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Monday:  July 28, 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 Ivory Coast (15)

Tuesday
Feb072012

Sweeter Kisses? Hershey Commits to Fair Trade, Responsible Cocoa, Uses Innovative Technology 

(HN, 2/7/2012) -- Last week The Hershey Company announced it was expanding its programs to improve living standards and supply chain efficiencies for cocoa producing communities in West Africa by investing $10 million over the next five years.  By 2017, the Company says its public and private partnerships will directly benefit 750,000 African cocoa farmers and over two million people in cocoa communities across the region by focusing on two important groups – cocoa farmers and those they say who `love Hershey’s products’.

HUMNEWS spoke with Andy McCormick, VP of Public Affairs for The Hershey Company about the investment and what it would mean to Hershey’s farmers.  McCormick, who grew up in Pennsylvania and now leads Communications, PR and Corporate Social Responsibility efforts for the Company has also worked in Ghana as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer and knows West Africa well.  He calls his tenure at Hershey’s a `happy coincidence’.   McCormick also serves on the boards of the World Cocoa Foundation and the International Cocoa Initiative – both global bodies designed to regulate and offer solutions in cocoa production.

Hershey’s announcement comes 10 years since major international chocolate companies, including Hershey, committed to ending child labor, forced labor and trafficking in their cocoa supply chain by signing the Harkin-Engel Protocol, commonly known as the Cocoa Protocol in September 2001.  A decade later, although both Hershey and its public and private partners have invested in developing new agricultural practices that are helping West African farmers double the yield on their cocoa farms, which in turn increases their family’s income - hundreds of thousands of children continue to labor in hazardous conditions in West Africa, particularly in the Ivory Coast and Ghana.

The US Department of Labor has also noted five West African nations which may still be producing cocoa tainted by forced and/or child labor. To address the problem they’ve created a partnership which includes Hershey as well as other partners include USAID, USDA, Cote d’Ivoire Cocoa Committee, numerous local and global NGOs, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, called the Framework of Action to significantly reduce the worst forms of child labor in Ghana and the Ivory Coast by 2020.  

(PHOTO: A female cocoa farmer/SOURCETRUST)By making its pledge last week, Hershey is following on other initiatives in recent years that it and other major cocoa producers have committed to in order to clean up the cocoa industry.  UNICEF estimates 600,000 children work on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast and that 35,000 are victims of trafficking;  children carrying machetes or pesticide equipment used in cocoa work has been widely reported on.

McCormick acknowledges that, We are a growing global business and we have had criticism in the past. But, we try to listen constructively and are working to strike a balance between our business strategy and our values, and we keep learning.”  He goes on to say, “At Hershey we’ve already been working to address child labor issues in West Africa, and we all recognize that more needs to be done.”  

The Company has formed partnerships with the Rainforest Alliance, UTZ Certified, and Fair Trade Certified and commits to production of `certified cocoa’, which Eric Servat of the Rainforest Alliance’s cocoa program says, “Is almost doubling every year”.   

“Certified cocoa is currently under 2% of the market,” says Andy McCormick, “But it’s growing by a large margin and we believe that by 2020 that will increase to about 15-20% of market share”. 

All of the certification partners require farmers to comply with International Labor Organization standards, which includes a ban on child labor.

In fact, chocolate is big business and accounts for an annual $83 billion in global sales.  Certified cocoa is actually worth more and growers can make $0.10 more per kilogram for certified cocoa, but it’s just a start for poor farmers who often don’t have enough money to even send their children to school.

(PHOTO: A cocoa farmer in Ghana using Cocoalink/Hershey) Hershey, a 100 year old company and one of the world’s leading chocolate companies, has worked with farmers and development organizations for more than 50 years and Andy McCormick says, “Because cocoa farms are family farms where on average 5 family members work and live, improving farming methods to be more modern, sustainable and safe will increase West African cocoa output by 50%; increasing family income.  In turn, doing so will increase school attendance and improve community health”.

Addressing the needs of cocoa farmers and the chocolate producing supply chain is becoming not just a humanitarian issue but also is necessary action due to the impact of climate change on growers.  Global cocoa production is primarily done by the 10 member countries of COPAL (The Cocoa Producers Alliance) - namely Brazil, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Dominican Republic, Gabon, Ghana, Malaysia, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe and Togo who account for approximately 75% of total world cocoa production; almost 70% in West Africa alone grown on 2 million small family farms.  The crop is labor-intensive and only grows in equatorial climates.

Hershey’s Andy McCormick says that, “Climate change has been causing desertification in parts of West Africa where cocoa is grown, and as the desert squeezes out fertile lands – in Ghana in particular – that’s starting to have an impact on harvests. We are talking with the farmers about this and about varieties of cocoa which grow more efficiently by instituting new programs”.  He adds, “Weekly rainfall moves the cocoa market right now”.  

Cocoa prices have risen since the start of the year by almost 15% with some of the highest prices seen since 1977, as the annual weather phenomenon called the `Harmattan’ - which brings a dry, dusty and cold trade wind in West Africa from the Sahara desert to the Gulf of Guinea from the end of November to the middle of March - has been most severe this year.  Though, meteorological forecasts show that the Harmattan will dissipate shortly and the rainy season will begin.

(PHOTO: Cocoa farmers in Ghana/Hershey)One such innovative program aimed at addressing farmer’s growth needs is CocoaLink. Started in 2011 in Ghana by Hershey, the World Cocoa Foundation, the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), Dream Oval and World Education, CocoaLink leverages Ghana's mobile phone infrastructure (almost 80% saturation) to connect more than 8,000 cocoa farmers and community members in 15 villages with practical agricultural and social information that will help them increase their incomes and improve their livelihoods. The program has the potential to reach more than 100,000 by 2014.

Farmers and community leaders receive, at no charge, voice and SMS text messages that include information on improving farming practices, farm safety, child labor, health, crop disease prevention, post-harvest production and crop marketing.  Farmers can also share their own information and receive answers to specific cocoa-farming questions from peers and experts.

In October of last year Hershey said it would enhance CocoaLink to include information about disease prevention and would provide cell phones and solar chargers for women farmers in rural villages by partnering with the nonprofit organization Malaria No More to leverage CocoaLink to help save lives and decrease malaria deaths in Africa by 2015.   The Company instituted an internal smart phone recycling program, collecting more than 500 smart phones no longer being used by Hershey’s U.S. employees and redeployed them to women across Ghanaian cocoa communities.  Ghana accounts for about 20% of world cocoa production, making it the country’s single largest non-oil foreign exchange earner beside oil.

Last week in making its announcement Hershey said it would expand the CocoaLink program to farmers in the Ivory Coast to further grow crop yields, provide education and support to farmers, their families and communities.  The Ivory Coast is the source of more than 1/3 of the world's cocoa supply and has approximately 600,000 cocoa farmers; industry data indicates that about half are already using mobile phones.  Cocoa makes up 15% of Ivory Coast’s GDP and 40% of its export revenues. Hershey’s initiative adds to the eight-month-old government's plan to overhaul the cocoa industry in the country and is a condition for debt relief from the International Monetary Fund.

In its latest output report on the sector, Marex Spectron a London based analyst group said that world 2011-2012 cocoa output will be short 94,000 tons, which is a change from its November estimate of a small global surplus.  Not all of this impact is due to climate change however, though Marex noted weather conditions in December and January in Ivory Coast and Ghana were dry compared to a much wetter 2010-2011 season which saw a record cocoa surplus of 417,000 tons.  Much higher cocoa demand globally is also driving production needs – and inevitably will increase costs for chocolate products.  Hershey has said its own costs should remain higher in 2012 and recently raised prices on its candies.

(PHOTO: Learning about cocoa farming/Hershey) The International Cocoa Organization estimates that Asian demand for chocolate would grow 10% in 2012, with strong growth in China, Indonesia and India; with Europe remaining the world’s largest cocoa buyer.

This is why in making its announcement last week, Hershey also established the `Hershey Learn to Grow’ farm program along with its partner Source Trust. Launching in Ghana the initiative will provide local farmers with information on best practices in sustainable cocoa farming as growth in demand intensifies, and consumers call for more responsible growing standards.  For example by supplying farmers with technologies such as high-yield seedlings, better planting and pruning practices, organic fertilization and biocontrol of insect pests, farmers can increase output and therefore, income – even while climate change takes hold.  

Additionally, the effort will create a farmer and family development center in the heart of Ghana’s central cocoa region where during the day the schoolchildren will use the computer lab for learning and in the evening the farmers will use the lab for cocoa learning. Hershey is also working with technology partner Cisco to use `telepresence’ for distance education purposes.

The initiative will involve more than 5,000 cocoa community members, more than 1,000 farm families, establish 25 community-based farmer organizations and will build technology centers that will be used to teach improved agricultural, environmental, social and business practices; provide access to planting materials as well as finance for farm inputs; and support GPS mapping of farm acreage so that farmers will use the right amount of fertilizers and pesticides for maximum yield and sustainability - with the goal to double productivity yield and farm income over four years.

(PHOTO: Cocoa farming/Hershey) By doing this Hershey hopes to assist the Government of Ghana to meet the goals of Ghana’s 2009-2015 National Plan of Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor (WFCL), associated with achieving the international Millennium Development Goals by 2015. 

“Creating sustainability throughout our supply chain is our goal,” says Andy McCormick. “Milton Hershey was a master of building business and we know that you’re only as successful as the communities you’re in.  Our future is intimately connected to the growing regions and people we work with. Our scientists and farmers are excited to be working on the ground together to make things better.”

Further says McCormick, “The issue of rural youth and their job prospects-we think our interaction with farmers, school systems and young people to `skill build’ can really make a long term positive contribution to kids’ lives and we’re very excited about playing a constructive role”.

Consumers win too as Hershey will address their demands to bring to market for the first time, 100% Rainforest Alliance certified chocolate products later this year.  The first sweet treats will be the Hershey’s Bliss® chocolate bar available in the United States; and later Latin America and Africa where the Company is working with the Rainforest Alliance to source cocoa from certified farms for Hershey’s premium brand, Dagoba®.

Rainforest Alliance Certified farms have met comprehensive sustainability standards that protect the environment and ensure the safety and well-being of workers, their families and communities. Additionally, Rainforest Alliance inspectors will monitor and audit practices on farms supplying certified beans to Hershey, to include instances of unsafe or illegal child labor and use training programs to increase school attendance. These programs will be coordinated with industry and government initiatives.

Hershey made their investment announcement just days before a planned protest group which included the The International Labor Rights Forum and was started last year by Change.org called the `Raise the Bar, Hershey! Campaign’ which was to run a high profile commercial challenging Hershey’s labor practices during the US Super Bowl Game after collecting over 100,000 petition signatures.

In a statement, the group said, `This commitment is a welcome first step for Hershey to improve its supply chain accountability. This commitment also demonstrates that The Hershey Company acknowledges the severity of the labor abuses that taint the West African cocoa sector and the members of the Raise the Bar, Hershey! Campaign congratulate Hershey on this first step to achieve greater supply chain accountability and hope that it will be the beginning of comprehensive supply chain traceability and certified child-labor free Hershey chocolate products.’

In making the commitment to better global cocoa standards Hershey Company President and CEO, J.P. Bilbrey, said, “Hershey is extending our commitment with new programs to drive long-term change in cocoa villages where families will benefit from our investments in education, health and economic opportunities. Our global consumers want The Hershey Company to be a leader in responsible business practices and in finding smart ways to benefit cocoa communities. We are excited and humbled by this opportunity to create positive change in West Africa”.

Hershey says it will regularly update its progress on these programs through its Corporate Social Responsibility public reporting.   

Will all of this mean sweeter `Kisses’? Stay tuned…..

----Joy DiBenedetto, HUMNEWS

Tuesday
Dec272011

THE HUM - HEADLINES FROM THE GEOGRAPHIC GAP - 12/27/11

Armenia 

Armenia faces Vietnam at Women's Chess Championship round 8

(PHOTO: Azerbaijan protesters outside the French embassy in Baku; upset with France's policy towards Turkey regarding Armenia, AZERBAIJAN NEWS)Azerbaijan 

Protest action outside French embassy in Baku

Brazil 

Brazil pips UK as sixth-largest economy: CEBR

Burundi 

Burundi government taken before an East African court over graft

Canada 

Canada the global housing leader

In Redford’s Alberta, tailpipe emissions a bigger concern than oil sands pollution

Falkland Islands 

Uruguay says there's no 'diplomatic cataclysm’ with UK over Malvinas (Falkland Islands) developments

France 

The rift between Turkey and France: Is it Armenians or Syrians? (Perspective)

Georgia 

(PHOTO: The new Georgia-Turkey border crossing. Jessica Marati)New Georgia border crossing provides a whimsical welcome

Guinea-Bissau 

Guinea-Bissau soldiers in pay protest

India 

First India-UAE legal lecture series held

UK funds aid rural jobs creation in India

Urdu newspaper editors to attend two-day meet

Indonesia

Electricity sparks new life into Indonesia's corals

‘Perang topat’ reflects Islam-Hindu tolerance in West Lombok

(PHOTO: Jobs in India, INDIA TODAY)Iran 

Iranian naval maneuvers to start (Photo)

Ukraine firm to invest $1 bn in Iranian oil fields

Iran says electricity exports up by 24%

Persian epic poet "Ferdowsi" int'l confab in Iran

Iraq

Bombings in Syria and Iraq raise spectre of Sunni-Shia war (Perspective)

Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast rocked by ethnic violence

Kenya 

Security and Humanitarian Situations in East Africa Remain Tense 

Strangers united by the fears they share

‘Your event is a real gem in a sea of mediocrity’: Safari Rally, 2011

Famine early warning system gives Africa a chance to prepare (Perspective) 

Myanmar

Japanese FM Assures Aung San Suu Kyi Burmese Icon of Full Support

North Korea 

Eldest son of North Korea's late leader in Beijing under Chinese protection: source 

Pakistan 

(PHOTO: Pakistan's Imran Khan, WIKICOMMONS) The Growing Clout Pakistani Sports-Star Turned Politician Imran Khan

Pakistan coal reserves to provide electricity more than 30 years (Perspective)  

Philippines

Asia Pacific passenger traffic sustains growth

How big is Manny Pacquiao’s charitable heart? (Perspective)

Russia

Diplomatic Spat with Qatar fraught with serious fall-out

Russia, Iran Discuss Regional Conflicts, Bilateral Ties 

Russia has 25,000 undersea radioactive waste sites

Launch of Russian Proton-M carrier rocket postponed

Why Russia No Longer Emulates the U.S. (Perspective)

Rwanda

Kagame honoured for empowering the youth 

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Prince Pledges Help for Death Row Migrant Worker 

Saudi to allow foreign airlines to fly domestic routes

United States and Saudi Arabia: Working together to keep our countries healthy (Perspective)  

(PHOTO: Indonesia, the ‘bullet’ women carry the topat before cakes are distributed to residents. The Jakarta Post)Singapore

More Singaporeans using smartphones to shop online 

Somalia

Somalia: Hero dies while removing mines

Taking Schools Back From Militants 

South Africa

Biogas technology benefits S Africa's poor (Video)

South Korea

Seoul School Fuels Coffee Industry

South Korea badly needs Vietnamese workers

Spain

Spain opens pavilion in Dubai's Global Village 

(PHOTO: Taiwan Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network of East Asia planning director & Penghu Symbiotic Algae Association chairperson Allen Chen yesterday calls on 3 presidential candidates to protect ocean resources. Taipei Times) Sri Lanka

Pakistan-Sri Lanka expand bilateral ties

Swaziland

Processing Plant Threatens Water in Capital

Switzerland

Switzerland to Invest in Tajikistan’s Water Supply System

Syria

‘Syria trying to reveal secrets behind abduction of Iranian engineers’ 

Taiwan

Oceans around Taiwan threatened by overfishing

EPA asks Kuokuang to protect dolphins

India’s $35 tablet computer, Aakash to be displayed in Taipei

Taiwan to work to establish mobile commerce foundation next year

Targeting emerging markets is right strategy: official

Underprivileged students to get sponsorship for exchange program

Tajikistan

(PHOTO: A Tajikistan wedding. IWPR.ORG)Multiple Marriages in Tajikistan

Tanzania

Public must fight human trafficking (Perspective)

Why Voice Against Abuse of Women and Children in Zanzibar Remains High (Perspective)

Thailand

Met warns of more violent seas in South

Thailand coastal residents evacuated due to high waves on 7th anniversary of tsunami

Long-term flood plan chief concern for investors

Energy imports hit record

(PHOTO: The eastern coast of Thailand will likely face 3 to 4 more rounds of high & violent waves over the next few months, according to the Meteorological Department.THE NATION)Christmas in Bangkok, Thailand (Perspective)

Tonga

Strong earthquake strikes off Tonga, no damage reported

New Christian video library in the Tongan language (Press release)

Trinidad and Tobago 

Curing our sick Trinidad and Tobago (Perspective)

Tunisia 

Tunisia: New Cabinet Members Take Office

Tunisian Bloggers Meet at Douz International Sahara Festival

Tunisia: "Revolution" over, economy battered, tourism down 40 percent

Welcome 2012: Ringing in the New Year in Tunisia

(PHOTO: Youcef Baaloudj, an Algerian blogger & writer presenting his book on the Tunisian Revolution. TUNISIALIVE) Turkey 

Turkey’s infamous Article 301 could change

Snowfall, storms hit eastern Turkey / PHOTO

Turkey's draft law allowing foreign nationals to own property will be put to vote in the first days of 2012

Turkey becoming major hub for contemporary art

Turkmenistan

CIS to Send Observers to Turkmenistan Presidential Elections

Uganda 

Government urged to toughen on gay proponents

Over 2,300 fake nurses work in hospitals, products of illegal nursing schools

Man held over acid attack on top city pastor

Vision Group launches Uganda at 50 project

(PHOTO: Turkey's Art Scene. The 12th İstanbul Biennial was held from Sept. 17 through Nov. 13 at Antrepo No 3 & 5. TODAY’S ZAMAN)Ukraine 

Ukraine's foreign policy to rest on national pragmatism principle, says president

Ukraine: Taking to the Web to Raise Funds and Awareness

It is important for Ukraine to get next tranche of IMF loan (Perspective)

Ukraine introduces new classification of passenger trains

Ukraine starts delivering sparkling wine to China

United Arab Emirates

UAE launches online registration for Emirates ID cards

Steep fines for spitting gum, throwing cigarette butts in Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Award for Medical Sciences makes headway in research in diabetes

'Social networking sites equally popular in Emirates'

Civilian nuclear power drives an international safety culture

Emergency rooms see too many outpatients-report

The UAE Prepares to Host Two Major International ICT Events

Print media will flourish for at least another decade (Perspective)

Sharjah musical festival attracts huge crowds

Lindsay Lohan in Dubai for New Year's Eve Party on board the QE2

Christmas cheer for retailers across UAE

United Kingdom 

Church of England and National Trust concerned about plans to cut solar panel subsidies

Foster families are needed warns charity

UK's Boxing Day bargain hunt (Video)

International karate champion faces jail after sending 5,000 texts to schoolgirl, 13 

United States

Swine flu recently confirmed in five states, CDC reports

US households struggle for a warm winter (Video)

Uruguay 

UTE, Uruguay’s state power company presents plan for domestic solar generation

Vanuatu 

Vanuatu offers more for travellers

Vietnam 

Great potential for tropical fruit, vegetable export in Vietnam

Vietnam to allow free market pricing of power, fuel:  finance ministry 

Wuhan Kaidi Electric Power Got USD300mn Contract in Vietnam 

Jubilant Christmas celebrated in Vietnam

Yemen

IOM urges donors to assist Ethiopian migrants in Yemen

Zambia

Former Minister of Energy Kenneth Konga summoned by the Zambia police

Corruption setback to Foreign investment -Report

Munali mine, run by China’s Jinchuan Group, in talks with potential investors

UN buys beans from local farmers

31 accidents recorded on Xmas eve countrywide

David Livingstone memorial set for March 2013

Zambians toast Christmas Day

Zimbabwe

Anhui Farm Project of China Helps Zimbabwe's Agriculture

Rapaport Group of Israel Boycotts Zimbabwe’s Marange Diamonds

Detained Air Zimbabwe plane returns home

“Most youths have embraced Indigenisation” (Perspective)

Monday
Apr252011

World Malaria Day: Race to 2015 Elimination Faces Challenges (REPORT)

A Nigerian mother with her infant: the vast majority of malaria deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa are among children under 5. CREDIT: M Bociurkiw/HUMNEWS(HN, April 25, 2011) - The race to eliminate malaria - a preventable disease that claims the lives of almost one-million children every year - by the United Nations target of 2015 faces several challenges - despite tens of millions of dollars earmarked each year towards prevention efforts.

In a conference call hosted by the United Nations Foundation on the eve of World Malaria Day (today), experts agreed that despite well-meaning efforts of several fronts, recalcitrant governments and unpredictable world events could frustrate efforts to reduce malaria deaths to zero by 2015.

On average, malaria claims the life of an African child every 45 seconds. The vast majority of the deaths are among children under five years old.

The main item in the arsenal to fight the disease is insecticide-treat bed nets - which last as long as five years and costs about $10 (including associated costs such as training of health workers). If used properly, the nets protect sleeping children and also kill malaria-bearing mosquitoes.

Malaria eradication proponents claim that more than 75% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa are now covered by bed nets. "We are really making a difference," said sports columnist Rick Reilly.

But the on challenges the road to 2015 are many.

The recent civil war in Ivory Coast, for example, has delayed the distribution of millions of bed nets, said Ray Chambers, a philanthropist and humanitarian who was appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in 2008 as his Special Envoy to mobilize global support for action on the disease. Chambers said the nets are stuck in warehouses in Ivory Coast and if they are stolen or destroyed it could prove difficult to raise replacement funding.

"The greatest risk is that they may disappear between now and the time they get the opportunity to distribute them," said Chambers in reference to the nets in Ivory Coast. In addition, the migration of at least 75,000 people to Liberia also makes protection of people difficult.

Experts also identified Nigeria - Africa's most populous nation with 150 million people - and the Democratic Republic of Congo - as serious trouble spots in the battle against malaria. In Nigeria, nets are not distributed as efficiently as they should and crucial social mobilization efforts need to be scaled up.

Awa Marie Coll-Seck, Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, said it is expected that the mobilization of community health workers and community-based organizations will improve the usage rates of bed nets. "In a lot of countries they never used to have nets..it needs explanation and a lot of work. They have a lot of nets coming but they have to catch up on the work to change the behaviour of the people."

Of the 67 million nets earmarked for Nigeria, about 27 million have been paid for but have yet to be distributed "because of different delays within the government process," said Chambers.

Chambers said the DRC has its own set of problems that prevent proper distribution, but that universal distribution is expected as soon as later this year.

He added, however, that an incredible set of partnerships has evolved to fight malaria. Aside from the UN Foundation, the collaboration includes Nothing But Nets, Roll Back Malaria, UNICEF, Rotary International, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Population Services International. "It's because of this incredible partnership that has ever been assembled in a fight against any type of major disease," said Chambers. "We have made the greatest and most rapid progress against any major disease in our lifetime."

 

Tuesday
Apr122011

France's Fight at the UN (Opinion/Blog)

- by Kristen Saloomey

Nicholas Sarkozy, PHOTO CREDIT: Downing Street/FlickrBeing sceptical is part of being a journalist.

Especially at the United Nations, where every action - and every failure to act - is influenced by the political interests of countries who sit on the Security Council. This is  particularly true of the permanent five members, all of whom have the power to veto any resolution that comes their way.

So it is impossible not to ask: What is motivating France in aggressively championing international military intervention in Libya and Cote D'Ivoire?

The Security Council resolutions authorising the use of force in these two domestic conflicts, the first written by France and the UK, the second by France and Nigeria, were justified by the need to protect civilians who were increasingly being targeted in both domestic conflicts.

But why choose these two countries to make a stand when civilians fighting for democracy are under fire in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, and elsewhere?

Where was the UN Security Council when peaceful Egyptians stood up to tanks in Tahrir Square? Or when thousands of Tamils were caught in the crossfire of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009?

"Frankly, we did it because we could," France's ambassador to the UN, Gerard Araud, told me when we sat down for an interview recently at the French mission.

Domestic affairs

In Libya, the support of former Libyan officials and the Arab League were key to winning over countries like Russia and China, which are generally reluctant to intervene in domestic affairs that are not necessarily a threat to international peace and security, said Araud. And no one was willing to stand up for Libya's Muammar Gaddafi.

"First, it was the urgency," said Araud of Security Council Resolution 1973. "If Gaddafi had taken Benghazi, it would have been a bloodbath. Secondly, we had the request of regional organisations, so there was the emotion of world public opinion. And Gaddafi was really the bad guy, so we could do it."

Resolution 1973 set the stage for 1975, authorising unusually robust UN action in Cote D'Ivoire. UN and French helicopters took out heavy weapons which they said were being used against civilians and peacekeepers.

Doing so allowed forces loyal to internationally recognised president, Alessane Outarra, to finally unseat former president Laurent Gbagbo from power, but also opened the door to critics like Russia's freign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who accused the UN of picking sides in an internal dispute.

Some experts believe France is acting in its own self-interest in Libya and Cote D'Ivoire.

Arthur Goldhammer, a writer and translator at Harvard University's Minda de Gunzberg, argues in Foreign Policy magazine that France's aggressive posture in Libya is due to "Nicolas Sarkozy’s misguided quest for glory".

With waning popularity at home, the French president may have believed that leading a high-minded intervention could help him in next year's election.

He may also have wanted to cover up his government's embarrassing response to pro-democracy demonstrations in Tunisia, which led to the resignation of his former foreign minister, Michele Alliot-Marie.

 In addition to some questionable personal dealings with cronies of dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Alliot-Marie had offered to send French riot police to train Tunisian counterparts in crowd-control techniques.

"Sarkozy likes to stress the humanitarian motive, which is perfectly legitimate, and 'shared democratic values', which the rebels may or may not in fact hold," Goldhammer  writes. "But he also hoped to draw a veil over earlier disarray in his government's response to the 'Arab spring'."

Economic motive?

What about Cote D'Ivoire, is there an economic motive?

"The French trade, with all of Africa, it's two per cent of our trade," said Araud, who insists it was simply the right thing to do.

"It's simply that we are the former colonial power - which means that in France we have people that care about Cote d'Ivoire, we have an Ivorian community in France, and we have a French community in Abidjan. So it's not a question of interest, it's a question of trying to avoid the worst in a country that we know very well."

Araud points out that France and the UK had called for Security Council action in other emergencies, like Sri Lanka where, without the support of regional groups like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) they were rebuffed.

In 2005, in the wake of massacres in Rwanda and Bosnia, the UN's member states agreed that the UN had a responsibility to protect civilians from mass atrocities when their own government will not.

Until now, it has been an agreement in theory - not practice.

"I hope it is a precedent ... but I don't know if it is possible because we are living in the real world," Araud said.  "It's three steps forward, two steps back."

Already, some members of the Security Council have expressed concern that it is overstepping its bounds.

But for those who believe in the responsibility to protect civilians, the French - whatever their motives - have been leading the way.

- by Kristen Saloomey - originally published by Al-Jazeera on April 11, 2011 under Creative Commons Licensing 

Monday
Apr112011

In Ivory Coast: Former President Laurent Gbagbo Captured (News Brief) 

(Video of Gbagbo's arrest on Ivory Coast TV)

(HN, 4/11/11) -- UPDATED 2030GMT The legally elected leader of the Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara today prevailed over his rival, entrenched former President Laurent Gbagbo who refused to leave power or admit defeat since November’s Presidential election.

The recalcitrant strong man was finally taken into custody in a joint mission by French troops and Ouattara’s forces, after months of brutal violence in the West Africa coastal nation. United Nations forces assisted by using heavy fire to knock out weapons and ammunition controlled by forces loyal to Gbagbo.

(Courtesy: MyJoyOnline.com. Gbagbo, r.; Outtara, l.)Gbagbo is being detained at the Presidential palace with his wife Simone and his son Michael, after a week long standoff which saw the former head of state retreat to the bunker located underneath the house. He was later taken to the Golf Hotel, which Mr. Ouattara has been using as his temporary government headquarters and armed camp along with his forces and UN peacekeepers.

Sources told HUMNEWS UN police are present to protect Gbagbo at the request of President-elect Outtara.

On a brief appearance this evening on pro-Outtara television, a weary Gbagbo called for a cessation in hostilities.

The capitol of the country, Abidjan where Mr. Gbagbo was arrested, is still partly controlled by Gbagbo forces and includes most of the downtown business districts.

It is believed that fighting may continue for several days as forces loyal to both sides remain entrenched. A reliable source told HUMNEWS that the Canadian ambassador’s residence was sacked and pillaged along with some other residences of Canadian diplomats.

The cocoa-rich nation has been experiencing a debilitating humanitarian crisis in the wake of conflict since the election took place last year.  Food has become scarce and expensive; mass graves have been found and more than 1 million people are thought to be displaced in the country and over 100,000 others have fled to Liberia for safety. There are many corpses still in the streets.

The UN is warning of a potential threat of cholera in the violence ravaged capital and the resource pressures on weaker neighbouring countries and cash-strapped aid agencies is beginning to take its toll.

The ICRC has tried to pick up a few dead bodies, but the security situation has not allowed for a large-scale operation. The lack of a secure humanitarian corridor significantly limits the humanitarian operations in Abidjan. Outside Abidjan, humanitarian work progresses. 

Once things settle. Ouattara is expected to receive "enormous help of the international community for reconstruction," according to a western diplomatic cable shared with HUMNEWS. The United States and the European Union have already indicated they would extend significant assistance.

It is unclear what will happen now to Gbagbo, who has held power since 2000 – whether he will be allowed to stay in the country, allowed to leave on his own accord, or possibly be held for potential crimes either by his own nation or by the international community. Sources indicated that he will be moved to another location in Ivory Coast.

UNOCI is reportedly receiving many offers of surrender from Gbagbo generals; hundreds of his troops have surrendered in the run-up to today's dramatic capture. UNOCI trying to manage these surrenders and focus on re-establishing security.

Analysts say that in order for stability to return, Outtara needs to reach out quickly to Gbagbo supporters. More than 40 percent of Ivorian voters cast ballots for Gbagbo's in last year's troubled elections.

(In a statement released today, US President Barack Obama hinted at the long road ahead: ""For President Ouattara and the people of Côte d'Ivoire, the hard work of reconciliation and rebuilding must begin now. President Ouattara will need to govern on behalf of all the people of Côte d'Ivoire, including those who did not vote for him. All militia groups should lay down their weapons and recognize an inclusive military that protects all citizens under the authority of President Ouattara.")

The UN Security Council met in closed consultations this morning to discuss the significant developments in Ivory Coast. Undersecretary General LeRoy briefed members on the operations conducted by UNOCI and France on Sunday and Monday; and on the arrest of Gbagbo.

According to information shared with HUMNEWS, some members of the Council, in particular Russia and South Africa, suggested "more time should have been give for the political track." It is understood there was no specific criticism of UNOCI or France for  their implementation of Security Council mandates.

Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court at The Hague has begun a preliminary investigation to see if crimes committed are serious enough to come under its jurisdiction.

(Courtesy: ModernGhana.com. Refugees fleeing Ivory Coast to Ghana)Human Rights Watch has accused both sides of committing massacres during the violence and hundreds have been killed or raped in the western Cote d’Ivoire town of Duekoue.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy's office said the French leader had a telephone call with Alassane Ouattara shortly after Gbagbo was arrested. Ouattara is a former deputy head of the International Monetary Fund, whose forces were working closely with French troops for weeks.

The deep involvement of French forces in recent days has stirred controversy, especially since almost have of the country's voting-age population supports Gbagbo and after reports emerged that Outtara forces were also behind some of the atrocities committed in recent days.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also said on Monday that the new government of Ivory Coast of Ouattara is one he will support, and UN Peacekeepers, rebels and French troops worked together since an attack by forces loyal to Gbagbo on a UN installation on Saturday.  On Sunday, UN and French helicopters retaliated on forces loyal to Gbagbo twice to stop them from firing on civilians in the capital city of Abidjan.  

Ban said he personally ordered the bombardment to take out heavy weapons being used to fire on the hotel headquarters of Ouattara.  "This is an end of a chapter that should never have been," Ban said. "We have to help them to restore stability, rule of law, and address all humanitarian and security issues."

The UN Security Council will be briefed on the human rights and humanitarian situation on Wednesday.

-        HUMNEWS staff

Friday
Apr082011

Ivory Coast Crisis: Violence Continues as Aid Agencies Struggle (REPORT)

This displaced family from Man temporarily takes shelter in a public school of Danané. An estimated 16,000 people displaced by post-election violence and inter-ethnic fighting are in Danané, Duékoué and Man in Western Cote D'Ivoire. CREDIT: IOM(HN, April 10, 2011) - Efforts to neutralize Laurent Gbagbo encountered fierce resistance over the weekend as violence-plagued Ivory Coast plunged deeper in what appears to be a protracted crisis.

In the latest developments Sunday, Gbagbo demonstrated he is still able to resist efforts to remove him from the heavily fortified bunker located in the Presidential Palace in Abidjan - even as UN and French forces launch new military operations.

Moreover Gbagbo is still able to communicate with loyal forces - and appear on air to rally his supporters.

According to reliable sources in Abidjan, HUMNEWS has learned that Gbagbo is using a mobile transmitter - in the form of two mobile vans supplied by the UN mission, also known as ONUCI. The former UN chief in Ivory Coast is understood to have supplied the vans seven years ago.

More than one million people are estimated to be displaced within the country and over 100,000 others have fled to Liberia for safety. The increasing pressure on weaker neighbouring countries and cash-strapped aid agencies is beginning to take its toll.

Observers say forces loyal to Gbagbo have taken advantage of a lull in fighting brought about by cease-fire talks last week to re-group and launch fresh assaults. This weekend the UN forces launched another assault on Gbagbo, alongside Forces Républicaines de Côte d'Ivoire (FRCI), after the ostracized strong man tried to launch an assault on the Golf Hotel, the base of the newly elected and internationally recognised leader, Alassane Ouattara.

"They are not quite finished , but he (Gbagbo) will have absolutely no capacity in the morning," one well-placed source in Abidjan told HUMNEWS.

An indication of the spreading violence is the number of corpses that are being found in Abidjan - where some of the worst fighting has taken place - and other cities. The UN has reportedly found 60 bodies in one incident and 40 in another - some of them burned alive. There are also reports of mass graves being found, and of innocent civilians being raped and abused.

International observers and others suggest that forces loyal to Outtara are under suspicion of carrying out some of the murders, as well as those of his opponent, Gbagbo. The latter is hiding out in an underground bunker in the heavily-damaged Presidential Palace. Over the weekend, his men have managed to re-capture new ground in Abidjan.

Charles Ble Goude, Laurent Gbagbo's fiery youth minister, is said to be hiding in the Angolan Embassy. Angola is believed to be Gbagbo's last major ally.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has warned Gbagbo of severe consequences if he continues to defy demands to surrender: "This is his last opportunity to gracefully exit from this. It is absolutely necessary at this time, that before too late, he has to cede his power to a democratically elected leader."

Ban also said the international community "will continue to protect the innocent civilians and we will try to bring those who commit mass atrocities to justice."

Addressing the need to use heavy weaponry against Gbagbo forces, Ban said today: "I am particularly concerned about the humanitarian situation across the country and about human rights abuses. Civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence. The fighting must stop.  Mr. Gbagbo needs to step aside immediately."

Meanwhile, health care, sanitation and other vital services have virtually collapsed while food and water supplies are shrinking. The UN warned today that supplies of clean water in the commercial capital of Abidjan would run out Sunday.

Moreover, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said civilians in Ivory Coast are "at grave risk as targeted political and sexual assaults increase, tension escalates and an already massive humanitarian crisis worsens."

One former western diplomat based in Abidjan told HUMNEWS that even if Gbagbo is captured quickly, tensions have progressed to the point where the country could be plunged into a protracted civil war.

“What we have now in Ivory Coast is an explosive mix of political, economic and ethnic tension that’s boiling over into incidents like the killings in Duékoué,” says Louis Falcy, the IRC’s country director in Ivory Coast. “Even if the political and military showdown in Abidjan ends today, we’re concerned that looting, hostility, bloodshed, reprisal killings and sexual assaults will escalate in communities across the country.”

Separately, sources close to HUMNEWS said western diplomats have reported concerns about Gbagbo, an evangelical Christian, being under some sort of mystical hold that he must remain waiting for a sign from God.

In the US, several key evangelical leaders - including Oklahoma senator Jim Inhofe, an evangelical Christian with close links to the Gbagbo regime - have been openly voicing support for Gbagbo, claiming that he was the rightful victor of the November election and billing him as a Christian bulwark against the spread of Islam, according to The Guardian newspaper in the UK.

- HUMNEWS staff
Thursday
Apr072011

Last of Foreigners Evacuating From Abidjan as Gbagbo Holds Out (BREAKING)

(Courtesy: Magellan Geographics) (HN, April 7 2011) - Foreign governments scrambled to evacuate the last of their nationals and diplomats from civil war-torn Abidjan today amid violence triggered by attempts to flush out a recalcitrant incumbent President, Laurent Gbagbo.

According to communications from Abidjan shared with HUMNEWS, Canadian and French diplomats and others were ordered to evacuate today as violence surge in and around the commercial capital of Ivory Coast.

A sense of chaos and fear has taken over. One source told HUMNEWS the Canadian Embassy had only 15 minutes to evacuate. A Canadian convoy that left the Novotel Hotel to an undisclosed safe haven is said to have included not only Canadians, but several French and other nationalities as well.

Most embassies in Abidjan have only skeleton staff after non-essential staff were ordered to leave several weeks ago.

Late yesterday, French forces had to rescue the Japanese ambassador near the presidential palace after Liberian mercenaries from that spot took over his residence to use it as a location for firing - and in the process - pillaged it.

As reported by Abidjan.net in French, last night two jeep loads of soldiers from Gbagbo’s palace tried to enter the next door French ambassador’s residence.   French helicopters immediately destroyed them.

The rush to evacuate diplomats - even as Gbagbo appears near defeat - suggests that a protracted civil war could take hold, said one former western diplomat based in Abidjan.

"What is happening now tells me that even if Gbagbo dies, the situation with - so many armed groups - is such that security will be impossible to provide," said the source.

According to the Voice of America, forces loyal to Gbagbo held off fighters backing the internationally-recognized President Alassane Ouattara late Thursday, supported by heavy weapons inside the presidential compound. About 200 troops are defending the compound, where Gbgabo is holding out in a bunker, refusing to acknowledge that he lost November's presidential election, VOA said.

Royal Air Maroc, Air France and military aircraft may be mobilized to evacuate the entire foreign community. French forces took control of Abidjan International Airport several days ago however with the shelling it is not clear whether commercial airlines will want to take the risk to land in Abidjan. 

The battle for control of Abidjan is in its seventh day. About one million people have been displaced in Abidjan alone so far.

- HUMNEWS staff

Wednesday
Apr062011

Tragedy at Sea for African Migrants (News Brief)

Italian rescue workers attend to survivors from the shipwreck off Lampedusa CREDIT: Laura Bastianetto/Croce Rossa Italiana(HN, April 6, 2011) - More than 250 migrants are feared dead after a boat carrying some 300 people sank in the early hours of the morning, some 40 miles off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa. 

Forty seven survivors were rescued at sea by the Italian Coast Guard and three by a local Italian fishing boat, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported this morning.

The vessel, which was laden beyond capacity, had left the Libyan coast with migrants and asylum seekers from Somalia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Chad and Sudan. Some 40 women and five children - including a two-month-old infant - were on board. Only two women survived the shipwreck.  
  
The survivors were transferred to Lampedusa. They told IOM officers who are providing them with first aid and counselling that the boat sank in rough seas. 

They say that when rescuers arrived, the boat was already sinking. Survivors managed to swim towards the approaching Coast Guard ship. Many drowned because they couldn't swim or were dragged down by desperate fellow passengers. 

The journey reportedly took two days in rough seas.

"The survivors are all in a state of shock," says IOM's Simona Moscarelli. "One man told me he had lost his one year old son. One of the two surviving women told me how she had lost her husband."

The Italian Red Cross said the migrants said they hoped for a new life in Europe; among them are tailors, masons and electricians.

The migrants have been transferred to the Loran base, a facility where the Italian authorities are sheltering migrants coming from Libya, in order not to mix them with the migrants arriving from Tunisia.

Since the beginning of February, the island of Lampedusa has been overwhelmed by the arrival of more than 20,000 migrants. The majority of them are Tunisian coming from the Tunisian port of Zarzis, Djerba and Sfax. Over the past ten days, more than 2,000 mostly African migrants and asylum seekers have landed on the island after having sailed from the Libyan coast. 

This latest incident comes as Lampedusa's ability to deal with the large number of refugees "has been stretched to the limit", according to Italian officials.

Since 2006, IOM has been providing assistance to migrants in Lampedusa as part of a project funded by the Italian Government. IOM works alongside UNCHR, Save the Children and Italian Red Cross to monitor reception assistance and to provide legal counseling to migrants who have arrived on the island.

- HUMNEWS staff, IOM

Wednesday
Apr062011

Ivory Coast: Gbagbo Refuses To Go (Update - News Brief) 

The carnage from the ongoing violence in Abidjan, near the Brussels Airlines office.(HN, April 6, 2011) UPDATED 2230GMT Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo remains in an underground bunker at the presidential compound in Abidjan.

However one email update from a French diplomat and shared with HUMNEWS suggested its is now only a matter of hours before Gbagbo is defeated. "It will not be long now...Gbagbo is VERY close to end," the email said.

Meanwhile, according to text messages from residents reporting in real time on an online site in Ivory Coast, the Abidjan town and commune of Port Bouet has seen violent clashes between locals and pro-Gbagbo FESCI (Fédération estudiantine et scolaire de Côte d'Ivoire) militia - resulting in many deaths. Witnesses said they saw bodies in the streets, burning houses and campus buildings on fire.

According to The Economist, Gbagbo appeared on television late Tuesday night declaring that he has no intention of stepping down as president, despite the defection of most of his troops and the destruction of artillery by French and UN forces. Gbagbo’s announcement was in stark contradiction to a claim by his official spokesman a few hours earlier that he was negotiating the terms of his departure.

UN forces have been using Mi-24 helicopters to target what they say are weapons and ammunition locations operated by forces loyal to Gbagbo.

Today, the French army commander in Abidjan said he expects it will only be a “matter of hours” before Gbagbo gives himself up. 

Meanwhile the situation for residents of Abidjan continues to deteriorate. Those who can are fleeing the city for safer havens, and aid agencies report that thousands are streaming over the country's borders.

Said one western diplomat in an email shared with HUMNEWS: "It really is getting desperate here. There is no food water or electricity in most of the city. Even if it were all to end today, people are going to go hungry because everywhere has been looted. It is almost certain there will be a humanitarian disaster in Abidjan unless this ends."

According to a HUMNEWS source, several embassies have asked the UN mission to evacuate the last of their personnel in Abidjan.

-HUMNews Staff

Tuesday
Apr052011

Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo 'negotiating surrender' (Breaking News Brief)

CREDIT: UNNews(HN, April 4, 2011) -- The UN says three generals loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, the Ivory Coast’s beleaguered president are negotiating terms of surrender in return for guaranteed safety for them and Gbagbo.

Troops loyal to Gbagbo’s rival, UN-recognized President Alassane Ouattara, say they have surrounded the compound where Mr. Gbagbo and his family are sheltering in the basement bunker of his residence in the country's main city of Abidjan.

“We are very close to convincing him to leave power”, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told the National Assembly in Paris.

UN and French helicopters had attacked several targets on Monday.

Mr Gbagbo has refused to leave office even though the Ivorian election commission declared him the loser of November's run-off vote, and the UN certified the result.

Mr Gbagbo's foreign minister, Alcide Djedje speaking from the French embassy in Abidjan, told the BBC the "war is over".

--HUMNEWS

Saturday
Apr022011

Ivory Coast in Crisis (NEWS BRIEF)

MSF staff treat victims of the violence in Abidjan at Abobo Sud Hospital. CREDIT MSF(HN, April 2, 2011) - A see-saw battle rages on in Ivory Coast, with forces loyal to embattled Laurent Gbagbo retaking control of key installations including state-run television, RTI.

In an indication of the spreading violence the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had documented the massacre of at least 800 people in the western town of Duekoue. However the Roman Catholic charity, Caritas, pegs the death toll at around 1,000.

Yesterday president-elect Alassane Ouattara’s forces advanced into the crucial economic capital of Abidjan and the United Nations mission took control of the country's main airport. The UN mission has also disabled Gbagbo`s Mi-24 helicopter after they gained control of airport.

As recently as yesterday, Gbabgbo looked close to defeat after key members of the military resigned and sought refuge in the South African embassy compound. Abidjan has a population of about 5 million people and, according to one estimate, some 20 percent of residents have fled.

For ordinary civilians and aid workers the situation has been described as extremely dangerous.  Some of the worst fighting is taking place at the Presidential Palace and Presidential Residence in leafy Abidjan suburb of Cocody - where several embassies are also located.

Said Henry Gray, a field worker in Abidjan with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF): "It’s quite a hairy situation here at the moment. We’re hearing constant gunfire along with the occasional heavy detonation, and that’s been going on for a few days now. We had been moving around, visiting clinics and helping patients up until a few days ago. But the situation on the streets has deteriorated to such an extent that it’s just become too dangerous to go outside."

"There’s a lot of pillaging and looting going on" Gray continued, "and if you’re out on the streets, you’re basically a target. Armed gangs are out on the street and there is a real atmosphere of fear out in the community, particularly in the poorer areas."

One former western diplomat based in Abidjan described the situation to HUMNEWS as dire. "One (Ivorian) friend said they have been at home for days now with a child.  Only water left in the house, nothing to eat."

Yesterday a Swedish UN employee was killed in the crossfire. According to a diplomatic source on teh ground who HUMNEWS has been speaking with, "there appears to be looting by thugs affiliated with both sides".

Meanwhile foreign governments, including Lebanon, are desperately trying to evacuate their nationals, according to the Daily Star of Beirut.

Lebanese businesswoman Line Fakih said Abidjan was unsafe for anyone not carrying arms. “The situation here is very dangerous, and we cannot leave our houses,” Fakih told The Daily Star in a telephone call Friday. “Looters and gangs are on the streets and they are breaking into houses to ask for money in return for [our] security.”

- HUMNEWS staff

Wednesday
Mar302011

Ivory Coast Inches Closer to All Out Civil War (UPATED 1845GMT)

(HN, March 30, 2011) - Ivory Coast stood on the brink of civil war today as forces loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the former prime minister, entered the political capital, Yamoussoukro.

According to Al Jazeera, witnesses say fighters supporting Ivory Coast's internationally recognised leader are parading through the streets of the capital after a dramatic advance on the city.

Ouattara's military spokesman confirmed his forces had entered the capital of Yamoussoukro.

Meanwhile, clashes have been reported in both centre-west and the east of the country, driving refugees into Ghana and Togo.

Despite some gains, Ouattara, who was recognized outside Ivory Coast as the legitimate president after defeating incumbent strong man, Laurent Gbagbo, in elections last year, appears unable to hold crucial ground in other areas of the country, including the commercial capital of Abidjan - despite backing by the international community and United Nations forces.

On Wednesday, an offer of a ceasefire by Gbagbo was ignored by Ouattara’s forces as they continued their advance from two sides of the country. Ouattara’s political party said in a statement that “all peaceful means to get Laurent Gbagbo to recognize his defeat have been exhausted.”

The country’s regular armed forces continue to take orders from Gbagbo despite his decisive defeat at the polls in November. Observers say Gbagbo has been using diplomacy as a staling tactic, and that only strong intervention will bring an end to the crisis.

The African Union has invited both sides to engage in talks in Addis Ababa April 4-6, however the major bloc of African countries has so far been unable to bring about peace. West Africa's regional superpower, Nigeria, has failed to make meaningful interventions.

Said one former diplomat who has been based in Abidjan: "The West has to stop being naive - Gbagbo has to be removed by surgical force."

As many as 500,000 people have been displaced within Ivory Coast, and more than 100,000 have fled to neighbouring countries. The United Nations estimates that close to 500 have been killed since the beginning of the electoral standoff in November.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has appealed for calm. "UNHCR continues to advocate with both forces for civilians to be protected from harm," said the UN refugee agency's chief spokesperson, Melissa Fleming, at a press briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI deployed a top official, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Turkson of Ghana, to the predominantly Catholic nation “to encourage reconciliation and peace."

Pope Benedict said his thoughts were with all the people of Ivory Coast who have been "traumatized by the painful internal conflict and the serious social and political tensions," according to the Catholic News Service.

In total, some 116,000 Ivorians have fled to eight West African countries since the post-election crisis started. In addition to Liberia, Ghana and Togo, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Nigeria are also hosting Ivorian refugees.

- HUMNEWS staff, agencies, UN

Thursday
Mar242011

Crisis in Ivory Coast Days Away From Violent Climax - Source (REPORT)

UN forces in Ivory Coast have been accused of doing little to prevent violence. CREDIT: Operation Broken Silence(HN, March 24, 2011) ---- The crisis in Ivory Coast is just days away from a violent climax, with sources on the ground predicting that an all-out civil war will consume the West African nation.

At Abidjan's Golf Hotel, UN forces are protecting Alassane Ouattara, who won a Nov. 28 election according to UN-certified results. One source said the hotel could be attacked by forces loyal to incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who has refused to step down. That would likely precipitate an all out civil war.

HUMNEWS understands that family members of Ouattara were evacuated last Sunday and move to safe havens.

Said the source: "The situation is pretty dire. It is unfortunate that so many other events have stolen the headlines from Ivory Coast."

The confirmed death toll from the conflict to 462. Another 450,000 people have fled their homes.

Armed thugs are on the increase and operating with abandon.  Last week a mortar attack on an impoverished village called Attecoube killed one person, seriously injured 18, and 4 of the seriously injured died later in hospital. The source said that as such attacks take place, UN forces stand by idly. Indeed, there are growing complaints from inside and outside the country over inaction as the toll from the crisis mounts.

“There is a UN force on the ground. I think it should, without doubt, play its role more efficiently because it has a mandate that allows it to use force if there are clashes or there is violence,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told France 2 television.

Many members of the UN force are from Bangladesh and Jordan. The source told HUMNEWS that they have been mostly ineffective. Nigeria also typically deploys many members of its military to UN missions in West Africa.

Last week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed French-trained, Togolese Major General Gnakoude Berena as the new force commander of the United Nations Operation in Cote d'Ivoire (UNOCI), replacing Major General Abdul Hafiz of Bangladesh.

Nigeria, the current leader of West Africa’s 15-nation ECOWAS bloc, has accused the international community of double standards for imposing a no-fly zone in Libya but doing little in Ivory Coast.

Said the source: "I ashamed to say UN forces stand by and do nothing of an atrocity within site of their HQ. They are operating under Chapter VII mission (the same authority given against Libya), yet the troops are hopeless."

Nigerian Foreign Minister Odein Ajumogobia has said the UN must endorse any use of force to remove Gbagbo, adding that a blockade was an option if peaceful efforts fail.

“The Ivory Coast is no longer on the brink of civil war, it has already begun”, said Louis Arbour, CEO of the International Crisis Group and former UN Commissioner for Human Rights, who called on Ecowas to take ‘decisive political and military measures.' 

- HUMNEWS staff

Sunday
Mar202011

Exodus Increases as Violence Flares in Abidjan (NEWS BRIEF)

Refugees, who fled the post-election instability in Ivory Coast, wait to be registered at a camp in Liberia. CREDIT: UNHCR(HN, March 20, 2011) - As the situation in Ivory Coast deteriorates due to post-election violence, the flow of displaced people from the commercial capital of Abidjan continues to grow.

UN agencies now estimate that as many as 30,000 people have been displaced in Abidjan alone. At the same time an increasing number of migrants and Ivorians are fleeing the country, says the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

In recent days, fighting between the internationally recognized President, Alassane Ouattara and his rival for the presidency, Laurent Gbagbo, has escalated and more people are being killed and injured. Officials say it has been the worst week since the post-elkection crisis began in December.

After Nigeria, Mauritania has one of the biggest migrant populations in the country. An estimated 40,000 Mauritanians are living and working in Ivory Coast, 10,000 of whom are in Abidjan, according to the Mauritian Embassy in Abidjan.

The vast majority of them either own or work in small business and are men without accompanying families. Mauritanian migrants say they feel particularly threatened and targeted and as a result, want to return home. Some have had their shops looted while many have witnessed much violence.

The Mauritanian Embassy had already evacuated 2,200 of its nationals by bus but still has several hundreds of its nationals remained camped out in the embassy compound and on surrounding streets. Another 1,000 were schedule to be moved this weekend.

- HUMNEWS staff

Thursday
Mar172011

Ivory Coast: The Deteriorating Humanitarian Situation (Report)

Fighting in Abidjan, photo courtesy of Africasia(HN, March 17, 2011) --  Life for the people of the Ivory Coast is getting increasingly worse. The three-month campaign of organized violence by security forces under the control of Laurent Gbagbo and militias that support him gives every indication of amounting to crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.

The crisis has escalated since the end of February 2011, with clashes between armed forces loyal to Gbagbo and Ouattara in the western and central regions of the country, as well as in Abidjan, the financial capital.

With around 400,000 displaced persons and the deaths of almost 400 civilians documented by the United Nations the vast majority killed by pro-Gbagbo forces in circumstances not connected with the armed conflict and with no apparent provocation - the attacks appear to be widespread.

On the Ouattara side, armed fighters have begun a pattern of extrajudicial executions against alleged pro-Gbagbo combatants detained in Ouattara territory since the Forces Nouvelles ("New Forces" or FN) gained effective control of the Abobo neighborhood and Anyama village around February 26.

"The time is long overdue for the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against Gbagbo and his allies directly implicated in the grave abuses of the post-election period," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "The international community should also send a clear message to Ouattara's camp that reprisal killings will place them next on the list."

Armed fighters loyal to Alassane Ouattara clashed with the pro-Gbagbo security forces yesterday in several areas including Yopougon and Attecoube, while foreigners and ethnic groups viewed as pro-Ouattara are repeatedly harassed.

Fierce fighting and gun battles in the cities of Abobo, Abidjan and Williamsville have seen the most bloodshed. 

Although there is no reference whatsoever on state TV of the ongoing battles in the streets life for much of the population has become very bleak.

Many shops in these cities have been looted and those that have not have been closed as well as most banks.

Man wounded by gunshot in district of Adjame, photo courtesy of AfricasiaDoctors without Borders is reporting that in the city of Abobo only one hospital remains open and in the last two weeks doctors there have treated 129 patients 89 of which have come in with either knife or gun shot wounds.

UNICEF has said that the nation is on the verge of collapse with 1.5 million people at risk from epidemics. Reports of cholera have begun in Abidjan as rubbish lies uncollected and there have been 10’s of deaths reported in rural areas as a result of yellow fever.

In the north schools are closed leaving 800,000 children out of school and although the situation is better in the southern part of the country there are schools closed there as well.

Crime levels are up and armed youth roam the streets with impunity.

As the situation in the Ivory Cost continues to intensify and the country plunges further into economic decay there is real worry that shortages of basic needs will not be able to be met – electricity blackouts and water cuts are among the things people are most concerned about.

Attacks on Foreigners

According to Human Rights Watch residents from Mali, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and Niger have given detailed accounts of daily attacks by pro-Gbagbo security forces and armed militias, who beat foreign residents to death with bricks, clubs, and sticks, or doused them with gas and burned them alive.

A Malian man interviewed by Human Rights Watch described how he and six other West Africans were forced into two vehicles by armed militiamen and taken into the basement of an abandoned building. More youths were waiting, who then executed five of the captured West Africans at point-blank range. The homes, stores, and mosques of hundreds of other West Africans have been burned, or they have been chased out of their neighborhoods en masse under threat of death at the hands of pro-Gbagbo militias.

The brunt of these attacks came immediately after Gbagbo's "youth minister," Charles Blé Goudé, called publicly on February 25 for "real" Ivoirians to set up roadblocks in their neighborhoods and "denounce" foreigners.

The situation threatens to worsen further, as a March 7 letter addressed to the Burkina Faso ambassador by a militant pro-Gbagbo group warned. The letter threatened to "cut the umbilical cord" of the Burkina Faso nationals in Côte d'Ivoire unless they left the country by March 22.

Refugees 

U.N. officials say the political crisis has also driven more than 75,000 Ivorian civilians across the border into Liberia, with half that total arriving in just the last two weeks. Aid officials in Liberia's Toe Town say they are struggling to keep up. Augustine Nugba is the local program coordinator for the Catholic charity Caritas.

"As soon as the place is given and we receive the government's okay, we will start to construct a camp and to remove everyone from here," said Nugba.

Food shortages, overcrowding, and inadequate sanitation have brought cases of diarrhea and malaria for refugees, including Victorine Tohogninon.

Tohogninon says that since the refugees came to Liberia, the children and the elderly are getting sick.

If the political crisis is not resolved soon, refugee Charles-Camille Kpehia says there will be no one left in Ivory Coast to govern.

- HUMNews Staff