Saturday, May 5, 2012

Campaign to end FGM intensifies

More in this roundup....

Lovers in ‘deadly’ fracas 
Campaign to end FGM intensifies
Gambia: Major increase in poverty and gender-based violence
 Gambia: Malaria remains a public health burden 
 Activist takes a dim view of Malawi’s human rights 
 CPJ condemns attacks on two newspaper offices in Nigeria
 Minister speaks on ‘great potential’ of intellectual property
African scientists horned on Pneumococcal surveillance

Campaign to end FGM intensifies

Gambia’s leading anti Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) campaigners are intensifying the fight against notorious harmful traditional practices, especially FGM and early marriage in the Gambia.
Under the Gambia Committee Against Harmful Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP), Save the Children and UNIFEM project, the youth in Sukuta, were involved in a day-long sensitization workshop at the village Health Centre on April 25, 2012.
Sukuta is a village in the Kombo North District of the West Coast Region, with strong cultural background. On Wednesday, Gamcotrap reached out to a score of youths to sensitise them on the harmful implications FGM and early marriage had on women and children’s health.
To the disappointment of Gamcotrap, the people of Sukuta recently circumcise over 40 girls, a disregard for the many sensitizations conducted in that social setup.
Gamcotrap held a series of sensitizations at Sukuta, however, this latest project is meant to cover the entire Kombo North district, said Gamcotrap Programme Coordinator, Mrs. Amie Bojang Sissoho.
She explained that the youths are being targeted in this project because they are the future fathers and mothers in these communities; hence, it is important for them to know the health complication associated with FGM so they can protect their children from it or avoid the mistakes made by their elders. 
Gamcotrap started its campaign in the interior of the country, from the Upper River, Central River, to the Lower River regions of the Gambia, in which the local women and children rights advocacy agency registered tremendous achievements, explains Mrs. Sissoho, who also noted that education had brought change between generations. 
Gamcotrap cannot achieve it aim and objectives without the involvement of men, however, the agency’s Executive Director, Dr. Isatou Touray, said: “Youths are an important component of their fight against FGM.”
She described FGM as a “deep rooted tradition” in the some part of the Gambian society and whilst some progress is being made, people understand that the practice “is not a religious obligation.”
In February, Gamcotrap urged the Gambia government to criminalize the practice, however, the country remain one of eight countries in Africa not criminalizing the act. Some 28 countries have already enacted legislations outlawing FGM, these are countries where agencies similar to Gamcotrap are operating, Dr. Touray explains.
She added: “Most of the problems in our marriages today are cause by FGM as women faces multi-complications when it comes to their sexual life.” “FGM is a violation of child rights.”
One woman who wants the practice be stopped in Sukuta is Fatou Cham, the Vice Chairwoman of Village Development Committee.
Cham hailed Gamcotrap as an important body standing to protect the rights of women and girls regarding FGM and early marriage, while urging the people of her village to “stop the practice of FGM” not only at Sukuta but the country as a whole.
“It is not healthy, it is not religious, and it is against the rights of women and children,” she stressed.
A similar programme was held in Brufut, Kombo North district on April 20, 2012. 
Activist takes a dim view of Malawi’s human rights

A human rights activist have taken a not so clear view of the Malawi Government human rights record, blaming the powers that be for the gross disregard for rule of law, the principles of good governance and human rights.
“We note that the independence of the parliament was seriously under question, prominent critic of the regime were receiving threats, routinely arrested on bogus charges, and human right defenders and journalists of the independent media subjected to increasing repression,” said Mr. Timothy Mtambo, Programme Manager Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation in Malawi. “We hope this will be a thing of the past in the new leadership.”
Malawi’s president, Bingua Mutharika, who was regarded controversial, died in April and the Prime Minister Joyce Banda has since taken over. Western donors had in recent years suspend aid to the country.
In a statement, during the 51st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), in Banjul, the Gambia (18 April - 2 May, 2012), Timothy Mtambo lament  that Malawi has been hit over the past years by persistent scarcity of foreign exchange, fuel, medical and even sugar, recently.
“The implications of the zero-deficit budget, have been cuts in public spending on essential social service such as health and imposition of more punitive taxes on the already overburden tax payer,” he added.
Malawi under Mutharika has been characteristic by climate of intolerance to activists, journalists, academicians and political opponent. There is also a culture of impunity within the security force and the former ruling party factionaries which have both contributed to this alarming situation.
“It is in the record that on 20 July, 2011, 20 innocent civilians were gunned down by police for simply exercising their right to freedom of expression,” Mr. Mtambo said, adding that the victims are people “faced with economic decline largely due to poor government policies.”
He said: “Malawians embarked on a peaceful protest to demand that shortage of fuel, rising prices of basic commodities and erratic electricity supply to be addressed by the government, these ordinary civilians were met with batons and bullets.”
According to him, the failure of the State to abide by international and regional treaties such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights as illustrated by non-submission of the State party report and lack of greater effort to domesticate various core international human rights instruments remains an issue of concern in Malawi.
Mtambo exhorts the Government of Malawi to investigate these violations, while appealing to the human rights commission in that country to help promote democratic principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country.
He said the human rights commission in Malawi should equally help to instill discipline by addressing the impunity among Malawi’s security forces through focused oversight and enhanced accountability.
“We further appeal to the new leadership that the human rights commission should be allowed to operate freely, without fear and favor,” Mtambo said.

Gambia: Major increase in poverty and gender-based violence

There is a lot of cry that a major increase in poverty in the Gambia is affecting women in a special way, says Dr. Isatou Touray, Executive Director of Gambia Committee Against Harmful Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP).
Dr. Touray cited Gambia’s development blue print, the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE), to have note that the “prevalence of poverty nationally is at 48 per cent (%),” a figure put at 60.4% by the United Nations (UN) 2011 Human Development Report.
“There is high rate of gender based violence meted out to women in the form of forced, early marriage, unreported sexual harassment and discrimination in work places, homes and communities with high incidence of female genital mutilation,” she said while speaking on “Poverty and gender based violence” during an April 24, 2012 Policy Dialogue on Status of Gambian Women.
Organised by the apex body for NGOs in the Gambia, the Association of Non-Governmental Association (TANGO), and funded by Africa Capacity Building Foundation, the dialogue was held in commemoration of International Women’s Day on the theme: “Women’s Human Rights and Human Dignity”.
“We must do something about it, rural women are mostly affected and they are known to carry the biggest impact because of the role they play in the subsistence and care economy of the Gambia,” Dr. Touray stressed. “Despite the enactment of the Women Act 2010 in addition to several other gender-related policies and established institutions, the situation of Gambian woman on farms, at homes and in work place remains daunting.”
The National Employment Policy (NEP) has placed a lot of emphasis on women and youth, this has been a feature of our development blueprints where the concerns of the middle ranks are reflected and yet little impact is registered.
Critical issues emerging from policies need to be considered, and critically analyzed. Gamcotrap is relevant in advancing development in line with government blue print and relevant policies that advance gender equality and empowerment of women to preserve, promote the dignity and integrity of women, Dr. Touray said.
According to her, in the midst of poverty and violence, fueled by “conservative socio-cultural beliefs and religious misconceptions” it is regrettable that the Gambian woman remains voiceless, powerless as she is removed from taking her rightful position in power, decision making structures, process especially in elective and representative institutions at the central and local levels.
Meanwhile, the a TANGO concept paper observed that poverty and violence are injustices that spoil the human rights and dignity of people and as long as one woman remains in the clutches of poverty and violence, the society will remain undeveloped and characterized by marginalization, discrimination, inequality and injustice.

Gambia: Malaria remains a public health burden

Malaria, one of the leading killer diseases, if not the leading, in and around the world, remains a public health burden in the tiny West African nation of the Gambia.
The disease had accounted for nearly 2000 health related deaths annually in the country.
During commemorations marking World Malaria Day (WMD) 2012, the Deputy Permanent Secretary Technical at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare admitted that “Malaria, the deathly killer disease among infants, remains a public health challenge and is the likely cause of four per cent infant deaths and 25 per cent of deaths in children below five years.
Dr. Maaki Taal, who was speaking at Bwiam, Foni Kansala District of the West Coast Region, some 69 kilometers east of the capital, Banjul on April 25, also note that though the economic burden of malaria has not been fully determined, there is no doubt that the disease accounts for considerable loss days of productivity among various age groups.
These include the absenteeism from work among adult population, absenteeism from schools by children and as well the increased household expenditure on health.
However, he note that due to significant increase in access to malaria control interventions, overall child mortality rates in Gambia has fallen by 17 per cent in 2010, while malaria incidence dropped by 85.5 per cent, and malaria admissions and deaths dropped by 74 and 90 per cent respectively.
This year’s WMD main subject is “Sustain Gains, Save Lives, Invest in Malaria”, a global theme exhorting the international community’s renewed efforts to assess progress towards the Roll Back Malaria objective of zero malaria deaths by 2015.
An initiative, Dr. Taal said will propel malaria-endemic countries towards near-zero death by 2015 and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially those related to health, poverty and education.
“Gambia will continue to consolidate gains made in malaria control and prevention and work towards achieving the strategic goal of malaria pre-elimination by 2015,” he said.
Speaking earlier, the Program Manager National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP), Mrs. Adama Jagne Sonko described WMD as “a day of unified commemoration of global effort to provide effective control of malaria around the world.”
“The day provides opportunity for education and understanding of malaria, and to spread information on a year long intensified implementation of national malaria-control strategies, including community-based activities for malaria prevention and treatment in all endemic countries,” she said.
The disease, transmitted by the female mosquito and caused by a parasite called plasmodium records between 300-500 million cases annually across the world, killing 3000 people daily, that is, one person every 30 seconds, according to the World Health Organisation.

Lovers in ‘deadly’ fracas

Lovers Talon Brown (Sierra Leonean) and Yassin Jallow (Gambian) were involved in a fatal fight in midweek at their Kanifing South residence.
A close friend of Mr. Brown told The Voice Newspaper that the near-death fight in which blood spilled on April 25, 2012 might have been caused by jealousy. “Mr. Brown is always jealous of the girl’s actions towards other men,” the friend said.
This is not the first problem between the two, they are use to quarrelling but this particular one is very serious, said an eyewitness.
Ebou Sanyang explains: “When they started the quarrel this morning, I said to myself, this is normal and I went back to sleep. Suddenly Yassin rushed into my room asking for help. I was with a friend and when he (my friend) went to help, Brown hurt his hand with a cutlass.”
“Then I closed my door to save Yassin but Talon was so angry that he breaks the door, took Yassin away and continues beating her with the cutlass. There was no one to help him,” Sanyang added. 
Sanyang, the eyewitness, said that was the time call out to some friends to help him quell the situation and rushed Yassin to hospital, while Mr. Brown uses pieces of broken bottle hurting all of his body.
“He attempted to commit suicide, stabbing all part of his body to the extent of cutting his penis, lock himself in his room and set it on fire,” Sanyang said.
This compelled me to report the matter to both the police and fire service, and before they arrive, people help to save Brown from the fire but everything inside the house burn to ashes. Mr. Brown was later taken to the hospital for treatment, he said.  
This paper understands Brown and Yassin had a daughter and have been living together for a few years but did not tie the knot. 
“My sister decided on her own to stay in her boyfriend’s house, Yassin Jallow never had any problems at home. The only problem she had is when she decided to go and stay with her boy friend,” said Modou Lamin Faye. “Our mother objected to Yassin’s request to stay with the boyfriend despite the child between them, my mum advice her to sit at home until she gets married.”
But she did not heed to that, the only thing she use to say is that “I am going to get married to Talon Brown, so I will go and stay with him” Faye noted, adding that they had in some occasions attempted to take Yassin back anytime she leaves home for Brown’s house but within two days she will return to Brown’s house. 
“On Wednesday morning they were involved in another problem, one that led to “severe beatings, stabbing and the cutting off of Yassin Jallow’s ear by Mr. Talon Brown,” Faye concluded. 

African scientists horned on Pneumococcal surveillance

20 African scientists gathered in Banjul for a three-day training on Laboratory Pneumococcal Surveillance for potential sentinel site assessors and consultants for paediatric bacterial meningitis surveillance.
Organised by World Health Organisation (WHO) and Medical Research Council (MRC) in the Gambia, the training which ends on April 30, 2012 is meant to equip the laboratory scientist to enable them detect diseases like haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), HIV, pneumonia, diseases for which vaccine are on offer.
They have been introduced to valuable skills in diagnosis of bacterial pathogens and held technical discussions in a number of topics including: “The current status of the Hib-pediatric bacterial meningitis (PBM) surveillance in the region; the progress in implementing laboratory external quality control program (EQAOP) and procedures including biosiecurity and safety and effective management of laboratory supplies; Factors hindering generation of high quality new vaccines surveillance data at the sentinel site and country levels; Use of sentinel surveillance data in supporting the accelerated introduction of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV); and ensuring laboratories play critical role in rapidly conformation of meningitis or pneumonia bacterial pathogens and stereotyping of pneumococcal strains.”
Prior to the Banjul training, the participants were earlier trained on the diagnostics and stereotyping of bacteria pathogens that cause meningitis in under five children as part of regional efforts to improve sentinel surveillance
“Over the years, surveillance for diseases targeted by new vaccines has made enormous contribution to evidence-based introduction of new vaccines,” said WHO country Representative, Thomas Sukuwa, whose statement was delivered by Dr. Jason Mathiu Mwenda.
Notable among these Dr. Sukuwa stated is that “since the establishment of the PBM surveillance in 2002, the system has made significant progress in supporting informed decision making on new vaccine introduction.”
He said 44 of 46 countries in the African region have introduced Hib containing vaccine into national EPL. Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria have not introduced the Hib vaccine, but the later is planning to introduce it later this year.
Meanwhile, only 13 African countries have so far introduced the Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) and Dr. Sukuwa is optimistic that several other countries are lining up to introduce the vaccine this year.
This month, Ghana became the first African nation to simultaneously introduce two new vaccines (rotavirus and PVC) into its national EPL programme.
“Robust surveillance systems are needed to provide a solid platform for a vaccine effective assessment using a case-control design as well as an assessment of the economic burden of the meningitis pneumonia sepses and diarrhea and the cost effectiveness of a national immunization program,” he argued.
He assured of WHO’s continued support to member states in this drive, while noting the world’s apex health body has reviewed the status of both rotavirus and the invasive bacterial vaccine preventable diseases, the global surveillance network used by countries to provide data to make informed decision on the introduction and benefits of rotavirus vaccines and pneumococcal conjugate (CPV) vaccines.
Gambia’s Health Minister, Fatim Badjie said child motility and morbidity is posting great challenges to governments in Africa, in a statement delivered on her behalf by the acting Director of National Public Health Laboratory, Momodou Bah.
She said the future to end this menace is getting brighter, but there are still some grounds to conquer. 
In November 2011, WHO consulted with strategic advisory group of experts and key immunization partners during a September Global New Vaccines Surveillance Meeting, concluded that the rotavirus surveillance network is functioning to an overall high degree and producing data of sufficient quality.
However, the PBM surveillance network is not yet providing data of sufficient high quality and laboratory performance indictors fall short of agreed target.
“This is a major concern and immediate actions need to be taken at every level to address this shortcomings and gaps in regional new vaccines surveillance,” the WHO laments. 

CPJ condemns attacks on two newspaper offices in Nigeria

CPJ - The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns bombings today targeting two of the offices of ThisDay newspaper in Nigeria. At least nine people were killed and more than a dozen wounded in the attacks, for which the Islamist militant sect Boko Haram claimed responsibility, according to news reports.
“We condemn these assaults against the offices of ThisDay, which represent an attack on the fundamental right of all citizens to news and information,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “Nigerian authorities must do everything in their power to protect news outlets from this new threat.”
At about 11 a.m. today, a suicide bomber in a Jeep rammed into the offices of the daily ThisDay in Abuja, the capital, according to news reports. Segun Adeniyi, the chairman of the paper’s editorial board, said two security guards were among the five people killed, according to local news reports. Five media support workers also sustained injuries. The blast ripped through the building, causing substantial damage, reports said. Israel Iwegbu, the newspaper’s group executive director, told CPJ that the paper’s production had been halted as the blast had damaged the printing press.
At about the same time, in Kaduna, a city 90 miles north of Abuja, a man jumped out of a car and threw a bomb at a building housing the offices of three newspapers, ThisDay, The Sun, and The Moment, Reuters reported. Four people were killed, none of whom were believed to be affiliated with ThisDay, local journalists said. The bomber’s car had been halted at the gate, news reports said. Marylyn Ogar, a spokesperson for Nigeria’s secret police, said that an individual had been apprehended in connection with the attack, news reports said.
Boko Haram claimed responsibility in an interview with Premium Times, a Nigerian online news website. Abul Qaqa, a spokesman for Boko Haram, which seeks the imposition of Shariah law over the predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria, said that ThisDay was singled out because the paper’s “sins” were more grievous than those of other news outlets, the report said. ThisDay is considered to be largely supportive of President Goodluck Jonathan’s government, according to local journalists. Qaqa also said that more media houses would be bombed, Premium Times reported.
In Abuja, a ThisDay staff member told CPJ that the suicide bomber had entered the office under the pretext of wanting to place an advertisement and that most journalists were out on assignment, which reduced the casualty level.
News reports stated the newspaper had received a warning in January after reporting on the activities of Boko Haram. The threat was reported to Nigerian security agencies while the paper applied new security drills for staff and visitors, including locking the front entrance to the premises and only allowing movement through the back gate from where the attack occurred, reports said.
In March, Boko Haram threatened attacks against three newspapers, Vanguard, Tribune, and National Accord, accusing them of reporting favorable to the Nigerian government, according to news reports. The group has claimed responsibility for a number of bombings that have killed more than 1,000 people, including journalist Zakariya Isa, according to international news reports and CPJ research.

Minister speaks on ‘great potential’ of intellectual property

Intellectual property has great potential to contribute to the economic advancement of a nation and its people, and when these mental resources are nurtured, harnessed and protected from misuse it have greater incentive to increase people’s productivity, says Gambia’s Justice Minister, Lamin Jobarteh.
“The importance of intellectual property in this modern age of knowledge-base economy cannot be overemphasized. The progress of a society is no longer solely dependent on the favours of nature such as the amount of gold, silver or crude oil found within a state’s territorial jurisdiction,” Jobarteh said in a statement read by Momodou Tangara, during a seminar on formulation of the “National Intellectual Property Policy and Strategy” for the Gambia, in Banjul.
The development of societies and states are increasingly driven by the knowledge and skills of its people, he said, before arguing that Gambia had intellectual property laws since pre-independence “but the laws were not underlined by any identifiable policy objectives”.
Hence, he said the development of the intellectual property landscape in the Gambia has been rather piecemeal and ad hoc. There can be no logical and coherent interface between intellectual property protection and economic development without an intellectual property policy and strategy integrated into the national development blueprint.
Ms. Franceise WEGE, Deputy Director Regional Bureau for Africa, World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), noted that her office is encouraged by the recent interest and commitment show by the Government of the Gambia in promoting the use of intellectual property as a tool for development.
At a time WIPO is preparing to celebrate World Intellectual Property Day, a forum that offers a platform for bringing intellectual property into closer focus, and looking at intellectual property from a practical point of view.
She also pointed out that WIPO’s strategic goals are to ensure that member countries make effective use of intellectual property (IP), in development objectives. In this context, WIPO seeks to build countries’ capacity to increase their intellectual property assets which will contribute to engineering development and sustainable growth.
The seminar (April 23-24, 2012) was organised by the Ministry of Justices in collaboration with WIPO and ARIPO, African Regional of Intellectual Property Organisation.

Courtesy of THE VOICE

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