FEATURED PHOTOS AND STORIES

Monday:  October 6, 2014

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in DRC (10)

Tuesday
Jul092013

Great Lakes women leaders meet in Burundi (NEWS) 

(PHOTO: A woman with her baby leaves Ngululu, 80km NW of Goma, DR Congo after the village & others nearby were attacked & burnt by members of the Congo Defence Front./NATION MEDIA GROUP)

(HN, 7/9/2013) - A three-day conference bringing together 100 women leaders from across the Great Lakes region is set to start in Bujumbura on Tuesday.  The Burundi meeting aims to develop a road map for the engagement of women in peace processes.

The conference, which has been organized by the UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region in Africa, Mary Robinson, in partnership with Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).

It is also expected to look at ways of implementing the “Peace, Security and Cooperation” (PSC) Framework and the United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1325 in the Great Lakes Region.

The PSC Framework is a milestone in national, regional and international efforts to bring peace in the Great Lakes region and in particular in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where sexual violence continues at appalling levels and is regularly used as a weapon of war.

The framework was signed on February 24 by 11 African countries and was the fruit of a concerted effort between the UN, ICGLR, the South African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union.

(PHOTO: Mary Robinson at the WEF, 2013)The conference will also consolidate an integrated regional approach for the effective participation of women in conflict resolution and peace building through the implementation of a Regional Action Plan on UNSCR 1325 in the Great Lakes region.

“A common plan will help to ensure that women’s voices are heard “from the bottom up and adhered to and implemented by Governments from the top down,” Ms. Mary Robinson, the UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region in Africa, said in a statement.

- This article was originally published in the Africa Review and was written by Sandra Chao in Nairobi, Kenya.

Monday
Nov262012

The International Community Needs a Better Understanding of the Congo Problem - (PERSPECTIVE) 

(Video: DR Congo Crisis Creates Refugee Crisis/Al Jazeera)

By Frank Kagabo 

(Goma, 11/26/12) - Within one week of the capture of the Congolese city of Goma by the M23 rebels, many things have happened. Kinshasa now seems to be taking a different route in dealing with the issue. But the process or attack that led to the capture of the eastern DRC city speaks volumes about what is wrong with the DRC.

(MAP: Lerucher.org) Without doubt, something is fundamentally wrong with the geographical entity known as DRC. The current leadership in Kinshasa cannot wash its hands free of any blame. In addition to that, there is something deeply flawed about how the process of nation building, if at all we should call it that, has been undertaken in Congo over the years. Many Sub-Saharan countries are characterized as fragile states in almost all academic studies and publications, especially by western scholars and Africa area experts.

These states are seen as lacking all the basic tenets of a modern legitimate state. For DRC, as of now it is beyond a fragile state. It is on the path to a failed state in whole. Currently, in many places of the DRC, the state is simply absent.

When this is coupled with competing interests, both of local elites and many others serving foreign interests, it all becomes confusion. The centre in Kinshasa should always be able to make decisions that are of strategic value. But with a new beginning; through regional mediation, there is hope for a better outcome.

The best hope for Congo cannot be in the current noises that the 'international community', mainly influenced by interests in the West, are making. The fact that international institutions and Western governments have come to a conclusion that the current insurrection in eastern DRC is a creation of Rwanda, says much about why they should keep away.

Either they know the source of the problem and seek to callously blame a neighboring country, or they simply do not understand the underlying problems of DRC in particular and the wider Great Lakes region in general.

(PHOTO: Flags at the UN office in Geneva/UNOG)Many Western people with passing interest of Africa believe that conflicts in most of Africa are simply a symptom of the nature of the black man. That Africans have not evolved enough to be able to live harmoniously together. That such conflict is just "how they are". No need for further explanation or study!

These are people who never think that there can be just causes worth fighting for by Africans.

The kind of treatment that follows, like the heaping of blame on a neighbor etc, is all about that perception that is reserved for the African. To explain such perceptions, some Africans have bluntly said it is racism. But others fear to speak out lest they be accused of being "angry black people."

On the particular issue of the Congo conflict, it is important that the United Nations and other Western controlled international organizations seek a better understanding of this conflict before coming up with simplistic reports containing allegations that cannot stand.

They should be helped to get a clear understanding of the region. Again, there is also a need to pause and ask why missions by the UN in this region have always failed. Let's leave aside the issue of what their mandate is: The sheer size of their budgets should ideally be a reason for success. The fact that failure is always what follows such deployments or interventions calls for a radical shift in the nature of such UN operations.

(MAP: US State.gov)The best the UN and other Western-dominated international institutions can do is to support regional initiatives to resolve regional problems. And regional efforts should also be a mechanism for supporting internal process in the affected country, not coming in as an alternative foreign force, because that is also most likely to fail.

Also, the simple fact that the DR Congo army has scattered without putting up a meaningful fight is evidence enough that state institutions in Congo require an overhaul because they are largely dysfunctional.

To solve the current crisis in the DRC will require more than dealing with the original grievances of the mutiny that has now become a major rebel movement. Instead of intervening to complicate the situation, focus should only be in providing meaningful and necessary assistance to jumpstart internal mechanisms for a lasting solution to wider problems that afflict the vast DRC.

- This opinion piece first appeared at AllAfrica.com. Frank Kagabo has worked as a print journalist for four years. He currently works for The New Times Daily in Kigali.

Thursday
May032012

100+ International NGO's and Human Rights Groups Ask US to Intervene in Escalating DRC Crisis (NEWS) 

(Video: Human Rights Watch)

(HN, 5/4/12) -- Fighting has resumed in eastern DRC in recent weeks between Government forces, and dissident groups thought to be led by renegade general Bosco Ntaganda; following a contested election in December which resulted in President Joseph Kabila's re-election.  Several electoral observation missions, including the Carter Center, questioned the credibility of vote.

Ntaganda recently  lead a mutiny in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to authorities; and Ntaganda was previously wanted by the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands for recruiting and using child soldiers in northeastern Congo. But since his arrest warrant was unsealed in 2008, Ntaganda was made a general in the Congolese army and by many accounts has continued to recruit children to fight, playing a role in ethnic massacres, killings, rape and torture - as he did during DR Congo's bloody five-year war.

(PHOTO: DRC President Joseph Kabila/ElMundo)In early April, President Joseph Kabila also called for his arrest, following the defections of up to 500 Congolese troops. Some 20,000 people have been displaced by the latest fighting, with about 5,000 crossing over into Rwanda says UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency.

Known locally as the "Terminator", Ntaganda was thought to be in charge of a large contingent based in the North Kivu provincial capital, Goma until last month.

The Letter:

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State

United States Department of State, 2201 C St, NW, Washington, DC 20520

Dear Madam Secretary:

We, the 142 undersigned Congolese and international civil society and human rights organizations, call on the government of the United States to provide urgent diplomatic leadership and support to the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to arrest Bosco Ntaganda.

Ntaganda's brutal human rights abuses over many years have affected tens of thousands of Congolese citizens in eastern Congo. His position as a high-ranking officer in the Congolese army, together with his ability to continue to perpetrate abuses is the most flagrant case of Congo's destructive culture of impunity.

As you will know, Ntaganda is wanted on an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the war crime of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to actively participate in hostilities in 2002-2003 in Ituri district, northeastern Congo.

Despite the warrant, and the Congolese government's legal obligation to execute it as a state party to the ICC, Ntaganda was made a general in the Congolese army in 2009 and continues to be implicated in other grave violations of human rights, including unlawful killings, sexual violence, torture, and the recruitment of child soldiers. Until a few weeks ago, he lived openly in Goma, eastern Congo, without fear of arrest. He was considered by the Congolese government as necessary for the peace process.

Ntaganda's avoidance of arrest is emblematic of continued lawlessness in eastern Congo. The people of eastern Congo have long stood against impunity for the perpetrators of serious human rights violations. Their desire for justice burns strong, especially in the face of ongoing atrocities. Congolese and international human rights organizations have repeatedly denounced Ntaganda's promotion to general, his ongoing crimes, and the failure to arrest him. Congolese human rights activists have done so at great personal risk to themselves and their families.

We have new hope that justice might be done. In April, the situation changed dramatically when Ntaganda unsuccessfully sought to organize large-scale defections from the Congolese army. In the face of the crisis, Congolese President Joseph Kabila, at a public meeting in Goma, signaled a change in the government's stance toward Ntaganda.

He indicated he was considering arresting him and that indiscipline in the army would not be tolerated. Members of the international community, including the United States ambassador to Congo, as well as the Belgian foreign minister, the ambassador of the Netherlands to Congo and others, also publicly called for Ntaganda's arrest and his transfer to the ICC. These statements were very welcome.

(PHOTO: DRC child soldier/UNICEF)We now await concrete action to lawfully arrest Ntaganda in a manner that protects civilians from any potential fallout. Improved security for the population, based on the rule of law, begins with his arrest. It cannot wait any longer. Ntaganda remains at large, has recently separated from the army, and is reportedly at, or near, his ranch in Masisi territory, North Kivu, with a significant group of supporters. The failure to arrest Ntaganda is a source of anxiety and trauma for the population of eastern Congo who fear he could launch a new wave of violence and human rights abuses as he has done in the past. The recent violence in Masisi territory is a strong indication that this is already occurring and that Ntaganda is regrouping troops loyal to him. Lack of action to arrest Ntaganda could result in a further deterioration of the security situation and new attacks on civilians. This must be avoided.

On behalf of Congolese civil society and the thousands of victims of Ntaganda's crimes, we call on the government of the United States to:

:           Support the Congolese government to urgently plan and carry out a lawful arrest of Bosco Ntaganda, including providing support through the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo, MONUSCO, so that he can be brought to justice.

:           Press the government of Rwanda, which has backed Ntaganda in the past, to support the lawful arrest of Ntaganda by the Congolese government and not provide him with sanctuary.

:           Prioritize comprehensive security sector reform in Congo that includes a vetting mechanism to remove senior officers with a record of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and bring them to justice.

On March 14, our fight against impunity was given an important boost when the judges at the ICC in The Hague found Thomas Lubanga Dyilo guilty of war crimes committed in Congo. As Congolese human rights groups publicly said in the weeks that followed, it is now time for Lubanga's co-accused, Bosco Ntaganda, to also face justice.

We recognize the difficulties in bringing about the lawful arrest of Ntaganda, but we believe strongly that with the right political commitment they can be overcome. Please take all necessary and appropriate action to assist the Congolese government to make it happen.

Yours sincerely,

The undersigned organizations

CC: Thomas E. Donilon, National Security Advisor

Ambassador Susan E. Rice, Permanent Representative to the United Nations

Signatories:

International organizations

1. Amnesty International USA

2. Eastern Congo Initiative

3. The ENOUGH Project

4. European Network for Central Africa (EurAc)

5. Human Rights Watch

6. Humanity United

7. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

8. Jewish World Watch

9. Open Society Foundations

10. Sanela Diana Jenkins Human Rights Project

Congolese organizations

1. Action Communautaire pour le Développement Intégral et Intégré du Diocèse de Mbuji-Mayi (ACDIM), Kasai Oriental

2. Action des Chrétiens pour la Promotion de la Paix et le Développement (ACPD), North Kivu

3. Action Globale pour la Promotion Sociale et la Paix (AGPSP), North Kivu

4. Action Humanitaire pour le Développement Intégral (AHDI), North Kivu

5. Action Intégré pour le Développement de Ngandajika (AIDN), Kasai Oriental

6. Action Kivu, South Kivu

7. Action Paysanne contre la Faim (APCF), Kasai Oriental

8. Action pour la Paix et la Concorde (APC), South Kivu

9. Action pour la Promotion de la Participation Citoyenne (APPC), North Kivu

10. Action pour la Protection des Droits Humains et du Développement Communautaire (APDHUD), South Kivu

11. Action pour le Développement Communautaire de Lusambo (ADCL), Kasai Oriental

12. Action Sociale pour la Paix et le Développement (ASPD), North Kivu

13. Actions des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture (ACAT/NK), North Kivu

14. Actions pour la Promotion Socio-économique des Ménages (APROSEM), North Kivu

15. Africa Justice Peace and Development (AJPD), North Kivu

16. Aide Kivu, South Kivu

17. Amical des Anciens du Séminaire (AMAS), Kasai Oriental

18. Amis de Nelson Mandela, Kinshasa

19. Application des Droits Humains dans le Pays des Grands Lacs (ADHOPGL), North Kivu

20. Arche d'Alliance, North Kivu

21. Assistance Judiciaires aux Vulnérables (AJV), Equateur

22. Association Africaine de Défense des Droits de l'Homme (ASADHO), national

23. Association Congolaise pour l'Accès à la Justice (ACAJ), Katanga

24. Association des Enfants et Jeunes Travailleurs (AEJT), South Kivu

25. Association des Volontaires du Congo (ASVOCO), North Kivu

26. Association des Volontaires pour le Développement Intégré du Kasaï (AVODIK), Kasai Oriental

27. Association pour le Développement Intégral au Congo (ADI), Orientale

28. Association pour le Développement de Kitamba-Mwenga (ADKI), South Kivu

29. Association pour le Développement des Initiatives Paysannes (ASSODIP), North Kivu

30. Association pour les Nations Unies de la RDC (ANU/RDC), South Kivu

31. Association Régionale de Développement Rural Intégré (ARDERI), Kasai Oriental

32. Bénévolat pour l'Enfance (BENENFANCE), North Kivu

33. Blessed Aid, North Kivu

34. Bons Samaritains des Grands Lacs (BOSAM GL/DDH), North Kivu

35. Bureau de Développement Communautaire (BDC), Kasai Oriental

36. Bureau Diocésain pour le Développement (BDD), Kasai Oriental

37. Campagne pour la Paix (CPP), North Kivu

38. Carrefour pour la Justice, Développement et les Droits Humains (CJDH), North Kivu

39. Caucus des Femmes Congolaises du South Kivu pour la Paix, South Kivu

40. Centre d'Appui et de Réhabilitation des Infrastructures pour le Développement (CARID), Kasai Oriental

41. Centre de Droits de l'Homme et du Droit Humanitaire (CDH), Katanga

42. Centre de Formation International en Droits Humains et Développement (CFIDH/D), North Kivu

43. Centre de Recherche sur l'Environnement, la Démocratie et les Droits de l'Homme (CREDDHO), North Kivu

44. Centre de Réhabilitation pour le Développement (CRDS), Kasai Oriental

45. Centre d'Etudes et de Formation Populaires pour les Droits de l'Homme (CEFOP/DH), Kasai Oriental

46. Centre Féminin pour la Formation et l'Information pour le Développement (CEFIDE), Kasai Oriental

47. Centre National d'Assistance aux Invalides du Congo (CNAICO), Kasai Oriental

48. Centre Olame, South Kivu

49. Civis Congo, North Kivu

50. Coalition Congolaise pour la Cour Pénale Internationale (CN-CPI/RDC) , national

51. Coalition Congolaise pour la Justice Transitionnelle (CCJT), national

52. Collectif des Organisations des Jeunes Solidaires du Congo-Kinshasa (COJESKI/RDC), national

53. Collectif des Organisations des Jeunes Solidaires du Congo-Kinshasa/NK (COJESKI/NK), North Kivu

54. Collectif des Organisations des Jeunes Solidaires du Congo-Kinshasa/SK (COJESKI/SK), South Kivu

55. Comité de Développement de Bilomba (CDB), Kasai Occidental

56. Comité de Suivi pour la Contribution des Communautés et des Églises à la Transformation Humaine (COSCET), Katanga

57. Comité des Observateurs des Droits de l'Homme (CODHO), Kinshasa

58. Congo en Images (CIM), Orientale

59. Congo Peace Network (CPN), North Kivu

60. Conseil Régional des Organisations Non Gouvernementales de Développement (CRONGD/KOR), Kasai Oriental

61. Construisons la Paix et le Développement Intégral (COPADI), North Kivu

62. Coordination de la Société Civile du Nord-Kivu

63. Dauphins Munzirwa-Kataliko, South Kivu

64. Défense et Assistance aux Femmes et Enfants Vulnérables (DAFEVA), North Kivu

65. Département des Femmes et Familles (DFF), Kasai Oriental

66. Diaconie et Développement Communautaire Intégral (DIDECOM), Kasai Oriental

67. Ditekema Esperance (DIES), Kasai Oriental

68. Encadrement des Femmes Indigènes et des Ménages Vulnérables (EFIM), North Kivu

69. Entente pour le Développement Intégré de Ngandajika (EDIGA), Kasai Oriental

70. Fédération des ONG Laïques à Vacation Economique du Congo (FOLECO/KOR), Kasai Oriental

71. Femmes Juristes pour les Droits de la Femme et de l'Enfant de Butembo, North Kivu

72. Femmes Solidaires pour la Paix et le Développement (FSPD), Kinshasa

73. Fondation AGAPE, South Kivu

74. Fondation Diocésaine (FONDI), Kasai Oriental

75. Fondation Point de Vue des Jeunes Africains pour le Développement (FPJAD), North Kivu

76. Fonds pour les Femmes Congolaise (FFC), national

77. Foyer de Développement pour l'Autopromotion des Pygmées et Indigènes Défavorisés (FDAPID/Hope Indigenous Peoples), North Kivu

78. Great Lakes Human Rights Program, North Kivu

79. Groupe d'Appui aux Exploitants des Ressources Naturelles (GAERN), Kasai Oriental

80. Groupe d'Assistance aux Marginalisés (GAM), South Kivu

81. Groupe d'Actions Non Violentes Évangéliques (GANVE), Katanga

82. Groupe des Associations de Défense des Droits de l'Homme et de la Paix (GADHOP), North Kivu

83. Groupe Justice et Libération, Orientale

84. Groupe Lotus, Orientale

85. Héritiers de la Justice, South Kivu

86. Initiative Congolaise pour la Justice et la Paix (ICJP), South Kivu

87. La Kasaïenne de l'Industrie (LKI), Kasai Oriental

88. Ligue des Jeunes des Grands Lacs (LJGL), North Kivu

89. Midimu ya Ba Mamu (MIDIBAM), Kasai Oriental

90. Mutuelle d'Assistance aux Déshérités du Nord-Kivu (MADNOKI), North Kivu

91. Observatoire Congolais des Droits de l'Homme (OCDH), Kinshasa

92. Observatoire de la Parité, South Kivu

93. Observatoire Gouvernance et Paix (OGP), South Kivu

94. Organisation des Femmes et Enfants Déshérités (OFED), Kasai Occidental

95. Organisation pour la Défense des Droits des Communautés Locale et Peuples Autochtones (ODECOLA/N), national

96. Ouvriers du Monde (ODM), South Kivu

97. Parlement des Jeunes de la RDC (PJRDC), North Kivu

98. Programme d'Appui aux Initiatives des Femmes en Situation Difficile (PAFSID), Kasai Oriental

99. Projet de Développement Agricole et d'Appui aux Initiatives à la Base (PRODAIB), Kasai Oriental

100. Promotion et Appui aux Initiatives Féminines (PAIF), North Kivu

101. Réseau ARDA, North Kivu

102. Réseau des Associations Intégrées pour le Développement Communautaire et Droits Humains (Réseau AIDH/DH), North Kivu

103. Réseau d'Initiatives Locales pour un Développement Durable (REID), North Kivu

104. Réseau National des Organisations Non Gouvernementales des Droits de l'Homme de la République démocratique du Congo (RENADHOC), national

105. Réseau pour la Réforme du Secteur de Sécurité et Justice, national

106. Réseau Provincial des Organisations Non Gouvernementales des Droits de l'Homme de la République démocratique du Congo (REPRODHOC/NK), North Kivu

107. Réseau Provincial des Organisations Non Gouvernementales des Droits de l'Homme de la République démocratique du Congo (REPRODHOC/SK), South Kivu

108. Réveil des Femmes pour le Développement Intégré (RFEDI), North Kivu

109. Réveil du Paysan (RDP), Kasai Oriental

110. Save Act Mines DRC (SAM/DRC), North Kivu

111. Service For Peace (SFP), Bas-Congo

112. Société Civile Noyau de Kadutu, South Kivu

113. Solidarité des Femmes Activistes pour la Défense des Droits Humains (SOFAD), South Kivu

114. Solidarité Action Sociale (SAS), South Kivu

115. Solidarité des Volontaires pour l'Humanité (SVH), South Kivu

116. Solidarité Féminine pour la Paix et le Développement Intégral (SOFEPADI), national

117. Solidarité pour la Défense des droits de l'Homme (SDDH), Orientale

118. Solidarité pour la Promotion Sociale et la Paix (SOPROP), North Kivu

119. SOS Africa, North Kivu

120. Strong Roots, South Kivu

121. Syndicat des Associations Féminines pour le Développement Intégral (SAFEDI), Kinshasa

122. Synergie des Femmes pour les Victimes de Violences Sexuelles (SFVS), North Kivu

123. Synergie Vie et Paix (SVP), North Kivu

124. Toges Noires, Kinshasa

125. Union des Comites pour le Développement (UCODE), North Kivu

126. Union des Femmes Musulmanes du Congo, North Kivu

127. Union des Jeunes Congolais pour le Changement (UJCC), South Kivu

128. Union pour le Développement Familial (UDF), Kasai Oriental

129. Unions d'Actions pour les Initiatives de Développement (UAID), North Kivu

130. Voie des Opprimés (VDO), Orientale

131. Voix des Sans Voix (VSV), Kinshasa

132. Wamama Wa Jamaa, North Kivu

 -- HUMNEWS

Friday
Oct212011

Great Game in the Horn of Africa (PERSPECTIVE) 

By Paul Mutter

Child soldier in Uganda, photo courtesy of UNICEFThe United States announced this past week that it is deploying a 100-man mission to assist the Ugandan government in tracking down the remnants of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a force whose bloody conflict with the Ugandan military has devastated northern Uganda and its environs since 1987.

But why now, in 2011, is the U.S. government making this commitment to combat the LRA?

The humanitarian impulse is certainly present among policymakers, if for no other reason than humanitarianism scores political points in Washington. Multiple human rights groups have been supportive of the announcement. The Ugandan government and people certainly desire an end to this conflict. As undemocratic as the Ugandan government of Yoweri Museveni has proven, the state the LRA would establish—if we take stock of their rule over parts of northern Uganda—would almost certainly be an even more nightmarish place. Joseph Kony, the founder of the LRA who masquerades as a champion of his Acholi ethnic group and as a Christian mystic, has ordered the killing, maiming, and rape of tens of thousands of people across northern Uganda and neighboring countries. This “army” relies heavily on child soldiers and "concubines," young girls abducted from churches and schools to serve as servants and sex slaves.

Make no mistake: the LRA is an abominable threat to the Ugandan people—and to the people of Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic, countries the LRA moves in and out of seeking safe havens.

But we must not be blinded by the darkness of the LRA so much that we fail to see the tarnish that mars the U.S. and Ugandan governments’ joint interests in East Africa.

Why did Washington not intervene at any other point over the course of the LRA's horrendous, decades-long campaign in Northern Uganda, where civilians not caught in the sadistic sights of the LRA often found themselves in the crossfire between the terrorist army and the Ugandan military? George W. Bush sent advisers in 2008-9 to assist the Ugandan military in what is said to have been a botched capture operation, but why did it take five U.S. presidents to get to this stage—a stage in which the LRA has been, according to most reports, drastically weakened? What took Washington so long to finally accept this mandate, which human rights activists have been urging for years?

The Obama administration is not likely embracing a “Responsibility to Protect.” The sad answer is that only now, in the post-9/11 world, is there sufficient U.S. interest to risk getting "mired" in Africa. The unstated target of this 100-man deployment is, in fact, al-Qaeda.

AFRICOM and the Horn of Africa

The 100-strong force being sent to Uganda (ostensibly as advisers) will be overseen by AFRICOM, the new strategic command for Africa created by George W. Bush in 2007. AFRICOM provides billions of dollars worth of equipment to U.S. allies in Africa, as well as controversial training and intelligence-sharing programs, and even Special Forces deployments.

For AFRICOM, security imperatives intersect with economic ones. At AFRICOM's urging, for example, the U.S. military has designed war games involving the "fall" of Nigeria, the no. 5 source of U.S. oil imports, to insurgent forces. The United States has had a strategic interest since the 1990s in demonstrating its commitment to the security of Uganda, which has fought al-Shabab in Somalia and until recently bordered Sudan. Sudan, an Islamist pariah state and also an LRA supporter, is still on the radar for U.S. and Ugandan policymakers (especially with South Sudan's formation), but Somalia is the "new" looming terror threat, a "failed state" fought over by Islamist groups like al-Shabab and infiltrated by others. The United States asserts that a strong al-Qaeda presence there today has ill designs for the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, Ethiopia, Kenya, and as we saw in 2010, Uganda.

The Ugandans did not pull out from Somalia following the 2010 Kampala bombings, though, and remain committed to maintaining a force there, something other U.S. allies in Africa have been reluctant to do. Those boots on the ground might go some way in firmly establishing a central Somalia government the United States and Uganda can live with. As Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institute has said:

To the extent the United States has any interest in Somalia being stabilized, it has an interest in seeing the Ugandan government able to keep its own country together, and able to keep it its own forces partially deployed to Somalia in order to help with that country where there have been al-Qaida related groups in the past.

The United States is waging a drone war in Somalia. Although it is not on the scale of the campaigns in Pakistan or Yemen, this may soon change. But with "Black Hawk Down" never far removed from Washington’s memory, sending troops into Somalia will be a hard decision for U.S. officials to make. Furthermore, the United States is, once again after its brief dalliance with "provincial reconstruction teams," no longer as interested in nation building as in effecting regime change and targeted assassinations. Uganda helps the latter along nicely in Somalia and may one day make the former possible there in concert with AFRICOM.

For now and for the foreseeable future, the Ugandan forces in Somalia are working in line with U.S. interests (as are the Kenyans, who this very Monday entered Somalia in force and are fighting against al-Shahab).

A War for Oil?

There are also economic considerations, though these may be secondary to security concerns. Uganda is indeed hoping to exploit newly discovered oil and gas reserves, and the government has undertaken a hurried development campaign. But the United States is not well-placed at this time to pursue energy extraction opportunities there: the UK-registered Tullow Oil, joined by the French Total AS and the PRC's China National Offshore Oil Corporation, holds the best energy extraction hand in Uganda today. The U.S. government is, naturally, keeping an eye on the sector, and as The Economist notes, "several jealous Western governments and companies want to stall China’s advance into the Congo basin, with its vast reserves of minerals and timber."

Whatever potential Uganda holds—in and of itself and as a gateway to the DRC—China's much stronger economic position in Uganda and the UK's ties to its former colony do not leave the United States much economic leeway besides foreign aid allocations at this point. But what is clear is that Washington’s commercial prospects in Uganda in the coming years will depend on the security situation.

Emboldening Museveni

Perhaps the most pressing issue for Ugandans, however, is the extent to which U.S. assistance might not only stir up a renewed conflict in the region but also embolden Yoweri Museveni—once hailed as an upstanding member of "a new generation of African leaders"—to further crack down on opposition politicians in Uganda, which until 2005 was an officially one-party state.

As Wikileaks disclosures show, the United States holds few illusions about the undemocratic and corrupt tendencies of Museveni and his party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM). "It appears Ugandan security services spend the majority their time tracking opposition leaders and critics of the NRM," reported a 2010 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Kampala.

Museveni's participation in the Second Congolese War, in which Ugandan military forces and their Congolese allies were accused of trafficking "blood diamonds" and committing human rights abuses, also damaged his international image. His questionable domestic record on both human rights and corruption issues has further soured foreign lenders and leaders toward him. The presidential election held in Uganda earlier this year delivered Museveni another stellar victory, though it was marred by accusations of intimidation on the part of the security apparatus and ruling party, accusations that the U.S. Embassy found credible in previous elections.

Protests against Museveni's policies have frequently turned deadly thanks to the intervention of the state security apparatus, and just days after the U.S. deployment was announced, Ugandan security forces arrested 45 "Action 4 Change" activists, 15 of whom will be tried for treason. If convicted, they will be subject to a death sentence.

Action 4 Change is a coalition of opposition parties, community organizers, and rights groups who have undertaken a series of "walk to work" protests to demonstrate against food and fuel price increases. The Ugandan government asserts that Action 4 Change members are not nonviolent demonstrators but disgruntled electoral losers plotting the overthrow of the government. And Uganda Radio Network reports that a 500-man Coalition for Stable Uganda (CSU), led by an NRM member, has been formed "to counter activities of [the] Action for Change Coalition" because "there is no doubt in [the CSU's] minds that the opposition actions are well coordinated with backing from other forces bent [on] destabilizing Uganda, loot[ing] property, and caus[ing] deaths."

This landmark U.S. assistance to Uganda against the LRA, simply by putting boots on the grounds, surpasses any past offers of foreign or diplomatic aid from U.S. officials. But will Washington pressure Museveni to clean up corruption or scale back his crackdown on Action 4 Change? That's the sort of discussion that needs to be happening.

- Paul Mutter is a graduate student at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus

Originally published by Institute for Policy Studies licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Friday
Mar042011

Resurgence of Polio in DR Congo Causes Alarm (Report)

The polio vaccine is administered through drops into the mouth. CREDIT: Christine McNab(HN, March 4, 2011) - The global health community is concerned about a massive outbreak of polio in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The DRC has witnessed a sharp resurgence of polio as conditions in the country continue to complicate vaccination efforts, potentially undermining global eradication of the crippling disease. From January 2010 to February 2011 there were 112 new cases - up from only three in 2009.

In neighbouring Republic of Congo, the same disease has killed 169 people and paralyzed 409, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Although polio usually strikes children under five, in both countries it is mainly adults who have been infected.

“Vaccination campaigns only started in this country [DRC] in the mid-1980s. Those now over 30 years of age have mostly not been vaccinated,” Health Minister Victor Makwenge Kaput told IRIN late last year.

The outbreak in the DRC is serious enough to warrant a visit by UNICEF's Executive Director Tony Lake, who flew to the capital, Kinshasa, this week to meet with key government officials and to visit sites where health workers are battling the rapidly spreading outbreak .

In response, preparations are underway to go door to door to vaccinate more than 14 million children by the end of May.

"Eradicating polio in DRC and everywhere requires an absolute commitment by government and its partners to vaccinate every child,” said Lake.  “UNICEF will do everything we can to support the DRC’s collective effort to defeat this evil virus once and for all.”

Since hitting its peak in the U.S. in 1952, the number of cases has gone down 99%; now, there are less than 1,500 known cases of polio worldwide.

There are just four polio-endemic countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. While these numbers have been dropping, philanthropist Bill Gates says the majority of outbreaks in 2010 were actually in countries that had been polio-free. The virus travelled back across borders into countries like Tajikistan and Congo.

- HUMNEWS staff, files

Saturday
Jan152011

(EXCLUSIVE REPORT) As Landmark Secession Referendum Ends in Southern Sudan, Sudanese Diaspora in the U.S. Await the Outcome After Voting For Independence 

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsfree video player

(HN, Jan. 15, 2010) – On Saturday, January 14, 2011 a group of Sudanese ex-patriates living in the Southern United States, travelled to Nashville, Tennessee to vote for the possible secession of South Sudan from Sudan.  HUMNEWS was along for the bus ride which ultimately led to South Sudan being voted into existence - creating the world's 238th nation territory. 

--- Max Ramming was along for the ride and here is his natural sound video piece, in the words and voices of those who experienced the event.

Sunday
Jan092011

Southern Sudan 55-Year Quest for Freedom (Perspective)

By Hugo Odiogor

(HN, January 9, 2011) - A 55-year quest for freedom in southern Sudan makes a crucial home run today when over four million voters step out to cast their vote either to remain with their Arab and Muslim brothers or to become an independent state. The stakes are high for both sides and for Africa as a whole.Southern Sudan has considerable agricultural potential, but a lack of infrastructure - such as roads and storage facilities - and ongoing insecurity has limited production. CREDIT: Caroline Gluck, OXFAM

Sudanese President Omar Hassan El-Bashir pledged last week to abide by the result of today’s referendum, thereby dousing fears of a possible return to the trenches, in the event of southern voting to end its 113-year association with the Arab north.

El-Bashir, facing indictment in the International Court of Justice at The Hague, made what could be his last visit to the South as a united country last week and gave the world the assurance the north will not resort to violence to thwart the decision of the south. The vote is the result of a 2005 peace deal, which ended a 55-year conflict that has claimed the lives of two million people and left twice as many displaced.

El-Bashir held talks with southern Sudanese leader, Sylva Kiir, on issues bordering on citizenship rights, resource control, border demarcations, and the fate of the oil-rich Abyei, which is supposed to vote later on whether it should become part of the north or to join the south. Today’s referendum is part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended one of Africa’s longest-running civil war. In the north, the ruling National Congress Party, led by Omar El-Bashir, is campaigning for unity while  the former rebels under SPLM decided “to campaign for what the people want.”

Before the closure for registration last week, at least 3.4 million people in Sudan have registered to vote while Sudanese in Diaspora are also allowed to vote. Reports said aid agencies have been assisting to educate the illiterate rural population on how they will choose between two images on the ballot paper.

One of them is that of clasped hands symbolising “ unity.” The second symbol is a “single hand”, signalling separation from Khartoum. The vote for separation has united the diverse southern communities who are often divided along ethnic lines. There have been pro-separation rallies as the people look forward to end centuries of slavery and abuse at the hands of the Arabs in the north.

Sudan is located in the north-eastern part of Africa. It is the 10th largest country by land mass, combining the size of France, Britain, Germany and Belgium, put together. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea, to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, Kenya and Uganda to the southeast, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central Africa Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west and Libya to the northwest. The River Nile, world’s longest river, divides the country on the east and west.

Khartoum is the political, cultural and commercial capital of the nation, while Omdurman remains the largest city. Its population of 42 million people, Arab and Nubian origins who are Sunnis and the Dinkas and other diverse groups in the South.

Islam is the official and largest religion, while Arabic and English are the official languages. The pro-Islamic policies of the government led to a second civil war in 1983,  followed by a bloodless coup d’etat in 1989. Under the dictatorial leadership of El-Bashir, Sudan has initiated a series of macroeconomic reforms which resulted in its economy being rated amongst the fastest growing in the world. Sudan is rich in natural resources including petroleum, with China and Japan as its main partners.

The British began the process of divide and rule in 1922, when the northerners were not allowed to travel over the 10th parallel south and southerners travel over the 8th north. This ensured that Muslims were stopped from spreading their faith southwards while the British supported the influx of Christian missionaries to the south. This was the basis for the dichotomy that existed till date.

The two cultures were never given a proper opportunity to interact, in the 55 years of the country’s independence. The north imposed its dominance by force and attempted to impose Sharia on southern Christians where illiteracy is almost 100 per cent; poverty is rife, healthcare is non-existent and starvation a frequent blight.

Flashpoints of conflict

Separatist movements in regions such as Darfur and the Nuba Mountains and  border areas are watching the development in the vote today; in the same way other African and Arab countries are watching the development in Sudan.

‘Under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which brought civil war to an end, two referenda were agreed: one for southern secession or unity and the other to give Abyei the opportunity to choose to be part of the north or the south.

Oil diplomacy

Sudan has achieved great economic growth by implementing macroeconomic reforms and finally ended the civil war by adopting a new constitution in 2005 with rebel groups in the south, granting them limited autonomy to be followed by a referendum about independence in 2011.

The discovery of oil in the southern part of Sudan has been one of the problems of the country. It produces 500,000 barrels every day. Eighty per cent of the oil is in the south, while the pipeline runs to the  north. It accounts for 70 per cent of government revenue and 93 per cent of its exports. South produces vast majority of oil, but north has means of processing.

El-Basir is proposing a wealth-sharing deal that splits oil profits 50-50 between north and south Sudan. The Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), runs the largest oil-extraction operation in the country. China has been roundly condemned for closing its eyes to human rights violations in Sudan because of the oil diplomacy. Its company has been accused of false declaration of oil production figures which puts the south in disadvantage. In the five years of  peace, the north has shared $10 billion in oil revenue with south.

The suspicion that the north was hiding oil revenue almost derailed the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, three years ago. Bashir’s National Congress Party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army must negotiate a new oil revenue-sharing agreement, and a “credible, independent” company must conduct a detailed audit of the country’s oil industry and release its findings in full to the public.

Observers  believe that the ICC indictment of  El-Bashir has put him under tremendous pressure and he is not in the mood to fight any more, but the UN, and some anti-genocide groups have set up Satellite Sentinel Project, along the border areas to monitor movement of persons and troops.

The surveillance project is to prevent a new civil war in the event that the south votes for secession in the referendum. “We want to let potential perpetrators of genocide and other war crimes to know that we’re watching, the world is watching,” they said. “War criminals thrive in the dark. It’s a lot harder to commit mass atrocities in the glare of the media spotlight.”

Today’s referendum is important for the people of Sudan and the world as it may see the birth of a new nation in Africa and the world.

This article originally appeared in the Vanguard Newspaper in Nigeria

 

Wednesday
Jan052011

Sudan/DRC: Abducted Children Flown Home by ICRC (Feature)

(HN, Janury 5, 2011) - Judy and several other children were abducted by an armed group that roamed the jungle between the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sudan. For a whole year, she had to carry goods and food through difficult terrain, under dangerous conditions, unpaid and uncared for.Yambio airstrip, Southern Sudan. James climbs aboard the plane that will reunite him with his family in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. CREDIT: ICRC

Today, Judy is one of seven children eagerly waiting to rejoin their families in the DRC, with apprehension written all over their faces. They sit patiently at Yambio airstrip in Southern Sudan, straining to hear the distant sound of the ICRC plane arriving from Dungu in the DRC, just thirty minutes away.

Young lives, tough stories

James (14) is the most confident of the group. "My sister and I were abducted somewhere in the DRC and forced to march with the armed men. They gave us stuff to carry but we didn't know where we were going. It was like that most days, we just wandered around the bush. Later my sister died in a shootout between the group and the army."

Unlike James, Anne (12) was abducted right in her home. She recalls the episode in a voice so quiet as to be almost inaudible. "Armed men burst into our house early one morning. The rest of my family escaped. They took me into the bush. They made me do things I don't want to talk about, things I want to forget."

Judy was just nine years old when she was abducted and the details are hazy. Now ten, she does remember how she was rescued from somewhere along the border between the DRC and Sudan. "We were just moving off after I had fetched water, when soldiers started shooting at the men who had abducted me. A bullet hit me in the head and I fell down. My abductors thought I was dead and abandoned me. I was scared, but I crawled away from the fighting until the soldiers saw me and took me to their base where I was treated."

Two other children injured in the crossfire that day were subsequently rescued by soldiers, who handed them over to a humanitarian agency that referred them to the ICRC.

James and Anne also escaped during fighting between the army and the armed group, but at different times and in different places. Anne, who said she was beaten every time she asked her captors for her mother, was forced to follow the group during every attack. This ultimately proved a blessing in disguise, as it was during one of these attacks that she managed to escape.

The long route home

The children came into contact with the ICRC on the border between the DRC and Southern Sudan in 2008. They then moved to a refugee camp where they were looked after by the UNHCR while the ICRC and the Sudanese Red Crescent Society followed up on their cases. It took ICRC staff two years to establish contact with their families and complete the paperwork required to get the children back to their families in the DRC.

Looking at the people waiting to say farewell to her and other children, Judy becomes pensive. "There are still many children in the bush with this armed group and they're not happy. The fighters keep moving from place to place and when an attack comes, the children are killed if they can't run fast enough."

The ICRC aircraft finally appears, and smiles replace the apprehension on the children's faces. Nuala Ryan, the Deputy Head of the ICRC Mission in Southern Sudan, smiles too. "These children suffered a lot away from their families. By registering them and reuniting them with their parents, the ICRC not only returns them to the warmth and care of their families but also ensures that the world hears their stories."

Feature produced by the International Commitee of the Red Cross

Wednesday
Dec222010

At Christmas, Mia Farrow Wants People to 'Get Angry' (Interview)

(HN, December 21, 2010) - Acclaimed actress and humanitarian activist has served as a Goodwill Ambassador to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) for the past decade. She has travelled extensively to places such as Darfur in Sudan, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo - meeting with the victims of conflict and working to bring greater international attention to humanitarian crises.Actress Mia Farrow in the field. CREDIT: UNICEF

Just a few days before Christmas, Farrow says she wants people to feel a real outrage about fellow human being who have literally nothing.

"I think the saddest person in the world is the one who did nothing because they could only do a little. We can all find ways to reach out to those who are in need," Farrow told UNHCR in an interview.

Recently, she completed a personal project to match photographs taken during her travels to the John Lennon song, "Imagine." The video can be seen on YouTube.

Excerpts of the interview:

What was your idea behind making this project?

I have taken a lot of photographs over the years  some of them on trips with UNICEF, some of them on my own journeys  and I was listening to the song at the time that would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday. I came to the line, "Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can," and I went to some of the photographs where it didn't require imagining for me. I've witnessed people with nothing. And then I thought: Was there something I could put together? I think the song is such a beautiful song, in its message, in its melody. I chose the pictures to go with the lyrics. I had returned from Uganda with UNICEF and I wanted to bring it emotionally to the destructive forces that have displaced all the people in the photographs. And I wanted to end with the dreamer and the thought: "If only the world could live as one."

Did you set out to illustrate the song with your photographs or the other way around?

No, it was hearing the song and the words and then coming up with the right photograph. For me, these photographs are not just pictures, they are of people I have spent time with. So I started imagining. Then I went to my photographs and played the song and began to assemble them in batches that would go with each wave of imagining. My daughter-in-law helped me with the technical side. But the people in the photographs are with me always. I couldn't hear a song like that without my mind going to the people.

Many of the photographs are of refugees and refugee children. Was that a deliberate choice?

Yes. My focus has been on people who are displaced primarily by conflict. Exceptions would be places like Haiti, but there, too, people are longing for peace. So many people there have nothing and they're longing for peace, peace of mind. There are all kinds of peace.

You have been able to move between these two extreme worlds of people in refugee camps and then life in the United States. Do you think that people understand what it's like to be a refugee?

How can we? Even though I might spend a lot of time in these situations  I've made 13 journeys to the Darfur region alone  I have a passport out. While I have experienced their circumstances, the huge difference is that I can leave and they can't. So I can never really fully understand their position and I hope I never will be in a similar position. But if I am, I hope that I will have the grace and the strength to maintain the hope that they have.

Were you hoping the slide show would inspire people or to provoke them in some way?

I wanted people to get angry, really. I wanted people to feel a sense of outrage that while we go about our business  and I know many people in my country and elsewhere are having difficult times  that we can scarcely imagine having nothing. I think that if people look into the eyes of our fellow human beings who have literally nothing, not even safety, then are we not compelled to do something?

On December 14, UNHCR marked 60 years since its creation. What are your thoughts looking forward?

I think in the face of displacement it's our feelings of helplessness that are our worst enemy. They are an indulgence that we can't give in to. And that comes to why I love UNHCR so much, because you're addressing the needs of the most vulnerable population on earth. I think the saddest person in the world is the one who did nothing because they could only do a little. We can all find ways to reach out to those who are in need.

Saturday
Sep182010

(REPORT) Child Mortality Rate Drops by a Third Since 1990 

Fewer children are dying before they reach their fifth birthdays, with the total number of under-five deaths falling by one third in the past two decades, according to fresh estimates by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Between 1990 and 2009, the number of children below the age of five who died annually fell from 12.4 million to 8.1 million. The global under-five mortality rate dipped from 89 deaths per 1,000 live births to 60 during that period. “The good news is that these estimates suggest that 12,000 fewer children are dying each day around the world compared to 1990,” UNICEF said in a press release accompanying the data, issued ahead of next week’s UN-hosted world leaders’ summit in New York on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However, the agency stressed, “the tragedy of preventable child deaths continues.” Some 22,000 children under the age of five continue to die every day, with 70 per cent of these deaths occurring within their first year of life. Under-five mortality increasingly becoming concentrated in a few countries, with half of all deaths of children below five occurring in just five countries in 2009: India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Pakistan and China. Sub-Saharan Africa – where one in eight children do not live to see their fifth birthday – continues to be home to the highest rates of child mortality. That is nearly 20 times the average for developed regions. UNICEF cautioned that although the pace of decline of child mortality has picked up in the past decade, it is still not enough to meet the MDG target of a two-thirds decline between 1990 and 2015. The new figures were published in this year’s Levels & Trends in Child Mortality, issued by the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, bringing together several UN entities, The estimates are developed with oversight and advice from independent experts from academic institutions. Earlier this week, a new report by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank found that the number of women dying due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth has decreased by 34 per cent from an estimated 546,000 in 1990 to 358,000 in 2008. While the progress is notable, the annual rate of decline is less than half of what is needed to achieve the MDG target of reducing the maternal mortality ratio by 75 per cent between 1990 and 2015, the publication stressed.

- UN News, UNICEF