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Mai 2015 > English > Africa

Africa





African governments still underfunding health

NAIROBI, 23 July 2013 (IRIN) - Twelve years after African governments pledged in the Abuja Declaration to allocate at least 15 percent of their annual budgets to healthcare by 2015, just six countries have met this goal [ http://www.un.org/ga/aids/pdf/abuja_declaration.pdf ].

Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Rwanda, Togo and Zambia have met the target, and five other countries are spending at least 13 percent of their annual budgets on health, according to data [ http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.75 ] compiled by the UN World Health Organization (WHO).

While on aggregate spending on health has increased - up to 10.6 percent from 8.8 - about a quarter of African Union (AU) member-states have regressed and are now spending less on health than they were in 2001, adds the WHO data.

Recently, the AU held another special summit on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria in Abuja, Nigeria, dubbed Abuja +12, which provided an opportunity for African governments and other stakeholders to review progress made and to discuss what should be done to ensure health funding targets are met before 2015.

The HIV/AIDS experience

"A renewed and bold commitment here in Abuja is essential as, drawing from experiences in the AIDS response, we know that smart investments will save lives, create jobs, reinvigorate communities and further boost economic growth in Africa," said Michel Sidibé, the executive director of UNAIDS, in a press statement. [ http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/presscentre/pressreleaseandstatementarchive/2013/july/20130715prabuja/ ]

At present, funding for healthcare remains short of requirements and is very unevenly spread across countries. According to UNAIDS, an additional US$31 billion per year will be needed to meet the continent's 15 percent health funding targets.

As of 2011, at least 69 percent of the world's 34 million people estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS were in sub-Saharan Africa.

But there are encouraging signs. The number of new HIV infections fell to 25 percent in 2011 compared to a decade earlier.

"The main challenge in the fight against HIV and AIDS globally is how to ensure universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support, and. ensuring zero transmission of new HIV infections in children," wrote Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama in a blog article [ http://www.theglobalfund.org/en/blog/32189/ ] in May.

Among 21 priority countries in Africa, the number of children newly infected with HIV has fallen by 38 percent since 2009, according to a joint AU-UNAIDS report [http://www.unaids.org/en/media/unaids/contentassets/documents/unaidspublication/2013/JC2524_Abuja_report_en.pdf ] launched at Abuja +12.

Malaria and TB burden

Africa is also lagging behind in reducing cases of - and deaths from - TB and malaria.

Globally, Africa is the only region not on track towards halving TB deaths by 2015, and it accounts for almost a quarter of the global caseload, according to WHO.

Inadequate TB detection and drug-resistant strains of the disease, which can be 100 times more expensive to treat, pose significant challenges in Africa. About 40 percent of TB cases in Africa go undetected, adds WHO.

Malaria is also a serious health problem. Eighty percent of the world's cases and 90 percent of malaria-related deaths occur in Africa.

"We are at a turning point for making historical gains in Liberia's health sector - where no child dies of malaria and every mother living with HIV can give birth to HIV-negative children while living healthy lives themselves," wrote Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, in a statement [ http://www.theglobalfund.org/en/blog/32814/ ] to the Global Fund.

Liberia allocates 18.9 percent of its annual budget to healthcare, the second highest proportion in Africa; Rwanda spends 23.7 percent.

Health for development

According to the AU/UNAIDS Abuja +12 report, there is an economic case to be made for further investment in healthcare: For every year that life expectancy rises across the continent, it argues, GDP will increase by 4 percent. The average life expectancy in Africa is 54.4 years, the lowest globally.

"A sick population cannot generate the productivity needed to maintain the acceleration of our economy," said Ghana's President Mahama.

More funding for health could also mean more jobs within the health sector. In 2012 for example, the AU approved a business plan to increase the output of the local pharmaceutical industry.

"Focusing on three things that Africa needs to do urgently - decrease dependency by growing African investments, deliver quality-assured drugs sooner to the people who need them, and leadership - the blueprint will help African countries to build long-term and sustainable solutions," stated Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, the AU Commissioner of Social Affairs, in a statement [ http://abujaplus12.org/the-road-to-abuja-12-africa-is-moving/ ], ahead of the Abuja +12 summit. "Africa's health and our prosperity are inextricably linked."
aps/aw/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=98459





No consensus on implementation of cessation clause for Rwandan refugees

KAMPALA/JOHANNESBURG, 12 July 2013 (IRIN) - The future of tens of thousands of Rwandan refugees living in Africa remains uncertain nearly two weeks after the 30 June deadline recommended by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) for the discontinuation of their refugee status.

UNHCR has recommended countries invoke the "ceased circumstances" clause [ http://www.refworld.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/rwmain?docid=47fdfaf1d ] for Rwandans who fled their country between 1959 and 1998. The cessation clause forms part of the 1951 Refugee Convention and can be applied when fundamental and durable changes in a refugee's country of origin, such that they no longer have a well-founded fear of persecution, remove the need for international protection. Both UNHCR and the Rwandan government have pointed out that since the end of the civil war and the 1994 genocide, Rwanda has been peaceful, and more than three million exiled Rwandans have returned home.

However, many of the estimated 100,000 Rwandans who continue to live outside the country - mainly in eastern, central and southern Africa - remain unwilling to repatriate, citing fear of persecution by the government. Refugee rights organizations have also warned that human rights abuses by the current government have caused a continued exodus of Rwandan asylum seekers [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/94029/migration-rwandan-refugees-reluctant-to-repatriate ].

"We have been told time and again that Rwanda is safe and there might be some truth in that. However, one wonders why the call for cessation is happening while there are still people who are seeking asylum," Dismas Nkunda, co-director of the International Refugee Rights Initiative, told IRIN.

Differing views on protection

So far only four countries in Africa - Malawi, the Republic of Congo, Zambia and Zimbabwe - have followed UNHCR's recommendation to invoke the cessation clause, a fact that, according to Nkunda, "speaks volumes" about how different African countries view this group's need for protection.

In an article [ http://frlan.tumblr.com/post/54334445025/unhcr-africa-bureau-announces-only-three-states-to ] in the July issue of a newsletter produced by the Fahamu Refugee Programme, a refugee legal aid group, John Cacharani and Guillaume Cliche-Rivard accused UNHCR of pressuring states to follow its recommendation, "holding hostage the fate of more than 100,000 Rwandan refugees who, of their own volition, have decided not to repatriate, yet continue to fear the end of their international protection."

But in response to questions from IRIN, Clementine Nkweta-Salami, UNHCR regional representative for southern Africa, emphasized, "It is the responsibility and prerogative of states to declare the cessation of refugee status." She said UNHCR's role was only to make a recommendation based on its analysis of conditions in the country of origin and how they relate to the refugees' reasons for flight.

That only four states had agreed to implement cessation as of 30 June did not in any way indicate that UNHCR's recommendation was premature, she insisted. At an April 2013 meeting of host states held in Pretoria, "some states underscored that, for various legal, logistical, practical or other considerations, they are not in a position to apply the cessation clauses by 30 June 2013. Others have specified that, for the time being, they will concentrate on taking forward other components of the [comprehensive durable solutions] strategy, namely voluntary repatriation and local integration".

Preparing for returnees

Meanwhile, Rwandan officials say the country is prepared to receive the refugees [ http://www.midimar.gov.rw/index.php/news/223-minister-mukantabana-calls-refugees-to-return-before-the-cessation-clause-come-into-effect ], and has developed a comprehensive plan to repatriate and reintegrate returnees. So far this year, an estimated 1,500 Rwandans have returned home following government-operated "go-and-see" programmes.

"The conditions that forced them to flee no longer exist," Rwandan High Commissioner to Uganda, Maj Gen Frank Mugambagye, told IRIN. "The government has established three transit centres which are well equipped with shelter, education and health services. These people will be given packages for three months. We have mobilized the local authorities to receive and help them reintegrate into the communities."

He added that for Rwandans seeking local integration in host countries rather than repatriation, the government will issue national identity cards and passports that will allow them to retain their nationality.

IRIN spoke to government officials and UNHCR representatives in several of the African countries that are hosting significant numbers of Rwandan refugees to find out how they are handling the cessation clause.

Countries invoking the clause

Malawi

Although Malawi is among the countries said to be invoking the cessation clause, the process is still in its early stages. According to George Kuchio, UNCHR representative for Malawi, the first step of informing the 660 refugees covered by the clause of their right to apply for exemption has just been completed, and the government has yet to decide what options it will offer for local integration.

"If there are people who still have compelling reasons for not returning, they'll be given the opportunity to have their say," Kuchio told IRIN.

However, the principal secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Besten Chisamile, was quoted in the local media as saying, "The situation in Rwanda stabilized long ago, and there is every reason for the remaining ones [refugees] to return to their home. We are working with UNHCR on ensuring we repatriate them." [http://www.nyasatimes.com/2013/06/23/malawi-to-repatriate-rwanda-refugees/]

Malawi is host to a further 500 Rwandan asylum seekers whose refugee status has yet to be determined but who are unlikely to be covered by the cessation clause.

Republic of Congo

In June, the Republic of Congo announced [ http://www.midimar.gov.rw/index.php/news/260-reunion-bilaterale-congo-rwanda ] that it would invoke the cessation clause for the 8,404 Rwandan refugees it hosts. They will now have to choose between voluntary repatriation, naturalization or applying for exemption.

"Those who fail to choose one of these options will be subject to the laws pertaining to foreigners' entry, residence and departure," said Chantal Itoua Apoyolo, director of multilateral affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.

Juvenal Turatsinzé, 49, who is among 2,500 Rwandan refugees living in Loukolela, in the northern Cuvette region, said: "We've been worried since hearing about the loss of our status. We'd love to go back to Rwanda, but the conditions that would allow us to do that willingly are not yet in place.

"There are often arbitrary arrests in Rwanda. There is no freedom of expression, no democracy. We don't think the time is right for voluntary repatriation... There are no security guarantees there."

He added, "I have already put in my request for naturalization as a Congolese citizen."

Zambia

Zambia hosts 6,000 Rwandan refugees, about 4,000 of whom are covered by the cessation clause. According to Peter Janssen, a senior protection officer with UNHCR, the majority of these have applied for exemption, but most have been rejected. "Officially their refugee status has ceased, but the government has made it known that there will be a possibility for people to acquire an alternative status," said Janssen.

"That still needs to be fine-tuned, but it is positive because, until a while ago, it looked like people would be left without a status and have to return to Rwanda."

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe, which is also following the recommendation to invoke the cessation clause, is further along with the process.

Prior to 30 June, 72 cases comprising over 200 individuals who left their country before 1999 were identified as falling within the scope of the clause, out of about 800 Rwandan refugee and asylum seekers living in the country. Those unwilling to repatriate who qualify for local integration, either through marriage to a local or through employment in certain professions, such as lawyers, doctors and teachers, have been encouraged to apply for permanent residence or work permits. However, they cannot be issued permits until they are in possession of Rwandan passports, which the Rwandan government have yet to issue.

The majority who do not qualify for local integration but do not want to return home have already applied for exemption from the cessation clause. According to Ray Chikwanda, a national protection officer with UNHCR in Zimbabwe, only six out of the 60 cases that applied were successful. Those who were rejected have been encouraged to appeal.

"Our reading of the situation is that until there is a political consensus in the region [about invoking the cessation clause], these appeal decisions are unlikely to be released," said Chikwanda.

Countries not invoking the clause

Democratic Republic of Congo

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has said it will not immediately invoke the cessation clause for the estimated 47,500 Rwandan refugees it hosts, but will instead adopt a phased approach.

Rwandan refugees will first be identified, registered and asked if they want to return. Following a meeting in October, a repatriation plan will be drawn up. Julien Paluku, governor of North Kivu Province, where most of the Rwandan refugees have settled, told the Associated Press that refugees who do not want to return home will be allowed to apply either for a residence permit or for Congolese nationality, which may be granted on a case-by-case basis.

UNHCR has helped some 8,000 Rwandans return home from DRC since 2012 and says it will continue to assist with repatriation.

Uganda

Out of 14,811 Rwandan refugees living in Uganda, about 4,100 individuals fall within the scope of the cessation clause. However, the government has not invoked cessation because ambiguities in the country's Immigration Act and Constitution would hinder local integration - an alternative to voluntary repatriation that host states are supposed to make available as part of the comprehensive solutions strategy.

For example, Article 12 of the Constitution bars the children of refugees from qualifying for citizenship, while sections of the Immigration Act effectively preclude refugees from qualifying for permanent residence or work permits.

"The government of Uganda has declared that, pending the resolution of the [legal] ambiguities and the charting of a way forward towards implementing local integration and alternative legal status, they will not be invoking the ceased circumstances clause," Esther Kiragu, UNHCR assistant representative for protection, told IRIN. "They will, however, announce a date for invocation in due course once the road map is clearly drawn."

South Africa

At a ministerial meeting convened by UNHCR in Pretoria in April 2013, South Africa's Minister of Home Affairs Naledi Pandor said, "The position of the UNHCR in relation to Rwanda has created anguish and uncertainty among the refugee community in South Africa", suggesting that much work remained to be done to clearly articulate the reasons for the clause being invoked.

The South African government has since informed UNHCR that it will conduct its own research into existing conditions in Rwanda and consult extensively with the local Rwandan community before making a decision on invoking the cessation clause.

A local Rwandan refugee leader, who did not wish to be named, commended South Africa's Department of Home Affairs for "welcoming Rwandan refugee leaders, listening to their concerns and fears of being returned to Rwanda, and sharing with refugees the government of South Africa's position around the cessation clause".
ks/kr/nl/lmm/so/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=98409



Countering Africa's green revolution

NAIROBI, 8 July 2013 (IRIN) - Civil society groups are taking on the policies of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which promotes the use of genetically modified (GM) crops and Green Revolution technologies.

They argue that GM and Green Revolution practices - those aimed at increasing developing countries' crop yields through specific innovations - will, in the long run, be detrimental to ecosystems across the continent. Earlier this month, a coalition of almost 60 civil society groups across Africa came out to protest AGRA ahead of the G8 Summit in London.

"Green Revolution technologies benefit relatively few farmers, often at the expense of the majority. These technologies produce concentration of land ownership, increasing economies of scale (production has to be at a large scale to get into and stay in markets), and a declining number of food-producing households in a context of limited other livelihood options," they said in a letter sent to AGRA's president, Jane Karuku. [ http://www.acbio.org.za/images/stories/dmdocuments/G8-AGRA-CAADP/English-CSO-statement-G8-AGRA-CAADP-To-AGRA.pdf ]

They also believe that the intellectual property of many plant types may be transferred to large multinational corporations as part of Green Revolution practices.

"Private ownership of knowledge and material resources (for example, seed and genetic materials) means the flow of royalties out of Africa into the hands of multinational corporations," they said.

Technology for the needy

AGRA was founded in 2006 through a partnership between the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It works with smallholder farmers across the continent by giving them microfinance loans, hybrid seeds and fertilizers to increase their crop yields. In this way, AGRA hopes to alleviate hunger and poverty across the continent.

"There are millions of skilled farmers in Africa who simply need the tools," said Sir Gordon Conway, a scientist and author of One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?, speaking by video message at an agriculture conference in Nairobi. In his book, he argues that both microcredits - to help smallholder farmers - and macro-investment are needed for farmers to benefit from Green Revolution technologies.

He believes traditionally marginalized groups - such as women, youth and ethnic minorities - will benefit from the use of new agricultural technologies targeted at smallholders, and that the total number of hungry will be drastically reduced. For example, Conway calculates that by ensuring female farmers have access to the same productive resources as men, the number of undernourished people globally could be reduced by 100 to 150 million.

"If we are going to feed some 9 billion people by 2050 and do that in environmentally sustainable ways and in the face of climate change, then we are going to need access to the very best that modern science can offer," said Peter Hazell, a leading agriculture expert who has worked with the World Bank and International Food Policy Research Institute. "All technologies have risks (e.g., cell phones may cause brain cancer) but as these things go, GM crops seem to be doing rather well."

Serving corporate objectives

But civil society groups disagree. "AGRA aims to move farmers in exactly the wrong direction, by encouraging them to take on debt in order to use more agrochemicals and corporate hybrid seeds," Teresa Anderson of the Gaia Foundation told IRIN.

"For many years, NGOs across Africa have worked with farmers to encourage them to stop using fertilizers and pesticides, and to improve their soil health, their ecosystems, their seed diversity and their food sovereignty. AGRA is undoing a decade of agro-ecological progress in Africa by getting farmers into debt and back on the agribusiness treadmill," she said.

Genetically modified crops are allowed to be used commercially in only three countries in Africa - Egypt, Burkina Faso and South Africa - according to Gareth Jones of the African Centre for Biosafety. Of these countries, only South Africa uses them extensively. Jones believes it is a mistake to think their model could be replicated elsewhere across the continent.

"The legacies of colonialism and then apartheid left South Africa with a well-resourced and supported white commercial farming sector, many of whom (including maize, cotton and soya farmers) cultivate on large pieces of land, using modern inputs," he told IRIN via email. "Projects to get smallholder farmers in South Africa to grow GM seed such as in the Makhathini Flats, though much heralded by the biotechnology industry at the time, have been largely unsuccessful."

The Makhathini Flats project, which started to grow cotton in 2002, ended after just five years. High loan repayments on the seed and poor climate meant that smallholders were unable to afford to grow the crop. "There is no reason to believe that the introduction of GM seeds would have different results in the rest of the continent," Jones said. He accuses initiatives such as AGRA of spurring the push for greater use of genetically modified crops on the continent.

In September 2012, over 350 civil society organizations wrote a statement protesting AGRA's agricultural approaches. [ http://www.acbio.org.za/images/stories/dmdocuments/Statement-AGRA-25Sep2012.pdf ]

"We are concerned that as a result of the AGRA seed program, the rich pool of African indigenous seed varieties will become the property of corporate seed companies, displacing and reducing farmers' access to indigenous varieties, and locking them into an expensive high-input agricultural system," they said. Signatories included the African Biodiversity Network, the African Centre for Biosafety, Kenya Biotechnology Coalition, Participatory Ecological Land Use Management, and ActionAid Tanzania and Uganda.

These groups cite a 2009 study by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, conducted with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UN Environmental Programme, World Bank and others, which concluded that industrial agriculture is not likely to be majorly beneficial in mitigating hunger and poverty. [ http://www.unep.org/dewa/agassessment/reports/IAASTD/EN/Agriculture%20at%20a%20Crossroads_Global%20Report%20%28English%29.pdf ]

Patents or people?

In 2009, the three largest seed companies controlled more than a third of the global seeds market, according to a 2011 study commissioned by the Commission on Genetic Modification. [ http://www.sbcbiotech.nl/page/downloads/CGM_2011-01_drivers_of_consolidation_in_the_seed_industry_and_its_consequences_for_innovation1.pdf ]

Under most current legal frameworks, farmers growing patented seeds are not allowed to use the seeds naturally produced from their crops.  Large firms such as Monsanto routinely sue farmers who propagate their patented crops.

"World over, the same companies that own the seeds also own the chemicals; it is a mafia-like cartel that has proven to be ruthless towards poor small-scale farmers," Ruth Nyambura of the African Biodiversity Network told IRIN.

But Karuku, AGRA's president, insists the organization tries to collaborate with local partners to develop new breeds of seed. In Kenya, she said, they work with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, which then owns the patents to the seeds, not large multinational corporations.

She also pointed to growing populations and said that scarcity of land meant that African farmers needed to increase the productivity of their crops. With 239 million undernourished people in Africa, according to the FAO's State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012, she said there is a need for strong action. "If we don't do anything, it will be way more than that," she said. "We should be worried." [ http://www.fao.org/docrep/016/i3027e/i3027e00.htm ]

"Nobody forces farmers to grow GM crops, so if they prove less profitable than the alternatives, farmers will simply stop growing them," noted Hazell. "Farmers have been able to reduce the use of pesticides on many GM crops with significant environmental and health benefits."

Still, the Gaia Foundation's Anderson isn't convinced. "The most effective, and cost effective, strategy for African food security would be to revive seed-saving knowledge and practices among farmers," she said. "If you separate farmers from their traditional practices of seed saving, you destroy African farming."
aps/am/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=98378




Digital jobs offer skills, promise to Africa's unemployed youth

JOHANNESBURG/NAIROBI, 28 May 2013 (IRIN) - Although Africa's economy has expanded rapidly in recent years, it has not kept pace with the growth of its youth population or their need for jobs.

With almost 200 million people between 15 and 24 years old - a figure that is set to double by 2045, according to the African Economic Outlook's (AEO) 2012 report [ http://www.africaneconomicoutlook.org/en/in-depth/youth_employment/ ] - the continent has the youngest population in the world. Yet despite the increasing percentage of Africa's young people with secondary and tertiary educations, many find themselves unemployed or underemployed in the informal economy. Part of the problem, according to the AEO study, is a mismatch between the skills young jobs seekers have to offer and those that employers need.

The world's increasingly digitalized economy needs workers with the skills to capture and manage the vast amounts of data it generates. With appropriate training, such tasks can be performed anywhere in the world. Data generated by a high-tech company in Silicon Valley, for example, can be processed by youth with smartphones or tablets living in a slum in Nairobi, Kenya. This means that digital work could potentially alleviate the unemployment and poverty hampering development in many African countries.

Both the private and humanitarian sectors are starting to recognize this potential and find ways to harness it.

Skills for the future

The Rockefeller Foundation recently launched Digital Jobs Africa [ http://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/our-work/current-work/digital-jobs-africa ], a seven-year, US$83 million initiative to improve the lives of one million people in six African countries through digital job opportunities and skills training.

Eme Essien Lore, the foundation's Nairobi-based senior associate director, explained that having identified youth unemployment as one of Africa's most pressing problems, the organization was looking for ways to help young people on the continent gain sustainable, long-term job opportunities.

"The reason digital employment really rose to the top for us was because we saw the skills they get from these kinds of jobs as a springboard to other types of employment," she told IRIN. "We know young people take time to figure out what they want to do. Also, we don't know what the future labour market is going to look like. So we thought this was a very important sector because it develops skills they can use whether they stay in the digital economy or move into other sectors."

The six focus countries - Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco and South Africa - share particularly high youth unemployment rates and have rapidly developing information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructures. Some, such as Nigeria and South Africa, have booming ICT sectors in need of labour, while others, such as Morocco, are well-placed to meet demand from Europe and the US, said Lore.

Winnie Mwihaki, 24, is among 500 Kenyan youths from poor backgrounds recruited by one of the Rockefeller Foundation's grantees - San Francisco-based non-profit Samasource. Globally, the company has connected an estimated 3,700 young people in nine countries to paying work and hopes to expand this number to 5,000 by the end of 2013.

Samasource secures data- and content-processing jobs from its US-based clients, and then uses its specially developed software to break these large digital projects down into small computer-based tasks it calls "microwork". This work is then distributed to local partners that are responsible for recruiting, training and managing employees.

Unlike most companies in the business process outsourcing (BPO) and information technology outsourcing industry, Samasource only employs people living below the poverty line. Workers must also be between 18 and 30 years old, and preference is given to women, who are less likely to have access to formal employment.

"Part of the criteria is that people need to be literate in English," added Lauren Schulte, director of marketing and communications at Samasource. "They don't have to have any computer skills. We can bring someone in with virtually no experience, and in a matter of weeks they can start doing small tasks on a computer."

With her monthly salary of 13,000 shillings [$149], Mwihaki is able to assist her mother, who had been struggling to care for their family of six. "Because of the money I earn from here, I am now able to help my mother [and] to also be a breadwinner in the family," Mwihaki told IRIN.

Mwihaki grew up in Korogocho, a sprawling slum in Nairobi, where crime is commonplace. She was unable to proceed to college after secondary school because her parents could not afford it.

"Now I will use part of what I earn from this job to sponsor myself through college," she said.

A new trajectory

Samasource is not the only company targeting disadvantaged people in low-income areas with digital employment. Another Rockefeller Foundation grantee, Digital Divide Data, operates on a similar principle and employs more than 1,000 people in Cambodia, Kenya and Laos. Both companies are considered pioneers of impact sourcing, which the Rockefeller Foundation defines as "the socially responsible arm of the BPO and information technology outsourcing industry".

 A relative newcomer to the sector, and another Rockefeller Foundation grantee, is the Impact Sourcing Academy (ISA) in Johannesburg, South Africa. ISA combines a training and job placement programme with a fully functional call centre that gives its students the opportunity to obtain practical work experience while earning enough money to help support their families.

"We're not so much interested in just giving them a job as a call centre agent," said ISA head Taddy Blecher. "We really want to make sure they're doing part-time studies while they're working, getting access to more knowledge and training so they can move into higher-level jobs."

Once graduates are fully employed and earning a decent salary, they are encouraged to fund another student from a similar background. Using this model, the academy is already about 65 percent self-funded and aims to be completely self-funded in the future.

Blecher described the Rockefeller Foundation initiative as "a massive opportunity" for South Africa, given the need for skilled labour to work in its booming BPO sector and its 51 percent youth unemployment rate. "In a short period of time, you can bring a family out of poverty and put them on a whole new trajectory," he told IRIN.

Opening doors

For now, evidence that impact sourcing really can lift families out of poverty is limited to the small studies the Rockefeller Foundation has conducted with Samasource and Digital Divide Data. "What we want to do next is really measure the impacts on a household level," said Lore. "Anecdotally, we're quite convinced, but we need to work on measuring over the next seven years."

The Rockefeller Foundation does not stipulate a minimum wage that its grantees must pay, and the line between a living wage and an exploitatively low wage can be a fine one. "This is a sector where companies' first priority is really around cost savings," acknowledged Lore. "If you take the example of someone living in a slum, [a job like this] won't get them into a nicer neighbourhood. But it might be able to buy food for the family and get younger siblings into school," she said.

She added that the demand for young people with these skills is such that they are often poached by rival companies offering slightly higher salaries. "We've seen that when people move from these jobs, usually after about two years, they go on to better jobs. You rarely see people sitting in these types of jobs indefinitely."
ks/ko/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=98114




Uganda pilots mobile courts for refugees

KAMPALA, 23 April 2013 (IRIN) - Uganda's government and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have launched a pilot mobile court [ http://www.unhcr.org/516d29359.html ] system to improve access to justice for victims of crimes in Nakivale, the country's oldest and largest refugee settlement.

The magistrate's court, whose first session began on 15 April, will hear cases of robbery, land disputes, child rape, sexual and gender-based violence, attempted murder, and murder. The project - a collaboration of the Uganda government, UNHCR, Makerere University's Refugee Law Project (RLP) and the Uganda Human Rights Council - aims to benefit some 68,000 refugees and 35,000 Ugandan nationals in the settlement.

"With the nearest law court currently 50km away in Kabingo, Isingiro, access to justice has been a real problem for refugees and locals alike. As a result many fail to report crimes and are forced to wait for long periods before their cases are heard in court," said a UNHCR briefing on the programme.

The mobile court will hold three sessions a year. Each session will last 15 to 30 days and hear up to 30 cases. Officials hope to extend the project to other refugee settlements in Uganda to enable more refugees to access speedier justice.

"Most of the courts are far away from the settlements, and refugee complainants faced challenges of transportation for themselves and witnesses," Charity Ahumuza, programme manager for access to justice at RLP, told IRIN. "With the courts brought to them, the cost of seeking justice is reduced. The courts will also reduce the backlog of cases that exist of cases that arise in the settlements."

"Refugees have welcomed this initiative since it is about bringing justice closer to them," John Kilowok, UNHCR Protection Officer in Uganda, told IRIN.

Operational challenges

Experts say the project could face a number of operational challenges, including a need for funding and a shortage of trained court interpreters. Uganda has over 165,000 refugees from the Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia and South Sudan.

"The settlements are far away, and distance in accessing the court is likely to become a challenge. Language, too, will be a problem. The service providers through UNHCR are conducting training for interpreters to help in this issue," said RLP's Ahumuza. "The sustainability of the courts, I believe, will depend on availability of finances. However, the judiciary continues to face financial constraints."

Angelo Izama, a Ugandan fellow at the Open Society Institute, says the shortage of justice in the refugee settlements is a reflection of poor access to justice across the country, a situation that needs to be addressed.

"Improving the delivery of justice helps tremendously given that, ordinarily, the severe case backlog makes matters worse for nationals - let alone foreigners. The real crisis now is not providing refugees and nationals in western Ugandan fast relief but filling the many vacancies in the judiciary so that, nationally, justice is expedited," he said. "While justice processes improved on our side can help communities - both Ugandan and foreign - live better governed lives, the ultimate investment would be in improving governance across the border."

"There is need for a holistic approach to look at the refugee issues in Uganda. We have to look at policy, immigration and defence lawyers for fair trials. Will the suspects have access to defence lawyers, or will they be accorded with lawyers to defend them in court?" asked Nicholas Opiyo, a constitutional and human rights lawyer in Kampala, Uganda's capital. "Sustainability is a very crucial element in this court... If they don't put good and proper systems to support this court, it will be a waste of time and money."

so/kr/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=97903


Cash-strapped ICC takes on Mali

LONDON, 29 January 2013 (IRIN) - Concerns are being raised that the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into alleged war crimes in Mali is placing a serious strain on an already over-stretched and cash-strapped institution.
 
Announcing her first formal investigation since taking office, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on 16 January promised justice to victims of "brutality and destruction" in three northern regions of Mali. But with a shrinking team of investigators and a budget that has barely increased despite a doubling of the workload, some analysts are doubtful she can deliver.
 
"There are serious questions to be asked of the new prosecutor as to whether it is a drastic overstretch to have eight African countries being dealt with simultaneously with essentially the same level of staff and the same level of finance as her office was operating on before," said Phil Clark, a lecturer in comparative and international politics at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies. "Is it really feasible for the office to be dealing with so many cases?"

The ICC intervenes in countries that cannot - or will not - prosecute perpetrators of mass atrocities. It is intended as a court of last resort in countries where prosecutions are unlikely to happen without its intervention.

Total court funding in 2013 is around US$144 million, with possible access to a contingency fund of up to $9.3 million, compared with $138 million in 2010. The prosecutor's office, which carries out the investigations, was this year allocated $37 million. This represents an increase of just $1.3 million since 2010 despite the addition of Mali, Kenya, Côte d'Ivoire and Libya to the docket - and these countries were themselves in addition to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan, Uganda and the Central African Republic (CAR).
 
"They are really at the edge of what they can do with their resources," said Kevin Jon Heller, associate professor and reader at Melbourne Law School.
 
Investigating through intermediaries

The ICC is examining claims of murder, mutilation, torture, attacks on protected objects, executions, pillaging and rape since January 2012 when insurgent groups began their campaign to take over northern Mali. French troops and the Malian army have been reclaiming captured towns this month, but ongoing fighting means ICC investigators are unlikely to be gathering evidence on the ground.
 
"It isn't like anyone from the ICC is going to Mali anytime soon," said Heller.
 
Court investigators will instead speak to French troops, the Malian government and so-called intermediaries - usually local human rights groups who gather evidence and contact witnesses in areas the court cannot access.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Federation of Human Rights, among other groups, continue to actively investigate human rights abuses in Mali.
 
The use of intermediaries by ICC investigators has been controversial in previous cases, particularly during the trial of the DRC's Thomas Lubanga. He was convicted [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/95073/DRC-Lubanga-verdict-a-first-step ] of using children to fight in his Ituri rebel group but the intermediaries who helped prosecutors build the case were accused of bribing witnesses. Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, who fought on the opposite side in the Ituri conflict, was late last year found not guilty [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/97079/Reactions-from-the-DRC-to-ICC-acquittal-of-militia-leader ] of war crimes. The judges in that case were not convinced by the witnesses or the evidence.
 
Analysts hope the ICC will not repeat past investigative mistakes in Mali.
 
"Using intermediaries is unavoidable in those situations, because the intermediaries will know the field very well, be able to contact witnesses in a secure manner and arrange meetings in a way that can be done safely," said Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, advocacy director in the international justice programme at Human Rights Watch.
 
"What needs to be improved is the way it is done; [there needs to be more] understanding [that] it is not the intermediaries who are conducting investigations but the investigators, and checking who your intermediaries are - whether they are credible and what kind of promises they have made to your witnesses."
 
When possible, sending ICC investigators to the scene of the alleged crimes is the best way to investigate, she said. "It takes money to be able to deploy in the field which we believe is necessary in order to do good investigations."

The Syria question
 
The ICC had asked for $157 million in 2013 to reflect its growing workload but major funders including the UK, France and Germany have resisted any increases. All three, however, signed a Swiss government letter to the UN Security Council earlier this month calling on it to refer Syria to ICC.

Russia, China and the USA - none of them ICC members - are unlikely to support such a referral.
 
Mattioli-Zeltner questions this pressure to add new cases to the already-crowded and unfinished docket.
 
"There is still more work to do in Darfur and DRC and now we are piling on new situations," she said. "We don't think the states parties have thought through what this means. It is very important that states commit to the justice process but also commit to an institution that has the means of doing its work properly.

"At this point we don't think the ICC has the resources to do more situations, but we think there are a number of situations that deserve ICC intervention."
 
Heller goes further: "I think if the Security Council should refer Syria and not give more money to the court, then Fatou [Bensouda] should refuse to investigate."
 
But a UN request to intervene in Syria would be hard to resist for a young court that has yet to make its mark. Clark says the ICC wants to be seen as an active player in the conflict zones that matter most to the international community.
 
"The ICC is a new institution that is trying to build its own legitimacy," he said. "It wants to be an option the Security Council can use in times of war, but this is leading the ICC to be too available even if they don't have the resources."
 
The UN has already asked the ICC to investigate in Sudan and Libya. In Côte d'Ivoire and Kenya, the prosecutor's office initiated the cases, while the governments of Mali, Uganda, DRC and CAR referred themselves to the court.

One-sided investigations

In Mali's case the government asked the ICC to investigate in July 2012. Once a government asks ICC investigators to come into their country, investigators in theory, under their mandate, can pursue any case they find, which means they could end up charging government officials or members of the army. But to date, self-referrals have resulted only in cases against rebels.

Heller suggests that countries such as Uganda are using the ICC to "outsource their criminal justice problems" and should prosecute their own rebel groups. "Does the ICC need to spend all its time worrying about Joseph Kony and the LRA? Of course not," he told IRIN. "If Uganda can get their hands on Kony, with international help they can give Kony a fair trial. Uganda has a very sophisticated legal system."

The Uganda case faced sharp criticism when investigators failed to pursue evidence of widespread human rights abuses by the Ugandan army.

Likewise, instances of alleged extra-judicial killings carried out by the Malian armed forces this month and documented by human rights groups such as the International Federation of Human Rights, and Human Rights Watch, risk remaining untouched by the ICC.

One problem is that ICC investigators rely on governments to facilitate their visit to a country, which makes it difficult for them to pursue cases on all sides, even if it is within their mandate to do so, say observers. The ICC has no police force and thus relies on the goodwill of governments to make their investigations possible.
 
However, the ICC Prosecutor put up the pressure on the Malian authorities on 28 January, issuing the following statement: "My Office is aware of reports that Malian forces may have committed abuses in recent days. I remind all parties to the on-going conflict in Mali that my Office has jurisdiction over all serious crimes committed within the territory of Mali, from January 2012 onwards."  [  http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/press%20and%20media/press%20releases/news%20and%20highlights/Pages/otpstatement280113.aspx  ]

The prosecutor's office did not respond to IRIN's requests for an interview.
 lc/aj/cb [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=97359



Reprieve for urban refugees in Kenya, but fear persists

NAIROBI, 24 January 2013 (IRIN) - Urban refugees in Kenya, threated with relocation to overcrowded refugee camps, are breathing a sigh of relief following a High Court ruling that has provisionally halted the move.

On 18 December 2012, Kenya's Department of Refugee Affairs announced that all refugees should leave urban areas and move to refugee camps - the northeastern Dadaab complex for Somali refugees, and the northwestern Kakuma camp for all others. It further ordered an immediate stop to the registration of refugees in urban areas.

The directive was in response to a number of grenade attacks that have occurred in urban areas, follwoing Kenya's invasion of Somalia in October 2011. The attacks have been widely blamed on the Somali militant group Al-Shabab, although the group has not claimed responsibility.

The government was due to begin the relocation of an estimated 100,000 urban refugees to camps on 21 January, but a ruling on 23 January by Justice David Majanja halted the government's plan until 4 February, when a petition against the directive filed by Kituo Cha Sheria [ http://www.kituochasheria.or.ke ], a local legal rights group, is scheduled to be heard.

"I am satisfied that, in view of the international obligations Kenya has with respect to refugees, and the fact that under our Constitution refugees are vulnerable persons, the petitioner has an arguable case before the court, " the ruling stated. "A conservatory order... is hereby issued prohibiting any State officer [or] public officer agent of the Government from implementing the decision evidenced by and/or contained in the Press Release dated 18th December 2012 pending further orders of this court."

A welcome ruling

Defenders of refugee rights have welcomed the judge's decision. "This is a very positive ruling by the court. We hope it will be widely spread and reduce the fear the refugee community has experienced since the December announcement," Melanie Teff, a senior advocate with the NGO Refugees International [ http://www.refugeesinternational.org ] (RI), told IRIN. "Of course, a lot of harm has already been done since the press release, and many urban refugees have already fled."

Fatuma Diriye lived in Nairobi's Somali-dominated Eastleigh neighbourhood for over five years. There, she ran a small business and sent money and supplies to her children in Dadaab. She recently moved back to Dadaab after the directive and police harassment.

"The police attacked my business several times. I had to pay them some money to stay safe from the harassment," she told IRIN, adding that she feels helpless now that she is totally dependent on aid for her family's needs.

For many refugees, the journey to from Nairobi to Dadaab is a treacherous one; Jelle Ibrahim, a father of six in Dadaab's Hagadera camp, said he had to go through five different police check-points along the way.

"We were asked to bring identification cards - when I showed my travelling document, they put us in a separate place [for questioning]," he said. "We were harassed until the conductor of the bus intervened and paid some money to the police."

Dadaab unprepared

Dadaab refugee complex, originally built to house 90,000 refugees, currently hosts an estimated 500,000 Somali nationals. An influx of refugees from Kenya's towns and cities would have a serious impact on the ability of aid agencies and the government to provide services.

"Dadaab is overcrowded and under-resourced - its population has risen by about 150,000 in the last year, while funding has reduced by about half," Mark Yarnell, Horn of Africa advocate for RI, told IRIN. "Insecurity remains a major issue in Dadaab, and some refugees are actually returning to Somalia for this reason."

Officials in Dadaab say they have not yet seen a significant rise in refugee arrivals from urban areas, but fear they would struggle to cope if they did.

"The number of refugees arriving from Nairobi appears small. For the time being, it does not have any impact on service delivery or life in the camp. This can, of course, change if more refugees arrive," said Mans Nyberg, senior external relations officer in Dadaab for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

"We encourage all new arrivals to reactivate their refugee cards so that they will get the benefits they are entitled to as refugees," he added.

Refugees remaining in Eastleigh and other urban centres have expressed relief that the directive will not take place immediately, but said they continue to live in fear of police harassment.

Police harassment

"For now, we are happy from what we have heard and that the government is not implementing their directives soon... We can't go back to camps because even refugees residing in the camps have their problems. Food, water, health and even space to settle is a problem due to the number of refugee in Dadaab," said Ubah Hussein, who lives in Eastleigh. "We would like to go back to our country, but still there is no firm security and peace in most places."

"Here is where our children call home... The government has put us in a condition of fear, and we can't even move out of our houses. We are lacking freedom of movement. We don't open our businesses," said Abdi Mohamed, an elderly businessman in Eastleigh. "Some of my neighbours have left for Mogadishu, and others are on course if the government directives persist."

RI's Yarnell said he had met with community leaders in Nairobi who had expressed fear of police harassment and feelings of helplessness.

"I have met community leaders from Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea - people who have been in Nairobi for years, who described feeling helpless and hopeless since the directive," he said. "They regularly experience abuse - mainly extortion - by security forces who detain them and ask for bribes...since the directive, the bribes have gone up from about 500 shillings [US$5.70] to 40,000 [$458], 60,000 [$687] and even up to 100,000 [$1145]."

Eric Kirathe, Kenya's police spokesman, told IRIN that extortion by police officers would not be tolerated and advised refugees to report any such incidents. "Cases of harassment and extortion are very unfortunate. There are channels for reporting - from the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission to police headquarters to the Independent Police Oversight Authority... Reporting to the media or talking about it in an ad hoc way won't get results," he said.

Rights groups say the harassment of refugees - and Somalis in particular - is not limited to security forces, but also exists within wider Kenyan society. Rufus Karanja, a programme officer with the Refugee Consortium of Kenya [ http://www.rckkenya.org ], said there was growing concern about the safety of refugees in the run-up to the country's 4 March general election.

"In 2007, many refugees were victims of general xenophobia and insecurity, and many were displaced. We are trying to come up with contingency plans for them ahead of the coming election," he told IRIN. "Much of the xenophobia is fuelled by the media, who keep linking the attacks to Somali refugees... There is a need for media sensitization on broad aspects of refugee protection."

A number of civil society groups, under the umbrella of the Urban Refugee Protection Network, on 22 January called on [ http://www.rescue.org/press-releases/press-release-kenya-civil-society-calls-government-end-abuse-refugees-15171 ] the Kenyan government to end the abuse of refugees that had escalated following the 18 December directive.

"We will continue to pursue, through the courts, reports of extortion, arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention of refugees by security forces," Karanja said.
kr/mh/mod/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=97329



In Brief: Staples, not export crops, key to tackling Africa's poverty - report

NAIROBI, 18 January 2013 (IRIN) - Africa could reduce its poverty levels faster by focusing more on the production of staples rather than export crops, according to a study [ http://www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/publications/ib73.pdf ] by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Authors of the study, conducted in 10 countries south of the Sahara, noted, "One important finding is that producing more staple crops, such as maize, pulses and roots, and more livestock products tends to reduce poverty further than producing more export crops such as coffee or cut flowers."

According to the study, while more public resources would be required to generate more agricultural growth, "such public investment in staple sectors is probably cost effective".

The authors argued that growth in the staple sector was more likely to benefit the poor than growth in the agricultural export sector.

Enoch Mwani, an agricultural economist at the University of Nairobi, concurred. "The agricultural export sector is generally associated with large corporations, but the poor rely predominantly on staples to survive."

Mwani added that growth in staples had the effect of not only reducing poverty but also ensuring food security.

"[Governments that] invest in staples have the opportunity to increase food availability and, at the same time, create wealth for smallholders," Mwani told IRIN.

To spur development in sub-Saharan Africa, the study's policy conclusions call for a focus on accelerating agricultural growth; promoting growth in large agricultural subsectors; supporting growth across several agricultural subsectors; and promoting growth in subsectors with strong linkages to the overall economy and the poor.
ko/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=97278



Analysis: Preparing for urban disasters - challenges and recommendations

BANGKOK, 10 January 2013 (IRIN) - Electrical engineers and hazardous waste experts join emergency rosters. Power mapping becomes as important as hazard mapping in emergency prevention and response. #fragilecities shows up as often as #fragilestates in Twitter searches. Humanitarian science fiction? No, welcome to what demographers call the new urban millennium and the challenges, as well as changes, aid groups face responding to emergencies in urban areas.

People are using the same recipe from a rural camp situation in cities. Aid tools and strategies have been cut and paste. This does not work,” said the director of the France-based research, training and evaluation NGO, Urgence, Réhabilitation et Développement (URD), François Grünewald, who has researched urban risks and responses for more than a decade.

It is not enough to ask “Did we do it right?” by meeting basic humanitarian aid standards known as SPHERE, but also, “Did we do the right thing?” said Grünewald.

More often than not, the answer has been no, he concluded.

IRIN analysed evaluations to highlight some lessons emerging from recent urban disasters. What follows are challenges and recommendations reported by groups from Manila to Mogadishu; insights from experts consulted over the past year; and an “urban” aid toolbox organizations have begun assembling but which they admit is far from complete.

Experts generally agree: Humanitarians are still ill-prepared for urban emergencies, whether it be civil conflict in Syria or a “complex” disaster like Japan’s 2011 earthquake followed by a tsunami, resulting in fires, chemical spills and nuclear power accidents.

Overview

Some 3.3 billion people live in urban areas, with one billion of them in slums, a number that is growing by 25 million annually, according to the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT). Such growth threatens to “become the tipping point for humanitarian crises,” noted the journal, Forced Migration Review (FMR) [ ] in February 2010, which went to press soon after Haiti’s capital was hit by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people, injured more than 300,000 and has left some 360,000 others still displaced almost three years later.

Post-quake there were 19 million cubic metres of rubble and debris in Port-au Prince, enough to fill a line of shipping containers stretching end to end from London to Beirut

Urban DRR [disaster risk reduction] and preparedness, mitigation, response and reconstruction will come to dominate humanitarian policies and programmes in the coming decades,” noted the review.

The lessons and mea culpas from the aid response in Haiti are still piling up: Not consulting local groups; no exit strategy; importing foreign vehicles and goods without checking locally; coordination between the military and humanitarians based on personality rather than protocol; focusing on transitional, rather than permanent, shelters.

Agencies need to learn the “new rules of the game” of urban disaster response, as the UK-based Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an umbrella group of some 15 humanitarian aid groups, wrote in 2011 in its compilation of lessons from Haiti.

But what exactly are those rules? What sets apart acute vulnerabilities from chronic poverty? How do you rebuild communities when there is scarce land? What are humanitarians’ responsibilities to host communities and the urban poor? And just when is a humanitarian’s job done in a chronic emergency?

Urban interventions present humanitarians with similar challenges to other chronic emergencies (Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Sahel ) not tied to a specific geographic area that often lacked clear “triggers” of engagement.

Lessons aid workers have compiled from urban disasters - including Philippines’ 2009 Typhoon Ketsana, Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, and Japan’s 2011 twin disasters - still leave a “huge gap”, said George Deikun, director of UN-HABITAT’s Humanitarian Affairs Office in Geneva and one of the authors in FMR’s February 2010 special urban issue.

There is a lot of literature, but… it doesn’t bring together the critical and necessary elements in the whole cycle of humanitarian assistance to development,” he told IRIN recently. Humanitarians’ work typically has had a “shelf life [intervention period] of 90 days while governments in urban areas are looking to leverage assistance to move on beyond saving lives to re-establishing sustainable communities.”

Urban risks

Experts calculate that urban areas’ population growth - including residents and refugees fleeing conflict - plus unenforced or non-existing building codes can be fatal for urban residents already cut off from city services due to lack of income, security or identification.

While experts differ on how fast the countryside is emptying into urban areas, most agree urban areas in sub-Saharan Africa are growing more quickly than elsewhere, and that the Asia-Pacific region has the largest number of urban residents, 1.8 billion as of 2011 (43 percent of region’s population).

How the displaced manage in cities, how their needs compare to the urban poor and just what humanitarians’ responsibilities are to address chronic (rather than acute) needs is still debated, according to research on urban displacement and vulnerability by the UK-based Overseas Development Institute’s Humanitarian Practice Group, which noted that the best ways to support the urban displaced are “poorly understood”.

Cities, the crossroads of so many legal and illegal transactions, are also becoming battlegrounds for a “`new’ kind of armed conflict … a variation of warfare, often in densely populated slums and shanty towns [featuring] pitched battles between the state and non-state armed groups,” wrote Kevin Savage from World Vision International and Robert Muggah, research director at Igarapé Institute, a Brazilian think tank focusing on violence prevention and reduction.

Response

At a meeting focused on “adapting humanitarian efforts to an urban world” convened last January by the Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance (ALNAP), [ ] a UK-headquartered network of humanitarian experts and organizations, participants concluded that even with their experience from urban disasters, “collective understanding is patchy, informal and still largely undocumented. It is still too early to say how best to respond to the challenge of urban disasters: the rules have yet to be written.”


Recommendations

1 Work with and through municipalities wherever possible

2 Find and use neighbourhood networks and capacities, such as home-owner associations, while recognizing that community and neighbourhood is not the same

3 Work with the local private sector; do not compete unfairly

4 Focus on long-term homes, rather than short-term shelter

5 Keep people in or close to their neighbourhoods, if safe

6 Assume skills and resources can be found locally

7 Use cash to stimulate markets

8 Prepare now for the next big urban disaster

9 Health providers: use a common format for medical records

10 Avoid mass burials/cremations

11 Build violence-prevention into agency activities

12 Use community radio

13 Employ urban-oriented minimum standards

14 Track populations - and health epidemics - through mobile phones.

15 Consider alternatives such as mobile medical clinics to avoid large-scale relief distributions, which can invite violence

16 Be aware that agency logos on relief items can, in urban markets with consumers more attuned to image and branding, stigmatize recipients

17 Crowdsourcing - information gathered from the public through SMS text messages or the Internet - can be a valuable source of information to assess locations and needs, though it is still problematic in terms of accuracy and ease-of-use

18 Conduct “one-hit” assessments instead of subjecting a community to multiple visits

19 . Build resilience during recovery operations

20 Consider renters and squatters in resettlement plans

21 Avoid relocation camps on a city’s periphery as they can increase displacement by drawing surrounding populations to camp services. Rather, construct camps as close to neighbourhoods of origin as possible

22 Establish strict admission criteria for emergency care: it may be the only free health care available and could quickly become overwhelmed

23 Focus on psychosocial support, often overlooked in an emergency response

24 Establish strict admission criteria for emergency care: it may be the only free health care available and could quickly become overwhelmed

25 Focus on psychosocial support, often overlooked in an emergency response

Sources: DEC 2011, UNISDR 2012, ALNAP November 2012, UN-HABITAT 2011, December 2012 interview with George Deikun, UN-HABITAT/Chair of IASC reference group on meeting humanitarian challenges

In 2009 the Inter-agency Standing Committee (IASC) - an umbrella group of humanitarian groups that sets policy for the aid community - formed a reference group on “meeting humanitarian challenges in urban areas”, setting a two-year action plan in 2010.

The group pledged to prepare the industry better to respond to crises in urban areas, by, among other things, launching a database of urban-specific aid tools that aimed to be the clearinghouse for all information on aid in urban emergencies (done); strengthening technical surge capacity for urban emergency response (partially done); developing or adapting humanitarian tools for urban areas (partially done); promoting protection of vulnerable urban populations (done). Developing guidance on supporting food security in post-crisis areas and building preparedness and community resilience into humanitarian policymaking are still incomplete as of early January 2013.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), UN-HABITAT, the Kenyan government and NGOs are trying to pilot a “Multi-Hazard Response Plan” created in Kenya that brought together local and national governments and almost 100 groups working in urban areas to prepare for future urban emergencies. Kenya’s election violence in December 2007 killed an estimated 1,200 persons and displaced more than 660,000, many of whom sought refuge in cities and have yet to return home.

But even bringing together urban actors can be complicated, if not impossible, noted URD.

According to a report the group published in December 2011, new “players” in urban settings include: gangs controlling the population, churches exploiting their distress, social networks linked to the diaspora, community-based organizations trying to attract aid for their constituency, and private companies looking for clients in the aid industry.

The group is finalizing a “concept note” to call attention to the impact on urban areas of Syria’s ongoing fighting, which the UN estimates has killed 60,000 people since protests turned violent in 2010. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, in 2012 some 8,200 people died in areas surrounding the country’s capital, Damascus.

On the housing front, Shelter Project, led by the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre and the Geneva-based NGO Shelter Centre, working with other humanitarian groups and agencies, is developing guidelines for moving people out of emergency shelters into permanent housing. A draft is expected by mid-2013.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is reviewing food-targeting practices and with Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is developing global guidelines to strengthen urban food security and nutrition in emergencies.

Challenges

For all the recommendations proffered following recent urban disasters (see sidebar), five key challenges remain:

Urban access. “International agencies are king in rural areas versus cities where they play a supporting role,” said one aid worker. The challenge of working with leaders from neighbourhoods and communities (which researchers note are not necessarily the same), as well as civil society staff and officials from multiple levels of government - all necessary partners - becomes more complicated when the government is a combatant in conflict, as in Syria.

Cluster chaos. According to URD, “multi-sector geographical coordination” makes more sense in urban areas - where all aid is delivered by a single level of authority - rather than the current “cluster” model of crisis coordination in place since mid-2006, which divides aid by issues, such as food, shelter or education.

In Haiti, leadership posts of many sectors were vacant. Once in place, the system was “too heavily bureaucratic” and not able to carry out quick needs assessments; the health sector alone had more than 400 groups participating at one point. Theme-specific groupings were unable to meet multi-sector challenges. Cluster meetings were primarily conducted in English to accommodate the large number of Anglophone emergency responders, which was often too fast-past paced for local Francophone or Creole-speaking groups.

Targeting vulnerable communities. In cities the most vulnerable tend to be highly mobile, untraceable and scattered. Refugees and internally displaced persons may seek out sprawling urban areas for anonymity due to fears of harassment, detention or eviction, making it difficult to track, profile, register or document them. In turn, the task of measuring the impact of satisfying humanitarian versus economic needs is hard because conventional needs assessments do not distinguish acute needs (such as war-inflicted health trauma) from chronic ones (cholera borne of slum living and urban poverty).

Identifying and targeting assistance in cities is a “huge challenge” said UN-HABITAT’s Deikun. “The problem with emergency response is that it has to be done quickly and be done by yesterday. It relies on existing data that is not always correct, and may be politically distorted. Mapping vulnerable urban populations in high-risk environments before the emergency strikes is rarely done.”

Seeking urban experts: Emergencies in urban areas require expertise often in short supply: adapting water and sanitation projects to complex, dense and underserviced urban environments; conducting urban vulnerability and community resilience analyses and plans; developing land use management plans and tenure guidelines; removing debris; reconstruction of urban housing; resettlement of affected populations from emergency shelter and trauma surgery - to name a few.

Following Haiti’s earthquake, the lack of trauma specialists and surgeons led to inappropriate treatment, excessive unnecessary amputations and health complications, according to multiple evaluations. The IASC reference group on humanitarian challenges in urban areas has created and is disseminating generic terms of reference for a number of these specialists capable of responding to urban disasters.

Exit strategy. Humanitarians are the “last ones” to develop an exit strategy, said URD’s Grünewald. “The humanitarian is focused on saving lives. We only think of it at the end.” The problem is when there is no strong governance to take over and “the principal activities of many agencies seem to be stuck in an extended relief mode,” DEC noted. [ ] Bring along an urban adviser or development specialist as early as the damage assessment, Grünewald counselled, to decide when to exit.

He concluded humanitarians can only do so much.

[Humanitarian] NGOs want to become engaged in slums. But all the money from all the donors would only be a drop in the bucket - and there would still not be an exit strategy… The Band-Aid system is messy and can only be a Band-Aid.”

pt/cb http://www.irinnews.org/Report/97199/Preparing-for-urban-disasters-challenges-and-recommendations





AID POLICY: Communication technologies transform relief and development

NAIROBI, 18 December 2012 (IRIN) - Since Africa's first mobile phone network went live in 1994, mobile phone penetration has shot up to 65 percent; access to the internet is also increasing rapidly. Today, information and communications technology (ICT) plays a central role in promoting development and humanitarian assistance.

"Communication technology is reshaping the world we live in", said Gabriella Waiijman of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Eastern Africa, at a recent event on technology, media and humanitarian aid held jointly by OCHA and the NGO Adesco, in Nairobi.

"We need to engage with increasing availability of information communications technology to ensure people have access to the information they need in order to make the right decisions for themselves, and make sure the right communications channels are in place so they can communicate with us," she said.

ICT in the humanitarian and development sector is said to be entering a new era of maturity, with people and agencies sharing resources, embracing transparency, and improving effectiveness.

Below, IRIN explores novel uses of ICT to promote development and deliver aid.

SMS: Stephen Wang'ombe, a potato farmer near Nyeri, Kenya, has seen brokers intimidate growers into accepting pitifully low prices for their produce. But Wang'ombe uses M-Farm [ http://mfarm.co.ke ], a real-time price information service on his mobile phone, to determine how to price his goods. When brokers demanded he take 1,500 shillings (US$17.50) for a 120kg bag of produce, he refused; he had used M-Farm to learn that sellers in Nairobi were getting 2,000 to 2,300 shillings ($23 to $27) for the same amount. M-Farm also helps growers cut out the middlemen by connecting them directly to retailers, and it promotes cost-saving by encouraging them to pool their needs and purchase in bulk. "Eighty percent of the food in Africa is produced by small-scale farmers", said Jimmy Wambua, a food security expert at M-Farm. "They're selling produce at higher prices and closing the deals."

Crowd-sourcing: Ushahidi [ http://ushahidi.com/ ] is an online crisis-mapping tool that collects data from the internet and mobile phones during crises. The Danish Refugee Council is using it to receive feedback about their humanitarian interventions. In January, a beneficiary of the organization's cash transfer programme in Mogadishu, Somalia, used the feedback site to lodge a complaint via SMS: "My cash collection ID card was taken by force by one of your staff in the Mogadishu office when I went to collect monthly cash payments. I want to know why he took my card and would like your help in getting it back. The staff who took my card accused me of having a duplicate card, which is untrue." The programme gave the beneficiary the confidence to voice his complaint, said Ivanoe Fugali, a programme coordinator. An investigation identified a problem in the system, which the organization then publicized on Twitter and Facebook. "We're getting the information while we're still working so we can make adjustments during the process," said Fugali.

Twitter: Philip Ogola, an ICT officer at the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS), has increased his organization's Twitter [ https://twitter.com/KenyaRedCross ] following 26-fold in the last year. His real-time updates now reach an audience of between 50 and 80 million every month. "It's an emergency management tool," he said. He informs his audience about anything that could put civilians at risk, from traffic problems to fires, demonstrations and explosions. "We can issue alerts, so it's easy [for people] to know the needs on the ground." When public transport drivers went on strike in Nairobi at the end of November, KRCS supported a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #CarPoolKE to facilitate ride sharing, and worked with Ushahidi to create a crowd-map of people in Nairobi willing to give rides, and those in need of them.

Satellite imagery: Mapping technology allowed the ICRC to rehabilitate and extend a water system in Walikale, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, from thousands of miles away. ICRC bought a satellite image and had a Humanitarian OpenStreetMap volunteer team [ hot.openstreetmap.org ] create an urban map from it. Staff from the local water board then used the map to identify water systems - saving significant time and money. "GIS [geographic information systems] can provide good support, even for small projects like that," said Jean Vergain of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Kenya, which also uses Google Earth's satellite images and maps.

Monitoring the internet: In September, iHub - a hub for the ICT community in Nairobi - began to monitor the internet for hate speech ahead of Kenya's March 2013 general election; hate speech is believed to have contributed to the violence that erupted after the country's 2007 polls. iHub members are looking not just at inflammatory comments from within Kenya, but at the internet speech of the diaspora as well. "You don't even have to be there for negative communication to be going on," said Kagonya Awori of iHub Research. She cited an 82.7 percent increase in internet users in Kenya between 2011 and 2012, and said half of all users are on Facebook. While greater internet connectivity has clear benefits, it also poses potential dangers, and iHub is one of few organizations keeping a watchful eye over the trend. Incidents of hate speech are reported to Uchaguzi, a crisis map powered by Ushahidi, which, in turn, reports them to the electoral authorities or relevant security personnel.

Radio: Radio is still the most ubiquitous form of ICT and a favourite method of communication in a crisis. "It can promote hope, connections and control of a situation," said Jacqueline Dalton, a senior producer at BBC Media Action [http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediaaction/ ], the BBC's international development charity. In Somalia, BBC Media Action partnered with the BBC Somali Service to develop radio literacy programmes and hold discussions about development and governance issues such as the country's new constitution. "In a country with a rich oral culture, where the Latin alphabet for Somali was adopted only as recently as 1973, radio has, for generations, been the most important medium in the country," a 2011 BBC Media Action report found. The same remains true in many rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa.
 
jh/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=97070




SECURITY: Landmine casualty rate dropping

JOHANNESBURG, 29 November 2012 (IRIN) - Amid the odd relapse, progress towards a world free of antipersonnel mines is inching forward. A decade ago, the weapon was responsible for at least 32 casualties daily; by 2011, the casualty rate had dropped to about 12 per day, the Landmine and Cluster Munitions Monitor (LCMM) said in its 2012 report, published on the 29 November. [ http://www.the-monitor.org/index.php/publications/display?url=lm/2012/ ]

The report was launched ahead of the 12th Meeting of State Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT), which will take place on 3 December in Geneva.

The report announced that mines and explosive remnants of war had caused 4,286 casualties worldwide in 2011, the year under review. In 2011, three states - Israel, Libya and Myanmar, none of them party to the MBT - used antipersonnel mines. The use of the weapon by armed groups and militias was seen in six countries in 2011 - Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Thailand and Yemen - an increase over the previous year, in which the landmines use by armed groups was recorded in only four countries.

Thus far in 2012, the only state known to use antipersonnel mines has been Syria, another non-MBT signatory.

Fewer are factory-made

Mark Hiznay, a senior researcher in the arms division at Human Rights Watch, told IRIN, "It is of course a concern that non-state armed groups (NSAG) continue to use the weapon as well as victim-activated improvised explosive devices, which function in the same way.

"This last point is subtle, but important, wherein we are seeing many, many fewer factory-produced mines in circulation and more and more improvised or craft mines in use," he said.

The LCMM said in a statement, "Active production of antipersonnel mines may be ongoing in as few as four countries: India, Myanmar, Pakistan and South Korea," although there has been no recorded export of these weapons in recent years.

Eight countries - China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Singapore, the US and Vietnam - reserve the right to produce antipersonnel mines.

Hiznay said the "continued naming and shaming is the primary vehicle where the stigma can be applied. India, Pakistan and South Korea each have some form of export moratorium on antipersonnel mines, so at least the proliferation aspect of their continued production is contained. It would be good to get Myanmar to start taking steps in this direction."

Non-state actors

Armed groups are excluded from the MBT. But Swiss-based NGO Geneva Call, which engages armed groups to abide by humanitarian law during conflicts, works to get non-state actors to sign a "Deeds of Commitment", such as abandoning the use of antipersonnel mines. [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/87608/CONFLICT-Campaigners-target-landmine-use-by-non-state-actors ]

Since 2000, Geneva Call has reached agreements with 42 armed groups banning antipersonnel mine use. Katherine Kramer, Geneva Call's programme director for landmines and other explosive devices, told IRIN that no armed-groups signatories to the Deed of Commitment were known to have reverted back to using the weapons. [ http://www.genevacall.org/news/in-the-press/f-in-the-press/2001-2010/irrc-883-bongard-somer.pdf ]

Kramer said that armed groups see antipersonnel mines as cheap and effective weapons, which they believed to compliment the effectiveness of their smaller forces. The argument can be difficult to counter, so instead the NGO uses humanitarian reasons to convince armed groups to sign the Deed of Commitment. This tends to be more effective on armed groups working closer with affected populations during conflicts.

There is an element of volatility to working with armed groups. Some may splinter while others might become governments, in which case they become eligible to sign the MBT.

"There are currently 24 [Deed of Commitment armed group signatories] still active - [in] Burma/Myanmar, India, Iran, the Philippines, Somalia, Sudan, Turkey, Western Sahara - although seven of the signatories from Somalia are in the process of integrating into the Federal State of Somalia," she said. [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/96454/In-Brief-Somalia-joins-the-mine-ban-club ]

Mine contamination and clearance

The LCMM said, "Some 59 states and six other areas were confirmed to be affected by landmines. A further 13 states have either suspected or residual mine contamination."

It noted that "steady decreases in annual casualty rates continued in some of the most mine-affected countries, such as Afghanistan and Cambodia, but these were offset by increases in countries with new or intensified conflicts, such as Libya, Pakistan, Sudan, South Sudan and Syria."

About 190sqkm of mined areas was cleared last year, and more than 325,000 antipersonnel mines and nearly 30,000 anti-vehicle mines were destroyed. "The largest total clearance of mined areas was achieved by programs in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Croatia and Sri Lanka, which together accounted for more than 80 percent of recorded clearance," the LCMM statement said.

"An additional 233sqkm of former battle area was reportedly cleared in 2011, destroying in the process more than 830,000 items of unexploded or abandoned ordnance, as well as 55sqkm of cluster munition-contaminated areas, with the destruction of more than 52,000 unexploded submunitions," the statement said.

The mine action budget in 2011 was about US$662 million, the largest annual total to date. Hiznay said, "Much of the increase in support is coming from mine-affected states themselves - countries dedicating national resources to deal with their problem - which now accounts for about 30 percent of global funding. Croatia is good example of this."

The dirty thirty

However, there were setbacks for victim assistance, the LCMM said. "Direct international support for victim assistance programmes through international mine action funding declined by $13.6 million, an almost 30 percent decrease from 2010."

But the "dirty thirty", the moniker used for 36 states resisting membership of the mine ban club - including three permanent members of the UN Security Council; China, Russia and US  - is gradually being eroded. The Marshall Islands and Poland have recently signed, but have yet to ratify, the treaty.

But the power of global consensus has had an influence on those left out in the cold. States "outside the ban treaty have taken intermediate steps that are in line with the norm set by the treaty, be it through policy reviews, like the US, extension of export moratoria, like Israel, destruction of stockpiles, like Vietnam and Russia, and the apparent cessation of use by Myanmar," Hiznay said.

"Some long term hold-outs have joined, namely Finland, and hopefully Poland will, too, by the end of this year. It is clear that the stigma against the use [of mines] is as strong as ever," he said.

go/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=96927




Republic Congo: Imports, corruption drive up food prices

BRAZZAVILLE, 26 November 2012 (IRIN) - The Republic of Congo, which imports over US$240 million worth of food a year, has seen sharply rising staple food and fuel prices since the beginning of 2012, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and a local consumer rights body.

A 25-litre tin of vegetable oil which sold in January 2012 for the equivalent of $32, is now going for $50, while less than 5kg of cassava has gone up from $1 to $2.6, according to Dieudonné Moussala, chairman of the Consumer Rights Association.

He also said the price of a litre of kerosene had risen from 70 US cents to $2.6 on the black market in the same period.

"I now buy a kilo of meat from the slaughterhouse for 3,500 CFA francs [$7], whereas it used to cost less than 2,000 [$4]," Carine Moutombo, 32, a mother of three, told IRIN.

"It is difficult to get by and eat one's fill. The cooking money is no longer enough," said Moutombo.

"All the prices of imported frozen products have increased because of corruption in the supply chain [from entry at the port of Pointe-Noire to small retailers]," said Moussala.

"There are too many unofficial taxes and too many checkpoints in the supply chain. Retailers and other importers are corrupt at all levels. In the end, they pass on any losses to poor consumers - hence the surge in commodity prices," said Moussala.

"While we have not found the solution to all the problems [related to imports]. We still have a long way to go. That is why our country's struggle against food insecurity is key in terms of public policy," said Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Rigobert Maboundou in April. According to him the Congo is a "food-deficit country".

To limit imports and ensure food security, Congo launched in 2010 a US$26 million project [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/90848/CONGO-Farming-villages-to-boost-food-output ] to build "new agricultural villages". With this project, "we have halved the import bill for eggs. We produced 6.6 million eggs in 2011, while imports are estimated at 13 million eggs per year," said Maboundou.

In 2011, Congo also leased 180,000 hectares of arable land to a group of South African farmers who have managed to plant 1,200 hectares of maize.

"The Congo imports almost half of the essential commodities it needs. You need to know this to understand current soaring prices. Imported products contain imported inflation," André Kamba, chief of staff at the Ministry of Trade and Supply, told IRIN.

lmm/cb [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=96889




AFRICA: Trading your way out of poverty

LONDON, 23 November 2012 (IRIN) - As M23 rebel fighters marched into Goma, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) [ http://irinnews.org/Report/96833/DRC-Fall-of-Goma-puts-200-000-children-at-risk ], a small group of people in the UK were watching anxiously to see what would happen next. They had spent the past three years working with coffee growers south of the city to get their goods on the shelves of Sainsbury's, one of Britain's biggest supermarkets, as part of a wider initiative to help Africa trade its way out of poverty.

The DRC coffee project was one of the first to get funding from the UK government's Food Retail Industry Challenge Fund (FRICH) [ http://www.dfid.gov.uk/work-with-us/funding-opportunities/business/frich ], which was set up by the Department for International Development (DFID) to encourage the food industry to buy more from Africa.

While British companies were comfortable buying traditional crops from traditional sources - coffee from Kenya, for instance, or cocoa from Ghana - DFID believed further trade with Africa was inhibited by a reluctance to explore products from untraditional sources.

Mark Thomas of Nathan Associates, which manages the Fund on behalf of DFID, explained: "We don't fund the business. We co-fund a project within a business to try something out, to get them over the risk hurdle which is preventing them doing it."

Coffee was a familiar African crop, but DRC was not a familiar coffee source. Farmers in South Kivu had been growing extremely high quality coffee, but because there was no easy access to markets, they had to smuggle it across the lake to Rwanda. There, it was sold for far less than it was worth.

Sainsbury's and its supplier, Twin Trading, got a FRICH grant to work with a growers' cooperative in Kivu to improve the quality and work out the logistics of exporting to the UK [ http://www.dfid.gov.uk/Work-with-us/Funding-opportunities/Business/FRICH/Projects/Sainsburys-and-Twin ].

The scheme was a success, says Thomas. "The important thing was that they proved that extremely high quality coffee could make it out from this area. Now in the latest, fourth round of funding, the idea is to scale-up a bit, moving to the next valley down and another cooperative and put in more equipment. But all the coffee goes out through Goma, so obviously they won't be shipping just at this minute."

Enabling experimentation

For the recipient of another first-round grant, a trading company called Tropical Wholefoods, the risk was not political but about trying new crops and methods [ http://www.dfid.gov.uk/Work-with-us/Funding-opportunities/Business/FRICH/Projects/Fullwell-Mill ].

One of the company's founders, Kate Sebag, told IRIN, "The grant was to help our farmers diversify from pineapples and bananas into berry crops - strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and cape gooseberries. Strawberries and cape gooseberries have been the most successful.

"Raspberries were always seen as the most risky... Although they grew into large bushes, we got very little fruit. I think our farmers felt that if a crop was not going to survive the dry season without watering, it was better to grow something else. We have learned a lot. It's what they call 'action research' - you don't know until you try it."

Sebag says there were other challenges, too. "In a country where there is no tradition of eating dried fruit, it can be a challenge to get people to dry to the right consistency; there's a tendency to over-dry and obliterate the fruit just to make sure there's absolutely no chance of its going mouldy.

"But the grant from FRICH allowed us to take a risk, and to bring in strawberry and raspberry plants and subsidize the sale of drying equipment to the farmers. What I think this fund is good at is enabling innovation, and it is willing to work with private companies. It recognizes that private companies with an ethical orientation have a self-interest in getting the product to market but also a commitment to service provision for the farmers."

While first-round proposals concentrated largely on familiar commodities, recent projects have been more novel. For example the Eden Project and PhytoTrade Africa are exploring a project to import and popularize baobab powder and to develop a range of baobab products for the British market [ http://www.dfid.gov.uk/Work-with-us/Funding-opportunities/Business/FRICH/Projects/Eden-Project ].

Changing perceptions

Something of a breakthrough has been achieved with the first grant to develop a market for African meat in Europe, says Thomas. However, the programme in question will see Namibian beef going on sale in Denmark rather than the UK.

"Right from the start there was some element of consciousness-raising," he told IRIN. "Not all products were going to have Africa written all over them, but we were never going to hide the African-ness of the products. But there are some products from Africa it is hard to sell in the UK - like meat, for example.

"I used to live in Namibia, so I know that Namibian beef is absolutely fantastic, and Namibia is one of only two countries in Southern Africa that are allowed to export meat to Europe. But at the moment, virtually all the meat goes into food processing; it's not sold as a prime cut, and a lot of that is about perception. But the Danish co-op will be selling steaks branded as 'Savannah', an African brand with an acacia tree on the pack."

This round of funding will be the last for the time being. It uses up the rest of the £7.4 million (nearly US$12 million) allocated to the Fund, which was the brainchild of DFID minister Andrew Mitchell, who left the department in September.

DFID now has a new minister, Justine Greening, and no decision has yet been made about the Fund's future. "We are going to keep an eye on it, and draw any lessons we can to see where we go from here, but the new minister has already shown a very definite focus on helping countries to trade their way out of poverty," a DFID spokesperson said.

eb/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=96878




SECURITY: Accountability - holding armed groups to their word

JOHANNESBURG, 12 November 2012 (IRIN) - A new database by the Swiss-based NGO Geneva Call collating current and past armed groups' attitudes towards international humanitarian law (IHL) and human rights law (HRL), could be used to hold them accountable.

"This resource is a unique collection of humanitarian commitments made by armed non-State actors (ANSAs). These commitments have been made in different forms: unilateral declarations or statements, internal rules and regulations, and agreements with governments, inter-governmental and humanitarian organizations," says the NGO.

Maud Bonnet, Geneva Call's project coordinator, told IRIN the database reveals armed groups "policies, commitments and views on international humanitarian law and international human rights law", as well as affording these groups an opportunity to "share their positioning in regards to humanitarian norms".

Entitled Their Words, Directory of Armed Non-State Actor Humanitarian Commitments, [ http://theirwords.org/pages/home ] the database is also aimed at national states, UN agencies, NGOs, academics, the media and as "a resource for humanitarian actors to hold ANSAs accountable," she said.

So far it contains more than 400 documents from armed groups stretching from Senegal's Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de la Casamance (MFDC) through to Papua New Guinea' s Bougainville Revolutionary Army and numerous updated versions of the Mujahedin's Layeha - the Taliban's code of conduct.

Among other things, it lists armed groups' commitments in terms of the protection of civilians and children, the use of land mines and the Geneva Convention.

Geneva Call's mandate is to engage ANSAs and promote "compliance with the norms of IHL and HRL". The organization focuses on ANSAs that operate outside effective state control. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has also worked extensively with armed groups to instil respect for IHL and HRL.

Often consigned to the margins, the window of opportunity for armed groups to abide by the laws of war is curtailed by the state-bias of IHL and HRL.

The stereotyping of conflicts between two conventional armies facing off on a battlefield has in its own way brushed armed groups to the sidelines, but the existence of such formations - from Spartacus's slave revolt against Rome, to the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War, and armed groups involvement in at least 48 non-international armed conflicts in 2011 - underscores their role in conflict throughout history.

Legal standing

"Depending on the type of documents - from communiqué, letter, or peace agreement with governments, these documents can have [a] different legal standing. ANSAs are usually not recognized as subjects of international law. These documents could be used to hold the groups accountable in case of violation of IHL," said Bonnet.

ICRC defines [ http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/international-review/review-882-armed-groups/review-882-all.pdf ] armed groups as "organizations that are party to an armed conflict, but do not answer to, and are not commanded by, one or more states. This broad definition belies the wide diversity of such groups and the complexity of contemporary warfare."

"Armed groups play a central role with respect to the humanitarian concerns and legal issues involved in conflicts today. A group may fight against the government of its own country, other rival groups, a foreign state, or several states joined in a coalition. For the affected countries, these armed conflicts stand in the way of stability, prosperity, and development. For their populations, they can spell uncertainty about the future, ruin, exile, suffering, or death," ICRC said.

go/cb [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=96759


Analysis: Is US action against use of child soldiers on the backburner?

JOHANNESBURG, 5 November 2012 (IRIN) - The Child Soldier Prevention Act (CSPA) [ http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/135981.pdf ] was a prime example of US bipartisan human rights legislation: sponsored by Democratic and Republican senators and signed into law in 2008 by Republican President George Bush, the law entered into force under the Democratic presidency of Barack Obama. But even armed with this political consensus, the US consistently shies away from using the full spectrum of the law, citing national security interests.

Richard Clarke, director of London-based NGO Child Soldiers International [ http://www.child-soldiers.org ], told IRIN the law, which calls for the withholding of military assistance and arms exports from governments that continue to use child soldiers, can provide "powerful leverage".

"However, for three consecutive years since the CSPA entered into force, the president issued waivers based on US national interests. With these repeated waivers, the potential impact of the CSPA is seriously reduced, particularly if the waivers are perceived to be the rule rather than the exception," he said.

Waivers

The September 2012 presidential memorandum [http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/09/28/presidential-memorandum-presidential-determination-respect-child-soldier ] said, "It is in the national interest of the United States to waive the application of the [CSPA's] prohibition . with respect to Libya, South Sudan and Yemen; and further determine that it is in the national interest of the United States to waive in part the application of the prohibition. with respect to the Democratic Republic of the Congo [DRC], to allow for continued provision of International Military Education and Training funds and nonlethal Excess Defence Articles, and the issuance of licenses for direct commercial sales of US-origin defence articles."

In 2010, Chad, DRC, and Yemen were also excluded from enforcement of the act. In 2011, these countries [ http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/10/04/presidential-memorandum-child-soldiers-prevention-act-2008 ] again escaped any action, as did South Sudan.

Adotei Akwei, Amnesty International's US government relations managing director, said in an October 2012 briefing, Ending the Use of Child Soldiers: One Step Forward [http://blog.amnestyusa.org/africa/ending-the-use-of-child-soldiers-one-step-forward/ ], "The administration's argument that South Sudan is not technically subject to the CSPA because they were not a country until after the law went into effect might meet a legal standard of credibility, but it does not do much for the children of South Sudan nor does seem [to] portray US leadership on this critical issue in a very positive light."

The government is aware of these countries' continued use of child soldiers. The US State Department said in its 2012 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report [ http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/other/2012/197803.htm ] that the DRC's national army (FARDC) continues to forcibly recruit children and "some army commanders actively blocked - with complete impunity - efforts to monitor and remove children from their units, an obstruction that has persisted for nearly three years."

According to the act, governments that recruit or use child soldiers in armed forces or government-supported militias are only eligible for assistance to address the issue of child soldiers through the professionalization of their military.

Undermining the act

Jesse Eaves, World Vision's US-based senior policy advisor for child protection, told IRIN the US had improved its engagement with countries using child soldiers but was "not holding countries accountable to the Child Soldiers Prevention Act."

But "when the United States government gives a waiver to a country identified in the State Department's TIP report as a country using children in their national military, this weakens the authority of the law by not holding the country accountable for removing children from their armed forces," Eaves said.

Jo Becker, US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) children's rights advocacy director, told IRIN the waivers showed the country was prioritizing other issues, "including military alliances and counter-terrorism efforts."

But "on the positive side. the [Obama] administration has certainly stepped up its diplomatic engagement with countries using child soldiers by repeatedly raising the issue at senior levels," she said. Such diplomatic engagement pushed Chad and South Sudan to sign action plans with the UN to end their use of child soldiers, she said.

Global use of child soldiers

The CSPA defines child soldiers not only as combatants but also as those "serving in any capacity, including in a support role such as a cook, porter, messenger, medic, guard or sex slave".

"Since 2000, the participation of child soldiers has been reported in most armed conflicts and in almost every region of the world. Although there are no exact figures, and numbers continually change, tens of thousands of children under the age of 18 continue to serve in government forces or armed opposition groups. Some of those involved in armed conflict are under 10 years old," Child Soldiers International says.

"Child soldiers have been used in armed conflicts by 20 states since 2010, and. are at risk of military use in many more," a recent report by the NGO [ http://www.child-soldiers.org/global_report_reader.php?id=562 ] said.

The benefits of using child soldiers are myriad: Apart from the often cited "virtue" of being easy to indoctrinate, they are able to operate and maintain light modern weapons and need less food than adults.

"Another advantage has to do with children's relative lack of visibility when reconnoitring an enemy position. In Uganda, for example, teenage soldiers [in Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army] played a significant role in the capture of Kampala [in 1986]. Dressed in tattered clothes, they walked freely around the enemy positions in the capital to gather information," said a 2011 report by the International Review of the Red Cross [ http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/article/review-2011/irrc-882-bangerter.htm ].

Absence of domestic legislation

A gamut of international human rights and humanitarian laws and international protocols bans the use of child soldiers; the recruitment of children under 15 years old as combatants constitutes a war crime. But globally, domestic legislation specifically aimed at discouraging the use of child soldiers is thin.

To Child Soldiers International's knowledge, only Switzerland and Belgium, along with the US, have "have enacted laws to condition arms exports specifically on a recipient country's record on recruitment and use of children," said Clarke.

The Swiss 1998 Ordinance on War Material cites as a condition for export "the situation in the country of destination, in particular with regard to respect for human rights and the non-use of child soldiers." But the Child Soldiers International report said it was "not known whether weapons transfers have been denied on the basis of these provisions and, if so, to which countries".

Belgium also restricts weapons export to countries known to use child soldiers, but this law also has its pitfalls. "By excluding armed groups that are distinct from the state, it would not cover state-allied armed groups," the Child Soldiers International report said. "In the absence of publicly available information on how many licenses have been refused and to where, the practical effect of the Belgian law cannot be ascertained."

Clarke said other states - Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain and the UK - claim inclusive legislation prevents arms exports to countries using child soldiers. "Other governments, including Chile, Israel, Italy, Republic of Korea, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden and Tanzania, claim that national laws or policies prohibit the transfer of arms to governments responsible for human rights violations or more broadly to situations of armed conflict."

The influence of partial waivers

Although the US has pulled its punches with regard to the CSPA, even the law's partial imposition has proved successful, leaving human rights activists speculating about the effects its full use might have.

But even partial waivers could be used to greater effect, HRW says. The partial waiver for the DRC limited US support for military training, with a reported US$2.7 million withheld last year.

"We've been particularly disappointed that the US has not used partial waivers more extensively," HRW's Becker said. "The US withheld foreign military financing to [DR] Congo for two years in a row, and announced in September [2012] that it would not provide military training for a second battalion until the [DR] Congo signed a child soldiers action plan with the UN. Just days after this year's announcement, the Congo signed the action plan, after dragging its feet for seven years."

The US, at a cost of about $15 million, has trained a battalion of the FARDC; the training leans heavily on instilling a culture of human rights among the unit. The battalion was previously stationed in Dungu in operations against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/95168/SECURITY-LRA-nurtures-the-next-generation-of-child-soldiers ] and has since been redeployed to North Kivu's capital Goma. It is expected the about 750-strong unit will be used in operations against the armed group M23 [ http://www.irinnews.org/fr/Report/95715/DRC-Understanding-armed-group-M23 ]. Both armed groups extensively rely on child soldiers.

"To withhold a portion of military aid until governments end their use of child soldiers will not jeopardize the US's alliances with these countries, but it will send a strong message that ending the use of child soldiers is a priority for the US," Becker said.

go/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=96714



AFRICA: Promoting sustainable inorganic fertilizer use

NAIROBI, 18 October 2012 (IRIN) - There is growing need to promote inorganic fertilizer use among smallholders to improve food production and food security, especially among the world's poorest populations, but its use must be sustainable, experts say.

"Fertilizers are an important component in ensuring that the world can produce enough food to feed its population, but there is need for farmers to be sensitized that it has negative effects, too, like posing a threat to life in lakes and coastal areas," Joseph Alcamo, chief scientist at the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), told IRIN.

Organic fertilizers come from plant or animal matter, while inorganic fertilizers are mineral-based or synthesized. Inorganic fertilizers can leave behind harmful deposits, increase soil acidity or fail to replenish soil nutrients. Blending organic and inorganic fertilizers, experts say, is the most sustainable approach to increasing food productivity while saving the soils crops are grown on.

"While the use of inorganic fertilizers among Africa's smallholders is till-minimal, promoting a blend with organic fertilizers is more sustainable in conserving the soil and the environment," Jeremiah Mowo, a scientist at the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, told IRIN.

In the Abuja Declaration on Fertilizer for an African Green Revolution, African governments pledged to increase the level of fertilizer use from an average of 8kg per hectare, to an average of at least 50kg per hectare by 2015.

But a report by UNEP, the International Fund for Agriculture Development, the World Bank and the World Food Programme has warned against fertilizer overloading [ http://www.unep.org/publications/ebooks/avoidingfamines/ ] and called for sustainable use of fertilizer, among other measures, to avoid famines.

Excess fertilizer use has been known to lead to eutrophication in bodies of water - the excessive growth of algae that deprives other species of enough oxygen - which can create dead zones.

"Over-use of fertilizers in farms, and especially those near water sources, can lead to negative effects on fish and aquatic life, which other segments of the population rely on for their livelihoods," Alcamo added.

African countries are increasingly issuing subsidies to smallholders to buy farm inputs, which experts say will see an increased use of inorganic fertilizers.

"With subsidies, farmers in Africa are increasingly using fertilizers to improve crop production, but the question has always been the sustainability over time, both in terms of saving the environment and ensuring soil fertility," Bramwel Gumbe, a soil scientist at the Maseno University in Kenya, told IRIN.
ko/rz[END]
This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=96587



HEALTH: Uneven progress in global TB fight

NAIROBI, 17 October 2012 (PLUSNEWS) - - The UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target [http://www.who.int/topics/millennium_development_goals/diseases/en/index.html ] of halting and reversing the tuberculosis (TB) epidemic by 2015 has been achieved, and the world is on track to meet the target [http://www.stoptb.org/assets/documents/global/plan/TB_GlobalPlanToStopTB2011-2015.pdf ]
of reducing global TB prevalence by 50 percent by 2015. But the progress has been irregular, with Africa and Europe lagging behind the rest of the world, according to the new Global Tuberculosis report [http://who.int/tb/en/ ] by the UN World Health Organization (WHO).

"In the space of 17 years, 51 million people have been successfully treated and cared for... Without that treatment, 20 million people would have died," Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO Stop TB Department, said in a statement.

Threats to progress

The report highlights successes in rolling-out a rapid TB diagnostic test
[http://www.irinnews.org/Report/96041/HEALTH-Major-price-cut-for-rapid-TB-test ]
, as well as the successful implementation of collaborative HIV and TB activities. Globally, 40 percent of TB patients had a documented HIV test result, and 79 percent of HIV-positive people received co-trimoxazole, an antibiotic preventive therapy, in 2011. Additionally, progress continues
to be seen in the development of new medical interventions [http://www.plusnews.org/Report/96557/HEALTH-New-TB-vaccine-on-the-horizon].

However, the report also took note of several issues threatening progress in the fight against TB: In 2011, there were an estimated 8.7 million new TB cases and 1.4 million deaths, 430,000 of which were among people co-infected with HIV. In addition, a US$1.4 billion funding gap for research and a shortfall of $3 billion per year for TB control and care between 2013 and 2015 "could have severe consequences for TB control".

"The momentum to break this disease is in real danger. We are now at a crossroads between TB elimination within our lifetime and millions more TB deaths," Raviglione said.

Africa and Asia continue to bear the highest burden of the diseases, with India and China accounting for nearly 40 percent of the world's TB cases. Close to 80 percent of TB cases among people living with HIV are in Africa. Although the report found reduced rates of infection and deaths overall, Africa and Europe are not on track to halve 1990 levels of mortality by 2015.

Of particular concern is the slow progress of the response to multi-drug resistant (MDR)-TB. The report estimates that 3.7 percent of new cases and 20 percent of previously treated cases were estimated to have MDR-TB.

Funds needed

In Uganda - which is on WHO's list of high-burden countries that, together, are responsible for more than 80 percent of the global disease burden - the Ministry of Health says it urgently needs money if it is to succeed in reversing the spread of TB.

"The funds are not enough. The costs for drugs, trainings, food for patients, treatment follow-up, delivery of drugs to the patients, monitoring the patients and supervision are exorbitant," said Samuel Kasozi, MDR-TB coordinator in the Ministry of Health. "The management of MDR-TB and TB cases requires enough finances. We are supposed to follow and monitor these patients. But we have serious financial constraints."

The country recently started its first treatment programme [http://www.plusnews.org/Report/95789/UGANDA-MDR-TB-treatment-kicks-off ] for MDR-TB, and has so far enrolled 30 people. While it has purchased drugs for 300 patients, infrastructural and financial issues have so far prevented more patients from starting the treatment. The ministry requires $625,500 for constructing an isolation ward at each hospital, $4,000 per patient for two years of treatment, $400 per patient for laboratory reagents, $500 per month for each patient's food and $7,000 per site for training health workers.

"Most health facilities have inadequate human resources. Some of them don't have both the number and quality of personnel to handle the patients. MDR [TB] treatment requires skilled and qualified doctors, medical officers, nurses, counsellors, laboratory technicians and mental experts to handle the side effects of the drugs," Kasozi added. "The laboratory equipment to monitor patients is weak. Before you put someone on treatment, you need to do some tests like culture and drug acceptability, kidneys and liver. The gadgets are available but the reagents are missing."

WHO is calling for "targeted international donor funding and continued investments by countries themselves to safeguard recent gains and ensure continued progress".
kr/so/rz [END] This report online: http://www.plusnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=96576



HEALTH: A timeline of Global Fund reforms

JOHANNESBURG, 27 September (IRIN) - Change is afoot at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. In 2010, after allegations of fraud among fund recipients in Mali, Mauritania and Zambia, the Global Fund put together an independent, high-level panel to review its financial controls and assess how grant money is spent. The Fund is now implementing the panel's recommendations.

IRIN/PlusNews looks back at the reforms made over the past year.

February 2011 - The Global Fund board commissions a high-level panel to review financial controls and oversight mechanisms.

May 2011 - The Fund establishes the high-level review panel, which includes former President of Botswana Festus Mogae, former US Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt, and Gabriel Jaramillo, former banker and UN Special Advisor to the Office of the Special Envoy for Malaria [ http://www.scribd.com/doc/106902294 ].

August 2011 - The Fund delays the expected launch of its Round 11 of funding.

September 2011 - The Fund postpones Round 11 a second time [ http://www.plusnews.org/Report/94161/HIV-AIDS-Delayed-Global-Fund-money-a-sign-of-economic-times ]. The high-level review panel presents its report to the board; it includes recommendations to streamline grant application processes, increase focus on health outcomes versus inputs, and reformulate several standing committees. The Fund's Strategy, Investment and Impact Committee is born [ http://www.theglobalfund.org/en/board/meetings/twentyfourth ].

November 2011 - With US$2.2 billion in outstanding pledges, the Fund is finally forced to cancel its Round 11 of funding. An emergency stop-gap Transitional Funding Mechanism is put into place to prevent interruptions in essential prevention, treatment and care services [ http://www.plusnews.org/Report/94293/HIV-AIDS-Global-Fund-cancels-funding ].

January 2012 - Fund Executive Director Michel Kazatchkine announces his intention to step down in March 2012. Jaramillo is appointed General Manager, a new position created to oversee the Fund's reform process. The new position is expected to reduce the heavy demands placed on the executive director, which may have contributed to criticism of Kazatchkine.

March 2012 - Germany announces the first of four $65 million contributions to the Fund slated for 2012, a move billed by the international health financing mechanism as a "clear endorsement of new measures to improve financial oversight and management." On the heels of Germany's announcement, Japan pledges $340 million.

Countries submit applications for grants under the Fund's Transitional Funding Mechanism.

April 2012 - The Fund announces changes to simplify grant administration, including a 33 percent increase in staff management positions, which comes after cutting almost 40 percent of staff positions from other departments. It is part of a stronger emphasis being placed managing the grants that fund disease prevention and treatment.

July 2012 - After failing to contribute to the Fund in 2011, Spain returns with a contribution of $12.1 million [ http://www.theglobalfund.org/en/mediacenter/newsreleases/2012-07-25_Global_Fund_Recognizes_Signal_of_Deep_Commitment_by_Spain/ ].

August 2012 - The Fund appoints French financial advisor Daniel Camus as its chief financial officer. Camus' appointments is the Global Fund's third major staff announcement in four months, following the March appointment of former GAVI internal audit director Cees Klumper as chief risk officer and the May appointment of Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist Seth Faison as head of communications.

In late August, the Fund announces the outcomes of the Transitional Funding Mechanism applications. In total, 45 grant applications were successful. With an additional 11 due to be revised and resubmitted, the Fund could award as much as $511 million under the mechanism [ http://www.plusnews.org/Report/96238/HEALTH-Global-Fund-boosts-essential-services ].

September 2012 - The Fund announces the principles of its forthcoming new funding model. Funding will be allocated by country groupings, and mechanisms will be implemented to increase the percentage of successful applications. The announcement signals the Fund's move away from the 'round' system, in which calls for grant applications were issued periodically, and shows growing emphasis on disease investment frameworks to guide programming [ http://www.plusnews.org/Report/96385/HEALTH-The-Global-Fund-adopts-new-funding-model ].

kn/rz [ENDS] This report on line: http://www.IRINnews.org/report.aspx?ReportID=96405


HEALTH: The "unfinished business" of lowering child mortality

NAIROBI, 13 September 2012 (IRIN) - In 1990, an estimated 12 million children around the world died under age five; by 2011, that figure had dropped to 6.9 million. The message, from a new report by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), is that with greater commitment to child survival from governments and their partners, these figures can go lower still.

"These new data are cause to celebrate," UNICEF deputy executive director Geeta Rao Gupta said at a press conference launching the 2012 Progress Report on Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed. "But this is unfinished business, and it is not just about numbers. Behind every statistic is an unseen child, and a grieving mother and father."

The vast majority of child deaths are preventable. Almost two-thirds of under-five deaths in 2011 were caused by infectious illnesses such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, meningitis, tetanus, HIV and measles; by contrast, in countries with very low under-five mortality rates, there were almost no deaths from infectious diseases. More than one-third of under-five deaths could be attributed to undernutrition, and almost 40 percent occurred within the first month of life, often due to preterm or delivery complications.

According to the report, nine low-income countries - Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Nepal, Niger and Rwanda - have lowered their under-five mortality rate by 60 percent or more over the last two decades. These countries used simple, tried and tested methods to improve child survival: widespread immunization campaigns for diseases like measles and polio; insecticide-treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria; interventions ranging from folic acid supplements to clean delivery practices to improve newborn survival; and exclusive breastfeeding to address undernutrition.

The global drop in under-five mortality works out to a decline of about 3 percent per year, but if the world is to meet the Millennium Development Goals on child mortality and maternal health, child deaths need to fall by 14 percent per year, according to the World Health Organization.

Poorest go without

Under-five deaths are largely concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, which accounted for almost half of these deaths in 2011, and South Asia, where 33 percent of under-five deaths occurred. In a few instances - Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Somalia - under-five mortality actually rose between 1990 and 2011.

The report also noted wide disparities within countries. Data from 39 countries show that children born into the poorest fifth of a population are almost twice as likely to die before age five as those born into the wealthiest fifth. Other factors that increase risk of under-five death include: being born in rural areas; being born to mothers without basic education; and living in areas affected by violence and political fragility.

Many of the simplest interventions remain inaccessible in impoverished parts of Africa and Asia. For instance, globally, less than one-third of children with diarrhoea receive oral rehydration salts.

In Uganda, which has registered a 49 percent decline in under-five mortality since 1990, health workers say the cost of vaccines remains a major hindrance, and the country's overburdened health system is struggling to cope with the needs of one of the world's fastest growing populations.

"We have some vaccines which have reduced illness among the children, like pneumococcal and rotavirus, which are not wildly available in health units due to high cost," Jolly Natukunda, a senior paediatric consultant at Mulago National Referral Hospital, Uganda’s largest referral facility, told IRIN.

But according to Mickey Chopra, UNICEF's chief of health, the price of many vaccines has fallen significantly in recent years through negotiations between the GAVI Alliance and manufacturers and suppliers of vaccines. In 2011, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer cut the price of its pneumococcal vaccine - which prevents pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis - by more than 50 percent for developing countries, which now spend just US$3.50 per dose.

A pledge to do more

In June, UNICEF and its partners launched A Promise Renewed, a global effort to reenergize the improvement of maternal, newborn and child survival. Since its inception, more than 110 governments have signed a pledge vowing to redouble efforts to reduce child mortality. The movement aims to rapidly decrease under-five mortality by improving countries' evidence-based plans; strengthening accountability for maternal and child healthcare; and mobilizing support for the principle that "no child should die from preventable causes". It aims to prioritize the world's poorest people.

"A child's death is all the more tragic when caused by a disease that can easily be prevented. That's why we have this global movement to recommit to child survival and renew the promise to end child deaths. This decline shows we can make this happen," UNICEF's Rao said.   kr/so/rz [END]


Analysis: Armed groups should not be a law unto themselves

JOHANNESBURG, 15 August 2012 (IRIN) - The vast majority of conflicts involve one or more armed groups - in 2011 there were at least 48 non-international armed conflicts involving about 170 armed groups - and while some seek to conform to international humanitarian and human rights law, others wear their complete disrespect for the laws of war as a badge of honour.

"It is the population at large who is placed centre-stage in this type of [non-international] conflict, by both rebel and regular forces. Civilians are both the prize and the main victims of these wars," the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in its June 2011 International Review of the Red Cross publication. [ http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/international-review/review-882-armed-groups/review-882-all.pdf ]

The most infamous armed groups - such as Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), and a range of Salafist-inspired insurgency groups - employ terror to control affected populations. There are also armed groups that see adhering to humanitarian standards as a crucial component of the fight - although in both cases their understanding of the Geneva Convention and its associated protocols, which run to more than 500 articles, maybe lacking.

Olivier Bangerter, a former International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) advisor for dialogue with armed groups, said in a 2011 paper Reasons Why Armed Groups Choose to Respect International Humanitarian Law or Not, [ http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/article/review-2011/irrc-882-bangerter.htm ] "It is questionable how far knowledge of the content of IHL [International Humanitarian Law] by many commanders and fighters really extends beyond some basic notions.few [armed] groups have access to lawyers who are well versed in IHL; in most cases, their knowledge derives from hearsay and reading matter of varying quality."

Engaging armed groups

For NGOs, engaging and educating armed groups about their humanitarian obligations is fraught with challenges. It may be seen as "conferring legitimacy" on them - with affected governments citing violations of sovereignty - or as falling afoul of international anti-terror legislation.

Armed groups also vary widely. Martin Lacourt, the head of ICRC's Unit for Relations with Arms Carriers, told IRIN, "There is almost nothing in common between the Hezbollah - with a strong chain of command and able to conduct land, air and naval operations - and the Sabaot Land Defence Front around Mount Eglon in Kenya. Armed groups represent a wide variety of actors, from quasi-state organizations to a mere handful of predators. Standardized approaches are doomed to fail, standard material impossible to devise. The ICRC therefore aims at tailor-made approaches."

The ICRC has held workshops for commanders of armed groups in the Philippines and Sudan to provide "input in terms of IHL content. [but] only the armed group's leadership can enforce IHL standards," he said. The humanitarian organization has also disseminated IHL advice to armed groups in Central African Republic, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Gaza Strip.

"While few armed groups have effective education and training systems, they all have some kind of doctrine, code of behaviour and sanctions to penalize misconduct, including theft, looting, cruelty, assault, rape and ill treatment of prisoners," Lacourt said. Though the ICRC can advise armed groups on IHL rules in their policy documents, it does not endorse their codes of conduct.

"If integrated properly, IHL rules can be stated in a way that is easy to understand and to be followed by members of the armed group. Complex legal texts are unlikely to capture the attention of fighters," the ICRC's June 2011 publication said. And even discussions about the issue "may cause [armed] groups to reflect on IHL and on their behaviour in comparison to it".

Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Convention, according to the ICRC, binds non-state actors - including corporations and armed groups - to about 140 of the 160 or so customary IHL rules that apply to states.

But "while armed groups are bound by IHL and other customary or treaty-based international law, they are excluded from the processes making these laws, negotiating or signing treaties and so on. This may reduce their incentive to comply," Ashley Jackson, a research fellow on armed groups at the Humanitarian Policy Group of the Overseas Development Institute, told IRIN.

The Geneva-based NGO Geneva Call [ http://www.genevacall.org ] has developed three Deeds of Commitment (DoC) for armed groups, including a prohibition against sexual violence and a call to protect children from the effects of armed conflict.

Geneva Call's first DoC in 2000 set out to get armed groups to abide by the Mine Ban Treaty [ http://www.irinnews.org/printreport.aspx?reportid=87608 ], a state-agreed international convention to outlaw the use and stockpiling of anti-personnel mines. These efforts were originally dismissed by some within the mine-ban community, and many governments were adamant that armed groups might sign such a pledge but would never respect it. Yet 42 armed groups have signed Geneva Call's DoC banning anti-personnel mines and are abiding by it, allowing for both internal and external monitoring and verification of their compliance.

Geneva Call is distilling 15 basic humanitarian rules for armed groups into a training manual, including respect for humanitarian actors and the humane treatment of opposition forces. The organization's legal advisor Jonathan Somer does not envisage a DoC similar to that used for anti-personnel land mines but added that "nothing is on or off the table right now".

None beyond the pale

"Many of the rules of IHL are very difficult to monitor as they involve judgment and deference, such as proportionality vis-à-vis civilian casualties, precautionary measures in attack and the notion of imperative military necessity. Even with respect to the mechanisms available to monitor states, it is very difficult to determine when violations have taken place," Somer told IRIN.

"Therefore a deed of commitment addressing IHL compliance in general would bring forth many greater challenges. We are taking it step by step. But it is still important to promote ownership of IHL in general.and [for armed groups] to take responsibility for internal implementation," Somer said.

Those proposing greater engagement with armed groups on human rights and humanitarian laws see all as fair game.

Professor Marco Sassòli, director of Geneva University's International Law Department and chair of Geneva Call's board, said in his 2010 paper Taking Armed Groups Seriously: Ways to Improve their Compliance with International Humanitarian Law [ http://www.cdp-hrc.uottawa.ca/uploads/TakingArmedGroupsSeriously.pdf ] that to reject an armed group as beyond the pale "would mean that those in need of the greatest protection would be deprived of any protection efforts just because they are in the hands of a group whose aims or methods are utterly rejected".

"At any rate, the more ANSAs [armed non-state actors] comply with international standards, the harder it will be for outliers to justify their noncompliance," Somer said.

ODI's Jackson said, "Even within more extreme groups, there may be those members or local commanders that recognize the rationale behind having laws in war. And it's also important to remember that these groups evolve over time - for example, the Layha, or the Afghan Taliban's code of conduct, has been revised in recent years with some more harmful provisions, such as commands to burn schools or banning engagement with NGOs, dropped."

Zama Coursen-Neff, deputy director of the children's rights division of Human Rights Watch (HRW), said in a April 2012 internet seminar, hosted by Harvard University's Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research and the International Review of the Red Cross, "Some armed groups care very much about being perceived as following the law, [although] they may not care about the law itself, but care about the perception."

Such groups include the Libyan rebels that overthrew Muammar Gaddafi's government and Maoist rebels in India who rationalized attacks on schools by saying they were occupied by government forces. After HRW research revealed the schools had no military presence, and local media and NGOs questioned the actions, the school attacks "diminished," Coursen-Neff said.

Are armed groups open to IHL practices?

Elements of humanitarian law are often already present in conflict societies. In Somalia there is the traditional warfare creed of 'Biri ma Geido' or Spared from the Spear, that requires some categories of people be protected during conflict, including women, children, the elderly, poets and peace negotiators, among others. Not all armed groups adhere to this creed, however.

Religious beliefs and a society's moral values can also place limits on behaviour during conflict, but may also run counter to IHL.

"Pillaging and the kidnapping and enslavement of civilians observed during the civil war in southern Sudan were carried out by horsemen who came largely but not solely from Arab tribes whose traditional law of war considers such practices to be normal," Bangerter said in his 2011 paper.

But armed groups may respect humanitarian laws for a number of reasons, from their own convictions or public relations to the military advantages it may entail, he said. "Marxist movements claiming to fight for the good of 'the people' frequently have a code of conduct that prohibits a number of acts, such as pillaging in any form, the ill-treatment of civilians and prisoners, and violence against women."

On the other hand, military advantage is also seen as a reason not to respect humanitarian law. Child soldiers may be used to bolster forces and civilian shields or terror tactics may be used to compensate for an armed group's relative military weakness.

Bangerter suggests looking to the Swiss Criminal Code's carrot-and-stick approach to promoting compliance with IHL. "While criminalizing the financing of terrorism by imposing a fine and/or a prison sentence of up to five years, it [the criminal code] states that raising such funds cannot be punished 'if the financing is intended to support acts that do not violate the rules of international law on the conduct of armed conflicts'. This gives an armed group wanting to raise funds in such a prosperous country a serious reason to consider respecting IHL better."

go/am/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=96107




REFUGEES: Resettlement still a last resort


JOHANNESBURG, 1 August 2012 (IRIN) - After five years of hoping and waiting, Marie*, her husband Simeon* and their three children, refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, finally received a phone call telling them to pack their bags; they would be leaving South Africa for Australia at the end of the month.

Simeon was unconcerned by the short notice. "We've been ready for so long," he told IRIN from the UN Refugee Agency's (UNHCR) offices in Pretoria where the family had just learned the name of the city where they would be restarting their lives in a few days.

"Brisbane," said Marie, testing the word on her lips for the first time. "Do you know where that is?"

For refugees with no possibility of either returning home or permanently settling in their host country, resettlement to a third country is considered as a last resort. To call Marie and her family lucky is pushing it, after the hardships they have endured, but it is true that only 61,600 refugees were resettled in 2011, a fraction of the 780,000 that UNHCR estimates to be in need of resettlement, and down from the 73,000 resettled in 2010.

"It's very labour intensive," explained Shant Dermegerditchian, a regional resettlement officer with UNHCR based in Pretoria. "UNHCR has to make sure there's integrity in the case, and that refugee status and the need for resettlement is clear.

"As much as we can make the recommendation for resettlement, the places are very limited and it's ultimately the [resettlement] country that makes the determination if they want to accept a person," he added.

Just 26 countries have functioning resettlement programmes, with the USA operating by far the largest, followed by Canada and Australia. European countries have collectively offered only 4,000-5,000 annual resettlement places in recent years.

Few resettlement options in Europe

The large number of asylum seekers who independently make their way to Europe has reduced support for resettlement there, said Torsten Moritz, CEO of the Churches' Commission for Migrants in Europe, which is leading a campaign to increase the number of refugee resettlement places available in the European Union to 20,000 by the year 2020.

"The perception is Europe does asylum and the US does resettlement," he told IRIN. "We're saying, we can do more. Europe is one of the richest regions, despite the [economic] crisis, and we're doing very little."

The EU Council recently agreed to promote a policy of increased resettlement by offering coordinating support and financial incentives to member states which accept refugees for resettlement. "Most of the countries would be keen to get some of the EU funding, but it's a completely voluntary thing; it's nothing the EU can enforce," commented Mortiz. "That's one of the reasons we felt we needed to put a quota on the table."

Low priority?

Even within UNHCR, resettlement has its champions and its detractors, according to Amy Slaughter, CEO of RefugePoint, a US-based refugee rights organization which deploys its staff to UNHCR offices throughout sub-Saharan Africa to boost their capacity to refer refugees in need of resettlement. "One argument is that it's a solution for so few and takes up a lot of resources," she said. "In situations where the needs are vast, it's pushed to the bottom of the priority list because they're busy taking care of emergency needs.

"But it's a vital long-term solution and it has benefits for families in terms of assets gained in countries of resettlement, such as education and finances."

At the Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement held in Geneva recently, UNHCR High Commissioner António Guterres advocated an increase in resettlement numbers and that local UNHCR offices be held accountable for meeting their resettlement targets.

Slaughter attributed the dip in numbers last year to the deteriorating security situation at Dadaab refugee complex [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/95989/KENYA-Dadaab-fire-highlights-emergency-preparedness-gap ] in eastern Kenya which hosts half a million mostly Somali refugees. "A lot of resettlement countries have stopped sending their officials there," she said.

According to Dermegerditchian of UNHCR, the USA also introduced a new security procedure last year which delayed many cases, particularly those of Somalis and Iraqis, and saw the number of refugees resettled from South Africa drop from 387 in 2010 to just 81 in 2011.

"This year, things are moving much better and we've already had 220 departures," he said.

Until a wave of xenophobic violence against foreigners erupted in South Africa in 2008, [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/78386/SOUTH-AFRICA-Xenophobic-attacks-spreading ] the country was considered fairly progressive in its treatment of refugees and asylum seekers and as having little need for resettlement. Since that time, most of the cases that UNHCR refers for resettlement are victims of continued xenophobic attacks, many of them Somalis attempting to run businesses in low-income areas where their presence is viewed as a threat by local traders. [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/92772/SOUTH-AFRICA-Foreign-traders-face-threats-intimidation ]

"Managing expectations"

UNHCR's Resettlement Handbook [ http://www.unhcr.org/4a2ccf4c6.html ] lists seven categories, at least one of which a refugee must fall under to be considered for submission. The first is a lack of legal or physical protection in the host country. Others include the unavailability of life-saving medical treatment and risks particular to women, children and survivors of torture. A "lack of foreseeable alternative durable solutions" is the seventh category, but in reality too many refugees fall into this category for it to be applied except in rare cases.

"It's still mainly used as a protection tool here in South Africa," said Dermegerditchian. "There is a lot of managing expectations and we have to be clear that only one in 10 refugees [needing to be resettled] have the possibility for resettlement."

In a life-threatening emergency, refugees can be resettled in a matter of weeks, but the vast majority of cases take a minimum of six months and more often several years starting with extensive interviews with staff from UNHCR or one of its implementing partners, followed by more interviews, security checks and medical screening by officials from the resettlement country.

"After 9/11, there were lots of added layers of security checks, especially for anyone with an Arabic name," noted Slaughter.

For a refugee desperate to escape an intolerable situation and make a fresh start, the process can feel endless, particularly if it ends with a rejection. Dermegerditchian said over 90 percent of the cases that UNHCR submits for resettlement in the southern Africa region are accepted, but Marie and her family were rejected by both the USA and Canada before Australia agreed to take them.

Marie is convinced that they were rejected because two of their children suffer from haemophilia, a genetic disorder that impairs the body's ability to control bleeding, but Dermegerditchian was reluctant to speculate.

"Resettlement countries have their own criteria; they only inform us of the reasons for denial in general terms," he said. "In some cases UNHCR needs to re-interview the refugee to make sure their stories are consistent. If we can't find a problem, we resubmit their case to another country."

After years of joblessness, denial of medical treatment for their children and what they said was constant xenophobia from their neighbours, Marie and Simeon's relief to be leaving their home of the last decade is palpable.

"The fact that they're welcoming us [in Australia] - it frees you psychologically," said Simeon.

*Not a real name

ks/cb [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=95996



World Humanitarian Day: Community health workers get the job done

KAMPALA/KINSHASA/MBABANE/NAIROBI, 19 August 2012 (IRIN) - Doctors, nurses, activists and policy makers have all been vital to Africa's HIV programmes, but supporting them every step of the way has been an army of dedicated community health workers and volunteers who care for people living with the disease.

"I had a patient who was delirious and she bit me. She was HIV-positive, and she could have infected me if I was not already HIV-positive. It was terrifying," recalled Thab'sile Ndlovu, a community care volunteer who assists people living with HIV in a rural area near Siphofaneni, in central Swaziland. "That was the day before I was chased by a bull when I was doing my rounds in the area, and it was a week after I was bitten by a dog at a homestead."

The continent's community caregivers do more than check in on patients to see if they have sufficient supplies of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, which suppress the virus . Caroline Makhongo, a community health worker in Samia, a rural district in western Kenya, says her days involve visiting and caring for sick neighbours, helping patients get to the hospital, giving talks at the local health centre and following up on patients who have missed regular visits to the health centre.

"It is something you do because you want to help," said Makhongo. "Without [community health workers], many people would die of HIV as a result of failing to finish their treatment or even fewer people would be taking family planning services, but we help explain these things to them and you see improvement."

World Humanitarian Day, on 19 August, recognizes the contributions of humanitarian workers like Ndlovu and Makhongo, who often make enormous personal sacrifices in their service to others. [ https://www.thunderclap.it/whd-iwashere ]

Plugging a gap

Swaziland's deepening financial crisis has taken its toll on the healthcare system, with nurses [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/96037/SWAZILAND-Nurses-protest-working-conditions ] embarking on intermittent strikes to protest unsafe working conditions and low pay. As the public health sector declines, Swazis are increasingly relying on community volunteers to fill the gap.

In Kenya, more than 10,000 community health workers have been deployed in communities to help plug the shortage of professional health care workers. They have helped scale-up HIV programmes including voluntary counselling and antiretroviral adherence counselling.

"Community health workers are particularly critical in providing services at the lower levels of health care, because trained health professionals are not always enough in resource-poor countries," Lucy Mathu, a prevention-of-mother-to-child HIV transmission advisor at the Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation, told IRIN. "Many patients, especially in rural areas only have a one-off contact with a trained health care professional, and this means the care these patients need cannot continue without these volunteers. They are very important in terms of passing on critical health messages."

In Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where stigma remains very high and HIV-positive people are often shunned, one NGO is using HIV-positive volunteers to care for each other and to teach the community about HIV.

"We are all HIV-positive...volunteers oversee patients at home or in hospital," said Jean Lukela head of a national network of community-based organizations supporting people living with HIV (RENOUAC). "We organize community meals with the purpose of showing others that they can eat with [HIV-positive people]."

The AIDS Support Organization (TASO), one of Uganda's oldest local NGOs, has close to 5,000 volunteers; TASO officials say community workers are at the centre of the organization's activities.

"It saves hospitals and health centres from getting filled up. Instead of bringing these people to hospitals, we take care of and monitor them at their homes," said Moses Batwala, TASO medical coordinator. "The programme helps us take services nearer to the people."

Just 56 percent of health worker positions in Uganda's public health system are filled, and community workers play a vital role in plugging this gap.

"Home-based care approach is a very important component and has been demonstrated to work," said David Apuuli Kihumuro, director general of the Uganda AIDS Commission. "However, the system is too expensive... the government can't manage it. Civil society organizations and NGOs are better in doing it than the government."

But NGOs also face funding issues, and community health workers - often just as poor as the people they care for - regularly go above and beyond the call of duty, sharing their food or buying food for sick community members or spending their own money on transport to get sick people to health centres.

Under-supported

"We need to get more support than what we have now. Many think we are just good Samaritans without any needs," Makhongo said. "Some of us get nothing at all, and some who get a little support have to share it with the patients we look after."

She receives 2,000 Kenya shillings - about US$24 - every month to facilitate the work she does, but this doesn't even begin to cover her expenses.

Volunteers for the DRC's RENOUAC say the people they care for are so poor that they cannot afford basics like toothbrushes and hand towels, let alone transport to health centres.

Studies [ http://www.human-resources-health.com/content/8/1/8/ ] show that while task-shifting - delegating tasks performed by physicians to staff with lower-level qualifications such as primary healthcare teams and community health workers - offers high-quality, cost-effective care and is a viable response to Africa's lack of health workers, it faces several challenges, including adequate and sustainable training and funding for community health workers.

"It is a problem, because when donors hear the word 'volunteer', they expect people to work and give of their time for nothing in return," said one Swazi health motivator who preferred anonymity.

"We do have affluent volunteers from the towns who can afford to work without compensation, but most of our women - the rural volunteers are mostly women - they live in extreme poverty," she added. "They do not use their stipends as income but they need this money to pay for bus fare, which can be expensive, and for lunches. I know several volunteers who purchase blankets and necessities like bathing tubs and even food for shut-in patients with AIDS."

The work is also frequently physically strenuous. "I must go to the stream with two 20-litre containers and fill them with water for Mrs Simelane. She is too weak to fetch water, and her children are too small to handle the containers. It is over a kilometre and I am fortunate to use a wheelbarrow, but pushing those containers uphill is hard!" Agnes Tshabalala, a health volunteer from Swaziland's central Manzini region, said with a laugh.

Mathu noted that the sustainability and success of the services provided by community health workers was dependent on the amount of training and support they received.

"Total voluntarism doesn't work at all," she said. "Make their work easy by giving them material support and continuously improving their skills to improve the quality of care they are able to provide."

jh/ko/so/sw/kn/kr/rz [END] This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=96132


AFRICA: AGOA uncertainty hurts textile workers

JOHANNESBURG/MANZINI, 17 July 2012 (IRIN) - The livelihoods of tens of thousands of textile workers in Africa is hanging in the balance amid growing anxiety about whether a key provision of US trade legislation will be renewed before it expires in September.

AGOA [ http://www.agoa.gov/index.asp ] was enacted by former President Bill Clinton in 2000 with the aim of boosting trade and development in eligible African countries by allowing them to export products to the USA, duty-free. A large proportion of these products are garments, with exports from Africa to the USA now representing more than US$800 million and creating an estimated 300,000 new jobs mainly in Lesotho, Swaziland, Kenya and Mauritius, according to a recent report [ http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2012/06/~/media/Research/Files/Reports/2012/6/agoa/agoa_full_report.pdf ] by the Brookings Institution. Madagascar's garment industry also benefited from AGOA until it was declared ineligible following a coup in 2009.

Aside from having preferential access to US markets, the competitiveness of these clothing and textile products relies on a provision of AGOA that allows manufacturers to import inexpensive yarn and fabric from another country, such as India or China.

Although AGOA itself is not due for renewal until 2015, the so-called Third Country Fabric (TCF) Provision is set to expire at the end of September. Without it, fledgling textile industries all over Africa are likely to flounder.

The uncertainty surrounding whether or not the provision will be renewed has already resulted in a 30 percent drop in clothing orders from US buyers and the loss of thousands of jobs since January, according to a coalition of African manufacturers and US importers that has appealed to the US Congress to approve the legislation as quickly as possible. [ http://www.uschamber.com/issues/letters/2012/multi-industry-letter-re-agoas-third-country-fabric-provision-and-cafta-dr ]

Lesotho

Lesotho's textile and garment industry, which relies heavily on exports to the USA, is the largest formal employer in a country where job opportunities are scarce. According to Lesa Makhoabile of the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC), a decline in orders from US buyers in recent months has already forced a number of companies to lay off workers, while 15 out of 40 textile factories are at a high to critical risk of closing down or downsizing.

"The [TCF] provision is extremely important to Lesotho because all the companies that export to the US rely on it to remain competitive since they are able to source cheap raw materials from Asia and produce garments at affordable production costs," she told IRIN.

Most of Lesotho's 36,000 textile workers are women who are often the sole breadwinners for their families. Laid-off workers do not qualify for pensions but receive severance pay equivalent to two weeks wages for each year they worked for the same employer.

Swaziland

A representative from the Swaziland Textile Export Association said the looming expiry of the TCF provision was just one of a number of reasons why Swaziland's garment manufacturing industry has shed over two-thirds of the 30,000 textile workers it employed at the height of production in 2004. These include the flagging US economy, unfavourable exchange rates, a lack of local investment and minimum wages for garment workers that are high compared to those earned by Asian workers.

The cost of living in Swaziland nevertheless meant that the salary Cynthia Lushaba earned working at a textile factory in Swaziland's main commercial hub Manzini was just sufficient to cover the essentials. "I saved no money," she said. "We were paid only enough for my children and me to have two meals a day and pay our rent."

Lushaba, 34, was one of about 200 workers retrenched from the factory in April. "We were not told the reason but [the factory manager] said that business was bad," she told IRIN. "There are no jobs in Swaziland. I took the factory job when my husband started getting sick.

"There is no compensation for people like me," she added. "They said I did not work so long to earn a pension and the government does not give anything to people who lose their jobs. There is nothing, I just pray."

Donna Bawden, CEO of the Apparel Lesotho Alliance to Fight AIDS, which provides HIV prevention and treatment to Lesotho's textile workers, said there was confidence among local manufacturers that the TCF provision would be renewed but that there was also recognition of the need to become less reliant on US markets. "AGOA is very important, especially in establishing the industry here, but they're trying to diversify the market," she said.

Bills to extend key provisions of AGOA, including the TCF have been introduced in both the US Senate and House of Representatives and until now have had strong bipartisan support. President Barack Obama is also in favour of renewing the provision. However, there are fears that the bill may nevertheless be stalled by partisan politics, particularly as the presidential election draws nearer.

US Trade Representative Ron Kirk reportedly told participants at the 12th annual AGOA Forum, held in Washington last month: "We are regrettably in an election year and I think some people think partisan politics trump common sense." ks/cb [END]
This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=95883



AFRICA: Donor fatigue forces WFP to cut refugee rations

JOHANNESBURG, 19 June 2012 (IRIN) - The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has halved food rations to refugees living in camps in at least four African countries citing a funding shortfall.

The cuts have already affected 16,000 refugees in Malawi's Dzaleka camp who have been on half rations since March, while a further 120,000 refugees in Uganda began receiving half rations of cereals in May.

According to WFP, another 100,000 refugees in Tanzania saw their maize rations cut by 50 percent starting from last week, and rations for some 54,000 refugees living in Rwanda are expected to be cut in August unless donors come forward with more funding.

"Even the full ration wasn't enough," said Sanky Kabeya, a 24-year-old resident of Dzaleka who spoke to IRIN at the end of March. [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/95259/EDUCATION-Online-learning-inspires-refugees ] "I haven't taken breakfast this morning and many are in the same situation."

Gustave Lwaba, another resident of the camp, said the usual monthly ration of 13kg of maize had gone down to 7kg, while rations of cooking oil, pigeon peas, sugar and salt had also been cut by half. "There are people in the camp who rely on relatives who've been resettled," he said. "The rest really starve because the rations can't last a month."

Michelle Carter, country director for the Jesuit Refugee Service in Malawi, which runs a number of educational and other programmes in the camp, said the cuts were "clearly leading to a fair amount of hunger. I know children are coming to school hungry," she told IRIN.

"The food is only lasting two weeks and if they're on their own it's much worse because they can't combine rations."

Noting that only a very small percentage of the refugees had any source of income, she said single mothers, unaccompanied minors and the elderly and disabled had been particularly hard hit by the reduced rations.

A protection officer with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Malawi, Gavin Lim, said his agency planned to carry out an assessment in the coming months to determine the full impact of the ration cuts but that reports of more women in the camp turning to survival sex were already coming in.

Difficult to become self-reliant

Most countries in southern and eastern Africa have an encampment policy for refugees which restricts their freedom of movement and reduces their chances of becoming self-reliant. Some earn a small income running informal businesses outside the camps but competition with often equally impoverished locals is fierce and has led to outbreaks of violence.

In May, a number of refugees who were selling goods at a small trading centre outside Dzaleka were assaulted by local traders who accused them of undermining their businesses. According to Carter, the Malawian government plans to withdraw trading licenses for refugees from July.

Many of Dzaleka's residents have lived in the camp for over a decade. Indeed, an increasing proportion of refugees today live in what UNHCR describes as "protracted" exile (in 2011, more than seven million refugees had lived outside their country for more than five years). Donors are increasingly reluctant to shoulder the burden of feeding these long-term refugees.

Commenting on the funding shortfall, WFP spokesperson for east and southern Africa David Orr said: "There is inevitably some donor fatigue regarding longstanding or protracted refugee loads; these funding issues affect more than just food." ks/cb [END]
This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=95597



UGANDA: Government plans naturalization of refugees

KAMPALA, 21 June 2012 (IRIN) - The Ugandan government says it is in discussions to legalize and grant naturalization to thousands of refugees who fled into the country in the 1960s and 1990s, mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

At an event in the capital, Kampala, to commemorate World Refugee Day on 20 June, Stephen Mallinga, Uganda's Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees, said the government had set up a committee that included refugees and humanitarian agencies to discuss the mechanisms for naturalization.

"These are refugees who... have lost touch with their countries of origin. Naturalization of these cases is one possible solution and discussions are underway in this direction," he said. "The naturalization of these refugees will mean their stay in Uganda will not be illegal. They will be Ugandans who are entitled to live and work in Uganda and have a productive life."

He said the refugees eligible for naturalization would be those who have been in the country for lengthy periods and have no interest in returning to their countries of origin. Most of those matching these criteria were originally Congolese and Rwandan.

Uganda would become the second East African nation to naturalize refugees - in 2010 Tanzania naturalized more than 162,000 Burundians who fled their homeland in 1972.

Mary Cifende Anganze, a Congolese refugee representative, welcomed the minister's announcement. "It will be a big milestone in the lives of those who qualify for the citizenship. They will have new opportunities in life," she said.

"This is a very good gesture by the government. It's really a humanitarian act by Uganda. These people who will naturalized will be integrated with the local community and live together as one," said Mohammed Abdri Ada, a representative of the UN Refugee Agency (UNCHR) in Uganda. "In Europe, it's basically supposed to take five years. But in Africa, it takes about 30 to 40 years for one to be granted citizenship."

Uganda's Commissioner for Refugees in the Office of the Prime Minister, David Kazungu, told IRIN that at least 5,000 refugees had applied for citizenship. "All of them will be considered, and those who qualify will be granted citizenship," he said.

The exercise would contribute to solving the challenge of Uganda's heavy caseload of 183,148 refugees and asylum seekers. According UNHCR statistics from 1 June 2012; the country hosts 104,686 Congolese, 22,786 Somalis, 19,406 Sudanese, 16,160 Rwandans, 9,475 Burundians and 6,734 Eritreans. There are also 2,124 Ethiopians, 1,640 Kenyans and 137 others.

A continuous stream of refugees flow into Uganda as people flee violence in the DRC's North Kivu Province and Jonglei State in South Sudan.

Eight major settlements house the refugees, mainly in the southwest and north. The overall coordination and management of the settlements is handled by the Office of the Prime Minister - under which the Ministry for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees falls - in partnership with UNHCR and a number of NGOs.

Naturalizing long-term refugees will come as a relief to many Rwandans. A UNHCR decision to invoke a cessation clause [ http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/47fdfaf1d.html ] - through which states and the UNHCR recognize changed circumstances in refugees' countries of origin and allow for repatriation - were at risk of having to return home [ http://www.irinnews.org/Report/94029/MIGRATION-Rwandan-refugees-reluctant-to-repatriate ] against their will. The cessation clause becomes effective in June 2013.

He pointed out that the country faced large gaps in funding, while the number of refugees continued to rise, saying, "I appeal to the international community to mobilize the requisite resources in order for Uganda to meet the protection needs of these refugees." so/kr/he[END]
This report online: http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportID=95701



Analysis: How close is an African criminal court?

JOHANNESBURG, 13 June (IRIN) - The long-running spat between the African Union (AU) and International Criminal Court (ICC) over perceived bias has prompted the AU to push ahead with plans to form its own Africa-wide criminal court, but analysts believe the move could complicate, rather than enhance, international justice.

"Africa wants regional ownership of its crimes and its leaders," Alan Wallis, an international justice lawyer at the Johannesburg-based Southern African Litigation Centre (SALC), told IRIN, but pointed out: "There is a misbelief [by the AU] that Africa is being targeted, as all cases before the ICC concern African situations, but this ignores the fact that of those six [cases], three were referred to the ICC by the countries concerned."

AU commission chairperson Jean Ping has accused ICC of "bullying" Africa, with a key bone of contention being the 2009 indictment of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir for alleged atrocities committed in Darfur.

Plans for an African criminal court moved into an advanced stage with a final draft protocol drawn up in Addis Ababa on 15 May. It is widely expected to be adopted at an AU summit meeting of heads of state in July.

The venue for the summit was originally intended to be Malawi, but the host president, Joyce Banda, said it would honour its ICC obligations and arrest Sudan's president should he attend. The meeting was subsequently switched to Addis Ababa.

Adoption of the new court, according to analysts, requires formalizing the crime of "unconstitutional change of government", and it would require ratification by 15 AU member states - a process which could take a few years.

The jurisdiction envisaged by the new AU court replicates that of the ICC, covering such things as the major international crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity - and adds others such as piracy, terrorism, mercenary activity, corruption, money-laundering, human and narcotics trafficking and the illegal exploitation of natural resources.

Calls by the AU "in the interests of peace and security" on the UN Security Council to defer or postpone legal proceedings against Bashir - and against the alleged instigators of Kenya's post-electoral violence in 2008 - have fallen on deaf ears.

Stephen Arthur Lamony, Africa outreach liaison and situations adviser for the Coalition for the ICC, an umbrella organization of 2,500 civil society organizations in 150 countries, told IRIN: "The AU feels ignored". He said AU requests to defer legal proceedings in the two cases would remain "a sticking point" between the AU and the ICC.

He added that the ICC had been attempting to establish an AU-ICC liaison office for "quite a while", but had not met with success.

Amalgamation

The African Court of Justice and Human Rights is supposed to be formed through a merger of the African Court on Human and People's Rights [ http://www.african-court.org/en/ ] and the AU Court of Justice, [ http://www.africa-union.org/root/au/organs/court_of_justice_en.htm ] and is envisaged to comprise three sections: general affairs, human rights and international criminal law.

According to the court's draft protocol, the AU Peace and Security Council and the office of the prosecutor will be eligible to submit cases; the court's jurisdiction for international crimes will commence after its inception. This means that the court would not trump current cases being considered by the ICC regarding the Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Kenya and Sudan.

Wallis said the court's composition, combining a human rights function and criminal prosecutorial powers was "unprecedented" under international law, and the process appeared to be rushed. "Here is a completely new creature - a regional criminal court, with identical jurisdiction to the ICC, but with no bridges between the two and it is difficult to anticipate the potential implications and challenges."

Where the ICC will fit in, if at all, was unclear. Lamony said the ICC has agreements with national courts but not with regional courts. Wallis foresees confusion should the AU court materialize. "In this regard guidance to African ICC states parties on balancing the relationship between obligations assumed through their ratification of the Rome Statute and the anticipated obligations imposed by the proposed expansion, and the legal implications, should be properly canvassed through further state engagement. A wait-and-see approach may do more harm than good."

Jonathan O'Donohue, Amnesty International's legal adviser for international justice, told IRIN: "The ICC already exists, but it does not seem clear and it is not set out if there is any relationship between the ICC and the [proposed] regional criminal court. There is a danger of duplication [between the two international criminal courts] and also the potential for conflict over jurisdiction. This needs to be resolved before it goes any further."

ICC background

The ICC was established by the Rome Statute in July 1998 and the court entered into force four years later and now counts 121 state parties - 33 of which are African - but noticeable by their absence are the USA, Russia, China, Israel, Sudan and India among others.

Established as an international court of "last resort", it was designed to pick up the slack should domestic laws or local criminal justice systems be unable to proceed against the major international crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. In August 2002 South Africa became the first African state to enact the Rome Statute's provisions into its domestic law, and is only one of four African states to have complied so far.

Weapon of the West?

In 2009, the AU adopted the Sirte Resolution calling for non-cooperation by African ICC member states in the arrest of Bashir. Malawi (during the presidency of the late Bingu wa Mutharika), Chad, Kenya and Djibouti - all ICC state parties - have hosted Bashir since the arrest warrant was issued and did not arrest him.

In a 2010 Institute for Security Studies monograph entitled The International Criminal Court that Africa Wants, [ http://www.issafrica.org/pgcontent.php?UID=30374 ] the author, Max du Plessis, a practising advocate and associate professor of law at South Africa's University of KwaZulu-Natal, cites Bashir's arrest warrant as the "flashpoint" that spawned a raft of allegations by the AU against the ICC, with the AU accusing the ICC of being "a hegemonic tool of Western powers" and of having double standards.

Don Deya, an advocate of the High Court of Kenya and CEO of Pan African Lawyers Union which was tasked with drawing-up the legal foundations of the AU's regional court, said in a March 2012 article for the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa entitled Is the African Court Worth the Wait? [ http://www.osisa.org/openspace/regional/african-court-worth-wait ] that there was no reason an African court and the ICC could not work "harmoniously" to end impunity for international crimes, "despite the current bitter divide between Africa and the ICC".

Deya said in the article that the genesis for the African criminal court was not the "furore" surrounding Bashir, but three other pertinent issues - universal jurisdiction, Senegal's impending prosecution of former Chadian President Hissene Habré, and formulation of the international crime of "unconstitutional change of government".

A French court's November 2006 arrest warrant for, and subsequent arrest of, Rose Kabuye, the post-genocide Rwandan chief of protocol, in Germany in 2008 was "a turning point", Deya said: The AU determined that "African states. try international crimes on African soil."

Is it affordable?

An AU report following a two-day meeting of justice ministers and attorney-generals in May 2012, attended by 29 African states as well as representatives of the African Court on Human and People's Rights, the Pan African Parliament [ http://www.pan-africanparliament.org/ ] and the Africa Prosecutors Association, [ http://www.africaprosecutorsassociation.com/about-us.html ] highlighted the cost implications of establishing an international criminal court.

"Technically it is not a bad idea on paper. Any forum that seeks to punish perpetrators of international crime is a good idea. But the concern is that you create this institution which may take years to formally get off the ground, but technically could nonetheless allow for `forum shopping' by providing a choice between the African criminal court and the ICC, and could delay prosecutions and frustrate efforts at accountability," Wallis said.

Lamony said many AU member states do not pay their fees, which handicaps the continental body's operations. "I do not know where they will get the money from [for the court]. In the past [former Libyan president] Muammar Gaddafi would have probably contributed."

O'Donohue said there were also concerns that the proposed combined AU court could see the criminal functions of the court drain resources from the already under-resourced human rights court and there "needs to be clarity on the budgetary system".

The estimated average cost of an ICC trial is about US$20 million or 14 percent of the AU's overall annual budget. The ICC trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor cost about $50 million. The 2011 costs for the Special Court of Sierra Leone (SCSL) were $16 million, while the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) had a budget of $130 million in 2010, with 800 staff involved in simultaneous trials.

The cost of individual criminal trials far outweighs those of civil and human rights cases, Wallis said, adding: "The nature of international criminal proceedings makes them extremely resource intensive. Insufficient funding has the potential to prevent the proper dispensation of justice and could raise questions about the integrity and credibility of the court's future proceedings.

"There is no excuse in this day and age to make anything less than a perfect criminal court. The experience of international criminal tribunals demonstrates that states' broad support is essential to arrests and assistance in investigations. The conceptualization of a regional criminal tribunal must take into consideration the experiences and shortcomings of other international criminal tribunals such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and ICTR and the ICC, so as to avoid problems down the line." go/cb [ENDS]
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