coal, Kim said, “but at the same time, we’ve got to respect the Africans’ demand for access to power.”

Meanwhile, the Medupi power station, fiercely opposed by an international coalition of grassroots, church and environmental activists, appears to have been built on the graves of fourteen families.

The families say that they were never properly consulted about the project, in a language which they were comfortable with, when construction started seven years ago.

Barring any new delays, the Medupi $3.75 billion power station in Lephalale, Limpopo, is expected to go live next June.

]]> 0
U.N. to Commemorate 15th Anniversary of Culture of Peace Sun, 07 Sep 2014 08:17:46 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent

The President of the General Assembly John Ashe will convene a one-day high-level forum (HLF) on Culture of Peace marking the 15th anniversary of the consensus adoption of the “Declaration and Programme of Action on Culture of Peace.”

The daylong event, scheduled to take place Tuesday, is being viewed as an opportunity for UN member states, UN system entities, media and civil society to discuss ways and means to promote the Culture of Peace.

”This is a great occasion for all of us to renew and rededicate our efforts and energies for the full and effective implementation of these norm-setting documents,” Ashe said in a statement released here.

The landmark resolution was also the driving force for the implementation of the UN-declared International Decade for Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010).

Asserting and re-affirming the commitment of the totality of the member-states for building the culture of peace, the UNGA has adopted every year since 1997 resolutions on the subject.

Under the leadership of Bangladesh, the General Assembly, through its annual substantive resolutions, has highlighted the priority it attaches to the full and effective implementation of these visionary decisions which are universally applicable and is sought after by the vast majority of all peoples in every nation, according to a U.N. press release..

“The world must build a culture of peace,” insists Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, a former Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the U.N. and the prime mover of the 1999 General Assembly resolution that adopted the U.N. Declaration and the Programme of Action (PoA) on the Culture of Peace and the subsequent proclamation of the “International Decade for Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for Children of the World, 2001-2010.”

Asked about his role, Chowdhury told IPS, “Yes, it was my sole initiative, and that initiative was possible because at that time I was the ambassador to the United Nations, and I happened to represent Bangladesh.

“I chaired the General Assembly drafting committee that prepared the declaration and Programme of Action after nine-month-long complex and intense negotiations,” he said.

In 1997, Chowdhury proposed to the secretary-general the inclusion of “Culture of Peace” as an agenda item to be deliberated upon in the General Assembly plenary.

In 1998, he also proposed the U.N. International Decade for Culture of Peace and Non-violence “at the request of all living Nobel Peace Laureates made to me,” he added.

And since 1997, Bangladesh has remained the focal point for the Culture of Peace agenda item at the United Nations.

]]> 0
Medical Centre to be Named for Physician Who Treated Ebola Victims Tue, 02 Sep 2014 11:00:24 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Sep 2 2014 (IPS)

The family of Sheik Humarr Khan has set up a foundation in his name to help pay for the education of future medical workers and provide support to the families of doctors and nurses who lose their lives in the field, The Lancet, a medical magazine reported in a recent issue.

“He was very aware of the dangers of his work, but selflessly worked around the clock to ensure that patients received the best possible standard of care”, said Kristian Andersen, a  postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University. “He saved the lives of many patients.”

Khan, virologist and expert in viral hemorrhagic fevers who led Sierra Leone’s Ebola response, died from Ebola in Kailahun, Sierra Leone, on July 29. He was 39.

He was born in Lungi, Sierra Leone, on March 6, 1975.

Humarr Khan’s brother Alhajie recalled how one day, before school exams, Sheik read the obituary of a German doctor who had come to Sierra Leone to help treat people with Lassa fever. He had contracted the disease and died.

Sheik, then 15 years old, said: “This is very important. This German doctor came here to help. I’m going to try to be a doctor as well.”

He succeeded, qualifying in medicine and surgery from the University of Sierra Leone’s College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences in 2001 and became one of West Africa’s leading virologists.

He was the Physician-in-Charge of Kenema Government Hospital’s Lassa Fever Program when he died.

When asked by the government to help lead the country’s Ebola outbreak, Alhajie Khan said his brother was not scared of the assignment. “He was just doing the work he always wanted to do.”

In July, Khan began to show symptoms of Ebola and a week later he was admitted to a treatment center. Some controversy has surrounded his death because of news that a team of doctors opted not to give Khan an untested, experimental Ebola drug.

His medical team from Médecins Sans Frontières determined that the risks of administering the drug outweighed any potential benefit. Their decision came weeks before the World Health Organization decided it was ethical to use unproven interventions in the outbreak.

After Khan died on July 29, Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma declared him a national hero and praised him for saving the lives of more than 100 Ebola patients. A new viral hemorrhagic centre in Kenema will be named in Khan’s honour.


]]> 0
Islamists Gain Ground in Nigeria’s Embattled Northeast Tue, 02 Sep 2014 10:58:41 +0000 Global Information Network By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Sep 2 2014 (GIN)

Following fierce fighting with government forces, the insurgent Boko Haram captured new ground in Borno state – sending thousands of civilians into exile, along with soldiers, residents said.

“Just when you imagine that it cannot get worse for the Nigerian military and its pride as a fighting force, it takes a further dive”, observed Mannir Dan Ali, editor of the Nigerian paper Daily Trust.

“If confirmed, the capture of Bama, second largest town in Borno, would be an extremely significant development and would raise concerns that Boko Haram’s next target will be Maiduguri, the state capital and home of a military base about 45 miles away, said BBC Hausa service editor Mansur Liman from the capital, Abuja.

The soldiers and residents fled on foot, many of them walking all the way to Maiduguri, residents told the BBC. Several troops were also reportedly killed by friendly fire in an attack by a fighter jet targeting insurgents.

Writing just before the latest attack, an essay appeared asking provocatively if the government of Nigeria wasn’t a greater threat to its people than Boko Haram.

Insurgent groups “observe the political and social corruption that exists in Nigeria, the ineffectiveness of the Nigerian government, and they use these sentiments to their advantage,” wrote Udoka Okafor, a student at McCallister College in Canada..

“They appeal to people’s anger, especially that of youths and people drenched in poverty to form a base for their group. Religion is the ideology that fuels their insurgency movement, but illiteracy, and their frustrations regarding political corruption in Nigeria are the root issues that unite their base.

Okafor insisted she was not justifying the actions of the insurgent group… “We can argue all day about how horridly horrific Boko Haram is, and few people would disagree …. But the Nigerian government, in my opinion, remains a worse ill and a far greater threat to the Nigerian people, than any insurgency group.”

“(Their) policies encourage illiteracy, do not address poverty, and completely ignore, if not create and propagate, the social ills of this country.”

The northern state of Borno, bordering Chad and Niger, was the state where the militants captured more than 200 girls from a boarding school in the town of Chibok, in April.

China, France, the UK and US sent military assistance to help find the girls but they have not yet been rescued.


]]> 0
Ebola Outbreak Puts Food Harvests at Risk, Warns FAO Tue, 02 Sep 2014 10:26:19 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned that disruptions in food trade and marketing in the three West African countries most affected by Ebola have made food increasingly expensive and hard to come by, while labour shortages are putting the upcoming harvest season at serious risk.

In Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, quarantine zones and restrictions on people’s movement aimed at combating the spread of the virus, although necessary, have seriously curtailed the movement and marketing of food.

This has lead to panic buying, food shortages and significant food price hikes on some commodities, especially in urban centers, according to a special alert issued Tuesday by FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS).

At the same time, the main harvest season for two key crops – rice and maize – is just weeks away. Labor shortages on farms due to movement restrictions and migration to other areas will seriously impact farm production, jeopardizing the food security of large numbers of people, the alert says.

The FAO said adequate rains during the 2014 cropping season had previously pointed to likely favorable harvests in the main Ebola-affected countries.

But now food production – the areas most affected by the outbreak are among the most productive in Sierra Leone and Liberia – stands to be seriously scaled back.

Likewise, production of cash crops like palm oil, cocoa and rubber – on which the livelihoods and food purchasing power of many families depend – is expected to be seriously affected.

“Access to food has become a pressing concern for many people in the three affected countries and their neighbors,” said Bukar Tijani, FAO Regional Representative for Africa.

“With the main harvest now at risk and trade and movements of goods severely restricted, food insecurity is poised to intensify in the weeks and months to come. The situation will have long-lasting impacts on farmers’ livelihoods and rural economies,” he added.

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are all net cereal importers, with Liberia being the most reliant on external supplies.

The closure of some border crossings and the isolation of border areas where the three countries intersect – as well as reduced trade from seaports, the main conduit for large-scale commercial imports – are resulting in tighter supplies and sharply increasing food prices.

]]> 0
Water Needs to be a Dedicated Sustainable Development Goal Tue, 02 Sep 2014 10:23:25 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent

Addressing delegates at the 24th World Water Week in Stockholm, the Executive Director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) Torgny Holmgren said water should be a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in the UN’s post-205 development agenda.

Water should also be integrated into other goals as well – such as energy, food security and climate change – as these areas likewise should be part of any water SDG, he added.

Holmgren said the UN Open Working Group has proposed a water and an energy SDG.

“However, nothing is secured until the negotiations are concluded next year. Therefore, we must still mobilise our communities over the next few months to promote these issues together,” he told delegates at the weeklong conference in the Swedish capital.

He pointed out that it is against this background the World Water Week next year will focus on ‘Water for Development’ as it celebrates its 25th anniversary and Silver Jubilee in 2015.

Speaking of the nexus between water and energy, Holgren said energy and water are very closely interconnected. “We need water for energy: for cooling, hydropower and biofuel production. And we need energy for water: to pump, treat and transport water.”

Energy and water are key to satisfy basic human needs; to produce food for a rapidly growing population, and to achieve sustainable economic development. Yet the challenges are immense, he said.

Still 1.3 billion people lack access to electricity and almost 2.0 billion lack access to safe drinking water.

The global demand for water is projected to grow by 55 per cent between 2000 and 2050. As a result, 45 per cent of the global population will be living under severe water stress. Similarly, the demand for electricity is expected to increase by 50 percent to 2035.

Accordingly there is an urgent need for an even closer cooperation between the energy and water communities in order to provide the solutions which will enable all to prosper, Holmgren said.

“Although there is an extensive interdependency between energy and water in all societies we find huge institutional, technical and economic asymmetries between the two sectors.”

The energy sector is to a large extent market-based and run by private, often big, companies acting on global, regional or national markets. The water sector, on the other hand, is dominated by public, small utilities or cooperatives acting within regulated markets at the local, municipal level.

Energy is priced on the market and there is a high price-awareness among customers. In the water sector, cost-recovery pricing is common, and there is a low customer awareness of water prices, he said.

“I guess most of us know the price of a liter or gallon of gas while very few of us know the price for one cubic meter of tap water.”

Although that the basic institutional conditions are vastly different, the question is whether or not the water sector gradually will resemble the energy sector in a number of areas in the future.

“Energy Efficiency is a central driving force for the remarkable developments we have witnessed in the energy sector. We use less and less energy per unit produced thanks to huge technological advancements,” he declared.

]]> 0
U.N. Chief Applauds AoC For Building Bridges to Peace Sun, 31 Aug 2014 10:35:53 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent

Speaking at the Sixth Global Forum of the U.N. Alliance of Civilization (AoC) in Bali, Indonesia last week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon applauded the AoC for expanding its valuable work addressing the sources of conflict and planting new seeds of peace.

“I welcome its commitment to promoting inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue,” he added.

These are essential tools to preventing and resolving conflicts. “I count on your support for efforts by the Alliance and by the entire United Nations system,” Ban said.

Addressing delegates, the High Representative for AOC Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser said: “As we look around the world, it is clear that identity-based tensions are a persistent source of conflict”.

Whether it is religion, culture, ethnicity or another vector of identity, brother is being pitted against brother, he added.

“We see this clearly in the heartbreaking violence in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Myanmar, Sri Lanka among other places. Beyond these immediate crises, there are longer-term trends that present difficulties,” he said.

The AOC is in its seventh year of operations and the Bali event is the first global forum to be held under the leadership of al-Nasser.

The High Representative pointed out that conflict, deprivation, climate change, and the absence of economic opportunity are forcing millions around the world to leave their homes.

When people cross borders, he said, often little infrastructure exists to accommodate them into their new host societies.

Moreover, as migrants, they often face discrimination. Even if only at a small scale, we must face these problems and come up with viable solutions.

With a humble budget, the Alliance directly collaborates with individuals on the ground to come up with scalable models to address these problems.

In its work, the Alliance has placed special emphasis on the need to mobilize individuals across diverse communities, across fault lines. The Alliance does so with limited resources and a small staff.

Appealing to the U.N.’s 193 member states, Al-Nasser said: “The truth is that Alliance can do a lot more with its knowhow and relationships at both the grassroots and governmental levels, but it can only do so with your help and support: member States, communities, civil society, and the general public.”

“This is my main message to you, our friends in the media and the international community,” he added.

The secretary-general said: “I see many disasters in today’s world. The natural calamities are heart-breaking. What is most saddening in many ways, these man-made tragedies are even worse”.

He said too many of the world’s worst crises are driven by those who exploit fear for power. And “too many societies are fracturing along cultural, religious or ethnic lines.”

Wars begin in people’s minds, he said, and the way to peace is also through people’s hearts.”

He said the Alliance of Civilizations was created to reach the hearts and minds of people and build bridges to peace.

“I applaud High Representative Ambassador Al-Nasser for working with many grassroots groups around the world,” Ban declared.

Under his leadership, the Alliance is making a difference on the ground.

It is helping Pakistani university students take the lead in healing sectarian divisions. It is supporting theatre by Kenyan citizens to prevent young people from joining terrorist movements.

And it is encouraging Muslim-Christian volunteerism in Mindanao.

In Israel-Palestine, the Alliance works to join families from both sides who have lost loved ones in the conflict.

By having a dialogue with each other, they challenge their leaders to do the same, the secretary-general added.

]]> 0
EBOLA COULD SINK AFRICA’S RISING DREAMS Mon, 25 Aug 2014 07:47:13 +0000 a Global Information Network correspondent By a Global Information Network correspondent
NEW YORK, Aug 25 2014 (IPS)

An airlift of emergency supplies needed for those treating Liberians with the virus Ebola was launched last weekend by the U.N. children’s fund, Unicef.

“The largest component of the supplies was chlorine,” for disinfection, said Unicef’s representative in Liberia, Sheldon Yetts. Other supplies in the airlift were oral rehydration salts and sodium lactate to help ensure people are rehydrated, and about 900,000 gloves for infection control.

“Health workers have suffered a disproportionate number of casualties from Ebola,” said Yetts. “We need to make sure that health centers are disinfected and that people in Liberia feel safe to return to health centers.”

Ebola, say some experts, is much less contagious than other more common diseases. The virus, much like HIV or hepatitis, is spread through blood or bodily fluids and is not airborne.

Still, some countries in Africa are rejecting the World Health Organization’s advisory and are slamming their doors on visitors from West Africa. Travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are banned from entering South Africa. Citizens returning home from these areas must undergo a strict screening process, a health ministry statement said.

Senegal has closed its border with Guinea, while Chad closed its border with Nigeria.

Air Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria’s Arik Air, Togo’s ASKY Airlines, British Airways, Emirates Airlines and Kenya Airways have together cancelled over 200 flights to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Kenya Airways froze routes to Liberia and Sierra Leone after Kenya’s ministry of health called the Ebola outbreak “vastly underestimated” and that is was “expected to continue for some time”.

Only Brussels Airlines and Dutch airline KLM say they will continue flights. “Travelers are highly unlikely to be infected with Ebola, which cannot be transmitted under normal hygiene conditions”, said KLM.

With apparently conflicting health advisories sowing confusion and fear, a Zimbabwe blogger penned her concern that the upbeat picture of “Africa Rising” was getting a black eye.

Writing in the Mail & Guardian’s Voice of Africa,“ blogger Fungai Machirori observed: “Over the last few years, meticulous work has gone into crafting the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative – namely rising economies (like South Africa and Nigeria), tech and innovation (think Kenya) and the growth of a middle class we might call ‘post-African’ – savvy, urban, cosmopolitan with no flies to swat off their faces and no begging bowls in their manicured hands.

“While the statistics do point to a truth, another truth still prevails,” she cautioned.

“Across Africa I have seen the consumerist dream (high-end malls, cars, mansions and general financial exuberance) coexist with abjection, poverty and depleted social services. The rich do exist, but they are not the majority.

“The spread of Ebola shows up the Africa Rising narrative …Quite instantly, Ebola has become ‘the great leveler’ among Africans, re-perpetuating stereotypes of barbarism and savagery; that Africans eat ‘strange foods’ like fruit bats and bush meat and other ‘filthy creatures’, that we are unclean, diseased and therefore dangerous.

“Ebola has opened up the way for the ‘dark continent’ narrative to re-emerge, if it ever really disappeared,” she said. “Africa is collapsed into one territory, one country, one race, even if the fatality of Ebola represents about 0.15% of the continent.

A dominant global hysteria has emerged that lends itself to racial profiling and generalisations. I’m wondering how far, if at all, the discourse around blackness has progressed.

At the same time, “Ebola is serving to deepen regionalism (west Africa versus the rest of Africa) and the dangerous sort of nationalism that has often led to ineffectual collaboration across the continent…

“If Africa – given its wealth of human and natural resources – cannot contain Ebola, then we must sober up and accept that we haven’t risen to where we should be, given the accompanying discourse of booming economies and commodity markets.”

(Fungai Machirori runs Zimbabwe’s first web-based platform for women, Her Zimbabwe, and is an advocate for social media)  w/pix of Liberian women washing hands with chlorinated water from “Ebola buckets”


]]> 0
SOCIAL MEDIA CONFAB IN SOUTH AFRICA Mon, 25 Aug 2014 07:45:14 +0000 a Global Information Network correspondent By a Global Information Network correspondent
NEW YORK, Aug 25 2014 (IPS)

Some 400 delegates from 36 African countries are expected to fill the halls at the 18th annual Highway Africa conference for media activism which takes place Sept. 7-8 at Rhodes University, Grahamstown.

The two-day event will explore how social media has impacted all aspects of our lives in the last ten years. Dan Gillmor, a U.S. professor of digital media literacy at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Community is the keynote speaker.

Gillmor, the author of We the Media (2004), describes the Internet as an opportunity for independent journalists to challenge the consolidation of traditional media and contains his widely cited realization: “my readers know more than I do.”

The book offers a guide to new internet tools for journalists, including weblogs, RSS, SMS, peer-to-peer, and predicts how these tools will change journalism. His latest book, Mediactive, is on digital media literacy.

The conference will have a mix of panel discussions, training workshops, book launches and networking dinners. There are four distinct tracks in the program catering to the different core constituencies that are attending, ranging from mainstream journalists, academics, community media activists, to journalism students.

The conference will be preceded by council meetings of the African Editors Forum and the South African National Editors Forum.

In a related development, the African Media Initiative (AMI) this month launched a Pan-African campaign against hate speech at a panel discussion held in Nairobi, Kenya.

The panel brought together leading media figures from the Kenyan broadcasting station, NTV, which is part of East Africa’s largest media conglomerate, the Nation Media Group; Eric Chinje, Chief Executive Officer of AMI; Nanjira Sambuli, researcher on online hate speech at the iHub; Fatuma Abdulahi, owner of Warya Post, Africa’s fastest growing website; and Boniface Mwangi, award-winning photographer and social activist.

Examples of hate speech cited by conference organizers included the Ugandan media’s attack on the LGBT community. In one case “the 200 top homosexuals” were highlighted under the banner “Exposed!” on the front page of the paper Red Pepper.

“It’s happening all around us,” said AMI director Eric Chinje. “All of a sudden, Africa again is becoming the land of strife. It’s not like Rwanda in 1994 but there is a growing sense of exclusion on the continent, and the media appears to be a part of it.”

“The #TurnthePageonHateSpeech campaign serves as a call to media leaders and operators in Africa to lend their full support to efforts to turn the tide against the rise of hate speech on the Continent,” AMI said.

]]> 0
UN AoC Focuses on Youth & Peace Building Thu, 21 Aug 2014 08:19:36 +0000 Joel Jaeger By Joel Jaeger

Speaking to 75 youths representing 75 countries, U.N. Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson offered a sweeping assessment of the United Nations’ place in the world and outlined his hopes for the future.

“We are right now in a time when we are testing multilateralism [and] testing international cooperation,” Eliasson said. “The whole new global landscape is changing so quickly.”

According to Eliasson, the proliferation of information in today’s day and age has spurred expectations for immediate results.

“We have to deliver, both nation states and international organizations.”

Wednesday’s event, Youth and Peacebuilding at the United Nations, was organized as a part of the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations – Education First (UNAOC-EF) Summer School.

Participants in the summer school were selected based on their involvement in intercultural and interfaith dialogue and youth issues. One third of the attendees came from countries in conflict, in a reconciliation process or at high risk of conflict.

In the face of the challenges confronting the United Nations, the Deputy Secretary General identified four sources of hope.

The first was sitting right in front of him. “You are the hope,” he said to the young people who had gathered to hear him speak.

He expressed his encouragement at the eagerness and capacity of new generations for positive change.

Women’s empowerment was the second reason why Eliasson expected the future to be brighter than today.

“This century… women will finally for the first time in history play the role that they deserve,” he said.

The advancement of science and technology and the promise of international institutions were his last two sources of hope.

The U.N.’s job, according to Eliasson, is to “make a little difference between the world as it is and the world as it should be. I won’t say that we can or should even try to close that gap, we won’t do that, but we should at least diminish that gap.”

Cecile Mazzacurati, Youth and Gender Policy Advisor at the U.N.’s Peacebuilding Support Office, also spoke at the event, directly addressing the topic of youth and peace.

Peace workers often think of young people as perpetrators or victims of violence instead of potential peacebuilders, she said.

“We tend to see… a large youth population as a potential threat and not as a resource and not a demographic dividend that we should build on.”

The Security Council has never addressed the nexus of youth, peace and security. However, Mazzacurati said that the Peacebuilding Support Office, along with civil society and NGOs, has created a set of guiding principles for youth participation in peacebuilding. She hoped that the topic would gain more prominence in the future.

UNAOC-EF Summer School participants asked the panellists a number of questions on topics such as violence against journalists, religious extremism, and how to get involved with the U.N., their curiosity and engagement further bolstering the panellists’ confidence in the new generation.

]]> 0
UNICEF Offers Psychosocial Support to Traumatised Children in Gaza Thu, 21 Aug 2014 08:17:57 +0000 Gloria Schiavi By Gloria Schiavi

Children in Gaza are in desperate need of psychosocial support to cope with the violence and destruction they have witnessed, both on a physical and emotional level, a U.N. official saidThursday.

Addressing a news conference here, Pernilla Ironside, head of the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) office in Gaza, told reporters: “We’re on a very slippery slope in terms of Gaza’s children, I would say we are possibly on a precipice.”

Currently, a total of 50 psychologists are on the ground providing counselling to 3,000 children. UNICEF estimates at least 373,000 are in immediate need of psychosocial first aid and it is likely that the programme will take years.

“We are still working with kids from the last conflict”, the U.N. official remarked, adding that a 7-year-old child would have experienced three conflicts by now.

Following the latest escalation of violence in Gaza, the death toll among children is 469, figure that includes the nine who were confirmed dead just in the last 48 hours. Over 3,000 children were injured and 400,000 people displaced.

The U.N. agency, which focuses on children, aims at re-instilling the sense of security they need. Kids feel there is no safe place in Gaza and their parents cannot help either, as they are traumatised too: every single family in Gaza, according to Ironside, has experienced direct loss.

The Fund is also providing water, blankets, some basic services and it is appealing for lifesaving drugs and vaccines. The situation reached a point where children wished they had died rather than enduring this continuing suffering, the UNICEF official said, recounting a conversation she had with a young girl. These children have lost hope.

Education has a very important role in these young lives in this delicate time when they are very impressionable. “We risk having children sliding to sentiments of intolerance and hatred and potentially even extremism unless we give them a reason to believe that there is a more hopeful future available for them”, Ironside warned.

Teaching should resume on 24 August but with more than 200 schools being used as shelters, this is impossible, she said. UNICEF and the Ministry of Education will launch a “back to school” campaign, to renovate school buildings and provide pupils with the necessary means to learn.

Children should not be reminded of the horror of the war when they go back to school, in the same premises where they fled looking for safety and found suffering and death instead.

Gaza’s economy is also depressed as the unemployment rate has kept soaring even before this conflict, with 80 percent of the people dependent on some sort of aid.

Ironside called for a change in the current system of administration of goods in which Israel is strongly in control.

At the current state of things Ironside says that it would take 18 years to rebuild the 17,000 housing units that have been destroyed.

]]> 0
U.N. Commemorates World Humanitarian Day Paying Tribute to Aid Workers Wed, 20 Aug 2014 09:01:53 +0000 Joan Erakit By Joan Erakit

The United Nations Tuesday commemorated World Humanitarian Day paying tribute to aid workers who risk their lives to bring relief to those in need.

In 2013 alone, 460 aid workers suffered violence or attacks, and 155 were killed, according to a new report by the U.N. Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA

 To highlight the plight of those working in the field, OCHA convened a panel discussion hosted by The Huffington Post.

The participants included former New York Police Department officer turned Peacekeeper, Ken Payumo, Syrian clarinettist Kinan Azmeh, former child soldier and now activist and actor, Emmanuel Jal, and Pernille Ironside , currently working in Gaza.

The panellists not only discussed what it meant to be a humanitarian worker, but also to recount personal experiences of working in the field.

Asked to define the duties of a humanitarian worker, Ironside, an aid worker with UNICEF equated it to “selflessness” and added that, “advocating for the protection of civilians at all times,” was a major characteristic of the job.

Payumo, a peacekeeper who was working in South Sudan at the brink of the conflict in 2013 recounted a harrowing verbal altercation with local forces when thousands of civilians sought refuge at the UNMISS compound he was working on.

“Impartiality is central to us,” Payumo added, emphasizing the need for aid workers to neither judge, nor condemn civilians who sought protection during times of unrest.

Jal, a rapper and peace activists offered his perspective on the recent crisis in South Sudan pointing out there was “no coup, it was something the government created.”

Asked what people could do to help the situation in his former country, Jal said lobbying, awareness and discussion were integral to addressing any kind of political, or social crisis.

By putting a spotlight on a “dark” place, local and national issues were brought to the forefront and governments would feel the pressure to handle them.

In a statement released here, the President of the General Assembly John Ashe said a people-centred approach to dealing with conflict seemed to be the important message for World Humanitarian Day.

“As we look to implement a new sustainable development agenda, eradicating poverty while maintaining peaceful societies based on an inclusive, people-centered approach will be essential components if we are to achieve success and build a just and prosperous future for all the world’s citizens.”

Ashe’s sentiments were echoed by all panelists when they were asked what citizens all over the world could do to be more of a humanitarian.

“Start at home,” Payumo asserted, implying that not all humanitarian workers needed to travel abroad to work in conflict zones to help others.

Ironside asked the audience to consider, “giving a voice to the voiceless or for those who feared to speak out.”

In the light of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, where violence has escalated after an 18 year old unarmed Mike Brown was fatally shot by police, and in Gaza where tensions between the Palestinians and Israelis continues to claim the lives of men, women and children, World Humanitarian Day put a spotlight on the work that many undertake selflessly in hot spots.

As Ashe said in his statement: “World Humanitarian Day is not only an opportunity for our international community to celebrate the spirit of humanitarian work, but also to underscore the need to do more, as growing humanitarian crises continue to threaten millions of the most vulnerable communities where lives have been torn apart by war and other natural disasters.”

]]> 0