Daily Archives: March 25, 2015

Amid growing crises, UN officials urge protection for war’s youngest victims

25 March 2015 – The international community must act “collectively and expeditiously” to thwart the growing number of children affected by armed conflicts, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared today, as the Security Council met to discuss the myriad horrors faced by children caught up in wars worldwide.

“We agree that we cannot tolerate a world in which children are killed and maimed, where they are abducted, subject to sexual violence, forced to become soldiers, and where schools and hospitals are attacked,” Mr. Ban said.

Nonetheless, he added, “increasingly, children are snatched from a normal life of school and family, abducted by armed groups and thrown into a life of violence and horror.”

Mr. Ban observed that since he last addressed the Council on the issue in 2014, hundreds of thousands more children had been confronted with the emergence or intensification of conflict, while UN agencies on the ground were verifying more and more cases of child abductions by armed groups.

These children face “some of the worst human rights violations a child can experience,” including death, injury, imprisonment and torture, sexual abuse, forced recruitment and abduction, he added.

Overall, an estimated 230 million children reside in countries and areas where armed groups are fighting and up to 15 million children were impacted by the violence.

“The world’s children are increasingly under threat in theatres of war,” Mr. Ban said. “Last year was considered one of the worst ever for children in areas affected by conflict.”

A report released by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) late last year, in fact, confirmed the “devastating” trend, noting that as violent conflicts proliferate across the globe – in the Central African Republic, Iraq, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and in the occupied Palestinian territories – children were being kidnapped from their schools or on their way to school and recruited or used by armed forces and groups in ever greater numbers.

Despite the sobering details, however, the Secretary-General told the Council that there was a glimmer of hope as the UN better engaged with government and non-State actors to end and prevent violations against children.

“We have seen concrete outcomes of our efforts that have translated into thousands of children now going to school instead of battle and playing in fields instead of fighting on them,” he stated. “By protecting children, we contribute to building durable peace and to helping countries reach their full potential.”

Also addressing the Council, Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, lamented the growing challenges facing the international community “despite the consensus and our combined efforts to spare children the horrors of war.”

“In this start to 2015, it is the violence of armed groups and the brutality with which they treat the children which is our main challenge,” Ms. Zerrougui said. “This is the case in Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, but also in other countries. Recurring conflicts have intensified and the expansion of armed groups is assuming alarming proportions.”

The Special Representative noted that out of the 59 parties documented as having committed violations against children, 51 were non-State actors. To that point, she continued, it remained necessary to enter into “constructive dialogue” with the armed groups, in order to dissuade them from continuing in their destructive practices.

Echoing her point, Yoka Brandt, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, emphasized that voicing outrage was “not enough” but that the international community’s words “must be matched by action to prevent violations of child rights.”

Ms. Brandt admitted that there had been some successes as a number of child soldiers in South Sudan were undergoing demobilization. She underscored, however, that being released was “only a first step” as many children faced struggles when they returned home, such as stigmatization and psychological stress.

The Yazidi children who were recently rescued from the clutches of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), for instance, continued to recount stories of abuse from their time in captivity, she said, adding that they had “experienced the worst of humanity.”

“We can rebuild shattered lives and shattered societies,” Ms. Brandt continued. “As we heal these children, we also heal divided societies.”

Among those addressing the meeting was Junior Nzita Nzuami, who was abducted and forced to fight as a child soldier with rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

He recounted moments of horror during his three years of fighting, as he and other children “shot at and killed everything that moved.” Nonetheless, the experiences, he said, prompted him to dedicate his life to helping his country rebuild a better future and so that what he went through “would no longer happen.”

Yemen leader moved to 'secure location&…

NNA – Yemen’s leader was rushed to a “secure location” on Wednesday, a top aide said, as rebel forces bore down on his southern stronghold following clashes that sparked warnings of civil war.

The aide said President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi was taken to a safe haven “within Aden,” denying that he had fled Yemen, a key ally in the U.S. war on al-Qaida.

Earlier a source in the presidential guard said that the Western-backed leader had flown out of the country.

Hadi “boarded a helicopter from al-Maasheeq palace to an unknown destination abroad,” the source said, before the aide insisted the president was still in the port city.

Aden residents were taking up arms at a weapons depot in preparation for a potential advance on the city by anti-government forces, a military source said.

The Huthi Shiite militia and their allies have seized large parts of Yemen and in recent days have been advancing on Aden, where Hadi fled after escaping house arrest in the capital Sanaa last month.

The Arabian Peninsula country has been gripped by growing turmoil since the Huthis launched a power takeover in Sanaa in February.

U.N. envoy Jamal Benomar warned on Sunday that Yemen was sliding towards a “civil war”.

Hadi appealed to the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday to “shoulder its responsibilities… to safeguard Yemen from sliding into more chaos and destruction.”

Rebel forces seized a key airbase just 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Aden on Wednesday, days after U.S. military personnel were evacuated from the site.

Yemen has allowed Washington to wage a long-standing drone war against a

al-Qaida militants in the impoverished country, which borders oil-rich Saudi Arabia and lies close to key shipping routes.

The Huthis took control of Al-Anad airbase following “limited clashes” with forces loyal to Hadi, an official told Agence France Presse.

U.S. military personnel stationed at Al-Anad were pulled out on Friday because of security concerns.

– Call for U.N. intervention –

After seizing Al-Anad, anti-Hadi forces advanced farther south and were just three kilometers (nearly two miles) away from Huta, the capital of Lahj province which is adjacent to Aden, the military official said.

The Huthi militia, backed by troops allied to former strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, have clashed with pro-Hadi forces as they push towards Aden, leaving dozens dead.

Saleh, who resigned in 2012 following nationwide protests, has been accused of backing the Shiite militia as he seeks to regain influence.

Yemen is increasingly divided between a north controlled by the Huthis, allegedly backed by Iran, and a south dominated by Hadi supporters.

The U.N. Security Council, Western countries and Gulf Arab monarchies have backed Hadi as the country’s legitimate ruler.

In a letter to the council Tuesday, Hadi called for a binding UN resolution asking countries to provide immediate support “by all means and measures to protect Yemen and deter the Huthi aggression expected to occur at any hour from now” in several strategic cities, including Aden.

He voiced concerns that al-Qaida will “seize the current instability to spark further chaos.”

He referred to an unspecified “missile capability looted from the legitimate authority,” and asked the Security Council to take control of the missiles.

The Council has so far only released a declaration of support for Hadi, during an emergency meeting the president requested Sunday.

Diplomats on the council said no new meeting has been planned at this time.

Hadi said he had asked Gulf Cooperation Council members and other countries that belong to the Arab League to provide “immediate” support, including military intervention to help battle the Huthi militia.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal warned Monday that Arab countries may take action “to protect interests from Huthi aggression”.

The turmoil has raised fears that extremists will exploit the security vacuum in a country already home to what Washington considers al-Qaida’s deadliest offshoot.

The rival Islamic State (IS) jihadist group claimed its first attack in Yemen on Friday with suicide bombings against Huthi supporters that killed 142 people in the capital.–AFP

=============R.Z.

CCIFSA Elective Conference – Chaos, ‘Bullying’ and ‘Political Agendas’ [analysis]

Allegations of corruption, political interference and a lack of transparency as well as death threats, walk-outs and boycotts formed the dramatic and sometimes chaotic backdrop to what should have been an historic consultative and elective conference for the newly-established Cultural and Creative Industries Federation of South Africa (CCIFSA) in Bloemfontein this week.

Someone (it might have been Britain’s famous left-wing playwright David Hare) once said that there are four ways to make sense of the world politics, religion, sport and the arts – and the first three are unreliable. The observation is true, of course, only in societies where artists are able to function independently, free from political interference, coercion or patronage and where creators are enabled to serve as mirrors and the conscience of the citizenry.

Artists have always navigated precarious, dangerous spaces and there are many who have found themselves in the gutters of history, co-opted – often out of financial necessity, sometimes through blind ideological allegiance, out of fear, and occasionally driven by ego – by wily politicians who understand the power of culture and the arts in shaping the hearts and minds of a nation.

It was Joseph Stalin who in 1932 told …

Source : Daily Maverick

SKA African Partner Countries Meet in Pretoria

Ministers from African member countries of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) mega project met in Pretoria on Wednesday to discuss future cooperation in radio aomy.

The meeting was also an opportunity for South Africa’s Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor to appraise her counterparts from Mozambique, Madagascar, Zambia, Mauritius, Kenya, Ghana, Namibia and Botswana on the developments of the SKA project, which is co-hosted by South Africa.

Minister Pandor said construction of the world’s largest radio telescope will take place in two phases.

In Phase 1, about 200 parabolic antennas will be erected in South Africa, while Australia – the other host country – will have more than 100 000 dipole antennas, which resemble television aerials. A parabolic antenna is an antenna that uses a parabolic reflector, a curved surface with the cross-sectional shape of a parabola to direct radio waves.

In Phase 2, array will extend into other African countries, with the Australian component also being expanded.

“We are confident that the construction of the SKA will start in 2018 and it is predicted that early science observations will be made in 2020,” she said.

Minister Pandor congratulated the SKA South Africa team for the on-going construction of the antennas for the MeerKAT telescope, the 64-dish precursor telescope, which will be integrated into the SKA.

Minister Pandor said 32 dishes will be commissioned by 2016, with the full array ready by the middle of 2017.

“We are thrilled that the investment made by the South African government in science is beginning to attract international investment from institutions of the calibre of Germany’s Max Planck Society, which has committed euro11 million to build S-Band receivers – used primarily for pulsar research – and fund all the necessary ancillary equipment for the MeerKAT.

“We hope that through human capital development, innovation, value addition and industrialisation in alignment with STISA [Science, Technology amp Innovation Strategy for Africa], we will be able to uplift large sections of Africa’s people,” the Minister said.

Funding science development

In South Africa, government’s contribution to human capital development includes bursaries for undergraduate and postgraduate studies, and the funding of research chairs, including five in the area of radio aomy.

Since 2006, South Africa has spent over R29 million on bursaries in engineering, astrophysics and aomy for students from the African partner countries.

At the last SKA African Partner Countries Ministerial Meeting, the ministers adopted the Pretoria Resolution, committing them to finalising the SKA Readiness Strategy and Joint Implementation Plan by the end of March in preparation for hosting the SKA and the African VLBI Network.

The delegates also agreed to work towards a governance framework for radio aomy initiatives, which will be convened on an annual basis to provide political and strategic leadership to African SKA partner countries.

Last month, South Africa’s Deputy President and the ambassadors of SKA member countries from Europe, North America, Asia, Australasia and Africa visited the SKA site in Carnarvon in the Northern Cape.

– SAnews.gov.za

Source : SAnews.gov.za

Govt to Roll Out Massive TB Screening Campaign

Government is embarking on a three-year mass tuberculosis (TB) screening campaign that will help to reduce the number of new infections and related deaths.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi kicked off the screening campaign in the North West as part of World TB Day on Tuesday.

South Africa is the third most affected country in the world. The disease remains the number one killer in the country despite being both curable and preventable.

It is responsible for 120 000 deaths annually. Government wants to reduce this number to less than 20 000.

As part of the campaign, government will focus on key vulnerable groups with an elevated risk of TB infection. These include inmates in correctional facilities, mineworkers, communities in mining areas and children, especially those under five years.

“The poor socio-economic conditions that prevail in communities, especially poor housing and food insufficiency, provide a breeding ground for diseases such as TB, with children being particularly vulnerable,” said Deputy President Ramaphosa at the launch the of campaign.

Early childhood development (ECD), the Deputy President said, can help to reduce infection among children and facilitate more effective detection.

Government also identified six priority districts for the screening campaign. These are Lejweleputswa in the Free State, West Rand in Gauteng, Sekhukhune and Waterberg in Limpopo and Bojanala and Dr Kenneth Kaunda in the North West.

The screening roll out will be staggered. In the first year of this three-year campaign, Deputy President Ramaphosa said government will screen at least 135 000 inmates in correctional facilities and up to half a million mineworkers.

“In these six districts, we aim to screen around five million community members and 1.2 million children in schools, ECD centres and cregraveches.”

Government has already screened 59 000 inmates.

“This is a third of all sentenced offenders and awaiting-trial detainees. The programme is on track to screen more than 90% by March 2017,” Deputy President Ramaphosa said.

The programme has also already screened 140 000 community members in the six districts.

Nine inspectors have been appointed to assist the Department of Health to oversee the provision of TB services by the mines.

In the second year of the screening campaign, there will be an additional focus on metropolitan councils. In the third year, government will add the provinces of the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape on its target list.

In order to ensure that TB patients on treatment adhere to and complete their treatment as prescribed by health workers, government will institute a system to trace patients lost to treatment and also the contacts of known TB patients.

To further decentralise the treatment of drug resistant TB, more than 200 nurses have been trained to initiate patients on drug resistant TB medication.

Currently South Africa has 298 of these decentralised sites.

The Deputy President said bringing services closer to communities will also be a focus during the campaign as it is more convenient to patients and results in better treatment outcomes.

The focus of the campaign, he said, is not limited to screening and treating TB.

“We are focused also on reducing infection. All South Africans can act to reduce the likelihood of infection,” said the Deputy President, adding that something as simple as covering your mouth when you cough can make a huge difference.

Source : SAnews.gov.za