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Wednesday:  December 17, 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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Wednesday
May232012

Malaria spread feared as WHO releases action plan to tackle global spread of insecticide-resistant mosquitoes (REPORT) 

(Video World Malaria Day, 2012/WHO)

By Amy Maxmen

The war to bring malaria to heel has made slow but steady progress during the past decade, with the overall mortality rate dropping by more than 25% since 2000. A key factor in this progress has been improved control of mosquitoes, which transmit the Plasmodium parasite — a potent killer that claimed an estimated 655,000 lives in 2010 alone. But health officials fear that the spread of insecticide-resistant mosquitoes could bring about a resurgence of the disease. To help combat this threat, on May 15, the World Health Organization (WHO), based in Geneva, Switzerland, issued a strategic plan to curb the spread of resistance.

“We don’t want to wait for failures to happen,” says David Brandling-Bennett, the senior adviser for infectious diseases at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington, who advised on the document.

Such failures could reverse the recent drop in malaria mortality credited to insecticide spraying in the home and coating of bed nets, which save about 220,000 children’s lives each year, according to the WHO. Insecticide resistance could also result in as many as 26 million further cases a year, the organization predicts, costing an extra US $30 million to $60 million annually for tests and medicines.

The WHO report says that insecticide-resistant mosquitoes already inhabit 64 malaria-ridden countries (see map).

The problem is particularly acute in sub-Saharan African countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Ethiopia and Uganda, where mosquitoes are frequently resistant to compounds known as pyrethroids and even to the organochloride DDT, venerable tools of mosquito control. Because they are extremely safe for children, effective against mosquitoes and affordable, pyrethroids are the only insecticides used to treat bed nets, as well as the first choice for household spraying.

Health authorities in Somalia, Sudan and Turkey have also reported sporadic resistance to the two other classes of insecticides recommended by the WHO for safe and effective household spraying: carbamates and organophosphates. Resistance has probably evolved several times independently, and is now spreading as extensive use of pyrethroids and other insecticides favors resistant mosquitoes. “In 2004, there were pockets of resistance in Africa, and now there are pockets of susceptibility,” says Janet Hemingway, chief executive of the Innovative Vector Control Consortium (IVCC), a product-development partnership based in the United Kingdom.

(MAP: Global malaria map, 2012/WHO) Among other things, the WHO recommends rotating the classes of pesticides used to spray houses, and developing safe and effective non-pyrethroid insecticides that can be used to treat bed nets. To implement all of the WHO’s suggestions would cost $200 million - on top of the $6 billion that the WHO requested last year to fund existing malaria-control programs. Rob Newman, director of the Global Malaria Program at the WHO, hopes that the report will draw more funds to the table as donors grasp the situation. “If we can stop pyrethroid resistance from spreading, it will be cheaper in the long run,” Newman says.

“In 2004, there were pockets of resistance in Africa, and now there are pockets of susceptibility.”

But the two largest players in malaria aid - the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the US President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) - have not yet pledged additional money to fight resistance. Their spending on mosquito control is already high - in 2009, 39% of the Global Fund’s malaria expenditures went towards insecticide-treated bed nets and household spraying, as did 59% of the PMI’s in 2010.  

For now, pyrethroids are the only class of insecticides approved by the WHO for bed nets, and where spraying is concerned they are less costly than the alternatives. Vestergaard Frandsen, a company based in Lausanne, Switzerland, says that it has in the pipeline a bed net coated with a non-pyrethroid insecticide - one that does not belong to any of the four WHO-approved classes - and that the company expects to bring this to market within the next five years. It is also one of several companies partnering with the IVCC to create innovative mosquito-control products.

(PHOTO: Malaria `home test'/NoProphalactics)In the meantime, health officials may be able to keep malaria at bay by swapping insecticides. The report notes that in Colombia, for instance, mosquitoes regained susceptibility to pyrethroids after five years of treatment with an organophosphate. But some African countries lack the surveillance needed to spur such an approach. To address that deficiency, the report urges that a global database be set up to track the spread of resistance, and that entomologists be trained and hired at surveillance stations. That could prove the most challenging goal of all.

“Nobody wants to fund capacity building,” says Newman. “Donors would rather say they purchased $10,000 in bed nets than pay a salary.”

African ministers of health realize the need to manage resistance but can’t do much without outside funds, explains Maureen Coetzee, a medical entomologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. “In some countries, malaria control means one person sitting in one room, and he’s lucky if he’s got a chair,” she says.

- This report originally appeared by Amy Maxmen at Nature.

Friday
May182012

#DearG8: Summit must focus on food security (PERSPECTIVE) 

 

(Video: An explanation of food insecurity/British Red Cross)

By Shenggen Fan

As the G8 leaders meet in the United States this week, agriculture and food security must be at the forefront of the discussions, and ways to prevent price volatility, including halting grain-based biofuels production, establishing grain reserves for emergency use, eliminating food export bans and increasing the transparency of food and agricultural market information - should be addressed.

Most importantly, the G8 leaders should fulfill their commitments on global food security.

In 2009, G8 leaders made considerable financial commitments to global agriculture and food security, pledging to mobilize $22 billion over three years through a coordinated, comprehensive strategy focused on sustainable agriculture development. But as of May 2011, it was estimated that only 22 percent of these commitments had been disbursed.

In addition to the G8 leaders, the heads of states from Ethiopia, Ghana, Benin and Tanzania will take part in the summit discussions. The direct participation by these African leaders underscores the seriousness of the food security situation on the continent, where more than 220 million people are undernourished. Millions suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, a total of 100 million women and children are iron deficient, and 33 million children have Vitamin A deficiencies. The 2011 Global Hunger Index, a combined measure of the proportion of undernourishment, child malnutrition, and child mortality, shows that Sub-Saharan Africa is home to all the countries with "extremely alarming" scores and many of the countries with "alarming" scores.

In addition, it is projected that smallholder farmers, particularly those living in the highland areas and semi-arid savannahs in Sub-Saharan Africa, face increasing natural resource scarcity risks, including land degradation, which can cost as much as 10 percent of national GDP. Many parts of the region are extremely vulnerable to both man-made and natural shocks. Last year, more than 13 million people were affected by the drought in the Horn of Africa. This year more than 15 million people across seven countries in the Sahel region are already suffering from severe food insecurity or at risk.

It is crucial that developed countries take action to fight starvation in Africa. The cost of hunger is high, and the damage is irreversible.

For over three decades now, the International Food Policy Research Institute has been engaged in promoting the transformation of smallholder agriculture across Africa through evidence-based research and support to country-driven development initiatives. Priority areas include: building capacity for agricultural and food policy analysis and supporting country-led development strategies; improving nutrition along value chains to increase poor people's access to nutritious foods and increasing the availability, access, and intake of nutrient-rich, biofortified staple foods for the poor; resilience-enhancing schemes such as productive social safety nets, weather insurance index, and other risk management tools that help reduce vulnerability and enhance resilience to shocks and contribute to overall long-term growth and prosperity.

Technological innovations such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, and biofortification are crucial to increasing agricultural productivity, building resilience to weather-related shocks, enhancing the nutritional value of food crops, and ensuring food safety. Biotechnology has great potential to improve crop yield, nutrition and resilience to weather, which will be even more frequent in the future due to climate change.

As the world's population increases, there is enormous pressure on the planet's ecosystems. The most reasonable solution to feeding the ever-growing population is sustainably producing more food on the existing land. Scaled-up investments in science and technology and support for improved country capacities are essential to accelerate progress and achieve development objectives. While the governments of developing countries have taken important steps to boost food security-related investments, support from the G8 countries remains critical.

- This commentary first appeared at XinhuaNet

RELATED:

New G8-African Alliance For Food Security And Nutrition Launched

Cash-strapped G8 looks to private sector in hunger fight

Private sector organizations commit to support the G8 food security agenda

Oxfam: G8 Food Security Alliance Answers Question Hungry People Have Not Asked

Thursday
Feb092012

South Sudan, Ethiopia Sign Oil Pipeline Deal 

(HN, 2/9/2012) -- South Sudan has signed a memorandum of understanding with Ethiopia allowing it to build an oil pipeline through Ethiopia to the port of Djibouti.

Barnaba Marial Benjamin, South Sudan’s information minister, said on Thursday than an unidentified Texas company could start working on a new pipeline in six months, the independent Sudan Tribune reports.

Land-locked South Sudan has been in a political dispute with Sudan’s government over oil transit fees – South Sudan gaining control over most of the region’s oil reserves in July, when it became an independent country, relying however, on export pipelines through Sudan.  

Last month, South Sudan accused Sudan of seizing more than $800 million worth of it oil from Port Sudan along the Red Sea.

Khartoum says it took the oil because the south would not pay transit fees on more than $30 per barrel.

In recent weeks, South Sudan has also discussed plans with Kenya to build oil pipelines to the coastal town of Lamu.

There has been much tension between Sudan and South Sudan, and leaders on both sides have said a return to war is possible.

The two countries have not been able to agree on how to demarcate their border or how to share oil revenue.

South Sudan said Wednesday it had completed the shutdown of 871 oil wells that were producing about 350,000 barrels per day. 

So far negotiations, hosted by the African Union, have failed to find a resolution to the oil row. 

- HUMNEWS Staff

Monday
Feb062012

Sound the Horn: Opinion on the Horn of Africa `Famine’ 

(PHOTO: Dadaab Refugee camp, Kenya/WFP)By Lily H. Ostrer

On Friday, February 2, the United Nations declared an end to the famine in the Horn of Africa that killed tens of thousands of people in the last nine months. With an unstable political situation and 2.3 million people still in need of food, there is a high likelihood that famine conditions will return to the region within the next 100 days. While natural occurrences such as drought may have initiated the famine, its severity and persistence can be attributed to people and politics. Indeed, the situation in the Horn of Africa is a perfect storm of environmental, local, and international dynamics, topped off by the presence of a militant Islamist group blockading aid efforts.

For this very reason, it is imperative that we consider multi-dimensional solutions to the crisis in the Horn of Africa. The need will not end with the UN’s declaration last Friday, nor will the political situation change overnight. Activists have called on the media and on donors to continue to pay attention and give money to maintain a response to the humanitarian needs, and we agree. But as members of the Harvard community, we should all seek to encourage further academic engagement to derive holistic, multi-disciplinary solutions.

The UN reserves the label of “famine” for only the most severe emergencies—at least two deaths per 10,000 people per day, at least 30 percent of children with acute malnutrition, and at least 20 percent of the population unable to reach its food need. When the UN declared famine last July, the region, including Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti, had faced nearly two successive years of almost no rainfall and over 12 million individuals needed food aid. Somalia fared the worst, as years of political instability and war have left millions displaced and al-Shabaab, the group with de facto control over the country, has blocked food aid and shut down refugee camps.

(MAP: WFP) Indeed, al-Shabaab is the most obvious reason why simple humanitarian solutions cannot end the famine in Somalia. Al-Shabaab has denied access to aid organizations, evicted refugee camps, and prompted widespread violence throughout the region, taking credit for bombings in Somalia and neighboring countries. Because of this, al-Shabaab is on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations, which puts Somalia on the map in the U.S. war on terror. The African Union has had a force in Somalia since 2007, and Kenya invaded in 2011, introducing regional complexity to the humanitarian crisis. But U.S. policy towards the region is additionally sensitive due to the Black Hawk Down tragedy in 1993, when 18 U.S. soldiers died on a mission in Mogadishu. For these reasons, no matter what develops in Somalia, the U.S. is unlikely to ever put troops on the ground, leaving Kenyans and other African nations to deal with al-Shabaab. However, as Davidson College Professor Kenneth J. Menkhaus points out, while responding to al-Shabaab is necessary, responding to the immediate humanitarian crisis will draw attention to Shabaab’s inhumane acts, weakening its stronghold in the country. Sensitivity to the historical and political situation in Somalia is key to effective intervention, but it should not detract from the importance of fighting acute malnutrition and food shortages.

Much work has been done to study food security in the developing world and many of the manmade causes of this famine are known. Soaring food prices have played a large role. Last August, the prices of maize and sorghum, two important staples, were 84 percent and 240 percent higher than a year before. In addition to poor local harvests, U.S. production of ethanol and the diversion of crops for the production of biofuels have exacerbated price increases. A systemic underinvestment in agriculture in East and Central Africa has led to decreased agricultural capacity in recent years. While up to 60 percent of the populations of many of these nations depend on agriculture for their livelihood, many governments devote only five percent of national expenditure to agriculture. At the same time, investment in infrastructure is vitally important for the transportation of crops and fertilizer. Robert L. Paarlberg, a professor at Wellesley College and an Associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard, has been mapping the impact of the under-usage of biotechnology in Africa. Scientific advances in developing seeds resistant to drought and insects would greatly improve the region’s food production, where farmers are now less productive on a per-capita basis than they were in 1970. Paarlberg posits that the spread of such technology has been held up by the richer countries in which they were developed. The usage of newly developed surveillance techniques, a focus of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, could allow for improved early warning systems.

(PHOTO: Kenya/WFP)We now know many of the causes of famine, but coordinating the response in a tense political climate remains challenging for humanitarian organizations. Consequently, donors who want to support the cause are left unsure about which organizations can reach people in need, who can bring about immediate relief, and how we can transition to long-term change. As a university, our mandate must be to reach greater understanding of the crisis by bringing together experts from many disciplines. Harvard has responded in important ways to humanitarian crises in the past, from fundraising to utilizing its academic expertise, and we commend the important strides it has made in responding to this crisis. I hope the university continues to leverage its academic capital to bring about an end to one of the most complex recurring crises to face humanity.

---Lily H. Ostrer ’14 is a social studies concentrator in Kirkland House, Harvard University, and her piece was originally published in the Harvard Crimson HERE)

Monday
Dec262011

THE HUM - HEADLINES FROM THE GEOGRAPHIC GAP - 12/26/11

Afghanistan

High Power consumption the main factor of electricity outage

Canada 

(PHOTO: The provincial government of British Columbia has created a task force team to handle the tonnes of debris from the Japanese tsunami floating in the Pacific Ocean that is expected to hit B.C. shores. US NAVY)B.C. launches task force to manage coming tsunami debris

China 

Asia to be largest corporate, investment banking market by 2015: McKinsey

Congo (DRC)

Capital markets: Burj Capital thrives against the tide

Cuba 

US 'Disappointed' Cuba Will Not Release American Prisoner

Egypt 

(PHOTO: Ismail Haniya, Gaza Strip PM. EPA)Palestinian PM in Cairo

Ethiopia

Egypt deports 93 Ethiopians using the country as a transit stop to reach Israel illegally

Haiti 

Haitian migrants found dead off Cuban coast

Iran 

Iranian diplomats review Islamic awakening in Arab states

Tehran, Tunis Able to Further Develop Relations Far from Sectarian Differences

Iran President underlines development of ties with Africa

Iraq 

Iraq blocks Jordanian trucks heading to Turkey over Syria concerns

Israel 

Israeli gas quests plagued by pirates

Libya 

We are pumping more than a million barrels of oil a day, says Libya

Nepal 

Nepal sets up diplomatic ties with Solomon Islands

Nigeria 

Africa’s Biggest Street Party Takes Centre Stage

Paraguay

Paraguay, stuck in siesta mode, awaits Lugo's exit

Somalia 

Somalia: Protesters march the streets to stop violence aimed at aid workers 

South Korea 

(PHOTO: RIA NOVOSTI)S.Korea: doctors charged over deal with pharmaceutical companies

Spain 

Spain: King Juan Carlos Says Fighting Joblessness Top Priority

Sri Lanka 

Sri Lankan female ex-rebels faces uncertain future

Sudan 

Sudan’s Ancient Civilization: Nubian Kingdoms and the Christian Era

Svalbard and Jan Mayen (Arctic Ocean)

Pack ice breaking up in Svalbard in the arctic north of Norway (PHOTO)

 

Swaziland

Marriage trouble for Mandla Mandela  

Sweden

The tallest revolving door in the world

Busy Christmas weekend for the Swedish police

Syria

Syria Faces a New, Long-Term Phase

Taiwan

Taiwanese banks will back plant restoration in Thailand

More sons in Taiwan get inheritances than daughters: report

Tajikistan

Wheat genetics in Tajikistan could help feed the world

Tanzania

Exposed: Dar lacks disaster response system

Thailand

High waves ravage S. Thailand, thousand affected, tourists marooned

Tonga

Tonga National Population Census 2011; Preliminary Count

Trinidad and Tobago

Business owners crying as shoppers watch their pockets

Tunisia

Tunisian women’s group ATFD wins Simone de Beauvoir award

Turkey

(PHOTO: Turkey's learning disabled students. SUNDAY'S ZAMAN)Learning disabilities often confused with mental retardation in Turkey

Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan to hold talks on laying international fiber-optic communication lines

Tuvalu

Anglicans tiding Tuvalu over

Uganda

Hopping mad: Uganda power cuts hit grasshopper harvest

Ukraine

Iran, Ukraine to sign oil contracts

Ukraine and Russia to hold next round of gas talks on Jan 15

Ukraine to produce 36 million tonnes of steel in 2012

United Arab Emirates

DHA: No local emergence of malaria

Most in UAE borrow to splurge, says expert

Dassanayake to embark on talent hunt

United Kingdom

Pen woman swallowed 25 years ago works

UK taxpayers face extra £250m bill for nuclear waste clean-up

The globalised underclass (Perspective)

United States

Hackers target United States security think tank

Child Homelessness on the Rise in the US 

Giant shrimp raises big concern as it invades the Gulf of Mexico

Uruguay

Uruguay to Adapt Agriculture to climate change conditions

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan’s courts launch fight against corruption

Vanuatu

Nursing School gets educational material from Rotary

Global Fund for Environment Projects Ends Year in Vanuatu

Venezuela

Chavez issues Christmas amnesty to 140 prisoners

Vietnam

(PHOTO: Thailand's `Bubble Woman'. THANH NIEN NEWS) Vietnam’s Bubble Woman to be treated in HCMC 

Vietnam still doesn’t have regulations to treat electronics waste

Methadone Maintenance Treatment Program in Vietnam, yielding positive results

More int’l brands shifting base to Vietnam from China

Yemen

Photos of Yemen’s Deepening Humanitarian Challenges

Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh heads to United States after government forces attack peaceful protesters

Zambia

Zambia’s poor still waiting for change after Sata’s 90 days

MTN Zambia launches solar green site

Women for Change launches ‘Zambia We Want Charter’

Zimbabwe

Reform efforts in Zimbabwe move slowly

Medical student wins Face of Zimbabwe pageant

Tuesday
Sep202011

Campaign Against Girl Brides Gains New Advocates (NEWS BRIEF)

By Themrise Khan in New York

Mary Robinson (L) and Desmond Tutu at the Clinton Summit in New York. CREDIT: HUMNEWS(HN, September 20, 2011) - Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Chair of the Elders was one of the driving forces behind the official launch of the Girls Not Brides campaign, here at the Clinton Global Initiative today.

Supported by the Ford Foundation and the Novo Foundation, among others, the multi-funded collaboration with the Elders Group, seeks to end the centuries old practice of child marriages, affecting almost 3 million young girls around the developing world.

The initiative is committing a start-up of $2 million to partner with almost 150 organizations already involved with the cause and demanding that this practice be ended.

Tutu, along with Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland, are lobbying donors, NGOs and cultural and faith-based groups to come together to do more to raise awareness on issues that include lobbying to increase the legal age of marriage to 18 years, so that young girls have the opportunity to attend and complete school.

As passionate and engaging as ever, Tutu urged the audience to look beyond the statistics and put a human face to turn the numbers into flesh and blood, to be able to understand why this ghastly system has to be ended. His appeal was to the men of this world who have to be the ones to change this tradition by saying that they do not want to marry children. “If the men aren’t on the right side, we are in trouble”, he said.

Following on the success of the Burhani Huwan initiative in Ethiopia which assisted in allowing 11,000 girls to complete their schooling and delay child marriage, this global partnership aims to allow young girls the opportunity to be educated and economically independent.

However, the causes contributing to child marriages go beyond just tradition and cross into economic depravation and poverty which forces parents to take such actions.

With multiple challenges facing this commitment, Tutu is one of the key strengths of the initiative declaring that “I am committed to this like I was committed to ending apartheid”.

Saturday
Jul302011

UN Calls for More Funds to Save Lives Across Horn of Africa (REPORT) 

According to the United Nations more than 12 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti are currently in need of humanitarian aid and that number is expected to rise. 

"If we are to avoid this crisis becoming an even bigger catastrophe, we must act now" said Valarie Amos, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and head of the Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which issued yesterday's appeal. 

The emergency is expected to persist for at least three to four months, and the number of people needing humanitarian assistance could increase by as much as 25 per cent, OCHA said, putting strain on the work of UN agencies.

An OCHA spokesperson said in Geneva that the request for funds lifts the Horn of Africa appeal to a total of $2.4 billion, of which $1 billion has been received so far.

OCHA reports that, driven by the worst drought in 60 years, some 1,300 new Somali refugees arrive daily in Kenya, several hundred more flee to Ethiopia and at least 1,000 others crowd into the capital, Mogadishu, fleeing not only drought but continued fighting between Government forces and rebels.

“Women and children are forced to walk weeks under gruelling conditions to reach safety, and are arriving in refugee camps in appalling health, overwhelming the already stretched capacity to respond,” the agency said.

The agency also said that outright famine, declared recently in two areas of southern Somalia, “could spread throughout the rest of the south within one or two months, if the humanitarian response did not increase in line with rising needs.”

Drought conditions in Kenya’s northern and north-eastern districts have deteriorated further after the poor March-June rains. The food crisis is expected to peak in August and September.

In Ethiopia, La Niña weather conditions have diminished two consecutive rainy seasons, resulting in rapidly deteriorating food security in lowlands of southern and south-eastern areas, as well as in parts of the central highlands. In Djibouti, the drought has forced growing numbers of pastoralists and people in rural areas to migrate to urban areas, where food insecurity is rising.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) reported that its emergency airlifts were flying tons of specialized nutritional food for malnourished children in Mogadishu and other food supplies in southern Somalia, and it was continuing to feed more than 1.6 million people in Kenya.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said six flights and two ships have delivered more than 653 tons of corn soya blend, and about 230 tons of therapeutic food to treat severely malnourished children. It is also building up its food pipeline which already supports 500 nutrition centres in southern Somalia.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it was working to accommodate some 3,000 people who since Monday settled spontaneously on the edge of Dadaab refugee complex, already the world’s largest refugee camp.

A spokesperson said the refugee agency is “very concerned about the protection of civilians” in Mogadishu amid renewed fighting between pro- and anti-Government forces. An offensive by pro-Government forces has increased the risk to the capital’s citizens as well as the estimated 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had recently fled drought and famine in neighbouring regions.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, today welcomed the Somali parliament’s approval of a new Cabinet and said the new Government must “immediately” tackle the problems facing the country.

Augustine P. Mahiga said the formation of the Cabinet “sends a strong, constructive signal and represents a positive start for the new Somali administration.”

“The new Government must immediately tackle the most critical tasks with the objective of creating a national vision based on a constructive dialogue with all stakeholders and a focus on the delivery of services,” he said.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the WFP today issued a joint statement calling for a longer view of the humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa.

“Beyond the emergency, it will be necessary to put into place the long-term solutions needed to guarantee food security in the Horn of Africa. There will be no sustainable solution to the crisis without measures that enable the countries of the region to become food self-sufficient, develop food crop production and support pastoralism and massively reinvest in agriculture and livestock-raising in the region,” it said.

- UN News Center 

Wednesday
Jul272011

As Horn of Africa Battles Catastrophic Drought Ethiopian Commodity Exchange Boosts Food Security (EXCLUSIVE REPORT)

The Ethiopia Commodity Exchange building in Addis Ababa. CREDIT: M Bociurkiw/HUMNEWSBy a HUMNEWS Correspondent in Addis Ababa

(HN, July 27, 2011) - The small trading room in the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) seems a world away from the frenetic buzz of the New York Stock Exchange floor: polite, well-mannered traders and buyers gather in a small circle, surrounded by electronic boards, buying and selling coffee beans and exotic spices - all sealed with a high five.

As one recent visitor noted: "Each high five (or open out-cry as it is known) is another small step in lifting the threat of starvation from the country."

As this region of Africa battles a catastrophic drought that has decimated crops and livestock in several countries, and threatens 12 million people, including in Ethiopia, the exchange plays a demonstrable role in lifting the livelihoods of millions of farmers out of poverty - bringing them from small, traditional circles into a large, sophisticated market linked to the global economy.

Th ECX opens its doors to buyers and sellers each week day to trade the country's most important export - coffee - as well as maize (Ethiopia is the second largest maize producer in Africa), wheat, spices and pea beans.

Already three years in operation as a private-public partnership, the trading numbers - more than $1.5 billion of commodity value had been traded as of June 2011 - and zero payment default status are accomplishments the founders like to boast about. Its membership includes 450 professionals representing about 8,000 clients - from small coffee growers to large cooperatives.

The trading floor of the ECX moments before the commencement of a new session. Credit: M Bociurkiw/HUMNEWSThe ECX was set up by a team led by Eleni Gabre-Madhin, a former World Bank economist and Stanford University graduate, who felt compelled to do something substantive after discovering that at the height of the devastating 1984 famine in Ethiopia - which she terms as "one of the greatest crimes against humanity" when one million people perished in northern regions - there were food surpluses in the fertile regions of the south.

In what she says was a turning point in her life, Gabre-Madhin dropped her high-flying international career of 30 years to return home and build the ECX. It would help bolster food security in Ethiopia by allowing farmers to reach new markets and obtain better prices.

"We are helping to change the image of this country," Gabre-Madhin says. "When farmers can sell their crops on the open market and get a fair price, they will have much more incentive to be productive, and Ethiopia will be much less prone to food crises."

By leveling the playing field for farmers, Gabre-Madhin said the ECX can assist one of the most under-capitalized sectors in the world.

It didn't take long. The first deposit at the ECX was in April 2008 was 324 bags of maize from a rural grain trader.

What's more, many of the people behind the exchange are Ethiopian nationals who have returned from prestigious careers on Wall Street to help re-build the country's shattered economy. Unlike many large institutions in Africa, the CEO and several senior positions are filled by females.

What makes the exchange unique is that its established an end-to-end ecosystem for trading - building  from scratch "non-core" exchange functions such as warehouse delivery centers, grading posts and clearing banks to remote electronic trading centers (modelled around Internet cafes and using VSAT technology) and a secure data system. Observers say this was a crucial step in establishing the exchange as the Ethiopian market is still under-developed. "We found that the piecemeal approach does not work," said Gabre-Madhin.

Solomon Edossa, the Chief Information Officer of the ECX, an Ethiopian national who earned his academic and professional credentials in the US, with such firms as Accenture and EDS, said most aspects of the exchange are homegrown. "When people come here they don't expect to see such things in a developing country," he said.

Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin, CEO of the ECX, at the World Economic Forum. Credit: WEF

One ECX member said the exchange has revolutionized the way he conducts business with coffee producers and sellers. "It used to take us more than six days to get the coffee we sold weighed. It was also daunting to settle payments. Now we are able to sell our coffee centrally and within hours, get paid."

The speed with which the ECX established itself was astounding, given that Addis Ababa has a creaking infrastructure: power outages are common and even ATM network blackouts are not uncommon during heavy rains.

Still, the knock-on effect - whether to boost the country's international image or to alleviate poverty - is impressive. By playing a role in establishing the reference prices of traded commodities, the CSX is part of the shift in market dominance towards emerging economies, says Gabre-Madhin. In fact, the US share of commodity exchanges has plummeted by nearly 50 percent in the last decade

As the shift happens, millions of farmers in emerging economies are brought into the market. In Ethiopia's case, they are now able to access real time market prices via the ECX's remote price tickers or via SMS messages on their cell phones. The new access to information shields them from the manipulation of unscrupulous traders and helps them hedge against price volatility.

Said Gabre-Madhin: "In my view there is no region of the world, and no period in history, that farmers have been expected to bear the kind of market risk that Africa's farmers have to bear."

Almost a million farmers are indirectly represented as members on the ECX through farmers' associations and unions.

As it has grown into a prized institution, some memorable anecdotes had emerged from operating in a market like Ethiopia. One ECX warehouse employee had to consult his superiors when he couldn't enter the vehicle plate number of a seller because the farmer had brought his coffee on donkeys.

The story shows, that even today, innovation and flexibility is required to push the country's tradition-bound agriculture sector.

Click here to watch a presentation by ECX Ceo, Dr. Eleni Gabre-Madhin, at a 2007 TED talk.

Tuesday
Jul192011

UN To Declare Famine in Horn of Africa - CBC (REPORT)

Nomadic girls and women fill containers with water from a large puddle in the middle of the road near the town of Wajid, in the southern Bakool Region of Somalia. CREDIT: UNICEF(HN, July 19, 2011 - UPDATED 1815GMT) - The United Nations is poised to declare a famine in parts of Somalia, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported late last night.

While a famine is expected to be declared in Somalia Wednesday in Nairobi, CBC reported, as many as 12 million people are impacted in the unstable country, as well as Kenya, Ethiopia, and neighbouring countries.

UN sources in Kenya confirmed that a famine would be declared at any time and that all agencies were gearing up for the upgrading of the crisis.

The drought is the worst the region has seen in about six decades, raising memories of the devastating Ethiopian famine in 1984-1985, in which more than one million people died.

CBC reported that food insecurity has already reached emergency levels — one level below famine. "Famine/catastrophe" is the worst-case scenario on a five-level scale used to gauge food security.

Fresh details of the situation in the region are expected this morning during the regularly-scheduled UN media briefing in Geneva.

The UN employs several indicators to declare a famine, including acute malnutrition in more than 30 per cent of children, at least two deaths per 10,000 people every day and access to less than four litres of water a day. Large-scale displacement of people, civil strife and pandemic illness are also taken into consideration.

At a UN media briefing in Geneva today monitored by HUMNEWS, Paul Spiegel, Chief of Section, Public Health, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), seemed to suggest a famine would be declared imminently.

Spiegel said that the situation in Dolo Ado - a transit camp in southern Ethiopia on the Kenya-Somali border - was very dire, and he had been taken aback by what he had seen there. A new camp called Kobe, where the new arrivals are placed, has seen an extremely high mortality rate of 7.4 deaths per 10,000 people/day in June. The baseline for Sub-Saharan Africa was 0.5 and an emergency is generally declared at greater than or equal to 1 death. The preponderance of the deaths are among under-five children.

The malnutrition rates, one of the major causes of death, is extremely high. The severe malnutrition rate was 26.8 per cent in June, an extremely rare and very high finding, Spiegel said.

Somalia has been particularly hard hit by the current crisis, with thousands of people fleeing the country every day - at the rate of more than 2,000-a-day into Kenya and Ethiopia. Most of those fleeing are women and children, many clinging to life from acute malnutrition.

"Added to the drought, this is a region which suffers insecurity and conflict, population growth, poverty and over-utilization of land," said Valeria Amos, the UN emergency relief co-ordinator for humanitarian affairs.

Aid groups and UN agencies are calling for more assistance to meet the mounting need. Roughly $835 million US has been received to assist people in the Horn of Africa, but $1 billion more is needed, the UN said. CBC said the United States has been slow in committing funds.

Raouf Mazou, Deputy Director, East Africa and the Horn of Africa Region, UNHCR, said at a media briefing in Geneva today monitored by HUMNEWS that there are definitely not enough resources to respond to the needs. An appeal for about $136 million was issued last week, but so far only about 17 per cent of what was required is available.

Canada has contributed roughly $22 million, but is expected to announce new funding within a week, the CBC's Brian Stewart, a distinguished senior fellow at the Munk School for Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, said.

"Normally Canada is expected to pay up to four per cent of major humanitarian emergencies," he added.

Stewart, who was one of the first journalists to alert the world to the Ethiopian famine in the 1980s, said the key need is to buy sufficient food and water from inside Africa.

"Shipments from abroad take far too long and take away from Africa's own potential to deliver good and fast supplies," he noted. A UNICEF official said one of the main constraints to helping women and children in Somalia is restrictions on access, caused by the ongoing unrest.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said today its Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, is leaving for the region today, first visiting Ethiopia before proceeding to Kenya and Somalia.

Monday
Jul182011

East Africa's Dust Bowl (REPORT/BLOG) 

By Peter Greste

Wajir, Kenya - The people out here are tough, and so are their animals. But there is a limit to how much any human can take, and people like Alfon Abdulahi Mohamed have reached it.

We met Alfon as we drove towards what the aid agencies have called the "ground zero" of East Africa's devastating drought-hit areas.

For mile after dusty mile, the land was not just parched but burned out. All shades of brown and yellow sand, crisp grey thorn bushes, and pools of deep red dust billowed up in great waves, as we ploughed through the dirt road like a ship in a storm.

On our way, we passed an abandoned borehole. We found nothing but the bleached bones of livestock. We stopped at the village to ask why. Alfon stepped forward and told us that her own camel was in the bush nearby, too weak to walk.

This stoic old woman with eight children to feed, took us through the scrub to the slowly dying animal. It had collapsed in the feeble shade of another thorn-bush, moaning softly when Alfon stooped to scratch its neck.

For all her crusty exterior, Alfon almost broke down when she explained how the female camel, who she called “Dup Muthow, had given her and her children milk for years.

But Dup hadn’t had a decent drink for months. The camel looked as though it would be lucky to survive the night.

The tragedy here is that this crisis is as much man-made as it is natural. The meteorologists have blamed the prolonged dry-spell on the "la Nina" phenomenon - when cooler-than-normal ocean currents cycle through the Pacific Ocean.

But out here, they also blame the government.

Alfon told us that the pump that drew water her village borehole broke down about a month ago. The government had since been promising to fix it .

Elsewhere, shockingly bad roads, intermittent electricity supplies and damaged bridges make it difficult, if not impossible, to move goods and services around.

Bad economics are also to blame. As we drove through the town of Wajir, we saw the market stocked with fresh vegetables, grains and pulses, but all of it is beyond the reach of all but the richest people here.

The rise in global grain prices, the surge in oil, speculative traders and bad infrastructure have all conspired to drive up the price of staples such as maize by around 80 per cent. Over the border in Somalia, it is closer to 200-300 per cent.

And then there is the politics.

Al Shabab, the Islamist movement fighting to bring down the government, had until recently banned international agencies from delivering aid into areas under its control.

That means most of southern Somalia has missed out on desperately needed help, driving hundreds of thousands of people into neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia and even into Mogadishu, Somalia's war-torn capital.

To a lesser extent, politics has also slowed development in drought-affected areas of the entire Horn.

It is no coincidence that the hardest hit are also on the fringes of national politics, and so tend to suffer from neglect - not all of it always benign.

This crisis wouldn’t have happened without the drought, of course. But it wouldn't be half as bad if humans hadn't got in the way.

Originally published by Al Jazeera on July 17, 2011 under Creative Commons Licensing 

Saturday
Jul162011

Horn of Africa Drought Threatens Millions (VIDEO REPORT)

Sunday
Jul102011

As Drought Worsens Pressure Increases on Kenya to Open More Space for Somali Refugees (REPORT)

(HN, UPDATED JULY 11, 2011 1850GMT) - Kenya is struggling to cope with the thousands of starving Somalis crossing over the border as the East African country came in for criticism for refusing to open more space for refugees.

While Kenya has accepted hundreds of thousands of Somalis - fleeing hunger and unrest in their own country - the United Nations and other agencies are pleading for more camps to relieve severe over-crowding at the congested Dadaab refugee camp in northeastern Kenya, with half-a-million people the largest of its kind in the world. 

The aid organization, CARE, says that more than 66,000 refugees have been registered in Daadab since the start of 2011, and is now at more than 300% capacity. An empty facility adjacent to Dadaab, constructed with donor money, is sitting empty as the Kenyan Government mulls over the situation.

Somali refugees wait to get water in Ifo camp. Long lines and difficulty getting ample water is a growing problem in Dadaab due to the growing numbers of Somalis fleeing to Kenya. CREDIT: UNHCRMeanwhile, with upwards of 12 million people affected by the drought in the region, the UN is now classifying the drought as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

"I have no doubt that in today's world, Somalia corresponds to the worst humanitarian disaster. I have never seen in a refugee camp people coming in such desperate conditions," said Antonio Guterres, the head of UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency.

UNHCR estimates that a quarter of Somalia’s 7.5 million population is now either internally displaced or living outside the country as refugees.

Said UNHCR: "The Somali refugees are arriving in an appalling state of health, dehydrated and severely malnourished, especially children. Malnutrition rates among newly-arriving refugee children under the age of five range from 40 to 50 per cent."

Aside from Kenya and Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti are also severely affected.

Guterres expressed concern for the plight of children. "These people are arriving in awful conditions, especially the children - almost half of which are arriving with acute or moderate malnutrition...Women are exhausted after having walked for two weeks in some cases."

Guterres is expected to meet with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki early this week, however the government is expected to cite national security for its reluctance to accept an unlimited number of Somali refugees. (In the aftermath of Al Qaeda's 1998 bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi, the US pressed the Kibaki Government to stem the flow of Islamic extremists from Somalia).

Further north, about 1,700 Somalis are arriving daily in southeast Ethiopia. Today the country said it needed $398 million to help cope with the drought.

"It is estimated that a total of 4.5 million people will require humanitarian assistance during the remaining period of the current year from July to December 2011," Agriculture Minister Mitiku Kassa told reporters.At a press conference in Nairobi Saturday: Valerie Amos, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

The European Union on Wednesday announced it would provide 5.67 million euros to help the millions of people affected by the drought - bringing to 70 million euros the bloc's assistance to the drought crisis.

But the UN said donations are at less than the half way mark for its appeal.

Said OCHA chief Valerie Amos at a press conference Saturday: " We will need to increase our efforts in all these countries to get to those who most need our help. And we will have to ask our donors to do more. They have been generous with Ethiopia and I hope that that generosity will continue and extend to the neighbouring countries."

- HUMNews Staff 

Friday
Jul082011

Drought, Unrest Pushing Millions Over Brink as World Averts Gaze (REPORT)

The horrifying face of hunger: This infant was brought by her mother to an acute malnutrition centre in West Africa. CREDIT: HUMNEWS(HN, July 8, 2011 - UPDATED 1900GMT) - Emergency camps in Kenya and Ethiopia - themselves suffering from horrific drought conditions - are receiving up to 2,000 Somali migrants-a-day as they flee unrest and dry conditions in their places of origin.

The prediction by the UN refugee agency - UNHCR - that the crisis on the Horn of Africa could become a human catastrophe of unimaginable proportions appears to become more of a reality by the hour.

UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres says three out of every 10,000 refugees die each day - three times the emergency level.

As many as 12 million people have been pushed into a fight for survival, says the aid agency Oxfam.

"Large numbers of lives could soon be lost if nothing is done. It is currently the worst food crisis on the planet," says Oxfam.

The countries most seriously affected are Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Fresh images from Kenya and Ethiopia show exhausted mothers cradling their dying, dehydrated infants after long journeys by foot into overcrowded camps.

This is very much a children's catastrophe. UNICEF estimates that more than two million young children are malnourished and in need of urgent life-saving action. Alarmingly, half-a-million of those children are facing imminent life-threatening conditions.

With arrivals being clocked by the hundreds each hour, aid agencies say they can hardly cope with the rapid influx of migrants.

Typically, severely malnourished infants are difficult to treat on the spot as their ravaged bodies cannot accept food and live-saving treatment needs to be provided in steps.

And as BBC correspondent Ben Brown pointed out, some mothers with dying babies refuse to go to emergency points for fear of leaving their other children behind.

In an ominous admission, the US Government said today that the drought in the region is likely to worsen by the end of the year.

Some of the medications and vitamins used to treat acute malnutrition. CREDIT: HUMNEWS"Our experts...expect the perilous situation in the Horn of Africa to worsen through the end of the year, said Nancy Lindborg, a senior official at the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

"Given limited labour opportunities, the dwindling food stocks, and sky-high cereal prices, many houses cannot put food on the table right now."

UNICEF says global acute malnutrition rates in Northern Kenya are now above 25% but as high as 40% in the Turkana district.

Aid agencies, including UN mainline agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP), are appealing for tens of millions of dollars in emergency funding. However the main UN appeal is less than half funded.

- HUMNews Staff 

Tuesday
Jul052011

Near Famine Conditions Slamming Horn of Africa Amid Donor Fatigue (REPORT)

At a UNICEF-supported feeding centre in East Africa, a weary mother pauses after her baby received emergency therapeutic food. CREDT: M Bociurkiw(HN, July 6, 2011 -- UPDATED 1820 GMT) - Horrific scenes are being reported by aid workers dealing with the worst drought to hit the Horn of Africa in 60 years.

"A human tragedy of unimaginable proportions" is how the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, described the crisis.

After two years of successive drought, parts of Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and neighbouring countries are reeling from near-famine like conditions. It is estimated that as many as 10 million people are affected across the Horn of Africa.

Climate change, rising food prices and violence have conspired to keep food from getting to people in the region.

In a separate development, rebel leaders in Somalia - one of the countries worst affected by the crisis, with about 2.8 million people affected - announced Tuesday they are lifting a two-year-long ban on aid agencies supplying food.

"We have now decided to welcome all Muslim and non-Muslim aid agencies to assist the drought-stricken Somalis in our areas," Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, Al Shabaab spokesman, told a news conference in Mogadishu.

The United Nations has flagged as emergency areas large areas of Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Djibouti and Somalia.

A HUMNEWS correspondent in Ethiopia reports that despite frequent rains in the capital, Addis Ababa, areas in the far eastern and southern corners are seeing their worst drought for a decade, with some 3.2 million people in need of emergency aid. The correspondent says that Nairobi residents report far less rainfall and increasing power outages.

The Ethiopian economy is particularly vulnerable to climate changes, as almost half of its GDP is generated by the agricultural sector. Just a few years ago, some 14 million Ethiopians stood on the brink of starvation from a killer drought, saved only by massive international aid.

Regional news agencies have broadcast video showing fields covered with dead livestock, and with thousands of hungry people streaming into feeding centres in camps like Dadaab, already the world's largest refugee settlement, which is hosting many people from Somalia.

"Dadaab is a place where life hangs in the balance every single day," reported the BBC's Ben Brown from a refugee camp. "July 2011 and once again this corner of Africa is cursed, teetering on the brink of disaster."

The UN says the situation is classified as a humanitarian emergency but that the situation is deteriorating quickly and could wind up as a famine/catastrophe.

An estimated 1,000 people are entering Ethiopia and Kenya from Somalia every day, according to the UN's Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). It is believed that a quarter of the population has been uprooted.

"We haven't seen the worst of this drought yet," Mohamed Elmi, Minister for Development of Northern Kenya, told The Daily Telegraph. "In Kenya, which is already significantly affected by the drought in Somalia, malnutrition levels are well beyond emergency levels and saving lives is becoming our major focus."

Unfortunately, many aid agencies are struggling with their own financial crisis - with the front line World Food Programme (WFP) being forced to pull out of countries such as Burundi. OCHA says its recent appeal for money is only 40 percent funded.

OCHA chief Baroness Amos has urged donors today to "dig deep" to help the millions affected.A regional feeding centre: in most cases families walk several kilometers to seek emergency feeding for their malnourished children. Cutbacks by WFP at this centre in Burundi means that siblings of ill children no longer receive nutrition. CREDIT: M Bociurkiw

She said: "The scale of the problem is much greater than we had anticipated last year. We need the money very quickly as children and some adults are turning up in refugee camps malnourished."

Complicating the situation for aid agencies in Somalia is a general state of lawlessness and banditry.

- HUMNews Staff

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Friday
Jul012011

Ethiopia Eyes Tempting Business Opportunities in South Sudan (REPORT)

A sign in the central business district of Addis Abba directs people to the South Sudan office. CREDIT: M. Bociurkiw/HUMNEWSFrom a HUM Correspondent in Addis Ababa 

Even before the January 2011 referendum confirming the birth of Africa's newest nation, business people in the region were already salivating at the tantalizing opportunities to bring South Sudan into the 20th century - and the global economy.

 

Outside the oil sector, there is little infrastructure in Southern Sudan. There is already some foreign investment in the beverage sector and Ethiopia has two banks active there.

The sense of excitement is palpable in Addis Ababa's five-star hotels. Earlier this week, representatives from South Sudan could be seen meeting with local businessmen in the bustling Sheraton Hotel.

One European businessman in Addis Ababa said that opportunities are especially ripe in the banking and telecommunications sectors. "Basically they need everything," he said in the lobby of a hotel in Ethiopia's capital.

Ethiopia's large water and construction firms also stand to benefit. "We are ready to execute as many projects as offered," says Awash Welday, chief of Ethiopia's Awash Welday Water Works and General Contractor.

Aside from Ethiopia, Kenyan and South African firms are also eyeing developments closely. Kenya Commercial Bank is reported to have plans to double the number of branches in Southern Sudan. Kenya East African Breweries also has a presence, as does SABMiller plc of the United Kingdom.

South Sudan is due to officially become an independent state on July 9, making it the world's newest country.

The new opportunities are important for Ethiopia as its strives to become a major economy on the horn of Africa. The country of 80 million people became landlocked after its former northern region, Eritreria, declared its independence in 1993.

On the diplomatic front, Ethiopia is already deeply entrenched in South Sudan: it is sending a 4,200-strong peace-keeping force on behalf of the UN to the disputed Abyei region, which sits astride the two halves of Sudan.

A new Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 777 at Addis Ababa International Airport. The flag carrier already serves two destinations in Southern Sudan. CREDIT: M Bociurkiw/HUMNEWSGiven Ethiopia's strategic location next to Sudan - coupled with the entrepreneurial spirit of its domestic and returnee Diaspora workforce - the country stands to benefit enormously from business opportunities in South Sudan. Emblematic of its importance is the existence of a Government of South Sudan liaison office situated in the Central Business District.

Among the flagship businesses in Ethiopia aggressively moving ahead to establish a presence in South Sudan is flag carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, which already flies to the capital Juba, and as of June 17, to the Upper Nile region town of Malakal.

Ethiopia, the size of France and Spain combined, has undergone a major transformation in the last decade. It is the fifth-biggest economy in Africa - after South Africa, Nigeria, Angola and Sudan - climbing up from 10th in 2003. By 2023, its GDP purchasing power will hit about $500 billion - making it the third-largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Ernst and Young. Agriculture contributes 45 percent of the GDP and more than three years ago a modern commodities exchange was opened to revolutionize trading.