Friday, October 28, 2011

Africa News Round-up…

  • ECOWAS pledges to address child rights challenges in West Africa 
  • High-level meeting of experts on improving regional aviation sector opens in Accra 
  • Report Underlines Pressing Reintegration Needs of Migrants Returning from Libya 
  • MSF seeks swift release of two abducted staff without use of force, Continues medical activities to assist Somali population 
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Applaud Progress Against Malaria While Urging Renewed Effort
  • Plus more.......

  • ECOWAS pledges to address child rights challenges in West Africa
ECOWAS is willing to strengthen its legal and other relevant instruments to address child rights issues in the region, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency James Victor Gbeho, said on Thursday, 20th October 2011 in Abuja.
“We are one of the most troubled regions in Africa due mainly to our history and the prevalence of poverty and so we are ready to work out a framework that will deepen our relationship with partners”, he told Mr. David Gressly, UNICEF West and Central Africa Regional Director, who was at the Commission to discuss areas of further cooperation between ECOWAS and UNICEF.
President Gbeho praised the existing level of cooperation between the two organizations and noted that the prospects for improving child rights in the region have improved with the increased school enrolment among children. He also expressed the willingness of ECOWAS to deepen relations with UNICEF.
The President applauded the interest of UNCEF in improving birth registration in the region, noting that this revived campaign, which was frustrated in the past by illiteracy, poor access and misinformation that linked the exercise to taxes, now stands a better chance of success with improvements in information technology and the environment.
“A new dawn has broken in West Africa with the development of other means to generate data on births complemented by the work we are doing with the civil society in this area”, the President said.
He added that it should be feasible for both organizations to undertake a joint campaign for the registration of every child in the region within five years.
The UNICEF official told his host that his visit was motivated by the need for both organizations to collaborate effectively, especially on registration of births in order to generate data for planning to address children and child rights challenges.
“We think it should be possible for ECOWAS to take the lead in these areas supported by UNICEF”, said Gressly, who was accompanied by other UNICEF officials.

  • High-level meeting of experts on improving regional aviation sector opens in Accra
Ghana plans to establish a separate air navigation service provider as part of initiatives to modernize its aviation sector, improve the environment for efficient airline operations and in response to global trends, the Minister of Transport, Alhaji Collins Dauda said on Friday, 21st October in Accra.
In a keynote address to an experts’ meeting on the development of a viable airline industry for West Africa, the minister said the separation which is “planned for the near future” was part of “several initiatives to modernize the sector” which were launched in 1997 under the Gateway Project.
Following the project launch, the minister who was represented by the Deputy Minster, Mrs. Dzifa Attivor, said the regulatory functions were decoupled from airports management in 2007 resulting in the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority operating as an industry regulator while the airports were managed by the Ghana Airports Company.
The minister said the changes were in response to the changing need of users and the environment under which airlines operate as well as the dramatic changes experienced globally by the aviation industry and to enable the industry to meet new economic, social and environmental challenges.
As further evidence of these changes, he said extensive physical works were ongoing at the country’s international and domestic airports to bring them to international standards.
The minister used the opportunity to allay the “fears and phobias that seem to prevail in some circles” about the consequences of the full implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision of 1988 on the air transport sector in Africa. He canvassed full implementation of the Decision so the region could benefit from its provisions.
In his speech, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Infrastructure, Mr. Celestin Talaki challenged West African airlines to build synergies to avail themselves of the benefits of liberalization and globalization and overcome the challenges militating against their operations.
The Commissioner said this was consistent with the global trend, citing the demise of some national airlines and the multinational Air Afrique as well as the consolidation of airlines in Europe, Asia and America as justification for such a change.
In encouraging synergies, the Commissioner said the ECOWAS Commission was motivated by the 2009 Decision of Heads of State and Government that called for the institutionalization of the annual meeting of chief executives of civil aviation authorities and airline companies as a platform to develop durable solutions to the problems confronting the sector.
In this regard, he said the ECOWAS Commission had organized two meetings, the first in Accra in 2009 followed by the second in 2011 in Lome both of which agreed a plan of action and mechanism for cooperation among regional airlines.
The high-level Accra meeting, which is reviewing presentations and relevant reports, is a follow up to the June 2011 meeting in Abuja.
“Representatives of airlines from Member States, civil aviation authorities, airport managers and experts from within and outside the region are participating in the two-day gathering which will make recommendations to the 24th October 2011 meeting of Ministers of Transport also to be held in Accra,” the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) said.

  • Report Underlines Pressing Reintegration Needs of Migrants Returning from Libya
An International Office of Migration (IOM) survey into the reintegration needs of many tens of thousands of migrants who have returned to Niger from Libya highlights the urgency of providing comprehensive reintegration assistance to returnees and their families, who prior to the Libyan crisis relied on remittances for their economic survival.
The survey, made public on October 25, 2011, establishes that the return to Niger of some 90,000 mostly young uneducated male migrants has had an overall negative impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals who are living in regions affected by chronic food insecurity and underemployment.
The survey notes that 86% of the returnees say they had remitted enough money to support five family members in Niger. Their return effectively means that remittances have now dried up, with often dire consequences for vulnerable families living in drought and food insecurity prone areas.
In the central region of Tahoua, which has seen the majority of returns, the report indicates that household food insecurity has been exacerbated not only by the sharp drop in remittances but also because an overwhelming majority of returnees have neither jobs to go to nor the financial means to engage in self-employment activities.
In several regions such as Zinder, Maradi and Diffa, the return of substantial numbers of often destitute migrants has exacerbated chronic poverty, which prior to the Libyan conflict was said to affect 53% of the population.
In the north-western region of Tillabéri, which survives on small scale subsistence farming, herding and commerce, those returns have aggravated extreme poverty and hunger which is affecting more than half of the 2.5 million inhabitants throughout the country threatened with food insecurity this year.
“Most of the returnees say they urgently need financial or in-kind assistance to help them resume a productive life,” says Abibatou Wane, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Niger. “But we need to go beyond providing direct reintegration assistance to the returnees. We also need to support communities that have been made even more vulnerable by the Libyan conflict and simply cannot cope anymore.”
According to the report, 33% of migrants from Niger returned from the capital Tripoli, 20% from the southern Libyan city of Sebha, 18% from the coastal town of Misrata and the remainder from the cities of Zaouia, Zliten, Al Khums, Benghazi, Brak, Jufra and Sirte.
Almost 41% of the returnees said they were employed in the construction sector, 23% in agriculture and the remainder as drivers, mechanics, petty traders or dockers in the informal sector of the Libyan economy.
When asked what activity they would like to undertake in Niger, 57% of the returnees said they wanted to work in agriculture, 23% in trading, 8% in animal husbandry and the remainder in construction and trade.
“This survey underlines the need to put in place a variety of reintegration options. In the short term, these could range from in-kind assistance to small credit to help the returnees and their families and in the long term, to put in place initiatives that help stabilize communities,” says IOM’s Wane. “This is particularly important at a time when the authorities are warning of increased crop failure due to erratic rains and insect attacks.”
In response to those pressing needs, IOM has launched two pilot reintegration projects to assist a limited number of returnees from Niger and neighbouring countries. The programmes, funded by the European Commission and the Italian government aim to provide the returnees with the necessary support to help them set up income generating activities and establish cooperatives. Partnership have also been established with partner NGOs to provide counselling and mentoring of beneficiaries

  • MSF seeks swift release of two abducted staff without use of force
Continues medical activities to assist Somali population
Following the abduction of two of its staff in Dadaab, Kenya, on 13 October, the international medical organization, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has no verifiable information on the identity or motives of the abductors.
“MSF firmly and clearly disassociates itself from any armed activities and related declarations launched following the abduction. MSF is actively and fully engaging with all relevant actors in order to seek a safe resolution of the abduction. Abductions are extremely complex and need to be handled with care; therefore MSF is very concerned that security and the resolution of the incident could be compromised by any use of force being related to the case.
“MSF is currently engaging with all relevant actors to seek the safe and swift release of our colleagues and any use of force could endanger this,” says Jose Antonio Bastos, President of MSF in Spain. “We want to strongly distance ourselves from any military or other armed activities, declarations or presumptions of responsibility related to this case.”
MSF continues to provide assistance to people affected by the current crisis in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, despite the already highly complex security environment. As a result of the attack, MSF has temporarily suspended activities in Ifo 2 camp, Dadaab, where the abduction took place. These activities include two health posts and mobile clinics that were providing primary healthcare, reproductive health and antenatal care, routine vaccination programs and referral services for secondary healthcare.
In Dagahaley camp, MSF has ensured the continuation of life-saving medical activities in the 243-bed hospital, with nearly 200 patients being treated in the in-patient therapeutic feeding centre. However, five health posts had to be momentarily suspended and medical teams are currently on stand-by, ready to resume all activities as soon as security conditions allow it. Part of the nutritional program, which was treating 15,000 people, was also put on hold.
MSF has been working in Somalia continuously since 1991 and currently operates 13 projects in the country, including medical activities related to the current emergency, vaccination and nutritional interventions. In running such programs, MSF maintains an ongoing dialogue with key actors on the ground. In Dadaab, Kenya, MSF resumed operations in 2009, while it also assists Somali refugees in the camps of Dolo Ado, Ethiopia.
“We are deeply concerned about the fate of our two colleagues. MSF is committed to continue providing healthcare to the Somali population in and outside Somalia,” says Bastos, “but the level of assistance to populations is being deeply impacted by such attacks. It is extremely alarming.”

  • Bill and Melinda Gates Applaud Progress Against Malaria While Urging Renewed Effort
Optimism, urgency and innovation needed to bring an end to malaria, a press statement from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said on Thursday.
Three hundred leading malaria scientists, global health leaders, policymakers, government officials and advocates gathered October 18 at the Malaria Forum to discuss great strides in malaria control and address challenges that are impacting the long-term goal of eradication.
“We have seen tremendous success in the control of malaria, thanks to an infusion of resources, innovation, and political will,” said Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Worldwide, malaria deaths are down 20 percent since 2000.”
More than one million African children have been saved from malaria since 2000. New tools such as long-lasting insecticide treated bed nets and artemisinin-based combination treatments (ACTs)-along with prevention during pregnancy and indoor residual spraying-have made this recent progress possible.
A surge of financial and political commitments from endemic countries, donor governments, non-governmental organizations, private companies, and individuals sparked a decade of scientific advancement and the development of lifesaving tools that fight malaria.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative and the World Bank’s Malaria Booster Program transformed the funding landscape and contributed significantly to successes in malaria control.
Mrs. Gates congratulated the forum participants and urged them to maintain momentum or recent gains could be lost. “What matters is our staying power,” Mrs. Gates added. “We need to keep on seizing the opportunity to make new progress against malaria every single day.”

Innovation will Pave Way to Eradication
Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, challenged the malaria community to be smarter, faster, and more ambitious. “If we think big, bring more partners into the fold, and take smart risks, we will invent entirely new tools-powerful ways of fighting malaria that don’t exist now,” explained Mr. Gates. “This is the kind of innovation that will enable us to plan for the eventual eradication of malaria.”
When Mr. and Mrs. Gates first called on the global community to chart a course for the long-term eradication of malaria at the Malaria Forum four years ago, the world took notice. Today, Mr. Gates reaffirmed the foundation’s commitment to eradication, urging public and private partners to increase their investments.
“Eradication is an ambitious goal-and a long-term goal. It is also a goal to which we remain 100 percent committed,” added Mr. Gates. “It will take leadership, innovation, and money to plan for malaria’s eventual eradication.”

Notable Scientific Advancement Reported
The first interim results from phase III trials of the RTS,S vaccine were announced today at the forum. Among five- to 17-month-old children, the vaccine prevented clinical malaria in 56 percent of trial participants over a period of one year. It prevented severe malaria in 47 percent.
Mr. Gates deemed this discovery a “huge milestone” in the fight against malaria, as RTS,S is the first vaccine against a parasitic disease.
“First, this is proof that it is possible to create a vaccine that is effective against malaria,” explained Mr. Gates. “Second, if further results show that the effectiveness of RTS,S does not wane over time it has the potential to protect millions of children and save thousands of lives.”
Work is already underway to develop the next generation of vaccines that will provide greater and longer lasting protection and will be even more effective in stopping malaria transmission.
Urgent Call to Intensify Efforts
While the second Malaria Forum illuminated the recent progress the world has made in halting malaria, there was an underlying sense of urgency to be smarter and faster, and to save more lives.
The reality in much of Africa remains grim. A child dies of malaria every 45 seconds in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the latest reports from 2009, children under five accounted for 85 percent of the nearly 800,000 malaria deaths. Malaria also bears a heavy burden on Africa’s global economies, costing the continent an estimated $12 billion annually in lost productivity.
“The parasite has been killing children and sapping the strength of whole populations for tens of thousands of years,” added Mr. Gates. “Now, we can chart a course to end it.”
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people-especially those with the fewest resources-have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

  • Distributed by Africa Press Organisation, APO

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