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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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Entries in MASERU (3)

Wednesday
Sep152010

South African World Cup Border Policy Turns Lesotho Into "Gaza of Africa"

A river divides some parts of Lesotho with South Africa(HN, September 15, 2010) -- Border controls imposed at South Africa's border posts with Lesotho during the World Cup are causing havoc with the small mountain kingdom's economy.

The situation has deteriorated to the point where one senior government official in Maseru said it has transformed the landlocked nation into "the Gaza of Africa" - equating it to a blockade by South Africa.

Last weekend HUMNEWS visited the main crossing between the two countries at the Maseru Bridge. Pedestrians and car drivers alike were reporting waits of up to 90 minutes Friday. However diplomats and expatriate business people say they have also experienced waits up to four hours to make a crossing that used to take just 5 minutes.

The costly bottleneck started in the run-up to the World Cup in June, when South Africa unilaterally slapped new conditions on Lesotho nationals. The change - reportedly demanded by FIFA amid reports of criminality originating from Lesotho - meant that passports needed to be produced for entry into South Africa instead of just six-month certificates that did not require time-consuming id scans.

During Friday's inspection, HUMNEWS calculated at least a one to two minute processing times per traveller. To make matters worse, the South Africans have only one pedestrian checkpoint in each direction and few vehicle booths.

For the expatriate community and for business people crossing back and forth on day trips, the delays translate into huge delays - and costs. One hotel manager who lives in Ladybrand - a popular border town on the South African side of the border - complained it has turned a commute that had taken just 30 minutes into a multi hour headache.

Commercial and private vehicles compete for space on the narrow border bridgePeople had hoped that the misery would be alleviated when South African President Jacob Zuma visited Lesotho last month on an official state visit. But according to published reports the issue was hardly raised, if at all. The Government of Lesotho has little leverage on its larger, wealthier neighbour as it relies on the latter for most of its food supply. 

It’s not only ordinary people and commuters being inconvenienced. Trucks laden with crucial imports are also stuck in long lines. On Friday the only vehicles that moved quickly were in a heavily guarded armoured vehicle convey carrying diamonds - a crucial export from Lesotho.

The border changes couldn't come at a worse time for Lesotho, one of the poorest nations in the world. The country of 2-million is struggling to deal with the impact of the global economy crisis - which has slowed the flow of foreign remittances and triggered at least 10,000 layoffs in the garment industry. One of Lesotho's main streams of income - revenue from the South African Customs Union - has been dropping, from 35% of GDP in 2009/10 to a meager 14% in 2010/11, according to the World Bank. Since 1990, an estimated 65,000 mining jobs based in South Africa have been lost.

The new controls are also hurting border businesses on the South African side. Lesotho national and expatriates who used to cross on weekend are cutting down on spontaneous cross-border shopping trips.

Diplomats have expressed concern about serious medical cases being tied up at the border due to the new controls. And business owners worry about the knock-on effect it will have on Lesotho's small but important tourism and convention business. There are frequent and convenient daily flights between Maseru and Johannesburg - operated and controlled by South African Airways - but flights tend to be expensive and fill-up quickly.

Expatriate workers say if the border chaos continues for much longer, it could make it harder to attract aid workers and consultants to the small nation. "Being able to crossing on a moment's notice into South Africa on weekends - even if just to walk our dogs - is one of the biggest benefits of working here," said one.

Part of the government's new economic policy is to transform Maseru into a dynamic economic node, integrated with the southern African regional economy. It also wants to link Lesotho small agribusiness into the high end of the South African value chain. But these goals now seem more distant than even with the ongoing border squeeze.

Said the World Bank in a report issued this year: "Inefficient customs procedures and processes on Lesotho's borders with South Africa hamper trade with this important neighbour."

---- Reporting by HUMNEWS in Maseru, Lesotho.  

Saturday
Jul102010

Using Soccer to Fight HIV in Lesotho

(HN, July 10, 2010) Maseru, Lesotho -- In 2005 brothers Steve and Pete Fleming of the United Kingdom founded Kick4Life, a non-profit organization focused on tackling HIV/AIDS in Lesotho in southern Africa. 

They could not have selected a more needy country: Lesotho has the third highest HIV prevalence in the world - about a quarter of the population is infected - and hundreds and thousands of children have been orphaned by the disease. Out of a population of 1.9 million, there are an estimated 64 new HIV infections and 50 deaths due to AIDS each day. Kick4Life is committed to playing and important role in addressing this crisis. Kick4Life co-founder Pete Fleming. (PHOTO: MBociurkiw, HN, 2010)

Using football and sport to inspire, unite and make a difference by providing sports-based health education, voluntary testing, life-skills development and support into education and employment. 

Kick4Life has two main projects that it focuses on: National HIV Prevention and Testing Programme which includes the K4L Curriculum to youth across Lesotho. If focuses on heath education, HIV prevention and life-skills development. It also incorporates the award-winning Test Your Team Campaign – a series of one day football tournaments where HIV education and HIV testing is provided on site. Teams earn tournament points for completing HIV educational sessions, getting HIV tested, and for winning matches. 

In the last three years some 8,000 children have been tested, Pete Fleming told HUMNEWS in an interview. Most would have been tested for the very fist time.

The second project is the Orphan and Vulnerable Children (OVC) Initiative focused on supporting extremely disadvantaged youth who are living on the streets of Maseru, Lesotho’s capital city. It included the Maseru Street League, mentoring and Fit4Work - a training course offered to orphans and vulnerable children who have completed high school. The aim of the programme is to equip young people with the skills to continue into further education, training or employment. 

Pete - who has a degree in sport science - says that since its inception about 25,000 children have gone through a 12-hour education programme. "For the testing events we use football as the hook," says Fleming. "We arrange one-day football tournaments with interactive education focused on the importance of getting tested. We have trained up the national football team to deliver the curriculum to the youth. It's a tremendous tool to have."

 (A short video introduction to Lesotho.)

In addition to the work Kick4Life does they also play an active part in several international networks including Football for Hope, a global streetfootballworld and FIFA movement.  

Funding for Kick4Life comes from a variety of sources, including UNICEF, the Vodafone Foundation, Sentebale and the English Premier League. 

Some high-profile supporters have endowed Kick4Life with valuable publicity: in 2008, England coach Fabio Capello attended a testing event in Lesotho which was widely covered by the media. Kick4Life employs 15 people full-time and is backed by a network of 300 volunteers nationwide.

"We've been amazed by the volunteer ethic here in Lesotho," Fleming said, adding that most young people are educated but can't find jobs.

As a result of its achievements, Kick4Life was selected to host a sports health and education center as part of the official World Cup Campaign, 20 Centers for 2010. 

The aim of the 20 Centers for 2010 campaign is to create twenty Football for Hope Centers in disadvantaged communities across Africa as a legacy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Each centre provides underprivileged communities with public health, education and football facilities.

The centre in Maseru, Lesotho will be located in the Police Training Grounds of Old Europa in Maseru and will help young people address social challenges such as HIV/AIDS awareness, education and testing; essential life skills; personal development and work training. The site of the new Kick4Life soccer pitch in Maseru. (PHOTO: MBociurkiw, HN, 2010)

At the moment, the field resembles an old soccer pitch but planned upgrades will transform the site into an incredible sports facility for children.

Kick4Life co-founder Peter Fleming says, “Being selected as a Centre Host as part of the official World Cup campaign is a fantastic development for Kick4Life that will provide a first-class- sports, health and education facility right in the heart of Maseru, Lesotho’s capital. It will enable us to deliver activities to thousands of orphans and vulnerable children in an aspirational setting, and become, we hope, a centre of excellence for the use of football as a tool for social development.”

Construction is due to begin in September 2010, with completion set for March 2011.

--- Reporting by HUMNEWS' Michael Bociurkiw, from Maseru, Lesotho.

Friday
Jun252010

HUMNEWS Focus: Introduction to Lesotho

(HN, 2010)